Column of Honor: 10.30.10: Richards vs. Black Finale Amazes on HDNet
Posted by Ari Berenstein on 10.30.2010
Davey Richards and Tyler Black deliver on another match of the year candidate, new Survival of the Fittest qualifying matches, the most brutal bouts in Ring of Honor, the most underrated main events and a complete look at Champions’ Challenge on DVD.
Welcome to the Column. It's actually a bit of a slow week as far as major ROH news and developments, which has allowed me to devote more time in this edition to play catch up with some recent ROH DVDs and television shows. In fact, I've written so much about Champions' Challenge and the Black vs. Richards match from HDNet that I'm up against 411's character-limit…again. So while I won't have a "main story" feature this week per se, what I'll do is answer some questions for debate, and then it'll be time to get to the DVD thoughts.
=Just When You Think You Have All the Answers...=
Here's something I'll do from time to time in the column--take some of the questions up for discussion on the ROH forum and provide you with my own take These questions were available on the first page of the ROH board on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010.
1. Is Eddie (Edwards) the new Nigel (McGuinness)?
The questioner is trying to make the connection between the two as far as if Davey Richards is seen as the new Bryan Danielson, would that make Edwards the new Nigel McGuinness. I could actually agree with the comparison, but not for the Danielson and McGuinness parallel. I actually see a similarity in terms of the development of both as wrestlers and personalities. When Nigel McGuinness first debuted in ROH he was known as a British counter wrestler who could provide a great technical match but who didn't have any major outstanding personality or character. I mean, heck, he was paired up with Chad Collyer in the early days of his run with the company. Collyer was a fine wrestler, but in 2004 / 2005 he also had some charisma deficiency issues (at least until he went with a "wacky" hook and began telling wrestlers to "just gimmie the damned belt!"). Nigel slowly began to come out of his shell as far as his personality and gimmick, taking on more of an edge and attitude and then finally really breaking through during his Pure Title run as the cocky braggart.
When he first wrestled in ROH Eddie Edwards was a solid hand, but someone without any defining characteristics or personality (aside from his atrocious corn-row hairstyle). It took a long time, but Edwards has slowly developed his character and made it pop out. The American Wolves act definitely added on some badass flair, but his take-no-crap attitude has really emerged in recent months. Along the way, his wrestling has only improved and evolved to adapt to what is expected by fans for an upper-card / man-event caliber player. Edwards can certainly continue to improve his promo work, but his progression is praise-worthy. It has come with time and patience and while it's not all-too different from what he probably could have portrayed from the start, the addition of confidence and being over with the fans has done wonders to bring it out of him. So yes, there are some definite similarities between Edwards and McGuinness as far as personality and even career progression through Ring of Honor. However, is he the "new" Nigel in terms of his usage in the company and his inevitable destiny? I don't know just yet.
2. Most Underrated Main Event in ROH History?
There have been so many shows that have taken place in the past eight, almost nine years of ROH history that there are several main events that are bound to be underrated or neglected in terms of their quality and place in ROH history. Samoa Joe and Jushin "Thunder" Liger vs. Low Ki and Bryan Danielson from Weekend of Thunder Night Two is a great example—four major names going at it in a dream tag team match. They delivered in the ring and furthered several stories going on at the time (Danielson's rivalry with Liger, Joe's grudge against Ki and The Rottweilers and Danielson's emerging dislike of Ki and Homicide). Unfortunately that weekend has been swallowed up by the annals of time and the departure of Joe, Ki and Danielson from the company. Similarly, Kenta Kobashi & Homicide vs. Samoa Joe & Low Ki from Unforgettable is neglected in favor of the epic Joe vs. Kobashi one-on-one that happened the night before. Another main event I really liked that doesn't get much discussion any more is Bryan Danielson vs. Doug Williams in the thirty-minute iron-Man match at Scramble Madness. Those two had an awesome but short-lived wrestling-based series in the early days of ROH.
3. What Match / Segment is the Most Brutal Beating in ROH History?
Two examples of brutal beat downs that immediately jump to mind are Low Ki versus Special K from Death Before Dishonor I and The Rottweillers invading the New Yorker at Manhattan Mayhem I. Both attacks had some extra wow factor in them. Ki was absolutely killing Special K and teaching them a less about respect and honor. On the opposite side of the coin, Ki (as a heel), Homicide and the rest of their crew were remorseless in their street-style beat down against both Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal. It was one of the more awe-inspiring moments in terms of its brutality. Runners up would probably include the thrashing BJ Whitmer took during the war against CZW, the destruction of The Briscoes during the formation of The Age of the Fall and any Steve Corino versus Homicide match. Come to think of it, there have been plenty of sick and disturbing moments in ROH history, which is in itself sick and disturbing.
4. Who would you want to see Dethrone the Kings of Wrestling?
The Kings have spent a lot of time this past year feuding with The Briscoes, but let's face it; Jay and Mark are six-time tag champions and unseating The Kings for a seventh time doesn't necessarily resolve anything between the two teams. I'd like to see another team take the straps from The Kings, but it doesn't necessarily have to be right away. When there is a strong unit like Hero and Castagnoli together as a team then that can be used to sell the division for a long time. It wouldn't be out of the question for The Kings may to end up with a Samoa Joe or Nigel McGuinness style run of between a year and two years as champion. If that were to happen, there may be a new team out there to unseat The Kings that hasn't even formed or has yet to make their way into Ring of Honor
As stated in a previous column, I'd really like the American Wolves to win the tag titles again in their upcoming title opportunity in Plymouth, MA, if just for selfish reasons of having Edwards and Richards stay together as a tag team option in 2011. However, this is my choice and being my choice I'll go with the self-professed Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. They made an excellent first impression at Glory By Honor IX and proved they could easily adapt to the ROH style. The fans accepted them and really appreciated what they brought in terms of wrestling ability. Despite the non-title loss to The Kings, Haas and Benjamin could easily work their way into contention with high-profile wins against the likes of The Briscoes or The American Wolves (should they remain a team). I'd make the move in early 2011 and that way the tag scene could be freshened up with newer combinations of matches between the top teams. Haas and Benjamin would probably only make the TV tapings and bigger shows, so that would add some uniqueness to their run in that their appearances would guarantee a really good effort from all in the title match.
