Sunday 3 March 2013

ROH 11th Anniversary Show review

On Saturday March 2nd Ring of Honor promoted what I’m convinced was their strongest show in years. The 11th Anniversary Show did the business on every conceivable level. The only complaints that could be fired at it were either minor or trivial. It was both a celebration of the promotion’s history, pushing young talent to the fore and emphasising the style that made ROH stand out in the first place, and a launching point for future rivalries and storylines.

Maybe we should have paid more attention to this poster

The first match of the night was a six man mayhem match. That’s something that used to be an ROH staple. They were popular with previous booker Gabe Sapolsky because they allowed him to get multiple names onto a card while not overloading on matches. They fell by the wayside when Gabe left due to a ruling from Carey Silkin that cards should feature no more than eighteen wrestlers. Unsurprisingly, putting a third of the card into one match never caught on.

The 11th Anniversary six man did exactly what it needed to, providing the show with a fast opener that got the fans vocal and excited for the evening. Everyone got a chance to perform a big move but it was ultimately ACH that got the win (pinning Silas Young). That was the right call, ACH was massively over with the Chicago (Ridge) fans. If he’s not used prominently over the next few months there’s something very wrong in ROH.

The showdown between SCUM boys Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs and C&C followed the lightning quick opener. It was an equally lightning quick tag match. Despite its surprisingly meagre runtime a lot was packed into the match. Coleman and Alexander  looked trememndous. Sadly it was the veterans that won.

So much for building for the future.

In fairness it wasn’t a clean win. ‘The King of Old School’ used what Kevin Kelly described as a “hunk of metal” to strike Alexander and then hit a spike piledriver. C&C were at least protected a bit in their loss.

BJ Whitmer got a surprising win (to me anyway) over Charlie Haas in a 90s style garbage match. This was referred to as a street fight, a falls count anywhere match, and a no holds barred match at various points. These kind of simple inconsistencies are bush league and very easy to fix, yet Ring of Honor has been plagued by them for years. It’s not a big deal but it doesn’t really paint the promotion in the right light.

The two men took some insane bumps through tables, chairs and ladders, with BJ kicking out of every big move he was subjected to. Haas kicked out of his fair share but was made to look fallible when the referee stopped the match and awarded it to Whitmer as ‘The Buzzsaw’ rained down knees on Haas’s head. Fans seemed disappointed by this call. I thought it was a realistic finish considering the torture the two men had inflicted on one another.

There was a pre-match video for the American Wolves v Forever Hooligans match that featured Davey Richards talking about his time teaming with Rocky Romero in Japan. They also held the ROH tag titles together, but he didn’t mention that (unless you consider his “No remorse” comment at the end). Any excuse to namedrop New Japan, eh, Davey?

Like something out of the 1980s Alex Koslov insisted on singing the Russian national anthem before the match. The crowd heavily booed this, naturally.

The four men constructed a great match. As with everything else on the show until this point they set a breakneck speed early on and kept it up. There were touches of comedy in the opening minutes between Romero and Richards (rare in a Richards match) but the match became serious and the two teams exchanged stiff shots and a wide variety of double team moves. The Wolves won a great bout with a power bomb and top rope lung-blower combo.

The four shook hands after the bout, with the former No Remorse Corps members hugging to a cheer from the crowd.

Following intermission we had the battle of the former House of Truth members, Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin. My first thought as ‘Unbreakable’ entered was that he needs to drop the fetishwear. Entering in a long leather coat doesn’t do him any favours. It doesn’t fit with his character either.

Elgin picked up the first fall with a buckle bomb within two minutes. The match then spilled to the outside and Strong managed to grab the upper hand with a belly-to-back suplex on the floor and some manly barrier shoving. He eventually evened up the fall count with a backbreaker onto the turnbuckle followed by a suplex into a backbreaker in the ring.

The closing moments didn’t seem to pick up as much as steam as I’d expected. Strong managed to connect with a power bomb, only for Elgin to kick out and come back with an Elgin bomb of his own. Strong kicked out of that and then found himself locked into the Crossface. He tapped to it instantly. No trying to reach the ropes here.

A recap of the Hot Prospect tournament finals, which saw Matt Taven beat Tadarius Thomas with help from Truth Martini’s shoe and then join forces with him, was followed by a nonsensical promo by the HOT boss. Matt Hardy hit the ring and cut a promo which was drowned in boos and negative chants. The fans didn’t care about Hardy’s feelings on the TV championship, they just wanted him to leave the ring.

Matt Taven entered with a slightly altered look which was completely overshadowed by his manager. Truth, not known for being shy and-or retiring, wore a tuxedo jacket and a pair of wrestling trunks with a bow tie on them. There was, as always, a top hat in the mix too.

‘The Sensei of Mattitude’ was on commentary for the match. He spent most of the time putting himself over. That’s part of his character. It doesn’t stop it being detrimental to the product or viewers’ enjoyment. Hardy was obviously scripted to behave in this fashion, but there was no need to bury the two men wrestling. That sort of thing never does anyone any good.

The match was slow but proficient. Cole was on defence for a lot of the run time, getting in occasional flurries which excited the audience. When the challenger was on offence the fans quietened down considerably.

The surprise result saw Taven beat Cole to win the gold.

