ROH 198 – Battle Of The Best – September 13th 2008
For the second time in their history, Ring Of Honor journeys to Japan for a weekend of shows in conjunction with Dragon Gate and Pro Wrestling NOAH (and others). As with the first tour, they’ve brought over a core roster of talent to be supplemented with top guys from the home promotion. However, unlike last time, both shows are in the same building – the historic Differ Ariake. The cards will once again feature a combination of “homegrown” ROH matches, bringing the in-house feuds and storylines to Japan, with international dream matches. Tonight’s show is partnered by Dragon Gate, and incidentally, marks Ring Of Honor and Dragon Gate’s final interaction. The two companies would fall out over finances stemming from this event, and this is the last time DG talent has featured on an ROH event to date. ROH feuds form the centrepiece of this international event, with Age Of The Fall defending the Tag Titles against the Briscoes in the main event. We’ve also got Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson continuing their epic rivalry in a non-title match, plus the match we’ve waited all summer for – Roderick Strong vs Davey Richards. There’s also a tasty looking DG trios match in the midcard as well. Lets get to Tokyo, Japan to join Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard
SIDENOTE – Check out the Bonus features on this DVD. There’s some decent bonus matches from Full Impact Pro and SHIMMER (Amazing Kong vs MsChif which is well worth watching) and an AWESOME promo by Jimmy Jacobs talking about the 1 year anniversary of Age Of The Fall, going to Japan to defend his Tag Championship then challenge for the World Title…and how nobody has noticed him become the top guy in ROH.
ROH VIDEO WIRE (29/08/2008) – The Video Wire has a new title sequence which is well overdue. First new content we have is more comical redneck Briscoe skits. They shoot guns and swear and punch each other until they bleed. Awesome…
Nigel McGuinness cheerfully reminds Danielson that he wanted his title match on pay-per-view, and since tonight isn’t ppv and he hasn’t earned that match…it’s not for the belt.
Larry Sweeney talks up his clients Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards ahead of their matches. Davey says he’s going to prove he was the one carrying the No Remorse Corps
Eddie Edwards vs YAMATO
On the surface it seems odd that Edwards would be included on ROH’s tour roster whilst established talent like Necro Butcher, Kevin Steen, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli and others sit home. But he’s already completed several successful NOAH tours, and was probably already in this part of the world thanks to his NOAH commitments. YAMATO appeared in Detroit during Wrestlemania weekend 2007 but has improved a lot since then, and is one of DG’s most promising young talents.
New short trunks for Edwards, but the first thing that catches my eye is how AWESOME this venue looks on DVD. It’s a real shame there aren’t such beautiful buildings for ROH to run in the US. Crowd looks quite sparse though, and as ever with puro crowds, they’re VERY quiet. Prazak puts over Eddie’s bookings on this tour as a result of Larry Sweeney’s negotiating skills. He and Yamato trade stiff strikes before Edwards drops the DG talent with a running knee shot for 2. T-bone suplex scores for Yamato, and he follows by pummelling Eddie down into the corner with chops and kicks. He demonstrates that his graduation from ‘young boy’ status has involved a change to a more heelish wrestling style. Half crab locked in, floated into a crossface as Edwards looks to move to the ropes. Jumping lungblower from the second rope from Die Hard then the Lionsault for 2. Backpack Stunner gets another nearfall for Sweeney’s client. He delivers another combo of big boots which Yamato shakes off to deliver a massive spear. Texas Cloverleaf applied but once again Edwards manages to break it. ROPE CLIMB knee strike from Edwards…UBER EPIC FAIL! Eddie goes for a super rana and misses, forcing him to crash backwards into the ring and causing Yamato to tumble haplessly to the floor. Both men recover to see Edwards nearly claim victory with a sharp powerbomb. 2k1 Bomb blocked though. Brainbuster draws a close 2 for Yamato. Gallaria wins it for him at 12:22
Rating – *** – Even with that crazy botch, I really enjoyed this. I miss the days when ROH was less centred on storylines, and they’d let guys go out and WRESTLE for 10-15 minutes. Obviously this was nothing to do with storylines or angles, it was two guys who went out and contested a really competitive match. Nice way to start the show, although I suspect some may have found this more difficult to get into than I did.
