222 ROH 7th Anniversary Show 3/21/2009

ROH 222 – 7th Anniversary Show – 21st March 2009

This is the biggest show of the year thus far by some stretch. Having spent much of the first quarter shuffling the pack, struggling to find some rhythm and making multiple creative adjustments and tweaks in preparation for the launch of the HDNet show (which also happens tonight), tonight marks the first time this year that Ring Of Honor as gone on all out to put on a legitimate supershow to try and sell some DVD’s in major numbers. For the first time this year, you run down the card and on paper, you have a reason to care about every match. The headline match has Nigel McGuinness defending the World Title against NOAH star KENTA, despite sustaining another injury in Pittsburgh the previous evening. The American Wolves challenge Kevin Steen and El Generico for the Tag Team belts for a second time. We’ve also got Bryan Danielson and Bison Smith ready to fight each other once again, this time flanked by some returning familiar faces. Former Age Of The Fall members unite to face their adversaries in a ‘Revolution Rules’ Match, and there’s also Jerry Lynn and Mike Quackenbush scheduled to face each other in another appealing clash. In possibly the biggest anniversary celebration show ROH has ever done, we’re returning to the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, NY tonight. Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak will call the action once again

ROH VIDEO WIRE – See Steel City Clash (ROH 221) review for details

Bobby Dempsey promises to mow down whomever Larry Sweeney has lined up to face him in an open contract tonight.

As the arena is prepared for the show, we see KENTA preparing himself for his big match.

Kenny King/Rhett Titus vs Roderick Strong/Erick Stevens

At last, this looks like a strong match to start a show with. In Pittsburgh last night we saw the foundations set for the new grouping of Austin Aries with protégés Kenny King and Rhett Titus. He rudely belittled former friend Erick Stevens early in the evening, then later cheated to victory in a match against another former tag partner in Roderick Strong after intervention from the ANX. Austin Aries’ former partners, FIP stalwarts and Floridian standouts Strong and Stevens team up once again to face common enemies.

Positive start from Kenny as he runs through Strong with a shoulder block. But he’s quickly pushed back into the corner where Stevens gets the tag and hits a similar shoulder tackle to wipe out Titus. The Floridians take it in turn to fire massive chops at the chest of Rhett until King blindsides Stevens with a knee strike through the ropes. Suplex into the floatover forearms from King as the ANX get a period of offence for the first time. He springs past a thrusting Rhett Titus to nail a big clothesline for 2. Knee drop/swinging backbreaker combo gets the heel duo another nearfall. Sexy Suplex is blocked but King knocks Roddy off the apron before Stevens can make the tag. But the inevitable hot tag soon follows and we get all four men brawling in the ring. Choo Choo Avalanche into the urinage backbreaker from Strong for 2. King nails the capoeira kick into Rhett’s Muff Driver for an ANX nearfall in return. Shotgun Knee on Stevens and this time Roddy has to save his partner. Stevens levels Titus with a lifting lariat but gets distracted in the corner. Strong saves his partner from the Blockbuster Bomb with a SICK KICK! DOCTOR BOMB NAILED! Stevens pins Rhett at 08:51

Rating – *** –
The hot crowd really helped to fuel an energetic and action packed opening match. Granted, it wasn’t all perfect – in particular one moment where Kenny King ran PAST his partner being pinned in the middle of the ring to aim a random kick at his other opponent – but they packed enough stuff in to warm up the crowd ahead of a big night.

Claudio Castagnoli vs Brent Albright

Yes folks, it’s these guys again. What seemed like a run of the mill, filler midcard battle has escalated to the point where these two REALLY don’t like each other. What particularly irks Brent Albright is that he hasn’t been able to beat Claudio as yet. They had two singles matches which saw Double C escape without taking a clean loss. And as recently as last night at Steel City Clash it was Castagnoli getting the better of the two as he stole Brent’s own finishing move to defeat Jerry Lynn. Neither man holds a decisive victory over the other as yet.

