ROH on SBG #523

Baltimore, MD – 9.24.2021

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Caprice Coleman.

The September 21st episode of Week by Week featured three matches from the Wrestle Carnival promotion’s debut event “Carnival of Honor”, featuring a couple ROH roster members trapped overseas due to the pandemic:

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Joe Hendry vs. Leyton Buzzard
Wrestle Carnival “Carnival of Honor” – Nottingham, England – 9.12.2021

Joe Hendry is going by the nickname “The Answer”, has put on some muscle, and has platinum blonde hair – very different from when we last saw him in action in February 2020. He also came to the ring with a red scarf around his neck, a barbed wire bat, and a white leather jacket, which makes me think he’s doing a Bizarro Negan. Physically, Buzzard reminds me of a slightly bigger Darby Allin. He also has a similar tenacity. Hendry’s larger frame allowed for him to overpower and wear down Buzzard, while Buzzard’s agility and escapology allowed him to swing the momentum back in his favor. Buzzard is in disbelief that Hendry is able to kick out of a moonsault and running shooting star press combo and he decides to go up top. Hendry brings him down with a suplex. Buzzard avoids a pop-up powerbomb with a Code Red, but Hendry knocks him out with a clothesline. The pop-up powerbomb connects on the next try, giving Hendry the win at 12:20. I don’t dislike Hendry’s new character, but it’s such a departure that it will take some time to get used to if he sticks with it. I am curious to see how the new Hendry will fit into ROH if and when he returns. Buzzard was a good opponent for him to showcase his new style against, with Buzzard getting some moments to shine himself. **¾

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Session Moth Martina vs. Heidi Katrina vs. Alexxis Falcon
Wrestle Carnival “Carnival of Honor” – Nottingham, England – 9.12.2021

Martina more than filled the humor quotient Hendry seems to have ditched. The match was basically built around Martina getting “beer muscles” each time she took a swig of Coors Light, and how weak she became when those muscles faded. Katrina and Falcon worked together, until they got in each other’s way, and Martina wiped them out with a double crossbody. Martina ook down Falcon with a hammerlock Fame-Asser, then came off the second rope with a lungblower to Katrina for the pin at 10:13. This was actually quite well done, mostly because Martina’s comeback at the end was so excellent. The middle was a bit of a slog, but the bookends were good. **¼

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Pure Rules Match
Doug Williams vs. Dean Allmark

Wrestle Carnival “Carnival of Honor” – Nottingham, England – 9.12.2021

The Pure Rules are as follows:
*The competitors are to obey the “Code of Honor”, shaking one another’s hand before and after the match.
*Each wrestler has 3 rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a wrestler has used all 3 of their rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
*Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist results in a warning, a second will be a disqualification.
*Unlike the ROH Pure Rules’ matches which typically have a 15 minute time limit, this match has a 30 minute time limit. If the match goes past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.

According to commentary, this is the first Pure Rules match in England since ROH’s “Unified” event. Williams was the second ROH Pure Champion in 2004, and was scheduled to be in the Pure Tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic changed things. Things remain fairly even on the mat, with each man doing their darndest to escape holds instead of using the ropes. As the pace picks up, Allmark tries baiting Williams into a headscissors from a headstand position. When he comes down, with his hands still on the ropes, Williams grabs Allmark’s legs to resist. Allmark ends up losing a rope break because of this, and in anger, Allmark uses a closed fist on Williams, earning a warning. Allmark attacks Williams’ left arm, with special focus on his wrist. Williams looks to kneel down on Allmark for a pin, and Allmark transitions that into a cross armbreaker. Williams uses his first rope break to escape. Williams tries a sunset flip. Allmark instinctively grabs the top ropes to avoid it, which counts as his second rope break. Allmark smothers Williams onto a turnbuckle, stretching out his arm in the ropes. By doing so, Allmark must escape, and by default it costs Williams his second rope break. Williams is able to get a two count with a belly-to-belly suplex as well as an exploder suplex when Allmark comes charging. Allmark lands a super leg drop to Williams’ neck before putting him in a Muta Lock. Williams uses his third and final rope break to escape. Allmark puts Williams in a Camel Clutch. Although Williams grabbing the ropes does not release the hold, Allmark takes the bait and tries to grab his extended arm for an armbreaker. Williams however rolls up Allmark and uses the ropes for leverage to pin Allmark at 15:19. Allmark still had a rope break, and was in the ropes for this pin, so that pin should not have counted. Commentary put this over as clever, and it would’ve been had Allmark had no rope breaks left. Throw that logic aside and this was a good and unique Pure Rules match. I’m always happy to see Williams. ***

Like the Pure Tournament did, the Women’s tournament had two alternates, just in case a competitor got sick or injured. Neither of the alternates’ services were required, so on the September 22nd episode of Women’s Division Wednesday, the two alternates were featured in singles match:

Laynie Luck vs. Brandi Lauren

Luck has had a couple matches on previous Women’s Division Wednesday episodes, and Lauren wrestled one-off matches for ROH in 2017 and 2018. Lauren turns down the Code of Honor, telling Luck she has to earn her respect. Lauren does not humor Luck’s dance moves, so Luck gives her a rope assisted armdrag to the corner. Lauren uses the top rope to choke Luck, and after taking her down with a neckbreaker, pulls some of her face decoration, and puts her in a Dragon sleeper. Although Luck is able to escape, Lauren dropkicks her off the apron and to the floor. Luck however superkicks Lauren from the floor and Lauren’s head is through the ropes. Luck lands a senton off the second rope and takes down Lauren with a headscissors. After a yakuza kick and double knees, she pulls Lauren up into a Death Valley Driver for two. Lauren stops her in the corner with a rope-assisted neckbreaker for two. Lauren places Luck on the top turnbuckle, which backfires as Luck kicks Lauren away and comes off the second turnbuckle with the UniCutter for the pin at 9:02. This was a totally solid exhibition match, but on the lower end offerings from the Women’s Division since the relaunch. **

Now onto this week’s episode!

