On Sunday March 4th, Ring of Honor celebrated ten years of professional wrestling excellence with its Young Wolves Rising iPPV live from The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Heroes of the past would return, new stars would continue to rise and four young and hungry men would try and solidify their position as the cornerstones of the modern day RoH. Did the new decade of Honor start with a bang, or did the expectation weigh too heavily on the new generation? Chris Pilkington has the answer…
Ring of Honor has established some of the biggest stars, or indeed Superstars, of the last ten years. Look no further than the two men currently holding the biggest prizes in the game, World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan and WWE Champion CM Punk. When you add to this list the likes of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Austin Aries, Christopher Daniels etc, etc, it’s clear to see the effect that RoH has had on the wrestling landscape. All these men, of course, are no longer with the promotion, but Ring of Honor still prides itself on providing the best in-ring competition that money can buy. They do this thanks to a youthful roster, peppered with a handful of skilled ring veterans, and a desire to prove that entertaining sport can hold its own against sports entertainment. This new generation would take center stage at Young Wolves Rising, a show which looked to celebrate the past as well as build heavily for the future.
Announcers Kevin Kelly and former RoH champion Nigel Mcguinness started the show in the ring, welcoming the fans in attendance as well as those watching around the world on iPPV. The audio was hard to hear but they put over the last ten years and all the guys who have made the promotion so successful. It is a real shame that audio and video problems continue to hamper the broadcast of these iPPV’s. On several occasions throughout, either replays, microphones or interviews simply didn’t work. It should be noted that whilst this in no way detracts from the in ring action (clearly the main draw of Ring of Honor shows), it does come across as a little amateurish for a company that is striving to grow its business.
Anyway, onto the first match, and the return of Rhett Titus who is coming back after a lengthy knee injury. Rhett would team up with his tag partner Kenny King of The All Night Express to take on Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, collectively known as The World’s Greatest Tag Team.
The repaired knee of Titus would play heavily into the psychology of the match as Shelton and Charlie targeted it relentlessly. At one point Shelton had Titus trapped in a ring-post-assisted Sharpshooter as WGTT played up their heel status perfectly. Haas in particular had huge heat from the New York crowd and revelled in the jeers. Titus would eventually get the hot tag, with King picking up the victory via a triple pinfall reversal after a powebomb attempt from Shelton. It was a decent match that didn’t quite work the crowd like an opener should, but the right team went over and looked good in the process.
Next we had the return of former RoH World Champion and huge fan favourite Homicide who went one on one with Mike Bennett who was accompanied to the ring by his trainer Brutal Bob and his girlfriend and former WWE Diva Maria Kanellis. Bennett had worked the crowd into a near frenzy and they were begging for Homicide to come out and shut him up. When Homicide finally did appear, the fans went nuts for the New Yorker. Clad in an old school boiler suit, The Notorious 187 beat Bennett all the way around the ringside area and looked to have the match won with his tribute to CM Punk, a huge Go2Sleep. It was interference from Maria that cost Homicide the victory, allowing Bennett to roll him up for the unpopular pinfall victory. Bennett gets a lot of heat for not fitting the archetype of a RoH wrestler but I was impressed with the way he controlled the match when on offence, as well as his selling of Homicide’s attack. I have a feeling that Bennett could go a long way, whether the RoH faithful fully embrace him or not.
After the match, Homicide went after Maria but Bennett and Bob made the save and scampered backstage. Left alone in the ring, he led the crowd in a New York Yankees chant and a RoH chant as well as putting Ring of Honor over as the best promotion in the world. Again, the audio was a little hard to hear but we got the idea.
Then it was time to meet the special guest of the evening, CHIKARA grand champion Eddie Kingston. Kingston was out to promote CHIKARA and Ring of Honor’s joint promotion Synergy, but was quickly interrupted by Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare Kevin Steen. Steen came to the ring dressed to impress, wearing a faux shirt and jacket t-shirt and carrying a tennis racquet with Davey Richards’ face on it, a clear indication of his hatred for Jim Cornette (and funny to boot.) Steen and Kingston went head to head with Steen throwing the first punch and sparking a mass brawl. He even attempted to urinate on the CHIKARA Championship, only to be foiled by CHIKARA members The Colony and Jigsaw. The crowd were into this from the start, and it was a heated and entertaining segment between two men who really know how to work the crowd. It looks pretty clear that this was setting up a match between Kingston and Steen at Synergy, and really broadcasting it as a must-see encounter.
