This week’s episode features three more historic title matches from ROH’s past:
ROH World Championship
Roderick Strong vs. Eddie Edwards
“Manhattan Mayhem IV” – New York, NY – 3.19.2011
Strong has been champion since 9.11.2010 and this is his sixth defense. He sends his manager Truth Martini backstage before the match begins. Strong goes for Edwards’ left shoulder while Edwards goes for Strong’s left leg. Edwards then proves he’s maybe the only person capable of going chop-for-chop with Strong, busting open the champion’s chest in the process, before knocking him down with a back elbow. A mule kick from Strong enables him to stomp him down in the corner. Strong ends a forearm exchange with a crossface. Edwards rolls Strong onto his shoulders to escape and then connects with a running knee to the face. Edwards blocks a gutbuster with an F5. Edwards then lands a running dropkick from the floor as Strong is hung in a tree of woe. Strong pitches Edwards outside and into the barricades after catching him in the corner with an enzuigiri, and then slams Edwards onto the ring frame. Strong re-positions a table ringside before going back into the ring with Strong, where he wears down Edwards’ neck and left arm. Strong is able to block a Chin Checker and apply the Stronghold, which Edwards escapes by grabbing the ropes. Out on the apron, Strong looks to give Edwards a Gibson Driver, but Edwards counters into a Frankensteiner which sends Strong crashing to the floor. Strong’s forehead begins to bleed after a tope con hilo from Edwards, and Edwards connects with a top rope dropkick back inside of the ring. Edwards gets two with a Shining Wizard, then another two count after the Boston Knee Party and facebuster suplex. Strong rolls through a Die Hard attempt and superkicks Edwards. He gives Edwards a backbreaker across the top turnbuckle for two. A long strike battle ends with Edwards taking out Strong with a rolling clothesline. Strong and Edwards end up on the top turnbuckle, where Strong looks for a super Gibson Driver through the ringside table he previously set up. Edwards, however, pushes Strong to the ring apron and drives him into it with a double stomp. A second double stomp to the back and a powerbomb gets another two count, with him immediately locking in the Achilles Lock right after. Truth Martini distracts the referee, but Edwards immediately boots him off of the apron. Strong rolls Edwards up into a superkick, then hits a gutbuster and Sick Kick for two. Blood is trickling from Strong’s forehead as he spits at Edwards and gives him the End of Heartache. Edwards kicks out and Strong puts him in the Stronghold once more. Edwards rolls underneath and reapplies the Achilles Lock. Strong kicks Edwards several times in the face in the hopes of escaping. Edwards ends up grabbing Strong’s legs and sitting down in a cradle to get the pin at 25:35! Edwards seems genuinely stunned to be the new Ring of Honor World Champion. The New York crowd goes absolutely nuts as Truth Martini looks upset. This had all the drama you could want in a world title match, with Edwards giving his absolute all and refusing to stay down or quit. There was no better place or time for Edwards to win the title than in New York on this night, as everything they did clicked, the fans were into all the nearfalls, and Truth Martini’s interference attempt actually aided the story. This was a really enjoyable match, and due it coming at a surprising time, a very memorable title change. ****
ROH World Championship & ROH World Television Championship
Jay Briscoe vs. Jay Lethal
“Best In The World 2015” – New York, NY – 6.19.2015
Briscoe has been World Champion since 9.6.2014 and this is his thirteenth defense. Lethal has been Television Champion since 4.4.2014 and this is his thirty-second defense. The House of Truth is in Lethal’s corner, which consists of Truth Martini, Donovan Dijak, and Joey Daddiego, but Dijak and Daddiego are kicked out very early in the contest. Both Lethal and Briscoe’s parents are present in the crowd. ROH Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness joins Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino on commentary.
