ROH Phoenix Rising 3/27/2010

ROH 253 – Phoenix Rising – 27th March 2010

Ring Of Honor’s assault on Phoenix continues for a second night with this DVD. Set against the back drop of WrestleMania and a brewing rivalry with DGUSA, ROH looks to use the biggest wrestling weekend of the year to draw a big house, attract some new fans and hopefully present a decent show. Personally I thought yesterdays show – From The Ashes – was a great night which looks like it’s been slightly underrated or overlooked by most. I’m not sure the card for this one is quite as strong, but there’s still much to look forward to. Another Black/Aries/Strong Personal Challenge Gauntlet headlines, we’ve got the American Wolves in tag team action again, Steve Corino and Jerry Lynn battling in an ECW nostalgia match, Kenny King defending his Pick 6 spot and more. Once again this is Phoenix, AZ with commentary from Dave Prazak and Joe Dumbrowski

Rocky Romero vs Kenny Omega
No promos or backstage stuff, we’re straight to the ring for this clash of guys who used to be ROH regulars but are now nothing more than special attraction talents. Good choice to open the show as it should be non-stop action.

Impressive start from Omega, as he hangs on the mat with Romero – a world-renowned technician with experience of multiple shoot fights. But Rocky hangs with Omega at his game too, and as the pace quickens he nails a SPRINGBOARD flying headscissors then an elbow suicida as Kenny tries to bail. Having beaten the Canadian down, Romero looks to wear him out with an Octopus stretch then a quick volley of strikes that leave Omega bleeding from the nose. Kenny hits back with the Norman Smiley Slam then starts stomping on Romero’s face from close distance – perhaps looking to bust his face open too. He continues that with a sliding bootscrape as well, then drags Rocky up to continue beating on him in the corner. I’m enjoying aggressive Kenny Omega here, it’s not something we’ve seen too much from him. Rocky counters the urinage suplex to hit a GORGEOUS springboard swinging DDT leaving both men on the mat. Reverse enzi kick rattles Omega’s jaw again and gets the former ROH Tag Champion a nearfall. In response Kenny gets a running start and drops Romero on his face again with the Leapfrog Bulldog for 2. Romero blocks Croyt’s Wrath and forces Omega into the corner for a knee to the face then begins an offensive on Omega’s leg. Stop Sign Enzi…BLOCKED with a kick to the leg. ENZI ANYWAY! ROLLING DRAGON SUPLEXES! Romero barely kicks out this time. Croyt’s Wrath COUNTERED WITH AN INVERTED CODE RED! ANKLELOCK! Omega tries to fight out, only to be taken off the second rope with a big dragon screw. Rocky goes for a second dragon screw but Omega starts KNEEING Rocky in that face. ONE-F*CKING LEGGED CROYT’S WRATH! OMEGA WINS! 13:10 is your time

Rating – **** – I was going 3* on this, but that finish earned an extra star by itself. Visually it looked pretty cool, and it signalled the real growth and improvement as a performer Kenny Omega has made in recent months. In fact, Omega was surprisingly awesome all match. Romero busting his nose obviously wasn’t planned, but it brought out this wonderfully aggressive streak in Kenny that we’ve not seen before. He got rid a lot of his goofball offence in favour of strikes and repeatedly smashing Rocky in the face. That played into the finish where he caught Rocky trying to work the leg once too often and caught him with a decisive strike to that face which allowed him to hit his finish. It’s a shame neither one of these guys are really regulars anymore…although Rocky has had enough shots and rarely lived up to his undoubted potential. In my opinion ROH should be pulling out all the stops to get Omega back though

In the locker room Joey Ryan thinks that The Embassy and the Kings Of Wrestling are capable of cohesive teamwork in their big 8-Man tonight – something their opponents Necro Butcher, Rasche Brown and the Briscoes. Shawn Daivari is issuing an open challenge tonight to prove his worth to his new stablemates

Shawn Daivari vs Human Tornado
Indeed, the man to answer the former WWE star’s open challenge is Human Tornado – popular West Coast act who is using these ROH shows as something of a farewell tour. Can he throw a spanner in the works of The Embassy on his way out of Ring Of Honor.

