We’re trying something new with this review. The following is written in paragraphs rather than broken down into headings. If you like the format, please say so in our Comments section at the bottom of the page.
First up: the new production. There are only two camera angles that are noticeably new, specifically the way they pull back around ringside, and top-down views for guys on the turnbuckles or on the outside that frames the ring. The latter has been all of Videowires lately and is easily the coolest thing ROH has added on the production end. They still have a long way to go, though, to catch wrestlerâ€™s head-on for facial expressions and getting the best angles for impact on maneuvers. Early into the opening match we saw some almost accidental angles that really added to how hard and high Generico bumped. More of that could be great.
The lighting is better and the arena looks a little more professional (but still very small-fry). Thatâ€™s where the praise ends. The direction and cutting is still indy-level and the video packages are amateurish at the very best, most of them impossible to understand if you havenâ€™t been following the DVDâ€™s. Some attempts at new formats hit, like wrestlers cutting promos in front of a 1990â€™s WWF-style drape instead of their dorm rooms. Some attempts, though, like picture-in-picture, miss, as when Claudio Castagnoli interfered in the main event, only for me to be unable to see whatever he did in the little picture box on my 32-inch television.
They opened with the infamous six-minute title match between the Briscoes and Steen & Generico. Their timing and chemistry was at its peak and went for finishers early to try and add justification on top of Mark Briscoeâ€™s obvious injury. It felt like the great beginning to a great long match that ended early, with one failure of Markâ€™s leg giving Steen the opening he needed. While it doesnâ€™t invalidate the Briscoes entirely, it did make them look like serious punks. Especially given that the Briscoesâ€™ PPV streak breaking didnâ€™t come up on the rest of the show at all, this really didnâ€™t have to happen.
Up next was a SHIMMER title match between champion MsChif and challenger Sara Del Rey. How many casual viewers know what SHIMMER is or could tell you what it was when the show was over, I couldnâ€™t tell you. I will tell you that as someone who finds SHIMMER matches on ROH shows to be generally poor quality and not representative of how good those women are in their home environment, that this was the best match theyâ€™ve ever brought to ROH. Any new audience is bound to be impressed by MsChifâ€™s flexibility, and they brought spots most people have not seen before, like an absolutely crazy inclined Boston Crab. It was even throughout with MsChif fighting back, and had enough competent basics with serious brutality and creativity to justify being on this show.
Another match that was way more fun than expected was the four-way: Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Sami Callihan Vs. Silas Young Vs. Alex Payne. You could just as easily call it Claudio Castagnoli Vs. The World. The World took an ass-kicking this night. Castagnoli moved seamlessly between abusing opponents, trying to stay the legal man, and shrug off the relentless crowd in a very natural and brutal performance. Say what you will about his short-comings as a bad guy on the DVDâ€™s, but between this and Driven, Castagnoli has come off as an irritable beast.
So the next match was Sweet & Sour Incorporated fighting a team of various people that donâ€™t like them: Roderick Strong, Brent Albright and Ace Steel. What they did to Ace Steel, I still donâ€™t know. Sweet & Sour were represented by Chris Hero, Davey Richards and Go Shiozaki, but it didnâ€™t matter because nobodyâ€™s individual personality stood out. They were six guys dressed differently using the same tactics on each other. The good guys caught a bad guy and grounded him in their corner. The bad guys did the same, but punched him behind the refâ€™s back while they did it. It felt manic without the energy, not a brawl like the 100th Show main event, but big guys confused and waiting for their next thing.
The semi-main-event was the I Quit Match between Austin Aries and Jimmy Jacobs, meant to end their Best of Three series and their feud. At this point ROH gave up on casual fans. If you didnâ€™t know the motivations, the story and the significance of things like the spike, you were out of luck.
It was a typical bloody Jacobs gimmick match. That meant he and his opponent gave everything they had, took sick falls and bled like they were going to save your soul. That also meant really bad moments, including two tie-up spots. The first had Aries sit in a chair and pretend one arm wasnâ€™t free while the other was tied up, and then pretend that the bound arm couldnâ€™t easily be slid out of the chains while Jacobs threatened to stab him in the throat. The second saw Jacobs stand in the corner while Aries tied him up, ending with Aries not actually tying the chain, so that the end just hung next to his victim. There were a few other stilted moments, but these in particularly hurt the atmosphere of the match. Thatâ€™s sad, because it had great atmosphere and every time they clicked, the two clicked really well. It was disturbing, passionate, and anyone who can overlook the flaws will either love it or never want to see anything like it again. I canâ€™t blame either group.
The post-match angle was awkward. Lacey appeared from nowhere to take Blackâ€™s towel, then disappeared back to nowhere with no explanation when the match ended. Jacobs was furious with Black because having the towel thrown in would have saved him from having to say I Quit â€“ something that came off as enormously arbitrary. That seconds later one commentator asked if this was the end of the Age of the Fall made it seem even more forced. It was the strongest example of the new ROH trying too hard with some plot points on PPV.
The main event was the long-anticipated ROH World Title match between champion Nigel McGuinness and ROH Founding Father Bryan Danielson. Yes, itâ€™s about the eighth time theyâ€™ve wrestled in singles, but everyone was still dying for it. It deserved the anticipation.
These two have the aura, especially in front of ROH crowds. They have the history in their moves, and they know how to make things work â€“ Danielson brought back the Crossface Chickenwing repeatedly until the crowd was screaming for it as a possible finish. Just as impressive was McGuinness not merely relying on jabs at Danielsonâ€™s repertoire, but inventing and applying his own holds with a method that spoke volumes on his confidence. They intertwined Danielson not holding back in strikes like he did at the Sixth Anniversary Show, Danielson going after the arm, McGuinness going for the leg and for knockouts seamlessly, sometimes with an enviably followable complexity. It had character, technique, drama â€“ essentially everything the old ROH was proud of in a main event. It solidified the show as worth your $10-15, and made certain you understood that not all of what you once loved is dead in this company. The question now is how often they can deliver things like this, and how many B-shows youâ€™ll buy waiting for it.
The opening tag was short but fun, the womenâ€™s match was amongst the best womenâ€™s wrestling a male-dominated promotion of 2008, the I Quit was engrossingly gory, and the main event is an excellent championship match. Rising Above will replay through the month and is absolutely worth the money, especially if youâ€™re a Sapolsky-era fan curious about what the Pearce-era holds.
Tags: Adam Pearce, Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, Jimmy Jacobs, Nigel McGuinness, ROH