153 ROH Live In Osaka 7/17/2007

ROH 153 – Live In Osaka – 17th July 2007

Ring Of Honor’s tour bus arrives in Osaka for the second night of their Japanese tour. This event is co-promoted by Dragon Gate, and we have a host of Dragon Gate stars on hand to help out the 12 ROH representatives that have been flown out. The main event was scheduled to feature the dream tanden of CIMA and KENTA teaming for the first time…but KENTA is sitting out injured. I think DG’s BxB Hulk was also supposed to be on the show but ended up pulled out through injury. With those cancellations the card is a little bit up in the air. But with talent like CIMA, Dragon Kid, Susumu Yokosuka, Masaaki Mochizuki, Genki Horiguchi, Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino and Shingo linking up with ROH regulars like Bryan Danielson and the Briscoes, along with NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji replacing KENTA. Like last night, production will feel a little different from ROH’s usual releases. This one is produced by Gaora TV – and again they seem to use far better equipment than ROH normally do. Lets get to the Osaka, Japan and join Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.

ROH VIDEO WIRE (26/06/07) – See Live In Tokyo (ROH152) review for details.

Roderick Strong and Rocky Romero celebrate hooking up with Japanese chicks, and Davey Richards, feeling left out, lies and says he got one too. They know he’s talking crap. Strong says he’s found a guy who would fit perfectly with the NRC.

JAPAN VIDEO DIARY – Delirious yells at Japanese fans from the window of the bus.

We’re set for our opening match which is scheduled to be Jimmy Rave vs Bryan Danielson…but they’re interrupted by CIMA. He wants to welcome Osaka to ROH. He gets a much bigger reaction from another quiet Japanese crowd. The No Remorse Corps attack him, until Dragon and Naomichi Marufuji make the save. Danielson dumbs down a promo so it can overcome the language barrier. ‘CIMA-san…best wrestler…Dragon Gate. Marufuji-san…best wrestler…NOAH’ etc. He proposes they form a dream team to fight the NRC tonight. CIMA and Marufuji shake hands to a big pop. And that leaves Jimmy Rave with no opponent. He issues an open challenge which is answered by the Briscoes. I refuse to believe the fans have ANY clue what Jay Briscoe is talking about. He says the airlines lost their belts, but they’re ready to put them on the line twice tonight. Despite a scheduled defence later, they offer to fight Jimmy and a partner. He’s joined by Genki Horiguchi so it’s on…

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Jimmy Rave/Genki Horiguchi – ROH Tag Title Match

Genki has gone heel since the last time ROH fans saw him. He’s formed an alliance with Rave over Jimmy’s tours with Dragon Gate and has stepped up to join him in this big opportunity. The Briscoes are looking dominant as Tag Champions right now. They’ve won a succession of 2/3 Falls Matches 2-0 and now want to defend their championship twice in one night on the other side of the world.

Despite going bald, Genki somehow has long blue and white hair extensions. He’s rocking some creepy contact lenses too. Mark gets the better of him and sends him to the floor. Jay throws Rave out of the ring too, and Mark capitalises with a wild dive to the floor. Jimmy takes some punishment until Horiguchi sweeps Jay’s legs from under him, allowing Rave to make the tag. Genki drags the older Briscoe brother through the crowd for no obvious reason then tosses him back in. Second rope moonsault gets 2 then he tries a half crab. Tags all round and a fresh Mark brings the redneck kung fu to both his opponents. Double springboard crossbody wipes out Genki before Jay returns for the splash mountain neckbreaker on Rave. Jimmy rakes the eyes to block the Cut-Throat Driver and Hori springboards back in. He tornado DDT’s Mark into the path of a Rave spear then the Crappy Wizard for 2. Jay is back with the press slam DVD on Horiguchi. Genki evades the Doomsday Device. BACKSLIDE FROM HEAVEN gets 2 as Rave has the other brother trapped in the Heel Hook. SPIKE JAY DRILLER! Rave is pinned at 09:19.

