ROHViews from Across the Pond: Hell Freezes Over
Posted by Jack Stevenson on 11.13.2012
I'm so pleased with the pun in the title.
ROH HELL FREEZES OVER
2006 was a year of two halves for ROH; the first featured an innovate, anarchic storyline that culminated in a spectacularly violent blow-off match, while the second was focused on an old-fashioned title chase, ending with an emotional epic that almost ended with a simple small package. With those two easy to follow stories, plenty of thrilling matches and the emergence of some future stars of the company it’s a year worth revisiting, and that is what I’m going to do. Until I get sick of tracking down rare, long out of print DVDs and turn my attention to something new and shiny, which I will probably do after about three shows. Keep reading anyway though!
"But Jack," I hear ye cry, "what was going on in ROH at the dawn of 2006?" Good question, and one which I will now try and answer.
So, your World Champ is Bryan Danielson, your Pure Champion is Nigel McGuinness, and the tag champs are Austin Aries & Roderick Strong, representing Generation Next. The latter duo have just settled a bloody rivalry with Prince Nana's dastardly Embassy, spearheaded by Jimmy Rave and Alex Shelley.
Homicide is a thug who wants to kill Colt Cabana because he used the word "nizzle" in a promo. To that end, he dumped a bottle of Drano down Cabana's throat at Final Battle. This made the usually jovial Cabana a very unhappy man. Similarly thuggish is Ricky Reyes, who has made the ROH students the target of his disdain, running through them in impactful squashes.
Samoa Joe hates Christopher Daniels. BJ Whitmer hates Christopher Daniels. Samoa Joe hates Jay Lethal because he took the youngster under his wing and received nothing but disrespect in return. BJ Whitmer has a scrappy tag partner called Jimmy Jacobs, who is becoming increasingly lovesick with their manager Lacey. All of these things will eventually intertwine.
Adam Pearce is looking to gain some respect in ROH, but feels Jim Cornette, the promotion's authority figure, is not paying him close enough attention.
ROH and CZW agreed to hold two shows in the same city on the same day. This will not turn out well.
With all that done, we can get to the show. We’re in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 14th January 2006, with Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard on commentary.
The show opens with Bobby Cruise welcoming the NEEEEEEEWWWW ROH World Tag Team Champions down to the ring; Austin Aries & Roderick Strong! Cruise has a great voice for announcing that someone is a NEEEEEEWWWWWW something or other. He’s clearly from the Howard Finkel School of ring announcing. Aries promises that he and Roddy are going to take the titles all over the world and make them the most prestigious tag belts in pro wrestling. He then hands the microphone over to Strong, which is a fucking terrible idea. He keeps things simple here though, promising to be a great tag champion, win the ROH World Championship from Bryan Danielson, and take the FIP Championship tonight. His valuable contribution duly noted, Double A sends Strong to the back, because he has business he wants to take care of on his own. As head trainer of the ROH Wrestling Academy, Aries doesn’t appreciate Ricky Reyes beating up all the ROH students, and challenges him to get down to the ring to be taught some respect. Reyes, accompanied by loveable loudmouth Julius Smokes, decides to take Aries up on his offer, and we have neatly set up the first match of 2006! Good segment.
MATCH 1- AUSTIN ARIES VS RICKY REYES
Aries quickly tires of Reyes and Smokes parading around the ring, and wipes them both out with a Suicide Dive! The first of many to be inflicted over the course of the year, I imagine. In the ring, Austin misses a dropkick and gets dropped with a belly to belly suplex, but powers back out of nowhere with a back suplex. Double A sends Double R out to the floor, where the Rottweiler gets sent into the barricade. Perhaps surprisingly though, the tide again turns in Reyes’ favour when the match returns to the ring. Aries has a pair of comebacks foiled, while Smokes yells “execute the gameplan” on the floor! The gameplan appears to be ‘a superplex,’ but Austin shoves Ricky off the top rope and crashes into him with a Missile Dropkick! RR slips out the backdoor of a Brainbuster and cinches in the Dragon Sleeper, but the champion bridges back into a cover and the three count! * ½ This one doesn’t exactly linger long in the memory, but it got it’s point across; Aries is a smart, resourceful competitor, but Reyes’ Dragon Sleeper is still nigh-on impossible to get out of. Both guys look good coming out of this, and you sense that’s all they wanted out of the match.Reyes refuses to let go of the hold and Julius Smokes takes out the referee when he tries to break it, but Roderick Strong races down to make a relatively efficient save. Fuming, Reyes grabs a mic and insists Aries isn’t any better than his punk-ass students, because he couldn’t escape the Dragon Sleeper. If Generation Next are the best tag team in pro wrestling, they should put their belts on the line, because 2006 is going to be the year of the Rottweilers!
