Things are changing at ROH and Pulse Wrestling. Iâ€™m taking over ROH coverage here on Fridays for Pulse Glazer, but donâ€™t worry. You can still catch him in A Modest Response. Please let us know what you think of the new ROH Friday column in the Comments section below.
One thing hasnâ€™t changed: ROH will once again compete against itself with a live event in Manassas and a pay per view debuting at the same time. By most accounts Rising Above is the very best Adam Pearceâ€™s ROH has to offer with Danielson Vs. McGuinness for the title, the blow-off to Jacobs/Aries and the new video production, so any fans worried about the future of the company should see it.
Ironically the card ROH is running in New Jersey tonight looks almost as good as whatâ€™s on PPV. Oh, that competition.
Weâ€™re beginning to see the ways of the new regime, making it easier to preview shows than it was at the end of Mr. Glazerâ€™s reign here. Now we know the greater frequency of angles and screwy endings, as well as tamping down on big things earlier on the card. Yet both Friday and Saturday have big matches and cards that look better than any of the first four shows Pearce wrote (see how the first one fared here), at least on paper. Tonight we have Aries against Lynn for the first time, Black Vs. McGuinness and Danielson Vs. Jacobs. Tomorrow we’ve got a strap match, Black Vs. Jacobs for the first time, Lynn Vs. Danielson for the second time, and McGuinness defending the title against quite possibly his best challenger in Austin Aries. Tomorrow we have
Remember that weâ€™re two weeks away from a PPV taping, meaning several of these matches could fall apart just to set up the big show. Only Sweet & Sour and their rivals have a significant match lined up as of today.
Yet even with that suspicion, this weekend is stacked. This isnâ€™t the minimalism weâ€™ve been led to expect out of the Pearce-era. Saturday in particular looks like a viable PPV card. Previously â€œbig showsâ€ like PPV tapings and Final Battle were laid heavy and allowed to burn down the house, with middling throw-away cards and performances in-between. Does ROH intend to break that impression this weekend, or are they setting up a big disappointment?
Sports Network and Fitness Inc.
January 16th, 2009- 8:00pm belltime
8320 Quarry Road
Manassas, VA 20110
Rhett Titus Vs. Sean Denny
Titus is a regularly appearing student with promise. Denny is one of the few people at a low enough level for him to beat decisively and pick up a little steam. Considering how well Titus has worked with other outsiders like Silas Young, this could be a fun match. It definitely went be long.
Winner: Rhett Titus
Brent Albright & Erick Stevens Vs. Damien Wayne & Chris Escobar
More tryout guys getting tossed around, in this case by two of ROHâ€™s biggest boys. Wayneâ€™s no shrimp, so he may get the chance to stand up and show something for himself. Both he and Escobar need to try to make impressions. Good impressions made post-Pearce mean more booking â€“ just see Kenny Omega.
Winners: Albright & Stevens
The Necro Butcher Vs. Delirious
This may be the end of the issue between these two, because how many matches can they possibly wrestle against each other? But really, this is a story match. Haze will likely appear on Friday, but sheâ€™s guaranteed to appear, probably when the brawling dies down and Delirious is preparing to deliver a deathblow. Whatever she does, itâ€™s likely to confuse the lizard man enough to cost him the match. Considering ROH had and appears to still have big designs for Necro Butcher, heâ€™s very likely to win here while Deliriousâ€™s issue will save him face (or so theyâ€™ll hope). I wouldnâ€™t be surprised for it to blow off or move to the next turn in the story at the PPV taping.
Winner: Necro Butcher
Bryan Danielson Vs. Jimmy Jacobs
In late 2007 they walked into Unscripted 3 and Jacobs had one of the best singles matches of his life. Will they go balls out and do the same thing here? No. Theyâ€™re not making up for a snowstorm, theyâ€™re not going to main event, and both guys have been in some padded, scaled back matches since Pearce came into power. But it remains that they have a great sense of drama and work famously together. For however long it goes it should be quality work. Looking at how important both guys are and how weak Jacobs has been lately, one is compelled to guess there will be a screwy ending, though there isnâ€™t a story to motivate it. Barring just what that screwyness is, Danielson wonâ€™t go 0-2 in singles against Jacobs.
Winner: Bryan Danielson
Roderick Strong & Jay Briscoe Vs. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards
Maybe the American Wolves will go 2-0 on the weekend, but theyâ€™re definitely winning against two guys that donâ€™t normally against each other, and against two guys with whom they have issues that will far outlast the weekend. This is the weekend where they donâ€™t just perform well, but pick up the victories to solidify them a threat to the tag champions. By the way, where in the heck are Steen & Generico? Have they been in for more than two weekends since Pearce took over? Looks grim for them when the Wolves challenge for the belts in two weeks.
Winners: Richards & Edwards
Austin Aries Vs. Jerry Lynn
Whether or not Lynn wins against Danielson the next night, heâ€™s likely to beat Aries here. Aries gets even angrier and Lynn gets a credibility win. Aries could even snap and lose on DQ, though a show of disrespect post-match would be enough. Beating a guy who just challenged for the title also helps Lynnâ€™s issue with McGuinness. Regardless of how it goes, this demands as much time and prestige as Lynnâ€™s bouts with Danielson and could be phenomenal. Itâ€™s one of those matches ROH needs to deliver on to reassure markets that it still has top tier wrestling.
Winner: Jerry Lynn
Nigel McGuinness Vs. Tyler Black
Can you do anything but have Black win here? He choked at Final Battle, McGuinness has beaten him cleanly twice in title matches, and now Black is in a non-title bout. Everything points to Black upsetting him to setup the huge title match that everyone wants. I have a sense it will go the other way, but thatâ€™s mostly because of how many disappointments the new ROH has delivered, not by any explainable logic. The match itself has no right to be anything other than great with Blackâ€™s history of quality performances for the Manassas crowd (Vs. Danielson, a tag against Marufuji & Go), and his track record against McGuinness.
