ROH 155 – Race To The Top Tournament Night 2 – 28th July 2007
It’s time for another night of Ring Of Honor wrestlers racing to the top. I’m trying to come up with anything witty, entertaining or interesting but I’m drawing a total blank. Hopefully the RTTT tournament produces better matches than it did last night. The other main feature of this event is the big $10,000 Tag Match. Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness captain four-man teams against each other. They’ll pick their teams out in the ring tonight. Time to join Prazak and Leonard in Edison, NJ.
ROH VIDEO WIRE (25/07/07) – Highlights of the two shows in Japan. The highlights of Danielson/Shiozaki remind me of how awesome that match was.
Rebecca Bayless opens the show in front of the ticket queue and says nothing of interest. They then cut to an equally pointless introduction by Bobby Cruise. One of these would’ve been just fine.
El Generico vs Chris Hero – RTTT Tournament Second Round
This is a fine choice to open the show. Generico’s babyface routine is the perfect foil to Hero and his travelling Sweet’n’Sour circus. Hero wrestled beat Erick Stevens last night in the best match of the tournament thus far (in my book anyway) whilst Generico came through Delirious in a match where both men looked off-colour.
Both guys wrestle a cautious match initially. This inevitably breaks down to Hero showing off his athleticism…and Generico takes advantage by knocking him out of the ring. He drops an elbow to the back, and follows up with a backbreaker to leave Hero in trouble. Yakuza kick misses and Hero takes advantage, getting 2 with a gutwrench suplex. He has a back suplex blocked but hits a roaring elbow then a NECK DROP GERMAN SUPLEX for 2. Generico bumped that like a crazy person. Springboard double axehandle gets 2 as well. Generico comes back with a flying headscissors and gets the crowd on his side with a succession of forearms. Rope run DDT scores and the Generico luchador tries to go to the top…only to be attacked by Tank Toland. Cravat-o-clasm, followed by the Dislocator but Generico kicks out. Hero’s Welcome…countered with a backslide. Generico wins at 10:49.
Rating – ** – That was fine, but as with Generico/Delirious, I was expecting a little more. I think the foundations for a good match were there. Both men were entertaining enough when they were on offence, but there was no real substance. Perhaps they were holding something back. I’d like to see them wrestle again outside of a tournament environment.
Generico tries to cut a promo (with the weirdest camera affect ever – what’s that about?)…but he’s interrupted by Kevin Steen of course. Steen says he was shafted last night, but is now pulling for Generico to win the tournament…so he can give the trophy to him. ‘I’m going to put it in my bedroom and it’s going to be AWESOME’ – Steen. He makes me crack up at least once every show…
Pelle Primeau vs Davey Richards – RTTT Tournament Second Round
You’d imagine Davey is a sure thing here, but as Pelle proved in the first round, he’s capable of pulling off an upset. Last night he eliminated BJ Whitmer (and promptly got beaten up), so his quest to add the RTTT trophy to his Top Of The Class Trophy goes on.
Pelle breaks his TOTC trophy getting into the ring. What a plank. He reacts angrily to a Richards slap and pummels him with offence. A slingshot headscissors sends Davey out of the ring…and leaves him in prone position for a missile dropkick off the apron. Finally Richards catches Primeau and beats on him with chops and headbutts in the corner. He hits one of the most violent back suplexes I’ve ever seen and tries to wear the smaller man out with a bodyscissors. Pelle counters the Ligerbomb with a hurricanrana and reverses the DR Driver into a small package for 2. He tries that Stunner/roll-up combo he’s pinned Jimmy Rave and Tank Toland with in the past, but Davey knows it’s coming and scoops him into a Tombstone piledriver. 14:59 Kimura locked in and it’s over at 04:26.
Rating – * – Basic stuff. I was pretty harsh with my rating, but the match never captured my interest. I struggle to take Primeau seriously as a wrestler because he’s just too small, and here he was totally squashed. His future in the company is seriously limited thanks to his miniscule stature.
Bizarro-cam catches up with Davey Richards, who promises that El Generico can’t beat him.
