5-Star Match Reviews: FTR vs. The Briscoes II – ROH Death Before Dishonor 2022

FTR Briscoes Dbh 2022

Many people are calling this the greatest tag match in modern times and possibly ever.

That’s definitiely high praise, especially given how many outstanding tag matches there have been over the decades. Then again, such high praise was to be expected since this was the second of three dream matches that defined pro-wrestling in 2022.

And now that there’s talk going around that FTR might leave AEW if they lose a loser leaves town match to the Gunns, it’s important to look back and see what AEW might lose and what WWE could hope to gain if that does indeed happen.

To that end, let’s see if the two-out-of-three falls match between these two venerated tag teams lived up to the hype.

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

The story

FTR won the ROH tag titles from The Briscoes three months earlier at Supercard of Honor 2022. The Briscoes wanted to get their titles back and also prove that they were still the best tag team. And to prove that there was no ambiguity over which team was better, it was decided that their second match would be two out of three falls.

The match

This match originally took place on July 23, 2022 and was for FTR’s ROH World Tag Team Championships.

There’s no customary pre-match handshake, just a long and icy staredown with lots of trash-talking. Harwood and Mark start with a lock-up that ends in a stalemate. Harwood sends Jay off the ropes but Jay shoulderblocks him down. They soak in the dueling fan chants and then another stalemate ensues. Some brief chain grappling ensues and this time Harwood knocks Mark down. Harwood does some more technical wrestling to control Mark’s arm and tags Wheeler, who immediately goes after that same arm with an over-the-shoulder armbreaker. Mark wrestles out and powers Wheeler into a corner. Wheeler reverses a corner whip but Mark flips over and out and hits both an armdrag and a big chop.

Both Harwood and Jay tag in and Harwood lands a headlock takeover into a grounded headlock. Jay tries shooting him off but Harwood maintains his headlock for a bit longer until Jay manages to break free. Jay knocks Harwood down a few times and lands a headscissor takedown. That’s followed by more chain grappling and a big back suplex from Jay for a two-count.

Harwood rolls to the floor and sells like he has suffered some spinal damage. Wheeler tags in and he and Jay pie-face each other. They chop each other and then Jay charges to the ropes, but then Wheeler hits a spear and a Backdrop suplex. Harwood knocks Mark off the apron, leading to another stalemate.

Mark and Wheeler chop each other some more until Jay tags in to keep Wheeler cut off from his partner. Wheeler fights back with corner shoulder checks and tags Harwood and FTR hit a drop toehold/elbow drop combo for a one-count. A snap suplex/leg drop combo gets another one-count so Harwood tags Wheeler and shoves Mark’s face into Wheeler’s heels. Wheeler hits another back suplex for a two-count and sends Mark into a corner. Mark elbows out, hits a boot and tags Jay. Wheeler reverses an Irish whip but doesn’t see Mark’s blind tag. And yet, Wheeler ducks a double-team clothesline from Mark and goes for a German suplex, but Mark ducks so that Jay can chop the hell out of wheeler’s chest. The Briscoes hit double shoulder tackles, sending Wheeler to the canvas.

Mark lands some uppercuts and stomps and then tags Jay, who lands a vertical suplex for a one-count. Mark tags in and he and his brother isolate Wheeler with double-team combo moves on their side of the ring. More stomps and a facelock further keep Wheeler separated from his partner. Wheeler fights to his feet but Mark knocks him back down. Jay tags in again and he hit more corner strikes. Jay charges, escapes a fireman’s carry, sends Wheeler into the ropes, jumps up, and Wheeler counters with a swinging powerslam.

Harwood tag in and runs wild on both Briscoes. Mark tries saving his brother but he eats two German suplexes as Jay saves Mark from a third one. Harwood counters a back body drop with a small package for a two-count, and then gets two more two-count. Jay shoves Harwood towards the ropes but Harwood blocks a surprise punch from Mark. Jay gets his own two-count and then reverses a corner whip. Both he and Mark hit corner strikes to Harwood and then Mark tags in legally. But Wheeler hits Jay first with a running clothesline on the apron.

