ROH Wrestling Border Wars DVD
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack

It would be easy to call this a one match card, but that talent on this card was vastly more than just the long anticipated climax of the Kevin Steen vs Davey Richards Main Event. More on that later. Border Wars was a showcase of what Ring of Honor is, has been and perhaps, how it can leap to a bigger place in the professional wrestling industry. ROH has the pieces: talent, passion, a great crowd that gets involved in the right ways (most of the time) with the product, and solid matchmaking. Where ROH sometimes loses its way is when it does finishes like the Tag Team Title match here, or when it continues to focus on a static roster, instead of providing for more dynamics. Sure, Kevin Steen ‘s who story suggested being both in and out of the promotion, and if he lost, there was a sense that he was gone. But did anyone ever thing he would lose?
That’s the cynical side of a pro wrestling fan talking, but also one that wants to see more faces, less of the same matches, and more factions than just Truth Martini. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Truth.

Speaking of Martini, he’s bringing in muscle, in the opener, to take on Eddie Edwards. Eddie Edwards vs Rhino (w/Truth Martini) is a bit of an odd opener, since Edwards is once removed as the ROH World Champion, and Rhino is a long time veteran. Actually, after talking about ROH not having those dynamics of guys moving in and out, Rhino’s situation proves me wrong. So this is good in many ways, and especially with the replays of a Rhino squash. Nothing lacks in pro wrestling these days like building up monsters and monster holds, and the Gore is well built here. Which does play into the finish, in a certain way.

Next up is a six man match, with Kenny King & Rhett Titus & TJ Perkins vs Nick & Matt Jackson & Mike Mondo. It is a highlight film sort of match, the high spots taking over, but pared down somewhat from what can be expected of the talent in the ring. The Young Bucks are all that, and a great heel tag team to counterbalances the more friendly faces in ROH.
I still don’t get Mike Mondo, but he’s headed for some big things, it seems. TJ Perkins is really, really talented, and maybe this is a good place to get him some highlights.

Jay Lethal vs Tommaso Ciampa is a match of what ROH does best, and quite frankly, worst. These guys are vastly talented, and Jay Lethal is an ROH veteran who got lost in that national association, but gets props and placement here…. And yet, Lethal was World TV Title holder six months ago, and where is he now? Ciampa has his winning streak touted, compared to Samoa Joe, but what does that mean once it’s over?
And how many more times will both these guys fight each other?
And yet …. And yet…. these two guys bring it better than 90% of the mainstream.

There’s a similar good/bad approach to Lance Storm vs Mike Bennett.
ROH Brings in guys like Storm (and Rhino) and doesn’t embarrass either the legend or the ROH talent, but in a professional wrestling world where guys trade wins, trading wins really doesn’t make anyone look impressive, nor does it look impressive here. Sure, give Storm his props, but the subtle heelishness of Storm’s victory is lost on the crowds. What’s up with that Code of Honor when a guy uses a chair?
And shouldn’t Bennett be a guy to build around? Then we have two guys, but ROH is so set on labeling every match that no match stands out. Michael Elgin vs Adam Cole is touted as the Breakout Star match. Which is great, but who’s a breakout star when two breakout stars are matched together just to match them together?

Let’s hit the top of the card, with momentum:
ROH World TV Championship: Roderick Strong vs Fit Finlay
This is a great use of Fit Finlay, taking it to the TV Champion, building him up, and using him as a measuring stick. Finlay is considered one of the best, and his style is impressive, methodical and different than most, which makes the match more than just having one more spot-fest or indy style.

Fight Without Honor/ROH World Tag Team Championship
Jay & Mark Briscoe vs Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin
Sometimes tag team matches are spot-fests and lack psychology. Sometimes that really works well with a Briscoes brothers match. Here, there was a lot of … well, a lot of overthinking. I enjoyed the match and the bulk of it, and these four bring tag team wrestling to a plane where it should be, even though the mainstream doesn’t care about pure tag team wrestling. These guys do, but then that finish?
On the bad side, it was bad. Ether? 2012? Even with the Fight Without Honor, it didn’t make sense to do this angle driven finish after fifteen minutes of solid action. It was a cheap finish. On the good side, it was well established, it established the credibility of Kevin Kelly, and they really did appeal to put the angle over, and not just ignore it, overhype it or just let it play out. The concern about the effects, the descriptions of the can/how it smelled/what went on, and Kelly’s appeal to the referee all framed the angle. That was well done. But not as well done as if it had a better finish to begin with!

ROH World Championship
Davey Richards vs Kevin Steen

It was a bitter match in the ring and a series of chants from the crowd, and a great representation of what Ring of Honor brings to the world of professional wrestling. Kevin Steen may be cast as “Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare”, but he’s also been known as Mr. Wrestling for some time now, and despite the dives, the violence and the intensity that sometimes went off the charts, but he took it to Davey Richards in a long fought battle that showcased the differences in expectations.

This was a well-worked match, with levels of psychology and building a story and playing off on various aspects of the history of both guys. In Canada, the Sharpshooter was meaningful. And yet Steen selling that his knee had been worked on, selling the accumulation of damage, and selling it at one of the spots where a big pop was expected? That’s not just good wrestling, that’s great wrestling. While the visual of Richards vs Steen wasn’t the best dynamic, the caliber of the talent in the ring made it meaningless once the action started. And Steen’s immediate attempt at the package piledriver showed just where Steen’s mind was at from the opening. And Davey Richards pulling out the DR Driver after blocking the package piledriver, late, is what this is all about. Kevin Kelly calling out Kawada Kicks?

Where else do you get those sorts of references? (If you weren’t paying attention, Kelly and McGuinness are rapidly developing as the top announce team in the business. Nigel brings a perspective as a wrestler that makes Jerry Lawler pale in comparison, and Kelly may not bring personality, but he’s worked strongly on projecting credibility, and while I’ve questioned him in the past, he is making those sorts of references that are necessary for ROH’s positioning.) The finishing sequence built well, involving the crowd like few matches have, and playing into the Canada locale, taking advantage of an exposed turnbuckle from way earlier in the match, and … to my great applause, they went direct to a finish without the five minutes of trading ankle locks and fifty different near falls, which would have only diminished the whole. And Cary Silken refusing to hand over the Title belt was a good touch, considering the ongoing storyline, as was Steve Corino not talking during the match, to lead up to the in-ring confrontation, that ended in a group hug.

And that chant of “Mr. Wrestling”…..