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Project Rewatch - ROH: The Good Shit

ROH Ring of Honor Old School ROH Gabe Sapolsky Summer of Punk Milestone Series ROH vs. CZW

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#181 Laz

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 04:31 PM

I was at DBD V N1. We left during intermission as my (then) girlfriend had a panic attack over a gang shooting that happened a few blocks away. In Roxbury. No shit, eh?

I still never forgave her for making me miss out on the ME as that feud is what kept me a wrestling fan.

#182 supersonic

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 08:55 AM

Manhattan Mayhem II – August 2007

Taped from New York, NY
 

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The less said about the opening promo from the Hangmen Three, the better.  WHO THE FUCK THOUGHT THIS WAS THE RIGHT KICKOFF SEGMENT FOR SUCH A HOT DVD RELEASE?

 

Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw vs. Matt Cross & Erick Stevens

 

Action-packed opener with plenty of dazzling moves.  That’s not the big takeaway though.  That would go to the finish, as Cross failed to appear on time to cut off Quackenbush from breaking a pin, causing Quackenbush to just stand with his thumb up his ass.  No matter how much the company wants them to be, Cross & Stevens are simply not Jack Evans & Roderick Strong. Period.

 

Rating: less than ***

 

Jack Evans says he has a mouthpiece now, which is obviously Julius Smokes he’s left off-camera to make his appearance a huge reveal later.  Smokes doing bird noises, as well as this entire premise, gets legitimate LOLZ from me.  Who thought this was gonna draw money?  If Smokes had to be brought back, perhaps even at the risk of seeming as a poor man’s Rottweilers, it should’ve been for the No Remorse Corps.  Since that faction didn’t have strong talkers, he can be their violent, overbearing hype man, turning back heel, having patched things up with Rocky Romero (recall the events at Dedicated) and feeling like he got tossed aside by the company in the company’s PPV era.  It’s so simple: “ROH told the greatest manager of all-time that Homicide’s gone, so there’s no place for me! BULLSHIT! NO REMORSE MOTHAFUCKAS!” In essence, Romero plays the same role of a few years earlier (this time without the deadweight of Ricky Reyes), while Strong would be Homicide, and Davey Richards would be Low Ki.

 

Glory By Honor VI weekend on November 2 and November 3 in Philly and back here in NYC will be KENTA, Naomichi Marufuji, Takeshi Morishima, and motherfucking Mitsuharu Misawa.

 

On one hand, it’s Misawa in the States.  On the other hand, he’s looked totally cooked and broken down, similar to Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX and 31. But can Misawa do what Undertaker would do afterward against Brock Lesnar, and have a classic or two to cap off his legacy in his twilight?

 

Jack Evans vs. Austin Aries vs. Roderick Strong

 

Smokes gets quite the pop once he’s revealed.  Total goodwill pop stemming from Final Battle 2006 and Respect is Earned.  His promo is grating, revealing the faction name will be the Vulture Squad. Zero buys.

 

After a decent 10 minutes or so of action, this fell into the sports-entertainment trap, and no matter how well the Manhattan Center audience responded, came straight out of the playbook of the dying days of WCW.  This had a ref bump, generic NRC beatdown, Ruckus introduced as the Vulture Squad’s “chocolate member” (a shame this angle didn’t come 5-10 years later for much superior African-American high-flyers such as Rich Swann, Shane Strickland, Lio Rush, and Cedric Alexander), the Resilience getting involved, a steel chair being used, and instead of the match just being thrown out, Aries won while Evans walked away with Ruckus, seemingly not giving a shit about the result.  This was all over the place and a far cry from the chaos that closed out Midnight Express Reunion.  Why is anyone supposed to be invested in any of this like they were with the Embassy vs. Generation Next and ROH vs. CZW?  Terrible angle to ruin what could’ve been a show-stealing match, with no lasting value whatsoever, serving as nothing more than short-term junk candy.  GIVE ME SOME ACTUAL NOURISHMENT, DAMMIT.

 

Rating: less than ***

 

Jimmy Jacobs says he has a new purpose and it’ll soon be revealed.  Project 161 couldn’t be more obvious for him at least.

 

Aries cuts another quality heated promo.  Too bad it’s for an angle that lacks any cohesion.

 

Chris Hero vs. Claudio Castagnoli

 

Good match but nothing special – the best description for these two as opponents would be to call them the underground Edge vs. Christian; they’re just simply far more special teaming together.

