Ring of Honor 'Respect is Earned' Debut PPV Report
Ring of Honor, five years and four months old, began airing their debut PPV this week on the Dish Network, with the PPV set to debut on the primary PPV provider In Demand on 7/20. Taped on Saturday 5/12 before a sellout crowd at the Manhattan Center in New York City, "Respect is Earned" marks a major step forward for what has evolved into the alternative wrestling promotion for the diehard wrestling fan.
"Respect is Earned" opened with BJ Whitmer inside the ROH ring before a loud New York City audience. The fans were immediately intense and alive, chanting "ROH" in a feverish manner that is immediately brings to mind the glory days of the ECW revolution. Whitmer welcomed everyone at home to Ring of Honor. He said that in ROH, they let their wrestling do their talking for them and challenged anyone who thought they could take him out to come to the ring for a fight.
ROH went to a quick opening video that lasted about 30 seconds, highlighting some of their talent with a "Respect is Earned" graphic. For fans weaned on the Monday Night Wars, they'll immediately notice how the show doesn't easily mesh from inside the ring to the video and back to the ring, but considering the company's resources, it's to be expected.
When we returned to the ring, ROH champion Takeshi Morishima came out and accepted the challenge, putting the title on the line.
ROH champion Takeshi Morishima vs. BJ Whitmer
They started out exchanging forearms to the face. They battled in the corner and the referee was shoved down early. Whitmer got near falls on the champion with an Exploder and a lariat. Morishima, who physically works like Terry Gordy in his prime, drilled Whitmer with a lariat and a big boot. Whitmer kicked up. Morishima drilled him with another lariat and then hit a backdrop driver gaining the pinfall. Match was good but short. From an action standpoint it was good, but you wouldn't have known much about the wrestlers. The crowd reaction made it seem important, which helped with first impressions.
Your winner and still ROH champion Takeshi Morishima!
British star Nigel McGuinness came to the ring. Dave Prazak commented, "It's top challenger, Nigel McGuinness!" The crowd chanted Nigel's name. Five minutes in and the passion of the crowd makes the show strand out from other wrestling PPVs where the audience sits on their hands for a lot of the product. McGuinness congratulated Morishima on a good match, telling the champ, "That was one hell of a title match and you, sir, are one hell of a wrestler, but then again, so am I". McGuinness challenged him for a title match saying he doesn't care if it's in London, Tokyo or tonight in NYC.
Bryan Danielson, dressed in dress clothes, came to the ring telling everyone to wait a second. They noted he was a former World champion who was back after a five month absence. Danielson boasted he was champion for over 15 months and was "The Best Wrestler in the World." The crowd said it along with him. He began noting everyone he defeated as champion including Samoa Joe, Lance Storm, Homicide, and even McGuinness. He said that if anyone deserves a title shot tonight, it's "American Dragon." Danielson pokes his finger in Nigel's chest as he says this. Nigel tells him that if he does it again, he's going to break Danielson's finger off and shove it down his throat.
Danielson backs off and says it's not the time for fighting, then nails Nigel with a forearm. They begin fighting in the corner. Morishima gets involved and faces off with Danielson. They nod in agreement and Danielson charges Nigel in the corner. The announcers note that they look like they are on the "same page." Morishima hits a running splash on Nigel in the corner and smothers him with a boot to the face. Danielson and they lay out Nigel. As Morishima is trashing Nigel, Danielson picks up the ROH title belt and looks at the crowd. He says, "It's my belt." Morishima sees this and snatches it away. Morishima walks off. Danielson watches him leave and Nigel recovers behind him. Danielson realizes it and rolls out of the ring.. Nigel challenges Danielson to face him right now but Danielson scoffs, "I don't need this crap" and walks out. A good, elementary way to establish the importance of the belt and get over some of the top names in one segment.
They go to a video feature on Brent Albright which reads, "Coming soon to ROH PPV" They show a video feature on Albright hitting suplexes and snapping on his crowbar finisher. Albright does a voiceover saying he wants money and the best way to get it is to win titles and take people out for it. Albright warns everyone that in his world, it's get out or tap out.
