ROH: Race To The Top Tournament Night One

Deer Park, NY – 7.27.2007

Commentary is provided by Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.

Kevin Steen says everybody, especially the Briscoes, know what he and El Generico can do as a tag team, and that it’s only a matter of time before they’re tag team champions. In the Race To The Top Tournament, they’ll be able to show what they can do in singles competition. Steen knows how good Generico is, but tells anyone out there who is a betting man to bet on him winning the tournament.

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
BJ Whitmer vs. Pelle Primeau

Primeau is the current ROH Top of the Class trophy holder. Primeau low bridges the top rope to send a charging Whitmer to the floor, and Whitmer gets angry at Rhett Titus who he runs into doing security ringside. That distraction allows Primeau to deliver a dropkick off of the ring apron. Primeau almost gets three with a springboard huracanrana, but Whitmer kicks out and slams Primeau chest-first onto the mat and then onto the top rope. Whitmer chops Primeau in the corner after a rib buster and suplexes him for two. Whitmer yells at Titus again as he ascends to the top rope. Primeau crotches Whitmer onto the top turnbuckle, and as he falls back to the canvas, Primeau small packages Whimter and pins him at 3:37! Starting the tournament off with a huge upset was a smart way to establish an “anything can happen” vibe and keep Whitmer’s losing streak alive. Primeau celebrates with a stage dive, which Whitmer interrupts, beating up Primeau and Titus as the fans chant “BJ blew it.” Okay that’s pretty funny. *

Claudio Casgtagnoli says many people believe he has all the tools to make it to the top of Ring of Honor, and he will prove this weekend that he can indeed make it to the top. He also warns Sweet N’ Sour Inc. that he’s coming for them.

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Jigsaw vs. Davey Richards

Richards spits at Jigsaw instead of shaking his hand. Richards cleanly breaks a lock-up against the rope, but then trips Jigsaw and bludgeons his face and neck. Jigsaw blocks a kick from the canvas and rolls Richards up into a toreador armdrag. He snaps off a Frankensteiner and backdrops Richards before dropkicking him to the floor. Jigsaw crashes and burns going for a pescado. Richards delivers chops against the barricades and then continues back in the ring whe Jigsaw blocks the DR Driver. Richards maneuvers Jigsaw into a pump-handle shoulder breaker. He places Jigsaw over his shoulder and drives him stomach first into the corner, leaving him hanging and delivering a running dropkick to his left shoulder. Jigsaw counters and Irish whip with a back elbow and enzuigiri. Jigsaw clotheslines Richards with his good arm and gets two with a leg lariat. Jigsaw double stomps his back and delivers a tornado DDT for two. Richards kicks out of a roll-up and gives Jigsaw a chinbreaker. Jigsaw escapes a DR Driver and victory rolls Richards for two. Jigsaw kicks out of a German suplex, so Jigsaw rolls him into a kimura lock, and Jigsaw taps out at 7:29. Interestingly enough, that’s the same way Richards defeated Jigsaw in the TPI last year. Aside from a handful of perfunctory moments of hope for Jigsaw, this was by and large the Davey Richards show. They packed a lot of action into a short period of time, which is appreciated. **½

Aries makes a very unfunny joke about nobody questioning the size of his balls to Erick Stevens and Matt Cross. He gives them some basic advice about what to do during the Race to the Top tournament, and then tells Roderick Strong that he is going to teach him some respect and take home the FIP World Heavyweight Title.

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Hallowicked

The match starts at a very quick pace. Hallowicked strikes first by rolling off of Claudio’s shoulders and into an armdrag. Claudio responds with an armdrag of his own and a monkey flip, although Hallowicked lands on his feet and once again comes off of Claudio’s shoulder with an armdrag. Claudio shuts down Hallowicked with a diving uppercut off of the second turnbuckle. Hallowicked catches Claudio’s leapfrog attempt, rolling him up for two, and Claudio blasts him with an uppercut upon kicking out. Claudio then Giant Swings Hallowicked for a two count. Halowicked catches Claudio on the top turnbuckle and tosses him across the ring with a Super Snapmare, following up with a pair of armdrags and a Frankensteiner. Hallowicked cracks him with a yakuza kick for two. Claudio reverses an Irish Whip into a knee to the stomach and then swings Hallowicked into the Match Killer for two. Hallowicked also kicks out the Alpamare Water Slide. Claudio spins him into a gut buster. Hallowicked ducks Swiss Chin Music and hits the Rydeen Bomb for two. Hallowicked attempts a couple different pins, but Claudio muscles Hallowicked up off of the mat into the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 7:02. I’m impressed with how formidable Hallowicked was against Claudio in this match, as it was a foregone conclusion Claudio would be moving on. Then again, Hallowicked does match him in size, and I am sure their familiarity with one another got the creative juices flowing. This was a very fun match. **¾

