The Ring of Honor Report: 6/23/07 in Chicago, IL

I had the opportunity to catch my first Chicago Ring of Honor show last night. Being a New York native, I had to fly out and, naturally according to all Chicago residents, airport delays got me there just prior to bell time. So after quickly dropping off our stuff at the hotel, it was off to the Frontier Fieldhouse, which was easy to find and easy to find good seats in. The crowd was good, but very different than a New York/New Jersey crowd. They seemed really into entrances and finishes, but once their chants and cheers were done quietly awaited the next big spot. I felt weird expecting an explosion at certain points where only polite applause was granted. Hopefully someone more regular at Chicago shows will chime in and let me know if that’s usually the way the crowd is or if it was a big over-hyped and tired because of the PPV taping.

The show opened with the PPV taping and Ring of Honor announcer Dave Prazak who introduced the Resilience of Matt Cross and Erick Stevens and their ally Delirious. Stevens challenges the No Remorse Corps (Roderick Strong, Davey Richards, and Rocky Romero) to a 6-man tag right then and Delirious cuts a great gibberish promo while still getting across his emotions.

Match 1: Roderick Strong, Davey Richards, and Rocky Romero defeat Matt Cross, Erick Stevens, and Delirious (Pin, Davey’s DR Driver on Cross, *** ½)

This is these two groups best effort since This Means War II. The NRC have been dominating this feud, outright dismantling their opponents throughout, but a lot of the standard tricks of the NRC were countered with high impact moves by the Resilience here, including a top rope senton to the floor by Delirious and a Sasuke Special from Matt Cross. A phoenix splash by Cross almost got the win for the Resilience, but a lack of leadership shown through and Davey entered the ring unmolested to finish Cross with a DR Driver (double arm brainbuster). Still, the learning and advancing of the spots these teams have been working with lifted it above their previous encounters.

Post match , the heels beat down the Resilience until Austin Aries emerges from the crowd and beats them off. He then gets a microphone and announces he’s back, signing a ROH contract! Welcome back Aries!

Match 2: Claudio Castagnoli defeats Matt Sydal (Pin, hurricanrana reversed to a sunset flip, ***)

This was Chikara-tastic as Claudio showed again why he’s one of the best at working with juniors. Claudio, ugly purple suede pants or not, got his “heyy” over hugely over, even causing a “Heyyy” wave in the crowd. Good fun all around.

Post match Larry Sweeney came out with Chris Hero, Tank Tolland and Bobby Dempsey. He invites Matt Sydal to join Sweet and Sour, Incorporated, so that Sweeney can be his agent and Tolland his trainer. Claudio tells Matt not to do it, rips up the contract, and attacks the heels, only be attacked from behind by Sydal who then accepts the offer. Well, the heel turn’s been building for months, and this is as good a way to pull the trigger as any.

Match 3: Naomichi Marufuji beats BJ Whitmer (Pin, Shiranui, at least ***)

Okay, for the first time ever I went to get food during a non-squash match. After the flight delay I was starving and I just couldn’t take it anymore. So as I’m ordering, I feel something next to me. I turn, and there’s Delirious, about two inches from my face. I jumped about 10 feet in the air and he scampered away gleefully. Sheesh.

The match was good but slow. A lot of hate for BJ Whitmer here as the crowd booed his offense and cheered Marufuji’s back and forth. The match was built around counters, with each man having numerous counters for the other’s regular offense. Of course, this works better for Marufuji who has a never-ending array of unique maneuvers to bust out. My favorite this match was a double arm suplex into a cross-armbreaker. After several more reversals and some “anything you can do I can do better” storytelling, a superkick leads to a Shiranui, closing out the match. The storytelling was good, but BJ probably should have played up the crowd’s hate for him more. The slow build also paid off nicely, if predictably.

Becky Bayless, standing right behind my spot all night, shows up to do a quick hype of all the places ROH runs. If you go to a PPV taping, please don’t randomly put bunny ears behind the interviewer. You aren’t the show, you’re there to enjoy the show. Don’t make it less for other people.

Match 4: Brent Albright defeats Pelle Primeau (submission, crowbar, dud)

Pelle goes squash to introduce Albright to the audience.

Match 5:ROH World Title Match: Takeshi Morishima defeats Jimmy Rave (Pin, Backdrop driver, **)

There wasn’t a lot here. The crowd was split between the two, with Rave going for as quick a win as possible, since no one has been able to withstand Morishima over time. He even managed to hit the heel hook, but Morishima was in the ropes. Big offense from the beheamoth and a backdrop driver finishes Rave.

Match 6: ROH World Tag Team Title Match: The Briscoes defeat Kevin Steen and El Generico (Pin, Spike Jay Driller, *** ½)

Unfortunately no Ole! Song for Steen and Generico. The Briscoes controlled most of this match and Steen really seemed to have toned down the assholish heel tendencies here. They were in effect, just not nearly as much as they have been recently to the detriment of the match. The Briscoes seem to be employing the same strategy generally lately. They attack one member of the opposing team until he can barely move and do their best to split the beating they take between them, counting on their toughness to see them through. Well, that’s what they did here, and while it worked, it didn’t lead to a great match.

