Watching ROH has been tedious the last few weeks. Despite solid angle advancement the in-ring product lacked spark. I was hoping going into episodes 163 and 164 that the magical work rate from this summer would return as I was salivating for a good match to sink my teeth into. Would the two hours I take to review the show be a bore or a mark out moment? Well, the only way to find out is to get straight to the action!

Episode 163

Mark Briscoe vs. Caprice Coleman: The announce crew called this match a battle of ordained ministers. I saw it as a battle between two men who are solid undercard wrestlers and who are both overshadowed by talented tag team partners. Despite the goofy antics, Mark Briscoe is an incredible athlete who rarely takes a day off in the ring. Caprice Coleman is one the more underrated talents in ROH, he boasts amazing athleticism and is the most consistent worker in the company. With that in mind, the match was good but lacked any real sizzle.

I don’t know if it was the tired crowd or the fact that both men had wrestled once already that night in a battle royal, but the match lacked energy. Both competitor’s offense looked weak and in Coleman’s case was sloppy at times. Without much to invest in the crowd fizzled as the match went along. This was not what you wanted for an opener, especially a show that featured a huge main event between Matt Sydal and AJ Styles.

Now to both gentlemen’s credit neither man dominated the match and both came away looking very equal in the ring. Mark Briscoe even brought out the rarely used Cutthroat Driver to win the match.

Overall, this match was solid but both Coleman and Briscoe can bring more to an encounter. Hopefully a better rematch is on the horizon. **½

The next segment in the show featured an encounter between Tomasso Ciampa and Nigel McGuiness regarding Ciampa’s suspension. I really encourage every ROH fan to check out the sequence of events that brought Ciampa to this point. His work as an unstable wrestler who is tired of being overlooked is showcasing a previously unseen side of the former Television Champion. Ciampa’s acting during the scene was superb, he changed from a remorseful employee to a cold emotional manipulator in a matter of seconds. If this kind of effort keeps up Ciampa will end up in the main event scene sooner rather than later.

Towards the end of the segment Jay Briscoe came out and teased a title match between him and Ciampa. As the exchange grew more heated Ciampa was ordered to leave the ring. While Briscoe was occupied the Kingdom came out and put the boots to the champion and to Mark when attempted to make the save. To add insult to injury Matt Taven and Mike Bennett used the Doomsday Device on Mark.

The Decade vs. Brutal Burgers: I need to get this out of the way. For the longest time I had no idea why Bob Evans was praised by his fellow wrestlers. His work as a wannabe Mick was a painful anachronism and while I like his tag team with Cheeseburger he never impressed me that much. In this match though Evans showed his very fleet of feet and showed for an instant he is capable of more than meets the eye.

Getting back to the match the purpose was simple, to showcase Adam Page’s newfound aggression. And in ROH when an ass needs to be kicked, you call in the man known as Cheeseburger and man did he make Page look good with his bumps. Credit also goes to Page for changing his offense up to match his new character. He added some brutal clubbing blows to the head and debuted a new finisher, a reverse piledriver. I am intrigued to see how this wrinkle affect’s the surprisingly good disintegration of The Decade.

This match served its purpose to further the angle. If you are not interested in the breakup of The Decade you can skip it. **

Matt Sydal vs. AJ Styles: If you envision the opening of match between two of the best high flyers in the world you may see a few countered sling shots or spring board moves in your mind eye. Sydal and Styles obviously wanted to veer into unexpected territory because the opening exchange was a beautiful display of holds. As the match wore on AJ Styles brutalized the back of Matt Sydal. Styles’ backbreakers in the match would make Roderick Strong turn green with envy. In a gruesome spot late in the match Styles took out Sydal’s legs as he attempted an Asai Moonsault, resulting in Sydal landing back first on the middle ring rope.

Matt Sydal looked good in his ROH return. His selling of an injured back was breathtakingly beautiful. So much so that I believed him to be in genuine agony. I also applaud his unselfishness during the match as he let Styles have more of the offense to lend to a better story in the ring. It seems his years in WWE have not only toned the believability of his craft but the professionalism of it as well.

