Ring of Honor DVD Review – Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool, 3/3/07

This is my first review for Inside Pulse, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Before I start I’d like to recommend some other articles. This weeks Ring of Honor Weekly was an opportunity for ROH fans to defend the promotion following criticism it had received after winning Promotion of the Year in the 2007 Inside Pulse awards.
I’d also like to recommend Ollie Sutherland’s review of the Chikara show New Star Navigation as this is a fantastic introduction to Chikara. Rounding off my recommendations is Jonathan Kirschner’s Chikarticles, a good round up of US indy promotions like Chikara and PWG.

The Fifth Year Festival (FYF) was a series of six shows designed to celebrate ROH’s fifth year in business. The shows also acted as the “Samoa Joe farewell tour”. Samoa Joe, the former ROH World Champion, had announced his decision to stop wrestling for ROH in order to concentrate on TNA. The festival was staged in New York, Philadelphia, Dayton, Chicago and Liverpool, with both the fifth and sixth shows being held at the Liverpool Olympia in England. Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool was the fifth show and was headlined by Samoa Joe vs. Nigel McGuiness, ROH’s resident Englishman. With the Fifth Year Festival coming to a close, and ROH returning to the United Kingdom, the pressure was on for ROH to put on a great show without Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries or ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima.

Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool- 3/3/07, Liverpool, UK

The show starts with FIP Heavyweight Champion Roderick Strong admitting that he attacked Jack Evans at FYF: New York. At first the promo was poorly worded but the promo was effective in pushing Strong’s feud with Evans and his match later in the evening against Pac.

The show, like all those in the Fifth Year Festival, featured a video package featuring big moments from ROH’s history. While ROH may not have the best production values in wrestling it still managed to look professional with this well put together video.

We cut to another promo, this time from the basement of the Liverpool Olympia. Jimmy Jacobs complains about his flight to the UK as Lacey couldn’t make it due to receiving a Colt 45 from Colt Cabana at FYF: Chicago. This was sustained during a Street Fight between Cabana and Jacobs. Jacobs boasts that the physical punishment done to Cabana meant more than the fact that Cabana won and he promises to take out Cabana or BJ Whitmer before the weekend finishes. At this time Jacobs was absolutely besotted with Lacey, who had taken to promising him “favours” in exchange for doing her bidding. This involved Jacobs attacking Cabana, who had spurned Lacey’s contract offer after the two had a brief fling, and Whitmer, who had quit as a member of Lacey’s Angels. This was a good promo that gave Jacobs motivation for attacking Whitmer and Jacobs while furthering his character progression from a love sick individual to an unstable, obsessive one.

Match 1: Homicide (with Julius Smokes) vs. Davey Richards.

This was scheduled to be a World Title match before Homicide lost the ROH World Title to Takeshi Morishima at FYF: Philadelphia. Richards had turned heel when he formed the No Remorse Corps with Roderick Strong at FYF: New York when they attacked Strong’s then tag partner Austin Aries.

This was a fantastic example of how having a clear face (Homicide) and a clear heel (Richards) can make a match more enjoyable. Even during his entrance Richards focused on being a heel, going as far as staring down a young kid on his way to the ring. Homicide got a great reaction and this led to a situation where both Homicide and Richards would appeal to the crowd, with Homicide receiving cheers and Richards getting booed. After some nice mat work, accentuated by Richards’ vocals while selling, Richards resorts to heel tactics before kicking Homicide into the crowd. When the pair return to the ring the action evens out until Richards uses a vicious Gourd buster onto the top rope. Richards works away on Homicides back and midsection while wearing Homicides bandanna. All the while, Richards provokes Julius Smokes. This back fires when both Smokes and Homicide chop Richards on the outside to set up a Tope Con Hilo. Richards eventually uses power moves to regain momentum and applies the Kondo Clutch, an inverted Texas Cloverleaf, to take advantage of his work on Homicides back and midsection. Homicide reaches the ropes and Richards sells his frustration at having to break the hold. After a Lariat by Homicide Richards again applies the Kondo Clutch, only for Homicide to reverse it and use the Three Amigos Suplexes and a Frog splash for a two count. Homicide immediately follows up with a Cop Killa, a move Richards had avoided twice during the match, for the three count.
Homicide wins by Cop Killa, ***1/2

