Joe Babinsack looks at ROH's 11th Anniversary show DVD

Ring of Honor: 11th Anniversary
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
-- Obi-Wan Kenobi

Finally getting caught up on ROH stuff, and the SCUM angle really took off at the 11th Anniversary Show. It was the moment when SCUM revealed a few new members, Kevin Steen revealed his distaste and started his delayed reaction turn; and while a few long storylines didn’t quite reach their expectations (some did), the others very much segued into a big picture that ROH hasn’t really enjoyed in some time.

(I had high hopes for CHIKARA, but that never went anywhere productive).

Probably the biggest storyline was the Jay Lethal quest for the title, all but convincing Kevin Steen to allow one more chance, and while that didn’t quite turn out, it did lay the foundation for Steen’s transfiguration at the top, and to that end it was satisfying.

What happened with Jay Lethal seems to mirror what happened with ROH over the past year – despite so much potential, talent and character within the roster, there seems to be a little too much in terms of missed opportunities, and the ongoing ROH approach continues to handicap (even as the Jay Lethal storyline did develop over time).

I remain unable to put my finger on what it is that ROH lacks, but that’s obviously a mystery that vexes a lot of people.

Even as the SCUM rises, there’s an underlying sense that this is a bit too forced, a bit too dis-unified, a bit too much like the NWO to really take off. I love the concept of the faction hell-bent to destroy the company, all the while having their main man realizing that this direction is not his choice, but as with anything of the modern era, even the slowest of turns seems to happen too fast.

But I’m getting ahead of it all.

Getting to the 11th Anniversary Show, the driving force really is Jay Lethal as he gets his Title shot, albeit through a convoluted yet interesting series of developments and attacks, questioning and questionable actions by Kevin Steen, and a nice touch in having Lethal create his own reactionary mind games because he just can’t trust Steen’s motivations.

SCUM – Steve Corino, Jimmy Jacobs and Steen – is a potential threat and a promise of “evil to come”, as Corino overly states. Not sure if they’ve ever spelled out if SCUM means anything (Steve Corino’s Ultimate Manipulation?) but Corino as the suited mouthpiece and legendary hard-core practitioner is important. Jacobs has always been a key piece in ROH heel factions, and Steen earned the moniker “Mr. Wrestling” (I believe about #7 on the historic list) years past.

There’s something about SCUM’s rise to the top and jettisoning Steen that is fascinating yet fast paced, especially considering that Steen could have benefitted from the dynamics for more than just several week period, but again, I’m ahead of myself.

The setup of this moment at the 11th Anniversary was well done, and Steen’s standing around while mayhem ensued (Steve Corino’s Ugly Mayhem?) was very clever. Steen getting attacked by Davey Richards as everyone is attacking everyone, but Steen just covering up with the belt was more clever. Also clever was the plastic ties and the prison riot commentary.

Rhino’s appearance and “gore” of Lethal was big. I loved Jimmy Rave as a member of SCUM, even though I’m not the biggest Rave fan. But then we get Cliff Compton?

Overly sold as ‘who’s that’ and ‘here’s his name’ in a few minutes? Nothing against Compton, but nothing screams third rate like bringing in a years removed WWE castoff and pushing him like he’s a big name. That got old in that national alternative long ago, even when the castoffs were former Championship level names.

Rhett Titus was an interesting turn, adding to the SCUM triumphant moment, but there comes a time when spacing things out, threatening new members and playing things out is also important. Matt Hardy being called a Living Legend? Yeah, let’s not go there.

Kevin Steen vs Jay Lethal was a top notch match, but more a backdrop for the SCUM angle than a decisive finish. I did appreciate setting up the long term storyline and having it not come to fruition (there’s nothing wrong with Lethal trying and not succeeding, as there were some run-ins, and enough near-falls, but then again, that’s all but expected of a match these days… the near falls).

The World Tag Team Title Match between Champions the Briscoes vs Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (reDRagon) was great on many levels. The Briscoes are always in their own world of psychology, but I dig it. The announce crew was great in building up the training and coordination of O’Reilly and Fish, showing the importance of getting talent over, enhancing the back story and making the little things meaningful.

(Then again, the announce crew was hit-and-miss with some of their pronouncements. Complaining about reDRagon wanting the belts put around their waists was just stupid. Most of us watch the UFC and see that happen when there’s a new Champion).

What is up with that name, by the way, “reDRagon”, and are the initials DR for Davey Richards or what?

Top notch tag team action, and by no means the only great Tag match of the card: The American Wolves vs The Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov) was also world class, as expected. There were a few spots where ‘spot fest’ came to mind, which was odd since Richards & Edwards are usually guys who tell stories, so I’m guessing Romero & Koslov wanted their Japan spots in there and the transition didn’t work as an American fan would expect.

But how can you complain about the talent in the ring?

The other Tag Match of note was SCUM vs Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander. This could have been a throw-away, but instead was a highlight reel of action, especially with Caprice & Cedric. These two are growing strong. Hopefully a good feud with SCUM will get them even more experience before getting mixed into the top teams.

All told, ROH continues to highlight tag team wrestling like no other promotion. Hopefully they will find a way to work in new faces and avoid repeating too many of the same matchups, but the mere reality of having a real Tag Team Division is great.

A couple of feuds played out, and while the ROH “give every match a gimmick” mentality is irksome, both the Roderick Strong vs Michael

Elgin and Charlie Haas vs BJ Whitmer matches were solid.

I still say Strong is an underappreciated talent, and Elgin is a guy who has great potential for the company. That match was better because they came across more like two guys feuding. Haas/Whitmer had a lot more intensity, and it’s been commented about the head shots (dueling cookie sheets to the head) which in no way, shape or form should be a mere transition, but the finish here was good in terms of giving the referee the authority to end a match.

That leaves two matches to comment on:

- Adam Cole vs Matt Taven saw one of the most obnoxious hyping I’ve heard in a while. Cole just won the belt recently, and by no means was a dominant Champion – to the point of calling this a huge upset. Taven is an interesting talent, but wow did the Adam Cole express get derailed or what?
The Six Man Mayhem match was a little better than the average high spot fest, but there’s something about the introductions that is just awful on a DVD (weirdly I forget most other matches and intros, but these just dragged on).

I was also underwhelmed by the commentary about how QT Marshall broke Adam Page’s wrist, just to watch in amazement as they both stood around in the ring, waiting for the bell. That’s some sort of feud brewing there.

The other underwhelming thing is Silas Young – he’s a top notch talent that gets short-shrift in ROH, and when he sets up the Pee Gee Waja Plunge, and no commentator knows what he’s doing, it screams lack of understanding to me. (Then again, when a guy has Stan Hansen as his uncle, how do you not think that important?)

The big positive here was ACH. There’s just something about him that gets the crowd revved up, something about his talent that shows him as confident and capable, and while there are a thousand ways to capture what he brings to the table, I wonder if anyone will.

ACH stole the show in previous events, especially the Top Prospect Tourney, and at least he’s getting some momentum here. I’ve seen him before he started getting famous, and … well, he had it then and has it now and he’s a guy to watch out for.

ROH is celebrating its 11th year, and continues to have a lot to celebrate. Top notch wrestling is at the core, a lot of talent in the ring, and most importantly the best (if, sadly, only in America) Tag Team Division. With a big picture now forming ROH seems primed to get more attention…. which it does deserve.

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