It was time to end my drought of going to live events outside of WWE events and I picked a pretty good event to start with as this was the ROH 8th Anniversary Show. Now I won?t sit here and pretend to be the biggest ROH fan but I will admit that I do have just about every live show they have on DVD and try to watch the HD Net show whenever I get a chance to (I record them) but it has indeed been a while since I have had the privilege of attending a ROH show live. As a matter of fact I sort of coincidentally stopped regularly attending ROH right around the time Gabe Sapolsky was replaced as booker; so I was very curious to see how different a live show would feel under head booker Adam Pearce. Specifically a big show such as the Anniversary Show which has always been treated special let me tell you it didn?t disappoint.
I suppose I should start from the beginning which is the special pre show meet and greet that ROH held with legendary manager and executive producer of ROH on HD Net Jim Cornette as well as Brian Kendrick. I was fortunate enough to get a picture with Mr. Cornette and a quick blurb to some of you fans. I happened upon a ?writer? who decided to pester Mr. Cornette for an interview during this session and let me just say bad timing my friend. While it was great that you had a card for your podcast (yes I am being sarcastic) it just wasn?t really the venue to hit him up for an interview. In the future you might want to work on your timing, besides Jim does a weekly commentary online every week what you could you possibly ask him that he hasn?t answered already? Anyway the fans looked happy, I was happy and the evening was off to a great start.
Ring announcer for your show was Rick Palladino as Bobby Cruise was away on vacation. We opened the show with a 10 bell salute for fallen longtime wrestling fan and writer Georgianne Makropolous and wrestling legend Jack Brisco, which I thought was very classy of Ring of Honor to do and I wish WWE and TNA would have followed in kind with something similar specifically for Georgianne who has always meant a lot to the NYC wrestling scene.
We opened with a special Pick 6 Challenge Match and first time ever meeting between Roderick Strong and the returning Brian Kendrick. Brian came out to his TNA music to a tremendous reception, complete with streamers and welcome back chants. With Roderick due to make a big splash in the main event picture I was very curious to see how this match would shape out and I have to say it was not a bad opening match at all. Strong started off dominating for a few minutes with chops, suplexes and the rest of the typical Roderick Strong arsenal. Normally I am very critical of Strong for relying so much on chops but if there was ever an opponent to work that aspect of his game on it was Kendrick who for a guy who is now with TNA doesn?t really have to take the abuse that he took in this match but was a gamer about it as those who were there can attest to by the welts on his chest and back. Kendrick got the heat on Strong on the outside of the ring after playing the cowardly heel and took over with pretty much a punch and kick offense on the heat until Strong made his comeback on the outside of the ring by bashing Kendrick all over the place. They went back in and did a couple of near falls and Strong won with a clean pin after a butterfly backbreaker at about the 15 minute mark. Pardon my pun but it was a strong win for a future challenger to the ROH title. After the match Strong shakes hands with Kendrick and gives him the ring and the spotlight for the fans to serenade the ROH original with a ?Thank You Kendrick? chant.
Next match up was an unadvertised match between the Kings of Wrestling consisting of Claudio Castignolli and Chris Hero accompanied by Sara Del Ray and Shane Hagadorn against the team of Harlem and Lance Bravado. I believe this was the Bravado brothers first shot in ROH as they came in wearing Pro Wrestling Respect shirts?that’s funny ?respect? I don?t think they really got any as this was a complete and total squash. However when I say that I mean it in a good way if such a thing can be comprehended. It’s been a while since I have seen Claudio and Chris in action and they looked like total stars and they were definitely treated that way. They pretty much gave the Bravado brothers nothing which I hope does not dissuade Ring of Honor from bringing them back because I would personally like to see what they could do as it was my first time watching them. Kings of Wrestling hit the KRS One on their opponents at the 5 minute mark for the victory. It should be stated that the NYC crowd was definitely pro heel today and the Kings of Wrestling got one of the biggest ovations of the night.
