ROH 208 – Wrestling At The Gateway – 5th December 2008
It’s another new market debut show tonight – this time in the St Louis area. Since Gabe basically booked The French Connection (the last debut market we had – in Montreal), this is really the first time it’s been up to the Pearce regime to stamp their mark on a new territory for ROH. Sapolsky actually called this weekend a nightmare to book as he was building up all his stories to end at Final Battle weekend at the end of the month, so couldn’t give too much away or risk any injuries…but obviously needs the promotion to make a splash if they want to expand to this region on a more frequent basis. I’m not going to lie to you, the card doesn’t leap off the back of the DVD as a must buy classic, but looks can be deceiving. Certainly the main event combo of Austin Aries vs Tyler Black and a tag team battle pitting Bryan Danielson and Jerry Lynn against World Champion Nigel McGuinness and Claudio Castagnoli. It feels like slim pickings elsewhere though. A thrown together Age Of The Fall tag, a thrown together, somewhat uncalled for tag team gauntlet…and Bushwhacker Luke is booked to wrestle too. At least Kenny Omega has been nailed down for every show through the end of 2008. Lets get to Collinsville, IL which is apparently new St Louis.
ROH VIDEO WIRE (26/11/2008-01/12/2008) – ROH Correspondent Kyle Durden interviews Double C and Nigel McGuinness to hype their tag match in St Louis against Dragon and Jerry Lynn…then hype their singles matches the following night in Nashville.
– Bryan Danielson is furious at Claudio’s actions over the last weekend, injuring his leg ahead of his World Title shot in Chicago. He promises no forgiveness for Double C in Nashville.
– In perhaps the best thing to come of the Grizzly Redwood gimmick, we get a wonderful segment with American Dragon teaching Grizzly how to chop wood…
– Age Of The Fall present a united front cutting a promo on Necro Butcher after the dissension we saw at the end of Jimmy’s I Quit Match with Austin Aries at Rising Above ’08.
There’s also a really strange Nigel McGuinness autobiographical video. He downs shots in a bar, hilariously hits on female shop assistants, assaults rookie wrestlers and more.
Kyle Durden opens the show interviewing Kenny King, flanked by former YRR associate Sal Rinauro and his new partner Rhett Titus. They are apparently still rich and handsome…
Kenny King vs Kenny Omega
This is an offshoot of a recent tag bout in Canada. Omega and King were teamed together against the Briscoes, but King opted to abandon Omega to seal his alliance with Titus, leaving Omega to take a beating from the former Tag Champions.
Crowd seems sparse but hugely vocal for this opening contest. The arena looks really decent too. Nice Japanese armdrag from King draws deserved applause. Omega returns fire with an equally impressive armdrag. But he breaks into a ridiculous pose and takes a punt to the ribs as a result. King tries to evade a dive from Omega, but the Canadian flies into a tope suicida. Not enough damage done though and King pitches him into the guardrails. The new count-out rules mean he can’t work Omega over too extensively out there so he brings it inside to choke him in the ropes. Floatover suplex into mounted forearms gets 2. King does a decent job of keeping the agile Omega grounded, thus negating his aerial skills. Omega finally bridges out of a chinlock into a PALM STRIKE! Canadian Hammer nailed, then the leapfrog bulldog for 2. AWESOME tumbling martial arts kick as Omega channels RVD in his prime, then lands a northern lights suplex. But he gets caught up on the ropes, allowing King to demonstrate his athleticism with a VERTICAL LEAP ENZI! STOP ENZI from Omega, capoeira kick from King! He goes for a swinging front slam but Omega counters to a crucifix pin to win at 09:29
Rating – *** – Terrific choice to open the show. They combined some entertaining personas with some great wrestling, phenomenal athleticism and generally produced a fine display. Thee are two guys who ROH should be building their future around. Omega is unbelievably talented (to the extent that, by this point in 2010 he wrestles almost exclusively in Japan), but it was King that impressed me the most here. He demonstrated some real improvement tonight, dominating a match in a believable, effective, logical AND entertaining manner. He was a great base for Omega to work his jazzy spots around…and of course it helps that KK has a certain amount of flashy offence himself.
Rhett Titus/Sal Rinauro vs Grizzly Redwood/Bushwhacker Luke
I guess this is mostly a Grizzly/Rhett student issue over the Top Of The Class Trophy. Rinauro hasn’t turned up on an ROH show in a while and has had a drastic haircut since that time…
Titus and Rinauro attack Luke and Redwood during the usual Bushwhackers posing, but it comes to naught as the bearded babyfaces drive them out of the ring. Rhettski manages to muscle Luke into a sidewalk slam, only to miss a leg drop, leading to more Bushwhacking shenanigans. Sal uses that distraction to his advantage and blindsides Luke. Kudos to Prazak for putting over Sal as a former ROH Tag Champion. DOUBLE Sexy elbow drop gets Rinauro and Rhett a 2. Hot tag to Grizzly, who does his stupid chopping people in the lower extremities gimmick. Flapjack gets Redwood a 2. Flapjack on Sal as well, then the trademark Bushwhacker Human Battering Ram. Titus dropkicks Luke out of the ring, then grabs the tights to pin Grizzly at 07:38.
