The show opens with the Eddie Edwards 10 Minute Hunt, and today's lucky contestant is Bobby Dempsey, who cut a nice prematch promo about how he spent two years getting abused by Eddie and the rest of Sweet & Sour Inc but kept getting back up and how tonight will be no different. If you read my ROH On HDNet Report, you know how I feel about the 10 Minute Hunt: they took Eddie Edwards, a guy who has been an ass kicker and main eventer for most of the last two years, and turned him into a guy who has to cheat to beat jobbers. I think they're doing Eddie a big disservice by booking him this way, and I hope the end to this is one change we'll see under the new booking regime. Case in point, Eddie spent 85% of this match getting his ass kicked by Dempsey before getting a Hail Mary Achilles Lock on Dempsey for the tapout win. Dempsey looked great, and showed a lot more athleticism than we EVER have, he did two kip ups, a small package, and (if you can believe it) a flying headscissors. That alone made this match fun, but the way they're making Eddie look so weak sucks. He cuts a postmatch promo warning Christopher Daniels of what's in store for him tomorrow, and with the way he's been booked lately, I'm sure you can guess how that turns out.
Now we move on to two singles matches in the ongoing Briscoes-Kings Of Wrestling feud, the first of which sees Jay Briscoe take on Claudio Castagnoli. They did the two singles matches gimmick on a recent episode of ROH On HDNet, and it's funny how a lot of times you'll see stuff on TV mirror the stuff on the house shows. In the old days, it was so the fans on TV could see the same angles that were running at the house shows, except in ROH's case I think it's probably the other way around. You know, Claudio and Jay are probably the two most underrated workers in ROH, they're both so good but have never really broken through as stars on their own. In Jay's case, it's because he's more or less been exclusively teaming with his brother for his entire career, and there's nothing wrong with that, but if Mark wasn't a wrestler too, Jay would have been a huge star on his own. In Claudio's case, they gave him a shot as a singles main eventer in 2007-08, and I am absolutely convinced that he was 100% ready from an in-ring workrate perspective because the guy was having awesome matches with everyone, but I think his personality wasn't there yet, he was still pretty bland in terms of his interviews and couldn't connect in that way, and I think that's why he wasn't successful then. Now it's a different story because he's developed in a big way with both his interviews and his "very European" character, and has worked himself into even better physical shape than he was in 2-3 years ago. I think that if and when he and Hero go back to singles, he's absolutely ready to be a main eventer or ROH World Champion.
Anyway, Jay and Claudio had a short match which Jay won by escaping the UFO and rolling Claudio up for the win, and then Claudio and Hero attacked Jay after the match, leading to Mark making the save and bringing us right into Mark Briscoe vs Chris Hero, which is the exact same sequence they did on HDNet. What was different this time around was that Hero beat Mark by knocking him out with the loaded elbow pad after another short match. Jay Briscoe rushed the ring after the match and ran Hero down for using the elbow pad, and promised that the day will come when they get their belts back. The matches were both okay, but were way too short, and with the show only running a bit over two hours, they could have stood to be a little longer.
The next three matches are all Pick Six Contender's Series matches, and the first of those saw (1)Roderick Strong put his spot on the line against a man he's very familiar with, Erick Stevens. These guys have been friends and tag team partners and held the FIP Tag Team Title together, but have also been on the opposite sides of a brutal feud as well. That feud, which took place on both the ROH and FIP sides, featured some fabulous matches that saw these two just beat the tar out of one another, and these two are definitely not shy about stiffing each other. Stevens came out on top last time around, but they're in really different places right now, and Strong is clearly further up the card than Stevens. This match was a step down from some of their matches in the past, and the finish kind of came out of nowhere when Strong pinned Stevens off a running boot. A little bit disappointing, and again, on the short side.
Pick Six Match #2 sees (5)Kenny King face Colt Cabana in what I believe may be their first singles match in ROH. Matches like this show what an amazing and versatile guy Kenny King is, because he goes from having these awesome matches with Davey Richards on HDNet and at the Big Bang that are just Workrate Central, to doing the comedy stuff with Colt Cabana while simultaneously making it a good wrestling match. I really, really want to see Kenny King pushed in the coming year. This actually turned out to be a great match that got more time than anything underneath it so far, but it unfortunately had a lame DQ finish when Kevin Steen, wearing a Cabanarama t-shirt, ran in and attacked Cabana to set up their match the following evening in New York. This brings up an interesting question: can Pick Six spots change hands on a DQ or something, such that Cabana gets King's spot because Steen ran in and attacked him? That's not quite fair to King, and I don't believe this is something that's been addressed yet. In any event, Steen stayed in the ring and told Cabana that he'll see him tomorrow in New York and then we went right into our next match...
