Mike Reviews: ROH Man Up 2007

No real reason for this one other than the fact I haven’t reviewed any Ring of Honour on here yet and we’re coming up for the eleventh anniversary of this show, so I thought it would be fun to show how the wrestling landscape has changed since this event took place. I also liked the symmetry of posting a show which contains Bryan Danielson taking on a monster World Champion when he’s just recently taken on a monster World Champion in WWE.

The event is emanating from Chicago on the 30th of November 2007 (On tape delay)

Calling the action are Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard

Opening Match
Naomichi Marufuji Vs Nigel McGuinness Vs Chris Hero w/ Sweet and Sour Inc Vs Claudio Castagnoli

Nigel interrupts Prazak and Leonard to state that he’s “In it to win it” which was an awesome catchphrase. As Prazak continues to hype the show, a stranger in a balaclava runs in and starts yelling about something called “Age of the Fall” before getting dragged off by security. Larry Sweeney cuts a promo stating this his man Hero will win the match tonight. Marufuji and Nigel start us out and do some lovely chain wrestling that leads to a stand off, after which Hero demands to be tagged in. Nigel obliges and Hero wipes his hand on his tights following the tag, in a great bit of heel arrogance. Hero continues with the chain wrestling, but makes the mistake of taunting, which allows Claudio to tag in. Hero wants no part of his former tag team partner and bails instantly before quickly tagging out, so we get some further nice chain wrestling from Claudio and Marufuji instead. If I wrote down every counter and hold we’d be here for days, but it’s all wonderfully executed, as you’d expect from such talented grapple merchants.

Marufuji and Claudio actually apply double face claws to each other in a funny spot. Hero gets tagged in by Marufuji and attacks a down Claudio, but he quickly bails again once Claudio starts fighting back. Now it’s back to Nigel and Claudio, as they have an uppercut competition that leads to a pinning sequence for a standing ovation. Ah, wrestling! Hero keeps picking his spots, by tagging in and jumping Claudio when he’s not looking, being just a fantastic villain in the process. Hero connects with a Yakuza Kick in the corner to Claudio and then hits two back senton splashes, but only manages to get a two count on both occasions. Claudio finally starts Swissing Up and Hero bails once more, but Claudio follows him out this time and they brawl on the outside until Marufuji flattens them both with a plancha. Fans want a Nigel dive as well, so he obliges to a big pop. Back inside, Marufuji and Nigel trade strikes, with the exchange going Nigel’s way.

Marufuji fights back however and hits a lariat for two. Shiranui is broken up by Hero, who ups the ante by locking in a CRAVAT!!! Amazingly, Marufuji doesn’t instantly surrender to such a devastating hold and it gets broken up by Claudio, who drops Hero with the Alpamare Waterslide for two. Hang on a second *Wets finger and tests the air* Yup, it’s definitely Finisher Madness alright! More finishers are hit and broken up as the match descends into chaos, with Nigel getting the Tower of London on Marufuji, before Hero comes in to break up the resulting pin fall. Hero gets the Cravat Cutter on Nigel and heads up for a double stomp from the top, but Claudio breaks the count at two. Claudio hits the Switzerland Suplex on Hero for two and *checks watch* yes, I think it might be Giant Swing time! Claudio follows up with a big European Uppercut afterwards but it only gets him a count of two. Marufuji blocks the Ricola Bomb with a roll up for two and then sets Claudio up for the Coast to Coast dropkick, but Nigel crotches him on the top rope before he can deliver it. It’s Lariats for everyone, but Claudio knocks Nigel down before getting the Ricola Bomb on Marufuji, but Hero stops the count again by grabbing the ref. Claudio knocks Hero out of the ring to finally end his shenanigans, but finds a Jawbreaker Lariat waiting for him when he turns around, which is enough to give Nigel the win.