They go right back to the ring.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Rocky Romero
ROH played some clips of Marufuji as he came to the ring. Nice touch. The crowd chants Marufuji's name. Dave Prazak pointed out that ROH has two of the best wrestlers in the world, from different parts of the world here in New York City. He then thanked the fans for allowing ROH a chance to prove what they are all about. Marufuji did some fast offensive mat wrestling to start. Romero broke out an Octopus submission, before turning that into a near fall. The announcers explained the importance of the GHC title in Japan, which Marufuji has held, and that he is from NOAH but calls ROH his home in the United States. They also discuss Romero's international experience. They go into a fast sequence of kicks and missed moves. Prazak noted that the match was an important piece of what ROH was all about - taking the top competitors in the world and letting them compete. Romero rolls into a cross armbreaker. Romero mounted Marufuji like an MMA fight and began slapping him with both hands. He nailed a kneedrop for a near fall. The announcers explained how the submission would put pressure on the arm. He released and began nailing kicks to the shoulder and arm. Romero continued to work over the shoulder and went back to the cross armbreaker.
Marufuji hit a springboard dropkick onto Romero, who was outside on the apron, sending him into the guard rail. Marufuji went to the floor where he picked up Romero and rammed him knee first into the ring post. Romero returned to the ring, where Marufuji continued to work it over. He pulled Romero's leg between the ropes and nailed a dragon screw legwhip. Marufuji continued to work over the leg. The announcers pointed out that each competitor had picked an extremity for their strategy. Romero went to the ropes but was dropkicked in the leg and hit with a dragon screw, bringing him back to the mat. Marufuji locked on a figure four leglock.
Romero came back with several Tornado DDTs for near falls. Marufuji escaped a Dragon Suplex, landing on his feet, then drills Romero's face into his knees. He nails a powerbomb for a two count. Marufuji goes to the top rope but Romero uses a takedown to bring him to the mat from the ropes, locking on a cross armbreaker in the process. The crowd chants, "Please don't tap." They exchange kicks to the face, leading to a ROH chant.
Marufuji powerbombs Romero into the corner. Marufuji hit a Van Terminator (Coast to Coast) from one corner to the other on Romero, who kicks out. The crowd boos the kickout. Romero tried for a Dragon Suplex and got a two count. Marufuji nailed several kicks to the head, then drilled Romero with the Sliced Bread #2 for the pin.
Your winner, Naomichi Marufuji!
Lenny Leonard said that we just watched the style of wrestling that ROH was built on. They showed some replays. The crowd chanted Marufuji's name. This was a really, really fun, athletic match and one of the best bouts on PPV in some time. Live, I thought it was probably the best Romero ever looked for ROH and after watching it on PPV, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was likely the best match ever in his career.
Backstage, "Super Agent" Larry Sweeney was with Tank Toland (who I doubt many people will realize was one of the Dicks in WWE). Sweeney said that now that ROH was in millions of homes nation wide, he was going to prove why he was the best agent in professional sports today. He called himself a "Mover and Shaker." He bragged that Chris Hero, the best athlete in ROH, was his top client. Sweeney said he was ready to drop a bomb and started talking up his newest client for Sweet and Sour Incorporated." He introduced Sara Del Ray, calling her the best female wrestler in the world today. Del Ray entered the scene. Tank looked surprised and had been making some great facial expressions this entire time. Sweeney said that he was all "Pay to Play" for his clients and wasn't afraid to let them sit out until "the money is right." Sweeney's delivery was great. Sweeney told Del Ray that when you signed on with him, you get the services of Toland, the best personal trainer in sports. Toland brought Bobby Dempsey into the scene and showed off his gut, saying that when he was down with the heavy Dempsey, Dempsey would be molded into another Tank, another superior athlete. He told Dempsey to start doing squats, calling him a sloth and pathetic. Del Ray began doing them and Toland told her she didn't have to do them because it was an exercise for men. Del Ray suggested she could do more squats than Toland. They began doing squats face to face. Dempsey, who had been doing squats all this time, finally collapsed. I guess he's going to be a Blue Meanie style comic relief. Toland told him he was disgusting and to get out of his sight. He and Del Ray kept doing squats as, off camera, Gabe Sapolsky yelled that something was going on in the ring and to go to the ring.
Inside the ring, Nigel McGuinness was throwing Morishima into the corner as Bryan Danielson attacked him from behind. The announcers noted that he called out Morishima. They doubled on Nigel. Pro Wrestling NOAH's KENTA hit the ring and made the save, nailing a big boot on Danielson, who bumped out of the ring. The announcers introduced KENTA as Danielson's toughest opponent from last year and Morishima's top rival in Japan. Nigel drilled Morishima with a lariat. Nigel and KENTA were left standing.
