Philadelphia, PA – 2.23.2002
Commentary is provided by Eric Gargiulo and Steve Corino.
Earlier in the day, Da Hit Squad of Mafia & Monsta Mack said hello to a bus of fans from New York who came to the show. Spanky had already beat them to the punch, but DHS are able to hype up the fans from their home area. They also hype up a group of fans from Boston.
Da Hit Squad (Mafia & Monsta Mack) vs. The Christopher Street Connection (Buff-E & Mase)
Allison Danger comes to the ring with Buff-E and Mase. Commentary is disgusted that one them kisses another man and demands they get booted out of the building. They agree when Buff-E on commentary says they were told “their kind” wasn’t wanted here, and the fans chant the “f” word at them. Buff-E says the H in ROH will stand for Homosexuals. He and Mase kiss until Da Hit Squad hits the ring and beats the hell out of them. Mafia pins Mase with a Burning Hammer in 1:00. For good measure, Mafia super powerbombs Danger onto Buff-E through a table. This was intended to show the audience that ROH is about wrestling and not sports entertainment or gimmicks, but in doing so produced an insanely homophobic and misogynistic segment. I was going to say “in hindsight” but it was both those things at the time too. Understandably, ROH disassociate themselves from this segment now, and count the second match as the first “official” ROH match, but real heads know. DUD
The Briscoes are planning to show they are the best in wrestling, as both singles and a tag team. Amazing Red tells Jay he will get hit with the Infrared, and to expect the unexpected.
Jay Briscoe vs. The Amazing Red
Jay’s brother Mark Briscoe is ringside to support Jay, since at the time he was 17 and could not wrestle in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They each try a quick pin attempt. Jay shoulder blocks Red to the mat. After some leapfrogs, Jay mi paso’s Red over the top rope and to the floor. Jay misses a pescado, but back inside the ring, he connects with a leg lariat. Red slides under a boot attempt and kicks Jay in the chest. Red blasts Jay with an enzuigiri for two. He goes for a tornado DDT, but Jay halts him in the corner and brings him down with the Muscle Buster! After only getting a two count he goes to the top turnbuckle. Red kicks Jay as he comes off the down and drops him with a brainbuster for two. He kicks Jay in the jaw with a spinwheel kick. In response, Jay connects with the big boot on his second try. Red counters the Jay Driller with a back suplex. Jay however rolls back up and hits the Jay Driller. Red gets his foot on the ropes to break the pin attempt. Jay goes up top again. Red hits the ropes to crotch Jay on the top rope. Red runs up the ropes, and Jay dives across the ring to shoulder block him out of mid-air. He dumps Red on his head with a half-nelson suplex. Jay attempts but misses a super senton. Red hits the Red Alert and the Red Star Press for the pin at 8:31. This was a lot of fun and the crowd was hot for all the action. The match did a great job setting the tone for both the show and ROH as a whole. Crazy that Jay Briscoe would be a pivotal part of ROH nineteen years later. ***
Low Ki says all the top competitors in the country have converged in Philadelphia to prove they belong in the Ring of Honor. Ki tells Daniels and Danielson he will prove tonight that it isn’t the size of the fighter, but the fight they will bring, and all they can do is be ready. Earlier in the day, Homicide showed the cameraman the neighborhood where grew up. He brought his friend from the dirty South Boogalou, and they are going to bring the streets to the ring. Backstage, Xavier tries to keep Eric Tuttle from being discouraged for an unknown reason. Scoot Andrews says 2001 was a great year for him, but 2002 will be even better. He’s sorry to Xavier that he has to be his stepping stone.