WINNER: NIGEL MCGUINNESS
Rating: **** 

This was an excellent opener, which provided good action and some lovely wrestling. Hero as the devious cheating heel was great stuff too, with the match really succeeding in making me want to see a blow off between him and Claudio. This was pretty much everything you’d want a hot opener to be.

Bryan Danielson is backstage, talking about how upset his family were about the eye injury Takeshi Morishima gave him. Sadly this was only the beginning of his family being upset him suffering a serious injuries over the years. He goes on to empathise how much wrestling means to him and states that he will defeat Morishima for the belt tonight, regardless of his injury woes.

Match Two
Faction War: Best of Three Series
Rocky Romero Vs Matt Cross

This is the first match in a best of three series between the No Remorse Corps and The Resilience. Ah yes, the “Faction War”. For those not acquainted, this was the ROH equivalent of the stable system in Dragon Gate and the WWF’s “Gang Warz” from the late 90’s, whereby a stable split up (The Nation of Domination in WWF, Generation Next in ROH) with the founding members creating new groups and feuding with one another. Strong had formed the NRC with Davey Richards and Rocky Romero, whilst Aries had formed The Resilience with Erick Stevens and Matt Cross. Ultimately the Faction Wars were preferable to the Gang Warz, if only because they featured much better in ring wrestlers than the WWF story line, but not many ROH fans were overly sad to see the concept eventually dropped.

Aries’ handy pre-match advice to Cross is “don’t let him kick you”, which is some pretty good advice in all honesty. Both men trade open hand chops to start, which causes Romero to bail, at which point Cross follows him out and shoves him into the post. Cross gets the Flag Pole Press on the outside, where he balances off the post horizontally and falls onto Romero, which never fails to get a pop. Back inside, Romero goes to a Cross Arm Breaker, but Cross makes his way to the ropes to break the hold. Romero is such a great cocky heel, as you just want to slap him every time he gets that self satisfied look on his face. Cross fights back and gets a split legged leg drop for two before hitting a standing moonsault for another near fall. Cross heads up top for the Dragon Sault, but Romero dodges it and replies with a kick to the head for the win.

WINNER: ROCKY ROMERO
Rating: **3/4

This was too short to be higher, but everything was executed well and Romero’s heel work was top notch.

NRC 1 – 0 Resilience

Match Three
Austin Aries Vs Davey Richards

Aries wants Strong in next, but Strong wants none of that and sends Richards in instead like the good heel he is. Aries works the arm to start and then transitions to a side headlock. Richards counters to a head scissors and then manages to dodge when Aries goes for his usual dropkick counter to the hold. To be fair, he should have known it was coming after seeing Aries do that spot roughly 2 thousand times before in previous matches. Richards tries to mock Aries’ signature elbow drop, but Aries dodges it and hits it himself to show up his less experienced foe. Richards takes over and starts working on Aries’ back. After getting worked over for a while, Aries tries to fight back with some forearms and then sends Richards outside with a roaring elbow before following with his trademark suicide dive.

Aries really does have the snap suplex of suicide dives, as the speed of that was incredible. Back inside, Richards gets the Air Spring Kick and follows with a brain buster for two. Richards goes for the Kawada kicks now, but Aries catches his leg and gets the shin breaker/back suplex combination for two. Aries heads up top, but Richards stops him and gets a big German Suplex from the top for two. Aries manages to block the DR Driver and goes to town on Richards in the corner with right hands. Richards dodges a dropkick in the corner and goes for the DR Driver again, but Aries counters with a backslide for two before hitting a brain buster and heading up top for a 450 Splash to pick up the win.

WINNER: AUSTIN ARIES
RATING: ***1/4

This was some fine grapple action, although I wish they would have just stuck with working one specific part of the body instead of flip flopping between different areas.

