Sunday 18 September 2011

By the Numbers

After watching last night’s Death Before Dishonor IX event I’m of the opinion that Ring of Honor need to cut back on their running times a little. While the show was mostly enjoyable too many of the matches felt as though they were stalling for time, and the intermission seemed to go on forever.

I’ve never had a problem with ROH sticking an intermission in the middle of their pay-per-views until last night. While the show’s graphic being put on screen during the break was an improvement on the blank grey screen we were treated to at Best in the World it still wasn’t good enough. With ROH looking to expand into new markets and attract new audiences it cannot present another iPPV featuring twenty minutes of a blank screen.

Would it really have been that difficult to knock together some promos to play during the break? Even better would have been an advert for the debut of their new TV show. That nobody in Ring of Honor is thinking of the break as a good place to get across storylines, promote lower card talent or advertise upcoming shows is worrying. They’ve paid for the air time so they should use it.

The wrestling itself was, as always, top notch. The opening match of Rhino and Tommaso Ciampa v Homicide and Jay Lethal was the only match that I felt could have used more time rather than less. Considering it featured the popular Lethal, hometown boy Homicide, and Ciampa (whom ROH clearly has big plans for) a higher spot on the card and an extra three or four minutes could have been applied to the bout. It was solid as it was though.

Shelton Benjamin v Mike Bennett was easily the worst bout of the night. It’s a shame that Benjamin, one of the most athletic men on the ROH roster, was lumbered with the glacially-paced Bennett. Far too much stalling made this a chore to watch after a few minutes. As Benjamin went over a better approach would have been to put on a quick five minute match with an electric pace, thus saving time and giving the audience something more exciting.

The slowest match on the card was followed by the quickest: Future Shock v the Bravado Brothers v the Young Bucks was a massively enjoyable match with the sort of action ROH was associated with a few years ago. You know, before they decreased the attention on quick matches in favour of giving even more time to stiff guys like Davey Richards? The Bravados got an impressive amount of heat before they were eliminated from the contest, which will hopefully convince Ring of Honor to start using them more often (the Bravados have been underrated as a heel act throughout 2011). The second segment, in which the former TNA employees faced off with Ring of Honor’s favourite tag team-on-the- rise, was excellent. With the Young Bucks refusing to shake hands with Future Shock after their win (something they are notorious for if you believe Dave Prazak and Kevin Kelly, though I’d never heard of them doing this before) I would imagine these two teams will face one another again soon. That’s a good thing.

El Generico v Jimmy Jacobs went around ten minutes before the inevitable Kevin Steen run-in. Personally I think that was too long: after that length of time the audience were invested in the match so it was irritating that we didn’t get a clear winner. They should have been allowed to wrestle to a decision or been given less time so the no finish was less frustrating for fans. Presumably we’ll get a rematch on the new TV show or at another pay-per-view within the next few months.

Steen was as bombastic as ever. Grabbing a microphone at ringside he trash talked both Generico and Jacobs before ripping into Steve Corino (who was in Japan, a fact that ROH had cleverly used to advance his “redemption” storyline). The locker room emptied to help security tackle ‘Mr Wrestling’, only for him to break free numerous times. At various points he powerbombed Jacobs onto the ring apron, absorbed a senton dive from Generico (which he hilariously no-sold, laughing as he slid into the ring to the sound of cheers), attempted a package piledrive on ROH founder Cary Silkin, and took a feeble-looking punch from Jim Cornette (which got a monster pop from the crowd). The announcers were silent during this, revealing later that they’d been instructed to not even mention his name. It was wild and frantic and the crowd loved it.

If Glory By Honor X in Chicago is broadcast on pay-per-view I expect Steen will make an appearance there too. Whether that happens or not I’m convinced he’ll be in attendance at Final Battle. It’s a little early to say for sure but I don’t think it’s impossible Steen will wrestle on the card. That would necessitate a storyline in which Cornette is petitioned by fans, Jacobs, Corino and possibly El Generico to lift the ban on ‘Mr Wrestling’ but there’s more than enough time to set them up. A Steen v Corino match at the December show could be huge.

Following the aforementioned intermission Charlie Haas beat Michael Elgin in a fprgettable, overly long bout. I’d much rather have seen Benjamin and Haas defend their titles or go against opponents better suited to their styles. Either one of them would have been a good opponent for Jay Lethal, and that would have freed up a slot as Homicide’s tag partner for Low Ki (though at this point it looks like ROH isn’t interested in bringing back ‘The World Warrior’).

The Ringmaster Challenge between Eddie Edwards and the House of Truth’s Roderick Strong was the best wrestling match on the show. That said it did deflate slightly in places due to the odd rules of the match and the lengthy running time. The first fall (pinfall only) was won by Strong after a backbreaker variant (what else?) while the second fall (submission only) went to ‘Die Hard’ Eddie Edwards (it was the first time I’d heard ROH use this faintly ridiculous nickname for him) and his Achilles Lock.

The third fall was a fifteen minute Iron Man match that saw no falls until the last few minutes. I’d expected a decision-heavy segment but what we got inside was fine. The finish was anything but fine, however: as the clock ticked down each man gained a fall on the other and the match ended in a draw. This brought out Jim Cornette to announce sudden death overtime. That got a cheap pop but it was another example of the running time of the show being overly long. Unless the match was going to end on a draw there was no point doing the draw. Had Strong refused to the overtime it would have made sense as it would have infuriated the fans and allowed Strong to play the cowardly heel. As it was it was just a waste of time.

The overtime segment was highly enjoyable, but there was nothing in there that couldn’t have gone into the fifteen minute Iron Man fall. This was another match that could have been better by having a few minutes trimmed from it.

Then came the Ladder War. Rhett Titus and both Briscoes were bleeding by the end of a match that featured so many chairs and tables it would have been more accurate to bill it as a TLC match. In the latest chapter in the storied relationship between the Briscoes and ‘The Big Apple’ a large portion of the audience decided to root for the natives of Sandy Fork, Delaware. When they’re faces New York doesn’t want to know, when they’re ruthless, aggressive heels shouting about soup they get cheers: typical wrestling fans.

As I predicted, the All Night Express finally gained a victory over the more experienced team when it counted, earning themselves a tag team title match against Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team at Glory By Honor X and ending the pay-per-view on a high. This may not have been the most technical match ANX have ever participated in, but it is one of their most memorable and has prepared them for a tag title run in the near future. Will that reign start at GBH? I’ll make an early prediction and say yes.

Considering the promotion didn’t have Colt Cabana, the Kings of Wrestling, Chris Daniels, Steve Corino or ROH champion Davey Richards to use I think they put on a fine show. But if you don’t take into account their depleted roster it was merely average. I said in my preview of the show that I hope the company starts building some new stars to fill the spots outgoing stars are creating and having seen the show it’s become more apparent that they need to do that sooner rather than later.

Bringing back a few older names could give the promotion a boost too. Jimmy Rave would be a natural fit with the Embassy and would inject some much needed fresh blood into the title picture. TJ Perkins deserves a chance to wrestle for the company again. I mentioned Low Ki above, he and Homicide could spice up the tag scene and also work gripping title matches with Davey Richards. Sonjay Dutt and Kenny Omega could return to bulk out the mid-card too. The promotion has options, it just needs to make a few phone calls.

Death Before Dishonor IX was a pay-per-view by the numbers: two former champions in a singles bout, a gimmick match main event, and a mostly enjoyable but utterly forgettable undercard. WWE can afford this approach to its big shows but ROH can't. Hire some guys and build some new names: that needs to be Ring of Honor’s priority for the rest of the year.

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