After the reported financial and critical success of Death Before Dishonor, I was hopeful that would be enough to build momentum for ROH and its titles. I was wrong!
In August, we saw two ROH World title defenses and none of the other titles defended. Samoa Joe was filming the Sweet Tooth television show in New Orleans which explains the TV Title being absent. However, not only did the Women’s Champion (Mercedes Martinez), Six Man Tag Champions (Dalton Castle & The Boys), and Tag Team Champions (FTR) not defend their titles in August, but didn’t wrestle AT ALL in AEW the entire month as well. The Pure Champion, Wheeler YUTA, wrestled once, losing to Chris Jericho for a shot at the AEW Interim World Championship. This fact, and everyone casually referring to the reports of Colt Cabana being moved from an AEW contract to an ROH contract as “a demotion” tells you everything you need to know about the reality of ROH as it pertains to AEW, and how the fan perceive Ring of Honor in 2022.
With that said, let’s check out the two title matches that did happen in August. For both matches, Bobby Cruise is the ring announcer and Caprice Coleman joins the commentary team:
ROH World Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Konosuke Takeshita
AEW “Battle of the Belts III” – Grand Rapids, MI – 8.6.2022
Castagnoli has been champion since 7.23.2022 and this is his first defense. Takeshita proved himself to be more of Claudio’s equal than it seemed the champion anticipated. On the outside, Claudio changed his game plan by sending Takeshita lower back first into the ring apron, and focused his attack on that part of Takeshita’s body back inside the ring. In the process, Takeshita managed to reverse a suplex, and later pulled off a flying headscissors takedown. He kept his momentum with a flying clothesline and a tope con hilo. Claudio, however, caught Takeshita with an uppercut on the top turnbuckle and brought him down with a superplex. Commentary made comparisons between Generico and Takeshita, and we saw that come out of Takeshita with a helluva kick, Blue Thunder Bomb, and a DDT onto the top turnbuckle. After the DDT, he lands a frog splash for a two count. When Takeshita came with another flying clothesline, Claudio blasted him in mid-air with an uppercut. Takeshita countered Swiss Death with a backslide, then delivered his knee strike and a brainbuster for another two count. Takeshita’s back is too worn out for the Cinnabomb. Claudio rolls through a sunset flip and blasts Takeshita with an uppercut and thompson his midsection before bringing him up for a Ricola Bomb. Takeshita countered that with a huracanrana for two Takeshita went for another jumping kee, which Claudio countered with a Death Valley Driver. After another uppercut and lariat, he hammer and anvil elbows Takeshita and hits the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 19:59. I couldn’t get the Generico comparison out of my head once commentary mentioned him, but Takeshita and Claudio were a great pairing for the same reasons Claudio and Generico were a great pairing. Takeshita was also treated as a legitimate competitor and the crowd was very much into the action. I really liked the story of the match and how Claudio’s back work was incorporated as well. This was about as great a first defense that Claudio could’ve asked for. ****
If you’re interested in learning more about Konosuke Takeshita, I highly encourage you to check out my pal Brad’s reviews of all of his U.S. and U.K. excursion matches.
ROH World Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Dustin Rhodes
AEW Rampage #56 – Cleveland, OH – 8.26.2022
Castagnoli has been champion since 7.23.2022 and this is his second defense. Despite the two of these men facing each other several times in WWE, this is their first ever singles match. Rhodes’ head hits the bottom rope when Claudio knocks him down with a shoulder block. Rhodes gets his bearings together, attempting a slingshot sunset flip, only for Claudio to kneel down to score a nearfall of his own. He then runs Rhodes shoulder first into the top turnbuckle. Rhodes strings a Manhattan drop and kick to the side of the head together to turn the match around, but Claudio ducks a running crossbody, resulting in Rhodes crashing and burning and rolling to the floor. Claudio attacks Rhodes’ shoulder during the commercial break. Rhodes sends Claudio outside with a clothesline and wipes him out with a cannonball senton off of the apron. He gets a two count back in the ring after a flying headscissors and Code Red. Claudio Hot Shots Rhodes and knocks him down with a running clothesline. Rhodes escapes a crossface and powerslams Claudio. After a piledriver, he inadvertently low blows Claudio when Claudio attempts a leapfrog. When they get back to their feet, Claudio pops Rhodes up into Swiss Death for the pin at 12:27. I love Dustin Rhodes but this was the first match I kind of feel like his age was showing with his movements and general speed. Claudio’s neck work was good, though the match ending was very abrupt, and Arn Anderson coaching Rhodes didn’t seem to mean much. At least not for now. Good match, not a great match. ***
We have a Pure Title match set up for next week on the first Dynamite in September, which should be good, but my hopes and expectations for ROH’s future in general are low.