Saturday 6 April 2013

Supercard of Honor VII review

Supercard of Honor VII had a tough act to follow coming four weeks after Ring of Honor's stellar 11th Anniversary Show. That event had delivered two title changes, several excellent matches, and a well-executed surprise ending. While the Supercard looked good it was going to have to be a damn fine show to better all of that.

Did it manage it? No. It did come very close but in my opinion the card celebrating ROH's eleven year existence was a touch better. That's not to sell this show short. Once again everyone on the roster pulled together to put on an above average wrestling show. There was only one match that could, if you were being slightly unfair, describe as a bit of a damp squib (the TV title match) but that was made up for by two incredibly hot matches (Elgin v Lethal and reDRagon v The American Wolves) and a very surprising result.

That result came in the evening's main event. Jay Briscoe defeated Kevin Steen. There was no DQ and it wasn't a Dusty Finish. Briscoe beat 'Mr Wrestling' fair and square in the centre of the ring to become the ROH world champion.

Well that's what we're told happened at any rate. Unfortunately many watching live and anybody tuning in to watch the show on ROH's website right now has to take the word of others for this because the decision wasn't broadcast live. The promotion's technical difficulties returned once again during the most important match on the card.

In the interest of fairness I'll point out ROH has apologised for the fault several times. That’s the right thing to do but steps need to be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again. Cuts in the feed are the reason ROH dissolved their relationship with GFL and started steaming iPPVs themselves. They've done a mostly good job at doing so but they can't afford to start going through those problems again just as they're starting to win back fans.

Border Wars, scheduled for the beginning of May, needs to receive a perfect stream. Whatever checks need to be made need to be made several times more than required. Money needs to be spent guaranteeing Border Wars doesn't suffer this snag. The promotion's reputation has already taken a battering in this area. They need to pull off a perfect show from Toronto.

Back to Supercard of Honor VII. The broadcast began with a lengthy, but well-produced, video package recapping the 11th Anniversary Show and Nigel McGuinness's troop-rallying TV promo. That ended with Jay Briscoe telling Kevin Steen the only way he'd beat him is if he killed him. Something about that claim seemed a little hyperbolic. Amusingly Kevin Kelly repeated this comment from Briscoe with a completely straight face during the opening moments of the live broadcast, as though there really was a chance we'd see Steen resort to murder to keep his belt.

Out first were RD Evans and QT Marahall. 'The Barrister' cut a promo that seemed to last an age regarding who'd be teaming with 'God's Gift'. It drew heat, but more because the fans were bored. Chants for wrestling drowned him out as he teased QT's tag partner would be Hiroshi Tanahashi or Lacey Von Erich. It ended up being 'The Barrister' himself, which earned a surprisingly loud and positive reaction.

What followed was a fast-paced, well wrestled match that portrayed ACH and Tadarius Thomas as stars. They looked great in between the comedy spots of Evans. It was far better than if expected. The faces got the win with a pair of kicks and ACH's Big Bang Attack.

Kevin Kelly went into a recap about Charlie Haas's retirement at WAR on March 30th. We were told nobody knew what Shelton Benjamin was going to do just as the man himself came out to the ring. He cut a promo. Yes, vaunted mic maestro Shelton Benjamin got promo time in the second segment of an ROH show, just after RD Evans had had the fans chanting “We aant wrestling!” The crowd met this chatter with various chants too.

Cheeseburger (that guy on the ring crew that Charlie Haas hates) was brought into the ring. Shelton told him he respected him for standing up for himself. Mike Bennett came out to add to the promofest and tease a move to another promotion (WWE for example). All of this ended with Cheeseburger insulting Maria, which earned him a punch to the mouth from 'The Prodigy'.

The Bennett v Benjamin match that followed was pretty enjoyable but the crowd seemed reluctant to get into it. They did come to life at certain points, most notably when Bennett mocked the mannerisms of Maria's ex-boyfriend CM Punk and a spot where 'The First Lady of ROH' inadvertently let Shelton grope her. The latter led to a great spot where Bennett superkicked his girlfriend off the apron (accidentally of course) and then ate a superkick from his opponent for a convincing false finish.

