151 ROH Driven 6/23/2007

ROH 151 – Driven – 23rd June 2007

It’s time for another ROH pay-per-view taping. They’re still tinkering with the format of taping by the looks of things. Condensing a traditional 3 hour ROH show down to 2 hours is rather challenging. For this one, the main event has already been taped which leads it’s only the undercard that’s being taped for ppv tonight. That means that the line-up of bonus matches is surprisingly good (compared to the Respect Is Earned bonus matches which were totally forgettable). The ppv sees Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness clash for #1 Contendership of the World Title. For the longer term ROH fans the drama is somewhat lessened by the fact that Nigel earned a title shot of his own last night but still. There’s also the big Briscoes/Steen-erico rematch for the Tag Titles. It’s good to see the Steen/Generico team, who have been outstanding since they redebuted, get the chance to feature in a prominent match on ppv. After intermission it’s bonus match time, with Nigel and Danielson in marquee matches. Bryan Danielson has a big rematch with KENTA, whilst Nigel and Chris Hero (who is exceptionally unlucky not to be on the ppv) try to settle their issues. Hosts are Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard. We’re in Chicago Ridge, IL, with a trip to Philly thrown in too.

ROH VIDEO WIRE – See A Fight At The Roxbury (ROH148) review for details.

SIDENOTE – I’m tinkering with the format of my ppv reviews as well. I did the bonus matches first for Respect Is Earned. This time around I’ll review the ppv first then the dark matches – that’s how the event was taped after all. Also, what is up with the DVD menu music? It’s dreadful.

Delirious and The Resilience interrupt Dave Prazak during his mildly ridiculous, OTT introduction to the show. The ‘Driven’ puns are terrible! Anyway, Stevens demands a 6-man with the NRC…

Delirious/Matt Cross/Erick Stevens vs Roderick Strong/Davey Richards/Rocky Romero

This is an in-ring ppv debut for Cross, Stevens and Richards. We saw the NRC/Resilience feud erupt at Respect Is Earned when M-Dogg and Erick saved Delirious, who was enduring a post-match beatdown after losing to Roderick Strong. This feud ignited again last night. Roderick Strong taunted former Resilience leader Austin Aries, who was in the front row as a fan, whilst Delirious, Cross and Stevens came to KENTA’s aid as Richards and Romero were trying to do a number on him.

I don’t hear an opening bell so my timing may be a little out. The babyfaces dominate the early going prompting the No Remorse Corps to take a time out. Prazak arrives on commentary to make more Driven puns. Romero flies to the floor with a leapfrog plancha on Stevens. SUICIDE FLIP by Delirious. The NRC isolate Delirious, triple-teaming him behind the ref’s back. Commentary is talking about the ‘former leader’ of The Resilience who can’t appear for ROH anymore. Richards springboards into a headbutt by Delirious, who makes a hot tag to Stevens. He comes in and throws the NRC around like little kids. The Choo Choo flattens them in the corner and leaves Strong exposed for Delirious’ Panic Attack. TKO gets Stevens a 2-count. M-Dogg dives to the floor with his handspring somersault plancha as Stevens lay out Strong with a front powerslam. Richards in but Cross saves Delirious from the DR Driver with a REVERSE RANA! Strong gives him Death By Roderick and Romero drops him with a jumping DDT for 2. Strong goes for a Sick Kick on Stevens, who blocks it by powerbombing him. Springboard double stomp from Cross to Romero as all six engage in spot warfare. Stevens German suplexes Richards into the path of SHADOWS OVER HELL. SHOOTING STAR PRESS BY CROSS but Romero saves Davey from being pinned. Strong drops Delirious back-first onto the apron. TORNADO DDT OFF THE APRON from Richards. M-Dogg goes to the top rope again and hits a CORKSCREW MOONSAULT for 2. Romero tries an anklelock…CROSS ROLLS THROUGH FOR 2! DR DRIVER! Richards pins M-Dogg at 11:24.

Rating – *** –
What a terrific way to start the show. That match was everything it should’ve been – heated, exciting, crowd-pumping and a great example of the kind of action you get to see on ROH shows. I’ll give M-Dogg a lot of credit for his performance too. I’ve given him a lot of stick in recent reviews because I don’t think he’s good enough for the spot he’s been given, but I thought in this match he raised his game and had one of his better ROH outings.

Rather than react angrily to the heel team winning, the Chicago crowd are chanting Austin Aries’ name. Strong goes for the guardrails again, and the crowd goes absolutely berserk as Aries jumps into the ring and lays into Richards and Rocky. Strong runs like the wind to avoid him – so that showdown is saved for another day. He has an ROH contract in his hand – and tons of pens thrown at him so he can sign it. Austin Aries is back in Ring Of Honor!

