Cult of ROH: Sixth Anniversary Weekend Preview

We’re just a few days away from Ring of Honor’s big Sixth Anniversary show. Last year they stretched the anniversary out over three weekends and two countries, but this time only one show will carry the anniversary name, happening on Saturday in Manhattan. Friday night will kick things off with an as-yet unnamed show in Deer Park, for a New York state doubleshot. Ring of Honor will be without the Briscoes, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero, but there’s little to worry about with Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness at the top of both cards and Go Shiozaki beginning his tour of America.

Let’s check out the shows.

February 22 Show
8:00 PM bell time
Deer Park Community Center
41 Homer Avenue
Deer Park, NY 11729
Tickets at , or 215-781-2500.

The Card
Tyler Black Vs. Human Tornado
Austin Aries Vs. Joey Matthews
Larry Sweeney’s New Talk Show
Jigsaw & Ruckus w/ Julius Smokes & Mercedez Martinez Vs. Jimmy Jacobs & The Necro Butcher w/ Lacey
Erick Stevens Vs. Go Shiozaki
Bryan Danielson Vs. Rocky Romero
Nigel McGuinness Vs. Brent Albright
Davey Richards & Roderick Strong Vs. El Generico & Kevin Steen

Overview
Holy crap, what a show for Deer Park. You get California’s Human Tornado, Japan’s Go Shiozaki and Joey Matthews (formerly WWE’s Joey Mercury). Danielson and McGuinness will be separated, but will be in high profile matches. El Generico and Kevin Steen will be in a main event position without the Briscoes on the show, making it even more important that they shine (and we know they can). In fact, with the Briscoes going to abroad like this, any team has more reason to step and become the new godfathers of the tag division. You’re not likely to see a lot of plot progression this night, but with so many highly talented wrestlers in interesting matches, you’re not likely to see some of the best in-ring action.

Tyler Black Vs. Human Tornado
Quite possibly your opener, expect a short, fun match here. Tornado will be funny, Black will be aggressive, Black will win, and hopefully a chubby hooker will nurse Tornado’s ego. Tornado has the outside chance of an upset victory and finding a foothold in ROH bookings, but Black needs to rebound from his tag title loss.

Austin Aries Vs. Joey Matthews
Aries is up there with Danielson in terms of great measuring sticks for newcoming and returning talent, and after a solid singles match with Mark Briscoe, Joey Matthews could cement himself as valuable to ROH here. Rumors of budget problems mean people like Matthews will have to really impress if they want to be around regularly. This will be one of two measuring stick matches for Aries this weekend (along with Saturday’s match against Go Shiozaki), where he can easily play either a dominating good guy or a jaded heel, depending on his mood and how the crowd receives him. Similarly he’s established enough to win or lose this match, and the big question is whether Aries will drop another match to another guy who isn’t necessarily on his “ace” level. This should also tie in to the Age of the Fall’s invitation for Aries to join the group. It could become a question of whether the Age of the Fall is more interested in beating or converting him.

Larry Sweeney’s New Talk Show
Who will the guest be? Will there be a guest? We don’t know. It would be funny if he interviewed himself, but all that’s certain is that Sweeney is hilarious on the microphone. He could use this time to:
1) Rant about Hero’s greatness.
2) Display the intergender tag titles, and possibly argue for their validity.
3) Introduce a new member to his stable.
4) Try to coerce someone (Human Tornado? A member of another existing stable?) into joining.
5) Go over Bobby Dempsey’s progress chart and/or fire Tank Toland.
6) Go over his own qualifications as a wrestler and tease entering or actually enter himself into official competition.
7) Do something to haze Claudio Castagnoli.
We just don’t know, but it should be a good breather in the middle of the show.

Jigsaw & Ruckus w/ Julius Smokes & Mercedez Martinez Vs. Jimmy Jacobs & The Necro Butcher w/ Lacey
This was booked when Jacobs was still co-holder of the tag titles, at which point it looked like a good opportunity for the Vulture Squad to steal a win and get a shot at the titles. Now Jacobs is titleless and needs to rebound from his loss, while Jigsaw & Ruckus are leaderless and need to pick up wins to stay relevant in ROH. Both have teams have strong needs for a victory, but I get the sense that Jacobs will choke someone out in the end.

Erick Stevens Vs. Go Shiozaki
No pressure, Mr. Stevens and Mr. Go. You’re just a rookie being shoved to the top and a guy making his debut in the U.S.
Stevens’ recent loss of the FIP title makes this even more difficult to predict; he’s showing up in ROH without the title he won here, and he was already shot up the card with victories over Strong, Aries and Danielson. Because he was so successful in such a short time, and now additionally because he’s coming off of a title loss, it seems very logical that he would win here to appear strong. But NOAH plays a lot of politics and doesn’t its guys losing very often, and would ROH really start off a new foreigner’s tour with a loss? If placed on the undercard this could go to a cheap time limit draw, but ROH has even done that recently, so it doesn’t seem as likely. One guy will walk away from this with significant momentum.
Match-wise, their greatest strengths are selling really sympathetically and chopping really hard, so their best bets are either to shoot for a simple and engaging match of brute force, or for a long, deep match that cements them as people you’d pay to see in New York. It will be most interesting to see if one of them plays the aggressor as they’re so evenly matched and since they have such similar talents.

