ROH on Honor Club #1

Orlando, FL – 3.2.2023

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman.

Mark Briscoe vs. Slim J

Mark is in the first official match of the new era of ROH, mirroring his late brother being in the first official ROH match back at “The Era of Honor Begins.” Ari Daivari and “Smart” Mark Sterling are in Slim J’s corner. Slim J surreptitiously kicked Mark in the groin after succumbing to some redneck Kung Fu, but the Sussex County Chicken came back with a spicy dropkick. Daivari’s distraction enables Slim J to escape an Iconoclasm attempt and blast the tag champion with a flying tornado kick and drop him with a springboard reverse DDT. Mark comes back with karate chops and the ratchet neckbreaker. Even though Slim J avoids the Froggy Bow, Mark blasts him with a big boot. The Jay Driller then scores Mark the pin at 9:00. A nice win for Mark as he redefines himself as a singles wrestler in the new ROH landscape. **½

Lexy Nair interviews former ROH TV Champion Tony Deppen, who is facing the current ROH TV Champion Samoa Joe next week. Deppen pulls out a piece of paper, and declares he will defeat Joe with either his STF submission or chicken wing. He was in the front row for Samoa Joe’s match against Juice Robinson at “Final Battle”, studied his weaknesses, and is now prepared stake his claim in ROH history next week.

The Kingdom (Mike Bennett & Matt Taven) vs. The Infantry (Carlie Bravo & Shawn Dean)

Maria Kanellis-Bennet is in the Kingdom’s corner. Taven cuts off Bravo’s stride with a dropkick. Bravo sees Taven’s neckbreaker coming, and weaves him into a neckbreaker of his own to escape the Kingdom’s grasp and tag in Dean. After giving both Kingdom members, Bravo surprised Bennett with a haymaker and Dean followed up with a flapjack. Taven drags Dean to the floor while Bravo superkicks Bennett. Taven halted Bravo on the top rope, leading to the Kingdom putting him away with the Proton Pack at 4:55. The debuting Infantry won over the Orlando crowd with their charisma and unique offense, and they had a good showing against the decorated Kingdom. Not a huge surprise the Kingdom won, but it’s the opposition who left the lasting impression. **¼

NJPW World Television Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. & Blake Christian

Sabre has been champion since 1.4.2023 and this is his third defense. This is also his first ROH match since G1 Supercard. All NJPW Television title matches have a 15 minute time limit. Sabre targets Christian’s left wrist, starting by stomping Christian’s upturned arm into the canvas. He then aggravates the wrist further before stomping Christian’s shoulder into the mat. Christian tumbles Sabre into a prawn hold for two. He shotgun dropkicks the champion to the floor, but when he tries the Fosbury Flop, Sabre catches him in a cravat and twists his neck on the apron with his ankles. Sabre then calls out Bryan Danielson, stating he is the best technical wrestler in the world. Christian lands on his feet out of a snapmare from a cravat, then sweeps Sabre’s legs before landing a springboard crossbody. Christian does some damage to Sabre’s head before delivering a Saito suplex for two. Sabre batters Christian with uppercuts. Christian is able to halt Sabre with a spear from the apron and successfully pull off the Fosbury Flop. After a springboard knee strike, Christian looks for a ripcord. Sabre ducks and puts him in a Cobra Twist. Sabre and Christian end up in a striking contest, which Christian ends with a surprise Spanish Fly to counter a lariat. Sabre fails to fight out of a rolling Death Valley Driver, and Christian follows that up with a brainbuster for two. Sabre catches Christian’s springboard 450 splash. He maneuvers Christian into an arm-capture sleeper hold using his legs, and Christian submits at 12:28. Christian has proven to be capable of either holding his own on the mat, or incorporating his style with that of a mat based wrestler, and this was another example. Sabre’s attitude of a very smart wrestler and not at all modest about it is at his best when he is either angry or desperate, and with the way he tied up Christian at the end, you could tell he was frustrated by the flier. Another rock solid defense for Sabre under his belt, and I hope we see more of him in ROH, especially if it is against the gentleman he name dropped during the match. ***½

Backstage, Mark Sterling speaks with Konosuke Takeshita. Because Takeshita attacked MJF in AEW, Mark wants nothing to do with him. Takeshita is scheduled to face his client Josh Woods tonight, and Sterling offers for Takeshita to instead cancel the match and split the winner’s purse. Takeshita tears up the offer and walks away. Christopher Daniels then says he kicked off the era of honor in 2002, and twenty one years later, there is still a lot he wants to accomplish. For those who choose to stand in his way, they can say their prayers.

