ROH TV 5/12/12

Coming off the heels of the controversial and problematic Border Wars iPPV, ROH is at yet another turning point. Kevin Steen is the new heavyweight champion, so now the question of whether he delivers on his threats to hold ROH hostage like a French Canadian version of Ben Chang or whether he embraces the fact that he’s become the biggest anti-hero in Ring of Honor remains to be seen. How ROH handles the fallout of the transmission problems with Border Wars, and their possible lawsuit against their former booker Gabe Sapolsky, also remains to be seen. With so many feuds having been blown off going into the summer, and Best In The World still a ways away, the next TV tapings (which took place this weekend in Baltimore) should lay some new cards on the table. Until then, we have last weekend’s show, which aired the same night as Border Wars but is still reflective of the last taping schedule, as Davey Richards is still the champion and Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team are not yet tag champs. In a fast paced, action packed ROH TV we see WGTT in action, a Trios match from CHIKARA, and a Proving Ground main event between Davey Richards and “The Man Beast” Rhino.

–In the spirit of the fast pace of this episode, I’m gonna keep this recap quick & dirty. First off we have Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team vs. D-Line. D-Line are Black Ice and Bodysnatcher, two large black guys who look like football players, dress like generic indie jobbers, and represent some civic organization that packed a number of their members into the crowd, wearing red t-shirts in a block. Pairing that with the horror movie names, I really don’t know what their gimmick was supposed to be. Haas & Benjamin were generous in letting D-Line handle a lot of the offense to show what they could do, but that wasn’t much. In the end the taller of the two D-Liners (Bodysnatcher, I guess?) tapped to the Haas of Pain. WGTT are pros for letting a pair of lumps like that get so much offense in.

–Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuiness were joined on commentary next by UltraMantis Black, as we featured a guest match from CHIKARA. I was hoping that the CHIKARA deal would involve some of their talent appearing on ROH TV, because it shakes up the roster a little bit and they’re always entertaining, if completely differently styled from ROH. This one featured The Colony (Soldier Ant, Green Ant, and Fire Ant) vs. The Ice Creams (Ice Cream Jr. and El Hijo del Ice Cream) and Ophidian. Ophidian might be known to some people as one of Osirian Portal, the YouTube sensations from last year with the hypnotizing gimmick. The Ice Creams used to have a third member, Very Mysterious Ice Cream, who is now of course Antonio Cesaro in WWE, aka Claudio Castagnoli. Both teams had custom music for their entrance, which I’m not sure is something that comes straight from CHIKARA. I know the ants were using “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band, anyway. This was wild lucha rules action. CHIKARA style in general, especially with these guys, has so much lucha libre influence that you really have to teach yourself not to take it too seriously, or too realistically anyway. I think there were a few miscommunications or botches in this one: the ants attempted a three man Antapult onto the Ice Creams, who were holding each other in fear on the outside, and they stood there for way too long before Ophidian broke it up, and at one point they cut away for a preposterously long time to a crowd shot of some dude with a Manson beard. The Colony scored the win with The Anthill, which looks like a cheerleader throw move into a big splash. Sadly, no hypnotism in this one.

Jay Lethal vs. Ricky Reyes was next. No story to this one, just a quick match to fill time, but it was good to see an ROH alumnus like Reyes come around again, because it made it feel just a little more important than a squash match. Lethal hit a few of his trademark spots and ended quickly with the Lethal Injection. Even though there wasn’t much to it, I’d rather see more guys get a chance to show what they have in shorter bursts on a TV show than long matches that drag on.

–With Best in the World still in the distance and Border Wars having not officially happened yet, Inside ROH was actually interesting this week for one reason: they hyped next week’s TV. Radical, I know, but it’s easier to care about what happens on TV when you get some background behind it. Next week we’ll see some rematches from recently that are building into real feuds: Eddie Edwards will take on Mike Bennett, and The All Night Express will battle The Young Bucks.

Then-still-ROH World Champion Davey Richards against Rhino was the main event. It was billed as a Proving Ground match, which is ROH’s way of papering over non-title matches. As I said when we last saw him, Rhino might be in the best shape of his career. He seems to have trimmed up a lot and his muscle tone is through the roof. If anyone could pass the message along though, will someone please mention to him: two kneepads or none, bro. You look like Zack Gowen with just the one. This match was one I’m surprised they didn’t save for a PPV, because it’s an intriguing matchup and Rhino has star power. Of course maybe they wanted it on TV so people could actually see it. (Sorry, cheap shot, I know). Davey never dogs it on a TV match, especially against a marquee opponent like Rhino. Rhino was a completely different worker from the former ECW champion or WWE hardcore fanatic that we know. He was much more methodical and wrestled a match that was in Davey’s wheelhouse, with suplexes and even a Boston crab. Davey was pure Shawn Michaels in this one: working from the bottom, not only playing the underdog but pulling all his moves out as desperation. Interference from Roderick Strong and Truth Martini at ringside was negligible, which was rare. This one was a solid 15-20 minutes that seemed to fly by, because they both managed to make “less is more” work well without seeming like they were stalling at all. The end sequence saw Rhino getting more and more hard hitting and blown up with each near-fall and knockout attempt, until he went for the Gore and Davey reversed into a sunset flip for the win. I’d definitely like to see these two go a little longer. Afterward the House of Truth contingent beat down on Davey until Jay Lethal made the save, and I smell a tag match in the future.

–I like this kind of show. In my opinion, as long as you give wrestlers a chance to do their things in the shorter segments they get, then a TV show should absolutely be built around quicker matches like this. A nice variety of things was featured too, with a main event worthy of PPV. So a definite thumbs up from me on this one. If ROH did things like this a little more often, they can get out of the relative funk they’ve been in regarding the TV show and make a show of good faith toward any fans who might be ready to bail after the Border Wars fiasco. Til’ next week (and sooner next week at that, I promise): Don’t take my word for it. Go to ROHwrestling.com and check it out for yourself.