ROH 234 – Death Before Dishonor 7: Night 1 – 24th July 2009
Here’s the skinny on why this is a pretty major weekend for Ring Of Honor. For one thing, it’s the seventh annual Death Before Dishonor. For the third time in ROH history, DBD is split into an entire weekend of festivities, with two absolutely stacked line-ups. The headlines are ROH World Champion Austin Aries making his second defence of the title, Lance Storm returning to settle his differences with the remnants of Sweet’n’Sour Inc, the Briscoes competing as a tag team for the first time since the end of 2008, Ric Flair making his final Ring Of Honor appearance, whilst another all-time great, Bret Hart comes in to make his first. Tonight it’s Aries defending the belt in a Four Corner Match, Storm teaming with Kevin Steen to face Chris Hero and Davey Richards, the Briscoes against the Super Smash Bros. and The Embassy in a colossal Survivor Series-style elimination bout. It’s also the last weekend of externally produced ROH DVDs. After these shows Ring Of Honor moved their DVD production in-house, so enjoy Lenny Leonard in ROH for one last time folks. He’s joined, as ever, by Dave Prazak. DBD7 is a two-night stand in Toronto, ONT.
ROH VIDEO WIRE – In short, it’s not on here. Maybe Sal Hamoui’s company found out they were getting canned before prepping the Video Wire footage for the DVD and decided not to bother.
Sonjay Dutt vs El Generico
Good choice to open the show in that it should be an exciting and athletic bout, and it’s one that features a recognisable name with TNA-exposure against one of Canada’s favourite ROH stars in the Generic Luchador.
Dutt breaks out the Jeff Jarrett strut, and Generico tries to emulate it and comes off more like Forrest Gump. Two minutes in and we’re still not wrestling, instead the wrestlers lead the crowd in duelling ‘OLE’ vs ‘SONJAY’ chants. They spend the next two minutes working some basics, which are apparently enough to rip Generico’s tights. Armdrags traded at a frantic pace, with El Generico actively using armdrags to counter Dutt’s attempts at illicit closed fist strikes. Déjà vu headscissors from Sonjay gets him a 2 after a period of offence from his opponent. Finger to the eyes keeps Generico at bay, so the luchador lures him in and baits him over the top rope. RUNNING SOMERSAULT PLANCHA NAILED! Superb camera work there – making it seem like Generico was flying into your living room. Yakuza Kick blocked and Sonjay hits a gorgeous tornado DDT, into a Red Star Press for 2. Lionsault misses…MICHINOKU DRIVER! This time it’s Sonjay just managing to kick out. He escapes the Yakuza again, delivering a SLINGSHOT SOMERSAULT RANA FOR 2! RKO blocked by Generico, so it’s a STANDING SHIRANUI INSTEAD! Less than a minute left in the time limit now. YAKUZA KICK NAILED! BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAH…blocked! Dutt holds on meaning we have ourselves a 15:00 minute draw. Dutt refuses any additional time and leaves…
Rating – *** – Hot opening to the show. They started pretty slowly but were really tearing the house down by the end. Sonjay, in particular, was on tonight and did some really impressive things. Not a fan of the finish though. The draw was fine, but Dutt randomly turning on the fans was totally needless.
Super Smash Bros. vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
This one is a hugely anticipated match. Since Mark finally admitted defeat and decided to take some time off after his back catalogue of injuries started to grow at an alarming rate, we’ve not seen him in action since Final Battle 2008 weekend (although the Briscoes have already competed on a recent TV taping). He’s seconded his brother at prior HDNet tapings, but other than that we’ve not seen or heard an awful lot from him as he’s quietly rehabbed. Now reunited, the Briscoe brothers will look to get some wins under their belts and some momentum on their side as they look to get in the queue for a shot at the American Wolves.
