Los Angeles, CA – 3.31.2023
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Caprice Coleman.
Tracy Williams vs. Jeff Cobb
Williams attempts to ground Cobb early on. Williams angers Cobb with a shove, and Cobb slams him out of a Spin Cycle to avoid a headlock takeover. He thrusts his hands into Williams’ throat before giving him a running delayed vertical suplex. Williams grabs Cobb’s leg to block a standing moonsault, and when Cobb eventually does for it, Williams moves and grabs a Fujiwara armbar. Cobb maneuvers out of it, so Williams drops him with an inside Saito suplex. Williams baits Cobb into a diving DDT. Cobb ducks a clothesline and German suplexes Williams. Cobb ripcords Williams into the Tour of the Islands for the pin at 5:20. There wasn’t enough time to really dig deep into the story they were telling, but it was pretty darn good for what we got. I’d love an extended version of this on the TV show. **¼
Nigel McGuinness then joins commentary, which rocks.
Konosuke Takeshita vs. Willie Mack
Takeshita knocks Mack to the floor with a flying clothesline. Takeshita misses a pescado, however, and Mack nails him with a clothesline of his own. In the ring, Mack pulls off a running Frankensteiner. Takeshita cuts him off with a back elbow and pulls off a Frankensteiner of his own. He wipes out Mack with a tope con hilo. Takeshita takes too much soaking in the fan’s admiration, and because of this, Mack is able to surprise him with his own tope con hilo. Mack uses a standing switch to pull off a standing Shining Wizard, followed by a Samoan Drop and kip up moonsault. Takeshita turns Mack inside out with a lariat for two. Mack looks for a Stunner but Takeshita blocks. He back elbows Takeshita thrice and Pounces him into the corner. Mack’s Stunner connects, but Takeshita responds with a jumping knee and his own Stunner. Mack lands a shining wizard and both men are left laying. Mack t-bone suplexes Takeshita to the corner to block a clothesline and lands an inside out somersault senton in the corner. Mack misses a frog splash and Takeshita drops him with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Zahi gets Takeshita the pin at 9:36. I did not anticipate Mack would be so evenly matched against Takeshita, but am glad he was. The fans were very much into the action and delighted when Takeshita won. Twice now Mack has had really solid showings in ROH, and I think he would be a good addition to the regular roster. ***
Willow Nightingale vs. Miranda Alize
Alize smacks away a Code of Honor attempt, but Willow makes her pay with a Three Amigos, ending with a fisherwoman’s suplex. Alize bails to the floor after kicking out of Willow’s running grounded crossbody. She stuns Willow with a forearm smash and lands a basement Frankensteiner for two. Alize scratches Willow’s eyes to stop her corner chops. A facewash kick and hesitation dropkick lead to a butterfly suplex. Willow cartwheels out of an Irish whip and drills Alize with a spinebuster for two. Alize slips out of a Smaoan drop and ripcords her into a knee strike. She kicks out Willow’s knee before giving her a DDT. Willow escapes an armbar attempt and drops Alize with a Death Valley Driver. Willow misses a cannonball senton. Alize drops her with an Ace Crusher. Willow sideswipes Alize’s Drive By attempt and nails her with a Pounce. The Bae Bomb gets Willow the win at 9:36. Willow is just good vibes incarnate, while Alize is as unfun as it gets, and those dynamics made for an effective match. It was kept relatively simple, which is perfectly acceptable for the Zero Hour. **¾
Stu Grayson vs. Slim J
Evil Uno is in Grayson’s corner while Ari Daivari and “Smart” Mark Sterling are in Slim J’s corner. This is Grayson’s first ROH match since November 2018, and only his second ever singles match in ROH. Slim J looks for comfort from his companions after Grayson belly-to-belly suplexes him across the ring. Slim J headscissors him twice, and Grayson responds with a Frankensteiner. He slingshot sentons onto Slim J on the ring apron. Despite Uno’s best efforts, Sterling and Daivari are enough of a distraction for Slim J to pull off a Sankakugeri. Slim J’s springboard reverse DDT gets a two count. A low enzuigiri awakens something in Grayson, who absorbs Slim J’s shots and turns him inside out with a clothesline. A twisting springboard senton gets Grayson a two count. He pops up Slim J into a powerslam for two as well. Slim J uses a standing shiranui to block a backbreaker. He misses a moonsault, and Grayson scoops him up for the Banebreaker. Sterling distracts once again while Slim J rakes Grayson’s eyes. Uno clothesline both Daivari and Sterling. Grayson pump knees Slim J in the side of the head and finally pulls off the Banebreaker for the pin at 6:55. Grayson looked absolutely awesome demolishing Slim J. A little less chicanery from the people on the floor would’ve been preferred but that didn’t take too much away from the proceedings. If we get the SSB, or Grayson alone in ROH, I’ll be a happy man. ***
After the match, The Righteous of Vincent and Dutch make their way onto the entrance stage and stare down the Dark Order. I guess they aren’t WWE bound after all, and this rivalry has potential.
