Another week, another Ring of Honor TV episode. That sounds way worse than it should, ROH has been on a roll since I started watching. Tonight is the 12th Anniversary show from Philadelphia, at least in part. Michael Elgin comes out but his opponent, Matt Hardy, was unable to make it due to weather. Let’s get to the show.

Elgin gets on the mic. Scarlett Bordeaux is in the ring too, dressed much more modestly than she once was. She’s the new ring announcer, I’m guessing (and hoping) on an interim basis. Not that she’s bad, but she doesn’t have Bobby Cruise’s pipes. Elgin has two goals: become the ring of honor world champion and send Matt Hardy out of Philadelphia on a stretcher or a body bag. No Hardy tonight, so that’s not going to work. The rest of what he has to say is Ring of Honor glad-handing. He does call out Raymond Rowe, who answers.

Michael Elgin vs. Raymond Rowe: Rowe dropkicks Elgin as the bell rings. Elgin gets his delayed suplex spot in early. Rowe isn’t having it, so he fights his way out once, then again, but a third attempt goes through. Elgin drops Rowe just in time for a commercial break.

Rowe tries to out wrestle Elgin as the two swap waist locks. Rowe fights out of a German suplex with a hard elbow then hits the ropes. Elgin follows. Rowe stops and hits the ropes behind Elgin. The two engage in an awkward little dance of trying to run behind each other. Elgin ends that by no selling an exploder suplex. Both men lariat each other, neither having the strength to floor their opponent. Elgin overpowers Rowe, who kicks out at one after a lariat put him down. Elgin eats an over the head belly-to-belly and rolls out of the ring. Rowe dives through the ropes and right onto the mats. Elgin dodged that one. He gets Rowe up for a powerbomb and tosses Rowe right into the guard rails. Elgin drags Rowe back to the ring, gives him a spinning powerbomb, and ends this one. 1/2*

“Yawn” is about right. The crowd agrees, judging by their absolute silence. I like Rowe but Elgin is wearing on me fast. This match was basically his signature spots and zero selling. Rowe didn’t get much of a chance to shine.

Adam Cole runs out after the match, looking to blindside Elgin. Rowe makes the save, grabbing the belt from Cole before he could do the deed. Elgin is about to make Cole pay when Mike Bennett comes out of nowhere and low blows Elgin. Bennett and Cole put the boots to Rowe and Elgin until Jay Briscoe sprints to the ring. Cole gets out of there ASAP while Bennett eats a series of Funkian jabs.

Jay Briscoe vs. Michael Bennett: Jay’s version of the ROH championship is on the line. The crowd is immediately into this match in a way that Elgin-Rowe could only dream of. Bennett and Jay brawl outside the ring. Jay throws Bennett into the barricades and suplexes him from the ground onto the ring apron. Jay is beating the hell out of Bennett until Maria comes out and distracts him with her screaming. Jay only lets the surprise take him for a moment or two until he gets back to whoopin’ Bennett. He suplexes Bennett on the entrance ramp before bringing the action back to the ring.

Jay dropkicks Elgin for a two count. Bennett avoids Jay’s splash attempt in the corner to change the tide. He goes for a pin after an elbow drop and gets a two for his efforts. Bennett gets to work the advantage until a bit of deja vu occurs. This time it’s Jay who moves out of the corner when Bennett tries to splash Jay.

Bennett and Jay trade hard rights. Jay reels back, bounces off the ropes and loads up for a big right. Bennett isn’t having it. He scoops Jay up and spinebusters him as the show goes to a break. Bennett is eating jabs when the show returns. A superkick stops that. Jay immediately cuts Bennett off with a rolling elbow. Two count.

