RING OF HONOR INVADES BOSTON LIVE REPORT
by Mike Johnson
Ring of Honor moved from their home in Philadelphia, PA to Wakefield, MA for the promotion's first show "on the road" on Saturday 8/24 at the Americal Civic Center in Wakefield, Massachusetts. I ventured to the fine city of Boston, and headed over to Wakefield to see what happens when you take a promotion that pushes more workrate than anyone else, put it into a market it's never been, and see what happens. So what happened? They presented a show that the locals loved, but I felt was under the extremely tremendous expectations I now have for the group given their string of shows in Philadelphia, PA.
Going into the show, Ring of Honor had decided to make several concessions as they had never been to the market before. Having seen Extreme Championship Wrestling's pure workers (Rob Van Dam, Tajiri, etc.) have off the chart matches that were for the most part ignored by the then-ECW Boston audience in favor of blood and violence in matches, ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky decided to move away from his usual workrate oriented shows showcasing straight wrestling more than other concepts (although those concepts are alive and well in ROH regularly) to try different variations including factoring in more blood and violence to the show, and doing things like adding theme music for a Low Ki run-in, which Sapolsky is usually against doing as he wants to give the promotion as "legitimate" a feel as possible. While this change was obvious for those who may have seen the Philadelphia ROH shows live, to the MA fans who had never seen the product live, they knew no better, and judging from their reactions all night, they were rabid for the ROH product. The fans who were in that building walked out getting what some called the best show of their lives.
I wouldn't agree with that assessment, but I've also seen more ROH than most other fans in the building that evening. To me, the show seemed obvious that it was set up as a television taping, especially in the lower card, which is makes sense since the promotion will debut on Philadelphia shortly on WGTW TV 48. The segments were shorter and tighter, and there was an "ECW" feel to the first three segments, as one bout caused the next to be set up in that "impromptu" way. There was nothing wrong with this, as there was nothing to be faulted about the workrate within the ring during this segments, but for everyone in MA who is raving about the show, I say don't rave about it. You may have loved the show, but ROH can do better. You haven't seen the tip of the iceberg yet. Trust me. While I'd never say ROH coasted through on this show, this wasn't an event that touched their Philadelphia events overall, although it had three phenomenal matches on the show and a great bloody brawl.
Overall, the end story is that the show was a major positive for the promotion as they drew well over 450. Whatever the capacity for the building, it was sold out, with an announcement of 500 fans in attendance. This was despite the fact that there were no local ticket outlets, so anyone who wanted to come to the event had to buy their ticket the day of the show or order them at ROHWrestling.com. The MA fans were rabid beyond belief, chanted for the performers, and seemed to know the storylines. ROH could not have picked a better place to showcase themselves outside of Philly, and the crowd helped make the show even better than it was, much like the ECW audiences used to do in their best buildings. When ROH first formed, I remember Sapolsky saying he wanted to cultivate an audience of fans who loved wrestling in the vein of the old NWA Crockett group, and they certainly have found that demographic.
If the promotion can repeat Saturday's business or do better come November when they return, they have truly found a second major market and are well on their way to the goal of running every weekend.
The ROH Wakefield event opened with the Amazing Red defeating Quiet Storm in a great opener. Every time I see Storm in the ring, he just gets better and better, and my only regret watching him is that I wish he had another two-three feet in height. Very fast paced match with dives, reversals, etc. Red got the pin with the Red Star Press. They shook hands afterwards to establish the "Code of Honor." Special K (Brian XL, Elax, Izzy, and Dixie), the new stable of raver kids led by XL, attacked both, bringing out the Maximos and Chris Divine for the next match. That was the first time in the promotion's history they had used run-ins to establish the next match.
The Maximos and Divine defeated Special K in a spotfest and brawl around ringside that was entertaining as long as you tried to ignore the missed spots that happened during the bout. With the performers they had in the ring, that was the nature of the beast in that they all do a ton of great flashy moves, but if they don't hit them perfectly, you can always tell. That said, this one never stopped moving and the crowd loved it. The Maximos pinned XL with the Spanish Fly. This was XL's last appearance for a few months as he's heading to Puerto Rico to help with a family situation.
Divine took the mic and said that he wanted a shot at ROH champion Low Ki. He asked to wrestle Ki for the competition and didn't even want a shot at the championship. Divine made sure to say that he doesn't want to break the Code of Honor, but he doesn't get a shot to wrestle Low Ki like others (SATS, AJ Styles) do on NWA TNA. Ki came out and in what was essentially an introduction to him for the MA fans (and what will likely become a great TV segment), pulled out all of his major moves and destroyed Divine and defeated him. The crowd was really hot for Ki's offense. Ki made sure to shake Divine's hand afterward. Divine's nose got busted open somewhere in this.
