ROH 204 – The French Connection – 7th November 2008
Say what you want about the dismissal of former booker Gabe Sapolsky, and all the pros and cons that come with such a momentous decision. One benefit is that it makes this show, which would ordinarily have seemed like any other debut show in a new market, far more interesting. Granted, the card is largely the same as that which Gabe had planned out (as outlined in his ‘Book Of ROH Secrets’ DVD) – many of them had even been advertised before his firing. There are major rematches as Davey Richards and Roderick Strong meet for the first time since Battle Of The Best in Tokyo, whilst Age Of The Fall and Team Work are pitted against each other in a follow up to the excellent Respect Is Earned 2 main event. We’ll also have the World Title on the line in the ‘Battle Of Champions’ and lots of cool looking undercard stuff. We debut in Montreal with Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard calling it.
ROH VIDEO WIRE (29/10/2008-04/11/2008) – Aww, October 29th is my birthday. This is mostly highlights, although there’s a video package for the Briscoes/Steen-erico rematch in Toronto and it sends shills down your spine. Those four guys basically carried ROH in 2007.
Show opens with NEW INTERVIEW GUY! Boo, bring back Becky. It’s Kyle Durden, who graduated from the ROH Wrestling Academy. He’s quite funny at least. He doesn’t get much of an interview with Nigel McGuinness. He goes backstage and has an even better chat with Erick Stevens.
Bobby Cruise is in the ring, and announces that ROH will now have a 20-count on the floor during matches. Personally I hate that, but Adam Pearce has been charged with bringing a more old school flavour to ROH shows…
Eddie Edwards vs Erick Stevens
Last time Erick Stevens was in an ROH ring his nose was smeared with blood, and he turned down an offer to join Sweet’n’Sour Inc. We know how badly Larry takes rejection – just ask Erick’s arch enemy Roderick Strong.
Stevens has got a ridiculous red patch in his hair. I’m not a fan. Prazak opens the show with a barrage of jokes, making Red Rooster jokes about Stevens. Edwards starts off aggressively but gets flattened with a Stevens Samoan drop. Eddie blocks the Doctor Bomb and headbutts the back of his neck. He hits a springboard STOMP TO THE ARM! That looked sick! Edwads drops right into a Fujiwara armbar to follow up on that. He then hurls him into the ringpost to do more damage. Stevens hits a body slam, but that hurts his own arm so much it’s actually Edwards that is back to his feet first. With the ref’s back turned Shane Hagadorn hops to the apron to drop Erick’s arm over the top rope. Stevens explodes into life with an overhead suplex, then the Choo Choo avalanche. Second rope shoulder tackle scores as well. But he still can’t hit the Doctor Bomb thanks to that bad arm. Eddie lines up the Lionsault…COUNTERED TO AN INVERTED DDT! DOCTOR BOMB! Stevens wins at 08:19.
Rating – *** – Solid, crisp opening match there. The fans were into it, Eddie Edwards was absolutely fantastic, Stevens did a good job selling the arm…and the finishing sequence was great. I think we’ve got to the stage now where ROH need to be booking Edwards on every show. He’s such a solid hand, you can really see the potential in him.
SIDENOTE – As with the last weekend of DVD releases, the tone of Prazak and Leonard’s commentary is completely different. The last DVD Gabe worked production for was Glory By Honor 7. Clearly the new regime of Pearce and Silkin want a little more personality in the commentary booth – and Prazak has immediately sprung to life with lots of jokes, more sarcasm and more of a heelish edge to his work. I really like it, it’s much closer to his acclaimed IWA-MS stuff. He sounds SO much more enthusiastic for the product when he’s let off the leash.
Kyle Durden admits he has a man crush on Rhett Titus…
Kenny Omega/Kenny King vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
There’s not a lot to bring the two Kenny’s together, other than their first names and the fact that they’re looking to secure regular spots in ROH. The Briscoes are gearing up for their shot at the Tag Titles tomorrow night in Toronto, so need a win here to get the momentum going.
