Thursday, 21 July 2011 18:00
ROH Wrestling Entertainment, LLC
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
This DVD may not seem to be the best sounding board for talking Tag Teams, but I wanted to take a step back and talk up ROH as the modern home of Tag Team Wrestling.
Sure, we see a tag here and there, but the concept of the four man match, with two teams of two, is so alien to modern sensibilities that I fear that the staples of the past, the fundamentals of the style and the unique talent (not to mention the ability to focus on unique talents afforded by the rules) are fading faster than any other aspect of the sport.
Yeah, I said sport.
Tag teams in Ring of Honor are alive. From the All Night Express (A/N/X) to Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole, from the Briscoes to The American Wolves, and whether or not The Kings of Wrestling remain in the fold, there’s a definitive presentation of an American artform in this company.
Sure, the purists and the surly complainers like Shirley Doe will say that the psychology is all wrong, but even the Briscoes have a psychology that can be grasped. It’s not like ‘turning on your opponent’ is a staple of this company.
Ok, enough of that. The gravity of orbiting negativity is way too strong for me to escape, and I’ll side-step the recent angles with The American Wolves, although, of course, any angle that last more than a fortnight is readily excused as actually, realistically and historically a part of the product and not some aberration.
So let’s get to tag team wresting, and the ability to focus on the strengths of a team: the babyface in peril is so far removed from modern day appreciation that it’s no wonder that The Road Warriors are far more nostalgic as great than the greatness of the Rock’n’Roll Express.
Look, I loved the Warriors and Hawk-n-Animal are LEGENDS, but great? Those dudes are booking creations. Those dudes were all about marketing, image, muscle and perception of power.
Which of course is why they are considered great, but despite the underlying aptitude of Joe Laurinaitis, beating up your opponent does not make you great.
Unfortunately, with no modern references of note, what’s to argue?
Well, let’s look at historical aspects.
Tag Team wrestling allows the smaller, talented guy to get out there and sell and work and make the opponent look like a million bucks. Then he can tag in the monster, the powerful one, the guy who the crowd thinks is better, and go to the finish.
Tag Team wrestling allows two guys to come up with unique moves and clever spots and work in a variety of styles. (oh yeah, there’s a problem there.)
Tag Team wrestling, as we see in Revolution: Canada, allows matchmaking between parts of the teams, intermixing the teams, showcasing difference internal and external to the teams, and all that can be worked in a professional manner or with great opportunity to stoke emotions.
And I could go on, but why give away the store?
ROH features Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas reprising their roles as The World’s Greatest Tag Team, but obviously they can’t call themselves that, so they are simple the World Tag Team Champions.
Haas & Benjamin are looking physically like they should be in the WWE, and yeah, that’s a concern.
But they also still have it, and I’m happy to see them in the business on a platform where they can work and shine and do what they do best.
Funny how that is.
Up against the Briscoes, it is all but a dream match, considering that there are few other ‘pure’ tag teams around, and almost every one of them is in the Indies. Including the Young Bucks.
While the Briscoes have their own unique approach, with a nod towards being clever on double-teaming, being daredevils in the air, being fearless inside and out of the ring, and showing their own on promos, they have an intrinsic passion for their artform, and I can’t see how anyone can complain about how they work.
As Southern Rebels crossed with Tatooed Punks from just south of the Mason-Dixon line in Delaware, the brothers have fire, talent and an uncanny approach to that Tag Team Wrestling thing.
Matched up with the Tag Champs, it’s a solid match with a nod to old school work ethic and even that old sense of interference.
But the feuds must go on and sometimes avoiding a clean finish makes sense if it mixes things up.
Tag Team Wrestling and Ring of Honor…. The only problem is that calling it the best out there is almost only because it’s the only thing out there.
As to the other stuff on Revolution: Canada….
Claudio Castagnoli (w/Shane Hagadorn) vs Kyle O’Reilly
Kind of a weird opener considering the level of talent of Double C, and O’Reilly is a prospect with talent galore (that bloodline of wrestling talent shared with Richards). O’Reilly is on pace to becoming the next generation Indy superstar, and what impresses me most is that his fundamentals are coming from different styles – kicks, submissions, matwork and highspots.
ROH fans should be chanting please don’t go to CC, but what happens when he has to grow his hair?
Steve Corino vs Mike “The Prodigy” Bennett
Aside from that Oil Check crap, Corino is one of the masters and a joy to watch. Whether teasing a long term storyline or delivering the same with his own character and work, he just gets it.
Which is why the match works, and the finish as well.
Michael Elgin vs Rhett Titus vs Tommaso Ciampa vs Adam Cole vs Grizzly Redwood vs Andy Ridge
Nice twist on the somewhat tired multiple man match. Here, it’s called Double Danger Scramble, and it takes two pins (or submissions) to win. Typically good and fast paced action, with a sense of drama and another layer of dynamics.
Not quite sold on that finish, but I’ll not complain about putting new talent over with a clever twist, it’s just why come up with a new match style and then exploit it the first time?
Davey Richards vs Kenny King
Am I the only person wondering how Kenny King works the indies while every other half-baked talent that went through Tough Enough had a run in the WWE? Probably a passion for really wrestling, because King definitely has it.
I can’t say enough about Richards, although the last high spot was scary with that landing, and his ability to raise the game of his opponent is one of his unsung talents.
My only complaint is that we should be seeing talent on display, and specifically featured, more often than seeing talent with the same talent – no matter how good the two of them are.
Colt Cabana vs Delirious (Sweet –n- Sour Memory Match)
A great gesture by the guys involved and the company, as Larry Sweeney’s genius and ultimate self-destruction really had to take a toll on ROH.
Both Delirious and Cabana (and Sweeney) can get into the entertainment/comedy aspects of wrestling, and this was on display.
The DVD followed up with a confrontation between The Bravado Brothers and Cole & O’Reilly, setting up a future match.
Christopher Daniels vs El Generico
While Daniels has a strong reputation, he’s mostly slotted as a journeyman. El Generico is the figure of a wrestler who, much like Jack Evans, isn’t going to get a three second look but can wow the crowd and command the audience and put wrestling talent on display despite his, well, generic looks.
You know, you’d never see a match like this elsewhere, in terms of having a lower card even dare try to upstage the main event.
It’s possible, because these two put together a great match, and that competition from match to match is what makes ROH different.
Skipping the Tag Team Title match, let’s go to:
ROH World Champion Eddie Edwards vs Chris Hero
Well, being the Championship, the placement, the ability to go long and the aura of that belt trumps most challenges as the best match of the card.
Nice subtle tribute by Chris Hero to Larry Sweeney with the Pink and Purple.
Nice that Hagadorn and Sara Del Rey get booted early.
Nicer still is the match, where Eddie Edwards shows why he is the World Champion, because he can outlast and outwit his opponent, even if it is Chris Hero, who has a size difference benefit. But Hero works well with others, and this is a match where the meaning of the ROH gold is on display and never falls short of expectations.
Revolution Canada is yet one more great DVD from Ring of Honor, which is positioned to take the wrestling world by storm in a few months, and by all accounts by doing what it does best: Wrestling.
That, plus that respect to history, use of tag team matches and consistently world class talent and action.