Ring of Honor has always been about slowly increasing their fan base with great wrestling. Having hit the pay per view universe last year, ROH has taken another huge step in signing a national distribution deal with KOCH Entertainment (who also handle the Canadian distribution of WWE DVDs). The first two releases, Bloodstained Honor and Stars of Honor, are available now.
You have to give credit to the company for making brilliant choices in their first compilations. Looking first at Stars of Honor, the DVD highlights ROH talents with names that the casual fan who may not have seen ROH will recognize such as Samoa Joe, Homicide, Jay Lethal and Christopher Daniels from TNA and WWE's MVP (as Antonio Banks), Brian Kendrick (as Spanky), James "Noble" Gibson, Matt Hardy and CM Punk.
These "mainstream" stars face off against ROH's best, and really showcase the wrestling side, especially of wrestlers like Gibson and Kendrick who aren't given the kind of freedom in their current promotion. While Banks' match with Homicide is forgettable, the rest of the DVD is awesome stuff. It starts off with Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk in their final of three matches from 2004, as well as a segment where Punk looks at the previous two 60-minute matches between the two, which is pretty cool. Matt Hardy is showcased twice, against Homicide and Roderick Strong
, both excellent matches. Strong is again on the disk in a match against Gibson. Both of these matches leave you wanting to see more of Strong, who continues to be one of the promotion's top stars. Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal vs. Low-Ki
and Homicide from Chicago Ridge in 2005 isn't as good as their Manhattan match earlier in the year, but it would be hard to top the original and this tag is still a hell of a match. The choice of BBryan Danielson
for the match featuring Kendrick is a good choice, as the two were both trained by Shawn Michaels
and have a lot of chemistry together. A match that would be a "TNA match" now, featuring Christopher Daniels vs. Christian Cage
, rounds out the set. Bonus features include a look at Mick Foley
and Bruno Sammartino
in ROH. The only thing missing from the set is A.J. Styles
, who also started with Ring of Honor and was one of their best stars; it is a shame that his tenures in ROH were overlooked, but hopefully we will get to see him on a future release.
The second set will draw in those that are drawn to the violent aspect of wrestling. Steel cages, dog collars, barbed wire, ladders and lots of blood make up Bloodstained Honor. Once again, the disc will pick up casual fans by including names like Joe, Punk, Abyss, and Homicide. It starts off with the Steel Cage match between Samoa Joe and Jay Briscoe from Wrestlemania weekend in 2004. This match was on the first ROH show I ever saw live, and still lives up to its reputation as a gorefest - Briscoe literally bleeds buckets of blood. The match is also a well paced, thrilling bout that stands alone without the addition of the blood. Also from 2004 is the violent Chicago Street Fight between CM Punk & Ace Steel and Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer which is a fun, violent brawl. The discs also make sure to provide back story to all of the matches with pre-taped segments, so you know exactly why CM Punk and Jimmy Rave are connected by dog collars or why things needed to be settled in Steel Cage Warfare between Generation Next and The Embassy. Also included is the six-man ROH vs. CZW match with Joe, Adam Pearce and BJ Whitmer against CZW's Chris Hero, Super Dragon and Necro Butcher. If you like this match, I would encourage you to get the rest of the DVDs that focused on the ROH vs. CZW feud, culminating in a Cage of Death match at Death Before Dishonor 4, as the feud is brilliant and shows what could have been if the right person had run the WCW invasion. Also included is a Ghetto Street Fight between Homicide and Colt Cabana, Cabana again in a violent match with Jimmy Jacobs, and a Boston Street Fight between Jay & Mark Briscoe and Canadians El Generico and Kevin Steen from last summer.
The DVDs are an excellent first look at Ring of Honor. Both start at the end of the era involving RF Video's ownership of the company, which is a shame as there were several other wrestlers from 2002 - 2004 that could have been included such as Paul London, Raven. Michael Shane, and Eddie Guerrero that would have fit in nicely on the Stars of Honor disk as well.
Whether matches from the early days will be included in the future remains to be seen. Many of the matches have new commentary from the current team of Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard, who also host the intros to the matches and give the back story.
If Stars of Honor and Bloodstained Honor are a sign of what is to come, I can hardly wait for July's release of the next two DVDs, Best in the World and Greatest Rivalries.
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ROH: Bloodstained Honor DVD
ROH: Stars of Honor DVD
Jason Clevett is from Calgary ... Alberta ... Canada ... which is a long way from anyplace Ring of Honor has ever held a show.