August 4, 2008
ROH in New York an incredible experience
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
NEW YORK - At the Ring of Honor shows in Detroit during the weekend of Wrestlemania 23, ROH owner Cary Silken told me that if I ever wanted to experience the promotion at its finest, I had to come see a show in New York City, as it was like nothing else. On August 2nd, I took his advice, and am I ever glad I did.
For the second time, ROH ran the historic Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. It's amazing when you think about how the company has grown from monthly shows at the Murphy Rec Centre in Philadelphia to drawing at one of the top venues in New York. Arriving at the venue, you can get a sense of the history of the promotion in New York -- their first shows in the city were at the Grand Ballroom in the adjacent New Yorker Hotel, and then moved to the Manhattan Centre.
At first the magic of New York City seemed to be lacking. The first three matches were enjoyable -- it's rare for ROH to have a bad match -- but nothing special. That changed when NWA champion Adam Pearce arrived with a new red leather title belt and suggested that challenger Brent Albright come and settle their issue immediately.
The two former stablemates in the Hangmen 3 tore into each other, and Albright was busted open when he was shoved off the top rope through a table onto the floor. Pearce's manager Larry Sweeney tried to interfere but Roderick Strong, who was cost a match by Sweeney earlier, took him out with a brutal kick to the face. It seemed like the moment for the title switch, but it didn't happen and the match lost the crowd somewhat at that point. The two men quickly turned that around and soon had the NYC audience chanting "This is awesome." After several false finishes, Albright made Pearce tap out to win the NWA championship.
Another hated champion -- ROH Champ Nigel McGuinness -- had his work cut out for him in the main event, a four-way elimination match against Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black, and Claudio Castignoli. It was the NYC crowd that originally resulted in Nigel turning heel at the end of 2007, and he seemed to relish taunting the crowd as they threw some R-rated chants at him. The match represented ROH at its best, as each man busted their ass and showed what Ring of Honor is -- fantastic wrestling without a lot of extra distractions. Castignoli -- who said he would leave ROH if he failed to win the title last weekend in Detroit -- was eliminated first by Danielson, prompting the crowd to sing "Hey Goodbye" and chant "Get the F out." After shaking Danielson's hand, Claudio turned on him, attacking him as well as security before placing a chair on Danielson's head and stomping it. A gleefull McGuinness took advantage of the groggy Danielson, scoring a lariat to eliminate him, much to the crowd's dismay.
If you saw ROH's Take No Prisoners pay per view, then you had an idea of what would happen when McGuinness and remaining competitor Tyler Black went one-on-one. Every time Nigel seemed to have the match won, Black kicked out. Every time Black seemed on the verge of winning the title, Nigel managed to escape. The crowd was absolutely rabid during the final moments and every single near-fall, until a frustrated Nigel took Tyler's head off with two brutal lariats to win. As the ring was showered with garbage, he gloated that nobody could beat him. Pro Wrestling NOAH star Naomichi Marifuji watched from the rampway and indicated he had his eyes on Nigel's belt.
The main event capped off a spectacular second half of the show, which featured two different styles of wrestling. NOAH stars Marifuji and Go Shiozaki squared off after intermission and gave a fine showing of Japanese wrestling in one of the top matches of the night. This was followed up by a "tag team dream match" featuring two of the best teams on earth -- TNA's Motor City Machineguns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) and Montreal's Kevin Steen and El Generico. Anybody who says tag team wrestling is dead needs to look at this match, which shows that when the right people do it, a tag team match can still be magic. After lots of creative double teams, fast-paced action, and amusing comedic moments, Generico dropped Shelley headfirst onto the top turnbuckle with a brainbuster, taking him out and allowing Steen to trap Sabin in the sharpshooter for the win.
After being fairly tame early on, the New York City crowd soon lived up to its reputation, adding to the show with a great outpouring of energy and enthusiasm. When Daizee Haze politely turned down Delerious' request for a date, the crowd booed so loudly you could hardly hear her, before chanting that she was a tease. They cursed TNA, praised Danielson, and really helped make an already great night of wrestling something special.
This is the fourth time I have seen Ring of Honor live, although I follow their DVDs. It certainly makes me wish I lived closer to the Northeast, and especially New York City, because Silkin is right -- there is nothing like ROH in the Big Apple, and I hope I get to have a bite again.
Ring of Honor Death Before Dishonor VI Results
Jason Clevett lives in Calgary, and was in Boston for a vacation, and managed to swing a bus ride to New York City for the Ring of Honor show.