You know, I wonder exactly how Glazer and McIntyre must feel about me attending and covering ROH shows. Let’s face it, to them, it’s like letting a rabid pit bull guard your infants. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for I am the meanest son of a bitch in the valley. However, I’m in Chicago, ROH is in Chicago, they’re not, so they have to entrust me with the care and feeding of their favorite fed for one evening.
This show was obviously a special one. It was the final appearance of Cabana before his departure to WWE, and a lot of things took a back seat to that, as should be expected. Cabana means a lot to the ROH-bots, even though he doesn’t to me. I’ll have more to say about Cabana’s future in the match summary.
As usual, the ROH staff was on top of their game. Syd, He Who Guards The Door, was on the ball as usual, giving me a guest pass instead of a ticket (I positioned myself at the base of the aerial camera scaffold, which led to some unusual insights). There were a number of people with guest passes, including a great many kids (they’d take the kids backstage for a little impromptu autograph signings and to meet the talent, a very nice gesture). The number of adults with passes was large; ROH is starting to get more and more coverage, something they definitely deserve.
As I said in the Double-Team Short Form, I was prepped this time, doing notes on my pocket recorder instead of scribbling in a notebook. I was afraid that it would be confiscated at the door, where there was a perfunctory frisk. However, I did have reason to bring it in there and, really, even if I recorded the entire show, what would the purpose of an audio recording of an ROH show be?
The merch table was typically loaded, with a Buy Three, Get One Free offer. The reason I didn’t pick up anything was simple: the Fifth Year Festival runs to six DVDs. If that’s the case, I’d get two free. I just couldn’t decide on the two freebies. I wish I had Glazer there with me; he’d have told me what to buy.
That being said, there was a show, with four hours of typically good ROH material and some typically excellent moments. So what happened?
Brett Titus versus Ernie Osiris (seriously, that’s what it sounded like) (Pinfall, frog splash): Normally, the guys who set up the ring are stuck doing a match while the crowd’s coming in, perusing the merch table, hitting the snack bar, etc. Thanks to the delay in opening the doors, though, they ended up getting the crowd’s attention, and good for them. They busted their butts in here. Titus definitely watches his videos, because his heel character is an attempt at a combination between Michael Hayes (strut and general attitude), Ric Flair (ring wardrobe and some in-ring moves), and Model-era Rick Martel (a hand mirror and shout-outs to the audience about how good-looking he is). Osiris is an X Division future possibility, with moves and a look reminiscent of Sonjay Dutt. Pretty good match between two guys who are still learning, by the way. Titus really has a future if he can incorporate some of his own personality into his mix of influences. He’s in the same position as, say, Shane Hagadorn was a year ago. Hopefully, he’ll get a chance like Hagadorn did and take advantage of it.
Mitch (?) Franklin over Billy Roc and Man-Dingo, Three-Way Dance That’s Really A Triple Threat (Franklin pins Roc, rollup): The problem with recording this stuff is that sometimes the crowd noise drowned out some of the names. I apologize for not catching the first name on the winner of this match. He advertises himself as weighing in at about 85 pounds, and he looks it (short and very thin). Pretty good five-minute showcase for these guys, in which all of them got in some good moves. Man-Dingo (from Australia, naturally) pulled off a good cradle piledriver, and Roc did a good heat sequence with Man-Dingo in which he grapevined the Aussie and repeatedly slammed his face into the mat. If Man-Dingo can establish his heel character, and get a name change (let’s face it, when you hear “Mandingo”, you don’t think “skinny white guy”), he’s also got a future.
Lacey over Wilma Matondo (Pinfall, knee plant): Naturally, Lacey was accompanied to the ring by a limping and visibly-in-pain (in more ways than one) Jimmy Jacobs. Jacobs’ beard has grown out, making him look less emo and more like a dark-haired Charlie Haas. In addition to being the best manager in ROH, Lacey can wrestle as well. I really shouldn’t be surprised at that, but for some reason, I was. This was a bit of a Pimp Match for the SHIMMER card that will be in the Chicago area on June 1st and 2nd*. Matondo advertises herself as being from Chicago, but it didn’t help her heat-wise. Lacey got all the attention. The next nine months are going to be very important for Lacey. If she can establish a ring identity for herself apart from Jacobs and improve her in-ring stuff, she may get a call from TNA regarding their nascent women’s division. She’d be perfect as an adjunct for, oh, Chris Sabin, perhaps? My God, Lacey’s vicious in the ring, and out of it too, as she does her “ignore” act on Jacobs as they go to the back.
