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ROH on HDNET 12/20/2010

ROH on HDNet – Episode 087 – 20th December 2010

Ring Of Honor’s 2010 ended at Final Battle over the weekend, and did so in spectacular fashion with El Generico ending Kevin Steen’s career in the promotion and Roderick Strong scraping past the challenge of Davey Richards. The company now goes on hiatus until 2011 when the first episodes of the Louisville TV tapings are broadcast. Next week will be a ‘Best Of HDNet 2010’ highlights show, whilst this week is a special Christmas episode with the ROH ‘Holiday Gauntlet’. This is from Philadelphia, PA. Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak call the action.

GREAT work by ROH and HDNet as they start the show with a comprehensive round-up (including clips) of Final Battle – despite that show only having taken place the previous weekend. Have Ring Of Honor finally cracked taping their show in conjunction with the iPPV schedule?

Jay Briscoe vs Steve Corino – Holiday Gauntlet Match
The Holiday Gauntlet is the only match on tonight’s show. ROH decided on 16 of their top wrestlers, drew 8 names from that at random…and will send them into battle in the order they came out. The winner gets $10,000 in cold, hard fake giant check. Of course being drawn at #1 and #2 is a huge disadvantage – so will the resilience of Briscoe or the resourcefulness of Corino be enough to take home the monopoly money for Christmas?

It’s a slow start, as you might expect given that they need to conserve energy to go through seven opponents in one evening. Corino lands a running chop on Briscoe…who shakes that off with an amusing ‘oh no you didn’t’ look. But his annoyance makes him walk blindly into an STO for 2. The veteran gets into an ill-advised forearm exchange with Jay…and realises the error of his ways to go for the Thumb In The Bum instead. Briscoe counters and is left almost speechless as the referee is on the ball enough to stop him doing the TITB spot where he continually missed Corino. Blockbuster out of the corner gets 2 instead. He goes for the DVD but Steve slides off his shoulders into the Colby Shock. Briscoe takes a shot at Corino’s injured bicep, and rolls him up for three at 05:41. Unhappy at that, Corino takes a few cheapshots at Jay before leaving…

Rating – ** – Of course it was short and meaningless as all Gauntlet matches are – but these two are both hugely experienced and they made the best of their situation with some decent, hard-hitting wrestling and a few fun comedy spots mixed in too.

Jay Briscoe vs Christopher Daniels – Holiday Gauntlet Match
If any man in the field is equipped to go long and win this Gauntlet it has to be the Fallen Angel. He’s been the ‘old man’ of professional wrestling for years, but remains at the top of his game and has contested some really memorable bouts this year since returning to ROH. The Briscoes actually ended his last ROH championship run when they defeated him and Matt Sydal to win the Tag Titles for the 4th time at 5th Year Festival Chicago.

Daniels is a sport and makes sure Jay is recovered from Corino’s post-match assault before letting the bell ring for this. Is it me or does anyone else miss heel Daniels? His sporting attitude comes back to bite him as Briscoe starts strongly and lands a couple of significant boots. Fallen Angel hits some knees, then starts attacking the chest by shoving it into the turnbuckles and scoring with a suplex gutbuster for 2. Wounded, Jay tries to go for pinfalls from any position but can’t keep Daniels down…and Daniels starts driving shoulders to the midsection. Gutwrench gutbuster gets another nearfall. Seated abdominal stretch applied…but Briscoe escapes and lands a desperate superkick. DVD drops Daniels on his neck but even then he’s up to his feet before the tiring Jay is. Jay Driller blocked with a knee to the stomach, then ANGEL’S WINGS! Daniels wins at 05:30 (11:11 total time).

Rating – *** – Very basic, but cleverly worked. Daniels is always good at the ‘attack a body part’ stuff, and by working the chest it very much played into Jay tiring after working two matches storyline as well. It’s gauntlet match 101 psychology but they did it well

Christopher Daniels vs Rhett Titus – Holiday Gauntlet Match
Haven’t these two already done battle on HDNet? This is a huge opportunity for Titus. Of course the fake ten grand would be appealing, but how much of a boost would it be to his career if he could score a win over the Fallen Angel. With Daniels already having worked one match, he may never get a better opportunity than here and now.