Hey, if it isn’t the ever upbeat Colt Cabana! He must be about to indulge in some light-hearted shenanigans! What? He isn’t? Why? Because his nemesis Homicide dumped Drano down his throat at Final Battle? I guess that is a fairly good reason to be in a bad mood. In front of a grim white wall which seems to aptly reflect his mood, Cabana states that he’s offended that he’s even required to explain why Final Battle was such a traumatic night for him. He’s not going to offer words, just actions. Cabana storms off purposefully, and is immediately replaced in shot by Adam Pearce, who has the gall to actually wear a Colt Cabana shirt. Pearce says he came to ROH with a purpose, but Jim Cornette doesn’t seem to understand that, because he’s been dumped in Six-Man Mayhem, not exactly Adam Pearce’s style of match. ‘Scrap Iron’ promises he is going to get his message across, starting tonight. Two very good little promos.
MATCH 2- ROH PURE CHAMPIONSHIP- NIGEL MCGUINNESS VS TONY MAMALUKE
This is the very definition of average. McGuinness counters a Guillotine Choke with an aggressive release Northern Lights Suplex in the first really notable moment of the match. The former ECW star brings a little strategy to proceedings by tenaciously holding onto an armbar, but it doesn’t stop the champ from utilising a Lariat to garner a two count. Running European Uppercut from McGuinness! That looked nasty. Nigel gets cocky and starts to taunt Mamaluke with slaps. These only serve to fire up the challenger, who propels his opponent to the floor by the tights. When he returns, Mamaluke is able to take him off his feet and land a Frog Splash for two. McGuinness’ corner headstand is countered with a boot to the face, sending him slumping to the mat. Tony tries to continue his momentum with some ground and pound, but McGuinness is able to hook a Kimura in the melee to secure a submission victory. ** This started slow but turned into a nice little back and forth match by the end. It would have helped if the bout had been imbued with any sense of consequence whatsoever, but even without it this was an inoffensive use of about eight minutes.
MATCH 3- JIMMY RAVE & ALEX SHELLEY VS CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI & AZRIEAL
Pleasingly, the Embassy representatives of Rave and Shelley are indeed accompanied by Prince Nana. The presence of Nana in a match automatically gives it a 30% higher chance of being excellent than an equivalent, Nana-less encounter.
I have no idea why Double C and Azrieal are teaming, but they work well together in the early stages, running through some impressively co-ordinated double teams. Rave and Shelley are able to nail a clothesline-spear combination to force Azrieal into playing Ricky Morton. The Embassy control the bout from here with some slick offense. Rave holds Azrieal in an abdominal stretch, Shelley cracks him with a dropkick, and the Crown Jewel finishes the combo with a swinging neckbreaker to illustrate my point. Shelley tries for a superplex, but Azrieal shoves him off the top rope and lands a Blockbuster, buying him enough time to make the hot tag to Claudio. Alex tries to stop CC from gaining any momentum with a suplex, but the big man puts on the brakes and then counters with a 38 second delayed vertical suplex! Azrieal returns to the ring with little success, forcing Castagnoli into making another save. He catches Rave with a running knee in the corner, and his pipsqueak partner follows with a double stomp for two. Alpamare Waterslide gets two for Claudio. He heads to the top rope but gets crotched by Alex Shelley, who follows up with a super huracanrana. Rave adds a flying elbow drop, but only gets two. Running knee gets two before Azrieal breaks up the cover. KICK KICK KICKY KICK! Flying clothesline from the top rope! Azrieal is a house of fire! Or, he is until Jimmy locks him in a Guillotine Choke for the tap out. ** ¾ For the third time running, we get an enjoyable but inconsequential little match. This goes a little higher than its two predecessors for some particularly swish sequences and the fun dynamic Claudio and Azrieal had as a tag team. Nothing truly memorable or groundbreaking though.
