Ring of Honor Live Reports: 12/29 Rising Above PPV Taping and 12/30 Final Battle ’07

Apologies to all for the lateness of the review. One of my closest friends (with his family) came to ROH with me this weekend, the week before going to Afghanistan and had a great time. I spent the last two days with him post shows, hence the lateness of the reviews. Thanks to ROH for helping to make his last weekend here a great one. Get home safe, buddy.

Ring of Honor Live Report: Rising Above: PPV Taping from NY, NY 12/29

The show kicks off and Chikara Referee and Commentary man Bryce Remsberg is out. The crowd immediately takes note and gives him a big pop.

Match 1: Non Title Triple Threat: Daizee Haze vs. Sara Del Rey vs. Lacey

This isn’t for the PPV. Pre-match Tammy Lynn Sytch, better known as Sunny, comes out to say she’s here for a quality women’s match.

They open with a lot of standard three way stuff, with one woman constantly out of the ring. When everyone is in, the heels, Lacey and Del Rey, work together. Del Rey quickly turns on Lacey with a stiff boot and does the Hero taunt in a really cool moment. That leads to some cool three way spots, but Del Rey ends up able to put both in the butterfly at once. Lacey escapes and nails the backcracker. She’s deposited outside as Daizee finishes Del Rey with the Mind Trip (Snapmare driver), surely earning herself a title shot sometime in the future.

Daizee Haze wins the triple threat (Pin, Daizee Mind Trip on Del Rey, ** ¾)
A very standard three way, with some cool spots setting it apart.

Post-match, Sytch puts everyone over for their hard work. Lacey grabs the mic and cuts the promo of her life about how Sytch made it impossible for women’s wrestlers to get over without surgically enhanced bodies and she isn’t a pioneer, she set women back. Sytch says she didn’t put anyone down, but Lacey couldn’t make it as a diva. Unfortunately, the crowd is behind Sytch here, because Lacey is totally right and threatens to hit Tammy. Daizee makes a save and Sytch slaps Lacey to end the hot segment.

Special guest timekeeper Bushwacker Luke is introduced only for the Hangmen Three to beat him down. This leads to the PPV open from Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.

Adam Pearce, still in the ring, cuts a promo and challenges Delirious to face Brent Albright, who’s in a Delirious mask.

Match 2: Delirious vs. Brent Albright

The much ballyhooed new Delirious is him in a red and black outfit. Del controls early, even no selling a bit, and if he went over strong that way, he’d immediately, be monster over, but Albright counters with some major power moves and the crowd gets behind him. Del comes back with exactly the same moveset as before, the Panic Attack, Shadows over Hell, and Cobra Stretch, but Albright escapes. Albright manages a crowbar but Del escapes that. As Albright goes for a slam, Del rolls through for a quick three count.

Delirious defeats Albright (Pin, Roll up, **)
New Delirious has potential, but the same moveset minus the comedy alone won’t do it. The comedy was what was keeping him over and the intensity in matches of this quality won’t do. Hopefully he continues to evolve as he needs either a major step up in match quality, or one in quality of victory (as in he needs to go over strong).

Post match Pearce and a brown haired again Whitmer come and lay the boots to Delirious. This draws out Steen and Generico who each happily smash away at the heels for beating on their buddy. Steenerico are wildly over. The Age of the Fall hit the ring and Jacobs discusses the revolution, but is interrupted by Julius Smokes and the Vulture Squad who transforms this into a scramble match!

Match 3: Tag Team Scramble: Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico vs. Pearce and Whitmer vs. Jack Evans and Ruckus

This was a wild scramble with teams that could fully take advantage of the style, and while it was a spotfest, Steen and Generico managed to work in enough personality and selling to make it a level above the general spotfests. The Package Piledriver and Brainbustah combination from Steen and Generico scored the victory.

Steen and Generico win the Tag Scramble (*** ¾)
Great stuff here and this is the best opener ROH has managed for a PPV thus far. It’d be four stars, but it’ll be forgotten in two weeks. Steen and Generico are both incredibly over and with good reason.

