Breaking Holds – Episode Twenty-One

Quick mention: if you didn’t catch The Bash, and you have not seen the Mask vs. Title match between Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho, you should absolutely go out of your way to catch it. It’s a brilliant contest between the two, and the best piece of evidence I can think of why Chris Jericho could be the best booker in the company if they wanted him to steer the ship.

And, now on to the big game for today.

Today’s Episode: Relics

If a match is proposed in the woods and none of the fans care that it exists, is it really still a match? Or perhaps the better question is, does it really have to be a match?

My DVR is the greatest invention to mankind since the wheel, and it alows me to record Ring of Honor on HDNet, something that is both a blessing and a curse. When it first premiered, I was looking forward to having strong independent-style wrestling on my television, and figured it would be a nice alternative to the WWE product and TNA, the latter of which I’ve effectively stopped watching. The overall disappointment with the program, mine included, has been well documented in countless articles and blog posts, and isn’t really worth harping on yet again.

Yet, there was something I saw on ROH television this past weekend that required me to nearly shake the stupid out of my own head when I saw it done. Despite entertaining matches featuring the American Wolves vs. Black and Danielson, Delirious vs. Jimmy Jacobs in a Fight Without Honor (read: Hardcore Match), and a fun little debut by the Young Bucks, the only thing I could harp on was a single contest proposed by one of, I think, the best wrestlers on the entire roster, Claudio Castagnoli.

A Flag Match against Brent Albright.

A Flag Match.

Really?

I don’t understand how ROH, the independent federation that was created to rise above the silliness and stupidity ingrained in the wrestling business, has managed to delve so deep into the bag of old school tricks that they pull out the kind of match that plays on Cold War, jingoistic nonsense that I hoped had been put away forever. I understand that the classic formula of Patriot vs. Foreigner is a time-tested heat device going back to carnival days, but this is Ring of Honor! “Smart” wrestling fans, the primary audience of Ring of Honor, expects WWE to push Vladimir Kozlov as a heel because he’s Russian (Ukranian, but American audiences figure one slav is as good as another). We expect a few Canadians and Americans to start talking about how weak Americans are, or how lazy, or how stupid, and we then expect John Cena to come out, salute, and then beat up all of the foreign nationalist cowards all by himself. We’ll sit through the stupidity in the hopes that maybe we’ll get a decent match out of the story.

But Ring of Honor should be held to a higher standard, as it’s the one that they themselves set. It is not only to be expected of them, but it is their responsibility to be a great step forward for wrestling as a legitimate entertainment form next to MMA and Boxing. When they dig into these idiotic ideas such as Flag Matches, where the only stipulation is that the winner gets to wave a flag around, the entire company comes off as incredibly silly and backwards. We KNOW that Vince McMahon does this all the time, and will do it again, but Ring of Honor is supposed to be above all of this nonsense.

When I first watched Brent Albright’s response to Castagnoli’s challenge, I skipped the vast majority of it. The second that he started screaming about how proud he was to be an American, and how proud he was to be in the nation’s birthplace, Philadelphia, I decided that I could not deal with the stupidity and my right thumb pressed down on that little double arrow that would take me to a place that didn’t hurt my brain so very, very much. I didn’t want to hear the stupid ROHbots scream USA along with hm, figuring that what made it acceptable was that ROH was doing it, making it automatically ten times as awesome as a regular Flag Match from WWE. These flags would be FIVE TIMES as flaggy as anything you’d see from Vince! ROH! ROH!

But, in my struggle to be a somewhat respectable writer, I decided to go back and watch the footage, making sure I hadn’t missed anything. True enough, Albright accepted as he figuratively draped himself in the American flag, trying to sound pumped and excited after handily defeating “Dirty” Ernie Osiris. Albright’s moves are hard-hitting, but he lacks star-making charisma, as I’m sure every ROH fan is aware of. Thus, trying to make his promos even come off as decent requires far better material than this. Still, he marched on, the good soldier he is, and tried to deliver the turd as best he could.

What happened next, friends, nearly redeemed the entire fiasco.

Nothing.

While there were a few scattered cheers, the vast majority of fans in the arena responded to Albright’s red-white-and-blue-painted diatribe with the unmistakable roar of apathy. There were even a few jeers, but Albright’s fiery call of “bringing the old stars and stripes” elicited a reaction on par with watching an elderly man comb his hair.

No one cared. Despite all of the talk of “ROHbots” or ROH zombies, they weren’t on board for this one. This idea was stupid, they noted it, and they weren’t going to dignify the stupidity with any kind of measureable response.

I hope Adam Pearce and any other bookers listened hard to the nothing that permeated the arena like milk in a sponge. It was a thick nothing, full of boredom and discontent with the status quo not just of Ring of Honor, but wrestling in general. They reject the ignorant, silly storylines of the past, and are hungry for something original and interesting. It was why the Age of the Fall caught on before they were completely neutered (Brodie Lee and MsChif, despite their talents, are not effective replacements for Austin Aries, Delirious, and Tyler Black), and why Nigel McGuinness’ incredible heelishness had fans believing he was great, even when his moveset consisted 90% of lariats.

The fans are past the outmoded and, frankly, rascist/nationalist idea of Flag Matches. I hope that bookers will be, too.