The goal for any professional wrestler(s) is to make a name for yourself. In 2011, that exactly was what Kenny King and Rhett Titus - The All Night Express - did. Surviving one of the bloodiest, barbaric rivalries in ROH history against The Briscoes, and earning an ROH World Tag Team title shot by winning the feud in a Ladder War, King & Titus are on the verge of becoming the top team in Ring of Honor. But to prove themselves worthy of such a high accolade, they have to beat the best. The American Wolves of Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards is considered by many as one of, if not the best tag team in ROH history. With “Final Battle 2011” looming, and Davey and Eddie’s concentration on beating the other at an all time high, are The Wolves in the right frame of mind to take on a team with everything to gain?
Speaking of a team with everything to gain, Future Shock of Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole went through two teams in July to gain a future ROH Tag title match. After four months of waiting and wrestling teams like The Bravados and The Young Bucks, Future Shock are finally able to cash in their chance at becoming the new ROH Tag Team champions. And the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team - Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin - is looking worse for wear as their feud with The Briscoes rages on. With The Briscoes help, WGTT could experience the physical and/or mental lapse O’Reilly & Cole need to secure the gold.
Can The ANX take advantage of The Wolves’ lack of cohesiveness due to their feud over the World title and gain another huge victory in route to their inevitable ROH World Tag Team title shot, or will The American Wolves put their issues behind them and hunt like they always do? Will Future Shock take advantage of a physically hurt Shelton Benjamin and mentally rattled Charlie Haas to win ROH Tag Team gold, or can Haas & Benjamin prove the future is now, and it’s WGTT? But the most important question has to be is ROH “Gateway to Honor” Worth Your Money?
“Gateway to Honor”
Tommaso Ciampa w/The Embassy vs. Andy Ridge
Barrister RD Evans introduced The Embassy before informing everyone that Delirious couldn’t wrestle Ciampa tonight as scheduled. Prince Nana took the microphone, telling the crowd that Delirious realized what he was getting himself into, and backed out. But there is someone ready to take on Ciampa.
When Ridge leapt over the top rope to enter the ring, Ciampa grabbed him from behind, German suplexing “Right Leg”. Poor Ridge was getting beaten like a government mule thanks to Ciampa’s elbows and knees. Ridge rolled to the floor, throwing some kicks before whipping Ciampa back first against the barricades. Ridge was fired up when the action returned inside, but Ciampa put that flame out quickly by back body dropping the running Ridge over the top rope. Ridge showed some fighting spirit, throwing a soccer kick to pay Ciampa back for his kicking of Andy’s back. Ciampa grounded Ridge in hopes of wearing him out, but the crowd helped Andy fight back. Ciampa countered that slingshot ace crusher with a backbreaker.
Somehow, Ridge recovered, countering an inverted Michinoku driver with a simple buzz saw kick. A Pair of kicks set up Ridge’s running knee in the corner. Before Ridge could follow up with the super kick, a noticeably shoeless Princess Mia jumped on the apron to distract the referee. The distraction was to allow Prince Nana to clobber Ridge with one of Mia’s shoes. Thankfully for Ridge, Delirious ran out to stop the illegal assault of Prince Nana. We had a Looney Toon-like chase going on at ringside as Ciampa failed to pin Ridge. Ciampa wanted to stop the slingshot ace crusher with that backbreaker once again, but Ridge learned from earlier, and hit the ace crusher … for a two count!
Ridge wasn’t mentally phased by the kick out, throwing kicks like crazy immediately after. Rather than stick with his plan of attack, Ridge went for a hurricarana. Ciampa caught Ridge on his shoulders, drilling him with Project Ciampa. Tommaso hastily made the cover, picking up another victory in ROH.
Jay Briscoe vs. T.J. Perkins
No honorable handshake as the crowd chanted, “Man up!” A quick exchange saw Perkins showcase his hybrid grappling and Jay’s wanting nothing to do with it. Perkins picked up the pace, dropkicking Jay to the floor before feigning a dive. Perkins’ confidence got the better of him when Jay reentered the ring when his insulating slap turned into a big boot from the Briscoe. Jay was in complete control as he used simple kicks, stomps and chin locks to ground Perkins. T.J. fought his way off the mat, using his speed to get behind Jay before unleashing a springboard dropkick. Flying knee from Perkins only gained him a two count after a series of offense. Once again, it was Jay’s simple, brawling offense that turned the tables in his favor. Rolling back elbow by Jay led to Perkins catching him with a neck breaker when Jay rushed the staggered Perkins. Both men were looking for something big when Jay hit that downward spiral in the corner. Perkins recovered, super kicking the fired up Briscoe. Before Perkins could take advantage of his attack, Jay big booted him.