Jay goes up top. Bennett socks him with a right before Jay can do anything. The two fight while standing up on the ropes. That is, until Jay drops Bennett. Jay’s frog splash lands, but only gets a two count. Bennett and Jay continue to trade places for control of the match. They trade moves and they trade blows, neither getting much momentum. Jay hooks Bennetts arms for a Jay Driller when Cole jumps onto the apron for the distraction. Jay lets go, wanting to chase after Cole. Bennett low blows Jay then rolls him up with a cradle. Jay kicks out at two. In fairness, it was an awful low blow. Cole and Maria are screaming at the ref. Jay low blows Bennett while the ref isn’t looking. Jay spikes Bennett with a Jay driller just as the ref turns. Three seconds later this one is done. **1/4

Much better than the opener and pretty good in its own rights. My major knock is that the middle of the match was a long stretch where they traded the lead so often that the crowd never got invested into it, especially after the hot opening. Nor did I. Still a pretty good match.

Jay Lethal vs. AJ Styles: Main event time! The crowd loves Styles. I’m skeptical, mostly because the soccer goalie gloves he’s wearing. Styles and Lethal test their strength to start. A major segment of the crowd chants for Lethal over Styles when the dueling chants begin. The two start with grappling, particularly an extended wristlock by Lethal. Lethal gets pushed into the ropes but grabs on to avoid a Styles’ dropkick. Styles charges and ends up going onto the apron after Lethal pulled down the top rope. Lethal lands a springboard dropkick to knock Styles out of the ring. He lines up for a dive, but Styles hustles back into the ring and clotheslines Lethal as he gets to the ropes. Lethal is outside now. Styles starts a plancha but pulls himself onto the apron when Lethal moves. Styles kicks Lethal in the chin then moonsaults onto nothing. Jay moved, but Styles landed on his feet. Lethal must have run like hell because he got back into the ring and an instant later he dives back through the ropes, crashing into Styles.

Lethal has Styles in a leg hold after a commercial break. He’s working over Styles until he gets to the ropes. Lethal chops Styles so hard that Styles tumbles over. Styles blocks two suplex attempts while he’s on the apron. He manages to get Lethal up first, bringing him out to the apron, then suplex him on to the apron with the second effort. Styles Irish whips Lethal into the barricades. They got back into the ring where Styles still has control. Lethal makes sure to not break the Steamboat rule. He gets a few uppercuts in. Not enough to stop Styles though, who shoots him to the ropes and then floors him with a dropkick.

Styles takes the chance to show his submission prowess with a bridging leg lock. Lethal sells his knee in a noticeable way the moment he gets out. Styles works a chin lock until the crowd fires Lethal up. Lethal fights his way out of it and gets into a trade of chops. Each guy tries to out chop the other. They end that before long and move on to rights. Then forearms. Plus a few more chops. Lots of strikes, to say the least. Lethal combination ends it. The backbreaker, faceslam dyad, not a combination that is fatal.

Lethal sits Styles up on the top, looking for a superplex. Styles drops between Lethal’s legs then yanks him off the top rope. Styles is on the apron again. He springboards into the ring with a big superman forearm. Two count. Styles teases a styles clash, but Lethal is fresh enough to avoid it. Lethal still sells the knee, staggering around, not going so fast when he runs. He can’t get enough momentum to knock Styles over with a clothesline. Styles tries to set Lethal up for a styles clash a second time, but Lethal fights his way out of it again, this time getting to the ropes.

Styles gets out of a dragon suplex set up by hitting his Pele kick. Both men are exhausted, breathing heavy. Lethal lands that dragon suplex on the second try, flipping Styles all the way over. Lethal goes up top for an elbow drop. It lands! It looked good too, but not good enough for a three count. Lethal calls his next move out: lethal injection. Styles grabs him by the wrist, stopping that before it happens. Lethal chops Styles hard across the chest. He goes back to his original plan. Lethal injection. Styles catches him midjump and drops him with a reverse fireman’s carry. Styles follows up with a powerbomb. He doesn’t let go of Lethal’s legs, so he lifts him back up and finally gets what he always wanted: a styles clash. Three count and we’re all done. ***1/4

Fine work in there. Loved that Lethal sold the knee so well, but wish Styles bothered to go after it again. This wasn’t as good as the Styles-Strong encounter but is definitely worth a watch.

Final Thoughts

This week flew by. The main event was almost 20 minutes long but certainly did not feel it. There were no interviews or backstage segments more than a few moments long. So, basically, we’ve got a reverse TNA situation here. In other words, ROH is doing it right.