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Uncut Gems: Five Lesser-Known Jay Briscoe Matches

A.k.a some under-the-radar classics featuring Jay Briscoe wrestling without his brother Mark, teaming up with his brother Mark, and even taking on his brother Mark!

Ring of Honor/Ringer illustration

Wrestling lost one of the greats on Tuesday night. Jay Briscoe was arguably the greatest Ring of Honor wrestler ever, someone who had incredible matches for over 20 years after starting out as a teenager in Delaware. The real tragedy is that a family lost a father, and many people lost a beloved friend. Pro wrestling fans lost an independent icon, one who would implore viewers to watch the damn tapes; it just makes sense to pay homage by running through some of Jay Briscoe’s catalog of bouts. So I dug into the crates a bit and found some lesser-known Jay Briscoe bangers—think of it as a sample platter of the variety of matches he excelled at.

Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe

NWA Wildside Freedom Fight 2002, June 2002

In addition to being a tremendous tag team, the Briscoe Brothers are incredible opponents for each other. I attended the CZW Best of the Best tournament for their first match against each other as teenagers (in a pro ring—I imagine there were hundreds of five-star matches at the Briscoe farm growing up), where they captivated a bloodthirsty CZW crowd with mat wrestling. They had a legendary hardcore match at a random HCW show in Delaware that is one of the more uncomfortably violent brawls I remember seeing, and several classics against each other in ROH, including maybe the best cinematic match in wrestling history: Fight on the Farm. What makes this match in NWA Wildside so interesting is how they came in cold to a promotion as relative newcomers (they had one previous tag match earlier in the year) in an unannounced undercard match on a big show and, through sheer talent, turned the whole crowd into Briscoe superfans.

The first ten minutes or so of this was all mat wrestling, headlock takeovers, armbar takedowns, reversals, and Indian Death Locks. Just a pair of brothers who weren’t in a feud showing up to a barn in Georgia and trying to out-grapple each other. Of course, tempers flare and they begin to throw shots. Eventually, they move pretty seamlessly into a series of huge moves and near falls. There is a great spot where Mark plays possum, acting like he’s knocked out; and, as Jay started running to the ropes, Mark sprung up and cracked him with a Shining Wizard to the jaw. Jay turned Mark inside out with a couple of huge lariats and dropped a top rope leg on his throat. Coming to the end of the match, it looks like Mark would leave Cornelia, Geogia with a win over his big brother as he hit him with a violent-looking, cutthroat Burning Hammer. Despite having his neck compressed like a slinky, Jay kicked out somehow, and then wiggled out of a second cutthroat Burning Hammer to hit one of the nastiest Jay Drillers I have ever seen (and I saw a bunch preparing for this article). Mark kicked out at two, but a second Jay Driller gave big brother the win. They probably did a bit too much for their place on the card, but there was something great about watching a pair of kids kick in the barn door and make themselves known.

The Briscoes vs. Mad Man Pondo and Necro Butcher

FIP International Impact: Phase 2, April 2007

Full Impact Pro was an ROH sister promotion that ran out of Florida and tended to have crowds that were way more filled with kids and old people than the traditional neckbeard, hockey jersey–wearing, Northeast independent wrestling fans of the time. (Imagine an entire crowd of Kevin Smiths in various sizes). This was a street fight with the Briscoes defending their titles against the death match kings, Mad Man Pondo and Necro Butcher. Of course, the Briscoes are perfectly enthusiastic about playing in their brutal backyard. Necro and Pondo wheeled out a bunch of weapons (including a trash can full of light tubes), and it was hardcore from the bell. Just a match full of horrifying bits of violence. Necro got sent face-first through a set of light tubes, and his spine got bent like a Twizzler when he was suplexed on a guardrail like Homer Simpson’s back getting punched by that fire hydrant. Pondo met the inside of that garbage can full of light tubes, painting the inside of the can red, while Pondo smashed a cinder block placed on Jay’s groin with a sledgehammer. Even the referee got an Awesome Bomb out of the ring by way of a table.

It was more than just stunts, though; there was no moment where they weren’t throwing kicks, punches, or other objects at each other; this was a fistfight first, an intense stunt show second. There was a nice mix of kids who were super excited, and kids who were visibly terrified; excited and terrified kids are the best wrestling audience.

The finish was totally legendary. Jay stacked two tables on top of each other in the back of the arena. He then pulled open a huge metal warehouse loading door, revealing Mark perched on top of a semi-truck. Mark then comes diving off of the truck, flying through the door, and smashing Pondo through both tables. The Briscoes were brilliant at conveying the kind of WorldStarHipHop-level antics you want from a bar-room brawl match.

Kota Ibushi and Austin Aries vs. the Briscoes

ROH Tag Wars 2008, April 2008

The Briscoes have gotten the most acclaim over the years for their aptitude in bloody brawls, but they were an incredibly well-rounded tag team. They could work a classic, slow-build Southern tag match—either as heels or as babyfaces—and get the crowd rocking like it was Greensboro in 1986, and they were as good as anyone at the kind of high-octane workrate tag mastered by the Young Bucks and KENTA with Naomichi Marufuji. This was a great example of that, as they defended the Ring of Honor tag titles against Kota Ibushi and Austin Aries: two of the most athletic wrestlers in the world in 2008. The match started with a bunch of fast, intricate back-and-forth exchanges between all four wrestlers; we see that kind of fast kip up, arm-drag exchange, rope-running stuff a lot in wrestling, and it is very easy to see the strings if it’s done a step slow or too cooperatively. The Briscoes could run through that kind of thing flawlessly; it never felt like swing dancing, but always like part of an athletic contest.

