Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Some of my favorite memories of Ring of Honor are from 2008. Up until about 2009, they were in a groove that I don’t think I’ve seen any other company duplicate. Here, a plethora of championships are on the line. All of ROH’s titles, the FIP Title, an NWA Title and some from Pro Wrestling NOAH, who ROH had a strong partnership with. Though I’ve owned this show for nearly eight years, I’ve never watched it all the way through until now.
The show opens with a backstage promo from the new ROH World Tag Team Champions, Kevin Steen and El Generico. Steen says that four years earlier, they wrestled their first ever match in the US in this same building. He plans on becoming a double champion since he feels slanted with only one title on his shoulder. He plans on walking out with the FIP Title tonight, while Generico will become ROH World Champion as he gets a rematch at Nigel McGuinness after coming very close a month earlier.
With the show taking place in the former ECW Arena, Lynn gets quite the homecoming ovation. I’m not sure but this might be Lynn’s first ROH appearance or at least the first in quite some time. He would go on to win the World Title by the following spring, playing off of the film “The Wrestler”. King is still new here, only making some strides in FIP. Lynn has some fun with a small pre-match dance off. They move at a quick pace early on, allowing Lynn to show that he’s still got it. Lynn stays one step ahead because of his veteran savvy. Some heel tactics and general quickness gives King an upper hand where he gets two on a spinebuster. Turnabout is fair play when Lynn does his own eye poking during his rally. King counters the Cradle Piledriver and ties to steal it, but Todd Sinclair catches his feet on the ropes and stops the count. Lynn busts out a top rope rana and Cradle Piledriver for the win. About what I want from an opener. They didn’t go too long, got the crowd invested, worked at a brisk pace and didn’t go overboard.
A recap airs of Brent Albright winning the NWA Heavyweight Title at Death Before Dishonor VI a month and a half earlier. I was there that night in the Hammerstein Ballroom. The match was awesome (****¼) and the pop was deafening.
Pearce takes the title before the bell and hoists it high to boos, so Albright responds and does it back to cheers. Albright’s arm is bandaged up due to an injury a night earlier. Pearce is pretty much the definition of an old school heel. He begs for mercy and throws Albright over the top (a DQ under NWA rules) behind the referee’s back. He does a suplex on the ramp, gaining confidence. Pearce wears down Albright until Hagadorn wedges a chair in the corner, again behind the official’s back. It backfires when Pearce goes headfirst into it. As Albright gets going, Pearce hits a low blow. Again, Hagadorn comes into play to send both competitors off of the top, again behind the ref’s back. Back inside, Albright locks in the crowbar but Pearce gets out and wrenches on a crowbar of his own on Brent’s bad arm. Albright fights but has to submit. Nowhere near the level of their New York encounter. This had far too much going on to recapture that magic. It still managed to be decent though.
Kevin Steen is super over as the babyface challenger, while Go is just starting to show off the heel tactics that come with being a member of Sweet n’ Sour Inc. The involvement of Hagadouche again pisses me off. Go refuses to shake hands, instead kicking Steen’s away. They trade shoulder blocks to see who’s stronger until Steen side steps and sends GO outside. He follows up with a somersault off the apron. Go goes old school and starts to pick apart a body part, choosing Steen’s knee. He even smashes Shane’s head into the knee, which made me laugh. He focuses there for a while, going back to it to stop any Steen momentum. Both men go high risk, with Go nailing a knee drop and Steen getting two on a moonsault. He tries a swanton but Go gets the knees up. Go gets vicious and just wails on Steen. He then uses a flurry of moves, including the Go Flasher, to retain. Fine match but nothing more. I liked Go embracing his new heel persona more and more.
ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness shows up after the match and DDTs Steen on the belt. Nigel then cuts a promo about how he’s the best wrestler in the world and says that there is no competition for his title so he’s going to come after the Tag Team Titles.
