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Project Rewatch - ROH: The Good Shit

ROH Ring of Honor Old School ROH Gabe Sapolsky Summer of Punk Milestone Series ROH vs. CZW

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#21 supersonic

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:01 PM

Death Before Dishonor - July 19, 2003
 
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Hardcore Match
Entire Carnage Crew vs. Hotstuff Hernandez, Fast Eddie Vegas, Don Juan, & Rudy Boy Gonzalez
 
Just shit.  Absolute utter fucking shit.  Nothing but a huge pile of idiotic, career-shortening moves.  NEXT.
 
Rating: DUD
 
Doug Williams vs. Tom Carter
 
Technically proficient, but not all that engaging.  Gabe Sapolsky taking a shot at WWE for calling this kind of action "boring" was almost a foreshadowing of this match.  Williams vs. Christopher Daniels showed how to execute a classic without playing to the crowd.  This one however did not.
 
Rating: ***
 
ROH Title Shot Match
Homicide vs. Dan Maff vs. BJ Whitmer vs. Colt Cabana
 
Yeah, you could feel that this match has Maff instead of Paul London like at Revenge on the Prophecy.  Yet another match where the ref stopped giving a shit about legal tags (why not just even require them then?) but at least the moment that caused it was understandable (unlike a match later on this show.)  Mega points for Cabana selling the top-rope exploder after the match like it fucking ended his life.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Dog-Collar Match
CM Punk vs. Raven
 
This surprisingly fell short of my expectations after the wild Night of the Grudges and Wrestlerave matches.  Perhaps it's my fault for expecting an insane MOTYC instead of just a good match.  The storytelling was there and that was ultimately most important, but the pacing couldn't match it.  However, this is where it became obvious that Punk really had potential for the major leagues, as his heat segments were FAR more interesting than Raven's.  The post-match has lost its specialness also due to all the indy appearances that Tommy Dreamer has made since.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Tag Titles Match
AJ Styles & Amazing Red vs. Briscoe Bros.
 
Yeah I'm never watching this series again.  The psychology effort was there for Red's knee, but this was perhaps the worst tag team officiating I've ever seen.  The story should have been VERY easy also to make this a MOTYC - little Red keeps getting worked on with the knee, ultimately gets the hot tag, and the ferocious Styles runs a house of fire, Red finds everything within himself to help Styles finish the match with a jaw-dropping, logical finish and then kicks the other Briscoe out of the way to prevent the finishing pinfall from being interrupted.
 
Rating: Less than ***
 
ROH Title Match - Paul London's Farewell
Samoa Joe vs. Paul London
 
This was a good match, but for obvious reasons did not come close to reaching MOTYC status.  There was a pretty damn big missed opportunity when Joe missed the boot scrapes and caught his knee in the ropes, and then they didn't follow up on it at all.  What this was though was a sample of what these two could do in the right circumstances, and it's unfortunate that it appears that will never happen.  There is nothing that stands out as being bad about this match at all - it just wasn't put in the position to meet its fullest potential.
 
Rating: ***1/4
 
Up next - Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies
Matches will include:
Xavier vs. Christopher Daniels
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
Steve Corino vs. Homicide


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:02 PM

Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies - August 16, 2003
 
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Wrath of the Racket stock photo - https://c1.staticfli..._1efebc8f30.jpg
 
Raven cuts a solid promo to start the DVD, and reminds me of the most important part of Wrath of the Racket (which I skipped) - Lucy's mysterious attack.
 
ROH Title Shot Match
Xavier vs. Christopher Daniels
 
The pre-match promo did a perfect job in laying the psychological groundwork for what turned out to be a forgotten classic.  To me, this holds up extremely well over the years and has gotten better; I consider it the second most under-appreciated match in ROH history.  The match starts off as a feeling-out process, which for two stablemates you would think it was a waste of time, but you must recall this is Xavier's first major ROH match in five months.  He needed to use the feel-out to not only get his feet wet again, but also show Daniels that he was his equal as an in-ring technician and could one-up the real Prophecy leader.  Eventually though the real meat of the story came into play.
 
Knowing that the same strategy worked on Paul London at Retribution: Robin Challenge II and almost on Doug Williams at Night of Champions, Daniels focused the majority of his work on Xavier's ribs, which cost the former ROH Champion many opportunities to finish the match (such as being in too much pain to pin Daniels after a successful 450 splash.)  It was quite obvious to me that during his time away, Xavier studied those two classics Daniels had, in particular the loss against Williams.  If you recall, Williams worked heavily on the neck of Daniels (a fairly well-known injury since WCW) in that one, which is what Xavier went for in this one.
 
Not only is the neck work brilliant because of the backstory to the Daniels vs. Williams match, but it plays into how Xavier had successfully defeated Paul London twice, as his finish is a modified (more dangerous) version of the neckbreaker.  The selling of both men in this one was quite phenomenal, and makes you wonder what exactly caused Xavier to pretty much drift off into obscurity over the past several years.  Based on the day, I may say this tops Xavier's emotional encounter against London at the One Year Anniversary Show.
 
What I really love about this one is that it legitimized Xavier and showed after all almost a full year of usually not living up to his position in the company, he deserved it and was finally ready.  He not only went toe-to-toe technically with the established Daniels, he went toe-to-toe with him in terms of selling and playing the psychological games.  In the end, Daniels proved he was superior when it came down to who knew how to play dirty and get away with it.  A VERY pleasant surprise here, and I encourage Alan (of f4wonline.com) to go back and watch the work of Daniels in the early days of ROH.  He was just tremendous.
 
Rating: ****1/4
 
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
 
Nothing more than a delicious appetizer for the full course meals these two would later deliver.  I appreciated the simply storytelling of Joe's arm vs. Punk's leg, since they were both injured.  This would be a great match to end an episode of SmackDown! with.
 
If you've already got the 2004 trilogy from the Allied Forces DVD, go ahead and get the improved 2-disc version.  This match is a nice extra to the iconic shoot interview it comes with.
 
Rating: ***1/4
 
Relaxed Rules Match
Steve Corino vs. Homicide
 
This is one that stands the test of time.
 
Quite easily the best gimmick match up to that point, and for good reason.  Not only does it have the epic brutality, but at all times it kept the crowd engaged.  To have this style of match, which was based on simple hatred, and not focused on jaw-dropping spots, and have the crowd buying NEAR-FALLS at the end is something that should be seen to be truly believed.
 
What separates this also from the previous gimmick matches in ROH is that it wasn't a pile of career-ending moves.  There wasn't a significant rest period.  There wasn't a lack of storytelling.  They didn't go out there and kill a bunch of finishers.  Everything meant something in this match.  If there was anything wrong with the match, it's that a got a bit TOO brutal and caused injuries (making rest time needed but not too significantly), which kept the match from reaching the level of Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker at Bad Blood 1997 or Triple H vs. Cactus Jack at Royal Rumble 2000.  But you need not worry - this match still holds up today and is probably the greatest match of both men's careers, in front of a crowd of just 250 fans.
 