Winner: It better be Tyler Black
Inman Sports Club
January 17th, 2009- 7:30pm belltime
990 Inman Avenue
Edison, NJ 08820
Lumberjack Strap Match: Roderick Strong & Erick Stevens Vs. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards
The American Wolves need to win this to establish them as a viable tag team in a division with face champions. Theyâ€™re simple, mat-savvy, vicious and effective. The chances of Sweeney or a related goon distracting the eternally distractible Stevens or Strong to cost them the match are high, though letting the choppers rip through S&S for a night is tempting. Richards works excellently with Strong, and Strong & Stevens are a heck of a team, so if they get the time they deserve, this could get great.
Winners: Richards & Edwards
Jay Briscoe Vs. Chris Escobar
Escobar has some indy buzz, and this will be his chance to impress management in front of a decent crowd. Shouldnâ€™t go long, and shouldnâ€™t end in anything but a Jay Driller.
Winner: Jay Briscoe
Brent Albright Vs. Rhett Titus
Albright will snap him like a glow stick.
Winner: Brent Albright and a lucky shoulder specialist in New Jersey
Necro Butcher Vs. Delirious Vs. Damien Wayne Vs. Sean Denny
Two more guys essentially getting tryouts in what is destined to be a story match. Haze will appear and the ending will probably set up something more for their Saturday collision. Either Delirious or Butcher could win, but given how Saturday could be the end of the Butcher/Delirious issue, letting Delirious win here is sounder, perhaps leaving Haze questioning if she can reach him (before trying again anyway the next night).
Tyler Black Vs. Jimmy Jacobs
A big match weâ€™ve been waiting on for more than half a year. Still, itâ€™s almost guaranteed not to end decisively, especially with two other big matches on the card. Maybe the Age of the Fall will run in, or McGuinness will distract Black, or Aries will spoil the whole party. We donâ€™t know how, but this issue doesnâ€™t end here, and weâ€™re unlikely to see a proper finish. The match may not even get off the ground, degenerating into brawling with a double-count-out to setup something bigger for later. Whatever happens should be heated. If they actually deliver the match they would have under the Sapolsky reign, it could amazing with Blackâ€™s athleticism and pluck against Jacobsâ€™s viciousness and opportunism. Instead, this is the most likely candidate to be sucked up into an angle, leaving time and shine for the other big matches.
Winner: Nobody, as it hits a double-DQ or double-countout. Possible chance of Aries interfering and attacking Black.
Bryan Danielson Vs. Jerry Lynn 2
Until the title match was announced this was a guaranteed main event. Their outing at All Star Extravaganza 4 is one of the most acclaimed Pearce-era matches (and probably the most acclaimed not to occur on the â€œbigâ€ shows). Will Lynn get a fluke victory over Danielson? Will Danielson continue to upset the veteran? Setting up a 1-1 rubber match or further frustrating Lynn are totally viable possibilities. Like the first, this should emphasize technical wrestling with plenty of holds and Mexican Stand-offs that are so cool to hate these days. Theyâ€™re so talented that realistically the only thing determining how good this gets is how long it goes.
Winner: Jerry Lynn, with a narrow victory like the one Danielson got over him
ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness Vs. Austin Aries
A shocking last-minute announcement that youâ€™d think would have more build (or be put on PPV). After Aries gave McGuinness two of his best title defenses at Supercard of Honor 3 and the original Rising Above, this belongs in nothing but the main event and should be nothing but amazing. That it was pulled out on such short notice and that Aries is in the midst of a turn suggests it may go screwy, though, with interference, an inconclusive ending, or a length that leaves people angry. A sad feature of the new ROH (especially after its first four shows, all on DVD now) is that along with match lengths, wins, turns and how good something will be, weâ€™re now charged to predict what will deliberately underperform. If Aries and McGuinness go all out, this will be worth the price of admission. But no matter how dramatic they make it, there is no way Aries will dethrone McGuinness in the midst of a heel turn and with Black and Lynn both sniffing at McGuinnessâ€™s belt.
Winner: Nigel McGuinness
These could both be must-buy shows, and theyâ€™re so tempting that at least one match is going to be worth the price of attendance on either night. In one weekend Pearce could silence critics of the fall in match-quality and throw into question the whole perception of ROH house shows. Edison and Manassas are small markets for them, further suggesting that these cards wonâ€™t deliver they would have a year ago. Thus far ROH has only delivered blowaways at PPVâ€™s (Rising Above) and marquee events (Final Battle). This weekend will be as telling as any to date for the new regime.
Thatâ€™s it for Cult of ROH. Return next Friday for any fallout from this weekend and a critical look at ROHâ€™s second Pearce-era show, Bound By Hate (hint: it was better than the first). But on the Pulse this week:
-Jake Ziegler joins the Pulse from Cool Kidsâ€™ Table and writes up ROHâ€™s Battle of the Best and Tokyo Summit.
-Thereâ€™s my farewell to Wednesdays with a look at HDNetâ€™s proposal for a Ring of Honor TV show.
-Did you a notice a Top 100 Wrestlers countdown around here?
-And grab the consistently hilarious Rabblecast. If you arenâ€™t offended, youâ€™re their type.
-And check out my non-wrestling blog at www.johnwiswell.blogspot.com
Tags: Adam Pearce, Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, jerry lynn, Jimmy Jacobs, Nigel McGuinness, ROH, Tyler Black