Brent Albright vs Jack Evans – RTTT Tournament Second Round
Jack has a mountain to climb here if he wants to progress and move a step closer to achieving his first notable singles success in Ring Of Honor. But he proved he can defeat a bigger man by overcoming Kevin Steen last night. On the flipside, Albright proved he can defeat high-fliers as he convincingly disposed of Matt Cross in his first round match.
Albright almost wins this match inside 5 seconds as he clobbers Evans with a big clothesline whilst he does his usual breakdancing entrance. Jack fires back with a gorgeous Pele kick but Albright quickly powers back onto offence. A hurricanrana sends Brent out of the ring but he drags Evans out as well before he can set up for a trademark dive to the floor. This is the same building that he almost killed himself with a dive to the floor against Ricky Reyes at the Fourth Anniversary Show. Albright tries to powerbomb him through a table but Jack slides free and jumps off the guardrail to hit a kick to the head. Springboard corkscrew enzi misses…and Albright suplexes him TO THE FLOOR! But Jack repeatedly kicks out at 2 and Brent is getting rather annoyed. Evans is able to get 2 with his bridging backslide. He shows real courage and trades strikes with a much bigger man, then hits a flying knee strike leaving both man out on the mat. Corkscrew enzi nailed second time, then a standing twisting moonsault for 2. He connects with a handspring elbow and both of them take a rather ugly spill to the floor. Albright catches Jack going for a somersault pescado…POWERBOMB THROUGH THE TABLE! He takes him back in but Evans gets the shoulder up again. He sets up for the press slam into the Crowbar…but Evans counters with a rana. CROWBAR ANYWAY! Jack refuses to tap but Albright keeps hauling back to the middle of the ring to do more damage. Spinning knee strike by Evans. 630 SENTON! Jack wins at 09:40.
Rating – *** – That’s one of my favourite Albright singles matches since he came here following his WWE release. Evans is great as an underdog, and Albright simply tossed him around like a ragdoll. My only query would be with the decision to have Jack win. He’s over anyway, and didn’t need a victory here. Albright, meanwhile, struggles to get crowd reactions, has a World Title match coming up, and losing to a guy with limited singles credibility in Evans really damages him. I’m not saying he needed to win the tournament, but I think losing to Claudio or Quackenbush in the second round would’ve been less harmful than this defeat. And the ‘he got his shoulder up just after the 3’ angle they tried to run here doesn’t hold any weight with me. He lost…
Jack says he has the heart to win the tournament, and heads off to watch Castagnoli/Quackenbush.
Mike Quackenbush vs Claudio Castagnoli – RTTT Tournament Second Round
This one was easily tie of the round. Both are superb hold-for-hold wrestlers, and Claudio is an awesome base for the more agile guys like Quack to work round. These two have history together, most notably in the Chikara promotion. Claudio beat one of Quack’s students, Hallowicked, to get to this stage, whilst Mike caused a minor upset by beating Larry Sweeney’s latest recruit, Matt Sydal.
Prazak and Leonard refer to the history between these two, and use it to explain the circumspect opening exchanges. I like that the way these two chain looks fluid, but avoids looking overly rehearsed and fake (like some of the Briscoes’ singles matches, or Sydal/Delirious). Quackenbush steps it up a gear by dishing out armdrags from all over the place, forcing Claudio to flee to the apron. He runs at Quack there…but Mike monkey flips him over the ropes. TWISTING PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! Mike has dominated for a few minutes but Castagnoli finally lands a European uppercut and follows it up with an inverted suplex. Crab-walk elbow drop gets 2, as does that dead-lift gutwrench suplex. Quack uses his athleticism to mount another comeback. Claudio tries to block a double springboard frankensteiner with a top rope powerbomb…BUT QUACK COUNTERS WITH A MID-AIR RANA! BTS scores, but Castagnoli kicks out at 2. Claudio blocks a Shotei attempt with the European uppercut and nails the Riccola suplex. Riccola Bomb blocked and Quackenbush jumps off the top rope INTO a roll-up for 2. This guy is something really different. Claudio tosses Mike away as he tries to counter the Alpamare Water Slide, but again gets caught up in his clutches and almost falls victim to another roll-up. RUNNING UPPERCUT! Claudio advances at 12:25.
