MANHATTAN MAYHEM II
August 25, 2007
I hate when ROH makes sequels to their shows. It’s fine for annual shows like Glory by Honor. But random shows winding up as Unscripted 3, The Homecoming 2, etc. just seems like lack of creativity. Moreover, the original Manhattan Mayhem was one of ROH’s best shows.
Austin Aries . . . and the Resilience finally gets one over on Roderick Strong and the No Remorse Corps.
Claudio Castagnoli . . . gets sweet revenge on his former tag team partner.
Takeshi Morishima . . . makes me wish he never went back to NOAH after an awesome outing against the best in the world.
ERICK STEVENS/MATT CROSS vs. MIKE QUACKENBUSH/JIGSAW
This is quite the fun opener. It’s mostly typical formula tag team stuff, with everyone having something to add to the mix. Jigsaw and Cross have nice flying spots, Stevens brings the power moves, and Quack shows the value of experience with his ability to work around tough situations. Cross and Stevens were subtle heels, so the control segment on Jigsaw didn’t come off as well as it would have if the Chikara boys were against the NRC. Quack’s hot tags were fun with how he was outsmarting Cross and Stevens. Rather than let Stevens use his power, Quack would stun him with a headbutt to the sternum and then an elbow shot to the head. Steven’s size also allowed for Quack’s senton to look even better than usual. There was more fun when Stevens and Cross tried to double team Quack, and Quack, literally, turned the tables and made Cross chop Stevens.
The match itself will probably be best remembered for the wicked Jig ‘n’ Tonic turned into Yoshi Tonic spot, as well it should. The spot was pulled off perfectly, when it could easily have looked horrible. The finish comes off a bit flat, but the heels winning out is supposed to deflate the crowd. The Jig ‘n’ Tonic counter turns the match around and when Cross can’t put Jigsaw away, the powerhouse comes in and starts unloading on Jigsaw until he finally doesn’t get up after the Doctor bomb. Oh man, if the Resilience can pick up the pace and really find their inner heels, then this could be off the charts. ***1/4
JIMMY JACOBS vs. MITCH FRANKLIN
Pre-Grizzly Mitch Franklin showed off some cool spots, although the rana into the corner was a bit ugly, but this was mostly a squash for Jimmy. The one nice touch was Mitch going after the knee, which leant credence to the idea that Jimmy’s knee had healed up enough for him to return to the ring. There was a nice touch where Jimmy got a bit brutal and started bouncing Mitch off the mat. There’s some irony to the finish, with Mitch seemingly attempting Jimmy’s old finish, but getting blocked and then Jacobs putting on the Guillotine choke.
ADAM PEARCE/BRENT ALBRIGHT/BJ WHITMER vs. NIGEL McGUINESS/DELIRIOUS/PELLE PRIMEAU
It’s too bad that the rest of the match couldn’t follow the opening stretch. Even thought it’s Delirious who has the beef with Pearce and his goons, Nigel and Pelle join right in and the result is a fairly hateful brawl amongst all six of them. Then it settles down with the heels working over Delirious and the match just dies. None of the heels are the least bit interesting when working him over. You know it’s bad when Pearce starts using a nerve hold. They work in the usual things like the ref missing Nigel tagging in, and then not realizing that Pearce and Albright switched behind his back. The match picks up a bit with the hot tag, Nigel lariats everyone in sight and throws the heels into and onto each other. The match breaks down with them taking out each other with big spots, along with Pelle giving an awesome assist to the Tower of London, and it ends with Whitmer pinning Pelle with a tombstone. God bless the ROH fans for being hot most of the way through, but another five minutes of the Hangmen’s control segment and you’ve got a cure for insomnia.
DAVEY RICHARDS vs. PAC
Between Davey’s intensity and Pac’s flashiness, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy about this match, even if it’s not exactly deep with the story being told. Davey wants to soften up Pac’s neck for the DR driver. It’s fine in theory, Davey shows that he has no shortage of offense to further that along, whether he’s spiking Pac with Germans or grounding him with chinlocks or head scissors. The failing of the story is Pac’s overall lack of selling to show how Davey tearing apart his neck is wearing him down. Sure, he takes the bumps just fine, but with all that Davey does, there should be a cumulative effect on Pac, and we don’t see that from him. Pac is too concerned with making sure he gets to work in his flying spots.
