Ring of Honor Weekly

ROH’s Tag Teams, financial woes, and a Kota Ibushi Preview!

News of Honor – All the Week’s ROH news from Carl Ashby (opens in a new window)

ROH Changes the PPV Date and announces a Triple Shot Weekend.

See the Dragon Gate Stars and some matches for Wrestlemania Weekend in Orlando

Larry Sweeney’s talk show, Jack’s injuries and more

This Week on Inside Pulse

New ROH Columnist John Wiswell discusses the Unexpected in ROH. Must read.

Elia Nuno sends in a very god ROH Unified review.

John Cena: Deconstructed. I discuss everything you could want to know about Cena in ring.

Jake Mulligan is in the process of usurping Ditch’s throne. Look out David!

Andy Wheeler a lot more thoughtfully, discussed last week’s column about ROH as Promotion of the Year.

Phil Clark kicks those silly InsideFights guys out of our damn section of the site!

Ariel Helwani interviews Jimmy Jacobs.

The Fool in the Stands

Teams of Honor

Ring of Honor has, through faction warfare, completely rebuilt their tag division. Since the division has become so incredibly strong and this weekend we again crowned new champions, it’s time to look at each team, their strengths, weaknesses and role. We’ll start with the new champs. There will be a second topic below this one, so be sure to check it out.

The No Remorse Corps of Davey Richards and Rocky Romero

This is a hard kicking heel team that can either play the badass role, with their stiff intensity, or goof off with Davey’s “I’m Winning!” or Rocky’s Azucar dance. This is very good for the division, since that allows them to play off both bigger opponents and smaller, while putting on matches of different types. They will naturally, as a heel team, work best against faces, but they can do face work with Davey, who has become a great seller, taking the beating and Romero being the hot tag. The main problem with the team is Romero. He’s inconsistent, so there are going to be a lot of great matches and many where he seems disinterested and the whole affair will be brought down. Hopefully having a title will help his consistency, but putting a belt on a guy to improve consistency can be dangerous. Still, this can’t be a disaster with so many viable contenders, and they can get through a weekend without two defenses by having either champion team with Roderick to weaken opponents. I’ve basically talked myself into this working, though with the talent involved, it sure should.

The Age of the Fall of Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black

The former DIFH had the belts for a surprisingly short run, but in the process proved themselves a top team. They are great at the sprint style, with Black notably proving himself an AJ Styles class athlete. Their matches, with the Briscoes at Finale and Murder City Machine Guns in PWG, prove that they are a near perfect heel counterpart to the sprint style tag team. They likely won’t get the belts back, but both have ROH World Champion potential and can serve as major foils for any group of faces.

The Briscoe Brothers: Jay and Mark

The Briscoes are faces and among the best spot based wrestlers and brawlers on the planet. They simply cannot sell and structure matches strangely (though they are structured), so many have turned on them. They’re great at what they do and over because of it. They’ll likely be too busy with the Age to go after the tag titles too heavily.

Kevin Steen and El Generico

My pick for the best team in the world today, despite how they look. Steen is a fatish bully who makes the nice, generic luchador do bad things. Steen has the bully character and mannerisms down perfectly, while being surprisingly agile and having an awesome arsenal of power moves. Generico is one of the best “takes a beating” faces in the business and is an awesome seller with a great speed offense. Together they can do any style, from brawling to tag formula to the Briscoes sprint. They are awesome as faces or heels. Steen guarantees they’ll win the tag belts, so they likely will. Don’t doubt a man that awesome.

Team Work of Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson

Team Work just formed last weekend. Them being together serves two purposes. First it highlights and pushes forward Aries new semi-heel turn, allowing either a full turn with Age of the Fall who are recruiting Austin, or a feud with them. It also allows them to lose and make other teams look great, since they have so much credibility between them. I love this idea and really, this is the first step hopefully to getting everyone on the roster a regular partner as I’ve been saying for ages.

