Ring of Honor Weekly

Welcome to another ROH Weekly, the former A Modest Response. If you want to see what AMR has evolved into, check it out here. Today, we’ll be discussing the best wrestler in the world today who doubles as my shoe-in pick for MVP of this year in all of American Wrestling. You’ll get the argument and logic behind that, along with our new writer, Jake Mulligan introducing himself to the loyal Pulse readers by discussiong some must see matches from the Top 10 Japanese stars to appear in ROH. You’d think that’s it, but you’d be wrong. We also have the debut of a new feature entitled Scouting the Indies and the winner of last week’s contest. Phew…. Now, that’s it.

I’m also working on a master list of ROH articles and reviewers out there, so if you want to be included, drop me a line.

News of Honor

Copied from a news post by me with credit to PWI and ROHwrestling.com:

Nigel McGuinness, the ROH World Champion, is expected to be back at full strength for Dec 29 and 30 in NYC. He will, however, miss January 11 in Boston and January 12 in Edison, NJ as he is announced for the NOAH tour going on at that time.

Gabe Sapolsky was reached for comment by PWInsider.com about the rumored ROH on the Versus Network deal and said “There’s nothing to it.”

Word is coming after this weekend on Mike Quackenbush’s ROH future. He’s in Europe this weekend and will decide after he returns.

ROH and TNA will go head to head on the same night, in the same cities twice already in 2008, on January 25 in Dayton, OH and Feb 22 in Long Island, NY. It will be very interesting to see how these draw comparatively.

This Week on Inside Pulse

The New A Modest Response, by me. Check it out.

Elie Perler is among the strongest voices in music criticism over at Broken Dial. This week, he focused his weekly search for abusive, sometimes inappropriate music licensing for commercials on Saliva’s “Ladies and Gentlemen,” a song that we all know served as the theme song to this year’s WrestleMania: Tuned InMetal or Drool?

Results for the free Chikara Season Finale show are in. If you’re anywhere near PA, you need to check this wonderful fed out live and if you aren’t, then head over to smartmarkvideos.com and order a few DVDs. Check out our own expert Jon Kirschner for more and be sure to check out his PWG Chikarticles later today.

Kirschner also continues his analysis of the awesome Steen vs. Super Dragon feud.

We cover the hell out of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Raw. Click the name for each writer’s take: Paul Marshall, Hatton and The Rabble, Bambi Weavil, Phil Clark and the big one, the one night only return to Raw of Scott Keith.

Mark Allen writes to the IWC, then writes about The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class which I am surely looking forward to.

Last week, I announced a contest, the prize for which was a free DVD. The winner is “Honorable Mentions” by JR Goldberg. Drop me a line with the DVD of your choice and your address JR.

Thanks to everyone else for participating. The funniest entrant received was “The Smart Fan’s Burden” but I really could do without the connotation there.

Honorable Mentions

A couple of months ago I spent a chunk of the column going over the credentials of the major MVP candidates. The eventual decision was that it was damn close, probably too close to call with any kind of consistency. For further help, I decided to look at last year’s award winners. Last year Bryan Danielson was our (and nearly everyone else’s) MVP. Here’s what his match listing and ratings looked like for the year, sorted by stuff **** or higher.

Danielson vs. KENTA – Glory by Honor V Night 2 (*****)
Danielson vs. Nigel – Unified (**** ¾)
Danielson vs. Nigel – Generation now (**** ½)
Danielson vs. Homicide – Final Battle 06 (**** ½)
Danielson vs. Rave – 4th Anniversary (**** ½)
Danielson vs. Shelley – Arena Warfare (**** ¼)
Danielson vs. Cabana – Chi Town Struggle (**** ¼)
Danielson vs. Nigel – Weekend of Champions Night 2 (**** ¼)
Danielson vs. Homicide – Destiny (**** ¼)
Aries and Strong vs. Danielson and Lethal – Tag Wars (**** ¼)
Danielson vs. Strong – Supercard of Honor (****)
Danielson vs. Samoa Joe – Fight of the Century (****)
Danielson vs. AJ Styles – Dissension – (****)
Danielson, Rave, Shingo and Jacobs vs. Cabana, Nigel, Delirious, and Whitmer – Chicago Spectacular Night 2 – (****)

That’s a total of 14 **** or higher matches. This was all during his ROH World Title reign and is generally considered a legendary year. Along with being ROH champion, he also had classic rivalries with Nigel McGuinness and Roderick Strong, as well as a set of more up and down series, with Samoa Joe and Colt Cabana. He became known for long matches, going an hour on three shows, once with a dislocated shoulder, which drew both criticism and praise.