Daniels disappointed ‘urgh, not this guy’ face as Rhett’s music hits is really funny. As is Titus sprinting into the ring Kai En Tai style and immediately getting taken down by his opponent. He takes a bit of abuse before leaping into his signature dropkick that establishes himself in the contest for the first time. Knowing that Daniels will start feeling the fatigue, Rhettski works a chinlock to really wear him down. I wonder how Chris Daniels, having left TNA for this, feels about Hogewood saying that ‘we still haven’t seen any of the bigger names in ROH yet’. After some more slightly generic offence from Titus, Daniels starts to make an equally generic babyface comeback. But he misses a pescado and gets mown down on the floor with a great running kick. Rings Of Titus applied, again making the weary veteran work hard to drag his body to the ropes. But after that Rhett hops into the urinage slam, and that’s the set up for the Best Moonsault Ever. Daniels advances again at 05:49 (17:00 total)

Rating – ** – The worst of the three matches thus far, but that’s not to say it was bad. I liked the logic behind Titus working lots of grounded submission and really trying to tire Daniels out, but I just felt some of the actual work was a little generic and forgettable (and both men are better than that).

Christopher Daniels vs Davey Richards – Holiday Gauntlet Match
What a huge showdown this is to throw into the middle of a festive fun match! These two have been rivals since Daniels returned to ROH, sharing a really good tag match on HDNet, nearly winning the Tag Titles for themselves in Dayton too…before Davey won their memorable first battle in a classic in Chicago the following night. Can the Fallen Angel, already tired after fighting off two opponents, put up any sort of fight over the American Wolf who will be looking to rebound after failing to win both the ROH Tag and the ROH World Title over Final Battle weekend?

They have an intense staredown as the bell rings, and the advantage Davey has is graphically indicated as throughout that Daniels is breathing hard and dripping with sweat. Richards starts fast, which Daniels obviously can’t cope with so he sensibly takes him to the mat and looks to control him with a headlock. Unfortunately for him Davey escapes and delivers a big kick to the back. Richards goes for strikes…and AGAIN Daniels takes him down, this time with the Koji Clutch. Davey battles to the ropes and gets up to deliver the Handspring Enzi. Urinage slam countered to the Anklelock…but Daniels ESCAPES! He kicks Davey all the way to the floor with that and collapses in the corner. Back flies Richards…only for Daniels to chop him down with a lariat. BME misses…ALARM CLOCK BLOCKED! He tries to roll the Wolf up but this time Davey does land the Alarm Clock. ROLLING GERMANS! KNOCKOUT KICK! Daniels is finally put down at 05:43 (22:43 total)

Rating – *** – Even in a 5 minute match these two oozed quality and ran through some great story-telling moments. They did enough here to prove there is legs in their issue for them to run a full rematch to their ‘Richards vs Daniels’ classic sometime in 2011.

Davey Richards vs Claudio Castagnoli – Holiday Gauntlet Match
Hot on the heels of Daniels/Richards, what a huge clash this is. In Plymouth over the weekend we saw Claudio’s Kings Of Wrestling team successfully defeat Davey’s American Wolves in what he and Eddie called their ‘Last Hunt’. With tensions between the two still high given that Shane Hagadorn is still Double C’s manager and he hates the Wolves, Claudio (who’s outstanding conditioning already gives him a huge advantage over the rest of the field) will be looking to round out 2010 with another decisive victory over Richards.

Richards doesn’t even let Castagnoli getin into the ring, booting him off the apron and hitting a very early tope suicida. Soon afterwards Claudio is showing off his incredible power by hoisting him into an effortless military press slam. Les Artess Lift gets 2…and it’s just so EASY for Claudio to dead-lift Richards it seems. Such is his confidence Double C tries an ill-advised jaunt to the top rope and is caught up there with a flurry of chops from the American Wolf. Richards hits a superplex and holds onto the boot to lock in the Anklelock. Castagnoli KICKS FREE in such authoritative fashion that Richards flies across the ring into the ropes. Handspring Enzi…countered to the UFO! Claudio looks for the Riccola Bomb, but Richards (who has countered that move on multiple occasions now) turns it into a sunset flip and manages to successfully pin him at 05:14 (27:57 total)

Rating – ** – Good action between these two, with some amazing feats of strength from Claudio. The finish, whilst technically making sense in the context of the match, felt rushed and was a spot that Davey has used so many times with Claudio unsuccessfully that it wasn’t that believable that, after having already worked one match, Richards would be able to beat a totally fresh Claudio with in less than six minutes.