Rating – *** – I’m positive these two could have a better match. I’m sure to Chikara fans out there, this was really basic. But as an exhibition, was a fine example of the kinds of things they can do with each other and certainly one of the better matches thus far in the tournament. Ring Of Honor need to find a way to book Mike on as many shows as possible because he is quality. Nobody else on the roster can do the types of things he can.
Claudio is too out of breath to cut a decent promo. The gist is the same as everyone else’s though. He’s going to win the tournament etc etc.
SIDENOTE – I have no idea what ROH was going for with the weird camera effects for the semi-finalist promos. But it looked really stupid. I appreciate they were trying something different but it looked really lousy.
SIDENOTE – The next segment with Danielson and McGuinness is really hilarious and so much fun to watch. I’m only going to recap the team selection process, but the whole thing is worth checking out.
Rebecca Bayless brings out the two captains in the $10,000 Tag Match…well, she brings out Nigel McGuinness. Bryan Danielson decides he’d rather stand on the entrance ramp. Becky f*cks up the coin toss which is quite amusing…but eventually Dragon wins it. His first pick is the Briscoes…but the rules state he can only have one. Nigel says he wants the other Briscoe, and they bicker about which brother each team gets. They’ll settle that matter in the back later. Danielson’s second pick is Jimmy Rave since he’s made Nigel tap so many times, only for Becky to inform him that Jimmy is injured. Larry Sweeney arrives and offers Matt Sydal’s services instead. Dragon accepts his proposal. McGuinness counters by picking Sydal’s perennial rival, Delirious – who’s made Bryan Danielson tap in the past. Danielson’s final pick is former ROH Champion Austin Aries. McGuinness picks Aries’ big enemy Roderick Strong. Really entertaining segment, and something a bit different to what you normally see at an ROH show. It was very cleverly booked as well, with Nigel unwittingly picking two partners who hate each other (Delirious and Strong) in order to counteract Danielson’s choices. That sets up some interesting scenarios for the match later.
El Generico vs Davey Richards – RTTT Tournament Semi-Final
We’re at the semi-final stage of the tournament, but in truth this is Richards’ first real test. He’s had a relatively easy ride thus far, defeating Jigsaw and Pelle Primeau. Generico has had it much tougher, causing minor upsets in both rounds and overcoming established singles athletes in Delirious and Chris Hero. Davey will be the fresher of the two men, as his match with Pelle lasted less than five minutes.
Richards controls the early going as Prazak tries to put Generico’s progress in the tournament over as a Cinderella story. DR Driver blocked and ElGen whirls Davey into a backbreaker. Davey hits a flurry of kicks and chops and starts pulling at the mask and eyes as he traps Generico in a camel clutch. To the outside where Richards continues to pummel on his opponent, then suplexes him onto the hard floor. Generico tries a sunset flip but it’s countered into a cross armbreaker, which is a dangerous hold in it’s own right, as well as softening him up for the Kimura. Davey hits an arm-capture northern lights suplex and continues stretching on the damaged body part. Belly to belly suplex nailed…but Generico shows real heart and manages to shunt him over the top rope. RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Blue Thunder driver gets 2 but Generico is still favouring his arm. Brainbuster blocked, as is the Yakuza kick…Richards with a CRADLE SUPLEX INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! Both men to the top rope and Davey gets 2 with a big superplex. Kimura locked in but Gen rolls to the ropes. Richards tries the handspring enzi but gets dropkicked in the head. Generico scores a 2 with the Michinoku Driver. He looks for the Brainbuster again, but Richards counters into a Tombstone. Again Generico gets a boot on the bottom rope. Davey thinks about an SSP…but he flies into the knees! YAKUZA KICK! TURNBUCKLE BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAH! Generico goes to the finals at 15:44.
Rating – *** – It took the crowd a while to get into this one, but I think it worked. I’m not sure I buy Generico as the total, Cinderella-style underdog that ROH are trying to play him up as (it’s hard to consider him and Steen a genuine threat to the Tag belts if he’s so incapable of winning this tournament), but this was definitely his best singles match in ROH to date. Davey did a good job dominating the match, but probably could’ve upped the cockiness a little to get more of a reaction from the often silent crowd. I did enjoy the way they teased the turnbuckle Brainbuster on several occasions before finally allowing Generico to nail it. I think that’s the first time he’s hit the move in ROH.
