RESPECT IS EARNED
May 12, 2007
I’ve heard that ROH’s PPV shows are chock full of good stuff. There are two things that I like, as a reviewer, good wrestling and debunking over hyped matches (which I usually get to do with ROH), so this should be a win/win review.
The Briscoe Bros . . . totally steal the show with a damn fine tag match and then an awesome brawl afterwards.
Roderick Strong . . . shows ‘No Remorse’ to the fans with a mediocre performance in an alleged grudge match.
Bryan Danielson . . . looks like he’s still the best wrestler in the world, despite his long hiatus.
TAKESHI MORISHIMA © vs. BJ WHITMER (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
Isn’t one of the big talking points among ROH and the diehard fans that, unlike WWE and TNA, ROH respects their titles and champions? If that’s the case then please explain to me why the ROH World Title is defended in a two-minute throwaway open challenge match? At least ROH allows Morishima to look like a monster, which is a concept that NOAH doesn’t seem to know how to do correctly. The match itself isn’t bad for what it is, Whitmer gets in some token offense, and it’s usually got a good foundation, the dropkick to the knee that gives the opening to do his Exploder for instance. But he tries too much too soon, and Morishima destroys him with a couple of big lariats and backdrops him into oblivion.
NAOMICHI MARUFUJI vs. ROCKY ROMERO
If they’d slowed down and let their moves and spots mean something, then this might have been good. As it is, it’s totally stereotypical of the ROH, and indy wrestling in general, style. I’m all for guys going all out on PPV and showing off what they can do, but it’s pointless if what they do winds up being wasted. Romero’s arm work and Marufuji’s leg work went absolutely nowhere, and just when it looked like the match was warming up, after Marufuji had worked over Romero’s knee for a bit, Romero totally blew it off and started firing off kicks, and even dancing. Despite Prazak putting over Romero’s “educated feet” his Tajiri-like kicks obviously don’t have much impact, since several of them weren’t able to put Marufuji down. His Tiger suplex isn’t much better, and after he gets a near fall from it, he tries a second one and Marufuji flips out of it.
They’re both guilty of being overly flashy for no reason, Romero’s armbar off the top had no real purpose, nor did Marufuji’s coast to coast dropkick. I think Marufuji is actually the worst offender in making spots mean little to nothing, he’d already had his arm worked over before Romero’s armbar off the top and as soon as he got the rope break it was like it had never happened. The final kick exchange, culminating in a Marufuji superkick which allows him to hit the Shiranui looks like it belongs in a Bruce Lee flick than a wrestling ring. Yes, they’re both clearly talented athletes who can do some great looking things in the ring, but they negate that by lacking the thought process necessary to put their moves together in a such manner to emit genuine emotion from the fans.
JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE © vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI/MATT SYDAL (ROH World Tag Team Titles)
You see? It really is possible to be flashy, while still working smart. Both teams kick out a crap load of double teams and tandem spots, but they also manage to keep the match focused. The Briscoes’ early control segment on Sydal is a perfect example. They do tons of flashy spots, such as the huge double Beale toss and the split legged moonsault demo decapitation, both of which (as most of their other big spots) work over Sydal’s midsection. Sydal’s selling is good for the most part and it results in some nice near falls. There are also some simple spots, like the stretch plum submission and a big kick to Sydal’s back after one of his kick outs. Sydal’s comeback spot, a jumping rana while Mark was perched on the top rope, came a bit too easy, considering the punishment he’d taken, but it worked in its own little way because he tried it much later in the match and it was blocked.
The challengers show that they’re also able to play the Briscoes’ game of Flashy-Yet-Smart, and they do it in much the same way. Claudio’s main strike is the European Uppercut, which wears down the chest, and he and Sydal have some fun of their own working over Jay’s chest area. They’re not nearly as flashy as the champs, but they have their moments. It was damn impressive to see Claudio do a head scissors from off the top rope, but it wasn’t just for the shocking crowd pop, it was able to stun Mark and allow him to hit a big boot for a good near fall. The only thing that this really lacks are good transitions when control goes from one team to the other, it’s especially glaring toward the end, when the pendulum swings in favor of the champions or challengers, it’s usually without a whole lot of trouble, despite it being late in the match and everyone being worn down. Very few big moves and spots are really wasted here, the only one that an argument could be made for is Claudio’s charging European Uppercut, which usually takes a backseat to the Ricola Bomb anyway. The other big moves are also kept rather strong, with hot near falls for the Ricola Bomb, Sydal’s SSP and Mark’s Cutthroat Driver, and the champions finally put down Sydal with the springboard Doomsday Device. While this is certainly a much better effort than Romero/Marufuji, it’s still not perfect by any means, it gets goofy toward the end with the rather effortless transitions to switch control, and neither team seems to want to play heel, which makes the match lack real emotion (that’s emotion, not heat). ***1/4
As if the roller coaster ride of the previous match wasn’t enough, Kevin Steen and El Generico ponder as to when they’ll get a title shot. The Briscoes tell tem to bring it and boy do they bring it. After the pull apart brawl, Steen and Generico destroy the ROH students that were separating them and resume the brawl on the floor.
