This latest episode of Ring Of Honor Wrestling was recorded from Loiusville, Kentucky, and right off the bat we get treated to a little sample of how ROH’s new show is slowly adding to its presentation style. We see commentators Nigel McGuinnes and Kevin Kelly on screen broadcasting together for the first time. It’s a nice touch, giving ROH a little more legitimacy as a contender in the broadcast stakes, and also charmingly reminiscent of Joey Style’s old backstage area in ECW. There’s even a chain link fence in the background. They tell us that the show’s main event will be Jay Lethal’s first defence of his Television Championship against Mike Bennet. I have to say, its really cool that there is a title match each week, it gives it a real big fight feel every week.
In our first interview segments we are introduced to T.J. Perkins and “Giant Killer” Mike Mondo. They are both making their television debuts tonight, against each other. T.J. says he has wrestled around the world starting from the age of 14, and has had to make many sacrifices along the way. He says he feels honoured to be in what he calls the “top platform in the United States”. It isn’t, not by a long shot, but still, welcome to ROH television, Mr. Perkins. T.J. comes off as very much an everyman, casually dressed and relaxing in the locker room. Mike Mondo, on the other hand, is your classic narcissist character. His segment is full of shouting, flexing and over acting for the camera. I’d recount what he says here but with his voice and the way he’s saying his lines, all I could think about was how much he reminded me of Biff Tannen from Back To The Future. We were also treated to some odd close up shots of Biff, I mean Mike, when he raises his voice, leaving us with black and white shots of Mike and his rather large pearly whites. Odd creative choice.
Singles Match: “Giant Killer” Mike Mondo vs. T.J. Perkins
Match one commences following an amusing entrance from Mondo carrying a sign hyping himself up and then trying to look menacing during the traditional Code of Honor pre match handshake. I will say this, Mike Mondo might over act this gimmick, but it is pretty fun to watch.
We start with some pacing around the ring, then a lock up by Mondo, which is reversed by Perkins, then reversed again and Mondo slams Perkins to the matt. Mondo hooks in an armbar, which Perkins reverses with some very athletic luchadore style filps. He launches Mondo them himself off the ropes for a slam and…Mondo barely moves an inch. Perkins launches off the ropes again, floats over, Mondo catches him, takes his legs out from under him, only for Perkins to flip Mondo using his leg strength. Perkins hit’s a Sunset Flip, turns it into a Boston Crab, and then pulls Mondo up using his arms at the same time. Wow, that was inventive. Perkins tries to turn it into an STF but Mondo makes it to the ropes and the hold is broken.
Some corner fighting and the Perkins puts Mondo in the Tree Of Woe and then nails him with a dropkick. Mondo rolls to the outside, Perkins goes for a dive but Mondo gets out of the way, then grabs Perkins’ legs and drags him out of the ring before picking him up and ramming him into the barricade. Mondo then gets onto the apron and executes a rolling senton into Perkins. Wow, for a big guy he’s pretty agile. Perkins is thrown back into the ring, thrown to the ropes and then Mondo hits him with a slash and gets a near fall. Mondo stomps Perkins and then throws him into a corner and stomps him some more. Perkins gets in an uppercut and goes for an Irish whip but Mondo reverses it and hits Perkins with a running double knee. I’m seriously impressed with Mondo’s speed.
Mondo hits a running kick and goes for a pin, getting a 2 count. He then hits Perkins with an elbow drop and then picks him up and scoop slams him back down. Knee drop, pinfall, another 2 count. Mondo then applies a rear chinlock. Perkins rocks him with a few elbows to the gut, but Mondo hits him with a gutshot of his own. Perkins is whipped into the corner but stops before impact. Mondo runs at him and is greeted with an elbow for his efforts. A few back and forth punches with Mondo then Perkins gaining momentum. Perkins tries to whip Mondo but it’s a no go, and he is in turn whipped by Mondo. Mondo goes for a clothesline, Perkins ducks and then grabs onto the ropes and is sprawled out in a manaer than makes me think of Spider-Man. He beckons Mondo over, who charges at him and promptly goes out of the ring. That rope taunt…thing was inventive as hell.
