Thursday, 09 June 2011 12:57
Manhatten Mayhem IV
Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
I decided to do a one match review, but don’t let this confuse anyone: This DVD has three other matches deserving of the “This is Awesome!” chant (Richards vs Daniels Pure Wrestling match, Briscoes vs All Night Express, Kings of Wrestling vs Homicide/Hernandez), and is a strong event from top to finish, including the return of Julius Smokes to stoke Homicide’s passion.
If this is what ROH continues to bring to the world of professional wrestling under Sinclair Broadcasting, there's a strong hope that they will succeed.
Eddie Edwards (of the American Wolves) vs Roderick Strong (Ring of Honor Heavyweight Champion)
Eddie Edwards comes to the ring with that recognizable howl and that Black Sabbath inspired theme music. On cue, Roderick Strong comes to the ring, accompanied by the crazed Truth Martini.
Martini is a kind of a throwback to Lou Albano, though only the furred feet and trim outlandish. I guess he’s more Freddie Blassie than Grand Wizard, but in the end, Blassie was too cool as a manager, too much of a gravel-voiced insulter, not quite as ideological. Albano was more associated with winning the gold, though, with Ivan Koloff and a dozen and a half tag team Champions.
To steal the coolest phrase of Edward’s partner, Davey Richards in regards to the otherwise awesome Classy Freddie Blassie: “Not so much.” Since Martini is nowhere near as frail or diabolical as Ernie Roth, I can’t go there. But I figured a look at that rare creature called a manager, especially since this dinosaur seems to be making a comeback, seems to be in fair order.
From there, let’s not go blow-by blow, even though in the opening, the stage is set by a battle of chops between the two athletes. And I mean athletes. I’ve seen Roderick Strong looking more like a body-builder than he has as champion, but never over-the-top, never to the point where you start wondering about the look. Edwards looks a little softer, but by no means thin and to me, I’d rather see two guys battling over a Championship and looking like they mean business in being talented wrestlers, and not in the business because of things like tanning beds, weight rooms, reality shows and/or enhancements.
This chop-fest was interesting.
Both guys were laying it in, and both guys were showing the effects. Eddie planted one chop that was more knife-edge than others, and sliced open the Champ’s chest enough to draw blood. That was just enough to show that both men were in it with a passion, and the sound of the chops and the pounding of flesh proceeded, setting the tone for later.
Strong is the worthy Champion, having bested the top names in ROH for five and a half months. Strong is legendary as the “Messiah of the Backbreaker” and while the name does get a little righteous, there’s nothing short of creative in the ways Strong can produce variations on working over his opponent’s back.
Later in the match, he would display some of the basics, but also a unique twist on the concept, dropping Edwards back first to the top of the turnbuckle, after both were battling on the top of the corner.
That, my friends, is what creative talent in the ring can deliver.
With a submission called the Stronghold (what we’d call a Boston Crab), and a setup involving the Sick Kick (what some of us would call a variant of the Yakuza Kick), and a solid blend of power, skill and conditioning, Roderick Strong plied his talents to the top of Ring of Honor.
In another era, Roderick Strong wouldn’t have a manager, and his clean-cut image and physical prowess and soft-spoken demeanor would make him a babyface without a doubt. In this cynical age, a wholesome character needs an obnoxious manager to make him less vanilla, and apparently more interesting to the fan base. What a cynical world we live in.
Edwards is a brash young talent, one-half of one of the best tag teams in the world, and partner of one of the best in-ring talents in the wrestling universe. Eddie Edwards has a growing reputation in Japan, across the US Indy scene, and has risen to the level of his competition, whether in singles or in tags.
The challenger comes in as a hard-hitting competitor, with speed and tenacity and a growing understanding of various styles, and a mastery of submissions – notably the Achilles Lock (also looking quite like a Single Leg Boston Crab).
Edwards secured his slot among the toughest in the scene by gutting out a broken elbow during a match with Kevin Steen, then defending the tag titles as the American Wolves (with Richards) against Steen & El Generico the very next night. Unfortunately, a month later - after coming back from surgery - the Wolves lost the belts to the Briscoes.
In 2010, Edwards spent much of the year as Television Title holder, beating all challengers, kicking off the Ten Minute hunt, until falling to Christopher Daniels. He won the Survival of the Fittest Tournament, defeating Chris Hero along the way.
No other wrestler in Ring of Honor ever held all three current belts, and while the TV Title wasn’t around all that long, the prospects of Edwards being the first man to hold tag team and singles gold in ROH seemed a lot less than his partner, Davey Richards.
But the nickname “Die Hard” was proven to be an apt moniker.
From that opening-minutes exchange of chops, Edwards showed that he could hang with the Champ, and at his own game. From there, the match had that indy fell, albeit one with stiffer strikes and a deeper passion. The exchanges were there, the subtleties and the action. It wasn’t exactly nonstop, but it was progressing.
And then it rose from normal to great by the story being told in the ring.
There was a sense that Strong was tiring. There hit a point about a half-way through the match – 12-15 minutes in – where this American Wolf took over. He began giving the Champ a beating, and in one of the more telling moments of the match, we see both men outside of the ring. And just before you could think about it, Edwards came flying out with what I can only describe as a crash, knocking the Champ into the metal sign that covers the guard rail at ROH events.
Strong came up with blood at the hairline.
Not a lot, not enough to be gruesome, not enough to make anyone cynical. But enough to show that these two men were in a war, and that the end wasn’t going to be easy.
Edwards dominated for some time. The pin attempts didn’t get much reaction, but as he wore down Strong, he gathered the crowd behind him. Edwards threw everything at him, all his strikes, his high-impact moves and slapped on an Achilles Lock at some point.
The Champ was wearing down.
Now, I get cynical with wrestling, when it goes back and forth without a sense of meaning, but this wasn’t one of those matches.
Strong did get his wind back, and did set up his expected finisher. He got control, delivered a Sick Kick, and then slapped on the Stronghold. But Edwards would not break…. Literally or figuratively, if you can imagine a Boston Crab cinched in tight, with Eddie Edwards bending in half, with Roderick Strong channeling his name and putting every ounce of power into it.
It was around this time that the clichéd but rarely as appropriate chant of “This is Awesome!” appeared, and Edwards showed why he is called “Die Hard”.
He turned it around and locked in the Achilles hold. He returned to domination. He wore down Strong even further, and before the match went crazy, before the Champ could assert himself, before the crowd lost their attention, it was all over.
The challenger rolled up the Champion, in something not exactly a cradle, but then again, the shoulders were down, and the pin ensued, and both men reacted.
What I loved was the spontaneity.
This wasn’t fireworks and video montages and theme music from the heavens. This was the former Champion realizing he lost, and facially displaying that disappointment. This was the new Champion realizing that he won a hard-fought battle, and gained something that made him special.
It was a special moment.
And it looked like Eddie Edwards truly enjoyed the moment.
And even when the other American Wolf appeared, ostensibly to be pissed that his title was taken by his friend, the hug and handshakes cemented the moment.
This is what Ring of Honor is all about.
This is why I have high hopes for its future.