The Independent Mid-Card 01.30.07: Danielson vs. Rave
Posted by Samuel Berman on 01.30.2007
To my right, hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and weighing in at 210 pounds... (whispers to ring announcer)... and "The Best Column in the World"... The Independent Mid-Card!!!
That's right, another week, another Independent Mid-Card column. This week, an unprecedented move for this column: we're looking at a match for the World Title. It's not all that often that a World Title match doesn't main event a card, but in the early part of 2006, Ring of Honor wanted to put a renewed focus on its tag team division. So at one of the company's biggest shows to that point, their Fourth Anniversary Show, the ROH Tag Team Titles were defended in the main event, leaving the ROH World Title to be defended right after intermission. That decision is our gain, as we get to take a look at one of the premiere belts in all of professional wrestling this week in The Independent Mid-Card.
Bryan Danielson Though he is the self-proclaimed "Best Wrestler in the World", it isn't a particularly unfair opinion for "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson to hold. One of Ring of Honor's founding fathers, Danielson first made a name for himself on a national stage with his transcendent technical prowess in his early ROH work against the likes of Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, AJ Styles and Paul London. In May of 2005, Danielson left Ring of Honor after failing to win the ROH World Title from his rival Austin Aries. When Danielson returned to the company in September of that year, he faced a new champion, James Gibson, to better results, forcing him to submit after an outstanding, emotional affair. The early months of Danielson's title reign saw the longtime crowd favorite slowly become more and more cocky and less and less interested in appealing to what the fans wanted from him. At this point in his reign, Danielson had already put down a number of challengers, including Chris Hero, Steve Corino, Roderick Strong (twice), Chris Sabin and Japanese superstar Naomichi Marufuji. This match is Danielson's twelfth defense of the Ring of Honor World Title.
Jimmy Rave Though he has become arguably the most hated heel in Ring of Honor history, Jimmy Rave was not always so reviled. When he first entered the company, Rave was viewed as a spunky young babyface, and eventually became the protégé of "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles. When Styles was forced to leave ROH competition due to his commitments to TNA Wrestling, Rave joined the hated Embassy faction and began using his former mentor's finishing move, the Styles Clash, calling it the Rave Clash and claiming to have invented the maneuver. Through extended feuds with fan favorites Styles (who returned to the company to defend his honor) and CM Punk, Rave gained momentum as a top-of-the-card heel presence, and actually wrestled in the main event of more than one show during the first part of 2005. Rave and the Embassy, including new members Alex Shelley and Abyss, would go on to feud with the Generation Next stable during the second half of the year, culminating in the first-ever Steel Cage Warfare match in December of 2005. In the early part of 2006, Rave, Shelley & Abyss won the annual Trios Tournament, and as a result, each was granted a match of their choosing in the coming year. Rave's choice was clear: this was his chance to challenge for the ROH World Title for the first time in his career.
The Match: Parade of Charioteers hits and Jimmy Rave makes his way to the ring accompanied by his manager Prince Nana. Rave, as always, is bedecked in his purple and gold robe, befitting a man of his *ahem* stature. As became the case throughout his time as the crown jewel of the Embassy, Rave is met by a barrage of toilet paper, ala the streamer treatment that many respected ROH regulars and special guests get. Rave tosses some of it back at the crowd angrily for a bit until The Final Countdown starts over the sound system and the ROH World Champion, "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson heads down to the squared circle. Danielson poses for a while, culminating in the crowd shouting It's the final countdown!' along with the song lyrics. Rave is announced from Ghana, West Africa by way of Atlanta, Georgia and weighs 200 pounds. More toilet paper is thrown as the crowd chants "Die, Jimmy, Die!" at him. Danielson hails from Aberdeen, Washington and weighs in at 185 pounds. It's a very nice touch that Ring of Honor only does in-ring introductions for title matches and other very select bouts (such as Joe vs. Kobashi). Both men are checked by senior official Todd Sinclair, the belt is held up mid-ring (another great touch in ROH title matches), Rave and Danielson shake hands, and we're off.
