Hammerstein Ballroom – New York City, NY – Friday, December 23, 2011
MATCH #1: “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin w/ Truth Martini vs. TJ Perkins
Elgin shows off his power right away, throwing Perkins around the ring. Perkins uses his speed to counteract the size and power disadvantage he’s at. He uses a body press to send Elgin to the floor, and then teases a dive but Elgin moves. Perkins instead tries a somersault off the apron, but Elgin catches him in mid-air and drives him into the barricade! That was cool. Back in the ring Elgin gets two. Elgin is fully in control, dominating Perkins and cutting off his comeback attempts. After a few minutes Perkins uses a headscissors to send Elgin to the floor, and this time he follows through on the dive to wipe him out. Back in the ring Perkins hits a missile dropkick for two. Perkins keeps the pressure on, but Elgin is too strong to be pinned just yet. They fight up on the top rope and Perkins leaps right into Elgin’s arms for a suplex side slam for a near-fall. Elgin tries a powerbomb, but Perkins avoids it. A series of reversals ends with Elgin hitting Shock Treatment for a two-count. Perkins avoids a charge in the corner and hits a neckbreaker. He tries a rana, but Elgin catches him and hits a Buckle Bomb. Elgin tries the Elgin Bomb but Perkins counters to a reverse rana! That only gets two. Elgin lands the spinning back fist, another Buckle Bomb, and this time lands the Elgin Bomb to score the pin at 7:35. That was short, but action packed, with these two different styles playing off each other perfectly. Excellent choice for an opener.
MATCH #2: Tommaso Ciampa (w/ The Embassy) vs. former Embassy member Jimmy Rave
The Embassy is in full force tonight, with Prince Nana, Mia Yim, R.D. Evans, and Ernesto Osiris in Ciampa’s corner. Rave has an awkward little goatee. This is Rave’s first match in ROH since losing to Necro Butcher in a Dog Collar Match at The Final Countdown Tour: Chicago. They chain wrestle back and forth in the early going. Rave focuses on the arm. The pace quickens and Ciampa decks Rave with a clothesline that sends him to the floor. Rave takes control out there but gets distracted by Nana. Back in the ring Ciampa gets Rave in position to hit multiple knee strikes in the corner for two. Rave fights back and locks on the Heel Hook! Ciampa reaches the ropes. Rave sends Ciampa to the floor and goes for a baseball slide but Ciampa catches him and swings him into the barricade. Back in the ring Rave hits the running knee to the face. Rave follows with the Rave Clash but Ciampa kicks out at two! He goes for Greetings from Ghana, and Nana distracts him with his old Crown Jewel robe. It takes everyone in the Embassy interfering to give Ciampa the chance to hit Project Ciampa for the pin at 8:29. This was a perfectly good reason to bring Rave back for the night, and he made Ciampa look good for the most part but needing every single member of the Embassy almost undid all of it. They kept it solid though.