The Hangm3n of Adam Pearce, BJ Whitmer and Brent Albright

This is the strangest team of all. Whitmer works particularly well with speed guys, but Albright is better with power guys, so one would think that they are mismatched. Pearce is a great seller, unlike both BJ and Albright, so he should be in the team to take a beating from the faces, and since Albright is best against big guys, he should go after the Nigel’s and Stevens’ of the world… ROH can’t seem to decide which way to go with this, leaving the awkwardly matched Whitmer and Albright seemingly as the main team, which simply isn’t working.

The Vulture Squad of Jack Evans, Ruckus and Jigsaw

Another team that can’t decide which way to go with members forming the main team, Ruckus and Jack seem to have had the most success. Both are out for awhile, though when they aren’t, they’re the fliers. That’s a bit redundant in this division, but if anyone’s flashy enough to pull it off, it’s the Vultures. With their flash, they’re over no matter what and don’t really need much to do but go out and flip.

Bobby Fish, Eddie Edwards, and Matt Cross

Two of these three seem a fairly regular team. All three are solid with Fish and Edwards being quite a bit ahead of the curve in knowing what to do when in the ring. Cross is all flash, but with solid guys like Edwards and Fish, he works well. I’d love to see them get more bookings and a bit of a push.

On ROH Cutting Costs

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about this.

First, ROH is not losing money, nor has business taken a turn south. They are attempting to expand, but with the entire bill being footed by Cary Silkin, they simply are not gaining enough to remain profitable at their current growth rate. Please don’t compare this to ECW who went well overboard with a television show, international expansion and PPV during a boom period. ECW had multiple investors early, then was subsidized by Vince McMahon and, again during a boom period, had corporate sponsors. With none of this an option for ROH, growing at their own rate is the only sensible thing and will ensure that they do not go under.

Next, we have wrestlers missing shows on the alternating schedule. For the bigger names, this isn’t much of an issue. NOAH is booking more ROH talent, so they’ll only miss shows they would have anyway. Smaller names may miss some shows, but are cheaper so it will be less guys likely missing out. Major shows don’t look to be effected, even for foreign talent, which is still being brought in. Kota Ibushi’s stay is only a week and a special event, while Dragon Gate is now tradition and an expected expense. Go Shiozaki is moving to America, like Shingo did, so it’s not flying in and out. Marufuji is a special guest at this point, while Morishima will likely soon be GHC champion and not around much after that anyway. Daniel Puder is, in fact, gone from ROH. Hopefully this means he’ll be pulled from the “Rising Above” PPV with something else in place of a distinctly not special Davey vs. Stevens match.

Lastly, the PPVs did not lose ROH money, they just weren’t successful at their intended goal of making new people go out and buy ROH DVDs. Perhaps they were a bit too self contained and the advertising was lacking? Whatever the case, they were well ordered, but failed to translate into attendance.

Now, something totally different.

Upon Further Review by Mark Buckeldee

At the last ROH show it was announced that DDT wrestler Kota Ibushi would be appearing at four ROH shows in April this year. These are 4/11 (Boston), 4/12 (Edison), Detroit (4/18) and Chicago (4/19). Many fans were left scratching their heads as to who Kota Ibushi is. As such I decided to watch some of Ibushi’s better matches in 2007 in order to introduce people to the joys of Kota Ibushi before the ROH shows in April.

Many would call Ibushi a spot-fest wrestler. To some extents he is but if you think he’s just a one trick pony then you will be in for a pleasant surprise. His kicks are lethal and he has a great range of Suplexes to with which to complement an array of Moonsaults and Phoenix splashes. Plus, as will be shown during my reviews, he is quite good at selling as well. He is a great talent, especially when you consider the fact that he only debuted in July 2004. The first match I will review is a match for the recently revived International Jr Heavyweight Championship.

Puroresu Summit, 8/26/2007:
International Jr Heavyweight Championship Decision match: Kota Ibushi vs. Madoka.

