By Kari Williams
Ring of Honor (ROH) returned to the Gateway Center in Collinsville, IL to a packed crowd waiting anxiously, not only for the matches, but for Ric Flair’s highly-anticipated appearance. Having attended both shows when ROH traveled to the Midwest, I can vouch for the fact that the second show greatly surpassed the first. With Flair in house, every wrestler seemed to step it up a notch to impress the legend.
Two pre-show matches took place, and the quality of those bouts set the stage for the rest of the night. Fans appeared most impressed by Travis Sawyer v. Alex Payne and the energy buzz created during that match lasted the entire night. With mere moments between Sawyer/Payne and the official matches beginning, eagerness buzzed around the building.
Suddenly, the lights went out. The room became pitch black and anticipation buzzed in the atmosphere. As if on cue, everyone, including myself, stood up and clapped to the heart-pounding beat that blared through the speakers. An “R-O-H” chant rumbled from the depths of the room to encompass its entirety as fans in the front row banged their fists against the metal barricade in front of them.
In the first match, Jay Brisco took on Roderick Strong and the fans showed their devotion with chants for both men echoing from wall to wall. Only minutes into the match up, someone off to the side started a “Man up!” chant, which sparked a fire in the men. Not long after the resurgence of energy, they began chopping each other, prompting the always-expected “Woooooo!” from the crowd, signifying Flair-appreciation. Brisco and Strong’s ability cannot be denied, and these men fought a fast-paced and exciting bout. On this exchange, Strong snuck away with the victory after a quick roll-up that caught Brisco off guard.
With the fans pumped and ready for more, SHIMMER Champion MsChif, accompanied by Jimmy Jacobs and Delirious, defended her belt against Daizee Haze. At one point, Haze appeared poised for victory, and when she ascended the turnbuckles, Jacobs pushed her off, giving MsChif a window of opportunity. Haze tried to keep the advantage, but after taking a devastating power bomb lost a great deal of momentum. She did have enough fire left to connect with a bulldog followed up by a missile drop kick for a two-count, but Jacobs’ constant interference got in Haze’s head. She climbed to the top rope and flew off with a crossbody that took out Delirious and Jacobs. This distraction is what did in Haze, causing MsChif to retain. Jacobs then delivered the message to Haze that if she got involved in his and Delirious’ upcoming tag match he would make her feel what he made Delirious feel.
After the AoTF went to the back, a four corner survival took place between Austin Aries, Kenny Omega Silas Young and Claudio Castagnoli. From the moment the bell rang, bodies flew everywhere. Aries started the match off very strong, and with the fans on his side, he refused to disappoint. Fast-paced and filled with quick pins, these four men put everything on the line. Move after move continued to impress, leaving fans in awe. In the end, Aries’ antics allowed him to pick up the win.
Next, Flair’s music hit, and the entire crowd stood up to cheer for, and bow to, the legend. Nothing gets wrestling fans more hyped than seeing the wheeling, dealing, kiss stealing, jet flying, limosuine riding, son of a gun, not twenty feet away from them. I happen to glance over at Brian Kelley when Flair walked by, and he stood erect, arms raised high above his head, bowing in unison with everyone else in his row, paying homage to the dirtiest player in the game.
After intermission, Davey Richards and the American Wolves took on El Generico, Kevin Steen and Bobby Dempsey in a grudge match. The six men fought with such intensity and hooked every fan before the bell even rang. Dempsey became the focus of the match and delivered a fierce amount of punishment to his opponents. Unfortunately, Generico, Steen and Dempsey could not overcome the odds with Richards and the Wolves having Larry Sweeney in their corner.
After intermission, Irish Airborne wrestled Rhet Titus and Kenny King. From the moment Titus and King came out, Titus was heckled with chants of “Stevie-Richards!” which may have contributed to their mindset going into the match. Despite Titus and King’s determination, they could not defeat the incredible tandem of Irish Airborne, who went on the offense with a number of impressive double-teams to secure victory.
In a night filled with remarkable match after remarkable match, the battle between “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and Bison Smith ranked high on my list of favorites. Before the two even locked-up, a “Best in the World” chant broke out for Danielson, the clear-cut favorite. Danielson’s confidence frustated Smith, who could not seem to gain the upper hand early on. Soon, Smith turned his frustration into willpower, and he began to over power Danielson. The bout consisted of multiple nearfalls for both men, but Danielson wounded Smith enough for him to be unable to answer the 10 count, resulting in a count-out victory for the best in the world.
Jacobs and Delirious teamed up against Tyler Black and Jerry Lynn next in another collision that sent fans into a frenzy. Frequent tags mixed with spectacular athleticism gave Lynn and Black the early advantage. In an attempt to take over, Jacobs sent Delirious to do his dirty work, which looked as if it help for a while. However, after Haze’s interference, which costs AoTF the win, Delirious stood up for himself against Jacobs, who has tormented him unrelentlessly for months. Delirious and Haze embraced in the center of the ring and resounding cheers of happiness exploded as the two walk to the back, arm in arm.
Brent Albright challenged Nigel McGuinness for the ROH World Title in the main event. With Flair sitting ringside, these two made put on, arguably, the match of the night. McGuinness and Albright wrestled a purely technical bout with a mixture of high-impact moves and meshed into a masterpiece. Flair looked on approvingly, especially when the competitors let out the patented Ric Flair chops. The most decisive part of the match came when Castagnoli ran into the match, causing a disqualification victory for Albright. Castagnoli and McGuinness double-teamed Albright, causing Flair to make the save and he raised Albright’s hand after they sent their opponents running to the back.
The next ROH show in Collinsville will take place on October 9. Tickets can be purchased through rohwrestling.com.