As of 010/30/10
=ROH World Champion=
Champion since 09/11/2010 | - successful defenses (NEW CHAMPION)
Glory By Honor IX defeated Tyler Black in New York, NY to win the championship.
Next Defense vs. Christopher Daniels in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada on 11/13/10.
=ROH World Tag Team Champions=
The Kings of Wrestling: Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli
Champions since 04/03/2010 | 6 successful defenses
The Big Bang defeated Jay & Mark Briscoe in Charlotte, NC to win the championship.
Next Defense vs. Kevin Steen & Steven Corino in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada on 11/13/10.
--Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli defeated Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin by DQ after The Briscoes interfered in New York, NY on 5/8/10
--Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli defeated Jay & Mark Briscoe in a No DQ Match in Toronto, Ontario on 6/19/10
-- Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli defeated Jay & Mark Briscoe in Philadelphia, PA on 8/21/10
--Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli defeated Jay & Mark Briscoe, The All-Night Express and Dark City Fight Club in Ultimate Endurance in Charlotte, NC on 08/28/10
--Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli defeated El Generico & Colt Cabana in Plymouth, MA on 09/10/10
--Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli defeated Christopher Daniels & Davey Richards in Dayton, OH on 10/15/10
=ROH Television Champion=
Champion since 03/05/2010 | 8 successful defenses
ROH on HDNet defeated Davey Richards (tournament final) in Philadelphia, PA to win the championship.
Next Defense vs. El Generico in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada on 11/13/10.
--Eddie Edwards defeated Colt Cabana in Philadelphia, PA on 3/6/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated Petey Williams in Mississauga, Ontario on 3/20/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated Kenny King in Philadelphia, PA on 8/20/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated Rhett Titus in Philadelphia, PA on 8/21/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated Erick Stevens in Plymouth, MA on 9/10/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated Shawn Daivari in New York, NY on 9/11/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated The Necro Butcher in Philadelphia, PA on 10/1/10
--Eddie Edwards defeated Colt Cabana in Philadelphia, PA on 10/2/10
-The six qualifying matches have been announced for the 2010 Survival of the Fittest tournament: Kenny King matches up against El Generico; ROH World Tag Team Champion Claudio Castagnoli fights supreme underdog Grizzly Redwood; Colt Cabana wrestles the now more serious "Addicted to Love" Rhett Titus; Steve Corino fights Adam Cole; ROH TV Champion Eddie Edwards will take on ROH World Tag Team Champion Chris Hero; Kevin Steen matches up with relative newcomer Kyle O'Reilly. Aside from the latter two matches bracketing…I'm less than enthused. King and Generico have fought several times throughout 2010, including during the ROH Television Title Tournament. The matches have been solid, don't get me wrong, but I was hoping for different and new pairings, especially with half of the field being first-time participants. Colt vs. Titus has also been done before and hasn't been much more than an average match. Corino vs. Cole could be good but their styles may not mesh well. Edwards vs. Hero has tons of potential to be great and Steen vs. O'Reilly should be a great bullying attempt by Steen met with a tough fight.
I was hoping ROH would get really ballsy with some of the bracketology, such as pairing some tag partners against each other like Titus vs. King, which is at least what I thought their promo on the last videowire seemed to be hinting towards happening. How about Colt Cabana vs. El Generico? That would have been an interesting conflict of Cabana's friendship with his buddy pitted against the newfound desire to move onward past the last year of hostile conflict against Steen and Corino and towards bigger and better things. Or how about matching up Generico and Steen before Final Battle 2010? That could have served to provide a foreshadowing of that final encounter in a venue where it is possible to think outside the box and come up with a finish that resonated throughout the night with implications for the tournament finals.
As far as Claudio vs. Redwood, it's obvious that one is about seeing just how badly Claudio can beat up the smaller guy and just how far he can toss him in the air for the European Uppercut. Now that should be fun, but the result isn't all that much in doubt. Of course, just for argument's sake Redwood scores a major upset that would mean one of the current ROH World Tag Team champions (and one of the main players in the company given the new roster outlook) took a fall to a perennial jobber to the stars. That doesn't sound all that good to me.
-The November 13th, 2010 show in Mississauga has been labeled a "Night of Champions". The first such show occurred all the way back in March 2003 in Philadelphia and concluded with Samoa Joe unseating Xavier for the ROH Title. ROH has also run a "Weekend of Champions", which happened in 2006 and featured the first Pure Title vs. World Title match between Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson. On this show in Mississauga, all three ROH titles will be on the line (Strong vs. Daniels for the World Title, Kings of Wrestling vs. Steen and Corino for the ROH World Tag Team Titles and Eddie Edwards vs. El Generico for the TV Title) and It should be interesting to see if there are any title changes as a result of the major show feel being given by this build.
-Homicide versus Jay Briscoe has been made official for 11/13 in Mississauga, stemming from Jay Briscoe running in to stop The All-Night Express attack on Homicide in Chicago and Homicide not taking too kindly to his involvement.
-Jerome Cusson of Pro Wrestling Ponderings broke the story last week that Josh Raymond will be retiring from wrestling due to injuries. That is why there has been a small storyline in the newswire with Truth Martini seeking out "new recruits" for his House of Truth stable. Independent wrestler Michael Elgin has been tabbed to take Raymond's place in AAW in Chicago and also should fill in the tag spot with Christian Able here in Ring of Honor.
= Champions' Challenge DVD Thoughts=
This is in August 27th, 2010 in Richmond, Virginia which is the new VA home for ROH.