Rating – ** –
Nothing bad about this match, but there was nothing particularly memorable or exciting either. I like Genki Horiguchi but he didn’t get much time to shine in this one.

JAPAN VIDEO DIARY – Jack Evans hypes up some Japanese burger. Nigel McGuinness looks utterly confused in the background. He’s sporting a shiner after his battle with Morishima.

BJ Whitmer vs Nigel McGuinness

This one is a battle of ROH heavyweights. Whitmer is in the midst of an epic losing streak. His last singles victory was all the way back at 5th Year Festival Finale and since then he’s been jobbing left, right and centre. Meanwhile Nigel McGuinness just lost another ROH Title Match and now drops back down the card. He’ll need to rebuild himself before earning another shot.

‘Chain wrestling at its best’ – Prazak going overboard on the cut and paste wrestling these guys begin their match with. They’re both very respectful of each other but draw a stalemate in the early going. Finally Nigel loses patience and fakes on a handshake to land a strike. Whitmer hits back with a swinging neckbreaker. Leonard thinks targeting that body part is a good idea since it took a lot of abuse at the hands of Morishima last night. BJ pounds away on him with stiff shots. Both men rake the eyes in turn before McGuinness finally gets some response with the kick/chest smash combo. McLariat ducked but Nigel drops him anyway with a hammerlock DDT. He sets up for the Tower Of London but BJ blocks. Exploder suplex gets the American a 2, and he gets the same result again as he drags McGuinness into a spinebuster. Jawbreaker Lariat ducked and Whitmer almost snatches victory with a bridging roll-up. Jawbreaker nailed second time of asking. Nigel wins at 09:13.

Rating – * –
Whitmer completes his second snooze-fest of the weekend. Both guys were in total house show mode for this one, although I guess it’s understandable in Nigel’s case since he was in a real battle last night in Tokyo.

JAPAN VIDEO DIARY – They appear to have pulled their tour bus over on the hard shoulder so Jack can tell everyone he’s renouncing his American citizenship and ‘turning Japanese’. Wonderful…

Jack Evans comes to the ring and tells Roderick Strong that he can’t sneak out of their match and get himself into the main event with Romero and Richards. He wants a No DQ match right now. Roderick comes out and announces that Masaaki Mochizuki is an honorary member of the NRC and will be in the main event tonight…then accepts Evans’ challenge.

Jack Evans vs Roderick Strong – No DQ Match

Much like Strong/Delirious last night, this is a grudge match that stretches back to the 5th Year Festival. Roddy attacked Evans backstage in New York the night he formed the No Remorse Corps and Jack has been thirsty for revenge ever since. He’s lost singles matches to Strong at All Star Extravaganza 3 and Good Times Great Memories, and was put on the injured list at GTGM by the NRC. This weekend marks his return to ROH competition from that injury.

Jack starts out at his flippedy best, hitting a double springboard headscissors then hurdling the ropes for a flying dropkick to the floor. The match goes straight into the crowd where Evans steals a spot from the Jody Fleisch playbook by running up the wall into a moonsault press. Strong tosses him into the ringpost, but Evans rallies again, cartwheeling on the apron then jumping off it into another headscissors. Roderick ends up using a low blow to get an advantage and immediately starts dishing out the backbreakers. He chokes Jack in the ropes and it’s all legal under No DQ rules. Not satisfied there, he puts an inverted cloverleaf on him whilst he’s tied up. Evans courageously hits a hurricanrana from the top rope as Osaka gets behind him. Moonsault elbow strike then a standing corkscrew moonsault get 2. Ultimately he tries one high-risk move too many and Strong drags him out of the ring. 619 between the apron and bottom rope brings him back. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA INTO THE CROWD! Back inside he tries a handspring elbow and gets dropped face-first onto the canvas for 2. Gibson Driver blocked and Evans hits a capoeira kick and a Red Star Press. Super fallaway slam from Strong gets 2. He blocks Jack’s reverse rana and slings him into the ropes. Death By Roderick nailed but Evans still won’t quit. Stronghold locked in but with the support of the fans Evans finds a rope. To the top rope again where Evans blocks an avalanche Death By Roderick and nails another super rana. Strong is up to block the 630. Ong Jak knee drop instead. Strong no sells for the Sick Kick. REVERSE RANA by Evans. 630 senton scores (only just) and Evans wins at 14:44.

