Ring of Honor DVD Review: Unified, 8/12/06

Elia Nino sent in a review of ROH: Unified. Let me know what you guys think of his style and reviews as we’ll be seeing more of his reviews. This show was during the height of the Danielson run and features a classic between he and McGuiness.

Thanks for sending this in Elia. On to the show.

ROH: Unified DVD Review
By Elia Nino

Nigel cuts a promo about his main event match. Davey tries to cut a promo before being interrupted by Aries and Strong who recently got their belts back and cut a promo. Nothing that set the world on fire from any of them. Although Strong continues the hilarity in his glares at the camera, “it’s nice to have them back though.” I have to admit Strong has actually improved in his promos.

Matt Sydal vs. Colt Cabana vs. Spud vs. Jonny Storm:
First off this crowd is huge. This crowd is so hot that they’ll probably end up making every match seem better than they really are. Cabana is hugely over in the U.K. and is really the odd man out in this four corner survival just because of his size. They start off with some pretty typical antics, before hitting all four cylinders and making this match a huge example of the spotfest and the idea of style over substance. Even though there’s no real story in the match, there’s no need for one. Ultimately the match works, it gets the crowd hot, it’s entertaining enough, and it’s not entirely predictable. ** 3/4

Chris Hero comes out to try and ruin the party before Cabana runs him off. This is going to be an interesting transition for Chris Hero and Claudio as they move from “the CZW guys” to “the ROH heels.” So far Gabe has made a decent step with Hero coming alone and coming in his own interest rather than in the interest of CZW but it at the same time it still feels like a retread of the CZW feud. As a personal note, Hero gets tremendous heat and I’m glad he’s sticking around as he’ll make a great addition to the roster.

1) Davey Richards vs. Jimmy Rave

Unfortunately there is a group of kids chanting (I think) that nearly ruined my enjoyment of this match and negatively affected the first half of the match. As for the Richards vs Rave series as a whole, it’s been a great midcard rivalry with solid matches all the way through. This final match was no different. Both men really turned it up here as Rave couldn’t afford another loss to Richards and wanted to stop him in his tracks while Davey could really solidify himself by shutting out Rave in the series 3 to 0. The first 10 minutes were nothing special, very similar to the other matches in the series, and the kids are incredibly distracting for the viewer at home and for the crowd in the arena. Rave and Davey also seem to be annoyed as well. Once the kids shut up (or at least pipe down), the match really kicks in to fifth gear. I love how Rave can’t really match Davey’s kicks so he goes for the awesome closed fists to counter and, my God, they are beautiful looking. They really turn it up in the end with reversals and big moves, as at this point both men are familiar with each other and it takes more to put either man down. As the intensity builds so does Rave’s desperation to win shown by the a tremendous Ghana-rehea off the top rope, a move that he never attempted off the top rope before. A really fantastic second half, too bad the first half was marred by those damn kids and the “this stuff that is way too familiar” syndrome. All in all, probably the best in the series. *** 1/2

An inadvertently hilarious promo from the Briscoes. I’m glad they’re so good in the ring because I wouldn’t be able to take them seriously otherwise. They better Man UP though because their last two title shots were SERIOUSLY disappointing.

2) BJ Whitmer vs. Claudio Castagnoli

This match is going to be BJ’s final exorcism of his CZW demons and probably the last match under the CZW/ROH banner. This match is less about the feud between the two companies and more about BJ Whitmer trying to move on and wasn’t that the whole point of BJ’s barbed wire match with the Necro Butcher. This wasn’t needed logically. I would complain less if the match wasn’t completely average. It seemed like both men were going through the motions except it’s about a month after the feud ended. This match had unenthusiastic brawling and in-ring material that seemed like Claudio trying to hit all his signature moves before time ran out. It was just mildly entertaining. I don’t think these two have any chemistry together. **

3) Colt Cabana vs. Chris Hero

This was a bit more enjoyable than the previous match. It resonated better with me as it didn’t seem like a complete rehash of the CZW/ROH feud. Hero keeps interrupting the show for his own means, he wants to ruin ROH’s debut in the U.K., he’s basically that fly you just can’t swat. So Cabana basically challenges him to a match to try and end his bullshit. But Cabana may have spoken too soon because of his previous match earlier in the night, he ends up being exhausted and Hero has the advantage for most of the match. Hero is able to cut off all of Cabana’s attempts at a comeback. But Cabana knows that he only needs to string a couple of moves together and the keep his momentum high to defeat Hero. It works, Hero is caught off guard because Cabana is able to keep the momentum high for a few minutes. Some would say that Hero had too much offense, but the offense make sense, Hero didn’t wrestle a high-intensity match with three lightweight earlier in the night, Hero’s fresh. Cabana isn’t. ** 3/4

Danielson cuts a promo, and I feel like I’m about to watch Fight of the Century all over again. I have realized that the backstage promos from Danielson and Nigel are pretty damn mild compared to how good they are in front of a live crowd.

