ROH on HDNet – Episode 003 – 4th April 2009
After an eventful two shows in Houston, Texas, ROH concludes it’s business for WrestleMania weekend with this, the broadcast of the third episode in it’s ‘ROH on HDNet’ series. Last week saw the HDNet debut of World Champion Nigel McGuinness, a point now rendered largely irrelevant after Jerry Lynn defeated him for the belt at Supercard Of Honor 4. Tonight, however, sees the biggest HDNet main event thus far as old rivals Bryan Danielson and Austin Aries enter the fray in a big time singles bout. We head back to The Arena in Philadelphia, PA to join Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak
PREVIOUSLY ON HDNET – Successful debuts for Steen, Claudio and Sara Del Rey, and a victorious first showing for former World Champion Nigel McGuinness.
BREAKING NEWS – Hog and Prazak open the show with the announcement that Jerry Lynn is now World Champion having defeat Nigel last night in Houston. Nice work to get that acknowledged on the TV show so quickly.
James Keenan vs Erick Stevens
If you’re new to the ROH product and judged these two only on their pre-match promos, you’d be forgiven for thinking SJK was the bigger star here. Superb promo from him, especially compared to the goofy mic work moments later from Stevens.
‘Generally disliked by fans’ – HDNet graphic on Keenan. Crowd is totally dead as they trade headlocks in the first minute. Stevens squashes Keenan with a Samoan drop for 2 leaves SJK cowering in the ropes asking for a time-out. But he takes advantage and cheapshots Stevens, hitting him with a great backbreaker moments later. He stays on the back with kidney shots and a back suplex for 2. Stevens chops at the THROAT but is dragged down again with a STO then has a knee driven into his back again out of a Japanese stranglehold. Erick judo throws his way free and nail a Taz-like overhead belly to belly. Choo Choo avalanche scores, followed by the second rope football tackle for 2. SJK knees the midsection again and delivers an implant DDT for another nearfall of his own. Eye gouge from SJK, doesn’t stop him eating a German, a huge lariat then the Doctor Bomb for the Stevens win at 06:51
Rating – * – Odd choice to open the show, purely because Keenan is new to the ROH audience, whilst Stevens is never overly popular in Philadelphia. The match was actually good when SJK was on offence. This was easily his best ROH performance ever, and it’s hard to see why he didn’t score more bookings off the back of this dominant, competent heel performance (not to mention the fact that the guy has charisma to burn). Stevens is always hit or miss and just wasn’t over enough to carry his side of the bargain in this match. I’d probably have gone with a dominant squash win, much akin to the ones he started his ROH career with back in Detroit in 2007.
‘The doctor is in…AND HE’S NOT MAKING HOUSE CALLS’ – commentary genius from Hog, right before he debuts his infamous ‘slap the porpoise’ line. Is this guy for real???
Back to Kyle Durden’s junk cupboard to interview Bryan Danielson. Dragon main evented the first ever ROH show, has headlined all over the world and definitely isn’t nervous about his first HDNet main event. Has somebody lied to ROH wrestlers about how many people watch this show? Between Erick Stevens believing HDNet draws ‘millions and millions’ of viewers, to Danielson being under the impression that being on HDNet is a ‘worldwide’ audience…everyone seems to overplay this network. Good intense promo from Danielson…although not as good as Nigel’s last week.
Up In Smoke vs Dark City Fight Club
DCFC’s booking in this match is an indication of how highly thought of their impressive debut matches at the Florida Proving Ground weekend were. They’ve been signed up to be a part of ROH’s HDNet experiment, and look set to be given a real showcase to earn themselves a permanent roster spot. First time we’ve seen Cheech and Cloudy since Gabe’s last weekend I think, but they’ve improved a ton since their days in Special K. Cloudy shouldn’t be given promo time though…
No handshakes from the DCFC who pounce on their opponents and maul Cloudy with a leg drop and backbreaker combo. Double spinebuster next, drawing a 2 count before Cheech dives in to make the save. Cloudy takes Chavis down with a flying headscissors and makes the vital tag to Cheech. 619 dropkick combo on Rainman, before Davis drags Cloudy out of the ring and KILLS him against the railings. DARK CITY STREET CUTTER! Chavis and Davis win it at 02:28
Rating – ** – I’m sure people will think it’s odd that I’m rating this match higher than the opener, but I think it justifies it. The opener induced a silent crowd, and left a sour taste in the mouth as the guy designated as the ‘enhancement talent’ (James Keenan) wound up looking miles better than the guy he was there to put over. Here the Fight Club looked HUGELY impressive. Of course it was nothing more than a squash, but they looked like mean, vicious bad asses in there, and came out looking like a monster force in the ROH tag team division – the exact purpose of the match.
Now Kyle Durden chats to Austin Aries. Lots of TV-friendly catchphrases from him…
Chris Hero vs Necro Butcher
This is actually a big match to debut both of these guys in – to the extent that I’m surprised it hasn’t been given more hype. Hero’s promo skills and wrestling ability will make him a valuable asset to the HDNet show, whilst Necro is a commodity in his own right, in that he’s the kind of unique talent ROH has that it’s other televised rival companies just don’t. Necro was actually brought in to ROH for the first time in 2006 BY Chris Hero as part of the ROH vs CZW feud.
