226 ROH A Cut Above 4/24/2009

ROH 226 – A Cut Above – 24th April 2009

Ring Of Honor returns to Dayton for the first time since Escalation – a show I fairly unceremoniously panned as the worst ROH show ever. After that non-event of a show (and before that the much-maligned McGuinness/Pearce Title vs Title farce), it’s fair to say they probably owe the Dayton market a little something. To that end, it’s a surprisingly packed show. Roderick Strong gets a token title shot he’s done little to earn in what, as the title of the show suggests, is a bloody main event. There’s also Tyler vs Davey in a Proving Ground 2009 Night 1 rematch, Dark City Fight Club returning to the DVD releases for the first time since that Florida weekend, Danielson vs Edwards in the opener and the main show debut of Rasche Brown. Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are in Dayton, OH

ROH VIDEO WIRE (21/04/2009)– The Embassy indulge in some casual roadside vandalism in Canada. Hilariously Jimmy Rave claims Bryan Danielson has never beaten him (since it’s always been via ref stoppage).

– Colt Cabana looks forward to his Chicago homecoming and to fulfil the prophecy he made when he left ROH in 2007 – to return and win the World Championship.

– Austin Aries and protégés Rhett Titus and Kenny King interrupt some Alex Payne promo time. A-Double is easily the best thing in ROH right now.

– Tyler Black hypes his match with Davey Richards. He remembers ‘breaking out’ in that building against Bryan Danielson…and will step on Davey on his way to the top starting this weekend.

– Eddie Edwards cuts a decent little promo on his match with Danielson.

– Joey Ryan gets his own debut hype video. ‘I will rape you of your honour’ – Joey.

Roderick Strong opens the main show reminiscing on his previous 10 failed attempts at becoming Ring Of Honor Champion. That streak ends tonight

Bryan Danielson says his workrate, aggression and ability as a singles wrestler will ensure he gets the better of Eddie tonight

Eddie Edwards vs Bryan Danielson

In DVD terms, this is fresh off the heels of the epic 45-minute draw in Toronto. Bryan Danielson and his partner for the evening, Tyler Black, took the American Wolves to the limit but ultimately couldn’t defeat them. This evening they face the Wolves again in singles action. In the Video Wire Edwards made the point that American Dragon has never beaten him, whilst Danielson clearly believes his strength as a singles competitor makes him the obvious favourite here.

Intense knucklelock to start, ending when Dragon backs into the ropes and ducks to avoid the obligatory HEEL cheapshot from Edwards. Danielson goes after Eddie’s arm and skilfully outmanoeuvres him at every turn to maintain total control for the next few minutes. Five minutes deep and things even up with a sweet near-miss kick exchange. Edwards blocks another kick attempt, but celebrates far too heartily and takes a knee to the face then a big running kick to the sternum. Credit to Eddie, he gets straight up and slaps Dragon in the mouth. KNEE STRIKES! FIERCE KICKS! B*TCH SLAP! In seconds Eddie is left slumped in the corner. Impressively, he still gets back to his feet and headbutts the face. Throat chops and body shots from Dragon who is continually absorbing the fiery comebacks from the Tag Champion only to beat him down again. Cattle Mutilation locked in for the first time but Edwards finds the ropes. And it’s that position that works to Eddie’s advantage, as he catches the foot of his opponent to deliver a DRAGON SCREW IN THE ROPES! CROSS-LEGGED BACKPACK STUNNER! HALF CRAB! Awesome flurry of moves, including a cool amendment to a familiar spot to do increased damage. But he goes for a small package…big mistake. Countered to the UNBREAKABLE small package of Danielson. Dragon picks up the win at 15:00

Rating – *** –
Really good, mat-based opening match, which was as good as anything on the last Dayton show. It was a tad one-sided for my taste – not because I thought think Eddie Edwards should be on the same level as Dragon at this stage of his ROH career, but purely because, he’s one half of the Tag Team Champions, so to see him dispatched in such resounding fashion was a little surprising. Sure the finish was close, but before that, outside of a few little purple patches, this was all Danielson. Still, I’m sure we’ll see these two in a ring together again before Dragon leaves later in the year, and I look forward to it. Both in Toronto and here tonight they’ve made for tremendous opponents.

