ROH Reborn: Stage One DVD 4/23/04 St. Paul, MN
First, the blabbityblah tacked to the beginning of the DVD:
-- Homicide says stuff. Some words are English, some almost Spanish, one is Japanese but the majority is gibberish. He's going to beat someone named Samoan Joe. Not sure who that is.
-- Two (self-described) white trash guys- that is, the Carnage Crew - vow to find who crapped on their gear. Yeah, Sapolsky's a good booker.
-- Samoa(n) Joe pretends to be strong style by speaking quietly, then front chokes some jobber. Danielson shows him he did it wrong then demands a title shot. Segment ends with a closeup of Joe contemplating having a peanut butter & nanner sammich.
-- Dunn & Marcos waste 20 seconds of time quoting 80s metal lyrics. We then get to watch them walk into the building. Ooooookay then.
Apparently, ROH's rebirth hasn't even begun any contractions, yet.
And now our show. Commentary is a plosive-popping Chris Lovie and a geographically challenged C.M. Punk.
1. Matt Stryker[o] vs Nigel McGuinness[x] (10:11)
Nigel uses most of Johnny Saint's moves. Both guys use awkward DDT variations. Odd anticlimax finish- two nearfalls followed by a three from one jackknife hold. They seemed uncertain with each other so the match was clunky and rather uncoordinated, but the light, slower style they worked in precluded any major failures beyond the goofy finish. Commentary tried to sell it as coming from Stryker working Nigel's leg, but it didn't come off as believeable. **
-- Ricky Steamboat doesn't look at the camera and name-drops 70s WWWF guys. Not sure why.
2. H.C. Loc & Tony DeVito[o] vs Kevin Dunn & Kirby Marcos[x] (8:19) gattai nadare
Lovie calls this a "bonus match". I say to myself "huh?" and Punk replies "in whose eyes is this a bonus?" Well said indeed. This looked like it'd be a dumb squash, but was actually a very crisply executed, competitive match. Had far more spirit and confidence than the opener. Punk's MST3K-like commentary was nice, also. **
-- Colt Cabana, (incorrectly) thinking he's really funny, loudly plugs new features on ROH's website, mentions Allison Danger menstruating (ah huh...), then makes obliquely racist comments about the Havana Pitbulls, who promptly appear and cut a somnambulistic promo, soon leaving as uninterestingly as they arrived. Becky Bayless then shows up and Colt moves from unfunny racism to unfunny sexism. Remember kids, if you talk REALLY LOUD, then you're FUNNY! honkhonk buzzbuzz nyuknyuk ha-chachacha!!
3. Justin Credible[x] vs John Walters[o] (8:52) Codebreaker-like move to the back of the
The far-superior Walters carried Credible to an acceptable WWE television-level performance in an irrelevant filler match. Passable American-style action, but no dramatic construction whatsoever. *3/4
4. Six Man Mayhem: Jack Evans vs Jimmy Rave vs Alex Shelley[o] vs Jimmy Jacobs[x] vs
MASADA vs Danny Daniels (11:37) Border City Stretch
Non-stop, largely mistake-free, highly entertaining MEN'S Club-esque indy madness. Everyone got to do their thing in one crazy sprint. No psychology, but who cares! Best match so far. **1/2
-- Shelley hopes Jacobs won't be a weak link in their coming tag match in Chicago.
5. Special referee Ricky Steamboat: B.J. Whitmer[o] vs Colt Cabana[x] (11:36) nadare
Punk cuts a promo in the ring regarding the Chicago show - a recurring theme this show - and insults St Paul. Articulate, but stock material and rather pointless. After Whitmer gets to the ring, Punk lays out Steamboat, so the referee won't be special after all.
Its a grudge match, but Cabana mugs to the fans and clowns around anyway. (Back on commentary, Chicago nationalist C.M. Punk says he hates the people of St Paul because the Northstars moved to Dallas. Huh?) Didn't much feel like a grudge match, but they do brawl in the crowd despite Cabana being less believable as a brawler than he is a comedian. Once they get back in the ring, they top things off with some decent oudou mimicry, but this wasn't designed to do more than continue a feud, and it definitely did not overachieve. **1/4
-- An anthropomorphic chipmunk interviews Alex Shelley, who puts himself over and plugs a future show.
6. Delirious[x] vs Matt Sydal[o] (6:23) quasi-Shiranui Kai
In this, their official ROH debut, they were given just enough time to show off their styles and make you interested in seeing more. Working basically a Japanese junior heavyweight match, Delirious carried and looked the better of the two, bringing out some pretty cool transitions. They got a little sloppy near the end while wriggling out of finisher attempts, but it was a fine effort given the time constraint and the fact that the match was basically filler. **
7. Jay Briscoe[o] & Mark Briscoe vs Ricky Reyes[x] & Rocky Romero (18:21) spike Jay
Since the Briscoes here are tag champs, and not once during this show has ROH commentary shut up about the following day's Chicago show with them defending against Punk & Cabana as though this DVD were a TV show and the Chicago event a live bloody PPV you could order (it wasn't), it was an obvious foregone conclusion that they'd win this, which is a rather lame way to debut a dominating new team. That said, despite the outcome not in doubt, the four worked a solid J-junior match complete with Japanese tag rules. It was clear they hadn't worked together, which resulted in some strange breakdowns reminiscent of a schoolgirl fight during recess, but taken as a whole they delivered. This wasn't a "big match" style encounter, but successfully worked on the level of the notable, highlighted midcard match it was supposed to be. ***
8. Bryan Danielson[o] vs C.M. Punk[x] (26:09) cobra twist
Before things get underway, Steamboat resurfaces and allows the fans to declare him the referee. He asks Danielson if its OK, then tells Punk he doesn't get a choice. Right, because they're feuding. We get it.