One note: if Jacobs can smoke at ringside, I should be able to as well. And smoking isn’t very emo, you know.
Weird thing on this one: it was advertised with a time limit of “TV time remaining”. Huh?
* – The SHIMMER shows, like ROH’s Chicago-area shows, will also be on the Southwest Side. I may have to attend. It’s one helluva card, with not only Lacey, but also Daffney, Cheerleader Melissa, Allison Danger, Sara Del Rey, MsChif, Daizee Haze, and many others. The nice thing about this is that the Saturday show (the June 2nd one) has a bell time of 4PM, so it doesn’t wreck any Saturday night plans you may have. For more info, head over to the SHIMMER website.
Delirious over Mike Quackenbush, Hallowicked, Pelle Primeau, Gran Akuma, and Jigsaw, Six-Man Melee (Pinfall, Delirious pins Jigsaw, cradle powerbomb): The match that opened the show proper. A surprise result for our local ROH-bots, who predicted Quack would take it; the result’s a bit understandable in that Quack was a special guest attraction, and his focus is on CHIKARA right now rather than future ROH competitions, so it wouldn’t have been logical to give him the win. Delirious was a safe choice, given his popularity, although they could have given Primeau a good underdog vibe here with a win (or even with a good performance; the guy looked like a midget in there compared to everyone else). Quack got an incredible reception from the crowd, and didn’t disappoint, doing a great extended sequence with Hallowicked, culminating in a second-rope tope while Hallowicked was outside the ring, on the shoulders of Jigsaw. Hallowicked also impressed with his aerial moves. After the pin, the crowd chanted “Please Come Back” to Quack, and it looked like he might just consider that. Obviously, full-time is too much to ask given CHIKARA, but the more Quack out there, the better.
Christopher Daniels versus Erick Stevens (Time-Limit Draw at 15 Minutes): Everyone seems to be high on Stevens, and right now, I’m not seeing it. He’s a power wrestler who’s still learning, and was a bit of a misfit with Daniels in this one. What Stevens really needs to do is to work on his finesse in the ring. His power game is there, but he’s lacking that other dimension that separates good from great. He has the potential to learn that, though, and hopefully he’ll keep improving*. Stevens also had a bit of a problem garnering heel heat in this match; it all went to Chubby-Boy Ref Todd Sinclair. Allison Danger accompanied Daniels to the ring, and the word “smoking” just seems to be such an underestimate. Decent match, with Daniels carrying Stevens, but the real highlight was the promo afterward (see Angle Developments). If this really was Daniels’ final ROH match, it was a bit disappointing. All of Daniels’ spots worked, including a comedy spot with Sinclair in regard to using the ropes to assist his standing on Stevens’ stomach, but he had to work too hard to overcome the misfit with Stevens’ power game.
* – Or maybe I don’t like Stevens because I can’t stand anyone in wrestling with the initials “ES”. There’s a bit of a turf war there, you know.
Brent Albright over Homicide, BJ Whitmer, and Jimmy Rave (Pinfall, Albright pins Whitmer, reverse brainbuster): This was originally advertised as a three-way, then they added Rave. Uh, Jimmy, I’d really, really think about using “House Of The Rising Sun” as entrance music. Do you honestly know what that song’s about? This was a match between the already-great (Homicide) and the really-improving (the rest). The last time I saw Rave was during the dying days of the Embassy, and he’s moved his game up at least two levels since. He’s a credible singles wrestler now and showed he can hold his own. For Albright, his release from WWE was like a starter’s pistol. He’s involved in the fooferaw regarding the NWA title and its imminent separation from the grips of TNA, and he’s believable as a challenger now (and believable as a heel). Gunner Scott is dead, praise the Lord. Whitmer is his usual fine self, but he doesn’t have a program right now due to Jacobs being out (and that cage match was meant to be the blowoff anyway). He needs a little direction, because he’s worth spending time on.
