The first match saw the return to ROH of Brian Kendrick, aka Spanky, who had not been seen in ROH since mid-2005. Kendrick got a huge reaction from the crowd, who showered him with "welcome back" chants. Kendrick really seemed to be enjoying the ovation he got, and went on to have a hell of a match with Roderick. This match was actually a lot better than I remembered it being from seeing it live, when I felt like it was a little pedestrian. It's always funny to see how some matches come off better live and don't hold up on DVD, while others benefit from post production or just a second viewing. My favorite example of this was the Roderick-Aries match that was on the PPV where Nigel beat Morishima for the title, because live I thought it was a really slow, boring match, but I enjoyed it a lot more when I saw the DVD. Anyway, solid match between Kendrick and the always-awesome Strong, who got the win with a Gibson Driver. Unfortunately, this would be Kendrick's only appearance in ROH before moving on to TNA.
We went from the return of a former main event star to the return of former ROH World Tag Team Champions...well, at least in straight tag team action, as the Kings Of Wrestling made their first appearance in New York as a tag team in over three years as they laid out an open challenge, which was answered by...the Bravado Bros. More amusing than the fact that the Bravados got this match was the fact that they got a prematch backstage promo. Some things never cease to amaze me. In any event, this was pretty much what you'd expect it to be: a squash to showcase the newly reunited KOW. The Bravados got in some token jobber offense, but this was pretty much all Kings, and they picked up the win with the KRS-ONE.
The third match of the evening was also our first grudge match as Necro Butcher & Eddie Kingston took on Embassy members Joey Ryan & Erick Stevens in a No Rules Match. Necro and Kingston were accompanied to the ring by Gypsy Joe, who was acknowledged as being well into his 70s and didn't really seem to know what was going on at all. That's not even an advanced age joke, he geniunely seemed like he didn't know what he was supposed to be doing out there and frequently wandered in the way of the guys who were trying to have a match. Most of it got edited off the DVD, but it was painfully obvious live. Pretty standard brawl that almost immediately spilled out of the ring and around ringside. Stevens powerbombed Kingston onto a table at ringside (that failed to break and made for a really nasty bump), but Necro put Joey Ryan away with the Terry Funk Special: a plastic bag over the head. Referee checked Joey's arm and called for the bell to give the win to Necro and Kingston. The Embassy tried to take a shot at Gypsy Joe after the match, but Kingston and Necro made the save and that was that.
We hit the halfway point with Davey Richards taking on El Generico, and I'll be damned but Davey got a terrific reaction from the crowd when he made his entrance. This was Davey's first appearance since signing the contract that made him exclusive to ROH and effectively pulled him from Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE, and the ROH fans gave him a very warm reception. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards were already the two most over guys in ROH in New York, but between Eddie working the ladder match and Davey signing that contract, I'm convinced that at this point they could castrate Derek Jeter in the middle of the ring and they'd still get cheered. Great match too, between two guys who have worked together a ton and know what they need to do to pull a good match out of each other. Davey spent the match working over Generico's arm and eventually made Generico tap to an armbar.
The next match saw the Briscoes make their first defense of the ROH World Tag Team Title, against the Dark City Fight Club. This was also the DCFC's first shot at the title, and I hate to say it, but I was underwhelmed by this one. I was kind of hoping that since I liked the opener better on a second viewing, I'd feel the same about this one, but unfortunately that's not the case. The match was only about 8-10 minutes long and came off like a standard TV match. It wasn't bad, but I was expecting more. Briscoes got the win out of nowhere with a spike Jay Driller, and then the real fun started as the Kings Of Wrestling tried to jump the Briscoes from behind like they did at Final Battle, but the Briscoes saw it coming and this turned into a three way brawl between the Briscoes, KOW, and DCFC. Well, it could be considered a four way brawl since your friends and mine, the Bravado Bros, came in to try and break it up, but since they were quickly disposed of to the floor where Shane Hagadorn proceeded to beat them up, let's just go ahead and consider them a non-factor. So far the feud progressed after this as a Briscoes-KOW feud, but this and other recent events would lead me to believe that we're looking at Kings Of Wrestling vs Dark City Fight Club down the line for the title.
