Coming to you taped from the very same location and date as last week (Chicago's Fieldhouse), ROH is hosted by Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuiness.
We see a recap of ROH Tag Champs Haas/Benjamin beating the Kings of Wrestling last week to retain. Executive Producer Jim Cornette welcomes the champs to the ring, and I should have mentioned last week how HUGE Charlie Haas is. He looks Steineresque. He doesn't talk much here as Jim and Shelton Benjamin push the new feud with the Briscoes, the former champs who attacked Haas/Benjamin at the last ROH PPV in the four-way tag match. Cornette says the Briscoes have been fined for the attack, but the champs want to face them, for the belts, right now. Cornette won't reward their violence with a title shot, but he says he's working on getting these teams together. The champs aren't happy with that and loom over Cornette to make their case. Kinda stumbly, as Cornette was trying to lead them through the promo.
We move to a profile of The Prodigy Mike Bennett, and now we start the heavy gimmick work I feared last week. Bennett wants to use wrestling as a vehicle to make him a movie action star like Stallone or Schwarzenegger (kinda dated, but you get the point). Oh, and he compares himself to The Rock but claims to be a better wrestler, thanks to his crusty old manager Brutal Bob Evans, sitting silently beside him. So in addition to the movie-star wannabe gimmick, Bennett has a silent old-guy manager who's portrayed by someone who might be five years older than him. This is a part crying for a genuine older person, and Evans's silence only draws suspicion that he can't properly act old. The mean old manager also should be vocal, to really sell this. It's a lengthy spot that suffers from the limited in-ring footage of two simple suplexes. But Cornette pops in to say Bennett has the goods, if he could just get past his ego.
Bennett w/Evans vs. Jimmy Jacobs w/Steve Corino Much like Haas, I wouldn't have recognized Corino without the announcers identifying him. He's a bit heavier and wearing a suit. Jacobs is very much in the mold of AJ Styles, down to the necklace and vest. Bennett won't go for the code of honor handshake beforehand and hits a nice corner backbreaker. He works the back before Jacobs sets up for his finisher, a senton dive, but Bennett blocks with the knees. He then hits his finisher, the Box Office Smash (a seated Rock Bottom, and I wonder if that earlier Rock comparison is just coincidence) and gets the pin. Bennett wants that handshake now, and he gives Corino some gruff to boot. Without that gimmick, Bennett doesn't show much here, and that weakens somewhat the ROH presentation. I know ROH is a rasslin company, and they seem intent to say they're something more. But then we get this.
Kevin Kelly introduces Eddie Edwards to explain how he got the nickname "Die Hard." Edwards details how he wrestled a ladder match the day after breaking his elbow on dive to the floor and into a chairshot. After surgery, he stayed out of the ring for only a third of the suggested recovery time, earning the fans' respect.
We get a promo for next week's main event as world champ Davey Richards defends against Roderick Strong. Unlike the previous PPV's Richards/Edwards match, these guys have no respect for each other. Strong brags about his heel attitude, saying it distracts Richards, who has never beaten him in a title match (interesting stat for next week's bout). In a clever conceit, ROH censors Strong's profanity with a ring bell sound effect. I think I remember Strong as a backbreaker specialist in TNA from years ago.
In yet another nice touch (also used last week), Nigel asks a fan who he thinks will win the main event. That's simple, but so effective to sell me on the audience's investment.
ROH TV champ El Gernerico vs. Jay Lethal I hope ROH sells streamers in the concession stands, because these fans chuck crepe paper for everyone who gets in the ring. The majority of this match is a parade of armdrag variations as the pair show off their mutual respect and ability. At one point, Lethal helps Generico off the mat and they lock up again. Again, respect and honor is sold. A countdown reminds us of the time limit as is appropriate for a TV title. They chase their finisher attempts and exchange reversals. Generico hits a nice no-hands somersault to Lethal on the floor. Lethal wants the elbow; Generico wants the Yakuza boot to set up the turnbuckle brainbuster.
Time expires, and the fans ain't happy. The wrestlers corner the ref to protest for more time, and that brings out Cornette to oblige. They got three minutes. And IMMEDIATELY this crowd is insane. The wrestlers lock up and throw punches, and here we go. Generico hits the boot and sets up for the 'buster. Lethal fights him off and hits the Savage Elbow for 2. Generico regains control and charges for the boot again, but Lethal pops him with a superkick and hits Lethal Injection (a backbreaker into a Flatliner) for the three. New champ! Time's up! See you next week! I'm still kinda sold!
Lethal/Generico got at least 15 legit minutes and probably more for their match, and it is solid stuff. Two matches for each episode, and I can handle that balance for now if we get extended matches in the main event.
"To be the man, you gotta beat demands." -- The Lovely Mrs. Tracker
SmackDown is coming to the Breslin Center for a house show in February, and then RAW to Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo for another house show. Yeah, I ain't hitting either of 'em. Pretty soon, they'll be running TV tapings from those places.