I have a month of membership to ROH’s new video service, Honor Club. I got it to watch the Ultimo Guerrero/Volador appearances on their recent New York show. That show was good, worth the $10 fee I paid for the month. I still have access for the rest of the month and there’s other CMLL guest appearances on the service in the VOD section. I thought I might as well check them out and let you know if it’s worth checking out. I wouldn’t say anything is here is worth the $10/month alone, it just might be an extra reason to pay for the service if there’s a live show you also want to see.
One of the reasons it’s hard to check out luchadors in US (or English speaking) promotions is the announcing is usually dreadful. I made a joke of a rating scale to demonstrate the problem. It’s not easy for an unfamiliar person to find out about luchadors, but it can be done and it should be done if your job is to explain these people to the audience. If someone thought a (Mexican) wrestler was important enough to be in your ring, you should know who that person is and what they do in that ring. Lucha libre isn’t easy to follow but small children manage to do it so it doesn’t seem impossible.
(Disclaimer: I’m always willing to help this situation. Sometimes I try to help without being asked, and it’s usually met with indifference, so I’m not really doing that any more. But I’m willing to make the situation better as long as I’m not actually involved in the product. I’m not looking for a job, I’m just looking for a broadcast that won’t cause me to throw something at my TV.)
I don’t find many of the Mexican announcers to be great at their jobs either, I’ve just learned to tune them out. It’s harder in English.
The Ring of Honor broadcasts varied. It changed a lot after Steve Corino moved on to WWE. He and Kelly were doing a jokey broadcast where Corino not knowing what was going on was one of the sources of comedy. It didn’t work for me but I can understand people like the vibe. Colt Cabana and Ian Riccaboni are a newer to the spots and a bit more focused on proving they know what’s going on to build some credibility with the audience.
Here’s what I saw:
Angel de Oro vs ACH vs Kamaitachi vs Matt Jackson
When: 10/14/16 Chicago Ridge, entrances at 26:45.
Should you watch: Yes, and it’s an easy call. It’s an all action match that moves fast and goes pretty well, except for the guy who gets pinned at the end. The crowd seemed totally unfamiliar with Angel de Oro but whoever put this match seemed to know him pretty well to make sure he got his impressive dives in. They only missed the campana from hitting all of his usual spots, ad they look great for a first time audience. He doesn’t have any noticeable issues working with the other opponents, even when he’s not working with Kamaitachi. This would be a borderline Great match under the normal rating system.
Kamaitacihi and Angel de Oro have a singles match on the following day’s show; the TJ Hawke 2016 ROH best of list (which also inspired me to find these matches) said it was even better than this. That show is oddly not in the current archive as far as I can tell.
Things a lucha fan will care about: they actually use Angel de Oro’s correct music, which is a surprise when you’re used to seeing them on TV with other songs. That’s consistent thru these VODs. The ring announcers wrongly goes with “Mexico City” as his hometown though.
Things a lucha fan will be confused about: The announcers make a running joke of some controversy ACH was involved in but never explain it; this is a reference to ACH making a surprise appearance on an AAW show ending with a strange speech about a divorce, which was an illusion to him quitting ROH soon. Matt Jackson and the crowd go crazy for Delete chance, which is part of a looming feud with the Hardy Boys.
Announcer grades: Kevin Kelly 2 (had the pronunciation, looked up Angel de Oro’s wikipedia for championship info), Steve Corino 0 (trying to be funny but running the pronunciation bit into the ground.)
Will Ferrera vs YO vs The Panther vs Silas Young
11/03/16, San Antonio, Texas (0:00:34 entrances, 0:04:07 bell)
Should you watch: Yes. These guys also oddly work well together, with more The Panther/Silas Young interaction than you’d expect. It’s often just 1v1 pairings with a third person breaking up the pinfall after a big move and no one really having extended control. The action keeps on moving that way, and everyone makes the most of their moment to look good. Panther’s early tope looks good (though Young oddly moves backwards when he’s attempting to catch it) and his springboard dropkick is on point. This looks a like 2018 The Panther, though he wasn’t doing this well in CMLL at this point.