 

The dueling chants couldn’t cause this match to elevate its drama, with this feeling like a forgettable weekly TV main event instead of a marquee match on a card bestowing itself as the sequel to one of the most shaft-hardening start-to-finish shows in wrestling history.  Hopefully the fact that there was never a series of dramatic counters and near-falls means that this is the end of the program as Castagnoli eluded to in his post-match promo, having finished Hero off with just one Ricola Bomb.  Better yet, FUCKING PAIR THEM BACK UP AND LET THEM BE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS AND LARRY SWEENEY CAN BE THEIR JIM CORNETTE.

 

Rating: ***1/4

 

ROH Title Match
Takeshi Morishima vs. Bryan Danielson

 

 

Danielson’s strategy in this one, right from the get-go, wasn’t just refreshing, but also effective, and perhaps there was a long-term story for nobody else to do this beforehand so that’d be so special and impactful on this night, and in this match: relentlessly target the champ’s left leg.

 

The challenger’s early dominance was really brilliant here, throwing Morishima off and keeping him off balance, even driving him into a corner to get some forearm shots in.  Never before had Morishima been challenged in this manner, and it proved Danielson’s brilliance.  Nice touch also in Danielson displaying athletic swagger just like he did against Samoa Joe at Midnight Express Reunion.

 

After that cornering, Morishima finally picked up on Danielson’s strategy, blocking a kick and just driving the champion into a corner to deliver plenty of receipts.  Unfortunately, Danielson suffered a left eye injury at this point, which would turn out to be a retina injury that as of April 2009 in Houston, had not fully healed and very likely never will.  While the match quality was in no way downgraded due to the injury, it’s quite obvious that the match should’ve been stopped immediately, customer satisfaction and DVD business be damned.

 

Here was Danielson just 364 days after suffering his right shoulder injury against Colt Cabana, and this time putting on an equally admirable performance.  Had this event not already been titled beforehand, this likely would’ve become officially known as Gut Check II.  Even as Morishima dominated him on the outside, Danielson found the necessary aggression to cut him off, driving the champion into the front row, AND WITH HIS LEFT RETINA FRESHLY INJURED, taking a springboard dive into the audience, just like he had foolishly done 364 days earlier with a freshly injured right shoulder.

 

Danielson’s injury explains his failure to have scouted Morishima’s perfectly timed standing lariat while running the ropes, and the crowd reaction to that lariat was awesome.  But Danielson still managed to avoid more of the champion’s trademark blows, kicking Morishima’s left leg again when he attempted a hip attack.  He went for some great submission work, which slowed the champion when he’d make a comeback.  This allowed Danielson to block Morishima’s Shotgun Missile Dropkick attempt; even as he got thrown off, he sidestepped the second attempt as the champ had delayed it due to his left leg pain.

 

The follow-up Stepover Toehold from Danielson was also awesome, allowing him to just moments later counter a cut off a strike exchange with a sudden Half Crab.  In what had to be improvised storytelling, Morishima broke out of it by just kicking Danielson’s left side of the face.  But once again, Morishima was slow to move around, allowing the challenge to block a backdrop driver attempt and go for an EXCELLENT near-fall via the Small Package!  What a sensational reaction for that false finish.

 

These two also channeled something that’d seem likelier in a Joe vs. AJ Styles match, as Danielson ducked a lariat and hit a gorgeous German Suplex with a bridge pin for a near-fall!  Had Danielson ever gotten to face Brock Lesnar, I wonder if this spot would’ve been approved as an homage and storytelling strategy.  Danielson wasted no time going for the elbows to the head, but Morishima resiliently got up. 

 

However, Morishima couldn’t actually make a comeback, collapsing on his left leg to a sensational reaction.  This right here is my pick for the highlight of the match.  Why is that?  Because it was brilliantly safe way to tell a simple story that displayed Morishima’s vulnerability, Danielson’s technical excellence, and got over just tremendously, once against showing Danielson being one of the most psychologically cream-of-the-crop performers in the history of the business.

 

Danielson then followed that up with stomps to the face, but made the mistake of not just doing them until referee Paul Turner would throw the match out in his favor.  Perhaps the eye injury explains that as well as some fatigue as this was more than 15 minutes into this work of art.  Instead, Danielson went for the Cattle Mutilation, and once Morishima reached the ropes there dueling chants again.

