Ian, Caprice and Colt on commentary.
We get the opening video and then…
KAZARIAN vs MARK BRISCOE
OH GOD Kaz and Mark are slugging it out right off the bat! Mark gets the advantage with several shots on Kaz and a big elbow drop. Mark whips Kaz to the corner but Kaz catches him coming with a sunset flip for a 2. Kaz looks to keep momentum, hitting a gorgeous hip toss neck breaker for another 2 – love Kaz working to win definitively, especially given the disqualifications that have become common in this Briscoe/SCU feud. Kaz with a HUGE forearm. Kaz puts Mark on the apron and hits a guillotine leg drop with Mark over the middle rope, following that up with an over the top dive into a hurricanrana on the floor. Mark turns it around outside and throws a chair into the ring and gets back in. Ref removes the chair and Mark uses the opportunity to low blow Kaz using the middle rope as Kaz was getting back in. Classic Mark with the blockbuster off the apron to the floor. Mark with a chop and a punch, Kaz fights back, they trade, but Mark dumps Kaz back first on the apron. Back in the ring and Mark squashes Kaz in the corner and stomps the mudhole, keeping the pressure on. Kaz turns the tide, incredible flip over Mark’s back into a backstabber INTO A “FRONTSTABBER” (credit to Colt Cabana), and Kaz is just stupid athletic. Classic Kaz with Back to the Future for another nice 2 count that takes us to the BREAK. We are back and Jay Briscoe has come down to ringside with the title belt, distracts Kaz which allows Mark a rollup with the tights, but only a 2 count. Mark stays on Kaz, but Kaz finds a moment to take down Jay at ringside. Mark regains the advantage and goes for Froggy Bow, but Kaz shifts out of the way so he can cleanly turn Mark over into a crucifix pin for the WIN.
Kazarian defeats Mark Briscoe with a crucifix pin
Jay’s Rating: 2.75/5
By the numbers to me in some ways with both wrestlers doing what they do best, but when those wrestlers are Kaz and Mark Briscoe it works – they just know how to tell a story together, and the feud between their teams brought good intensity to the match. Good action, each of them locked in and going for their goal from the very first second of the match. The story between SCU and the Briscoes advances, with Punishment Martinez taking on a bigger role in the feud given Sky’s inserting himself into the Sabin/Martinez situation and Martinez looking for payback.
After the match Jay beats down Kaz, which of course means the rest of SCU comes down to fight back the Briscoes. PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ hits the ring and starts helping the Briscoes beat down SCU, as Ian suggests its payback for Scorpio Sky saving Chris Sabin from Martinez earlier. Ian notes recent teaming between the Briscoes and Martinez as Jay hits the Jay Driller on Sky. The bell has been ringing the whole time but the bell cant stop Martinez from sending Daniels down with South of Heaven, which takes us to…
VIDEO PACKAGE hyping Gresham/Lethal in a 30 minute Iron Man Match for the Ring of Honor Championship tonight, in Gresham’s hometown. Lethal is looking to further prove that he is the greatest wrestler in the world. This is their 3rd outing, and there is a big match potential feel surrounding it if these two can lock in and do what they do best.
Ian and the team recaps the Bucks and Cody’s conspiracy-laden win over The Kingdom for the 6-Man Titles, Punishment curb-stomping Chris Sabin onto a chair, and Jeff Cobb just causing mass destruction as he is wont to do. Colt officially welcomes Cobb to Ring of Honor. Ian then introduces highlights from a 3-way tag match between The Dawgs, Cheeseburger and Ryan Nova and The Bouncers. Ian throws special focus to the feud between former partners Cheeseburger and Will Ferrara of The Dawgs, as we go to…
Highlights: THE DAWGS vs CHEESEBURGER & RYAN NOVA vs THE BOUNCERS
Joining post-match with Will Ferrara sneaking up behind Cheeseburger for the beatdown. Ian talks about the year-long rivalry that has erupted between these two as Will looks to steal Cheeseburger’s patented Shotei. Will hits the ropes, but Cheeseburger catches him with shots coming in, catches Titus too coming in, but Ferrara is able to take advantage and put Cheeseburger down. Titus holds Cheeseburger and forces him to watch Ferrara hit Nova with a nice Shotei right under the chin. Ferrara teases the Shotei to Burger, but Burger spits right in the face of Ferrara for a nice pop. Ferrara fires up and hits a Shotei to Burger who is still held by Titus. The Dawgs stand tall, though Ian notes that The Bouncers took the win.