4) Doug Williams & Jody Fleisch vs. SUWA & Go Shiozaki

It took me four tries to watch this all the way through without falling asleep and my conclusion is that it was pretty decent. Williams and Fleisch I’ve seen before in ROH. Everybody’s got a role that they stick to. SUWA shows that he’s the resident asshole in the match, Jody’s the highflier, Go is the rookie protégé of Kobashi, and Doug Williams is himself, I guess. SUWA is the highlight of the match really, he’s plays a prick from beginning to end. The match starts off with a lot of ground work and WHOA, did SUWA just try to play grab ass with Doug? O…kay. It’s all moving along rather slowly and nothing is really mattering in the large scheme of things. The crowd isn’t responding very much. Although everybody plays their roles well, it’s just not that interesting. Go ends up in trouble a couple times and gets double teamed because of his rookie status. SUWA sticks to being a prick and often takes advantage that way, while Jody is able to take advantage with his quickness. Doug is just awesome so that is how he takes advantage. Around 9 minutes in, Jody Fleisch (by logic since he’s the smallest guy) plays the face in perial as SUWA and Go attack the back, which Jody sells as exhaustion and forgets about later. SUWA convinces Go to fight dirty. I really like that Go cuts off Doug’s entry into the ring while SUWA has Jody in submissions and pin attempts. That’s one of the largest things missing in US wrestling. Jody finally gets the big tag to Doug and we hit the end stretch and it’s like 8 minutes straight of big moves and possible nearfalls folks. It’s relentless, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it woke the crowd up, and it’s unpredictable. It just took too long to get there. After the match, SUWA is still a prick and attacks everybody before getting his ass handed to him. There’s no real overarching story except for SUWA being a prick, him influencing Go to be a prick, and all of it costing him in the end. Also the match takes a while to get going but everybody stuck to their roles well and the second half of the match saved it. *** 1/4

BJ Whitmer tells us that he’s finally done with CZW and that he’s going to find new competition. You know what else is done, BJ being over with the crowd. Which really sucks because Gabe did a hell of a job building him up during the CZW feud with BJ really stepping up to the plate which led to a time where he was hugely over.

5) Robbie Brookside vs. Chad Collyer (FWA Title Match):

Well I guess this is what you call filler. Chad Collyer was in and out of ROH over the years and was recently released. I’ve never felt too strongly either way about him, I’ve felt that he was a good wrestler, but I always knew that it was a matter of time until he wouldn’t have a place in ROH. Collyer is facing a guy who looks like Edge, if Edge didn’t go to the gym that much. Brookside and Collyer have a fine little match but it’s treated by filler by the crowd and by the announcers. Brookside wasn’t too impressive as he didn’t do too much outside of elbows, punches, and his finisher. Collyer spent most of the time controlling the match and cutting off Brookside. He worked on the arm and then the leg and then lost. It was really too short to mean anything and it was a filler match. It filled time, and I filled space. Next. * 1/2

6) Austin Aries & Roderick Strong vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe (ROH World Tag Team Title Match)

Aries and Strong have been champs for a long while and have defended against the Briscoes twice. Strong and Aries won cleanly both times, but Jay and Mark tried to call wolf citing the first match as unfair and the second match as luck. This is the third match and probably final shot at the titles while Aries and Strong hold them. The Briscoes have been in this position TWICE before, once in 2003 when they lost three times to Aj Styles & Red, and the second time in 2004 when they lost three times to Cabana & Punk. So if I was a betting man, I’d say the Briscoes don’t have a chance in hell.

