Ring of Honor presents “Transform”, held on 1/12/2008 (my b-day!) in Edison, NJ.
We start backstage with the Briscoes, who appear somewhat pissed off (I know – I’m as shocked as you). Tonight isn’t about the titles, apparently.
Match 1: Jason Blade, Sal Rinauro & Kenny King vs. Delirious, El Generico & Mike Quackenbush
Rinauro is the FIP Florida Heritage champ, while Blade and King are the FIP tag champs. Together, they call themselves The YRR (Young, Rich, and Ready for action). Delirious and Blade start off, with Delirious’ somewhat unorthodox offense throwing Blade off his game. Quack and Rinauro go next, with Quack completely overwhelming the youngster (including a nice atomic drop-foot stomp-leg sweep combo). Then it’s time for King and Generico – King dominates with power moves at first, but Generico takes advantage of a blind charge. From there, the match follows the usual formula. The FIP guys do a decent take on the “young cocky heels”, and King has a fairly impressive array of power moves. Quack looks very good in the ring tonight, especially since he’s coming back from a layoff due to a series of concussions. I’m a bit put off by the ending, though – if I want outside interference and screw-jobs, I’d be watching the WWE.
Daniel Puder’s $1,000 Submission Challenge
Swwet & Sour Inc. all walk down to ringside, including CHris Hero and his crutches and neck brace. Larry Sweeney calls the crowd a bunch of “New Jersey nitwits”. Considering that I know Glazer was in the audience that night, I can’t argue with him much. Sweeney makes a challenge to anyone backstage – last one minute in the ring with Puder, and you get a thousand bucks. Our first entrant is “Sugarfoot” Alex Payny, who looks like he has never since A) the inside of a gym, or B) the sun. That lasts about as long as you’d expect. Next is Rhett Titus, borrowing one of Johnny B. Badd’s old robes (and most of his personality). Titus at least has a plan – he runs away. But he seems to have forgotten that running around the outside of the ring doesn’t work out so well when 3 other members of the entourage are out there too. Claudio makes an appearance, but is quickly ushered to the back. How utterly anti-climatic.
Match 2: Chris Hero & Sara Del Ray vs. Ernie Osiris and Alexa Thatcher
This is an impromptu match, after Sweeney declares Hero and Del Ray to be the “RoH Inter-Gender Tag Team Champions”. Considering the fact that Del Ray is bigger than Osiris, I can’t imagine it’ll last long. Osiris immediately proves himself to be the dumbest wrestler on the face of the planet, when he wrestles against a guy *wearing a leg brace*, and decides to not focus on the knee. Del Ray and Hero basically take turns beating on Osiris for the majority of the match, though Thatcher is allowed about 20 seconds worth of (weak) offense. I don’t do star ratings, but if I did, this would be about about -***.
Match 3: Roderick Strong vs. Jigsaw (w/Julius Smokes)
Strong represents the No Remorse Corp, while Jigsaw is with the Vulture Squad – welcome to Gang Wars 2008. Very even match to start: Strong’s striking and various backbreakers vs. Jigsaw’s speed and high flying, until Jigsaw makes a mistake on the apron and gets beaten severely on the outside of the ring, include a backbreaker onto the guard rail, which made me cringe in pain. Strong continues to punish the back, with Jigsaw making an occasional comeback (during which he consistenly forgets to sell the back injury). I also feel like I should comment on the crowd here – which has been silent for about 90% of the action so far tonight. Outside of a couple of loud “OH!” shouts from Strong’s backbreakers, they have been no factor whatsoever. The ending is clean and made perfect sense from the story-telling, but it was just killed by the lack of psychology and selling, unfortunately.
Match 4: Jimmy Jacobs vs. Jack Evans
Oh, Jimmy Jacobs’ entrance is just… disturbing. Significantly less disturbing is his promo, where he informs us all that, now that the Age of the Fall has beaten “the gods of Ring of Honor, the Briscoes”, that now we have to listen to him. And he continues this, right through Evans’ entrance music, which is a nice touch. Jacobs is pissed about the interruption though, and takes it out on Jack’s head with the microphone. The beatdown continues outside and inside the ring, with Jacobs showing us all why he’s one of the best brawlers in the indies. Jack looks pretty on tonight himself here, breaking out the high-impact moves immediately, including a very nicely done springboard spin kick. They both play their parts – Jack goes high-flier when the opportunity presents itself, usually put to a stop just a few moves in when Jacobs catches him up high or counters with a suplex. Jacobs does pull out a great crossbody to Evans, who is sitting at ringside in a chair (ouchy). We get another clean, non-swerve ending, along with a decent post-match beatdowns.
Backstage with Kevin Steen, who can’t stand the fact that he actually feels bad about what happened to El Generico the night before (when he got jumped by the Hangmen Three).
Match 5: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Austin Aries
Interesting match-up: Aries is on the RoH “Mount Perpetually Over”, while Claudio has been getting a consistent push since winning Race to the Top Tournament last year. There’s a long feeling-out process to start, with neither man gaining an advantage for more than a few moments at a time. Claudio has the obvious strength advantage, which seems to frustrate Aries for a while (along with the crowd’s continued cries of “HEYYY!”). Aries finally decides to concentrate on the neck and upper back area, with a combination of neck breakers, kicks, and elbows. This makes more sense to me (usually, you take down a taller opponent by focusing on the knees) when Aries put on the Horns of Aries, a Cattle Mutilation-like submission hold. These two also do a nice job of making it obvious they scouted each other – Claudio stops several Roaring Elbow attempts with a European Uppercut, while Aries is able to counter both the Giant Swing and several Ricolo Bombs. The ending of the match is especially well-done, with a series of counters by both men, and pulling out their signature moves from extremely unusual circumstances.