Daivari doesn’t look to be taking things too seriously and mocks his opponent. Tornado likewise seems intent on having a good time as he dances around the ring then lands a somersault plancha up the aisle. Outside the ring trading dive spots is not where Daivari wants to be with HT, so he quickly brings the match back inside to work a basic bearhug. Moments later he sends it back to the floor, but only so Prince Nana can get in some cheapshots on his opponent. Next it’s an abdominal stretch with added assistance from Nana reaching through the ropes. Tornado manages to escape but goes for a mid-ring crossbody and winds up colliding with Daivari, doing more damage to his own midsection in the process. House Party kicks get 2. But HT makes the mistake of trying to beat Shawn at his own game and work a bearhug…giving Daivari the opportunity to counter into rolling German suplexes for 2. They run through a really ugly exchange of pinfalls before Daivari gets his feet on the ropes and steals a cheap win at 08:47

Rating – * – These guys had zero chemistry and this was pretty terrible. I actually like Daivari, and even have time for the whole ‘bitter and WWE for making him pretend to be a terrorist’ angle. BUT, he can’t be a cheap talent to book, and I don’t think his in-ring work is anywhere near good enough to justify bringing him in. I realise ROH needs recognisable names for the HDNet TV show, but he’s not a guy that’s ever going to be anything more than an average midcard guy in ROH – which means, to me anyway, that he’s not worth the big post-WWE paycheck he commands. He’s been booked at the expense of someone like Erick Stevens this weekend and I don’t think he offers anything Stevens couldn’t do.

Kevin Steen vs Scott Lost
These guys have been on the PWG roster together for years, so will be no strangers to each other. Can Lost half the momentum Mr Wrestling has been building since Final Battle 2009?

In one of the strangest ring entrances ever, Kevin Steen angrily grabs a fans hotdog and tosses it, then tries to expose himself to him. Talk about being a heel! He doesn’t even wait for Lost to get into the ring before leaping into action and attacking him. He sends him into the ringpost, with Scott bumping in brutal fashion to sell that. Still insulting the fans, Steen teases a big dive spot, but instead gets a big running start, slows right down then hops to the floor to deliver a basic punch. It’s jawing with the fans that presents Lost with an opportunity though, with Kevin taking way too long to deliver a somersault leg drop then missing…allowing Scott to hit a sliding kick. Mr Wrestling quickly re-establishes himself with an Air Raid Crash though. Annoyed now, Lost tries to strangle his opponent but since Steen is more of heel, he breaks the choke with a DOUBLE thumb to the eyes. Finally Scott makes some offence stick, hitting a tackle in the corner into a sliding flatliner for 2. Once again Mr Wrestling shuts his comeback down rapidly, this time by dropping him on his head with a DDT. Now bleeding from the mouth, Lost goes for a desperate Ace Crusher only to find it countered with a backbreaker. STEEN-TON BOMB! Lost kicks out at 2. He eats superkick but manages to COUNTER the Package Piledriver into that Ace Crusher for 2. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! Steen wins in 10:23

Rating – ** – For the live crowd this must have been tremendously entertaining, but for a DVD audience I felt this went a little long for such an emphatic squash match. However, Scott Lost is so experienced and so good in the ring that he did a superb job at making Steen look good. Of course, he’s not worth the fly-in from California to become an ROH regular but his little cameos onto Ring Of Honor shows recently have given him an opportunity to showcase his skills to a new audience, and it’s one he’s really grasped.

Claudio Castagnoli/Joey Ryan/Bison Smith/Prince Nana vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe/Necro Butcher/Rasche Brown
This was originally supposed to be the Kings Of Wrestling teaming with The Embassy – an indication of the relationship that exists between Prince Nana and Shane Hagadorn that allowed the latter to reform the KOW at the end of 2009. However, I’m guessing Hero is injured or something so Nana has subbed in for The Embassy. Necro and Rasche have had their problem with The Embassy, particularly on HDNet with Rasche recently getting involved to help Butcher in his long-running feud against Nana’s troops. The Briscoes, meanwhile, are preparing for their big Tag Title defence next week on iPPV against the Kings. With Hero absent, can they use the opportunity to send a clear message to their challengers by putting a beating on Claudio tonight?

