Saturday, 24 August 2013

Manhattan Mayhem V review

Previous Manhattan Mayhem shows have always been a significant entry into the ROH canon. Whether it was CM Punk’s dog collar match with Jimmy Rave at the first MM show in 2005 or Eddie Edwards’ shock title win over Roderick Strong in 2011 there was always something memorable on the shows. Sadly the run of excellent Manhattan Mayhem events ended on Saturday 17th August 2013.

Even three ROH world title tournament matches and the tag team championships changing hands couldn’t save this event . The underwhelming brackets of the tournament meant that none of the three second round matches were going to make much of an impact. The title change, as good as it was, being the third in two weeks was also not going to be a particularly momentous occasion.

Manhattan Mayhem V was not a bad wrestling show. But in the grand scheme of Ring of Honor plots and storylines it just wasn’t very important. It was used to setup the far bigger Death Before Dishonor XI. There’s nothing wrong with having one show set up another, it’s a vital part of the process in fact, but it does tend to result in the setups being average shows. And that’s exactly what happened here.

Silas Young and Adam Page kicked the evening off in a good match that surprisingly ended up being one of the best on the show. Young got the victory after hitting his impressive headstand into a moonsault from the turnbuckle.
Silas Young, preparing to absorb a chop there

Before match two could take place Steve Corino showed up and tried to join Kevin Kelly and Prince Nana at the commentary position. Yes, Prince Nana was on commentary, and playing a face to boot. It would be revealed later in the evening that Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness had hired him as a talent scout.

Back to ‘The King of Old School’. He was ejected from the building by Todd Sinclair and security as Kevin Kelly reminded him he no longer has a job. Nana described the experience as “nerve wracking”. Presumably Corino will show up again at Death Before Dishonor, possibly during an Adam Cole match. I remain convinced he will be Corino’s next on-screen client.

Match two saw the C&C Wrestle Factory clash with Adrenaline RUSH under scramble tag rules (basically whenever someone leaves the ring their partner can enter the match to become the legal man). It was a fast and enjoyable match but ultimately not something anyone’s going to remember. C&C won after Coleman hit a leaping hurricanrana from the top rope on ACH and Alexander followed up with a splash.

I’m beginning to think Coleman and Alexander may turn heel at some point. Other than reDRagon there aren’t any heel units in ROH at the moment. C&C could benefit from the move as it would give their matches a dynamic currently only seen with Fish and O’Reilly. It could result in a long term storyline or feud for them too.

There was very little response for home state boy Mike Mondo when he made his way to the ring in his fancy Beast Mode hoodie. Speaking of which, Nana entered Jerry Lawler mode when the Hoopla Hotties came to the ring alongside Matt Taven. He came dangerously close to talking about puppies.

What followed was a standard Matt Taven bout. The TV champ (this was a non-title affair, for the record) did some impressive things in the ring but was overshadowed by the nonsense of Truth Martini, Kasey Ray and Seleziya (finally got the correct spelling). I like entourages in wrestling, but the House of Truth is all too often a factor in MTV’s matches. It wouldn’t hurt to let him fly solo sometimes. It would give him a better chance to show how talented a wrestler he is.

That said Taven did win without direct interference from his seconds. He put a boot up as ‘No Fear’ leapt off the top rope and then followed up with his Climax finisher.

Up next was the dream tag match. The Young Bucks took on the former ROH, and current IWGP junior heavyweight, tag champs. I intimated in my All Star Extravaganza V review (get a read of that here) that I was unimpressed by the Bucks. The same was true here, though to a lesser extent. As they were in a regular tag match Nick and Matt had more time to shine and were able to work the sort of pace they prefer (as opposed to the three-way they were in at ASE). Even with that going in their favour they didn’t come across as anything special. I think it’s their limited use of ring psychology that puts me off them.

The match was the second best of the evening. I suspect a large part of the reason for that was Rocky Romero quietly and competently holding things together. It certainly wasn’t because the Jackson boys threw a dozen super kicks during the match. The Forever Hooligans won after a flying knee-torture rack combination.

After the match the Bucks shook hands with the Hooligans, something they’re not known to do. The idea has been that they don’t respect anyone but each other. That they shook hands obviously means there’s been a change of heart, which could lead to a rematch at some point. I wouldn’t be averse to seeing that but in all honesty I’d prefer to see the Hooligans clashing with ROH’s regular teams.

The second half of the show kicked off with RD Evans and QT Marshall entering the ring. ‘The Barrister’ said it was an injustice that the American Wolves, Forever Hooligans, and Adrenaline RUSH were booked but Marshall Law were not. He then announced he would not leave the ring until they got a match.

Nana got up and introduced his first two signings as opponents for Evans and ‘God’s Gift’. Two guys came out wearing shirts, ties and clown masks. After clotheslining Marshall Law the first revealed himself to be CHIKARA Grand champion Eddie Kingston. The other unmasked as Homicide.

A brief match followed that was won by Homicide and Kingston, who we were informed are to be collectively known as Outlaws Inc. After the match ‘The Notorious 187’ grabbed hold of RD and broke his finger.
Nobody was more excited to see Homicide and Eddie Kingston back in ROH than Homicide and Eddie Kingston

Nothing about this segment got anywhere near the reaction Ring of Honor was clearly hoping for. Homicide was greeted with indifference, whereas five years ago the NYC fans would have erupted for him. The crowd was not drawn into the action and the post-match digit breaking was not treated seriously. All of that should be enough to convince any fair-minded person that Homicide is no longer the force he once was.