Rating: ****1/2
 
Punk closes out the show with yet another phenomenal self-important promo.
 
Up next - Beating the Odds
Matches will include:
Trent Acid vs. Homicide


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:02 PM

Beating the Odds - September 6, 2003
 
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Relaxed Rules Match
Trent Acid vs. Homicide
 
A good match, but doesn't match the unforgettable insanity of Wrestlerave.  That also means this match was safer for both men.  Since the rest of the show is pretty much mediocrity, this would be good to include on a new Homicide comp once that comes around.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Up next - Glory By Honor II
Matches will include:
Alexis Laree's ROH farewell
Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:03 PM

Glory By Honor II - September 20, 2003
 
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Alexis Laree's ROH Farewell
 
I'm not going to analyze this segment, as it was what it was.  Instead, I'm going to use this to point out something that I should have pointed out when Mickie James made her debut at Crowning a Champion - she is hands down the cutest woman I've ever seen in wrestling.
 
Prior to his match against Terry Funk, CM Punk cuts another excellent heel promo on the legend; no, I'm not watching that match.
 
ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels
 
This felt like a feud-ending Randy Orton match on SmackDown! - very good but nowhere close to a MOTYC.  That said, I can understand why fans claimed it was ****+ after the fucking show they sat through.  Daniels showed a different strategy in this match, one that I don't find personally as engaging as his work against Xavier, Paul London, and Doug Williams.  Instead of working a body part, he tried relying on his quickness, concerned that Joe's mass and aggression would overcome the technique.  In the end, Joe proved that Daniels brought a failed gameplan.
 
Rating: ***3/4
 
Up next - Tradition Continues
Matches will include:
CM Punk vs. AJ Styles
Xavier vs. Mark Briscoe vs. Homicide vs. John Walters
Samoa Joe vs. Jay Briscoe


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:03 PM

Tradition Continues - October 16, 2003
 
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CM Punk vs. AJ Styles
 
This was quite a bit better than I remembered.  Not the most engaging since they must have known they'd have rematches in the near future, but a satisfying surprise since I last saw this.  I enjoyed the focus on the back of Styles to try to disable his high-flying and leg-based offense.  Punk also did a great job of continuing to just be an annoying shithead (in a way that engages the viewer and audience.)
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Xavier vs. Mark Briscoe vs. Homicide vs. John Walters
 
Just a pile of moves and not five minutes went before the ref stopped enforcing tags.  I don't understand why these matches didn't just start as tornado rules.  I turned this off halfway through, as I knew this match was just gonna be more moves and nothing else.  All four guys are a lot better than this transparent attempt to just make the Baltimore crowd (this was the debut show for that martket) ejaculate and beg for an ROH return.
 
Rating: Less than ***
 
ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Jay Briscoe
 
Not as great as I remember, but still a damn fine main event to elevate Jay as a singles competitor.  This match, following his matches at Beating the Odds and Glory By Honor II, showed that there was nothing whatsoever about Joe's personality that was worthy of being respected.  In retrospect, for a several month period, it's quite apparent that the ONLY reason Joe got babyface reactions during this period was because of how bad-ass he was and he followed Xavier's unsatisfying reign.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Up next - Empire State Showdown
Matches will include:
John Walters vs. Christopher Daniels


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:03 PM

Empire State Showdown - October 25, 2003
 
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John Walters vs. Christopher Daniels
 
This was almost going to be quite the technical classic, but it was almost completely ruined by the spotfest it became at the end.  I will tack on extra 1/2* since Daniels sold the legwork post-match, although he didn't sell it as much as he should have.  Walters really went to work on the left leg of Daniels and it deserved to be sold for all the effort that was put into that segment of that match.  Walters wasn't as guilty with selling his back, which was the target for Daniels, but he showed some no-sell issues in the end also.  If the finishing sequence had been based off the first 90% of the match, this would have been a surefire classic and a breakout performance for Walters.
 
Xavier starts heading back toward my doghouse for his promo in the post-match.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Up next - Man Event Spectacles
Matches will include:
Homicide vs. BJ Whitmer
Scramble Cage Match
AJ Styles vs. Bryan Danielson


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:04 PM

Main Event Spectacles - November 1, 2003
 
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"Fighting Spirit Challenge"
Homicide vs. BJ Whitmer
 
I'm not sure why Gabe Sapolsky thought having Whitmer kick out of the Kudo Driver, in an artificial attempt to get the uncharismatic insomnia cure over with the audience, and doing nothing to organically lead to such a major moment, was a better idea than just giving into Low Ki and jobbing Homicide in what would have been a surefire great match.
 
I had to take a break after this match due to the frustration of it.  Homicide pre-TNA was a lot better than this.  A LOT better - even the matches with Trent Acid had so much effort behind the spotfests that they were that someone as hard-to-please as me could respect and admire them.  This was your typical non-gimmick Whitmer match, in which a list of moves is thrown onto a sheet of paper and they kick out of them.  Time has not been kind to this one.
 
Rating: Less than ***
 
Scramble Cage Match
Backseat Boyz vs. Teddy Hart & Jack Evans vs. Carnage Crew vs. The SAT vs. Angeldust & Hydro (Jay Lethal)
 
Another mindless spotfest, but with a lot more charm and open honesty.  I should note that two of my absolute favoritest grapplers of all-time locked up to start this one - Teddy Hart and Trent Acid.  While the match was a complete mess, it is a carwreck that should be seen at least once in every wrestling fan's lifetime.  It didn't go on for too long, and in fact ended at the perfect time now that I think about it.  This kind of match though is HORRIBLE for pacing a show.
 
Rating: less than ***
 
ROH Title Shot Match
AJ Styles vs. Bryan Danielson
 
After sitting through what I consider to be a horrendous in-ring show that has not stood the test of time, this one saved it in spades.  This should have easily been a five star match, but I blame the Scramble Cage for burning the crowd out, as well as the awful fourway in between.  This match deserved a Philly, NYC, or Boston crowd.
 
Not only did these men build off of their All Star Extravaganza classic, but they obviously studied their five star classics against Paul London too.  In this one, Danielson came one step closer to his heel turn that was lurking inside him, and instead of a sympathetic London, you had the ultra-aggressive Styles instead.  A recipe for a MOTYC if you ask me.
 
The counters in this match, which were a mix of new stuff as well as moves from their previous major matches, were just beautiful and graceful.  The psychology, going back-and-forth between the left arm of Styles and Danielson's left knee, was nothing short of breathtaking.  The aggression, not just fueled by the competitive professional spirit of both men, was only intensified all-the-more as both men gave it their all for another shot at the company's premier championship.
 
