Originally Posted by Dave Meltzer
With the addition of DirecTV carrying the promotion for the first time, the hope is that more people, as well as many first-timers, will be watching ROH on PPV later this month when the latest version of “Rising Above” debuts. The show will air multiple times with a 1/16 debut date.
The show, taped on 11/22 in Chicago Ridge, IL at the Frontier Fieldhouse, was the first PPV of the new booking regime headed by Adam Pearce. It was also the first PPV show since they upgraded production.
The verdict? Still the same, and whether that’s good or bad depends on what you want out of wrestling. If you liked the Gabe Sapolsky-booked ROH, for the most part, you aren’t going to notice any difference. It was still largely his programs, with the next PPV taping, on 1/31 in the same location, for airing in March, the first real test of a new direction. The first hour was slightly toned down, but certainly never dull.
The show is all about the two main events, Nigel McGuinness defending the ROH title against top contender Bryan Danielson, which would easily be top five on PPV matches last year, and a bloodbath grudge match with Jimmy Jacobs vs. Austin Aries, which was phenomenal for what it was. You are not going to find a show with two better matches on it, nor any better of a final hour.
As far as the improved production, yeah, I noticed a little better picture and some different camera angles. But even with upgrades, ROH production can’t be at TNA level nor WWE level. The stars are always going to be unknown guys who work harder and in a lot of cases are better than those in the big promotions, but most people are into seeing television stars, not great performers, which cuts across every form of entertainment. The flaws that were there are still there, and will always be there. Until it can afford to be big budget, it can’t compete with big budget except with the hardcore action fans who don’t care about that look. Fortunately, the action that has always been there, also still is there.
There is nothing on the show that makes you think anything has changed or in different. The pacing is the same, with the same type of video features and interviews, and the product being bell-to-bell. The idea that ROH was about moves and not matches, which may have been a valid criticism in some early card matches but rarely in the main events, has not changed except for people swallowing pre-conceived notions. It was the same type of creative moves up and down in matches that ranged from okay to fantastic, just as before. They have the same great crowd reactions and tell the same type of stories. I hardly think anyone would notice a thing has changed, at least from this show.
It opened with the Briscoes out, challenging Kevin Steen & El Generico. Steen & Generico noted Mark was limping and his knee was bad. They made reference to their ladder match on PPV from last year, and Steen & Generico said it would be better to have the title match at another time, when Mark was at 100%, because they’ll gain nothing from beating half of a good wrestler.
The Briscoes jumped them and it was on. It was put on first for the very reason of Mark not being 100%, and kept to 6:38 with Steen pinning Mark after a package piledriver. Mark tried to get Steen up for his cut throat driver, but Steen was too heavy and Mark’s knee “went out.” Steen, in really the only heel spot of the match, kicked at Mark’s knee and used the package piledriver. **½
Next was MsChif pinning Sara Del Rey in 9:13 to retain the Shimmer women’s championship. Shimmer is a Chicago area based women’s promotion based on wrestling above sex appeal. Del Rey is one of the more talented women wrestlers in the country, victimized by bad timing. She reminds me a lot of when Devil Masami would play heel with enough similar facials and mannerisms that make you think she studied tapes. Del Rey is the wrong person at the wrong time. She’d have been a solid working foreigner who probably would have had regular work in the heyday of women’s wrestling n Japan as a good heel. For the U.S., she’s too heavy to play model and she’s not big enough to play monster. She clearly has presence and gets over her personality in the ring. The work here was very good at times, but not at all times. The coolest spot was Del Rey doing the sickest Boston crab on MsChif, who is clearly limber as hell, almost breaking her in two. MsChif continued to bend to the point she escaped in a unique way, got a full mount and started pounding. MsChif won with a desecrator. **
