After the new production upgrades came into effect on Episode 231 last week, and the simply alright pay-per-view performance for their 14th Anniversary show with NJPW, ROH looks to provide more content, albeit taped before the pay-per-view. This is essentially filler, but still following the linear TV storylines, as we wait for the new tapings from Las Vegas to surface. However, as I like to say the cliche term “don’t judge a book by its cover,” this episode could be fantastic. It’s time for this week’s edition of Ring of Honor Television.
Kevin Kelly & Mr. Wrestling #3 are on commentary as per usual. Our main event this week is Matt Sydal vs. Adam Cole. My god. The match that was setup last week opens the show.
Before the bell even rang, Dalton snuck up on Silas/Beer from behind as The Boys used their entrance as a distraction. That’s a vintage face one-up, and Dalton isn’t even wrestling in this match. Silas rages on the mic and exclaims that every opportunity he’s given The Boys; they’ve failed time and time again. Yet, Silas remained a patient man with The Boys; even after they betrayed him he was willing to let them come back and continue to learn what it meant to be men. The Boys have learned everything apparently, but tonight is going to be their reality check, because they’re going to be in the ring with two guys that are million times more “men”, better wrestlers, etc. Silas then caps the promo off by saying they’re going to END them. This all of a sudden becomes a career-threatening match. If Silas & Beer City Bruiser lose, Silas will leave Ring of Honor.
This was a real solid tag that did more than I thought it would to put over The Boys. The Boys brought out tons of tag moves as they equate to about one singular wrestler; this was worked like a handicap match in that sense. Silas was pressed to not lose and that equated to multiple false finishes that even had the live crowd jumping up and down a little. The scariest part of this was the fact that the biggest blown spot of 2016 occurred when one of The Boys tried to mid-air cutter Beer City Bruiser who jumped off the top rope, but completely missed the grip on him so it was a double crash landing with a sideways RKO grip. The Boys were also somewhat sloppy throughout the match but it’s understandable. Beer City went all out taking tons of bumps and flying in the air more than once. The finish came when the two were stacked up sitting in the corner and a barrage of offense came with the culmination being a Beer City cannonball. Silas pins one of The Boys and he remains in Ring of Honor.
Things come full circle as a very quick pull apart brawl happens post-match with Dalton immediately running in only to be taken out by Silas & Beer. The Boys & Dalton are left laid out on the canvas as we cut to a break.
Time for storytime with Adam Cole BAYBAY, just not in the ring. He touts Sydal as a talented wrestler, and he explains that the last time Sydal lost to him, he wasn’t even 100%, but now he will be taking on the best Adam Cole there has ever been. The best pro wrestler on the planet always is ready, and he will take Sydal down like he does each and every other person (spoiler: he didn’t at the pay-per-view, zing)!
Finally we get some more tournament action. This is the first of two semi-finals, and the winner will meet the winner of Lio Rush vs. Punisher Martinez in the finals of the tournament. The great short match saga continues within the Top Prospect Tournament, as this was exactly that; a great short match that fit in an intriguing story. Of course it wasn’t the insanity that Rush vs. Kincaid was, but we got to see a different side of Fury instead of Round 1 and a desperate Action Ortiz who tried to end the match as early as possible — which tied into the tiredness vs. desperation dynamic that was enforced. Fury cheated to win yet again, because Ortiz was becoming too much to handle, even pulling a DIVE out of his arsenal. Clearing the top rope out to the floor at his size is something incredible. The finish was well done in which as Ortiz landed a punch and Fury hit the ground he swept up his leg to give Ortiz a nut-shot. A POP UP POWERBOMB finished off Ortiz, which is again, insane for the size difference. Top Prospect Tournament is the best its ever been this year. Brian Fury advances to the finals.
