Two days after ROH hosted the Michael Bennett’s Bachelor Party event (of which a review of mine can also be found on this site), Ring of Honor set up shop in Kalamazoo, MI for their second event of the weekend, hosting their “Champions vs. All-Stars” event. The event is named after the main event of the same name, a four-on-four elimination match pitting ROH’s four current champions against a team made up of four other prominent stars who are vying for their titles, which seems to be becoming somewhat of an annual tradition. Voices of Wrestling contributor Rob McCarron was live at this show and gave his thoughts a few months back.

The history of the match though is somewhat foggy though. The first Champions vs. All-Stars, both event and match, took place in January 2011, and saw Strong, Daniels and the Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli) defeated by the All-Star team of Richards, Generico and the Briscoes in 30 minutes. However, unlike its later incarnations, it was a first fall to the finish match instead of being competed under elimination rules.

Perhaps the spiritual inaugural Champions vs. All-Stars took place towards the end of the same year, the time slot that all the latter matches occurred, at Northern Defiance. This match was an elimination match, and saw Edwards, Generico and World’s Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas) defeat Strong, Elgin and the Briscoes in an eighty minute war, setting a precedent for how long these matches would go. The only problem with this is that neither of these teams were Champions at the time, so although it set the precedent for the Champions vs. All-Star matches which would follow, it itself wasn’t one of them.

The final Champions vs. All-Stars prior to this one took place at Glory By Honor XII in 2013 after skipping a year, and saw Elgin, Lethal and C&C defeat Cole, Taven and reDRagon in a fantastic 73-minute main event. This year, the tradition has been spun off into its own eponymous event, and has a lot to live up to. The two previous enormously long elimination matches were both fantastic in my book, and for the most part managed to do the near impossible task for a match so long of not really dragging. Hopefully Jay Briscoe, Lethal, reDRagon, Mark Briscoe, Roderick Strong, ACH and Adam Cole will continue in that vein and put together another standout match.

Ring of Honor “Champions vs. All-Stars”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wings Stadium Annex

Kalamazoo, MI

Former world champion and current ROH authority figure Nigel McGuinness opens up the show with the news that All-Star team member Mark Briscoe had suffered a hunting injury, and thus was out of the main event tonight. Before he could announce who was set the replacement, Adam Cole came to interrupt him and claimed Mark was faking his contagious poison ivy injury so he because he was scared of facing off against his brother, and them both being showed up by himself, Adam Cole. Mark then came out and chased off Cole, leaving Nigel alone in the ring again. He was then again interrupted by the return of the recently returning from storyline suspension Tommaso Ciampa. He cuts a good promo about his lack of opportunities since entering Ring of Honor, and as a result Nigel puts him into the main event, but reminded him that he was under a zero tolerance policy, and if he ever snapped and attacked somebody at ringside again he’d be banned for life.

Will Ferrara vs. BJ Whitmer: Veda Scott and Kevin Kelly are on commentary. Will Ferrara is a ROH dojo student who has shined a little in some lower card tag team matches, and this is his first singles opportunity in the company. He’s a diminutive athlete who’s good at showing a lot of babyface heart. This match saw the veteran BJ dominate almost everything, apart from one or two striking flurries. BJ eventually put him away with a second exploder suplex, after he’d kicked out of the first one and a fisherman’s suplex before that.

Ferrara didn’t really impress me here, all the offense he got in was strikes and they didn’t look particularly impressive and his selling was a bit goofy, with him going down after trying and failing to have the strength to suplex Whitmer at one point. One of the problems with ROH these days is that instead of bringing in the hottest prospects from the across the indies they’re filling up their undercards with guys from their dojo and paid tryout camps. This leads to fairly green guys who may never be anything special even when they’re seasoned clogging up the undercard, and can mean that the first hour of some of their shows can be pretty uninspiring. They still bring in enough talent through the system that they’ve got a strong upper card, but gone are the days of 2005 when you’d see the likes of McGuinness, Shelley and Sydal at the bottom of cards. **

After the match, BJ surprisingly offered Will a handshake, indicating that he’d earned his respect in the prior match. But no, it was only a fake out, and he instead him punched Ferrara in the face and threw him out of the ring. Oh BJ, you rascal.

