Reverse The Curse - 12/5/09
We're back in Chicago Ridge, Illinois and Jim Cornette opens the show, thanks the fans for coming and thanks them for their support while hyping tonight's main event, and it occured to me while watching this that Jim Cornette really is like the Terry Funk of ROH. Now obviously I don't mean that in terms of him being an in-ring worker or the overall impact he's had on the success of the company, but Cornette is the respected veteran with a long national career who has taken an interest in the company and rather than showing up and collecting a paycheck, wants to do whatever he can to help improve the product. He's got the respect of the fans and the boys, to the point where most of them wouldn't think to question what he says and, even if they do, probably will keep their mouth shut because Jim said it. In all respects, I consider that a good thing because Cornette's the kind of guy who's going to attract the types of fans ROH wants, and he's got such a wealth of experience and knowledge about the business that he's easily the most valuable guy ROH has is a business that is becoming increasingly devoid of veterans who are willing and able to help out the next generation.
The show proper opens with a Four Corner Survival with Sami Callahan, Joey Ryan, Shane Hollister, and Skullkrusher Rasche Brown, and the thing about these FCS matches is that they pretty much always break down into a tag team formula with two guys working one guy over until he can make the hot tag to the fourth man, and then all hell breaks loose and it's every man for himself, there will most likely be dives on the floor, and then one guy will end up getting the win and, in rare cases, the whole exercise means nothing in the long run and is just a way to get guys on the show. I like Joey Ryan, I'm really entertained by Rasche, and I think Sami Callahan is the most underrated guy on the indies right now, and they made it entertaining, but these matches never really amount to anything. Tonight, it was Joey Ryan's turn to get his hand raised, hitting a Mustache Ride on Hollister for the win.
Next up we have a Pick Six match for the #1 spot, as (1)Kevin Steen took on Claudio Castagnoli. Steen cut a pretty heavy prematch promo talking about how bad his knee is getting and how he had to break out a knee brace he put away five years ago, and he probably should be taking time off but he's gotta do what he's gotta do, so here he is, and he was surprised that he beat Hero to win the #1 spot, and even if he loses to Claudio, he's going to go down swinging. They were really working the knee injury angle at this point so we'd think he was going to disappear after Final Battle, and I'm sure the injury really is pretty bad, though I also think Steen was playing it up as part of the angle as well, even limping on his way to the ring for his matches with the limp getting slightly worse every time he comes to the ring. This entire match was just claudio working the knee, even doing a Giant Swing just using the bad leg. Match was only about five minutes and ended when Claudio made Steen tap out to the Sharpshooter to claim the number one spot. The booking of Kevin Steen at this point was so genius, because for months it was all about building sympathy for Steen because of the knee injury, and after this match he grabbed the mic and told the fans it was his kid's second birthday but he was here because he wanted to do it for the fans, and they pulled out every trick they could to make Steen a sympathetic figure and get everyone to love him and get behind him so that when he turned on Generico at Final Battle, everyone was left with their jaw on the ground. This is what I'm talking about, this stuff is so subtle and so well done that when the big payoffs happen, you sit there and go "OHHHH, now I get it!" and you can't ask for more than that from a wrestling angle.
After that we go to tag team action as the House Of Truth took on the Young Bucks, and I'm getting tired of repeating myself about how awesome I think the HoT is, and of course we all know how good the Bucks are, so suffice it to say they had another great tag match that made me wish that the Bucks didn't leave and that the HoT were full time roster members. HoT get the upset win when Christian Able rolls up Nick Jackson with a handful of tights for the upset win.
Next we had another Pick Six Match, as (4)Roderick Strong took on (6)Kenny Omega, and I've spent a lot of time in the series talking about how much Roderick has improved and what an asset he's become to ROH, but the same can be said about Kenny Omega in terms of what he brings to ROH. I think the goofy persona may hold him back from breaking through as a serious title contender, but he's a very exciting wrestler to watch and, once he got the insane high-flying stuff brought under control, has shown that he's a competent wrestler too. He does a great job of playing the babyface-in-peril and really draws the fans in when he's trying and trying to make the babyface comeback. It's too bad his Japanese commitments keep him from coming around more because it doesn't give ROH enough opportunities to really give him a big push, but it's always a treat when he does come around. Roderick finally gets the win so both men retain their spot, and this was an excellent match which once again played Omega up as the plucky young upstart trying to upset his more established opponent.
We go from that great wrestling match to an all-out brawl between Erick Stevens and the Necro Butcher, but it was more of a fight that started in the aisleway and around ringside for several minutes before it even made it in the ring and the bell rang to start the official match. I've said before, I really like Erick Stevens and I think the heel turn's been great for him, I do fear for his heat being a member of the Embassy and all, but I think if they wanted to keep the Embassy-Necro feud going, Stevens is a great person to slot into the Embassy role because not only does he come off well as a smarmy jerk, but he's also big and strong enough to believably go toe-to-toe with Necro. Match ended in a DQ when Stevens grabbed a chair and nailed Necro with it, but Necro no-sold the chairshot in true monster fashion and went after Stevens, slugging the referee when he tried to break it up. The Jobber Patrol came out to try and break it up and didn't do a very good job until Necro grabbed a helmet from someone in the front row and used it to clear out the ring. I started out by wondering what someone in the crowd would need a helmet for, but then again in a Necro Butcher match, that might not be such a bad idea.
