Ring of Honor has been producing their TV show on Sinclair Broadcasting since this past September. While ROH isn't anywhere near its pinnacle of the mid 00s, it's still the top indie fed in America right now, and has always been synonymous with high quality wrestling. The fact that the current WWE and World champions are ROH alumni pretty much says it all, right? So with that in mind, I'd like to start taking a look at ROH's weekly show. Anyone interested in checking it out should head to ROHWrestling.com. There you can find either a list of Sinclair stations that carry ROH or, if you aren't in one of those areas, you can register with MyROH and view the show for free on the website.
(General Admission memberships allow you to view it free on Thursdays, Ringside Memberships have it posted on Mondays. If it's a pressing issue with everyone I can level up my membership and start cranking these things out for earlier in the week, but generally, I watch the show over the weekend and I'd like these columns to be more of a Saturday thing.)
(Also, I'm not much in the way of move-by-move recapping, and I don't really think it's necessary since the video is there for everyone to watch online.)
The 2/4/12 broadcast starts out with a video package highlighting some of the action from Final Battle's 3-way TV Title match between Jay Lethal, El Generico, and "The Prodigy" Mike Bennett. These three have comprised the bulk of the TV title scene for the past few months, with Lethal having won the title from Generico and Bennett feeling he deserves the title. On one of the early ROH Sinclair shows, Bennett and Lethal went to a TV-title-standard 15 minute draw, and while Cornette came out and made the offer for the match to go into overtime, Bennett declined. Tonight marks what I'm assuming will be the blowoff match between Lethal and Bennett, with no time limit.
Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuiness do the in-ring intro, leading us into a Bennett promo. For those unaware, Bennett is a boilerplate cocky heel, sometimes calling himself "The Box Office Smash" and rocking a pre-retirement-heel Batista look, with the mirrored shades and dress shirts. Joining Bennett is his "girlfriend", Maria Kanellis. Maria is a recent addition to the ROH roster, and it's a pretty good catch for them. She has WWE experience, she has mainstream appeal due to "Celebrity Apprentice" and Playboy, and she was always really good, IMO, playing the "ditz" character. Bennett says nothing of note, and with that we go to the ring, and we get to see Maria do a little take on the Beautiful People ass shot on the way to the ring.
Lethal is still riding the sympathetic babyface gimmick he was just barely establishing in TNA after he ended the Black Machismo character, and he is of course one of the more talented young wrestlers in ROH. Bennett, unfortunately, is still green. He'll do nothing but improve if he learns from his fellow ROH talents, but his offense is mainly punches, clotheslines, and power moves. Most of this match is a punch-fest brawl, but Lethal attempts to add some 'ranas and other flying stuff. Bennett does the heel schtick of hiding behind his second twice in short order, sending his trainer Brutal Bob into Lethal to take a hit and then hiding behind Maria to gain the upper hand. Some of the drama in this match was based around Bennett trying to avoid the Lethal Injection, arguing that the move should be banned. (In this case, the Lethal Injection is a Tajiri-handspring off the ropes into a cutter. Lethal is taking a page from Mike Quackenbush, apparently naming all his finishes the same even though the Lethal Injection has, in the past, been a back suplex-into neckbreaker and a front STO to the knee into Flatliner.) The finish sees an attempt at a rear-lockup result in Bennett and Lethal colliding heads, with Lethal laid out on the mat and Bennett slumped over the ropes. While Brutal Bob had the ref distracted, Maria shoved the unconscious Bennett onto Lethal, attempting to sneak a win for Bennett. Lethal, however, wasn't all the way out, and rolled up Bennett for the three count. Definitely not a finish I can remember seeing before, and it helps to maybe re-introduce Maria's "ditz" character, with a more hateable "boyfriend" than Santino. (I don't take myself to be an authority on star ratings, which I know some people take very seriously, so just take mine with a grain of salt.) ***, since the good finish negated a lot of the punchy-kicky.
Next we have a backstage interview with "Die Hard" Eddie Edwards. It seems like Eddie has been on the slow-burn to a heel turn for a year or more now, and while I thought that we'd finally see that at Final Battle, they're just now turning up the heat. Eddie cuts a dickish promo calling out Kyle "KO" O'Reilly, trainee of Davey Richards and member of the tag team Future Shock with Adam Cole, for being a wannabe-American Wolf. Eddie is finally heeling it up a little bit here, building off of his sarcastic applause for KO and Davey winning a tag team match. Eddie pretty much calls KO out for being Davey's bitch, which brings a suitably pissed off O'Reilly out from the far reaches of the locker room to challenge Eddie. Should be a decent match, and I like the potential here: the interplay between Eddie and KO both being Davey's friends, the potential for Adam Cole to get involved and possibly side with Eddie, maybe a Davey/KO vs. Eddie/Cole match down the line? And the outside chance of Roderick Strong and the House of Truth as the shit disturbers, playing the middle. Could be something cool, but as we'll see later, most of the involved parties have something else on the boil as well.
