BG Says: This was the second show I attended live, the first I attended with Jakester here. We drove five hours to get there, stood for the entire three hour show and then drove five hours back. It made for some interesting exhaustion-induced conversation on the way back at any rate. This show was pretty fun live, let's see how it holds up on tape, shall we? Let's go.
The show starts out with a Prophecy promo. Christopher Daniels runs down the Second City Saints, citing the Prophecy's dominance over Steve Corino's 'The Group' the year before. He brags that Maff and Daniels have both come close to pinning Samoa Joe for the ROH title, and rubs in the attack on Lucy. Christopher Daniels promos, you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.
Samoa Joe's ring gives us Joe and tag partner for the evening "American Dragon" Brian Danielson trying to one-up one another by stretching out ROH school students while calmly bickering with one another. The segment ends with Dragon telling Joe he'll shake his hand before and after his ROH title match. It should be noted that Dragon has to stare at Joe's mouth during their stare down to keep a straight face.
JZ Says: This was my first ROH live show, and is responsible for getting me interested in the company as a whole. Standing up the whole time wasn't my idea of a good time, and having to deal with the jerk in the Richard Hamilton jersey wasn't fun either, but no one forgets their first time. Brad did a good job summing up the opening promos, but I would like to add just a bit. The Prophecy promo is pretty long winded, and I don't think Daniels is as good at cutting promos as Daniels thinks he is. The highlight was when Daniels brought up the attack on Lucy, and BJ Whitmer chimes in with "man, that felt good. What a plan you came up with." For some reason this was very funny to me. I did enjoy Samoa Joe's ring with Danielson, and it nicely set up for their tag team title match that night, and their eventual World Title Match which will finally happen this August.
Oh, and before we start the review proper, the ROH Top 5 Rankings as of January 10, 2004, were:
2) Matt Stryker
3) AJ Styles
4) John Walters
5) Bryan Danielson
Alright, now let's look at the show.
MATCH #1: Alex Shelley vs. Matt Stryker (Pure Wrestling Rules in Effect)
BG Says: The crowd chants "We want rope breaks!" as the match begins. Chain wrestling to start us out. Shelley struggles to get an octopus stretch on Stryker, causing him to use his first rope break. Stryker gets Shelley in an armlock shortly after for Shelley's first break. Now things begin to pick up as both guys realize they've wasted a rope break. Shelley locks on a full nelson using his legs on Stryker, and Stryker forces out of the move instead of going for the ropes. After a cool pinning sequence, Stryker forces out of a pin even though he was near the ropes, further enforcing the rope break rule to the crowd. Shelley however proves he may not be talent on loan from G-d as he uses the ropes to break the pin following a Stryker powerslam, leaving him with only one rope break. Stryker dragonscrews Shelley off the top rope and locks him in a sitting stretch muffler. Shelley powers out. Up until this point Stryker had been working the arm and shoulder, but now focuses in on the leg. Stryker puts Shelley into Triple H's leglock, and the crowd shouts at Shelley to tap. Stryker puts Shelley into submission after submission, with Shelley being forced to reverse them all rather than go to the ropes. An enziguiri FINALLY gives the advantage back to Shelley. Shelley hits a neckbreaker onto his knee, injuring himself further. Shelley goes up top but trips and gets his knee caught in the ropes. That was really sick looking live. Strykerlock to Shelley. forcing him to use his final rope break. He keeps going for it as Shelley desperately tries to fight him off. Finally Stryker gets it locked in, and Shelley is forced to tap after failing to crawl out of the ring. The psychology was a little goofy, with Stryker working the arm in the early going for no reason, and Shelley bridged onto his bad leg near the end of the matchup, but those gripes are negated by both men doing a great job in getting the 3 rope break rule over with the crowd and working it into the match phenomenally. This match blew me away live, and still entertained on tape.
