Ring of Honor taped four hours of television in Nashville at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds Sport Arena featuring the returns of AJ Styles and Chris Hero. For Styles, it was also a return to the original home of TNA, then aptly known as the Asylum.
ROH comes out of this show with newly found momentum. Pretty much everything worked and the atmosphere for wrestling couldn't have been better. The attendance was over 1000 which was packed for the way the building was configured. It was the best house ROH has drawn outside of New York.
The crowd was blazing hot early and held up well for a marathon taping that last over four hours.
Bobby Cruise introduced the announce team of Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino and Prince Nana.
Hour #1 airing on January 11.
(1) Top Prospect Tournament - Ray Rowe defeated Kongo at 5:58 with Death Rowe (elevated full nelson dropped into a knee strike to the back). Crowd popped for Rowe suplexing the 350 pound Kongo like it was nothing. Postmatch, Michael Elgin went nose-to-nose with Kongo and powerbombed him. Elgin said things didn't go his way at Final Battle but his issue with Adam Cole was far from over and Styles, Hero and Jay Briscoe were obstacles to be removed. The building erupted when Hero came out to confront Elgin. He said they would coexist in Pittsburgh but was every man for himself after that. Kevin Steen joined the party, saying that he never got his rematch and Elgin wasn't most deserving until he did, and the only thing Hero would say after tonight was that he got his ass kicked by Steen.
"The Benchmark" Bill Daly said he was withdrawing from the Top Prospects Tournament due to a high ankle sprain, and demanded a shot at the TV title. Mike Posey said surely Corey Hollis didn't want to win that way.
(2) Top Prospect Tournament Corey Hollis defeated Mike Posey in 5 minutes with his killer back elbow.
(3) Jay Lethal defeated Caprice Coleman at 6:08 after the Lethal Injection. For pure execution, this was the best match of the show. Both guys were really on. Lethal told Coleman that he underestimated him and said he had a bright future.
(4) Kevin Steen defeated Chris Hero in 11 minutes. Split crowd with the dueling chants. Match was just OK early but it built bigtime as it progressed. Hero kicked out of the F-Cinq, escaped from the package piledriver and had Steen in trouble when The Decade (Jimmy Jacobs, BJ Whitmer and Roderick Strong) came to ringside, although Steen wasn't aware of it. Hero nailed Whitmer with a dive to the outside. Steen recovered and suplexed Hero on his head for the pin.
As Steen was leaving, Cliff Compton jumped the rail and choked him out.
Hour number 2 - airing January 18.
(5) Top Prospects Tournament Andrew Everett defeated The Romantic Touch in 6 minutes. Veda Scott was out to the announcing table. Romantic Touch had words with her and did too much showboating and Everett rolled him up. Jay Briscoe, fake ROH title belt in tow, said he had an offer on the table for Adam Cole - Cole could leave his belt at home and he would put the real belt on the line. A suit-wearing Cole strolled to the ring.. Cole said he didn't care what anybody said except Matt Hardy, and said he would give Briscoe his answer next week.
(6) Top Prospect Tournament - Hanson is a beast. He slaughtered Cheeseburger in 2:35 using a spinning kick for the win.
Adam Page and Mark Briscoe were ready to square off in a singles match when The Decade interrupted. Jacobs tried to get Mark to join them, noting that they shared common ground as cornerstones of the company, while people like Hero and Styles leave and waltz back in. Page told them pack it up. Decade attacked Page and Mark defended him leading to
(7) Jimmy Jacobs & BJ Whitmer defeated Adam Page & Mark Briscoe in 6:57. Strong was on commentary. Briscoe did a long distance Cactus Jack elbow off the apron and took an insane bump over the top rope. Page was pinned after a Decade combo move. Excellent tag match.
Before the match, Matt Taven came out to shake Ciampa's hand and was attacked by Silas Young.
(8) Tomasso Ciampa beat Silas Young in 8:23. Good showing by Young. Sweet finish with Ciampa reversing into a Rings of Saturn. Post match Young's postmatch attack was halted by Lethal and Taven and got into a shoving match with Ciampa.
Hour number 3 - airing January 25.
(9) Top Prospect Semifinal Raymond Rowe defeated Corey Hollis in 6:30 with Death Rowe. The massive size difference was too much for Hollis to overcome. The crowd showed telltale signs of burnout around here.
(10) RD Evans (with Veda Scott) defeated Matt Sells in 3:15 with a diving headbutt. The debuting Sells is a Georgia indy guy. Scott said Evans win steak stood at 14-0 so why not go for 15? Out came Elgin.
