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207 ROH Rising Above 2008 11/22/2008

ROH 207 – Rising Above 2008 – 22nd November 2008

This is a massive night for Ring Of Honor. It’s the first pay-per-view taping since Gabe Sapolsky left, it’s the main event that basically the whole series of ROH ppv events thus far have been building towards, Samoa Joe has been shipped in from TNA for a one-night-only return to boost attendance, not to mention the fact that fans of the product will be looking to see a MAJOR rebound after the dismal Escalation show – which I had down as the worst Ring Of Honor show ever. Bryan Danielson challenging Nigel McGuinness for the World Title is our main event, a match which is the 2008 ROH equivalent of The Rock vs Stone Cold as the two top guys lock horns in what should be a terrific match. But it’s far from a one match show. Austin Aries and Jimmy Jacobs will settle their bloody feud in an I Quit Match, the Briscoes and Steen-erico collide on ppv for the first time since Man Up, the enemies of Sweet’n’Sour Inc. join forces in trios action…and the bonus features see Delirious looking to put an end to his issues with Rhett Titus once and for all, and Samoa Joe make a fleeting return to ROH competition to face Tyler Black. Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are in Chicago Ridge, IL

ROH VIDEO WIRE – See Escalation (ROH 206) review for details.

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

The last ppv ended with Kevin Steen and El Generico crowned as new World Tag Team Champions. In ppv terms, there’s absolutely no rest for them at all as their old rivals, the Briscoes, are in the ring to kick us off, demanding a title match. It was in this very building that these guys made history in Ring Of Honor’s first Ladder War. Fourteen months later, the Briscoes want their belts back…

Mark is still limping heavily, clearly still feeling the effects of that injury he suffered wrestling Irish Airborne in Dayton. The cameras, picture quality and production value for ppv is SO much better than standard ROH DVD by the way. There’s an awesome, sweeping boon cam shot as the Briscoes attack Steen and Generico to kick things off. Generico hesitates attacking Mark as he favours the knee, and pays the penalty as Jay wipes him out. It’s obvious Jay is going to have to carry this match for his team, although Mark shows surprising strength to get Steen up for a vertical suplex. HIGH angle back suplex from Jay gets 2 on Mr Wrestling. Steen then lays Mark out with a huge superkick. Hot tag to Generico who gets 2 with a Michinoku Driver. He goes for a rope run lucha armdrag but gets clobbered with a lariat from Jay. Urinage suplex from Mark…but Steen saves his partner from the Cut-Throat Driver. Yakuza Kick…SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! STEEN FROG SPLASH FOR 2! Mark fights the Package Piledriver, but can’t get Steen up for the Cut-Throat thanks to his knee. He begs for some respite. NO MERCY FROM STEEN! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! The champs retain at 06:41.

Rating – *** –
Despite being less than 7 minutes long, and featuring one wrestler who could barely move, that was miles better than 95% of the Escalation DVD. Kudos to Mark for gutting this match out. It was a marquee match when promoting the ppv so, even if they had to abort putting it on as one of the main events, Mark’s courage ensured that the live audience and ppv purchasers at least got to see something. This was actually really well worked. The Briscoes’ new, heel style was well showcased, and the explosive finale was really good. I loved the finish too, showing the intense dislike between the two sides. Obviously in six minutes it’s never going to be in the same league as the best matches in this feud, but it was still very much a fun ppv opener. Possibly the best since Romero/Marufuji at Respect Is Earned or the NRC/Resilience 6-man from Driven.

The four men come to blows again, with the Briscoes obviously unhappy about the way they lost their undefeated streak on pay-per-view.

In the back Dave Prazak interviews Claudio Castagnoli. He says he’s been overlooked in ROH, and used Bryan Danielson to make a point at Driven 2008. He’ll make the same point again tonight…

MsChif vs Sara Del Rey – SHIMMER Title Match

Don’t expect this to reach the levels that these ladies reach when their in SHIMMER main events. But it’s a big deal to get Prazak’s SHIMMER belt onto ppv and I hope they do get some time to express themselves. MsChif holds the belt, having actually defeated Del Rey for it. With Larry Sweeney in her corner, Sara will be looking to reclaim her crown tonight.

