ROH Title Defenses: May 2022

We started May by cleaning up the mess that was the Women’s World Championship situation. Deonna Purazzo was booked for Impact the same night as ROH’s Supercard of Honor event, so ROH had an “Interim Championship” match between Willow Nightingale and Mercedes Martinez. Why it wasn’t just a #1 Contender’s match, I’ll never know, aside from “AEW does it that way.” Anyways, the first episode of Dynamite in May finally had Deonna face off with Martinez to determine the undisputed champion. What is neat is that it took in the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, ROH’s home city and arena:

ROH Women’s World Championship
Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mercedes Martinez

AEW Dynamite #135 – Baltimore, MD – 5.4.2022

Purrazzo has been the champion since 1.13.2022 and this is her seventh defense. Martinez never defended her “interim” title. Purrazzo kicking away Martinez’s hand for the Code of Honor was a harbinger of things to come. Purrazzo attacked Martinez’s arm looking to wear her down for the Fujiwara armbar. Martinez put a halt to her offense with a spear onto the ring apron, but Purrazzo sent her into the ring post to buy recovery time. It helped, as even after taking some offense in the corner, Purrazzo was able to leg sweep Martinez into the armbar. Martinez quickly escaped, but a pump kick and standing moonsault earned the Champ Champ a two count. The Doppler Effect and fisherwoman’s buster got Purrazzo a two count of her own. Martinez caught Purrazzo on the top turnbuckle, bringing her down in a Death Valley Driver. After a curb stomp, Martinez stretched Purrazzo into the Brass City Sleeper, and Purrazzo tapped out at 10:35. I like both of these competitors, but this was not either of their best showing. The match felt very ordinary and dispirited, with a polite but disengaged crowd to boot. It’s nice the title situation is cleaned up, but there is nothing much to see here. **¼

On back-to-back days, two ROH titles were defended on Dark Elevation and Dark, respectively. Critics will say nobody watches Dark or Dark Elevation, and thus putting the ROH titles on these shows is emblematic as to how TK views ROH. On the other hand, one could argue that putting the title on Dark Elevation is a way of helping that show feel more important. I’m inclined to believe the latter – the ROH titles are inconsistently featured or mentioned on TV, and the future of the company is still completely unknown. Think of it this way – if WWE purchased Impact and primarily featured their titles on Main Event and Lvl Up, would that give you hope for Impact’s future?

ROH Women’s World Championship
Mercedes Martinez vs. Trish Adora

AEW Dark Elevation #63 – Elmont, NY – 5.16.2022

Martinez has been the champion since 5.4.2022 and this is her first defense. Martinez ends the mat wrestling with a punch to the face. Martinez gives her a forearm strike, and Adora goes for several pinning combinations. Martinez brings Adora to the corner for a slap to the face and explodes out with a couple of clotheslines. Martinez rocks Adora with a pair of running boots in the corner. Adora rocks Martinez with her own forearm strike and an enzuigiri before giving her a bridging German suplex for two. Martinez ducks a clothesline and gives Adora Three Amigos. Total Anarchy follows, leading to a curb stomp and the Brass City Sleeper, which Adora submits to at 5:32. This was a totally solid first defense for Martinez. With more time and a better platform, I think her and Adora are capable of something much better. More Trish Adora, please. **

ROH Pure Championship
Josh Woods vs. Wheeler YUTA

AEW Dark #143 – Orlando, FL – 5.17.2022

YUTA has been champion since 4.1.2022 and this is his first defense. Of course, YUTA defeated Woods to become the champion on that date.
*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 past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome. The judges for this match are ROH alumnus BJ Whitmer, Jerry Lynn and Ace Steel.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.

A few minutes into the match, Woods forces YUTA to use his first rope break with a modified top wristlock. YUTA comes back with a wrist capture tornado DDT and attacks Woods’ shoulder and wrist. Woods is able to damage YUTA’s left knee and lay in some heavy shots in the corner. As the call is made for the five minute mark, Woods blasts YUTA with a pump knee strike for a two count. They roll around in a cradle, and Woods cracks him with another knee strike, but only gets a one count this time. In order to gain some ground, YUTA strategically cracks Woods with a closed fist, and is issued a warning by referee Paul Turner. After limping his way up to the top turnbuckle, YUTA lands a splash. Woods escapes a submission attempt and applies an ankle lock. YUTA rolls Woods to the floor and lands a suicide dive, but when he comes off the stage for a dive, Woods cuts him off with a jumping knee strike in mid-air. In the ring they knock each other down with stereo pump kicks. Although Woods gets YUTA back to his feet, YUTA suplexes him into the corner and delivers the Pain Thriller. Woods trips YUTA back into the ankle lock, and YUTA uses his second rope break to escape, and then makes him use his third right after with an ankle lock. He goes back to the ankle again. YUTA rolls under and catches Woods in a European Clutch for the pin at 12:30. I liked this story a lot, and am appreciative that Woods looked so capable against YUTA despite not being a roster member. I am pleased, but surprised, to say that this was actually a step-up from their Supercard of Honor bout. ***¼

Martinez would defend her title on the following week’s Dark Elevation:

ROH Women’s World Championship
Mercedes Martinez vs. Hyan

AEW Dark Elevation #64 – Houston, TX – 5.23.2022

Martinez has been the champion since 5.4.2022 and this is her second defense. Hyan had a couple matches in ROH, neither of which were very good, but as a Houston native she theoretically makes her a more interesting challenger than another non-roster member. Martinez controls her in a side headlock while Paul Wight and Mark Henry talk about the Krispy Kreme donuts “hot” sign (seriously). Hyan takes down Martinez with an armdrag and dropkick. Martinez catches Hyan coming off of the ropes with a spinebuster. She forearms Hyan after Hyan falls to the mat in a butterfly lock. Martinez sends Hyan shoulder first into the ring post and knocks her down with a clothesline to the back of the head. She submits Hyan to the Brass City Sleeper in 5:01. This was ugly: slow, sloppy, and at least one very obvious moment of miscommunication. DUD

ROH was finally featured on TV again when FTR made their second tag title defense:

ROH World Tag Team Championship
FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood) vs. Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta)

AEW Dynamite #138: 3 Year Anniversary – Las Vegas, NV – 5.25.2022

FTR has been ROH World Tag Team Champions since 4.1.2022 and this is their second defense. Romero has held the ROH Tag Team Championship on three separate occasions with three different partners: Ricky Reyes, Davey Richards, and Alex Koslov. Roppongi Vice have unsuccessfully challenged for the ROH tag titles on three separate occasions. Bobby Cruise does the ring introductions and Caprice Coleman is on commentary for the bout. Harwood’s ribs have kinesio tape on them, and it’s explained they got hurt during the Owen Hart tournament. Wheeler keeps the pace with Romero, and retreats when Romero looks for the Diablo Armbar. Beretta lays in some shots on Harwood before sending him back first into the corner. Harwood comes back with a suplex and slams Wheeler on top of Beretta in a leg drop position. Romero rebound kicks Wheeler into a half-nelson suplex from Romero. Vice kept Wheeler isolated during the commercial break. Wheeler back suplexes Romero and escapes Beretta’s leg hold to tag in harwood. Beretta stops Harwood’s onslaught by sending him sternum first into the corner. Wheeler German suplexes Beretta, and Romero double stomps Harwood’s ribs to break it up. Romero double stomps Harwood’s back as he lay across the top rope, and a sliding knee strike from Beretta earns him a nearfall. Wheeler stops Strong Zero the first time, but when Vice hits on the second try, Wheeler makes the save. Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan from New Japan’s United Empire stable then hit the ring and attacked Wheeler and Beretta, ending the match in a No Contest at 10:25. That ending is not ideal, but the wrestling was very good until that point. Give me a rematch, please. ***

Beretta is pitched outside and O-Khan Mongolian Chops Romero. Cobb and O-Khan take out Harwood with the Imperial Drop and Romero with the Tour of the Islands. Cobb Doctor Bombs Harwood through the timekeeper’s table. O-Khan sets up a second table ring and throwss Beretta through it with an Iron Claw slam off of the ring apron. Cobb and O-Khan then hold up the ROH tag team titles. As a regular New Japan viewer, I am pumped to see the United Empire. Hopefully we get more New Japan involvement leading up to the “Forbidden Door” event. With Cobb and O-Khan challenging for the IWGP Tag Titles on June 12th, a match against FTR could get even more interesting.

To close out the month, AEW squeezed in two more Women’s title matches on Dark Elevation and Dark:

ROH Women’s World Championship
Mercedes Martinez vs. Mazzerati

AEW Dark Elevation #65 – Las Vegas, NV – 5.30.2022

Martinez has been the champion since 5.4.2022 and this is her third defense. Bobby Cruise does the ring introductions and Caprice Coleman is on commentary for the bout. Mazzerati had a handful of matches in ROH last Spring and Summer, and ended up losing to Nicole Savoy in the opening round of the women’s championship tournament. Mazzerati got Martinez’s ire up by sliding between her legs, and Martinez pulled her in from the apron with a very impressive delayed vertical suplex. Martinez is able to block several kicks from Mazzerati, but Mazzerati is able to crack her with a punch and deliver a DDT. Martinex throws Mazzerati across the ring with a double choke, but Mazzerati catches her in the mid-section with a leg sweep through the middle rope and a pump kick to the side of the head. Martinez mows down Mazzerati with clotheslines and a back elbow, landing a corner forearm and yakuza kick. After a boot to Mazzerati as Mazzerati is seated in the corner, Martinez gives her a spinebuster for a two count. She drops Mazzerati stomach first onto the top turnbuckle. The execution elbow leads to the Brass City Sleeper, and Mazzerati taps out at 7:17. This was definitely an improvement over Martinez’s last title match, and maybe Martinez’s best showing of the month. If nothing else, they solidified her Brass City Sleeper as a finisher, which isn’t nothing. **½

ROH Women’s World Championship
Mercedes Martinez vs. Viva Van

AEW Dark #146 – Las Vegas, NV – 5.31.2022

Martinez has been the champion since 5.4.2022 and this is her foruth defense. Once again, Bobby Cruise does the ring introductions and Caprice Coleman is on commentary for the bout. Van is Martinez’s first opponent who was not in the original ROH whatsoever. Martinez gobbled Van up in a squash, which while untraditional for a title match I am absolutely for. Martinez used the same combo of corner boot, drop on the top rope, execution elbow, and Brass City Sleeper to submit Van at 2:40. Not mad at the champ mowing through a rookie. *

With Samoa Joe tied up in the Owen Hart tournament, Jonathan Gresham out with a concussion, the World and TV titles were not defended this month. Still no word on the Six Man Titles either. The women’s title got a nice prominent spot at the star of the month and then was put into Dark purgatory immediately. The Pure title match was very good, but how many people saw it? The tag title match ending in a DQ was a bummer, even if I am excited to see the United Empire get some shine. Right now it feels like AEW purchased title belts rather than an actual company, and it was a rough month for these titles at that.

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