Monday, July 25, 2022

ROH Death Before Dishonor Review: FTR-Briscoes Is a Five-Star Classic

This past weekend's Death Before Dishonor PPV was the first Ring of Honor show I've watched since probably 2011, and it did not disappoint.  At a lean three hours and seven matches, the main show was a breeze with nary a bad bout, numerous memorable, top-notch contests, and an all-time great tag team match as the main event.  This was one of the best shows of the year.

Shockingly things kicked off with the Jonathan Gresham-Claudio Castagnoli ROH Title match (which unfortunately resulted in some backstage unpleasantness as Gresham blew up at Tony Khan and requested his release, citing "lack of communication").  Claudio was greeted as a returning hero by the Lowell crowd, and these two had a very good opener, short though it was.  At 11-and-a-half minutes this wasn't long enough to reach truly great territory, but with this much in-ring talent even a brief encounter was going to deliver.  Gresham went after Claudio's knee early, which affected Claudio's power game and also prevented him from locking on a sharpshooter midway through.  It looked as though Gresham had negated Claudio's size advantage, but Claudio came back with Danielson-style hammer elbows before hitting his Ricola Bomb to win the match and his first-ever ROH World Championship.  Confetti fell from the ceiling as a teary-eyed Claudio celebrated his grand homecoming.  The two competitors shook hands before Gresham made his exit.  This was a really strong opener but needed five more minutes to get to the next level.  ****

Next up was the Six-Man Tag Championship, as Dalton Castle and his Boys challenged The Righteous.  This was for my money the weakest match on the show, but it was still alright.  The action was fast and furious, and the bout didn't overstay it's welcome at just under ten minutes.  The crowd was pretty subdued for this until Castle started launching his two partners over the ropes onto their opponents on the outside.  This went on for about a dozen reps and finally woke up the audience.  After some nearfalls, Castle hit his spinning faceplant finisher to win the titles.  Decent little buffer match between the two Blackpool Combat Club appearances.  ***

The Pure Championship was third, as Wheeler Yuta defended against Daniel Garcia, who as a premier "sports entertainer" vowed to take the Pure championship to Dynamite and destroy it on the air.  These two had a pretty fantastic fight, with loads of chain wrestling, some insane striking battles (Yuta had welts on his neck from Garcia's open-hand strikes), and surprisingly little use of the Pure rules.  William Regal on commentary said that if Yuta used the ropes to get out of a submission hold, the BCC would make him pay for it, as he should know how to counter any hold.  Each man used holds made famous by the other's mentor, which was a nice touch - Garcia used a Regal Stretch, Yuta put Garcia in the Walls of Jericho.  After a series of submissions and counters, Garcia had to use his first rope break, attempted Bryan Danielson's trapping stomps, but got rolled up by Yuta for an inescapable pinfall.  This was an excellent technical showcase.  ****1/2

A completely different but equally excellent bout was next as dueling brothers Rush and Dragon Lee faced off in a wild lucha contest.  The word is Rush requested this match as a way to give his younger brother a great showcase in front of Tony Khan, with the goal of getting him signed.  Wellsir, in terms of displaying Lee's ability, this match knocked it out of the park.  For two brothers having a friendly competition, these guys beat the bejesus out of each other.  They started out with civilized grappling but Rush quickly lost his temper and began using his killer instinct, hitting Lee with strikes, whipping him against the guardrails on the outside, kicking him in the face.  Lee gave it right back though, at one point setting Rush up on a table and hitting an insane tope through the ropes, breaking the table with Rush on it.  Rush hit his Bull's Horns corner dropkick but Lee kicked out.  Lee hit Rush with his running knee, but Rush kicked out, then faked being knocked loopy before hitting Lee with a second Bull's Horns for the win.  Incredible stuff from both guys.  ****1/2

The Women's Championship match, strong though it was, suffered a bit from being a few minutes too long and from the crowd being less than fully engaged.  Still Serena Deeb and Mercedes Martinez put on a really strong technical match that built to some intense high-impact offense.  It was a very back-and-forth match until Martinez hit a sick-looking spider suplex that dropped Deeb right on her head and shoulders.  That looked brutal.  Echoing Okada vs. Omega, Martinez then went for a diving forearm but Deeb collapsed to the mat.  Deeb made a comeback and applied the Serenity Lock, but Martinez made the ropes and finally locked in a dragon sleeper, getting the tapout win to retain the title.  In front of a more invested crowd and with a few minutes shaved off this match would be ****+, but on balance I'll give it ***3/4.