AAA Mega Championship
El Hijo del Vikingo vs. Komander
Vikingo has been champion since 12.4.2021 and this is his tenth defense. They each go after the other’s legs in an attempt to nullify their offense. Vikngo and Komander briefly go to the floor, but end up back in the ring where Komander missile dropkicks Vikingo out to the other side of the ring and lands a tope con hilo. Komander then lands a 450 splash off of the entrance stage. He sets up Chekov’s table ringside as well. Vikingo avoids a rope walk attack from Komander and takes him out with an inside out Frankensteiner and tornado kick. Vikingo double knees Komander through the ropes and to the floor. Komander gets his feet up when Vikingo attempts to follow with a shooting star press off of the apron. Despite this, Vikingo is able to pull off a Frankensteiner back inside of the ring, as well as a spin out slam. Vikingo leaps from the ring post to the top rope, but is caught mid-air with a sit-out powerbomb from Komander. Vikingo shoves Komander to the outside and lands a springboard Lo Mein Pain. Vikingo lands an inside out Phoenix Splash from the middle rope for two. Komander manages to counter a powerbomb set up from Vikingo into an apron Canadian Destroyer. Komander tightrope walks across an entire ring length before hopping to another rope for a springboard Fosbury press. Komander then tightrope walks his way into a shooting star press on Vikingo for two. When he begins another tightrope walk, Vikingo bops the rope to crotch Komander. Vikingo gives him a Destroyer off of the top rope. He then pulls the table set up earlier next to ringside quickly and lands a 630 Splash onto it. He misses a 630 Splash inside of the ring. Komander hits the Hidden Ace (a twisting Phoenix Splash), and Vikingo grabs the bottom rope literally just before a three count is rendered. Vikingo swings out Komander into a slam off of the top turnbuckle. After double knees in the corner, Vikingo lands a 630 splash for the pin at 15:42. That was pure spectacle, and you’ll be hard pressed to find two people more capable of putting on a better one than these two. This went a bit long, and you do need to check your logic at the door, but this was a jaw dropper and a crowd pleaser. ***¾
ROH World Six Man Tag Team Championship
The Embassy (Brian Cage, Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) vs. AR Fox, Blake Christian & Metalik
The Embassy have been champions since 12.10.2022 and this is their second defense. The challengers take out the champions early on with high flying offense, but the champions are able to quickly sequester Metalik in their corner. When Metalik tags in Fox, he clotheslines Cage in the corner and skins the cat into a corner clothesline. He adds an Ace Crusher to Kaun, followed by a tope con hilo. He also takes out Cage with one, and Metalik wipes out Liona with a tope con hilo as well. Cage halts Fox with a ripcord forearm and an F5. Fox quickly tags Christian. He sticks and moves, taking out all of the Embassy, ending with a Fosbury Flop to Liona. Kaun gives Christian a backbreaker on the top turnbuckle, Loa senton splashes him on the ring apron, but Fox cuts off Cage when he tries a superplex. Christian lands a 450 Splash and Metalik delivers an elbow drop off of the top rope for two. After a series of offenses leaves everyone laying, Christian takes out Cage with a Destroyer. Liona surprises Christian with a clothesline from behind, and he and Kaun double slam him onto his chest. Metalik cascades up into a Yoshi Tonic for two. Cage clotheslines him and hoists him up into the Drill Claw for the pin at 8:21. Probably the most impressive and cohesive match from the Embassy to date. With the rumors swirling, it was a surprise to see Cage pick up the pin for his team, but I do hope it means he’s sticking around, as it seems like the Embassy found their groove as a unit. ***
ROH Women’s World Championship
Athena vs. Yuka Sakazaki
