175 ROH Without Remorse 1/26/2008

ROH 175 – Without Remorse – 26th January 2008

So I know nothing about this show. I’ve heard or read nothing about it, and I’m now so far behind in my reviewing (I’m reviewing a January ’08 show in the second week of January 2010) that anything I did know at the time, I’ve now forgotten. Which in a way, is actually a refreshing way to review things. Normally when I come into a show, I know the results, I have a vague idea of what the outstanding matches are going to be…I normally can take an educated guess at how good a show is going to be before I start. Or, I’ve already seen it once and have already formulated some opinions. From now until I catch up, I’m coming cold. I know a few results here and there, but I literally don’t know what’s good or what’s bad. Let’s see how that affects my enjoyment of the Ring Of Honor product. So lets get the ball rolling. The main event is Nigel McGuinness defending the ROH World Title against Roderick Strong. They had a hell of a match at Death Before Dishonor 4 (the Cage Of Death show) so it’ll be interesting to see how they mesh having had over a year to hone and improve their game. The Age Of The Fall have the odds stacked against them, defending the Tag Titles in another Ultimate Endurance Match. Two seemingly interminable feuds should reach their conclusion tonight as we see the Pearce/Delirious and Primeau/Hagadorn feuds reach their supposed conclusion. Plus Joey Matthews is here again, Team Work is born and we have a rematch from the Race To The Top Tournament finals too. Lets get to Chicago Ridge, IL to hook up with Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.

ROH VIDEO WIRE (23/01/2008) – See Breakout (ROH174) review for details.

The Age Of The Fall open the show excited about their opportunity to leave the building tonight with all the Ring Of Honor gold. They decide to plan their victory party – cordially uninviting Davey Richards in the process.

Delirious is hanging out on the hard cam scaffold. Even if you could understand his babbling, you can’t hear it over him bashing a chain against the metal scaffold. I guess he says he’ll do bad things to Adam Pearce tonight though.

Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries vs Jay Briscoe/Erick Stevens

This one is a ‘dream partner’ match, with the victorious team getting the reward of the fourth spot in the ROH Tag Title Ultimate Endurance Match later tonight vacated by the injured Vulture Squad. Bryan Danielson picked Austin Aries, who, despite his recent losing streak, is a top ranked competitor and has shared some memorable battles with the American Dragon down the years. Jay meanwhile, with his brother booked to wrestle Joey Matthews in a grudge match later, has selected Erick Stevens. They teamed together back at Fighting Spirit for a memorable match with Kevin Steen and El Generico (although I think Stevens barely featured in that to be fair) so have some experience together. Stevens is also fresh off back to back victories over both opponents in defence of his FIP Title on ROH’s first 2008 weekend.

Aries still seems in a foul mood and barely shakes hands with his opponents. He slaps Stevens in the face early in the match as well to underline his bitter state of mind. The FIP Champion uses his power to knock Austin around, prompting him to roll into his corner and bring in Danielson. Briscoe in as well and he displays great confidence in going step for step with Dragon initially. The pace quickens and it’s Jay that gains the upper hand. As a sidenote, I didn’t like it when Stevens beat Danielson and Aries in the same weekend. I like Prazak and Leonard talking about it non-stop even less. Aries in to cut Briscoe off as he goes for a tag. Dragon demands that he and his partner get on the same page and use some TEAM WORK. To that end, Aries rips off the Bryan Danielson Airplane Spin. Unimpressed, Danielson tags in and demonstrates his own (superior) Airplane Spin to the hapless Jay Briscoe. Haha, Aries’ Airplane Spin gets booed. It gets to the point where each Danielson/Aries double team gets a huge pop from the Chicago fans. Jay at last breaks the cycle with a Flatliner into the turnbuckles. Stevens in to get 2 with a front slam. He combines with Jay to hit the Briscoe football tackle then the Briscoe Biel . Doomsday Device is countered by Aries into the shinbreak back suplex on Jay. Briscoe gets Dragon up instead…DOOMSDAY FOOTBALL TACKLE FOR 2! Danielson blocks the Jay Driller and holds him in the corner for Aries ‘running dropkick. KNEE STRIKES/MMA ELBOWS! PERFECT SMALL PACKAGE! Danielson pins Jay at 15:07

