A few times in Ring of Honorâ€™s history have the elements gotten in the way of the planned show. It happened once in Long Island leading to Unscripted 2, once in Chicago leading to Unscripted 3, and again leading to Long Island. This show however did not earn an â€œUnscriptedâ€ title. The decision instead was to book a one night tournament to determine a number one contender for the Ring of Honor world title. Like many wrestling fans, I enjoy tournaments a great deal. Read on to see if I enjoyed this one.
The show opens with Bobby Cruise informing the fans of the weather related cancellations and lays out the structure for the tournament which is as follows:
â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson vs. Rocky â€œAzucarâ€ Romero
â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen vs. Delirious
Austin Aries vs. El Generico
Go Shiozaki vs. Necro Butcher
Then we get on to the show.
First Round Tournament Match: â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson vs. Rocky â€œAzucarâ€ Romero
These two have the type of style that meshes well. Or at least Dragon has the style the meshes well with anyone. Dragonâ€™s only real weakness, and it is minor, is he lacks the tiniest bit in tag team and multi-person matches. This is almost a shoot style match in that there is not a lot of high flying or rope running. It is mostly ground based. The two wrestlers spend most of the match trading submissions and hard strikes. Dragon has his leg taped and Rocky Romero attacks it. Still, Dragon perseveres and is able to get a tapout from Romero via the fujiwara armbar. This is the first match of the show and pretty much holds up as the best match of the first round.
Winner: â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson via submission; ***
First Round Tournament Match: â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen vs. Delirious
I am a huge fan of Kevin Steen. He does so many little things well it makes him one of the more complete packages on the Ring of Honor roster. Delirious does his normal schtick and it is entertaining, but wearing thin. They do a lot of stalling and working the crowd to start. I donâ€™t know if it would be fair to call both men great wrestlers, although they both have flourishes of greatness, but they are both certainly great workers. They do a good job of telling the big man/small man story with liberal helpings of comedy. After some solid wrestling Steen ends up getting the win with the â€œFat Man Swanton.â€
Winner: â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen via pinfall; **1/2
First Round Tournament Match: El Generico vs. Austin Aries
Of all the tournament matches, I think on paper this one has the pedigree to be the best. Aries is one of the top workers in Ring of Honor, and El Genericoâ€™s biggest strength is making others look good, all while gaining sympathy and getting over in the process. Despite the beatings he takes, it always seems as though he can still somehow eek out a victory. For some reason, though, this match just did not click. There were moments of this match that are as crisp and smooth as anything you will see. There are others that were much sloppier than wrestlers of this caliber should allow. It almost seemed like they were going at two different speeds. The finish also came out of nowhere which is not necessarily a bad thing, but again it just didnâ€™t â€œclick.â€ Generico got himself the duke with a roll-up after somehow Aries broke his nose.
Winner: El Generico via pinfall; **1/2
First Round Tournament Match: Go Shiozaki vs. The Necro Butcher
This is Go Shiozakiâ€™s American debut in Ring of Honor. Most people probably expected Go to make his American debut in a match that focused on his technical prowess. Instead he is faced with the Unorthodox Necro Butcher. The match doesnâ€™t waste any time before spilling to the outside. And, as we would see with many of Goâ€™s matches the chops came a-plenty. This forces Necro to bring out the weapons. The standard fare like chairs are to be expected, but he also takes the shoe off of Bobby Cruiseâ€™s foot. The ref decides to let them go. More brawling, chopping, and chairs leads to Go Shiozaki getting the win after his gorgeous moonsault.
Winner: Go Shiozaki via pinfall; **1/2
This leaves the brackets as follows:
â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen vs. â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson
Go Shiozaki vs. El Generico
The Larry Sweeney Show starring Larry Sweeney
Sweeney runs down the crowd for quite a while. Then he talks about how great he is. He introduces his big first guest as the one and only Shane Hagadorn accompanied by Bobby Dempsey. The whole segment is basically just a chance to run down Dempsey. Sweeney gives Shane Hagadorn his business card to pass on to his mentor Adam Pearce. They pick on Dempsey a bit more and call it a day.
