NEW Over The Top 2017 (1/21/2017)- Waterbury, CT
DANIEL EVANS & KEITH YOUNG BLOOD vs. TEAM SHAZAM (Dan de Man & Kenny Bengal)- 5.75/10
Standard tag team stuff. Enjoyable, but nothing you haven’t seen a million times before, either. Fine for its spot on the card.
ACE PERRY vs. WRECKING BALL LEGURSKY (w/Marshall MacNeil)- no rating, GREAT SQUASH.
Ace Perry was making his NEW debut in this match. MacNeil introduced his new client with a promo that I can’t decide if I liked or hated. It was very 1980s and very over the top, but not quite over the top the point where it’s clear that this guy is like Sidney Bakabella doing a “1980s manager” gimmick. If it’s supposed to be a bit of a parody then fine, but I can tell if it’s supposed to be a fun nostalgia parody or if the booker actually thinks that what pro wrestling needs in 2017 is a third-rate 1980s manager character. And not third-rate like he’s trying to be Bobby Heenan or Jim Cornette and failing miserably. I mean third-rate like he is specifically copying what a third-rate manager from the 1980s would do.
On the bright side, as I said above, this was a great squash, and gave the announcers a chance to talk Legursky up as a heavy favorite in tonight’s battle royale before he enters the match, so that us first-time viewers can react to him in that way from the moment he comes out from behind the curtain.
DONOVAN DIJAK vs. KEITH LEE- 7/10
This was one of those matches that was “good, not great” but, shockingly, the overbooking at the end was the thing that finally managed to push it over the line into the “great” category.
MJ JENKINS PROMO- she is making her debut tonight as well. The ring announcer built her up with this big introduction… and she didn’t come out. Instead said (into a mic, I assume) from behind the curtain that “MJ Jenkins does not come out without a red carpet rolled out for her” and she stuck just her arm out through the curtain to hold out a red carpet that she had brought herself so that the referee could come over and roll it out for her to make her entrance. WONDERFUL!
Her gimmick is that she is an “entertainer,” so on her way out she’s singing and dancing slowly and (vaguely) seductively. The crowd clapped for her when she finished, so she chastised them, saying “I don’t need your applause.” That’s a heel for you.
TESSA BLANCHARD & MJ JENKINS vs. MANDY LEON & MARIA MANIC- 4.5/10
Okay… if you’re going to give yourself the last name “Manic” you cannot just be a generic babyface!
RICOCHET vs. TRAVIS GORDON- 7/10
The announcers tried to put over Gordon as a big deal by saying that he beat “three national stars in one night,” and while I would agree that you could call Mike Bennett a national star and Dijak is arguable but I’ll give them a bit of leeway because their job is to put things over, I draw the line at claiming that Vinny f*cking Marseglia is a national star. I have never muted commentary faster. Not even for Matt Striker. The only way Vinny Marseglia would ever be anything close to a national star is if there was a TV show where random strangers were put in a room with a panel of five extremely annoying people and after three minutes were told they were allowed to punch just one of them in the face, and Vinny would be a “star” because would be the only member of the panel of extremely annoying people anyone would ever remember because he would be the one chosen to get punched in the face every single episode, without fail.
The match was what you would expect from these two, but because we haven’t much of that so far tonight, it felt like something different rather just more flips. Gordon picked the upset win here, which should signal big things to come for him this year in NEW.
30 MAN OVER THE TOP ROPE RUMBLE MATCH FOR A FUTURE NEW HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH- 7/10
A tip for all promoters and bookers: running your own Royal Rumble in any sort of proximity to the actual Royal Rumble (never mind the weekend before like NEW has done here) is a great way to make sure that you look small-time and uncreative, especially if the winner of your match also gets a title shot. Having your announcers use WWE-speak phrases like “title opportunity” instead of the standard “title match” or “title shot” or something else that a normal human would say does not help matters, either.
The first half of this match was pretty boring, despite the two best workers in the match- Lee and Dijak, playing decently prominent roles in it (certainly more prominent than they were in the second half, due in no small part to Lee being eliminated by Dijak in the first half of the match, robbing me of my dream of seeing Lee face off against Wrecking Ball Legursky). The “highlights’” of the first half were some guys stealing Kofi and Morrison’s famous spots for surviving eliminaton, including the handstand-walk and the Spiderman spot.
We were also graced by the presence of an “NEW Hall of Famer” who goes by the moniker of “’The Connecticut Hardcore Icon’ Ron Zombie.” I laughed my ass off at the preposterousness and low-rent wanna-be-ism on display.
The second half of this was a lot of fun. No small part of this was it was mostly big guys coming out and running into each other. I have never been one to take the approach that size should be a big factor in determining someone’s push, but when you’re doing a generic battle royale with no real story being told, if the guys you have in there aren’t doing anything cool like a bunch of Lucha spots, then big dudes running into each other is going to be a lot more entertaining than small guys doing it.
One of these big men was, of course, Wrecking Ball Legursky, and both the fans and I did, in fact, react to him like he was a huge deal and a major threat to win when he came out. He made it all the way until the end, when he was eliminated by Mike Bennett, and I think the only time he left his feet all match it was under his own power, when he did this big running fat-guy splash.
In the middle of all of these big guys where got a miniscule dork doing the Crash Holly gimmick where he thinks he’s a big guy. This dork was managed why a very tall manager who goes by the name of “The Buff Dad.” I don’t normally use the term “indy” in a derogatory manager, but this was completely low-rent indy, and not even a post-1997 indy when the ECW influence had come to define indy wrestling. This was, like, a really lame early 90’s indy, except instead of a bunch of dorks with some washed up old ex-WWF/WCW guys to theoretically draw a crowd with their star power, it’s just a bunch of low-rent dorks, some of whom, like Lee, Dijak, Gordon, Ricochet, and Bennet, happen to have talent.
Someone who doesn’t have talent is Vinny Marseglia, by far the most insufferable character to have ever existed in Ring of Honor, and I am including not only Mike Mondo but also even Johnny Fairplay in that. And yet, somehow, the fans were reacting to Vinny f*cking Marseglia, the most annoying human being in history, like he was some sort of babyface hero. I had already pretty much decided (for reasons I will get into below) that this was not a promotion worth following, but this definitely sealed the deal.
Most of what Marseglia did involved Mike Bennett and a small kid named Cam Zagami, and it was quite bad. They were in the ring with all of these big dudes just slugging it out with each other, and they were doing overdone almost pantomiming “PRO WRESTLING selling.” There were cartoon characters in a world of real fighters.
Bennett turned on Marseglia (a heel turn according to the fans and the announcers, but any turn on Vinny Marseglia is a face turn in my book), shoving him off the top rope to eliminate him from the match. Bennett eventually eliminated Legursky, then cut a promo about how he has never had a shot at the NEW Heavyweight Title and now that he has earned one, he doesn’t care whether it is Sami Callihan or even his fellow Kingdom member T.K. O’Ryan who leaves the building tonight as the champion. He’ll be challenging the winner either way.
NEW HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: T.K. O’Ryan(c) vs. Sami Callihan- 7.75/10
O’Ryan comes across like your typical arrogant heel to me, but the fans are treating him like the babyface, and aside from one arrogant posing spot in the beginning, the match was worked with O’Ryan as the clear babyface and Sami as the clear heel, and that’s how the fans reacted to it as well.
This was a great basic babyface vs. heel match, and O’Ryan’s selling of his ankle was quite great. Why is this guy a heel in ROH? He has been totally bland as a heel, but seems to be quite the workable babyface.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- fine
Bennett doesn’t like the new Kingdom. He has never had a shot at the NEW Heavyweight Title so he is perfectly happy to beat O’Ryan to get it, which he will do at the next show in this building. Taven came out at the end. He didn’t say anything but seemed to want them to all get along. Strangely, the announcers didn’t acknowledge his presence at all.
On one level, this was a perfectly fine wrestling show. Nothing was bad; in fact, most of it was very good or even great. The production was slick, the wrestlers were all competent in the ring, and most of them even seemed like perfectly fine characters, but the promotion itself simply came across like a promotion I don’t want to watch.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if 1993 WWE was turned into any indy, it’s NEW. Lots of big dudes, some talented workers, kind of bland gimmicks, mediocre announcing, and a product that, while it still very much feels like a professional wrestling product, also feels like the very basics of “sports entertainment,” with the presentation being more important than the substance- except in this case they’re an indy so despite their slick production, they don’t have the money for things like ring robes and interview sets and so forth. There are definitely people out there for whom NEW is going to be a fun, almost nostalgia-like product, but I am not one of them. I urge you all to give it a chance if it sounds like something you would enjoy, but it’s definitely not for me.
PWG, EVOLVE, AAW, WWN, etc
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