Pure Rules Match
PJ Black vs. Brian Johnson

Black is Johnson’s mentor. Black told Johnson he had one more test before being “ready” for the Pure Division in earnest, and that was to beat him in a Pure Rules match. If Johnsond were to defeat him, he would give Johnson his black belt. If Black wins, Johnson shakes his hand. Johnson agreed to the terms.

The Pure Rules are as follows:
*The competitors are to obey the “Code of Honor”, shaking one another’s hand before and after the match.
*Each wrestler has 3 rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a wrestler has used all 3 of their rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
*Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist results in a warning, a second will be a disqualification.
*This match has a 15 minute time limit. If the match goes past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.

Black controls Johnson by his head, first in a headscissors and then a side headlock. Black then dropkicks Johnson to the floor. When he comes back, he uses a rope break to escape a hammerlock. Black is able to headscissors Johnson back to the floor and follows with a suicide dive. Back in the ring, Johnson kicks out of a high crossbody pin and then evades a lionsault from Black. Johnson capitalizes by attacking Black’s mid-section. Black pops up Johnson into a backdrop as Johnson comes off the ropes, then wheelbarrows him into a pendulum stretch. He walks him over the topres, purposefully placing Johnson’s head underneath the ropes to cost Johnson his second rope break. As they trade strikes, Johnson grabs Black by his beard. Black grabs Johnson’s beard and mares him down. He successfully lands a lionsault, and Johnson spends his third and final rope break to stop the pin. Johnson shoves Black into the referee and pokes his eyes. He forces Johnson to the ropes in a waistlock, and as referee Joe Mandak tells the timekeeper about the rope break, Johnson gives Black a closed-fist punch. The Process gets Johnson the pin at 10:58. I actually enjoyed this more than I thought, as it portrayed both men as smart, just one of them being more admirable in his approach to the Pure Wrestling rules. Black is about manipulating his opponent into a situation where they break the ropes, and Johnson is about exploiting those rules. The wrestling was also very good and compelling. Good stuff from Mecca and Darewolf. ***

Black calls out Johnson for cheating, but also commends him for applying some of his lessons and congratulates him. He puts out his hand for a shake and tells Johnson he is here for him if he needs him. Johnson ends up obeying the Code of Honor.

A fantastic video spotlighting the Women’s division is shown. We also get promos from former partners Eli Isom and Ryan Mooney, who will wrestle on the next episode of ROH Week By Week. We are then shown a good portion of the eight-man tag team match between The Foundation and VLNCE UNLTD from “Glory By Honor XVIII Night 2.” You can check out my review of that match, and the rest of the show, here. Next week on ROH TV, VLNCE UNLTD meets a mystery quartet in eight-man tag action.

Brody King vs. Jay Lethal vs. Kenny King vs. Shane Taylor

Brody and Lethal start off. When Lethal dropicks Brody’s knee out, Taylor blind tags himself in. Taylor makes sure to give Kenny a piece of his mind before locking up with Lethal. He strikes Lethal in the kidney before breaking the lock-up in the corner. Lethal kicks at Taylor’s legs but ends up being wiped out with a lariat. Lethal evades a knee strike and takes down Taylor with a dragonscrew leg whip. Kenny tags himself in when Taylor backs up to his corner. Kenny surprises Lethal with a closed-fist strike and taunts him with Lethal’s own cartwheel dropkick. Kenny digs his knee into Lethal’s face. Brody tags himself in on Lethal. He overhand chops Lethal before getting into an overhand chop exchange with Kenny. Brody wipes out Kenny with a straight right hand. Brody overhand chops Kenny over the top rope and into the middle of the ring. Brody slams Kenny into a senton splash for two. Kenny enzuigiri’s Brody and takes him down with shotgun knees. Kenny knocks Taylor to the floor. He gives Brody a flying blockbuster and then dives onto Taylor. Lethal ensures a pin on Brody is not made. Taylor grabs Kenny’s leg from the floor, allowing Brody to hit him with a lariat. Taylor tags himself in. He and Brody trade shots, with Taylor knocking Brody outside with a right hand. Lethal suicide dives otno Brody. Taylor slingshots Kenny up into a rope-assisted stunner. Taylor headbutts Lethal and drops him with the Marcus Garvey Driver. Kenny ducks a knee and drops Taylor with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Brody German suplexes Kenny and lariats Taylor, pinning Taylor for the pin at 9:21. The dynamics between everyone were interesting, and I appreciate the little detail in that every tag was blind, but the energy was lacking. Maybe it’s that the faction warfare hasn’t been played out to a point where a member from each team crossing paths felt meaningful, and that Brody’s win doesn’t necessarily mean much to the overall landscape of ROH. It was a good match, but not a great match, and I think it’s because it was missing the externalities that would have helped to bolster it. **¾

Overall: If you told me I would enjoy a Brian Johnson match more than the main event, I would’ve said you’re out of your mind. And yet, here we are. It’s a prime example of how substantial matches go further, with me anyways, than a match with only a surface level of depth. It also means that more needs to be explicitly stated with each faction. It seems like The Foundation is the only one whose purpose is clear. What do the others hope to achieve, and why do I care about them achieving their goal?

Next Week: Alex Zayne & Taylor Rust face The Briscoes in tag team action, and VLNCE UNLTD faces a mystery quartet in eight-man tag action.

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