Athena has been the champion since 12.10.2022 and this is her seventh defense. Sakazaki drives Athena into the outside mats with a cannonball headbutt. She stops Athena from crawling into the crowd, but misses a top rope dropkick inside the ring. Athena plants her with a spinning chokeslam and drives the back of her head into the mat. Sakazaki snapmares Athena into a swinging kick and follows up with a Sliding D for two. Athena halts a headscissors attempt and muscles her into three consecutive powerbombs for two. The Wrath of the Goddess also gets her a two count. Athena wheelbarrow suplexes Sakazaki on the floor. She misses a dropkick into the barricades, and Sakazaki slams her onto the floor. She sends Athena into the ring steps before landing a dive off of the entrance stage. A springboard splash inside the ring gets her a two count. Athena escapes a hammerlock slam and nails Sakazaki with a rolling forearm. Athena falls in victory onto Sakazaki, but Sakazaki grabs the bottom rope to stop the pin count. Sakazaki plants Athena with a spinning hammerlock slam after avoiding an attack from the top turnbuckle. Sakazaki ascends the ropes for the Magical Girl Splash, but Athena cuts her off with the O-Face for the pin at 11:39. That finish kicked ass, a defiant ending from the aggressive and arrogant champion. Sakazaki was so competent and resilient that Athena’s arrogance slowly eroded throughout the contest, and as soon as Athena saw the end was near, she took matters into her own hands. Sakazki was game to play some of the same dirty tactics as Athena did, but just didn’t have the champions number on this night. ***½
ROH World Television Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Mark Briscoe
Joe has been champion since 4.13.2022 and this is his seventh defense. Mark has to fight for a Death Valley Driver, and when he gets it, Joe rolls outside when he sees Mark climbing to the top rope for the Froggy Bow. Mark charges after him, only to get caught with a suplex onto the floor. Joe beats him down with jabs and lands an enzuigiri in the corner. Joe instructs the referee to count him out. When Mark beats the count, Joe takes him down on the floor again with an elbow suicida. Mark surprises the celebrating Joe with a spicy dropkick and a chair-assisted tope con hilo. Joe bringing out a table from under the ring works against him, as Mark puts him through it with a Blockbuster off of the ring apron. Mark gets two with a uranage suplex. Joe fights out of a Jay Driller and powerslams Mark for two. Joe powerbombs him into an STF, and Mark gets the ropes. Joe suplexes Mark onto his head, and when Mark fires up, Joe turns him inside out with a lariat. Mark fights out of a Muscle Buster and blasts Joe in the side of the head with a knee strike. The Froggy Bow connects for a super close nearfall. Joe counters the Cutthroat Driver with a sleeper suplex. He then puts Mark in the Coquina Clutch and Mark passes out at 14:36. I am in awe. You have Mark fighting on behalf of his fallen brother, with his family in the front row, and he loses? On the biggest show of the year? I don’t agree with that decision at all. It’s the TV title for Christ’s sake! Is it that important that Joe remains champion? As frustrating of a decision as that is, this was a good match up to that point. ***¼
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Daniel Garcia
Garcia challenged Tanahashi to a match between Dynamite and Rampage tapings this past week, and Tony Khan made it official on the spot. Garcia pulls Tanahashi by his luscious head of hair and throws him to the mat. Tanahashi takes him out with a middle rope crossbody. Tanahashi runs after him on the floor. Garcia drop toe holds Tanahashi into the ring steps and then dropkicks his ribs into the ring steps. He gives Tanahashi a kneeDT, and continues to attack his leg back in the ring. Garcia does Shinsuke Nakamura’s “Yeaoh” pose to mock Tanahashi as well. Tanahashi fires back with a flying forearm smash. Tanahashi’s somersault senton off the middle rope gets him two. Garcia dropkicks Tanahashi’s knee to stop the Sling Blade. He goes for a sharpshooter but Tanahashi resists and takes down Garcia with a dragonscrew leg whip. He puts on a cloverleaf until Garcia crawls to the ropes. Garcia stuns Tanahashi’s knee and wipes him out with a Busaiku Knee for two. Tanahashi is able to take out Garcia with a Twist and Shout after blocking a piledriver. The Sling Blade connects for two, and the High Fly Flow gets Tanahashi the win at 11:59. I am surprised Tanahashi won, but not unhappy. We needed a solid good guy victory after the abysmal choice that preceded it. A good and competent but unspectacular bout. ***