Larry Sweeney doesn’t need a microphone to cut a promo tonight since the crowd is quiet and miniscule. He angrily tells Eddie Edwards he needs to improve if he wants to keep his spot
Roderick Strong (in his usual awkward promo style) promises that he’ll prove why it was always Davey carrying the bags and shining the belts in the NRC
Austin Aries vs Ryo Saito
It’s a shame Gabe couldn’t find something more prominent for Aries to do as he’s one of ROH’s top stars (and has previous Dragon Gate bookings on his resume). Still, this shouldn’t need too much hype as it’s one of ROH’s premier performers against one of the biggest names in Dragon Gate.
Saito wrestles in baggy shiny pants now. Much as with Edwards/YAMATO, there’s nothing but pride at stake here, but they still get right down into some pretty intense mat wrestling. Armdrags from Aries, quickening the pace to get the better of Saito. Ryo obviously hasn’t watched his Austin Aries tapes though, he slaps on a grounded headscissors, which Austin effortlessly escapes into the usual dropkick to the face. Knee strikes score and he looks for the Last Chancery early, forcing Saito to scramble to safety. Aries goes for a slingshot corkscrew splash but soars into Saito’s knees. That’s the cue for Saito to attack the former ROH Champion’s midsection, hitting a double stomp from the second rope. Next he stands on Aries’ chest, grinding his heels into the ribs and making it incredibly difficult to breathe. Bearhug after that, converted to a swift gutbuster when Aries looks like he’s about to escape. Austin hits the Power Drive Elbow, but the move does almost as much damage to himself as it does to his opponent. He sends Saito to the floor for the Heat Seeking Missile anyway, and puts his body on the line again to hit a missile dropkick. Impact Explosion Dropkick blocked though and Saito delivers a mid-air counter German suplex for 2. FLYING BODY PRESS gets 2 as well, Ryo’s body cruising down into the injured ribs. Aries rallies with the IED then locks in the Last Chancery. He can’t maintain the hold though! SNAP DRAGON SUPLEX with a bridge from Saito. Aries lands on his feet as Saito attempts another suplex to deliver the Kick Of Death! BRAINBUSTER! KNEE STRIKES! LAST CHANCERY! Aries wins at 13:31
Rating – *** – More solid, competitive wrestling there. The body of work was maybe a little better in this one than Edwards/YAMATO, but I really didn’t like how Aries no-sold all Saito’s rib work to win with the Last Chancery. I know he’s getting that over as his submission finish, but in my opinion it didn’t work in the context of the match.
Aries doesn’t get much time to celebrate as Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black attempt to ambush him ahead of Steel Cage Warfare at Glory By Honor 7. Jimmy renders him unconscious with End Time then promises that Age Of The Fall will create chaos in Japan. The crowd meet that with a few pantomime boos, but ultimately don’t seem too upset.
In the back, Open The Dream Gate Champion Shingo, Dragon Kid and their partner for the night, El Generico cut some promos for Dragon Gate’s TV show…
Later Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino and BxB Hulk do the same. High spirits and smiles all round.
Davey Richards vs Roderick Strong
This one has been brewing for a long time. After his feud-ending Fight Without Honor with Erick Stevens at Respect Is Earned 2 Roderick Strong was betrayed by Davey, who attacked him to announce his signing with Sweet’n’Sour Inc. Sweeney then sent him on an extended tour of Japan meaning Strong could do nothing about it. The former FIP Champion has bided his time but has now come to Japan as well to ensure he finally gets his hands on the man he hand-picked as his first partner in the No Remorse Corps in early 2007.