Next up there’s a video package with numerous wrestlers giving their thoughts on the forthcoming shows in Tokyo and Osaka. I guess this made the ppv to shill DVD’s and make ROH look like a big deal internationally. Some of the clips from those shows look badass.

Matt Sydal vs Claudio Castagnoli

On the last ppv these two teamed up to challenge for the Tag Titles but were unsuccessful. They even got a 2/3 Falls rematch with the Briscoes last night in Dayton, where they failed again. Now they’re in the same ring again – this time as opponents.

I love how fluid these two are in the ring when they wrestle each other. Sydal blocks an early Alpamare Water Slide attempt with a lucha-style armdrag. One-armed walking, stalling vertical suplex gets Castagnoli a 2-count. One giant swing later and it’s Claudio in charge of the match. Sydal hits back by kicking out the legs and causing him to fall through the ropes out of the ring. RUNNING MOONSAULT scores. Back in the ring he gets 2 with a nice spinning heel kick. Match Killer as per usual does not kill the match for Claudio. SPINNING ALPAMARE WATER SLIDE but Castagnoli takes too long covering. Nip-up rana by Sydal as they run through a terrific pinfall exchange. Matt pops up from that into his standing moosault. CAPTURE DDT scores but Claudio landed too close to the ropes for that to be a viable conclusion to the match. Double C kicks Sydal off the top rope then boots him in the face with a running axe kick. RUNNING UPPERCUT but Sydal kicks out at 2. RIDICULOUS tilta-whirl headscissors by Sydal, despite the fact that Claudio had almost thrown him into the lights. SNAP HURRICANRANA AFTER STANDING ON CLAUDIO’S SHOULDERS! He tries another snap rana…BUT CASTAGNOLI ROLLS THROUGH INTO A CODE RED! Castagnoli scores the victory at 08:16.

Rating – *** –
Although it wasn’t very long, that was amazing. Zero psychology, but some of the most intricate and innovative wrestling I’ve seen on an ROH DVD for some time. I think Sydal’s time in WSX really helped him here. He knew exactly how to work a short, TV-style match but make it as exciting as possible for the fans. Claudio has proven before that he’s a great base for high-flyers to work around, and demonstrated it yet again here. This was one of his best singles matches in ROH.

Larry Sweeney leads Sweet’n’Sour Inc. to the ring to introduce Chris Hero to the ppv audience. But he has other business too – he wants to recruit Matt Sydal. Claudio tries to stop him by ripping up his contract and looks to attack Sweeney…but Sydal attacks him from behind. Looks like he’s joining Larry’s crew, and it allows Hero to give Double C a Hero’s Welcome then the Hangman’s Clutch.

Jimmy Rave cuts a promo over the top of a video package of some of his best bits in ROH. He says he’s one of the longest serving members of the roster and he will Heel Hook his way to the Ring Of Honor World Championship tonight.

BJ Whitmer vs Naomichi Marufuji

It’s sad that BJ gets this spot in a ppv match whilst people like KENTA and Chris Hero are left wrestling in the DVD-release section. (I’d have loved to have seen KENTA/Marufuji on an ROH ppv but I doubt NOAH would’ve allowed it). I don’t have anything against him, I just think there are other guys who have more to offer. BJ is the guy that was massacred by Takeshi Morishima in the first ever ROH ppv match. He’ll be looking to salvage some pride after that match against another NOAH athlete. Marufuji defeated Romero in an impressive showing at Respect Is Earned, and generally looks in terrific form in ROH this year. He’ll be looking to keep his momentum going.

Credit to BJ, despite his frustrations being at boiling point in recent weeks, the first thing he does is give Marufuji a clean break. He knocks Maru out of the ring with a heel kick, then dives up the aisle with a tope suicida. They battle over a suplex in the ropes, until Marufuji hits a slingshot DDT INTO THE APRON! Back in the ring he hits a double underhook suplex straight into a cross armbreaker but Whitmer is too close to the ropes. To the top rope and it’s BJ nailing a superplex that leaves both men reeling. ROLLING SUPLEXES by BJ but Marufuji blocks his powerbomb. Whitmer floors him again with a running knee to the jaw for 2. STRAIGHTJACKET GERMAN gets Fuji a 2. Whitmer blocks a superkick and drops the NOAH wrestler with a powerslam. Blindside lariat from Marufuji puts him on top once more. Shiranui blocked with a Whitmer brainbuster. BJ seemed to be thinking about a moonsault (has he EVER done one of those?) but Marufuji puts him in a tree of woe. VAN TERMINATOR NAILED! BJ blocks the Shiranui again but can’t hit a dragon suplex. SHIRANUI SCORES! Marufuji wins at 10:56.

