ROH: The Wrath of the Racket


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ROH: The Wrath of the Racket 

If you are a longtime reader of the Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter and website you have probably never heard of the promotion Ring of Honor (pssst! Thatís a joke Wade.) Seriously though, only hardcore rassliní fans have actually seen ROH because it is a pretty small operation which can only be seen on the few shows they run and through tapes and DVDís off their website (

Before we talk about ROH though, let me tell you a small story of how they came about. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a wrestling promotion known as ECW. If you have only been exposed to wrestling from the WWFE or WCW, seeing ECW was not unlike seeing your first color movie after a lifetime of black & white. ECW was cutting edge, revolutionary and introduced new concepts to the wrestling world which were quickly stolen (and usually watered down) by pretty much every wrestling promotion. One of more interesting ideas ECW had was to market a ďfan camĒ tape of many of their shows. Since their television show had very little penetration in the US, this was a great way for people who had heard about the promotion to give it a try.

Gabe Sapolsky, who wore many hats while working for ECW including putting out their programs, was the camera-man for many of these fan-cams. Rob Feinstein, the owner of RF Video, was also at every show and had tapes available of pretty much every ECW show imaginable including the latest fan-cams. Like almost everyone associated with ECW, Rob and Gabe were pretty cool guys to deal with as I met Rob while buying an ungodly amount of tapes at an ECW house show in Revere, MA and talked to Gabe at a show in my very own Manchester, NH. Fast forward several years later and ECW is out of business (for several reasons) and the wrestling world for the most part is left again with just watching the WWE and WCW.

ROH, as run by Rob and Gabe, fills this void. God knows you canít go far without someone bitching about the matches on RAW or SmackDown. Well, ROH has great matches. The Internet is filled with rants condemning Vince McMahon for not pushing cruiserweights. ROHís biggest strength is its cruiserweights. People are tired of hardcore brawls or matches in which the opponents look like they learned their entire move-set through a correspondence course. ROH stresses great wrestling. Sounds like everything you ever wanted, right? Well, itís even better than that because this is one of the few wrestling promotions on Earth that isnít run by a bunch of scum-bags. Talk about refreshing.

But without further ado, letís check out one of ROHís shows. This particular event was taped 8/9/03 in Dayton, OH and is titled ďThe Wrath of the RacketĒ because of the appearance of a certain manager who undoubtedly dreams about being able to light the match that burns down Torch Towers. Thatís right, James E. Cornette, longtime manager of the Midnight Express and current booker for the WWE feeder system, Ohio Valley Wrestling.

***In a backstage skit The Second City Saints (Colt Cabana and Ace Steel) are talking about ROHís field of honor. They run into Homicide and Julius Smokes. Homicide shoots a promo as does Smokes, but for the life of me I canít figure out what the latter said. I couldnít understand what the hell Jar Jar Binks said the first time I say Star Wars either, so maybe my mind will learn to translate Smokes as well after repeated viewing. Cabana has a John Cena-like presence and Steel seems like a charismatic version of Jerry Lynn.

***AJ Styles and The Amazing Red shoot a promo. They are the ROH tag team champions and talk about their upcoming match against the Prophecy. After the cameras are offí AJ asks about Redís knee, which he assures Styles is good enough to go. The two then run into the Spanish Announce Team who are also concerned about Redís knee. The good thing about ROH (and formally ECW) is that you really have no idea that all 4 of the men here are probably shorter than myself.

Obviously the WWE has many things it can improve, but one cue it should take from Hollywood (and ROH) is the fact that movies do everything they can to make sure none of us know how incredibly short most of the major actors are, especially action stars. The WWE makes sure you know right away that guys like Paul London, Shannon Moore and Tajiri are much shorter than the abnormal giants they have on their roster. There are only so many genetic freaks in the world and with rare exceptions they are the equivalent of crack cocaine, as the ďwowĒ factor diminishes a little bit more each time you see them. Compare this to the almost unlimited supply of 6í and under wrestlers that could be trained to become the next Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels.

(1) Special K beat The SAT and The Carnage Crew and Fast Eddie & Don Juan in a scramble match. The scramble match is apparently the ROHís version of a Fatal Four Way. Right off the bat I realized that I have a new favorite wrestler, in fact it is an entire group as Special K is just an unbelievable gimmick. For those that havenít seen ROH, they are a group of privileged kids (all with body types that just about make Jeff Hardy look like heís on the juice) who are into raves and drugs. These kids can take a bump like nobodyís business. In fact Deranaged stole the show in this match by not only hitting some fantastic looking offense, but taking some of the most sick looking bumps this side of Spide Dudley in ECWís heyday. The Finish came when Deranged hurricanranaíd a guy from the Carnage Crew and had another member of Special K help hold him down for the pin. The announcers sold this as if it was the ultimate insult to ROH and its fans.

