It’s time to enter Ring of Honor territory for the first time in 2012 as we go back to last November where the All Night Express took on the American Wolves in the main event of Gateway to Honor, recently released on DVD.
The show began with Tommaso Ciampa, accompanied here by his Embassy co-horts, going up against Andy Ridge.
The action began with Prince Nana and his boys bad mouthing the absent Delirious, who was originally meant to face his crown jewel. Then Ridge made his entrance, with Ciampa taking him out with a belly to back suplex as soon as he jumped over the top rope.
What followed was an extremely entertaining and fast paced back and forth encounter. Ciampa dominated the early stages before Right Leg made his way back into the match, but when he went looking for the win Princess Mia jumped up onto the ring apron to distract the referee. This gave Nana the opportunity to attack Ridge from behind.
Chaos ensued, and it turned out that Delirious was in the building after all. Enraged by Nana’s tactics the masked man raced down to ringside and chased the various Embassy members around the ring, stopping off to give Mia a quick snog before chasing the boys all the way backstage.
While all of this was going on Ridge went close to defeating the undefeated Ciampa, only for the big guy to keep his streak intact when he took his man out with his Project Ciampa power bomb/back breaker thing.
The special challenge match saw Jay Briscoe taking on T.J. Perkins.
Despite being portrayed as a villainous heel in recent months Briscoe received a massive pop as he made his entrance, which paled in comparison to that received by the relative newcomer.
Like the opener this was a fast paced back and forth affair. Briscoe put in his usual no nonsense performance, looking very good in the process, while Perkins impressed me with his work here.
Perkins looked like he was going to get the upset win on quite a few occasions, but it wasn’t to be. Having been on the receiving end of a super kick Briscoe came back with a Yakuza kick before putting his man away with the patented Jay Driller.
The first tag team match of the show saw the Bravado Brothers, Harlan and Lancelot, going up against Jimmy Jacobs and Steve Corino.
Usually it’s Colt Cabana’s job to provide a bit of light hearted relief on ROH shows, but with my favourite Chicago native absent from this event it fell upon these fellows to give us a few belly laughs.
Corino and Jacobs were the first ones to break the ice as it were, using the referee to help them deliver a double clothesline on Grandma Bravado’s favourite boys before the team I’m kind of growing fond of came back to use Jacobs as their proverbial punching bag.
It wasn’t long before the inevitable four way brawl, with Jacobs joining Corino in delivering the thumb to the bum on the brothers. Some nice sequences followed before Jacobs took Harlan out with Sliced Bread, with Corino securing the win with a lariat clothesline.
Truth Martini, wearing one of the worst outfits I’ve ever seen on a wrestling show, was up next, leading his man Michael Elgin into battle against Grizzly Redwood.
This David versus Goliath battle was another enjoyable battle. The littlest lumberjack did a great hit and run job on the more powerful Elgin early on, with the big man once again impressing.
But even though he kept taking his opponent down with his array of power moves Redwood kept coming back for more, kicking out of pin attempts time and time again, even managing to find the time to take Martini out at one point.
In the end Redwood’s luck ran out as Elgin took him down with an impressive side slam.
The only title match of the show saw Future Shock, Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly, challenging Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, for Tag Team titles.
Benjamin came into this match with his ribs taped, having been injured at the hands of the Briscoes at a previous television taping. Early on Haas tried to protect his partner, making it obvious that he wanted to wrestle the majority of the match.
Benjamin was having none of it and insisted on doing his share, but when he tagged in it wasn’t long before Cole and O’Reilly began to target those injured ribs.
It proved to be a very good storyline as the up and comers put on a great effort against the hampered champions. Cole and O’Reilly put in a hell of a performance, easily matching their more notable opponents.
The champions, for their part, put in their usual high standard performances as Benjamin sold his injuries well.
Future Shock came close to getting the win a few times, most notably when they had the champions in stereo guillotine chokes. But in the end the veterans emerged victorious as O’Reilly tapped out to the Haas of Pain.