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Mike Quackenbush vs. Matt Sydal

Sweet N’ Sour Inc. (Larry Sweeney, Tank Toland, Sara Del Rey, and Bobby Dempsey) accompany Sydal to the ring. Sweeney reveals to the crowd that Sydal is entertaining offers from WWE, TNA, Dragon Gate, and NOAH, and he is going to make sure Sydal gets the best money possible. He excuses himself to get back to business, as well as Tank Toland who has to help Chris Hero train. He tells Sara Del Rey he has acquired a personal masseuse for her, and that Bobby Dempsey has to guard the Sweet N’ Sour buffet to make sure nobody steals any free food. Sweeney also says he isn’t worried about Sydal – he has an easy night ahead of him.

Sydal reverses Quackenbush’s handlebar stretch and digs his knee into Quackenbush’s neck. Sydal snapmares Quackenbush into a back stretch, and Quackenbush swivels up to his feet. Quackenbush armdrags Sydal into a Skayde schoolboy for two. Sydal comes back with a headscissors and an elbow drop. Quackenbush gives him a backbreaker before sending him to the floor and following with a tope con hilo. Quackenbush outstretches Sydal’s whole body back in the ring, and Sydal cuts him off with a spinwheel kick. Sydal attacks Quackenbush’s chest and neck. Quackenbush catches him with a tornado clutch, so Sydal rolls him into a crossface. Quackenbush gets his foot on the ropes. Sydal sweeps Quackenbush’s legs out, but when he goes for a standing moonsault, Quackenbush gets his feet up to block it. Quackenbush wins a battle for a vertical suplex, and after a corner clothesline and bulldog, he drives Sydal into the canvas with falling double knees. Quackenbush rolls through a sunset flip and slams Sydal chest first into a Magistral cradle for two. Sydal palm strikes Quackenbush on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a roll-up into a Frankensteiner. Quackenbush avoids a falling standing leg up by pulling Sydal up into a backpack chin breaker. Quackenbush drives Sydal into the mat with a full nelson facebuster. Sydal gives Quackenbush an enzuigiri and a cradle DDT, following that up with a standing shooting star press for two. Quackenbush also kicks out of the Here It Is Driver. Sydal misses a shooting star press, landing on his feet. Quackenbush rolls him into the Black Tornado Slam and cradles him up deep for the pin at 14:12. That was entertaining, and I like that Sweeney’s hubris could be played up as a contributing factor to Sydal losing. Quackenbush continuously positioning Sydal with counters and clever maneuvering was fun to watch, but I don’t know that it made for a cohesive or consistent story. This was good, but I expected a little more. ***¼

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Erick Stevens vs. Chris Hero

The same Sweet N’ Sour Inc. members accompany Hero to the ring, and also stay in his corner. I suppose Stevens is more physically imposing and thus more worrisome to Sweeney, or they learned their lesson from Sydal’s loss. Hero is a general annoyance and Stevens makes him pay by hitting him hard. Hero trips Stevens from the outside, and as Stevens gets to his feet, Hero boots him in the side of the head. Sweeney sneaks in a towel whip to Stevens’ eye, with Sara and Toland getting in shots of their own as well. Hero attacks Stevens’ knee. Stevens seems posed to escape his wrath by ending Hero’s corner sequence, but a rolling elbow grounds Stevens once again. Stevens is woken up by some forearm shots and drops Hero with a TKO. A corner splash and backdrop lead to the Jackhammer and a two count. He also gets two with a pump-handle slam. After being taken to the apron, Hero catches Stevens in the ropes and drops him a cravate neckbreaker. Hero comes off the top with a double stomp to Stevens’ chest for two. Stevens blocks the Hero’s Welcome and hits the Sarasota Screwdriver. Sweeney pulls referee Todd Sinclair’s leg to stop the count. Stevens gives chase to Sweet N’ Sour Inc. and catches Dempsey, backing him into a corner of the ring. This distraction allows Hero to swoop in with a Hero’s Welcome on Stevens, pinning him at 14:55. It was a fun wrinkle to have Sydal lose when SnS Inc. weren’t present, and then have them directly lead Hero to victory the next night. As a hot head and a relatively inexperienced competitor, I totally buy Stevens being distracted the way he was and it costing him the match. This started slow, but they really got the crowd going when Stevens’ comeback began, and that energy helped the kick outs seem significant. That said, a truncated version of this match would’ve been welcomed. ***

