221 ROH Steel City Clash 3/20/2009

ROH 221 – Steel City Clash – 20th March 2009

Nearly a month late, but this weekend we celebrate Ring Of Honor’s seventh birthday. And we’re doing so in grand style with the return to the Pittsburgh market tonight, then a stacked show in the Hammerstein tomorrow night, coupled with the first ever broadcast of ROH on HDNet. With so much going on for Manhattan tomorrow, you could probably be forgiven for looking past this show, but you’d be sleeping on what, on paper at least, looks to be a strong line-up. Mike Quackenbush returns to ROH for the first time in forever to face Bryan Danielson in a Death Before Dishonor 5 rematch. Former Tag Team Champions collide for the first time in a while as Roderick Strong and Austin Aries go one-on-one. And the main event sees KENTA appear in an ROH ring on US soil for the first time since Glory By Honor 6 when he challenged Mitsuharu Misawa for the GHC Heavyweight Title. Tonight he teams with El Generico to face his former ‘American protégé’ Davey Richards and the man he challenges tomorrow night for the ROH Title, Nigel McGuinness. We’re in Elizabeth, PA and thankfully Lenny Leonard returns to commentary and rejoins Dave Prazak. Interesting to see if Prazak goes heel again…

ROH VIDEO WIRE (18/03/2009) – Nigel McGuinness knows his match with KENTA in New York needs no hype at all, so instead focuses on the big tag team main event in the Pittsburgh area.

– Claudio cuts an absolutely atrocious promo aimed at Brent Albright. That feud continues…

– Dave Prazak interviews the American Wolves as they prepare for their Tag Title shot. They promise to end the fairytale run of the popular tag champions and restore reality to the tag division.

– There’s also some bonus matches, including another Bison Smith ring invasion…

James Keenan opens the show today. He’s not been seen in ROH since circa 2006/2007. He was hyped as the next big thing on the indy scene a few years ago but has never really amounted to much outside of his Pittsburgh area base – which of course is where we are today. He’s had a fierce haircut since he was last in ROH, but has some absolutely awesome tattoos. Decent promo too…

James Keenan vs Delirious

His promo just moments earlier really framed this match. Of course it should be an enhancement match for Delirious, returning to his old ways after months under the spell of the Age Of The Fall. But Ring Of Honor represents a place where SJK has had a number of shots and never really been accepted. Bitter at having been refused a spot in the past, Keenan looks like he’s here tonight to bully his way in.

Daizee Haze accompanies Delirious to the ring, with the lizard man right back into the gimmick of comedy crazy speak, losing his mind and other general silliness. Drop toehold into the corner nailed, but SJK knows what’s coming and pisses the ROH fans off by leaving the ring to avoid the Panic Attack. He makes a grab at Daizee and gets booted in the head though. Keenan evades Delirious, waiting for him to tire himself out with his constant, aimless running around the ring before hitting a big boot to the face. Cobra Stretch blocked and Keenan pounces out of the corner into a shortarm clothesline for 2. He gets another nearfall with a pumphandle slam. Delirious mounts a comeback using Daizee’s Heart Punch, but is promptly floored again with an STO. Death Valley Driver nearly puts the masked man away. He hits back with the Never Ending Story clothesline flurry followed by the Panic Attack. Shadows Over Hell nailed for the win in 08:17

Rating – * –
Another non-event of a curtain raiser on an ROH show this year. This match couldn’t be classified as a squash because SJK got in way too much offence and was allowed to demonstrate real personality out there. But then, it wasn’t an exhibition match or any kind of vehicle to put Keenan over since Delirious was essentially burying him out there by no selling his offence and doing all the goofy stuff people weren’t really clamouring to have back after he dropped it last year to join AOTF. The unhappy middle ground they found between the two just wasn’t to my taste at all. I like Keenan’s promos and look, and he could probably be a decent addition to the roster if he was given a chance to shine and the right angle to progress in. However, I think this largely lifeless affair will consign his latest bid for an ROH roster spot to the scrapheap like all the others.

Ahead of the next match Austin Aries comes to ringside to have a chat with King and Titus. Apparently has some thoughts former his former Resilience recruits too.