Claudio’s new ring jacket is repulsive. He attacks Brent whilst he takes his more sensible entrance t-shirt off but quickly finds himself getting stomped in the corner. Albright manages to dropkick Claudio out of the ring, where he can do nothing but stand and watch as Brent launches into a big pescado to the floor. Stalling suplex gets 2 for Albright. Both men have early attempts at their finishing holds blocked, and Castagnoli reacts quickly for a second time to evade a crossbody block from his opponent and watches Albright fly unpleasantly into the ropes. Les Artess Lift nailed for 2. Albright hits back with an overhead suplex to get some distance but is quickly flattened again with a heel kick. Claudio starts choking him with the ring apron then cranks on the neck. Rock Bottom scores for Albright and leaves both men down. Claudio has to absorb some fiery babyface offence but hits back with the bicycle kick. Springboard European attempted, but he gets CAUGHT and dropped into the Air Raid Crash for 2. Really impressive strength from Brent there. He follows up with a swinging neckbreaker. Claudio hints at the Big Swing but drops his opponent to piss of the fans. Albright capitalises to lock in the CRIPPLER CROSSFACE! Prazak puts that over as clever as Brent has been working the neck in this one. He goes for a top rope crossbody but eats a MID-AIR EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! They go through the ropes to the outside…Brent with an EXPLODER SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR! Both are slow back in, but when they do it’s Albright who locks in the SATELLITE CROWBAR! Claudio is quick to escape though, and he makes a move to the top rope out of sheer desperation. That’s not something he usually does, and he pays the price by taking a superplex. Less than 30 seconds remaining in the 15 minute time limit. They stand toe to toe in the ring swinging punches and slaps and uppercuts in each other’s direction…as the 15:00 time limit expires. We get a period of brawling, before Claudio demands 5 more minutes. Brent agrees, so we’re on again. ARM STUNNER! CROWBAR! CLAUDIO COUNTERS TO THE CROWBAR THEFT! Brent stands up and tries to hit the Half Nelson Suplex…and Claudio escapes by hitting a seemingly inadvertent low blow. The ref somewhat harshly disqualifies him at 16:02.

Rating – *** –
Best of their singles matches thus far this year in my opinion. It wasn’t just that the time limit draw was an infinitely preferable screw job finish to the two crappy non-finishes we saw in Detroit and Danbury earlier this year, it’s that the match before it really seemed to click. Of course it helps that they were working in front of the more vocal New York crowd, but you felt like they really started to hit their groove as opponents here tonight. I really like the basic premise of this. Midcard guys in a straight-up WRESTLING rivalry – it’s certainly given Claudio and Brent a purpose on recent ROH events. But I’ve slightly resented how this midcard feud has taken precedence over the World Title in recent weeks – with the feud overshadowing a World Title bout in Collinsville, then seeing the supposed top contender in Jerry Lynn lay down for them last night. But looking to take two guys going nowhere and turn them into a solid undercard program is a commendable idea from Adam Pearce, so I’m glad they rewarded him with their best match thus far on the biggest show of ‘09’s Q1.

An angry Double C lays Albright out with the Riccola Bomb then stomps a steel chair into his skull to send a clear message to his rival.

Mike Quackenbush warns Jerry Lynn not to look past him with an inevitable World Title match on the horizon.

Adam Pearce vs Bobby Dempsey

This match is a Sweet’n’Sour open contract match – with Larry Sweeney claiming to have signed two open contracts for matches for his guys against Bobby Dempsey in the near future. He’s planning to use them to make him pay for his spectacular withdrawal from the group at the conclusion of the Caged Collision pay-per-view. The first man to put his name on a contract is Adam Pearce. He was part of the losing Sweet’n’Sour Inc. team in the cage that night and will be looking for some revenge this evening.