‘Dragons are a myth…Wolves are real’ – Shane Hagadorn. Great quote…

Rasche Brown vs Silas Young vs Matt Cross vs Claudio Castagnoli

This marks the DVD debut for Skullkrusher Rasche Brown – a big guy ROH were pretty high on pushing back in 2009. I think most people ended up pooping on it, but you can’t deny the solid theory behind it. Outside of Brodie Lee or Bison Smith (neither of whom have been particularly great in an ROH ring) there are no big ‘enforcer’ type guys on the roster so it’s a spot that needs to be filled. He’s absolutely colossal, although his goofy, black Ted DiBiase laugh HAS to go. Claudio is a paid associate of The Embassy now, and with no Brent Albright on the card tonight can turn his attention back to picking up some wins to regain the spot in the uppercard he held for most of 2008. Other than that, not much else to write about. Silas has in-house music, so ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ has been replaced with what sounds like the theme music to a crappy Saturday morning kids TV show. M-Dogg has a Mohawk…

Brown and Claudio don’t seem to get along, but don’t cross paths immediately as we get a big four-man brawl. In the end Rasche settles for a basic body slam/knee drop combo on Cross for 2. M-Dogg tries to fight off both Brown and Castagnoli but he’s giving up a lot of size. Young tries to help out only to fall victim to the Les Artess Lift. Castagnoli delivers a body slam to Silas…which Brown tops with a SPINNING body slam. Skullkrusher follows that with a one-armed stalling suplex, only for Double C to try and steal his pinfall. Cross tagged to hit a QUEBRADA TORNADO DDT on Castagnoli. Brown military presses Castagnoli with absolute ease. DOUBLE STOMP MEGA FAIL TO THE FLOOR BY CROSS! That was horrific! Castagnoli puts Young in his new finish – the Swiss Sleeper Holding – to score a submission victory at 06:02

Rating – * –
A gave a star for the amusing one-upsmanship between Claudio and Rasche. Outside of that, there wasn’t much going on. Cross basically showed why he isn’t in ROH anymore by hitting a couple of great spots and a couple of absolutely horrible ones…whilst Skullkrusher’s debut was decidedly average. He’s certainly got some charisma about him, but his wrestling seems VERY bland. Not your typical ROH wrestler at all…but then, neither was Tank Toland and he winded up being extremely popular so, if he’s cost-effective then he’s worth a punt. He has to be cheaper than Bison Smith at any rate…

Silas slaps Cross in the face on the way out. Jesus if that becomes an ROH feud I’m so not doing this anymore…

Grizzly Redwood vs Jimmy Rave

Hopefully this is nothing more than an exhibition match for Rave, who returned at the 7th Anniversary Show but has made only sporadic appearances on DVD’s since then. He could certainly do with the victory more than quintessential jobber Grizzly Redwood.

Rave springs into action with a flurry of hard right hands, whilst Ernie Osiris has commandeered Redwood’s wood block to taunt him with. That distracts him for long enough for Jimmy to wrap up an emphatic victory with the Ghana-rea at 01:40

Rating – * –
Comprehensive squash, which is just what Jimmy Rave needed to give his comeback some credibility. Newer fans of ROH, who’ve never seen him before, need a reason to buy him as a threat.

The Embassy beat Grizzly down with his own log after the match, meaning Ernie Osiris can steal his shoes. Poor little fella…

Phoenix Twins vs Austin Aries/Rhett Titus

This isn’t a debut for Tweek and Dash – but it’s the first time since we’ve seen them on a DVD release since somewhere around the middle of 2008. I really liked their appearance that night, and Gabe was reportedly pretty impressed too, so I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to be brought back. It’s unlikely they’ll be more than enhancement fodder to Aries and Titus who will be full of confidence after their big victory in a 6-man tag at Tag Title Classic.

