For Your Consider(oh)ation Nitpicking the Ring of Honor

Welcome to week 17, and what a week it is! It’s uh amazing. Actually, it’s pretty much same-old same-old.

I first need to make a confession. I am not a big reality television fan. I catch some episodes of “Last Comic Standing” if I can and I kinda dig “On the Lot”, but other then that, I stay away from the genre. I pride myself on this fact, looking down at people who watch “American Idol” or “Survivor”. Then, right around July, my secret shame is revealed. I am a closet “Big Brother” fan. I cannot get enough of that f*cking show. In years past, I’ve cleared my VCR or DVR for the 3 episodes a week. This year? They added 3 hours a night to Showtime Too! Is it pathetic? Oh yeah. Is it an embarrassment? Hell yes. Do I care? Nope. “Big Brother” is the single most fun reality program out there. People might find it boring, but to me it is, to paraphrase Jesse Ventura, “a human game of chess.” Watching strangers form bonds and turn on alliances is the closest thing you can get to wrestling without flying chairs and blade jobs.

This year’s “Big Brother” has the usual unexpected twist with six of the houseguests having a past with one another. There are two gay guys who were former ew partners. There are two chicks who apparently didn’t get along in high school. Most importantly, there is an estranged father-daughter combo. The dad looks like a hybrid of Tommy Lee and bizarro Kramer and the daughter looks like a gaunt Meredith Baxter from “Family Ties”. A hot, sickly Meredith Baxter. Working out a lot of childhood fantasies with that chick. There’s also some dudes, an old (30-something) conservative mom, some chicks and Jen. Jen is this kinda hot in a porn start way chick. She’s not the best looking woman ever, but she’s so whorish and near-nude all the time that I dig it. Then there’s my boy Eric. Eric is hands down my favorite. He’s a mouthy Jew from New York near and dear to my heart. You’ve got all these Abercrombie models walking around with all these Maxim chicks and then you’ve got Eric, a kid that looks like the lost Beastie Boy. Not only that, he’s the only one to make the smart-ass comments that most of us viewers make anyway. Give this kid a f*cking TV show already. I’m such a mark for funny Jews.

Speaking of marks, I can’t seem to go to the Pulse without seeing something about Ring of Honor. Seriously, it’s like ROH is suddenly the only promotion in the world to some folks, and I’m totally okay with it. Hey, liking wrestling is liking wrestling. Over the years, I learned that as long as someone is willing to be a fan of the sport in some facet, I’ll take it. The wrestling community is always shrinking, so anything to keep people around is welcome. Unless you were a WCW fan during the Monday Night Wars. When I was younger, I had no tolerance for anyone telling me that the nWo was better then watching a Jake Roberts/Vader match on RAW. I didn’t care if you were a fan of Japanese shit, Mexican shit or you were just tuning in for DX or Sable, I just dug it when people were passionate about the same thing I was.

I’ve been watching ROH stuff sporadically for a few years. Thanks to YouTube and torrents, it’s been much more accessible, but since I don’t live near any of the shows (that all changes next year when they come to Florida!), I have no chance to catch any of their stuff. Now, with ROH having it’s first PPV, I can sit in the comfort of my living room and watch this product that people have been freaking over for what seems like forever. I know many others have covered the show, but I wanted to throw my two cents in. BUT, before I get into it, I just want to give a fair warning. I am not a die-hard ROH fan. I am going to be critical of the product for a two reasons; first, the product has several flaws and second the product’s been hyped so much that it could never deliver and fully meet expectations. So, with that out of the way

For Your Consideration Nitpicking the Ring of Honor

Yes, I just used the term nitpicking. Fuck you.

Now I am going to say first off that I get the whole ROH thing. I do. I was an ECW fan from just about the beginning. I had a friend that would get tapes sent to him from his cousin in Pennsylvania, and he would pass them to me when he was done. I got to see the Broad Street Bully and Hack Meyers and Borne Again and all the other crazy shit that Eastern Championship Wrestling did from day one. I remember watching the NWA tournament snippets on Hardcore TV and seeing (for several weeks in a row), Shane throw down the belt and become Extreme Championship Wrestling. I know what it’s like to love an underground product and hope that it succeeds. I felt that way on April 13, 1997 when ECW had its first Pay-per-view, Barely Legal. Now, with ROH having its first PPV, Ring of Honor fans must be feeling the same way.

