152 ROH Live In Tokyo 7/16/2007

ROH 152 – Live In Tokyo – 16th July 2007

This is a massive weekend for ROH. In my opinion expanding to Japan is nothing more than a vanity exercise. It’s nothing more than a weekend of shows to say ‘we went to Japan’. The reality is that, unlike when they decided to run UK shows, the fanbase in Japan just isn’t there. This weekend they are running shows in conjunction with NOAH and Dragon Gate – and it’s more a testament to the star-power of members of the rosters of those promotions. The shows more like the ROH/FWA Frontiers Of Honor event I’d wager. These DVD’s need to be something really special. I imagine it’s costing a fair amount of money to take ROH to Japan, and they’re leaving the majority of their loyal fanbase behind simply so they can say ‘we ran shows in Tokyo/Osaka’. If they bomb I’d imagine we won’t be revisiting the land of the Rising Sun anytime soon. That’s my negativity done with. Tonight Ring Of Honor running the legendary Differ Ariake in Tokyo, Japan. How incredible is that? Vanity exercise or not, it’s a phenomenal achievement for a small independent promotion from Philadelphia. This show is run with the cooperation of Pro-Wrestling NOAH. Whilst none of the BIG names were available (so no Misawa, Kobashi, Taue, Akiyama, Sasaki, Takayama etc) we’ve got a slew of NOAH midcarders on tap tonight – although KENTA, scheduled to be a big part of this weekend, is out injured. Main eventing is Morishima/McGuinness II for the World Title. There’s also a big 6-man tag, a Fight Without Honor and Danielson/Shiozaki in a match which had everyone talking. Let’s get our asses across the globe and join Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard in Japan.

ROH VIDEO WIRE (26/06/07) – Nigel McGuinness vows to take the opportunity he’s earned himself and defeat Morishima in Japan to win the ROH World Title.

– Austin Aries is proud to be back in ROH, but says it means bad news for the NRC.

The show opens with Nigel McGuinness greeting a couple of fans as he walks into the building. Elsewhere Takeshi Morishima cuts a promo…but since he talks Japanese I have no real idea what he actually says.

SIDENOTE – Production for these DVD’s is a little different. They were handled by Japanese TV stations Samurai TV (for the Tokyo show) and Gaora (for Osaka), who are responsible for broadcasting the NOAH and Dragon Gate products. That means everything looks and feels a little different. The picture/sound quality is probably going to be a little better but camera angles/editing will seem strange.

Bobby Cruise welcomes everyone to the shows and gets a lukewarm response. He announces that Delirious is coming to the ring…and gets no ovation whatsoever. That’s a bad start. Delirious cuts a promo to almost total silence, but gets polite applause for his ‘welcome to Ring Of Honor’ line. I suppose he was a good choice to deliver this promo since he doesn’t speak English OR Japanese. The No Remorse Corps run out to attack him…before Jack Evans and Kotaro Suzuki make the save.

Davey Richards/Rocky Romero vs Jack Evans/Kotaro Suzuki

Man alive I hope the crowd pick up otherwise this is going to be a long show to sit through. I know Japanese audiences tend to be a little more quiet, reserved, appreciative and respectful, but if they spend the whole night giving the kind of lukewarm, ‘we don’t really understand what’s happening’ polite applause that they’ve been dishing out so far then things will get really silly. Anyway, this is the first time we’ve seen Jack in ROH since he was concussed and put on the injured list by the NRC in Chicago at Good Times Great Memories. He’s thirsty for revenge, and has recruited Kotaro Suzuki, who’s now a veteran of the NOAH Junior scene to team with him.