If Sapolsky had just paced this event better, this contest could have been on the same level of matches that both men had with London earlier in 2003.  This is where the pacing problems began to glare for Sapolsky before he cut a lot of Rob Feinstein's dead weight in 2004.  The crowd heat suffered going into this one, and that is through absolutely no fault of AJ Styles or Bryan Danielson.
 
Not only is the 2/3 falls match against London on Danielson's new ROH comp, but this match is as well.  As if you needed another reason to get that DVD now.  If you haven't seen this match already, get that comp during the current ongoing sale ROH is having.
 
Rating: ****1/2
 
Good Times, Great Memories
Guests: Carnage Crew
 
A fantastic edition of Colt Cabana's talk show, as he just had so much FUN chemistry with Loc & Devito.
 
Steve Corino closes out the show with a fantastic promo that has me pumped for his no rope barbed wire match against Homicide.
 
Up next - The Conclusion
Matches will include:
Homicide vs. John Walters
Briscoe Bros. vs. Samoa Joe & AJ Styles
CM Punk vs. Raven


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:04 PM

The Conclusion - November 28, 2003
 
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Homicide vs. John Walters
 
A nice undercard match to help elevate Walters and keep Homicide's momentum going for the feud with Steve Corino.  I loved how testy these two got with one another and that Walters was coming so close to getting his first major victory in the company.  Why this gets forgotten in favor of that shitty BJ Whitmer match from Main Event Spectacles is quite the appalling mystery.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Tag Titles Match
Briscoe Bros. vs. Samoa Joe & AJ Styles
 
 
A good but forgettable tag match.  It had all the basics down on paper - manipulation by the Briscoes, aggression for Styles, furthering the Joe vs. Briscoes feud, Joe and Styles losing their chemistry at the end - it just didn't have the pace to make this anywhere near a classic.  Still a million light years ahead of the series involving Amazing Red though.
 
Rating: ***
 
Loser Leaves Town - Cage Match
Raven vs. CM Punk
 
Now this is more like it.  A nice way to finish this feud, as it didn't have the pedestrian crowd-brawling spilling over from the days of ECW and Vince Russo.  This had hatred and a sense of urgency thanks to the stipulation, but at the end the issue between the two of them almost cost each other the match.  Just a great cage match, and while this feud has been topped over and over again in the past decade, this is the one that made Punk a CHARACTER to build the federation around.
 
Rating: ****
 
Up next - War of the Wire
Matches will include:
Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles
Homicide vs. Steve Corino


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:04 PM

War of the Wire - November 29, 2003
 
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ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles
 
A pleasant surprise, as this was damn good and quite a bit better than I remembered.  I loved the counters in this one, and Styles brought his ferocity as usual to combat Joe's size.  My favorite spot had to be when Styles jumped over the guardrail and did a jumping lariat instead of attempting something leg-based - it showed that he respected Joe's studying and training habits too much to risk repeating spots done in the title shot matches against Paul London and Bryan Danielson.  In the end though, Styles completely wore himself out (especially by POWERBOMBING Joe) and that cost him the match, as Joe still had enough stamina to finish him.
 
Rating: ****
 
No Rope Barbed Wire Match
Homicide vs. Steve Corino
 
Just a tad bit below their Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies epic for me personally, but this was still a classic nonetheless.  Their initial fear of the barb wire, quickly being overcome by the pure hatred they had towards one another, was gorgeous to watch.  This match, which on the surface just looks to be nothing more than an OMG gorefest, actually had a bigger purpose - how much pain would these men put their own selves through to inflict it on each other?  This mentality they both displayed throughout the match, as well as how their previous match concluded, was nothing short of breathtaking as they reached the finish.  These two awesome matches not only were masterful in terms of showing how much animosity there was, but also had both coming out as even more bad-ass than they were before.
 
Rating: ****1/4
 
Up next - Final Battle 2003
Matches will include:
Jay Briscoe vs. Bryan Danielson
Xavier vs. John Walters
Turmeric Storm vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:04 PM

Final Battle 2003 - December 27, 2003
 
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Jay Briscoe vs. Bryan Danielson
 
A damn fine opener that did its job - get the blood flowing for the crowd, but don't have a MOTYC, and keep the match logical.  These two could have easily main evented a show and had a ****+ match.  Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to the Briscoes vs. Samoa Joe & Danielson match on the next show.
 
This also happens to be on Danielson's new ROH comp.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Hardcore Match
Xavier vs. John Walters
 
Very similar to the Homicide vs. Trent Acid match at Wrestlerave, but not quite the amazing spectacle.  There's a lot of shit in this match that I'm sure both men regret, especially the finish.  Another stupidly entertaining spot was the springboard 450 to the outside on Walters through a table.  I'm sure that was worth it.  Really fun match not only to end this mid-card feud, but conclude the journey of Walters to his first major singles victory.
 
Rating: ***1/4
 
Who Attacked Lucy?
 
After all these months of building this up, shows and matches being interrupted, planting the seeds for this mega-feud, this major push goes to...
 
BJ Whitmer.  Yeah.  He certainly earned it after that shitty Field of Honor final earlier in the night.
 
Turmeric Storm vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana
 
I really enjoyed this TAG TEAM match quite a bit.  There wasn't a single moment of failure to enforce tag rules, and pinfalls were only counted for the legal men.  This is important because when rules are enforced, it makes the insanity mean more when it happens on rare occasion.  Much like the opener, this wasn't meant to be a MOTYC - it did its job of just being a good match after intermission, and it's a shame the other AJPW matches that followed couldn't take a cue from this one.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Good Times, Great Memories
Guests: Special K
 
Short and sweet.  I'm starting to see why Carnage Crew are missed - I'd certainly take them over Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin.
 
SUPER DUPER ROH 2003 AWARDS
 
Wrestler of the Year:
Homicide and Christopher Daniels
Runner-up - Paul London
 
Debut of the Year:
BJ Whitmer - Revenge on the Prophecy
 
Breakout Performance of the Year:
CM Punk on the microphone @ Do or Die
 
Feud/Rivalry of the Year:
Raven vs. CM Punk
Runner-up - Homicide vs. Steve Corino and Samoa Joe vs. Briscoe Bros.
 
