Thought Zero – Today’s edition of Ring of Honor television is a look back on Jay Lethal’s rise to greatness in ROH. I have to admit, I am super-psyched about this!
1) Kevin Kelly is hosting alone this week and he immediately points out that for over two years straight, Jay Lethal has had gold around his waist. And to prove it, we see the end of the Jay Lethal versus Tomasso Ciampa match from April 4, 2014 where Lethal won his second ROH TV championship. The announcing team for the match made a big deal out of Lethal joining up with Truth Martini here, but really, why wouldn’t Lethal join him? Obviously Truth Martini showed that he cared about Lethal’s well-being when he slid his knee brace into the ring. It wasn’t Lethal’s fault that Ciampa tried to headbutt the knee brace. But Lethal still won with the Lethal Injection, so take that, Nigel.
2) Kevin Kelly rightfully points out that Lethal went on to become the greatest ROH television champion in history. I have no real thought here, or point to make, I just like showcasing the obvious every now and then.
3) We move on to Lethal’s title defense from March 1, 2015 against Alberto El Patron (del Rio). When Patron looks motivated and is allowed to move at full speed, he is a totally different wrestler. I still never saw him as a believable babyface, but still. And, of course, it helps when you are in the ring with someone trying to make you look like a million dollars by bumping his ass off, including a few wicked throws into the outside railing and a busted and bloodied mouth.
4) Hey, need another reason why Lethal is awesome? He set up Patron’s stupid hanging double stomp without it looking contrived. Plus, he kicked out of it. And then, later, Lethal even tries to educate his opponent while in an armbar by presenting the Book of Truth to Patron’s skull. Plus, Truth Martini also proves that he is a good guy (and justifying Lethal’s faith in him again) by presenting the Book of Truth to Patron again, even after Patron attacked him for no reason. But some people just refuse to better themselves, so Lethal puts Patron out of his misery with the Lethal Injection.
5) Jay Lethal versus Jay Briscoe. Champion versus Champion. Lethal had been television champion for over a year now. Briscoe had not been pinned in over two years. This was THE big time match for Ring of Honor at the time. Oh yeah, it was also a winner-takes-all match, with both belts belonging to the victor. June 9, 2015 at Best in the World the two met and the way they set it up, you really had no idea who would win. To add to the big match appeal, and also not to tip off the winner, both Jay Lethal’s father and Jay Briscoe’s father were shown at ringside rooting on their respective sons. Honestly, if you compare this match to the WWE’s “winner-takes-all” match between Seth Rollins and John Cena just two months later, well, there is really no comparison. To me, WWE’s match came across as a cheap imitation to try to recreate the magic ROH had with their match and to try to deflect away from how awesome Jay Lethal is by showcasing their own awesome champion. It just didn’t work for WWE, but it really worked for ROH.
6) Two great escapes from a Jay Driller attempt and Lethal hits the Lethal Combination, which is still an awesome combination. Dueling chants from the crowd, just to show how great Lethal is, as Briscoe is super over, but yet Lethal wills the crowd into cheering for him. By the way, Lethal’s Hail to the King top-rope elbow drop is a thing is a thing of beauty. And Lethal rolls through a kickout by Briscoe and slaps on the Koji Clutch. Have I mentioned that Jay Lethal is the best wrestler in the world? Not in the last two minutes? Okay, consider it mentioned then.
7) While this match continues to be awesome, I continue to get distracted by the eye-in-the-sky camera. It is really a weird vantage point.
8) Now Nigel tosses Truth Martini from ringside when all he did was try to help his guy from being illegally driven through a table at ringside. And because Jay Briscoe is an evil opportunist, he goes right ahead and hits a Jay Driller on Lethal through a freaking table at ringside! Way to go, Nigel! (Honestly, that was a cool looking spot. Even Nigel spun away from the impact in shock. Well done.)
9) Continuing on with the match where we have a great sequence where Briscoe nails Lethal with a discus forearm and Lethal kicks out. And then a Jay Driller gets reversed and reversed again into a huge short-arm clothesline which nearly decapitates Lethal. But Jay Lethal is a true champion and won’t stay down for a three-count. Briscoe charges Lethal in the corner and Lethal hits a second rope springboard cutter! He follows this with a Lethal Injection. And Briscoe kicks out!
10) Steve Corino is just losing his mind on commentary as he shouts, “I’m losing my mind!”
11) Yes, there are more than ten thoughts today, because this is Jay Lethal, THE champion, and he deserves it.
12) Jay Lethal then tries the Jay Driller, but Briscoe reverses it, saying “uh uh, this is my move.” But Lethal reverses back out of it again and then hits it, saying, “My name is Jay as well, so I can hit that move too.” Another Lethal Injection and he gets the three count to hold both belts.