Rating – * – That was predictably horrific. Credit to Luke for bumping around way more than he needed to but the Bushwhackers nostalgia thing doesn’t do a lot for me. It was fun as a one-time deal in the Manhattan Centre LAST December, but a year later I’m over it. I’ve given a star because I thought Sal and Rhett had a really decent chemistry as a team. No need for this on the main show…
In the back Davey Richards prepares for the Tag Team gauntlet by using Bobby Dempsey as a human punching bag. It’s a big night for Bobby tonight though, as he’s actually teaming WITH Davey…
Irish Airborne vs Brent Albright/Erick Stevens – Gauntlet Match
This is match one in the four team Gauntlet Match to determine who faces Kensuke Sasaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima in tag team competition at Final Battle weekend. I rarely like Gauntlet Matches so I’d be lying if I said I was that excited about it, but at least there’s a reason for these four random teams to do battle in this way. For guys like Irish Airborne or Bobby Dempsey, it’s a career-defining opportunity, for guys like Albright, Stevens and Richards it would be an opportunity to compete against the best and elevate their own status, whilst for the Briscoes, defeating a major puro team would further cement their status as one of the finest tag teams on the planet.
Stevens REALLY hurts Jake Crist with a massive chop which draws a huge response from the crowd. Stalling vertical suplex from Albright next as the bigger team dominate in the early going. Finally Jake goes to the eyes to get an advantage over Albright. Tag to Stevens who effortlessly tosses both Crists about the ring. Jake rakes his eyes as well…HALF NELSON SUPLEX ON HIM! Albright pins Jake to eliminate Irish Airborne at 07:39
Rating – * – A squash, and a pretty boring one at that. I liked the slightly more heelish tactics of Irish Airborne, but they basically got the snot pummelled out of the here.
Brent Albright/Erick Stevens vs Davey Richards/Bobby Dempsey – Gauntlet Match
Here the Sweet’n’Sour team will face off with two of their major rivals. Albright has been at odds with the group since A New Level, whilst Stevens will be looking for some retribution after the beatdown he suffered in Canada. He’s been at war with Davey Richards basically since he debuted in ROH and joined The Resilience to oppose the No Remorse Corps.
Richards and Dempsey use the Briscoes’ music to distract their opponents, then sneak in through the crowd to attack Stevens and Albright. Dempsey is more over than either of the babyfaces, but pisses off his own team-mate by missing a Warrior Splash. He manages to combine with Davey to hit a double reverse elbow…only for Richards to kick him in the shoulder. Albright tags in, and takes advantage of the fact that Davey doesn’t feel happy tagging his partner to get some respite. Crowbar on Richards, but Sweeney shoves Bobby into the ring and onto Albright to break the hold. He tries to hand his boot to Richards to use as a weapon…but Erick grabs it and lays Richards out. Unfortunately the referee saw the whole incident and disqualifies Albright and Stevens at 05:54.
Rating – * – Some of the humour that came with Bobby’s cameos in the match were highly entertaining, and this bout felt a lot more even than the prior match.
Davey Richards/Bobby Dempsey vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe – Gauntlet Match
The Briscoes actually turned down the opportunity to join Sweet’n’Sour Inc. so Larry may be looking for his team to make the two brothers pay.
The Briscoes don’t waste any time on Bobby, storming straight past him to go to work on Richards. Sweeney distracts Jay and enables Davey to land a cheap shot. Dempsey in to NAIL the Warrior Splash second time around for 2. Richards tags Mark in the corner with an enzi but the younger Briscoe still dives into a reverse elbow from the top rope. Spinebuster from Jay gets 2. Richards hits back with the Alarm Clock, but Jay recovers to Flatliner him into the turnbuckles. Dempsey hits a spinebuster on Mark then climbs to the ropes. DEMPSEY BOMB…Jay saves at the last second. Bobby accidentally slugs Richards, who eats a Jay Driller to give the Briscoes the victory at 05:57
Rating – ** – Better than the other matches in this series as it was slightly more even, definitely more action packed and had some terrific exchanges between Jay and Davey Richards (who had some terrific matches together in late 2006 – I’m thinking it might be time for another).
Ace Steel insists that he and Necro are going to kill somebody in their match…which is next.