So, naturally, I got to looking through this year’s results. Danielson’s year isn’t over, but I was still able to compile a list of Danielson’s ****+ matches this year. Here it is:

Danielson vs. Morishima – Manhattan Mayhem 2 (**** ¾)
Danielson vs. Nigel – Driven (**** ¾)
Danielson vs. Go – Live in Tokyo (**** ½)
Danielson vs. KENTA – Driven (**** ½)
Danielson vs. Morishima – Man Up (**** ½)
Danielson vs. Aries – Glory by Honor VI Night 1 (**** ½)
Danielson vs. Morishima – Glory by Honor VI Night 2 (**** ¼)
Danielson vs. Aries – Honor Nation (**** ¼)
Danielson and McGuinness vs. Morishima and Marufuji – United We Stand (**** ¼)
Danielson and Morishima vs. KENTA and Nigel – Respect is Earned (**** ¼)
CIMA, Marufuji and Danielson vs. Romero, Richards and Mochizuki – Live in Osaka (****)
Danielson vs. Quackenbush – Death Before Dishonor V Night 2 (****)

That’s 12 **** matches, but I haven’t seen these two matches yet:

Danielson vs. Jacobs – Unscripted 3
Danielson vs. Necro Butcher – Dayton 11/30

Reportedly, at least Danielson vs. Jacobs is **** – **** ¼. We also still have Final Battle Weekend to end the month, meaning that in half the time Danielson is likely to have had just as many classic matches as he did last year and if either Danielson vs. Necro or the 4 way at Final Battle surpass expectations, he could have more great matches this year than he did ruing his ridiculous 2006.

Last year he was champion, though, and carried the company. This year he’s been just as important. Danielson has been the clear ace of the company on PPV. He beat Nigel and although he lost to Morishima, it was in a classic match that only elevated both men. He’s further developed his character and in ring style, no longer going slowly or needing to go long for a great match. The strikes and realistic offense further make him stand out, just as the pure technical skill did last year. His crowd interaction and pops have grown exponentially and he has had a classic series vs. Aries and another with Morishima that might go down as the best rivalry in ROH history. Danielson has also elevated Jimmy Jacobs and Go Shiozaki (at least for the ROH audience), while making Aries into a legitimate main eventer again through their series. Lastly, he made ROH seem big time, working alongside aces from other companies and taking on top young performers. It might not be better than 2006, but it’s damn close, so it’s clearly an MVP performance.

I can hear it asked already “What about the injury?” Well, it hurts his case in a way, but the amazing fact that in half the time he has had just as many great matches offsets most of that. Imagine if the year after Barry Bonds hit 70 homeruns, he then did the same thing again, except in half the games. How much more impressive would that be? Well, that’s what Danielson did and that’s why he’s MVP.

Scouting ROH

Scouting ROH is a new feature where I will be analyzing the in ring abilities of everyone in ROH, one at a time. I’ve also developed a little scoring system to determine how good they are in ring. Here are the categories followed by a brief explanation of each:

Consistency: This rates how often the wrestler in question delivers on a good to great match as expected depending on spot on the card.

Best Showings: Best Showings is fairly self-explanatory: When said wrestler has a great match, how good is it?

Versatility: Can the wrestler work different styles? Can the wrestler work with other guys of different styles? Can they be either face or heel effectively? Not just what they can do, but how much they can do and to what level.

Top Skill: Some guys aren’t very versatile, but the one thing they’re good at, they are great at. This rates one best skill of a wrestler and how good they are at matches of that type and at that skill as compared to others.

Crowd Psychology: Crowd psychology is keeping the audience involved in the match and keeping the character work consistent and on point.

Ring Psychology: Does what they do in the ring have a reason? Are they consistently telling a story on offense and defense? Does their selling add to the match or detract?

