Saturday, 14 March 2015

DVD Review: Kevin Steen: Hell Rising

It was one of the most controversial DVD releases in Ring of Honor history. In fact it was so controversial that it was withdrawn from sale shortly after it was released. But with the current success of it's subject matter in pastures new it's now back on sale, apparently for a very limited time. The DVD in question is Kevin Steen: Hell Rising.

As is the custom with these things let's start at the very beginning with.....

Disc One
The Shoot Interview
From what I gather this was the reason this was originally withdrawn from sale. Just one day removed from his World title loss to Jay Briscoe, Steen sat down for over two hours to discuss his ROH career, beginning with his Career versus Mask match against El Generico in December 2010, the match that temporarily ended his time in ROH.

One thing that's obvious from the outset is how passionate Steen was about ROH, and how frustrated he was with them at the same time. Most of that frustration was caused by then-head booker Jim Cornette, and throughout this interview he voices those frustrations time and time again. Steen tells of how Cornette never really paid any attention to his career, and while he looked out for his favourites, the likes of Steen and Generico, as well as Steve Corino and Colt Cabana, who were also involved in their legendary feud were hardly given any credit for their feud, despite the fact that it was one of the highlights of ROH's year in 2010.

Steen's frustrations with the way Cornette handled his career are there for all to see, and he tells quite a few stories of how he had to really push for things. He's also quite forthright in his views on how Cornette handled the careers of the likes of Davey Richards, with Steen saying that Richards could have been an even greater champion if Cornette had neutered him for want of a better term.

Steen does praise Cornette at times, even going as far to say that he'd like to work with him again if he was an on-screen talent, but two years down the line it's interesting to see how well the former Steen and Generico are doing under the NXT banner. It makes you wonder what Cornette thinks of his charges now.

From what I gather Steen's criticism didn't exactly sit too well with Cornette, and it's one of the reasons this release was withdrawn from sale, which is kind of odd considering that Cornette had left the company by the time this was released in 2013, and it's not as if Steen accused Cornette of doing anything outlandish or illegal. Steen was basically speaking out about his career and voicing a few frustrations. It's something that's been done countless times since shoot interviews began.

As an interview subject I found Steen to be a very passionate fellow, especially when it comes to his chosen career and the company where he made his name. He clearly knows his stuff and comes across extremely well, and as someone whose watched his career over the past few years I'm pleased that he's doing so well in WWE.

This release isn't just about the interview though. There's twelve complete matches here, beginning with.....

December 23rd, 2011
With Jimmy Jacobs as the special referee, our man attempts to win his place back on the ROH roster by taking on his former running buddy Steve Corino in a no disqualification match at Final Battle.

The slow and methodical approach was the order of the day here as these two spent nearly thirty minutes beating the proverbial out of each other with tables, chairs, pieces of the ringside barricade and a rubbish bin, and while it won't go down as one of the best hardcore matches in history it will certainly go down as a great piece of storytelling.

The action was quite brutal at times, and there were also quite a few holy you know what moments, particularly when Steen went through a stack of chairs that were on a table perched between the ring and the barricade.

Eventually Jim Cornette's worst dreams were realised when Steen took Corino down with a package piledriver on a stack of chairs in the middle of the ring. A very reluctant Jacobs then made a very slow three count as Steen won back his ROH career.

Steen's work was far from over though. While Jacobs and Cornette were checking on the fallen Corino Steen grabbed Jacobs and took the special referee out with another package piledriver, and he would have surely done the same to Cornette if El Generico hadn't arrived on the scene. The masked man enjoyed a brief rally against his former tag team partner, only for the crazed one to put him through the time keeper's table with yet another package piledriver.

March 4th, 2012
Our man goes into another disqualification battle as he faces Jimmy Jacobs at the 10th Anniversary Show.

At first it looked like this match wasn't going to take place. Steve Corino came out with Jacobs and announced that they weren't going to go through with the match, but as Corino and Steen went back and forth on the microphone Jacobs attacked Steen from behind before taking off his fur coat to reveal the white jacket covered in the blood of the Briscoe Brothers.

What followed was an even more brutal affair than the previous match. As a distraught Corino looked on from ringside this turned into a battle between the two most evil entities in ROH history. Jacobs looked in his element as he rolled back the years and took it to Steen, only for Mr. Wrestling to come back with his own brand of brutality.

Once again we had a few holy you know what moments, beginning with Jacobs spearing Steen off the ring apron and through a table, and a few moments later things got even more brutal when Jacobs pulled a railway spike from his boot. He failed in his first attempt to use it, but when he did manage to stab Steen in the head the look on his face said everything. Jacobs was absolutely horrified with what he'd done, and as Steen looked up at him and smiled, blood streaming down his face, it added even more intrigue to the story, as well as setting the stage for what was to come.

Seconds later Steen grabbed the spike and stabbed Jacobs in the unmentionables before taking him down with an F5 on a couple of chairs for the winning pin.

Disc Two
March 30th, 2012
Our man faces his old tag team partner as he takes on El Generico in a la revancha last man standing match at Showdown in the Sun Day 1.