Second Round Tournament Match: â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen vs. â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson
The match starts with some mat wrestling. Steen, needless to say, is outgunned and outclassed. Dragon even proves he can go strike for strike with Steen nailing him with a vicious slap to the ear. The ear ended up becoming a focal point for the rest of the match. Danielsonâ€™s assault on the ear forces Steen to go after the bandaged leg of the American Dragon. Unfortunately for Dragon his knee proves to be a bigger target than Steenâ€™s air, and he pays for it throughout the match. Steen modifies most of his signature spots to focus on the leg, in some of the most intelligent work I have ever seen from the rotund Canadian. Steen also does his share of dickish taunts to get in the head of American Dragon. Steen is eventually able to get the shocking tapout victory after a sharpshooter. This was just a well wrestled, well executed match and the best in the tournament thus far. After the match the fans mockingly sing along with Steenâ€™s awful entrance music.
Winner: Kevin Steen via submission; ***1/2
Second Round Tournament Match: El Generico vs. Go Shiozaki
Not surprisingly Go brings the choppiness. Somewhat surprisingly Generico goes after a body part on Shiozaki, namely his leg. It doesnâ€™t take long though for Generico to resort to doing what he does best. Unfortunately for Generico, his greatest strength is to take and sell a beating. Shiozaki obliges in spades (or do I mean chops). As great as Generico is at taking a beating, he may be even better at making his comebacks meaningful which is probably a harder skill. We also get some fighting spirit in the match, and I have to say I am becoming less and less of a fan of fighting spirit. So often it is done poorly. It isnâ€™t bad here, but I could almost always do without it. Go ends up getting the win with the Go Flasher. Also I am not a huge fan of that move, something about it looks messy. On a side note, One would think from reading this that I am not a fan of Shiozaki-san, which is not true. I think he is a great wrestler, but is missing a couple of final pieces to become one of the greatest stars of his generation in Japan, America or otherwise.
Winner: Go Shiozaki via pinfall; ***
That sets up our tournament final as follows:
â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen vs. Go Shiozaki
Becky Bayless is with Rocky Romero who says that he hurt Danielson so maybe Nigel owes him one. Dragon has a title shot at the Sixth Anniversary show. He then tries to put the moves on fine young Rebecca. She has none of it though.
Four Corner Survival Match: Mitch Franklin vs. Pelle Primeau vs. FIP Tag Team Champion Jason Blade vs. The Human Tornado
This is Tornadoâ€™s east coast RoH debut and to the best of my knowledge Jason Bladeâ€™s first appearance as an acknowledged member of the YRR. Pelle Primeau still has awesome entrance music and Mitch Franklin is still weird lookinâ€™, really weird lookinâ€™. Blade and Tornado start, and it is interesting to see generic Jason Blade show a little bit of a cocky persona. Pelle Primeau enters the match and Tornado exploits his extreme height advantage by challenging the wee Primeau to a test of strength. Primeau takes some punishment from everyone else and the competitors do their best to prevent the match from devolving into a tag contest despite Blade and Franklin pretty much playing the heels. Franklin is actually pretty impressive in the match especially with a hurricanrana into the corner on Tornado. But, in the wrestling equivalent of a football referee moving the ball forward two inches to get the â€œperfect ball placementâ€, Paul Turner claims that Tornado is not the legal man. It appears the match is going to go into the requisite dive to the outside sequence, but Blade breaks it up hits a weird pumphandle type slam and gets the win over Mitch Franklin. It was a fun match if wholly unremarkable.