The International Jr Heavyweight Championship was formed in 1993 by the FMW promotion in Japan. The title was later used by two other Japanese promotions, Battlarts and Michinoku Pro. Previous holders of the title have included the Great Sasuke, Taka Michinoku, Minoru Tanaka and Ikuto Hidaka. The belt was retired in 2002 but it was recently revived at the Puroresu Summit show by DDT, Kota Ibushi’s home promotion. This match was to decide the new holder of the belt. Fittingly, Ibushi’s opponent is Madoka, a Kaientai Dojo wrestler who was trained by former International Jr Heavyweight Title holder Taka Michinoku. Ibushi and Madoka had previously faced each other in the final of the 2007 Differ Cup.

The match starts with a fast paced series of strike evasions where Ibushi manages to get the upper hand. Despite being sent to the outside, Ibushi maintains his initial advantage by kicking Madoka in the face as Madoka attempts a Tope. After that Madoka is dead weight and the Referee goes to check on him. As Ibushi comes in for a closer inspection Madoka surprises him with a Dragon Screw. Ibushi writhes in pain and Madoka focuses on Ibushi’s left leg for several minutes, keeping Ibushi grounded on the mat. When he gets to his feet, Ibushi is severely hampered by his leg before he manages to regain momentum, using a series of kicks to set up his double Moonsault (a top rope Moonsault onto his feet immediately followed by a standing Moonsault). Madoka moves but as Ibushi lands on his feet his leg goes out from under him. Madoka continues to work on the leg by applying a Figure Four leg lock, forcing Ibushi to grab the ropes. A second Figure Four is countered with a kick to the face and Madoka now focuses on trying to hit his Ranhei finisher. The Ranhei can best be described as a front flip STO. Ibushi focuses on avoiding the move and when it does come Ibushi manages to kick out at 2 and a 1/2. Madoka follows this up with a Shooting Star Press but Ibushi gets his knees up, further injuring his left knee in the process. Both wrestlers sell their injuries during a standing ten count but moth manage to avoid getting counted out. After a fighting spirit strike exchange that evolves from slaps to kicks and Suplexes, Ibushi hits two sick high kicks for a near fall. Ibushi finishes the match with a perfect Phoenix Splash.
Ibushi wins the International Jr Heavyweight Championship by Phoenix splash, ***3/4

This was a match that I enjoy every time I see it. The start is very quick paced and quickly illustrates their familiarity with each other after their encounter at the 2007 Differ Cup. Madoka’s game plan is excellent as he plays possum after receiving a kick to the head mid Tope, allowing him to get inside Ibushi’s defences and hit a Dragon Screw. From here Madoka focuses on the leg, giving him an extra route for victory while trying to limit Ibushi’s offence. I was really impressed by Ibushi’s selling of the leg. After his initial writhing in pain due to the Dragon Screw he stays grounded on the mat for nearly five minutes, continuously selling the leg. When he gets to his feet he often sells the leg by limping or taking longer to get back to his feet. The best spot of selling is his leg going out from under him after the Moonsault. It’s a shame that he often forgot to sell the leg during his strike exchanges and Suplexes but, as soon as they ended he went back to selling the leg. This was a match with many great little touches, like Ibushi’s counter to the Figure Four, the multiple Ranhei evasions and the use of a long double count after Ibushi gets his knees up. I was also impressed by post match selling of the leg by Ibushi, something that I always look out for. The fighting spirit sequence at the end went on for a little too long but, other then this and the lack of selling during Ibushi’s offence, I found this to be an enthralling match with good psychology, good selling and entertaining moves.

I Was Born to Love Treasure, 12/22/2007
International Jr Heavyweight Championship Title match: Kagetora (challenger) vs. Kota Ibushi (champion)

This match was held in the El Dorado promotion, a group founded by former Dragon Gate wrestlers like Touru Iwasa and Shuji Kondo. Ibushi had wrestled for the promotion many times and had beaten the El Dorado team of Kagetora and Hercules Oosenga to reach the final of the 2007 Differ Cup. Kagetora is a member of Touru Owashi’s Animal Planets faction, the rest of whom were at ringside for this match in order to cheer on Kagetora.