These are the categories. The first wrestler we’ll be doing this with is Bryan Danielson since he is the focus of today’s column.

Consistency: 10
Best showings: 10
Versatility: 9
Top Skill: 10
Crowd Psychology: 9
Ring Psychology: 9
Total: 57

I want to note that this is the highest score anyone will receive unless we start doing non-ROH or classic superstars.

Danielson is possibly the best ace in wrestling today and the best wrestler in the ring night in and night out. There are quite a few guys who can have matches as good as Bryan’s, but none currently do it as regularly. With his technical style mixed with some MMA moves, not only is everything crisp and realistic, but it also always builds completely towards a compelling conclusion. This is great especially because Danielson is simply the best in the world at creating finishing sequences that always play off of what came before, typically working in some body part weakness and an advantage on the mat or in striking.

Dragon also has incredible timing and this is likely where he has improved the most. His timing has lead to incredible crowd psychology. He has developed a number of offensive maneuvers that play to the crowd, like the “I’ve got till 5!” What this accomplishes is that during Dragon’s longer counter sequences and mat wrestling, the crowd is kept focused and alive on the action, forcing an active interest so that more is gained from the story. Last year, without those, a lot of his matches suffered, particularly on DVD. That’s no longer a problem this year. There is the occasional bout with a slow sequence, but that’s almost entirely a DVD phenomenon now, as live crowds are always eating out of Dragon’s hand. It’s actually so impressive that in Live in Tokyo, a crowd that could care less about Danielson vs. Go Shiozaki had completely marked out and by the end rushed to try and touch Danielson as he exited.

Danielson’s other weaknesses make rare appearances. It seems against others that use fighting spirit, like KENTA or Nigel, Danielson can fall in love with it as well. This works at times (Driven vs. Nigel) and sometimes can go overboard where he stops using his head and just starts attacking (Driven vs. KENTA). He’s too small and not imposing enough for this to work all the way always and needs better consideration of when and for how long to unleash fighting spirit. He’s also prone to occasional, very rare no-selling, most notably of leg work in PWG with CIMA.

His last weakness is that he often does not have matches up to his usual standard against fliers. His ground and pound offense doesn’t lend itself to fliers hope spots and comebacks and while there are exceptions (vs. Generico in PWG), most of his matches with extreme fliers suffer. He is, of course, more than capable with hybrid fliers like AJ Styles, however, so unless Jack Evans and Pac suddenly rush the top of the card, this isn’t a real problem.

What to Matches to Look for from ROH’s Puro Imports by Jake Mulligan

Ring of Honor right now is doing something that no American company has ever done like this before, and they’re doing it to great success. They’re using regular Japanese stars as regulars, flying them in and out of the country. Sure, ECW had Awesome and Tanaka out of FMW for a run, but what ROH is doing with multiple companies on this scale is pretty much unprecedented. A few weeks ago, Mr. Glazer wrote a column with the top 10 puro stars to have graced ROH, along with the ROH matches they wrestled. Now sure, that’s fine and dandy, but what about the matches from Japan, you ask? What reputation carried them here, to the “promise land”? Well I’m gonna go down the gauntlet, star-by-star, and give you some information and matches to check out from the Land of the Rising Sun. So let’s get to it (note: I’m going to try and stay at least fairly recent here, except in a couple cases, so that you can get a good idea of what kind of wrestler showed up in ROH):

NARUKI DOI
Naruki Doi is one of the future aces, and fastest rising stars, in Japan. He also is a former ROH Tag Team Champion, so he’s pretty ingrained into ROH history already. Doi, in his home promotion of Dragon Gate, is one of the leaders of the Muscle Outlaw’z stable, which has gotten so big that they have run their own show. In MO’z, as they are often called, he focuses on his tag team with Masato Yoshino, now known as Speed Muscle. Speed Muscle is dominating the junior tag title scene in Japan, they now hold the Open the Twin Gate tag titles from Dragon Gate, IJ Tag Titles that were brought to DG from Pro-Wrestling WAR (now defunct), and the GHC Jr. Tag Team Championship, which they hold in Pro-Wrestling NOAH. Doi is one of the top stars in Dragon Gate, and he’s got some classics under his belt to prove it.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

– Naruki Doi vs. YOSSINO: This is the first ever Open the Brave (lightweight) Gate title match in DG, and oh is it a doozy. YOSSINO is actually Masato Yoshino in an earlier, Italian/Tarzan gimmick. It’s a tournament final, and with their warring factions (Blood Generation for Doi, the Italian Connection for YOSSINO) in their corners, it is quite heated. From Dragon Gate’s 3.13.05 PPV, straight out of Korakuen Hall.