A match that was greatly improved by the crowd interactions and the distiction between the Heel and the Face. Richards really impressed here as he sold well and played a great heel. He not only sold the moves themselves but he also showed frustration at Homicide reaching the ropes. The way Richards sold moves made you want to cheer on Homicide even more, and they helped to draw you into the match. Richards cockiness and actions towards Smokes, mixed with the occasional cheap shot, ensured that he was booed, even when he did a cool spot. That is something that is very rare in ROH, as Homicide himself had problems with this during his Heel run. The psychology of Richards focusing on making Homicide tap by the Kondo Clutch while simultaneously avoiding the Cop Killa was good and made the eventually successful Cop Killa more special. What really impressed me was Richards selling the cop Killa for a couple of minutes after the match, putting over both the brutality of the move and his own toughness since Homicide had to use it in order to win the match.

Match 2. Sara Del Rey vs. Allison Danger

This was an exhibition match between two Shimmer stars. Shimmer is ROH’s sister promotion, run by ROH announcer Dave Prazak, and is a company specifically focused on Womens wrestling. Del Rey would eventually become part of Sweet and Sour Incorporated while Danger is more well known as Christopher Daniels’ valet. Danger actually comes out in an outfit with a hood very similar to the one Daniels uses in ROH.

The match starts with a nice display of arm based mat wrestling which Del Rey eventually turns into a series of stomps and chokes. Del Rey uses a unique Abdominal Stretch variation before Danger tries to get the victory with a series of pinning predicaments. Del Rey uses her powerful kicks while Danger uses the STO before applying a body scissors. Del Rey eventually gets to her feet, shifts Dangers weight into a standing Butterfly lock and hits the Royal Butterfly for the three count.
Sara Del Rey wins by Royal Butterfly, *1/2

The mat wrestling was good but the match itself felt too much like a clinic, with well performed moves but no emotional connection to the crowd. This was due to the crowds lack of familiarity with the wrestlers. There were some nice exchanges but at no point did the match feel like a contest where the win mattered. The match didn’t have any real passion or emotional strength to draw you in and as such, the match suffered. I really enjoyed the finish but some more tension in the build up was needed.

Match 3. Jimmy Rave and Jimmy Jacobs vs. Colt Cabana and BJ Whitmer.

Jacobs goes into this match feuding with both Cabana and Whitmer while Rave is just trying to keep winning matches after a great run in the fourth quarter of 2006 that saw him début his new Heel Hook, a move that gave him victories over Nigel McGuiness and BJ Whitmer. Both Cabana and Whitmer want to beat Jacobs, who had been trying to take them out for months.

The match starts as a brawl outside the ring, with Jacobs and Cabana heading off through the crowd in one direction and Rave and Whitmer heading off in another. Cabana dominates Jacobs while Whitmer tries to send Rave over a 15 feet high balcony. Rave avoids falling onto the Olympia’s hard wood floor and instead kicks Whitmer down the stairs that led up to the balcony. All four end up at ringside where Jacobs is double teamed and Whitmer Powerbombs him onto an upright guardrail. Whitmer fights Rave in the ring while Jacobs crawls to ringside and goes under the apron, finding a ring bell that he uses to hit Whitmer in the back. Jacobs and Rave isolate Whitmer with quick tags and a nice Octopus hold, Drop-kick combination. Eventually Whitmer hits an Exploder and makes the hot tag to Cabana. Cabana, who is extremely popular in the UK, takes on both heels at once, using a double Moonsault Block and the Flying Asshole. Whitmer gets tagged in and both Whitmer and Jacobs slug it out. Whitmer gets the advantage with a Spine buster and a Brain buster before perching Jacobs up top. Both men fight for supremacy before Jacobs hits a Super Contra Code and gets the win.
Jimmy Jacobs and Jimmy Rave win by Super Contra Code, **

