Cult of ROH: ROH hits Canada, DG hires Gabe

In this episode of Cult of ROH we’ve got two nights in Canada. But first…

DGUSA
So Raw drafted HHH and Smackdown drafted Jericho, but the biggest draft news of the week: Dragon Gate drafts Gabe m-f’n Sapolsky!

Yes folks. He’s got a job. He’s “Vice President” of Dragon Gate USA. This is not a new company, but the Japanese indy’s foothold in America. They intend to begin touring in July with one major show a month, and have already signed CIMA, Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino and Dragon Kid to that inaugural event. CIMA and Doi hold their top singles belts, and the four are amongst the biggest stars in the company, as well as frequent participants in the Supercard of Honor trios tag matches that always made Match of the Year ballots in ROH. This is the talent they’re introducing, and they’ve tied it to Sapolsky.

If you go to dgusa.tv you can find a picture of him playing the obligatory fat American next to Satoshi Oji and Toru Kido. In his post, “Greetings,” Sapolsky wrote:

“DGUSA is about quality over quantity. The plan is to present only a handful of live shows per year so each card can be treated as a major event. In fact, each match on every card will offer something special whether it is a star making opportunity for upcoming talent, a clash of Dragon Gate’s top stars or a battle of only the most skilled combatants.”

He went on to add, “This is OUR haven. You will get what you pay for with DGUSA. There are no “house” or “B” shows or throwaway matches.”

Dragon Gate has some merchandise ready and is producing DVD’s for the U.S. audience. There is no word yet, but you can bet they’ll plan to tape things in America for their TV show and DVD releases to help cover costs. Mixing the spotty fan favorite Dragon Gate wrestlers with Gabe Sapolsky’s name, a guy who the general internet populace is pining over given ROH’s recent disappointing performances, is a brilliant move. By establishing the “no house show” mentality, they play on disappointments in ROH where guys so obviously hold back on so many shows. Whether it’s true, and even if it will be that good, is yet to be seen. But if you’re in Philadelphia, this is something to attend.

Friday: Competing Against Themselves Again

Ring of Honor is running a PPV this Friday, and you know what that means. They’re running a show competing with it!

Raise your hand if you knew there were shows this weekend. True, they’re in Canada, but this is the least attention I’ve seen for any show, even in the Pearce Era, in a long time. Coming off Wrestlemania weekend, Lynn’s title win and the TV tapings, this third straight weekend of ROH shows has been considerably overshadowed. Look at the card for Friday, and you’ll understand why.

A fourway between guys we’d rather see in long singles matches. A bizarre trios tag main event featuring the debut of Sylvain Grenier, the man no one demanded. The World Champ is out of town. There’s even a random throw-together tag between partners who have nothing in common except that they dislike a guy on the other team, straight out of WWF booking from the death of the Attitude Era. Check it out:

Kevin Steen & El Generico and Bryan Danielson vs. ROH World Tag Team Champions The American Wolves & Sylvain Grenier

Tyler Black vs. Jimmy Jacobs

Colt Cabana & Brent Albright vs. Jimmy Rave & Claudio Castagnoli with Prince Nana

Austin Aries vs. Roderick Strong vs. Kenny Omega vs. Jay Briscoe

The Necro Butcher & Delirious vs. Kenny King & Rhett Titus

Chris Hero vs. Franky The Mobster

Daizee Haze vs. LuFisto

The match that should matter is Tyler Black Vs. Jimmy Jacobs. We were ready for a feud in December and wanted it in February. Since then they’d baited and switched with it at Injustice 2, and subjected them to be the main event of their first TV show in a deliberately heatless contest. That match was nowhere as good as it should have been, and it’s been on TV and youtube. It doesn’t help matters that this was hastily re-booked to happen a couple of days ago, and that despite the two only having one proper singles match, we’ve seen them fight too often in tags. The cork popped a while ago and the champagne is flat.

The way the match-up looks is the way the whole card feels. It’s the kind of show where guys in the old ROH would have to bust their butts, hit it off with one or two must-see performances, and get buzz for the DVD release. Sadly, especially after The French Connection was ROH’s last offering to Montreal, the faith isn’t there.

