SUPERCARD OF HONOR XV
April 1, 2022
Brian Cage . . . is involved in a better (and much smarter worked) match than Swerve Strickland.
FTR . . . teach the Briscoes the difference between saying you’re the best tag team in wrestling and actually *BEING* the best tag team in wrestling.
Rhett Titus . . . once again gets the proverbial rug yanked out from underneath him just when it seems like he’s finally getting some respect.
SWERVE STRICKLAND vs. ALEX ZAYNE
Wow. Take every stereotype involving indy and/or junior wrestling, and you have this match. Swerve and Zayne are both more concerned with being flashy than with taking the match anywhere or making their flashiness matter. Within the first few minutes, Zayne does a standing corkscrew senton for barely a one count, and Swerve hits a TKO off the top, which doesn’t wind up meaning a thing. It seems like things are going to pick up when Swerve takes over by going after Zayne’s knee, but then Zayne comes back with an enzuigiri and a reverse rana off the apron. Once they get back into the ring, after teasing the count out, Zayne hits a shooting star knee drop, just to really hammer home the point about Swerve working the knee. And then, after some more goofiness and wasting of big spots and finishers, Swerve finally keeps Zayne down by stomping at his knee before hitting his cradle driver. I could probably close my eyes and pick a random 2CW DVD and find a match with smarter work and a better sense of story or structure.
BRIAN CAGE vs. NINJA MACK
If nothing else, this isn’t as stupid as the opener. Mack tries to get ahead using his speed and agility, but Cage uses his strength and completely shuts him down. It’s obvious from the first spot, a powerbomb on the apron when Cage catches Mack on a dive, that Cage could end this whenever he wants. He takes a few minutes to have some fun and to give the crowd something to make noise about, and then finishes Mack off.
JAY LETHAL vs. LEE MORIARTY
It’s fun to watch the story play out and see the payoff when Lethal fouls Moriarty to complete his turn, but the match as a whole isn’t so good throughout. Lethal wasn’t nearly as nasty as he could have been while he was sharking on Moriarty’s leg, and the best moment that comes from the leg work was Moriarty’s hesitation before his dive to the floor. His counters to Lethal’s finishers were a nice touch, but they were all just fluke cradles rather than setting up Lethal for something bigger that the fans would believe was a potential finisher. Aside from the leg work and Moriarty’s counters, the match seems meandering, with a lot of chop and forearm exchanges that don’t go anywhere, Moriarty getting precious little in the way of real offense, aside from his hammerlock lariat, and Lethal not showing any real sense of urgency. Luckily the story and the finish come off well enough that the overall impression of the match is a good one. It’d be interesting to see how a rematch would play out with Lethal being a full-fledged heel and Moriarty out for blood, but between Moriarty’s position in AEW and ROH running so sporadically, it’s probably not something to look for anytime soon.
MERCEDEZ MARTINEZ vs. WILLOW NIGHTINGALE (Decision Match for the Interim ROH Women’s World Title)
If not for Mercedes showing some of the nastiness that Lethal was lacking in, this would almost be a complete waste. Most of Willow’s offense is noticeably loose, her lariats don’t look good at all, and she almost completely misses Mercedes with the cannonball. She also goofs up and pulls Mercedes’ arm away from the ropes before remembering that Mercedes is supposed to grab them to break up the pin, so she has to let go. Mercedes is a bit better with following through, but her Danielson-style elbows and arm-trap stomps are more-than-a-bit-obviously being pulled. They also have quite a few big spots and finishers that wind up being wasted, most notably Mercedes’ Air Raid Crash and OG Drop, which both wind up being throwaway near falls, along with Willow’s moonsault. Willow wiping out on the moonsault as a lead-in to the Dragon sleeper would have been a much better, and smoother, finish than what they used. Mercedes outwrestling Willow to get the hold is fine in theory, but its execution is awkward and clunky, like most of the other work in the match.
JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE © vs. DAX HARWOOD/CASH WHEELER (ROH World Tag Team Titles)
As if the world needed further evidence that FTR are the best tag team in the business. The crowd heat and the intensity from both teams make this look more like a grudge match in a longstanding feud rather than a first-time dream match. Everything they do seems to have a purpose, even Mark’s goofy ‘Redneck Kung-Fu’ works as far as getting the crowd excited, and there’s nothing as far as the overly drawn-out sequences or ridiculous looking spots that make the cooperation all too obvious. Even when something doesn’t appear to go exactly as planned, they don’t panic, and they just roll with it. Cash’s missed attempt to knock Mark off the top is a good example of this. It seems like he was supposed to push him off or pull him down, but Cash misses. Instead of taking a phantom bump, Mark dives onto Cash instead. There’s another smart touch with Jay’s counter of the Big Rig, instead of using it to give control to Jay, Dax takes advantage of the position he’s in and does his slingshot powerbomb, and once Cash sees what’s going on, he’s right there with the splash off the top. It’s not the most realistic sequence you’ll find, but it’s a hell of a lot more credible than seeing the Young Bucks take the time to set their opponents up in the right position and then superkick the knees in order to “force” someone to Tombstone their partner.
Even the obvious filler is worth watching. FTR are as vicious as you’d expect when they work over Jay after he gets cut open, and their work in general is as smooth and crisp as ever. The Briscoes know that they’re the better brawlers and strikers, so they force Cash and Dax to play their game and FTR loses every time. It’s only when they change things up, like Dax going with a straight punch instead of a chop, that FTR have any sort of success. Dax lets his cockiness get the better of him when he has Jay set up for a superplex and starts lighting him up, but Jay winds up returning fire and knocking Dax down. Dax recovers before Jay can follow up, so he still gets to do his superplex. But his feeling the need to prove himself by chopping Jay nearly costs him. Dax throwing the chair is a bit ridiculous, but it winds up having its purpose. Dax was on the floor and unable to get into the ring because of Jay constantly knocking him off the apron. So, Dax throws the chair into the ring, and it’s enough of a distraction to allow Dax to roll in and resume the match. The forearm exchange between Dax and Jay toward the end goes a bit long, but it has a good payoff. Jay wins the exchange when Dax slumps back into the ropes and rebounds himself into a spinning neckbreaker, which perfectly sets up Mark’s diving elbow for a good near fall.
The real joy in watching the match play out is that it feels organic, with the spots and sequences all having a natural progression. There aren’t any instances of anyone eating a huge spot and then having to jump up and get into position for the next one. Everything is sold and put over in an appropriate manner, right up to the tease of the double count out after the vertical suplex off the apron that Jay gives Dax. Jay’s hot tag looks like something right out of the Ricky Morton playbook with the way that he gets out of the corner and rolls to Mark. The sequence from the attempt at FTR’s spike piledriver to The Briscoes getting the near fall with the dual neckbreaker is worked seamlessly. The near fall on Dax with the Big Rig is the only thing that really feels like it’s pushing the envelope, and that’s because they hit it about as cleanly as possible. The finishing stretch is no exception, with Cash thwarting the Doomsday Device and buying Dax enough time to get off of Jay’s shoulders. Dax sends Jay to the floor and Mark charges himself right into the Big Rig, complete with Cash rushing to prevent Jay from making the save, and Dax gets the pin to give FTR the titles.
If not for the move set (and even then, it’s not like they’re trading Canadian Destroyers), this would look like something that could have happened during the golden age of tag team wrestling. The pacing, structure, and storytelling looks right at home next to Harts/Bulldogs, Midnights/Fantastics and Brainbusters/Rockers. This kills pretty much every other tag team match since AEW was formed and anyone who thinks the Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros or the Usos vs. New Day are an example of a great tag match needs to watch this to see what great tag team wrestling really looks like. ****1/2
RHETT TITUS © vs. MINORU SUZUKI (ROH World Television Title)
Aside from being the umpteenth example of Titus being thoroughly disrespected by ROH, there isn’t a whole lot to see here. The early mat exchanges are nice, and it’s cool to see that Titus can hang on the mat with the legend for a couple of minutes. Beyond that, Titus isn’t completely squashed, although he might as well have been. He hits Suzuki with a nice belly to belly and the dropkick that the announcers had spent the whole match building up, and neither move winds up meaning anything. Suzuki toys with him on the mat and ties him up with various submissions, and the best thing that Titus shows is the escape from the piledriver, and Suzuki takes the first opening to lock in the sleeper (for maybe six seconds) and that wears him down enough for Suzuki to do the piledriver and take the title. As nice as it is to see Suzuki in ROH, it’d have been just as easy to have him squash someone on the undercard rather than have him lay waste to one of the very few homegrown ROH talents.
