Thursday, 22 March 2012

Chris Hero: Ring of Hero - DVD Review

It’s an astute piece of marketing. A wrestler jumps ship from a promotion, travelling to pastures new to make a name for themselves elsewhere. So the promotion releases a DVD compilation of some of his best matches while he was under their employ, hoping to cash in on the situation.



It’s a tactic WWE used a while back when Jeff Hardy and Hulk Hogan debuted in TNA, and as Kassius Ohno takes his first formative steps in WWE’s developmental system Ring of Honor have cashed in their chips with a two disc tribute to his previous persona. The release in question is Chris Hero: Ring of Hero.

And so we begin our review, inevitably beginning with Disc 1:

14th January, 2006: As the feud between Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling kicks into gear Hero, representing CZW, challenges Bryan Danielson, aka current WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan, for the ROH World title at the Hell Freezes Over show.

With CZW regulars Necro Butcher, Nate Webb, Adam Flash and referee Bryce Rensburg at ringside these two put on one of the most intense ROH title matches I’ve ever seen, with Hero promising to dump the belt like a bad habit should he win.

It’s one of those knock down, drag out affairs, but not in that complete sense. Sure, there’s a lot of striking, but there’s also a ton of great back and forth wrestling as they exchanged holds, escaping out of each other’s big submissions and kicking out of pins after big finishers.

With the crowd roaring their lungs out Danielson eventually locked in the cross-face chicken wing on Hero. The man from Metropolis held out for as long as he could until succumbing to the inevitable and tapping out.

Oh, and was that the infamous Green Lantern fan I saw in the front row?

22nd June, 2006: It’s on to six man tag team action as Hero teams with Super Dragon and Necro Butcher against ROH’s Samoa Joe, B.J. Whitmer and Adam Pearce at the 100th Show.

Now this was intense. With a referee from CZW and one for ROH what we had here was one wild brawl. These two teams basically beat the hell out of each other with anything that wasn’t nailed down, and it wasn’t long before the blood began to flow, particularly from Pearce.

For over twenty minutes they fought all over the arena. There were countless chair shots, numerous table smashes, and the Butcher putting a spike into Joe’s head at one point.

The relationship between the two officials was actually quite cordial, until CZW owner John Zandig made an appearance. The ROH guy was soon taken out as the odds went his team’s way. But then ROH star Claudio Castagnoli appeared on the scene to even the sides, or so we thought, as the man who was working for both companies at the time sided with his regular tag partner Hero, assisting him as he took out Whitmer with his hero’s welcome finisher for the win.

16th September, 2006: Hero teams with his Kings of Wrestling partner Claudio Castagnoli to challenge Generation Next, Roderick Strong and Austin Aries, for the ROH Tag Team titles on the second night of Glory by Honor V.

This is a pretty decent encounter. Strong and Aries did a good job of doubling up on Castagnoli early on until the Kings came back and centred their attack on Aries’ previously injured ribs, adding a bit of showboating into the equation as well.

It eventually breaks down into the inevitable four way brawl, with Double C clobbering Aries with his briefcase before he helps Hero take Strong down with an assisted hero’s welcome. But with both champions lying prone outside the ring the challengers proceeded to pose for the fans until Aries, with blood pouring from his mouth, crawled back into the ring to get a measure of revenge.

That measure was short and sweet though as Aries soon fell to what can only be described as a double reverse powerbomb-type thing as the Kings took the pin to win the titles, ending Generation Next’s nine month reign.

23rd December 2006: It’s Final Battle 2006 as Hero and Castagnoli take on Jay and Mark Briscoe.

This was touted as the Kings’ last match together before Castagnoli departed for the WWE (apparently visa issues cut short his stay), and although these two teams would have better matches against each other a few years later this was still a nice foretaste of what was to come.

With Larry Sweeney cheering his men on from ringside the Kings once again looked great against the ROH tag legends. It was an interesting back and forth encounter with plenty of near falls, as well as an unforgettable moment where Castagnoli showed incredible power as he took Mark and Jay out with an aeroplane spin at the same time.