Steenerico are heels against the Briscoes, but the Briscoes were the one doing the heat sequence on Generico in the match. The eventual hot tag livened things up, but a lot of the action thereafter was outside the ring, meaning half of those in live attendance were in the dark. The action, what we could see of it, was top notch and continued in the ring, until Generico got cut off and was finished by a Spike Jay Driller after Steen was nailed with a double stomp through a table. Good stuff, but nowhere near their other two matches.

Post match Steen attacked the Briscoes with a ladder, which I’m sure will lead to their Streetfight at Death before Dishonor V night 1. Thus concludes the PPV taping.

The third PPV will also be taped in Chicago on September 15. May I just say boo to that I cannot make that so early in the school year (I’m a teacher and I spend September cranky about waking up early again).

Match 7: The Minnesota Home Wrecking Crew of Lacey and Rain with Jimmy Jacobs defeat Daizee Haze and MsChif (Pin, Double team Impaler, ** ½)

Perfectly acceptable wrestling. Lacey and Rain are great heels and their freaking out at the screaming MsChif was great. This was tag formula done well.

Match 8: Nigel McGuinness defeats Chris Hero w/ Larry Sweeney, Tank Tolland and Bobby Dempsey(Pin, Tower of London, *** ¼)

This was almost a showstealer. Hero, a fantastic heel, played a cocky, “I’m better than you” game with Nigel, who’s response was the metaphorical equivalent of a shrug and an ass kicking. Hero was outmatched early, but eventually his chicanery paid off with a heat sequence. The comebacks here were perfectly timed and when Nigel was ready to try the Jawbreaker Lariat, Hero’s crew pulled Nigel out of the ring and stomped him down. Not to be beaten without gaining revenge, Claudio came out to chase that crew off.

Nigel was back in with Hero flustered and quickly took advantage with a roaring Lariat that nearly decapitated Hero. A Tower of London, which I don’t think was meant to be the finish, ended the match and Hero had to be helped to the back. When Hero debuts on PPV, he’s going to be a huge star.

Adam Pearce came out to run down Chicago and lay out an open challenge. Pearce messed up, Morishima came out to accept the challenge.

Match 9: ROH World Title Match: Takeshi Morishima defeats Adam Pearce w/ Shane Hagadorn (Pin, Backdrop Driver, *)

Little more than a squash here. Pearce got in some offense, mostly due to using his heel antics like eye rakes. Morishima mostly crushed him and then Hagadorn after him. Pearce and Rave draw such great heat, they may have just turned Morishima face. I suppose that would be in preparation of the Danielson match, so that Dragon can work heel.

Match 10: KENTA defeats Bryan Danielson (Pin, Go to Sleep, **** 1/2)

Okay, first know that this was slow and these guys basically eschewed all major spots, telling their story mostly with the basics and kicking the shit out of each other, but oh- what a story.

In their early encounters, Danielson would wrestle a regular match in which KENTA would simply match him before using a big strike to knock Danielson out. Their big title match occurred right after Danielson hurt his shoulder, so KENTA spent much of the match attacking that, not the head, and the big move, the Go to Sleep, wasn’t enough to put Danielson away as a result. That combined with Danielson, wounded and dangerous, deciding that since his offense wasn’t enough decided to borrow liberally from previous opponents offense. In this way Danielson was successful in the defense.

In this match, Danielson, cocky as always and undefeated since his return, went back to his basic offense, just adding new twists. This was effective and he controlled much of the match. KENTA this time, however, didn’t stray from his strategy of trying to knock Danielson out. Danielson actually hurt his right shoulder in the middle of this match and KENTA all but ignored it, knowing that it cost him the title in their first singles encounter. Danielson, this time, attacked all the limbs of KENTA, trying to wear down the striking power, but in the end, he couldn’t do it enough. KENTA is stronger and faster and when he stuck to his strategy and didn’t go off attacking any limbs, but stuck with the knockout blows, his offense managed to pay off before Danielson’s wear and tear attack. Great stuff.

Overall a good, but not great show with a less than stellar crowd for a PPV Taping (especially for those who heard Philly and New York blow their respective roofs off) and some disappointing major matches, from the Tag Title defense to the Hero-Nigel finish. KENTA and Danielson delivered big time, as did the early part of the card with huge storyline developments in the return of Aries and heel turn of Sydal. Good show, recommended on DVD, especially since it’ll be combined with Danielson vs. McGuinness from Philadelphia for the DVD and PPV releases. Enjoy and I’ll see you all next Friday for another A Modest Response.

Stay tuned later for Eric S’s triumphant return with the ROH Short Form on this very same show!