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DVD Review: ROH "Race to the Top" (7-28-07) with Claudio vs. Generico, big 8-man tag

Nov 29, 2007 - 6:06:09 PM
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By Chris Vetter

Ring of Honor continued its two-day, 16-man “Race to the Top” tournament on July 28, 2007, in Edison, N.J. The crowd here is much bigger than the night before, as it appears there are 800 to 1,000 people here, and the fans were hot!

As usual, the commentary team is Dave Prazak & Lenny Leonard. Lighting, sound, editing, are on par with all recent ROH releases.

* The DVD opened with Rebecca Bayless mentioning there will be a “$10,000” eight-man tag match later in the show.

(1) Round 2: El Generico defeats Chris Hero (w/Larry Sweeney, Tank Toland, Bobby Dempsey) at 10:47.
Good match, and a great way to start this show. Hero wore his green Super Man outfit. The heels all made fun of Dempsey. They traded armholds, and Hero paused to bounce around the ring, and the crowd cheered Hero’s heelish antics. Generico hit a clothesline sending Hero to the floor at 3:00. Generico sped it up with some quick armdrags in the ring, then a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall, but he missed a Mafia Kick. Hero dropped Generico neck-first on the top rope at 6:00. Hero hit a nice gutwrench suplex, and he made a cocky cover for a nearfall.

Hero hit a roaring forearm, a German Suplex for a nearfall, and he was in charge. Generico fired back with a second-rope headscissors takedown, some forearm shots, and a flying forearm at 9:30. Larry Sweeney hopped on the apron to distract the ref, as Toland grabbed Generico. Hero hit a second-rope cravate twisting neckbreaker, then a spinning faceplant for a BELIEVABLE nearfall. However, Chris couldn’t hit the Hero’s Welcome/swinging faceplant, and Generico immediately got a backslide for the pin! Good match.

* Kevin Steen stood with El Generico backstage. ROH has unveiled a weird new lighting here, as the screen is red, with Steen & Generico barely visible in the middle of the screen. I don’t like it. Steen said that Generico would win the Race to the Top tournament and give him the trophy!

(2) Round 2: Davey Richards defeats Pelle Primeau at 4:26.
Pelle carried his “Top of the Class” trophy into the ring, but it broke against the ropes, and the crowd laughed at him. Richards went to shake Pelle’s hand, but he squeezed it hard and slapped him in the face, then he shoved Pelle into the corner. Pelle hit a slap, and a headscissors takedown that sent Richards to the floor. In the ring, Pelle hit a crossbody block for a nearfall.

Richards fired up and hit some chops and hard headbutts in the corner, then a running forearm, a decapitating clothesline, and he stood on Pelle’s face! Richards hit a back suplex, and he applied a bodyscissors lock at 3:00, but Pelle reached the ropes. Richards hit a spin heel kick, and he went for the DR Driver/butterfly driver, but Pelle blocked it and got a rollup for a nearfall. Richards nailed a Tombstone Piledriver, and he applied the Kimera lock, and the referee stopped the match, as Pelle was knocked out. Solid.

* Richards cut a promo in the back. Again, there is weird lighting for these segments. “It’s about no remorse,” Richards said.

(3) Round 2: Jack Evans defeats Brent Albright at 9:40.
Albright charged Evans at the bell and hit a clothesline for a nearfall and some chops. Evans hit a Pele Kick. Albright hit a back suplex for a nearfall, and he applied a half Camel Clutch. Evans hit a headscissors takedown and a baseball slide dropkick to the floor. Albright dropped Evans head-first on the ring apron. Evans came back with a spin kick off the guardrail, and he got a nearfall in the ring at 3:00. Albright went back to the chinlock, and he is just so much bigger than Evans! Albright hit some punches to the face. Evans missed a springboard spin kick, and Albright hit a German Suplex, tossing Evans over the top rope to the floor! Albright got a nearfall in the ring.

Evans got a Reverse Rana around the waist for a nearfall. They traded slaps to the face, and Evans hit a flying kneeshot to the chin at 6:00, and they were both down. Evans hit a springboard spin heel kick and a standing corkscrew press for a nearfall, then his Lionsault-back-elbow. Evans hit his handspring-back-elbow that sent both wrestlers to the floor. Albright hit a Splash Mountain/overhead powerbomb on Evans, sending him through a table on the floor! Albright got a nearfall in the ring. Evans came back with a hurricanrana for a nearfall. Albright applied a Crowbar/Fujiwara Armbar, but Evans reached the ropes at 9:00. Albright jawed at the referee. Evans hit a spinning kneestrike to the jaw! Evans then hit the top-rope 630 Splash for the pin. Good match.

