The first ROH title defense on AEW television since November (no, Dark does not count)took place on the sixth edition of Battle of the Belts the Friday before this episode:
ROH World Tag Team Championship
The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix) vs. QTV (Powerhouse Hobbs & QT Marshall)
AEW “Battle of the Belts VI” – Kingston, RI – 4.7.2023
The Lucha Brothers have been champion since 3.31.2023 and this is their first defense. Hobbs earned this title match for his team by successfully defending his AEW TNT title against both Fenix and Penta in separate title matches. This is a perfect example of how you can synergize AEW and ROH in a logical manner. Alex Abrahantes is in The Lucha Brothers corner, and Aaron Solo and Harley Cameron are in QTV’s corner. The champions have things in control early on, but that ends when Hobbs shoulder blocks Penta and catches Fenix’s springboard crossbody attempt and bodyslams him. Fenix quickly escapes QTV’s grasp by taking out Marshall with a roundhouse kick, but a double shoulder block from QTV takes down Penta and keeps the match in the challenger’s favor. QTV spent the commercial break beating down Penta in their half of the ring. Just as it looks like Penta is about to make a tag after giving Hobbs an enzuigiri, Marshall pulls Fenix off of the ring apron. Fenix is able to save Penta from being pinned after a powerbomb from Marshall. Penta takes down Marshall with a Sling Blade and Hobbs with a back cracker, giving him the chance to finally tag Fenix. Hobbs is taken out with double superkicks after Penta takes down Marshall with a headscissors. Penta wheelbarrows Fenix into a splash on Marshall, and then moments later, Fenix wheelbarrows Penta into a DDT to Marshall. Fenix lands a Superfly Splash and Marshall breaks up the cover. Marshall is wiped out with a Destroyer. Several kicks from the champions lay out Hobbs, and Fenix lands a skyscraper splash off of Penta’s shoulders. Penta takes out Marshall with a Destroyer, but Hobbs is able to kick out on his own. Cameron and Solo take out Abrahantes, and even though Solo sprays something in Fenix’s eyes and Marshall puts his feet on the ropes, he is unable to pin Fenix. Hobbs powerbombs Penta on the apron, but is unable to interject when Fenix counters Marshall’s powerbomb attempt into a huracanrana for the pin at 14:42. The Lucha Brothers defeating someone like Hobbs who has actual importance in the AEW landscape I think is a great move to validate them as champions in the eyes of AEW fans. It also made sense that Hobbs provided more difficulty for them during the match than Marshall did, and that Marshall was ultimately the one who was pinned. Color me surprised. ***¼
Kingston, RI – 4.13.2023
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Caprice Coleman.
Mark Briscoe vs. Ari Daivari
This is the continuation of Mark’s quest to defeat all of “Smart” Mark Sterling’s clients. Sterling, along with Josh Woods and Tony Nese, accompany Daivari to the ring. Briscoe takes down Daivari with a belly-to-belly suplex before lighting him up with chops in the corner. Daivari rolls to the floor after taking a vertical suplex. Nese pulls Briscoe to the floor when he looks for the Spicy Dropkick and sends him back first into the barricades. Daivari capitalizes by stomping Briscoe down in the corner and nailing him with a hard back elbow for a two count. Daivari also gets a nearfall after his signature hammerlock DDT. Nese and Woods both get in cheap shots behind the referee’s back. Daivari misses a splash. Woods and Nese drag Briscoe out when he has Daivari hooked for the Jay Driller, but this time, the referee catches them. Woods, Nese, and Sterling are all ejected. Daivari rolls up Briscoe for two. Briscoe cuts Daivari off with a boot to the stomach and drops him with the Jay Driller at 6:09. That makes Mark 4-0 in his takedown of Sterling’s men so far. This was the ideal way to incorporate interference into a match, with it being utilized in escalation until everyone was ejected and Briscoe proved their interjections were the only reason Daivari had a fighting chance against him. For a “TV” match, I’m fine getting a match of this kind every so often. **½
Nese and Woods attack Mark after the bell. The new AEW tag team champions FTR even the odds and take out all of the Varsity Athletes. They manage to drag Sterling to the floor before FTR and Mark can get their hands on them. We already had Mark and the Lucha Bros wrestle and defeat Nese, Woods, and Daivari at “Revolution”, so I don’t really see the purpose of them re-doing that match or story with FTR in their place, other than dragging this out due to lack of other ideas. What also muddies the waters is that Mark recently aligned himself with Jay Lethal and his goon squad in AEW. Does that relationship not matter in ROH, regardless of ROH being where the entirety of their relationship exists? Answer me, damn it!
