Aries vs Richards - 11/13/09
Okay, this show has a much better lineup, and I've heard great things about the main event on this one, so unless something goes really wrong, I think I'll come out of this DVD with a better taste in my mouth than the last one. The show opens with the Briscoes against the House Of Truth in a rematch from their recent match in Collinsville, Illinois, and while the first match was more competitive, this one was pretty much a straight-up squash for the Briscoes, though the House Of Truth did get in a short heat segment. The thing I've noticed a lot about Briscoes matches since Pearce took over has been that some of their cooler moves (Cutthroat Driver, springboard Doomsday Device, etc) are pretty much no longer allowed, and on the one hand I like that they're being saved for special occasions, the other hand says that I'd like to see them hit one of their big moves other than the Jay Driller or the regular Doomsday Device once in a while outside of a big match setting. Still, good match and good way to open the show.
From there we went to a terrific Pick Six match between (2)Tyler Black and (6)Claudio Castagnoli. This match was nonstop action from the opening bell, with both guys really going at it hard like they wanted to win and either retain or improve their standing in the Pick Six. Tyler was able to do some cool agility based moves that he's not able to do with smaller opponents, like one spot where Claudio elevated him like he was going to go for the pop-up European Uppercut, but Tyler landed with his feet on Claudio's shoulders and did a backflip off and landed his feet then nailed Claudio with a clothesline. Great finish as well as Claudio went for the UFO, but Tyler reversed that into a victory roll for the win. Tyler does have rare flashes of a killer instinct, and this was one of those matches, and Claudio did a great job too. Great match.
Match #3 saw Embassy members Erick Stevens & Joey Ryan take on the Super Smash Bros out of Canada. The SSB are one of those funny teams that are over with the crowd and have some nice double team work, and every so often score a win (such as their upset win over Steen & Generico months earlier), but never really get a push or are even around that much. They're a lot of fun to watch, and have the same kind of goofy charisma that Generico has, which will make you an instant favorite with this crowd. Stevens, meanwhile, is just getting established as a member of the Embassy and I think has really taken well to working as a heel after nearly three years working babyface in ROH. He does a great job of pulling off the sinister, sadistic monster who takes pleasure in hurting people. I like both he and Ryan, but I fear for both of them since, as I said earlier, the Embassy hasn't shown itself to be particularly healthy for the heat of anyone involved with it. This was basically an extended squash for the Embassy, with Stevens finishing Player Dos with a lariat.
We go back to singles action with the next match, as (3)Kenny Omega took on Katsuhiko Nakajima in a Pick Six match. I liked that they got Nakajima in for the weekend since, other than KENTA, we haven't had anywhere near as much international talent appearing in ROH as we have in years past. In a sense, that might be a good thing since KENTA, Marufuji, Morishima, and the Dragon Gate guys were in so often they were practically regulars on the ROH roster and that kind of took the luster off of them as special attractions, so now it means more when Nakajima or KENTA appear. In fact, that's been a common theme because we were really getting so much handed to us by ROH, especially in the 2005-2008 timeframe, that they had to scale back in terms of everything: the international wrestlers weren't popping up every month, people were saving the big moves for special occasions instead of hitting them in every match, the length of the live events was scaled back big time, and (even though I'm against this one) the World Title isn't being defended in the main event of every show, so that when all these things happen, the crowd isn't so burnt out by it that it doesn't register. Complain all you want, but ROH has made some very smart moves over the last year and a half, and I'm on board with most of what they've done.
But getting back to the match at hand, this was a great match with neither guy holding back, and they were literally killing each other with high impact move after high impact move and they kept kicking out time and time again. This goes back to what I was just talking about with holding stuff back, because this was the kind of match that happened all the time under the old management, but was able to stand out the way things are done now. Nakajima showed that he had really grown since the last time we saw him, as he showed a lot more personality and wasn't just coming out and throwing kicks right from the start, he showed that he's able to carry a match now without relying on them and didn't really start breaking out the kicks until the end of the match. Back and forth action that kept going and going until Omega finally hit the electric chair into the German Suplex for the win. Even though there were points where I thought Nakajima was going to win, it made sense for Omega to go over since he was challenging for the World Title the following evening. There was a strange moment after the match where Nakajima was mad that he lost the match and laid Omega out, then helped him to his feet and demanded a rematch, and he and Omega shook hands...and that was it. I understand the postmatch anger attack and demand for a rematch, but why would Omega stick his hand out to the guy after getting beat up by him? That made no sense, but this was otherwise a really fun match.
