ROH's sixth, and - in my opinion - best, PPV Take No Prisoners started off in the worst possible way as prison spotlight was put directly on the faces of Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard while they introduced the show standing in front of a red hot crowd. The intense light made it impossible to make out facial features on Prazak as he was talking, and ranks right up there with the most embarrassing things I have ever seen in wrestling. This was Shockmaster bad. The show itself took place in Philadelphia, PA, the birthplace of ROH in February, 2002 when they presented Era of Honor Begins. They even showed a clip of that show and all I can say is, you've come a long way, baby.
1) The Age of the Fall's Tyler Black beat Claudio Castagnoli and Delirious and Go Shiozaki in a Four Corner Survival Match to determine the #1 Contender for the ROH title at 10:00. In a very nice touch, each person in the ring gave a quick promo to the camera stressing how important the match for them because of what was on the line. Every person except for Go Shiozaki, that is. Making your main title seem like the biggest thing in the company is always a good idea. ROH champion Nigel McGuinness joined Prazak and Leonard in the booth to provide commentary throughout the match and he was solid gold. Nigel was in full heel mode, complaining that the fans, "support me Saturday night, but where are they Sunday morning when I'm in the hospital?" Nigel now has that perfect heel character where there is so much truth to what he is saying, ala Mick Foley's heel run in the original ECW.
Claudio stole the show for me early as he barely could hold back his contempt for Delirious while Delirious was doing his "crazy" gimmick. Claudio and Delirious did a little bit of comedy before Go and Black were tagged in, leading to Shiozaki brutally slapping Black's chest. McGuinness was glad that each man in the match was getting his ass kicked, as he would be able to pick apart the carcass later. Leonard said that Castagnoli was a guy who, "has all the tools to be champion." "Apart from a full head of hair," responded McGuinness. In a nice spot, Black threw Go into the ropes and attempted a dropkick. Go held onto the ropes and black ended up doing a 360, ending back on his feet. The finishing sequence with all four men doing a series of moves was fun to watch, ending with Black hitting a Phoenix Splash on Delirious for the win. A Phoenix Splash was also what Low Ki used to win the main event at Era of Honor Begins. Great opener to the show.
***A video package aired giving highlights on the previous PPV and Prazak said that Takeshi Morishima had been suspended from ROH for attacking referee Bryce Remsberg at that show. This actually came across extremely well as the video showed the chaos in the ring and the company establishing an actual line that wrestlers can't cross. Prazak also explained that the tag team titles had exchanged hands twice since the last PPV and now belong to the No Remorse Corps. Highlights of both title changes aired and it was announced that the Vulture Squad's Ruckus and Jigsaw would face the NRC for the straps on location in Orlando, FL later in the show.
***The screen started to short out and the camera went to the Age of the Fall's Jimmy Jacobs at an unannounced location. Standing besides Jimmy were Zach Gowen (remember him?) and Allison Wonderland. Jacobs was delivering a speech in front of a group of young men, saying how Tyler Black winning the ROH title would allow the Age of the Fall to spread their message farther than ever before. Jacobs then started to text message as the camera went back to Philadelphia, where we saw Lacey receiving the message from Jacobs. This just in: Lacey's hot. In a very odd location, Lacey was in what looked to be a kitchen area with Tyler Black. Joey Matthews and the Necro Butcher appeared to congratulate Black. No names were said and no onscreen graphics were used for any of this. I'm not a big believer in the idea that new viewers are watching these PPVs, but if they are they must be wondering what the hell is going on during segments like this. It's also odd that the guys Jacobs were talking to were prep boys wearing Polo shirts, certainly not the target audience of the Age of the Fall.
