A Look on the Bright Side – Special RoH Edition

Greetings everyone. Welcome back to your weekly installment of the Internet Wrestling Community’s only happy place, A Look on the Bright Side.

Wow, what a great weekend I just had: saw Pirates of the Caribbean 3 on Friday night with the wife (first time we’ve seen a movie sans kids in a while), the Ring of Honor show in Philadelphia on Saturday, the Sopranos series finale on Sunday, and the Raw draft on Monday. If I had just found a way to get in 18 holes sometime during those four days, it would have been perfect.

So, to recap quickly: Pirates 3 was entertaining, the RoH show was awesome, the Sopranos finale was well-done (though the online reaction to it has been more fun than the show itself – keep an eye out for an Prime Time Pulse column from me on that subject later this week), and the draft was… well, confusing as hell to start out, since I didn’t know about the “random pick” aspect until well into the show. But overall, I really enjoyed Raw – as you’ll see from the size of the Bright Side list below.

However… my enjoyment of Monday night absolutely paled in comparison to Saturday night. Quite simply: if you are a fan of wrestling, and you find out there’s an Ring of Honor show anywhere in your vicinity (like, a 3 hour drive or less), you simply must attend. If you don’t – just stop calling yourself a wrestling fan, okay?

You can read Aaron’s live recap to find out what happened on the card. (It’s good he wrote it, because he’s about 5,000 times more familiar with the wrestlers on the card than I am.) However, I’m able to give a significantly different perspective because:

A) This was my first RoH show ever. In fact, this was the first non-WWE show I’ve ever attended live.

B) This was, by far, the smallest wrestling crowd I’d ever been in for an event. There were approximately 1,000 people in the PA National Guard Armory. I’m used to sold-out crowds in the MCI Center or Wachovia Center (15-20,000). A crowd of this size lends itself to a feel of intimacy that you simply have to experience to understand.

C) Despite growing up in the Philadelphia area and being a wrestling fan since 1980, I completely missed the entire ECW era – and I am still kicking myself for that to this day. (Basically, I was out of the area the entire time, mostly at Penn State, but also in the DC area for the later stages.) These stages of RoH are the closest I’m going to come to that.

D) By a combination of dumb luck and a “what the hell” attitude, I was able to get backstage during the intermission, and at the end of the show. (Something, I might add, no one else from IP has had the balls to try before.) I even managed to score a couple of one-minute interviews with a few of the wrestlers – more about that below.

By now, you should know where the lion’s share of the RoH coverage comes from around here: Pulse Glazer and Big Andy Mac. They absolutely carry the torch for that organization, and rightly so – they’ve been following it for the longest, they are the most familiar with it, and it’s their “turf”. However, I recognize that maybe some of you aren’t entirely familiar with their names – hey, it’s okay, I’m a relative newbie to the published IWC myself. But maybe you recognize a few of these names:

Some of you probably believe that Eric Szulczewski is the “counter-point” to my positive outlook here at IP (no, I don’t believe that – but I have been told that, face to face, by readers before). Well, take a read through his recap of the last RoH show in Chicago, if you want to see what it takes to get him to break out his superlative thesaurus.

And please believe me when I tell you that it takes something truly life altering for GRUT to drop his “Junk News” persona nowadays, and to actually write a heartfelt column expounding on why RoH should, by all rights, be the number 2 promotion in North America.

I mean, jeezus – even The Netcop is high on these guys, and he’s notoriously finicky.

So, a special Bright Side list:

RoH, Philadelphia, June 9, 2007

1. Kevin Steen: this kid is going to be HUGE, given the right chances. Quick backstory: he’s a cocky heel, with a physique like… let’s say, a thinner and younger CW Anderson. But his heel mannerisms were just outstanding, including a spot where he held out his opponent’s hand to that opponent’s tag team partner, teasing the tag with some great “Oh, you wanna tag?!?!” yells. In fact, the crowd appreciated it enough to actually cheer him when he pulled a few heel moves, simply as a show of respect for how well he was nailing it. (Yes, I know – a Philly crowd popping for the heel. I’m as shocked as you.)

2. I got the chance to quickly interview Kevin Steen backstage near the end of the show. I really had time for two quick questions: “Do you believe that it is the ultimate goal of everyone in an indy production like this to eventually end up in a major promotion like WWE?” Kevin: “No, not anymore. That was definitely the case before, but I think most of the guys here want to make Ring of Honor as great as it can be, and are really committed to Ring of Honor.” Me: “Are you somewhat irritated, for lack of a better word, that your heel antics bring actual cheers from the audience at a venue like this?” Kevin: “Not really, I don’t aim for any specific reaction one way or another. As long as the audience is actually responding, I’m happy.”