The Bouncers defeat The Dawgs and Cheeseburger & Ryan Nova
Jay’s Rating: NO RATING
No match to rate here. Post match did what it needed to do, and I liked how personal they are letting it get with the spit moment and Ferrara showing some gut aggressiveness. Decent storytelling here.
And we go to BREAK.
We’re back to clips of the current build of the Bully Ray/Silas Young storyline, beginning with Bully and Silas locking eyes after Silas lost to Flip Gordon (and Bully Ray then sneaking in for a low blow on Flip of course) and then leading to last week’s tag match where Bully walked out on partner Silas and looking to wake Silas up with tough love, allowing the Best Friends to score the pin on Silas. We get a glimpse of Silas confronting Bully, including putting hands on Bully to make sure he’s looking at him while he’s talking to him… I’m digging the build here and think these two could have a phenomenal program together if done right.
And now, the main event…
ROH World Championship – 30-Minute Iron Man Match
JONATHAN GRESHAM vs JAY LETHAL (Champion)
Gresham out first in a robe reading “Master of the Craft”, followed by Jay to what I think might have been a bigger initial pop than the hometowner Gresham got. The announcers put over the past matches of Jay and Jonathan, their equivalence of ability, and then of course Jay himself. Between how he holds himself and how the crowd eats him up, he really is the franchise player of ROH (I know, this is nothing new, I just adore seeing a performer so grounded in their role and place within the company – Jay wears his champion confidence seamlessly. Jay feels pumped for this one. We get the intros from Bobby Cruise, nice pops for both and we go to BREAK. We’re back to Jay and Jonathan adhering to the Code of Honor, and…
We have the bell and the countdown has begun. Gresham and Jay start slow, feeling each other out, waist locks and arm wringers, both of them jockeying for position, Gresham behind Jay, Jay back to a wrist lock, it gets to the ropes and they break. Starting by showing how evenly matched they are, this feels smart. Gresham behind again, Jay backs him into the corner, they break and tempers start to spark. They feel each other out again with Gresham taking the arm, Jay flipping out of it, and working Gresham down by the arm. Jay showing great control of the wrist and arm, Gresham tries to get out of it but Jay follows up again and again until Gresham finally takes the ankle, beautiful roll into a headlock and they trade ring work again, Lethal taking the lead with a headlock. Gresham with a clean cartwheel to escape and is on Jay, but Jay uses the size to toss Gresham over his head. They take a breath and then meet in the middle again, still feeling out (I agree, Colt!), they trade holds again and Gresham snags a hammerlock of sorts before being backed into the corner, and Jay is showing some frustration as we go to BREAK.
We’re back and Jay takes down Gresham with a tackle and leads into his signature hiptoss dropkick combo, snaps it off for just a 1 count. The team talks about Jay looking to pick up the pace, as Jay slams Gresham for another 1. Gresham with a chop that miiiiiight have been a little high to the neck, which I only note because Jay then takes a swipe right to the face or neck of Gresham and I think legitimately connected with it, but it also felt a bit intentional to the point where even the crowd had a bit of a “WTF” reaction to it. Jay then puts Gresham into the corner and lays a HUGE chop into him followed by a back suplex for 2. The aggression starts to build here, with Jay firing up Gresham with boots to the face. Gresham with a chop, Jay with a BIGGER chop and goes for another suplex, but Gresham is able to flip out of it (though something got a little muddy on the landing and follow up) and take control with a chop, Jay with an open hand one in reply and a great snap suplex, leg hook but Gresham bridges out on his head to keep it at 2. Jay with a Euro uppercut, and Jay is feeling his control as he lays in another. Gresham fighting scrappy from underneath but Jay just tosses him with a snap suplex for another 2. Jay with a sleeper on Gresham on the ground, but Gresham takes control of the hand to escape and lays in another chop. Jay asks for more, Gresham obliges, but Jay is absorbing each one. Playing the size and strength difference here. One more from Gresham that went high, but Jay drills him with a knee to stop the chain. Jay puts Gresham in the corner for another chop and a boot, whips Gresham opposite, Gresham with a beautiful rolling escape, kick to the wrist setting Jay up for a nicely executed headscissors-style tilt-a-whirl into a face buster, planting Jay down. And we go to another BREAK.