I’m disappointed ROH resorted to bringing in Kingston and Homicide. I can understand the company wanting to bring in a new team. I can understand them wanting to have guys vaguely linked to Prince Nana. And I can understand them wanting to have a team that adheres to the Code of Honor but has questionable morals. But all of that could have been achieved by bringing in two newcomers in exactly the same fashion. In fact I think that would have worked better.

The evening’s first quarter final match saw Michael Bennett facing Tommaso Ciampa. ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’ was played to the ring by a band called Last Remaining Pinnacle. They’re responsible for his entrance music, you see. I can appreciate ROH were trying to make Ciampa look a star but it didn’t really pan out. He’s not quite over enough to warrant this treatment and it won’t get him over in and of itself though. Still, at least ROH are trying.

The match built slowly and featured some awkward exchanges early on. They weren’t helped by an unresponsive, uninterested crowd. It took some reckless brawling at ringside to wake them up, although once they were interested they stayed that way. They reacted nicely to Bennett teasing a piledriver on the apron, a call back to the injury he (unintentionally) gave BJ Whitmer at All Star Extravaganza. It was a good spot. They also reacted to Bennett attempting the GTS, a move synonymous with the ex-boyfriend of Bennett’s gal pal Maria.

Even though it was Bennett working his socks off to generate reactions it was, as predicted, ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’ who won. He blasted Bennett with a Kryptonite Crunch on the floor and then rolled him back into the win for his victory. Such a dramatic ending was another attempt at turning him into a star.

Roderick Strong versus Kevin Steen was match number seven. Learning from the mistakes of their peers the two men kicked their match off at a blistering pace. Within the first minute Strong had hit a backbreaker and attempted a suicide dive, only to be caught and hit with an apron bomb, and ‘Mr Wrestling’ had flown off the top rope to hit a Swanton bomb.

They slowed down a little as the match progressed but the start they’d chosen, coupled with the immense popularity of Steen, meant the crowd remained rowdy. Steen won an enjoyable match after a sleeper suplex followed by a package piledriver.

The evening’s penultimate match was Michael Elgin v Karl Anderson, the final second round tournament match. They too suffered at the hands of the crowd’s disinterest. They set a brisk pace but nothing they did got much of a reaction early on. Even ‘Unbreakable’s’ beloved stalling suplex didn’t get the booming ovation it has at recent shows.

‘Machine Gun’ begun playing the bad guy around five minutes in but the crowd didn’t really acknowledge it. They seemed keener on booing Elgin, occasionally breaking out into a USA chant (because Elgin’s Canadian). ROH fans, particularly those in New York, have a tendency of turning on popular wrestlers when they become ROH world champion. Elgin’s status as tournament favourite may have prompted that treatment here. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s treated by the town when Final Battle rolls around, whether he has the championship or not.

The audience did eventually get into the match after Anderson hit a TKO from the second rope and followed up with a fire thunder driver. Elgin came back with a crossface but Anderson broke it up with a handful of ropes to boos. After receiving a boot out on the apron Elgin performed his impressive deadlift second rope suplex.

Anderson would come unstuck a few moments later when he went for a boot into the corner. Elgin avoided the attack and connected with a pair of spinning back fists, a buckle bomb and an Elgin bomb for the victory. It was a good series of moves but it didn’t provide the excellent climax it has before because the audience hadn’t been as hot. It was the first Elgin match in a while that hasn’t culminated with a blazing hot final three minutes.
Going off the poster Elgin v Anderson was the main event

The main event was the match of the night. It saw the American Wolves defend the tag team titles against reDRagon. Richards and Edwards had won the belts just seven days earlier at All Star Extravaganza. Fish and O’Reilly had lost them only two weeks earlier at a TV taping. They would regain them here.

I’ve liked the frequent changes of the tag titles. It’s been a call back to the early days of the promotion and made the doubles division seem more unpredictable. It’s also given ROH a logical reason to book a three-way championship match between the Wolves, reDRagon and the Forever Hooligans at some point. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but the option’s there.

The match was as slick and enjoyable as you’d expect from these four. Both Richards and Fish deserve extra credit for making it a great encounter. Richards’ recent sense of fun was alive and well here, and he seems to have taken on board criticism that he tries doing too much in matches. Fish did a fine job of winding the crowd up, useful when you remember they’d been quiet for a lot of the evening.

But it was Kyle O’Reilly who was the star of the show. He was presented as being on the same level as Richards, his former mentor. After Fish had taken Edwards out of the match by shoving him off of the top rope through a table and then been taken out himself by Davey we got a lengthy sequence designed to raise O’Reilly’s standing.

Kyle kicked out of a top rope double stomp and then a brainbuster and even countered his way out of an ankle lock. On the outside he knee dropped Richards’ arm onto a chair held in place by Fish and then returned to the ring to hit a divorce court from the top rope. Being a babyface Davey fought valiantly out of the arm bar and then caused a miscue between the challengers. Moments later O’Reilly was back in control and hit a tornado DDT following by Chasing the Dragon for a convincing near fall.

O’Reilly immediately applied an arm bar on Richards’ injured arm. After a few seconds Richards submitted and reDRagon became two time tag champions. Had O’Reilly won off a double team move he would have been enhanced, but not as much. Having him win with a submission hold over his former mentor was a big deal. He’d worked over the arm and the finish made it clear that it was O’Reilly’s persistence and skill at targeting a body part that had gained him and his teammate the victory.

As reDRagon had the belts put around their waists by Cary Silkin and Todd Sinclair the sirens and red lighting from earlier in the evening came back on. Outlaws Inc returned to the ring and brawled with the new champions. Homicide snapped O'Reilly's finger and he and Kingston posed and shouted in the ring to end the show.

The prospect of a reDRagon v Outlaws Inc match does not fill me with joy.

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