Being the ever critical, striving for perfection type that I am, after posting the previous entry in my Ring of Honor review series I went back read the article again, and I was worried that there was an awful lot of short, unconnected thoughts with very little linking them together, and that people who weren’t avid wrestling fans would have, to be blunt, no clue what I was on about. With Round Robin Challenge then, I’ve done my best to tell the story of the matches, to avoid impenetrable wrestling in-jokes, and to try and give a consistent account of why things are good and bad in a wrestling show. Pleasingly, this show has a fair amount of both, allowing me to maintain the illusion of balance.
Unfortunately, this has meant that the word count has approximately… tripled? I’m guessing here. This has also meant it has taken me several months to write and screencap, as quite often I just couldn’t face chipping away at the coalface on my days off work. Anyway! No matter. We’re here now, and I’m quite happy with the result actually, especially with the matches that are, like, good. Will I do the same with the final instalment in the ROH trilogy? Will I ever GET to the final instalment of the ROH trilogy? Oh I don’t know, readers. What do you take me for, some kind of psychic? Honestly.
- More great music on the DVD menu. House/Trance build up and up and… CUTS TO RUBBISH GENERIMETAL JUST BEFORE THE DROP!?! WHAT
- Start off with a Chris Daniels promo saying “Ring of Honor thinks it’s special, but it’s not, it’s just another indie promotion”
- Camera pans in and out like ECW promos from the 90s. Giving me a headache.
- He’s setting up the story very nicely, actually. Last time Chris Daniels was pinned in the 3-way match, but (according to him) it took two of them to pin him, so in Daniels’ mind he hasn’t been beaten in a fair fight, neither of the other two (Low-Ki and Bryan Danielson, for anyone who didnt join us last time. These three were in the main event match last time and it was Low-Ki who pinned CD) have proved they’re the best. Hence the titular Round Robin Challenge, 3 singles matches between the 3 of them, so then the person who wins 2 matches is the best.
- Video promo package showing highlights from last time, shows lost of wrestlers shaking hands, reinforcing how important this is to the company. A few replays of Chris Daniels refusing to shake hands with Danielson and Low-Ki in the main event, which again sets him up as the top heel (wrestling parlance for ‘baddie’, sorry). To their credit, this is an extremely simple and effective way of drawing heat (‘getting a crowd to become involved in the story’, normally by rooting for or against a wrestler). Wrestling need rules and the more these are enforced the better, because when a heel breaks them, instant heat. That’s what they’re there for.
- Loooong section showing all the wrestlers entering (presumably on this show?) with some shouty/raspy death metal in the background. Nothing is happening! The angry music is misplaced! More footage of hand shaking, presumably from this show. Again, as last time, if you put this at the start of the DVD, you’re kind of spoiling what’s going to happen in the show. Stop it.
- Thought: How funny would it be if instead of being obsessed with handshakes as a show of respect, early ROH instead insisted everyone did a high five? Or like a pinkie swear? “CHRIS DANIELS DID NOT PINKIE SWEAR LOW-KI, STEVE! THE ULTIMATE SHOW OF DISRESPECT!”
- Fuck’s SAKE not another Hit Squad promo. How did ROH survive its first year with shit like this on their shows? They are literally just two boring fat guys with goatees who, if they were not wrestlers, would be doormen at a sleazy nightclub who would touch up any woman going in, but never be prosecuted because one of them had a cousin who was a cop, or something. Just watching them makes me feel dirty.
- Oh please for the love of god don’t go out and ‘talk to the fans’ again, you’re just going to shout some incoherent rubbish and get them to chant “ROH! ROH! ROH!” aren’t you, life is finite you know Da Hit Squad, I’m not sure I want to waste mine watching you make some people shout out of politeness.
- One guy looking like a swarthy sailor from the 1920s.
- “I’M FROM… FUCKING… WISCONSIN!!” Well bully for you.
- Quick insert showing the Code of Honor:
- Let’s see if they stick to these shall we? As I said before, this is a fantastic idea. It gives you a very solid base to book all your matches from, a great structure to all your matches, a framework on which to build your stories. If you’re thinking “What’s he on about, it’s just some rules for wrestling matches, which are fake anyway” it’s helpful to think of these in terms of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, he set these up at the beginning of (I believe) I, Robot, and then used all the short stories within to show how the laws can be manipulated or broken. The same thing SHOULD happen here. And now the matches!
Christopher Daniels vs. ‘American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson
- Daniels looking fab as ever.
