Sunday 5 May 2013

Border Wars 2013 review

Border Wars didn’t break the curse. It was another commendable (internet) pay-per-view offering from Ring of Honor. Unfortunately it kept another running theme going as well, the technical problems that plague seemingly every internet offering the company makes. These sorts of issues are what prompted ROH to move away from Go Fight Live and start producing them in house. That was a wise move. It doesn’t appear to have been followed up by the equally wise move to involve people who know how to avoid streaming issues.

There’s nothing I can say on the topic of streaming problems and Ring of Honor that I haven’t said before but I can’t provide a recap of the show without mentioning the problem. It’s something ROH need to sort out. Until they do they’ll continue to have rightly dissatisfied customers and an image of a small time indy fed.

The promotion and its talent deserve better than that but they won’t get it until they prove they can give us iPPVs without fault. The more things that go wrong the longer stretch of successes they’re going to have to shed the image.

I really hope that I can do a write-up of Best in the World in June without mentioning any of these problems.

Border Wars took place in front of a lively crowd at the Red Reeve Arena in Toronto. The C&C Wrestle Factory opened up the show with a victory over the super-popular ACH and  his tag partner Tadarius Thomas (who really need a team name). The win came after Coleman hit a no hands hurricanrana on ACH and Alexander followed up with a springboard frog splash.

The fans were into the bout, granting it with early chants of “This is awesome!” Things quietened down considerably when Thomas got isolated, a sign that ACH was the star of the four. He's a highlight of the current ROH roster, charismatic and incredibly nimble. He could make it to the top of the company given the time.

In the short term he and Thomas are likely going to get themselves a tag team title shot. I thought they’d be getting a win on iPPV to set that up but apparently not. It’s still something they’re heading towards though.
Streamers in the opening match? You bet!
Match two was Mike Bennett versus Roderick Strong one-on-one. Mike Mondo had originally been set to be a part of the match but suffered an injury while training so got pulled. Yep, his return has been delayed again.

Bennett was sporting a haircut. I prefer the shaggy look he had going on before.

The match was the average Bennett affair, meaning that there was nothing bad going on but also nothing particularly exciting either. The finish came when Roddy slapped the Stronghold on Bennett, spurring Maria to cause a distraction as her man tapped out. Strong went to chide the ref for his inattentiveness and turned around into a superkick and a Box Office Snash for two.

Cheeseburger rocked up and forced a kiss on Maria, which as basically sexual assault and was presumably done as payback for getting decked by ‘The Prodigy’ at Supercard of Honor. Bennett then dashed around ringside after the crew member, sliding back into the ring to eat the match-winning Sick Kick.

A recap of Steen speaking out against Matt Hardy and getting booted out of SCUM followed that. If you've watched the TV show you’ll be aware of the footage.

BJ Whitmer v Rhett Titus, fought under I Quit rules, was match three. ‘Addicted to Love’ was wearing Scott Hall nWo style trunks. Pretty cool touch for a guy who's part of an invading faction.

The match started with the two men brawling. That was overshadowed by Nigel McGuinness getting referees to eject Steve Corino from the arena. The fans resurrected WWE's old ‘Get the F Out’ campaign as a chant, replacing the F with something that wasn't “federation”.

The crowd were into the match. I wasn’t. I can’t be part of the in-crowd all the time. Titus brought in zip ties after the standard issue tussling. ‘The Buzzsaw’ fought him off and ended up locking Titus into the ropes. The SCUM man refused to quit as he was punched repeatedly in the face by his former tag team partner. Eventually he spat at him.  

That prompted BJ to bring in a chair. He prepared to smash Titus with an unprotected shot but Corino returned and distracted him. ‘The King of Old School’ turned his back and sank to his knees, sacrificing himself to Whitmer’s wrath. Titus quit to save his pal form the chair.

Jimmy Jacobs and Cliff Compton hit the ring and flattened BJ, which brought out Michael Elgin and Jay Lethal for the stipulation tag match. Jacobs was sporting a new hairdo too. It was clearly new haircut night in Toronto. Corinio stayed at ringside as the combatants rucked around ringside, providing time for Rhett to be cut out of the zip ties back in the ring.  

