By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Ring of Honor Wrestling TV (Episode 535)
Taped in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 2300 Arena
Aired December 18, 2021 in syndication and on SBG regional sports networks, available Mondays on FITE.TV
Following the ROH opening, Quinn McKay checked in from the studio and touted this as a Top Prospect episode. She spoke about past Top Prospect tournament winners, then hyped the show’s matches… Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman checked in on commentary while Bobby Cruise handled the introductions for the opening match…
1. Eric Martin (w/Will Ferarra) vs. Rayo vs. Adrian Soriano (w/Matthew Omen, Gabriel Hodder) vs. Joe Keys in a four corner survival match. There was an impressive spot where Keys performed a double German suplex on Soriano and Martin. Martin came back with a powerbomb. Keys rolled to ringside. Rayo went for a huracanrana on Martin, who stuffed it and powerbombed him. Keys returned and clotheslined Martin off the apron. Soriano rolled up Keys for a two count, then hit him with a neckbreaker for another two count heading into a break. [C]
Late in the match, Martin had Soriano pinned, but Keys hit him with a top rope headbutt to break the pin. Keys went for a powerbomb on Rayo, who tripped him and then went for a pin that resulted in a two count. Keys put Rayo in the backpack position. Martin approached Keys, who kicked him and DDT’d him while also slamming Rayo to the mat.
A short time later, Rayo hit Soriano with a knee. Omen and Hodder pulled their Primal Fear partner to the floor. Rayo took out all three men with various moves, then Martin dove onto Rayo and two of the Primal Fear members from the top rope. Martin threw Rayo back inside the ring and tried to powerbomb him, but Rayo slipped away and ended up hitting a springboard DDT. Rayo followed up with a springboard elbow drop on Martin and scored the in. The wrestlers adhered to the Code of Honor afterward…
Rayo defeated Eric Martin, Adrian Soriano, and Joe Keys in 7:57.
Riccaboni hyped the next match. Footage aired of Mike Bennett winning the 2011 Top Prospect tournament, and then footage aired of Matt Taven winning the 2013 Top Prospect tournament… [C]
Powell’s POV: Good work from the wrestlers in the four-way. They haven’t been given a lot of past television time, so there wasn’t much in the way of storylines between them, but they made the match work. I like the touch of ROH including the footage of past Top Prospect tournaments.
Footage aired of Hanson (Ivar of the Viking Raiders) winning the 2014 Top Prospect tournament, followed by Donovan Dijak winning the 2015 tournament…
2. Dante Caballero vs. Matt Makowski (w/Rocco). Eli Isom sat in on commentary and sang the praises of Caballero’s improved physique. Prior to the match, Rocco came out and introduced Makowski as his new client. The broadcast team acted stunned. Makowski performed an early key lock suplex, which Coleman marveled over. They cut to a shot of Rocco, who asked why they were watching him when the action was in the ring. [C]
Makowski hooked one of Caballero’s arms behind him with his leg, then wrenched back on the other. Caballero took a lot of punishment, but he came back with a couple of near falls. Caballero got annoyed by Rocco and shot him a look. Makowski rallied hooked one of Caballero’s arms and then hit him with elbow strikes.
Maksowski threw some strikes in the corner and followed up with a big kick from the middle rope. Makowski used a butterfly suplex to get a near fall. Rocco yelled at Caballero while he was down. Both men stood up and traded strikes. Caballero ducked a kick and then suplexed Makowski. Caballero blasted Makowski with a running boot, then hoisted him up for his finisher, but became distracted by Rocco barking at him. Makowski took advantage of the distraction and ended up winning with a cross arm breaker…
Matt Makowski defeated Dante Caballero in 12:06.
Footage aired of Lio Rush winning the 2016 Top Prospect tournament… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good match. I really wish they would have taken the sit-down promo approach with these guys. I understood not finding time for the first match since it had four wrestlers, but it would have been nice to hear from these guys to help set up a story for the match. We did hear from Rocco, but his act does nothing for me. Rocco comes off like a guy playing a pest character rather than actually seeming like a real person.
Highlights aired of Josh Woods winning the 2017 Top Prospect tournament, followed by footage of Dak Draper winning the 2019 Top Prospect tournament…
Entrances for the main event took place. Woods was joined on the stage by Tracy Williams and Rhett Titus, who went to the back while he headed to the ring. Dalton Castle and a group of Boys headed to the ring. Castle entered the ring and had a couple of hot dogs in his hands. He said the match was basically an exhibition and needed some excitement.
Castle told Woods that he wants to win a Golden Globe, but the match had no risk. He asked Woods to put the title on the line and make his dream come true. Woods said you have to earn it like everyone else. “Boring,” Castle replied. Castle and Draper rolled out of the ring. Castle told Woods he could take the forfeit and accused him of ruining ROH. Woods opted to accept the title match challenge…
Powell’s POV: So I guess this was going to be a non-title match even though I thought it was billed as a title match. I would have preferred sit-down interviews from the champion and the challenger rather than Castle doing his schtick. And here’s hoping that Draper never wears another cut-off t-shirt now that he won’t be tied to Castle in storylines outside ROH. Castle is entertaining at times and Draper has talent, but their pairing did nothing for me.
3. Josh Woods vs. Dak Draper for the ROH Pure Championship. Mike Bennett sat in on commentary for the match. Woods hoisted up Draper early on. Draper put his feet over the top rope and the referee ruled it as his first of three rope breaks. A short time later, Woods stood on the apron and applied a wrist lock that he had to release. Draper responded with a punch, which led to his one and only warning for using a closed fist. Draper performed a deadlift superplex and covered Woods for a two count at 4:30. [C]
Footage aired of Woods forcing Draper to use another rope break during the break. The match picked up around the 8:30 mark. Draper performed a power slam for a near fall a couple minutes later. Draper ran up the ropes and leapt into a knee from Woods that sent him to ringside. When Draper tried to return to the ring, Woods hit him with multiple shots and another big knee to the head. Woods covered Draper, who used his final rope break.
Woods applied another submission hold. Draper tried to use the ropes, but he was out of rope breaks. Draper ended up rolling onto Woods and getting a two count, then powered up Woods and slammed him down to break the hold and then covered him for another two count. Draper went for a fallaway slam, but Woods avoided it. Woods powered up Draper for a Gorilla Slam and then covered him for the win.
Josh Woods defeated Dak Draper in 13:45 to retain the ROH Pure Championship.
Riccaboni noted that Woods would end this era of ROH as the Pure Champion. Woods went to ringside and shook the hand of Draper. Riccaboni said he can only hope that both men will be a part of ROH’s future…
Graphics listed Rok-C vs. Holidead for the ROH Women’s World Championship, and the Christmas Tag Surprise match for next week…
Powell’s POV: A decent main event. Despite the uncertainty of the company, I never bought into the possibility of Draper winning the match. It’s strange because I expected the unexpected at the pay-per-view in terms of ROH moving titles around, but I just didn’t think Draper would win this match. Perhaps it’s because he was positioned as a sidekick to Castle rather than a major player?
Overall, I’m happy that ROH gave the prospects a couple of matches. I’m sure many of them were hoping to crack the regular roster in the new year and now they won’t have that opportunity given the structural changes. They deserved a chance to be spotlighted and they all did their best to take advantage of it. Hopefully it will lead to some independent bookings or even another company spotting someone they like. I will be back later today with my audio review of this episode for Dot Net Members. And then we’ll wrap up our weekly coverage with next week’s show, as ROH will no longer have first-run matches on their shows starting in 2022.
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