Rating – *** –
Enjoyable opening match. In my opinion Ring Of Honor doesn’t do really memorable opening matches nearly often enough. I’m not saying I want them to steal the show, but it doesn’t take much to put on a solid match like this. In truth the opening third of the match was quite bland and formulaic, but once the TEAM WORK stuff kicked in, the whole thing was a fun watch. Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries and (a little surprisingly perhaps) Jay Briscoe have such control over their characters and how it impacts their actions in the ring that, even wrestling at 75% as they were here, it was still good stuff. And Erick Stevens was protected after his recent impressive string of victories – he was barely in the match at all. Obviously nothing was more memorable here than the instant chemistry and unique dynamic of the Danielson/Aries team, but it was a competent match in it’s own right too.

Adam Pearce cuts a promo on Delirious. His delivery is, as always, excellent, but he has nothing new to say…mostly because this whole deal has gone on way too long.

Shane Hagadorn vs Pelle Primeau

We know the history here. Hagadorn is one of the outstanding (and I believe sole surviving) graduates from CM Punk’s inaugural class at the ROH school. Pelle was one of the top grads coming from Austin Aries’ second group. They’ve clashed over the #1 Contenders Trophy many times in the past. Hagadorn and the Hangm3n were responsible for putting Pelle out of action late last year…and since he made his return to ROH during Final Battle 2007 weekend, Primeau has interjected himself into Hangm3n business (mostly to take out Hagadorn) ever since. Time for a definitive winner perhaps?

Shane tries to get a jump on proceedings but Primeau counters that with a springboard hilo into the ring. Running STO by Hagadorn brings him back into things, but instead of pinning he mounts Pelle and drills him with straight punches. He then shows surprising agility to leapfrog then come straight up into a crossbody on his smaller opponent for 2. ‘I’m a high-flyer baby’ – Hagadorn. DVD nailed as well but still Primeau won’t stay down. Pelle comes up and scores a couple of nearfalls out of nowhere but then walks into the Ogawa face stomp out of the corner. Suplex countered into the Stunner and Pelle hits a DDT which sends Shane to the apron. Primeau off the second to double stomp into Hagadorn’s exposed chest. Hagadorn responds by shoving the referee into his opponent, then using the ensuing confusion to pull out knucks. One loaded right hand later and he takes the win at 04:51.

Rating – ** –
What can you say about this? It’s the same match they’ve had before. Primeau is ok in small doses as a high flyer, but is just too small and too lightweight to ever be taken seriously and will amount to nothing in wrestling. Hagadorn is great at getting heat but lacks the physical charisma needed to work his Pearce-disciple ring style. Are these two really the best the ROH Academy can produce? I don’t mean to be rude, but in Hagadorn’s case, it’s FOUR years since he first entered the school under CM Punk’s tutelage. The improvement curve just isn’t significant enough…

Time for more fun and games with Sweet’n’Sour Inc. who are right back down the card after Hero failed to bring home the World Title last night in Dayton. Larry Sweeney planned to bring in the ‘top ranked intergender team from Thailand’…but they missed their flight. Substituting are ‘Sugartits’ (lol) Alex Payne and Kyle Durden, now more recognisable as that irritating guy who does the interviews for ROH on HDNet. The ‘champions’ retain in a rapid squash. Daizee Haze takes exception to Sweeney’s proclamations that his new belts are the most prestigious in Ring Of Honor. Jigsaw randomly comes out to save her from a beat down (since he has nothing else to do tonight)…and we have a match. Since Haze and Jigsaw aren’t an ‘internationally ranked intergender team’ this is non-title.

Chris Hero/Sara Del Rey vs Jigsaw/Daizee Haze

Just to be clear, ROH doesn’t recognise Larry Sweeney’s imaginary championship but, particularly for Daizee Haze a victory over Del Rey, a woman she has an ongoing competitive rivalry with both in ROH, SHIMMER and beyond would be a significant feather in her cap.