Match 4: Davey Richards vs. Erick Stevens

This is a short match that lacked focus. Daniel Puder was on the stage and jawed with Erick Stevens a few times. The crowd was far more interested in that than anything else that occurred in the ring during this match. As Stevens argued with Puder, he took a missile dropkick and fell victim to the kimura.

Davey Richards defeats Erick Stevens (Submission, kimura, * ½)
This was angle advancement and should be clipped for the PPV.

Post-Match Stevens challenges Puder, but Sweeney interrupts and invites Puder backstage to watch the rest of the show in luxury. Puder accepts.

Claudio attacks Sweeney and chases him to the ring, where he is jumped by Tank Tolland and Bobby Dempsey. He easily dispatches the lackeys and Hero comes out for their match.

Match 5: Chris Hero vs. Claudio Castagnoli

This match saw Claudio fighting with desperation while Hero screwed around, doing his usual routine. That made it fairly clear that Claudio would win, despite some later good counter work, establishing how well they know each other. Claudio took the victory with a Ricolla Bomb reversal out of a cravate with a body scissors.

Claudio Castagnoli defeats Chris Hero (Pin, Ricolla Bomb, *** ¼)
This wasn’t much of a big blowoff to their matches and the match quality of these two together has been trending steadily downward since Manhattan Mayhem 2. The face-heel dynamic and counter work made it good, but it really should have been more.

Claudio gets Larry Sweeney at Final Battle for winning here.

Match 6: Ring of Honor World Championship Match: Nigel McGuinness © vs. Austin Aries

They built and put this together beautifully. Despite a slow pace, they really kept the entire crowd involved the whole way through. Both men had two focuses. Aries was the arm, to make sure Nigel couldn’t lariat him to oblivion, and the back/neck to set up his normal series of moves.

Nigel was working the arm of Aries to soften it for his arm finisher, but not enough that Aries needed to oversell it all match, while he focused on counters to Aries offense as many moves Aries tried once and succeeded failed later. This occurred through Nigel’s creative offense. He tried to use more elbows and righty lariats, only using the left when absolutely necessary and selling like a champ whenever he did.

Aries sold like a champ here. He made Nigel look great and when he got back on offense took the extra few seconds of selling that both made Nigel look good and made the counters more reasonable. The build and payoff spots to his selling must be seen to be believed. One of my favorite things about Aries is how he counters normal spots of his opponents, and that was in full effect here leading to the interesting dichotomy of Aries countering the first time Nigel tried things, while Nigel countered on the second try for much of Aries offense.

The finish saw them throw everything at each other, having more and more trouble connecting with the big move and having everyone in the building believing the title could change hands, but Nigel finally sucked it up and killed Aries with the Jawbreaker Lariat for the win.

Nigel McGuinness defeats Austin Aries (Pin, Jawbreaker Lariat, **** ¾)
Match of the Night. In a class with Aries famous matches with Joe and Punk and easily the best of Nigel’s career not involving Danielson. Get the PPV for this match. Its must see.

Aries refuses a handshake post match.

Intermission.

Match 7: Four Way Fray: Jigsaw vs. Matt Cross vs. Mitch Franklin vs. Necro Butcher

This isn’t for the PPV. The match was everyone bouncing off Necro. Mitch was first gone to a punch in the head from Necro. Jigsaw then managed a roll up on Cross.

Jig and Necro went on to have a surprisingly effective speed vs. brutality match, but alas, a punch to the head and tiger driver finished off Jig.

Necro Butcher defeated Jigsaw, Mitch Franklin, and Matt Cross (** ½)
Franklin and Cross might as well have not been here. Jigsaw and Necro had a nice little match, with a workover period, then a good comeback falling just short.

Match 8: Relaxed Rules Grudge Match: Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima

Morishima was out first and jumped Danielson mid-entrance. Morishima beat and bloodied Danielson outside the ring for several minutes before the match began with Morishima hitting a missile dropkick. It was at least another four minutes before Danielson so much as connected with an offensive maneuver, bleeding brutally the entire time. Danielson got a quick comeback off of some stiff kicks and elbows, but it just wasn’t enough as he ran into a wicked lariat. A backdrop driver and another lariat get two, but Dragon won’t stay down.