Rating – *** –
Meh, it was MOTN thus far but probably the worst match they’ve had together. Much like last night the crowd heat just wasn’t there and it killed the drama of the match. Everything felt like a meaningless procession of spots. I don’t agree with Strong jobbing to two guys who, in theory, are much lower down the card than him. With Austin Aries coming back Roddy needs to look as strong as possible right now. Jobbing to Delirious and Evans on consecutive nights is bad booking. Like I said last night, Delirious is going nowhere and should’ve laid down so Strong gets the rub. I see the benefit of having Jack go over (his upwards mobility is certainly less limited than Delirious’) but coming after last night’s result it makes Strong look like a bit of a loser.

JAPAN VIDEO DIARY – Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness and Davey Richards are at what I believe is a sushi place. Richards acts goofy/nerdy even when he’s out of character.

Delirious/Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino vs Matt Sydal/Dragon Kid/Ryo Saito

Everyone should know the history between Delirious and Sydal. Their rivalry extends back to their debut show. Now it comes to Japan with Delirious teaming with members of Muscle Outlawz and Sydal bringing a team of Typhoon representatives. This will be a little different to ROH as Delirious (a babyface in ROH) is teaming with heels whilst Sydal, the newest member of Sweet’n’Sour Inc. is flanked by two babyfaces. Thanks to Wikipedia I am armed with full profiles and move-lists for the Dragon Gate team. Unfortunately the match will be too quick for me to use them!

Delirious manages to spend an entire minute strolling around yelling things at the crowd, referees, wrestlers and anyone else who will listen. He and Sydal then stop to get shoulder massages from their respective teams. They go into their usual super-fluid exchanges to show off how familiar they are with each other. Doi and Saito surge into the ring with a lot of intensity and speed. Speaking of speed…here come Kid and Yoshino. They move faster then I can type, but Kid manages to send Yoshino out of the ring. Neither team is able to get a real advantage at the moment and the momentum swings back and forth with numerous tags. Kid 619’s around Saito to kick Doi in the face, then Team Sydal hit him with a three-way dropkick. Naruki uses his strength to get the better of Sydal. Is it me or is Delirious really subtly working as a cocky heel within the confines of his usual character tonight? Double gutbuster then stereo dropkicks by Yoshino and Doi get 2. Yoshino hits a running neckbreaker (which according to Wikipedia is the Sling Blade). Doi charges at Sydal and hits the Dai Bousou (cannonball senton) with an inadvertent assist from Saito. Sydal hits a tumbling frankensteiner on Delirious…then RUNS OFF DOI AND YOSHINO’S BACK INTO A DDT!