Jigsaw scoops Daizee up and uses her as a weapon to take down both opponents. He then swings her into a satellite headscissors on Hero. The Haze goes for a flurry of quick pins on Del Rey but the SHIMMER Champion manages to kick out each time. Jigsaw in but Hero elbows him in the back of the head, distracting him enough for Sara to hit a big boot and tag out. Hero gets 2 with a brutal atomic drop to the canvas on his masked foe. The Intergender Champions work Jigsaw over until then import from Chikara busts out a sequence of his lightning-fast armdrags and makes the hot tag to Daizee. Facebuster on Del Rey but Sara ducks the Heart Punch. Hero in and he viciously launches Haze across the ring by her hair. Jigsaw saves Daizee from further damage then gets booted out of the ring by Del Rey. The Haze hits a courageous headscissors on Hero again then comes from the top into a PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! Jigsaw goes for his own dive only to be cut off with a GERMAN SUPLEX by Sara. Haze in to nail the Heart Punch/Yakuza Kick combo. She lines up the Mind Trip as well but Hero obliterates her with the ROARING ELBOW! CRAVAT COUNTDOWN on Jigsaw! It’s Hero and Del Rey that get the victory at 07:57.

Rating – ** –
This was actually much better than I anticipated. I think I was expecting the worst due to the fact that I just don’t like Haze or Jigsaw. Daizee is, in my opinion, massively overrated, whilst Jigsaw is just so dead in the water as a viable talent after taking so many beatings. So I was surprised at how good this one was. The Hero/Del Rey beating on members of the opposite sex gimmick has some legs yet so that was fun. But I enjoyed the Del Rey/Haze exchanges too as they brought some good intensity to what would otherwise have been a forgettable, throwaway comedy lower card match. Ultimately it still remained all of those things, but I thought Sara and Daizee did a good job of making it feel more important than it actually was. Plus the Cravat Countdown is a cool finisher.

El Generico vs Claudio Castagnoli

I’m not sure anyone picked this out as the final of the Race To The Top Tournament last summer when it was announced last year. But they made it to the finals and put on a hell of a match once they got there. It was Double C that pulled out the victory on that occasion but people have wanted to see a rematch ever since. Can Generico even the score with a victory tonight? To do so he’ll have to beat a Claudio Castagnoli that is undefeated in 2008 and determined to earn a World Title shot asap.

As with the first match, we open up with a fair bit of banter centred around ‘HEY’ and ‘OLE’. They made a big deal out of it in the first match, so it’s nice to see that the wrestlers don’t rehash that for a cheap crowd pop and keep their participation pretty minimal. Indeed, the early pace is quite slow as both guys go through an elongated feeling out process. Claudio looks like he plans to work over Generico’s leg to take away a lot of his fast-paced offence. Pace quickens and both guys miss attempts at their signature kicks (Bicycle Kick vs Yakuza Kick) then break for applause. Nice sequence there. Generico hits a backbreaker into a split-legged moonsault for 2 and actually works some leg selling into that. He tries to come from the ropes again but this time Castagnoli is able to drive him knee-first into the canvas. Half crab applied then he stomps Generico’s against the mat to do yet more damage. Knee-DT nailed as we cross the 10:00 minute mark. Shinbreaker into another half crab and the Generic Luchador can barely walk at this point. One of ROH’s cameramen looks like Bill Alfonso. Random fact. Castagnoli has Generico almost completely immobilised now and takes advantage by diving into a European uppercut to the neck. Generico tries to run the ropes but can only hobble into Claudio’s bicycle kick for 2. Generico tries to hammer some feeling into his bad leg and somehow manages to hit a SPRINGBOARD HEADSCISSORS! He thinks about a slingshot dive…but just doesn’t have the spring in his knee to do it. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA FROM THE TOP INSTEAD! The bad knee is still bothering him though. DEADLIFT GERMAN SUPLEX gets Double C a 2-count and he rolls into a Horse Collar to work on the leg again. Riccola Bomb attempt…COUNTERED INTO A CODE RED FOR 2!! Awesome awesome awesome! Generico hits a rope-run swinging DDT for 2 and at least pauses to sell the leg afterwards. Brainbustah…no that’s countered into a SINGLE LEG Giant Swing. Horse Collar again but still Generico won’t tap. Castagnoli tries to climb the ropes but gets caught. Generico looks for the Brainbustah. But Claudio tries to counter into the avalanche Riccola Bomb that won it for him at the Race To The Top Tournament. COUNTERED INTO A SUPER RANA! YAKUZA KICK SCORES! Claudio kicks out at 2. Brainbuster again…but Castagnoli rolls into the Horse Collar again. But the 20:00 time limit expires so this one goes to a draw.

