Ian and Caprice Coleman on commentary, from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.
Segment: JAY LETHAL SPEAKS
We open with Jay Lethal coming out in his street clothes and with his World Title belt. Ian hypes Death Before Dishonor, including the Bullet Club/CHAOS 10-Man Tag, Punishment Martinez vs Chris Sabin for the TV Title, Briscoes vs SCU for the Tag Titles, and asking who Lethal will be defending the World Title against.
Jay takes the mic. He says that he gets asked what match in his Ring of Honor history has been his favorite. He mentions Roderick Strong, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles (to a great pop), but that there is a new one to add to the list. But he says now his favorite match is his 30-minute Iron Man match from last week with Gresham – it reminded him what this company was built on, what he fell in love with in the audience at Ring of Honor. You just need two great wrestlers proving who the best is. “ROH” chant from the crowd. Jay says Gresham has earned a good friend. Jay says he wants to have more matches like that for the World Title, and so he says for the first time he is offering what he could call a “Lethal Challenge”, not only to the ROH locker room but to ANY locker room, ANY wrestler around the world – if you feel you’ve mastered your craft, “Boys, come and get it.”
Suddenly a video appears on the screen, which slowly reveals Will Ospreay! Will says that he is having one of those moments where he wonders if he doesnt have it anymore. Says “Hello Jay, remember me?” Will says he’s back, and wants to take ROH on his back, and the way to do that is to go through Jay. Will makes the challenge to Jay.
The package ends, and Jay says “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”, but he prefers “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Jay accepts – the main event for Death Before Dishonor will be JAY LETHAL vs WILL OSPREAY for the ROH World Title. A short but sweet promo spot for Lethal to set up the main event at the end of the month. Always impressed by how focused Jay can be on the mic, making each moment of the promo count and making it feel so honest.
And that takes us to…
Video: SO CAL UNCENSORED
Scorpio Sky speaks about how Punishment Martinez has now inserted himself into the issues between The Addiction and the Briscoes, and how Sky is thus glad to join in because nobody plays it better than SCU. Daniels agrees and we get a full team “SCU.” Eh. Keeps the story going with Martinez joining this feud, but a pretty meaningless segment overall. I love Sky, but I’m not yet getting enough specificity from him in terms of his POV – but his ring work will always keep me coming back.
Which takes us to BREAK (including a spot for the Chris Jericho Cruise!).
We’re back to…
Video: THE BRISCOES & PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ
All three are shouldering their straps as the Briscoes say they’re gonna show SCU how these East Coast boys get down. Another short and generic match hype promo for later tonight. Did what it needed to do.
Which takes us to…
Proving Ground Match
TASHA STEELZ vs Women of Honor Champion SUMIE SAKAI
Brandi Rhodes joins commentary for the match. Video clip during Sumie’s entrance of her defeating Madison Rayne in her last defense. Sumie extends her hand, but Tasha Steelz taunts Sumie before taking the hand, but ITS A TRAP and Tasha goes for the kick. Sumie catches the leg and starts laying into Tasha with some aggression. Nice evade from Tasha in the corner but Sumie is able to follow up and take her down with a dropkick. Both to the outside and Tasha throws Sumie hard into the guardrails, and follows up with a nice cannonball into Sumie, throws Sumie back in but only a 2 count. Tasha is looking good and dropped in. Chops from Sumie, back elbow (weird editing moment there though…) and a back suplex takes Tasha down. Sumie fires up the crowd, running clothesline and running knee take down Tasha and leads to a big Fisherman Neckbreaker for a 2 on Tasha. Sumie heads up top, great missile dropkick but only another 2. Sumie looks for Smash Mouth but Tasha reserves into a Stratusfaction-style bulldog for a nice 2 count on Sumie. Tasha talks trash and calls for the end, going for her finisher which Ian refers to as the Boricua Butterfly, but Sumie reverses into Smash Mouth for 3 and the WIN.
Sumie Sakai defeats Tasha Steelz with Smash Mouth for the pin
Jay’s Rating: 2.5/5
This was a fine and fun little match, a couple of missed moments but nothing that really got in the way. I might also be giving it a little extra quarter star or so because I got a really great initial feeling about Tasha Steelz on TV – she’s super grounded and carries herself well, and showed some real skill and urgency in the match. Would love to see her continue on as this division needs to build more – there’s some great foundational stuff but just needs more cool talent to start investing in, and Tasha could have some magic to her there.
