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225 ROH Double Feature II 4/17 & 4/18 2009

ROH 225 – Double Feature 2 – April 17th & 18th 2009

In case you missed 2008’s ‘Double Feature’ DVD, the concept is the same for the sequel – two shows, ONE disc. One key difference though – last year the shows were released as a single DVD by design, with ROH promoting a couple of unique live events around their participation in key scenes of the critically-acclaimed independent movie ‘The Wrestler’. This year, we’re in Canada, and the primary reason we’re seeing two shows rolled into one is that the reviews (particularly for Night 1 it has to be said) were so bad it was thought that it may not actually be a worthwhile endeavour releasing both nights individually. Instead of another ‘Escalation’ disaster, ROH has turned a negative into a positive and packaged the slightly less desirable night 1 (‘The Hunt Begins’) from Montreal, with the HIGHLY desirable night 2, featuring the ‘Tag Title Classic’ between the American Wolves and the team of Bryan Danielson and Tyler Black. So lets praise ROH for that cost saving, fan friendly decision.

And now I’ll slide right back into criticising them. Last time we saw ROH Kevin Steen and El Generico were Tag Champions. The belts changed hands at the most recent TV tapings in Philadelphia (taking place the week after the Houston shows)…yet despite not going on the air for another couple of months, ROH has decided to acknowledge the Wolves as champions at all live events. I said at the time that it would get extremely irritating if ROH started running key storyline developments at TV tapings then reacting to them at subsequent live events before the show aired. It seems totally counter-productive in that you’re trashing your live event markets by running storyline advancements they haven’t seen yet, and you’re trashing the TV show by spoiling major events weeks before they go to air. Since ROH is essentially a promotion that caters to smarks…lets face it, their fanbase KNOWS how pro-wrestling works. They suspend their disbelief every time they watch a match. Assuming that your fanbase reads spoilers and will go along with them ahead of having seen if for themselves is such a cynical and small-minded approach to things – why not let those fans who have read what transpired at the latest TV tapings suspend their disbelief again and wait till those episodes air before acknowledging them at your live shows? I’m not saying Steen and Generico should be defending the belts here. But, this is Canada, their home market. Having them show up randomly without the belts is just unfair to your local market. Have them work singles matches, non-title matches or whatever till the show airs. I know it’s not ideal. But the HDNet taping schedule is far from ideal. I just think the way ROH has chosen to deal with that fact, in this instance, is pretty lousy and so very NOT fan friendly on a number of levels.

Like I said before, my real concern with the HDNet show is that Ring Of Honor would risk alienating and stamping on the dedicated, reliable group of fans they’ve built up since 2002 in pursuit of the notoriously erratic, unpredictable and superficial wider fanbase TV can bring. It’s obviously a risk, but the real concern is that if the HDNet experiment isn’t the success everyone hopes it is, ROH will badly need those fans that have been so steadfast and loyal in the past. If they lose their core demographic chasing greater growth and quicker development…they will have a hard time winning them back in the future. That’s all I’m saying. I’m sure I’ll get shot down in a number of circles for being narrow minded, or unrealistic, or naïve. But, however good the ‘Tag Title Classic’ is, I strongly believe that putting the Wolves on your live show as Tag champions before the title change has airs sets a dangerous and potentially very damaging precedent. For now you can chalk it up to working out the ‘kinks’ in the TV taping/live show schedule…but it’s a situation that has me concerned.

Rant over with, lets focus on the two nights of action we have at hand. Like I said, it’s actually two individual shows packaged together after the reviews for Night 1 were really awful. Unlike with the original ‘Double Feature’ release, several inconsequential matches have been cut over the course of both nights to fit this onto a single DVD (many were subsequently released as DVD extras on future shows). Night 1 in Montreal was the hardest hit, with only four matches making the final cut. Amongst those is a rematch from the first HDNet show with Tyler Black taking on Jimmy Jacobs, and a bizarre main event pitting Bryan Danielson and former Tag Champions Steen and Generico against the Wolves and the debuting former member of La Resistance in the WWE – Sylvain Grenier. Night 2 is better represented, with the much-talked about main event of the Wolves defending against Dragon and Black, alongside a Jacobs/Delirious rematch. Let’s join Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.

ROH VIDEO WIRE (14/04/2009) – Kenny King and Rhett Titus hype their match with Necro Butcher and Delirious in Montreal – a match which did NOT make the cut for this DVD.

– Colt Cabana has matches with Jimmy Rave and Claudio Castagnoli this weekend. He’s glad to be back in ROH and is ready to compete with the best…

– Bryan Danielson discusses why he chose Tyler Black to be his partner to face the American Wolves this weekend.