Jimmy Jacobs/Delirious vs Necro Butcher/Ace Steel
Age Of The Fall will be looking to bury the threat of their former member tonight. Necro abandoned them to fly solo and has stated all he wants to do is work hard and earn a decent living for his young family. After having his knee injured by AOTF’s Brodie Lee in Montreal, Necro will be hoping to ensure he returns the favour tonight against an Age Of The Fall faction still recovering from Jacobs’ decisive loss to Austin Aries at Rising Above 2008.
Ace and Necro dominate the opening skirmish, forcing an irate Delirious and a subdued Jimmy Jacobs to the floor. A semblance of order is installed, but it’s still the babyface team with the advantage. Delirious bites Steel’s hand, but soon gets put into an abdominal stretch…which Necro mirrors with the same hold on Jacobs. Jimmy spears Necro through the ropes soon afterwards, and Delirious puts the boots to Steel in the corner to turn things in Age Of The Fall’s direction. Jacobs goes to a simple bodyscissors hold to wear Ace down, but Necro aids his partner before they can set him up for a spike piledriver. All four start brawling on the floor with Necro using a table cloth to launch Jimmy through the air. Delirious escapes a powerbomb into a chair and nails a GUARDRAIL LEGSWEEP! PANIC ATTACK TO THE GUARDRAIL! They head back into the ring where Delirious backdrops Butcher leg-first into a chair with the referee completely preoccupied by breaking up Ace and Jimmy on the floor. Jacobs hands Delirious a spike and instructs him to use it on Necro. But Daizee Haze appears at ringside to convince him not to. He drops the spike…and gets chokeslammed by Necro. One Tiger Driver later it’s over…Necro gets the win at 16:00.
Rating – *** – I had pretty low expectations going into this one, but in all fairness, this was decent. It certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel, but on a weekend where Gabe Sapolsky said the name of the game was to put on a decent show and progress some storylines without actually giving anything major away ahead of Final Battle weekend, this one definitely accomplished that.
Tyler Black vs Austin Aries
Obviously Aries ended the feud with Jimmy Jacobs at Rising Above with his final victory in the I Quit Match. He scored such a definitive win only with the help of Lacey, who returned to ROH and prevented Tyler from throwing in the towel for Jacobs – thus forcing him to actually quit the match. Before both parties move on Black will be looking to continue his own surge to the top of the card and get some retribution for his AOTF comrade too.
Aries wants to cut a promo, but has to shoot down some jerks who try to get themselves over. Much as he did with Necro Butcher, he tries to sew the seeds of doubt in his relationship with Jimmy Jacobs. First major strike goes to Tyler who plants a dropkick deep into Aries’ chest. Headscissors escape dropkick from Aries, who react quickly to escape a God’s Last Gift attempt. He goes for the Last Chancery only for Tyler to scoot to the outside. Elbows and a knee strike to Black’s neck, then a slingshot elbow smash to the same body part give the former World Champion an advantage. It’s the neck that Aries starts to work in preparation for the Brainbuster or Last Chancery finishers. To the apron…where Tyler NAILS a neckbreaker. Back suplex scores next as Black turns the tables and starts to target Austin’s neck. Aries nearly steals a win by countering Black’s turnbuckle powerbomb with a sunset flip for 2. He goes for it again, this time countered with a hurricanrana. Power Drive Elbow gets 2 with both men now feeling their necks. Shinbreak back suplex scores but Black CATCHES Aries as he goes for the IED. Brainbuster rolled into a kick to the head, and this time Tyler hits the TURNBUCKLE POWERBOMB! Black takes too long positioning himself for his next move, and Aries capitalises with a neckbreaker through the ropes! Impact Explosion Dropkick sends Black to the floor…HEAT SEEKING MISSILE! KNEE STRIKES! LAST CHANCERY! But he can’t hold on thanks to his injured neck. He thinks about the Brainbuster, but he struggles to hit that move too. Overhead enzi by Black…KICK OF DEATH! GOD’S LAST GIFT! BLACK WINS IN 15:49
Rating – **** – That was the best effort so far between these men. They had a couple of underwhelming matches earlier in the year but this one met the sort of expectations you have with wrestlers of this calibre. They cleverly played off their history with each other, producing some nice counter spots, excellent psychology…and the last few minutes were great on two levels in that they were great to watch, but you know they were holding so much back for further matches in the future. I’m curious about where Austin Aries goes from here. The feud with Jacobs is done, and for all the effort that Gabe booked into booking it, it was perhaps too cerebral for his own good. The matches were good, but I don’t think the ROH fanbase was ever invested in it they way they have with great Ring Of Honor feuds of the past. Putting Tyler over here was the right call as he’s on a big upward curve at the moment…whilst creative will now be at a real juncture deciding what to do next with Aries who, despite being a big name and a major player, is at risk of getting stuck on a plateau.