Once both teams were back into the ring a regular tag match got underway. Elgin did his stalling suplex spot to a booming reaction. It got a "That was awesome!" chant. Moments later he did it again on Compton. Lethal joined him with a stall on Jacobs. Elgin remains amazingly over despite underwhelming presentation so far this year. That’s a positive sign.

Lethal was written out of the match when he “tweaked his knee” on what appeared to be a standard suicide dive. Corino demanded a count out but it didn't happen. Instead Lethal was helped backstage, leaving 'Unbreakable' to continue the match alone. It was a work designed to keep Elgin looking strong and set up a surprise run-in from Kevin Steen.

It accomplished both goals. Jacobs was caught in mid-air and slammed with a suplex. Moments later Elgin powered both men off the mat, one on his shoulders and one in his arms. The numbers bettered him after that but he looked like a beast while battling the odds.

When Steen appeared he got officially added to the match by McGuinness. Elgin tagged him in and 'Mr Wrestling' cleaned house on SCUM. After hitting a pop-up power bomb on Compton he went for a package piledriver but ‘The Zombie Princess’ clipped his leg and snuck in a schoolboy for a victory. Steen looked crushed as Corino beamed and celebrated at ringside.

The match was a good piece of work. It created a way to get Steen on to the card and protected Elgin. It was well received. Excellent use of four guys and continuation of the SCUM plot.

During the interval we were shown two matches. Taiji Ishimori v El Generico from Tokyo Summit (Ishimori won) and Paul London v Michael Shane (remember him?) from Unscripted (London won).

The second half opened with 'Barrister' RD Evans (inexplicably dressed in wrestling gear) and 'God's Gift' QT Marshall sauntering to the ring. They got hefty streamer treatment. Fans were probably just pleased to have the chance to throw stuff again after intermission. Evans asked for silence because his voice was hoarse. That got the fans Fandangoing. Evans asked if it was the Canadian national anthem. A humorous quip from Evans? That’s his strength.

Evans said reDRagon should be stripped of the tag belts because they'd no-showed the event. No-showing was a bit strong: they were never announced to be there. As he spoke a series of beeps started up and images were shown on the screen above the entrance of Tommaso Ciampa working out.

Moments later ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’ strode out with a new (and impressive) entrance that made him look like a major star. Evans bailed and left Marshall to eat a double leg takedown and a knee to the face. The heels fled. It was a well booked return segment and Ciampa got a great reaction. He should have hit his finisher on Marshall though. The fans needed something to give a definitive pop to.

Corino returned to ringside to gloat about being the company’s new colour commentator. He promised something big for later in the show and then left. It was a peculiar addition to the show. Corino could have said what he had to say during his earlier appearance. That would have allowed the audience to hear what he had to say too.

Eddie Edwards v Taiji Ishimori was match five. Kevin Kelly frustratingly claimed this was Ishimori's ROH debut even though we'd seen him wrestle Generico in an ROH ring not half an hour earlier. Okay it was in Japan, but it was still an ROH card. Seconds after that claim Kelly followed up with "I've had the opportunity to speak to him quite a bit... through translator, over the last few days." Oh, Kevin Kelly. When will you learn?

What followed was the match of the night. It was stuffed with great exchanges and near falls. I strongly recommend checking it out. Eddie eventually got the win with a Die Hard Driver. After his victory ‘Die Hard’ did the “motion-for-the-title-around-the-waist” that wrestlers tend to do. A match for the GHC junior heavyweight championship on his next NOAH tour looks likely.

Following that we all took our pants off to enjoy the TV title match. Truth had two Hoopla hotties with him. Taven again had the belt stuffed down his tights. And JBL thinks Dolph Ziggler wearing a championship backwards is disrespectful.

I’d said in my preview that this match needed to give Matt Taven a chance to have a match free of stalling and storylines on pay-per-view. It did that and MTV had a satisfactory, technically sound match. It didn't blow anyone away but it as the outing that champ needed. That he won via Hoopla hottie distraction and a handful of tights didn't hurt him at all. It's in keeping with his character.

Following the match Truth offered a handshake to Briscoe. There was literally no reason for this. He had to return to the ring to do it. The life intervention expert got a karate chop for his trouble. The newest Hoopls hottie carried him backstage. That’s particularly impressive when you factor in her impractical heels.

