FTR vs. The Briscoes (Death Before Dishonor) Match Review


Sometimes, the wrestling world’s stars align, allowing for the perfect matchup in the right place at the right time. In fact, that happened in April, as FTR and The Briscoes produced an instant classic at ROH Supercard of Honor. Now almost four months later, things were slightly different. This time, these two teams weren’t armed with an electric crowd, nor were they riding the wave of constant Twitter trash talk. Instead, they were back to square one, tasked with somehow extending their finest hour.

Of course, FTR and The Briscoes not only managed that and more, but they produced another masterpiece. Better yet, this was something slightly different, not attempting to improve perfection but rather producing a sequel that stands alone, all while still being firmly tied to the original. After all, the dynamic has changed in recent months, allowing both teams to explore new ideas alongside April’s greatest hits. At Supercard, it felt like all four men couldn’t wait to fight, overcome with emotion after a range of insults and a wild brawl to boot.

This time, they are more measured, wrestling with a contrasting but still very much palpable desperation. Then, they were desperate to fight but now, they are desperate to win. Early on, we introduce one of those aforementioned new ideas, as the fresher Briscoes quickly establish a noticeably different approach. There’s an intense focus to Jay and Mark, wrestling as though they’ve spent the last few months replaying their prior fate. This builds on The Briscoes’ brief pre-match promo work, suggesting that their schedule heading into Supercard was a factor.

Initially, this element isn’t overly dramatic or obvious but it’s always there, only expanding as things unfold. It’s even quite subtly encapsulated in the match’s opening minutes, as The Briscoes dismiss an early check from the ringside doctor. Just seconds prior, Harwood’s own wear and tear prevented him being quite so dismissive. In that sense, the tables have turned, with FTR paying an increasingly hefty price for their remarkable hot streak.

Just as it did at Supercard, a familiar exchange between Dax and Jay escalates the first act’s intensity but in my view, Cash and Mark’s own dynamic soon becomes the sequel’s focus. Speaking of such, Mark Briscoe is extraordinary in this match, stealing the show for my money which is quite the feat considering the performances surrounding him. More on that later though as first, another pretty daring stylistic choice is made, as The Briscoes fully take over, isolating Wheeler for an extended control segment.

I didn’t see this coming, especially on an ROH show, but the quickly apparent accuracy of this direction speaks to the awareness of all involved. In April, FTR weren’t quite fully established as babyfaces but have since become one of wrestling’s most beloved acts. This unlocked an unapologetic malice in The Briscoes, positioning them as the bout’s de facto heels, absolutely perfect for this AEW-centric, decisively pro-FTR crowd. Only encouraged by the mostly undivided audience, Mark and Jay continued to up the ante, ultimately becoming the bout’s clear antagonists.

There are two portions of this match that over time, I feel will prove divisive. The first fall is undeniably slow, which isn’t necessarily a critique but admittedly, is slightly exacerbated by the relative lack of reaction. I got the sense that this match’s opening was produced under the assumption that a big fight feel would sustain but unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case. That’s a distant memory by the bout’s conclusion obviously, but the slow burn pacing can be somewhat jarring when paired with the original’s almost startling tempo.

Personally though, I thought that was an admirable and astute choice, as simply trying to outdo April’s frenetic thriller would’ve been far too safe for teams of this calibre. In addition, this adjustment was a perfect fit for the 2 out of 3 falls stipulation, bouts that are generally required to work a little more for their drama. Naturally, initial nearfalls carry less weight in this setting but the multiple falls do allow for an organically extended runtime, adding a marathon element in place of the less predictable alternative.

That was the sequel’s core ingredient in my view, slowing things down and using the time allotted to produce something truly gruelling. In the most complimentary way possible, this is an exhausting watch, a uniquely draining affair. The Briscoes almost immediately ensure that element’s presence when in control of Cash, operating with a striking spite. Their every move feels vengeful, a vicious response to the result in April. There aren’t even specific ideas during this portion really, they’re just absolutely unrelenting in every which way.

Nonetheless, Harwood’s hot tag soon follows and with it comes a range of pin attempts but ultimately, The Briscoes remain ahead, now isolating Dax and swiftly scoring the first fall. This pinfall also displays Mark Briscoe’s tag team awareness, wonderfully pointing in Cash’s direction, signalling for Jay to halt his save. With Harwood just about obliterated by the Doomsday Device, the second fall gets underway with Dax now operating as the babyface in peril. At this point, The Briscoes gleefully increase the intensity, with Mark unleashing a violent, borderline grotesque flurry of chops.

Harwood is without any real response, leaning against the ring-post and just wearing them, showing the unsightly effects with each instalment. Harwood leaves the onslaught with a chest covered in blood, his skin pierced by Briscoe’s famed chops. Again, this control segment isn’t about the ideas, it’s about the execution. There’s a ferocity to The Briscoes, visibly chasing that sweep, focused to a frankly frightening degree. At this point, it’s quickly becoming a slaughter and in that sense, they honestly walk a fine line.

This direction almost silences an already tame crowd, left watching their favourite tag team be slowly decimated. The Briscoes cut the ring off in dogged fashion, Jay throwing some horrific chops of his own and displacing Cash from the apron too. That leaves Harwood with a difficult decision, as he fights to a neutral position but is suddenly left without a partner to tag. Dax’s choice is just beautiful babyface behaviour, realising that he has to destroy himself to earn any reprieve from Jay, wiping them both out with a back suplex.