Pearce almost turns himself face by ripping on some no-name nobody from some TV show nobody has ever heard of. He regains his heat by taking a cheap shot at Dempsey before the bell rings. NECK DROP DVD! Bobby wins at 00:26

Rating – N/A –
Not really rateable as a match, but I liked Adam Pearce verbally destroying the Z-list celebrity, and it was good of the booker to make only his second in-ring appearance since taking the book last year in order to put Bobby over on the biggest show of the year. I’m sure this was a hugely significant moment for Dempsey, and it was good of Pearce to let him have his moment in the spotlight

Mike Quackenbush vs Jerry Lynn

As I said last night, I think ROH booked Quack for these dates knowing full well they’ll never be able to nail him down to any kind of elongated commitment. They tried that back in 2007 and it just went nowhere. This time around they’ve booked him for a single weekend and shoved him in two really decent matches. Last night he worked a minor classic against Bryan Danielson, and tonight he faces a fellow veteran in Jerry Lynn. Once again Quack must face-off with another opponent with a vast amount of experience and technical prowess. As he pointed out earlier, Jerry Lynn is one of the top contenders for the World Title having recently pinned Nigel McGuinness, but if he looks past this match, the ‘man of a thousand holds’ will badly punish him.

They start with an elongated chaining sequence, which Lynn finally ends with a snap armdrag. Satellite headscissors nailed next as Jerry looks to use some aerial offence to negate Quackenbush’s exceptional mat wrestling skills. But Mike shows he can do that too, springboarding off the ropes into a combo of lucha armdrags before taking things to the canvas again. Lynn knocks Quack out of the ring with a springboard dropkick, then nails the guillotine leg drop through the ropes. Prazak immediately laughs at how Quack didn’t think of a counter for that JL staple move. SWINGING THROW INTO THE RAILINGS! Lynn hits a huge and potentially devastating move on a man who has only recently come back after a series of concussion problems. GERMAN SUPLEX then a tornado DDT next as he continues to concentrate on dropping Mike on his head. Cradle Piledriver blocked and turned into the BTS for 2. Lynn’s TKO is evaded but they clash heads anyway meaning that’s more damaged to Quack’s cranium. Sunset flip powerbomb by the former ECW Champion for 2. Once again the Cradle Piledriver is countered, this time into an INVERTED TOMBSTONE! That move so shouldn’t be used for a false finishes. Quackendriver countered to the CRADLE PILEDRIVER! Lynn wins at 09:36

Rating – *** –
A lot shorter than myself and I’m sure many others mat have liked – but in less than 10 minutes they really did all they could. Kudos to Quack as he just did a hell of a job putting Jerry Lynn over. Lynn is preparing for showdown with Nigel McGuinness – a man now notoriously struggling with injuries. The ruthless way in which he exploited Quack’s concussion history to dominate a very highly regarded opponent before putting him away with his tried and trusted finishing hold made him look like a TOP contender – something he badly needed after tapping out to Claudio last night. As I said last night, it’s only a fleeting return to ROH for Quackenbush sadly. He’d prove difficult to book in the coming months, then quickly became a permanent member of the Dragon Gate USA roster later in the year when they announced a working agreement with his own Chikara promotion. He has made a fun contribution to this weekend though. Dragon/Quack from last night was well worth checking out.

Austin Aries/Jimmy Jacobs/Brodie Lee vs Tyler Black/Necro Butcher/Delirious – Revolution Rules Match

The rules are fairly simple for this one. It’s basically Ultimate Endurance meets Survivor Series elimination tag bouts. We have a 6-Man Elimination Tag bout, and every fall has to take place in a DIFFERENT manner to the one preceding it. The whole thing is No DQ too. It pits the three men who have left Age Of The Fall in the last year against the current incarnation of that movement (Jacobs and Lee), and the man who has formed an uneasy alliance with Jimmy Jacobs with the sole purpose of making Tyler Black’s life as miserable as possible – Austin Aries. Delirious has scores to settle with Jacobs after losing their big No DQ bout at Insanity Unleashed, whilst Lee and Necro love to fight. It’s also a return to the same building where the fan’s desire to see Tyler Black become #1 contender at HIS expense caused Aries to snap, stop caring about the fans and adopt his new ‘A-Double’ persona to kick off 2009.