Omega and King don’t exactly look like they’re on the same page during their ring entrance. Omega (and his bouncy blonde curls) absolutely oozes nerd-chic charisma. King confidently starts with Jay, dispatching Omega to the apron then dropping the older Briscoe with a Japanese armdrag. Are the crowd chanting in French? Omega in with Mark and they have a FANTASTIC back and forth exchange. King rakes Mark’s eyes to get an advantage for his team. Leapfrog bulldog from Omega gets 2 before the two Kenny’s get into an argument about which man is legal. Jay tags in and takes advantage of the confusion to take out both of them. Briscoe football charge takes out Omega. Jay hits an great combo of quick leg drop on the fallen Omega then leaping straight back to his feet to take King off the apron as well. Omega looks for a springboard crossbody but dives right into a dropkick from Mark. Briscoe Biel BLOCKED…HURRICANRANA ON BOTH BRISCOES! He looks for a hot tag…but Kenny King walks off. Rhett Titus is at ringside to congratulate King on that decision as Omega gets 2 with a dragon suplex. Jay drops him into the corner with a Flatliner. Springboard Doomsday Device wins it for the Briscoes at 11:42.
Rating – ** – That was enjoyable. I didn’t quite have it at 3* because it was a tad one sided, but there was plenty I liked. Kenny Omega is a total star and needs to be on as many shows as possible. Even if his wrestling seems a little spotty, the guy has a Paul London-esque charm to him that Ring Of Honor needs to harness. We also saw the Briscoes continue to work more of a grounded style, and the formation of the King/Titus team which is, on the surface at least, an interesting alliance which should be a good way to work them into more shows. It also shows that it was clearly Gabe that liked the YRR and wanted to bring them to ROH…as Pearce has quickly put the kibosh on that and given Kenny someone else to work with.
Kyle Durden’s interview technique offends Jerry Lynn…who returns fire with the mother of all put downs – ‘you look like a miscarriage that survived’.
Necro Butcher vs Brodie Lee
I guess Lee was another guy who Gabe wanted to bring in, rather than someone Pearce is a fan of. This was the match Gabe wanted to spend the rest of the year building towards and have it as one of the marquee matches in the ECW Arena during the last weekend of the year. Brodie debuted at Ring Of Homicide 2 and made quite the impact – including participating in Age Of The Fall’s decimation of Necro Butcher.
Speaking of Red Rooster, Necro’s walk to the ring is like a cross between that gimmick and Grand Masta Sexay. Necro tries to ambush Lee, but gets pummelled for doing so. Luckily for him, the ref distracts Brodie by stopping him using a chain, giving Necro a chance to hit back. Lee misses his Big Boot and gets knocked out of the ring, allowing Butcher to hit his butt ugly cannonball senton from the apron. He looks for a body slam onto the exposed floor, but Brodie blocks and drives his back repeatedly into the ringpost. Nigel McGuinness is on commentary to hype his title defence against Necro tomorrow night. Brodie is clearly working the back, delivering a basic suplex, then some of the worst looking Irish whips you’ll see. He lands the Big Boot, then a Black Hole Slam for 2. This is really awful by the way. Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black run in to attack Necro and force a DQ at 07:33. Welcome to the new ROH everyone…
Rating – DUD – This match represents the first major call of the new regime, and they it wrong. Gabe wanted to keep these guys apart, keep Brodie Lee out of regular matches for as long as possible, and really hype a big, hardcore grudge match between the two at the ECW Arena in December. With that overhauled, we had these two big, clumsy guys trying to work a regular match…and it was just awful to watch. I’m sure the DQ finish will annoy some who will be looking for anything to criticise the new regime for. I didn’t have a problem with it (partly because it ended what had been a horrific match)…
The three Age Of The Fall members hang Necro with a chain. They leave with Necro gasping for breath…then Nigel’s music hits the World Champion arrives. He steals Danielson catchphrases, steals Bret Hart catchphrases (prompting a bizarre ‘You Screwed Bret’ chant) and runs down Necro, then the two hometown boys Steen and Generico.
Jerry Lynn vs Delirious
I’ve been a mark for Lynn’s run in ROH thus far. I was delighted to see him get a shot at Vendetta 2, thrilled he took it with a terrific match against Nigel, and now I’m happy he’s getting a run of regular bookings. He was also in top form at the last double shot with great matches against Tyler Black and Claudio Castagnoli that are well worth checking out. Tonight he’s looking to continue his rise through the ranks towards a World Title shot by defeating Age Of The Fall oddball Delirious.