- When does Dragon start using ‘The Final Countdown’ as his entrance music? Offspring’s ‘Self Esteem’ doesn’t suit him at all.(For the purposes of this match I’ll shorten ‘Bryan Danielson’ to ‘Dragon’ as per his nickname rather than ‘Danielson’, as having Daniels and Danielson could get confusing)
- A time limit? Yes! For the first match though? A bit odd. Time limits used to be used in wrestling matches all the time in the 70s/80s, but they’ve fallen out of fashion a bit now and I’m never sure why. For a start they are a perfectly logical thing for a wrestling company to enforce, especially if your show only had a few minutes left of TV time, for example, and always made for incredibly exciting matches. Normally the two wrestlers were of a similar standing/ability, ie. It wasn’t obvious who was going to win, and normally the fired up babyface (wrestling talk for ‘goodie’, ‘blue-eye’ is also used in the UK) would go after the sneaky, cowardly heel, and be seconds away from victory, going for the pin after hitting a showstopping move… only to be beaten by the clock, and the dastardly heel to live to fight another day. Mega mega exciting, but also meant that neither competitor lost and therefore appeared weaker. One of the best examples of this in my opinion is Barry Windham and Ric Flair’s 60 minute match for the NWA World title from 1987, which is the match which made me fall in love with Windham, and NWA wrestling in general. I must have looked a right numpty shouting at a DVD of a wrestling match which took place three years before I was born, but such is art, and its effect on us.
- Quick start off, Chris Daniels tries to get an early pin, no luck. Slows down, they start trying to feel each other out. This makes perfect sense; Chris Daniels as the overconfident bad guy knows he has another match against Low-Ki later in the night, and seeing as it was actually Low-Ki who pinned him last time, he sees Danielson as less of a threat, in his arrogance he believes he can dispatch Dragon quickly and save his energy for his match with Low-Ki (directly contradicting what he said earlier yes, but that’s the point of being a heel. What you say and what you do don’t match up). Yes, I did get all of that from 30 seconds of two men wrestling.
- Excellent sequence of about a minute or two where both men are in a Greco-Roman Knuckle Lock (to the untrained eye it may look like they’re holding hands, but… they’re… not) and perform several different moves, go for pin attempts, kick out, all while not letting go. A pair of masters, right here.
- Back and forth stuff until Chris Daniels throws a big belly to belly suplex, dropping Dragon on his head. Daniels capitalises immediately by stomping the back of his head and using a headlock takeover. The commentators point out that Daniels’ finisher, the Angels Wings, targets the head and neck, so it’s a good strategy for him to target the area before hitting his finisher. Commentary very good so far, lots of explanations of why things happen, why the Code of Honor is important, etc.
- Daniels continues to target the neck, slowing the pace of the match and grounding Dragon until Danielson reverses a hold and throws a belly to belly suplex of his own, dropping Daniels on his head, which gives Dragon some space/time to recuperate.
- Dragon goes for a flying headbutt, one of his signature manoeuvres, but this move really damages the neck, and seeing as it was already hurt earlier, he is in too much pain to pin Daniels quickly, he takes too long, and so Daniels is able to kick out at two. See? It does make sense! (I doubt any other match on this show will make this much sense)
- Daniels hits an STO and follows up with a beautiful moonsault (I don’t believe he was calling it ‘The Best Moonsault Ever’ just yet, but it obviously was), and very nearly pins Dragon. This brings them roughly back to a level playing field again, but with both men having been hit with several big moves and therefore are visibly more tired and more hurt. This is what Daniels was trying to avoid with an early victory.
- Daniels hits another big move, the Blue Thunder Driver (if nothing else, right, wrestling moves have brilliant names) and only gets a 2 count. He’s getting visibly frustrated now, which could either: a) Drive him to hit something really big and put Dragon away, or b) Make a mistake and allow Dragon to steal the victory.
- Daniels eggs Dragon to stand up, and telegraphs the fact that he’s going for a big forearm smash, which allows Dragon to duck and counter into his finisher, the Cattle Mutilation submission hold. However! This move requires him to bridge his entire body, with only his feet and the top of his head touching the mat, which puts enormous pressure on his neck, which, as we’ve seen throughout the match, has been repeatedly battered by Daniels, so he can’t keep the hold on, and he has to let go. He switches up to another submission, but this is nowhere near as effective and Daniels can scootch over to the ropes to break the hold.
- Dragon attempts a Dragon Suplex (yes, probably for that reason), but he’s too close to the ropes, so Daniels can use his feet to stop himself from being thrown over by hooking his foot under the bottom rope, and can counter the move fairly easily. This allows him to again club the back of Dragon’s head and set up for a piledriver, another move which severely damages the neck. So much so that it’s banned in the WWE, actually. Another pin, another two count, so Daniels hits a neckbreaker, but instead of going for a pin, he turns Dragon over for a Crossface, a submission move which stretches the neck/spine. Dragon has no choice but to tap out, and Daniels goes one up in the Round Robin.
- And THAT is how you do an entertaining, logical, exciting wrestling match, with the stuff that happens at the beginning having an effect on the stuff that happens at the end. Brilliant. I’ll be honest now and say I doubt anything else on this show will be as good.
- Daniels gets on the mike and says basically “Ring of Honor have the GALL to tell me to shake peoples hands before matches, I’ll tell you what, Dragon, since I made you tap, how about you show ME the respect I deserve and shake MY hand!” Dragon responds by acting graciously and shaking his hand. Good. The heel is adhering to the letter and not the intent of the law, and the face responds by acting like a grown-up. See the stuff you can accomplish with a little groundwork?