MATCH #3: ROH World TV Title Match – Jay Lethal vs. “The Prodigy” Mike Bennett (w/ Maria & Brutal Bob) vs. El Generico
Maria Kanellis is making her ROH debut in Bennett’s corner. Lethal has been the Champion since 8.13.11, and this is his third defense. All three men are in the ring at the same time. Bennett bails to the floor to let Lethal and Generico do battle. Of course, that doesn’t last long before Bennett hops back in and takes a cheap shot. Bennett goes right back to the floor but lethal and Generico decide to team up on him on the floor and throw him back in the ring. Lethal and Generico double-team Bennett back to the floor and then try to decide who’s going to dive on him first. In the end they decide to both dive on him together, which was probably best for everyone, except Bennett of course. Lethal and Generico decide to take each other on now, and they are no strangers. They start going through the same moves that they’ve done in their other matches together. Bennett pulls Lethal to the floor and gets in the ring to battle the Generic Luchador. Generico sends Bennett to the floor and appears to be going for a dive but Lethal cuts him off with a missile dropkick for a two-count. Lethal continues the punishment but Generico fights back with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two. Bennett comes back in and dumps Generico to the floor. Lethal hits Bennett with the springboard back elbow and then a springboard dropkick to send Bennett to the floor. Generico flies in across the ring and flattens Lethal with a cross body block to the back. That gets a two-count. Generico stays on offense until Bennett makes his way back in and things get a little hectic. Lethal comes out on the better end of it and is in control. Generico fights back on Lethal with an exploder into the turnbuckles. He goes for the Yakuza Kick, but Bennett grabs his leg from the floor. Generico goes out to fight him and decks Brutal Bob. Bennett then hides behind Maria. He throws her into Generico, who refuses to hit her, and that gives Bennett the advantage. Back in the ring Bennett hits Lethal with a powerslam. Bennett then hits Generico with a TKO. He plays to the crowd too much though and Generico blasts him with the Yakuza Kick. Lethal then hits Generico with a superkick and all three men are down. Lethal hits Generico with the Lethal Combination for a two-count. Bennett grabs Lethal in a spinebuster for a near-fall. Generico hits Bennett with the Michinoku Driver for two. Lethal catches Generico with an enziguiri and goes for Hail to the King. Generico gives him a Yakuza Kick to knock him to the floor and then hits a double springboard dive to the floor to take Lethal out, and then a diving tornado DDT on Bennett! Back in the ring Generico hits Bennett with the Yakuza Kick and the half-nelson suplex for a two-count! Lethal rejoins the fray and hits the pop-up neckbreaker on Generico. He goes for Hail to the King again and this time nails it but only gets two! Lethal goes up again and Generico pops up there. Bennett sneaks up from behind and rolls Generico up with a handful of tights to score the first elimination at 17:58! Lethal then immediately catches Bennett with the Lethal Injection to get the pin and win the match at 18:12. That was shockingly good, with almost non-stop action and clever triple threat spots to keep everyone involved in the match and keep the pace going at the rate it did. This is probably Bennett’s best match in ROH to date.
MATCH #4: No DQ Match w/ Jimmy Jacobs as Special Referee & Jim Cornette at Ringside – Steve Corino vs. “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen
Steen and Corino take it right to each other with punches. They quickly take it to the floor and Steen hits a Cannonball on the apron. Corino fights back with a dive off the apron to wipe Steen out. Back in the ring Corino brings chairs. Corino blasts Steen in the head with a chair. Steen comes back and superkicks a chair into Corino’s face. They go back to the floor and Steen hits the powerbomb on the edge of the ring frame. Steen hits a Frog Splash off the apron. He retrieves a piece of the barricade and hits Corino in the face with it. A chair gets set up on the barricade, and Steen powerbombs Corino right there. That’s a cool spot. Steen brings out a table and sets it up at ringside. Back in the ring Corino cuts Steen off with a clothesline. Corino retrieves a garbage can, a lid, and some more chairs. Steen ducks a lid shot and nails Corino in the skull with it. He then hits the somersault legdrop on the trash can lid, and then gets into a shouting match with Cornette. Corino is busted open. He fights back with a low blow and then hits Steen with a trash can repeatedly. Corino hits the Old School suplex on the can. He slams Steen on a pile of chairs and then goes up top to hit an ugly splash for two. Corino sets up a couple of chairs and places the guardrail on them. Steen fights back but foolishly goes up top and superplexes Steen onto the piece of guardrail! Amazingly that only gets two. Corino goes up top and Steen knocks him down to the apron. Steen sets some chairs on top of the table that he had earlier placed between the apron and the barricade. They fight up on the top rope and Corino jumps down to hit Steen with a trash can lid. That sends Steen crashing through the chairs and table. Corino grabs more chairs as the NYC fans make it clear that they want fire. Back in the ring Corino covers for two. Corino hits a chair-assisted Eternal Dream but again only gets two. Steen fights back with a sleeper suplex and then hits a pumphandle driver on the chair for a near-fall. Corino allows Steen to hit him in the face with a steel chair, and then he kicks out! Steen tries to use a chair again, but Jacobs stops it. That’s silly, Jacobs should let anything go as per the rules. Corino hits Steen with a roll of quarters and Steen kicks out at two! Now Corino sets up some chairs in the ring but it backfires, as Steen hits a low blow and then the Package Piledriver! Finally, that’s enough at 22:17. That was pretty good for a hardcore match, but there wasn’t a lot of build in between the spots, just a collection of spots. Granted they were cool spots and both guys pulled them off, so it worked.