Third match into the show was a non sanctioned Street Fight between the Embassy consisting of Joey Ryan and Erik Stevens accompanied by Prince Nana and Jimmy Rave vs. Eddie Kingston and Necro Butcher who were accompanied by Gypsy Joe. I got to tell you people I am a big fan of Prince Nana. I always have been and I always will be. He is definitely one of the last great managers left as that appears to be a dying art these days in WWE and TNA and I am glad to see that it is not totally dead in Ring of Honor. The heels make their entrance and Prince Nana grabs the microphone to demand the announcer introduce him properly and then proceeds to instruct his charges to ?kill somebody here today?. Babyfaces come out with Gypsy Joe who at 76 years old I am amazed is still mixed up in this crazy business. Match wasn?t much as it was your typical bar room brawl. I did initially find it odd that I saw Necro come out with both sneakers and socks but after seeing him take off his sneakers to use as a weapon and even later on in the match do a ?Mr. Socko? spot it all made sense. It should be noted that Necro was bleeding 30 seconds into the match and just a few minutes later Joey Ryan was not that far behind him in the blood department. If anything Joey looked great doing it since he got good color and was wearing white, definitely old school. There were humorous moments when the mangers got into it but nothing that really took away from the match as the guys really went all over the place for a while and aside from a table spot really just beat each other up. The finish came 8 minutes in when Gypsy Joe distracted Joey Ryan and Necro came in and choked him out with a plastic bag for the win. So I guess the faces won by suffocation which just might be a first in wrestling. Afterwards the embassy tried to get there heat back by beating on Joe but Kingston made the save with a chair and afterwards appeared to have possibly maybe tweaked his ankle as he needed help getting to the back. All in all it was fine for what it was, I am not really a fan of those kinds of matches and far be it from me to criticize someone’s physique as I carry my own spare tire but I wish Kingston would drop some pounds as I feel that while less is more in my opinion I would still like to see him do just a bit more in his matches and have yet to really see that in ROH.
Next we got one of my favorite matches of the night as Davey Richards took on El Generico. Davey came out intense as ever accompanied by Shane Hagadorn and Generico came out accompanied by Colt Cabana who just came out with him and then went straight back to the locker room which really made no sense to me at the time. I mean wouldn?t you want to be there to offer physical as well as moral support to your friend given that Hagadorn is at ringside? Richards became the first guy outside of the non sanctioned match to officially break the code of honor and the match was underway as he dominated Generico throughout the first few minutes of the match until Generico went outside and basically retreated which in most matches I wouldn?t like much because Generico is the babyface here but I felt with his current storyline and with Davey’s current push it made Davey look more intimidating and added to the sympathy you would feel for Generico. Colt came back out to encourage Generico on in the match and again vanished into the night. Whatever Colt said worked as Generico entered the ring and fired up and went wild on Davey for a bit until Davey cut him off and got into the heat again. The highlights of this involved him spitting on a fan who was basically harassing him throughout the match and later on taking the same fans hat and rubbing it in his nether regions, awesome. We would be treated to a bunch of near falls which involved both men going for big finishes. Generico going for his Super Brainbuster on the turnbuckle finish and Davey going for armbars. Davey took the clean win with an armbar at around the 20 minute mark and this was the most competitive match of the night thus far. I was initially very hard on the match as I felt Davey needed to look like a killer here but after some time to reflect it really was a great match and something I think fans will enjoy when the DVD is out. Afterwards Davey called out Generico and it looked like he may actually shake hands but Generico showed that he is not the doe eyed babyface and wised up smacking Davey with his elbow pads. Davey applauded Generico’s spirit showing respect.
We got a big plug after that for the next Ring of Honor show in NYC which will be May 8th and will feature the return of the Motor City Machine Guns. I look forward to hopefully attending that show.