Great outside-the-ring sequence here that enhanced the match; anytime Homicide uses a chair, I’m there. Good combination of impact and flying inside the ring. The sequence that stuck with me was an attempt by Albright to nail Whitmer with a superplex. Albright lost his grip and got tied up in the Tree Of Woe. Homicide used Albright as a human bridge, grabbed Whitmer, and gave him a top-rope bulldog. Impressive.
Austin Aries over Rocky Romero (Pinfall, 450 splash): Aries’ suspension from TNA seems to have lifted a burden. He’s fast and crisp again in the ring. The problem with this match was Romero. It was a story of two matches. When Aries was on offense, the pace was blistering. When Romero took over, the brakes were slapped on. The only time Romero impressed me was with a combination move, a ‘rana held all the way through and turned into a Fujiwara arm-bar. Man, No Remorse will take anyone these days. They’re like the NWO, in a way. The apres here was a chase through the crowd, which led directly past me and surprised me, since I was concentrating on taking notes. Gabe was passing by at the same time and looked at me as if I was having a heart attack.
By the way, thank you to the crowd for that “Rocky sucks” chant. Brings back memories of better times.
Takeshi Morishima over Shingo, ROH World Title Match (Pinfall, brainbuster): And the title match took us into intermission. Shingo’s from Kobe, so he knows something about beef. And, boy, does Morishima qualify. 330 pounds of world champion here, folks. The story of this match was simple: Morishima pretends to be Jumbo Tsuruta (without the selling), Shingo tries to be Kenta Kobashi. Pure power match, lots of high-impact stuff. Nothing really noteworthy. This was supposedly Shingo’s final ROH appearance. I wish he’d gone out on a better note, actually (although he actually suplexed Morishima during the match). Like Aaron says, this match will probably look better on DVD than live.
Tank Toland over Alex Payne (Pinfall, general overpowering): And coming out of the break, here’s Sugarfoot! Payne’s opponent was supposed to be Bobby Dempsey, a prelim worker with an eerie resemblance to WWF-era Playboy Buddy Rose. Toland, however, interrupts and proceeds to cut a promo on Dempsey that he stole from Mike Bucci as Simon Dean, promising to turn Dempsey into an impressive athlete like himself. You know, it’s not a good idea to book a total squash coming out of intermission, especially against an audience favorite like Sugarfoot. Zero offense for him, and he was used to get Toland over as a heel. The period between Toland’s promo and the end of the match would be a good time to leave the DVD running and get something else done.
Roderick Strong over Jack Evans (Pinfall, face plant): Gee, do they have a history or what? The only time I’ve seen Evans was in a short match on WSX (remember that?), so seeing him live, especially against a quality opponent in Roddy, is something I looked forward to. Evans got his spots in, including a great jump-on-chest-into-standing-moonsault, a move that’s becoming common among lighter wrestlers thanks to its X Division use. Nice use of match psychology here by Strong; he knew at all times that the way to stop Evans was to slow him down with power moves. Good performance by both, but not fully up to either of their standards, I’m afraid. Definitely watchable on DVD, though, although the match had a disjointed flow caused by Evans needing to get his spots in and Roddy having to play grandmaster of No Remorse (Romero was out there with him). Nice little stretcher-type job by Evans during the apres. It lasted long enough for me to go outside and have a smoke.
Now, remember when I said that I was standing right next to the overhead camera scaffold? That was important in this match, since both Strong and Evans played most of their moves directly to that camera. The blocking of the match was highly noticeable here and ruined it a bit for me. It’s something you won’t notice on DVD, where they can cut between the footage of all three cameras, but it was like watching something set on a proscenium stage. Rather distracting, really, and kind of a gyp for the people sitting on the other three sides of the ring.
During the dead spots in the match, I took a glance over to the concession stand and saw Morishima watching this match with his translator/handler/midnight snack. So what’s Morishima going to pick up from watching these guys? “If Evans-san can do that, so can I?”