They circle and Danielson goes for a leg, but Rave backs off. Danielson goes from a headlock to a waistlock takedown, which Rave reverses and pie-faces Danielson to break. Rave poses and stretches in the corner, then the two men circle again and we get a collar-and-elbow tie up. Danielson gets a fireman's carry takedown and tries to keep Rave on the mat, but again he works his way out of it. More posing from Rave, as he tentatively goes in for a knucklelock with the champ. A test-of-strength is pretty much a stalemate, but Danielson forces Rave to the corner and monkey flips him out of there while still holding the knucklelock. Dragon goes for another waistlock but Rave again pie-faces out of it. Another lockup in mid-ring ends with Rave hip tossing Danielson and grabbing an armlock. While still in the armlock, Danielson maneuvers his way into a pinning combination on Rave for two, but Rave flips back into a seated position to maintain the hold. Danielson finally powers out and goes for a waistlock, but can't get it and settles for a front facelock before Rave pie-faces him again to break.
They lock up again and this time Rave goes for a waistlock, but now Danielson reverses out and pie-faces Rave to break. Danielson finally gets a headlock cleanly off the next lock up, and when Rave reverses out, Dragon comes off the ropes with a shoulderblock. Danielson gets a headlock takedown, which Rave reverses to a headscissors. Danielson nips up out of the headscissors and they start pie-facing each other until Rave gets a snapmare takedown and stomps on Danielson's face. Danielson just gets pissed, however, and snapmares Rave before hitting a stiff kick to the back that sends Jimmy rolling out to regroup.
Rave clutches at his back on the outside while Danielson waits for him in the ring. Rave slowly and cautiously makes his way back in and another lockup leads to another headlock takedown by Danielson. Rave gets another headscissors to reverse, but this time Danielson can't break so easily. Danielson goes for the nip up three times to no avail, and then tries to bridge out. Finally, Danielson works his way out of it and transitions to an Indian deathlock. He snaps back a couple of times before Rave makes the ropes. Rave again takes a powder on the outside. Rave comes back in, but gets pushed to the corner on the lock up. Rave reverses and gets a hard chop in the corner. Rave gets a series of chops and clubbing forearms as he follows Danielson around the ring, finally stomping him down in one of the corners. Danielson counters with a single leg takedown and goes right into a surfboard attempt, however, Rave is able to power out and goes to the apron to catch his breath.
Another lock up and Danielson grabs a wristlock this time and rides Rave down to the mat. Dragon grabs a modified armbar, but Rave gets his foot on the bottom rope to break. Danielson waits until the referee gets to four before breaking and then astutely inform him that "I have til FIVE, referee!", one of the staples of his heel run. The crowd actually says the catchphrase along with him, so you can see how ubiquitous it was by this point. Rave has rolled out to talk strategy with Nana, but rolls back into the ring in short order.
Danielson again forces Rave to the turnbuckle, but Rave ducks a chop and gets another series of strikes in the corner. Rave pounds Danielson down and now he goes for the surfboard. Rave actually gets the surfboard and grabs a pretty nasty looking chinlock while executing the move. Danielson powers out with a reverse knucklelock and they do a really nice reversal sequence that ends with Danielson getting a snapmare takedown and hitting a kneedrop to Rave's face. Danielson chops away in the corner and then snapmares Rave down into a Japanese stranglehold and knees Rave in the back while he's in the hold. Danielson transitions into a bridging backbreaking version of the hold, but Rave flips over for a two count and then gets the Japanese stranglehold on Danielson. Part of the crowd actually applauds Rave for the reversal. Danielson forces his way out of the move, but Rave ducks a chop and hits a series of strikes to put the champ in the corner. Rave stomps away in the corner and then gets a boot choke. When prompted to break, Rave holds the choke until four before loudly proclaiming that HE'S got until five. That particular bit gets soundly booed by the crowd. Rave stomps Danielson in the corner again, and then gets a snapmare takedown and stomps Danielson's face again. Rave rips away at the champ's face and then covers for two. Rave twists away on the neck and forces Danielson to the corner. Danielson gets whipped cross corner, but gets the boots up on a blind charge and hits a jumping European uppercut from the second rope to put Rave down. Rave gets whipped cross corner this time, and Danielson hits a running forearm and a slingshot suplex for two.
