161 ROH Man Up 9/15/2007

ROH 161 – Man Up – 15th September 2007

This is Ring Of Honor’s third pay-per-view taping, and arguably the most eagerly anticipated ppv of them all so far. The main event is the infamous Briscoes/Steen-erico Ladder Match. It’s the blow-off for the sensational feud that has taken ROH by storm, and has been an integral part of the first two ppv’s leading to this. It’s generating MOTY hype so naturally I’m very excited. We’ve also got Morishima/Danielson II, a Resilience vs No Remorse Corps Best of 3 series and a star packed four corner survival too. So yeah, the ppv is pretty stacked. The bonus DVD matches look good too, featuring Matt Sydal’s final ROH appearance – he leaves as he came in; wrestling Delirious. Plus Amazing Kong makes her debut in a match which all SHIMMER fans should have high hopes for. The whole event is taped in Chicago Ridge, IL (unlike Driven) with Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard calling it.

ROH VIDEO WIRE (31/08/07) – See Motor City Madness 2007 (ROH160) review for details.

Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are at ringside as the entrants come out for the show-opening four corner survival. The beauty of this ppv name is that it totally restricts the amount of ridiculous puns Prazak can make. Nigel McGuinness interrupts the commentators to say that his road to the World Title starts here tonight. A guy in a ski mask runs out and snatches the mic telling us that the ‘Age Of The Fall’ is coming.

After an introductory video Claudio Castagnoli announces that he’s going to target Chris Hero in this match. Larry Sweeney tries to recruit Dave Prazak to Sweet’n’Sour Inc. which is quite amusing.

Naomichi Marufuji vs Nigel McGuinness vs Claudio Castagnoli vs Chris Hero

Everyone has goals in this match, as stated in nifty little captions that air before the match. Hero (making his in-ring ppv debut tonight) wants to prove he’s the best athlete in ROH. Nigel McGuinness (who’s had issues and good matches with all three of his opponents) wants to earn another shot at the World Title. Marufuji is looking to make his name and cement a legacy in the USA whilst Claudio is coming after Sweet’n’Sour Inc.

Nigel and Marufuji impress everyone with a decent opening exchange…which provokes Hero to demand a tag. He kindly asks that Maru step aside so he can show off his athleticism. With that out of the way he sprints out of the ring to evade Claudio. Instead Castagnoli has to settle with wrestling Marufuji, who looks on top of his game tonight. Nigel and Double C trade uppercuts then nearfalls. Once McGuinness gets a hint of an advantage over the man from Switzerland, Hero is far happier to tag in with his former partner. Claudio comes back with an uppercut then a leg drop, and their fight spills out of the ring. Seeing this, Marufuji capitalises by running into a somersault plancha onto both of them. With everyone else outside, Nigel is free to hit the TOP ROPE DIVE INTO THE CROWD! McGuinness and Marufuji are first back to the ring, as we cut to a shot of fans helping Castagnoli to his feet. Maru gets 2 on Nigel with a low lariat. I guess we’re throwing legal men rules out of the window. SHIRANUI SCORES but Hero jumps in at the last second to break the pin. Release vertical suplex on the Japanese athlete gets 2. Claudio then gets a nearfall on Chris with the Alpamare Water Slide. Nigel takes his head off with a McLariat so all four guys have scored close nearfalls. Marufuji blocks another McGuinness lariat and stomps him into the canvas. He takes too long going to the top rope though. Tower Of London nailed, but again it’s Hero on hand to break the count. Cravat Buster out of the corner on McGuinness, followed by a double stomp for 2. Castagnoli drags Hero off with a GERMAN SUPLEX! Giant Swing on Hero then a running uppercut. Marufuji interrupts then…and counters the Giant Swing into a roll-up for 2. Claudio blocks the Shiranui but still gets escorted to the top turnbuckle. Nigel blocks the Van Marufujinator. Super McLariat ducked, so Nigel clubs him with another lariat from behind. MCLARIAT ON HERO! SPRINGBOARD MCLARIAT ON MARUFUJI! Claudio is back…RICCOLA BOMB ON MARUFUJI! Again it’s Hero who stops the count, this time by diving onto the referee. Double C is furious and boots Hero in the face. Springboar;d uppercut on Nigel…WHO ROLLS INTO THE JAWBREAKER LARIAT! McGuinness wins at 18:00.

Rating – *** –
Incredibly exciting opening match that must have got the live crowd really pumped. I could go higher on the rating, but I didn’t like such a blatant disregard for the legal man rule from so early in the match. It somewhat took away from the contest and made it a bit of a cheap spotfest. I will say that I thought this four corner steered well clear of the usual formula of the match basically turn into a tag team bout. It had high levels of energy throughout and all four guys are over so. Surely one of the best opening matches to a ppv in all of 2007.

American Pirate Bryan Danielson talks about the eye injury he sustained at the hands of Takeshi Morishima. He says it upset his family so much he thought about quitting wrestling. But wrestling is the life he’s always wanted. He’s going to win the World Championship tonight.