I can’t believe that I’ve had this show for almost eight years and have never watched this match. Danielson is one of my all-time favorites and Nakajima is someone I find awesome here in 2016. The awesome “you’re gonna get your fucking head kicked in” chant starts us off. They go to the mat early and are mostly even. That angers Danielson, who kicks it up a notch and targets Nakajima’s arm. Danielson twists him around until Nakajima has to get the ropes for a break. Danielson almost gives the “I HAVE UNTIL FIVE” but figured the referee already knows. He hits a loud sounding elbow, sending Nakajima outside, and follows with the big springboard dive he became known for. Nakajima finally gets an opening when he catches a kick and dragon screws it on the middle rope. It’s time for him to work the leg for a while. It works really well since Danielson came in with a brace on that knee. Danielson gets aggressive with uppercuts, but Nakajima hits harder. They begin to power up and trade suplexes until Danielson lands on his feet on a German. Wisely, he at least sells it before charging at Nakajima. Nakajima hits a brutal kick and applies an ankle lock but Danielson survives. Danielson eats a barrage of vicious kicks before KICKING NAKAJIMA’S HEAD IN! After a struggle to get the upper hand by both men, Danielson hits elbows and wins with the Cattle Mutilation. Awesome match. It blows my mind that Nakajima was just 20 years old here. Both guys came in with good strategies, played to their strengths and wrestled a smart match. Danielson was just more experienced and better.
Jerry Lynn gets a promo backstage where he talks about wanting a shot at Nigel McGuinness and the ROH World Title.
CHOO-CHOO! Stevens no longer has his mohawk and, after a pretty substantial 2007 push, he’s cooled off considerably, losing the FIP Title twice and not getting much of a reaction. Rhett gets in early offense so Stevens comes back with chops. Somehow, Stevens gets his nose busted and he’s bleeding everywhere. It’s clearly a broken nose and Rhett actually goes after it, pulling it on it. Ouch. Part of Rhett’s offense is to go for ten corner punches, but instead thrust his dick into Stevens’ face. That fires him up and Stevens murders him with a lariat and doctor bomb. The broken nose made this more interesting than it otherwise would have been.
Larry Sweeney comes out with a microphone. I love Sweeney but he was ALL over shows in 2008. Sweeney basically offers Stevens a contract to make more money and leave ROH. He declines and attacks, so all of Sweet n’ Sour come out to attack him until the Vulture Squad and Grizzly Redwood try to make the save. They all fail until Roderick Strong joins in and we’ve got an impromptu six man tag.
The Vulture Squad representatives are Jigsaw and Ruckus. Jack Evans was pretty non-existent by this point if I remember right. Once things calm down into an actual match, Hagadorn gets his ass kicked because he’s terrible. The heels fare better when Hero or future ROH World Champion Eddie Edwards is in. Wow, looking at this, I liked Eddie but I would have never pegged him to be the company’s first Triple Crown winner. Jigsaw starts to take the heat for his guys. Strong kills it with the hot tag. While Ruckus does his flippy shit, Strong is delivering backbreakers galore. They go into the typical finisher barrage you see in matches like this. The highlight was Strong stopping Eddie’s Lionsault with a sick kick. Hero then knocks Roddy out with the loaded elbow pad to win. Fine for what it was as it mostly just advanced the Hero/Strong angle. After the match, Sweeney dropped a top rope elbow on Strong.
I felt bad for Claudio around this time. He was doing fine as a babyface until he kept coming up short in title matches and the fans turned on him. Here, he has no personality whatsoever. They trade some early shots and holds, but the crowd doesn’t really care. They popped for seeing Sasaki but once the match started, their interest waned. Things get a little more interesting when they begin trading chops and uppercuts. Claudio’s uppercuts are probably the best in the game. Some big clubbing blows from Sasaki are answered by a springboard uppercut. Claudio nails the Ricola Bomb for two. Sasaki rallies to win with the Northern Lights Bomb. Something about this match never clicked. The crowd just didn’t care for either guy outside of the initial entrance pop. Maybe if it was Claudio against one of the NOAH regulars like KENTA or Marufuji it would have worked better. This was a clash of styles that never really got going.