FIP World Heavyweight Championship – Elimination Match
Roderick Strong vs. Gran Akuma vs. Austin Aries vs. Jimmy Rave

Strong has been champion since 11.10.2006 and this is his eighteenth defense. This is Aries’ first match back in ROH since April, returning from his forced TNA hiatus. Aries and Strong fight on the floor, leaving Akuma and Rave to go at it in the ring. Akuma takes down Rave with a rolling chest kick. Akuma gets the better of Strong with an armdrag and chest kicks, but Rave shuts Akuma down with a spear. Strong Samoan drops Rave and is then surprised by a missile dropkick from Aries. Rave stops Aries from giving Strong a brainbuster and nails him with the Doppler Effect. Akuma enzugiri’s Rave to prevent him from dropping Aries with a Pedigree. Aries backdrops Rave to the floor and lays out Strong with a twisting pescado. Akuma then somersault sentons onto both of them. Akuma lands a Yoshi Tonic on Aries back in the ring for two. Aries gives Akuma his knee breaker/back suplex combo. Rave halts Aries on the top rope. Akuma follows, but Aries drops him and calls for the 450 splash. Instead, Strong shoves Aries down to the mat, and all three men dogpile him for the elimination pin at 5:12. The crowd is not happy. Rave and Akuma gang up on Strong. Akuma takes Strong down with a fall away kick. Rave blocks one of Akuma’s kicks and applies the Heel Hook, causing Akuma to tap out at 6:39. Rave gives Strong an STO on the ring apron to block a backbreaker. Rave gets two with a swinging DDT. Strong comes back with the Sick Kick, Death by Roderick, and a half-nelson backbreaker, and amazingly Rave kicks out. Two uranage backbreakers and an Orange Crush backbreaker lead to Strong putting on the Strong Hold, and Rave taps at 9:37. This was such a strange match. The crowd immediately stopped caring once Aries was eliminated, Akuma got eliminated so quickly after, and Strong went finisher crazy on Rave and got no response from the crowd, probably due to both of them being heels. I get why they felt compelled to give the crowd Strong and Aries in a match together right away, but I feel like Strong vs. Akuma as a singles match would’ve been the most satisfying option. **¼

Rebecca Bayless interviews Jack Evans, who is wrestling Kevin Steen in the Race to the Top tournament. Jack takes us back to 2004 when he and Generation Next made an impact in Ring of Honor. Everyone in the group would go on to reach the top of Ring of Honor, except for him. He had to go to Japan to achieve his goals. Now he’s back in Ring of Honor, and he wants the recognition his other Generation Next members received. He’ll solidify his spot as an ROH Hall of Famer by winning the Race to the Top tournament.

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Delirious vs. El Generico

Generico takes down Delirious with various armdrags and lands a split-legged moonsault. Delirious shuts Generico down in mid-air with a headbutt to the stomach to block his high crossbody attempt. Generico stops Delirious’ onslaught with a tornado DDT that sends him out to the floor, and follows him with an Arabian Press. Generico then lands a top rope splash onto Delirious inside of the ring for two. Delirious also kicks out of a Blue Thunder Bomb and evades the helluva kick. A series of clotheslines leads to Delirious hitting the Bizarro Driver for two. The Panic Attack and Shadows Over Hell also don’t get the job done. Generico catches Delirious with a big boot off the ropes, which enables him to successfully deliver the helluva kick twice and deliver a brainbuster for the pin at 11:19. I really wish this match had a little more levity. We’ve seen plenty of straight wrestling matches on this show, this would’ve been a great match to change things up. That said, it speaks well to both of them that they had a match as good as they did while staying in first gear. ***

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Matt Cross vs. Brent Albright

Cross’ insane strength allows him to surprise Albright with a dropkick through the ropes and lands a Sasuke Special. Cross goes for a cross armbreaker inside the ring and Albring pounds on his back to escape. Albright then drops Cross with a divorce court armbreaker. Cross gets the ropes to escape his Crowbar submission. Albright tosses him around with various suplexes, pulling Cross up before a three count can be registered for a pin. Albright press slams Cross back into the Crowbar, and Cross taps out at 5:24. Cross had a solid showing to start, but then got beaten into a fine powder by Albright. Good for Albright, but Cross getting borderline squashed wasn’t necessary. *½

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round Match
Jack Evans vs. Kevin Steen