Kenny King/Rhett Titus vs Erick Stevens/Matt Cross

Speaking of bids for ROH roster spots, this match features the return of another guy we haven’t seen in a while. Ironically, I think if Keenan had been given M-Dogg’s spot in The Resilience back in ’07 he’d probably have made a much better fist of it. Anyway, King and Titus are looking to rebound after losing their bid for the Tag Team Championship at the last show in Indianapolis, but did have a terrific showing there. Stevens is clearly looking to help his former partner secure a few more bookings here.

Cross still hasn’t ditched his little Village People look. Austin Aries apologises to Stevens and Cross for being a poor leader and for ‘overestimating’ how good they were. NOW he sees real star potential, but it’s in King and Titus, who attack the former Resilience team to kick-start the match. Roderick Strong comes along to run Aries off. In the wake of that it’s Cross and Stevens that wind up dominating the opening few minutes. M-Dogg hits a handspring elbow on Rhettski before Stevens delivers a Russian legsweep for 2. Finally Titus manages to lure Cross into his corner for King to score with a knee smash. Titus nails the Sexy Suplex, followed by a dropkick to the neck for 2. Atomic drop lariat combo gets 2 for the ANX, only for M-Dogg to pop up and hit a standing moonsault on Kenny. Sexy chops nailed, but M-Dogg SOMERSAULTS over both opponents and gets the hot tag. King avoids the Choo Choo but eats a second rope football tackle instead. Choo Choo Avalanche nailed second time, into a pumphandle powerbomb for 2. King drops M-Dogg with the Coronation which gets 2 as well. Soon after everyone is on the floor meaning Cross is free to hit his version of the Space Flying Tiger Drop. Back in the ring Titus lifts him up for the DOOMSDAY BLOCKBUSTER! All Night Express pick up an impressive win at 10:01

Rating – ** –
Pretty much the match you’d expect. Matt Cross hasn’t improved as a wrestler even a tiny little bit, which is why he was dropped from the roster VERY quickly in 2007 and why he’s only been invited back as enhancement talent ever since. Titus and King show moments of genuine inexperience in every match, but are the complete opposite of M-Dogg in that they show improvement every time they step into the ring too. They are entertaining as an undercard team here, and a potential union with Austin Aries would really help in terms of getting them involved in some storylines and developing a bit more character to go with their flashy playboy personas.

Bryan Danielson looks forward to his match tonight since he gets to pit his immense technical skills against another of the best technicians in the world – Mike Quackenbush.

Mike Quackenbush vs Bryan Danielson

Since you know you’re not ever going to rely on nailing Quack down for more than a handful of dates at a time (Mike has previously said he’s not a huge fan of the hard hitting, high octane style ROH promotes and prefers working with more of a lucha influence in Chikara), you may as well utilise what time you have to sling him in this rematch. They had a competitive match back at Death Before Dishonor 5 (which got some crazy amounts of over-hyping from some quarters) with American Dragon coming out on top. Can ‘Lightning’ Mike avenge that defeat?

The early going is fairly cagey as the two highly skilled athletes jostle for position. Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard use the time to go on an elongated lecture about the perils of wrestling with concussions. Four minutes in and they’re still totally even. Dragon looks like he gets the advantage with a chinlock, only for Quack to escape with consummate ease by countering to a wristlock. They battle over that wristlock for the next 90 seconds before breaking up and backing off to re-evaluate. Quackenbush launches Danielson over the ropes with a back body drop, then dives out after him with the SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! American Dragon is left on the ground clutching at his knee after that. Mike goes after the leg, clinging to a submission hold even as Danielson tries to counter him into an abdominal stretch. Bryan is heavily favouring the bad leg now and goes after Quack’s arm almost as part of a defensive strategy to buy himself some time to recover his own injury. He stomps on the point of the elbow then cranks up the aggression by clawing at Mike’s face as he lines up the Mexican surfboard. Crossface Chickenwing locked in from that position, forcing Quackenbush to roll painfully towards the ropes. Springboard headscissors from the Chikara trainer scores and he comes up again with a dropkick to the knee. Super rana nailed for 2. Black Tornado Slam blocked by Danielson, as is the QuackenDriver…and he converts to ONE-LEGGED CATTLE MUTILATION! Mike gets to his feet and kicks at the knee to escape. SHOTEI! QUACKENDRIVER NAILED FOR 2! INVERTED CLOVERLEAF! That doesn’t get the win, and so Quack goes high risk and misses a somersault dive off the top. Like a cat Dragon pounces to lock in the CROSS ARMBREAKER! Check out his awesome knee selling by adjusting the positioning of the leg whilst in that hold! He kicks at the arm so Quack returns fire with a kick to the shin. Quackendriver countered to the UNBREAKABLE SMALL PACKAGE! Bryan Danielson scores the win at 16:40

