What's All the Hubbub: ROH Man Up
Posted by Aaron Hubbard on 06.09.2009
The Briscoes face Kevin Steen and El Generico in a Ladder War. Evan Bourne says goodbye to ROH by taking on rival Delirious. Plus, Danielson-Morishima II!
Greetings, ROH faithful. I’ve been a little behind the 8-Ball in getting these reviews done, largely due to finals at school. Thankfully, it’s the summer and I can now waste time by reviewing shows so that you can disagree with me! It’s a wonderful life. And we start out with one of the most praised shows in Ring of Honor history, its third PPV effort, Man Up. We’ve got a big double main event in the form of Bryan Danielson challenging Takeshi Morishima for the ROH World Title, and then a Ladder War as The Briscoe Brothers put their ROH World Tag Team Titles on the line against perennial rivals Kevin Steen and El Generico! If that’s not enough, the Resilience does battle with The No Remorse Corps!
The show opens with Naomichi Marufuji already in the ring. Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard hype up the World Title match, and Nigel McGuinness says he’ll be watching that because he’s on the road to the title that he’s in it to win. Prazak and Leonard hype the tag match but a man in a ski mask jumps the rail and says that the Age of the Fall is starting a revolution. Some would call that foreshadowing, but foreshadowing needs to be a little more ambiguous. They cut to the opening package.
Claudio Castagnoli promises to get his hands on Chris Hero and Larry Sweeney. Oh, and he’ll win the match. Hero and Sweeney come out with Tank Toland and Bobby Dempsey in tow. Larry brings us up to date by saying he sold Matt Sydal up the river to Vince. I’d say that that Sydal was destined, even born, to be in the WWE someday. Larry hypes up Hero, who is “making his Pay Per View”. No, that’s not a typo, he really did forget to say “debut”.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Nigel McGuinness vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Chris Hero w/Larry Sweeney, Tank Toland & Bobby Dempsey
For those who care, Fuji is Japanese, Nigel is British, Claudio is Swiss, and Hero is American. Which means that if K-Money’s brain was capable of knowing that good wrestling exists outside of WWE, he’d root for Hero. Anyway, this match has all sorts of fun dynamics. Nigel and Fuji start things out with chain wrestling, as if to say “See, we work here in ROH!” Hero decides he wants in, but only so that he can do his “athletic” displays. Fuji decides to tag in Claudio, and Hero bails to the outside. He comes back in to tag back to Fuji. Fuji and Claudio work a fun double claw spot, but Fuji tags Hero back in. Hero begs off but gets a brief heat segment. Claudio fights back so Hero tags out to Nigel. Nigel and Claudio trade counters, uppercuts and pinfalls to a stalemate, and Hero picks an opportune time to tag back in. Hero and Claudio brawl to the floor. Fuji says, “Well, I might as well do something,” and hits a Hilo. Nigel dives onto Hero and Claudio as well, thus ending any semblance of rules in this match.
I group that whole stretch of the match together because after this, the complexion of the match changes. This offense in this part is of no consequence to the actual match, but it does prove several points. Point 1: Claudio, Nigel, and Fuji all respect each other and are basically equals. Since Nigel has been booked as a World Title contender, that elevates the other two. Point 2: Hero is an arrogant, athletic, and cowardly heel. He manages to do that while making you laugh at the same time. Point 3: They all have different dynamics. NM vs. NM is a competitive but respectful rivalry between two serious athletes, but both men are more lighthearted, if no less respectful, with Claudio. Claudio hates Hero and wants to hurt him, and Hero only wants to be in the ring with him when he has an advantage. Hero’s interactions with Fuji show that Fuji doesn’t really take him seriously, and though his time with Nigel is limited, Nigel shows similar sentiments.