I completely forgot MsChif was in Age Of The Fall. Sara goes for a sneak dropkick but misses, and the match actually starts on the floor with the belt still around MsChif’s waist. In the ring for the first time as MsChif effortlessly rides Sara into octopus stretches. Rolling backbreakers from Death Rey to break it. BRIDGING LION TAMER FROM SARA! MSCHIF F*CKING BRIDGES OUT OF IT! Standing moonsault from the champion ends an awesome sequence. Swinging neckbreaker gets 2 but doesn’t keep Sara down for too long. She has a crazed look in her eyes as she chokes MsChif then dumps her to the floor. UGLY tilta-whirl DDT from MsChif for another nearfall. Spinning backfist scores too, but still no victory. STANDING DRAGON CLUTCH FROM DEL REY! INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! Snap German suplex gets 2. CODE GREEN nearly wins it for MsChif. Repeated double stomps to the back but Del Rey counters away from the Desecrator. Green Mist misses…AXE KICK! Royal Butterfly…countered to the Desecrator. MsChif retains at 09:15

Rating – ** –
Credit to the new booking regime for giving these ladies nearly 10 minutes of ppv time to work this match. It was very decent, head and shoulders above what you’ll see in WWE (I’d say TNA too but at least they have Kong, Cheerleader Melissa and a couple more). If I were to be critical I’d say that MsChif had an off night, messing up a couple of spots…and some of the transitions between spots were VERY weak and amateur looking. Luckily the centrepiece of any MsChif match is her phenomenal flexibility, and this was a nice way to demonstrate that on ppv. The whole match packed enough excitement in to make up for some executional shortcomings.

Backstage Jimmy Jacobs reaffirms that the I Quit Match he has with Austin Aries is exactly what HE wanted all along. He and Tyler Black have a plan…and there’s no way he’ll quit tonight.

Necro Butcher gets a decent hype video as he’s not here tonight.

Claudio Castagnoli vs Silas Young vs Sami Callahan vs Alex Payne

You’d imagine this one is only really on ppv to put over Double C, so the result isn’t any real doubt. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Sami though, as I thought he looked as decent as he possibly could in a completely forgettable match at Escalation last night.

Young and Callahan start with some crisp wrestling…but since this is Chicago the crowd is only really interested in seeing Sugarfoot. Claudio invades the ring and runs through Sami with an uppercut. DEAD LIFT gutwrench suplex gets 2. Payne in for the first time to land a missile dropkick. He mounts Castagnoli for a sleeper, only for Double C to military press him to the mat. BASEMENT STUNNER gets Callahan a 2 on Silas. Bicycle kick takes out Young, and Castagnoli brings Sugarfoot in to punish next. The crowd are on Claudio’s back by ‘HEY’-ing every move he makes…so he shuts that down by working chinlocks. Payne and Young combine for a tandem dropkick…but Claudio reacts to catch Sami and slam him into the guardrails. Arabian Press from Silas, but Castagnoli then tags in to toss Silas out onto Callahan on the floor. Second rope bulldog out of nowhere from Sugarfoot, but Claudio quickly rolls him into the Riccola Bomb for 3 at 08:53.

Rating – ** –
Much more fun than I was expecting. The crowd was absolutely electric which really helped. Castagnoli gave one of his best heel performances to date, dominating his opponents and interacting superbly with the crowd. The atmosphere was further helped by Alex Payne being given some time to shine…and actually looking competent in the role of plucky underdog. Callahan and Young were crisp too, so with no obvious weak links this match did fine job of elevating Castagnoli and providing some fun, mindless filler.

Claudio tries to do more damage to Alex Payne, but is prevented by American Dragon…

Chris Hero/Davey Richards/Go Shiozaki vs Roderick Strong/Brent Albright/Ace Steel

It was originally going to be Erick Stevens in this line-up, but after he was put out of action following a savage backstage attack in Markham, a ‘mystery partner’ needed to be recruited. That turned out to be the returning Ace Steel, making his first appearance with ROH in sometime following a stint in WWE developmental. If the babyface team win they get Sweet’n’Sour Inc. in Steel Cage Warfare in Manhattan, New York at the end of the year.