Owen Travers vs. Tadarius Thomas: Owen is another (very small) nobody from ROH tryout camps (where you pay them to try to get on their shows, quite the little money spinner). Yay. Add to the mix that he’s facing Thomas, somebody I’ve never really liked, and we’ve got a match I’m not looking forward to. But hey, who knows, Travers could be great for all I know. To be fair to the lad, he didn’t look half bad here, and managed to get the crowd pretty behind him during his comebacks. He definitely showed more in a shorter match against an inferior opponent than Ferrara did, and from what I’ve seen Ferrara looks to have become a semi regular roster member past this point. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Travers in a match against somebody I actually like to see what he could do. Tadarius seemed to screw up the finish by pulling too far back on the pin after a diving slingblade, and pulling Travers’ opposite shoulder up off the mat. After a few seconds of him talking with the ref in confusion, he pulled Owen back up and hit him with a spinning kick for the win. **1/4

Cedric Alexander vs. Christopher Daniels: This is Daniels’ first singles match since his return to Ring of Honor, and one I’m quite looking forward to. This one told the classic story of a young, stronger and more athletic wrestler going up against an older more experienced veteran. Several times in the match you saw Daniels being able to anticipate Cedric’s moves to give himself an advantage, and in the end this proved just enough to overcome Cedric’s speed and strength advantage. Flipping through on a back suplex, then ducking a clothesline into hitting a side slam and following up with a BME earned the Ring General this victory.

One point in the match saw an apropos “Never lost it chant”, and this performance from Daniels very much lived up to that sentiment. I am of the opinion that Daniels is finally starting to show his age a tad, he’s in his mid-forties it’s hardly surprising, but with performances like this and the Death Before Dishonor main event as well as his match with the Young Bucks, he’s showing he can still perform to a level many will never get close to touching during their primes. I’m one of the biggest Daniels fans out there; he’s probably in my top ten of all-time that’s how much I love him. As such, I hold him to amazing heights, and yes he may be on the way down from the peaks, but he’s still pretty amazing and a great asset to ROH.

These two meshed really well, and put together a very entertaining match with a great flow and some exciting near falls while never going over the top. Great showing for both guys. ***3/4

After the match, Daniels got on the mic and cut an emotional promo, talking about how much he’s loved coming back to Ring of Honor and putting over Cedric as the future of the company. He’s still got a lot of flaws to iron out before he gets there, in my opinion at least, but if he can keep the standard of performance he put on here up then he’s definitely well on his way.

This marked intermission, and Steve Corino was on commentary for the second half of the show. I prefer the Corino-Kelly combo to the Scott-Kelly due, they definitely seem to mesh better.

Jimmy Jacobs vs. Frankie Kazarian: Jacobs is a Kalmazooian (?), so was the crowd favourite here despite being the heel. The match saw Jacobs focus on the neck of Kazarian, to soften him up for his sliced bread finish. This plan seemed to be working perfectly, until Kazarian managed to kick out of the aforementioned move. This threw Jacobs off, and allowed Kazarian to later hit a Fade to Black back to belly piledriver, but Jacob’s hometown being behind him gave him the boost he needed to kick out. Frankie then went for the Flux Capacitor, but Jacobs countered into a top rope Sliced Bread #2 for the win.

This match was good enough, but I never really got into it. To say it was just there would probably be harsh, but it’s not something I’m going to remember. A lot of Kaz’s singles matches feel like that for me. ***

Romantic Touch vs. Matt Taven: Taven’s new music, a mix of Cole and Bennett’s is totally awful. This match was a nothing match. While Taven can be really good, he does have a habit of falling into walking through matches when in there with substandard opponents, and Touch is just bad. I literally have nothing else to write about this match. Taven won with a frog splash. **

Briscoe, Lethal & reDRagon vs. Cole, ACH, Strong & Ciampa: I’m really looking forward to this one, especially after the addition of Ciampa in place of Mark. After some arguing over who would start between Lethal and Briscoe, ACH eliminated the Television Champion with a schoolboy in the first move of the match. The exact same thing nearly happened to ACH as he was singing goodbye to Lethal and Fish rolled him up, but he kicked out last second.

The second elimination came about 25 minutes in, when Ciampa looked to be closing in on an elimination on O’Reilly. Fish threw in the first of the tag title belts into the ring, distracting the ref, allowing him to pass O’Reilly the other strap. O’Reilly then passed the belt to Ciampa and did an Eddie, so when Todd Sinclair turned around he disqualified Ciampa. Ciampa then went crazy and actually laid out everybody, both his opponents and teammates, with the title belt. Nigel had to come out to get him out of the ring, but Ciampa nearly laid him out but managed to stop himself at the last minute and leave peacefully.

