Ring of Honor DVD Review: Unscripted III, 12/1/2007

Welcome to the Cult of ROH review of ROH’s Unscripted III, with an intro to the show and a breakdown of every promo and match. If you’d just like thoughts on whether it’s worth a purchase, scroll down to “Afterthoughts.” If you’d just like the results, scroll down to “Spoilers.” If you’d like to know the meaning of life, multiply seven by six.

The Card:
-Austin Aries Vs. Tyler Black
-Lacey Vs. Sara Del Rey
-Six Man Mayhem: Dingo Vs. Silas Young Vs. Trik Davis Vs. Seth Skyfire Vs. Danny Daniels Vs. Dan Lawrence
-2/3 Falls: Chris Hero Vs. Claudio Castagnoli
-Adam Pearce & Shane Hagadorn Vs. Alex Payne & Ernie Osiris
-Brent Albright Vs. Jigsaw
-No Disqualifications Match: B.J. Whitmer Vs. Delirious
-Jimmy Jacobs Vs. Bryan Danielson
– Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe & Erick Stevens Vs. Roderick Strong, Rocky Romero & Davey Richards

Intro:
December 1st was supposed to be ROH’s third and final tournament of 2007, the Trios Tournament that would have pitted top factions against each other, culminating in a huge 9-man finals match. Unfortunately, weather intervened. Half the roster was delayed and several wrestlers were in a car accident, forcing ROH to rebook the show on the fly. Local guys or wrestlers that might otherwise have only gotten a pre-show tryout were put on the main show. Their world champion was injured, so he couldn’t help. They didn’t even have the luxury of writing down a card – they had very few guys to start with, and had to make up matches as the night went along. Unscripted III put ROH in an unenviable position where only the roster busting its ass could save it. Given the nature of an Unscripted event, guys could add stipulations to their matches (and sometimes introduced them during the match), and impromptu matches were the norm. Chaos reigned, cats and dogs lived together, and Mitch Franklin almost died.

The Show:

Introduction: Bobby Cruise & Austin Aries
ROH’s ring announcer and one of their favorite stars came out to thank the live crowd for braving the elements. Aries threw down an open to challenge to anyone to kick off Unscripted III, bringing out misfits from the Age of the Fall.

Austin Aries Vs. Tyler Black w/ Lacey & Alison Wonderland
They didn’t know what card they were opening for, but they had to excite the crowd as best they could, and what they did turned into one of the best openers ROH has had in a long time. Black came off as a threat with a little creative offense and some amazing agility, while letting Aries control whenever necessary.

Aries has this quality about him in ROH where he can play the good guy and control most of the match, and despite convention, make it a very engaging story. That worked here. Meanwhile, Black showed all the tools to be a main-eventer eventually, especially in a sense of entertaining offense and an even better sense of timing. The big strength of the match was timing: while they didn’t completely gel early on, Aries and Black knew how long to stall, mug for the crowd, hit the ropes rather than just going for a move, or pause before charging to electrify the quiet audience. They did it over and over again, and it’s compulsively fun to watch. If the show kept up this level of performance, no one would have minded missing the Trios Tournament.

Lacey w/ Alison Wonderland Vs. SHIMMER Champion Sara Del Rey
The Age of the Fall laid down the second challenge of the night, this time to any women’s wrestler to face Lacey. Out came SHIMMER Women’s Champion Sara Del Rey. Upfront, I’ve seldom enjoyed the SHIMMER matches on ROH shows; either the women don’t get enough time or they don’t bring their A-games, but these matches don’t live up to actual SHIMMER show main events, which is the only level I’ve ever felt was worth paying to see. Here we had ten minutes of tedious mat work, not entertaining technical wrestling but women sitting in pointless holds that they forgot happened in a few minutes, before some weak offense and even more stalling. They hit some impressive stuff near the end, but their execution was far below par for men’s competition in Ring of Honor, especially in contrast to the beauty of what Aries and Black had just done. They downright flubbed more moves than men would get away with. Outside of watching Del Rey kick Lacey as hard as she possibly could, there wasn’t much worth watching here.