We then had a tag team title match between ROH Tag Team Champions Mark and Jay Briscoe and The Dark City Fight Club (John Davis and Korey Chavis) I have to say going into this match I didn?t really know much of the Dark City Fight Club so in the past few days I had to go through my archives and watch some of their matches one of which was against the Briscoes oddly enough on HD Net. I didn?t think much of that match but figured it was a TV match this one should?ve been better, it was but not by much. Don?t misunderstand me folks the Briscoes in my opinion are the best tag team in wrestling today and the only reason they haven?t made the big money yet in this business in my opinion is because of a lack of size and psychology. The size thing they really can?t help as I am not a advocate of anyone taking anything to get ahead in wrestling but the psychology thing I really wish they would work on as there tandem offense is better than any active tag team in wrestling bar none and I feel that for two guys who have limited microphone skills they have a ton of charisma, the red neck gimmick is over and the scary thing is both of them are still very young and have a ton of career left in them. The DCFC just really didn?t impress me much though. I like there look but I just couldn?t get into their control spots of the match and not for nothing it really wasn?t much of a tag team match as it broke down into a brawl rather quickly with guys just running in and out of the ring. Briscoes got the clean pin at about 15 minutes in after hitting a tandem Jay Driller on Chavis. The highlight of this match was really what happened after though as Sara Del Ray and Shane Hagadorn would hit the ring to distract the Briscoes for the Kings of Wrestling to make their way through the crowd and a brawl between all three teams ensued that bought out Bobby Dempsey and the Bravado Brothers from the back to try to separate it. In the end the Briscoes stood tall had a moment where it looked like they might hit a Doomsday Device on Sara Del Ray but it was not to be and that bought us to intermission as the first half of this show is now complete.
We came back from Intermission with a Four Corner Survival Pick 6 Series match between Steve Corino, Delirious, Kenny King, and ?Skull Crusher? Rasche Brown. I am a big fan of Steve Corino and have followed his career as much as possible and recently enjoyed his run as Universal Champion in WWC so when he came back to ROH I rejoiced and so far have really enjoyed his run here in ROH. He is truly a guy that knows how to get the most out of nothing and I say that in the most complimentary way possible. Kenny King is a great athletic guy and while I don?t see him as a big player yet he may be one someday, Delirious is great, now this ?Skull Crusher? Rasche Brown this is another guy I was not as familiar with as I?d like to be. I am aware of his Midwest stops and wasn?t really a fan of what I saw there but was hoping I?d see something different I mean he is one half of the longest and current reigning NWA Tag Team Champions so I figured there has to be something right? Wrong!!! Heels instantly ganged up on Delirious and kept Brown on the outside. Brown looked very weak as he would take forever to get up on the apron and a punch would seemingly weaken him forever. Brown would finally get in the ring and really not do much, it felt like watching Goldberg without the physique or the charisma I was very unimpressed to say the least. Maybe it was a bad night for him I?d give him another shot but tonight just wasn?t his night. Finish came around ten minutes as Delirious won the match with a cross body on King for the pin.
Next up was Colt Cabana taking on Kevin Steen in a grudge match. This match was originally billed as a verbal confrontation but was changed to a match and Colt Cabana to his credit was quick to remind the crow of that in his opening match promo. Cabana proceeded to inform everyone of an open letter that Steen had written him that was posted on ROHwrestling.com in which Steen had accused Cabana of not being a good friend. Cabana insisted that while he didn?t agree with Steen’s actions towards El Generico in which Steen turned on his longtime partner at Final Battle 2009 he was sorry if Steen felt that way towards him and was man enough to admit that he may have been a poor friend. Steen who by the way looks as if he hasn?t slept in a week told Colt he didn?t expect that apology but appreciated it anyway and then proceeded to pearl harbor him. Match had some very weird spots in it such as one that involved both men beating each other up to chew Colt’s gum (Steen finally won that battle if anyone is curious), a very interesting and somewhat disgusting spot indeed. Finish came towards the end as Colt hurled Steen to the outside and Steen stood outside the ring and sold his leg. Colt would grab the mike and berate Steen and instruct him to ?Be a man? and get back in the ring to which Steen responded by lying down and selling his knee. Steve Corino who has been playing the part of Steen’s mentor as of late and also begged Kevin to get back in the ring telling him to ?Do it for him?. Steen proceeded to lie there and sell his knee so Corino tossed him back into the ring and went into the ring to motivate his young prot?g?. Cabana went on the offensive knocking Corino out of the ring and then told Steen that he wasn?t much of a man, that Colt beat up Corino and again instructed Steen to man up. Steen appeared to fire up when El Generico ran in the ring. The two partners had a brief and intense stare down at which point Steve Corino re entered the ring and hit Cabana for the DQ at the ten minute mark. The heels went to town on Cabana and Generico cleared out the ring except for Steen who he had another intense moment with as he contemplated hitting him with a chair, he didn?t at which point Steen basically kicked the crap out of him until Colt made the save and berated his buddy informing him that next time he had to commit to the action. Match was nothing special but it definitely got the storyline between Kevin Steen and El Generico across and made me anticipate the moment that Generico finally does go postal on Steen. I only hope that when that happens ROH actually does something with Generico and doesn?t just build him up for that moment ala Bobby Dempsey’s going postal on Sweet and Sour Inc.
