Thanks to for their badass righteous free counters

Ring of Honor 3/30/2002
by Chris Lening

OK, so it seems I didn't like the first show as much as most people. It was all well and good, but nothing really grabbed me. The first EPIC show seemed better, at any rate. It'll be impossible to tell until tape comes out, but Dragon/Dragon smoked everything at the first ROH Show, and New Jack celebrating racial diversity and laying ding dongs was the funniest thing I've ever seen at a wrestling show (Team ECK segments, obviously, are excluded). But then, I'm biased, and that's why I'm reviewing East Coast shows in the first place.

However, the second Ring of Honor show, according to all those in the know, is the one to get (as is the fourth, but that isn't out, I don't think). And I am inclined to agree: it features another match between Low Ki and American Dragon, who had one of the two best indy matches of 2001. On paper, this would seem like the show which either makes me a fan of Rob Feinstein's little show or makes me a slave to no one but Gary Yap and the Lutteroth family. So once more, I will walk through the fire, and let it burn.

Hey, it's a montage set to house music! I remember those! It shifts midway into a godawful metal thing, though. We want house! We want house!

More of Da Hit Squad and their exploits with the fans of Ring of Honor. They will chant anything with three syllables, it seems. Da Hit Squad again seem to have taken vocal lessons from Fat Joe. Damn Big Punisher. Why did he have to choke on that ham sandwich?

There is a brief scroll of the code of Honor, which makes it seem as though someone doesn't like Memphis. I suppose it's a good idea to make it be all about competition, but damn, so much fun can be had from the simple exploits of hate.

Divine Storm look like a pair of tiny Frankie Kazarians. American Dragon is awesome.

Christopher Daniels vs. American Dragon Am Drag enters to "Self-Esteem" by the Offspring. Seems odd. Although I have seen him enter to Big Pimpin', so perhaps I should shut up and talk about the match.

This match is probably the best example of what Ring of Honor is trying to be. The two guys in there are doing more or less what it takes to win, and absolutely nothing else (save a couple of let's entertain the crowd with chops and teased finisher sequences, but never mind). Am Drag exchanges his dominance on the mat into work on the neck, but Daniels is able to transition into a counter suplex almost exactly as the match leaves the mat. From there, it turns into work on AD's neck. Both are just working to the finish, trying to get out of there as efficiently as possible. Basically, it would seem like an attempt at legitimacy. This is just amazingly weird, as it takes place in an American Indy. There is no place with less of a fourth wall than the American Indies.

The match itself is very smartly worked, with American Dragon going so far as to sell the damage further by his choice of offense (a suplex he can't pull off, and the diving headbutt, in particular, give him the chance to illustrate his neck pain). It's a little silly, but I can't argue that it does what it's supposed to do. Oddly, there's not a ton that really seems placed in there to pop the crowd, save perhaps for the stuff mentioned above and the swank-ass Am Drag work into the crossface in the beginning. It's a fine match, if not some sort of Jakked beyond. (14:22)

Daniels is all about doing heel mic work, which makes sense, since Am Drag is so likeable. The announcers need to shut the hell up, though.

Prince Nana and Eric Tuttle are talking and yeah. Here's CW Anderson, and he seems to be straining to sound like he has a Southern Accent.

Prince Nana/Eric Tuttle (with Simply Luscious) vs. Da Hit Squad (Monsta Mack/Mafia) Hey! Mic Work is hard to hear when your tape quality sucks. In the meantime, Simply Luscious has neat pants.

Spot. Pose. Convoluted Set-up. Spot. Pose. Convoluted Set-up. So that's what happened to Rob Van Dam's old style. (1:53)

Hey, I don't think I saw anybody shaking hands.

The Christopher Street Connection come out. In theory, Da Hit Squad stop them by hurling Tuttle at them, but alas, Physics is a cruel mistress. Oh boy! Woman beating! Oh boy! Gay jokes! This is like what happens when I'm in hell and they're showing wrestling.

Hey, that Fast Forward thing is really handy. Here's the Boogie Knights. They seem to be from the Bronx. There's a grill in the locker room. How about that.

Joey Matthews/Christian York vs. CW Anderson/Elax There's not a whole ton here. Anderson spends a lot of the match working on Matthews' arm, but ultimately the match goes to a finish right after that segment ends, and Anderson ends up eating a crappy-looking 3D variation, so it seems altogether pointless. York and Elax don't really do a whole lot in here, either, so most of this match is between Anderson, who's pretty good, and Matthews, who doesn't seem like he's been wrestling for that long. The odd thing, of course, is that he has. He seems kinda off in his execution, and a little unsure of himself. Oh well. This is fine, but it's probably just too in the middle of everything to leave a good impression after what preceded it. (7:05)

CW beats up Elax.