Prince Nana & Eric Tuttle w/ Simply Luscious vs. Da Hit Squad
- “Simply Luscious drove 30 hours from Texas to be a part of Ring of Honor” well that’s depressing, seeing as the job you gave her after making that drive was ‘stand by the ring and look pretty’.
- Prince Nana is talking, but I can’t really hear him., so I’ll assume he’s just saying that people from Philly smell, or something.
- Oh wait “YOU IGNORANT PEOPLE something something”. You get the gist.
- Aaand then the Hit Squad run in and beat up everyone. I’ll understand if my annoyance at this doesn’t make sense, so allow me to try and explain. You see all that stuff Chris Daniels and Bryan Danielson did in the last match to look like credible wrestlers, like competitors who know what they’re doing and can win matches? The Hit Squad are doing none of that here. They’re just doing some wrestling moves and expecting people to cheer. And I’m not saying every match has to be a back and forth, cerebral battle with both opponents jockeying for position and trying to suss out each other’s weaknesses, but you have to earn being able to flatten opponents in 30 seconds. Of course if you’re bringing in a new performer and want to set him/her up as an unstoppable machine, a load of very short matches where they completely destroy their opponents, but for these to work, in my opinion, you need to meet a few conditions. 1. The competitor in question, ideally shouldn’t have an ‘alignment’ per se, i.e. they shouldn’t really be face or heel. They shouldn’t be running out to ‘defend the honour of the promotion’, if that’s what you assume the Hit Squad are supposed to be doing here. They should be a ‘pure athlete’, to use that term so beloved by NXT commentators, a person who is here to compete, and here to win. 2. Leading on from this, the wrestler in question should have a fairly high level of, and I hate to use this word, ‘intensity’. If they’re out there destroying everyone who is put in front of them, they should at least be taking it seriously. And 3. You kind of… have to be in shape? With ‘Da Hit Squad’ (imagine my eyes rolling so much that I can briefly see into my brain every time I have to type this), there is little evidence of any of these. One is left with the feeling that they’re being booked in these squash matches (wrestletalk for very short matches where one guy batters or ‘squashes’ the other) because they do not have the skill to do anything else. And that’s ignoring the massively insulting appropriation of Kenta Kobashi’s finishing move, the Burning Hammer, to knock out a 140 pound 16 year-old. I would explain, but this has been a long bulletpoint already. Just trust me that it’s a bit like when Indiana Jones 4 hinted that Shia LaBeouf was going to become Indy’s successor, only A MILLION TIMES WORSE.
- Oh joy heaped upon joy, the Christopher Street Connection are back. I thought I’d be spared this for one show at least.
- So the Chistopher Street Connection walk to the ring, and one of the Hit Squad tries to throw Eric Tuttle (the aforementioned 140 pound 16 year-old) at them. Unfortunately, he either misjudges the throw or just isn’t strong enough to throw him the full distance, as he falls VERY short of them and they have to run forward to try and catch him so he doesn’t land straight onto the concrete floor and die. Thankfully, with no help from these idiots, he seems to be ok.
- Oh great, now they’re attacking Simply Luscious. Why are these the good guys?
- The Hit Squad leave the ring and sarcastically shake the hands of the Christopher Street Connection having battered them. So when Chris Daniels does this he’s awful, but when the Hit Squad do it, it’s really funny and they’re great? This is what annoys me about early ROH, for every great match that uses the code to tell interesting stories, you have 3 of these outdated, ECW-style, “hur hur hur look at the stupid gays/women” tweener bullshit fests. Appalling.
- We follow… the action? To the back, where the CSC are trying to do mouth to mouth on Eric Tuttle, but Prince Nana stops them, so they ‘practise’ on each other? Who is this aimed at, exactly? What is the actual purpose of filming this? Are the homophobic ROH fans going to enjoy this? No. Are they filming segments purely for Vince McMahon’s amusement? It certainly seems like his sense of humour.
- Now the Boogie Knights are trying to steal the Natural Born Sinners chainsaw, but the chainsaw case only has a rubber chicken in it!!! Then they hear a chainsaw noise and run away!!! What annoys me about segments like this, apart from them being completely terrible, is that ROH say all they care about is competition, athletes battling it out to see who’s the best, but then they stick utter, utter rubbish like this in, which only 13 year-old boys will find entertaining. It’s so confusing! Why?
Joey Matthews & Christian York vs. C.W Anderson & Elax
- WWE viewers will recognise Joey Matthews as Joey Mercury, one half of J&J security. WWE viewers will not recognise Christian York.
- C.W. Anderson is so called because of his passing resemblance to Arn Anderson, legendary NWA/WCW wrestler at his prime in the mid/late 80s. This is somewhat of a tradition in American wrestling, the original Andersons started wrestling as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew in the 60s, with (I believe) Gene and Lars Anderson being the first two. Ole was added in the 70s when Lars retired, getting the job not because he was actually related to either man, but because he looked a bit like Gene. Arn was introduced in the same way in the 80s, and the team of Ole and Arn Anderson were one of the best tag-teams in the country, and possibly my favourite tag-team ever. C.W has never wrestled with, or as far as I’m aware even met any of other Andersons, he was simply given this name by some other people who called themselves Anderson, and upon arriving in ECW Paul Heyman (ECW’s owner and boss) decided to take advantage of it. Now he’s an Anderson. Such is wrestling.