We’re back and they are trading shots on the outside as Gresham focuses on Jay’s arm. Gresham breaks the count and DRIVES the elbow and shoulder into the apron, continuing to work on the arm on the outside. Gresham working aggressively on the arm, and breaks the count to continue the work outside. Jay gets back into the ring and Gresham takes control of the leg, rolls that down to work the arm down for a pin, a 2 count and then continuing the arm work. Gresham ties and rolls him up for 2, then catches Jay in an armdrag, stepover into a hammerlock, then pulling the other arm back in a way that would make ZSJ proud. Then drops back on it in a way that would make ZSJ prouder. And then pulls the leg back, and then pulls THAT back to get Jay’s shoulders down for a 2 count before Jay forces his way out – holy crap that was cool and step by step and would stand up to any singular piece of ZSJ magic and for me thats saying something because I am a GIANT ZSJ fan. Gresham continues on the arm but Jay lights him up with a big chop. Back and forth continues the “move for move” approach to this match. They trade chops while Gresham maintains wrist control – Jay keeps trying to free his arm but Gresham won’t let go. A flurry of chops back and forth starts pulling the crowd in before Gresham goes back to the arm again to slow Jay down. Gresham calls for a lariat but Jay goes for the Lethal Combination, hits the backbreaker but Gresham reverses the 2nd part into a backslide but cant even get 1 as Jay rolls through it, another Lethal Combination attempt but Gresham cuts it off again with a school boy rollup for 2. Kick and enziguri from Jay and both are down as we head into BREAK.
We come back to them hitting the ropes, Gresham goes through Jay’s legs and nails a picture perfect springboard standing moonsault taking Jay down. Tied at 0 with about 13 minutes to go on the time limit. Jay escapes to the outside, Gresham runs the ropes as Jay gets to the apron but Gresham takes out the knee to put Jay back on the floor, runs the ropes again but Jay slides in as Gresham goes to the apron, Jay with a triangle dropkick out of the corner to Gresham’s face and Gresham is on the floor, Jay hits ONE suicide dive, but doesnt continue for the trifecta instead throwing Gresham in and climbing the top. Jay calls for Hail to the King, countered by Gresham but Jay takes leg control and goes for the Figure Four, Gresham counters AGAIN pushing Jay off, but Jay finally connects with the Lethal Combination. 2 count on Gresham, whose exhaustion is starting to show with the kickout. Chop to Gresham on the ropes but Gresham snatches the arm to turn into a stunner-style jawbreaker rocking Jay before Gresham hits a rolling axe-handle-style chop to the head, go behind and uses that low center of gravity and core strength for lift Jay into a great deadlift German with a low bridge reminiscent of Mayu Iwatani but Jay kicks out again! Gresham is getting a showcase here with Jay, they’ve really invested in the hold for hold and even-matching here and both Jay and Gresham are stepping up as we are down to 5 minutes left and still tied at 0! Gresham calls for a lariat again and hits the ropes Jay goes for a pump kick counter but Gresham holds on, Jay comes in but Gresham bounces him off the ropes into a low snap German hits the ropes and puts momentum behind a BIG forearm to Jay for a 2 count, Gresham snatches the arm on the kick out and goes for the jujigatame but Jay uses rolls it into a pin for 2. Jay looks for the Figure Four, Gresham counters, Jay counters back with a superkick and looks for the Lethal Injection but Gresham catches him with a kick to the arm during the handstand, another tilt-a-whirl facebuster from Gresham, back to the arm and into the Octopus submission from Gresham while beating down Jay in the face AND JAY LETHAL TAPS!!! ONE FALL FOR GRESHAM WITH 3:30 LEFT! The announcers say that if this was a normal match Gresham would be champ right now, but its not its Iron Man and Jay is fired up and already back on Gresham in the corner with the beat down. Gresham tries to push Jay off and is able to get behind Lethal for a rollup but Jay counters AGAIN and almost locks in the Figure Four but Gresham tries to hold off Jay’s locking leg, Jay fights back and locks it in as Gresham flails! Jay pulls him center and pulls back, Gresham shoulders down for 2 but he fights up only to get chopped back for another 2, kickout and chop back for 2, kickout and Jay kicks him down for two and keeps the Figure Four on for another 2 and Gresham WON’T STAY DOWN. The crowd is getting fired up with 2 MINUTES REMAINING. Gresham is trying to turn, Jay uses the size advantage to keep the pressure on. 90 seconds! Jay keeps it on and GRESHAM TAPS! We are tied for 1 with the final minute counting down! Both men are feeling the 29 minutes. Gresham uses Todd Sinclair to pull himself back up but Jay grabs the arm goes for a chop but Gresham ducks and snags quick pin after quick pin after quick pin for 2, Gresham wants the win, but Jay gets a package as well for 2 as the BELL RINGS AND TIME EXPIRES WITH A TIE, and Bobby Cruise declares the match a DRAW.