We go back to more Pick Six action as (5)Tyler Black took on Kenny King, and it was an exciting enough match, but I did see some flaws, and guess whose part they were on? Let me explain something about Tyler Black, I always say that he can only have a really good match when he's carried to one by a really top notch guy like Danielson, Nigel or Aries but he can't do it himself, and the reasons why become evident in matches like these. When he's not being led by someone else, Tyler defaults to just doing his pet moves in random order without any psychology, like he'll be in control of Kenny King in a match like this and he'll go "Okay, now I'll do my Lionsault three minutes into the match. Next, I'll do my dropkick, but the guy holds the ropes so I backflip and land on my feet. Next I'll stomp in the corner for 20 minutes then try a running forearm but the guy will bail to the floor." He has no capacity to tell a story with his matches, and he always falls back on spotspotspot. And then there's the ever present problem with the moves that he spends an hour calling for before actually doing, like the aforementioned stompy forearm and also when he stands on the guy's face and claps for the fans before laying in the stomp. It wastes time and makes his opponent look like an idiot for just laying or standing there waiting to take the move. This is no knock on Kenny, but this was a situation where having Tyler in the match hurt it more than it helped.
Moving on, the Briscoes took on the Dark City Fight Club in a pretty formulaic tag match: DCFC controlled, hot tag, DCFC takes over again, another hot tag, and finish. The interesting thing about this match, and another example of good booking, the DCFC hit their finish and had Mark beat but Jay broke up the fall, and then Mark wound up getting a quick rollup out of the corner on Chavis and getting the win. Good setup for the DCFC to say "we had you beat but you beat us on a fluke" and lead to future matches. Indeed, the DCFC beat down Mark after the match and Jay chases them off with a chair, then grabs a mic and tells the DCFC they'll see them again.
Finally, Austin Aries' streak of awesome title defenses continues as he defends the ROH World Title against Colt Cabana in a cage. This was their second go around in a cage, because when Aries first won the ROH Title from Samoa Joe in 2004, his first challenger was Colt Cabana and they had a great cage match at the Third Anniversary Show Part 1, and for all you trivia buffs out there who actually care, that was my first live ROH event I ever attended, and got there on a bus trip promoted by PWInsider's own Mike Johnson! Funny how these things go. Anyway, Cabana had tapped Aries out at the atrocious Boiling Point event, earning this title shot. Cabana's not in the Pick Six, but he beat Aries before it was instituted, so he gets a pass. I don't quite get the logic of needing a cage for this match because this is their first singles meeting in a long, long time and there was no real heat going into this match other than Cabana wanting a title. It's ostensibly there to keep King and Titus out, but why that's an issue here and not any other Aries title defense is lost on me. I guess the answer is that they wanted a big main event featuring a hometown Chicago boy with a big stipulation to sell tickets, so there you go.
But the background of this match aside, this was an AWESOME match. It started out like a pretty typical Colt Cabana comedy match, but inside a cage, and I have to say I've never seen anybody do comedy spots in a cage before and it was so innovative that I can't help but put them over for it. After several minutes of the comedy, it broke down into a pretty typical, hard fought cage match, but then came even more innovation with the finish. Aries was standing, beaten bloody, between the ropes and the cage, and Cabana came crashing into him with the Butt Butt with so much force that it blew Aries through the cage and to the floor, winning the match on a technicality because of an offensive move performed by Cabana. Jim Cornette came to ringside, obviously upset over what happened because, in true biased wrestling official fashion, had been banking on the cage stipulation to get the title off what he considered an unworthy champion. So I guess we have the reason for the cage right there. The announcement came and the referee raised Aries' hand right in front of Cornette, and the smug look Aries gave Cornette, as if to say "Ha ha, you thought you had me in a no-win situation but I got one over on you anyway!", was priceless.
But even better was the way Cabana sold it, flipping out in the ring and very obviously pissed off over getting screwed by this turn of events, because the stipulation was that if Cabana didn't win the title, he'd never get another ROH World Title shot in Chicago ever again. He then grabbed a mic and proceeded to make me love this entire segment even more by burying Ric Flair, saying the he knew Cornette wasn't here to shake hands and sign autographs, of collect a paycheck before going back to Vince only to discover that Vince didn't want him, he's not going to blow out of ROH to go to Australia and draw less people than were there in Chicago Ridge, and he wasn't there to be a big name who got catered to because he's a star. He was there to make a difference, because he loves wrestling and saw how much the ROH wrestlers love wrestling, and he's not going to ask Cornette to change the decision, but he wants an opportunity to get back in the Pick Six so that when he wins the ROH World Title, his first title defense can be right here in Chicago. Cornette said he guaranteed Cabana a shot to get back in the Pick Six, and when he gets back into the Pick Six, he'll guarantee Cabana another shot at the ROH World Title.
Then, in a short backstage promo right at the end of the DVD, Aries says that people wondered who would go on to face Tyler Black at Final Battle, but now everyone knows it'll be him, and he's also showed over the last month that he'll go to war for this title if he has to, and then asks Tyler if he's ready to go to war with him over the title. Terrific backstage promo and a terrific main event overall. This show was middle of the road leaning good until the main event stuff, and that just put it way over the top. I highly, highly recommend this show mostly for the main event, plus some really solid undercard matches and great storytelling underneath.