– Jimmy Jacobs cuts a longer version of the same promo they used on HDNet. He swears Black will never get to the ROH World Title whilst he’s still around

– Kenny Omega with another typically insane interview. He gets his matches the wrong way round for this weekend. I’d love to know if that was intentional…

– The American Wolves vow to make examples of Danielson and Tyler in their first defence. Nice to see there wasn’t even an ACKNOWLEDGEMENT as to how the belts changed hands on the Wire…

The Hunt Begins – 17th April 2009

Tyler Black talks about the pressure of failed title attempts, failed attempts to beat Bryan Danielson, living up to the fans expectations, struggling to get over the Age Of The Fall. He vows to drive Jimmy Jacobs out of Ring Of Honor – starting tonight.

Jimmy Jacobs vs Tyler Black

Rematch from Episode 1 of ROH on HDNet. That night saw Tyler win the first ever HDNet main event by countering the End Time into a pinfall. But, as he alluded to in his interview, even with that victory, he hasn’t managed to step out from under the shadow of Jimmy Jacobs and the Age Of The Fall. It was Jerry Lynn, not him, that ended Nigel’s World Title reign. He’s not closer to settling his scores with Jimmy OR Austin Aries. At the start of 2008 he was all set to be the next big thing. Now his momentum has ground to a halt and sections of the crowd are even starting to turn on him. He now wants to take Jacobs out of ROH just as badly as Jimmy wants to drive him away for straying from the ‘message’ of the Age Of The Fall.

Both men come in armed with chairs and swing them wildly without actually managing to tag their opponent with them at any stage. Black gets the advantage by choking Jacobs with a t-shirt. Jacobs counters the F-5 into an early End Time attempt which forces Black into the ropes. Now it’s Jimmy that is in the ascendancy using chokes and bites, then a sliding lariat into the bottom turnbuckle. He mafia kicks Tyler’s head against the ringpost for 2. This crowd is so silent it’s like watching a match from Japan. Springboard clothesline gets Black a nearfall, but God’s Last Gift moments later is blocked. Contra Code COUNTERED to the F-5 and gets another 2. Jacobs goes to the eyes and hits a SPEAR THROUGH THE ROPES TO THE FLOOR! Senton Bomb nailed but Black still kicks out. End Time locked in again, only for Tyler to power out with a back body drop. LIONSAULT IS COUNTERED TO END TIME AGAIN! Black gets to the ropes and throws him all the way over the top to the floor. Pele Kick from Black, then a Peroxism OVER the ropes and back into the ring for 2. Avalanche Contra Code blocked into a flurry of nearfalls. JACOBS THROWN TO THE FLOOR AGAIN! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA OVER THE ROPES! GUARDRAIL BOMB COUNTERED WITH A RANA! It was Tyler who wound up eating the railings on that one, and despite neither being able to stand particularly well, they both come up swinging with wild right hands. Jacobs bites to avoid God’s Last Gift and hits another spear for 2. CONTRA CODE! GETS 2! Jacobs tries a frankensteiner but gets caught upstairs…ALLEY OOP BUCKLE BOMB! REGULAR BUCKLE BOMB TURNED INTO END TIME AGAIN! SUPERKICK BY TYLER! He wins at 15:41

Rating – **** –
What an awesome opening match that was. I know it wasn’t technically an opening match, but since it’s the first match on the DVD, I’m counting it as one. I’m the first to admit that the lack of heat from the crowd really hurt this, but it still totally smoked their HDNet match. The familiarity countering immense and constant – be it in the ring, on the apron or at ringside, they were constantly finding ways to evade their opponent’s key holds, and adapt their own spots to try to ensure they stuck. I liked Jacobs going for the spear through the ropes, and Tyler changing the way he hit Peroxism and the Buckle Bomb for instance. Had THIS been their HDNet Episode 1 match everyone would have been raving about it. Don’t let the silent crowd destroy what was an under-rated little gem.

Remembering his promise to rid ROH of Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler tries to assault him with a chair after the bell, only for Jimmy to flee to the locker room.

Jay Briscoe vs Roderick Strong vs Kenny Omega vs Austin Aries

Lots of little issues combine to make this a fairly interesting 4CS. You’ve got the obvious aged issues of Strong and Aries having been partners in the past. And whilst they were Tag Champions, one of their top challengers and primary rivals were the Briscoes. We’ve also got Jay looking for a return victory over his friend Roderick Strong after Roddy pinned him in Collinsville recently. There’s also Canadian favourite Kenny Omega, who has suffered a couple of recent losses to Aries and would love some revenge of his own there.