This match felt like it was there to prolong the feuds instead of develop them, despite the fact that both teams worked well together. Cabana had a nice flurry of offense after the hot tag while Whitmer and Jacobs showed how much they hated each other during their exchanges, with Jacobs removing his elbow pads to do more damage. Unfortunately the match didn’t feel like it got out of second gear. While it had a nice brawl at the beginning and a decent work over period by Jacobs and Rave on Whitmer, the match was overshadowed by the quality of previous matches in between the four men involved. One thing I didn’t like was the positioning of the Powerbomb spot. It was a great spot for the feud but it was superfluous in this match as it didn’t lead to the finish and Jacobs didn’t sell the long term effects of the move. In hindsight they would have better served themselves using the move in the singles match between Whitmer and Jacobs at Finale.

Match 4. 2/3 Falls Match: Delirious vs. Matt Sydal

Delirious and Sydal have been wrestling each other ever since they first entered the ring. They started in ROH at the same time and their best work has often been between the two of them. This stipulation was decided upon in order to determine who was the better wrestler. Sydal had recently returned from the Dragon Gate promotion in Japan as the Open the Brave Gate Champion. The Open the Brave Gate is the Dragon Gate equivalent of a Jr Heavyweight title. Sydal had become more cocky after winning the ROH Tag titles from the Kings of Wrestling with his tag partner Christopher Daniels. It was looking likely that Sydal would be turning heel in 2007.

The bell rings and Delirious does his usual opening routine while Sydal mocks him from the entrance ramp. Both wrestlers show their familiarity with each other, a situation that is highlighted by a great bit of complaining to the Referee from both parties. Sydal shows off some nice lucha style Arm Drags while Delirious relies on his superior mat skills. After trading submission holds Delirious kicks Sydal in the face. While the Referee, senior official Todd Sinclair, is checking on Sydal, Sydal low blows Delirious and gets a roll up for the first fall.
Sydal continues to build on the heel heat he got after the low blow by choking Delirious with his tassels. Eventually Delirious regains momentum and uses the Shadows Over Hell to set up the Cobra Stretch. Sydal taps out and Delirious takes the second fall, making it 1 fall each.
Both wrestlers continue to show their familiarity with each other in a back and forth third fall that features a great Drop-kick evasion into a Jacknife cradle. This leads to a long finishing stretch where both individals use new moves or transitions in order to take the third fall. This ends with a very fluent transition from the Cobra Stretch to a Sydal roll up to the Chemical Imbalance #2, am ove that gives Delirious a very near fall. Delirious goes up top only for Sydal to shove Sinclair into the ropes, crotching Delirious. Sydal hits a Moonsault Belly to Belly Suplex to win the third fall, winnig the match 2 falls to 1.
Matt Sydal wins by Moonsault Belly to Belly Suplex, ***

This was a fast paced match that saw Sydal finally turn from cocky face to full blown heel. The story of the match was the familiarity between the competitors as both guys used new moves or transitions to get the upper hand while avoiding many of their opponents moves. The finishing stretch was great and the story was well told with Sydal relying on two cheap moves in order to get the victory. The match was fairly light in terms of selling but the obvious familiarity between th two and the sheer pace of the last fall made this an enjoyable match.

Next there is a backstage angle where Del Rey and Danger are challenged to a tag match for the next night at Finale by the British duo Jetta and Eden Black. This was announced at the live show by an in ring promo from the Brits, a promo that was met with apathy since very few fans knew who the ladies were.

Before the next match there are two clips from FIP Heavyweight Title matches The first is from the FIP Florida Rumble 2006, with Roderick Strong defending against Chikara Wrestle Factory star pupil Hallowicked. The next clip shows Strong defending his belt against Davey Richards at FIP in Full Force 2007. This package did an okay job at giving you an idea of the FIP product and hyping up the next match.

