Ring of Honor, coming off their fifth anniversary of being in business, taped their debut PPV event "Respect is Earned" on Saturday 5/12 before a sellout crowd at the Manhattan Center in New York City. Several matches from the live event will be edited and turned into a two hour PPV, which will air on 7/1 via all PPV providers with the exception of DirecTV, which has not yet signed on to carry the show. The complete show, with the exception of one segment, will be released on DVD.
There were no major changes to the Ring of Honor product as a result of the PPV taping, with the exception of some small music changes to either generic clones of known songs (such as in the case of Bryan Danielson) or new, original music (such as in the case of Rocky Romero).
It was, however, the ROH that has made its name over the last five years - long matches, lots of matwork and striking that wouldn't seem foreign to a MMA fan coming across the product, wrestling based around athletics, not looks and matches built around the Japanese style with hard hitting athletics, submissions, strikes, lots of big moves and kickouts, and highspots galore.
This show wasn't meant to compete with WWE or TNA, but to be an entirely different niche product for fans to sample. My feeling watching it was that if you were already an ROH fan, you'll probably like the show. If you are into MMA or old school wrestling, you'll like aspects of it but it will seem different. There was no mistaking the work ethic of the performers involved as they went all out balls to the wall physically, with the only downside to that being the fear (at least on my part) that eventually it becomes impossible to top yourself, and where do you go from there?
That, however is the future, and tonight was something of a start for the small company that started struggling at the Philadelphia Murphy Recreation Center. It was the latest in a series of small steps to expand the product's awareness and hopefully, bring in more of an audience over time by ROH owner Cary Silkin. In that respect, it was a good first step, particularly during a phenomenal first half of the show, which was among the best first halves of any live show I've seen ROH produce.
Full results of the show, in order (with segments confirmed to be airing on the PPV listed as such), saw:
*In a pre-PPV taping bout, Brent Albright pinned Tank Toland with an exploder suplex. Toland is the former James Dick in WWE while Albright was Gunner Scott on Smackdown. Toland is ripped physically with veins protruding even out of his thighs. He is supposed to be something of a personal trainer here for heel Chris Hero and was managed by "Agent to the Stars" Larry Sweeney. Bobby Dempsey, an ROH school trainee who is really heavy, came to ringside with them as the backstory is that Toland is trying to get him in shape. Toland would do exercises while on offense, including doing situps while Albright was locked in between his legs with a scissor, elbowing Albright in the back of the head while he pulled himself up. Match was an OK opener with some spots that didn't work perfectly but the crowd was really into Albright and getting on Toland's case.
ROH announcer Dave Prazak came to the ring with BJ Whitmer. Whitmer, one of the senior members of the locker room, is something of a Tommy Dreamer for the company, having some great brawls and also really sacrificing himself physically when needed, like the CZW feud. Prazak hyped up the crowd and pushed how important it was that the debut PPV was being taped in New York City. That was a shoot in that management wanted it in NYC because of the importance factor of the Big Apple as well as the hot crowds.
PPV SEGMENT - Prazak handed it over to Whitmer who opened the PPV inside the ring welcoming everyone at home to Ring of Honor. He said that in ROH, they let their wrestling do their talking for them and challenged anyone who thought they could take him out to come to the ring for a fight. Out came ROH champion Takeshi Morishima, which the live crowd popped for.
PPV SEGMENT- Takeshi Morishima pinned BJ Whitmer in a good, but short match. Whitmer got near falls on the champion with an Exploder and a lariat. Morishima, who physically works like Terry Gordy in his prime, drilled Whitmer with a lariat and a big boot. Whitmer kicked up. Morishima drilled him with another lariat and then hit a backdrop driver for the pin.