Aries cuts a pre-match promo, mostly running down Omega. As the camera pans round you realise how completely empty the building is tonight – attendance looks shocking here! Bell rings and Aries immediately drags Kenny to the outside and throws him into the guardrails. Big chop to Strong, and he throws Roddy outside too before his former partner can land any heavy chops of his own. He completes the set by chucking Jay through the ropes as well. Stop Sign Enzi totally no sold by A-Double who smacks Omega in the mouth. But all of a sudden it’s three-on-one against Aries. With him out of the way, Kenny’s goofiness proves too much for Strong and Briscoe who DESTROY him with chops. Jay flatlines him into the turnbuckles then levels Strong with a running boot. Omega sunset flips Jay into a German suplex on Austin and dives aside to ensure Strong’s missile dropkick connects with Briscoe. Half Nelson Backbreaker into the Stronghold on Kenny…which Aries breaks with a standing enziguri. Last Chancery on Omega next, only for Briscoe to save with a double stomp. Briscoe with a Stretch Plum on the flagging Kenny Omega but finds his hold broken by his friend Roderick. Big strike duel between those two gets broken up with a DOUBLE leapfrog bulldog by Omega. Aries stops him hitting a moonsault to the floor. OMEGA DOES IT ANYWAY, MISSES EVERYONE AND LANDS IN THE FRONT ROW! Absolutely epic failure there! He has another go…RUNNING SWANTON UP THE AISLE NAILED! Aries makes a miraculous recovery to hit a Heat Seeking Missile on Strong and Jay as they fight on the floor. Impact Explosion Dropkick nailed, but he takes SO long setting up the Brainbuster that Omega pulls him into a backslide. Shock win for Omega at 10:18

Rating – ** – Credit to all four men for throwing out constant action for 10 minutes there, and in fairness they were getting massive reactions from the crowd for this, when the prior match, which I have rated at 4* drew near-total silence. This just wasn’t really my cup of tea sadly. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the primary theme of the match – that being to put Kenny Omega over at all costs. And Aries is superb in his new role and held the match together. My main problem was that this was just spotty mess. You had guys taking big bumps, then popping up seconds later to hit their major spots. The Special K guys got slaughtered for crap like this in 2002/3, and I don’t see why the rules should change just because these are ‘name’ ROH talents. It’s still fun, but very very cheap.

Aries has a real sulk about losing and pulls some awesome facials on the way out.

Jimmy Rave/Claudio Castagnoli vs Colt Cabana/Brent Albright

This is the first time Rave has been booked since his shock return at the 7th Anniversary Show. Prince Nana and flag-bearer Ernie Osiris are here too, and tonight he teams with Claudio Castagnoli – whom will eventually become a ‘paid associate’ of The Embassy, although I don’t know if that’s been formalised as yet. Rave will obviously be looking for revenge on Cabana after Colt, who made his return to ROH the same night as Jimmy, beat him in their comeback match. No need to go on about why Albright and Claudio don’t like each other. They’ve been feuding since late January, and are set to bring their rivalry to HDNet this Saturday night on Episode 5 of ROH on HDNet.

The opening exchanges between Castagnoli and Cabana are, predictably, very European. The crowd are getting on Jimmy for his laughable ‘Rock’n’Rave’ gimmick in TNA. Really crisp wrestling between those two, before Cabana cleverly steps out of the way and ensures Claudio connects with a shoulder block on his own partner. Claudio tries to leave the ring only to be clobbered by Albright as the babyface team continue to dominate. Rave drops Cabana with an apron STO then whips him into the guardrails to give his team the advantage for the first time. Tag to Albright who tears through both opponents. Rave gets taken out with a pescado before Cabana wipes him out for a second time with a moonsault off the apron. Claudio tries to use the ropes to pin Brent but fails and is hauled into a Crippler Crossface. Bicycle Kick from Claudio gets 2 after some distraction from Dirty Ernie, but Cabana returns to take Castagnoli out with the Flying Asshole. Air Raid Crash into the Crowbar, broken with the CRAPPY WIZARD from Jimmy. GHANA-REA on Colt! Albright plants Rave with a swinging neckbreaker but gets pinned moments later with Nana holding his feet. Rave wins at 12:19

Rating – ** –
The match worked in that it advanced all the necessary feuds without giving anything major away whatsoever. Cabana proved what an important member of the ROH roster he is in that, for all his shortcomings, he is BRILLIANT with live crowds, which is such an asset. Main problem here was the lack of drama – it was so predictable that it became very hard to become too emotionally invested.

A frustrated Brent Albright gives Ernie Osiris the Half Nelson Suplex as the rest of The Embassy head for the hills.

The American Wolves are out now, and bring the bad news that they are now Tag Team Champions. Richards tries to sing the American national anthem, only to be interrupted by Sylvain Grenier. He yells at them in French…but it’s a double cross as he starts singing the American national anthem too.

Davey Richards/Eddie Edwards/Sylvain Grenier vs Kevin Steen/El Generico/Bryan Danielson

As per the Wolves’ promo moments earlier, and my lengthy rant which served as an introduction to this review, the Wolves are now Tag Champions, having defeated Steen and Generico in a Tables Match at the recent HDNet tapings. Now Steen and Generico have to return to French Canada, their home territory, without the belts they worked so hard to win at Driven 2008 and will be desperate for revenge. Danielson teams with them tonight, and will be keen to soften both Richards and Edwards up ahead of his Tag Title challenge tomorrow night in Markham. Not sure what Grenier will bring to the party here. I always liked Rene Dupree more than him in La Resistance and he’s not been booked since so the signs aren’t exactly good!

