5-Star Match Reviews: FTR vs. The Briscoes – ROH Supercard of Honor XV (April 1, 2022)
Hidden somewhere deep in the shadow of WrestleMania 38 is a genuine match of the year contender. This match was a genuine dream match years in the making. It was something the modern wrestling landscape needed badly; a throwback to a better time.
Turning the clock back is challenging in any medium, including wrestling. Few people can pull that off properly. In singles matches, the only wrestler stateside to succeed as a throwback has been WALTER. Meanwhile, the only tag team to really succeed as a solid throwback has been FTR. But for the longest time, they didn’t have the right opponents. Then this match happened and that problem disappeared. This match was so good that it was said to have outclassed everything else over WrestleMania weekend, including every big match on WrestleMania’s two-night card. But was this tag classic really that good? Let’s find out.
Today we look back at the tag match between The Briscoes and FTR from ROH Supercard of Honor XV.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
At Final Battle 2021, the fate of ROH was left uncertain. Years of falling profits and waning interest were worsened by AEW’s entry into the wrestling market. ROH announced a hiatus after Final Battle and no one knew what would come next. Thus, Final Battle was given a celebratory and ‘go out with a bang’ sort of presentation. In keeping with that theme, the Briscoes, perhaps the one act more associated with ROH than any other, won the ROH tag titles for a record twelfth time. But their celebration was cut short by AEW’s FTR, who challenged “Dem Boys” for ‘dem titles’. A brawl ensued, leaving the door open for a big match down the road. A month later, Tony Khan announced that he had purchased ROH and that the brand would return. Then a month after that, the big Briscoes vs. FTR tag title match was officially announced.
For fans of indy wrestling, this was a HUGE match-up. The Briscoes were long seen as the best tag team to never sign with a “major” promotion, as well as the ones that really defended ROH and all that it stood for. At the same time, FTR wanted to show the world that they were indeed the best tag team in the world as they claimed. They had quite a bit to prove, especially after their initial AEW ran underwhelmed following some disappointing matches and even worse booking.
But could FTR do it? Could these miniature versions of bigger stars of decades’ past live up to their reputation show the world that their throwback approach was better than the modern indy spot-fest style? There was only one way to find out.
This match originally took place on April 1st, 2022.
This match is for the Briscoes’ ROH World Tag Team Championships. An extremely loud ‘holy s**t’ chant echoes through the arena and then it turns to boos as FTR decline the pre-match handshake. Mark and Wheeler start, but they don’t actually do anything because the crowd is going absolutely nuts to the point that Jay and Harwood can’t help but play to them. The two legal men finally lock-up and get a stalemate. Mark escapes a wrist lock and applies a headlock but Wheeler counters and shoulder tackles Mark down. Wheeler follows with an arm drag and a fireman’s carry into an armlock. Mark gets a clean ropebreak and Wheeler sends him into a corner. Mark lands on the apron, hits an elbow and then a palm strike followed by a drop toehold into a front facelock. Jay tags in but Wheeler escapes to his corner and tags Harwood.
They go nose-to-nose and have an aggressive lock-up. Harwood takes Jay down and blocks a headscissor counter. Jay gets a headscissor soon after to escape a wristlock but Harwood headstands out of it and spits on Jay. Harwood bails to the floor to make sure Jay gets as furious as possible. Upon his return, Jay headlocks and then shoulder tackles Harwood down twice. He tries to capitalize but Harwood drops him with an elbow. Harwood hits some stiff uppercuts and chops but then Jay cuts him off with a hurricanrana. Jay boots him and clotheslines him to the floor, leading to a stalemate.
Harwood tries returning to the ring but Jay tackles him back down. Frustrated, Harwood throws a chair into the ring but the ref catches it right away. Jay takes it from the ref to stop a possible distraction but once the ref throws the chair out Jay charges at Harwood but Harwood hits a shoulderblock to Jay’s gut and an elbow to the head. Wheeler tags in and Harwood smashes Jay’s face into Wheeler’s knees. Wheeler hits some chops and sends Jay into a corner but Jay blocks a charge with a back elbow. Jay ducks a clothesline, hits a thrust kick to Wheeler’s midsection and then follows with another back elbow. Mark tags in and isolates Wheeler on his side of the ring with chops and a suplex that yield him a one-count. Mark hits more chops but Wheeler counters into an uppercut out of nowhere. Harwood tags in and FTR pummel Mark in their corner. Harwood lands a snap suplex/leg drop combo for a one-count and then he and Mark engage in a chop battle. Kobashi/Sasaki this is not but at least they tried. Harwood goes for a chop but then changes his mind and punches Mark instead.