Back in the ring, Mark superkicks Harwood and goes for the J-Driller. Harwood escapes and hits a DDT for a 2.75-count. Harwood attempts a J-Driller on Mark but Mark blocks and catapults Harwood into a ringpost. Jay tags in and the Briscoes hit a Doomsday Device. Mark holds Wheeler at the ropes as Jay covers Harwood. One, two, and three! There’s the first fall!

FTR Briscoes Dbd 2022 2

Winners of the first fall after 16:33: The Briscoes (Mark & Jay Briscoe)

FTR = 0; Briscoes = 1

After about a minute, the second fall begins and Harwood catches Jay in an inside cradle for a two-count. Jay knocks Wheeler out of the ring and lands several stiff chops to the chest. Mark drives Harwood into the ringside barricade ad the camera zooms in on Harwood’s chest, which has been bloodies by the Briscoes’ chops. Meanwhile, Jay and Wheeler brawl until Mark smashes Wheeler into the ringsteps.

In the ring, Harwood eats more chops as the 20-minute mark passes. Mark tags in and applies a rear chinlock as the crowd rallies behind Harwood. Harwood fights to his feet and tries the classic Irish whip headlock escape but Mark holds on, so Harwood lands a back suplex. Mark gets up first and tags Jay, who boots Wheeler off the apron. Harwood ducks a clothesline and hits two German suplexes. He ducks a clothesline to avoid a third, places Jay on the top turnbuckle, and knocks Mark off the apron. Seeing that his partner is still on the floor, Harwood hits a super back suplex, which causes both men to collapse. The crowd gets super hyped as Harwood goes for the hot tag but Mark yanks Wheeler off the apron at the last second, which leads to a torrent of boos.

Jay tags in and the Briscoes hit a move called the Redneck Boogie (Razor’s Edge/neckbreaker combo) but it only gets a two-count. Mark is now legal as he applies a grounded sleeper. Harwood fights up again and a chop exchange ensues. Mark wins that battle but Harwood sucks underneath Mark on an Irish whip and makes a hot tag to Wheeler. Wheeler runs wild with uppercuts on Mark and a belly-to-belly suplex on Jay. Wheeler follows with a short-range clothesline and a Brainbuster but only gets a two-count. Mark fights back with forearms and goes for another Redneck Boogie. But Harwood pulls Jay from ringside and Wheeler counters with a Gory facebuster. Jay tries crawling to break up the cover but Harwood holds him in place as Wheeler covers. The referee counts one…two…thr – no, Mark kicks out.

Jay and Harwood brawl into the crowd while Mark and Wheeler brawl by the commentators. Wheeler tosses Mark into the ring and hits a top-rope crossbody press for another two-count. Mark kciks out with so much force that he sends Wheeler into the ropes and Jay hits Wheeler’s head with the ring bell behind the referee’s back. Ding! One, two, Wheeler kicks out.

Jay tags in and hits a Death Valley Driver and then Mark hits a diving Froggy Elbow. Another cover, but this time Harwood breaks up the pin. Mark chases Harwood around the ring but runs into a trap as Harwood lands a flapjack into the steel ringsteps. Back in the ring, Wheeler rushes Jay to thew ropes to escape a headlock which leads to a blind tag to Harwood. Jay reverses an Irish whip on Wheeler but both of FTR counter him and lands the Shatter Machine/Big Rig. One, two, and three! FTR even the score!

FTR Briscoes Dbd 2022 3

Winners of the second fall after 29:33: FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler)

FTR = 1; Briscoes = 1

After about a minute of recovery and after passing the thirty-minute mark, the third fall begins with Harwood tagging Wheeler. Jay kicks Wheeler away and tags Mark. Another strike exchange ensues between both men as blood trickles down both of their faces. Mark ducks a forearm and hits a high-angle uranage but Wheeler uses that momentum to roll over and tag Harwood. Harwood rushes in but he too eats an uranage. Mark attempts an uranage on the apron but Harwood elbows out. Another strike exchange ensues and it ends with Mark hitting his Redneck Kung Fu chop to Harwood’s throat. Mark follows with a blockbuster to the floor and then tags Jay.

