Monday, 26 November 2012

Jay Lethal: Lethal Injection - DVD Review

He’s a former TNA X Division and Tag Team Champion, and many were surprised when they released him back in 2011.

Now Ring of Honor, his current home promotion, have honoured him with a DVD tribute. The man in question is the former “Black Machismo” Jay Lethal, and the DVD is entitled Lethal Injection.

It’s a two disc set, so what better place to start than with Disc One, which chronicles his ROH career from 2003 to 2005.

11th January, 2003
The first match of the collection sees the debuting Lethal, known here as Hydro and part of the most annoying stable in wrestling history, Special K, teaming with his buddies against the Ring Crew Express and the Outcast Killaz in an eight man scramble match at Revenge of the Prophecy.

Basically this is a five minute spot fest, where two guys come in, pull off a big move, then abruptly leave so two more guys can come in and do another big move. It’s okay if you like that sort of thing but it’s not really my cup of tea.

Hydro does a couple of spots, and that’s about it. The referee has trouble in this match because he doesn’t actually know which four Special K guys are meant to be in the match, which meant that their monstrous bodyguard Slugger was part of their team.

The big guy ended the proceedings by taking out one of the Ring Crew guys with the Bodybag move before all the stoner kids came into the ring to get the pin.

22nd May, 2004
Hydro takes on his future TNA buddy Alex Shelley at Generation Next.

From what I can gather Hydro was answering Shelley’s open challenge with the blessing of his stoner buddies, and with Shelley’s Generation Next comrades Austin Aries, Roderick Strong and Jack Evans watching from ringside the number three ranked title contender was trying to teach his man a lesson.

It was quite a short encounter filled with action. These two tied each other in knots early on, exchanging a variety of submission holds before Shelley took control. It wasn’t long before he began to grow frustrated when Hydro repeatedly kicked out of pin attempts.

Despite being a heel Hydro clearly had the fans behind him, but in the end it was Shelley who came out on top when Hydro tapped out to the Border City Stretch.

24th June, 2004
It’s Survival of the Fittest, and having just defended the Tag Team Championship on his own in a scramble match against Special K future WWE superstar C.M. Punk, after complaining about the lack of competition, is challenged by our man Hydro.

Punk turned down the challenge, but when Hydro called him a cat (or words to that effect) Punk went back into the ring and accepted the challenge.

Punk was in full heel mode in this one, and his cockiness was almost his undoing early on as Hydro out-fought and out-wrestled him. But it wasn’t long before Pun established control, taking the young upstart to the proverbial woodshed.

Hydro’s moments of offence were fleeting as Punk took out his frustrations on him, and once again over-confidence almost led to his downfall when Hydro made a couple of spirited comebacks after Punk pulled him up after pin attempts.

Just when it looked like we were going to get an upset Punk came out on top, finally getting the pin with an Oklahoma roll into a bridge.

2nd October, 2004
Hydro is no more as Jay Lethal takes on Low Ki at The Midnight Express Reunion.

Ki was a member of the hated Rottweilers stable at this point, and he was looking to get at World Champion Samoa Joe. What better way to do that than to challenge his new protégé?

With Julius Smokes watching on from ringside the hard hitting former champion tore a few strips off Lethal. Lethal managed to match Ki in the wrestling department but was at a disadvantage when he tried to go toe to toe with him.

The dramatic moment came when Ki and Smokes saw Lethal’s mother watching from the front row. Ki deliberately upped his game from this point, torturing Lethal right in front of his family, even bringing them into the action at one point, spitting on them as they argued. Mrs. Lethal responded with a stiff slap that Ki himself would have been proud of before her baby boy made his comeback.

Lethal did okay, but it was Smokes who stopped him from putting Ki away with his Dragon Suplex, and a short time later Ki applied the Dragon Clutch for the submission win.

The heinous heels then threatened to do more damage to Lethal before they left him lying in the middle of the ring.

5th November, 2004
Lethal teams with his mentor, World Champion Samoa Joe, as they take on Pure Champion John Walters and Nigel McGuinness at Weekend of Thunder Night 1.

The story behind this one was simple. Joe had shown some disdain towards the Pure title, and Walters wanted to prove that he was just as good as the World Champion, so at the beginning of the match it seemed as if Lethal and McGuinness were nothing more than bit-part players.

All of that changed as the match progressed. Joe and Walters had a brief confrontation early on, but Lethal and McGuinness put on a great display at the beginning as they looked to out-wrestle each other.