Six Man Mayhem: Dingo Vs. Silas Young Vs. Trik Davis Vs. Seth Skyfire Vs. Danny Daniels Vs. Dan Lawrence
You knew you were in for something bizarre when Silas Young pranced to the ring to a Journey song and Dingo was announced as, “D-I-N-G-O, and Dingo is his name-o!” More comedy definitely would have helped this match, considering it was between six unfamiliar wrestlers that probably wouldn’t have even appeared on the main show if not for the storm. There was a little wackiness (thank you, Danny Daniels), but it was mostly guys running around, getting into position, hitting a move, then getting into position to have a move done to them. They set things up a little too slowly and stayed in position a little too long, which would be fine for a lesser indy show, but not Ring of Honor. The saving graces were head drops and one unexpected (and wicked cool) dive. In many ways this resembled the scrambles from ROH in 2002 and 2003, without so many of the innovative moves.

Post-Match: The Briscoes Arrive
The Briscoes came out in street clothes to beat up some of the five losers, psych up the crowd and promise something special in the main event.

In-Ring Promo: Chris Hero, Sara Del Rey & Bobby Dempsey
Hero came out and did his usual shtick: singing his own praises, abusing Bobby Dempsey, claiming he was underappreciated. If you like him, here’s more of him for you. If you’re tired of him, this won’t sway you. He drew out the “Swiss thorn in my side,” Claudio Castagnoli, for our next match.

Chris Hero w/ Sara Del Rey & Bobby Dempsey Vs. Claudio Castagnoli
This is one of those matches you can’t write about without spoiling a part. Larry Sweeney was waiting in the back and when Hero lost the one-fall match, Sweeney announced that it was actually a 2/3 Falls match to give Hero another chance. It was a nice surprise in a match that alternated between fun and boredom.

These guys weren’t wrestling for the DVD audience. They played to the crowd crowd more than usual because of the letdown, and so Hero’s antics were bumped up a notch and were more appropriate than ever. More Dempsey deprecation, more needless acrobatics, more looking like a goofball – all of which kept this from being the amazing match their fans keep waiting for Hero and Castagnoli to deliver in ROH. That wasn’t their goal this time. Their goal was to make a fun match in the middle of a crappy night, and they didn’t strive for much depth beyond that. Unfortunately, it was a very long match, and because the shenanigans were the focus for so long, they didn’t really build for the later stages. And once again an ROH Castagnoli Vs. Hero match failed to hit high gear. Perhaps if they weren’t already booked to wrestle later that month these two could have put together something amazing. Like several of Hero’s recent matches, this went needlessly long and felt slow and drawn out despite an auspicious opening. Hero going after Castagnoli’s arm felt perfunctory, not like an actual tactic, but something that would make the match last longer. They gained some fire after the “revelation” that it was 2/3 Falls, but soon fell back into the drawn-out pace. Manhattan Mayhem II is a better show with a much better match between these two if you’re a hardcore fan of theirs and are looking to see them lock up.

Adam Pearce & Shane Hagadorn w/ B.J. Whitmer & Brent Albright Vs. Alex Payne & Ernie Osiris
Adam Pearce killed the students. Hagadorn did a move, possibly to show he learned one lately. Hagadorn embraced his role in life as the giggling crotch-creature to Adam Pearce’s Jabba the Hut. This lasted two minutes, nothing else to say.

Post-Match: Albright Wants Some
Albright said that match looked like fun and he wanted an opponent. Jigsaw of the Vulture Squad obliges. One benefit of the faction wars is that even if two groups aren’t feuding, one will always be willing to score points against another.