13) The crowd was going apeshit at the end of this match and popped in a huge way even though Lethal was the “heel” in the match. This match had a big build, felt epic throughout the contest, and ended cleanly to truly give the impression of Lethal being the best in the company. This, right here, is how you do it, wrestling companies. Also, it helps to have Jay Lethal on your roster. Oh yes, the crowd was already on their feet, but now everyone, including commentators, ringside workers, etc. stop and give a standing ovation.
14) At this point, Lethal starts doing double duty as both ROH world title and ROH TV title, thus raising the level of every Ring of Honor event twofold. We talk about how Lethal had twice the workload, including defending both titles in separate matches at the next PPV. We discuss the 60 minute draw with Roderick Strong at Death Before Dishonor, which, although I am not a huge Roderick Strong fan, was a fantastic match. Strong got a rematch where Lethal won. But Strong, being the crybaby he is, wanted yet ANOTHER shot at Lethal. Nigel, using some questionable logic, gave Strong a title shot for the ROH TV title.
15) We see the end of that match from November 2015 Ring of Honor television. It was another great match, and Strong won with the Strong Hold. Now, let me just say this – Strong didn’t exactly beat Jay Lethal as much as Jay Lethal ran some calculations in his head while in the Strong Hold and realized it was better not to be permanently injured by a maniac like Strong or he wouldn’t be able to defend his World title going forward. So Lethal basically tapped out to ensure his career continued on a incredible path.
16) Taeler Hendrix sighting. Just sayin’.
17) To put a bow on Lethal’s TV title reign, Kevin Kelly states that Jay Lethal held the belt for 18 months with over 30 defenses of that belt during that time. Apparently both of these items are ROH records unlikely to be broken anytime soon. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you elevate a title belt in professional wrestling.
18) At Final Battle 2015, we get to see some of AJ Styles challenging Jay Lethal. I can’t help but think this is a little bit of Ring of Honor saying to WWE, “Hey guys. Here is some footage of our champion beating your newest golden boy.” Oh yeah, this fight also gave us Jerry Lynn admitting that Jay Lethal was the best in the world.
19) I just want to bask a little bit in how good this little sequence was in this match. Lethal goes for the Lethal Injection, but Styles counters with a backwards back body drop, but Lethal lands on his feet. Then Styles nails the Pele kick. (Keep in mind that all of these moves were accomplished with each man’s back to the other.) Styles then nails Bloody Sunday and goes for the Styles Clash. But Lethal counters that by picking up Styles and dumping him right over the ropes and through a table (and almost demolishing poor Mandy Leon in the process). Right there, in about 30 seconds, was more intense action and athleticism than you see in almost three hours of Raw.
20) Another show of how great Jay Lethal is – he won this match by reversing another Styles Clash attempt into a cradle piledriver and then the Lethal Injection. He also took a second to yell at Jerry Lynn at ringside after using his move (the cradle piledriver) since Lynn had been critical of Lethal going into this match. And once again, everyone in the arena was going nuts at the end.
21) The last match is from the Honor Rising event against Tomoaki Honma. Referee Todd Sinclair with a nice touch yelling out the count as he makes pinfall attempts. It works with the quieter Japanese crowds.
22) Honma with a top rope headbutt to the floor on Lethal. I mention this because isn’t that the very move that ended Daniel Bryan’s career, ended Dynamite Kid’s mobility, and possibly contributed to Chris Benoit’s psychosis, not to mention causing numerous neck, spine, and brain injuries? The same move that the creator of it, Harley Race, has stated he wishes he had never created it in the first place? I ask this question because, in this day and age, who the hell is stupid enough to keep using this move?
23) Yes, Jay Lethal won this match after Naito interfered and hit a low blow kick on Honma, but really, did it do that much damage? I would say the resulting Lethal Injection was what truly put Honma down for the count.
24) And we’re out. Keep in mind that the list of Ring of Honor World Champions includes Low Ki, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness, Jerry Lynn, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Roderick Strong, Kevin Steen (Owens), Jay Briscoe, Adam Cole, and Michael Elgin. That is a VERY impressive list of champions. And Jay Lethal not only carries on this tradition, but I would consider him to be one of the very best of those listed. For the statistic-minded, already Lethal has had 22 title defenses, placing him fifth on the list of ROH champions. He is also closing in on Jay Briscoe for fifth in most number of days as world champion.
25) This column was much longer than normal because this hour of ROH television was worth it – all Jay Lethal, all the time!
Tags: AJ Styles, Alberto Del Rio, alberto el patron, Jay Briscoe, Jay Lethal, jerry lynn, Ring of Honor, Roderick Strong, ROH World Championship, seth rollins, Taeler Hendrix, Tomasso Ciampa, Tomoaki Honma, Truth Martini