JOSH WOODS © vs. WHEELER YUTA (ROH Pure Title)
Aside from the opening mat sequence, leading to Yuta losing his first rope break, this doesn’t seem to come together all that well. Woods working over Yuta’s arm doesn’t seem to matter very much, aside from using his second rope break to escape a short arm scissors, and the strike exchanges don’t seem to accomplish much, other than to highlight the fact that they both understand and respect the rules for Pure Title matches (no closed fists to the face). The work is well-executed, but it doesn’t feel like either of them is trying to take the match somewhere. It’s fun to see Yuta burn through his rope breaks and still be able to pull off the win, but it’d have been nice to see Woods take advantage of the situation and try to use the ropes to his advantage before Yuta outwrestles and beats him.
BANDIDO vs. JONATHAN GRESHAM (Decision Match for the Undisputed ROH World Heavyweight Title)
Aside from settling the dispute over the World Title, there isn’t very much at all to take away from this. It certainly doesn’t look like an appropriate main event for a PPV, let alone something that would be able to follow the tag titles match. If nothing else, Gresham and Bandido stay relatively busy, but that only goes so far, because much of what they do winds up being ultimately meaningless. Gresham’s flashy matwork is fun to watch, but he’s certainly no Tamura in that regard. Most of what he does is transition from one flash cradle near fall to another or do his crossface and then pivot around and get on an ankle lock. Up until the last cradle that winds up getting the pin (and is done in such a way that it seems virtually impossible for Bandido to kick out), it never seems like Gresham’s matwork is anything more than flashy filler. Gresham’s wearing down of Bandido’s arm has some good moments, like the way he’s able to prevent Bandido from spinning out of his hammerlock, but it doesn’t go anywhere, and his Octopus finisher is essentially wasted.
Of course, Gresham looks like the second coming of Tamura compared to Bandido, who just doesn’t seem to have any idea about structure. Just after getting to the ropes to break the Octopus hold, Bandido gets up a boot to stop a charge, hits a European uppercut, a twisting body press from the top and then does a vertical suplex where he holds Gresham for a full minute before doing the move. So much for Gresham working over the arm meaning anything. Bandido takes a seated bump to the apron and just sits there so that Gresham can do his big running dropkick, even though Bandido hadn’t taken any real punishment at that point, so there should have been no reason for him to stay seated. Later on, Bandido takes a phantom bump to the floor, supposedly from Gresham’s momentum, but it’s so delayed that even a rookie having his first match would have known better than to follow through with it, and it’s lucky that the crowd didn’t turn on him (or the whole match) then and there. The finishing stretch is pretty much as absurd as it gets. Bandido gets a near fall from the 21-plex and then hits three superkicks to a kneeling Gresham, which seem to actually assist Gresham in getting to his feet. Gresham hits a springboard moonsault which causes Bandido to roll to the floor so that Gresham can follow him out with a big dive. Gresham throws him back into the ring and springboards in so that he can tie up Bandido on the mat for the pin. For all of their efforts, the best moments wind up being little touches like Gresham’s counter and escape of the surfboard hold, and him lowering his base to prevent Bandido from whipping him into the corner.
As if the work wasn’t ridiculous enough, there’s also the angle with Chavito cheating for Bandido, which seems to serve no purpose. Lethal challenges Gresham afterwards and cements his heel turn, which ended up moot because Lethal wound up moving over to feud with Samoa Joe over the TV Title. The biggest compliment that I can give this match is that it would have been match of the night if it happened on the GCW PPV from January.
Conclusion: There’s some decently fun stuff to see, but the only reason to pick this up is the FTR/Briscoes match.