ROH on Honor Club #11

Just one day before this episode of ROH, a Double Jeopardy match was held on AEW Dynamite, pitting ROH World Champion Claudio Castagnoli against ROH World Tag Team Champion Rey Fenix. If Claudio won, he and a partner of his choosing would get an ROH World Tag Team title match against the Lucha Brothers. If Fenix won, he would receive a ROH World Championship match against Claudio. Basically, it was a double Proving Ground match, and I like that concept.


Double Jeopardy Match
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Rey Fenix

AEW Dynamite #188 – Detroit, MI – 5.10.2023

Alex Abrahantes is in Fenix’s corner. Even after taking two backbreakers, Fenix found the energy to send Claudio to the floor with a headscissors. He wiped out Claudio with two suicide dives, but Claudio caught Fenix on the third and dropped him chest first onto the barricade. Fenix ruined Claudio’s balance to escape a suplex on the ring steps, and then pulled off a running headscissors from the barricades, Jeff Hardy style. Fenix pulls off a super Frankensteiner, but Claudio takes him out with a lariat after escaping a Code Red. Claudio then press slams Fenix over the barricade and into the crowd. During the commercial break, Claudio continues to pummel Fenix once he makes his way back into the ring. Fenix kicks out from a pin after taking a super gutwrench suplex and rocks Claudio with a pair of spin kicks. He rolls forward and drops Claudio with an Ace Crusher for two. Fenix lands a springboard moonsault on the outside, but when he tries a springboard back in the ring, Claudio cuts him off mid-air with an uppercut. Fenix counters a Ricola Bomb with a cascade into a Code Red. Fenix cracks him with a superkick for a nearfall, and then hoists Claudio up onto his shoulders. Claudio slips out of his grasp and drops him with the Alpamare Water Slide. After multiple hammer and nail elbows, Claudio pulls Fenix into the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 14:28. Claudio has these power vs. speed battles somewhat often, but this one felt more creative than many of the others. Put this in front of a hotter crowd and it would have been even better. Fenix vs. Claudio for the World title would’ve been really fun, but Claudio and a partner (likely Yuta) against the Lucha Bros. should also be a hoot. ***¼

Orlando, FL – 5.11.2023

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

Mark Briscoe vs. Shane Taylor

Taylor reminds Mark that he beat his brother’s ass once upon a time, which naturally yielded some angry strikes from Briscoe. Taylor maneuvered him into a rope assisted stunner to continue his onslaught. A big boot from Mark sends Taylor to the floor, leading to a tumbleweed senton off of the apron and some kung-fu chops. Taylor clobbers Mark with a lariat inside the ring to halt Mark’s chair-assisted dive. Mark withstands another lariat and several strikes in the corner and takes down the former TV champion with a Sick Kick. Taylor catches a corner big boot, looking to turn it into a knee strike from himself, but Mark Pele kicks Taylor to the floor and lands a spicy dropkick. Mark’s chair assisted somersault senton connects on the second try. Mark halts Taylor on the top turnbuckle, pulling him down into a rolling Death Valley Driver. Taylor evades the Froggy Bow and hits Welcome To The Land for two. Mark challenges Taylor to strike him, and when he does, Mark ducks and uses Taylor’s momentum to pull off a uranage slam. Taylor headbutts Mark in the chest and pulls him up into his own uranage after escaping a double underhook and headbutting Mark in the chest. Mark kicks out of the subsequent splash to Taylor’s dismay. Mark finishes a strike exchange with a lariat and hoists Taylor up just enough for a Jay Driller to get the pin at 9:46. Mark tells the camera he’s coming for Samoa Joe and his TV title, so I guess it’s good that their story isn’t over. Him defeating a dominant former TV Champion who is similar in size to Joe is also a good way to get Mark momentum for a rematch. I really like Mark winning with the Jay Driller here, as commentary reminded us that Jay was unable to pull that move off against Shane back at Final Battle 2020 when Taylor defeated him. I hope Taylor is able to pick up where he left off before ROH changed management. This was a great way to kick off the show. ***¼

Tracy Williams & Rhett Titus vs. The Blackpool Combat Club (Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta)