- Elax is a man wearing a ‘Got Poop?’ t-shirt.
- The idea here is that C.W. Anderson is so arrogant that he believes he can beat Matthews & York with any partner, and so grabbed one of the young lads setting up the ring before the show to be his partner, as he doesn’t think he’ll need any help. Not exactly Hamlet I’ll grant you, but it should throw up some interesting dynamics.
- C.W dominates early, but as soon as Matthews & York mount a comeback and hit him with a double dropkick, he has no choice but to tag in Elax to give himself a minute to recover.
- Elax is taken apart (obviously) by while Matthews & York are concentrating on him, C.W comes back in and clobbers them both from behind. Sacrificing your meat shield partner to gain an advantage on your opponents? Clever AND dickish. But surely this would constitute a ‘sneak attack’? Banned by the Code of Honor? Or if you’re actually in the match does it not count? I suppose if you’re in a tag match you should be keeping an eye out for the other bloke at all times really.
- Now recovered, C.W tags back in and goes after the arm of Matthews, which he hit earlier in his sneak attack. Here they drop the ball a bit in my opinion, C.W tags back out to Elax who gets a few moves in on Matthews and tags back out. If this was a normal heel vs. face tag match, fine. The stronger heel softens up one of the faces and tags in the weaker one, who gets some shots in while the face can’t fight back. But here the whole point is that C.W is trying to prove he can beat Matthews & York on his own, he doesn’t need a partner. If it was men, I wouldn’t tag Elax until I needed to, and I certainly wouldn’t have Elax get in any significant, competent offence on Matthew or York without C.W’s help. He shouldn’t look like a legitimate threat in this.
- C.W continues to batter Matthews, not allowing him to tag out to York. This is a common trope in tag-team matches, perfected by the Rock n’ Roll Express and The Midnight Express in the 80s (again largely in the NWA, it’s almost like this company had all the best wrestling or something?!), the heels isolate one member of the face team and batter him for ages, not allowing him to tag in his partner, ramping up the tension, building suspense, maybe even having them finally get the tag, but have the referee not see it and so send the other guy out again, until finally the weakened babyface, now exhausted, makes one final effort and gets the ‘hot tag’ to his partner, who cleans house and destroys the heels as the crowd explode. To be honest, most tag matches follow this structure so you’d think it would get stale, but when it’s done well, it is utterly compelling. There’s a Chikara match from around 2009 where Mike Quakenbush and Jigsaw take on Bryan Danielson (yes, him from the first match) and Claudio Castagnoli, in which Jigsaw takes such a beating, his knee is taken apart for what seems like hours, and when he finally gets the tag to Quack I couldn’t help but pump my fist and jump out of my chair a little bit. Here the trope is played out… competently. Matthews could have been with being in there much longer.
- Matthews & York team up and throw C.W into Elax, knocking him out of the ring and allowing them to hit their double-team finisher, the Problem Solver on CW for the win. Again, if I was in charge of this I’d have done my best to show that it was Elax’s inexperience and therefore C.W’s arrogance in choosing him that leads to their defeat. Maybe make a big deal of him going to the top rope for the first time for a dropkick, only for Matthews/York to step out of the way and him hit C.W and Matthews/York pin him, or something. There’s lots you could’ve done. Not bad, but not great.
- Oh ok, after the match C.W is all “You lost me the match! This is what ya GET!” * WHAM * That makes more sense now, as there is no way Elax cost him that match, and he’s just being a delusional git. I suppose getting fans to feel sympathy for the inexperienced newcomer thrust into a match he didn’t want to be in is the logical move, but Elax’s ‘Got Poop?’ t-shirt and his stupid annoying face gave me something of a bias against him. Hey, I never said these reviews were objective.
Xavier vs. James Maritato
- Two quick promos beforehand; Xavier says nothing of note, James M explains how he used to be known as Little Guido in ECW (yes, at the moment Ring of Honor does seem like a footnote to ECW) but is going back to his ‘shooter’ roots (think UFC, basically), and wrestling under his real name.
- Quite scrappy early on, playing on the idea that both are amateur/shoot-style athletes.
- The commentators are trying to put forward the idea that Xavier is inexperienced but stronger, whereas James M is a veteran but a little smaller, in the match itself however there is little evidence of this.
- The match is fairly back and forth, little happening in terms of story, and Xavier gets a quick pin.
- The commentators go on to point out how Xavier is now 2-0 in Ring of Honor, perhaps that was the only purpose of this match, to give him that victory. Lord knows why they’re building Xavier up as anything, he is very very bland.
- ‘Frank Talent’ from the Philadelphia Athletic Commission (amazing name, by the way. You can very much imagine him in the 60s or 70s with a partially unbuttoned shirt and one of those gold medallions round his neck, chomping a cigar and saying “The name’s Talent, sugar, Frank Talent” in that 1920s gangster voice that I do all the time) tells the boys to have a good show, don’t curse, and ask him if they need anything. Brian Kendrick in a dressing gown side-eyes him from behind and makes wanking motions with his tootbrush. Why did I enjoy this? Possibly because Brian Kendrick is a delight.
