Friday 19 July 2013

A Night of Hoopla review

On Thursday July 11th Ring of Honor returned to their onetime stronghold of Chicago. They were there to put on a wrestling show. Nothing unusual about that, you may think. And you’d be right. Because ROH is a wrestling company. But it’s a wrestling company with a reputation for being serious and placing its emphasis firmly on pro wrestling as a sport, rather than as a form of entertainment. That was not the case on July 11th.

The show was dubbed A Night of Hoopla and featured Truth Martini running things for the evening. The event was so far from what ROH has been presenting under current creative chief Delirious (and indeed what ROH is known for in general) that I wouldn’t be surprised if Truth genuinely had had some input into the direction of the show. Imagine if the WWF had done a house show with The Godfather as the guest General Manager towards the end of the Attitude Era and you’ll have a very clear idea of the vibe this card had.

Despite its status as an unauthorised event, and a house show no less, A Night of Hoopla looked pretty strong going in. They’d announced a three-way between Matt Taven, Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole, a match pitting reDRagon against Roderick Strong and ROH trainee Cheeseburger, a six person tag match featuring the popular ACH and probable next world champ Michael Elgin, and a rare in-ring appearance from Delirious. There was every chance it would be an eventful show.

That parental guidance line wasn't for decoration
Things kicked off with a Truth Martini promo. He hyped the evening in general and told the audience to drink responsibly. He set the tone for the evening when he said if people didn’t drink responsibly then they might crash into a school bus on their way home, which could potentially kill a girl and stop her growing up to be eighteen. Which would mean he’d have nobody to have a “good time” with.

That line alone told us this would not be a regular ROH show. And that Truth Martini had carte blanche to say whatever he fancied. The latter was not necessarily a good thing.

Hoopla Hotty Scarlett sang America the Beautiful. The lyrics were altered to be about boobs and stripping and it being okay for men to check her out. Once again this was a tone setting exercise as much as anything else (although one far more enjoyable than Truth’s). I laughed when the accompanying video montage of American icons showed a Walmart.

The first match was the three-way. Matt Taven was introduced first. It seemed weird to me that Truth would book his own guy in the show opener, but what do I know about managing wrestlers? Not as much as Truth Martini, that’s for sure.

Instead of a slick, wrestling-heavy match we got a load of comedic ringside brawling revolving around stiff chops and the wrestlers taking pictures of one another with fans’ cameras. It was good, it just wasn’t what I expected from Cole and Edwards. The crowd enjoyed it. The match also featured the evening’s first referee in underpants, a running theme for the show.

It was a fun opener. Had they been allowed to have a regular match they could have done something great. That wasn’t the point of the evening though. The finish came after Scarlett interjected herself into the match1 and Cole and ‘Die Hard’ exchanged super kicks, with Taven sneaking in to hit his tumbling DDT on Edwards for the victory. It was a clean win for him, more or less.

Following some simulated spit-roasting from Edwards and Cole Truth returned to the ring to introduce the Ring of Honor equivalent of P Diddy performing at WrestleMania: Jimmy Jacobs singing his new song, Gypsy Soul. The guy was one of ROH’s top villains a few years ago when leading The Age of the Fall. He’s had quite the comedown. The crowd liked him though (which surprised me). That’s what counts.

Match two was ‘Machismo King’ Jay Lethal v Delirious with Maria Kanellis as the guest referee. Lethal was wheeled in through the crowd on a cart of some sort, emulating ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage’s entrance at WrestleMania IV. He was accompanied by Sister Sensational Sherri. I’ve no idea who was playing her, but she was dreadful throughout the entire match.

I found the match awkwardly paced. It was far more miss than hit. Sherri’s timing didn’t help matters. I did enjoy Lethal’s spot on Savage tics and traits, as well as Delirious channelling Ultimate Warrior (Ultimate Delirious? The Delirious Warrior?). Considering how good both men are at actually wrestling their characters shouldn’t have been the highlight.

‘Machismo King’ won with a rollup after Delirious attempted a cocky cover.

After the bout Lethal proposed to Maria (calling her Elizabeth). That upset Sherri. She lumbered into the ring and low blowed Lethal. Maria returned to make the save, which prompted Lethal to say he knew she really cared and issue a second proposal. He tried again and Maria accepted with an “Ohhhh yeah!” Mike Bennett came out to put an end to the fun and games by carrying his girlfriend backstage. The post-match shenanigans were better than the match itself.

Truth came back out to host the Pants Off Dance Off. Solicia and Scarlett were joined as contestants by a third random girl. This was one of only two points when I missed there being a commentary team. It would have been nice to know the identity of the newcomer.

Truth introduced Judge Jeff Jones as the guest… erm… judge of the Dance Off. Yes that is the same Jeff Jones that managed Mike Awesome to the ECW championship in 1999. ROH are now recycling fourteen year old gimmicks that were barely over in ECW. Brilliant.

Personally I’d hoped that Sabu would be the judge and end up smashing the Hoopla Hotties through tables. I admit it wasn’t likely.