Rocky Romero vs Matt Cross

This is the first match in a Best Of 3 Series between the No Remorse Corps and The Resilience. I’d argue these two are the most underwhelming members of their respective factions (outside of his comeback match with Davey Richards, and his matches with KENTA and Marufuji, Romero has been pretty low key since returning to be a full time member of the ROH roster). For the limited number of ROH fans that only watch the ppv’s, at Driven we saw this feud explode when Austin Aries returned to reunite The Resilience. Obviously those of us that watch all the shows know that since then The Resilience lost a high profile Street Fight against the NRC and are still trying to rebuild from that loss.

‘Watch his kicks’ – Aries giving M-Dogg a pep talk. Thanks Captain Obvious. Rocky slaps the taste out of Cross’ mouth but runs into the tilta-whirl facebomb. Cross runs at Romero on the floor, managing to drive him against the ringpost, leaving him in position for the Flagpole Press. Back in the ring Romero slaps on the cross armbreaker forcing M-Dogg to find a rope. He knees Cross in the chest but Cross again uses some high-flying to get the advantage. Split-legged corkscrew senton gets The Resilience member a 2-count. Springboard double stomp scores, as does a standing moonsault but Romero still gets a shoulder up. Corkscrew moonsault misses and Romero knees him square in the face again. German suplex then the Knock Out Kick give Romero victory at 04:44.

Rating – ** –
Brief, but packed with action. This was the perfect match for M-Dogg. He’s not the best wrestler in the world but in short, spot-filled sprints like this where he can show off his unique offence, he does a good job.

Roderick Strong acts like he’s going to fight next…so obviously Austin Aries jumps at the chance to get his hands on his former partner. Strong fakes him out and sends Davey Richards in his place.

Davey Richards vs Austin Aries

These two had a couple of matches towards the end of 2006 (Glory By Honor 5 and Dethroned I believe). The first one was pretty disappointing but I really liked the second one. I thought they did a lot of clever stuff and were unlucky to be working a very good match in front of a very poor crowd. Those two were basically exhibition bouts though. This one should be better now they’ve got an angle behind them. Remember it was Richards who was at Strong’s side when he turned on Aries back in February at 5th Year Festival NYC.

Aries gets the better of Davey early on, having some of Richards’ trademark stuff scouted and keeping himself in the ascendancy. Richards has the Aries headscissors escape dropkick scouted too though. Aries blocks Richards’ chop/kick combo…so Davey counters the shinbreak back suplex from the former World Champion. Great familiarity countering in the early going here. Aries gets 2 with the Frog Elbow. Davey tries to hit his own version of the Power Drive Elbow and misses, allowing Aries to sweep him down with an STO into the authentic version of the PDE. They move to the top rope where Richards manages to get an advantage by throwing Aries all the way to the floor. He hits a nice Russian legsweep into a Crossface variant and gets a nice round of applause. Both men hammer each other with forearms before Aries sends Richards out of the ring with a Roaring Elbow. Heat Seeking Missile scores and brings the crowd to their feet. Brainbuster blocked and Davey clobbers his opponent with the handspring enziguri. ARM WRENCH BRAINBUSTER gets Richards 2. It’s like insulting finisher theft AND working the arm for the Kimura. Kawada kicks on Aries, who finally catches the boot and drops Davey on his head with the shinbreak back drop. He takes way too long getting to the top rope for the 450 Splash though. ROPE RUN GERMAN SUPERPLEX BY RICHARDS! Aries gets a shoulder up at the last second. He battles to escape the DR Driver and unleashes a barrage of strikes to hammer Richards into the corner. Running dropkick misses though, and Davey hits his running forearm strike. KICK OF DEATH BLOCKED…DR Driver countered…KICK OF DEATH! BRAINBUSTER! 450 SPLASH! Aries wins at 11:56 so the series is tied at 1-1.

Rating – *** –
That was an awesome little match. Had it had a few more minutes I’m sure it would’ve edged into 4* territory. Some of the countering they were doing was just awesome. It was like every single trademark move that you see these guys do in all their matches was countered or blocked in some way. Unfortunately it was a level of psychology that may have been lost in a large number of the pay-per-view audience if they’re not familiar with the ROH product.

Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens

It’s fitting that it comes down to these two men to decide the winner of this mini-series. Erick was trained by Strong years ago in Florida, so these two go way back. When he was first recruited by The Resilience, Roderick came out and tried to persuade him not to do it, but Erick didn’t listen. Since then we’ve been building to this singles match. Occasionally they’ve got a hold of each other during various multi-man tags, but this is the first one-on-one bout.

