UP FOR GRABS
June 6, 2008
Go Shiozaki . . . puts on one of his absolute best individual performances by simply following his partner’s lead.
Necro Butcher . . . shows that there’s somewhat of a method behind the madness by being the only one smart enough to NOT take a ridiculously stupid bump.
El Generico . . . puts on a total clinic in the art of selling an injury, over the course of three matches.
An injury to Mark Briscoe has caused his brother Jay to relinquish the ROH World Tag Titles, instead of continuing to defend them with substitute partners. A one night tournament is taking place to decide the new champions.
Quarterfinal: CHRIS HERO/ADAM PEARCE vs. JIGSAW/RUCKUS
This isn’t much of a match as far as wrestling goes, but it’s a fun clinic on heat mongering. The only real highlight is Pearce’s blind tag that starts off the heat segment on Jigsaw. Pearce and Hero are great at baiting Ruckus and cheating behind the ref’s back to get the crowd riled up. There isn’t much as far as story goes beyond that, and, Jigsaw finally making the tag is the high point of the match. Ruckus doesn’t have anything to do other than his flashy spots. The execution is fine, but, with how easy it was for Hero to put Ruckus away, his offense clearly isn’t meant to be threatening.
Quarterfinal: KEVIN STEEN/EL GENERICO vs. NIGEL McGUINNESS/GO SHIOZAKI
More heat mongering, although the work is better this time. The centerpiece of the match is Nigel and Go working over Generico’s arm, with Generico doing a great job of selling. Go doesn’t show the personality that Nigel does (which isn’t surprising, even without taking into account that Nigel and Steen are feuding), but, what he does is still good enough to make this easily one of the best performances that I’ve seen from him.
But, like the prior match, the hot tag is really the highlight of the match. After Steen’s hot tag, the match keeps going, with the heels getting a short heat segment on Steen, and making him tag back to Generico, who has to forget about his arm being worn down so much. There’s also an odd moment where Steen ties up Nigel in the ropes, and gears up for a big chop and then playfully pokes him in the eye. Considering that they’re feuding over the World Title, there’s no reason for him to do anything resembling comedy. Steen ought to be trying to tear Nigel’s head off. The tease of the time limit running out on them also seems unnecessary. Luckily, they work a great finish, with Generico hitting the running kick to prevent the Tower of London, which allows Steen to do the senton and than make Nigel submit to the sharpshooter. So, the match certainly ends on a high note. But, Steen tapping out Nigel doesn’t seem like the huge moment that it should. Steen following the senton with the sharpshooter makes sense from a technical standpoint, but Nigel knew that there was under a minute left, and it wasn’t like Nigel’s back had been worked over to the extent that Generico’s arm had been. Between the heat segment on Generico and the finish, there are many things to like about this match, but, it still comes off feeling a little flat. ***1/4
Quarterfinal: JIMMY JACOBS/TYLER BLACK vs. DELIRIOUS/PELLE PRIMEAU
There’s really no reason for this not to be a squash. Other than Delirious having some longevity in the company, he and Pelle aren’t exactly top-of-the-card guys, and it doesn’t make any sense for one of the top heel teams to have so much trouble putting them away. The heels work over Pelle, he tags in Delirious who has no problem at all handling both of them, and after a low kick to block a running knee Delirious tags Pelle back in where he’s quickly finished off. Black does hit a sweet buckle bomb to set up God’s Last Gift, but that’s the only remarkable thing to see here.
Quarterfinal: BRYAN DANIELSON/AUSTIN ARIES vs. RODERICK STRONG/DAVEY RICHARDS
It’s no surprise that this is a good match, but, it’s surprising that this is only that. It’s got some nice moments and smart touches, but, the match doesn’t come together well enough to be anything beyond just good. The early double teams from Danielson and Aries come across like they’re toying with Roddy and Davey, rather than taking them seriously as opponents. Likewise, when NRC works over Danielson’s back for their control segment, it never feels like Danielson is in any great danger of losing the match because of it. It doesn’t help that this has some of the things that dragged down the Nigel/Steen match, namely the tease of a time limit draw for no reason, as well as unnecessary comedy (namely Davey teasing a big shot, only to give Danielson an errant chop).
There are times that they can make you appreciate how good they are, such as Danielson’s surfboard spot, where you don’t really know if something went wrong or if he altered it a bit to set up the double team with Aries. Roddy’s intensity never wavers, and Danielson and Aries’ attempt to be cute with a dual Cattle Mutilation/Last Chancery backfires on them, and nearly costs them the match. The finish doesn’t come off great, but, the sequence before the finish, with Danielson trying to block the Stronghold and getting outwrestled by Roddy and caught in a Gorilla clutch, was a really smart touch. And the last thing show from Aries was a Homicide-style dive onto Richards, to keep them out of the way for Danielson and Strong to end the match. There’s enough good work here that the audience certainly gets a good show, but, overall, this almost feels like it’s mailed in, considering the talent involved. ***
Semifinal: CHRIS HERO/ADAM PEARCE vs. KEVIN STEEN/EL GENERICO
There isn’t much of a surprise as to how this plays out. Both Steen and Generico have hurt limbs, and the heels spend most of the match working them over. Hero and Pearce aren’t really trying to win the match, but, it makes sense for them to be overconfident and not take Steen and Generico as seriously as they might if they were coming in healthy and fresh. Steen and Generico don’t really have much to do other than sell, but, the little that they’re able to get in is smart. Steen is able to tag out when Pearce starts goofing around, and gives Steen an opening, and Generico smartly uses his agility and speed to try to stay ahead, before Hero and Pearce can cut him off and start working the arm over.
