Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
I’m seeing the subtle changes on a lot of DVD releases, and with ROH, there’s a different look of the box, a slightly different take on the action photo’s, and more poses and setting up of the matches, not just grainy stills of otherwise fast paced or high-flying action.
Taking the focus away from snappy titles and annual events, at least in some senses, this is a good change, and featuring a big match like Davey Richards & Christopher Daniels taking on The Kings of Wrestling themselves, Chris Hero & Claudio Castignolli, makes all the more sense than just putting it on the back cover amongst the list.
But that’s not the only subtle change.
At least with Allied Forces, there is a sense of paring down the matches, booking matches that extend storylines, and mixing up the card, not making it one match after another, one solid to excellent match featuring two solid to excellent wrestlers, creating an ocean of the same where no one really stands out.
I really like the “Trial Series” and the concept of having new faces (well, Andy “Right Leg” Ridge isn’t exactly new, but he’s a youngster with a career in front of him) taking on veterans and having the fans see what the guy’s got.
As for me, I’d sooner introduce a few jobbers and focus on showing fans what this wrestler can really do, and what that wrestler can really do, and then clash them down the line, but hey, went there, said that.
And yet, with Allied Forces, there is that Old School booking mentality of splitting up tag teams and having them go at it in singles matches. Even more important, it’s not the traditional two matches between the partners, but singles matches with different opponents, even though the focus of the Briscoes vs The All Night Express was certainly still a focus, and at the same time, trying to build up the ANE as credible as possible.
It’s just too bad that keeping awesome tag teams like the Briscoes, The American Wolves, The Kings of Wrestling on the roster, and mixing in The All Night Express, Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole, and other tags eventually has that ROH feel that hey, the great ones are great, and the divide between great and newcomers is vast, and at the same time, having those matchups fought for the exponential time does no one any favors.
No matter how often I want to avoid that path, there I go again.
It’s all about breaking up the monotony, but with a rabid but too inclusive fanbase, and with the ability to book guys that are always just so much better than most of the indy scene, there’s that absolutely weird sense of expectations that means that ROH is the elite level of the US indy pro wrestling scene, but never gains that mainstream traction it deserves.
CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Nigel McGuinness, Christopher Daniels and others have hit the big stage, in some cases came back, and yet the mainstream audience remains ignorant of ROH.
But let’s get back to the action in Allied Forces, from Dayton Ohio from October.
Interesting opener with Mike Mondo taking on Mark Briscoe. We’ve got those interspliced promos of the All Night Express and various shenanigans going on, as a backdrop to Briscoe taking on the muscle-bound Mondo. Can Mark get the win? In the opener? And will the Express rear its ugly heel heads?
Those are too many questions.
The Women of Honor segment appears next. I’ve not been a huge fan of women wrestling in ROH, since it always seems to get the short end of it all, which remains surprising since Dave Prazak is involved as the announcer, but considering the current booker, are things changing? Daizee Haze’s hardened approach is different for ROH and the women’s division, even though it’s a take on Mercedes Martinez elsewhere, and the call for competition and the battles that ensue are worth watching.
Andy Ridge is running the gauntlet called The Trial Series.
Colt Cabana is a comedy wrestler par excellence.
How well does that mesh?
Well enough. I found the take interesting, with Cabana not really taking it seriously, to the point where it really became annoying, to the point where you started to cheer for Andy Ridge and want him to smack Cabana around.
Does he do it?
And will he do it to some other veteran down the road?
In a somewhat similar take, the young tag team of Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole take on malicious duo Kevin Steen & Steve Corino.
Ok, Corino is well beyond over the top with his ‘oil check’ crappola, but the general theme of veterans taking on youngsters and, well, taking them to the woodshed is pretty strong here. But the subtleties are also evident, from the comebacks of O’Reilly & Cole, who do show great promise here and elsewhere.
But also in Davey Richards being shown in the crowd, watching his protégé, and having both announcers and heels in the ring acknowledge it.
It’s the sort of thing that takes a match from ho-hum to want to watch it, and a very welcome level of details, setting up the Richards/O’Reilly relationship, and setting forth future storylines. It also establishes O’Reilly/Cole as a team to watch out for in the future, setting the foundation for them as new stars.
Next up is The Metal Master, with one of the coolest names around, taking on Ricky Reyes, who as a member of the Havana Pitbulls, was one of the top indy teams not all that long ago, even though it seems a lot longer than it was.
Double M has all the makings of a solid mid-card babyface, a powerhouse, a masked man and a guy who strangely enough seems to work very well in a sort of throwback manner. And when he’s working a style different from the ROH house style, it makes for an interesting match, with two guys telling a story in the ring – a veteran heel and a young strongman – but with a more classic approach.
That alone sets it off from most indy fare.
Ok, so keeping it Old School, we have the up and coming heel team destined to be a face team split up and taking on two established faces, with lots of storyline potential all around. First is Jay Briscoe taking on Rhett Titus, and really it’s a matter of when, not if, Jay gets the J-Driller applied.
And yet Titus is growing as a wrestler, not exactly ditching the Fabulous Ones nonsense, but more importantly finding a balance that can move him to serious status, not just an opening card goof.
The match involving his partner, Kenny King, is where the storylines intersect.
I do like that they avoid going overboard for each of the All Night Express’ matches. Here, it’s Kenny King seeming to get the better of Homicide for a while, but the old heel double team beatdown ensues, and some nice references to the ANE having already taken out guys with their antics. Not only does it draw in that they took out Jerry Lynn, but it furthers the credibility of their team.
Titus, I think, still needs to take it up a notch, but Kenny King is a guy who has all the parts to take it to a higher level of wrestling, for himself and for his promotion. (and there’s something promising about any interaction between King and Shelton Benjamin).
Yet the aftermath of the match is what heats up interactions between Homicide and ROH perennial fan favorites, the Briscoes, that makes things interesting.
So we go into the main event with the Tag Team Champions, The Kings of Wrestling, taking on the makeshift pairing of Davey Richards & Christopher Daniels.
The Kings are the elite of the tag team division, both by right of the ROH Belts, and by their work. I like the pairing of the next night’s main event as challengers, just to change things up. There’s no way the best tag team in the world gets derailed by even the best wrestler in the world, plus a pretty strong contender, but this was more than just a spot-fest, more than just a regular indy-level main event.
The ensuing dissension among the challengers played out well, not over-the-top, nor too subtle to make sense, and the post match confrontations only heightened the next night’s main event.
Allied Forces was a strong presentation from Ring of Honor, featuring their best of the best, within a style that continues to raise the bar for workrate and continues to grow in terms of events and matchmaking.
All this, plus the awesome Samoa Joe vs CM Punk Trilogy of matches, which certainly deserves its own review.