Once again the brutality of this rivalry was there for all to see as these two knocked seven bells out of each other. It began when Generico cut off the ring announcements and connected with a yakuza kick in the corner, and it wasn't long before they were battling all over the arena and clobbering each other with chairs, and anything else they could get their hands on for that matter.

It was a contest you just couldn't take your eyes off as they put each other down time and time again, and as their energy levels diminished both men became more and more frustrated when they couldn't put their opponent away.

Then came the twist in the tale. After Steen connected with a kick south of the border it looked like he was going to end it all with a chair shot to the skull, that was until Jimmy Jacobs appeared on the scene. Jacobs stood between the two combatants, and his distraction gave Generico the chance to take Steen down with half nelson suplex onto a chair. Jacobs then handed a chair to the masked man, and just when he was he was about to use the weapon Jacobs reached into his coat, took out his old railway spike and spiked Generico in the head.

Jacobs then sealed his return to heeldom by clobbering Generico in the head with a chair, gifting Steen the win when Generico failed to make the ten count, ending another tremendous piece of storytelling.

May 12th, 2012
It's a championship opportunity for our man as he challenges Davey Richards for the World title at Border Wars.

The first match of the collection contested under regular rules proved to be a rather intriguing contest with quite a few layers. Steen went in to this one with the fans firmly behind him. Mind you, it was contested in the Bizzaro World that is Canada, and to say that Richards wasn't too impressed with the reception he got would be an understatement.

Then there was the appearance of Steen's former co-hort Steve Corino at the commentary table. Corino remained silent throughout, and whenever his co-commentators Kevin Kelly or Nigel McGuinness asked him a question all Corino did was nod or shake his head.

The match itself was a great hard hitting back and forth affair. Both guys were in top form throughout, especially Richards, who threw everything he had at Steen, and grew more and more frustrated when his challenger kept coming back for more.

As for Steen, even though there were no weapons for him to use he was his usual sadistic self. With Jimmy Jacobs cheering him on from ringside the fans cheered everything he did. Well, almost everything. There was one moment when Steen knocked Richards' gum shield out, only for Steen to use it himself a few moments later.

The ending was perfect. After Steen had failed with the sharpshooter because of his injured knee Richards went for his trusty old ankle lock. But when Steen grabbed the middle turnbuckle pad Richards refused to release the hold and pulled Steen back into the middle of the ring, ripping the pad from the post and exposing the bolt. Steen then managed to roll through, sending Richards head first into the exposed metal.

Steen seized his chance. After taking Richards down with a sleeper suplex he went back to his favourite and now un-banned move of choice, the package piledriver. A three count later and ROH had a new World Champion.

But that wasn't the end of things. Afterwards Cary Silkin refused to continue with his tradition and gave the belt to the referee to give to Steen. Corino then stepped into the ring, and after taking off his jacket he embraced the new champion, setting the scene for the formation of S.C.U.M.

June 15th, 2012
Having taken care of Davey Richards our man faces the other half of the American Wolves when Eddie Edwards challenges for the World title at The Nightmare Begins.

It's an altogether shorter title defence in this television main event, complete with commercial breaks, but that doesn't make it any the less enjoyable. In fact it's made even more enjoyable because of the interplay between Jim Cornette and Steve Corino on commentary.

Edwards looked in top form throughout, although he didn't really need Cornette cheering him on from ringside. There were several moments when it looked as if he'd become the second man to become a two-time champion, but Steen always kept one step ahead of him.

The big moves were there, but they were missed or countered more often than not, and when Edwards went for his backpack chin breaker Steen countered with a sleeper suplex before sealing the win with the F5, much to the annoyance of Mr. Cornette. Again.

June 30th, 2012
Another former champion has a go as our man defends his World title against Truth Martini guy Roderick Strong at Live Strong.

This proved to be a rather interesting all-heel affair, although it was obvious to those with the gift of hearing that the majority of the fans preferred the S.C.U.M. ethos than that written in Martini's Book of Truth.

Strong was his usual hard hitting self, until one of his chops connected with the ring post that is. Steen put on a good display as he controlled the action from that moment, and as the match moved on and Strong made his comeback it wasn't long before the inevitable happened and the ringside cheerleaders got into the act, with Steen taking Martini down with a superkick and Jacobs ramming his head into the barricade when Strong moved out of the way.

Back in the ring Strong began to go through his arsenal of high impact moves, but the champion kept coming back time and time again, and even though he missed the top rope senton he still managed to take Strong down with the F5 for the winning pin.

August 11th, 2012
Chikara Grand Champion Eddie Kingston is next on the list as he faces our man for the World title at Boiling Point.

Originally this match was meant to be contested under regular rules, but after the protagonists made their entrances our esteemed ring announcer revealed that Mr. Cornette had changed the rules and made this an anything goes match.

So cue extreme violence, with Kingston taking care of Steen's buddies Corino and Jacobs and throwing them out of the arena so our boys could get down and dirty as they tried to beat the proverbial out of each other. It was quite brutal at times, especially when Steen had the upper hand, and especially when he powerbombed Kingston through a table perched between the barricade and the ring.

