Joe Babinsack looks at ROH All-Star Extravaganza

All Star Extravaganza
Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
The only thing I really didn’t like was the title. I mean, what’s “All Star” about Kushida and The Forever Hooligans, aside from some great wrestling?
But the Extravaganza of five ROH World Championship Tournament matches is impressive.
Unlike some other national promotions, ROH pulled out all the stops in terms of seeding, graphics and presentation, let alone putting together a logical structure and holding to it. About the only complaint I have is that there coulda/shoulda been some guest names and more of a sense of … well, I don’t want to say “importance” but there’s more a sense of “more of the same” with the wrestling, than having a name or two dominate their matches, to really show that there is an important opportunity at stake.
One thing I was impressed with was the commentary in the opener.
Putting a lot of the match making responsibility on Nigel McGuiness is a big positive, and naming names (Alex Shelley) as a tease and building up the tag team division and getting over the New Japan/Tajiri ties of Kushida, and touting the signing of Adam Page (well, signing new talent should be a priority of any and all promotions) were all well done.
Not that I’m partial to Kevin Kelly or anything, but he was on the ball here.
As an opener/prelude to a lot of Tourney matches, Page vs Kushida was solid, the talent was put on display, the finisher played up and awesomely referenced (Kushida’s Midnight Express).
By the way, that’s a corkscrew moonsault, not a nod to Eaton/Condrey/Austin… that’s Norville, not Steve…. Ok, this can spiral pretty quickly.
The first of the five Tourney pits Tommaso Ciampa vs Silas Young, and the action gets heated early on, which was great. Ciampa has a look and a potential that is awesome, but it seems like he’s mired in a pack of potentiality, where everyone gets a bit of recognition, but no one stands out.
I mean, where’s the character development of someone nicknamed the “Sicilian Psychopath”?
Silas Young remains underrated.
The match was solid, but if typical ROH matches are back-and-forth and ultimately feel the same, aside from the opening flourish, this Tourney, despite everything excellent about it, just feels like ROH Wrestling. By the way, what’s up with the following: Bennett’s crew cut, BJ’s “Buzzsaw” moniker and Nigel assaulting a valet?
But I love the Tournament graphics.
Tourney Match #2 is BJ Whitmer vs Michael Bennett. Bennet sports a zebra pattern pair of tights and anyone with Maria Kanellis deserves a lot of attention. By the way can we get at least a little bit of reference to Trump or Celebrity Apprentice? At least ROH is doing something with Maria in the mainstream, but what’s more mainstream in ROH than tying into the Donald?
Meanwhile, Nigel’s carrying her to the back, and BJ lands a bit scarily with a plancha, but that wasn’t the worse for him.
Whitmer is hurt by a piledriver on the apron, which many have reported as a botched spot. It’s hard to tell with the visuals or what appears to be a quick cue to the finish and some seconds around the ring running to the back.
Absolutely wrong that this just goes to a finish, doesn’t show what’s going on or doesn’t get more concern from Kelly/McGuinness. But I’ve not seen the whole DVD yet, so I have expectations about a followup.
Tourney Match #3 is Matt Taven vs Roderick Strong.
Ok, this is Idiotic Booking 101, coincidentally putting two guys together that have a natural feud or heat together (Strong and Truth Martini). The interplay between McGuiness and Scarlett was interesting, but wow, who’s setting Nigel up with all the ladies?
Taven has that mid-00’s WWE prospect look, with the long hair, a very good physique and solid ability. He’s definitely into the high spots, even if he looks twice the size of a Young Buck.
The Hoopla Hotties are definitely entertaining. Have to call the decision interesting as well.
Tourney Match #4 does destroy some of my complaints: Paul London does qualify as an All-Star, a guest for the Tourney and all that. Michael Elgin vs Paul London really wasn’t much a surprise, though, but top notch action by a ROH great wrestler of the past against a current great wrestler would only be a surprise if it wasn’t good.
Commentary takes an odd approach overselling the age of Paul London.
Paul is 33 years old. So says Wikipedia. One year older than that other ROH star from days gone by. ROH still sells DVD compilations about that other guy, looky here:
London kicks out after a Superplex, which elicits a “this is awesome” chant. Not so sure why near falls are so awesome, but this is the ROH crowd we all know and love. London’s Shooting Star Press transitions into a quite-the-awesome finishing sequence where Elgin destroys him with Powerbombs, a backfist of Aja Kong proportions and , well, another spinning Powerbomb.
