I attended Night one with fellow reviewers Brian and Didge in Philly and fulfilled any true wrestling fan's dream of seeing Mitsuharu Misawa live and in person. Now, I can sit back on my couch, grab a microwave pizza and a soda and critique the second night from the comfort of my living room.
1) El Generico v. Chris Hero- 3
Please, answer me this: Chris Hero, can you work? I mean, this guy gets heat like Tupac did during his murder but can you work? Generico has some talent but this is a gimmick than can only take you to Mid-card land. They do a couple of nice offensive counters towards the end but Hero is just too much bullshit in the ring for me to enjoy watching him. He finally wins after Generico kicked out of his finish once; logically, why would you let someone kick out of a finish on the first match of the show? Afterwards, we get Albright throwing Generico through a Double Stack of tables at ringside? What the fuck? Was that necessary, then Steen and Delirious make their way in for a brawl that becomes....
2) Brent Albright/ BJ Whitmer v. Kevin Steen/ Delirious- 3
.....is this fucking ECW? Just throwing matches together on the fly born from a shitty brawl? Albright and Whitmer on their own have their individual merits but I'm not seeing any team work here. From either team, actually, both teams are just interfering at will with no tags. No control in this match at all. Steen is a stiff ole' big boy who I first saw up in Canada working with Pierre Oulette. He's got a certain charisma and he can work, but cut out the topes over the top rope. Everyone does that. Delirious, I'm starting to think, is running his course. The logical thing at this point would be to give him a love interest. Steen has some killer moves that are just killing Whitmer, who looks like a fucking beach bum with that hair cut. Okay, so now Hagadorn is in the ring challenging anyone in the back, yadda yadda and we're on to this match.....
3) Shane Hagadorn v. Austin Aries- 1
I give this one because it's short. Really wouldn't want to see these two work a match. Aries' hair is crazy; he looks like one of those guys who was lost in the woods for 3 weeks then comes out and tells about him gutting a bear with a sharpened twig and sleeping in the fur for warmth. Still has a good 450 splash though.
4) Claudio Castagnoli v. Noamichi Marufuji- 5
I need to say upfront, I'm not a big Claudio supporter but this match had some good stuff. They start out with both guys using Claudio's heat, doing the "hey!" thing for the fans. Then, they start into an exhibition with some comedy mixed in. For such a tall guy, CC can hang with Marufuji. Then, you have CC doing his easy going leg holds on the ground, and seemingly not really trying to stretch anyone, which the point of putting on a submission hold is to make a guy tap, but anyways, Marufuji returns the favor with some dynamic leg work and we have a match. Both guys turn up the intensity and start hitting really good stuff. CC does a giant swing and throws Marufuji into the bottom ropes and hits a camera guy in a crazy spot. I love Marufuji's side kick, he just scrapes it right off the side of your face. CC actually gets the pinfall in a kind of surprising upset which was another interesting aspect of the match. Much better than I expected.
5) Briscoe Brothers v. Jimmy Jacobs/ Necro Butcher- 0
We get a 50 second match that ends in a sloppy DQ. Way to appreciate your fans. The whole audience is chanting "F'n Bullshit" at the Briscoes, who look like faces caught in heel headlights and don't know what to do.
6) Bryan Danielson v. Takeshi Morishima- 6
This was the highlight of the evening. This was Danielson's revenge match against Morishima who tried to take out his eye and he was all over the big Jap. Really chaotic brawling on the outside of the ring followed by extremely brutal strikes on the inside. Morishima tried to pound Danielson's eye again as Dragon tried to quickly retreat but regroup quickly enough to stay on the offense against him. Both guys played their roles really well and while it lasted this was a fun and heated match. DQ finish actually makes sense here as Dragon states he is taking "a ball for a ball." Morishima, as we all know, has a hell of a clothesline but Dragon's sell of it comes off real and looks injury-laden as all hell. After the match though, we get another sympathetic Nigel promo that the fans shit on until Dragon kicks him square in the head.