Mark Briscoe and Jay Briscoe over Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley, Tag Title Match (Pinfall, Mark pins Shelley, double-team top-rope leg drop): And here we go! We have an ongoing thread in the Super-Secret Writers’ Forum regarding Match of the Year Candidates, a thread that’s been polluted by Fingers nominating every single WWE PPV main event (Fingers, watch the matches more than once before you start spouting this stuff, please). I put this one in there, for good reason. It was magnificent. Everything that Aaron and Andy are saying about the Briscoes is true (although slightly overestimated; they’re great, but not transcendent yet). They really are that good, especially when they’re up against quality opponents. The match flow was perfect, the spot moves made sense. It wasn’t as good as the tag match last August (Strong-Aries/Daniels-Sydal), but that’s damning with faint praise. It was captivating. All four guys busted their butts. Even the comedy spots worked perfectly. And I think I finally learned how to tell the Briscoes apart (Mark is the one with the tattoo on his back, I think). Full credit to the Briscoes for coming out after the show and signing autographs. They know how much the ROH audience appreciates them. Please, let them stick around in ROH, because I don’t want to see them ruined. They’re something truly special. Just their ability to double-team is a master class in action, and when you add their other evident abilities on top of it…like I said, they’re something special. My recorded comment after the pinfall was this: “Start coming up with as many superlatives as you can about this match.”
The highlight of the match was what I call the Tribute To Chris Benoit. Sabin had one of the Briscoes in a Sharpshooter, while Shelley did a very good Crippler Crossface on the other. The crowd really went nuts over that. In fact, Shelley and Sabin consistently garnered more heat than the Briscoes. Like I say later on in Angle Developments, the ROH crowd is changing in make-up. There are a great many more atypical people going to ROH shows now, and they know Sabin and Shelley from TNA. The crowd response was a bit of a surprise until I realized that fact.
There was something that did distract me from the match, and I brought this up to Flea when we talked on Sunday. As the match went on, I started getting more and more upset at Vince Russo, Dutch Mantell, and the “creative forces” behind TNA. By the end of the match, I was almost frothing at the mouth with a desire to go down to Orlando and bump them off. Why? Because I was focusing on Chris Sabin and his body language. Whenever Sabin walks out on Impact or on PPV, he gives off that same vibe as someone going into work on Monday. TNA is a job to him, somewhere where he makes his money, and he’s learned to treat it that way. Here, he was having fun, and he was communicating that sense of fun to the audience. It was a delight to watch him in this match. I got upset at TNA for what they’ve done to that sense of fun, something he used to have. The guy’s 25 years old and he’s already jaded thanks to those rat bastards. Competing in ROH with a friend like Shelley, against quality opponents like the Briscoes, gets that passion flowing again. Sabin’s not the only one that happens to, either. It’s the atmosphere that Gabe creates inside of ROH. A wrestler feels that, and thinks, “Okay, I’m going to job, but I’m going to have fun doing it.” The better performers can communicate that sense of fun, joy, and love for wrestling to an audience that they know appreciates such gestures and such passion, and responds to them in an appropriate way. On Saturday night, Chris Sabin was a wrestler in love with wrestling again. Thank you, ROH, for giving that back to him, and damn you, TNA, for the shit you’ve put him through with Kevin Nash and the denigration of the X Division.
Get the DVD for this match. It’s worth the purchase price by itself.
Colt Cabana over Adam Pearce, So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye Match (Submission, reverse Boston Crab): And here’s the purpose of the show, to say goodbye to Cabana. I think everyone knows how I feel about him by now, so, out of respect for the guy leaving and the true emotion he exhibited after the match, I’ll be respectful for a change. Yeah, I know, that’s weird coming from me, but true. He did do a “cute” moment at the beginning of the match. Naturally, the ring was flooded with streamers (this is ROH, after all), and he ended up using them as an offensive weapon against Pearce, wrapping him up. The first ten minutes of the match was pure pandering, Cabana doing all of his Greatest Comedy Hits one last time.