Rating – *** –
That was a change of pace after the spot-heavy style of the opening matches. These guys worked more of a heavyweight style and slowed things down (which meant it took the crowd a while to get into it) but this wasn’t a bad match. Like I said, Marufuji has been really good every time he’s stepped into the ROH ring so far in 2007. Not that he’s a bad match in the promotion yet, but at the moment he’s looking particularly smooth, polished and like the top notch, world class athlete that he is. He and KENTA were great years ago but both guys are still improving. Over the last year Marufuji in particular has really grown and works a nice balance between heavyweight and junior offence in his matches.

Rebecca Bayless has made herself look even HOTTER for her ppv debut. She’s in the crowd to hype up future live events. I can’t believe they flew her all the way to Chicago for that. It seems like quite the waste of money! Not that I mind, she is stupidly sexy.

Pelle Primeau vs Brent Albright

This is a ppv debut for both these guys as well. Brent Albright got himself a hype package aired during Respect Is Earned so any new viewers to the ROH product may be pretty anxious to see him in the ring (although you’d assume they may have seen him as Gunner Scott in the WWE). Pelle appearing on pay-per-view is basically just an advertisement for the ROH Wrestling School, but fair play to the kid. He works hard and is always improving. His match with Eddie Edwards back at Domination was his best singles match yet.

Hey, Albright gets to use his actual music. He knocks Primeau down with a single forearm. ‘Please don’t die’ – Chicago. Ocean cyclone suplex nailed, followed by an urinage. HALF NELSON SUPLEX! That’s the match over but Albright says he’s not done. PRESS SLAM INTO THE CROWBAR! Pelle taps at 01:41.

Rating – ** –
That’s a crazily generous rating for a match that lasted less than 2 minutes, but that was the best Brent Albright has looked since his debut weekend last Autumn. I much prefer it when he’s booked as a killer wrestling machine (closer to Paul Heyman’s “Shooter” Brent Albright from OVW) as opposed to the plodding brawler we’ve seen him as during his involvement in the Jacobs/BJ feud and so on. Great way to introduce him to new fans.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Kevin Steen/El Generico – ROH Tag Title Match

This is a rematch that has been a long time coming. Steen and Generico made their return to ROH during the 5th Year Festival in a showstealing bout with the Briscoes in Philadelphia. It was enough to earn them a spot on the roster, and they’ve set about getting a rematch and a Tag Title shot ever since. They attacked Mark’s concussed skull in Long Island. They beat Jay Briscoe and a half-injured fill-in partner Mark Briscoe in a super-dramatic match in Edison. They interrupted the celebrations for the Briscoes’ first big title defence on ppv at Respect Is Earned – and left poor Mark in a heap again. They’ve had pull-apart brawls in Boston and back in Philly. Now, at last, it’s time for Steen-erico to get their long-awaited shot at the Ring Of Honor Tag Team Championship.

Generico gets suckered into a test of strength with Jay, despite Steen’s shouts of ‘it’s a trap’. Turns out Mr Wrestling was right and Briscoe takes the first advantage of the match, dominating the Generic Luchador. Mark and Steen in next and they trade some really heavy blows. The Briscoes hit a double boot in the corner, once again showing that they use their teamwork ability to get the best of their opponents. Steen throws Jay into his brother then drops him with a neckbreaker over the knee – now it’s Jay isolated from his partner. After a spell of Steen-erico dominance Jay hits a swinging neckbreaker on Generico and tags out. ‘Ref, they’re not respecting the rules’ – Steen as the Briscoes double-teaming his opponents. Steen’s genius commentary continues: ‘you’re not even Samoan’ – as Mark hits a Samoan drop. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA by Mr Wrestling but it’s still Mark and Generico that are legal. MARK DIVES OUT! Jay then clotheslines Generico over the ropes too! Mark with a GUARDRAIL MOONSAULT just because he’s crazy. BRISCOE BIEL INTO THE CROWD ON GENERICO! Steen grabs Mark…POWERBOMB INTO THE CROWD! With those two in trouble Steen and Jay return to the ring to slug it out. Steen counters a hurricanrana into a nice sit-out powerbomb for 2. Generico and Mark are back…SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT BY GENERICO! YAKUZA KICK! SWANTON BOMB BY STEEN! IT GETS 2! They set up for their finishing sequence but Mark springboards in before Steen can hit the Package Piledriver. Mark avoids Generico’s Yakuza kick….SLINGSHOT DOUBLE STOMP THROUGH A TABLE ON STEEN! SPIKE JAY DRILLER! Generico is pinned at 16:08.