Boogie Knights vs. Natural Born Sinners
- “And on a personal note, you will never get my chainsaw!” is a fantastic sentence, in or out of context.
- I’m not entirely sure why these two teams are feuding. Something to do with a rubber chicken?
- Oh ok, last month Natural Born Sinners were disqualified for using a… rubber chicken in the match, which the Boogie Knights were selling, if I recall correctly. Remember kids, it’s all about competition here in ROH!
- A very quick match, pretty much a squash. Hopefully this means we’ll see a bit less of the Boogie Knights? They have absolutely nothing about them.
- Steve Corino keeps asking the other guy on commentary (Eric, is it?) what the smell is. And he says there’s some food in his bag. This happens several times. Where are they going with this? (Actually, on transcribing this after the fact, I recall a bit in the Boogie Knights video segment earlier where one of them says they’re going to do a poo in Eric’s bag. So this is the payoff from that! Oh heavens, it’s like The Wire or something isn’t it!)
- No real story to tell with this match, they built it up a bit as ‘Natural Born Sinners want revenge on the Boogie Knights for beating them last time’ (even though they were disqualified, i.e. it was their own fault) and the Boogie Knights were scared of them, but nothing of this in the match itself. A quick squash, neither team any good really.
- Low-Ki cuts a very bland promo about how Chris Daniels says it took two men to pin him, but it actually only took one man, Low-Ki, and that Chris Daniels doesn’t respect him and refuses to shake his hand, but by the end of the night, Chris Daniels, you will respect me! These ‘intense’ wrestlers really are quite the bore, aren’t they? Monotone voices, lots of staring, speaking very slowly. Give me Dusty Rhodes any day. (Transcription note: I wrote that a few days before he died. I’m still quite upset)
Chris Daniels vs. Low-Ki
- Lots of heavy breathing too. Ugh.
- This should be interesting, if this match isn’t as good as the excellent opener, we know it’s Low-Ki’s fault. Which does seem likely, having seen him promo the man does appear to have the charisma of a shoe. I’m prejudging. This could be excellent. Let’s see.
- Daniels starts off by berating someone in the crowd, while Low-Ki ‘looks intense’.
- Low-Ki goes for the handshake, which Daniels bats away. This annoys Low-Ki, who chops Daniels a few times. To me, this is not good babyface work. You know he’s not going to shake your hand. He has said so previously. Why go for it and then get annoyed when you don’t get it? Strikes me as a little petulant, which a good babyface should never be.
- Low-Ki goes for that funny flippy-tumbling back elbow in the corner (that one Chyna famously misjudged by several feet and had to shuffle back to actually elbow her opponent), which Daniels dodges and shakes his head, as if to say “I’m too smart to fall for THAT!”, which allows Low-Ki to dropkick him. Nice.
- Lots of kicks from Low-Ki, dominating early on. Possibly because he hasn’t already wrestling tonight.
- Daniels flips Low-Ki the bird, which he kicks away and then kicks Daniels in the head. So far, Daniels is the only one doing any character work, possibly because Low-Ki doesn’t have a character. It’s that stuff that draws you into the matches though, otherwise it’s just blokes doing wrestling moves.
- Commentators mention how Low-Ki trains with Da Hit Squad and the Natural Born Sinners, handily putting all the people I don’t like in one box. ‘Men That Are Tough’ being the gimmick all five seem to have.
- Daniels hits two STOs to give himself some breathing space and also target Low-Ki’s neck, as he did in his match with Dragon, so he can destroy him with the Angel’s Wings.
- Daniels makes the most of his advantage, hitting Low-Ki with several suplexes and stretching his back/neck.
- Slower pace from Daniels this time, commentators explain this as him knowing that Low-Ki gets stronger as matches go on, so he wants to keep him grounded down on the mat to stop him regaining the momentum. Nice.
- A sequence of submission holds from Daniels, possibly thinking back to how he put Dragon away with one in his previous match.
- Daniels getting frustrated at Low-Ki kicking out at two, perhaps this is the point where he makes a mistake and allows Low-Ki to regain the upper hand?
- Daniels goes for his lovely moonsault but Low-Ki is up, bounces off the ropes and hits Daniels with an enziguri. No real motivation for this, Daniels wasn’t exactly ages setting up for the moonsault, so it’s not like Low-Ki had a massive amount of time to recover. Although in fairness after this both men are down for a bit, so it does feel like a nice little ‘last gasp attempt’ to bat away a potentially devastating move, which equalises the match again.
- Back and forth for a little bit, until Daniels can stop Low-Ki on the top rope and throw him over his head, again damaging the neck. This allows Daniels to hit the Angels Wings, but he doesn’t hook the leg when covering, and so only gets two (which is pushing it a little bit in my opinion, surely a finisher, a match finishing move by definition, should be powerful enough that a tiny thing like hooking the leg shouldn’t matter). Again he gets very frustrated. This allows Low-Ki to to reverse a powerbomb attempt into the Ki-Crusher, but Low-Ki is too hurt to pin Daniels, who crawls over to the ropes to avoid being pinned.