Jack Evans vs Claudio Castagnoli – RTTT Tournament Semi-Final
I consider Jack getting to the semis far more of a Cinderella story than Generico. Whilst he’s always been a popular talent, he’s always had his best matches in tags and multi-man matches, and to overcome Kevin Steen and Brent Albright to get this far is a real achievement. Claudio has advanced through Hallowicked and Mike Quackenbush, so should be adequately prepared to deal with Evans’ agility and ability to take to the skies.
The match starts out as you’d expect, with Castagnoli using his mat skills to keep Evans well and truly grounded. Jack tries to increase the pace but Castagnoli low-bridges the ropes as he tries one of his flip moves and he crashes out to the floor. Claudio tosses Evans with ease in a giant swing then manhandles him with a full nelson slam for 2. Evans cartwheels into a kick to the top of the head, but Castagnoli evades the running dropkick to the floor and Jack lands with a splat. Undeterred, he hits a 619 between apron and bottom rope, then a PHOENIX PRESS off the apron! Claudio is down…450 SPLASH OFF THE APRON! Back in the ring Jack has a running knee blocked and Claudio hits a European. Alpamare Water Slide gets 2. Double springboard flying headscissors, a running knee strike then a standing Yang Time get Jack a 2. He hangs Double C in a tree of woe which is set up for the Ong Jak knee drop. He tries another headscissors but gets caught. Riccola Bomb and it’s over at 09:10.
Rating – ** – Jack looked pretty gassed by this point, meaning his execution was a little off and most of his offence looked either sloppy or totally unrealistic. This match was a fine example of why he is the least successful member of Generation Next. Claudio vs Generico in the finals.
Backstage Jack Evans wishes Claudio luck in the final, and wants a rematch sometime.
Larry Sweeney says things are going well for Sweet’n’Sour Inc, which is odd considering both his guys were eliminated from the RTTT Tournament in the first two rounds. He’s brought his troops to another private athletic facility and has a sauna (‘Tank Toland’s Hotbox of Doom’) for Bobby Dempsey to work out in. ‘It’s like Calcutta in here…I would know that from personal experience’ – Sweeney. They leave him to work out…and make a few bets about whether he’ll die or not.
Hallowicked vs Jigsaw vs Matt Cross vs Erick Stevens vs Kevin Steen vs BJ Whitmer
This is a Six Man Mayhem for all the guys eliminated from the tournament that aren’t in the $10,000 match later…so six losers in one ring. Cross and Stevens come out together since they’re team-mates in The Resilience. Will we get to see them wrestle each other later? Nobody needs a win here more than BJ Whitmer, who’s been losing for months. Being the biggest loser in a match full of losers is probably not an accomplishment Whitmer will be overly proud of.
‘You lost to a midget, BJ…A MIDGET!’ – Fan at Whitmer. That guy rules. Kevin Steen attacks all five men to start the match, which proves to be a big mistake since they all team up to beat on him. Hallowicked sends Whitmer out of the ring. Jigsaw evades an M-Dogg standing moonsault but eats a tilta-whirl facebomb instead. Dropkick/sidewalk slam combo, then a leapfrog senton by The Resilience. Stevens and BJ trade strikes until Steen trips Whitmer out again. Wicked tries a few roll-ups on Stevens, who looks like a big clumsy oaf in there with the Chikara graduate. Jigsaw and Wicked do a ridiculously fake-looking exchange before Mr Wrestling arrives to maul Jig. Whitmer lines up a dive as everyone stands there watching him like an idiot. Eventually Jigsaw decides to ambush him and hit a tope suicida of his own. SOMERSAULT PESCADO BY STEVENS! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA FROM STEEN! Those are some big guys to be flipping out of the ring. Cross follows up with his handspring somersault dive onto Whitmer. Ultra-Hurricanrana on Steen, but big Kev places Cross on the top rope then catches him with an Air Raid Crash for 2. BJ stops him hitting the Package Piledriver only to eat a frog splash from Jigsaw. Jig blocks Stevens’ Doctor Bomb with a swinging DDT. Corkscrew moonsault (that barely connects) by M-Dogg. Rydien Bomb gets Wicked a 2. BJ and Hallo tumble out of the ring on a suplex (man is BJ ever over-using that spot) which clears things out for Steen and Stevens to hammer each other. Steen lifted for a springboard double stomp by Cross. Choo Choo on Jigsaw, then a massive powerslam. Doctor Bomb nailed and Stevens wins at 10:58.