Strong wastes no time laying in a couple of chops but Stevens shakes them off and uses powerful shoulder blocks to beat the FIP Champion back. Oklahoma Stampede scores for 2. Roddy has to roll out of the ring since he just can’t cope with Erick’s power. Stevens shows some inexperience by turning his back on his opponent. BACK SUPLEX ON THE APRON! Strong is a master of picking apart the back and midsection, and he proves this by stretching Stevens’ ribs using the ringpost. The fans rally behind the rookie but Strong pounds on his back, then gets 2 with a fallaway slam. Defying the pain in his back, Stevens launches into a shoulder tackle, the Choo Choo Avalanche then the TKO. But his back hurts so much that he can’t cover right away. Strong hits back with a northern lights bomb for 2. He runs into the big front powerslam from Stevens but Erick is too hurt to get him up for the Doctor Bomb. Death By Roderick nailed, then a PUMPHANDLE DRIVER! Stevens landed square on his neck there. They trade chops until Erick ducks the Gibson Driver and hits a suplex. No sold by Strong…who runs into a big chest lariat then a pumphandle powerbomb for 2. A frustrated Roderick goes after Stevens’ eyes to stop his assault. Superplex nailed…BUT STEVENS GETS UP! Sick Kick finds it’s mark, then the half nelson backbreaker for 2. He looks for a second rope Gibson Driver but there’s no way he’s got enough strength for that. SUPER POWERSLAM and Erick almost had it won with that. To the ropes again where Stevens thinks about an avalanche Doctor Bomb. Strong counters that and just POUNDS Stevens in the neck. AVALANCHE SPLASH MOUNTAIN! GIBSON DRIVER! Strong wins, giving the NRC a 2-1 series victory, at 14:15.

Rating – **** –
Great match, easily Stevens’ best singles match in ROH thus far. After his impressive performance against Morishima last night in Detroit, this rounds off a good weekend for Stevens, who’s been having a few problems getting over lately. If he keeps putting in matches like this he’ll soon be accepted by the ROH faithful. The finish was a little ridiculous (the top rope splash mountain looked extremely fake) and some of the selling was patchy, but they did a great job with the time they had. Book a rematch ASAP.

We cut to highlights of the McGuinness/Delirious/Whitmer/Pearce four corner match from Caged Rage. It’s mostly to show the culmination of the Adam Pearce promos from the first two pay-per-views that have always ended with some kind of interaction with BJ. See my Caged Rage review for details.

Takeshi Morishima vs Bryan Danielson – ROH World Title Match

At Driven we saw American Dragon become the #1 contender to the ROH Title by defeating Nigel McGuinness in a fantastic match. I’m quite sure the original plan for this ppv was not to acknowledge the initial Danielson/Morishima match in Manhattan and act like THIS was Danielson’s shot at the title. However, during that epic match at Manhattan Mayhem 2, Morishima gave Dragon a serious eye injury. Despite that, Danielson still carried on fighting and gave Mori perhaps his toughest test since winning the belt in February. This is the rematch, where Dragon will be looking both for the title, and for revenge for that eye injury. He’ll be competing with an eye patch, but as we saw when he massacred the YRR last night in Detroit, it won’t affect his in-ring performance too much.

Danielson charges into battle, with none of the subtle, strategic approach he demonstrated in their first match in Manhattan. He sprints at Morishima, but still tries to attack the leg in the same way he did in the first match. But this tactic plays straight into Mori’s hands, as he overpowers the former champion and puts the boots in in the corner. He’s already knocked Dragon’s protective eye patch away from the injured eye. They go out of the ring where Shima continues to dominate and toss the challenger around at will. But Danielson just won’t quit. CRAZY TOPE SUICIDA by Danielson, hit with such velocity he literally skips off Mori like a stone on water and bounces up the aisle. Back inside he bombards Morishima with kicks as Leonard points out that this is the first time someone has lasted longer than a few minutes with Mori on ppv. Danielson goes for a flying headscissors and gets powerbombed. But he HOLDS ON and locks on a triangle choke. Finally his aggressive approach fails him as Mori counters a schoolboy pin simply by sitting down on top of him. Sleeper by the challenger (with AWESOME selling of it by Morishima) and he brings the champion down to the canvas again. Mori tries to counter with the Back Drop Driver but Danielson rolls through and goes for his small package…but Mori is too powerful to even get drag down into it. BACK SUPERPLEX ON MORISHIMA! MMA ELBOWS! Morishima stands up to escape them but Dragon drags him back down with a Tiger suplex. CATTLE MUTILATION! Mori is such a big man that he simply rolls out of it. REPEATED FACE STOMPS! TRIANGLE CHOKE MMA ELBOWS! MORISHIMA POWERBOMBS OUT OF IT! MONSTER LARIATOOO…but Danielson kicks out. BACK DROP DRIVER! Dragon gets a foot on the ropes. The fans go nuts for that, but Mori snaps and tears the eye patch off. BACK DROP DRIVER! HE STARTS PUNCHING AND ELBOWING THE INJURED EYE! The ref has to stop it at 12:43.