2) Kevin Steen beat FIP champion Roderick Strong in a non-title match at 11:00. Prazak said that Steen's tag team partner El Generico was on a tour of Europe to explain why he wasn't on the show. They should have said he was bullfighting down in Mexico. OLE~! Before the match there was an onscreen graphic for each participant listing their strengths (one of Steen's was Championship Lust), although it appeared to be made in MSPaint. The crowd was on Strong early, chanting "Roderick" just like the Red Sox fans used to chant "Darryl" to the Mets' Darryl Strawberry way, way back in the day. Steen oozed charisma throughout the match, at one point even asking the fans if they wanted to see Strong die. Steen has that incredible "it" factor and personality that Strong just doesn't have even after being in a top spot for several years. I enjoy Roderick Strong and have since he formed GeNext with Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, and Jack Evans in 2004, but he's just missing something as a character. In a bit I did enjoy, Steen tried to take the match to the outside early on, but Strong would have nothing of that and kept the action back in the ring.
The theme of the match centered around Steen having a hurt knee, which would give Strong an opportunity even when trapped in a move such as a half-crab. A lot of great action in the match highlighted by a finish of Steen nailing Strong with a package piledriver, just a nasty looking move. Great match for fans of hard hitting action with bits of comedy mixed in. This win set up Generico and Steen going after Strong's NRC tag team belts at a later show.
***Jacobs "interrupted" the PPV again with another speech, this time talking to one of the members of his audience that was in a wheelchair. The handicapped kid was sick and tired of people making fun of him. Jimmy gave the mic over to Zach Gowen who talked about changing his life after being wrestling's most inspiration athlete before being spit out by the WWE machine. Allison Wonderland then complained about sexist men only talking to her breasts. Allison must love some of the angles ROH has done over the years, including Jade Chung being used as Jimmy Rave's stepstool. Jimmy said the action was being brought to the Briscoes…
3) The Briscoe Brothers (w/Daizee Haze) beat The Age of the Fall (Joey Matthews and the Necro Butcher w/Lacey) in a Philadelphia Street Fight at 15:00. The action began backstage as all four men fought around the building with Lacey and Haze brawling as well. There are not many things hotter in life than Daizee and Lacey going at it. That god damn spotlight reared it's ugly head again while the men fought into the crowd, making it absolutely impossible to see what was going on. I think that's the definition of irony, a light that makes it harder to see. Joey Matthews was selling for two during this melee and really showed me something. I'd be shocked if he wasn't back in WWE by the end of this year. Back in the ring, Haze and Lacey were alone for a segment that could have brought the show to a dead stop, instead the two really showed me something and Haze in particular used the following moves in succession: a heart punch, an attempted Yakuza kick, and a German suplex. I couldn't believe it and was totally marking out. I will acknowledge that before all this, Haze had the worst chairshot on Lacey in wrestling history, making a Hulk Hogan or Lance Storm chairshot look like the Rock/Mick Foley shots during their famous I Quit match immortalized in Beyond the Mat.
Speaking of chair shots, they were simultaneously something I loved and hated about the match. There was one incredible spot where Jay hit Necro over the head with a chair, and then tossed the chair to a springboarding Mark, who also hit Necro with a chair. Unfortunately, the shot Jay gave was extremely harsh looking and there were several other really hard chair shots to Necro's head in the match as well, becoming uncomfortable to watch. Mark ended up doing an insane dive off the entrance scaffolding to destroy Necro Butcher, while Jay finished off Matthews in the ring with a Jay Driller. There were a ton of amazing spots in the match that had the crowd going apeshit, and if you like the Briscoes this will be another match you'll love. If you hate the Briscoes, well, this is why you hate them. I thought this was an amazing spectacle, completely different than anything else on the crowd, and was a lot of fun to watch. Afterwards the announcers put over that the Briscoes are now 6-0 on ROH PPVs
***Video package that included a lot of WWE/TNA stars while they were in ROH, including CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bobby Heenan, and Homicide. I honestly think they should completely blow up their current PPV model and come back with something different and one of those things can be a "Best of ROH" PPV that includes all these "bigger" stars having much better matches in ROH. I can just imagine what a WWE fan would think seeing Paul London vs. Samoa Joe at Death Before Dishonor, one of my favorite shows of all time, ROH or otherwise. Although, I guess if fans wanted that they could just get those awesome KOCH ROH DVDS including Stars of Honor, Bloodstained Honor,Greatest Rivalries, and Best in the World. Couldn't give those any higher recommendations.
***Backstage, the Briscoes said this is what Take No Prisoners is all about. They then called Nick Hogan and told Mizan Up!
