Craig Shultz reviews ROH Manhattan Mayhem
Segment: The show opens with Good Times, Great Memories LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY!!! Colt Cabana starts talking about his history with Nigel McGuiness. Colt asks random people on the street about what they think of Nigel. Hilarious way to open the DVD.
Segment: Now we go to Samoa Joe standing the ring before the show waiting for Jay Lethal. Lethal comes down to the ring and thanks for Joe for helping him along in his career. They both exchange some heated words and get in each others grills. Another good segment to start the DVD off with. To the show!
Opening Match: Ring Crew Express vs. Izzy & Deranged vs. Dixie & Azrieal
Right after the Ring Crew Express get to the ring, the CARNAGE CREW come back after a 90 day suspense at the hands of losing to the RCE at one of the third year anniversary shows. Carnage Crew beat them down pretty hard and then cut a heel promo that sounded exactly like their face promos. Just with more yelling if that was possible. So now the match is changed.
Opening Match: Izzy & Deranged vs. Dixie & Azrieal
Backstory: The former Special K members find themselves on the opposite sides. Izzy and Deranged are part of the Lacey’s Angels while Dixie and Azrieal are becoming more serious. The losing team has to disband. Aw… This whole match is going to be filled with spots. There isn’t going to be any meaning behind them but oh god will there be spots.
Outcome: Izzy via pinfall after a SICK Reverse Rana on Azrieal.
Analysis: I can’t tell Izzy and Deranged apart. Until Jimmy Bower tells me that Deranged and Azrieal are in the ring. Wooo. Basic start as you could probably expect. Face bitchslaps heel, heel gets pissed, crowd chants. “Mat wrestling” to start this whole match off. Pretty clean. Izzy and Dixie then find themselves in the ring as they start with the spots. The action goes so damn fast between these two teams here at the start, I can’t type that fast. Although Dixie and Azrieal hit a very nice Leg Drop/Back Suplex combo to get the advantage. Azrieal needs a better name to spell because I keep messing it up. While he has the advantage over Deranged, he uses a couple of good power like moves and a bad looking Octopus Stretch. Deranged switches it into a DVD which turns the tide to Lacey’s Angels.
The typical face in peril segment comes in now as Lacey’s Angels use a huge variety of moves to keep Azrieal from making the tag. This includes one of my favorite double team moves… A Doomsday Ace Crusher. That is a great move and should be in every tag match so people can bow down to the awesome it manages to bring. They manage to botch a top rope thing for a minute as Azrieal Superplexes Izzy off for the big double countdown moment. Typical hot tag offense comes now. Nothing really fancy but the spots start to come now and they come clean for once. Considering these four guys, that’s very surprising. The huge turning point is when Azrieal accidentally Double Stomps Dixie. More spots as we get the finishing sequence.
This was the perfect way to open the show. Even with the Carnage Crew taking out RCE before the match started this crowd was HOT! Everything these guys did got a response from the crowd. Even the botches went pretty much unnoticed… all two of them. This is probably the best straight up tag match any of these four wrestlers have had that I’ve seen. Great job guys and a great way to start this show. **3/4
Second Match: Colt Cabana vs. Nigel McGuinness
Backstory: They tagged together for a couple of shows but Colt was too goofy for the serious Nigel. But they remained friends and this is the first of the two friendly matches here tonight.
Outcome: Nigel McGuiness via pinfall after a kick to the groin and a roll up.
Analysis: What a fun match. These two men know each other and they both know how to use that Euro style of wrestling that is a lot more mat based then what you’d see in the US. Don’t expect a whole lot of Planchas or Powerbombs here. This match is fun from the start when Colt kept on switching hands for the code of honor to be upheld. Great stuff. But as far as this match goes, it’s pretty well divided into two parts; the comedy of Colt and the wrestling of Nigel. Both men use the wristlock to start before Colt takes the advantage use his… hilarious tactics for lack of a better term. Colt tries to pin Nigel about six different times at one point, lifting his leg up to force the shoulder of Nigel down. Then once he tries to pick Nigel up, he steps on his hand while Nigel screams. Colt claims innocent. Great stuff. This is why Colt could be a huge star in WWE. Otherwise, Colt spends his time dodging the Artful Dodger of Nigel McGuiness or other pinning moves.
