Tales from the Eastside Directory Ring of Honor 8/24 Preview

-After a string of successful shows in Philadelphia, ROH branches outside its home area for this show, running in Boston. Quite a loaded card here, including new ROH World Heavyweight champion Low-Ki's first title defense and the introduction of some new talent. Let's get to it...

Oh, as I promised in my last CZW TV report, I've brought along a guest for this preview: The resident ZERO-ONE addict and British correspondant, ~Alf~! He'll be chiming in at various points to offer his thoughts on matches.

Low-Ki (c) vs. AJ Styles for the ROH World Heavyweight title

Backstory: If you're talking exclusively ROH, there's not much of a backstory. At "A Night of Appreciation" (4/27), Ki got a 'controversial' pin on Styles. However, in NWA:TNA, they've been building up quite a rivalry over the X title. Styles developed a disrespectful attitude after winning the title, turning heel (without much explanation, because RUSSOMANIA~! is running wild over in TNA land) on his tag team partner Jerry Lynn. During a Ki vs. Lynn match, Styles ran down and attacked his partner right before Ki was able to hit the Ki Krusher. Ki fought back against both men after the match, and this lead to a triangle match on the following show. Ki won that match, and the X title, by pinning Lynn after Styles nailed him with a chair. There's talk that Ki would be defending his X title here, but it's not mentioned on the ROH website.

Analysis: Predictable choice for Ki's first defense, but these two are perfectly capable of pulling out a good match (I can't comment on their 4/27 match as while I have it on tape, I'm yet to watch it). Styles has seemingly been regressing from his late 01/early 02 form, with more spot-heavy matches and sloppier work (witness his concussion of Jacey North on a recent Wildside TV taping). Ki certainly isn't one to carry, but he has improved to the point where this should be at the very least a decent spotfest. Hopefully they'll take it in a different direction than the TNA style, though, as the ROH audience is more patient and more willing to accept a match with slower build and more story (as opposed to the finisher killing and rapid-fire highspots of the X division).

Alf-alysis: This could be a swanktastic main event. We'll certainly see some great highspots and I'm sure, as it is ROH, that they'll instill some kind of story to the match. It'll certainly have some great heat and could be really fun.

Patrick Predicts: It'd be downright nutty to put the title on Styles here, plus Ki has enough of a following to warrant a long title reign.
Alf Predicts: Low-Ki all the way. ROH is a company that should know the importance of keeping titles credible and with Ki being X-Division champion too, it's very unlikely Styles' will win. Add that to Styles having defeated Ki earlier in the year, it all points towards a Ki victory.

American Dragon vs. Donovan Morgan

Backstory: This is being billed as an "ROH vs. Prophecy" match, with Morgan the representative of Chris Daniels' splinter group. The Prophecy was formed at the 3/30 show, where Morgan beat Daniels. Afterwards, in the back, Daniels told Morgan he had his respect and how he thought Ring of Honor was a joke. Morgan agreed. After Eddy Guerrero got an emotional sendoff (which Morgan & Daniels didn't show up for), several wrestlers- notably Dragon and Low-Ki- took exception to the attitude of Morgan and Daniels. There was a locker room brawl between the four (and Spanky, who was only looking out for himself because he's the coolest mofo alive).

There's also some "legit heat" here, as Dragon has recently supplanted Morgan as the head trainer in APW over on the West Coast.

Analysis: Well, this certainly won't be as good as the originally planned Spanky vs. Dragon 2/3 falls match, but it's certainly nothing to sneeze at. These two had a pretty bad match at the APW King of Indies '01 show, but that was more due to Morgan's unmotivated performance that lasted the entire tournament. Morgan has really stepped up his work recently, in both NOAH and the US indies, so this should be a good scientific match.