Show of the Year:
One Year Anniversary Show
Runner-up - Revenge on the Prophecy and Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies
 
Moment of the Year:
Paul London's farewell @ Death Before Dishonor
Runner-up - Samoa Joe's ROH title win @ Night of Champions and Great Muta's appearance @ Final Battle 2003
 
Match of the Year:
Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson - The Epic Encounter *****
Runner-up - AJ Styles vs. Paul London - Night of the Grudges *****
 
ROH's Top 10 Matches of 2003 (in chronological order):
Low Ki vs. Paul London vs. AJ Styles - One Year Anniversary Show ****1/4
Xavier vs. Paul London - One Year Anniversary Show ****
Christopher Daniels vs. Doug Williams - Night of Champions ****3/4
Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson - The Epic Encounter *****
Paul London vs. Christopher Daniels - Retribution: Round Robin Challenge II ****1/2
AJ Styles vs. Paul London - Night of the Grudges *****
Xavier vs. Christopher Daniels - Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies ****1/4
Steve Corino vs. Homicide - Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies ****1/2
AJ Styles vs. Bryan Danielson - Main Event Spectacles ****1/2
Homicide vs. Steve Corino - War of the Wire ****1/4
 
Up next - The Battle Lines Are Drawn
Matches will include:
Alex Shelley vs. Matt Stryker
Homicide vs. AJ Styles
Briscoe Bros. vs. Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson
Second City Saints vs. Christopher Daniels, Dan Maff, & BJ Whitmer


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:05 PM

The Battle Lines Are Drawn - January 10, 2004
 
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Pure Wrestling Rules Match
Alex Shelley vs. Matt Stryker
 
A damn fine opener here, as Stryker's lack of charisma wasn't quite so obvious yet and he was working with the always tremendous Shelley.  Great psychology, great selling, great storytelling.  Get the crowd pumped for the rest of the night.  Most importantly, get the new gimmick division over.  A nice challenger to Bryan Danielson's matches against Jay Briscoe and Christopher Daniels for best ROH opener ever.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Good Times, Great Memories
Guest: Ace Steel
 
Yeah this RULED until CM Punk showed up and convinced Ace Steel to do his retarded "look at me, I'm a pissed off motherfucker" face that nobody ever bought.
 
Homicide vs. AJ Styles
 
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one.  For some reason, I was honestly expecting an empty spotfest.  Instead, you got two men who respected one another but would absolutely push each other as competitors.  This got vicious, this got heated, and had some decent storytelling too.  I could see this getting better with more viewings.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Tag Titles Match
Briscoe Bros. vs. Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson
 
Another damn good match - I shudder to think of this rematch in 2006-2008.  It ultimately became a battle of which sum was greater - the Briscoes' chemistry under the new tutelage of Jim Cornette, or the aggression and determination of Joe & Danielson?  Mix in some better selling with this match and you would have had a MOTYC right here.
 
Rating: ***3/4
 
The Second City Saints vs. Christopher Daniels, Dan Maff, & BJ Whitmer
 
I've never quite understood the psychology of why the Prophecy were treated as babyfaces by the commentary and crowd.  I know that Punk was obnoxious and overbearing.  He even attacked a woman before.  But did his crimes fit the punishment of someone he viewed as a loved one being put into a hospital for months?
 
When Punk attacked Trinity at Expect the Unexpected, he didn't do it so severely as to scar her for life or say fuck you to Raven.  He did it to make sure she was a non-factor in that hardcore match.  That's it.  He treated Raven like absolute shit, but you could tell he had some conviction into his reasoning for it.  He honestly believed that Raven was a piece of trash.
 
Daniels & Whitmer had absolutely no justifiable reason for what they did to Lucy.  OH NOEZ Whitmer, Punk was being mean to you about that shitty match you had with him.  Yeah, that totally makes it okay to hospitalize a woman for an extended period of time just because she was significant to him.
 
For Daniels, he was obviously tired of getting his ass kicked by Low Ki, Styles, Joe, and Doug Williams, so he moved onto Punk just to fuck with him mentally.  Maybe he felt that after the way he treated the company by shitting on the Code of Honor, going after Punk would win him the locker room and he could wiggle his way into getting the company to do favors for him.  What he didn't realize is how narcissistic Punk could truly be, and karma came biting HARD.
 
I also had complete empathy for Punk - if one of my loved ones was hospitalized or murdered, I'd be out for blood as well.  Anybody who would sabotage me would face my consequences too.  When this kind of line is crossed, it's pure emotion.  But with his attitude during this match (I don't have a problem with what he did afterwards), the only parties that truly deserved empathy were Cabana and Maff (for being team players and true friends) and Lucy (for the obvious reason.)
 
This match for unknown reasons started as a regular tag, only to get out of control later on.  With the heat this feud already had, there was no reason to make it anything but a gimmick match from the get-go.  That said, Maff's performance as Ricky Morton in this contest was REALLY impressive considering he's Dan Maff.
 
I don't understand why Punk was playing a chickenshit in this - he was the one out for revenge, not Daniels or anyone else on the Prophecy.  Just weird.  I guess everyone just decided to play along with the crowd reaction to both factions.
 
The real story of this whole chapter was in the post-match.  The message was sent loud and clear: You do NOT fuck with CM Punk.  EVER.  There are severe consequences for doing so.  Just like what happened to Lucy, Daniels was put into hospitalization as well.  Whitmer's lucky he was still left standing.
 
Afterwards, Punk cuts a tremendous promo explaining how karma came back to bite Daniels.  Maff then followed up with a laughable attempt at an emotional promo, and completely overlooking that his friends put their hands in the cookie jar first.
 
This whole thing was for the most part entertaining, due to the sheer work of all men involved (yes, that includes Steel and Whitmer.)  But with a more logical layout to the storyline and match, this could have maybe been THE Match of the Year.  Instead, it's a fun spectacle that did the most it could with its logic shortcomings.
 
Rating: ***3/4
 
Up next - The Last Stand
Matches will include:
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Alex Shelley
CM Punk vs. Homicide
Briscoe Bros. vs. Samoa Joe & Jerry Lynn


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:07 PM

The Last Stand - January 29, 2004
 
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The nostalgia returns immediately - this show marks the debut of THE S TO THE S TO THE P~!  (Sugar Sean Price)
 
Christopher Daniels cuts a promo via satellite - decent but again I'm not fully engaged into this heel vs. heel feud.  Perhaps if the commentary called both groups out on their bullshit I'd be more into it.  You didn't hear Jim Ross taking Edge or Randy Orton's side during their classic match in 2007; for whatever reason, Gabe Sapolsky seems to take the Prophecy's side at every standpoint, or completely gloss over that they stuck their hands in the cookie jar first.
 
Good Times, Great Memories
Guests: Dunn & Marcos
 
This sucked and just wasn't fucking entertaining at all.  Colt Cabana had no clue how to ad-lib for the unenthusiastic crowd.
 
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Alex Shelley
 
Good but nothing special, as neither guy had done anything of note yet in ROH, so the crowd heat wasn't there, plus it was white-meat Shelley.  Nice submissions and counters though, and I enjoyed the post-match.
 
Rating: ***1/4
 
CM Punk vs. Homicide
 
This one put me to sleep.  Not horrible, but not a good match in any way.  Bad night for both men and they could do much better as their previous match at Retribution: Round Robin Challenge II showed.
 
