RING OF HONOR GENERATION NEXT IN PHILADELPHIA, PA LIVE REPORT
by Mike Johnson
Ring of Honor returned to Philadelphia, PA on Saturday May 22nd for "Generation Next" where the promotion was faced with so many obstacles you would have thought a higher power had scripted it that way in order to start a new independent wrestling craze of running under a tent in a throwback to the carnival days of professional wrestling.
Some background: With less than a week's notice, ROH learned they had lost their scheduled venue for 5/22 when The Pennsylvania National Guard Armory was mobilized. That basically means the military was going to use it, so outside events aren't allowed in. It was the latest in black clouds hovering over the 5/22 event as WWE was in town running a Raw brand house show, the Philadelphia Phillies had a home game, and The Philadelphia Flyers ended up playing a sudden death NHL playoff game in Tampa Bay.
Feeling that if they had to cancel the date, it would have caused more damage to the company when they couldn't afford it, ROH got permission to hold the show in the backyard of the Armory, and with only several days' notice, rented out a huge tent to cover the ring, lighting, equipment, as several rows of fans. I am told the situation cost a great deal for the promotion, but they felt they needed to go through with the show.
Although plans were sealed on Tuesday or Wednesday to hold the show outdoors, the promotion denied there were problems with the building when approached by PWInsider.com on Wednesday, as one source said that whatever building issues there were with the Armory, they were "resolved." Resolved ended up being the tent idea, although before that decision was made, they did make overtures to book the ECW Arena as well, which didn't end up working out. Many of the wrestlers were unaware of any changes until they arrived that afternoon at the Armory.
I am under the belief the promotion denied the building issues in order to protect the attendance (which was already hurting from the other factors) from being affected by the predictions of bad weather all week. My personal feeling is they should have announced something anyway, if for no other reason than to give the fans who had purchased tickets a chance to prepare for being outdoors for several hours, although other than mosquitos and the like, it wasn't a harsh situation to deal if you didn't have allergies. The weather, which ended up being nice and cool, allowed fans to enjoy the show without the usual heat issues involved with sitting in a small packed building. However, if the weather had been rainy and wet, ROH would have had several hundred unhappy fans sitting outdoors without notice (and with every right to ask for a refund in my opinion) and that would have been an irresponsible maneuver. Thankfully for them, the weather was the one place where ROH hasn't had bad luck as of late.
Although there were plenty of snickering jokes about having a show under a tent by those live before the show began, in truth, the setting and the weather created a much more relaxed and fun atmosphere than some of the regular ROH venues. There was none of the stuffiness that sometimes pervades live ROH events among their fan base and none of the sweltering heat.
Although the show appeared to draw in the 350 range (ROH sources listed the crowd as just under 500), the promotion was happy enough with the way the show came off live that there was talk of doing additional outdoor events down the line.
The actual live show saw ROH shrug off several advertised matches and plans for a "Generation Next" series of bouts, instead using the moniker as the title for a brash heel faction headed by Alex Shelley, which played out in a very un-ROHesque manner through the show. The changes from the now-cookie cutter ROH format also made for a different feeling show (See Notes).
*The opening bout was scheduled as a Scramble Match between Special K, The Christopher Street Connection and Dunn & Marcos. With CSC and Dunn & Marcos already in the ring, Alex Shelley, Jack Evans, Roderick Strong, and Austin Aries hit the ring and announced that they weren't going to compete in the "Next Generation" series and let the fans decide who was the best, but instead were going to make names for themselves. They laid out the CSC. Dunn & Marcos took the ring mic and began beating down Shelley and crew as "We're Not Gonna Take It" played (which has been their gimmick in recent months), but they soon were taken out as well. This led to Special K coming out and challenging the foursome, dubbed Generation Next.
*Roderick Strong & Austin Aries & Jack Evans defeated Special K's Izzy & Dixie & Angeldust in a six man tag which saw Strong hit a power bomb into a backbreaker, Aries hit a top rope 450 splash, and Evans hit a 720 splash in a 1-2-3 spot, and pinning all three members of Special K at the same time.