Rating – ****1/2 –
I’m sure this is a time when people will probably think I’m going overboard, but I thought that one was absolutely incredible. It was shorter but I thought it was as good as the first one, with another brilliantly told story. I loved Dragon’s aggressive approach. It showed his anger following the eye injury in Manhattan, meaning he abandoned his usual strategic, mat-based approach to a match and repeatedly threw himself at the big man, trying to hurt him at all times. And Morishima sold it all perfectly. When you’re as big as Morishima you need a certain amount of skill to sell for much smaller men like Bryan Danielson and make it look believable, and he is particularly good at it. And like Godzilla in the face of Japanese military shelling, he was able to withstand everything that was thrown at him and continue dishing out devastating punishment. The finish was a good way of keeping Danielson’s credibility in the face of a second clean defeat to Morishima. He can argue that he came SO close to beating Morishima that he had no choice but to attack the injury. Brilliant match.

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

Before the match we get an excellent little video package showing all the highlights of this feud (bar the first match in Philly which is left out for some reason) from all over the ROH circuit. These guys have had some phenomenal matches all over the place. They had terrific wrestling matches in Philadelphia, Chicago and Manhattan. They had unbelievable hardcore brawls in Boston, Philadelphia and Hartford. They had one of the most dramatic and emotional matches of the year when Steen and Generico destroyed an injured Mark Briscoe in Edison, NJ at Fighting Spirit. Nothing else is even close to touching these guys for Feud Of The Year. It ends tonight in ROH’s first ever Ladder Match. The only question on my mind is – after all the crazy stuff these four men have done to each other this year, what the hell can they do here to top it all? How far will they go in this one?

Mark throws a ladder into the ring at his opponents, and just like that Ring Of Honor’s first ever ladder match is underway. Mr Wrestling soon has him on the back foot by press slamming him into the front row. All four men fight in the crowd, with Jay and Generico throwing some absolutely disgusting chair shots at each other. Mark peppers Steen with boxing-style jabs and punches, before the camera pans to Jay who has, unsurprisingly, been busted wide open by one of those brutal chair shots. To make matters worse Generico hits him with another one and BREAKS IT ON HIS HEAD! Mark comes back to ringside with a springboard Ace crusher off the guardrail. He pulls Generico off a ladder as he climbs for the belts so ElGen Irish whips him straight into it. Generico climbs for the belts again (they seem ridiculously high up by the way) but Jay pulls him off. He and Steen counter each others finishers and Kevin nails the Cradlebreaker. SPRINGBOARD MARTIAL ARTS KICK from Mark knocks Steen off the ladder as he climbs. Steen’s answer to that is to hit Mark off the apron with the ladder. Both Briscoes are bleeding now. They grab Generico – BRISCOE BIEL INTO A LADDER. That ladder is now broken, so they drag out an even bigger ladder to go for the belts. Jay climbs…AND STEEN SHOVES HIM OFF! HE CRASHES THROUGH THE OTHER F*CKING LADDER! He could have died doing that! Steen has no sympathy, lifting him up for a frickin’ back suplex onto it. Mark no sells a couple of superkicks by Steen, so Mr Wrestling kicks him in the balls instead. Generico drives Jay into the ladder again with a split-legged moonsault. They have a few problems with the ladder (being that it’s mangled after numerous ladder bumps) so they cover that by showing a few replays. Back to live action with Generico hitting a LADDER YAKUZA KICK!

Steen has Mark. AWESOMEBOMB THROUGH A LADDER ON THE FLOOR! How is Mark not paralysed? Kevin Steen climbs for the belts but Jay shoves Gen into the ladder…AND STEEN TAKES A SICK BUMP DOWN ON HIS FACE! HEAD DROP GERMAN SUPLEX BY JAY! Mark somehow isn’t dead, and he grabs Generico for an URINAGE INTO A LADDER! Jay has Steen…DVD INTO THE SIDE OF THE LADDER! Not just the flat part of the ladder, the SIDE. Mark buries Generico with a ladder. SHOOTING STAR PRESS NAILED! Jay goes to the top rope. HE LEG DROPS STEEN THROUGH A TABLE ON THE FLOOR! Mark tries to climb a ladder which is so bent out of shape it’s terrifying…and Generico shoves him off. With all the existing ladders broken, Jay calls for the maintenance ladder…which is the huge one they use to set up the lighting scaffolds. Seriously, it’s MASSIVE! Jay has Generico on his shoulders…AND MARK DIVES THROUGH THE LADDER INTO THE SPRINGBOARD DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Before they can go for the belts Steen makes the save swinging a ladder. He balances it between the turnbuckles and one of the rungs of the mega-ladder in the middle of the ring. It’s Mark and Steen battling on the platform-ladder. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER THROUGH A LADDER! Are you kidding me? Generico climbs and actually touches the belts but Jay balances another ladder platform-style from the turnbuckles. JAY DRILLER THROUGH THE LADDER! JESUS H. CHRIST! Now it’s Steen and Jay left standing…and they race to the top of the ladder for the gold. SLUGFEST 20 FEET IN THE AIR! Steen falls off and crashes through the ladder. Jay has a struggle, but he finally manages to rip the belts free of their bindings at 26:20.