Some people won’t care for the finish, but this is a case where it works just fine. With how well Steen and Generico were putting over the injured limbs, any sort of comeback or big spots from them would look out of place. It also works for making Hero and Pearce’s cockiness come back and bite them. Had they just stayed the course and kept working the limbs, they would have easily won. But they decided to take a shortcut with Hagadorn and the briefcase and outsmarted themselves into being eliminated.
Semifinal: JIMMY JACOBS/TYLER BLACK vs. BRYAN DANIELSON/AUSTIN ARIES
Aside from setting up the finals to be the freshest team versus the most banged up team, there really isn’t anything notable about this “match.” It furthers the Aries/Jacobs feud, but that would go on for the rest of the year. Suffice to say, a sub one-minute DQ screwjob is a massive waste of everyone’s talents.
SHANE HAGADORN vs. ALEX PAYNE
Their work isn’t exactly high-end, but this is fun to watch anyway. Hagadorn does a nice job of being a jerk, and Payne is a good fired up babyface, with his counter to Hagadorn’s backdrop suplex being especially nice. Spunkiness starts to win out, and Sara Del Rey intervenes and allows Hagadorn to win with his STO.
CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI vs. EDDIE EDWARDS
If Claudio had gone along with the story of Eddie working over his midsection, then this could have been a sleeper show stealer. Claudio seems more concerned with getting his hands on Larry Sweeney, and Sweeney gives him good reason to, which gives Eddie the opening to control the match. Eddie isn’t as nasty as he could have been, but, his work was generally smart. He does a great sequence late in the match, where he rolls through a sunset flip, stuns Claudio with a kick, and hits a quebrada for a near fall. Unfortunately, Claudio doesn’t do much of anything to really sell the damage. He’s able to pull off his usual spots, even the giant swing, just fine. He even does a Hulk-Up to try to make a comeback at one point. They work a nice finish, with Claudio outsmarting Eddie, by causing him to run himself into the Very European Uppercut.
Claudio’s lack of selling is the only thing that’s really wrong with this match. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, their work is smart and well executed, and it’s not overly lopsided in either direction. It seems like Claudio wanted to go over looking strong, which makes sense since he sees Eddie as someone who is just standing in the way of him getting to Sweeney. But, that would have been better accomplished by muscling Eddie up into the swing or the pop-up uppercut despite being visibly hurt.
ERICK STEVENS vs. NECRO BUTCHER vs. BRENT ALBRIGHT
This isn’t anything deep, and it doesn’t make any attempt to do so. It’s just three absurdly tough men stiffing the crap out of each other, and using whatever props they can find. Their only goal is to whip the crowd into a frenzy, and they’re able to do just that. It’s funny to see them make huge pile of chairs in the audience and then have Stevens and Albright take a bump on them, while Necro grabs one of the students and throws him on them (although Necro is deranged enough that it’s entirely possible that he’d grab a fan who got too close and throw them in there). There are only a few things that happen that make this look like any sort of discernable match, such as Albright’s attempt to make Stevens submit to his armbar, which Necro breaks up, and the finish with Albright conveniently getting knocked off the apron so that Stevens can do his finisher and pin Necro.
KEVIN STEEN/EL GENERICO vs. JIMMY JACOBS/TYLER BLACK (Tournament Final for the ROH World Tag Team Titles)
Although this isn’t a great wrestling match, it’s a very fun spectacle. Jacobs and Black are total dicks about sharking on Steen’s knee and Generico’s arm, with Generico taking a couple of big bumps into the guardrail and having to go to the back for a spell. Jacobs and Black’s goal is to injure the crowd favorite, rather than simply with the match, but, they don’t make the same mistake as Hero and Pearce, and stray very far away from it.
The only real negative here is that Steen is a bit selective about selling his knee. Even before he’s left alone and worked over, he gives Jacobs his pumphandle neckbreaker across his knee, and seems perfectly fine. His hope spots and comeback attempts while Generico is gone are fine, when he’s not using the knee, but, when he does, he rarely does anything to show that it’s giving him trouble. If not for the fact that Generico’s return to the match was him giving Black his running boot in the corner, then it’d probably have been better had Steen been taken out of the match, since Generico had been much more consistent as far as selling goes. Steen also takes the idea of showing his toughness too much to heart. When Black has him in the figure four, Steen feels the need to show his toughness by slapping Black, when all he really needed to do was fight the pain and get the ropes for the break. The live crowd appreciates Steen’s antics, and it suits his personality, but, he wouldn’t have lost them if he dialed it back.
The finish and the aftermath are things of beauty, with Generico returning to the match and clocking Black with the boot, and then giving one to Jacobs and setting up for their package piledriver and brainbuster combo. But, before Generico and hit the brainbuster, Black rolls him up from behind for the flash pin, no doubt in part due to him being unable to get his bad shoulder up. The live crowd is livid, and Jacobs and Black completely soak it up and taunt them. Steen and Generico coming so close only to have the titles snatched away in such a manner would make a rematch seem imminent, if not for the fact that Jacobs has his issues Aries, the Briscoes will obviously be in line for a title shot when Mark is healthy again. But, while the new champions have all that to deal with, it can give Steen and Generico some time to heal up.
Conclusion: This isn’t a great show, but it’s a lot of fun. Anyone that wants to see some real crowd heat ought to check out the main event and aftermath.