Rating – **** –
These two have fantastic chemistry in the ring together. That was another fantastic match between them. I think the emotion, excitement and clean finish of the RTTT match means that one was probably better, but this one was a worthy sequel. It was a little slow to get out of the blocks, but I liked the unique ways Castagnoli found to work the leg. I also thought Generico’s selling was, by and large, very good in that he managed to sell the leg whilst still working in a lot of his signature aerial stuff in a plausible manner. And some of the counters in the last 5 minutes were sheer poetry.

Later backstage Claudio says he respects El Generico, but isn’t happy with the draw as it doesn’t bring him any closer to a World Title match. Generico comes in and asks for one more rematch…which Claudio willingly accepts. Book that now guys…

Before the next match Jimmy Jacobs takes a microphone and issues another open invitation to Austin Aries. He wants the former Ring Of Honor World Champion in the Age Of The Fall. That’s an interesting ploy considering they’re in the same match later tonight.

Joey Matthews vs Mark Briscoe

It was last night at Breakout that Joey made his surprising return to ROH as a member of Jimmy Jacobs’ Age Of The Fall. And he chose to announce that return by caving the Briscoes’ face in with a steel chair. Obviously the Briscoes don’t need any more of a reason to hate the AOTF considering their feud has been going on for four months plus now.

The difference in ring jackets for this one (Mark’s plain black hoodie vs Joey’s full length, pimped out fur jacket) is pretty funny. Joey is an absolute heat magnet by the way. He is a VERY welcome addition to the roster. He immediately irritates the already fired-up Mark Briscoe by avoiding a lock-up. He doesn’t give Briscoe a clean break either, slapping him in the face instead. This sufficiently enrages Mark to hit a few suplexes but Matthews rolls to the floor again as Mark looks to come from the top rope. Briscoe follows him out this time though and utilises the metal guardrails in the usual fashion. In the end Matthews hides behind the referee as Briscoe tries to come off the top again and that distraction lasts long enough for him to club Mark off the ropes. That’s followed by dropping Briscoe chest-first over the guardrails and a European uppercut to the exposed throat. Slingshot into the middle rope next as Matthews looks to make it extremely difficult for Briscoe to even breathe. Mark tries a slingshot move from the apron but gets caught again…and dropped with a neckbreaker over the middle rope. But now Joey makes his first mistake, trying to climb the turnbuckles and getting launched off Flair-style. He recovers sufficiently to drop the younger Briscoe with a superplex for 2. TazMission applied to an opponent who’s had his throat worked over for an extended spell in this one. Crossfaces then a chinlock next. Mark tries some Redneck Karate to fire up…but Matthews jabs him in the throat and chucks him out of the ring. Springboard crossbody misses and Joey hits the DOUBLE ARM DDT! Mark kicks out at 2. Thus killing the credibility of Joey’s finisher right off the bat. Matthews tries to use the ringbell because he’s pissed off now, only for the ref to drag it out of his hands. Both fight on the top rope…and Joey RAKES THE EYES to get Briscoe away. Super rana shoved away…SPRINGBOARD ACE CRUSHER INSTEAD! SHOOTING STAR PRESS! Mark gets the win at 14:33

Rating – *** –
So here’s the deal…Joey Matthews is awesome! Seriously, the little dickhead heel things he does in a match are just so good it’s unreal. From working over Mark’s THROAT, constantly raking the eyes, hiding behind the referee, jawing with the fans, chucking him out of the ring when he tried to do the popular Kung Fu stuff, walking away when he tried to high-fly. He is the consummate anti-crowd pleaser. He took a crowd that, to be honest, seemed more interested in making jokes about his face than the actual match they were about to see (much like last night at Breakout) and got them really into things by the end of the match. I cannot praise him highly enough. I hope ROH has the finances and the booking power to bring him back more often.

INTERMISSION – Dave Prazak interviews Nigel McGuinness. He’s still pissed off at Roderick Strong for interrupting his ROH Title victory speech in Las Vegas.

