Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Ironically, WrestleMania is dominating the news, but the two Champions in the WWE at this time are both notable for being alumni of the Ring of Honor Promotion.
CM Punk, of course, has been with the WWE for some years. He’s definitely paid his dues and had to reconfigure his mindset for the WWE, but he’s hit the top of the food chain and is realistically one of the few true stars of the promotion in years.
Daniel Bryan, Bryan Danielson, is the most unlikely of WWE Champions. While his talent is superior, that size thing is always a problem in Vinceland. But he’s taken his opportunity, and unlike the vast majority of guys who get the chance, he’s used his tenacity and talent and overcome some typical WWE logic and character building approaches and has kept his unlikely Championship, and has met a career dream of defending a major WWE Title at WrestleMania.
Sure, we know the “real” main event slots are held mostly by guys past their prime, and once again, any attempt to elevate or mix-in new faces is a laughable comment, but Champions are still Champions, and the mark of Ring of Honor as the promotion at the top of the indy food chain, is a definitive legacy of the current WWE Champions.
The legacy of top-notch professional wrestlers continues in Ring of Honor today, and the Main Event of Homecoming 2012 shines a spotlight on that level of talent.
While there remains some questions, in my mind, about the booking at ROH, the talent in the ring is never questionable. Having a World Champion vs. TV Champion match is a means to get a great match on the card. There’s nothing to complain about when watching Davey Richards vs Jay Lethal, but I’ll maintain the criticism I have for the WWE – there’s just something about putting the most identifiable guys, even if they are the most talented, into the Main Event slot.
In the end, the expectations are for a great match, but great matches are not the avenue for ROH to achieve a higher profile. If it were so, ROH would have overtaken TNA years ago. So, for all the superlatives I can say about Richards/Lethal, for all the talk about this being a Match of the Year Candidate, for all the obvious reasons why there’s an obvious result to this, there’s a little something lacking in the buildup and the expected expectations.
Jay Lethal is definitely moving to be a player in the business. Davey Richards remains the sole indy contender for Best in the World, and deservedly so. The match is definitely a MOTY contender. But what happens next?
That’s one of the big problems with booking these days. Now we have Richards and Lethal looking large and displaying their talents. Lethal is being built as the future of ROH, and Richards seems sliding into a big picture angle – eventually against Kevin Steen.
That’s all well and good, but getting from point A to point Z needs to have more of a roadmap than putting together matches that will look good in the ring, even if the work is world class.
Proving Ground Match
I’m very much into the ROH vs CHIKARA feud, and while there are fits and starts to this, this is the event, this is the match, that set it off. I won’t say I’m disappointed, but there were details here that didn’t play out as expected.
I get that the Briscoes aren’t taking these guys seriously. I love the “makeshift” commentary that the Briscoes are making these days, but this match was against a makeshift CHIKARA tag team (Mike Quackenbush and Frightmare being the respective, normal, tag team partners of these guys.)
So Jay & Mark Briscoe vs Jigsaw & Hallowicked – despite the great commentary and the playing up that the indy world fans know these guys – seems a bit too contrived for me. I’m starting to get Kevin Kelly, and I see the mainstream rub expected from him, but does this work out the way it should have?
There are some places where they stage things a little backward.
My impression before watching was that the CHIKARA contingent – the CHIKARA Army – arrived because of the disrespect of the mask and because of the Briscoes heel tactics. Not entirely wrong, but the CHIKARA guys (and gal) came out in the middle of the match more for encouragement and less because of an insult.
Sure, the Briscoes going after Saturyne was an action that deserved a response, but why was she out there in the first place? Maybe this is all to be played up and played into, but CHIKARA doesn’t look like it is getting the logical reasons for setting this all up. CHIKARA isn’t CZW. It’s not a renegade, in-your-face type of atmosphere. Weirdly enough, CHIKARA has more “honor” than the home team in this conflict, and yet it is now convoluted.
In terms of the Briscoes, it is in capable hands. They played out the attitude and their heelishness. But the question now is whether this is a fight for the Tag Team Belts – in which case the challengers get a shot, but that is a slow-moving situation.
