RAISING THE BAR - NIGHT 2
March 8, 2014
Michael Elgin . . . doesn’t look like anything close to a future world champion, but, he shows he can carry his weight.
Cedric Alexander . . . shows that he can take the fight to a former world champion, but, he isn’t on that level (yet).
Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) . . . proves his worth as the ROH champion by winning with wrestling, despite his efforts to the contrary.
MICHAEL ELGIN vs. TYSON DUX
Sometimes giving something a second look can be a good thing. I was ready to rip this to shreds, but, Elgin actually does quite a bit to make it watchable. He’s not great in the least, but, he does a good job with selling, and he’s gives Dux a few good pieces of offense so that he’s not getting squashed. Yes, Elgin did his part to make this not bad, but, it’s not great. Elgin doesn’t have much offense other than various suplexes and powerbombs, which is how he eventually beats Dux, and, it’s just not that impressive to see him do that to someone like Dux because of the size disparity, even with him having a bit of a bad wheel. Only the very end gets bad, with Dux blowing off a running powerbomb into the guardrail to give Elgin a running DVD into the corner, before they end it with the buckle bomb and Revolution bomb. The crossface was a nice touch, to soften up Dux before the two powerbombs, but, the damage was already done.
RODERICK STRONG/BJ WHITMER vs. TADARIUS THOMAS/ACH
It’s the Angry Cartwheeling Hoodlum (according to Steen)! Actually this is pretty much the ACH show. His big dive toward the end is the best spot of the whole match, and he does a good job of selling the punishment that Whitmer and Strong dish out during their control segment. Thomas isn’t bad, but he doesn’t have much to add, and Whitmer and Strong work as the grizzled vets who are punishing the kids, but, neither of them is all that interesting with their actual work, aside from Strong’s flurry that finishes off Thomas.
JAY LETHAL vs. MICHAEL BENNET
The wrestling is good, although the comedy is much better. They have a few good moments, like Bennet charging for the spear and eating a superkick, but, this never seems to pick up and find its way out of first gear. The match feels like an exhibition, without a real story to their work. They tease an overplayed finish, Maria distracting Lethal and Bennet with the roll-up, only for Lethal to kick out, and then do a different overplayed finish, with Bennet holding the tights after the O’Connor roll.
JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE vs. EDDIE KINGSTON/HOMICIDE
This starts as a regular tag match and goes almost a whole minute before getting out of control with dives to the floor, brawling, chairs sailing through the Frontier Fieldhouse, and Nigel making it an anything goes match. But, that minute is actually the highlight. With the match being a free-for-all, there’s no real structure to the match, and nothing for them to build up to. The only big bump that seems to matter at all is Kingston’s final one on the chairs, because that explains why he isn’t there to save Homicide after he gets planted with the Jay driller. But, everything else they do is pretty much a waste. They would have been better off stopping after the ref throws it out, or just having a regular tag match.
MATT TAVEN VS. SILAS YOUNG
This is supposed to be a grudge match, although it isn’t really worked like there’s some deep running hatred here. Taven has a bad arm going into the match, so he strikes quick and strikes hard to keep Young away from it. It works for a bit, but Young eventually gets the opening he needs to start targeting it. That’s more or less the whole match. Young works the arm and Taven fires back with big shots to keep him down and away from it. Just when it seems like Taven’s strategy is paying off, Truth Martini distracts him and Silas takes advantage and wins with that stupid headstand moonsault. He couldn’t even be bothered to do something to the arm to set it up. At least Taven lays him out afterwards to get his heat back.
KEVIN STEEN vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER
From a structure and story standpoint, this would look more at home in New Japan than ROH. The work isn’t quite up to snuff, but, it’s a nice exhibition of the young gun trying to make his bones by knocking off the established veteran. Cedric is quicker and more agile than Steen (although Steen pulls out a few surprises to show off his own agility), but, Steen has enough experience that he knows how to offset it. Indeed, the second half of the match has just as many instances of Cedric walking into Steen’s offense as it does Steen doing the work himself. Cedric gets a few big shots in, like the Kick 2 Kill and the Lumbar Check, but, when they aren’t enough to finish him off, he just sits there in disbelief, and lets Steen recover. Cedric snaps out of it, but, it’s too late, Steen counters him into the fisherman buster and the package piledriver finishes him off.