***After the match Special K danced in the ring to their incredible theme music (which you can download from ROHís website, natch) when out comes none other than James E. Cornette. Pretty funny goof here as the wireless mic doesnít work and Cornette has to go back to the entrance way for a regular mic. Corny blasts ROH for being cheap and then tears in Special K. Cornette might only have 10 insults in his repertoire and uses almost all of them every time he is out, but the classics never die. James E. is disgusted by what he sees in the ring and said he feels like heís, ďhaving a hallucination from drugs I havenít even taken yet.Ē Cornette promises to bring out his new tag team and the Old School Midnight Express theme plays as Special K bails.

Out comes the ring crew express (Marcos & Dunn). They jabber-jaw with Cornette until they are blindsided by The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels & Danny Maff) who are then revealed to be Cornetteís new team. The Prophecy pull Dunn and Marcos into the ring and hit a couple of the Midnightís old moves including the Flapjack and the Rocket Launcher. Cornette than takes a couple shots with his racket. Cool segment and I hate to sound like a broken-record, but this is as close as Iíve seen anyone duplicate the cool segues from matches to angels that made ECW so great.

***BJ Whitmer shoots a promo in the back about how he was a part of several four way matches that ďset the barĒ and then ďraised the barĒ for ROH. He was juiced about his title match tonight.

(2) Nigel McGiness beat Chet Jablonski (w/Brock Guffman). This match was for a number one contenderís position in Les Thatcherís HWA promotion. Before the match Brock (who reminded me of the fat kid that tormented Pee Wee in Pee Wee Hermanís Big Adventure) shot a promo that basically put over both guys and ROH. It was weird because I think this guy is supposed to be a heel. Jablonski was pretty much ripped. A decent enough match, but it was like what I would imagine a Jindrak versus Cade match would be on RAW. Nothing spectacular and McGiness picked up the win after Jablonski missed a senton. One thing that was jarring on not just this match, but throughout the DVD was the odd placement of graphics. At times the ďROHís Top 5 ContendersĒ will come up, at other times it looked like ads for upcoming house shows (?). Iím assuming this means ROH has TV somewhere, but I havenít seen it and if I had the above stuff would probably make more sense.

(3) Homicide (w/Julius Smokes) beat Chris Sabin. Sabin now joins Daniels as the only wrestler I recognized so far due to his appearances on TNA. Let me tell you something, after watching ROH it just makes it that-much-more-aggravating to see some of the dumb shit TNA does, especially with the same god damn guys. Anyhoo, this match was intense but my perception might be skewed since Iím such a Sabin mark. Homicide and Sabinís styles arenít exactly made for each other, but itís not as like you are watching New Jack versus Shannon Moore either. I gotta like any match in which Sabin pulls out the Shining Wizard and Homicide hitting a top rope hurricarana is quite the site to behold. And HOLY SHIT, Homicide finished Sabin off with the Hurricaneís Vertebreaker! SWEET! The announcerís called it a Kudo Driver, which is something I expect to read in the Zero-One section of The Wrestling Observer. After the match Homicide served up a punk card to Steve Corino.

It was during the above match in which I also realized that the crew ROH has for calling their matches could be improved. Itís hard to put my finger on exactly what it is I didnít like yet though, hopefully that will come to me the more I watch. Maybe Iím just so used to at least one announcer being heel that Iím not used to just two guys calling the action. For some reason it reminds me of watching Candlepin Stars & Stripes, the candlepin bowling TV show up here.

(4) The Second City Saints beat Alex Shelly & Jimmy Jacobs. Alex Shelly just walked home with the Wrestling Observer rookie of the year. Jimmy Jacobs, who weights like 175 lbs does this hilarious Berserker gimmick, although the announcers pretty much sold it as a Bruiser Brody gimmick. He holds his hand and does the HUSS HUSS thing to great effect. Crowd totally loves this guy. Cabana and Ace Steel are an awesome tag team and ended up giving Shelly Cabanaís Colt 45 plus a neckbreaker by Steel in the newly dubbed Colt 46 for the win. During the match Cabana hit Shelly with a German suplex that would have made both Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit proud. Iím surprised that Shelly could even get up afterward.

(5) Matt Styker beat Justin Credible. Is it just me or does Matt Styker sound like a gay porn actorís name? Apparently he is in the ROH Top Five as well. Justin Credible is definitely NOT the guy you remember from Heat and is back closer to his ECW days in terms of being fun to watch. The two had a good match which had Credible at one point walk to the back telling the fans that he is sick of them disrespecting him. Stryker brought him back to the ring and eventually hit the Death Valley Driver for the win.

***HWAís Les Thatcher (also from MTVís I Wanna Be A Wrestler) and the Prophecy are outside the building. Daniels and Cornette cut promos on their upcoming match and tell Thatcher to hit the road at the end of it.

***The Second City Saints are gloating over their win. Cabana wants to know what the hell the Field of Honor is and his camera-girl Lucy reports she couldnít find anything out. They go up to Chris Sabin and Cabana asks, ďIf youíre The Future, tell me how many chicks Iím gonna score with tongith.Ē Sabin says heís too tired to deal with their crap and Steel actually says, ďNo ass for you.Ē CLASSIC~!