MATCH 4- FIP CHAMPIONSHIP- HOMICIDE VS RODERICK STRONG VS BRYAN DANIELSON
On the face of it this seems like a mini dream match, but considering Danielson has an ROH World Championship defence against Chris Hero to contend with later in the evening, I wouldn’t expect anything too risky or exhausting. Homicide says that, even with a shoulder injury, he’s looking forward to a fight tonight! Strong promises to show no mercy towards the injured champion. Bryan Danielson, accompanied by his FIP manager (and, rather befuddlingly, ROH’s harmless good guy commentator) Dave Prazak, is also confident of victory.
Suddenly, Colt Cabana leaps into the ring and attacks Homicide, getting a fair bit of damage in before his thuggish associates chase him away. Meanwhile, Danielson and Strong brawl from the interview set into the crowd. It is rather uninspired. In the ring, Strong nails a gutbuster and tiger bomb before locking in the Stronghold! Homicide re-enters the ring to save his title. Danielson repays him for the rescue by cinching the injured arm in a Crowbar, and ending his 16 month title reign! No rating, being as this was more angle than match, but the segment as a whole was severely hampered by the shoddy attempt at transplanting FIP canon into the ROH ring. Dave Prazak, with no explanation other than “I have different goals in ROH to FIP,” transformed from standard play by play guy to obnoxious manager, Colt Cabana and Homicide continued their feud except Homicide was bafflingly playing the good guy, and, in a truly astonishing booking move, the champion’s 16 month title reign came to an end with all the fanfare of a two minutes silence in a ‘no fanfares allowed’ zone. A poorly executed segment that completely killed the momentum this show was slowly building.
MATCH 5- CHRISTOPHER DANIELS VS JAY LETHAL
Ah, now this should get things going again.
Lethal gets off to a stronger start than Daniels, which does no harm to the youngster’s self confidence. Not that it needed boosting in the first place. The Fallen Angel puts his foe back in his place though, simply standing on Lethal when he tries to duck under a Daniels charge. Seeing his momentum slipping away, Jay opts to take a break on the floor, but it doesn’t appear to do much good, as his springboard back in is met with a literal slap to the face. The rule-breaker eventually is able to retake control with a sneaky eye-poke though. He proceeds to dominate the bulk of the match, though Daniels shows enough to stop it from becoming a total mauling, and starts a sustained fightback by countering a springboard crossbody into an STO. Blue Thunder Powerbomb gets two. Lethal fights back and takes Daniels off his feet with a Suicide Dive on the floor, before landing an aggressive Spinebuster in the ring for a two count. He once again tries for a Springboard, but Daniels staggers over, hoists him into the air and drops him with a Death Valley Driver for two. Lethal recovers surprisingly quickly and dumps Daniels with a vertical suplex. He heads to the top rope and flies off, but stops himself from making impact when he sees the Fallen Angel get his feet up. Instead, he seizes Daniels’ foot, but that only results in him being hooked in a roll-up for the three count. *** This was an energetic, peppy little match that injected some pizzazz back into the show heading into intermission. Lethal and Daniels’ attempts to one-up each other in disrespect in the early goings were clever, and while the finishing stretch saw some rather iffy selling it didn’t afflict the match the way it does many others in ROH. A solidly entertaining bout, and hopefully the show can continue to build momentum from here. Post match, a downbeat Lethal offers his opponent a handshake. Proud of his Prophecy roots, Daniels rejects his offer, and to make his night even worse, Lethal then gets attacked by a fuming Samoa Joe! Thankfully for the future ‘Black Machismo,’ Daniels also has a score to settle with the Samoan Submission Machine, and decides to engage in fisticuffs with him! Lethal gets a cheap low blow on Joe before slinking away, but any hopes Daniels might have had at taking advantage are thwarted when BJ Whitmer hits the ring and drops him with an Exploder Suplex! Whitmer then explains he still hasn’t forgiven Daniels for walking out on ROH and the Prophecy two years ago. He informs Joe, meanwhile, that the only reason he chose to make the save at this time was because he wants him at 100% for their match later on. Whitmer then storms off, so Joe, presumably unhappy at the way events have panned out, opts to boot the Fallen Angel in the face for good measure. And so ends the chaos.