Mark and Castagnoli start, keen to feel each other out with a week to go until the iPPV clash. Jay joins his brother and Claudio immediately leaves the ring as they look to deliver the double football tackle. Jay has to be content with putting the boots to Ryan instead, softening him up to allow his team to spend the next couple of minutes working him over. Sensibly, Claudio realises he needs to act and save his partner, coming in and putting Necro in an abdominal stretch with the assistance of Bison Smith. But he arrogantly tries to out-wrestle the Butcher, who comes out of nowhere with a satellite headscissors and an abdominal stretch. They lift the cheating abdominal stretch that goes all the way to the crowd which Colt Cabana brought us last year on HDNet. Enough shenanigans, Smith tags and powers through all the nonsense…only for Skullkrusher to tag in. Prince Nana proves the difference as he attacks Rasche from behind, allowing Bison to get the jump on him. Brown is SO fast for a big guy though – as Joey tags in he springs through the air to hit an incredible dropkick, then lays him out with a jackhammer. On the floor Nana and Claudio illegally beat up Jay Briscoe, leading to a heat segment him. Bison whips him into the barriers with such ferocity that Dave Prazak legit cackles with enjoyment, and with Jay totally incapacitated Nana happily tags in legally for the first time. He accidentally clocks his own man, flooring Joey Ryan and allowing Briscoe to tag Skullkrusher. NODOWA ODOSHI on Claudio, and this time there’s nobody to stop Rasche and Bison going at it. Such is Brown’s power he manages to shoulder charge Smith down too. RUNNING SOMERSAULT DIVE over the ropes to the floor by Mark to wipe out a few guys, and Necro looks set to follow. TOP ROPE SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! There’s only one man left standing…RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE BY RASCHE! Prince Nana wants to dive too, and is nearly MURDERED by Rasche. Joey saves his manager and takes the bullet for him as Brown hits the Rolling Spear. Bicycle Kick from Claudio floors him, but in turn he eats a flying kick from Mark. Bison saves Nana from the Doomsday Device, then Necro assists Jay as he looks for the Bison-Tennial. POP-UP EUROPEAN from Claudio to Jay, followed by the UFO for 2. Riccola escaped…SPIKE JAY DRILLER! Briscoes pin Claudio at 14:09

Rating – *** – Possibly a little predictable, but it was fought at a relentless pace and each segment was entertaining in it’s own way. I loved how they teased Rasche/Bison conflits throughout the match, kept Prince Nana on the peripheral for the inevitable comedy of botched run-ins and built everything for that big dive sequence. And the Briscoes pinning Castagnoli at the end turns what could have been mistaken for a thrown together midcard match into something far more significant as they send a clear message to their challenges in the week leading up to The Big Bang.

Kenny King (5) vs Scorpio Sky – Pick 6 Series Match
Doesn’t having Sky compete for a spot in the Pick 6 rankings slightly make a mockery of the whole system? His ROH record is 0-2, how is he remotely qualified for eligibility to the Pick 6? But lets not dwell on that since both these guys are hugely athletic and this one could be a real fun watch.

Prazak is on my side – he questions why Scorpio has this opportunity too. The two men start evenly, going back and forth trading holds and showcasing their remarkable athleticism. First significant knockdown goes to Sky as he hits a springboard crossbody. Nothing fancy from King, he drives a knee deep into the stomach then tosses him out of the ring looking for a count-out victory as Scorpio struggles to catch his breath. Sky back with a satellite headscissors which knocks Kenny to the outside, and into the aisle where he’s in the firing line for a big somersault plancha. In trouble, King hides behind the referee then pops out to flatten Scorpio with a corkscrew enzi kick. Argentine gutbuster gets 2. In response Sky gets a nearfall with a running knee strike, but takes too long to follow up and EATS the Shotgun Knees from King. Jumping frankensteiner from Scorpio it’s not enough to get him the Pick 6 Spot. Back upstairs where Kenny back flips out of the corner to deliver a jumping enzi. Royal Flush from the second rope gives King the victory in 09:53

Rating – * – I thought this was horrible. Not in an obvious way because lots of what they were doing LOOKED very pretty. But it also looked extremely fake. There was no purpose, fire or intent in anything they were doing. It was all weak, it all looked like a complete exhibition novelty match and they just never got out of second gear – which to me isn’t acceptable when you think a supposed ROH Title shot is in the offing for the winner. Kenny really disappointed me by not selling the effects of last night’s battle with Jerry Lynn too. A really disappointing match, and a real shame for Kenny King to come from his best ROH singles match yesterday to one of his worst on this DVD.

