ROH World Championship Match
Tyler Black (C) vs. Kevin Steen
June 24, 2010
Ring of Honor Salvation 2010

Time-traveling to 2010 Ring of Honor was a fun surprise, as the HDNet era is one I’ve seen very little of. The Fight Network carried versions of the 2003-2007/8ish DVDs edited for TV, but I didn’t have HDNet, so ROH disappeared for me until Sinclair Broadcasting bought the promotion. By the time I saw Kevin Steen in ROH, he had already sent El Generico packing (to take care of orphans, I’m told) and was embroiled in a feud where Steen played a heel against… a broadcasting conglomerate with Jim Cornette as the mouthpiece? The past is a strange place.

In this battle between the digits in the number 10, I found myself thinking a lot about how much more grounded in reality Kevin Steen felt than Black. He carried himself like a fighter – tough, dangerous, and actively looking to beat his opponent. Black felt more like a video game character, a create-a-wrestler with a great look and exciting offense, but who feels disconnected from being in a competition. Perhaps more context of his ROH World Title reign would fill in some these blanks and make the character feel more developed, but Steen’s presence eats him up. While the commentary leans on some of the tropes associated with violent heels, like enjoying the pain given or taken, Steen in this match feels to me like he is competitive to the point of derangement. A man who NEEDS the ROH World Title because until he has it, he can’t say “I’m the best” without argument. He doesn’t want you to take his word for it, he wants the belt that says it for him.

Black is sheeting blood down his face before long, and the match never really has extended periods of control or matwork. There’s a great vitality to the pacing, as the match rips along with both guys throwing bombs, causing chaos on the floor, and eventually bleeding buckets. Steen is split open late and looks like he dunked his whole head in a bucket of tomato sauce, which amps up the violence back up after Black’s cut has stopped flowing. It would have improved the ending somewhat if he was still bleeding, but I must point out that I am a person who thinks that wrestlers screaming at each other covered in blood in awesome. Your mileage may vary. The finish itself caught my by surprise, which is always appreciated, even if the winner was expected.

You should watch this match, it’s a snappy 20 minutes of kicking ass and an interesting look at the formative years of two wrestlers who would be multimillionaires a decade later. As far as the obligatory guess of who my Secret Santa was, it feels too easy to guess Sean Sedor, because he’s the ROH guy. I’ll take a wilder swing and guess Jon Hernandez, because he’s probably well aware that if a match has “BLOODY WAR” in the title of the video I’m probably going to be down to check it out.

Also go buy KAYFABE: A Wrestling Anthology or Wrestlemon, because comic books about wrestling are great and also mandatory.