Wheeler tags in and sends mark into the ropes. There’s a blind tag from Jay who lands a big boot on Wheeler as Mark holds wheeler in place. Jay lands some corner stomps and then tags Mark, who hits stiff strikes that echo throughout the arena. Another quick tag to Jay, who lands a corner yakuza kick as Mark holds Wheeler in place. Mark knocks Harwood to the floor and hits a corner clothesline on Wheeler. Both of FTR get knocked to the floor and then Jay lands a suicide dive onto both of them. Standing ovation for the Briscoes. Mark follows up with a Cactus elbow drop from the apron onto Wheeler.
Jay throws Wheeler over the barricade and then lands an aided big boot on Harwood. Chaos ensues with lots of ringside brawling until FTR overpowers Jay. Then they place his head under a table and catapult him face-first into its underside. That was clever.
Harwood tosses a now-bleeding Jay into the ring and drops some elbows to worsen the cut on Jay’s head. He hits Jay so hard he hurts his own hand so he switches to stomps to the head and fishhooking his mouth. Harwood distracts the referee so that Wheeler can land a running clothesline. He snapmares Jay into a chinlock and then shuts Jay down as Jay tries fighting out. Harwood goes for a superplex but Jay head-butts out. Jay goes for a dive but Harwood cuts him off by the legs causing him to get crotched. Top-=rope superplex connects. Wheeler tags in, cuts Jay off from his brother, and dropkicks Jay’s face. Wheeler shoves Jay’s bloody face into the camera and when the ref backs him off, Harwood gets his middle finger millimeters from Jay’s face. Wheeler hits a back suplex and tags Harwood. Jay tries fighting out of a corner with punches but Wheeler pulls him back from behind by pulling on his belt. Harwood cuts Jay off again but Jay rolls under a clothesline and reaches his brother. Hot tag to Mark.
Mark chops both of FTR’s chests and blocks an aided German suplex with a kick to Harwood. He lands an enzuigiri on Wheeler but Harwood powers him into a corner. Harwood whips Mark into Wheeler in a corner but Mark hits first with a big boot. Wheeler falls to the floor and Harwood eats an elbow. Mark hits Harwood with an uranage and a corner clothesline. He places Harwood ion the top rope, lands a big palm thrust, and drops him with an arm-trap flipping slam. One, two, Harwood kicks out. Harwood escapes a fireman’s carry and Wheeler does a blind tag. Mark doesn’t see it but the ref does, and Harwood hits a stiff elbow. Harwood goes for an aided spike piledriver but Mark fights out and sends Harwood shoulder-first into the ringpost as Wheeler dives off to avoid getting crotched. But Wheeler goes careening across the ring and gets hit by Jay. Mark lifts Wheeler onto his shoulder. Cross powerbomb/neckbreaker combination. One, two, and th – Wheeler kicks out.
Jay tags in and double-teams Wheeler in a corner alongside his brother. They go for a double superplex but Wheel knocks Mark down and carries Jay over to his corner. Harwood tags in and wheeler lifts Jay up onto Harwood’s shoulders. Slingshot powerbomb/diving splash combo by FTR. One, two, and – Jay kicks out at 2.8. another standing ovation from the crowd! FTR go for their Big Rig finisher but Mark cuts them off to save Jay. Jay cradles Harwood but only gets a two-count. Jay ducks a clothesline from Harwood and sends Harwood into Mark, Harwood ducks a clothesline from Mark and Harwood gets launched into the air. Big Rig/Shatter Machine from the Briscoes onto Harwood. Harwood somehow kicks out of a cover. Wheeler drags Jay to the floor but Mark goes after him. Wheeler cuts Mark off and hits a tornado DDT off the apron to the floor. Jay hits Wheeler with a Death Valley Bomb on the ringside mats. Harwood and Jay try to suplex each other over the top rope. Jay succeeds and suplexes Harwood over it and to the floor. Damn, what an impact.
Some ringside doctors check all the wrestlers out but Harwood very clearly states “I don’t want the match to end like this”. The fans will the wrestlers on as they make their way into the ring. Wheeler helps Harwood back in and then all four start brawling in the ring. Mark ducks down and sends Wheeler back to the floor. He boots Harwood in the face and goes to the top rope. Wheeler tries cutting Mark off so Mark boots him back and then changes his mind. Corkscrew diving splash to the floor. That leaves Jay and Harwood in the ring. What’s supposed to be a yay/boo forearm exchange is left ambiguous because the fans are still evenly split between both wrestlers. Both of them collapse to their knees but keep hitting each other. Both of them fight to their feet and Jay gets the upper hand with a discus forearm. Jay lands a swinging neckbreaker allowing Mark to land a diving elbow drop. Jay covers Harwood but Harwood kicks out. Mark tags in and goes to the top rope. Wheeler tries stopping him but he gets knocked down. The Briscoes try a Doomsday Device but Harwood escapes and tosses Jay to the floor. Big Rig/shatter Machine connects. Wheeler dives onto Jay to stop him from interfering. Harwood covers Mark. The referee counts one…two…and three! There’s the match! New champions have been crowned!