Irritatingly the post-match scene focused more on Matt Hardy, who had been wittering on about being the man who would challenge Cole at the next day’s TV taping. Cole’s reaction was made out to be less important than Hardy’s, as was the celebration of the new champion. Hardy was the star of the scene, not the new champ or the former champ. It was a stupid move.

The tag team titles were on the line in the penultimate match of the night. It was a blistering display. There were numerous very convincing false finishes from both teams, which kept viewers guessing as to who’d win. The finish saw Mark Japanese arm dragged off of the apron, leaving Jay to eat a Doomsday Device and Chasing the Dragon.

The right team won. The Briscoes have been overexposed for a long time. Putting the belts on the fresher team should liven up the doubles scene. A match between redDRagon and The American Wolves seems likely for Supercard of Honor VII. That should be very good.
O'Reilly looks very pleased. Perhaps this was taken just after he was told he and Fish were getting the belts
As Kevin Steen made his entrance for the main event Kevin Kelly screeched, “He is the ROH world champion not because he has fans that like him but because he is the best wrestler in the world today.” It felt like a not-very-subtle dig at The Rock. If it was it was a weird move. WWE and Ring of Honor have very different criteria when it comes to selecting their champions.

Steen and Lethal started off slugging away at each other in the centre of the ring before breaking off into a surprisingly fluid wrestling match. The story of the bout was that Lethal had scouted Steen well and was able to avoid all of the champ’s standard moves. Doing so allowed him to remain competitive against the stronger, bulkier ‘Mr Wrestling’.

Steen’s SCUM teammates ran in after a ref bump. They hit their second spike piledriver of the evening on Lethal. It wasn’t enough to keep the challenger down though. Corino went to use a chair on him but Nigel McGuinness ran out and chased him off. ‘The Zombie Princess’ tried to interfere but got an enziguri instead.

Lethal connected with two dragon suplexes. Steen kicked out. The champion smashed the challenger with an elevated power bomb. Lethal kicked out. Steen charged a corner but Lethal dodged him and nailed him with five super kicks, a Lethal Combination, and a Macho Elbow. Steen, again, kicked out.

Locking in a Koji Clutch Lethal tried to win the title via submission. It didn’t work: ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’ managed to roll to the ropes and force a break. The two clambered to their feet and Lethal looked as though he was planning a move that would take Steen out of the ring. Instead Steen gave Lethal an F5 through the timekeeper’s table.

Despite having his foot grabbed by Jimmy Jacobs, who was still skulking about at ringside, Lethal made it back into the ring before the count of twenty (yeah, it’s a twenty count in ROH). He was immediately met with a package piledriver, which he kicked out of for a very close near fall. Perhaps inspired by Truth Martini, Jacobs offered the services of a loosened shoe (or, y’know, the spike he keeps there) to the champion. That was turned down and Steen told Jacobs to leave ringside, shoving him and getting caught in a rollup by Lethal for another convincing two count.

Lethal then hit yet another super kick on Steen, who retaliated with a lariat. Moments later they were back up and on the turnbuckle. Lethal went for a Macho Elbow but Steen leapt up and blasted his foe with El Generico’s turnbuckle brainbuster. That finally earned him the victory in a tremendous main event.

Post-match Steen took a microphone to make a speech but was interrupted by Rhino. ‘The War Machine’ charged into the ring and Gored Lethal. The Briscoes came to the ring, knocking Steen down before brawling with Jacobs and Rhino. ‘Dem Boys’ were disposed of quickly but were replaced by valiant young bucks C&C. They cleaned house on the heels until Jimmy Rave ran in through the crowd, sporting a natty SCUM shirt, and tossed them out of the ring.

Next out in the ECW-inspired run-in session (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way) were BJ Whitmer and Rhett Titus. Within seconds Titus drop kicked his tag partner and tore open his ROH shirt to reveal, you guessed it, a SCUM shirt. Elgin came down and sliced through a few guys before yet another SCUM member debuted, tossing powder into ‘Unbreakable’s eyes.

It was Cliff Compton.

As the SCUM boys gave C&C, the Briscoes, Elgin and Lethal a good kicking Steen stood at the edge of the ring watching. The Wolves and Adam Cole hit the ring but they ended up going down too, Cole being taken down by (sigh) Matt Hardy, who was also decked out in SCUM merch.

Corino returned to the ring, sporting glasses, to announce that ROH was going to die SCUM, you see, is waging war on Ring of Honor, using guys who have been mistreated by its fans over the years. This logic does admittedly make Matt Hardy a perfect fit for the gang. Rave too, considering the amazing levels of heat he used to get.

Steen didn’t speak but seemed less than enthused by the turn of events. An official face turn for him seems very likely.

The 11th Anniversary Show was a triumph. The show-closing angle, the restocking of SCUM, was executed wonderfully and provided several genuine surprises for fans. Even if that’s overlooked the show has to be considered a success. There wasn’t a single bad match on the show, there were title changes that should freshen the promotion up, and there was a match of the year candidate in the headline slot. What more could have been asked for?

I’m keen to see where the SCUM v ROH angle goes. The decision to bulk up the group of villains to the point where they’re practically a mini roster could indicate that this feud is going to go on for a while. As long as it provides good matches and doesn’t outstay its welcome I’m all for it.

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