Post-match, Aries refuses the hand shake, Claudio tells Nigel McGuinness that he’s coming after his title, and Claudio makes a challenge to Larry Sweeney: if Puder came make him tap in less than a minute, Claudio will give Sweeney $1,000. Sweeney comes out, asks Claudio to count it (“Is that American money?”), and accepts the challenge. Puder lays in the smackdown to start, but Claudio is able to reverse a tackle into.. the Giant Swing? Okay, that’s funny. I imagine it’ll shock you to learn that Sweeney is less-than-gracious afterwards, in the post-post-match shenanigans.
Backstage, some chick named Becky interviews Roderick Strong. Wow.. he really needs to lean how to talk naturally on camera.
Match 6: BJ Whitmer & Shane Hagadorn vs. Bobby Fish & Eddie Edwards
Whitmer and Shane are from the Hangmen Three, with Hagadorn playing the role of “Manservent”, and “Complete and Utter Coward”. Fish and Edwards apparently have some experience in Japan. And, going from the first couple minutes of this match, Hagadorn also has a role as “early Mikey Whipwreck” (seriously, he looks like The Lost Mulkey Brother out here). Things even out as the match rolls on, though, with Hagadorn getting in some actual offense several minutes in (though never against a fresh opponent, only against one that Whitmer has already worn down). Edwards and Fish pull out some nice double-team moves, especially after Whitmer gets knocked outside the ring for a few minutes. And the ending… well, that gets the most mild audience reaction of the night, and that’s saying something.
Match 7: Brent Albright vs. Kevin Steen
On the way to the ring, Steen talks about how this is “The Battle of the Bulls”, and follows that up after the bell rings by telling Albright “Let’s go!”… and then bending over with his fingers up next to the head as “horns”. Steen tries to get Albright to do it too, but Albright demurs. So, Steen tells Albright that he’s no fun, and that his parents don’t love him. (I love this guy.) The storyline gets set quickly: Albright is stronger, but Steen is quicker (and much, MUCH more fun). They do a wonderful sequence a few minutes in, with each of them trying to shoulder-block the other to little effect, winding up in a sequence when each of them shoulder-blocks the other at least 8 times in a row – until Steen finally throws Albright over the top rope, and then hits a tope to the floor. (Yeah, let’s see Albright copy that move.) Steen continues to keep the audience participation up, asking which sections of the crowd want to see Albright thrown into the barricade more. The fun is cut down significantly when Steen takes a overhead belly-to-belly on the ramp. A table gets involved, and Steen gets busted open. Steen takes an advantage of an opening, and goes after Albright’s left knee. Then it becomes a race for more damage – Steen’s head vs. Albright’s knee. The ref admonishes Steen for pulling Albright up by the hair, and Steen yells back: “Shut up? You see what he did to me?” Steen pulls out a Sharpshooter (!), countered by Albright into a Crowbar. Either man could have been capable of winning this match – the selling and psychology on both of their parts was excellent.
Post-match, we learn that 1) the phrase “The Hangmen Three” is taken more literally by some than others, 2) El Generico will indeed come to the defense of his partner, and 3) what color Delirious is wearing does make a difference to his character. I kinda like that last part.
Match 8: FIP World Heavyweight Championship: Erick Stevens(c) vs. Bryan Danielson
Danielson is still going strong with his “Best Entrance to the Worst Song” thing in wrestling. We start slowly and respectfully, with a couple of clean breaks, including one where Stevens lifts Danielson up on his shoulders and places him on the top turnbuckle. Just afterwards, Danielson backs Stevens into the ropes with a wrist-lock, gets a 3 count, and delivers a chop – only to be hit with a chop back that sends him to the canvas, and then back to the corner with a look of shock on his face. There’s an extended sequence of “wily veteran playing mind games with the rookie”, where I was just glad to see both men playing their parts perfectly. (I am still somewhat questionable on Stevens’ ability, but matches like this will go a long way towards settling that.) Danielson breaks out the Surfboard, which always brings a smile to my face. Danielson dominates the middle of the match (to the surprise of no one) including a couple of various submission opportunities that let Dragon show off his extensive amatuer background. They do a GREAT bit towards the end in terms of getting RoH fans to “accept” Stevens as a face champion. BTW, Stevens’ chops are brutal – Danielson’s chest is bright pink by the end of this match. And the ending of the match is fairly insane – the number of moves thrown in during the last 90 seconds is insane.
Backstage with the YRR.
Match 9: Street Fight: Tyler Black & Necro Butcher vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe
Oh great, all members of The Age of The Fall use the same intro “music” as Jimmy Jacobs. Awesome. And, since it’s a “no rules street fight”, of course we start brawling before the teams even reach the ring. Mark and Necro end up outside, while Jay and Tyler are inside the ring (no shock there). The women get involved for a bit (Lacey is with TAOTF, and Daizee Haze is with the Briscoes). Jimmy Jacobs walks out too (shocked). Jacobs brings a HUGE ladder to ring-side. Consider the overall description of this match to be: CHAOS. Jay Briscoe takes an early shot through a table, off a ladder – which causes the RoH officials to send him to the back. So… Mark Briscoe vs. the entire Age of the Fall? Yup – that’ll go well. The Vulture Squad runs out, and then.. things just get crazy. As well you would expect with a bunch of high-flying indie guys – it’s freaking nuts. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to see a guy tossed through 12 rows of chairs – here is your chance.
Started weak, and got better – basically, it was the opposite of any mid-90’s WCW PPV. This show was saved by the performances of Claudio, Aries, Steen, and Danielson – all of whom went above and beyone what was expected of them.
I wouldn’t necessarily suggest paying full price for it, but if you can get the DVD on one of their $15 sales – absolutely pick it up.