Dos wins Rock Paper Scissors and gets to start with Jay, doing well to hold his own against a fired up Briscoe brother. Tag to Mark for the first time, and it has to be said, he looks in great shape. He has an intriguing size vs speed battle with Player Uno, finally getting muscled into the SSB corner and double teamed. Jay saves by cheap shotting Dos, before the Briscoes join forces for the double football tackle. Jay hits a sliding kick on Uno for 2. Leonard take some verbal pot shots at Mike Hogewood as Mark lands a slingshot double stomp and comes up checking his recuperated knee for any signs of damage. Uno recruits the referee for some assistance and drops Mark into an Ace Crusher for 2. Jay helps his brother with a big spinebuster on Dos before Mark drops him with a back suplex and gathers himself by working a grounded headscissors. Finally Dos MATRIXES under strike attempts from the Briscoes into a DOUBLE PELE KICK! Hot tag to Uno who runs through Mark on the outside with a tope suicida. Jay helps his brother again, this time by flatlining Uno into the turnbuckles for 2. Second rope Ace Crusher from Mark to Uno (noticeably NOT the springboard version). Player Dos saves Uno from the Spike Doomsday Device…SPINEBUSTER/LUNGBLOWER COMBO GETS 2! Jay clobbers Dos with a mid-air clothesline. DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Briscoes win at 12:37
Rating – ** -This could have done with being a little shorter. The people wanted to see Jay and Mark unload some sweet double teams and make short work of the Smash Bros. (which surprised me considering Uno and Dos are Canadian talents), so when this started going longer and longer the volume really started to fall away. I love the way they’ve amended Mark’s offence to sell his knee injury though. It makes for an interesting in-ring story and has to be good for his long term health, so everybody wins. And in my opinion the regular ‘Road Warriors’-style Doomsday Device was always better than the Briscoes’ springboard variant anyways.
Frankie The Mobster vs D-Lo Brown
Somebody needs to tell Frankie that no mobster in his right mind would wear leather pants with white tassels. Other than that, his jacked up Tyson Tomko look is pretty intimidating. Certainly D-Lo won’t have the massive size advantage he enjoys over much of the ROH roster.
Frankie tries to win a popularity contest with Brown, and fails since D-Lo is now randomly working babyface again. Machine Gun chops in the corner from D-Lo, then a frightening violent slap to the face which drops the Mobster down to his knees. Frankie manages to throw him into the ringpost though then starts choking him against the ropes as a smattering of ‘Boring’ chants break out. Mafia Kick floors D-Lo again, before he starts working a rear chinlock, the staple of the jacked up muscle head who can’t wrestle and doesn’t have too much left to offer. Brown breaks free and hits the Shining Wizard to leave both men down. Sky High wins it for D-Lo at 06:19
Rating – * – Thankfully this was short, and it was alright when D-Lo was on top. However, when Frankie was on offence he looked badly out of his depth, and doesn’t look to have much to offer ROH. His last appearance was cut from the Double Feature 2 DVD and chucked out for free on the internet – to be frank, this one could have done with being cut too. It’s starting to irritate me that the way D-Lo is booked changes from night to night too. Is he heel, is he face? I’m already dubious about why D-Lo is even in ROH…why is Pearce making it even harder for me to emotionally invest in his matches?
D-Lo gets on the stick and sucks up to the Toronto crowd some more.
The Embassy vs Colt Cabana/Brent Albright/Necro Butcher/Grizzly Redwood
This is a Survivor Series-style elimination match, with all the enemies of The Embassy coming together to oppose their mutual foes. Cabana and Albright have formed an Embassy-fighting, comedy double act on recent episodes of HDNet, so that relationship continues here, whilst Necro and Grizzly have bonded over a mutual love of beards, a shared appreciation of wrestling barefoot (Ernie Osiris stole Redwood’s shoes) and a desire to beat up Prince Nana’s charges. Tonight The Embassy is represented by Jimmy Rave, paid associates Claudio Castagnoli and Joey Ryan, along with the returning Bison Smith, who’s not been in ROH action for several months (since his initial run and mini-feud with Danielson completely tanked). I’m looking forward to this.
