ROH 206 – Escalation – 21st November 2008
Ring Of Honor kicked off it’s new era with a couple of decent shows in Canada. Granted there were a number of negatives, and neither show was particularly memorable or indeed a necessary purchase to anything other than the ROH completist. But, don’t sleep on the fact that there were positives too. Nobody likes change, but sometimes it can yield positive results. Nobody can doubt, however, that the new regime need to kick things into a higher gear this weekend. It’s the first pay-per-view of the post-Sapolsky era tomorrow night and with a stacked card AND Samoa Joe in town for a dark match, it’s very clear that it’s a big event in Chicago tomorrow. What does that mean for this show? Gabe commented that he felt he really let the loyal Dayton fans down with Battle For Supremacy (has it really been JUNE since we were last in this market?) and wanted to make it up to them with a stellar card tonight. Adam Pearce, now with the book, has changed up Gabe’s planned line up significantly, but I would assume the intention is still there to make up for a weaker show last time out. To that end we’ve got a third Bryan Danielson vs Claudio Castagnoli match ahead of Dragon challenging Nigel for the World Title tomorrow. Age Of The Fall look to regain the Tag belts as Jimmy Jacobs and Delirious challenge Steen and Generico, and there’s also a rematch from the last Dayton show as Roderick Strong and Chris Hero do battle again. Headlining is a non-title triple threat with Nigel McGuinness confronting two of his greatest challengers in the last 12 months in Austin Aries and Tyler Black. That’s one that will either knock your socks off or really disappoint you with house show mediocrity. There’s also Samoa Joe vs Tyler Black from the Chicago show tacked on in the bonus features since the Rising Above 2008 DVD release would be delayed for several months and…well, I imagine that this show wasn’t exactly going to be a hot seller. Clever gimmick to boost sales of this one. However, it’s also on the Rising Above ’08 DVD too, so I’ll be reviewing it then. Lets get to Dayton, OH.
ROH VIDEO WIRE (11/11/2008) – Nigel McGuinness says he’ll beat Bryan Danielson on ppv to prove himself a better champion and a better wrestler.
– Kyle Durden interviews Tyler Black, who confirms that he will challenge Samoa Joe in Chicago, and he wants in on the triple threat with Nigel and Aries in Dayton. It’s not for the World Title as he seems to think though…
– Bryan Danielson is in training for his World Title shot. He is still mad about how Nigel deceived him during their last title bout in Manhattan…and promises that this time he’ll knock him out.
– Jimmy Jacobs cuts an electrifying promo on his I Quit Match with Austin Aries. He wants Tyler Black in his corner on ppv…
– Roderick Strong follows that with a car crash promo about his match with Hero. Cringeworthy…
– An excellent video wire ends with a creepy video of Delirious singing to himself in a deserted park.
Davey Richards vs Brent Albright
Lots of history between Sweet’n’Sour Inc. and Brent Albright, and putting newest recruit Davey Richards in there with him should provide a stern test for him. This could be a really hot opener to the show as well. New entrance music for Richards too. Not sure about it…
Davey sets his stall early by bridging into a big kick. Clearly keen to evade that, Albright tries to ground the contest and work it from the mat. Richards spins into another kick, then pulls the official aside to allow Sara Del Rey and Larry Sweeney to take some cheap shots. He goes after Albright’s arm to prep it for the Kimura, including a beautiful BRIDGING Fujiwara. Albright finally shortarms him into a clothesline…then starts no selling the arm work with effortless punches from all over the shop. Brent lines up a dive to the floor, and is stopped by the referee who is enforcing the new rules. Enzi kick through the ropes from Richards in the midst of that. 61-Knee scores…but Davey counters the Half Nelson Suplex. CROWBAR! Davey thumbs him in the eyes…KIMURA! Bobby Dempsey gets involved, but Davey ends up kicking him. Albright takes advantage to win it at 09:41.
Rating – ** – Decent, very physical opening match. Had Albright taken the time to sell the arm we’d be talking about a better rating. In such a short match there’s just no excuse not to do your opponent the courtesy of some kind of sell. But both of these guys are intense and they meshed well (which isn’t always the case with Albright).
Kyle Durden brings Nigel McGuinness out for an in-ring interview. He says that since he’s beaten Aries and Tyler on ppv…and since Dayton is a ‘sh*thole’ (his words not mine), tonight’s main event will be non-title. That gets the expected response from the crowd…
Rhett Titus vs Sami Callahan vs Grizzly Redwood vs Go Shiozaki
I bet Go is looking across the ring at this cast of oddballs and wondering exactly why he signed up for an extended period of time in the US. Rhett had a good weekend in Canada, coupling some decent in ring performances with a new alliance with Kenny King which should be interesting for future shows. ROH are clearly going to run with Grizzly in the comedy whipping boy role since he’s got his own character video as a bonus feature on this DVD. His match at Bound By Hate sucks though, so hopefully that wasn’t the standard-bearer for Mitch in his new gimmick. Callahan makes his debut tonight having appeared on some pre-shows and having gained some really positive for his reviews in other independent promotions.
