What's All The Hubbub: ROH Undeniable
Posted by Aaron Hubbard on 10.06.2009
ROH returns to PPV with a whimper, but Aries and Strong bring some great wrestling, and Nigel brings an emotional moment.
Yeah, it’s been a while since I reviewed the ROH Pay Per Views. Honestly, there’s a reason, because I personally think this show sucks, for the most part. That will become more evident the longer you read this review.
Show starts with Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard hyping the show. Claudio Castagnoli is behind them throwing uppercuts in preparation for his match with Chris Hero. But Larry Sweeney is out here with Hero, Bobby Dempsey and Sara Del Ray, and he says that Hero is not pleased with the stipulations of the match, so the match isn’t happening, so Claudio is off of the PPV. Funny moment as Dempsey puts his finger to his mouth when the fans start chanting his name.
Okay, so when we last saw ROH on PPV, The Briscoe Brothers won a brutal Ladder War against rivals Kevin Steen and El Generico, and were jumped by The Age of the Fall. Appropriately, Age of the Fall starts the PPV proper. Jimmy Jacobs is out and cuts a promo, saying that AOTF is not a faction, it’s a revolution whose ideals spread far beyond the wrestling ring. They’ve targeted ROH’s favorite sons, but they have to beat some tag teams to get a shot. They will work within the system, but destroy it from the outside. He issues a challenge to any tag team. Tyler Black and Necro Butcher walk around menacingly. Lacey is just there to look yummy.
Julius Smokes is here to introduce The Vulture Squad (Jack Evans, Ruckus, and Jigsaw), and responds to the challenge.
Tyler Black and Jimmy Jacobs vs. Jack Evans and Ruckus
This is Tyler Black’s first real match in ROH and he definitely looks talented, but there’s no indication that he would be as big as he was. Jacobs and Black dominate the match, and do what they do best (Tyler with his athleticism, Jacobs with his aggression). Ruckus plays face in peril but gets a few trademark flippy spots in, but gets effectively taken out of the match when Jacobs busts out his pescado into a chair spot. Evans gets to look very good, sticking to his kick variations instead of his overly contrived (but equally awesome) high-flying spots, but he ends up taking a very sick bump when Tyler blocks a slingshot rana with a powerbomb into the guard rail. An awesome double team where Black puts Evans in the torture rack, Jacobs hits a senton, Jacobs then kicks Evans in the face while Black hits a dominator sets up Evans for the End Time (guillotine choke). The Age of the Fall looked impressive, and that’s what the match was supposed to do. Match Rating: **1/4
ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima doesn’t want any visitors.
Erick Stevens hypes himself up, and I get to look at his awesome moves. Man, why can’t ROH book this guy as an awesome juggernaut babyface?
Sara Del Ray vs. Daizee Haze
They wrestle around for a bit, Sara using power and Haze using speed. She even takes out Dempsey with a dive from the top to the floor. Castagnoli comes out and goes after Sweeney, but Hero hits the Hero’s Welcome on the floor. Haze uses the distraction to get a win. So yeah, the first women’s match on ROH PPV is less than five minutes, is just a cog in the Claudio vs. Sweet & Sour feud, and the champion gets pinned. ROH totally missed the boat here, and the women’s division in ROH has continued to meander in irrelevance. Match Rating: *1/2
Bryan Danielson is not happy with Sweet & Sour Inc., saying they are everything that’s wrong with professional sports. He challenges Hero to a match, and we get one. One of my favorite Danielson promos.
Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero
The match is a total clash in styles. Hero is a capable technical wrestler, but he’s not a patch on Dragon. More importantly, Hero is still the goofy comedic heel at this point, and he does a lot of his crazy aerobics routine, leaving Bryan out to dry and not really giving him a chance to get anything going. Nowhere is this more evident than when Hero stomps a beatdown to mock Dragon, and Bryan just looks at him as if to say “Wrestle you idiot, we are on PPV”. Of course, there’s also a few truly laugh out loud moments, such as when Hero mocks Danielson’s eye injury by using his hand band as an eye patch, or when he climbs up top to…apply a cravat. Bryan finally gets pissed and embarrasses Hero by stretching him with the Mexican Surfboard before hitting his awesome surfboard stomp to the knees, with a great sell by Hero.