Needless to say that each man took their turn as the proverbial punching bag, but as Joe and Walters brawled at ringside McGuinness looked to take Lethal out with his arm submission. He failed the first time when Joe managed to break the hold, but second time around Walters stopped him from getting back into the ring as Lethal finally tapped out to give McGuinness and Walters the submission win.

5th March, 2005
In a match not listed on the cover Lethal challenges John Walters for the Pure title at Trios Tournament 2005.

Lethal went into this match with a badly swollen eye, courtesy of a mystery attacker backstage, with Walters’ Embassy cohorts the main suspects.

Despite the fact that it’s a title match it’s quite a short encounter, lasting a shade over ten minutes. Lethal controlled the early part of the match with some nice high flying moves before Walters took control, with the commentators constantly wondering if Prince Nana and his buddies would make an appearance. They didn’t, mainly because they were apparently trying to hide from an angry C.M. Punk.

So with Walters flying solo he looked to get the win after a trio of Lung Blowers. Lethal managed to kick out of the pin though, and after countering Walters’ top rope Lung Blower attempt Lethal took control, eventually taking his man out with the Dragon Suplex for the win and his first ROH title.

16th April, 2005
Lethal defends his Pure title against Brian “Spanky” Kendrick at Stalemate.

This was one of those matches that had everything, from the great wrestling early on to the high-flying and high-impact moves and more. It was a great piece of storytelling.

To begin with they exchanged numerous submission holds, and as the match progressed Spanky’s unfamiliarity with the rules meant that a couple of punches cost him one of his rope breaks. It was a rules infraction that would go on to cost him dearly.

Spanky did a good job of working over Letha’s arms, and it looked like he was going to get the submission win at one point with a cross arm breaker until the champion managed to get to the ropes.

Lethal came back strongly and took Spanky down with his Dragon Suplex, with the challenger using his final rope break to avoid the three count. But after the action spilled to the outside of the ring Lethal managed to avoid Spanky’s Sliced Bread attempt on the apron before applying a Boston Crab in the ropes. With Spanky having no rope breaks left the move was legal, and he had no choice but to tap out, giving Lethal the submission win.

13th August, 2005
Lethal teams with his mentor, Pure Champion Samoa Joe, to take on Low Ki and Homicide at Punk: The Final Chapter.

This certainly was a highly-charged affair. Part-wrestling match, part-brawl, these two teams beat the proverbial you know what out of each other.

The exchanges between Joe and Ki looked brutal, but they were also compelling, and after the initial brawl the match eventually settled down into a normal tag team match. If you can call it normal that is.

Ki and Homicide showed complete disdain for the referee throughout, almost as much as they showed their opponents as they used both men for target practice.

The way these four were going at it it really looked like these two teams really despised each other, and as the match inevitably degenerated Lethal took Ki down with his Dragon Suplex.

The victory wasn’t forthcoming though. Homicide attacked the referee as he was making his count, and that was finally enough for the official. He threw the match out before the hated heels threw him out of the ring.

Then things got really heated as both teams began a building-wide brawl, hitting each other with anything that wasn’t nailed down. It was even more brutal than the match as they beat the…oh wait, I’ve already used that line, and the shot where Ki, blood pouring down his faced as he bowed over Lethal’s fallen body in the middle of the ring said more than words about this match and this feud.

17th September, 2005
It’s grudge match time once again as Lethal faces Low Ki in a Fight Without Honor at Glory by Honor IV.

This one was due to take place later in the show, but Lethal was anxious to get his heated rival in the ring as soon as possible. Ki failed to answer the call though, with his manager Julius Smokes coming out instead.

After much jaw-jacking Smokes said he’d only agree to the match if Lethal reinstated Ki after his suspension. Lethal agreed, and sealed the deal with a handshake, only to be attacked by Ki from behind. While all of this was going on our commentators wondered who had given Lethal that kind of executive power.

There definitely wasn’t any honour in this one. Lethal took Ki apart from the start, but when the fight spilled out to ringside Ki took control, smashing his man’s head through the timekeeper’s table and busting him open.

From there the action became even more brutal as Ki looked to end Lethal’s career. But no matter what he did Lethal just wouldn’t give up.

In the end Ki turned the brutality up to 11 when he couldn’t put Lethal away after a double stomp from the top rope. Ki clobbered him with a chair before place the meat seat on his prone for, coming down from the top rope with another double stomp to finally get the winning pin.

