November 3, 2007


Chris Hero . . . shows in two matches exactly why he was the lesser member of the Kings of Wrestling.

Bryan Danielson . . . gives everybody a staunch reminder of why his being the best in the world is a whole lot more than just a catchphrase.

KENTA . . . does everything possible to give Misawa one of his last good matches.



There isn’t a whole lot to this as far as actual work goes, it’s more about heat-mongering than anything else. That said, both guys are great at playing to the crowd and getting their desired reactions. And it’s not like their wrestling is bad, their work is generally smooth, and they work some good sequences, there just aren’t very many of them. The best stretch probably comes after a bit of comedy; Hero tries for a leg drop off the top rope with Generico on the opposite side of the ring, he comes up just a little bit short (although the distance he clears is still quite impressive) and both men’s reactions are hilarious. Hero’s overdone selling and Generico’s realization that he’s OK. The missed leg drop gives Generico the opening to reel off some offense and Hero counters back with some big spots of his own and gets a near fall with his cravat neckbreaker. The momentum keeps shifting and it culminates with Generico avoiding a dive from the top and when Hero rolls through he turns right into the running boot in the corner for a big near fall. Hero winds up winning when he counters a diving headbutt into another cravat and plants Generico with a suplex and then the Hero’s Welcome finishes him off (with Generico damn near spiking himself). Despite the early shenanigans, Hero still manages to win the match completely on his own, and if anything, he wins by being just a little bit craftier than his opponent.



Truth be told, this is a lot more heated than it really deserves. It starts out with some intensity, but once it settles down into Whitmer and Albright working over Delirious then it starts sinking fast. There’s no sense that they’re trying to either build up to anything or take the match someplace, it’s just a lot of pedestrian brawling and the occasional nice spot, like Whitmer’s frog splash. Whitmer cutting off Delirious making the hot tag with the half crab was probably the smartest moment they had, and when Delirious makes the actual tag a few minutes later it winds up feeling underwhelming. The match picks up a little bit after the tag, with all four of them brawling and both Steen and Delirious hitting dives to the floor, but it’s not marginally better. The crowd is damn near molten at the finish with Shane Hagadorn interfering and Whitmer hitting the Exploder on the chair, but it’s hard to understand why, other than the fact that Steen is a crowd favorite. Steen was setting up for the package piledriver when Hagadorn fouls him, but it didn’t feel like he was robbed of the win or that he was prevented from avenging what Whitmer and Albright had just done to Generico.



Hagadorn puts out an open challenge and Aries answers him. There are probably better guys to do this with, since Aries just became the top contender for the world title. Hell, this would have been a great way to rehab Morishima after losing the title or to introduce the ROH fans to Shiozaki. But the match itself isn’t that bad. Hagadorn gets a jumpstart and a quick chance to throw some stuff at Aries and then he showboats in the corner and allows Aries to hit the dropkick and then quickly commence to finishing him off.



At first, this seems a lot like the Hero/Generico match in that it’s a solid mix of smooth sequences and crowd-pleasing spots. Although one wouldn’t think it just by looking at them, Claudio and Marufuji gel together very well, Claudio’s over-the-top bumping and stooging works with Marufuji’s junior-working-like-a-heavyweight style of offense. Their version of a standoff sequence, replacing the cradles and matwork with things like Marufuji’s sliding dropkick and Claudio’s bicycle kick also comes off rather nicely. Marufuji’s selling after the giant swing (along with Claudio basically throwing him aside afterward) is great and the near fall from the ensuing uppercut would have made a perfect finish. What keeps this from being much more than just fun is that, as smooth as most of their work is, it never quite feels cohesive, as though they’re trying to take the match someplace. Marufuji’s Dragon screw in the ropes is a good example, and Claudio taking the full rotation for the bump isn’t something that anyone seems to do, lest of all people his size. But, aside from a little bit of selling from him, there’s nothing to suggest that Marufuji is trying to weaken his leg, either to set up something for himself or to stop Claudio from doing anything.