7) Alex Payne v. Tyler Black- 0
Here's another 30 second squash that was extrememly unimpressive. Black has a skinny build so they put him up against the "Gerber Baby" Payne who looks even smaller and punier than Black. And how many people do a brainbuster finish? Give me a fucking break......of a Kit Kat bar, please.
8) No Remorse Core v. The Vulture Squad- 4
I'm a big fan of the NRC, I think Romero has improved greatly, Richards is a big strong bruiser and Strong as their leader, well, he's the most rapidly accelerating guy in the business, he's already running matches and he's a damn stiff competitor. On the other side are 3 completely different guys, all with gynmast-like acrobatics and very little else. The match flows like a well lubricated...car engine and never slows down. Spot after spot after spot, but they play it like a WWE-style tag where each high spot takes the guy out of the ring to recoop. The NRC do get the chance to play old school heels briefly with a beatdown period on Jigsaw(how much lamer can a guy with a mask and puzzle pieces on his trunks get?) The downfall is you don't get any of that drama that comes from a back and forth tag match or see the psychology of it, you just get crazy move after crazy move which usually would get old on an ROH show, but there hasn't been one yet so the match doesn't offend me. Plus Strong finishes, well, strong with a powerbomb on the outside then throws Evans right in and touches his toes to his head with a boston crab. Damn (sorry, Ron)
9) Austin Aries v. Chris Hero- 4
Oh, god another Hero match? I know I didn't give the Girl Scouts any money when I left Wal-Mart the other day, but is this how you repay me, Mr. J of Nazareth? Anyways, Aries controls most of the bout when Hero isn't grandstanding and performing tricks around the ring. Hero's offense is really limited and I'm not getting the cravate schtick, He keeps going to it for different moves and I don't believe that scrawny punk can suplex someone from a cravate, maybe Andre but not Hero. Bobby Dempsey at ringside is taking some abuse and the fans are really sympathetic to him. Aries smacks him in the face with his suicide dive and I cringe. The last 2 minutes works for the match because Aries overcomes the odds of Sweet & Sour Inc and has a good comeback and finishes with a 450.
10) Mitsuharu Misawa v. KENTA- 6
KENTA'S kicks are always bludgeoning and Misawa doesn't look happy, but what else is new. He fires back with some astounding forearms throughout the match, so there is a good striking contest going on. The pace is slow, slower than even a usual NOAH main event and Misawa isn't playing with the crowd as much as he did the night prior. He actually busts out a elbow suicido at one point and I really don't think he still has to break that out, but maybe it was a treat just for us US fans. The match never really gains that intensity like a normal Japanese match would until the last minute when they escape finisher after finisher until Misawa, like a true man with a long dick, takes a face crushing GTS and gives a tremendous near fall. A clean finish, as expected and I'm quite pleased. I think the tag match the night prior, even though it went to a draw worked better because you had more workers to draw from and it was closer to a Budokan Hall level main event than this, but this was still leagues better than most everything else on this show.
11) Jimmy Jacobs/ Necro Butcher v. Briscoe Brothers (No DQ Match) - 3
I'm giving this points merely for the sick bumps that were distributed during this short foray. You could hear the fans collectively groaning that this ironically ECW-esque brawl was bringing down the lights on this exhausting show. Necro was taking bump after bump on open folding chairs, destroying them every time. Jimmy Jacobs did a back senton from the top rope to the outside and probably shattered his tailbone for a few scattered "hardcore" chants. The match ended with a simple finisher, probably just out of the fact that the crowd couldn't have cared less and the perormers picked up on it. This was really sloppy booking and not knowing what your audience wants. They wanted this match earlier in the show, not the cheap DQ fin they were given. And after they've blown their wad seeing Misawa live (the selling point of the show); who cares about some hardcore slopfest we can get anywhere on any indy show in the country. Poor choice for a main event.