When Nigel is in control, he focuses on the shoulder of Cabana with a lot of variety. He slams down Colt on that shoulder numerous times as hard as he can. Although Colt forgets about it once he starts in with the backslides and roll ups. In a perfect wrestling world, the shoulder wouldn’t have held up that well after the offense Nigel used on it. Otherwise this match is spilt in control and a lot of fun to view. I would go into deeper analysis with this one but it’s so much fun to watch I’d hate to ruin too much of it. Regardless, this was a very well worked match. The ending made well enough sense as they were dodging each others roll ups and Nigel accidentally got him down in man land before pinning him. They sort of make up after the match with Nigel claiming he didn’t mean it. This served to further an angle between the two so everything worked out well. ***1/4
Promo: Alex Shelley talks about his history with Ring of Honor and Generation Next. Great promo from Shelley, one of his best.
Third Match: James Gibson vs. Black Tiger
Backstory: Gibson wanted someone from NJPW after what he thought was an embarrassing performance at Best of American Super Juniors.
Outcome: James Gibson via submission after putting Black Tiger in a Front Choke hold.
Analysis: Both men bring the awesome to this match out of nowhere. I thought they could produce something good in this match but they went above and beyond in my book. This whole match has a great style and a great feel to it. Gibson is so watered down in the WWE it would surprise you to see his Ring of Honor work like it did to me. I thought Gibson wasn’t bad in the WWE but in RoH, he is godly. Seriously, he knows how to work a match like none other. Typical start like you’d see in most technical matches. Working into wristlocks, hammerlocks and that sort. Like I said, a start that you’d see a few times with Gibson. After a few back and forth minutes, things spill out for the floor where we get our first control segment of the match.
Gibson is able to pick up Tiger and RAMS him into the sheet over the guard rails as hard as he can. I mean, Gibson nearly sprints doing this to Tiger. Gibson then uses a lot of different kinds of offense to stay on the attack. Leg Drops, Headbutts, Suplexes, right hands, submission holds, anything to wear down Black Tiger. Only for a couple of minutes though as Tiger takes advantage of Gibson’s aggressiveness. Tiger uses more of the same kind of attack to wear down Gibson but mainly focuses on the head to set up the Tiger Suplex. Smart thinking right? I know I’d want to wear down the head to use my finisher. Tiger keeps the attack until he misses a top rope move.
Now the fun begins. Both men start to go back and forth with submission holds. At one point, Tiger has Gibson in a Cross Armbreaker into which Gibson reverses to a Texas Cloverleaf. This gives Gibson a small advantage to take care of. More reversals as we finally get the double KO point for a rest. Tiger hits his Tiger Suplex after a couple of reversals for a near fall. And he gets some height on it. It was just… fantastic! That very could have been the finish. Tiger is shocked. Tiger unloads with kicks and tries to finish with a Fisherman’s Suplex. Doesn’t work. Then he sets Gibson in an ankle lock which plays in a few moments later. Tiger is on the top rope and jumps off with a Crossbody. Gibson sees it coming and puts out leg with the now bum ankle. Tiger lands on it and GIBSON SELLS THE KNEE! You don’t see that hugely often. That leads into the finish.
This is pretty much could have main evented a show, it was that good in my opinion. Both men know how to work and they both bring a similar yet different style to the table and it meshed extremely well. I would have loved to see it again but I don’t think it ever happened. Regardless, this is another great match. ***3/4
Fourth Match: Roderick Strong/Jack Evans vs. Jimmy Jacobs/BJ Whitmer (c) for the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship
Backstory: Strong and Evans got number one contendership somehow to get this shot. So there we have it.