Homophobic human highlight reel AJ Styles is in the back with Gary Michael Cappetta. Styles is looking forward to testing himself against Matt Sydal tonight. That’s all AJ has to say, but Adam Pearce does! He demands to know where Jim Cornette is, so Cappetta has to explain that he isn’t able to attend tonight’s show. Pearce is displeased.
MATCH 6- SIX MAN MAYHEM- JACK EVANS VS KID MIKAZE VS TRIK DAVIS VS SAL RINAURO VS JASON BLADE VS ADAM PEARCE
Kid Mikaze and Jason Blade start things off with an over-choreographed but entertaining little sequence. Blade then tags in Adam Pearce, and the look of sheer disdain on his face is tremendous. Mikaze opts to tag in Jack Evans, which is bound to delight the Scrap Iron. Evans shelves the idea of wrestling in lieu of busting out some funky breakdancing. Pearce tries to one-up him, but it doesn’t quite work out for him, and so he tags in Sal Rinauro, having not hit a single move. The usual six-man match then ensues, albeit with the advantage of Pearce occasionally hitting the ring and being delightfully grumpy, at one point taking everyone out by swinging Trik Davis into them. Jack Evans provides another notable moment by missing Rinauro with a running knee strike and sailing right over the top rope to the floor! In the ring, Sal tries for a super huracanrana on Pearce, but finds himself dropped to the mat and crushed by a top rope splash from Scrap Iron! However, it only gets two before Evans breaks up the cover. Rinauro provides some unintentional comedy in twice botching a dive to the floor; first, he slips as he tries to springboard straight to the top rope, and then undershoots on his plancha, cracking his back against the ring apron. He does just enough to take out Jack Evans though. Davis tries to fly onto both of them but his charge is abruptly haulted by an Adam Pearce shaped brick wall. Pearce whips Davis off the ropes, but the up and comer ducks the clothesline and lands a Suicide Dive on the second attempt! Unperturbed, Adam slams Blade over the top rope before dropping Kid Mikaze with a piledriver. He covers for a two count, but Evans breaks it up with a 630 Splash, and steals the pin on Mikaze! ** ½ Without Jack Evans or Adam Pearce this six man would have been significantly worse, but they were in the match, and thus this was a shade above your usual ROH six man. Anything not involving those two seemed to fall flat, but there were enough fun sequences to make the bout worthwhile.