The only thing about the match that seems off is Marufuji’s near fall from the Shiranui. The spot comes off fine, and Claudio realistically puts it over as well as he possibly can, with his height allowing him to get a rope break rather than kicking out. But it comes after one of their extended reversal and counter sequences, and it’s followed by another one, that ultimately gets Claudio the win. One second, he looks all but finished after Marufuji’s finisher and the next he’s blocking and countering right along with Marufuji and trying for the Ricola Bomb. Again, the work itself is very smooth and well done, but it seems like Claudio would need more time to fully get his faculties together. The actual finish, Claudio blocking a Shiranui and pinning Marufuji with a bridging roll-up, comes off fine. It’s not quite as tight as the one Danielson used to beat Marufuji in their match, but between Claudio’s size and the way Marufuji kicks his legs to break the pin, it looks more than plausible. It’s far from perfect, but it’s quite a good effort from a pairing that most people wouldn’t think would work together all that well, and it’s no surprise at all that Claudio went on to a lot bigger and better things while Hero never quite made it. ***1/4


The Briscoes were supposed to defend the ROH World Tag Team Titles against Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher, but the actual match is barely a minute long before chairs come into play and the whole thing is thrown out. To say the crowd is displeased would be putting it mildly.



Although this isn’t a great match from a wrestling standpoint, it’s yet another masterful performance from Danielson. When he’s in control, you believe that he’s putting everything he’s got into his kicks and elbows. When it’s Morishima bringing the pain, Danielson’s selling conveys the idea that he’s clearly getting knocked for a loop (especially from the lariats), but that his anger and hatred refuse to let him stay down. Morishima puts on quite a good performance himself, although it’s hard to really appreciate it because of how great Danielson is. It’s not like the match is completely devoid of smart work or good wrestling. Morishima’s backdrop on the floor and the immediate follow-up are some of the smartest things on this entire card. Danielson sells the suplex like absolute death. He slowly crawls up to the apron and Morishima knocks him off. Danielson slowly gets back up and Morishima knocks him down again. Finally, Danielson outsmarts him with the shoulder block to the gut and a sunset flip for a near fall. Morishima hits a big lariat and goes for another backdrop, and Danielson flips out of it and hits a low dropkick to knock him down. And for the entire three minutes or so of that sequence, they have the crowd in the palm of their hands, killing their hopes and then instantly returning them.


Some will take issue with the disqualification finish, especially after the sixty-second tag titles match, but this was a case where they made it work. Anything other than a pin or submission is a rarity from ROH anyway, and here they managed to tease a count out and then do a dq finish, and they both seemed perfectly plausible. Everyone already knows that Danielson wants to rip off Morishima’s head (or at least rip out his eye), and after Morishima busted him open and then starts aiming his strikes at Danielson’s eye again, Danielson snaps and refuses to let anything, or anyone, stop him from getting revenge. No, the crowd isn’t pleased about it, but are they mad at the uncommon finish, the fact that Danielson technically loses the match, or the fact that Danielson’s revenge was cut short?



And this is the third match that’s over as soon as it starts, and only exists to set up a promo. Seriously, why even bother?



Between Roddy and Davey being decent enough jerks and the flashiness of the Vulture Squad’s offense, this is watchable, although it’s not much more than that. The control segment from the NRC tends to drag; Jigsaw doesn’t do much to garner sympathy and the heels aren’t exactly interesting when working him over. It would probably have come off a lot better if it was Evans in place of Jigsaw, between his flexibility and the way he could bump and sell for them. The work is pretty much go-go-go, with nothing in the way of any kind of story to make anything seem important. The fisherman’s buster/powerbomb combo from Jigsaw and Ruckus was their best spot, and it didn’t seem to matter to any great degree. The Stronghold that Roddy uses on Evans for the ref stoppage is positively sickening, but the only build to it was the Tiger driver on the floor that immediately preceded it. Evans and his group were already looking like a third wheel in the Aries/Strong program and matches like this only reinforce the notion.