Next, we got our only Pick Six match of the night, as (4)Kenny King put his spot on the line in a Four Corner Survival against Delirious, Steve Corino, and Skullkrusher Rasche Brown. For those keeping score, you don't need to tag in this one. I liked the story of this one where Corino and King, realizing that Rasche was the biggest threat in the match, got him out of the ring and spent most of the match beating up Delirious while knocking Rasche back to the floor whenever he tried getting back in the ring. Rasche finally made it back in and cleaned house on all three other guys. Rasche Brown is such a believable badass, and the funny thing about him is that if you just watch his TV squashes, you might just look at him and go "Oh look, another Goldberg clone." But when you watch him go longer than a couple of minutes, you see that he brings a lot more to the table than that. I really hope that at some point down the line, maybe in a year or so, he gets a bigger push because he's a veteran who has paid his dues, works hard, and is really over with the crowd. If nothing else, he'd make a very strong challenger for some future heel champion. Delirious picked up the win after hitting Shadows Over Hell on Kenny King to win his spot and, seemingly, push Roderick Strong out of the Pick Six pending the results of the World Title match later in the show.
The semi-main event featured a grudge match between Colt Cabana and Kevin Steen in what was originally supposed to be a verbal confrontation, but after a Video Wire where Steen told Cabana backstage about all the thing Cabana had said over the years that had hurt him, this became a full on match. They still did a verbal bit before the match where Cabana acknowledged what Steen said and apologized to him, but Steen said he still had to do what he had to do and attacked Cabana. Like I said earlier, I really like how they've given Steen legitimate motivation for the heel turn, and how he's getting what he perceives as vindication against all the people who have been holding him back and ruining his life for years now. I also LOVED the segment at the end of the match where Corino was telling Steen to "do it for him" while Cabana was trying to reason with Steen and break him free from Corino's control. Even though Steen ended up going with Corino (after cracking a chair on Generico a second time), it's clear that there's a conflict in Steen's mind and it's looking to me like we're heading toward an angle where Corino's been using Steen to achieve his own ends all along and leaves him laying in a heap once he's outlived his usefulness. This is probably my favorite storyline so far this year and I'm really looking forward to seeing where it goes because there are so many possibilities.
All this brings us to our main event as Tyler got yet one more chance to win the ROH World Title, with three judges at ringside in the event of any finish other than a pinfall or submission: Jim Cornette, Roderick Strong, and Kenny King. I've said it before and I'll say it again: they held off WAY too long on the Tyler Black title win to the point that when it happened here, nobody cared anymore. Another thing about this match, and in fact about the entire second half of Aries' title reign, was that Jim Cornette, under the guise of making Aries prove that he deserves to be champion, basically tried to stack the deck against Aries every chance he got, and while I don't normally badmouth old school stuff, this isn't Memphis in the 80s, the fans weren't going to look at it like "All right, Cornette's going to give that dang Aries what he deserves for all the bad things he's done!", it looked like "Okay, Aries has won hard fought title matches against Davey Richards, Kenny Omega, and Colt Cabana, he also just beat Jushin Liger, and Cornette's still doing everything he can to screw Aries out of the title and hand it to a guy who's blown more title shots than just about anybody." While I obviously gravitate towards the old school stuff, I also realize that there are some things that need to be tweaked for the modern day, and a self-righteous Commissioner trying to get the title off a heel champion who has successfully (and cleanly) defended his title against top notch competition, sitting at ringside as a judge and blatantly cheering against the guy, and getting pissed when he retains anyway, is one of them.
That said, this was exactly the kind of match they needed to have for Tyler's title victory, and was the match everybody was expecting at Final Battle. No stalling, both men went at it hard and had a great, exciting match. Even though I knew there was basically no chance that Aries was going to keep the title, my Swerve Alarm was still going off, and I suspected that it would come down to an inconclusive finish resulting in a vote with King voting for Aries, Cornette voting for Black, and the deciding vote coming down to Roderick Strong, who would then vote for Aries because he had been held down in ROH for years while guys like Black have been given opportunity after opportunity ahead of him and he was tired of being overlooked. That obviously didn't happen because, after miscommunication, Tyler superkicked Strong, superkicked Cornette, superkicked Aries three times, and finally hit the Phoenix Splash to pick up the win and finally become ROH World Champion. Cary Silkin was in the ring almost immediately hugging Tyler (not to make it look like EVERYONE was trying to get the title on him or anything), and then the locker room emptied to celebrate with Tyler. Roderick grabbed a mic during the celebration and sent an ultimatum to Tyler that when he got his shot, he was taking the title. So for you Tyler Black fans who were pissed that he didn't get the title at Final Battle 2008, there you go, there's your happy ending.
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Terrific show, ROH always brings its best when it comes to New York. I enjoyed this show a lot live, and as I said, I even enjoyed some of it more on a second viewing. Several major storylines were advanced, and Tyler Black finally won the ROH World Title, while simultaneously launching himself into a feud with Roderick Strong. But before he would make his first defense of the ROH World Title, Tyler Black would take part in a match that included every other champion in ROH, and we'll see that next time when I return to review Gold Rush. Until then, thanks for reading and I'll see you soon!