 

Danielson made an even bigger mistake going for a Super Backdrop Suplex, which was countered with a crossbody by Morishima.  Danielson didn’t have enough left, his fighting spirit immediately cut off by the champion and getting beat to the punch with a monstrous lariat, followed by the backdrop driver for the finish.  And what an incredibly crazy idea: Morishima has to hit his finisher just once to get the victory.

 

In the post-match, Danielson disagrees with crowd telling him that he’s the best in the world, saying the ROH Champion is the best in the world, and gets thanked for his outstanding effort.

 

The one blemish: Morishima doing nothing when they were on the outside as Danielson set his leg up on a barricade.  There should’ve been some kind of struggle and that’d have made this a perfect match, one to truly measure up to the Jimmy Jacobs vs. BJ Whitmer feud-ending cage match and the Briscoes vs. Motor City Machine Guns for the company’s match of the year.  It’s a shame those 2 matches weren’t pimped as hard as this one was to Dave Meltzer.

 

With that said, this was an otherwise phenomenal match with layered storytelling, living up to everyone’s hype that had been building ever since Morishima had dethroned Homicide 6 months earlier.  Once again, Danielson gets credited with the best match of a colleague’s career, while further cementing his own legacy in more ways than one.  While not my pick, this was a VERY worthy choice by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter readers as the 2007 Match of the Year, and one has to wonder a decade later if ROH will ever come close to contending for that award ever again.

 

Rating: ****3/4

 

Larry Sweeney rants about Claudio Castagnoli, saying this program isn’t done.  Why wasn’t Gabe Sapolsky fired at this point?

 

Tag Titles – 2/3 Falls Match
Briscoe Bros. vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico

 

While this definitely shouldn’t have been the closing match over Morishima vs. Danielson, especially with the Briscoes again getting a clean sweep instead of having the historic pop of here of that streak being broken, this was an excellent main event for sure.  Perhaps the reason for this closing the show was the post-match angle of Steen faking respect and then using a ladder once the Briscoes were down after being kicked in the nuts.  Get that last moment to be all about building up the company’s first-ever ladder match coming up on the next PPV.

 

Like the night before, this started as a really good outside brawl, but this time the in-ring portions were great, complete with respect to tag legalities.  The first fall didn’t have huge drama, but the second one sure did and there were some memorable highlights, the big one being that as Generico basked in the glory on the apron after hitting Jay with a through-the-ropes Tornado DDT, Mark seized the opportunity to surprise him with a sudden jump over the ropes to hit a Head-Scissors off the apron to the floor!

 

Steen was his usually tremendous heel self, although this lacked the major hot tag (along with the mentioned booking flaw) to have made this the classic it deserved to be.  It was a huge deal when Steen kicked out of the Springboard Doomsday Device, showing the company definitely saw him as a top singles star at some point.  It was no surprise that when Generico was out due to a Beal to the outside that Steen tried going at it alone, but he got his comeuppance.  That it took both of the individual Briscoes’ consecutive finishers to end this also said a lot, perhaps a compromise for not breaking the clean sweep streak gimmick.  Definitely looking forward to the obvious feud-ending ladder match, although in light of the absolute Hell that took place 2 months before this, there are some obvious reservations to what these four men will do in that environment.

 

Rating: ****

 

In no way was this show deserving of its sequel name, as it was quite dreadful until the double main event.  But the double main event was fucking excellent, including what was voted as the Match of the Year.  For show completionists, this is recommended.  For just quality match collectors, watch the Observer MOTY for free on YouTube and buy the Since Day One compilation for the 2/3 falls match.

 

And good Lord, why wasn’t Sapolsky fired by now?  Hangmen Three?  Not moving on from the Sweet & Sour vs. Castagnoli program?  Vulture Squad formation?  Go-nowhere sports-entertainment trash that would make Vince Russo proud to ruin a dream three-way?

 

Up next – Motor City Madness 2007
Matches will include:
El Generico vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Takeshi Morishima vs. Erick Stevens



#183 supersonic

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 02:46 PM

Motor City Madness 2007 – September 14, 2007

Taped from Detroit, MI

 

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ROH Video Wire – August 31, 2007

 

 

Important news/footage in the above video:

Bryan Danielson’s left eye could not look straight due to his injury against Takeshi Morishima so he got emergency surgery shortly after Manhattan Mayhem II. So foolish for nobody to call the match off immediately.
Why exactly is there no mention in the Video Wire that the Man Up PPV will be headlined by Morishima vs. Danielson II and the historic, first-ever, feud-ending ladder match between the Briscoes and Kevin Steen & El Generico?

