Ring of Honor returned to Dearborn, Mich., for the first time since May 2011 with “The Hunt For Gold.” It was the first house show of the new year and featured the American Wolves challenging the Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Titles in the main event. Tadarius Thomas also got the opportunity of a lifetime in front of his home crowd when he challenged ROH World Champion Kevin Steen for the belt, and Jimmy Jacobs stepped into the Proving Ground against Adam Cole. Let’s see how “The Hunt for Gold” (1/18/13) turned out.
We kick off the show with the BJ Express taking on Team Am-Fishin’. Both teams are coming off tough losses at “Final Battle 2012,” and a win would get either team back into title contention. The match was a good back-and-forth battle and it was a really fun way to kick off the show. They did a great job at making Whitmer look tough as nails, while making Team Am-Fishin’ look really good in the process, too. This was almost the perfect opener as it was a fun match, but it didn’t burn me out for the rest of the show. Team Am-Fishin’ picked up the win after hitting the head kick/brainbuster combination, and catapulted themselves right back into the title scene.
Jay Lethal did battle with Steve Corino in the show’s second contest. Before the match, Corino tells Lethal that Kevin Steen isn’t the same person since “Final Battle 2o12,” and goes on to insult Lethal. Lethal eventually snaps and they brawl around ringside. The match felt very short and it lacked any kind of natural flow. The match seemed to end just as it was starting to kick into the next gear. It wasn’t a bad match, but it was slightly disappointing considering who was involved. In the end, Lethal picked up the win with the Lethal Injection and Hail to the King. After the match, Corino got into it with Nigel McGuinness, who was on commentary for most of the night. McGuinness followed Corino to the back to have a word with him.
The amazing Truth Martini joins Kevin Kelly on commentary for the next few matches, and Martini was gold on the mic as always.
The next match saw Silas Young facing off against Roderick Strong. This was a match that looked to be really good on paper, and completely delivered in the ring. Strong was his usual great self, and really punished Young’s back throughout the match. Young looked very good in this match, and he has been nothing but impressive during his most recent appearances in the company. He is a wrestler who Ring of Honor needs to get locked up under contract because he puts on consistently good matches every show. Young did a good job getting heat during the match, and was often jawing off with ringside fans. His heel dynamic forced Strong to wrestle as a face, and it was a refreshing change that worked really well. Strong got the pinfall victory following the Sick Kick to end a very good match.
Next up was the ROH World Title match as Tadarius Thomas challenged Kevin Steen in front of Thomas’ home fans. This was another match that was a lot of fun to watch. It was not much more than an extended squash, which is all it really needed to be. Steen was in control most of the match and was toying with Thomas, but Thomas would get in his shots when he could. Thomas looked impressive when he was able to mount some offense, including hitting a very nice looking Dragon Suplex. Although Steen was in control for the majority of the match, Thomas still came out looking really good by taking all of the punishment and kicking out. Thomas kicked out of an F-Cinq near the end of the match, but Steen finally put him away using the Package Piledriver. It was a pretty good match that was exactly what it needed to be. My only complaint would be that Ring of Honor has been saying Steen is a different person following “Final Battle 2012,” but he wrestled like the same old Steen on this show. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Steen we’ve been getting, but some continuity would have been appreciated.
To start the second half of the show, Trey Miguel and Brent Daniels were given a match to showcase their skills. Barely a minute into the match, a pissed off (is there any other way?) Charlie Haas came to the ring and ran down the crowd saying Dearborn was full of terrorists. He challenged Miguel and Daniels to a handicap match, and easily picked up the win with a double Haas of Pain. The match was nothing of note, but Haas continues to be one of the most entertaining, and most hated, wrestlers on the roster. The amount of heat he gets in just unreal, and things like this are perfect for him.
Following that we get Jimmy Jacobs stepping into the Proving Ground by taking on Adam Cole. If Jacobs can beat Cole or last the time limit, he will receive a future ROH World TV Title match. In my preview, I said this this match could steal the show. I don’t want to toot my own horn (toot toot), but I was right. This match was incredible and was arguably the best match of the night. It was so great to see Jacobs being able to unleash his full potential in a singles match. He’s an extremely underrated wrestler and has been severely misused by Ring of Honor since his return. Jacobs proved he can still go with the best of them and he and Cole put together a fantastic match. It was another fun match that was fast-paced and packed in a lot of action. It felt shorter than the 18 minutes it ran, and that’s a compliment. The drama of the near-falls toward the end of the match were well-done, as was Jacobs locking in the guillotine choke on several occasions. The ending of the match was spectacular, as Cole caught Jacobs with a super kick as Jacobs was coming in for a spear. It just looked brutal. Cole followed it up with the Florida Key to put away the Zombie Princess. Both wrestlers came out of this match looking like a million bucks, and I can only hope we get to see them square off again in the future. This match alone would have been enough to make it worth buying this show.
Michael Elgin and Rhino had the tough task of following the previous match, and they have a good match of their own. Before the match, Rhino gets on the mic and talks about being from Dearborn and names various local areas and why they’re important to him, including talking about the place where he lost his virginity. We didn’t really need to know that much about you Rhino. Rhino was obviously very over, and the crowd was split between the two. The match quickly spilled to the outside and Rhino and Elgin brawled through the crowd. Once they got back into the ring, it turned into a power vs power match, and I thought it worked pretty well. They both hit some of their power spots, and Elgin worked over Rhino with a crossface. Rhino was eventually able to connect with the Gore, but Elgin kicked out at two. Rhino tried for another one, but Elgin side-stepped it and locked in the crossface, leaving Rhino with no choice but to submit. This was another good match on a show full of them, and it was a nice breather between the previous match and the main event.
The main event saw The American Wolves challenging the Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Titles. I can’t describe how awesome it was to see Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards in the matching Wolves gear after almost two years. But this match pitted two of the best tag teams in the world against each other, how could it be anything other than great. The two teams battled for almost 30 minutes and there was never a dull moment. There were a ton of awesome spots and moments, including Richards locking the trailer hitch on one Briscoe and an ankle lock on the other at the same time. The Wolves looked like they haven’t missed a step teaming together and hit a number of exciting double-team moves. The Briscoes were their usual selves, meaning they were extremely entertaining and brought the brawl to Richards and Edwards.The end came when Richards was shoved off the top rope through the ringside table and the Briscoes hit the Doomsday Device, but Edwards kicked out. Jay hit the Jay Driller, and that finally put Edwards away for the Briscoes to retain their titles. This was an awesome match to cap off a very entertaining show.
Overall Thoughts: Ring of Honor could not have had a better start to their 2013. While there were still some issues with production, the quality of the action in the ring more than made up for it. The first-half was solid, and included a very good match between Strong and Young. The second-half of the show was amazing and flew by. Whether it was the hilarious Haas segment, Elgin and Rhino’s good match, or the two other great matches, the second-half of the show delivered in every sense of the word. This show just continues the wave of momentum Ring of Honor has been riding since “Glory by Honor XI,” and fans are in for an incredible year if this show is any indication. I would definitely recommend this show.