DELIRIOUS vs. RODERICK STRONG
Imagine if the follow up to the Flair/Funk piledriver angle from WrestleWar ‘89 was a thirty-minute scientific match, that’s how this comes off. No, this isn’t ‘scientific’ at all, but it’s woefully lacking in the heat and hatred department. If you’ve watched five or six Strong matches to get a feel for how he works and his usual spots, and then watched five or six Delirious matches for the same purpose, and then watched this match, you’d have very little in the way of anything surprising. The first ten minutes look like they’re just running through their stuff and not sure what direction they want to take this in. The direction ought to be obvious, Delirious wants to take home Strong’s head as a trophy, and Strong wants to make Delirious the world’s most unintelligible paraplegic, but it very rarely comes out in their work. The fact that the fans (who were so passionately chanting “ROH” during the last match) are more concerned with heckling Strong than the match itself ought to be an indication that something isn’t right.
They’re both at fault, but Delirious at least seems to have the right idea, he explodes on Strong as soon as the bell rings and is ready to throw down. He also has a smart moment when he attempts Shadows Over Hell and avoids Roderick pulling him off the top (that’s what led to his injury and this feud in the first place). He also gets a bit of a fire lit under him toward the end when they have a scuffle on the floor and he throws Roderick into the barricade and then does the Panic Attack. But things like that are the exception, not the rule. When he hits Strong with Shadows Over Hell and then segues into the Cobra Stretch, Strong does a roll up counter, which Delirious counters into a cradle of his own. He ought to have been trying like hell to stretch him out, even risking getting disqualified for it. Delirious is no prince, but he’s got one up on Strong here. Strong needed to find the sort of intensity that he showed during the Steel Cage Warfare match when he tried to turn Jimmy Rave’s spine into jelly, that’s the very definition of “no remorse.” Strong occasionally does seem to find it, but it’s few and far between, the best example is the backdrop on the apron (helped by the selling from Delirious) but Strong doesn’t follow it up very well, and it winds up being an afterthought. The quick exchange at the end, leading to the boot and Tiger driver doesn’t feel like much of a climax. Strong destroying his back with backbreakers after the backdrop and Delirious passing out in the Stronghold is how you end something like this, making Strong look like a real bad ass. For getting over genuine hatred, the Briscoes and Steen/Generico kill this six ways from Sunday, and this was a feud that had already been going on for a while.
The Adam Pearce promo backstage almost isn’t worth mentioning, aside from the fact that when he said “You can call me the Scrap Daddy” my wife had just walked into the room and said “Hi Scrap Daddy.”
TAKESHI MORISHIMA/BRYAN DANIELSON vs. NIGEL McGUINESS/KENTA
They get a little ridiculous toward the end, but this is pretty good for the most part. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be good though, Danielson has worked extensively with both KENTA and Nigel, Morishima and KENTA worked together several times in NOAH, and Morishima is coming off a title defense against Nigel. The best part of this for me was watching Danielson and Morishima heel things up with Nigel, Morishima looked right at home as the dominating monster, using his size to his advantage, and Danielson looked like he hadn’t lost a step, despite a five-month layoff. They even collaborated on a really nasty spot where Morishima stood on Nigel’s chest in the corner and then Danielson jumped up on his back to add more pressure. It was also nice to see Morishima keep the unnecessary bumping to a minimum. The only real big bump is a powerslam, from KENTA of all people, but it doesn’t much effect and he tags almost right afterwards. Danielson is as fun as he ever was, doing all his fun heel stuff and reminding the ref that he’s got till five!
Even though there really wasn’t much of a personal grudge here, all four were really able to turn the heat up, which only makes the Delirious/Strong “grudge match” that much more laughable. Nigel’s frequent lariats are tiresome, but, they’re not without foundation, Nigel’s lariat had already been established as a dangerous strike, so it makes sense for him to be using it, especially since he can’t do much else to a guy the size of Morishima. There’s even a nice touch toward the end when it catches up with Nigel, and he has to leave KENTA on his own to have his arm taped up. There’s a smart moment toward the end where Morishima climbs to the top and KENTA cuts him off, and the distraction allows Nigel to hit the Tower of London.
The only real weak parts of this are toward the end, when they get too cute and believability goes by the wayside. Nigel starts if off by no-selling a dropkick from Morishima (off the top no less) and popping right back up for a lariat. It gets the worst when Danielson and KENTA take things home, Danielson traps KENTA in Cattle Mutilation, and when KENTA won’t tap, he converts to the elbow flurry to the head, that alone is fine. But then KENTA simply stands up, while still getting elbowed, and has Danielson in position for Go 2 Sleep. Danielson blocks and does a Tiger suplex, segued back into Cattle Mutilation for the tap out. If KENTA was able to withstand the hold, and then survive getting his brains scrambled, then the hold obviously couldn’t have been that bad. Not to mention that it’d make more sense for Nigel to fall to the hold since he’s got the banged up arm. That being said, this is still easily the best match of the show, it’s just too bad that they didn’t seem to have it in them to put on the all time classic that ROH’s first PPV should have had. ***1/2
Conclusion: This is good bordering on very good, but that’s about it. The claims of this show being the best PPV of 2007 (at least until Driven) are way overstated, which is what I figured although I gave them the benefit of the doubt. This is still good enough for a thumbs up, but its nothing mind blowing.