Danielson grabs a full nelson to work Rave's neck, but Rave ducks down to counter and gets a rollup for two. Danielson runs at Rave, but gets caught with a hard spear and then a swinging neckbreaker for two. Rave gets a headlock, which Danielson tries to reverse into a backdrop suplex, but Rave flips out and grabs a waistlock. Danielson elbows out and a leapfrog sequence leads to Danielson taking Rave's legs out in mid-air and applying the surfboard for real. Danielson holds Rave up for a bit before bridging him back and getting an even nastier chinlock as payback for having taken the move earlier. Danielson eventually leans Rave back into a pinning combination, but Rave kicks out at two to break the hold. Danielson pick Rave up by his hair and gets a hard chop and a stiff European uppercut that sends Rave crashing to the canvas like a ton of bricks. Danielson actually stands on Rave's face without holding the ropes, which is just nuts when you think about it. Nana runs his mouth at ringside, asking Danielson "DO YOU WANT TO KILL HIM??" to which the crowd responds pretty positively. That's pretty funny, to be honest with you.
Danielson puts Rave on top and goes for a superplex, but Rave counters and sends the champ crashing neck-first on the top rope on his way down. Rave climbs down to the apron and tries to suplex Danielson to the floor. When he can't get the suplex after a couple of tries, Rave forearms Danielson in the face a couple of times and hangs him over the top rope. Rave then comes running on the apron and hits a dropkick to Danielson's head that sends him crashing down to the floor. That was a pretty cool spot from Rave right there. Rave chops away on the outside and chokes away at Danielson in one of the corners of the guardrail. Rave works the champ around the outside with a series of strikes and hits his head on the guardrail along the way. Rave whips Danielson into the guardrail shoulder-first and then gets more chops and forearms to follow up. Rave rolls Danielson back in and covers for two.
Rave gets a camel clutch and rips away at the face and then transitions right into Danielson's own Cattle Mutilation (float-over bridging double chickenwing hold). Danielson finally makes the ropes and Rave breaks. Rave gets a forearm to put Danielson down it the corner and then distracts the referee so that Nana can get a cheap shot to the champ. Rave gets another boot choke in the corner and then stomps away. Rave picks up Danielson and puts him on top, hitting a forearm before going up himself. Rave hits a beautiful top-rope superplex and then rolls Danielson over and gets Cattle Mutilation again. Rave can't completely clasp his hands for the first few moments of the move, but eventually gets it hooked in and holds the bridge impressively until Danielson is able to work his way to the ropes to force the break.
Rave aggressively moves back in on the champion, but Danielson strikes away to regain control and forces Rave to the corner for the 10-count punches. Another hard chop by Danielson is followed by a cross corner whip, which Rave reverses, but Danielson jumps onto the ropes and backflips over a charging Rave. Rave turns and goes after Danielson, but gets caught with a spinning enziguiri that leaves both men down. The referee begins to count both men down, but they simultaneously make it to their feet just after he reaches seven.
Dragon and Rave exchange forearms and chops in mid-ring until Danielson hits a series of open-hand strikes to the face and gets a step-up enziguiri to put Rave down again. Danielson gets a Judo DDT and goes to the top. Diving headbutt hits clean, but only gets two. Dragon gets another full nelson, but this time when Rave tries to sit-out, Danielson gets a stiff kick to the back. Dragon picks up Rave with a waistlock and gets a bridging German suplex for two. Danielson calls for the crossface chickenwing, which had put down a lot of previous challengers and was the move that won him the title from James Gibson. He goes to lock it in, but Rave rides him out to the apron. Rave moves in and Danielson gets a shoulder to the midsection through the ropes. Danielson goes for a sunset flip which Rave counters mid-move by sitting down and grabbing the ropes for leverage, but it only gets two. Crowd boos (presumably because Rave grabbed the rope) what was a totally legitimate nearfall. Both men are now selling some serious exhaustion.