Rating – ****1/2 –
That has to be one of the craziest stunt shows in wrestling history. I know the TLC matches are legendary because they broke new ground, but I think this actually topped the violence of even those. Gabe later revealed that he got a LOT of heat from the locker room for booking this match, leaving these four guys with little choice but to go out there and almost kill themselves to provide a fitting end that was becoming of both their epic feud and the legacy of the ladder match in pro-wrestling. He promptly announced he’d never book another ladder match in ROH. Seriously, my play by play doesn’t do this justice. Some of those bumps were absolutely shocking. And if you notice, EVERY elaborate ladder bump came about because one of the teams was climbing for the belts. There wasn’t any ‘they just want to hurt their opponents by jumping off high things and killing themselves’ thinking, which was always a questionable basis for a lot of the high spots in the WWF 2000/2001 TLC matches. It’s not quite 5* because there are a few very awkward moments. Whoever tied those belts to that ring so tight should be fired. Poor Jay looked absolutely devastated when he was left looking like a fool as he desperately tried to yank a title belt free to win. There was also an awkward moment when Generico had to flap around like an idiot on top of the ladder because Jay was struggling to set up the ladder for the Jay Driller spot. But these are tiny little things that shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of what was a simply phenomenal effort.

SIDENOTE – This is the best match on ROH ppv so far. For the simple reason that it’s AWESOME, and it’s a match that will appeal to anyone that’s a wrestling fan. The thing with Danielson/McGuinness from Driven, or the Briscoes vs Castagnoli/Sydal and Morishima/Danielson vs McGuinness/KENTA tags from Respect Is Earned, is that they’re all great matches, but only if you’re into mat-intensive, straight up pro-wrestling. There are a great number of WWE and TNA fans who find that sort of thing a struggle to sit through. They like their sports-entertainment. They love their TLC matches, Ultimate-X Matches, Hell in a Cells and so on. This was a match that caters for those fans too. It was ROH’s best feud of 2007 ending on national pay-per-view with a match that is accessible for every single wrestling fan in north America. Go order this DVD now.

‘Match Of The Year’ – Chicago. You know, it just might be. Steen shoves El Generico away and walks out as the Briscoes try to celebrate. A screaming comes on the PA and a hoard of guys in black ski masks storm the guardrail. Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black hop past them into the ring. Is this Project 161? Necro Butcher appears behind everyone. BARBED WIRE PUNCHES FOR THE BRISCOES! Necro is back in ROH and he’s joined forces with Jimmy and the debuting Tyler. Lacey is out there too now. The new faction hoist Jay Briscoe up in the loop that was used to hold up the tag belts…and that’s where the ppv ends. Switch to the bonus disc and select the ‘Blood Edit’ to see what happens next.

So picking up where we left of, Jay is elevated into the rafters, and thanks to Necro’s barbed wire he blood is literally pouring out of his head to the ring below. Jimmy Jacobs (dressed all in white) rounds off an incredible visual by standing under it, literally getting showered in Jay’s blood. After a year desperately seeking Lacey’s love, now he’s attained it, he realises that it hasn’t changed anything. The Briscoes have been bred for success since day one in ROH, despite being arrogant redneck drunks. Meanwhile guys like Necro Butcher and Tyler Black can’t get a spot in ROH. The crowd quickly turn on Jimmy’s promo, which is a shame. Project 161 is over. The Age Of The Fall has now begun.

THOUGHTS – I felt the crowd were a little harsh on that promo, although I think it was edited and cut much shorter for DVD. The problem is, Jimmy Jacobs has cut some INCREDIBLE promos during the feud with BJ Whitmer, but they were all in front of a camera with no pressure from a live crowd. I thought he struggled to translate the charisma he’s shown in backstage promos to a live microphone. Instead his promo, whilst making some good points, was ridden with the usual wrestling cliché’s and the bored crowd somewhat undermined what could’ve been a really powerful moment in ROH history. Still, him covered in Jay’s blood is a hugely memorable moment and there’s plenty of time for the Age Of The Fall to gain momentum. Personally I think they should’ve kept the ‘Project 161’ moniker for their stable. I know it’s a bit tacky, but ‘Age Of The Fall’ is hardly the cutting edge of chic either, and at least ‘Project 161’ had gained some significance and cache following the months of internet hype.

Bonus Matches

Mitch Franklin vs Alex Payne – Top Of The Class Trophy Match

I suppose this one should have more crowd heat than the usual student matches as Sugarfoot is inexplicably over in Chicago. Mitch has held the trophy since the last Connecticut show when he won it from Pelle Primeau.

Would somebody please explain the Payne/Chicago relationship? He looks like a little girl, how is he so over? They trade some basics, with Franklin getting lots of boos and Sugarfoot getting lots of cheers. Mitch counters a hammerlock suplex into a rear naked choke, then they punch each other (getting ‘boo’…’yay’ pops from the fans). Fisherman suplex gets Alex a 2. Franklin sends him into the turnbuckles then hits a Code Red-style facebuster to win at 02:24.

Rating – DUD –
Too short to mean anything. I’m glad Payne didn’t win though. I almost want to hate him simply because I don’t get the love he gets from the Chicago fans. I feel like I’m missing some kind of in-joke. At least Mitch is clearly working hard to try and make himself look more like a wrestler. He’s still a midget though.