They aired a quick video commercial for www.ROHWrestling.com.
When we returned Claudio Castagnoli and Matt Sydal were inside the ring and the Briscoes' music began playing. The crowd clapped to the Briscoes' theme.
ROH Tag Team champions The Briscoes vs. Claudio Castagnoli and Matt Sydal
The announcers announced that Morishima & Danielson would wrestle KENTA and McGuinness later in the event. Briscoes were in control early and it was something of a tag team showcase, which is smart on ROH's part since no one else really showcases their tag teams in a pushed position. The announcers said the Briscoes were on a quest to prove they were the best tag team in the world today. Lots of good wrestling early, which gave the announcers ample time to provide background as well. Prazak and Leonard really have raised their game with this show.
Jay Briscoe hit a split legged moonsault on Claudio. Sydal backdropped Mark over the ropes to the floor, then caught Jay with a rana while he was on the top rope. Claudio walked the ropes and dropped an elbow. The Briscoes pulled out double beel throws on Sydal and Claudio.
Claudio did the big swing on Jay. Mark finally gets tagged in. Jay hits a flip dive to the floor on Claudio. Mark evades a Sydal rana while on the top, then dives off, catching him with a sunset flip takedown. By this point, there was far too many spots and near falls to remember.
Jay nailed a flying bodypress on Caudio for a two count. Sydal drags Mark to the floor, where they brawl. Jay gets tossed out. Sydal jumps on Claudio's shoulders and dives down onto the Briscoes. Sydal nails a shooting star on Mark but Jay breaks it up. Jay presses him over his head and drops him, nailing a death valley driver. Mark dives out of the ring on Claudio, setting up the Doomsday Device, with Mark springboarding off the ropes to clothesline Sydal.
Your winners and still ROH Tag Team champions The Briscoe Brothers!
Phenomenal stuff here. There was tons of great back and forth wrestling here and everyone really busted their ass and there was far too much to type and recap. I'll just write this - if you miss the glory days of Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Psicosis and the other WCW Cruiserweights from when they used to steal the show, you want to see this match, ASAP because it's that same work ethic and workrate, minus announcers who disrespect the talent in the ring.
While the Briscoes were in the ring celebrating, ROH announcers Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak made their first on camera appearances, thanking everyone at home for allowing the promotion to "earn your respect." They were in the audience, with their backs to the ring, sort of similar to all those famous WWF interview segments from the 1980s. They thanked New York City for the sellout crowd and talked about the electric atmosphere live. The fans chanted "ROH." They talk about how important the ROH live experience is and run down many of the cities the company will be coming to soon.
Kevin Steen and El Generico interrupt the announcers. Kevin Steen says they have a very important question and the only two people who can answer it are the Briscoes. Steen wants to know when he and Generico are going to get their "well deserved" title shot. The Briscoes said they were right here. Steen and Generico ran through the crowd with a handheld camera following them, which added to the feel of spontaneity of the moment. They start brawling in the ring. A million people hit the ring to pull them apart. Mark Briscoe hit a bodypress off the ropes into Steen to spark the fight again. That's a first. The Briscoes are finally removed to the aisle by officials, leaving Steen and Generico to destroy several of those left in the ring with them. Steen and Generico nail their finishers to accentuate they are players. Generico then did a dive onto everyone in the aisle (think Kid Kash at the Hammerstein Ballroom during the big riot towards the end of ECW) . The crowd chanted "ROH."
Everyone brawled to the back. The cameras followed the brawl backstage. Jay and Generico brawled back into the crowd. Steen laid out Mark with a chair in a back hallway. Steen and Generico are finally dragged off with Steen taunting the Briscoes to kiss the belts goodbye. Jay and several officials checked on Marc, who was out cold. They used multiple camera angles here, which sometimes looks terrible for wrestling but since the four went into different directions, it made sense there were different cameras following them. The backstage stuff seemed chaotic and at times wasn't lit well, which in a sense was good, because that way it didn't look scripted and rehearsed, like some backstage fights do on WWE and TNA.
They aired clips of Roderick Strong giving Delirious a legitimate concussion on February 17th in Philadelphia and additional clips building up the match between the two.