Christopher Daniels vs. Rohit Raju

Jora Johl is in Raju’s corner. Worth mentioning Daniels obeyed the Code of Honor. Daniels utilized a leg lariat to stop Raju’s initial onslaught, but an illegal clothesline from John on the floor turned the tide back in Raju’s favor. A Saito suplex and exploder suplex lead to an Angel’s Wings attempt, which Raul halts with a jumping knee strike. Daniels avoids both the Dragon Stomp and a rolling forearm strike. A uranage slam and BME gets Daniels the pin at 5:00. It’s interesting to see Daniels presented as a good guy in ROH, but he may have reached that veteran status where getting people to boo him would’ve been going against the grain. Him betting Raju with relative ease was the right call. *½

Lexy Nair asks Foundation members Rhett Titus and Tracy Williams what they hope to accomplish in the new ROH. After discussing how ROH is the place they want to be, they discuss wanting to become the ROH World Tag Team champions and bring honor to ROH. They’re cut off by Aussie Open. Kyle Fletcher challenges them to a tag team match next week, promising to adhere to the Code of Honor before the match, as long as the Foundation agrees to shake their hands once they win. The Foundation accepts, and all four men shake hands. I am looking forward to that bout.

Konosuke Takeshita vs. Josh Woods

“Smart” Mark Sterling is in Woods’ corner. Takeshita wins a battle of running shoulder blocks, to the delight of the Honor Zone. Woods drops Takeshita stomach first on the top rope, and from there focuses his offense on Takeshita’s midsection. Takeshita’s pump kick counter is caught, but a flying shoulder tackle earns Takeshita some breathing room. Woods halts Takeshita on the top turnbuckle and brings him to the apron, only for Takeshita to deliver a DDT onto the apron. In the ring he scoops up Woods into a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Woods stops Takeshita with a springboard knee strike and a Doctor Bomb. A pumping knee strike to the face gets the former Pure champion a two count. He also scores with a neckbreaker off of the second turnbuckle. Takeshita fires up after taking a t-bone suplex and German suplexes Woods. The two men knock each other down with simultaneous rolling forearm strikes. Takeshita escapes the Chaos Theory and tries it himself. Woods rolls forward to try a pin, but Takeshita wheelbarrows him up into a bridging German suplex for the pin at 10:20. This was the most exciting match of the episode thus far. The energy was high, the momentum switches were interesting, and they really got the crowd going. Woods was so underrated in the pandemic era of ROH and was more than capable of hanging with our favorite Cinnabon aficionado. Great match. ***½

Lexy Nair interviews ROH World Champion Claudio Castagnoli who is defending his title against AR Fox. He says Fox and Top Flight may have cost him some money on AEW Dynamite, but nothing will spoil his title defense tonight.

The Embassy (Brian Cage, Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) vs. Joe Keys, LSG & Rex Lawless

The Embassy’s Trios titles are not on line. Prince Nana is in their corner. The champions take out Keys and Lawless before the bell, and then take turns picking apart LSG. Kaun and Liona swing LSG into a powerbomb from Cage to mercifully end the match at 2:13. I am in favor of a champion winning non-title squashes from time to time.

Metalik vs. Ari Daivari

Slim J and “Smart” Mark Sterling are in Daivari’s corner. Metalik had been going by Mascara Dorada since leaving WWE, including “Final Battle” this past December. Curious as to why the change. I’m also curious why they went all in with the Trustbusters this episode. A distraction from Slim J gives Daivari the chance to send Metalik face first into the ring post. Slim J also choked Metalik on the middle ropes, but Metalik showed why he was the king of the ropes when he tightrope walked across the top and came off with a clothesline to Daivari. Metalik then sent Daivari reeling to the outside with a back handspring elbow and landed a tope con hilo to a standing Daivari on the floor. Daivari stops another springboard attempt when they’re back in the ring by superkicking Metalik out of mid-air in his spine. Metalik evades a top rope splash and nails his own superkick. Slim J’s interference backfires when he accidentally clotheslines Daivari, but a distraction from Sterling prevents referee Paul Turner from making a count quickly enough from Metalik’s schoolboy. Daivari kicks out and takes down Metalik with a hammerlock lariat for the pin at 7:22. I guess one of Sterling’s guys had to win tonight. It’s a solid start for the Trustbusters issue with Metalik, but whether or not that’s the best use of Metalik is up for debate. **½

AR Fox tells Lexy Nair that he tried out for Ring of Honor about ten years ago. He wasn’t invited back. Since then, he’s worked hard to be the best he can be, and now he was invited to challenge for the World Title on the first episode of the new era of ROH. He tells Claudio to get ready.

Madison Rayne & Skye Blue vs. The Renegade Twins (Charlette Renegade & Robyn Renegade)

I have no issue with women’s tag matches in ROH, but it is interesting to have two committed teams in a match when there are no tag titles. By that I mean, it makes more sense to me to have two pairs of singles competitors in a tag match where a story can be moved forward regarding the Women’s title. That isn’t a slight on either team. The Renegade Twins’ trash talking and general attitude is very entertaining. Rayne and Blue have already developed a solid team rapport and are solid wrestlers in their own right, but putting them against the Renegades revealed to me that they need some sort of deeper personality trait or hook to them. Perhaps that will reveal itself over time. The Skyfall ended up getting Blue the victory at 6:30. **

Ian Riccaboni invites ROH Pure Champion Wheeler Yuta to the ring. Yuta puts down the Dojo system, saying he became one of the best wrestlers by surrounding himself with the best wrestlers who beat him down and reformed him – not by doing laundry and cooking Chanko Nabe. Yuta then puts out an open challenge for anyone. Timothy Thatcher then makes his way to the stage. He accepts the challenge, and the bout is made official for next week’s episode.

