A Southern Trilogy: Round One

December 11, 2021. It is a night of celebration and mourning. A wake was in procession, this open casket funeral was open to the public as Honor was on display and professional wrestling was the order of the evening. The departee of which some wiped their tears for? 

Ring of Honor.

Throughout the history of the promotion many names were made, whether in basketball courts, football fields, ballrooms or small arenas. Without Ring of Honor, we wouldn’t have seen the likes of AJ Styles, CM Punk, Samoa Joe or Bryan Danielson. Without it, we wouldn’t get the ride we are about to take today.

Stalwart among the talents present on December 11 and stalwart among the talents that stayed with the company were The Briscoe Brothers, Mark and Jay. Twelve-time tag team champions who could wrestle an old school and brutal style while also working a fast-paced and action-packed vibe, the siblings retained their title against the OGK. Their celebrations were short-lived, however, as an invasion of sorts transpired. These ruffians, spoiling the merry-making and adulation? None other than AEW’s Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler – FTR. 

The FTR pair left a place that previously humiliated them and made them look like fools, the only thing worthwhile the pay. But they wanted more and they found it in the place where people could bet on themselves – All Elite Wrestling. Throughout both WWE and AEW, FTR solidified themselves as old school wrestlers who studied the tapes and knew the ins-and-outs to deliver nostalgic performances that would keep fans talking. Even presented at their worst, the world knew that this team was something special. They would see varying levels of success through 2020’s pandemic era in Daily’s Place, even touching tag team gold in the company before losing it to The Young Bucks. 

FTR, already the AAA tag champs, set up a challenge with the Briscoe Brothers for a later date. For now, on this December night, the brothers were put on notice. Neither team knew exactly what was in store nor the magic to be made. They just knew the time for wrasslin’ was imminent at the next Supercard of Honor.

In January 2022 we learnt the spirit of ROH was going to stay at ROH. Not to be damned to a hard to reach location on Peacock, but rather in the grasp of Tony Khan who had bought the rights. 

Supercard of Honor XV needed to provide a “welcome back”, and many matches on the card would deliver just that; Mercedes Martinez defeated Willow Nightingale for the ROH Women’s Championship, Wheeler Yuta trounced Josh Woods for the ROH Pure Title and Jonathan Gresham would definitively win the ROH World Championship against former champion Bandido.

But one match would leave people talking and feeling and frothing for more. This was the head-on collision between FTR and The Briscoe Brothers. This is where the independent scene mixed with classic southern-style wrestling.

FTR were lit up with burning desire to make this match memorable, to add another title to their collection. The Briscoes emerge, targets shining upon them in the form of their ROH Tag Titles. The bell rings and the match commences, signalling the beginning of an epic. The crowd is unable to handle themselves; chants of “Holy Shit!” ring through the arena before the teams could even lock up. The energy is so palpable that it cuts through, long after this match took place.

The tag team wrestling psychology, as well as wrestling psychology in general, is on full display as both teams try to outwit one another. They played dirty and wrestled dirty, yet there was an air of respect for the mutual love of tag team wrestling.

FTR’s usual mind games of testing the patience of opponents gains the ire of The Briscoes but they return it in kind by means of separation, dismantling the prey separated from the herd. This mixture of twin flames burned so well that the brightness and the heat made it nigh indistinguishable which was which as both teams copied from each other and pulled out zero stops to try and gain momentum.

The ring is a sacred place for professional wrestling and the outside is usually a place of healing and comfort. Battles that live beyond the squared circle are the Sodom and Gomorrah that is a sin beyond baptism. There, prayers fall of deaf ears, as you are damned to hell forever.

The blaze of the match reaches outward, into the flammable outside, home of the barricade and the concrete, the tables and the chairs. Such a combustive environment breeds danger and spares no safety.

The violence in these men melts the respect into disrespect. In or out of the ring, no man gives in. It’s not just a battle for gold. It’s a fight for legacy and the willpower to survive. When your body gives in on you, your very essence drives it and it keeps you marching forth, it keeps your brethren marching with you. Whether you’re a brother in blood or by water, it is the love for the one you trust to keep you going.

What started as a game of physical chess devolved into the numbness where only madness dwells and the drive to win propels FTR and the Briscoe Brothers to the bitter end. It isn’t pretty. Blood is shed. Finishers are used and stolen repeatedly. Pin attempts are met with kick-outs. The crowd in the dark abyss screams for more, the salivation on their tongues demand more blood and for the winner to gain the spoils.

This is wrestling.

There is no hiding, as the blood and sweat and mere fucking existence serves as the red flag fluttered and pranced aloft by a skilled and experienced matador. Despite the pain, it’s not over until the bell is rung. Again, this is a test of will and perseverance, as exemplified by Dax’s refusal to stay down, that he’s still “good to go”. It’s evident in the cries of Mark Briscoe’s Redneck Kung-Fu.

But as long as blood flows through their bodies and their souls burn on earth, it’ll never be over. Even if the match ends, the war is not over. No longer is this a small ROH venue – now it’s a battleground that shakes the earth.

Finally FTR manages to unleash The Big Rig, running over Mark Briscoe and flattening him like roadkill. Try as he might, Jay could not stop Dax’s relationship with Cash from paying dividends as this finisher is it. One, two, three.

And new: FTR holds two belts and the dust has settled. 

This match wasn’t pretty, nor did it seek to be. It was wrought with respect, but gingerly patted with disrespect. 

Laying the newly acquired belts down, FTR bows to the majesty that is the Briscoe Brothers, who humbly accept and embrace the duo with a hug, connected in the red-and-black brotherhood. The Briscoe Brothers, long-time defenders of ROH stand opposite FTR, the purveyors of professional wrestling’s legacy, coexisting the Briscoe’s hand their former trophies to FTR.

This is wrestling, where honor is real. 

Tag team wrestling, once in the shadows, cast its own shadow and carved a legacy not only for both teams, but the scene as a whole as the world sees that the brilliance of tag team wrestling is alive and well.

As for the rivalry, it wasn’t over. In fact, it just started.

Next time they meet, it’s either death or it’s dishonor.