In the final build to this Sunday's 10th Anniversary iPPV, Young Wolves Rising, ROH on Sinclair features a champion vs. champion main event. ROH World champion Davey Richards takes on ROH TV champion Jay Lethal for the first time ever. In addition to Young Wolves Rising on March 4th, later this month a two night iPPV event looms on the horizon, Showdown in the Sun, so in many cases on the ROH roster, enemies are coming from all directions.
We kick off with the number one contenders to the ROH Tag Team titles, Matt & Nick Jackson, The Young Bucks vs. the team of Cedric Alexander and Caprice Coleman. Coleman and Alexander seem to be getting a rub as an "up and coming" team in ROH, and I gotta say I'm just not really seeing it. Coleman is near 40, and Alexander is very green and lacks charisma. Coleman sounds overly rehearsed in his promos (in their pre-match promo here, he bursts into song at the end; he's a preacher in real life so I guess part of that plays into his character) and before this particular show, I didn't think they allowed Alexander to talk. In ring, they certainly don't embarass themselves (Coleman does get some impressive height on his aerial moves, especially for a guy his age), but they feel a lot like a paint by numbers tag team. They don't do anything particularly innovative as a team. They're like a double-team move cover band, plugging in spots by other, better teams like the Hart Foundation, Miz & Morrison, and the Motor City Machine Guns. Overall I just think they need some major changes before I really look forward to seeing them wrestle as often as they do on ROH TV. ROH has the most active tag team division in North America right now, so while they'd probably be the best team in TNA right now and they'd be downright revelatory compared to Epico & Primo or the Usos, they are missing something essential as far as ROH is concerned.
The match, as it was, was just a quick & dirty spotfest, with each team hitting their double team spots in rapid fire succession. I don't find that to be a bad thing, especially for a short TV match where basic tag formula doesn't really work in the time constraints. The Bucks have always been particularly great in that kind of setting, as they have lots of cool, if contrived, high spots and innovative maneuvers to bust out like they did here. Coleman got to show off some of his flying arsenal, with a unique spot where he ricocheted off Matt with a shoulderblock in the corner straight into a moonsault to the outside on Nick (clearly he's the veteran of the team; he should try to bring some of that uniqueness to their double team moves). The Bucks, who are facing The Briscoes on Sunday, finished things off with More Bang for Your Buck, which for those who don't remember from TNA, is a steamroller-into-450-into-moonsault succession. This was rapid fire and definitely not for a workrate purist, but the pace and the caliber of spots from The Bucks made it a hot opener and well worth watching.
Next we have The Briscoes in an in-ring interview with Kevin Kelly. Kelly runs down all the different teams Dem Boys are feuding with, in succession. While this is mainly due to the fact that they are promoting more than one iPPV at a time here, I think it works in kayfabe terms: The Briscoes are the champs, so they should have issues with almost all the other tag teams. Jay lays it right out: The Bucks are "ladyboys" that The Briscoes are gonna wipe all over NYC this weekend, The House of Truth's $5000 check from a few weeks ago bounced, so The Briscoes couldn't build their new manure shed on the chicken farm, and next time they come around Baltimore "Big Man" Papa Briscoe might have something to say to Truth Martini, and Haas & Benjamin are leaving Florida in a bodybag. I heard a rumor online this week that WWE has shown some interest in The Briscoes. While I'd REALLY hate to see ROH lose their best tag team (and two of their best wrestlers, period), just in the macro sense that everyone that is truly great and truly important in modern wrestling needs to work for WWE at some point, The Briscoes definitely belong there. I'd love to see it equally as much as I hope it doesn't happen for ROH's sake.
Inside ROH features hype for the upcoming iPPVs from The All Night Express, The House of Truth, and a special focus on the Jimmy Jacobs vs. Kevin Steen match at Young Wolves Rising. Jimmy Jacobs, whose previous ROH career as the "Emo Warrior" was very good at playing an evil villain. While almost no one truly gets over as a heel in ROH due to the smart audience cheering everyone who's a good wrestler; Jimmy managed to both provoke disgust with fans for his emo antics (being possessive over his valet Lacey, singing sappy acoustic songs to her in YouTube videos, and even bawling in the ring when she dumped him) and outraging them with the degree to which he'd harm his enemies, from using his trademark railroad spike to having his group Age of the Fall attacking in numbers. With AotF, in fact, I think Jacobs lays claim to being the next successor in the tradition of "evil leader of group of misfits" in wrestling, from Skandor Akbar to Kevin Sullivan to Raven. This past year Jacobs returned to ROH as part of the Kevin Steen/Steve Corino storyline, as Corino's "sponsor"; Corino was seeking sobriety from his addiction to being evil. The story between Steen & Jacobs is being billed as the battle between wrestlings two most evil men. Jacobs is looking to avenge his neck injury at the hands of Steen and to remind Steen that he is capable of being as evil as he is. Steen calls Jacobs out for playing nice and sucking up to Cornette to get his ROH job back. Both men are fantastic wrestlers with a wide array of power & high flying moves that are unique to them; both men are moreso capable of some excellent hardcore matches. I expect their match at Young Wolves Rising to be firmly in the latter category, and it should be outstanding.