Lynn gets a massive ovation from the Montreal fans. Bell rings and Delirious starts choking him with his ring jacket. Jerry hits back with a tilta-whirl headscissors, and reacts quickly to evade the Panic Attack. WHEELBARROW TOSS into the guardrails. Unfortunately Jimmy Jacobs distracts Lynn, allowing Delirious to drill him back-first into the apron. The referee ejects Jimmy from ringside (much to the annoyance of Dave Prazak, who is getting more and more heelish as the show progresses), but the damage is done and Delirious is on top now. Nigel and Prazak share a joke about Jerry suffering from erectile dysfunction. But Delirious seems to go for a totally out of character version of the Bronco Buster…which misses and allows Jerry to land a lungblower out of the corner. Never Ending Story Clothesline ON Delirious! Cradle Piledriver blocked and this time Delirious does land the Panic Attack. Shadows Over Hell mises but Delirious is intelligent enough to block the TKO by raking the eyes. CRADLE PILEDRIVER! Lynn takes the win. I messed timing up but it was ten minutes-ish.
Rating – ** – Basic, effective…but slightly dull. One of Adam Pearce’s main priorities set by Cary Silkin is to tone down the ROH style, cut down the card lengths (so shorter midcard matches) and get things a little more character focused. This match epitomised that in every way.
Roderick Strong vs Davey Richards
Battle Of The Best rematch here. It was Strong that picked up the win in Tokyo, going some distance towards avenging the treachery of Davey, who left the No Remorse Corps (effectively ending that group was Rocky Romero hasn’t been booked in months) to sign with Larry Sweeney. Richards is now back from his extended stay in Japan and looking to get a win back on his former partner.
They work the mat with a great deal of intensity, proving to be an even match for one another. Five minutes pass with them still going back and forth, the former partners always having an answer for his opponent’s move. Strong breaks out the big chops to give himself the advantage. Richards tries to fight back with a chop of his own…but Roddy literally knocks him off his feet with another massive chop. Eventually Davey opts for the cheaper route of distracting the official, allowing Shane Hagadorn to drive Strong into the ring apron. That’s an indication that Richards is going to work Strong’s midsection which of course, keeps him grounded and negates his chopping capabilities. Stranglehold surfboard by Richards…but impressive Roddy counters to a stranglehold camel clutch. More shots to the ribs…then a RUNNING BOOT TO THE CHEST which shotguns Roderick backwards into the buckles. Urinage backbreaker gets Strong a 2. Death By Roderick countered into nearfalls back and forth. Davey winds up dragon screwing the leg and turning Strong into the Texas Cloverleaf. No win for him there, but he lifts Roddy into the ALARM CLOCK! Bridging German suplex gets 2. They battle on the top rope…where it’s Strong that wins out to hit a superplex. Sick Kick caught…and he gets CRADLE SUPLEXED INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! Both men are taking a long time to get to their feet now, and when they do they really tee off on each other with strikes. SICK KICK gets 2. DEATH BY RODERICK! STRONGHOLD! Eddie Edwards gets on the apron to distract Roderick. He kicks him in the head. DR DRIVER! Davey wins at 16:44
Rating – **** – Shorter and punchier than the Tokyo match, but it was of a similarly high quality. I think these two mesh far better as opponents than they ever did as partners. At times the action was a tad ragged and messy, but I felt that actually added to things – it contributed to a really violent, big ‘fight’ vibe with two guys who hate each other, but want to prove themselves BETTER than their opponent, rather than leave them a bloody mess. I’m sure the finish will, again, attract some attention in light of the recent booking changes. I didn’t see too much wrong with it as S’n’S Inc. are a heel faction – heels cheat on occasion. I am, however, a tad surprised that Pearce opted to run two interferences finishes on the same night.
The crowd (which had been chanting ‘this is awesome’) falls very flat and doesn’t seem best pleased with that shady finish. Go Shiozaki joins his stablemates to do a number on Strong…but help is at hand for Roddy in an unlikely form – Erick Stevens comes out to attack Go. The former rivals form an uneasy alliance to fight off the heel group.
Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries
Lots of significance to this one – a rematch from Respect Is Earned 2. Aries and Jacobs are contesting one of the most heated rivalries in Ring Of Honor at this time. They meet in a Dog Collar Match tomorrow night in Toronto. You’ve also got Bryan Danielson and Tyler Black in the same ring again. They have been absolute money any time they’ve locked horns thus far in 2008.