Ace starts with Hero, capturing him in the corner for a running dropkick. Hero elbows Albright in the face then makes the tag to Shiozaki, who blocks the 61-Knee but not an exploder suplex. Argentine gutbuster from Strong to Richards. In the end it’s a distraction from Larry Sweeney that allows Richards to get the upperhand on Steel. Everyone bundles to the floor for a big pile-up, but in the aftermath it’s still Richards very much in control of Ace. Shiozaki hits a knee strike over the apron for 2. Sweet’n’Sour spend the next several minutes working Steel over until he finally lands a DDT on Hero. Dragon screw on Davey…and at last we get a hot tag to Roderick. Cradle backbreaker on Richards, then a back suplex/neckbreaker combo with Albright for 2. Davey blocks the Gibson Driver and tags in Go who nails a running chop and a fisherman buster. Alarm Clock from Davey, then the Rolling Elbow from Hero…forcing Brent to make a desperation save. SHOTGUN DROPKICK from Crazy Ace, allowing Strong to cover for a close nearfall. Shiozaki takes out Albright with a superkick only to eat a dropkick to his own face from Ace. It’s Roderick and Davey left in the ring to trade blows. CHOP VS KICK DUEL! SICK KICK! GIBSON DRIVER! GETS 2…STRONGHOLD! Larry Sweeney distracts the ref as Davey taps. Hero sneaks in to lay out Strong with a chair…and give Team Sweet’n’Sour the victory at 14:59.

Rating – *** –
Pretty basic, but very effective. They slow-burned the whole match, but by the time Strong and Richards were left alone in the ring together the crowd were absolutely lapping it up. As much as Hero is the star of Sweet’n’Sour Inc. and as much as this whole feud started with Brent Albright, it’s very clear that Strong/Richards is the centrepiece in-ring rivalry at the moment. They’ve had two great matches but it’s clear there’s a lot left in the tank for those two. And to defend Adam Pearce…one of the few things Gabe had planned for the remainder of ’08 that I really didn’t agree with was booking the S’n’S vs Albright/Strong/Stevens feud to end in Steel Cage Warfare, so soon after running the same gimmick match at Glory By Honor 7. Sapolsky did try to defend it, but this is pro-wrestling, not real sports…no matter how ‘differently’ it would have been done, it’s still the same gimmick used twice in as many months and smacks of a lack of inspiration and creativity. I’m glad that plan has been rewritten out of proceedings for now.

Jimmy Jacobs vs Austin Aries – I Quit Match

This is supposedly the finale to this particular feud. It started at the beginning of this year as Age Of The Fall looked to recruit Aries, who had adopted a new, more sombre attitude following a succession of high profile losses. Jimmy used his then-girlfriend Lacey to try woo Aries…only to find that Aries had won her over, causing her to leave AOTF for him. This kick-started their bitter rivalry. After a mysterious encounter in a parking lot Lacey left ROH, but the wars between these two have only increased in intensity. Austin succeeded in undermining Jimmy’s control over Necro Butcher, prompting him to turn on AOTF as well. They brawled on ppv at New Horizons, and have taken things to Japan and everywhere in between on the ROH circuit. We saw Respect Is Earned 2’s main event thrown out in under a minute as these two struggled to control their emotions and desire to hurt each other. Jacobs has lost Lacey and Necro along the way, and has also lost both significant singles bouts between the two (at Vendetta 2 and Bound By Hate)…yet he still maintains that the I Quit Match we find ourselves faced with tonight is what HE wanted all along. Tonight we finish things…