Rating – * – That reminded me of some of the bad scramble matches from 2002/3. There was so much I didn’t like about it. Jigsaw and Hallowicked’s insanely over-rehearsed and fake-looking exchange for one thing. The fact that Erick Stevens looked awful anytime he was wrestling the two Chikara guys. Matt Cross’ flashy spots barely connecting with any of his intended targets. Kevin Steen and BJ Whitmer were head and shoulders above anyone else in there. Steen was cocky and fun to watch as ever, but I liked Whitmer, who played the grumpy, pissed off veteran well too.
SIDENOTE – Clearly it was decided that Danielson would get Jay and Nigel would get Mark. Both the DVD cover and the official results on ROH’s website have the team line-ups wrong and state that Mark was on Danielson’s team. This simply isn’t the case.
Bryan Danielson/Jay Briscoe/Matt Sydal/Austin Aries vs Nigel McGuinness/Mark Briscoe/Delirious/Roderick Strong – $10,000 Tag Match
The premise for this one is pretty simple. The winning team get $10,000 to split amongst themselves. We saw them pick teams earlier, and it’s a match full of interesting combinations. We know that Danielson and Nigel are constant rivals. They’ve had amazing matches against each other, have teamed with each other (including last night when they unsuccessfully challenged for the Tag Titles), and have had some heated post-match exchanges – such as Danielson disrespecting Nigel and Takeshi Morishima after their World Title match in Tokyo. Austin Aries is desperate to get his hands on former ally Roderick Strong. This is Aries’ first weekend back in ROH and Strong managed to evade him during last night’s FIP Title match. Don’t forget Danielson and Strong have had a great series of matches with each other too. Matt Sydal and Delirious are long-term friends/rivals too, and Delirious’ selection has added intrigue as he was able to make Bryan Danielson submit in a Survivor Series-style 8-man tag last November at The Chicago Spectacular Night 2. The Briscoes will wrestle each other for the first time since their epic battle at 5th Year Festival Finale. Don’t forget that Strong and Delirious have been feuding since February, and they’re on the same team. This should be fun!
Delirious and Roderick Strong start fighting each other during their team’s entrance to the ring. So much for them getting along. Roddy shows more personality before the ring bell here than he’s shown in his entire ROH career before, and it takes the best part of 10 minutes to get both teams to the ring and get everyone ready for the match to actually start. Sydal and Delirious start but soon Aries tags in and demands a shot at Strong…who quickly leaves the ring. Nigel comes in and he demands he wrestle Dragon. Danielson basically outwrestles Nigel…so he decapitates him with a McLariat. Tags all round, and now it’s Briscoe vs Briscoe. They bust out the same ridiculously awesome chaining they’ve been doing with each other in ROH since Honor Invades Boston in August 2002. Superkicks traded, then big forearm smashes. They wear each other out…then decide they don’t need $10,000 and would rather go and drink. Double boot smash on Strong! BRISCOE BIEL on Sydal! Double shoulder tackle on Nigel! Double stomp DVD for Delirious! The Briscoes leave having decimated everyone in the match. That ruled! Sydal starts pulling on the tassels of Delirious’ mask and cuts the lizard man of from his partners. Delirious takes some abuse but finally hits Shadows Over Hell on Danielson and makes the tag to McGuinness. The former World Champion hits a diving European uppercut and brings Sydal back in. He attempts a standing moonsault and gets booted in the face. Strong goes for Death By Roderick but it’s countered with a gorgeous rana by Matt…and at last Austin Aries gets his hands on Strong. Heat Seeking Missile nailed but Roddy kicks the middle rope into Aries’ crotch and tags out. Panic Attack from Delirious, then the Never Ending Story clotheslines. Strong and Delirious start to bicker over who gets to beat up Aries…then they start fighting each other again! The fight up the aisle, and all of a sudden Nigel is in a 3-on-1 predicament. McLariat’s for Sydal and Danielson…then a third for Aries that gets 2. The numbers quickly catch up with him though. Jawbreaker Lariat blocked and Dragon gets 2 with a German suplex. Cattle Mutilation locked in but Nigel’s height means he has an easier time finding a rope. Sydal scores 2 with a Cannonball legdrop with McGuinness stretched over Danielson’s knees. He gets crotched on the ropes though…SUPER LARIAT! Aries saves Matt from the Tower Of London with his running dropkick. BRAINBUSTER! Sydal lines up the Sydal Press, but Danielson shoves him off the top. Now they’re fighting over who gets to pin Nigel. Aries throws his captain out and hits the 450 SPLASH on McGuinness. He wins it for his team at 20:36.
