ROH Live Review: Manhattan Mayhem 3, 6/13/09

I finally returned to Ring of Honor this last night (June 13) after a fairly lengthy hiatus. I used to hit pretty much every show in the area and a few that weren’t. I tried to continue this at the regime change (from Gabe booking to Pearce to now, a committee), but the undercards felt throwaway with nothing worth seeing and the main events were no longer blowaway. When added to countouts, a slightly slower style, and more interference/cheating, well, I really only hit ROH in NYC from then on. I was even mostly disappointed there, however and was ready to quit on the live experience and only check out major DVDs (the blow away show, Supercard of Honor IV being the only one this year for me, though Steel City Showdown looks worth it). Last night, for some reason Stacy (the girlfriend) really wanted to go, so we went. Did ROH take the opportunity to change my mind and re-capture this ROHbot or did they seal the final nail into their coffin of irrelevance?

The show opens with the locker emptying for a 10 bell salute and moment of silence for Misawa. If you don’t know about Misawa, try this for a retrospective on the legend.

A few minutes later, the show proper opens with A-Double, Austin Aries coming out to cut a promo, ripping apart New York. I was initially really against this rehash of the Austin Starr gimmick from TNA, but Aries has shown what he can do with it when given time and it may be the best thing going in ROH right now. He’s hilarious and smarmy and excellent at the role- so good in fact that I wonder how much of this is really just his own personality with the volume turned way up and not just a rehash of other guys stealing smug gimmicks from guys like the heel Macho Man and Rick Rude. Speaking of guys who are just borrowing gimmicks (fun, but never over the same way as what Aries is doing), Austin introduces his team of Rhett Titus and Kenny King.

Match 1: Kenny King and Rhett Titus vs. The Young Bucks

The Young Bucks, for those who haven’t been paying attention to the indies in awhile, are a Rock n’ Roll Express type team that originated in PWG and has been working Dragon Gate. With every tour of Japan, they get better and better to the point now where they are among the better teams on the indies, second only to Steen and Generico of those who regularly team (of those who might team, I’d still keep them behind the Briscoes and Aries and Strong for now, but ahead of everyone else I can think of, including the Kings of Wrestling and American Wolves).

The match is your usual face-shine, heel heat segment followed by a big comeback, but the Young Bucks fluidity and excellent selling in small moments more than make up for that. They have a plethora of new, interesting spots and so long as they don’t repeat them ad nauseum like the Briscoes, we have new stars being born. The Bucks eventually triumph with a Swanton Moonsault combo.

The Young Bucks pin King and Titus (***)
The Young Bucks and King look like stars.

Match 2: Jimmy Rave w/ Prince Nana and Ernie Osiris vs. Necro Butcher

Necro controls on a brawl outside, then they get in and Rave works the leg. Necro suddenly gets a small package and wins.

Necro pins Rave (dud)
There was nothing here. Both have been in far superior brawls.

Post-match beatdown on Necro, messing up the leg until Colt saves wildly late, as the heels had already stopped beating down and were ready to walk away.

Ric Flair comes out to put over ROH and make weirdly creepy comments for a 60 year old man to women at ringside.

Match 3: Roderick Strong vs. Sonjay Dutt

Roderick is on an incredible hot-run in the ring and this is no exception. Sonjay works pretty similarly to the other small fliers of ROH, but has more personality than any save Jack. Rod is always great with fliers as he can keep pace when they speed it up and really lays the stiff beating in as a power guy. He’s absolutely awesome and this was, while similar to other Roderick vs. little guy matches (see also Jack Evans, Pac, etc.) very likely still match of the night. Rod won with a series of backbreakers into the Tiger Driver.

Roderick pins Sonjay Dutt (*** ½)
Just wasn’t memorable enough for four stars, but still set an in ring quality standard that would remain unmatched for the night. As the match went on Roderick learning to predict Sonjay’s speed moves, which eventually lead into the finish, was massively cool.

Match 4: First Blood Match: Jimmy Jacobs defeats Tyler Black

They brawl outside before the bell and as they get in, Jimmy makes Tyler bleed with a screwdriver, then makes them ring the bell for the match to start and finish in under 30 seconds. Well, that was smart of Jimmy.

Jacobs defeats Black (dud)
Wasn’t even a match, though Jimmy being smart enough to work around wrestling convention made me smile. Tyler simply isn’t as over as he was after so many failed title attempts.