Between Rhett’s usual ring attire and Austin’s new pink muppet skin jacket, they really do look some kind of stripping dance duo. It’s a totally strange appearance. Since the Phoenix’s are identical, and have no discernable differences in their ring attire, I really don’t know which is which I’m afraid. Lenny Leonard decides that it’s Tweek that starts since they’re called ‘Tweek and Dash’. He drops Titus on his head then brings his brother for a standing diving headbutt combo for 2. Dash then hits a big boot on Rhett, forcing him to flee to his partner for a strategic huddle. Probably Dash lines up a dive on Titus, only to be ram-raided by Aries, who’s objections to working as a team with Titus are really comical. STO scores, and for once he manages to control the posturing for long enough to hit the Power Drive Elbow too. Titus tags in and tries to hit his own modification of the Power Drive Elbow (Power Thrust Elbow?)…and THAT’s the one that misses. Hot tag to Probably Tweek, who has some initial success before striking out to an A-Double side slam. Maybe Dash tags, and botches some kind of top rope dive in ugly fashion. Somersault plancha to the floor seconds later rescues the situation. Titus hits the Muff Driver on a Phoenix, followed by the Aries Brainbuster for the win at 10:42

Rating – ** –
Total filler, but this wasn’t bad. I liked the chemistry of the Aries/Rhett team, with Austin playing the role of begrudging mentor – clearly happy to have the assistance of Titus, but still also totally selfish and focused on his own goals. It’s a unique twist on a stable for Austin, who has already been involved in two different Generation Next line-ups and The Resilience in his ROH tenure. As a concept, I like the Phoenix Twins. The identical twin thing is a USP you just can’t replicate, and they seem like decent wrestlers. In elongated jobber matches like this, unfortunately it’s hard to tell too much about their long term viability though.

Chris Hero vs Colt Cabana

These guys are two of the most experienced wrestlers on the independent scene today, and since they both spent intensive time earlier in their careers working out of the Midwest, they’re wrestled each other countless times. They’re both entertaining, both great technicians. This is nothing new for them, but it’s an interesting clash with Colt challenging for the World Title tomorrow night and Hero really on a streak thanks to his ability to knock people out.

Cabana grabs a mic to challenge Hero to prove he can wrestle as good as he knocks people out. Nigel McGuinness appears on commentary and quotes Bruce Forsyth. Only British people will know who I’m talking about with that reference. The majority of the opening minutes are spent with Hero playing the straight guy to Cabana’s endlessly jovial British style. Five minutes in and Colt has largely dominated and made Hero look like a bit of a fool. Chris cuts a frustrated figure…and finally lashes out by absolutely FLOORING Cabana with a rolling elbow as the Chicago native clowns around. To the eyes he goes, pie-facing Cabana out of the ring then buries him under the floor-mats to deliver a running senton. Colt has seen enough, and ditches the wristlocks in favour of elbows and the Flying Asshole for 2. Rolling Elbow swiftly countered to a backslide for 2, only for Hero to pop up and hammer Cabana with a flash kick then a second rope blockbuster. Colt locks in the Billy Goat’s Curse and forces Hero to tap out at 12:03

Rating – ** –
As a match it was perfectly well worked, and I’m sure it went down very well with the live crowd. My problem came from the fact that you knew exactly how this match was going to go before it even started. Goofy Cabana makes Hero look stupid. Hero gets mad and starts throwing elbows. Colt gets serious…enter finish here. I know Colt has a title match tomorrow so needed the win, but I don’t really buy the BGC as an overly credible submission finisher either, so seeing Chris Hero, a potential franchise player that Ring Of Honor never seem to get behind, tapping out to it was a little disappointing too. On the bright side, these guys have worked each other countless times, and the fluidity in everything they did made it a good watch.

Egotistico Fantastico vs Jimmy Jacobs

Another main show debut here. Ego has worked a few pre-shows before but makes it to the main show for the first time. Given that his gimmick is basically an amped up version of El Generico’s, it’s probably not surprising that he’s had to wait until Generico picked up an injury to make the step up. His opportunity comes as he stands opposite Jimmy Jacobs, who comes into this weekend having lost back to back high profile matches in Canada and needs to give his ROH career a boost. He wears an eye patch to sell the Railroad Spike Cobra Stretch from Delirious at the last show.

