Moments Ago: Too Much for One Title

So it has been a while since I have offered up my thoughts on Ring of Honor in the form of “Moments Ago.” Occasionally the real world gets in the way, but I am back with a few things to talk about.

Too Many Stables?

At the moment Ring of Honor has almost as many stables as they did prior the birth of the No Remorse Corps at the Fifth Year Festival: New York. In its past RoH has had The Prophecy, the Group, Special K, Generation Next, the Rottweilers, The Embassy, Lacey’s Angels, Second City Saints, and the Carnage Crew. Currently in Ring of Honor we have The No Remorse Corps, the Resilience, The Vulture Squad, The Age of the Fall (more on them later), Sweet and Sour Incorporated, and The Hangmen’s Three. At no point in Ring of Honor’s history have there been six stables going simultaneously. Since February, Ring of Honor has near doubled the total number of stables in their history. The question is: Is six too much?

There is no one easy answer to this question and it is still too new to determine if it has already been a success. The No Remorse Corps is the biggest success story of the stable wars thus far. Not only have they been around the longest, but they have appeared the most cohesive, and probably most importantly they have had the most wins. Only the Resilience and Sweet and Sour have been around for enough duration to truly be rated, and contract issues with Austin Aries prevented them from getting off on the right foot. Sweet and Sour has really been more of Chris Hero’s entourage, but they are still a group of wrestlers so we will call them a stable.

Over the course of the last few weeks RoH has added the Vulture Squad, The Hangmen’s Three, and the Age of the Fall. None of these groups have had enough time to flourish so we will leave the jury out, but back to the question at hand.

I think the answer is that time will tell. It provides instant heat to a lot of feuds and gives a lot of people things to do. The Vulture Squad is involved with the Resilience and the No Remorse Corps, but they are also building issues with the Age of the Fall. The Hangmen’s Three (plus Hagadorn) are feuding with Delirious, who may or may not be building a stable to compete. Sweet and Sour have issues with Claudio Castagnoli and who knows where else their problems could lie. The No Remorse Corps and the Resilience have of course been feuding since February.

Some may call it easy booking, but I think it is just diversity and trying something a little different. Stables and alliances are a lot more common in Japan, and that is undoubtedly the influence, but it has seen success elsewhere so why not use it. Ring of Honor has done a decent job of building an identity for all of the stables and a unique character, rather than a bunch of guys just hanging out.

The No Remorse Corps is of course a bunch of cocky guys who show no mercy. The Resilience is the foil to the No Remorse Corps. They uphold honor and prove that they will get up one more time than you can knock them down. Right now the Vulture Squad of Jack Evans, Ruckus, Julius Smokes and Jigsaw(???) seem to be playing up more of the urban street vibe for a overarching theme. Sweet and Sour plays up the entourage theme and has clear-cut roles for everyone involved. The Hangmen’s Three have united by being big and bruising, but they also have felt passed over by Ring of Honor at large. Then there is the Age of the Fall which deserves its own section.

The Age of the Fall

With the exception of the arrival of Mitsuharu Misawa in November the biggest story recently has been the buildup to the fall. Ring of Honor’s message board spent the summer being littered with messages by a group calling itself project 161. There was also a website and a whole series of viral marketing ploys including anonymous persons handing out DVDs and T-shirts at the shows and regular blogs. While this approach is not unique, it is unique to the world of professional wrestling.

The best part about the Age of the Fall is that this is truly a stage where wrestlers can come to the forefront that were previously not a focal point. Jimmy Jacobs is coming off of one of the best storylines in recent memory, but an extended injury which can be worse in indy wrestling than the big leagues, but he was able to capitalize on it and create one of the best debuts for a stable since the nWo. Necro Butcher is a favorite of many Ring of Honor fans, and being a member of the Age of the Fall is a great way to bring him back without stepping on the toes of the continuity of the CZW feud. Tyler Black is the newcomer that gets a chance to shine. His small package driver is one of my new favorite maneuvers, and he has proven around the country that he deserves to be a member of the elite independent roster that is Ring of Honor.

The effort that has been put forth in terms of continuity for the Age of the Fall is also something to be marveled at. Rather than avoiding explanations, Ring of Honor has turned the Age of the Fall into a full blown conspiracy. It is brilliant booking, and it seems that they will be part of the major storylines in Ring of Honor over the next few months as the major challengers to the Briscoes, and their involvement with the Vulture Squad.

DRIVEN

Here is a quick review of Driven, as I watch it

Roderick Strong, Davey Richards, and Rocky Romero vs. Delirious, Erick Stevens, and Matt Cross

This match is just absolutely fast and furious. The crowd was electric before the match started, but this would wake up a crowd after watching paint dry, grass grow, and chicken defrost. There is not a whole lot in the way of storyline, but you know what I am fine with that. There is a lack of selling which bothers me a little, but for what this match is going for, it is fine. Davey Richards pins Cross with the DR Driver (a butterfly brainbuster).

Winner: The No Remorse Corps; ***1/2

This match isn’t about the in ring action as much as it is a set up for the angle that follows. It was a super entertaining spot fest, and that is what generates the seemingly to high rating. Austin Aries comes out of the crowd and is a house afire. He proceeds to cut an impassioned promo announcing his return to Ring of Honor. His hair is looking very fluffy too. Someone else said this, but I have to reiterate it, Ring of Honor knows how to make their small time promotion seem like a big deal, and their small time stars seem like an even bigger deal.

The Briscoes say things that don’t make a ton of sense to set up a highlight package from Japan.

