With Final Battle coming up, ROH headed to the tried and tested Dayton, OH for the first time in a while for the annual Survival of the Fittest tournament. The layout of the tournament was slightly different this year with three singles matches and a four corner survival where the winners advance. However this year we also had a tag team match with both guys from the winning team going through. Outside of the tournament, there is a Champion’s Challenge match and Steve Corino trying to prove to El Generico that he’s not all that evil. So, did Survival of the Fittest 2011 (11/18/11) deliver? Read on to find out…
SOTF Qualifying Match: The Bravado Brothers vs. The Briscoes
Both members of the winning team will proceed to the finals. They have a decent track record in this tournament with Mark actually getting to the final in 2006. The Bravados are making their SOTF debuts and it wasn’t a happy one. They continued their recent trend of getting squashed with the Briscoes dominating for most of the brief match. More an extended squash than anything and Dem Boys got the win with the Doomsday Device.
SOTF Qualifying Match: Andy ‘Right Leg’ Ridge vs. Kyle O’Reilly.
Ridge qualified for this one after beating Grizzly Redwood in a dark match at ‘Death Before Dishonor IX’. O’Reilly lost to Kevin Steen at last year’s event. As expected, this match included a lot of strikes. I think strikes outnumbered moves about 5:1 in this bout and in the end, it made for quite a dull match. O’Reilly got the win with a guillotine choke but that was only after both men had kicked each other about 50 times.
SOTF Qualifying Match: Mike Bennett vs. Eddie Edwards
Both of these guys hail from Boston and Bennett will be without his trainer Brutal Bob tonight. Edwards of course won the tournament last year and went on to win the ROH World Title, this is Bennett’s debut. I really liked this match and it really helped Bennett show off his heelish tendencies. While he might not be the best in the ring, his character is great and is one of the best in ROH. He’s still improving and he proved he can cut it with the best as these two put on a good back-and-forth match that made Bennett look great. Edwards won with the Dragon Sleeper – why on Earth did they completely ignore that move at Final Battle? Anyway, great match!
After the match, we go to a backstage promo where Davey Richards tells Kyle O’Reilly that tonight it’s all bout him. Davey also manages to spoil the winner of the four corner survival match – thanks for that!
SOTF Qualifying Match: Michael Elgin w/Truth Martini vs. Tommaso Ciampa w/The Embassy vs. Adam Cole vs. Kenny King
The winner of this one will go to the finals. Cole and King made it to the finals last year and King was actually the last man to be eliminated by winner Eddie Edwards. Thanks to Davey Richards, we already know the winner but that doesn’t pull the match down at all. In my experiences, Four Corner Survival matches can either be great or terrible and thankfully this one was the former. All four guys got offense in and they did some nice sequences where all four were in the ring at the same time. Elgin (as predicted by Davey!) got the win after hitting the spinning sit-out powerbomb on Adam Cole. This was great and a ton of fun, they managed to pack loads of action into the 10 minutes – great job.
Steve Corino w/Jimmy Jacobs vs. El Generico
This match is all about Corino’s road to redemption and proving himself to El Generico after what he did to him last year. Generico refused to shake hands at the start of the contest. Corino just wanted to last the 15 minutes and prove to Generico that he was a man without using any underhand tactics. While this match wasn’t the best technical match ever, it was solid. What really boosted this match was the story behind it and Corino and Jacobs really putting over how much Corino wanted to prove himself to Generico. Corino kicked out of two brainbusters and even waved off Jacobs when he tried to throw in the towel. The 15 minutes expired and Jacobs says everybody now knows Corino is a man – Cornette also comes out and says Generico almost killed Corino. Generico finally shakes Corino’s hand – a very well told story by both men.
SOTF Qualifying Match: Roderick Strong w/Truth Martini vs. Rhett Titus
Strong is no strange to SOTF and has competed in every single one except for last year’s. He won the tournament back in 2005. Titus got to the finals last year and this is his third appearance. This match stalled the show’s flow in my opinion, somewhat. It was a very slow and deliberate match that just seemed to plod along. It got better towards the end and the last few minutes were good but it just seemed to be a filler until the end stretch. Strong got the win with the Sick Kick after Truth Martini got on the apron and distracted Titus.
Jay Lethal & Davey Richards vs. Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team
This is a Champion’s Challenge with all four Ring of Honor title holders at the time being involved in this one match. This match just seemed to flow by which is definitely a good thing, it shows that the action flowed well. There didn’t seem to be any ‘rest periods’ and it was almost non-stop all the way through. I particularly liked the sequences involving Shelton and Richards; I definitely want to see a singles match involving those two guys. This was just four guys going at it trying to prove who was best. They didn’t go overboard with the false finishes or crazy spots, it was just a very good wrestling match. WGTT got the win after Haas blocked a hurricanrana attempt from Lethal and locked in the Haas of Pain which made Lethal tap out.
SOTF Final: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe vs. Michael Elgin vs. Roderick Strong vs. Eddie Edwards
The Survival of the Fittest trophy is on hand for whoever manages to outlast the other five men. Both Edwards and Strong are former winners and it’s interesting to note that we have two tag teams (or at least alliance in the House of Truth’s case). It’s the usual format where two guys are allowed in the ring and they can tag out to anybody. Jay Briscoe was the first to go after some time. He received superkicks from Edwards and O’Reilly and then was hit by the ‘Die Hard’. Edwards then grabbed Mark Briscoe and locked in the Dragon Sleeper to eliminate him – Dem Boys are gone. Edwards kicked Martini off the apron who subsequently knocked the ropes and O’Reilly fell off the top rope and through a ringside table! Elgin and Strong run into each other and Edwards rolls up Strong to eliminate him. Elgin then hits two backfists and a huge lariat on ‘Die Hard’ to make sure there’s no repeat for Eddie. Now it’s just Elgin vs. O’Reilly. The two go at it for another ten minutes or so of great action. Plenty of near falls for O’Reilly and the crowd were going nuts for him. Eventually though, Elgin managed to hit a Buckle Bomb followed by the spinning sit-out powerbomb for the win. I loved this match and I really liked the direction they chose to go in. They gave the two young guys enough time at the end to really prove themselves. Both men became stars that night and it was just awesome. Really well done.
Overall Thoughts: Survival of the Fittest shows rarely disappoint and fortunately, this one didn’t either. The final match was terrific and there were several other good-to-great matches too including the champion’s challenge. In the ring, there’s nothing to complain about but the production again was sub-par. The camera at times was grainy and the sound levels were atrocious. I had to turn it up a lot but the commentary was still well below the ring noise. If you can look past that then this is an easy recommendation. In my opinion, it’s one of the best shows of 2011 and really showed that ROH are willing to push younger guys into the spotlight. The crowd were great and Dayton is such an underrated market for ROH – great show all round.
Overall Score: 8/10