NRC 1 – 1 Resilience

Match Four
Erick Stevens Vs Roderick Strong

Stevens is straight out of the gates here and gets a back suplex for a count of two. We’re not even a minute in and it’s already time for a chopfest, as both men throw them with reckless abandon. Stevens puts an end to the choppage with an overhead belly to belly suplex, which causes Strong to roll outside to buy himself some time. They fight on the apron, where Strong starts a trend that’s still going on today by giving Stevens a back suplex on to “the hardest part of the ring” (If you ignore the ring posts of course). Strong keeps bringing the pain to Stevens on the outside, pulling him ribs first into the post. Back inside, Stevens fights back with some chops, but Strong puts an end to that with a dropkick for two.

The fans start to get behind Stevens as he tries to fight back, but Strong clubs him down and goes to a back breaker. Strong gets some ferocious chops in the corner, that are almost loud enough to break the sound barrier, but Stevens fights back and knocks him into the corner. Stevens follows up with the Choo Choo Train splash in the corner and follows that with a TKO for two. Strong is able to stop the momentum with a chin breaker and then delivers a suplex for a two count of his own. Strong tries to get Stevens into the fireman’s carry, but Stevens blocks it and gets a powerslam for two. Strong blocks the Dr. Bomb and manages to get the Fireman’s Carry Back Breaker on his second attempt. Strong gets a terrifying back drop, that looks like it kills Stevens, but it only gets him a two from the ref. That was an All Japan level head drop from Roddy there. It’s time for another Chopfest, but Strong ends that one with a roaring elbow before getting a sit out pumphandle slam for two.

Strong sets Stevens up on the top rope and delivers a massive superplex, but Stevens pops up and no sells it. Strong makes him pay for that however by smacking him with a half nelson back breaker for two. Strong now tries a Tiger Driver off the top, but Stevens thankfully fights him off and brings him down with a powerslam off the top for two. That really should have been the finish as they’ll struggle to top it. Stevens puts Strong back up to the top and goes for the Dr. Bomb from there, but Strong fights him off and goes to town on Stevens with forearm blows to the back of the head, before trying a half nelson suplex from the top. Stevens blocks that but gets crotched on the top rope in response by Strong, who follows up with a top rope Splash Mountain Bomb and a Tiger Driver 91 to pick up the win.

WINNER: RODERICK STRONG
***3/4

This was a great match and I’m almost sad that they didn’t just call an audible and have Stevens win with the powerslam, as it felt like a win here could have “made” him. As it was, they probably went a few near falls too many (Which was a regular problem in ROH during this period) but I liked the story of Stevens being all gutsy and fighting hard to prove he belonged in ROH.

NRC 2 – 1 Resilience
NRC wins the series

Meanwhile, in Hartford, Adam Pearce, Shane Haggadorn and Brent Albright beat up Delirious and try to staple his mask to his face. It looks like BJ Whitmer has come in to make the save, but it’s a swerve and he joins in on the beat down to officially form another Faction in “The Hangmen 3”. It wasn’t exactly Windham turning on Luger in 1988 or anything, but it served its purpose. I do like how they’re still The Hangmen 3, even though there’s 4 of them, because Haggadorn isn’t important enough to be counted as a true member. Ironically I think it was fellow Faction member Brent Albright who would go on to put Mr. Haggadorn out of wrestling by flinging him out of the ring with a powerbomb.

Match Five
ROH World Championship
Champion: Takeshi Morishima Vs Bryan Danielson

Danielson’s eye was injured by Morishima and this match not only gives him a chance to win the title but also get some payback. Danielson refuses to shake hands to start and the fight is on instantly. Morishima goes to town on Danielson, but stops short of going after the eye. Danielson looks like the palest bond villain in history with his protective eye patch and bald head. Outside we go, where the slug fest continues going Morishima’s way. Danielson tries to fight back, but Morishima is having none of that and throws him back inside. However, he makes the mistake of turning his back to jaw with the crowd, and Danielson flattens him with a suicide dive in retaliation. Danielson unloads with forearms back inside and follows that with a running high dropkick to finally knock Morishima down.