But despite all of this things didn’t quite go to plan for the Kings. As Sweeney distracted the ref Double C tried to bring his briefcase into the equation, only for him to clobber Hero by mistake. After throwing the Swiss out of the ring Jay and Mark took Hero down with a combined shooting star press/top rope leg drop combination for the winning pin.

10th August, 2007: It was back to singles action for our protagonist as he faced Nigel McGuinness in a pure rules match on night one of Death Before Dishonor V.

Lots of jaw jacking at the beginning of this one as Larry Sweeney and his cronies brought in some “commandments” of their own for this match, including the “thou shalt not be British” rule. Then, the lights went out a few minutes into the match as a mystery man proclaimed the coming of “Project 161” on the house microphone. Wasn’t that something to do with the Age of the Fall?

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. It’s a great technical contest here, and an example of just why McGuinness was considered one of the best in the world. Sweeney and his flunkies used various nefarious tactics to screw my fellow Brit out of some of his rope breaks, but in between the rule breaking Hero and McGuinness put on a match that would have fitted in well in the World of Sport era.

Eventually McGuinness had enough of Sweet and Sour Inc, and in one segment he used Bobby Dempsey as a battering ram on Hero at ringside, with the portly one falling on top of him, almost costing him the win by count out.

But our man protagonist made it back into the ring and screwed McGuinness out of his remaining rope breaks, giving him the chance to take the submission win with his hangman’s clutch.

19th October, 2007: It’s the final of Survival of the Fittest as Hero faces Roderick Strong, the Human Tornado, Rocky Romero, Claudio Castagnoli and Austin Aries.

If you want to see how a cowardly heel should behave then you would do well to watch Hero’s performance in this match. For most of the early stages he sat on the stage as Larry Sweeney massaged his shoulders, only getting involved in the match when he knew he could cause the most amount of damage with the least amount of effort. It was a great piece of storytelling, and the eliminations were as follows:

The Tornado was the first man eliminated, taken out by Hero’s hero’s welcome finisher early on.

Hero went on to steal the second pin. After Aries had taken Romero out with a 450 splash from the top rope Hero finally returned to the ring, powerbombing Aries on top of the fallen Romero before pinning Rocky.

Moments later Hero took the third pin, blind tagging himself into the match and taking Aries out with a little help from the ropes.

It was then that Larry Sweeney took his wallet out and bought the services of Strong so he could help Hero eliminate Castagnoli. Strong took the payment, putting the dollar bills in his knee pad, only for Hero to double cross him when Strong went to pin Double C, connecting with another hero’s welcome. Hero then reached into Strong’s kneepad and gave Sweeney his cash back.

This left Hero alone with Castagnoli, and what followed were some great back and forth exchanges between two men who know each other so well. Both men kicked out of the other’s finisher, and just when it looked like Hero was going to get the win with the hangman’s clutch submission hold Double C made it to the ropes.

But with Sweeney cheering him Hero took it to the next level, taking his man down with an elevated hero’s welcome from the second rope, followed by a double foot stomp from the top before finally getting the win when Castagnoli passed out while in a second hangman’s clutch.

3rd November, 2007: In the final match of Disc One Hero takes on El Generico on night two of Glory by Honor VI.

Lots of posturing and posing at the beginning of this show opener as Hero put on a display of flips and jumps that earned him a round of applause from those in attendance.

When the action finally got underway we saw some great exchanges from the two protagonists, with Larry Sweeney involving himself on a couple of occasions.

It looked all over for Hero when Generico went up top so he could deliver a flying head butt. But Hero grabbed a hold of the masked man’s head as he came down, taking him out with a cravat suplex before sealing the win with the hero’s welcome.

