ROH TV 8/18/12

–Last weekend’s ROH sees the first step toward crowning new tag team champions after Kenny King’s departure, as well as Sara Del Ray vs. Mia Yim and Rhino in a rematch with Eddie Edwards,  plus, for the first time, a dream match as Homicide challenges ROH Champion Kevin Steen.

–We kick off with a recap of ANX’s title wins and a visibly upset Jim Cornette announcing the start of the ROH tag title tournament and Kenny King’s departure. Not much other way to play this besides coming right out and stating it, but it’s really almost less than necessary. Kenny King wrestled his first match with TNA on July 5th and this aired last Saturday, August 18th. It almost would have made sense to just have the announcers mention it in passing, but I guess they didn’t want to b------- anyone when everyone knows the real story anyway.

–The first match is Princess Mia Yim, still representing The Embassy in spirit if not actually being joined by them, against Sara Del Ray herself. It’s cool that for the short time Death Ray actually participated in ROH she tried to work in a number of matches, because she’s probably considered the top female wrestler in the world right now by many and it’s good to get to see her spread it around as much as possible. In real faithfulness to her character she probably should have been in there wrestling a man, though. I’m sure it hurts no one to put her over one of those random local job guys they love to use. Anyhow, this is also the first time recently that Mia Yim has actually worked a match. Both of them are talented workers, and this one favored a lot of martial arts kicks, and a tad bit of high flying. Yim makes use of the savate kick as her finish while one of Del Ray’s many signatures is the Death Blow, or Koppo Kick, so this one was basically a quasi-MMA match up until Yim missed a corkscrew senton and got put away by a Death Blow to the back of the head. Afterwards she was laid out by Maria Kanellis and her spiked heel boot, to be joined by Mike Bennett, both of whom were wearing their Maria “I’m a Lady” pink tees. Helluva statement there, Mike. I like matches that are heavy on creative strikes, and this one was something that, needless to say, you won’t see from any Divas. For now.

–Rhino & Truth Martini come out for what is presumed to just be another job match for Rhino. Truth however takes the opportunity to call out Jim Cornette and make the challenge for Rhino to take on Steen at Death Before Dishonor. Truth calls Steen’s group S.C.U.M. here, so I guess that’s the official name now. Cornette hems & haws and Eddie Edwards comes out to point out that he & Rhino are one & one. Eddie sounded pretty good here, I dunno where he’s been going to learn promo skills but he was head & shoulders more charismatic than he’s been anytime since I’ve been watching him. I’m glad to see it, because that was the biggest flaw he had. Anyhow Cornette calls for an anything goes rubber match, and the action kicks off going into the commercial.

–The match had the fans popping throughout, but to me it built at a languid pace. It was mainly a lot of set ups to bigger spots involving the guard rail and chairs, leading into the big one at the end with a table. It was very WWE style hardcore, which isn’t bad in and of itself but I found my attention drifting in this one. Rhino almost worked this one as the underdog, as generally Eddie dominated but would see his momentum cut off. Rhino’s execution is top notch these days. He was never any slouch, in my opinion, but things like his belly to belly suplex and the Gore just look perfectly crisp. Couple that with him being in top notch shape and I’d say that Rhino is a good choice at the top of ROH. I don’t think Steen’s time as champ is going to end quite yet but Rhino needs to have a run as ROH champion, to add to his legacy of being the big fish in the smaller ponds of ECW, TNA, and ROH. The ending here sees Eddie reverse one Gore attempt but get distracted by Martini, leading to a nice looking Gore through a corner-propped table. Rather than just having a cursory pin, they did a ref stoppage on that. Not a DQ, because this was a no holds barred match, but rather a genuine “he’s been beaten up too much, ring the bell” ending.

I get that that’s supposed to help protect Eddie by not making him look like he had a definitive loss to Rhino, but sometimes you gotta think a little bit about protecting the brand. ROH is the place where matches get stopped when someone takes a simple table bump and hitting someone with a chair is a cause for suspension. I’m sure it seems as though that makes it look like a place where technical wrestling reigns supreme over garbage fighting but really it just makes ROH look like their wrestlers are a bunch of pussies who can’t handle simple bumps that wrestlers in other companies take every night. What’s ironic is that ROH is more likely going to be the company that will have the crazier and more violent and bloodier hardcore matches than either WWE or TNA, but that peculiarity of booking makes it seem like just the opposite. Something that maybe the ROH brass should consider from a business standpoint.

–If you want one example of the kind of thing ROH regularly gets right on the money that wrestling fans love, it’s building up a sense of history in their matches. Steve Corino generally joins Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuiness on commentary for Kevin Steen matches anyway, but it’s especially fitting here: Corino had a violent feud in ROH’s earlier days with Steen’s challenger tonight, Homicide. Homicide was also the main participant in this angle’s closest spiritual ancestor, as he had a feud with Jim Cornette where Cornette skirted the line between face and heel. Neither Corino on commentary nor Steen at the beginning of the match ignored this, as Corino referenced the ear injury he sustained in his Homicide feud and Steen asked Homicide why all of a sudden he’s Cornette’s bitch. Homi clears up that he’s just in it for the gold, and we’re off. Yknow, I’ve mentioned on here a few times how much I’d love to see these two go at it, as they have a similar style and the match would be fantastic. Now that’s service. I generally expected them to go the street fight route and have these two put on a hardcore classic. I have no doubt they could pull that off, but this one was more of a straightforward brawl. Nothing pretty or technical but they managed to lay a beating on each other with a minimum of gimmickry. They harkened back to the Corino issue with Steen trying to injure Homicide’s ear, with Corino playing his role to perfection in the booth. Nigel’s ecstatic reaction at Corino’s proclamation that he would quit ROH if Homicide were champion was pretty funny. These two slammed each other around the ring and ringside, with Homicide getting a close  near-fall with an Ace Crusher at one point and Steen hitting a vicious looking top-rope fisherman’s buster that could easily be a last-ditch finish for him. The finish saw Homicide signal for the Gringo Killa (to hell with his probation officer though, it’ll always be the Cop Killa to me) to Corino’s general protest of it being a piledriver variation and thus banned, but Jimmy Jacobs causing enough of a distraction for Steen get in a low blow and finish off with the F-Cinq. The show went off the air with a staredown between Steen and Rhino, opponents for Death Before Dishonor IX. It’s worth getting online to check out the replay of this show while you can, just for this match. It shows what kind of action these two are capable of without added gimmicks, and that’s pretty damn impressive. Add in some of the hardcore spots that these two know very well how to execute and you’ve got a match ROH really needs to bring us in the future, with Corino adding to the package on commentary of course.

–A good mix of styles highlighted each match this week. Fans of martial arts fusion, moderate hardcore, and rawbone brawls will find something to enjoy this week. I’d definitely go out of my way to check out this one, as the Homicide vs. Steen match is a great battle of brute force. Next week I might have a surprise in store for y’all but until then, don’t take my word for it. Go to ROHwrestling.com and check it out for yourself.