With Jack Evans representing New Hazard, and Kevin Owens wearing his Muscle Outlawz singlet, this is a pseudo Dragon Gate singles match. Evans avoids taking a very early Package Piledriver and knocks Steen to the floor with a back handspring elbow strike. Evans then follows with a dropkick over the top rope and to the floor, but gets sent head first into the steel barricades. Steen crushes him against the barricades with a cannonball senton. Evans is able to hop off the barricades and take down Steen with a headscissors on the floor, leading to him landing a twisting splash back inside the ring. Steen backdrops Evans onto his chest and face. He lands a senton splash for two. Evans comes back with a back flip elbow drop and a springboard gamengiri. Steen catches a crossbody and delivers the Go Home Driver for two. Evans kicks out after Swanton Bomb, so Steen goes for a moonsault. Evans crotches him on the top rope, kicks him into a tree of woe, and comes off the top with double knees to the chest for two. Evans flips out of a super belly to back suplex and pulls Steen down into not-quite a reverse Frankensteiner. It was effective enough to keep Steen down for a 630 splash, earning Evans the pin at 9:18. This was a really fun pairing, both because of their style and size disparity, and the fact that Steen’s aggression and Evans’ recklessness are a perfect combination. This was a very entertaining way to end the opening round. ***¼

The rest of the tournament takes place tomorrow night. The quarter-final round matchups see Chris Hero taking on El Generico, Pelle Primeau facing Davey Richards, Jack Evans against Brent Albright, and Claudio Castagnoli challenging one of his trainers, Mike Quackenbush.

ROH World Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. Bryan Danielson & Nigel McGuiness

The Briscoes have been champions since 3.30.2007 and this is their tenth defense. Danielson and McGuinness defeating ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima and Naomichi Marufuji last month was enough to earn them this tag team title opportunity. Jay surprises McGuiness with a big boot when he O’Connor Rolls Mark. The Briscoes double shoulder block McGuiness to his corner, where Danielson offers his hand for a tag saying he will “take care of things.” Annoyed, McGuinness accepts the tag. Danielson gets Mark to tag out after putting him a half crab. Danielson rolls Jay into a cross armbreaker and he escapes. The Briscoes give him a tandem sit-out uranage and a leg drop/tumbleweed senton combo. Jay forearms McGuinness to the floor when he comes to Danielson’s aid and Mark crossbodies onto him. McGuinness uses the bottom rope to deliver a Rebound lariat to Mark on the floor, and Danielson surprises Jay with a Saito suplex. McGuinness and Danielson remain cooperative as they beat down Jay in their corner. Mark springboards in with a forearm to save Jay from a chicken wing from Danielson, and then is officially tagged in afterwards. Mark superkicks both Danielson and McGuinness, and gets two on Danielson with a springboard splash. He also gets two with a moonsault press. McGuinness saves Danielson from a Doomsday Device, and Danielson locks Mark in Cattle Mutilation. Jay comes off the top with a splash to break the hold. Mark returns the favor by cutting off McGuinness’ corner uppercut attempt on Jay with a springboard dropkick. McGuinness however uppercuts Mark into Jay, drops him with a falling lariat, and nails Jay with a rolling lariat. McGuinness then lariats Jay off of the top rope. Mark breaks his pin and also prevents McGuinness from giving Jay the Tower of London. The Briscoes deliver the Sidewinder to McGuinness for two. Mark counters McGuinness’ Jawbreaker lariat with an overhead suplex. Mark double stomps McGuinness into a Death Valley Driver from Jay, then lands a springboard twisting splash for two. Stunned, Jay tells Mark to climb up one turnbuckle and he ascends another. Danielson cuts off Jay with a superplex, and McGuinness gets his knees up to block Mark’s shooting star press. As McGuinness and Danielson are striking the Briscoes back to back, Danielson accidentally nails McGuinness with a rolling elbow. Jay tackles Danielson and Mark rolls up McGuinness to score the pin at 17:50. This was action packed and told a good story, but probably doesn’t reach the lofty expectations one may have when seeing these four names in a match together. That said, the Briscoes looked amazing against the top two names in ROH, and little more fuel was added to McGuinness and Danielson’s rivalry which was on a bit of a simmer at this time. It’s Pretty tough to not enjoy a match with these four. ***¾

I liked this show because it felt so fresh and unique from ROH’s other offerings around this time. The main event is the only match really worth going back and checking out, and I think a big part of that has to do with so few matches on this card getting enough time to develop. That said, because of the shorter match times, this was an easy show to get through and enjoy, which is not an easy feat for a ten match card.

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