Outcome: Jacobs/Whitmer via pinfall after a Doomsday Contra Code on Evans.
Analysis: HUSS HUSS HUSS!!!! This is pretty much like the opening tag match… just longer and a bit better. Like the opener, there isn’t much in the way of a story, it’s just a bunch of clean moves that are painful. The control segments are about what you would expect from Strong and Evans once they get it. Great. Strong and Evans have been tagging for quite a while at this point as far as Ring of Honor goes. They work over Jacobs for the most part as he is the smaller of the tag team champions. One of the most interesting moves from Strong and Evans is when they get Jacobs in the middle buckle, stretched across stomach first. Strong basically lifts Evans up in a Powerbomb as Evans then flips onto Jacob’s back with a Moonsault.
That’s what most of this match is. Moves like that. Moves that make you want to cringe and wonder how Jack Evans or Jimmy Jacobs going to keep on living. More so with Evans. While I am no Jack Evans fan, he knows how to take a beating like a man. When Jacobs and Whitmer are in control, they work over Evans as one would suspect. Evans is the perfect person to play someone to get the crap beaten out of them and make it believable. Seriously, he’ll do three flips for a simple dropkick when he sells it.
But yeah, it’s the same formula as the opening tag team match. Just longer and better then it was. Crowd is still hot and love seeing Jack Evans. But this is one of the better tag team matches in Ring of Honor not having the word Briscoe in it. These two teams brought the awesome, much like everyone else has here tonight. Not too mention it has the best Dave Prazak line ever; “He’s a tough little huss!” Good match, brutal finish, I love it. ***1/2
Fifth Match: Samoa Joe vs. Jay Lethal (c) for the Ring of Honor Pure Championship
Backstory: Quite an extensive one. We all know about Samoa Joe but Jay Lethal rose through the RoH ranks as Special K member, Hydro. In mid 2004, he switched to the name of Jay Lethal and Samoa Joe took him under his wing, his protégé. In early 2005, Lethal was able to capture the Pure Title. The Pure Title was never a favorite title of Joe while he was World Champion. Regardless, there was a vignette at the start of the Manhattan Mayhem DVD that showed Lethal and Joe in the ring way before the start of the show. Both men get in each other’s faces and say they both want to win this match. Comes across that the Pure Title doesn’t mean as much as the two men wrestling each other. Great set up.
Outcome: Samoa Joe wins after the Chimaira Combo to become the new Ring of Honor Pure Champion.
Analysis: For those that don’t know the rules of a Pure Title match, it goes like this. You get three rope breaks. Once they are used, too bad. No closed fists. First time you get a warning, second time it happens, you lose a rope break. Finally, there is a twenty count on the floor. Title can change hands on a count out or DQ.
On to the match. In all of the Pure Title matches I’ve seen, this is probably the smartest one worked. The first thing you realize is that Joe has never been in a pure match before. This concept is totally new to him and it takes him about five to seven minutes to realize that he can’t use a closed fist. He tries not to punch Lethal but during some of his trademark offense, the punch, chop, punch, chop combo, he forgets it and loses a rope break. The other times, it comes as second nature to Joe to counter whatever Lethal is doing with a closed fist. So within the first ten minutes, Joe has used up all of his rope breaks because he doesn’t know how to use the rules of a pure match.
The second thing is how Lethal is able to keep chopping away at Joe without getting dominated like most wrestlers do. Lethal picks his spots most of the time. The first time this happens is at the start of the match when Joe drives him into the corner. Lethal shows no fear and slaps, HE SLAPS, Joe down to the mat. Lethal knows that other then picking his spots, he has to be aggressive on his offense so Joe gets beaten down. Almost the polar opposite of what CM Punk tried to do at Joe vs. Punk II. Referencing I realize but it’s a different way of trying to beat Samoa Joe. Another instance of Lethal picking his spots is when Samoa Joe has him in position for the Facewash. Lethal knows it’s coming so he gets to his feet, grabs the leg of Joe and throws it into the ropes. While Joe is hung, Lethal hits a very nice dropkick on Joe. Otherwise, Lethal tries to focus on the head of Joe to set him up for his release Dragon Suplex.
