August 12, 2006
Go Shiosaki . . . tries, and ultimately fails, to follow the example from SUWA, proving why SUWA is in a class by himself.
Austin Aries . . . shows that he’s willing to literally put his body and health on the line in order to keep the tag titles.
Bryan Danielson . . . objectively, and definitively, proves himself to be the best wrestler in the world.
MATT SYDAL vs. COLT CABANA vs. SPUD vs. JONNY STORM
This is the usual four-way match from ROH. The wrestlers come up with some nice spots and sequences, and the finish is somewhat clever. But, there’s precious little as far as any storytelling goes. More often than not, the purpose of the match is just to be filler on the card, rather than continuing feuds and storylines or creating new ones. Instead of having Chris Hero cut the promo after the match and then get run off by Cabana, why not have Hero jump the rail and attack Cabana to keep him from winning? That would have at least given the appearance of the match existing for some reason.
Aside from the novelty of seeing the British wrestlers, there’s nothing at all fresh about this match. It didn’t have to be like that either. Spud seems to take a bad bump during the dive sequence and hurts his back, but none of the others go after it, even with Cabana having a submission that targets it. Stone winds up inadvertently giving Sydal the win by blocking the Tornado DDT and putting him back on the turnbuckle, which gives him the opening to give Spud his SSP. Why Sydal even had to go over is beyond me. A meaningless opener like this is the perfect time for one of the Brits to shine.
DAVEY RICHARDS vs. JIMMY RAVE
Bless the crowd for being so into this, but twenty-three minutes is way too long for someone like Rave. There is only a handful of smooth sequences, and none of them is all that complex. The bulk of the match is Rave heat mongering along with very basic work, and both of them stiffing each other. There was one nice moment where Rave had worked over Davey’s back for a bit and got a near fall from a backdrop suplex, but, it was Davey’s selling and the struggle to kick out that made it work so well. Davey’s back winds up being forgotten, even though they had a great chance to bring it back with the suplex over the top rope, but, once Davey does the kip-up to pop the crowd, it’s obvious that telling a story isn’t at the forefront of either of their minds. The second rope Ghana-rhea was a throwaway spot, but, credit to Rave for only doing it after the first attempt at the move didn’t work. All things considered, this could probably have been cut in half, or maybe even more, and not lost a great deal.
BJ WHITMER vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI
There are a few nice things toward the end, but, overall, this is mostly a mindless brawl. Whitmer and Claudio brawl on the floor, which gets the crowd that much more into things. Once they settle down in the ring, the work is fine. Whitmer tries to put Claudio through the ringer with suplexes, culminating with the Exploder, but, Claudio has it scouted and counters it to take over the match and work in some of his own trademark spots, only for Whitmer to outwrestle Claudio and get a flash cradle for the win. Hero attacks Whitmer, Cabana makes the save, and creates an impromptu singles match.
COLT CABANA vs. CHRIS HERO
The previous match wasn’t anything special, but, it had a certain intensity to it that made it seem credible. But, despite having the angle after the opening match to play off, this doesn’t even get that far. Aside from a couple of moments, such as Cabana throwing Hero off the ramp and into the apron, this rarely shows any intensity or hatred. Hero’s control segment looks like he’s more concerned with showing off how smoothly he can move around, rather than trying to hurt Cabana, win the match, and continue earning the ire of the crowd. Cabana is a little better when he takes over, but, it’s still far away from where it should be. In the end, this is Hero doing his stuff and Cabana doing his stuff, which would be fine if this was a straight up match, but, it doesn’t do much as far as potentially furthering this feud between Hero/Claudio and ROH.
DOUG WILLIAMS/JODY FLEISCH vs. SUWA/GO SHIOSAKI
This goes just as long as Richards/Rave, and also has the same basic issue, it’s just too much time for them to fill. The only real story to the match is Shiosaki being the weak link, and anyone who has followed NOAH from around this time frame would have known that going in, so it’s not exactly a surprise that he’s the one who drops the fall. It’s also not a surprise what SUWA does to him afterwards. The only time this match feels like anything resembling a contest is when Shiosaki tags out after being worked over, and SUWA proceeds to start knocking Fleisch around in much the same manner.
There are a few instances where Shiosaki gets to look good, such as blocking Fleisch’s attempt at a backdrop suplex by cranking on the headlock, and also winning the exchange with Williams on the top rope that allows him to do the fisherman’s buster. But, there aren’t nearly enough moments like that, considering that Shiosaki was being counted on to work the bulk of the match. Of course, it doesn’t help that the NOAH team were default heels, and that isn’t a role that Go is accustomed to playing. He follows SUWA’s lead a couple of times, such as hitting a big chop to Fleisch after SUWA had done so, and holding Fleisch in place for SUWA’s elbow. But, for the most part, Shiosaki works this like he’d work any other match, right down to the goofy no-sell of Williams’ backdrop toward the end. ROH is a great platform for someone like Shiosaki to hone his skills and discover who he is as a performer, but, this was probably the worst possible setting for him at the time.