The crowd was spilt down the middle as Perkins used a combination of strikes to set up a modified sit-out power bomb, gaining a near fall. Perkins thought he had Jay confused by speeding around him, only to run into a spine buster in the ring’s middle. Jay manned up by taking a German suplex and another super kick, Jay Drilling Perkins before T.J. could follow up, gaining a win in this hard-fought battle.
Steve Corino & Jimmy Jacobs vs. The Bravados
Harlem Bravado tried to embarrass Steve Corino as the two kicked this one off for their respective teams in this first time match up, and a first time teaming of Corino and Jacobs. Corino put Harlem in his place by shoulder blocking him to Lancelot after stomping on the unsuspecting Bravado’s feet. Jimmy Jacobs tagged in after Lancelot did the same. Jimmy feigned unconsciousness when caught in a sleeper hold to set up that always-impressive satellite head scissors. The Bravados tried to use the switch-a-roo, but with Lancelot’s new goatee, the ability to pull off the trick didn’t work well. Furious with referee Todd Sinclair, Lancelot shoved the ref. Todd responded by pushing back. Lancelot and Harlem were completely befuddled as they tripped over Sinclair, and got triple team clotheslined by Corino, Jacobs and the unwilling referee. The humorous moment didn’t last long following a triple strut by the new Freebirds when Harlem tripped Jimmy so his brother could attack him.
Jacobs found himself on the wrong part of town, being double choked, kicked, stomped and insulated. The crowd was vocal in their support of Jacobs, and it paid off when Jimmy exploded off the ropes with a clothesline. Corino tagged in, leading to a double Thumb in the Bum on both Bravados. Lancelot and Harlem recovered, hitting the Bravado Swing … for a near fall!
Before The Bravados could end Corino’s night, Jacobs speared Lancelot prior to hitting that Contra Code on Harlem that put Harlem in position for Corino’s Eternal Dream, and the pin fall.
Michael Elgin w/Truth Martini vs. Grizzly Redwood
After facing off with Elgin in the past, Redwood’s strategy was to hit and run. It worked well, even when Elgin was beating him down. Running off an Irish whip, Redwood was able to stop himself and lure Elgin into a chase. Elgin tumbled over the top rope thanks to Redwood pulling the top rope down. Redwood planned to follow up with a tope. Elgin caught the flying Redwood, whipping him into the barricades like a wet blanket. Elgin muscled Redwood around the ring, but “The Littlest Lumberjack” refused to give up. That was shown in great measure when Redwood turned a delayed vertical suplex against Elgin by locking him in a sleeper hold. Sadly for Grizzly, Elgin tossed Redwood off his back, into the air before catching him on the way down with a neck breaker. Using his quickness, Redwood had Elgin swinging at air before using a hurricarana to send Elgin face first into the turnbuckles. Elgin tried to fight back, but ended up taking a face buster. Redwood took too much time motioning to complete the cross body block, getting side walk slammed that gained Elgin another two count. Before Redwood could get off the mat, Elgin used a high-elevated Boston crab to make Grizzly submit.
ROH World Tag Team title: Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team (c) vs. Future Shock
Charlie Haas took it upon himself to start off for his team against Adam Cole due to Shelton’s abdomen being taped up after The Briscoes attack on him with a chair at a recent TV taping. Haas muscled Cole around the ring, but Adam did a good job saving himself and luring Haas into picking up the pace. This led to a tag out by Cole when he caught Haas in an arm bar, but the collegiate standout was able to free himself and take control against Kyle O’Reilly. Neither the fans nor Shelton were pleased over the fact Haas refused to tag out. It wasn’t until Kyle called out Shelton did Benjamin become the legal man. Like his partner, O’Reilly found himself being controlled on the mat. A quick shot to the ribs from Kyle freed himself from any hold or attack Benjamin had in mind. Shelton rolled to the floor, collecting himself, but refused to tag out even though Cole tagged in to give his partner a rest. Northern lights suplex hit for Shelton, but took something out of the champion and allowed Cole to get up first and stomp away.
