Jay Lethal def. Tommaso Ciampa to Remain ROH TV Champion
The lengthy tape-delays in ROH played against the intensity of this otherwise exciting main event. Since this match was taped in early April, Ciampa left ROH and the company issued an official (kayfabe) statement related to his departure. Knowing that one of the wrestlers was not only likely to leave, but has actually left since the match, takes some of the excitement out of the finish. Even so, the wrestlers did a great job in the moment to get the crowd fired up in San Antonio.
Ciampa dominated the first few minutes of the match. He hit a wicked knee in the corner, but Donovan Dijak pulled Lethal out of the ring before he could inflict more punishment. Ciampa delivered a series of punches in the corner and ended the sequence by biting Lethal on the forehead. Once again, the House of Truth bailed Lethal out, as Truth Martini low-bridged Ciampa and Lethal hit a series of three suicide dives that pushed Ciampa into the crowd and turned the momentum.
After several minutes of Lethal dominance, Ciampa threw him to the floor and hit several running knees while Lethal was perched in the corners. After a superplex, Ciampa impressively rolled Lethal into an inside cradle for a convincing near fall. Ciampa controlled the match, neutralized the Book of Truth when it got involved, and got closer and closer to a win. Lethal finally caught Ciampa with an elevated neckbreaker to get himself back in the match.
After Lethal hit the Lethal Combination, Ciampa rolled him straight into the Sicilian Stretch. Lethal barely reached his foot to the bottom rope before he had to tap out. Lethal suplexed Ciampa and Martini held Ciampa’s feet to nearly end the match. Martini hid behind Dijak, but Ciampa chased down Dijak and tried to bait him into a fight. He blocked a suicide dive from Lethal and hit a backbreaker on the floor. He got Lethal back in the ring for a two count. He hit another backbreaker off of the top rope and Martini pulled the referee out of the ring before he could make the three count.
While the referee was distracted, Dijak hit Ciampa with a big boot. At his next opportunity, Ciampa hit a cannonball to Dijak on the floor, but the diversion allowed Lethal to superkick Ciampa. Lethal went for the Lethal Injection, only for Ciampa to counter. The House of Truth continued to interfere in the mach, so the referee ejected them from ringside. While he did so, Lethal hit a low blow on Ciampa and the Lethal Injection to get the win.
Despite the telegraphed finish, this is the type of match that makes ROH enjoyable. It was a hard-hitting thirty minute wrestling match. While there was some interference, it played into the story of the match and there was still so much outstanding wrestling that none of the fans felt cheated by the heel’s dirty victory.
After the match, Ciampa viciously attacked the referee, which eventually became the storyline reason for his departure. Again, I would have enjoyed that aspect of the storyline more if it had not been so widely publicized before the match aired.
Going forward, Lethal seems increasingly likely to face Jay Briscoe in a Champion vs. Champion match at Best in the World. The announcers acknowledged that possibility for the first time during this match. It’s harder to chart a path for Ciampa. He does not have the look or style of a WWE or TNA wrestler. Perhaps he can catch on with a Japanese promotion. If not, he has the in-ring ability to make plenty of money going from one indy promotion to another. Whichever path he chooses, here’s wishing him the best.
War Machine Wrestled Killer Elite Squad to a No Contest
Before the match even started, I was excited about the story that Michael Elgin brought Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. in as mercenaries to take out his former friends Hanson and Rowe. Not only was the story compelling, the opportunity to watch one of Japan’s best tag teams from Pro Wrestling Noah against an upcoming American team who can match their size and strength was more than the average curtain jerker match.
War Machine started strong when Hanson splashed Smith in the corner so hard that the ring buckled. The KES fought back with double teams and hit a a combination leg drop/splash to gain the upperhand on Hanson. They kept Hanson isolated and wore him down while Rowe’s frustration grew. At long last, Hanson blocked a piledriver, hit a side slam, and tagged Rowe into the match. They double-teamed Archer for a chokeslam and Fallout, but Elgin pulled the referee out of the ring before he could make a three count.
The referee chose to let the match continue and the KES hit a version of the Hart Attack for a near fall. Hanson broke up their double-team powerbomb and got a black hole slam from Archer. The big moves came fast and furious, including a beautiful tiger suplex that Smith bridged into a cover. When none of the four men would leave the ring, the referee finally called for the bell and declared the match a no contest. Elgin got in on the fray and the brawl persisted until a hoard of referees helped pull them apart.
The fight was reminiscent of an old school tag team bout between two big teams. It was hard-hitting and stiff. It also told the classic story of the babyface team fighting from underneath to get the fans invested. The finish also worked because it teased a rematch. Given the quality of this encounter, it would be a highly anticipated match on a PPV.