Rating – **** –
These two set the bar extremely high when it comes to technical skills. They are two very different, but equally exceptional independent talents and whenever they come together it’s always like watching poetry in motion. I really liked this one though. Throwing in the basic work a body part stuff to add focus to the endless amount of pretty chain wrestling exchanges they could have gave a clear focus and drove the match forward. It took Danielson from smiling, cheerful ROH ambassador to the hard hitting, intense ‘best wrestler in the world’, which in turn brought out a more aggressive and fiery side in Mike Quackenbush too. He’d wind up a permanent member of the Dragon Gate USA roster before 2009 was finished, so don’t expect his latest run in ROH to last too long. He is booked for tomorrow night though, and this match currently sits alongside the likes of Dragon/Jacobs, Dragon/Generico, Lynn/Tyler and Nigel/Tyler as my favourite matches of the year. A huge step up in quality from what we’ve seen on the last three or four shows.

Claudio Castagnoli vs Brent Albright vs Jerry Lynn

Interesting choice for a three way dance is this. Obviously Claudio and Albright have some beef between them now. Twice Brent has failed to beat Castagnoli, but the issue between them has simmered to the point where Double C felt the need to interject into an ROH World Title Match to cost Albright the belt. They’ll obviously be looking to get at each other again. And against that backdrop Jerry Lynn enters the fray, fresh off pinning Nigel McGuinness to surely earn himself another title shot in the process. Tough match to call…

Albright and Claudio are clearly preoccupied with each other. Castagnoli darts around the ring to evade his foe whilst Lynn nearly capitalises on all the distractions to attempt a quick pin on Brent. Jerry with a satellite headscissors through the ropes to the floor to the evasive European competitor. But he continues to evade both his opponents, leaving Albright and Lynn in the ring to trade some basics. Brent is sent to the floor, but comes back in to hit a 61-Knee for 2. Castagnoli throws him out again and starts choking on the former ECW Champion. And that’s the pattern of the next few minutes – Claudio working over Jerry, occasionally pausing to hurl his nemesis Brent Albright back to the arena floor. Big Swing on Lynn, but that distracts him for long enough to allow Albright back in. Exploder suplex nailed, then an overhead belly to belly. Pescado nailed, taking those two outside again, and into position for Lynn to hit a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Back inside Brent blocks the Cradle Piledriver, then ducks down as Claudio re-emerges to hit the bicycle kick on Jerry. Riccola Bomb countered to the Crowbar…only for Lynn to break the hold. Tornado DDT on Double C for 2. He sends Brent out of the ring with a headscissors…AND COUNTERS THE RICCOLA BOMB TO CODE RED! ALBRIGHT SAVES! Swinging backbreaker on Claudio. Lynn back into sunset flip Albright INTO THE HALF NELSON SUPLEX ON CLAUDIO! TKO gets 2 on Albright. He still blocks the Cradle Piledriver though, and locks the Crowbar in once again. Castagnoli breaks it, then HE puts the Crowbar on Lynn! Jerry submits to Castagnoli at 11:31…meaning the issue between Claudio and Brent is far from over.

Rating – *** –
That came from nowhere to be a surprisingly decent encounter. I was all set for a bland and forgettable triple threat match, but they actually produced something well worth watching. The early story of Claudio trying to evade Albright and acting like a dick, therefore pissing Lynn off too gave purpose to the inevitable ‘two babyfaces work over the heel’ segment. And it also gave purpose to the Lynn/Albright exchanges in that whenever Jerry was in the ascendancy on Brent, it was inevitably because Albright had allowed himself to be distracted. And the story lead to a strong conclusion with some clever spots and relatively hot false finishes – with Lynn’s counter to the Riccola Bomb, in particular, being a must-see moment. Great finish too, although I question whether the undercard filler feud between Albright and Castagnoli really should have taken precedence over Lynn’s World Title push. Having made that decision however, letting Claudio lift Brent’s finisher was pretty nifty.