Back in, the NMs heat things up with some striking exchanges before we get the “big spot, break up a cover, big spot” series you see in all matches like this. Shiranui by Fuji. Crash Landing Suplex by Hero. Alpamare Waterslide by Claudio. Lariat by Nigel. Three interesting moves and a clothesline. Woot. Back to NM vs. NM, and we get the same thing again, with a little variation. Nigel kicks out of Fuji’s superkick and hits him with the Tower of London. Hero breaks it up and hits the Cravat Neckbreaker (think John Morrison’s Moonlight Drive, from the second rope). Claudio picks him up out of the pin and hits a German Suplex and then unleashes the Giant Swing. Fuji and Claudio trade some counters, and by that I mean they counter everything except for a pair of kicks from Fuji. It’s quite spectacular really. Fuji sets Claudio up in the Tree of Woe and goes to hit his coast to coast dropkick, but Nigel blocks that and crotches him on the ropes. Hero and Fuji both eat lariats, and Nigel turns around into a European Uppercut from the top by Claudio. I like how that whole sequence played off of trademark moves and came full circle.
The finish is smartly booked, as Claudio gets the Riccola Bomb on Marufuji, which would have gotten three had Hero not *tripped* on the rope and fallen on the referee. Claudio hits Hero with a bicycle kick, ducks a lariat from McGuiness and hits the springboard uppercut, which sends Nigel into the ropes setting up the Jawbreaker Lariat. That ends the match, giving Nigel a victory and Claudio a moral victory. That finish was awesome and kind of wasted in this throwaway match. I say that because the match wouldn’t have been important if it weren’t for the fact that it’s on PPV. However, there’s a lot of good action here, and some brilliant character psychology. The booking is also great if you can ignore the rules being thrown out, which you were probably expecting anyway. Match Rating: ***3/4
Claudio promises to get revenge on Sweet & Sour Inc. Nigel says to listen to the people. Crazy to think how popular he was back then, since they would quickly turn on him in just a matter of months.
Bryan Danielson is here to join us for an interview, complete with eye-patch. Ar me Matey, we be casting off to swashbuckle a Japanese monster and capture his loot! Okay, it’s not nice to make fun, but it’s more interesting than this interview. The basic jist is that Takeshi Morishima injured his eye at Manhattan Mayhem II and Dragon considered his options, but he’s a professional wrestler and he’ll tough it out.
Oh boy. The next part of the PPV is something you’ll either love or you’ll hate. We get three matches in a row with only a brief break in between. It’s actually very reminiscent of my meets at the amateur level. The rules state that the Resilience picks their representative first, and then the No Remorse Corps picks who will face them. Sadly, we break kayfabe as Austin Aries tells Matt Cross to watch out for the kicks and arm submissions of Rocky Romero. It would be a nice touch of realism, except that the NRC doesn’t pick Romero to fight until after Cross gets in the ring. No, wrestling isn’t scripted at all.
Matt Cross vs. Rocky Romero
The match starts off appropriately intense with chops, but goes down from there. Cross is one of those guys I really don’t like, because he just goes in there and hits his spots without really doing anything that would convincingly put someone down long enough for him to hit the move. The most egregious is when Cross trips Romero from the apron, and then hits a slingshot double stomp. Between the two moves, Romero gets to his hands and knees and waits for Cross to hit the move. The one time he does a suitable set-up move (a fireman’s carry followed by dumping the back of Romero’s neck across the knee), he misses the follow up sky twister press, and then gets beat. Some of his other moves, such as a faked dropkick through the ropes and the Flagpole Press are cool, but cool moves mean nothing if you can’t convincingly set them up.
Romero is slightly better, but he doesn’t do much besides his kicks and the “Asucar” dance. Even with his limited offense, he finds a way to annoy me. At one point he uses a sliding knee for a nearfall, and it’s just a meaningless spot. Later, he hits the same sliding knee to set up the Tiger Suplex and knockout kick that finish the match. I’m confused: is the move a set up for a finish, or is it some random (if cool) spot? And I really do believe that I shouldn’t have to watch a five minute match and see the same spot twice. Things like headlocks, armdrags and strikes you can get away with, but spots should not be repeated unless there is a good reason why. Regardless of the flaws, it’s still action packed and entertaining. Match Rating: **
Roderick Strong tries to play head games, going into the ring and luring Austin Aries into it. Strong waits long enough for Aries to declare that he is the next fighter, and then sends Davey Richards into the ring. That’s a great way to build up hype for the eventual Aries-Strong confrontation without actually making contact or getting over the top with it.