Rave gets another forearm and gets a Saito suplex, but gets caught going for his running knee strike, and Danielson gets a half crab (the move that he used to defeat Rocky Romero) in the middle of the ring. The crowd wants Jimmy to tap, but instead, Rave rolls over and kicks his way out of the move. Rave gets into a mounted position and just wails away on the champion with closed fists. Rave picks up Danielson, but gets hit with a series of palm strikes. Rave gets a mule kick to counter, but eats a dropkick when he comes off the ropes. Danielson goes off the ropes, but Rave grabs a sleeperhold. Rave drops down in the hold, forcing Dragon to carry his weight as well, and Sinclair checks on the champ. Danielson's arm drops once, and then again, but stays up on the third try and Danielson works his way to his feet. Danielson whips Rave to the ropes and grabs a sleeperhold of his own, and then transitions Rave to the mat in a great sequence and applies Cattle Mutilation. Jimmy is dead center ring, but struggles and gets to the ropes to force the break. Rave has started to bleed from the mouth as Danielson puts him on top for the belly-to-back superplex, which hits for two.
Danielson goes right back to Cattle Mutilation on the kick-out, but Rave works his way back to his feet. However, Danielson holds onto the arms and gets a tiger suplex for what would have been the three count, but Nana pulls Sinclair out of the ring at the last second. Sinclair and Nana get into a war of words at ringside until Danielson gets a suicide dive to take out the Prince. Danielson goes straight to the top as Rave stirs in the ring. Rave meets Danielson on top, but gets pushed off. Danielson then goes for a flying elbow, but gets caught in mid-air with a spear. Rave hits Ghanarhea (reverse swinging fireman's carry slam), landing the champ right on his neck, and then follows up by coming off the ropes with a picture-perfect running knee strike to the face that gets a very close two count. Rave goes right into a butterfly lock to try and get a submission, but Danielson is too close to the ropes and he grabs them to break. Rave gets a series of knee strikes to the head and goes for Greetings from Ghana (double underhook facebuster), but Danielson runs him into the corner to break it up and then ducks a clothesline before hitting a roaring forearm that absolutely drops Rave. Danielson picks up Rave and gets a Regal-plex (bridging fisherman's belly-to-back suplex) for another close two. Danielson tries to turn Rave over with a crucifix, but instead just starts laying into the challenger with stiff elbows to the head and the referee calls for the bell at 31:57.
Danielson will now move on to face Rave's Embassy stablemate Alex Shelley at the next event. Nana gets in the ring and yells at the ref, but begs off when Danielson glares at him. The fans again sing along with The Final Countdown after the match and Danielson shakes an unconscious Rave's hand condescendingly before posing some more. We cut to Rave eventually coming to and walking out with Nana's help, and to a smattering of applause at that.
This match was actually very different from a lot of Bryan Danielson's title defenses. Unlike earlier defenses against Chris Sabin, Austin Aries or even Chris Hero, Danielson seemed unable to really gain true momentum during the course of the match. Considering Danielson's claim that he's "The Best Wrestler in the World", he sure let Rave dictate the tone and tempo during the first parts of the match. Rave, who has always been overlooked as a technical competitor, did the same things here that he did in his earlier feuds with AJ Styles and CM Punk: try to irritate his opponent into making an error and cheat when it becomes advantageous.
However, unlike in those feuds, Rave seemed compelled to try to beat Danielson with a minimum of assistance here. The only notable moments of interference from Prince Nana were the cheap shot in the corner and when Nana pulled the referee out to break up the pinfall attempt that followed the tiger suplex. It's not that those weren't major moments in the match (especially Nana breaking the count), but they're certainly afar cry from Rave's matches at the Third Anniversary Celebration shows, where he literally used every heel trick there is to defeat Styles and Punk.
Rave also used the interesting strategy of using Danielson's own signature moves and holds against him. It was actually strange to see this in Rave's first-ever shot at the ROH World Title, because in title matches, a lot of wrestlers like to dance with what brought them, so to speak. Rave seemed to think that using the champion's own methods would allow him to capture the title. In the end, Danielson simply had too much firepower for Rave to overcome in his first attempt, but the strategy itself was sound, and led to Rave being a lot more competitive with the heavily favored champion than a lot of people believed he could be. Watching Rave both here and in his matches with Styles and Punk just one year earlier, it's easy to see how much Jimmy Rave grew as an in-ring competitor in just twelve months. And for the record, he wasn't bad to begin with.
