By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Ring of Honor TV
Taped July 21 in Atlanta, Georgia at Center Stage
Aired in syndication on September 8 and Mondays on the FITE TV app
The ROH opening aired… The broadcast team was Ian Riccaboni, Colt Cabana, and Caprice Coleman…
1. Mark Briscoe vs. Frankie Kazarian. The went right from the ROH opening and into the match, which was joined in progress. Riccaboni noted that we saw the wrestlers respective tag partners Jay Briscoe and Christopher Daniels meet on television last week. Mark and Kazarian fought to ringside. Mark tossed a chair into the ring. While referee Paul Turner cleared the chair from the ring, Mark kicked the ropes into the groin of Kazarian as he was attempting to return to the ring. Mark performed a blockbuster off the apron. Kazarian came back and performed an electric chair into a pin for a two count going into a commercial break. [C]
Jay Briscoe was at ringside coming out of the break. Mark slammed Kazarian and went for Froggy Bow, but Kazarian avoided it. Kazarian hooked Mark’s arm and rolled him into a pin for the win.
Frankie Kazarian defeated Mark Briscoe.
After the match, Jay hit the ring and attacked Kazarian. Christopher Daniels and Scorpio Sky ran out and fought with the Briscoes. Punishment Martinez entered the ring and fought the SCU members to even the sides for the heels. Jay performed a Jay Driller on Sky. Martinez chokeslammed Daniels.
Powell’s POV: I like the attempt to open the show in a unique manner from time to time. It caught me off guard and immediately grabbed my attention. On the flip side, I didn’t like the commercial break since there wasn’t much left in the match. I really like the way AXS doesn’t air commercial breaks during any of the New Japan matches they air on their live specials. Perhaps ROH and other companies can’t do the same for some reason, but it sure seemed like this was a case where they could have gotten away with it. Meanwhile, the Martinez interference was really random and probably sets up a six-man tag match rather than an actual alliance between him and the Briscoes. The SCU faction worked when they were heels. At this point, it might be time to consider having Scorpio move on as a singles wrestler if the plan is for Daniels and Kazarian to work mostly tag team matches.
The Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham video package aired to hype the main event…
The broadcast team checked in from their spot on the floor. The spoke about Cody and the Young Bucks winning the ROH Six-Man Tag Titles, Punishment Martinez beating up the Motor City Machine Guns, and Jeff Cobb attacking Top Prospect Tournament wrestlers. Riccaboni set up footage of Will Ferrara getting the better of Cheeseburger during a three-way tag match that was scrapped so they could air the full iron man match… [C]
Footage aired of the recent issues involving Bully Ray with Flip Gordon and Silas Young, including Ray walking out on Young when they teamed up last week and lost to Best Friends. New to television footage aired of Young barking at a seated and seemingly disinterested Bully Ray in the locker room after the match. A graphic noted that fans could see the full footage unedited if they subscribe to HonorClub…
Ring entrances for the main event took place. Jonathan Gresham received a very mild reaction, but he did get some streamers thrown once he entered the ring. Jay Lethal came out to a good reaction. Ring announcer Bobby Cruise delivered in-ring introductions for the title match… [C]
2. Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham in a 30-minute Iron Man match for the ROH Championship. Riccaboni and Cabana were on the call (Coleman disappeared). The wrestlers shook hands and then the bell rang. A graphic appeared at the top of the screen that counted the falls, but there was not a clock graphic for the iron match to start. Riccaboni explained the rules of the match to viewers as they got underway. Cabana filled the slow start by questioning whether the top contenders to the ROH Title gave Gresham advice heading into the match. They cut to break early in the match. [C]
Lethal performed a suplex and went for a pin. Gresham used his head and neck to bridge up his shoulders and slithered out from under Lethal to break the pin in a unique manner. Lethal applied a chinlock a short time later. Gresham broke it by targeting the fingers of Lethal. Gresham chopped Lethal, who allowed him to throw another chop and then drove a knee into his gut at the 15:00 mark. Gresham went on an offensive run and had Lethal down heading into another break. [C]
Gresham targeted the left arm of Lethal and bent it behind his head and then stomped it at ringside. Lethal rolled back inside the ring and Gresham followed. Riccaboni said Gresham was so focused on the match that he didn’t grant any media interviews going in like most athletes do. Gresham picked up some near falls and maintained offensive control and put him in a unique submission hold that wrenched both of Lethal’s arms, then he hooked his leg into a pin for a two count.