Austin Aries vs. Davey Richards
You know, there may be no wrestler more confidant than Austin Aries. The guy never looks like he thinks he’s going to lose, but he also knows how to walk the line between confidant and arrogant. And obviously, he also knows how to cross that line as a heel. Richards is far past that line though. In his defense, there are several points in this match where the ego seems justified, though most of it just proves that he has a lot of room for improvement. This is kind of an interesting match up, because you have two guys with a similar style, but one is fairly inexperienced at this point and the other is a veteran. Davey at this point is just a piece of raw talent. He has the moves, he just needs to find a way to use them to tell a story. If he keeps improving, you can see him reaching the level that Aries is at here.
If you’ve seen more than one Austin Aries match, there’s not much here from him that you haven’t already seen. But it’s not the blocks that matter, it’s the building. AA knows how to use his trademark moves in a cohesive manner that tells a story. The best one is in the “you can’t headscissor Austin Aries” game. Aries hits the side headlock takeover to lure Davey into putting on the move, and Davey almost does it, but stops. This leads to a verbal exchange of “Don’t wanna do that, do you?” “No.” “Didn’t think so!” Richards decides he does want to do it, and then outsmarts Aries, first by blocking the dropkick by shoving him back to the mat, and then dodging it completely. Richards then gets a little cocky with kicks, so Aries tries the shin breaker suplex, but Davey is again one step ahead of him and counters with a sunset flip. Or so he thinks, because Aries rolls through and hits the dropkick. That’s paying off a significant part of the match. “So they came up with a clever sequence, whoop-de-doo!” you say? Several minutes later, Aries pays off the suplex spot by hitting it. So even the transition to the payoff has a later payoff.
While that’s the major “story inside a story”, there are a few others. Richards mocks Aries’ Pendulum Elbow, but misses. Aries quickly hits an STO and hits the move. It’s simple, but Aries aggression to get to a place where he can hit the move makes it a little more than basic. Aries actually shows two brief moments of overconfidence. The first comes when he audibly calls out “Brainbuster!” Richards makes him pay by hitting a vicious northern lights suplex as soon as Aries grabs a front facelock, showing that he wouldn’t even let Aries attempt to hit the move. The second follow the shin breaker suplex, as Aries attempts to follow it up with the 450° Splash, only to have Richards block it and hit a German Superplex.
However, as good as Richards is at finding the opportunities to turn the tide and get on offense, his actual offense has a lack of continuity. His defense is great, but he doesn’t know what to do when he gets there. Even his offensive moves are impressive, such as the aforementioned German Superplex as well as his handspring enzugiri, and even the simple ones like a Russian Legsweep rolled into a crossface look nice. There’s just no rhyme or reason to it, and he doesn’t follow up with pin covers or try to capitalize with a finisher. He also shows his inexperience when he attempts his DR Driver II and Aries blocks it. Rather than try something else, he continues to try the same move to no avail. It may seem like I’m complaining, but I actually like it. The experience difference is a major part of the match’s story.
Aries on the other hand keeps things going with his tried and true high flying offense, including a lionsault, the slingshot corkscrew splash, and the heetseeking missile. It’s kind of spotty, but at least it’s a clear game plan, and makes sense in the context of Aries wanting to show his goods to the PPV audience. Just because he wants to payoff one more move, he backflips out of another German, than gets an unexpected counter to the DR Driver with a backslide. When that doesn’t work, Aries hits the kick to the face, a sick Brainbuster and the 450° Splash to put him away. Very fun match if you’re not critiquing it for intelligence and very interesting if you are. Match Rating: ***1/2
Erick Stevens vs. Roderick Strong
Thankfully, after that cerebral match, these guys come out here and give me something I don’t have to think about. There isn’t a lot of actual wrestling psychology, other than the fact that it’s a Roderick Strong match and thus the back is worked over, but the character psychology is good enough to tell a story. Stevens is the big hoss that bulldozes over opponents but is relatively inexperienced. Strong is smaller, more intelligent, and just as ruthless. It’s a simple story, and that’s all the match needs in that department. Where it really shines is in all the high-impact offense that these two do better than just about anyone.