MATCH 7- SAMOA JOE VS BJ WHITMER
The match starts with a tentative exchange of holds, but Joe soon decides to just start kicking Whitmer in the chest instead. He follows up with a running knee to the face, and a chop-kick-flying knee drop to his downed opponent. BJ dares to try and fight back, so Joe lets him know that will not be allowed with a sickening slap to the face. Whitmer spills out to the floor, but he’s not particularly safe there as the fan favourite crashes into him with a weighty Suicide Dive! BJ battles back, and is even able to set up Joe for the Ole Kick. The Samoan Submission Machine blocks it, but his attempt at it is foiled as well. Eventually though, Joe is able to get it, and sends Whitmer over the guardrail with the impact! He props a table up against the guardrail and attempts to whip his foe through it, but Whitmer resists and hooks him for the Exploder Suplex! It connects, but Joe misses the table and lands on the floor! Nasty! Back in the ring, BJ nails a seated dropkick to the head for two. An impressive suplex achieves the same result. A frog splash misses though, giving Joe an avenue back into the match. He takes full advantage of it with a big boot and senton splash for two. Powerbomb into the Boston Crab! Whitmer speedily makes the ropes though. Joe tries for the Face Wash, but Whitmer blocks it midway with an Exploder Suplex. It gets two before Joe gets his foot on the ropes. The Samoan quickly retakes control with a Lariat, and starts to tenaciously pursue a rear-naked choke. BJ counters by biting the arm. Roaring elbow misses, and Joe boots him full in the face! He follows up with elbows, and with Whitmer unconscious the referee opts to stop the bout. *** ¼ This was much better than I remembered it to be. Gritty, intense and hard-hitting with an exciting finishing stretch. The fans didn’t like the finish much, but I thought it worked as well as a pinfall or submission would have done. This show continues to steadily improve.
In the back, Jimmy Jacobs claims that when he lost the tag team championships last year, he lost a little part of him... but Lacey filled the void in his heart! We cut to his bedroom, where he pours two glasses of wine and enthusiastically declares his love for the woman. I can only see this turning out well for Jacobs.
MATCH 8- AJ STYLES VS MATT SYDAL
There was a time where Matt Sydal was considered nothing more than a poor man’s AJ Styles, but I think now we can say that he’s probably better than Styles and has been for a fair while. Although that might just be me.
The match starts with a fast paced exchange of counters and counter-counters, concluding with Styles taking Sydal off his feet with a kip-up huracanrana. They then launch into a similar sequence, which ends with Sydal taking Styles off his feet with a flying headscissors. Symmetry! AJ takes control of the match with a forceful dropkick, and then confirms it with a suplex on the ring apron! Sydal’s sells the move so convincingly it’s hard to believe it didn’t fold him in half. The underdog makes a gradual recovery back in the ring though, and brings about a stalemate with a spinning wheel kick off the top rope. Ankle Lock! Nasty angle as well. Impressive aggression by the diminutive Sydal. The future Evan Bourne busts out a backbreaker next (perhaps taking tips from Generation Next team-mate Roderick Strong) and follows it up with a surfboard stretch. Styles threatens a recovery and springboards off the top rope, but gets caught in mid-air with a dropkick. Sydal attempts a Tornado DDT out the corner, but Styles blocks and hits an enzuiguri that sends his opponent tumbling to the floor! AJ meets him there and tries for a springboard moonsault off the guardrail, but Sydal pushes him into the crowd, then flies onto him with an Asai Moonsault from the top rope! Back in, Matt tries for a wheelbarrow facebuster, but gets caught at the apex and dropped with a back suplex. The Phenomenal One attempts a German Suplex, but grows frustrated at being unable to rotate his foe, and opts instead to just dump him on his face. Sydal blocks a Russian Leg Sweep and quickly follows with a standing moonsault for two. AJ tries to retaliate by hooking the Styles Clash, but Sydal has a counter for that as well, nailing a vicious huracanrana for a two count! He tries for the same off the top rope, but AJ rolls straight through it, and holds on for the three! *** ¾ This toed a fine line between ‘spot heavy’ and ‘spot fest,’ but was able to always remain just the right side of it, ensuring a hugely entertaining match. Effective, too, as they set out to make Sydal look on Styles’ level and achieved it by having him fight back from a vicious suplex on the ring apron, counter almost everything that was thrown at him, and garner several exciting near-falls. In the end though, Styles was able to sneak out the victory with a combination of luck and experience. Everyone gets over. The match was a touch too short and the finish too anti-climactic to hit four stars, but this still worked on several different levels and is the unquestioned highlight of the show so far.
