It’s time to step into Ring of Honor territory once again, and this time we’re going back to last November in Dayton Ohio to take a look at a fourteen man tournament and World Champion Davey Richards and TV Champion Jay Lethal going up against Tag Champions Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. The show in question is Survival of the Fittest 2011.
The show began with the first four Survival of the Fittest qualifying matches, beginning with the Briscoe Brothers, Jay and Mark, taking on the Bravado Brothers, Harlem and Lancelot, with the winning team advancing to the final match.
The Briscoes were looking to get a measure of revenge here, having lost to the Bravados at the Tag Team Turmoil show.
This was certainly a lot different to that previous encounter. The Briscoes took their opponents to the proverbial woodshed early on until they began working over Mark’s left leg.
That didn’t last for long though as Mark soon got the tag to his older brother, beginning the four way brawl which eventually led to Lancelot being taken out with a Doomsday Device for the winning pin.
After the match finished Jay grabbed the microphone to comment on the ongoing tournament, saying that he wouldn’t hesitate to attack his own brother. A brief play fight followed before the brothers began banging their own heads into the turnbuckles.
The next qualifier was a battle of the young lions as Andy Ridge faced Kyle O’Reilly.
A bout between two guys known for their kicking prowess proved to be one of those short, sweet and very entertaining encounters filled with fast-paced back and forth action.
O’Reilly really is starting to look more and more like Davey Richards as far as his wrestling style goes, not that there’s anything wrong with that, because it’s certainly helping him move up the ROH ladder.
The exchanges between the two were top notch, and the sequence where they exchanged numerous spin kicks to the bread basket was both innovative and funny at the same time.
O’Reilly took the win in this one, showing his submission skills as Ridge tapped out to a guillotine choke.
The third qualifier saw Mike Bennett taking on former World Champion Eddie Edwards.
With Bennett’s coach Bob Evans conspicuous by his absence these two put on an excellent encounter.
Edwards was, as always, in perfect form, making everything he did look so crisp and easy. Bennett, for his part, was the perfect foil, and was perhaps even better without his interfering trainer in his corner.
Both men came close to getting the win a number of times, but in the end it was Edwards who came out on top, advancing to the finals when Bennett tapped out to the Dragon Sleeper.
The penultimate qualifying match featured four way action between Michael Elgin, accompanied by Truth Martini, Tommaso Ciampa, accompanied by the various Embassy members, Adam Cole and Kenny King.
Beginning with King against Ciampa exchanging holds, it soon turned into a mass brawl after Ciampa tagged himself into the match at Elgin’s expense. The two heels then began to beat the hell out of each other before bodies began flying around the ring and King almost landed on his head when he jumped onto the top rope from the ring apron and slipped.
The most impressive part of the match once again came from the unbreakable one himself. As Elgin prepared to take Cole out with a Samoan drop King tried to interfere. It didn’t work though, and seconds later the big guy took Cole out with that Samoan, taking King out with a fall away slam at the same time.
It was just a forerunner of what was to come as Elgin took Cole down with his sit-down powerbomb for the winning pin.
The “Special Challenge Match” saw Steve Corino, accompanied by Jimmy Jacobs, going up against El Generico.
Those of you who have been following Ring of Honor for a while will remember that Corino was involved in the tremendous Generico/Kevin Steen feud, and since that time he’s been seeking redemption, turning his back on his heelish ways with the help of his sponsor Jacobs.
These two had been due to face each other two months before, but Corino, admitting that he was afraid to face his old foe because of their past, pulled out of the match, finally finding the courage to face his past demons on this show.
All of that back story led to this very intriguing and engaging encounter. Before the action began Generico refused to adhere to the Code of Honor, and as the match went on he constantly tried to goad Corino into punching him and breaking the rules.
Corino resisted the temptation, sticking to the rules throughout, even allowing Generico to attack him at moments. But when Corino was standing on the ring apron and Generico took him out with a Yakuza kick it looked all over as Corino went crashing into the barricades, hurting his shoulder.
But despite the urging of Jacobs and with the 15 minute time limit approaching Corino got back into the ring, kicking out after two brain busters.
