Ring of Honor continues to expand to new markets and into new countries. In the past 18 months RoH has been to England, Japan, The West Coast, and South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Now RoH makes its much awaited debut North of the Border.
If you pay attention to crowd reactions on WWE TV, you know that Canadian crowds tend to be, for the most part, top notch and unlike any crowds in the good old US of A. This show was no different. The crowd was white hot all night to be sure, but the question is: did the fiercely independent U.S. wrestling company deliver?
Opening Contest: Ruckus vs. Chris Hero w/ Larry Sweeney, Bobby Dempsey, and Shane Hagadorn
Chris Hero was the first wrestler through the curtain and not surprisingly got a huge pop, it sustained through the entire match. I think Hero was better at drawing pure heel heat with his smarmy show-off persona than this new, serious, â€œIâ€™m gonna knock you outâ€ character he has been using as of late. Still, he is able to bring it in the ring and is certainly on his way back up the card. It wouldnâ€™t be a Ring of Honor show without Larry Sweeney running his mouth, and not surprisingly he took his mic time to bash Canada. The match itself was mostly an extended squash. Hero beat down Ruckus with little flash, while Ruckusâ€™ comebacks were full of the razzle dazzle that he is known for. Hero ends up getting the win with a series of strikes and a big boot in a fine little opener. The opening match is always a tough spot, and while this match was far from the best on the card it set the tone for the event nicely and started the build of a very well put together card.
Winner: Chris Hero via pinfall; **1/2
Special Attraction Match: Delirious vs. Kenny Omega
Omega is one of the few wrestlers with buzz left on the indies that has not made a Ring of Honor appearance. I had not seen much of him neglecting to go to video sites to check out his work ahead of time. It was nice going in with a clean slate so I could totally form my own opinion. Delirious is the same as he ever was, but the crowd in Toronto ate up his standard offense so in some ways it seemed fresh again. The match was one of the best one on one encounters that the ever stagnating Delirious has had in a while. Omega was very impressive as well. The match was your standard face vs. face exhibition, but it worked well in front of a crowd that was not going to boo Delirious or a native Canadian. The most impressive stuff in the match came from Omega. His innovative spot was when he had Delirious in the electric chair position lifted him off and dropped him into a German suplex. I would have been pleased if that had ended the match right there, but Delirious was able to kick out and counter a dragon suplex and/or full nelson into the Cobra Stretch for the submission victory. The match was fun and exciting, but I think I would have rather seen Kenny Omega get the duke in his debut.
Winner: Delirious via submission; ***
SHIMMER Exhibition Match: Sara Del Rey with Larry Sweeney and Shane Hagadorn vs. Jennifer Blake
I certainly dig Saraâ€™s new evil character. Jennifer Blake, besides being named after Cliff Secordâ€™s love interest in â€œThe Rocketeerâ€ (big bonus points), was pretty solid in her own right. She was also easy on the eyes, which never hurts a female wrestlerâ€™s appeal. The match was short and simple because Del Rey is simply better than pretty much every female wrestler right now. Blake got her share of big moves in, but the match was another extended squash for Sweet and Sour Inc. Del Rey wins with the axe kick. The match was fine for what it was, and short enough to not throw of the pacing of the card.
Winner: Sara Del Rey via pinfall; *
After the match Sweeney calls out his other charge Go Shiozaki so he can get his match out of the way so Sweet and Sour can partyâ€¦back in the States.
Go Shiozaki with Larry Sweeney and Shane Hagadorn vs. Erick Stevens
This match is continuation of issues started down in FIP after Erick Stevens won the FIP title Go rained on his parade and challenged him to defend the FIP championship. This match did not have the hatred that it probably should have, but it was definitely solid. I liked the fact that it wasnâ€™t super chop heavy and the told a slightly different story. Go is improving with each time he steps in the ropes and relying less and less on chops and fighting spirit to bring the fans into his matches. This match had a fifteen minute time limit and they used every second of it. The bell rang when both men were on the top rope and Stevens was attempting a super Doctor Bomb. Go was able to reverse it into a superplex, but time expired. Guess what the fans chanted next. If you guessed that the chant involved a request for a time extension, give yourself a pat on the back. If you also guessed that no such extension happened, give yourself another pat on the back.
Result: Time Limit Draw; ***
Sweeney told the fans that Go Shiozaki was scheduled to wrestle for 15 minutes, and that was all the fans were going to get. He said if they wanted to see more each fan would have to pony up ten dollars. I am sure many fans reached into their wallets, but we knew that wouldnâ€™t happen. Lance Storm came out to â€œbe seriousâ€ for a moment. Storm put over the Ring of Honor roster calling it the best locker room in the business. This brought out Chris Hero who attacked Storm from behind. Lance was able to get the advantage, though, and he and Stevens hit stereo rolling half crabs on Hero and Go. Lance T. Storm then drilled Shane Hagadorn with a super kick, much to the delight of the fans.