When Samoa Joe has control, you see his normal offense. The STJoe, the Big Joe Combo, many stiff chops and kicks that paste Lethal. But I love how at one point in the match, Joe wants to use a closed fist but thinks better of it. He switches to a forearm because he doesn’t want to lose a rope break. Just right after that, Lethal bounces off the ropes and Joe uses that closed fist as a defense measure. See, Lethal knows Joe loves to use punches because he is much larger then anyone else on the Ring of Honor roster. Smart wrestling. Just like when Lethal had the Facewash scouted, Joe had a Crossbody scouted from Lethal and simply walked away from the move. Things like that friendly rivals need to use when they wrestle each other because they know each other so well. Another one of the Joe spots is the Forearm Sucidia on Lethal. The turning point in this match that shifts the, well I don’t want to say dominance from Lethal… but his control. Lethal attempts to use a Sleeper on the apron and its legal because Joe was out of rope breaks. Joe was smart enough to realize that he needed to do something insane to get the hold broke. Joe runs backwards and jumps off the apron with Lethal still applying the Sleeper hold through a table.
The finish was pretty well worked. Lethal used the Dragon Suplex and it failed to put Joe away. So Lethal is frustrated and has no idea what to do next. Lethal picks up Joe and tries to give him the Dragon again but Joe knew it was coming. He moves it into the Chimaira Combo without ever having to use the Island Driver, Muscle Buster or Rear Naked Choke. Joe took advantage of a situation made by Lethal’s over zealousness. In a nice touch though, “The Champ Is Here” plays after the match. Sure it has nothing to do with the match but it’s just a cool effect.
But as far this Pure Title match goes, it’s probably one of the best Ring of Honor ever had. Joe and Lethal were on that night with what they wanted to do and it showed. This is a borderline five star match when you look at the history of both men. They know each other, they both know what they want to do but it’s just Joe taking advantage of Lethal that makes all the difference in the end. ****1/2
Promo: IT’S… IT’S… LOW-KI AND COMPANY! In an almost inaudible promo for me anyways, Low Ki says he was the one who attacked Jay Lethal a few months back. It was a cool segment.
Sixth Match: Jimmy Rave vs. CM Punk in a Dog Collar Match
Backstory: Wow, where to begin. Jimmy Rave is part of the Embassy, the crown jewel according to the awesome Prince Nana. Rave had cheated to beat CM Punk twice at the third part of the Third Anniversary Show. Punk didn’t like it because the Embassy then took out his girlfriend, Tracy Brooks of TNA fame (emphasis on the T.) So, in order to know what else is going on, they give you a few clips before the match starts to help you out. I liked it.
Outcome: Jimmy Rave via pinfall after five/six chair shots to CM Punk.
Analysis: While I am not a huge fan of a Dog Collar match as it’s a pretty restrictive match type, this is a great one. The crowd was probably at their hottest here during this match. Punk vs. Rave was probably one of the better angles of 2005. Before the match starts though, Nana claims Rave is sick so Killer Kruel is going to take Rave’s place. This is all just a ruse though as Rave comes running out after Punk is ready and blindsides him. That right there sets this whole match up. Rave needs the Embassy’s help in order to beat CM Punk. Numerous times in the match, mostly towards the end, members of the Embassy would get involved trying to help Rave out.
Punk though, he’s on his own and he probably has the best blade job since ever towards the early stages of this match. That gives another advantage to Rave, work over the head and cut of CM Punk which Rave does as best as he can considering he isn’t the best worker in the world. He does well enough keeping me interested in what he does to CM Punk. The Curb Stomp into the chain was one of the more interesting parts of this match as well as the chain assisted Camel Clutch. Punk though, Punk has to work for everything in this match. He knows it’s an uphill battle because of the numbers game on the outside. He does more then enough to keep himself in the match. Either it’s countering Rave’s Running Knee to a Single Leg Crab or wailing away with his fists because he knows this a straight up fight.