JZ Says: I am a big fan of Alex Shelley, and am proud to say that I have reffed a few matches for him a while ago when he worked for GLW and CIW in Michigan, back when his name was David Decker. I think he made the right choice for a permanent name. Brad did a fantastic job on play-by-play, so I won't be redundant here, but I must echo his praise for the match. We were both worried that the three-rope-break rule wouldn't get over with the crowd, but Shelley and Stryker both did a great job getting the gimmick over and making it seem really important. The other Pure Wrestling Match rules, according to the commentators Chris Lovey and Chris Nelson, are a 20-count outside the ring, and no punching. But these rules don't have as much bearing on the match as the 3-rope breaks. This match was very unique, and a really good introduction to the Pure Wrestling Division, which would take center stage at the Second Anniversary Show, which we will be reviewing sometime in the near future. Anyway, Stryker goes over in 14:24, and they shake hands and hug, and the crowd (of which I was a part) is very appreciative of both men's efforts. Seven months later on tape, and I am still appreciative.
MATCH #2: Nigel McGuiness vs. Cody Hawk, HWA Title Match
BG Says: This match was very underwhelming live, and all I really remember about it was Nigel's nasty cut. Chain wrestling to start. Cody takes over, working over the ribs with kicks. Nigel turns things around with a huge headbutt and a Cactus clothesline bringing both guys to the outside. Both men fight to ram the other's head into the post, Nigel coming up on the wrong end of that exchange, taking a nasty bump into it and getting busted open hardway. Cody works over the wound with headbutts. Cody nails a muscle buster on Nigel, then drops him on his face with an electric chair drop. Ouch. Cody hits a piledriver on Nigel, who uses the ropes to break. Nigel gets desperate and goes for unique pinning maneuvers. He then trips Cody up with a drop toe hold and rolls him up for the pin. This was way better than I remembered it being. Unlike in the last match, Cody's switching from working Nigel's ribs to his head has a purpose, as a weak spot opened up on his head causing him to switch his target. The ending came out of nowhere, but worked within the context of the match.
JZ Says: I have really come to like Nigel over the past few months, and this show was the first time I had ever heard of the guy. I had also never heard of Cody Hawk, so I wasn't very interested in this match at the time. I've seen it on tape twice now, and it is a solid, if unspectacular bout. Nigel seems to have learned a lot of his craft from Johnny Saint, and there's nothing wrong with that. The most memorable part, as Brad mentioned, is that Nigel got a nasty cut above his eye that looked really painful. Nigel ends up winning with a cool rollup at 7:33. There were a few awkward moments, but it was mostly solid stuff. I was especially pleased to hear Nigel's theme music is "I Fought the Law" by The Clash, one of my favorite bands.
GOOD TIMES, GREAT MEMORIES: Special Guest Ace Steel
BG Says: Colt mentions Oldies 104.3 WOMC, which is the oldies station in my hometown. What a coincidence! Ace talks about his bowling old bowling trophies, and asks Rob Feinstein to bring it in for him. A little kid brings it in instead... yeah, ok moving on. Apparently bowling championships inspired Ace to get into wrestling. This reminds Colt of his past, apparently he was the main character in the movie "Over the Top." CM Punk breaks up the good times, (and great memories) yelling at his troops to get serious and forget about the peg legged midgets. Traci Brooks looks hot and out of place standing in the background.
JZ Says: Colt is one of the funniest men in the business, and this is a great example of that fact. Colt and Ace go back and forth about hopscotch, arm wrestling (alluding to Sylvester Stallone's "Over the Top"), peg legged midgets, and it's a very funny exchange. Then CM Punk comes in with Traci (probably the most famous hot woman to hug me, at an IWR show last fall), and he's all pissed off. He implores his Saints to get their game faces on, and then delivers the line of the night: "No more talk show! No more shenanigans! No more squirrel on water skis!" Great stuff all around.