Hot tag to Dragon who hits a 619 on Doi. SLINGSHOT RANA TO THE FLOOR! On the other side of the ring Yoshino hits some form of dive. Delirious blocks D-Kid’s springboard move with a torpedo headbutt. Flying Dragon submission on Naruki, then he counters a suplex with a stunner. Doi hits a running powerbomb into the turnbuckles, followed up with Delirious’ Panic Attack. Bizarro Driver gets 2. Sydal gets 2 on Yoshino with the Slice. Here It Is Driver countered and Masato gets MEGA-hangtime on a missile dropkick. Doi kicks Sydal in the face as he goes for a standing moonsault but Matt evades a basement dropkick attempt and nails the move anyway. Doi gets 2 with a Rydien bomb then climbs the ropes. Saito ambushes him and lifts him onto his shoulders. OFF THE SHOULDERS SUPER HURRICANRANA! FISHERMAN SPLASH gets Saito a 2. Doi is helped by Jimmy Rave and Genki Horiguchi (more Muscle Outlawz) who randomly charge into the match and hit clotheslines. ULTRA HURRICANRANA gets Dragon a 2. Yoshino avoids the Sydal Press. DOI 555! Bakatare Sliding Kick gets 2. Delirious locks the Cobra Stretch on Sydal but he finds a rope. Sydal spikes him with a capture DDT. SYDAL PRESS! It’s over at 20:59.

Rating – *** –
There was some good action in there but everything felt a bit hectic and uncoordinated. Normally in these DG-rules matches you feel like the pace and excitement is always building towards a definitive climax/crescendo. That wasn’t the case here. Whilst the Dragon Gate guys looked as nimble, agile and at times amazing as ever, it felt more like a scrambled egg succession of spots than anything else. I know some will argue that ALL Dragon Gate sprints like this are nothing but spot parades, but still. The highlight of the match for me was Delirious adjusting his gimmick to be a cocky heel. I thought that was really great. Beyond that, I imagine this was what most Dragon Gate house show matches are like. Not bad, but not jaw-dropping either.

JAPAN VIDEO DIARY – Mark Briscoe reveals he doesn’t wash his gear, he just uses some Japanese version of Fabreeze that he stole from a hotel on his NOAH tour. What a dirty pikey…

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Susumu Yokosuka/Shingo – ROH Tag Title Match

Shingo is a former ROH Tag Champion (he and Naruki Doi won the belts from the Briscoes earlier this year) and has been getting rave reviews since he returned from his extended US tour, whilst Susumu is a former DG Open The Dream Gate Champion (their top prize), so this is certainly high quality opposition for the Briscoes, who have already had one match tonight.

The Briscoes immediately attack their opponents, clearly thinking they need to end this one quickly. They take another pointless trip into the crowd before returning to the ring to team up on Shingo. Finally Takagi hits a sit-out powerbomb as Yokosuka nails a German suplex and the Japanese challengers at last get a look-in. They set about isolating dirty, unwashed Mark, stringing together a few nice sequences of tandem offence along the way. Eventually Mark tags out after a spinning heel kick to Susumu. The tide is turned now and it’s the Briscoes working over Yokosuka. Mark blocks an attempted Yokosuka cutter but Shingo lays him out on the apron with a DDT. EXPLODER SUPERPLEX by Susumu and he makes the tag. Flatliner/DDT combo by Shingo, and he flies off the apron with a shoulder tackle that wipes out both opponents. Yokosuka Cutter blocked again and Mark nails a powerbomb for 2. I’m going to call that the Unwashed Pants Bomb from now on. Shingo grabs Yoko and gives him an assist so he can nail an exploder. Mark to the top rope…and Shooting Star Presses into Shingo’s knees. Yokosuka throws lariats in his direction but Mark stands tall. Gallon Throw by Shingo…then the PUMPING BOMBER for 2. Mugen DDT gets Yokosuka a 2. I guess we’re going DG-rules on this match as well. JAY DRILLER nailed! Shingo jumps in to save the match. The champions think about a Spike Jay Driller but Takagi saves again. LAST FALCONRY but Jay saves his brother. Shingo accidentally clotheslines his own partner. SPRINGBOARD DOOMSDAY DEVICE! The Briscoes retain again at 17:52.

Rating – *** –
Given the abilities of the four involved I expected a much better match, but this wasn’t too bad. The Briscoes looked a little fatigued after a NOAH tour, a long match yesterday and a match earlier tonight. I liked the dissension finish between Shingo and Susumu. They represent different factions in Dragon Gate (Shingo is the New Hazard leader, Yokosuka is in Typhoon). Susumu only ended up teaming with Shingo after both Takagi’s original partners (BxB Hulk and YAMATO – both NH members) had pulled out injured. Otherwise this was a solid, if unremarkable affair.