- Both men are now very tired, it’s more about who has the energy to hit a big move and capitalise at this point than anything else.
- Low-Ki goes for his finisher again, which Daniels counters into an attempt for his, which Low-Ki blocks. Daniels shifts up into a neckbreaker attempt and goads the crowd, but Low-Ki counters into the Dragon Clutch for the submission victory.
- Hmm. Little damage done to Daniels’ neck in the match itself so the ending doesn’t really follow on from the rest of the match. Although the ‘Daniels brags, takes his eye off the ball, Low-Ki capitalises’ element was nice. Not as good as the opener, pretty good in itself.
- Daniels calls for the mike after the match and suckers Low-Ki in, implying he will shake his hand… before pulling a U-Turn and saying how he wouldn’t have lost if it wasn’t his second match of the night, and that Low-Ki winning was a fluke. Says he will not wrestle Low-Ki again until the Ring of Honor title is on the line. This is the first we’ve heard of an ROH title, but this is an excellent way to introduce it, as part of your main event feud. It also suggests another aspect to Daniels’ character, giving the impression of a politic-er, an insider, while Dragon and Low-Ki are straightforward wrestlers/competitors, just happy to be performing. Very good.
- We follow Daniels backstage where Xavier congratulates him (why? He just lost) which Daniels shrugs off (can anyone say ‘Quick set-up’?) and the Hit Squad/Natural Born Sinners have a go at him, for disrespecting ‘their boy’ Low-Ki… Am I meant to be on these people’s side? Oh, and Brian Kendrick appears and sings ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ whilst listening to a Walkman. This segment is good because it is early ROH condensed in 45 seconds of video. All we need are some gay people to be disgusted by and we’d have the whole set!
- The Maximos and Amazing Red (plus some other guy the camera didn’t really focus on so I don’t know who he was, but I’m going to guess at Brian XL) play basketball in the hall where the show will be held in several hours (this is a flashback, you see? For the purposes of story) and the Maximos are bad losers. WILL THIS BE IMPORTANT LATER ON? Only time will tell, I guess.
Chris Marvel vs. Paul London
- Paul London in a singlet looks great, Chris Marvel in a t-shirt and shorts looks crap.
- Ha ha! Commentator A (Eric something?) says how Terry Funk (A legendary American wrestler who was NWA World Champion in the 70s and ECW World Champion in the 90s, famous for retiring about six times) has praised Paul London on an RF Video shoot interview (putting over both a competitor and a video On Sale Now? Nice) and Steve Corino goes “Pff! Don’t talk to me about Terry Funk! I’ve done everything Terry Funk’s done!” More of this please, Steve.
- Back and forth for a minute or two, fast-paced stuff, Marvel throws London over for a monkey flip, London lands on his feet, ending with both competitors facing off with fists up, as the crowd applaud. A wrestling staple.
- London hits several lovely dropkicks in a row. One of these is SO much more talented than the other.
- London goes for an Asai moonsault and cracks his shins on the guardrail. Oww. In catching him, Marvel slips on the floor crumples onto his right leg very awkwardly with a man’s weight on top of him. Double oww.
- At this point I get the feeling an audible is called (a wrestler or referee changes what was originally planned for the match because of an injury or something else unforseen) and London hops back into the ring (with surprising grace, what with how painful that fall looked for him as well) to take a countout win. Probably best for all involved, as Marvel is obviously hurt, and this is a pretty logical thing for London to do in context.
- Short and boring promo from the Briscoes. At least it was short!
Jay Briscoe vs. Spanky
- This has at least the potential to be good. Spanky (Brian Kendrick) showed some promise last time, and Briscoe is yet to develop into the psychopath homophobic hillbilly he will become later in his career.
- Oh man! No Christina Aguilera for Spanky? I’m sad.
- A very odd way of jumping about the ring before the match, has our Spanky. You know how Fix-It Felix moved in Wreck-It Ralph? Kind of like that.
- The purpose of match-ups like this is to put the slightly odd, nearly always a bit feminine heel against the macho, no-nonsense face. Very late 90s/early 00s, but you still often see it in promotions that are a bit shit, because it’s pretty stupid. I for one am always rooting for the weirdo.
- Largely just collar and elbow tie-ups early on. Also an appearance of the classic ‘heel shoves face in the corner, face shoves back twice as hard’ spot.
- “These two have accomplished more in their two years as pros than some have in their entire careers!” Nice soundbite, but no. I, as Corino, the colour commentator, would have been all over that. Although there is a fine line between a heel commentator giving out about something and just burying the talent. Tricky.
- Nice hold for hold stuff early on. As the commentators say, when Kendrick gets in the ring he ‘drops his attitude’ (i.e. his gimmick) and just wrestles. I’m not convinced this is a good thing. Character work is just as important in the ring as out of it.
