Ring of Honor Live Review: Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC, 5/10/08

I sometimes start to think that I am no longer the market that RoH caters towards or that more accurately that my opinions are no longer in line with the majority of RoH fans that express their views via the RoH message board. Either way, Ring of Honor presented a show in the biggest venue they have run to date, and I happen to think that they pretty well delivered.

Professional wrestling is an odd mistress. The success or failure of any show is not determined after the final bell rings and the main event’s winner gets his or her hand raised. The success of the event is determined after the receipts are counted. By that measure alone, the Hammerstein show last night was an absolute success. They packed a much larger venue than they typically run, and truth be told the place was rocking for most of the night. Some people might have experienced the lesser quality of humanity that the greatest city on earth has to offer, but a large portion of the fans were very much into the show. I suppose I have rambled incoherently long enough, on to the review.

FIP Title Match: Roderick Strong © vs. Go Shiozaki vs. Erick Stevens

I swear RoH could run Shane Hagadorn vs. Bushwacker Luke 2 as an opener in Manhattan and the crowd would be going banana for it. Do you like knife edge chops? Do you like seeing men with ruptured blood vessels in their chest? What??? You don’t? Oh well then skip this match when the DVD comes out. This match was a ton of fun, but the chop to other move ratio in this match was something like 350:1. It was worse than the punch to move ratio in a WWE main event. That being said, the match was still a ton of fun and told a great story within the context of all of the chopping. Roderick Strong was able to steal a victory by rolling up Erick Stevens after he delivered a Doctor Bomb to Go. This was a great choice to open the show, but the odd finish kind of set a tenor for things to come.

Winner: Roderick Strong; ***

Tag Team Challenge Match: Rocky “Azucar” Romero and Davey Richards of the No Remorse Corps vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico

This match was tag team wrestling at its finest. The two teams did a great job of alternating control segments and great spots. If I had to pick a star of the weekend surprisingly enough Rocky Romero would be on the short list. He just wrestled out of his mind this weekend and I hope shut a lot of his nay-sayers up. Steen and Generico really are the best tag team going right now stateside. They have perfected the odd couple team in a way that few teams have. Other tag teams may have more spectacular double team maneuvers, but no team plays to their individual strengths and still comes off looking like a well oiled unit like Steen and Generico. Romero and Richards are not too bad themselves. I think this incarnation of the No Remorse Corps got a rough shake during their tag title run. They won the belt when most fans still wanted to see the Age of the Fall with the belts, and then lost them in short order, but due to other developments they may have a chance to get the belts back. I am in a ranty mood today. I do not know why. Steen and Generico got their win with the Package Piledrive/Brainbuster combo. This was easily one of the most entertaining matches of the night, and they had the crowd in the palm of their hands the entire match.

Winners: Kevin Steen and El Generico; ****

Tag Team Scramble Match: Sweet and Sour Inc. of Brent Albright and Chris Hero with Larry Sweeney, Johnny Fairplay, Bobby Dempsey, Eddie Edwards, and Sara Del Rey vs. the Vulture Squad of Jack Evans and Jigsaw vs. Delirious and Pelle Primeau

Scrambles are usually fun, and this was no different. It had lots of flying and high spots inclusive of but not limited to stereo 450 splashes to the outside by the Vulture Squad, more springboard fun from Pelle, and a senton to the outside by Brent Albright!!! In a shocking moment Delirious actually captured the win for his team. He blinded Albright who inadvertently hit Chris Hero with a half nelson suplex allowing the incoherent one to connect with the Bizarro Driver for the victory.

Winners: Delirious and Pelle Primeay, **1/2

Larry Sweeney was not happy with the result of the match, and brought Bobby Dempsey out from under the ring (they had stuffed him under there when he started getting chants) and told Albright to unleash his best stuff on the rotund Dempsey. He was reluctant so the entirety of Sweet and Sour slapped or chopped Dempsey and set him up for Brent again. This time Albright unloaded, but not on Dempsey’s prominent posterior. He attacked Sweet and Sour’s membership, but was unable to get his hands on the ringleader Sweeney. The Hammerstein Ballroom crowd was electric for the turn and the crowd was chanting Brent’s name.

