Jay Lethal (c) vs Tommaso Ciampa
ROH World Television Championship
Taped on 04/04/2015, aired 05/02/2015
San Antonio Shrine Auditorium, San Antonio, Texas, United States
I keep forgetting that Ciampa’s sort of a big deal in ROH because he so rarely shows up there. Crowd’s real into this match before the bell even rings. Incredible spot to start us off, as Lethal boots Ciampa in the midsection and gives him a suplex, and as Lethal’s boasting to the crowd, Ciampa immediately pops up, unhurt, as this is only the first move of the match. Ciampa plays to the crowd for a moment before dropping to the mat, feigning injury as Lethal turns around, and he rolls up the champ when Lethal goes to grab him, getting a two count. What a fun way to start this off. Ciampa immediately takes it to the champ with some strikes and a hard Irish whip into the corner. Lethal turns the tide and pulls down his kneepad, looking to give Ciampa a taste of his own medicine with a running knee strike, but as Lethal goes to bounce off the ropes, Ciampa follows him in with a high knee of his own. He goes to follow it up with the running knee strike in the corner but Lethal powders to the outside and recoups with his House of Truth brethren. Back in the ring, Ciampa backs the champ into the corner with a collar and elbow and playfully pokes him in the eye (you know, like y’do with yer mates) before tossing him face-first into the turnbuckle a couple of times, and Lethal’s selling/bumping of it is tremendous. Ten punch spot from Ciampa, and he bites at Lethal’s head, really playing up the psycho gimmick. Lethal reverses an Irish whip and sends Ciampa into the ropes and Truth Martini yanks down the top rope to make Ciampa spill to the floor. He lands on his feet, though, and grabs Martini’s pocket square out of his suit pocket, blowing his nose on it, but it gives time for Lethal to come crashing in with a trio of suicide dives, the third of which sends Ciampa over the barricade and into the front row. Crowd’s on their feet, there’s a nice shot of Dijak going “three in a row” to one of the cameras, and Lethal plays to the fans well. Good fucking pro wrestling here. Back in the ring, the champ covers Ciampa for only a one count, which seems odd, and Lethal mounts and punches out the Sicilian as we cut to commercial. Back from the break, Lethal goes to cover Ciampa again and only manages another one count. Lethal beats down Ciampa in the corner with a rough chop and a series of boots before he chokes him out, first with his boot and then with the bottom rope. The champ slaps on a side headlock right in the middle as the crowd builds into a frenzy, and this crowd is like, really great. Super loving, but not obnoxious or self-serving. Ciampa fights to his feet and frees himself with a number of elbows to the gut before trying to whip the champ into the corner. Lethal reverses it but Ciampa comes flying out with a clothesline, but he completely wiffs it as Lethal doesn’t stand back up after whipping him in, or maybe it was meant to be missed and Lethal didn’t stand back up in time, but either way, he misses the clothesline and goes face-first down on the mat, and Lethal comes off the ropes with a big elbow drop. We cut to commercial again and come back to Ciampa making a comeback with a number of strikes, and then a big German and running knee strike that sends Lethal to the outside and gets the crowd psyched again. Ciampa goes for a dive and Truth Martini jumps on the apron to try to stop him, so Ciampa just slides between Martini’s legs and puts Lethal down with an elbow smash instead. Great stuff. The Sicilian Psychopath sits Lethal in the corner of the barricade and hits a pair of big running knee strikes, the second of which sends him over the barricade and into the front row again. He pops right up again, though, and screams along with the fans who are already losing it, and it’s a really great moment, hampered by the fact that they’re playing the stupid pre-recorded ROH hotline nonsense at the moment instead of actual commentary. Ciampa tosses the champ back in the ring and goes to climb the ropes, but Lethal cuts him off with a slap and joins him up top, bringing them both down with a superplex. Ciampa immediately uses the opportunity to go for a small package, a spot I always hate, but can only get a two count. Both men pop right back up and collide with forearms and clotheslines. Lethal goes for a superkick and Ciampa catches it, going for a high knee, but Lethal catches that and hits a back elbow. Ciampa shrugs it off and hits a high knee anyway and tries to follow it up with a discus lariat, but Lethal blocks it with his forearms. Lethal again goes for a superkick but Ciampa catches it, tossing the champ’s leg down and bringing his knee up for a kneelift at the same time, but Lethal absorbs it and responds immediately with an enzuigiri for a double down that the crowd goes wild for. Truth Martini flips through the Book of Truth here, and Kevin Kelly’s actually got a great line here for once, stating that Martini’s looking for the answers to