June 4, 2005
Of course I’m reviewing this show. I was in the second row for God’s sake.
“Fat Pants” Sinclair . . . lays down the law.
“The Messiah of the Backbreaker” . . . doesn’t get to do much of that.
“The Champ” is here . . . but doesn’t steal the show, like he did in May.
EL GENERICO/SAL RINAURO vs. JIMMY RAVE/FAST EDDIE
This is quite anti-climatic after all the heat that Rave had garnered for himself after the CM Punk feud, and the fact that he’s managed to retain the heat, makes this all the more sad. The match itself is nothing more than a bit of a spot exhibition. Generico’s gimmick is entertaining, and he shows a few impressive things, as does Rinauro. But the point of matches like these, is to build heat and suspense that the underdogs might be able to persevere and get the win, which is something that never happens here. The underdog babyfaces are never able to obtain any extended advantage in the match, the little they are able to get, doesn’t last very long. The only real things the match does have going for it, are the few impressive spots that Rinauro and Generico bring (especially the hang time Generico can get), and Rave’s heat and explosiveness. Rave’s punches look better than just about everyone else’s, and he’s got that explosiveness about him, his running lariat looks excellent, the running knee before the Rave Clash looks hard enough to be potential finisher, and finishing Rinauro off with the Rave Clash, is that reminder that even though he’s done with Punk, there’s still someone else that Rave has a beef with.
CHEECH vs. LOC
The back story to this is that Cheech is tired of being a secretary and wants to prove himself. Cheech does show off a few nice things early on, and the springboard to the headlock is really funny, and does manage to garner some heat. Loc doesn’t posses the intensity you normally see from The Carnage Crew though, especially considering that he’s making his first in-ring appearance in ROH since losing Scramble Cage back in February. You’d expect Loc to be raging pissed off and beating the living tar out of Cheech. The ending looks more than a little bit weird, with Loc getting hit with a SSP and then being able to cradle Cheech for the pin, although you could argue that Loc spent the ninety-days he was out of ROH drinking beer, and that his beer gut gave him some padding from Cheech’s SSP.
HOMICIDE vs. KEVIN STEEN
The third match in a row with the young gun vs. the established name, and it combines both of the basic problems with the previous two matches. Steen shows off a few nice moves, (particularly his moonsault), but he spends 9/10 of the match on the defense, getting hit with several variations of the suplex. He does a nice job selling his neck, which is a nice touch to match Homicide using the lariat to finish things off. It’s all the more odd to see Steen suddenly start getting near falls after getting next to nothing in terms of offense.
Homicide also has the same distinct lack of any intensity that Loc was displaying, especially coming off losing the final match of his series with Brian Danielson. He does the moves like he always does, such as the tope con hilo, the Ace Crusher from the top, and introduces Steen to the guardrails, but there doesn’t seem to be anything fueling him. It looks more like he’s going through motions, than Homicide “sending Jay Lethal a message” like Jimmy Bower would have us believe. The fans know it too, and they’re really quiet unless Homicide hits something big. Homicide does some nice suplexes to work over Steen’s neck, as well as the stretch he uses toward the end. The setup to the eventual lariat was nice, with Homicide pitching Steen on his face, so that Steen wouldn’t have time to block it, and the lariat itself is a colossus blow. It’s just too bad that Homicide couldn’t put forth the intensity into the match that he had in his arm during the finish.
BJ WHITMER/JIMMY JACOBS © vs. DUNN/MARCOS (ROH Tag Team Titles)
One thing that is refreshing to see, is a promotion that actually seems to care about its tag team titles. Even though the outcome is already more or less in the bag, all four of them do what they can to try to create some doubt. In any other area, this would be a complete and utter squash, but this is taking place in Buffalo, the home area of the RCE, and they obviously want to put on a good show. Jimmy Jacobs had already shown in previous title matches that he takes his role as one of the ROH Tag Team Champions, very seriously. The match isn’t entirely devoid of comedy though, Dunn and Marcos are able to get Whitmer with their Air Guitar Wrist lock, and Jacobs forces Dunn, Marcos, and even Whitmer to Huss against their will, by kicking their wrist. However, despite those comedic instances, Dunn and Marcos come with several exciting double team moves, Jacobs shows the same sort of heart and intensity that he was showing in the defense against Evans and Strong. Dunn and Marcos put Jacobs though a decent amount of punishment, and he shows the heart to withstand the beating, and eventually return fire. Both members of the RCE, but specifically Marcos, do a nice job with putting the punishment over that the champions dish out. Whitmer is the enforcer for his team, and he’s there to help Jacobs out when needed, as well as dish out the majority of the big moves to wear down the RCE. One really nice part was when Whitmer dropped Marcos with a big suplex, but then tagged Jacobs, who just stomped all over Marcos.
