This week's edition of Ring of Honor TV saw the World Championship Tournament get into full swing, with two first round matches taking place. ROH's product seems to be reinvigorated as of late, with a real purpose behind what is shown on television. After the strong and some time over powering SCUM storyline, it's great to get back to what Ring of Honor does best, wrestling.
World Championship Tournament First Round Match:
The main event this week pitted Adam Cole against a returning Mark Briscoe. We haven't seen Briscoe in the ring since his World Championship loss, to brother Jay Briscoe, at June's Best in the World. Briscoe later suffered a storyline concussion after multiple con-chair-tos at the hands of SCUM's Rhino, as a way to explain Briscoe's absense from the company after his contract ran out. Therefore, I was surprised when they announced that Briscoe would be part of this tournament. Cole has been put forward as one of the favourites for the tournament, down to having a couple of title shots recently, as well as a strong story, that has seen Cole almost turn heel on numerous occasion.
This was the first one on one meeting between Briscoe and Cole, and at points it showed. The early part of the match lacked flow and was difficult to follow, with no real story being put into the match. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuiness did a good job on commentary putting over the idea of Briscoe's concussion and noting that Cole was delivering a number of blows to Briscoe's head, but with Briscoe not really selling the injury until later on in the match, audio didn't really match the images that were coming up on the screen. The most entertaining part of the match, for me, was when Briscoe launched into his “Redneck Kung-Fu” with numerous chops to Cole's head, and this is where the match really got going. With some well worked near falls, one off of a huge knee from Cole and the other off of Briscoe's Froggy-Bo, I was beginning to get into the contest, with Briscoe finally selling the head injury and beginning to look tired in the ring.
The finish saw referee Todd Sinclair check over Briscoe, for quite some time, holding Cole back, only for Cole to superkick Briscoe in the head and finish him off with his brother's finishing move, The Jay Driller for the pinfall victory and to advance to face Jay Lethal in the Quarter Finals of the tournament. I thought this was a very strong ending, that played off of the concussion angle well, as well as furthering momentum for Cole's heel turn. It was a shame that the earlier part of the match felt so disjointed from the rest of the bout, as the final couple of minutes were very strong. It made sense for Cole to go over here with Briscoe no longer under contract for the company, and to have Briscoe put Cole over gives him a ton of momentum in the tournament.
So, how far do I think Adam Cole can go in this tournament? Pretty far, I wouldn't be surprised to see him make at least the Semi Final stage. I would imagine that at some point during the tournament, we will see the pay-off and Cole will finally turn heel, supposedly with some help from Steve Corino who continues to be referenced as a “friend” of Adam Cole, and from last week's Inside Ring of Honor, we know that Corino is not completely gone from the company. Corino and Cole could make a good on screen duo, with Corino in more of an advisory role than we've seen him in before, but I can't help but thinking that it is way to close to the end of SCUM to bring back Corino on television. Personally, I'd rather see Cole go it alone for sometime, before revealing Corino as the mastermind of it all, maybe even having Cole turn on Corino to really put him over as a heel.
Best of the Rest (In The World)
Elsewhere on ROH TV, we got a confrontation between four of the wrestlers scheduled to take part in the World Championship Tournament. First out was tournament favourite Michael Elgin, who cut a decent promo about not wanting to have to the title handed to him, and not being scared of anyone in the tournament. This brought out former World Champion Kevin Steen, who had a few things to say to Elgin, about when Steen retained his title against Elgin at last October's Glory By Honor. Steen's charisma clashes nicely with Elgin's more serious delivery. Out next was Mike Bennett, accompanied by Maria Kanellis, with Bennett once again looking strong on the microphone, proclaiming himself the future of ROH, whilst the other two were the past. The whole Mike Bennett/Michael Bennett thing though is a bit silly. Last out was Tommaso Ciampa, who went head to head with each of the three men in the ring, before looking straight into the camera and declaring himself the next World Champion to close the segment. Ciampa's entry was refreshing after hearing so much talk from the other three, Ciampa's attitude certainly stands out. It was a good little segment, that was reminiscent of a WWE Raw or Smackdown opening that were common place a few years back.
Elgin, Steen and Ciampa would all have to be considered favourites in the tournament, due to the way they have been booked over the last two years or so. But the really interesting participant in this segment for me was Michael Bennett. Bennett has shuffled around the mid-card for ROH for the last few years, with a couple of World Television title shots, and being chosen to take on veterans like Lance Storm and Jerry Lynn, so this tournament could be used to reposition Bennett higher up the card, this segment was a good start let's see if ROH continue this way for Bennett. The tournament could be used to help a number of talents at the same time, Bennett being one of them, whilst giving new purpose to wrestlers like Roderick Strong.
In another World Championship First Round Match, Karl Anderson took on ACH. The bout was an exciting encounter, taking the form of a David vs. Goliath contest. With Anderson's using power moves and precision to keep ACH grounded throughout the opening part of the match, we were treated to a number of fast paced comebacks from ACH, with a plethora of highflying moves, including a great springboard to the outside. The match built up well with a number of near falls for ACH including one off of The Best 450 Ever, where it seemed like ACH might have pulled off the upset victory. But it wasn't enough for ACH, as after he went for another Best 450 Ever, but missed, Anderson capitalised with an Ace Crusher to pick up the pinfall victory and advance to the quarter finals, where he'll face either Michael Elgin or Paul London. I enjoyed the finish, it quick and pacy with a number of near falls to keep things interesting, with ACH looking competitive until the end. ACH is certainly one to watch in the next few years for Ring of Honor.
Matt Taven was also in action defending his title against Brian Fury. The match was essentially there to get the H.O.T over, with a lot of interference from the group throughout. Fury, at times, looked sloppy with a number of awkward looking moves, including a bridging pinfall attempt that went woefully wrong, which was a shame after Fury put in an impressive performance in the four way match last week. There were two nice false finishes, the first saw Truth Martini distracting the referee, giving Kaycee Ray the opportunity to hit a diving hurracanrana on Fury, with Taven following up with a Frog Splash for a near fall, the other saw Fury use the same move he used to finish Vinny Marseglia last week but to no avail. The finish actually saw Taven win cleanly after hitting Climax for the pinfall victory and to retain his World Television Championship. It was good to see Taven win clean here, as I've mentioned before the best heels are the ones that can win cleanly, but choose not to, therefore this win showing that Taven can win clean, can only be a good thing for the World Television Champion.
My final thoughts on this week's ROH TV.
1. Adam Cole vs. Mark Briscoe could have been a lot better than it was.
2. Michael Bennett is someone who could gain a lot in the ROH World Championship Tournament.
3. ACH is definitely someone to look out for within ROH and Independent wrestler.