Ring of Honor DVD Review: Race to the Top Tournament – Night Two, 7/28/07

Ring of Honor DVD Review: Race to the Top Tournament – Night Two; 7/28/07

Ring of Honor had a novel concept at the end of the summer in 2007. Making new top contenders and main event talent is a long and time consuming process, so rather than spend the months building new stars, RoH would just do it in the space of a weekend via a 16 man single elimination tournament. The concept itself is actually not so novel. Wrestling companies have been holding tournaments to elevate new stars since practically forever. While this does all sound rather snarky, what we got was a fun weekend of shows with a lot of new matchups and a few surprises. So without further ado here is quick look at the final night of the Race to the Top Tournament.

The show starts with Rebecca Bayless informing us that she will be in the ring later as Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson choose their teammates for the 8-man elimination $10,000 challenge.

Quarterfinal Match: El Generico vs. Chris Hero w/ Sweet and Sour Inc.

Chris Hero beat Erick Stevens and El Generico defeated Delirious to earn their respective berths in the quartfinals. The match is packed with Hero’s typical antics. He shows Generico about the same amount of respect that he shows all of his other opponents…none. The main story here is Hero being cocky and Generico making him pay for it. Hero eventually gets a huge advantage after some SnS shenanigans and hits a cravate-o-clasm and a dislocator for two, he tried the Hero’s Welcome, but Generico counters it into a backslide for the win. It was a fun match that continued El Generico’s underdog story arc, and did not make Hero look weak in a losing effort.

Winner: El Generio via backslide; **

The match is followed by a promo from Steen and Generico shot with a weird red spotlight filter…not attractive.

Quarterfinal Match: Pelle Primeau vs. Davey Richards

Pelle got the upset win last night against BJ Whitmer, this was before BJ turned heel; Davey Richards beat Jigsaw. This match is just a squash. Pelle gets his share of hope spots which he always times very well. A tombstone and the kimura finish. Why does Davey need a move as devastating as the tombstone to set up a submission…killing the business man, killing the business.

Winner: Davey Richards via tap out; *

We get another weird filter promo…lame.

Quarterfinal Match: Brent Albright vs. Jack Evans

Albright is still pre Hangmen 3, but wears that dumb executioner’s hood, he beat Matt Cross and Jack beat Kevin Steen to set up this meeting. The match is basically Jack using his crazy unbelievable kicks and Albright elbowing him in the face. Albright sets up a table but Jack stops him before he can use it. The match is kind of boring; Albright and Evans do not have much chemistry together. In one nice spot Jack gets German suplexed over the top to the floor. I am sorry, I just don’t be Jack being able to trade strikes with Albright. Brent eventually gets to use the table with an Awesome Bomb. Jack is able to escape the crowbar which is believable. Jack is then able to hit the 630 for the win and a spot in the semis. These two had little chemistry and Jack was not a believable winner against the big man.

Winner: Jack Evans via 630 splash; *1/2

Hey guess what; more stupid filter promos.

Quarterfinal Match: “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Quack shocked many by defeating Matt Sydal in round one and Claudio was able to upend Hallowicked setting up this bout. These two have had classic matches all over the indies, so this should be pretty good. Like most of their other matches this contest is power lucha vs. speed lucha. Still though they do slow things down quite a bit and exchange submissions, but all of this is punctuated by the lucha standard: armdrags galore. Quack of course helped train Claudio so he has a lot of his stuff scouted. They both hit a lot of their signature stuff here and it is quite impressive. Claudio is eventually able to get the win after a huge European uppercut. This was easily the best quarterfinal match.

Winner: Claudio Castagnoli via European Uppercut; ***

Yet another filter promo…

That concludes the quarterfinals which leaves us with the final four in the Race to the Top Tournament; the brackets are as follows:

El Generico vs. Davey Richards
Jack Evans vs. Claudio Castagnoli

We now go to the ring and Rebecca Bayless is there. She introduces Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson as we get ready to choose sides for the 10 grand tag team challenge. Danielson chooses the Briscoes, but is informed that he can only pick one. Nigel says he will take the other one. Dragon then picks Jimmy Rave, but finds out that he is injured and cannot compete. Larry Sweeney comes out to offer Matt Sydal’s service. Nigel responds by picking Delirious. Danielson picks Aries and Nigel responds with Roderick Strong to close out the teams. They trade some insults and call it a day. This segment was a great way to give the tournament wrestlers a break and entertain the fans with some top notch mic work.

Semi-final Match: El Generico vs. Davey Richards

Davey Richards pretty much dominates the pace of this match. Generico picks his spots and scores nearfalls at any chance. Davey still keeps his advantage with the standard arsenal of strikes. Once Davey is able to get a solid advantage he goes to work on the arm to weaken Generico for the kimura lock. The fans are firmly behind Generico in this match encouraging him with “ole” chants. Richards still maintains his advantage and goes for the shooting star press, but eats Generico’s knees. Generico follows up with a boot to the face, and the corner BRAINBUSTAAAAA!!! for the win. It was a fun match, but nothing stellar.

Winner: El Generico via BRAINBUSTAAAAA; **1/2

Guess what comes next. Yup, more weird camera effect promos.

