Tonight’s show is the Valentine’s Day episode, albeit Ring of Honor is a bit late on the draw. I can’t imagine this is a consistent theme, but it does give us a place to start. Let’s get to it!
The Romantic Touch vs. Mike Bennett (w/ Maria Kanellis): Of course the Valentine’s Day episode starts with RT. Who else could it be? Veda Scott joins Steve Corino and Kevin Kelly on commentary. ROH does some fine camera work, spotting the many, many ladies in attendance for RT, no doubt. Bennett looks big here, like he added a lot of bulk in a short time. I’m not implying anything, honestly, maybe it’s his fuller beard.
RT plays up his love machine ways early on in the match. Bennett cuts him off with a Lou Thesz press and punches to follow up. Bennett does that a thousand times better than Steve Austin, for what it’s worth. Not many times I can say that. RT gets distracted by Maria, letting Bennett clothesline him and take control — right in time for a commercial break to boot.
Bennett is in control when the show returns. RT turns the tides by avoiding a Bennett big splash in the corner. RT lands a diving back elbow as he springs out of the corner. He pushes Bennett out of the ring and lines him up for a dive. Bennett pulls Maria in the way, immediately halting RT. Bennett shoves Maria into RT’s arms. He’s more than happy to catch her. Bennett superkicks the distracted RT.
RT rolls out of a side effect. He lands a picture perfect dropkick that gets him a two count. It could have been three for all we know, but Maria was up on the apron, gyrating and swiveling her hips, distracting RT. RT reaches for a box that he had on the announcers table and brings it over to Maria. She opens it, revealing sweet chocolate treats on the inside. But Maria must not like chocolate, because she smacks them up into RT’s face. Bennett short-arm clotheslines RT and locks on his new anaconda vise finisher. RT taps moments later. **
The real stellar work was on commentary. I enjoy Kelly and Corino a lot, plus them playing along with the RT gimmick while Veda Scott insists that he’s really Rhett Titus gets a laugh from me. As did a forlorn RT slowly eating chocolate by himself after the match. I’ve been there, buddy. Bennett and RT had a short match that I can already remember little about, moments after I saw it. It’s a standard 10-minute TV match. Nothing to get worked up about in either direction.
Mark and Jay Briscoe get a minute-long video to hype up the main event tonight. Briscoes vs. Cole/Hardy vs. Elgin/Hero. You’ve already sold me on it, guys, but I’m not complaining if these two get mic time.
Three Team Elimination Tag Team Match – Micheal Elgin & Chris Hero vs. Adam Cole & Matt Hardy vs. The Briscoe’s (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe): ROH gives this one the balance of TV time. The Briscoe’s have such a great look and they’ve come so far from their 2002 super generic indy look. Bobby Cruise hops on the mic to inform us that if someone beats Adam Cole by pinfall or submission, then they will receive an ROH World title shot. “Since when,” a despondent Cole cries, “since when!?”
Elgin and Jay start the match. Jay gets pushed to the ropes and tries to shoulder Elgin, who doesn’t budge. Elgin hits the ropes, Jay drops down, Elgin comes back, Jay leaps up, Elgin pauses. Instead of going under, he catches Jay on his shoulders. Jay slips off his back. Both men go for big right hands and both miss. They both want to get a piece of Cole and Hardy, but those two drop off the apron and refuse to tag in.
Jay tags his brother in. Elgin punches him in the forehead and Mark gets fired up from it. Hero tags in. Hero towers over Mark, which I didn’t expect. These two grapple with each other instead of trying shows of strength like their partners. They do a good job of it too. Hero hits the ropes and Mark leaps up to let Hero go under. Hero makes a Briscoe pay for that move for the second time tonight when he lands a big boot square in Mark’s chest. Cover and two fall.
Hero tags Elgin in but the show goes to break. It comes back with Jay and Hero in there. Cole and Hardy refuse to tag in again, forcing the other teams to fight it out. Those four get sick of Cole and Hardy’s cowardice, so they chase them down. Cole escapes, but Hardy is trapped in the ring and now the de facto legal man.
