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DVD Review: ROH "Survival of the Fittest" (10-19-07), w/Strong, Hero, Aries, Castagnoli, Romero

Jan 24, 2008 - 5:48:07 PM
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By Chris Vetter

For the first time ever, Ring of Honor headed to the West Coast for a pair of shows. They held a show in a casino in Las Vegas, Nev., on Oct. 19, 2007. This was the annual “Survival of the Fittest” tournament, which has been one of my favorite events in the past, as I am admittedly a tournament-junkie.

There were several flaws with this show right off the bat, however. The mic in the ring is muffled and hard to hear; sound quality overall is poorer than usual. The hard camera is absolutely terrible – it’s too far away and at an awkward angle looking down into the ring. In fact, most of this show is taped from the ringside ‘fancam,’ with the hard camera footage is barely used. The crowd also is about 250. They are fairly hot, but it is awkward to see such a small turnout for any ROH show.

The commentary duo, as usual, are Dave Prazak & Lenny Leonard.

* The DVD opened with the No Remorse Corp walking on the streets of the Las Vegas strip. Richards is upset because he’s been assigned to ‘watch the bags.’

* Clips aired from prior “SotF” tournaments, showing the finale matchups of Danielson-Aries (2004), Aries-Strong (2005), and Delirious-Sydal (2006). Good clips. We then head back outside for more NRC footage on the streets.

To the ring!

* Nigel McGuinness is introduced, as is customary when a new champion is crowned. He said it’s “always been a dream to wear this belt.” Roderick Strong hit the ring, and he put down Nigel. “You’re a fluke. You are a paper champion.” Strong held up the FIP title and showed it off. Brent Albright came to ringside and jawed at both men, and this led to our first match.

(1) Round 1: Roderick Strong defeats Brent Albright (w/Shane Hagadorn) at 8:59.
Good match, but a really odd choice for an opener, as this is heel-heel. They traded armbars and Strong bailed. Back in the ring, Albright overpowered him in a knucklelock. Prazak talked about this being the first-ever West Coast ROH swing. Albright worked the left wrist, then he opened up the offense with some chops at 4:00, and some forearm shots that leveled Strong. Albright hit a nice dropkick for a nearfall, then a delayed vertical suplex for a nearfall.

Strong fired back with some chops and a running knee to the head for a nearfall, and he applied a bearhug on the mat. Strong hit a nice dropkick. Albright hit an overhead belly-to-belly suplex at 7:30, then a powerslam for a nearfall. Strong hit an enziguri and a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall, and they were both down. Albright hit his wrap-around-knee strike in the ropes, then a swinging uranage for a nearfall. Strong hit a running boot, the Gorilla Press Gutbuster over his knees, and he got a quick rollup for the pin. The action was just starting to pick up when this ended, far too quickly.

* Delirious was out on the streets of Vegas. (It is pretty funny, but not surprising, that people on the street in Vegas just ignored Delirious, as they walked by in the background.) Delirious, in his gibberish speak, talked about being the 2006 winner, and he stated he would repeat.

(2) Round 1: Chris Hero (w/Larry Sweeney) defeats Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson at 7:00 even.
Blah. I’ve seen Anderson before, he’s mostly bald, thick, and probably 6’2” and 230 pounds, but he just does nothing interesting. They traded standing armbars, and Lenny Leonard commented that, “Larry Sweeney is made for Las Vegas.” Anderson worked the left wrist, but Hero escaped and he started bouncing around the ring. Leonard mentioned in passing that Hero better focus on the match, as there is a 20-minute time limit. (Well done, without hammering it home or really hinting that the time limit would come into play later). Hero stomped on Anderson’s feet. Anderson hit a leg lariat, a European Uppercut, a powerslam, and a kneedrop to the face for a nearfall.

Her hit a basement dropkick to the head at 3:30, and he was now in charge. Hero hit some stomps and he mocked Anderson’s ‘machine gun spraying’ motion. Hero hit a senton, then his rolling thunder senton for a nearfall and some chops. Anderson fired back with some chops, a flapjack, and a nice spinebuster for a nearfall at 6:00. Anderson hit a Gordbuster faceplant and an enziguri for a nearfall. However, Chris hit the Hero’s Welcome/swinging faceplant, and he applied the Hangman’s Clutch/modified Crossface, and Anderson tapped out. Weird match, as Anderson really is a better heel than face, so we’ve started this show with four wrestlers and no real ‘fan favorites.’

* Sweeney & Hero celebrated backstage. “You can’t bet against this guy,” Sweeney said.

