Ring of Honor’s much-hyped Steel Cage Warfare episode of ROH TV aired in my market tonight, and it was the kind of wrestling television that motivates me to write blog posts. The SCUM story in ROH has been a big deal, but not a wholly positive one in the views of a lot of critics on the internet, which is basically the entire internet, because apparently anonymity and negativity go hand-in-hand. Anyway, I’m going to break down some elements of the SCUM angle and it’s resolution in a handy-dandy plus/minus list!
PLUS – Steen, Jacobs, and Corino were a group of rebels with legitimate reasons to want to destroy ROH. All of them could handle their business on the mic and perform in the ring, and Steen was a juggernaut of ultraviolence as he shredded the list of contenders to his title in his quest to demolish ROH.
MINUS – Steen, Jacobs, and Corino were opposed by Jim Cornette’s sense of propriety and whatever random opponents he could throw at the upstarts who ruined a dinner party.
PLUS – Steve Corino’s evolution as a character was fascinating to watch as he was pushed farther and farther over the edge by his continued failure to destroy ROH. The culmination of his arc at Steel Cage Warfare was gripping, as even his long-time ally Jacobs knew he had gone too far when he tried to set Steen on fire. Corino clobbering Jacobs and revealing that, ultimately, SCUM was nothing but an extension of his psychosis was a fitting end to a fantastic run of character work, and it also capped off a high-concept company-spanning feud with a very personal, human element.
MINUS – A lot of time was spent questioning Steen’s loyalty to ROH after he was excommunicated from SCUM, but at the apex of its dramatic potential, nothing was done with that idea. The commentary hinted heavily that Steen wasn’t in the building and expressed concern that he might not show up. He came down the ramp immediately when his music hit. Steen not showing immediately could have been an amazing point of drama in the match, that unfortunately that story thread was just tied up neatly with Steen’s allegiance never being in question once he stepped into the arena.
PLUS – Matt Hardy was pretty much perfect for the role in which he was placed. When Kevin Steen lost the ROH title to Jay Briscoe, Corino lost faith in Steen’s commitment to the cause. Enter Matt Hardy. An outsider who made his name in the domineering corporation the shadow of which ROH struggles to break free from.
MINUS – Matt Hardy matches. Hardy’s matches were a perfect fit for his character. They didn’t jive with ROH’s style, and that’s the point, but for me personally they just weren’t all that entertaining.
PLUS – Corino recommitting SCUM to destroying ROH after Steen’s title loss to Jay Briscoe was a great visual and an important part of Corino’s character journey.
MINUS – Corino’s new SCUM suffered very badly from nWo syndrome. The newly inflated SCUM added Rhino, Cliff Compton, Rhett Titus, Matt Hardy, and, for like one night, Jimmy Rave. The problem with this new version of the stable was that the only ones who actually mattered were Corino, a non-wrestler at this point, and Matt Hardy. Jacobs faded into the background. Rhino was off of television enough that I forgot he was in the group on several occasions. Titus has been in a freefall since Kenny King jumped to Impact and wasn’t given a large enough role in the group to turn himself around. Cliff Compton was also there. I’m not sure why.
PLUS – Steel Cage Warfare was an excellent end to the feud and a compelling match in and of itself. It’s combination of the War Games and Survivor Series formats provided an exciting bout that always made it seem like SCUM was within reach of destroying Ring of Honor.
MINUS – On paper, SCUM’s team and ROH’s team were not evenly matched AT ALL. Elgin and Lethal are upper tier guys in ROH and either one could hold the ROH World Title and do a great job in that role. Steen, once the unclear allegiance thing was swept aside, is in the same position. Whitmer is a legacy guy in ROH, and is particularly suited to matches which feature long-form exercises in the arts of ultraviolent ass-kickings. Now look at the SCUM team. Hardy wasn’t part of the team due to challenging Jay Briscoe, so SCUM’s top flight guy was missing, at least in terms of being a legitimate participant. So who have we got? Loyal soldier Jacobs, because somebody needed to be interesting on that team, and boy did he ever put in work to make that match as exciting as it was. Rhett Titus, who bumped like a cartoon character for some reason, and hasn’t done anything of significance since his feud with Charlie Haas. Cliff Compton as also there. He got powder all over the ring and I’m seriously not sure if he ever performed an interesting offensive move during this ROH run. He’s sure making the most of being on Colt Cabana’s podcast, but thus far he has given me no reason to find him interesting.Oh, and Rhino, who I forgot was in the faction, showed up for like thirty seconds. Seriously, I had to come back and edit this part in because I FORGOT THAT HE WAS EVEN THERE. So it’s three World Title contenders and a veteran of big-stage violent matches versus Jimmy Jacobs, two bland low card guys and Rhino who I keep forgetting is part of SCUM.
PLUS – Even taking my above issues with SCUM’s line-up in relation to ROH’s into account, Steel Cage Warfare was a fantastic match that built on the model of Survivor Series and War Games in an interesting way while telling a compelling story and taking several characters to new levels that make me want to see what they’re going to do next. It was an exciting half hour of professional wrestling that you should go out of your way to watch.
Also, the video package that led into Steel Cage Warfare was a well-produced encapsulation of the story leading to the match. ROH should use those more. Sure, they can’t match WWE’s team of video package wizards, but it did what video packages are supposed to do: remind you of important story beats that are about to be built upon or paid off.