Rating: Less than ***
 
Tag Titles Match
Briscoe Bros. vs. Samoa Joe & Jerry Lynn
 
Good tag, but nothing close to the one involving Bryan Danielson on the previous show.  A shitty finish that looked intentionally botched too to give Lynn an excuse to do the cradle piledriver since he didn't do it at all in the match.  The highlight was easily Cornette doing a fantastic job of retorting to Lynn's real-life, world-is-out-to-get-me bitter potshots at WWE and keeping it kayfabe.
 
Joe cuts a GREAT promo afterwards (and like Daniels, he completely neglects to mention that he started his entire feud with the Briscoes by treating them like shit.)  He does his job of getting me pumped for the cage match, and even the Prophecy threeway scheduled.  Then Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer cut a promo that almost put me back to sleep, even though it's less than a minute.
 
Rating: ***
 
I can easily see why this DVD took so long to go OOP and ROH never bothered restocking it.  Perhaps I shouldn't be saying that as this will be one of many OOP masters I'll be unloading soon, but I'm not here to milk you the viewers out of your money; this thread is to give you honest recommendations.  Find a cheap way to see Shelley vs. Jacobs and avoid everything else unless you MUST have the entire ROH DVD collection in your closet.  This was easily one of the worst shows ROH ever hosted.  Maybe it's because it's a Baltimore show, but it left an SBG-like bad taste in my mouth.  
 
Up next - Second Anniversary Show
Matches will include:
The good shit from the Pure Title Tournament, including CM Punk vs. John Walters, Chris Sabin vs. Doug Williams, a semifinal, and the final
Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki vs. Dan Maff vs. BJ Whitmer


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:07 PM

Second Anniversary Show - February 14, 2004
 
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Pure Title Tournament Quarterfinal (Regular Rules)
CM Punk vs. John Walters
 
A perfect way to open the show.  Punk being a douche-bag by imitating the entrance of Christopher Daniels.  The hometown guy Walters.  Sound psychology and storytelling.  No complaints here.  One of the best openers in company history.
 
Rating: ***1/4
 
Pure Title Tournament Quarterfinal (Regular Rules)
Chris Sabin vs. Doug Williams
 
 
These two needed a few more minutes plus a tad bit more experience for Sabin, but there was nothing wrong with this match at all.  Just not memorable, but the effort was a lot better than another match that came up later in the tournament.
 
Rating: less than ***
 
Pure Title Tournament Semifinal (Regular Rules)
CM Punk vs. Doug Williams
 
My easy pick for match of the night - just some great storytelling and nice clash of styles.  Big, big fan of this one, and I wish these two could have rematched later in the year.  And the surprising thing - the heat segment of Williams was actually more engaging than Punk's.
 
Rating: ***3/4
 
ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki vs. Dan Maff vs. BJ Whitmer
 
I would consider this match to be a minor miracle.  It was a good match, but not as great as it could have been.  What makes that miraculous is that this included Maff and Whitmer, who did their absolute best, resulting in them NOT bringing this match down.  But their participation in this one did nothing to add to it either.
 
This one had a couple monitoring problems from the ref, but probably the least annoying that I'd seen so far.  This also lacked the deep storytelling that you know Joe vs. Ki II could have provided, but that's not really Maff or Whitmer's fault - I'm at the point where I can accept that they're NOT CAPABLE of being consistently skilled in-ring storytellers.  Of course, the highlights are the exchanges between Joe and Ki.  Just phenomenal stuff whenever we got to see it.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Pure Title Tournament Final
CM Punk vs. AJ Styles
 
(Note: the above video does NOT have the pre-match intros or the post-match championship ceremony.)
 
This might very well be the most disappointing match in ROH history.  Don't be fooled by all the elements going for this match - that it's CM Punk vs. AJ Styles, that's it to determine the first ever Pure Champion, that it's the main event for a historic show.  This is in no way a historic match in terms of performance.
 
Just rewind back to June 2003 in Boston, when Styles sold like a king in his ***** masterpiece against Paul London.  He came into this one with a glaring leg/knee injury, and did one of the most lackluster sell jobs I've ever seen.  Combine that with the storyline of Punk getting fucked out of rope breaks in a cheap way to build to a rematch, and yeah, I'll call this one a disaster.  This was just boring and insulting.
 
Rating: less than ***
 
Good Times, Great Memories
Guest: Ace Steel
 
YOU MUST SEE THIS.  God I love Ace Steel as a comedy curtain-jerker.  He was born to be that role.  And the special surprise is just tremendous.
 
Up next - At Our Best
Matches will include:
Jerry Lynn vs. Nigel McGuinness
AJ Styles vs. CM Punk
Samoa Joe vs. Jay Briscoe


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:07 PM

At Our Best - March 13, 2004
 
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Jerry Lynn vs. Nigel McGuinness
 
Nothing more an inoffensive exhibition of movesets from one another.  Perfectly acceptable wrestling.
 
Rating: Less than ***
 
Pure Title Match
Guest Ref - Ricky Steamboat
AJ Styles vs. CM Punk
 
This had some AWESOME moments in it, but for some reason, the whole doesn't seem to be as good as the sum of the parts.  Something in this was just missing.  Maybe Punk was just not meant for this style; maybe Styles wasn't either.  But something was definitely missing.  To be positive, this came nowhere close to the level of annoying as their match the previous month.
 
What this did accomplish though was setting up the next major angle for Punk beautifully, and I can already see that Punk vs. Steamboat holds up very well over time.  Too bad WWE didn't take advantage and do the angle when Steamboat came out of retirement and Punk turned heel in 2009.
 
Rating: ***
 
ROH Title - Cage Match
Samoa Joe vs. Jay Briscoe
 
Four shows and three months in, and ROH finally lived up to its reputation - a truly great match happened.  This really was just some tremendous stuff, establishing the true tenacity that the Briscoes have.  Rather than be dominated by fear when Joe locked the cage door, Jay took advantage of the opportunity to give him a receipt for shitty treatment of them over the previous several months.
 
This match is not only great, but I'd say historically important - it proved to Joe that the Briscoes were someone he'd maybe count on in the future to go to war with, and also displayed the brutality the Briscoes would be willing to endure in later feuds down the road.  YOU WANNA SEE THIS.
 
Rating: ****1/4
 
I forward to the final moments of the show and hear Gabe Sapolsky say that this is the company "at our best."  No Gabe, this was not.
 
Joe ambushes Julius Smokes and accepts Homicide's challenge for a title match, being a complete douche-bag about the situation.  I wonder if there will be any severe consequences for that.
 
I'm taking a little break here to start other federation rewatch projects.  Not a very long one. but just taking one.  This is the perfect time to do it anyway due to LOL I'LL PRETEND U SAID 18.
 
Up next when this returns - Reborn Stage 1
Matches will include:
CM Punk vs. Bryan Danielson
Samoa Joe vs. Homicide


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:08 PM

Reborn Stage 1 - April 23, 2004
 
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CM Punk vs. Bryan Danielson
Guest Ref - Ricky Steamboat
 
(Note: the above video does NOT include the important post-match.)
 