(3) Round 1: Rocky Romero defeats TJ Perkins at 6:28.
Good action for such a short match. Romero refused to shake. They exchanged quick mat reversals. Prazak acknowledged that Perkins has been in ROH before, although he didn’t acknowledge that Perkins once wrestled as the masked “Puma.” Perkins hit a nice basement dropkick to the face, then a spear to the lower back in the corner. Perkins hit a kneedrop, and he planted his knee in the back. Romero hit a running boot in the corner, a Gordbuster, and a springboard kneedrop to the neck, and a spine kick for a nearfall at 3:00.

Perkins hit a European Uppercut. Romero hit a nice snap suplex, and he applied a nice standing Octopus, and that popped the crowd. Romero hit a nice dropkick, and he paused to dance. Perkins hit a cool standing neckbreaker, and they were both down. Perkins hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip, an enziguri, and a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 5:30. However, Perkins missed a top-rope Swanton Bomb. Perkins hit a nice enziguri. Romero hit two hard spin kicks to the head that dazed Perkins, allowing Romero to score the pin. These two are familiar with each other, and it showed here. Sharp action.

(4) Round 1: Austin Aries defeats Delirious at 12:17.
Good match. Delirious went crazy at the bell. Aries hit some Japanese Armdrags. Leonard wondered if this would be the year that Aries finally won SotF. Delirious got some nice quick reversals and a spine kick, and they traded chops. Delirious hit his Never Ending clotheslines in the corner. Aries hit a mule kick to the face at 2:00, and the crowd chanted for him. Aries hit a catapult senton, a flying elbow for a nearfall, and a (Jarrett) Stroke, then a Power Drive elbowdrop and blows to the back. Aries stayed in charge by hitting a Finlay Roll.

Aries went for a move off the top rope, but Delirious caught him with a jumping headbutt to the chest. Delirious hit a back suplex for a nearfall at 5:00, then a nice senton for a nearfall. Theyt raded chops, and Delirious hit some forearms. Aries nailed a roaring forearm, a catapult corkscrew press, and a Lionsault for a nearfall at 8:30. Delirious hit some punches to the gut and some clotheslines. Aries hit a back suplex and a running dropkick to the face in the corner for a nearfall. Delirious hit Matt Sydal’s “Here It Is” Driver for a believable nearfall, and that drew a nice pop. The crowd chanted, “This is awesome!”

Delirious applied a Cobra Clutch, but Aries escaped. Delirious hit a Panic Attack, but he missed the Shadows Over Hell backsplash. However, Delirious hit a Cobra Clutch Suplex for a believable nearfall at 11:30. They traded rollups, and Aries hit a sharp running kick to the head, a brainbuster, and he cranked on Delirious’ neck and leaned back in a bridge for leverage, and Delirious tapped out. Easily the best match so far, and with so many short matches on this card, I wish this had gone longer.

* Backstage, Aries praised Delirious. Aries said he’s been preparing for his matches with Bryan Danielson, and that’s why he finished Delirious off with a submission hold. Aries predicted he would win SotF tonight.

(5) Round 1: Claudio Castagnoli defeats Davey Richards at 8:03.
Good match, but again, surprisingly short. Richards refused to shake, and he spit in Claudio’s hand. Richards charged at Claudio at the bell and hit some forearms and kicks to the left thigh. Claudio hit a European Uppercut, and he immediately hit the Giant Swing for a nearfall. Richards hit some kicks to the left thigh, and he cranked on Claudio’s left leg, hitting a Dragonscrew Legwhip, and pausing to celebrate. Claudio fired back with a second-rope diving European Uppercut at 3:00, and they were both down. Claudio hit a high backbody drop, a bodyslam, but he was hobbled and noticeably limping.

Claudio hit a second-rope elbowdrop for a nearfall, then a nice fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall. He went for the Ricola Bomb/Pyramid Powerbomb, but Richards blocked it, and Davey applied a Stretch Muffler/horse collar; Claudio eventually reached the ropes. Claudio went for the Waterslide, but Davey avoided it. Richards went for his handspring-back-enziguri, but Claudio caught him with a European Uppercut to the back! Nice! Claudio then hit the Waterslide for a nearfall at 6:00.

Richards hit a sunset flip powerbomb out of the corner, and he hit a HARD running kick to the chest for a nearfall. Richards hit some blows to the base of the neck, and they traded hard slaps to the face. Claudio hit a European Uppercut and the Ricola Bomb for the pin. Prazak wondered if Claudio was hurt, as he seemed dazed and had a sore neck & leg. This was really good, but still too short.