Ten minutes later, two eliminations came in quick succession when Roddy came in a house of fire and eliminated O’Reilly after a stiff strike exchange and a Death By Roderick, only to be swiftly eliminated himself by a roll-up from Fish while pulling the tights, making it two-on-two. Fish was then eliminated about two minutes later from a Cole Superkick and then a 450 from ACH getting him his second elimination of the night. This left World Champion Jay Briscoe, who was defending an unpinned and unsubmitted streak of over two years, in a handicapped situation against ACH and Cole.

He then took it back to a one on one match, after Cole knocked Jay into ACH who was on the top rope, and went crashing through a table. While the refs were checking on him, Cole gave Briscoe a low blow, and then went out to grab a chair. At the last second, Mark ran out and grabbed the chair off of him, and they hit a Doomsday Device on Cole leading to his elimination. Sadly, ACH was the legal man, and that’s the sort of thing which really annoys me and detracts from a match, probably more so than it affects most’s enjoyment.

ACH then battled back up from the table, and managed to beat the twenty count back into the ring. He was severely weakened though, and Briscoe just picked at him until he nearly scored a huge upset with a jackknife pin. After that though, Briscoe kicked it up into another gear, and finished the worn out ACH with a Jay Driller after moving out of the way of a 450 splash to close out the match in just under 50 minutes.

ACH was the clear star of this match, being the focus of at least half the match, and he really used that spotlight to great effect. He played a kind of similar role to Ziggler in that companies big elimination tag match occurring around the same time, being on sell for most of the match, achieving some big eliminations, and being the final man for his team. Pinning both Lethal and Fish, he really came out of this one looking strong.

What made this match really were the micro-stories which all weaved together to create the stories of the match. To just reel off a few:

  • ACH’s overeagerness to prove himself due to being the only guy in the match who hasn’t held gold in the promotion leading to him spending too much time in the ring for his team, and spending large portions of the match getting beaten down by the Champions.
  • Adam Cole not wanting to take on Briscoe in a fair way, but still desperately wanting to be the one to beat him to get back into the title picture.
  • Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly wanting to prove that they’re the best strikers in the company, and dishing it out to each other all match as a result.
  • Ciampa going after Jay repeatedly, in a plea to get his attention after in his mind being ignored for far too long.
  • ACH not being on the same page as his teammates Cole and Strong using underhanded tactics to gain an advantage.

While these stories all weaving together was great to watch unfold, for me this match just wasn’t on the level of the Champions vs. All-Star matches of previous years. Unlike previous years, you had a lot of cheap finishes to keep people looking strong, and there was far less suspense during the actual finish, as everybody in the building knew they weren’t going to throw away Briscoe’s streak on a B show tag match main event against ACH, a guy who is not even a main eventer for the company yet. The action wasn’t quite at the level of previous years either, with even the clean eliminations seeming a bit abrupt and not as satisfying as previous years, and their screwing up of tag legalities is another sizable dent for me.

That being said, this was still a very good match and a good main event for this being the B show that it was. It managed to hold my attention throughout, and the action was good even if the finishes weren’t. They did a really good job of interweaving the different storylines going into and out of the match, so credit has to be given for that. Not must see like previous incarnations of the match have been, but still a very good match all things considered. ***3/4

Immediately following the match, Jay Lethal ran back out to the ring and laid a further beatdown on the already laid out ACH to further the storyline between them going into their Television title match at the next TV taping. Jay Briscoe dragged him off, and the two Jays brawled for a short time before Lethal bailed to the back.

This left Briscoe out there with an unconscious ACH. He grabbed a bottle of water and poured it over his face to revive him. The champ then pulled the apprehensive rising star up to his feet, and shook his hand, then gave him a huge show of respect by leaving the ring, allowing ACH to end the show in the ring, receiving an ovation for the crowd.

Final Thoughts:

Not one of ROH’s best offering of the year this one, but Daniels vs. Alexander and the main event are well worth checking out. The rest of the show is pretty much entirely skippable though, so they’re probably not enough for me to really give this show a recommendation to most wrestling fans. The crowd was a good one though, looked to be about 600 but I’m really bad at estimating, and that’s a good number for ROH, especially in a town they’re running for the first time. They were loud all night too, which is always a plus for a show. The commentary of the first half from Veda and Kelly was actively bad, but when Corino came out to replace her it improved to the degree it stopped being a detraction, and that’s all I really ask of from commentary these days.