ROH World Tag Team Championship – “Reach For The Sky” Ladder Match
Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. The Kingdom (Mike Benett & Matt Taven) vs. La Facción Ingobernable (RUSH & Dralistico) vs. The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix) vs. Top Flight (Dante Martin & Darius Martin)
Mark Briscoe officially vacated the ROH Tag Titles on March 10th due to the untimely passing of his brother. Mark also announced a “Reach For The Sky” Ladder Match would be held in Jay Briscoe’s honor to determine the new champions. Maria Kanellis-Bennett is in the Kingdom’s corner, Jose The Assistant is in LFI’s corner, and Alex Abrahantes is in The Lucha Brothers corner. At this point you know the insanity to expect with a multi-team ladder match. The Kingdom paid tribute to the Briscoes with a Doomsday Device to Darius Martin on the floor, but Aussie Open took them out of the equation with a double tombstone on the entrance stage…or so we thought. A bloodied Mike Bennett met RUSH on a ladder, climbing on opposite sides, and they decided to climb down and engage in a forearm strike exchange. RUSH took out Bennett, but a bloody Taven took him out with a Kick of the King. Dralistico then dumped him on a ladder with a belly-to-belly suplex. Darius and Dralistico fought on the top of the ladder for the titles. Dante assisted his brother in knocking down Dralistico, but just when Date was within reach, Dralistico pulled him down. Darius helped Dante with a DDT on Dralistico, and Dante dropkicked a chair RUSH attempted to introduce into his face. Aussie Open took out Top Flight and threw Fenix into a ladder in the corner. They then double Beele toss Penta onto the same ladder. Top Flight prevents Aussie Open from climbing the ladders, and Darius gives Taven a Spanish Fly off of a ladder and to the mat. Dante sunset bombs Bennett off of the ladder. Aussie Open pulls Dante off of the ladder into Coriolis. A ladder is propped up between the ring and the guardrail, and Fletcher plants Darius onto it with an assisted spinebuster. Dralistico takes out Davis with a tornado DDT and sends Fletcher into the announcers table with a flying Frankensteiner off of the ring apron! Bennett powerbombs Dralistico onto a ladder, and Taven crashes onto Dralistico with a top rope splash, breaking the ladder. Fenix holds a ladder steady so that Penta can deliver a Destroyer to Dante through three tables! Fenix and Taven fight atop the ladder, with Fenix kicking Taven on to the back of the ladder. Fenix grabs the titles, winning the match for the Lucha Brothers at 20:14. What is there to say? This was a chaotic, exciting car crash of the match. All five teams brought their best. Another top tier tag team of brothers taking on the mantle of tag champions after the Briscoes forfeiture was the best choice possible. Mark Briscoe and FTR present them with the titles. ****
ROH Pure Championship
Wheeler Yuta vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Yuta has been champion since 12.10.2022 this is his fifth defense. Jon Moxley is in Yuta’s corner. Yuta challenged Shibata to this match after successfully defending his title against Shibata’s student Clark Connors. 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 past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome. The judges for this match are ROH alumnus and former champion Christopher Daniels, Madison Rayne, and AEW Coach Pat Buck.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be levied a hefty fine.