* Backstage, Claudio talked about being in the horse collar earlier, and he admitted he nearly gave up. But he promised he would persevere, even with a sore neck.

(6) Round 1: Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuiness went to a time-limit draw at 19:58.
The crowd was hot as these two shook hands. It was made clear the heavyweight title is not on the line. Nigel worked the left wrist. Danielson hit a dropkick, and he applied a modified Stretch Plum, and they traded good mat reversals. Nigel hit a shoulder tackle that leveled Danielson at 3:00. Danielson twisted the left leg. Leonard talked about how Nigel is carrying himself with confidence. Nigel applied a cross-armbreaker, but Daniels reached the ropes, and he clutched his arm. Danielson applied a chinlock, and Nigel got to the ropes. Leonard reminded viewers there is a 20-minute time limit, and these two have gone an hour in the past.

Danieslon focused on the left leg, and he hit a European Uppercut, then he twisted Nigel’s ankle. Danielson hit a kick to the knee, then a running dropkick on the knee as Nigel was tied in the ropes at 8:00. Nigel came back with a snap Divorce Court armbreaker, and he kicked the shoulder, and he went to work on the shoulder. Nigel applied a modified Rings of Saturn, then a hammerlock, and Danielson screamed in pain. Great intensity shown here! Nigel tied up the arms, and leaned backward for pressure. Danielson applied a half-crab, but Nigel reached the ropes. Danielson applied a Bow & Arrow at 11:00, then a Muta Lock. Nigel applied a double armbar, and Danielson was in pain, but he was able to reach the ropes. This match has a great legit vibe, and both men are selling well.

Nigel hit a boot to the head. Danielson hit some spin kicks to the chest as Nigel was on his knees. Danielson applied a Figure Four leglock at 14:00, but Nigel eventually rolled over to reverse the pressure. Danielson kicked at the left thigh. They traded European Uppercuts, and Nigel hit a running (hobbling) European Uppercut. Nigel hit a northern clothesline, but he couldn’t hit the Tower of London. Nigel hit another Divorce Court armbreaker for a nearfall. Danielson fired back with a roaring elbow, then a basement dropkick on the knee and he applied a half-crab, but Nigel reached the ropes. Danielson hit a snap suplex at 17:00.

Danielson couldn’t hit the Benoit flying headbutt; Nigel got his leg up to block it, but it hurt himself! Nigel hit a back suplex, and they were both down. Nigel hit a headstand mule kick. Danielson hit a flying kick to the chest, and they were both down at 19:00. The ring announcer said there was one minute remaining in the time limit, and the crowd booed. Danielson applied the Cattle Mutilation, and he hit the rapid-fire elbow shots to the side of Nigel’s head. Nigel set up for the Tower of London in the corner when the bell rang to end the match. The crowd booed and chanted for “Five more minutes.” They started brawling, and Nigel applied an armhold, and Danielson tapped out and ran from the ring. The announcers point out the bell never rang to officially restart the match, so Nigel didn’t really ‘beat’ Danielson.

(7) Round 1: Human Tornado defeats Shane Hagadorn and Tony Kozina at 3:26.
Shockingly short. Fans chanted for Tornado. Hagadorn wore a one-strap singlet, a la Pearce, or Jerry Lawler. Prazak announced this match would now be for the vacant spot in the tournament, because the last match was a draw. Tornado danced. Kozina hit some forearms on Hagadorn. Tornado hit some chops on Kozina, then a flying back elbow on Hagadorn.

Tornado hit a nice dropkick on Hagadorn, and he did his jive dance steps & low blow at 2:00. Kozina hit a clothesline on Human Tornado. Hagadorn and Kozina traded forearms. Tornado hit a backbreaker on Kozina, then a pimpslap on Hagadorn. Kozina hit a Lionsault press on both, drawing a pop. Tornado hit an overhead suplex to pin Kozina. OK action, Kozina looked good, but this was too short. I’m a Tornado fan, and I hoped to see more than we got here. Underwhelming.

(8) Jimmy Jacobs & Necro Butcher defeat Jay & Mark Briscoe in a street fight at 12:41.
Good brawl. An on-screen graphic told viewers this is non-title. All four men immediately fought on the floor. Mark Briscoe was limping from a recent motorcycle injury. They fought through the crowd, with Mark pairing off against Jacobs. Mark pushed Jacobs across the top of a bar. Mark hit a headbutt, and he slammed Jacobs’ head on a stage. Leonard talked about how The Age of The Fall is a “movement,” not just a faction. Necro hit a headbutt on Jay, and he slammed a trashcan on Mark’s head on the stage. All four fought on the stage. Necro slammed Mark off the stage through a table on the floor at 4:00, and fans chanted, “Holy sh!t!”

