It's time to step into Ring of Honor territory once again, and this time around we're going back to last January as three stars attempted to remain in the title hunt at Defy or Deny 2.
The show began with Silas Young taking on TV Champion Adam Cole in a Proving Ground match. You should know how these things go by now, if Young manages to beat Cole he gets a shot at the title.
The match itself was one of those short and sweet openers that ROH has become known for. It was full of fast-paced back and forth action and two great performances. I haven't seen much of Young but this was by far the best I've seen from him, and it really felt like he was going to come out on top at times.
But try as he might he couldn't get the pin, although that was also the case for Cole at times as both men grew frustrated at their lack of a three count. However, it wasn't long before Young left himself wide open as he prepared for a move with a handstand on the top turnbuckle. Cole soon took care of him, then took him down with his Florida Keys suplex for the winning pin. Afterwards Cole applauded Young's effort before shaking his hand.
The singles action continued with Bobby Fish taking on Tadarius Thomas.
With Fish's buddy Kyle O'Reilly watching on from ringside these two engaged in another short and sweet affair that was altogether different from the opener. It was filled with plenty of solid wrestling action. Thomas, fresh off his World title loss to Kevin Steen the previous day looked good early on before Fish took control and dominated the action.
Neither man took any notice when Truth Martini came down to ringside to observe the action, and when Fish moved out of the way and Thomas' leg crashed into the turnbuckle Fish's tactics changed as he began to work over the bad wheel, setting him up for a heel hook which Thomas tapped out to within seconds.
Grudge match #1 saw Charlie Haas taking on Rhett Titus.
Before the match began Haas engaged in the age old tradition of insulting the locals, and his tirade would probably continued for a while had Titus not slapped his beer away.
They then engaged in a long brawl around the ring that saw Haas clobbering his man with a chair before they eventually made it into the squared circle for some good old fashioned wear down holds, although Haas seemed to spend more time arguing with the fans than he did actually wrestling.
Titus soon made his comeback, which only served to infuriate Haas even more, to the point where he tried to hit Titus with his case of beer. But when the referee stopped him from using his cold ones and put them out of harm's way Titus grabbed one that had slipped out of the case and clobbered Haas with it. He then climbed to the top rope and came down with a frog splash, only for Haas to raise his knees as he came down. He then rolled Titus up for the pin before sharing a beer with the crowd.
Six man tag action followed as S.C.U.M.'s Steve Corino, Jimmy Jacobs and Rhino faced Tag Team Champions the Briscoe Brothers and Jay Lethal.
This one began with a mass brawl when Lethal and the brothers attacked their foes, and as they brawled around ringside it took a group of referees to step them so the match could actually begin.
When normal service finally resumed both Jay and Lethal took turns as the proverbial punching bag as the bad guys used various nefarious tactics. Eventually Lethal managed to get the hot tag to Mark, signalling the start of the all hell breaking loose segment, and after they dealt with Corino and Jacobs they centred their attack on Rhino as Lethal and Mark came down from the top rope with their elbow drop variations.
Corino and Jacobs soon returned to the ring though, and after Jacobs narrowly avoided the brother's doomsday device Rhino, the legal man, took Mark out with a gore for the winning pin.
The special challenge match saw Matt Hardy going up against B.J. Whitmer.
It's no secret that I haven't been that impressed with what I've seen of Hardy in ROH, but that changed a little here, mainly because this one was pretty good.
Whitmer pulled off some good moves early on, but it wasn't long before Hardy took control and began working of Whitmer's injured neck, taking him down with DDTs, bulldogs, leg drops across the back and a reverse chin lock.
The Buzzsaw managed to work his way back into the match slightly, but when Hardy took him down with a twist of fate Whitmer kicked out after just one. So Hardy took him down with the move again, and he kicked out again.
Whitmer was putting up a hell of a fight, coming close to getting the pin on a few occasions, but when Hardy applied his modified guillotine choke, applying more pressure to his neck, Whitmer still wouldn't give in, and it was only when his partner Rhett Titus appeared and threw in the towel that the referee stopped the match to give Hardy the submission win.
Needless to say that Whitmer was none too pleased with the situation, and as he was being helped to the back Hardy demanded that head honcho Nigel McGuinness give him a shot at Adam Cole's TV title. The champion himself then appeared, and it wasn't long before they began brawling until Hardy clobbered Cole with his title belt before walking off with the gold.
Grudge match #2 saw Kyle O'Reilly taking on his former mentor Davey Richards.
Now this was good. For nearly twenty minutes these two beat the proverbial out of each other in an extremely intense back and forth encounter, and at times it was like watching one man battling a clone of himself, such was the similarity between these two.
Both combatants put in tremendous performances as they threw everything they had at each other. There was some pretty decent wrestling, but for the most part high impact blows and moves were the order of the day.
The match got even more intense as it went on. Neither man was willing to quit as they brought out the big guns, but eventually Richards began to take the upper hand, and having taken O'Reilly down with a boot to the head it looked like he was going to get the win until O'Reilly grabbed the referee's hand and stopped him from making the three count.
It was then that O'Reilly raised his exhausted fists showing that he was prepared to fight on. Richards was having none of it though as he put his man on his knees and connected with another stiff kick to the head before finally securing the three count.
The main event was the Defy or Deny match. No titles on the line here as Eddie Edwards, Roderick Strong, Michael Elgin and World Champion Kevin Steen faced off in a four-way elimination match.
The premise for this one was simple, and very similar to the Proving Ground matches. If either Edwards, Strong or Elgin won they'd get a shot at the title, but if Steen survived he wouldn't have to face the man he beat while he was champion.
Now all of that is out of the way I can tell you what I thought about the match. It was great. All four guys put in great shifts in this one. I really enjoyed every aspect of this match, and while Strong, Edwards and Steen put in great performances the MVP of this whole thing was clearly Michael Elgin. The guy must have spent more time in the ring than the other three combined. He literally took on all comers and impressed the hell out of me once again.
As for the eliminations, Elgin was the first man to go. Having spent a great deal of time beating the other three guys up he finally fell to Strong, who took him down with a high knee before finally taking him out with a suplex into a backbreaker for the pin.
Strong was next. After a great sequence of moves Edwards managed to apply his Achilles lock, adding in a few boots to the head for good measure, but when Steen came in with a somersault leg drop on Strong's head that was it as far as the referee was concerned.
This left Steen alone with Edwards, and after the champion connected with a low kick while the referee was helping Strong out of the win he then took his man down with his package piledriver. Edwards managed to kick out of the pin though, but it was more or less the beginning of the end for him. After missing a top rope double stomp while Steen was lying on the ring apron Steen then took Edwards down with another package piledriver, this time on the hard ring apron. He then rolled his man back into the ring to take the three count and the win, denying Edwards a future title shot in the process.
In conclusion - although Ring of Honor has undergone a transformation of sorts since their takeover, and even though they now put more focus on their television show they're still capable of putting out great DVD releases, and Defy or Deny 2 is a fine example of this.
From top to bottom this is a great card. All the matches delivered, from the opener between Cole and Young right up to the four-way main event. There were some great performances throughout here.
As for my match of the night there were two main contenders, and although Richards and O'Reilly almost stole the show I'm giving the no-prize to the aforementioned four-way main event, with Michael Elgin getting a special citation for his performance.
So with all that out of the way there's just one more thing to do, and that's to give this release the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. ROH Defy or Deny 2 is available to buy online at www.rohwrestling.com.