Fantastico gets stared with a backflip into a dropkick then a rolling Mexican surfboard which draws him some deserved applause. But he then tries an extravagant moonsault to the floor only to be drilled into the apron. Jimmy thrown into the crowd…and Ego grabs his cape before running into a RAIL JUMP PLANCHA! Jacobs opportunistically pounces on Fantastico taking too long celebrating that success and hits the double stomp trampoline. Like a bastard he rips the horn off the front of Ego’s mask and holds it in his teeth as he chokes his de-horned victim. Running second rope rana from Fantastico, followed by what can only be described as a Cop Killa Suplex for 2. Jacobs nails the Senton Bomb to get a nearfall in his favour. He gets the knees up as Ego tries a double jump moonsault and locks in the End Time. Egotistico submits at 08:08

Rating – * –
I wasn’t too impressed with this. The start was pretty decent, but it went downhill fast. Jacobs was working well within himself, whilst most of Ego’s offence was almost brutally contrived. He looks like he’s got some potential but, with El Generico already on the roster, he’s not even remotely necessary. There have to better/more suitable talents than him out there.

Davey Richards vs Tyler Black

Proving Ground 2009 Night 1 rematch here. They main evented that show in Florida and delivered a really exciting and athletic example of what contemporary hard-hitting American junior wrestling is all about. That match alone was enough to want a rematch, but after the MOTYC 45-minute draw between Tyler, his partner Bryan Danielson and the American Wolves, it’s made everyone all the more keen to lock it up again now. Danielson was able to beat Eddie Edwards earlier tonight, can Black emulate that and go 2-0 over Richards in 2009 competition.

Davey isn’t exactly polite about Black as the bell rings, and Tyler reacts by spitting in his face. That’s not very gentlemanly. Bridging kick from Richards makes Black retreat to the corner to think about where he went wrong. Body shots from the Tag Champion…and he shows some familiarity by sitting up to avoid Black’s mid-ring stomp spot. Unfortunately for him Tyler hauls him back down for the stomp anyway. Amongst this Tyler is constantly trying to ground Davey and stay away from the deadly strikes with continual headlocks. He makes the mistake of trying a chop and takes a heel kick to the stomach that crumples him in half. Shane Hagadorn gets involved by throwing Black against the guardrails, before tossing him back the Wolf who start to target the arm. Now with a weakened arm, again Black tries to trade strikes with Richards, only to be blown back into the corner by more hard kicks. Great strategy by Davey as it’s taken that headlock out of the equation and almost FORCED Black to try to trade strikes with him. Richards evades the backflip into a dropkick spot that Black always goes for then comes off the top with a missile dropkick right into the bad shoulder. DIVING HEADBUTT TO THE SHOULDER gets 2. Tyler snaps…BODY SLAM OVER THE ROPES TO THE FLOOR! RUNNING SOMERSAULT PLANCHA NAILED! Back inside he scores with the F-5 then the Black Star Press for 2. Kicks from Richards floor him again though…but then Richards goes to the kick-well once too often and winds up taking the Pele Kick to the face and hitting the deck. Springboard lariat attempt…COUNTERED TO A BRIDGING ARMBAR! ALARM CLOCK! Bridging German suplex gets 2. ROPE RUN GERMAN SUPLEX BLOCKED. PHOENIX SPLASH MISSES! SUPERKICK COMBO BY BLACK! BUCKLE BOMB! SUPERKICK…COUNTERED TO A ROLL-UP WITH THE TIGHTS! Richards steals a cheap one. 15:02 is your time.