Delirious hits a wild tope suicida on Roderick Strong to take those guys out of the equation as Jack talks in Japanese to the crowd. And he’s the first guy that manages to get a response from them – getting the fans to cheer for Suzuki. He hits that awesome double springboard flying headscissors on Richards after Kotaro and Romero had come up even in their first exchange. Double stomp into a standing moonsault off the chest gets 2. Romero turns the tide of the match by hitting an illegal springboard dropkick on Evans. The NRC dominate him, keeping him away from the corner and really working him over. Eventually Jack is able to hit flippy kicks to get through both his opponents and make the hot tag to Kotaro. He avoids Romero’s kicks in Matrix-esque fashion and hits a nice knee strike in the corner. Springboard DDT from Rocky brings his team back again. Davey tries the handspring enzi and gets dropkicked in the chest, then a bridging German suplex from which he kicks out at 2. Jumping enzi by Richards…SHOTEI BY SUZUKI! Evans comes in but Davey grabs him for some rolling Germans. ALARM CLOCK kick nailed, then a bridging German of his own for 2. He takes the match to the top rope, but Jack fights back. ONG JAK KNEE! He has a handspring elbow blocked, but drags Davey into a reverse rana. 630 misses and Richards hits a tilta-whirl backbreaker. Running stereo kicks by the NRC get 2. Flying knee/Ligerbomb combo scores too, and Suzuki has to save his partner. Romero drops Evans again with a dragon suplex, but Jack refuses to stay down – and is earning the respect of the fans for that it too. RUNNING GERMAN SUPERPLEX BY RICHARDS! The crowd actually screamed as they didn’t want Evans to take that. TWISTING TOPE SUICIDA as Davey dives to the floor. HEAD DROP GERMAN BY ROMERO! KNOCK-OUT KICK! Romero gets the best of Evans again and successfully pins him at 14:01.

Rating – *** –
A good, solid tag team match to get ROH’s Japanese tour underway. Although Kotaro Suzuki was the guy the fans in attendance would’ve been most knowledgeable about, I thought it was three ROH stars that really shone brightly here. The NRC have been steadily improving as a hard-hitting, effective heel unit for a few months now, and the number they did on the charismatic underdog Jack Evans is the first thing the fans have really reacted to. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Suzuki was so uninvolved in this match he could’ve been anyone. He didn’t bust out any of his trademark stuff, and has probably only been booked to draw Japanese fans and save flying a US guy out.

Akihiko Ito vs Shuhei Taniguchi

I imagine this is on the card as something of a compromise to NOAH. They help ROH run a show, ROH provides their youngsters with a place to gain further experience. Obviously these are graduates of the NOAH dojo. They actually graduated in the same class (along with Ippei Ota and Atsushi Aoki). Taniguchi is seen as the top graduate as he has a strong amaresu background. Both of these two look like typical Japanese young lion workers, with black boots, black tights and little to tell them apart. I’m going to have a hard time doing play by play.

Right, Ito has lighter hair and darker boots. It’s Ito that executes the first successful moves, landing a dropkick and an armdrag. Jimmy Bower is on commentary thanking the fans for getting them to Tokyo as Ito starts to work over Taniguchi’s arm. Shuhei hits back with a big body slam then starts to attack Ito’s leg. Basic body work aside, they rookies decide they’d rather slug it out with chops and strikes. Taniguchi gets the better of that and slaps on a half crab. Tani’s strikes and kicks are really old school – I like them. He gets 2 with a butterfly suplex as Bower has a little rib at the ROH message forum who think Gabe doesn’t like lucha by bigging up the appearance of luchador Ricky Marvin on tonight’s show. Ito gets 2 with a neckbreaker and gets the same again with a spinebuster. He misses a frog splash and Taniguchi drops him to the mat with a powerslam. They trade some rugged elbow smashes before Tani nails a fisherman buster for 2. He hits a really unorthodox belly to belly suplex, then picks up the victory with a Karelin lift into a bridging German suplex at 09:54.

Rating – * –
That was super duper dull and incredibly basic. I won’t criticise it too heavily since both of these guys are pretty inexperienced, but if they’re going to use rudimentary limb-work in matches, you’d think they’d have the wherewithal to remember to sell it. I thought Taniguchi looked the better of the two. He had a touch of Jumbo Tsuruta in the way he delivered his moves with an intent to deliver maximum damage, rather than trying to make things look flash.