The three women danced half-heartedly, ground themselves against Jones, and stripped. It was everything you’d want from this sort of segment.
The Hoopla Hotties there, doing whatever it is they do
Before Jones could announce the winner he was interrupted by Davey Richards. ‘The American Wolf’ swerved everyone with a promo about how the ROH he’d joined was about wrestling. He made the obligatory mentions of Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, and CM Punk (because those names are shorthand for the glory days of Ring of Honor and always good for a pop) before switching gear and announcing that he would participate in the Dance Off too.

Richards didn’t pull his pants off but what he did do was pretty funny. There was a lot of air humping going on. It worked because it juxtaposed Richards’ serious persona so perfectly. As Richards was announced as the winner ‘Pro Wrestling’s Last Real Man’ Silas Young made his way out to the ring, incredulous at what he’d just seen.

The two ended up having their scheduled match early. It looked promising for the first several minutes but took a turn for the worse when Truth came out to inform Silas that he was spending too much time outside the ring. It was turned into a Lumberjill match. Men in drag came out to ringside to chants of “No!” and “This is awkward!” That was to be expected.

Young took a predictable tumble to ringside and got manhandled back in. Richards was in control from then on, although Young did manage to squeeze in an impressive corner headstand into a springboard moonsault. Davey got a convincing near fall after an alarm clock, a running kick and a top rope double stomp, then locked in the ankle lock for the submission victory. Young tapped quickly, as befits his spot on the card.

Adding to the surreal nature of his appearance for the evening Davey Richards sang a few lines of a song as the lumberjills left. The poor audio made it hard to make out what the song was, but that’s hardly the point.

Next, Truth Martini (the hardest working man at A Night of Hoopla) returned for a segment where a man was plucked from the audience for a lap dance. He was sat down in a chair, under the impression the Hoopla Hotties would be dancing for him. He seemed fine with a blindfold being strapped round his eyes. I like to think I would have questioned that.

The “joke” of the segment was that some larger ladies came out to perform the lap dance as Truth and his girls laughed. The audience seemed to think this was brilliant, so I’m forced to concede it wasn’t the most dreadful idea for a segment.

It was during all of this that I thought about Gabe Sapolsky. I bet he’d have loved A Night of Hoopla.

reDRagon wrestled Roderick Strong and Cheeseburger in the evening’s penultimate match. It’s still not clear if this was a tag team title match. It wasn’t announced as one but as Truth Martini was doing the ring announcing that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. Confusing things further ROH’s website simply has a question mark next to the status of the titles in relation to this match.

It doesn’t matter either way because reDRagon won.  The four men had the best match of the evening. Cheeseburger was incredibly popular with the crowd. His diminutive size makes him a natural underdog. It took him a while to really begin selling the beating he was taking and actually become isolated but when he did he was great at it.

Eventually O’Reilly eliminated Roddy with a series of stiff kicks and punches. The champions then hoisted Cheeseburger up and hit Chasing the Dragon for the win.
His ring name is Cheeseburger and he wrestles in Ring of Honor. Deal with it
Truth returned for his final segment of the evening, Hoopla Unplugged. His guest? Satan2. It was a guy painted red with horns sticking out from his hair. The fans initially chanted “Six six six!” but quickly switched to more negative stock chants when the novelty wore off (which took approximately seventeen seconds).

“Satan” cut a tedious promo about how Truth’s debauchery was too much for even him. That’s right, ROH put Truth Martini over the devil. When asked to join in with the pants off party Satan declined and instead told everyone they were going to Hell. He ended up taking a Death Valley Driver from Solicia and having his trousers pulled off. Satan wears silver wrestling trunks under his trousers. Who knew?

Adrenaline RUSH and Athena v Michael Elgin, BJ Whitmer and MsChif was the main event. It was established early on that MsChif and Elgin didn’t like each other locking up with people of the opposite sex. This was the other instance of me missing a commentary team. I had to rely on Google to find out that MsChif and Elgin are married.
Matching ring colours...
The match was unmemorable but enjoyable enough. It picked up as it went on and featured a fun dance off towards the beginning. Michael Elgin did The Worm. Perhaps ROH should have brought Scotty 2 Hotty in for the title tournament. He’d have been an ideal first round opponent for ‘Unbreakable’.

Elgin saved MsChif from an ACH power bomb. She kissed him. Tadarius Thomas broke that up and got green misted by Elgin for his trouble. Big Michael followed up with a buckle bomb and then an Elgin bomb for the three count.

Truth made his final appearance of the evening to thank everyone for coming. He reminded us that hoopla is not just a word but a lifestyle. The House of Truth theme played and Martini and the Hoopla Hotties danced us off the air.

Anyone tuning in for a standard Ring of Honor show would probably have been disappointed with A Night of Hoopla. The emphasis was far more on comedy than it was competitive wrestling. ROH did do a good job of advertising the show as something different and ended up with something that was like a cross between Attitude Era WWF, latter days ECW, and PWG. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant mix.

As a one off it worked very well. If ROH were to modify this model for more of their smaller shows I don’t think there would be that many complaints. But it’s not a bold new format ROH can adapt without driving away a significant portion of their existing fan base. And I get the feeling a bold new format is what the promotion is currently searching for.


1 Eddie hit Scarlett with some chops to the backside to send her packing. She did a great job of selling her arse after the match. She’s probably had some practice…

2 Yep. Satan.

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