MATCH #5: Five-Team Tag Gauntlet – The Bravado Brothers, Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander, Future Shock, The Young Bucks, and The All-Night Express
The Bravado Brothers are out first, and they are joined by Coleman and Alexander. Harlem and Lance attack before the bell and send Coleman and Alexander to the floor. Momentum shifts back and forth as the fight continues to move in and out of the ring. The Bravados use some shady tactics to keep Alexander grounded and in their half of the ring. The referee loses control and C&C start flying all over the ring. Alexander hits Harlem with a Gory Special for two. A series of reversals ends with Alexander trapping Harlem’s legs a la Bret/Bulldog to score the first elimination at 4:54. That was pretty short, but they had good energy, and this was a pretty good way to start the gauntlet.
Future Shock is the next duo out. Alexander and Kyle O’Reilly start battling for their respective teams. O’Reilly gets the first advantage, which makes sense given that he’s fresh. Cole tags in and continues the advantage. Coleman gets a blind tag and he takes control of O’Reilly, but Cole returns the favor with a blind tag of his own, and Future Shock is right back on offense. Momentum shifts again, and Alexander gets the hot tag. Things have been almost non-stop between these two teams. C&C hit O’Reilly with Overdrive and Cole breaks up the cover. Cole takes Coleman out with an enziguiri, and then Future Shock hit Alexander with Ride the Lightning to advance at 11:46.
Nick and Matt Jackson, the Young Bucks, are the fourth team out. The Bucks act like jerks on the floor so Future Shock makes them pay for it. It doesn’t take long for the cocky brothers to make the comeback and isolate Cole with some nifty double-team moves. Things are not looking good for Future Shock, as Cole has been beaten down for several minutes. Eventually Cole makes the hot tag and O’Reilly is the house afire. The referee loses control and bodies are flying all over the place. O’Reilly misses the missile dropkick off the apron and hits a steel chair. That gives the Bucks the chance to hit Cole with stereo superkicks and then More Bang for Your Buck to get the pin at 20:08.
The final team is The All-Night Express. Rhett Titus and Kenny King are ready for the somewhat worn-down Bucks, and the fight begins on the floor. King and Titus are fully in control in the opening moments of this final gauntlet round. Nick trips up Titus and slams his knee into the ring post. While Titus writhes on the floor, the Bucks double-team their way back into control on King. After several minutes King makes the tag, and Titus comes in guns blazing. All four men are in the ring and the referee has no control of what’s going on. Matt hits King with a DDT to the ring apron and they both tumble to the floor. That leaves Titus and Nick in the ring. Titus goes for Rhettribution but Matt comes back in and clips his knee. Matt traps Titus in a step over toehold and Nick adds a 450 Splash. Kevin Kelly tries to say that Nick landed on Titus’ knee, but he really didn’t. Anyway, the referee stops the match and awards the fall and the title shot to the Young Bucks at 28:52. All in all that was a very good gauntlet and they kept the action moving. All the teams got a chance to shine a bit, and in the end the Bucks look like huge jerks and are set up for both a title shot and a feud with the All-Night Express, so this was a success.