Three of the best, young Tag Teams around do battle next.
With Barrister RD Evans, who is awesome, on the announce crew, touting Mar-shall Law.
(Insert smarmy comic book and/or CHIKARA Pro Wrestling reference here).
The Young Bucks are all that, but they need to ditch the air guitar crap, and the flowery tights, and the smarmy looks.
Why is ACH not a feature wrestler? Can anyone flip like this guy? Can anyone name anyone on the ROH roster that connects with the crowd like him?
Tadarious Thomas has great talent with that Capoeira base.
C&C Wrestle Factory is the real deal.
Hey! The right guy won….. sorry, team (Adrenaline Rush).
Have I mentioned how awesomely cool the ROH World Heavyweight Tournament graphics are?
Brian Kendrick. Brian Kendrick. Brian Kendrick… ok. Kendrick vs Kevin Steen is Tourney Match #4, and the last of the First Round matches on this DVD.
It’s another one of those very good ROH matches with a lot of back-and-forth action, culminating with favorite Kevin Steen using the Sharpshooter. In Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Can you wonder how that plays out?
Quarterfinal Match #1 (on this DVD) is a feature match with Adam Cole vs Jay Lethal. Now, at the time of watching if you told me this would determine who would become the ROH World Champion, I could believe it. But not the way it played out.
That being said, I do have hopes for the current ROH World Champion. While there’s potential for pitfalls, if the focus is on chasing the Champion (which is what ROH was all about during some of its earlier eras) then the   guy with the belt is a guy that could make it work.
But if the ROH Championship isn’t about raising the bar of professional wrestling excellence, something is missing.
As a Quarterfinal, pitting a clear favorite (and the one the fans were behind in this match) against the guy who wins it all, it looks better in hindsight. While the finishing sequence was clever, after a match dominated by Lethal, that sequence didn’t compare to Elgin’s.
And those are a few comparisons that shouldn’t be made.
We get a backstage talk with Paul London, walking out of the building, selling the match and putting over Elgin. London provides some really good insight and a really strong endorsement of Elgin, not to mention a great way to play up the Tourney.
The Main Event is for the ROH World Tag Team Title.
They play up the surprise title change, and the mistake by Bobby Fish in changing a Proving Ground match into a Title Match, allowing the Forever Hooligans to grab the gold and wear lots of belts. I like that reDRagon is not on this card, as it sells the importance of the now crowded Tag Team Division.
ROH pushing the Tag Teams is a great thing.
But Tag Team wrestling needs to be more than three-ways and Championship matches and touting that the action is great. That’s all well and good, but like ROH in general, putting on nine matches that are all about what the indie fans call “awesome” isn’t breaking the promotion out of its slot.
This match is a great example: the wrestling is great, the talent is at the top of the form, but there’s way too many spots, not enough of any sense of a story, and the finish came without any investment of attention. We have new Tag Team Champions culminating the show, and the response is … tepid.
By the way, one of those spots was a piledriver in the ring, with a kick to the head while the guy was in that position, right before the move was applied. Rocky Romero just rolled out of the ring.
One of the most damning thing about professional wrestling these days is that there is no connection anymore between a finisher and any sense of reality. Most of us watch MMA, and know what a real KO or beating or Submission looks like, but pro wrestling still can’t figure it out.
I understand that the guys in a Main Event, after an injury, aren’t going to quickly move away from that move, and it wasn’t exactly the same, but a piledriver should never be a transition hold.
Even Vince is vehement about using that move in the WWE, and for good reason.
I also find it not so coincidental that piledriver-type moves on a guy that has no (or little) hair is something that should absolutely be banned. It shouldn’t take much logic or common sense to realize why.
End of lecturing.
What ROH did awesomely well with the All-Star Extravaganza is build up a Tournament and show how it should be done. The bracketing, graphics and the matchups (despite some griping) are all top-notch. My main complaint about wrestling holds true – the lack of that dimension called time.
While ROH did bring an update on the Bonus section about BJ Whitmer, the way the injury was handed was just odd. Sure, they didn’t air too much, but then again, if someone’s hurt in the ring, that layer of reality is important on a few levels.

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