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KEVIN STEEN - HELL RISING DVD REVIEW: KEVIN STEEN SITS DOWN FOR AN OVER TWO HOUR SHOOT INTERVIEW TO DISCUSS HIS DEPARTURE FROM ROH IN 2010, THE FRUSTRATIONS HE FACED DURING HIS YEAR OFF, HIS FORTUNES SINCE RETURNING TO ROH, AND THOUGHTS ON HIS RELATIONSHIP (OR LACK THEREOF) WITH JIM CORNETTE...OH YEAH, AND SOME MATCHES, TOO

By Stuart Carapola on 2013-05-27 20:47:57
After a refreshing and alternately chilly and disgustingly hot Memorial Day weekend, I'm back with another ROH DVD review! Today's lucky winner is Kevin Steen - Hell Rising, the third Kevin Steen set ROH has released and possibly the best. The one part of it I definitely thought beat out every other ROH set was the long shoot interview where Kevin Steen spent over two hours discussing the period of time from when he left ROH after Final Battle 2010, through his title loss to Jay Briscoe at Supercard Of Honor VII. In fact, the matches are very much secondary to the interview, which was heavily marketed as the first time Steen was going to really open up about his thoughts on ROH, Jim Cornette, and the entire series of events that led to his departure, return, and booking once he was back.

We open with a clip from right after Steen's loss to El Generico in the Fight Without Honor at Final Battle 2010, and then we go to Steen saying that he's been avoiding the questions he's going to be asked in this interview since he knew this interview would come around eventually. He knew there would be problems right away when Cornette came back because Cornette returned on the night he and Generico fought the American Wolves in Ladder War II. He asked Cornette for his advice before the match, but Cornette blew him off to get cozy with Roderick Strong, and from there on out Cornette didn't give a damn what they did. Steen thinks Cornette wanted to kill the Steen-Generico feud in June, but Pearce fought to continue it all the way to Final Battle. Cornette didn't care about their feud because he was more concerned with Roddy, Davey, and Eddie, and then Cornette informed Steen of the stipulations of the Final Battle match and being told he was "going away for a while". Steen told Cornette he didn't want to go away because he had bills to pay, but Cornette basically told him there was no negotiations about this, Steen wasn't happy but he figured it made sense as a way to end the feud. He thought he'd help Generico by doing this, but Generico got buried after Final Battle as well, and he heard that Cornette didn't care which of them won at Final Battle or if they both lost.

Steen goes on to talk about the locker room reaction when he was on his way out, and the way the locker room environment changed after Cornette came into power. Steen says he doesn't hate Cornette as much as he used to and they kind of got to understand each other once they were playing off each other in promos. He really tried to get along with Cornette and sent him ideas for angles, but Cornette wasn't interested in working with him and made a bad reputation with the boys because of his condescending attitude toward some people. He thought it was insulting that they main evented Final Battle, but were presented as being a non-sanctioned match that happened after the REAL main event of Davey vs Roderick.

Steen was nonetheless feeling positive after Final Battle and decided that it would give him the chance to go back to PWG full time because he always enjoyed working there, even though he left there to go with ROH because it was better for his career. Once he was gone from ROH, Steen lost 40 pounds during his time off because he really wanted to be ready to go when he came back to ROH, but he came back at the June show and was told he wouldn't be back in the ring for another six months. He got depressed, loosened up on the diet, and gained a lot of the weight back.

He loves Cary Silkin and said he's the best promoter he's ever worked for, but he was hurt that Cary let him get written out. He later found out that Cary wasn't being given the full story on the plans for him, and he was worried that Cornette would convince Cary not to resign him, so he got ROH to resign him before he left at Final Battle. The problem was that the contract wasn't specific enough to guarantee him dates after his return date in June, and the contract was void once Sinclair bought the company anyway.

We take a look at the angle from Best In The World 2011 when a lean, in-shape Steen returned from six months in exile, pretended like he was trying to atone for his sins of the past, then changed direction and went right back to trying to destroy ROH. Steen was told that he was going to be brought back to be a part of Corino's rehab, but for as well as Steve and Jimmy were doing with it, he thought the fans would crap on it, so he sent something to Delirious suggesting that they start out like that, but it later becomes clear that Corino and Jacobs were trying to hold the monster in. He wasn't happy with the way the whole angle played out, and it worked out in the end, but he thought that he would have preferred working with Jimmy and Steve instead of being booked against them. He thinks Jim expected to get cheered when he swore on his mother's grave that Steen would never return to ROH, and it was insane to not realize that Steen was going to be the one getting the babyface reaction.