MATCH #6: The Roderick Strong Challenge
Truth Martini and Roderick Strong come out to complain that Strong didn’t have an opponent for tonight, despite his eight-year history and former ROH World Champion status. They think no one will answer the challenge, so Truth counts off to 10 and declares Strong the winner. Just then, some familiar music hits and Chris Hero makes his way out! Hero had been gone since August, presumably to sign with WWE but there were some snags and it took a little bit longer, so here he is.
In the early going Hero has the advantage over Strong, who was clearly not prepared for someone of Hero’s status tonight. Strong fights back with chops but gets booted in the face and sent to the floor. Outside the ring Hero continues the advantage but Truth puts a stop to that by hitting him with the Book of Truth. Back in the ring Strong goes to work, wearing Hero down. Every time Hero tries to fight back either Strong cuts him off or Martini interferes. Finally, Hero lands a solid boot to the face and both men are down. Back to their feet Hero unloads the offense on Strong, focusing on strikes but throwing in a powerslam and a back senton for good measure. Strong rolls to the floor and Hero baseball slide kicks him in the face. Back inside the ring Hero continues the assault. Strong avoids the Death Blow with a knee strike for two. He puts Hero on the top rope and hits a backbreaker on the turnbuckles. That gets a near-fall. Momentum continues to shift back and forth, but neither man can put the other away. Strong hits a release German Suplex into the buckles, an enziguiri, a gutbuster, and the Gibson Driver for two. Hero comes back with more elbow strikes and a rolling boot but only gets a two-count. He hits the Death Blow and Martini breaks up the cover. Somehow the referee didn’t see that. Martini gets up on the apron and Hero takes him down with a boot. Hero then turns into a Sick Kick and Strong gets the pin at 16:38. That was good solid wrestling and all, but there was a lot of Truth Martini interference, as if they had to protect the basically gone Chris Hero, which was weird. But really all in all a fun time was had here.
MATCH #7: ROH World Tag Team Championship – Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin) vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe
Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin have been the Champions since 4.1.11, and this is their seventh defense. The Champions hit their challengers with the belts before the referee can ring the bell. They spill to the floor and WGTT are in complete control. Haas and Benjamin even use steel chairs to wear the Briscoes out. The bell hasn’t even rung yet but this might be a short match with the beating #DemBoys have taken. Seriously, the amount of chair shots the Briscoes have taken rival Mick Foley at Royal Rumble ’99. Jay is busted open. The bell kind of rings out of nowhere even though there is still no order to the match.
The Champions are still dominant and referee Paul Turner is not enforcing the one man in the ring rule at all. A bloody Jay stands face-to-face with Haas and they slug it out. Haas knocks Jay to the floor with a boot. He goes to his corner now and the match has settled with Mark and Benjamin in the ring. Benjamin hits a Blinger Splash, but his ribs are injured so that didn’t work out so well for him. Mark is able to make a tag, but Jay is looking worse for wear. The Briscoes focus on Benjamin’s injured ribs. Benjamin cuts Jay off with a back body drop and Haas tags in. Haas goes to work and handles both Briscoes with ease. Mark fights back with a flurry of offense and Jay covers for two. The referee is not enforcing tags of any kind here. Haas delivers rolling German Suplexes to Jay. He locks on the Haas of Pain and Mark breaks it up with the Froggy ‘Bow. Benjamin covered Haas up with his body and took the full force of the blow. Turner calls for help and referees bring the injured Benjamin to the back. That leaves Haas alone with both Briscoes. The challengers dominate until Haas grabs Mark in an Angle Slam, but Turner was in the way and he goes down. Benjamin makes his way back out and has a board from under the ring. He breaks it over Mark’s head. The Champs use the broken pieces on Jay and then try the Doomsday Device. Mark breaks that up and Jay drills Haas with a superkick. The Briscoes then hit the Doomsday Device and Jay scores the pin at 13:25. The brawling before the match kind of hurt the overall presentation, as it was just too much for anyone to realistically come back from. Also, Benjamin getting injured but coming back out was strange, because that’s a babyface spot and they were quite obviously heels. This just didn’t click for me.