Lenny Leonard comically no-sells the title change because it was on HDNet therefore he ‘hasn’t seen it’. Generico beats Davey all around the ring for the first two minutes, forcing the whole heel unit to leave the ring for a group huddle. They tease walking out (as Lenny Leonard drops a Jimmy Bower reference – is that allowed??) but return before they are counted out. Danielson tags and blasts Edwards with a big dropkick before Steen comes in and demands he gets to face Grenier – apparently they have heat. Sylvain declines so Mr Wrestling drops the somersault leg drop on Eddie instead. Generico gets 2 moments later with a standing moonsault, and the assault on Edwards continues as he pelts him with uppercuts then locks in the Mexican surfboard. Dropkick combo from Steen and Generico whilst he’s held up in the surfboard give their team another nearfall. Having cheap-shotted Steen from behind, Grenier finally agrees to enter the match and make his ROH debut now his nemesis is on the back foot. He lands a few punches before running away and tagging out before Steen gets any chance at returning fire. Richards is tagged, and he falls victim to the split-legged moonsault from El Generico. After an assist from Edwards Davey is able to beat Generico down and cut him off from his partners. Sylvain happily tags in now and scores nearfalls with a fisherman suplex then a modified fallaway slam. He throws Generico out of the ring and preoccupies the official whilst the Tag Champions dish out more of a beating. Rebound enzi strike a’la Nakajima by Richards, then the swandive headbutt for 2.

NECK DROP MICHINOKU DRIVER from absolutely nowhere by Generico…and that allows him to make the hot tag to Dragon. Cradle backbreaker on Richards, into the judo DDT. Edwards stops Danielson hitting his version of the diving headbutt so Dragon levels his partner with a missile dropkick instead then gets 2 with a running knee strike. Failing individually, the Wolves team up to unload a kick combo on Dragon…until Generico saves with a top rope crossbody. Tope suicida from Dragon to Richards and Edwards…but Grenier makes the save before Generico can hit another dive and do yet more damage. TOP ROPE PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR BY STEEN INSTEAD! GENERICO WITH THE SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT ONTO EVERYONE! Back inside Eddie looks for an Asai moonsault on Danielson and nearly falls victim to the Triangle Choke. GERMAN SUPLEX IS NO SOLD! RUNNING ELBOW BY DRAGON! Both men down, with Eddie’s nose bleeding all over the mat. Tags all round, meaning Steen and Grenier charge into battle once again. Mr Wrestling locks in the Sharpshooter only for Davey to break it. Grenier tries to power both Generico and Danielson onto his shoulders, but winds up falling backwards into an ugly double Samoan drop. YAKUZA KICK from Generico. STEEN-TON SPLASH COMBO NAILED! EDWARDS SAVES! Richards low blows Kevin as he looks for the Package Piledriver, but Steen still manages to turn Sylvain into the Sharpshooter again. CATTLE MUTILATION ON EDWARDS! TURNBUCKLE BRAINBUSTAAA ON RICHARDS! GRENIER TAPS! Steen scores the victory at 22:33

Rating – **** –
I’m going to give this one a positive rating, despite the fact that Grenier looked absolutely terrible. The guy was painfully average in the WWE, and was badly exposed working alongside high-level technical workers like Danielson and Richards. He very literally struggled to execute even basic little exchanges that you take for granted in ROH-level talent, and it’s really not surprising he wasn’t brought back. But despite his spectacular levels of mediocrity, this was still a great match. It’s strength, I felt, lied in the strong purpose there was to everything that went on. You had the great Wolves/Steen-erico rivalry playing out. You had Danielson being the best singles wrestler, meaning the Wolves, as Tag Champions, had to double team him to get the better of him…and you also had the random Steen/Grenier heat to play off as well. The execution wasn’t always perfect but I like a match where there is zero downtime and everything is done with focus and purpose. I’m not in a rush to see Sylvain back, but there was enough on the Danielson/Wolves exchanges to wet your appetite for Markham’s main event tomorrow, and the Richards/Edwards vs Steen/Generico feud over the Tag belts continues to be the best thing ROH has got going in 2009 thus far.

Steen teaches Danielson how to say ‘Best In The World’ in French then makes the sound guy play ‘The Final Countdown’ to play us out and close ‘The Hunt Begins’

Tag Title Classic – 18th April 2009

Roderick Strong and Jay Briscoe are still friends but are looking forward to renewing their competitive rivalry in a Stylin’ & Profilin’ rematch later in the show

Claudio Castagnoli vs Colt Cabana

These guys clashed the previous evening at The Hunt Begins, and now do battle in singles competition. Their entertaining and well-executed chain wrestling sequences were a real highlight of the tag bout they contested in Montreal, so I’m looking forward to seeing them hook up in singles competition for the first time in a while.