 

Another ho-hum show overall, so C&P treatment again when appropriate, this time from JD Dunn. Very disappointing considering this is ROH’s Motown follow-up to WrestleMania 23 weekend.

 

The Briscoes make fun of Project 161 for “writin’ poetry on the internet.” Jay works in the word “daggone.”

 

 

As a result of winning a four-way against Delirious, Kevin Steen, and Roderick Strong early on the card, Erick Stevens faces Takeshi Morishima tonight for the ROH Title.  Can he step up and have powerhouse matches against the monster heel on par with Shingo, Brent Albright, Samoa Joe, and Claudio Castagnoli?

 

 

[Jimmy] Jacobs tells Rebecca Bayless that it’s not about tonight but about what happens next. Lacey tells us to wait and see. Hmm…

 

 

Dream Match
El Generico vs. Naomichi Marufuji

 

Very good match at the end to elevate Generico’s stock. Had the main portions of the match developed a bit more of a story to have Marufuji soften Generico’s neck and shoulders, this would’ve turned out to be tremendous. That’s because Generico’s resilience after the first Shiranui would’ve been more dramatic, although it’s difficult to find fault based on the monster reaction he got with his foot reaching the bottom rope, but not quite as epic as Bryan Danielson doing similar against KENTA 363 days prior to this.

 

Generico very obviously came out the star in this match, only being briefly sabotaged from the Yakuza Kick, absorbing Marufuji’s cutoffs and then hitting it anyway.  The drama was definitely noticeable when he hit a standard Brainbuster for a near-fall; that they never teased the Top Rope Brainbuster at least is another flaw in this match though. But Marufuji having to take his game a step further with a Super Shiranui to obtain the victory spoke volumes, as well as his insistence to get the crowd behind the Generic Luchador in the post-match as they exchanged respect.

 

This match makes the “What if?” that never came to be even more glaring: KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico.

 

Rating: ***3/4

 

ROH Title Match
Takeshi Morishima vs. Erick Stevens

 

Like the other match reviewed, this was designed solely to use a puro star to elevate an ROH rookie and it worked even better despite this match not being quite as good but pretty close.  Stevens winning the fans over here was quite impressive considering that the fans apparently weren’t happy of missing out on Morishima vs. Steen or Morishima vs. Strong II.

 

The story here was a bit simpler: Stevens absorbs the larger Morishima’s powerful blows, but keeps managing to make comebacks and avoid the backdrop driver.  Once the gut wrench powerbomb was finally hit, the crowd exploded in a true career highlight for Stevens.  But it obviously wasn’t enough as Morishima picked up on the repertoire of Stevens, dead-weighting and sitting on Stevens when he went for a second German Suplex.

 

Morishima surprisingly gave respect to Stevens, but perhaps that’s a red herring for what’s to come.  Stevens has some potential by this point, but the lack of charisma is concerning.  My suggestion: find a direction that will pair him up with Albright to form a powerhouse team, with the two eventually making a complete heel turn against Steen & Generico for a Tag Titles program sometime in 2008.

 

Rating: ***1/2

 

Get this DVD cheap for the 2 reviewed matches as they’re worth seeing.  Now it’s the big one.  It’s the end of the Feud of the Year Front Runner.  It’s the first-ever ladder match in company history. And it’s the rematch of the classic that turned out to win the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year. Plus.. the payoff to the Project 161 viral direction. And the farewell of Matt Sydal as well, capping off his underground run against his greatest career rival Delirious, plus 2 major debuts!

 

It’s time to simply Man Up!

 

Up next – Man Up
Matches will include:
The entire PPV broadcast
Lacey & Sara Del Rey vs. Amazing Kong & Daizee Haze
Delirious vs. Matt Sydal



#184 supersonic

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 09:43 PM

Man Up – September 15, 2007

Taped from Chicago, IL

 

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Man Up (PPV) – Aired November 30, 2007

 

The broadcast wastes no time as Naomichi Marufuji is in the ring already for the opener.

 

ROH Title Shot Match
Chris Hero vs. Nigel McGuinness vs. Naomichi Marufuji vs. Claudio Castagnoli

 

McGuinness says he’s keeping a close eye on tonight’s rematch between Takeshi Morishima and Bryan Danielson.  Way to telegraph the booking here.