MATCH #8: ROH World Championship – Davey Richards (w/ Team Richards) vs. “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards (w/ Dan “the Beast” Severn)
Richards has been the Champion since 6.26.11, and this is his fifth defense. His Team Richards members tonight are Tony Kozina and Kyle O’Reilly. These two former friends waste no time tearing into each other and they are too fired up to sell anything in the early going. They take it to the mat and aggressively chain wrestle. Momentum shifts back and forth here as both men are trying to set the pace. They spill to the floor, where Edwards has the advantage. Richards comes back with a big running boot to the face. Back in the ring Edwards goes back on offense. I have a feeling it’s going to continue going back and forth for a while. Richards knocks Edwards to the floor and lands the running kick from the apron. He goes back in the ring and takes Edwards out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Richards hits a missile dropkick for two. Soon after that Edwards comes back with some stuff. Edwards dumps Richards to the floor and follows him with a moonsault off the apron, his own knees hit the barricade. Ouch. Back in the ring Edwards hits the Chin Checker for two. Of course, Richards makes the big comeback and hits clotheslines for a two-count. Richards hits a double stomp to the back and The Kick That Beat Eddie Edwards. He hits another double stomp off the top rope, this one to the chest, for a near-fall. Richards hits a superplex and holds on, but Edwards reverses the momentum and suplexes Richards to the floor and they both tumble out. They barely make it back to the ring and start kicking each other in the face. Edwards gets the better of the exchange and unloads a series of chops. Richards responds with kicks. They trade Back Drop Drivers, two apiece. Edwards hits a Tiger Suplex, Richards responds with a Dragon Suplex. They knock each other out and Roderick Strong makes his way out for some reason. O’Reilly takes exception so Strong throws both O’Reilly and Kozina into the barricade. Severn comes over and tries to chase Strong away. Michael Elgin makes his way out along with Truth Martini, and the House of Truth battle with Team Richards. Severn carries Truth to the back. Richards and Edwards meet center ring and hit each other some more. Edwards hits a Tiger Suplex into the buckles. He puts Richards up top and goes for a Tiger Superplex. Edwards can’t hit that, but he hits a top-rope hurricanrana instead. He follows with a shotgun dropkick, a powerbomb, and a sit-out powerbomb for two. Edwards hits a superkick and a chop to the face for two. He locks on the Dragon Sleeper but Richards counters to a cradle for two. Edwards puts the Dragon Sleeper back on, and then turns it into a Tombstone Piledriver. He follows up with the Die Hard for a near-fall. They fight up on the top rope and Richards hits a Dragon Superplex for two. Out on the apron Richards suplexes Edwards down to the floor. Edwards barely makes it back in and Richards hits him with a German Suplex on the apron. Edwards lands on the floor and the count begins again. Once again Edwards makes it back to the ring and Richards murders him with kicks to the head. Edwards won’t stay down though. Richards goes to the Ankle Lock and then lands another kick to the face. Once again Edwards kicks out. After more kicks to the face Richards is finally able to put him away at 41:12. This was the very definition of going long for the sake of long and kicking out of more stuff than anyone should ever kick out of. They were just not selling anything for long periods of time and just trying to show “Fighting Spirit” or whatever. I just don’t care much for these types of matches, but I certainly can’t fault their effort, so I’ll split the difference.