There’s quite a few extra segments here as well, such as Hero leading the CZW invasion at the 4th Anniversary show, the Kings losing the Tag Team titles to Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal, the Kings taking on the Briscoes, Sweet & Sour confronting Bruno Sammartino, and highlights from Hero’s World title match against Nigel McGuinness on night one of Glory by Honor VI.

There’s also three bonus segments which basically feature Hero and co humiliating Bobby Dempsey.

Then it’s on to Disc 2:

30th December, 2007: In a match not listed on the DVD cover Hero takes on Austin Aries, Takeshi Morishima and Bryan Danielson in a four-way encounter at Final Battle, with the winner getting a title shot.

Originally this was meant to be a four way match in which Nigel McGuinness defended the World title, but McGuinness had to withdraw from the match because of injury, with Aries replacing him as this became a number one contenders match.

Once again our Hero played the cowardly heel extremely well, tagging himself into the match whenever an opponent was down and out, and acting like the big scaredy cat when big Morishima came into the ring.

Morishima was the first man to go. Unable to put him away on their own Danielson and Aries doubled up on the big Japanese guy to good effect, taking him down with a double back superplex, with Aries following up with a top rope splash. Then, as both Danielson and Aries pinned Morishima Hero came back into the ring and joined in on the pin so he could take a share of the glory.

Hero was next. Having done a great deal of damage to Aries, eventually knocking him off the top rope to the floor he then turned his attention to Danielson, but having taken the Dragon out with a cravat bomb Aries sneaked back into the ring to get the roll up and the pin.

Sadly, with this collection’s main protagonist gone the footage ended before the conclusion of the match, which makes me wonder why they included this match in the first place.

25th January, 2008: Once again Hero faces Nigel McGuinness, this time in the confines of a steel cage and with the World title on the line on the Breakout show.

While their previous encounter on this collection may have highlighted their technical skills this one highlighted their courage.

With the Sweet & Sour cronies watching on from ringside Hero and McGuinness put on an intense encounter. We had all the usual cage match spots as well as quite a few inventive ones as well.

The best moment for me came when Hero began working over McGuinness’ leg, and while his buddies distracted the outside referee Tank Toland managed to get a steel chair into the cage. Hero used this to weaken the champ’s leg further before using it for his Boston crab attempt, placing the chair over McGuinness and sitting on it while he applied the hold.

McGuinness managed to fight his way back with one of the oldies from the wrestling playbook introduced into the action. As McGuinness was crawling out of the door Larry Sweeney clobbered him with the door. Outraged, the referee sent Sweeney and his cronies out to the back.

But they didn’t stay there for long though as they soon appeared in the front row. After McGuinness had stopped Hero from climbing the cage, taking him down with a superplex Sweeney distracted the outside referee again as McGuinness crawled to the door.

This time around it was Bobby Dempsey manning the door. However, just as the portly one swung the door Hero made a quick bid for freedom, the door hitting him instead of McGuinness. Toland then jumped the barrier and held the door in place so McGuinness couldn’t escape, only opening it when Hero regained his senses as he made another escape.

But as he made his escape he failed to notice McGuinness climbing the cage on the opposite of the ring, and it was the champion who touched the floor before the challenger to retain the title.

27th June, 2008: Hero takes on Roderick Strong once more, this time in singles competition at Battle for Supremacy.

Strong was looking for a measure of revenge against Larry Sweeney in this one, with the agent having recently signed Davey Richards for his Sweet & Sour team, bringing an end to Strong’s No Remorse Corp.

This was an altogether more serious Hero. Gone were the displays of athleticism, the squats, the jumps over the ropes, to be replaced by a far more aggressive wrestler intent on knocking his opponent out.

This was a very enjoyable technical battle. The early exchanges were great, with commentator Dave Prazak even quoting the great Iron Sheik when Strong went for a camel clutch.

Throughout the match Hero went for his new preferred weapon of choice, the elbow strike, on a number of occasions. It was a forerunner of what was to come.

Strong came extremely close to getting the pin after taking Hero out with a running Yakuza kick, only for Sweeney to place his man’s foot under the bottom rope.