Post-match Tyler freaks out, beating up 2 refs and Dempsey before announcing he’s cashing in his title shot to make the main event a 3-way. As would become apparent later, this was likely a last minute change because Flair wouldn’t be able to be the enforcer for the main event for whatever reason.

Bret Hart is announced for the next NYC show September 26, but the show is going to be at the Grand Ballroom again, not the larger Hammerstein- a sign of declining business despite television.

Match 5: Bryan Danielson vs. Colt Cabana vs. D-Lo Brown vs. Claudio Castagnoli

D-Lo and Claudio worked together for most of the match, while Colt’s comedy was used a lot to betray Danielson. Bryan got almost no offense here and this entire match really felt like a throwaway waste, with only the star factor holding it together. Colt eventually made Brown tap to the Billy Goat’s Curse.

Colt makes D-Lo submit (**)
The very definition of filler.

Match 6: ROH World Tag Team Title Submission Match: The American Wolves © vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico

We don’t start with a face-shine here, but rather with the faces working over the heels. Davey looks and works absolutely awesome right now. That was rather slow and confused the crowd, but eventually Steen’s knee is attacked and we’re into familiar territory… sort of. Generally in Steenerico matches, what works is the small, sympathetic Generico getting beat up (which he’s unparalleled at) when the big Steen comes in to save. They did the opposite here and the crowd just didn’t get as into Steen being whupped as they would Generico. The hot tag lead to some different double team spots as they played off how well they knew each other and worked in a load of sharpshooters and other submission set ups. Eventually the heels ripped off Generico’s kneepad and made him tap while holding Steen at bay… surprising since Steen’s knee was far more damaged.

The American Wolves submit Steen and Generico (*** ½)
The second half of this was great and will make up for the subpar first half to most people, but held how good this was overall down. From here on out, the American Wolves will have my and Stacy’s dog Wolfy as their mascot. This is official; don’t question it- add him and be a part of the Wolfilotion.

Match 7: Jay Briscoe vs. Guido Maritato

Guido was pretty over and in full FBI gimmick. They started off going pretty even as faces before Guido went heel. They went back and forth for a bit before Jay nailed the Jay Driller for the win. Guido got a standing ovation post match.

Jay pins Guido
Possibly the most forgettable match I’ve ever seen. Short and utterly unnecessary, Jay has gotten a lot of upper card wins and I’m totally unsure why.

Match 8: ROH World Title Elimination 3-way: Jerry Lynn © vs. Austin Aries vs. Tyler Black with special enforcer Nigel McGuinness

Remember, no Flair for this, but the crowd doesn’t appear to care. Tyler is still not really over, but Jerry is getting a pretty good reaction. Aries came out to Flair’s music and spent much of the match mimicking his moves and movements to great effect. Once again, Aries is the best thing going in ROH now.

They do the usual 3-man stuff where 1 guy is constantly hurt outside until Tyler nails the small package driver on Lynn, guaranteeing a new champion. That certainly wakes the crowd.

The rest of the match is your standard failed Tyler title shot- he kicks out of everything, including the brainbuster and 450, while hitting all of his key offense for near falls, before finally succumbing to the brainbuster. I think I’ve seen this movie before.

Aries defeats Tyler to become the new ROH Champion (*** ½)
I’m downgrading it because it was so by the numbers. The moment was absolutely great, but nothing remotely out of the ordinary happened between the ropes. It’s a solid formula, but not spectacular. This felt a lot, in its own way, like an ECW main event where the wrestling isn’t necessarily perfect but the personalities and the storylines make it work. I’m thrilled to see Aries as the first two time champion.

Your mileage on this is going to depend on the main event and how quickly you can get past the first half of the tag title match. The undercard was completely packed with filler and I’ve said it before, that makes it feel like an early 2004 show, where most of the card is filler with a few above average matches from the usual suspects. The main event then needs to be killer to pick the whole show up and while I didn’t feel this was, I can certainly see a dissenting opinion by those that more heavily value story. Cary was really worried about no Flair for the main event, but at the end of the day ROH fans come for the wrestling and the great, memorable moments. This show was a bit short on the former, but delivered greatly on the latter. I’ll blog in detail about Aries as champion and my feelings about the company’s direction during the week, so be sure to check back then. Hope you enjoyed the read and it helped you be informed of the product and whether you would enjoy the show.

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