Stevens starts off red hot in an attempt to prove himself to Aries, Strong, and the audience. He makes one notable mistake by doing a cocky cover off of an Oklahoma Stampede (understandable considering he usually wins in dominating fashion), and quickly corrects it on the next pin attempt. After he realizes that he’ll have to work longer to put Strong down, he slows his furious pace down. Roderick finally turns the tide with the backdrop suplex on the apron that will make anyone believe that the momentum has changed. He works over the back with backbreakers and slams. Surprisingly, there are a few moments of symmetry. Two stiff strike exchanges lead to similar results. The first time, Strong wins the exchange, but Stevens uses his power to hit a belly-to-belly suplex to regain the advantage. The second time Stevens wins, but Strong catches him off the ropes with a dropkick. It’s basically the same spot, but modified to fit the style that they use. The other example comes when both men hit a pumphandle powerbomb, but each man does it slightly differently.
Roddy also shows how good he is at protecting finishers. Erick tries his Doctor Bomb several times, but Strong uses a rather simple counter to prevent it: Charlie Horsing the leg. And as if he was reading my mind during the Richards-Aries match, when Stevens blocks the Gibson Driver, Strong immediately tries something else. Strong also lets Stevens kick out of the Half-Nelson Backbreaker, which was once his big finisher but is now only used to finish lower card guys. It gives him a rub without making him look like Superman. Strong also takes Stevens big moves, like the Gorilla Press Powerslam, the Choo-Choo, and the full rotation German, letting him look good. Stevens even gets a believable nearfall off of a super powerslam. The important thing is that Roderick makes you believe Stevens “can” win, but makes it clear Strong is the favorite. And Strong does win, but it takes a Splash Mountain into a Gibson Driver to do it. Match Rating: ***1/2
After all that wrestling, we get MORE wrestling. Actually, it's just highlights of a Four Corner Scramble between Nigel McGuiness, BJ Whitmer, Delirious, and Adam Pearce. Delirious mocks Pearce with his antics, and then saves Whitmer when Pearce goes to powerbomb him through a table. Nigel wins with the jawbreaker lariat on Whitmer, continuing the losing streak. Pearce continues to abuse Whitmer post-match, but Delirious has an issue with it. That brings out Brent Albright, who hits the Half-Nelson Suplex. Pearce talks about Delirious hiding behind a mask. BJ takes issue with it, so Pearce talks about finding yourself and need. Delirious...talks...with Whitmer, but Whitmer turns on him and hits the Adrenaline Spike (leaping Tombstone). Pearce staples Delirious' mask to his face. Great angle that led to one of the most lackluster stables in wrestling history, The Hangmen Three.
And then we get the highlights video plugging rohwrestling.com.
Dragon decides high risk is the way to go and goes for a dropkick, but Shima counters to a powerbomb. Dragon is a better wrestler though and counters to a triangle choke. Smart. Dragon does get a little overconfident by attempting a Mexican Surfboard, but hits the stomp to the knees when he (obviously) can’t lift Shima. He follows that up with a bow and arrow, which is an impressive feat of strength, but I’m not sure how it contributes to the match. Dragon remembers what does work and attempts another choke with a sleeper, but Shima eventually gets out of that. Dragon then hits an impressive backdrop superplex for a believable nearfall. Dragon then hits the MMA Elbows, a Tiger Suplex, and applies Cattle Mutilation, which could have been the finish. Dragon gives up on that and kicks Shima’s head in, and applies the triangle choke, adding elbows. This pays off the chokehold strategy, and again, could have finished the match.