JAPAN VIDEO DIARY – Takeshi Morishima (with his hand bandaged up after injuring it against Nigel) climbs on the tour bus. That was rather pointless. I believe this was supposed to show his dedication – as he made the trip to Osaka just to watch tonight’s event, even though he’s not booked.

Davey Richards/Rocky Romero/Masaaki Mochizuki vs Bryan Danielson/CIMA/Naomichi Marufuji

Earlier in the show we saw the No Remorse Corps try to make a name for themselves at the expense of CIMA – Dragon Gate’s ace. Bryan Danielson and Naomichi Marufuji intervened, and American Dragon ended up proposing this match. Seeing Marufuji and CIMA shaking hands and team up together is a big deal in puroresu so ROH has pulled off quite a coup here. It certainly makes up for the disappointment at not seeing KENTA and CIMA unite. I don’t like calling the babyface team the three ‘aces’ of their respective promotions though. It’s probably applicable to Danielson and CIMA, but there’s no way Marufuji is even close to being NOAH’s top guy at this point in time.

Cima manages to get the first audible chant from the fans…and this is the main event. He and Richards start the match and have an evenly matched back and forth battle. Romero comes in and attacks Danielson’s arm and shoulder. Dragon shoves him through the roes and lands a tope suicida. He tries his own ‘Azucar’ dance and it’s beyond awful. Mochizuki kicks out the legs from under Marufuji. Realising he can’t out-strike Mochi, Marufuji tries to slow things down. Cima comes in and hits a double dropkick with Fuji. Danielson holds Romero in a Mexican surfboard as Marufuji gathers speed before kicking him in the chest. Next up Maru holds him in a camel clutch as Cima takes a run up before putting the boots to him too. Cima gets 2 with the Superdrol (lungblower) but Rocky manages to kick Dragon in the chest and make a tag to Richards. He attacks the arm, much as Romero did earlier. Armbar DDT nailed, followed by a Fujiwara armbar. The Americans then hold Danielson in position for Masaaki to take a big run up and kick him off the apron. Danielson tries a sunset flip, but Davey floats to a cross armbreaker. That’s an awesome psychological counter. Finally Danielson hits a diving uppercut out of the corner (with his good arm) and tags in Cima. He springboard double stomps Richards between the ropes then hits an absolutely effortless VAN TERMINATOR.

Mochi hammers Marufuji with kicks until Maru blindsides him with a lariat for 2. Fuji tries to work the legs which is smart since he’s getting his brains kicked in, but it doesn’t worked. Twister blocked…Shiranui blocked…and Mochizuki floors Marufuji with an enziguri. Romero slaps an armbreaker on Dragon but Cima saves him before he can do anymore damage. Springboard knee drop with AmDrag draped over Davey’s knee gets 2. Finally Danielson swings Rocky into a backbreaker and his partners arrive to help him. Venus Strike by Cima, then the ICONOCLASM. Danielson applies Cattle Mutilation but Mochi breaks it up. Dragon to the top but Romero chases him. DIABLO ARMBAR! Danielson rolls into the ropes after taking some severe punishment. BACK SUPERPLEX NAILED but he can’t follow up due to the injured arm. Romero blocks Cima’s attempt at a second Venus Strike and hits a jumping DDT. PERFECT DRIVER by Cima, but Mochizuki kicks him in the head. Davey enzi’s Marufuji in the head, only to be dropped by a dragon suplex by Danielson. Cima escapes from a Romero armbar. SCHWEIN! ROMERO KICKS OUT! DUEL SUPERKICKS BY CIMA AND MARUFUJI! ASSISTED SHIRANUI! SCHWEIN AGAIN! Cima pins Romero at 25:01.

