Lowell, MA – 7.23.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Ricabonni and Caprice Coleman
Colt Cabana vs. Anthony Henry
This is Henry’s ROH debut, and JD Drake is in his corner. Cabana controls Henry by his wrist. A distraction from Drake helps Henry block a sunset flip from Cabana, and he uses his feet to twist Cabana’s neck. Henry stretches out Cabana’s shoulders and throws a kick to the shoulder blades. Cabana becomes angry as Henry throws kicks to his chest, but Henry shuts him down with a piledriver for two. Henry throws knees to Cabana’s face while holding onto a cravate. Cabana catches Henry’s leg and overhead suplexes him. He uses a bionic elbow and overhand chops before drilling Henry with a hard running forearm and the Flying Asshole. Cabana then nails a lariat for two. Cabana knocks down a charging Drake, but Henry distracts the referee so that Henry can pop Cabana into the ropes and nail him with a forearm shot. Henry sends Cabana into the barricades with a running leg lariat, then lands a frog splash back in the ring for a nearfall. Henry blocks the Billy Goat’s Curse at first, but Cabana turns Henry’s guillotine choke into the Billy Goat’s Curse successfully. A distraction from Drake gets Cabana to release the hold, but Cabana sends a charging Henry into Drake to knock him off the apron. Cabana then lands a moonsault for the pin at 9:57. This was a very engaging match, and I appreciate that Henry got to show plenty of character in his debut. He and Cabana played off each other very well, and Drake’s involvement was well timed and didn’t overshadow the action. Very solid way to kick off the Zero Hour. ***
Shinobi Shadow Squad (Cheeseburger & Eli Isom) vs. The Trustbusters (Ari Daivari & Slim J)
The Trustbusters formed on a recent AEW Dark taping that has yet to air. This is Daivari’s first ROH match since April of 2015. Slim J wrestled a handful of ROH Dark matches between 2015 and 2019, but his last main show match was in January of 2004. Their Jane’s Addiction rip off theme stinks. After Cheeseburger escapes the Trustbusters grasp, Isom takes down Daivari with a headscissors and pop-up armdrag. Daivari thrusts Isom in the throat after recovering from a dropkick. Cheeseburger surprises Slim J with a facebuster. Daivari knee strikes Cheeseburger from the apron, allowing Slim J to give him a wheelbarrow Complete Shot. Cheeseburger rolls under a clothesline from Daivari and tags Isom who takes down Slim J with an enzuigiri and Daivari with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Slim J butterfly suplexes Cheeseburger across the ring. He plants Isom with a flying reverse DDT, and Daivari follows that with a frog splash for the pin at 5:33. I’m glad Isom and Cheeseburger were on the Zero Hour yet again, but they could (and should) be doing so much more than losing to the team du jour. Kudos to Slim J, who is as good as ever, but his look makes him feel like a dated character. **½
Lexi Nair interviews Prince Nana backstage. He breaks the news that he purchased Tully Blanchard Enterprises. They are now the Embassy. Lots to unpack with that choice, but giving TBE a legacy faction name will likely appeal to the old school ROH fans they’re looking to attract.