As the cameras pan around the arena you see countless rows of empty seats, which will alarm ROH’s money men I’m sure. Toronto is supposed to be an ‘A’ market now, so not drawing major crowds will be a real cause for concern. Lots of European style content in the early minutes, the fluidity of which is particularly outstanding. They barely let go of each other for the first five minutes, and it’s a credit to both of them that it doesn’t even feel boring, purely due to the level of charisma they’re able to bring to what can be a very tough style of wrestling to watch. Claudio finally leaves the ring having had enough of the catch as catch can stuff. He returns but once again ends up on the wrong end of Cabana’s unique brand of solid technical skills and irritating shenanigans. Having seen enough he plasters Colt with an uppercut then drops him face-first into the second turnbuckle. Flying Asshole nailed, but soon afterwards Prince Nana and Ernie Osiris come to ringside. Brent Albright comes out to even the odds, and watches on as Cabana rolls Claudio up for 3 at 10:22

Rating – ** –
Ten minutes of amazingly well-executed (although not overly exciting) chain wresting, and a lousy finish on the end. I think my rating is more than generous to be honest. I don’t see why we couldn’t have made the point that Castagnoli is a paid associate of The Embassy and is currently feuding with Brent Albright WITHOUT ruining the finish to a perfectly decent match. It’s just lazy, overly simplified booking which has, rather sadly, typified the Pearce era thus far.

Austin Aries/Kenny King/Rhett Titus vs Kevin Steen/Generico Dos/Kenny Omega

We’re seeing a growing rivalry develop between Omega and Aries, particularly after Kenny managed to pick up a shock victory for himself in Montreal last night. And he’s no stranger to King and Titus either, with those guys forming their alliance at the expense of King’s team with Omega. If you’re wondering who Generico Dos is, it’s Player Dos of the Super Smash Bros. since El Generico is out injured after the exertion of last night’s trios tag main event.

Aries continues being a giant douche by kicking El Generico’s crutch from under him. Stereo ranas and dropkicks from Dos and Omega send his partners to the floor, leaving Aries alone in the ring to get battered. The All Night Express save their new mentor from Steen’s cannonball senton, only to have Rhett take the somersault leg drop to the back of the head instead. Generico Dos gets 2 with a standing moonsault. Titus starts gyrating and is HALTED by the Stop Sign Enzi from Omega before Dos takes to the air with a running somersault dive to the outside. He tries to go upstairs again but gets crotched by the illegal Austin Aries. Titus hits the Sexy Suplex then ducks down for King to land the hidden lariat for 2. A-Double sets up for the Power Drive Elbow and misses, as he usually does these days. Instead he steals original Generico’s crutch and hobbles around the ring with it. Steen tagged for the cannonball senton on King which gets another 2. Omega wipes all the heels out with a corkscrew pescado and plans King on his face with the leapfrog bulldog. IED by Aries, into the Shotgun Knee from King. Steen saves Kenny from the Powerbomb Blockbuster and gets the tag. STEEN-TON FROG SPLASH COMBO! Aries saves with the Kick Of Death on Dos. Heat Seeking Missile takes out Steen. DOUBLE STOMP SPIKE PILEDRIVER sees Titus pin Dos at 12:29

Rating – *** – Some moments were really sloppy, but there was enough good stuff from Steen and the heel team to keep things interesting. Dos did enough to make me interested in the Super Smash Bros. coming to ROH, which I believe happens in May. Omega was criminally underused though

Jimmy Jacobs vs Delirious – Street Fight

These guys had a hot No DQ Match at Insanity Unleashed – the night after Delirious left Age Of The Fall having seen the light and grown tired of Jimmy’s maniacal and destructive leadership style. Jacobs won a tough fight that night, so it was always likely we’d see Delirious come for some revenge. He dons the mysterious ‘Red Delirious’ outfit tonight to demonstrate the extent of his rage.