As the ringside area is cleared of the carnage, we return to in ring action and the man who competed in the first ever Ring of Honor match, The Amazing Red. Red teamed with TJ Perkins to take on The House of Truth, Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin. What can be said about this match? It was crisp thanks to Strong, fast paced and innovative thanks to Red and Perkins, and incredibly hard hitting thanks to the man-beast that is Elgin. These four men meshed together to put on the best match of the night so far. It was relentless balls to the wall fun for the full eleven minutes or so it ran. I really hope that RoH sign up Amazing Red full time and team him up with Perkins on a permanent basis. The crowd reaction to these two speaks for itself, and just thinking about the matches they could have with The Young Bucks and WGTT should have wrestling fans salivating.
Elgin and Strong are certainly no slouches in the ring either; having teamed together for the past two years, they have great ring awareness together, and one of the most devastating looking double team finishers I have seen. The House of Truth would pick up the victory with said finisher, an Alabama Slam into a Backstabber combo. Post match, Red would receive a standing ovation from the fans as well as a “please come back” chant. I, for one, endorse that chant!
In the final match before interval, Jay Lethal put his TV title on the line against the undefeated Tomasso Ciampa. As with all RoH TV title matches, there is a fifteen minute time limit, a fact that was mentioned on more than one occasion on commentary, perhaps foreshadowing the outcome. It was Ciampa who looked dominant in this one but spent far too long playing to the crowd. In a match with a strict time limit, there was no real jeopardy portrayed. Ciampa continued his methodical onslaught apparently unaware of the ticking clock. The in ring action was great as expected. Lethal is an impressive athlete, his Macho Man Elbow a thing of beauty, and Ciampa can pull off some impressive offence, in particular a sick Kryptonite Krunch on the ring apron that left both men down on the outside. My problem with the match is that it didn’t really sell the story. Up until the last couple of minutes, there was no urgency from either champion or challenger and I think it hurt the match. It would end with a stand up slugfest between both men that the crowd were really into…until the bell rang for the time limit draw.
Possibly this sets up a rematch down the line, but with the lack of storytelling shown here, it’s not a rematch I’ll be waiting for with baited breath. After the match, Lethal asked for five more minutes, which in my opinion should have happened. Instead, we got Ciampa hitting his Project Ciampa finisher and leaving with the belt he hadn’t won.
After a brief interval that featured a look back at some RoH highlights for the iPPV audience, we were back to the ring and the tag team title match between champions The Briscoe’s and challengers The Young Bucks. Jay and Mark Briscoe are also RoH originals and are crazily over with the crowd. We got a lot of brawling around ringside early on which is not really what I would want from a match between these two teams, but the crowd loved it. We eventually got back to the ring and some impressive double teaming from both teams, especially The Bucks. The match was kept pretty short but managed to showcase all four men. The finish came when Jay Briscoe got his knees up on a More Bang For Your Buck attempt, and The Briscoe’s reversed into a Doomsday Device to retain the belts. It was another decent match but I can’t help but feel it could have been so much better. I understand that the last couple of shows have gone too far and burnt out the crowd somewhat, but I feel the match could have done with a few more minutes to really flesh out.
Kevin Steen made his second appearance of the night for his No Disqualification match with Jimmy Jacobs. Steen was again resplendent in his classy t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms and he took the time to bat a couple of streamers back into the crowd. Jacobs came to the ring accompanied by Steve Corino who insisted that the match would not be going ahead which drew the ire of Steen. Against Corino’s wishes, Jacobs would attack Steen from behind and the match was on!