Afterwards it looked like Ki would keep up the tradition and end the Fight Without Honor with a handshake, signalling the end of the feud. But as Lethal was about to accept this show of respect Ki withdrew the offer.

That wasn’t the end of the proceedings. Later in the show Lethal, his head bandaged, returned to the ring for a second match against Ki. Samoa Joe tried to stop him, but Lethal was having none of it.

This was even more dramatic than the first match. At one point it looked like Ki was finally going to show Lethal some respect after some hard hitting exchanges, only for the hated heel to slap his opponent in the face.

Moments later, and with Colt Cabana joining Joe in fighting off the Rottweilers at ringside Lethal took Ki down with his Dragon Suplex, only for Ki to kick out afterwards. Lethal then went for another Dragon before Ki managed to throw him through the ropes.

It was then that Ki saw his chance. As Lethal lay prone at ringside Ki climbed to the top rope. It looked like he was about to come down with a double stomp until Cabana rammed one of the Rottweilers into the ring post. Ki then lost his footing and crotched himself on the top rope.

Lethal took his chance, coming back into the ring and taking his man out with a top rope Dragon Suplex to finally get the pin on his hated rival.

3rd December, 2005
The final match of the disc sees the protégé trying to step out of the shadow of his mentor as Lethal takes on Samoa Joe at Steel Cage Warfare.

This was actually their second match against each other, with Joe having defeated Lethal for the Pure title in their previous encounter.

The storytelling here was perfect. It started out as two friends, the student and the teacher, showing off a friendly rivalry as they exchanged move after move, but as the match went on Lethal’s frustration and aggression levels began to grow.

Those levels hit the top of the dial when Lethal avoided Joe’s face wash in the corner. He then swept Joe’s legs from under him and rammed his left knee into the ring post. For a brief moment it looked as if Lethal regretted what he had done, until he rammed his knee into the post again and followed up with a series of chair shots.

The slow heel turn had begun, and a new aggressive Lethal had come to the fore as he worked over his mentor’s injured wheel. Joe still had something left to offer but Lethal’s newly-found evil streak cut him off time and time again.

Joe eventually came back, but when he tried to take Lethal down with his Muscle Buster his leg gave out on him. Lethal then took him down with his Dragon Suplex before a three count sealed the deal.

Disc two moves forward a few years. Having had a great deal of success in TNA he was released from the company in 2011. He returned to ROH a few months later to take on some old and some new goes, beginning with…..

26th June, 2011
Lethal’s first match back sees him taking on rising star Mike Bennett at Best in the World 2011.

To say that Lethal received a warm welcome would be an understatement. In fact the faithful gave him a standing ovation before the match began as they voiced their disapproval of the company that released him.

Watching this match you can see a marked difference between the two stages of Lethal’s ROH career. While he put in some good performances during his first stint this one was even better. Everything he did just looked more polished than it did before.

Lethal took it to Bennett early on, but interference from Bennett’s coach “Brutal” Bob Evans turned the tide in favour of his man. Bennett’s performance was another example of how he was marked down as one for the future.

Lethal soon came back, but Evans interfered once again, stopping him from coming off the top rope so Bennett could take him down with a superplex. The Prodigy then went to the top himself but found empty space when he came down with an elbow drop.

Moments later Lethal climbed to the top himself and took Bennett out with his Macho Man elbow, the three count sealing the win on his return to the company.

1st October, 2011 (Original broadcast date.)
Lethal challenges El Generico for the TV Title on an episode of ROH TV.

These two guys were made for each other. For 15 minutes they put on an extraordinary encounter, matching each other in every single department.

They had the crowd in the palms of their hands as they went all out to put each other away, growing frustrated as they went along with their inability to do so.

But just as Generico was about to put his man away with the Brain Buster the bell ran, signalling that the time limit had expired. Both men pleaded with the referee to give them five more minutes, with the official saying that it was beyond his power to grant their wish.

Step forward Executive Producer Jim Cornette. Corny told the boys that while he couldn’t give them five more minutes he could give them the remaining TV time, which was about three minutes.

So what followed was a series of intense and fast-paced exchanges. They brought out their big moves but stopped each other form using their bigger moves before Lethal finally put the masked man away with the Lethal Combination for the title winning pin.

17th September, 2011
Lethal teams with his former foe Homicide to take on Prince Nana’s boys Tommaso Ciampa and Rhino and Death Before Dishonor IX.

Even though I’d seen this match before I still found it a little odd to see Lethal teaming with Homicide, given their shared history that was documented on disc one.