The inside of the new venue is rather interesting for its peculiar combination of beautiful décor on the ceiling and weird garage band layout on the floor. The hard camera captures the stage in-between two stability poles (full entrances are captured via close-up on the handheld). A beam juts out forward near one of these poles and a small television hangs on it (not turned on though), I guess just in case people get bored? However, all through the top of the high ceilings are nicely-shaped windows and brick-molding. I'd like my house to be decorated like that. It's a paradox that the lower-half and the upper-half of this building can co-exist. On the plus side the lower-half does have a clearly visible "Nachos" and "BBQ" vending stand. MMMMM, Nachos and BBQ.
Some words about quality control, first here and again in just a few short paragraphs. First of all, the DVD cover design is awesome, with the two major singles champions in battle poses on the front and then a nicely done swirly design with shots from the event in a monochromatic yellow on the back. It can be asserted that ROH has finally found its stride with DVD covers, along with Tag Wars 2010 and the recently released photo of Fade to Black. Here's the rub: the back of the DVD cover has the match listing order completely wrong. Now it is true that this may have been the original order of the show before Roderick Strong and Erick Stevens experienced their travel problems, but that being the case I'd appreciate the actual match order be listed on the back of the DVD cover.
Video quality is better than Hate: Chapter II and Salvation, but I'll chalk that up to ROH's ultra-wattage light towers being placed differently due to the different layout of the building in Richmond as compared to their standard tour stops. Of note, in the opening match there is a moment where Colt Cabana looks almost see-through due to the powerful light stantion.
This is the first show with Kevin Kelly on as new play-by-play man, replacing (for now it seems) Joe Dombrowski on the stick. Dombrowski was hit-and-miss for me and in the end he had a tendency to go too strongly towards a Mauro Rinauro-like radio voice commentary style that maybe didn't jive well enough with Dave Prazak on color. Kelly is a longstanding veteran of the commentary end of pro wrestling, having already done work on one ROH show at this point (The Big Bang iPPV). He is generally a good presence as a voice on the show, but he is far from error-free. The first match alone he labels the legal man wrong just ten seconds after El Generico clearly tags in. He also calls King's "Royal Flush" move "The Coronation". I also have a sneaking suspicion he wanted to call DCFC's Total Elimination variant "Project Mayhem" (which is actually their powerbomb / neckbreaker finisher) but he managed to save the call by saying he expected that move at any moment. On the other hand, I do think Kelly's generally more sunny disposition is a positive for his role on these DVDs, as is the little tidbits of information and characterization he puts out there to help get over the personality of guys like Kenny King and Dark City Fight Club.
Show opens with Block B Finals of the Tag Wars 2010 with the All-Night Express against Generi-COLT. It's a very well executed match, particularly the opening few minutes where Cabana is on top of the world with some fantastic technical wrestling, including some super-clean hip tosses (great height on them by King and Titus). Generico does the same with his lucha-arm drag sequence. King and Titus take the heat on Generico, but sends King right into Titus on a miscue from their hip thrust duck-down closeline. He gets a hot tag to Cabana who gets a nice comeback sequence with the quebrada moonsault and boom jabs (again done super clean and with maximum effectiveness), followed up by the Flying A**hole and the running closeline for a two. The Butt Butt into a pinfall also gets two. King and Titus knock down Generico to the mat and isolate Cabana. He has to take them on two-on-one for an extended period of time and manages to survive, then makes the tag to Generico. This is where Steve Corino (in business suit) runs down to distract Colt and they both brawl to the back. That leaves Generico now to face ANX all by himself. He fights off some attacks, getting the Michinoku Driver on Titus for two (King saves) and a running boot on King. However, Generico falls prey to the numbers game and ANX pick up the win with the All-Night Long, Panty Raid, "One Night Stand" Double Knee Demolition Decapitation for three.
The Bravado Brothers cut a promo about how they're going to win tonight despite being overmatched so that they can fight the next night in Charlotte, near their hometown so that they can wrestle in front of their friends, family and their mama. How about that? Some bravado from the Bravado Brothers.
DCFC vs. Bravados in the Block C Finals of Tag Wars sees the underdog team actually getting better at fighting against bigger opponents. They are definitely overmatched, but they fight off and actually throw off Jon Davis' early game plan with some speed moves, avoidances and a nice hurricanrana. Eventually Chavis and Davis do go into their murderkill mode on Garrison Bravado, until the hot tag is made to Gregory Bravado. They combine for their unique leveraging enziguiri and a frog splash also gets a solid two-count. They rock Jon off-kilter but DCFC regain control with Total Elimination and Project Mayhem for three. The crowd wants one more, but DCFC instead give The Bravados some dap and respect for surviving the experience. They follow the Code of Honor and then raise up their hands in the middle of the ring. A solid and fun undercard match and wouldn't you know it, two-for-two on the night.
Ok, now we get to the part where I become very pissed off. After this match we cut to All-Night Express out in the parking lot. Okay, the good: two and a half years ago this promo would have been shot in complete darkness and no viewer would have been able to tell anything that was going on. Here in August 2010 (on the DVD) the parking lot is completely well lit and picture quality is clear and well-lit. However, the big no-no: Kenny King goes over the participants in the Tag Wars final the next night in Charlotte and pimps up the ANX. Well, now, Ari, how can that possibly be a bad thing? Well, King just so happens to name The Briscoes as one of the final teams. The Briscoes, ah, yes, The Briscoes… wait a minute, Oh yeah…
THE BRISCOES HAVEN'T WRESTLED YET!
That's right The Briscoes haven't fought their Black A Final Match against The Embassy! Yet, here Kenny King is giving away the result, talking with the knowledge that they have already made it to the finals! Now look, yes, it doesn't take a genius or a psychic to know that The Briscoes make it to the finals of the tournament. Hell, if you follow the promotion you probably already knew that when you purchased the DVD. HOWEVER. I don't need it thrown in my face, thank you very much. I'd like to maintain at least an illusion of suspension of disbelief. So no one could have double-checked this DVD before it went to press and be able to realize they slotted the promo in the wrong place?