I know it’s partly puro culture to be a more watchful, appreciative crowd…but the attendance tonight isn’t massive, and it really does feel like ROH is running an empty arena show. Richards and Sweeney bust their asses to get a response from the fans and establish that they’re the heels for this one. They explode out of the blocks with a thrilling near miss exchange. Kick to the spine from Davey, but Strong comes right up and floors him with a chop. Vicious surfboard applied by Richards who looks like he wants to keep the match grounded. Sure enough, once Roddy is back on his feet he is able to knock his former partner all over the ring with more chops. Once more Richards grounds it with a headscissors, using Larry Sweeney for some additional leverage. TWISTING TOPE SUICIDA SCORES for Davey. He ended up in the third row (also known as the back row) chatting to a fan! And it was probably a move which did more damage to Richards than it did to Strong. Roderick suplexes him on the floor then chops him back into the crowd. Davey gets back over the barrier, and is promptly kicked into the crowd for a third time after a big boot from the apron. Sick of that treatment, Richards delivers a duo of guardrail gutbusters then a stiff kick to the sternum. Roddy tries another chop and gets KICKED IN THE FACE! Grounded bodyscissors locked in with Davey now determined to work the ribs it seems. Strong turns it to his stomach so Richards quickly converts into a camel clutch. They fight outside again where Roddy delivers a BACK SUPLEX ON THE RAMP! That sounded really ugly!
SLINGSHOT SICK KICK scores, followed by a jumping heel kick for 2. SUPLEX gutbuster then a slingshot Jackhammer get another nearfall as Roderick starts busting out all kinds of new offence. He hits a pumphandle backbreaker as well but still can’t put this one to bed. Chop/headbutt combo forces Roddy back into the corner for Richards to score with a superplex. They go to the turnbuckles again where Davey hits a ROPE RUN GERMAN SUPERPLEX! Texas Cloverleaf applied, working Strong’s midsection again! That doesn’t get the win so Richards goes upstairs again for a missile dropkick right to the back. ALARM CLOCK nailed, into a flash roll-up for another nearfall. Urinage backbreaker then an inverted suplex in response by Roderick. This one is over 20 minutes deep now and both men look exhausted, but still want to chop and strike lumps out of each other. SUPLEX SENDS BOTH MEN FALLING OUT OF THE RING! Prazak and Leonard speculate as to who ended up worse with that as both men labour back inside and wearily go back to chopping each other. STRIKE FLURRY FROM RICHARDS! SICK KICK INTO DEATH BY RODERICK FOR 2! Half Nelson Backbreaker blocked and Davey turns Strong into the Cloverleaf again. That’s escaped and we go into a seemingly endless series of pinfall attempts. Neither man is successful, and Strong rolls it into ROLLING GIBSON DRIVERS! Roddy finally wins at 24:59
Rating – **** – Grueling encounter, one really suited to the environment and show it takes place on. I’m not sure this type of slow-build, lengthy match would’ve worked with an American ROH crowd, but here in Japan, with a small card and a crowd who will respectfully sit back and watch as you slowly tell your story in the ring, it was well suited. Personally I thought this was great, but much like the Japanese fanbase, you’ll need to be patient and give it time to deliver. If that’s your kind of thing then you’ll love this. If not then…you probably won’t rate it as highly. I’m not sure Roderick really needed to go over at this stage in proceedings, but I sense ROH may have been playing nice for Kensuke Office, since we’ve got Strong vs Sasaki tomorrow night.
Strong gets on the stick and promises he’ll out-chop Kensuke Sasaki tomorrow night. Does he have a death wish??
Bryan Danielson doesn’t care that the title isn’t on the line, and just wants to go out there and prove he’s a better wrestler than Nigel as they bring their rivalry to Japan.