Lacey/Sara Del Rey vs Daizee Haze/Amazing Kong

I’m not so sure Lacey and Del Rey are ecstatic about teaming up here. They’ve basically been paired up (despite the fact that they’ve already fought in three different SHIMMER Title matches) because Daizee has issues with both of them in ROH. At least they’re both heels (sort of anyway – Sara is a member of S’n’S Inc. after all). Daizee obviously needed to find a partner for this match, and she’s found Amazing Kong, one of the best female wrestlers in the world. She’s taken TNA by storm (as Awesome Kong), has been a massive Joshi star in Japan, and has torn it up on every SHIMMER show she’s been on too. It’s about time she made her ROH debut.

Despite being revealed as a member of the Age Of The Fall two matches ago, Lacey still acts exactly the same. Kong gets a HUGE pop and actually carries Daizee to the ring. Del Rey and Haze start, and as per usual with those two it’s Sara’s power versus Daizee’s speed. Rolling backbreakers from Del Rey get a 2-count. Kong gets the tag and stares down with Sara. Del Rey avoids a back fist but still gets clobbered with a big clothesline then a Warrior Splash for 2. Sara tries some chops and a dropkick, but Kong smiles and effortlessly shakes them off. Trying some wrestling instead, the SHIMMER Champion goes for a cross armbreaker. Tag to Lacey…who’s offence literally has no effect on Kong who runs through her with a body block then tags out to Haze. She gets her hair pulled by Del Rey on the apron and Lacey takes advantage with repeated kicks to the back. Del Rey in and she gets 2 with a version of the Iconoclasm then Lacey tries to wear the Haze down with a full nelson. Every so often Daizee tries some form of counter or roll-up but she just can’t find a way to break free of her isolation at the hands of Lacey and Sara. Finally she manages to bridge out of a pin in amazing fashion, then ride Del Rey into a facecrusher. She victory rolls into the hot tag to Kong, who goes NUTS on both opponents. They both try to flee…SO KONG PRESS SLAMS HAZE AT THEM! AWESOME BOMB on Del Rey for 2. BACK FIST NAILED! AMAZING PRESS SCORES! But Lacey breaks the fall…and Kong is angry. BACK FIST AGAIN! Del Rey hammers Kong with boots, then floors her with a roaring forearm. She tries a German suplex, and that’s just not going to happen. FFF from Kong and she gets another 2. KICKS FROM DEL REY! HEAD DROP GERMAN! Kong gets the shoulder up. The heels try to double team Kong, but she powers through them and makes a tag. DOOMSDAY HEART PUNCH! Haze gets 2 with a frog splash. Mind Trip finishes Lacey at 14:48.

Rating – **** –
I’m being very generous on the rating, but this was, by some distance, the best women’s match ROH has ever done and I needed a rating to show that. Amazing Kong is absolutely fantastic as the female equivalent of Vader. I don’t actually know if there’s a spot for her as a regular on the ROH roster simply because there are so few women for her to tear through that her act would get stale fairly quickly (and I don’t think I’d want to see too many intergender matches – she’s bigger than half the male athletes too). She’s perfect as a special attraction though, and I’d like to see her back in the future, although her association with TNA may make that problematic. Credit to Daizee too. Sometimes her execution is really sloppy, but she held it together here, and she’s surrounded by three of the most talented female wrestlers going so they put together a very strong formula match.

Chasyn Rance/Kenny King vs Brent Albright/BJ Whitmer

The representatives from the YRR in from Florida for the weekend made quite an impression on me during last night’s Detroit show. They basically work a less-drugs-more-money version of the Special K gimmick, and from the looks of things seem to be better workers. Kenny looked especially good, and did his chances of getting more bookings in the future (either as part of the YRR in ROH or by himself) a power of good. The Albright/Whitmer team got a huge boost last night when they beat the team of Nigel McGuinness and Claudio Castagnoli. Albright picked up a significant pinfall over McGuinness.

The fans chant ‘Steve Corino’ at BJ’s new haircut. Kenny takes it to Albright with forearms as Rance and BJ go at it inside the ring. BJ catches him and delivers a powerslam. Quickly the Hangmen have Chasyn isolated from his partner. It’s all Whitmer and Albright as Rance gets zero offence. Tag to Kenny who drops BJ with a nice springboard clothesline. He goes for a second springboard move and BOTCHES! He literally landed flat on his face there. Whitmer reacts and lays him out with a brainbuster. BJ powerbombs Rance into the turnbuckles, then holds out a knee for Albright to press slam Chasyn into. A double spinebuster wins it for the Hangmen at 05:19.

Rating – * –
Just an elongated squash with minimal excitement. I know the YRR don’t have much stature in ROH and this weekend has been nothing more than a trial run so it’s only natural to squash them two nights in a row…but I think they showed significant potential. They had enough charisma in their performances to make me more interested in them than the ongoing deal with the Hangmen 3. Kenny (despite that horrible botched springboard move) has a lot of potential and I’d like to see the Florida stable brought back again just to get more exposure to his work.