Dragon then attacks with elbows again and they brawl back and forth on the mat more reminiscent of a fight than a match. Morishima wins the slugfest and curbstomps Danielson’s balls until the ref has no choice and Morishima is disqualified.

Bryan Danielson defeats Takeshi Morishima (Disqualification, ball shots, ****)
Intense to the point of being uncomfortable. Dragon was a bloody mess. This was an amazing beating.

The refs and students run out to stop Morishima post match with Remsberg taking a backdrop driver before Morishima calms down.

Match 9: 2/3 Falls ROH Tag Team Title Match: The Briscoes © vs. Roderick Strong and Rocky Romero

There was some pointless mat wrestling to start, followed by the Briscoes being basically dominated. The NRC team connected with a Doomsday Knee attack and Gibson Driver to surprisingly take fall one.

Falls two and three were extremely strange. Fall two ended quickly with a Mark Briscoe roll up and fall three featured a Spike Jay Driller with literally no build as the Briscoes retained.

The Briscoes defeated Romero and Strong 2 falls to 1 (** ½)
This wasn’t good. It was a lot slower than the Briscoes usual stuff and I smell an injury somewhere that was being compensated for. The crowd wasn’t into this at all, which leads me to a point I need to make about the Briscoes.

As an analysts, the Briscoes aren’t that special. They’re booked to be gods and don’t sell, so they always look great. Add in the crowd pleasing offense and you have a hit. As a fan, what this means to me is I find myself getting bored of the Briscoes normal matches exceedingly quickly as they feel quite repetitive. None of this ultimately matters to ROH’s business or the Briscoes, nor should it. They are wildly successful the way they are booked. This match was bad and unsuccessful because it deviated from the Briscoes formula. There’s money to be made from a proper formula in wrestling and with the Briscoes, ROH have found one.

Match 10: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Naomichi Marufuji

Claudio as the surprise opponent sucks since it just means he’ll be returning the job from Glory by Honor VI Night 2. The match was fast and decent, but never rose above that and Marufuji won with a roll up. Looks like we can expect a third to the series.

Marufuji defeats Claudio (Pin, Roll up, ***)
Bah, you call that a main event!

Post match SnS inc beat up Claudio, only for Marufuji to save him. This leads to Puder running out and saving Sweeney by putting Claudio in a leg lock. Stevens comes out to confront Puder, but the NRC jump Stevens who has a FIP title shot the next night. The Vulture Squad clear out the NRC and the show closes with VS triumphant.

Alright, this show was very good but suffered from some weird decisions in putting it together. The first half was stacked and nearly killed the crowd. The start of the second half was good enough to keep a buzz and then the strangely structured Danielson vs. Morishima left the crowd a bit confused. Why would that appear after a World Title match? Then the Briscoes had a weird and bad match, again going on after the World Title, this time not doing much to earn it. Again, with a new champion, wouldn’t it have made sense for them to go on last and end the first half with the usually explosive Briscoes? The final match had no business being where it was. It’s a mid-card match in ROH despite Marufuji’s pedigree. Someone from the opening Tag Match like Jacobs, Steen or even Jack or Albright should have been chosen. A rematch is a poor choice for a surprise main event, especially one with an ending as telegraphed as this was. The matches on the show were great, particularly the World Championship match which is an instant classic, but the structure left a lot to be desired.

Ring of Honor Report: Final Battle 2007 from NY, NY Dec 30

The show opens with the disappointing announcement that Nigel is out due to numerous stitches, a broken nose, and a concussion. Changes announced are the winner of the four way, in which Aries replaces Nigel, gets a title shot 2/23 for the Sixth Anniversary Show, Jack Evans vs. Necro will be no DQ, and Davey Richards will face Morishima.

Match 1: Bobby Fish and Matt Cross vs. Ruckus and Jigsaw

This is well put together. Fish and Jigsaw have some crisp exchanges while Cross and Ruckus handle the flippiness. They dive sequence here is especially notable with Cross following Jigsaw’s dive immediately for a big pop. A Jig and Tonic finished this short, good opener.

