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By Stuart Carapola on 6/1/2010 10:52 AM
SoCal Showdown - 1/29/10

Before getting to the main show, I would be remiss in not mentioning the bonus match of Larry Zbyszko taking on Scotty 2 Hotty, with special referee Johnny Fairplay. The fans crapped all over this one, but I enjoyed it for what it was, because this entire show was a part of the Wrestlereunion convention, and Larry and Scotty were two of the guys that were on hand, so this got put together as a special attraction. I wasn't expecting Danielson-McGuinness out of it, and it was fine for what it was: a nostalgia trip where each guy did their trademark stuff to pop the old school fans. And for all the flak Fairplay catches, the guy's obviously a wrestling fan and I think you can tell just by watching his TV persona, so it's not like he was just some celebrity they brought in who had no clue of anything about the business. Zbyszko stalled, Scotty made his move and was about to go for the Worm, but Fairplay stopped him from completing the move and allowed Zbyszko to roll Scotty up with a handful of tights for the win. This led to Scotty attacking Fairplay after the match and getting ready to go for the Worm, only to get interrupted again, this time by Colt Cabana who knocked Scotty out and gave him the Worm, then hiked his tights up his ass and gave Fairplay the Stinkface. Hey, it was there for laughs and I enjoyed it for what it was.

The show proper opened with Scott Lost and Scorpio Sky making their ROH debuts against Colt Cabana and El Generico, and I was thrilled just to see this match happen because I think Scott Lost is an amazingly talented guy and I've been screaming for ROH to bring him in for the longest time, and the fact that he brought Scorpio (another phenomenally talented guy who's also a great talker) with him just made it that much better. That said, I knew they were just in for the one shot and wasn't expecting them to come in and main event right away, but they had a strong showing and it was good booking to put them on first and have the hometown guys pop the crowd to start the show. Cabana hit the Colt45 on Scorpio to get the win, but good first showing by the Dynasty.

We moved on to an Anything Goes Match between the Necro Butcher and Erick Stevens of the Embassy, and I was a bit disappointed by this one. When I hear "anything goes" and "Necro Butcher" in the same sentence, I'm expecting something pretty wild, and they did brawl around ringside and do a couple of shots on each other with road signs, but other than that and a run in by Joey Ryan, this was a pretty tame match. Finish came when Ryan's interference backfired and Necro got Stevens with an O'Connor Roll and then the Embassy beat Necro up after the match. Interesting to note that nobody came out to help Necro, a subtle foreshadowing of Necro's later joining of the Embassy.

Next we get Pick Six action, as (6)Roderick Strong defended his spot against Delirious, and again, I have to say I was a bit disappointed because these guys have had a ton of matches against one another and they've all been great, and with Roderick on an amazing roll of great matches, I was expecting more out of this one. Roderick won with a Gibson Driver, but what should have been a better match in a higher spot on the card came off as kind of flat to me.

That was followed by another Pick Six match, with (5)Tyler Black defending his spot against Joey Ryan of the Embassy. Interestingly, Joey Ryan was the default babyface here due to the fact that California is Joey Ryan's home turf and is where he made his name. I think it's a bit strange that Tyler's supposed to be the Chosen One and all that, yet he keeps getting booked against guys who are going to get better reactions than him. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were trying to make the fans turn on him. I also realized that Tyler Black reminds me of the rock star guy from Get Him To The Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This was a great match and I really liked how Ryan spent the whole match focusing on Tyler's arm, I love that there psychology. Hard fought win for Tyler Black with a great finish where Joey went for the Mustache Ride, but Tyler reversed it to God's Last Gift for the win. I liked this a lot and am glad Joey got a chance to show what he can do as a single in a straight up match with no Embassy silliness.

Next we got a pair of grudge matches, the first being Jerry Lynn's return to ROH as he took on the man who put him out of action with a spike piledriver, Kenny King. I still don't get why some people had a problem with Jerry Lynn getting the ROH Title last year, the guy is still in great shape and looks as good as he ever did, is able to do things in the ring that most guys his age either can't or wouldn't try to do, he's still got a huge passion for the business despite demoralizing runs in both WWE and TNA, and ROH is exactly the kind of place where talented yet underutilized guys like him come to perform for fans and a company that actually appreciates in-ring talent, yet he didn't get the kind of reception that I think he deserved and frankly, not the reception I personally expected him to get. I don't know if people were bitter because he got the belt and not Tyler, or if he was the scapegoat that "never would have been champion if GABE was still booking" or what, but he had some freakin' awesome matches when he had the title, and is definitely a more consistently excellent wrestler than Tyler, or Aries for that matter. I do think he had a somewhat unauspicious loss of the ROH Title, being brushed out of the match first and all, but he had a great run that a lot of people wanted to see him get in TNA, so I really don't see where the breakdown was.

So anyway, this was Jerry's first match in ROH since October when they did the injury angle, and he came out like a house of fire and made it look like he wanted to kill Kenny King, and that's exactly the way it should be, guys shouldn't come out and pose to pyro or any of that crap when a guy did what Kenny did to Jerry, and it's really refreshing to see things done properly in this company. That set the tone for this entire match as this was just a straight up fight, with Jerry looking for revenge and Kenny still trying to humiliate Jerry, even giving him his own Cradle Piledriver. Jerry Lynn pulled out the old Bret Hart playing possum finish, acting like the Cradle Piledriver killed him, but then catching Kenny in a small package out of nowhere for the win. However, Kenny King made the mistake of coming after Jerry with a chair after the match and ended up taking a Cradle Piledriver on the chair, prompting referee Todd Sinclair to reverse the decision and award the win to Kenny King by DQ. Hey, fine with me, there was a time when finishes like that were overused, but that day is long past and I'm okay with it being used once in a while to tell a story, especially if that story is that Jerry doesn't care if he wins or not, as long as he's able to put a hurt on Kenny King.