We then go to Eddie Kingston who is sitting on his porch at home. He admits then when he faced Claudio at “Supercard of Honor” for the ROH World Title, he expected to simply bully him like he did in their past, but he was wrong. He had a plan going into the match and ended up going back to what he knew, which was fighting. He admits that Claudio was the better man that night, and that because of the way Claudio manhandled him that night, the hernia he has had since September has caused him so much pain that he is undergoing surgery for it. Eddie says that after the match, he sat in his hotel room and remembered everything Claudio said about him being ready to quit wrestling, and admits Claudio was right. Eddie then went back and watched his first AEW match where he lost a TNT Title open challenge to Cody Rhodes. That night, Kingston said “you either win, or you learn.” Eddie recognized that since then, he forgot his own lesson. He did learn from his defeat at Supercard of Honor, and that he will move forward. Nice to finally hear from Kingston following that loss, and to get a rationale behind his absence. This was good, and Eddie Kingston cleaned up some of the issues I and other fans had regarding the loss at the PPV.
Skye Blue vs. Kelly Madan
Madan gets in a bit more offense than you’d expect from a newcomer, but Blue is able to outmaneuver her and take her down with the Sky Fall in just 2:06. Solid momentum builder for a potential Women’s title contender.
Darius Martin vs. Mike Bennett
Matt Taven and Maria Kanellis-Bennett are in Bennett’s corner. Martin was unsuccessful against Taven in a singles match back on Episode 4, thanks to an interjection from Maria. Martin anticipates the surprise boot to the stomach during the Code of Honor, blocking it, and then delivering his own dropkick. On the floor, Martin reverses an Irish whip into the barricade and then lands a crossbody off of the barricade. Taven distracts Martin when he ascends the ropes, allowing Bennett to pull him down and the back of his head to collide with the top turnbuckle. Bennett pulls him to the apron, looking to attempt the same apron piledriver that injured him back in August 2013. He ends up settling for a Death Valley Driver. Martin is able to dodge a rebound forearm smash and take out Bennett with a suicide dive. He scores a Spanish Fly back in the ring for two. Martin has Bennett set up for a piledriver when Taven attacks him from behind, resulting in a disqualification victory for Martin at 4:59. Taven and Bennett beat him down until Action Andretti comes to his rescue. That’s an interesting person to enter the ROH ecosphere, not that I am against it, just not something I expected. This was a solid match to continue the Top Flight and Kingdom rivalry, and a real strong showing for Darius. **½
Tracy Williams vs. Wheeler Yuta
This is Yuta’s first ROH match since losing the Pure Title at “Supercard of Honor.” He goes for a springboard into a tornado clutch early on, but Williams kneels and counters into a cross armbreaker. Yuta rolls up to his feet and steps on Williams’ face to get him to release. He follows that up with a stomp and a rebound German suplex. Yuta applies a deathlock, and Williams grabs the ropes to escape. Williams ducks under an Irish whip and chops Williams before giving him a leg capture Saito suplex. He also DDT’s Yuta onto the top turnbuckle. A rolling clothesline and brainbuster follow for a two count, and Williams transitions immediately after Yuta gets his shoulder up into a crossface. After he escapes, Yuta bites Williams’ forehead and drops him with his own Saito suplex. The Pain Thriller leads to hammer and nail elbows to the shoulder and a double arm capture Dragon sleeper. Yuta leans back and Williams submits at 5:08. This was an intense and engaging five minutes, where I swore a couple of times Williams was going to best the former champion. We’ve seen Yuta’s dishonor come through in moments of desperation, and we saw it again when he bit Williams. That action altered the course of the match and almost directly led him to victory, so you can expect more of that going forward. About as good as a five minute match gets. ***¼
Backstage, Darius Martin tells us that he knew the Kingdom would use the numbers advantage against him, and that he recruited Action Andretti as a proactive measure. Andretti says they have each other’s back, and issues a challenge to the Kingdom for a tag team match next week.