Matt Sydal vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Claudio is the best base for high flyers that I know over. Sydal has great chemistry with Claudio as a partner and an opponent. This should be good. Lucha Libre is tons of fun for the whole family, and so is this match. In an awesome spot Sydal sweeps Claudio’s legs to send him flying between the first and second rope to the outside, and Sydal follows up with a twisting dive to the outside. This match is tons of fun. This show almost seems like it has been played on fast forward with the speed of the action in the first two matches. This has more storytelling than the first match, and is just well done without. Both men look strong throughout without sacrificing the impact of moves or lack of selling. Claudio wins by rolling through a hurricanrana into a sunset flip without touching the ground wow.

Winner: Claudio Castagnoli; ***3/4

This match sets up the angle that follows as well. Larry Sweeney comes to the ring to offer a contract to Matt Sydal. Claudio tries to talk him out of it, but Sydal is more convinced by the stylish Sweeney and attacks Claudio after Herrn Castagnoli tore up the contract. Sweeney then uses the phrase “ham and egger” channeling Bobby Heenan.

Jimmy Rave then talks about why he is deserving, and why he needs to get respect. He left the company within a few months of cutting that promo.

BJ Whitmer vs. Naomichi Marufuji

This match stands in contrast to the first two contests. It is a lot more slowly paced and emphasizes a story. BJ Whitmer is at his best when the violence is turned way up, but a lot of people forget that he can be a very good to great wrestler when the situation calls for it. While he does not achieve greatness with this match, he goes to very good within the first few seconds and flirts with greatness a couple of times during the match. Marufuji on the other hand is just in a different class. When he is in RoH he is easily one of the top five talents. Still this match is the worst so far on the show, but easily better than anything else in the realm of televised wrestling at the moment. Both men play their roles extremely well as BJ tries to use what he knows best to defeat the more advanced Marufuji, who is just trying to find that opening to put the sad puppy that is Whitmer to bed. Marufuji wins with the Shiranui which many know as the Sliced Bread #2, not long after hitting a coast to coast dropkick.

Winner: Naomichi Marufuji; ***

Becky Bayless talks about shows and we go immediately to

Pelle Primeau vs. Brent Albright

They use Pelle’s introduction as a chance to put him over. But that would kind of be like praising the quality of a lamb’s wool as it enters the slaughter house. The rest of the match goes: squash squashy squash squash, squashy squashy squash squash.

Winner: Brent Albright; *

Squashing unnamed jobbers = good. Squashing someone who has sympathy generated for him and exudes potential = much much better. Erick Stevens essentially received the same treatment, and one could argue Ring of Honor knows how to use the well placed squash better than anyone at the moment for putting over new and/or experienced talent.

More videos hyping RoH and the great stars that have been there. More music trying to be good.

Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship: Kevin Steen and El Generico vs. Jay and Mark Briscoe ©

This is a continuation from the amazing pull apart brawl that these four men had at Respect is Earned, and this has been the surprise feud of the year. Steen celebrates with the belt right out of the gate proving why he has one of the mot well crafted heel personas in all of wrestling in 2007. The announcers do an excellent job of accenting the dichotomy between El Generico and Kevin Steen in this match. This match is an exercise in tag team formula, and a fine one at that. Really it is the fourth different type of match tonight. Jay and Mark win with the spike Jay Driller.

Winners: Jay and Mark Briscoe; ***1/2

This is not the best outing between these two teams, but it is still the centerpiece of the best tag team wrestling in the states today. Kevin Steen comes back for revenge with a ladder building towards the feud’s culmination at the third ppv.

Larry Sweeney then cuts a promo putting over his deal making abilities. Then they torment Bobby Dempsey and it is hilarious.

Ring of Honor World Championship: Jimmy Rave vs. Takeshi Morishima ©

Morishima goes to work during the streamer display from his entrance, and never really gives up the advantage. Rave gets a couple of his signature spots, but does not come close to netting a three count or a submission.

Winner: Takeshi Morishma; **

This was what it was. Not bad, not good, just average. It made Morishima look like a monster, but I think it came at too much of the expense of Jimmy Rave.

The announcers say that due to running short on time in Chicago, they will go to a bonus match in Philadelphia for the number one contendership. Adam Pearce delays the trip to Philly with more cryptic speech. He once again addresses BJ Whitmer and his needs in RoH before proceeding to level him with a punch. Brent Albright then walks by and points and laughs.

Number One Contender’s Match: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness

Both Nigel and Dragon come out to tremendous ovations. The match begins with the best matwork sequence since Benoit (too soon) you know I don’t think I get that joke, and Angle from Wrestlemania X-7. One thing I can say is that they really need to do a PPV from Philly. As a venue it photographs excellently. After the wrestling display they proceed to beat the hell out of each other. Its jarring contrast really makes both sections stand out all the more.

The rest of the match is just exceptionally paced, flawlessly executed, and just all around classic. I don’t know if I can go all the way and give it the full monty, but **** ¾ is too low and ***** is just a bit too high. I guess for the sake of an ultimate review we will go all the way though, oh and Dragon won with the cattle mutilation after the best strike sequence in Ring of Honor since Joe vs. Kobashi.

Winner: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson; *****

This is the standard by which all high profile singles matches should be judged, especially non title matches. It is the match of the year, and it is the best singles match in almost two years from Ring of Honor.

Final Thoughts

This is a great show. Ring of Honor may have done better overall shows this year, but it is a damn close call to pick one. If you have not yet, this is a must buy Pay per View. It is hands down the best Pay per View you will see all year, unless Ring of Honor manages to top itself with the next show. Every match was either awesome, or did exactly what it was supposed to, or both. That is the mark of an expertly put together wrestling show.

In Conclusion

I guess that will do it for Moments Ago this week. Hopefully I will return next week. Oh and stay tuned for Ring of Honor Rankings on Friday.

I’ll see you next time

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