Rating – **** – Something different from what you normally find on ROH DVD’s, and this worked. The booking was great (although it did make Nigel look like a bit of an idiot for picking an entire team who abandoned him). The Briscoes looked phenomenal both as opponents, then dominating everyone else in the match, other rivalries (Danielson/Nigel, Strong/Aries and Strong/Delirious) were continued nicely, and the whole match was a great way to have an entertaining match with a whole lot of star power, without any of ROH’s top line guys having to put in a full 100% effort and protecting them from injury.
Sweet’n’Sour Inc. return to check on Bobby Dempsey in the Hotbox Of Doom. HE’S THIN! He’s been in there so long that he’s lost all the weight. Oh wait…no, Bobby just tried a clever trick and switched places with his brother Derrick (is he still wrestling by the way?). Tank Toland discovers Bobby hiding in the sauna eating chocolate. This segment had me in stitches.
El Generico vs Claudio Castagnoli – RTTT Tournament Final
So this is it, the final of the tournament. In theory one of these guys is on the cusp of elevating themselves up the card and becoming a major star in ROH. I’m not sure I, or any of the rest of the fanbase, are quite ready to accept either one of them as a legitimate main eventer quite yet, but undoubtedly winning this tournament would be a big deal to either man. You’d have to say that Claudio’s path to the final (Hallowicked, Quackenbush and Evans) has been mildly easier. Generico has made it through three tough matches, and suffered an arm injury in his semi-final against Davey Richards that Castagnoli could look to exploit.
No signs of Generico selling the arm at all which is disappointing. The match starts with a ‘HEY’ vs Ole duel which ends in a stalemate. Five minutes in there’s still little to choose between the two men. The Brainbuster and Riccola Bomb are both blocked and both take a step back to regroup. Claudio gets a slight advantage and takes Generico into the Giant Swing for 2. He runs the ropes to hit a top rope enziguri but Generico manages to knock him away from the turnbuckles and hit a flying crossbody. Match Killer gets Castagnoli another 2. Riccola Suplex gets a nearfall as well, and clearly unable to get a pin, Claudio tries to wear his Mexican opponent down with a camel clutch. Finally Generico manages to hiptoss Castagnoli over the top rope. SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! He got some crazy height on that. TURNBUCKLE DIVE SWINGING DDT! ElGen scales the ropes again and gets 2 with a flying splash. Yakuza Kick blocked and Castagnoli flattens him with an axe kick. Riccola Bomb…COUNTERED TO A CODE RED FOR 2! Generico tries the running tornado DDT but Claudio catches him…EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! Alpamare Water Slide nailed for 2. They go to the top rope where Generico crotches Claudio. SOMERSAULT VAN TERMINATOR! Castagnoli kicks out at 2. BRAINBUSTER NAILED. CLAUDIO KICKS OUT AGAIN! Yakuza Kick scores this time, and Generico looks set for the turnbuckle Brainbuster. Castagnoli fights it. AVALANCHE ALPAMARE WATER SLIDE! GENERICO GETS A SHOULDER UP! Claudio thinks about the Riccola Bomb again, but it’s countered with a snap hurricanrana for 2. RICCOLA BOMB SCORES! Generico just won’t quit! BACKSLIDE…that’s how he pinned Hero but Claudio kicks out. RUNNING UPPERCUT NO SOLD! YAKUZA KICK! SPRINGBOARD UPPERCUT BY CLAUDIO! SPLASH MOUNTAIN RICCOLA BOMB! Claudio wins at 18:44.
