Originally Posted by Dave Meltzer
The overriding theme of almost any Ring of Honor PPV event is that the fans are rabid and the wrestlers work harder than in any other promotion.
The weaknesses are inherent. The guys are not television stars, so they donít seem important, the production values arenít there and the shows are on a two-month tape delay.
The newest offering, New Horizons, debuts on 9/26 (including a 9/28 slot on inDemand in the traditional Sunday wrestling PPV slot, although one hour earlier) and plays throughout the next month. If you are a fan of ROH, you will probably like it, and love the Bryan Danielson vs. Tyler Black match, because for two hours, you arenít going to see more action. If you have seen it and havenít liked it for what it isnít and it canít be, well it still isnít and probably never will be that.
A lot of interest on ROH PPV shows is teases of Match of the Year candidates. Unfortunately, thatís an impossible standard to consistently live up to. This show delivers two hours of good to excellent wrestling in front of the hottest PPV crowd in a long time. They are crazy into every match, from the Briscoe Brothers squash match in the opener, to the strong ROH title match with Nigel McGuinness beating Claudio Castagnoli, and in particular, the masterpiece of the event with Danielson and Black.
That match was probably as good as you can get for a match that combined a realistic theme, using both pro wrestling spots and adding MMA spots, featuring an unplanned highlight. Toward the end of the match, Danielson smoothly locked in a triangle. In more time than you can think, ďthis spot wouldnít work in WWE, even when Undertaker does it,Ē the crowd knows it and is popping as Black is fading. Black then makes the desperation last ditch effort, getting up, and power bombing Danielson into the turnbuckles. At that point, as Danielsonís head bounces into the top turnbuckle, it snaps. The turnbuckle metal piece reverberates into the back of Danielsonís head causing the ref to freak out. But Danielson wasnít cut from the back of the head, and the match continued, largely as planned. Danielson even at went point climbed to the top rope on the turnbuckle on the opposite side of the break, even though it sagged and there was little stability, to try a moonsault block. Black, on the other hand, never went up for his trademark twisting splash, because it wouldnít have held. But you still get a Frye- Takayama spot, and Danielson finishes using elbow after elbow from the top until it ends with a ref stoppage. When Danielson first finished the match that way, it didnít get over, as fans werenít used to ref stoppages in pro wrestling. This time, the place came unglued as he started firing the elbows, and when the ref jumped in, they took it as a great finish, which speaks to a wrestler who understands how to get things over to the audience he plays for. Iíd give the match ****Ĺ, because the wrestling was excellent, the match built perfectly, and the crowd was as hot if not hotter than anything on PPV in months.
Clearly, this stuff only appeals to a niche base. Without television, there is no real alternative. Six years in, the product remains the No. 3 promotion in North America, a spot itís pretty much going to be locked into as long as it exists. It seems to satisfy its audience better than TNA, but if every match and angle was perfect, it can never compete with a product with two hours of national prime time television that is viewed by 1.5 to 2 million people per week. Being on tape has its issues. By far, the best interview on the show, in fact one of the best interview deliveries youíll see, was by Adam Pearce, who by the time the show aired, was no longer with the promotion.
Pearce is described as being on a hiatus, which means the NWA belt will be gone from ROH booking for the time being. The switch of the NWA title to Brent Albright was more Gabe Sapolskyís idea than the NWA idea, although they were not against it, but the plan apparently was always for Pearce to get it back, which he did on 9/20 in Philadelphia.
When the ROH title match with Nigel McGuinness vs. Claudio Castagnoli was getting going, it was noted that three former ROH champions were major promotion world champions, C.M. Punk in WWE, Samoa Joe in TNA and Takeshi Morishima in NOAH. It was carefully worded in case things changed, as they did, before the show played. While ROH will claim Danielson as ďThe Best Wrestler in the World,Ē as his gimmick, which, if nothing else, heís good enough that you can make the argument, when promoting Danielson, they try to give him credibility by saying he had recently appeared on a NOAH show at Budokan Hall, at TripleMania in Mexico, as well as beating Lance Cade in a dark match at a Raw taping.
The show ended with a nearly ten minute brawl with Jimmy Jacobs and Austin Aries. It was never promoted during the show, and in fact, unlike even Raw or TNA, which billboard at least most of the matches on the show as it goes on, you usually donít know what is coming up next. The show opened with a Jacobs interview, although the first angle where Aries was looking for revenge on Jacobs for the injury to Lacey came later in the show. The first thing established was Jacobs & Black would not defend the tag titles on this show.
At least to this audience, which looks to be almost exclusively guys in their 20s, the belts matter. The show opened with a short Briscoe Brothers squash, which was reminiscent of a Midnight Express vs. jobbers match on TBS in the mid-
80s, with fast-paced innovative spots. Silas Young and Mitch Franklin were the bump takers, and Young in particular was a big part in making it work.
Next was a short four-way with Delirious, Ruckus, Erick Stevens and Shane Hagadorn, with Stevens clearly as the biggest star, and he pinned Ruckus with a doctor bomb. Stevens without his Mohawk loses a lot because now he looks just like anyone else. His offense is solid and the action was fine. Hagadorn was a guy filling the fourth spot, Delirious has his unique gimmick that sets him apart, and Ruckus had a good night flipping all over the place and it all landed. Heís very athletic and those moves are his calling card. In another company, heíd probably be better limiting them and building to them, but this is a moves crowd so you play to the audience. The flip side with these young guys is they do so much, and a lot of it is brutal physically, for little pay. It has been a stepping stone for some, whether to Japan or WWE or TNA, but itís the province for a lot of smaller guys who this may end up being as far as they go.
Kevin Steen beat Necro Butcher in a match with those brutal spots. Necro seems destined to be an indy cult favorite because of his willingness to take crazy punishment, but just in this match I got worried for his future. He took a bodyslam off the apron through a chair. He took a Michinoku Driver through a chair and kicked out, leading to a package piledriver on a chair. Steen is a good worker and every time I see him I ask the same question. A guy who works as hard as he does, bad genetics or not, why doesnít he work more on getting in shape because he overcomes his look with this crowd, but wouldnít with the masses.
Naomichi Marufuji & Roderick Strong beat Go Shiozaki & Chris Hero in a ***1/4 match. This had lot of heat, and in particular, strong chop fests with Strong and Shiozaki. Lance Storm was at ringside. Strong pinned Hero with a backbreaker, but Hero got his heat back by knocking out Storm with his roaring elbow in a post-match attack after Storm had put the half crab on manager Larry Sweeney.
McGuinness vs. Castagnoli was a very good title match at ***3/4. There were no spectacular moves but it worked so well because of how over the title was. McGuinness plays the heel champion who comes within a hairís breath of losing the title, building to the opponent doing their big move in the middle for a near fall. They went about 19:00 with a lot of European uppercuts by Castagnoli. McGuinness cut way down on his usual clothesline oriented offense, which probably made his jawbreaker lariat at the finish even more effective. The highlights were Castagnoli doing a multiple revolution giant swing spot like Hiroshi Hase in his prime, and the spot worked, and later getting the Ricola bomb for a near fall.
The show ended with Jacobs and Aries brawling all over the arena. The brawl started right after Danielson vs. Black ended, which meant what they did in the ring had to be tempered because there was no top rope. They ended near the back of the arena on a ladder. Necro Butcher came out with a chair. Both tried to tell Butcher to hit the other, but instead, he tipped over the ladder and both went flying off and through tables.