Afterwards, with his injured partner trying to recover in the corner, Haas grabbed the microphone to praise his opponents, saying that Ring of Honor had the best tag division in wrestling.
The Women of Honor match saw Princess Mia, accompanied by her Embassy buddies, taking on MsChif.
Another short and sweet encounter saw MsChif start quickly against Mia, who had looked a little reluctant to get into the ring at first. But when the match got going it turned into a very entertaining affair, certainly better than the women’s matches you get on Raw and Smackdown every week.
Mia looked like she was going to get the win after a running kick, but after stalling while climbing to the top rope she missed her corkscrew off the top, with MsChif taking the win after taking Mia out with her Desecrator finisher.
The Proving Ground match saw Mark Briscoe tackling on TV Champion Jay Lethal.
Like his brother before him Briscoe got a great tremendous response from the fans, but unlike his brother before him the response his opponent he got was just as good.
Briscoe had a fifteen minute time limit to play with here, knowing that if he beat Lethal he’d get a shot at the TV title. So what we got here was a great back and forth encounter.
Briscoe’s no nonsense style complimented that of Lethal extremely well. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Briscoe’s tag team commitments he definitely has what it takes to hold one of the singles titles.
That opportunity will have to wait though, because after taking it to Lethal the champion came back strongly, finally taking Briscoe down with his Lethal Combination move and adding the finishing touch with a top rope elbow, showing that there is still a little Black Machismo in him.
The penultimate bout, billed as the First Time Ever Singles Match, saw Mike Bennett, accompanied by his trainer Bob Evans, going up against El Generico.
Both of these guys were looking to get a shot at Jay Lethal’s TV title, with Generico the former champion looking for a re-match and Bennett looking for a re-match having taken Lethal to a time limit draw.
This meant that a lot was riding on this one, and it showed in the performances of both men. With Generico you always know you’re going to get a good performance from him, and with Bennett you know that he’s continuing his development as one of ROH’s top stars.
These pieces led to an exciting back and forth encounter, with occasional cameos from Brutal Bob, with Bennett stepping up to the plate but just failing to hit that home run, going close on several occasions until Generico took him down with the Brain Buster for the win.
Needless to say that this didn’t sit too well with Evans, who attacked Generico from behind. The masked man then went to take Evans out with another Brain Buster until Bennett saved his coach.
The main event, the First Time Ever Dream Tag Team Match, saw the All Night Express, Rhett Titus and Kenny King, facing the American Wolves, World Champion Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards.
Now this was a main event. For over twenty minutes for of the best on the roster put on an excellent display of tag team wrestling.
This was one of those matches that you really can’t speak too highly about. It began with the usual hard hitting back and forth action with both teams giving a good account of themselves, and it was during these exchanges that I realised just how far King and Titus have come in the past couple of years.
Then we moved on to the four way action. The team work here was top notch, and the performances certainly went up another level.
As we neared the end the action was even more intense, and as King’s shotgun knees knocked Edwards into Richards on the corner post, sending him through the time keeper’s table, you knew that an upset of sorts could be in the offing.
Moments later it was all over. With Edwards lying in the middle of the ring Titus came flying of the top rope with a frog splash, closely followed by King with a shooting star press. A three count later and it was all over, the All Night Express had the win.
Afterwards King and Titus showed the utmost respect for their downed opponents, helping Richards back into the ring. The Wolves went on to praise their opponents, a sign of how good they’ve become.
Only one bonus feature on this release, an in-ring segment in which Davey Richards addresses his home fans.
In conclusion - so what can I say about ROH shows that I haven’t said before.
Even though this wasn’t exactly what you’d call a “big” show it was still a hell of an event. Every match delivered in spades, with the two tag team bouts the highlights of the night for me.
So without going into complete hyperbole mode let’s end this by saying that Gateway to Honor gets the big thumbs up from me.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. ROH Gateway to Honor is available to buy online at www.rohwrestling.com.