Shelton was hurting in a bad way as the challengers kept him close to their corner to use some strikes and holds aimed at Shelton’s midsection. A desperation clothesline allowed Shelton to make it to Haas; who paid O’Reilly back for Cole’s stomps on Benjamin. Kyle fought back, going for a sunset flip when he ended up on the apron. Haas turned the pinning combination into a backbreaker by simply moving. Kyle was in a bad way after Haas and Benjamin gave Kyle a taste of his own medicine by working over Kyle’s torso. O’Reilly tried to fight his way out of the corner, but ended up getting kicked in the face not once, but three times. Abdominal stretch by Haas on O’Reilly had the fans getting behind the struggling challenger. O’Reilly heard their support, but also felt Haas’ and Benjamin’s knees against his right side. Kyle started elbowing his way to Cole, and got the tag out just seconds after kicking Benjamin away.
Cole was on fire, using a series of elbows to set up a neck breaker. Haas ran in, only to get sent to the floor by Cole’s hurricarana. Cole scaled the ropes, diving on Haas at ringside. When Benjamin grabbed Cole on the floor, Adam caught him with an enzuguri that set up a missile dropkick that gained him a near fall. Double running yakuza kicks by Future Shock on Benjamin and stereo super kicks on Haas had the fans going wild. O’Reilly tagged in before the yakuza kicks, taking it to the also legal Benjamin after Cole used a plancha on Haas. Benjamin paid Kyle back with some knees of his own, only to get caught in that guillotine choke. Haas ran in to save his partner, but got guillotine choked as well by Cole.
WGTT powered their way to freedom, using the multiple German suplexes on their challengers. In a great show of heart, both Future Shock members turned the third German against the champs, putting them in the chokes once again. And like seconds earlier, Benjamin powered Kyle over his head to save himself. To help Charlie, Benjamin super kick Cole. Kyle got up, running into a Wrestling’s Greatest Finisher. Benjamin’s body gave out on him, causing Benjamin to drop Kyle before Haas could, leading to a sloppy execution of the move. Rather than go for the pin knowing they didn’t get all of move, Haas locked a stunned O’Reilly in the Haas of Pain to make him submit.
After the match, Haas declared Future Shock the true future of ROH wrestling, and how ROH has the best Tag Team division in the world. Shelton seemed disgusted with himself even though the crowd was in support of the action they just witnessed.
Princess Mia Yim w/The Embassy vs. MsChif
This is the first Women of Honor match in ROH since “Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter Two” during Wrestlemania 27 weekend. The early minutes saw MsChif have her way in twisting and bending Mia. Come on; get your mind out of the gutter! Mia fired back with a couple of kicks, ending with an enzuguri. Yim had MsChif in bad shape following a slew of kicks aimed at MsChif’s back. The pro-MsChif crowd settled down when Mia used a yakuza kick in the corner-running knee strike combination to gain a two count. MsChif survived the pin fall attempt, ducking a spin kick before power bombing Yim for a two count. Mia turned MsChif’s Desecrator attempt into a German suplex that set up a running kick to the chest similar to what Davey Richards did to Eddie Edwards to win the ROH World title. Thankfully for MsChif, she was close enough to the ropes to save herself. Mia slammed MsChif in position for the Sky Twister. MsChif moved at the last second, sending Mia crashing into the mat. One Desecrator later and The Embassy’s princess was down for the count.
Proving Ground match: ROH TV champion Jay Lethal vs. Mark Briscoe
Mark tried to gain his title opportunity quickly by feigning a tie up to cradle Jay for a two count. Mark did a good job keeping up with Lethal, but ended up being head scissored and drop kicked to the floor for a tope that knocked Mark back first against the barricades. Lethal missed a follow up springboard dropkick, but not the leg lariat or the Lethal Combination II. Mark was all tied up in the ring, but refused to submit. Blocking a couple of suplexes and the leapfrog turned the tides in Mark’s favor when he dropped Jay groin first across the top rope.
Mark was whipping Jay from one end to the other of ringside. The youngest Briscoe mixed up his attacks by using simple punches and shoulder rams to set up combinations like a clothesline followed by the bulldog out of the corner. Jay held on, using an Irish whip to his advantage by hitting that handspring back elbow. Both men got up throwing right hands. Jay lit Mark up, dropping him with several strikes to set up Lethal Injection … for a two count!
The crowd was behind Mark. Stopping a running Jay with a rolling Samoan drop, Mark exploded with an exploder suplex following the flying knee in the corner. Jay kicked out of Mark’s follow up pin attempt, but ended up on the top rope for his trouble. Once again, the champion fought through Mark’s attacks, shoving Mark in position for Hail to the King. Mark got up, grabbing Jay for the Cutthroat Driver. Jay stopped the maneuver, using Lethal Injection to set up and execute Hail to the King. Immediately covering Mark, Jay defeated back another would-be challenger to his title three seconds later.