* Evans cut a backstage promo, and the screen is now tinted blue. “I have the heart to fight,” Evans said.

(4) Round 2: Claudio Castagnoli defeats Mike Quackenbush at 12:24.
Very good match. This is a face-face match. Prazak alluded to their “extensive history” against each other in other promotions. They exchanged friendly armholds and standing reversals. Claudio got the crowd going with his “Heyyy” chants. GREAT crowd reaction to this action so far. Claudio twisted Quack’s ankle. Claudio applied a hammerlock, then he applied a headscissors lock. Quack hit some of his unique armdrags at 4:00, and Claudio bailed. They traded forearm shots on the ring apron. Quack hit a monkeyflip over the ropes, sending Claudio to the floor. Quack then hit a top-rope corkscrew press to the floor, and they were both down.

In the ring, Claudio hit a reverse suplex, dropping Quackenbush stomach-first to the mat. Claudio hit a bodyslam & guillotine legdrop combo for a nearfall at 6:30, then a second-rope elbowdrop for a nearfall, and he slowed Quack down on the mat. Claudio hit a gutwrench suplex for a nearfall, and he hit his spin-around-the-back faceplant for a nearfall. Quack came back with a headscissors takedown, a Tumbleweed, and a hard Palm Thrust.

Quack hit a second-rope hurricanrana and a second-rope kneestrike. Claudio hit some European Uppercuts and a hard bicycle kick, the a cross-armed German Suplex for a nearfall at 10:30. Claudio gave Quack a Flair Toss to the mat. Quack got a quick victory roll for a nearfall, and the crowd chanted for Quack. Claudio hit a top-rope headscissors takedown, then a HARD European Uppercut for the pin. Good, good action; they still have topped this elsewhere, but this was a satisfying matchup.

* Claudio got on the mic and he praised Quackenbush, but he added that he was better than Quack on this day.

* Rebecca Bayless got in the ring for the “choosing of teams” in the $10,000 challenge. Nigel McGuinness got in the ring with Bayless; Bryan Danielson stood on the entrance ramp. “You must get sick of losing to me at every turn,” Danielson said. They each decided to draft a Briscoe onto their team, even though Danielson thought he should be able to draft both! Danielson also wanted to draft Jimmy Rave, but Bayless said he is injured. Larry Sweeney came out and offered Matt Sydal, so Danielson drafted Matt. Nigel picked Delirious. Danielson picked Aries, and he taunted Nigel by reminding him that Aries had held the title before, unlike Nigel! Nigel picked Strong for his squad. There was some REALLY GOOD banter between Danielson and Nigel here. Fun stuff.

(5) Round 3: El Generico defeats Davey Richards at 15:43 to advance to the finals.
Richards refused to shake. Leonard & Prazak said that Richards is more rested because he made quick work of Primeau. They opened with good reversals on the mat, and Prazak dubbed Generico “the Cinderella Story” of the tournament. They traded offense in a knucklelock. Richards hit a shoulder tackle, but he couldn’t hit the DR Driver. Generico hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a nearfall at 3:00. Generico went for a split-legged moonsault, but Richards got his knees up to block it. Richards unloaded some quick kicks to the chest, and he applied a Camel Clutch, and the crowd rallied for Generico.

Richards taunted his opponent with some playful slaps to the face, and he hit a snap suplex on the floor. In the ring, Richards applied a cross-armbreaker, but Generico reached the ropes. Richards hit a Northern Lights suplex, with Generico’s left arm trapped behind his back. Richards hit a legdrop on the left arm, and he stayed focused on that limb. Generico fired up and hit some forearm shots at 9:30. Richards hit an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Generico hit a COOL backflip plancha to the floor, and the fans chanted, “Ole!” Generico hit a top-rope crossbody block in the ring for a nearfall, then a Blue Thunder bomb for a nearfall. Richards hit a leg-capture Exploder into the corner at 12:00.

Richards nailed a top-rope superplex for a nearfall, and he applied the Kimera lock, but the crowd sang the “Ole, Ole” song to fire up Generico. The crowd heat here was awesome! Generico reached the ropes. Richards went for his handspring-back-enziguri, but Generico caught him with a basement dropkick to the face! Generico hit a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall. Richards hit a Tombstone Piledriver for a believable nearfall, but Generico got a foot on the ropes at 14:30. Generico couldn’t hit the Turnbuckle Brainbuster. Richards went for a Shooting Star Press, but Generico got his knees up to block it. Generico then hit a Mafia Kick and the Turnbuckle Brainbuster for the pin! This match really picked up in the final minutes, and the crowd was HOT. Good action.