Here’s why I don’t cut ROH any slack. Unlike ECW, Ring of Honor has all of the benefits in the world. The one thing ECW had in its favor was a tenuous relationship with the WWE to pimp their PPV. That was pretty much it. All their eggs in one basket. Ring of Honor has the benefit of a thriving IWC to do its work for them. People know ROH alumni because they see them on TNA and WWE. They know who’s currently there because you can’t visit a dirt sheet without seeing a banner ad for Any list of the top 100 wrestlers of the year has many ROH superstars. Samoa Joe and AJ Styles are on TNA every week, but everyone knows that their best stuff comes from ROH. CM Punk’s on ECW every week, but it’s nowhere near what he did in Ring of Honor. Same goes for Gibson, Kendrick, London, Aries, Lethal and almost everyone who was in a ROH ring. Just like ECW. Imagine someone judging ECW’s old superstars by their matches in the big leagues. Look at Raven or Douglas or Van Dam or Taz. Their best matches were in an ECW ring, just like the ROH guys. Real wrestling fans would seek this stuff out, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to get your hands on Punk/Joe then it was to see Guerrero/Malenko. ROH has appeal because it isn’t the WWE’s family brand of Sports Entertainment and it’s not TNA’s train wreck. Fans know that Ring of Honor gives 20 minute matches or 30 minute matches that have unique moves and little gimmickry.

My first major knock on Ring of Honor is the production value. ECW’s Barely Legal looked better then Respect is Earned and that was ten years ago. Cameras and editing equipment are better and cheaper today then they were in 97. You’ve got DV-Cams and Final Cut Pro! Your product should look better. Ring of Honor had no reason to rush into going to PPV. They sold their DVDs well and performed to packed houses. If they didn’t have the top equipment, wait. My associate Vinny pointed this out really well in his review. The audio was pretty garbled. I’m not saying it has to look like the WWE, but this is something that with the proper time and money could be made to look good. Ring of Honor packed the Manhattan Center! The WWE played the same building. If the WWE can play there and make a profit, so can ROH. Take that money and invest in better stuff. And make it live! You’ve got the fan base out there. You’ve got the goodwill, use it. Alright, enough of the video criticism (I did used to study TV, that’s why I’m so adamant about this stuff), on to the show.

They opened the show really well with BJ Whitmer. I don’t remember where I read it, but someone compared him to Tommy Dreamer. That’s a solid comparison. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand because this was a rabid audience on a “live” PPV. His open challenge was great. Unfortunately, it was answered by Morishima, who beat the crap out of him in like 2 minutes. I’m looking at this from the perspective of a new fan to Ring of Honor. The first image I see is a guy that’s the heart and soul of the promotion based on the fact that he’s opening the show. I, as a clueless fan, am behind this guy. I’ve got no reason not to be. To watch the person that I first make that emotional investment in get beaten in a match befitting of Livewire, I’m kinda taken aback. Remember, a lot of people ordered this show seeing very little ROH stuff. They don’t know what’s going to happen and they want to feel good about their purchase. ROH should have given us a real opener. Hell, save Whitmer/Jacobs for this PPV. Open the show with the open challenge, show a small video package and let the fans enjoy. The Whitmer/Jacobs story was pretty relatable for the fans. Former tag champs now at odds? Familiar. Guy getting pussy whipped? Familiar. Blood feud? Familiar. If this show opened with Whitmer/Jacobs then the mood is set. That match was a MOTY candidate, why not save it for the biggest show of ROH’s life? I view the first PPV as their chance to make a Wrestlemania. They have the roster to do it and with a fresh audience starved for real wrestling, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if that happened. If someone plunked down 10 bucks and got a bloody brawl that told a story, they’d be hooked like a heroin addict. Instead, we got a beatdown.

Then, we got the set-up for the main event. You had Nigel and Morishima and the returning Dragon in a face-off. It was pretty intense and the crowd was electric. My only issue was that you couldn’t tell who was the face and who was the heel. We already knew not to like Morishima because he just destroyed B.J. The problem was that Dragon got a hell of an ovation when he came to the ring, but he’s supposed to be the heel. I know it’s a minor thing, but it’s something they have to consider.

Marafuji/Romero was a good match. Not an earth-shattering match, but it reminded me of RVD/Storm from Barely Legal. This was your introduction to what ROH could give you. You had two guys with unique looks putting on a very simple, entertaining match. It was a solid effort and it’s hard to find fault.

The Larry Sweeney stuff, on the other hand, was just embarrassing. He looks like Shooter McGavin from “Happy Gilmore” and is about as cartoonish as possible. I, as a fan, don’t take him seriously. In fact, anyone associated with him has to be a joke. If he’s supposed to be the mastermind behind a heel stable then I weep for ROH. And his big acquisition? Sara Del Ray. A female wrestler. You would be hard-pressed to find that many people buying a PPV on the strength of female wrestling (unless of course it’s meant for T&A purposes) and it just didn’t feel big. Also, fat guy doing squats? The WWE’s got Big Dick Johnson and he’s about 100 times more entertaining (though that’s not saying much). This was wasting valuable time. Valuable time that should have been used to introduce the superstars on the show. Give us a video package telling us who the guys in the main event are. Show a History of ROH package. Make me invest myself in your show. This just looked amateurish, down to the production value. ECW promos looked better and they were taped in Paul’s basement! Again, this isn’t meant to be harsh, its constructive criticism. I get that they want to get these guys over, but in my mind, I’m thinking that if they really are big time that they would already be on the show.