Albright wants a microphone…and Hagadorn drops it. Albright slaps the taste out of his mouth for that. Whitmer complains about all the sacrifices he’s made in 5 years with ROH that have gone unappreciated. Adam Pearce has shown him the light and now he’ll only make sacrifices for himself. Albright officially announces the ‘Hangmen 3’ name, which makes everyone laugh and gets a ‘change your name’ chant. In fairness, I actually quite like it. In an ROH which has names as goofy as ‘The Vulture Squad’, as cheesy as ‘Age Of The Fall’ or as clichéd as ‘The Resilience’, it’s not so bad.

Jack Evans comes out for some promo time (I think), but he’s interrupted by Tyler Black and we have an impromptu match. That doesn’t last long before Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher interfere, thus ending the match. Irish Airborne (why the hell are they saving Jack?) save Evans so we’ve got a tag.

Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black/Necro Butcher vs Jack Evans/Irish Airborne

I don’t get the booking here. Why sacrifice Jack to the AOTF? Why is he teaming with the Crists? He just started his own faction to watch his back. Obviously ROH hasn’t paid to fly Smokes, Ruckus and Jigsaw (who somewhere off-camera has been added to the Vulture Squad) so it just makes Jack look stupid, partnering jobbers not having his own crew to help him. Why not book him in an enhancement match with somebody like Mitch Franklin (like Jacobs/Franklin at Manhattan Mayhem 2) and throw Alex Payne (it’s Chicago after all) out with Jake and Dave to get decimated by Jimmy and his boys? Or why not have a straight up Black/Evans singles match ended with Jacobs and Necro interference – then have the AOTF destroy Jack to make a statement. They’ve then got a ready made issue with the Vulture Squad too. That way we have no need to get the Crists into a match at all. They’ve had zillions of chances and still can’t get over. Or why not send the Briscoes back out there to save Jack and have a quick brawl, thus building that feud? This whole match seems really bizarre. I don’t get it at all.

Jimmy is still totally caked in Jay Briscoe’s blood. Jack gets things rolling with a 450 SPLASH TO ALL THREE MEN ON THE FLOOR! The Crists team up on Tyler, then get torn apart by Necro. Black hits a running moonsault to Jake on the floor as Necro hits the chair slam on Dave. Isn’t that a DQ? Jacobs seems to be using his cane as a weapon too, so I guess we’re going for relaxed rules. Butcher takes Jack into the crowd and buries him under chairs. Amazingly Evans still gets up and keeps brawling. In the ring Jacobs has set up two open chairs with ill intentions for Dave Crist. Evans hits a springboard kick to Necro from the guardrail. He then misses a front flip kick and crashes into a chair. Necro returns to the ring and turns the chairs back to back…but Evans saves again. Jack cleans house on all 3 AOTF members then stretches Necro over the chairs. Jimmy stops him from jumping off the top. SECOND ROPE CHAIR BACKBREAKER BY NECRO! Black hits the Small Package Driver on Jake as Necro punches the ref in the face. The match is duly thrown out at 06:51.

Rating – * –
I’m glad this didn’t make the ppv. Any momentum the Age Of The Fall built up with their bloody debut was immediately tainted here. This match repeatedly had Jack Evans (hardly a devastating singles wrestler in his own right) taking on all three members by himself. It makes the new faction look weak right off the bat. I know Evans needs to look strong too, which is why I question the logic of booking this match in the first place. Evans looks dumb for teaming with jobbers. The AOTF look weak for getting their asses kicked in a brawl (again, something Jack isn’t renowned for) by one man. Just strange booking. The only winners seem to be Irish Airborne (at least they looked brave coming out to help Jack)…and why the hell are ROH still trying to get those guys over?

Delirious vs Matt Sydal

This is Sydal’s final Ring Of Honor appearance, as he’s signed a developmental contract and is off to join the WWE. In storyline, Larry Sweeney signed him up then SOLD him to Vince McMahon and the WWE. The uncertainty over Sydal’s contract (he didn’t sign a written contract with ROH when they started giving them out around the time of the first ppv) has actually led to a cool little angle (featuring Matt’s cup of coffee with Sweet’n’Sour Inc.) and has given Larry the rub. These two debuted together in 2004 at Reborn Stage 1 and have been rivals ever since. They’ve had some tremendous matches with each other in the ensuing years (check out their Do Or Die 3 match, it’s really underrated) and it’s a fitting way to round off Sydal’s ROH career.