Xavier vs. Scoot Andrews
After feeling each other out, Andrews counters a headscissors with a front face slam. A beautiful dropkick earns Andrews a two count, as does a butterfly suplex, and a back heel kick. Xavier ducks a clothesline. He picks up Andrews for possibly a Hot Shot, and ends up dropping Andrews back and right onto his face. Andrews comes back with a waterwheel slam out of the corner. Xavier whips Andrews to the corner. He comes off the ropes looking for a bulldog, only for Andrews to intercept with a hard clothesline for two. Andrews misses a flying leg drop. Xavier lays into him with several forearm strikes and jumping knee strikes to the face. Andrews escapes a sunset flip and pulls up Xavier by his wrist. He drops Xavier back down in a reverse DDT for two. He spikes Xavier with the Force of Nature (sit-out reverse piledriver). Andrews has Xavier pinned but Xavier’s foot is under the ropes so he can’t be pinned. Xavier rolls to the floor and Andrews argues with referee John Finnigan. That time gives Xavier enough energy to kick out when Andrews brings him back in the ring. Andrews goes for the Force of Nature again. Xavier slips out and instead gives Andrews a wrist-capture Rude Awakening for the pin at 10:02. I like the story that Andrews feels like he should’ve won and that he felt Xavier got a lucky break, and that both guys got to show some personality on top of their wrestling prowess. It takes some convincing, but Andrews upholds the Code of Honor after the match. **½
The Boogie Knights (Danny Drake & Mike Tobin) vs. The Natural Born Sinners (Boogalou & Homicide)
Boogalou goes after Drake and Tobin’s arms in his exchanges. He almost pins Drake in a double palanca. He tags Homicide who gives Drake a yakuza kick. Boogalou exploder suplexes Drake before leaving the ring. Tobin stops Homicide from pinning Drake. Boogalou places Drake in a chair ringside. Homicide tope suicida’s onto Drake. Tobin comes out with a pescado but gets sent into a ring post. Back in the ring, Boogalou suplexes Drake into a top rope double stomp from Homicide. Drake stops Boogalou’s offense with a reverse DDT. The Knights finally get some sustained offense, but Homicide keeps breaking their pin attempts. Boogalou reverses a brainbuster from Tobin and they both tag out. Homicide stops Drake with a big boot. He drops Tobin with a cutter. Homicide lariats Drake into a half-nelson suplex from Boogalou. Homicide blasts the Knights with a rubber chicken repeatedly. Referee HC Loc disqualifies the Natural Born Sinners at 7:43, making The Boogie Knights the winners. Homicide and Boogalou attack Loc afterwards, including stabbing him in the forehead with a spike and Homicide giving him the Cop Killa. The crowd were really into the Natural Born Sinners, and that would be the case for all of Homicide’s ROH career. The match itself was semi-sloppy chaos. *¼
The fans really love “Towel Boy” Eric Tuttle who is wiping down the ropes after the match.
Ultimate Aerial Elimination Match
The Amazing Red vs. Brian XL vs. Chris Devine vs. Joel Maximo vs. Jose Maximo vs. Quiet Storm
Special Guest Referee: Mikey Whipwreck
This was originally a five way until Whipwreck called for Red to join the fray. Everybody except for XL is a student of Whipwreck’s. As you can tell from the competitors, this match featured a lot of armdrags, dropkicks, headscissors, and dives. Red becomes the first eliminated when Jose catches him with a backslide at 10:05. Devine then pins XL after Storm gives him a Spinal Shock at 10:33. The Maximos work together as a team, hitting Devine with a Spanish Fly. As Joel pins Devine, Storm German suplexes Jose in a bridge. Both Jose and Devine are pinned at 11:34. The match is now down to Jose and Storm. After each try for a submission, Storm calls for the Storm Cradle Driver. Jose escapes Storm’s grasp and nails him with a lariat for two. Storm gets in a forearm battle with Jose after kicking out of a side slam driver. Storm wins the battle and hits the Storm Cradle Driver for the pin at 14:55. Yes, most of this match was moves, but the crowd dug it and just about everything hit flush. Both commentary and their actions did a good job showing the relationships, setting up future matches between all the students. For a “spotfest”, it was decent, but doesn’t age well. **½
Prince Nana heads to the ring, not knowing who his opponent is going to be. Rob Feinstein passes by Steve Corino and sends Eric Tuttle out to the ring. Corino tells Tuttle to “get himself over.” Tuttle wipes down the ropes with his towel before the match begins.