– CIMA vs. Naruki Doi: A recent battle for CIMA’s Open the Dream Gate (heavyweight) title. They throw some bombs here, and it’s a good way to get familiar with current-day Doi, he even debuts one of his new super finishers (The Muscular Bomb~!) here. Definitely check this out, off DG’s 9.22.07 PPV.

-Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino vs. Ryo Saito and Susumu Yokosuka: A super recent match for Speed Muscle’s Open the Twin Gate titles. A great way to introduce you to them too, as they basically bust out all there double team moves in the hopes of keeping their belts. From DG’s last PPV, 11.25.07.

SHINGO TAKAGI
Shingo Takagi, or SHINGO as he was known in ROH, is another one of DG’s future aces. He was brought in, originally, as the protégé of DG’s top star, CIMA. So, he stayed with CIMA awhile, as a member of Blood Generation, where he won the Open the Triangle Gate (trios) titles. Now, he is the leader of the New HAZARD faction, with longtime ROH “Bring in guy” BxB Hulk, FIP mainstay Cyber Kong, ROH alumnus YAMATO, and Shinobu. Look for Shingo to REALLY explode in DG within the next year or two.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

– Masaaki Mochizuki, Susumu Yokosuka, and TAKA Michinoku vs. CIMA, Don Fujii, and Shingo Takagi: A great 6-man really built around bringing rookie Shingo up to the other guys levels. He clearly comes off as something special here. From DG’s 9.17.05 PPV.

– CIMA, Ryo Saito, and Susumu Yokosuka vs. Shingo Takagi, BxB Hulk, and Cyber Kong. The up-and-comers vs. the aces. This is beautiful stuff with CIMA and Shingo bringing the hate all they can. From DG’s Infinity #64 show.

THE GREAT MUTA
One of the legends who have graced ROH, for him, a simple one show. He was working as Great Muta, who is known to American fans, and not his “alter-ego” Keiji Mutoh. Great Muta is pretty known for his feud with Sting in the States, and recently has teamed with WWE superstar TAJIRI in Japan. This is very simple, but his history is long and detailed, and you really should check some stuff out.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-The Great Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase: THIS is where the Muta Scale originated from. Muta bleeds a gusher in a classic and him and Hase have an awesome, hate-filled brawl. You need to see this. From New Japan Pro-Wrestling, 12.14.92.

-The Great Muta vs. Masahiro Chono: Another great match from New Japan, 1.4.93 to be exact. It’s on the Dome, so you know its super fun if nothing else.

NAOMICHI MARUFUJI
Former GHC Heavyweight Champion, NOAH Grand Slam winner, and undisputed future ace. All these describe Naomichi Marufuji, who, while having a less “serious” run in ROH than KENTA or Morishima, has shown that he can absolutely go. Check out some of these matches for proof.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-Naomichi Marufuji vs. Akira Taue: Perhaps the best 13 minute match you will ever see, as Naomichi brings it against the veteran Taue. 3.5.06

-Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kenta Kobashi: More of Marufuji’s incredible 2006 run. Super ace Kobashi gives him a bunch to work with, but also often turns on the Kobashi’ing. From 4.23.06.

-Naomichi Marufuji vs. KENTA: Former partners collide in this very ROH style classic for the GHC Title. The Tokyo Sports Match of the Year from 2006. 10.29.06

CIMA
Another ace, this time from Dragon Gate. A Toryumon original, he graduated with Don Fujii and the legendary Magnum TOKYO way back when from Ultimo Dragon’s dojo. Since, he has become the face of Dragon Gate and spearheaded many trips to the US. While his tag work is his finest, he can also really go in singles matches.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-CIMA/Fujii/Doi vs. Saito/Kidou/Genki: A lead-in of sorts to the classic ROH 6-man, and a better match, in my opinion. Blood Generation destroys Genki, and a perfect view of CIMA’s heel work. 7.2.05

-CIMA vs. Susumu Yokosuka: The first ever Dream Gate match and it is an absolute war. CIMA busts out a brand new finisher here, one we haven’t even seen in ROH yet. From 9.17.04.