Perkins hits Mondo with a Suicide Dive out of the ring and then throws Mondo back into the ring. Perkins climbs to the top turnbuckle and connects with a double stomp to Mondo’s back. Mondo goes groggy and Parkins goes for a kick, but Mondo rolls off Perkins back (which, considering his frame, REALLY surprised me) and Irish Whips him for another clothesline, but misses again. Perkins grabs Mondo’s legs and applies a Deathlock. Mondo grabs the ropes and then used the corner to get up, and Perkins hits him with an Uppercut. Perkins whips Mondo, which is reversed. Mondo charges at Perkins, who tries to flip him onto the outside, but Mondo lands on the apron. Perkins attempts a clothesline, but Mondo sends him into the ropes. Mondo gets back into the ropes and…trips. Seriously? Did he legit screw up getting back into the ring?
He calls to the referee that he’s hurt, so I guess this was planned after all. Perkins comes over Mondo catches him with an almighty leap into a double facebreaker. Wow, that was a really cool spot. Mondo hits Perkins with a front dropkick, goes for a pin and gets a 2. Mondo argues with the referee, and Perkins goes for a superkick, which Mondo blocks. Mondo hits with with a forearm but Perkins goes for the superkick again and connects. He then hits a roundhouse kick, then goes to the top rope. Perkins goes for a dropkick and…nobody home! Mondo goes for a roll up, Perkins breaks out and then gets Mondo with a Luchalibre roll up and scores the pinfall. Great finish to a great match.
Winner: T.J. Perkins
Very nice mix of technical and cruiserweight action and extremely creative. Fast paced the entire time and for me it was a pay per view calibre match. Perkins was lightning fast and agile and Mondo was surprisingly light on his feet. Perkins goes for the Code Of Honor post match shake, Mondo stares him down, turns away and….struts? That’s what it looked like in the split second before it cut away. He seemed to puff his chest up and stride away. This is a real cross to bear with me as a wrestling fan: the stereotypical muscle man. Its not the 80s anymore and as such things like that come off as ridiculous. But that’s just my take.
After the break Kevin Kelly hypes up ROH’s next pay per view, Final Battle 2011, which will take place December 23rd. There has been an appearance by a ROH roster member or tag team during Kevin’s advertising segment every week so far and this week is no different, as Kevin is joined by Television Champion Jay Lethal. Lethal. hypes up the show as the biggest on ther company calendar, how the TV title is a gateway to the World title, and how hes itching to get in the ring and beat somebody. From the looks of things, ROH seem to be keeping Lethal’s “Black Machismo” persona. Except for the Randy Savage imitations. Which is fine by me.
Back to Kevin and Nigel, who tell us that Executive Producer Jim Cornette will talk to the Briscoe Brothers in the ring over their demands to be the number one contenders for the Tag Team Championship. Before that, we have a recap of last week’s number one contenders match between the Briscoes and the All Night Express, and the controversial finish which saw Jay Brisco kicking Rhett Titus in the groin, unseen by the referee, giving them the victory. We also have the post match Jim Cornette declaration that neither team will be deemed number one contenders. A very nice package, complete with dramatic music and fast paced editing showing the best moments of last weeks match.
Briscoes come out first, then Cornette. He says he felt the All Night Express deserve another change due to last week’s events, so next week we will have another match, and the winners will go on to face Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team for the Tag Team Championships at Final Battle. Jay Briscoe grabs the mic and says they have beaten ANX all across the country, so one more time won’t make a difference. He goes on to say no Ring Of Honor official want the Briscoes headlining Final Battle, but after next week, they won’t have a choice. Cornette says what they don’t want is a repeat of Best In The World in June, where they attacked the champions after their match, which is why they haven’t been given the number one contendership and have to earn it. Jay grabs the mic and says they shouldn’t have to, as they are 6 time Tag Team champions, and says that Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin should kiss the belts goodbye, because the Briscoes are taking them back at Final Battle. The segment ends with Jay and Mark repeatedly yelling “SEVEN TIME, MAN UP” at the crowd, which they chant back at them.