It was a good night to be Shelton Benjamin

Bennett won off a 'Brutal' Bob assisted roll-up. The fans chanted "Thank you, Shelton!" afterwards. It's a pity they couldn't have been that vocal during his bout. If this was Benjamin’s last ROH appearance he’s going out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Match three was the number one contendership match between Jay Lethal and Michael Elgin. They were portrayed as even competitors and freely swapped moves and spots. Highlights included Elgin reversing a sunset flip into a power slam; Lethal hitting two suicide dives, a springboard drop kick and a third suicide dive in quick succession; 'Unbreakable' lifting Lethal off of the apron for a suplex while perched on the second rope; a great exchange of failed finisher attempts; and a sequence which saw Elgin no-sell the Lethal Injection, only to be caught with a Lethal Combination and a Macho Elbow for a great near fall.

The match finished on a high with Elgin crushing his opponent with three power bombs: one off the top rope, a second into the turnbuckle, and then a third standard Elgin Bomb. That it took such an effort to put Lethal down protected him in defeat.

Before the two men could shake hands after the match SCUM ran in through the crowd. That prompted the ten men tag match. It was dubbed a war (as in Ladder War, ROH’s answer to ladder matches) and featured the predictable wild brawling at the start. When it settled down into a more traditional match Mike Mondo was picked to work the isolated babyface routine. He eventually tagged in Whitmer and the match became more even, all the babyfaces involving themselves for crowd-pleasing high spots.

The shortcuts came in eventually. Corino attacked (pretty poor) colour commentator Caleb Seltzer to kick off an anarchic sequence that saw Cliff Compton chucking powder about and BJ Whitmer getting handcuffed to the bottom rope. SCUM got the win after Rhino Gored Caprice Coleman. Corino cut another promo (he’d grabbed some mic time before the match started) telling fans they were supporting the losing team in ROH.

As fans in the Hammerstein Ballroom enjoyed the intermission we at home were treated to a lengthy video package recapping Jay Briscoe's failed world title challenges. For those wondering he lost to Xavier, Samoa Joe (twice), Takeshi Morishima, Nigel McGuinness, Jerry Lynn, and Roderick Strong. All featured hefty amounts of outside brawling although it was more prevalent in the earlier matches. That shows Jay's improvement as a wrestler over the years in my view.

Nigel McGuinness joined Kevin Kelly as colour commentator for the second half of the show. He got a pleasantly loud reaction from the fans. Seltzer getting written off the show to make for McGuinness felt like those  scenarios we used to see on ECW pay-per-views when elaborate plots would be concocted to get Joel Gertner out of the announce booth.

In the ring the second half kicked off with 'Machine Gun' Karl Anderson and his distinctly Japanese entrance music facing ROH regular and triple crown champion Roderick Strong. They had a lively exchange which didn't disappoint anyone tuning in to see signature moves and chops. There were plenty of both. Anderson won with the Ace Crusher after making three attempts to hit the move. 'The Messiah of the Backbreaker' shook hands and embraced Anderson after the match, further cementing his recent status as a tweener.

The TV title match was up next. Matt Hardy entered first, accompanied by Steve Corino and plenty of boos. Adam Cole got himself some cheers and the new champ, accompanied by a Hoopla Hottie and 'Mr No Pants' Truth Martini, got a mixed reaction. 'The King of Old School' gave Matt Hardy his own personal introduction, mentioning Divas Hardy had slept with and the number of Twitter followers he has before dubbing him 'The Jesus Christ of Professional Wrestling'. It got solid some heat. Cole got cheers. So did Taven, which was surprising.

The match was overshadowed in the early going when Truth had his Hoopla Hottie, introduced as Scarlet, sit on Nigel's lap. This distracted Kevin Kelly, which prompted ringside fans to instruct him to call the match. In a rare moment of initiative Kelly quipped “There’s a match on?” Comedy involving him is usually wholly unintentional.

The match got going after that but suffered from a truncated run-time. They constructed some very good three-way spots. That's rarely a priority in the triple threat matches of certain other companies, one of which takes such a lax attitude to them that they’ve recently made them compulsory for an entire division. It’s nice that ROH makes use of such bouts. Also nice to see (well, hear) were the fans yelling at Hardy that he's fat. It's always nice to know that I'm not alone in my dislike of a wrestling figure.