Now comes the really exciting stuff: we get a video recap of Kevin Steen's vicious brawl at Final Battle with Steve Corino. For those unfamiliar with this awesome angle, Steen has spent the last 2 years playing out the machinations of this storyline, where Steve Corino conspired to get inside his head and turn him against El Generico. Steen and Generico's violent brawl at Final Battle '10 led to Steen "leaving ROH for good". Corino, feeling guilt over what he did to Steen enlisted the help of Jimmy Jacobs to gain "sobriety from being evil". That played out with Corino attempting to get Steen reinstated, to the chagrin of ROH Executive Producer Jim Cornette, so he could make amends. Meanwhile, Steen was doing, basically, what people wanted to see out of CM Punk last summer: he didn't wrestle for ROH but he would appear outside shows, post YouTube vidoes trashing Ring of Honor, hack the ROH message boards with an ominous video; and when he was an invited guest of Corino in the audience at Best in the World, he said "Fuck Ring of Honor!" and laid out Corino and Jacobs with the Package Piledriver. Finally, Steen managed to gain a match with Corino at Final Battle '11. It was a vicious hardcore brawl, ending with a Package Piledriver through several chairs. Steen then piledrove Jimmy Jacobs (who was the referee) and then attempted to do the same to Cornette, until everything came full circle with El Generico making the save until Steen gave him a Package Piledriver off the apron through a table.
All this has put Steen over huge with the ROH faithful, and gained him the nickname "Wrestling's Worst Nightmare". Steen starts the interview segment by dismissing Kevin Kelly, but not before pushing his gum into Kelly's hand. For someone who isn't a native English speaker, Steen is incredibly comfortable on the mic and seems to be really astute at putting over a character that's both unpredictable and completely plainspoken. Steen plants the seeds for a potential feud with champion Davey Richards, saying that the reason he was kept out of ROH is because he's hard to control, and wouldn't suck up to Cornette like Davey. Steen promises to win the title and hold ROH hostage, the way he was held hostage for a year. Cornette comes out with a bevy of ROH security guards and Cary Silkin by his side, just to sell how dangerous Steen really is. They trade fat jokes, and Steen plants another seed for a feud with Davey, saying how he spends his time in a wrestling ring rather than a gym, and Cornette might like him better if he spent time in an MMA gym (ala Davey). Cornette relates the story of being there at Summerslam '97 when Owen laid out Austin with a piledriver, and how Owen was sorry for what he did, which Steen wasn't for laying out 3 guys at Final Battle. Cornette bans all variations on the piledriver from ROH (wonder if that'll come up in a Briscoes match when Jay goes for the J-Driller?) Steen promises to come up with something else to finish off Davey with and tells Cornette he'll be the nightmare he won't wake up from. Awesome stuff, all around.
Inside ROH brings us a House of Truth promo, referring back to an 8 man tag from a few weeks ago with Eddie, Generico, Haas, and Benjamin winning out over HoT's Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin, and the Briscoes. A dispute over the gimmicked-payout for that match apparently is going to lead to a Briscoes/HoT feud. Let me say here that Truth Martini is a stupid gimmick and a blatant imitation of The Jackyll, right down to the look, and that never got over that big to begin with; and Michael Elgin looks like he's scared out of his mind every time he has to talk. Next we get The Briscoes, who have issues with HoT taking their money. Next week we get Briscoes vs. HoT, fighting over a laughably small $5000. We get Davey next, with an understated and somewhat drab for Davey's standard, against Jay Lethal, who he will soon be facing in a champion vs. champion match. The All Night Express call out The Young Bucks for causing Rhett Titus' knee injury, which he's still out from. Finally we get The Young Bucks, aka Generation Me from TNA, cutting a promo on The Briscoes, whose titles The Bucks are #1 Contenders for. Then, I assume, the regular broadcast would go to a commercial, but on the webcast, it cuts right to The Young Bucks again, saying basically the same things.
Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team (who were once the World's Greatest Tag Team, but are now apparently better than every tag team in wrestling but not as good as Tag Team, of "Whoomp, There It Is!" fame) join us next, to a chorus of boos. This is a result of a double turn with The Briscoes (funnily enough, Briscoes had been heels based off of a double turn with ANX). Haas mentions how their TV time has been cut short due to Steen (even though they just showed two redundant Bucks promos) and says not to bother sending out their opponents, The Bravados. Instead they call out The Briscoes. Cornette first comes out to protest but then relents, declaring it a title match when Dem Boys come out to answer the challenge. It's mainly just a brawl, with a few cursory tags. One point sees Mark engage in some "hillbilly Kung Fu", as Nigel calls it, which is a fun gimmick for him to use on the offensive portions of their matches. The match ends when Haas reverses an O'Connor roll and sends Mark into a chairshot from Shelton, in plain sight of the referee. Not much of a match as it was just a quick brawl, but I'll give it ** just out of charity.
Overall, it was a very fun ROH episode, featuring many of their top stars. Right now it seems like their upper echelon are all involved with different feuds with everybody, and while some are just sparking while others need to be sewn up and filed away, having a bunch of different stories going on is a good direction for ROH to go in. Hope everyone enjoys the review, but remember: Don't take my word for it, go to ROHWrestling.com and watch for yourself.
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