Even with HDNet massively muting the crowd sound, the support for Necro is there for all to hear. Hero plants a boot in his face but it’s completely no sold, before Butcher totally floors his opponent with a single punch. Larry Sweeney hops onto the apron as he looks for an early Tiger Driver. With Necro distracted, Hero lands the ROLLING ELBOW to the back of the head for 2. Cheap shots from Sweeney and Del Rey behind the referee’s back and with Necro floored, Hero buries him with ringside mats and delivers a running senton on the outside. More elbow smashes get That Young Knockout Kid a nearfall as the fans start to rally behind Necro again. He beats Hero back with chops and punches in the corner then a running bulldog for 2. Hero scores with more elbows and scores his own nearfall with a blockbuster. To the floor again, where Necro grabs a chair from a fan at ringside and flings it into Chris’ midsection. Chair Slam onto the floor Hero exposed earlier in the match…but Necro starts chasing Larry Sweeney around the ring rather than concentrate on his opponent. Tiger Driver countered with the LOADED ELBOW! Hero scores the win at 08:19
Rating – ** – Had that gone a couple of minutes longer that would have edged into 3* territory as I was really enjoying it. I was slightly worried they were going to bury Hero at the expense of pushing the “cult hero” Necro Butcher, so I was glad to see Hero get a major push with the win here. The problem with Necro is that, unless HDNet are going to let him work some of his more ‘extreme’ matches, the HDNet audience just has no exposure to his ‘King Of The Deathmatch’, Wildman persona. He looks like slightly crazy beardy man with no shoes on unless they can do something to build the aura of the the Necro Butcher on a far wider scale the independent scene he’s used to. Hero, on the other hand, made the transition seamlessly. He’s another guy who could really excel on national television.
Austin Aries vs Bryan Danielson
Personally, this is the match I’d have used to headline the debut show. These two have been rivals ever since 2004 when Aries smashed through the glass ceiling with his superb showing in the finals of the inaugural Survival Of The Fittest tournament. Since then they’ve competed in a 75 minute, 2/3 Falls Match, defended the World Title against each other during their reigns, contested a Best Of 3 Series and most recently spent much of 2008 teaming. Now they bring their long-term rivalry to HDNet…
The crowd is so vocal in their support of American Dragon that Aries almost walks out before the bell even rings. The start is hugely cagey as the familiar foes enter into a lengthy feeling out process. Armdrags from A-Double, only for Danielson to hit back with a dropkick which sends his opponent tumbling backwards into the ropes. Keen to avoid the speed of Aries or the strikes of Danielson, they go back to the canvas to trade holds again. Mexican Surfboard blocked by Aries, and he rolls into basement dropkick straight into the face of American Dragon. Danielson goes for a cross armbreaker in response and forces Aries into the ropes. But A-Double has his opponent scouted, and as Dragon turns to tell the ref he ‘has till 5’, Austin levels him with a cheap shot. He drives knee into the neck then locks in the Vulcan Neck Pinch. SHINBREAK BACK SUPLEX TO THE FLOOR! HEAT SEEKING MISSILE RIGHT AT DRAGON’S FACE! Fish-hook Crossface locked in as he does more damage to Danielson’s neck. But the IED misses and allows Danielson to batter Aries with elbows and uppercuts. Sayama flip into the running elbow smash to the head…and back to the cross armbreaker. Aries finds the ropes and attacks the neck again to block the back superplex. FLYING KNEE STRIKE OFF THE APRON BY DANIELSON! Back inside to deliver another running knee strike but can’t put him away as Aries is familiar enough with the Cattle Mutilation to roll through and block it. ROARING ELBOW DUEL! Aries lands on his feet out of a German and hits the KICK OF DEATH! Impact Explosion Dropkick nailed for a close 2 but Dragon blocks the Brainbuster. LAST CHANCERY INSTEAD! COUNTERED TO THE TRIANGLE CHOKE! Aries taps at 14:29
Rating – **** – This was actually far less ‘watered down’ for the new TV audience than I thought it would be. Most of the HDNet matches thus far have been nothing more than guys hitting their trademark moves and looking to get their big spots over. These two were actually allowed to go out there and demonstrate their familiarity as opponents and got to work a proper ‘ROH match’ rather than go out and work an exhibition of the different moves they do. And that’s why it was in a different class to anything else we’ve seen on HDNet thus far. Of course it wasn’t up there with the SOTF final, or the Testing The Limit epic, or the Nowhere To Run title fight, or the Final Battle 2007 four way conclusion. But it was hard fought, extremely high quality and a terrific example of why these two have been fighting at the very top of Ring Of Honor for years. They are two guys largely responsible for getting ROH to this level, so getting to see them out there working each other was terrific.
NEXT WEEK – Brodie Lee vs Jerry Lynn…seriously? That’s what we’re using to win viewers??
Tape Rating – ** – Comfortably the best episode thus far, but almost entirely off the back of the main event, which was comfortably the best MATCH thus far (although Hero/Necro was decent too). Otherwise it was largely the same show that we saw before. It’s going to take a few episodes for ROH to debut all their talent and start running some storylines. At the moment it’s all giving the talent enhancement matches and there’s absolutely zero continuity week to week. The main event matches are good, but I feel that longer term viewers will already be wishing they could skip past this first series of ‘introductory’ episodes and start getting to some actual week to week, episodic television. But yeah, Dragon/Aries was good stuff…