Leonard informs us that Danielson has already lasted longer than anyone else has with Morishima on ROH Pay Per View, as Morishima had just been crushing everyone during this title reign. Danielson goes to a triangle choke to try and cut Morishima down to size, but Morishima get to the ropes to break it. Danielson politely reminds the referee that he’s got till 5 to break, which is a spot he hopefully brings back during his new heel run in WWE. Danielson tries the surfboard, but can’t get the big brute up for it and settles on a bow and arrow instead. Morishima slips out of that and rolls on top for two, as the crowd is now very pro Danielson. It’s time for another forearm battle and that goes Morishima’s way. Morishima crushes Danielson on a school boy attempt and kicks his face off with a big boot. It’s a shame that this version of Morishima isn’t around today, as they could have done wild business by bringing him in to NXT to face the likes of Black and Gargano. Danielson tries a sleeper on Morishima, playing up the size difference again, but Morishima powers out.

Danielson lands on his feet from a back drop driver, but Morishima blocks the small package with a slam. Danielson keeps coming by getting a super back drop for two and decides now is the time to start throwing elbows. A Tiger Suplex only gets two, so Danielson goes for the Cattle Mutilation instead. Morishima refuses to tap so Danielson adds some stomps, more elbows and then another triangle choke to try and get the illusive submission victory. Morishima to now starting to get a tad perturbed and viciously powerbombs Danielson to counter before getting a big Lariat for two. A Homicidal Back Drop Driver looks to have ended things, but Danielson manages to get his feet on the ropes to stop the count. Morishima is unrelenting, getting a clothesline in the corner before tearing off the protective eye patch. Danielson gets a desperation small package, but Morishima is able to kick out and he’s not happy. Finally having enough, Morishima treats Danielson like he’s a taxi driver by going right after his injured eye, causing the ref stop the match and turn the man from Japan full heel to the crowd in the process.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TAKESHI MORISHIMA
RATING: ****1/2

The psychology on display here was excellent, as Danielson got just too close for Morishima’s comfort, so he decided to punish him by going after the eye. Morishima would end up heading back to NOAH once his title reign ended but he would come back for Final Battle 2008 to finally settle the issue with Danielson.

Main Event
ROH World Tag Team Championship
Ladder Match
Champions: Mark and Jay Briscoe Vs Kevin Steen and El Generico

These two teams had a violent feud throughout the year, with this match targeted as the final blow off. The brawl is on right away and chances of me doing accurate play by play here are probably going to be slim. Off into the crowd we go for chair shots and concrete falls galore, as was the norm with this rivalry. Jay is already busted open, no doubt from one of the insane chair shots. I’ve never been one to condone guys taking loads of unprotected chair shots like the ones here, but if you’re going to do it then it might as well be in the main event of a Pay Per View as opposed to the opener of an Indy show in front of 50 people. Pick your spots and all that. The fight finally gets in the ring for the first time, with Jay and Generico going at it. Both men fight over a ladder in the corner and end up countering each others attempts to use it.

Generico is the first to make a climbing attempt, but Mark stops him and then takes a ridiculously stupid move by going face first, unprotected, into the set up ladder. Oh well, who needs a fully functioning brain in later life anyway? Jay and Steen now go at it in ring, with Steen getting the better of it. Steen tries to climb but Mark stops that with a springboard dropkick. Mark now tries to climb, whilst fans chant for some wrestler called “Please don’t die”, who must be some hot young thing from that new Riki Choshu promotion or something. The Briscoe’s destroy Generico inside and then give him a double throw onto the set up ladder in the corner, breaking it in the process. This can only mean that it’s time for the extra tall super duper emergency WrestleMania ladder! Jay tries to climb, but Steen knocks the ladder over, which sends Jay flying back first into the remains of the destroyed ladder in gruesome spot. I’ll admit that was pretty cool, but OUCH! Jay then takes another bump onto the ladder, this one being an overhead belly to belly suplex. Mark tries to fight back, but Steen kicks him low to put a stop to that. Even eleven years ago he was ace at bringing the top level scumbaggery.

