February 13, 2010

It looks like ROH had gone through some dramatic changes since I last saw their product. The wrestlers now use generic entrance music (a byproduct of being on TV), and Dave Prazak has turned into a heel commentator (if this show in any indication). Nonetheless, it’s still a milestone for ROH and they celebrate in style with Tyler Black finally being ready to win the big one (for real this time!), as well as appearances by Gypsy Joe and The Brian Kendrick.

Brian Kendrick . . . shows that his release isn’t just the gain of TNA and ROH, but also the loss of the WWE.

Necro Butcher . . . brings the return of Mr. Socko and the Socko claw to the world of wrestling.

Jon Davis and Kory Chavis . . . make me wish they no-showed and stayed in the Dark City on this night.


If nothing else, this was a nice vehicle for Kendrick to show that he could still go, after getting released by WWE. Strong has some nice moments as well, but this is mostly the Kendrick show. Kendrick’s selling and reactions to Strong’s trademark chops is perfect, at one point he’s crawling on the floor throwing chairs and people in front of him, eerily similar the opening murder scene in the original Friday the 13th. But, just when it looks like he’s cornered, Kendrick drop toeholds Strong into the rail, to show just how crafty he can be. There’s another nice Kendrick spot when he’s got Strong in a camel clutch and Strong starts to power out of it, and Kendrick seamlessly transitions to a neckbreaker. As the match wears on and Strong starts making some of his own progress, Kendrick shows he’s still got plenty in the tank with a leg lariat, running tornado DDT, and frog splash.

Again, Strong has some good moments as well, although he’s a bit overshadowed by Kendrick. Aside from the easy pop he gets from his chops, he’s always been good about using his backbreakers to change momentum, which is what happens here when he surprises Kendrick with one. Strong has his own crafty moment when he surprises Kendrick with his agility by hitting a dropkick, and, of course, there’s Strong’s run at the end, when he blocks the Slice Bread and hits a big backbreaker, the running boot, and the Gibson driver to get the win. Kendrick looked good, and although Strong didn’t look like the wrestler that everyone knew was going to unseat Bryan Danielson in 2005-06, he looked much better than his NRC heel days against Delirious. ***


Total squash here by the Kings of Wrestling. The match itself isn’t much more than an excuse for the Kings to show off their strikes, Hero’s elbow and Claudio’s uppercut. There’s a couple of double teams, the giant swing/dropkick and the KRS-ONE that finishes off Harlem, but for the most part they just plod along and kill time. The Bravado’s get a quick segment to show off what they can do, but their promo about being excited to be in “the big city” is enough indication of their chance at winning.


As you might expect, this isn’t exactly the deepest tag match you’ll find, it’s a rather mindless brawl. The first five minutes had me wishing one of the fans would jump in the ring, just so somebody would be using it. There are a couple of cool visual moments, such as Kingston’s Kona Crush head vice to Ryan after Ryan gets busted open in the forehead. Necro takes off his sock and gives Stevens the mandible claw, which, sadly, didn’t start a Mr. Socko chant (at least not audible on the DVD). The little wrestling that happens in the match isn’t great, nor is it terrible, it’s just there. The only notable wrestling spot was Stevens’ powerbomb to Kingston off the apron onto (that’s onto, not through) the ringside table.

The use (or lack thereof) Gypsy Joe was disappointing as well. The idea is that he’s there to keep the rest of the Embassy from interfering, but he doesn’t really do anything other than walk around the ring. He pops up on the apron at the end, giving Necro the opening to use the plastic bag and beat Ryan (it wasn’t clear if it was a choke out, tap out or ref stop), but that’s the extent of it. The idea is that he’s there to keep the Embassy from interfering, but all he really does is walk around the ring. Sure, he’s seventy-six and probably can’t move too well or do too much, but why bring him in if that’s the case? Terry Funk fits the same bill as Gypsy Joe, and would be more than able to believably keep Nana and Ernesto out of the picture. I can totally see Terry hitting a single punch to KO Nana, and then beating the piss out of Ernesto, as well as taking a big bump from Stevens so the Embassy can keep their heat.