The main event is for the ROH World championship, as Davey Richards takes on TV champion Jay Lethal. Earlier in the show, Tommaso Ciampa gave an interview where he implored Jay to overachieve and take the World title going into their match at Young Wolves Rising. Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole also gave an interview where they claimed that Davey will be too distracted by the thought of facing them on Sunday to beat Lethal. Nigel McGuiness laid it out on commentary before the match: the feeling amongst most of the ROH locker room thinks Lethal will pull it off. All this plays into the psychology of this match. Even though, at heart, it's basically a babyface match between the two cleanest-cut faces in ROH, all the storytelling puts some doubt into whether the World champion can really beat the "lesser" TV champion. But just by even phrasing it as though it's a question of whether Lethal can beat Richards, even though everyone says he can, it makes Lethal go into the match as the underdog. Very effective storytelling from ROH, and in a very short time period.
Even better, the match is laid out where Davey almost plays the heel. From the beginning, Davey lays in with a series of submissions, including a Horse Collar, a Trailer Hitch (called as such by Nigel, weird to see the official WWE name of a submission move hold water in ROH), a cross armbreaker, and a few moves I can't even name. Leading into the commercial break point, Lethal took over the advantage, and Ciampa took a seat at ringside to get a closer look. Lethal led the more high flying portion of the match, with his Lethal Combination finisher from TNA and a sharp enziguri. Not to be outdone, Davey did his standard Heat Seeking Missile suicide dive, as well as a really swank superplex rolled through into a Falcon Arrow and transitioned straight into a cross armbreaker. Davey at one point started a confrontation with Ciampa, and this drew Kyle O'Reilly out to have Davey's back. Next week the main event will be Eddie Edwards vs. Roderick Strong with the winner getting a shot at the World title; this was justification for The House of Truth to also come out to ringside. Not long after, Edwards and Cole filed out. Predictably, this led to a pull apart brawl, starting with HoT attacking O'Reilly and the rest (sans Ciampa) getting involved. Despite the hot pace that the match was building to, the extra-curricular activity plays into the finish, as Michael Elgin slammed Adam Cole onto the apron right as Lethal was set to finish Davey off with the Lethal Injection; Cole collided with Lethal while he was handspringing off the ropes. Davey finished with a simple kick to the head, and they went off the air with both men shaking hands over their title belts. It was definitely a hot main event, although it was hurt by all the peripheral brawling and the fuck finish, unique though it was.
Young Wolves Rising Matches and Predictions
"Team Ambition" Davey Richards and Kyle O'Reilly vs. Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole-- I cannot express how lame that "Team Ambition" name is. They should go full bore and have Champion the Three Legged Dog come to the ring as their mascot. I expect this one to go a long time to really build KO and Cole in their first main event, plus work in the best of what Davey & Eddie have to offer. I think this show might finally be the point where Eddie goes full-heel, rather than the semi-heel line he's been teetering on for a year now. Because of that, I'd imagine his team will have to lose here to really turn the screws in with Eddie's inferiority complex with Davey.
ROH Tag Champs The Briscoes vs. The Young Bucks-- This should be fun, because the Bucks can work a lot of fun spots in, but they're a placeholder until Briscoes/WGTT later this month. Briscoes win quick and end up brawling with Haas & Benjamin.
ROH TV Champ Jay Lethal vs. Tommaso Ciampa-- Out of all the new talent ROH has brought in over the past year to be the new blood of the company, I think Ciampa might be the one with the brighest near future. I think his undefeated streak keeps going here, with or without interference from The Embassy. Lethal's character works better as an underdog challenger, anyway.
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Kevin Steen-- This should be violent and sadistic, but in the end it's Steen that is the money character, so he's taking the win. I only hope that Jacobs gets built up enough to have a firmer spot back on the ROH roster, because he's one of their most talented wrestlers. I'm betting El Generico makes his comeback in the aftermath, to set up something with he & Steen.
The Amazing Red & "Technical Lightning" TJ Perkins vs. The House of Truth ("Unbreakable" Michael Elgin & Roderick Strong) w/ Truth Martini-- "Technical Lightning"? As opposed to what? Semantic Lightning? Anyhow, very cool to see someone with a hair of name value like Red appearing with ROH. Perkins is another young standout that I get the feeling has a big future in Ring of Honor, but right now he's still basically a job guy. Roddy needs to stay strong going into the match against Edwards, and HoT in general have been built strong in the tag division, so they clean up quick.
Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team vs. The All Night Express-- Even though WGTT are the ones with the title match coming up at the next iPPV against The Briscoes, I think ANX could take this as a feel-good moment for Rhett Titus coming off of his knee injury. WGTT could afford the loss, and ANX need to stay sharp for their feud with The Young Bucks. Outside chance, even that this gets combined with the Briscoes/Bucks match at the last minute and becomes a 4 way tag.
<Homicide vs. Mike Bennett-- I really really really hope that Homicide is done with that Urban Wrestling Federation nonsense and he's ready to come back to the ROH fold again. He has unfinished business with The Embassy and Ciampa, who might be the next TV champ. Also, he would be a perfect opponent for a feud to keep Steen occupied until he gets to Davey Richards. I salivate to think of the power move/hardcore hybrid bloodfests those two would have. If Homicide is back for a while, he takes the win here. If not, Bennett gets another unwarranted shot in the arm.
I know a lot of new people are reading this blog as it builds toward Wrestlemania, or a lot of lapsed fans. If you are impatiently waiting for some great wrestling stemming off of a number of well built feuds, go to ROHwrestling.com this Sunday at 5pm and invest $9.99 in Young Wolves Rising. Fans of real wrestling will not regret it, and with the stellar lineup they have, there will definitely be something for everybody. I'm hoping to check it out, barring any scheduling issues, and I'll be ready to drop in with a recap. Also, hopefully by this weekend I'll have a review of the ROH Summer of Punk dvd, which I'm working my way through. Until this weekend, remember: Don't take my word for it. Go To ROHwrestling.com and check it out for yourself.
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