British star Nigel McGuinness came to the ring and congratulated Morishima on a good match. He told Morishima, "You are one hell of a wrestler, but so am I" which the place popped for and challenged him for a title match tonight. Bryan Danielson, dressed in dress clothes came to the ring and noted he was champion for 15 months while dropping names of people he defeated as champion like Lance Storm, Homicide, and even McGuinness. He said that if anyone deserves a title shot, it's him. McGuinness and Danielson begin to argue with Danielson poking his finger in Nigel's chest. Nigel tells him that if he does it again, he's going to break Danielson's finger off and shove it down his throat. Danielson attacks Nigel and they begin fighting. Morishima assists Danielson and they lay out Nigel. As Morishima is trashing Nigel, Danielson picks up the ROH title belt. Morishima sees this, snatches it away, teases a fight, then walks off. Nigel has recovered by then and when Danielson realizes it, he rolls out of the ring..
Naomichi Marufuji defeated Rocky Romero in a good match with Sliced Bread #2 off the ropes. He offered Romero a handshake at the bell, but Romero spit at his hand. Marufuji did some fast offensive mat wrestling to start. Romero broke out an Octopus submission, before turning that into a near fall. The crowd began doing "Rocky sucks" chants. Romero mounted Marufuji like an MMA fight and began slapping him with both hands. There were a lot of MMA style back and forth striking sequences tonight. Marufuji hit a springboard dropkick onto Romero, who was outside on the apron, sending him into the guard rail. On the floor, he picked up Romero and rammed him knee first into the ring post. He worked over Romero's knee back in the ring, even locked on a figure four leglock. Romero came back with several Tornado DDTs for near falls. Romero went to the top rope but was dropkicked and then his with a dragon screw legwhip while on the ropes, sending him into the ring. Marufuji escaped a Dragon Suplex, landing on his feet, then drills Romero's face into his knees. He nails a powerbomb for a two count. Marufuji goes to the top rope but Romero uses a takedown to bring him to the mat from the ropes, locking on a cross armbreaker in the process. Marufuji got to the ropes. Marufuji hit a Van Terminator from one corner to the other on Romero, who kicked out. At that point, I thought they were doing too much. Romero tried for a Dragon Suplex and got a two count before Marufuji nailed the Sliced Bread #2. Real good match. I thought it was probably the best Romero ever looked for ROH.
PPV SEGMENT - Nigel McGuinness returned to the ring. He said that he didn't come to New York with a separated shoulder and a herniated disc in his back (Both true, which necessitated his missing the CT house show on 5/11 in order to be physically able to wrestle at the PPV.) He said that in ROH, they settle their problems in the ring and challenged Morishima and Danielson to come back out and fight. Morishima hit the ring and they fought back and forth. Danielson hit the ring and they doubled on Nigel. Pro Wrestling NOAH's KENTA hit the ring and made the save, nailing a big boot on Danielson, who bumped out of the ring. Nigel drilled Morishima with a lariat. Nigel said that apparently KENTA has his back, so tonight they'll have a tag match.
In what was billed as a Grudge Match, Davey Richards defeated Erick Stevens via tapout with a keylock submission. Richards is part of the No Remorse Corps with Roderick Strong and Rocky Romero. Stevens is part of the Resilience with Matt Cross and (until he was yanked by TNA) Austin Aries. The two factions have been feuding since Strong turned on Aries at the last Manhattan show. With Aries' departure, the feud continues. Stevens is new to the company but has worked for sister promotion FIP, so the audience is somewhat familiar with him. He does the Godfather Ho Train charge into the corner and yells "Choo Choo" when he does it, so the crowd chants it at him. Richards attacked Stevens at the bell but ended up on the defensive. Stevens went for the "Choo Choo" (and Lord, I feel silly typing that) but Stevens exited the ring. They brawled around ringside. Some fan got tossed for pouring beer on Richards. As Stevens returned to the ring, he was caight by several stiff kicks to the chest as he was in between the ropes. Richards nailed a big boot with Stevens taking the Cactus Jack Nestea Plunge backwards into the railing. Richards worked him over on the floor, then got a two count with a legdrop off the ropes. He grabbed Stevens' neck in leg scissors. Richards hit a sick innovative move where he suplexes Stevens over the top rope out of the ring, but as Stevens was falling backwards, Richards held on and pulled him over the ropes back into the ring with a reverse brainbuster of sorts. Stevens came back and suplexed Richards over the top rope to the floor. I remember the first time I saw Brian Pillman and Jushin Liger do that and I thought it was the most incredible thing ever. Now, it's just another in a series of insane spots. Weird how evolution goes. Stevens hits the "Choo Choo" (as opposed to the "Moo Moo"), then drills Richards with a TKO for a near fall. Richards snaps on his hammerlock submission but Stevens gets to the ropes. They go into back and forth with strikes. They end up battling in the corner, where Richards nails Stevens with stiff as hell headbutts to the nose. Stevens eventually goes down and Richards locks on the keylock submission for the win. Leaving, Richards looked to be favoring his arm and pectoral muscle, but he could have been selling.
