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007 ROH on HDNET 5/2/2009

ROH on HDNet – Episode 007 – 2nd May 2009

This episode of ROH on HDNet marks the first from the second set of TV tapings. Late February already feels like a long time ago and a lot has changed since then. Hopefully ROH and HDNet learned the sometimes harsh lessons that shooting those first six weeks of TV taught them and will start stepping things up as we move into Episodes 7-12. Certainly the talent roster for taping 2 was much improved with Davey Richards, Roderick Strong and El Generico returning, along with some major additional talent like KENTA and Ric Flair. Indeed, the Nature Boy is scheduled to be on the show tonight which is a massive coup for Ring Of Honor and will surely rope in some new fans for first time viewing. Our scheduled main event tonight is Austin Aries taking on Roderick Strong. As ever, we’re in The Arena (Flair in the ECW Arena…awesome) in Philadelpha, PA. Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak are in the studio getting the porpoises ready for another slapping

HUGE start to the show as we go straight to The Arena where Bobby Cruise brings out ‘ROH Ambassador’ Ric Flair. Being able to use his recognised entrance music is a huge plus too. He says he didn’t think twice before coming to ROH (more than likely because they were paying him silly money to turn up, but still, it’s a nice sentiment). He seems pretty sincere in his endorsement of the work ethic of the guys on the ROH roster, then brings out his ‘friend’, ROH Champion Jerry Lynn. The champ attributes his ‘honour’ to working Flair in 1995 days after Ric was in a car wreck. Their love in is interrupted by A-Double. He says he’s coming for the World Title and is going to prove his credentials by winning the main event tonight. Flair likes his attitude and say he’ll watch the main event to see if Aries can back up his big words.

This wasn’t rocket science and Flair didn’t contribute all that much, but it was a big start to the show and the first time ROH has really tried a major in-ring promo segment. They’ve become a staple of weekly television among the major promotions for a long time now so it’s something Ring Of Honor will have to start utilising on occasions. Aries had star written all over him here…

Chris Hero vs Kenny Omega

This is a strong match to get us underway with. Hero hasn’t got a great win/loss record thus far on HDNet so will be looking to rectify that against Omega, who won himself a lot of fans and put in a great showing but would ultimately lose his high profile HDNet debut against Austin Aries.

No handshake from Hero. He starts the match by trying to control the feisty and unpredictable nature of his opponent by keeping him on the mat. He pops up and moves very quickly into an armdrag. Hero leaves the ring but Omega is on him in seconds with a RUNNING SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Frog crossbody into La Magistral gets 2. But he tries one fast-paced sequence too many, and back flips into nothing, allowing Hero to grab his impressive hair and drive him to the canvas. Kenny is tossed to the floor, into the path of a BASEBALL SLIDE FLASH KICK from Hero. Elbows from Hero, interrupted by the Stop Sign Enzi and a dragon suplex. Electric Chair Suplex blocked though, and Sara Del Rey hops up onto the apron to distract Kenny. Unbeknownst to Omega and the referee, on the other side Hagadorn is passing Hero the Loaded Elbow pad. EMERALD ELBOW! Omega is toast at 04:46

Rating – *** – Hot little opening bout. Omega’s goofiness contrasted nicely with the uber-intense approach Hero has these days. I particularly loved the irony of Kenny getting caught out going for a needless backflip, remembering the 2007 version of Chris Hero who loved to back flip and cartwheel and posture.

ROH appear to have added more random junk to Kyle Durden’s backstage lair. Apparently the set, already furnished with some rusty chain link fence and randomly discarded ‘ROH’ signs, was badly in need of big ugly hunks of scaffold strewn about the place too. Durden’s tie is terrifying too. I like the sentiment in Strong’s promo, pointing out their history, wanting Austin’s respect etc. The execution is pretty mediocre though.