Lethal fired back with a chop while Gresham continued to target the left arm. They traded chops as Lethal tried to get Gresham to release control of his left wrist. Gresham finally sat down and kicked the wrist to release it. Lethal went for a Lethal Combination twice, but Gresham had counters each time. Lethal came back with a couple of kicks on Gresham heading into another break. [C]
Lethal connected with a dropkick that sent Gresham to the floor shortly after the show returned from a break. Lethal performed a suicide dive and then tossed Gresham back inside the ring. Lethal hit a Lethal Combination for a two count. Ring announcer Cruise announced that there were only five minutes remaining and then Gresham scored a near fall. Gresham blasted Lethal with a punch for another near fall, then immediately went for a cross arm breaker that Lethal blocked. Lethal went for a figure four, but Gresham kicked him to block it. Lethal went for a Lethal Injection, but Gresham cut it off. Gresham applied the Octopus hold and threw repeated punches to the side of Lethal’s head. Lethal tapped out to give Gresham a 1-0 lead.
Riccaboni noted that there were only three minutes and 30 seconds remaining and that Gresham would be the ROH Champion if this had been a standard match. Cabana spoke about the strategy of tapping to get out of a hold to come back. Lethal threw knees at Gresham, who rolled him up for a two count. Lethal countered into a figure four attempt, but Gresham blocked him from applying the hold initially. Lethal eventually locked it in. Gresham was down with his shoulders on the mat several times and managed to sit up before referee Todd Sinclair could count three. The ring announcer noted that there were 90 seconds remaining. Gresham tried and failed to roll over the figure four and eventually tapped out to make it 1-1 with just a minute remaining in the match.
Both men were slow to get to their feet. Gresham actually used the referee to pull himself to his feet and then fell back down again to sell the damage the figure four did to his knee. Lethal went for a chop, but Gresham rolled him up for a two count. Gresham got several more two counts as he made a mad scramble to pin Lethal before the time limit expired. Lethal rolled Gresham over for a two count of his own and then the time expired.
Bobby Cruise announced that the time limit expired with both wrestlers having one fall each and therefore it’s a draw. The fans booed. Gresham called for a mic and got it. Gresham said there was no way he would come this far after starting 14 years ago in Atlanta and leave the building with that kind of decision. Gresham got to his knees and said that if Lethal is the champion he believes him to be then he’d give him five more minutes. The fans roared and chanted for five more minutes. Gresham held out the mic and Lethal took it. Lethal looked down at his title belt and said, “Start the clock.”
Gresham noted that the match would still be a tie if they went to the five minute mark. The wrestlers traded forearm shots. Lethal got the better of it with a discus forearm, but Gresham popped right up and connected with an enzuigiri. Gresham stomped the arm of Lethal and rolled him into a bridging pin for a near fall with 4:00 remaining. Lethal came back with a torture rack into a rolling senton. Lethal went up top and connected with the Hail to the Chief elbow drop for a near fall with under 3:00 remaining.
Cabana noted that it’s Gresham’s responsibility to beat Lethal, not the champion’s responsibility to beat the challenger. There were a series of rollup reversals that resulted in a two count for Lethal. Gresham applied a sleeper while grapevining Lethal, who backed into the corner to break it. Gresham reapplied the hold and Lethal ended up dropping him with a cutter. Lethal followed up with a Lethal Injection and scored the pin…
Jay Lethal defeated Jonathan Gresham two falls to one in an Iron Man match to retain the ROH Championship.
After the match, Cabana asked Riccaboni if he minded if he stood up to give the two wrestlers a round of applause. Riccaboni said he would be joining him. The cameras showed the broadcast team and fans applauding the wrestlers and then highlights of the match were shown. Lethal held up the title belt while Gresham sat on the mat and sold the agony of the loss to close the show…
Powell’s POV: An excellent match and one that is worth going out of your way to see. The fans seemed tame to start and the work of the wrestlers drew them into it as they got deeper into the match. Gresham was made here, but the key is how the company opts to follow up with him. They haven’t done much with Gresham before now. He’s usually in opening matches on the television show and doesn’t really get much storyline attention. That needs to change immediately to get the most out of this.
Meanwhile, Lethal came off like a respectable champion for agreeing to the overtime period and by putting away a strong challenger in clean fashion. I hope we see more of Lethal defending the ROH Title on television even if it is against opponents who wouldn’t be considered pay-per-view worthy challengers. The broadcast team of Riccaboni and Cabana also deserve credit for doing a great job of calling the match and creating a sports-like feel. I probably don’t write it enough, but they are consistently top notch together and are as good as any team in the business.
I also give credit to the way the match was booked. Gresham taking the first fall is something he can hang his hat on (though I like that Cabana was there to point out that it may have been strategy used by Lethal’s character). And if Lethal had won the match in regulation then it would have been considered fairly predictable. By going to overtime, they generated more suspense, made Gresham look strong, and were able to make Lethal look noble by agreeing to the overtime period. Everything about this match was really well done.
This appears to be the end of the Atlanta tapings and thus they didn’t advertise anything for next week. The next batch of shows will be from Philadelphia and I’m genuinely curious to see what they do with Gresham. Haydn Gleed will be by with his audio review later today or tomorrow.