This has other issues besides Pac not selling. A good number of their spots don’t come off as well as they could have, the big one is Pac’s attempted Dragonrana, Pac doesn’t have the momentum to take him over, so Davey has to muscle Pac up so Pac fan finish the spot. The super German suplex off the top that wound up with Pac on his feet is another issue. It looked fine, Pac didn’t spike himself or anything, but it took way to long for them to set up. The really nice touch they had was the first Kimura, which Pac found a clever counter for, rather than Hulking Up and getting the ropes, and Davey only going back to the hold when Pac took the shoulder bump into the post. If they can tighten up their work and get on the same page, then this could be pretty neat.
AUSTIN ARIES vs. RODERICK STRONG vs. JACK EVANS
Now this is the sort of intensity and hate the Hangmen/Delirious trios match needed to have! It suffers from the usual drawbacks of three way matches, namely the flawed layout with someone missing from the equation while the others work a segment. But, they make up for that with their intensity as well as their knack for timing and good spots. It helps that this starts out looking more like a handicap match, with Aries and Evans against Strong, it makes sense since they both had issues with Strong, not each other. Aries and Evans work plenty of segments against each other though and it’s not the same, tired, story of Aries wants to pin Strong and Evans breaks it up and tries for the pin himself, and then Aries breaks it up etc. Aries and Evans see openings for themselves and take advantage, such as Jack gearing up to dive onto Strong and Aries cutting him off with a lariat, complete with a huge bump.
The thing that sticks out the most, for me, was the table spot. Strong sets up the table bridging the ring and guardrail and he and Aries had several segments where they’d trade suplex attempts to put one of them through it. It’s Aries who takes the bump, but it’s much later in the match, when Roderick sees the opening and pushes him off the top rope. The ref bump and all the run ins certainly doesn’t help the match itself, but it pushes forward the overall storyline of NRC vs. Resilience (and now vs. Vulture Squad). Strong had beaten Stevens in the eight man street fight earlier in the month, and it was Strong who brought the chair into the match to begin with, so Stevens gets some personal revenge and turns the tables on Strong with one swing, and the opening is all Aries needs to finish him off with the brainbuster and 450. Yes, it’s got its flaws, but it’s still damn fun. ***
RUCKUS vs. EDDIE EDWARDS
I’m not a fan of squash matches, but there are times when it’s necessary and this is one of them. Ruckus has some fun offense, his flipping and flying is impressive and his rolling Fisherman suplex was different (in a good way). This match being as even as it was kills Ruckus right out the gate as someone to reckon with in ROH. Jack Evans was already the third wheel in the Resilience/NRC feud, and his main backup being exposed like this doesn’t help his case at all. Eddie gets a close near fall after all of one real move, the backpack stunner, which has never been a match breaker for him. Eddie gets another near fall when he simply rolls through Ruckus’ moonsault legdrop and cradles him. Ruckus eventually blocks a superplex and hits a corkscrew senton to win the match, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling that the Vulture Squad are a distant number three in the big faction feud, which shouldn’t be the impression that they give on their first night.
CHRIS HERO vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI
This is a case of the overall hate and intensity being great, but the work not being at the same level. The main reason is that Hero doesn’t bring his offense to the match. At first he’s content to showboat, which is fine for his character, but even when Claudio shows he’s ready to throw down and fight, Hero doesn’t follow suit. He’s content to use low level strikes, and a couple of decent neckbreaker variations rather than do things that might actually be able to beat Claudio. By the time he figures out he’s going to need the big guns, it’s too late. Claudio counters the Hero’s Welcome and hits the Ricola bomb and wins. Hell, the most effective looking things from Hero were Claudio’s rail bump (which required Hero to simply step aside), and his diving footstomp. Considering Hero had tried to take out Claudio’s eye not long before this, he should have been trying to end his career here.