PPV SEGMENT - ROH Tag Team champions The Briscoes defeated Claudio Castagnoli and Matt Sydal after nailing a Doomsday Device on Sydal. This was easily my pick for the best match of the night and was completely off the charts. Claudio now sports shorter hair and was wearing a suit when he came to the ring. He did mic work slowly so the crowd would finish his sentence and reminded me of both Andy Kaufman and movie character Borat in delivery and look, but not in a lame knockoff way. There was tons of great back and forth wrestling here and everyone really busted their ass. Briscoes were in control early and it was something of a tag team showcase, which is smart on ROH's part since no one else really showcases their tag teams in a pushed position. Jay Briscoe hit a split legged moonsault on Claudio. Sydal backdropped Mark over the ropes to the floor, then caught Jay with a rana while he was on the top rope. Claudio walked the ropes and dropped an elbow. The Briscoes pulled out double beel throws on Sydal and Claudio. I popped for those. As if that wasn't awesome enough, Claudio did the big swing on Jay. Perfection! Mark finally gets tagged in. Jay hits a flip dive to the floor on Claudio. Mark evades a Sydal rana while on the top, then dives off, catching him with a sunset flip takedown. By this point, there was far too many spots and near falls to remember. Jay nailed a flying bodypress on Caudio for a two count. Sydal drags Mark to the floor, where they brawl. Jay gets tossed out. Sydal jumps on Claudio's shoulders and dives down onto the Briscoes. Sydal nails a shooting star on Mark but Jay breaks it up. Jay presses him over his head and drops him, nailing a death valley driver. Mark dives out of the ring on Claudio, setting up the Doomsday Device, with Mark springboarding off the ropes to clothesline Sydal. Phenomenal stuff here.
PPV SEGMENT - With the Briscoes still in the ring celebrating, ROH announcers Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak (making what I believe to be their first on camera appearance) are in the general admission section of the audience, with their backs to the ring. They talk about how important the ROH live experience is and run down many of the cities the company will be coming to soon (strangely enough, they didn't mention Tokyo) and how those shows may host future PPV tapings. Kevin Steen and El Generico interrupt them and demand a title shot against the Briscoes. The Briscoes offer to go right now, so the Canadians come through the crowd and they do a pull apart brawl in the ring. The Briscoes are removed to the aisle by officials, leaving Steen and Generico to destroy two students and former ROH regulars Deranged and Azrieal (of Special K fame, although I don't know how they will be referred to on the broadcast). Generico did a dive onto everyone in the aisle (think Kid Kash in ECW) and they all brawled to the back. Crowd was into the segment.