While this doesn't measure up to the matches they've had on PPV or their 2/3 falls match, it fits right in with all of their other work.  You had two fresh characters facing off for the first time ever, complete with a HOFer guest reffing to further his storyline with Punk (which has held up VERY well.)  This has the obvious feel-out process for the first several to 10 minutes, but the main psychological story of the match becomes Punk's ribs.  This combined with his time spent jaw-jacking with Steamboat costs him the match against the technically superior Danielson.
 
Rating: ***3/4
 
ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Homicide
 
This is just as good as their Do or Die match.  They beat the hell out of each other and did a great job of getting over how frustrated they were becoming with one another.  Karma finally catches up to Joe when Homicide does his psychopathic heel turn, knocking out refs left and right and giving the champion a fireball to the face.  A chaotic and LOUD statement that ROH, in the wake of the RF scandal, was truly reborn.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Up next - Reborn Stage 2
Matches will include:
Jimmy Rave vs. Rocky Romero vs. Austin Aries vs. Nigel McGuinness
Carnage Crew vs. Dunn Marcos vs. Jack Evans & Matt Sydal vs. Jimmy Jacobs & Alex Shelley
Briscoe Bros. vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:08 PM

Reborn Stage 2 - April 24, 2004
 
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Jimmy Rave vs. Rocky Romero vs. Austin Aries vs. Nigel McGuinness
 
An extremely fun and well thrown-together spotfest, with some surprisingly good psychology.  What keeps it from being great psychology is the usual inconsistency with enforcing tags - I'm not going to shrug my shoulders and deem this acceptable.  This match did its job though in launching the ROH careers of all four men - by year's end, it was inevitable that each wrestler would be an integral part of the current/future scene of the company.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson
 
A dream match that is underappreciated due to it being "too long."  The length of this match allowed for Homicide to show his new dark side gimmick, which in turn led to what I will never be unhappy with in a match - an irritated and pissed off Danielson.  Not only do they both bring an annoyed irritation and anger to the match, but this match is dripping with psychology.  The technical story of the match eventually became Homicide's right hand (he injured it when he missed Danielson and punched a guardrail, showing that his dark side may not be the end-all, be-all answer to getting what he wants) vs. Danielson's neck (perfect to set up for the Kudo Driver.)  And although it may seem like the finish was dripping with no-selling, it wasn't.  This wasn't a Davey Richards "fuck whatever limb work we've done and just go balls-to-the-wall" style of match.  The finish was a moment of Homicide temporarily telling his pain to fuck off so he could get this win that he needed not only to get momentum for the inevitable title shot at Joe, but to make sure his new heel turn got started the correct way.  His immediate post-match selling of the hand makes this quite obvious.
 
Rating: ****1/4
 
Scramble Match
Carnage Crew vs. Dunn & Marcos vs. Jack Evans & Matt Sydal vs. Jimmy Jacobs & Alex Shelley
 
An entertainingly inoffensive spotfest designed to get some attention on the four unestablished acts, and to build to Shelley's planned big moment for Generation Next on May 22 in Philadelphia.  Wonder what he's got planned.
 
Tag Titles Match
Briscoe Bros. vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana
 
A match that is one of the many that to me does not hold up as a classic MOTYC.  It started off the right way, with tag psychology, cutting the ring in half, building to a hot tag, etc.  Then the ref just stops enforcing tags and doesn't even bother keeping track of who's legal.  The result is a fun and historic tag match, but not the great one that would be compared with the likes of mid-90s AJPW or the SmackDown/Heyman Six.  
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Up next - Round Robin Challenge III
Matches will include:
Samoa Joe vs. Ricky Reyes
Homicide vs. Brian Kendrick
Briscoe Bros. vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:08 PM

Round Robin Challenge III - May 15, 2004
 
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In the opener, CM Punk & Colt Cabana lose the Tag Titles to Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer.  What really matters is Ricky Steamboat celebrating with the Prophecy afterward and when by himself in the ring, the Second City Saints double-team him, with Punk hitting a guillotine legdrop on Steamboat on a table in the ring.
 
What also matters is that Maff & Whitmer lose the belts later on in the evening to the Briscoes.  
 
Samoa Joe vs. Ricky Reyes
 
Nothing more than a nice tune-up for Joe for his title defense the next week against Homicide.  As good of a Ricky Reyes singles match as you'll ever see.
 
Rating: less than ***
 
Homicide vs. Brian Kendrick
 
Now this was quite interesting, as the contest pitted a psychopath against an oddball.  Kendrick proves very quickly that he's willing to play dirty in his own wacky way, managing to outsmart Homicide at times.  Homicide though, with the help of Julius Smokes, shows he refuses to lose his momentum going into his title shot against Joe and he will be damned otherwise.  And I actually liked the interference in this one - it got over Homicide's heel turn even more, showing that he will do whatever it takes to get ahead now (extremely important for Joe to get that message), while protecting Kendrick and his Shiranui finisher.
 
Post-match, the Rottweilers beat the shit out of Joe and give him multiple piledrivers.
 
Rating: ***1/2
 
Tag Titles - Round Robin Challenge Match #3
Briscoe Bros. vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana
 
This was definitely an improvement over their overrated title change at Reborn Stage 2.  With this one, there was the simple story of Mark having injured ribs from a match earlier in the evening, and the Saints cut the ring in half for a significant amount of time, channeling the spirit of Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard and the Midnight Express with great tag team psychology.  And when Mark got the hot tag, it fucking meant something.
 
Unfortunately after the hot tag, the match turned into the average indy tag team contest.  The ref couldn't bother to enforce who is and isn't legal.  Had he done so, I'd be discussing a possible MOTYC here.
 
Post-match a brawl ensues involving Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer, but it's absolutely meaningless as Ricky Steamboat shows up to destroy Punk, right after he had just been in a hard-fought main event and getting retribution for everything so far in the feud.
 
Rating: ***3/4
 
Alex Shelley promises a big surprise next weekend, specifically making references about climbing the ladder to success, and leaves the building with a new guy named Roderick Strong.
 
Up next - Generation Next
Matches and segments will include:
Alex Shelley's big surprise
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Nigel McGuinness
CM Punk & Colt Cabana vs. Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer
CM Punk and Ricky Steamboat confrontation
Samoa Joe vs. Homicide


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:08 PM

Generation Next - May 22, 2004
 
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Good Times, Great Memories
Guest: Trent Acid
 
Entertaining segment that forwarded the Carnage Crew gym bag defecation storyline, an angle that I've come to appreciate more over the years as undercard fun, and it fit the gimmick of the Crew quite well.  That such antics have actually happened on the road only adds to it.  (It'd turn out to be the new Carnage Crew that committed the heinous crime as revealed later on the show.)
 
Alex Shelley's Big Surprise
 
What is supposed to be a filler scramble opener involving Dunn & Marcos, Special K, and the Christopher St. Connection instead turns into one of the most important segments in ROH and independent wrestling history.  Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, & Jack Evans interrupt the ring entrances, destroying the Connection (never to be seen again in ROH) and Ring Crew Express.  Shelley then announces that the series of "Generation Next" matches are cancelled in favor of the four hungry upstarts forming Generation Next so that they can together become stars overnight.  Special K (who are on a very bad streak) come out and we get some quick opening matches.
 
Impromptu Match
Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, & Jack Evans vs. Izzy, Dixie, & Angeldust
 
Not as effective as I would hope.  GeNext plain and simple should have decimated Special K within 2 minutes to mark their territory immediately as an unfuckable faction.
 
Impromptu Match
Alex Shelley vs. Hydro (Jay Lethal)
 
This one wasn't as annoying as the previous match, as it did a great job of getting over Shelley as the leader of GeNext, and showing the potential Lethal had to be a breakout singles competitor.  Perfectly executed.
 
GeNext would later attack Jimmy Rave and John Walters before those two wrestlers squared off.
 
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Nigel McGuinness
 
Didn't expect this one to hold up as anything more than an acceptable, and it surprised me.  It was quick and to the point of slowly showing that these two were definitely on their way up, although I didn't care for Jacobs kicking out of the Tower of London.
 
Rating: ***
 
Tag Titles - Hardcore Match
CM Punk & Colt Cabana vs. Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer
 
A good match that would have just been great had their been no attempts at maintaining order.  This was an out-and-out blood feud at this point and it was known beforehand that this was a hardcore rules style match.
 
Rating: ***1/4
 
Impromptu Match
Briscoe Bros., Jimmy Rave, & John Walters vs. Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, & Jack Evans
 
This match is set-up when GeNext come out to threaten the Briscoes after their match against the Outcast Killaz, only for Rave & Walters to show up to even the odds.
 
This MAY be a perfect match.  This had psychology from both teams.  This had a great feeling-out process in the first third of the match that made sense.  These eight men didn't expect to be wrestling each other on this night.  There were also many, many great moments of offense that just did nothing short of amaze.  For over 40 minutes, these eight men just went out there and tore the fucking house down.  With it being an eight-man tag, I'm also more than happy to empathize with the ref not being able to maintain order down the stretch - to try doing so would be an exercise in futility.
 
This match also had many great segments of cutting the ring in half from the babyface and heel side.  Things sometimes got a little dirty too, as the makeshift babyface squad was fed up with the antics of GeNext.  Ultimately though, the antics of GeNext earlier in the evening (Aries piledriving Walters) paid off in spades, as the finish came when Walters couldn't get out of Shelley's Border City Stretch, having no choice but to tap out.
 
This is nothing short of a classic, and I'd throw it in the mix with Gabe Sapolsky's greatest booked matches.  THIS is how you make stars overnight.  THIS is how you establish not only a dominant act, but get other wrestlers that are just treading water into something productive.  And in the process, the fans got to see one of the damnedest matches they've ever seen.  I can't quite put this on the same level as Low Ki vs. Bryan Danielson, Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson, and AJ Styles vs. Paul London, but dammit it's close.
 
Rating: ****3/4
 
CM Punk and Ricky Steamboat confrontation
 
This really was quite simple and predictable.  Asshole new guy tries to antagonize a retired HOFer as a means to draw attention to himself.  And guess what?  It fucking works.  The promo Punk cuts is another one to add to his collection of great ones, and then his deceit into physicality with Steamboat for a couple minutes is great stuff, making me REALLY wish WWE had done Punk vs. Steamboat in 2009.  Thumbs up here.
 
ROH Title - Relaxed Rules Match - There Must Be a Winner
Samoa Joe vs. Homicide
 
This def needs to be on a new comp soon, as it holds up tremendously.  This match does what the Saints vs. Prophecy should have done - immediately establish that this is a WAR.  Whereas the impromptu show-stealing match earlier is a "work of art" style of match, this is just brutality and hatred.  They beat the shit out of each other without destroying the bad-ass personas of one another.  This has hard hits, dangerous drops, ghetto forks, ambushes, hardway bleeding.  None of those things are what I'd personally encourage, but in this one they serve as purposeful elements.  The finish is a tad meh, but it established that the sheer size and hatred of Joe is too much for Homicide to overcome.  Supposedly they go on to top this month two months later.  I'm looking forward to it.
 
Rating: ****
 
This is simply one of the greatest pro wrestling events I've ever seen.  It has great wrestling.  It has varieties of wrestling and characters.  It has forward progression of storylines in an interesting fashion.  It has breakout performances.  It plants seeds for the undercard to become more important down the road.  This is pretty much a perfect show, and it turned out to be without spending a shitload of money flying in huge stars of that time from WWE or NOAH.  This is EASILY ROH's best show of 2004, better than any 2002 or 2003 show from the company - some matches later in 2004 may be better than anything on this event, but no event as a whole in ROH's first three years can measure up to it.
 
Get this NOW.  And yes, I do have one master copy I'm looking to get rid of.
 
Up next - World TItle Classic
Matches will include:
Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, & Roderick Strong vs. Jimmy Rave, John Walters, & Matt Stryker
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:09 PM

World Title Classic - June 12, 2004
 
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Impromptu Match
Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, & Roderick Strong vs. Jimmy Rave, John Walters, & Matt Stryker
 
This was advertised as Shelley vs. Stryker, but in another genius moment for Gabe Sapolsky, it turned into an impromptu six man tag match after GeNext destroyed Stryker and busted his forehead open.  Walters kindly responded by sloppily dropping Jack Evans onto the hardwood floor from inside the ring.  I’d have politicked Walters down the card to Sapolsky had I been Evans.
 
This is a match that has held up extremely well.  While it couldn’t measure up to the impromptu MOTYC on the prior event, this one still stands it on its own as an outstanding classic.  You had cutting the ring in half for both sides once again, with the early psychological story being the babyfaces working on Strong’s knee (his selling of it later in the match was quite impressive to me), and then GeNext destroying Rave’s back in the later majority of the match.
 
The match got a bit out of control, but in this case it psychologically works for me because that's what GeNext does.  Unlike the other heel stable of that time the Rottweilers, they didn’t just cause chaos for shits and giggles – they did so to manipulate the matches in their favor.  The teasing of the hot tag was just magnificent, getting the crowd amped up and anxious for it to happen.  When it did finally happen, the match turned into chaos, but remarkably no near-falls were counted by the ref except on those who were legal.  The finish was also brilliant, with Aries doing a 450 to Rave as the AJ Styles protégé had a Crippler Crossface locked on Shelley, and then submitting Rave with a Rings of Saturn.  Just brilliant booking, as it further cemented GeNext, gave Walters & Stryker something productive to do, and furthered the plateau that Rave had reached (he was on his last legs with being cut from the fed if he didn’t put together some victories.)  Just a great six man tag match.
 
