November 13, 2009

Rhett Titus . . . manages to outperform two longtime staples of the ROH roster.

Roderick Strong . . . chops Chris Hero’s chest like he’s trying to recreate the Garvin/Flair series.

Austin Aries . . . shows that, between his wrestling and the way that he carries himself, he deserves the moniker of “Greatest Man That Ever Lived!”


Overall, this is fun, but the work isn’t exactly remarkable. Raymond and Able spent their control segment working over Jay’s midsection, but they forgo the simple and effective offense in favor of flashy looking spots. The one nice touch was the spot when Able gave Raymond the powerbomb onto Jay’s back, complete with Raymond selling the impact from the spot. Mark gets the hot tag, and the match breaks down. Truth interferes to save his team, but Jay grabs him and throws him in the ring, only for him to be saved by Raymond and Able. That would have been a good way to give them a fluke win. But, the Briscoes make their own save and get the win.


Watching this makes it easy to see why they were both able to move on to the WWE. Claudio’s strength and Tyler’s agility are both fully on display, especially with Claudio’s hair mare and Black’s counter to the Very European Uppercut. But, it’d have been nice if they both slowed down a bit and made some of the other spots matter more. Aside from limping a bit when he got whipped to the ropes, Claudio doesn’t do much to sell his knee after Black works it over, and Black wiping out on the moonsault off the guardrail doesn’t slow him down at all. Black does do a nice job selling the bump off the apron into the rail, and continues to do so after the match. The finish is a good idea in theory, with Black outwrestling Claudio and countering the UFO into a cradle for the win, although it forces Tyler to no-sell the big bicycle kick he’d eaten right before Claudio went for the UFO, but, between their intensity and the smoothness of their work, this is still mostly an enjoyable match. ***


Ryan and Stevens may not be the most interesting workers on the planet, but they’re perfectly satisfactory for a match like this, where they don’t really have to do much other than keep the spunky babyface down. They target Dos’ ribs, after a spear from Ryan, and do a very nice job of working them over, much better than the heels in the previous tag match. Stevens uses his strength to bump him around, and works a couple of holds, including an abdominal stretch, complete with Joey giving an assist from the apron. In fact, the hot tag is where things actually start tapering off. Uno doesn’t have much to do other than the double knee, and the quick tag back to Dos telegraphs that the finish is coming up, although it was nice to see Dos continue selling his ribs by having trouble doing his half of their double neckbreaker. No doubt that Stevens’ lariat, especially to someone the size of Player Dos, looks like a credible finish, it’d have been nice to see the rib work play into the finish, even something simple like Stevens catching him with a kick to the gut before the lariat.


Omega’s performance here sure doesn’t give any insights to future greatness (although, to be fair one, could probably say the same thing about Okada at this point). But, most of the good work here is from Nakajima, between his working over the Omega’s leg, and when Omega takes over, his groggy selling. Omega’s selective selling of his leg after he gets control of the match just kills any momentum. Considering how long Nakajima had worked it over, he should definitely have lost some of the spring in his step. If nothing else, Kenny does show that he’s able to follow the lead, when he sees Nakajima’s disoriented after his moonsault to the floor, Omega follows up with an Ohtani-style springboard dropkick, and the snap Dragon suplex. But, after that, the match just falls apart. They paste each other with superkicks and start trading bombs, including Nakajima no-selling a Dragon suplex and then taking a second one and kicking out at one. The one nice touch is Omega’s struggles with the Croyt’s Wrath, and when he does finally hit the move, it keeps Nakajima down. The booking is designed to give the idea that Omega has what it takes to take the ROH Title from Aries, given his win over Davey Richards in September, and beating Nakajima tonight, but, that goal would have been better served if Omega wasn’t beaten like a rented mule for most of the first half and followed Nakajima right of the deep end afterwards.


This doesn’t set the world on fire or anything, but it’s a nice popcorn match. King and Titus aren’t the most interesting workers in the world, but, they have the attitude down, and their selling and reactions to Delirious and Cabana’s comedy are great. The match itself is predictable in terms of the layout and structure, it’s laid out like a typical formula tag team match, with Kenny and Rhett both cutting off a hot tag to Cabana with impeccable timing. The babyfaces don’t add much more than comedy spots, but they don’t really need to for a match like this. They have a great tandem finish, with Delirious hitting Shadows Over Hell to set up the Billy Goat’s Curse. Kenny and Rhett may have lost, but they had the more memorable performance, and showed why they eventually moved up the tag team ranks.


Aside from Roddy’s chops, there isn’t much to this match as far as consistency goes. Roddy lights up Hero’s chest, and Hero does everything he can to put them over. He sells, he yelps, and he even runs away. But none of their other ideas seem to stick around, Hero working over Roddy’s hand and wrist doesn’t go anywhere. They’re a little better with Hero working over Roddy’s knee. Hero wrenches it, and when Roddy starts looking for his backbreakers, it hurts him just as much as it does Hero. But, he still pulls off the gutbuster and the running kick without any trouble. And, of course, it’s not a Chris Hero match without all the elbows. He pastes Strong with quite a few shots, including one to the back of the head and his ripcord elbow. But he has to put on his special elbow pad, while the ref is distracted, in order to keep Roddy down.