- Kendrick wrestles a very smart match here, he knows he isn’t Briscoe’s equal physically, so he waits for him to mess up, and then capitalise. Briscoe goes for a big move off the top, Kendrick just hops out of the way and drives Briscoe’s head into the turnbuckle. Follow up with a lovely springboard knee to the head, but spends too long staring out at the crowd, lets himself get distracted before pinning Briscoe and only gets two.
- Briscoe then tries to fight back up with a few chops, but goes for his fisherman’s buster too close to the ropes, and Kendrick can just hold on and throw him off.
- A bit of taunting, then a boot to the head. Simple and effective.
- Again, Kendrick messes about before going for a pin, and so only gets two. Nice to see more character work, specifically stuff that is informing/influencing the match, which is the point, after all.
- Briscoe is able to counter Kendrick’s attempt at his finisher (called ‘Sliced Bread No.2’, oddly. Oh hang on, I’ve just got it! As in, the best thing since sliced bread!), lob him into the turnbuckle (which Kendrick throws himself into, smacking his head on the metal support behind) and throw him over for a belly to back suplex. Kendrick starts bleeding, presumably from the impact with the metal part of the turnbuckle.
- Blimey, it is pouring out of him. Briscoe sees an opening (largely the one in Kendrick’s forehead) and throws everything at him, chops, backdrops, forearms, in an attempt to overwhelm Kendrick and put him away.
- A VICIOUS clothesline from Briscoe. No pin though! Come on son, you could’ve had him there.
- Kendrick is able to manoeuvre onto his feet from a backdrop, but stumbles, and is obviously quite shaken due to how much blood he’s lost, his follow up heel kick does not have much behind it.
- It gets to a point where you’re actually quite concerned for a guy’s safety and just want them to end it ASAP.
- Kendrick goes for a double springboard axe-handle (which a commentator calls a ‘suicida’, not a term I’ve heard before) and is so wobbly. Just stop!
- More punishment for Kendrick, goes for a massive splash and Briscoe pulls his knees up, then plants Kendrick on his head with a terrifying looking powerbomb. Begging Kendrick not to kick out over here. He grabs the bottom rope at 2.
- Somehow, Kendrick hits his finisher (think Kalisto’s ‘Solida Del Sol’ for any low-level WWE tag-team fans out there) and gets the 3. A richly deserved standing ovation. I hope they weren’t lying when they said ROH bought Kendrick’s plane ticket so he doesn’t have to drive TWENTY-SIX HOURS back to Texas. Our first alignment shift in ROH? I believe so. K was undoubtedly the baddie going in to this, and you really couldn’t call him that now. Kendrick is now 2-0.
- Gabe Spolski (the boss of ROH at this point) and some other blokes in front of a charmingly 90s computer? Some sort of poll to see who’s the best out of the TWA? Dragon wins by a landslide? OK great!
Divine Storm vs. SAT vs. Amazing Red + Brian XL
- Can this lot only do massive multi-man matches? Not that I’m complaining, I’m not a big fan of any of them, so it’s nice to get them all out of the way at once rather than have them spread out around the show.
- These matches are much harder to do a point by point rundown of, as there is very rarely any real progression, any real plot, any real ability to go into a competitor’s motivations, style or game plan. It’s just move/counter/move.
- Commentators anticipate this by saying they’ve all teamed up/fought each other in the past, so they know each other’s moves and counters, which is a logical cover for this being a spot fest.
- A fair bit of SLAP. *angry face* SLAP. *angry face* SLAP (etc) here.
- I’m being unfair really, having a go at matches like this, there needs to be variety on wrestling cards, and not everything can be, I dunno, Flair/Steamboat. At a buffet you don’t just eat, say, plate after plate of sausage rolls because they’re your favourite. Variety = spicy life and all that. Plus this lot are super green, so putting them in big free-for-alls covers a great deal of mistakes.
- Lots of dives outside, which are now so overdone everywhere, even WWE, that they fail to have any impact at all. Which is bad, because they are super dangerous. Nice to see a 2002 crowd going mad for them here.
- With matches like this it’d be nice to see one team have an obvious game plan, to try and rob pins off other teams, or to try and avoid being tagged in to stay out of trouble, for example, just to give it a bit of texture, a bit of variety. It’s what I’d do, anyway.
- Jose Maximo counters Brian XL’s 450 splash into a powerbomb (!!?!?!) and Brian kicks out at 2. How is that just a minor spot?! You should have use losing our minds over that!
- Brian XL and Amazing Red start arguing mid-match and lose to a school boy. Ehh. (By school boy I mean the move where a guy creeps up behind you, puts his hand between your legs (matron) and topples you over to pin you. Not like an actual school boy came in the ring and beat them up or anything. That would be stupid.)
- A showcase match, sandwiched between two more important singles matches.They all need work, but they’re ok. I haven’t recorded the result here, largely because I can’t remember it, but also because it isn’t important in the slightest.
American Dragon vs. Low Ki
- I think part of the reason I don’t like Low Ki is how his lips move when he talks. He over-annunciates everything.
- Dragon comes out cracking his neck, with a bruised eye, looking like a fighter. Love him. Love him love him love him.
