ROH on Honor Club #9

Pittsburgh, PA – 4.27.2023

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni, Caprice Coleman & Nigel McGuinness.

ROH Women’s World Championship Proving Ground Match
Athena vs. Lady Frost

If Frost is victorious, she will earn a future ROH Women’s World title match. As we’ve seen from Frost in previous matches, she is able to maneuver around the ring quickly, surprising the champion with shoulder tackles and gymnastic style offense. When Frost attempts to go up and over out of the corner, Athena kicks her left shoulder. Athena attacks Frost’s back and midsection, but a roundhouse kick and step-up enzuigiri lead to Frost scoring a nearfall with the Snowball Fight senton. Athena pulls her into a tree of woe to combat a moonsault attempt and compresses her spin in the ropes. Even so, Frost cracks her with a kick to the head again and successfully lands a twisting moonsault called The Temperature Drop. Athena holds onto the ropes to prevent a pin attempt. Athena holds onto the ropes, so that when Frost pulls her up by her feet, Athena lands on her feet and knocks out Frost with a forearm smash for the pin at 5:13. You don’t see Athena being outclassed much these days, but Frost controlled so much of the match and had the Pittsburgh crowd believing they could see a new champion. I also like Athena’s quick thinking resulting in her making Frost put her in place for the knockout blow. This might be my favorite Athena Proving Ground match so far? ***

We’re shown a promo from The Kingdom of Matt Taven and Mike Bennett, with footage interspersed. When they came back to ROH, their aim was to pick up where they left off by challenging The Briscoes for the Tag Team titles at Final Battle 2022. But they weren’t given what they deserved. Instead, they were put against Top Flight and lost. ROH means something to them, and Bennett is sick of seeing people like Top Flight and Action Andretti use the company they built as a stepping stool, and continuously steal their moments from them. Another moment they felt was stolen from them was at Supercard of Honor, where they had the opportunity to honor Jay Briscoe and win back the tag team titles. Taven says they will get revenge on every team who was in that ladder match and get back what belongs to them. This was excellent. It explains how the Kingdom feels, their goals, and gives them direction. The only issue is, I kind of want to root for them now, and I am not supposed to.

The Infantry (Carlie Bravo & Shawn Dean) vs. La Facción Ingobernable (RUSH & Preston Vance)

Jose The Assistant is in LFI’s corner. This is a pseudo rematch from Episode 6, where RUSH and Dralistico defeated The Infantry. Vance has managed LFI in the past on ROH, but this is his in ring debut. Vance is all over Bravo right from the bell, and that doesn’t change when Dean interjects. Vance clotheslines both members of the Infantry down and wipes out Dean with a rolling clothesline. Bravo has his head taken off with a rolling clothesline, but instead of pinning him, he tags RUSH. RUSH puts him away with the Bulls Horns at 2:52. A perfect way to debut Vance as a powerhouse, and to show the harmony that exists in LFI.

Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent Berretta) vs. Joe Ocasio & Mookie Summers

The Best Friends were in ROH in mid 2017 through early 2019 before joining AEW. Beretta also had a run with Rocky Romero in ROH prior to Chuck joining the company. Ocasio takes it to Beretta with strikes in the corner, but Beretta explodes out of the corner with a Busaiku knee. Taylor then sends him crashing into the barricades. Taylor pops up Summers into a powerbomb. Ocasio jumps in, and Beretta nails Ocasio with a rolling forearm. Both of the Best Friends deliver piledrivers to Ocasio, and then take out Summers with a Doomsday Busaiku Knee for the pin at 2:28. A rock solid re-debut for the Best Friends, who I truly hope to see more of in ROH going forward.