If the first half wasn’t so boring and meandering, then this would have been a good match. But, neither team seems to feel like building up to anything. The Bucks working over Generico’s arm goes nowhere, and neither does Steen and Generico’s control segment targeting Matt’s upper back. Neither of the miscues that lead to Steen being on the wrong end of Generico’s boot goes anywhere, which seems odd given how close it was to the end of their tag team. There are moments that remind you of how good they can be, like Generico’s selling after he surprises Matt with the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. But, it’s not until the last few minutes, when both teams start throwing out bombs, that it seems like the match is going to end. The one really nice storytelling touch is the finish, when Generico makes up for booting Steen, by booting Nick off the top rope to stop MBFYB. Steen escapes from the fireman’s carry, and gets Matt in the Sharpshooter, which stops him from saving Nick from Generico’s brainbuster. This was obviously before the advent of a superkick party, judging from how inconsequential the strike winds up being.

AUSTIN ARIES © vs. DAVEY RICHARDS (ROH World Heavyweight Title)

This isn’t so much an all time classic, as it is a clinic on how good of a worker that Austin Aries can be. When he’s in control and focusing on a body part, first the midsection, and then the knee after Davey overplays his hand with his kicks, he’s great about staying on top of them and finding creative ways to keep things moving along. It’s debatable if ROH ever had a true “Ace” in the Jumbo/Misawa/Okada mold, but, that’s pretty close to the way that Aries carries himself throughout the match. His two victory laps, when he dodges Davey’s handspring and then hits one of his own, perfectly fit his overconfident heel role. Later on, when Davey avoids the Pendulum elbow because Aries took too long crowd playing, he just picks himself up and curses himself for his mistake, rather than doing a silly looking oversell. When he hits the DDT from the top, he immediately positions Davey to make sure he can’t get a rope break. Possibly his best moment comes when Davey counters him into the Tombstone. The spot itself looks like more like a bodyslam, but, Aries plays possum and gives Davey a close near fall. Davey takes the bait and thinks that Aries is almost out, so he goes up for the SSP, which misses and allows Aries to resume working over his knee. The only questionable thing from Aries is when he eats the big German and jumps up, which is explained with the idea that Aries got his shoulders up to take the brunt of the move, and indeed, when Davey gets the German off the top, Aries puts it over appropriately.

One thing that nobody can say is that Richards lacks intensity. He spends nearly the whole match acting like he wants to kill Aries, and that’s admirable. But, Davey isn’t consistent in any other aspect. He’s good about selling when Aries is working him over, the missed dropkick and selling the midsection after the landing was a very smart touch from him, but when it’s his turn to be in control he just forgets about it. When Davey gets his last big control segment toward the end, from the time he hits the huge dive, until the near fall after the DR driver, he doesn’t sell his knee once, despite Aries working it over a ton, and despite the fact that he throws tons of kicks and gets several running starts. At one point, Aries even goes after the knee to stave off an attack, but Davey ignores it and keeps going. Davey even sees fit to devalue his own finisher. The first attempt at the DR Driver doesn’t work. It winds up looking like an odd suplex either due to Davey’s knee not allowing him to pull it off, or Aries shifting his weight. That alone would have been fine, and it plays into the story of the match. But, Davey grabs Aries and hits another big kick and then another DR Driver for a near fall.

The one thing that has been really consistent across the board tonight has been logical finishes, and this is no exception, although it was needlessly drawn out when it didn’t have to be. Aries hits his brainbuster on the apron, and, continuing to show what a jerk he is, throws Davey over the rail to try to get an easy count out win. Davey barely makes it back in, and Aries pounces with knees to the head to set up the Last Chancery. But, Davey, who had just been knocked loopy and just came within a hair of losing, makes a lighting quick escape and starts throwing Kawada-style kicks. Aries escapes, and tries it again, and Richards does the exact same thing. Five minutes later, Aries hits another brainbuster and rolls into the Last Chancery and gets the win via ref stoppage. During the interim, Davey no sells Aries’ trademark punt to the head that normally sets up the brainbuster, had a Cloverleaf attempt countered into a small package, and they had a standing strike exchange that ending with Aries ducking and hitting a lariat. So, they decided to forgo a perfectly believable finish to accomplish nothing, aside from one last example of Aries being a smarter wrestler, and then they go back to that same believable finish. It seems like those extra seconds after the apron bump shouldn’t be enough time for him to recover, especially compared with the impact from the apron bump to the regular bump.

Conclusion: Davey Richards tanking the main event notwithstanding, this is still a solid show. But, how crazy does it sound that Davey Richards and Kenny Omega were outperformed by Joey Ryan and Rhett Titus?