Danielson and Black start, no doubt Tyler pinning him on ppv in the first match at the forefront of American Dragon’s mind. Jacobs has made it clear he has no interest in wrestling Aries tonight, sprinting out of the ring as soon as Austin tags in legally for the first time. Tyler in, and he quickly backs into the ropes as Aries looks to line up an early Last Chancery. Black lands on his feet out of a Danielson German suplex attempt and hits a hurricanrana for 2. Jimmy’s refusal to get in there with Aries is really costing his team now, with Team Work combining well to take apart Black at this stage. Jacobs continues to run away from Aries…turning his back on Dragon who hits a FLYING KNEE FROM THE APRON! Austin looks to line up a dive onto his nemesis, only for Black to shove him off the top rope. Ten minutes gone and, in quite the turn around, Age Of The Fall dominate Dragon having successfully incapacitated Austin Aries with the aforementioned shove. Several minutes of the former Tag Champions working over Danielson ensue, broken occasionally by Jacobs taking a pop shot at Aries. Danielson finally gets the hot tag to Austin, who Heat Seeking Missile’s Jacobs into the guardrail. STEREO MISSILE DROPKICKS from Team Work! But Jacobs out of the corner with END TIME! DANIELSON SAVES WITH MMA ELBOWS! BLACK SAVES WITH A SUPERKICK! KICK OF DEATH BY ARIES! BRAINBUSTER! LAST CHANCERY! Jacobs taps at 18:31
Rating – **** – That was fun…not anything like the same league as the ppv main event match, but as a house show version this was ok. It only scraped into 4* territory, but I felt it deserved to be there as it was 20 minutes of good work…highlighted by the occasional sparks of interaction between Aries and Jacobs. I thought both were tremendous in hyping their big grudge match tomorrow night, and did well keeping themselves apart without overly hurting the flow of the contest.
Signs of dissension in the Age Of The Fall ranks as Jacobs berates Tyler for not saving him from the clutches of Aries’ big submission hold.
Nigel McGuinness vs El Generico vs Go Shiozaki vs Kevin Steen – ROH World Title Match
This one is being billed as the ‘Battle Of Champions’ as it pits the three Ring Of Honor belt holders, along with the holder of the top prize in FIP in a single elimination match. In the ‘Book Of ROH Secrets’ DVD Gabe actually admitted he booked this match on the fly to try and shift some tickets (judging from the small crowd tonight, it wasn’t that successful). There should be a cracking atmosphere as Steen and Generico will be massive home town favourites here in Canada. McGuinness has successfully defeated all three of his challengers tonight, and emerged victorious from the exact same match format in the main event of Death Before Dishonor 6.
Generico comes out draped in, what I presume to be the Montreal flag. Steen soon follows suit by getting a local Ice Hockey jersey from the crowd and donning that. If I knew more about sports on the North American continent I’m sure that would be more relevant. Steen and Shiozaki share a fairly low key start. Generico in, and after hitting a couple of armdrags, he gets HAMMERED with a savage chop from Go. Heel Prazak is trying to tempt Lenny Leonard into gambling on the winner. McGuinness in for the first time to floor Generico with the headstand mule kick. He then tags out to ensure that Steen and Generico are face to face in the ring for the first time. Rather than wrestle they start mocking trademark Nigel McGuinness spots then join forces for STEREO SOMERSAULT PLANCHAS TO THE FLOOR!
Backpack senton bomb on Shiozaki as the Tag Champions continue to team up to give themselves an advantage. McGuinness sneaks in behind the ref’s back to throw Steen shoulder-first into the ringpost, an approach mirrored by Shiozaki on the outside as he starts pitching Mr Wrestling into the guardrails. He then takes a page out of the ROH Champion’s playbook by nailing a Nigel-esque running European uppercut. Bridging chickenwing by Nigel himself as he looks to work Steen’s arm. GERMAN SUPLEX BY GO…NO SOLD! HEAD DROP GERMAN BY STEEN! Hot tag to Generico who launches in with a crossbody on Go. Double jump flying headscissors gets the Generic Luchador a 2-count. Top rope splash nailed too…broken up by Nigel as he doesn’t want to be facing both Tag Champions by himself. Generico nearly eliminates Shiozaki anyway with a Blue Thunder Driver as Nigel whips Steen into the barricades again. Rope run tornado DDT countered to the ORANGE CRUSH! Generico barely kicked out there. YAKUZA KICK! Nigel stops him hitting the Brainbuster though…GO FLASHER! Generico eliminated at 21:26 which really disappoints the Montreal fans. The two singles champions appear to have formed an alliance to take Kevin Steen out too. Hammerlock DDT takes the Tag Champion down by his wounded arm again…and Nigel then retreats to the apron to watch Shiozaki continue the attack.