We then go to reactions from the Tag Team Champions. As you might have guessed, both Haas and Benjamin say they want to fight the Briscoes and get retribution for their attack in June. So it looks like the first match announced for Final Battle will be the Briscoes vs. Haas & Benjamin.
Post break Kevin Kelly introduces us to Inside Ring Of Honor. To start us of, Kevin tells us all the different ways to view Final Battle and then introduces an interview segment with Roderick Strong regarding his failed bid for the World Championship two weeks ago. He says that Davey Richards was using illegal tactics during their match, due to him socking Truth Martini one. He says Richards then physically assaulted him and was trying to get disqualified on purpose. Strong says that the challenger for the World Title at Final Battle will be revealed in 2 weeks, and he won’t be the one chosen. He says that the referee should have disqualified Richards, but since that didn’t happen, he is issuing an open challenge at Final Battle to take on anyone from the world, and says he will take on and defeat the greatest wrestler in the world, and outshine Davey Richards to boot. I smell a surprise debut coming.
Strong then says he will be wrestling Team Richards member Kyle O’Riley next week as a warm up and a chance to make Davey look stupid. We then cut to Richards himself talking about his journey from Final Battle 2010 to 2011, and how his match will be more than just a match, it will be a chance to prove himself. He talks about how hes been working with blackbelts and kick boxers, putting himself through hell during his training, so that when he steps into the ring, hell is exactly what he is going to bring. He also hypes up his appearances New Japan Pro Wrestling throughout the year as contributing to his training. He concludes by saying he doesn’t care who his opponent is, because it will be a battle at Final Battle and they will remember his name. It was a very clichéd segment, complete with dramatic music underpinning the entire speech, but it got the job done. Kevin Kelly then says that next weeks Inside ROH will bring news of a new tag team. I look forward to seeing that already.
It’s main event time already, and before we get to it we are treated to a recap of the fantastic El Generico vs. Jay Lethal match from three weeks ago, which say Jay return to Ring Of Honor after six years at TNA and capturing the Television title from Generico. Mike Bennet comes out with his trainer Bob Evans. I do love how Evans is basically Mickey from Rocky. The ROH creative team must have a thing for 80s movies. We cut to a break, then ANOTHER promo for Final Battle, this time from Jim Cornette. He hypes the pay per view then briefly interviews Eddie Edwards about it . After that, its back to the ring.
Singles Match for the Ring Of Honor Television Title: “The Prodigy” Mike Bennet w/ “Brutal” Bob Evans vs. Jay Lethal (C)
We are informed that the match, like every TV title defense, has a time limit of 15 minutes. We get the introductions, the tale of the tape, and the attempt at the Code Of Honor handshake which results in Bennet blowing Lethal off. A bit of pacing, then a lock up, and then a stand off. Classic slow build start.
Another test of strength lock up, going on for quite some time, before Lethal breaks the hold and points out Evans holding a foreign object on the outside to the referee, with Evans shrugging it off and quickly hiding it. A lot of back and forth rope running, before Lethal plants Bennet on the other side of the ropes and dropkicks him to the outside. Lethal goes for a baseball slide but Bennet pulls away. We get a few chops and punches then Bennet is knocked into the barricade. Lethal breaks the ten count, and we then have two extremely conveniently located fans on the other side of the barrier hold up signs in favour of Kevin Steen and chanting for ROH to reinstate him. I do love how this storyline is played off like its genuine fan reaction with little to know acknowledgement from the commentators. Good fun and a nice variation on an overused idea. Lethal beats down on Bennet, who the reverses it and send Lethal back to the ring.
Bennet is slow to re-renter the ring, and Lethal capitalises by tackling him and then placing him in a very unique submission. Its kind of like a reverse Cloverleaf, which then changed to a surfboard. It looked really cool. Lethal then slams him to the ground, goes for a pin, and gets a one count. He then scoop slams him to the matt and drops and elbow, and covers again, this time getting a two count. Lethal then goes for a springboard dive off the ropes, but is distracted by Bob Evans, allowing Bennet time to get up. He catches Lethal and slams him down, before hitting him with a running clothesline. Bennet goes for a cover this time, and gets a two.