London versus Richards was the evening's penultimate bout. The stream cut for London's steamer treatment. Richards' got a lot so I imagine the returning star did too. London wrestled in the same trunks he wore fit your per ROH match in 2003. That was a nice touch.

Mat and submission wrestling was the story of the first few minutes. The fans turned on Richards early. He’s had a storied history with Toronto: challenging, and failing to defeat, Tyler Black for the ROH championship and losing the belt to Kevin Steen at last year’s Border Wars being the most memorable examples. I like this sort of thing in wrestling. It’s impossible to script and adds realism.

This prompted ‘The American Wolf’ to begin playing heel, becoming more aggressive throughout the match and taunting the fans continually. His cry of “best wrestler in the world" after booting London in the face was thoroughly antagonistic.

London got a convincing near fall off a Dragon suplex. Moments later Richards retaliated with a Tombstone piledriver on the ringside mats in the second biggest move of the match. London made it back in at the count if nineteen as Richards shouted for him to stay down. ‘The Lone Wolf’ immediately nailed him with a baseball slide drop kick and followed up by a mistimed double stomp off the top rope, landing right on London's face. That was the biggest move of the match.

Richards stalled as the referee helped London to recover. The decision was made to go to the finish in order to protect him from further damage. That was a wise move. London placed Richards on the top rope and connected with a hurricanrana. He went for the Shooting Star press. Richards countered with his knees and then rolled London up for the win. Botched stomp aside it was a very good match. Had that not happened they may have topped Edwards versus Ishimori.

Davey reverted to face mode after the bout, saying ROH and guys like him, Jay Briscoe and Adam Cole wouldn't be there without him. He then asked for a standing ovation for ‘The Intrepid Traveller’. The fans obliged.

London wasn't to be outdone. He took the mic to say that the honour had been all his, proclaimed Richards will do great things and thanked the fans for the streamers. I want to see him as a regular in ROH. He’s popular, talented and willing to put the company and its stars over. Let’s hope it happens.

The on-screen graphic declared Jay Briscoe to be the "new" ROH champion as he entered for his first defence of the ROH world title. That's milking it a bit. I don't think a champion can be considered new a month into their reign, first defence or not. Cole got a mixed reaction when he was announced. Fans were massively into Briscoe.
The "new" champ is here
Things were slow and even in the early going, the story being that Cole was slightly awed by the big match situation. Tings eventually turned in favour of the challenger  when he hit a drop kick to Briscoe’s knee. That was followed up by the corner figure four spot. As that had been made famous by beloved Canadian hero Bret Hart it got a good reaction.

From there Briscoe made a few attempts at comebacks but always had to go back to favouring the knee, allowing Cole recovery time. After a failed Jay Driller and a couple of neck breakers from Cole the action picked up with a Death Valley driver on the apron from Briscoe. Back in the ring Briscoe went for the Driller again but Cole countered into the figure four leg lock.

One rope break later both men were up on the top rope and Cole nailed Briscoe with a German suplex followed by a pair of superkicks, the Florida Key and then a second figure four. The challenger was more reluctant to release the hold to the rope break the second time around.

Todd Sinclair took a bump, setting up a Steve Corino run-in. He tossed a SCUM shirt to Cole, who stood looking confused while McGuinness got into the ring, crotched Corino on the top rope and hit the Tower of London. As Nigel tossed Corino backstage Jay returned to his feet and finally connected with the Jay Driller on Cole, giving him his first successful title defence.

Briscoe celebrated in a shower of steamers as Cole pouted like a petulant child. The two shook hands and all seemed right with the world but Cole teased a superkick when Jay turned his back. It didn't happen. The challenger stormed backstage when Briscoe figured out what he was up to. It pretty much confirms Cole is now a bad guy though.

The card did a good job of satisfying on the night and building further plot developments and storylines. There wasn’t a single match that could be described as bad and the central feud, SCUM versus Ring of Honor, continued with Corino earning a commentary spot and a SCUM member being guaranteed a world title match at some point in the future. I’m expecting that to happen at next month’s Best in the World. Based on recent form that should be a great show.

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