Hi readers! It has been a few weeks since my last review so I will be covering a lot of ground, three episodes with so because of that I will keep my thoughts on each episode short. All three episodes have excellent matches booked, Tag Wars and Ciampa/Alexander, so with that in mind let’s get to some wrestling.

Episode 169

The Briscoes vs. The House of Truth (Jay Lethal and J. Diesel): A side story going into this contest was that J. Diesel wanted to prove to Truth Martini and Lethal that he was more than hired muscle. In the early going Lethal did not pay him much attention until he was able to stave off an attack from The Briscoes. Seeing an opportunity Lethal tagged Diesel in and from there he proceeded to do nothing but take Dem Boy’s offense in an absolute waste of a chance to showcase a new talent.

Aside from doing Diesel no favors, the match itself was decent. Mark and Jay worked hard and Jay Lethal hit his usual spots with a dash of arrogance thrown in, at one point doing sit ups while one of South Delaware’s finest writhed in pain on the canvas. The Briscoes emerged victorious courtesy of a Jay Driller/Froggy Bow combination. ** ½

The Addiction vs. The Decade (BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs): This was a solid affair between two veteran tag teams. Both outfits showcased great double teams in the short amount of time they were given. The Addiction picked up the win via a Kazarian Killswich in a quick and easy watch. ** ½

ACH and Matt Sydal vs. The Young Bucks: I love the idea of Sydal and ACH being a tag team. It freshens up the division and adds depth to it as well. Also, it gives Sydal something to do besides jobbing out to the main eventers and more importantly it gives ACH a nice rub and potential feud going into 2015.

With a short amount of time to work with I expected this match to be balls to the wall crazy. Instead, both teams decided to work a measure pace which benefited the match greatly in the end. Commentator Steve Corino pointed out how the Bucks had the advantage being an established team. This played well into the finish as a mis-communication between the Jackson’s led to an errant superkick. ACH/Sydal took advantage of the miscue and picked up the win via an Air Bourne followed by a 450 Splash.

A fun albeit short main event between four of the best high flyers in the world today.  ***

Episode 170

Roderick Strong vs. Papadon: Roddy and the Greek newcomer worked a brisk pace with plenty of nice reversals. Papadon scored a decent amount of offense and showed solid technical ability that was not apparent when I last watched him during CZW’s abortion of a show Cage of Death. In the end Strong picked up the win after a string of strikes followed by The End of Heartache.

A fun little opener that was designed to rebuild Strong following his exit from The Decade. **

Hanson vs. Michael Elgin: This grudge match was born from an altercation between War Machine and Elgin at Glory by Honor in November. Before the bell rang, Elgin cut a promo reiterating he was done doing business ROH’s way and that he came to Baltimore for fight. With that said both competitors started throwing haymakers and the hoss battle was underway.

Surprisingly this contest didn’t get much time, despite that the audience was treated to a battle of clubbing blows and hard slams to the mat. As soon as the match went to the floor chaos reigned supreme and referee Paul Turner had little choice but to throw out the match. Elgin was the last man standing after putting Hanson through a table with his new DDT finisher.

Even with the wonky finish I thought this was a fun big man battle that looks like it was the opening chapter of a rivalry between the former allies. ** ½

Caprice Coleman and Will Ferrara vs. Brutal Burgers: Every so often I find a gem of a match that I know will go overlooked. Do not fast forward through this one because I promise you will not be disappointed, it is short but a lot of fun.

Will Ferrara and Cheeseburger showed glimpses of brilliance in the opening exchange. Brutal Bob Evans showed a nice aggressive streak and continues to show me that I mislabeled him a second rate manager many years ago. The only flaw was an out of nowhere finish, Will Ferrara pinned Cheeseburger after a Release German. After the match Brutal Bob berated Cheeseburger before calming himself down. This match is loads of fun between two underrated tag teams. **¾

No Disqualification – Cedric Alexander vs. Tommaso Ciampa: Alexander looked for revenge against the man who stole his spot in the Honor Rumble and choked him out in Florida.

Ciampa set the tone of the match by bringing two chair into the ring before the opening bell. Showing he had some honor left Ciampa offered his rival a chair which Alexander refused. Throughout the opening portion of the match Alexander solely relied on his athleticism which Ciampa exploited by brutalizing Cedric with weapons, highlighted by a Superplex onto a guard rail.

Finally, Cedric Alexander shed his inhibitions and gave in to violence. He buried Ciampa under a pile of chair and choked Ciampa by tying him next first to the turn buckle next first while peppering him with running dropkick. Still, Ciampa survived and won the match with a neckbeaker onto the exposed boards under the canvas.

A perfect blow off to the feud that keeps Ciampa’s momentum going into 2015 and also gives Alexander’s character a sorely needed edge. *** ¾

Episode 171

Adam Cole vs. Brian Kendrick: The man formerly known as Spanky posed a unique challenge to Adam Cole. For once, Cole found himself the slower man in the ring. Kendrick’s speed addled the former champion in the early going and to counter Cole adopted a slower style than ROH fans are accustomed to seeing from him. Hard blows and holds kept Kendrick at bay for most of the match. Cole finally slipped up and allowed the veteran to hit a few power moves of his own for a series near falls. Eventually, Kendrick’s bread and butter — high flying offense — cost him when Cole hit a superkick out of a springboard attempt. Cole followed with a Florida Key and earned his final victory of 2014.

It was interesting to see Cole use a more methodical offense befitting heels from days past, and his use of it showcases his continuing evolution as one of the best heels going today. Brian Kendrick wrestled a smart match and his style nicely accentuated the story of Cole having to adapt to win.

An excellent throwback to the days when a wrestler’s offense matched his character alignment. *** ½

Tag Wars 2014 for the ROH World Tag Team Championship – ACH and Matt Sydal vs. The Addiction vs. The Briscoe Brothers vs. reDRagon ©: I am very conflicted about this match. With the talent involved I knew it be would good, which it was. At the same time, with said talent involved the match had the potential to be great as well. As far as in ring action goes the match was fantastic. ACH/Sydal flew all over the place, the Addiction were efficient and reDRagon preened while simultaneously administering a vicious beating to Daniels mid-match. So what kept Tag Wars 2014 from being an epic encounter? The elimination stipulation is the correct answer to my question.

Don’t get me wrong I like a good elimination style match. I believe that they are of better use when they serve a purpose such as adding to a storyline. The issue here was that no angles existed going in nor did any develop over the course of the match. A one fall to a finish four way would have worked much better and potentially could have given the contest the push it needed to truly be memorable.

Overall, a quality main event hurt by a stipulation that sucked the drama from it and the four way feel like an exhibition. *** ½

Final Thoughts:

ROH’s final three episodes of 2014 were on par with the quality the company established during the year. The first episode of the trio is pretty average and can be skipped. Episode two is heavy on matches but is an easy watch due to the quality of each. Ciampa/Alexander was insane and is a must watch, particularly for the moral drama regarding Cedric Alexander. The final episode of the tapings features two three and half star matches so it is an easy recommendation as well.

The year 2014 saw ROH television finally hit a sweet spot. The show’s pacing became better and the matches were fewer in number and higher in quality during the hour. In fact, I wager that no company in North America put on better free contests than ROH did during the year. Going into 2015 ROH TV has the potential to be even better and as wrestling fans we all know that a real alternative to WWE programing is needed. Let’s hope ROH can be that alternative.