The Briscoes worked this match as heels: first cutting the ring off on Aries, then on Ibushi, both times building to big hot tags. Ibushi finally broke through by knocking Jay off the top rope with a handspring-moonsault kick; he made his tag and we got a huge finishing run. Aries came in cleaning house, laying out both guys and drilling Mark with his missile-like low tope. Ibushi hit his double moonsault, and the Briscoes hit a springboard-kneedrop-backbreaker combo. Ibushi got whipped into the ropes and sprung right into a moonsault to the floor. As each spot got more and more impressive, the crowd began standing on their feet to show their roaring approval. The finish was the coda you want for this kind of symphony: the Briscoes clean out Aries with the Doomsday Device, leaving Ibushi alone in the ring with both champions. Ibushi lands some kicks and slaps, but gets absolutely demolished by a clothesline before getting taken out with a spiked Jay Driller for the pin. A fiery match that perfectly showcased the high-wire talent of all four wrestlers.

The Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli) vs. the Briscoes

ROH Death Before Dishonor VIII, June 2010

The Kings were maybe the most significant rivals for the Briscoes. The early matches in their rivalry featured four incredibly-creative wrestlers coloring outside the lines and seeing what brilliant ideas they could come up with. By the time this match happened, though, the sporting rivalry had turned very ugly. Chris Hero used a loaded elbow pad to concuss Jay and put him out of action, the Briscoes had hit the Jay Driller on Sara Del Ray (the Kings of Wrestling’s valet), and Castagnoli and Hero had taunted Papa Briscoe into jumping the rail, then beat down the paterfamilias of the Briscoe clan. This led to a NoDQ match where the Briscoes were trying to regain their ROH World Tag Team titles.

The match started with some classic heel shit, with the Kings in the ring claiming the Briscoes couldn’t make it through customs, thus handing them the win by forfeit. Of course, the Briscoes come out and the brawl is on, with the Briscoes bumping the Kings all around the ring and ringside area. This felt like a very old-school wrestling brawl, like something that’d main event the Dallas Sportatorium or the Mid-South Coliseum in 1985. Mark got busted open badly and the Kings just worked on the cut while Jay was living and dying on the apron, desperate to make the tag. When Jay came in, he pulled off one of the greatest hot tags in wrestling history, highlighted by Jay smashing Chris Hero’s head into the top turnbuckle 30 times in a row (with the entire crowd chanting along)—a bloody Hero coming up by the end. Jay got busted open by a chair; they then tied him up by the throat to the outside ring post so they could attack Mark, hitting him with a Doomsday Device–uppercut combo, an elbow to the back of the head, and a rolling elbow to the jaw. Mark barely survived each onslaught before Jay finally got cut loose, coming back with a fire extinguisher and spraying both of the Kings in the eyes. The Briscoes then worked them over—to the joy of the crowd—which included decimating their manager, Shane Hagadorn, with a Doomsday Device. Hero, however, was able to pull out the loaded elbow pad and blast Jay with it. Jay lands with his arms up like a concussed slap-fight participant, but that only got a two-count. However, moments later, Castagnoli giant-swung an already glassy-eyed Jay into a loaded pad-assisted dropkick by Hero for the win. Evil triumphed, sadly, as it sometimes does—but what a good battle they put up.

Jay Briscoe vs. Samoa Joe

ROH Supercard of Honor IX, March 2015

These two had a memorable cage match against each other during Samoa Joe’s iconic ROH World Championship run. Then, Jay was a 20-year-old kid: a super successful tag wrestler who was out of his depth in the singles world. Joe destroyed Jay, beating him bloody and nearly kicking him through a cage. Nearly 12 years later, the situation changed. Joe was in between his TNA and NXT runs, eager to prove he could still be “The Man” back where he made his name. Jay was the ROH World Champion for a second time, in the midst of a dominant singles run, all grown up and ready to show his old rival how much meat he’d put on his bones.

Jay had probably put on 30-40 pounds of farm-seasoned muscle in the time since their cage match. Joe was still the bigger man, but these were a pair of hard-hitting heavyweights now and this was a toe-to-toe hoss fight. The match started with some feeling-out matwork, but soon the hands started being thrown. Jay showed his power by backing Joe into the corner with big forearms and uppercuts, but Joe reversed him and unloaded his signature Tenryu-style jab-and-chop combo. It was a stalemate early, both guys showed their gumption, and Jay showed he had developed the grown-man strength needed to match Joe.

Joe showed off some of the agility that made him such a phenomenon, cutting off a Jay tope with a jumping kick and hitting another great looking one in the corner. There were several big moves in this match, but they would continue to revert to standing in the pocket and trading chops, kicks, jabs, uppercuts, and forearms. You got the sense Jay was determined to out–power punch the power puncher; he wasn’t content to use his speed or skill, he wanted the KO, even if that put him in the line of fire. Joe really took over on the floor, sending Jay hard into the guardrails and hitting his patented Olé Kick, driving his foot through Jay’s head and into the metal. We also saw Joe rip off one of his patented submission combos on the mat, adding some bone-powdering knees hard to Jay’s sternum. Jay kept coming though, matching hard shot with hard shot, trying to tire Joe out while looking for his opening. It finally came when Joe attempted his Muscle Buster for the second time. Jay was able to wiggle out and roll up Joe right into a Jay Driller, dropping all 300 pounds of Samoa Joe hard on his neck for the pin. It was a brutal war of attrition that resembled a Terry Gordy vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, big-boy punch-out. Another tremendous example of the varied palette that Jay Briscoe could paint from. What a special talent he was.

Phil Schneider is a cofounder of the Death Valley Driver Video Review, a writer on the Segunda Caida blog, host of The Way of the Blade podcast, and the author of Way of the Blade: 100 of the Greatest Bloody Matches in Wrestling History, which is available on Amazon. He is on Twitter at @philaschneider.