Bryan Danielson has heard that ROH is thinking about making Go Shiozaki a semi-regular on the roster in 2008, like they’ve done with Morishima this year, and as they did with KENTA in 2006. As such they’re testing him out tonight against Ring Of Honor’s top guy. He’ll then have his attention turned tonight’s main event.

Jimmy Rave vs BJ Whitmer

As has been discussed on recent shows, these two have more ROH matches under their belts than any other wrestlers on the roster right now. They have something else in common too. Both have been demolished in high profile, ppv matches against Takeshi Morishima, and both are in the midst of a total slump as they struggle to find some career direction after losing significant feuds earlier in the year.

Jimmy Rave gets TP’d for the first time since 2006 since that gimmick was really over in Japan. Apparently they did it to him on his tours of Dragon Gate as well. BJ seems mildly amused by the lack of crowd reaction for basically everyone thus far…despite the fact he’s one of the most over guys we’ve seen so far (maybe thanks to his NOAH experience?). He catches Rave going for a leapfrog and gives him a powerslam. He continues in the ascendancy until Jimmy lodges a knee into his midsection, then takes over using chokes, bites and illegal shots to the face. At least he has the fans laughing with his heelish actions. They battle over a suplex and tumble over the top rope to the floor. Back inside Whitmer hits an exploder suplex and looks to make a comeback. Spinebuster scores as well but Jimmy gets a shoulder up at 2. Rave blocks the rolling suplexes and connects with a spear. Greetings From Ghana blocked but Rave blocks a powerbomb and drags BJ into the corner with a hurricanrana. Crappy Doppler Wizard Effect (I liked that joke so much I’m using it for a second show running) gets 2. Whitmer powerbombs him into the turnbuckles then picks up another 2-count with a folding powerbomb. Greetings From Ghana gives Rave the win at 10:09.

Rating – * –
Despite a few more advanced moves, that was as dull and lifeless as the young boy match that went on before it. Both of these guys are total dead weight in the ROH midcard right now. I’m not sure anybody really cares about them. This is Rave’s last ROH win before he upped sticks and went to TNA later in the year. I can see why these two were brought to Japan. Whitmer has had several tours with NOAH, Rave the same with Dragon Gate. But it’s a shame they had to come in place of guys like Hero, Castagnoli, Albright, Stevens, Steen, Generico and so on. Those guys have far more to offer at this point in time.

The Briscoes seem cheerful tonight. They don’t know who they’re facing since KENTA’s injury has thrown their opposition team into turmoil. They do know who they’ve got teaming with them tonight though. That brings in Naomichi Marufuji who tells everyone to man up.

Bryan Danielson vs Go Shiozaki

Dragon has already outlined the entire premise around this match. This will actually be Go’s third ROH match (he debuted during ROH’s first tour of the UK in August 2006) and he’s one of the brightest rising stars in Japan. He’s improved in leaps and bounds since I first saw him live at Universal Uproar in November 2005. Now Ring Of Honor is thinking of bringing him to the US for a stint on the roster sometime next year. They want to see if he’s a worthwhile investment and are giving him this high profile match against their top guy. For Go, I’d imagine this is a massive chance to impress the Japanese fans and his NOAH superiors. I doubt he gets too many opportunities to wrestle high profile singles matches on NOAH shows.

Realistically Go is one of the bigger native stars on the show tonight and he’s the first wrestler to get streamers. He’s packed on some muscle since I last saw him compete. Danielson’s new robe looks like something from a health spa. Dragon has Shiozaki down on the mat within a minute, working his legs with a bridging deathlock. He goes after the arm next and Go has a hard time getting Danielson away from him. He misses a superkick, Danielson misses an elbow smash and they go for duelling dropkicks. After more action Dragon is able to send Shiozaki out of the ring with a dropkick. But that actually works in Go’s favour as he dishes out some super-hard chops (probably learnt from mentor Kenta Kobashi) that send his opponent over the guardrail. He rams his head into the ringpost as well and at last Shiozaki has a foothold in this match. He’s now able to control AmDrag, using his strength advantage to keep him trapped in a surfboard. Danielson tries to stop him with chops, but that’s not the right approach. Go shakes them off and lays into the former ROH Champion with more vicious chops of his own. Some of his chops sound absolutely sickening. The fans are FINALLY waking up and getting into a match. Go tries a running dropkick in the corner with Danielson trapped in a tree of woe. Dragon tries to sit up, so Shiozaki hits more chops and is then able to hit the move.