* Generico cut a promo, saying he had one more win to go!

(6) Round 3: Claudio Castagnoli defeats Jack Evans at 9:07 to advance to the finals.
Good match. They took turns playing to the crowd, then they traded some mat reversals. Leonard said that Claudio wants to lose the “potential” label he’s been stuck with. Evans hit a monkeyflip, and they had a standoff at 2:30. Evans hit a headscissors takedown and a Pele Kick, and he went for a move, but Claudio sidestepped it, and Evans fell to the floor. Claudio dropped Evans face-first on the ring apron. In the ring, Claudio hit the Giant Swing for a nearfall. Claudio applied a Full Nelson, and he turned it into a uranage for a nearfall. Nice. Claudio hit a guwrench suplex for a nearfall at 5:30.

Evans hit a rolling Koppo Kick, and Claudio bailed. Evans went for a dive, but he missed, and he crashed to the floor. However, Evans hit a modified 619 on the floor. Evans hit a flip dive to the floor onto Claudio, then a 450 Splash off the apron to the floor; Evans got a nearfall in the ring. Claudio fired back with a hard European Uppercut for a nearfall, then the Waterslide/modified Angle Slam, and a Mafia Kick. Evans hit a second-rope headscissors takedown and a running kneestrike, then a standing corkscrew moonsault for a nearfall at 8:00. Leonard & Prazak talked about Generico’s shoulder injury in the prior matchup. Evans hit a Ghetto Stomp kneedrop in the corner as Claudio was tied in the Tree of Woe, for a nearfall. Evans missed a spin heel kick, and Claudio grabbed Evans, flipped him up in his arms, and Claudio nailed the Ricola Bomb/Pyramid Powerbomb for the pin out of nowhere! Good match.

* Claudio said it was two matches down, and only one to go. Jack Evans walked up, and he told Claudio that he wants a rematch down the road.

* Larry Sweeney & Chris Hero & Tank Toland & Bobby Dempsey were in an “exclusive health club.” There was an exercise bike in a sauna, and Sweeney & Toland ordered Dempsey to start riding the stationary bike, telling him to do it for three hours. “Five bucks says he dies,” Toland said as they walked away, laughing.

(7) Erick Stevens defeats B.J. Whitmer and Kevin Steen and Matt Cross and Jigsaw and Hallowicked at 10:57.
This match featured six wrestlers who lost in round 1 a day earlier. Steen jumped everyone from behind, which turned out to be a mistake, because they all turned and stomped on him! Hallowicked hit a headscissors takedown on Whitmer. Jigsaw and Cross traded quick reversals and armdrags. Stevens hit a sideslam on Jigsaw, and Cross hit a senton on Jigsaw. Whitmer and Stevens traded chops and forearms. Hallowicked hit a dropkick on Stevens, sending him to the floor at 4:00. Hallowicked and Jigsaw traded some nice offense. Steen hit his flipping guillotine legdrop on Jigsaw. Whitmer hit a snap suplex on Hallowicked, then a running knee to the side of the head.

Jigsaw hit a leg lariat on Whitmer and a dive to the floor. Stevens hit a flip dive to the floor at 6:00. Steen hit a top-rope flip dive onto everyone on the floor. Cross hit his cartwheel-into-a-flip dive over the ropes onto Whitmer, and the fans chanted, “ROH!” In the ring, Cross hit a springboard headscissors takedown on Steen. Steen spun Cross along his back and slammed him. Whitmer hit a German Suplex on Steen. Jigsaw hit a top-rope crossbody block on Whitmer. Cross hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Jigsaw, then a top-rope Phoenix Splash on Jigsaw for a nearfall. Hallowicked hit a Sky High spinebuster.

Whitmer and Hallowicked traded chops, and Hallowicked hit the “Go To Sleepy Hollow”/fireman’s carry kneestrike. Whitmer hit a Spinebuster for a nearfall at 9:30. Whitmer suplexed both of them to the floor. Stevens and Steen traded some heavy forearms shots! Cross hit a top-rope doublestomp on Steen. Stevens hit his Choo Choo/running splash in the corner on Jigsaw. Stevens then hit a powerslam and a Dr. Bomb/gutwrench powerbomb on Jigsaw for the pin. The crowd was quieter for this match than expected, but this was good, quick action.