Alex Zayne, Blake Christian & Tony Deppen vs. The Embassy (Brian Cage, Kaun & Toa Liona)
Prince Nana is in the Embassy’s corner. Cage tosses around Deppen and targets his back. When Kaun tags in, Deppen is able to trip him into the ropes and double stomp his back. Zayne impressively fights off both Toa and Kaun, using Toa as a springboard to take Kaun off the top with a super Frankensteiner. Kaun makes Zayne give chase, leading him right into a running headbutt from Toa. The Embassy destroy Zayne’s back, including a deadlift superplex from Cage. When Cage goes to clear the apron of Zayne’s partners, Christian backflips off the apron. Zayne then flips out of a suplex attempt and tags Christian, who impressively wipes out all of the Embassy with his agile offense. Deppen helps Christian with a tope suicida when Toa and Kaun catch his Fosbury Flop. Cage takes a moonsault press from Zayne, a 450 splash from Christian, and a running knee from Deppen, but kicks out of Deppen’s pin attempt. Kaun and Toa take out Christian and Zayne, leaving Deppen alone with the Embassy. Cage pops up an unsuspecting Deppen into a powerbomb. Kaun follows up that with a gutbuster, and Cage Sick Kicks him into a Dominator from Toa for the pin at 11:35. This was a much better version of the previous match, with guys from the previous era of ROH being used to elevate the new stable. Toa and Kaun had some awkward moments, and in terms of how he is presented it’s clear Cage is above them. Everyone from the other team would fit in with this ROH well, but again, watching them as just fodder for others would not be terribly satisfying. ***
Willow Nightingale vs. Allysin Kay
This is a rematch from the Women’s World title tournament, and that was a banger. If Willow isn’t signed to AEW or ROH based on the reaction she got for her entrance, TK is insane. JUst like that fact, Kay attacked Willow’s neck, starting with a neckbreaker in the ropes. Willow came at Kay with strikes, but found herself taken down moments later. Willow side stepped an attack from Kay, which sent Kay shoulder first into the ring post. Willow takes down Kay with a facebuster and clothesline off the ropes. Willow maneuvers her way out of a kimura lock and a cross armbreaker. She gives Kay a Complete Shot, but Kay comes back with Crunchy for two. Willow boots Kay as Kay is coming off the ropes, and then takes her down with a Pounce. Willow crushes a standing Kay with a cannonball senton in the corner and hits the Babe with the Powerbomb for the pin at 7:55. Another good showcase for Willow, against an opponent who knew how to make her look her best. Seriously, sign Willow, now. **½
ROH World Championship
Jonathan Gresham vs. Claudio Castagnoli
Gresham has been champion since 12.11.2021 and this is his seventeenth defense. William Regal joins commentary for the bout and Prince Nana ambles his way to the ring sometime after the bell to join Gresham’s corner. Gresham avoids Claudio’s running uppercut at the bell, but after exchanging holds succumbs to the Giant Swing. Gresham is able to dragonscrew leg whip Claudio’s leg in the ropes. Gresham dropkicks Claudio’s knee after arm dragging him out of the corner. Claudio kicks Gresham to the apron to escape a spinning toe hold. He knees Gresham in the face and gutwrench suplexes him in from the apron off of the second rope. Gresham trips Claudio to the corner when ducking an uppcercut and lands a running dropkick to the back of Claudio’s knee. Claudio kicks Gresham to the corner, and when Gresham comes off the second rope with a crossbody, Claudio catches him and delivers a backbreaker. Gresham is able to catch Claudio with a dropkick off the second turnbuckle and a running forearm smash. He puts Claudio in the ankle lock and Claudio gets the ropes to escape. Claudio’s knee gives out when he attempts the UFO, allowing Gresham to take him down with a moonsault press and to deadlift him into a German suplex out of an ankle lock. Gresham throws multiple running forearm strikes. Claudio counters one of them with Swiss Death. He turns Gresham inside out with a lariat and throws multiple elbows to the side of Gresham’s head. He then hits the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 11:27. There’s been a lot said about this match and the fallout from it, but no matter your angle or take, it’s clear the relationship between Gresham and AEW/ROH management had become untenable and this title change was necessary. Fortunately, Claudio is a perfect individual to take the title from Gresham. He has loads of credibility with past and present ROH fans, has a more natural crossover to the AEW roster, and is capable of having high quality matches with literally any challenger. The match was smartly laid out and satisfying, and the crowd was very into Claudio which made the win feel like a big deal. This was a very good way to start the show. ***¼