Soon Go gets too confident, trying to go to the top rope and allowing Danielson to dropkick him off, sending him all the way to the floor. They jostle on the apron where Danielson blocks a German suplex attempt by landing on his feet. He reacts and sends Go flying into the crowd barrier. After several minutes of punishment from the Japanese athlete, ROH’s top gun gets mean and goes after the arm – stomping it into the railing then bringing the match back into the ring to start stretching it out. Go tries to throw a chop since they were so successful earlier in the match…but now his arm is injured they have no impact. The psychology of this match is amazing. 15 minutes in and Danielson is still targeting the arm, cranking on a cross armbreaker. Go gets a lot of applause just for getting the ropes there. He shows more fight by locking on a sleeper hold as Danielson tries one too many over-the-shoulder armbreakers. He keeps fighting back with a shoulder tackle and chops – all with arm selling. He tries a fisherman suplex, then the Go Flasher, but Danielson blocks them with knees to the head. Third time of asking he knows the knee to the head is coming, and he catches it to hit a fisherman buster. He tries a lariat but Dragon is able to block it by kicking the leg.

Go sent into the front row. SPRINGBOARD SUICIDE PLANCHA INTO THE CROWD! Danielson looks ok after that, and heads back into the ring to get 2 with a CROSS-ARM northern lights suplex. DIVING HEADBUTT TO THE INJURED ARM! CROSSFACE CHICKENWING! Danielson even switches arms to make sure he’s got maximum pressure on the injury. Yet again Shiozaki has enough heart to find a rope. Danielson tries to take the match to the top rope but Go fights back. TOP ROPE Catatonic nailed for 2. He hits a superkick and shows fighting spirit to hit a chop then a LARIATOOO! DANIELSON NO SELLS! SAITO SUPLEX! GO NO SELLS! SUPERKICK! Both men are battered but drag themselves back to their feet. Dragon gets 2 with a bridging German suplex, which is a trademark move of Go’s. LEFT-ARM CHOPS BY GO! BRIDGING GERMANS! But he can’t hold the bridge because of his injured arm. Go is doing everything with his left arm now. Go Flasher gets 2. He calls for the moonsault but he’s so worn down that he takes an age to climb the ropes. Like a flash American Dragon is after him. BACK SUPERPLEX! Shiozaki hits another superkick then a huge lariat. MOONSAULT MISSES! CATTLE MUTILATION! Go finds the ropes AGAIN! Danielson goes for a Tiger suplex…and gets a super-close 2-count. MMA ELBOWS! CATTLE MUTILATION! Go finally taps out at 26:43. What a f*cking match.

Rating – ****1/2 –
That’s my choice for 2007 MOTY thus far. This match epitomised everything I love about watching wrestling. Terrific action, fantastic story-telling, brilliant selling all combining to make absolutely compelling drama that you can’t help but watch. It probably lacked the excitement of other MOTYC’s thus far (Briscoes/Machine Guns, Dragon/Nigel, Joe/Morishima etc) but in terms of psychology this was easily the best of the lot. The match started with Danielson looking to test Go, dominating him with his well-documented wrestling ability. But when the match spilled out of the ring Shiozaki found success with his powerful chops, and for the next few minutes he used his power to stay on offence, always going back to the chops if need be. Danielson’s answer was simple – attack the arm so he can’t chop anymore. From there Go’s selling was awesome. Almost every move he hit with the injured arm he sold. He started switching arms to hit things like chops and suplexes. Meanwhile Danielson showed similar awesomeness, placing his diving headbutt right on the injury and switching arm on the Crossface Chickenwing to do more damage. But Go Shiozaki, determined to prove himself and earn a semi-permanent roster spot next year fought valiantly until finally the injury became too much. Amazingly, Danielson’s last 3 singles matches have all reached 4.5*’s. Even without the World Title he’s proving himself to be the best wrestler in ROH by a country mile right now. He just delivered another stunning performance. Go Shiozaki also deserves a ton of credit. His played his role to perfection. I thoroughly hope we’re welcoming him for a long term stay in ROH next year.