Shima puts an end to that with a powerbomb, paying off the earlier spot. There’s a lot of that in this match, which is something I love. Dragon pulls off a brilliant move, hitting a sunset flip, luring Shima into the banzai drop, but moves out of the way so that he can hit a running kick. Later, Dragon attempts a schoolboy, only for Shima to hit the banzai drop then. Dragon attempts his small package, but Shima counters into a scoop slam, the inverse of the usual counter. Dragon’s last move in the match is a successful small package, but it only gets 2. Much like the Aries-Richards match, these things go a long way to making the match work.
Morishima’s Backdrop Driver is protected very well in this match. The first attempt is countered by Dragon slipping out, and the second one connects. Dragon is only able to avoid being finished by getting his foot on the rope, and even then, only because Shima hasn’t gotten a lot of offense in. Shima gets angry about that and hits a second Backdrop Driver, but instead of going for the pin, clobbers the eye with elbows until the referee calls for the bell. The finish is eerily reminiscent of Bret Hart-Steve Austin, not just because of the ref stoppage, but because it solidified Shima as a heel and Dragon as a babyface. If you’re looking for another double turn, here it is. The match is great too. Match Rating: ***3/4
We get a great video package of the Briscoe Brothers vs. Steenerico feud.
Once the action gets into the ring and starts involving ladders, it gets simultaneously more insane and less believable. They work the standard formula of multi-man matches, hitting a move that puts the guy out so they can do the next spot. To their credit, the moves they hit do look like they can take their opponents out for that amount of time, but it’s still annoying. The actual ladder spots are my real issue though. I don’t mind spots being set up in a heated feud like this, so long as they are spots used against the other guys. For example, Mark sets up a ladder in the corner so that he and Jay can throw Generico through it, which is cool. Sadly, that spot is marred at the beginning, as Mark obviously stalls so that Jay can get in the ring. Why couldn’t Mark use a different move to put Generico through the ladder? And after the spot, Generico rolls outside and Jay fixes the ladder back up, which only serves the purposes of Steen, who pushes a ladder that Jay climbs and Jay falls through the broken ladder HE propped back up. It makes Jay look like an idiot.
Speaking of idiocy, several of the spots are stupidly dangerous, such as a botched (at least I hope) powerbomb from Steen that sends Mark crashing on the edge of the ladder or Steen’s straight fall from the ladder that could have done serious damage if he hadn’t landed right, or just plain stupid, like Mark’s Shooting Star Press onto Generico with a ladder on top of the masked man. I HATE spots like that, and almost every modern day ladder match has one. Sadly, that spot followed one of the few spots that weren’t contrived, Mark’s exploder to Generico on the ladder. Thankfully, the one extremely memorable and innovative spot in the match does not come off contrived at all. Generico boots Mark (one of his signatures) and Mark rolls to the apron, and Jay hits his own big boot before setting up Generico for the Doomsday Device, and Mark springs through the ladder to hit it. Still dangerous, but it came off beautifully.
That leads to the finish, which follows suit with the rest of the match: insane, but contrived. The Briscoes climb up a huge maintenance ladder, but Steen makes the save. Steen sets up a ladder on the ropes and the big ladder so he can hit a powerbomb (again, I don’t mind setting up spots to hurt your opponent if you hate them). Mark avoids it though, and hits a pair of superkicks that don’t knock Steen down, and then climbs the ladder. He pays for his lack of killer instinct when Steen hits the Package Piledriver through the ladder, which is a great spot. It would have come off better IF Mark had knocked Steen off his feet first. What’s sad is that there was a perfect opportunity to play off an earlier spot. Earlier in the match, Steen hit a pair of superkicks that Mark no sold, and then punted him below the belt to bring him down. A punt from Mark would have given the match a little more continuity, put Steen down, but it would still have been believable for Steen to get up and hit the Piledriver.
