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021 ROH on HDNET 8/17/2009

ROH on HDNet – Episode 021 – 17th August 2009

We’re now a fifth of the way through Ring Of Honor’s run on HDNet. This marks the momentous episode where they were moved from Saturday night and dropped down on what is traditionally wrestling’s biggest and most infamous night of the week – Mondays. Obviously it’s not starting a new Monday night war – hell, TNA failed with that even with the likes of Hogan, Flair, Foley, Bischoff, Sting, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy and more on board. BUT, they’re being dropped into the hour timeslot BEFORE Raw starts. It’s an ambitious move, looking to capture on the obvious increase in wrestling fans already on their TV for some pro-wrestling…but it’s a move that places them very firmly in the spotlight. Monday Night Raw is a televised institution. If ROH wants to attract even a tiny percentage of the Raw audience that has never been exposed to Ring Of Honor before, they will need to up their game in a major way. The show thus far has been middling. Some watchable episodes, some amazing matches…but in truth the ‘can’t miss’ moments have been few and far between. They’ll need the matches to be top notch if they want to market themselves as a workrate alternative. They’ll need the booking to be snappy, concise and effective if they want to hook the typical sports-entertainment fans and keep them interested. In truth, ROH on HDNet has had 20 episodes to tamper with formats, play around with different ideas and get their house in order. Now it steps into the spotlight, and if wants to make an impact on Monday nights – an evening littered with the corpses of failed shows and promotions past – then it needs to take it from the fives and sixes out of tens they’re doing now and make them eights and nines. Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak are in The Arena to call the action on a major night for the little promotion that started in a Philly Rec Centre…

Eddie Edwards vs Kevin Steen

Kudos to Adam Pearce right off the bat. That crazy brawl that ended last week was a real HDNet highlight. Starting the very next episode with more of the same from the parties involved in that incident is the right call. Eddie and Kevin got involved in Richards vs Generico last week to force a no contest. Now they themselves get a chance to fight in singles action (a rematch from one of the early episodes of the TV show I believe), but with the added twist of having Davey and Generico banned from ringside.

Steen charges to the ring and lays waste to Edwards in the early going, until Eddie goes to his eyes to halt his momentum. Package Piledriver blocked and Edwards turns it into a fierce kick to the chest. Steen thinks about a dive to the floor but is distracted by Shane Hagadorn who is not banned from ringside so it seems. The distraction allows Eddie to deliver a knee to he back that fells Mr Wrestling once again. He kicks his head against the guardrail to really rattle his skull and leave Steen at risk of a count-out. Steen appears to be out on his feet, swinging wild punches, not getting close and allowing Edwards to pick his shots and really put a beating on the former Tag Champion. Steen counters the Backpack Stunner with a blockbuster, then charges into a cannonball senton double take. But he’s so groggy that it takes him an eternity to climb the ropes for the Steen-ton and this time does get caught in the Backpack Stunner for 2. He’s still smart enough to block the Achilles Tendon Lock though, and smartly turns it into the Sharpshooter for a short while. FLYING CODEBREAKER then a knee smash from Eddie gets 2. Steen drops him on his neck with the pumphandle cradlebreaker for his own nearfall. Hagadorn throws a chair in the ring, but it works against him as he distracts the ref and inadvertently allows Kevin to waffle Edwards with it. STEEN-TON BOMB! Steen wins at 10:16

Rating – *** – Hot opening match, with both men welcoming any newcomers to ROH with an intense and physical encounter. I said last week that ROH needed to get better at making every one of it’s HDNet matches MEAN something. This wasn’t a long match, but it felt special. It felt like something a new fan to the product, a fan screaming out for more realistic, violent pro-wrestling after watching the watered down, entertainment stuff would want to see more of.

