Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
I watched this DVD a few weeks back, obviously before the debut of the Ring of Honor Syndicated show, and while there’s nothing exceptionally new in the formatting of the ROH DVDs, there should be some changes in the making from the new TV show, at the very least in terms of production values, and perhaps with some of the structure of the typical DVD event.
It’s not like ROH needs a total revamp, but it does need to integrate the approach to how it presents the product, crossing over between live events, TV, iPPV and potential in building to big shows a few times a year. With ROH, there are established, named events – like Death Before Dishonor, Final Battle, Tag Team Wars, etc. Having a history is important, but there needs to be a new approach if the syndicated TV is going to drive new viewers.
Well, at least the TV must have an approach.
Watching the debut show this weekend did bring that sense to the table. Maybe not as fully as this critic would like, but the product should be developing as it goes forward.
Some things I thought were great included the discussion of the Code of Honor, which sets the stage for true heels and faces that has logic –without being based on entertainment values; the presentation of Davey Richards as the top dog, and showing that emotional scene when he defeated Eddie Edwards; the promo inserts, which established a more sports-oriented feel for the product; the build-up of the main event throughout the show, which put a punctuation mark on the differences between ROH and the mainstream.
Also – Nigel McGuinness is a very welcome voice at color commentator.
Some things that were good were the packaging of Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly as the named team, Futureshock; not having Davey Richards all over the program; a sense that titles are important; the look of the new logo, which isn’t a game breaker, but it does establish that branding is important; the push for merchandising, which shows that the promotion is looking for revenue streams; and the inclusion of fan interviews that help to establish that the fans are important.
One thing I didn’t like – even though I feel that Jay Lethal is a top talent, should be packaged as a big name, and setting up next week’s main event is important – is that an opportunity is missed on a few levels. For one, while I love the dig at TNA, Jay Lethal needs to prove himself back in ROH. For another, while referencing the “Lethal Injection” was cool, establishing that hold would be better. And to get back to point one, it only shows that ROH is weak in terms of contenders if a new guy gets an immediate title shot, after being signed back into the promotion, no matter what his history is.
Point is, ROH TV is airing for more than the thousands of rabid ROH Fans, it’s meant to bring in new fans. These new fans don’t know Roderick Strong from Eddie Edwards, don’t know Michael Bennett from Colt Cabana, don’t know who’s who in the promotion, heck, they haven’t seen the promotion.
That’s the perspective which would make more sense.
I will admit that ROH did more in building up Davey Richards, El Generico and Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas as Title Holders than the mainstream would ever even try, but just telling the viewer that the title hunt is important is one thing, showing them a little more would be more important.
All that being said, Lethal is a guy who put himself over, put the title over and established an important difference between ROH and other promotions.
Just a few other points: A little mystery at the World Champion level is something that I hope they maintain. Kevin Kelly remains someone I’m not thrilled with, and seeing him as “The Voice of ROH” makes me cringe, with me considering him a former WWE guy and knowing of other announcers that have far more product knowledge, far more ability to call a match, and a lot more character.
But I’ll give him a chance.
Let’s move back to No Escape.
It’s kind of ironic that this DVD comes out during a summer where ROH should mostly be in a holding pattern, because while a lot of the matches did maintain the feuds and just put on some very good matches, there was one significant angle on this DVD, and it was a pretty strong one, but I don’t get why it wasn’t put on the back burner for six months.
The relationship between Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards is something that should play out slowly and should be used as a defining portrayal of why ROH is different. If they jump the gun on this situation too quickly, all ROH does is show that ROH has a week roster where one of the top tag teams is fighting over the World Championship.
Of course, ROH has a super strong tag team scene, and both Richards and Edwards have proved themselves as singles competitors while establishing The American Wolves as contenders at the top of the food chain.
But ROH is at a point where perception is important, and a one hour show only provides so much time for showcasing talent, doing angles and creating the right kind of mystery as well as progressing storylines for mainstream audiences, not just the hardcores.
More on this in a moment.
“The Prodigy” Mike Bennett vs Andy “Right Leg” Ridge
Bennett, as has been noted on the last iPPV, is a heat magnet. He’s arrogant, physically impressive (but not too much so), and has the right kind of attitude.
I really like Andy Ridge as a current prelim guy who could break through down the road.
Kenny King vs Mark Briscoe
Old school booking of splitting up the feuding tag teams, but with a rather modern twist of having the inactive partners handcuffed to each other during the match.
What I loved is the establishment of the face/heels here, even though the All Night Express are still in that ‘just turned’ transition period.
Kenny King is one of the unsung talents on the indy scene. I think the guy has raised his game tremendously and has a great deal of potential and his dedication really shows.