Ryan and Albright start with some basics pitting Brent’s power against Joey’s sleaziness. Tag to Rave, and he’s not any keener than Joey to hook up with an opponent. Necro tags to get a piece of Jimmy, only for the Crown Jewel to immediately tag Bison in. Grizzly wants Bison! Necro amusingly declines the option of a tag to Redwood. Bison drags Necro to his corner and manhandles him with ease, giving The Embassy the first significant advantage. SATELLITE HEADSCISSORS ON CLAUDIO! Even for the token ‘look at Necro wrestle’ spots he does in every match, that was pretty cool. Cabana Europeans the snot out of Rave, before Grizzly finally gets his chance to shine. AXEHANDLE FLOORS BISON! He had the benefit of surprise the first time, but when he tries to chop Smith down again he gets PRESS SLAMMED TO THE FLOOR…ON HIS FACE! The rest of The Embassy form a barrier as Smith throws Redwood into the guardrails, busting him wide open. Steel chair to the bloody face as the referee struggles to separate the other six men. TOTAL MURDERISING NECK DROP BOMB TO THE SECOND TURNBUCKLE! Bison is actually killing Grizzly! Redwood courageously lands an enzi kick, only to get to his corner and discover all his partners have been dragged off the apron. BISON-TENNIAL! Grizz is eliminated at 13:07, but Colt takes advantage of Smith’s excessive celebrations to roll him up and eliminate him at 13:26! Cabana then absolutely destroys Rave with a wild dropkick through the ropes, allowing Albright and Claudio to lock up for the first time. TOPE SUICIDA BY ALBRIGHT!
With everyone on the floor, Butcher thinks about a dive, only to be whacked by Jimmy Rave, brandishing a steel chair. NO SOLD! STEEL CHAIR PUNCH FLOORS RAVE! Hit with such force that Jimmy is a bloody mess himself now, and in a clever twist of fate, it’s now Rave spilling blood all over the canvas whilst the babyface team gleefully cut him off from his partners. But he grabs the tights and eliminates Necro out of nowhere at 17:14, leaving Brent and Colt at a 3-2 disadvantage. Unimpressed, Necro grabs Rave and drags him off into the crowd, meaning he is counted out at 18:37. ROPE RUN BICYCLE KICK by Castagnoli sends Albright all the way to the floor where Ryan is waiting to land some cheap shots at 20 minutes. The paid off members of The Embassy work Albright over for the next few minutes, and even when he does make the tag, the referee misses it whilst preoccupied with keeping Joey out of the ring. Finally Brent lands a superplex on Double C and gets the hot tag to Cabana. Flying Asshole knocks Ryan off the apron, but he returns before he manages to hit the Colt 45 on Castagnoli. CROWBAR ON CLAUDIO! He’s got lots of experience with that hold though, and he makes the ropes quickly. He recovers to hit the springboard European uppercut for 2. HALF NELSON SUPLEX! Albright eliminates Claudio at 28:56, but turns into a Joey Ryan superkick and is eliminated himself at 29:04. Final 2 are Joey and Colt. Colt 45 blocked again, as is the Flying Asshole, and Nana starts using his African head-dress to trip Cabana. FOREIGN OBJECT TO THE FACE! Ryan pins Colt to win at 30:23
Rating – **** – Great to see this being given some time. It really allowed everyone to tell a story and contribute something significant to the match. Bison was superb as a marauding bully, whilst Grizz bled like a pig. Cabana brought the comedy, Ryan brought the sleazy goodness and we got some serious storyline progression in the Albright/Claudio and Necro/Rave feuds too. I don’t think the finish was particularly imaginative (I’d rather it was clean) and the pace definitely slowed once it became a 2 vs 2 standard tag affair, but I like Joey Ryan so it’s good to see him get the rub. Aside from that, I tip my hat to Adam Pearce for this one because the booking was spot on.
Back from intermission in a major way – with the ROH debut of Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart. Remember this was ahead of his high profile WWE return so to the Canadian fans, it’s even more special. Seriously, the place goes absolutely mental. Perhaps a sign of his moral character, Bret seems far less comfortable being paid to come out and get paid to do nothing other than be hero-worshipped, unlike Flair. He keeps it short and sweet. Unlike with Flair (who was just a touch before my time), I grew up watching Bret, so seeing him in ROH is a legitimately incredible moment. How good would an at his peak Hart vs Bryan Danielson match be?? He tries to shake as many hands as possible on his way out too…
Kenny King vs Kenny Omega
These guys have a bit of an issue going on in Philadelphia at the HDNet shows and have had some good matches there, but their history goes back to last year when King walked out on his team with Omega to cement his alliance with Rhett Titus. Now King faces Omega in his home country with lots of pride on the line in what promises to be an exciting bout.