Announcer grades: Kevin Kelly 1, Steve Corino 0
Ring Announcer: “the PANTHER!”
Steve Corino: “which is Spanish for The Panther.”
That’s a joke I would make. It’s that bad. Kelly says he contacted the CMLL office for some info on both Panther and Misterioso. It doesn’t seem like they gave him much.
Misterioso Jr. vs SHO vs Adam Page vs Lio Rush
11/03/16, Arlington, Texas (1:10:35 entrances, 1:14:28 bell)
Should you watch: No. Misterioso is not really motivated by the appearance, doesn’t fit in this match anyway, and he’s not much of a focus of the match. It comes off as a three way with Misterioso making occasional appearances. Even without him, it’s not as exciting as a match between our old friend Raijin and Lio Rush might seem to be.
Announcer grades: Kevin Kelly 0, Steve Corino 0
Steve Corino: “Misterioso Jr. told us he was 100kgs. I think that was the first lie he told us.”
Kevin Kelly: “What town did he say he was from?”
Corino: “Mexico…[incomprehensible noise]”
Kelly: “It had a lot of rolling r’s in it. We said how about just ‘Mexico’ and he said ‘Si.’”
That bit at least plays funnier than it reads. Kelly, in another bit later, says he talked to Okumura about calling some CMLL matches but realizes it may not be a great idea when Corino warns him about Mexico.
Announcers grades for psychic predictions: Kevin Kelly 4! In a discussion intended simply to bury Bone Soldier, Kelly accidentally lays out the Elite/Bullet Club OG split without even known the Elite are the Elite yet. He has Page in the wrong group, or it might be the right group at that point.
Rhett Titus, Kenny King, Caprice Coleman vs SHO, YO, Misteiroso Jr.
When: 11/04/16, Arlington, Texas (leads off shows with entrances & Promos, 7:49 bell)
Should you watch: Nah. It’s a basic opening trios match to get over the Coleman team for stuff late on. Their control period feels long and the action doesn’t really pick up enough to make worth the time. There’s more of attempt to get in a big Misterioso spot here, but he can’t get up his opponent for the Gori Special despite two attempts and help from Sho. It’s so off that the announcers had no idea what he was doing. That seems fair.
Announcer Grades: Kevin Kelly 0, Steve Corino 0. Kevin Kelly talks about Misterioso being part of a family of wrestlers, specifically mentioning uncles who are wrestling. I can’t figure it he’s mixed up Misterioso and The Panther (with uncle Black Warrior) or if he thinks Misterioso is part of the Rey Mysterio family. They otherwise say nothing of note.
The Panther vs Jax Dane vs The Punishment Damien Martinez vs Bobby Fish vs Lio Rush vs Dalton Castle
When: 11/04/16, Arlington, Texas (2:17:57 bell, 2:27:28)
Should you watch: Maybe. There’s some entertainment here with a lot of caveats. Half the eliminations have some storyline to them, and ROH expect you to already know and care about those stories. More critically, the Panther is the first out and the match goes about twenty five minutes longer after he leaves. It’s good action but really long to space out the eliminations. They do a solid job of the story they’re telling, this just might be too much work for a casual lucha fan.
Announce Grades: Steve Corino 0, Alex Shelley 3?
Steve Corino calls him “the Tiger” before correcting himself. The discussion at the start of the match is also great.
Alex Shelley: “Tell me what you know about The Panther”
Steve Corino: “I know absolutely nothing.”
Shelley seems to be here to root for Lio Rush during this match. He also happens to be a lucha libre fan. It does not appear he’s seen The Panther before, but he’s the only one of these announcers to immediately realize he’s Blue Panther’s son, and then calls Blue Panther “the best wrestler ever.” There’s bonus points in that. Shelley also starts saying words like “tope”, “quebradora”, “casadora”, like someone who knows what they’re talking about. Given prep time, Shelley would be a great pick to announce for one these matches again.