Claudio Castagnoli vs. â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson
This match and the World Title match were the two matches that I was looking forward to most. Dragon and Claudio did not disappoint. The match was a technical marvel and really stood out from the rest of the card, which was excellent in its own right. The basic story here was that both menâ€™s strengths and weaknesses cancelled each other out. Dragon was the better technical wrestler (obviously) and slightly faster, but Claudio was stronger and a better striker. The fans were solidly behind Dragon the entire match and mercilessly booed Claudio. Claudio played into it and worked more heelish during the match stealing Dragonâ€™s surfboard spot. Dragon was so over as the babyface that he was getting more â€œHey!â€ chants from the crowd than the big Swiss Powerhouse. This one was even the whole way. Neither man had an advantage for long. Dragon was able to get the win after countering Claudioâ€™s lift-off European uppercut into a backslide. I enjoyed this match as much as anything I have seen live from RoH this year. It told a great story, the selling was excellent, and the finish was spectacular.
Winner: â€œAmerican Dragonâ€ Bryan Danielson via pinfall; ****1/4
Intermission went on way too long. Ring of Honor has done a great job of tightening up their shows and cutting down on the time between matches etc etc, but their intermissions are still too long. It nearly killed my interest in the show. Luckily, it didnâ€™t hurt the rest of the Toronto faithful from being one of the better RoH crowds I have been a part of.
Special Attraction Match: Naomichi Marufugi vs. Roderick Strong
I was really looking forward to this match as well. They didnâ€™t exactly live up to expectations, but they didnâ€™t disappoint either. This was hyped as an exhibition match, and exhibit they did. The match definitely lacked story, but the spots were pretty incredible. Most of the match was just the two men exchanging lights out moves. There was not a whole lot in the way of selling going on. Marufugi even did a fighting spirit spot out of a top rope superplex. Maru ended up getting the win after a ridiculous shiranui. The crowd ate the match up, but the lack of selling really took me out of it. It was still an impressive display and I think they will be an excellent team tonight in Detroit Rock City.
Winner: Naomichi Marufugi via pinfall; ***
Ring of Honor World Champioship: â€œMr. Canadaâ€ Kevin Steen vs. Nigel McGuinnessÂ©
Steen entrance was preceded by the opening bars of â€œO, Canada,â€ and Mr. Wrestling was definitely over as the hometown hero. Nigel was his excellent heel self and the match they put on was certainly better than their first encounter at â€œInjusticeâ€ and I am guessing better than â€œReturn Engagementâ€ as well. This time Steen was the sympathetic underdog babyface and Nigel was the cocky heel. Nigel controlled the vast majority of the match and Steenâ€™s offense consisted of hope spots and comebacks, but it worked to great effect. Steen of course kicked out of the jawbreaker lariat as that move dies a slow death as a viable finish. Nigel kicked out of the package piledriver too. Boo that. Nigel not surprisingly retained his title after placing Steen on the top rope and delivering a lariat from the turnbuckles. The match itself was awesome, but some of my enjoyment was taken away because I knew that Steen was not winning. That being said, a few times Steen really seemed like he was actually going to steal the win. The fact that tomorrow night was a pay per view headlined by Nigel vs. Claudio loomed too large though. It was a great match nonetheless.
Winner: Nigel McGuinnes via pinfall; ****
Non-Title Tag Team War: Jay Briscoe and Austin Aries vs. RoH Tag Team Champions Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black of the Age of the Fall
The crowd was on its feet for this entire match as it rarely spent any time in the ring. As a result, I could not see anything. It did not take long for Necro Butcher to come out and interfere. Mark Briscoe made the save and the match basically turned into a six man tag team war. It seemed that the Age of the Fall was a united front, Necro was attacking the Briscoes and Aries with all of his shoeless violent glory. Then Jimmy order Necro to take a piece of a broken table and dig out Mark Briscoeâ€™s eye. Austin Aries tried to talk Necro out of it. Necro ended up walking out on his Age of the Fall brothers. I donâ€™t really like the fact that this angle has turned into a simple story of Necro not liking being told what to do. Still the angle has its fair share of intrigue. Jay Briscoe ended up winning the match after a Jay Driller. Judging by the sound, it was onto a chair or something. I really was unable to see enough of the match to give it any sort of rating, but the crowd was super into it, so that has to count for something.
Big Andy Macâ€™s Big Andy Final Thoughts: It is a tricky business debuting in a new market and RoH has debuted in two new market this year (I donâ€™t really count Florida because the FIP presence basically and Wrestlemania Weekend basically guaranteed them some level of success). On paper the show â€œSouthern Navigationâ€ from Manassas, VA was better, but I think this show may have topped it. The crowd was electric from start to finish, and all the matches delivered on their promises. The length of intermission took me out of the show a little bit, but not enough to enjoy the show any less. Two four star matches a bunch over three and a crazy brawl to end the show should be enough to make this a must buy. Still, RoH has been on such a roll this year that this show will probably get lost in the shuffle. Yay RoH.
Iâ€™ll see you next timeâ€¦
Tags: ROH, ROH