Now, as great as the Package Piledriver was, it gets ruined. Generico comes out of nowhere to climb up the ladder to get the belts, which would have been a dramatic and believable finish. The problem is that this is the only time I even believed that Steenerico had a chance, because the champions dominated this match. That’s the problem with the Briscoes, they have such an aura of invincibility and their “Superman Push” of 2007 puts John Cena’s push to shame. Then again, the crowd loved them, so I guess I can’t blame Gabe for pushing them hard. Back to the match, Generico climbs, but Jay stops him, but only long enough to set up a ladder like Steen did, which Generico waits for him to do. Then, Jay pulls him off and delivers the Jay Driller (butterfly piledriver) through the ladder, in a moment of symmetry. Now, as I said earlier, I like symmetry in matches, but not with these big spots. The piledriver through the ladder is insane, but if another one follows it, both of them end up devalued. Generico, to his credit, teased a Brainbuster before Jay hit his move, which made it a little less contrived. Actually, I would have preferred Generico hit the Brainbuster on the ladder ala the turnbuckle variation and won the match. THAT would have been a great payoff to the feud and would have topped the other two spots in insanity.
But it’s not to be, and Jay climbs up. Steen and Jay have a brawl on top of the ladder, which doesn’t work any better here than it did in the Stevens-Strong match. Steen takes one last bump (again, devaluing the last spot), and Jay goes for the belts. But just because something else had to go wrong, the belts are stuck. Steen ends up taking another bump before Jay wins the belts. The fans give them a “Match of the Year” chant, showing that the “smart” crowd would rather see people kill themselves than have a smart match. Now, I will give these four some credit. The spots were insane and innovative, which is difficult to do these days. And I appreciate people willing to put their life on the line for my entertainment. However, it would mean a little more if Mark wasn’t constantly trying to commit suicide in his matches. I did enjoy the match. It’s brainless fun and a great popcorn match. However, if Benoit-Jericho is the Iron Man of ladder matches, than this match is Wolverine. It has a bunch of cool explosions and some fun geek moments, but when you actually think about what you’re watching, you realize it’s average at best. Match Rating: ***3/4
Post match, Steen shoves Generico down before leaving in disgust. Suddenly, a bunch of fans in ski masks start chanting "Age of the Fall". Tyler Black, Jimmy Jacobs, and The Necro Butcher show up and beat down the Briscoes, with Lacey in tow. Jacobs ties up Jay's feet to the wire that held up the belts, and that's the end of the show.
ROHvideos.com is plugged. The eye injury of Bryan Danielson, suffered at the hands of Takeshi Morishima is highlighted, including some graphic backstage footage where Bryan has trouble even looking down.
We see the beginning of the Vulture Squad via highlights of a Triple Threat Match between Roderick Strong, Austin Aries, and Jack Evans. I already reviewed) this nonsense. Ultimately, this stable was probably the most unsuccessful stable in ROH history, when it comes to long-term impact.
Reborn Again, Respect is Earned, Motor City Madness and an unnamed PPV on September 15 in Chicago Ridge are hyped. HEY! THAT’S THIS SHOW!
But there’s more, as we get what cut from the ending of the Pay-Per-View. The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black, Necro Butcher & Lacey) attacked the Briscoe Brothers after the Ladder War with Kevin Steen & El Generico. Jay Briscoe is hung from the rope that held the title, and Jacobs stands underneath him to cut a promo. Blood pours down on Jacobs, soaking his hair, tights, and ring coat with crimson. He explains that having the love of Lacey could not save him, because nothing saves. He says that the men behind him and the army in the crowd are bonded together. He says Necro Butcher is treated like a savage animal because he doesn’t fit the traditional ideal of beauty. Tyler Black is a young kid with a ton of talent, but can’t get a spot in ROH. They are a revolution, and they cut off the head of the snake, the Briscoes. Jacobs actually opens his mouth to let Jay’s blood in, and then spits it at Mark Briscoe. He says that Project 169 is over, but that the Age of the Fall has just begun. The Briscoes make their exit, but they are not happy. Crazy promo, crazy angle, and amazing debut. One of the greatest visuals in the company’s history.