King jumps Omega during his pose-tastic entrance and gives him some physical treatment for the first minute. Rana then a spinning heel kick from Omega brings him back into things, but Rhett Titus and Kenny King scatter before he can hit a dive to the floor. He BACK DROPS King at Rhettski instead, before delivering a wild dropkick through the ropes which drives King into the guardrails. Titus gets his own back by distracting Omega, allowing King to score with the rope hurdle guillotine. He knees Omega’s head against the railing a couple of times, clearly looking to be more aggressive after his two recent HDNet defeats to his opponent. Stop Sign Enzi ducked…but Omega ducks the Capoeira Kick in return and scores with his Leapfrog Bulldog for 2. Thumb to the eyes kills his momentum though, and King capitalises to nail a spinebuster. He works a chinlock, narrating the match and telling fans that he’s being ‘smart’ by keeping Omega off his feet. SUPLEX DDT from nowhere by Omega leaves both men flat out and needing time to recover. Frog Crossbody nailed, and followed by a northern lights suplex for another 2 on King. Once again Titus tries to interfere on his partners behalf, and he buys King enough time to deliver a MID-AIR corkscrew enzi, then the Shotgun Knees for 2. STOP SIGN ENZI SCORES! As does a dragon suplex….Hadouken is blocked by Titus though. King lands on his feet as Omega goes for the Electric Chair Suplex and hits the Capo Kick. Swinging front slam, with assists from Rhett and the ropes still isn’t enough to defeat Omega though. REVERSE RANA! King is out on his feet. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADOUKEN! Omega wins at 11:39
Rating – *** – I think having less time to play with on HDNet made them work with more purpose and precision for the Philadelphia match, but this one had a lot more subtlety and story-telling. King went out with far more aggression, looking to avenge his HDNet defeats…and seemed to have a counter for all of Omega’s usual moves. In the end Omega managed to score the victory by busting out he Hadouken strike for the first time in ROH. I really can’t comment on which is better. Their HDNet singles match was more exciting, but this had more depth. Whichever gets your juices flowing…
Kenny Omega grabs a microphone and takes a little dig at Adam Pearce for not getting more promo time in ROH. He uses what little mic time he has now to announce his World Title aspirations.
Chris Hero/Davey Richards vs Lance Storm/Kevin Steen
It was something like two years ago on ppv when Sweet’n’Sour Inc. assaulted Lance Storm on ppv. Well the veteran Canadian technician didn’t forget that, and with ROH now firmly established in it’s Canadian markets, he’s been in training to get revenge on Chris Hero ever since. Death Before Dishonor 7 weekend witnesses Storm return to ROH and make a couple of rare in-ring appearances. Here he teams with Kevin Steen, who has his own issues with Davey Richards, whilst tomorrow night he gets his hands on That Young Knockout Kid in a singles match.
