7/8 ROH in Richmond, VA: A full report on the show that featured a $5000 tag team challenge, an angry Shelton Benjamin, and the American Wolves reunite for the first time since Best in the World
By Chris Shore
Ring of Honor made its biannual southern swing over the weekend, coming to Richmond, Virginia on Friday, July 8 and Charlotte, NC the next night. Since I only live four hours from Richmond and 90 minutes from Charlotte, and I work for a generous site owner (thanks again Jason!), I was able to attend both shows.
My wife was able to attend the Richmond show with me on Friday night. As it was her first ROH show, I was very excited to see what ROH would offer and how she would react. Needless to say, even with a very mediocre show, my wife was very impressed and now says we should count her as a ROH fan.
Before we get to the show though, a word must be said about the weather. We arrived at the arena at 7:00 on the nose and dark doesn’t even to begin to describe the sky. We had a quick splash of rain as we parked and ran to the building. As soon as we hit the line, the rain stopped. It would start just after we entered the building and not stop again until sometime after I went to sleep at 3:00 am but before I woke at 8:00.
But not only did it rain, it poured. The last time I remember it raining that hard, and for that long, was when hurricane Hugo came through the area in 1989. The building even flooded under one door, though it was several feet away from the ring and seating area. The roof did leak on the third row, which was a reserved row and therefore cost more than the general admission seats that were dry. Hopefully ROH will reach levels where they don’t have to work venues that small and rickety anymore.
The show opened with Jim Cornette coming to the ring, which thrilled my wife who also traces her rasslin roots to the JCP days--where, incidentally, her favorite act was the Rock and Roll Express who had an epic feud with the Jim Cornette managed Midnight Express. Cornette did his usual good job of putting over the product and brought out Davey Richards for his interview.
Davey did a fair job, but who blew me away was Roderick Strong. Roddy has definitely been working on that part of his game, and my wife became an instant fan. Don't get me wrong, Roddy isn't big time worthy yet. But he would be the next person I had my eyes on if I was a betting man.
The opening match of Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly vs. Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander was of particular interest because Cole and O'Reilly usually set a good pace when they are in the opener, and because Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander are from right here in NC. And as I have mentioned in several places, Cedric is the champion of the independent group I have been chronicling, Pro Wrestling Evo. Also, my wife has never seen Caprice or Cedric either.
Cole and O'Reilly delivered what I expected, as did Cedric. Caprice was surprisingly slow and awkward in the ring. He did do his amazing top rope standing ranna, but that was all that was impressive. The last time I saw him in January he was crisp and tight. Not so much this night. In spite of that, it was still a fantastic opener that saw Cole and O'Reilly get the win and make my wife mark out for the first time that night.
The opener was also part of the tag team challenge where the winners would receive $5000 and become the number one contenders for the ROH World Tag Team Championships. Cole and O'Reilly advanced with their win to face The Bravados who scored a surprise win over the Briscoes when Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin ran out and caused a distraction. Benjamin also superkicked a chair into Jay Briscoe's face. The crowd was hot for the Briscoes, but I was hot for the Bravados vs. Cole and O'Reilly match this set up.
Mike Bennett was out next to face Kenny King. Bennett takes a lot of heat from the crowd for his wrestling skills, and he even got an "overrated" chant right off the bat. I used to think he was thin skinned about the comments, but after watching him in person tonight I think he's just playing to the fans because that's what they are giving him. I'm not sure that is a good idea, because he doesn't display a lot of flashy offense. I watched him closely both nights. He has great core skills, and sells like nobody's business. He just doesn't work the style that ROH fans demand, but that doesn't make him a bad wrestler. I think he'll make a big splash in front of a different set of fans someday.
The finish to the Bennett vs. King match was overbooked big time, though I understand why they did what they did. Cornette had announced that Chris Hero could not make the show due to travel issues, but that Rhett Titus--who Hero was supposed to face--would still be in a match. Bennett hooked the tights for the illegal victory, but Rhett ran out and said he saw Bennett pull the tights. That's nice and all, but the ref's back was to the entrance ramp and he couldn't see the tights being pulled, how the hell could Rhett? Still, it worked well enough to have the ref overturn the match and then book Titus vs. Bennett after Bennett beat him up for costing him the match.
The intermission main was WGTT vs. El Generico and Colt Cabana. I dig Cabana's act, but he just doesn't work well with guys who have no comedic skills…like Haas and Benjamin. The Briscoes ran out before things got started, but they were held back and then banned from the building. And color me surprised, but we never saw them again. This was a decent match that saw Haas and Benjamin retain their titles, but the match suffered greatly by the poor mixing of Cabana's style and Benjamin's terrible performance.
I call it terrible without reservation because Benjamin called it that. He was botchtastic all match, but the killer was his finisher with Haas where Haas holds the person on the rope and Benjamin jumps over his back. Shelton nearly decapitated Haas from behind, and had to hit Pay Dirt to put the finish on Generico. Benjamin had a bad night. It happens. I appreciate his willingness to grab a mic after the match and fall on his sword, but it was also unnecessary. We all have bad nights, and Benjamin's are rare.
But perhaps out of all that was the classiest moment I have ever seen at a wrestling event. After Shelton stormed to the back upset at himself--where according to sources he would just sit the rest of the night with a towel over his head, refusing to talk to anyone--Colt Cabana took the mic and immediately defused the situation by saying that as far as he was concerned, he and Generico were pretty good. And if they were that good, and WGTT beat them, the Shelton couldn't have sucked. A great cover.
After intermission--where we noticed the rain had slowed to "downpour" from the earlier "monsoon"--we were treated to the finals of the tag team challenge. Cole and O'Reilly and the Bravados put on the spot fest I was hoping for, and my wife sat opened mouth while Cole and O'Reilly won the match and became the number one contenders. That match--whenever it happens--should be awesome.
Rhett Titus and Mike Bennett were next. All the things I said about Bennett earlier apply here. He works very well. He just doesn't have that "ROH style." Titus won in a good, but not great match. And speaking of guys possibly moving on, Rhett Titus has been hitting the gym big time. Wow.
The main event was the American Wolves, teaming for the first time since they faced each other for the ROH championship, vs. The House of Truth team of Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin. Roddy is probably my favorite wrestler in ROH right now, insofar as I have favorites. It's more of a "the person who seems at the top of their game." Though I should add that Elgin may be quickly replacing his partner on that list. Elgin is a beast of a man, and exhibited by his Samoan/fall away slam combo on both Wolves.
The Wolves won the match after Davey hit his series of kicks like he used to end the match with Eddie. I still find that the worst finish in professional wrestling, but my wife found it cool, but worthy of a main event finish. I warned her about the hate mail, but she didn't listen. She was too busy crying over Roderick's chest, which after Eddie Edwards was done chopping it, looked like "a bad sunburn" according to the misses. I told her he had a cage match the next night in Charlotte and she almost passed out.
While it was not a great show, there were some very good moments, and it was good enough to impress my casual fan of a wife. The weather provided an interesting story, and back at the hotel…well, let's just say my wife and I haven't been in a hotel room since our honeymoon 14 years ago this October. How can I complain? The one thing that did bother me was no announcement of their next date in Richmond, but I'm sure they will be back. And hopefully, we will too.
Questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @the_shore_slant.
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