Brodie Lee vs Necro Butcher

I’m not sure I like how much Necro talks on HDNet. Personally I think he loses a little of his mystique when you realise he’s quite articulate and composed, far from the crazy wild man he’s supposed to be in the ring. Anyway, he and Brodie both promise this is going to be a fight and they’re not planning on using ANY wrestling holds. Butcher points out that Brodie cost him the World Title in Canada, and also attacked him 2 weeks ago on HDNet during Necro’s match with Jimmy Jacobs. They finally settle their score in one final battle tonight.

Case in point, Necro storms to the ring and starts battering himself in the head with a chair as Prazak declares that he’s ‘out of his mind’…when the promo we saw earlier showed that he very clearly is IN his mind and a perfectly composed, rational individual. Hog says that if he needed some help slapping porpoises, he’d want Necro…ok he didn’t actually say that. Butcher cannonballs off the apron then flings Lee into the ringpost with a chair around his head before the match has even started. Jimmy Jacobs manages to distract Necro for long enough for Brodie to hit a big slam on the entrance ramp. The match starts officially with Jacobs landing another cheap shot behind the ref’s back. The crowd sound and picture is absolutely miles out of sync by the way. I assume it’s just a production problem as the commentary seems to be following the picture rather than the sounds. As such, you hear Necro use another Jimmy Jacobs intervention to sneakily pin Brodie for 3 well before you actually see it. Butcher picks up the win in 02:00 of actual match time

Rating – * –
Another in the increasingly growing back catalogue of totally ‘eh’ Necro vs Brodie matches. These two just have zero chemistry in the ring together it seems. This had an awful lot of wrestling moves for two guys who promised to do nothing but punch the living daylights out of each other too. Lee really has flopped in this run with ROH…

SIDENOTE – That production issue with the sound and picture being out of sync was absolutely criminal by the way. This isn’t live, it’s a pre-taped product. There’s no excuse for making errors like that which make your promotion look bad. Particularly on a night where you could expect more viewers to be watching thanks to having Flair on the show

BUZZ WORDS – Didn’t they air this promo with Erick Stevens a few weeks ago? He’s in action next.

COMMERCIALS – The latest batch of live concerts on HDNet look absolutely atrocious. ‘Vegas Confessions’ also looks like delightfully repugnant programming. It’s probably a lot more fun than ‘Dion Live’ though…

Erick Stevens vs Sal Rinauro

Nice to see Sal getting booked for a spot on HDNet. Unfortunately the fact that he doesn’t get any kind of entrance indicates he’s not going to be featured too prominently. He’s a season hand though so I’m quite sure he’ll make Stevens look good.

Sal’s tights are pretty heinous. Stevens almost German suplexes him out of them in the first 20 seconds. Choo Choo Avalanche into a big running lariat comes next. Doctor Bomb nailed, and Hog is abusing aquatic wildlife again at 00:43.

Rating – * –
Emphatic victory which made Erick look good. This was the approach to booking Stevens that Gabe took when he first brought him onto the regular ROH roster. It was actually very effective until he started wrestling longer matches and fell flat on his face. He is much better now than he was then though, so maybe it’ll work this time around on HDNet. You have to feel bad for Sal though. The guy has been around for years, is a former ROH Tag Champion, and just contributed as much to Ring Of Honor on television as Orange Cassidy. He deserves better

Set against a highlight video of their tremendous match on episode 6, Prazak and Hogewood make the announcement that a Danielson vs Tyler rematch has been signed for next week – and it’s to determine a top contender to the ROH World Title. Apparently Nigel McGuinness will be on next week too.

Austin Aries vs Roderick Strong

These two last met in singles competition at Steel City Clash when Aries downed Strong, but their history stretches back far further than that. Both started in 2000, both debuted in ROH at Do Or Die 2, they were part of the legendary Generation Next faction together. They played a key part in elevating the ROH Tag Titles to the prestigious status they are now with their amazing run with those belts in 2006. But their partnership ended when Roddy turned on Aries to form the No Remorse Corps. Oddly, the boot now seems to be on the other foot with Strong now craving the respect of his former friend, since A-Double’s change in attitude now means he respects and cares for very little other than himself. He made it clear earlier tonight he wants to restake his claim to be at the very top of the mountain in ROH, and is looking to re-capture the World Title he last held over four years ago. With Ric Flair watching, he’ll need to prove he can be ‘the man’ and overcome his former partner once again this evening. It’s Strong’s debut match on HDNet so a big moment for him.

