Orlando, FL – 5.18.2023
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni, Caprice Coleman & Nigel McGuinness.
The show opens with Willie Mack and Ninja Mack backstage with Dasha Gonzalez. Last week they competed in a singles match, in which Willie was successful. Willie, however, was very impressed with Ninja Mack and thinks there’s a chance of them being a successful team. Ninja Mack agrees, and they shake hands. The Mack Attack is coming, it seems.
Rey Fenix vs. Gringo Loco
Alex Abrahantes is in Fenix’s corner. Loco obeys the Code of Honor, but uses the opening to deliver an overhand chop to one-half of the tag team champions. Loco is able to stay one step ahead of Fenix’s offense until he’s caught off guard with a springboard dive off of the top turnbuckle and to the floor. Back in the ring, Loco cuts off Fenix’s roll-up Ace Crusher with an overhead press into a sit-out facebuster. Loco follows up with a Waterslide facebuster. Fenix shuts him down with a roundhouse kick in the corner, and then a PK after tight walking the top rope. Loco kicks out of the subsequent frog splash and trades head kicks with Fenix, which knocks both men down. Loco cuts off Fenix’s roll-up Ace Crusher with one of his own. Fenix is able to pull off a roll-up Franknesteiner successfully, followed by a superkick. Fenix’s super Frankensteiner only yields a two count. When he brings Loco back to the top turnbuckle, Loco knocks him off and then dives off the top into a Destroyer on Fenix. Loco peels Fenix off the mat and into an electric chair position. Fenix escapes with a reverse Frankensteiner. The third time’s the charm for the roll-up Ace Crusher, and it gets Fenix the pin at 8:56. That was fun and filled with a lot of energy from the crowd. Sometimes these matches are hollow action, but Loco countering the Ace Crusher twice and Fenix finally pulling it off the third was a solid narrative thread to follow. This was a very good way to start the show. ***¼
Dasha Gonzalez interviews The Wingmen of Peter Avalon and Ryan Nemeth, who make their ROH debuts tonight against The Iron Savages. They aren’t impressed with the Iron Savages Zubaz or weight lighting, and plan to prove that ROH is Wingmen Country. In more exciting news, it is confirmed that Katsuyori Shibata will defend the ROH Pure Championship against Alex Coughlin on the June 1st episode of ROH TV.
Willow Nightingale vs. Madi Wrenkowski
This is Wrenkowski’s debut, and she is one-half of the NWA Women’s Tag Team champions. She wisely wraps Willow’s head in the ring apron after tripping her in the corner and throws several strikes while she is wrapped up. Willow backs Wrenkowski to the corner to escape a submission and batters her with back elbows. Willow follows up with a hip attack, a forearm smash, and a boot. Wrenkowski backs Willow to the corner to escape the Bae Bomb, and then counters a second attempt with an X-Factor for two. Willow side steps a scissors kick and wipes out Wrenkowski with a Pounce, leading to a successful Babe With The Powerbomb for the pin at 3:43. I am surprised by how much offense Wrenkowski got in this bout, but not in a bad way. She looked like she could hang with someone at the top of the Women’s division. Also, my love for Willow has not diminished.
Iron Savages (Boulder & Bronson) vs. The Wingmen (Peter Avalon & Ryan Nemeth)
Jameson Ryan is in the Savages corner. The Wingmen had to be sneaky and use double team tactics to get the better of the much larger team when they could, but for most of the match, the Savages tore them apart. Boulder impressed the Orlando crowd with a double flapjack on the Wingmen, but he missed a moonsault on Avalon. Avalon capitalized on that error with a Superfly Splash, with Boulder press slamming Avalon right off of him to stop his pin attempt. Boulder takes them both out with a running crossbody, and then Elevator Drops Bronson onto both of them for the pin at 5:16. Savages add something unique to the ROH roster, and I wouldn’t be upset to see them get a title shot down the line.
Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal vs. Cole Karter & Zack Clayton
Karter and Clayton had the size and power advantage, which they utilized to keep Sydal trapped in their corner. Daniels saved him from being pinned by Clayton after a power slam and frog splash combo. Sydal then DDT’s Clayton and tags in Daniels. He takes them out with a clothesline/bulldog combo and then attempts the Angel’s Wings on Clayton. Karter cuts him off with a dropkick, so Sydal sends him to the floor with a Frankensteiner. Sydal kicks Clayton into a uranage from Daniels. Sydal wipes out Karter with a pescado, giving Daniels the opening to land the BME on Clayton for the pin at 6:27. I like Sydal and Daniels teaming again, but I don’t know what good defeating Karter and Clayton does for anybody.
Lady Frost vs. Miranda Alize
Alize slaps Frost’s hand out of the way, denying the Code of Honor, and Frost immediately grabs a side headlock. Alize cuts off her headscissors attempt and kicks her in the ribs. She blasts Frost with a facewash kick and takes her over with a butterfly suplex, and yet Frost kicks out at one. Alize talks trash and she picks Frost off of the apron, and Frost blasts her in the face with a knee strike. The Snowball fight senton earns Frost a two count, as Alize grabs the bottom rope to break the count. Alize ducks a clothesline and toreador’s Frost into a release suplex. Frost also kicks out of a Tiger Driver. Frost weaves her way out of another hold and cartwheels Alize into a Kryptonite Krunch. The Temperature Drop gets Frost the pin at 3:18. THIS is a great example of maximizing your minutes. The action was dynamic and gave me a perfect snapshot of each of competitors character. We have a solid foundation for the women’s division in Athena, Skye Blue, and Willow, and if I was in a decision making rule, I would add these two women to that picture as well. **½
Cheeseburger & Eli Isom vs. Spanish Announce Project (Angelico & Serpentico)
Luther is in the SAP’s corner. Their new theme music is a huge improvement. Angelico attacks Cheeseburger when he has Serpentico in an Escalara stretch. He’s double teamed by the SAP, eventually shoving them into one another so he can tag Isom. Isom low bridges the top rope to send Serpentico to the floor and then overhead suplexes Serpentico. Isom spears Serpentico into the corner and pops him up into a neckbreaker for a two count. Isom takes him out with a suicide dive. Cheeseburger prawn holds Angelico for two. Luther blindsides Isom on the outside with a bicycle kick. Angelico slips through Cheeseburger’s legs and trips him into a grapevine ankle lock. Cheeseburger tapes out at 3:39. Isom could and should be doing much more than losing to AEW’s bottom feeders. Angelico and Serpentico are solid, but their incredibly low ceiling isn’t being raised any time soon.
NJPW World Television Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. AR Fox
Sabre has been champion since 1.4.2023 and this is his seventh defense. All Television title matches have a 15 minute time limit. Fox bests the champion in the early going, wiping him out with a dive on the floor. Sabre breaks out of the Foxcatcher and throws Fox shoulder first into the mat. Sabre focuses his attack on Fox’s arm from that point forward. Fox cuts Sabre off with a leaping clothesline using his other arm and pump kicks him in the corner. Sabre uses his neck muscle to stop another pump-kick, but Fox quickly lands an enzuigiri and drops him with a FoxCatcher. Fox hoists up Sabre onto his shoulders, but Sabre slips out and Pele kicks Fox’s left shoulder. He then stomps on the shoulder and elbow twice before delivering a PK for two. Fox superkicks Sabre, trapping him in the ropes and spikes him with a DDT for two. Sabre abdominal stretches Fox when Fox attempts to bring him off the top. It works momentarily, but Fox still manages to pull off Lo Mein Pain for two. Fox dropkicks Sabre to the floor and follows with a tope con hilo. Back in the ring, Sabre ducks an enzuigiri and pulls Fox into a Genie pin for two. Sabre stomps Fox’s knees into the mat and drives his own knee onto both of Fox’s knees separately. Fox kickflips up from the apron using the ropes and trips Sabre. Sabre blocks the Foxcatcher and pulls Fox into a Spladle. Fox tries kicking free, so Sabre pulls that leg over his neck into a Stretch Muffler until Fox taps out at 12:17. All the arm work from Sabre leading to a leg submission victory is strange. Overall this was good, they incorporated their different styles together seamlessly and the crowd was pretty into Fox. Compared to Sabre’s other defenses however, I consider this a minor letdown. ***
