It's true, I'm a sucker for that great con job known as professional wrestling, and I take very little shame in that. Yes, it's become watered down and stupid in the last decade, but the physical art form is still present and if the mainstream companies (I.E. WWE and TNA) would actually let the matches have some TIME people would see that.
As Jim Cornette likes to point out, MMA and Professional Wrestling are the exact same thing; book a fight between two people the fans would like to see and are willing to pay for. The fights occasionally end with controversy and there are a variety of finishes. The only difference is that MMA is real (although I would beg to differ based on a single word: Bisping). That said, Pro Wrestling provides (When done right) the same visceral and emotional stimulus that MMA does, except you have more consistently enjoyable matches as the thing is planned out and the workers should know how to work the crowd. A big note; this is when a match is done RIGHT. When it's done wrong, well, it's not so satisfying.
Now that I've got that out of the way, I want to get to my main subject, namely what I hope will become a regular bit on this blog (even though this is only my 2nd post) namely, wrestling show reviews, specifically Ring of Honor.
Why Ring of Honor, do you ask? Because nobody seems to be doing it! websites like Angrymarks.com and The Wrestling Fan love to tear down the WWE and TNA, but never give much time to Ring of Honor except to take shots at them for being the one show smart marks seem to watch and 'enjoy'. I think they deserve some focus, so I'll start with this week's episode, the December 7th edition of Ring of Honor on HDNet!
Opening: New Executive Producer Jim Cornette addresses the fans and roster
Right of the bat I want to make something clear: I love Jim Cornette. I love his humour, I love his mic skills and I love his booking sense. If you are a wrestling fan (or were, for that matter) check out Kayfabe Commentaries' Guest Booker with Jim Cornette. It's straight up amazing and a major reason I was so stoked when I heard he was working with ROH again.
That little bit of nuthugging done with, let's get to the show. Jim is standing in the middle of the ring with the RoH roster standing on the apron and announces the HDNet Pick 6 Contender Series, basically 6 matches through the next couple weeks of HDNet shows, the winners then becoming the 6 top contenders. I like this idea; it highlights the upper card and main event wrestlers and gives a sense of competition and rankings. On top of that is a $2500 match purse during the series. A solid little addition as it adds to the 'realism' factor; reestablish the idea of professional wrestling being akin to Pro Boxing. Odds are it won't last, as rankings generally disappear after a while, but it should work well for the next few months.
Cornette then lays out the list of matches:
Delirious vs. Kenny King (Should be a good match if nothing else, although I think Delirious should take it; King, while a great athlete and solid on the mic is still too green and already has a gimmick as an Austin Aries flunky. Delirious is definitely upper card status and definitely needs a push, this could help him.)
Colt Cabana vs. Claudio Castignoli (I don't think I've ever seen this match, could be really good as they're both solid wrestlers. From a booking standpoint, I would lean towards Claudio, Colt's been getting pushed pretty hard recently and I think he needs a cooldown period away from the title. At the same time that might be based on some spoilers, more on that later.)
Roderick Strong vs. Davey Richards (Definitely will be a good match, these two were tag partners forever and both have a nice stiff style. I'm leaning towards Strong, simply because Richards holds one half of the Tag Team championship and should focus on that.)
Sonjay Dutt vs. Tyler Black (Okay, lamb to the slaughter here; Tyler Black is getting a huge push right now and is totally going to win this. That being said, as the next TV is up BEFORE the Final Battle PPV they might put Sonjay over on this one as Tyler could very well have the strap in the next couple weeks. The match should be fantastic and I can't wait to see Sonjay outside a TNA X-Division spotfest.)
Mark Briscoe vs. Jay Briscoe (Whoah, flashback to 2003 and the Briscoe Feud. I'll be honest, I'm not a HUGE Briscoe fan; they're talented and have a good stiff style but for some reason I just can't get into them. Maybe it's my rebellious Alberta/Tenessee blood that feels it must reject every aspect of 'redneck' from my body, maybe they just don't draw me in, I don't know. Anyways, I see Jay taking this as he's the healthier of the two as well as better on the mic. That said Mark has always been in his brothers shadow and this could be his chance to step out of it.)
Oh, and cause everyone but Jimmy can count, there's one missing, namely Chris Hero vs. Kenny Omega that gets announced later, but I'm copypastaing here to stay relevant. Chris Hero is a weird guy, solid on the mic, great in the ring but for some reason he keeps getting passed over and forgotten about. I want to cheer for my fellow Canadian, and Kenny Omega is definitely good at what he does, but I think Chris should take it, he's really over with the fans and brings a cool old-school heel meets modern wrestling awareness gimmick into the mix that's great for the promotion.
So Jim lists off the matches (aside from that last one, whoops!) and says that starting tonight and over the next six weeks the Series will do a match a night. (I will note that there WASN'T a match tonight, but to be fair the TVs are taped in a chunk and someone in editing decided not to put the match "this week" in this weeks show. Ah well.) Jim then makes mention that Austin Aries wasn't present at this meeting, and is about to wrap everything up when Austin shows up, making it very clear that he is "fashionably late" and proceeds to accuse Cornette of actively trying to get the ROH title off his waist. Jim retorts by stating that the Pick 6 was created to counteract the Austin Aries Lucky Lottery where he would pick midcarders and openers for squash matches (a cute idea, mainly designed to give local talent a chance to shine in the main events, so I'm only going to take a mild stab at it. Mainly the "A Double L Double" is the lamest name in the book.) Austin states that he IS a fighting champion and will take on anybody Cornette puts in front of him TONIGHT. Jim grins and tells him he has a match, against Roderick Strong AND Kenny Omega AND Davey Richards. Oooooh, Fatal Four Way! Austin throws a hissy fit, and we cut to a still of Tyler Black getting flash papered as Mike Hogewood announces the return of Tyler Black tonight.