In the locker rooms Jacobs tries to cut a promo on Delirious, but is attacked by the lizard man before the two brawl through the crowd towards ringside. Jacobs delivers an Undertaker-style chair guillotine then applies End Time on the outside, forcing Delirious to flail wildly with both arms to free himself. Back to ringside Delirious hits the Leaping Lariat from the top rope, with a commentary backdrop of Prazak hilariously trying to argue that the Jacobs/Brodie/MsChif AOTF line-up is the best. Jacobs suplexes Delirious on the hard floor, but the masked man falls under the ring and pops out with a baking sheet to start plastering Jimmy with. GUARDRAIL PANIC ATTACK NAILED! He tries to set up a table at ringside but it takes too long to solve the logistical problems that causes that Jacobs gets back to his feet and strikes him down with a chair. He starts filling the ring with chairs only for Delirious to get to one and throw it into his face. FLYING TOP ROPE CHAIR SHOT TO THE FLOOR from Delirious. Both men fight near the huge pile of chairs that have been amassed in the middle of the ring…SUPLEX THROUGH A CHAIR BY JIMMY! Body slam into a whole pile of chairs next. Delirious throws a chair at Jacobs and leaves him in position for a second rope rana into the chair stack. SHADOWS OVER HELL MISSES! Delirious eats chair. END TIME IN THE CHAIRS! COUNTERED to the Cobra Stretch. To the apron…JACOBS SPEARS DELIRIOUS THROUGH A TABLE ON THE FLOOR! Daizee Haze comes out to try and rouse the unconscious lizard man only to be grabbed by Jacobs. He threatens her with the spike Delirious makes the save with BLACK MIST! DAIZEE SPIKES JIMMY! COBRA CLUTCH SUPLEX! SPIKE ASSISTED COBRA STRETCH! JACOBS TAPS! 15:58 is your time

Rating – **** –
After the unique start with both guys brawling from the back, the first portion of this match was fairly mundane. The second half, with multiple wild chair bumps, the awesome table spot and the spike action at the end bolstered the rating though. I think I mildly preferred the Insanity Unleashed match, but this was arguably the stronger finish – plus everyone likes a babyface victory. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first match between these guys, so I’m VERY surprised that the second one didn’t suffer from sequel syndrome. Jimmy Jacobs has a lot of detractors, and has subsequently come out and said that he was on a LOT of drugs during this last run in ROH, but he is such a strong talent to have and has pulled out two terrific matches on this DVD.

Jay Briscoe vs Roderick Strong

These two are good friends outside the ring, but ultra competitive when they wrestle – even if that means fighting each other. Roderick Strong won a close match between them at Stylin’ & Profilin’ and now we have a rematch. Briscoe has worked for the first quarter of 2009 whilst Mark has been on the shelf with his knee injury…but is yet to really deliver that star-making singles performance.

Listening again, I’m fairly sure Jay came to the ring to Austin Aries’ stock music at the Montreal show. It’s another fiercely competitive opening period from these two, and it’s all pretty even stuff until Strong delivers his first backbreaker of the match. Jay tries to trade chops with Roddy, which is a colossal mistake and he gets PASTED with a sickening one as he’s trapped against the ropes. Changing tactic, Briscoe increases the pace, delivering a big dropkick as they run the ropes then a sliding kick as Roderick lies on the mat. Roderick manages to boot him off the apron though, and immediately dives to the floor after him into a flying shoulder tackle on the floor. Back in the ring he scores with a back suplex and locks in a bear hug as he starts to wear down the back and torso of his friend. Briscoe floors him with a clothesline, but takes AGES getting to his feet afterwards thanks to the pain in his midsection. Flipping neckbreaker out of the corner gets Jay a nearfall, and he gets another one seconds later with the gourdbuster. But he goes for that flatliner into the buckles move that he always does and finds that Strong blocks it and hits the slingshot falcon arrow. Urinage backbreaker nailed for 2, and succeeded by the Stronghold. Briscoe finds the bottom rope and comes up to drop Strong ON HIS NECK with a DVD. Flatliner to the turnbuckles hit second time of asking, and he floors the former FIP Champion again seconds later with a mafia kick before locking in the Stretch Plum. Roderick escapes and sprints into the Sick Kick for 2. Death By Roderick follows seconds later, only for Jay to no sell and deliver a big spinebuster. He hits a superplex, but both men pop their legs up and pin each other simultaneously for 2. Duelling forearms…pinfall flurry…Stronghold countered into a roll-up for 3. That’s Briscoe’s biggest singles victory this year in 13:40.

Rating – *** –
Tremendous, closely fought little match there that drew one of the strongest crowd reactions of the entire DVD. Thus far in 2009 I’ve found Jay’s singles work to be a little disappointing. Not necessarily bad, but he’s not delivered anything spectacular, and up to this point his only really decent outings were the HDNet main event he worked with Nigel (which was a pretty one-sided carry job) and the first match with Strong. Clearly the friendship between these two translates well into the ring, as they produced another solid bout this time around. It lacked the ferocity and non-stop motion of the first bout, which is understandable because they went longer. I know I don’t normally like roll-up finishes as a rule, but it really worked well in this context because it played off the fact that Roddy needed a flash pin to beat Jay in Collinsville. Had we seen some better selling (both in terms of body part work, and in not popping straight up off the canvas from a big spot from the opponent to hit a big move of their own) this could have challenged for that fourth star.