Steve Corino vs Jerry Lynn – Hardcore Match
Any other weekend of the year and you’d accuse ROH of shameless ECW nostalgia. But this is Wrestlemania weekend, and with so many potential new fans to reach out to – being able to promote a hardcore match between two former ECW Champions is a cunning ploy. Both guys scored big wins over noted rivals yesterday, with Corino besting El Generico and Jerry settling his score with Kenny King. Who will leave Phoenix the happier man, and boasting a victory over the other ECW alum.

Corino claims Jerry owes him one after beating him up when he was a young guy looking for a break in ECW…and asks Lynn to forfeit. Jerry enjoyed his match with King so much last night he wants more of the same so is going to get hardcore this afternoon. Inside 30 seconds the fight is on the floor, with Lynn throwing a chair into Steve’s face then giving him a smack with a fan’s crutch. Fighting him back, Corino props a ladder between the apron and the rails then drops him face-first off the apron into it. Ever the veteran, he attacks the bandaged cuts on Jerry’s head that he suffered last night and soon Lynn is bleeding heavily. But the former ROH champion fights back with a chair, cutting his opponent open too. GUARDRAIL JUMPING PLANCHA! The fight goes into the crowd where Lynn dives OFF the hardcam scaffold into a flying crossbody. Back in the ring with Jerry suplexing Corino onto the ladder for the first nearfall of the match. It gets worse for Corino as he eats ladder again missing a Stinger Splash in the corner, then gets it whacked into his face after a wild chair swing from Lynn. Shades of RVD/Lynn next as they duel chairs leading to a VAN DAMINATOR by Lynn. He positions a row of open chairs but takes too long and allows Steve to recover and clobber him…then stack a guardrail segment on top of Jerry’s chair construction. This isn’t going to end well…SUPERPLEX ONTO THE CHAIR/GUARDRAIL STRUCTURE! FOR 2! Corino positions a table in the corner, and just like Jerry earlier he takes too long. Lynn spears him through the table…and would have it won except Kevin Steen is out here to NAIL him with a chair. Corino bizarrely tries to capitalise by going upstairs…and is punished with a HANGING DDT ON A CHAIR! He tries to use Corino’s blood a warpaint just as he did in ECW…only for Steve to nail him in the balls. El Generico runs in to lay out Corino. CRADLE PILEDRIVER! Lynn goes 2-0 at Wrestlemania weekend. Time is 15:45

Rating – *** – Not always pretty, and there were lots of dead moments where the guys plodded around setting various pieces of weaponry up. Given the age of the two competitors, it shouldn’t surprise you that the pace in this one was fairly slow too. However, you can’t deny they were putting a sh*tload of guts and sweat into this. Unlike many, Corino has always been extremely hesitant to cash in on his ECW heritage, and is never really one of the guys that gets wheeled out as an ECW nostalgia act. He’s carved out a commendable career for himself in Japan and on the indies and is one of the few talents to leave Paul Heyman’s creation behind him and actually do BETTER things with his career post-ECW than he did during. So this was a real statement of his respect for Lynn that he was willing to visit his old school past and work this match with him. Really, this was as good as I expected or wanted it to be, and by tossing in interference from both Steen and Generico it actually served a purpose and wasn’t just a shameless cash-in by ROH. My biggest criticism would be that Corino never went for the Old School Expulsion – one of my favourite finishing moves for some reason. It really would have rounded off a fun 15 minutes of retro wrestling action if he’d have dusted that puppy off.

American Wolves vs Colt Cabana/El Generico
This is a big weekend for the Wolves. Admittedly they didn’t recapture the Tag Titles last night, but with Edwards sitting proud as TV Champion and Richards in the headlines for the right reasons (to ROH fans at least) by choosing not to work the DGUSA shows we can now look forward to them being as big a part of ROH in the coming year as they were throughout 2009. But they badly need a win, having suffered high profile losses to the Briscoes, the Young Bucks and Dark City Fight Club already in 2010. Their work is cut out for them tonight though. El Generico spent most of 2009 at war with the Wolves and will no doubt want to get his hands on them again here, whilst Cabana will probably remember being knocked out of the TV Title Tournament on Episode 051 of ROH on HDNet by Eddie Edwards. The Generi-Colt team have Corino and Steen at The Big Bang so will want to build some momentum with a strong showing tonight.