This was one of those short and sweet encounters that ROH does really well. Lethal got the punching bag treatment as the Embassy boys took out their frustrations on him, with Rhino in particular looking quite awesome.

Things got even better when it moved on to the inevitable brawl. Ciampa managed to match his tag partner as far as the big moves were concerned, and with Lethal out of commission after he took Rhino over the top rope with a hurricanrana Ciampa took the win for his team after taking Homicide down with his Project Ciampa finisher.

22nd October, 2011 (Original broadcast date.)
Lethal faces Mike Bennett once more, this time defending his TV title on an episode of ROH TV.

While their previous encounter was little more than Lethal’s homecoming match this was an altogether different affair. The action was far more intense, and the prize was bigger.

With Brutal Bob watching on from ringside these two put together some neat exchanges, with both men, and Bennett in particular, looking very impressive.

As the time limit neared they turned things up a notch as they went to get the pin, and when Lethal missed the top rope elbow it looked like we were going to get a title change, especially when Bennett went to work with the ground and pound.

But as the seconds ticked away Lethal reversed the positions for his own variety of ground and pound. But it was too little too late as the bell rang to signal the end of the match, and unlike the match with Generico there wouldn’t be three more minutes.

6th November, 2011
Lethal takes on Mark Briscoe at Gateway to Honor.

It’s a non-title affair for the TV Champion against someone who, like him, began his ROH career as a teenage a few years before. It’s also a Proving Ground match, with Briscoe getting a shot at the title if he gets the win or a draw.

This is another of those short and sweet encounters, a match lasting a little over 11 minutes but filled with fast-paced and high impact action.

Lethal began the affair by going for a roll-up before dominating the early going. But Briscoe, possibly one of the toughest guys ever to step foot in an ROH ring, wasn’t going to be easy pickings for the champion, and he came back well, even bringing out some redneck kung fu at one point.

Despite the great effort it wasn’t enough for the tag team specialist. He had his moments, but Lethal eventually came back to take him out with the Lethal Combination before finishing him off with the Macho Man elbow for the winning pin.

19th November, 2011
It’s another non-title Proving Ground match for Lethal as he goes up against Roderick Strong at Glory by Honor X.

With Truth Martini watching on from ringside and offering occasional interference these two put on a very enjoyable encounter. As is the custom with Strong it was a hard hitting affair with Strong showing off his usual stiff chops and hard back breakers.

Lethal was more than up to the challenge as he sought to put another potential challenger away, but try as he might and despite a good showing he just couldn’t get the job done.

As the 15 minute time limit approached Strong changed his tactics, realising that he only needed a draw to get the title shot. He tried to play the spoiler until Lethal locked in a Figure Four in the middle of the ring.

Strong tried to fight the hold and eventually tapped out. However, the bell rang just before he tapped, signalling that the match had ended in a draw and that Strong had got his shot at the title.

That wasn’t enough for some though. As Lethal and the fans called for five more minutes Executive Producer Jim Cornette came down to the ring to offer Strong the extra time. Strong and Martini were reluctant to take Corny up on his offer, and it took some goading and some colourful language to get Strong back into the ring, much to the annoyance of Martini.

Overtime began with both men swinging for the fences until a Sick Kick from Strong took Lethal down. He then applied the Stronghold, hoping to get the submission. Lethal managed to survive though, and after connecting with a super kick Lethal came off the ropes with the Lethal Injection, a springboard Ace Crusher, to finally get the winning pin.

26th November, 2011 (Original broadcast date.)
Lethal defends his TV title against former champion El Generico on an episode of ROH TV.

As Mike Bennett and his coach Bob Evans sat at ringside eating popcorn these two took each other to the limit once more.

Generico controlled the early part of the match, his superior speed allowing him to take Lethal down time and time again, but when the action spilled to the outside Lethal took control.

When the action returned to the ring it was just as intense, and as both men went for the win Bennett began to make his presence known by grabbing the TV title belt and putting it around his waist.

Needless to say this didn’t sit too well with Lethal, and after he rolled out of the ring following another tough exchange he noticed Bennett wearing his belt. A right had then sent the pretender to his throne crashing backwards into his seat.

When normal service resumed Lethal took the upper hand once again, and with the time limit fast approaching he climbed to the top rope and connected with the Macho Man elbow. But when he went for the pin Bennett tried to get in the ring. The referee tried to stop him, ignoring the fact that Lethal had what would have been a title retaining pin.