We start in amusing fashion with Delirious losing his mind as normal and sprinting into the brick wall that is Brodie Lee. Jacobs gets surrounded in the ring by all of his former allies, and Tyler, Necro and Delirious take the chance to get some licks in. Lee floors Necro with a big boot after a spell with all six men brawling around ringside. Delirious hits the Leaping Lariat and knocks Lee over the top back to the outside. RUNNING MOONSAULT ONTO EVERYONE by Tyler. Not to be outdone, Necro climbs for a TOP ROPE CANNONBALL SENTON TO THE FLOOR! Prazak comparing Necro to Great Sasuke is really amusing too. Aries tries to put his hands on Daizee and quickly has to fight off Delirious and a Cobra Stretch attempt. Panic Attacks on Brodie and A-Double, then the Cobra Stretch on Jacobs. Black Hole Slam from Brodie to break that. BRAINBUSTER FROM ARIES! Delirious is the first man eliminated at 07:04, and the next fall now isn’t allowed to be a pinfall. Not that that interests Lee who drops Necro again with another Black Hole Slam – this time on the ramp. Which means it’s now 3-on-1 with Tyler taking a real beating. FISH-HOOK CROSSFACE from Aries to Black. Necro saves but appears to be having some problems with his feet after hitting that somersault dive earlier in the match.

As Necro and Brodie brawl into the crowd you really get a sense of how huge the Hammerstein Ballroom is. You could fit multiple Murphy Rec Center’s in there folks. Those two brawl all the way to the back…and the referee deems them both to be eliminated. That ridiculous call in a No DQ Match absolutely KILLS the live crowd. But the lousy booking does leave us with a repeat of Final Battle 2008 – Jimmy Jacobs and Austin Aries alone in the ring beating up Tyler Black. Their tentative alliance continues to look frayed and they bicker over whether they’ll but Black through a chair with a Jacobs pescado or the Aries Heat Seeking Missile. They end up fighting amongst themselves, leading to Black taking them both out with the springboard clothesline. Aries accidentally hits the IED on Jacobs, and DROPS TYLER ON HIS HEAD with the shinbreak back suplex. Impact Explosion Dropkick nailed on it’s intended target this time. Tyler blocks the Brainbuster to hit the BUCKLE BOMB! SUPERKICK! END TIME ON ARIES! A-Double is eliminated at 17:54, so the final two in the ring are Age Of The Fall founding members Black and Jacobs. Jimmy hammers Black with a chair but misses with the spike and eats a Pele Kick. Contra Code gets 2 after Tyler has a swing and a miss with the spike too. End Time locked in, but of course, he can’t win the match with that hold since the last fall ended in a submission. COUNTERED TO GOD’S LAST GIFT! BLACK WINS! In 20:50 it’s Tyler who survives all five other opponents to seal the win.

Rating – *** –
The horrific elimination of Necro and Brodie threatened to derail this match in the middle portion. The crowd took a giant dump all over that – Pearce’s latest booking catastrophe. Luckily the rest of it was good enough to salvage things. It was nice to see them commit over 20 minutes to this and really let them tell a few stories in there. The opening 8 minutes or so with all six of them brawling all over the place was particularly entertaining, and the latter stages with Tyler, Jimmy and Austin provided a strong conclusion. As I said last night, I’m genuinely concerned they’ve taken Black, who was on the cusp of HUGE things at the start of the year out of the title picture to focus on this feud. But a big win in front of a hot crowd certainly does a great deal to get his career back on track. In seven years we haven’t seen a trios tag like this in ROH either, so it certainly gets some points for originality too and should go down as an entertaining addition to the card.

In the World Champion’s locker room we get revealing footage of him grimacing and crying out in pain as he tries a few basic warm up stretches.