Which takes us to the BREAK.
And we’re back to…
Video: BULLET CLUB (Marty, Cody, Bucks and Page)
Marty talks about the most popular groups in Japan with Bullet Club at the top, and asks who is at the very bottom. Cody turns to Matt and whispers in his ear, “CHAOS” (I love that moment!). Marty says CHAOS is indeed at the very bottom as Cody runs down the team, saying they are no match for the Bullet Club. A nice short simple little promo to hype the upcoming 10-man tag, did what it needed to do but elevated by the sheer personality of Scurll and Cody.
Segment: IAN INTERVIEWS WOMEN OF HONOR CHAMPION SUMIE SAKAI
Ian and Sumie are in the ring post-match for a big announcement. The Board of Directors has made the call as Sumie has been defending the title around the globe, that the Women of Honor Championship is now, officially, the Women of Honor WORLD Championship. Nice pop from the crowd. Ian asks if Sumie has a post-victory reaction. Sumie says she can speak English just broken English, and the crowd cheers her on. Sumie says she was training, wrestling and crying a lot here – this is her home. She is so happy here tonight. She wants to be the best champion, but wants to face one person in particular to prove that she is: Tenille Dashwood.
Tenille’s music hits and she comes out to the ring. Tenille says it sounds like Sumie is challenging her, and Tenille says to make it official for Death Before Dishonor. Tenille says she respects Sumie as the foundation of Women of Honor, and Sumie extends her hand. But Tenille says respect doesnt mean she wont take that championship, and they shake on it. And the match is official! Tenille Dashwood vs Sumie Sakai for the Women of Honor Championship. A nice segment, Sumie working really hard to pull of the promo in English and does SUPER well with a crowd in full support and respect of her. And a great official shift of the title into a World Title. Between the match and the segment, I’m hopeful about the continued investment in the division, I just think it could still be moving a little faster for my taste.
Video: KENNY KING
King says dont worry, he’s on this show too, and he’s here to fight. He says Page is a good looking dude but that doesnt matter because King is taking down Bullet Club one by one, and once he’s done with Page, he’s putting down a legend named Liger. Another short, does-its-job promo both hyping King/Page and King/Liger for the PPV, but this one again buoyed by King’s natural charisma.
Segment: IAN INTERVIEWS JONATHAN GRESHAM
Ian praises Gresham’s performance last week and asks whats next. Gresham says he heard Jay Lethal challenge the world, but gets interrupted by Bully Ray. “EC-Dub” chant breaks out in the 2300 Arena. Bully says Colts not here to defend Ian, and dares Ian to say to his face what Ian says about Bully on commentary, backing Ian up into the corner. Bully mocks Ian and orders him out of the ring, which Ian obliges. Gresham comes right up behind Bully though, showing no fear. Gresham says Bully interrupted the interview, so Bully is conducting the interview now. Bully asks if Gresham knows who he is. Of course he does, he’s Bully Ray, the guy who single-handedly sold out Madison Square Garden for this company. 16,000 showing up because of him, never because of a guy like Gresham. Bully says it reminds him of the old Piper’s Pit with Frankie Williams, where Piper was the star and Frankie was the jobber. Bully says its not disrespectful, its just true.
Bully says he knows these people, and if they loved you, they’d give a standing ovation (which of course brings a slew of the crowd to its feet with a “Gresham” chant… say what you will about Bully, but goddamn I love his mic and crowd work. Bully says if Gresham wants the mic, why doesnt he take it? Gresham does and thanks “Bubba”. Gresham says he’s not out here to fight Bubba, he knows he couldn’t go toe to toe in a fight with Bubba and win… but he knows he can win a match against Bubba. And he’s confident saying that because for 20 years he watched D-Von carry his ass through multiple matches (which gets a GREAT response). Bully does his quiet seething bit. Gresham says he stands by his challenge, and if Bubba wins, he will stand with honor and shake Bubba’s hand. But if Gresham beats Bubba, he wants the same in return. Bully accepts and calls for a ref, and WE HAVE A MATCH! Todd Sinclair comes to the ring and Bully calls him a moron and tells him to ring the bell.