Rating – **** –
I was worried that with all the novelty of Marufuji and CIMA teaming together, that we’d see nothing more than a run of the mill exhibition match. Actually this one turned out to be really good and an easy pick for MOTN. The heat segment on Danielson was nicely done, and the crowd reacted with suitable awe anytime Marufuji and CIMA joined forces for any reason. They surely loved the finish, with CIMA helping Maru hit the Shiranui before finishing Romero off with the Schwein. I’m not saying this was out of this world good, but on a pretty mediocre show this was a satisfactory main event.

The show ends with the three victors celebrating, and Marufuji and CIMA having to pose for countless pictures together. That’s it for ROH’s first Japanese excursion.

Tape Rating – ** –
That’s a harsh rating for a show where only one match dipped below 2*, and most of it was pretty solid. But this show felt like nothing more than a joint ROH/Dragon Gate house show. Last night in Tokyo FELT like a much bigger deal and a “proper” ROH show. It had the ROH show format with an intermission, it had the Danielson/Shiozaki classic and a hard-fought World Title main event. This show barely lasted 2 hours, had an even more silent crowd than last night, most of the guys barely got out of exhibition mode and to be honest, outside of Evans finally getting a win over Roderick Strong, had absolutely zero significance to ROH storylines whatsoever. Unless you’re a big puro mark and want to see the main event with the rare spectacle of Marufuji and CIMA teaming up then there’s really no need to buy this DVD. Just get the Tokyo one.

So what are my thoughts on ROH’s Japanese tour as a whole? I didn’t think the shows were too bad first and foremost. Danielson/Go is 2007 MOTY thus far in my books (yes, I know I’m probably alone in that), I thought the Mori/Nigel II was an improvement on the first match (I think I’m alone in that too), the 6-man dream team main event from Osaka delivered, the production, courtesy of Gaora and Samurai TV was top notch and it was a nice opportunity to see a host of Japanese wrestlers than Ring Of Honor wouldn’t normally get the chance to book (Marvin, Suzuki, the Dragon Gate roster etc). Certainly it was a unique DVD-watching experience, a lot different from your normal ROH weekend. Since practically none of ROH’s core audience will have seen the shows live I imagine these DVD’s will have sold pretty well too.

The drawbacks were two events back to back with absolutely minimal crowd response. ROH is very much an American promotion where most of it’s matches live and die based upon interaction with the crowd. With crowd heat taken away some things just fell absolutely flat. Both of Roderick Strong’s matches, the No Remorse Corps heel attacks both nights, BJ Whitmer’s matches etc. I also think that, whilst it wasn’t bad, the Osaka show was some way off ROH’s best effort. If you’re going to fly half way round the world and abandon your core following to perform in front of an audience totally unfamiliar with your product, you can’t put on a really average, house-show level event. I think ROH needed to produce knock-out home run standard shows both nights…and fell short of that mark. For that reason I don’t imagine they’ll be returning to Japan anytime soon. But once again, they deserve credit for trying something ambitious and different. For guys like me who get every DVD, I certainly appreciated it, and considering the sheer volume of shows the promotion churns out these days, a change of pace like this weekend was perfectly welcome. Now how about coming back to the UK??

Top 3 Matches

3) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Susumu Yokosuka/Shingo (***)

2) Matt Sydal/Dragon Kid/Ryo Saito vs Delirious/Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino (***)

1) Bryan Danielson/CIMA/Naomichi Marufuji vs No Remorse Corps (****)

Top 5 Live In Japan Weekend Matches

5) Roderick Strong vs Delirious (*** – Tokyo)

4) Briscoes/Naomichi Marufuji vs Matt Sydal/Ricky Marvin/Atsushi Aoki (*** – Tokyo)

3) Bryan Danielson/CIMA/Naomichi Marufuji vs No Remorse Corps (**** – Osaka)

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

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

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