Lacey & Sara Del Ray vs. Amazing Kong & Daizee Haze
If anyone who doesn’t follow ROH is reading, Amazing Kong is Awesome Kong. This is her sole ROH appearance (sadly). Daizee brought her in as backup in her three-way rivalry with Lacey and Del Ray. “Kong’s Gonna Kill You” chants start, and I don’t think you’ll her that for another woman, since Japanese crowds don’t usually chant. Lacey is her awesome, spoiled brat self. Of course, she avoids Kong at all costs, letting Sara do the work. Even when Daizee is in (which is for the majority of the match), Lacey prefers to go in after Sara toys with her. Daizee plays the spunky underdog, and Kong is the Juggernaut babyface. Sara has perhaps the most interesting role, as she has zero quit in her. That relentless determination is admirable in her attempts to bring Kong down to size, but also makes her look like a bully when she abuses Haze.
I might get some flack for this, but I’ve never been “Wowed” with Kong’s work. Is she a solid worker and great monster heel? Yes, but she’s no Aja Kong. The reason Kong has such good matches is that her size automatically makes anyone who faces her an underdog, which gives matches a clear story. Kong only ever has long matches with good workers. Lesser talents are appropriately squashed, but I ask you, do you really think Kong could have a *** ten-minute match with say, Maria? She doesn’t do much her besides look scary, hit clothesline and backfists, but Sara and Lacey are great foils for her. You want to see Lacey get destroyed, but you also respect Sara for cutting her down.
The bulk of the match is the heat segment on Haze. Lacey and Sara are both excellent wrestlers, Sara being a bit better technically, but Lacey has more personality than any independent worker. Eventually, Kong gets the hot tag and destroys both girls, drilling Lacey with the backfist. Sara actually puts up a decent fight, surviving the Implant Buster AND Kong Bomb and hitting a German Suplex. The Haze tags back in because she wants revenge on Lacey, hitting the heart punch before a Kong Bomb, but Lacey kicks out. Sara shows up seconds later, implying that she was supposed to make the save. If you miss your cue, don’t do the spot. Lacey does get pinned after the Mind Trip, giving a satisfying ending. I would have preferred a Kong Bomb finish Lacey, but since she only made one appearance, perhaps its best. Aside from the slip-up with Sara failing to make the save and then making it obvious that she was supposed to save, the match is excellently done, with great characters, great workers, and great formula. The best women’s match in ROH (so far). Match Rating: ***1/2
BJ Whitmer & Brent Albright w/Shane Hagadorn vs. The YRR (Chasyn Rance & Kenny King)
This is an extended squash for the Hangmen. I like both men a lot, but that’s because I appreciate talent. They have negative charisma. Which probably explains why Brent Albright is no longer Gunnar Scott. The YRR on the other hand, have an abundance of charisma. Rance serves as the victim of abuse, while Kenny King makes the most of his time to hit a springboard clothesline and a capoiera kick, but unfortunately botches another springboard move. One botch isn’t bad, but when it’s 33% of the offense you get in the match, it leaves a negative impression. Match Rating: *3/4
Whitmer tells the manservant Hagadorn to get a mic, but Shane drops it. The fans get on his case, and Albright improvises with a stiff slap to the face. Shane says that he deserved it, and BJ grabs the mic. Whitmer says that he’s been in ROH for five years and has sacrificed himself for the fans, but Adam Pearce helped him see the light. Albright dubs Whitmer, Pearce and himself the Hangman Three.
