Monday, 7 July 2008

ROH Unified - DVD Review

For this edition of The Two Sheds Review we’re taking another trip stateside. Well, sort of, because in August 2006, Ring of Honor came to the Liverpool Olympia in merry old England for two shows, the first of which, Unified, we’re looking at here. This main event for this one features a unification match, with ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson facing Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness. There also appearances from the likes of Robbie Brookside, the Briscoe Brothers, Doug Williams, SUWA, and many more.

After a couple of opening promos, it’s on to the opening match, which features Colt Cabana, Matt Sydal, Jonny Storm and Spud in a four corners survival match. It’s fast-paced, hard hitting, and at times funny. It’s also a fantastic way to start the show with four great wrestlers showing their wares in what could only be termed as frantic. We even get Cabana channelling the spirit of the late British wrestler Big Daddy at one point. Sydal came out the worthy winner in this one, defeating Spud with his Sydal press, one of the best top rope moves I’ve seen in recent times, and all four men got a standing ovation as they left the hall.

As the wrestlers leave, Chris Hero comes running through the crowd, jumps into the ring and grabs the microphone. Needless to say that the locals don’t take very kindly to this interruption, and Hero himself is soon interrupted by the returning Colt Cabana. Hero runs for cover back through the crowd.

Prince Nana then arrives on the stage with a microphone in hand. Like Hero before him he gets a warm Liverpool welcome as he introduces the crown jewel of The Embassy, Jimmy Rave, coming to the ring for his match-up with Davey Richards. As Rave and the Prince enter the ring the fans throw loads of toilet rolls at them, which doesn’t do much for their mood. While the first match was fought at a very frantic pace, this was almost the polar opposite, fought at a much slower and more methodical pace, giving this viewer the perfect opportunity to assess the talents of the wrestlers on the show - and they were good. Unhampered by a faux rock star gimmick, Rave looked great, with Richards looking even better. This is only the second match I’ve seen Richards in, but I can see why certain sections of the internet are buzzing about this guy’s talents. Mention must also be made of Prince Nana, patrolling around ringside and showing that managers do still have a part to play in the world of professional wrestling. As for the match, after numerous false finishes and almost thirty minutes of tremendous action, Richards got the pin after his butterfly brain buster. Nana went ballistic afterwards, coming into the ring and shoving the referee. To cap things off, the second standing ovation of the evening followed.

After a promo from the Briscoes promising to win the tag-title later in the evening, it’s on to more singles action, with Claudio Castagnoli against B.J. Whitmer. This one didn’t last as long as the last one, but it was just as action packed. Double C attacked Whitmer before the bell, and you could tell from then on just what sort of match we were going to get. The two of them soon started to brawl around ringside, before giving the fans a closer look at the action, again making me wonder why referees just don’t count them out when they do this. They eventually returned to the ring, where the technical wrestling returned as well. The back and forth stuff followed, with plenty of near falls, before Whitmer got the pin with a roll-up, having started off by trying to take Claudio down with a piledriver.

Whitmer didn’t have much time to celebrate his victory, as Chris Hero made his second appearance of the evening, helping his erstwhile partner in attacking the winner. Colt Cabana then ran down to the ring to make the save, leading to the next match of the evening - Cabana v Hero, a match that Hero didn’t even want in the first place. Part brawl, part technical wrestling contest, this impromptu match is a great little bout, with Hero playing the part of the heel very well. Of course, Cabana is the man here in England, and has the crowd in the palm of his hand as he went for all-out victory, which he achieves with his colt 45 backbreaker. You know, I think I’m now even more of a Cabana fan, if such a thing is possible!

After Bryan Danielson promises victory in the main event, there’s more Brits in action as Doug Williams and Jody Fleisch face Japanese opposition in the form of SUWA and Go Shiozaki, with the winners getting a tag-team title shot at the following night’s show, Anarchy in the U.K. It’s the usual good solid work from Williams and Fleisch here, although I couldn’t help but wonder if Fleisch was going to injure himself whenever he leapt from the ring to ringside (see my review of the King of Europe Cup 2007 DVD and you’ll see why). SUWA and Shiozaki continue to impress whenever I see them, with SUWA’s somewhat underhanded tactics making him the heel of the proceedings, although as the match went on, Shiozaki began to display those traits as well. So what we’ve got here is an excellent back-and-forth encounter between two very good teams, putting on a great display of wrestling in their attempt to get a title match, and after what seemed like an eternity of great action, Williams got the pin for his team, taking down Shiozaki with his chaos theory suplex. This didn’t sit well with SUWA, who came into the ring and clobbered Williams with his kendo stick, before clobbering his own partner. It was only when Williams, Fleisch and Shiozaki teamed up that SUWA stopped his attacked and headed for the hills. Lasting nearly thirty minutes, this was an excellent match. I can’t really say nothing more than that.

After a promo from B.J. Whitmer saying that he’s going to look for new challenges in ROH, and an advertisement for the ROH Straight Shootin’ DVD series, it’s on to the first title match of the evening, with Robbie Brookside defending the now defunct Frontier Wrestling Alliance British title against Chad Collyer. While this wasn’t as intense as some of the previous matches, it was still good nonetheless. You always know that you’re going to get a good, solid performance from Brookside here, and Collyer was more than able to match him. We even got something I never thought I’d hear at an ROH show, as Brookside led the chorus with his trademark “we want more” chant. Mind you, this show was being held in his hometown, so I supposed it had to be expected. The end came in traditional Brookside fashion. After getting to the ropes when Collyer had the Texas cloverleaf locked in, Brookside came back to take him down with his cross-armed iconoclasm to get the pinfall win. Good stuff from both wrestlers here. Not to flashy, but just right.

Then it’s straight on to the next match, as Jay and Mark Briscoe challenge Austin Ares and Roderick Strong for the World Tag-Team titles. I’ll tell you what, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the Briscoes in action, and boy have they improved as a tag-team, and with their added bulk they certainly look the part of wrestlers these days. Aries and Strong also showed great synergy as a team, and I can see why they were ROH’s top tag-team at the time. But what about the match, I hear you ask? Well, to coin the old phrase, it’s a great example of tag-team wrestling, with some great double-team moves from both combinations mixed in with some hard hitting action and great technical wrestling, with some combinations of moves I’ve never seen before. The crowd were right when they began chanting “this is awesome”. As for the ending, on the way to several false finishes which were preceded by countless great moves, which included Aries getting a DDT’d on the ramp, Aries managed to escape the Briscoe’s springboard doomsday device, getting the pin after coming down on the top rope with a 360 splash. Do I need to say how great this match was again?

Main event time, with World Champion Bryan Danielson and Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness battling it out in a unification match. Fought under pure wrestling rules, it’s a hell of a contest between two of the best wrestlers in the world at the moment. Danielson and McGuinness go all out in a tremendous show of technical wrestling and ringside brawling, combined with a great storyline and an electric atmosphere. There’s just too many great moments here to pick out just one. The ending came with a referee stoppage. Angry because McGuinness had escaped the cattle mutilation, Danielson connected with a series of elbows to the side of McGuinness’ bloodied head. The Brit had no response to this, falling into unconsciousness, leaving the referee no decision but to stop the bout.

In conclusion - wow! Ring of Honor certainly know how to put on a great wrestling show, and this was a great wrestling show. Excellent performances from all concerned here, and I don’t really need to go on about how good this show was. If you’ve never seen an ROH show before, then Unified would be a great place to start. Highly recommended.

With thanks to Mark Sloan for supplying a copy of this release. “ROH Unified” is available to buy online at www.a-merchandise.co.uk, official sponsors of The Two Sheds Review website.