Harwood still can’t capitalise however, with Mark yanking Wheeler back off the apron in response. Masters of the tag team craft in their own right, The Briscoes are suddenly giving FTR a sickening taste of their own medicine. This portion of the match is so sustained that they reasonably convince the crowd that a sweep is oncoming. Dax survives though, toughing it out until Mark’s first mistake: getting momentarily lost in the bliss of a strike exchange and losing position, finally allowing Cash Wheeler’s hot tag.

Wheeler’s more than up to the task too, producing a superb comeback in the nick of time. Even depleted, Dax makes an impact, preventing interference and later making a save too. The increased pace that came with Wheeler quickly escalates further, resulting in a wild brawl that pours into the crowd. Once more, The Briscoes come out on top, leaving Wheeler all alone and using some questionable tactics to quite literally ring his bell. Cash kicks out however, the match’s main character if there is such a thing, now bleeding from the brutal ring bell shot.

Harwood soon returns to even the odds and in response, a frustrated Mark Briscoe again veers away from his tactical masterclass thus far. Briscoe chases Dax and falls right into his admittedly impromptu trap, going head first into the steps and undoing all of their dominance throughout the fall. Moments later, we are all square, with FTR instantly capitalising on their first real numbers advantage of the match. The bloodied Cash Wheeler and Mark Briscoe get the third fall underway, sharing a few horrifying headbutts and trading strikes back and forth.

Again, Mark Briscoe is astonishing here, proceeding like some kind of unwavering, unstoppable wrestling zombie. He’s not really recovered from the ring steps that left him covered in blood but he’s fighting on instinct, endlessly pushing forward and fighting with a crazed desperation. Earlier, I mentioned that some of this match’s first act may prove divisive and I feel the same way about a chunk of the third. Surprisingly including an admittedly contrived referee bump, the bout’s final fall features a pair of respective visual pins, leaning on a polarising pro wrestling trope.

Personally, I thought that it worked as intended, increasing the drama and also allowing for logical false finishes in a match that had already seen two wrestlers pinned. Even still, you could absolutely argue that the addition was unnecessary and even perhaps out of place, though I thought it neatly reflected the deciding fall’s increasing chaos. Regardless, the match soon returns to its prior form, including a memorable nearfall in which Mark is simply too depleted to stop Cash’s save on the second Doomsday Device.

Moments later, Cash and Mark are first to their feet, continuing a battle that had quickly become one of the match’s most engaging themes. That only cements itself in the final moments too, as the pair first take each other out with a scary whiplash suplex that inexplicably looks even more violent than intended. Even after taking relative backseats in the meat of the match, Dax and Jay’s fiery, heated dynamic remains as strong as ever, with the rivals combining from a legitimately stunning brawl.


The pair trade punches in a fashion that feels remarkably distant from the pro wrestling norm, with Briscoe swiftly opening up a cut over Dax’s eye. A double submission follows, bringing back that familiar visual of FTR battling for survival together. This time however, they keep each other alive where they may have once conceded. Wheeler then plays his final part in proceedings, preventing one last tag team move and shockingly bringing Mark Briscoe through the ringside table with him.

Just as Dax did earlier, Cash had a choice to make and his answer was also the back suplex. It felt like the only possible move left for Wheeler, sacrificing himself to take out Mark on a night where The Briscoes seemingly had an answer for every question. Cash couldn’t be certain that Dax would be the last man standing of course but after being somehow outnumbered throughout the match, this was simply the best that he could do.

It was good enough too, as Harwood was indeed the last man standing, or in theory at least. In reality, Harwood scored a near unconscious pin after flattening Jay with a chilling Piledriver off the middle rope, a truly perfect closing visual. No image could better encapsulate this bout: a brutal, punishing affair. I don’t know if this match is as good as its predecessor, it may well have been but honestly, I’m not sure that’s really the point.

The real magic of this match is that under totally different circumstances, FTR and The Briscoes not only produced a worthy sequel but more than that, they produced one that comfortably stands alone. To me, this match is more “different than” than it is “better” or “worse” than, doing something expressly dissimilar without moving too far away from the original’s tone and tenor. It’s the type of match that enraptures where the other excites, displaying the kind of physicality that can only earn adoration.

Even with some of the more unconventional tactics, it’s a match rooted in respect. A respect between the men involved but perhaps even more than that, a respect between the talent wrestling and the fans watching. There’s an assurance here, a unique, mostly unspoken trust that these four wrestlers will do everything in their power to produce something worth your time and money. These matches matter to these men, almost dangerously aware of how important they’ll be when one day hopefully very far away, we reflect on their fabulous careers.

Personally, I’m forever grateful for wrestlers like Cash Wheeler, Mark Briscoe, Dax Harwood and Jay Briscoe. For all of the adjustments and differences, this sequel was wrestled with the same sense of love that was so present at Supercard. Some wrestlers are simply made to make magic together and usually, those cases are about far more than just skill level and stylistic fit.  As this rivalry so magnificently displays, the best pairings are at core about a shared intent, a united desire to prove not only their own greatness but something even bigger than that.

For FTR and The Briscoes, this is about preserving and protecting tag team wrestling, a piece of the medium that at its best: can paint wrestling’s most beautiful pictures of all.

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