“I’VE MADE THIS WHAT IT IS!”
Going into their third week on national cable, this episode of Ring of Honor puts us on the eve of this Friday’s Best in the World pay-per-view. Headlining this episode is the Title-for-Title contract signing between RoH World Champion Jay Briscoe and RoH Television Champion Jay Lethal. But before we get to that, let’s get to everything else.
WAR MACHINE (HANSON & RAYMOND ROWE) vs. ADAM PAGE & COLBY CORINO (w/ BJ WHITMER)
This is more an extended angle instead of a match, continuing BJ Whitmer and Steve Corino’s long-running feud. Last week, Corino watched his son, Colby, get destroyed by Moose to prove his place in The Decade as its whipping boy. While this wasn’t as dramatic as last week’s installment, it still made for a decent segment. I’m curious to when Whitmer and Corino will come to blows, since they’ve been mighty prickly for more than a year now.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER vs. MOOSE
Before the match, Cedric cuts a promo about his fallen arc in the past year: he was consider a breakout star last year, but that hasn’t happened yet. Cedric says he needs a win. So, of course, he challenges the undefeated Moose.
This was a fine match between these guys. Moose is continuing to improve his in-ring work and Cedric makes you root for him as the underdog… that is until he cheats to defeat Moose and ends his streak! Veda Scott tries to get Moose to use a wrench to put down Cedric, but he refuses. Desperate for win, Cedric knocks Moose upside the head with it and picks up the victory.
The simple set-up for this does wonders for Alexander – enter as a sympathetic babyface, leave as a chickenshit heel. Good work! Now, maybe Cedric Alexander can hold my attention better as a heel.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & TETSUYA NAITO vs. MATT SYDAL & ACH
Now this match looks great on paper… and even better in motion. Two of RoH’s most athletic performers take on the John Cena and Dolph Ziggler of New Japan – Tanahashi & Naito, respectively. The chemistry, theatrics, histrionic, and high-spots all make for a fun RoH/NJPW crossover. Watching the Toronto crowd react to Takahashi & Naito with such enthusiasm makes, easily, the best match of this episode. Watch closely as Naito kinda-sorta figure out how to read the crowd. It’s amusing.
I want to make special mention of ACH. Even though he’s got the least experience among the four, he holds his own with Tanahashi & Naito several times over. ACH comes out of this looking like a star, which is the point of these NJPW/RoH crossovers. if you can hang with Tanahashi, then you’ve got a future in the biz, kid!
THE CONTRACT SIGNING
RoH World Champion Jay Briscoe and RoH TV Champion Jay Lethal close out this episode with the contract signing for their Best in the World encounter. You already know the tropes. Authority figure gathers both mean to the ring – check. Authority figure reinforces the importance of the match – check. Both competitors throw shade at each other – check. Stare down and/or fight ensues – check. The segment hits all of the requisite points, but the heat between both characters radiates through the screen.
Jay Briscoe hasn’t been pin or submitted in 2 years, holding the RoH World Championship for 285+ days now. Meanwhile, Jay Lethal has raised the prestige of the RoH TV Championship significantly by defending it 30+ times in 440+ days since winning the title at Supercard of Honor VIII (which I had the fortune to see firsthand). Not long after becoming TV Champion, Lethal would taunt that his TV Title means more the RoH World Title. Lethal has kept this narrative going for more than a year, which brings us to future Best in the World encounter.
The best villains always believe that they are right. This goes for any medium – pro wrestling, literature, film, television, video games, etc. Lethal ends the episode in a stare down with Briscoe. He proclaims “I’ve made this what it is! That belt has made you!” You could argue that the heel has a valid point. And feuds are much more interesting when the villain has something over the hero.
You’ve got my attention, Briscoe & Lethal. Now, all you’ve gotta do is deliver at the pay-per-view. I’ll be watching.