Necro & Jacobs beat up Jay in the ring, with Jacobs hitting a running knee to the gut as Jay was in the Tree of Woe, then Jimmy hit some repeated doublestomps and a senton. Necro hit his chair-assisted bodyslam for a nearfall, then a Tiger Driver/butterfly powerbomb for a nearfall. Necro nailed a clothesline in the corner at 7:30, as the AotF continued their 2-on-1 beatdown. Jay hit a Flatliner on Jacobs, sending his head into the second turnbuckle, then Jay hit a backbody drop on Necro, and a clothesline that sent Necro to the floor.

Necro and Mark Briscoe traded ‘dueling chair wars’ in the ring. Mark hit some karate thrusts on Necro Butcher and a T-Bone Suplex on Jacobs. Mark accidentally hit a karate chop on Jay. Jay hit a chinbreaker on Jacobs across an open chair. Jay hit a Flair Toss on Necro, flipping him onto an open chair in the ring at 10:30, for a huge pop. The Briscoes hit a team back suplex on Necro onto an open chair for a nearfall, then a double uranage on Jacobs for a nearfall, and a team neckbreaker on Jacobs for a believable nearfall. Necross tossed a chair at Mark! Jacobs hit a DDT, then he slapped on the front guillotine choke on Mark, and Mark passed out! Necro held onto Jay so Jay couldn’t make the save. Good match, but I’m sure better matches in this feud will follow.

(9) Chris Hero (w/Larry Sweeney) defeats Human Tornado and Roderick Strong and Austin Aries and Claudio Castagnoli and Rocky Romero at 27:41 to win “Survival of the Fittest.”
Good match, but not a great must-see match by any means. Aries and Romero went to start, but Strong hopped in the ring and attacked Aries, and this is 2-on-1. Meanwhile, Hero sat on a chair on the stage, and he stretched and did some exercises. Prazak pointed out this is an elimination match, so there really is no reason for Hero to rush to get in. Aries hit a basement dropkick on Romero, then he dove through the ropes onto Romero & Strong. Hero ran into the ring and set up for a dive. However, Claudio hit a backbody drop on Hero at 2:00.

Tornado hopped in the ring and hit a headscissors takedown on Claudio, then a hurricanrana. Claudio hit a European Uppercut. Tornado hit a hurricanrana that sent Castagnoli to the floor. Tornado then hit his flip dive deep into the crowd onto four wrestlers! Tornado got in the ring, but he didn’t see Hero sneak up on him. Hero hit a reverse suplex (dropping Tornado chest-first on the mat), then Hero hit the Hero’s Welcome/swinging faceplant, to pin Human Tornado at 3:57. Wow, Tornado’s entire performance tonight was brief.

Claudio hit a Giant Swing on Romero. Aries hit a catapult elbow drop on Romero as Rocky was lying across Claudio’s knees. Aries applied a Boston Crab on Romero as he glared at Strong in the corner. Claudio & Aries hit a team suplex on Romero at 6:30. Claudio hit a bodyslam & guillotine legdrop for a nearfall on Romero, and the faces were in charge. Aries hit a running knee to Romero’s back. Hero was now sitting on the stage, with Sweeney rubbing Chris’ shoulders. Strong hit a Samoan Drop on Aries. Romero & Strong began to work over Aries, with Romero hitting a spine kick. Strong hit a slingshot suplex at 9:00 for a nearfall. Romero hit a dropkick to Aries’ back, then a kneedrop to the face, and he traded chops with Aries. Aries hit a Lionsault Press on both Romero & Strong, and the crowd was hot.

Claudio made the hot tag, and he tricked the NRC to hit each other. Claudio gave Strong a bodyslam onto Romero for a nearfall at 11:30. Aries hit a running dropkick to Romero’s face in the corner. Castagnoli hit the Waterslide on Romero. There was fighting everywhere; Strong hit a bodyslam on Claudio on the stage, away from the ring. Romero hit a second-rope DDT on Aries for a nearfall, then some right & left kicks on Aries. However, Aries hit a brainbuster on Romero, then a top-rope 450 splash! Hero jumped in the ring, hit a powerbomb on Aries, and Hero quickly covered Romero to pin him at 13:31! Strong chopped Aries. Aries hit a running kneestrike on Strong for a nearfall. However, Hero got back in, got a rollup, and he pinned Aries at 15:37. The crowd really booed that pin.