 

The commentators are interrupted by a masked man with a raspy voice screaming “Age of the Fall!”  Before the opener starts, an intro package features highlights from the Driven 2007 PPV.

 

Claudio Castagnoli’s pre-match promo isn’t interesting at all, continuing the program against Sweet ‘N Sour Inc. that should’ve been aborted before it even began.  At least Larry Sweeney is entertaining on the microphone and he’s over.

 

This match would’ve been best served as a free-for-all, and perhaps even as a final chapter in the Hero vs. Castagnoli program since a good chunk of the match focused on it.  (In hindsight since it was pushed on PPV but not quite clicking, end the program with Castagnoli beating Hero and Sweeney in separate matches at the next PPV taping.) When the two of them went to the outside, referee Todd Sinclair forgot about tag legalities despite Lenny Leonard specifically stating on commentary that tags were necessary, but he covered for the bad officiating by pointing out Sinclair chose to go with relaxed rules.

 

From a business perspective, the biggest missed opportunity was the failure to mention the classic, historically important on many levels GHC Heavyweight Title encounter that had taken place just 364 days earlier between McGuinness and Marufuji.  What they showed here was a nice sample of what had taken place at the prior year’s epic September event, and yet potentially new audiences watching this PPV would have no idea about Glory By Honor V Night 2; this is a very fair criticism since Danielson and KENTA’s match from that same card was talked about in the PPV main event of Respect is Earned.

 

To nobody’s surprise, McGuinness picked up the victory after cleaning house, though it was mildly surprising for Castagnoli to do the job instead of Hero, as this would’ve served as a decent finish to the lukewarm Hero vs. McGuinness program.  The finish was definitely perfect, McGuinness using the momentum from eating Castagnoli’s springboard twisting uppercut to deliver a decisive rebound lariat.  So the next PPV is either Morishima vs. McGuinness III or Danielson vs. McGuinness VI, and it’s nice for McGuinness to no longer being on the creative treadmill that he’s been on for months either without direction or just a lukewarm one (his program against Hero.)

 

Rating: ***

 

In a career highlight promo that defines much of his life and has much greater meaning a decade later, an eyepatch-sporting Danielson points out that the injuries are really starting to take an emotional toll on his family, but his father said that this is his dream so to keep pursuing it.  Since he’s not the ROH Champion, he acknowledges that he’s not the best wrestler in the world anymore, but against Morishima tonight he will show he has the most heart of anyone in the sport.  Terrific promo here that matches up with Danielson’s far more celebrated ones in WWE.

 

The Resilience and No Remorse Corps meet for a Best of 3 singles matches series.  The NRC won the coin flip so the Resilience must pick their representative first.

 

Matt Cross vs. Rocky Romero

 

Good showcase for Cross here as he displayed his gymnastics background and got plenty of counters on the more experienced Romero, but once Romero got one kick to the head, that was the ballgame.

 

Roderick Strong pretends to be next to goad Austin Aries into being next, but Davey Richards is the opponent in a swerve.

 

Davey Richards vs. Austin Aries

 

Extremely superior to their first ROH encounter exactly one year prior to this, and much more heated and interesting than the rematch that was supposed to be a landmark Richards victory at Dethroned.  This did far more to put Richards over as he shined more in this match than the already established Aries.  He had the former ROH Champion scouted very well, evading almost every major trademark move of his until Aries had the opportunity to hit a suicide dive.

 

Richards would still control most of the match, specifically blocking a kick to the head to not be prone to the brainbuster and 450 Splash combo of Aries.  But Aries ensured not to fall prey to the Butterfly Driver, finally turning it into a backslide and using the little opportunity possible to pull out his finishing sequence for the victory.

 

Rating: ***3/4

 

Erick Stevens vs. Roderick Strong

 

An excellent showcase for Stevens to complete the obvious point of this series: the established stars of the original Reborn era go over, but the newer talents in each match are showcased.  After dominating early here, Stevens find himself still shining by selling mostly underneath the rest of the way, busting out numerous spectacular power moves against the established powerhouse Strong, giving the NRC leader a taste of his own medicine that only the likes of Shingo, Joe, and Morishima could’ve done before.