***Time for the Larry Sweeney Show starring Larry Sweeney! Sweeney talked about buying up a ton of contracts in ROH and selling them all to "Vince," something he has credibility with after taking care of Matt Sydal. Sweeney introduced us to the Hangmen Three, and the crowd immediately shit on the segment. Adam Pearce, one of the company's best talkers, said the Hangmen Three were selling out and becoming part of the Sweet and Sour family. BJ Whitmer and Brent Albright didn't seem to be as enthused as Pearce. Erick Stevens made his way to the ring and he was pissed at Sweeney that Daniel Puder wasn't available for a match and challenged Sweeney to give him someone to fight. Stevens was then attacked by Brent Albright.
4) Brent Albright beat Erick Stevens in 7:00. I guess some people are going to be into this, although I can't imagine who. I think this match should have been completely cut and the time given to other matches. Prazak during the match talked about ROH being the underdog and that the wrestlers they have are doing it for the pride in their craftsmanship rather than just selling out. The finish came with Stevens being distracted by Sweeney, leading to Albright nailing him with his brutal looking half-nelson suplex for the win. It was what it was.
5) Rocky Romero and Davey Richards beat Ruckus and Jigsaw to retain the ROH tag team titles in 10:00. This match took place during the Orlando doubleshot and needs to be seen to be believed. Until recently, all four of these guys were so far below my radar that I couldn't have cared less about this match going into it. I haven't really cared much about Romero since his days with Homicide and the Rotweillers. I never saw anything in Davey Richards and considered him to just be too bland. Ruckus is fine, and Jigsaw lost whatever magic he may have had when his mask came off. Jigsaw is now looks literally like 90% of every other indy wrestler in the world.
What can I possibly say about the match? It is absolutely fantastic from bell to bell. The Orlando crowd is absolutely rabid and adds a spectacular dimension to the match. Loud chants throughout the match and the crowd popping huge for a ton of innovative double team moves by both teams. I was impressed by the teamwork of Ruckus and Jigsaw, but also by how well Romero and Richards worked together. Romero played the cocky, taunting guy well while Richards was the psychotic machine hell bent on destroying his opponents. In one spectacular spot, the NRC were working over Jigsaw for a while and Jigsaw fought hard to make a hot tag. Jigsaw yelled out, "Ruckus!!" and ran over to make the tag before he was cut off by Richards. Jigsaw literally tried to jump over Richards, but Davey caught him and drove him all the way back to the opposite corner. Just a fantastic spot because Jigsaw came about 1/32 of an inch from tagging Ruckus.
This was state of the art tag team action that you won't find anywhere else in North America. Not in Orlando. Not in New York. Nowhere. All in front of one of Ring of Honor's hottest crowd ever. One crazy spot had Jigsaw and Ruckus doing stereo coast-to-coast moves onto Davey Richard that had every single person in the crowd chanting, "THAT WAS AWESOME!" Normally that is the single most overused chant in wrestling now that it has spread like a mutated virus from ROH to TNA, but you know what? In this case, that was awesome. Well worth going out of your way to see.
***Tyler Black was shown once again pacing back and forth in the kitchen area. Nigel McGuinness was shown sitting in his locker room, staring at his ROH championship.
***In a very fast spot, the announcers said that BJ Whitmer had been attacked by his former stablemates in the Hangmen Three and is now in the hospital. This could be ROH's way of explaining their "parting ways" with Whitmer that was announced on their website a short while ago. It was quite odd how fast it was rushed though, and reminded me of that classic episode of the Simpson's where the Itchy and Scratchy audience were told Poochie the dog had to return to his home planet and that he died on the way there.
6) Bryan Danielson beat Austin Aries in 18:30 via submission. Danielson came out to a heroes welcome with his "Final Countdown" music. After watching this I happened to watch SHIMMER vol 15, where Sara Del Rey also came out to the "Final Countdown" in the main event. And last week I was watching the NBA playoffs and the Detroit Pistons were announced to the home crowd to the "Final Countdown" music. That might actually be the most over song in sports. In the fall of '07, Aries and Danielson had an excellent three match series and I went into this match hoping it would live up to my lofty expectations.