Match 5. FIP Heavyweight Title Match: Pac (challenger) vs. Roderick Strong (Champion)
The FIP Title match rules involve a 20 count on the floor and the ability for the Title to change hands on a disqualification. Pac comes out first and is well received in his ROH début. Pac is one of the best high fliers in the UK. Strong had been FIP Champion since beating Bryan Danielson at the FIP event All or Nothing. This match would make the belt a World Heavyweight Title and Strong, who had turned heel at FYF: New York was determined to keep the belt while sending a message to his former tag team partner Jack Evans.

Strong disrespects Pac with a slap at the start and then shows his strength by pushing Pac off after losing in a series of arm wringer exchanges. Strong works on Pac’s arm before Pac gets the better of Strong with a series of Head Scissors and Arm Drags. Pac is caught attempting an Asai Moonsault on the outside and gets dropped onto a steel guardrail, ribs first. He is then rammed back first into the ring post and brought inside for Strong to stretch him out with a Surfboard-Chin Lock hybrid. Pac gets a nice flurry of offence with a Half Hatch Suplex and a Standing Shooting Star Press before Strong uses a Belly to Belly Back breaker to regain momentum. Strong continues to work on Pac’s back and he Side Slams Pac onto the apron in order to try and get Pac counted out. Pac manages to make it into the ring before the 20 count. Strong uses a grounded Octopus-leg lock combination before Pac fights back with a Moonsault into an inverted DDT and some hard forearms. Pac hits a fantastic Corkscrew SSP onto Strong on the outside and brings Strong into the ring for a Standing Moonsault Senton. Strong regains momentum with multiple power moves like his Fireman’s Carry Gut buster. Pac blocks a Tiger Driver and hits a 450 but it’s not enough to get the win. Pac goes for a Corkscrew 450, only for Strong to move and hit a sick Running boot. One Tiger Driver later and Strong wins the match. After the match Strong applies the Stronghold to Pac and Delirious runs in from the back to make the save. This was a continuation of feud between Strong and Delirious.
Roderick Strong retains the FIP World Title by Tiger Driver, ***1/2

A simple story where Strong tries to limit Pac’s aerial offense by working over the back. Pac’s fight backs looked good as they really showcased his aerial style and this got the crowd on his side. The selling on Pacs behalf could have been better, and one or two high risk moves could have been omitted to help sell the damage that Strong had done to his back but, other than that, the match was fine and Strong looked good as a vicious bully.

Jimmy Jacobs is back in the cellar, bemoaning his inability to take out his rivals and stating that he doesn’t care about victories, only about fulfilling Lacey’s wishes by brutalising BJ Whitmer. He shouts for Todd Sinclair to get BJ Whitmer and prepares for a fight.

Match 6. ROH World Tag Team Title Match: Naruki Doi and Shingo (challengers) vs. The Briscoe Brothers (champions)

Doi and Shingo are former team mates from the defunct Blood Generation faction in Dragon Gate. In 2007 Doi held the NOAH Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and became the first Open the Twin Gate Champion, holding both with Masato Yoshino. Shingo was coming to the end of his learning excursion in ROH and FIP and was looking to go back to Japan with some ROH Gold. The Briscoes, Mark and Jay, had won the titles the ROH world Tag Team Titles at FYF: Philadelphia, beating Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal. This was their first defence of the titles.