A couple of the spots are a bit over-contrived, specifically the top rope Exploder to Marcos, while he was on Dunn’s shoulders, because there was no way that Dunn was simply powerless to do anything to prevent it. The Doomsday Rana is a great double team finisher though, and Dunn would have been finished, even without the Exploder into the corner beforehand. Even though Whitmer and Jacobs are far from being top guys themselves, it’s nice to see that ROH thinks enough of their tag team titles that even though neither member of the champions is particularly important in the grand scheme of things, that as far as tag teams go, they’re right at the top.
ALEX SHELLEY vs. RODERICK STRONG
While this easily has the intensity that the Homicide, and Loc matches were lacking in, as well as an attempt to tell a story around Shelley’s back. The match lacks Shelley really putting everything he has into selling his back. If you want to see an example of how much two these two hate each other, look no further than the opening stretch here. They brawl literally all over the building, throw each other into the hockey glass, spit on each other, and on more than one occasion, you can hear them swearing at one another.
When they take the action back inside the ring, and start telling the story of Shelley’s back, is when it goes downhill. Shelley tries one of his patented moves too early, and Strong catches him in a backbreaker. Strong doesn’t follow up in very many interesting ways though, and Shelly is soon able to go back to trading blows with Strong without even a hint of trouble. Shelley will then suddenly remember he’s supposed to have a bad back. The intent of the sudden sell was nice (coming after the tornado DDT that Strong had countered into the first backbreaker), and it’s easily explainable, but for Shelley to go from seemingly being okay, to having his back be “screaming” in pain isn’t a very smooth transition.
It would have helped if Strong was given more chances to do bigger damage as well. The few backbreakers that he used were nice, as was the Boston Crab, but other than that, Strong isn’t given a whole lot of opportunity to show he’s hurting Shelley so bad. The running kick sequence at the end was one particularly nice sequence though, Roderick misses his charging kick, Shelley hits his super kick, but not hard enough since he had to arch his back, and Roderick hits a big running kick from behind to his back. Shelley also had no viable reason to put on the Border City Stretch at all, let alone twice. Especially with the post match GenNext attack angle which centered around . . . Shelley’s back, it would seem even more imperative that Roderick is able to really do a number on Shelley. Roderick strings some nice stuff together before he finally finishes Shelley off with the Half Nelson backbreaker, but the nice ending feels tacked on, compared with the direction they were actually going in, rather than the direction they tried to go in.
MASKED SUPERSTAR vs. DAVEY ANDREWS vs. SHANE HAGADORN
The Superstar does all of three moves, and is eliminated to a chorus of boos. Andrews and Hagadorn proceed to work a technically sound story around Hagadorn’s ear, after a slap from Andrews. The story itself is very nice, and they do a nice job working with it, showing how a simple headlock is able to score a submission (although the live crowd audibly chanting “tap” may have caused it as well). It’s the sort of story mentality that’s better left to a match involving a rookie taking on a grizzled veteran, rather than two rookies. One thing that Hagadorn had to learn is that pain is a natural part of the business, and the vets have Cauliflower ears for a reason, not just for personal decoration. But Davey Andrews shouldn’t be the one to teach that lesson. Although Andrews may be the one being touted as the top graduate, the learning experience here, could easily put Hagadorn at an advantage, since he had an experience Andrews can’t yet claim.
