7/27/07 ROH Race to the Top Tournament Night One: Danielson and Nigel challenge the Briscoes, Steen shines
ROH “Race to the Top Tournament: Night One”
July 27, 2007
Deer Park, N.Y.
Kevin Steen and El Generico cut a backstage promo. Well, Steen did all the talking and said he’d win the tournament, while Generico stood in the background...
1. Pelle Primeau beat B.J. Whitmer at 3:38 in a tournament match. Whitmer was knocked to the floor right away and took issue with Rhett Titus, who was working security, being at ringside. Whitmer took control of the action. However, he climbed to the top rope and turned his attention to Titus again. Priemeau took advantage of the situation by knocking Whitmer off the rope and then rolled him up for the upset win. Primeau celebrated the win by crowd surfing until Whitmer pulled him down and rammed his head into the ring post. Whitmer powerbombed Primeau into the corner and then hit him with a lariat clothesline. He finished him off with a suplex and the crowd responded by chanting, “B.J. blew it”...
Powell’s POV: I like the Whitmer story line. Coming into this show, I actually considered him a dark horse to win it all and turn his luck around in one night. Rather, the story line continues with paranoia over Titus being at ringside and with the frustration he showed by attacking Primeau afterward.
Backstage, Claudio Castagnoli cut a short promo and vowed to win the tournament...
2. Davey Richards beat Jigsaw at 7:30 by submission in a tournament match. Announcers Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard established that Richards was the favorite to win this match. Lightning nearly struck twice when Richards rolled up Jigsaw for a good nearfall following a series of leg lariats. A few moments later, Richards hit a German suplex and then locked in a Kimera for the submission win. The announcers noted that Richards would battle Primeau the next night. Good match. The crowd applauded and chanted “Jigsaw” after the match...
Backstage, Austin Aries talked to Erick Stevens and Matt Cross. He held a pair of basketballs and said people have said a lot of things about him, but no one has ever questioned the size of his balls. Aries gave the youngsters a pep talk and then turned his attention to hyping his match against Roderick Strong...
3. Claudio Castignoli beat Hallowicked at 7:03 in a tournament match. Hallowicked wore a black mask with a green horn on top, black pants, and a black shirt with holes in it. His look leaves plenty to be desired, but he delivered some impressive offense during the opening minutes. There was nothing memorable about this match. Claudio hit a powerbomb and scored the pin...
4. Mike Quackenbush pinned Matt Sydal at 14:18 in a tournament match. Larry Sweeney and the rest of Sweet and Sour Incorporated accompanied Sydal to the ring. He came up with reasons why he, Bobby Dempsey, Tank Toland, and Sara Del Rey couldn’t be at ringside and the group left the area before the match started. It’s easy to see why Quackenbush is popular on the indy scene. He kept the action fast paced and maintained a variety of good facial expressions throughout the match. Sydal, as usual, was impressive, although I must admit that he had me the moment he paid tribute to Anchorman with his cannonball leg drop. Nice. In the end, Quackenbush pulled off an upset pin that pleased the crowd. The announcers noted that he would face Claudio the next night...
5. Chris Hero (w/Sweet and Sour Inc.) beat Erick Stevens in 14:56 in a tournament match. Hero did a C.M. Punk impersonation for his entrance and then played with the crowd before the bell. Funny. He also had a hilarious over the top celebration for delivering a kick to Stevens’ gut. Hero was cocky throughout the match, but gave Stevens his share of offense. Stevens had Hero pinned, but Sweeney pulled the ref’s leg. Stevens chased the heel entourage around and then into the ring, where he caught Dempsey. Before he could perform a move, Hero snuck up from behind and hit his finisher for the win. The crowd applauded Stevens once he made it back to his feet...
Powell’s POV: Hero kept it lighthearted early and played his role as the overconfident heel well throughout the match. However, they could have told the same story in half the time. The last five minutes felt unnecessary unless the goal was to get a younger wrestler more ring time.
Backstage, Delirious cut a gibberish promo...
6. Roderick Strong beat Jimmy Rave and Gran Akuma and Austin Aries in a four-way match in roughly 9:40 to retain the FIP Title. The crowd was especially hot for Aries entrance and he came out fired up. He slapped hands at ringside and was greeted with a “Welcome back” chant before Strong was introduced. The announcers immediately explained that all four wrestlers would be going at it at the same time with elimination rules. Five minutes in, Aries was pinned by all three of his opponents. The live crowd was not happy. Less than two minutes later, Rave forced Akuma to submit, leaving Rave and Strong as the last two wrestlers. In the end, Strong locked in the Stronghold shortly after hitting three backbreakers and scored the win via submission.
Powell’s POV: The early eliminations were disappointing. I’m not sure why the previous match was given 15 minutes and this match was given just under 10 minutes.
Backstage, Rebecca interviewed Jack Evans, who did a “Lost style flashback” regarding Generation Next. He said he’s the only member of the group who had to go to Japan to reach his goals. He flashed forward in to winning the belt.