Brian Cage vs. Leon Ruffin

Prince Nana is in Cage’s corner. Another week, another trivial singles match for Brian Cage. I am a Leon Ruffin fan, and he did a heck of a job making Cage look good while also showing his own elusiveness, but seriously, why does Cage keep getting singles matches when he is a six-man tag champion? I hope he gets a video like the Kingdom did explaining that. The highlight of this match was Ruffin surprising Cage with a springback Ace Crusher, but his comeback was short-lived. Cage nailed Ruffin with a rolling clothesline and a powerbomb across his knee before, surprisingly, putting him in a submission hold he calls the Chainlink. Ruffin taps out in the hold at 3:16. Is this submission an indication of Cage possibly going for the Pure title? Probably not. **½

The Dark Order (Evil Uno & Stu Grayson) vs. The Trustbusters (Jeeves Kay & Sonny Kiss)

This is the first tag team match for the former Super Smash Brothers in ROH since November of 2018. This is Kiss’ ROH debut. Slim J is in The Trustbusters corner. The Righteous of Vincent and Dutch appear before the bell on the entrance stage to observe the bout. Uno is distracted by this, and Kay attacks him from behind. The Trustbusters beat down Uno in their corner until Uno suplexes Kay while at the same time falling back to break a rear-naked choke from Kiss. Grayson belly-to-belly suplexes Kiss and lands a twisting lionsault on Kay. Uno blind tags in and Grayson enzuigiri’s Kay into a brainbuster from Uno. Kiss tries to help, but ends up getting taken out with a haymaker and powerbomb from Uno. Grayson punts Kay into a piledriver from Uno for the pin at 4:53. Good idea to get Uno and Grayson some tag team wins as they move forward with their issue with the Righteous. Funny how as soon as Daivari leaves the Trustbusters, my feelings about them become more favorable. **½

Dasha Gonzalez is backstage with Christopher Daniels. She asks Daniels what’s next on his journey for victory and championships. It’s a very strangely worded question. Daniels says after 30 years in wrestling, he knows what it feels like to be at the top and the bottom, and right now he feels as if he’s at one of his all-time lows. He doesn’t have as many victories as he would like, but he knows nothing comes easy in ROH. He wants to take a big swing to get back on the right track, and challenges Samoa Joe to a Television title match next week. They’ve fought each other tooth and nail for two decades, shedding each other’s blood, and Daniels says Joe is one of the toughest sons of bitches he has ever faced. But he isn’t intimidated – he’s ready to go, and invites Joe to beat him if he can.

Skye Blue vs. Diamante

This is Diamante’s ROH debut. She gives Blue a neckbreaker in the ropes and dropkicks her off of the ring apron. Blue fights out of a potential Code Red and Jon Woo dropkicks Diamante into the corner. Blue lands a high crossbody for two. After a step-up knee strike and a low enzuigiri, Blue takes Diamante to the apron. Diamante fights her off and gives Blue a German suplex onto the edge of the ring. Diamante looks to put Blue away with a modified brainbuster, but Blue slips into a full nelson and then a cradle to pin Diamante at 3:21. Commentary mentions Blue is now 4-0, so she’s certainly being set up for a title match, which is further driven home when Athena comes out to the stage with Skye Blue’s hat and stomps on it. Solid match, but maybe something a bit more decisive for Blue would’ve been preferred.

Rocky Romero vs. Lee Moriarty

Romero’s fingerprints are all over ROH throughout its various eras, up to and including its final show of the Sinclair Era, Final Battle 2021. This is his first match of the TK era. Big Bill is in Moriarty’s corner, which he was not last week when he lost to Konosuke Takeshita. Romero took down Moriarty with a falling knee to the shoulder and a double stomp across the top rope. A Big Bill distraction leads to Moriarty driving Romero into the barricades with a hammerlock, and Bill clubbing Romero’s shoulder blades behind the referee’s back. The two of them go after each other’s shoulders the previously injured back inside of the ring, with Romero taking down Moriarty with a tornado DDT. Moriarty cuts off Romero’s Forever Clothesline with a running clothesline of his own and plants Romero with the Tiger Driver ‘18. Romero escapes a Border City Stretch and victory rolls Moriarty for two. Romero pulls off a Frankensteiner outside of the ring and then a running shiranui in the ring for two. Romero accidentally knocks Big Bill into the barricades with a suicide dive. Bill chokeslams Romero neck first onto the ring apron as Moriarty has the referee distracted. Moriarty then delivers a leg lariat to get the pin at 7:59. To no surprise this was a very good match. We also got to see more of Moriarty’s personality come through and Big Bill’s distraction made sense given he was taken out by Romero, albeit accidentally, first. Backstage, Romero challenges Moriarty to a Pure Rules match next week, which makes perfect sense and makes the way this match played out even more satisfying since it actually leads to something. ***¼