Bennett hits Lethal with a few stomps, the rolls out of the ring and we cut to a break. We come back to find the two men going back and forth across the ropes before Bennett slams Lethal into one of the corners. Bennett lets Lethal take a few groggy steps out and then hits him with a reverse neckbreaker. Goes for a cover and gets two. We then are shown what happened during the break, including a head locked applied by Bennet, a moonsault by Lethal that failed to find its target, and then Bennet beating down Lethal. Back to the live action and Bennet is hitting Lethal with the old fashioned edge of the canvas attack. He comes back in and hits a few stomps, taking his time, before putting Lethal into the corner, kicking him and irish whipping him to the opposite corner. Goes for a running slam and…Lethal counters with an elbow. Lethal then darts towards Bennet but is caught and slammed into the matt. Cover and a two count, and Lethal clutches his head.
Bennet then gets Lethal in a lock with his legs around Lethal’s waist. MMA style grappling in wrestling…I like it. Lethal gets a few elbows in and breaks out. Goes for a suplex, Bennet has it scouted, and then gets Lethal in an underhook submission. They go to ground as Bennet applies more pressure. Lethal tries to fight it but starts to fade. Then we get the playing off the crowd comeback, and Lethal knocks Bennet down. Some rope running, with Lethal getting in a cross body, a few elbows, and then a dropkick. A timer comes up in the bottom left corner to let us know that we only have 3 minutes left. Bennet launches Lethal into the ropes, who handsprings back at Bennet, and then lands a cutter on Bennett! That wa sa very nice spot indeed. Goes for a cover, gets a two count. 2:30 to go and Lethal calls for a turbuckle move, heads to the corner, then goes back to Bennett. They go back and forth with some punches, then Lethal launches himself off a middle rop for another cross body, but Bennet catches him and uses the momentum to hit a spinebuster. Another great spot. Bennet goes for a pin, another 2 count. 1:50 left.
Bennet hooks Lethal’s shoulder, Lethal elbows his way out, but Bennet then sends Lethal flying with a German Suplex…and Lethal lands on his feet! Lethal runs at Bennet for a clothesline, stops, and then hits him with a DDT. Goes for a pin, 2 count. 1:14 on the clock. Bennet gets Lethal into a roll up for a near fall, then as they both get to their feet Lethal clocks Bennet with a super kick that came out of nowhere. Shawn Michaels would be proud. 50 seconds left on the clock, Lethal climbs to the top rope and goes for the elbow drop, but Bennett rolls out of the way. With 25 seconds of the match left, Bennet pounces on Lethal and just starts throwing wild punches, and for a second I think I’m watching UFC. The referee tries to get Bennett to stop, and the distraction allows Lethal to reverse it. The time limit elapses and now Lethal is throwing wild punches, and is eventually pulled off Bennet by the referee. In a repeat of the match from two weeks ago, Lethal begs for five more minutes, but Bennet heads to the locker room as the show ends.
Winner: No Winner Due To Time Limit Draw, Jay Lethal Retains The World Television Championship
A solid championship match with some really great moments, but it feels a bit cheap to pull the same finish with Jay Lethal two matches in a row. The Kevin Steen plants were a great touch.
All in all that was a decent show, but two matches feels a bit odd, considering the huge roster of talent ROH has. However, the interview segments and Inside ROH are needed, for those who have been unable to keep up with all things Ring Of Honor while the show has been off the air. While I can accept this for now because of that, the constant repetition of advertisements throughout the show is unnecessary and comes across like ROH assume their audience aren’t paying attention. The matches were as usual exceptional quality and make up for the small flaws in their presentation. Its great to see ROH back on the air and its rewarding as a fan to see them becoming more comfortable with their presentation style as the show continues. This week’s show was probably the best so far, and a great showcase for the company. If I wanted to introduce a friend to Ring Of Honor, I would probably include this episode as a starting point.