Three main components went into this match's delineated dramatic impetus: 100% heel Punk and 100% face Steamboat don't like each other, uninvolved with the feud Danielson focuses on Punk's abdomen and Punk focuses on Danielson's back. For the first 20 minutes, they worked this like it was 1988 and they were main eventing Starrcade. Punk made sure to bring out every stock, stale heel stalling technique he could think of, so the first several minutes were quite dull. They gradually accelerated the pace until after 20' they busted out the modernity - Punk kicked out of a dragon suplex and returned fire with a Shining Wizard, the Cattle Mutilation was applied and escaped, the Pepsi Plunge attempted, all building to the thundering crescendo of Danielson winning with a cobra twist, preying on the abdominals he'd been dwelling on the whole time and making Punk tap immediately since you may have heard he & Cabana have a big title match tomorrow and he needs his health. Honestly, this never kicked into full gear and both guys were rather lazy at times; in fact, Danielson sold the dizziness he caused himself with an airplane spin more than anything Punk did to his back. This was basically a very good house show match done in a lighter, retro style to save energy for the coming "real show". Punk's heel antics and interaction with Steamboat added nothing and in fact got quite in the way, particularly during the first half. So, in the end, a watcheable effort but not a classic by any means. ***1/2
Afterwards, despite a loud "look behind you" chant from the crowd, Cabana attacks Steamboat from behind and holds him for Punk to wail on until the Briscoes make the save. This went about three minutes too long.
9. ROH World Title: (c) Samoa Joe vs Homicide (15:51) no contest
This was well on its way to being match of the night and cracking four stars. They worked a fast, stiff Japanese style mostly reminiscent of New Japan (including rather random transitions between ground work and striking), intelligently showing that they knew each other. Homicide had Joe scouted, not allowing him to be his usual Stiffer Cena self, so this didn't look like a typical, predictable Joe squash but a genuine championship main event.
And then, alas, Sapolsky donned a Vince Russo mask:
In the 16th minute, Joe goes for his Island Driver (Emerald Flowsion) finisher. Homicide
wiggles over, hits a schoolboy and Joe kicks out at two, but the bell rings. Homicide acts like he won, but the ref says no. Commentary shrieks about Homicide getting screwed and sells some huge controversy taking place... from a routine nearfall. So, obviously, someone screwed up - either Joe kicked out too soon, the ref counted too slow or the timekeeper rang the bell too late - but, as telling the audience their own eyes are wrong is a consistent Sapolsky leitmotif, everyone pressed on anyway, hoping commentary would pick up the slack. But it doesn't matter since the finish would've been self-indulgent garbage even had it been correctly executed!
So then, as the St Paul fans blankly look on, dumbfounded that ROH would screw them at their debut show there, Homicide snaps and punches out the ref. The lights go out and Homicide throws an (admittedly impressive) fireball in the face of Joe, who sells it like a simultaneous outbreak of flesh-eating virus, crocodile attack and point-blank gattling gun fire.
SOMEHOW, this all leads to a wild free-for-all featuring the whole locker room, including almost everyone taking turns diving to the floor like its suddenly a Slipknot concert. This all eventually segues - somehow - into Punk & Cabana alone in the ring with non-wrestler Ricky Steamboat, who proceeds to lay them out as though he were Stone Cold. The show ends with a 100% Raw-looking shot of Punk glaring angrily, setting up the huge Chicago show that's already happened by the time anyone's watched this DVD.
A ****+ main event becomes an intelligence insulting **3/4 with post-match chaos deliberately designed to cast an illusion over the fans in attendence and make them think they weren't screwed. More importantly, what this seemed to be was a lone nut megalomaniacal indy booker using an entire show in a new market as a demo tape for a WWE job. You can't pretend to have television with an upcoming PPV to sell, yet that's exactly what this show was so Sapolsky could selfishly show off how hip he is to modern American booking. In doing so, in the span of just a few hours ROH essentially added and
alienated a new market. Far from showing themselves to be a true, up and coming alternative, the end result showed us a desperate indy wannabe hoping not for a rebirth after an embarrassing pedophilia scandal, but a bigger job somewhere else.
Best match: Danielson-Punk ***1/2
Worst match: Credible-Walters *3/4
Historical note: during the main event, Punk mentions on commentary that Masahiro Chono
won his "first" NWA World Heavyweight Title with the STF.
Actually, Chono only held the title once, defeating Rick Rude for it in a decision tournament on 8/12/92- with a diving shoulder attack. And now you know- and knowing is half the battle.