After a great start to 2013 with “The Hunt for Gold,” Ring of Honor looks to continue its momentum in the beautiful Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaulkee, Wis., for “Defy or Deny II.” The show features some great matches, including a long-awaited meeting between Davey Richards and Kyle O’Reilly. The main event has long-term title implications, as it’s a four-way Defy or Deny match where if Eddie Edwards, Roderick Strong or Michael Elgin win, they get a future title match. But if Kevin Steen wins, whoever is last eliminated cannot receive a title match for as long as Steen is champion. This looks like a good show on paper, so let’s see how “Defy or Deny II” (1/19/13) turned out!
The show starts of with a match between Silas Young and ROH World TV Champion Adam Cole. The crowd is red-hot throughout the match, and adds to what would have been a very good opener. Young and Cole meshed really well together, and had a very good back-and-forth match. Cole played the plucky young babyface to perfection, while Young made for an entertaining heel. There were several close near falls throughout the match, including some great camera work (who would have ever thought that would happen in an ROH show?) to catch Young grabbing the rope at the last second to break up a pin. In the end, Cole connected with a nice superkick as Young was setting up for the headstand moonsault, and followed it up with the Florida Key to get the pinfall victory. This was an amazing match to start the show, and got an already hot crowd even hotter. I hope we get to see these two wrestle more in the future.
Up next, Bobby Fish takes on Tadarius Thomas. Fish is accompanied to the ring by Kyle O’Reilly. This match was very disappointing. It wasn’t a bad match, but it was pretty bland. Fish dominated long stretches of the match and the action was slow and prodding for the most part. Thomas would get small spurts of offense using his kicks, but those moments were few and far between. That seems to be an issue with Thomas: He hasn’t been able to get in much offense in many of his matches, and it makes me wonder if his repertoire is diverse enough to have a long match. Truth Martini walked to ringside midway through the match to scout Thomas, and the crowd loved Martini almost as much as he loves his Hoopla Hotties. The ending of the match saw Fish reverse a pinning attempt into the Fish Hook to pick up the submission victory.
The show continued with Charlie Haas wrestling Rhett Titus. Haas came to the ring drinking beer and jawing with the fans. Before the match, he says he is going to be just like Prince Fielder and get the hell out of Milwaukee. The match was nothing special and was exactly what you would expect out of these two. Titus hasn’t been the same since returning from the knee injury and continues to have dull matches, while Haas’s character was enough to keep me interested. The rules were a bit lax in the match, which made it slightly better, but it was still just a run-of-the mill match. There was a pretty funny spot leading up to Titus attempting a frog splash, but Haas got his knees up to block it, which was enough for the pin. It was just an average match, but the crowd loved to hate Haas.
The next match pitted Steve Corino, Jimmy Jacobs and Rhino of S.C.U.M. against Jay Lethal and the ROH World Tag Team Champions Jay and Mark Briscoe. After the disappointing eight-man tag that involved most of these wrestlers on an episode of Ring of Honor television, I didn’t have high hopes for this match. It turned out to be a good match that didn’t involve too much chaotic brawling, which crippled the tv match. The match started off with all six men brawling around ringside, but quickly turned into a standard six-man tag. I enjoyed this match and every wrestler had a moment or two to shine. All of the wrestlers in the match are extremely talented, making it close to impossible for this to be anything but good. The end came with Mark Briscoe celebrating some of his Redneck Kung Fu, only to turn around into a Gore for the pinfall. It was a surprising ending, but it worked well based on the build during the closing moments of the match. This match was a ton of fun, which is something Ring of Honor could use more of.
B.J. Whitmer battled Matt Hardy in the event’s fifth match. Hardy was involved in yet another bland match, but this one was probably his best Ring of Honor match to date. They told a logical story with Hardy attacking Whitmer’s injured neck with Whitmer refusing to give in. They really got over Whitmer’s toughness in the match. That didn’t make the match any more exciting for the most part, although it did pick up in the closing minutes. They also included my least favorite spot in wrestling: Whitmer kicked out of a Twist of Fate at one even though he’s been a part of a grueling match. I know he’s supposed to be tough, but stuff like that annoys me. Whitmer kicked out of another Twist of Fate before Hardy locked in a guillotine-like submission. Rhett Titus came to ringside when it was obvious Whitmer wouldn’t give up and couldn’t escape, and Titus threw in the towel on Whitmer’s behalf. It was kind of a lame ending, but it protected Whitmer without having Hardy lose. This is yet another skippable Hardy match.
Hardy gets on the microphone after the match and demands a title shot, and Adam Cole comes to the ring and tells Hardy he doesn’t have a problem giving him a title shot. They brawl and they have to be broken up. Hardy grabs the belt and hits Cole over the head with it before leaving with the TV Title.
The next match saw the student taking on the teacher with Kyle O’Reilly going one-on-one with Davey Richards. This was an excellent match and reminded me of why I fell in love with Ring of Honor all those years ago. It pitted two great wrestlers against each other who gave it their all to put on an amazing match, and it absolutely delivered. Richards and O’Reilly crafted a nice story in the match, with both being able to counter and one up each other due to their familiarity to one another from their Team Ambition days. It led to a nice series of counters and reversals, especially as the match was nearing its end. There was an amazing spot with Richards finding a way out of O’Reilly’s guillotine by countering it into an ankle lock, amongst other innovative reversals. This match made O’Reilly look every bit Richards’ equal, and it was important to establish that for their feud. The end saw Richards get the pinfall after a hard kick, but O’Reilly looked great in defeat and didn’t go down without a fight. This match is definitely worth checking out.
It’s now time for the night’s main event, with ROH World Champion Kevin Steen wrestling Michael Elgin, Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong in a “Defy or Deny” match. This match was a fantastic way to end what was a very good show. Every wrestler had at least a few moments to shine, and it was (total) nonstop action from bell to bell. The star of the match was Elgin, even though he was eliminated first. He got to show off his superhuman power throughout the match, which included a deadlift German suplex to Steen and launching Steen onto the entrance ramp. Elgin also had the least amount of rest-time, as the other three would take breathers on the outside for a few minutes at a time. In addition to the incredible action in the ring, the match was booked to perfection: Strong eliminated Elgin to keep their feud going; Strong was eliminated by being knocked out due to a sick looking Achilles Lock and flipping leg drop combination; and Edwards was the final wrestler eliminated, which opens him up to focus on teaming with Richards. The ending spot of the match was brutal, and it was a great way to finish this match. This was awesome.
Final Thoughts: While not as consistent as the previous night’s show, “Defy or Deny II” was just as good as it. “Defy or Deny II” had a hot opener, a fun six-man tag, and two great matches to close out the show. The good on this show far outweighed the bad, even though it’s close to impossible to call anything on this show bad. Ring of Honor continued its momentum, and its first two house shows of 2013 are must-buys. This was an amazing way to start the year.