Kevin Kelly is ringside with Brian Fury. Fury feels fantastic. It doesn’t matter who he takes on in the finals, he’s beaten guys like that time and time again. Neither one of them bring anything unique, and Fury has only begun to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of. We better be ready to see what he’s ready to do in the finals. A weird, cheap pop, edited in crowd sound seemingly was added in to the reaction to the promo.
Martinez destroyed Colby Corino to get here, and Rush, in a barn-burner vs. Kincaid, defeated said opponent to get here. Oh. My. God. This was peak big vs. small. The dynamic was executed with such precision unlike I’ve seen in a long time. From bell to bell it was a true struggle for Lio Rush to overcome the behemath that was Punisher Martinez. Every single move was either ducked, dodged, or countered until Lio got his lucky breaks such as Punisher falling to his knees, or Punisher guiding Lio to the apron only for Lio to bounce off of the apron to give a facebuster to Martinez. Lio is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and this adds to his resume in different working environments. It was literally Rush Hour for him to try and slay the beast, and luck was the key to success ironically. After a short-lived yet fantastic battle of the sizes, Punisher Martinez went for a top rope chokeslam but Lio countered it into a TOP ROPE RUSH HOUR. That put away Martinez and Lio is off to the finals. Watch this match now. The fact that Rush has been so impressive in two short-stinted tournament matches shows that he can make magic with the amount of time he has, and any opponent he gets. Punisher did no harm either, showing that he can also make magic with a smaller wrestler, enforcing his gimmick to a T and showing how a presence and dictate the pace of a match, actually making it better than worse. This was a perfect dynamic and pro wrestling storytelling at nearly its best.
Kevin Kelly is ringside with Lio Rush. He feels beat up and broken, but how many times has he been beaten up and broken in his life? How many times did that let him stop him from being here? None. Nothings going to stop Lio from being a Top Prospect. He addresses Brian, and says he hopes he’s prepared to feel the Rush. Excellent promo with convection included and tiredness added into the mix. I love this guy.
The weak main event (at least on paper) next week is Christopher Daniels vs. Dalton Castle.
A stacked ROH TV being capped off with this wondrous combination. I’ll take it. You’re damn right it was wondrous. The first part of the match built up heat with Cole trolling the fans and doing his usual heel spots including the exaggerated rest-hold spot done by Kevin Owens. Sydal got back some momentum, commercial breaks were done with, and we got to the meat of the match. The second part of the match as I’d like to call it was absolutely ridiculous in the best ways possible. Sydal baseball slid out of the ring in reverse and Cole caught him to wrench suplex him back onto the apron. Also, Cole caught Sydal again out of a moonsault — giving him the trademark Shining Wizard only for a 2 count. Also, Sydal countered the top rope destroyer with his hurricanrana, but also hit the ringpost pad with his knee — as Cole transitioned that into the Figure 4 which was reversed on him anyways. Then came the actual last part of the match which was CHAOS. Superkicks, momentum reversing with the flick of an eye, Cole being countered, and more which led to Cole getting Sydal in the fireman’s carry position yet being frankensteiner’d into the mat and a Shooting Star Press followed. Matt Sydal has pinned Adam Cole! This had everything I wanted in a match between the two. Fantastic TV main event and a surprising result with Sydal going over.
This was easily the best ROH episode of the year thus far, with more buildup of Boys vs. Men, including a better than thought could be opener regarding the feud, and two short but great Top Prospect Tournament matches. Then came the main event in which Adam Cole and Matt Sydal brought out the best in each other, and gave me a fun viewing experience where a surprise upset occurred. Going by timeline of airing, Adam Cole has lost the 14th Anniversary main event and has now lost to Matt Sydal — but the best thing is that he’s won me back over. Cole was fantastic in the match and Sydal was very good, although sometimes still ‘meh’ to watch until the match goes to frenzy town. This 1 hour episode of TV was better than the entire 14th Anniversary pay-per-view. I still standby my stance that ROH TV is the best iteration of the product as well as live events. Pay-per-view comes last, and that’s a fact.