The crowd boos the decision, and Gresham calls for the mic. Gresham says there is no way he is coming this far after 14 years, starting right there in Georgia, and letting Jay leave on a draw. He says if Jay is the champion he believes him to be, he will give Gresham 5 more minutes. The crowd starts chanting in support, strong “YES” chants. Jay takes the mic and simply says… “START THE CLOCK”. God Lethal is amazing – he just knows how to hit the moment. Todd makes it official, Bobby Cruise makes the announcement and…
We have the bell for 5 MORE MINUTES, with sudden death rules. Jay and Gresham go right for each other trading blows, lots of fire from both and they get into a fantastic sequence, Jay takes Gresham down but Gresham with a handspring to his feet and an enziguri to Jay, Jay is staggered, Gresham goes for the waistlock but Jay counters and Gresham counters back, back and forth, but Gresham takes the advantage back to the arm of Jay, modified Majistral cradle stepped into a bridge for a CLOSE 2. 4 MINUTES. Gresham looking for an Octopus again, Jay though with the torture rack as the crowd trades Jay and Gresham chants. Jay with a gorgeous forward roll into an inverted rolling Samoan Drop. Jay heads to the top, looking for the elbow and hits Hail to the King, but Gresham barely gets the shoulder up. Jay goes for a bomb but Gresham counters into a rollup which Jay counters and Gresham counters back and Jay counters back and gets a 2 count with 2 minutes left! Gresham on Jay’s back with a sleeper but cant quite get it locked, Jay backs him into the corner but Gresham goes right back to it, but Jay converts it into a nice cutter, calls for and nails a SPECTACULAR Lethal Injection for the pin and the WIN!
Jay Lethal (Champion) retains over Jonathan Gresham (2 falls to 1) with a pin after the Lethal Injection in Sudden Death overtime.
Jay’s Rating: 4/5
This was an outstanding outing by one of the best in the world period in Jay Lethal and a guy I want to watch more and more closely every single time I see him in Jonathan Gresham. So much is made of Gresham’s ground work, which was on display here, but his speed and agility are also insane and meshes so well with Jay’s speed and focus. This was back and forth from top to bottom with both guys showing drive and urgency, while also starting slow and building dramatic momentum throughout. With Gresham not only getting the first fall on Jay, but by submission to boot, one can only hope that Gresham is given more of a platform in Ring of Honor – I feel like his style makes SO MUCH SENSE in ROH, his size could be used for some great storytelling with some of the larger stars on the roster and he can hang with damn near anyone, which he showed here in going toe to toe with Jay. I dont know that I ever felt Gresham was going to win, and yet they were able to tell a great in-ring story so he could still feel legitimately threatening to Jay’s World Title. And I dont blame the performers for that as much as Gresham appearing sporadically enough to keep me from fully investing in his story within the larger company. Give this guy a more full-time spot STAT.
Jay celebrates after the bell as we run out of time and Ian takes us out.
This was a pretty solid episode of ROH TV overall, which sometimes can be a little hit or miss. I think they were smart to open with Kaz/Mark who could deliver fast and strong to get us tuned in for the night and building on a strong feud between Briscoes and SCU, then continuing a story with year-long investment for Cheeseburger and Ferrara with both of them getting more and more personal about it, so that when the Iron Man match arrived they had already nurtured some electricity from both the crowd and the TV audience. It was thoughtful formatting that built the atmosphere while putting primary focus on the Iron Man main event, which delivered and then some. If this was my first introduction to Ring of Honor, I’d want to see more, and that’s one of my big benchmarks for any episodic storytelling – each episode should make me want to keep watching. And this episode did. A particular hats off to Gresham – Ring of Honor feels like a perfect fit for him, and I hope they invest further in him. Honestly, the possibility of Gresham/Cobb down the road has me salivating at the potential…