Jacobs revealed that he was wearing the white jacket he wore when he formed The Age of the Fall, a jacket that is still covered in Jay Briscoe’s blood after nearly five years! This led the commentators to state that we were seeing the return of the evil Jimmy Jacobs. This was a wild and eventually bloody affair. Whilst hardcore matches may seen somewhat passé in 2012, this told a great story and eventually had the crowd way into it. We saw the destruction of security barriers and the subsequent power slamming into them. We saw Steen powerbomb Jacobs not once but twice onto the ring apron. We saw Jacobs spear Steen off the ring apron through a table at ringside. And when the time called for it, we saw the return of Jacobs’s notorious weapon of choice, the railroad spike. Jacobs charges at Steen and nailed him right in the head. With Steen busted up, Jacobs looked at what he had done and seemed visibly shocked by his own actions. Steen worked his way to his feet and hits Jacobs with the spike before landing an F5 through two chairs for the victory! It was wild, it was chaotic, and it was everything it needed to be.
Finally it was time for the main event of the evening. Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole teaming up to take on Davey Richards and Kyle O ‘Reilly in a highly charged match featuring four guys who know each other really well. There were some mixed reactions from the crowd during the introductions, with the RoH crowd seeming to be slowly turning against their champion Davey Richards. This isn’t unprecedented in Ring of Honor history, with both Nigel Mcguinness and Tyler Black receiving boos during their respective title reigns.
The match started with a deliberately slow pace, something the RoH fans again took a dislike to, with a small “boring” chant emanating from the crowd. It was unnecessary in my opinion, as were the several “you f****d up” chants for minor mistakes throughout the evening. It’s not big and it’s not clever. The match built, with reversal sequences, hard hitting kicks and knife edge chops a key component of each man’s arsenal.
Soon the double team manoeuvres came into play as the ref became very lax with regards to the legal man. The once mixed crowd soon warmed up with cries of “this is awesome”. The first ten may have been measured, but the proceeding thirty minutes were action-packed to say the least. It is too hard to call everything that took place but there were certainly several highlights. At one point, Edwards and Richards had O’Reilly and Cole in single leg crabs respectively whilst they faced off and chopped the hell out of each other. Kyle O’ Reilly tornado DDT’d Adam Cole from the top rope through the table at ringside that garnered a huge pop from the crowd. Finally, it came down to Edwards and Richards in the ring. Richards managed to turn a top rope code breaker into an ankle lock, and Edwards seemed moments away from tapping. He eventually broke it, and out of nowhere, Adam Cole hit a cross body off the top rope and covered Davey Richards for the pinfall victory!
Wow, what a match. It was by far the best match I have seen so far this year, and is required viewing by anybody who calls themselves a professional wrestling fan. For a match that went for forty minutes there was not one moment where I wasn’t completely captivated and in awe of the action in the ring.
The victory for Cole was deserved as he has the skill set to be a long time main eventer. O’ Reilly too comes out with a lot of credit for his performance and seems like he could be a huge heel in the months to come.
And once all the action had finished, out came Steen for a third time, this time hanging out on the balcony with a microphone. Steen claimed that he stole the show, and the main event should have been him versus Richards for the title. He tells Cole and O’Reilly that they are great and they are cute, but the future is here and the future is ugly! Steen tells Richards to make GM Jim Cornette give him a title shot as Steen calls Richards a “Ju-Jitsu Jack off” before claiming that Ju-Jitsu Jack off is trending worldwide and the show comes to a close!
As I stated earlier, tonight was a night for both looking back and celebrating the past as well as building towards the future for Ring of Honor. I think it’s fair to say that they achieved both goals. The returns of Homicide, Red, Jacobs and Corino gave long time fans something to cheer. The various call-backs to previous employees such as Homicide hitting the Go2Sleep and the fans continually chanting “Yes, Yes, Yes!” in honour of Daniel Bryans current gimmick were all nice touches that added to the feel of the event.
As for the future, well, most of the young guys won on the under card. Mike Bennett, The All Night Express and Kevin Steen were all victorious, as was Adam Cole in the biggest star-making performance of the night. They also built towards future matches, with Steen vs. Kingston and Steen vs. Richards seemingly in the bag. Overall I urge anybody to go out of their way to view the main event. The rest of the card was great if unspectacular. My biggest complaints are all to do with production issues that will hopefully be rectified in the near future. Another great show by RoH.
This article was written by Chris Pilkingon.