Ruckus and Jigsaw defeated Fish and Cross (Pin, Jig and Tonic, ***)
Short, fast paced and crisp. This did everything an opener should.

Because no one else will say it: Bobby Fish deserves a job. He’s very crisp and can sell. His moveset is good; he has nice timing. What more do you need? I’d really like a Fish and Eddie Edwards team to begin moving their way up the tag ranks.

Larry Sweeney is out. Puder hurt Claudio’s leg so CC won’t wrestle him tonight. Daniel Puder officially joins Sweet n Sour, Incorporated. Claudio comes out and says the match is on despite Sweeney being in a suit.

Match 2: Larry Sweeney vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Claudio beats on Sweeney for a bit until Puder hits Claudio’s leg with the stretch bar. Claudio drops in pain and Sweeney steals a quick three count.

Larry Sweeney defeats Claudio Castagnoli (Pin, *)
Short and inoffensive, while getting good heat.

Tank Tolland sticks around to beat up Claudio and takes a Ricolla bomb for his trouble.

Match 3: Jack Evans vs. Necro Butcher with Lacey

Jack has new music. The match is very well put together with Jack taking a huge beating and coming back with his flips, including some innovative offense. Jack’s beating looks great and his comebacks aren’t bad because Necro is delivering a general beating and all Jack has to do to sell is stumble a bit.

Some nice near falls as Jack escapes the Tigerdriver and a backbreaker across two chairs. That’d usually be ridiculous, but it’s reasonable for Jack to be spry enough to make it work. Jack comes back with a moonsault legdrop while Necro’s leaned over two standing chairs and goes for a 630 on a chair, but Lacey won’t let him. Julius Smokes wants to hit Lacey, but can’t so Mercedes Martinez runs out to take Lacey out. In the confusion Jack manages a roll up win.

Jack Evans defeats Necro Butcher (Pin, Roll-up, *** ½)
Very good power vs. speed stuff and a properly fun debut for the Booty Vulture, Mercedes Martinez.

Post-match Mercedez does a booty dance at Jack’s urging.

Match 4: Davey Richards vs. Naomichi Marufuji

This one starts off very average as they do some mat work, which, as expected, moves to Davey’s strikes when he realizes he isn’t as fast as Marufuji, who dodges all of his offense.

Naomichi works the leg of Davey in the usually manner. Davey strikes back, no selling leg kicks, but at least limping, and takes over with an STO. He works over Marufuji momentarily, but hits Marufuji low, causing Marufuji to do the same with more force in an interesting comeback sequence.

They match speed again, but Marufuji is far faster now after the leg work and Davey is in a load of trouble. Davey stays alive and even manages an awesome dive, getting his adrenaline going. He manages several near falls into a kimura, but Marufuji, harkening back to the opening minutes, manages a reversal. This leads to a Shiranui and finish for the former GHC Champion.

Marufuji defeats Davey Richards (Pin, Shiranui, ****)
This was great with payoffs for everything early on, though I’d like to see more done with the legwork. This is the Davey Richards that was hyped coming into ROH and is his best singles match since KENTA. When he can do this consistently, he should be in singles as a face. Marufuji is probably the most useful foreigner to the cards as a whole since main events will be great with or without NOAH talent. Marufuji adds great matches to the midcard and elevates talent.

Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak do an opening for the video wire and lead us to the next match.

Match 5: 6-man Tables Match: Steen, Generico and Delirious vs. The Hangman’s Three of BJ Whitmer, Adam Pearce, and Brent Albright with Shane Hagadorn

This was just beautiful. This began with the faces shining and Bushwacker Luke using Delirious as a battering ram on the heels. Luke, Generico and Delirious did the Bushwacker walk to a huge pop. Steen thought it was stupid but joined in after a good licking and the place exploded.

The match got serious after that, as the heels managed to work over Generico as a face in peril through much of the match, leading into the awesome face comeback spots. As Hagadorn tried to interfere, Pelle Primeau returned, hitting a hurricanrana from the second rope through a table on the floor.