The opening portion of the match is hugely cagey, probably due to the familiarity between the two men. Austin leg drops Strong’s arm, and delivers a couple of armdrags. Grounded headscissors from Strong, and unbelievably, despite having seen it a thousand times, he STILL falls victim to the escape dropkick. Aries dives to the outside as Strong looks to land a chop, immediately making him look way smarter than Roddy. He runs around the ring celebrating the smartness, eventually running into a big tackle off the apron. But even on the floor and whilst being driven back-first to the railing, Aries continues to evade the chop. DOUBLE AXEHANDLE TO THE FLOOR and a running knee to the side of the head put A-Double in charge. Power Drive Elbow nailed as the former World Champion continues to dominate. But at last Strong does manage to land some big chops, sold EXPERTLY by Aries who takes some flying back bumps to put over their impact. Strong hits a back suplex backbreaker for a nearfall but is dumped to the floor and HAMMERED with the Heat Seeking Missile. Urinage Backbreaker (‘bodybreaker’ – Hog) gets another 2 for Roderick. Sick Kick is ducked, straight into knee strikes then the Last Chancery. Impact Explosio Dropkick COUNTERED TO THE DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK! STRONGHOLD! Aries fights it and manages to get Roderick hung in the ropes to deliver a big dropkick. Brainbuster attempted, but it’s turned BACK to the Stronghold and drives an increasingly desperate A-Starr to the ropes again. Gibson Driver countered with a rana. He tries to put the Stronghold on Roderick but doesn’t get it locked in. KICK OF DEATH instead. INTO THE BRAINBUSTER! Aries picks up a big win at 15:13

Rating – *** –
Much more physically intense and competitive than their recent match in Pittsburgh. Here they didn’t stray too far from their regular movesets but they pulled off everything with a great deal of conviction and largely carried themselves as main event level players. I’d criticise this for making Roderick look like a bit of a chump whilst Aries got to look like a superstar…but since he looks like he’s now being primed for a main event run given his interactions with Flair and Lynn earlier in the evening, it probably makes sense to make A-Double look good. I thought the last few minutes of finisher trading oozed quality and certainly kept everyone entertained. They have better matches in them and may well get to showcase that somewhere down the line. But as this was here to make Aries look good – mission accomplished.

NEXT WEEK – Danielson vs Black rematch for the World Title contendership slot. They even get promo spots to hype it

Tape Rating – ** – Although it didn’t have a slam dunk main event like last week, in many ways this was the slickest episode of ROH on HDNet so far. Having spent six weeks tinkering with formats, introducing the talent and basically playing it safe, it felt like tonight they began doing things properly. We opened with a big in-ring segment featuring Ric Flair, but also bringing out new World Champion Jerry Lynn and proposed new pretender to his throne in Austin Aries. BANG, just like that we start by getting a clear, defined World Title picture for the first time. Necro and Brodie’s match referenced brawls they’ve had all over the country, meaning we’re attempting to make the house show DVD’s a little more relevant to the HDNet product. And the whole show was supplemented with lots of ‘previously on HDNet’ and ‘next week on HDNet’ video packages. It’s little touches like that which makes storylines start to fit together and really bolsters the week to week continuity of the product. Hopefully they continue in this direction which means each week doesn’t feel like a totally random assortment of jobber matches then a big main event (since on the whole, the main events haven’t actually been good enough to justify working it like that). Here we saw ROH giving us a reason to care about what happened last week, a reason to invest in what we’re watching now, and a reason to comeback next week to watch again. THAT is the format they need to be nailing every week. Thumbs sort of in the middle for the match content (although Hero/Omega and Aries/Strong were commendable free TV bouts), thumbs way up for the minor formulaic tweaks that made this show feel more focused.

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