Bryan Danielson celebrates victory by announcing that he’s challenging the winner of Morishima vs McGuinness tonight. He earned a title match by defeating Nigel in a #1 Contenders match at Driven. Tokyo gives that news a hearty ‘R-O-aitcha’ chant.

INTERMISSION – Becky Bayless hasn’t been flown to Japan…so handling interviews will be senior referee Todd Sinclair. He interviews Ricky Marvin (who’s looking surprisingly old these days). Ricky says he’s happy to be in ROH, before cutting a promo in Spanish. Elsewhere Bryan Danielson poses for pictures with fans.

Roderick Strong vs Delirious – Fight Without Honor

This issue has been going on since February when Strong showed NO REMORSE in a match with Delirious, despite the fact that the Lizard-man suffered a dangerous concussion early in that match. Delirious continued to meddle in the NRC business, despite suffering another loss to Strong on ROH’s first ppv. Tonight they bring their feud to Japan in a Fight Without Honor.

Delirious channels his usual ring-bell craziness into running headlong into an assault on Strong who struggles to keep pace and gets kicked out of the ring. He tries a Suicide Flip but Roddy has that covered and tosses him back into the ring. They brawl back to the floor and around ringside. Roderick tries a superplex to the floor but Delirious blocks it and nails the Suicide Flip. Strong hits back by pressing him into the ringpost then tossing a table into his face. He stomps a chair into Delirious’ back, the first signs of him targeting that body part as a set up to his various finishers. The lizard-man nails a swinging neckbreaker out of the corner to keep him at bay. He finds a ladder under the ring and sets it up between the apron and crowd barrier…so he can whip Roddy into it. But he takes too long following up on that move, allowing Strong to drop him with a big superplex. Backbreaker nailed, then a pendulum swing, swinging his head back and forth into a chair placed in the corner. Now he retrieves Delirious’ ladder and tries to back suplex him into it. Delirious counters him with a drop toehold then a Panic Attack into a chair. It’s too early for Shadows Over Hell but he’s able to hiptoss Strong INTO the ladder. He re-sets the ladder between ring and rail and tries to suplex Roderick through it. Strong blocks and gets 2 with the half nelson backbreaker. He hits a gutbuster into an open chair then the Death By Roderick for 2. Delirious blocks the Gibson Driver by biting Roderick’s legs and nails the Bizarro Driver. They fight on the apron…STRONG WITH A BACKBREAKER THROUGH THE LADDER! ‘Holy sh*t’ – Tokyo. Are Japanese people allowed to say that? ‘I’m pretty sure they’re chanting Holy sh*t’ – Lenny Leonard. Is Lenny Leonard allowed to say that either? Strong goes for a super fallaway slam but Delirious blocks. Shadows Over Hell scores…into the Cobra Stretch. Roderick fights it. COBRA CLUTCH SUPLEX! STRONG NO SELLS IT! SICK KICK! CHEMICAL IMBALANCE II! Delirious finally beats Strong at 17:47.