Rating – **** –
That was another awesome match in the Steen-erico/Briscoes series. I’d say it was probably the worst of their matches thus far, but considering it had ppv time constraints and couldn’t go too storyline-intensive (a’la the Fighting Spirit Steen-erico vs Jay/Stevens match) it was still really good. They started out having a nice, tight tag team match, then went absolutely crazy and through out balls-to-the-wall action for the last 5-8 minutes. Between the great matches the Briscoes are busting out, and the entertainment value of Kevin Steen and El Generico, these four are arguably ROH’s top performers thus far in 2007.

Kevin Steen doesn’t react kindly to losing. He attacks both the champions with a ladder and leaves them in a heap. That’s all set up for another match at the next ppv – ‘Man Up’.

Larry Sweeney says that Claudio Castagnoli won’t be wrestling Chris Hero, Matt Sydal or anyone else in S’n’S Inc. until the money is right. Then the entire faction head over to watch humiliate Bobby Dempsey as Tank Toland gives him a workout.

Takeshi Morishima vs Jimmy Rave – ROH World Title Match

Apparently Rave has been granted this match because he’s one of the longest serving members of the ROH roster. He debuted back in 2002 so, based on those grounds, I suppose it’s fair. He certainly hasn’t done anything recently to deserve this match. I’ve just been reading about him on Wikipedia too. Apparently his crappy Shining Wizard variant (which I call the Crappy Wizard) is called the Doppler Effect. I think I’ll keep my version…

Morishima runs through a swarm of streamers and attacks Rave without warning. Credit to Jimmy, he rallies back and takes Mori off his feet with a spear. He jumps off the top rope and gets caught for a belly to belly suplex. Morishima goes to the top now…MISSILE DROPKICK! Cartwheel avalanche is next and Jimmy is really starting to struggle. He avoids Mori’s ass and hits the CRAPPY DOPPLER WIZARD EFFECT for 2! Greetings From Ghana blocked…HEEL HOOK! Shima gets to the ropes. Bossman Slam nailed. BACK DROP DRIVER! Rave is downed in 03:56.

Rating – ** – That was very similar to the Morishima/Whitmer title defence from the first pay-per-view. The match was short, explosive and crowd popping, and the rapid finish gets Morishima super-over to the ppv audience as an unstoppable killer. Still, getting squashed like this on ppv is probably a indication of where Jimmy Rave’s ROH career was headed by this point. I think he’s only on a few more shows before he was released from his contract and went back to TNA where he now hangs out with Christy Hemme, Lance Hoyt and some Guitar Hero controllers.

Adam Pearce delivers some cerebral musings for the second ppv running. This time he talks about ‘the concept of need’. Yet again he has BJ Whitmer in his sights – and talks about BJ’s ‘need’ to be accepted by the ROH fans. He goes for another talk with a dispirited looking BJ Whitmer, gives him a hug, then lays him out…before leaving with Brent Albright. Pearce’s promos are awesome, and it’s a shame he can’t get his in-ring work over because the angles you could run with mic-skills like that are endless. Even with his oratory, that segment made MINIMAL sense.

SIDENOTE – If you’re interested in entrance themes for the evening. The Resilience and the NRC didn’t have any, Claudio and Sydal’s were cut, the NOAH guys all get their normal music since NOAH lets ROH use it, the Briscoes and Brent Albright had their usual music too. Everyone else has generic rock entrances, bar Danielson who has a knock-off cover of ‘The Final Countdown’.

Lenny Leonard covers the fact that the main event is taped in Philly by saying that ‘since the World Title match went short’ they’ve got some extra time so they’ll go to Philadelphia for this one.

Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danielson

This is to determine a #1 Contender for the ROH World Title (although that seems a little bit ridiculous considering Jimmy Rave just got handed a title shot for being around for a long time!). These two have quite the history together. They had a fantastic series of matches last year for the Pure and World Titles. Nigel McGuinness shocked Danielson by beating him (by count-out) at Night 2 of the Weekend Of Champions, but Dragon was able to win subsequent encounters at Generation Now, Unified (where he “unified” the World and Pure Titles) and Epic Encounter 2 (where their 2/3 Falls Match went the 60-minute time limit distance with Danielson leading 1-0 on falls). At Respect Is Earned Danielson floored McGuinness a couple of times, adding more spice to this epic rivalry.