Unfortunately, Hero starts to take over with the worst part of his offense: strikes. Hero is a lot better now, but back here, he was one of the most unconvincing strikers in wrestling. It’s also pretty obvious that Dragon is pulling his punches so to speak, because his strikes are usually much more convincing. Things do pick up near the end, with Bryan hitting some suplexes and a missile dropkick, and Hero busting out the crash landing suplex, but it feels like a tacked on go-home stretch because they didn’t build to anything. Hero again turns back to comedy, acting like he’ll go for Cattle Mutilation and just rolling forward, and then getting an awful small package for a nearfall. The finish is great, however. The fans started the match by telling Hero he was “going to get his fucking head kicked in”, and Hero went to the announcer so that he could announce that “that is purely speculation”. So, naturally, Bryan finishes by grabbing a double wristlock and stomping on Hero’s face until he wins by KO. It’s a great finish, but it doesn’t make up for the severe clash of styles preceding it.
This is the problem with trying to push a comedy gimmick into the main event. Ultimately, comedy cowards have to have their comeuppance, so anytime they get a big match with a top star, especially one who is an established badass, he has to lose. If the character can never win, it’s hard for him to get over as anything more than a jobber to the stars. That’s why Hero stopped doing the comedy shtick and became “That Young Knockout Kid”. Unfortunately, in the process, Hero lost everything that was special about him and became another generic indy wrestler. The big problem is that Hero is the top cowardly heel, and his first match on PPV shows just how inept he is. The match did help Danielson in his turn to babyface though. Match Rating: **1/4
Adam Pearce is out and he wants Kevin Steen to come out. Steen does come out and listens to Pearce talk about The Hangmen Three, with BJ Whitmer and Brent Albright. They took their vengeance on Delirious because he hides behind a mask. Pearce knows that Steen is frustrated with his partner, El Generico, who also wears a mask, because he keeps losing. So Albright and Whitmer come out (in masks) with El Generico. Things get REALLY corny by telling Steen to “let the dark side within you come out” and strike down Generico. Generico’s acting is considerably better. Steen does not do that, and we get a huge beatdown. Delirious comes out for the save and says…something. Steen says “I have no idea what that meant, but Hangmen Three, let me tell you something. There’s only one person in Ring of Honor who’s gonna have fun smacking around this guy, and that’s ME!” Delirious dives onto the HM3 (and Shane Hagadorn) and that leads to…
Delirious, El Generico & Kevin Steen vs. The Hangmen Three (Adam Pearce, BJ Whitmer & Brent Albright
This is largely a wild brawl, but it does serve to get everyone over. The Hangmen get an extended heat segment on Delirious. Aside from Albright doing squats while doing a stalling vertical suplex, the beatdown is nothing revolutionary, but it gets its point across. Delirious gets the hot tag to Steen and Steen cleans house, working in the rope kick low blow to Pearce just to show “hey, I’m still not a nice guy”. The connection between Steen and Generico is firmly reestablished in about thirty seconds. Albright ends Steen’s “house of fire” segment and Generico jumps him and pummels him. Seconds later, the odd couple hit the drop toehold/somersault legdrop combo. They hug in the center of the ring, until Steen remembers they are in front of people, but he hits a dive on Pearce and Whitmer.
Whitmer tastes the yakuza kick and a Swanton, but Steen breaks the cover when Pearce goes for an elbow, and Whitmer takes that as well. Once Delirious tags in, he hits Pearce with the bam lariats, and throws Albright out of the way because he wants Pearce so badly. Whitmer is able to use that to toss Delirious outside, and he gets an impressive combination of a turnbuckle powerbomb and a fox kick. Steen saves his partner this time and hits a reverse lungblower, but Pearce takes him out with a spinebuster. Delirious then viciously goes after Pearce, hitting the Panic Attack and biting the ear, but Albright comes in and hits him with the brutal Half-Nelson Suplex to get the win.