El Generico vs. Mike Bennett w/Bob Evans
Intense collar & elbow tie up ended with Bennett playfully backing off when Generico ended up against the turnbuckles. Generico paid him back seconds later by feigning a chop only to chop him immediately after. Deep arm drags by the masked man sent Bennett crawling to the floor. As Bennett conversed with the ref, Generico faked a dive to the roar of the crowd. Generico was one step ahead of Bennett, not falling for his chase into the ring. Leg lariat by Generico connected when he couldn’t complete dies punches in the corner. Just as all was going well for Generico, and the masked man was preparing to use a springboard maneuver off the apron, Evans tripped him.
Bennett stomped Generico against the barricades before rolling him into the ring to beat on him some more. The fans were in full support of Generico as he tried to fight back. A nice neck breaker by Bennett and an illegal right hand from Evans as Mike distracted the referee didn’t stop Generico from throwing hands. Ducking a running Bennett, Generico sent “The Prodigy” to the floor so he could hit the somersault plancha. When the action returned inside, Generico almost won off a cross body block from the top rope. The Michinoku driver didn’t get Generico the three count either. Bennett stopped the yakuza kick, hitting that TKO … for a two count!
Generico stopped the Box Office Smash, but not the spine buster. Generico kicked out of Bennett’s follow up pin, looking for the Brain Buster when Bennett let his mouth get the better of him. Bennett got a running start for something, only to get yakuza kicked and dropped on his head with the Brain Buster … for a near fall!
No one could believe what they’d just seen, but Generico was still focused. When Bennett grabbed him from behind, Generico spun Bennett into another Brain Buster. This time, Bennett had nothing else left to kick out.
Bob Evans made a big mistake of shoving Generico after the match, getting yakuza kicked for his trouble. Before Evans could take a Brain Buster, Bennett saved his manager, Box Office Smashing Generico before hightailing it with Evans.
The American Wolves vs. The All Night Express
In this first time encounter, Eddie Edwards faced off with Kenny King, with the crowd in full support of the former ROH World champion. King did a great job hanging with Edwards; going hold for hold, move for move with Eddie, leading to a standoff. Both men tagged out, giving us a Davey Richards chant as Titus tried to do what his partner did with Eddie. Unfortunately, Titus took a kick to the head for his trouble when he thought he had Davey in a bad way thanks to an arm bar. Titus saved himself from the Ankle Lock by grabbing the bottom rope. Rather than trying to go technique for technique with Davey, Titus used his height and possible strength advantage to take Davey off the mat. Davey turned the tables, pulling a page out of Bryan Danielson’s book by using the surfboard set up to stomp on Titus’ legs. Titus recovered, rocking Davey with a flying knee before tagging out. Some ground and pound by King on Davey allowed The ANX to set up a double suplex, and Titus’ follow up rear chin lock. Davey worked his way off the mat, causing King to come in to stop Davey making it to Eddie. Sadly for The ANX, Davey avoiding their double clothesline, dumping them to the floor so The Wolves could use stereo topes to down their opponents.
When the action reentered the ring, Titus found himself being chopped by Eddie Edwards. A double team back elbow set up the now legal Davey’s elevated Texas cloverleaf that got a little extra torque from Eddie. Eddie used some illegal kicks and Irish whips on the floor to hurt Titus and weaken him so Davey could use that handspring enzuguri. Behind the ref’s back, Davey faked a tag so Eddie could come in. Titus found his chance to tag out by turning Eddie’s superplex attempt into a face buster that dropped Eddie on the top turnbuckle.
Tagging in, King was on fire, hitting a swinging backbreaker following a combination of attacks to set up Titus’ return as the legal man. Eddie was stuck on the wrong part of town, being worn out in the same way The Wolves did to Titus by using fake tags, and assisted double submissions. Titus German suplexed Eddie after tagging out so King could keep him grounded. Thanks to Davey’s well-timed and well-placed kick to King’s lower back, Edwards was able to get off the mat. Eddie turned The ANX’s double team against them by suplexing King into a stunned Titus before tagging out.