It gets better though, because THE VERY NEXT MATCH is The Briscoes versus The Embassy in their Block A Finals! TERRIFIC. Just slap me in the face while you're at it.
Furthermore, the crowd noise seeps in and one can easily hear the "yay / boo" chants as well as a "This is awesome" thrown in for good measure. Great, so in a few hours I'll be able to tell you exactly when that promo was recorded. Quality Control.
Other than that, a well-spoken promo for King and Titus.
Prince Nana almost gets me back on my good side when he refers to the music tech as "Yokozuna". Almost. Nana says that Necro is all he needs (due to Erick Stevens being delayed by plane troubles on Delta Airlines) and declares himself Necro's tag partner. The match mainly consists of Jay and Mark taking turns beating up Necro and when Necro goes for a tag Nana walks away. Of course when Necro gains the offensive edge Nana is only in there for cheap shots and the like. Necro stops the Doomsday Device with a punch to Mark who was leaping off the top rope and into a victory roll. However, seconds later The Briscoes obtain the inevitable win with a Jay Driller onto Necro. They tried but this was incredibly lame.
Davey Richards against Kevin Steen in a special challenge match is next. Steen cuts off Bobby Cruise at the introduction with his own mic and calling himself "The Greatest Wrestler in The History of Wrestling". He has some words about Davey and calls into question some of his tactics. Steen's music plays underneath his words. What is this, a Kane promo? Finally it shuts off. Richards tells Steen face-to-face how much he enjoyed breaking Eddie Edwards' arm back in 2009. Richards goes right on the attack. Steen was just awesome here. Dude works the mic like no other in ROH right now.
This quickly become a brawl around the ring, which Richards wins by taking it to a strike exchange and thrashing Steen in the chest and head with kicks. Steen pulls out the dirty tricks by spitting at him and biting him in the head (and pulling him around ringside with just his teeth, ewww). In fact there are lots of fluids flying in this one, from spit to saliva drool to sweat. At one point it's just Richards and Steen spitting back-and-forth at each other, which was truly disgusting. Ring of Spitting.
As far as in the ring, Richards works on Steen's knee while Steen works the neck. He uses an interesting neck pulling variation of the Russian leg sweep. Then he repeatedly pulls Richards in the crossface, even blocking a flying attack and transitioning into the move. Richards does get the air game going, in particular scoring with a suicide dive and that REBOUNDS Richards from Steen's body into the crowd, as opposed to his flip dive where he goes over and into the crowd. Richards was like one of those rubber superballs for a brief moment. It looked wicked cool but probably didn't feel so wicked cool.
About halfway through the match Kelly calls Richards "Edwards" on a two-count. That sort of error is going to become annoying quickly, especially because Kelly doesn't self-correct when he gets it wrong. Richards gains the lead and starts to kick Steen all over the place, using multiple kicks into the corner. Turner wants to separate but he goes at it again, which the fans count along to ten (a great idea for a fan-participation sequence he can incorporate into future matches). Richards continues with the Kawada kicks to the face and then a buzzsaw kick to the head that knocks Steen out and allows Richards to pick up the three-count. That was a very entertaining bout and the highlight of the show so far.
Post-intermission it's a tag bout with Bobby Dempsey & Cedric Alexander vs. Caleb Konley and "The Manscout" Jake Manning. Who is he scouting? He's scouting men! Hmmm… Oh wait, apparently his gimmick is he is a Boy Scout who never grew out of the corps…or something. At least he is not "manscaping". Or is he? As for Cedric Alexander, he comes across as a smaller and less handsome Kenny King. He has some athletic moves, but doesn't show much else as far as personality or interaction with the fans.
However, the real standout of the match is Caleb Konley, who has an athletic look, proper wrestling tights and some swift movement and sequences during the bout. Bobby Dempsey holds it all together and gets the final comeback, wiping out Manning and then delivering the DVD onto Konley for the three-count. With ROH on the youth movement kick, I could definitely see Konley fitting in with that and he should definitely receive some more opportunities aside from squash matches.
The Kings of Wrestling had issued an open challenge to any tag team, and The Set just happened to be the only team booked for the show without a match, so ipso facto, A + B = C and cause leads to effect means we get Kings of Wrestling vs. The Set…in Virginia…again…joy. Lance Lude appears to be on ‘Ludes as he enters the ringside area. Jay-Sinn is wearing his faux fur coat and is very, very happy to be there.
This is just ultimate and total destruction on the part of The Kings. I mean, even Kelly and Prazak don't pretend that this is anything more than a "public workout" for Hero and Castagnoli. The Kings spend most of their time thinking up new ways to toss the skinny Lude up in the air and bring him down with a crashing thud. Claudio has Guinness record setting height on the throw to the pop-up European. Then Claudio puts Lude on his shoulders and Hero double stomps onto him from the top rope. And so it goes.
Lude gets a microwaved tag to Jay-Sinn, who mainly pushes Hero and Claudio back but can't do too much else. Lude jumps onto Hero on the outside, and Hero absolutely smashes him into the turnbuckle pole. Three referees rush out to assist Lude to the back due to the (worked) injury. Two-on-one on Jay-Sinn but they can't put him away with the Royal Power and Glory (superplex into the Hero moonsault). By which I mean Hero constantly pulls Jay up at the count of two. Hagadorn is having way too much fun gloating over squashing The Set. I mean, it's The Set and not, say, The Road Warriors.