Prince Nana vs. Eric Tuttle
Nana destroys Tuttle with a clothesline. Another clothesline and running hip attack follow. Hw pins Tuttle with a belly-to-belly suplex at 0:50. I forgot Nana’s debut was so dominant, and given where his ROH career goes versus Towel Boy, it was the right call. *
Michael Shane & Oz vs. Ikaika Loa & Spanky
This is a tag team match showcasing graduates of the Texas Wrestling Academy. The individual who secures the victory wins an ROH contract. Oz wipes out Spanku with a spinning back kick. He ducks a clothesline and superkicks Spanky underneath his chin. Oz suplexes a charging Loa and tags in Shane. Shane brings down Oz with La Mistica and then a spinwheel kick for two. Spanky and Shane have a very even exchange until Shane pulls Spanky down in mid-air from a leapfrog into a slam. Shane clotheslines Spanky from the apron. Loa shoves Shane off the top turnbuckle, leading to him and Spanky taking turns beating down Shane in their corner. Shane catches a break when he and Spanky collide with concurrent clotheslines, but Loa runs in and forearms Oz to make sure Shane can’t tag out. Shane however is able to land a top rope dropkick onto Loa and tag in Oz a few moments later. He sends a charging Loa to the floor and pump kicks Spanky for two. Shane comes in with a diving elbow drop to Spanky, but hurt his tricep on the landing. Oz jumps in for a pin but Loa makes the save. Spanky is really impressed with himself after Tiger Walking up Shane. From behind Oz German suplexes Spanky, then with Shane flapjacks Loa. They put Loa in a double stretch. Spanky dropkicks both Shane and Oz to save his partner. Shane superkicks Spanky to stop him from giving Oz the Sliced Bread #2. Loa Cactus clotheslines Shane to the floor, giving Spanky the room to hit Oz with Sliced Bread #2 and pick up the win at 12:31. This earns Spanky an ROH contract. Given he was by far the most charismatic performer of the four, he was the obvious choice. He and Shane were the two clear standouts, and with some meandering action in the middle, it’s clear a singles would’ve been a much better match in general. **¾
Backstage, Whipwreck sets up a triple threat tag team match with his six guys next month, and HC Loc on the phone says he is going to make his own spot in ROH, ditching his referee shirt.
IWA Puerto Rico Intercontinental Championship
Super Crazy vs. Eddie Guerrero
This match will determine the inaugural champion. Guerrero declines Crazy’s handshake, instead slapping the insane luchadore in the face. Crazy strikes back. Guerrero snapmares Crazy and digs his foot into his face. Guerrero knocks Crazy down with a back elbow and gives him a vertical suplex for two. Guerrero executes three consecutive headlock takedowns. Crazy uses a belly-to-back suplex to escape the third headlock. Guerrero delivers his own belly-to-back suplex for two. Crazy dizzies Guerrero with several armdrag variations, then pummels Guerrero ten times in the corner. Guerrero trips Crazy off the ring apron, resulting in Crazy falling face first onto the ring apron. He drops Crazy on the floor with a brainbuster! In the ring Guerrero hits a slingshot senton for two. Crazy rolls through a sunset flip. He rolls over Guerrero and dropkicks him in the back of his head. Crazy’s slingshot moonsault gets a two count, as does a top rope dropkick. Guerrero takes down Crazy from the top turnbuckle with a Frankensteiner. Guerrero ducks a boot, but eats a spinwheel kick. Guerrero powerbombs Crazy for two. He does more damage to Crazy’s back with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. The fans chant for Super Crazy. Guerrero acknowledges the crowd with two brainbusters before going to the top turnbuckle. He notices Crazy escaping the trajectory of the frog splash, so Guerrero rolls as he comes off the top turnbuckle. Crazy grabs a charging Guerrero and small packages him for the pin at 10:42. With the fans way into both of them, Crazy and Guerrero had an easy crowd, yet both still busted their humps. Guerrero was a true pro sticking to his Rudo guns, which made it all the more satisfying when Crazy caught him off guard and robbed him of the chance to be the inaugural champion. Honestly I would not have minded if they went a few more minutes, but as this was not the main event I understand why they kept it tight. ***¼
Backstage everyone congratulates Crazy on his victory, except for Christopher Daniels who just shakes his head. Low Ki says the main event will prove who the top athlete is in Ring of Honor.
Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki
Ki and Danielson take out Daniels so they can fight amongst themselves. Daniels dropkicks the both of them while they’re engaged in a lock-up. Each man lands a strike, resetting the bout. Daniels breaks another Danielson/Ki lock-up. Ki dropkicks Danielson as Daniels drops down. Daniels puts Danielson in a tree of woe and Ki dropkicks him. Ki gives Daniels a Koppu Kick and a few kicks to the chest. Danielson goes for Cattle Mutilation on Ki but Daniels breaks it up. After several slams, Daniels Ki and Danielson up in a Boston Crab/Camel Clutch combo momentarily. Danielson traps and kicks Daniels’ arm from the apron. Ki Kawada kicks Danielson around the ring. Daniels palm strikes Ki from behind and hits him with a leg lariat. Daniels gut wrench suplexes Danielson for two. Ki wins a chop battle with Daniels in the corner. Danielson chops both guys and puts Daniels in a modified Muta Lock. Ki kicks Danielson’s leg to stop him. Ki kicks Danielson while Daniels’ legs are still locked. Danielson Northern Lights suplexes Ki for two. He then turns Daniels onto his shoulders for another two count. Danielson back elbows Ki for two. Danielson arm whips Daniels to the mat. He twists Daniels’ fingers until Ki kicks him in the back. Danielson and Ki then take turns kicking each other in the back. When Daniels approaches, they try showing each other up by each kicking Daniels in the back as hard as they can. In the process, Ki and Danielson accidentally kick each others’ shins. Daniels gives both of them neckbreakers and puts Ki in a Liontamer. Danielson forearms Daniels to break the hold. He tries a double suplex with Ki onto Daniels, but instead Daniels DDT’s Danielson and gives Ki a neckbreaker at the same time. Both men kick out of his pin attempts. Ki and Danielson throw Daniels off the top rope. Danielson Kawada kicks Ki. Ki kicks Danielson in the head from the apron. Daniels belly-to-belly suplexes Ki for two. Ki tilt-a-whirls from Daniels into a tornado DDT on Danielson. Ki hits Daniels with the Tidal Wave for two. Daniels puts Danielson in an abdominal stretch on the top rope. Ki shoves Danielson down and puts Daniels in the hanging Dragon! When he releases, he gets a two count on Daniels. Daniels goes for Last Rites after a tilt-a-whirl from Ki. Ki fights out of that and kicks Danielson into a Blue Thunder Bomb from Daniels. Danielson kicks out. Daniels avoids a Tidal Wave from Ki and gives him two palm strikes. Danielson looks to take over from Daniels and superplex Ki, but Daniels swoops in and belly-to-back superplexes Danielson as Danielson superplexes Ki. Danielson Dragon suplexes Daniels and Ki breaks the cover. Ki puts Danielson in a Dragon Sleeper. Daniels breaks that up and drops Ki with an STO and calls for the BME. Danielson follows up with the BME, only for Danielson to break his pin. Daniels turns Danielson inside out with a lariat. Ki cartwheel roundhouse kicks Daniels in the corner. Danielson elbows Ki to the floor. He puts Daniels in the Cattle Mutilation. Ki breaks it with a Phoenix Splash on Danielson! Ki gives Daniels the Ki Krusher for the pin at 20:04. It was a gutsy move to main event ROH’s first show with this match instead of Eddie Guerrero and Super Crazy, but it turned out to absolutely be the right move. Not only was this match incredible, but it defined the “ROH style” and gave wrestling fans a must wee match to seek out. Who is to say if ROH would have been successful if this match wasn’t as fantastic as it was? If you’ve never seen this match, I recommend giving it a watch. ****¼
Danielson tells Ki that since he wasn’t pinned in the match, he wants to face him in a singles match next month to decide who the better man really is. Daniels interjects. He starts off respectful to both Danielson and Ki, but ends up saying that they can both go to hell. Daniels says he could beat them both in singles match on the same night if he had to. Ki calls his bluff, and proposes a round robin tournament for the next show. He plans to show he is the best man in Ring of Honor. Ki and Danielson shake hands, but Daniels refuses to uphold the Code of Honor.
Backstage, Eddie Guerrero says ROH has to do with balls – not ego, money, or fame. The loss he suffered tonight means he’s either off his game, his opposition is getting better, or he needs to get hungry again. ROH is where he wants to be. It’s not over, not by a long shot. After a music video of the show, the video concludes with Daniels leaving the building unhappy.