(11) RD Evans (with Veda Scott) defeated Michael Elgin via DQ in 5:50. "Don't die RD don't die" chant as Elgin completely dismantled Evans with repeated shots into the barricades, hit his finisher, then got DQed for brutally powerbombing Evans across two chairs. Just how do you fake that? Postmatch the ROH security force hit the ring in attempt to stop Elgin from delivering another powerbomb. Elgin manhandled some of them and left the other guys cowering in fear. The crowd chanted "15 and 0" as Evans was helped to the back.
(12) Matt Taven pinned Tadarius Thomas at 6:11 with a frogsplash. Good match. Taven was really on point and was a lot more impressive than when I saw him on the Birmingham show. Taven initiated a handshake after the match. Bobby Fish cut a wonderfully whiny promo saying that Cole wouldn't tarnish his legacy by wrestling Jay for the fake belt.
(13) Jay Briscoe pinned Bobby Fish with the Jay Driller at 15:53. They started with a feeling out process that made it different but it devolved into a brawl with multiple barricade shots, too similar to Evans/Elgin which will air in the same hour. Cole came to ringside to distract Jay. Fish capitalized with a low blow and Saito suplex. Jay kicked out, sent Fish crashing into Cole and hit the finish. Match had plenty of stiff back and forth action, but they could have accomplished the same thing by doing less in a shorter match. Fish took a physical beating and looked a little woozy walking to the back.
Cruise announced that ROH would return to the Fairgrounds on June 21 with Best of the World. It got the biggest pop of the night and a "Yes!" chant.
Hour number 4 airing February 1
(14) Top Prospect Semifinal Hanson pinned Andrew Everett with the spinning kick at 6:56. Everett was flying all over the place a mix of spectacular stuff and iffy spots. Right before the finish, Hanson crashed and burned on a dive and Everett nailed him with a perfect springboard shooting star press. A "Please sign Andrew" chanted ensued after the match.
Maria Kanellis, smoking hot as always, cut a great promo on Steen. Maria said Steen punched her in the most vile way at Final Battle and represented everything that was wrong with wrestling. She wasn't afraid on any man, but Steen wasn't any man. He was a disgusting man like the all of the fans. Maria said Bennett had created a new finisher.
(15) Michael Bennett (with Maria) defeated Cedric Alexander via submission in 10:45. A fine match. Alexander and Coleman both proved their worth in singles matches at this show. Bennett had a moment with infamous Chicken Hat Charles. The spot of the match saw Alexander launch a dive over Maria, who was standing on the apron. Bennett gave Alexander a beating including spearing him out of midair. Bennett got his knees up on Alexander's frogsplash with distraction by Maria and locked in the Anaconda Vise. Take THAT CM Punk.
(16) AJ Styles defeated Roderick Strong in 22:08. There was palpable sense of anticipation for Styles' entrance, which got a huge standing ovation. It turned semi-shoot amateur style early with Styles challenging Strong to take him down. First key spot saw Strong cut off Styles' springboard forearm with a dropkick. Match built well with some beautiful counter wrestling. They did less and gave the impact of the moves a chance to register more than any of the other bouts. Push come to shove, I would have to say Strong was the sharper of the two. After a collision of crossbodys, Styles hit the springboard springboard moonsault into the inverted DDT. Strong with a superplex, but Styles escaped from the Gibson driver and connected with the Pele followed by a brainbuster. Styles slipped legit on a springboard and tweaked his knee. Strong used the double knee gutbuster for a near fall, then the sick kick for a very close near fall. The finish was horrifying. Style appeared to have the Clash set up properly, but Strong inexplicably tucked his head and got crunched down right on the back of his neck.
ROH personnel including Nigel McGuinness rushed to ringside to check on Strong. They iced his neck and Strong had full mobility after the show.
The Decade attacked Styles. Jay Lethal led a contingent of babyfaces out to make the save. Lethal declared 2014 to be year of ROH. Styles said he came back to ROH to entertain the fans and wasn't there to mail it in.
NOTES: There was a long line for Roddy Piper's pre show meet and greet. Nigel McGuinness was also signing autographs. Piper watched most of the show from the production area alongside Hunter Johnson and Joe Koff from Sinclair....Daly suffered a broken ankle before the show....Kyle O'Reilly was stranded in Seattle....They had about 550 tickets presold. The walk up about equaled the presale, which was very atypical for a ROH event.