To give you an indication of how much the live audience liked that, they give them a standing ovation and a rousing ‘ROH’ chant after the match. You sense a third match coming shortly…

American Wolves vs Bryan Danielson/Tyler Black – ROH Tag Title Match

Unless they defended them at the same set of tapings that they won the belts, this is the first ROH Tag Title defence for the American Wolves, and it’s a hell of a challenge. They face ROH icon, founding father and former World Champion Bryan Danielson, and the guy many tip to be the future of the company in Tyler Black. Tyler actually beat Davey in a singles match earlier this year – at Proving Ground 2009 Night 1. The partnership of Dragon and Black is also an interesting one. Now that Team Work, Dragon’s partnership of choice through 2008, is done, he was given the opportunity to pick a new partner for this evening and selected the man with whom he shared a trilogy of superb matches in 2008 – Tyler Black. It’s also significant because at the first and second set of HDNet tapings Black and Dragon shared another couple of very well-received matches (although neither has been aired yet), where once again Tyler couldn’t find a way to beat Danielson. Will their familiarity as opponents make them a cohesive unit, or will the tag team experience of the American Wolves prove too much?

Edwards goes the cheap heat route and starts waving an American flag around before the bell. Nigel McGuinness pops up on commentary which is pretty random. Black gets the better of Edwards from the bell, so Eddie makes the tag to Richards who bridges into a kick to Tyler’s shoulder. Davey then runs across the ring and disrespectfully boots Danielson off the apron. Dragon takes a tag and goes into a wicked near-miss sequence with Richards. Amusingly, Davey celebrates his near success there by hitting another disrespectful kick on Black this time. Edwards in, talking way too much smack to Dragon, and quickly has to scurry to the ropes to evade the ‘Kick Your F*cking Head In’ repeated face stomps. Just as with last night, the Wolves briefly double team Dragon to get an advantage…and as soon as Richards is left alone again he finds himself being thrown around the ring by Danielson again. He and Tyler take turns tagging in and out to body slam Edwards as we approach ten minutes. DOUBLE BODY SLAM NAILED! Danielson then holds him in Mexican surfboard position for Black to delivery a dropkick to the sternum for 2. Tag team inexperience costs Dragon though, as he strays too near to the Wolves’ corner and falls victim to a series of suplexes from the champions. They try the revenge double suplex on him…but Tyler saves. BODY SLAMS AGAIN! Frustrated now, the new champions storm up the ramp and tease a walk out. They’re dragged back to ringside and we get a four man brawl around ringside. Richards gets a blind tag and blasts Black with a big kick, then pitches him back to the floor for Hagadorn and Edwards to throw him into the guardrails. That shows how they can use their superior skills to get the better of their opponents.

On the back of that they start working the ribs, spending the next several minutes putting the boots to that particular area. Tyler, realising the danger, makes a critical tag to Dragon who sails into a tope suicida to Richards on the floor. Missile dropkick into a sliding knee strike gets 2…but Edwards comes in from behind to attack the unsuspecting former ROH Champ. Once again it’s the tag team inexperience of Danielson which gives the Wolves a window of opportunity. They hit a kick combo on him, only for the experienced tag wrestler Tyler to grab Davey, allowing Danielson to lock in the Triangle Choke on Eddie for a time. They semi-botch a Hart Attack, which works PERFECTLY in the context of the match since, as Prazak points out, they’re not going to have the seamless quality of double teams that the Wolves, the Briscoes or Steen-erico might have. All four men in again, with Black laying Richards out with the Pele Kick. He goes for the Phoenix Splash AND GETS KICKED THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPERS TABLE BY EDWARDS! Dragon looks like he’s going solo now, and immediately succumbs to the numbers as Richards kicks him hard in the leg and applies the Texas Cloverleaf. That doesn’t get a submission victory, but the Wolves are all over the leg of the American Dragon now. There’s an awesome sequence in there with Danielson trying to floor Eddie with forearms, only for Edwards to take him down with a soccer-style two footed slide tackle. Even when he does make it to his corner, Black is still in the wreckage of the table and unable to tag in.

30 minutes have now passed in this engaging contest. Dragon goes for a second missile dropkick attempt, but this time finds it countered to a powerbomb from Richards. Black hits the springboard clothesline from absolutely nowhere and gets the much-needed tag. Lionsault feint into the Black Star Press gets 2 before Edwards breaks the fall. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! TOPE CON LUNATIC DIVE INTO THE CROWD BY DAVEY! CROWD DIVE FROM DANIELSON! Notice that wasn’t the usual high octane springboard variant he usually hits thanks to his bad leg. Davey and Tyler just about beat the count…and Tyler thinks faster to counter the Handspring Enzi with a basement dropkick into Peroxism for 2. On the outside Eddie hits a GUARDRAIL DRAGON SCREW on Danielson, then sprints into the ring to flatten Black with the standing Shining Wizard. Second rope Codebreaker gets 2. DOUBLE ALARM CLOCK TO THE RIBS! Danielson breaks the pin despite only having one functioning leg. He drops Eddie with a tiger suplex…CATTLE MUTILATION ON DAVEY! EDWARDS SAVES WITH A FLYING KNEE DROP ON THE BAD LEG! BUCKLE BOMB ON EDDIE! SUPERKICK NAILED! HE’S IN THE ROPES! Black lines up the Phoenix Splash again…ROPE RUN GERMAN SUPERPLEX FROM DAVEY! SUPERKICK GERMAN COMBO GETS 2! Danielson manages to drag his injured body to the top rope for a BACK SUPERPLEX on Richards and all four men are left in a heap with less than four minutes remaining in the time limit. STEREO CLOVERLEAFS on the challengers, hurting Dragon’s leg and Tyler’s ribs. Black hits the Pele Kick on Eddie. STEREO MMA ELBOWS ON THE WOLVES! STEREO CATTLE MUTILATIONS! ONE MINUTE TO GO! GOD’S LAST GIFT ON EDWARDS! 45:00 TIME LIMIT EXPIRES! TIME LIMIT DRAW!