The crowd is scorching hot and probably 60/40 in favour of Danielson. The crowd are still going bananas as the two men battle for superiority on the mat. The cautious but intense nature of their grappling is really a joy to behold. It’s so nice to see matches where EVERY hold means something. Danielson abandons the respectful wrestling first by slapping Nigel in the face, then going to the eyes to make sure he gets some free shots. Nigel gets back to his feet and delivers a slap of his own. He targets the arm for the first time, starting with his hammerlock DDT. Prazak points out that Dragon has only recently returned from shoulder injury so an arm attack is doubly-dangerous. He counters to a stranglehold camel clutch. Nigel counters that into a shortarm McLariat…and Danielson leaves the ring. He doesn’t want to take more lariats, but Nigel gives chase and delivers a running European uppercut on the floor. Danielson responds by angrily throwing a chair and the timekeeping table at him. Is that really legal? REBOUND LARIAT sends Dragon into the crowd! And McGuinness isn’t done. SUICIDE PLANCHA INTO THE FRONT ROW! That’s the same crazy dive that injured his arm at Respect Is Earned. He seems a lot healthier after this one, but still runs into a big forearm by Dragon. SUPLEX ONTO THE GUARDRAIL! Nigel almost bent in half on that and he’s collapsed in the front row. AmDrag isn’t done though, he suplexes him back to ringside, dropping him on the concrete floor.

Back in the ring he starts to work on Nigel’s back and midsection, drilling the area with knees. As if that weren’t enough, he starts stiffing him right in the nose. More slaps to McGuinness, but all it does is fire him up, and he swings into another McLariat. Superkick scores, then another lariat for 2 as McGuinness starts to dominate. He wants to set up for the Tower Of London, but his injured back means he can’t lift Danielson onto the turnbuckles. In the end Dragon does it for him by thinking he can hit the diving headbutt. Danielson blocks the Tower Of London and comes down off the top rope, only to be powerbombed. ‘This is wrestling’ – Philadelphia. Nigel wrenches on a half crab as we approach the 20-minute mark. Nigel tries the headstand mule kick but, having already hit it earlier in the match, Dragon has it scouted and kicks him in the face. BACK SUPERPLEX! Nigel kicks out of that, so Danielson locks on the CROSSFACE CHICKENWING! Nigel valiantly fights to his feet and defies the back pain to lift Danielson into the TOWER OF LONDON! He’s too weary and injured to cover! Instead he takes some time to recover. SUPER MCLARIAT! But he takes WAY too long hauling Dragon away from the ropes and only gets 2. Both men to their feet again. SLAPS! PALM STRIKES BY DANIELSON! SUPER-STIFF HEADBUTT DUEL! MCLARIAT BY NIGEL! ROARING ELBOW BY DANIELSON! TIGER SUPLEX…GETS 2! Dragon is bleeding after those headbutts. CATTLE MUTILATION…NIGEL ROLLS THROUGH! MMA ELBOWS! CATTLE MUTILATION! Nigel is out and Danielson wins at 24:31.

Rating – ****1/2 –
What an epic match, surely the best match on ppv thus far this year. The wrestling was incredible, the crowd were phenomenal, and that was possibly my favourite finish to a Danielson/Nigel match yet. The way they countered back and forth as the fans went ballistic was just awesome. If you’re going to get super-critical, I thought the match was a tad one-sided in favour of Danielson, and the sequence where they went from the top rope into Danielson attempting a hurricanrana and getting powerbombed into a half crab seemed a little out of place (since they were ALL moves neither man does ever) but still. I think I slightly preferred the Unified match thanks to the added significance of unifying titles, and I thought that match had a little more depth (in that they were able to play off their previous matches a lot more than they were here due to the restrictions of working for ppv audiences). But man what an effort. Give it up for ROH. 2 pay-per-view’s, two absolutely amazing main event matches.

Bryan Danielson (who is bleeding quite badly) is the #1 Contender, but both men get a well deserved standing ovation. They shake hands as the ppv draws to a close. But we’re not done yet. It’s time to switch over to disc 2 for some…

Bonus Matches

SIDENOTE – Just to say check out the Driven preview show. I thought ROH did a really good job with it, mixing new promos with old footage to hype the event. Obviously producing 10-minutes of preview stuff like this isn’t exactly rocket science but still, it’s got to be done.

Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew vs Daizee Haze/MsChif

This is the second time the MHWC have wrestled in ROH. They debuted by ending the winning streak of the Dangerous Angels back in St Paul, and we haven’t seen that team since. This is an extension of the long-running Haze/Lacey feud. At Domination in Philly we saw Lacey and Rain attack Daizee as she was giving her thoughts on ROH ppv’s. Last night in Dayton Daizee saved Serena Deeb from a beat down at the hands of the Home Wreckers too.