Xavier seems quite peppy. James Maritato references UWF-I, which apparently is a shoot group. Odd, I coulda sworn it wasn't. Still, the UWF sweatshirt is swank. It's like a college sweatshirt.

Xavier vs. James Maritato If you like ECW, you prolly know the second guy is Little Guido. If you don't like ECW, good for you.

The match starts with two minutes of a lot of matwork and reversal sequences, which are all well and good until it ends with a pose of Mutual Respect. So it sucks.

Xavier controls most of the rest of the match, with Maritato only getting in counters whenever Xavier tries something all elaborate. It's hard to really go any further; nothing really seemed bad, except the announcing, which always sucks, but nothing stood out, either. If we had seen this match live, James would have written a whole lot about what it means for both competitors, and I would have gone "Yep" and "Uh-huh" a lot. On tape, it's perfectly acceptable, which is better than most indy matches, I suppose. (7:00)

Frank Talent of the State Athletic Commision praises the wrestlers and urges them not to curse. Spanky brushes his teeth, for some reason. I'm confused, but still, Spanky was doing stuff.

Natural Born Sinners threaten to kill the Boogie Knights. The one with a Chainsaw sounds like Mr. T, except without the sense of irony.

Boogie Knights (Danny Drake/Mike Tobin) vs. Natural Born Sinners (Homicide/Boogalou) Hey, they have tag ropes!

Hey! This is really short and the BK get no offense. And the NBS offense is OK, if not packed to the gills with other people's finishers. (2:48) It seems odd the two segments with the teams in this match ended up combining to last longer than the match itself.

YES! Low Ki talks! He's trying so hard to talk like that. It's adorable.

Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki This match isn't afraid to get a little dirtier than the first of the Round Robin Challenge, as there are enough taunts and poses, not to mention a bunch of flashy moves, to suggest there's emotion to be had. As for the action itself, it kinda runs like the first match, with Daniels falling victim to one of his opponent's strengths (Dragon takes him to the mat, Ki kicks him a lot), until he manages to counter into his largely neck-based offense. Ultimately his offense seems of less consequence, here, as all that work doesn't pay off with a pinfall after he hits his finisher (Corino explains it's because he didn't hook the leg, channeling the spirit of Michael Hayes). I guess I kinda see the point, if that's what they were trying to do, but I can't say it's a particularly satisfying device. Ki stands out particularly on offense; the flow between moves is actually really smooth, and the poses are less annoying once you've seen him a few times. He breaks the trend of working to the finish, too: although he does kick the hell out of Daniels early on in a way which would support further injury via Ki Crusher, he doesn't actually hit the thing until recovering from an extended period of Daniels' offense. It's not as good a match as the first one technically, but it's easier to grab onto, and probably more fun live. (11:00)

Mic Work is quite difficult to hear. Daniels seems to be disrespecting the Code of Honor, because he's a big heel or something. Eventually he gets threatened by Da Hit Squad, and then Spanky makes the camera focus on him and I'm confused.

The SAT play basketball and Red would seem to be roughly four feet tall, if that's a regulation ring.

Chris Marvel vs. Paul London (w/Rudy Boy Gonzalez) The first forty seconds end in a pose of mutual respect, the match is called early due to Marvel injuring his leg, so there's only about a minute worth of stuff here. (2:10)

Unfortunately, the camera does not show Marvel's leg when the break occurs; I'm not a mark for fractures or anything, but I've got too much sports medicine experience to not be somewhat interested. It seems Marvel catches London's Asai Moonsault wrong, causing his right leg to buckle. It's bending at a highly irregular angle, based on where's he's grabbing, though, it looks like a broken tibia. Those aren't so good. Two minutes on Google suggests it was an ankle injury, which now that I look at it explains things better. The lower leg itself remained intact, but the foot was all off. Damn, my game is all rusty.

Jay Briscoe (w/Mark Briscoe) vs. Spanky Spanky enters to "Quality Control", and all is right with the world.

After a decent, but not terribly crisp matwork segment, Spanky works on Briscoe's neck, setting up for the Sliced Bread #2. Briscoe shifts to offense when Spanky bleeds, all but ignoring that his neck should be in pain. He even hits a front suplex, which would seem to impact his own neck quite a bit, but he immediately goes for the pin. Spanky eventually counters back when Briscoe starts to go for the more elaborate parts of his offense, and the Sliced Bread takes it. Neither guy looks at his best here, and the segments with Briscoe on offense seem alternately listless and annoying. He is a lot better here than he was against Red, as he keeps the headdrop abuse way down. He could become really good with more time, but he's serviceable enough now, selling issues aside. Still, this is a heck of a lot more fun than anything that preceded it, except for the Round Robin Challenge stuff. (11:18)

Some segment about a TWA fan poll (which Dragon wins) with really shitty sound. It's like they just taped a bunch of random stuff backstage and tossed it in when they figured it would make some sense.