Semi-final Match: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Jack Evans

They try some technical mat work to start, Claudio is good, Jack not so much. Jack uses his speed to his advantage and Claudio proves just how well he works with smaller faster athletes. Claudio is able to slow Jack down with his giant swing, and then goes to work with his power. Claudio dodges Jack’s inside out dropkick to maintain his advantage. But Jack is at his best on the outside and hits a crazy flippy dive to get control. Jack hits his tree of woe knees but it is not enough to keep Claudio down. Claudio sets Jack up for a tilt-a-whirl slam but thinks better of it, hits a Ricola bomb and calls himself a finalist. Fun, but Jack was not at his best at all tonight.

Winner: Claudio Castagnoli; **

We go backstage during intermission with Sweet and Sour incorporated as they stuff Bobby Dempsey in the sauna with an exercycle to get some weight off of him.

Six-Man Mayhem: Hallowicked vs. Jigsaw vs. Kevin Steen vs. Erick Stevens vs. Matt Cross vs. BJ Whitmer

The rules for the Six-Man Mayhem match are of course no tags necessary, one fall to a finish. The whole match is just the guys hitting their signature spots which is always a ton of fun. Hallowicked and Jigsaw have one of the better extended sequences which is not surprising. We also get our obligatory dive sequence. The most impressive dive is Matt Cross’ space flying tiger rana to Whitmer. Stevens ends up winning after a Doctor Bomb on Jigsaw. This was a fun match

Winner: Erick Stevens via Doctor Bomb; ***

After the match BJ Whitmer has a tantrum.

$10,000 Tag Team Challenge: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, Matt Sydal, and Mark Briscoe vs. Nigel McGuinness, Roderick Strong, Delirious, and Jay Briscoe

This match is sort of an interesting piece of booking. It is one of the rare elimination tag matches in the history of RoH. I am a mark for these types of matches so they always entertain as there are so many stories to tell. The match starts plainly enough, but eventually after some battling head to head the Briscoes realize that they don’t want to fight and the pair takes out the top stars in RoH then head to the back to have some beers leaving the sides at three apiece. The match settles back in, but eventually and for no real reason perpetual enemies Roderick Strong and Delirious have a communication breakdown and brawl themselves out of the match. This leaves Nigel all alone against Matt Sydal, Austin Aries, and Bryan Danielson. Not surprisingly, despite Nigel’s best efforts he succumbs to the other three. Sydal first tries a shooting star, but Danielson tags him out and pushes him off the top. Danielson then tries a headbutt, but Aries returns the favor to Dragon. Aries hits his 450 splash for the win. Odd booking, the Strong/Delirious part, aside, this was a pretty fun match and a great showcase of the non-tournament talent.

Winners: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, and Matt Sydal; ***

We go back to the Edison locker room to find Hero, Sweeny, and Tank Toland about to check on Dempsey in the sauna. A skinny Dempsey comes out, but it is not Bobby, it is his brother Derrick. We see the real Bobby still in the sauna eating chocolate.

Race to the Top Final: El Generico vs. Claudio Castagnoli

I don’t think many people predicted this as a final. Few probably thought there would be a final with two babyfaces, and even fewer probably thought the tournament would showcase El Generico. They start by trading “Hey” and “Ole!” chants, and no clear winner can be decided. Most wrestlers don’t know this, but a victory in a chant battle is as good as a pinfall in most contests, but it looks like the match will have to be wrestled to a conclusion.

The match starts with the standard hold trading and both prove to be about even. After a control sequence by Claudio they go into a sequence where Genrico’s moves are met with “Ole’s” by the crowd only to be countered by “Heys” for Claudio. This all leads to a crazy finishing sequence where each man throws his best stuff at the other only to be met with two counts. This included a coast to coast flipping dropkick by Generico and a top rope Alpamare Waterslide by Claudio. A fighting spirit sequence leads to a splash mountain Ricola Bomb for the win. This match was a great tournament final. The winner was never a given and both athletes were able to keep it interesting and fresh considering they had both wrestled twice before that night.

Winner:Claudio Castagnoli via Splash Mountain Ricola Bomb; ***3/4

Final Thoughts

A good show, but not a blowaway show. It works as a good curio and has a lot of fresh match-ups.

The Inside Pulse
Chris Hero vs. El Generico: Fun underdog story **

Davey Richards vs. Pelle Primeau: Squash City *

Jack Evans vs. Brent Albright: Not the best work from either involved. *1/2

“Lihtning” Mike Quackenbush vs. Claudio Castagnoli: Best match of the quarterfinals ***

Semi-Finals and Finals: Great final nothing special in the semis.

Six-Man Mayhem: BJ Whitmer vs. Kevin Steen vs. Erick Stevens vs. Matt Cross vs. Hallowicked vs. Jigsaw: As spotty as you could expect, but not in a bad way. ***

$10,000 8 Man Tag Team Challenge: Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, Matt Sydal and Mark Briscoe vs. Nigel McGuinness, Roderick Strong, Delirious, Jay Briscoe: A lot of fun and some creative booking. ***

All in all a fun show for the fresh match-ups it provides, but not the best effort RoH ever puts forth.