Adam Pearce vs Delirious – Dog Collar Match

This feud started a LONG time ago. All the way back to when Jim Cornette was ROH Commissioner and found Delirious to be a pest. Then Lt. Commissioner, Pearce was booked by Cornette to eradicate him. Unfortunately he failed, and the bad blood between Pearce and Delirious was born. Now it’s what…18 months later…and this thing still hasn’t been put to bed. They still hate each other. When forming his stable the Hangmen 3, it was Delirious who Adam Pearce chose to make an example of when he and his cohorts stapled his mask to his face at Caged Rage. Last time we were in Chicago for Unscripted 3 we saw the Hangm3n choke Delirious unconscious with a chain. So it’s for that reason that their final grudge match was booked as a Dog Collar Match.

Pearce normally brings the goods for big grudge matches so this one might not be as bad as some had feared. Delirious (red variant) flies out of the traps and wastes no time swinging fists and clotheslines at Pearce. He comes off the apron to the floor with a cannonball senton then allows Scrap Iron right back into the match by taking way too long to drag a chair out of the crowd. The match falls into a pattern of both guys trying to use a weapon (a chair, the bell etc) and getting blocked before they’re able to. Predictably this quickly spills into the crowd leading to a plethora of chair shots, swings and misses. It’s Pearce who has the upper hand as the match re-enters the ring and he uses the chain to flog the fallen Delirious. Pearce pitches Delirious into the guardrail but takes way too long celebrating considering they’re bound together…allowing Delirious to get up and use the chain to repeatedly drag Adam into the ringpost, busting him open in the process. Pearce is quickly covered in blood and Delirious makes his predicament worse by hanging him in the ropes in a similar fashion to Unscripted 3. He tries to go to the top rope…but Pearce jerks on the chain and drops him all the way to the floor. A straight vertical suplex on the floor after that leaves the masked man squirming in pain. Pearce misses a body avalanche in the corner and Delirious mounts him for a chain-enforced right hand. Jumping Piledriver onto the chain gets Scrap Iron a 2. Camel Clutch WITH CHAIN! The Lizard Man escapes that but Pearce ducks the Leaping Lariat and sends him crashing out of the ring again. He looks for a Jumping Piledriver on the exposed concrete floor, only for Delirious to fight so furious to escape that he breaks free of the Dog Collar momentarily. He starts jerking the chain into Pearce’s nutsack then drags him down and into a Cobra Stretch WITH CHAIN! Hagadorn breaks that with the worse chair shot ever. Dave Prazak calls him on how awful it was too. Still, it breaks the hold and together Pearce and Hagadorn set up a table in the middle of the ring. Delirious escapes a powerbomb attempt. MIST TO HAGADORN! Panic Attack on Pearce. SHADOWS OVER HELL THROUGH THE TABLE! Delirious wins at 20:21.

Rating – ** –
To be fair, this match was pretty similar to their entire feud. Painfully average, went on way too long, a few entertaining moments along the way, disappointing finish with very few people caring about it at any point. I felt a bit sorry for them because it clearly wasn’t for lack of effort…but this one just went on for too long with not an awful lot outside of generic brawling really happening. The ending was just farcical too with the collar breaking, Hagadorn’s abysmal attempt at interference etc. I really liked their Falls Count Anywhere match from Reckless Abandon because it was quick, full of energy, had some exciting moments and a memorable finish. This one was like the exact opposite. I think I’m being a tad generous with that rating. Hopefully both guys are now kept apart from each other and move onto something new. Both of them really peaked in 2006 and have been getting increasingly stale since then. They badly need a new direction to re-establish themselves on the roster.

Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries vs Brent Albright/BJ Whitmer vs Davey Richards/Rocky Romero – ROH Tag Title Ultimate Endurance Match

First fall is a Scramble Match, second an ‘I Quit’ Match, with the final two teams then left to battle it out with the ROH Tag Team Championship on the line. Danielson and Aries are interesting wildcards here. Both have recent victories (in memorable matches) over Tyler Black, and both have issues with Jimmy Jacobs after Jacobs beat Dragon last time in Chicago and is now trying to recruit Aries. And that’s set against the background of all the other factions jostling for supremacy. Age Of The Fall came out of an Ultimate Endurance match with the belts still in their possession earlier this month. Can they once again fend off four teams and leave Chicago with their title reign intact?