MATCH #3: Jimmy Jacobs vs. Chris Sabin
BG Says: HUSS (Note from 1/2/2006: I really dropped the ball here. One day I'll go back and write something.)
JZ Says: Chris Sabin happens to be my favorite wrestler, and I have a soft spot for Jimmy Jacobs as well, so I'll go ahead and admit that I'm biased towards both men. Bias or no bias, I really enjoyed this match. The commentators were saying how this match would earn the winner a spot in the Pure Wrestling Title Tournament in February, but the rules that were enforced in the first match never came into effect here. These two guys have wrestled each other many times, and it is obvious that they know each other and work well together. There were a few goofy spots where Jacobs was only doing something to set up for a move by Sabin, but it is forgivable, as the moves that came from it were crisp and well-executed. Sabin wins with a very DANGEROUS move off the top rope at 10:45.
MATCH #4: Jimmy Rave vs. Caprice Coleman vs. Rainman vs. Todd Sexton, 4 Corner Survival Match
BG Says: These matches are always fun live, and this was no exception, but often they don't do it for me on tape. Everyone but Rave is making their ROH debut here, and all are regulars in NWA-Wildside. Caprice Colman rules, and his jabs to Rainman got me interested in this match early. Rainman hits a cool enziguiri on Todd Sexton. The match continues on, spot spot spot nonstop. The action never really slows down. Everyone gets a submission move on everyone else, which doesn't really work for me here because tags are needed in this match. They do the mandatory everyone-dives-to-the-outside WCW cruiserweight spot, with Colman's dive looking particularly beautiful. Rave wins the match after reversing a tombstone by Sexton into a Shining Wizard for the Pin. These matches are usually used to showcase the talents of newer guys in the company, and this match did that well. However, it didn't hold much appeal for me outside of that. Colman should be brought into ROH fulltime. After the match AJ Styles compliments Rave and tells him he's ready to wrestle Styles himself. This would lead to a semi-payoff Styles v. Rave match at the 2nd Anniversary show, however it seems that another match may be in the future.
JZ Says: These matches all seem to have two obligatory spots: a four-way submission, and everyone hitting a dive to the outside of the ring. This match is no exception, but for some reason, I found myself liking it. Todd Sexton executed a couple of cool moves, Jimmy Rave is a solid worker and Rainman held up his end. The real star of the match for me was Caprice Coleman, whose dive was great looking, and all of his movements are very fluid and look really sharp. The crowd stays with these guys through all of their spots, right up through Rave getting the win at 9:54, which was obviously the right choice.
MATCH #5: AJ Styles vs. Homicide
BG Says: At this point live I was starting to get really tired. I wanted to love this match but my legs were distracting me and it came off as flat. I've heard that this match is amazing on tape, so let's take a look. Both guys go for their finishers early. The crowd is super hot for this match. Homicide works over Styles' head with a headlock and a legscissors, which AJ reverses into a pin attempt. Really cool moment as AJ has Homicide stuck in a wristlock, so Homicide punches AJ down, only to be hurt more when AJ falls and doesn't let go of the wristlock. AJ goes for a baseball slide to Homicide on the outside, but Homicide sidesteps and sends AJ into the rail. Awesome moment as Homicide tries to whip AJ into another guardrail, only to see AJ slide on the ground to slow the momentum. Homicide rushes AJ who jumps over him causing Homicide to run headfirst into the guardrail. Nice. Homicide reverses a discuss lariat into the Ace Crusher, and then continues to work over AJ's neck. AJ hits two pumphandle backbreakers and then blocks a hiptoss and locks in an abdominal stretch. Cide hits a dragonscrew and works over AJ's leg. In this case, it makes sense for Homicide to work over AJ's head and legs because his submission move, the STF, puts pressure on both body parts. On the outside, Homicide nails a tope con hilo on AJ, but gets propelled into the crowd, putting him out of the match for several minutes. The refs come to check on him but he says he can go, so it's still on. Homicide goes for the pin on AJ back in the ring for 2. Homicide is favoring his shoulder, so he must be hurt legit. AJ keeps pressure on Homicide's ribs in preparation for the Styles Clash. Homicide hits a piledriver on AJ. Homicide goes for a flying headbutt and misses. At this point he stops selling the shoulder injury, so if it was legit then he just doesn't sell out of pride I guess. Ending comes as Homicide goes for a huricanrana which AJ reverses to the Styles Clash for the pin. Crowd chants thank you. The match was bringing the awesome until the dive to the outside. Everything sort of fell apart after that, and if Homicide was really hurt, this is understandable. He had the same problem in his match with Satoshi Kojima the month before, so one wonders if he should just take the dive out of his move set.