That leads us to the second of the grudge matches, which doubled as yet a third Pick Six match, as (2)Kevin Steen took on Human Tornado, who was there to defend his buddy El Generico, whom Steen had turned on at Final Battle. Steen cut a great prematch promo where he basically said he wasn't going to even acknowledge Generico going forward, but sees that everyone is taking his side after the split, and he tells Tornado that he made a mistake taking "his" side, and that's going to cause Steen to make the mistake of killing him. This was step one of Steen morphing from the loveable fat guy who hung out with his bumbling sidekick Generico, and into this amazing, sinister heel who (and this is the key here) has legitimate reasons to believe he's in the right in this whole situation, and that is always the mark of a terrific villian: he thinks he's the good guy. There's a lot of history here because back in the PWG days, Tornado and Generico formed a team called Two Skinny Black Guys, which may be the greatest name for a tag team ever, and Steen is no stranger to PWG, as he reigned as PWG Champion for several months in 2005 before dropping the title to Joey Ryan. Also in PWG, long prior to Cabana buddying around with Steen in backstage segments and sticking up for Generico in ROH, Cabana was a frequent backstage companion of both men in some of the hilarious backstage skits that company did as DVD extras. So basically, if you're not watching PWG, you're only getting half the story.

The first thing I noticed when watching this match was that Steen's crippling knee injury that had him limping around and would keep giving out on him during matches is now magically fine. I suppose you can say that it was all a ruse on Steen's part and he was faking how bad the injury was, but somehow I don't think they thought it out so deeply. Tornado, sometimes to his detriment, is a top notch bump machine, and indeed he spent most of this match bouncing around like a pinball for Steen. Tornado got some hope spots in, but for the most part this was just Steen dominating Tornado before putting him away with the Package Piledriver. Cabana came out after the match, again looking for an explanation from Steen for his actions, and Steen kept trying to walk away from him but Cabana wouldn't let him leave, so finally Steen slid out of the ring and left through the crowd because he felt like he had nothing to say to Cabana. Okay, then. Interestingly, I gather that this was going to be the beginning of a semi-regular gig in ROH for Human Tornado, but he abruptly announced his retirement after this show and his future bookings in ROH were cancelled.

This brings us to the first of two main events for the evening, as Jushin "Thunder" Liger made his return to ROH to face ROH World Champion Austin Aries in a non-title match. The storyline logic for this being non-title was that Liger was not in the Pick Six Rankings, and even though he's obviously a veteran who came in with a lot of clout, he was not in line for a title shot, and I like that ROH was protecting the integrity of their fairly new ranking system instead of dismissing it completely just to add another edge to a match that didn't need it. My thinking going into this match was that it was non-title because Liger was going to go over, perhaps to set up a title rematch down the line, which I think was a reasonable interpretation. I love Aries' prematch promos where he rips on his opponent and the fans in attendance, this guy is such a pure heel because he doesn't try to get cheered, he goes out of his way to get people to hate him, even if the crowd is cheering for him at the beginning. I'm sure deep down he does appreciate the fan support, but he doesn't let it go to his head and tempt him to try and be a cool heel when he's supposed to be the biggest jerk in the company. I loved the finish where Aries hit a low blow and then hit the brainbuster for the win, and I was really surprised when I heard that Aries pinned Liger, but even more surprised when I found out the finish was Liger's idea. I think it's really classy that Liger offered to put Aries over because he could have VERY easily big leagued ROH on this one but he didn't. It also becomes a big bragging point for Aries, who now was justified in not giving Liger a title shot since he couldn't even beat him non-title.

All this brings us to the main event, an 8-man tag pitting the Kings Of Wrestling and the American Wolves against the Briscoes and the Young Bucks. This match got a ton of praise from people who were in attendance, and is indicative of how strong ROH's tag team division had become, because not only was this closing a show that included an appearance by Jushin Liger, but it didn't even need to be a title match to make it interesting. Indeed, this was an excellent match that had not one, but two heat segments (one for each Young Buck) and then when the Briscoes tagged in to clean house, all hell broke loose and it turned into a big schmozz, and I don't even mean that in the crappy CHIKARA sense where people come in and flip around and don't sell anything, it was a classic pier six brawl with all eight guys throwing everything they had at the other team to try and come out on top, and in the end it was Eddie Edwards getting the Achilles Lock for the submission win to a huge pop and a huge ovation. Eddie was over like a god in this match, and the whole place was chanting his name after he got the win. You know, as stupid an idea as it was for him to do that ladder match after breaking his arm, you can't deny that he earned so much respect for toughing it out that he's now undeniably made with the ROH audience. I don't know that this is going to be Match Of The Year when the voting goes down in January, but it's definitely an early contender.

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Other than a couple of slightly disappointing (though not bad) matches early on, this show was a lot of fun, and I particularly enjoyed Jerry Lynn vs Kenny King and, of course, the 8 man main event. Thumbs up on this one!