- Carries on selling the neck as he’s introduced. Because of what happened in his match with Chris Daniels, yes! Logic!
- And then Ken Shamrock appears before the match starts?! And he’s offering to be the guest ref? OK!
- Slow start, feeling each other out. Straight to the mat, amateur style.
- Deliberate approach here, everything seems like it matters. The sign of a great match, in my opinion. Still very amateur/MMA style, lots of strikes and holds on the mat. This will, I imagine, allow them to build up to bigger, more showy stuff later on. And having come after this it’ll seem more important. Hurray!!
- Hmm. Rather than break a hold once they get to the ropes, Shamrock pulls both guys to the middle of the ring. Odd. Commentators say this is what they do in ‘strong style’ matches in Japan, having not seen many I’ll have to take their word for it. Seems weird though.
- Dragon hits a powerbomb, first big move of the match, and Low-Ki rolls out of the ring, frustrated. Is this the distinction between the two? Low-Ki is too much of a hot-head, too emotionally invested? We’ll see.
- Low-Ki hits with a ‘Tidal Wave’ enziguri kick to Dragon’s eye, absolutely clocks him. Properly shaken. (Not really, of course, just excellent selling by Dragon. I think.)
- From there we seem to go back to the hold-for-hold, evenly matched stuff from earlier. For me, that kick should’ve been a turning point, Low-Ki getting the upper hand, the pace or style switching up a bit, but something.
- Ok, Low-Ki proceeds to kick Dragon in the face several times and open the cut on his eye up again. Even this early in his career, Dragon is the master of having the shit kicked out of him. He looks gone as he lies on the floor.
- Dragon leaps back into the ring and is on Low-Ki, hitting him with Japanese-style inside forearms. This makes perfect sense in terms of story-telling. Dragon is scared, he knows he is weaker now, he’s desperate for the win, he knows if he lets up on Low-Ki he could be hit again and that could be it.
- Another big kick from Low-Ki. It seems as if the story they’re going for here in the middle section is that Dragon can mount as much of an offence and dominate as much as he wants, Low-Ki only has to pull that trigger and kick him in the head again to stop him in his tracks.
- In desperation Dragon rolls through the ropes as Low-Ki has a sleeper on him, but Low-Ki doesn’t let go. Continues with the hold on the floor.
- Snot/spit coming out of Dragon’s mouth as Low-Ki holds onto the sleeper. Fantastic stuff.
- They battle back to the ring with Low-Ki dominating until Dragon hits a gorgeous roaring elbow (big fan of the roaring elbow) and a dragon suplex, to get only 2. He is getting close to exhaustion. A double underhook suplex to follow up and he goes to the top for his flying headbutt, which he kind of hits, but Low-Ki sort of got his knee to it. Both men flat out. Low-Ki rouses first, goes for a cover, two only. Throws Dragon into the corner and hits an enziguri. Dragon suplex, cover, two count. Gosh this is tense!
- Cattle Mutilation! Having used Dragon’s.. err.. Dragon Suplex, Low-Ki then locks in his opponent’s finisher, the Cattle Mutilation submission hold. The cheeky devil.
- Dragon slips out and gives Low-Ki a taste of his own medicine, locking in the Dragon Key Clutch. If Dragon knows the counter to the Cattle Mutilation, will Low-Ki know the counter to the Dragon Key Clutch? (side note: Lots of ‘Dragon’ related things in this match, huh?)
- It seems not, as Low-Ki again has to rely on the ropes to escape Dragon. Dragon’s weariness shows here, as he lets go instantly rather than take advantage of the five count. He is running on fumes.
- Both guys hit a few big moves, but neither can capitalise as they both so tired.
- Low-Ki goes back to kicking Dragon in the eye, knowing that Dragon is on his last legs. Goes for his finisher, the Ki-Crusher, covers. Only gets two. At this point, not getting the win with your dead cert, ‘Goodnight Irene’ finisher is as damaging as being hit with one. Oh blimey, I’m just commentating on this now, aren’t I? I need to be more critical here.
- Dragon hits a few big moves, goes for a second top rope belly to back, which Low-Ki is able to counter into a Ki-Crusher. This takes so much out of Low-Ki as well that he is unable to go for the pin. This brings out what I believe is the first organic (i.e. not forced by Da Hit Squad) “ROH! ROH!” chant. See, Brian XL? See, Jose Maximo? Build to your spots and let them breathe and they will bring the house down.
- Dragon rolls out to the floor again. Can barely stand. Stunning selling.
- Low-Ki goes for the big ‘Tidal Wave’ enziguri from earlier (see? I knew it was important) which Dragon, having been a victim of it before, is ready for. A counter into a MENTAL suplex I don’t recognise and can’t even think of a name for. Only gets two AGAIN. I feel we’re building to the end here.
- Straight into Cattle Mutilation. No joy. Tries again.
- Dragon wins! Low-Ki is out cold! Stunning, just stunning.
- So the Round Robin is 1-1-1? Honestly. You wonder why you bother sometimes.
- Oh Mr. Caption Writer. You so wise.