Before each title match tonight, they’ve shown clips of the champions winning their title. I think that was a cool way to really make things feel important. Nigel has been champion for over eleven months and this is his 26th defense. A month earlier, Generico came so close to winning the belt in Cleveland. Nigel is sure to take a shot at Bryan Danielson early on with that defense coming up again. As Nigel picks apart Generico and works his shoulder, he gets “same old shit” chants. It was during Nigel’s run that I grew to strongly dislike ROH fans. Boo him all you want, but let’s not act like Nigel wasn’t the man. To be fair, the first half of this match, where Nigel wears down Generico, isn’t great. It doesn’t have the usual interest that Nigel matches give me. It’s smart work, as he attacks the shoulder and continues to go for the London Dungeon. Generico starts the comeback and hits his somersault coast to coast dropkick for two. He has a great counter for the Jawbreaker Lariat, instantly going into the Brainbuster for a near fall. Nigel tries the London Dungeon again, only for Generico to counter into a rollup for another near fall. Nigel tries to use the belt as a weapon but Steen is out to superkick him, leading to the bigger close call of the night. Generico hits the Yakuza Kick and looks for the super Brainbuster in the corner. Nigel slips under and rolls through a jackknife pin to retain. If we’re just talking the second half, this match ruled. The first half lacked something and was a bit too slow to really make this great. The crowd was dead for a lot of it until Generico rallied.
Before the main event, a video package airs to recap the history of the Age of the Fall. It just really makes me miss Lacey.
Steel Cage Warfare is War Games with one cage and elimination rules. Necro Butcher is playing the role of the “wild card”, meaning he can enter at any time and isn’t really on anyone’s side. Austin Aries and Tyler Black, the two best guys in the match, start us out. Black and Aries go at it, trading stuff for a bit until Delirious is about to enter. Once seeing that Aries is down though, Jimmy Jacobs jumps in front and makes it two on one. Aries is bleeding as they beat him up. It’s odd that this cage doesn’t have a door. It’s a gap in the steel. Necro enters fourth, proving he’s a wild card by attacking everyone, regardless of team. He even goes after Todd Sinclair. Jay Biscoe is next and he brings a chair with him. Despite coming in hot, he also ends up bleeding. Aries and Jacobs fight out, which defeats the purpose of the steel cage. Delirious is next and hits Jay with the panic attack. I used to like Delirious but he grew to be pretty stale and I dislike how he books current day ROH. Jacobs and Aries work together to ail on Necro with chairs until Jacobs knocks him down with the spear. Aries hits the Brainbuster and they both pin him to send him home at 14:09. Mark Briscoe is the last man in, bringing a barbed wire table with him. The AOTF dominate a bit, though Delirious gets a bit of a nasty cut on his arm. He throws Jay off the side of the cage and through a table. Mark gets buckle bombed through the barbed wire table, making things hard on DEM BOYZ. The AOTF hit tons of offense on Aries, including three Panic Attacks in a row before Jacobs puts Aries in the End Time. Aries passes out at 21:52. Jacobs wants Delirious to spike Jay but out comes Daizee Haze to try and reason with him. It was her not wanting to date Delirious that caused his turn. A confused Delirious is torn between her and Jacobs until he just spikes Daizee! Jimmy is smiling while Daizee is bleeding. Mark comes off the top of the cage to wipe out of the ATOF. The Briscoes hit the Doomsday Device and Delirious is gone at 25:49. That leaves it up to the Briscoes against Black and Jacobs. The Briscoes fire up when things look lost and hit their finishers in stereo to win the match. Nowhere near as good as the original Steel Cage Warfare. A bit of a mess at times and the Briscoes kind of just MAN UP to take it in the end. Also, this was supposed to be a feud ender but I’m pretty sure it continued after this.
Overall: A massive disappointment from ROH. The show is overly long and only one match stands out. Nakajima/Danielson is worth going out of you way to see, especially considering how good Nakajima has gotten over time. The main event is a clusterfuck that doesn’t really deliver. Nigel/Generico is good, but isn’t on the level I hoped for. The rest of the card ranges from very forgettable (Vulture Squad tag and NWA Title) to pretty good (opener and FIP Title match).