Alf-alysis: This could turn out to be an immensely great match. Whilst not being at the same fun level of Spanky vs. Dragon, this could be a technical marvel. Morgan's looked very good on recent NOAH and Dragon has looked very good on recent ROH. There's a very strong chance that this could be MOTN or possibly even at MOTYC, given the work ethic, the crowd response and the time they get.

Patrick Predicts: There's an old saying 'round these parts, it goes something like "NOAH boys never lose". Morgan wins here and we may see a new Prophecy member (Xavier?).
Alf Predicts: There's also a saying that goes "There's always a first time for everything", yet this probably won't be the day. With the Prophecy being the big heel faction and Dragon being the least protected of the "big three" (Ki, Daniels and Dragon), it makes sense for Morgan to go over here.

Da Hit Squad vs. HC Loc and Tony Devito in a Boston Massacre match

Backstory: The "Carnage Crew" of Loc & Devito have been feuding with the Natural Born Sinners (Homicide & Boogalou) since the inception of ROH, a feud I covered in my preview of the last show. Loc and Devito lost the Bunkhouse match to NBS on 7/20, but they attacked the Sinners with hubcaps afterwards. Now they get to go against the other monster tag team imported from JAPW, Mafia and Monsta Mack- Da Hit Squad. It hasn't been announced what exactly a "Boston Massacre" match is, but it's a pretty safe assumption that we're in for a street fight with lots of weapons and blood here.

Analysis: Ugh. These teams never go away. In the last preview I encouraged ROH to not do these gorefest matches every show, since they'll attract the bloodmark fans. So of course they book this. DHS are twice as bad as the Sinners, who aren't exactly a good team to begin with. The best we can hope for is that this is short.

Alf-alysis: Blah. Although I agree with Patrick in the sense that gorefests will attract bloodmark fans, variety can sometimes be a promotions best friend and every once in a while it's nice to bring out the plunder. But hopefully, the emphasis of the promotion will stay on the work rate department and this won't go too long. It'd be nice to see a nice brawl, rather than 10 minutes of baking trays being whacked over guy's heads.

Patrick Predicts: DHS win to give them some build-up for the Tag Title tournament at the next ROH show, which hopefully they won't go very far in.
Alf Predicts: As Patrick said, a DHS win going into the tag tourney, however it would also make sense for Carnage Crew to win, seeing how they lost at the previous show.

Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe

Backstory: The story for this one goes way back- far beyond the beginning of ROH, even. Jay and Mark had the show stealing match at CZW's 2001 "Best of the Best" juniors tournament, which Jay came out the winner in. The Briscoes were without friction for the rest of the year, until they went under masks as the Midnight Outlaws (due to PA State Athletic Commission laws forbidding Mark from working in that state, and CZW was starting to run shows at the ECW Arena). They were relatively successful as the Outlaws, until at the March show Jay went out from under the mask for the first time in months to have a 2/3 falls match with Ruckus. The Outlaws (with Ian Knoxx filling Jay's spot) had an undercard match with the Overboys. The Outlaws ran in after the second fall of Jay/Ruckus ended and attacked them both in a veritable orgy of bad booking from CZW. This was supposed to lead to Jay vs. Mark (under the mask as an Outlaw) at the next show, but Mark got hurt to nix those plans. Mark then healed up in time for the next CZW show, which was coincidentally booked the same time as the 4/27 ROH show. The two companies came to an agreement where Jay would work ROH while Mark would work CZW and fight Nick Berk. However, politics interfered and Mark no-showed the CZW show and appeared at ROH to second his brother. The Briscoes were done with CZW.

Meanwhile, back in ROH, Jay was in the middle of a losing streak. Mark would second his brother for every match (remember, he can't wrestle in PA- and that's not an angle, he's under 18), and laugh at him for losing. Jay has only gotten one win in ROH, a pinfall on Tony Mamaluke. At the 7/20 show, he lost to James Maritato after being distracted by Mark walking off from ringside. Jay confronted his brother to set up this match.