In some ways, this is like the Richards/Ibushi EVOLVE match, the main story revolves around Richards working over his opponent’s arm, which is what leads to victory, and there are several nice touches throughout the match that lend itself well that story. It’s also got some of the same problems, namely long stretches of Generico (like Ibushi) forgetting that he’s had his arm worked over and, as a result, doing things that probably should have been kept in the bag. It’s also got a brief, but still present, spot of nuttiness in the form of Richards getting dumped on his head and popping up like it’s nothing. Luckily, the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff, so this still winds up being a good match, but it’s a good match, not a great match.

It starts off a bit slow, with Richards showing all the intensity that has come to be expected from him, while Generico seems hesitant to mix it up, even after Colt Cabana tries to get him fired up, Generico just doesn’t seem willing to really cut loose. Watching Richards work over Generico’s arm is lots of fun. He’s got the intensity and brutality of Benoit when he whips Generico shoulder first into the rail and then charges with a kick, and also the craftiness of Guerrero, with his fancy submissions to keep the pain on. After Generico’s initial comeback, it’s not so bad that he does some ill advised spots, because they give Richards openings to go back to the arm, Generico tries for his spinning armdrag and Richards counters into a Fujiwara armbar, he tries a few minutes later for a brainbuster and Richards counters that as well.

They’ve got a few other smart tricks up their sleeves, such as Generico playing to the crowd before he charges for the Yakuza kick in the corner, and Generico eating boot as a result of his hesitation. As the match wears on, it turns into a back-and-fourth affair with them both trying to hit their big move for the win. It’s good as far as getting the fans excited and getting them behind Generico, but it’s not exactly plausible that Generico can win that easily, when he hadn’t done anything in the previous fifteen minutes to suggest that he was working toward something that would help him win. It’s easy to rally behind him when he finally hits that big running kick and when hangs Davey up and hits the coast to coast, but it’s also easy to notice him ignoring the arm that Davey spent so much time trying to hurt. Richards winds up going right back to the arm anyway, when the Kimura doesn’t do the trick, he segues to the juji-gatame and forces him to tap, so Generico would have been just as well to consistently sell the arm. ***


If DCFC hadn’t hogged all the offense, then this would have probably been okay, but how dull does a team have to be to have a boring match against the Briscoes? Had this been a five minute squash, like the KOW match, then it’d have been OK, but you’ve basically got seven minutes of punching, kicking, forearms, etc., followed by a fun little skirmish on the floor, more brawling in the ring, and the Briscoes finally changing momentum and hitting Davis with the Spike Jay Driller. Building up to a hot tag is tag team wrestling 101, but it’s conducive on the hot tag actually taking place.


Personally, I find this whole ‘Pick Six’ business to determining future title shots to be just as ludicrous as the contenders ring, the top five rankings, and every other method that ROH has used in the past. But at least it gives these multi man matches some perceived purpose other than excuses for the wrestlers to be booked. Of course, giving the matches a little meaning doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily worked any different, as this shows. The story here is that Corino and King are working together, and they keep Brown on the floor while they work over Delirious. King has plenty of charisma, but it doesn’t seem to translate well to his work, at least not in this setting. I can see myself really enjoying Kenny King/Rhett Titus tag matches though. The only notable spots here are a dive from Delirious and a handspring splash from Brown. The finish doesn’t have any more meaning than Delirious hitting Shadows Over Hell at the right time on the right guy.


This is more storyline advancement than it is an actual match, but it’s very well done storyline advancement. In short: Cabana tries to make peace with Steen, but Steen won’t hear of it. They brawl for a bit, and then Steen hurts his knees on a bump to the floor, which draws out Corino to get Steen fired up enough to keep fighting. Cabana and then El Generico try to reason with Steen and free him of Coino’s influence, but it ends with Corino throwing Cabana to the floor and Steen attacking Generico’s bad shoulder.