Jacobs has Tyler working his corner, whilst Aries makes a point of not needing anyone watching his back. First significant strike is landed by Jacobs who hits a dropkick on the floor. He goes for a table, but nearly takes too long in doing so. Aries is tossed head-first into the guardrails to keep him at bay. The former World Champion still manages to set Jimmy up on the table…only for Black to pull him away before Aries gets a chance to inflict some serious damage. He lines up a Heat Seeking Missile, but Jacobs blocks it with a dog collar to the face! That busts him open, and the wound is opened further as Jimmy connects with chain-covered right hands, then grinds it into his bloody forehead. SPEAR THROUGH THE ROPES! The chair tope suicida follows, and after 10 minutes this match has been all Jacobs. In shades of the Markham match, he uses the dog collar to tie Aries up – this time to a chair. He looks set to dish out a massive beating to the defenceless Aries. LACEY COMES TO RINGSIDE! She has a towel in hand…but Aries tells her not to throw it in. Jimmy pulls out the railroad spike…but in the confusion Aries has managed to free himself. HEAT SEEKING MISSILE NAILED! BRAINBUSTER ON A STEEL CHAIR! And now it’s Austin’s turn to use the dog collar to tie his opponent. He then grabs the microphone from Todd Sinclair to stop him asking Jimmy if he wants to quit. UNPROTECTED IED! Next he positions Jacobs on the table…but Jimmy throws a chair at him before he can come from the top rope. Both men fight on the top…AND BOTH CRASH THROUGH THE TABLE! Both men are bloody messes, but neither wants to quit even after that. Low blow into the END TIME! Knee strikes from Jimmy…LAST CHANCERY ON ARIES! Double A frees himself by going to the eyes. Jacobs has the spike again but Austin mow him down with a barrage of knee strikes. KICK OF DEATH! LAST CHANCERY! KNEE STRIKES! CRIPPER CROSSFACE! WITH SPIKE TO THE FACE! LACEY STOPS TYLER THROWING IN THE TOWEL! JIMMY QUITS! The match is over at 22:01.

Rating – **** –
I’m back and forth between this and Vendetta 2 as to which was the better match. This has far superior booking, but I think the V2 match channelled a little more excitement and produced more of a big fight feel. To be fair though, the story-telling here was top notch. The first 10 minutes were dominated by Jacobs, which made perfect sense storyline-wise as he’s spent the last few show building to this saying this is the match that HE wanted. Lacey’s return helped bring Aries back into the match, and from there we got ten minutes of blood-letting and unadulterated grudge match fun. Personally I thought the finish was superb, although I’m sure some will have criticise (possibly rightly) the use of the Benoit tragedy to get over a wrestling angle. It was a cerebral match to end what has, in wrestling terms, been a very high brow feud. The actual matches haven’t necessarily been the best in ROH’s history. But for actual story-telling, it’s been really unique. Considering they basically buried Jacobs in every match (by design I hope), it’s amazing how well they kept interest in this. It worked in Necro Butcher, Lacey, Tyler Black, Delirious, the Briscoes and even Bryan Danielson along the way. Being completely honest, I won’t remember it for the matches all that much (although the three headline bouts were all very good in their own right), but for the unpredictable, and highly watchable nature of the whole plot. It was one where I enjoyed watching all the pieces fall into place. This was character-based, story-telling drama within the boundaries of pro-wrestling at it’s best.

Lacey, having helped make Jacobs say ‘I Quit’ duly walks out…leaving Austin Aries looking totally confused. Jimmy berates Tyler for not throwing in the towel…and Black walks out.

Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danielson – ROH World Title Match

No need to go through the entire backstory of this epic rivalry. Up until Sixth Anniversary Show this year, it was always American Dragon who got the upper hand in their battles. But he felt Nigel crossed the line in New York that night, by exaggerating the severity of his head injury, bating Danielson into agreeing not to attack Nigel’s head. Nigel ended up using this agreement to his advantage and finally scoring a major win over his rival. Since then he’s ducked Dragon as much as possible, impersonating and insulting him in matches, but refusing to grant him another shot at the belt – setting the ridiculous stipulation that Dragon had to beat everyone he’d beaten on ppv before getting a title shot of his own on Ring Of Honor pay-per-view. But having met that criteria by the end of Driven 2008, and having picked up a non-title win over McGuinness in this summer’s Japanese tour, Nigel was out of options.