Back in the ring, Harwood ducks a clothesline but can’t avoid a thrust kick. Jay tries his J-Driller finisher but Harwood counters with a piledriver for a two-count. Mark tags and the Briscoes try another Doomsday Device but Wheeler knocks Mark off the top rope. Jay finds himself caught between both of FTR and fights them both off to avoid another big Rig. Harwood goes for an elbow but misses Jay and hits the referee instead. As Harwood stands there in shock over what he just did, Mark pulls Wheeler out of the ring. Jay takes advantage with the J-Driller and gets a visual eight-count.

With no referee to count the fall, Jay boots Wheeler off the apron and goes for another Doomsday Device. Wheeler saves his partner again and Jay fights both of FTR off again. He goes for a springboard crossbody but FTR counter it into another Big Rig. Harwood covers and gets a seven-count before the referee finally starts counting. One…two…thr – Jay kicks out. Jay becomes the first person to ever kick out of FTR’s double-team finisher.

Harwood goes for a superplex in one corner as Wheeler climbs an adjacent corner for an assist. Mark knocks Wheeler off the top rope and Jay escapes Harwood’s grasp. Doomsday Device! One, two, Wheeler saves Harwood.

Mark and Wheeler get up first and then trade strikes once again. Wheeler goes for a Ric Flair-style suplex over the top rope but something goes wrong and both men collapse in a heap. Meanwhile, Jay and Harwood begin their own brawl as the 40-minute mark passes. Harwood wins it with a big clothesline and collapses on top of Jay for a two-count. After another pin counter, Jay switches into a camel clutch. Wheeler comes in to make the save but Mark locks him in a clutch of his own. Both members of FTR hold each other’s hands to stop each other from tapping out. That gives Harwood enough time to crawl to the ropes and force a ropebreak.

The crowd erupts in “FTR” chants as the Briscoes attempt a spike J-Driller. But before they can do that, Wheeler catches Mark on the top rope and hits a super back suplex off the top rope into a table below. Jay checks on his brother but that momentary distraction leads to Harwood teasing another piledriver. But Jay counters that with a successful J-Driller. One, two, and thre – NO, Harwood kicks out.

Jay tries that same move again but Harwood just sinks down like a pile of dead weight. Jay keeps trying until he hooks the arms, but Harwood powers up and gets Jay on the top turnbuckle. Harwood lands a bunch of chops but Jay shoves him down. Undeterred, Harwood bounces back and hits a second-rope piledriver. Good God! Harwood rolls over into a pinning position. One, two, and THREE! There’s the match! FTR retain their titles!

FTR Briscoes Dbd 2022 4

Winners and STILL ROH World Tag Team Champions after 43:26: FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler)

The full match can be watched here.


So…that match was nuts.

This match look and felt like a classic. It was a much-needed throwback to a better era when tag team wrestling was on par with singles matches. It was as good as their first match and in some ways better. It felt raw and real at several points. The first fall was good, the second fall was strong, and the final fall was outstanding. This is definitely a match worth seeing for yourself…though only once.

This was a match that highlighted the unspoken details of wrestling that make a good match great and a great match legendary. Anyone can talk about the moves and the high-spots; plenty of what was shown here could be found in almost any TV match or a much less-important one. Instead, this match highlighted the small things that are crucial to successful and entertaining tag team wrestling. Both teams knew how to use the space in the ring to isolate one partner from the other. Both teams knew how to place themselves in the ring so that a lone man was between two opponents and unable to get to his partner. And both sides worked the gimmick of the tag match – i.e. the tag – to give weight to all the two-on-one interactions that took place throughout the match. So what we got was a proper template of a tag team match instead of what tag wrestling had devolved into over the past few decades which was two singles match happening at once. This led to a seamless and smooth match that, coupled with a great pace, caused those 43 minutes to fly by. At no point was this match really slow, even when everyone was down.