The semi-main event slot went to Samoa Joe vs. Jay Lethal for the TV Title, and these two went at it immediately, spending several minutes fighting on the outside before the bell.  Joe got the upper hand and was about to put Lethal through a table but Satnam Singh ran out to interfere, wrapping Joe's left arm in a chair and ramming him into the ring post.  Only then did Lethal toss Joe into the ring so the match could officially start.  Lethal started to go after the arm but Joe made a comeback, hitting several of his signature moves, such as the forearm dive to the outside, the snap powerslam and the corner STO.  Joe kept going for the Muscle Buster but Lethal kept escaping (once due to Sonjay Dutt interference).  Lethal hit his Lethal Injection finish but Joe kicked out, and Joe locked in the rear naked choke.  Lethal hit a jawbreaker and attempted a suplex but Joe pulled him back into the choke for the tapout.  Another very good bout.  ****

It was now time for the epic two-out-of-three falls match, as FTR defended the ROH Tag Titles against Mark and Jay Briscoe.  This went a spectacular 43 minutes and boasted incredible storytelling and rugged action from both teams.  At times I legitimately worried for Dax Harwood's safety, as he seemed to take a shoulder injury early in the match.  Perhaps that was just selling for sympathy though, as FTR were clearly positioned as the gallant babyface champions who always show up regardless of injuries.  The crowd was rather subdued during the first fall, likely due to the match structure.  The Briscoes took the first decision with a Doomsday Device that ended with Harwood landing right on his head.  Jeezus!  From there the crowd started to really get invested, as the Briscoes have a history of winning these matches in two straight falls.  Harwood played the babyface in peril for much of the second fall, selling his injured shoulder like crazy.  They teased numerous tags but the Briscoes kept cutting Harwood off or knocking Wheeler off the ring apron.  Finally after an intense striking battle Harwood fell backward into a tag, and Wheeler ran wild.  Jay Briscoe hit Wheeler with the ring bell, opening a cut on his forehead.  Harwood returned the favor by dropping Mark face-first on the ring steps, busting him open as well.  FTR evened the match with a Big Rig on Jay for a huge pop.  The third fall was rife with desperation, as both teams were banged up and swinging for the fences.  The Briscoes hit Dax with numerous moves targeting the head and shoulder, but Dax kept getting back up.  The Briscoes twice teased another Doomsday Device only for Wheeler to break it up.  FTR hit another Big Rig but Briscoe kicked out (after the referee who'd been briefly knocked out made a slow count).  Finally the Briscoes hit another Doomsday Device on Harwood (much safer looking this time), but Wheeler broke up the pin.  After some striking battles each Briscoe locked a camel clutch on an FTR member, and FTR grasped hands to prevent each other from tapping out.  The Briscoes went for a spike piledriver but Wheeler suplexed Mark off the second rope through a ringside table, shades of Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind.  Jay hit a Jay Driller on Dax for a two-count, but Dax came back with a second-rope piledriver to put away the third fall and the match.  Jesus that was incredible.  One of the all-time tag team bouts as well as one of the great 2/3 Falls matches.  I liked this better than the first FTR-Briscoes match.  *****

So yeah, at three hours this show flew by, boasted no fewer than five ****+ matches, and climaxed with an all-time great bout.  If DBD 2022 is any indication, Ring of Honor under Tony Khan's ownership is gonna be just fine (provided they get some kind of weekly TV deal).  Great, great show that felt like the great NXT TakeOver specials.

Best Match: FTR-Briscoes
Worst Match: The six-man, which was still fine.
What I'd Change: I'd have put Gresham-Claudio later in the show and given it a good 15 minutes, shortened the women's title match and maybe put Rush-Dragon Lee first.
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really disappointed
Most Pleasant Surprise: I can't say I was surprised by anything, this show lived up to my high expectations.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10

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