Titus ushers Redwood and Callahan out of the ring so he can start with the FIP Champion. It doesn’t take long for Shiozaki to floor him with a chop. Sami comes in, tries to trade chops with Go…then immediately heads for higher ground to bring Grizzly in. He does the stupid ‘chop the legs’ gimmick again, but eventually Shiozaki flings him into the lights for a fallaway slam. Rhettski in, only to be planted with a jawbreaker from Callahan for 2. Go catches Redwood and slams him with ease, then leaves for Sami to hit a sweet ricochet splash from the ropes. Titus spends some time in the ring with Grizz, then hilariously tags out by chopping Shiozaki. The NOAH star genuinely looks pissed off with that. Rhett chops Go in the back too as he looks to work a hold on Redwood. Shiozaki tries to take on Sami and Titus at the same time, and is fairly successful until Rhettski drops the ropes to send him falling to the floor. The FIP Champion roars back in with the Go Flasher on Sami to win at 11:10.
Rating – * – I deducted a star for this being one of the most forgettable matches you’ll ever see. It was so paint by numbers, by the books and routine that I’ve got almost nothing to say about it. I liked Callahan’s intensity but he wasn’t in there too much. Rhett was enjoyable too, but again, was only used sparingly. Most of the match was dominated by Shiozaki who didn’t look like he wanted to be there (and was in no mood to sell anything for the job squad) and Grizzly Redwood…who I really don’t like. Kudos to Mitch Franklin for stumbling onto a fun gimmick, but I f*cking hate his in-ring chopping the leg/axe handles stuff. It’s flat out sh*t to watch…
Irish Airborne vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
Is this the first time we’ve seen the Crists in 2008? They were given a real chance to breakout in 2006 but it never happened for them, and they’ve faded away from ROH since that time. They were never dull though, and had a couple of fun matches against the Briscoes (and once eliminated them from a high profile Ultimate Endurance Match for the Tag Team Championship)…so this should be decent.
The Briscoes are far more heelish tonight, punting streamers back at the crowd, refusing to shake hands then attacking the Crists before the match starts. Jay puts his boot through Dave’s skull as Mark viciously hurls Jake into the guardrails. Irish Airborne start to get back into things with a pescado from Dave. He then holds Jay exposed to a basement dropkick from Jake. Having seen enough, Jay wipes Jake out with a spinebuster. That’s a cue for the Briscoes to isolate Jake from his brother in the ring. Flatliner into the turnbuckles nailed, then a springboard knee drop/backbreaker combo for 2. Mark seemed to mess up his leg on that…which really screws him up as he attempts the Springboard Doomsday Device. Dave blocks it with a springboard…ugly mess. Irish Air Raid blocked…and the Briscoes hit an UGLY Spike Jay Driller to win at 07:49.
Rating – ** – Short and disappointingly uneventful…but it was fine for a formulaic tag. I think the Crists were unlucky that Mark’s injury prevented the match from having some really awesome high spots for the finish. Instead we got a really ugly Doomsday Device block, then an even uglier finish. Is their high profile Tag Title match on ppv tomorrow night in jeopardy too?
Chris Hero vs Roderick Strong – Lights Out Match
The war between Sweet’n’Sour Inc. and Roderick Strong further intensified at Bound By Hate when Roddy saw his new ally Erick Stevens assaulted backstage after the show. Last time in Dayton we saw Hero best Roddy in a hard-fought contest which many thought stole the show that night. This time around the rules have changed and they’ll not just be trying to beat each other, they’ll be trying to knock each other out.
Strong sprints to the ring and both guys start dropping bombs from the opening bell. Hero gets the better of that until Roddy staggers him with a couple of big kicks. To the floor where Hero boots Strong in the mouth then lands a massive elbow smash. That turns the match in his favour and he starts looking for the 10 count. Rebound elbow from the second rope countered into a big powerslam from the former FIP Champion. Gibson Driver countered to couple of big boot strikes which send Strong falling out of the ring again. Chops from Strong, so Hero slingshot stomps the fight out of him. Big boot misses though, and Roddy converts to a cradle backbreaker. Rolling Elbow evaded as well and Roderick lands a pumphandle backbreaker variant next for his first significant TKO count of the match. Elbow smashes and a big boot from Hero as Strong had started to think about Death By Roderick. Both men are groggy at the 12 minute mark. ROLLING ELBOW LANDS…and both men go down. Half nelson backbreaker by Strong, then the DEATH BY RODERICK/SICK KICK COMBO! They’re both on the canvas again! DOUBLE ROLLING ELBOWS! Hero nearly won it with that one. Larry tries to hand Hero the loaded elbow pad, but this time Roderick Strong grabs it. LOADED ELBOW SMASH ON HERO! That should be enough to win it…until all of Sweet’n’Sour Inc. run in to attack Strong. It’s another crappy no contest finish at 16:08.