The match starts off with both wrestlers very wary of each other. When they eventually lock up the mat wrestling is fast paced with Ibushi using his agility to win the exchange, causing Kagetora to regroup on the outside. Ibushi starts to rely on his kicks so Kagetora decides to target Ibushi’s left knee, the same knee that Madoka focused on in the Title Decision match at Puroresu Summit. Kagetora takes control of the match but a missed corner charge allows Ibushi to regain control with an Exploder and a Frog Splash. Ibushi hits a Springboard Moonsault to the outside and then brings Kagetora back inside. While Ibushi is on the offensive he doesn’t sell the knee. This changes when Kagetora gains momentum and hits a top rope Elbow onto Ibushi’s left knee. This causes immediate problems as Ibushi collapses during an Irish Whip. Ibushi fights off a Suplex and manages to hit a Standing Moonsault, second rope Moonsault combination for a two count. Ibushi hits a Spin kick and a German Suplex but his leg gives out during the bridge. Kagetora hits a desperation Lariat and both wrestlers are down. They eventually start to trade Forearms while still on the mat and gradually stagger to their feet with Ibushi selling his leg during the exchange. Ibushi wins the strike exchange and hits a Phoenix splash but the force of the landing hurts his knee and he loses vital seconds, allowing Kagetora to kick out at two and a half. Kagetora blocks a Dragon Suplex attempt and takes control of the match with an inverted Gut wrench Suplex. Kagetora hits the John Woo Dropkick and follows it up with his finisher, the Ikkitousen, for a near fall. Kagetora goes for a second Ikkitousen but Ibushi escapes and gets a near fall with a High kick. Kagetora kicks out but he can’t kick out of the Dragon Suplex that follows and Ibushi retains his title. After the match Ibushi sells his knee again, even using Kagetora to support his weight as they leave, with both wrestlers having gained mutual respect for each other.
Kota Ibushi retains the International Jr Heavyweight Title by Dragon Suplex, ***

This was another enjoyable match although I preferred Ibushi’s match against Madoka. Ibushi initially uses his agility and kicks to gain the advantage so Kagetora focuses on the left knee that Madoka had focused on during the match at Puroresu Summit. Initially Ibushi was able to fight through the pain but the Elbow drop onto the knee was too much and the leg began to affect Ibushi’s game plan as it failed him during the Phoenix Splash and a German Suplex. Ibushi relied on strikes and Suplexes to focus on Kagetora’s head and neck while Kagetora weakened the leg to limit Ibushi’s offence and agility. This allowed him to hit the Ikkitousen but that wasn’t enough. Ibushi managed to escape a second Ikkitousen and he used a Dragon Suplex to get the three count. Ibushi used some good moves here, like the Moonsault combinations and a very nice Dragon Suplex, but his selling wasn’t as consistent as it was in the Madoka match. Like that match Ibushi often forgot to sell the leg during his strikes and the manner that Ibushi escaped the Ikkitousen bugged me since Ibushi had sold the leg so much previous to this point. There were some very good bits of selling by Ibushi but in general it wasn’t as good as the Madoka match. Kagetora did a good job of trying to get around Ibushi’s superior array of kicks and Suplexes by working on the leg but his inability to capitalise on the leg work cost him the match. This was my first time watching Kagetora and I was quite impressed with him as he sold well, had some good moves and made for some good momentum changes during the match. Overall, this was an entertaining match with some good action, a decent story and some great spots but Ibushi’s lapses of selling during his offensive flurries will bug some people.

That’s it, remember to check the Comics Nexus and Not a True Ending for more from me throughout the week, as well as an upcoming TNA Bound For Glory Review right here on Pulse Wrestling.