INTERMISSION – Kyle Durden talks to Jay Briscoe, a man who competed in the first ever official Ring Of Honor match at Era Of Honor Begins back in 2002. He tells D-Lo Brown to Man Up…

Up next…is the return of The Embassy. Prince Nana is back in the money apparently (he gives the credit to ‘Barack Alabama’s economic stimulus package’), and made Bison Smith his first recruit. Ernie Osiris appears to be official flag bearer for the group. They have a grudge tag match against Bryan Danielson and a partner of his choosing tonight. But first to bring out Bison’s partner…and the crowd legitimately goes nuts for the return of the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the Embassy – Jimmy Rave. Amazingly a few rolls to toilet paper do make it to ringside. Bryan Danielson storms to ringside to get the fight started…but without a tag partner. Grizzly Redwood tries to help out and gets PRESS SLAMMED TO THE FLOOR! AND HERE COMES COLT CABANA!

Bison Smith/Jimmy Rave vs Bryan Danielson/Colt Cabana

The crowd is absolutely buzzing after two huge returns within the space of five minutes. Jimmy Rave returns to ROH, once again on the payroll of Prince Nana, after an unhappy spell in TNA where he got saddled with an appalling gimmick. And across the ring, Colt Cabana is back after an even more unhappy time in the WWE. It’s the first time we’ve seen either of them since 2007. And their returns are set against the back drop of the Danielson/Bison feud which has raged since Caged Collision when Smith cost Dragon the opportunity to become #1 Contender when he interfered in his match and gave him a concussion. Danielson scored a count-out victory over him a couple of shows ago, but both have promised to up the violence next time they’re in the ring together.

The crowd is still going nuts and showering with streamers for Cabana’s return. Although the amount of people cheerfully singing along to Barry Manilow is slightly alarming. It’s Rave and Cabana who start in the ring, Jimmy hesitant to lock up and doing his best to stay away. He finally drops Colt with an STO on the apron as Bison press slams Danielson into the turnbuckles. Osiris starts choking Dragon in the ropes behind the refs. All kinds of retro references from the announcers in this one, from the Rave/Punk feud, to Cabana/Nigel, right the way to Ernie Osiris/Jade Chung comparisons. The Embassy isolate Bryan from his partner. He kicks Bison away and leaps into the hot tag to the Chicago native. Smith no sells elbows and the Flying Ass strike to flatten Cabana with a football charge. Quebrada press wipes Rave out. But Smith slams Danielson on the floor and saves his partner from the Colt 45. CLAW SLAM OVER THE KNEE. CRAPPY WIZARD! FOR 2! Cabana blocks Greetings From Ghana as Dragon dives in for some MMA Elbows on Smith. He gets sent into the front row. CROWD DIVE BY DANIELSON! HEEL HOOK ON CABANA! Colt kicks himself free and traps Jimmy into a ultra-snug pinning combination for the victory at 12:44

Rating – *** –
Of course this was mostly about the popular returns of two major names from ROH’s past. Rave and Cabana both debuted for Ring Of Honor way back in 2002 and their returns after disappointing spells elsewhere certainly spices up the midcard somewhat. I’m a little confused as to how a supposed intense feud (as the Dragon/Bison feud was) gets transformed into a feel-good undercard tag bout but there will be other days for those two to tear strips of each other. The reformation of The Embassy and Colt Cabana coming home are the real headlines here. The match was always going to be of lesser importance, but it was fine for what it was. This was about creating a really memorable moment for the 7th Anniversary celebrations, and they certainly did.

Colt Cabana gets on the mic to demand the sound guy put ‘Final Countdown’ on. He then has some fun at the expense of Danielson as the crowd sings along. Good times…

D-Lo Brown vs Jay Briscoe

Speaking of returns to ROH, here’s another one. D-Lo scored an unlikely World Title shot during the Proving Ground 2009 weekend, but his performance in that match was good enough to score him some future bookings. He faces a man who has been in ROH since the very beginning and will need another strong performance to lock down a more permanent roster spot.