Sydal eventually got his big comeback complete with flying knees and a missed Shooting Star Press. Styles then took advantage of a prone Sydal and picked him up for the Clash but instead dropped Sydal straight on his head once before executing his signature move for the win. After the match Sydal sold despondence and was consoled by Truth Martini as he went to the back.

This was not the Sydal/Styles match wrestling fans wanted but it is the one they deserved. Fantastic television main event between two wrestlers who have really evolved their style during their return to the independent scene. ***½

Episode 164

Tomasso Ciampa vs. Cedric Alexander: The opening contest for episode 164 was born in bad blood from one month ago when Ciampa attacked Alexander before the Honor Rumble and tried to steal his spot. Alexander fought like a man with a score to settle by opening the match with a dive and a frog splash for a close two. For the rest of the match Ciampa did his best to knock Alexander out with multiple knee shots. Cedric took those shots in stride and got a couple of hot near falls on Ciampa. I was pleased with this as an opener, the crowd was hot and both men were working hard — then the finish happened.

After a near fall from a knockout knee shot Ciampa was livid and charged referee Todd Sinclair. While Ciampa was arguing with Sinclair, Cedric Alexander charged the corner and accidentally hit Sincalir with a vicious drop kick. Ciampa took advantage of the situation and used the tag rope to choke out Alexander for the win. This did not sit well with ROH Matchmaker Nigel McGuiness who overturned the decision. I understand the finish was done to further the angle between Ciampa and the front office but it felt hokey and out of place in ROH. Cimapa beating down Alexander or not releasing the hold would have been a better way to finish the match.

Overall, this was a good opener with a bad finish that drug the match quality down. **¾

Moose and R.D. Evans vs. Worst Case Scenario: By this point in the partnership between Moose and Evans their matches have a set formula. Moose dominates the opponents and tags in Evans. R.D. takes a beating and almost loses the match only for Moose to make the save, appear to finish off the opponents and then Evans tags himself back in to pick up the pin to extend his streak. Moose did have a nice spring board cross body thought.

You know what you are going to get with these matches and despite their respective nature the bouts are harmless mid-card fun. **

Kevin Kelly scored the first interview with Michael Elgin as he made his return to Ring of Honor during the telecast. The story behind the segment was that Elgin quit the company on Twitter and then released an “official e-mail” where ROH threatened to fire him if he did not show up in Florida. As big an Elgin fan as I am I don’t feel like this angle suits him as a wrestler and the I am all for his character dropping the corporate image the company wanted from him and being himself but the apathetic employee angle is not going to make for riveting television. Plus, ROH already has a character in an anti-management angle. Adding another makes them their booking feel like the garbage being offered weekly in TNA. If ROH is smart they will let Elgin take his frustrations out in the ring and not in interviews where he makes Kevin Kelly hold his dip cup.

The Kingdom vs. The Briscoe Brothers: The main event stemmed from the repeated altercations between The Kingdom and Dem Boys during the September television offerings. It is also noteworthy to mention this was Matt Taven’s Kingdom debut.

In a nice touch to their ongoing feud Jay Briscoe set his title belt right in front of Adam Cole, who was doing guest commentary, to taunt the former champion. Straight from the opening bell this match was all over the place. The Briscoes aimed to punish The Kingdom and the match did not settle down for several minutes. From that point on the majority of the match was Taven or Bennett beating down Mark Briscoe. Every now and then The Kingdom would throw in a reference to Matt Hardy for a cheap boo or two. Finally, the Briscoes rallied to pick up the win but post-match were subject to another beating from The Kingdom leaving the score between the teams far from settled.

I like both team. I like this angle. With that said this match was just there. It was solid but the viewer will forget it ten minutes after watching the show. **¾

Final Thoughts:

I was looking for ROH to pick up the pace after several ho hum outings on television. While these two episodes will not set the world on fire both episodes were solid and are easy watches. The Sydal/Styles match and Tommaso Ciampa/Nigel McGuiness confrontation are well worth going out of your way to find online. Next week’s episode looks promising on paper features Jay Lethal vs. ACH for the World Television Title in an anticipated rematch.