The last episode was about the ROH Tag Team Championship. This one? It’s for this.
Michael Elgin is taking on all comers, and he wanted the Golden Gauntlet match to take place. As a result, six men who have never been ROH World Champion have to go through each other to get to him, and they get an hour to sort it out.
I’m a huge fan of the past two “theme” episodes to set things up for later. No cheesy promos or five-move wonders … just go out, wrestle and see who’s the best. I can totally get used to this. I can also get used to Nigel McGuinness in the booth. He just seems so much more credible and intelligent than Steve Corino, who apparently is training for his match with Kevin Steen in the latter’s ROH farewell.
Anyway, no frills or gimmicks this week — just right into the Golden Gauntlet.
GOLDEN GAUNTLET for a future ROH World Championship shot
B.J. Whitmer (w/TaDarius Thomas & Adam Page) vs. Caprice Coleman
Obviously, these men are at a disadvantage for this event, and obviously there probably won’t be any huge risks — pace yourself, and hope the other man makes a mistake. McGuinness basically repeats this around the 1:45 mark. Chop exchange at about 2 minutes, and Whitmer goes with the thumb to the eye before and after the chops. Somebody tells Whitmer he sucks; Whitmer reminds that fan he’s No. 1. First cover at 3:15 after a Whitmer side suplex.
Now Whitmer calls somebody a bitch. I think he might be the heel in this one. ANOTHER thumb to the eye at 4:10, because why not? Now rest hold and spot-calling time, then Whitmer yanks Coleman’s head to the mat. Coleman’s just here to bump at this point. Slapfight at 5:30, which Whitmer wins with a knee to the gut. Whitmer with a basic scoop slam before the break.
Double clothesline when we come back. Frankly, the break on ROHwrestling.com was almost more entertaining. I know which GM vehicles will result in plenty of compensation when I get hit, and it was promo time with Christopher Daniels and Kazarian, who won a great tag match last week. Coleman hits what looks like a Million Dollar Dream into a legsweep into a choke, but Whitmer rolls him up. Then the heel strategy comes in. Thomas gets on the apron, and while Coleman goes for the Frankensteiner, Page takes advantage of the ref’s distraction by holding Whitmer to block the move. One lariat later, and Whitmer advances to a “You still suck!” chant.
ROHWrestling.com Time: 10:32
Technical Merit: Probably the slowest ROH match I’ve seen yet, but considering the situation, it made sense.
Artistic Impression: Heel does heel things and using his heel cronies to survive and advance. It’s as old as time, and it still works.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
B.J. WHITMER (w/TaDarius Thomas & Adam Page) vs. MATT TAVEN
Taven forces Whitmer out with a shot to the nose, which was injured during the Coleman match. Page tries to sneak up on Taven and eats a superkick, but that allows Whitmer to gain the advantage and toss him into the barricade. Whitmer’s using at least 4 1/2 of the available 5 count every time he’s in the ropes. Taven escapes a corner charge and hits an enziguiri and a superkick for 2. Both men block suplexes, and a nice powerslam by Whitmer for 2, followed by two fisherman suplexes. Never seen a man roll through and hit another one. Taven blocks the Rock Bottom attempt with an armdrag, then a roundhouse kick at break time.
We get back and Taven’s on the top rope. Whitmer ducks under, but Taven hits a springboard kick. He slips on the ropes, but hits the frog splash for the win.
Technical Merit: At this point, are superkicks just kicks? It kind of ruins things for me when a signature or finishing-type move is just a basic part of the offense and doesn’t even really do any damage. Besides that, not too bad. I’ll give Taven a pass for the slip.
Artistic Impression: Heel does heel things with heel cronies to try to win, but babyface wins anyway. Also as old as time, and it was OK in this quick setting. A bit bland, but OK.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
This is followed by possibly the greatest entrance music and best gimmick I’ve ever seen. Seriously, if I were a professional wrestler, I would want to be this guy.
MATT TAVEN vs. THE ROMANTIC TOUCH
We have high-fives and hugs, but Touch rolls him up for 2. Taven asks what’s up, Touch says it’s for the gold, and Taven declares he’ll never hug him again. “You’re right; I will.” So he does and ends up in a headlock, but wins the sequence with a head scissors. Deep armdrag at 1:35, and it looks like we’re down to wrestling now. Touch hits a back elbow from the second rope, a short dropkick and goes to the fists as Kevin Kelly and McGuinness discuss his body fat. Taven with a moonsault at 3 minutes, and after a bit of cat-and-mouse, he turns a side suplex into a sitout powerbomb for 2. Atomic drop and a belly-to-belly from Touch, and business starting to pick up. Stomp time for Touch, then kick time for Taven. Nice springboard 180 senton for 2. Taven goes for a springboard move again, but Touch catches him with a dropkick. Possible powerbomb blocked into a backslide attempt, but that’s blocked as well, but a kick to the head leads to The Climax and the win. Surprisingly, that’s not The Romantic Touch’s finisher.
