Before I begin, I just have to say how cool it was to see a Ring of Honor article on the front page of WWE.com. It was a shame that CM Punk left the company last week because I would have loved to hear his take on ROH’s influence on WWE today since he was the first guy to break through to the top. Unfortunately, he was barely mentioned in the article.
Ring of Honor is live in San Antonio, TX this Saturday. The main event is the formerly teased match with Jay Briscoe putting his “Real” World Championship on the line against the official Ring of Honor World Champion, Adam Cole. Other matches include a Four Corner Survival match between Kevin Steen, Michael Elgin, Jay Lethal and Tomasso Ciampa. Tag Champions reDRagon face off against ACH and Tadarius Thomas, and members of The Decade are in singles competition as BJ Whitmer faces Top Prospect tournament participant Raymond Rowe and Jimmy Jacobs faces Cedric Alexander. The card is pretty top-heavy, but ROH always puts forth a great live wrestling experience.
Onto this week’s show.
Match 1: Top Prospect Tournament Semi-Finals - Hanson vs. Andrew Everett
I’ve been pretty down on the top prospect matches so far, but this one blew them all out of the water. There were some excellent spots in this match, including Hanson catching Everett on a dive to the outside, then launching Andrew like a javelin into the ringpost. It was a match that had the crowd on its feet the entire time, and may have just solidified these two as guys who can get on more ROH cards. I was extremely impressed. **1/4
Next week on TV, it’ll be Hanson vs. Raymond Rowe in the Top Prospect Finals, which were taped in Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago.
Match 2 - Michael Bennett vs. Cedric Alexander
Before the match, Maria Kannelis got on the microphone and cut a promo about getting attacked by Kevin Steen at Final Battle. She says that even though Bennett can’t use the piledriver anymore, he has another finishing move that’s just as devastating. It was actually a fantastic promo that wasn’t helped by the hecklers in attendance. It’s amazing to think that Maria was the ditz interviewer in WWE back in 2004/5.
This was Cedric Alexander’s first singles match since the amicable split of C&C Wrestle Factory, so I was pretty shocked that he didn’t get put over Bennett in this match. Shouldn’t he have deserved a push? I guess they felt putting Bennett over after his loss to Steen was more preferable. Bennett won, by the way, using the Anaconda Vice, which everybody knows was CM Punk’s finishing submission. Bennett has a habit of using Punk’s mannerisms to get cheap heat, similar to how Jimmy Rave used the Styles Clash to get heat off his former mentor, AJ Styles. In this case, Bennett is using cheap heat because he’s got Punk’s sloppy seconds in Maria. **1/2
Winner: Michael Bennett
Main Event - Roderick Strong vs. AJ Styles
Styles’s entrance music is awesome and really made his return a big deal. The match was also fantastic between the two, telling a great story of whether or not AJ can hang in ROH with a guy who’s been there consistently for 10 years, when AJ’s been wrestling in TNA. Strong invited AJ for catch-as-catch-can wrestling, which AJ provided. They also worked an angle in there of AJ having knee problems, which affected how he hit his moves. The ending was pretty scary though, as Strong took the Styles Clash wrong and unnecessarily tucked his head, which ended up having him being dunked on his head and his neck compressed on impact. It was a real scary scene that took the celebration out of AJ’s big win. ***1/4
Winner: AJ Styles
After the match, Jacobs and Whitmer stormed the ring to attack AJ, and the ROH locker room, led by Jay Lethal, came out to help him. Obviously, the crowd wasn’t into it because they were concerned about Roddy’s health.
The very end of the show put a damper on the proceedings, but of the four ROH shows I’ve seen in 2014 so far, this has been the best. It had the best Top Prospect match, and the best main event, finish aside. I’m very happy to see AJ back in ROH and it freshens up the top of the card, along with the return of Chris Hero.