This accomplished several things: 1) Steen and Generico are back together. 2) Steen is now a babyface, but still has some heel characteristics. 3) The Hangmen are a force to be reckoned with, especially Albright, and 4) Delirious HATES Adam Pearce and is getting even more insane than he used to be. The match was solid too. Match Rating: **1/2
Nigel McGuinness is in a pretty crappy locker room. But he’s been in a lot, because he’s paid his dues to get the world title shot against Morishima tonight. He says he’s known as the tough soccer hooligan from England who headbutts people and makes them bleed, who lariats them and knocks them out. But inside, he’s still the kid who sat in Wembley Stadium and dreamt of becoming a pro wrestler. But he’s also that guy who headbutts you and makes you bleed, who lariats you and knocks you out. He says being ROH Champion means something in this business. It means you are the best wrestler in the world, and for him, it means that the fifteen year old kid’s dream came true. One of the best promos in ROH history, in my opinion. Really makes you want to root for Nigel.
We get a clip of Roderick Strong betraying Austin Aries (with help from Davey Richards) which set up this feud and thus this match.
Roderick Strong vs. Austin Aries
These are two of ROH’s aces, right behind Danielson and McGuinness. Which, I suppose, means they are THE ROH Aces now? They are former tag team champions and best friends. This match is a grudge match, but it’s more about proving who’s better than anything. They don’t like each other and it shows as they brutally hit their strikes (and their strikes are brutal when they don’t have an issue), or when they paintbrush each other, or when Aries viciously rakes the back and chest. I’d say it shows with every time Roderick acts like a dick, but he was a HUGE dick during his heel run, so that doesn’t really count. But more importantly, both men want to prove they are a better wrestler, so this is just an extremely intense wrestling match.
Obviously, they are quite familiar with each other and know counters for the signature moves. The headscissor/dropkick game shows up, and Roddy CAN headscissors Aries and Aries can’t dropkick him, so he slaps him instead. Strong also counters a trademark no-hands quebrada with knees and dodges his IED dropkick. Aries comes up with two counters for the Gibson Driver, a back body drop and a rana (the rana counter looks awesome), and he’s still able to get in a few signature spots, like the shinbreaker suplex and the Heat Seeking Missile. He also uses the IED on the floor, in the same style of the Olay Kick, and he does hit it on a second attempt.
Strong keeps the match grounded psychologically with his usual array of backbreakers and a few submission holds, like the camel clutch and a waistlock. Aries makes a few spirited comebacks, mostly strike based, which shows the difference between the two. Aries has more emotional investment due to being betrayed, and he allows his anger to keep him going. Strong is more cerebral and menacing, and it almost feels like his assault is premeditated. When he goes for something truly dangerous, you can tell he planned to do it. Sometimes it works (like a sidewalk slam on the top turnbuckle), and sometimes it doesn’t (an attempted Gibson Driver on the floor that just gets Strong backdropped).
Ultimately, passion beats planning on this night. When Strong is unsuccessful at putting Aries away with a half-nelson backbreaker (basically a third-string finisher at this point anyway) he sets up a table on the outside. But it took to long to set up and Aries avoids it and makes a comeback, nearly beating him with the Brainbuster and again with 450° Splash. He almost overcomes it by hitting the Sick Kick to break up a series of rollups, which allows him to hit the press gutbuster into the Gibson Driver, but Aries is able to kick out of that as well. Strong tries the Gibson Driver through the table, but Aries is able to counter with a kick to the head and a sick Brainbuster through the table. The ending is kind of deflating as Aries messes up the 450° and drops his knees on Strong. Aries wins, but wins using Strong’s table. So, there’s always that question: if Strong had not gone for the table, could he have won? If you can ignore the legality of the table (and I can’t) this is terrific. Just a great match and nearly a show saver. Match Rating: ****1/4
Romero and Richards do get an extended heat segment, and they make good use of it, viciously attack Jay’s left arm. It’s a good idea to work a body part anyway, but both guys have great submission finishers that attack that body part (the Kimura and the Diablo Armbar). Jay doesn’t really sell it, but at least the heels had a good idea. Jay hits one of his best transitions, the reverse STO into a turnbuckle, before tagging out to Mark. Mark starts off the comeback with “Redneck Fu” on Richards, which is always funny, but works even better given the style of his opponents. When Romero comes in, Mark hits a beautiful counter to his springboard tornado DDT, catching him in mid-air and hitting the side exploder suplex. The NRC is able to take momentary control before Mark takes them out with a springboard ace crusher on Richards, dropkicking Romero in the process.