They re-run the Tyler and Nigel promos we saw last week ahead of the main event where they meet. The Young Bucks get a brief hype video too

Kyle Durden interviews the Dark City Fight Club. Jon Davis has a serious wrist injury and isn’t cleared to wrestle, but that doesn’t matter since he and Kory Chavis are here to fight, not wrestle…

Up In Smoke vs Sal Rinauro/Tony Kozina

Rinauro has been booked for most of the HDNet tapings since he can be pretty entertaining whilst getting beat. Kozina is an old hand, and the guy responsible for training Davey Richards. He’s made a couple of appearances, but never amounted to anything. Again, like Sal, he’s been in the game long enough to know how to make an opponent look good

Up In Smoke’s music sounds like the theme song to a Saturday morning kids TV show. I love how Prazak never mentions that Rinauro is a former ROH Tag Champion, even when putting over how hot the tag division is. He accidentally smacks his own partner before getting taken down by Cheech. Some fast paced, almost Dragon Gate style double teaming from UIS put him down for a nearfall. Kozina falls over he ropes trying to get a tag…that’s pretty weird. He then gets knocked off the apron again as Rinauro whips Cheech straight into him as he stands on the apron. 619/dropkick combo nailed…but the ring is invaded by the Dark City Fight Club who lay waste to all in their path. No contest at 02:37

Rating – * – Even though this was a short little match with no finish, I quite liked it. Kozina and Rinauro made me laugh as goofball screw-ups, whilst Cheech and Cloudy showed amazing fluidity and precision in their double teaming. I swear, if you had told 2002 me that nine years down the line I’d be writing about members of Special K hitting precision double team moves against a team of jobber goons I’d have laughed in your face…but there you go.

Tony Kozina tries to make friends with DCFC and gets his porpoise slapped with the Dark City Street Cutter.

Kyle Durden welcomes Sonjay Dutt to his hole of doom. It’s Dutt’s HDNet debut, and he promises he’s reinvented himself for his return to television.

Sami Callihan vs Necro Butcher

Will serial HDNet jobber Sami Callihan be able to score the kind of shock upset that could secure him a permanent spot in Ring Of Honor – by defeating the intimidating Necro Butcher?

Sami wisely jumps Necro as he enters the ring. Butcher is sporting a taped ankle thanks to the damage inflicted by Jimmy Rave and the Heel Hook. As an aside, Callihan has gotten himself in amazing physical shape…not that it helps him as Necro drags him around ringside beating the hell out of him. Chair Slam nailed on the exposed concrete floor…and Prazak rightly questions why that wasn’t a DQ. Finally Sami stomps on the bad foot, dropping Butcher to a knee where he can deliver a sliding clothesline for 2. Such is the damage he’s inflicted that Necro can barely walk…although he doesn’t need to walk to floor Callihan with a single punch. Tiger Driver wins it at 04:42

Rating – * – Ugly, sloppy and too long. I’ve awarded a star because the basic story they were telling was a good one…but I just never got into this. Necro has been really tough to watch all year, whilst Callihan works hard but still seems a little too erratic and one dimensional as a worker to justify a full time spot. The best thing about this was how it put over Jimmy Rave’s Heel Hook.

Colt Cabana, Brent Albright and Grizzly Redwood come out to join Necro in the ring. He wants to recruit Necro to his team for a 4vs4 elimination match against The Embassy. Didn’t this already happen at Death Before Dishonor? Necro proves he’s tough enough to be on their team by staple gunning Sami.

Austin Aries admonishes Kyle Durden once again for talking about wrestlers who aren’t him. A-Double continues to excel in the role of ROH’s franchise player right now. The problem he has is that he’s getting so entertaining with this gimmick that he may inadvertently turn himself face…

Next week’s episode will feature an Episode 007 rematch with Austin Aries in non-title action against former partner Roderick Strong. Jerry Lynn will also be on the show to discuss his future…

Nigel McGuinness vs Tyler Black

I believe this is Nigel’s first match on HDNet since the initial set of tapings. He’s been making his presence felt on the show for weeks though, causing trouble and ‘stirring the pot’ in the World Title picture. Two weeks ago he told Tyler Black straight up that he thinks he doesn’t have what it takes to deliver in the big match – words that distracted Black for long enough to allow ROH Champion Austin Aries to level him with the title belt. If Tyler, having beaten American Dragon, now wants to go and prove himself a top contender to A-Double, he’ll need to be able to beat the former World Champ here.