Steen says he tried to get on the first TV taping in Chicago and was held off because they wanted to build to the point they could tell his story, but he did manage to get booked for the return to Hammerstein where he jumped the rail and got into a fight with Jimmy Jacobs. This appearance included one of my favorite ROH moments where Steen tried to attack Cary Silkin and, as I put it at the time, was swarmed by officials like he was attacking the President. He appreciated Cary doing that for him since Cary never gets physical, and he talks about deciding to get out in front of the fans after the show to hype Final Battle without knowing who he would even be wrestling.

We see the vignette where Kevin Steen got his legal team to represent him in his lawsuit accusing ROH of illegally influencing the outcome of the Final Battle match with Generico. Steen says they were all nice and were real lawyers, but wonders why crazy Kevin Steen would hire a legal team to represent him. He wondered if Cornette actually thought this was good and knows that cheesy was great at one point in Cornette's career in the 80s, but things are different in 2011 and the fans don't like cheesy crap anymore. He thought the matches where the Briscoes and Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team are both putting up $5000 were ridiculous and outdated and insulting to the fans. We see the promo where Cornette informed us of the terms of Steen's return at Final Battle 2011, which Steen thought came off badly and the crowd didn't know who he was because nobody in Louisville had seen much ROH. Steen talks about using social media to help push the return angle along since he couldn't be on the Video Wire or anything like that.

We backtrack a bit as Steen talks about meeting Corino in 2004 and how they didn't cross paths for years after that, then goes into sneaking into the Manhattan Center the night he wrestled Corino at Final Battle and then went on a rampage after winning the match. He really enjoyed the moment and felt vindicated making his return, but the only thing he regretted was not making his trademark bow after he laid out Corino, Jacobs, and Generico. He talks about interrupting Davey's promo after beating Eddie Edwards in the main event, then goes into what a bummer his first weekend back after Final Battle was because it turned out to be Sid Eick's last weekend with the company and was also the weekend his grandfather, who helped raise him and was like a second father, passed away.

We see the promo at the 10th Anniversary Show that set up the Steen-Eddie Kingston series on both CHIKARA and ROH shows, but Steen doesn't discuss it and instead moves on to the main event of the show and says he didn't think the fans were really into that match. We see the aftermath of the match where Steen crashes the party, says the Young Wolves Rising name sucks, and that the main event should have been Davey and himself for the title. Steen talks about his match with Jimmy Jacobs and how some of the intricacies of the story were overlooked by some people, but overall he was really happy with how things came off with Jimmy, Kingston, and the main event stuff.

Steen talks about his Twitter interactions with the Rock and how he found out that the Rock has watched his matches and is a fan of his, then we get on to La Revancha over Wrestlemania Weekend 2012. Steen talks about how great the crowd reaction in Florida was, and how great it was being back in the ring with Generico, who himself had been gone from ROH since Final Battle. He was proud of the match and talks about how bewildered Generico was that Steen suddenly became Jesus to the ROH fans. They go on to the build to Border Wars and how heartfelt the promos with Davey Richards and Jim Cornette were, to the point where Davey was really upset with him for a long time because of stuff that came out in those promos, leading to some of the comments they shot back and forth in their respective shoot interviews with Highspots.

Steen won the ROH World Title at Border Wars, and he thought the match could have been better, but the crowd reaction more than made up for it and it was real emotion when Corino got into the ring and had a group hug with Jimmy and himself. He didn't really feel much extra pressure now that he was champion, but he knew that the fans didn't think the company was as good as the days of Joe, Punk, Danielson, Nigel, and Aries, and he didn't want to be seen as an inferior champion and went out of his way to be a different kind of champion so he wouldn't be seen as the black sheep champion.

Steen talks about the Live/eviL tattoo he and Corino both have, and he talks about how it's a reminder to keep going even through the tough times. He discusses some of the personal meaning the tattoo holds for him, and how it was originally going to be the name for SCUM before they decided to go in a different direction. He was very careful to present it so that he didn't want to destroy ROH because he hated it, but because he loved it so much he didn't want to see Jim Cornette destroy it. He thought Cornette's outlook on the business was outdated and that's why he was removed from the creative side of ROH. He thinks that was hard for Cornette to swallow and only increased his stress level, and he thinks Cornette needs to take a long break from the business in general, not just ROH. He thinks Cornette would be fine as an on-air character, but just as long as he wasn't involved in creative.

