Ring of Honor Live Review: Manassas, VA, 5/9/08

So until further notice I am calling this show The Battle of Bull Run, because I am a history teacher, and it is my column. Ring of Honor usually tries to bring the goods when they debut in a new market. They want to give the fans a reason to come out and more importantly a reason to come back. This show was an interesting experience to say the least. The closest thing I can compare it to is like watching a show from 2002/2003, but with the current roster. The crowd was small compared to other Ring of Honor shows, but filled the space well. They were also unsure of their role a few times which added to the unique atmosphere. The question is, “Was Battle of Bull Run any good?”

In a word: Yes. Was it great, no. Did they put on the type of show that will bring fans back for the return in August, absolutely. Let’s take a look through the show match by match to see how it all shook down.

Opening Contest: Chris Hero w/ Larry Sweeney, Shane Hagadorn, and a shirtless Bobby Dempsey vs. Pelle Primeau

Bobby Dempsey received chants from the crowd while Larry Sweeney went typical old school heel on the slightly rednecked Manassas crowd. He then told Bobby that he had to go under the ring for the duration of the match which was absolutely hilarious. The match itself was pretty solid. Pelle was out for revenge after getting knocked out by Hero the last time they met in Edison, NJ.

Serious Hero is ok, especially in big matches, but in a contest like this some of his old cocky self would have been welcomed. He still underestimated the much smaller Primeau. Pelle, to his credit, looked great despite 90% of his moves being springboard based. Hero eventually got the win after a nasty roaring forearm and an even sicker big boot.

Winner: Chris Hero via pinfall; **

After the match Sara Del Rey came out looking EVIL with new eyebrows and all black gear. Sweeney introduced her as hailing from a new tax bracket. She confirmed she was a member of Sweet ‘n’ Sour Inc. and proceeded to beat the poop out of Ernie Osiris

Tag Team Attraction: “The Self Proclaimed Sexiest Man Alive” Rhett Titus and Rex Sterling vs. Mitch Franklin and Sean Denny

Sterling has done a couple of RoH pre-shows and a few FIP spots in the past. He is unremarkable looking, but a solid hand in the ring. Sean Denny is your standard tattooed, kick heavy, energetic babyface, but in a good way. Mitch Franklin now has a beard, and Rhett Titus is awesome. The match itself was a fun little tag formula match. Rhett Titus found a way to gyrate his hips whenever possible. Most of the heat was put on Franklin setting up the extremely over Sean Denney for the hot tag; he is a local boy after all. Titus gets the win for his team after a sick gyratingly sexy splash mountain bomb. I would have liked to see more of Denny as he wrestled for what seemed like only a minute. Sterling was solid if unremarkable as I said above. Rhett Titus has star written all over him. He has had the gimmick down for a while, but it keeps getting better. His in-ring work is now starting to catch up and he has a bright future.

Winners: Rhett Titus and Rex Sterling via pinfall; **

Four Corner Survival: Damien Wayne vs. Brent Albright vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. RoH World Champion Nigel McGuinness

Albright came out wearing the stupid hood again, but he did send Larry Sweeney to the back in an interesting development. Damien Wayne, another local, was extremely over on his home turf. Claudio got the biggest ovation of the night to that point, and the heat for Nigel was off the charts. The whole match was a tease for Nigel vs. Claudio, and they left the fans wanting more by not giving the two of them any extended interactions. When they did come head to head it was electric. My fault with the match was that it really settled into a tag match between Wayne and Claudio against Albright and Hero. This was probably the worst offender of any RoH four corner match I have seen in a while in that respect. This match also had the hottest crowd of the first half of the show. Claudio and Nigel started brawling outside the ring which allowed Albright to get the win after repeated knees to the face of Damien Wayne.

Winner: Brent Albright via ref stoppage; **1/2

This match was not the best, but not the worst. The tag formula format bugged me. Also Albright really should not use the repeated knees as a finish since Aries and Dragon both have similar moves in their arsenal and do them much better.

Austin Aries vs. Erick Stevens

Aries came out irst in street clothes looking a lot trimmer than he had with new amazing, feathered hair. He kind of looked like the lead singer of a power metal band actually. He says he wants to fight Jimmy Jacobs and doesn’t care about his match with Stevens. This, of course, brings out the formerly mohawked marauder. Aries feels bad for rejecting Stevens, but says he has bigger things on his plate. They get heated and eventually start brawling, building into their match.

I have not seen their previous encounter that is getting all of the rave reviews, but this match was not up to the hype. It was solid and a good brawl, but you just got the feeling that these two were capable of so much more. There were some great spots in the match, though. At one point Stevens had Aries up for a vertical suplex, Aries kneed him down, but Stevens was able to stand back up and switch the suplex into a TKO. Aries ended up getting the win with the End Time, Jacob’s finish, in a nice touch.

Winner: Austin Aries via submission; ***

My big problem with this match is that they set it up as a huge rematch and went in a completely different direction. They should have hyped it a little differently. Jacobs vs. Aries is one of the bigger angles they are running, but this was a rematch that a lot of people wanted to see and it didn’t pan out that way.