BONUS MATCH #1: Proving Ground Match – Davey Richards vs. Michael Elgin, Ring of Honor Wrestling Episode 13, 12.17.11
Richards is the current ROH World Champion, and if Elgin can defeat him here or last the time limit, he earns a future ROH World Title shot, supposedly within 60 days. Elgin has Truth Martini in his corner. They feel each other out just briefly, and when Richards tries a forearm strike Elgin strikes back with one so hard that it sends the ROH World Champion to the floor. Back in the ring Richards tries taking it to the mat and working the big man’s legs. Elgin comes back with a Black Hole Slam for two. They go to the floor and Elgin focuses on the back. Martini interferes every chance he gets of course. Back in the ring Elgin stays in control. Richards comes back and knocks Elgin back to the floor. He follows him out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring it turns into a slugfest. Richards tries a handspring spin kick, but Elgin catches him with Shock Treatment for a two-count. Back on the floor Elgin hits a Fisherman’s Buster. Richards just barely makes it back to the ring. Elgin talks trash and Richards tells him to bring it. Bring it Elgin does, but Richards won’t give up. Elgin goes for a powerbomb, but Richards blocks it and hits a double stomp. Richards is back in control, and he hits Elgin with a superplex. Elgin gets right back up and tells Richards to bring it. They trade strikes and Elgin wins that battle with an enziguiri. Both men are down, and when they get up, they strike each other some more. Richards wins that battle with a succession of kicks. He hits a German Suplex for a near-fall. Martini grabs Richards’ leg to distract him, but Richards hits the Alarm Clock anyway. He goes to go up top but stops to kick Truth down first. Richards goes to the top rope and drills Elgin with a double stomp for two. He lands a knockout kick to the head for another near-fall. Richards then locks on a Cross Armbreaker as just two minutes are left in the time limit. Elgin tries to power his way out of the hold, but Richards floats over with a sunset flip to get the pin at 18:42. This was fine I guess for the style of match they were going for, but it was just too much “I hit you hard for a while, then you hit me” for my likings. It was still entertaining, but they would go on to do much better not long after this.
BONUS MATCH #2: ROH World TV Title Match – Jay Lethal vs. El Generico, Ring of Honor Wrestling Episode 10, 11.26.11
Lethal has been the Champion since 8.13.11, and this is his second defense. Mike Bennett and Brutal Bob are watching from ringside. Generico and Lethal start with some chain wrestling and they battle to a standoff. They continue to trade moves back and forth and appear to be very evenly matched opponents. Generico executes a series of armdrags and a snap mare for a one-count. He keeps up the pressure and maintains the early advantage. Generico hits a backbreaker and a split-legged moonsault for two. Lethal backdrops Generico to the apron and knocks him off with a dropkick. They take one more commercial break at this point but for once they continue showing the action just without commentary. That’s a nice bonus. They continue the battle on the floor and Lethal hits a superkick. Back in the ring Lethal covers for two. Lethal follows with a vertical suplex for another two-count. A leg lariat gets another two-count as they return from commercial. Lethal puts on the Parachute Hold and then covers and again gets two. He hits the hiptoss/dropkick combo for another near-fall. Generico fights back with a flurry of offense. He hits the Blue Thunder Powerbomb for two. Lethal tries to fire up but Generico catches him with a Michinoku Driver for a two-count. Generico goes for the Yakuza Kick but Lethal catches it and hits the pop-up neckbreaker for two. Less than three minutes remain in the time limit. Bennett takes possession of the TV Title belt. That’s not fair. Brutal Bob straps it on him as Lethal hits the Lethal Injection for a two-count. Generico pops up and hits the Yakuza Kick and the half-nelson suplex but Lethal shrugs it off and hits a hard superkick. Both men are down as one minute is left. Lethal rolls to the floor where Bennett taunts him with the belt so Lethal punches in the mouth for his troubles. Back in the ring Lethal gets an O’Connor Roll for two. Lethal hits the Lethal Combination and goes up top for Hail to the King but Bennett distracts the referee and the time limit expires at 15:00. That was very similar to the previous match, which was also good. These two just have good chemistry together.
The main event was an attempted epic that fell short, but it’s not bad by any means. Up and down the rest of the card the matches are solid – very good and present a nice variety of styles. Good show.