AUSTIN ARIES vs. CHRIS HERO (#1 Contender’s Match for the ROH World Heavyweight Title)

Overall, this winds up being a good match, but it’s pretty much a one-man show from Aries. Despite a world title shot being at stake, Hero treats this much the same way as the Generico match. His primary focus is mugging for the camera, playing to the crowd, and abusing Bobby Dempsey to get heat. He doesn’t show any real urgency in trying to win the match, and even when he does something nice, like snapping Aries’ throat over the top, it’s not followed up in any meaningful way. Hero gets a couple of good shots on Aries’ midsection; he gets up the knees to block his slingshot senton and then does his own rolling senton out of the corner, but it only serves as a reminder of the tag matches that they had the year before when Aries had the rib injury. There’s only one thing from Hero that gets any sort of payoff, Hero’s first control segment comes when Aries tries his tope and misses Hero but hits Bobby, and the distraction allows Hero to hit a boot to the face and take over the match. Aries makes his comeback and after outsmarting Hero by dropkicking him when he was trying to skin the cat into the ring, Aries does another tope and manages to hit Hero with it. As nice as it is that Hero can seemingly lock in his cravat at will, and use that to suplex Aries, Hero never shows that he’s trying to take the match someplace with it, he’s just doing his familiar stuff.


Compared with Hero, Aries looks like the second coming of Danielson. He shows the urgency that Hero was lacking, and he does a good job selling for Hero, even though Hero is mostly using low-end offense. During their first scrum on the floor Hero throws Aries into the guardrail; there’s nothing especially notable about the actual throw, but Aries takes a huge bump for it anyway. When he throws his chops and elbows at Hero, he looks like he’s putting everything he’s got into them, and when he has the chance to hit something big, like his dropkick in the corner or the surprise lariat after he escapes the cravat, he doesn’t play to the crowd or even give Hero a millisecond longer than necessary to recover. The finish somewhat plays off Hero’s earlier win. He beats Generico by outsmarting him to hit the Hero’s Welcome, and he loses here when Aries outsmarts him to escape it. Aries escapes the Hero’s Welcome and then rolls through a backslide to hit his kick to the head, and the brainbuster and Last Chancery finish off Hero for good (after Claudio runs off Sweeney and prevents him from dragging Hero to the ropes).


The most frustrating thing about this is that if only Hero could have been bothered to act like he gave a damn about the match, then this probably would have been the best match of the night. Neither of them was anywhere close to Danielson as far as intensity goes, but this would have easily topped Danielson/Morishima for actual wrestling, and it was much more intense than Claudio/Marufuji and the tag and trios matches. ***


MITSUHARU MISAWA © vs. KENTA (GHC Heavyweight Title)

This isn’t a great match, but it winds up being a good match. It’d be easy to label this as a KENTA carry job; he does most of the heavy lifting as far as offense goes, and he sells big to make Misawa’s offense look better than it really is. But Misawa manages to add in some nice touches. KENTA does his trademark spot where he hangs his opponent over the ropes and does a flying knee to the back. The spot itself comes off well, although KENTA did have some trouble getting Misawa into position, and after the landing Misawa can be seen making sure he’s still got complete use of his arm. A little bit after that, KENTA hits a couple of kicks to the back and Misawa wiggles his fingers. Misawa even shows some real emotion after KENTA backs him into the corner and instead of breaking clean he pelts Misawa with some slaps. Misawa fires off elbows in return and leaves KENTA laying and then turns to the ref to complain about the lack of clean break. Misawa busts out the elbow suicida after a short run of offense by KENTA and it comes off feeling like Misawa was more or less forced to dig that out. They manage to work in a couple of smart sequences to show off their familiarity with one another. The best is when KENTA catches Misawa on the top and wants to do the big leap to the top and suplex Misawa off. KENTA leaps himself right into an elbow, and then he decides to wait and let Misawa make the move. Misawa comes off with the diving elbow and dives right into a Takayama-style knee strike.