Mark and Shingo start off with some mat wrestling where it soon becomes obvious that Shingo is the stronger of the two. Eventually Jay and Doi tag in and Jay gains an advantage over Doi before tagging in Mark. Both sides make quick tags and the Briscoes start to focus all their efforts on Shingo. The brothers trade quick tags and Shingo can’t fight both off at once. Almost every tag is an opportunity for double teams including a unique Split legged Moonsault into a leg drop by Mark while Shingo was held across Jay’s knee. Shingo’s comebacks are repeatedly cut off before he hits a DDT, Flatliner combo on both Briscoes. This allows him to make the hot tag to Doi. Doi gets cut off by Jay but uses an Irish Whip from Jay to propel him into a Tope on Mark. Shingo comes back in and works over Jay before both Mark interferes. This leads to both Briscoes getting hit by Doi’s cannonball(Doi Bosou). Doi and Shingo work over Jay but Mark breaks up a pin by dodging around Shingo and diving over the Referee. Jay makes the hot tag after a sit out Blockbuster on Doi. The action breaks down and Mark hits a Shooting Star Press to the outside on Shingo. The Dragon Gate duo regain momentum with some very nice double teams before Shingo accidentally Lariats Doi. The Briscoes focus their attention on Doi with multiple double teams and power moves, even using the Total Elimination. Twice the Briscoes go for their best double teams, the Doomsday Device and the Spike Jay Driller, only for Shingo to interrupt the moves. Shingo’s power, and the fact that he could rest while the Briscoes focussed on Doi, allowed him to reverse a Cut Throat driver by Mark into the Last Falconry and Shingo got the three count. The venue erupts at the title change. Afterwards, Jay bemoans dropping the tag titles on their first defence and challenges his brother to a singles match the next night at Finale.
Naruki Doi and Shingo win the ROH World Tag Titles by Last Falconry, ****

This was a typical Briscoes tag match in that it is full of fast action, high flying and loads of double teams. The main difference was the addition of a great little story to the match. Shingo used his indomitable spirit to take the Briscoes punishment. That caused the Briscoes to turn their focus to Naruki Doi, which allowed Shingo to rest. The Briscoes had no answer to a rested Shingo. Almost every tag, by either side, had a double team attached. Many of these were innovative, including a Back Drop Driver, Missile Drop-kick combination used by the challengers. The action was very fast paced near the end and extremely gripping. While the Briscoes were greatas usual, the challengers made this match. Doi was great with his vocals and facials throughout the match, especially when cheering Shingo on. Shingo was the heart of this match as he sold very well, especially using very short bursts of no selling before over exaggerating the selling a little later to put both himself and his opponent over. Near the end of his ROH run Shingo probably had the best facial expressions in the company. The selling was a little weak all round, as it is in most Briscoes matches, but both team focused on brutalizing each other until someone couldn’t get up anymore. This game plan helped to distract from the lack of selling on the Briscoes part. I really loved this match when I first saw it but there were multiple illegal pins by Shingo and Doi which detracted from later viewings. It may have been their familiarity with lucha style tags (which are used in Dragon Gate) as these pinfalls were often preceded by dives to the outside but at one point Shingo attacked one Briscoe, pinned him and then attacked the other and pinned him, without any sign of a tag between the two Briscoes. Part of this may be due to the presence of an unfamiliar Referee but this still annoyed me and marred the match to some extent. Overall, this was a great match who’s flaws will annoy some people while others will over look them due to the enthralling action.

A video package was next, highlighting the ROH World Tag Titles throughout ROH’s fifth year. This covered the reigns of Roderick Strong and Austin Aries, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero, and Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal. It was a nice summary of Title defences and Title changes that was a nice way of highlighting the the title reigns of the three teams.

Match 7. Nigel McGuiness vs. Samoa Joe.

This was Joe’s penultimate match in ROH. He had only lost once so far in the Fifth Year Festival, losing in a tag match at FYF: Chicago. The match was Samoa Joe and Homicide vs. Nigel McGuiness and ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima and McGuiness pinned Joe using the Rebound Lariat. Nigel had previously beaten Joe before, most famously in the match where Nigel became the ROH Pure Champion. Nigel had yet to win a major match in ROH in his home country.

