MANHATTAN MAYHEM IV
March 19, 2011
Claudio Castagnoli . . . looks like a much more suitable choice to be considered a Knockout Kid.
Davey Richards . . . makes me never, ever, want to see him challenge for the Pure Wrestling Title.
Roderick Strong . . . seems to have sacrificed every shred of personality (not that he had much to spare) in exchange for the ROH Title.
KYLE O'REILLY/ADAM COLE vs. MICHAEL ELGIN/MIKE MONDO
This is a fun opener, even if it's a bit predictable in terms of its structure. Cole and O'Reilly are spunky, but smart, kids, while Truth's boys are bigger, and stronger, jerks. The kids are usually able to use their speed and stamina to keep them from getting into too much trouble, until they get too ambitious such as O'Reilly's tornado DDT that Elgin blocks and counters into a backbreaker, or Cole's attempted flying body press to Elgin that winds up with both Cole and O'Reilly getting caught and planted. Cole and O'Reilly are smart enough to make Mondo and Elgin eventually run out of gas so that they can hit bigger offense that one wouldn't normally think would work against opponents with such a size advantage, and that's what eventually gets them the win, with a superkick/German suplex combo to Mondo.
The big failing of the match is that the heels aren't as big jerks as they could have been, their work is fine from a technical standpoint, Mondo looked a lot better here than he did in the Spirit Squad, and Elgin pulled out a few impressive spots, but they don't show much personality when they're in control of things. Any number of great, or even good, tag teams could have added just as much to the match (Elgin's power spots and Phoenix senton notwithstanding) and also brought enough attitude to get the fans that much more behind Cole and O'Reilly.
TOMMASO CIAMPA vs. GRIZZLY REDWOOD
I like Griz, but Tommaso should have killed him in about half the time of this. Tommaso may not be a beast like Elgin, but he's big, and strong, enough to not need to have so much trouble with a lower card comedy act like Griz. Tommaso does finally get where he needs to go, putting on a beating and finishing off Griz with Project Ciampa (powerbomb into backbreaker), but it took far too long considering that Griz is never going to be taken seriously in ROH. Save the non-squashes for tag team or gimmick matches to continue the Griz/Embassy feud.
MIKE BENNETT vs. STEVE CORINO
It's a tribute to the booking that the crowd was so into this match, but I can't say it did much for me. For a supposed prodigy, Bennett looked rather underwhelming (although, this probably wasn't the best setting for him to show his stuff), and Corino didn't add much more than comedy and stolen spots (Ogawa's STO, and Hansen's spot where a lariat gets blocked and he clobbers his opponent with a lariat with the other arm). Most of the match is Corino and Bennett trading punches, which makes sense with them feuding, but they could at least put some intensity into it. Corino seems to have Bennett in trouble with the thumb in the bum, but Brutal Bob interferes and Bennett side slams Corino until he doesn't get up. It's cool to watch Bennett systematically killing Corino with the side slams, and Bennett also does some fun stooging early on, but that's about the extent of the fun.
JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE vs. KENNY KING/RHETT TITUS
Now, this is what Corino/Bennett should have been! It's a mix of good wrestling from the ANX with the Briscoes heeling things up as much as they can, and that's a lot. Jay and Mark aren't trying to win a wrestling match, they're trying to hurt King and Titus in a fight. It's established early on that King and Titus aren't just a pair of pretty boys, they outwrestle Jay and Mark and make the former tag champions look like buffoons, ANX busts out some good tandem moves, and there's a great spot where Titus counters Mark's slingshot shoulderblock into a Northern Lights suplex.
Once the Briscoes take over, after a brawl on the floor and Titus' head getting bounced off the guardrail, the fun continues. Rather than go spot-crazy, like they've been known to do, the Briscoes tone down the flash and just worry about hurting Titus as much as possible, and it heaps the sympathy on Titus, while making them look like the biggest heels ever. Rhett gets busted open and Jay lets the fists fly to keep him bleeding. Titus tries to use wrestling to tag out, such as rolling up Mark while he's mocking him and trying for a tag, and he finally makes it when he turns Mark's rana into a face buster and tags in King, and King looks like a million bucks for taking the fight to both Mark and Jay.
The match also has the benefit of not going too long after the hot tag, so they don't do anything stupid to kill their momentum. King tagging Titus back in so soon after he was cleaning house was a bit questionable, but that's the extent of it. After sticking to their wrestling the whole match, it gets the ANX the upset when Titus victory rolls Jay out of the attempted Doomsday Device, after King's attempt to intercept it backfired. The battle is over but the war continues when the Briscoes try to finish the job they started, and all four brawl all over ringside. ***1/2
EL GENERICO vs. TJ PERKINS
This was a fun little sprint, even though it wasn't exactly deep. Perkins looks good by holding his own against the more established Generico and busting out some flashy spots, and Generico looks good for sucking them up and going on to win the match. It helped that most of the spots Perkins used were more flashy than effective, so it wasn't like Generico was blowing off things that should have killed him. They get silly toward the end, when Generico gets the ropes to break a sharpshooter (Perkins had already singled out the leg, so it deserved a longer sell job) and hits the running boot, which Perkins blows off to hit a GTS variant. They come back to their senses right afterwards, with Generico blocking a dive and hitting a brainbuster on the apron and rolling Perkins into the ring to pin him. I wouldn't want to see this sort of match on a regular basis, but this was fun enough for what it was.
CHRIS HERO/CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI vs. HERNANDEZ/HOMICIDE
As seems to be par for the course when it comes to these first-time "dream matches," this is underwhelming. The biggest reason seems to be that rather than structure it like a traditional formula tag match, with Hero and Claudio being cheating jerks and building toward a hot tag, the match is worked more evenly without either team having an especially long control segment. That may be good for the wrestlers' egos, but the match suffers because they aren't able to do much to create drama or build up momentum. Their work is fine, for the most part, but there's no reason to really make an emotional investment other than the dream match aspect of LAX vs. KOW, or being a diehard fan of anyone involved in the match. There's a fun moment when Homicide decides to no sell Hero's running boot and spit in his face, and, instead of back down, Hero just gets mad and lays in on Homicide even harder.
It's clear that they have good ideas, such as Homicide surprising Claudio with the Ace crusher as a counter to a European uppercut. There's also a smart moment when Hero tries to prevent a tag by pulling Hernandez off the apron and then double teaming Homicide, but Homicide slips out the back door and makes the tag anyway. It's also nice to see that Hernandez isn't shy about going along with spots that you wouldn't expect him to, such as Claudio's reverse airplane spin. The other big failing of the match is the way that Hero's elbow strike is treated. Frankly, it's a joke by the end of the match. He hits Hernandez with two perfect shots and fails to keep him down, while it only takes a single European uppercut to beat Homicide. Maybe Claudio should be considered the Knockout Kid.
DAVEY RICHARDS vs. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS (Pure Wrestling Rules)
It's nice to see ROH pay homage to its past by dusting off the pure wrestling rules, but, if this is any indication, I'm not clamoring for the return of the Pure Title. Daniels puts on a good performance, his early heel work on Davey's back is good stuff, and Daniels is great at taking advantage of the rules. He knows that he gets off with a warning for his first closed fist strike, so he cashes it in to initially get control of the match. There's another great moment when Davey is out of rope breaks and Daniels puts on the Koji clutch in the ropes, when he sees that Davey is almost passed out, he releases the hold and lets Davey fall to the floor and tries to win by count out.
The big negative to the match is Davey, he just can't seem to grasp the notion of working simple and smart like Daniels, everything has to be overdone. For instance, Daniels has Davey in the Koji clutch, and they work a rather obvious transition for Davey to get the ankle lock, Daniels rolls out and escapes, only for Davey to run into the STO and right back into the Koji clutch, basically going nowhere with the sequence. While Daniels is purposely trying to make Davey burn through rope breaks and then taking advantage and doing them in the ropes, Davey is doing a huge superplex, popping up for a regular suplex, and then going to an armbar. Davey finally seems to catch on when he escapes a guillotine choke in the ropes and gives Daniels a Texas Cloverleaf in the ropes, but right after that is when they go to the finish with Davey’s botched SSP and the quick counter to the Angel's Wings for Davey to pull off the win. Seeing as Daniels had the issue with Edwards, Daniels probably should have won here to lead up to his being Eddie’s first challenger. They could have pulled off the same Angel's Wings counter, without the SSP spot in the first place. Comparing Davey's performance here to his performance against the equally annoying Kota Ibushi in his lone EVOLVE match is like night and day.
RODERICK STRONG © vs. EDDIE EDWARDS (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
Eddie puts on a decent performance while winning his first World Title. He finds ways to counter or avoid most of Strong's major offense, he hits a rana to counter the Tiger driver, he slips out the back door when Strong tries the gutbuster, and he twice charges and takes down Strong with a lariat before Strong can hit the rolling elbow. He tries to take Strong to the ground early, knowing he's a better mat wrestler, and that comes back later when he counters the Stronghold into his own submission finisher, the Achilles lock. The finish, with Eddie countering the Stronghold into a cradle sounds underwhelming, but it works in the vein if Eddie being ready for anything Strong can throw at him. There's also some fun with their early chop exchange when Strong's chest starts bleeding, and Eddie starts aiming right at the cut.
Strong isn't bad here, he doesn't do anything stupid like the superplex no sell and roll through that he did in his match with Tyler Black, but he's rather dull overall. Aside from their chop exchanges, and his attempted spots that Eddie counters, the only notable offense from Strong comes in the last few minutes after Truth Martini distracts the ref and gives Strong the opening to reel them off in quick succession, and a single backbreaker across the corner. He doesn't have that dominating presence that the champion should have, Kevin and Dave harp on and on that the ROH Title represents the best wrestler in the business, but Strong looks far away from that level. Strong also looks to have lost the brutal edge that he had a few years before, he doesn't look like the same Roderick Strong who vowed to break Pac in half back in 2007. Strong catching Eddie with the backbreaker in the corner should have opened the door for Strong to try to take Eddie apart, but instead of taking advantage of it, they just went back to exchanging chops. This winds up being a good match, thanks to Eddie, but I'm not exactly in a hurry to see any of Strong’s other ROH Title defenses now. ***
Conclusion: This is par for the course when it comes to ROH, there's some fun to be had, especially from the Briscoes/ANX and Perkins/Generico matches, but it falls short of the hype that always comes with ROH shows.