From there, the match is mostly a series of spots, but these guys have good spots. The NRC brings a flying knee/powerbomb combination as well as Romero’s Tiger Suplex and a capture suplex into the corner by Richards. The Briscoes bring their Redneck Boogie double team, and Jay brings his press DVD and top rope gourdbuster. At one point, Richards hits his handspring enzugiri only for Mark to no-sell it and hit a lariat, which leads to a strike exchange before the Briscoes hits football tackles on both men. We get a tremendous false finish as Richards drops Mark with a tombstone piledriver and Romero gets the Diablo Armbar on Jay, which would have convincingly made Jay tap due to the early arm work. But the Briscoes are able to win with the Springboard Doomsday Device after Mark hits a sweet belly-to-belly suplex on Romero off of the apron. It’s mostly just your standard Briscoe Sprint, and the NRC was willing to play that game, but they brought some good psychology to it as well. Match Rating: ***1/2
After the match we get TV Snow as well as clips of the Age of the Fall hanging Jay. Jacobs promises that “This is just the beginning”.
The first good idea is the “try our finishers in the opening minute” spot. Shima blocks the Jawbreaker Lariat and Nigel counters the Backdrop Driver. It worked for Austin and Rock, but it worked because they didn’t try to do the Stunner and Rock Bottom every two minutes. Nigel attempts lariats over and over and OVER in this match. It works in the context of the story; Nigel knows the lariat can beat Shima and may be the only way to beat him, so he doesn’t try anything else. But it’s still boring. At one point, Nigel throws five lariats in a row. It doesn’t help that Shima hits three or four lariats of his own, but at least he hits most of his other signature spots. Nigel’s only offense of any consequence that isn’t a lariat is a superplex and a sunset flip powerbomb, which he works as nearfalls, but no one bites on them.
The second good idea is Shima working over the arm to prevent Nigel using lariats. He doesn’t like to work body parts, so it’s an unusual level of strategy for the champ. In fact, it was such a good idea that many people complained that Nigel wasn’t selling the arms by going after lariats. That complaint is invalid, for two reasons: 1) Shima uses only the most basic of arm work (slamming it into the post, smashing it over his shoulder, stretching it in the ropes, arm wringers) and only for a short time, and 2) Shima actually switches from the left arm to the right arm as soon as he gets in the ring. If Shima had done all of his arm work on the same arm, it might be a more valid complaint. Instead we just have shoddy arm work. So the second idea doesn’t work. It proves a point: Shima isn’t used to working a body part and thus does it poorly. But it’s also two minutes that don’t really contribute to the rest of the match.
The ending is cringe worthy. Nigel and Shima kick out of each other’s finishers, and at one point, Nigel does the fighting spirit pop-up off of the Backdrop Driver. I usually try to defend “fighting spirit” but that’s just ridiculous. I also understand kicking out of finishers to create drama on special occasions, but most wrestlers don’t wrestle another three minutes after it as though the finishers meant nothing. Also, wrestler’s who have their finishers kicked out usually have a back-up finisher for such occasions, and if they don’t they immediately try their finish again, instead of waiting several minutes. A second Jawbreaker Lariat is enough to get McGuinness the win, but it’s kind of hollow when a big lariat was no sold by Shima mere seconds before. Fortunately, the moment of Nigel’s win is sweet and most people forget about the crappy match anyway. If they did remember it, they would remember it as one of the worst ROH main events in its history. Match Rating: *3/4
After the match, all the babyfaces come out and celebrate with Nigel. Danielson is pissed and gets in Nigel’s face. But Morishima is a class act and personally gives Nigel the belt and bows to him. Nigel returns the bow and shakes hands with Austin Aries, who will challenge him at the next PPV.