Sweeney got involved again a few moments later, distracting the referee when Strong had Hero in the Boston crab. Another distraction, this time from Sara Del Ray, opened up Strong for another attack, and a final rolling elbow strike sent Strong crashing to the canvas as Hero took the winning pin.

26th July, 2008: The rivalry continues as Hero teams with Go Shiozaki against Strong and Naomichi Marufuji at New Horizons. For this match Strong and Marufuji had a backup to counter the threat of Sweeney’s men in the form of Lance Storm.

This was a great match, full of fast-paced action and tremendous exchanges. The NOAH stars put in some great work here, complimenting Strong and Hero very well, with Marufuji in particular pulling off some nice moves.

My only gripe about this one was that it was actually quite short. Given a bit more time they could have told an even better story, but given that this was on pay per view it’s understandable why they were only give just over ten minutes.

Strong took the pin for his team in the end, taking the pin after putting Hero away with one of his many backbreaker variations.

Sweeney and his men weren’t too happy with the outcome though, attacking the winners as they celebrated in the ring, only for Sweeney to find himself in Storm’s half Boston crab. The agent’s anguish didn’t last long as Hero came to his aid, knocking Storm out with a rolling elbow.

8th May, 2009: Hero once again challenges for the World title, this time going against title holder Jerry Lynn at Never Say Die.

There’s some changes for our Hero here. The Superman-inspired ring attire is gone, and Larry Sweeney is now out of the picture with Shane Hagadorn taking on the role of manager.

Those of you who have been reading my ramblings over the past few years will know that I’m a massive Jerry Lynn fan, which is why I was looking forward to seeing this one again.

It began with some great technical exchanges, with Hero constantly taunting the champion, before moving up a gear as the match progressed to the point where Lynn sent Hero flying down to ringside with a hurricanrana from the top rope to the floor.

It almost looked all over there and then until Lynn managed to roll Hero back into the ring, but even then he couldn’t get the winning pin. Hero managed to recover though, looking for the right time so he could use his rolling elbow, and when that time came Lynn still managed to kick out, despite the fact that Hagadorn was holding his foot down when Hero made the cover.

Eventually Hero tried to bring his loaded elbow pad into the match, but after failing to connect Lynn ripped the pad from his elbow, although Hero still managed to put him down with an “ordinary” rolling elbow.

The champion refused to stay down though, and moments later took the title retaining pin after taking Hero out with his patented cradle piledriver.

25th July, 2009: The one I wanted to see the most as Hero takes on Lance Storm on night two of Death Before Dishonor VII.

This was a joy to behold. Storm looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in this one and was more than capable of going up against one of the company’s top stars.

It was a tremendous back and forth encounter, one of those matches you just wish had been given more time so these two could put on something that was even more special than it was.

With the crowd chanting “you still got it” Storm looked like he would get the win with his half Boston crab until Hero managed to get to the ropes. But despite this setback he never gave up, and it took two shots from Hero’s loaded green elbow pad to finally put the man from Calgary away so our Hero could take the pin.

ROH on HDNet #29: Hero faces another star from Pro Wrestling NOAH, this time in singles action as he takes on KENTA.

This may well be the best singles match I’ve seen Hero in, one of those knock down, drag out affairs that would have looked perfect on a NOAH tour in Japan. It was just a shame that it only lasted for 15 minutes.

Every time I see the guy KENTA impresses me more and more with his hard hitting style, and it was a perfect match for Hero as he continued to develop his style and character.

With the crowd at the former ECW Arena roaring the house down both men came extremely close to getting the pin in a match with too many great points to mention, and when Hero connected with a rolling elbow to the back of KENTA’s head it looked all over. Nobody told the visiting star that though.

Realising that he needed a little more firepower Shane Hagadorn distracted the referee while Sara Del Rey tossed Hero his loaded elbow pad. He never got to use it though. Just as he was about to unleash the knockout blow his rival Eddie Kingston came down to ringside and tore the pad from Hero’s arm.