ROH World Six Man Tag Team Championship
The Righteous (Vincent, Bateman & Dutch) vs. Dalton Castle & The Boys (Brandon & Brent)
The Righteous have been champions since 12.11.2021 and this is their first defense. Vita VonStarr is in the Righteous’ corner. Castle takes down Bateman with a double underhook suplex, then aids the Boys in delivering offense to Vincent. Dutch surprises the Boys with a double clothesline. The Righteous then demolish Brent in their half of the ring. Brandon is able to roll under a clothesline attempt from Bateman and tag in Castle, who weaves Bateman into a basement DDT. He suplexes Vincent and Bateman, and Brandon shoulder tackles Dutch to the floor. Castle tosses the Boys onto every member of the Righteous, thrice. A distraction from Vita allows the Righteous to attack from behind, and Dutch wipes out the Boys with a tope con hilo. Vincent lands Redrum, but Castle shoves referee Stephon Smith into Bateman to break his pin attempt. Vincent then drops Brent with Orange Sunshine. He tries bringing Castle into the ring, but Castle uses the bottom rope and apron to take down Vincent with a headscissors on the floor. Dutch Bossman Slams Brandon, but Castle then German suplexes Dutch. Vincent comes in and looks for a neckbreaker, but Castle spins Bateman into the Bang-A-Rang for the pin at 9:39. I am pleasantly surprised that these titles weren’t abandoned. Since Castle and the Boys have appeared on AEW broadcasting before and the Righteous hadn’t, the writing was on the wall for the current champions. I actually think it would be fun if Vincent brought in Honor No More or Bateman brought in the Stray Dog Army to challenge Castle and the Boys in the future. I never thought I’d see this trio winning the titles again, but I’m glad I was wrong. **¾
ROH Pure Championship
Wheeler YUTA vs. Daniel Garcia
YUTA has been champion since 4.1.2022 and this is his third defense. William Regal joins commentary for the bout.
*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 Ace Steel and former Pure Champions John Walters and Josh Woods.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Garcia throws a headbutt at YUTA as he escapes a straightjacket choke. Garcia then tosses YUTA over the top rope and the floor to break a front facelock. Back in the ring, YUTA hops over a corner attack from Garcia and slams him into a senton splash. After catching his bearings, YUTA applies a courthing hold, which leads to a bow and arrow stretch. Garcia escapes an attempted standing kimura lock by biting YUTA’s ear out of view from referee Mike Posey. Garcia grinds his forearm into YUTA’s ear and blasts him with an uppercut. He grabs YUTA by the ear and arm and flips him shoulder first into the turnbuckles twice. YUTA grabs Garcia by the ear to stop him from ascending the ropes and takes him down with a top rope dropkick. YUTA takes out Garcia with a flying forearm. Garcia escapes the Painthriller and tries a sharpshooter, but YUTA cradles him to stop it. Both men then take each other out with a double clothesline. They blast each other with open hand strikes, and when Garcia falls first, YUTA waits in case he’s knocked out. Garcia uses the ropes to pull himself up to his feet by the ten count, and YUTA immediately German suplexes him for two. YUTA throws elbows to the side of Garcia’s head, then Garcia rolls YUTA back and does the same. He applies a sleeper hold, which YUTA escapes by rolling Garcia back onto his shoulders. Garcia Saito suplexes Garcia, and YUTA responds with the Painthriller for two. Garcia reverses a crossface into a sharpshooter. When he cranks back, YUTA grabs his neck and reapplies the crossface. Garcia turns that into the Regal Stretch. Garcia let’s go and looks for a front facelock, but YUTA sweeps his legs and puts Garcia in the Walls of Jericho. Garcia uses the first rope break of the match to escape. Garcia grabs YUTA’s ear again so he can try a piledriver. YUTA kneels to block, but Garcia pulls him up into a piledriver for a two count. Garcia grabs YUTA by the wrists and locks to stomp on him, Danielson style. YUTA spits at Garcia, then pulls him down into a Skayde special with a leg hook for the pin at 15:56.
