Saturday 10 September 2011

Ready for a Ladder War

This time last year I was not a fan of ‘Dem Boys’, Mark and Jay Briscoe.

The problem I had with them was a simple one: they were bland babyfaces with little character to them. Given their history with the promotion and the fact they have a different background to the rest of the roster that nothing much was done with them. Despite feuding with the Kings of Wrestling, one of the best units in the world and easily the most polished act in ROH (then and now), the “redneck kung fu” routine was the only thing the Briscoes seemed to be doing to set themselves apart. It wasn’t enough to offset the charisma and heelish antics Hero and Castagnoli. All babyfaces need to be likeable and relatable on some level and that couldn’t be said of Mark and Jay in 2010.

The Briscoes seemed to be treading water, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so: they were treated with apathy when they met Rhett Titus and Kenny King in singles matches at Glory By Honor IX and heard outright boos when they teamed with their father (amusingly billed as ‘Papa Briscoe’) to face Hero, Castagnoli and their manager Shane Hagadorn at Final Battle in December.

It was clear from the treatment they received at these high profile events that the aimless face push had to end, so they were gradually turned heel during the first few months of 2012. It was a move that paid off: the Briscoes are now one of the most entertaining acts in Ring of Honor. Switching to the heel side of the fence has helped the brothers to become more popular than they have been in years.

By playing amplified versions of themselves on camera viewers have seen the Briscoes in a new light and they’ve earned themselves a new fan following. They’re two guys who aren’t afraid to work stiff or bleed (things that mean a lot to ROH fans) and who never back down from a fight (something all wrestling fans appreciate). Their ring attire and speech patterns haven’t changed, but they’re approaching their matches with a new purpose. They’re different from anything else on the ROH roster. Can you imagine any other wrestlers in ROH being as believable in the “Day 1” video?

Somehow Jay Briscoe manages to make shouting about making Brian Kendrick bleed, watching Roderick Strong debut in Edison, New Jersey, and eating soup highly entertaining. Maybe it’s the passion he puts into the promo. Maybe it’s the way Mark casually checks a gun as his elder brother screams and shouts. Maybe it’s the way he repeats himself, increasing the fervour in his voice every time. Maybe it’s the way he’s talking about relatively inconsequential things as if they’re life changing events. Whatever it is, the Briscoes display in just one video that they can shine in promos if they can just be themselves.

A key part of why the brothers have found themselves hearing cheers instead of jeers despite being bad guys occurs early on in the video. The brief exchange the two share regarding TNA makes it clear neither thinks much of the promotion, and that this opinion goes beyond simply it being a rival company. They agree with most wrestling fans that TNA simply isn’t worth bothering with. We like them for saying it, and like them more for saying it in amusing fashion.

If the Briscoes continue to be used in this way I think they could end up being turned face once their feud with the All Night Express has finished. From the “Day 1” promo to their appearance in an ROH videowire telling Titus and King that they “ain’t ready for no ladder war” (see that here) the Briscoes are not just believable, they’re entertaining.

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