Shotei in the corner, then a huge superplex nailed for 2. Mr Wrestling hits a powerbomb out of nothing…but then gets clobbered by McGuinness as he looks for the Steen-ton Bomb. Shiozaki misses his top rope knee strike…SHARPSHOOTER! Go taps at 25:42, which means we’re down to McGuinness vs Steen for the World Title. Steen hits a brutal looking superkick to the chest then the cannonball senton for 2…which was over as a credible nearfall apparently. MOONSAULT MISSES! NIGEL WITH THE SHARPSHOOTER! Everyone knows the significance of that move in Montreal. Steen gets to the ropes and lands the pumphandle cradlebreaker for another 2. Sharpshooter blocked with a rake to the eyes though. Jawbreaker countered…BACK TO THE SHARPSHOOTER! Nigel manages to drag his way to the floor this time. Steen mounts the ropes for a dive…TOWER OF LONDON TO THE APRON! The referee inadvertently gets knocked down. Nigel looks for the Tower Of London on the belt…GENERICO SAVES WITH A YAKUZA KICK! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! THREE COUNT! BUT NIGEL’S FOOT IS ON THE ROPES! Kevin can’t believe it, but climbs the ropes. STEEN-TON BOMB INTO THE KNEES! JAWBREAKER LARIAT! Nigel retains at 31:33.
Rating – **** – Really solid main event. This probably wasn’t as good as it should have been given the talent involved and the length of time it got (it felt very B-show main event), and wasn’t in the same league as Nigel’s Cleveland defence against Generico or Toronto defence against Steen for instance. The work was really nice, but this one lacked that magical x-factor that all big title defences need – you never felt like McGuinness’ reign was in any serious jeopardy. Of course, watching the combination of these four men wrestle for 30 minutes was never going to be a bad thing…but if you’re buying this DVD based on expecting the ‘Battle Of Champions’ to be a match for the ages, you’d be sorely disappointed I’m afraid…
The disappointed Kevin Steen grabs a microphone, and cuts his promo ‘en francais’ as per the request of the Montreal fans. Regrettably this means I don’t have the foggiest what he’s saying. He plays some kind of French joke on the ‘Mexican’ El Generico…and everyone goes home happy.
Tape Rating – *** – So there you have it – the start of Ring Of Honor’s new era. And as strongly as I may have opposed Gabe Sapolsky’s dismissal, I have to say – this wasn’t bad. Did this show feel noticeably different? Yes, it absolutely did. From Leonard and Prazak giving a different vibe to commentary, to the different pacing on the undercard, the 20-count on the floor, increased amount of run ins/shady finishes etc. But, in fairness, and as Gabe himself pointed out on his own DVD, ROH has reached the stage where it needs to be freshened up slightly. The new regime didn’t knock anything out of the park (the aborted Necro/Lee match left a really sour taste in my mouth), and this show wasn’t ‘must-see’ at all. But as far as the ‘B-show’ material ROH produces, this was one of the better efforts. The intent was clearly there to put on a good show for the debut in Montreal (although I’m not sure the crowd was necessarily large enough to justify some of the marquee matches they actually got). Richards/Strong stood out the most to me, I felt that was a superb follow up to their gruelling Tokyo slug out and left plenty more in the tank for future matches. Likewise the AOTF/Team Work rematch, although a house show version of their ppv clash, was worth checking out too. And the main event was an action-packed half an hour, probably more exciting for a live crowd with two hometown favourites to cheer on, but still fun on DVD too. I actually recommend this show. The three headlining bouts are worth seeing…plus obviously it’s a historically significant show which ROH fans should have in their catalogue.
Top 3 Matches
3) Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries vs Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black (****)
2) Nigel McGuinness vs Kevin Steen vs Go Shiozaki vs El Generico (****)
1) Davey Richards vs Roderick Strong (****)