KYLE O’REILLY/BOBBY FISH © vs. NICK JACKSON/MATT JACKSON (ROH World Tag Team Titles)
After a relatively inoffensive, but, unspectacular, undercard, this is certainly a step in the right direction. There are quite a few smart touches throughout the match, especially the momentum shifting due to miscues, like Kyle diving into the superkick on the floor, and Red Dragon taking control back when Nick's roundhouse from the apron catches Matt. The story with Matt's arm in the cast is nice too, even though the champions aren't nearly as nasty as they could have been in working it over. Kyle purposely doing the armbar to the other arm and forcing Matt to use the hurt one block it, which opens him up for the armbar to the bad arm, is another smart moment. And, it's nice to see Matt get revenge by clocking Kyle with the cast when he won’t go down after several superkicks.
As far as overall work goes, this isn't anything different than what you'd normally expect from the Young Bucks, lots of superkicks and flashy spots. That makes the finish seem like a bit of a downer, with Nick getting the pin on Kyle with a flash cradle. But, it worked in it's own way, with Kyle thinking he'd outsmarted Nick by catching him in the Triangle choke when he went for the 450, but, finding out that Nick outsmarted him. It’d have been nice to see the Young Bucks win in a less flukey manner, but, it’s not huge deal since the Young Bucks’ win here wasn’t so much a passing of the torch as it was a short break for Kyle and Bobby. ***1/4
ADAM COLE © vs. CHRIS HERO (ROH World Heavyweight Title - Ringmasters Challenge)
The work in the first fall is nice, and the finish is smart, but, it never feels like they’re really building to anything (which can be mostly said of the whole match). Cole’s apron piledriver is probably the most impressive spot of the entire match, and Hero puts it over really well, but, it doesn’t lead to anything other than a single near fall. Cole doesn’t try to take advantage of his bell being rung, or focus on Hero’s neck, and his brainbuster to the knee, which he would use in the third fall would play into either of those ideas. Hero’s missed moonsault leading to Cole getting the first fall with the German suplex is a nice enough finish, but, it comes off like a fluke, and makes the work of the first fall seem meaningless.
The issue with work seeming meaningless carries over to the second fall, with Cole in control for most of it, working over Hero’s knee. Hero does a good job selling, but, Cole doesn’t do anything to make it seem like it’s paying off. The best thing he comes up with is the Bret Hart figure four around the post, and that’s not something he can actually win with. In fact, the only thing that working over Hero’s knee really leads to is the Shining Wizard spot in the next fall. Once again, the finish is good, with Hero’s elbow strike actually looking credible for a chance, when he stuns Cole with the elbow and then gets the submission with the Stretch Plum Alpha.
They finally clear up their issue with meaningless work (for the most part) and try telling a story for the iron man fall. Hero’s strikes continue to look important for a change, with both of his pins coming from elbows. Cole tries to guzzle Hero quickly with his big moves, but, Hero doesn’t stay down, so Cole sacrifices a fall by using the belt to get disqualified, but, then he quickly gets two falls to tie things up, and later gets ahead. Taking advantage of Hero’s bad leg for the Shining Wizard, and getting a fall from the brainbuster are two other smart spots from Cole. But, they get crazy toward the end with the NOAH backdrop pop-up sequence. Hero ties things up with seconds to go, and Cole runs away and runs out the clock, thinking he’s outsmarted Hero. But, Nigel orders sudden death, and Cole proves to be the better wrestler by countering the neckbreaker to the backslide to beat Hero clean as a sheet. On the whole, this certainly isn’t a bad match, but, it’s more frustrating and disappointing to me, because they had a chance to do something relatively unique and steal the show, and, wound up squandering it. ***
Conclusion: It feels like business as usual for ROH. As a whole it’s not bad at all, and certainly watchable, but, doesn’t live up to the hype.