Hero and Elgin start the beatdown. Elgin gets his delayed vertical suplex in but Adam Cole breaks it up with a boot to the gut. Or does he? Elgin never lets go and hoists Hardy right back up. Cole boots him a second time. Elgin is undeterred. He lifts Hardy up a third time and manages to finish off the suplex. Elgin tags out to Mark Briscoe. He lands a few punches then makes his brother the legal man. Jay does a bit of work then tags Mark back in. Hardy manages to drive Mark into his corner, where Cole slaps Hardy’s back and becomes legal for the first time.
Elgin tags in and stomps on Cole again and again. Cole slows Elgin down with a jawbreaker, but Elgin falls back towards the Briscoe’s, so Jay tags in. Hardy knees Jay’s back when he hits the ropes, leaving the door open for Cole to take control. Cole and Hardy swap in and out, taking turns to beat on Jay. They have an extended heat section where they isolate Jay in their corner. Jay gets some room to breath with a combo of punches and back elbows. He dives across the ring and tags in his brother. Redneck kung fu time. Cole irishwhips Mark towards the corner and Hero tags himself in. Mark wants to keep going, but he’s no longer the legal man. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Matt Hardy is laying on the mats outside the ring, so Mark decides it’s best to elbow drop him from the ring apron, Cactus Jack style.
Elgin and Mark are the legal men when we come back from another break. Elgin gets his second signature spot in where he has Jay draped across his shoulders and Mark in his arms, slamming them both back simultaneously. The crowd loves it and chants “Michael Elgin!” for the effort. Elgin poses, relishing the moment. Cole takes the chance to tag himself in.
Mark and Jay land a neckbreaker/razor’s edge combo on Cole. Mark gets the cover, but Elgin and Hero break it. I guess they care more about title shots than winning the match? Matt Hardy makes a legal tag somewhere in the ensuing chaos. Jay lands a neckbreaker on him. Mark goes up top and hits a froggybow. That’s a frog splash, elbow drop combo for the uninitiated. Look it up, it’s a beaut. More chaos as everyone keeps getting involved. Matt hits a twist of fate on Mark. Cover for the pin, and the Briscoe’s are gone.
Jay isn’t keen on leaving. Not without first battering Cole with some fists. ROH security has to drag him away. Hero and Hardy are the legal men now. Hero lands a great discuss elbow then a neckbreaker from the middle turnbuckle. Hardy counters a suplex attempt into a side effect but Elgin breaks the ensuing pin. Cole tags in. Hero hits a rolling elbow, this time on Cole. Hero tags out to Elgin, giving us an Elgin-Cole showdown.
Elgin tries to suplex Cole, who knees him in the head while in the suplex. Both men counter the other. Cole tries his Canadian destroyer variation but Elgin doesn’t flip back. Cole thinks fast and turns it into a sunset flip. Elgin rolls through and attempts a deadlift German. Cole’s too quick for that, pushing himself out and trying a superkick. Elgin blocks it and finally lands a spinning backfist. Hardy cuts off Elgin and tackles him through the ropes.
Hero got a tag in while Elgin fell past him. Hero covers up when Cole is about to superkick him. Cole kicks Hero in the knee instead. Cole goes to the top rope, looking for the Panama City Destroyer one more. Hero is too smart for that, stepping back before Cole lands. Hero lands a big straight right hand on Cole’s jaw. Cole staggers, Hero ends up creaming him with a rolling elbow. Hero gets the pin and the title shot! ***1/2
I enjoyed the match, but it has its flaws. Namely, it has a very weird dynamic because of it being a three-way tag with two face teams and a heel team. The heels refuse to get in the ring, which makes sense, but it forces the faces to work on each other and that never really built to much. Hero and Elgin breaking up the pinfall was also sour for me, since it meant they put the title shot over winning this match. I guess that makes sense, but it never sat well with me once they did it. Hero looked like the biggest star of the match. His offense was crisp and on a whole level above the other guys. Everyone else did well, but Hero stood out. The finish sequence also excelled. Fast action with nice counters and a smooth flow.
Another strong week of ROH TV. This is way better than it was last year and ROH finally feels like it has some momentum behind it. I also have to mention how much I love the Corino and Kelly pairing on commentary. Corino is a heel, but doesn’t completely stooge it up in an obnoxious way. Plus, he’s genuinely funny and doesn’t automatically disagree with every last thing Kelly says. Good call getting him a headset. Looking forward to next week.