2010 started off strangely for ROH. The company seemed to be reeling after a big fan backlash to Final Battle 2009. But, 5 months into the year, things feel like they have turned around. The feuds feel a bit fresher, and the shows seem to have more interest. We’ll see how the company’s first year without Bryan Danielson shapes up. One other bright spot is the company seems to be releasing DVDs faster than ever before. Recent releases have been released on DVD just over a month after the show.

1. 8th Anniversary Show (A) Ring of Honor celebrated its 8th birthday on what felt like a flat show going in. Attendance wasn’t great, the card seemed lacking, but once it was over those thoughts seemed distant. This wasn’t the supercard some NYC shows are, but it was a perfectly paced show that peaked at the right time: at the end of the ROH title match. There are far fewer “pros” than most shows I give an A to. But, this show just worked. The two fantastic matches and one really good match were well placed. You never felt bored, since there was a great match or a great angle spacing out the down periods. On top of that, the show is a breeze to watch. You don’t feel tired by the end. Most importantly, it is a historic show, which always helps.

Pros: Austin Aries vs Tyler Black did what seemed impossible, get the crowd rabid for a title change. It seemed like the Final Battle 2009 finish killed Tyler, but Adam Pearce showed he is a bit better at this booking thing than the fans. The match built perfectly. Black never got beaten down too much; he never seemed out of it. It just felt different from a typical match structure, and then came the perfect finishing stretch. The title change feels like a real event. It feels special.

The title match is a MOTYC, and El Generico vs Davey Richards is close behind it. It also featured far more story telling than one would expect. On paper it seemed like a typical indy dream work, but the way the match worked in the greater Steen/Generico storyline was fantastic. It also made the crowd that much hotter down the stretch since the match had started out so slowly.

For a show graded so highly, there isn’t too much more for the pro column. The opener was very good. Strong’s chops were more vicious than normal and the match got the show off to a good start. The only odd thing about it was the way Kendrick threw one kick over and over. Watch for it. Beyond that, Steen vs Cabana was an excellent angle. The match barely existed, but the angle was absolutely fantastic. Everyone’s role in the feud was illustrated and everyone played their part perfectly. By the end of this, Generico vs Steen seemed like the biggest thing going in ROH.

Cons: The following two matches aren’t bad, but they didn’t seem to work. The KoW/Bravados match was not enough of a squash. There was no reason for the KoW to not just kill these men since the crowd could not care less about the Bravado Brothers. The Briscoes vs Dark City Fight Club match was just weird. It was as if someone showed the Briscoes a Bryan Alvarez rant about how they didn’t know how to structure a tag match and said “we’ll show him!” The finish comes out of nowhere, and this feels so different from a typical tag structure. It isn’t bad, it isn’t boring, but it is awkward and just weird.

The Four Corner Survival Match also felt off. Skullcrusher has a lot of potential, but he looked lost here. He was out of place at times, and because of it the match just never clicked. Corino also looks hilariously out of shape. I’m not sure if that actually helps him, as he seems so much more hateable this way. Necro and Kingston vs the Embassy started out OK, but by the end was a mess. Eddie Kingston seemed to hurt his back, and because of it the finish either had to be changed, or just wasn’t a good idea. Gypsy Joe’s inclusion also seemed random as hell.

2. So Cal Showdown (B+) ROH returned to the West Coast for the first time since 2007 this January as a part of the Wrestlereunion convention. The show featured debuting PWG wrestlers, the return of the Human Tornado, and the return of Jushin Liger! That and a star studded 8 Man Tag Team Main Event.

Pros: The Briscoes/Young Bucks vs Kings of Wrestling/American Wolves match is one of the best multi man matches ROH has ever done. It got tons of time, but it also had a lot of thought put into it. One complaint many have about the Briscoes and the Bucks is their matches lack psychology and are just a bunch of moves. But, this was not that case. The Bucks sold the hell out of the heat, and everything made sense. It made sense when the match broke down, it made sense when people hit their dives, and on top of that base they also did a lot of eye popping spots and great near falls.

Jushin Liger’s return to ROH did not quite live up to his Weekend of Thunder matches, but it was still really good. Austin Aries cut a fantastic promo before the match, being a racist, hypocritical douchebag, just as he does best. Ripping on Liger’s costume while wearing his pink faux fur coat was particularly hilarious. Liger also showed his mastery of the comeback, but I won’t spoil that. The match itself was really good, and featured the scariest spot in ROH, Aries crashing and burning on his suicide dive. Please stop doing that Austin! Liger has lost a step since 04 (and since his prime) but he still has a great grasp of what the fans want to see, and worked well with Aries. The finish was also quite smooth.

The rest of the card is solid, but unspectacular. The opener between Scorpio Sky/Scott Lost and the team of Cabana and Generico is a good way to get things started, but not very memorable. It was nice to see the PWG guys get a good deal of offense though. Kenny King and Jerry Lynn had a very good match, and actually did the “Decision Reversal” finish well. I usually hate the finish, but King attacking Lynn after the fluke roll up and Lynn turning the tables and going too far worked really well. It gave the feud a reason to continue, and really made Lynn seem like he had been screwed. The Kevin Steen heel turn also continued nicely against Human Tornado. He just feels like he’s firing on all cylinders as a heel, and has turned his personality up to 10. Tyler Black vs Joey Ryan also had a good little match, and included a great new God’s Last Gift variation.

Cons: I didn’t outright hate, or even dislike anything on the show. I found Delirious vs Strong a bit on the dull side and just couldn’t keep my interest. It was technically fine, but like their 2007 matches it seemed to lack real fire. Stevens vs Necro was a big let down for me. I have felt they have great chemistry and thought their match in FIP was really entertaining. But this was a paint by numbers Necro match.

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