Both wrestlers got a good reception and the crowd would stay split throughout the contest. The match starts with an exchange of arm work before Joe gains the upper hand and slaps Nigel in the face. A strike exchange follows and Nigel hits a slap of his own before Joe dominates Nigel on the outside using two Ole Kicks. Nigel regains control with a modified rebound Lariat using the ring apron before working on Joe’s arm. This leads to a modified arm submission which Joe escapes. Joe starts to use some of his trademark offence while still selling the arm. Nigel changes his game plan and attempts to beat Joe quickly using strikes while Joe relies on the moves that made him a Ring of Honor icon. Joe and Nigel focus on countering each others key moves, leading to Joe hitting Nigel with a Muscle buster on the ring apron. This was the move that beat Davey Richards at FYF: Dayton. Nigel looks to be out and the Referees come out from backstage to carry Nigel to the back. Joe stands in the ring, admiring Nigels toughness and wants a handshake, something that Nigel is in no apparent shape to do. Joe snaps and calls Nigel a “British Pussy.” Nigel shrugs off the Referees and re-enters the ring, still feeling the effects of the Muscle buster. Nigel slaps in the face Joe and the fight is back on. Nigel counters the STJoe and hits a Super kick but he’s too badly hurt to follow it up. A Rebound Lariat is attempted but it’s met by a slap and Joe hits another Muscle buster. Somehow Nigel kicks out and is flopping arounf like a fish out of water, trying to grab the ropes in order to get back to his feet. Nigel manages to survive two Lariats from Joe and gets a great near fall by turning his Rebound Lariat into a roll up. Joe applies a Choke that Nigel rolls through in order to get another near fall but Joe turns the Choke over and Nigel passes out from the pain he has endured.
Samoa Joe wins by Choke, ****1/4

This was a well fought match considering that Nigel pulled his groin in the first minute. The story was Joe disrespecting Nigel and Nigel going to work on the arm. When that doesn’t work Nigel decides he needs to beat Joe quickly and resorts to strikes, since they beat Joe in Dayton. The match was elevated to a whole new level by the huge drama surrounding the Apron Muscle buster as the live crowd honestly thought Nigel was badly injured. Nigel’s comeback was gauged perfectly as it was a classic fightback by the underdog, something that the British always seem to love. Nigel’s selling at the end was very good as he sold the damage and his desperation to keep fighting, even if it was a little over the top. Despit many peoples arguements, I think that Nigel didn’t need to win this match as the sheer effort he showed at the end put him over. What did annoy me was the fact that the arm work was forgotten half way through and that Joe stopped selling as soon as he did. Overall though, this was arguably the best match on the card.

Post match Joe cut a promo putting over Nigel, ROH and the Ring of Honor fans. A nice feel good promo and both the ROH and Nigel chants were deafening.

Overall

This was a fantastic show where almost every match brought something to the table. The action was fantastic, and the show provided a great mix of brawls, technical work, tag team action, strike based matches and high paced action. Each match was different, the Heels were hated and the Faces were loved. It’s amazing how much a good balance of Heels and Faces actually adds to the enjoyment of shows.

The best match was Nigel vs. Joe, mostly due to the amazing underdog fightback at the end. It drew the crowd in as everyone was 100% behind Nigel at the end. Doi and Shingo vs. The Briscoes was a great match and probably as good as the Main Event but, having watched this match a few times, the illegal covers and poor Refereeing just make me prefer Nigel vs. Joe. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a top level Briscoes tag team match. However, it won’t change your mind if you don’t enjoy The Briscoes matches. Third best was probably Richards vs. Homicide, followed closely by Pac vs. Strong. Both matches had clear Heels and Faces, as well as featuring good wrestling. I’d call the Homicide match better as I was really impressed by Richards heel work and selling. Sydal vs. Delirious was another good match with fast paced action between two old rivals. I’d rate the Rave and Jacobs vs. Cabana and Whitmer match just above the women’s match, due to the fact that the former formed a better emotional attachment. Both matches suffered due to the feel of the match, either in the sense of being too much of asterile exhibition, in the case of the Women’s match, or not feeling like anyting other than a filler match.

ROH shows are catered to fans who want to see excellent matches. The action is often fast paced and many ROH wrestlers are equally at home in technical, high flying or brawl based matches. The only minus points of the product overall is a tendency to not sell enough and a generally low standard of mike work. This is why I was really impressed by Richards selling on this show. If you want an entertaining show with good wrestling, a great crowd and no embarrassing skits or matches, then pick up this show up at ROHwrestling.com.

Overall show rating: 8/10

Tags: