ROH Up For Grabs (6/6/2018)- Hartford, CT
You didn’t think it was going to stay as an end of the month thing did you? Hell no! BRM’s “This Day in Wrestling History” review series can drop at any time of the month! And with record turnaround between installments, we head right back to where we started: Ring of Honor in the year 2008, where the vacant ROH World Tag Team Titles are Up For Grabs in a one-night tournament!
WATCH THE VIDEOWIRE FIRST! I have included it at the end here because it’s not on the main show track, but it’s an important one.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL MATCH: The Vulture Squad (Ruckus & Jigsaw) vs. Sweet N’ Sour Inc. (Adam Pearce & Chris Hero) (w/Sweet N’ Sour Inc.)- 5.75/10
Jigsaw was the babyface in peril for a while before finally managing to make a hot tag to Ruckus, who ran wild for a second or two before getting knocked out by Chris Hero’s rolling elbow.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- good
Eddie Kingston came out of the crowd to check on his BLKOUT stable-mate Ruckus. Jigsaw pushed Eddie away (Vulture Squad has not been happy with BLKOUT showing up at ROH shows and basically saying that Ruckus can only be loyal to one stable, even though BLKOUT isn’t in ROH and the Vulture Squad doesn’t exist anywhere that BLKOUT wrestles, which has resulted in Jigsaw and Eddie being booked against each other tomorrow night). They trade shoves and slaps and then punches before Ruckus is able to break it up. Kingston tells Jigsaw “tomorrow night in Philly, you’re dead.”
SWEET N’ SOUR INC. PROMO- This was a good promo, but for some reason everything was very yellow. In one of those lines that seems to take on new meaning in hindsight (although I’m certain it was just a coincidence) Chris Hero contrasts Adam Pearce with Brent Albright by saying that Albright is an idiot while calling Pearce a “creative genius.” I guess Cary Silkin was paying attention. Speaking of paying attention, for those who were paying close attention to the end of this promo, a hint was dropped that the mysterious item Adam Pearce’s briefcase that convinced Larry Sweeney that it was worth his money to buy out Pearce’s Hangmen 3 faction was some sort championship belt.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL MATCH: Go Shiozaki & Nigel McGuinness vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico- 8.5/10
Steen and Nigel are in the middle of a feud for the ROH World Title, so Steen is yelling at Nigel the while time during Nigel’s entrance. When it is time for the Code of Honor-mandated pre-match handshakes, Go shakes hands with both Steen and Generico, and Nigel and Generico even manage a tentative handshake, but when it comes time for Steen and Nigel to shake hands… well… all I’ll say is it leads to one of the funniest moments in ROH history.
This was one hell of a tag team match! Generico was the babyface in peril and did his usual wonderful job selling, and the dislike between Steen and Nigel made Steen’s frustration at the dirty tactics used by Nigel- and occasionally Go (more on that in a moment)- feel all the more understandable, and thus made our babyfaces even more sympathetic when Steen’s attempts to intervene or point things out to the ref led to the ref being distracted with Steen and Nigel and Go taking advantage of this even more.
Once Generico made the hot tag things got really awesome. Things were extremely exciting and felt very fast-paced even though they actually weren’t, so you didn’t really have a problem following everything they did and letting it sink in. A more accurate word to describe the atmosphere here would be “frantic,” and this was only magnified as they came closer and closer to the time limit.
The decision to have the match go right up against the time limit was particularly genius. Steen & Generico are a well-established team, so them losing to a makeshift team would make them look bad. Go was actually getting a shot at Nigel’s ROH World Title tomorrow night, so him taking the fall didn’t make much sense, and in his ten months as champion so far Nigel had only been beaten once, so having him lose to set up someone’s title shot seemed more unlikely than you might think... and especially when you could just do a time-limit draw, eliminating both teams from the tournament without anyone having to lose (and this was actually something Gabe had done once or twice before, including with Nigel at the most recent tournament that Nigel participated in, the 2007 Survival of the Fittest). All of this contributed to making a draw feel like a very real- and probably even the most likely- possibility and thus going so close to the wire made things feel even more frantic and exciting, as the wrestlers weren’t just competing against each other, but against a fast-approaching Armageddon as well… and thus, when Steen made Nigel tap out to the sharpshooter with just thirty-four seconds left, it was not only surprising, but almost magnified the effect, as Steen had not just beaten the ROH World Champion, but the clock as well.
Two other notes of interest on this match. The first was the way the commentary handled the Go/Nigel team and the theoretical tension of them facing off for the ROH World Title the next night. In 99% of promotions they wouldn’t get along at all, and we’d get some hack finish where one hits the other by accident and they start fighting or it causes them to lose, or one just turns on the other or walks out on the other or at the very least they’d be arguing all match, leading to their downfall. In ROH, where we don’t do that sort of bullsh*t, they worked together just fine, while Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard put over the idea that this was a wonderful chance for Go to get an up close look at the sort of dirty tactics Nigel might pull on him tomorrow and thus have some time to develop a counter-strategy.
The other thing to note- and this might be me reading too much into things, but knowing how intricately Gabe books, it might not be- was that when Go started to go along with Nigel’s less-than-fair play, Dave Prazak said that Go has finally realized that this match is a pathway to the ROH World Tag Team Titles. When you consider that Go’s storyline for most of the rest of the year would be that he felt like he had to win a title during his stay as ROH’s resident Pro Wrestling NOAH guest for 2008 in order for his tenure in ROH to be viewed as a success back in Japan (especially when compared to Takeshi Morishima, who was last year’s NOAH guest and had an eight-month reign as ROH World Champion), and would eventually be willing to sell out to Larry Sweeney because Sweeney promised to be able to politic to get him more title shots, I wonder if this match here was intended to lay the seeds both for Go’s storyline and for the fact that he would be willing to descend into heeldom in order to achieve his goal?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- good
Nigel attacks Steen after the match, destroying Steen’s leg with a chair, but Go made the save. This got a lot of heat, and Go’s actions here reverted him to the babyface status that he had temporarily left (though it should be noted that he had never really strayed too far over the line).
STEEN & GENERICO BACKSTAGE PROMO- GREAT!
Steen’s knee was getting taped up and he Generico’s shoulder was in pain. Steen gave Generico a hell of a pep-talk and told us all that tonight he and Generico would finally become ROH World Tag Team Champions.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL MATCH: Delirious & Pelle Primeau vs. The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black)- 5/10
DELIRIOUS, DAIZEE HAZE, & RHETT TITUS SEGMENT- fine
Delirious calls Daizee out because he wants to ask her out on a date. Rhett Titus comes out and tries to pick Daizee up instead. His strategy is to gyrate his hips, show off his boulder-sized shoulders, and tell her that he is going to get her to flash everyone. Daizee flips out at Rhett scolding him for his conduct and telling him that he should be ashamed of himself. Daizee storms off, completely forgetting Delirious’ proposal. Rhett, too, leaves, and poor Delirious is left standing alone in the ring. Then, as if seeking to compound his misery, the fans begin to chant “YOU GOT COCK-BLOCKED!” at him.
AGE OF THE FALL BACKSTAGE- good
Jimmy Jacobs tells Tyler Black that sacrifices will have to be made in the name of the cause. He tells Tyler that he expects the same level of sacrifice from Tyler as Jimmy sacrificed when he did… whatever it is that he did to the love of his life, Lacey, after the Requiem of Lacey video cut out. Jimmy reminds that he is the leader and has shown everyone in the AOTF what they can do. Tyler agrees that this is true and says that he and Jimmy will triumph because they believe in each other and believe in their cause. Jimmy then says that they should go watch the next match… which is Austin Aries’ match.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL MATCH: Bryan Danielson & Austin Aries vs. The No Remorse Corps (Roderick Strong & Davey Richards)- 8.5/10
Yet another AWESOME match that went down to the last minute. This one was extremely action-packed, with the wrestlers trying a lot of new things as well. I was also both amazed and appreciative of the fact that they never lost track of who the legal man was throughout the match. I was also appreciative of the fact that despite what the AOTF’s promo made it seem like, they did not interject themselves into this match in any way. I guess when Jimmy said they would “watch” the match he really did just mean for scouting purposes.
ARIES & DANIELSON PROMO- very good
Dragon is excited because winning the tag titles is the only thing he hasn’t done in ROH. Aries says that they will win, but really seems more pleased about the fact that he will be able to “destroy Jimmy Jacobs” and the AOTF than the idea of winning the tag titles.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH: Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. Sweet N’ Sour Inc. (Adam Pearce & Chris Hero) (w/Sweet N’ Sour Inc.)- 5.75/10
Steen & Generico are selling their injuries on their way to the ring. Sweet N’ Sour Inc. spent the match picking their injuries apart. They also benefited from their usual cheating ways, but in the end those tactics backfired on them when Hero wound up being the one to get clunked by Adam Pearce’s mysterious briefcase instead of Generico, and Generico was able to get the pin via roll-up. Sweet N’ Sour Inc. took their frustrations out on Bobby Dempsey after the match, even though it was Hero and Hagadorn who were the ones involved in the screw-up.
STEEN (& GENERICO) PROMO- F*CKING AWESOME!
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH: Bryan Danielson & Austin Aries vs. The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black)- no rating, decent segment.
Aries and Jacobs charged at each other the moment the moment Aries came through the curtain. Jacobs wound up hitting Aries with a chair while the ref was looking at Dragon and Tyler, but when Aries got the chair away from him and hit Tyler and Jimmy with it, the ref saw, and called for the bell. The AOTF ran off, with Aries chasing after them. The fans were not very happy about this and chanted “BULLSH*T!” but some eventually started chanting “YOU GOT SCREWED!” at poor Danielson as he stood alone in the ring, so I’d have to say the angle was effective.
AGE OF THE FALL PROMO- AWESOME
Well… really it was Jimmy who was awesome and Tyler just managed to be passable.
Jimmy cut a great little promo on Aries, telling him that he just threw away a chance at the ROH World Tag Team Titles just to get in a chairshot, and asking “who’s in whose head now, Aries?” Tyler then said that Steen & Generico were injured already, so they would stand no chance. Jimmy then cut an AWESOME promo on Steen & Generico. It’s crazy how much Jimmy’s mindset has change in just over a year, from the “love conquers all” babyface who cut the wonderful “prom night” promo at All-Star Extravaganza II telling us how he knew he would beat BJ Whitmer and win Lacey’s heart in their blow-off the next night because that’s how it works in all of those teen movies… and now he stands here telling Steen & Generico that “life isn’t fantasy” and “real life is made up of tragedies.”
“SUGARFOOT” ALEX PAYNE vs. SHANE HAGADORN (w/Larry Sweeney & Sara Del Rey)-3.75/10
A decent babyface vs. heel match for the time it got. Eddie Edwards came out to ringside at some point. He was so quite about it that no one seemed to notice.
LARRY SWEENEY PROMO- good
He claims his guys got screwed early and that he was certain the Connecticut State Athletic Commission would overturn the result once he showed them the footage. He said seeing Eddie Edwards kick Claudio’s ass would make him feel better so he demanded that Claudio come out right now so we could start…
CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI vs. EDDIE EDWARDS (w/Sweet N’ Sour Inc.)- 6.75/10
They gave Eddie a lot more here than I figured they would, considering that he very much felt like the forgotten member of Sweet N’ Sour Inc. from the time he joined until the American Wolves formed towards the end of this year. This was standard babyface vs. heel stuff, but with a bit of story about Claudio trying to occasionally take a swipe at Sweeney that always wound up letting Eddie take control of the match.
RELAXED RULES MATCH: Necro Butcher vs. Brent Albright vs. Erick Stevens- 8.25/10
These guys just beat the living sh*t out of each other with anything they could get their hands on for over ten minutes. I have no idea what the issue was between these three that required this stipulation, and the stuff they did went WAY father than I think is acceptable for merely a “Relaxed” Rules match, but that is up to the referee’s discretion and Paul Turner had no problem with it. The fans also had no problem with it. In fact, they went nuts for it. This was one hell of an awesome weapons brawl.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- very good
Sweet N’ Sour Inc. attacked Brent Albright after the match. He fought back and almost managed to get his hands on Sweeney but his former Hangmen 3 leader Adam Pearce saved Sweeney by nailing Albright with his briefcase. Eddie and Hagadorn held Albright down while Hero kicked him in the head and Pearce whipped him with his belt and Sweeney berated him but Albright slipped loose again and Sweet N’ Sour ran away from him. I thought this was a great heat-getting segment, but if I was booking it I would have had them leave Albright laying at the end. Him fighting back a second time seemed not only like it cut into the heat, but also unnecessary and almost ridiculous after the beating he took first in his match and then from SnS.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS: Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black)- 7.75/10
We started off with some wild brawling on the outside, which mostly ended when Generico’s injured shoulder became too injured for him to compete after the AOTF whipped, slammed, and powerbombed him into the barricade. Generico was carried off by students and referees but Steen is the legal man so he is allowed to keep fighting on alone. The AOTF then went to work on Steen’s injured knee, their two-on-one advantage allowing them to pick it apart in an even more methodical manner than usual because they didn’t have to worry about someone running in from the apron to break things up.
Steen made a comeback and probably should have sold his knee a bit more during it. He was good about selling it while trying to lift, but not while/after running. He got cut off once or twice during the course of this and just when it looked like the AOTF was about to win, Generico came back with his shoulder all taped up and ran wild. Steen hit Jacobs with the Package Piledriver and passed him on to Generico for the Brainbuster but Tyler slipped in and rolled Generico up for the pin. The fans were extremely unhappy about this and actually threw lots of beer cans and popcorn buckets and other garbage at Jimmy and Tyler. I’m shocked that Jimmy and Tyler stood there in the ring and took it for as long as they did, never mind Jimmy encouraging it with his promo at the end. This wound up being a really great visual to the point that I’m shocked it hasn’t entered into ROH’s lore.
After the AOTF left, we followed Steen & Generico as they made their way through the curtain, fighting the pain with every step. And with every step, Steen promised us, Generico, and himself that “this ain’t over.”
This was a really darn great show from ROH, which shocked me because it never really gets talked about. While it was certainly outshined by the next night’s awesome PPV, this show had quite a few outstanding matches, some great promos, and a very hot crowd. It’s definitely worth picking up if you can find it.
The first ten minutes of this are just a recap of the big angles from A New Level, which had a lot of stuff you need to know for this show. Then we got a “Special Interview Edition” of the VideoWire in which Prazak sits down with Austin Aries to discuss the Jimmy-Lacey-Aries love triangle. Aries explains his side of the “Aries stole Lacey from Jimmy” narrative, which does an excellent job of both making Aries come off like the babyface despite breaking up Jimmy and Lacey, and of giving actual reasons why Jimmy’s leadership of the Age of the Fall is flawed.
They then shifted to Aries explaining to us that he’s not upset that Jay Briscoe decided to vacate the tag titles even after Aries successfully substituted for Mark Briscoe to defend them against the AOTF, saying that he took the match to get revenge on Jimmy for what he did to Lacey, not to become one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions. He said he wants to earn the right to be an ROH World Tag Team Champion by winning the tournament for the now-vacant belts with Bryan Danielson. This was all very good, but I would have liked a better answer for why Aries has no problem with Jay basically abandoning him to the AOTF’s retribution after the match (after all, that resulted in Jimmy Jacobs almost MURDERING Aries before deciding that he would rather keep him alive and scar him emotionally.
Prazak then pivots back to the Lacey discussion, asking Aries if he will tell us what happened to Lacey after the video the AOTF posted (they show the video after this interview) cut out, saying that no one has heard from Lacey since. Aries got very angry, saying that it doesn’t matter exactly what “Jimmy Jacobs did to Lacey, while Tyler Black watched. While Joey Matthews watched.” What matters, Aries says, is that “she’s gone and she’s not coming back.” Aries tells Prazak “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to even think about it” is very interesting in hindsight, knowing where Gabe had planned for this to go (basically, rather than the implication that Jimmy had assaulted Lacey with his spike or threatened to kill her unless she left Aries, it would be revealed that Jimmy threatened to kill himself unless Lacey left Aries, and so she did. And left ROH altogether because she couldn’t bear to see two men she loves fighting practically to the death over her). But in the Pearce-booked official continuity, like with Lacey’s return at Rising Above 2008 it just becomes generic and blah. Jimmy Jacobs showed up at the end and told Aries “your time’s coming.” This last bit felt totally unnecessary.
REQUIEM OF LACEY VIDEO- awesome at the time, would have been perfect with Gabe’s continuity, but the main angle becomes blah due to Pearce’s booking. That being said, the raw style of video and the very real feeling of the way the video was shot and the AOTF members’ comments as it is happening create an absolutely amazing atmosphere. This is something every wrestling fan should see.
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