Both men are understandably cagey…but it’s Danielson that is the aggressor from the bell. But he needs to be, as Samoa Joe pointed out to CM Punk after the World Title Classic, the challenger’s aim is to beat the champion, not survive him. Nigel rolls outside to get some distance. He comes in to kick at the leg, clearly noting an injury Danielson suffered wrestling Claudio Castagnoli in Dayton last night. American Dragon continues undeterred, making Nigel’s arm the focus of his attack. He ducks an early McLariat attempt and boots McGuinness in the face…and the World Champion leaves the ring again. Shades of Nigel/Aries at Rising Above last year as Danielson lines up a tope suicida. McGuinness moves…but Dragon NAILS flying knee strike from the apron instead. REPEATED FACE STOMPS! Nigel finally hits back with his spine kick/chest lariat combo in the corner…trapping Dragon’s knee in the ropes in the process to do more damage to that injury. Snapmare INTO the ring ropes, then a Mexican surfboard stomp, reminiscent of that which we’ve seen Dragon deliver on so many occasions.

He goes old school next, first with a spinning toehold, then with a Figure 4. AmDrag fires back with kicks and forearms, then counters Nigel’s corner headstand with an anklelock. INTO A BRIDGING GERMAN SUPLEX FOR 2! Crossface Chickenwing, but Nigel escapes and we go into a flurry of nearfalls. Great commentary by Lenny Leonard, pointing out that Danielson won the belt from James Gibson with the Chickenwing. McLariat ducked, CHICKENWING AGAIN! More kicks from Dragon – and you’ll notice he’s now using his good leg to kick with. But he leaves himself exposed to a chopblock from the World Champion, who uses the bad wheel to drag Danielson to the canvas again. Forearm strikes to the exposed knee, then the SUPER MCLARIAT! Bryan knocks McGuinness out of the ring, and defies his leg to hit a SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT PLANCHA UP THE AISLE! Does that do more harm than good though? And if that didn’t injure Dragon, a sneak attack from Claudio Castagnoli, using a steel chair to attack the leg again, will certainly do it.

McGuinness retreats back to the ring to claim a cheap count-out. Alex Payne comes out to repay the favour from Danielson earlier…by dragging him back to the ring! MCLARIAT GETS 2! HALF CRAB! But Dragon refuses to tap out and makes the ropes. With a final burst of energy he sprints into a running enzi kick…and both men are now on the mat. Jawbreaker…COUNTERED TO A CROSS ARMBREAKER! INTO THE TRIANGLE CHOKE…WITH MMA ELBOWS! NIGEL COUNTERS TO THE HALF CRAB! DANIELSON INTO THE SMALL PACKAGE FOR 2! Phenomenal sequence there! MMA ELBOWS! But the blood loss and injuries take their toll on Danielson. SECOND WIND MMA ELBOWS! CATTLE MUTILATION! Nigel gets to his feet, and nearly gets beaten with the ensuing tiger suplex. REVERSE SUPLEX TOWER OF LONDON! BOTH MEN DOWN! Danielson tries to run at Nigel, and EATS a McLariat for 2. MMA ELBOWS BY MCGUINNESS! JAWBREAKER LARIAT! NIGEL WINS! NIGEL WINS! It’s over at 28:13.

Rating – ****1/2 –
Another absolute classic between these two…this surely be the greatest rivalry Ring Of Honor has ever produced now. I’m going to be completely honest and say that I did NOT like the Castagnoli/Sugarfoot segment. I thought it wasn’t really needed and threatened to take away what was a storming performance. Thankfully the Chicago crowd liked Payne enough not to sh*t on it. The last ten minutes were just unbelievable. Jaw dropping counter sequences, Dragon unloading all the finishers he’s won major matches with in the past…but in the end Nigel gained his most definitive victory over Dragon to date (although Danielson still has an ‘out’ thanks to Claudio’s involvement). I have this as 2008 MOTY for ROH thus far – I thought it was THAT good. If you’re comparing it to all the Danielson/Nigel matches, I have it above everything but Driven and Unified.

Another really decent ppv effort comes to a close, and after Driven 2008 (where we saw no consequential bonus match content at all), it’s nice to see the return of some decent in-ring bonus material to repay your fanbase who you hope will spend a combined $35 watching this show on ppv then picking up a DVD when it’s released too.

