Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Taking a new spin on the review today … analyzing what works, what didn’t work and what the DVD and promotion are all about.
What worked: Tag Team Wrestling
This was a Tag Team Wrestling showcase, with five traditional tag team matches, one six man match, and only one singles match – and that was more an interruption than a planned match.
Tag Team Wrestling thrives in Ring of Honor, and they have the teams and the talent to make it happen. While there were two too many breakup teases in these matches, the flip side is that these are slow build situations, and the Michael Elgin/Roderick Strong deal has been building for some time. The other, with Kyle O’Reilly and Davey Richards, was merely a backdrop for an awesome match, and the way things played out – with O’Reilly both upset with himself and upset, it seems, with Richards, was very cleverly played, and not insultingly so.
Beyond the obvious – that this is a promotion that features Tag Team Wrestling – the styles, the details and the finishes were of interest. There are no throw-away matches here. And what was especially interesting was the buildup of the Bravado Brothers vs Young Bucks match, which shows that ROH is trying to create stars.
But the big point is that ROH does value Tag Team action, presents it as part of the product, and is one of the very few current promotions that seems to care about this traditional form of pro wrestling.
It will be interesting to see what ROH does with the impending ROH World Tag Team Tournament, following the departure of Kenny King, but for now, there are a number of credible teams to compete in the division. We see on this DVD that there are brutal matches like Kevin Steen & Jimmy Jacobs vs. El Generico & BJ Whitmer; faster, tornado-like matches like Briscoes vs Jigsaw & Hallowicked, and Technical based wrestling like WGTT vs Team Ambition.
ROH isn’t just one style of Tag Teams….
What Worked: Announce Crew
Sure, sure, sure …. Getting the evil eye from Kevin Kelly and me talking nice about him will make people think I caved.
But the ROH announce crew, with Kelly and Steve Corino, has gelled and is rapidly rising to the top of the top announcers list. Kelly’s credibility is strong and he has earned positive remarks in terms of calling the action, knowing the guys and their styles and avoiding the negatives that plague far too many mainstream types (oh, like acting and sounding like an idiot, ignoring the action and not understanding their role).
Corino is definitely raising the bar as a color commentator.
He brings the requisite knowledge – calling the matches, telling compelling stories and tying style and intent and action into the story of the match. Sure, there are times where he’s spouting stuff that doesn’t make sense (I wouldn’t call Davey Richards a Jiu-Jitsu stylist) but when he talks Japan like he does about the Bravados, when he talks respect, and at this time (while he’s still playing babyface ) he’s providing insight into a lot of levels.
There’s always been something about Corino that is a bit standoffish, but even listening to him on some of the older ROH DVDs, he’s always brought tremendous value to announcing.
(I’ll be a wikipediac’s uncle…… Steve Corino is Allison Danger’s brother!)
What Worked: Mike Bennett & Maria Kanellis
Talk about someone who rubs you the wrong way….
Bennett is definitely an over-the-top kinda heel, and his appearance here had all kinds of positive impact. I’m not overly fond of the Skits-are-better-than-matches approach, but then again, I’m more negative about the ongoing matches-for-the-sake-of-matches booking tradition of ROH.
Different is better, and having Bennett get challenged, even if Mike Sydal seemed overmatched from minute one, gave this match the feel that worked on several levels. It broke Bennett from the crowd, it heightened his character, and it made the most of Maria’s appearance.
By the way, Maria is looking awesome on this DVD.
While there are some potential pitfalls with the use of Maria, she’s definitely on display and interacting to play up the positives. The ROH crowd is rabid with here, she’s not drawing attention away from Bennett, and she’s definitely raising his stature as a heel.
One thing I saw interesting was Bennett ripping on the “Unity” name, which I also saw as debatable.
What Worked: Kyle O’Reilly
Slow builds to turns are more a staple of AAA back in the day, and while I never like it when storylines are doing the same thing, there’s a definite twist involved when comparing Michael Elgin’s eventual face turn with Kyle O’Reilly’s drifting to being a heel.
This DVD shined a spotlight on O’Reilly, and showed some great potential.
In the ring with the World Champ and two seasoned, mainstream vets, O’Reilly was doing things that showed that he could hang athletically with Shelton Benjamin, could match up well with Charlie Haas, and definitely is learning from his mentor, Davey Richards.
There’s a few spots in here where, for some reason, I’m thinking Kevin Von Erich when watching O’Reilly… just the athleticism, the look and a sense of having a level of understanding that goes beyond training and perception. O’Reilly’s ability to work was in the spotlight, and he definitely made an impression.
And again, considering who he was in the ring with?
What’s Debatable: CHIKARA storyline
There’s no doubt in my mind that the CHIKARA influence could be a great thing for ROH, and Steve Corino made some good points in the main event – CHIKARA has a lot of characters, but the Briscoes are just who they are.
The respect shown by the Briscoes in the end was great, but there’s something about the storyline that did keep the CHIKARA talent down a bit. Not so badly, but there should have been better ways to do things. It would have been more interesting to put The Colony in with bigger, stronger guys and do a style difference, but instead we got TJ Perkins, Jay Lethal and Adam Cole – guys who are quick. Not so thrilled with the statement that the CHIKARA guys are slowing it down to keep up, but that’s what happens on home turf… but should it?
Also, the CHIKARA contingent screamed for UltraMantis Black to be a spokesperson, or someone else to be on the stick.
What didn’t make sense: “UNITY”
With the CHIKARA involvement, I would have expected a reference to Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew, House of Yang or Love & Rockets. Instead, it’s a Valiant Comics reference, that doesn’t exactly make sense here, except if we take a snap-shot of the final bell, with a lot of ROH and CHIKARA guys raising each other’s hands and doing respectful handshakes.
Not a bad thing, but Unity?
Only if X-O Manowar or Turok show up.
I guess I’d settle for Tursas or Mixed Martial Archie.
Where ROH goes from here: Boiling Point
It’s Kevin Steen Vs CHIKARA Grand Champion Eddie Kingston on August 11, look for details on www.rohwrestling.com
While the CHIKARA feud seems died down, there’s a definite twist with James Cornette going outside ROH to try to wrest the belt from “Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare”.
I’d love to see an Old School program go on from this one, because Kingston can really bring the mike-work, and Kevin Steen’s understated villainy would create quite the interesting clash. Between these two, the talent level is off-the-charts, even if the look of the guys isn’t going to bring much attention to mainstream types.
Will it be a war?
I’m betting on it, and betting it will trump even the interest and positive feelings about the Unity DVD. ROH definitely seems to be picking up the momentum and here’s hoping the web site issues are a thing of the past.
Joe Babinsack can be reached at
. I have Extreme Rising to review, SHIMMER, ROH stuff, Dragon Gate Stuff, AAW stuff and all kinds of stuff to talk about.