Davey slapping some dude’s drink out of his hand as he stomps around the ring is just awesome. Lance is competing in a singlet tonight, nearly trips over the entrance ramp on his way out and finds the lights so bright that he winces constantly – basically looking far more like a lost nerd than one of the finest technical wrestlers of the modern era. Hero and Steen start, with Mr Wrestling showing surprising mat prowess to hang with Hero. Prazak points out the amazing shape Chris has gotten himself into and he’s absolutely right – he looks WWE ready now. Storm wants in with him, but Hero dives to his corner and tags in Richards. AWESOME chaining exchange between Richards and Storm, drawing huge ‘you still got it’ chants for the Canadian. Lance busts out some amazing stuff, and even manages to absorb a Davey Richards kick before pelting him out of the ring with a dropkick. SOMERSAULT SENTON by Steen takes out both opponents on the floor leaving the hometown babyface team well and truly on top. Richards tries more kicks, but finds his boot caught and gets dragged over into a dragon screw. CHEAP SHOT ELBOW SMASH by Hero is what it finally takes to put Storm down for the first time. Wisely Hero tags the temperamental Davey out and tries to ground Lance with a chinlock – probably having witnessed Kenny King do it so successfully to Omega in the previous match. Snap suplex into the Flying Wolverine headbutt gets 2 for Davey. SPRINGBOARD reverse elbow from Storm to Hero, before he gets the hot tag to Mr Wrestling. He lifts Richards into the turnbuckles with a belly to belly suplex, scoring a 2-count from the ensuing cannonball senton. Sharpshooter blocked, and as Richards leaves the ring Hero KILLS Steen with a REAR ELBOW SMASH that drops him in a heap. Half Crab applied on Steen – obvious mind games directed at Lance of course. ROLLING ELBOW/GERMAN SUPLEX COMBO GETS 2! But a lungblower from Steen to Hero ensures he can finally make the crucial tag to Storm. But as the four men brawl Hero manages to elbow him to the outside for a FLASH KICK through the ropes. Meanwhile Steen puts Davey in the Sharpshooter. Storm grabs Hero…FOR STEREO SHARPSHOOTERS! Stereo Piledrivers blocked though…so Storm counters he Rolling Elbow from Hero into the ROLLING HALF CRAB! Hagadorn sends the Loaded Elbow Pad into play as Richards saves his partner. LOADED ELBOW ON RICHARDS! SUPERKICK! HART ATTACK NAILED! STORM PINS HERO! It’s over at 20:02
Rating – **** – Really solid formula tag there, highlighted by Lance Storm rolling back the years with some superb work. Truth be told I could spend this entire recap segment waxing lyrical about how great Lance was in there. I thought he looked even better here than he did in his 2006 comeback match with Danielson. Richards and Hero are two of the top indy workers out there but Lance totally schooled them. Watch out for some of his pupils out of the Storm Wrestling Academy in years to come…because if they’re even half as good as their teacher they’ll be great talents. This was definitely a match you want to check out…
Austin Aries vs Nigel McGuinness vs Tyler Black vs Jerry Lynn – ROH World Title Match
Last year’s Death Before Dishonor 6 main event saw Nigel successfully defend the World Title in a cracking fourway match against Black, American Dragon and Claudio Castagnoli. This year the Four Corner tradition continues (although it’s only one fall this time) as A-Double makes his second defence of the belt against the guy he beat for the belt, the guy he f*cked up at Final Battle 2008 and the second longest reigning ROH Champion ever whom he beat in a singles match at End Of An Age last month.
Aries riffs on Bret Hart’s catchphrase to get some cheap heat. Didn’t that used to be Nigel’s gimmick? He says he’ll legally challenge the outcome of this match if the title changes hands without him being pinned. 2009 Aries = absolute gold. Everyone starts shoving everyone as tempers flare and the match gets underway. Black takes Aries out of the ring since he refused to shake hands with him, whilst Nigel and Lynn renew their rivalry from earlier in the year. Jerry gets the better of that exchange only to eat Springboard Clothesline from Tyler. A-Double tops Black’s springboard clothesline with a springboard HEADLOCK! Ugly tilta-whirl slam from Jerry stops Aries hitting the Heat Seeking Missile though. Guillotine leg drop in the ropes nailed, right in front of Tyler and Nigel who are going at it ferociously on the outside. Austin gets 2 using the IED, and when Jerry blocks the Brainbuster he drops him into the Last Chancery instead. Nigel breaks it so Aries tries to give him a Jawbreaker Lariat…only to be booted out of the ring. London Dungeon on Jerry instead, then the hammerlock DDT to do some serious damage to Jerry’s