Our first ROH TV show of 2016 led us into New Japan Pro Wrestling’s much talked about Wrestle Kingdom 10. Unless you’ve been living under a wrestling rock—this certainly shouldn’t be a spoiler—but Wrestle Kingdom 10 featured several ROH wrestlers, including a match where Jay Lethal successfully defended the ROH World Championship versus “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin. I stand by my original thought that Moose should’ve defeated Michael Elgin to be the number one contender instead.

Elgin is still working without a contract in ROH, so why put him in a match for the ROH World Championship when you could put someone else over? I would’ve booked Moose to pin Jay Lethal clean at Wrestle Kingdom 10, and win the title. I’m not convinced ROH has protected Moose enough. I would book him as a more modern version of Goldberg.

Kevin Kelly and Steve Co….errr, Mr. Wrestling 3 are on commentary.

Roderick Strong vs. Stevie Richards

Kevin Kelly tells the TV audience that this is an open challenge for Roderick Strong’s ROH TV Championship, playing on the “Roddy versus the World” theme.

The crowd chants “You tapped out” as Strong grabs a microphone, a reference to Strong appearing to tap out to Bobby Fish at Final Battle, unbeknownst to the referee. Strong reminds the audience that he’s still the TV Champion and says let’s continue Roddy versus the World and let’s see what you guys have for me.

The open challenge would be answered by ECW original Stevie Richards, much to the enjoyment of the Philadelphia crowd in attendance. The memory that immediately stands out the most to me about Stevie Richards in ECW is probably the Blue World Order, though it probably should have been spelled Blew (because it did). Richards appeared to be in great shape, especially for 44 years old. He’s a big proponent of DDP Yoga, and is actually an instructor for them.

This match got about 10 minutes, and was a solid opener. Strong kicked out of a Stevie Kick, and hit a jumping knee strike for the pinfall victory.

After the match, Bobby Fish came out to the ring for an impromptu Fish Tank, and claimed he made Strong tap out at Final Battle. Fish put over the TV Championship, reminding us that its roots go back to Eddie Edwards. On commentary, Mr. Wrestling 3 asks whatever happened to Edwards, and Kelly nonchalantly said he didn’t know. Ouch. I’m not personally aware of any heat between Edwards and ROH, but I don’t see how that remark did the TV Championship any favors.

Fish tells us he put together a recap of what 2015 has meant for Roderick Strong, and on the ROH Tron we see a picture of what appears to be Strong tapping out at Final Battle instead. Fish asks Strong if he tapped out, and Strong yelled no, while Kelly put over on commentary that Strong appeared to tap out. Strong then called Fish a sore loser and stormed off.

Analysis: I really like the idea of an open challenge for ROH’s TV title, a la John Cena’s former US Open Challenge in WWE. This could further build the importance of the TV Championship, while featuring Strong in a prominent role, and giving the spotlight each week to an up and coming talent.

Richards as a one-time nostalgia act returning to Philadelphia was a nice moment, and he can still put on a good match.

I’d prefer to see Strong move on from feuding with Fish but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

No Disqualification
Will Ferrera vs. Caprice Coleman

Caprice Coleman grabs a microphone and says there’s no better place for a no-disqualification match. Coleman says he’s going to prove that even though Ferrera got a visit from the mailman he’s still nothing but a jive turkey.

This was a physical match, with Ferrera essentially no-selling two chair shots, which I was not a big fan of. Coleman picked up the pinfall win with a very cool sky splitta onto a table.

After the match, Prince Nana comes to ringside, smiling, and clapping his hands.

Analysis: The battle of the mysterious envelopes continues. I still don’t have a compelling reason to emotionally invest in this story. One of the highlights of the match was a fan at ringside getting into it with Coleman, and something Coleman said had to be bleeped from TV.

Cedric Alexander vs. Jonathan Gresham

On commentary, Kevin Kelly tells us that a settlement has been reached with Veda Scott on Cedric Alexander’s behalf, and he implied Alexander won a lot of money. Kelly even mentioned he recently saw Alexander wearing a Rolex watch worth five digits.

Alexander was in control for most of the match, though they teased an upset throughout.

Cedric hit the lumbar check, but gloated excessively instead of going for the pin. After gloating, Alexander casually pinned Gresham, only Gresham reversed Alexander’s pin attempt into a crucifix pin for the upset victory.

Analysis: I don’t mind the lawsuit angle, but there are two things about it that bother me: 1) The lawsuit is over an unsafe working environment, which maybe isn’t the best angle for various reasons, and 2) If you’re going to tell us Alexander received a big settlement from ROH from this lawsuit, then properly portray that. What was said on commentary didn’t match his appearance. Just telling us that you saw Alexander wearing a Rolex worth five digits alone isn’t enough, give him a flashy look if that’s the direction you’re going in.

Donovan Dijak vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin

Jay Lethal sits down to join Kevin Kelly and Mr. Wrestling 3 on commentary when Jerry Lynn interrupts and approaches him. Lynn says he’s a man who can admit when he’s wrong and at Final Battle Lethal was the better man. Lynn offers to shake Lethal’s hand, Lethal obliges, and Lynn leaves.

This was a decent main event. Big Mike showcased his impressive strength with a 30 second delayed suplex on Dijak.

At one point, after Dijak knocked Elgin to the outside, Truth Martini randomly jumped into the ring and did a spin-a-roonie, a la Booker T. I have no idea why he did this, but the crowd enjoyed it.

Elgin ended up winning the match with an Elgin Bomb, to help establish his momentum going into Wrestle Kingdom 10.

After the match, Lethal and Elgin stared each other down in the ring, as Lethal yelled that he’s the best in the world, and Big Mike just smiled.

Analysis: I don’t think they protect Dijak enough. I know he’s still fairly new to ROH, but he could be a big player for them. I would definitely like to see him step up the consistency of his appearance of intensity in the ring. I’m alright with this loss because Big Mike needed a mentionable win to have momentum going into Wrestle Kingdom 10, even though I don’t feel he was best suited for that match.

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed the TV Championship open challenge and I hope they move forward with that idea. I need ROH to give me more of a reason to care about the Prince Nana/envelopes story, and I need them to show me that Caprice Coleman really did get paid big money for winning a lawsuit against ROH. I’m hoping now is the time they will develop new, meaningful stories, and let them slowly play out each week. In professional wrestling, marketing a product with in-ring action alone plays to a niche market. I want to see ROH continue to succeed in the biggest way possible. I want to see more characters and episodic storytelling in ROH, along with the quality in-ring action we’re accustomed to seeing. Talent like Cheeseburger and Dalton Castle haven’t gotten over with the audience as quickly as they have because of their in-ring work, there are plenty of other great in-ring workers in ROH already. It’s mostly because of their gimmick. It makes them stand out from the rest of the talent.