(02/22) Adam Cole (c) vs. Chris Hero

Ring of Honor
Pennsylvania National Guard Amory (Philadelphia, PA)
Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Championship

I like a good opening segment as much as I enjoy a good stretch run. Of the Chris Hero matches I have watched since he left WWE developmental, most have good, solid opening segments and transitions. That stands in stark contrast to a lot of indie matches – and that’s not just limited to the so-called ‘workrate’ ones – where the opening segments are often flat and the transitions nonexistent. I am not looking for anything world class – just a solid, well-formed foundation for the rest of the match.

The first six or seven minutes of this match from ROH’s 12th anniversary show might be my favorite stretch of any ROH match in quite some time. Hero controls with headlocks and cravats early. Cole twice goes for what at first appears to be a lazy kick-to-the-gut transition, only for Hero to block it. I hate the knee lift or kick to the stomach transition so I really enjoyed that tease and reversal.

After being thwarted several times to get any offense going, Cole bails to the outside. He stalls by leaving the ring several more times and it is very effective. Cole has developed a very nice cocky heel champion persona, which the stalling nicely compliments. At one point Cole will not get back into the ring, so Hero bails out as well. They have a standoff on opposite sides of the ring. Hero fakes going one way and Cole makes the mistake of running in the opposite direction. In a nice touch, he is jawing with the fans as he runs away so he is completely unaware when Hero changes directions and comes charging at him with a big boot from the other side.

Hero stays in control for the first six minutes or so of the match before he makes the mistake of attempting a dive after Cole yet again bails to ringside. Previously, he played Cole’s stalling correctly by ignoring it or out-smarting him, but this time he plays right into his hand and the dive is countered with a kick to the end, putting Cole on offense. I thought the whole build up to and including that transition moment was very well done.

Cole’s control segment was pretty decent as well. Relative to other members of the ROH roster, he keeps his offense relatively contained and more importantly, utilizes elements like stalling, jawing with the crowd, and facial expressions to fill time rather than simply going to the next move. At one point the Philly crowd starts making a noise that sounded to me like a cross between a sarcastic and maniacal laugh presumably directed towards Cole. He lets this completely distract him, which the crowd eats up, so they keep doing it throughout the match whenever Hero kicks out of a move. The Philly fans weren’t into the near falls all that much, but their laughing at Cole’s inability to finish Hero made up for that heat-wise.

Hero has gone big boot crazy in some matches of his recently (the Raymond Rowe match from Texas being a prime example) and uses it a lot here, but not to the point of overkill. The kicks also all looked very good, including a through the ropes feet-first dive where he catches Cole square on the jaw.

Like I said before, the near falls did not get much of a reaction which was one issue with the match. The finishing stretch itself fell a tad flat for me as well and veered towards overkill a bit, even if it wasn’t anywhere close to what you get in other modern day ROH matches.

The ref bump was fine for setting up a re-match. I liked the attention to detail where Nigel McGuiness checked on referee Todd Sinclair after his spill to the outside, so that when Cole fouled Hero both the official and Nigel (still an authority figure of some sorts in ROH) both missed it. Also thought the kick out of the Florida Key after Sinclair comes to was the a good near fall (the only really good one of the match) because the ending would have felt a bit flat and telegraphed coming right then.

Definitely the best ROH match I have seen this year and probably the best in a while. The match is not a world-beater, but it is solidly worked, tells a straight-forward story, contains some neat spots, and doesn’t spiral into offensive overkill. That’s all I really am looking for, particularly for a match shown on free TV.

US Indie Singles | Worthwhile | Quality

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