arm. A-Double saves Lynn from the Tower Of London…so Nigel grabs them both for a DOUBLE TOWER OF LONDON! WHILST GETTING SUPERKICKED BY BLACK! Peroxism blocked…as is Nigel’s Jawbreaker Lariat before Tyler hits a pescado on Austin to take him out. Pele Kick then the F-5 on Lynn gets 2. Tyler then hits a sweet Peroxism counter to the Tower Of London on McGuinness. Buckle Bomb on Lynn, but without the Superkick follow up he’s able to kick out. Nigel puts Black in the London Dungeon only for A-Double to break it. LONDON DUNGEON ON HIM INSTEAD! Lynn tries to save…TOWER OF LONDON THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! And just in case Nigel wasn’t dead, Aries levels him with the Heat Seeking Missile too! RUNNNG MOONSAULT FROM BLACK! Kudos to Aries who used all his smarts to bail and avoid the contact of that one. He waffles Black with the title belt but it’s only good for a 2-count. Nigel in with the JAWBREAKER LARIAT! Once again that cowardly lion Aries s around to break the fall. IED COUNTERED…Tower Of London…countered! Cradle Piledriver by Lynn…COUNTERED! Last Chancery attempted, STRAIGHT INTO THE HDNET FINISH CRADLE PILEDRIVER! NIGEL BREAKS THE FALL! CRADLE PILEDRIVER ON NIGEL! SUPERKICK BY TYLER! Kenny King does a run to stop him hitting the Phoenix Splash. Aries botches the 450 Splash and hits a somersault leg drop on Nigel to snatch an undeserved victory at 16:07
Rating – **** – Although it never reached the levels of epic goodness that the Lynn/HDNet World Title fourway reached, this match was a fine example of ROH on HDNet actually having a positive effect on the DVD product too. With TV experience now behind them, these guys went out and proved they didn’t need 20/30/40 minutes to produce something special. They were confident enough to go out there and produce a rip-roaring 15 minute spectacle which totally entertained me from start to finish. From Aries stealing the show as the coward, to Nigel so desperate to win his belt back he basically injured himself dropping every offensive bomb he had, to Tyler’s desperate search for the World Title going wrong again…there were so many stories being effectively played out WITHOUT needing a huge time allocation to do it. One of Adam Pearce’s briefs when getting the Ring Of Honor book was getting those show times down. Mission accomplished on that score as this was a short, but VERY worthy major show main event. King’s slightly needless interference and a few moments of uncharacteristic sloppiness stopped my rating going higher.
The one positive of Kenny King’s run-in is that it gives Black another ‘I was screwed’ moment to add to the Injustice 2 incident. It doesn’t seem like much but it protects his reputation after another choke. That is somewhat overshadowed by the concerning sight of Nigel needing to be helped to the match struggling to feel his arms and legs after taking yet another head injury though.
SIDENOTE – Another ROH show has passed without a single backstage segment. I know ROH are putting work into making the Video Wire’s better, and obviously have weekly HDNet shows to think about…but they’re charging people ppv-level prices for these DVD’s. I don’t think it would kill them to tape a few interviews, give guys a chance to expand upon their personalities that the time constraints of the TV show don’t allow etc. Having Jerry Lynn and Lance Storm on the same card and not interacting seems like a huge missed opportunity. Having Bret Hart in the building and not having him interact in ANY way with the ROH roster…again, opportunity missed. Kenny Omega even made the point in his promo that he never gets to speak. He’s a guy absolutely loaded with personality that isn’t getting to showcase it with reduced backstage stuff. I’m not calling for elaborate skits. I’m not calling for Austin Aries to be going to funeral homes and humping corpses. Just some basic interviews and segments to break up the action and give us all more reason to care about the great wrestling we’re witnessing.
Tape Rating – **** – My rating may seem a little generous, but honestly this was one of my favourite shows all year. It had a great opener, the Briscoes returning, an unexpected gem in the 8-Man tag, Lance Storm’s incredible renaissance in the semi-main, an exciting World Title match to finish AND Bret Hart in ROH. Granted D-Lo/Frankie blew but that was so short it became painless anyway. Although this never really felt like a legit supershow like DBD has in the past, in a middling year for ROH this was definitely one of the shows you should be picking up
Top 3 Matches
3) Austin Aries vs Nigel McGuinness vs Tyler Black vs Jerry Lynn (****)
2) The Embassy vs Colt Cabana/Brent Albright/Necro Butcher/Grizzly Redwood (****)
1) Lance Storm/Kevin Steen vs Chris Hero/Davey Richards (****)