Claudio isn’t tons better than Hero, but he is better. He’s rather liberal with the European Uppercut, but it’s a strike that’s been established, and Claudio is rather versatile in how he hits the strike, so it doesn’t become mundane. It also helps that for his faults on offense, Hero goes all out to make the strike look effective. Claudio is also good about spreading out his usual spots (the giant swing, the waterslide, bicycle kick, etc.) so that everyone sees he’s getting closer and closer to winning. Between their long history together, and given how long the feud had been built up, their first match should have been so much better.
TAKESHI MORISHIMA © vs. BRYAN DANIELSON (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
These are the kinds of matches that Morishima should have been having in NOAH for years now, long before his ROH Title run, and long afer it ended. The work is fairly straightforward, but Morishima and Danielson both go all out to make it count. Danielson knows he’s not going believably push Morishima to the limit by going toe to toe with him (although Lord knows why, given how easily KENTA and Marufuji did in NOAH), so he smartly tries to kick Morishima’s legs from underneath him. Morishima waits for Danielson to get too close, and when he does Morishima unloads on him with forearm shots and kicks to the face and head. The work is simple enough, but Danielson and Morishima turn what seemed like a basic title match into a rabid showdown. When it’s obvious that Danielson’s eye is injured, Morishima is a total jerk about taking shots at it, and even stealing Joe’s ole-ole kick. For his part, Morishima shows how Danielson’s idea of taking out his legs is working by being slower and slower to get to his feet when he gets knocked down, and by making Danielson’s submission attempts seem credible.
The other great thing here is the way Danielson slowly goes through his finisher arsenal, trying to find something to put away Morishima. But, unlike big matches in NOAH, it doesn’t come off like Danielson is trotting them out because they’re recognizable near falls that excite the crowd (although that certainly helps). There’s a perfectly logical reason for Danielson to go for that particular spot, whether he’s taking him by surprise with the cradle and small package, or trying to elbow Morishima into oblivion. Morishima’s size and power is just too much for Danielson to overcome. Danielson tries for too much with the super backdrop and gets squashed. Morishima follows up by smearing Danielson with a lariat, and then Morishima finishes him with the backdrop. It’s naive to think that Morishima could have matches this good with just anyone, he’s working with one of the best in the world, but seeing this makes it all the more sad that Morishima was never able to have matches structured and worked similar to this in NOAH. ***3/4
JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE © vs. KEVIN STEEN/EL GENERICO (ROH World Tag Team Titles - 2/3 Falls)
The skirmish on the floor as the match starts rivals Danielson/Morishima in terms of intensity, which shouldn’t be a surprise. But once the match picks up, this seems downright tame. It makes sense to a point, 2/3 fall matches are usually done to promote straight up wrestling, which is what ROH is all about, but it seems weird to see that from two teams who’d had wild brawls, street fights, and just had a cage match the night before, especially when Mark had suplexed Generico onto a chair and then threw the chair at his head a few minutes before. The work is fine, although it’s nothing special. The Briscoes play heel on Generico for a bit and then Steen makes the babyface save. The challengers get a turn to work over Jay for a bit and Mark saves. The match breaks down with all four brawling, and Mark sends Steen to the floor and dives onto him, which allows Jay to hit a frog splash on Generico to go up 1-0.
The Briscoes start the second fall with a big visual, giving Generico a huge beale toss over the top and onto Steen. But the big spots are the highlight of the fall though, overall, this doesn’t have half the hatred and intensity of their match from the Driven PPV. The spots themselves are impressive, Steen powerbombs Mark onto the ring apron and then Jay onto the guardrail, Generico hits a couple of nice dives, and the Briscoes bring it like you’d expect. The Briscoes didn’t need to win in a shutout though, if there was any team that should have ended their 2/3 falls streak, it was Steen and Generico, especially with the great near fall when both of the challengers hit Mark with sentons. The finish is at least smart in that regard Jay saves Mark from the brainbuster and takes out Generico on the floor, and they finish off Steen with the Jay driller and Cutthroat driver. This is fun, and it’s certainly exciting on a first viewing, but at the end of the day this is more about style than it is about story.
Conclusion: It’s easy to see that this isn’t a bad show, but I think calling this the best ROH show of 2007 is overdoing it. The only thing that’s outright bad is the Hangmen’s trios match, but there is some definite room for improvement.