Technical Merit: The pace quickened for this one, and the in-ring work improved. After the humorous opening, they made the most of the short time they had.
Artistic Impression: Absolutely hilarious, then a decent athletic contest. This is how I like my wrestling.
TOTAL SCORE: **
Business, my friends, is about to pick up. This is also my mark-out moment for the evening.
Naturally, we go to commercial.
MATT TAVEN vs. ROH World Television Champion JAY LETHAL (w/Truth Martini & Seleziya)
We join in progress, and Taven is in progress chopping the hell out of Lethal. Both men outside, and Lethal introduced to two barricades and a big boot. Scoop slam on the mat, and The Champ is introduced to a count greater than 10. Taven is introduced to a barricade, meaning they’ve managed to hit three sides. Just need to go opposite the hard camera to touch ’em all. Springboard dropkick from the corner from Taven, then a dive outside. Seleziya throws Lethal back in, then tries to distract Taven long enough for Truth to drop some knowledge on his head, but Taven ducks and throws manager and valet into each other. Truth sells like a champ, and Seleziya picks him up and carries him up the ramp. That’s just funny. Taven with a spinning neckbreaker with Lethal hanging on the ropes for 2?! I like it. Taven does his block and roll in the corner for the third straight match, but Lethal hits the step-up enziguiri. Lethal Combination, also known as the Reality Check, for 2, then Lethal grabs the TV belt … ? Odd decision. Superkick from Taven, then the head of security knocks Taven off the top rope. Clearly I need to watch more and get caught up on some storylines here. Lethal Injection follows, and Lethal’s into the final match.
Technical Merit: You can tell these guys have chemistry and beef. We got to see a bit of both in this one, though more outside the ring than in it.
Artistic Impression: This type of match seems congruent to their story, so it works.
TOTAL SCORE: **
ROH World Television Champion JAY LETHAL vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER
Alexander turns it up to 10 with the pace, but Lethal slows it down during commercial. Lethal rolls into the ring, but Alexander executes a sunset flip from the apron for 2. A Ric Flair-worthy chop from Lethal, which only stands to remind me of this:
Cedric has a great in-ring strategy — come out quick, use as many strikes and impact moves as possible, and hope Lethal just wears out. Unfortunately for him, Lethal brings him to a halt with a bodydrop onto the top rope. Jay dumps Cedric outside, then hits a dive through the ropes. The fans want it once more, and Lethal appears to oblige, but hits the brakes to boos. What he will do is beat up Alexander outside, break the count and continue the onslaught. Back in, up top, then the double axe handle. Lethal calls for Truth to no avail, but Lethal’s momentum isn’t stunted for now. He asks the fans if they want to see the double axe again as he goes up top … then steps down to boos. GREAT, simple heel work, then he tells a fan to shut his mouth. Meanwhile Alexander back kicks Lethal, then hits a tornado DDT to give both men a breather. Straight right fist from Alexander, and Lethal responds in time. They switch to chops, and Lethal moves to a midsection kick and DDT to precede the final commercial. Online, it’s not even a break.
We’re back, and Alexander blocks a boot and goes into a Full Nelson into a faceplant. Both men to the top, and Lethal blocks the superplex and hits the flying elbow for 2. Alexander hits a kick, Lethal misses 2, Alexander hits a superkick, Lethal matches, and Alexander hits a lariat but can’t follow up. Both up at 7, trade blows, both down. Lethal calls for Truth once more, but no dice. Alexander escapes the Lethal Combination by handspringing out, then thwarts the Lethal Injection attempt with a kick to the back. Dropkick in the corner, then another after Lethal blocks the brainbuster attempt. The second try is successful, then Alexander hits an absolutely sick finisher … a lift into a backstabber variation near the neck. That’s called the Lumbar Check, and it looks devastating as hell. Such a quick pace to finish a solid match, and Alexander gets Elgin in a world title match at a later date.
He gets the staredown now as we sign off.
Technical Merit: By far, the best and most unique match of the night. The battle to set the pace was entertaining, and Cedric is absolutely electric when he gets going. Probably a good thing he went last, because that would’ve been VERY difficult to follow.
Artistic Impression: Jay Lethal is an amazing heel, and he showed it in the finale. Alexander blocked Lethal’s two most effective moves to get the win. Both men were strong and had a great athletic match. That’s all we can ask.
TOTAL SCORE: ***
Next episode, we get this:
I’m excited. I’m already a fan of Kyle O’Reilly‘s work, and this will be my first exposure to Elgin. Come back later this week (hopefully it’ll be before Sunday) for a full review.
What did you think of the Golden Gauntlet? Comment below, or on Twitter @jpetrie18.