After losing his bid for the ROH World Title, Jimmy Rave turned his attention elsewhere. Teaming with fellow Embassy member Alex Shelley (who would be unsuccessful in unseating Danielson as champion on the show immediately following this one), Rave began to focus on winning the ROH World Tag Team titles from longtime adversaries Austin Aries & Roderick Strong. Rave and Shelley lost their eventual title match and not long afterwards, Shelley was out of ROH, choosing to focus completely on his work for TNA. With Shelley and Abyss (who had left ROH unceremoniously in early 2006) gone, Rave was left alone as the major player for the Embassy. Rave ended up on the short end of a feud with Ring of Honor newcomer Davey Richards throughout the summer and though the Embassy added young competitor and former ROH Tag Team Champion Sal Rinauro as Rave's partner and flunky, the duo never really clicked and Rinauro was gone by the end of the year. Furthermore, Prince Nana left ROH at the end of the summer, leaving Rave stuck in limbo without the backing of the Embassy's founder. Rave's fortunes would eventually change, however, as a misunderstanding with new crowd favorite Nigel McGuinness caused Rave to become incredibly aggressive and refocused, leading to him developing a new anklelock submission that he has used to gain a number of victories in recent months. Rave did not receive another shot at Bryan Danielson during his run as champion, but as of now is scheduled to challenge Homicide for the ROH World Title at the first event of Ring of Honor's Fifth Year Festival on February 16, 2007 in New York City.
Bryan Danielson would go on to make a record thirty-eight defenses of the ROH World Title before losing it to Homicide at Final Battle 2006. His reign was highlighted by major feuds with Samoa Joe, Colt Cabana, Nigel McGuinness and, surprisingly, former mid-card comedy wrestler Delirious. Danielson would end up severely injuring his shoulder during a 2/3 Falls match against Cabana in August of 2006, but would gut out the injury, defending the belt for another four months while putting off surgery. During that period, Danielson made what is perhaps his most highly regarded title defense, defeating KENTA via submission at Glory By Honor V, Night 2 on September 16, 2006. As of this writing, Danielson is taking extended leave from Ring of Honor to heal his injured shoulder and is not expected to be back in action before May of 2007 at the earliest.
The Final Word:
In the same way that Mick Foley main evented the Royal Rumble in both 1999 and 2000, Jimmy Rave seems to have found his niche as a big time player in ROH's anniversary shows. February 16th will mark the third consecutive year that Rave has played a major part in a Ring of Honor anniversary show, and the second consecutive year where he has challenged for the ROH World Title. Though few believe that Rave will upend Homicide for the title in this match (a feeling fueled by the announcement that Takeshi Morishima will face the champion the next night), it's not crazy to imagine Rave eventually becoming ROH World Champion.
Rave is clearly poised to become one of the next generation of ROH main event players, along with Roderick Strong, Delirious, Matt Sydal, Davey Richards and Chris Hero. As ROH's founding fathers and icons, like Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Homicide and Bryan Danielson, begin to move into the next phases of their careers, Jimmy Rave will certainly become one of the men that ROH relies on to remain a strong and vibrant promotion for years to come. I for one wouldn't be surprised to see Jimmy Rave in the main event of the ROH Seventh Anniversary Spectacular and beyond.
If you'd like to check out this week's match, the ROH Fourth Anniversary Show is available at rohwrestling.com. The main event, if you're curious, is Aries & Strong defending the ROH World Tag Team Titles against the team of AJ Styles & Matt Sydal in a battle of Generation Next stablemates.
While you're here on 411, be sure to check out the work of my fellow writers. I specifically recommend Ari Berenstein's Column of Honor, Jordan Linkous' WWE vs. TNA (where I pop in with my two cents on a Matt Hardy vs. Austin Aries matchup) and The Triple Threat with Sean, David and Alex. Alex was on the road at the Royal Rumble this weekend, so I guest with Sean and David for some non-Independent scene discussion. Also, J.D. Dunn has been doing ROH reviews for a while, as have Garoon & Ziegler, so check out their archives for even more Ring of Honor goodness.
And when you're all done and looking for more reading, check out my newest project, The Box in the Attic, where I do an extended rant on an old RAW IS WAR broadcast. It's super. I promise.
As always, thanks for reading and I'll see everyone again next week for another trip into The Independent Mid-Card.