*Alex Shelley began ripping on Special K, claiming none of the raver kids were real professional wrestlers. K's Hydro jumped in the ring (and got a huge reaction for it) and challenged Shelley. They had a good back and forth competitive bout with Shelley forcing Hydro to submit to a crossface.
*Masada & Trent Acid & Danny Daniels defeated The Carnage Crew's HC Loc & Tony Devito & Justin Credible. The storyline here was The Carnage Crew challenged Trent Acid and "whoever had pooped in their bags." Acid came out with Daniels while Masada attacked his former partners. This was a fun back and forth bout, ending with Masada pinning Credible. Loc has really been working on his physique, to the point he is starting to seriously look like Taz during Taz's ECW run.
*John Walters was scheduled to face Jimmy Rave but the bout never took place after Generation Next hit the ring and announced they weren't going to work their way up the ladder, but instead were going to take out all the rungs above them. They attacked and laid out both workers. At that point, Next were my new favorite workers in the world as I wasn't looking forward to this match at all.
*Nigel McGuinness defeated Jimmy Jacobs via submission with a crossarm breaker variation in a really fun match. If every "Pure Wrestling" bout in the promotion was like this one, I'd be a happy person. McGuiness did some interesting offense, including striking while standing on his head atop the ringpads in the corner. Jacobs looked really good as well. This was the type of bout where both ended up looking good.
*ROH Tag Team champions Colt Cabana and CM Punk defeated Danny Maff and BJ Whitmer when Punk hit the Pepsi Plunge on Whitmer off the top rope. This was a really fun bout, which included a brawl over the guard rails and into the crowd, decimating a section of general admission seats. The actual brawl was really stiff and brutal with the workers taking bumps and swinging chairs Memphis style, but nearly caused a scene with fans who were being told to back up by security so that a spotlight could be used to showcase the workers (it was already dark by this point). Unfortunately, The problem with putting that theory into reality was that there wasn't anywhere for those fans to go since they were already trapped between the brawling workers, other fans rushing towards the brawl, and the stake lines that were holding the tent up. Although no one ended up hurt, the fans were rightfully upset as the prime concern seemed to be getting the spotlight on the workers, which should never be the case in that situation. Although nothing happened, in the future ROH's security, which does a good job, would be well advised to use the old ECW mentality of having staffers surround the workers while in the crowd in order to prevent sight issues and for the security of all involved. This was my pick for my favorite bout of the night.
*After intermission, The Briscoes defeated the Outcast Killaz (with Prince Nana and Josh Daniels - why wasn't he wrestling??). The bout was a little more competitive than one would expect and wasn't bad at all. The Killaz continue to slowly move up the ladder. Generation Next came down to the ring (there were catcalls about enough Alex Shelley from some fans at this point, but for the story they were telling, this was needed) and told The Briscoes that they had taken "Two spots" tonight and were going to take two more. The Briscoes refused to back down and challenged them to a fight. Shelley reminded them that it was 4 on 2, but John Walters and Jimmy Rave hit the ring to even the odds.
*In a 41 minute bout, Next Generation of Alex Shelley & Roderick Strong & Austin Aries & Jack Evans defeated The Briscoes, John Walters, and Jimmy Rave. This was a long back and forth bout where Briscoes, Walters, Shelley, and Strong really stood out. Rave was Rave while Evans was used by hitting crazy high spots. I don't recall Aries standing out here as much as he did at the ECWA Super 8, but he's a good worker. Shelley forced Walters to submit to the crossface for the victory. This was a good bout but went on too long as they seemed to be repeating spots at times. I think if it was edited down a bit, it'd come off even better on video but it was good. It did more for John Walters or Jimmy Rave than anything ROH had previously booked and by the end of the segment, the Generation Next faction were made into players in the company. The live crowd loved this match far, far, far, far more than I did as they gave it an extended standing ovation and chanted, "Match of the year" but I don't think this was near that level at all.
