For years, I’ve been mildly intrigued by non-WWE wrestling, but never really pulled the trigger outside of TNA. I was sucked into an episode of Impact in 2009 and stuck with it for about two years, until one day I finally was fed up with the booking. I can’t remember what match it was, but I told my wife, “If so-and-so wins, I’m done.” So-and-so won, and I haven’t watched a minute since.
I first heard of Ring of Honor about five years ago. The closest I came to actually watching it was some episode centered around Matt Hardy this past winter. Yawn. Knowing the reputation it’s had as a launching point for many current upper-echelon WWE competitors, the intrigue finally got the best of The Champ this week.
The first impression? Meh.
The most recent episode felt like just another wrestling show. Coming off a couple major events with New Japan Pro Wrestling and a No. 1 contender’s match between Michael Elgin and A.J. Styles the week before, ROH didn’t have much in terms of storyline buildup for this hour. The closest we got was for the main event, in which Kevin Steen and Cliff Compton apparently form an odd-couple pairing to battle Outlaw Inc. None of the four matches were duds, but none were particularly great. It’s clear ROH saves its best stuff for special events, kind of like NXT has done for ArRIVAL and Takeover this year.
I like Silas Young as a “man’s man” heel, and Caprice Coleman as an athletic semi-evangelistic babyface. I’ve always been a fan of Jay Lethal‘s work when he shows up on the screen. But the characters don’t seem to have nearly as much depth as in the more mainstream promotions, and the production values, as expected, are a few steps below the major leagues.
Was an isolated, taped TV episode worth the years-long hype the company has built in my eyes? Not even close. Was the same episode worth giving ROH another shot? Oh, we’ll totally be back next week. After all, my first impression of NXT wasn’t all that great either.
Anyway, on to the stuff that actually matters.
ETHAN PAGE vs. SILAS YOUNG
Young calls himself “Pro Wrestling’s Last Real Man”, and I tend to believe him. He’s from Milwaukee, he has the mustache of an ’80s Brewers infielder, he starts with a pair of side headlocks … he’s manly enough. Page no-sells a shoulder tackle, and Young gets angry enough to dropkick him and clothesline him. Fallaway slam attempt countered, and Page does the eighth-grade go-on-all-fours-and-trip-him-move, followed by an elbow drop. “Ego” gets tied up in the ropes, and Young hits a springboard clothesline, then it’s time for five elbow drops and a cover. Back to the side headlock, and Page breaks out, hits a backdrop, kicks Young and hits a cool DDT variation for 2. Since this isn’t WWE, I get the feeling I won’t be able to name half these signature moves. I can however, name a rolling senton where Young lands on his feet. He goes for a springboard moonsault but lands on his feet when Page moves, and Page climbs the ropes for a a jumping enziguiri. Want a manly finisher? Try a backbreaker/short lariat combo.
Technical Merit: Page still seems a little … green? But I was impressed with Young.
Artistic Impression: Pretty basic story. Manly wrestler beats less-manly, less-skilled wrestler.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
Kevin Kelly says Young has said some of the most politically incorrect things in professional wrestling. We’ll see right here.
Never again, never again will i be disrespected the way I was tonight with this opponent. It’ sreal simple: I’m the last real man in professional wrestling. I’m Silas Young, and I’ve spent too damn long being overlooked. So if Ring of Honor doesn’t want to give me the opportunities I deserve? Then I’m gonna make my own opportunity, and I’m gonna take it, whether you like it or not.
That was pretty basic, old-school, PC promo. Nice oversell, Kelly.
The guy in the middle looks about 130 soaking wet, so he must not be the one competing. In fact, it’s Tadarius Thomas. He’ll face an apparent real-life preacher man!
TADARIUS THOMAS (w/Jimmy Jacobs and Adam Page) vs. CAPRICE COLEMAN
Before the match, Coleman informs us that life’s about choices — today’s choices can affect the rest of our lives, and if you let the wrong people in your head, they’ll mess you up. He talks about Jesus, then tells Thomas he can be a legend in life … or he can listen to The Decade. He refers to Jacobs as a cross between Marilyn Manson and Prince, then calls him an “artist formerly known as talented.” That’ll get a boot to the gut to get this going, and Thomas is in control before the break.
On the way back, Coleman hits an STO and strikes T.D. into the corner. He hits a Northern Lights suplex, rolls over and hang on, hits a second, repeats and hits a THIRD with a bridge for 2. That was awesome. Inverted atomic drop is blocked, and Thomas hits what looks a like a rear exploder suplex. Thomas goes up top, but Coleman leaps up for the Frankensteiner, faceplants him and hits a sick top-rope leg lariat for the win.
Technical Merit: Great athleticism. Coleman has a different style than I’m used to seeing, and I like it!
Artistic Impression: Coleman beats Thomas, then tries to get him to leave The Decade. After all, why would you want to be in a group where the manager plants your head into the mat with his foot after you lose, then kicks Page in the gut WHEN HE’S NOT EVEN IN THE MATCH? Jacobs is a tool.
TOTAL SCORE: **
This whole foray into ROH started because someone posted a picture of Jay Lethal on Twitter, and I said I missed him from TNA four years ago. Someone directed me to ROHWrestling.com, and in the first episode, we get to see the World Television Champion … and apparently a freshly-turned heel. Lethal wipes his nose with one of the customary entrance streamers to drive the point home.