Bryan Danielson Vs. Rocky Romero
In accordance with Romero’s challenge, this will be a more grappling- and MMA-based match. It’s funny to see a challenge turn this into a borderline gimmick match where the gimmick is a total lack of gimmicks. The challenge wasn’t really necessary if you saw their match a couple of years ago at Steel Cage Warfare, when they were already wrestling a very technical, realistic style for pro wrestling. Since then Danielson has condensed and intensified his mat game such that this outing should be even more aggressive. This is Danielson’s game, and Romero has shown on several occasions that he can pull this off. Look for a snug, technical match with chain wrestling, serious holds and hard-hitting strikes, the sort of thing ROH fans eat up. Danielson is almost certain to win going into his Saturday titleshot, though an upset by Romero could kickstart MMA-influenced wrestling as a specialty match in ROH.

Nigel McGuinness Vs. Brent Albright
Brent Albright has a weird chemistry with Nigel McGuinness. Maybe it’s his size or his character’s reputation of being a little more technically savvy than the average bruiser, but Albright tends to reverse more of McGuinness’ stock offense and shows better timing against him than most of his opponents. At both All Star Extravaganza 3 and Motor City Madness 2007 the two showed good promise with each other, and Friday will be their night to make good on it in a main event. Especially given the story of McGuinness’ arm injury and Albright’s submissions on that part of the body, this should be a great story teasing how badly Albright can bang him up before Saturday’s title match. Just like Danielson’s match, expect McGuinness to win so that ROH’s titans look strong going into their clash on Saturday.

Davey Richards & Roderick Strong Vs. El Generico & Kevin Steen
ROH says that Generico & Steen have to rack up some wins before they get another shot at the titles, but pinning a co-holder of those titles in a 2-on-2 tag match would almost guarantee them a shot. In other promotions Richards & Strong have shown themselves to be a very sound bully team, and Generico is the perfect target for bullies. Steen, in turn, is perfect for counter-bullying, and I’d expect Richards in particular to get some comeuppance for abusing Generico. Generico & Steen proved throughout 2007 that they have what it takes to run on the top of the tag scene, capable of big sprints, slow builds and dynamically switching pace. Hopefully this match goes on last to give these two teams the proper stage on which to shine.

February 23: Six Anniversary Show
Manhattan Center (Grand Ballroom)
311 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001
212-279-7740
Tickets at , or 215-781-2500.

The Card
Delirious Vs. Human Tornado
El Generico Vs. Brent Albright
Kevin Steen Vs. Joey Matthews
Austin Aries Vs. Go Shiozaki
SHIMMER Title Match: Sara Del Rey ( c ) Vs. Daizee Haze
No DQ Triple Threat FIP Title Match: Roderick Strong ( c ) Vs. Necro Butcher Vs. Erick Stevens
ROH World Tag Team Title Match: Rocky Romero & Davey Richards ( c ) Vs. Ruckus & Jigsaw w/ Julius Smokes
ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness Vs. Bryan Danielson
Also scheduled to appear: Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black & Lacey of the Age of the Fall.

Overview
There is no excuse for an NYC ROH fan that is free on Saturday night not to attend this one. You’ve got four title matches, the next chapter in McGuinness/Danielson, Go Shiozaki going against one of ROH’s best in Austin Aries, Richards & Romero’s first title defense and a No Disqualification match with the Necro Butcher all on the same show. The Manhattan Center is one of ROH’s most exciting venues, and one of the easiest places to lose yourself as a wrestling fan. If you’re seriously “bored” with this card, you need to take time off from the company, and possibly the hobby entirely.

Delirious Vs. Human Tornado
Will you see the vicious Red Poison Delirious, or a return to the more comical green-masked Lizard Man? If the funnier green persona makes a return then the future of Delirious will be more interesting, as you won’t know whether he’ll play the humorous or vicious role until he comes out. If they go the comedy route, this could be solid gold. Tornado is a fresh and humorous act for ROH, and Delirious has had many memorable comedy matches. It would be a waste to make Delirious a serious character running through Tornado, but I have faith in these guys. Expect Delirious to win as a veteran who could use some more credibility, but for Tornado not to be hurt at all. Much like Delirious’ early run in ROH, Tornado is the sort of guy whose distinct personality can overcome a losing streak.

El Generico Vs. Brent Albright
The next chapter in the Hangmen 3’s rivalry with masked men, and definitely not the last, this is probably the best singles match pairing. Albright gives smaller opponents a lot to work with as well as having a great ability for throwing guys around like a shaved gorilla. Meanwhile, Generico is one of the best underdogs and is great at surmounting odds, whether his opponent is stronger, more technically sound, or has thrown him through a table. This match has all the items necessary to make a great undercard battle with Generico fighting through the punishment and overcoming Albright. Given that Generico recently went to a draw with Claudio Castagnoli, and Albright recently tapped out to Delirious, that seems like a very plausible finish that would begin to elevate Generico’s stock. Anyone who’s watched PWG knows this masked man can thrive higher up the card. The question is if they gel, and how much time they have to work with. With a stacked show like this one, it’s probably won’t be too long.