Much more of a mixed reception for D-Lo in New York than he received in Florida. He doesn’t help himself with a whiny promo. Briscoe is allowed to use ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’ as his entrance music tonight, and has Mark Briscoe in his corner. Is it me or does D-Lo look a little like a giant baby? Jay hits a hurricanrana and rolls aside as Brown looks for a knee strike. It’s Briscoe’s quickness that gives him a clear edge over D-Lo as things progress. Having seen enough of that, he shows some experience by shoving the referee aside and booting Jay in the groin whilst the official’s back is turned. Brown acts sympathetic and helps Jay up before laying him out again with a big clothesline. Slap to the face then a choke in the ropes and a poke to the eyes as D-Lo dials up the heel vibe. Rolling shortarm clotheslines get 2. A springboard dropkick knocks him to the outside, but Jay rallies to meet Brown as he dives off the apron to score with a mid-air dropkick of his own. Flatliner into the buckles then a mafia kick nailed by the former ROH Tag Champion. SKY HIGH from nowhere gets 2 and Briscoe fires back with a DVD. But he misses a leg drop and gets rolled up with the tights at 12:39

Rating – ** – I felt Brown looked far more alienated from the traditional ‘ROH style’ here than he did against Nigel in Florida. There he worked the humble babyface vet role and that allowed him to work defensively for long portions before coming in to hit his major spots. Here, as the heel, he was made to be the aggressor, and he was VERY exposed as being little more than the prototypical ‘kick/punch’ style wrestler that was so typical of WWF’s ‘Attitude’ era. The basics were fine and they were helped once again by the terrific and vocal crowd we have for this show, but you can’t help but be a little concerned about D-Lo signing up for a string of future shows based on this outing.

Kevin Steen/El Generico vs American Wolves – ROH Tag Title No DQ Match

You have to wonder who the No DQ rules actually favour in this one. Although it will give Steen and Generico a real opportunity for revenge after months of sneak attacks at the hands of the Wolves, with Steen suffering badly from knee problems partially inflicted by Richards and Edwards, a relaxing of the rules also opens up expanded possibilities for the Wolves to do some real damage there. This is a rematch from Motor City Madness 2009 where Steen and Generico emerged victorious in a real battle.

Steen, who wasn’t booked last night, limps straight into the fight and delivers a cannonball senton on Edwards as Generico boots Davey to the floor with the Yakuza Kick. Somersault plancha from Mr Wrestling, then SOMERSAULT LEG DROP ON A CHAIR! Generico buries Edwards in chairs and looks to repeat the feat with a somersault senton but misses. TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER IN THE CHAIRS by Davey. That puts Generico out of commission for the time being, and the challengers converge on Steen, holding the injured leg exposed for a number of chair shots right to the knee. Mr Wrestling manages to duck down and send both the Wolves to the floor, and into position for El Generico’s DOUBLE SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! He lines up the rope run lucha armdrag on Eddie, then hops down to SMASH him with a steel chair. Pumphandle cradlebreaker from Steen into the flying splash from Generico for 2. Kevin brings a ladder into play, immediately sparking memories of the Ladder War in Chicago. BACK SUPLEX ON THE LADDER from Steen to Richards, followed by the split-legged moonsault from Generico that gets another 2. Edwards saves his partner with a Standing Wizard on Steen. YAKUZA KICK BY GENERICO! SPRINGBOARD FLIPPING SENTON THROUGH THE LADDER MISSES! Generico nearly broke his own back over the ladder there, and is punished with the assisted Alarm Clock. CHAIR SHOT GERMAN SUPLEX FOR 2! But Steen limps back into things, delivering a big suplex into the turnbuckles on Eddie, then a cannonball senton onto both of his opponents. He props the ladder up on top of them. GENERICO WITH THE SOMERSAULT VAN LADDER-NATOR! PUMPHANDLE CRADLEBREAKER THROUGH A CHAIR FOR 2! Steen is moving really slow now, and takes so long getting to the top rope that Richards shoves him off and watches him land knee-first on the canvas. Chair to the knee again, then the TEXAS CLOVERLEAF! Generico saves…but accidentally lays his own partner out with another chair. RICHARDS MISSES THE SHOOTING STAR PRESS! Mr Wrestling starts battering HIS legs with a chair show. SHARPSHOOTER! DAVEY TAPS! The champions retain at 16:15