The pair of matches involving the Briscoes is one that I’d rather not overexplain. Let’s just say that the cleverness of the storyline goes from yeah, but … to wow, that really worked by the end of the second match.
Rhett Titus vs Jay Briscoe
While King vs Mark Briscoe was a bit more subdued, the angle plays out in Titus vs Jay.
They set out to play out the feud, set up the Briscoes as the big heels, and rally the fans behind the ANE… Mission accomplished.
Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards vs Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly
This was the big storyline of the DVD, and it played out nicely, but I just don’t like having the cousin thing brought up at this point, and quickly lead to dissension (even if it was kept down) at this point.
I do like the establishment of Cole/O’Reilly, but one thing ROH needs to be careful about is having this ‘tag team of the future’ working in a division where there are great teams, but only so many. Can the promotion juggle 5-6 regular teams, and keep the team now known as Futureshock fresh enough, hungry enough and viable enough that they aren’t seen as mid-carders two years ago?
The All Night Express situation shows that it is possible, and bringing back the Young Bucks provides a strong rival situation…. Maybe I don’t have as much to worry about.
But as for this angle, setting up the tension between Richards and Edwards seems premature, but I can’t complain about the angle or the presentation. There’s enough to establish the tension, but not so much to turn either guy. And any sense of turning Edwards and Richards seems so detrimental to establishing ROH as an alternative product.
Michael Elgin & Chase Owens vs Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander
So after all the concerns about tag teams, the House of Truth situation where Michael Elgin has tag partners signed by manager Truth Martini, and then …. Well, then blames the other partner for losing, well, that’s actually a good storyline on a few levels.
It sets a measuring stick for tags like Coleman & Alexander, and it allows for some creative approaches and it establishes a heel faction for various interesting interactions.
Coleman & Alexander have some promo potential and athletic potential as well.
Chris Hero vs Colt Cabana
Let’s see, guy that the WWE blew off, and guy that the WWE might be …. Well, we’ll see what happens with one of the bigger guys from ROH that ever went to the WWE. Hero has a natural athleticism and a pro wrestling talent that shines in his interactions with often smaller guys.
Of course, the WWE will stomp that out of him, but “That Knockout Kid” should be interesting to watch in the next year. Cabana grows on you. He just has an innate sense of timing, and while comedy is usually his forte, the guy just knows how to work.
This is one of those matches that makes you enjoy professional wrestling, because there are two guys who just know the sport.
ROH World Tag Team Championship Match
Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (C) vs The Bravado Brothers
Another interesting old school throw-back match, where the Champs take on a strong underdog team, give them just enough, and while everything plays out predictably, it’s played out the way it works for everyone, including the post match fun.
I’m not so familiar with the Bravados, but I don’t recall them wearing their TV ‘argyle’ trunks on the DVD. From TV, I know they are Native Americans, which does add a level of coolness for fans who recall the nostalgia of Chief Jay Strongbow – as opposed to the insider talk about his agent work.
Roderick Strong vs El Generico (C)
Strong versus El Generico has been the underlying feud through most of the summer, and I really didn’t pay enough attention to it. I’ve been a big fan of Roderick Strong, and his work has always been understated but more than just solid.
El Generico is the exception to any rule for a great talent in the modern era, but shows just why having someone out of the ordinary will more likely connect to the fan base than having just another musclehead being the standard bearer.
Both Strong and the masked redheaded one have paid their dues across the nation, and both know how to work a title match. To me, this feud should have played out over the summer as a normal program, and then heated up for the fall TV season, but I know the ROH guidance is in good hands.
Even so, the stepping up to a Cage Match, even with workers greater than most, really doesn’t add up in terms of emotional investment, especially after El Generico/Kevin Steen was truly deserving of all the bloodletting…. And especially since Kevin Steen is knocking back on the door.
I have high hopes for ROH and No Escape showed that the promotion can mix things up. I’m still concerned that there’s a lost art to professional wrestling, in terms of building up contenders, in terms of playing out programs slowly and surely, and in terms of connecting passion in the ring with the interests of the fans.
But that’s a preaching to the choir situation in the year 2011, when talking about ROH to insider types or industry figures.
Hopfully, however, ROH is gearing up to pull in new fans. If you are a new fan, No Escape is a good place to learn more about ROH and experience the variety of styles, see some blood, some violence and some great wrestling mixed in, and often at the same time.
Joe Babinsack can be reached at
. What can pro wrestling learn from MMA? Go watch Jon Jones pick apart Rampage Jackson, trace back the promos, and see the impact of the youngest Light Heavyweight UFC fighter of all time. I absolutely want to watch the evolution of a young athlete and how he grows into his talent, and how that plays out on the center stage. You can’t make that stuff up.