Williams and Titus not using the Foundation name any more makes me sad. Claudio trained Williams, Williams mentored Yuta, and Yuta used to team with Williams and Titus in ROH, yielding a very interesting dynamic between the teams. Claudio stomps on Williams to break a modified ankle lock on Yuta. Claudio tells Yuta to watch him, but Claudio ends up nearly being pinned in a crucifix by Williams. When Williams tags Titus to attack Claudio’s upturned arm, Claudio counters an armdrag attempt by Titus by driving him into the mat with a falling elbow strike. Titus tags Williams back in, but Yuta surprises him with a chop block. The BCC have to fight hard to keep Williams away from Titus. Yuta has Williams poised for a superplex after a back rake, but Williams counters into a DDT on the top turnbuckle and tags Titus. Titus Spins Yuta around in a double underhook on his shoulders and then takes him down with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Claudio interjects, but Titus sends him to the floor with the Hydraulic dropkick. Williams takes him out with a running knee off of the apron as Titus yakuza kicks Yuta twice in the corner. Titus Hydraulic dropkicks Yuta into a rolling lariat from Williams, and Claudio comes back just in time to break the pin. Claudio gut wrenches Titus to the floor and runs him into the barricades with an uppercut. Yuta pokes Williams in the eyes. Claudio blindsides him with a running European uppercut, and the Rocket Launcher with Yuta gets the BCC the pin at 8:06. I loved the way this match played out. Not only did it take the real life partnerships and training elements between these four into consideration, but it established the current relationship between Claudio and Yuta as mentor and mentee, while Williams and Titus wrestled more like a duo. Because of this, the BCC had to resort to dishonorable means to defeat the former tag champions. Perhaps that is an omen to how Claudio will behave when he faces the Lucha Bros. I’m hard pressed to think of a better possible “jobber to the stars” ROH team than Titus and Williams. ***½

ROH World Television Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Blake Christian

Joe has been champion since 4.13.2022 and this is his tenth defense. Christian wisely decides to attack Joe’s left knee. It goes really well until Joe cuts him off with a headbutt to the chest and a senton splash. Christian escapes a powerbomb, but is taken down shortly after with a powerslam. Christian evades the Coquina Clutch with a neckbreaker and the STJoe with a hip throw, but when he hops to the top rope to capitalize on the momentum, Joe pulls him down into the Muscle Buster for the pin at 3:59. That last flurry was really great. Christian wrestled as smart of a match against Joe as he could, but didn’t take into consideration how his high flying offense just might put him in a compromising position. A very fun and unique title defense from Joe. **½

Backstage, Mark Sterling is with The Trustbusters two thirds of the Varsity Athletes. Sterling asked to speak with Dasha Gonzalez, because he thinks everything going on in the Dark Order has put a strain on the athletes in the locker room. Sterling has put together a super team to face the Dark Order tonight, since the Dark Order has had issues with both stables lately. They insist on keeping Daivari and Sterling near the Trustbusters despite breaking away from them, but I like the idea of this match in general.

The Righteous (Vincent & Dutch) vs. The Infantry (Carlie Bravo & Shawn Dean)

The Infantry are shockingly dominant over Vincent. Stu Grayson, who the Righteous have been antagonizing of late, makes his way out to top of the stage during the match. Vincent distracts the official so Dutch, who is delighted to see Grayson, can surprise Dean with a clothesline from the apron. Dean fights out of Autumn Sunshine and tags Bravo. He low bridges Dutch to the outside and surprises Vincent with a haymaker for two. Vincent shoves Bravo into a Boss Man Slam from Dutch. Dutch then assists Vincent with Autumn Sunshine onto Dean for the pin at 2:56. The Righteous tell Stu at the top of the ramp that he’s “one of them.” That message seems to resonate with him. This was a real solid battle between these two teams, but of course The Righteous can’t be taking L’s right now. **

Next week, The Kingdom faces Action Andretti and Darius Martin in a “Fight Without Honor.” We see a great hype video for that match, and I am looking forward to that bout.