Briscoe Brothers versus Claudio Castagnoli & Matt Sydal. This was a hell of a fun match to watch. The Briscoe’s are obviously one of the main reasons to watch Ring of Honor, and while this wasn’t as good as their MOTY candidates, it was still a good time had by all. My initial complaint was that they were going against a make-shift team, but about 2 minutes in I abandoned that and just enjoyed what I was seeing. Vinny criticized that the guys took too many big moves and didn’t sell, but honestly it didn’t bother me that much. I saw some innovative stuff, the stuff that ROH promises and delivers. This match sold me. This was four guys having a f*cking blast in that ring, something you don’t see every week on WWE programming. They worked without a net and just didn’t hold back. If ROH keeps brining this, I will keep ordering every show, no matter how shitty everything else is.

The post-match shenanigans were a fine way to build top contenders and set up the injury angle. No problems here.

Delirious/Strong didn’t really click for me. I don’t know why. Delirious has always been mildly amusing, but he just felt kinda grating to me. I did like the video package setting this up, but I don’t know, it just didn’t work for me. Eh, I’m chalking this one up to personal taste and not a knock on the guys in the ring. Maybe next time.

Adam Pearce talked and talked and talked. I have no f*cking clue what he was jabbering about and he seemed a little nervous. Was he trying to be the next Raven? If BJ’s the next Dreamer and Danielson’s the next Douglas, I guess that could be his role. Too bad he just isn’t that good in that role. Again, this should have been used to hype up the main event. Show the fans why Morishima’s a dominant champion. Show them why Bryan Danielson’s the best wrestler in the world. Show them why KENTA was his toughest opponent. Show them Nigel and his crazy f*cking iron. This is your main event on your Wrestlemania, not some random house show in Tacoma.

The main event is where I take major exception. I’ve been saying over and over again that this needs to be the biggest show ROH ever does. It needs to hold nothing back, because this might be their only chance at a PPV. Tag team matches with no gold on the line are not big time. Look at the buyrate for No Way out, with HBK and Cena versus Batista and Undertaker. Those are arguably the four biggest guys on the roster and the PPV died an ugly death. We want a title match a real title match. Hell, split this thing down the middle. Give us Nigel versus Danielson in what would have been a technical feast. Then give us KENTA versus Morishima for the gold. Those feel like big time matches. Those feel like Wrestlemania quality matches. You’ve got two great stories right there. Nigel wants the gold and Danielson, in his return to ROH, wants the gold. These two both feel like they’re the next in line, so let them go at it. KENTA/Morishima? Admittedly, it’s a tough sell to get people pumped for an all Japanese match, but so what? Have them go on before Dragon/Nigel and close the show with a mat classic.

As for the match itself, it was great. It showed the fans that Nigel’s a tough Brit, especially with the whole taping of his elbow. It showed us that Danielson is probably the best wrestler in the world and that he and KENTA can go. It also showed us that Baby Huey Morishima is big and hefty and is big and hefty. They did tell a good story in the ring and let everyone sort of hit their big moves. The ending lariat shot to Danielson and Nigel left no doubt in the casual fan’s mind that Morishima’s the guy to beat. That’s a great “Oh f*ck” moment that fans will remember. This guy’s Godzilla and one of the men lying on the ground’s going to have to try and stop him.

Look, some of you will think that I’m being a dick about a lot of stuff and I vehemently disagree. I’m looking at this from a critical point of view. I have what to compare it to. I have TNA. I have the WWE. I have memories of ECW. If Ring of Honor wants my money, they need to bust their ass to get it. This show did a lot to ensure that the next PPV that comes out will be on in my house. They gave us two amazing matches that showed me that they mean business. On the other hand, they need to introduce their product to the masses. Make us care. Fuck, give me footage and an Apple computer with editing software and I’d make them a video package. Just go to YouTube. There’s tons of tribute videos to ROH that kids cut in their own homes. A good match will keep people entertained but a great match that people are invested in will keep them coming back for more. Ric Flair could talk them into the building and deliver. ROH has the skills to do that. If Bryan Danielson were a little bit taller, he’d be the next Kurt Angle. He’d be main eventing Wrestlemania. His loss is ROH’s gain. He’s good on the stick and amazing in the ring. Make people want to see him get his ass kicked and then let them eat crow when he puts on a blockbuster match.

In the end, order the Ring of Honor PPV. Are there problems? Of course. On the other hand, the two tag matches are two of the best matches you will see on PPV this year, so for ten bucks you can’t go wrong. All I ask is that someone at Camp ROH listens to the criticism that fans have and make their product better. I want them to succeed and evolve, because Andy Mac and Aaron would have a coronary if they went away.

This has been for your consideration.