JZ Says: AJ Styles is another one of my favorite wrestlers, and after meeting him at an MMWA show in Kalkaska last May, I earned even more respect for him. He's just a really down-to-earth guy, and admitted that he's "the biggest mark in the business." As far as Homicide, he's got skills no doubt, but he too often refuses to sell and forgets about psychology. Good thing he's in there with the master. The first part of this match had all kinds of cool stuff, like Homicide reversing a discuss punch into a diamond cutter, and just a ton of cool reversals and suplexes. My favorite little part was the sequence just before the Tope Con Hilo, which Homicide does in every match. But after the Tope Con Hilo, the match kind of goes to Hell, as Homicide just refuses to sell, and nothing really clicks anymore. Styles does a lot of cool moves to work on Homicide's ribs, and a really cool ending sequence gives Styles the win at 21:42 with the Styles Clash. Before the Hilo, this match was ****, after it was about **1/2, so I'll go with an average. Crowd chants "thank you," which is overdoing it just a bit. At the arena, I actually spent most of the match talking to Alex Shelley, who is always really nice to me.
BG Says: Les Thatcher interviews the Carnage Crew and tells them that Special K has a new member. Loc and DeVito cut the same old, redundant, adulterous, repetitive, aggressive and angry promo that they cut on every show. But now DeVito slips in stuff about his daughter being a raver to spice up the feud with Special K. I really dig the Carnage Crew, but every single show has the exact same promo.
JZ Says: Apparently I'm not as big a fan of the Carnage Crew as Brad, but they certainly have some cool tag team moves and can have some pretty good matches as long as they're not just garbage brawls. What I can't stand, is like Brad said, every single promo is exactly the same. "We have shitty jobs," "I had to work overtime to get gas to get here," "we hate our families," etc. I've heard it so many times and I just don't care. I don't like to think that wrestlers have lives outside of wrestling while I'm watching a show. While I understand that they do, and actually know a few of these guys outside the ring, within the course of the show I don't think anyone should talk about a life outside the ring, who their wives would rather sleep with than them, what kind of music their daughters listen too, or anything like that.
MATCH #6: Tag Team Scramble Match: Special K vs. The Carnage Crew & Dunn & Marcos
BG Says: Special K has new member Mellow on the outside, and we are lead to believe that this is the new member Les was talking about. This match didn't grab me live, and its not grabbing me here. Slim J's selling is really annoying, and the match has no flow. There have been some good scramble matches in the past, I mean hell, ROH just released a best of tape of them, but this isn't one of them. Spot spot spot as these matches always go. All the faces put all the heels into submission moves at the same time for a few seconds and then let go, pointless. Mellow gets involved and dives onto everyone on the outside. We get our second WCW cruiserweight moment of the night, because I guess one just wasn't enough. Live this match felt really short, and I could deal with that. This however felt like it was 25 minutes long and just felt completely disjointed. Oh, the ending of the match, Abyss debuts as the insurance policy of Special K and gives Loc a backbreaker allowing Slim J to get the pin. I guess Special K isn't as rich as the commentators say they are, as they couldn't keep their insurance policy Abyss after this show.