Winners and NEW ROH World Tag Team Champions after 27:25: FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler)
It won’t embed on our site properly, but you can WATCH THE MATCH RIGHT HERE.
This was an outstanding match. It’s without a doubt the best American tag match in decades. Not since Angle & Benoit vs. Edge & Mysterio from No Mercy 2002 has there been such a great tag team match in the US…or anywhere, for that matter. This was better than both Omega/Hangman vs. The Young Bucks, Bucks vs. Lucha Brothers, both of which have been praised as GOAT tag matches. This was a much-needed throwback to a better time when tag team wrestling was taken more seriously and more about story than spots. This was a clinic on building heat and doing what Bubba Ray Dudley once said was the central tenet of pro-wrestling: striking an emotional chord to sell a ticket. Both teams did exactly that here and then some. I’ve definitely seen better tag matches than this one but this is still fantastic as far as American tag matches go.
There was precious little in terms of classic wrestling psychology (i.e. limb targeting and all that) but a much bigger emphasis on tag team storytelling instead. The wrestling that was shown was terrific. There was nothing superfluous here and nothing was done with exaggeration. Both teams wrestled seriously and treated this match like it mattered. They focused on old school tag team psychology to build tension and excitement instead of relying on flash and empty style. That helped this match immensely. Both teams actually made viewers care about what was going on and made the most out of the concept of the tag team match. The tags mattered so much because one person from each side kept getting isolated and both sides accomplished a lot during those long heat segments.
FTR in particular were more physical and serious and didn’t wrestle in the showy style that has become ubiquitous over the past decade. They kept the nonsensical flips to a minimum (thank God) and focused more on story and brawling. Meanwhile, the Briscoes were, well, exactly what they’ve been for decades; unchained wildmen that look and act like killers in the ring. They fought just as hard as FTR here and did a phenomenal job at building proper near-falls and making viewers believe they were seriously hurting FTR without actually doing so. The blood from that creative table catapult was a nice touch as well, especially since it wasn’t such an over-the-top or excessive blood spot either.
Both teams did an amazing job of showing ring psychology and ring presence. The commentators went out of their way to emphasize how both teams used space in the ring to maximum effect and how they kept isolating one team member or another. By the end, any move could’ve ended the match. It became wildly unpredictable, tense, and exciting without getting too over-the-top. Both teams succeeded in getting viewers excited by telling a deep and personal story instead of by overemphasizing the many different things they could do.
Of course, it helped that the crowd was absolutely nuclear here. They went nuts over the simplest of moves and sometimes over nothing at all. Crowds definitely help make matches better and this was no exception. Their chanting did get a bit silly at a few points; the ‘tag team wrestling’ chant was redundant and stupid and the ‘fight forever’ chant has become an overplayed cliché. And while some of the chanting was a bit distracting, the overall big fight feel never dissipated from this match.
And towards the end, I found it a bit hard to believe in some of the action towards the end. After the outside ‘doctor’ spot and then the suplex to the floor, all four guys looked either completely spent or barely conscious. And yet they still pulled off some crazy dives and high spots that didn’t belong at that point in the match. When a match gets praised like this one, it becomes impossible to look at it in a vacuum. On the positive side, this match has many similarities with some American classics like the Midnight Express vs. Fantastics matches in terms of classical structure and serious brawl style. On the other hand, it falls short of reaching the same heights as the 1990s All Japan tag classics that have the same seriousness but add the cherry on top with deeper psychology and a sense of layering that makes everything from start to finish come together more cohesively.
Final Rating: ****3/4
This match was a rollercoaster of emotions and storytelling themes. It was a mix of passion, anger, pride, defiance, arrogance, sportsmanship, underhandedness, and iron will. It absolutely deserves watching at least once. It’s not the best match in ROH history, but it’s definitely the best tag match in ROH history.
FTR have made their case for being the best tag team active today and the Briscoes have had a similar reputation for years but were considered highly underappreciated. This match proved that both of them are way better than most people give them credit for. The last big FTR match I saw was with the Young Bucks and it was such a disappointment I almost wrote FTR off completely. Luckily they redeemed themselves with this performance. I hope we get more tag matches like this in the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.