Obviously he’s supposed to be a heel but ROH fans are an appreciative bunch on the whole and break out a ‘thank you Sydal’ chant straight away. Delirious doesn’t go crazy, instead opting to talk crazy jibberish to his old rival. Sydal uses a handshake to get the jump on him. Delirious quickly evens things up and we get some of the super-fluid chaining we’re used to seeing from these two, only broken up by Sydal frequently diving out of the ring for a pep-talk from Sweeney. Delirious cuts that off by hitting a cannonball senton onto Larry. The fans are noticeably struggling to stay interested after a LONG night of action. Sydal dropkicks Delirious through the ropes and nails his running moonsault to the floor. That’s cue for Sydal to take control of the match, choking Delirious with his tassels. The crowd is so quiet you can hear literally every word Larry Sweeney says on the outside. He grabs a water bottle from his agent and starts spitting it into Delirious’ face. He finally slips up, coming from the top rope and jumping into a torpedo headbutt by the lizard man. Delirious sends Matt to the floor again then scales the ropes for the Suicide Flip. He then bangs on the guardrail, prompting Larry Sweeney to call for a DQ on the grounds of ‘illegal noise creation’. Delirious hiptosses Sydal into the turnbuckles then hits the Bizarro Driver for 2. Here It Is Driver gets Matt a 2-count in return. They’re really ambling around at the moment, floundering in front of an unresponsive crowd. Delirious hits the Panic Attack but Sydal knows that Shadows Over Hell always follows that and he gets boots up into Delirious’ stomach. He tries the jumping frankensteiner and lands straight on the back of his head. Shadows Over Hell scores but Delirious can’t lock in the Cobra Stretch. Quebrada into the Slice gets Sydal another 2. He hits the capture DDT then climbs the ropes for the Sydal Press, but Delirious moves and he has to land on his feet. He thinks about Shadows Over Hell again and Sydal immediately capitalises with the jumping franensteiner. Sydal Press gets 2, prompting Larry Sweeney to get into the ring and start assaulting his own jacket in frustration. Delirious blocks the Cyclorama belly to belly by tossing Sydal over the ropes. Reverse Tombstone gets Matt another nearfall. He tries to put the Cobra Stretch on Delirious but it’s countered with the Cobra Clutch suplex. Cobra Stretch locked in but no submission. Chemical Imbalance II instead, and this time it is over. Delirious wins at 21:50.

Rating – ** –
Not the best match for Sydal to go out on. This match had no business going on so long in front of a crowd who were totally burnt out following the ppv taping. I said that the Cabana/Pearce match from Good Times Great Memories should be the template for all future farewell matches. It was entertaining, lots of fun and kept brief – something these guys could’ve learnt from. They really struggled with the at times completely silent audience. It seemed to throw them off their game, provoking several miscommunications, sluggish moments and obvious dead parts of the match, and this is between two guys who normally mesh so well together.

SIDENOTE – I’ve since found out that Sydal suffered a concussion in the early going of that match, which would probably explain some of the problems they encountered. It still doesn’t explain why they didn’t shave some time off though.

There’s no big hoopla for Matt Sydal’s departure. It’s not like Matt meant as much to ROH as guys like CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Paul London or Colt Cabana, and his send-off isn’t made into such a big deal. He does get a thoroughly deserved standing ovation though. The guy has been in some fantastic matches (particularly tags) over the years and has shown remarkable improvement since he first debuted in 2004. I think he could’ve gone on to become a solid uppercard/occasional main event player had he stayed around longer. The problem is, he only really started to come into his own towards end of 2006/early 2007. And by then he was spending lots of time in Dragon Gate, with rumours circulating that the WWE were coming to call very soon. It’s the end of a fine midcard career though, and I’m sure he’ll be welcomed back in the future should it not work out in Vince-land.

Tape Rating – **** –
Superb pay-per-view, in my estimation the best so far. Respect Is Earned was a decent introduction, but to long term ROH fans the booking was a little underwhelming and whilst the matches were good, it wasn’t quite the special event people were anticipating. Driven was much better, but there were still definitive popcorn breaks (Albright/Primeau or Morishima/Rave). This one was great from start to finish. The opener featured some terrific mat wrestling and was really exciting. The NRC/Resilience series built very well, ending in the excellent Strong/Stevens bout. The two main events were both absolutely fantastic. Bryan Danielson busted out another ridiculously good performance against Morishima. He may have failed to become a 2-time ROH Champion but he’s still one of the very best wrestlers in the world today. Then the ladder match, which you could show to ROH fans, WWE fans and TNA fans alike and they’d all think ‘wow, that’s amazing’. The ppv is worth the $20 for the DVD by itself. And you get some cool bonus stuff too. Whilst it’s not quite as good as the Driven bonus disc (which had Danielson/KENTA), you do get the Age Of The Fall debut promo, the best women’s match ever in ROH (featuring the debut and only appearance to date of Amazing Kong) and Matt Sydal’s last match – although it’s not that good. This is another terrific release from ROH.

Top 3 Matches

3) Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens (****)

2) Takeshi Morishima vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2)

1) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Kevin Steen/El Generico (****1/2)

Top 5 Motor City Madness 2007/Man Up Matches

5) Daizee Haze/Amazing Kong vs Sara Del Rey/Lacey (**** – Man Up)

4) Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens (**** – Man Up)

3) Naomichi Marufuji vs El Generico (**** – Motor City Madness 2007)

2) Takeshi Morishima vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – Man Up)

1) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Kevin Steen/El Generico (****1/2 – Man Up)

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