***During intermission, the Prophecy jump the Amazing Red who was signing autographs. The SAT come out for the save after Red gets brutally pulverized.

(6) Michael Shane beat Scoot Andrews & Hotstuff Hernandez & Slyk Wagner Brown (w/April Hunter) in a Four Corners Survival Match). Hotstuff looks to me what A-Train could look like with some hours of cardio and a weedwhacker to his body-hair. Shane has been on TNA and looked pretty decent there. Slyk has a really decent look and might be able to be something one day if the power structure of wrestling changes from the 99.44% old, fat white men that currently run it. Iíve definitely seen better four way matches and this one didnít do it for me at all. Shane picks up the win after pinning Scoot.

(7) Jimmy Rave beat Slim J. This is bizarre, because I loved Slim J during his brief stay in TNA. He does an Eminem gimmick and other than grabbing his crotch WAY too much, I found him to be really entertaining. Turns out heís part of Special K. Two great tastes that go great together~! Jimmy Rave is another 180 lb guy who has a decent look, other than the ten gallons of water that seemed to come off his hair when he entered the ring. These two had a match that you basically should be seeing on Velocity every week and yet donít. I believe the announcers said Rave was invited to the Field of Honor. I forgot to mention it earlier, but during the Sabin/Cabana skit The Future said he was invited as well. This is something I need to see. Anyhoo, cool match that ends with Rave hooking the crossface on Slim J.

(8) Samoa Joe beat BJ Whitmer to retain the ROH World Title BJ puts on a face protector before the match and looks like a juiced up Aldo Montoya. Apparently this was to sell his nose being broken by Homicide in an earlier show. Samoa Joe came out and the only way I can describe him is what Rikishi could have probably been like if he didnít let himself go about 5 years ago. Joe reminds me of the guys I saw while in Maui last summer that werenít jacked, but damn were they strong. And let me tell you, this match was frigginí cool in the way that Angle versus Benoit was from last yearís Royal Rumble. Stiff City. Joe actually uses a lot of the offense that Steven Regal uses, except he makes it look cool. A ton of suplexes from Joe near the end including an awesome German for thewin.

***The Second City Saints are scouring the back looking for Rob Feinstein. In a great bit, they run into Nigel McGuinnes and are completely bewildered when he is speaking. Next they run into Dunn and Marcos who put over they are ROHís #1 tag team and Steel looks at them like they have two heads. The Second City Saints are the best backstage bit players in wrestling.

AJ Styles & Homicide (w/Julius Smokes) beat The Prophecy (w/Allison Danger & Jim Cornette) to retain the ROH Tag Team Titles. Jesus H Christ, could stack a match with any more talent? Maff for some unknown reason reminds me of D-Lo brown combined with Ryhno. As you can imagine, this is one hell of a match that starts off Holy Shit crazy with both Styles and Homicide doing this CRAZY suicide dives onto the heels who are in the fan seating area. Great shot of Cornette after seeing this spot. Everyone gets their chance to shine and the finish comes when Cornette through his racket to Christopher Daniels, but he fumbled with it giving AJ time to knock it out of his hands and quickly hit a Styles Clash for the win. Andy Roddick needs to learn that move.

***After the match Cornette shakes the hands of the champs which causes the Prophecy to FLIP OUT. They attack Corney and out comes the Amazing Red to make the save. Heís quickly overpowered and the carnage stops when Samoa Joe comes out to run off Daniels and Maff. Cornette than grabs the mic and puts over the company and the fans. Hey, Cornette is completely nuts, but I love the guy.

***EXTREME CLOSE UP. Homicide and Julius smokes are again talking shit to Steve Corino.

***Samoa Joe shoots a great low key interview that is really intense. Itís all about ďsacrificeĒ and really needs to be seen to be believed. He asks Daniels if he can sacrifice the Prophecy, because only then will he be able to take the belt from him. Great, great interview.

***Corino shoots an interview and his forehead shows exactly why I will NEVER blade myself. The king of old school is pissed that Homicide brought up Corinoís son. Steve then brags how in the long run Homicide is nothing but a puissant playing to 200 fans while heís in Japan in front of 60,000. Corino says heíll give Homicide one more match and end it for all. I donít know if itís okay to say this without getting too much hate from ROH fans, but I really like Steve Corino.

***Cabana and Steel finally run into Rob Feinstein and are told Cabana is invited to the Field of Honor which almost gives Colt an orgasm. As they walk off, Lucy stays behind and is attacked and the camera closes on a note that reads ďRust Never SleepsĒ. Awesome

Overall a tremendous show that I canít recommend enough. I think there should be some extras on these DVDís, but Iíll vent my anger on that another day. This is what wrestling is all about and you can finally STOP BITCHING about the state of pro-rassliní today by trying out ROH. Click Here to purchase the disc (tell Gabe the Torch sent ya!) or copy into your browser. You canít go wrong my friends. 

Derek Burgan reviews SmackDown for along with doing the tremendously successful Cheap Pops! comic strip every Thursday Night. He can be reached at and welcomes any and all comments, except the ones that tell him the movie "The Hulk" sucked.


Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.