Alright, this might be lazy of me, but I don’t feel like reviewing the Video Wire or the “Doomsday Clock” music video. Feel free to watch them if you wish.
Jigsaw w/Julius Smokes vs. Claudio Castagnoli
So, for those who keep track, Claudio was knocked off of the PPV because Chris Hero wussed out of his match. Then, Chris Hero “sent Claudio to the hospital” after a Hero’s Welcome on the floor. Here, Claudio wants a match since he was knocked off the PPV, and Jigsaw is looking to prove himself to the Vulture Squad, hence this DVD Extra. Meanwhile, Hero gets to have a match on PPV. Who says they always reward honor and punish dishonor? Best part: this match is much better than the Hero-Danielson match. It’s your typical Castagnoli vs. Little Man match. In this case, typical is not an insult, but a compliment. Castagnoli vs. Little Man matches are lots of fun. Unlike most big guys, CC bothered to learn how to wrestle, and has a very European style of chain wrestling. Jigsaw happens to be very skilled at chain wrestling as well, using a more Lucha-based style. With the two different styles and the obvious size difference, that leads to a fairly even exchange as long as they are doing mat-based offense.
That Jigsaw is able to go hold for hold with Claudio is a major story point. CC prides himself on his ability to outwrestle his opponents, and is coming off an “injury”, so he wants to keep things low-key. But since Jigsaw is able to match him in the technical area, CC has to use his other tools: his size, power, and athleticism. Whether it’s countering a tilt-a-whirl headscissors by tossing Jigsaw like a pizza or deadlifting him from a prone position for a German Suplex, Claudio’s strength never fails to impress. Of course, the European Uppercuts show up, including an awesome variation where CC grabs a chinlock and then leaps and hits an uppercut to the face of a sitting Jigsaw, landing the move before landing. My description really doesn’t do it justice because it was so fluid.
Jigsaw isn’t quite as good as CC, but then, he doesn’t have the experience of Claudio and his style of wrestling doesn’t exactly lend itself to credible offense. Jigsaw’s infamously soft strikes hurt the match somewhat, but Claudio is kind enough to counter many of them so they don’t connect and expose that weakness. He does do reasonable well though, using his lucha experience to maneuver his way into Frankensteiners, topes, and a tornado DDT. His ability to counter and move smoothly around really helps raise his stock. His most believable nearfall comes when Claudio misses his step-up enzugiri to a perched Jigsaw, and Jigsaw goes for a tornado inverted DDT (leaping over Claudio since he’s facing Jigsaw) and then turning it into an inside cradle when CC counters it. In the end though, power wins out CC military presses him up before hitting a sick European Uppercut. This was a terrific display of Claudio’s ability to work with smaller men, and of two wrestlers logically building to bigger and bigger spots to try to win. Match Rating: ***1/4
Erick Stevens & Matt Cross vs. Davey Richards & Rocky Romero
Reason #507 I think this DVD sucks: Rocky Romero is in two matches. Reason #508: Matt Cross is in here to make Romero look like Ricky Steamboat by comparison. Actually, I don’t hate Romero, but it’s kind of fun to act like I do. Anyway, the NRC are feuding with the Resilience (the worst stable name in recent memory) and the feud got so intense (read: boring) that they decided to end it by putting a stipulation that the one who takes the fall has to leave ROH for 60 days (by which point people will realize about how awful Matt Cross is and move on). Can you tell this feud bombed yet? But, true to form, the matches were usually entertaining. And I tend to be pretty forgiving of crappy angles as long as there is great wrestling. But this isn’t exactly great wrestling. It has its moments, but for the most part it’s merely adequate, and at one point, it’s downright awful.