Rhett Titus vs Delirious

Last night in Dayton we saw Jimmy Jacobs berate Delirious for allowing himself to be distracted by Rhett during their Tag Title match. His instructions to Delirious were simple – finish it with Titus. This issue started months ago when Rhett began cock-blocking Delirious as he tried to voice his feelings to an unknowing Daizee Haze. Titus continually interjected himself into the Delirious/Daizee relationship, leading to the ‘car ride’ home from the ROH Wrestling Academy, and a cellphone video which sent Delirious to the cusp of insanity. With the video of Titus in Haze’s apartment circulated through the locker room, and Daizee’s rejection of Delirious (saying she’d like to stay ‘friends’), Delirious descended further into insanity, and was quickly recruited by Age Of The Fall as they look to build strength following Necro Butcher’s departure. Delirious, under the control of Jimmy Jacobs, is as dangerous as he’s been in Ring Of Honor in years.

Titus is wrestling in his Daizee Haze trunks, which doesn’t seem that sensible. No waiting for the bell from Delirious, who absolutely mauls Titus. Panic Attack into the guardrails misses though. Delirious blocks the Sexy Suplex and flays away at Rhett again. Titus scrambles out of the ring as Delirious looks to stomp the nutsack. The distraction caused by that allows him to hit ROLLING Sexy Suplexes. Testicular Claw applied as Rhettski continues to pelvic thrust for no apparent reason. Rock Bottom nailed, but Titus evades a Punt and hits a dropkick for 2. Cobra Stretch is escaped too and Titus grabs the tights to nearly sneak a win from the Panic Attack. Leapfrog Rocker Dropper for 2 as well. More groin targeted offence from Delirious, then Shadows Over Hell to win at 06:44.

Rating – ** –
Obviously not the greatest match since Rhett just isn’t there as a talent yet. Delirious, as the head trainer of the wrestling school, is the right man to have him in the ring with at the moment. To be fair to Titus, he has his character nailed, and every time he wrestles he’s looked like he’s developed something new, or progressed in some way. Of the slim pickings to come from the ROH Academy, he certainly looks top of the class at this point. Basic stuff, but both have good characters and used that to progress the match well. Delirious working the crotch was a nifty little theme. With Delirious now a heel and affiliated with Age Of The Fall, but essentially working the face and being the protagonist in this story it made the crowd awkward and sullen, but try not to let that take away from the action.

Delirious isn’t finished with Titus. TOP OF THE CLASS TROPHY PANIC ATTACK! He wears Rhett out with his own trophy to send an emphatic message.

Tyler Black vs Samoa Joe

Here’s another example of Ring Of Honor using their surprisingly positive relationship with TNA to their advantage. Having already seen the Motor City Machine Guns and LAX brought in to draw some money, sell some tickets and put on some great matches, it’s now time for the return of one of the all-time greats of ROH – Samoa Joe. It’s the first time the man who made the ROH Title into a World Championship has graced this promotion since Fifth Year Festival Finale in spring 2007. Apparently he’s back as Tyler, ROH’s top up and coming star right now issued an online challenge to the legend, and Joe is here to answer it.

‘Joe’s gonna kill you’ – Chicago. How I’ve missed that chant. Joe gets a monster ovation and is treated as a returning hero. He misses with a kick, but slaps the youngster down with a palm to the back of the head. Someone in the crowd says something derogatory to Joe, and is immediately shouted down by Joe and everyone else in the building. Cheapshot from Black…and he goes straight for God’s Last Gift. Joe to the floor…SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY TYLER! That worked for Black, but he tries to trade chops, and unsurprisingly gets mowed down by the Samoan. Chop/kick/knee drop combo gets Joe a 2, and wisely Black retreats again. He evades Joe’s elbow suicida, then goes for one of his own and gets kicked in the head. ELBOW SUICIDAAAAAAAAAAA! Tyler gets thrown into the crowd, and there’s an amusing moment as Joe sells the introduction of the count-out rule in ROH with a comedy sidewards glance at the ref. OLE OLE KICK! He lines up a second but this time Allison Wonderland positions herself in Joe’s path. It’s enough of a distraction for Tyler to gather himself and toss Joe into the railings. Realising he can’t beat Joe in a strike duel, he thumbs the eyes and negates the size disadvantage by keeping Samoa Joe on the mat. Joe lands a MASSIVE b*tch slap…but Tyler shuts it down by going to the eyes again. This time Joe has a comeback though, booting Black in the face, and soon going to the powerbomb into a submission combo. It’s an STF, into a crossface, into a Rings Of Saturn. Black evades the Muslebuster and goes to a headscissors, then a neckbreaker. RED STAR PRESS for 2. 15 minutes in and Black has taken a lot of punishment, but he’s taken Joe down using his known problematic neck. Joe catches him though…ISLAND DRIVER! ONE COUNT OF DISRESPECT!!!! Black just keeps fighting back, much to the disbelief of Joe. ROARING ELBOW NO SOLD! LOW SUPERKICK! GOD’S LAST GIFT…FOR 2! Tyler is too worn down to get up the turnbuckles in time for the Phoenix Splash. LOW SUPERKICK…PHOENIX SPLASH MISSES! Both men fight on the top, Black finally knocking Joe goofy with an overhead enziguri. ST-JOE from nothing. MUSCLEBUSTAAAAAH! CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOKE! Joe wins it at 18:53.