Rating – *** –
I think this is one match they probably should’ve booked on US soil. It was pretty good and definitely the best match they’ve had together this year, but the Japanese fans really didn’t have much clue what was going on. They had no real idea WHY these two were wrestling with weapons whereas other wrestlers before and after didn’t. As such there was a miniscule amount of crowd heat on what should’ve been a big match in this feud. With a better crowd this would’ve been a lot more memorable. In my opinion Roderick should’ve gone over here too. He’s been groomed as a future main eventer by ROH in the past – as his SOTF 2005 victory and series of matches with Bryan Danielson proved. But recently he’s stagnated in the midcard. A good way to rebuild him would be definitive singles feud victories over popular acts like Delirious (who, lets face it, doesn’t have much chance of ever breaking through as a top line main eventer anyway).

Nigel discusses the significance of challenging for the ROH World Title on their very first show in Japanese soil. He says he hasn’t lived up to his promise to stop having great matches and actually winning them instead – as demonstrated by high profile losses to Morishima and Danielson. But he proved he can beat Morishima in Dayton and knows he can do it again tonight.

Matt Sydal/Ricky Marvin/Atsushi Aoki vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe/Naomichi Marufuji

Either the sound guy or Marvin and Aoki screwed up big time. Matt Sydal comes out by himself, and the rest of his team sprint to the ring as the Briscoes’ music start to play. Did the sound guy forget them, or were they supposed to come out with Matt? Anyway, this is billed as an ‘all-star 6-man’. Basically that means six talented guys thrown together and hopefully having a good match. Initially KENTA was supposed to be on this show – and I believe he would’ve teamed with Jack Evans allowing Kotaro Suzuki to join his co-GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Title holder Ricky Marvin in this match. That would’ve been doubly significant since Marvin and Kotaro won those belts from the Briscoes at the end of Jay and Mark’s first NOAH tour. As is, KENTA was injured at NOAH’s Budokan Hall show the night before this event, and NOAH gave ROH Aoki as a last minute replacement. It still seems like weird booking to pull Suzuki out of this match though. Sydal is supposedly the hottest free agent in wrestling right now, and his stock has gone up since joining Sweet’n’Sour Inc. at Driven – although Sweeney isn’t in attendance tonight.

The Briscoes get an absolute swarm of streamers, more than anyone else on the show thus far, and their partner Marufuji is sporting a Briscoe Brothers shirt too. It’s good to see them making waves in the Far East. Marvin looks like SUWA with razored short hair and black pants. He sets an incredibly fast pace and gets a big ovation from the fans as he sends Jay out of the ring. Mark scores a 2 on Aoki with a belly to belly suplex. Aoki manages to drag Marufuji into his corner which allows Sydal to take over on him. The Briscoes and Marufuji come back by clambering on top of each other to stomp on Ricky Marvin. The Mexican drops Mark with a German suplex and gets himself out of the ring in a hurry. Aoki succumbs to the fluid double teaming of the Briscoes who give their team the advantage again. Marufuji gets 2 with an awesome swinging slingshot dropkick through the ropes. His team hit a trio of boots in the corner but Aoki still refuses to be pinned. Mark taunts Aoki’s team by setting up for a back suplex in their corner, then gradually reversing away into the middle of the ring before executing the move. TRIPLE superkick gives Marufuji another chance to pin him, but still he kicks out. The beatdown of Aoki continues with a leg drop/sidewalk slam combo by the Briscoes. Sydal and Marvin are getting increasingly anxious for a tag.

Finally Atsushi hits a back suplex on Jay and makes the tag to Ricky. Springboard moonsault press gets him a 2-count. HANDSPRING DDT gets 2 as well. He goes to the top…ROPE WALK DROPKICK TO JAY’S PARTNERS ON THE APRON! Jay drops him into the turnbuckles and tags out to Marufuji. Marvin hits a hurricanrana but goes to the well once too often and is powerbombed by the former GHC Heavyweight Champion. DUELLING BASEMENT DROPKICKS! DUELLING SUPERKICKS…both men down! Aoki stops Marufuji tagging his partners and scores a 2 with a northern lights suplex. Mark springboards in like a redneck ninja and quickly disposes of both Aoki and Sydal (who’s barely featured in this match). Double springboard moonsault press gets 2. The Japanese rookie nails a double springboard missile dropkick and makes the hot tag to Sydal who hits a quebrada Slice for 2. STANDING frankensteiner gets a nearfall as well. Here It Is Driver blocked, but the standing moonsault isn’t. Mark nails the urinage suplex but then has to deal with Marvin who sunset flips Sydal into a powerbomb. Capture DDT from Sydal to Jay as everyone hits big moves and collapse slumped around ringside. Sydal counters the splash mountain neckbreaker with a rana on Mark. The Briscoes try the springboard Doomsday Device on Sydal but only succeed in clotheslining Marvin. Maru is back, and he helps Jay hoist Sydal up. SPRINGBOARD DOOMSDAY DEVICE! That’s all she wrote at 22:37.