Katsuyori Shibata & Alex Coughlin vs. The WorkHorsemen (Anthony Henry & JD Drake)
Coughlin is one of Shibata’s prized graduates from the LA DOJO. This is his first ROH appearance since the 2019 War of the Worlds tour, and he comes into the match with an 0-8 ROH record. Henry impressively holds his own against Shibata, but when Shibata locks him in a figure four, Drake interjects with a falling headbutt to save his partner. Coughlin takes down Drake with a double leg and a Saito suplex. Henry illegally aids Drake to turn the match in their favor, with Drake booting him into a Russian leg sweep from Henry before giving him a falling headbutt of his own. We see Shane Taylor, who teamed with Henry and Drake last week, watching the match as the WorkHorsemen beat down Coughlin. Shibata is knocked off the apron a couple of times while Henry and Drake isolate Coughlin, resulting in Shibata being fed up and stomping Henry when he openly mocks Shibata during a figure four. He also shows tough love to Coughlin with a stomp for having to save him from the hold. Coughlin makes up for it by deadlifting Henry from a seated position up into a vertical suplex. Shibata knocks Drake to the floor with a boot to the face before giving Henry a yakuza kick and hesitation dropkick. Drake chops Shibata in the back, but Shibata absorbs it and takes down Drake with a chop. Coughlin breaks up the pin when Henry sends Shibata into a delayed Complete Shot from Drake. Coughlin then impressively gives the large Drake a deadlift gutwrench suplex on the floor. Shibata dazes Henry with a forearm smash. He then brings Henry to a seated position in a sleeper hold and nails him with a PK for the pin at 8:48. It’s tough to dislike a match where four dudes beat the piss out of each other. Taylor watching the match from backstage is a nice touch, and it makes me glad that their partnership last week wasn’t just a throwaway, seemingly. It may be time to give Henry and Drake a win, though, if they want to be seen as anything but high level jobbers. After the match, Coughlin makes it clear to his trainer that he would like a shot at his Pure title, and Shibata nods in agreement. I am looking forward to that match. ***¼
Willow Nightingale vs. Little Mean Kathleen
We got a glimpse of LMK’s acute charisma, as after biting Willow’s hand, she used the ropes to allow herself to stomp on Willow relentlessly. Willow crushed her with a corner hip attack after getting to her feet and dropped her with a Stampede slam to pick up the win at 1:49. My declaration of wanting Willow on my TV every week persists, as she rules and it is impossible to be unhappy when she is on my screen.
Stu Grayson vs. Tony Nese
Evil Uno is in Grayson’s corner while “Smart” Mark Sterling is in Nese’s corner. Grayson has things well in hand after delivering a slingshot senton to Nese on the apron and then wiping him out with a tope con hilo. When Grayson attempts a springboard back into the ring, Nese shoves him off and into the barricades. Grayson comes off the top with a super sunset flip after avoiding a superplex, but Nese rolls up to his feet and nails him with a roundhouse kick. Grayson fires back with thrusts to the chest. He takes down Nese with a uranage before landing a springboard twisting senton. Grayson also maneuvers Nese into a spin-out X-Factor for two. Nese snaps Grayson’s neck on the top rope. Grayson evades the Running Nese, so Nese attempts to hold Grayson’s trunks in an O’Connor Roll to get the pin. It fails, and after a Pele kick and running knee strike, Grayson hits the Banebreaker for the pin at 7:16. The Righteous of Vincent and Dutch then appear on the apron and applaud Grayson, just like they did at Supercard of Honor. This was a good match, but if we’re setting up The Righteous vs. Uno and Grayson, why was Grayson featured in a singles match as part of this story? We know Josh Woods was in the building, why not have the Smash Bros defeat Nese and Woods? I don’t get it, but I had a good time with these seven minutes at least. **¾
Backstage, Vincent and Dutch address The Dark Order. Vincent thinks The Dark Order have become a shell of themselves. He also plays mind games with Grayson, asking him to consider how the Dark Order moved on without him when he decided to leave. The Righteous intimate that they want to “keep” Stu Grayson, and have them join their ranks. Now that’s interesting, and it kind of answers my question, as they want to recruit Grayson rather than fight him. I still would have preferred a tag team match.