Let’s just say I’ve always liked the Briscoes ever since Jay’s lovable loser gimmick on the first show. They’ve stepped it up every year they’ve wrestled, from the spotastic matches they had with Aj/Red in 2003 to the awesome honing of their heel gimmick in their matches with the Saints in 2004, to this…the smash-mouth, pedal to the medal hard-hitting style, they’ve had in 2006.
This match is just competition at its finest and the back-story represents that. It really hones back to what ROH has always been about: great wrestling. It also hones back to what ROH has constantly tried to do which is making the titles matter. Sometimes you don’t need a story, sometimes just competition for the titles is story enough. Just like it is here. You’ve got Aries and Strong, who have been tag team champions all year long and having amazing tag matches showing how good the two men are as a unit, and you’ve got the Briscoes, the former champions who have been on hiatus and want their reputation as the best tag team unit and their titles back but they find that Aries/Strong have basically taken their place while they’ve been away. Aries/Strong basically think that the Briscoes need to earn their reputation back, as Strong elegantly put it at the 4th Anniversary show, “You can’t just come back here and think you’re the fucking shit.” Briscoes have earned their way back into competition and earned this title defense. This is the third match in the series and the Briscoes’ third title shot..

The match itself is one of the best tag team matches I’ve seen in quite some time, it’s tag team wrestling at its finest. Unlike the tag match earlier, the two teams are trying to prove which team is better as a unit. It’s not about each man as a single wrestler, it’s about Aries & Strong, it’s about the Briscoe Bros as a unit. The whole match has an abundance of tag team moves (most of them cool looking), an abundance of working as a team, and lots of quick tags. The two teams start off with a feeling out, but they quickly disregard that as they have faced off twice before. It’s NOT needed, the two teams know each other. Also the two teams are so evenly matched that the control swings back and forth throughout the match. No team can take THAT much of an advantage because they’re BOTH so good. After the feeling out process, the match then finds a good pace and sticks to it, the match never gets boring, even with the TWO peril sequences (first on Mark, than on Aries). After Aries gets the hot tag to Roderick, one of the best hot tag men in the business, it’s a race to the finish. There are so many nearfalls, and so many break-ups, that both teams realize that they can not win while the opponent’s partner is lingering around, which leads to a crazy desperation section on the outside. There is only one thing you can really complain about and that there is maybe too much happening in this match that there is no real substance. I don’t believe that’s true and in the end it all adds up to an amazing match between two real teams fighting to see who is the best. **** 1/2

7) Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness (ROH World Title vs. Pure Title Unification Match)

Before the main event they have a video package to hype up the match. It’s a pretty good video package, showing how evenly matched the two champions are. There were some good voice-overs to enhance the build-up video. An excellent video package, except that a lot of footage was set to fast motion, which looked odd.

Again, the story is about two men who are trying to prove they’re the best, it’s really the culmination of this minor story of who is the best champion. It hasn’t just been running between Nigel, the Pure champion, and Danielson, the World Champion, but also has a subtle inclusion of Aries and Strong, the Tag Champions. They’ve all clashed multiple times in the many different ways: Aries and Strong have both received Pure Title shots and World Title shots, Nigel and Danielson have received tag title shots, and arguably the biggest clashes of them all is Nigel and Danielson. But none of those clashes have resulted in a title change, this makes this match all the more important. Add the tension from Nigel being in his home-country, and add an extremely hot crowd, and you’ve got all the elements of a classic.

The two men know each other, know what each other is capable of, and again just like the previous match it’s hard for either man to gain a continued advantage. They’re so even and yet both still have so much to prove. They both want to prove that they’re exactly what they say they are: the BEST. Really the in-ring work basically boils down to a game of “can you top this!” Dragon hits a slap, Nigel hits a harder slap. Danielson works the arm to embarrass Nigel (since Nigel was known for his armwork) and get Nigel to use a rope break. Nigel gets Danielson in his own signature move to embarrass him and get him to use a rope break. Nigel tries to use the ring post to slam Danielson’s arm, Dragon uses the ring-post to slam Nigel’s head. Of course the crowd are way into it, and when Nigel “hulks up” near the end, it’s a fever pitch of emotion. The two wrestlers holds the viewers every step of the way, Danielson attacks the arm and shoulder because it sets up his Cattle Mutilation and Crossface Chickenwing maneuvers. Nigel uses lots of lariats because it affects the head and neck which is also what the Tower of London hurts the most. By the end of the match, both men are just trying to knock the other out. And Ladies and gentlemen, this is your new Match of the year of 06. **** 3/4

After the match, Gabe informs us that Aries broke his ribs in the Tag Title match and that there will not be a tag title match the next night. It changes up the schedule pretty much and it results in ANARCHY, I guess.

Final Thoughts:

You’ve got not one but TWO ROH classics in the two big title matches. One of them my ROH MOTY of 06 thus far and the other a MOTY contender. That’s enough to make this a must have. Plus the undercard has a few solid matches and nothing unwatchable. Everything that’s not so great is kept pretty short. But come on, you’ve got two matches that will TEAR THE HOUSE DOWN. Pick this DVD up, like yesterday.