All told, this was another match that was wildly different than the rest of the card as these two masters of the mat had a ton of creative submissions and counters. Unlike normal wrestling rest holds, both Aries and Danielson used holds that actually looked like they would inflict pain on their opponent. They creatively mixed stiff looking shots that we saw in the Stevens/Albright match, high flying stuff like in the opening four way, and unique MMA-like submissions in a world class match that ranks right up there with the best that ROH has ever had. Danielson worked over Aries' arm throughout the match, including a triangle choke while hanging outside the ring, so it made sense for Aries to finally tap at the end after an insane looking arm crank (which itself followed a vicious series of Elbows from Danielson). Even the announcers were on fire during this encounter with Prazak yelling at one point, "That's how he (Danielson) won the first PPV main event!" No serious wrestling fan could possibly not completely fall in love with this match.
***Jimmy Jacobs and crew on location again. Jacobs talked about Tyler Black's journey and how he will bring the title home to the Age of the Fall tonight. I would love some sort of segment where Jimmy and Tyler walk in on Gowen watching the Wrestle Society X DVD with their "DIFH" group on-screen. There's some comedy gold there.
6) Nigel McGuinnes beat Tyler Black in 22:00 to retain the ROH title. When the original Superman film with Christopher Reeves was made in the late '70s, it came with the tagline, you will believe a man can fly. Trust me, after this match, you will believe that Tyler Black is a star. It started off slowly, with the crowd only partly behind Tyler to start the match, surely thinking – like me – that Black had absolutely no chance to win. In a fantastic heel move, Nigel attacked Black from behind the start the action, driving Black into the ring post. Black would sell his arm for the rest of the match.
Over the course of the next twenty minutes, magic happened. Nigel would beat the hell out of Black, but Black would not quit. McGuinness was spectacular with his facials, coming across just like Apollo Creed in Rocky, wondering exactly what it would take to put Black down for the count. During all of this time, the crowd started to get behind Black as well. More and more people started to realize what they were seeing and they all started to get behind Black. By the end, it was just like another Rocky moment, this time Rocky IV when those Russian fans finally started to chant "Rocky! Rocky!" When Black would kick out of a pin attempt, the ROH fans would go crazy. And I mean like Impact Zone-crazy, where you think these people are having an orgasm or something. It was insanely fun to watch, to the point where I found myself going back and rewatching just the crowd after big spots. You could feel that everyone in the building was having a special "moment," and it's something that is all too rare in wrestling.
After teasing a jawbreaker lariat the entire match, Nigel finally hit it and the crowd immediately was deflated. That had to be the finish. It had to be. But NO! Black kicked out and the crowd went bananas! Nigel then hit another lariat before forcing Black to tap out to the London Dungeon, but it was too late, a star was made. The crowd was completely into the Tyler Black as the underdog who just wouldn't quit. The match accomplished three major goals: making Black a legitimate star, prove that Nigel is the true world champion by taking on and defeating all sorts of different challengers, and further establish the ROH title is one of the top championships in the world.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I don't care what you have to do, who you have to borrow money from, which friend you have to find that has InDemand… WATCH THIS PPV. How many shows are you going to see that have a definitive match of the year candidate (main event), another one that is just about as good (semi-main), a mind blowing tag team match with moves you've never seen before no matter how many years you've been watching (the Orlando match), and the usual wild Briscoes match. All that AND MORE for less than 15 bucks. This show is why I love wrestling.
A review of ROH vs. CZW in the CAGE OF DEATH
Review of the ROH UK doubleshot DVDs
Top Ten Moments in ROH History
A review of the Milestone Series
PPV REVIEW: Respect is Earned
"EDITORIAL: I'm sorry, but I just can't be friends with someone who doesn’t give Joe vs. Kobashi five stars.
Derek Burgan has been reviewing wrestling DVDs, comics, books, and other miscellaneous crap for the Observer/F4Wonline Empire since October 2005. He also writes the world famous Wrestling Enjoyment Index and the Gimmick Table. He even has a MySpace page! He can be reached at: Derek@gumgod.com
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).