This was fantastic. The intensity in the wrestling made all the difference, and things like each man using their coaches signature moves against one another to get under their skin added to the proceedings. Regal’s commentary added a ton of context to the match, like how he would be disappointed to see YUTA use a rope break, which made it all the more interesting to see him refuse to do so. It also was meaningful that the one and only rope break came deep into the match, and that it was Garcia using it to escape Jericho’s own move. This match is a perfect example of how to synergize AEW and ROH; you have context from an AEW stable rivalry to make their audience interested, but there’s tons of interpersonal story between YUTA and Garcia own their own to make the match interesting to everyone. Everyone’s rightfully giving love to the main event, but this match has been unfortunately overlooked. ****
RUSH vs. Dragon Lee
José the Assistant is in RUSH’s corner. This is amazingly the first singles match between these two. RUSH shuts down Lee with a running forearm and adds a few stomps for good measure. Lee follows RUSH into the corner with a kick to the chest and then a slingshot corner dropkick. RUSH dropkicks Lee to the floor after avoiding a corner charge and takes down Lee with a suicide dive. After sending Lee into the barricades, RUSH fakes out Lee with a rushing face kick to the corner. Lee pops up, but is caught by RUSH with a powerslam. Lee sends RUSH back to the floor with a Frankensteiner and follows with a tope con hilo. Lee then harpoons RUSH through the ringside table with a second tope con hilo. A top rope double stomp gets a two count back in the ring. An overhand chop exchange leads to each man delivering a German suplex and being left laying. RUSH superplexes Lee in from the apron for two. They fight on the apron, where Lee knocks RUSH to his back with a knee strike. When Lee charges, RUSH pops up and belly-to-belly suplexes Lee off the apron and to the floor! RUSH takes too much time engaging fans, enabling Lee to surprise him with a Frankensteiner off the apron and to the floor. They make it back in the ring just before the twenty count. RUSH uses Lee’s momentum against him to overhead suplex him into the turnbuckles. The Bull’s Horns incredibly only get RUSH a two count. RUSH takes Lee to the top turnbuckle, but he slips and falls into a tree of woe position. Lee double stomps RUSH out of it, and only gets a one count after. He folds RUSH up with a sit-out powerbomb and gets the same result. The Incinerator Knee also gets him two. RUSH lures Lee in by pretending he’s knocked out. He superkicks Lee and nails a Superman forearm before delivering the Bull’s Horns a second time for the pin at 15:52. As great as these two guys are, they definitely hit diminishing returns at a certain point and each kick out got less of a reaction from the crowd. We also need some QC on these matches to make sure three deadlift superplexes off the middle rope in three different matches doesn’t happen – nobody cared when it happened here because they had seen it twice already. All that said, these two are always fun to watch, and constructing this as a spectacle was the right approach. ***¼
ROH Women’s World Championship
Mercedes Martinez vs. Serena Deeb
Martinez has been the champion since 5.4.2022 and this is her fifth defense. Martinez scores first with significant offense, taking down Deeb with a spinebuster and utilizing a yakuza kick and delayed corner dropkick to send Deeb outside. Deeb escapes a death valley driver predicament on the apron and gives Martinez a spear onto the ring apron. Back in the ring she delivers a Diamond Dust for two. Martinez retaliated with a half-nelson suplex. She puts Deeb in a Dragon sleeper while Deeb is seated on the top turnbuckle. Deeb elbows Martinez back into a tree of woe, kicking her in the shoulder blades while she’s hung up before dropkicking her in the mid-section. Deeb wraps her legs around Martinez’s mid-section while pulling both of her arms behind her back. Martinez is able to throw Deeb off of her and apply a cross-legged front facelock. When Deeb fights free, the two women kick each other while seated. Martinez cracks Deeb with a running knee. Deeb swings to the apron and heads up top, but is caught on the top turnbuckle with a yakuza kick. Martinez brings Deeb down with a spider German suplex. Deeb bites Martinez’ arm to block the Brass City Sleeper. Deeb gives Martinez a swinging neckbreaker and a tornado DDT. She then pulls Martinez into the Serenity Lock. Martinez rolls Deeb into a pinning combination to escape. Martinez pulls Deeb up on her shoulders and places her on a middle turnbuckle for the Cheeky Nando’s Kick. The O.G. Drop follows for a two count. This has Deeb worn down enough where Martinez can successfully lock in the Brass City Sleeper for the submission at 17:21. That was definitely Martinez’s best title defense to date. It helps she wrestled someone who has a similar tenure and wrestling acumen. It was a bit bloated, and there were plenty of dead pockets of time that could have been cut out. The crowd also seemed worn out. Still, I got to see things out of Martinez here she had yet to utilize during her title reign, and her Brass City Sleeper continues to be a surefire match ender which is appreciated. ***
