A Modest Response

There were supposed to be a ton of match reviews this week, followed by some MVP discussion. Well, the match reviews never got to occur this week, since my job (teaching) decided to have the kids return three days sooner than planned and my life became entirely filled with planning and organizing, not to mention moving rooms about a week earlier than planned. I’ll try and find time to do as many reviews as possible over time, but this week, there’s only one new review due to time constraints. This week we still have a great issue for you, with MVP Commentary from Hayden Munro, Big Andy Mac, and Ollie Sutherland, along with, of course, me, Pulse Glazer.

News of Honor

Misawa and KENTA vs. Morishima and Marufuji is booked for 11/2 in Philadelphia

That should be huge. All four guys have big history with each other and will likely blow the roof off the National Guard Armory.

Morishima successfully defended the ROH title vs. Nakajima in NOAH

The match lasted 20 minutes and Morishima is building quite a reign.

The YRR (Young, Rich, and Ready for action) will debut 9/14 and 9/15

The heel stable impressed Gabe in FIP and now they get a chance to make waves in ROH.

Mike Quackenbush will be at 11/2 in Philadelphia

It’s great that he still isn’t fully disappearing despite other bookings and hopefully he will continue his awesome team with Jigsaw.

Danielson’s recovery is going well

He can see blurry now and only needs the eye patch at night. I hope the good news continues and wish the “best wrestler in the world” a speedy, full recovery.

Studies show Chris Benoit had the brain of an 85 year old Alzheimer’s patient

Looks like the chair shots, among other things, really have to stop. RVD is getting his own doctor to check it out and I urge other wrestlers to do the same.

CM Punk is the new ECW Champion

Congrats to one of ROH’s finest ever.

London and Kendrick win the WWE Tag Championship

It’s apparently good to be a ROH alum the week after a major steroid scandal. Congrats to London and Kendrick. It’s absurd that they still aren’t in the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw Series.

Test was released from TNA

Roid scandal meant Test had to go.

Alex Shelley might be done with TNA

There are conflicting reports over whether or not he is free.

This Week on InsidePulse

Andy Mac is in with the ROH Rankings for August.

Chris Sicoli is back with Sign of Dishonor, the latest in the Summer of Punk series. Previous reviews in the series are Death Before Dishonor III and, first in the series The Future is Now.

Joshua Grutman reviews This Means War II, the review after All Star Extravaganza III and Supercard of Honor II.

If you like comics, we now have Advance Reviews over at the Comics Nexus, where I have done 5 reviews in the last week, as well as much more by our talented staff.

A Modest Response

An Argument for the Briscoes as MVP by Hayden Munro

Deciding on an MVP is always a tricky one. Do we decide it on the basis of match quality, interviews, character, drawing power? I think if we’re going to find one, we have to look at the total value they bring to the show.

On those grounds, its hard to make a case for anyone other than Jay and Mark Briscoe getting MVP honours this year. Normally I’d force myself to pick between them, but with the Briscoes it’s impossible. For every great thing Mark does, Jay seems to have an answer. They are a perfect unit.

From a match quality standpoint, The Briscoes definitely deserve MVP. If you look at Aaron’s star rating list, they have something like 20 matches on the list. From the awesome matches against Generico and Steen, to their ultra dramatic title loss to Shingo and Doi, to their surprisingly technical singles match at FYF finale, the Briscoes have consistently put on the match of the night. They’ve also done it with out working the cliché tag formula thing you come to expect from long reigning tag champions. In their most recent defence available on dvd, Vs Shingo and Yokosuka, they showed a remarkable aptitude for telling a strong story, given their reputation for having straight up balls to the wall action packed matches. The Briscoes work speaks for itself, so it’s the other reasons why they are MVP that I want to concentrate on first.