But, make no mistake, it’s KENTA’s selling that makes this match. Misawa’s elbows, in all their various forms, look more meaningful than they probably have in years. Whenever KENTA tries to get some momentum going, it doesn’t take more than one or two elbows to send it to a screeching halt. Even toward the end, when KENTA tries to do a full-on strike exchange with Misawa in the vein of what Kobashi or Kawada would have done, he still shows that Misawa’s elbows are far and away more lethal than anything he has to offer. Misawa may have officially won the match with the Emerald Frozion, but the last flurry of elbows that he throws at KENTA all looked like they’d have been more than able to finish the match. Of course, a very good Misawa performance from this time isn’t what it would have been even five years earlier, so they still have some issues that creep up, mostly in the form of flubbed spots. Misawa loses his grip on KENTA while he’s doing the first Tiger Driver, and KENTA’s counter of the following Tiger driver into the G2S looks awkward and clunky. Thankfully the top rope Tiger driver is only teased, and they don’t try to follow through. The near falls from each of their respective finishers are practically mandatory for this sort of match, and with how well KENTA had been putting over everything and the fact that everybody already knows that KENTA doesn’t have a prayer of winning, they look that much more out-of-place. KENTA’s surprise Busaiku knee is the one exception. He hits it just after the Emerald Frozion near fall, it seemed like Misawa was going to do the running elbow, but KENTA meets him halfway and hits him with the knee and it results in a nice double knockdown spot.


The fact that this is the best GHC Title match of the year is both remarkable and a little bit sad, although that’s more of an indictment of NOAH’s booking than anything else. Sure, KENTA had zero chance of winning the title here, but it wasn’t as though the likes of Sano, Taue, or Bison Smith were looked at as viable threats to Misawa. This is like the Taue match from July, only without Taue’s physical limitations. Misawa was certainly more active here than he was against Samoa Joe the week before, but it’s not like he was out there taking to the air like he was still wearing the Tiger Mask. Misawa pretty much hung in there and did the things that he was still capable of, while KENTA showed that he was good enough to be able to pick up the rest of the pieces and carry the whole thing off. ***1/4



At least when the Briscoes did this in GCW last year they had the decency to get in and out of there quickly. This just goes on forever, and next to nothing feels like it matters. It’s just brawling and crazy bumps with almost nothing as far as any real context or story. The one nice moment that they have is when Jacobs gives Jay the DDT and segues into his guillotine choke; the spot looked good, and Jay does a good job at making it seem like he may have to tap out before Mark makes the save. Necro does some goofy selling and facials while Mark is raining down punches on him, but comedic moments are pretty much the last thing that they need to be going for. It’s not just Necro’s selling either, Mark insists on doing his kung-fu stuff and there’s a pretty ridiculous spot where Necro drops Mark with a punch and then rolls him up in the mat, as though that’s supposed to completely incapacitate him. Necro getting pinned after the Jay Driller doesn’t work on any deeper level than the move being Jay’s finisher. Necro had taken several other bumps that looked a hell of a lot more dangerous than that, and so had the rest of them for that matter. It was nice to see the Briscoes go nuts on Necro with chairs first, but it’s hard to imagine a couple of chair shots being enough to keep him down when he’s taking bumps that look ten times worse and kicking out on his own. This doesn’t feel like an out-of-control brawl where the Briscoes finally get their revenge, it comes off like an exhibition of the dedication/stupidity/recklessness of everyone involved.


Conclusion: Overall, this winds up being a pretty good show, although the three blink-and-it’s-over matches really aren’t necessary. It’s still got one of Misawa’s last good matches and some good stuff on top of that, so it’s worth checking out.