Roderick Strong vs. Delirious
They were in the ring ready to wrestle when we returned from the video piece. Delirious, who wears a mask and babbles in odd tongues, went insane at the sound of the bell, causing Strong to go to the floor early. Delirious began running around and they battled on the floor around the ring. Since we had seen so much in-ring wrestling, the fight around the ring was a nice change of pace.
They returned to the ring, with Strong taking Delirious down with a shoulder tackle. They go into some mat wrestling. Delirious missed a kick to the side of the head. The crowd got behind Delirious, chanting, "Blah blah blah blah."
Delirious hit a rana from the top on Strong, who came back drilling him facefirst into the turnbuckles. Crown taunted Strong chanting, "Rooooderick." Strong whipped Delirious in the corner, but was hit with a clothesline. Strong nailed a number of backbreaker variations and gutbusters and chops. Delirous drilled Strong with a neckbreaker, then began chopping. Strong hit a swinging backbreaker over the knee. Delirious began firing back with punches to the mid-section. Strong tried to springboard off the turnbuckle but was caught with a headbutt to the stomach.
Delirious hit several clotheslines off the ropes, followed by a leaping lariat. Delirious dropkicks him into the corner, then hits The Panic Attack, a running knee strike in the corner. Delirious went to the top for "Shadows from Hell" a splash across the back, but Strong evades. Strong hits a Torture Rack into an over the knee backbreaker. He presses and tosses Delirious atop the turnbuckles, then hits a Fall Away Slam off the ropes. Delirious fights back and hits Shadows over Hell then goes for the Cobra Stretch. Roderick hit a powerbomb across his knee for a two count.
Delirious hit a flip dive off the top rope to the floor on Strong. They battled on the floor and to the apron. In a sick spot, Strong suplexed and dropped Delirious on the apron outside the ring. Strong covers him but Delirious kicks out. They battle back and forth with forearm shots. Strong hits a gutbuster, then locks on a Boston Crab. Delirous goes for the Cobra Stretch. Gibson nails a suplex, a running boot and his finisher, the Gibson Driver (sit down powerbomb named for Strong's mentor James Gibson) for the pin.
Your winner, Roderick Strong!
After the pin, the No Remorse Corps. all beat down Delirious. They bridge a piece of guard rail between the ring and railing. Strong hit a powerbomb on Delirious onto the rail. Erik Stevens ("of the Resillence!") hit the ring for the save. The announcers noted the Resilience has been feuding with the NRC.
Backstage, Adam Pearce sent Shane Hagadorn to find someone. Pearce talked about the growth of ROH from a tiny company to a larger company. He said that everyone in the locker room has to stand up and decide what they need to do to take a piece for themselves. Hagadorn returned and said he found "him" and they are right around the corner. We follow Pearce, who shows us a beaten, tired BJ Whitmer trying to recover from his match earlier. Pearce says that Whitmer's soul is in so much pain, even he can't reveal it to the world. Pearce said that Whitmer has made sacrifice after sacrifice for ROH and its fans and has had flesh torn and made trips to the hospital for the ROH fans. He said that Whitmer lost one of the most violent feuds in ROH history against Jimmy Jacobs and now has to try and figure out how he can break free from that. Pearce said that Whitmer is going to always be known as the guy that lost the first ROH PPV match and that will always haunt him when he dreams and when he wakes up. Pearce said that Whitmer is going to keep wondering how he makes peace for himself when the pressure is on. He said that everyone acts their own way and find the spot in their soul where clarity lives. Pearce said that he knows what he is capable of and pretty soon, everyone watching will know it too. He walks in silence to Whitmer and puts his hand on Whitmer's shoulder. Good promo and you can see some Raven-esque persona coming out of this for Pearce, perhaps affecting Whitmer when he's at his weakest moment. I'm curious to see where this goes.
ROH champion Takeshi Morishima & Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA and Nigel McGuinness
We go to Bobby Cruise, who announces it's time for the main event. We get the full ring introductions for each followed a video package on all four.
Lots of great back and forth wrestling here. Danielson and KENTA started with back and forth exchanges. Morishima shoulderblocked Nigel down. Danielson drilled McGuinness with a forearm off the ropes. KENTA nailed Morishima with a boot to the face but was caught by Danielson with a Dragon Screw leg whip. All four faced off center ring, which led to a "ROH chant."