Davey was kicking the life out of King and Titus. Eddie slipped in, hitting that belly to back face buster to set up Davey’s double stomp across King’s back for a two count. King recovered, going for that spiral back kick. Davey caught the incoming leg, going for the Ankle Lock. King rolled through the hold, sending Davey to the floor. Fighting off both Wolves, King was able to using the apron to somersault on top of their opponents. Titus followed suit seconds later, hitting a somersault plancha on the rising Wolves to a huge ovation. King and Davey reentered the ring, leading to a strike exchange. Davey wanted to use his strikes to set up the Alarm Clock, but ended up getting suplexed instead. Davey kicked out of King’s follow up pins off the suplex and Titus’ double knee drop. Eddie saved Davey from taking the One Night Stand, but not King’s spinning back kick. Titus ran into a suplex from Davey, firing himself up before dropkicking the ROH World champ.
Eddie tagged in prior to a two on two slugfest. Davey used King’s clothesline attempt to yank Kenny into the cross arm bar. Before Titus could save his partner, Eddie rolled him into the Achilles Lock. Somehow, both ANX members turned their submission predicaments into small packages to gain a two count. King got up, elbowing both Wolves, only to run into the Alarm Clock-American Wolves Special. Somehow, some way, King kicked out right before the three count. King survived the power bomb-backstabber combination by The Wolves, and lasted in Edwards’ Achilles Lock long enough to avoid submitting thanks to Titus shoving Davey into an unsuspecting Edwards. The Wolves grabbed Titus, with Eddie hoisting Titus onto his shoulders to set up something for Davey off the top rope. Before Davey could dive, King dropkicked Eddie into the corner Davey was in, knocking the World champ from his perch, through the timekeeper’s table on the floor! Titus quickly grabbed Edwards so he and King could execute the One Night Stand … for a two count!
No one could believe Eddie just kicked out. Titus called for the end as both King and Rhett scaled the ropes. A frog splash from Titus and a shooting star press by King proved Titus right as King held Eddie down after hitting the maneuver, gaining a huge victory.
Being great sportsmen, The ANX helped Davey from the table rubble so they all could follow the Code of Honor. Richards grabbed the microphone to tell The ANX to take this moment in for beating two champions. Rather than leaving on one accord, Eddie told Davey, “I’ll see you at ‘Final Battle’,” as The ANX took their chance to get some love from the crowd.
Is It Worth Your Money?: For those who don’t know, this was ROH’s first live event, non-iPPV since July’s “No Escape”. This was also ROH’s first event after three TV tapings and one iPPV under the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and the belief that ROH would keep the production levels close to the TV product as rumored was founded untrue here. Unfortunately, the picture quality was pretty poor as a grainy screen graced the viewer any time the hard camera was used (a majority of the show). The sound quality was typical of an ROH live event as the announcers came across great, but didn’t override the sounds of the action or the crowd. Speaking of which - kudos to the crowd here as they helped make this show even more enjoyable by being lively throughout the event. But none of that matters if the action isn’t up to par, right?
Like it should be, the main event left the fans with something to remember for a long time. The ANX and The Wolves had amazing chemistry, and the match didn’t reach the absurd levels of false pins that we’ve seen some recent Davey and Eddie matches approach. No matter what, The Wolves can put their differences aside and fight with the best of them, but the story of The ANX being just a little bit better as a team that night sealed the win for Titus and King, and helped solidify all the work they’ve put in this past year to become one of ROH’s most recognizable teams. Bravo to all four men.
The other tag match on the card also delivered, but not as beautifully as the main event - which is perfectly fine. The teams told a great story of Haas’ concern over Benjamin’s injury, Future Shock trying to utilize classic tag team techniques rather than the high flying arsenal that brought them to the dance, and WGTT’s ability to handle what O’Reilly and Cole had before stopping them. While it might not have been the star-making performance many were hoping for, Future Shock came out looking great even after a big loss.
Sadly, the rest of the show is kind of just there. Generico vs. Bennett and Lethal vs. Mark Briscoe were highly enjoyable, and rather quick. In actuality, the whole event is shorter than most ROH live shows, clocking in under a two and a half hours. And with nine matches on the card, you know that means everything is not going to get a whole bunch of time. That was obvious in a majority of the matches here as they told stories in a noticeably condensed manner, but never skimped on the action. You have to commend that because it shows just how well these men and women can work.
All in all you have a solid, easy to watch show with no frills (what happened to all of the promos and quick video snapshots of some of the action leading to the big matches that made ROH DVDs and storylines so cohesive?) and a great main event. But even with that, this event lacks those must see matches strong recommendations need by featuring only one near classic with ANX vs. The Wolves. This is definitely a show worth adding to your DVD collection, but not until there’s a sale going on.
ROH “Gateway to Honor” Is A Bargain Bin Purchase.