Generico now lays Jay onto the ladder and gets a split legged moonsault, as the punishment just keeps coming. Steen tries some kind of a move on Mark, but Mark fights back and Generico is required to make the save. Jay now tries to turn the tide, but Generico uses the ladder to put a stop to that. Generico kicks the ladder into Jay’s face and Steen one ups him by powerbombing Mark to the outside through a ladder. Steen now tries to climb, whilst Generico keeps Jay at bay, but Jay fights back and knocks the ladder over, before spiking Generico with a vicious German Suplex. Jay now goes mental with the ladder on the challengers, but Steen blocks it, only for Mark to dropkick it in his face. Generico then gets exploder suplexed on the ladder by Jay, before Steen takes a DVD onto the side of the ladder. Goodness me!

The Briscoe’s could probably win it quite easily now, but they decide not to and instead focus on inflicting more punishment to their rivals. That was probably an optimal time to take it home, but I guess we haven’t had enough MOVEZ yet? For instance, Jay gives Generico a Shooting Star Press onto the ladder and Mark leg drops Steen through a table. I may have had the wrong Briscoe for each move there, but I guess that’s a good barometer for the insanity going on here. Mark now finally decides to try and climb, but Generico recovers to stop him. Jay now calls for a stupidly large maintenance ladder, as we must be nearing a fatality of some sort. Generico gets Doomsday Deviced and it looks like the public execution might be over, but as I type that, Steen rises from the dead to hammer everyone with a smaller ladder.

Mark gets a few super kicks and climbs up the big ladder, but Steen stops him and gives him the package piledriver off the big ladder through the smaller ladder. I’ll let that one slide, as it not only looked very cool but it was probably one of safer the safer spots we’ve seen so far, as Steen’s ample derriere took most of the brunt rather than Mark’s head. Not to be outdone, Jay decides to spike poor Generico with a Jay Driller onto another ladder. I would have let Gabe come onto commentary momentarily there just to yell “DANGEROUS!!!” for old times sake. Jay and Steen now go at it at the top of the ladder and Jay finally manages to knock Steen off through another ladder to win. However, the belts won’t come off and time seemingly stands still, so Steen, being the trooper he is, climbs back up for another bump to buy Jay the required time to finally manage to tug the belts down.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: MARK AND JAY BRISCOE
RATING: ****1/4

I’m somewhat conflicted about this match. I can’t deny that all the spots looked cool and all four guys definitely worked very hard. The rating speaks for itself, this was a brilliant match. But the match should have ended 5 minutes earlier than it did in my opinion. For me, the match crossed a line from being a wrestling match to just becoming an exhibition of moves. I know some people like all the MOVEZ, and also enjoyed all the head drops and weapon shots as well, but I just couldn’t enjoy it after a certain period because I was genuinely afraid for the guys in the match. After a certain point I just wanted the match to end so that no one suffered a serious injury of some kind.

Following the match, Tyler Black, Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher attack the winners and brutally lay them out, with Jay in particular getting his cut opened even further following an attack from Necro and his barbed wire wrapped fists. Jay gets strung up over the ring and Jimmy Jacobs cuts a promo to declare that it is in fact they who are the illusive “Age of the Fall”, to give us yet ANOTHER faction. This group got pretty over at least. Jacobs makes sure to wear a white outfit and stand under Jay, so that he gets caked in Jay’s blood to give us an exceedingly gory visual.

Final Thoughts

In a pre NXT Takeover world, this was as good a 2 hour wrestling show that you could hope to see. Not only was the wrestling to a high standard, but there was a good variety of match types and one heck of a closing angle to hook you in for further events. Definitely worth hunting this one down if you’ve never seen it before.

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