Homicide vs. Steve Corino (ROH Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 8/16/03)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Dan Vacura over on my Ko-fi account.

Being real is the hardest thing in professional wrestling. In the end, it’s the ultimate goal of this after all. It’s a work, a simulation, a performance, but it’s meant to evoke certain emotional realities. As hinted in the title of this ROH DVD release, Homicide and Steve Corino do not like each other. That should be par for the course in any pro wrestling company—two dudes that dislike each other—and yet these two convey that with a dedication that’s staggering to behold.

A large part of that comes from utilizing the physical realities of the medium. Put simply: they beat the shit out of each other. Quite famously, very early on in this match, Homicide slaps Steve Corino in the face so hard that it eliminates Corino’s hearing in one ear. That’s not the kind of thing that can be faked, and it’s the kind of tangible sacrifice that adds gravity to a rivalry like this.

This is a truly exceptional fight between these two.

Raw and gross in all the best ways one wants from a hate fueled encounter. One that allows the camera to get in real close and truly lavish in the horrifying things these two are doing to each other. Beyond that famous slap, there’s also Homicide carving up Corino’s bandaged up arm with barbed wire and a fork. There’s some crazy bumps in this as well between Homicide eating a piledriver through the timekeeper’s desk and also completely eating shit on his signature tope con hilo and crashing into the barricade instead.

There’s also the blood, oh the blood.

Corino’s the first to start leaking when Homicide goes after the arm, but it’s the latter who leaves pools of himself all over the Sacred Heart University. What a bladejob from Homicide here, instantly pouring blood all over the place. But it’s not just depth of the cut that makes things like this work, though that sure fucking helps. It’s the performances around it that make a bloodletting legendary. Note how Corino immediately digs his fingers into an already wide open wound. Between all that thick plasma and gore, it’s hard to tell how much of it is Corino just working by positioning his hand in the right place and how much of it is him actually clawing at Homicide’s flesh.

Homicide also plays his role in adding to the blood here. His woozy demeanor throughout much of the extended heat segment Corino places on him can’t help but read like a man whose bell is rung and has no clue where he is. He’s never entirely right after the cut opens, and it’s only through sheer force of will that he’s able to keep the fight going. It’s a textbook performance in making blood loss feel dangerous in the moment.

For something so present and seemingly spontaneous, this match has a beautiful structure to it. Opening with that intense lock up, leading into a malicious babyface shine for Homicide carving up Corino’s arm, and then Corino throwing a desperation lariat with the bad arm to cut off Homicide. A large chunk of the match plays out as a heat for Corino, and Homicide’s comebacks feel so much smarter and more purposeful here than they did in the Joe title match. Corino helps in this regard too for knowing just when to cut him off and in especially brutal fashion as well. It also helps that Homicide’s really letting the emotion sink in here, not getting lost in just hitting his big action spots.

The crowd really has room to get behind Homicide here, at no point more tangibly than when he crashes and burns on the tope. Corino is reveling in Homicide’s failure and it only emboldens the sympathy the crowd has and their admiration for our hero.

It’s such an effective heel performance in this regard. Even when he’s eating shit by having his arm attacked, he never comes across as sympathetic. He knows just what buttons to push to get all the shine on Homicide while remaining an absolute bastard throughout. In the final moments too, him refusing to give Homicide the satisfaction of a clean tap out or pinfall thanks to the cronies on the floor throwing in the towel is such a great way of booking the feud to continue without taking away how much Homicide accomplishes in the moment.

It’s an astonishing match, exactly the kind of thing that peak ROH was built on. A heated rivalry with the booking support behind it placed in the hands of all-time great workers. If there was ever a match worth losing half your hearing for, it’s this one.

IS IT BETTER THAN 6/3/94? Visceral and bloody, much more masterful in keeping the slower moments interesting without sacrificing the high octane thrills of the bigger moments. Both have ear injuries that don’t go anywhere, but there’s just a much rawer feel to this that puts it above the King’s Road classic.

Rating: ****1/2

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