Martini distracted the referee as 'The Sensei of Mattitude' made a cover. Fans chanted "Same old shit!" but quickly changed their tune when Cole kicked Hardy in the privates (he'd gotten to his feet to shout at the ref) and eliminated him with a small package. The fans were ecstatic that the loathed Hardy was gone. Moments later Corino was in the ring distracting Cole, which allowed Taven to sneak in his modified DDT finisher to get his second straight iPPV victory over ‘The Panama City Playboy’.

The match was great in places but the ongoing ROH v SCUM war and the number of seconds at ringside meant that it was ultimately more of an overbooked angle than a satisfying match. Not everything on an ROH show needs to be a perfect wrestling display though. Sometimes stories need to take priority. Taven's reign is still going and he's got plenty of time for good wrestling.

This guy wants his tag belt back

The American Wolves v reDRagon took the semi-final spot. It's this sort of match that makes ROH's in-ring product so good. All four men wrestled like they were trying to steal the show and as though the tag team titles mean something. That makes them mean something.

No team had the upper hand for long. The momentum switched back and forth constantly which allowed the pace to remain fast. This one had its fair share of great spots: O'Reilly sunset flipping himself over a turnbuckle to the outside; Richards applying the Kimura to O'Reilly and the ankle lock to Fish at the same time; a springboard hurricanrana from Edwards to Fish caught in the ropes; and the Wolves using Chasing the Dragon. Just to make it clear they were heels reDRagon retained after a cheap shot from Fish on Richards, allowing O'Reilly to get the pin off a Handful of Tights™ and a schoolboy.

It was stacked with near falls and stiff kicks, like most matches featuring the four. It was exactly what fans (and I) wanted to see. Richards, Edwards, Fish and O'Reilly just pipped Lethal and Elgin to the match of the night.

Topping the bill was the ROH world championship match. Kevin Steen defending against Jay Briscoe. It had a sixty minute time limit allocated to it. That was unnecessary. 'Mr Wrestling's' not going for an hour.

The match built slowly, revolving around the two men exchanging stiff blows for the most part. It was good but nothing out of the ordinary. Jimmy Jacobs ran in at around the ten minute mark. Before he could do anything Mark Briscoe appeared to fight him backstage. The match continued. Steen appeared to get the advantage with the apron bomb but lost it when Jay kneed him in the back on an attempted Swanton. Briscoe got a high angle neck breaker for a near fall, at which point SCUM members Titus and Cliff Compton ran in. Veda Scott took a bump at the hands of 'Mr Media' at which point the feed cut out.

The video resumes with both men winded and the ROH locker room surrounding the ring before cutting out again. Coming back on for a final time we find that Briscoe somehow beat the world champion. Unless ROH have taken the unusual route of turning their history of dodgy stream feeds into a storyline it's pretty poor that the issue hasn't been fixed for the website (but I mentioned all of this above).

Carey Silkin got into the ring to continue his tradition of handing the new champion the title belt. They hugged as the Briscoe family flooded into the ring.

Steen stormed back in and shoved at the new champ. He had a microphone in his hand but he didn't say anything. He stood in silence as the fans chanted "That was awesome!' and "Thank you, Steen" before shaking Jay's hand, hugging what I presume were Briscoe's wife and child, and leaving. Fans then switched to chanting "You deserve it!" at Jay.

Briscoe asked for the old Briscoe Brothers Lynard Skynard entrance music to be played and it started just as the feed cut. Nice evasion of those rights laws, ROH!
Since day one...
I can’t see WWE bettering Supercard of Honor VII with WrestleMania XXIX. Nor can I see them providing anything as surprising as the Jay Briscoe world title win. I was certain that this would be a routine defence for ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’ en route to his match with Adam Cole at Border Wars (read my certainty here). It’s too early to say that Briscoe isn’t a good champion although I will say I’m not getting my hopes up.

Still, it made for a good ending to the pay-per-view. Let’s hope ROH can make it four in a row at Border Wars. While we at it we should cross our fingers for avoiding technical troubles too.

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