Best in the World Collide: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Naomichi Marufuji

This was the rematch almost three years in the making. I loved their first encounter, and I think I may have liked this one even more. This match was just a technical clinic. Marufuji proved the better striker, but Danielson was the better mat wrestler. Both men had their opponent perfectly scouted and had a difficult time going through their signature spots as a result. Marufuji proved that he is one of the best wrestlers in the world to any doubters in this match, but being one of the best is just not good enough against the true best. American Dragon proved his greatness and got the tapout victory with Cattle Mutilation.

Winner: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson; ****1/4

***Intermission***

After intermission Daizee Haze comes out to inform the fans that they are the part of the largest live crowd in Ring of Honor history. That brought out Delirious looking dapper in a button down shirt and oversized tie to try and ask her out on a date. He offered her a dinner at Nobu. And I am sorry, but I would go out with Delirious for a free dinner from Mitsuharu Morimoto. This brought out Rhett “Addicted to Love” Titus showing that he is without parallel the most charismatic student to come out of the RoH wrestling academy. His tirade about his sexiness disgusts Haze and she goes to the back. A disheartened Delirious leaves his rose in the middle of the ring…sad.

Battle of the Brawlers: Takeshi Morishima vs. the Necro Butcher

This was certainly one of the more anticipated matches on the card. I am sure many will disagree with me, but I feel that it delivered. Morishima beat the crap out of Necro Butcher and Necro punched Morishima in the head a whole bunch. I don’t know what anyone else could have expected from this match. I guess there could have been blood, or something else. I was happy. The sickest spot of the match was Morishima back drop driving Necro through a chair. Surprisingly that was not the finish. A regular back drop driver later, and the match was in the books.

Winner: Takeshi Morishima; ***

Ring of Honor Tag Team Title Match: Jay Briscoe and Austin Aries © kind of vs. The Age of the Fall of Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black

Aries is of course substituting for the injured Mark Briscoe, and this is the first head to head match between Aries and Jacobs since everything between them went down. You’d think all of this buildup would result in a wildly hate filled brawl. To some extent it did, but the main focus of the match (Aries vs. Jacobs) sort of took a backseat. Jay was hit with the spike and it struck a gusher. Jay Briscoe has really got to stop bleeding so much. It really took away from the match and got to the point that I was worried about his safety. There were some great spots in the match including Jacobs spearing Aries through the ropes to the outside. Eventually Necro Butcher came in to interfere on behalf of the Age of the Fall, but he was cut off by a cast wielding Mark Briscoe. Mark and Jay were able to hit the springboard doomsday device for the victory.

Winners: Jay Briscoe and Austin Aries; **3/4

The Briscoes left to the adoration of their fans. Austin Aries was left alone at the mercy of the Age of the Fall. Jacobs threatened to spike Aries, but decided not to instead using “monkey torture” (yeah the State rules) to drive Aries insane with what he may or may not have done to the lovely Lacey.

Ring of Honor World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness © vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Many people questioned this match as the closer. The question wasn’t whether or not the world title should go on last, but whether Claudio Castagnoli was good enough. I personally think they delivered. The crowd was completely spent by the time the match started, which leads me to think that they should focus on running shows more like the previous night in Virginia. Still I thought it was a great match with some of the best psychology of the night and it will come across great when freshly viewed on DVD. It was not the best match on the card, but it was well built. Nigel absolutely destroyed Claudio’s arm all match setting up his London Dungeon arm submission. Claudio did his best with his array of power moves and European Uppercuts. A few of the false finishes really drew me in. Perhaps it was because I felt Claudio was going to win before the match, or because the title change was, in my opinion, the “right” way to end the show. Either way Claudio tapped out to the London Dungeon. I don’t think it was a bad finish, either. Claudio escaped several times, and the Dungeon has been built as a lights out maneuver getting more wins than not. I didn’t like how close he was to the ropes. Nigel should have walked him to the middle to cement things, but all things considered it was an awesome match.

Winner: Nigel McGuinness; ****

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Final Thoughts: I like this show, as simple as that. It got a little long, but it was a fun show, and most if not all of the matches delivered on some level. It was not one of the best shows ever, but on paper it shouldn’t have been. Fans wanted it to be more than it was, but all it was, was a solid show. The whole weekend was a solid weekend of wrestling. If I had to pick my stars for the weekend then they are Bryan Danielson, Naomichi Marufuji, and Rocky Romero. I was a little disappointed in the performance of Austin Aries, but I think his feud with Jacobs will end up being amazing. This show is definitely be worth checking out on DVD, and I think a lot of the bitterness about the show will disappear.

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