It would be so easy for Ring of Honor to be spinning its wheels as of late. With four weeks until their next major pay per view, it would make sense for this to be a period in those mass tapings for wrestlers to be put into more multi-man tags or perhaps in random exhibition matches. Yet even when ROH does multi-man tags and ROH Dojo matches, it always means something; that makes the entire show feel important. Even AEW started to feel a bit more loose after learning they would have to push back Revolution one or two weeks, and don’t even get me started on New Japan. AEW is my #1 promotion and even my #1A, Dragon Gate, hasn’t been televising shows for over two weeks. I say this because the next two weeks of ROH television are absolutely gargantuan.
By this time next week, Shane Taylor could potentially be a double champion, and all of it will have been on free TV. A grudge match between Bateman and Mike Bennett; a tag team match with championship implications between The Briscoes and Kenny King and Dragon Lee; a Six-Man Tag Team Championship match between Shane Taylor Promotions and the Mexisquad; and an ROH World Championship match between Shane Taylor and Rush. I don’t really feel as though I need to hype this up any further…I really just want to watch this show.
The Briscoes vs. Kenny King and Dragon Lee
Before the match, Quinn McKay explicitly stated that whichever team wins this match will definitely be getting an ROH World Tag Team Championship shot on next week’s “Championship Edition” of ROH TV. I can understand why some people may feel a bit tired of The Briscoes as a team at this point, because they have literally been in ROH for twenty years and never really left for an extended period (if they did, I am not aware of it). I don’t feel that way whatsoever; I am never not entertained by both Mark and Jay in and out of the ring as characters and performers. And if you don’t like Dragon Lee, there is literally something wrong with you. I have a hard time imagining an outcome where this match doesn’t deliver.
After a period of divergence between the Briscoes due to Jay losing focus on the tag team division in order to remedy the situation with EC3, the brothers seem to be back on the same page in terms of their collective goals. Faccion de Ingobernables, on the other hand, have been on the same page for quite some time and that leads me to believe they may have the upper hand in this match, regardless of the length of time the Briscoes have actually been teaming together. Even veterans may have a bit of ring rust.
Unsurprisingly, this match is extremely physical. One of the great things about Dragon Lee is that he is not just an extraordinary athlete that can perform incredible physical feats. He absolutely does not play when it comes to striking, and when one is paired up with Mark and Jay, striking is pretty important. Speaking of physical, there are few physical performers more distinct and consistent than Mark Briscoe; he has quietly become one of my absolute favorite wrestlers in the world. The amount of insanity he is able to convey through both his character and his physical work is wildly entertaining. Now, that may be because he IS actually insane, but it works—and he does it all in a back brace.
After Mark and Jay felt as though they may be making their way to the final stretches, Flip Gordon sprints down to ringside, blindsides Mark and allows Kenny King to get the pin on Jay. After ALL that, EC3 makes his return to pay his respects to Jay Briscoe and reignites the rivalry that was meant to culminate in a match at Final Battle. He essentially implies that he was the one to bribe ‘The Mercenary’ Flip Gordon and states things like money, power and fame do not equate to honor. Jay Briscoe has never cared about such things so EC3 has respect for that. While I thought the drama between the Briscoes themselves may have been squashed after reaffirming their focus on the tag team division, this may tear them apart even further.
Mike Bennett vs. Bateman
The feud between The Righteous and OGK has been going on even before Ring of Honor’s return to the ring. The only true blood feud in the company has never felt like it has gone cold. given the physicality and injection of different individuals throughout the story. It has been a slow burn, but it doesn’t feel drawn out. One of the advantages of a one-hour television show is that you cannot possibly showcase everyone on a weekly basis. That allows characters and story lines to breathe. Ultimately, I find it to be a net positive.