Rating – ****1/2 –
Phenomenal match that skips past KENTA/Richards and Nigel/KENTA to the crown of ROH MOTY thus far. After months of reigning his wrestlers in, curtailing their match times and looking to limit the ROH style – particularly Danielson who has been almost totally sidelined this year as he starts to prepare for life after ROH – this was the first time Adam Pearce has really loosened the straps and told his workers to go out there and tear the house down. It was very obvious they were going for a tag team ‘Joe vs Punk’ style bout here (as if you couldn’t tell from the ‘Tag Title Classic’ name) and it really delivered. I’m not saying it was perfect, as there were a few frankly bizarre legal man interpretations, a couple of minor hiccups, and the borderline disappointment of not getting a clear winner, but this is absolutely a must-see, all-time ROH classic. I have this down as the best ROH tag match ever, but that’s my personal taste. They worked a far more story-line based style of tag match here. The level of psychology on display was just epic. You had the Wolves working Dragon’s leg and Black’s ribs, you had Danielson being able to out-wrestle both his opponents one on one, but his tag team inexperience meaning he kept making mistakes and getting caught out. The Wolves using a super aggressive table spot to take Tyler, a former Tag Champion and experienced tag worker out of the match to leave them alone with the ‘weak link’ Bryan Danielson. It was fine detail, right down to making sure Tyler, the FUTURE star of ROH was the stronger member of his team, rather than Dragon, ensuring he got the most rub possible from this great encounter. Most ROH tag classics in the past (Briscoes vs Aries/Strong, Aries/Strong vs KENTA/Richards, Briscoes vs Shingo/Doi, Briscoes vs Machine Guns, AOTF vs Machine Guns etc) have been far more spot-centric, mid-90’s NJPW-inspired ‘junior heavyweight’ style tag team attractions. Whilst they were superb in that genre, my taste has always favoured the heavyweight tag team main events in AJPW with the likes of Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, Taue, Akiyama, Ace, Williams and so on. It’s not a style ROH has done too often (off the top of my head I can maybe remember the Briscoes vs Joe/Danielson and Aries/Strong vs Danielson/Lethal Tag Title matches from a few years back which, being of a similar ilk, I rated very highly) and they were bang on the money with it tonight. Do yourself a favour and buy the DVD for this match alone.

Crowd erupt into ‘Five More Minutes’ and ‘Match Of The Year’ chants. Davey grabs a mic to publicly decline any additional time before leaving in a hurry.

Tape Rating – *** –
Ring Of Honor deserves a lot of credit for this DVD release. It was a terrifically fan-friendly decision to amalgamate these two shows into one. Obviously it’s a shame they had an off night in Montreal (and doubly unfortunate for the few workers who were unlucky enough to have their matches cut from both shows), but after putting out a number of really mediocre shows since Gabe left (Escalation immediately comes to mind) it’s nice to see the company take steps to try and deliver value for money and a cheap way for the fans to follow their product. And, having trimmed some excess fat from both nights, what you’re left with is a first rate DVD release. Granted there is still some filler, but that was largely included to progress angles (new Embassy, Albright/Claudio, Generico’s injury, Omega’s big win etc) and everything else is very strong. I had Jacobs/Tyler, the main event 6-man from Montreal and Jacobs/Delirious all as low-end 4* matches (with Briscoe/Strong narrowly missing that too) which is an incredibly high level of quality considering the number of shows we’ve had since Pearce took over which have scraped one, or less, of that level. And of course, the Tag Title Classic is essentially worth the price of this DVD by itself. In reality, you’re buying this for the superb main event, and getting a lot of very strong bonus material. I have this just behind 7YA and Supercard Of Honor 4 for best show thus far. If it’s still available to buy it’s a definite purchase.

Top 3 Matches

3) Tyler Black vs Jimmy Jacobs (****)

2) Kevin Steen/El Generico/Bryan Danielson vs American Wolves/Sylvain Grenier (****)

1) American Wolves vs Bryan Danielson/Tyler Black (****1/2)

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