JONATHAN GRESHAM vs BULLY RAY
And Bully starts right off with a low-blow and Sinclair calls for the DQ and its over just like that.
Jonathan Gresham defeats Bully Ray by DQ after a low-blow.
After the match Bully pushes down Sinclair and gets the chain. Bully gives Gresham a mocking handshake and says “well I guess youre the better wrestler” and proceeds to beat Gresham with the chain, but FLIP GORDON IS HERE and takes it to Bully, but Bully nails a boot to Gordon’s face. And now JAY LETHAL RUNS DOWN and we have a stand off! Lethal takes the fight to Bully with punches in the corner, but SILAS YOUNG comes down and hits Misery on Lethal! Bully is smiling ear to ear and goes to embrace Silas but Young pushes Bully off STRONG and walks away.
Jay’s Rating: Not Rated
GOOD SEGMENT ALL AROUND. Say what you will, but Bully is great at being a bully, and has a fantastic mix of heel heat and crowd respect, which is hard to pull off in our current wrestling moment. Gresham also NAILED his promo here, and further makes me convinced that he needs to be leading the charge at ROH and SOON. Jay is truly a master and his whole program with Gresham is only further establishing his greatness and priming the investment from the audience in the next generation. And I LOVE how the Young/Bully dynamic is developing… however, with Jay now in the picture alongside Gresham, I’m starting to become a little unclear about where Flip fits in this whole shebang moving forward, since the Gresham/Bully dynamic that was just introduced seems promising. Could be that its just a short program there and will shift back to Flip, but I’m unsure. Hoping that that have that one plotted out well so no one gets lost in the shuffle.
And that brings us to our next BREAK.
We are back backstage with Lethal and Gresham post fight, Lethal asks the cameraman if they are rolling, and hypes up Gresham, says he doesnt need Lethal’s help but that Lethal is just sick of Bully getting in peoples business, calls out Silas. Gresham says this isnt why he came to Ring of Honor, this stuff isnt what ROH was built on, what he grew up on, and Lethal says well lets settle this then. He calls for Lethal/Gresham vs Bully/Silas NEXT WEEK! Love that they are really building a story out of how Gresham’s style is CLASSIC Ring of Honor in the best ways. Great angle for him, as it allows him to be honest in his promos and ring work. Great creative decision-making.
Ian and Caprice recap the night, one focused on challenges and acceptances, and runs down the card for Death Before Dishonor.
Video Package: CHRIS SABIN VERSUS PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ FOR THE TV TITLE
We see Sabin earning the #1 contender spot, and Alex Shelley’s stepping away speech where he challenges Sabin to fulfill his own potential, which led to Martinez jumping both of them from behind. Sabin says Martinez is trying to play mindgames, but that all it tells Sabin is that Martinez is worried and insecure because he knows he’s never been in the ring with anyone like Chris Sabin. Sabin is confident that he is walking out with the championship. Decent segment, nothing special, but I would love to see Sabin steal the show here – whether he wins the strap or not, I’ve just loved him since the beginning and want to see him kill this singles match.
And we head to the ring for…
SO-CAL UNCENSORED vs THE BRISCOES & PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ
Chris Sabin has joined commentary. Chris is here to scout his opponent, Martinez makes his way to the ring. (God I really dig this entrance and music. Its simple and quiet, which for me makes him SO MUCH MORE SCARY especially with how fast Martinez can go in the ring). The Briscoes entrance brings us to BREAK.
And we’re back to the action starting off fast and furious right away! Mark and Sky and Martinez and Daniels are all at ringside, with Sky hitting a great knee on Mark as Jay whips Kaz to the ropes in the ring. Kaz reverses and Sky surprises Jay with another hard knee as Kaz takes out Martinez at ringside. “SCU” chants. Sky and Kaz double team on Jay looking GREAT. Kaz on Jay for a 1 count. Daniels tagged in for some great Addiction double teaming on Jay, and Daniels whips Jay hard into the corner. Daniels with a variation on an Angle Slam but Mark breaks it up as the action calms for a moment but keeps moving with Jay ultimately dumping Daniels outside, leading to Martinez hitting a HUGE chokeslam on the apron on Daniels.