Rating – *** – The match itself was ok, if a little slow. They also seemed to be trying way to hard to recapture the magic of the Battle For Supremacy was. In doing so, they weren’t doing anything that the fans haven’t seen before – so as such they sat on their hands and didn’t really react. The last five minutes were where things really picked up – only to be soured by another shady finish. Pearce needs to get his act together with the book now. Run-ins and disqualifications are fine on occasion, but the amount we’ve seen over the last three shows is inexcusably high. People turn to Ring Of Honor because they want an ALTERNATIVE to sh*t like that…
Brent Albright comes to save Roderick Strong from a group beating at the hands of Sweeney’s troops.
Kevin Steen/El Generico vs Jimmy Jacobs/Delirious – ROH Tag Title Match
Massive weekend for Age Of The Fall and it’s leader this weekend. Tonight Jimmy looks to regain the Tag Titles he and his group lost at the last ppv. And winning the belts back would really some momentum going ahead of his I Quit Match with Austin Aries tomorrow night.
Generico gets the better of Delirious from the bell, making him run to the floor for group hugs with Jacobs and Allison Wonderland. Not a lot else happens until Jimmy lights the touch paper by spitting in Generico’s face. Steen clears house on both of them…so once again Age Of The Fall retire for a chat on the outside. They throw chairs in, distracting their opponents and allowing Jimmy to sneak in and attack Mr Wrestling. The champions use Steen’s size to regain the advantage, but in truth the match is so stilted and slow that the most interesting aspect is Prazak and Leonard elaborating on El Generico’s back story and criminal background in Mexico. Delirious bites his leg then drives him back first into the apron to give Age Of The Fall an advantage for the first time. Ten minutes in and this is painfully slow going. The challengers are working the neck of the Generic Luchador but the pace is really lethargic. Generico looks to mount a comeback but walks into a Jacobs spear. Eventually he does get the hot tag to Steen. Jimmy saves his partner from the moonsault, so Steen backpack sentons him down onto Delirious. STEEN-TON BOMB gets 2. Jacobs creates a distraction to allow Delirious to hit the Panic Attack. Rhett Titus comes out and gets the attention of Delirious…allowing Steen to hit the pumphandle cradlebreaker for the win at 14:49.
Rating – ** – Boring match, and more annoying (and needless) interference to blight the finish. To say that was a let down would be a massive understatement. I loved the dynamic the Jacobs/Delirious tandem has, the creepy, touchy-feely interaction between the two and the excellent body language they use to portray their respective roles within the unit…however, I really don’t have much else positive to say.
Jimmy Jacobs admonishes Delirious for losing the match, and demands he finish his business with Titus once and for all…
Claudio Castagnoli vs Bryan Danielson
It’s at the stage now where we’re relying on these guys to save what as been a really poor show up to this point. Their rivalry started with mutual respect and traded victories at Vendetta 2 and Northern Navigation (personally I thought the Canadian match was much better, although popular opinion seems to favour Vendetta 2), but that changed at Death Before Dishonor 6 when Castagnoli snapped after another World Title defeat and delivered a devastating beating to the former World Champion. Dragon will be desperate for revenge tonight, but should be really be going into a high profile grudge match like this on the eve of his big World Title showdown with Nigel McGuinness tomorrow night?
Danielson punts Claudio out of the ring to hit a FINAL COUNTDOWN SUICIDA! The sound guy sportingly leaves Dragon’s theme music going long enough for Danielson to deliver another big kick to the chest then lead a Final Countdown chant. Claudio buys some time by throwing Danielson into the railings and retreating back to the ring. Back inside and Danielson is almost shoot-wrestling this one to put over his intensity. Nothing fancy, just vicious strikes then trying to take it to the mat and dominate Double C with stretches. Finally Castagnoli evades a kick and pounces immediately to work the leg as it becomes entangled in the ropes. It’s knee to ringpost next, leaving AmDrag in real pain. Then he tries to steal Danielson’s trademark Mexican surfboard stretch, taking great care to drop him KNEES first as he releases it. Dragon tries to fire back with elbows, only for Claudio to charge the leg again and put him right back on the mat. He manages to hit a superplex as Castagnoli takes too long ambling to the top rope. ONE LEGGED CATTLE MUTILATION! The leg means he can’t hold it, so it’s MMA ELBOWS! Repeated kicks to the back next, almost getting himself disqualified. Half crab from Double C, taking advantage of Bryan’s argument with the referee. Running European scores, but the Riccola Bomb is blocked and Danielson breaks out the Mr Small Package for the win at 14:23
Rating – *** – Much better than anything else on the card, quality-wise at least. I don’t give half stars of course, but if I did this would at least be pushing for an extra half. It was refreshing to see two men work a grudge match without resorting to any kind of rule breaking or needless high spots. They showed their hatred by working the mat and being physical bastards with each other. Danielson dominated early, but Claudio showed his own skill as a wrestler by dismantling the former champion’s knee, and in the end it took Dragon’s traditional ‘desperation’ finisher, the small package, to finally win. I don’t expect this to be the last time they clash in this series so this was fine as a progression to another match down the line.