KENTA then made his comeback, taking out the interfering Hagadorn and Del Rey before putting Hero away for the pin with the go to sleep. And no, he didn’t take the move from Punk. Punk took the move from him.

In fact, if you watch a KENTA match you’ll see that Punk’s style is very similar to his.

18th September, 2009: Hero faced Bryan Danielson once again during the Dayton leg of The Final Countdown Tour.

As the future D. Bryan prepared to leave for the greener pastures of McMahon-land he faced the company’s top stars, and by the time of this match Hero was well and truly in the upper echelons of the roster.

This was a completely different match from their first encounter on this collection. The rivalry between ROH and CZW was long forgotten as these two put on a fine display of technical wrestling.

Danielson showed why he was held in such high esteem, pulling out all the stops and taking Hero to the limit in this tremendous back and forth encounter. Hero was more than a match for him, even surviving Danielson’s vaunted cattle mutilation submission hold.

It was just about submission holds in this one though. There was a ton of hard hitting action as well, and after the two of them exchanged numerous kicks and chops Hero finally took the pin after taking Danielson down with a rolling elbow pad to the back of the head, this time without any help from his elbow pad.

ROH on HDNet #42: It’s the penultimate match with Hero taking on Canadian star Kenny Omega in a match from the Pick 6 series.

While this wasn’t the most spectacular or riveting match of the collection it was still a pretty good encounter. Omega put on a good display of high flying moves in this one as he looked to move up the rankings towards a possible World title shot.

The only problem was that he was going up against the much-improved Hero. With his striking ability Hero unloaded with numerous elbows, although Omega recovered from all of them, taking control with his superior speed on the outside of the ring.

Omega eventually took Hero down with the 2K1 bomb, but it wasn’t enough to put Hero away.

Frustrated with his inability to put Omega away Hero grabbed his new gold loaded elbow pad while Shane Hagadorn distracted the referee. It didn’t do him any good though as Omega ducked the elbow attempt and took the upset win with a roll-up.

19th December, 2009: The final match of the collection sees Hero battling Eddie Kingston in a Fight Without Honor at Final Battle.

Fight would be the best way to describe this match. With both men decked out in T shirts and jeans these two tried to knock seven sorts of you know what out of each other as soon as the bell sounded.

Kingston began to bleed early after a chain was introduced into the equation early on, and despite the apparent hatred that they had for each other we didn’t see any more weapons until Hero brought one of the ringside barricades into the match, placing it on the second rope. He then lifted Kingston onto the top rope, and after some hesitation he took his hated rival down with a powerbomb on the metal.

It wasn’t enough to put Kingston away though, and as he made his comeback Sara Del Rey tried to take him out, only to find herself on the end of a leg capture suplex.

Hero then went for his loaded elbow pad, but after Kingston ducked out of the way he managed to get hold of the pad himself, using it to take Hero down with his own rolling elbow for the winning pin.

Just a couple of special features on this disc, the initial confrontation between Lance Storm and Sweet and Sour and highlights of Hero’s battle with Eddie Kingston at Glory by Honor VIII.

In conclusion - well, it took me a while to get through this, mainly because of a bout of man flu halfway through, but I’m glad I finally made it to the end.

Ring of Hero is a great DVD release, the perfect documentation of Chris Hero’s time in the company. It certainly was interesting to see how he evolved from the unwanted outsider to the somewhat goofy show off right up to the Young Knockout Kid that recently signed with WWE.

My only gripe is that there could have been more Kings of Wrestling matches. Mind you, maybe the powers that be will put together a compilation of Kings matches now that both Hero and Castagnoli are in WWE.

But apart from that this DVD release gets the big thumbs up, so if you want to see what Kassius Ohno did before he makes his way to either Raw or Smackdown then this is the collection for you.

With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Chris Hero: Ring of Hero can be purchased online at www.rohwrestling.com.