 

That it was such a struggle for the cocky Strong to pull out the victory here was monumental in Stevens earning Chicago’s support, just like he’d done the night before in Detroit against Morishima.  A Super Tiger Driver would be blocked by Stevens, being turned into a Super Power Slam for an excellent near fall that would’ve been a very satisfying upset finish; there’s an argument that perhaps Stevens, for all of his glaring flaws, should’ve just gone over here, especially with a thrown-in stipulation that this would be the end of the program.  Doing so also would’ve creatively established that Aries proved he could successfully form and lead another faction, rather than just take over one like he had done over Alex Shelley at Final Battle 2004.

 

But Stevens still came out of this with his stock raised, being beaten to a pulp to fall prey to a Super Release Splash Mountain Powerbomb, followed by a standard Tiger Driver.  Perhaps the best test to see if Stevens can sustain the momentum of this breakout weekend would be to just feud against Strong without anyone else involved, as it’d also keep Strong busy once Aries has a conclusive match against his former stablemate too.

 

Rating: ****

 

The formation of the Hangmen Three at the expense of Delirious is shown from Caged Rage.  I have a theory now: perhaps booker Gabe Sapolsky knowingly, intentionally formed this totally useless, humdrum faction as a means to make other weak stables such as the Resilience and Vulture Squad shine in comparison.  As burned out as he was, he couldn’t have possibly been blind to just how much of a black eye this was serving for the ROH brand to a potential new audience on PPV.  In fact, with this direction being featured on PPV, it’s astonishing in hindsight that this or something from TNA failed to win the Worst Feud of the Year in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards instead of it being crowned upon the perversely entertaining Kane vs. Big Daddy V.  This whole saga had zero enjoyment value from any kind of perspective.

 

ROH Title Match
Takeshi Morishima vs. Bryan Danielson

 

Although Danielson had just gotten a title shot 3 weeks earlier, he had earned that thanks to his cream-of-the-crop reign; this was earned by defeating McGuinness on the Driven 2007 PPV.

 

Danielson dominated this match surprisingly, compensating for his injury with a focused, furious quest for vengeance over his eye injury.  Morishima seemed unprepared for Danielson’s onslaught, eating various strikes and submissions, including elbows to the head, Triangle Chokes, Super Backdrop Suplex, Tiger Suplex, and Cattle Mutilation.

 

Chicago was in awe at Danielson’s dominance here over the monstrous champion, each big move and submission hold gaining more drama as the match went along.  Even when Morishima blocked a schoolboy pin attempt to finally sit his fat ass down on Danielson, it wasn’t enough to stop the challenger’s relentless pursuit.  Morishima would have to his size and dig down deep into his obviously inferior cardio while locked in a second triangle choke, lifting Danielson up for a one-armed powerbomb.

 

Danielson would come back for more, but once Morishima was able to block a forearm charge, that was enough to hit a lariat and backdrop driver.  However, Morishima had poor ring positioning, allowing Danielson to be close enough to get his foot on the bottom rope in another piece of excellent drama.  To nobody’s surprise, Morishima became frustrated and broke his vow, removing Danielson’s eyepatch and gaining the victory by targeting the injury and striking Danielson’s head repeatedly, causing the referee to call the match in favor of the champion much to Chicago’s disapproval.

 

Another excellent match on this PPV and worthy follow-up to the acclaimed first match just 3 weeks earlier.  This is perhaps the greatest example of what an encounter against Brock Lesnar would’ve been like for Danielson; surprise the monster with absolute fury to destabilize him, get relentless with a number of strikes and submissions, and hope that it’s enough to gain the upset.  It’s definitely obvious not just from a booking perspective, but from a kayfabe perspective, that Morishima’s days as champion are numbered after having his most grueling defenses against Danielson, Castagnoli, and Brent Albright in recent weeks.  He had to break a competitive vow and is showing very clear signs of fatigue, including poor cardio against much smaller, more driver opponents, and poor ring positioning as well.  The writing is on the wall for McGuinness to finally get the job done.  And of course, the Morishima vs. Danielson saga is far from finished.

 

Rating: ****1/4

 

Tag Titles – Ladder Match
Briscoe Bros. vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico

 

Getting the obvious out of the way: the opening crowd brawling had an absolutely ludicrous amount of unprotected chair shots, ESPECIALLY with Chris Nowinski shortly before this revealing that Chris Benoit had severe brain damage that had aged twice as fast as it should’ve been at the time of his death.  It’s actually MORE realistic in a fight for someone to put their arms and hands up anyway to protect their heads and faces, so these guys along with those who paved this kind of shit for them such as Mick Foley, were always sadly mistaken.