First of all, their dedication to ROH. Remember Mark’s scary fall at ASEIII? Remember how he lay on the floor bleeding, having nearly killed himself, and yet all he was asking Gabe to do was let him back in the match. That’s dedication. Wrestling twice in Osaka, after a brutal six-man tag the night before, and an even more brutal 30-minute draw against Marvin and Suzuki in front of a Budokan Hall crowd. That’s dedication. Turning down a TNA contract? That’s dedication.

Then there is their fantastic character work. No one in ROH has got their characters over as well as the Briscoes. I can’t remember who said it, but if you can have an African American guy marking out to two southern rednecks playing air guitar to Skynard, while wearing confederate flag pants, you know your over. Just look at the crowd reactions Mark is now getting for his Red-Neck-Fu stuff. Such an odd idea, yet Mark has somehow managed to make the idea of a guy from Sandy Port, Delaware busting out kung fu moves a logical part of his character.

Also note the great deviations in the characters of Mark and Jay. It really helps for new fans to be able to tell them apart, and the way they work different characters and slightly different styles helps a lot with this, making their matches more engaging for first timers, as well as more rewarding for people who know their characters. For example, Mark’s fun little “Punch you till the referee tells me to open my hand, then I slap you with the open hand” spot is a nice little character touch. They’ve always differentiated between themselves with Mark being the more high flying. This year however, the introduction of the “crazy” aspect of Marks character, especially in his redneck-Fu and “wooowooo” yells on his splashes. With Mark as the crazy one, and Jay as the more reserved cool silent one, the Briscoes have crafted an in ring persona that the ROH fans really respond to. Listen to that pop everytime “Gimme Back My Bullets” hits. The Briscoes might even be more popular than Danielson at the moment, and are definitely one of the hottest acts in the company.

One of the main criticisms of the Briscoes that I often hear is that they don’t tell much of a story in the ring. I figure a rant expousing the many reasons they have been the best thing going in ROH in 2007 is a good place to refute this as any. For those of you on the “No Story” bandwagon, allow me to direct your attention to their recent world tag title defence in Osaka, Japan against Shingo and Yokosuka. This is a perfect example of the style of storytelling the Briscoes are so good at. Where I think a lot of the criticism of the Briscoes story telling ability comes from, is people who see the high spurt, sprint style matches of the Briscoes, that admittedly tend not to follow normal tag formula, and assume its all just big moves, double teams and high spots. People who think this focus a lot on the poor selling from the Briscoes (The 8 second rule gets thrown around a lot) and lump them in with people like The Amazing Red and other Indy sprint wrestlers. Those who think like this are missing a number of key things that make the Briscoes so good. Most of these things are exhibited in the Shingo-Yokosuka defence.

The first major thing missed by those that criticise the Briscoes for a lack of storytelling is the Briscoes use of small touches to tell a story. Your typical in ring story is told mostly through match structure. Wrestlers fight over control segments, etc. This sort of story telling is usually absent from the high paced sprint style that The Briscoes use. Its kind of hard to have a great focus on control segments and selling when you still have to hit all of your big moves. What the Briscoes are able to do so well however is tell a story in between the big moves, while still keeping the focus on the cool spots that drive ROH fans wild. For example, take the story of the Shingo/Yokosuka defence. The story, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is basically The Briscoe’s inability to get one over on Shingo. From the opening segment, where they try to double team him, only to wind up with Mark eating a sitout slam and a German suplex in the opening part of the match, to him easily out striking Mark, to the many times he wrecks their double teams, Shingo has the Briscoes number. This of course is a great reference to the 3/3 tag match, where Shingo and Doi threw a giant spanner in the works of The Briscoes title reign. The Osaka match is fantastic at making Shingo look like a real threat to the titles, playing off the fact that he’s already held them. You can almost feel the Briscoes frustration whenever Shingo gets the upper hand. They want their revenge for 3/3, they want to prove they are better than him, that he doesn’t have their number, revenge on the man who took the titles they hold dear. Only instead of revenge, they get a Shingo who seems better than ever. At almost every turn, as soon as they get something going, he cuts them off. He outstrikes them, he saves Yokosuka from double teams, and he’s generally just going to town on them. All this is done of course, in the Briscoes fun sprint style. This way, they still get to build to a hot finishing sequence, only when they finally manage to isolate Yokosuka long enough to put him down, there is a greater sense of achievement in their win. Shingo looks great, The Briscoes look smart for figuring out how to win, with out making the other team look bad. They have successfully managed to integrate the old school wrestling idea of making your opponent look great in defeat, while working within the context of a style that would have wrestling traditionalists pulling their hair out. I’d hate to see what Cowboy Bill Watts thinks of The Briscoes. I’d hope he would see the storytelling, even if it is hidden at first glance behind high spots, and red neck-fu. It should be noted there is another level to the Shingo story in the Osaka match. Shingo is receiving a big push in Dragon Gate at the moment, as the semi leader of the “New Hazard” stable of Dragon Gate true borns. He’s being pushed as a future top guy in Dragon Gate, and this match does a great job of making him look like a force, something that will greatly please the Dragon Gate office. Pleasing the officials of the company that just helped ROH run in Japan? Now that’s bringing extra value to the company.