7. El Generico beat Delirious at 11:20 in a tournament match. Some good flying moves early. One that stood out was when Generico attempted a splash off the top and was met by a headbutt to the midsection by Delirious. That spot wouldn’t work for many wrestlers, but it worked well for Delirious because of his gimmick. In the end, Generico hit a brainbuster and pulled off what the announcers referred to as “a mild upset.” Delirious didn’t want to shake hands after the match. Rather, he scolded Gernico in gibberish, but eventually shook his hand.
8. Brent Albright pinned Matt Cross by submission at 5:25. in a tournament match. Albright looks as major league as anyone in ROH with his pre-match ring gear. Very leather outfit and headgear that covers his face. Cross offered his hand, but Albright paced from corner to corner and ignored him until the ref called for the bell. Albright impressed early by teasing Albright with a dive over the rope, only to stop his momentum with his arms. He hit a great twisting dive over the top a few seconds later. Albright could have scored a pin at the five minute mark, but he pulled Cross off the mat so that he could deliver more punishment. He locked him in an arm submission a few seconds later and earned a submission win.
Powell’s POV: Coming into the match, I felt like they could have used an interview or some type of buffer. However, I got caught up in the action within the first two minutes. When I previewed the matches on the back of the disc, this one stood out as the best of the first-round tournament matches and it was good while it lasted. I hope they come back to this match in the future because it has serious potential.
9. Jack Evans beat Kevin Steen at 9:19 in a tournament match. Before the match, Steen tried to mimic Evans’ dance routine. Evans was willing to keep the party going, as he did a handstand, but Steen hilariously walked over and nonchalantly kicked him over. Steen took the match to ringside early and dominated the action by ramming Evans into the barrier twice. Jack took control with some high-flying moves and brought the back inside the ring. Later, Steen attempted to suplex Jack off the ropes, but Jack flipped his way out of the move and then pulled Steen down to the mat from behind. Steen landed awkwardly on his neck and head while taking the scariest bump of the night. Evans followed up with a great 630 splash for the win.
Powell’s POV: I didn’t know what to expect coming into this match, but I was very impressed with Steen. Don’t get me wrong, Evans is always a blast to watch, but Steen did a great job of slowing the match down and keeping the crowd engaged when he was on offense. He wasn’t afraid to mock his weight in subtle ways and he was as good as anyone on the show when it came to playing to the crowd. I hope he didn’t intentionally take that bump on his head because he certainly didn’t need to. My favorite match of the first-round of the tournament.
A video aired for an upcoming FIP release...
Powell’s POV: No promo from Bryan Danielson and/or Nigel McGuiness to set up the main event? Maybe none was needed for regular viewers, but I’m sure first-time viewers would like some background information on this match. By the way, if Vince McMahon were booking this match, there’s no doubt in my mind that the bickering team of Danielson and McGuiness would capture the tag titles. We’ve seen that scenario countless times in WWE over the years.
10. The Briscoe Brothers beat Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuiness at 17:50 to retain the ROH Tag Titles. No Morishima? No problem in this case because ROH offered a star-powered tag title match in the main event spot. Danielson snuck in a shot at his tag partner by having the ring announcer introduce him as “the next ROH World Champion.” A good way to reestablish the friction between the challengers. One of the early highlights saw Mark Briscoe perform a cross-body block off the top rope onto McGuiness, who was standing on the floor. Ten minutes in, Danielson and Nigel were working well together. Danielson went for a cover and instructed Nigel to prevent the other Briscoe from breaking up the pin and McGuiness complied. The crowd was split in which team they were cheering for. Nigel worked over Jay with a pair of great lariats for nearfalls. The Briscoes got in plenty of their own offense. As usual with these guys, my typing speed doesn’t do their move set justice. Late in the match, the four wrestlers stood in the ring exchanging punches. Danielson attempted a roaring elbow on Jay, but he ducked and Dragon hit Nigel, which allowed Mark to cover McGuiness for the pin. The announcers questioned whether Danielson did it on purpose. Excellent match. Afterward, Danielson quickly shook hands with the Briscoes, and then showed disgust with McGuiness before leaving the ring. Nigel looked irate with Dragon, yet still raised the hands of the Briscoes before leaving the ring.
Final thoughts: This show is special in that it’s a tournament and therefore probably shouldn’t be judged based on the first night alone since most people will probably order both nights to watch the entire tournament play out. If nothing else, it was actually nice to see a few short matches worked in, although I'm sure some people will dislike this disc for that reason. A good friend of mine who is a long-time wrestling fan watched a series of ROH shows a while back. I genuinely expected him to come away hooked on the product, but he said he was overwhelmed “by all of the 20-minute matches.” Perhaps I should tell him to order this disc since it might be more up his alley. There’s nothing like a classic 25-minute match, but the Hero vs. Stevens match is an example of a match that was given too much time. Oddly enough, the same show featured a four-way match that seemed short, a five minute Albright match, and three minute upset opener. I’ll wait until after the next show to offer a final score on the two-night tournament and this set of DVDs, but I really enjoyed the pacing of this show and would highly recommend this disc based on the last three matches alone.
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