Now, Adam Pearce, he’s a guy I can get behind. He’s from Chicago and comes out to “Black Betty”. That alone puts him on my Pimp Whenever Possible List. No, he’s not up there with Punk yet, but give it a little time. He’s got a good look and great presence, and he’s also got Shane Hagadorn as his acolyte (Hagadorn’s really improved in the last eight months, going from Fischer-Price My First Heel Program to a solid young heel). He also knew what he had to do in this match and did it well, servicing Cabana and making him look good.
Very short match, really. The valedictory afterward lasted longer than the match did. Pretty much what you’d expect from a farewell speech. The entire locker room came out and joined him in the ring, plus his parents were there. In the speech, though, he admitted that he was from the suburbs. That kinda blows the whole Maxwell Street thing, huh? Kudos to him for doing an autograph session after the show, though.
Now, what will his future be like? I dealt with that in VS, but let me elaborate. WWE will not let him go into pure comedy mode, which is what attracted the ROH-bots to him. Ignore WWE’s history with screwing up ROH guys for a moment. If they let him do the comedy stuff, he’ll get over at the OVW level, but not when he gets up to the main card. Look at what they did to Rico for a comparison; if you want a comparison with an active wrestler, think Balls Mahoney and what they’ve done to him. He’s got to be able to get over as a threat behind the comedy. The last person in WWE that was able to do that was Goldust, and he had the advantage of a veteran career at high level combined with those second-generation chops. Cabana is simply not that good. He’s a servicable wrestler, nothing more.
Gimmick change? Extremely probable. They won’t let him use the Coke imagery, certainly. Punk’s a different case because of that big honkin’ Pepsi tattoo he has. The “Cabana” part is now inextricably bound up with Barry Manilow, and they’re not going to pay the rights fees, so his entrance music’s shot. There will be the temptation to put him into a disco thing to overcome that, and we’ve seen how well that’s worked in the past (it ruined the late Mike Awesome). So, he’ll be reformatted. Can he survive having his gimmick ripped away from him? That’s doubtful, because a great deal of his ROH response was bound into the gimmick rather than his in-ring ability (that which doesn’t service the gimmick, of course).
This is going to be a train wreck. And I’ll have a ringside seat for it. No more fellation from Andy, Cabana. You’re now in my realm.
The Line, The Line, The Line Is On Fire: The doors were scheduled to open an hour before bell time, which is when I got in line. At that point, the line was up to about five hundred people (and would eventually grow to about eight hundred or so before the doors opened). In the eight months since I attended a Ring of Honor show, the crowd has definitely grown. And they’re reaching a new and different audience. Last August, the crowd was definitely dominated by smarks in their mid-to-late-twenties. This time, there were a lot of teenagers and pre-teens, including a lot of dads taking their kids. Right behind me in line were a bunch of kids around twelve to fourteen, and one of them asked another, “Why are people booing John Cena?” Well, hopefully, after Saturday night, maybe you now understand, kid.
ROH took advantage of the line to do some framing shots for the DVD release. The people who were filmed participated gladly, their incoherent shouts even stretching the distance between them and me. This crowd was jacked, and I’m glad to see ROH was on the ball in being able to capture that infectiousness, because a lot of this night was really a “you had to be there” situation.
Even opening the doors late was no problem. Nobody complained, and everyone was excited about the show. Not missing a beat, an ROH employee named Becky was outside selling programs for the evening. Her sales line was, well, quite unique: “Sugarfoot wants you to buy one”. Becky is also very cute and has a sweet personality. ROH is chock-full of female employees like Becky, by the way. She’s truly a nice person, and I’m glad to give her a pimp in here.
Gabe and Cary do a good job with hiring women employees, better than WWE does. You know why? It’s because the women look 1) obtainable by Joe Schlub and 2) real, not like WWE’s Barbie doll Diva Search losers. A key part of appealing to male fantasy is the ability for men to think, “Yeah, I can definitely have her,” and believe it. Plus, they’re all hard workers and good at their jobs. They perfectly split the difference, and they’re women you can respect for their ability, not just for their looks.