‘You’re the brave one Rain’ – Lacey trying to encourage her partner to start with MsChif. It must’ve worked though. She starts with MsChif who controls the match with her devastating power of screaming really loudly. Daizee has the best of Lacey too, until Rain gets in an illicit cheapshot and turns the match in her team’s favour. Haze just about manages a sloppy crucifix pin but soon has Rain crashing down across her back before she can tag out. Jimmy Jacobs blows cigarette smoke in the Haze’s face, much as he did to Serena Deeb last night. Rain works a bizarre stranglehold stretch but Daizee works her way free and finally gets the hot tag to MsChif. She ties up both the Home Wreckers in a submission hold and Daizee gets in on the fun as well. The Haze/MsChif combo get 2 with some of the least co-ordinated looking double-teaming I’ve seen in a long time. MsChif goes for the Desecrator but Lacey breaks it up with a Lungblower. Implant DDT blocked and MsChif almost wins with a bodyscissors into a bridging pin. DOUBLE TEAM UNPRETTIER! The MHWC win at 08:40.

Rating – ** – I think that’s actually a fairly positive rating considering I wasn’t feeling the match too much. It wasn’t the fault of the MHWC. They’re a tremendous heel team and I love watching them work. But the nature of their opposition meant the match fell a little flat. Both their opponents looked sloppy as hell and the lack of cohesion with which they were hitting their double team moves was almost embarrassing. I like the Home Wreckers finisher though.

Chris Hero vs Nigel McGuinness

These two have been waiting for another singles match with each other since Supercard Of Honor 2. That weekend in Detroit Nigel was a constant thorn in the side of Larry Sweeney and his charges. He stopped them as they tried to mock Bruno Sammartino and he knocked Johnny Fairplay – a special guest of S’n’S Inc. – out the following night. That occurred during a match between these two men in which Nigel came out victorious. Since then he’s enjoyed another victory over Hero at This Means War 2, where he and partner Doug Williams beat Hero and Takeshi Morishima.

As you’d expect with these two men, they start out with a lot of mat wrestling. That breaks down into Hero’s inevitable period of showing off his ‘athleticism’. McGuinness ups the ante with an elbow to the head and a kick to the spine…and Hero immediately leaves the ring. But that’s just a rouge, he sweeps Nigel’s legs from out there and gleefully hops back into the ring now he’s in charge. Hero wisely avoids his opponent’s headstand in the corner then tries to do one of his own. Nigel applauds…then tips him over the top rope on top of Sweeney, Dempsey and Toland. But Nigel tries to give chase out there and is totally distracted by Hero’s posse and winds up getting injured as Hero dropkicks him into the guardrail. Nigel goes after the arm almost like a defence mechanism, hitting a hammerlock DDT and forcing Hero to the apron. Hero comes back, but he gets too cocky and walks into a big McLariat. I wish Nigel had a name for that kick/chest lariat combo he does in the corner. He almost decapitates Hero with another lariat for 2. Hero blocks the Tower Of London then the shortarm McLariat and nails a cradle back suplex. Cravat Buster gets Hero a 2-count. He tries another cravat and gets kicked in the back. The Tower Of London is blocked again and he nails a ‘Chris is Awesome’ missile dropkick, then a Cravat Cutter for another 2. He does a needless flip to the floor that achieves nothing and Nigel clobbers him with a Rebound McLariat. McGuinness tries another headstand and gets kicked in the face. Hero Stomp scores but the Brit kicks out again. Hangman’s Clutch applied but McGuinness drags himself to the bottom rope. Hero makes the mistake of trying a mocking headbutt and almost receives the Jawbreaker Lariat. Unfortunately just like in Boston, Bobby Dempsey and Tank Toland haul Nigel to the floor. Claudio Castagnoli appears and runs off S’n’S Inc. TOWER OF LONDON! NIGEL WINS! F*ck me the Tower Of London actually pinned someone. 18:23 is the time.

Rating – *** –
If you told me these guys were going to go out and wrestle almost 20-minutes with each other, to be honest I’d expect a much better match. That being said, I think it’s a credit to them that it never once felt boring. Chris Hero in particular is quite the entertainer. Whilst the match was never particularly dazzling or exciting, they did enough to keep myself and the crowd interested. To be honest, it was worth sitting through twenty minutes of match just to be totally shocked with the Tower Of London actually beat someone. How lame is Hero? Even TJ Perkins kicks out of that move!!

Adam Pearce comes out and makes himself extremely unpopular by proclaiming himself to be the guy that ran Colt Cabana out of ROH. He complains that people boo and chant ‘Repo Man’ despite the fact he’s been instrumental in the development of every notable Chicago wrestler to come through ROH. He renounces Chicago as his hometown and issues an open challenge. That’s never a good idea in ROH. He’s met with the massive World Champion…and we’ve got a title match.