As the match entered it’s final minute Jacobs jumped onto the ring apron, prepared to throw in the towel. But once again Corino stopped him, taking Generico down with a brain buster of his own as the bell rang.
Corino wanted more though, another five minutes to prove to Generico that he was sincere. But after executive producer Jim Cornette wouldn’t allow it, and after Jacobs told him that Generico had finally got what he was trying to do the masked man finally shook Corino’s hand.
The final tournament qualifier followed as Roderick Strong, accompanied by Truth Martini, went up against Rhett Titus.
Do I really need to tell you how impressed I was with these two? Well, I’m going to anyway.
Strong, as always, put in his usual solid performance, chopping the hell out of his performance and taking him down with an array of great moves. Titus, in response, again showed how far he’s come in the last couple of years. He was more than capable of keeping up with his more experienced opponent.
To my surprise there was hardly any interference from Martini, until the final few minutes, that is. After Titus had taken Strong out with a top rope frog splash Martini jumped onto the ring apron and distracted the referee as Titus went for the cover.
Needless to say Titus went after the manager, giving Strong enough time to recover so he could take out his opponent with a sick kick to advance to the tournament final.
The “Champions Challenge” match was next as Tag Team Champions Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, took on TV Champion Jay Lethal and World Champion Davey Richards.
Now this was a match, and you could easily see why all four of these men wore championship gold.
Both teams acquitted themselves extremely well, and even though Lethal and Richards didn’t have the experience as a team that their opponents had they still put in a hell of a performance.
This was one of those matches that had you in the palm of it’s hand before it even started, beginning when a small group of young children began shouting “we want Punk!”, with Haas responding by shouting “who?”
Then it was on to the action. With Richards and Benjamin starting for their respective teams we got to see some good old fashioned wrestling, with all four men giving their all for their teams. It really was a joy to watch, and proof that a match doesn’t have to have an extensive back story built up over a number of months to be this good.
After over 20 minutes of tremendous action it was the Tag champs that came out on top as Lethal tapped out to the Haas of Pain, with all four men paying their respects to each other after the match had finished.
The last match of the evening was the finals of the Survival of the Fittest tournament, six man elimination action featuring Kyle O’Reilly, Jay and Mark Briscoe, the House of Truth’s Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin, accompanied by Truth Martini, and Eddie Edwards.
Jay Briscoe was the first man eliminated, falling to Edwards’ die hard driver. His brother Mark soon followed, tapping out to Edwards’ dragon sleeper.
Strong was next as Edwards rolled him up for the pin after an accidental collision with his stable-mate Elgin. Edwards himself followed seconds later as Elgin took him out with a massive clothesline.
This left Elgin alone with O’Reilly, who had gone through the announcer’s table when Edwards knocked Martini off the ring apron. But with the crowd chanting his name O’Reilly gingerly got back into the ring.
The best part of the match followed. Elgin used his power advantage to overwhelm O’Reilly early on, but the youngster showed a never say die attitude and came back strongly, going for a number of submissions including a guillotine and an armbar. But time and time again Elgin refused to give up, growing more and more frustrated as time went on with his inability to put his man away.
Eventually the opportunity came. After taking O’Reilly down with a buckle bomb he then finally took him out with a sit down powerbomb for the winning pin.
Then, as O’Reilly’s mentor Davey Richards checked on his condition Elgin stood behind him, and as Martini held the massive tournament trophy the unbreakable one motioned to Richards that he was going to be the next World Champion.
The bonus features here include the usual ROH Video Wire as well as a bonus match from Death Before Dishonor XI between Andy Ridge and Grizzly Redwood.
In conclusion - can you tell how I’m going to end this part of my review?
This is another quality outing from the ROH crew. Each match delivered high quality wrestling from top to bottom. The tournament was well played out, and the final was the match of the night for me, although the Champions Challenge match ran it pretty close.
So if you want to see another great example of non-WWE/TNA wrestling and you’ve never seen Ring of Honor before then this will be a good place to start. It definitely gets the big thumbs up from me.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Ring of Honor Survival of the Fittest 2011 can be purchased online by visiting www.rohwrestling.com.