Rating – ****1/2 –
I have this match down as the best thing ROH has done so far this year. Admittedly it was a trashy high spot brawl, but as we saw during the Steen-erico/Briscoes feud, Kevin Steen and El Generico are absolutely AWESOME at that particular style of match. Throwing in the Wolves and the frankly EPIC assault on Steen’s knee took this match to a whole new level that most garbage brawls like this only dream of. Being honest, in better years for ROH this probably wouldn’t enter MOTYC thinking. But to come from nowhere and deliver an absolute knockout of a match just shows you that there is life in the Adam Pearce regime yet. He may be hit or miss right now but the Steen-erico vs Wolves feud is his work and he deserves credit for bringing them together like this.

A somewhat mean-spirited Eddie Edwards lays Steen out with a chair after the match. He’s left bleeding on the floor whilst the Wolves hoist Generico up for a DOOMSDAY ACE CRUSHER THROUGH A TABLE! He then gets tied up in the ropes whilst Richards and Edwards take repeated, unprotected chair shots to his knees, then a CON-CHAIR-TO to the exposed skull to finish.

Nigel McGuinness vs KENTA – ROH World Title Match

This is a hotly anticipated main event match to finish off a huge show for ROH. And it’s a main event that sees the defending champion in, as Prazak and Leonard put it earlier, ‘dire straights’. Already working with one torn bicep, Nigel actually tore the other one during the main event last night, and needed medical attention after being defeated by KENTA and the feared Go 2 Sleep finishing strike. Is this the match where the injuries become too much for Nigel, or can he pull off an unlikely victory?

Nigel looks in pain just taking his ring jacket off ahead of the introductions here. Big slap from KENTA gets the party started. He kicks the (newly) injured arm a couple of times and watches as the champion crumples to the mat in pain. He gets sent shoulder-first into the ringpost next, and kicked in the same shoulder moments later. More kicks to the head and arm in the corner and Nigel goes down again. The opening five minutes here have been like watching a really slow execution as KENTA beats on an almost defenceless World Champion. Flying knee strike misses and McGuinness thinks fast to hit the TOWER OF LONDON TO THE FLOOR! He peppers KENTA with kicks and headbutts then launches a counter offensive on his arm. Headbutts to that arm topple the challenger, and he somehow finds the strength to hit a wristlock suplex for 2. But his bad arm haunts him again as he modifies his offence to hit a dropkick, but only winds up hurting the arm anyway by using it to absorb the fall after executing the move. 10 minutes in as Prazak starts to consider how McGuinness can win this with lariats taken out of his arsenal this evening. Kicks from KENTA, then a suplex (cradling the arm) for 2. Kimura locked in as KENTA takes a page out of his former protégé Davey Richards’ playbook.