Takeshi Morishima vs Adam Pearce – ROH World Title Match

Much as he did when he answered BJ Whitmer’s open challenge in Manhattan at the last ppv taping, Mori insists the belt be put on the line. As I said earlier, Pearce is exceptional on the stick, but his old-school, Memphis-styled wrestling has never made him especially popular with the ROH fans (bar the period he was brawling like a maniac in the CZW feud). I’d like to see him with a higher spot on the card, but I doubt that’ll happen. He’s on his way to squash-ville here.

‘You f*cked up’ – fans at Pearce. Morishima runs through a Pearce chop as if it didn’t exist and flattens him with a shoulder tackle. Cartwheel avalanche scores, as does the huge missile dropkick. Pearce can’t hit a suplex either, so he takes the match to the floor where he feels more comfortable brawling. Back in the ring he does manage an impressive vertical suplex then goes to the top rope. Illinois Jam nailed for 2. He goes back to the top rope but misses the Superfly Splash. Running ass attack by Morishima. Pearce tries a sunset flip and gets sat on. Back Drop Driver blocked as Scrap Iron goes to the eyes. He pulls out the Repo Man mask…only to be whacked with a lariat. BACK DROP DRIVER! Morishima retains at 05:26…then Back Drop Driver’s Hagadorn as well.

Rating – * –
It lacked the energy and excitement of the Jimmy Rave squash from earlier. The longer time made it feel more lethargic. Personally I think it would’ve got a much bigger reaction if they’d have had Morishima demolish Pearce in a much quicker time. After his promo the fans were begging for him to be killed. Pearce got in way too much offence after that and the heat sort of fizzled out.

KENTA vs Bryan Danielson

This is a hell of a match to throw away as a “bonus” match on a ppv DVD. Not that I’m complaining. The bonus matches at Respect Is Earned added nothing, and fans who ordered the ppv really gained nothing by buying the DVD as well. Plus, if ROH wants to use this format whereby they do the ppv before intermission and DVD-release only matches afterwards then they need to come up with big main events. This is the third time these two will clash in high profile singles matches. Bryan Danielson downed KENTA in my 2006 MOTY at Glory By Honor 5 Night 2. Despite the problems he was having with his injured shoulder, these two had an absolute classic, with Dragon coming out on top and successfully retaining the World Title. KENTA got a win back later in the year when he beat Danielson in a singles match during one of AmDrag’s NOAH tours. It was also Danielson that made KENTA tap to Cattle Mutilation in the main event of Respect Is Earned.

Bryan Danielson is clearly the better of these two athletes on the mat – which is where the match starts. He has the fans groaning in sympathy-pain for Kenta as he twists on the wrist in particularly brutal fashion. It’s Kenta that gets the advantage when the pace quickens though as he boots Dragon out of the ring. He tries a bodyscissors and again falls victim to the technical prowess of his opponent as Danielson bridges out of the hold and goes to a deathlock which will obviously affect Kenta’s kicking ability. Kenta slaps him in the face to block a sunset flip then hits the slingshot disrespect kick to draw rich applause from the Chicago fans. Danielson has to take more kicks but finally blocks one and dragon screws the leg. That’s a good way to neutralise the threat of his opponent. With the kicking ability negated he starts going to work on the head and arm, using a cross armbreaker to send Kenta scrambling to the ropes. Dragon knows he’s in total control now, disrespectfully slapping his opponent in the corner and screaming in his face. But he’s too cocky too early and Kenta counters the diving second rope uppercut into a cutter. Sayama flip by Dragon, into a German suplex for 2. He goes for the Crossface Chickenwing but doesn’t have much success. He hits a big backbreaker instead. Kenta goes for the springboard dropkick for the second time in the match and Danielson uses familiarity to counter by kicking him out of the ring. He winds up for a tope suicida…but Kenta BLOCKS it with a massive kick through the ropes.