3. Jimmy Jacobs: I asked him for just “a minute” of his time, but ended up talking to him for about 5-10 minutes backstage. He’s a natural talker, and really seemed to enjoy talking about the business. In fact, he just seemed to enjoy what he was doing, and was just happy to be in the business, more than anyone I’ve ever met. I asked him about the sickest match I’ve seen this year, his cage match with BJ Whitmer, and whether they came into that match “intentionally intending to cross a line”, or if it “just happened.” Jimmy: “No, it just happened. We knew we had to live up to the matches we had before, so a standard had been set. And we just let the match flow as it happened.” Me: “How much does it bother you to be backstage, unable to perform, on a show like this?” Jimmy: “Well, I definitely need the time off to let my body heal. And I just really appreciate the fact that RoH flew me out here and paid me to do my part in Lacey’s match.” Me: “Was there any fear on your part that your injury might cause you to get cut, like we’ve seen in WWE and TNA?” Jimmy: “No, none at all. That’s not how Cary and Gabe work, and everybody back here [in the locker room] knows it. It’s just a different feeling back here. Look at me, I’m 5’7″, 165 lbs, and they actually paid to fly me out to a show that I couldn’t wrestle in.”

You can read about the entire Jimmy loves Lacey video series in Big Andy Mac’s Moments Ago column. Please do – it’s SO worth it.

4. Jay and Mark Briscoe: these two are, quite simply, the greatest tag team in the world today. Yes, better than the Hardys, better than London & Kendrick, better than (insert any two Japanese guys), better than anyone you’ve seen. I managed to speak with Jay for just a few moments in the first half of the show, and tried to set up an interview for intermission, since hey, “Delaware, represent yo” – but it just didn’t happen due to time constraints. But, I did manage to observe the Briscoes talking to Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli right after their match during intermission, and they seemed to be having the time of their lives just reliving the match, and how well it went. BTW, this is one of the few areas that I disagree with Aaron on – this was IMO the match of the night, and (if I believed in star ratings) was at least ****1/2. The crowd was popping for EVERYTHING in this match, and was practically begging for it not to end when the really crazy shit started going near the finish (“PLEASE DON’T TAP” and “THIS IS AWESOME” chants, etc).

5. So it’s intermission, and I decide to see if maybe I can grab an interview with one or both of the Briscoes (I got a “maybe” earlier). Unfortunately, they are rather busy doing post-match recap (see #4), and then cleaning up. So I’m about to give up, when I turn around.. and come face-to-face with Bryan Danielson. (Yes, it’s my first RoH show, but I know who he is.) On the spur of the moment, I ask him for a minute of his time, and he agrees – despite the fact that he’s obviously warming up for a match relatively soon. I spit out a couple of quick generic fanboy questions: “Are you looking forward to working your way back up the card”, etc. I look over my right shoulder, and I see Nigel McGuinness warming up in the same manner as Bryan. Hmm. “So, you’re actually having a match tonight, aren’t you?” Bryan: “Yup. Can’t wait.” Me: “Looking foward to it too. Okay, so hypothetical question: you can wrestle any one, in any era – who do you choose?” Bryan: “Hmm. Lou Thesz, 1950.” Holy CRAP – not only is he completely kick ass in the ring, but he actually knows something about the history of pro wrestling? (Okay, so he didn’t say “Frank Gotch, 1910“, but c’mon – that was a pretty awesome answer.)

6. The main event (Morishima vs. Rod Strong) was not particularly capturing my attention, and I was itching to get backstage again. So I did, and happened upon something rather interesting: 10 wrestlers from matches earlier in the night, huddled around a live feed of the show, watching that match. And yes, in case you were wondering – they react to pretty much the same stuff as us (the same “oohs!” as the audience, for the most part).

7. So while I’m backstage at the end of the show, Bryan Danielson wanders by, saying goodbye to a couple of random wrestlers. He sees me, extends his hand and says, “Hey, it was nice meeting you.” Okay – please be aware that at this point in time, he has an entire bath towel wrapped around his head in a futile attempt to slow the monstrous blade job he had in his match earlier. And he still stops to acknowledge some anonymous internet schmuck like me that he talked to for 60 seconds earlier in the night? Holy crap – Bryan Danielson is now my favoritest wrestler in the whole world. (Oh, and incidentally, my response to him was: “Hey, Bryan – me too. Now, *please* go get yourself fixed up!”)

Note to Cary and Gabe: the show was incredible, and you have a great group of guys working for you. I’d love to do a more formal series of interviews the next time you’re in town (which is in August, of course), and let everyone here in the IWC really learn who these guys are.

Around the Pulse

The man with three first names, Kyle David Paul, writes about agit prop, and it’s relation to the heyday of the WWF Attitude Era. It’s a shockingly well-thought-out opinion piece on a subject that doesn’t get enough serious attention from intelligent wrestling fans – go check it out.

Flea mops the floor with Fingers in the latest Vs. column.

Hatton and the Rabble had a damn good time with the draft on Monday night.

So did Grut.

The Week That Was

And now, we get to the meat of the column. The idea is fairly simple: I point out (at least) 5 things from each major show that should be getting more attention, but aren’t. (And occasionally, I just point out some absurdity just to tweak the rest of the IWC.) There’s way too much negativity infused into columnists who write about pro wrestling: this is just my little attempt to balance it out a bit.

Love the concept? Hate it? Think I missed something important from last week? See something this week that you think should be here? Email me by Tuesday evening.