This is actually the fifth Briscoe vs. Briscoe match. Aside from their Best of the Best match, there was a match in Jersey Championship Wrestling for a spot in the Jersey J-Cup, which Mark won. They then had a match at Wildside's Freedom Fight '02 show, where Jay won in over twenty minutes with two J-Drillers. They recently had a match in New England Championship Wrestling that went to a double pin draw, which sets up this rematch nicely (Jay being up in the unofficial series two to one).

Analysis: This might be the most overkilled match in all of US indy wrestling, but these two never fail to put on a good show. Their CZW match was good but overrated, but their Wildside match was tremendous and a ligit MOTYC. By all accounts their NECW match was excellent as well. Most of their matches don't have a face/heel structure, since it's normally about respect, but here there's the obvious story of Mark being the bitter, jealous brother with something to prove, so he's the natural heel here. If they restrain themselves from doing excessive headdropping and get a lot of time to work with, this could be the match of the night.

Alf-alysis: I've never seen Briscoe vs. Briscoe, but by all accounts, I've heard their matches to be superb. This should be quite the treat, I'm sure.

Patrick Predicts: I originally thought they should book this to a time limit draw and have the Briscoes make up for the upcoming Tag Title tournament, but then I remembered Mark wouldn't be able to work the tournament show since it's in PA. :-( So I think Mark will win this one, to even the series 2-2, but he'll give his brother respect after the match to keep the team solid in ROH for the future- and to build for an eventual final rubber match between them a year or so down the road.
Alf Predicts: They could go two ways with this (obviously). If Jay wins, it puts an end to his losing streak and puts proverbial egg on his brother's face. Yet if Mark wins, it evens out the series and they can build to a rematch at a later ROH show and perhaps also concentrate on tag team work in ROH - the tag titles will need to be defended and the Briscoe's are quite the credible challengers. Thus, I'll go with Mark winning, allowing for Jay to gain more experience on future ROH shows, building to an eventual rematch.

Michael Shane vs. Paul London

Backstory: These two are quite familiar with each other, as they're both graduates of Shawn Michaels Texas Wrestling Academy. They've had issues since the 4/27 show where Shane beat London in the "Heartbreak Gauntlet" series. Then at the 7/20 show, in the London & Don Juan vs. Shane & Bio-Hazard match that had an ROH contract on the line, London pinned Bio-Hazard (the legal men) while Shane pinned Juan at the same time. Shane was angry after the match and started ranting, putting Spanky on notice that he was the real "new Showstopper" since he was not only a graduate of Michaels' school, but was also Michaels' cousin. His arrogance ticked off London, who attacked him. The two had a wild brawl, having to be separated by security and their trainer Rudy Ray Gonzalez.

Analysis: London is one of the most overlooked indy workers out there, with a great training pedigree that includes Michaels and Dory Funk Jr. Shane is a solid worker, technically sound and with several years experience. All these facts sound pretty dry and boring, but they do prove that these two have the chops to put together a very good match. However, ROH doesn't exactly like to give a lot of its undercard matches time, so I doubt this will get over seven or eight minutes.

Alf-alysis: This is one of those nice little undercard matches that, whilst not being blow away, will help the overall quality of the show. It should be a very solid bout.

Patrick Predicts: With his persona, Shane is one of the best candidates to be a new member of the Prophecy (Xavier is my other choice), so I think he goes over here and continues his heel push, maybe as an ally of Daniels and a foil for Spanky.
Alf Predicts: I'll go with Shane, getting payback for last month's result.