Rating – **** – It was almost painfully slow-going at first. I was massively disheartened that Generico had opted to totally ignore the arm injury from his semi-final too. And hey, I’m not going to lie and say this was the most complex and intricate of matches the world will ever see. But the last 10-minutes were incredibly exciting. They just went all-out with finishers and the crowd literally had no clue what was going to happen next and who the winner would be. The pop when Generico kicked out of the Riccola Bomb was really something. Was this a match that proved either one of these two is ready for a main event slot? Probably not, it had some VERY obvious flaws. But it was a worthy and enjoyable final, and the first time Castagnoli has really excelled in a singles match.
Claudio cuts a pretty emotional promo and says that it’s moment like this that make moving to the States and leaving his friends and family behind in Switzerland worth while.
SIDENOTE – Do I feel like the RTTT tournament has made Claudio Castagnoli a legit main eventer? The answer is no, I don’t. Like I said after the Field Of Honor back in 2003 – I don’t see how a midcard tournament, featuring a bunch of midcard wrestlers, competing in midcard matches is supposed to elevate them to main eventers. All it really seems to do is say ‘hey, these guys are all good, but here they are, all wrestling together in the middle of the pack, well away from the main event’. I always feel like a much better way to elevate new talent is to have them hang with and/or overcome the top names in the company. Probably the best example of an ROH tournament creating new star is Survival Of The Fittest 2004 and Austin Aries. Did Aries break-out and begin his journey to main event status by beating the Trent Acid’s, Colt Cabana’s, Jay Lethal’s and Matt Stryker’s? No, he did it by having a hell of a match with Bryan Danielson, who was already over as one of the top guys. Did CM Punk become a star in ROH by brawling to a draw with BJ Whitmer or having a decent debut match with Michael Shane? No, he did it by hanging with Raven (at that time one of the biggest names on the indy circuit) in a memorable feud. You want Claudio to be a main event guy? Put him in a match with the likes of Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, Nigel McGuinness, Takeshi Morishima, KENTA, Marufuji and so on. Those are the guys over as credible main-event level talent right now. If he can hang with them, then he’s a believable main eventer in my book. Next show Castagnoli has an ROH Title match against Morishima. I think that match will do far more to determine whether he’s destined to be a future top line star or a career in the mid to upper card like Colt Cabana.
I’m not saying they were wrong to have this tournament. It was a nice way to provide some variation on your usual ROH double shot, covering the fact that there were no Japanese stars (including the World Champion) on the show, and produced some good matches – especially the final. I’m not even saying Claudio wasn’t the right guy to win it. Personally I’d have rather seen Chris Hero or Kevin Steen win it, that’s just because I like them more (and I believe of all the guys in this tournament, Hero is the only one who could believably carry a run as ROH Champion right now). Castagnoli put in a hell of a performance in the final and now looks exceptionally strong and far more credible as a challenger to Morishima’s title next week. Thanks to this tournament, I definitely believe he’s a real threat and could potentially leave Boston and Death Before Dishonor 5 weekend as the ROH World Champion. To that end, the tournament was definitely a success. But is that because I now seem as a credible main event guy – or simply because I’m now aware that the booking staff are telling me he’s getting pushed?
Tape Rating – *** – The best way to sum this show up is that it was damn fun. The final of the tournament isn’t the best match you’ll ever see, but it was really FUN to watch Generico and Claudio throw crazy finishers at each other for 10+ minutes. The $10,000 Tag Match isn’t an exceptional wrestling match either, but it was superbly booked and a great way to spend 20-minutes. The in-ring promo that set up the teams was hilarious, as were the Sweet’n’Sour/Bobby Dempsey skits. This won’t be up there for show of the year, but I had a good time watching it and it’s an easy show to recommend. It’s definitely the better of the two Race To The Top shows.
Top 3 Matches
3) El Generico vs Davey Richards (***)
2) Team Danielson vs Team McGuinness (****)
1) Claudio Castagnoli vs El Generico (****)
Top 5 Race To The Top Tournament Weekend Matches
5) Claudio Castagoli vs Mike Quackenbush (*** – Night 2)
4) El Generico vs Davey Richards (*** – Night 2)
3) Team Danielson vs Team McGuinness (**** – Night 2)
2) Claudio Castagnoli vs El Generico (**** – Night 2)
1) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Bryan Danielson/Nigel McGuinness (**** – Night 1)