Nigel McGuinness/Claudio Castagnoli vs Bryan Danielson/Jerry Lynn
This is your main event. For all the people who could argue that this is a throwaway B-show which nobody will care about…this is a huge main event that could really deliver if done right. Danielson has major issues with both his opponents tonight. McGuinness just bested him for the World Title on ppv, but only after some intervention from his partner this evening – Claudio Castagnoli. Claudio has been putting the boots to Dragon for much of the last few months too, so the ex World Champion will be hugely motivated here. As will his partner. Jerry Lynn returned for an extended run in ROH, looking to prove that he’s still got the hunger to compete at the highest level and earn a World Title shot. He has that tomorrow night in Nashville and has the opportunity to soften Nigel up ahead of that one tonight.
Castagnoli doesn’t seem keen to start with American Dragon, so it’s Lynn and McGuinness who kick things off. Much as with their match at Vendetta 2, Nigel breezes arrogantly into their opening tussle, but once again Jerry looks completely capable of hanging with the World Champion. He rocks Nigel with a volley of fierce forearm smashes, driving him out of the ring and into the arms of Claudio. Double C refuses to get in there with Danielson until Nigel has staggered him, and quickly bails again as Dragon looks to land a big kick to the spine. Dragon and Lynn utilise some teamwork on both opponents, and simultaneously put on the breaks as Nigel and Claudio hurriedly evade potential duelling tope suicidas. McGuinness flings Lynn into the guardrails but it doesn’t stop the veteran from hitting a flying headscissors on Castagnoli. It’s Nigel who drops Lynn again with a clothesline from the apron. Ten minutes gone and it’s the ‘very European’ team of Nigel and Claudio in the ascendancy. But Lynn manages to counter the Tower Of London with an inverted DDT and make the tag to Danielson who FINALLY gets his hands on Castagnoli. Big punt to the spine landed…but McGuinness invades to clobber Danielson with a McLariat before he can apply the Mexican surfboard. Claudio assaults Danielson on the outside before bringing back in for a game of European uppercut tennis. Eventually they miscue on the uppercut attempts, allowing a hot tag to Lynn. He victory torpedo’s Claudio into Nigel, leaving them both in position for a double missile dropkick from AmDrag. STEREO CATTLE MUTILATIONS! It’s Nigel, who was in Lynn’s clutches, that gets to the ropes first. McLariat COUNTERED to a German suplex for 2. Nigel goes for the Jawbreaker but Lynn meets him with a clothesline. TKO NAILED! Castagnoli in to bicycle kick Lynn and McGuinness nearly wins it with the Tower Of London. TOPE SUICIDA UP THE AISLE BY DANIELSON! SOMERSAULT F*CKING PLANCHA FROM THE NEW F’N SHOW! CRADLE PILEDRIVER ON CLAUDIO! LYNN WINS! 20:25 is your time.
Rating – **** – Fun house show main event between four high quality wrestlers. Nobody went particularly far out of their comfort zone (although Jerry really let it all hang out on that dive at the end) but thanks to good wrestling and great storytelling they put together something decent. Given that these four are all working singles matches with each other tomorrow night, they had an exceptionally hard job to build up those matches without giving too much away – and by and large they did that well. I’m certainly feeling more pumped for the Dragon/Claudio No DQ match after having seen Castagnoli duck Danielson for most of this encounter for instance.
Jerry poses with the World Title belt before handing it back to Nigel before Dragon gets the mic and humbly thanks the crowd for turning out for the St Louis debut.
In the back a furious Austin Aries shows the camera the broken nose he suffered in his match with Tyler Black. He demands a rematch…
Tape Rating – *** – No doubt people will accuse me of over-rating this one…but I liked it. It’s a B-show, make no bones about that. But it’s the kind of B-show that makes me glad to be an ROH completist. For every Escalation or The Last Stand you get a show like this. Is it skippable? To the majority, it probably is. But if you can afford the extra dough to pick up events like this, it’s a pleasure to get to watch overlooked gems like the hugely entertaining King/Omega opener, or the main event which let four of ROH’s top performers get in the ring together and flat-out WRESTLE for 20 minutes. Skipping this means you’d miss the best Aries/Black match thus far. It’s a short show which means it flies by, even with a couple of poor matches in the middle…and there’s also a decent little SHIMMER match too. If you’re a seasoned ROH viewer, you’ve got some spare cash, you know what to expect from the ROH B-shows, and you’re looking for an extra DVD to pick up in a sale or something…I really recommend this one.
Top 3 Matches
3) Kenny Omega vs Kenny King (***)
2) Bryan Danielson/Jerry Lynn vs Nigel McGuinness/Claudio Castagnoli (****)
1) Tyler Black vs Austin Aries (****)