Finally that brings us to our main event of the evening which was the defending ROH champion Austin Aries taking on Tyler Black. Last time these two met the match went to a 60 minute time limit draw which as was announced on the HD Net show led to this match having 3 judges which were Roderick Strong who was chosen by Black, Kenny King who was chosen by Aries, and Jim Cornette who chose himself. Aries came in and instantly cut a heel promo reminding everyone how he successfully defended his title last time in NYC against Black and would do so again this time which prompted Jim Cornette to jump on the apron and remind him that even in the event of a countout or DQ this could go to the judges, in other words the only way to assure yourself of a win was to actually defeat your opponent in the middle of the ring which prompted Aries to immediately jump Black and the match was underway. I?m not going to lie I was very nervous regarding this match. Usually you see a match like this and feel you can?t get into it until those at ringside get involved which makes most spots in the match meaningless and most of the match itself irrelevant at times but these two men just worked their behinds off and made me forget at times that there were judges or that there was in fact a 60 minute time limit. It was definitely better than there December match and only went about a third of the time. I could waste time here telling you moves but I would much rather you go out and watch the match yourself. Finish came about 20 minutes in when Black was in the middle of running wild on Aries and about to his Phoenix Splash on him when Kenny King got up on the apron to interfere, Roderick Strong knocked King off but also crotched Black on the turnbuckle by accident. When Black recovered he thought Strong attacked him even though Strong tried to explain himself and retaliated by super kicking him off the apron. Jim Cornette proceeded up the apron to try to defend Strong’s actions and was met with another super kick from Black who then turned around and super kicked Aries for a great near fall. After another minute of offense it was a Phoenix Splash and Tyler Black after nearly 2 years of chasing the title is now your ROH Heavyweight Champion. The locker room cleared out to celebrate with Tyler after the match and Roderick Strong got in the ring to remind Tyler that he owes him a title shot and that was pretty much it the show closed with Tyler celebrating his win.
All in all it was not the best Anniversary show but it was by no means the worst either. I gave the show a B- overall and really enjoyed it as I think ROH has some interesting challenges ahead and some great storylines to look forward to. I know most wrestling fans say that they like it when the unexpected occurs but at the same time I also think it is important to be able to forecast some things on the horizon and right now you are almost sure to see a Jim Cornette heel turn in the future as you know he will not take being attacked kindly, you are going to see Roderick Strong vs. Tyler Black for the ROH title, rematches with Austin Aries and Tyler Black, a showdown between the Briscoes and the Kings of Wrestling, an eventual confrontation between Kevin Steen and El Generico and of course the continued evolution of Davey Richards all good things to look forward to. I just hope that ROH keeps Tyler a babyface as more often than not it seems to be the theme that the ROH title belt seems to make its wearers turn heel eventually and I think Tyler is better off as a babyface and actually has better heel opponents. I really enjoyed this show and can?t wait to see ROH next time around.