So Danielson is the winner but Claudio attacks him right after the bell, and batters his leg with a steel chair…putting his World Title match tomorrow night in serious jeopardy.
Tyler Black vs Austin Aries vs Nigel McGuinness
In case you needed reminding, the World Title is not on the line here as Nigel doesn’t believe either of his opponents are credible challengers, and doesn’t think Dayton deserves a title match. In Nigel’s defence, he has beaten both these guys in high profile pay-per-view main events (and subsequent high profile matches on the house show circuit too). As Black is allied to Aries’ nemesis Jimmy Jacobs, you’d imagine that puts those two firmly at odds too.
All three of these guys have wrestled a lot, so they’re understandably tentative from the bell. Aries ducks a spinning McLariat attempt and hits the headscissors escape dropkick as Tyler watches on. Austin tries the headscissors escape dropkick on Black too, but Nigel comes back in to hit an assisted short piledriver on him. He tries to take on both his opponents at once…then rapidly exits stage left when Black and Aries look set to unite and work him over. Aries sends Tyler out too, only for Allison Wonderland to block off the Heat Seeking Missile. Austin lays one on her which is comical, but it allows McGuinness to attack him from behind. Having softened him up, Nigel retreats again to watch Black and Aries go at it. F-5 from Tyler…and McGuinness immediately looks to take advantage and go for a pinfall on Aries. Super McLariat ducked though, and Black hits a springboard clothesline on the World Champion. IED nailed as Nigel goes for his headstand in the corner, followed by a Power Drive Elbow on Tyler for 2. Kick Of Death nailed, then the Brainbuster. Last Chancery applied, only for Nigel to break it with a kick to the ribs. London Dungeon on Aries, who escapes and dives to the floor with a Heat Seeking Missile on Black. Brainbuster on the World Champion. But Black shoves him off as he lines up the 450 Splash. Tyler misses the Phoenix Splash, and gets his feet on the ropes after a massive McLariat. IED again as Nigel goes for the Tower Of London. AVALANCHE BRAINBUSTER ON BLACK! Aries wins at 13:00.
Rating – ** – A hot last couple of minutes, but this was incredibly tedious for the opening 10. All three were in complete house show mode. This was easily one of the most underwhelming main events ROH has ever produced. There was no attempt to tell stories, no attempt to reference any of the prior matches these guys have had together, no attempt to progress old rivalries. Just three guys plodding through a number of familiar spots, then going home.
Tape Rating – * – It doesn’t give me much pleasure to award this rating to an ROH show, it really doesn’t. I don’t want to seem like one of those guys who blindly applauds everything Gabe did during his time as booker, and therefore am desperate to criticise everything the new regime does. And I’m not that guy. I’ve been positive and honest. I praised the new regime during the Canadian weekend. I like Kyle Durden for instance. I like the shaking up of the standard ROH show formula. But lets be honest, this event just gives guys like myself, who were massive fans of the OLD way ROH did things, all the ammunition we need to criticise the new one. Calling a spade a spade, this show was awful. It’s a rip-off charging $20 for it. It failed on every level you expect an ROH show to deliver. The booking was awful (multiple run ins, cheap finishes etc), the wrestling was painfully average, the show was desperately short, the crowd was quiet (although who could blame them after having to sit through this stinker)…had Bryan Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli not salvaged something with a remotely credible match, I’d be writing even MORE critically right now. I am genuinely trying to get into the Pearce/Silkin regime – I am. I did NOT want Sapolsky to be fired, but it’s happened. But Adam and Cary cannot seriously think that this was a good show. I’m not saying Gabe would have done better. But he certainly wouldn’t have given me multiple BS non-finishes. He certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable throwing out a 13-minute, ultra-mediocre main event that nobody cares about. What they produced in Canada was par for the course, solid shows. Certainly nothing to write home about, but they weren’t bad either. This was dire. Skip it…and I truly hope things step up SEVERAL notches when we hit ppv in Chicago tomorrow night.
Honestly, I’ve never felt more ripped off watching a Ring Of Honor show.
Top 3 Matches
3) Brent Albright vs Davey Richards (**)
2) Chris Hero vs Roderick Strong (***)
1) Bryan Danielson vs Claudio Castagnoli (***)