The finish was very nicely worked. Punk even said it himself in a promo after the match that it was smart to Jimmy to target his head because Punk had suffered a fractured skull at one point in his career. This whole match, this whole angle, the crowd was so hot, it’s hard not to just sit back and be amazed at how good it came out being despite the hindrance of the Dog Collar. Even the massive interference by the Embassy added to the match because it gave to the illusion that they really wanted to end CM Punk. Great way to get everything ready for Punk’s revenge at Nowhere To Run the next weekend. ***1/2
Promo: Punk cuts a promo after getting helped to the back due the blood loss. Very nice one again as this show has yet to not deliver.
Seventh Match: Alex Shelley vs. Austin Aries (c) for the Ring of Honor World Championship
Backstory: Another good one. Alex Shelley formed the Generation Next stable back in May of 2004 I believe. They would run through RoH until Final Battle 2004. Aries and Strong kicked out Shelley, taking over Gen Next. Shelley had to work his way back through the roster, trying to gain the trust of everyone but it never happened.
Outcome: Austin Aries via pinfall after the 450 Splash.
Analysis: This is great World Title match but for someone who is supposed to hate Austin Aries like Shelley should, it’s just not there. This whole match is just a wrestling match. If Shelley would have tried to just pound Aries down instead of going with a wrestling route, it would have added to the match. But as it is, this is a great match. As you could expect, the crowd is spilt as Aries was billed as a heel but never acted like one. He spent way too much time in his reign pandering to the crowd and this match wasn’t much different. Those two misgivings asides…
Back and forth to start before we get into the control segments. Both men are sharp like they usually are. Both men do what they know works. All the trademark offense, everything. But if anything, Shelley acts like the heel during this match. The way he slaps Aries, the way he puts the forearm in the face during covers, they all scream heel. Aries keeps on playing the underdog champion role which was starting to wear thin by this point. Once you hold a World Title for more then five months, you should be able to not be considered the underdog but he was. But this whole match was screaming average, average but the moves were so well done, so crisp, you have to respect it. But Aries targeted the neck naturally to set up the Brainbuster.
The finishing stretch was pretty well back and forth as both men were throwing out moves, hoping one of them would end it, much like the whole match. This was a fine wrestling/high impact match but I was expecting for something different. This was a great match all things considered but I was just hoping for a bit more. ***3/4
Eighth Match: Homicide/Low-Ki vs. Samoa Joe/Jay Lethal
Backstory: Earlier in the show after the Pure Title match. But after Shelley/Aries, ‘Cide and ‘Ki came out and looked like they wanted to fight Aries until Joe and Lethal came out, starting this impromptu main event.
Outcome: Low-Ki via pinfall after the Cop Killa/Double Stomp combo on Lethal.
Analysis: There isn’t a whole lot to analyze here. Both teams go all out as Lethal and Joe had already wrestled a match earlier in the night while Low-Ki and Homicide were pretty fresh. Ki and Homicide kept control for most of the match due to Lethal being worn down from the earlier match. They don’t do a whole lot of special things but the way Lethal is, it was enough. Joe played Mr. Hot Tag and cleaned house but only for a moment or two as Ki and Homicide got back in control. But the way this was worked was fantastic. Ki and Homicide had no remorse for either and it showed. They both just beat ass until the deadliest finish in wrestling history.
But this set up Lethal’s big angle with Low-Ki. This whole match was to set up Lethal and Low-Ki. It accomplished its job and it was good little tag team match. The finish alone is worth watching this match for. ***
Final Thoughts: This is a great Ring of Honor show to get. Whether you are new or just haven’t gotten it yet for whatever reason, do so now. There is nothing wrong with this show in the least bit. Everything advanced or ended something. One of the best RoH shows top to bottom ever and that makes it get the highest recommendation possible.