Winner: Jason Blade via pinfall; **1/2
After the match The Human Tornado gets on the mic and says that his goal in Ring of Honor is not necessarily to get wins, but to bring more women to the show. He says he is thinking of starting his own stable, because you know he is a pimp. He tells the crowd that the finest lady of all is Lacey. Lacey comes out angry about Tornadoâ€™s insinuations. Tornado ducks two attempts from Lacey to teach him respect and that brings out Jimmy Jacobs and his railroad spike to threaten the man from Hollywood, Alabama. Tornado wisely takes a powder.
Jacobs continues talking to the crowd and talks about a new member of the Age of the Fall, a man whose life should have been an inspiration, but turned out a tragedy: Zach Gowen. This leads to our next matchâ€¦
The Age of the Fall of Jimmy Jacobs and Zach Gowen vs. The Vulture Squad of Jigsaw and Ruckus w/ Julius Smokes and Mercedes Martinez
This match wasâ€¦ how do I say it? Not good. It lacked flow structure and rhythm. Jacobs does his best to hold the match together and tries to be the ring general. Still, the match quickly devolves into a spotfest. Some of the spots are pretty spectacular to be sure, but they have no meaning and purpose in the context of the match. Jacobs and Gowen especially showed they could be at worst an average team. Turner again does a better job than anyone in attendance of keeping track of the legal man. Way to go, Turner. Ruckus in a moment of no-selling is able to get the advantage out of nowhere and hit a moonsault leg drop for the victory.
Winners: The Vulture Squad of Jigsaw and Ruckus via pinfall; **<
Becky Bayless is backstage with Austin Aries, she asks him about his nose which was bloodied during his match with El Generico. Aries replies, â€œbroke.â€ She asks him if he has any thoughts on the Age of the Fall and their attempts to recruit him. Aries replies, â€œnope,â€ and walks off. Two words and it got everything across he needed to say. I am a big Austin Aries fan.
Tournament Final: â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen vs. Go Shiozaki
The fans mockingly sing along with Steenâ€™s awful, awful entrance music. The match itself is basically a pissing contest. The two men unload all of their big guns in an attempt to outdo one another. After some first rate clubbering, Shiozaki settles in to work on Steenâ€™s leg. Shiozaki is great in his role as the aggressor in this match. Every time Steen starts to get an advantage; Go attacks the leg again. Steen does a great job of selling through much of the match as well. Like Goâ€™s other two matches this one gets chock full of fighting spirit at towards the end. It works on some levels. The two men are in their third grueling match of the night, neither had an easy time. They are both bruisers and willing to do whatever it takes to get that title shot, but at the same time some of the fighting spirit moments seem a little unbelievable. I really didnâ€™t like that Shiozaki kicked out of the package piledriver as that move really should be protected as lights out. Steen quickly hits a second one, though, and that puts the Pro-Wrestling NOAH star away.
Winner of a Future World Title Shot: â€œMr. Wrestlingâ€ Kevin Steen, ***1/2
Steen gets on the mic, puts himself over and we say goodnight.
Big Andy Macâ€™s Big Andy Final Thoughts: The show did not have any truly great matches, but I still really enjoyed it. The tournament told a great story. It was really Steenâ€™s journey. He used three different finishing moves and wrestled three different matches against three very different styles of wrestler. Goâ€™s journey was also important. He immediately established himself as a player by beating the unorthodox Necro Butcher and the previous tournament darling El Generico. Everyone except for maybe Delirious and Necro Butcher came out of the tournament with some sort of advancement. Aries had his frustrations continue. Danielson showed how smart and dangerous he was in his two matches, even sacrificing a win with the knowledge that he had a big title shot the next night. Romero looks badass in the way he took apart Danielsonâ€™s knee. Generico was great again in his underdog role. This show, as I said, is a lot of fun. If you are looking for classic matches, there are plenty of better shows to choose from. If you are looking for some fun matches and a well booked tournament, check this show out. If Steen ends up winning the title from Nigel at some point this year, then this show could become much more important. As it stands, it is not worth going out of your way to see, but a great completion to a sale. And with thatâ€¦
Iâ€™ll see you next timeâ€¦