Brent Albright is wearing a weird singlet tonight. Is that new for him…or is he just wearing one of Kevin Steen’s? Which is a weird way to continue that feud anyway. Did he like…steal it then? The first fall is Scramble rules so obviously the comings and goings are quite rapid. Albright connects with the 61-Knee on Black who recovers to clothesline him out of the ring. Aries hits the Power Drive Elbow on Romero then walks into a jumping knee from him. The Hangm3n knock him out then steal his ‘Azucar’ pose. Danielson dropkicks those two out and breaks out his own SEXY DANCE! Jacobs in with Dragon and they look uber-intense. REPEATED FACE STOMPS by Dragon but Tyler saves his partner. The NRC in and Davey lifts Romero into another running knee on Aries. Hangm3n in to hit the knee drop/backbreaker combo on Rocky. Black drops Albright with a springboard clothesline then a Pele kick. Jacobs lines up End Time but Brent POWERS HIM OVER THE TOP ROPE! Aries grabs Romero and throws him onto a pile of bodies on the floor. Heat Seeking Missile scores for Aries. Dragon flies out to the other side with an elbow suicida on Whitmer. Black goes for a dive but Richards stops him with a kick to the neck. Bridging roll-up…THAT’S THREE! The champions are the first team eliminated at 07:11. The crowd are a little shocked and so am I. We’re going to see new champions tonight! I Quit Match begins and they begrudgingly leave ringside looking devastated.

The Hangm3n immediately go to work on Danielson’s knee which was apparently injured when he hit the earlier dive on BJ. Lungblower INTO the Ocean Cyclone suplex score. Then a belly to belly from Albright, THEN a frog splash from Whitmer. Amazingly Danielson still musters up enough to lock in the TRIANGLE CHOKE ON WHITMER! Romero tries to stop Albright breaking that hold…so Brent slaps him into the Crowbar. Horns Of Aries on Richards as he tries to save his partner too. Submissions everywhere, and in the midst of it all the referee spots Whitmer tapping out. The Hangm3n are eliminated at 11:57. It’s NRC vs Team Work for the belts. The No Remorse Corps immediately target the knee injury that the Hangm3n opened up on Danielson. Several minutes of focused leg work later and the NRC seem on the brink of victory until Dragon ducks under a double kick attempt and at last makes the hot tag. Running dropkick on the corner on Romero…but Davey saves his partner as Aries lines up the Brainbuster. SNAP GERMAN SUPLEX. KNOCK OUT KICK! Danielson somehow rolls in and breaks the pin. Knee strike powerbomb evaded by Aries and Danielson comes in with a Tiger suplex on Romero. MMA Elbows on him but Richards comes in and bails out his partner. Diablo Armbar by Rocky and Richards cuts off Aries’ save attempt with the Kimura! Danielson rolls to the ropes to a huge pop. He jostles for position in the corner with Richards, leading to a MASSIVE back superplex. Horns of Aries on him. ONE LEGGED CATTLE MUTILATION ON ROMERO! TEAM WORK MMA ELBOWS/KNEE STRIKES! But Romero saves…and Richards desperately rolls up Aries. THREE COUNT! No Remorse Corps are your new champions at 23:05.

Rating – *** –
I’m not sure what to say about this one. The match itself was pretty good, particularly the final fall which had some great moments in. But, I can’t believe how Gabe has booked Age Of The Fall into the ground here. He worked so hard to get them over after they initially floundered in the aftermath of all the Project 161 hype. But as they stood victorious in the ring after the last Ultimate Endurance Match at Proving Ground earlier this month, it was clear that he had succeeded in creating a viable, impressive and dominant team who could be a new focal point for the shows, thus lessening the reliance on Bryan Danielson, the Briscoes, Austin Aries and international fly-ins. But since then he has comprehensively buried them. They lost to the Vulture Squad at Transform, lost all three matches at Breakout last night, lost both matches tonight, and even gave them the ignominy of being first team eliminated. In less than a month they’ve gone from being arguably the top heels in the promotion back to a midcard joke. And for what? The NRC have been treading water doing nothing since the feud with The Resilience petered out. They had their reputation as bad asses and need creative direction, NOT the title belts. They certainly didn’t need the belts as much as AOTF did for their characters. Like I said, the match itself was decent (although not as good as the Proving Ground AOTF Ultimate Endurance) but the complete burial of the Age Of The Fall has me mystified. The ROH Tag Titles were gaining some real prestige with the Briscoes/Steen-erico feud, now going into the Briscoes/AOTF feud over them. Taking the belts out of that situation now just knocks them a giant step back. Having said that, I would like to see a full scale Richards/Romero vs Danielson/Aries match.

