Guest Post: Joe Babinsack reviews Chris Hero ROH DVD set

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DVD review: Chris Hero: Ring of Hero

Chris Hero is a guy who makes professional wrestling look easy.

As the latest signee to the mainstream’s biggest promotion, Hero will likely be the next wrestler to ascend to Championship level from the independent scene, no matter what name Creative saddles him with, and even if that Universe’s endeavors can’t comprehend the marketing potential of a man who has a naturally elevated testosterone level.

Hero is the wrestler most indy fans know as “That Knockout Kid”, the wrestler who made tag team wrestling relevant as ½ of the “Kings of Wrestling, and the wrestler who spearheaded one of the best invasion angles in wrestling, and battled the “Best in the World” and who made his indelible mark on Ring of Honor.

It doesn’t take long to see the level of Hero’s talent. The first match on the Ring of Hero two disc set is a battle of epic proportions, with Bryan Danielson. It’s easy to talk about taking a Champion to the limit, much more difficult to pull it off, and vastly more difficult to wow a home crowd that set a high bar of excellence before they accept a newcomer.

In 2006, the Combat Zone Wrestling/Ring of Honor war had just begun.

And Chris Hero would become an unlikely beneficiary of that epic. This compilation tells the stories of the progression of Hero from bitterly hated invader to outstanding heel to solid part of the roster and then as a guy who set standards himself in the promotion.

The setup of that first clash, however, and the first two matches here are interesting and important. Hero was a leader of the CZW invasion of ROH. This tall, athletic, long-haired blond seemed to tower over Bryan Danielson, but he was in front of the home crowd, and few ROH fans at that time would give any man any chance against the “Best in the World”.

The match went on for seemingly forty minutes, and by the end, even with the war just heating up, it was obvious that there was more to the CZW crew than could have been expected. Sure, the Philadelphia fans were well aware that CZW wasn’t just a garbage wrestling league, that it had its share of talent, but to the ROH fans across the country, it was a battle of honor against barbarians.

And yet, Chris Hero, his name almost ironic to the expectations of the CZW standard bearer, proved that this would not be a one-sided war. Few men in the industry can go hold-for-hold, toe-to-toe, workrate and intensity, submission for submission, with the guy who made his legend in the indies and carried it to the mainstream.

But watch this match and it is hard to argue how smooth a wrestler this Chris Hero could be. This match should be a centerpiece of the set, but it’s not the only Danielson battle, and it barely scratches the surface of Hero’s abilities. With all due respect to Danielson, Hero proved himself time and again as a Tag Team Champion, and Hero’s participation in the bloody, brutal and chaotic war between CZW and ROH was the glue that kept the invading team viable, credible and dangerous.

It was Hero’s connections to Claudio Castagnoli that kept the drama going, and Hero’s participation in the crazed six-man match at ROH’s 100th show that kicked the CZW/ROH war into higher gear. Perhaps the climactic battle in that war could have been included, perhaps not, but the set opens strong with that awesome match with Danielson and the crazed spot-fest of the six-man.

And then, when you think you’ve seen all facets of Chris Hero, he tagkes to the ring with Claudio as the Kings of Wrestling, and they wrest away the belts from Austin Aries & Roderick Strong, proving that Hero is at the top of the food chain in terms of the oft-forgotten art of tag team wresting. Doubts about the WWE making use of that team to restore the dignity of that division downplayed.

Three matches into a 16 match compilation and we’ve seen the best and the various styles of Chris Hero, but not everything he has to offer. More tag team action with Claudio, and then with Go Shiozaki are to be seen. And we get a “Pure Rules Match” with Nigel McGuiness. And a six man elimination match, and then a sampling of Chris Hero with assorted ROH Champions, with the legendary Lance Storm, the legendary KENTA, and a culmination battle (and Fight Without Honor) against Eddie Kingston.

What makes the set isn’t just the excellent and awesome wrestling on display, but the variety of opponents, styles and approaches … and the strong setup and special additions that make those matches meaningful.

While some clips seem short or cut-off, there’s both a visual recap and commentary from the announcers that keep the stories straight and progress the development of the angles.

There’s also a cameo by Bruno Sammartino that made me cringe for the chants, but was an amazing convergence in seeing the Living Legend and Larry Sweeney verbally spar in the ROH ring. Too bad ROH dropped the ball on dealing with Bruno, but that’s another story.

Larry Sweeney, of course, was Chris Hero’s manager for a long time, with the Sweet & Sour faction. Seeing him in action and on the stick is always a bittersweet remembrance: Sweeney was always awesome in his roles, and those memories only bring back the turmoil of his life and mind, and the extremely unpleasant reality that professional wrestling couldn’t successfully harness his brilliance.

But back to Chris Hero and his work with various styles and opponents: here’s a guy who worked angles with Lance Storm, with Jerry Lynn and with KENTA, and there’s a peculiarly interesting storyline worked into the set regarding Eddie Kingston.

I’m not usually one to do full reviews of compilations, but the intrigue of this one, the relevance of Chris Hero moving to the WWE and the excellence of the packaging of his ROH career retrospective all make it a worthwhile effort. What really intrigues me is the inclusion of the matches and that ROH has provided not just great matches, but a variety of important roster names, both past and present, notable for their newfound roles in other companies and notable for potential in the future.

One example is Chris Hero taking on Kenny Omega. Omega is a future superstar, and is earning valuable experience in Japan these days. His win over Chris Hero, no matter the circumstances, is a building block for an eventual return to Ring of Honor.

Another even more intriguing guy is Eddie Kingston. Kingston and Hero feuded all over the indy scene, and their battles were heated and the storyline is played out on this set. Kingston blames Hero for not getting him into ROH. Kingston eventually proves his point, and Kingston is one of the more underrated guys on the indy scene.

But what’s important is Eddie Kingston today, who happens to be the Grand Champion of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling. Kingston is a guy who wrestles best with a chip on his shoulder. Kingston is a guy, who, like Chris Hero, may be an integral part of a Ring of Honor inter-promotional war in the near future.

And linking Eddie Kingston to Chris Hero is a pretty smart thing to do on a DVD package that should appeal to mainstream fans, long-term Ring of Honor fans, and most importantly to the new generation of ROH fans being brought into the promotion through the efforts of Sinclair Broadcasting’s syndication.

For any of the aforementioned fan groups, Chris Hero: Ring of Hero is a can’t miss opportunity to see the potential of one of ROH’s latest greats, and to get more involved with Ring of Honor’s product and all the potential it has to offer.

I’ve got the “Summer of Punk” and other ROH DVDs coming up, EVOLVE’s “Style Battle”, more Dragon Gate, a peek at Ultra Mantis Black, and a look at an awesome MsChif vs Mercedes Match from SHIMMER Volume 20.

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