ROH on SBG - 9/9/15
ROH World Championship
Jay Lethal vs. Roderick Strong



(I had to wait for old ROH TV episodes to pop up on torrents to get this because there's no video link anywhere, so if anyone wants this match I'll Dropbox the episode)

Ahhh, very possibly the last ROH match I loved as a fan. No, this is not their one-hour draw (which I remember enjoying more than I expected to) but a rematch they had on TV shortly after that blew me away with how good it was and I had ranked as my top ROH match of 2015 before I stopped watching in November. Roderick Strong was in one of his motivated periods where he just churned out quality workrate matches and I was a mark for double champ Jay Lethal. He wasn't popular on this forum, but Lethal was a new man once he turned heel and shot up from one of my least favourites to an act who could do no wrong, in my opinion. Sure, his character basically became Ric Flair, but his promo game and natural charisma was finally being showcased and all his in-ring quirks I hated as a babyface translated better to a heel: his weak-ass diving shove Suicide Dives, his fucking slow setups to a often dreadful Savage Elbow - they just felt easier to watch when done by someone you're supposed to hate. This version of Lethal was refreshing and one of the last good things ROH had going for me. I was intrigued and supportive of running this double champ angle.

Separating this from a lot of ROH main events of this era, we have a very hot crowd from before the bell that don't need brought to life. 50-50 chants. They kick things off with fast-paced strike exchanges, both looking to avoid this going 60 minutes again. Lethal sends Roddy to the floor and hits one of his patented diving shoves, then as he goes for his second, Roddy slides back in with perfect timing for Lethal rebounding off the ropes and nails him with one of the best dropkicks ever! I could be exaggerating a bit, but I've replayed this so many times - he just kicks Lethal perfectly right in the face, snapping his head back, which Lethal sells (I hope) like he's out on his feet and tumbles out the ring. I've often wondered what my reaction would've been if Roddy covered him for a 3-count here. Probably outrage, because that booking makes no sense, but if a match against a midcarder ended with this exact dropkick in the first minute, I'd probably love that and think Roddy looked like a beast. I wish this match was more accessible, a GIF of this and the slow motion replay needs to be shared around.

We return from commercial (ugh) to an evenly-matched, stiff chopfest on the outside. The next 5 or so minutes are Lethal getting the heat and it's fine, nothing great but not boring, which is helped by a crowd that's still lively. Then we're already getting another break. We come back from this one to Roddy countering a Lethal Injection attempt into a Backbreaker and I'm not sure if we've just skipped right into the middle of Roddy's comeback or this is where it starts. Either way, hurts the drama and anticipation for me quite a bit. Roddy goes a bit Kobashi with corner chops before going to town on Lethal with elbows. Roddy looks pretty spent, so I think we've missed a lot. In a rare moment, after knocking Lethal to the mat countering a Superplex attempt, Roddy finds himself on the top rope, so uses this opportunity to hit a Savage Elbow of his own. And I think it's better and cleaner than most of the times Lethal does it! So I really liked that spot and how it came about by chance.

I'm enjoying Roddy's selling here. Usually I find he no-sells quite a bit towards the end of matches and commentary always gives the excuse "Roderick Strong has the best stamina in the business!" which is lame. But here he's practically dead, saving up for some sudden bursts of energy then collapses dead again. It makes way more sense to me than him always being go-go-go BackbreakersGibsonDriversSickKicksEnziguiris. I like seeing Roddy fight through a deep struggle. We come back from our last commercial break (this is only like a 20 minute match, Jesus Christ, 3 of these?!) at another badly-timed point in the middle of an interference spot and Roddy cleaning house the ring of The House of Truth. Lethal sneaks in a belt shot where the crowd erupts with boos and pins Roddy after a Lethal Injection. But it's a 2! A section of the crowd leap to their feet and it's a brilliant nearfall. A perfect setup for what would've been an acceptable, but predictable dirty finish. I was completely worked by this the first time watching. The crowd loses their shit, unanimous Roddy chants while Lethal appears dumbfounded. After a brief staredown, one more Lethal Injection finally puts Roddy away.

It's almost as good as I remember it, only the commercial breaks and their bad timing take away from it so I hope a commercial-free version exists but I doubt it. Now when I call this a MOTYC, we know I'm not comparing it to peak ROH years, but I do genuinely think very fondly of this. It's not just a workrate match, Roddy and Lethal are heated from the very start and going for the win, not trying to out-grapple each other. There's several great moments from the #BestDropkickEver, Roddy's elbow drop and the dramatic last nearfall and I think both men performed very well to sell this as a hard-fought contest. And as I've repeated, a great crowd to help bring this up to another level. The response for Roddy's kickout is one of my last great ROH memories. There should have been more of an effort on ROH's part to pimp this out after it aired, I found very little word about it in my search for consensus on the best 2015 matches. Brilliant match, beyond TV standards.