Backstage the battered NRC team hook-up with Roderick Strong who’s headed to the ring. He leaves to do battle with Nigel. Davey and Rocky leave to go get laid…

Nigel McGuinness vs Roderick Strong – ROH World Title Match

Almost as soon as Nigel had beaten Takeshi Morishima for the World Title, he had contenders emerging from all sides asking for a shot. One of those was then-FIP Champion Roderick Strong. He wanted to prove he was a better World Champion than Nigel, and that his FIP belt was more prestigious, interrupting Nigel’s ceremonial first show as champion promo in Las Vegas to ask for a shot. After Nigel ducked out of Glory By Honor 6 weekend with injuries Strong implied he was tougher and more of a fighting champion than his adversary. Now he has his shot, time to back up his words. And it’s a good opportunity too. We know Nigel can be injury prone, and he’s coming off a Steel Cage Match in Dayton last night. What are his stamina levels like?

Does anyone in the building or watching at home think Roderick actually has a chance tonight? It has to be said, the ‘big match’ atmosphere is hardly enhanced as Nigel strolls into his standard work the arm sequences from the bell. He controls the challenger with a clinical professionalism. It is interesting to note that Strong does appear to be going for the left arm that Nigel uses to throw the lariat. He pelts Nigel with chops but the champion powers through into a combo of BRUTAL McLariats. Strong flees the ring to avoid being pinned or further punishment. They have an old fashioned slug-out on the floor, Roddy throwing chops and Nigel eventually pinning him against the barricade and swinging another tough Lariat. Jawbreaker Lariat on the floor misses and Roderick storms into the ring to hit a CORKSCREW PESCADO! That softens McGuinness up and after a rake to the eyes Strong is able to land a couple of chops and a fallaway slam. Nigel doesn’t like that and drives him shoulder-first into the ringpost. He keeps Roderick on the mat where he can control him and stay focused on the arm without constantly having to evade chops from all angles. He hits a running uppercut in the corner but letting Strong up turns out to be an error. He shakes off the uppercut and lifts Nigel into a half nelson backbreaker. To the outside again where Strong hits a backbreaker on the guardrail then a side slam onto the hard floor. Nigel looks for the Tower Of London but Roderick fights that and nails a missile dropkick from the second. Back suplex backbreaker scores and gets 2.

Hammerlock DDT by Nigel but Roddy is in the ropes before he can convert into the London Dungeon. Foolish error by the champion as he tries to scale the ropes. Roderick catches him with a superplex. Strong tries to climb the ropes, and this time it’s him that’s caught with the Tower Of London for 2. He goes for the headstand but Strong cleans his clock with the Sick Kick. MCLARIAT BY NIGEL! Both men down after those vicious strikes! They get to their feet and start to unload on each other with chops and uppercuts. GIBSON DRIVER…for 2! McGuinness squirms back into the ring to avoid a suplex on the ring apron. He hands Roddy in the ropes for the Lariat off the second rope for 2. Roderick evades a Tower Of London to the floor to hit the BACK SUPLEX ON THE APRON! Stronghold applied but Nigel, who is a tall wrestler which always favours him in these situations, reaches out and grabs the bottom rope. Out of the ring again where Strong climbs onto the guardrail…then EATS an uppercut which sends him three rows back. TOWER OF LONDON OFF THE RAIL! Roderick takes a while to recover from that obviously. But recover he does as he blocks the Jawbreaker Lariat and nails a powerbomb backbreaker for another 2. Death By Roderick then the Sick Kick. GIBSON DRIVER AGAIN! TWO COUNT AGAIN! McGuinness counters the Stronghold with a roll-up for a close nearfall of his own. He chops Strong down with a big McLariat. Sick Kick again by Strong but Nigel rides it into the JAWBREAKER LARIAT! Nigel retains at 26:29.