Divine Storm (Chris Divine/Quiet Storm) vs. The SAT (Jose/Joel Maximo) vs. The Amazing Red/Brian XL Do you like matches where it looks like an actual competition? Do you like matches with any sort of build and pacing? Do you like matches where everything is done crisply? If something isn't done crisply, do you like it when they just move on instead of repeating themselves? Do you like logic?

Then don't watch this. It sucks. (12:07) Word to whoever decided to call it "Lucha Style": Don't ever say that again in a match with that many headdrops and that much kicking out of headdrops, or I'll hunt you down and break your shins.

Low Ki talks! He needs to team with Stevie Ray in the broadcast booth so I can laugh a lot. Possibly Dusty Rhodes would work, also.

American Dragon vs. Low Ki (Special Guest Referee: Ken Shamrock) Wow, that's some high ambitions. I mean, the match most associated with Shamrock reffing is Bret-Austin from WM 13, and that was real good, if you're a fan of understatement. And this…

The beginning and middle of this are brilliant. A large part of what made the July 2001 match so good was the laser focus of Dragon. He never left Ki's arm when he was on offense. And here, well, Dragon keeps the same level of focus on Ki's arm, plus Ki displays a similar lock on Dragon's neck and head. Double Fun, and in a show filled with working towards the finisher, these two performances are the best of the show. It even works within the context of their strengths, with Dragon working most of the holds for his offense, and Ki usually scoring in short bursts, of the kick in the head variety. In a way, the level of exchange, trying to grab whatever opportunity is there, is kinda like Dragon-Daniels at the start. But it's not nearly as sterile-feeling. There's intensity, passion, emotion, something like that: it's much more absorbing to watch, whatever the hell it is. They even reach the point where it feels like everything else around just dies off except for the two guys in the ring. (Shamrock is a fine referee.) Also, it should be noted that Dragon builds credibly into the freaking Rocking Horse, and for that, I stand and applaud.

And then there's a slight derail. They pull each other's finisher somewhere past 20 minutes in, Ki grabbing a Cattle Mutilation, and Dragon following up into the Ki Clutch. Except Ki didn't spend a whole lot of time working to the Mutilation, and Dragon didn't spend a whole lot of time working to the Clutch, and it's really silly. This begins the race to the end, which is where the match loses a bit of steam. It gets pretty masturbatory in places, with all kinds of moves that should be scoring pinfalls not scoring pinfalls. Part of this is that Ki sells a lot of his own offense by spazzing out; he looks more wasted by the Ki Crusher off the top rope than Dragon is, and he's not the one who fell on his head. There's not a ton of selling in this phase, either; the only time when either sells the damage built all match is when the other is emphasizing it via a move or hold. They're not devolving into full-out whacking off in there, but it just seems to lose a bit of steam from the opening 20 minutes.

This is nitpicking, or to some degree it is. This match is, regardless of the last paragraph, a great match. 2/3 Brilliance and 1/3 of a Pretty Good Finishing sequence is more than enough to warrant picking up the tape, even if there wasn't anything else of note on the tape.

This is probably better than Dragon/Dragon, which had finishing issues of its own, but it probably isn't as good as the Dragon/Spanky vs. Dragon/Joe match. It's impossible to say for sure, as the EPIC Stuff isn't on tape quite yet. It did do a whole lot to kill off the rampant feelings of overhype I've been getting from the supporters of the East Coast Indies. This is a better match than anything else shown in America this year if you don't have Galavision or EPIC tapes, in all likelihood. (32:05) Unless James finds something better in the Midwest.

Standing Ovation, although the match's end was structured to give the vibe of "They're leaving it all in the ring here tonight." So obviously they were gonna stand and clap and chant stuff. I'd appreciate it more if they didn't chant "Ring of Honor", though. Chanting for the promotion is so tacky.

These announcers sure do like hyperbole, don't they?

Whipwreck yells at his trainees, Spanky congratulates Am Drag and then mocks him for being a computer nerd.

Musical outro. Oooh, I like this music. It's like that progressive house or something.

So, this was the show they had pimped as being the best, and compared to the first one, it was much better. The stuff outside the Round Robin Challenge was serviceable, by and large; the result of Marvel/London is something you really can't blame on either guy, although I have no problem in blaming Da Hit Squad and the Whipwreck trainees/Brian XL for being irritating. I think this sells for like, $25, so I'm not sure if it's really worth THAT much, but hey, split it with a friend or two and it's well worth your time.

Chris Lening
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