 

The dangerous bumps on the ladders, including a Package Piledriver and Butterfly Piledriver, didn’t appear to be dangerous for the head and neck, but mainly just for those taking the back bumps on the ladders.  The same can be said for the unforgettable Beal that the champs forced Generico to take, a true highlight in this all-time classic that had Chicago going insane.

 

From a purely entertainment perspective, the only dynamic missing from this brawl, and it’s an arguable nitpick, is that Jay and Steen never took a moment to viscerally talk shit to each other.  Perhaps that would be unrealistic with the amount of brutality endured in this appropriately marketed “Ladder War,” but it was noticeable when factoring how much of a factor Steen’s mouth had played in all the months leading up to this piece of history, not just in promos, but during the actual in-ring battles.

 

Steen deserves major kudos for saving the conclusion of the match, climbing back up since so much time had passed while Jay struggled to remove the belts.  Steen had nothing left, but it was only logical that his character would’ve used the last pitiful amount of energy possible to prevent the inevitable, which was that he had started a fight, and now he and his best friend were gonna lose it.  This ending could’ve been a very glaring black eye, much like Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon at SummerSlam 1995.

 

Other chaotic highlights in this match include Mark hitting a Shooting Star Press on the ladder and landing spectacularly in a way that hurt himself, Jay being shoved back-first onto a previously breaking ladder to break it even more (this particular piece of furniture actually looked like it was designed to give in and protect these men, which is a good thing if that’s the case,) and Jay calling for the maintenance ladder to bring in the ring in the last few minutes of the match, causing another Windy City eruption.  The Doomsday Device that saw Mark jump underneath the maintenance ladder must also be mentioned, an amazing “special effect” as Generico would call such highspots years later when he appeared on Talk is Jericho.

 

This definitely lived up to the hype of being the company’s first-ever official ladder match, completely blowing away the closing thing to one 5 years earlier between Paul London and Michael Shane at Unscripted, which also drew “Match of the Year” chants from the live crowd.  But this never let up, belonging in the conversation with the HBK vs. Razor series as well as the Rock vs. Triple H and the trilogy involving the Dudleyz, Hardyz, and Edge & Christian several years earlier.  This was a car crash from start to finish that blew the roof off the Frontier Fieldhouse, and set a bar so high that the company would not host a ladder match that could come close to it for another 9 years.

 

Undoubtedly, this is the feud of the year, and I’m sad to see it end.  I’ve zero faith that the obvious McGuinness era on the horizon will creatively carry this creatively decaying company like this program did.  But maybe Steen pie-facing Generico is a sign that they’re gonna actually break up and feud? While it may seem a bit too soon, one cannot argue that it’s reliable enough to carry the company and make up for Sapolsky’s creative collapse.  It also ensured that both have something substantial coming out of this direction.

 

The same cannot be said for the Briscoes in the post-match though.  Project 161 finally gets revealed when a bunch of masked unknowns appear in the front rows donned in black, providing a distraction for the debuting Tyler Black to arrive along with Lacey & Jimmy Jacobs, who are then joined moments later by the returning Necro Butcher! (In hindsight, what a missed opportunity in 2006 for Jacobs & Necro not to have some kind of loose alliance when they simultaneously feuded with BJ Whitmer.)

 

Necro sticks out like a sore thumb visually, but the PPV quickly ends.  The rest of the segment is in the bonus features, and it’s incredibly cringe-worthy.  Jay is hung upside down and lifted while his head is bleeding, and Jacobs cuts an overall ineffective promo as the blood falls on him.  Jacobs says that Lacey’s love failed to save him and rid his misery, and that nothing ever will.  He shits on the fans for supporting the obnoxious drunkard Briscoes (I’m sure the PWG Six would agree with that sentiment after what happened the day of Giant Size Annual #4) and wants the power in the company, so the newfound Age of the Fall will be coming for the Briscoes.

 

Based on his verbiage, Jacobs did a good job explaining why he recruited Necro, as both are outcasts in their own way.  As for Black, he described as a lost potential superstar.  That could make sense when considering that Black is in his early 20s, but the fact that Jacobs gloats about all his obvious strengths doesn’t really fit the outcast shtick that Jacobs is going for.

