Ring of Honor
February 9, 2020
UMBC Event Center
Watch: Honor Club
ROH Free Enterprise kicked off with an opening video package featuring Joe Koff. He thanked everyone involved with ROH (from the wrestlers, to the staff, and even the fans) before talking about wanting to improve the ROH experience. This led to (arguably) the biggest news item from this show, which was the promise that the entire ROH archive will be added to Honor Club, with the idea of making it the best streaming service in wrestling.
Obviously one of the biggest issues people have had with Honor Club is the fact that the back catalog from the golden years hasn’t been added to the service yet. Now I believe it was mentioned by Ian Riccaboni recently on Cary Silkin’s new podcast that the problem with uploaded those shows was, in fact, the music. When we’ll see the back catalog finally uploaded to Honor Club remains to be seen, but the promise from Joe Koff gives me some hope. Once they are able to get those shows onto Honor Club, then it will (without question) become one of the best streaming services in wrestling.
There was also a brief introduction from Marty Scurll, who welcomed everyone to the show.
Mark Haskins def. Alex Shelley
ROH Free Enterprise officially got started with a first-time-ever singles meeting (at least in ROH) between Alex Shelley and Mark Haskins. It’s pretty crazy that we live in a world where a guy like Shelley is working ROH events after his one-off appearance on NXT TV during the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. The same can be said with regards to Jeff Cobb after his recent debut on AEW Dynamite. In a world where seemingly everyone is signed to an exclusive contract, it’s nice to see some guys floating around as pure free agents. Anyway, these two had a very good opening contest that featured some really solid technical wrestling from start to finish. It went around twelve minutes or so and told a fine story at points Haskins went after the hands of Shelley (which gave him some trouble later on). We got a couple of good exchanges during the finishing sequence, with Haskins ultimately getting the submission victory after getting Shelley to tap out to the Sharpshooter. Nothing much to complain about with this one. Hopefully, we’ll get to see Shelley in the Pure Title Tournament. ***1/2
Righteous (Vincent & Bateman with Chuckles & Vita Von Starr) def. Dalton Castle & Joe Hendry
If you haven’t been following ROH since Final Battle, Vincent has now become the leader of a stable of his own. Not only does he have Tyler Bateman (now just going by Bateman) by his side, but his group now includes Vita Von Starr and Chuckles (who I guess is supposed to be a clown). This new stable is called Righteous, and they picked up a victory here in tag team action over Dalton Castle and Joe Hendry. While it was a perfectly competent bout that featured some decent wrestling, it was easily forgettable. Castle and Hendry actually had the edge early, as they managed to dominate Bateman. However, that quickly changed, as Righteous soon took over. We got a more even contest down the stretch and, again, the wrestling was fairly solid for a lower card tag team bout. There were some shenanigans that led to the finish, as a timely distraction by Chuckles allowed Vincent to get the win after hitting a sliced bread. ***
Flip Gordon def. Slex
This was Slex’s official debut with ROH and, to the shock of many, he actually came up short here, as he lost to Flip Gordon after Gordon connected with (of all things) a curb stomp. Now the match itself was pretty good. I haven’t had the chance to check out Slex’s work in Australia yet, so this was my first time seeing him. I definitely came away impressed, and based on how the bout appeared to be put together, it looked like this was meant to really be a showcase for Slex before ultimately coming up short. Gordon did get in offense, and he did get the victory, but it seemed like Slex was on offense for the majority of the match. While the bout itself was very solid from start to finish, I question the decision to have Slex lose here. I suppose we’ll see how Slex is booked going forward (perhaps the post-match was a hint), but having Gordon get the win here was a…..fascinating result, to say the least. ***1/2
After Flip Gordon left the ring following the post-match handshake, The Soldiers of Savagery appeared and surrounded Slex. This merely served as a distraction, however, as Shane Taylor stormed the ring and nailed Slex with a package piledriver. Taylor then took the mic, and said that while everyone was talking about ROH’s new signees, they should be talking about how he’s back in ROH. He noted that ROH met all of his demands (which included a big time “per fight” deal, a guaranteed shot at the ROH World Title, and a guaranteed shot at the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles alongside The Soldiers of Savagery), and now business is indeed booming. That little shot at Slex at the end makes me think we’re headed to a feud between those two, which I guess is a fine starting point for Slex. Again, we’ll see how he’s booked in the coming weeks and months.