Nigel escapes and hits the clubbing strike to the chest out of the corner, then drops to the floor himself with pain shooting through his bad arm again. KENTA is crotched but ducks the Super McLariat, then is helpless to prevent Nigel quickly shoving him all the way to the floor as he attempts a springboard move. McGuinness is hung over the railings moment later. TOP ROPE DOUBLE STOMP ALL THE WAY TO THE FLOOR! Springboard dropkick to the shoulder, then REPEATED YAKUZA KICKS in the corner. The challenger gets 2 with a fisherman buster…BUSAIKU KNEE! Go 2 Sleep blocked, but KENTA ducks the Jawbreaker Lariat. LONDON DUNGEON INSTEAD! KENTA doesn’t submit but the length of time he spends in the hold does further significant damage to his own injured arm. Tower Of London nailed for another nearfall. RUNNING top rope falcon arrow scores for KENTA. GO 2 SLEEP BLOCKED. GERMAN SUPLEX INSTEAD GETS 2! Busaiku Knee blocked with a boot to the face. GO 2 SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! NIGEL IS IN THE ROPES! TOWER OF LONDON ON THE APRON! Both men lie motionless on the arena floor and only just make it back into the ring ahead of a double count-out. Big boot blocks the headstand. GO 2 SLEEP BLOCKED! JAWBREAKER LARIAT MISSES. GO 2 SLEEP ON KENTA! HE KICKS OUT! LONDON DUNGEON! KENTA ESCAPES! GO 2 SLEEP COUNTERED TO THE LONDON DUNGEON AGAIN! KENTA TAPS! Nigel defies the odds to retain at 25:20

Rating – ****1/2 –
Unbelievable match, and being able to produce something this good without the full use of either of your arms was nothing short of miraculous on Nigel’s part. The way he adjusted his offence, completely removed all the lariats, looked in pain just moving around out there and still hung with KENTA was a phenomenal feat and says much for his love of the promotion, the World Title, and his own pride and passion for performing which were questioned early in his reign when he started missing shows for various injuries. Credit to KENTA too, who worked well within the confines of what his limited opponent could do. It was a similar position to that which he found himself when he opposed Bryan Danielson a month after Dragon separated his shoulder and effectively fought with one arm and still they managed to contest arguably the best ROH match ever. Nigel/KENTA may not have been up to that standard, but it was a wonderful contest which every ROH fan should check out. Despite the length of his reign, I don’t think Nigel stands any real chance of going down as the greatest ROH champion ever. I think Joe’s bests his for historical significance, whilst Danielson’s overall body of work still remains slightly better than Nigel’s in my opinion. HOWEVER, this match should come to symbolise the immense dedication and pride with which Nigel has worn the belt over the past year and a half. After a tough year thus far it’s matches like this that make you immensely proud to be a Ring Of Honor fan, and hugely grateful to men like Nigel who, very literally, work their bodies into the ground to entertain us.

Tape Rating – **** –
The best show thus far in 2009 by such a massive distance that it’s hardly fair to even compare it to others that have taken place this year. Excluding Briscoe/Brown which was only ok, top to bottom the card quality was VERY good. And it was a return to the traditional ROH supercard where they deliver great matches and memorable moments of all styles. A hot opener, great technical wrestling from the likes of Albright/Claudio and Lynn/Quack, unique and chaotic action in the Revolution Rules tag, the huge ROH returns of Jimmy Rave and Colt Cabana, then the two main events delivering in resounding fashion, producing back to back MOTY candidates. In truth, this show would be must-own if everything outside of Steen-erico/Wolves and Nigel/KENTA sucked, so when you’re getting a massively stacked undercard for your money too, you know this is one every ROH fan needs in their collection. I know 2009 ROH has a lot of critics, but this one really delivers a hell of a comeback for the promotion as they enter their eighth year of business.

Top 3 Matches

3) Brent Albright vs Claudio Castagnoli (***)

2) Kevin Steen/El Generico vs American Wolves (****1/2)

1) Nigel McGuinness vs KENTA (****1/2)

Top 5 Steel City Clash/7th Anniversary Show Weekend Matches

5) Austin Aries vs Roderick Strong (*** – Steel City Clash)

4) Bryan Danielson vs Mike Quackenbush (**** – Steel City Clash)

3) El Generico/KENTA vs Nigel McGuinness/Davey Richards (**** – Steel City Clash)

2) Kevin Steen/El Generico vs American Wolves (****1/2 – 7th Anniversary Show)

1) Nigel McGuinness vs KENTA (****1/2 – 7th Anniversary Show)

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