Rating – *** –
Lots of good wrestling there so it’s hard to be too critical, but that was easily the weakest main event of 2008 thus far. The dynamics of this match were just bizarre. This is technically before Nigel’s big heel turn so, in theory he’s still a face. Whilst Roderick is clearly still positioned as a heel leading the No Remorse Corps. But Nigel has always looked a lot more comfortable as a heel (as we saw during his memorable Pure Title reign), whilst Strong is often praised as being one of the most natural babyface wrestlers on the independent scene – a key component during his epic series with American Dragon in 2005/6. So you’ve got Nigel (the better heel) working face and Strong (the better face) working heel…and to top it all off, they wrestled it to type as well. Strong was the babyface in this match and had as much (if not more) crowd support as the champion. Hell, even they’re offence is so geared for things to be other way around with Strong’s crowd pleasing explosive sequences of chops and breakers taking on Nigel’s basic arm work and over-used lariats. I think these messed up dynamics, coupled with the fact that Strong didn’t have a snowball’s chance in a microwave of winning, really stunted the match and cut-off any chances of a decent crowd reaction. I also think almost 27 minutes is far too long for these two to work in a match where everyone knows the result. BUT on the positive side, they worked damn hard and, at no point during that near 30-minute match was I bored. As a house show level World Title Match, I had fun. It never hit the heights of their 2006 Pure Title Match, but it was a solid outing, and gave McGuinness a good workout as he tries to work his way back to 100% following a series of injuries at the backend of 2007.

The Age Of The Fall are obviously irritated by losing the Tag Titles but Jimmy Jacobs tries to rally his troops. Tyler Black says that now they’ve had a taste of being champions, they want it back even more.

Tape Rating – ** –
I’ve been generous and positive with my overall reviews of the first three shows of 2008. I certainly think these four shows comprise Ring Of Honor’s best start to a calendar year for a long time. However, this one was noticeably weaker. Only one match hit the 4* mark and, as good as that one between Generico and Castagnoli was, their Race To The Top match was more enjoyable. Delirious/Pearce and some of the undercard stuff dragged. The main event, whilst solid and competently wrestled, was very long and a little tough to watch given the predictable finish and strange character dynamic. And the key selling point of this show, the Tag Title change in the Ultimate Endurance, left a sour taste in my mouth due to the frankly bizarre burial of Age Of The Fall which I covered earlier. The show as a whole is also VERY long (clocking in at over 3 hours). On the one hand this represents great value as, how often do you see a WWE ppv go the full three hours for instance? But, later in the year after Gabe was released, it came out that Cary and co were a little annoyed at how long ROH live shows ran – feeling the crowd was burnt out and bored having to sit through 5+ hours of show. I think events like tonight show why. Did Strong and Nigel really need nearly half an hour? Did Delirious and Pearce need 20+ minutes? Was Hagadorn and Pelle really necessary on the main card? Maybe since you know you’ve got longer matches later in the show, only have 1 comedy Intergender Match as opposed to two. I know these are easy criticisms to make in hindsight, especially with all that’s come out about Gabe Sapolsky’s exit from ROH, but you can certainly see where some of those complaints came from. I’m also not saying this is a bad show because it wasn’t. There are lots of very solid matches on here. The birth of Team Work was enjoyable. Joey Matthews’ performance against Mark Briscoe was just phenomenal. I really enjoyed Castagnoli/Generico too. But it’s a LOT to sit through and very rarely was it particularly exciting. Definitely one to pick up in a sale rather than a must buy.

Top 3 Matches

3) Joey Matthews vs Mark Briscoe (***)

2) Nigel McGuinness vs Roderick Strong (***)

1) El Generico vs Claudio Castagnoli (****)

Top 5 Breakout/Without Remorse Weekend Matches

5) Nigel McGuinness vs Roderick Strong (*** – Without Remorse)

4) Erick Stevens vs Davey Richards vs Austin Aries (*** – Breakout)

3) Claudio Castagnoli vs El Generico (**** – Without Remorse)

2) Nigel McGuinness vs Chris Hero (**** – Breakout)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Tyler Black (****1/2 – Breakout)

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