Cabana is his usual jovial self so the surly Davey Richards demands to start with him. With one swift kick he sends Colt whimpering back to his corner. European style gives Cabana the edge on Richards though, allowing him to put the American Wolf very much on the back foot before bringing Generico in for the first time. Eddie comes in too, but it doesn’t change the Wolves fortunes as their opponents continue to dominate. Finally Davey sprints in and catches Generico with a big kick to the sternum. Edwards illegally works the masked man over on the floor and in a matter of seconds the Wolves emerge as the dominant force in the contest. They work Generico with ruthless efficiency for several minutes – demonstrating their proficiency as a team. Finally El Generico does get the hot tag to Cabana though who mows down both Wolves with the quebrada. Edwards tries to intervene from the floor only to be taken out by Generico who springboards off his partner into a somersault dive to the outside. Cabana gets 2 with a cradle DDT on Richards. Edwards in with the Standing Wizard but doesn’t do enough damage to hit Colt with the Backpack Stunner. Generico in but the Wolves floor him with a facecrusher/missile dropkick combo. Achilles Lock applied but Colt breaks by tossing Davey into his own partner. Turnbuckle exploder by Generico. Richards goes for the Handspring Enzi but it’s COUNTERED WITH A HALF NELSON SUPLEX! Yakuza on Edwards…HART ATTACK YAKUZA! COLT 45! DAVEY SAVES! Generico is dumped, leading to a stereo kick combo on Cabana. Doomsday Ace Crusher BLOCKED as Generico hits another Yakuza. Billy Goat’s Curse on Edwards…TURNBUCKLE BRAINBUSTER ON DAVEY! Eddie taps at 14:31

Rating – *** – The first half of this match was pretty average. Not bad, but nothing outstanding that we haven’t seen from these four guys before. But the second half really picked up – with the last few minutes providing some of the most exciting exchanges of the whole weekend. It’s a shame to see the Wolves jobbed out again, but with them being sidelined to focus on singles ambitions for now, it’s easy to see why Generi-Colt needed the win going into The Big Bang.

No time to celebrate…Kevin Steen runs in to attack Colt with a chair. He taunts Generico for being afraid to hit him. GENERICO SPITS IN HIS FACE! He looks ready to fight his former partner just like last night, but is jumped from behind by Steve Corino. Cabana runs them off, but next week we finally see these two teams go head to head.

Austin Aries vs Roderick Strong – Personal Challenge Gauntlet Match
This show is headlined by the second Personal Challenge Gauntlet of the weekend. Last night Roderick got to enter second and claimed a clean victory over ROH Champion Tyler Black. Tonight he has to start out with Aries, and it’s Tyler who sits behind the curtain awaiting the winner.

Austin Aries gets on the stick to accuse Roddy of taking his issue with Tyler Black more seriously than being World Champion. Running chops redden the chest of the former ROH Champion before Strong DRAGS Aries out of the corner into a cradle backbreaker for 2. He gets too aggressive, trying to gutbuster Austin over the apron and getting punished with a Russian legsweep against the ringpost. The pace slows as the cerebral A-Double wears out his former tag team partner…until Strong nearly KILLS him by losing control of a fast powerslam spot and dropping him right on his neck. GIBSON DRIVER OFF THE TOP ROPE! But as Aries crashes into the ring Strong loses his balance and falls through the timekeepers table. Aries has a glazed look in his eyes as Cary Silkin, Jim Cornette and Adam Pearce all anxiously check on the fallen Floridian. I guess that’s it at 9 minutes-ish…

Rating – ** – The finish was intense, but most of the build-up was cut and paste for these guys. They were great tag partners, and they’ve had a few good matches (I’m thinking Supercard Of Honor 2, Undeniable and their most recent HDNet match) but have never had the same chemistry as opponents. In house show mode they served up incredibly pedestrian fare until that sick finish

As Strong is carted to the back, Aries grabs the mic again and goads Tyler into giving him a World Title shot…

Tyler Black vs Austin Aries – ROH World Title Personal Challenge Gauntlet Match
We all know these two have history. Aries began his second reign as World Champion by defeating Tyler at Manhattan Mayhem 3. He did all he could to dodge and duck Black whilst he held that belt, before finally falling to Tyler at the 8th Anniversary Show. Having bagged himself an impromptu championship match here, can he change the complexion of the entire Big Bang main event by winning the ROH Title for an unprecedented third time here?