Rating – *** –
There was lots of good stuff in this match, but I thought it went a tad long. The beatdown segment on Aoki certainly seemed to drag. I thought Aoki actually added very little to the match. I’d much rather have stuck him in the opener with Jack Evans and added Kotaro Suzuki to this one. Ricky Marvin, on the other hand, looked outstanding. If the opportunity presents itself in the future ROH really should bring him to the US. He was the most exciting guy in the match.

SIDENOTE – The benefit of these shows being produced by Japanese TV is that the equipment they’re using is much better than ROH normally has. The picture/sound quality for this event has been great.

Takeshi Morishima vs Nigel McGuinness – ROH World Title Match

Nigel has perhaps been Mori’s greatest rival since he arrived to begin his stint on the ROH roster. Initially there seemed to be mutual respect between the two, but McGuinness is a proud competitor and is desperate to hold the World Title. He lost but gave a credible performance the first time he challenged for the belt in April at Fighting Spirit, and earned this rematch by becoming the first man in ROH to pin Morishima – using the Jawbreaker Lariat to defeat him in a tag match at United We Stand. Can he finally move to the top of the card and topple the mighty World Champion on his home soil?

Surprisingly, the fans are behind McGuinness early, as shown with a ‘lets go Nigel’ chant. Jawbreaker Lariat blocked…Back Drop Driver reversed. That’s a hot way to start things off. Nigel goes after Morishima’s arm right away, obviously feeling the need to open up a weakness on the dominating champion. That seems to work well, but he abandons that plan and tries a sunset flip bomb to the floor. That inevitably fails and he gets squashed between the apron and Mori’s big ass. OLE OLE BUTT ATTACK! Morishima comes off the apron with a flying shoulder tackle but McGuinness nails a Rebound McLariat. TOP ROPE PLANCHA by the challenger. That high-risk move has brought Nigel back into the contest but, rather than go back to the arm, he riles him up with a slap to the face…and runs right into a massive forearm smash. Morishima hits his running ass attack as the fans really start to get on his case. McGuinness avoids the cartwheel Stinger Splash and nails a modified version of the spine kick/chest smash combo. MCLARIAT scores and gets a 2. He goes for the headstand mule kick but Mori kicks him in the head. Mega-missile dropkick countered with a Tower Of London for 2. Only Chris Hero loses to that move. Not TJ Perkins though. Headstand mule kick lands second time of asking but that’s a flashy, minimal impact move and Shima gets right back to his feet. MEGA-MISSILE DROPKICK…NO SOLD! McLariat gets 2 again, with the fans right behind McGuinness now. Jawbreaker Lariat blocked…BACK DROP DRIVER! But Nigel has done enough damage to ensure that the champion can’t cover him. Nigel avoids Mori’s ass as he tries to sit-down counter another sunset flip. Morishima just stands there as he’s hammered with superkicks by the challenger, and needs just a single blow to floor McGuinness again. He tries to set up for an avalanche Back Drop Driver but Nigel blocks. SUPER LARIAT…2 again. They battle on the top rope again. TOWER OF LONDON TO THE APRON! But Nigel is way too weary to get Mori back into the ring in time for a cover. Morishima ducks another Super McLariat…BOSSMAN SLAM FROM THE APRON TO THE FLOOR! That was a huge move, and Shima capitalises by hammering on Nigel in the corner. BACK DROP DRIVER…but McGuinness kicks out! He strings together a flurry of lariats. JAWBREAKER LARIAT…MORI KICKS OUT! Nigel tries it a second time…then tries a small package for 2. He peppers the champ with strikes, but Morishima knocks him down with a couple of big lariats. BACK…DROP…DRIVER! Morishima retains the gold at 20:14.