The comebacks are constantly cut short, but are brutal when they succeed. Eventually Delirious is left in the ring with Pearce and after Hagadorn, finally up, interferes, he takes a Piledriver from the top through a table. That gets three.

The Hangman’s Three defeat Steen, Generico, and Delirious (Pin, Pearce piledrives Delirious through a table, **** ¼)
This worked out better than it had any right to by putting a workable structure around all the crazy spots. This is the match to see from Final Battle 2007. Steen and Generico are absolutely awesome at their roles.

Pearce piledrives Steen and Generico as well.

Intermission.

Match 6: Ernie Osiris vs. Rocky Romero

A student goes squash to the cross-armbreaker.

Rocky Romero defeats Ernie Osiris (Submission, Cross-armbreaker, Squash)
Pointless filler. Would it kill them to make a student look good? It’d probably do wonders for the school.

Nigel comes back, willing to give back the belt, but says his injuries are why he deserves the belt. He’ll keep the belt to spite the haters and thank those who respect the business. Good promo. The crowd got behind Nigel huge.

Match 7: FIP World Title Match: Roderick Strong © vs. Erick Stevens

This is a nice match basically dominated by the heel with well timed, if a bit spread out, hope spots. Roderick focused on wearing the big man down, this way his Tiger Driver on the ramp would be enough to take out Stevens without a pin needed. That wasn’t the case as Stevens made it back in at 19. They continued to battle and Stevens killed Roderick with three lariats and a Doctor Bomb to win the belt.

Erick Stevens defeats Roderick Strong (Pin, Doctor Bomb, *** ¾)
The crowd simply didn’t care at the start, but through Stevens beating and comebacks got more and more into it, hoping he could overcome the odds and take the belt, so that when he won they exploded. Great old-school storytelling as Stevens continues his ascent towards stardom. Next stop: vs. Aries 1/11 and vs. Danielson 1/12.

Match 8: Number 1 Contendership Elimination Match: Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries vs. Takeshi Morishima vs. Chris Hero

Danielson and Morishima started as Hero tried to be opportunistic and work over whoever Morishima had weakened. This pissed off Morishima who eventually beat the piss out of Hero. That left Morishima alone with Danielson and Aries who worked him over together and beat him, eliminating him from the match.

Hero again tried to be opportunistic with Morishima gone, but stops to showboat and is quickly eliminated by Aries.

Aries and Danielson are the last two and they go to war. They both immediately go high impact and hit all the big moves in their arsenals before going with MMA elbows and knee strikes and near killing each other. Nothing will finish either man until Danielson goes with the Triangle sleeper and elbows his head to oblivion.

Bryan Danielson wins the Four Way Elimination (*** ¾)
This was very good character work for the first half, really getting over Morishima as a monster and Hero as an opportunist in a fun manner. Dragon and Aries being the last two was cool, but since Aries won the series, telegraphed Dragon’s victory. Still, they’re so good together that only matters so much and their portion was excellent.

Aries again refuses a handshake post-match.

Match 9: ROH Tag Team Championship: The Briscoes © vs. Age of the Fall of Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black

Standard Briscoe fare, but the stakes were higher, so the moves were bigger. Jacobs took a ridiculous Doomsday Device from the apron to the floor and the Briscoes managed to be the first to escape the Guillotine Choke. Eventually the tag titles finally changed hands as a Super Contra Code lead to a Tyler Phoenix Splash.

The Age of the Fall defeat the Briscoes (Pin, Super Contra Code and Phoenix Splash, ****)
The best Briscoes single match without a gimmick since MCMG. Great to see AOTF take it and hopefully the revolution kicks into full effect. It’s also nice that Steen and Generico can challenge for the belts again!

Final Battle 07 is a better put together show. As far as average match rating, it’s among the best ever. Nothing was blow away but everything was very good to great. Great performance and I can’t wait to catch this on DVD. One of the rare shows where there are a legitimate SIX favorite match possibilities that all make sense.

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