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So, I used to be a huge Ring of Honor (ROH) fan back in the day. I really loved it when Gabe Sapolsky was the booker man. In 2008, however, Sapolsky's writing became a little stale. He was clearly burnt out. After all, he'd been doing it for six years straight.
Sapolsky truly built the foundation of ROH as his contributions to the company were astronomical. The most logical thing ROH could have done was give him a break from booking so he could just get wrestling out of his head for awhile.
Instead, Adam Pearce took over as the booker and Sapolsky was fired. At first, Pearce wasn't all that bad. In fact, I liked what he was doing. The reason why, though, was because he was extending all of Sapolsky's original ideas. Once he had to create his own, it was akin to watching a deer caught in the headlights.
After that, I stopped watching. It just wasn't the same. Even Jim Cornette, one of the most unsung bookers in wrestling, came in and didn't make the product better. In fact, some said he made it worse. As much as Cornette is an idol of mine, I think that statement has merit. After all, he tried injecting too much "old school" philosophy into a product that prides itself as state-of-the-art.
Lately, I have been trying to catch up on ROH, and it's mostly thanks to Kevin Steen. His recent matches with Micheal Elgin, El Generico, and tonight Jay Lethal have been off the charts. Truly, the man has the "it" factor when it comes to wrestling. The only thing that keeps him from being in WWE is his weight problem. This is obviously stupid because it's something that makes him distinguishable and unique.
As a result, I watched ROH's 11th Anniversary iPPV tonight (Mar. 2). The midcard matches for the most part ranged from mediocre to good. There were a lot of high-spots, inventive moves and exchanges, and lots of good athleticism showcased.
However, the demons of ROH didn't go away. Some of the matches didn't have proper selling. Some had anti-climactic or poor finishes. Some matches lacked a story and didn't build to the crescendo. Some even had way too many near-falls from catastrophic moves. If big moves mean nothing, almost everything is meaningless. I mean, sometimes, I think they have to take out a gun to finish a wrestler in the second match. That is not good because the more important matches have to top that.
All and all, I would say the mid-card was solid. After all, I prefer too much effort over minimal effort any day of the week. I mean even if the wrestlers aren't doing everything properly, they are busting their backs for this company you. You have to respect that.
Then there was the main event: Kevin Steen (c) vs. Jay Lethal. Unlike many of the matches on the mid-card, this had a good amount of build behind it. In fact, I would say it was built very well. At one time, Steen was the Anti-Christ of ROH. He hated everything about it until Jim Cornette left. Thereafter, he realized it wasn't that bad. In fact, he loved it.
Lethal, on the other hand, couldn't get a title shot vs Steen because he blew his chance previously. However, Steen thought of Lethal as one of the reasons ROH is what it is today and so he gave him his title shot. Later on, the SCUM, an alliance that Kevin Steen is a part of, were attacking Jay Lethal until Steen told them to stop and then tried to help Lethal. Lethal was confused and rolled out of the ring, thinking this was Steen playing mind-games again.
Just like the angle, the match delivered. Steen knows how to structure a match similar to WWE's main-event style, but with more high-impact moves, stiffness, and crazy spots. Surprisingly, Lethal was good in his dual roles as both the face-in-peril and the desperate babyface willing to put it all on the line to win the title. The urgency, intensity, desperation, and the drive to win from both, truly made this an epic encounter.
That wasn't all, either. After Kevin Steen had to resort to a brainbuster off the top rope to finish Jay Lethal, the SCUM hit the ring to attack Lethal. This led to an all out brawl as people from the back tried to save Jay Lethal, but SCUM obtained the upper hands due to Jimmy Rave, the debut of Cliff Compton, and Matt Hardy joining the alliance.
The SCUM's ultimate purpose, aside from Kevin Steen it seems, is to kill ROH once and for all. This, of course, was shades of the nWo; and even though anti-establishment angles have run their course, this was done so well that it's intriguing. Since Steen's the odd man out in the group now, it seems safe to say he will help ROH, or perhaps it will be a double swerve and he will stay with SCUM.
Almost ever since Gabe Sapolsky left ROH, they have lacked a newsworthy angle. They have finally created a buzz in the product, one that should have wrestling fans talking about them. Surely, ROH has its problems. They don't build some of the card as well as they should, and their wrestlers sometimes have a hard time structuring a match and selling appropriately. It seems, though, that they're finally heading in the right direction.