Next was a four-way that largely featured Claudio Castagnoli as the star, with three very small opponents in Silas Young, Alex Payne and Sami Callihan. The work here was really good. Young, Payne and Callihan probably couldn’t have been better in their respective roles. Young and Callihan in particular worked great together, and made Castagnoli look like a monster when it was their spot. Payne was playing underdog local babyface, given a hot tag late in the match before finally Castagnoli finished him off in 8:51 with the Ricola bomb. The crowd was hot for Castagnoli. I’m not sold on him as a heel, but the crowd reacted to him like he was a big deal here. **3/4
Chris Hero & Davey Richards & Go Shiozaki beat Brent Albright & Roderick Strong & Ace Steel in 14:53. Richards is a shorter version of Chris Benoit in the ring, with the great intensity. Strong has lost a lot of weight. Shiozaki is a solid worker who is clearly going to be one of the biggest superstars of the next decade. Albright has a new look, going from the Bobby Roode look to kind of a Santino Marella but with bleached hair. Personally, I think the new look makes him more indie looking. Hero is entertaining because he works differently than everyone else. The finish saw Larry Sweeney distract the ref, and then Hero hit Strong with a chair, allowing Richards to get the pin. ***1/4
Aries beat Jacobs in an awesome brawl in an I Quit match in 22:08. The deal was that even though it was I Quit stips, they had Tyler Black in Jacobs’ corner with a towel to throw in, theoretically if Jacobs was in trouble to spare him from having to say “I Quit.” I think that stemmed from a Chris Adams match in the 80s (I think with Kevin Von Erich) where they did a big angle (turning Adams back face on Hart) because Hart threw in the towel for Adams in that type of match. Aries had nobody in his corner, which at first people groaned about, like a surprise wasn’t delivered. Aries did a tope into a dog collar chain, so he ended up busted open. Jacobs dug the chain into the cut. He later speared Aries off the apron and did a tope onto him as he put Aries sitting in a chair on the floor. As Aries was getting pounded on, Lacey showed up. The whole Aries vs. Jacobs feud started over Lacey leaving Jacobs for Aries, and then Jacobs supposedly using a spike to disfigure her and she went into hiding from everyone. She wasn’t particularly disfigured, but whatever presence she used to have wasn’t there like before. But people popped for her surprise arrival. Aries refused to quit and she wouldn’t throw in the towel. He was all chained up to a chair getting destroyed. Finally, he freed himself, got the chain and the Chicago fans started chanting “We Want Blood,” which was the big Chicago chant in the 60s and 70s when Bruiser & Crusher would team up. Jacobs ended up bleeding heavy. Both went up on the top rope and fell together through a table. Neither would quit. Jacobs used a low blow and guillotine, and then started throwing knees to the head. Aries escaped and started throwing knees to the head, did the last chancery a bridging leglock camel clutch. Aries used the crossface, which you could tell there were people a little uncomfortable with. Lacey at this point grabbed Black’s towel while Aries was destroying Jacobs by using a spike while in the crossface, until Jacobs finally said “I Quit.” After was the start of the Black babyface turn, as Jacobs started yelling at him for not throwing in the towel (Lacey had taken it from him) noting that was their deal that he’d throw in the towel to protect him from having to quit. Lacey disappeared when the match was over, as Aries made the facials acting as if he didn’t know she was coming, and wondering why she left. ****1/4
McGuinness retained the title beating Danielson in 28:11 in a must-see match. McGuinness worked on Danielson’s right knee for a while. Danielson came back and did a springboard flip dive way into the aisle. With the ref distracted, Castagnoli laid out Danielson with a chair and McGuinness got back in the ring. The only new concept they pushed was the 20 count on the floor, as they teased no way for Danielson to get back in. However, Payne came out and dragged Danielson from the entrance way to the ring and threw him in, beating the count. From there it was a series of great wrestling. At one point, McGuinness went for his jawbreaker lariat, but Danielson armdragged him, then went into an armbar, and then from there into a triangle. Then he started throwing elbows while McGuinness was still in the triangle (Anderson Silva vs. Travis Lutter finish). McGuiness escaped, went for a Boston crab, but Danielson got a near fall with a small package. McGuinness used some reverses into a Tower of London. Finish saw McGuinness use a series of elbows, followed by a jawbreaker lariat for the pin. ****½