I think one last thing that needs to be touched on is their consistency this year. Right from January till now, the Briscoes have been bringing the awesome. Contrast this with (IMO) the next 3 contenders for MVP: Claudio, Danielson and Morishima. Claudio had a pretty slow start to the year, only seeming to really turn it up at ASEIII. Danielson wasn’t even here till May (Of course, by Aaron’s star ratings, he has had as many MOTYC’s as anyone this year, in the short time he’s been back. God I love Danielson) Morishima didn’t really start having great matches till April, and wasn’t on the Detroit Shows, some of the biggest of the year. The Briscoes where, and managed to win the ROH World Tag Titles, engage in a hot angle with the MCMG’s as well as show incredible class, heart and professionalism in the way they handled Marks head injury.

So between that, their awesome character work, great feuds, name value, 20 or so 3 and a half star plus matches, their ability to tell a story, get opponents over, while still having fun action packed sprint matches, and the sheer awesomeness of their theme song, The Briscoes are my pick for MVP(s) of ROH in 2007.

A Counter Argument to the Briscoes from Ollie Sutherland

Recently I’ve been watching (and reviewing, OMG plug) alot of the good ol’ Milestone Series from last year. It has dawned on me that the tag matches from that time period (primarily involving Aries, Strong, Sydal, AJ, Jack) are entertaining me TEN TIMES more than any Briscoes match from this year.

It seems like in every Briscoes match they just do all their routine stuff, only doing it to fill time up bfore the finishing sequence, and then they do a crazy 8 minute finishing sequence with the crowd going nuts. It seems they can’t get the fans to go nuts without that 8 minutes finishing sequence though. All (well most) the tags from the Milestone Series had 3 – 4 minute finishing sequences, having the fans going nuts (just like they would for a Birsoce match) without the wrestlers going overkill like in a Briscoes match. That’s the beauty of those matches, a beauty that I don’t see in the Briscoes’ matches.

Maybe Briscoes’ matches aren’t so great due to a lack of heel/face dynamic. They are faces, but most of the time so are their opponents. The Milestone Series tags (thinking of Aries/Jack vs AJ Sydal from Supercard of Honor here) had solid heel/face dynamics and tag formula, which kept my interest throughout the whole match. In a Briscoes match, I get pretty bored when it’s not the finishing sequence.

I think the Briscoes also suffer from a lack of tag formula. Basic tag formula: Faces run wild to start –> Heels cut them off, isolate one face –> isolated face makes the hot tag, his partner makes a comeback –> Finishing stretch w/ finish. That formula always works, and realistically every tag match should follow that formula. Unfortunately, the Briscoes’ matches don’t follow it at all. The best example I can give here is their match with Shelley and Sabin (MCMG) at Good times, Great Memories. There was like, 4 work over periods (realistically you only need one, two is acceptable), 3 of which were really un-needed. It seemed as though both teams were just trying to show off their double teams and do cool stuff to pop the crowd, instead of following a story or trying to actually win the match. Then the finishing sequence hit, going overkill with unnecessary finisher kickouts.