AUSTIN ARIES © vs. TYLER BLACK (ROH World Heavyweight Title)

There’s one thing that ROH can almost always be counted on for, and that’s a big match atmosphere for their main events. This isn’t any different, and, thankfully, this also isn’t case of that being the best thing about the match. Of course, there isn’t any reason why this shouldn’t be the best match of the show. Not just because it’s the main event, but because Aries and Black have worked together enough that they should both have a good grasp on how to make the match good and how the action ought to flow.

Look no further than the opening five or six minutes, usually just filler, to see just how good they’ve got things down. Aries tries a cheap shot, and Black hands it back to him several times over. Aries hits a chop to the chest and gloats, Black throws Aries into the corner and hits three of his own. It’s a common theme early on, Black knowing that this is his night and that it’s his time, and the only thing that can ultimately stop him is himself, and Black sees that it doesn’t happen. A little wrestling exchange ends with Aries in position to catch Black off guard with a pinning combination, but Black cradles Aries first. Black rolls through and sees he’s in position for Aries to punt him in the head and he dodges the kick and scoops up Aries’ foot before he can try again. Black also throws in some flashy spots such as the springboard spin kick. As fun as it is to see them working in smart spots to get over just how prepared Black is, Aries actually outdoes Black with his stooging, selling, and facials.

Of course, Black winds up in trouble and it’s only due to a lucky break, and the fact that its luck had been firmly established by the previous work, Aries kicks out of Black O’Connor roll and he goes into the post. With Black now having a wounded limb, Aries is as ruthless and dickish as you’d expect. He starts out targeting the shoulder by hitting a double axe handle off the top and then starts to fire off kicks while Black is laid over the apron, Aries switches from the shoulder to the neck/chest, which conveniently also softens up Black for the Last Chancery. The match slows down quite a bit with Aries in control, but it still works because it further establishes how much of a jerk Aries really is.

As they head toward the finish, they keep up the smart work. It starts with Aries hitting a DVD on the apron to keep focusing on Black’s neck. Aries follows up by wiping out on a suicide dive, and hitting the barricade, which is just about the perfect way to hand things back over to Tyler, by having the spot be all Aries’ doing, it means Tyler won’t have to do something stupid like blow off a big spot in order to go back on offense. Black’s missed Phoenix splash gives Aries the opening he needs to hit two brainbusters on Tyler for a good near fall, and the 450 hitting knees and giving the opening to Black for cradle for his own near fall is another great example of them working smart. Some might complain about the King/Strong/Cornette apron appearances, but they serve their purpose, it sets the stage for a potential Black/Strong match (which was promised to Strong if Black won the title). It also gives Aries the opening for the attempted O’Connor roll that allows Black to hit the superkick flurry and the Phoenix splash to win the title.

As smart a match as they worked, for the most part, this still isn’t perfect. There are a couple of missteps to their work, but nothing that really has any huge bearing on the story they told. Aries stooging was over the top, which was a good thing for the most part, but it was a bit hard to swallow the spot where Tyler more or less nudged him off the apron, which resulted in Aries tumbling down and then drunkenly stumbling over the barricade, so Black could dive onto him. Black’s use of the Rubix cube was another odd choice, as he’d just had his neck area worked over pretty good. The spot wasn’t consequential anyway, it only led to Black’s missed Phoenix splash, there were plenty of other moves Black could have used to set up Aries for that spot. The match also lacks that epic feeling of other ROH Title changes, maybe it was because it was Black’s upteenth title shot, or because it never really felt like Aries was going to pull out the win in the end and sends Black back to square one, but while it’s certainly got the atmosphere of a big match, it’s not epic the way that the title changes between Joe/Aries, Aries/Punk, or Danielson/Homicide were. Of course, those were three of the biggest matches in ROH history and I don’t think it’s safe (yet) to list Black alongside ROH elite like Joe, Punk, Homicide, and Danielson. ***1/2

Conclusion: If this show is any indication, then ROH of 2010 isn’t vastly different than it was when I stopped following it regularly in 2007. That’s not a bad thing in itself, it speaks volumes about the consistency of ROH, in the wake of so many of their big names leaving. I can easily recommend this show based on the strength of the good matches.