Willow Nightingale vs. Lady Frost

If I were put in charge of this new ROH, Willow would’ve been my number one recruit. She is a tremendous wrestler, but more importantly, is possibly the most infectiously likable person ever to appear on television. She even smiles when she crushes Frost with a low crossbody. Frost cartwheels out of the corner after an up-and-over and drops Willow with a rolling neckbreaker. Frost scores with her Frostbite moonsault, but Willow gets up just before the three count. Willow catches Frost in the corner when Frost tries a second shoulder block and muscles her up into the Bae Bomb for the pin at 4:38. Both competitors impressed, and they packed a good amount of action into the time given. Worth mentioning again how much Willow rocks. **½

Ian Riccaboni comes to the ring to interview Willow Nightingale after the match. Willow reminds us that she was victorious at both Death Before Dishonor and Final Battle. Between those two victories and tonight, she thinks it’s time to challenge Athena for the Women’s World Championship. Athena comes out and accepts Willow’s challenge for next week. She calls Willow “porcelain” and says she will show the world that Willow is lucky to even be in the same division as her.

ROH World Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. AR Fox

Castagnoli has been champion since 12.10.2022 and this is his fourth defense. Claudio is looking to avenge his Trios battle royal loss from the Holiday Bash episode of AEW Rampage, which Fox and Top Flight won. Fox’s agility enables him to sweep out Claudio’s feet from the apron.He also slips out of a suplex and tilt-a-whirl and schoolboys the champ, but Claudio blasts him with a European uppercut upon getting back to his feet. Fox uses the ropes to pull off a bodyscissors bulldog. He headscissors Claudio to the ropes, but when he tries a springboard, Claudio wipes him out, resulting in Fox hurting his knee upon landing. Claudio jumps on the injury, slamming Fox’s leg into the ring apron and applying a knee lock after a gutwrench suplex. Claudio does significant damage to Fox’s lower back and leg with a sharpshooter. Claudio double stomps his back and delivers several kidney shots. Fox manages to trap Claudio on the ring apron and DDT him through the middle rope and back inside of the ring. Fox kicks Claudio away and lands a springback Ace Crusher for two. Claudio rolls to the floor after taking a pull-up assisted dropkick, and Fox dives right onto him. A Swanton gets Fox a two count. Claudio big boots Fox to halt his momentum. Claudio fakes out Fox by throwing a strike, so that when Fox purposefully goes to the apron to dodge, Claudio can grab his legs for a Giant Swing. Fox rolls outside so Claudio can’t go for the pin. Claudio brings him back in and lands a Naniwa elbow before reapplying the sharpshooter. He transitions to a crossface when Fox gets close to the ropes. Fox gives Claudio a chinbreaker to fight out of a fireman’s carry, but is leveled with a lariat. Fox dazes Claudio on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a rolling Death Valley Driver. A 450 Splash follows, with Fox getting a close nearfall. Claudio avoids the Foxcatcher. Fox tries another springboard move, but is caught mid-air with an uppercut, giving Claudio the pin at 15:36. To no surprise this was excellent. Claudio’s power and Fox’s agility made for an interesting dynamic, and the energy they brought in the latter stage of the match was reciprocated by the audience. My two gripes are the damage to Fox’s knee and back didn’t amount to much in terms of deterring Fox’s offense, and that the ending was a bit abrupt. Otherwise, this was a great main event. ***¾

After Claudio and Fox uphold the Code of Honor, Eddie Kingston makes his way to the ring. He says he promised Moxley that he wouldn’t beat Claudio’s ass in AEW, but ROH is fair game, and he’s coming after Claudio’s World title. He offers Claudio his microphone and then purposefully drops it. Claudio walks away from the situation without saying anything and heads backstage.

Overall: This was a solid first episode – we had three really good matches, a healthy mix of past and current ROH talent, and they set up several compelling matches for the next episode. However, like episodes of Dark or Dark: Elevation that have double digit matches, this was a slog to get through. Ten matches is just too much. Seeing the same people three or four times throughout the show is too much.

I ask this out of general sincerity – how many people are willing to pay $10/month to watch more wrestling when the amount of great wrestling on television and online for free is more than satisfactory to satiate peoples wrestling appetite? Are there that many fans who have two more hours a week of wrestling to watch in them? I imagine ROH will get a nice curiosity bump for their first month or so, but I believe this show ultimately needs to be either markedly better than what its parent company is offering, or markedly different from what its parent company is offering, for it to be successful in the long-term.

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