|Available at Amazon.com|
While still a small promotion, Ring of Honor has had the benefit of DVD sales and word of mouth to find new fans around the globe. In six years the company has overcome scandal and reshuffled the roster numerous times. It has ventured into PPV territory, having already taped six events. Now ROH is entering the world of mass DVD distribution with two releases, Stars of Honor and Bloodstained Honor, through independent label Koch Vision Entertainment. The first release (reviewed here) is a collection of eight matches featuring current WWE and TNA wrestlers. This is the perfect entry-level release for those wrestling fans looking for something different.
The latter highlights some of ROH’s most violent and bloodiest brawls. A little blood can do wonders for a match. During WWE’s Judgment Day 2005, John Cena had an “I Quit” match against John Bradshaw Leyfield, which saw Cena get cut and bleed buckets. The blood gave the match that added oomph and made it all the more better. Then there’s a company like Extreme Championship Wrestling who built its reputation on hardcore wrestling with matches involving Singapore canes, barbed wire, taped fists and flaming tables.
ROH has had quite a few blood feuds over the years involving individuals, tag teams and factions alike. The company’s first big feud originated back in 2002 when Christopher Daniels and his Prophecy contingent went against the “Code of Honor” – at the time this was a set of rules dictating how wrestlers were supposed to conduct themselves during matches. Since then, feuds have extended across promotions and the bloodletting has surged.
But the matches aren’t all about blade jobs and barbed wire. Are they technical masterpieces? No. But without time constraints, the matches can go longer and afford more opportunity for some inventive spots. The eight matches on the DVD are presented in chronological order and encompass a three-year period with wrestlers that are sure to be familiar to the ROH fan-base. Here’s a rundown:
Samoa Joe vs. Jay Briscoe (Steel Cage Match – 3/13/04 – At Our Best)
CM Punk & Ace Steel vs. Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer (Chicago Street Fight – 7/24/04 – Death Before Dishonor II Part 2)
CM Punk vs. Jimmy Rave (Dog Collar Match – 5/07/05 – Manhattan Mayhem)
Generation Next vs. The Embassy (Steel Cage Warfare – 12/3/05 – Steel Cage Warfare)
Colt Cabana vs. Homicide (Ghetto Street Fight – 2/25/06 – Fourth Anniversary Show)
Team ROH vs. Team CZW (Inter-Promotional Match – 4/22/06 – The 100th Show)
Colt Cabana vs. Jimmy Jacobs (Windy City Death Match – 2/24/07 – FYF: Chicago)
Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe (Boston Street Fight – 8/10/07 – Death Before Dishonor V, Night 1)
Comparatively speaking, Bloodstained Honor is superior then Stars of Honor. Blood feuds can misfire, but the selections of matches for this DVD release almost all are four stars or better. A show titled At Our Best is fitting since Jay Briscoe brings his A-game as he wages a hellacious steel cage war with champion Samoa Joe. Jay bleeds buckets with a forehead gash that recalls Undertaker’s “Hell in a Cell” confrontation with Brock Lesnar from No Mercy 2002. This match was the sendoff, and a great one at that, to a feud Joe had been having with the two Briscoe brothers. Joe lets Jay get some offensive strikes against him, lathering the crowd into a frenzy, but it was Joe’s night. But what a gutsy performance from Jay; he even manages to get the 280-pounder into his patented Jay Driller finisher.
The Chicago Street fight that follows is even more engaging and one of my favorites if only for the crowd. More than 25 minutes of brawling, the four men wage war Dusty Rhodes-style, all in blue jeans. Punk and Steel bleed early, but as the match wears on so do Whitmer and Dan Maff. The highlight of the match comes near the end when fans start throwing steel chairs into the ring. A few becomes ten and ten becomes…well, you get the idea. Just an insane match. Sad that the feud leading into this match didn’t have as great a build.
In the short history of Ring of Honor there’s only been a few Dog Collar matches. CM Punk has wrestled in two of them. His first was against former ECW champion Raven. The second, which is included in this release, was against Jimmy Rave. Punk was engaged in a heated angle with Prince Nana and the Embassy, and had his sights set on Rave, the Embassy’s shining star. The angle was hot and the match is hotter. A little over 13 minutes, the match is pure action with Punk bleeding early. Noticing a pattern?
In what can be considered ROH’s own WarGames, the Steel Cage Warfare match pitting Generation Next against The Embassy is the culmination of Alex Shelly’s feud with his former faction. Up until Final Battle 2004, Shelley was the leader of Generation Next. When his friends booted him he spent the next year finding a partner in his war against Austin Aries, Roderick Strong and Jack Evans. This is a fun match, but it is long and drawn out. The stipulations have it where two men start inside the cage and every five minutes another competitor enters the ring. Eliminations can happen at any point, and the match ends one team is completely eliminated. First off the five-minute intervals are too long. Should have shortened them to three minutes because the match doesn’t really pick up until around the 20-minute mark.
Even weaker is the Colt Cabana and Homicide street fight. The competitors bring the hatred but don’t mesh well in this match. It is stopped and restarted on two separate occasions, killing some of the momentum. But kudos to Colt Cabana for taking a chair shot to an unprotected face.
Thankfully, the six-man ROH-CZW war and the Boston Street Fight between teams Jay & Mark Briscoe and Kevin Steen & El Generico help end the DVD on a high note.
This long, 200-minute compilation is just the thing for that person who loves heated rivalries and blood-soaked wrestling rings. From steel cages to street fights, Bloodstained Honor is entertaining in a masochistic sort of way; there are many “Holy $#&!” moments to be had. Just don’t expect to be dazzled by technical wizardry. Definitely worth a blind buy as the content trumps what you’d normally see on WWE programming.
ROH’s production design is considerably better now than it was back when it started in 2002. The lighting, much improved, ensures that we won’t miss a moment of the action. The 1.33:1 transfer has issues of compression artifacts and pixellation, but it doesn’t look any worse than the ROH show releases from 2004 to 2007.
As for the audio, we get a Dolby Digital presentation but it is equally rough. The audio is neither dynamic nor engaging, but you’ll definitely notice the crowd. The play-by-play commentary that is recorded in post-production is thin and sometimes tinny. (Note: that some of the matches contain new play-by-play commentating or no commentary at all.) Still, the rough audio won’t be a deal breaker for loyal ROH fans.
No extras to be had, unlike Stars of Honor. Some backstage footage of the wrestlers after the match (think HHH being treated in the back at Royal Rumble 2000) would have made for an interesting bonus.
Bloodstained Honor is hardcore wrestling done ROH style. Fans of Ring of Honor will surely want to purchase this title and see eight of the best feuds the federation has ever had. As the second release by Koch Vision I give it a higher recommendation than Stars of Honor but it’s close. Besides, you can’t go wrong with three-plus hours of action for less than fifteen bucks. If you aren’t ashamed to admit you’re a wrestling fan, pick this up ASAP.
Koch Vision presents Ring of Honor: Bloodstained Honor. Featuring CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Jay & Mark Briscoe, and Homicide. Running time: 200 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: April 1, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.