NIGEL McGUINESS/CHAD COLLYER vs. CM PUNK/COLT CABANA
This match looks like a combination of the respective Cabana and Punk matches from May, in the sense that it’s more of a storyline advancement than it is an actual match (Rave vs. Punk), and the actual wrestling is highlighted by Cabana showing that he can work the style, but throwing his comedy in, just because (Cabana vs. Nigel). The utilization of Punk is a bit odd though, Cabana is supposedly reaching out to his best friend, because he *needs* his help. But Punk doesn’t seem to be doing much of that. He plays along with Cabana’s comedy, being confused by Nigel’s “Artful Dodger” routine, and misunderstanding Colt’s attempt to warn him. He’s more likely to be found trading insults and threats with Collyer, than he is giving Cabana the upper hand for a change. When Nigel and Cabana start trading fists, Punk just sees fit to let them have it out, rather than actually help Cabana.
Cabana shows on more than one occasion how much he’s improved himself, he does a nice armbar with simply his legs, and he’s able to escape from Collyer’s submissions and taunt Nigel by simply saying “See that, I escaped.” With Nigel and Cabana having their feud, and being the reason that this match is even taking place, of course they have to forget about the wrestling aspect and start trading blows. The difference maker though, is that Cabana is more concerned with seeing Nigel get his comeuppance, and Nigel is thinking about winning the match. That’s ultimately how Nigel can finally get control of Cabana, because Nigel initially got his first (and his second at the previous show) win over Cabana with some shady tactics, so he sticks with what’s worked for him. With Cabana showing improvement, Collyer and Nigel start fighting dirty to keep momentum in their favor. When Punk finally gets the hot tag, the Saints start to clean house. Cabana is more concerned about Punk hitting the Pepsi Plunge on Nigel just for the pain involved, than he is about doing anything to win. Nigel keeps his eyes on the prize, and after Punk gets taken out of the equation, Nigel reverses Colt’s sunset flip, and uses the ropes for a little help to get the win. It’s just as important for Cabana as it was for Nigel. It shows that Cabana needs to get serious and think more about the win, than personal aspects. Nigel learns that cheating sometimes does pay off.
SAMOA JOE © vs. JAMES GIBSON (ROH Pure Wrestling Title)
As important as winning a title is, the first defense just as, if not more important, it sets the pace for what sort of champion, and what kind of reign the fans have to look forward to. Joe and Lethal may have torn down the house, and stolen the show when Joe won the title, but Joe isn’t able to ride that wave of momentum into this match. The first thing that sticks out is the slow pace they work in. Just as often as they trade blows back and forth, Joe and Gibson can both he found both laying, and standing around. It’d make sense if it was late in the match and they were both tired, but they never start off strong. It looks as though neither bothered warming up before the match. Neither really bothers working any of the holds that they use. Aside from Gibson and the Trailer Hitch, there isn’t a whole of time spent of a solid focus, for the hold to be some sort of pay off.
There aren’t a lot of foci to anything that they do, really. Despite this only being the second Pure Title rules match that he’s worked, Joe only makes one mistake the whole time, he never slips up by using the fist, either for offense, or just in frustration. He loses his first rope break by placing Gibson on the top turnbuckle to free himself from his short arm scissors, (which caused the fans to boo the ref, but it was a great call by Todd Sinclair) but other than that, Joe seems to have been studying day and night, because he makes no more errors in regards to Pure Title rules. Joe also isn’t terribly consistent when it comes to selling. A single dropkick from Gibson is adequate to send Joe through the ropes to the floor, but then he’s able to catch Gibson when he attempts a pescado, and throw him into the barricade. Joe is also coming into this match, off an injury to his rib, but he doesn’t do anything to indicate that it’s still bothering him. He even uses his body as a weapon when he does a senton, and doesn’t appear to be any worse for ware. Gibson also doesn’t do much as far as attacking the injury, which would have done wonders for making the outcome appear to be in doubt.