ROH World Television Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Jay Lethal
Joe has been champion since 4.13.2022 and this is his second defense. This is the tenth singles match between them, with Joe 9-1 over Lethal. However, the one Lethal victory was in Ring of Honor in December of 2005. It’s also their first singles match in almost thirteen years. Satnam Singh and Sonjay Dutt are with Lethal on the entrance stage, but Lethal sends them backstage. Lethal and Joe fight around ringside before the match officially begins. Joe is about to powerbomb Lethal through a ringside table when Singh blindsides him from behind. Lethal wraps a chair around Joe’s arm and sends him into the ring post. Referee Stephone Smith ejects Singh from ringside and makes sure Joe is good to go before ringing the bell. Lethal attacks Joe’s shoulder further until Joe takes him down with a jump-up enzuigiri. Lethal snaps Joe’s shoulder on the top rope and comes off the top turnbuckle with a dropkick to the shoulder. Joe responds to a forearm from Lethal with an open hand strike to the face. Lethal then knocks down Joe with an enzuigiri. Joe knocks Lethal to the floor with a back elbow, then sends him into the barricades with an elbow suicida. Joe snaps off a powerslam in the ring, but Lethal shuts him down with the Lethal Combination. Lethal brings Joe to the top turnbuckle. Joe shoves Lethal down and takes him down with a flying Rough Ryder. Lethal escapes a Muscle Buster and drops Joe with the Lethal Injection for a two count. Joe stops a charging Lethal with an STJoe. Dutt appears ringside with a pipe, catching the referee’s attention. Lethal clobbers Joe with the title belt, but Joe kicks out from Lethal’s pin attempt. Lethal goes for another Lethal Injection. Joe catches him in a Coquina Clutch which Lethal quickly breaks with a chinbreaker. However, when Lethal rolls Joe into a pin attempt, Joe pulls him back into the Coquina Clutch, and Lethal taps out at 12:20. The crowd bursting with cheers after Joe kicked out from the belt shot is a positive indicator for how well this feud and match ultimately went. Keeping the match mostly clean and having Singh and Dutt’s minor injections be meaningful worked out really well. These two of course have very good chemistry, and while not their best singles match together, it was pretty dang close. ***½
ROH World Tag Team Championship – 2 out of 3 Falls Match
FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood) vs. The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe)
FTR have been ROH World Tag Team Champions since 4.1.2022 and this is their fifth defense. The Briscoes of course have a well known history with 2 out of 3 falls, and in 2007, they won eight straight falls across four matches. Harwood’s left shoulder is taped up, and when Jay suplexed him right onto that shoulder, he had to take a moment to be checked by the doctor. Wheeler catches Jay off guard with a tackle to his ribs, causing the Briscoes to take a respite. Wheeler drop toe holds Jay into an elbow drop to the back of the skull from Harwood. The Briscoes come back with a double football tackle to Wheeler. Wheeler catches Mark mid-leapfrog and takes him down with a slam. Harwood tries to sneak in a few pins on Mark to no avail. The Briscoes assault Harwood in the corner and then pitch him outside. Wheeler cuts off a Cactus elbow from Mark with a clothesline. Jay wipes out Wheeler and brings Harwood back into the ring. Wheeler surprises Jay with a DDT for two. Jay slingshots Wheeler to the corner where his head hits the top of the ring post. The Briscoes then take out Wheeler with a Doomsday Device and take the first fall at 16:37. The Briscoes wear down Wheeler to start the second fall. Harwood finally escapes a side headlock from Mark with a back suplex, but Jay big boots Wheeler so he cannot tag out. Harwood does however German suplex Jay and takes him down with a back superplex. Mark pulls Wheeler off the apron so Harwood still cannot tag out. Harwood is still able to muster the energy to kick out of Redneck Boogie. Harwood finally manages to make a tag when he slides under a big boot attempt from Mark and falls backwards with his arm outstretched to make contact with Wheeler. Mark kicks out of a Gory Special after Wheeler saves him from Redneck Boogie. Harwood and Jay fight into the crowd as Wheeler and Mark fight ringside. Jay hits Wheeler with the ring bell behind referee Paul Turner’s back. This busts open Wheeler, but he is still able to kick out from Mark’s pin attempt. Harwood pulls Jay out of the ring after Mark hits Froggy Bow on Wheeler. Mark pursues Harwood and ends up taking a flapjack face first into the steel steps. Jay is surprised by the Big rig, which gets FTR the second fall at 29:37.