Finally, Jay Briscoe is fed up enough with the decimation that he runs out and jumps onto the tag corner. I don't think that he should be allowed to jump in and replace Lude, but Sinclair allows it. Jay-Sinn still can't get it together and Hero and Claudio beat him up some more. Eventually he gets the hot tag to Jay who runs roughshod on both Kings, until they cut him off. That leads to Mark rushing down to ringside and in to the action for more redneck fu. Bobby Cruise announces that "Todd Sinclair has lost control of the match" (yeah, pretty much) and the match has been ruled a no-contest. UM, I'm pretty sure that Mark Briscoe attacking The Kings unprovoked should mean that the champs win on a disqualification call. That's very uncharacteristic sloppiness for ROH in terms of match results. At times it was fun seeing The Kings kill The Set, but it did wear out its welcome and I wasn't a fan of the Mark Briscoe run-in.
Roderick Strong has yet to arrive to the building, so it's Steve Corino against Jeff Early. What a semi-main event for ROH's bow in Richmond, let me tell you. Corino practically kills the guy with punches, the Colbyshock, running chops and then a switch-handed closeline and the Sliding C (Prazak calls it the Emerald Dream) for the win. Corino gets on the mic and thanks Early sarcastically for the "five-star match" and says it's the kid's birthday. I bet he wished that he didn't get his ass kicked by Steve Corino. Corino gives a come-on to a girl in the crowd, telling her to come back to The Marriott for some "boom boom". Wouldn't you know that at that exact moment Colt Cabana's music plays over the PA and there he is!
Cabana challenges Corino to fight him and gets in the ring with Paul Tuner as ref. Cabana gets the best of Corino until walking right into a punch with the chain and he is downed. Corino says that he only works once a night and that's "the Truth". Uh-oh. Wouldn't you know it but Roderick Strong comes rushing down to the ring in his street clothes and we have another bonus match! Well, it was the match that was supposed to happen, but it's a bonus that is actually happening as opposed to Strong missing out on the event entirely. Luckily for Corino he didn't end with "and that's the bottom line because Steve Corino said so." As it is Strong whups him with chops and punches around ringside. You know, for being a heel, Strong is certainly being cheered plenty here and he is actively playing face.
Corino knocks down the referee, but Cabana sneaks back out and wallops Corino with the chain in retaliation for the earlier chain shot. Strong gets the running corner closeline and something resembling the sick kick that doesn't get up all the way (because he's wearing jeans and his legs can't get that high up) for the three-count in a short match. That botched kick looks to have pulled Strong's groin as he grabs it in pain. I actually liked this angle more than what happened with The Kings vs. The Set, because everything happened from match-to-match (even though the fight with Colt was unofficial) and one thing led to the other. Colt's run-in was justified retaliation whereas The Briscoes basically pulled a heel move through unwarranted interference. The Corino conceit of accidentally saying things that led to his next opponent was clever as well.
Main event of the evening is a non-title "champion vs. champion" feature bout with ROH Television Champion Eddie Edwards wrestling against ROH World Champion Tyler Black, fresh from completing his heel turn on HDNet and announcing his departure from the promotion at the end of September. Edwards is accompanied by Richards in his corner for this one. Black is slapping a few hands as he comes out—errrrrrrrr. Heel, Tyler, heel. Most of the crowd is cold to him but he does get some claps and cheers when he raises the belt overhead.
Cornette is out and climbs into the ring and NOW we get some "You Sold Out" chants. Cornette appeals to Tyler to make this a ROH World Title match. Black responds that he will go by the letter of his contract and since he is a man of his word, which states he doesn't need to put his title on the line. As you can expect, that doesn't please the Richmond crowd all that much. Black also wants Richards to leave since his appearance was not on the contract. Well, he does have a point.
This ends up becoming an affirmation party for Eddie Edwards, as he fits in really well against Black in the main event scene. He is very competitive with the World Champion, putting up a lot of offense and actually working ahead for most of the first half of the match. Quite a few back-and-forth sequences to start where both men exchange holds and passes at pretty much a stalemate. Then Black dares to give Edwards the "You Can't See Me" and Edwards grabs the leg before it stomps down on his head and twists it into the Achilles Lock. Edwards will go back to that move several times during the match, with Black sometimes countering or pushing off, but at other points trapping Black and forcing him to pull to the ropes. Edwards also has a beautiful super hurricanrana that he rolls backwards and right into the Achilles Lock that traps Black well and good.
As a sign of Black's burgeoning heel phase as champion he demonstrates a lack of compunction about following the rules. He chokes down with his boot heel and with his hands around Edwards' neck…and he takes it to the limit of the referee's count before he backs off. He also retains his impact game, with the superkick and pele kick combo working well and stunning Edwards. By far though the most important offensive attack of the match for the World Champion is where he Bucklebombs Edwards on the outside to the guardrail. It's a direct hit and Edwards lands with a horrendously loud smack. The selling for Edwards here is tremendous, with his eyes completely closed and his body unmoving for much of Sinclair's twenty count. Then he slowly stirs up (also well done) and crawls back in right before twenty.
Black presses the attack with another Bucklebomb, this time a regular version into the corner turnbuckle. Edwards drops to one knee, but he ducks underneath the superkick and into a roll up and then into the Achilles Lock one more time. Black again gets out of the move, and then maneuvers his way into a roll up and uses the ropes (THERE WE GO, HEEL!) while the ref can't see it to gain the three-count.
Black proves to be a sore winner when he blasts Edwards in the back of the head with the World Title belt after the match. Davey Richards has enough of that and runs down to the ring, where he slaps and punches Black. Edwards recovers enough for a combination throw-Alarm Clock kick and Black skedaddles out of town. That sets up the next night's singles match (non-title again) between Black and Richards.
Finally Richards talks to the Richmond crowd one more time, mostly putting over Edwards as a tough man and the person he not only wanted to team up with as The American Wolves but a guy who motivates Richards to keep going. Richards also reveals publically for the first time that Edwards lied to the New York State Athletic Commission about the health of his arm injury (after breaking it in Boston) in order to wrestle the Ladder War match at Glory By Honor VIII in 2009. That's pretty amazing and I'm actually quite shocked that Richards let that one out of the bag, but it certainly puts Edwards over as a guy who is willing to put his body on the line for Ring of Honor. They celebrate in the ring together as the show concludes.