ROBBIE BROOKSIDE © vs. CHAD COLLYER (FWA British Heavyweight Title)
I was hoping to see some tight matwork, almost bordering on carny, which I didn’t get. But, this is still fun. Collyer knows that he’s outmatched and takes some shortcuts to get ahead, which also gets the crowd riled up, and, Robbie eventually has enough and starts to return the favor. Robbie seems to tweak his knee doing a vertical suplex, which plays into Collyer’s Texas Cloverleaf finish. But, when Collyer tries to take advantage, the crafty veteran still manages to outwrestle him and get a couple of near falls. Collyer gets the Cloverleaf, but it’s too close to the ropes. Collyer thinks he’s won the match, and by the time he figures out what actually happened, Robbie is recovered enough to counter him and give him the Iconoclasm and bridging cradle for the win. It’d have been nice to see them get another five or so minutes for Collyer to work over the knee to add some doubt about Robbie being able to hold out in the Cloverleaf, but, even as it is, this is still a fine match. ***
AUSTIN ARIES/RODERICK STRONG vs. JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE (ROH World Tag Team Titles)
The one thing that must be said about this match is that the intensity and anger shown from both teams are completely believable. It might not seem to be saying much, but, considering that the Hero and Castagnoli matches both filed to deliver in that aspect, it’s remarkable that this match does it tenfold. Whether it’s Aries and Strong lighting up Jay with chops or the Briscoes returning fire with corner lariats to Strong, it looks like almost everything that they do is done at full force. One probably could label this as a spotfest from a technical standpoint, but, that would be grossly understating things. They aren’t just ripping off whatever spots come to mind because they can’t work any other way, or because they want to show off what they can do. Mark does the running leap to the top for the springboard Doomsday Device because he knows what’s at stake and is putting everything he’s got into the match to win. There isn’t any goofy no-selling either. They push the envelope a bit when Roddy takes the spike Jay Driller and Doomsday Device and kicks out. But, Aries breaks up the pin after the Jay Driller and then he buys Strong some time to get his bearings together with the segment on the floor with Mark. So, it’s not inconceivable for him to survive the Doomsday.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Aries suffers the rib injury that caused the following show to be thrown into disarray. The match slows down a little bit after Mark does the slingshot stomp, but, Mark and Jay use good holds to work over the midsection, and, Aries takes a huge bump from the double beal toss, and he does a big dive to the floor after he tags in Strong. It seems most likely that he gets hurt giving Jay the reverse rana, and the 450 he does to finish Jay off, looks like it put Aries in agony. It would have been easier to have Roddy do another backbreaker after Jay kicks out of the powerbomb, or go to the Stronghold and have Jay tap out or pass out. In a way, the finish is an example of life imitating art. The match was built upon the idea that they were going to pull out all the stops this time around. So, despite the injury and the pain he must have been in, Aries goes for broke and does it anyway. ***1/2
BRYAN DANIELSON © vs. NIGEL McGUINNESS © (ROH World Heavyweight Title and ROH Pure Wrestling Title)
Aside from Nigel taking those shots into the post, and the headbutt sequence toward the end, this is really good from bell to bell. There are little touches during the match that show Danielson to be the smarter wrestler. A good example of this is with the rope breaks. Danielson makes Nigel burn through two of his, but, he can’t do the same to Danielson as easily. Nigel puts Danielson in a grounded cobra clutch, with Danielson inching his way toward the ropes, but, before he has to use one of his breaks, Nigel picks up Danielson and tries to unwind him into a lariat, but Danielson ducks and take back over the match. Nigel does eventually get them even after a Tower of London near fall and then using Danielson’s own Cattle Mutilation submission, which was how Danielson made Nigel use his second one. But, it comes off as Nigel trying to follow suit with what Danielson did, rather than doing his own thing. A little later, after Nigel is out of rope breaks, he gets caught in a crossface chickenwing in the corner and counters into another Tower of London for a near fall. And, he makes the mistake of hooking the leg rather than leaving it and possibly forcing Danielson to use his last break.
Despite my dislike of the post shots and headbutts, they’re both followed up very well. With Nigel stunned from the post, Danielson sends him over the rail and then dives onto him, knowing that Nigel won’t have the wherewithal to move or block him, like had done back in April. It also leads to a great countout tease. The headbutts lead to Nigel and Danielson both stumbling around, and Nigel’s rebound lariat getting flubbed a bit due to Nigel’s disorientation. They actually had the chance for a perfect finish (although the fans would have been seriously pissed off with it) with Danielson kicking out of the lariat, and instead of floating over into the Cattle Mutilation, having him cradle Nigel into a small package for the pin. But, the finishing sequence they use is great, and has the bonus of making Nigel look that much more sympathetic. Danielson floats over, and with Nigel out of breaks, he has to escape it on his own. Nigel rolls out of it, but is in position for Danielson’s elbow shots. With Nigel having survived Danielson’s other main finishers, he leaves nothing to chance and fires away on Nigel, and doesn’t let up until the ref calls it off.
The only real failing of the match is that neither does much to make it seem like Nigel has a real chance to win. Part of it is due to where they’re having the match, Nigel can’t very well be the cheating bastard that he’s been in ROH, when he’s supposed to be the hometown babyface. But, there isn’t a single part of the match where it seems like he’s going to win the titles. Granted, the lariat hadn’t yet been established as a finisher, but, the Tower of London wound up being a throwaway spot, and the London Dungeon was never used. Much like Nigel had to find a way out of Cattle Mutilation, they could have made Danielson find a way to get out of Nigel’s submission, either because he was out of rope breaks or because he was too far away to use the ropes. Danielson’s use of the rolling elbow would have been an easy setup. Plus, Danielson having been in the hold could also create some doubt about the force of his elbows during the finish.
The booking, and the match itself, puts over Danielson as strongly as possible. He unifies the two titles by beating the longest reigning Pure Champion, in a Pure Wrestling Rules match, in a rather decisive manner. But, with Nigel being the obvious babyface here, I wonder why they didn’t save this match for the next night. Danielson could have defended the World Title in the midcard and heeled the crowd into a frenzy, while Nigel defended the Pure Title in the main event and got to bask in his glory in front of his countrymen. This isn’t the absolute classic that they’d have later on, but, it’s still a very good match. ***½
Conclusion: It starts off rough, but picks up nicely, and the last two matches are both going out of your way to see.