Kingston barely moved for the next few moments, and after being checked over by a few officials they began to carry him backstage. Steen halted their progress when he reminded Kingston that he'd dedicated this match to the late Larry Sweeney. A few choice words from the champion later and Kingston was back on his feet trying to take Steen's head off.

So cue even more extreme violence as they beat the hell out of each other a little more, but not even Corino and Jacobs returning to the fray could stop Kingston on his quest, and not even Steen's F5 could put him away. It was then that Steen turned things up a notch, and after delivering numerous chair shots to the back he picked up Kingston again for another F5, this time on a couple of chairs, for the winning pin.

August 18th, 2012
Our man goes outside of Ring of Honor, to Premiere Wrestling Xperience to be precise, as he defends his title against Cedric Alexander at There Goes The Neighbourhood.

This kind of reminded me of the good old days of the NWA, where the champion would go around the various territories defending his title against their top star. This one was okay, but it probably won't go down as Steen's best title defence.

The champion dominated much of the encounter, and he seemed to have a great deal of fun interacting with the PWX faithful, even discussing a fan's DVD purchases at one point. Alexander didn't really get into the match until late on, with his high speed and high flying moves serving him well, almost securing the title winning pin on more than one occasion.

An attempt at interference by one Tommy Simpson turned things around, and after Alexander took away his kendo stick Steen connected with a low blow while the referee was trying to usher Simpson out of the way, and even though Alexander managed to kick out after an F5 a second one from Steen soon sealed the deal.

October 6th, 2012
Back in ROH, our man defends his World title against Jay Lethal at Killer Instinct.

This was head honcho Cornette's attempt to bring the killer instinct out of Lethal so he could take Steen out of the equation, and with his parents sitting at ringside it began as your stereo-typical hometown boy challenges for the title kind of match.

The action was very entertaining throughout. Lethal put up a great fight against the champion, but when Steen made his comeback once again he looked in top form, much to the chagrin of Cornette at the commentary table.

At one point Steen's buddies Corino and Jacobs came down to ringside to cheer their man on, but when Lethal took them out with a double clothesline from the top rope to the floor the sides were evened up again as the challenger got closer and closer to the title.

But if anything the one person that cost Lethal his chance at glory was own his own dear mother. During one of the may exchanges at ringside Lethal's mother threw her drink in Steen's face. Steen replied by spitting some of it back at here, and naturally this didn't sit too well with Mrs. Lethal's baby boy. A massive brawl between champion and challenger ensued. Ringside tables were upturned, various officials were clobbered, and it was only when Corino and Jacobs dragged Steen away that any semblance of normality resumed.

The match itself was all but forgotten. Steen tried to destroy the entrance way before leaving with his co-horts, and Lethal ushered his parents out of the arena before returning to the ring even angrier than before. Cornette tried to calm him down but Lethal ended up chasing him through the curtain.

As for the official outcome, this is the second time I've seen this match and I still don't know!

December 16th, 2012
It's the final match of the collection, and our man faces El Generico for the last time as he defends his title in a ladder war match at Final Battle.

The match that was four years in the making was a brutal encounter for both men, and it was also a fitting way of ending their rivalry in the company they had made their name. Cornette had left the company by this time, and it was somewhat refreshing not to have to put him with his anti-Steen tirades from the commentary table.

Both men definitely suffered for their art here. There were countless holy you know what moments, beginning when Steen sent Generico flying into a ladder with so much force it was almost bent in half. It was a sign of what was to come as these tore shreds off each other, partly because of hatred, and partly because of their desire to be champion.

The end came with the biggest holy you know what moment of the night, and perhaps of ROH's entire year. There were two ladders in the ring at this point, with two smaller ladders perched between them, acting as platforms, and when the protagonists began to battle it out on them you just know that something big was going to happen. That came when Steen kicked Generico below the belt before connecting with his package piledriver. The masked man was done, and a few moments later Steen climbed the massive ladder to claim the title belt once more.

One interesting side-note is when the commentators mentioned that if Cornette had still been in charge this match probably wouldn't have happened. You have to wonder how much truth there was in that statement, given Cornette's apparent dislike for Generico's talents. But it's obvious that if it hadn't been for the masked man and the more than obvious chemistry he had with his former tag partner then the final ROH match of 2012 wouldn't have been as good.

In conclusion - so, six and a half hours and over three thousand words later, what are my final thoughts on this collection?

The shoot interview at the beginning may well be one of the best interviews ROH has ever released. It's nice to see a wrestler speaking from the heart about his frustrations, and while I can understand why Jim Cornette may not have been too thrilled with the things that were said about him I am a little surprised that the powers that be withdrew this title because of those comments, if those stories are true that is.

As for the matches it's a great chronicle of Steen's time as World Champion. I freely admit that I wasn't too enamoured with some of the title defences I'd seen, but those included here document perfectly his "reign of terror", and if you're only familiar with his more recent work and you want to see just why WWE are giving him a chance then this is the DVD for you.

So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing to do, and that's to give this release the thumbs up.

With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Kevin Steen: Hell Rising can be purchased online at www.rohwrestling.com.