Referee Mike Posey doesn’t tax Yuta a rope break when Shibata brings him to the ropes in a lock-up. Yuta rolls up to his feet to avoid a PK from Shibata. Yuta resists as long as he can, but he has no choice but to grab the bottom rope to escape a figure four leg lock. Shibata throws hammer and nail elbows to Yuta’s pectoral muscle for a two count. Yuta stomps on Shibata’s upturned elbow and drops a knee onto his shoulder. Shibata kicks Yuta in the throat. Yuta angrily throws chops and Shibata doesn’t move at all. Yuta elbows Shibata in the corner when he sees the hesitation dropkick coming. He lowblows Shibata unbeknownst to referee Mike Posey, and then uses a closed-fist strike on Shibata, which gets him a warning. Shibata again walks through Yuta’s chops and knocks him down in the corner. After a facewash kick, he back kicks Yuta multiple times before hitting the hesitation dropkick successfully. Yuta grabs the top rope to break a sleeper hold, using his second rope break, and Shibata immediately suplexes him. Yuta spits at Shibata before throwing kicks and strikes. He pulls Shibata down, looking for a Skayde Special, which Shibata blocks. Shibata open hand strikes Yuta and locks him in a sleeper hold. He hits the PK on Yuta for the pin at 13:12! That is legitimately surprising. The crowd was super against Yuta which made the win work, but the structure of the match was a bit strange in that it ended fairly abruptly. It was also a bizarre choice to put after the ladder match, which I think hurt the atmosphere. As a Shibata fan, though, I am delighted. **¾
ROH World Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Eddie Kingston
Castagnoli has been champion since 12.10.2022 and this is his fifth defense. Kingston charges at Claudio as soon as the bell rings, wearing him down with chops in multiple corners. Claudio dazes Kingston with uppercuts, sending him stumbling to the floor. Claudio backdrops Kingston to escape a side headlock, but Kingston gets right up and reapplies the hold. Kingston kicks out Claudio’s left knee, forcing him into a split. When Kingston looks for a suicide dive, Claudio cuts him off with a European Uppercut. Kingston taunts Claudio with double middle fingers when Claudio hurts his knee diving through the middle ropes onto Kingston’s neck. Claudio pummels him and pulls him down to the floor for a suplex. Kingston makes it back into the ring on his own accord. Claudio grabs him for the Giant Swing, and Kingston swipes at him until he gives up and lands a double stomp. Claudio follows that up with a diving headbutt. As Kingston swipes at Claudio’s head, Claudio gets him in the Giant Swing, but his knee buckles and he has to let go. Claudio does manage to dropkick Kingston off of the top turnbuckle. He also fights for a superplex and gets a two count. Claudio double stomps Kingston’s face. Kingston grabs at his eyes when he goes for a pin. He hits a jump-up enzuigiri and clotheslines Claudio to the floor, following him out with a suicide dive. Kingston gets a nearfall with a bulldog off of the second turnbuckle. Claudio gets the ropes to break out of a Stretch Plum and also kicks out of a Backdrop Driver. Claudio blocks a Backfist during a strike exchange. He knocks Kingston out with a lariat in the face for two. Kingston flips his way out of the Ricola Bomb and blasts Claudio with the Backfist for two. They fight to the ring apron where Kingston looks for an exploder suplex. Instead, Claudio gutwrench suplexes Kingston to the floor! When they get back into the ring, Claudio blasts Kingston with a running European uppercut, and Kingston kicks out. Claudio tells Kingston that he will never get his respect as he slaps Kingston across the face. Kingston Backfists him once. A second Backfist sends Claudio reeling to the ropes. Claudio comes back with a sleeper, swinging Kingston momentarily before dropping him with the Neutralizer. Kingston kicks out at one, and walks right into a running European uppercut from Claudio for two. The crowd chants for Eddie as Claudio is assured by referee Paul Turner that it wasn’t a three count. Claudio throws more uppercuts to the neck and goes for the Ricola Bomb. Kingston counters into a huracanrana, which Claudio rolls through and pins Kingston at 20:07. This was a great story and they had a hot crowd, and the second Eddie lost they died. What this show sure didn’t need was another bummer ending. This effectively kills Kingston dead. Where does he go from here? Another title match down the line where it’s not nearly as satisfying? If so, that continues the ROH tradition of giving someone a title too late. Great match, but if your audience is driven away by the ending, who cares? ***¾
This was touted as one of the most exciting ROH shows ever on paper and so many people left this show angry, sad, or both. It doesn’t matter how good your matches are if that’s how you leave your audience. The vibe I get from AEW fans is that their patience is wearing thin right now – the last thing they should be doing is poisoning the ROH well too. You can tell fans to “watch it play out”, but that doesn’t work when they have to pay $10 a month to play out and are mad after spending $40 for a PPV. And why would you trust them to play any story out in a satisfying manner after this show? Just the other day I was thinking about how ROH was kind of like the equivalent of WWECW, and this show really that point home.