The DVD also comes with some bonus HDNet matches, including Eddie Edwards vs. Kevin Steen from episode 21, Mark Briscoe vs. Alex Payne (Mark's first match back from injury) from episode 20 and the eight-man elimination tag match between The Embassy and Team Cabana (a pretty damned good one at that) from episode 23.
Ultimately Champions' Challenge is a story of two halves—a much stronger first half and a weaker second half that concentrated more on angles and switch-outs to mask the lesser quality / squash matches going on. It's a good thing though that ROH did come through on Strong wrestling on the show. The Wolves singles matches were obviously the strongest parts of the show from a wrestling perspective. Two of the three Tag Wars block finals came through and entertained. Even with the King promo gaffe and Kelly's few noticeable slip ups it's those matches that along with the bonus material that are enough for a recommendation. However the show definitely won't rank among the best of the year, but rather squarely in the middle of the pack.
=ROH on HDNet Thoughts=
Episode 77: October 11th 2010
After suffering through insubordination from The Wolves, Hagadorn wants words with Davey Richards RIGHT NOW.
After the intro package, we cut to Hagadorn where he continues to call him out. Richards obliges. Hagadorn takes claim of ALL of Richards' success while pointing the finger at Richards. He claims Richards is driving a wedge between him and Edwards. He wants to do his job and wants Richards to let him do his job or (his words) "you are going to get your ass beat." Richards says if that's going to happen he might as well make the first move and beats up Hagadorn. Of course, that leads to The Kings of Wrestling coming on down and laying the two-on-one asswhupping on Richards. Well Shane didn't say by whom. Eddie Edwards comes out to put a stop to it. Some good punches here—looked solid. Great fire from Shane in this segment and it's backed up by the build from the past few months to get to that point. Nicely done overall.
We get words from Christopher Daniels, who claims he underestimated Strong and what his actions would lead to—but that changes with their one-on-one non-title match tonight.
Aries, King and Titus take credit for taking out Delirious and claim they're heading to the top of the tag division. That leads to All-Night Express versus Dark City Fight Club. This is a really well done, evenly-matched affair with both teams looking good. Lots of combo moves throughout and then lots of big power and impact stuff at the end. Davis looks great with an avoidance of King and sliding right into Titus with a knee strike, leading right into a jumping leg lariat onto King. All-Night wins with a Kenny King roll up on Davis after a huge POUNCE on Titus.
We get words from Truth Martini and ROH World Champion Roderick Strong about tonight's main event with Daniels. Truth talks about lying to people and that Strong vs. Daniels is an evil conspiracy…to make people eat Cheese Doodles or something. I don't know. Strong says he will prove he is the best in the world and that Daniels won't deny him that after he beats him.
Kevin Steen (w/ Steve Corino IN A SUIT) vs. ? in a "Pick Your Poison" match chosen by El Generico. Steen is all sarcastic McCauley Culkin in Home Alone during his entrance (both hands to the side of the face and screaming out "AHHHHHH"). Generico and Cabana are out to introduce—STEVE CORINO! Corino is not amused and Steen is stone-faced. Cabana says he and Generico are taking a front-row seat for this one. Cabana rings the bell himself but Steen wants to talk instead. Wait, no, first he punches out the referee. Well, that's an obvious DQ. Steen then goes on a huge rant about how HDNet didn't like him and was threatened by him. He says there is no way and nothing anyone can do to ever make him fight Steve Corino. Then… HE QUITS THE SHOW (TM Nick Marsico RBR Weekly Wrestling Talk).
Roderick Strong vs. Christopher Daniels in the main-event: Another evenly-fought contest and plenty of chops and short-forearm strikes for all. They brawl around the ring and then back inside and then back out again. Strong pounds down with punches until Daniels falls down off a chair to the mat. The HDNet cameras get a view of inside The Book of Truth and lo and behold—there actually is text inside of it! So I wonder if they're using The King James version or something else.
In a real cool moment of innovation Daniels uses a leg scissors to counter out of a backbreaker attempt. Strong shrugs it off and back Daniels into a corner though and continues his offense. Things pick up faster with some chops into a roll up reversal and then Daniels uses the legs again (real cool) to reverse momentum for a pinfall, kicked out and converted into a Stronghold attempt. After a struggle Daniels reaches the ropes, but Strong waits the full ref's count to release.
Daniels recovers and hits a comeback sequence of jumping forearm, closeline, leg lariat and STO with punches to regain control. Blue Thunder Bomb gets a close two. Angels Wings countered into a back drop. Daniels goes up top but Strong blocks into an uranage backbreaker and double knee gutbuster for two. Strong's super side slam gets two. Gibson Driver is pushed off and we get homage to AJ Styles with the quebrada into the inverted DDT (nice). Daniels hip tosses himself and Strong out of the ring. Daniels is back in the ring but The House of Truth run down to ringside to distract the referee. Truth Martini comes into the ring on the other side but is crotched on the top rope (and he helpfully points down repeatedly to his crotch to identify this fact). Daniels throws him out of the ring but is SMASHED by the Sick Kick. Paul Turner counts one, two…and then sees The Book of Truth lying in the ring. RUH-ROH! Turns out the masked zombie Frankenstein vampire bat haunting the neighborhood kids is really (RIPS MASK OFF)…MISTER ROGERS!?!?!?!!!!!!
"I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you darned kids…and referee Paul Turner."
Turner accuses Strong of wrongdoing and Daniels uses that time to recover. Uranage, Best Moonsault Ever, three-count! Prazak: "He stops the count simply because there was a PERIODICAL in the ring?" Turns out it's NOT a beautiful day in the neighborhood for Roderick Strong. Good TV match but both are capable of more and hopefully that will come to pass when they fight for the title in a few weeks.