Sensibly Aries wants a slow pace, repeatedly trying to take Tyler to the mat and work some grounded holds. Whenever the pace quickens it’s Black who takes control, until they eventually knock heads and collide mid-ring. Tyler is up first but misses the Lionsault and we’re back where we started with both guys struggling to get up. Roderick, his arm heavily bandaged, is back out here and he boots Aries in the face. Apparently that’s not a DQ…and with Jim Cornette out here he decides it’s now a three-way. The Big Bang main event is now a week early, and Aries springs into action first with a HEAT SEEKING MISSILE! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY STRONG! Roderick beats on both opponents, winding up on the top rope trying to superplex Aries. BUCKLE BOMB by Tyler! IED ON BOTH OF THEM! Aries puts Tyler in the Last Chancery, watched by Strong who TURNS HIM INTO THE STRONGHOLD! BLACK BREAKS IT WITH PEROXISM! Tyler and Roderick team up to eliminate Aries before turning on each other with a ferocious strike duel. That ends when Strong delivers the Sick Kick. Urinage backbreaker nailed for 2, but Strong walks striahg into a DVD ON THE APRON from Austin! The former Tag Champions fight into the crowd, which leaves Black alone. FLYING DANIELSON DIVE BY TYLER! He lines up the Phoenix Splash on Aries, and when that fails he kills him with a wild Japanese armdrag into the turnbuckles. SUPERKICK on Strong…THEN GOD’S LAST GIFT! Roderick kicks out…SO BLACK PUTS A FUJIWARA ARMBAR ON HIS INJURED SHOULDER! Roderick taps, and Black retains his belt at 12:42

Rating – *** – A wonderful preview of The Big Bang next week (assuming they didn’t run through all the big three-man spot sequences they have tonight). The off the wall, impromptu booking gave an enjoyably chaotic feel to proceedings, whilst the frenetic, spot-packed action was a great end to the show. I really enjoyed the finish since Tyler’s opportunistic use of Strong’s injury will no doubt further piss Roddy off when he recovers. This slightly unhinged, manic ‘give me my title shot’ incarnation of Strong’s character is possibly my favourite in his 6+ years in ROH

Tape Rating – *** – Not as good as last night’s show by some distance. The overall match quality was nowhere near as good – particularly on the undercard which was a real mixed bag of both good and bad. Matches like King/Sky and Tornado/Daivari were awful, but then you had things like Omega/Romero and the Wolves tag which were deceptively good. Ultimately if you’re only picking up one ROH DVD for the weekend then it’s a comfortable recommendation for From The Ashes…although neither are ‘must own’ ROH shows. I think Dragon Gate USA won the race to put on the best independent show of the weekend (their Mercury Rising event edges that one), but for producing a consistent double header of wrestling, packed with matches and quality action, my opinion is that ROH was actually better value for money than DGUSA. For as good as Mercury Rising was, their Open The Ultimate Gate show was pretty mediocre – nowhere near as good as either Ring Of Honor event. Lets call it’s a tie for Round 1 of ROH vs DGUSA…

Top 3 Matches
3) Colt Cabana/El Generico vs American Wolves (***)
2) Tyler Black vs Austin Aries (vs Roderick Strong) (***)
1) Kenny Omega vs Rocky Romero (****)

Top 5 From The Ashes/Phoenix Rising Weekend Matches
5) Tyler Black vs Austin Aries (vs Roderick Strong) (*** – Phoenix Rising)
4) Kevin Steen vs Kenny Omega (**** – From The Ashes)
3) Jerry Lynn vs Kenny King (**** – From The Ashes)
2) Kenny Omega vs Rocky Romero (**** – Phoenix Rising)
1) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs American Wolves (**** – From The Ashes)