Interview Sequence with Briscoes/Steenerico
A nice little sequence, hyping up the upcoming #1 contender's match.
Briscoe Brothers vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico
And we FINALLY have a match, and it's the #1 contender's match for who gets to face the American Wolves at Final Battle. I honestly hate the play-by-play style many reviews use as it basically means I have no reason to watch the show as I know exactly what happened (Which is somewhat hypocritical as I just did a play-by-play for the previous sequence. See? I admitted it. Still not doing it for the match.)
A really nice back and forth match with both teams getting plenty of offense. Like I said I'm not a huge Briscoe fan but they did a great job playing up their resilient, grinder style against the hybrid techical/luchador style that Steen and Generico have. About a quarter of the match was focussed on S&G working Mark Briscoe's recently healed knee which he played up through most of the match, something I appreciate as consistency leads to believability. A J-Driller from Jay followed by a pin by Mark ended the match in a relatively satisfying manner. That being said, I think I was spoiled by the Young Bucks/American Wolves match a couple weeks ago and am holding it as a pretty high standard for other matches to live up to; no easy task.
Steve Corino returning video package
After a shameless mark-out over the return of the King of Old School I couldn't help noticing that this interview was...um...kind of weak. He basically said what he needed to say in 9 seconds, (National TV, be champion ON National TV) and then repeated himself for the next 30 seconds. That being said, I'm pretty stoked about this and can't wait to see what role Mr. Corino has in RoH.
Davey Richards Interview
Good god! ANOTHER interview segment? Okay, I get that people are sick of seeing squash matches that generally fill the time but my money says that we could have had at least ONE of the Pick 6 matchups on this episode if they had just cut out some of this. That being said I liked this interview, with Davey pointing out that he is a legitimate wrestler as opposed to those "portraying" wrestlers. I dig his mic skills, I dig the character and while I think he should avoid the ROH title picture so as to focus on the tag titles I think he's a major focus of the company and should get as much push as is possible.
Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak fix an oopsy
AAARGH! ANOTHER non-wrestling segment? Good christ people! To be fair, this was needed so they could point out that Cornette missed Chris Hero's match announcement and make it official, PLUS give us all a special treat that next week will showcase two Pick 6 matchups (because this week is so jam-packed with interview segments-I mean, action.) Kenny King vs. Delirious and Tyler Black vs. Sonjay Dutt.
Final Battle Ad
I haven't been excited for a PPV since UFC 100, and I gotta be honest I actually want to see this. It's inexpensive and internet-based so I don't have to deal with Shaw (yay!). December 19th, people, only 15 bucks!
Austin Aries (ROH Champion) vs. Kenny Omega vs. Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong
While I generally find the "That clothesline has knocked me unconcious for 10 minutes while 2 guys go at it" style of matchmaking to be rather hackneyed this wasn't too bad especially as it allowed each man a chance to showcase their styles and personalities, PLUS it allowed Austin Aries to play a cowardly heel getting in hit-and-run shots. The match began to pick up with some really nice near-falls with Aries as the punching bag, getting hit with a beautiful German Superplex from Davey Richards, then an Electric Chair German Suplex from Kenny Omega and finally a Death by Roderick and VICIOUS Yakuza kick from Strong. After a short three-way between Omega, Richards and Strong it came down to just Richards and Strong in a stiff-off as they started wailing on each other with kicks and chops respectively, then a back and forth high-impact contest with Roderick finally nailing Davey with a Gibson Driver. Aries stopped his pin attempt however and made one of his own, snagging the win in a wonderfully heelish manner.
A quick replay and we find Aries standing in the middle of the ring soaking up the crowds anger when the lights go out and out comes...Tyler Black! Cue closer and we're out.
Now, I don't really have a problem with this ending per se, except for the fact that they kept on hyping "the return of Tyler Black!" so I knew something like this was going to happen. If it were me, I'd have just had him to a run in and face off against Aries, the belt in the middle. It would have felt more believable, at least in my mind. That being said, let's to go the scoreboard!
Overall: A very good show, in my opinion a solid starting off point for ROH and new viewers as the landscape is being nicely set up with the Pick 6 Series and with Final Battle coming up there should be some exciting things down the road.
Future Reference: There really didn't need to be this many interviews and video packages. I understand that the matches went longer than was probably expected, but some of these things felt like padding to fit the time limit, plus the fact that they had to do some serious damage control with Dave and Hog left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.
Final Thought: While I think most of what ROH is doing is great, I think the 4 episode tapings are suffering from a serious problem, namely that everything else ROH is doing (Website, Videowire, Newswire and results) are based around 'current' time versus 'TV' time. What this means is that last weeks videowire already had the results and repercussions from the Pick 6 series, meaning SPOILERS! Not a BIG deal, but very jarring.
That's it on my first review! Hopefully next weeks won't be, you know, a week late.