JZ Says: These matches historically don't do much for me, as they are all just about the same. The Carnage Crew won't sell, and everyone just hits moves for no apparent reason. Brad's right about Slim J's selling, but I also found that he did the coolest moves out of anyone in this match. Though I also must admit that I am a big fan of Dunn & Marcos, and can't wait to see them win the tag team titles. Anyway, this atrocity ends at 12:59 when Abyss runs in and gives Loc a backbreaker and Slim J gets the pin. Eh.
MATCH #7: ROH Tag Team Title Match: The Briscoe Brothers vs. Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson
BG Says: This match was really fun for me live, and was the only thing that could distract me from my throbbing feet. Just for the record, I really dig Danielson, I think the Briscoes are one of the best tag teams in the world today, and in the words of Eugene Dinsmore, "Samoa Joe is my faaaaaaaavorite rassler!" Joe had be feuding with the Briscoes for months, besting them in singles matches but not having as much luck in tag matches. Joe would pick the best wrestlers he could find to take the tag titles from the Briscoes, and Mark and Jay would take turns trying to win Joe's World Title from him. It doesn't get much better than the American Dragon as far as tag partners goes. Danielson stretches the Briscoes to start. Joe and Dragon take turns beating on the Briscoes, focusing in on Mark's arm. The match has a cool dynamic, as Joe and Danielson seem unstoppable until the Briscoes either cheat or doubleteam to get the advantage. The Briscoes then dominate until they start wrestling like they are on the same level as Joe and Danielson offensively, and get pummeled as a result. Jay tries some chops on Danielson, with negative results. The Briscoes get back on offense by taunting Joe and then double teaming Danielson. Ending comes when Joe is tied up with Mark on the outside, and Danielson gets caught with a Jay driller for the pin. I wanted to love this so badly, but it just felt like it was missing that extra kick to make it special, like say Joe and AJ Styles v. The Briscoes from The Conclusion. Joe and Danielson spit on each other after the match, starting the looooooong build for their match that will finally happen this August.
JZ Says: I can't think of any bad Danielson matches, I am really warming up to Samoa Joe's style, and I concur with Brad about the Briscoes being one of the best teams in the world. They're a better team than any teams in the WWE or TNA at least. This match was really solid, but there were just a few spots that bugged me. Danielson, admittedly one of the best workers in the world, decides not to sell at a few random times. Also, the ending bothered me, as Joe was on the outside of the ring with Mark giving him the Ole Kick. As much as I like Joe, I absolutely hate that move (though the crowd loves it). I mean, the guy just SITS THERE as Joe revs up the crowd, and runs the length of the ring and kicks them in the face. It's no better than Goldust's "Shattered Dreams." The Briscoes looked really good in this match, as they usually do, with a lot of cool double teams, which leads the announcers to astutely compare them to the Andersons. The main problem with this match is that there was no drama. It was glaringly obvious that Joe & Danielson were not going to win, and that's exactly what happened when Jay hit the Jay Driller (a sick looking move if there ever was one) and pins Danielson at 24:03. Really solid match that would have benefited tremendously from better heat.