Episode 78: October 18th, 2010
It's the final curtain for Tyler Black in ROH—last match, last appearance.
Jim Cornette introduces the show and says there was an altercation between Davey Richards and Tyler Black. We get that clip with Richards saying he doesn't care what happens to Black but he wants one more shot at him before he goes. Black interrupts the interview and curses at Richards, leading to a pull-apart. AND DOWN GOES KYLE DURDEN.
Cornette introduces Richards and then Black and we get some more verbal confrontations. Richards repeats his demand for one more match. Richards says it's not about the money but about honor and personal fulfillment. Black says that Richards has the opportunity he did to cash in to go to other promotions but turned them down. Black doesn't know why. In three years Richards might be a guy who is the best wrestler in the world but with a broken down body, but Black is going to be the richest wrestler in the world.
Richards realizes that for Black it's about the "almighty dollar" and asks Black to name his price. Richards will pay out of his own pocket whatever Black wants for one more match with him. That leads to another pull-apart. Black says he's already got what he wanted with his new contract and that he'll wrestle Richards for free. See, you know I would have actually said a high price but nothing over the top —because you know Richards won't be able to meet a million, but he's probably got enough saved somewhere to cover five or ten grand. That's a nice chunk of change to hustle out of your enemy for a match.
Cornette says he will throw out the format for the show and give both men the rest of the program to get ready and fight it out.
Prazak and Hogewood reset the show and take a look at the careers of Tyler Black and Davey Richards. Most of this is previous video packages to hype up other shows including the Death Before Dishonor VIII match.
Then we get some words from The Briscoes. Next week is Briscoes vs. Kings in the last opportunity for the ROH World Tag Titles. It's a bit funny watching Jay realize that maybe he shouldn't keep saying the belts don't mean a damned thing to them. It's cool that they say its personal, but I think they should have focused more on saying they'll strike back for The Kings attacking their father by taking away what's most personal to them, which is their tag belts. Missed opportunity there.
Now we get to the heart of the matter: Davey Richards vs. Tyler Black. This time Richards doesn't even wait, he runs straight for Black and it's on with a huge brawl. It's mostly strike-for-strike in the opening minutes and it all looks vicious. Richards really works the crowd on the outside with his kicks to Black's chest, going from side-to-side and asking if they want to see it, then blasting Black with it. Crowd definitely reciprocates here. There are kicks throughout this match that are so hard and so loud they produce audible gasps and "ooohs" from the crowd—and from me watching at home.
Richards gets his arm in Texas Cloverleaf and I really like what he has done with this sequence, teasing it out, looking to the fans and getting them to clap—almost in a way becoming like his version of Danielson's Mexican Surfboard. A really cool twist has him bending it so far back that Black has his shoulders down in what is essentially a pinfall. That gets a two count and Black kicks out, releasing the hold.
Black gets a short Paroxysm and Richards rolls to the floor. Black gets a stiff looking suplex on the outside (and despite hitting the mats it makes a loud thud—OUCH, man, OUCH) and then chokes him with his boot while browbeating him. Big elbows to the head and a closeline for two and then into a chinlock. Richards responds to the fans and fights out, then psyches himself up and absorbs some strikes. Forearms from Black and slaps from Richards until a huge superkick takes Richards down. Two-count with an emphatic kick-out and roll away from Davey, but man, these two are just fighting it out, hard, fast and furious. The intensity, the hatred and the pain can be felt all throughout this match.
Black works on the Indian Deathlock until Richards is finally able to reach the ropes. Richards responds with some chops that are 1.1 on the Roderick Strong chopping scale. A crazy suicide dive by Richards!!!! Dude was right into Black's chest and he bounced off of him and ricocheting off the steel barricade. Good lord man. Well, the Philly crowd is going nuts for that. Back in the ring. Flying dropkick and Black goes sprawling into the corner, then Davey charges, right into a boot, gets a boot of his own, and his charging handspring enziguiri knocks down Black and floats right over into an immediate cover for two!
Crowd shouts out a strong "This is awesome" and Davey motions for the DR Driver. His attempt is pushed back into the corner and Black shoulder blocks him and then adds a back elbow. Irish whip but Richards rolls right under a charge, hits a powerbomb and the Texas Cloverleaf! Crowd really wants the tap but Black crawls over and grabs the ropes. Richards has a maniacal and twisted look on his face as he sets Black up for more harsh kicks to the chest. He slices Black with two of them but on the third Black ducks, rolls up and through Richards into the sitting side Pele kick to the head. O'Connor Roll and then Black just dumps Richards out of the ring from a great height!
Black throws Richards into the barricades and then hits the moonsault off the barricade, hitting Richards' chest and stomach flush. Black gets the enziguiri to the back of the head and then the springboard closeline. F5 for two. "Let's go Davey" chants. Black preps for the Phoenix Splash (which, mind you has only connected successfully once in the last eighteen months, when he actually won the title in February). Richards is up, crotches Black and tries for a super back suplex. Black rakes the eyes (like a good heel) and elbows him off and Richards runs for the super release German, but Tyler plants the landing on both feet! That's only the second time that reversal has ever happened in a Richards ROH match and it's damned impressive when someone stops it. Closeline ducked but Richards gets an alarm clock kick straight to the friggin' head! HOLY CRAP. Black ducks under and tries the superkick but Richards ducks under that for a spin kick to the stomach, but Black responds with a massive jumping Pele to the head! It makes a hell of a "WHACK" sound. Inverted hurricanrana, but Richards no sells with fighting spirit and hits the running closeline and both men are down in a heap on the mat.
Both men are out of it but slowly crawling up and out to the apron edge. Richards goes with several kicks to the knee, then to the mid-section, pushing Black to the turnbuckle corner. Then he just UNLEASHES with TWELVE straight kicks to the chest—a rapid-fire barrage of strikes. Hanging DDT to the apron! Black took it on his side though, but the move was passable because of Richards' murderous intent selling the drama.