Rating – **** –
Lousy finish aside, that was a terrific match. I love that they combined the athletic, junior heavyweight style of the Proving Ground match with way more psychology this time around. Tyler tried to work the mat…so Richards then came up with a plan to mean he couldn’t do that, and as such basically dominated the rest of the match, save for some Tyler offensive splurges. I understand the cheap finish from the point of view that you need to keep your champions strong and between Edwards losing earlier, Black beating Davey clean in Florida and the Wolves only managing a draw against Dragon and Tyler collectively, they needed a win at some point…so I haven’t penalised the rating too much on the back of it. So much better than anything on the Escalation DVD (maybe including Tyler vs Samoa Joe which was a bonus feature…)

Dark City Fight Club vs Kevin Steen/Jay Briscoe

Kory Chavis and Jon Davis were probably the biggest success story to come out of the Proving Ground 2009 weekend. They presented themselves like marauding monsters, and had a come of fun, brawling tag bouts that weekend…then were promptly snapped up for some HDNet taping appearances. This is the first time they’ve made a DVD release since then though. They have an alliance of former Tag Team Champions to test themselves against. Steen and Briscoe have formed a loose partnership based on respect for their past battles, and the fact that they both hate the American Wolves.

Prazak points out that the DCFC are undefeated on HDNet. Davis absorbs some shoulder tackles from Briscoe and absolutely SMOKES him with a shoulder block of his own. Jay has better luck against Rainman, planting a dropkick to his jaw and making the tag to Steen who scores with the somersault leg drop. Davis manages to distract Jay, enabling Chavis to land a swinging front slam. DCFC start to isolate Briscoe and tag in and out quickly to wear him down. ‘Do that man up thing you do’ – Steen to Jay. Davis bear hugs him before powering him into a big spinebuster for 2. At last Briscoe hits the turnbuckle flatliner and gets the hot tag to Mr Wrestling, who flies off the apron with a cannonball senton on Davis. Corner cannonball on Rainman seconds later, into the pumphandle cradlebreaker. Briscoe from the top…Chavis cuts him off. He blocs the Doomsday Device…TOTAL ELIMINATION ON JAY! Steen blind tags and sprints in for a sneaky roll up and defeats Chavis at 09:37

Rating – ** –
I dug the ultra-competitive vibe they were shooting for, and I really like how ROH are making the Fight Club seem like a big deal…but I felt like Chavis and Davis had an off night tonight. They seemed cumbersome and slow in the ring, and where they oozed charisma as vicious killers in Florida, and that HDNet squash I’ve seen…tonight they seemed to lack a little personality. It was a solid match (albeit with a boring finish) but I wanted to like it more than I actually did in the end.

Jerry Lynn vs Roderick Strong – ROH World Title Match

Title matches like this are the exact reason why the #1 Contenders Trophy, Top 5 Rankings, Contenders Circle and the forthcoming Pick 6 system all ended up on the scrap heap for title contention determination. When Roddy can go from aimlessly listing around the roster, not having had any real purpose since his feud with Sweet’n’Sour Inc. ended, and losing to Jay Briscoe at the LAST SHOW, to challenging for World Championship tonight it just shows you how pointless #1 contenders systems are. That said, it’s sure to be a great match since these guys are fine wrestlers, but there’s no sense behind it being for the belt. They haven’t even given Lynn a promo to say something perfunctory like ‘I want to be a fighting champion so I DEMANDED to put the belt on the line’ etc. ROH is better than that…

