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*** Official ROH DVD Reviews by Brad Dykens ***
July 27, 2007 - RACE TO THE TOP - NIGHT 1 - Deer Park, New York

To my knowledge, Ring of Honor has never done a tournament of any kind during their entire five year history. The benefits of doing a tournament are that you don't have to book as many wrestlers, and it's a simple fan-friendly gimmick with an easy-to-understand goal. The winner of the "Race to the Top" tournament would be granted a coveted shot at the ROH World title. This DVD featured eight first round matches, with the winners advancing to the second night of action in a different location. They also presented a four-way for the FIP championship, and a star-studded main event match for the ROH World tag team titles.

Round #1 - B.J. Whitmer vs. Pelle Primeau: What started out as an obvious foregone conclusion turned into B.J. Whitmer's nightmare. We witnessed the culmination of Whitmer's frustrating descent into the darkest era of his storied ROH career. Whitmer's streak of bad luck continued with a loss to the ultimate underdog wrestler, Pelle Primeau, after he temporarily lost his focus. After the match, Whitmer snapped and beat up little Pelle and his corner-man, Rhett Titus. The crowd was very vocal, with an unforgiving chant of "B.J. blew it!" sending Whitmer into a fit of rage. Finally, they are going to pull the trigger on Whitmer's heel turn.

Round #1 - Davey Richards vs. Jigsaw: Both of these guys worked really hard to put on a great. After about ten minutes, the No Remorse Corps enforcer, Davey Richards, put the masked marvel, Jigsaw, away with a painful submission hold. Richards will face little Pelle in the second round.

Round #1 - Claudio Castagnoli vs. Hallowicked: This match featured a long-time ROH wrestler, Claudio Castagnoli, trying to take the next step into the main event, while the newcomer Hallowicked tries to catapult himself to stardom. Double C seemed more determined than ever to prove that he belongs in the upper echelon of ROH, and took one step towards that goal by advancing to the next round. Hallowicked worked hard and earned the respect of Castagnoli, as well as the viewing audience.

Round #1 - Matt Sydal w/Sweet & Sour Inc. vs. Mike Quackenbush: Sweet & Sour Inc. was out in full force, with "Super Agent" Larry Sweeney leading Sydal, Tank Toland, Bobby Dempsey, and Sara Del Rey to the ring. Larry Sweeney bad-mouthed the fans on the microphone, and sang the praises of Matt Sydal, who he claimed was fielding offers from ROH, TNA and WWE. Sweeney left to "take care of business," while Toland left to "go train Chris Hero," Sara Del Rey went to "get a massage," and Dempsey went to "lose some weight," leaving Sydal alone to face what Sweeney referred to as an easy victory - "Lightning" Mike Quackenbush. The "easy victory" turned into an "upset victory," when Quackenbush pulled off an miraculous win over the cocky free agent. Sydal appeared somewhat humbled after the match, when he voluntarily shook hands with the Quack.

Round #1 - Chris Hero w/Sweet & Sour Inc. vs. Erick Stevens: Larry Sweeney once again escorted his crew of talent to the ring, minus Matt Sydal, but wisely remained at ringside to give his man Hero a numbers advantage. Sara Del Rey is looking fit and fabulous wearing a heelish scowl on her beautiful face. It took a lot of luck and even more interference from Sweet & Sour Inc. to secure a tainted victory for Chris Hero, who turned a blind eye to the malarkey and confidently advanced to the next round of the tournament with a clear conscience.

FIP Title 4-WAY Fray - Roderick Strong vs. Austin Austin vs. Jimmy Rave vs. Gran Akuma: This would mark Austin Aries' return to the ROH ring, and the crowd greeted him with chants of "Welcome Back!" Roderick Strong, the defending FIP champion, was the obvious target of Austin's aggression. Jimmy Rave was the dark-horse of the match, while Gran Akuma felt like the odd man out, still building his name in Ring of Honor. Much to the crowd's displeasure, Austin Aries was eliminated when all three of his opponents pinned him at the same time. Welcome back, Aries! Next, Gran Akuma was sent packing, leaving FIP regulars Roderick Strong and Jimmy Rave to battle for FIP gold. Heel vs. heel. After a few minutes, Strong made Rave tap out with the Stronghold submission, despite the pleas from the fans chanting "Please don't tap!"

Intermission found the buxom Becky Bayless interviewing a crooked-hat wearing Jack Evans. The "Man from the Heavens" talked about Generation Next, Japan, and flash-forwarding to when he eventually wins the ROH World title.

Round #1 - Delirious vs. El Generico: Yes! Finally the match I have been longing to see. The two most bizarre masked men in the history of independent wrestling faced off (pun intended) in the squared circle of honor. These are the two guys with the biggest cult followings in wrestling, their characters undeniably charismatic and eternally lovable. The Canadian Generico scored another in a series of upset victories tonight, advancing over the more experienced Delirious, and will now face Chris Hero in the quarter-finals. After the match, Delirious initially brushed off Generico's handshake but ended up shaking out of respect. Hopefully this will lead to masked wrestler warfare between Delirious, El Generico, Jigsaw, and Hallowicked. It's cheesy but I would totally mark out for that!

Round #1 - Brent Albright vs. "Iron" Matt Cross: I also mark out for the beginning of Matt Cross's entrance music, which uses sound clips from the heel Dojo featured in the first Karate Kid movie. Cross had an uphill battle going up against the silent assassin known as Brent Albright, who looks like he came straight out of the Matrix movie. Albright already has an ROH World title match coming to him, so I guess he was fighting for a second shot, just in case he blows his first opportunity. Albright made Cross tap out with the Crowbar submission, and refused to break the hold for several extra seconds - sending a message to everybody in the locker room who was fortunate enough to make it to the second round.

Round #1 - Jack Evans vs. "Mr. Wrestling" Kevin Steen: "The Man from the Heavens" Jack Evans is beloved by the ROH fanbase, so it goes without saying that they popped big-time when Evans downed his larger, meaner, unforgiving Canadian opponent to secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the Race to the Top tournament.

ROH World Tag Team Titles - The Briscoe Brothers vs. American Dragon & Nigel McGuinness:

While they are reluctant partners, McGuinness and Danielson are a very effective tag team combination. They wisely worked as a unit, while their on-again-off-again rivalry occasionally came to the surface. All four men felt the effects of this hard-hitting match, a classic tag team war which fans of ROH have become accustomed to. Danielson and McGuinness were firmly in control of the Briscoes, when American Dragon went for a roaring elbow, but accidentally smashed his own partner in the face, causing the Briscoes to capitalize and retain their ROH World tag team championships. Dragon shook hands and split, while a grumpy McGuinness slowly got to his feet and had his arms raised by the Briscoe boys to show their respect for an gutsy performance.

Final Thoughts: It seems like they purposely booked some of the tournament matches against the grain to throw the fans off and create an aura of unpredictability. I think the tournament would have gotten off to a better start if it included the top stars like Aries, Dragon, Strong, McGuinness, and both of the Briscoes. The main event pretty much saved the show, and was the only thing worth going out of your way to watch - otherwise I recommend skipping this one and getting the second part of the Race to the Top Tournament on DVD.

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