The star of the match is Davey Richards, who brings a lot of fun offense and a great display of heeldom. Whether it’s taking cheapshots at Stevens, toying with Cross, mocking the fans or abusing the referee, it’s just a joy to watch him. He also busts out some really cool moves like the sunset flip bomb and a shooting star press to the floor. Erick also does well for himself, serving as a great hot tag by bulldozing over the much smaller NRC, hitting them with a double Choo-Choo avalanche and slamming Richards on top of Romero. His typical power offense, like the TKO and full rotation German Suplex, are fun as always, but he also but out some other tricks, like the dominator and a pumphandle powerbomb. Unfortunately, just when the match was building momentum, Cross messes up the inverted rana on Richards and they end up doing what looks like an electric chair drop, but Richards still sells it. That’s a rookie mistake from Davey; when stuff goes wrong, you work around it, you don’t just go with what was supposed to happen.
Stevens and Cross do have some cool double-teams in their arsenal; a backbreaker/moonsault combo, a corner spear/clothesline combo, and a clothesline/crucifix driver combo, but they hit all of them on Romero and that costs them as Richards is able to fight them off. Sadly, it’s up to Rocky and Matt to finish the match, and Romero busts out his second rope DDT that I just hate, and the match finishes with a whimper as Rocky finishes with his knock-out kicks. There is a cool post-match beatdown where Romero pulls Stevens’ arm into the post, Davey hits it with a chair and then puts him the Kimura Armbar. The match never really recovered from the botched inverted rana; the crowd didn’t turn on it, but it killed the match when it was transitioning into the homestretch. Not bad, but I don’t lament Matt Cross being gone for sixty days. Match Rating: **1/4
No Disqualification Match: Necro Butcher vs. Jay Briscoe
Yeah, cause they weren’t supposed to be in the same building or anything. Anyway, I can skip the first ten minutes of this for purposes of reviewing, since it’s just a wild brawl through the crowd. Not a bad thing given the storyline, but there’s nothing to comment on. How long does the brawl go on? I did the dishes and made Frito Chili Pie before it was over. Necro gets a nice crimson mask though. You can’t really argue with brawling, blood and sick spots. And the spots are sick, as we get a Sunset Flip Bomb on the floor, and once they get in the ring, Jay asks the fans to throw their chairs in, and they oblige. They chairs make the most rudimentary of moves high-risk, as a scoop slam or clothesline can end in a concussion for the receiver. Not to mention a Tiger Driver and a Death Valley Driver from Butcher, one of which should have probably been the finish.
Necro takes as good as he gives, as Jay Briscoe counters a suplex with a gourdbuster onto two set-up chairs. Necro gets an insane spot with a Frankensteiner onto the chairs and following it up with a top-rope crossbody. Perhaps the biggest spot in the match is botched; Briscoe goes for his DVD through a table on the floor, but he steps on the table and the table breaks under the weight, which sucks for Necro as he lands on his head on the floor. Shockingly, that doesn’t end the match, and neither does a fisherman’s buster on a set-up chair.
Necro nearly wins the match by TKO after a running punch, but Jay blocks a second attempt and starts throwing a flurry of punches, which cues the booking, as the lights go out and turn back on with Jimmy Jacobs, Lacey and Tyler Black standing on the entrance way with a blood soaked Mark Briscoe tied to a gurney with barb wire. The sickening image distracts Jay long enough for Necro to regain his bearings and hit a pair of chair shots, and the sidewalk slam onto the chairs set back to back (therefore, the move hits the rims of the chairs) finishes the match. On one hand, this was bloody, violent, and had some cool moves. On the other hand, it was slow, stretched believability, and ultimately went too long for simple angle advancement. At least the right guy won. Match Rating: **1/2
The 411: I can't recommend this based on the quality of wrestling. Aries vs. Strong is pretty great but not must-see, and Nigel McGuinness winning the title is sweet, but not sweet enough to cover the main event's lack of quality. It's an okay show, and Claudio vs. Jigsaw makes the DVD a little better, but really, skip this unless you are fan of those five guys, or a completist. I only have this because I wanted the PPVs.