Tyler Black vs. Jack Evans
Jack Evans shows up by himself and dances for the fans. Tyler attacks before the bell and dominates for a bit. This is Tyler’s first ROH match. Evans makes a comeback with a springboard corkscrew roundhouse kick and a handspring elbow that sends both men outside, but Jacobs and Necro come in to beat Evans down. Irish Airborne (Jake & Dave Crist) come out and the match becomes a six-man tag. Airborne double team Black for a bit, but Butcher comes in and destroys them. Black hits a Fosbury Flop, and Butcher hits Dave Crist with the chair slam. Necro and Jack brawl, and Jacobs hits his tree of woe dropkick. Jack makes a brief comeback, but Necro destroys him with a top rope sidewalk slam onto the backs of chairs. I mean, Evans is dead. The match gets thrown out as Tyler hits God’s Last Gift on one Crist brother and Jacobs chokes out the other with the end time. Kind of pointless outside of showing how ruthless the Age of the Fall are.
Matt Sydal w/Larry Sweeney vs. Delirious
I wrote a review for this, but my stupid computer deleted it. To sum up, this is Matt Sydal’s last ROH match before he left to be re-Bourne in the WWE, and it’s against his perennial rival Delirious. These guys debuted in ROH together and Sydal has had the upper hand in their rivalry that including a showdown as the last two men in Survival of the Fittest 2006 and a **** 2-Out-Of-3 Falls match in Liverpool. Delirious makes note of the special occasion by NOT going crazy at the opening bell, and saying clearly that he and Matt are going to tear down the house one more time. Sydal seems to reciprocate with a handshake, but gets a cheap shot in to draw boos from a crowd that is largely appreciative for obvious reasons.
There’s really not much of a story in this match, because it’s mostly “Delirious and Sydal’s Greatest Hits”. The story is the rivalry and the occasion, not the ring-work. Not to say that it isn’t exciting, because they have some amazing hits. Delirious brings in the Bizaro Driver, the Panic Attack, the Cobra Stretch, his corner clothesline and even a Cobra Clutch Suplex. He also works in some of his signature comedy. For example: Sydal whips him to the corner and Delirious jumps to the apron, says “Come On Matt!” and runs to another corner, and does it again before taking out Larry Sweeney with a hilo. Sydal works in his Here It Is Driver, The Slice (with an Asai Moonsault preceding it, AJ style) and even a sick Jig N Tonic. He also works in some quality smarmy heeldom, chocking Delirious with the masked man’s tassels and spitting an entire bottle of water on him. They also show some familiarity, with Sydal countering Shadows Over Hell with a dropkick, and then Delirious holding the ropes to block Matt’s “leap from the ground to the top turnbuckle” Frankensteiner, and then he hits the SOH. Sydal later hits the Frankensteiner, adding in a somersault for good measure. Sadly, Sydal’s moonsault Belly-to-Belly does not show up, nor does his beautiful standing moonsault, but one is a finish and the other is way to “babyface” for Sydal’s heel character.
There is a scary spot as Delirious dives out onto Sydal and Matt’s head hit’s the floor, knocking him out for a moment. As in, he goes limp when Delirious picks him up knocked out. Sweeney blatantly buys him some time but it doesn’t have to much of an effect on the rest of the match, which is where more of the aforementioned action takes place. Larry makes another appearance near the end, complaining and taking a shot from referee Todd Sinclair when Sydal only gets 2 off his Shooting Star Press, and then running away from Delirious. Delirious gets the win with Chemical Imbalance II. Sydal shakes hands and soaks in chants of “Thank you Matt!” Very classy performance here by Matt, and a good match to boot. Match Rating: ***1/2
The 411: The PPV portion is exceptional. Six matches, five of which are at ***1/2 or more. The one lackluster match is less than five minutes long. Even if it didn't have the blow away Match of the Year that Driven had, it's hard to argue with this kind of quality. However, the rating isn't just for the PPV portion, but for the bonus disc as well, and that brings it down a bit. There's a few real poor matches there, but Sydal's farewell and the Women's Match are also keepers. Match for match, one of the best shows you will ever see. Enthusiastic thumbs up. But you might not want to watch it one setting. There's a LOT of action.