JUSHIN “THUNDER” LYGER
One of the greatest juniors of all time, and a New Japan legend. He was only in ROH once, but he went out there and put on some great matches, something he is known for everywhere. Most American fans may remember his WCW days and his classics with the late great Brian Pillman.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT
-Jushin Lyger vs. Naoki Sano: A classic juniors battle with the old, flippier Lyger. An absolute classic. 1.31.90

-Jushin Lyger vs. The Great Sasuke: A blueprint for tons of classic juniors matches to come. Seriously…just find this. From the J-Cup 1994 tape.

KENTA
One of the most over and protected men in all of NOAH is KENTA, a true fan favorite. He has maybe the most impressive run of all these guys in ROH, running through tons of competitions and always having great matches. However, in NOAH, he is more of a cocky bastard, and the added character really helps his matches.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-KENTA vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru: A great match, where KENTA is asked to fulfill his “Destiny” of finally becoming junior champion. From the Tokyo Dome, 7.18.05

-KENTA vs. Kenta Kobashi: Teacher vs. Student in an absolute war with a crazy ass finish. Part of a 3 match “Vets vs. Noobs” series with two other matches on this list. 3.5.06

-KENTA and Taiji Ishimori vs. Naomichi Marufuji and Kota Ibushi: All four men brought out their junior flippyness for one of the best matches of the year. From 7.15.07.

MITSUHARU MISAWA
Legend of All-Japan, NOAH, and current reigning GHC Heavyweight Champion. The man who had countless classics with all the “Four Corners” and spearheaded NOAH personally. While a bit broken down…he’s still good for some classics now and then.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Takeshi Morishima: Oh this is the good stuff. These two toss bombs at each other, with Morishima looking to finally prove his worth. The backdrops in this…oh the backdrops. From 3.5.06 (can you tell this is a great show???)

-Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Naomichi Marufuji: The old man takes one last shot at the title in his old stomping grounds of the Budokan, and it’s truly a special match. Misawa brings it here, and while some find the match a little too…ROH, for lack of a better term, I really dig it, and odds are if your reading this column so will you too. From 12.10.06.

Glazer’s Note: If you want young Misawa when he was godly, check out Misawa vs. Kawada from 6/4/94. It’s probably the best match ever,

TAKESHI MORISHIMA
The #1 contender to the GHC Title, and resident killer of NOAH. Morishima is a former ROH world champ, and holds falls over such men as Jun Akiyama and Naomichi Marufuji. If Marufuji is going to be the ace… Morishima is sure to be right there with him.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-Takeshi Morishima and Takeshi Rikioh vs. KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji: The match that got Morishima into ROH, an awesome Big Guys vs. Little Guys battle. Check this out. 7.16.06

-Takeshi Morishima vs. Naomichi Marufuji: Another great match with Morishima vs. a junior, as Marufuji can hang but every once and a while Morishima goes into the kill zone. From 12.2.07.

KENTA KOBASHI
He came into ROH and had a classic with Joe, leaving his mark in America. In Japan, his mark is made: perhaps the greatest worker of this generation, with an incredible BURNING spirit. The man is a legend and a god, simple as that.

MATCHES TO CHECK OUT

-Kenta Kobashi vs. Jun Akiyama: From the Tokyo Dome, the greatest match of the “Perfect Reign”, Kobashi’s two year run that made the GHC Title. To this day, this match is analyzed, picked apart, and the finish is second-guessed. 7.17.04

-Kenta Kobashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki: Perhaps my favorite match ever. Imagine Joe vs. Kobashi in front of tens of thousands of fans, and jacked up with a more “Kobashi-worthy” opponent. Sold yet? 7.18.05

-Kenta Kobashi and Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa: Kobashi destroys cancer and comes back just in time to give us a Match of the Year. The most emotional match you may ever see. 12.2.07

And there you have it, the greatest matches of the greatest stars of ROH. Any questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact me at jmull911@yahoo.com. Thanks for reading!

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