Brent Albright w/ Adam Pearce, B.J. Whitmer & Shane Hagadorn Vs. Jigsaw
I expected Albright to throw Jigsaw around the ring and give him a few hope spots, but from the beginning Jigsaw got a lot of offense. They showcased Jigsaw’s nimble technical wrestling skills as well as his agility. He wasn’t Albright’s equal, but his different strengths made him dangerous and even let him dominate the bigger, stronger opponent. Albright highlighted Jigsaw’s strengths by using minimalistic offense, like headlocks and lariats. To his credit, Jigsaw looked worlds crisper and more experienced than any of the six men in the Mayhem match earlier in the show.

This was more about showcasing Jigsaw than making Albright look like a monster, which was interesting, because ROH’s faction wars really haven’t had a monster force to date. Erick Stevens, Necro Butcher and Brent Albright all might have played the role, but none truly have. Albright didn’t look weak here, but Jigsaw was more than a capable opponent, once again keeping the faction wars even. Albright was a definite force when he brought it, but still looked awkward when he was on defense – as usual, he had points where it looked like he should have been able to turn the tables but purposefully didn’t. The only strong flaw in the match was Albright throwing a Full Nelson Suplex as a transition move mid-match, which makes his Half Nelson Suplex questionable as a finisher (to be fair, his placing and execution of the latter still makes it believable, but if this continues, it will hurt believability). They put together an unusual ten-minute power wrestler/quick wrestler match that was quite entertaining. This isn’t the kind of match you buy a DVD to see, but it’s fun filler in-between the bigger matches and makes the whole show better to watch.

Post-Match: And Now B.J. Whitmer Wants Some
Whitmer joined the spirit of the night and challenged anyone else in the back. Delirious, mortal enemy of the Hangmen 3 faction, charged the ring to streamers and an enthusiastic pop that reminds us whether people on message boards think they’re stale, some live crowds love the Lizard Man.

No Disqualifications Match: B.J. Whitmer Vs. Delirious
Delirious openly challenged or attacked everyone in the Hangmen 3 during his match, trying to give the crowd a little more faction action for their money. This was meant to both play into his bad blood with the group and appease a sliver of the resentment over the loss of the Trios Tournament, and I appreciated both. Delirious is one of those ROH wrestlers that most tries to connect with the fans and give them something, and on this night that meant dives, chairs, opening an umbrella in doors and brawling through the crowd to create the hottest atmosphere since the opening. Really, what other wrestler will open an umbrella in doors for the fans? That’s heart right there.

The match switched between humor and hardcore, with the humor (like the umbrella) not lasting too long to detract from the brawl. When they returned to the ring they had a short, typical match for both Delirious and Whitmer, culminating in a non-finish with a scary-looking blade job and a disturbing continuation of the Delirious/Hangmen 3 feud. Again, the point wasn’t to steal the show, but continue the brutal storyline and give the fans something exciting. The post-match brawl between the Hangmen 3 and the students (guess who won that one) was also pretty brutal and wild, even if ROH’s camera crew missed half of it.

In-Ring Promo: Jimmy Jacobs, Alison Wonderland, Daizee Haze, and utter chaos
Jimmy Jacobs wanted to take this time to talk about his revolution. Wonderland wanted to show him how much she believed in “the cause,” which apparently meant making out with a guy that spent half of 2006 and 2007 winning another girl. Haze, perhaps on behalf of monogamous continuity, jumped them both. With his thoughts jarred, Jacobs rambled about destroying things in this world for a revolution. Sometimes that meant destroying the best in the world. That pun drew out “The Best in the World,” Bryan Danielson, for our semi-main event. They didn’t even talk to explain a grievance – they just went at it.