Rating; ****
 
ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
 
To this point, not only was this the most critically acclaimed match of Joe's title reign, but it was actually deserving of such recognition.  It was his greatest defense, with a perfect gameplan that while it didn't earn the title for Punk, it began the slow demise of Joe's reign.
 
Unlike all other previous opponents, Punk came at Joe immediately with a shitload of headlocks to keep the beginning stages slow and in his control rather than go apeshit, shocking Joe in the process.  This was critical to when Joe got his heat segments on Punk - while his strikes were still devastating, Punk had worn him down too much for him to quickly capitalize on those strikes as he has become accustomed to.
 
Joe's strikes though were still effective - while he couldn't finish Punk off with them due to Punk's perfect strategy, their devastating effect on Punk was a great way to offset Punk's work on him.  Whereas Punk used a slow mat-based style, Joe still relied on his strikes, and it slowed both of them down.
 
What I found to be the most important moment in the later stages of the match was when Joe dropped Punk knees-first onto the mat.  Moments later, when Punk was able to reverse a superplex attempt into a Pepsi Plunge, the pain was too fresh in his knees to cover Joe for the decisive pinfall, instead rolling out of the ring.
 
This was by no means a perfect match - it was a work in progress.  While not an absolute masterpiece, it was nothing less than excellent.  It confirmed that Punk was now to be one of the very top acts on the roster as a singles competitor.  It took a "meh" challenger and turned him into the #1 Contender.  It made the champion look mortal.  And it not only planted seeds for a rematch, but also was the first glaring example that Joe's days as champion were numbered.
 
Rating: ****1/2
 
Up next - Survival of the Fittest 2004
Matches will include:
The 2004 Survival of the Fittest Elimination Match


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Posted 05 March 2016 - 10:09 PM

Survival of the Fittest 2004 - June 24, 2004
 
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2004 Survival of the Fittest Qualifier
Jack Evans vs. Bryan Danielson
 
A perfectly executed match and highly recommended for casual WWE viewers.  In what is an extended squash, you get all the key elements of both characters – the entertaining side of Danielson, plus you also get a great taste of how vicious, barbaric, and even arrogant (sometimes blowing up in his face) he can be at times.  It is a great showcase of his technical side also.  For Evans, it gets over how obnoxious he is, and this match is very important in establishing the pain threshold that he has during the early stages of Generation Next.  Not a MOTYC, but that isn’t the intention of this match; it did its job flawlessly.
 
2004 Survival of the Fittest Elimination Match
Samoa Joe vs. Colt Cabana vs. Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson vs. Mark Briscoe vs. Austin Aries
 
I've compared this match before to Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa from June 1990 and Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin from WrestleMania 13, and for good reason.  That comparison still holds up today. In the past few years, the closest (but not quite as great) that you'll find to this match is Tyler Black vs. Danielson from Breakout and Chris Hero vs. Akira Tozawa from the 2010 Battle of Los Angeles.
 
I want to take a quick moment to get the negatives out of the way - the tag issues.  My problem with them wasn't that the ref stopped enforcing them.  He momentarily just stopped doing so in an inconsistent fashion.  This put a small damper on the early eliminations, which should've been just absolute gold based on what they lead to on future shows.
 
The idea of using this match to make new challengers for both the ROH and Tag Titles was a stroke of genius.  Not only just using the winner of this stacked contest to create a top contender to the ROH Title, but using the early eliminations to create new opportunities.  This match is also a top highlight of Gabe Sapolsky's booking.
 
Not only did new challengers become produced from this match, but it furthered the Joe vs. Rottweilers storyline while getting the Briscoes involved against Homicide as well, planting the seeds not only for Joe vs. Homicide (they got into a brawl earlier on the card and Homicide ruined the post-match of Joe vs. CM Punk on the previous event), but for the main event of the next show as well.
 
This match also had great psychology from the beginning.  Mark found himself a target not only on his neck (worked on by Alex Shelley in their qualifier match), but also Danielson starting a new target with his left knee.  However, the psychology truly peaked once the little booking intricacies were taken care of.
 
Those of you who were impressed by the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels and Sheamus vs. Chris Jericho Royal Rumble finishing sequences, you owe to yourself to see what Aries and Danielson did here.  For about 20 minutes they beautifully blew the roof of the joint, Danielson first proving that he owned Aries on the mat and in barbarianism.  He focused on the back of Aries, which ultimately paid off in the finish.
 
Aries though, despite his initial hesitation to doing a fair fight against the already established superstar, made a choice in the middle of this epic battle to dig down deep and back up all the shit that Generation Next had been talking.  Through sheer guts and determination, he found an opportunity when Danielson's knee got stuck in the ropes, which brought Danielson down a tad bit to even the match out more.
 
However, this is Bryan Danielson looking to get his first shot at the ROH Title.  Despite his knee pain and a mirrored barbaric nature that he brought out of Aries, he ultimately proved himself far too intelligent and focused on this night for his moment to be taken away.  Finishing Aries with the exact same back submission as his GeNext teammate Evans, Danielson not only further cemented the legacy he was building as an in-ring performer, but proved that after losses in huge matches against the likes of Homicide, Paul London, and AJ Styles, he deserved to be in the very top mix.
 
For Aries, this is THE match that turned him into a breakout superstar in ROH and on the indy scene overnight.  While he didn't have the character aspect of his career down pat yet, in the ring he could be counted on to one day carry a company.  ROH"s rebirth continued in grand fashion here.
 
This match was so damn close to perfect.  But it isn't on the same level of Low Ki vs. Danielson, Paul London vs. Danielson, and Styles vs. London.  And that's why in that regard, this match is ROH's version of Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind from Mind Games.
 
Rating: ****3/4
 
While I didn't watch everything on this show, this really does need to be seen to appreciate the booking of the time.  Sure, you can get the Aries vs. Danielson portion of the main event on the new Danielson comp, but then you miss all the little parts of the show that buildup to INTERESTING future matches.  Not just the ones I mentioned earlier, but there was also great forward movement into the inevitable Joe vs. Punk rematch and Jay Lethal push into a singles act.
 
Up next - Reborn: Completion
Matches will include:
Jay Lethal vs. Doug Williams vs. John Walters vs. Nigel McGuinness
Trent Acid vs. Prince Nana's hyped-up mystery Crown Jewel
Vacant Pure Title Match
CM Punk and Ricky Steamboat's final confrontation
Samoa Joe & Briscoe Bros. vs. Homicide & Havana Pitbulls






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: ROH, Ring of Honor, Old School ROH, Gabe Sapolsky, Summer of Punk, Milestone Series, ROH vs. CZW

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