Benno’s Review: ROH Summer Supercard from Toronto

Richard 'Benno' Benson reviews ROH's Summer Supercard from Toronto featuring a Ladder War with The Briscoes taking on The Guerrillas of Destiny and Matt Taven vs. Alex Shelley for the ROH title.

Benno’s Review: ROH Summer Supercard

With some assistance from CMLL, this was Ring Of Honor’s contribution to Summerslam week, and the lone card from Toronto to stream live on FITE this weekend. Taking place in front of a disappointing crowd with visible empty stands in what would traditionally be one of ROH’s hotbeds, the show started with a ten-bell salute to the late great Harley Race. Caprice Coleman and Ian Riccoboni are your commentary team.

Villain Enterprises (PCO and Brody King) vs. The Kingdom (TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia)

A match taking place in the slot likely reserved for the NWA Tag Titles before Nick Aldis and crew exited the promotion, this seemed to exist mainly to continue the feud between the Kingdom team and The Bouncers – Beer City Bruiser and Brian Milonas, who sat front row.

PCO took the heat before a Brody King hot tag that got a muted response from the crowd. The match picked up as it broke down, with PCO hitting an assisted Cannonball off the apron to both Kingdom members with a nasty landing on the floor. Brody would then hit the Gonzo Bomb followed up by a PCO moonsault to TK O’Ryan for the win. This was a fine if unspectacular opener. After the match, The Bouncers and The Kingdom brawled around ringside before being pulled apart.

Winners: Villain Enterprises (PCO and Brody King)

PJ Black vs. Marty Scurll

After Silas Young came out and cut an odd promo where he refused to wrestle PJ Black in the advertised match for reasons to do with believing their match would be later on the card and have been drinking – PJ Black suggested somebody come from the back, name-dropping Cheeseburger among others, to replace Young. Out came Marty Scurll to answer the challenge to a huge response.

The match itself was a lively affair, with a long PJ Black control period leading to Marty running through his Superkick and Tornado DDT spots to a big crowd reaction. Black came back with a Spanish Fly off the top and a Springboard Moonsault for near-falls, before Scurll blocked a second Moonsault, then breaking Black’s fingers, before eventually hitting the Black Plague for the win.

Marty is one of the few ROH wrestlers who comes across as a genuine star to this audience, so it’s odd to see his contribution to the card being limited to this unadvertised appearance. Black was simply the other guy in a solid enough match.

Winner: Marty Scurll

ROH Women’s Title: Kelly Klein (c) vs. Tasha Steelz

Tasha Steelz is a newcomer to the promotion who surprisingly qualified for this match in a Four Corner Survival Match on ROH TV. The ROH women’s division is in desperate need of new blood and a direction and while Tasha offered something fresh, the crowd were quiet for long stretches of this and seemed unfamiliar with her big spots.

Klein carries herself with poise as champion and has a good look and character, but doesn’t seem the finished article and needs more interesting challengers to breathe life into a dull title reign thus far. Klein got the win with a Death Valley Driver in a poor match, with Angelina Love attacking both women post-match and holding up the belt. Love seems unlikely to be the answer to reviving the struggling division going forward.

Winner: Kelly Klein

LifeBlood (Bandido and Mark Haskins) vs. Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham

The story in the build to this match has been the change in the character of Gresham to using more heelish antics to win matches and teasing of dissension with Lethal.

The match started with sweet science from Haskins and Gresham before some spectacular back and forth between Bandido and Lethal, leading to Lethal and Gresham taking control for the bulk of the first half of the match. The story of dissension between the two led to Gresham pushing Lethal off the apron and a number of other miscommunication issues, with a failed Cornette Cutter leading to Haskins and Bandido taking over with several near falls. Gresham and Lethal regrouped with some double team near falls of their own, before a double down led to a flurry of offense from Bandido and Haskins with Bandio countering the Lethal Injection to hit his X-Knee and 21 Plex. Haskins then put the Sharpshooter on Lethal as Bandido hit a Tope Con Giro to Gresham for the submission win.

From the double down onwards, this had a great finishing stretch that brought the crowd to life for it’s last few minutes. Haskins and Bandido looked great here and Gresham’s slow heel turn is one of the more interesting things happening in ROH at the moment. This teased that further without quite blowing it off yet.

Winners: LifeBlood (Bandido and Mark Haskins)

Before the scheduled Tracy Williams and Shane Taylor match could start, Flip Gordon attacked Williams with an Umbrella, continuing his association with Villain Enterprises. Williams was taken to the back.

Rush vs. Dalton Castle

Speaking of matches being cut, this feud began at Supercard of Honor where Rush beat Castle in less than 20 seconds, leading to Castle turning heel, turning on the boys and freshening up what had become a stale act after his lukewarm run as ROH champion.

This was a No DQ match that spilled into the crowd – an unfortunate production decision that just exposed the paltry amount of people in the upper stands of the arena. Rush went over strong in a brawl that was just fine, with the big spot in the match being a Castle running Powerslam on Rush into the front row, landing on a group of fans who looked to be local wrestlers. Rush would slam Castle into the barricades hitting a Powerbomb on the timekeeper’s table and several chair shots leading to the Bull Horns Seated Dropkick in the corner for the win.

