ORLANDO, Fla. – Wrestling fans may be descending on the Sunshine State for a show in a big stadium this Sunday, but Ring of Honor used a more intimate venue to put on one heck of a show Friday night.

ROH had never done a show in Florida before (having previously partnered with Full Impact Pro), but you wouldn’t have known that from the enthusiastic crowd on hand at the Orlando Downtown Recreation Complex. From the moment owner Cary Silkin came out to lead the opening applause – and even before that, as fans were banging on the rails well before bell time – the fans in attendance knew in advance they were in for a night of fast-paced, innovative wrestling.

Portions of the crowd were also familiar with the Japanese grapplers on hand to take part in ROH’s Dragon Gate Challenge II. The Japanese fed that was formerly part of Ultimo Dragon’s Toryumon group has been operating under the Dragon Gate name since 2004 and sending talent to appear on ROH shows periodically since 2005.

The main event of the three hour-plus show actually saw wrestlers from three promotions join forces, with Erick Stevens (who hails from Florida) teaming with Dragon Gate’s CIMA and Pro Wrestling NOAH star Go Shiazaki in a six-man tag against the No Remorse Corps of Roderick Strong and ROH tag team champs Davey Richards and Rocky Romero. With the NRC playing their heel roles to a tee, the crowd got behind the mixed team in match that had a little bit of everything: from high spots to submission maneuvers to some of the loudest chops around courtesy of Shiazaki. The fan favorites eventually prevailed, with CIMA hitting one of his signature moves to score the pinfall.

Four ROH versus Dragon Gate challenge matches formed the foundation of the remainder of the card, including a singles encounter between Austin Aries and Genki Horiguchi and three tag team bouts. Ring of Honor prevailed 3-1 in the series, with the lone loss coming when BxB Hulk and Shingo Tagaki defeated Age of the Fall’s Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black.

The match of the night came right before intermission when Kevin Steen and El Generico faced off with Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino from Dragon Gate’s Muscle Outlaws. Steen provided both a solid ground game and more aerial moves than one might expect from a man with his physique and his partner pulled the stunts that go along with his “generic luchadore” gimmick. The Japanese duo showcased a blend of speed and strength with nary a missed spot while matching them move for move, leading to an incredible number of near falls and false finishes. When the smoke cleared, El Generico got the pin, and even though the Muscle Outlaws are a heel stable, the fans included them in their standing ovation.

Sprinkled in among the challenge matches were some ROH storyline bits. World champion Nigel McGuinness cut a classic heel promo to kick off the show, taunting Aries before they meet at Saturday’s Supercard of Honor III and punctuating his message by making Delirious tap out. Aries was approached once again by the Age of the Fall but left them without an answer, though Lacey and Tammy Sytch got physical. Even super agent Larry Sweeney made an appearance before the main event, trying to sway the NRC to dissolve and join his Sweet & Sour family.

Sytch and Bushwacker Luke were in the back of the gym signing autographs, and Dragon Gate merchandise was on sale next to the ROH table, where two-for-one DVD sales had them moving briskly. That method of distribution seems to be working for Ring of Honor, who clearly had the Florida fans ready for their brand of wrestling.

Full results:

  • ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness defeated Delirious by submission in a non-title match.
  • Jigsaw and Ruckus defeated Kenny King and Sal Rinauro by pinfall.
  • Austin Aries defeated Genki Horiguchi by submission in ROH vs. Dragon Gate Challenge Match 1.
  • Kevin Steen and El Generico defeated Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino by pinfall in ROH vs. Dragon Gate Challenge Match 2.
  • BxB Hulk and Shingo Tagaki defeated Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black in ROH vs. Dragon Gate Challenge Match 3.
  • Jay and Mark Briscoe defeated Dragon Kid and Ryo Saito by pinfall in ROH vs. Dragon Gate Challenge Match 4.
  • Erick Stevens, Go Shiazaki and CIMA defeated the No Remorse Corps (Roderick Strong, Davey Richards and Rocky Romero) by pinfall.

Nick Tylwalk celebrates his tenth anniversary as a SLAM! Wrestling contributor this fall. He’s excited to be part of the team covering WrestleMania and all of the wrestling events in Orlando this weekend.