Jimmy Jacobs/Brodie Lee vs Tyler Black/Necro Butcher – Falls Count Anywhere Match

I think this Age Of The Fall duo is essentially all that is left of the group. MsChif is still technically a member, and it’s never been acknowledged on screen that Zach Gowen or Joey Matthews have left but, of course, they’re not around anymore either. That said, Jacobs could hardly wish for a better partner in this type of match than the sizeable figure of Brodie Lee – who has already had some hard hitting battles with Necro Butcher. Black and Necro are both jilted former members of Jimmy’s revolution, both removed from the group as their popularity and perceived ‘purpose’ for competing in ROH started to divulge from the demented goals of Age Of The Fall. Tyler has put his pursuit of the World Title on hold whilst he finishes his business with Jacobs remember.

I hate Necro’s new HDNet entrance music. Of all the changes, it’s definitely up there with the worst of them. The irritating, deliberately off key guitar whining offends my ears. Black dropkicks Lee to the floor for Necro to score with a senton off the apron. Jacobs tears through Necro with a tope suicida right afterward, with Tyler competing the set to land a somersault plancha. As you’d expect given the stipulations of the match, they don’t hurry to get back into the ring. Jacobs leaps off some chairs into the End Time on Tyler, but it’s right in front of Necro who waffles him with a brutal right hand to break it. Tyler hits a backbreaker on a chair on his former tag partner whilst Necro and Brodie throw a stream of chairs at each other. Back in the ring it’s Tyler getting a 2 on Jacobs with a neckbreaker. Lee steamrolls through Necro, delivering a sickening shot to the head with the ring bell. BIG BOOT THROUGH A STACK OF CHAIRS from Lee to Black. And that leaves AOTF alone to work Necro over for a period. Senton bomb off the apron nailed, but Jacobs inadvertently connects with Brodie as he attempts a spear off the apron, then gets taken out himself as Tyler springboards off the guardrail into a clothesline. Butcher leg drops Lee through a table to leave both of those guys down. Peroxism from Black to Jacobs gets 2 before Tyler Lionsaults into Jimmy’s knees. Lee and Necro are back up, but only briefly as Necro floors Brodie again with a bulldog on the floor. In the ring Jacobs nearly wins it with the Contra Code. Lee eliminates Necro with a BLACK HOLE SLAM ON THE STAGE as Tyler hits the F-5 on Jacobs. Brodie knocks Tyler off the top with a chair to the face, and right into the End Time by Jacobs. Age Of The Fall pick up the win at 14:30

Rating – ** –
Chaotic and messy, as perhaps these kind of grudge matches should be. But I think it was more due to poor execution rather than by design sadly. Much as with their singles matches, I just didn’t feel any palpable dislike between Brodie and Necro which really hurt things. I thought Jacobs and Lee looked good together, mostly thanks to Jimmy’s amazing ability to work with anyone and make it seem like they’ve been teaming for ages. But they devoted too much time in aimless brawling and setting up various spots rather than progressing the centrepiece of this story which is supposed to be the Tyler Black vs Jimmy Jacobs storyline. They derailed Black’s incredible surge to main event status to work his program with Jacobs. You’d think they’d at least devote enough attention to it to make it seem important. This felt like any other midcard brawl.

Austin Aries vs Roderick Strong

Perhaps it’s fitting that, on a night when Austin Aries publicly distanced himself from his former allies in The Resilience – he faces the very man he formed that group to combat. In the spring of 2007 it was Aries who recruited Stevens and Cross to help him combat Strong’s No Remorse Corps – a stable he started on the back of an assault on his former partner and Generation Next founding member Aries. They shared some great matches that year, first during the WrestleMania weekend shows in Detroit before going in to Undeniable on ppv, then a 30-Minute Iron Man Match in Dayton. But exchanges between the two have been sparse since then so it’ll be interesting to see how these guys mesh with each other now – particularly in the wake of A-Double’s recent attitude change.