What will be interesting is to see if ROH wars up and down the card, or integrates some new faces for a while, or can move in (and out) some CHIKARA talent to keep things fresh. There is part of me that wants a more unified indy world, and if ROH can make arrangements with different promotions for some shared spots, I think it would help raise ROH’s stature on several levels.
No Holds Barred
I like that Strong gets a strong showing, but on the other hand, Adam Cole doing double-duty just doesn’t make all that much sense, and the sense of accepting a challenge immediately for a “No Holds Barred” match just doesn’t make sense to me. Roderick Strong vs Adam Cole just goes back to the ongoing ROH booking sense of making each match special, which only means that everything special is mundane, and making all the matches on a card mundane is not the way to go, because it limits any chance that any match will ever get anyone over, and it makes your promotion want to bring in Johnny Fairplay.
Cue the baritone commercial announcer: Don’t make special matches mundane.
Although I dig Truth Martini as manager.
Special Challenge Match #2
Truly this is a Homecoming match, but surprising there are no “Homecoming Matches”, but two “Special Challenge Matches. Cue that commercial announcer again.
Chris Hero vs Michael Elgin is, however, a very good match, and the kind of booking I want to see from ROH. It’s old school mentality, it tells a few stories and ties up some loose ends (as in, see you later Shane Hagadorn) and in the end, it gave ROH Fans another look at Oh No, Chris Hero and helped put Michael “Unbreakable” Elgin over.
Truth Martini is the man!
Special Challenge Match #1
Can’t we just call this a Kevin Steen special?
For those who aren’t following Steen, his nightmarish run though the indy world will be settling in ROH at the highest levels. Steen is a nightmare of great interest if you’re looking for something different. His low key, speak softly and destroy anyone in his way mentality is well worth the bucks to follow.
Steen has a look that screams “No way in hell you’re fighting for Dana White” but a promo so unique it should mean money. Kevin Steen vs Kenny King has a feel of an old school setup and a revenge match because of what Steen did to Rhett Titus, but despite Titus being on the shelf with a knee injury, there’s something a bit wrong with this as a mid-card match.
Match played out well, told a story, got Steen over as a dangerous heel, and the post match confrontations were entertaining.
(IMHO, Steen should be destroying unknowns for months to build up the Cornette feud. All this micromanaging the feud and double-dealing with matchmaking is only exposing that the ROH roster isn’t very large.)
Four Corner Survival
I’ll be straight, I love the way another prominent indy booker does the multiple man matches much more than ROH.
Yeah, I get Tommaso Ciampa. He’s got a unique look, could be the total package, has a ROH-iffic entourage (Prince Nana is the bomb!) and probably needs experience. I’m not sure if these types of matches are the best for him to grow, but they must have to do.
Mike Bennett vs Tommaso Ciampa vs Grizzly Redwood vs Andy Ridge … problem I have is why Mike Bennett is here, and not over there. ROH may be selling an injury of Jimmy Jacobs, but there are other guys who can work decent matches with greener talent and prepare them for bigger things.
It’s weird, because ROH has so many capable, potential and possible names on the roster, but getting those names from Point A to point, let’s say, M for Main Event, is not and has not been their strong suit.
Gateway to Honor Rematch
Ok, so we’ve got a hot young tag team, and of course by VINCE rules, we must break them up as soon as possible. So ROH is going from having the deepest Tag Team division in the sport to eroding that depth in a year.
Haas & Benjamin. What more can be said. These guys have talent, experience and the drive to work the indies. Probably to get back to the WWE, but who cares! Because they are fun to watch and can put together good matches and do good promos.
Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin) vs Future Shock (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly) brings us a rematch of Gateway to Honor. Cole & O’Reilly are prime examples of my previous criticism. We have a young team with a lot of promise, but ROH mentality is perplexed by playing out their rise to the top, and has to break them up instead.
Tag Team action at a high level is what we get here.
Along the way, Steve Corino talked about his future, was confronted by Kevin Steen. Interesting word-play, and Corino as the King of Hardcores who is fading away is a good image, a good character and a good setup for future matches.
If you’re into Ring of Honor action, make sure you