Canada is getting the good stuff this Friday. You guys asked for ROH for years and theyâ€™re clearly trying to impress with this card. Theyâ€™ve got a new market to impress and that apparently means putting together their strongest pre-PPV card to date, including a visit from Marufuji, high-profile rematches and one of their countrymen challenging for the World Title. Hereâ€™s hoping it succeeds like they want it to and our neighbors up north will get ROH more often.
Letâ€™s look at the show:
-Roderick Strong Vs. Naomichi MarufujiThis is a dream match to a lot of ROH fans. Both guys are underappreciated mat wrestlers and can accelerate very quickly. Both also have very distinct hard-hitting offense, not reckless but with a great sense of what to do when where for a proper effect. While Strongâ€™s crowd connectivity is unreliable (heâ€™s been phenomenal on some nights, but drastically off on others), Marufuji is a master of gravitas and should ensure this match has the proper atmosphere. Once the atmosphere kicks in you get to Strong and Marufujiâ€™s greatest strength: nearfalls. For those two aspects alone Iâ€™m expecting to read some glowing reports come Saturday morning.
Beyond that, Strong really needs this match to be great. ROH has a strange schematic where you need to be successful enough in character and out of character to hit the right level. Following his recent critical success against Chris Hero, a great match against Marufuji would help cement his face turn as something important. He is walking in motivated against one of the best foreign superstars ROH has ever had.
My prediction is Marufuji wins. He very seldomly loses in ROH, and if Strong can go down to Hero, he can go down to the former GHC Heavyweight Champion. The charm will be in the believability of nearfalls. You can walk in being sure of the winner, but it wonâ€™t matter halfway in.
-Erick Stevens vs. Go Shiozaki
Now for those of you who like more reckless hard-hitting, thereâ€™s this match. These are two of the hardest choppers in ROH, and with Goâ€™s recent turn to the darkside this could get heated. Stevens has the residual issue with Sweet & Sour over Daniel Puder. These guys are also two of the biggest men on the roster, so it doubles as a heavyweight match. Steen Vs. McGuinness 3 (in the likely main event) is also a heavyweight match, but they wrestle dramatically different styles and will be in a heat vacuum given itâ€™s Steenâ€™s home country. Stevens and Go are physical, smashmouth guys.
You also canâ€™t overlook their quality selling â€“ theyâ€™re better at it than much smaller guys on this card, and thatâ€™s essential to the toll this battle is likely to take on them. With the love their participation in the threeway at A New Level got, we know these two can work together. Given the low pressure of an undercard fight, theyâ€™re likely to make the most of a different kind of match.
My prediction is that Stevens gets the duke. We donâ€™t know how much longer Go is around for, but Stevens just picked up the FIP title. He can walk in with the belt over his shoulder and look like something special in beating a Japanese star. All that prevents me from getting fully behind this one is a nagging feeling that someone from Sweet & Sour Inc. will interfere, costing Stevens the match and setting up a title rematch later. It seems really early in his reign to do that, though, especially after what a goof he looked like fumbling the belt earlier this year.
-Delirious Vs. Kenny Omega
Should be a mix of goofy stuff and amazing offense. Omega needs to prove something here if he wants to get picked up for U.S. spots, and Delirious is a common measuring stick. This oneâ€™s for fun.
Delirious is winning. Omega doesnâ€™t have the buzz coming in of a Hero or Kingston, and even those guys dropped their first matches. This looks like a typical feel-out trial match, the likes of which Hallowicked, Seth Skyfire and Silas Young received, where Omega can show his stuff and lose respectably, only to return later if ROH likes him and build himself from the ground up.
Chris Hero Vs. Ruckus
Just added to the card is one guaranteed to be short. Ruckus will fly, hopefully Hero will rein him into something, and Ruckus is eating a nasty elbow to send this one home. Harmless filler.
Sara Del Rey Vs. Jennifer BlakeAlso just added to the card is ROHâ€™s next SHIMMER match. Canâ€™t say Iâ€™m excited about it, but like the Hero match, this introduces Del Rey to the crowd under an ROH banner. On this show they will really have bust their butts to impress, but SHIMMER girls have a bad track record on ROH shows. Look for this to serve as more undercard filler, with the outside chance of impressing. If nothing else, it puts diversity out there. Del Rey, being such a queen in ROH, is very likely to take this home.
-Bryan Danielson Vs. Claudio Castagnoli 2
Especially in recent years, Ring of Honor has been about the quality rematches, and these two put on a great match with a mixture of comedy and drama at Vendetta 2. That one match of experience in ROH (on top of meeting in PWG and possibly other places) will help them improve chemistry and tell a more intense story this time. Both guys have such familiar styles that even if they build heavily from the Vendetta 2 encounter, the crowd should be able to follow it. They have a great built-in dynamic since Danielson tries to wrestle his matches so controllingly, but heâ€™s facing an opponent who is taller, stronger, and at least as quick as he is, along with some technical savvy. If crowds didnâ€™t already love Castagnoli, this series really could make him the way Danielsonâ€™s series with Black seems to be making that young manâ€™s ROH career.