Natural Born Sinners vs. James Maritato and Tony Mamaluke

Backstory: Not much here. At the 7/20 show, Boogalou and Maritato were having a friendly conversation about shootfighting when Mamaluke interrupted and started taunting the Sinners, saying the only "shooting" they know about is the kind involving guns. Well, I guess Tony thought it was insulting. The Sinners responded by laying out a challenge to Maritato and Mamaluke, and while Maritato isn't happy with Mamaluke keeping his goofy persona, he didn't want to turn down the challenge. Mamaluke and Maritato previously teamed up (with Terry Knightonelli) at Wildside's Freedom Fight '02 show to take on G-Rated and Onyx, and while the FBI won the match, Mamaluke wouldn't stop stretching the young guys after the match. Maritato tried to get Mamaluke to cool off, and in response he got beaten up by Mamaluke and Knightonelli, so there's some possible friction between the former FBI partners going into this match.

Analysis: This is a filler match, but it has potential to be entertaining, depending entirely on the level of work brought by the Sinners. Homicide and Boogalou can be carried, but only if they're affable and not doing mindless brawling and headdrops. It's a definite style clash, with Mamaluke and Maritato being mat wrestlers and the Sinners being brawlers, but there's a slim chance it might work.

Alf-alysis: This will be interesting, even if just to see what they try to do with the match. The FBI have brawled in ECW before, so they're not completely alien to it yet it would make sense, at least in theory, to push the match as a style clash, with the FBI trying to score a win for technical style and The Sinners trying to score a win for 'their' style.

Patrick Predicts: I think ROH will go the predictable route and do a breakup with Maritato and Mamaluke here, although I wish they'd make Mamaluke go serious and have him and Maritato as a serious threat in the Tag Title tournament. I doubt that'll happen, though, and the Sinners win here.
Alf Predicts: I'd like to go with the FBI, but I can't see them winning. The Sinners will win. I get a creepy suspicion they'd win through submission too…

Alex Arion vs. Maverick Wild

Backstory: If this were Japan we'd call this an "NECW Offer Match". Two of Sheldon Goldberg's boys square off here. They're apparently in a heated feud in NECW, but I don't follow that promotion so I don't know about it. Arion seems to have a Rick Rude/Rick Martel type of arrogant heel gimmick (his nickname is "Golden Greek"), but I'm just going by scraps of info and I'm probably totally off.

Analysis: No clue. They're apparently good workers, but this will likely get the ROH undercard treatment and be quite short.

Alf-alysis: I too have to plead ignorance. There's been much praise of the NECW talent roster around the net and they seem to be quite underrated. This could be a possible sleeper match.

Patrick Predicts: Arion has gotten the more press of the two and has some good buzz behind him, so I think ROH has plans for him beyond this show. He goes over Wild here.
Alf Predicts: Arion is the current NECW Heavyweight Champion, so it seems logical that he'd go over Wild here. If they do have further plans for him, it wouldn't make sense for him to lose.

Red vs. Quiet Storm

Backstory: For most of their short pro careers, these two have been closely intertwined. They were on opposite sides of the Divine Storm & Brian XL vs. Spanish Announce Team feud in CZW in the summer of 2001, they left CZW around the same time, and in the first two ROH shows they were involved in the same universally panned matches (on 2/23, Red vs. Storm vs. Brian XL vs. Chris Divine vs. Jose Maximo vs. Joel Maximo; on 3/30, Red & XL vs. Maximos vs. Divine Storm). They don't have any real outstanding issues in ROH, but this match is being touted as a "breakthrough" for both (of course, that could just be empty hype).

Analysis: Red's act has gotten kind of stale in 2002, but he had a shockingly good match with Low-Ki at the 6/22 ROH show and an apparently excellent match with Slim J in Wildside at the 8/4 TV taping. Storm is easily the best of Mikey Whipwreck's students and he's the only one to work a mat-based style, so there's a good chance he'll restrain Red's spot monkey tendencies. This was one of the first matches announced for the card and it's been heavily hyped, so there's a good chance it'll get time.

Alf-alysis: I can't say I have extensive viewing of either man, yet from what I understand, Red is spot-tastic and Storm is "easily the best of Mikey Whipwreck's students". I'm sure many will get enjoyment from this match and it'll probably be very fun.