As you’d expect from two opponents with such familiarity shared between them, it’s a very tentative and measured opening few minutes. Aries ducks under an early chop attempt and runs to the ropes to give his opponent time to cool off. He goes for that springboard reverse elbow out of the corner but it’s blocked, but right out of that he counters Strong’s trademark half nelson backbreaker in response. A-Double leaves the ring and makes a point by chopping the timekeeper. Strong drops him with a fallaway slam then watches in frustration as the former World Champion leaves the ring for a second time. Chops by A-Starr now, before he is floored by a slingshot shoulder tackle. For a third time he leaves the ring to avoid a Roderick Strong chop but this time the Floridian gives chase. Even on the floor he keeps ducking the chops. Slingshot tackle attempted a second time and this time Austin counters with a mid-air Ace crusher. He knees Roddy in the arm as he goes for another chop before grounding him to work the neck. More familiarity countering by Aries, as he ducks under Strong’s enziguri out of the corner. Impact Explosion Dropkick missed too though. RUNNING CHOPS by Roddy, hitting with such impact that it hangs Aries upside down in the ropes. THROAT CHOP gets 2. Half Nelson Backbreaker nailed for another nearfall. Death By Roderick countered to a back rake, but such is Strong’s disgust for that he almost dropkicks Austin’s off his shoulders. Aries escapes the Gibson Driver only to be turned briefly into the Stronghold. He gets to the ropes, then uses them to gain extra leverage on a swinging neckbreaker. Heat Seeking Missile shunts the former FIP Champion all the way up the aisle. Back in the ring he locks in the Last Chancery. Roddy stands up and drives him into the corner. Death By Roderick/Sick Kick combo nailed but the momentum pushes Aries too close to the ropes. Stronghold again, but here come Rhett Titus and Kenny King. They distract him for long enough for Aries to hit the IED. Brainbuster wins it for A-Double in 15:24

Rating – *** –
The finish was maybe a little souring, but I liked most of the match before it. Without doing anything overly spectacular they cleverly played off their lengthy history together. Lots of counters, lots of knowing nods to their knowledge of each other’s move sets. The elongated ‘Aries avoiding the chops’ portion was very well executed and absolutely perfect for Austin’s new character. I also like the new unit of Austin Aries and the All Night Express, and since Strong doesn’t have much going on creatively after the conclusion of the feud with Sweet’n’Sour Inc., he doesn’t really lose too much ground by taking the loss here.

El Generico/KENTA vs Nigel McGuinness/Davey Richards

KENTA’s return to Ring Of Honor action in the US for the first time since 2007 was certainly a welcome boost to the recent lull the promotion he’s stuck in. He challenges Nigel for the World Title tomorrow night, will appear at the forthcoming Texas debut shows and is even signed up to be at the next TV tapings so new fans watching the HDNet product will get to see the sort of quality he brings to the table for FREE later this year. But tonight he teams with ROH Tag Champion in what should be a high quality bout. Across the ring from him stands an opportunity to soften up the already struggling World Champion ahead of their clash in Manhattan tomorrow. And it’s the first chance he’s had for revenge on his former ‘American protégé’ Davey Richards, who turned on him in the summer of 2007 (I believe it was at United We Stand). Partnering KENTA is El Generico, a man who has come close to claiming Nigel’s ROH Championship on three different occasions, and a man who also has scores to settle with Richards as the feud between the American Wolves and the reigning ROH Tag Champions continues to escalate. Neither Kevin Steen nor Eddie Edwards appear to be in attendance tonight, but both will be in New York tomorrow when the Wolves have their Tag Title rematch.