We hit the halfway point with a tag team match pitting Rhett Titus & Kenny King against Colt Cabana & Delirious. Cabana and Delirious are the kings of comedy when it comes to professional wrestling, and King and Titus both "get it" and know how to play into their shenanigans. On top of that, there is no team around today that works the old school, southern tag team style better than Titus and King, they have impeccable timing with everything from double teams to JUST cutting their opponents off at the last second from making the hot tag. I always enjoy watching them work and if it weren't for the fact that they've been working underneath some other really talented teams, you could rely on them to carry a tag team division, and I wouldn't even be against them getting a short run with the tag title in ROH if the opportunity arose. Cabana taps King out to the Billy Goat's Curse to win the match, building more momentum going into his title shot in Chicago Ridge.
Next is a Pick Six match with (1)Roderick Strong taking on Chris Hero, and the thing I loved about this match is that it had great psychology. Hero spent most of the match working over Strong's knee, trying to take away the backbreakers, but Roderick would keep using the backbreakers anyway with the hope that he would swallow the damage to himself and use his big moves to try and put Hero away. From there Hero went into the usual array of strikes but couldn't put Roderick away, and it finally took two shots from the Golden Elbow to beat Roderick and take the #1 spot in the Pick Six. Great match with both guys coming out looking strong.
From there we go back to tag team action, as Kevin Steen & El Generico took on the Young Bucks. I've loved the slow burn mini-feud that had built between these two teams over the course of 2009, with the Bucks facing Steen & Generico in their first ROH match and losing, but facing them several more times over the year and getting progressively closer and closer to beating them. This match in particular, Steen & Generico were throwing everything that had at the Bucks and couldn't put them away, to the point where Generico had to break out the top rope brainbuster to get the win. I liked the story of the Bucks getting closer each time to solving the puzzle, leading into their final match at Final Battle 2009.
And finally, we come to our main event as Austin Aries defended the ROH World Title against one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions, Davey Richards. Aries cut a great prematch promo talking about how people have been saying that Davey's the best thing going today while he's just been scraping by, but tonight he's going to prove why he's the ROH World Champion when he beats Davey Richards. I enjoyed that because like I've pointed out, Aries has been put in a lot of goofy, non-focused upon positions as World Champion, many of which have featured him acting like a comedy wrestler instead of the great worker that I know he is, and I liked that he basically said "playtime's over, I'm going to take care of business."
The match itself was fabulous, it went about 45 minutes and they did a great job of pacing the match and saving all the big moves and near falls for the end. It was scary how into Davey Richards this crowd was, they really wanted him to win the title and thought he actually had on several occasions. You can tell when a crowd really likes someone because they get so emotionally vested in them during their big matches, and it was never more obvious than this match that Davey is the star of the future for ROH. I really liked how Aries made it look like he did a lot of homework on Davey, as he was able to avoid or counter a lot of Davey's signature moves, and I think Aries really was right when he said that the fans thought he had lost his edge, but he showed in this match that he still has it. Aries obviously came out on top, but Davey wouldn't give up and hung in there with Aries all the way until the end, and Aries literally had to throw everything he had at Davey to beat him. He hit the crucifix bomb, kick to the head and a dropkick in the corner, but Davey kicked out. He gave Davey the brainbuster, but Davey kicked out. He put Davey in the Last Chancery, but Davey wouldn't quit, so Aries let him out, hit several kneestrikes, another brainbuster, and finally put him back in the Last Chancery and the ref called for the bell because Davey was unconscious.
This match was terrific and was one of those moments I love where a guy lost, but came out of the match looking like a million bucks. Aries had to nearly kill the guy to beat him, and even though Aries won the match, Davey never submitted. I loved it. It gets better, because after the match Aries broke character to tell Davey that he just gave him the match of his life, then shook his hand and thanked him. Aries left and Davey slowly got to his feet and got a standing ovation from the crowd. As if there was any doubt that Davey is the star of the future for ROH, this match just cemented what ROH has with him. Great match to cap off a great show.