Winner: Rush

ROH TV Title: Shane Taylor (c) vs. Tracy Williams

Tracy Williams came out holding his shoulder and demanded his scheduled match with Taylor. While both men have been quiet successes in ROH’s undercard this year, with Taylor especially having a solid run with the TV title after surprisingly being the man to take the belt from Jeff Cobb, the match itself largely took place in front of silence.

They worked hard though, with the story of the match being Williams struggling to hit offense on Taylor due to his injured shoulder but attempting to fight through with big near falls such as a Russian Leg Sweep off the 2nd. Taylor would respond with a Greetings from 216 Sit-Out Piledriver for the win against the run of play.

Winner: Shane Taylor

Carístico, Soberano Jr. and Stuka Jr. vs. Bárbaro Cavernario, Hechicero and Templario

This was a lot of fun and exactly what it needed to be, filled with nutty spots and dives that brought a quiet crowd to life, which while needed here, may have been better utilized at the top of the show.

Soberano particularly was the star of the match and looked fantastic throughout, reversing a Back Body Drop from Barbaro Cavernario into a Hurricanrana in the early stages and hitting a number of spectacular moves throughout the match, including a crazy Sobernao Twist in conjunction with a simultaneous “trust fall” style dive from Stuka Jr.

The match broke down as the debuting Barbaro Cavernario and Caristico went back and forth with near falls with Caristico hitting his Spanish Fly off the top and then a Fujiwara Armbar for the win for his team. This was given a significant amount of time to breathe and while there were one or two mistimed spots, it didn’t outstay it’s welcome and was overall a great addition to the card. With ROH’s relationship with New Japan seemingly in a grey area with New Japan now touring without ROH in the North East, the company could do worse than lean in further into their relationship with CMLL.

Winners: Carístico, Soberano Jr. and Stuka Jr.

ROH World Title Match: Matt Taven (c) vs. Alex Shelley

Fairly or unfairly, Matt Taven as ROH Champion has to be heavily associated with the current post-Elite downswing in both attendance and interest in the current Ring Of Honor product, with the longtime midcarder’s run at the top, seemingly not doing much to stem the tide of fan disinterest, if not actively making it worse.

Enter Alex Shelley and his “veterans card” a surprise re-addition to the roster, one of the world’s best sometimes-unheralded technical wrestlers, highly respected amongst his peers but never himself an ROH headliner, despite being teased as such as the leader of Generation Next in a much different Ring Of Honor many years ago.

With the Toronto crowd distracted by a sleeping fan in the front row, Shelley had to quite literally wake up both the sleeping member of the audience and the rest of the crowd, taking the fan’s shoe to use as a weapon against Taven and then high fiving said fan in an amusing spot. Unfortunately, while this and a Taven backdrop through a table countering a Shelley Sliced Bread distracted the crowd momentarily, the fan would continue to get more reaction than the wrestlers, except for fleeting moments where Shelley hit a number of Sliced Bread variations, gaining a near fall for one in the ring, leading to a near tap out with the Border City Stretch and a Crucifix rollup pin for an extremely believable near fall after a Taven Climax DDT. Taven would eventually recover and hit a second Climax DDT for the win.

This was a chance worth taking as while the match didn’t entirely land, Shelley is now established as a wrestler at the top of the card, who can be relied upon to cut strong promos and deliver strong matches, even in trying situations such as this. After the match, Taven cut a promo on the Toronto fans before being interrupted by Rush, setting up a future match between Taven and the undefeated Rush.

Winner: Matt Taven

Ladder War for the ROH World Tag Team Titles:

The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa)

With a feud that began in February this year, these teams have had several strong matches in Ring Of Honor, starting with their match at the G1 Supercard where the Bullet Club team won the ROH tag belts and a really good street fight at Manhattan Mayhem where the belts were switched back.

This continued that chemistry with a march filled with crazy spots fitting of the Ladder War name, if not quite on the level of some of the classic Ladder War matched. The violence got “This is awesome” chants early, as both teams used chairs, tables, and the guardrails, culminating in a step-up senton over the top rope from Mark Briscoe to Tanga Loa who was laid across a ladder.

The match was filled with blood, mainly from the head of Jay Briscoe, and crazy bumps, mainly from Mark Briscoe, who at one point hit a crazy Blockbuster through a table, took a rough-looking Powerbomb through a Ladder and hit a Splash through a table on the outside to Tama Tonga off a large ladder.

The match culminated with a Tama Tonga Gun Stun to Jay Briscoe off one ladder to another, before Jay Briscoe would win a dual at the top of the ladder with Tonga, via a headbutt, to grab and retain the ROH Tag Team titles. After the violence that came before it, this was something of a flat finish, but it was a strong match all in all, well worth watching the show for.

Winners: The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe)

Overall thoughts:

Though it is unlikely to change many opinions on the current ROH product and booking direction, this was overall a strong show, even with some weak points, in front of an unfortunately small crowd that was extremely quiet during large portions of the card. When it delivered, it did in spades though, notably the Haskins and Bandido vs Gresham and Lethal match and CMLL trios match, as well as the main event that in front of a larger crowd, in a promotion with more buzz, could have been the talk of Summerslam weekend.