Back around the Milestone series we had teams like Aries and Strong in every big tag match, who followed the tag formula and had great matches night in night out. Nowadays we have the Briscoes in every big tag match, which has made the tag division worse IMO. Luckily, back at Domination (6/9) we got to see a great tag match that followed the tag formula, and didn’t go overkill in Kel Steenerico vs QuackSaw. Notice how the Briscoes’ names aren’t in there?

Maybe I’m just down on the Briscoes as of late, I might have just gotten bored with them over time. Or maybe the Briscoes really aren’t that great.

American Dragon is Better than You, a musical comedy in three acts by Andy Mac

OK, this may not be a musical comedy but “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson is still better than you. Not the royal you, or the informal you, but the you that refers to the best on the Ring of Honorroster. He is the most valuable person on one of the most completerosters in Ring of Honor history. Sure there have been rosters with better talent, like those involving Samoa Joe and Homicide and CM Punk, but with the exception of a super strong tag team division, never has RoH had a roster with more people knowing exactly how to churn out the best shows possible.

There have been several shows this year, Fifth Year Festival: Finale, Supercard of Honor 2, Fighting Spirit, Good Times Great Memories, and Manhattan Mayhem 2 that are getting mentions as the all time best shows of the year, granted Dragon was only on one of those shows, but still it shows how complete and awesome the shows have been and how outstanding the roster has been.

Dragon is still the best on the roster. He has only been around since June this year and has basically stolen every show he has been on. But the mark of a truly great wrestler is how good his opponents look in wrestling against him. If you take a quick look at the matches Bryan Danielson has had this year, and you look at his opponents, and you look at the best match that each opponent has had this year. It was their match against Danielson.

Nigel McGuinness: His match with Dragon taped for the second Pay per View is being touted as a surefire match of the year candidate. Pulse Glazer, the author of this very column, had to change his pants noless than three times just describing the awesomeness of the match to
me.

Takeshi Morishima: The dominant Ring of Honor world champion, although formulaic, has had great matches with Claudio Castagnoli, Brent Albright, Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries, Shingo, and KENTA in Japan among others. I have most of these matches and they pale in comparison to the unbelievable encounter that Dragon and Morishima had at Manhattan Mayhem 2.

Matt Sydal: Matt Sydal has not had the best year in terms of singles matches, but from what I have seen his match with Dragon at Death Before Dishonor 5 night one was his best from where I sit. This is not a classic match, but it is my favorite Sydal singles match of the year.

There are others too, Quackenbush, KENTA, even Go Shiozaki probably had his best singles match against Dragon, but the point is clear. Just his presence alone has added an air of class and panache that we didn’t realize was lacking until it returned.

He frequently gets the biggest reaction of the night, and moreso than any other wrestler on the roster is able to elicit exactly the right reaction from the crowd. He has had a crowd booing his dickhead heel antics in one match, and rooting for him as an underdog in others. He is the backbone of the company and the closest thing to a complete package of anyone on the roster. Nigel and Claudio are just about there, and other than Dragon’s pale skin, which is really nitpicky
(Larry Bird was a legend) there are few chinks in his armor.

Unfortunately, when year-end voting comes around he will probably have missed too much time to be truly placed in the MVP rankings. Injuries are never part of the plan, but if you look at things from a match to match perspective few wrestlers can make a better case for having the greatest value on the card than the American Dragon.

Takeshi Morishima for MVP by Pulse Glazer

Takeshi Morishima is the MVP of the year because he has had a remarkably successful title reign. Morishima, during his reign, has truly elevated several opponents. Claudio Castagnoli, Brent Albright, and Shingo were all made to look like stars in their match with Morishima and emerged far stronger from the match despite their losses.