BxB Hulk/Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino vs El Generico/Shingo/Dragon Kid
Still we don’t get BxB’s trademark dancing girls ring entrance which is a shame. No real need to do much intro here. Six guys, minimal tags, maximum spots. Shingo and Naruki Doi are former ROH Tag Champions on opposing sides…
Shingo’s hair has got even more beautiful since we saw him in Orlando. BxB’s team look like a silver lycra-clad futuristic Japanese boyband. Kid and Yoshino start and you know what you get from them – crisp wrestling at a million miles per hour. Shingo and Hulk in next, and this is apparently one of the top rivalries in Dragon Gate. Hulk comes out on top early and in come Generico and Doi. Kudos to El Generico, he doesn’t look out of place at all amongst some of Dragon Gate’s finest. Astro Boyband team open up an advantage by isolating Dragon Kid from his partners. DK escapes with a gorgeous spinning heel kick right into Hulk’s mouth then tags out to Shingo. Slaps traded and tempers flare again between the two former partners. BxB delivers an axe kick but is nearly dragged out of his boots with a lightning quick suplex from Shingo. Hulk looks for a tag after grounding El Generico with a heel kick, only to find Shingo blocking his path and clearing the apron of all his partners. Doi eventually is tagged in and he looks to tear of Generico’s mask which doesn’t go down well with the crowd. Multiple double axehandles to Generico’s arm from all members of that team, ending with Yoshino soaring into a high double stomp to the same arm. Hulk then hangs him in the ropes, in position for Doi to score with a somersault senton for 2. Springboard crossbody in response from Generico, then a rope run lucha DDT to Naruki, allowing him to tag in Shingo. He tosses BxB to the floor then POWERS Doi into an urinage suplex.
DUELLING MOONSAULTS TO THE FLOOR from DK and Generico. BxB goes for a springboard heel kick but slips off the ropes and collapses at Shingo’s feet. He recovers to hit a Rock Bottom! Standing corkscrew senton gets 2. STRIKE EXCHANGE between the two Dragon Gate rivals! Pumphandle Powerbomb gets Shingo a nearfall. Springboard headscissors into 619 from Kid to Doi. Naruki catches him as he goes for a rana though, allowing Yoshino to sprint in and kick him in the face. Springboard heel kick from Hulk nailed second time around. Flapjack/bulldog combo from Doi and Yoshino gets 2. YAKUZA KICK kills Doi as he climbs the ropes though. Shingo hoists Doi into his shoulders in the corner. ULTRA RANA FROM KID! FLYING SPLASH FROM GENERICO…FOR 2. AVALANCHE FALCONRY from Shingo gets 2 as well. Hulk kicks El Generico in the face…so the ROH guy returns fire with another Yakuza Kick to Yoshino. EVO TO GENERICO! Dragon Kid dives in to save his partner. Doi saves BxB from the turnbuckle Brainbuster. DOOMSDAY BULLDOG gets 2 for the Doi/Yoshino combo. MISSILE DROPKICK/SENTON BOMB double score from Yoshino! Shingo grabs Yoshino and powerbombs him for his trouble. DOI 555 on Dragon Kid but Shingo arrives again to hit the SHINGO LARIATO on Yoshino! SPRINGBOARD RANA from DK for 2! Yoshino eats BRAINBUSTER from Generico! SPINNING BRAINBUSTER! Generico pins Yoshino at 22:28!
Rating – **** – It wasn’t quite as clean as these DG trios matches normally are, but as per usual it was so much fun. Wrestlers diving about from all angles at incredible speeds for north of 20 minutes is just so entertaining. The Shingo/BxB segments (even with that one Hulk screw up) were absolute money and made me want to check out some of their stuff (hopefully they’ll cross paths in DG-USA as I have all their DVD’s on my shelf still to watch), providing some of the highlights of the match. As for ROH’s sole participant, the biggest compliment you can pay Generico is that he didn’t look out of place at all. He easily kept up with the Dragon Gate veterans, giving as good as he was getting, nailing everything clean and matching the high standards set by the other 5 men.
Next we get a nice video package showing clips from all the Danielson/McGuinness singles matches, going all the way back to Weekend Of Champions Night 2.
Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness
It’s argued by many that this is now the greatest rivalry in Ring Of Honor, and it’s hard to think of many better. Certainly considering how many singles matches they’ve had over the years. You could argue that the matches at Unified, Driven and 6th Anniversary Show are some of the best matches in ROH history, and as we’re building to another World Title showdown on pay-per-view at some point, you have to figure this classic feud has more to come yet. Tonight the World Title isn’t on the line, but pride is at stake. These men have traded wins (and shared a draw in Las Vegas) and are always desperate to prove who the better wrestler is. Of course, if Dragon is able to secure victory tonight, you’d argue that his case for another shot at Nigel’s belt becomes indisputable.