In terms of action, it was simple, unpredictable, and brutal. The tag psychology was complemented by simple brawling that led to a focus on grit over finesse. Harwood in particular took a ton of punishment as he got chopped so hard that he bled from the chest. He was a great babyface in peril, especially as the Briscoes kept knocking Wheeler down and otherwise isolating Harwood from his fresher partner. These guys knew how to build to hoy and exciting tags which led to loud and sustained reactions from the audience.

And as the match grew longer, things became more chaotic and hard to predict. There were more sudden counters and big moves out of nowhere. The finisher and big move kick-outs became more dramatic. Then this tension peaked when Jay kicked out of the Big Rig, becoming the first person to ever do so. It was a huge moment that led to a nail-biting final few minutes? What could Harwood do now? What could he or his partner or both of them together do to win now that their iconic tag team finisher failed to do the job? To answer that question, FTR followed one nuke with another one in the form of a second-rope piledriver. There was no topping that so it made perfect sense for something that devastating to finally bring this dramatic war to a close.

But despite the incredible action that pretty much spoke for itself, I did find three issues with this match that kind of hampered it for me and might do so for you as well.

First, some of the action was very…performative. There was something about some of the sequences, body language (particularly from FTR) and match structure that made this match look the slightest bit unrealistic. There was a lack in intensity, tension and a sense that this was really personal. Wheeler’s hot tag during the second fall was a good example. The match’s pace picked up suddenly in an artificial and shoehorned sort of way. It was as if FTR floored the gas pedal on that tag instead of building pressure gradually, which caused some action on that tag to come across as listless and ‘going through the motions’.

Second, there was too much superfluous action here. It was motion without movement. Even though the opening ten minutes had plenty of technical chain grappling and good counters, none of it led to anything which made the whole opening fall drag on and on. That in turn bloated the match’s length unnecessarily. It forces comparison’s with FTR’s other famous two-out-of-three falls match, which was against #DIY at NXT TakeOver: Toronto in 2016. That match had pretty much all the best features and elements that this one did but more condensed and airtight. These guys could’ve shaved off at least five minutes from each of the first two falls and the match would’ve been a lot smoother without any dip in quality or harm to the match’s story.

But most glaring of all was that the match was hamstrung by its own stipulation.

The two-out-of-three-falls match has a rigid structure that’s followed to the letter every single time it takes place. If one side scores the first fall, the opposite side always gets the second fall so that the promoter can deliver on what was promised with the deciding third fall. And yet, that robs the match of its tension and excitement. Since this always happens (when was the last time a two-out-of-three-falls match ended in two straight falls?) no-one cared about the second fall in this match. After the Briscoes won the first fall, it became a matter of when – not if – FTR would win the second fall. Because of that, the second fall felt inconsequential. And in some respects, so too did the first fall. Because it became obvious that there was going to be a tie that would be decided in the third fall, so it didn’t really matter who won the first one since the opposite side would even the score up sooner or later.

Final Rating: ****1/2

This match would’ve been better under a different stipulation. Since no one believed that either side would win in two straight falls, the match was robbed of its much needed drama and had a crippling sense of predictability. It would’ve been better for this to be an iron tag match with a 45 or 60-minute time limit, with the most falls in that time deciding the winner. Not only would that stipulation have delivered on the promise of these two surpassing their first match from Supercard of Honor, but it would’ve alleviated the predictability problem mentioned above.

This was a great match yet it could’ve still been better in a few ways. It was unnecessarily long, empty at points, and the first two falls didn’t really matter given the fact that no one believed that the match could end in two straight falls, regardless of how hard both teams tried.

So while it’s still one of the best tag team matches in recent years, it doesn’t match up to much better earlier ones, including the first match between these two from Supercard of Honor 2022.

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.