Davey Richards vs Chris Hero – Holiday Gauntlet Match
It doesn’t get any easier for poor Davey. Having successfully gone through the Fallen Angel and one half of the Kings Of Wrestling, he’s now confronted with the other half of the reigning Tag Team champions. You’d have to consider it a major upset if Davey makes it through an opponent with the striking power of Chris Hero in his fatigued state.

Hero hits a German suplex upon entering the ring and nearly wins it in the first ten seconds. He starts booting Richards in the face but Davey somehow kicks out. Hero is clearly going for the quick win and is dropping bombs on Richards…but Davey just keeps fighting back. He goes for the Cloverleaf, and even when Chris escapes that to hit a Rolling Elbow Richards still kicks out. Shane Hagadorn takes a cheap shot at him too…but it only fires Davey up so he storms back looking for another Anklelock. Hero escapes and drops him again with a straight elbow smash to the jaw. Big boot has him crumpling in a heap again but thankfully he falls close to the ropes to ensure Hero’s next cover only gets 2. Moonsault misses…ANKLELOCK AGAIN! But Hagadorn appears on the apron to distract him. Hero hits another elbow in the corner…then a Ligerbomb but Davey will not die! Loaded Elbow is COUNTERED WITH A SMALL PACKAGE! Richards grabs another victory at 06:23 (34:20 total)

Rating – *** – Best match of the gauntlet thus far. Daniels/Richards was full of quality, but this one had an outstanding story with Hero flying out of the traps and absolutely battering Davey, only for the Wolf to just keep coming back. After an unsuccessful Tag Title attempt over the weekend it was nice to see Richards score himself a win over both Tag Champions here.

Davey goes after Hagadorn…but gets waffled in the back of the head by Hero and the Loaded Elbow pad. He’s now out cold…and there’s still one man left to go!

Davey Richards vs Roderick Strong – Holiday Gauntlet Match
After all Davey has gone through – losing back to back epic matches over the weekend, fighting through three top quality opponents tonight and then being attacked afterwards by Hero, how harsh does it seem that the man who beat him at Final Battle through nefarious means is going to end 2010 by being handed a $10,000 check he didn’t earn?

Roddy covers the unconscious Richards…WHO KICKS OUT! That gets one of the biggest pops in HDNet history. Strong is furious, holding Davey down and repeatedly choking him. ALARM CLOCK ENZI KICK FROM NOWHERE! Unfortunately Roddy absorbs that and boots him right back. Death By Roderick gets 2. SICK KICK! Despite Davey’s best efforts Strong wins the match and the cash at 02:51 (37:11 total). As Hog points out, the real story here is Davey’s courage…

Rating – N/A – This was great booking to end the gauntlet. After Davey’s tough weekend, and the battles he went through here, having him lose the Gauntlet Match and the money under such unceremonious circumstances is a great way to build some babyface heat back after he lost the match EVERYONE thought he should win in New York.

NEXT WEEK – Best Of ROH on HDNet 2010…

Tape Rating – *** – I was sceptical about this show. I hate Gauntlet matches as a rule, and it felt like an ideal way to put out a filler episode of the series and kill time between Final Battle 2010 and the first of the Louisville episodes starting in 2011. But, thanks to some great performances (Daniels and Davey) and some really clever booking, this really worked well. In one night it took a massive step towards rebuilding Davey Richards’ babyface persona after a double-losing weekend, and gives him lots of sympathetic heat as Strong, having already screwed him out of the belt in Manhattan, now ends the year $10,000 richer to boot. Dedicating an entire episode to this was a brave move, but ultimately it succeeded both as a standalone episode AND as part of the wider Ring Of Honor landscape. Kudos to all concerned.

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