Alex Zayne def. Andrew Everett
There’s no question that Alex Zayne has really made a name for himself over the last year. He broke out in GCW, and other promotions have certainly taken notice. New Japan used him on their recent Southeast Tour, and he’s also been getting ROH bookings to start off 2020. Zayne actually picked up a major upset victory over Bandido last month in his debut with ROH. The fact that he defeated Bandido is a clear indicator that ROH has plans for him (if they can get him for more appearances in the future), and he moved to 2-0 on this show after picking up a victory over Andrew Everett. Of course, I was very familiar with Everett (who’s singlet is apparently a tribute to Andre The Giant) going into this show, but this was my first time seeing Zayne. These two had a very entertaining spotfest that went just under ten minutes. Some of the moves we saw in this one were pretty awesome. However, it seemed like this match was a victim of the crowd not being familiar with either guy. The action in the second half was pretty exciting, and Zayne got the win after hitting the Zayne Driver. Again, this was enjoyable for the time that they got, but the crowd not being too familiar with either guy probably hurt it a little bit. It should be interesting to follow Alex Zayne, and to see what ROH has planned for him. ***1/4
The Briscoes def. MexaBlood (Bandido & Flamita)
On paper, this tag team bout absolutely had show-stealing potential. Well, when the dust settled, these two teams had what was easily the match of the night. This was nearly eighteen minutes of great back-and-forth tag team wrestling featuring two of the best tag teams out there. MexaBlood showed off their high-flying ability and lucha offense at various points throughout, while The Briscoes were great, as always. There were one of two moments (particularly in the opening few minutes) that didn’t come off very smooth, but as a whole, this was a ton of fun to watch. It honestly amazes me that people actually thought a few years ago that The Briscoes were washed up. Sure, they’re a little older now (though they’re only in their mid-30’s, which just goes to show how long they’ve been wrestling), but when you put them in there with a very good or great tag team, they can still go, and you can’t convince me otherwise. Eventually, The Briscoes managed to score the victory after hitting the Doomsday Device on Flamita. I really don’t have much else to say about the match itself. It was awesome, and you should absolutely check it out if you have the time. ****1/4
I should note that Flamita tore his meniscus during this match. I’m not sure where exactly he got hurt. He seemed fine for the majority of the bout, but did seem to be limping a tad during the post-match handshakes. Some of the upcoming cards at the end of February have already been altered with the news of the injury to Flamita. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the injury isn’t that serious, and that he’ll be back in time for that big six-man tag that was announced for Supercard Of Honor during ‘Mania Weekend.
#1 Contender’s Battle Royal
Winner: Flip Gordon
We returned from intermission with a battle royal, where the winner would receive a future shot at the ROH World Title. The participants were mostly made up of people who weren’t already booked on the card, though we did get a couple of notable surprise entrants. These included Crowbar, Delirious, The Blue Meanie, Gangrel, Maria Manic, and “Dragon Lee” (more on that in a moment). There’s not a ton to say about this one. It was….a battle royal. Sometimes they can be pretty good, and sometimes they can be totally average. There were a few different points in this particular battle royal that are worth noting, however. Dak Draper (who’s getting a shot at the ROH World TV Title in a few weeks) got a few eliminations, before getting thrown out by Cheeseburger (I would normally call a booking decision like that out, but nobody cares about Dak Draper). Maria Manic also scored a number of eliminations (including both of The Bouncers at once), but she got pulled out and attacked by Bully Ray, who wasn’t even in the match. He powerbombed her through a table on the floor, so I guess that feud is going to continue. Eventually, “Dragon Lee” seemingly won after eliminating Silas Young and Josh Woods, but Kenny King (who was hiding around ringside) ran in and tried to eliminate his stablemate. However, he stayed in the ring, took off his mask to reveal himself as Flip Gordon, and tossed out Kenny King to win the match. This was very reminiscent of the finish of the All In Battle Royal, which Flip Gordon also won after being disguised as a masked character. Flip Gordon winning this is actually quite interesting, since his stablemate PCO is the current ROH World Champion. Not sure when that title shot will come up, but it’ll be an interesting point to follow in the coming weeks and months. Again, there wasn’t much to this Battle Royal. Just check out the finish. **
Session Moth Martina def. Sumie Sakai
It feels like ROH announced the signing of Session Moth Martina ages ago. I’m sure it wasn’t that long ago, but it was definitely at some point late last year. Anyway, she took on Sumie Sakai in her debut, and the match…..wasn’t that good. The actual wrestling wasn’t overtly terrible, but it certainly seemed like this was more about getting Session Moth Martina’s character over as opposed to having a good wrestling match. Towards the end, Martina went to charge Sakai, but she moved, and Martina ended up giving a stink face to the referee. Sakai attacks Martina with a chair, but since the referee was out, she couldn’t get the pin. Once the referee recovered, Martina took advantage, hit Sakai with the Jager Bomb, and got the pin. Again, it seemed like this was put together with the intent of getting Martina’s character over, which I guess it did to a certain extent. Not much to the match itself, to be honest. *1/2