Itâ€™s got to be Castagnoli with his PPV title match the next night, but making Danielson 0-2 against another guy (following his 0-2 Vs. Stevens) seems even more unlikely. Itâ€™s a difficult pick in that both outcomes seem obvious. Iâ€™m still going with Castagnoli.
-No Disqualifications: Austin Aries & Jay Briscoe vs. Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black 2
By all reports these guys disappointed in their match at A New Level, so they have to show themselves up here. This is the other side of the coin from Danielson Vs. Castagnoli 2: that match proved the guys had chemistry and can now build on it, while all four of these guys have to prove something in this match. From the rave reports of Jacobs Vs. Aries at Vendetta 2 and Jay Briscoeâ€™s wars with the Age of the Fall, the ability certainly is there to do something wild. You also have a lot more flying firepower in this match than any other on the card, and taking away restrictions with the No DQ stipulation will let them be as creative as they want. If they put as much thought into this match as they should, weâ€™re look at some exhilarating flying and brawling here.
Despite being non-title, Iâ€™m feeling Jacobs and Black right now. They already dropped the match at A New Level, and the win wouldnâ€™t really open up any tag title opportunities for Aries or Briscoe. They can get that match when they want it. Itâ€™s time for ROH to right the wrong of having Jacobs and Black go down last time, and itâ€™s easier to make that decision in a match where nothing is off-limits and they can do something underhanded or overkill to win.
-ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness vs. Kevin Steen 3
This hearkens back to Nigel McGuinness challenging Bryan Danielson for the World Title in his home country at Unified. Canada is even more nuts for pro wrestling, so the atmosphere should be off the charts. McGuinnessâ€™s bastard character is perfect for playing off of excited crowds, and crowd connection is Steenâ€™s greatest strength.
But these guys do not appear to have the chemistry of Danielson and McGuinness. Their first two matches had plenty of buzz going in and little going out. So while running a match along the grain of the crowd almost guarantees this one be more enjoyable, they have to push themselves to make it main event caliber. Given that this is likely the climax of their feud, they are in an optimal position to deliver. Theyâ€™d better, or this will be the third show where somebody elseâ€™s match outshone their fight for the title.
You love Steen, Canada loves Steen, the atmosphere should be amazing, but boy does he not have a chance. The prolonged deadlines of his title win promises and McGuinnessâ€™s remaining big challengers (Castagnoli the next night, Danielson eventually, Black eventually and that mammoth 4-way elimination on the horizon) makes it too unlikely that theyâ€™ll swap the belt to someone else, especially when Steen hasnâ€™t shown amazing performances in main event singles matches the way other challengers have. Even Castagnoli, with his guarantee of retiring if he loses the next night, has a better chance of unseating McGuinness.
On paper this show has some great variety to it, something a lot of other ROH shows lack. Look at it this way:
Nigel McGuinness vs. Kevin Steen 3
-World Title match in Steenâ€™s last chance, happening in his home country, creating the likelihood of a ridiculously hot crowd
Bryan Danielson vs. Claudio Castagnoli 2
-Big rematch between two meaningful strikers and great technical wrestlers
Roderick Strong vs. Naomichi Marufuji
-Spectacular dream match
Chris Hero vs. Ruckus
-Filler with crowd favorite bad guy Hero and a flyer victim
Sara Del Rey vs. Jennifer Blake
-Women’s wrestling with a lot to prove
Erick Stevens vs. Go Shiozaki
-Brute force heavyweight match
Delirious vs. Kenny Omega
No DQ: Austin Aries & Jay Briscoe vs. Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black 2
It ranges the spectrum of what ROH does well. Theyâ€™ve produced three promising rematches for a new territory, their standard tool of ensuring they deliver at least one great match to impress the new crowd. But youâ€™ve also got two of their favorites against foreign stars, which is another tool they usually rely on to guarantee at least one good match. Itâ€™s a card with five very different big matches, making this look even better than the Manassas debut from earlier this year. Canada is getting the England treatment. If it doesnâ€™t deliver then something went horribly wrong.
In short: wish I could be there, weâ€™re sorry about 1812, and hope this makes up for it.
Also this week:
-A heads up to whoever smashed in my car windows. Thanks. They totally had it coming. Wish you’d left a forwarding address, though.
-David Wells picks a fight with Ian Rotten.
-Pulse Glazer reviews both of ROH’s new in-store releases, Best in the World and Greatest Rivalries.
-A bajillion articles about people who donâ€™t watch ROH fighting with people who do. Linking to one of them would be like pointing to bread in a sandwich. Hope you enjoyed this lunchmeat column. Check in coming weeks for an utterly gigantic retrospective of Jimmy Jacobs’s ROH career.
-And if you’d like something utterly different, try the Bathroom Monologues at www.johnwiswell.blogspot.com
Tags: Age of the Fall, Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, Canada, Claudio Castagnoli, Delirious, Erick Stevens!, Go Shiozaki, Jay Briscoe, Jimmy Jacobs, Kenny Omega, Kevin Steen, Naomichi Marufuji, Nigel McGuinness, Roderick Strong, ROH, ROH, Tyler Black