Mark was busted open from the stairs and traded blows with a bloody Wheeler to start the third and final fall. He takes both members of FTR down with uranage suplexes, and gives Harwood a running blockbuster onto the floor. The Briscoes look to give him a Doomsday Device, but Wheeler shoves Mark off of the top rope. Harwood accidentally jabs referee Paul Turner when Jay ducks. Jay gains a visual pinfall on Harwood after a Jay Driller; Turner is indisposed. Wheeler then saves Harwood from another Doomsday Device. As Jay hopped off the second rope, they caught him with a Big Rig, and Wheeler pushed Turner into the ring so he could make a count. With the time elapsed, Jay is able to kick out, making the Briscoes the first team to kick out of the Big Rig (according to commentary.) The Briscoes finally get Wheeler into a place to hit him with another Doomsday Device, only for Wheeler to interject at the last second to break their pin. Wheeler tries to suplex Mark, but he hits the ropes and ricochets forward, resulting in both men crashing to the mat and rolling to the outside. Harwood eats a boot from Jay and rebounds off the ropes with a lariat. After trading pins, Jay locks Harwood in a seated clutch. Mark grabs one on Wheeler so they can’t save one another, and Wheeler grabs Harwood’s wrist so he can’t tap. Harwood then grabs the bottom rope. The Briscoes look for the Spike Jay Driller. Wheeler stops Mark as he ascends the ropes, and back suplexes him through a table set up next to the ring! Jay drops Harwood with a standard Jay Driller for two. Harwood places Jay on the top turnbuckle to prevent Jay from giving him a second Jay Driller. Harwood ends up bringing Jay down with a piledriver off of the second turnbuckle, pinning him to win the third and final fall at 43:28. This was an excellent match that built from fall to fall smoothly, had exciting nearfalls, and callbacks to their first match against each other, as well as other matches from their careers. The best compliment I can give it is the nearly 44 minute runtime flew by and I was fully captivated. But I didn’t think it had the same intensity as their first encounter. It also didn’t reach the heights of their first encounter, partially due to some of the awkward moments that momentarily disrupted the flow. They recovered quickly because they’re pros, but it was noticeable. Although I think their first match was better, this was absolutely the right choice to end the show and will be the most fondly remembered thing from the show. ****
Dax Harwood ends the show talking about how much they love wrestling, and they’re stared down from the entrance by Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler YUTA.
The show as a whole was better than Supercard of Honor, but nothing hit the high of the first Briscoes vs. FTR encounter. It is also a little disheartening that ROH’s future is still so uncertain. When AEW introduced their own Six Man Tag Titles the following Wednesday, my first thought was how easy it could be for AEW to fold all of the ROH titles into their own and wrap things up neatly. The segment on Friday’s Rampage did nothing to assuage that fear. I hope I am wrong, because I want more PPV’s like this one. Give me a show with lots of great wrestling that is easy to watch and I’ll be a happy man. Just give more matches on the show deeper stories and you’ll really have a stew going.