I do need to be perfectly honest with everybody before we start, and say that I didn't see him as a superstar at any point in his ROH career. I didn't think he had the intangible "it" factor to make a good champion, and I feel like he was exposed as not up to par once he actually did win the title. I'll be impartial while reviewing this DVD, but I'll tell you right now that this is going to be two discs that prove how good the ROH roster was at the time since they made a so-so midcarder look like the greatest thing to ever hit pro wrestling.
The main focus of Tyler's first year in ROH was his with Jimmy Jacobs as Age of the Fall, and though their win over the Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Title is inexplicably in clipped form, we do get several other AOTF matches likes Jacobs & Black beating Jack Evans & Ruckus, an Ultimate Endurance win over Evans & Jigsaw, the Briscoes, and Brent Albright & BJ Whitmer, and a relaxed rules match between Jacobs/Black and the Briscoes from Supercard of Honor III where Jimmy Jacobs hit the counter of the century as he caught Mark Briscoe in midair as he went for the Doomsday Device and locked him in the End Time on the way down. AOTF's second title win is in its unedited form, over Kevin Steen & El Generico in the tag title tournament finals at Up For Grabs, along with their first title defense against Austin Aries & Bryan Danielson the next night (which is worth the price of this DVD alone), and also a successful defense against Pro Wrestling NOAH's Naomichi Marufuji & Go Shiozaki.
When he wasn't teaming with Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler was starting to make a major name for himself as a singles wrestler as well. Black's potential first became apparent at Unscripted III, when he wound up getting shuffled into an unscheduled match with Austin Aries after travel issues forced changes to the planned lineup. Black had just kind of been this guy standing behind Jacobs and Necro Butcher up to that point, but he and Aries had such a killer match that it was impossible not to stand out. ROH management obviously saw the potential as well, because he was stuck in the ring against Bryan Danielson about a month later at Breakout. Tyler lost that match too, but he had another excellent, competitive match and rode the momentum to the Take No Prisoners PPV taping that March.
Tyler won a mini-tournament at the taping to earn a title shot against ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness later in the evening, and even though he had already wrestled once that night, Tyler gave Nigel a real run for his money and appeared on the verge of a surprise title win on a few occasions while absorbing a ton of punishment from Nigel in the form of repeated lariats. Nigel eventually managed to win the match, but Tyler had come so close that you felt like he could have won, and they had several more matches over the next year where Tyler came closer and closer to beating Nigel, with the idea that Nigel's luck would eventually run out and he'd lose the belt to Tyler.
As good as he had looked so far, Black had yet to win a singles match against a top ROH star, and his entire story during this period was of a guy who was down the ladder right now, but was getting better every time he got in the ring with someone at the top and would eventually surpass them to become THE guy. He faced Danielson again at Southern Navigation and came up short again, but he followed that up by outlasting Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli to get to the final two in an elimination title match with Nigel McGuinness. Black came even closer than he did the last time, but Nigel was still the better man and proved how tough he was by outlasting three of his strongest challengers in a single match. Tyler went on to lose to El Generico at Night of the Butcher II, then we see the clipped finish of Black & Jacobs losing the ROH World Tag Team Title to Steen & Generico at Driven 2008.
Halfway through the second disc, we finally see Tyler's first major singles win as he beats Austin Aries at Wrestling At The Gateway. This was huge for Tyler since he had now finally made good on all the talk about his potential, but he found himself back in the ring with Aries only three weeks later at Final Battle 2008 with a shot at the ROH World Title on the line. I think most people expected Tyler to win since he had been on such a huge roll, but he ended up losing the match because of interference from his jealous partner Jimmy Jacobs. Jacobs inexplicably came out to the ring and distracted Tyler just long enough that Aries was able to swoop in, nail Tyler with a brainbuster, and hit the 450 splash for the win.
Black acted like a sucker by believing Jacobs when he said he didn't mean it, and ended up taking a low blow and getting choked out with the End Time. Tyler then seemed like an even bigger sucker when Aries ran back in and grabbed a chair that Jacobs was going to use to Pillmanize Black's head. You would think that Aries was being genuine since he had just finished a long and heated feud with Jacobs, but he abruptly cleaned Black's clock with the chair and then joined Jacobs in a 2-on-1 beatdown on Tyler Black, busting him open and leaving him a bloody heap.
This was a stupid, convoluted angle because a)Aries and Jacobs were hated enemies who were beating each other bloody barely more than a month earlier, b)Aries ended up having his title shot stripped before he even got to use it, and c)Tyler got the title shot anyway. Aries actually got in a legit fight with a fan on his way to the back, but that wasn't shown on camera for obvious reasons. A funny side story there is that referee Paul Turner ran up the aisle to grab the fan and drag him to the back, earning a H-U-G-E pop from the crowd and "next world champ" chants when he came back out later that night and making him a major babyface in New York for years to come.
Tyler overcame that setback that wasn't really much of a setback with a string of impressive showings in the new year. He finally pinned Nigel McGuinness clean after a buckle bomb and superkick on the first show of 2009, then wrestled Jerry Lynn to a time limit draw at Motor City Madness 2009, defeated Davey Richards in their first meeting at Proving Ground 2009 Night 1 (which was okay, but nowhere near as good as their matches in 2010), and finally beat Jimmy Jacobs in the main event of the first ever ROH show on HDNet by countering the End Time to a rollup for 3.
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This set is full of so many amazing matches that there's no way I can give this anything but a resounding thumbs up. That said, I think it's hard not to look good when you work almost exclusively with Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries, and the Briscoes. I can't wait to get my hands on the second volume of Tyler Black whenever it comes out, since Tyler having to carry himself as champion, both in the ring and on promos, often had horrifyingly embarrasing results.
In fact, part of the problem with Tyler was evident even on this set. As awesome as all these matches are, you'll notice that Black actually lost nearly every one of them. The idea was obviously that he'd look so good in defeat that he'd come out looking stronger and stronger every time he got closer to beating someone important. The problem was that he ended up losing so many big matches, both during the timeframe covered by this DVD set and for the next year afterward, that he ended up looking like the biggest choker since Lex Luger. He'd get non-title wins over Nigel and also Aries when he won the belt later on, but he'd always lose when the chips were down and people lost confidence in him by the time he actually did win the strap. Tyler did have the rug yanked out from under him a bit when ROH got a new booker in late 2008 who decided to hold off on his title win for over a year, but I have to question whether he'd have done any better if he did win the title at the end of 2008 like he was originally planned to.
For now, though, this set was awesome because it's six solid hours of some of the best wrestlers on the planet fooling fans into thinking Tyler was on their level. I highly, highly recommend this set, and you can find ordering information at www.rohwrestling.com.