Joe more or less just runs through his moves, his focus shifting from attempting to score a KO, to working the body of Gibson over. But once again, it’s just Joe using standard Joe moves. The big knee to the head in the corner, the sidewalk slam to a charging Gibson, the high elevated Boston crab, the juji-gatame after a kick out. It may be technically sound, and logical, but it’s nothing new, and its usage isn’t showing us that it’s taken on any new meaning or purpose. It’s just Joe using the same stuff he always uses. Joe isn’t the only one to blame (although he shoulders the majority of it) for this match. Gibson is just as guilty of the slow pace, with the enormous size disadvantage, it’s amazing Gibson didn’t attempt to use his speed to his advantage and try to get Joe gassed out. Gibson doesn’t do much of anything to try to exploit Joe’s rib injury, the back suplex from the top was nice, but was just a spot, rather than showing a solid focus. Gibson targeting Joe’s leg was one of the smarter aspects of this match, and Gibson eventually pay it off, with the Trailer Hitch, but once that was done, the leg focus disappears. Gibson is more worried about getting Joe in the Guillotine choke, which is fine from the standpoint that Gibson has more success in ROH with that, than the ‘hitch, but considering that Joe is only down one rope break, Gibson hadn’t done anything to the neck other than a single neckbreaker, and Joe is still considerably bigger than Gibson it wasn’t something that would have given him any success. The ending comes down to the same principal that caused Joe to win the title, he forgets trying to be cute, just does what will work, with the Muscle Buster being countered, and Gibson is out of breaks, the straight simple choke will work perfectly well. The fans being red-hot for the match, with the famous dueling chants, are compliments more toward the promotion itself, than to the match that the fans were presented with.
AUSTIN ARIES © vs. SPANKY (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
With the story going into the match that Aries has a bad neck, it’s not surprising that Spanky is on Aries’ neck, like white on rice. It is surprising that Spanky finds a good mix of flashy, and technically sound offense to focus on Aries’ neck. From the simple stuff like the headlock, elbow drop, and knee drop, to flashy submissions like the STF variant, and the ultimate in dickish things to do, that piledriver like move, while Aries was doing his headstand. It’s a smart and simple game plan that Spanky intends to climax with Sliced Bread #2 en route to winning the title. It also makes the Crucifix bomb, and the rolling Samoan drop, work against Aries, just as much as they’d work against Spanky.
Aries tries to turn the tables on Spanky and show him what it’s like to have the neck attacked, but since Aries went into the match injured he isn’t able to fully play out that idea, because it’s just desperation and revenge, rather than a solid strategy. The neck whip over the guardrail was sick, and it’s a shame Spanky didn’t think of it first. The piledriver onto the chair is a bit hard to swallow though. Yes, it was desperation because Aries’ neck was getting taken apart. It was also a surefire way to give Spanky a taste of his own medicine. It was also a bit off the deep end as far as the time in the match that had gone by, with how much they both still had to do. A piledriver through a wooden chair, should have by all means, killed him. There are plenty of ways that Aries could have gotten the big revenge spot that wouldn’t require Spanky to more or less no-sell it, since they still had other stuff to do.
Another highlight of the match is Aries’ selling. He’s always clutching his neck, or screaming in pain whenever Spanky takes a shot at it. Aries rolls around holding his neck. When Spanky hits a DDT, Aries takes the bump much like Rob Van Dam takes a bump flush on the noggin. Aries does a full forward flip just from Spanky hitting a simple lariat. Another nice story into the match is Aries crowd playing. Every time Aries gets an advantage, and tries to play to the crowd or to showboat, Spanky makes him pay for it. It’s a sign that Aries is starting to get a bit cocky in his role as the ROH Champion, and a sign of how much Spanky (someone who is no stranger to showboating to crowd playing) is taking his title shot seriously. Aries still has an issue with ending his matches too soon though. Spanky finally connects the Slice Bread #2 (off the top no less) and Aries’ sell job does it justice, he takes another headstand bump, rolls completely across the ring, and splits his chin open, and just barely gets the ropes. Aries getting a rush at the sight of his own blood, would have made sense if Spanky hadn’t done such a bang-up job at working the neck over. The kicks to the head, followed with the brainbuster, and the 450 splash is very much adequate to put down Spanky, the kicks to stun him, the brainbuster to put him in position, and 450 to seal the deal. The problem is Aries’ timing, and he should have at least waited a good sixty to ninety seconds before making any sort of comeback. Of if they were rushed for time and needed to go home right then, the fluke win from the roll up would have also sufficed. The bigger story though is exactly how close Aries came to getting dethroned though, and the “skin of his teeth” manner in which he won, is plenty of indication that Aries doesn’t have much longer as champion. ***
Conclusion: It was a lot of fun being at the show live, but the sad truth is that this is one of ROH’s weaker shows from 2005. ROH has put on plenty of better shows, including their return to Buffalo on 8/27. Thumbs down for New Frontiers.