Kevin Steen Vs. Joey Matthews
Two of the better personality guys in ROH should provide a strong match. Expect a contest of pricks here, with Steen trying to be a bigger jerk than Matthews. This may be where something ignites between the Age of the Fall and Steen & Generico, if ROH decides to do a feud between them underneath the tag title race. Given Matthews’ recent loss to Mark Briscoe, I think he can lose to Steen and remain relevant a little longer by his relation to the Age of the Fall.

Austin Aries Vs. Go Shiozaki
We’ll have a better idea of who can win this one after Friday’s matches, but it should be an exciting showcase of technical wrestling with the puro influence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shiozaki go to a draw with Aries, giving him local cred, feeding into Aries’ frustration, setting up a rematch and not pushing Shiozaki too high too quickly. I like Go Shiozaki, but he is no Takeshi Morishima, and doesn’t need to gun for the World Title immediately. Also, ROH loves rematches. Shiozaki needs stand-out performances in his first weekend, and Aries has all of the technical ability and fire necessary to get that from him.

SHIMMER Title Match: Sara Del Rey ( c ) Vs. Daizee Haze
Underneath a tag title match with amazing high-flying challengers, a triple threat No-DQ match for the FIP title, and a World Title match between two of ROH’s greatest rivals, the women of SHIMMER are going to have to step it up way above anything they’ve done in ROH to date to impress (maybe they will finally pull out a SHIMMER main event-quality match in ROH for once). I haven’t followed SHIMMER closely enough to know if there is more background than Daizee Haze’s usual “there’s a girl in that faction, attack!” ROH stories. In my admittedly ignorant opinion, Del Rey is a strong enough champion to retain here and run much longer as champion.

No DQ Triple Threat FIP Title Match: Roderick Strong ( c ) Vs. Erick Stevens Vs. Necro Butcher
Well, holy crap. Erick Stevens was dethroned down in Florida right in the middle of an impressive title run in ROH. Many fans will probably show up to the venue and be surprised that he isn’t champion anymore. The recent title switch makes this a much more interesting match, as ROH may hot potato the title. As far as a story in ROH, it should be interesting to see where they go with a challenger who didn’t lose his championship on an ROH show. Such is the problem of treating FIP like their Smackdown.
I’m not entirely sure why Necro Butcher is challenging for a title, but what the heck? If they do hot potato the title, Stevens winning it back by pinning Necro Butcher would be a big kink in the story. Alternatively Strong can pin Butcher and avoid a decisive end against Stevens. Regardless, you’re guaranteed they’ll hit each other very hard and probably drop each other on some even harder things.

ROH World Tag Team Title Match: Rocky Romero & Davey Richards ( c ) Vs. Ruckus & Jigsaw w/ Julius Smokes
Jack Evans is out indefinitely with a facial injury, so the Vulture Squad needs to impress in this match to remain a legitimate force. ROH has been unpredictable on the title scene so far, but will the NRC really lose the tag titles this quickly? Especially against Ruckus & Jigsaw, it’s more feasible that Romero & Richards have a decently long match and win decisively enough to gain momentum as champions. The bigger question is how well Romero & Richards will perform in ring as the champions. Given that the NRC and Vulture Squad gelled well in the past (like their crazy trios match at Honor Nation), this one has a good chance.

ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness Vs. Bryan Danielson
How can you not be psyched for this after Unified and Driven? Even their Survival of the Fittest 2007 match was impressive. Danielson is easily one of McGuinness’ best opponents, and they have a long rivalry from which to draw. I won’t even pretend to predict the structure of the match, but you know it will feature some great technical wrestling and snug striking. The real question of this match is if they can live up to past encounters.
McGuinness’s victory is about as close to a lock as you can get in ROH title matches. I didn’t understand how people thought he would lose his third challenge to Morishima at the Undeniable pay per view. Some things are just perfectly drawn out over long periods of time and point to a climax that is both good and predictable. Sometimes the predictable thing is the right thing, and McGuinness finally pinning Danielson, knocking him out or forcing him to submit is such a thing. It would validate McGuinness’s entire reign to win this one.

Also scheduled to appear: Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black & Lacey of the Age of the Fall. They could jump in on a pointless filler match, maybe crush a couple of students to get a tag win. If they lose on the 22nd, they’ll need to do something to regain face. They could also interfere in any of the lowercard matches and shuffle things up, perhaps to wrestle the team of Tornado & Delirious, or some combination of Steen, Generico and Delirious with some of them pulling double duty. If Jacobs & Black somehow wrestle Steen & Generico, the winner would have a definite claim to a title shot, something for which they are both vocally seeking. I wouldn’t expect them to do anything major given how stacked the show already is, though, so crushing a student tag team around intermission time is the most likely event. There is the added possibility of doing something with Aries, another factor that will be clearer after Friday’s show.

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