* B.J. Whitmer threw a temper tantrum at not winning again, and he shoved a ringside table. Stevens and Cross celebrated in the ring.

* An FIP highlight reel aired.

(8) Bryan Danielson & Matt Sydal & Mark Briscoe & Austin Aries defeat Nigel McGuinness & Jay Briscoe & Delirious & Roderick Strong at 20:35.
Excellent match. The teams came out together, either to Nigel’s music or to Danielson’s music. However, Delirious attacked his teammate for the night, Roderick Strong! They had to be separated! The crowd LOUDLY chanted “Rod-A-Rick” to taunt Strong. The bell rang, and Delirious went crazy. Delirious traded quick reversals with Sydal. Prazak said that the $10,000 was to be divided between each team. Strong tagged in and he hit a snap headscissors takedown, but the crowd taunted him.

Aries entered and he chopped Strong, so Roderick bailed and tagged in Nigel. Nigel and Danielson tied up at 3:00, and the crowd was hot and split. Danielson hit a nice dropkick. Nigel hit a short-arm clothesline on Danielson. The Briscoes tagged in to face each other, and the crowd chanted, “Man up!” They traded intense reversals as the crowd chanted, “Let’s go Briscoe!” They hit double dropkicks, they kipped up, and had a standoff. Jay hit some stomps and a headscissors takedown. Mark hit a Superkick, so Jay hit a Superkick! They traded forearms. Suddenly, they stopped, wondered why they were fighting each other, and decided to leave and get some beer! FUNNY. Danielson tried to stop them from leaving, so they decked him at 7:30.

The Briscoes hit their double Facewash running boots on Strong in the corner, then a double hiptoss on Sydal, launching him across the ring. The Briscoes then hit their football double shoulder tackle on Nigel. Mark hit a clothesline on Aries, then a springboard doublestomp on Delirious and a springboard corkscrew press on Delirious, and they left at 9:00, so this is now just a 3-on-3 match. FUN stuff, and it made it clear that the Briscoes are not associated with either the faces or the heels on the ROH roster. Sydal choked Delirious with his tassel. Danielson put Delirious in a Surfboard. Aries hit a catapult senton and a flying elbowdrop on Delirious. Sydal hit his cannonball legdrop on Delirious. Delirious hit a Shadows over Hell backsplash at 12:30, and he made the hot tag to Nigel.

Nigel hit some European Uppercuts and a running European Uppercut on Danielson, then a short-arm clothesline. Danielson hit a second-rope diving European Uppercut. Sydal went for a standing moonsault, but Nigel got his knees up. Sydal hit a headscissors takedown on Strong. Aries tagged in and attacked Strong with some punches and chops. Aries dove through the ropes and barreled into Strong on the floor. Delirious tagged in, and he hit some rapid-fire elbows on the base of Aries neck, then he hit a Panic Attack on Aries. Delirious hit an enziguri on Aries, then his never-ending clotheslines in the corner. Strong got back in and chopped Aries. BUT, Delirious and Strong again started trading blows, even though they are on the same team! They fought to the back at 15:30, leaving Nigel alone!

It is now 3-on-1, and Danielson’s team beat up Nigel. Nigel hit his inverted DDT & back kick on Sydal in the corner, then a short-arm clothesline on Aries for anearfall. Danielson hit headbutts on Nigel’s shoulder, and they traded slaps. Danielson hit a German Suplex for a nearfall, and he applied a Cattle Mutilation/double armbar, but Nigel reached the ropes at 18:30. Aries hit a catapult elbowdrop and Sydal hit a catapult legdrop on Nigel, as Nigel was lying across Danielson’s knees. Nigel hit a second-rope clothesline on Sydal as Matt was crotched on the top rope. Nigel set Matt up for the Tower of London, but Aries made the save. Aries hit the Brainbuster, but the team argued over who would get to hit the finisher. Aries finally hit the 450 Splash to pin Nigel. Good match that told a fun story.

* In live reports, Danielson left with the money, but this was edited out. Weird. If they showed it… it was really quick! It certainly wasn’t emphasized.

* Backstage, Hero & Toland & Sweeney checked in on Dempsey. His (thin) twin brother, Derrick Dempsey wore the same workout suit, as they implied that Bobby had somehow lost 100 or more pounds. But no, Bobby Dempsey was in the sauna, munching on chocolate. Decent humor.