Blake Christian vs. Gringo Loco

Loco returns after an impressive showing against El Hijo del Vikingo last week. This is Christian’s first match since unsuccessfully challenging for the Six Man titles at Supercard of Honor. Christian shows early on he is capable of keeping in step with Loco. Christian lands on his feet when Loco moves out of the way out of a Fosbury Flop, and is caught by a tope con hilo from Loco. Christian comes back with a spear on the ring apron and successfully pulls off his Fosbury Flop. Loco blocks a Spanish Fly and delivers an enzuigiri. Christian delivers his own from the apron and springboards in with a back handspring enzuigiri. Loco catches another backflip from Christian, placing Christian onto his shoulders and giving him a sit-out powerbomb for two. Loco follows that with a super inverted Angle Slam for two. Loco brings Christian up the ropes with him on his shoulders. Christian sunset flips his way down, takes down Loco with a Spanish Fly, and hits a springboard 450 Splash for the pin at 6:16. Cool stuff happened, but it is maddening that Loco’s big move just minutes later may as well have had no effect on Christian. That seems to be an issue in a lot of Christian’s matches, truthfully. As a follow up to Loco’s match against Vikingo, I was disappointed. **¼

The new content totals about 65 minutes, but this episode actually ends with a classic ROH match: Samoa Joe defending the Pure Title against James Gibson from “New Frontiers.” Below is my review of the match from the Samoa Joe: Total Domination DVD compilation:

ROH Pure Championship
Samoa Joe vs. James Gibson
“New Frontiers” – Williamsville, NY – 6.4.2005

Joe has been champion since 5.7.2005 and this is his first defense. As Joe and Gibson vie for control on the mat, it becomes clear that Gibson is determined to get either one of Joe’s arms or legs worn down. When Gibson applies a cross armbreaker, Joe picks up Gibson and places him on the top rope. Referee Todd Sinclair decides to charge Joe a rope break for doing so, and Joe is naturally unhappy about that call. With Joe distracted in his arguing with the referee, Gibson uses that moment to hop over Joe and dropkick his leg out from under him. Gibson focuses his attack on Joe’s leg, and Joe ends up cutting off Gibson’s offensive stride when he blocks a corner attack from Gibson with the STJoe. He drops a knee across Gibson’s chest and sends him to the floor with a corner knee strike where. Joe throws more kicks to the chest before applying a Boston Crab. Gibson uses his first rope break to escape. Gibson crotches Joe in the corner and brings him down with a belly-to-back superplex. Gibson puts on a Guillotine and Joe drives Gibson back first into the corner to break free. Gibson releases the hold so he can shove Joe to the corner and roll him up for two. Joe gets his own two count with a powerslam. He transitions right into the cross armbreaker, and Gibson uses his second rope break to escape. Joe goes for a facewash kick, but Gibson catches his leg and gives him a dragonscrew leg whip. He then applies the Trailer Hitch, and Joe uses his second rope break to escape. Gibson dropkicks Joe to the floor. When he tries a pescado, Joe catches him and tosses him into the barricades. In the ring, Joe powerbombs Gibson into an STF. Gibson uses his third and final rope break to escape the hold. Joe goes for the Muscle Buster, Gibson slips out of it and applies another Guillotine choke. Gibson turns it into an O’Conner Roll for two, but Joe then counters that into the Coquina Clutch. Gibson taps out at 23:54. I actually got annoyed at one point during the match because it seemed like Gibson just gave up his focus on Joe’s leg, but in the end he went back to it which to me made up for it. They used a lot of creative ways to escape holds without using rope breaks in the beginning which was very enjoyable. Aside from the match feeling a bit too long, this was a great match to showcase what the Pure title is about, and was both fun and engaging to watch. ***¾

I was really happy that we had actual movement on stories and characters this episode. I also think 65 minutes of fresh content is pretty perfect. If we can get more substantial matches to go along with the story progression, we will be on to something.

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