They battle on the apron…DANIELSON WITH A BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX TO THE FLOOR! You’d think Danielson would’ve come out the better of the two after that, but he comes up holding his bad shoulder. Crossface Chickenwing locked in this time but despite the big move on the floor, Kenta still has enough fight to find a rope. CATTLE MUTILATION! Kenta has lost to this move on two different occasions in ROH and is determined not to make it a third…he gets to the ropes again. Both men jostle for leverage…suplex by Danielson. NO SOLD…BACK DROP DRIVER BY KENTA! NO SOLD…BELLY TO BELLY BY DRAGON! NO SOLD…BACK DROP DRIVER BY KENTA!!!! PALM STRIKE DUEL! BUSAIKU KNEE STRIKE! BOTH MEN DOWN! Kenta ducks a Roaring Elbow…CATTLE MUTILATION ON DRAGON! TIGER SUPLEX gets 2. They battle on the top rope where Kenta blocks the back superplex. He flips off the ropes, somewhat botching a sunset flip bomb. RUNNING POWERBOMB TO THE OPPOSITE TURNBUCKLE! Kenta fell out of the ring he put so much into that. KENTA RUSH…BUSAIKU KNEE…2 again! Again they battle for position…SAMOA JOE CHOKE! Kenta thinks he’s choked Dragon out with that, but the former World Champion keeps fighting. GO 2 SLEEP ON KENTA! KENTA F*CKING NO SELLS! CATTLE MUTILATION! DANIELSON REVERSES! MMA ELBOWS! KENTA FIGHTS TO HIS FEET! GO 2 SLEEP BLOCKED! TIGER SUPLEX BY DRAGON! CATTLE MUTILATION! KENTA ROLLS THROUGH! MMA ELBOWS…NO! GO 2 SLEEEEEEEEEEP! Kenta picks up a huge victory at 25:32.

Rating – ****1/2 –
It was a step under their superb GBH5 Night 2 match, but after some of the matches I’ve given 4.5 stars to this year (the SOH2 Dragon Gate 6-man for instance), this one REALLY deserves a rating this high. I thought they did a great job building the intensity of the match throughout. The opening stages played out brilliantly, with Danielson trying to use his wrestling to overcome the explosiveness and kicking power of KENTA. In the end they were both so evenly matched that it just became a total war, with each man dropping bombs, meaning basically whoever could withstand the most punishment, and hit their big finish first would win. This time round KENTA had answers, escapes and counters for all Danielson’s trademark submission holds, had fighting spirit to withstand his own G2S finisher, then was able to nail Dragon with that trademark knee to the jaw for victory.

Tape Rating – ****1/2 –
I think 5th Year Festival Finale was probably a better show, but with half of 2007 now in the books, this DVD-release is one that should be right at the top of your list of ROH purchases. The pay-per-view was a great effort. Unlike Respect Is Earned (which was basically just four good, long matches and a ton of skits to establish ROH’s characters and creative direction), Driven actually felt like a “proper” ROH show on ppv. Granted it’s 2 hours as opposed to 3, but everything just clicked a little better. The opener got the crowd going, and Austin Aries’ big return was a memorable moment. Castagnoli and Sydal had one of the best sub-10 minute matches you’ll ever see. The two squash matches were done well and both had real purpose, and the two big matches (Briscoes/Steen-erico and Danielson/McGuinness) both delivered. Danielson/Nigel was certainly an awesome main event and right up there with the best matches of the year. And if that wasn’t enough, the bonus DVD threw in an extra 90 minutes of good stuff too. Danielson/KENTA was a worthy follow up to last year’s classic, and Hero/Nigel was pretty good too. Like I said, this DVD is a must-buy in my opinion. And if you’re an American Dragon fan, it will be a favourite in your wrestling collection for years to come. Where else could you see Dragon wrestle for almost an hour in TWO 4.5* matches?

Top 3 Matches

3) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Kevin Steen/El Generico (****)

2) KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness (****1/2)

Top 5 United We Stand/Driven weekend Matches

5) KENTA vs Rocky Romero (**** – United We Stand)

4) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Kevin Steen/El Generico (**** – Driven)

3) Danielson/McGuinness vs Morishima/Marufuji (**** – United We Stand)

2) KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – Driven)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness (****1/2 – Driven)

And since this was the last show of June so we’re halfway through 2007:

Top 10 Matches of January-June 2007

10) KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – Driven)

9) CIMA/Yokosuka/Shingo vs Dragon Kid/Mochizuki/Saito (****1/2 – Supercard Of Honor 2)

8) CIMA/Yokosuka/D-Kid/Saito vs Aries/Delirious/Romero/Castagnoli (****1/2 – All Star Extravaganza 3)

7) Takeshi Morishima/Bryan Danielson vs KENTA/Nigel McGuinness (****1/2 – Respect Is Earned)

6) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Naruki Doi/Shingo (****1/2 – 5th Year Festival Liverpool)

5) Jay Briscoe vs Mark Briscoe (****1/2 – 5th Year Festival Finale)

4) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Murder City Machine Guns (****1/2 – Good Times Great Memories)

3) Samoa Joe vs Takeshi Morishima (****1/2 – 5th Year Festival NYC)

2) Jimmy Jacobs vs BJ Whitmer (****1/2 – Supercard Of Honor 2)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness (****1/2 – Driven)

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