(9) Finals: Claudio Castagnoli defeats El Generico at 18:44 to win the “Race to the Top” trophy.
Excellent match, and best of either night. They both played to the crowd in an extended segment, then they traded basic mat reversals, and Claudio worked on Generico’s already-injured left arm. Claudio hit a shoulder tackle at 4:00, but he couldn’t hit the Ricola Bomb. Generico couldn’t hit the Brainbuster. Claudio hit a European Uppercut that leveled Generico! Claudio hit a fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall and a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. Generico hit a leg lariat for a nearfall at 7:00, and this was a big slow early. Claudio hit a Giant Swing for a nearfall, then a diving European Uppercut to the back for a nearfall. Claudio hit a jump-up enziguri as Generico sat on the top turnbuckle.

Generico fired back with a top-rope crossbody block for a nearfall. Claudio hit his spin-around-the-back faceplant for a nearfall, and he hit his cross-armed German Suplex, then he applied a Japanese Stranglehold, and the crowd rallied for Generico. Claudio applied a Camel Clutch. They traded forearm shots. Generico hit a springboard moonsault to the floor at 11:00! Generico dove around the ringpost on the floor, through the ropes, and hit a Tornado DDT on Claudio! The crowd popped and chanted, “Ole!” Generico hit a top-rope frogsplash in the ring for a nearfall. Claudio hit a Bicycle Kick, and he went for the Ricola Bomb, but Generico reversed it and got a sunset flip for a believable nearfall! Claudio hit a Pop-Up European Uppercut for a believable nearfall at 14:00.

Claudio hit the Waterslide for a nearfall. Generico hit a Coast-to-Coast missile dropkick as Claudio was tied in the Tree of Woe! NICE! Generico hit a brainbuster for a believable nearfall, and they were both down, and the fans chanted, “ROH!” Generico hit a Mafia Kick in the corner, but he couldn’t hit his Turnbuckle Brainbuster. Claudio hit a second-rope Waterslide for a BELIEVABLE nearfall at 16:30, and the crowd is now HOT, as they chanted, “Holy sh!t!” Claudio again went for the Ricola Bomb, but Generico again countered it and hit a hurricanrana! Claudio finally hit the Ricola Bomb for a believable nearfall, as Prazak shouted, “It’s over!” After Generico kicked out, the fans chanted, “This is awesome!”

Claudio began peppering Generico with some European Uppercuts. Generico got a backslide for a nearfall, then he hit three consecutive Mafia Kicks. Claudio hit a top-rope diving European Uppercut. Claudio then hit an overhead Ricola Bomb – almost a Splash Mountain – for the clean pin. WOW, that was some great action. The pace picked up at the 7-minute mark and it stayed incredibly hot for the final 11 minutes. The referee handed Claudio a trophy.

* Claudio got on the mic and thanked Generico, and the fans popped for the luchador and chanted, “Ole!” They hugged. Claudio got serious and said he left everything behind in his home country to come to the United States, and he did it all, “For a moment like this.” He held the trophy over his head as the show came to a close.


Final thoughts:
DVD runs 2 hours, 57 minutes.

WOW, this was fun. This was a much better show than the night before, as each match was given more time to develop, and it showed. The bigger crowd also was hot, and that really helped.

Best match goes to the finals. I LOVE tournaments, especially ones done right, like this one. Generico persevered as the “Cinderella Story” to reach the finals. The way Generico kept avoiding the Ricola Bomb with different maneuvers and reversals was really cool. Claudio was a good choice to win this overall tournament.

Second-best goes to the 8-man tag. Some people will say I overrated it, but I really enjoyed the story told in this match. I liked that Delirious and Strong didn’t get along “just for the sake of the money.” I liked that the Briscoes essentially told off six other top stars on the roster and said “we aren’t with you; we only care about our own.” I liked that Danielson and Aries and Sydal couldn’t agree on who should get the win at the end. I liked that Nigel kept fighting, even when he was suddenly down 3 to 1. Again, a lot of good stories in this one match.

Third-best goes to another good Quack-Claudio match. Yes, I think their IWA-MS match a year ago was better, but this match was pretty good. Generico vs. Richards was really good with great crowd heat, and that earned fourth best. But there was a LOT to like on this show.

I really liked the use of promos between matches. While the weird lighting was distracting, the promos made it a BIG DEAL for each wrestler to advance from round to round. This showed how important winning this tournament was to each wrestler! More promotions should put such an emphasis on what it means to win a tournament!

Again, I’m a big fan of tournaments, and you’ll see that I tend to review a lot of them from many promotions. This was done right, with Claudio getting serious for a second, and finishing the night by hoisting that important cup over head. Good, good stuff. This DVD is HIGHLY recommended, and it is available at www.rohwrestling.com for $20.


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