MATCH #8: The Prophecy w/ Alison Danger vs. The Second City Saints w/ Traci Brooks
BG Says: Here we go, the brawl that lasted forever. A lot of people love this match. Live, I was so tired from standing that I was just hoping it would be really short and really violent. I sort of got one of my wishes. Watching this on tape, I tried to take notes but this resembled a scramble match in its structure. Both teams hit some cool double and triple team moves on their opponents. At one point all three of the Second City Saints hit Maff with huge moves and Maff kicks out at one. If this were a singles match and that happened, that would have pumped me up, but in this match it just felt like someone should have saved Maff, and it made the Saints look really weak. Traci Brooks and Allison Danger get into a catfight inside the ring. Punk pulls Danger off of Traci. Whitmer goes for the chairshot on Punk who ducks and the ref takes the sickest chairshot ever taken by a referee. The match is thrown out and I get annoyed, remembering how frustrating it was live to stand through thirty minutes of this stuff for no ending. The brawl continues and the blood flows with nothing really going on until Tracy Brooks is given the nastiest looking exploder at the hands of Whitmer. Dig Whitmer giving devastating moves to women and officials. He gets his however, as Lucy makes her huge, and one-time-only, return to ROH by ballshotting BJ in retaliation for his attack on the August prior. Some people may have been surprised but you wouldn't know it by the crowd reaction. For my own part, I'd seen Lucy hanging out in the building earlier in the night, so it ruined the surprise for me. The brawl goes on and on again until the Saints are able to assist Punk in giving Daniels a top rope Pepsi Plunge through a table. The announcer asks us all to leave in the same voice he apparently used when Maff got injured legit at the hands of Low Ki. Notable was Jimmy Jacobs coming to check on Daniels wearing the sweater of fellow Prophecy member BJ Whitmer's mom. Insult to injury? You decide.
JZ Says: I like five of the six people in this match, and CM Punk is another one of my favorites, and he shows why in the early goings, with some really good chicken shit heel stuff to stay away from Daniels. The only thing I don't like about Punk is that he does boot scrapes in the corner, and I am so sick of seeing those from so many people. Anyway, The Saints go into a LONG heat segment on Maff that was solid tag stuff, but was just kind of boring. Then, what pissed me off most about this match was Maff taking a top rope elbow from Steel, a frog splash from Cabana, and a guillotine leg drop from Punk and kicking out at ONE! When there were two tag team partners on the outside of the ring who should have broken it up. There's no way a guy should kick out of three huge moves at one, and I find that really insulting to the Saints and the business. Guess who I don't like in this match. Anyway, everyone goes to the outside of the ring, and a big brawl erupts, and even Alison Danger and Traci Brooks get involved. Paul Turner takes a chair shot that looked painful in person, and looked painful on tape. I remember telling Brad at the time that I was officially retiring from refereeing at that moment. Another referee comes down and declares the match a no-contest at 28:31, which felt every bit that long. In another sick spot, Whitmer hits a nasty Exploder on Traci, which she sold like a champ. Lucy comes back and either no one recognized her or no one cared. Then the Saints give Daniels a Pepsi Plunge, and that's all she wrote. People come out to take care of Daniels, and the tape keeps going and going, showing a lot of footage of them trying to get Daniels out of the ring. The crowd chants Huss when Jimmy Jacobs comes out in a beautiful sweater. Daniels has yet to return to ROH, which is more of a legal issue, but at least it helps get this gimmick over.
JZ Says: Alex Shelley cuts a promo about how 2004 is going to be his year, and seven months later he is leading the Generation Next faction in ROH and recently made his TNA debut, so he is definitely having a good year so far.
Then there's a Special K promo in which no one says anything, but they are all just celebrating. Yippee.
CM Punk cuts a promo about how hard the Saints fought and how hurt everyone is, but that they were still triumphant. Not Punk's best, but still pretty good.
Ending the video is a Dan Maff promo, in which he cries about his savior, Christopher Daniels going to the hospital, and blames BJ Whitmer. I don't like Maff promos.
BG says: Alex Shelley.
JZ says: Alex Shelley.
E-mail Brad at email@example.com
E-mail Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you soon with our review of "The Last Stand!"
You can pick up this and all ROH shows at ROHwrestling.com.
The 411: BG Says: Well, much like live, this show starts out really strong and sort of sputters to an end despite the incredible talent in the main event matches. This is quite in contrast to most ROH shows, which pick up speed towards the end. My opinion differs greatly with many people's on this show, so don't rule this one out.
JZ Says: I have a soft spot for this show, as it was my first live show. Nothing except the scramble actively sucked, but I was tremendously disappointed in the dual main events. The undercard helped make up for it though.