An evenly split crowd roars both opponents on with duelling chants as they trade some tentative wristlocks. Strong lays in his first chop of the match and Jerry immediately walks to the corner to cool off. Lynn comes back with a nice armdrag that sends Strong all the way to the outside. Satellite headscissors and another armdrag follow soon after, as the champion starts to use his speed and experience to get the advantage over his excitable younger challenger. Roddy returns fire with a back suplex and a chop…and Jerry leaves the ring. That’s how much those two moves hurt the champion. Roderick gives chase and drives Lynn into the apron, succeeding that with the match’s first backbreaker for 2. Hurting now, Jerry makes the rash decision to trade chops with the challenger and loses horribly. He makes the more sensible decision to counter Strong into an inverted DDT, then DROPS HIM ON HIS HEAD out of a Gory Special. Was that intentional? It looked crazy sick. Lynn sent outside again…STRONG MISSES A SHOULDER TACKLE OFF THE GUARDRAILS! He absolutely slams into the guardrails…and f*cking hell is he bleeding. He loses pools of blood terrifyingly quickly. Lynn is an absolute DICK about it and puts him right into his own Stronghold. Wherever Strong stops in the ring for more than a few seconds is absolutely covered in blood. This is Jay Briscoe vs Samoa Joe, At Our Best levels of disturbing now. LYNN WITH A TORNADO DDT ON THE FLOOR! AIR RAID CRASH! Christ, when stealing his finisher didn’t work, Jerry has attacked that head by repeatedly dropping him on it! Roderick hits a desperate superplex, then goes to the STRONGHOLD! Lynn gets to the ropes…so Roderick grounds him again with the urinage backbreaker. Lynn with an OVERHEAD SUPLEX TO THE TURNBUCKLES! He goes for another tornado DDT but has it countered…BACK SUPLEX ON THE APRON BY STRONG! HALF NELSON BACKBREAKER! JERRY KICKS OUT! STRONGHOOOOOOOOOLD! Lynn escapes. DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK…FOR 2! He tries the Half Nelson again, but this time Lynn rolls through for the TKO. CRADLE PILEDRIVER! STRONG KICKS OUT! ANOTHER CRADLE PILEDRIVER! IT’S OVER! Jerry retains at 18:22

Rating – **** –
Up until that cut it was progressing nicely, developing into a solid, if unspectacular World Title match. But Roderick’s accident took this from throwaway main event to an absolute epic spectacle. The second half of this match with Roderick fighting through unbelievable blood loss was gripping and one of my favourite moments in Ring Of Honor thus far in 2009. Anybody that ever says ROH fans don’t care about the wrestlers’ health should watch this match. From the second Roddy was hurt every single person was up on their feet with concern, and when it was apparent he was going to be courageous enough to continue, they blew the roof off the place to cheer him on. And Lynn deserves a ton of credit for going with it. He instantly realised the money in this match was seeing Strong fight as an underdog, so went straight to dickhead mode by stealing his finish and dropping him on his head repeatedly. It wouldn’t have surprised me if having Roderick kick out of the first Cradle Piledriver was his call too. Granted nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, but it’s this kind of spontaneous excitement that has been sorely lacking since Gabe Sapolsky left. My congratulations to both men for turning a frightening and potentially very serious situation into the most exciting thing Dayton has seen since Danielson vs Tyler last January.

The bell has barely rung before fans get to their feet and belt out some ‘Thank You Roderick’ chants. Ring Of Honor fans get a lot of heat sometimes…but the Dayton crowd tonight deserves a ton of praise for the way they handled Roderick’s injury. They showed him genuine concern and respect…

Tape Rating – *** –
The opening match, then the double main event of Richards/Black and the World Title match are enough to scrape this into the ‘recommended’ territory. I don’t want to overly endorse the Strong injury since you never WANT to see a wrestler bleed – particularly to the dangerous extent that Strong did. However, you can’t deny that it turned what would have been a pretty forgettable show into something far more significant. This was easily the bloodiest thing in ROH since Jay Briscoe in the cage, so it’s definitely got some historical value there. The problem was, outside of those three matches, this was pretty sucky. LOTS of jobber matches, and the two matches that actually did feature name talent on both sides of the ring (Colt/Hero and Briscoe/Steen vs DCFC) weren’t that good. As commendably decent as the strong opening contest, competitive Davey/Tyler and bloody title matches were…are they really worth spending anything close to the full price of $20 on? In truth probably not. Since we’re in 2011 and, assuming this hasn’t sold out, you can probably get it in a pretty sweet sale it’s a mild recommendation, based on the main event alone. The midcard is pretty horrible though…so I hope your skip button works. Putting it into perspective, the three good matches alone make it the best Dayton show for over a year.

Top 3 Matches

3) Bryan Danielson vs Eddie Edwards (***)

2) Davey Richards vs Tyler Black (****)

1) Jerry Lynn vs Roderick Strong (****)

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