After the match Aries cut what can only be called a failed promo. He tried to belittle Jacobs and make himself sound better for gaining the love or at least the lust of Lacey. This got the crowd chanting “sloppy seconds.” I don’t think that was what he planned. The crowd almost turned on Aries, and while usually stellar on the mic didn’t adjust terribly well. Stupid Virginians.

No Disqualification Match: The Necro Butcher vs. Jack Evans

This was a great brawl, but on the extreme short side. Necro busted himself hard way before the match even started by beating himself in the head with a chair. The match was heavy on punches from Necro and flippy kicks from Evans. Again, my only complaint is that it was on the short side. Necro ended up winning with the backbreaker onto two chair backs. So, I guess you could call it the Chair Backbreaker.

Winner: The Necro Butcher via pinfall; ***

***INTERMISSION***

The first half of the show was good if unspectacular, how does the second half hold up?

Grudge Match: Jay Briscoe vs. Jimmy Jacobs

Before the match Austin Aries tried to attack Jimmy Jacobs, but Tyler Back fought him off. Jay came out and started beating on Jimmy before his music stopped playing. This was the heated brawl that everyone had hoped for. Pretty early on it seemed that referee Todd Sinclair was waiving the rules and letting the two of them just beat the crap out of each other. Chairs were used a plenty. Jacobs is really at his best in brawls like this, and Jay for some reason tones down the crazy spots and just focuses on brawling. They just beat on each other. Jacobs probably took the biggest risk in the match missing a senton onto a pile of chairs. Jay had control most of the match and was about to hit a Jay Driller onto chairs, but Necro interfered and allowed Jacobs to hit the End Time into the chairs for the passout victory.

Winner: Jimmy Jacobs via passout; ***1/2

After the match Aries came out again to brawl but the local boys, Wayne, Sterling and Denny, helped break it up.

Breakout Rematch: Tyler Black vs. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson

This may have been the match that I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. Dragon is just a step above pretty much everyone else on the roster. He has developed an in-ring charisma like few other wrestlers around. The story of the match here was Dragon trying to prove that their close match before was a complete fluke and he was in a different class. Dragon just hit Black with everything he had, and to Tyler’s credit he was able to withstand it. Dragon spent most of the match trying many and sundry submission holds, even a few applications of the cattle mutilation, but nothing was able to get the win. Tyler was never able to get a real advantage, and it didn’t seem like he was going to win at any point in the match. Somehow, though, he still looked awesome in the process. It seemed the most dreaded submission that Dragon was going for all match was his version of the half crab. The finish came when Dragon dodge an enziguri into a leg submission which Tyler tried to kick his way out of before being locked in the dreaded half crab and submitting. This was just an awesome match, but the fact that Dragon’s victory was never really in doubt brought it down a tiny notch.

Winner: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson via submission; ****

After the match, rather than shaking hands, Tyler Black spit his gum at Danielson and made his exit. After that Danielson took the gum and put it in referee Paul Turner’s mouth.

Six Man Tag Team Main Event: Team NOAH of Go Shiozaki, GHC Tag Team Champion Naomichi Marufuji, and GHC Heavyweight Champion Takeshi Morishima vs. the No Remorse Corps of FIP Champion Roderick Strong, Rocky “Azucar” Romero, and Davey Richards

This match was a NOAH style six man match with a Ring of Honor twist. It started with the standard pairings where each man tried to outdo his opponent. They put over Shiozaki’s chops as deadly. Still it was Shiozaki’s chest that was lit up by Roderick Strong’s chops. The early highlight of the match came when Morishima mocked Romero’s “Azucar” dance. If I had to pick two stars of the match, though, it would be Romero and Marufuji.

This was just an amazing match with everyone going all out. The No Remorse Corps looked as good as they ever have working as a unit with great double and triple teams. In the end, though, it was not enough. After several minutes of huge spots, finishing maneuvers and broken up nearfalls, Marufuji was able to isolate Romero and hit the Shiranui for the three count.

Winners: Naomichi Marufuji, Go Shiozaki, and Takeshi Morishima, ****1/2

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Final Thoughts : This was not the best show in RoH history by any stretch, but it was a ton of fun. Ring of Honor has set the bar so astronomically high that a show with two four star matches and several other three star contests can be considered average. Ring of Honor has already announced their return to Manassas on August 1st, and even if that return wasn’t booked ahead of time, I think they would have made the trip back. The crowd, while mild during the first half, really came on strong post intermission. The merchandise table was also mobbed pre-show, post-show, and during intermission, so I am sure they made a killing on DVDs, t-shirts and what not. The venue is also a nice place to see a show. It was compact and intimate, but there is room to make the show a little bigger if the crowd size warrants it. Manassas, VA definitely seems to be a new Friday night destination for Ring of Honor. Now we move on to the big Hammerstein Ballroom debut, and I for one cannot wait. Stay tuned to the Pulse for in depth coverage of the show, and

I’ll see you next time…

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