The other match this show hinges upon is the trios tag. Look at it again. It should be great. Steen & Generico are gold in tags, they’re facing their rivals in the Americans Wolves, Danielson is a mastermind at creating roles, and we get to see Danielson climb in the ring against Richards and Edwards. It’s really the presence of the guest star, Sylvain Grenier, that diminishes enthusiasm. It’s a funny case of the special guest hurting the hype. He was the least talented of the La Resistance trio, he was never a notable star in WWE, and feels like another case of WWE backwash, something many fans are even more sensitive about as Lynn just won the title. He’ll have to do something amazing to shut up detractors.

Saturday in Markham

It’s common parlance these days that Friday shows are B-shows, while Saturdays get the A-shows. This disregards that ROH’s Friday shows used to routinely feature something that deserved buzz and the contemporary ones don’t. But if Friday is a “Friday show,” then this is definitely a Saturday show.

World Tag Team Title Match
The American Wolves defend vs. Tyler Black & Bryan Danielson

Austin Aries, Kenny King, & Rhett Titus vs. Kevin Steen, El Generico, & Kenny Omega

Colt Cabana vs. Claudio Castagnoli

The Necro Butcher vs. Chris Hero

Markham Street Fight
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Delirious

Roderick Strong vs. Jay Briscoe

Brent Albright vs. Jimmy Rave

Jacobs Vs. Delirious and Briscoe Vs. Strong are both rematches of bouts that got great live reactions on their respective shows. The former has a silly gimmick match name (neither guy is from Markham, nor will it have any great new stipulations than a standard weapons-are-legal match), but it’s the same stipulation as before, and Jacobs has a very good track record in brutal matches where everything is legal. Both contests promise unique elements: on the hardcore element, the other pure athletic competition.

The trios tag also looks fantastic. Last time in Markham, Kenny Omega became a star in a threeway against Danielson and Black. Now he is rightfully placed near the main event with two of the best tag guys in the company, and against Aries’s promising faction of arrogance. Aries, King, Omega, Steen and Generico all have good credentials for sprint matches, and King and Omega particularly could up their stock by showing off here. If the company lets them go, this will be amazing.

Then there is the main event. This could be the beginning of a big run for Richards & Edwards. Transitional championship is unlikely as they won the belts on TV, ROH’s new focal point. Where Lynn could win the title in a pinch situation off TV, something won on TV is more likely to last. There is also the feeling that is the team management wants as champions, as opposed to Steen & Generico, whose reign was booked rather weakly after the regime change.

The match itself should bring the house down. When Black wasn’t getting beaten up by McGuinness and Danielson last year, he was stealing shows in tags with Jacobs. Danielson is the Swiss army knife for ROH, and a great opponent for technical- and striking-based guys like Richards and Edwards. With the new ROH finding its stride in February and on in less restrained main events, and one of those being Black Vs. Richards, this ought to be the match that sells DVD’s.

I think Albright Vs. Rave really crystallizes what is wrong in ROH today. It has nothing to do with their talent; I like both guys, and they could put on a solid match. But look at it. Rave is the returning villain, re-dubbed Crown Jewel of the Embassy, a fresh heel in a company that just crowned a new babyface champion. Albright is always lauded as Pearce’s favorite, he’s a beast whose sheer size should let him destroy Rave, and he’s been pushed with fair consistency for some time now. Either guy actually losing this match would retard their progress. From a non-kayfabe standpoint, they both need it. It is difficult to pick who wins this.

But you don’t care, do you? The enthusiasm that once embraced these kinds of prediction problems is gone.

-Vinny Truncellito just watched the 2006 Super 8 tournament. You should, too. Christopher Daniels moonsaulting Austin Aries to death is a highlight of my wrestling fandom.

-“Papa Bear” Pulse Glazer returns to Pulse Wrestling with a response to my column about Jerry Lynn as champion. A response that sounds a lot like, “Uh, yeah!”

-David Ditch interviews Jae from Dragon Gate USA. Plus, links to matches!

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