Sinclair starts the count and Black looks out of it, but he gets up. It's near seventeen and Black has a decision, say "to hell with it" and go to the back, taking the count-out loss; or reclaim at least some of his lost honor by going back in and fighting to a finish. Black teased the former, but actually decides upon the latter! He makes it in before the twenty-count. Richards immediately goes to the Saito suplex for two, then a German with a full bridge for two! Black rolls his shoulder out.
It is here that Prazak gets a good dig at the name change a wrestler gets when going to wrestle for WWE, saying who knows what he could be called, "Blackie McTylerson", but for now his name is still "Tyler Black". Hogewood gives him credit for making that name mean something in Ring of Honor.
Meanwhile, Richards climbs up top for his awesome shooting star press, but no water in the pool and Black rolls to the corner and Richards hits the canvas in a heap! BUCKLEBOMB! SUPERKICK! Right to the jaw and Richards is reeling…one...two… Richards pushes Black off of him and rolls over! Black uses the Texas Cloverleaf on Richards! He counters into a nice small package for two but Black releases the hold and the pin. Black devastates Richards with an alarm clock SUPERKICK (sick) right into God's Last Gift for another extremely close two-count! Richards pushes up and out to kick-out.
Another strong "This is Awesome" chant rolls through the crowd as once again Black preps the Phoenix Splash, but Richards again cuts him off. He climbs up top behind Black and just repeatedly slaps the hell out of Black's chest. Black retaliates with a few of his own and Richards calls Black a "pu**y". Black strikes him down, right into position for the tree-of-woe double stomp! Ten more chops from Black down to Richards—proving to all why they're called "chops", because it's like he's chopping down wood whenever he strikes down on Richards. He double stomps RIGHT ON RICHARDS' HEAD, and runs to the other side for a massive coast-to-coast springboard dropkick! Black is not going down without a fight tonight. Black makes a desperate one-armed cover but that allows Richards to kick out. Fans again are pumped up, slamming the guardrails and making lots of noise, perhaps louder and more into this match than any previous bout at the HDNet tapings.
Black with the Phoenix Splash and Black rolls through the landing but both men land their knees into each other! Tyler with the boot up off a charge, then a jarringly fast superkick! Richards is woozy but responds with a MASSIVE discus lariat where Black flips 180 degrees on impact. DR DRIVER for two. Richards with a BUCKLEBOMB! BUZZSAW KNOCK OUT KICK! WOW that looked killer. God's Last Gift but Tyler kicks out! Richards is right on top of it and grabs the legs for the Texas Cloverleaf. It is locked on right in the middle of the ring and Black can't hang on. He taps out! Richards wins this final encounter and Tyler Black's last match.
HDNet shows us a replay of some of the major highlights of the match, as well they should. Hogewood says that we all should wish Tyler the best in his future endeavors. Davey Richards grabs the mic and tells Tyler: "You go get Vince to sign your paychecks boy, you tell any of those boys they want real wrestling, you come down to Philly to Ring of Honor!" The wolf's howl rings out and Richards celebrates the victory to end the show.
It's pretty clear at this point that Black vs. Richards from Death Before Dishonor VIII is the strongest and most obvious choice for Ring of Honor's 2010 Match of the Year. However, damned if they didn't get it done again with this final bout of Black's ROH career. In my opinion, it's a serious challenger for that consideration. It's also a contender for the best television match of the year, with only Motor City Machine Guns vs. Beer Money for the TNA Tag Team Titles in the two-out-of-three falls match matching up in terms of action, story, context and delivering an incredible overall package to both the live and home audience.
What so impressed me about this match was just how much effort both men brought to the bout. Both men wanted to make that statement about their wrestling ability. The impromptu set-up helped to establish this was a special match from the start, but in the end it was up to both men to deliver on this unique scenario. The old saying goes that someone takes the ball and runs with it, but Black and Richards took the ball and scored about ten touchdowns during this bout.
As far as the in-ring action, the match became a deep-rooted fight between the two, with both men pulling out all of their most vicious moves. There was no mercy and no hesitation in inflicting that hurt on the other. The kicks from Richards throughout the match were so impressive and the chopping from Black to set up the double stomp make my own skin hurt. That's another huge component of why the match was so great, because it completely drew the audience in and caused those sympathy pull-back reactions for those huge strikes and marquee moves, like when watching a great movie and experiencing one of those exciting action sequences or even a sickening horror show.
While it was also a superior-quality bout, what knocks their second match (From Tag Wars 2010, review in next week's column) somewhat is that it was almost too similar in the move-for-move sequencing that happened in much of the first bout. This final bout in the series was different enough from the first bout to so that it stood out on its own despite both men using familiarity spots here and there as well as using each other's finishers. The borrowing each other's moves worked and I enjoyed the variations on the superkick in this one—not overdone, and each one looked killer. The alarm clock kick from Richards was something else and then later I was freaking out when Black got one of his own.
I liked that Black didn't go down without a fight and could have won at several moments. I thought it was interesting that he came back in to finish the match and that in some ways that was a redemptive moment for his character. The Philly fans really came through here—hot throughout the match, loudly banging and clapping for Richards and all of the dramatic moments, biting on the near falls and such. The ups-and-downs of the Philly crowd at The Arena have been discussed many times in this column, including last week. In a way, this was their redemptive moment as well.
All told, this match that is going to be remembered as one of the shining moments of the year in Ring of Honor and in professional wrestling as a whole—and any and all praise that it has received is well-deserved and not hyperbole.
Next week will be my annual Survival of the Fittest tournament preview edition, which is always a fun read and fun to write. Also, long-awaited thoughts on Tag Wars 2010 and whatever else I can fit into this column before the character limit.