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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ring of Honor: Stars of Honor
Ring of Honor: Stars of Honor
Koch Vision // Unrated // April 1, 2008
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted April 4, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Somewhere between my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.

Having not watched WWE on a regular basis for the last five years, I've managed to scratch my wrestling itch through screeners and the occasional blind buy. My first exposure to the Ring of Honor promotion occurred roughly four years ago, after ordering one of their catalogue DVDs on the recommendation of a friend. It was such an impressive show that I've purchased a dozen or more titles since then---and obviously, each has been worth the money. First-time viewers will liken ROH to a faster, more technically-grounded and even less orthodox version of 1990s-era ECW, or a close cousin to the Japanese incarnation of everyone's favorite staged sport. ROH is simply a spectacle to behold, packed with innovative maneuvers, strong technical wrestling, ridiculous high spots and razor-sharp crowd interaction. In short: those weaned on WWE (or WWF, for that matter), WCW, TNA and everything in-between are in for a real treat.

Though DVD sales have been a saving grace for those unable to attend the company's East Coast-based live events, Ring of Honor is still a relatively unknown entity---after all, any up-and-coming promotion, regardless of location or budget, automatically pales in comparison to the WWE juggernaut. As long-time fans will testify and new viewers will learn, however, ROH is well worth seeking out. The promotion's first stab at major DVD distribution begins with this month's dual releases of Stars of Honor and Bloodstained Honor, both through Koch Vision Entertainment. The latter is a collection of bloody brawls that I'm not typically drawn towards---and for the most part, such matches aren't typical of what ROH usually brings to the table. The former, of course, is the subject of today's review.

Stars of Honor, hosted by ROH personalities Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard, is a collection of "famous faces" that have been with the company for awhile...or just stopped by for a brief visit, in some cases. It's a terrific primer for those new to the promotion, featuring appearances by WWE's Matt Hardy, MVP, Jamie Noble & C.M. Punk; TNA's Samoa Joe, Christian Cage, Homicide, & Christopher Daniels; and several others. The complete match listing is as follows:

Complete Match Listing
(8 matches on 1 single-sided DVD)

Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk (ROH World Title Match - Elizabeth, NJ, 12/4/04)
Homicide vs. Antonio Banks (MVP) (FIP Heavyweight Title Match - Elizabeth, NJ, 2/19/05)
Matt Hardy vs. Homicide (Dayton, OH, 8/12/05)
Matt Hardy vs. Roderick Strong (Chicago Ridge, IL, 8/13/05)
Christopher Daniels vs. Christian Cage (Cleveland, OH, 7/29/06)
James Gibson vs. Roderick Strong (Asbury Park, NJ, 4/2/05)
Bryan Danielson vs. Spanky (Asbury Park, NJ, 4/2/05)
Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal vs. Low Ki & Homicide (Chicago Ridge, IL, 8/13/05)

From top to bottom, this is a solid collection of matches, though it's tough to argue that the bookend World Title and tag matches are easy highlights. The generally larger WWE athletes tower over most of the ROH (and current TNA) competitors, making certain matches entertaining but slightly tough to swallow. Aside from this, most first-time viewers will also notice that ROH matches are typically much longer than those found elsewhere; many last for 20 minutes or longer, allowing for entertaining back-and-forth contests that really get the crowd pumped. The competition reaches a head during the final tag match, which ends in what may possibly be the most epic post-match brawl in recent memory. It's literally identical to They Live...except Roddy Piper is MIA and there's plenty of gum to go around.

Pound for pound, new and old ROH fans alike should consider Stars of Honor an exceptionally solid blind buy for the money. Readily available from online retailers like Amazon for under $15, this nearly three-hour collection of eight celebrity-packed matches should do its part in converting plenty of new ROH fans. The DVD presentation by Koch Vision leaves a bit to be desired, but most of the technical quibbles are due to ROH's admittedly low production values. Even so, it's hard to complain about picture quality when the matches are this entertaining.

Just a footnote: The entrances for these matches are cut, presumably for music rights issues (as many ROH wrestlers, like ECW, use existing rock songs instead of newly-created tunes). This shouldn't be a deal-breaker, but it's worth noting nonetheless.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Let's get this out of the way: ROH's production budget is probably equal to WWE's catering costs, so don't expect a pretty picture. These shows are shot on the cheap and feature a generally dull color palette and only average image detail. The lighting schemes during certain matches ensure that we can see everything, but the end result is an often blown-out picture similar to those taken on disposable flash cameras. The 1.33:1 transfer is also moderately peppered with digital combing, pixellation and compression artifacts. With that said, Stars of Honor doesn't look any better or worse than comparable ROH shows from the 2004-06 era, so most fans should know what to expect.

The audio presentation is equally as rough, but it's all due to the source material. You won't get an incredibly dynamic or engaging soundstage here, but crowd noise and other sounds usually don't fight for attention too much. The only real issue is the poor recording and mixing of certain play-by-play commentaries (especially during match #8); which generally sound thin and slightly distracting overall. Again, though, this will hardly be an issue for ROH loyalists.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Seen above, the animated menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. This three-hour compilation has been divided into 8 chapters (one for each match), while certain segments are preceded by retrospective comments from the hosts. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes a Koch Vision promotional one-sheet and a "collectible trading card" (as big as a full-sized insert!).

Bonus Features

A trio of Additional Segments has been included, leading off with "Mick Foley in ROH" (7:36). Foley is joined in-ring by CM Punk and addresses the crowd respectfully, though he admits to coming with an ulterior motive. It's basically a promo designed to hype Punk's still-ongoing series of matches with Samoa Joe [NOTE: this was taped during an 11/04 show); in fact, Foley gives the crowd its first hint of the Punk-Joe match included on this DVD. It's definitely worth a look for Foley loyalists, though it ends a bit abruptly.

The next segment, "CM Punk - Samoa Joe Retrospective" (11:22), is obviously done in a similar vein; here, Punk and ROH personality Jimmy Bauer talk over footage from his past matches with Joe. This compilation a bit rough in patches and the sound even drops out once, but those new to ROH should certainly check it out for history's sake.

Winding things down is "Bruno Sammartino in ROH" (9:04), an in-ring speech from the living legend and former WWWF champion. Sammartino definitely comes across as a polite, humble and respectful guy, encouraging fans of ROH to stick by the growing company. The speech is rudely interrupted after a few minutes, but Sammartino and company get the last laugh.

Like the main feature, these extras are presented in 1.33:1 and include no optional subtitles or Closed Caption support.

Final Thoughts

Rough around the edges but no longer wet behind the ears, Ring of Honor stands to capture plenty of new fans with Stars of Honor. WWE and TNA loyalists will enjoy seeing several familiar faces in this more stripped-down environment---and luckily enough, most of them turn in great performances. The focused theme of this event obviously excludes some of ROH's more memorable matches, allowing fans to dig deeper if they like what they see. Koch Vision's DVD presentation can't squeeze much out of ROH's skimpy production values, but a trio of short bonus segments gives fans a bit more to chew on after the main feature. All things considered, Stars of Honor is a solid package for the asking price and a terrific blind buy. Highly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.
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