Jimmy Jacobs w/ Alison Wonderland Vs. Bryan Danielson
Danielson quickly went for serious moves, like a jujigatame and his “MMA” elbow barrage, right at the beginning of the match, helping create a big time atmosphere when Jacobs could escape them. Even if he had to run, not falling or getting sucked in right away lent Jacobs more legitimacy than other first-time opponents of Danielson’s in the company, like PAC (Caged Rage), Matt Sydal (Death Before Dishonor 5 Night 1) and Necro Butcher (Reckless Abandon). This is at least ten minutes longer and considerably deeper than any of those matches, but I’d take the first five minutes of this match over any of those matches in their entirety. Danielson’s rough chain wrestling and Jacobs’ tactical escapes really built this up as something special for Jacobs. Danielson was godly, but they built Jacobs as a threat. Even in his bad guy role, Jacobs played that his greatest strength was fighting through his own limits (or finding shortcuts), and that worked particularly well against Danielson, who most ROH crowds would believe dominating anyone (and they’d cheer for it). They even worked in the question of Jimmy Jacobs’ knee (still braced from his Steel Cage Match in March) to expand on the story of how well Jacobs do here.

Jimmy Jacobs completely held up his end. This night he worked kick-and-stomp offense better than Hero, heel comebacks better than Black, and sold better than Albright. It was easily the best “bad guy” performance on the show. That linked up with everything Danielson gave Jacobs (he could have easily and selfishly controlled the whole match) to create something truly special, and something worth your money if you’re a fan of these two guys. Danielson upped the octane of his offense, hitting bigger and flashier moves like a second turnbuckle European Uppercut and Swan Dive Headbutt to play a more vibrant fan favorite against Jacobs. He eventually sold himself in greater peril than any time in recent memory other than against KENTA, McGuinness and Morishima. The elements linked and the two guys built it into a long stretch of potential finishes, none of which were overkill, but rather contributed to a rolling sense of drama.

This is the best pure singles match I’ve ever seen Jimmy Jacobs in. “I Quit” against Alex Shelley and the Steel Cage against B.J. Whitmer were phenomenal matches, but this was at least equal to those on an emotional level without going into gimmick territory.

Post-Match: McGuinness is In It to… Talk About It
Nigel McGuinness came out to talk smack with Danielson. Why exactly the injured champ was up to wrestling Silas Young the previous night but wasn’t up to anything this night is a mystery to me. Since we know McGuinness didn’t turn evil anytime soon, this was just annoying. Fortunately, Hero jumped McGuinness, then Strong strolled out to demand a title shot, and the murkiness of the title picture was properly framed. Half a dozen men wound up around the ring, and the Briscoes fulfilled their promise in a main event that gave the fans at least one trios tag match.

Oh, and Roderick Strong can’t talk.

Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe & Erick Stevens Vs. Roderick Strong, Rocky Romero & Davey Richards
But he can f’n wrestle. The No Remorse Corps was surprisingly dominant for a match with both Briscoes. The Briscoes held back noticeably to let the NRC shine on offense and defense, only revving it up in the second half for the fun rushes of offense their fans have come to expect. Strong, Romero and Richards were influential both when they dominated and when one of them (more often Romero or Richards than Strong) was caught and pounded. They showed their usual promise as a unit without showing off anything dramatically new (the highlight of their offense was when Romero was catapulted for a dropkick and accidentally landed feet-first on Erick Stevens’ crotch).

The big surprise of the match was Erick Stevens. He was supposed to gun for Davey Richards, looking to avenge his broken arm, and while the commentators mentioned it and Stevens teased it, the two didn’t interact much differently than any other permutation of two opponents in the match, and there were several moments when Stevens was downright ambivalent about attacking Richards, or let someone else handle him. This might have been a casualty of him handling last-minute booking, but Stevens’ behavior wasn’t suited at all to a vengeance storyline. He was fun as a big power guy, make no mistake, and his fans looking to see him in the main event scene should be happy to at least see him as crisp (if off-motivation) at the top of this card. It’s simply odd, especially after the three-way at Reckless Abandon, to see him really no more motivated to get his hands on Davey Richards than Jay Briscoe was.

Since the match was mostly free-flowing aggression from both sides, it was open for a good plot thread like Stevens’ revenge, and the lack of such a plot thread held it back. It was a solid, fun Trios tag to end the night, nothing more or less.