Local Phenomenon: A number of years ago, a T-shirt became popular here in Chicago. The shirt simply read, “Where the hell is Hegwisch?” Hegwisch is a neighborhood on the far Southeast Side of the city, butting up against the Indiana border, and it’s pretty isolated. Well, other neighborhoods got into the action. One guy was wearing a T-shirt saying, “Where the hell is Bridgeport?” Well, I know where the hell it is, since my parents both grew up in Bridgeport. I thanked the guy for wearing it. Anything to promote the Ancestral Homeland.
Pre-Planning: The next ROH card in Chicago will be June 23rd and will be headlined by Danielson/KENTA. No shit I’m going.
I Love Shoot Promos That Aren’t…: After Daniels got his victory, he got the mic. And, boy, did he get the mic. Last August, the Chicago crowd was treated to a classic Cornette promo. This time, though, it’s Daniels, who cut a scathing promo on ROH audiences. The general gist was that ROH audiences don’t respect and appreciate him, and it’s because he works for TNA. It was an attempt to merge his current TNA character with his ROH image, and it sort of worked. Instead of responding with heel heat, Daniels got a lot of cheers for saying what he did, including for saying, “You know why I work for TNA? Just look at my bank balance compared to Bryan Danielson’s.” He went on to say that the ROH-bots develop collective amnesia about guys who have left; they forgot about Punk, they forgot about Joe, they’ll forget about Cabana. In a way, that’s true. It’s not a matter of forgetting about them per se, it’s that their work in other organizations doesn’t match up to their ROH matches. The upshot of the promo was that this was Daniels’ final ROH match. If that’s the case, then TNA has plans for him, just like they supposedly have plans for Joe (could Daniels be one of the guys in King of the Mountain at Slammiversary?). That’s good news if it’s true. The more Daniels on my screen, the better.
If you want a reason to purchase the DVD, this promo and the tag title match are it. The amusement value is multiplied by the audience’s complete confusion on how to react. It’s brilliant mic work, and it makes you wonder how TNA avoids giving Daniels the mic more often.
By the way, don’t be surprised if BJ Whitmer starts using Allison Danger more as a valet. They set that up quite nicely after Daniels abused Danger in the ring and Whitmer came out to help her.
Sins Of Omission: There’s one category that we don’t have in our end-of-year awards. In fact, I don’t believe that no other website does this category either, despite prompting from most of the major sports. That award is Executive Of The Year. Despite competition, I don’t think that anyone here would put a name other than “Cary Silkin” on his or her ballot. Cary’s truly a miracle worker. He saved ROH after the Feinstein disaster (a fact acknowledged by Cabana in his valedictory). He handles the business end of ROH with incredible skill, and puts up with piss-ant websites like ours asking for requests. And he truly believes in and loves the project. When I was talking with him, he had to take a phone call. After explaining to the person on the other end of the line where he was, he said to that person, “Hey, why don’t you come and attend a show?” I never asked who it was, but it really didn’t matter. He was trying to sell ROH even during a casual phone call.
Now, Fingers and I were attempting to arrange an interview with Jimmy Jacobs. Cary said, “Let’s do it after the show.” Well, after the show, I hung around for a while, but Cary was…well, a whirling dervish of activity. He was trying to keep together an autograph session with Cabana, trying to monitor the ring being taken down, trying to get talent out of the door, all at the same time. I didn’t feel right about pestering him at that point, even though I’m certain that he would have taken time out to assist me. I may be an asshole, but I’m a respectful asshole. He could have delegated this stuff to ROH employees, but he’s a lot like me: he wants to be certain it’s done right. Like I said, I just didn’t want to interrupt him.
I spend a lot of time complaining about people who I feel are bad for the industry. Yes, I tend to have a negative focus to my columns regardless, so those complaints fit in. The problem with this is that I tend to ignore the people who are positives. Cary Silkin is a man who is a credit to wrestling, and he needs to get more recognition from us as such. What little I can do is definitely not enough, and I hope that others start writing about him. He’s one of those untold stories that we may not know more about until ten years from now, and that’s ten years too late. So, Cary, on behalf of myself, thank you for everything you’ve done, and I hope that we can be of more service to you and your organization in the future.
Well, that’s it for ROH. I’ll be back on Tuesday to discuss sucky old WWE and their PPV.