These matches were not bad either, the lowest rated, that against Albright being ****, Morishima doesn’t have as many ****+ matches as the Briscoes, but he has as many Match of the Year Contenders, with his very best against Danielson fairly easily trumping the Briscoes best against Sabin and Shelley. When you consider that the Briscoes elevated one team, Steen and Generico, but destroyed all of their other opponents, the difference in match quality ceases to matter as much.

There is also the matter of the prestige of the belt they hold. The ROH World Title is as prestigious now as it has ever been in the own company. Morishima is quickly moving up the ranks of the best champions in history. It is easy to say the same thing about the Briscoes, but they have not added the level of international prestige that Morishima has to the ROH Title. In Main Eventing major NOAH shows and defending the belt against major NOAH talent, Takeshi Morishima has accomplished something unique for an American independent company, and in putting on great matches everywhere he’s been, he’s made the ROH title seem worth carrying and ROH talent seem more impressive. The Briscoes lost the titles to a Dragon Gate team earlier this year, and lost NOAH’s Jr. Heavyweight titles as well. They are on par with Morishima in this regard, but it’s hard not to see the Japanese behemoth as coming of several notches ahead for being able to decisively hold onto his belt. It’s not a landslide, but Takeshi Morishima edges out the Briscoes in terms of prestige, importance and elevating opponents and so he should be this year’s MVP.

Upon Further Review

Ring of Honor: Dedicated
1/26/07
Braintree, MA

Best Two Out of Three Falls Match: Jay and Mark Briscoe vs. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong

Early match is both teams looking for an advantage with Aries and Strong looks superior and a lot of quick tags establishing that these are very accomplished teams. The moves are kept small by Aries and Strong, not wanting to make a mistake and lose the first fall, while the Briscoes try and keep the pace up, but have trouble doing so against an accomplished team attempting to wear them down.

The Briscoes high risk naturally causes them to make a mistake and Aries manages a dive through the ropes on Jay and Mark immediately after. Aries attacks Jay’s back to set up Strong’s attack on Jay Briscoe. Heat segment on Jay begins, well set up and the former long time champions work over his back. This is way better selling than usual by Jay.

The hot tag sees Mark Briscoe using Redneck Kung Fu and high risk to attack Aries and Strong. All four men end up in the ring, but Jay is a weak link due to his beating and quickly taken down. Aries and Strong then are able to attack Mark. Mark fights back and Jay shows his resilience in helping his brother, but the former Generation Next always has a counter handy and so are able to hit their double teams.

Aries goes for the 450, but is sent to the floor. The Briscoes hit a Spike Jay Driller and take the first fall. That was out of nowhere, but Aries and Strong’s reluctance to go high risk showed to be for a reason and the Briscoes capitalized with their own kill move. It’s a quick loss by Strong after not much of a beating, but at least it makes sense in earlier context. More build would have helped.

The second fall begins with the Briscoes attacking Strong as a team, wearing him down as much as they can for a second fall victory. Aries again has a counter for Briscoes high risk. Aries gets the hot tag and destroys the Briscoes, countering any big moves and hitting a DVD on the apron.

Aries and Strong gain control and Aries manages the 450 Splash on Mark, but Jay breaks up the pin. Aries beats on Jay, but Mark is there, Spike Jay Driller on Aries and the Briscoes win.

Jay and Mark Briscoe win 2 falls to 0 (*** ½)
The story here was about team work. Aries and Strong made quick tags, but the Briscoes worked together in a superior manner and so were able to quickly capitalize anytime they could both get in the ring at once. Jay and Mark were dominated individually usually, needing to risk everything to gain even momentary control, but when those risks paid off, they managed to immediately take the match, trusting their own toughness to shield them when the risks didn’t work out.

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