Interesting start from Nigel, totally changing his game and trying to throw kicks in Black’s direction for the first minute. Nothing doing there, so he goes back to old faithful and starts to work Tyler’s arm. It seems like his words have had a clear effect on Black, who struggles to gain a foothold in the match. Even when he manages to drive McGuinness to the outside, the former World Champion walks away to stop him being able to score with a trademark running dive. Black changes his own game now, opting to ground Nigel and start working body parts – first stretching the arm then picking apart the leg moments later. Hammerlock DDT out of nowhere by Nigel to put a stop to that and allow him to start working Tyler’s arm once again. That Arm Submission makes a rare appearance on television! Bridging chickenwing next, Black now being physically and mentally beaten down. Tower Of London blocked though. Black dropkicks his way free to score with a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA OVER THE ROPES! GUARDRAIL MOONSAULT SCORES TOO! Springboard Lariat (with arm selling) gets 2, but Nigel wisely small packages out of a God’s Last Gift attempt. Tower Of London COUNTERED to Peroxism. But, having hit in the outside, Black misses a Lionsault inside the ring and nearly gets trapped in the London Dungeon as a result. Super McLariat misses…as does Black’s springboard variant. Jawbreaker Lariat countered…Buckle Bomb countered…LONDON DUNGEON! Black fights it. Tower Of London nailed, but such is the state of his fatigue that McGuinness doesn’t manage a cover. Jawbreaker Lariat COUNTERED TO GOD’S LAST GIFT! Black wins at 16:48

Rating – **** – This was probably ***1/2 rather than 4*, but I’m feeling the need to be positive. It was better than the Full Circle encounter on the first show of ’09, and for free TV, this was really high quality stuff. I enjoyed the story telling aspect, with Nigel’s mind games and arm work basically killing Tyler’s usual game plan of high octane offensive moves. Black was only on offence for very brief periods of the match, but in the end he got to show his resilience, staying power and ability to deliver in a big match by taking some of Nigel’s best work, evading his trademark finisher and delivering his own knock out punch to snatch a win. Negatives would be that this was worked at a very slow pace – with McGuinness noticeably feeling his way back into things after his long injury absence, and looking totally gassed down the stretch. I’m not sure this was the right call for the first Monday night main event either. I loved the match, but then, I’m an ROH fan and I like this style of wrestling. I don’t feel this sort of thing will hook in casual Raw viewers flicking through the channels as they wait for Vince’s flagship show to start. When the Respect Is Earned debut ppv aired in 2007, the main event was an absolute stormer featuring Nigel, Bryan Danielson, KENTA and Takeshi Morishima. I had it down as an MOTYC and one of my favourite matches anywhere in that year. But, the majority of people watching that ppv came away talking about one match – the Briscoes defending the Tag straps against Claudio Castagnoli and Matt Sydal in a balls to the wall spotfest. I just think something more exciting (the Briscoes, Young Bucks, KENTA and more were all booked for these tapings) would have allowed ROH to penetrate that casual fan market with greater effectiveness.

Tape Rating – *** – The middle portion of this match was a little sketchy, but a great main event, solid opener, and an entertaining promo from the World Champion sandwiched in between make this a mild success. It was certainly a step up in quality from the past couple of weeks. Was this enough to bring the casual WWE audience back for more? I guess viewing figures will tell that next week. For existing ROH fans this would have been a fun watch. I’ve not seen much talk about the Black/Nigel match, which is a shame because I quite liked it as a total change of pace from other matches they’ve had against each other. Well worth a look on whatever Best Of HDNet volume it appears on.

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