ROH Women’s World Championship Proving Ground Match
Athena vs. Ashley D’Amboise
If D’Amboise is victorious, she will earn a future ROH Women’s World title match. Frustrated by the progress D’Amboise makes in the opening moments, Athena angrily attacks with several kicks and dropkicks to the head. D’Amboise leapfrogs over a corner attack. Athena ducks a kick and has her pumphandled, but D’Amboise rotates into a falling leg drop out of a standing position. She then earns a nearfall on Athena with a Samoan Drop. Athena shoves D’Amboise off of the top turnbuckle and onto the apron, and then dropkicks her off of the apron to the floor. Athena follows up with an elbow suicida and a hard forearm strike to the chest. Athena throws her into the barricades and drives D’Amboise’s head into the ring steps with double knees. Back in the ring, the O-Face gets Athena the pin at 5:14. D’Amboise was excellent, and was proficient in her attempt to take down the champion until Athena’s relentless attacks kept her down. When D’Amboise found another opening, Athena’s ruthlessness increased, and that’s what it took to keep D’Amboise down. Some of the Proving Ground matches Athena has had have been fun to watch but never felt like there was actually a chance the opponent could win. Here, D’Amboise had me believing. **½
Lexy Nair interviews D’Amboise backstage, asking if she is happy with her efforts tonight. D’Amboise says she was, but she was expecting more honor in the match. She says the match was filled more with anger, and just then, Athena blindsides her with a running forearm smash. Athena says they keep giving her garbage opponents week after week, and that if they keep giving her ‘porcelain, trash bag hussies’, she is going to take it out on Lexy. Shen then smashes D’Amboise’s face into her title belt and with a laugh welcomes her into Ring of Honor. I’m interested to see if this means that they have someone in mind to come in and put Athena in her place.
ROH World Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Metalik
Castagnoli has been champion since 12.10.2022 and this is his sixth defense. I know Claudio more or less put out an open challenge for the title last week, but Metalik coming into this bout 0-1 in singles competition does make me question his validity as a challenger. Metalik earns his king of the ropes nickname by landing on the second rope after being popped up overhead by Claudio and surprising the champion with a headscissors to the floor. When he attempts to follow with a somersault senton off the apron, however, Claudio catches him and sends him into the apron with an overhead facebuster. Back in the ring, Claudio attacks Metalik’s back.Metalik drop toe holds a charging Claudio into the middle turnbuckle and takes him down with a springboard Frankensteiner. Metalik also launches himself from a double knuckle lock into a Sling Blade. Metalik then wipes him out with a tope con hilo and a springboard splash for a two count. Claudio stops Metalik’s second Frankensteiner attempt, but Metalik counters the Ricola Bomb with a Yoshi Tonic for two. Claudio gets his feet up to counter Metalik’s moonsault. Claudio turns him inside out with a lariat for two. Claudio proclaims Metalik is done as he begins to lift him for a superplex. Metalik says otherwise, escaping his grasp and delivering an enzuigiri before bringing down Claudio with a rope-walk Frankensteiner for two. Metalik looks to follow up with a rope-walk elbow drop, but Claudio gets his knees up again. He locks Metalik in a crossface and converts into a crucifix pin when Metalik escapes. Claudio nails him with a running uppercut. Claudio is angry when Metalik gets his shoulder up from the subsequent pin, so he throws hammer and nail elbows at Metalik before dropping him with the Neutralizer for the pin at 12:04. Valid contender or not, they did a great job making it seem like Metalik had a real chance winning the match. It helps that Claudio versus high-fliers is basically a surefire great match, as there’s nobody better than Claudio to make a high-flier look good. Because of Metalik’s status in the ROH roster compared to Claudio’s, and the fact there was no story for it, I think it’s fair to say this match overachieved. ***½
This show was under 90 minutes, had four backstage segments, and an online exclusive segment as well. That is progress! I think the next step is fewer, longer matches and tightening up the week-to-week narratives, but I don’t have any gripes about this show on its own.