Amidst the almost painful pre-match silence, you can clearly hear Nigel remind the referee that it’s DEFINITELY non-title which makes me chuckle. Barely a minute of the match passes before Nigel steals Dragon’s ‘I’ve got till 5’ gimmick. Dragon coolly disregards that taunt and works the MutaLock. McGuinness turns that into a VICIOUS chinlock. Seriously, in chinlock terms, that looked like death. Dragon denies his opponent a clean break, instead opting to paste him with a European uppercut. McGuinness fires back with an uppercut of his own which decks the former World Champion. Danielson again tries to control the legs to maintain the advantage but Nigel demonstrates his own mat prowess to counter. Danielson turns that back into his own hold, and at this point the mat wrestling between these two is so good people are actually applauding. Body slams from the current champion and Danielson has to shake that pain off to trap him in a standing chickenwing. Big arm wrench followed by a Cobra Clutch as Nigel looks to work the arm and exhaust his opponent. AMAZING counter from Danielson into a hammerlock. Cattle Mutilation blocked and Nigel hits the headstand mule kick for 2. Chops and uppercuts in the corner next, along with several focused shots to Danielson’s spine. American Dragon has to escape an attempted half crab and hits a double underhook suplex for 2…but then slows up, nursing his back. Missile dropkick sends McGuinness all the way out of the ring. Dragon lines up a tope suicida but that’s blocked…TOWER OF LONDON OUT OF THE RING! Now McGuinness is able to lock in the half crab, applying more pressure to the back. Jawbreaker Lariat blocked by an elbow smash from Dragon. Bridging German suplex gets 2 but Nigel rolls away from Cattle Mutilation. MMA Elbows aren’t enough to stop McGuinness getting back to his feet. Cattle Mutilation COUNTERED to the Tower Of London for 2. MASSIVE slaps traded, and Nigel drops Danielson again with a wild knee strike. SUPER MCLARIAT for 2. He looks for the running McLariat and nearly loses to a flash roll-up. UPPERCUT DUEL! NEARFALL DUEL! SMALL PACKAGE! Danielson wins at 21:59
Rating – **** – This was a tough match to rate. I’m QUITE sure some people will slate it because, in reality it’s nowhere close to being as good as their really memorable matches at Unified, Driven and 6YA, and not even in the same league as the “second tier” matches at Weekend Of Champions and Epic Encounter 2. They’ve wrestled each other so much that it’s hard to rate this as a standalone effort, but that’s what I’ve tried to do. Compared to their previous matches, it’s VERY basic. They worked this in total house show mode. But after the headutt gimmickery of Unified/Driven, then the VERY storyline-heavy effort in Manhattan earlier this year, the stripped away, ‘back to basics’ approach was actually refreshing. At the end of the day, shunning all storylines and even in house show mode, these are two of the best in ROH today, and watching them trade holds back and forth for 20+ minutes is great to watch if you can stomach a mat-intensive match in front of a largely silent audience. So yes, as part of the whole Danielson/Nigel saga, this one is disappointing. But judging this one on it’s own merits, it’s a fascinating match. Both are so skilled that neither is able to mount sustained periods of offence. Nigel probably lands more of the higher impact spots, but ultimately Danielson looked more capable on the mat and used that to his advantage and gained the victory. Some people will see this rating and think I’m being ridiculously generous…and I respect their opinion. Hopefully I’ve explained my methodology at least, so you can understand where I’m coming from too. Personally, I was able to enjoy it for what it was, and avoided comparisons to the ‘great’ matches in this rivalry. When all is said and done with this feud, this certainly won’t be one people waste a great deal of breath talking about. Hell, it’s not even Top 5 (I’ll rate my Danielson/Nigel matches in order of preference in a second)…but worth a watch anyway.