The Inside Pulse
Afterthoughts: Skippable? Borrower? Wait for a sale? Buy it now?
Dang, that was better than I expected. Much like Unscripted II. And Unscripted.

Huh.

In all seriousness, Jigsaw/Albright and the main event are solid matches, Black/Aries is a great opener and Jacobs/Danielson is phenomenal. This is a stronger show than Reckless Abandon, which had no weather catastrophes and was booked with total foresight. Approaching this show with lowered expectations definitely helped, so the praise I’ve given Black/Aries and Jacobs/Danielson probably won’t help you. Make no mistake: this is not one of their strongest shows of 2007. A lot of the matches are below par.

You have to give ROH a little sympathy in this situation. The staff had to re-book a big show on the fly. The roster was arriving intermittently, not allowing them to prepare for matches that were probably thrown to together on less than an hour’s notice. Several of these guys were probably wrestling while waiting to hear if their friends were okay, and knowing that at least some of them were in a car accident. ROH wasn’t just re-booking a normal show, but re-booking what would have been a major tournament show without a tournament. Furthermore, no wrestler could know what was coming later on, so they couldn’t pace their matches to fit with the flow of a show. I wouldn’t want to have to do that, and everyone at ROH deserves a lot of credit for pulling it off this well.

The show runs over three hours, leaving little space for extras. That’s interesting since it means ROH’s throw-together show runs longer than almost any of their recent DVD releases. Almost every match got time, with Black/Aries, Hero/Castagnoli, Jacobs/Danielson and the main event getting the most time.

If you’re a fan of the Age of the Fall, this show is for you. Tyler Black has an all-around great opener with Austin Aries, and Jimmy Jacobs has one of the biggest singles matches of his career with Bryan Danielson. There’s no Necro Butcher, but Lacey does get a decent amount of time to wrestle (I’m not a fan of Lacey and didn’t enjoy it; perhaps her admirers will feel differently).

Similarly, the three fans of the Hangmen 3 may want this show to watch them demolish people for a solid half hour. They have three matches in a row, two promos, and they cap it off by kicking the crap out of the students. They don’t tear it down like the Age of the Fall, but if these are your guys, they got a solid chunk of time and did what they normally do with it.

In terms of re-watching, I’ll definitely watch Aries/Black and Jacobs/Danielson again. Because of the special circumstances, this show has a different feeling around it, so I may watch the whole thing over again on a sick day as a pick-me-up (with liberal use of fast-forward). My final recommendation is that if you’re still uncertain you’d like it, this will probably make a good 4th DVD on a Buy 3, Get 1 Free sale.

SPOILERS:
-Austin Aries pinned Tyler Black with a 450 Splash. He has the prettiest 450 Splash in America.
-Sara Del Rey pinned Lacey with a bridging German Suplex.
-Dingo won the Six Man Mayhem by pinning Dan Lawrence with a Full Nelson Suplex, and Dingo is his name-o.
-Claudio Castagnoli won the first fall by pinning Chris Hero with the Alpamare Waterslide; Sweeney came out and announced it was 2/3 Falls; Hero won the second fall with the Hero’s Welcome; Castagnoli won the third fall and the match with a stacked Schoolboy.
-Adam Pearce & Shane Hagadorn defeated Alex Payne & Ernie Osiris when Pearce pinned Osiris with a Spike Piledriver.
-Brent Albright pinned Jigsaw with a Half Nelson Suplex.
-B.J. Whitmer Vs. Delirious went to a No-Contest after the Hangmen 3 tried to hang Delirious with a chain. People that were offended have obviously not paid attention to the group’s name.
-Jimmy Jacobs made Bryan Danielson pass out in the End Times Guillotine Choke.
-The Briscoes & Erick Stevens beat the No Remorse Corps when Jay Briscoe pinned Davey Richards with a Jay Driller.

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