We move on to the title reign itself and how he beat Davey, Eddie Edwards, and Roderick Strong within two weeks and then had a solid angle with Homicide. Steen also liked working with Mondo and Rhett Titus, and the fans thought it was stupid thar Rhino got a title shot, but it turned out to be one of Steen's favorite matches of his title reign. He had never wrestled Jay Lethal one-on-one before the match in Rahway and he knew he was good, but was blown away once he actually got in the ring with him. He wasn't a fan of the finish, but it did throw more fuel on the fire for their feud. The match with Elgin was one of his favorite as champion, and he thought opening the box and finding the Generico mask was a great moment, and that he thinks great moments are better than great matches.

It was a struggle getting Cornette to agree to put him in the ring with Generico again at Final Battle, and part of the problem was that Generico wasn't returning Cornette's calls because he felt like Cornette treated him like crap. He says that Cabana didn't like Cornette for the same reason, but Delirious pushed hard enough to get Generico to agree to come in and Cornette was gone by that time anyway. He's glad that 99% of the people loved the match even though he was sick that night and would have finished the match in four minutes if he could have, and he knew before anyone else did that Generico was going to WWE and this would be their last match against each other. Steen talks about the ladder match he and Generico did in PWG right around the same time and how he wanted the matches to be different, especially given how many times he had wrestled Generico and how he didn't want them to all blur together.

Steen talks about his history at Final Battle and all the big moments he's had in New York City and how they've often been the highlight of the show, and this leads into Steen wrestling Jay Lethal in the rematch at the 11th Anniversary Show. A lot of fans thought Lethal was going to be the guy to beat him for the title, but that came a month later at the Hammerstein Ballroom when he lost the title to Jay Briscoe. It was a renewal of their rivalry, and he always kind of knew Jay was going to be the guy, and he was really happy for Jay and Mark since they're such good friends of his. He thinks Jay deserves it, and even though Jay's technically the champion, he feels like the belt belongs to both Briscoes.

Steen is asked about stats which, to pat myself on the back, I pointed out before anyone else, which is that Steen turned out to have the fourth-longest reign of any ROH World Champion, and the fourth-most title defenses as well. He would have loved to have broken one of those records, but he says someone pointed out a fact even I overlooked, which is that he defended the title more than Davey, Eddie, and Roderick combined. That's pretty cool, and he doesn't know who made the decision to give him the belt, but he knew Delirious was behind him the whole time. He thanked Delirious for all the faith he put into a guy who normally wouldn't have gotten the chances he got, and even though he had a lot of title defenses, he's kind of glad it's not on him to be the guy everything's built around anymore. He didn't feel like he could be as creative as a chacter when he was the champion since his focus had to be defending the title, but he's glad to be back to just doing his own thing for now. He talks about some of the goals he's set for himself and how he's been accused of being a belt mark, and he said it's true and that if you're not, you don't win enough. He doesn't know what his next goal is now that he's not the ROH World Champion anymore, but he feels good about his reign, he'd love to get the chance to do it again, but for now he's ready to find his new beginning.

This may have been the best shoot interview ROH has ever done, as Steen goes very deep into discussing a number of sensitive topics he hasn't discussed in any great depth anywhere else and really gives you a clear and detailed look into his mind at every step of his career from the time he left ROH after losing to Generico at Final Battle 2010 through to his title loss to Jay Briscoe the day before this interview was filmed. Steen holds nothing back and seems very genuine in discussing the things he's asked about, and I thought it put a human face on a guy whose character is portrated as alternately smartass and insanely violent.

In addition to the interview, the DVD set contains several of Steen's most important matches since returning to ROH. It starts with Steen's return against Steve Corino at Final Battle 2011, then continues through his match with Jimmy Jacobs at the 10th Anniversary Show, the La Revancha match with El Generico, his title win over Davey and subsequent defenses against Eddie Edwards and Roderick Strong, the Eddie Kingston match at Turning Point, a title defense against Cedric Alexander on an indy show in North Carolina, the match with Jay Lethal in Rahway, and finally his last ever match with Generico in Ladder War IV at Final Battle 2012.

This is an easy one: go get this DVD now. As I said above, this was probably the best shoot interview ROH has ever done, even going back to the Straight Shootin' days, and even though there are only a few actual matches on the set, they're all awesome. Huge thumbs up for this, and you can find ordering information at www.rohwrestling.com.