In the ring, Dasha Gonzalez congratulates Sabre on his seventh successful defense and asks how he is feeling heading into “Dominion” on June 4th. He says he feels bloody marvelous. He calls himself the best and most active TV champion today. This of course gets the attention of the current ROH World TV Champion, Samoa Joe, who makes his way to the ring with microphone in hand. Joe says that Sabre’s title greatly offends him, and in ROH, he thinks there can be only one TV champion. Joe challenges Sabre to a match tonight to determine who the best is between them, but before Sabre can answer, Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal interrupt. Daniels notes that he has been an ROH TV champion in the past, but his partner is long overdue for singles gold. Sydal says he feels the pull of the TV titles towards him, and Daniels asks which one of them wants to step up and give Sydal a title opportunity. Sabre then tells Joe he has a plan. Rather than face each other, they should team up to face Daniels and Sydal. If either Daniels or Sydal defeat either of them, they will earn a TV title shot against whoever is defeated. Joe doesn’t seem OK with that, until Sabre says that after that match, “perhaps” they can find out who the best TV champion is between them. Joe shakes Sabre’s hand, and that tag match will take place on next week’s episode.
Dalton Castle & Brandon vs. The Gates of Agony (Kaun & Toa Liona)
Prince Nana is in the Gates of Agony’s corner. They beat down Brandon forever – five or so minutes. Castle watches on, growing more despondent as the beating progresses. Castle’s mood turns around when Brandon gets his knees up to block a seated senton from Liona. Castle fires up the fans, and after Brandon enzuigiri’s Liona, he finally gets tagged in and runs roughshod on the Embassy members. Brandon sneaks back into the match to schoolyard trip Liona and with Castle land multiple splashes onto the big man. All of those splashes leave him in pain, although they can’t get them more than a one count. Liona catches Brandon when Castle tries to use him as a projectile. Nana reveals to Castle he has a Boy mask, as he showed last week, and a distracted Castle is taken down by a gut buster from Kaun. Liona slams Brandon on the ring apron, and with Kaun drops Brandon with a double reverse waterwheel slam (Open The Gates it might be called) for the pin at 9:29. Castle’s physical charisma made this work. I’m just not terribly interested in this feud continuing. **¼
The WorkHorsemen (Anthony Henry & JD Drake) & Shane Taylor vs. Midnight Heat (Eddie Gibson & Ricky Pearl) & Schaff
The WorkHorsemen and Taylor teamed up on Episode 6, and last week reunited to beat down AR Fox after he defeated Henry in a singles match. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen out of Midnight Heat on New Japan STRONG, and have heard good things about Schaff, but on this night, it was a squash for the home team. The WorkHorsemen wipe out Gibson and Pearl, and Taylor pins Schaff with Welcome To The Land at 1:51. I’m interested to see how this triumvirate progresses, but truthfully, I am more inclined to see The WorkHorsemen in the tag division and Taylor on his own.
Dasha Gonzalez is backstage with The Righteous of Vincent and Dutch. Her interview doesn’t progress much at all before Stu Grayson interrupts. He confronts The Righteous about the minds games they’re playing on him. They tell Stu that the Dark Order may have brought him back, but they’re keeping him on a chain in the backyard. Vincent asks Stu to give him a chance. Stu’s fellow Dark Order members Evil Uno, Alex Reynolds and John Silver join the scene. Uno pushes Stu aside and tells The Righteous to stay away, but Stu tells Uno that nobody speaks on his behalf. Stu then tells the Righteous that they have “one chance” before storming off. Uno tells Vincent to stay the hell away from him, and Dutch tells the Dark Order that they will see them next week.
