Monday, June 16, 2014

Saturday Night (Not So) Live: An Appreciation of Late Night Indie Rasslin

Screen grab via Super Luchas

Throughout my years of wrestling fanaticism, I have only focused on the big company up north. The WWE started becoming a part of my life in my tweens, and the show that got me to care was a wonderful monstrosity called Shotgun Saturday Night. Those shows usually featured lower mid-card matches and recaps of what occurred that week on RAW (much like Main Event is now for WWE). It was staying up late at night in my room watching a TV that only got basic channels while my mom assumed that I was asleep that was the highlight of my early years of wrestling watching.

I provide this small anecdote about how my love of this crazy art form began because Ring of Honor recently started showing its hour-long weekly show, ROH TV, here in Portland, OR this year and, it comes on at 1:05 AM Sunday morning. Staying up and watching this show brings me back to those times that I first got into WWE and how I became a fan of that wrestling organization by watching a show that while still good, didn't exactly shed light on its best stories and matches. The biggest difference between my experiences with these shows is that I'm usually a few shots deep when I watch ROH.

TH has been kind enough to give me an opportunity to write about ROH TV for you, the wrestling consumer, and I will do so at the expense of my non-existent social life. As you will see, I am a fan of the unintentional comedy of the cheaper production values (ESPECIALLY the local commercials that they have the wrestlers do with the ROH background) and the brutality of the move sets. I will also present my thoughts in a semi-bulletpointed (is that even a word) format. Let's get into it.

On tonight's episode, ROH went back to their Global Wars event that happened in Toronto, ON on May 10. Since it has a big Pay Per View coming up (Best In The World), this episode was a bit promo heavy but still quite entertaining. We got two matches from the Global Wars card, including Cedric Alexander vs. Roderick Strong and a ROH Championship match between Adam Cole and Kevin Steen. Tonight's promos for their upcoming PPV included one for the Television Championship match between Matt Taven and Jay Lethal and another for a tag match between the Briscoes and Matt Hardy and Mike Bennett.

Alexander vs. Strong
This match began with a recap of why they were battling in the first place, basically coming down to Alexander using a finisher that is very similar to Strong's finisher. Honestly, I've seen dumber reasons for a fight to happen, so no problems here. Of course, the feud escalated when Strong's stable, "The Decade", beat up Alexander and brought up his wife and kid. ROH loves to go that route (see the recent developments in the Cole/Elgin saga), and it's understandable because its effective. As Alexander came spoiling for a fight, not even waiting for the streamers to unfurl. Rather they started mauling each other, and Alexander hit a sick looking suicide dive between the bottom and middle rope.

Later in the match, Alexander hit Strong with a Michinoku Driver and only got a two count. Much like the fisherman's suplex, I HATE that this move is only a two count maneuver. They should always and forever be finishers. Still, it looked damn good, as did the incredibly high superplex that Strong delivered to Alexander.

Toward the end of the match, the two men just began to slap each other in the face until Alexander returned a slap by spitting in Strong's eye. Even if this sequence was booked, it looked very real and was well done. It also led to a blindingly fast sequence of kicks and elbows and punches that were way too fast to keep up with.

The finish to the match involved a counter into a small package for Alexander for the 1-2-3. Alexander "earned the respect of Strong" until "The Decade" came out and beat the hell out of him, finishing with a uranage slam through two set-up chairs. It was a very brutal spot, highlighted by the reactions of Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer. They each grabbed a chair that was used for the slam, sit in it, and menacingly stare at Alexander in the ring until the refs showed up. It was a very nice visual to end a very good match.

Commercial and Promos
This week's local commercial promo was brought to us by The Briscoes. Their manic delivery only intensified the comedy that is watching them shill for a local Portland furniture store. The Briscoes were green-screened over the wide selection of furniture from "City Liquidtors" while they yell "WHY WOULD YOU SHOP ANYWHERE ELSE?!" Mark Briscoe yelled something at the very end regarding the store and I'm still not sure what exactly he said and that commercial was shown at least five different times. That and their promo regarding their tag match at Best In The World, in which Mark kept yelling "IT'S GON BE VIOLENT" over Jay Briscoe's attempts at stating his intentions for that match, were absolute gold. That team is a horribly intolerant treasure.

There was also a video package regarding Matt Taven and Jay Lethal's match at Best In The World. While both men are serviceable on the mic (Lethal much more so than Taven), the real star of the promo was the man seconding Lethal here, Truth Martini. That guy consistently entertains me, and I love his look. He has to be my favorite indie manager going today (followed by Mister Ooh La La who is a local manager that I worked in a food service place with in college and whose real name is ACTUALLY Mister Ooh La La). I'd love to see what he could do in the WWE.

Adam Cole vs. Kevin Steen
The final match of the night between Adam Cole and Kevin Steen was just as professional and entertaining as you would expect from these two men. Steen, wrestling in his home country, came out with a Canadian flag and got an even larger pop then he would have already received otherwise, while Cole provided his smug look and general assholishness (definitely not a word) to the ring. The two work well together, and the crowd stayed with the match the whole way. The pace was a bit slow as Cole is a methodical wrestler and Steen is a large man, but they brought the ruckus. Steen broke out a brainbuster to the turnbuckle, a Sharpshooter, and a Figure Four. Steve Corino even adds a bit on commentary by stating "Look at that sinister look on Adam Cole... that sexy, sinister look on Adam Cole."

The finish of the match left something to be desired, though.  Michael Bennett ran in to receive a package piledriver from Steen for his troubles. Cole and Steen exchanged moves until another package piledriver is countered into a superkick for a three count. This finish provided my biggest qualm with Cole. He has all the tools at the very young age of 25, but he needs a legitimate finisher. The Florida Keys and a Superkick are not enough to definitively end a match, in my opinion. Once he has a real finisher, then Cole will have it all.

And so ends this episode of ROH TV. You can find me on Twitter @DirtyRasslin.