Patrick Predicts: They seem to be grooming Red as the premier junior in ROH (a mistake if you ask me- which you didn't) and Storm is primarily a tag team worker w/Chris Divine in Divine Storm, so Red wins here. Hopefully an announcement about an ROH Jr. title is made soon; after this match would be an ideal time to make that announcement.
Alf Predicts: Red seems to be the logical choice to win, considering his prominence on previous ROH cards alongside his NWATNA exposure.

Xavier vs. Prince Nana

Backstory: Umm...Nana was "concussed" (worked KO) by Low-Ki at the 6/22 ROH show in a World Heavyweight title tournament match. He milked the concussion to get out of working the 7/20 show, and now he's working Xavier. Not exactly an epic buildup.

Analysis: Say it with me: Filler, filler, filler. Hopefully the shortest match on the card. Nana's a comedy worker and Xavier really deserves better than this.

Alf-alysis: Nana's booking kinda reminds me of Yasuda's recent NJ stuff, treated like a joke yet continually booked along side serious opponents who are just there because they have nothing else to do (read Nishimura). Hopefully they'll go the route of having more of an exhibition match for Xavier, just a couple of minutes showing off offence and attitude.

Patrick Predicts: Xavier wins, if he doesn't there's something seriously wrong with ROH. I wouldn't be surprised to have Xavier rail against ROH after the match for booking him against such a goof, leading to him joining the Prophecy.
Alf Predicts: Xavier wins… very easily.

Jose Maximo, Joel Maximo and Chris Divine vs. Brian XL, Insane Dragon and Dixie

Backstory: Brian XL has been an arrogant jerk for his tenure in ROH, disrespecting Eddy Guerrero and generally being a pest. His former friends the SATs and Divine Storm ditched him, leading to XL taking two JAPW workers (Dragon and Dixie) under his wing and forming the "Special K" stable.

Analysis: Maximos are spot monkeys, Divine is just not good. XL is pretty good, and Dixie & Dragon are two of JAPW's best workers (talk about damning them with faint praise). Expect a spotfest here, but hopefully energetic and maybe Special K will interject a story somewhere in there.

Alf-alysis: As Patrick said, this'll be spotastic, yet I have no problem with the spotfest on each card. Variety is one of the greatest things a wrestling promotion can offer. I'm really pleased this is just going to be a traditional six man tag, the can maybe retain a semblance of structure, a possibility than instantly goes out the window whenever a multiple team match takes place.

Patrick Predicts: The Maximos and Divine are beyond stale and Special K are just getting started. The upstart heels win and Brian XL will wow us all with his "Bia-bia-bia-bia-BIATCH!" catchphrase. I think Divine will take the fall for the faces.
Alf Predicts: I'll go with what Patrick said.

Final Thoughts:

Patrick: Looks like an all around solid card, with maybe one or two too many matches. This is a key show for ROH, as it's their first show outside of the Delaware Valley and it's their last show before ROH TV starts in early September. Dragon/Morgan, Red/Storm, Briscoe/Briscoe and London/Shane all have tons of promise, and outside of DHS/Loc & Devito there are no outright horrible matches. If they don't make any stupid booking swerves (such as putting the title on Styles) this should be a worthwhile tape when it's released- knowing RF, that'll be six months from now, then an extra two or three months for delivery.

Alf: As usual, ROH continues to put on solid cards. Overall there're some very nice looking singles bouts, along with some good variety. The two top matches could be great, Ki/Styles being extremely high-impact and Dragon/Morgan being more somber and technical. It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts, but all in all this could be really neat.

That's it for now. I'm about halfway done with my Freedom Fight '02 review, but I'll make sure to get my Wildside TV review done before that (it wasn't a notable show, some solid matches but nothing standout). Then the ROH key matches review I've been promising for epochs.
No CZW TV review this week as I have a family reunion down in southern Maryland that I'm dreading more than a Zandig match. So I'll see you when I see you.