the questions posed here by Tommaso Ciampa. Both men trade punches from their knees as the crowd chants for the both of them. Martini slides in the Book of Truth to Lethal and Lethal goes to grab it. Ciampa traps Lethal’s hand in the middle of the book and stomps on it, and Lethal’s selling here of his hand is just awesome, over-the-top without being too over-the-top, but really goofy and old-school all the way. He throws a line but Ciampa ducks it, and after a rope-run spot, Ciampa hits his rope-assisted flatliner for two. Crowd’s fucking ready, Freddy for a new champ. Ciampa goes for the Project Ciampa and Lethal backs him into the corner, laying in a chop before running to the opposite corner. Ciampa follows him in with an elbow and goes to bounce off the ropes, but Lethal ducks his clothesline and goes for a leapfrog as he comes back around. The Sicilian grabs him out of the air, though, looking for the Schwein, but Lethal frees himself and hits a back suplex neckbreaker, going for the pin as Truth Martini screams “HOOK HIM! HOOK HIM! HOOK HIM!” from the outside, but he can only get a two count. Lethal staggers up to the top rope as the crowd chants for both him and his opponent. Ciampa gets to his feet and charges at the champ, who leaps over him to the mat and hits the Lethal Combination. He goes to follow it up with the Koji Clutch but Ciampa is able to wriggle his way free into a crossface, looking for the Sicilian Stretch as Lethal struggles to the ropes. Lethal nearly gets his hand on the bottom rope and Ciampa locks in the full Sicilian Stretch, and the crowd is fucking all about it until Lethal gets his foot on the rope anyway. Great spot. We again cut to commercial and Ciampa tries to suplex the champ into the ring when we come back. Truth Martini, though, grabs onto Ciampa’s foot and it allows Lethal to transition into a crossbody and lateral press on the way down, but he only gets a two count and Ciampa slides to the outside, going after the unruly manager. Great begging off from Martini here as the Sicilian stalks after him. Martini flees to Dijak’s side and Ciampa stares down the giant for a few moments. Knowing that if Dijak actually gets involved Lethal will be disqualified, Ciampa shoves Dijak around ringside and slaps at him, but it gives Lethal time to recover and come flying out with a suicide dive. Ciampa sees it coming, though, and catches the champ, hitting a big ol’ Schwein on the floor before sliding him back inside and getting a big nearfall that the crowd bites hard. Never one to waste time, Ciampa puts Lethal up on the top rope and hits a Schwein off the middle and looks to have the match won, the crowd fucking losing their minds, but Martini pulls referee Todd Sinclair out of the ring at the very, very last moment. Dijak slides in the ring and floors Ciampa with a Cyclone Kill as Martini’s got the ref distracted still, and the referee rolls back in the ring just as Lethal covers the Sicilian, but Ciampa somehow kicks out a hair before the three count. Crowd is livid. Lethal whips Ciampa into the corner and the challenger reverses it, floating to the apron when Lethal tosses him over the ropes. Ciampa immediately runs and dives onto Dijak, taking him out and firing up the already fiery crowd, but Lethal cuts him off with a superkick as he tries to spring back into the ring. Lethal Injection attempt from the champ, but Ciampa avoids it, going for a handspring off the ropes himself, but he sort of fucks it up and gets caught (almost certainly a botch), and Lethal dropkicks him in the face as he’s still upside down. Ciampa fires up out of it and hits a big discus clothesline for two before climbing to the top. He comes down with a sort of weak diving elbow drop for another two count, and the crowd is sort of losing steam here. Dijak slides in the ring and tries to clothesline Ciampa, but Ciampa ducks it and tosses him right back outside, and it’s weird that the ref doesn’t immediately call for the bell. He does, however, step out onto the apron and toss both Martini and Dijak out, though, expelling them from ringside, and the crowd does pop huge for that, chanting “Thank you, Todd”. Lethal lowblows Ciampa as the ref is seeing the House of Truth out, and he follows it up with the Lethal Injection for the win. Holy cow. Really loses momentum by the end, but this is a hell of a match. Fun, endearing spots that get characters over. A hot, loving crowd. A number of big, emotional nearfalls. This is certainly one of my favorite ROH matches of the year, as well as TV matches, and it’s crazy that there aren’t more people talking about this. Make sure you seek this out, friends. The crowd chants for Ciampa after the House of Truth leave and toss streamers in the ring for him, and he goes to shake referee Todd Sinclair’s hand but kicks him in the balls instead, and the crowd loves it. Ciampa tops it off with no less than five running knee strikes in the corner to the ref to send everyone home happy, makes a snow angel in the streamers, and thanks the crowd as they chant “please don’t go” at him.