Rating – **** –
Not an all-time classic, and certainly not the best match either has had in a Ring Of Honor ring, but it was thoroughly enjoyable stuff. Compared to the absolute dirge of the Escalation DVD last night, this was exceptional work. The basic story of the match wrote itself. Cocky young upstart looking to beat the veteran…and they did an adequate job working that angle. Black landed his offence in flurries, whilst Joe used his power, size and experience to dominate, but never able to keep the youngster down. After working ROH non-stop since autumn 2002, by the time he left in 2007, and having spent months operating within his limitations to protect himself for his TNA commitments, house show mode Joe had become stale. He remained a legend and a beloved figure for the fans…but his leaving in 2007 just didn’t make the impression that it would’ve done had Joe gone in the 2004/5 hot streak. Here, having spent some time away, he could come in, essentially work in house show mode, and get mammoth reactions from an ROH crowd deprived of his presence for over a year. So yeah, this was a really good match. I’m not sure it was particularly beneficial to the career of Tyler Black as, in truth, it never really felt like he was going to beat Joe…as it has in his matches with Nigel or American Dragon this year. And without the belief that he was going to win, watching Joe batter him for the best part of 20 minutes was never going to help his rise.

Like Gabe, I’d also have preferred to wait to bring Joe back until there was an angle that really called for it. I’ve no doubt his presence helped move some merchandise (in particular the abysmal Escalation DVD on which it was also included as a bonus) and sell some tickets, but it was a short term move with no long term upside for ROH. It’s also a shame to have such a momentous occasion as Samoa Joe’s ROH return shoved away on the bonus features of a DVD. Had he been brought back into the fold as part of a storyline or match that really called for it, and we could have built a DVD around it, with some promos, backstage segment etc…you can’t help but feel the Joe return would have been an even better experience. I’m hesitant to complain too much as I enjoyed the match, and absolutely loved seeing Joe back in ROH. It made me realise how much I missed his aura and personality in the ring. When he’s in there he oozes star quality and big fight feel. I think he remains the most important wrestler in ROH history (although Bryan Danielson is surely close to overtaking him by now) so I don’t want to sleep on his one night only return…whatever form it takes.

Tape Rating – **** –
A fine return to form for ROH after a really poor night in Dayton. When ROH is on pay-per-view, it’s always worth watching, and this was no exception. It started hot and, aside from a brief midcard lull, was packed with quality. The main event is worth the price of the DVD alone, and you’re coupling arguably ROH’s ’08 MOTY with the return of Samoa Joe and the finale to the complex Aries/Jacobs rivalry. It just about scrapes into must-see territory…

Top 3 Matches

3) Samoa Joe vs Tyler Black (****)

2) Austin Aries vs Jimmy Jacobs (****)

1) Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2)

Top 5 Escalation/Rising Above 2008 Weekend Matches

5) Kevin Steen/El Generico vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe (*** – Rising Abov 2008)

4) Bryan Danielson vs Claudio Castagnoli (*** – Escalation)

3) Samoa Joe vs Tyler Black (**** – Rising Above 2008)

2) Austin Aries vs Jimmy Jacobs (**** – Rising Above 2008)

1) Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danieson (****1/2 – Rising Above 2008)

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