...which was the third Pick Six Match, as (2)Kevin Steen faced the returning Christopher Daniels in his first match back in the company. They cut some great prematch promos where Daniels talked about coming back and setting his sights on the ROH World Title, which is the only way he feels he can claim to be the Best In The World, while Steen tells a story about the first time he wrestled Daniels in Canada back in 2004 and he felt like Daniels didn't take him seriously and saw him as a punk kid. Steen's strategy for defending his spot in the Pick Six in this match centered around him working over the arm of Daniels, and I also want to point out that I am continually impressed with Steen's athleticism. Even with all the weight he's gained, he still sprung up to the top rope and delivered a Swanton like he could 30 pounds ago. The fact that he doesn't bust stuff like that out in every match makes it mean more when he does, and if you want to make a positive out of a negative, the added size actually makes it more impressive. Steen went after Daniels with a chair but Cabana came back out and grabbed the chair from Steen, distracting him long enough for Daniels to lay him out and hit the BME to win the match and jump up to the top of the Pick Six right out of the gate. Really solid match, and Steen showed some more of that great intense insanity when he flipped out after the match and tore up the guardrail on his way to the back.
And now we move on to the main event of the evening, as ROH World Champion Tyler Black and Delirious teamed up to take on Austin Aries and Rhett Titus. Doesn't this just scream main event to you? And that's one of the problems with the way Adam Pearce booked ROH, there was such a focus on building to big shows like Supercard Of Honor V and the iPPVs that, while not a bad thing in and of itself, resulted in a lot of the "in-between" shows being severely neglected, and you'd end up with shows like this that have, with all due respect to everyone involved, lackluster main events. Let's cut it straight here: who's going to go out of their way to buy a ticket to a show that is main evented by a meaningless tag match that includes Delirious and Rhett Titus? It's completely meaningless, and then they wonder why they're not drawing in certain markets where they run main events like this. One thing Gabe Sapolsky was awesome at was making every show must see, because he understood that when you're trying to get people to buy each show, you have to give them stuff they want to buy, and Black/Delirious vs Aries/Titus is not something that's going to sell like gangbusters.
The story of most of this match was that Delirious was more worried about going after Aries than trying to win the match, and this was often to his team's detriment as Titus would invariably come and suckerpunch Delirious while he was chasing after Aries and lead to a heat segment on Delirious. Totally formulaic from there, hot tag to Tyler who comes in and superkicks everyone and Delirious hits the Bizarro Driver on Titus to get the win. This match was so nondescript that this is really all I have to say about it.
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This was a very lackluster show that was also very short, only clocking in at 2 hours and 11 minutes, and in addition to getting a throwaway main event, such a short show will leave an audience feeling like ROH doesn't consider them important enough to get a good show, and I can understand them feeling that way. There's a definite perception among the fanbase that New York, Philly, and Chicago and maybe a couple of other places get the good shows, and everywhere else is just considered a stop on the tour and a place to run a show for the sake of running a show, and that's not a good way to get people to want to come back next time ROH is in town. I get that they were saving the big stuff for New York the next night, but that doesn't mean you have to put on a show like this to compensate. If you want to save the blowaway matches and hot angles for the big shows, then fine, but don't make the other shows bad or boring to make the big shows look better. They were barely over two hours, they could have given the Briscoes and Kings Of Wrestling more time, they could have made Strong-Stevens more competitive to make Strong look even better going into his title shot the next night, and they could have done ANYTHING else with Eddie Edwards. To be fair, I did enjoy Cabana-King and Steen-Daniels, but nothing else on this show did anything for me, and on the contrary, it actually pisses me off when I watch shows like this because I know they can be so much more.
To ROH's credit, they did try and compensate by including four pretty good matches from HDNet as extras, and those matches are actually better than anything on the Civil Warfare show. However, I think that's totally backwards, and it defies logic to make the extras the selling points of the DVD rather than the event itself. With a roster like ROH has, there's no reason to have to cover for a bad show by adding good matches from another show, especially when you can keep those matches for their own DVD release and make...get ready for this...MORE MONEY! I really, really hope that there's going to be a renewed focus on house shows with this latest change in management, because the way they've been doing things is going to kill their business.
Those bonus matches, by the way, are Eddie Edwards vs Kevin Steen from Episode 2, Chris Hero vs Kenny Omega from Episode 7, the American Wolves squashing Orange Cassidy & Leslie Butterscotch in brutal fashion from Episode 8, and Kevin Steen & Jay Briscoe vs Eddie Edwards & Chris Hero from Episode 6.
Fortunately, things will get better from here. Next time: Supercard Of Honor V!