Mercedes Martinez vs. Ashley D’Amboise
This is Martinez’s first match since losing the Women’s Title at “Final Battle.” She defiantly pursues D’Amboise, giving her little breathing room between strikes and slams. D’Amboise counters a fisherwoman’s buster with a small package and desperately throws strikes at the former champion when they get to their feet. She surprisingly pulls off an inverted Death Valley Diver for two. Martines slips out of a second firewoman’s carry and curb stomps D’Amboise’s face into the mat. Martinez then pulls her into the Brass City Sleeper for the submission victory at 6:24. A nice, dominant victory for the returning champ. I’d be down to see her and Athena go at it again.
Fight Without Honor
Darius Martin & Action Andretti vs. The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett)
In a Fight Without Honor, the Code of Honor is waived and there are no disqualifications. This is only the third tag team Fight Without Honor. The first took place at Border Wars 2012 between The Briscoes and the World’s Greatest Tag Team, and the second took place at Best In The World 2021 between VLNCE UNLTD and The Foundation. Maria Kanellis-Bennett is in the Kingdom’s corner. The Kingdom look to attack Andretti as he makes his way down the aisle, but Martin attacks them from behind. Andretti and Martin fill the ring with various weapons. They double dropkick a chair into Bennett’s face and drop toe hold Taven into a chair. They place a trash can over Taven’s torso and blast him with a chain and pipe. They try to bring a ladder into the ring, but Taven dropkicks it into Andretti’s face. Maria low blows Martin, giving a busted open Bennett the chance to blast him in the head with a chair. Taven throws Martin into the ladder and Bennett gives Andretti a spinebuster onto a trash can. Taven uses Just The Tip to drive the ladder into Martin’s face, hurting himself a little in the process. Taven accidentally wipes out Bennett with Air Taven, and Andretti capitalizes with an Arabian Press. Taven clobbers Martin with a chair on his shoulders after Martin sets up a table. The Kingdom then prop up three chairs in a group and give him Hail Mary onto them! Andretti breaks up the pin just in time. Andretti escapes the Proton Pack and places Taven onto a table. He successfully lands a 450 Splash, but the table only dents inward. A suplex however breaks the table completely. Bennett sets up his own table in the corner and puts Andretti through it with a running Death Valley Driver. Taven puts Martin through a chair with a Purple Thunder Bomb for two. Outside of the ring, Maria strikes Martin across the back with a pipe, and then holds him for Bennett to chop thrice. Bennett attempts the rebound forearm strike and ends up blasting Maria! Andretti low blows Taven as Taven trash talks Martin. Martin and Andretti put Taven through a chair with a double waterwheel slam. Bennett is taken down by double superkicks. Andretti and Martin shake Bennett’s hands facetiously before putting him away with a Doomsday Device off of the ladder at 15:09. This was more of an early 2000s WWF TV plunder match than a bloody street fight, so some people may be disappointed by that aspect. I was more than fine with it being what it was. As much as I rag on ROH for having a lot of directionless, pointless stuff ont heir shows, I have to also give them credit when they actually give a match multiple months of build with a satisfying payoff. After all the sneak attacks and interference from Maria hurting them for weeks leading up to this bout, the babyfaces got their catharsis. The Kingdom offer their hands after the match, observing the Code of Honor with Andretti and Martin, despite the Code being waived, which is a great touch. It’s a shame Dante Martin was hurt and couldn’t see this feud through, but Andretti ended up being a great replacement. ***¾
A great main event ended the show on a high note, and we had a couple of good matches underneath, but this week really did ntthing to help the perception of ROH being “the new Dark” or “Tony Khan’s storage closet.” It’s been three months – fix this, please.