*Gary Michael Cappetta was the host for a "verbal confrontation" between Ricky Steamboat and CM Punk. Punk's ROH entrance, between his mannerisms, swagger, theme music and lighting, is the best thing going on the independent scene. He just oozes star power based on that alone. Even though he's supposed to be a heel, the crowd is into him as a character, similar to how the Sandman was over in ECW before his full fledged turn. Steamboat got a huge standing ovation coming out. The confrontation was supposed to be a debate, with Punk saying that every man wants to be remembered for being great, even after they are dead and running down the list of Steamboat's accomplishments, then insulting him. Steamboat ran down the cities that he had problems with Punk and said he was there to fight, not talk and challenged Punk. Punk backed down and offered to settle things and shake Steamboat's hand. They shook but Punk attacked him. Steamboat and Punk fired back and forth with chops, with Steamboat getting the better end of it. He went to the top for a flying bodypress, but Colt Cabana hit the ring and crotched Steamboat. They beat down Steamboat and Punk grabbed the ring bell. You knew what was coming next as Punk came off the top with the bell "to Steamboat's throat" a la the famous WWF Randy Savage angle in 1986 that set up the Wrestlemania 3 bout. Dan Maff and BJ Whitmer made the save with a bunch of officials. Steamboat was finally helped from the ring clutching his throat. If ROH plays it right, a Steamboat comeback bout could be a big thing when it happens.
*ROH champion Samoa Joe defeated Homicide with a brainbuster. The fans tossed streamers into the ring for Joe's ring announcement. Seconds later, they started brawling in the streamers and taking bumped, which looked cool. They went right to the floor Joe to his Ole Ole running kick to the head. Homicide pulled out a fork and began jabbing Joe in the head with Joe bleeding. They did a lot of near falls until Joe finally captured the pin with a brainbuster. The air came out of the crowd as they expected a title change and were shocked to see the finish at that point. Julius Smokes grabbed the mic as the crowd applauded for Homicide and began screaming about the "White Devils" and challenging the crowd. The crowd didn't buy it and continued cheering Homicide. He finally got on the mic and said he didn't care about any of the fans and ended the show trashing the ringside area violently and throwing chairs at the camera men before arguing with fans on the way out. The crowd still cheered Homicide. It's going to be hard to turn anyone heel in front of that fan base since the crowd wants to be smart and show everyone how much they "respect" the wrestlers.
Notes: Overall, this was a better show than Ring of Honor has presented in some time because it broke out from the stuffier side of the ROH universe to a show that wouldn't have been too far fetched to have been seen at the likes of Jim Kettner's ECWA. It was easier for the live audience to actually relate to what was going on because instead of needing to know the back story from video tapes, promos that aren't released yet or website storylines, everything involving Generation Next played out before their eyes so as it progressed, they were along for the ride as opposed to being the background for a video taping.
There were no blowaway match of the year bouts but there was a series of building segments on the undercard that led to a payoff, some good wrestling, a fun brawl in the crowd, and what would be deemed a decent, fun independent card on any level as they progressed some storylines and got over Generation Next as something different and attempted to move several other characters (Hydro, Walters, Rave) up a notch as well. In hindsight, the show that ended up taking place was far stronger than the announced card, although the promotion couldn't have announced that without tipping its hat.
The tent and the outdoor setting helped give the show a different feel as well. Although I can see the point of those who don't see it as "professional", it's really not all too different from any other bingo hall, supermarket, or housing project basement (all three I have sat in for shows, what was I thinking on the latter two?) that other companies run in, especially when their only other cause of action was to cancel the show outright. I do think the promotion should have announced the situation beforehand for the reasons I noted above, however and I would hope when faced with a similar situation, that they will own up to it.
While ROH publicly prides itself as being innovative and all the other hyped up buzz words, it is at its core an independent wrestling promotion. Without any of the snobbish pretense that often undermines the atmosphere of an ROH event, this was a decent independent show that had its fun moments and there's nothing wrong with that. ROH claimed to be "At Our Best" with their big Rexplex show on 3/13, but this was a far more enjoyable evening overall than many of their recent outings.
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.
ROH Generation Next can be ordered at ROHWrestling.com