Jay White, Dragon Lee vs Will Ospreay, Volador
When: 04/01/17, Lakeland, Florida (2:05:37 entrances, 2:09:00~ bell)
Should you watch: YES. Four guys trying to steal this show with every big move they know in an exciting match. Volador & Dragon Lee make a strong impression in Volador’s first match in the promotion. Ospreay try to top them, and really does with the dive at the end. White is not as much a big moves guy. He never feels out of place, but doesn’t have the highlight moments as the other three. There’s moments where you’d wish they’d keep going instead of stopping to play to the crowd and “selling” is more “rolling out of the way so other people have space for move”, but it all works.
Minutia: We’re into the generic replacement music era. They have not entered the era of knowing where the luchadors are beyond “Mexico.” Dragon Lee gets told to leave the ring on a tag early on and threatens to punch the referee (?!?) but then it works as a lucha libre tag rules anyway so maybe the referee should’ve just left him alone.
Announcing Grades: Ian Riccaboni 2, Kevin Kelly 1, Colt Cabana 1. Everyone tries to get “Volador” right. Riccaboni is the only who did (wikipedia) research and makes use of it. No one says anything dumb.
Esfinge & Rey Cometa vs The Dawgs (Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara)
When: 11/17/17, San Antonio, Texas (1:28:16 entrances, 1:31:42 bell)
Should you watch: Yes, and I didn’t think I was going to write that half way thru. It’s the first match so far that’s US hot tag style. It’s a little slow building to that moment. It turns out to be worth the trip. Esfinge & Cometa put forward good efforts. Cometa pulls off the Brillo Cometa and Esfinge seems sharp. Their opponents handle them well and the crowd really was into it for the finish.
Minutia: This seems like a much bigger building than the year before, and they probably could’ve gone even bigger given how many people are in the standing room overlook. The CMLL luchadors, especially on these Texas shows, do the Kalisto/Lucha Dragon fist pumping, which is hilarious and nothing they do at home. This one has an Alberto Si! Si! Si! chant too, and also the more traditional Si Se Puede. The luchadors are more over in San Antonio than Dallas but that seems like the case for everyone.
Announcer Grades: Colt Cabana 3 and BJ Whitmer 1
Cabana drew the wikipedia straw. He took notes, he even knows Esfinge’s family tree, seems happy about the knowledge he’s dropping, and then…
Cabana: “Rey Cometa! Used to wear a mask, lost it to the Puma King.”
Whitmer: “How long ago?”
Cabana: “[searches notes, realizes it’s not in there]…a while ago”
BJ is not a good friend! Whitmer seems to be an emergency fill in for Riccaboni. Both are making a fair attempt at the pronunciations. The effort is there. What really blows me away is Cabana calls the Nudo Egipico as it’s happenin. He knew the name and he even knew the set up to the cradle. That’s a thumb up from me.
Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin vs Esfinge & Rey Cometa vs Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara vs Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser
When: 11/18/17, Dallas, Texas (55:01 entrances, 1:01:03 bell)
Should you watch: Maybe. The match is fine, maybe even as far as good. The nature of a four way tag match means Esfinge & Cometa aren’t really in all that much and don’t get a lot of time. The announcers note this was Team CMLL versus the Motor City Machine Guns before the other teams were added, which is something I would’ve liked to see a lot more. Shelley is barely in the match, giving the impression this change was to hide him due to injury or something along those lines. I really want Alex Shelley doing lucha and it never seems to work out. Titus/Ferrara and Young/Bruiser are perfectly acceptable teams and Esfinge & Cometa get to do moonsaults onto everyone at the end, so this is totally watchable. Just not must watchable.
Announcer Grades: Colt Cabana 2 & Ian Riccaboni 2 – and maybe those are too low. Theyr’e trying on the names, and there’s really not a lot of time to in to much more about these CMLL guys when they’ve got this many people in the match. They do seem to think it’s an elimination match until people start breaking up pinfalls, which might be another sign this was put together late.