Proving Ground Match
Jeff Cobb & Dan Maff def. ROH World Tag Team Champions Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham
First of all, I have to say that I LOVE Jonathan Gresham’s octopus mask that he uses during his entrance. I might’ve made that point before, but it’s worth repeating. Anyway, Jeff Cobb and Dan Maff would receive a future shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles if they managed to defeat the champions here, and that’s exactly what happened, as Maff pinned Jay Lethal following a Burning Hammer (which itself was a counter to the Lethal Injection). This was a very good tag team encounter. Probably the second-best match on the card, behind The Briscoes/MexaBlood match. Cobb and Maff have really become a fun team of super heavyweights (they had some nice double teams in this one), while Lethal and Gresham just gel so well together. It’s also a good situation for Maff, as being in a tag team helps to hide his weaknesses (at his age and size, he’s better in short bursts). The action from start to finish was entertaining, and the closing stretch was pretty strong. At thirteen minutes, it didn’t go that long either, which certainly helped. If I had to guess, I would say the title shot for Cobb and Maff is going to take place on the next PPV, which is the 18th Anniversary Show in March. These two teams had a very good match here, and I’m sure the rematch will be just as good, if not better. ***3/4
Brody King def. Rey Horus
Back in January, the trio known as MexiSquad defeated Villain Enterprises to win the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles. This singles bout featured two of the six-men involved in that match, and they ended up having a fun match. It was an entertaining back-and-forth bout right from the opening bell, with Rey Horus flying all over the place while Brody King showed off his power. The downside to this match was that it was too short! It only went about six-and-a-half minutes, and I’m willing to bet that it would’ve been much better if they just gave it a few more minutes. Alas, this was kept relatively short, and King ultimately got the win after hitting Horus with the Gonzo Bomb. I wish the match would’ve been a few minutes longer, but it was fun while it lasted. ***1/4
Villain Enterprises (“The Villain” Marty Scurll & ROH World Champion PCO) def. RUSH & NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis
Even though this was an all-star lineup on paper (in a kayfabe sense, as you’ve got two current World Champions and two of the top stars in ROH in the same match), you knew there was going to be a ceiling when it came to match quality. While this was far from one of the best matches on the show, it was still a relatively solid tag team bout (again, considering who was involved). The first few minutes were even, but the turning point occurred when PCO missed his big apron senton (as he always seems to do). The heel team took control until the ROH World Champion was finally able to make the hot tag to Scurll. Villain Enterprises mounted their comeback, and this set things up for the finish. Throughout most of the bout, Nick Aldis and RUSH had been working relatively well as a team. However, that all changed when Aldis went for a Top Rope Elbow Drop on PCO, but PCO moved RUSH in his path (RUSH had been trying to hold down PCO for the elbow drop). RUSH got upset, and walked out of the match, leaving Aldis in a two-on-one situation. Predictably, Aldis took the fall shortly thereafter, as he was pinned following a PCO moonsault. A perfectly fine tag team bout with some decent to good wrestling, but again, it was never going to set the world on fire. ***1/4
Afterward, Marty Scurll took the mic and officially proposed his counteroffer to Nick Adlis, regarding their NWA World Title bout. Scurll said that if he beats Aldis, he’ll win the Ten Pounds Of Gold. However, if Aldis would win, then Scurll would personally write a check to Nick Aldis for $500,000 (since Aldis said in a previous promo that this was what the title was worth to him). We saw later on in a backstage promo that Aldis accepted this offer, so it seems like this stipulation is set for their Crockett Cup rematch. Scurll also announced that Nick Aldis would be taking on PCO at Supercard Of Honor in April. If PCO is still ROH World Champion by the time April comes around, then it’ll be champion vs. champion, though I doubt either title would be on the line in that case.
First of all, I should say it was a great gesture by ROH to put on this free show (apparently it was the brainchild of Marty Scurll). I haven’t seen any attendance numbers released, but there were people in the second level, and it certainly seemed like there were more people at this show compared to Final Battle in December, which was in the same building. The event itself was a mostly good show. There were a couple of low points (the battle royal and the women’s bout), but the majority of the matches landed in the ***-***3/4 range, with one match (The Briscoes vs. MexaBlood) standing out from the pack as a great match. Additionally, you had a couple of debuts and a few matches set up for the future. We’re only a few weeks into the Marty Scurll regime, and it will fascinating to continue to follow the progress of ROH throughout 2020.