Danielson/McGuinness Saga – Rated
3) Sixth Anniversary Show
4) Weekend Of Champions Night 2
5) Epic Encounter 2
6) Generation Now
7) Battle Of The Best
8) Survival Of The Fittest 2007
Danielson…talk slow…for…Japanese fans. He encourages them to come support ROH tomorrow night when he challenges Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship.
Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe – ROH Tag Title Match
As he himself explained in his lengthy promo in the bonus features on this DVD, this is a HUGE weekend for Jimmy Jacobs and Age Of The Fall. It’s their one year anniversary in ROH, having debuted last September at Man Up…by attacking the Briscoes. They’ve had bloody and violent battles all over the ROH circuit, and are looking to finally settle it in Japan with the Briscoes hoping to regain the belts they were never beaten for. And tomorrow night Jacobs will challenge Nigel McGuinness for the World Championship, hoping to succeed where Tyler Black has failed on two occasions.
Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black attack during the Briscoes entrance, which proves enormously unsuccessful as Mark suplexes Jacobs onto the hard entrance ramp. Jay back drops Tyler as they fight into the startled crowd. This thing goes all over Differ Ariake with Jimmy dropping Mark through a couple of chairs and Jay dropping Black throat-first over a metal railing. Tyler hits back by crotching Jay on the same rail. One VERY optimistic fan tries to get a ‘Holy Sh*t’ chant going amidst the melee. The Briscoes toss Tyler into the lights then let him drop onto another stage area, drawing a MASSIVE (for this crowd) ‘ROH’ cry. That’s him incapacitated for now, and Jacobs retreats to the ring with both Briscoes in hot pursuit. Leg drop/sidewalk slam combo gets 2 for the challengers. Tyler returns in time to save his partner from the Springboard Doomsday Device. He and Jay slug it out until Black flips into a Pele kick then Peroxism for 2. One of those strikes from Black has cut Jay open and AOTF look to take immediate advantage with a double boot combo to the head. Mark tries to return and gets SPEARED THROUGH THE ROPES by Jacobs. POWERBOMB CONTRA CODE scores but Jay manages to kick out. Mark returns to drop Jimmy with the urinage. Splash Mountain neckbreaker nailed on Black. CUT-THROAT DRIVER on Jacobs but Tyler recovers to save the match. He hauls Mark outside and POWERBOMBS HIM INTO THE SECOND ROW! He has to save his partner again as Jay goes for an avalanche Jay Driller. He tosses Jay into END TIME! He’s out and Age Of The Fall retain their belts at 12:36.
Rating – *** – Fun match to end the show, and the crowd absolutely LOVED it. In terms of fan reaction, this one was streets ahead of anything else tonight. You felt like these four really managed to capture the spirit of what it is that makes Ring Of Honor live shows unique and bring it to Japan for this crowd to enjoy. Was it the best match in the feud, absolutely not – but the unique setting of the Differ Ariake and the sheer, unashamed enjoyment from the Japanese fans made this one memorable and a fitting main event. This feud is settled in Philadelphia at Glory By Honor 7.
Jimmy Jacobs…talk slow…for…Japanese fans too. He say he’ll cause more chaos by winning the World Title tomorrow night.
Tape Rating – *** – This is a tough call. Personally I found this to be a very enjoyable show. Every match gets lots of time, and there’s not a bad match on the card (on a six-match show, to have 3 of them clock in at 4* is really decent). BUT, on the flip side, there’s very little rewatch value, and very little you won’t have seen before. Strong/Richards is excellent, but we’ve seen better DG trios matches elsewhere, better AOTF/Briscoes matches elsewhere and certainly better Danielson/McGuinness matches elsewhere. Top that off with the silent crowd which I know will turn a lot of people off, I don’t know how strongly to recommend this. I think the completists will really like it. Maybe the casual viewer would be better off spending their money on something else though. I think this one is definitely more of an acquired taste. Hopefully there’ll be a bigger and more vocal crowd for tomorrow night’s show.
Top 3 Matches
3) Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness (****)
2) El Generico/Shingo/Dragon Kid vs BxB Hulk/Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino (****)
1) Roderick Strong vs Davey Richards (****)