Robyn Renegade vs. Vertvixen

Charlette Renegade is in Robyn’s corner. Despite challenging for the ROH Women’s title twice, this is Vertvixen’s ROH debut. Robyn picks up the aggression when Vertvixen scores a near fall after a Complete Shot. Charlette grabs his leg as well, which gives Robyn an opening to surprise Vertvixen with a shotgun dropkick. Vertvixen catches Robyn with a rolling stunner and a pump kick in the corner before dropping her with another Complete Shot for two. She picks up Robyn onto her shoulders, but Robyn pulls her down in an abdominal stretch and wraps her leg around Vertvixen’s neck until she submits at 2:56. That gives her Robyn her first televised ROH win. They haven’t addressed why Robyn has been in so many singles of late, but this was for sure the best she’s looked yet. Vertvixen is also really impressive, and I’m surprised nobody has picked her up full time yet. I didn’t expect much from this and ended up really enjoying it. **¼

Dasha Gonzales is interviewing Prince Nana, Kaun, and Toa Liona backstage. They are quickly interrupted by Dalton Castle, who accuses them of hurting one of his Boys (Brent), who is covered in bruises. Nana denies this, but when Dalton walks off, Nana pulls a Boy mask out of his back pocket and laughs.

Willie Mack vs. Ninja Mack

Gosh I hate when family fights. This is Ninja Mack’s first ROH match since Supercard of Honor 2022. Since then, he has wrestled multiple tours for Pro Wrestling NOAH, and has held the GHC Junior Heavyweight championship. You may be surprised to hear, then, that it was Willie who bested Ninja with his agility, wiping him out with a tope con hilo. Ninja Mack avoids a standing moonsault back inside of the ring and takes down Wille with a twisting uppercut. He follows that with a twisting 720 splash for two. Ninja superkicks Willie, but Willie Samoan Drops him when he moves towards him. He lands a standing moonsault for two. Ninja tries a crossbody off of the second rope, but is caught by Willie who then muscles him into a sit-out powerbomb for the pin at 6:11. This was good and fun (shout out Larry Csonka) but it was difficult to get into this match as it felt pointless. **½

The Embassy (Brian Cage, Kaun & Toa Liona) vs. Adam Priest, Lucky Ali & Victor Benjamin

Prince Nana is in the Embassy’s corner. This is the ROH debut for everyone opposite the Embassy, though Priest has previously challenged for the World title, and Benjamin has previously challenged for the Pure title. Benjamin and Priest both got a little bit of offense in, and Ali got destroyed by Cage. Ultimately, Kaun and Loa slammed Priest onto Benjamin, and Kaun pinned them both at 3:19. Priest would be phenomenal as the Pure division, but you wouldn’t have sensed that just from this match. It was your standard squash match. *

Kyle Fletcher vs. Tony Deppen

Mark Davis is in Fletcher’s corner. Deppen utilized the ropes to turn the match in his favor. He halted Fletcher with a springboard lungblower, later down the line he utilized a slingshot Ace Crusher, and cracked him with a Brodie Knee when Fletcher avoided a knee trembler. Before that, Deppen almost had Fletcher pinned with double knees in the corner and double stomp off of the top turnbuckle. Unfortunately for Deppen, Fletcher surprised Deppen coming off of the ropes with a Michinoku Driver to get the pin at 8:07. The crowd was really into this match and that raised its overall energy. Deppen is a more seasoned singles wrestler than Fletcher, so it’s logical that he would best him for most of the match, and that Fletcher using his momentum against him would be necessary for him to get the win. However, it seems the referee may have miscounted here, as Deppen kicked out right at the bell and there seemed to be some protest over whether the match was actually over. This was another pleasant surprise. ***¼

AR Fox vs. Anthony Henry

JD Drake is in Henry’s corner. Drake’s early distraction doesn’t prevent Fox from landing three dives and a brainbuster in the early going. What did shut him down was Henry giving him a piledriver on the ring apron. Fox slides into the ring just before the twenty count, and Henry immediately uses his feet to twist Fox’s neck. He lifts him up into a second piledriver for two. Henry follows that up with two successive brainbusters. Fox reverses the third with a suplex. Fox victory rolls Henry after a springback Ace Crusher for two. Henry also kicks out of a Swanton and drops Fox on his neck with a German suplex. Henry follows up with Total Anarchy for two. Fox boots Henry in the corner before trying Lo Mein Pain. Henry slips out from it and puts on a sleeper hold. Fox snapmares his way out of it and super snapmares Henry into an Ace Crusher for two. Fox takes out Drake on the outside when he tries to grab his foot, but when he looks to re-enter the ring, Henry cuts him off with a second rope-assisted DDT. Henry kicks his way up to the top turnbuckle where Fox brings him down with Lo Mein Pain. A 450 Splash follows, getting Fox the win at 9:36. I was so certain Henry was going to win based on the way the match was structured. This isn’t a complaint, as Fox is for sure more of a singles competitor than Henry is in ROH and it makes sense, and it actually made the match more exciting because of the nearfalls. Another fun surprise. ***¼

Henry shakes Fox’s hand after the match, but JD Drake attacks him from behind. Shane Taylor also joins the beatdown. FTR come to Fox’s aid. They take out Drake and Taylor, and when Henry tries to bail, Eddie Kingston comes out and chases him into the ring. FTR drop Taylor with the Big Rig and then celebrate with Fox and Kingston.