Post match, AJ puts Matt Sydal over and suggests they team up. He manages to put a bad taste in my mouth in doing so that his respect for Sydal doesn’t make him a “faggot.” Styles brings on such a case of cognitive dissonance in me, because he’s clearly a genuinely nice person, but if you scratch even slightly at the surface you find this hateful well of conservative rhetoric. I think I’d feel much more comfortable with him if I knew he sucked copious amounts of penis in his spare time. Anyway, Sydal accepts, they’re gonna team up and do flippy shit, it’s probably going to be all kinds of fun. Stick around for that guys!
Backstage promo time! Samoa Joe says his business with BJ Whitmer isn’t finished. Adam Pearce complains about how dangerous the six man mayhem was, but he’ll go through it as often as it takes to prove himself.
MATCH 9- ROH CHAMPIONSHIP- BRYAN DANIELSON VS CHRIS HERO
Hero makes his way through the crowd, escorted by a CZW entourage that most notably includes shoeless wonder and future Age of the Fall member Necro Butcher. Once in the ring he takes the microphone and chastises the “stupid sons of bitches” that said he would never wrestle in ROH. He brands the promotion and it’s booker, Gabe Sapolsky, an elitist Nazi. The crowd drown him out with chants of “shut the fuck up!” Hero can’t wait to win the ROH Championship tonight, take the belt to CZW, and throw it in the trash! Bryan Danielson cuts off the promo with his entrance, much to Hero’s chagrin. There's even some sniping in the introductions, as Hero insists on being announced as the CZW Tag Team Champion, while Danielson wishes to be known as "a wrestler too good to everrrrrrrrrr wrestle for CZW!" Great little pre-match angle. And now the match!
Hero comes out on the losing end of the opening exchange, and so opts to argue with Green Lantern Fan on the floor. The old school theme continues as the two men go through the “leap onto the top rope and gauge the crowd reaction” routine. Unsurprisingly, Danielson comes out on top. Hero tries some more stalling, so Dragon comes out after him and hurls him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Bryan locks in an Indian Deathlock, with some sexy hip gyrations for good measure. The two trade strikes. This match is in danger of meandering, but Hero brings some welcome focus to proceedings by targeting Dragon’s left arm. Danielson fires back with slaps delivered by his good arm. He lands a butterfly suplex and heads up top, connecting with a diving headbutt for two. Hero quashes the comeback with a roaring eye poke and cinches in a Cravat hold! Danielson makes the ropes though. Hero’s Welcome countered into Crossface Chickenwing countered into Saito Suplex. The outsider heads to the top rope but misses his dive, and is sent slumping to the mat with a forearm. Cattle Mutilation! Hero bravely battles the hold, and eventually rolls his way to the ropes. He then nails a pair of Cravat Busters for a tense two count. Hangman’s Clutch, with the injured arm hooked! The commentators can barely conceal their fear that Hero is going to win the World Title, which is a nice touch. Danielson makes the ropes though. Hero’s Welcome! One, two- Danielson kicks out! And another Hero’s Welcome is countered with a Tiger Suplex! For just two! Bryan keeps his cool though, and calmly transitions into a Koji Clutch! And Hero does tap! *** ½ After such a brilliant angle to precede the match, this at first seemed like it could be a bit of a letdown. The match lacked intensity and purpose in the early going, with both men seemingly content to exchange meaningless strikes and submissions, relying on the hot crowd to carry them through. Things got significantly more interesting when Hero started to target Danielson’s arm though, and the finishing stretch was thrilling. On the whole, the good outweighed the bad in this match, and thus a satisfying main event was had by all.
The match has barely concluded when Prince Nana stomps down to ringside to... offer his congratulations to Danielson? Oh, so he can try to buy the ROH Championship from him. Predictably, Dragon doesn’t accept, and earns a beatdown from Jimmy Rave and Alex Shelley as a result to end the show.
The 411: There would be better shows in 2006 from ROH, but this doesn't mean you should sleep on this one. Aside from the FIP Title match the undercard is consistently entertaining, and the final two matches both deliver what you would hope of them. Add to the mix lots of angle advancement and a smattering of good promos, and you have a very fun start to the year. Recommended.