 

Some mark in the front row gets under Jay’s skin afterward, but the Briscoes leave with the belts, proud of vanquishing their 2007 archenemies and ready for the new Age of the Fall challenge.

 

Rating: ****3/4 (for everything prior to the Age of the Fall segment)

 

BONUS MATCHES

 

Amazing Kong’s ROH Debut
Lacey & Sara Del Rey vs. Amazing Kong & Daizee Haze

 

Impressive debut for Kong here and the Chicago crowd’s enthusiasm certainly helped.  As expected, Haze played the FIP, getting double-teamed until finally getting the hot tag on Kong, who played a role similar to Samoa Joe but with far more outward facial expressions.  It was a surprise that since Del Rey would soon be defending the Shimmer title against Kong, that Haze got the victorious pin on Lacey.  Nobody cared about the Lacey vs. Haze program, so this ample opportunity to throw a bone towards Dave Prazak’s promotion and build up one of his matches.

 

Rating: ***

 

How remarkable, BJ Whitmer got a haircut and dyed his hair blonde to look like Ken Anderson.  That’ll save the Hangmen Three saga.

 

Tyler Black’s ROH Debut Match
Jack Evans vs. Tyler Black

 

Very simple match. Black sneaks from behind to dominate at first, Evans makes a comeback. Necro & Jacobs appear to attack Evans and the match is called off, then Irish Airborne makes the saves.  Zero interest in this impromptu trios match, but Black looks just fine in this federation.  Good for AOTF winning their first match together too.

 

Matt Sydal’s ROH Farewell
Delirious vs. Matt Sydal

 

These two are getting in-ring introductions to signify the importance of this rivalry ending.  It’s truly the end of an era for the 2 that debuted against each other at Reborn Stage 1.  Sydal gets incredibly treatment from Chicago despite going out as an SNS heel.  To sell the sentimental value of this, Delirious opts not to go crazy at first, instead wanting a handshake for this final chapter.  But Sydal takes a cheap shot. Perfect.

 

This was a fitting end to the rivalry but couldn’t touch their 2/3 falls match earlier in the year.  With that said, this was everything expected, all the crisp moves and counters of these 2 archrivals, and Larry Sweeney going postal when he thought Todd Sinclair counted too slow.  He was probably still mad from eating a Senton by Delirious too.

 

Delirious won which made sense, but Sydal took a head drop late in the match via a Cobra Clutch Suplex, and that must have led to his concussion as reported by the Wrestling Observer the following day.  The crowd gave him a great ovation as he left, but with the news the following day, it’s understandable that he couldn’t provide a farewell speech.  One can only imagine the whirlwind it had been for him, as he had come a long way in the past year, just had a show-stealing match in PWG against Alex Shelley, and had even been in the American Bank Center to get the news about the Benoit family tragedy along with the WWE roster on what was supposed to be a tryout for him.

 

Rating: ***1/4

 

Easiest recommendation possible thanks to 3 tremendous matches, including a historic all-time feud-ending ladder match and another classic performance from Danielson, plus Sydal’s farewell to bring his rivalry with Delirious to a close.  This really marks the finale of Sapolsky having any positive creativity to offer the company, going from the Feud of the Year to one of the most disappointing starts to a faction and program I’ve ever seen immediately afterwards.  Not exactly the post-match from Cage of Death.
 

Of course, this would turn out to not be the end for Sydal in ROH, so assuming 2017 is still the end for him a decade from now, that’s when his ROH career can truly be chronicled.  But his initial 3-year run is something to be proud of and worthy of its own compilation.  So many quality tag matches with different partners, so many great trios and 8-man tags, so many entertaining promos both good and bad, so many quality singles encounters against AJ Styles, Claudio Castagnoli, Austin Aries, Christopher Daniels, and Jimmy Rave, just to name a few, plus the rivalry against Delirious that bookended this run for him.

 

As mentioned earlier, an era is on the horizon that should’ve already started several months back in Liverpool. We’ll see how it holds up, plus there’s a lazy excuse for a creative shakeup too!  But the good news – one of the greatest rivalries in underground wrestling history returns!

 

Up next – Honor Nation
Matches will include:
Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson
Vulture Squad vs. No Remorse Corps
Takeshi Morishima vs. Kevin Steen







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: ROH, Ring of Honor, Old School ROH, Gabe Sapolsky, Summer of Punk, Milestone Series, ROH vs. CZW

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