Mark throws him back into to Jay who backs Daniels into his corner and tags Martinez. Martinez lays shots into Daniels and tags Mark in, who keeps the strikes going. Gorgeous suplex from Mark and sets up a ref distraction so he can choke out Daniels. Mark and Martinez double suplex on Daniels, Mark stays on him and keeps Daniels isolated. Jay in and they all take out Kaz and Sky and just DOMINATE Daniels in and out of the corner. Briscoes and Martinez in firm control. Crowd tries to hype up SCU but Martinez with a slam on Daniels for 2 which takes us to BREAK.
We’re back and Martinez is still controlling Daniels, but Daniels fights out, tries to take down Martinez but gets caught, Daniels reversal, Martinez back elbow but Daniels with a big blue thunder bomb, but he’s too tired to capitalize. Both crawl to their corners and Sky and Mark get tags, and Sky is fired up. GORGEOUS hurricanrana as Sky is zooming, Jay in to whip him to the ropes and ducks but Sky with an awesome double stomp to the back, out to the apron just to come back in with a slingshot twisting cutter to Mark for a cool 2 count. SKY IS TALENT. Enziguri to Mark but Jay hits a fantastic Spicolli Driver on Sky coming off of the ropes and Martinez with a nice Silencer on Sky, followed by Mark with a cover for 2! Gang up on Sky but Sky breaks it, the teams exchange spots leaving Sky and Mark still in it, Kaz blind tags and hits a unique double team DDT on Mark, Kaz getting a 2 count on Mark.
Kaz and Daniels double team Mark and hits a tope through the corner to Jay. Kaz with the inside out cutter on Mark but Martinez breaks it up and takes control of the ring. Stomps to Kaz and the ref tries to get in between them, Jay tries to hit Kaz but Kaz ducks and Jay HITS THE REF. Kaz on Jay but Martinez throws the chair into Kaz, spin kick to Daniels and a HUGE chair shot to Sky. The ref is out and the Briscoes and Martinez are dominating with chairs and Martinez makes to put Daniels off the apron through a table but Sabin leaves the booth and gets in the way! Sabin throws a shoe at Martinez and they brawl up the ramp! Jay in the ring and sets up Sky for a Jay Driller but blocked, huge knee and takes Jay outside. The Addiction in with Mark and they hit the BEST MELTZER EVER as Todd Sinclair runs down and makes the count as SCU gets the WIN!
SCU defeats The Briscoes & Punishment Martinez by pinfall after the Best Meltzer Ever
Jay’s Rating: 3.5/5
A fun sprint of a match but that knew when and how to slow it down without losing momentum, a testament to the in-ring storytelling abilities of every single person in this match. Started fast, knew when to cool, build, cool, etc in a way that made the match a really nice ride. Got a little worried about the ref bump there, especially when Sabin interjected himself, because while I understand the story value of keeping SCU and the Briscoes having difficulty scoring the definitive win (which is where I predicted it was going), we’ve seen it before SO MANY TIMES. Which is why I was more than pleasantly surprised by how Sabin instead served to take Martinez out of the match, allowing SCU to score a great and definitive pin on the Briscoes leading into the PPV. It was smart 2018 booking for a ref bump, in a match that allowed everyone to shine and create more buzz for this Tag Title match and also building onto the TV title match. While not quite hitting a 4 star mark for me overall, this match was enjoyable as hell and juggled a lot of different aspects of two stories with care. Kudos all around – it makes me that much more excited for the Tag Title match in particular.
With seconds remaining Ian hypes next week featuring Kenny King vs Adam Page, Silas Young/Bully Ray vs Jay Lethal/Jonathan Gresham, and Top Prospects (which means I smell a Jeff Cobb demolition derby…).
Another solid episode of Ring of Honor, though it got a little talky for my taste, since a lot of the talking was sort of simply “functional” rather than adding anything new to the table, with the notable exception of the Gresham/Bully/Lethal/Silas/Flip segment which pushed a few things forward there. This was a ground-covering episode in a way, sort of laying out the land going into Death Before Dishonor, which is fine, and makes sense in terms of the build, but also gave a little staleness to the episode for me. However, Tasha Steelz got a nice feature against Sumie Sakai, and they knew at least that they had to stick the landing of the episode and they did with a thoroughly well-done 6-man tag to close us out. Credit where its due, they got me looking forward to the tag match next week and Death Before Dishonor, so while a little workman-like as an episode in my opinion, it did its job well.