Both his opponents noticeably make no effort to shake the hand of Davey Richards. The American Wolf doesn’t waste any time in taking a cheap shot and booting KENTA off the apron. Generico gets some payback moments later by booting him off the apron then diving to the floor with a TOPE CON HILO! KENTA drives a boot deep into Nigel’s chest seconds later and both heels decide to take a time-out on the entrance stage to cool things down. McGuinness returns and picks at a cross armbreaker on KENTA. Richards in and he has a CRAZY intense strike exchange with his former mentor. KENTA gets the better of that with a running kick to the chest, which Generico follows up with a springboard crossbody for 2. Nigel tugs at the mask and drags Generico into their corner to give his team the advantage. Richards sends him hard into the railings, and celebrates by bad mouthing a little kid at ringside. El Generico is on the back foot for the next period of the match, with Nigel tending to focus on the arm whilst Davey flat-out bullies him with fierce strikes and lots of intensity. Rope run tornado DDT nailed by Generico, who gets the big tag to KENTA. He hangs Nigel in the ropes and hits a diving knee strike from the top rope for 2. Springboard dropkick followed by a flurry of huge boots in the corner, then a fisherman buster which gets another 2. Tower Of London is blocked and the NOAH star gets yet another nearfall with a double underhook suplex. Cross armbreaker applied to the heavily taped arm of the World Champion. Davey in to save his partner from Go 2 Sleep and Nigel rolls KENTA into the London Dungeon. Tag to Richards, and once again KENTA and Davey absolutely destroy each other with strikes. KENTA takes what Davey has to dish out and powerslams him into position for Generico’s top rope splash. Michinoku Driver nearly scores a victory for the ‘Canadian luchador’. Richards fires back with the Alarm Clock into a bridging German for 2. Nigel low bridges Generico but can’t keep out for long enough to stop him Yakuza Kicking Richards into position for BUSAIKU KNEE! Nigel in with a McLariat on KENTA. Yakuza Kick on him, but when he tries another Yakuza on Richards, he takes a CAPTURE SUPLEX TO THE TURNBUCKLES! BUSAIKU KNEE takes McGuinness down for another nearfall, but once again the World Champion rallies to hit a McLariat. He appears to be having problems with his GOOD arm now by the way. Rope run to super falcon arrow by KENTA. Go 2 Sleep countered to a DDT then the Tower Of London. London Dungeon again, but this time KENTA manages to escape. GO 2 SLEEEEEEEEP! KENTA PINS THE WORLD CHAMPION! Two consecutive losses for Nigel! 19:36 is your time.

Rating – **** –
At one point Dave Prazak described this as a ‘hard fought main event’, and he’s exactly right with that description. This was one of the better matches thus far this year, and a lot of the credit has to go to KENTA. His exchanges with Davey Richards were phenomenal, and he had some great moments with Nigel too ahead of their title match tomorrow. The real worry was McGuinness who was visibly struggling by the end of the match. He seemed to have limited use of both arms by the end of the match. My real criticism would be that, at times, this did feel a little house show. The quality was always there but, at times, the intensity wasn’t. In particular I felt the heat segment on Generico was a little tame. You could probably say that there wasn’t enough attention paid to the Generico vs Richards element of the match, but there will be other days to develop Wolves vs Steen-erico.

Show fades out with the victors in the ring and their opponents for tomorrow night retreating to the locker room with their tales between their legs.

Tape Rating – *** –
Once again the quality of the card was a little up and down but in my opinion this show marks the continuation of the mini-recovery ROH began in Indianapolis and Insanity Unleashed. The tag team main event and Dragon/Quack were of a really high quality and were, in my eyes at least, legitimate 4* encounters, as opposed to some of the hugely generous 4* ratings I’ve dished out at times this year. We also got a smartly worked Strong/Aries match, a three way dance which was much better than you might expect, and the formation of the Aries/ANX alliance which will become increasingly significant as the ROH on HDNet series progresses. It wasn’t all brilliant – the opener was poor again, the Resilience reunion tag was mediocre, and the Falls Count Anywhere brawl was VERY average. The booking continues to confuse me a little (after I praised Pearce at the end of Insanity Unleashed for starting to refocus things) though. Lynn ended the last show pinning the World Champion, and goes from there to jobbing in the middle of the card and playing second fiddle to a run of the mill midcard feud which has already pissed people off by ruining a World Title match in St Louis. It’s also a shame to see Tyler Black’s breakout year continue to go off track as he gets bogged down in forgettable encounters like the one he was in here. So once again you’re getting a mixed bag of positives and negatives out of this ROH release. But for the second show running I felt like the positives outweighed the negatives, and with the 7th Anniversary Show tomorrow, followed by the debut of HDNet and WrestleMania weekend taking ROH to Texas for the first time in the near future, hopefully business will continue to pick up after a slow start to 2009.

Top 3 Matches

3) Austin Aries vs Roderick Strong (***)

2) Bryan Danielson vs Mike Quakenbush (****)

1) El Generico/KENTA vs Nigel McGuinness/Davey Richards (****)

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