Ring announcer Bobby Cruise said they had a very special guest to introduce. The theme to Kill Bill hit and out came NYC's own Homicide and Julius Smokes. The Manhattan Center went insane for it. Homicide said that he lives 10 minutes away and said that everyone should have known he wasn't going to miss the biggest party in New York City. He asked where the Boston fans were, then tossed a Red Sox hat one of them was wearing into the crowd. The crowd started chanting, "F*** TNA" which Homicide just smirked at. He took a long time because the crowd was going nuts for him and then said that everyone has their own opinion, but then directed the fans to show their love for those in TNA that had been in ROH like Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, and "The man I wish was standing next to me right now" Austin Aries. Homicide said he's got to go back care of "some LAX business." The crowd booed a little. He said that he wanted to come out and thank ROH and their fans for supporting him for the last five years. He said he wanted to thank the "Three Kings of ROH", Cary Silkin, Syd Eick, and Gabe Sapolsky. He told Sapolsky he was a "genius booker, the next Bill Watts." He told the fans that Ring of Honor is going to be the number one company in the world and added, "That's right, I said it. I don't give a F***." He said that he thanks everyone whether they booed or cheered him for their support over the last five years. He kissed the ROH ring mat, and asked the ROH sound guy to play his theme "for the last time." He returned to the locker room, where several of the wrestlers and Sapolsky met him at the entranceway. Homicide hugged Sapolsky for a long time before everyone returned to the back. The Homicide segment was done specifically for the live New York City audience and will not be released on DVD or PPV for obvious reasons.
After intermission, Sara Del Ray defeated Daizee Haze in what was billed as a SHIMMER Women's Wrestling bout. Haze tried to hit a flying bodypress early but was caught and nailed with a Fall Away Slam. Ray got several near falls and locked a Boston Crab on Haze, who got to the ropes. They battled in the corner while on the ropes, which Haze won after pulling out a heart punch, which sent Ray sailing back into the ring. Haze was finally caught in an over the shoulder backbreaker style submission but escaped and turned it into a sunset flip. Ray finally got the win with a forward roll.. Solid.
In a Scramble match, Kevin Steen & El Generico defeated Mitch Franklin & Pelle Primeau, Irish airborne, and Jimmy Rave & Adam Pearce. The crowd was into Steen bigtime, especially after he hit a dive onto everyone. Steen's put on a lot of girth since the last time I've seen him. At one point, Pearce pulled out a RepoMan style mask and put it on to mock fans who chant "Repo Man" at him since there's a resemblance to Barry Darsow. This was all crazy spots and far too much to cover. It put the car crash in car crash wrestling. I didn't personally get into this one (Scramble Matches to me are either perfect or not entertaining, there's no in between) but edited properly it will look like one hell of a highlight reel of spots.
PPV SEGMENT - Roderick Strong defeated Delirious with a sitdown powerbomb in a match that the crowd was into but I thought would have benefited from being placed earlier on the show. It was a little slow building during the first third and that felt weird coming off some of the matches seen earlier on the show. Delirious, who wears a mask and babbles in odd tongues, went insane during his introduction, causing Strong to go to the floor early. Delirious began running around and they battled on the floor. Crowd was loving messing with Strong by reciting his name "Rooodeeriiiick" in a whiny fashion. Strong played off the crowd, screaming at them, which again, seemed weird for a match that late in the show. Delirious hit a rana from the top on Strong, who came back drilling him facefirst into the turnbuckles. Roderick was working on removing Delirious' mask early, even trying to tie it to the ropes, which didn't seem to work out as planned. Strong nailed a number of backbreaker variations and gutbusters and chops. Delirous drilled Strong with a neckbreaker. Strong came back with a Fall Away Slam off the ropes. Some of the crowd chanted, "This match sucks" but were shouted down by others in the audience. Delirious hit a dive onto the floor on Strong. In a sick spot, Strong suplexed and dropped Delirious on the apron outside the ring. After the pin, the No Remorse Corps. all beat down Delirious. They bridged a piece of guard rail between the ring and railing. Strong hit a powerbomb on Delirious onto the rail. Erik Stevens hit the ring for the save. The crowd chanted "Thank you Choo Choo." I'll be interested in seeing how this is edited or changed in positioning for the PPV broadcast. It wasn't terrible but just seemed like it was in the wrong place on the card, plus I think the crowd was getting a little restless.