The Christopher Street Connection with Allison Danger (now wearing a blue wig) beat Dunn & Marcos. Dunn and Marcos are trainees of HC Loc who do a 1980s heavy metal rocker goofball gimmick and are the promotion's hand picked Mulkey Brothers who lose every match but claim to be the top team in the promotion. The Connection's gay gimmick got over huge, especially since they offset the feminine look and talk with really stiff, hard hitting offense in the ring. The gimmick is pure gold (or in their case I guess, pink.) OK squash with Marcos and Dunn getting in a little offense for once.
The Boogie Knights came out and trashed Boston on the mic. This segment bombed as the crowd didn't want to hear or see it. The promotion acknowledged it didn't work. Scott Andrews then defeated Mike Tobin in a quick singles match. Xavier came to the ring and challenged Andrews to a singles match. They had wrestled several times before for the promotion, dating all the way back to February, but obviously it was a fresh match here. Xavier was scheduled to face Prince Nana, who missed the show with an illness. Xavier defeated Andrews with a 450 splash off the top. OK match, but to me, I want to see these guys wrestle anyone but each other by now.
Michael Shane pinned Paul London with the first real screwjob finish in ROH's short history. London scares the hell out of me with the bumps he takes and I worry he isn't going to have a long career. He was shoved off the top rope into the guard rails on the floor, decimating one of the railings with his chest. The match was very good, but I suspect the crowd, which liked it, would have been veen more vocal if they were more aware of the storyline where London won the "ROH contract" at the last Philly event and London felt he was screwed. The finish saw London do an Asai moonsault and Shane acted as if he broke his ankle, which is what happened to Chris Marvel when London debuted for the promotion. As Rudy Boy Gonzales and the referee checked on Shane and asked London to step back, Shane rolled up London and got the pin, screwing him. Shane looks better in each appearance.
They did an angle afterward where Simply Luscious invited Shane to join Christopher Daniels' Prophecy while Rudy Boy tried to convince him otherwise., Shane laid them both out with superkicks (He is Shawn Michaels' nephew, after all). London returned and they brawled, ending up with Shane and BioHazard leaving London laying.
American Dragon fought Donovan Morgan to a 15 minute draw. Morgan flew from California and headed right to the building when he arrived, sick as a dog with the flu. There was no way he should have been in the ring, but he sucked it up and did his best. Anyone who criticized this match should remember that and if they don't take that into consideration, they are just looking to complain. Morgan got a "NOAH" chant coming out. This was a really decent match, and I'm sure it would have been better had Morgan been healthy. Lots of matwork and reversals. Dragon did a diving headbutt and lost feeling in his leg at one point. Dragon got the cattle mutilation submission on, but the bell rang. Crowd didn't like this and went right into the "five more minutes" chant, with Dragon asking, but didn't get it. They teased that Morgan was going to shake Dragon's hand, but since Morgan is a member of the Prophecy, he refused and instead attacked Dragon.
In what was billed as the Boston Massacre Match, Da Hit Squad defeated the Carnage Crew of Loc and DeVito in a really good bloody brawl. After brawling all over and beating each other down, Hit Squad went to the back and returned with barbed wire boards. DeVito ended up taking a spear into one while it was propped in the corner, and his head was caught in the barbed wire. He had a huge scratch down the back of his head after the show. Squad got the pin on Loc, but they filmed an angle where the Crew destroyed the Squad as the building was being broken down to set up future matches.
Bio-Hazard, with Michael Shane in his corner pinned Don Juan in a popcorn match. Nothing wrong with it, but it was there to make sure everyone returned to the seats before the major matches.
NECW champion Alex Arion defeated Maverick Wild. Very quick match and it was fine for what it was. NECW was also mentioned during the show as having helped ROH break into the market and the promotion was very thankful and made sure to mention it was proof that two groups could help each other in the same market without fighting. I wish everyone did that.
The Natural Born Sinners defeated James Maritato and Tony Mamaluke. They did a strong style Japanese match with lots of resersals and hard hitting moves. The crowd seemed to like this, although it was more a case of watching intently than making a lot of noise. They did a deal where Maritato and Mamaluke (who has bulked up) didn't get along and Maritato walked off as he was pinned. Very different style of match than you would expect from these four.
In his ROH debut, Mark Briscoe defeated Jay Briscoe. This was great and may have been the best match of the show. Mark has gained a few inches in height and is a great young worker. These guys did so much innovative maneuvers that one had to wonder what else they had hidden away to use in the future. This made the show, which until that point was a thumbs in the middle show for me at best, easily a thumbs up show.
ROH champion Low Ki defeated AJ Styles in a phenomenal first championship defense. This was off the charts and better than most of their NWA TNA encounters. Styles busted himself open by accident hitting a headbutt. Great stuff. This was another bout that put the show over the edge for me.
Overall, a phenomenal opener and two main events with some decent stuff underneath and a different style show from ROH. It will be interesting to see how the promotion continues to evolve over the next few months.