His interesting-looking new manager, Truth Martini, said his job is to open the eyes of ROH wrestlers and lead them to greatness, but Lethal opened his eyes.
I don’t care … just give Jay the mic.
You can go ahead and stop clapping, because you fake guys are the same people who are gonna go home and tell everybody that I’m the worst wrestler in the world because I sold out. You guys are a bunch of fake sheep!
That’s how you start a promo.
People are asking Lethal why. Right question, wrong people. We should ask ourselves why we turned our backs on him. He’s the 2012 Survival of the Fittest winner. He’s beaten Kurt Angle and Ric Flair, and on top of that he’s the ROH TV champ. He’s gonna make the TV title second to none … including the world title. So it’s open challenge time, and Cheeseburger, who makes Spike Dudley look like a Greek god, sprints in.
JAY LETHAL (c) vs. CHEESEBURGER, ROH World Television Championship
Let me guess … he’s called Cheeseburger because he needs to eat one? Kelly and Steve Corino talk about how he’s all heart, but heart won’t do a thing for the superkick with which Lethal leads off. It’s photo-op time on the apron …
… then Lethal pummels his 125-pound foe onto the floor. The beatdown continues, and briefly stops, when Brutal Bob runs down, but a Randy Savage-quality flying elbow drop later it’s … not over?! This must be where the heart part comes in, and the challenger even gets a few forearms in a strike exchange, then a couple chops and a crossbody, but even a fast count can’t keep Lethal down. Superkick to the gut from Lethal, then a backspring move attempt, but Cheeseburger counters with a rollout into a DDT for 2. Lethal goes back to the backspring for a cutter variation, the Lethal Injection. That’s a cool finisher.
A former TV champ, Matt Taven, runs in for another challenge, but Lethal declines and hits the runway. Tommaso Ciampa, the most recent TV champ, cuts him off, and this turns into a three-way brawl until the clearly more-competent-than-WWE referees break it up. Lethal is livid, and he challenges both men to a triple threat for the TV title next week to Truth’s chagrin.
Technical Merit: Basic, but effective. Surprised to see Cheeseburger get multiple offensive moves.
Artistic Impression: Fun little underdog story for 4 minutes that also establishes Lethal as a fighting champion. I’ve seen far worse.
TOTAL SCORE: **
Main event time, and speaking of guys I kind of miss from TNA, Homicide is in the house! But what’s with the silly-ass mask?
On another note, this is The Champ’s introduction to Kevin Steen, who must be good if he calls himself Mr. Wrestling. He has a chair, his teammate comes with a chair, and the Charm City Street Fight is on.
KEVIN STEEN & CLIFF COMPTON vs. OUTLAW, INC. (Eddie Kingston & Homicide), Charm City Street Fight
Late in the first minute, Steen, whose chair came from the crowd, uses a kid’s backpack to subdue Kingston. We also have a reference to an Orioles-Mariners brawl from about 20 years ago and about 10 namedrops. Various chair shots ensue, including Homicide crotching Compton with it and whipping him into the propped chair in the corner. Homicide, who’s wearing a tie for the occasion, dives out onto Steen. Back in the ring, Steen catches Homicide, then goes for the Go Home Driver, which looks like a Black Hole Slam, but goes into a White Noise variation. That was cool.
Break time, and when we’re back, Kingston is destroying Compton with the chair and Steen has a ladder. Steen is happy.
He props it up in the corner, but Homicide turns the attention elsewhere with a tornado DDT. He tries to faceplant Steen into the ladder, but Steen blocks and the ladder bends. A back bodydrop later, Homicide’s body appears to finish the ladder off. Steen goes up top and waits for Kingston to get up, but he’s cut off. Compton slips inside and DDTs him as Corino and Kelly discuss Compton’s recent KFC commercial?! Interesting. More interesting: He sets up a chair and drop toeholds Kingston into it. Homicide comes in wearing a bunch of streamers, and Compton tosses him for a second ladder bump. Compton follows up with a Michinoku driver, then vacates the premises, only to return with a second, hopefully sturdier ladder. He DDTs Homicide, rolls him onto the old ladder, then sets up the new one?! Kingston stops the insanity by pushing it over and crotching Compton on the ropes as one of the announcers makes a “landed right on his ding-ding” reference. Steen’s back in, but Homicide hits the Ace Crusher on him onto the ladder. Steen fights off Kingston while Homicide is up top, uses Kingston to knock Homicide down and, while Homicide is in a predicament in the corner, Steen F-5s Kingston onto a ladder for the win.
Technical Merit: I mean … it was a street fight. A few cool spots and moves, though.
Artistic Impression: Chair shots, ladders, finishers onto ladders, etc. A cool story if you’re into that sort of thing.
TOTAL SCORE: *3/4
Steen goes for a postmatch handshake with his partner, but Compton rejects it and leaves. Outlaw Inc. briefly ponders taking advantage of the 2-on-1 with Steen, who has a ladder in hand, but the heels dip out to finish the show. Wimps.
Check back next week for more ROH, and come back Monday morning for a review of WWE Payback. In the meantime, please place any thoughts/comments below, and follow The Champ on Twitter @jpetrie18.