PPV SEGMENT- ROH champion Takeshi Morishima & Bryan Danielson defeated KENTA and Nigel McGuinness when Danielson forced KENTA to tap out to the Cattle Mutilation submission while Morishima beat down Nigel in the corner. Lots of great back and forth wrestling here. For a guy with a history of shoulder problems in the last year, Danielson looked great, For someone who was working with a separated shoulder, Nigel is a monster, and the NOAH talents are out of this world. All of that led to a really fun main event. Danielson and KENTA started with back and forth exchanges. Morishima shoulderblocked Nigel down. Danielson drilled McGuinness with a forearm off the ropes. KENTA nailed Morishima with a boot to the face but was caught by Danielson with a Dragon Screw leg whip. All four faced off center ring, which led to a "ROH chant." Nigel DDT'd Morishima on the apron outside the ring, but Takeshi shrugged it off and powerbombed him into the railing ringside. KENTA tried to help but was whipped into the railing. He held KENTA for Danielson, who came charging with a running boot to the face. Danielson and Morishima worked over Nigel in the corner and on the mat for awhile with Danielson focusing on his knees. KENTA finally got the hot tag in and nailed a springboard missile dropkick to Danielson Morishima nailed one of his own on KENTA and followed that up with a sideslam. KENTA powerslammed Morishima, which the place came unglued for due to the size different. Nigel tagged in and began drilling Morishima with strikes and thrusts, taking him out in the corner. McGuinness hit a running charge into a forearm, which looked awesome. Morishima came back with a big boot, but missed a missile dropkick. Nigel clotheslined him for a two count. Morishima went for a cartwheel into a handspring elbow, but Nigel drilled him with a lariat for another near fall. Nigel and Morishima battled atop in a corner. Danielson tried to get involved so KENTA attacked him. It ended with Morishima dropping down on Nigel like former WWF champion Yokozuna would. Morishima nailed a backdrop driver but KENTA broke up the two count. KENTA hit a diving knee onto Danielson, who was draped against the ropes. . Danielson nailed a Dragon Suplex then locked on a Crossface Chicken Wing. KENTA pushed off the corner and Danielson nearly ended up pinning himself. Danielson goes to the top but Nigel comes from under him and nailed a powerbomb. KENTA tries to hit a bodypress from the ropes but Morishima catches him and tosses him with a suplex. Nigel nailed a forearm off the ropes on Danielson. He tosses Morishima into the first row, then dives off the top rope onto him. Danielson goes for a diving headbutt on KENTA but KENTA gets his feet up. He nails a dropkick and hits the Go To Sleep for a two count, but Morishima breaks the count. Morishima clotheslined KENTA and Danielson nailed him with a backfist. KENTA kept kicking out. At some point, Nigel ripped up his arm as he was at ringside taping it up and you could see blood peering out from under the tape. He rebounded off the ropes and drilled a lariat into Morishima, but went down selling the arm. KENTA nailed a suplex and got a two count on Danielson. The place changed ROH. KENTA was drilled with a back suplex and Danielson went for the Cattle Mutiliation but didn't get it. He nailed a back suplex on KENTA and began beating him with elbow after elbow, teasing a MMA-like ref stoppage. They then went to the finish.
After the match, Morishima laid out Danielson and Nigel in the ring and began swinging the ROH title above his head. Not sure where the PPV will end, but live Danielson left to his theme music and the company thanked the fans for attending.
NOTES: It was the fourth sellout for the company in the Manhattan Center....ROH returns on Saturday 8/25, the night before Summerslam 2007....A lot of the wrestlers were sporting new gear and tights in honor of the PPV. You could see a lot of the talents were trying hard to do the most they could, although as I wrote earlier, the downside to that is it can sometimes be too hard....The first half of the show was rocking and I loved the main event. For a $10 price tag, you probably won't get a better amount of wrestling for your money...For more information on Ring of Honor, visit www.ROHWrestling.com.