Ring of Honor returned to iPPV last Saturday, May 4th, when it presented “Border Wars 2013.” The card looked stacked on paper as there were two title matches, Pro Wrestling NOAH talent, and the return of Paul London. The show had loads of potential, but how did it turn out?
“Border Wars” kicked off with a tag team match between the C&C Wrestle Factory and the team of TaDarius Thomas and ACH. This was a fun match and the perfect choice for an opener. It was fast-paced and high-flying and there were few, if any, breaks from the action. Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander had another great performance in a Ring of Honor ring and continue to be some of the most under-appreciated talents on the roster. Thomas once again looked good and has developed quite a bit over the last few months, while ACH once again showed he is the future of the company with his innovative offense and charisma. There were a lot of great spots throughout the match and it was entertaining from bell to bell. Coleman and Alexander picked up the win after hitting Overtime. This was one of the better matches of the night and a perfect opener.
The show continued with Roderick Strong going one-on-one with Mike Bennett, who had Maria in his corner. This was advertised as a triple threat match, but Mike Mondo suffered an injury in training and was unable to compete. It’s a shame, too, because Mondo would’ve made this match better than what it was. Not saying it was a bad match — because it wasn’t — it was just kind of bland and unmemorable. Strong and Bennett didn’t have much of a reason to wrestle each other as both of their conflicts were with Mondo. The action was fine, but it wasn’t anything special. The ending was amazing, though, as Cheeseburger made his return after getting punched out by Bennett at “Supercard of Honor VII” last month by planting a kiss on Maria. This enraged Bennett, which allowed Strong to hit the Sick Kick to pick up the win. Ring of Honor needs to figure out what to do with Bennett and Strong as they’ve been floating around with no real program for a while now. They’re both too talented to go to waste like they are.
Up next was the worst match of the night as B.J. Whitmer battled Rhett Titus in an I Quit match. This was the most tame I Quit match I’ve ever seen … and also the worst. There was absolutely no intensity and no brutal spots one would expect from a match like this. There was literally nothing exciting about the match. And the ending. While good in theory, it was horribly executed. Whitmer had Titus tied to the ropes without a way to escape. Whitmer was about to hit Titus with a chair until Steve Corino came to the ring and sacrificed himself by falling to his knees and turning his back on Whitmer. Whitmer was deciding whether or not to hit Corino when Titus quit to save Corino from a chair shot. Whitmer looked like a complete idiot as he had the opportunity to take out two members of S.C.U.M. with chair attacks and he did nothing about it. Why wouldn’t he take that opportunity? It was just dumb and horribly executed. It made a bad match even worse.
Fortunately, the next match started almost immediately as Jimmy Jacobs and Cliff Comption of S.C.U.M. wrestled Jay Lethal and Michael Elgin. The in-ring action took a backseat to storytelling, but that doesn’t mean the wrestling wasn’t good. There were quite a few very nice wrestling sequences, especially with Elgin showing off his freakish strength. About halfway through the match, Lethal suffered a leg injury on a suicide dive attempt and was out for the remainder of the match. Elgin was able to fight off S.C.U.M. and looked to be well on his way to victory. Out of nowhere, Kevin Steen ran into Elgin’s corner and Nigel McGuinness gave Steen the OK to be Elgin’s new partner. Steen entered the match, but he was eventually the one pinned by Jacobs. This means Corino will be on commentary and S.C.U.M. will get a future title shot. This match was booked to perfection as S.C.U.M. gets what they needed to continue to establish themselves as a threat against ROH, while Steen losing gives the ROH another reason not to trust him. I loved this match.
After intermission, RD Evans and QT Marshall made their way to the ring. They ran down the Toronto crowd for a few minutes until the lights started flickering and Tommaso Ciampa made his ROH return. He stormed the ring and set up Marshall for the running knee in the corner, but Evans pulled his client to safety. This was one of the coolest returns I can remember ROH having. It was really well done.
Eddie Edwards match with GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori was next. This was an incredible match and possibly the company’s match of the year thus far. The two had tremendous chemistry together and they meshed together to create a great match. I hadn’t seen much of Ishimori before “Border Wars,” and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. He blew away my expectations and I hope to see him again in Ring of Honor in the near future. Edwards picked up the win with the Diehard. This was an amazing match and well worth the price of the iPPV alone.
Up next, ROH World TV Champion Matt Taven, alongside Truth Martini and the Hoopla Hotties, defended the belt against Mark Briscoe. This was yet another disappointing title defense for Taven, which is a shame. I was excited for Taven’s title run, but his matches have been one letdown after another. Maybe he wasn’t ready for this kind of push. Or maybe he wasn’t as good as I thought he was. Whatever the case is, his title run just isn’t working. It may have something to do with the focus being on Martini and his antics instead of the champion. I like Martini but he shouldn’t overshadow Taven, which he’s done time and time again. Martini should help get Taven over, not use Taven to get himself over more. The action in the ring was nothing special and Taven had a couple of botches. He retained after Briscoe got distracted by the Hoopla Hotties making out on the apron. After the match, the commentators were discussing what Martini would do next, not about Taven retaining. He’s not even getting a chance to get over.
Paul London made his Ring of Honor return after almost 10 years away as he wrestled Davey Richards. I was kind of skeptical of what we would get in this match as I haven’t seen London wrestle since his WWE days. I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I saw from him and he and Richards put together a very good match. Richards was clearly a step above London at this point in their careers, but London did a good job of keeping up with him. Richards did a great job of playing the heel and I wish we got to see this side of him more. The spot everyone has been talking about happened near the end of the match. Richards went for a double stomp to London on the apron. Either Richards miscalculated the distance, or the sweat on London’s body cause it, but the double stomp connected with London’s face and appeared to knock him out. It was brutal. To his credit (or stupidity), London finished the match and even attempted a Shooting Star Press. Richards got his knees up and blocked it and then got a roll up to win the match. This was a very entertaining match. London proved he still has what it takes to wrestle at a high level and I’m looking forward to him wrestling for the company again in the future.
It was then time for the main event as ROH World Champion Jay Briscoe made the first defense of his belt against Adam Cole. This was a very disappointing main event. It wasn’t a horrible match, but it didn’t live up to the expectations set by previous iPPV main events. It was more of a technical match, which I don’t think suits Briscoe. He’s at his best when he’s able to brawl and make the match a fight, which he didn’t do here. Most of the match was based around Cole focusing on Briscoe’s knee, which while decent enough storytelling, it didn’t make for the most entertaining match. Referee Todd Sinclair got knocked out near the end of the match, and Corino once again made his way to the ring. He tried to get Cole to join S.C.U.M. by offering him a t-shirt. Cole didn’t accept the offer, and turned around into a Jay Driller for the three count. After the match, Cole teased superkicking the champion, but walked away without doing anything. This would have been a fine undercard match, but it wasn’t anywhere near the level a main event World Title match needs to be.
Final Thoughts: This was the worst iPPV so far this year. That is more of a testament of the high quality of shows instead of an indictment of this one. “Border Wars” was still a very good show and had a couple of great matches and moments. The two tag matches before intermission, Edwards/Ishimori, and Richards/London are all worth going out of your way to see. The other matches weren’t much to write home about, but nothing was horribly bad except the I Quit match. If this show would have happened at this time last year, I would have said it was a great show compared to what we’ve been seeing. But while this is a good show, it doesn’t quite reach the level the iPPVs have been at since “Glory by Honor XI.” It might sound like I’m being harsh on this show, but “Border Wars 2013” is a good show that is easily worth $15.