Nigel DDT'd Morishima on the apron outside the ring, but Takeshi shrugged it off and powerbombed him into the railing ringside. KENTA tried to help but was whipped into the railing. He held KENTA for Danielson, who came charging with a running boot to the face. Danielson and Morishima worked over Nigel in the corner and on the mat for awhile with Danielson focusing on his knees. KENTA finally got the hot tag in and nailed a springboard missile dropkick to Danielson Morishima nailed one of his own on KENTA and followed that up with a sideslam. KENTA powerslammed Morishima, which the place came unglued for due to the size different.
Nigel tagged in and began drilling Morishima with strikes and thrusts, taking him out in the corner. McGuinness hit a running charge into a forearm, which looked awesome. Morishima came back with a big boot, but missed a missile dropkick. Nigel clotheslined him for a two count. Morishima went for a cartwheel into a handspring elbow, but Nigel drilled him with a lariat for another near fall. Nigel and Morishima battled atop in a corner. Danielson tried to get involved so KENTA attacked him. It ended with Morishima dropping down on Nigel like former WWF champion Yokozuna would. Morishima nailed a backdrop driver but KENTA broke up the two count. KENTA hit a diving knee onto Danielson, who was draped against the ropes.
Danielson nailed a Dragon Suplex then locked on a Crossface Chicken Wing. KENTA pushed off the corner and Danielson nearly ended up pinning himself. Danielson goes to the top but Nigel comes from under him and nailed a powerbomb. KENTA tries to hit a bodypress from the ropes but Morishima catches him and tosses him with a suplex. Nigel nailed a forearm off the ropes on Danielson. He tosses Morishima into the first row, then dives off the top rope onto him.
Danielson goes for a diving headbutt on KENTA but KENTA gets his feet up. He nails a dropkick and hits the Go To Sleep for a two count, but Morishima breaks the count. Morishima clotheslined KENTA and Danielson nailed him with a backfist. KENTA kept kicking out. At some point, Nigel ripped up his arm as he was at ringside taping it up and you could see blood peering out from under the tape. He rebounded off the ropes and drilled a lariat into Morishima, but went down selling the arm. KENTA nailed a suplex and got a two count on Danielson. The place chanted for ROH.
KENTA was drilled with a back suplex and Danielson went for the Cattle Mutilation but didn't get it. He nailed a back suplex on KENTA and began beating him with elbow after elbow, teasing a MMA-like ref stoppage. Danielson forced KENTA to tap out to the Cattle Mutilation submission while Morishima beat down Nigel in the corner.
Your winners, ROH champion Takeshi Morishima & Bryan Danielson!
After the match, Danielson grabbed the ROH title belt but was drilled with a backdrop driver by Morishima. Nigel returned to the ring and presented Morishima with the belt out of respect but was laid out with a lariat. Morishima swung the belt over his head as the announcers wondered who could defeat him. The PPV went off the air.
Overall, a great PPV debut. For the price of $9.95, you won't get more wrestling anywhere in a two hour timespan. There were long matches, lots of matwork and striking that wouldn't seem foreign to a MMA fan coming across the product, wrestling based around athletics, not looks and matches built around the Japanese style with hard hitting athletics, submissions, strikes, lots of big moves and kickouts, and highspots galore.
The promos, particularly Adam Pearce and Larry Sweeney, were very good and at the same time, none of them were your sterotypical wrestling promos of 2007 that sounded hokey and scripted. These felt like you were watching athletes and their associates talk, not wrestlers pretending to be actors.
The production is below what fans who are only exposed to WWE's level of production will be familiar with, but the product is completely different from anything else on PPV right now. Still, this show wasn't meant to compete with WWE or TNA, but to be an entirely different niche product for fans to sample.
My feeling watching it was that if you were already an ROH fan, you'll probably like the PPV. If you are into MMA or old school wrestling, you'll like aspects of it but it will seem different. If you are looking for a show to lose yourself for two hours and remind you why you first fell in love with wrestling, this is where you want to be.
A great debut and I can't recommend ordering this show strongly enough. If all goes well for ROH, a new crew of superstars are about to be unleashed on the United States.
For more information on Ring of Honor and when "Respect is Earned" will air on your cable provider, visit www.ROHWrestling.com.
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.