I really appreciate what Ian Riccaboni did on commentary as Bateman was making his way down the ring: he stated that Katsuyori Shibata (maybe the hardest man on the planet) stated Bateman was far too dangerous to have around the LA Dojo and he came to that conclusion after some of his appearances on New Japan Strong. Whether Shibata actually commented on Bateman or not doesn’t really matter, but it does genuinely make Bateman feel a bit more dangerous. When the man that head-butted another man so hard that it made his own brain bleed tells someone you are dangerous, that person is probably going to listen.
That being said, Bennett comes off as the more dangerous party at the start of this match. Bennett is obviously still a bit perturbed that Bateman attempted to hobble him at Final Battle, so he comes out guns blazing. I have said it before, but Bennett has been so incredible in every promotion he has found himself in since leaving WWE. It is beautiful to see a person find themselves once again, and in all reality, it didn’t seem to take Bennett much time to do that.
Bennett did, however, lose the control he had over this match and, as expected, Bateman begins using his surroundings to take Bennett apart piece by piece. Bennett is a professional wrestler, so once the fight makes its way back into the environment of an actual wrestler, things begin to even out. Bateman may be able to cheat and manipulate his way to victory, but Bennett is just as physical as Bateman when forced into an actual wrestling match.
Bennett gets the win after a sit-out piledriver and Matt Taven immediately comes into the ring to continue beating down Bateman. Surprisingly, Taven brings the same equipment into the ring used to hobble Bennett so many weeks ago and threatens to use it if Vincent doesn’t accept the final challenge for a match. Vincent responds by telling Taven that too many people have told him yes over the years, so Vincent’s answer is no. Taven is not a man of empty promises, so HE HOBBLES BATEMAN! I was totally blown away by that and it made me love OGK so much more. Good guys don’t always need to do good guy stuff… sometimes, you want to see a bit of cold-blooded revenge. The hottest angle in ROH remains pretty damn hot.
Mexisquad vs. Shane Taylor Promotions—ROH Six-Man Tag Team Championship
I don’t know if there is another person in Ring of Honor, or all of wrestling for that matter, that has been on more of a roll in the last two months than Shane Taylor. Obviously he has had prestigious championship runs in the past, but in the last six months he has gone from impressive mid-card talent to a genuine championship contender. Both he and Brody King feel like they belong at the top of the card, and it is fair to say that Shane Taylor has done slightly more to prove his worth than anybody—certainly in 2021. The David versus Goliath story is an old one in wrestling, but I can’t remember a Six-Man Championship match that had this level of disparity. STP is populated with gigantic men, and while Mexisquad is not exactly small, the three of them are significantly smaller than Taylor and his boys on the whole.
While the code of honor is properly recognized before the match, the literal moment the bell rings, STP jumps Mexisquad with as much intensity as they can muster. It isn’t until they finally make their way back into the ring that the Mexisquad are finally able to illustrate what makes them so spectacular. Of course, the luchadores begin running circles around the significantly larger opponents, but it isn’t until Moses surprises myself and the commentary team with a leapfrog followed by a Thesz press that things begin to look a bit more equal between the ropes.
A Six-Man match should not be about spots, it should be about cooperation, and that is exactly what this match is. One may expect STP to try and slow this match down in order to control the high flyers, when in fact they simply worked up to their level of freakish athleticism. Yes, power absolutely has something to do with it, but STP obviously came into this match with a plan and are executing it to perfection. Every single time the Mexisquad feels like they are about to get a leg up, a massive leg from one of the members of STP makes its way into the face of a member of the Mexisquad.
After significant effort to remove Bandido and Rey Horus from the ring, Shane is able to isolate Flamita, hit ‘Welcome to the Land’ and get the pin for Shane Taylor promotions. Shane promised Moses and Khan that he would make them champions and they would do it the right way. What an excellent culmination to the story of the team, but Shane’s story continues next week when he finally challenges Rush for the ROH World Championship. A really exciting match with a gratifying outcome…AND given this is Black History Month, I want to take a moment to recognize that the ROH Pure Champion, the Tag Team Champions and the Six-Man Champions are all African American. Black Excellence.