Rating – **** –
I’m in a minority on this one, but I actually preferred this one to their Fighting Spirit match. To be honest, they are both pretty similar. However, this one had more of a “big-match aura” about it. I thought it told a better story – with Nigel showing improvement from their first match by being able to do more damage to Mori second time around. And hey, I loved the finisher overkill finish from the April match, and they did basically the same thing here too.

Bryan Danielson climbs in the ring and proclaims the ROH World Title to be his. He slaps Morishima in the face…then turns straight into a European uppercut from Nigel who respectfully hands over the belt. Unlike at Respect Is Earned where Morishima threw that respect back at McGuinness and hammered him, this time he accepts a handshake.

Roderick Strong says he won’t have any remorse for Jack Evans when they meet tomorrow night in Osaka. Davey Richards and Rocky Romero beat one “dream team” tonight and vow to beat another all-star line-up tomorrow. They then head off to party…although Davey seems a little concerned that they might not have any non-alcoholic beverages. What a geek.

Some guy cuts a promo. If only he’d have introduced himself I’d know who he was. Just kidding, it’s Brent Albright, who manages not to start a promo with ‘My name is Brent Albright’. He congratulates Morishima on retaining in Japan. He says he’ll challenge for the belt next time ROH is in Philadelphia, and will walk out champion.

The brackets are announced for the forthcoming Race To The Top Tournament taking place when ROH returns to the US. Basically it’s an opportunity for a midcarder to step up, elevate himself up the card and earn a World Title shot. Doesn’t Survival Of The Fittest already do that? Not that I mind. ROH runs so many shows that adding interest to what would otherwise have been a pretty run of the mill weekend with a 2-night tournament is fine by me. Anyway, it’s:

BJ Whitmer vs Pelle Primeau

Davey Richards vs Jigsaw

Erick Stevens vs Chris Hero

Delirious vs El Generico

Claudio Castagnoli vs Hallowicked

Matt Sydal vs Mike Quackenbush

Jack Evans vs Kevin Steen

Brent Albright vs Matt Cross

Tape Rating – *** –
In case you didn’t gather from my introduction, I had a lot of reservations about ROH going to Japan. I’m still convinced that in many ways it was little more than a vanity exercise just to say ‘we did it’. They left behind the fans that have got them to this point, instead going to Japan to perform in front of a crowd largely drawn by the promotion’s association with NOAH, a few NOAH stars like Morishima, Marufuji, Shiozaki, Marvin and Suzuki, and a crowd that, at times, had absolutely no idea what was going on. But you know what, they did it. And they pulled off a really decent opening night that came off looking like a million bucks on DVD thanks to the people at Samurai TV. Danielson/Shiozaki was an absolute classic. The main event was exciting and bought the restrained Tokyo crowd to life, and there was more good wrestling with the 6-man, Strong/Delirious and the tag opener. The sometimes-silent crowd does hurt the show. The opening segment looks really awkward with zero crowd heat to play-off. The same can be said of the Fight Without Honor. There’s also the really tedious Taniguchi/Ito and Rave/Whitmer matches to sit through. Stuff like that prevents me from rating this show higher, but I’ve given it a solid thumbs up. ROH took another brave step into the unknown and managed to draw over 1000 fans, thousands of miles away from the Murphy Rec Center in Philadelphia, PA where their story began over five years ago. That’s an incredible accomplishment.

Top 3 Matches

3) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe/Naomichi Marufuji vs Matt Sydal/Ricky Marvin/Atsushi Aoki (***)

2) Takeshi Morishima vs Nigel McGuinness (****)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Go Shiozaki (****1/2)

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