And be sure to take part in the Insidepulse Forum for A Look on the Bright Side thread too.

Monday Night Raw

1. I dig Crazy Vince. They should bring him back more often. (EDIT AFTER THE SHOW: Uhhh, nevermind.)

2. Curtain-jerkin’ John Cena? Wow. VERSUS EDGE?? WHAT?? If Lashley comes out next, I officially give up predicting anything else on this show.

3. Watching the lariats from Nigel on Saturday has really soured me on clotheslines from just about anyone in WWE.

4. A Carlito vs. Punk match? Just out of the blue? Damn, what got into Creative tonight?

5. And now, we get a short montage of Vince being a dick, followed by Mick Foley showing up. This is, without a doubt, the weirdest Raw I’ve seen since Russo left. Possibly ever.

6. Mick Foley: “He has money, he has power. But the truth is, deep down, Vince is also an arrogant, misogynistic, egomaniac who enjoys humiliating and manipulating people for his own gain.” Tonight, the role of Scott Keith will be played by Mick Foley. Please update your playbills appropriately. (Oh, and someone inform Hatton of exactly what “misogynistic” is.)

7. Well, I’m just glad somebody decided “Hey, tonight would be a good time to push Umaga as a monster again.”

8. Is it just me, or is Sharmell looking especially buff tonight? Wouldn’t she look good in that “arms wide” pose that young Randall likes to hit all the time?

9. Lashley vs. Benoit. Jeezus. I really loved the amateur feel to the beginning of this match – you just don’t get enough guys with a true amateur background in WWE. And when you do, sometimes it only serves to prove how far apart two guys are in their amateur background – like an Olympic gold medalist (Kurt Angle) vs. a guy that trained at the Dungeon (Benoit). (Trust me – Angle totally carried Benoit in those matches. And yes, I know that’s practically heresy in the IWC.) And Lashley gets… booed? While putting on a great mat-based match? Let me put my Eric S mask on: you marks are f*cking morons.

10. That’s the one thing that annoys me about “smart marks” – once you people decide you hate someone, there is NOTHING that person can do to change your mind. If you would just cheer and boo based upon the match you were watching (instead of the history of matches/booking behind that character), I’d respect you all that much more.

11. And now it’s Trump on VKM Appreciation Night. Anyone else noticing that Vince is completely showing his ass this entire night?

12. Bret Hart. On a WWE show. Talking about Vince. I see it, but I don’t believe it.

13. Okay, cheering for Snitsky is a heretofore-unknown feeling for myself, and I imagine 90% of you. Though that powerslam-esque move into the corner was pretty cool.

14. 10:01pm EST – Bobby Lashley goes to Raw. Now business has (finally) picked up. (Although I can’t believe they didn’t have Lashley smack Coach in the head with the ECW title, and then deliver the speech he gave.)

15. I’m not sure even the booking committee realized this, but they basically gave Jeff Hardy a default win over Batista, since it was only because of Burke’s interference that Hardy didn’t get the pin (as far as I saw).

16. This was touched upon in the Rabble forum: if they’re going to have some sort of Mark Henry/Viscera confrontation, better it be in the midst of this kind of silly battle royal, than actually waste an entire match (TV or PPV) on those two.

17. I am withholding any comment on the “Vince’s limo blows up” bit until, at a minimum, next week. Maybe longer. We’ll see.

ECW on Sci Fi

No, to answer your questions – I don’t know what happened to item #3 last week either.

1. The entire McMahon walk? You’re telling me they had to waste the first 8 minutes of this show on the ENTIRE FREAKNG MCMAHON WALK? Which just aired LAST NIGHT, on a show that gets 5 times the ratings of this show? COME… ON…

2. They tried to pull a 10 bell salute in Philadelphia? On this crap angle? What are they, stoned? Has no one in Creative ever been to Philadelphia before?

3. C’mon – you HAVE to laugh when someone actually pulls a kitchen sink out from under the ring during a hardcore/extreme rules match.

4. Striker’s repeated motions towards the heavens in tribute to Vince are definitely appreciated. As is his willingness to face The Boogeyman in Boogey’s first ECW match.

5. So – Benoit/Punk vs. Burke/Cor Von. Well hey – at the very least, no one is going to complain about the participants in the main event, right?

6. Just the presence of Benoit makes it feel like the other members of the ECW upper card will have to step up, simply to not be embarrassed. Sure, Monty Brown/Marcus Cor Von has spent his time at/near the top of the TNA roster – but do you really think he doesn’t feel at least somewhat intimidated by being in the ring with former world heavyweight champion Chris Benoit? (And hey – how cool is it that we can refer to him as “former world heavyweight champion Chris Benoit”?)

7. Anyone else notice all of the looks that Punk gave to Benoit post-match? There were quite a few of them that went past the normal “Hey, thanks partner” level. Some of them were definitely fore-shadowing some sort of tension between these two. Which, hey – I’m all in favor of.

And there we go – hope you enjoyed the RoH stuff. Get used to it. See ya next week, folks.

Tags: , , ,