Lethal kills some time on the floor, including after Briscoe nails him with a particularly hard shoulder tackle. They find themselves both fighting around ringside where Lethal sends Briscoe into the metal barricades twice. Briscoe then pummels Lethal, though Lethal is able to give Briscoe a suplex onto the floor. Lethal lands two suicide dives, but Briscoe cuts off the third with a clothesline over the top and to the outside, and then lands his own suicide dive. Martini grabs Briscoe’s foot so Lethal can hit him with an enzuigiri. Briscoe’s knee jams when he misses a double stomp off the middle rope, and Lethal belly-to-back suplexes him for a two count. Briscoe takes down Lethal with a ratchet neckbreaker after a strike exchange. When Lethal tries the Lethal Injection, Briscoe counters with a half-nelson slam. Lethal slides out of a Jay Driller and delivers the Lethal Combination for two. Briscoe cuts off Lethal on the top turnbuckle. Lethal however pummels Briscoe back down to the mat and connects with Hail To The King. He transitions right into the Koji Clutch. Briscoe places his foot on the ropes to escape. The fight to the ring apron right by the timekeeper’s table. Lethal low blows Briscoe as Martini distracts referee Todd Sinclair, resulting in McGuinness leaving the commentary table and sending Martini backstage. With all this going down, Briscoe is able to maneuver Lethal into a double underhook and put him through the timekeeper’s table with a Jay Driller! Lethal kicks out from Briscoe’s pin attempt back in the ring, and also kicks out after a rolling forearm smash. He then weaves Lethal into a lariat, and is in disbelief when Lethal kicks out for a third time. Lethal elbows Briscoe from the corner and drops him with a springback Ace Crusher. Lethal then hits the Lethal Injection in earnest for two. Lethal gives Briscoe a taste of his own medicine by giving him the Jay Driller before hitting the Lethal Injection again for the pin at 27:13. This achieved the big fight, epic feeling a title versus title match should have, with tons of bombs being thrown and nearfalls that resulted in escalating excitement from the crowd. They wrapped it up at the crowd’s height, who were pumped for Lethal to become the World Champion. It’s not the best ROH match ever, but it definitely felt like one of major significance, and a genuine career-defining moment for Lethal. ****¼
ROH Pure Championship
Jonathan Gresham vs. Dak Draper
“19th Anniversary Show” – Baltimore, MD – 3.26.2021
Gresham has been champion since 10.30.2020 and this is his third defense. 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 60 minute time limit. If the match goes the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Gresham goes for Draper’s leg. Draper drops to his knees and grabs Gresham’s nose. Gresham refocuses and tries for high angle side headlocks on the taller Draper. He then goes after Draper’s nose as revenge. Gresham kicks at Draper’s legs from the mat as Draper keeps knocking him down with shoulder blocks. Gresham avoids a headstand knee drop, but Draper goes to the nose again. Gresham uses his first rope break to escape a waistlock, which was partially based on simple positioning by Draper. Draper rolls Gresham around in a waistlock. He keeps on with the waistlock, adding additional pressure while also obstructing his breathing. He hoists Gresham up into a standing waistlock. Gresham struggles his way out of the hold by manipulating Draper’s wrists and fingers long enough to use his second rope break. Gresham is able to stomp down Draper in the corner and dropkick his left knee. Draper blocks a boot, and spins Gresham around into a jab to the stomach. Gresham uses his third and final rope break when Draper tries for the Mile High Muffler. Draper becomes angry when Gresham slaps him. Gresham uses a tiger feint kick to take out his leg. He picks up speed and takes down Draper with a moonsault press. He then rolls Draper into an ankle lock. Draper escapes and goes for the Mile High Muffler again. Gresham kicks his way before it can be applied. He uses his feet to clap Draper’s fingers. He kicks at Draper’s legs, with Draper shutting him down by forearming him across the jaw. Gresham remains persistent, taking Draper down to one knee, and nailing him with a running forearm. Draper uses a rope break to stop the pin. Gresham hits another forearm and Draper uses his second rope break to stop a pin. Gresham rolls Draper into an ankle lock, and Draper uses his third and final rope break to break the hold. Draper takes down Gresham with a closed fist, earning a warning. Draper however thinks he has Gresham knocked out, but Gresham rolls underneath the bottom rope which ends Sinclair’s count just in time. Draper deadlift superplexes Gresham, then hits a Doctor Bomb, and somehow Gresham still kicks out. Draper looks for the Magnum K.O. Gresham rolls his way free from it. He hyperextends Draper’s knee back, but Draper still boots Gresham in the nose. Draper tries the Magnum K.O. Gresham Frankensteiners his way out of it. Draper big boots Gresham and tosses him so hard into the corner that Gresham’s body flips over. He pulls Gresham up into a super powerbomb, and incredibly, Gresham kicks out. He puts Gresham in the Mile High Muffler. Draper’s knee buckles and he releases. Gresham takes this opportunity for another moonsault press. He follows Draper to the floor where he suicide dives onto Draper’s back and puts on a sleeper hold. Draper is able to crawl back into the ring. He grabs the ropes, but with all of Draper’s rope breaks exhausted, Gresham keeps the hold locked in until Draper passes out at 20:29. This was an incredible outing for Draper, who more than showed he was capable of wrestling to Gresham’s high level. The two of them told a story with their respective sizes that was incredibly fitting for what Pure Wrestling is all about – I was so impressed with their creativity. Gresham may have won the match, but Draper comes out of this a made man. Someone sign him already! ****
It was reported over the weekend that this was the final episode of ROH on the Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliate channels. Even if the last episode is just a replay of old matches, going out with three four-plus-star matches is a hell of a way to end this run, just a month shy of Sinclair’s purchase of the promotion.
As of this writing, no ROH TV tapings or other shows for that matter have been announced by TK or any of the AEW platforms. Presumably, the titles will continue to be defended on AEW television and maybe other promotions somehwat regulary, so the plan for now is to collect all of the title defenses in a monthly post of match reviews. This week alone had three title matches between AEW and Impact, so expect the first edition of these monthly recaps to drop at the end of the month/early May.