Seconds later the time limit expired. Bennett’s distraction meant that Lethal had been denied the pin. Enraged, Lethal attacked Bennett after the bell, only for Generico to come off the ropes and take them both out with a somersault over the top rope.

3rd December, 2011
Lethal takes on T.J. Perkins in a Proving Ground match at Southern Defiance.

This was another of those short and sweet encounters, and boy was it good. Lethal certainly had his work cut out for him because Perkins put in a tremendous performance, outdoing him for speed and outdoing him in the wrestling department as well.

Perkins’ speed frustrated Lethal, although he used his power advantage to good effect. But the never say die attitude of Perkins kept him in the match right up until the end, especially when he countered Lethal’s Macho Man elbow with a foot to the jaw.

Sadly it wasn’t to be for Perkins though. Lethal finally managed to take him down for the pin after taking him out with the Lethal Injection.

4th December, 2011
Lethal faces Adam Cole at Northern Aggression.

This was Lethal’s second Proving Ground match in as many days, and if anything Cole gave him a harder challenge than Perkins did.

Cole’s performance was top notch, and a fine example of why ROH have so much faith in him. He matched Lethal in almost every department, and like Perkins before him he took the champion to the limit.

Towards the end it looked like Cole was going to come out on top, especially when he took Lethal down with a super kick. But in the end it was the champion who emerged victorious, taking Cole out with his Lethal Injection for the three count.

23rd December, 2011
Lethal defends his TV title against El Generico and Mike Bennett in a three way elimination match at Final Battle 2011.

Bennett had an extra cheerleader in his corner for this one, with former WWE Diva Maria Kanellis joining Brutal Bob at ringside.

This was a pretty enjoyable encounter. As soon as the bell rang Bennett left the ring, deciding that he was going to let the other two beat the snot out of each other. This didn’t sit too well with Lethal and Generico, who soon dragged him back into the ring, taking him out with some nice double team moves, including a very impressive double suicide dive.

From there the match progressed nicely, and it looked like anyone could take the pin as all three came close to getting the first elimination.

Generico was the first man to go. As he was about to take Lethal down with a top rope Brain Buster Bennett came up from behind with a roll up, grabbing on to his tights for a bit of extra leverage.

Bennett followed within seconds as Lethal quickly returned to the ring to take him down with the Lethal Injection for the winning pin.

20th January, 2012
It’s the final match of the collection as Lethal challenge Davey Richards for the World title at The Homecoming 2012.

They certainly saved the best for last as far as this collection is concerned, and although he’s received a great deal of negative press this year for his antics there’s no arguing that Davey Richards is a hell of a wrestler.

For nearly thirty minutes these two put on a match that was truly extraordinary. It was one of those hard hitting back and forth affairs that was worth the price of admission alone.

It began with the usual exchange of holds before both men took the action up a notch or three with some stiff exchanges. It was a joy to watch, especially the second time around.

Both men gave their all as they brought out all of their big moves, and both men began to get more and more frustrated at their inability to put the other away. There were also a couple of brief attempts at interference from Roderick Strong but Lethal quickly took care of these.

Not even the signature moves could get the job done, and when Richards began to connect with a series of kicks to Lethal’s head as he sat on the mat the TV Champion called him on, telling him that he’d need more than that to put him away.

Richards gave him more, and eventually Lethal fell, with Richards taking the title retaining pin.

In conclusion - having sat through over six hours worth of action over the past few nights I think it’s safe to say that it was worth it.

Although this collection is entitled “Lethal Injection” it could easily have been called “Before and After TNA”, because that’s basically what we have here.

Disc one makes for very interesting viewing. While the scramble match wasn’t to my liking it was good to see how Lethal’s career progressed as he learned his trade and went up against wrestlers who would become even bigger stars in WWE and TNA.

Disc two showed that Lethal left TNA a more polished competitor. He was no longer trying to find his footing, trying to find his identity. By the time he’d returned to ROH and won the TV title it showed what a big mistake Dixie Carter and he team had made by letting him go. This part of the collection may not boast the mainstream all-star line-up of disc one but it’s certainly a lot better.

If you put these ingredients together you’ve basically got the evolution of Jay Lethal, minus the TNA bits. It’s a great collection, and dare I say it, at this time of year it would make a great stocking filler for the wrestling fan in your life.

So with all of that out of the way there’s only one more thing left to do, and that’s to give this collection the big thumbs up.

With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Lethal Injection: Jay Lethal is available to buy online at

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