The Dark Order (Evil Uno, Stu Grayson, Alex Reynolds & John Silver) vs. The Trustbusters (Slim J, Sonny Kiss & Jeeves Kay) & Josh Woods

Ari Daivari and “Smart” Mark Sterling are in the Trustbusters and Woods’ corner. Grayson is unhappy when Uno doesn’t tag him in and instead lets the Beaver Boys double team Woods. A distraction from Sterling allows Kay to attack Silver from behind and his team take control. Silver wheelbarrow suplexes Kay, but Slim J knocks the rest of his partners off of the apron to prevent him from making a tag. However, Silver rolls away from Kay and Slim J who are dragging him back to the corner and tags in Grayson, the only partner of his on the apron. Grayson double Pele kicks Woods and Kiss to the floor and wipes them out with a tope con hilo. Grayson drops Kay with a uranage and swings out Slim J into a facebuster. A springboard moonsault follows for two. He decides to tag Uno, but Kay shoves them into one another. A flying inverted bulldog from Slim J leads to a frog splash from Kay for a two count. Reynolds breaks up the pin, leading to a sequence of offenses from many of the competitors. Grayson tags Reynolds and sacrifices himself to an enzuigiri from Slim J. This allows Reynolds and Silver to double team Slim J, ending with an Ace Crusher from Reynolds into a German Suplex from Silver. Uno and Grayson then take out Slim J with Fatality for the pin at 6:04. Despite this, Grayson does not celebrate with the rest of the Dark Order. That was a very action packed six minutes where everybody impressed and the crowd was hot. Can’t beat that! ***

ROH Women’s World Championship
Athena vs. Skye Blue

Athena has been the champion since 12.10.2022 and this is her ninth defense. Blue made this challenge last week after Athena taunted her by stepping on her hat and using her finishing move in another match. Blue comes into this match 5-0. The match was pretty even early on, and Blue scored big by reversing an Irish whip into the ring steps, which Athena set up on their side, and instead sent Athena into them. Blue also initially stopped Athena from slamming her onto the entrance ramp, but Athena superkicked her off of the stage, sending Blue crashing to the exposed floor. Back in the ring, Athena wore down Blue’s back, and taunted Blue with her own Skye Fall finisher. Blue gets back at her with an Ace Crusher and then her own Skye Fall for a nerfall. Blue had Athena down on the ring apron with a facebuster. However, when Blue ascended the turnbuckles, Athena slipped underneath her and powerbombed Blue onto the ring steps from earlier in the match. Athena followed that up with the Wrath of the Goddess, and incredibly, Blue kicked out at one. Athena was beside herself as the crowd fired up from the challenger’s tenacity. Blue desperately grabbed a small package as Athena approached, but Athena kicked out and pulled Blue down into a crossface. Blue crawled towards the ropes, but Athena rolled her back to the middle of the ring into a high angle Camel Clutch until Blue tapped out at 14:41. I am amongst many who complain about ROH not having enough stories, but when they tell one, I want to be sure to give it some love. This had multiple weeks of build up, main evented the show in which it was featured, and surprise, those things made this match feel important. Blue stepped up her game in this match and perfectly played the role of the tenacious babyface who had the champion scouted. It’s a role that plays perfectly against Athena, who once again slowly went from over confident champion to aggressive protector when she realized she had taken Blue for granted. Chekov’s stairs especially ruled because I didn’t even register it as something that would come back later in the match. This was excellent, and one I recommend checking out. ****

These shows are still too long and have too many matches, but this was so much better than every ROH episode taped at Dynamite. These tapings have better crowds, better matches, and a better semblance of direction since they actually have to plan ahead instead of just throwing whoever is backstage without something to do on the show. There’s still more they can work on to get the formula for ROH right, but this was a breath of fresh air. Seek out the main event!

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