Sweeney hopped up onto the apron, and he handed Strong some money. Strong tucked it into his kneepad and he shook Hero’s hand! Strong & Hero lunged at Claudio, and they immediately were double-teaming Castagnoli. Strong hit a nice dropkick at 18:30. Hero hit a Mafia Kick as Claudio was tied in the corner. Claudio fired back with a double bulldog. Strong hit a Gibson Driver on Claudio. However, Hero made a blind tag, and he nailed a Hero’s Welcome on Strong to pin Roderick at 19:48! Hero reached into Strong’s kneepad and pulled the money out, and gave it back to Sweeney. Funny!

So, it’s just Hero vs. Claudio now. Hero hit a Buff Blockbuster for a nearfall, then four consecutive sentons; Hero went for a fifth one, but Claudio got his knees up to block it. Claudio hit a second-rope diving European Uppercut for a nearfall. Hero hit a cravate chinbreaker and a Mafia Kick for a nearfall. Claudio hit his top-rope snap headscissors takedown, then a European Uppercut for a nearfall at 23:00, and they were both down. Fans chanted, “Claudio!” However, Claudio couldn’t hit the Waterslide.

Hero hit a cravate suplex. Claudio fired back with a bicycle kick to the chest, then a German Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall, but he couldn’t hit the Ricola Bomb/pyramid powerbomb. Hero nailed the Hero’s Welcome for a believable nearfall, and the crowd popped for the kickout. Hero applied the Hangman’s Clutch/modified crossface, but Claudio reached the ropes. Claudio hit the Ricola Bomb for a believable nearfall at 26:00! Hero hit a second-rope cravate neckbreaker, then a top-rope doublestomp to the chest. Hero again applied the Hangman’s Clutch, and this time, Claudio passed out, giving Hero the win … and all five eliminations!

* Hero and Sweeney celebrated in the ring. The ring announcer said that Hero is going to Disneyworld. (He said something else, but it was inaudible.)

* Later, outside on the streets of Las Vegas, Hero & Sweeney stood in front of Hotel New York, with the Statue of Liberty in the background. They talked to people on the streets (they didn’t seem to be plants, either). They ended by trying to start a “Chris is awesome!” chant. Funny way to end the show.


Final thoughts:
DVD runs 2 hours, 36 minutes.

Honestly, this might be my least favorite ROH show of 2007. I’ve seen most, but not all, ROH shows, and I can’t recall being so disappointed – the crowd was small, the sound was poor, the hard camera was bad, and the choice of matches were poorly planned out. Why start with a heel-heel match? Why book Anderson as a bland face against the heelish Hero? Why use Karl Anderson at all, for that matter? I’d rather have seen Joey Ryan, Scott Lost, or Scorpio Sky fill that slot.

Best match goes to another excellent Danielson-Nigel match. These two bring a legit atmosphere to whenever they meet, and this was no different. Fans used to ‘WWE style’ may not ‘get’ this match, but ROH fans will love it. It is a step below their prior matches, largely because I think fans fully expected this to go to a time-limit draw.

The main event earns second-best. That said, I’ve enjoyed the main event of the SotF less each year. The first year, Danielson and Aries had a great match within the final match. In the second year, we got to see a nice war between Aries and Strong, that wouldn’t have otherwise happened at that time, being as they were partners in the same faction. What stood out about this match, of course, is that Hero won each fall, while barely being in the ring. And he got all five falls cleanly. No illegal weapons, no pulling the tights, no grabbing the ropes. The match was laid out well… but it’s hardly a classic like those first two years provided.

The Age of the Fall vs. the Briscoes was fine. But, with this feud just starting … if you skip this DVD, you’ll see this matchup later on, on other ROH DVDs.

The rest of the show was a mess. Matches that I looked forward to (Strong-Albright, Castagnoli-Richards) were too short; with this DVD ending so early, there certainly was time to add minutes to those matches, and to the three-way. Having essentially two heel-heel matches start the show was a terrible booking decision, and I rarely question Gabe’s choices. The under-use of Human Tornado on this show was downright criminal. Perkins and Kozina looked good. Hagadorn bores me, and so does Karl Anderson. Throw in the problems with the hard camera and sound, and this show doesn’t get much love from me.

This show is for completists or big Chris Hero fans. Sure, other promotions would love to turn out a show this good, but compared to other ROH shows on the market, this DVD gets a thumbs down. It can be purchased at www.rohwrestling.com for $20.


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