After years of tape-delayed major events, Ring of Honor made its debut on live PPV with Best in the World. While the event was not perfect, it was a very fun show with plenty of great, varied wrestling and fan investment. In particular, the main event between Adam Cole and Michael Elgin was one of the most exciting wrestling matches I have see this year. Ring of Honor still has work to do on technical elements like sound and lighting for large-scale shows, but it is astounding that they continue to put together such entertaining cards after years of talent attrition and an inability to pay top dollar. In spite of these difficulties, they were able to put together a show with technical wrestling, high drama, acrobatics, violence, speed, power, and charisma.
Michael Elgin def. Adam Cole to Become ROH World Champion
Call me old fashioned, but I still like the idea that a show’s title match and main event can take the most time and steal the show. Elgin’s slow, steady pursuit of the ROH World Title got fans invested and the match expanded on that story by teasing fans with a series of additional near misses by Elgin. Despite some offense by Cole off the bat, Elgin swung the pendulum in his favor with a running powerslam on the ramp. They continued to show that they are comfortable working together with clever counters and a snug style. Cole turned an attempt at a delayed vertical suplex into a shoulder breaker and Elgin responded with a deadlift superplex that he turned into a falcon arrow. It looked like Cole might be building to a victory with a hurricanrana and a reverse hurricanrana before the Florida Keys, but Elgin kicked out at two. As Elgin recovered, he slid away from a superkick, which connected squarely with the referee. He hit a buckle bomb and sit down powerbomb, but the ref bump prevented a count. Matt Hardy, Michael Bennett and Maria ran down to the ring to help Cole. Elgin briefly controlled the whole group as he simultaneously hit a fallaway slam on Bennett and Hardy. War Machine then hit the ring to chase Bennett and Hardy away. MisChif (Elgin’s real life wife) came to the ring and hit Maria with a mouthful of green mist to neutralize her, as well. Another buckle bomb and sit down powerbomb set up an surprising kickout by Cole. The fans were so shocked at the kickout that they got ahead of themselves and covered the ring in streamers, leading to a hilarious “We Fucked Up” chant to take responsibility. Cole recovered and started to work Elgin’s knee. He put him in a Figure Four around the ringpost, which caused Elgin’s knee to give out when he went for a big clothesline. Cole hit a superkick and a front flip piledriver off the top rope, but Elgin once again managed to kick out to the surprise of the fans. Cole went for a sunset flip and Elgin countered into a powerbomb, which he held and followed with two more powerbombs to finally get the pin. The celebration after the match was deserved because both wrestlers worked their asses off for about 30 minutes. Cole is well-rounded and charismatic far beyond his 24 years and will have many more championships in his future. For his part, Elgin earned this title win. While his powerhouse style is not the one that usually rules in Ring of Honor, he has shown that he can make it mesh with other styles to put on very good matches. This conclusion to the PPV left me in a good mood for the rest of the night, which is quite an accomplishment for a wrestling show.
ACH def. Caprice Coleman, Tommaso Ciampa, BJ Whitmer, Watanabe, and Tadarius Thomas for a Future TV Title Shot
This six-man match full of high-flyers was on the card to get an early crowd reaction and feature some of the younger talent in the company. They maximized those goals by putting the match on first and featuring enough big spots to fire up the fans off the bat. In addition to a springboard by Coleman onto a crowd outside the ring, ACH hit his own somersault plancha to the floor. He came back into the ring to hit a 450 splash on Ciampa to win the match and earn a TV Title shot. ACH is one of the more intruiging young wrestlers on the roster and I am looking forward to seeing him get more singles opportunities.
Jay Lethal def. Matt Taven to Remain TV Champion
With Truth Martini handcuffed to the ring post and Sylezia patrolling the outside of the ring on behalf of the House of Truth, Taven had a hard time focusing only on Lethal. A Lethal Combination and Hail to the King earned Lethal a two count. Taven mounted a comeback and tried to go after Martini, but he paid off security guard J Diesel, who served as a roadblock while Sylezia broke the handcuffs and helped Martini to the back. Lethal got his knees up on a top rope splash from Taven and followed it with a Lethal Injection to win. Lethal and Taven have had better matches on TV in the last couple of months and Martini’s involvement took away from the wrestling in this case. I suspect we will see more between these two in the future. Hopefully they will balance the wrestling and booking more evenly in those cases.
Cedric Alexander def. Roderick Strong in a Submission Match
Alexander was one of the breakout stars of the show as he went toe-to-toe with an ROH mainstay and told a compelling story. Strong targeted Alexander’s back from the start when he dropped him on the ring apron. Alexander tried a variety of submission holds- from a Dragon sleeper to a guillotine- but Strong came back with high-impact offense each time. Alexander finally hit Strong with a backbreaker on the turnbuckle and used Strong’s own Strong Hold (essentially a Lion Tamer) to force him to tap out. There have been parts of the Alexander-Strong rivalry that have seemed pointless, but their matches have been strong and they brought a great deal of emotion into this rubber match. Alexander showed that he can really go and I think he is a strong candidate to move up the ROH card.
Briscoe Brothers def. Matt Hardy and Michael Bennett
I tend not to like matches that are pure spectacles of violence, but this one was the only example on the card and fit with the history for the participants. Bennett got his team intentionally disqualified when he hit Jay with the Iconic Title early in the match and Nigel McGuinness ordered them to restart the match with no DQ rules. The rest of the match was a series of crazy spots that included a Doomsday Device to Bennett on the floor, a Froggybow from the top rope through a table on the floor, and a superplex by Jay off of a ladder that put Hardy through a table. He followed that crazy bump with a Jay Driller to pin Hardy.
Kevin Steen def. Silas Young
Two of my favorite ROH wrestlers put on a decent match that was not in a spot on the card that would earn them any match of the night recognition. Steen controlloed most of the match, but hit his head on the barricade to encourage Young to target his neck. Young hit a rolling senton and went for his handstand springboard moonsault, but Steen sidestepped it. He hit a modified superplex and a package piledriver to win by pinfall. Rather than putting Young over in the match, Steen did so on the mic afterwards with complementary words. Nonetheless, after a handshake, Young ambushed Steen and took him out from behind. With Steen’s time in ROH running down, I would not be surprised if he continued to elevate Young before he leaves. I think Young is deserving of that treatment.
ReDragon def. Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian to remain ROH Tag Team Champions
For a match that got second-billing on the card and featured the return of a famous ROH star, this match featured very little time and drama. Kyle O’Reilly and Daniels traded slaps early in the match to build tension. The first big spot was a Flux Capacitor by Kazarian that hurt him as much as O’Reilly. He went for a cover, but Bobby Fish pulled the referee out of the ring to break up the count. They teamed up to hit Chasing the Dragon. Although Kazarian kicked out, Fish followed it with Arm-ageddon to force Kazarian to tap out. This match featured four talented wrestlers whose work I enjoy, so I would have liked more of a substantial match, even if it came at the expense of time lower on the card.