Ring of Honor: Round Robin Challenge

Philadelphia, PA – 3.30.2002

Commentary is provided by Eric Gargiulo and Steve Corino.

Christopher Daniels says ROH is just another independent wrestling promotion as far as he’s concerned. It isn’t special or different as it presents itself to be. He also dismisses the Code of Honor. He isn’t here to shake anybody’s hands – he’s here to pin people’s shoulders to the mat. Last month, it took two people to pin his shoulders to the mat, but tonight, he will defeat both American Dragon and Low Ki in singles matches. The only thing they can do about that is say their prayers.

Da Hit Squad then rile up the fans waiting outside of the venue, just like they did with the New York fan bus and crew of fans from Boston last month.

Quiet Storm wants to try out a move on his partner Chris Divine backstage. American Dragon watches him apply the hold, which appears to be a modified chicken wing. Dragon can’t help himself and shows Storm how to properly apply the hold, and leaves Divine laying. That was cheeky, but harmless.

Round Robin Challenge Match #1
Christopher Daniels vs. American Dragon

Daniels looks to end the match early with a leg lariat, but Dragon kicks out and nails him with a forearm strike. He looks for a sleeper hold on the canvas, but Daniels gets the ropes to escape. Daniels fails to pin Dragon in a double knuckle lock, with Dragon switching into a crossface and then a side headlock. When Daniels escapes on his feet, Dragon mows him down with a running shoulder block and reapplies the hold. Dragon knocks him down with a dropkick for two when he escapes the headlock again. When Dragon tries to apply it again, Daniels immediately takes him down with a Saito suplex. He wears down Dragon in a cravat before dropping a knee onto his face. Daniels further wears down Dragon’s neck until Dragon counters a backslide with a belly-to-belly suplex. Dragon takes him down with a knee to the stomach and chops him up in the corner. Dragon follows up with a running forearm smash to the neck with an arm-capture snap suplex and a diving headbutt. Daniels kicks out from the pin, and counters Dragon’s rolling forearm attempt with an STO. He follows up with the BME for a two count. Dragon kicks away at Daniels’ leg and then knocks him down with a rolling forearm strike for two. Daniels shotei’s Dragon during a strike exchange and then takes him out with a lariat for two. The Blue Thunder Bomb also gets him two. Dragon blocks a clothesline and pulls Daniels down to the mat. His neck is too hurt for the Cattle Mutilation, so he instead applies the Rings of Saturn, but Daniels makes it to the ropes to escape. Daniels pulls Dragon into a piledriver for two. Daniels then drops Dragon with the Last Rites and applies a crossface, resulting in Dragon tapping out at 14:23. They did a very good job in telling the story of Dragon’s neck being worn down, giving us something to keep an eye on later when he faces Low Ki later in the evening. Daniels getting a win right off the bat also gives credence to his claim that it took two people to defeat him on the inaugural show. A very good match, as expected. ***½

Daniels demands Dragon to shake his hand. Dragon says unlike Daniels did on the last show, Dragon is going to show some class by shaking Daniels hand in defeat.

Prince Nana and Eric Tuttle are getting ready backstage. Nana defeated Tuttle on the first show, but they’re teaming up tonight. Nana has Tuttle shine up his boots with his towel. We then go to CW Anderson, who is scheduled to face Christian York and Joey Matthews tonight. He was not permitted to wrestle a handicap match, so he chooses the first person setting up the ring he can find, telling him he will be his partner in the match.

Nana and Tuttle make their way to the ring with TWA graduate Simply Luscious. We’re told she is in their corner because it was the only opening on the card and she was eager to accept after the 30 hour trip from Texas. Nana trash talks the fans before making Tuttle drop to his knees and shine his shoes again. Da Hit Squad attack them from behind to start their scheduled match.

Da Hit Squad (Mafia & Monsta Mack) vs. Eric Tuttle & Prince Nana

DHS pummel Nana between them before knocking him down with a double shoulder block. Mack lands a frog splash on Nana while Mafia has him in a leg lock. Tuttle is speared nearly inside out by Mafia. Mack lariats him into a wheelbarrow suplex from Mafia, who then pins Tuttle with a Burning Hammer at 1:51. ¼*

Then comes one of the most offensive wrestling segments I’ve ever witnessed. The Christopher Street Connection enter the ringside area, looking to get revenge on DHS from last month. Prince Nana bumps into them as he is heading backstage. Mafia tosses Tuttle over the top rope. Tuttle is supposed to land on the CSC and Nana, but instead falls directly to the floor, hard. CSC try to kiss a nearly unconscious Tuttle, which is to say, they try to sexually assault him. Speaking of assault, the DHS pull Luscious by her hair and press slam her onto everybody outside of the ring. At least they caught her. DHS beat up someone nearly half their size (Tuttle) and then a female, tossing both of them onto a team they beat up simply because they’re gay last month. These guys are the faces? If that wasn’t enough, Nana then drags Luscious to the back by her hair like a caveman, and the CSC lay on an unconscious Tuttle near his crotch. The CSC then carried Tuttle backstage and tried to give him CPR. I didn’t anticipate them topping the tone deaf, tasteless angle from the first show, but they did by a significant margin. This was the literal worst.

Danny Drake brags to Mike Tobin about shitting in someone’s bag as a rib, but Tobin is too nervous about The Natural Born Sinners attacking them to process it. They try to find their chainsaw and take it away, and while they find the case, the only thing inside is Homicide’s rubber chicken. They bail without taking anything. This was unhinged. Christian York and Joey Matthews then comment about how preposterous it is for CW Anderson to assume he can team with any jobber and beat them, and how they plan to prove him wrong.

Christian York & Joey Matthews vs. CW Anderson & Elax

Elax is wearing a “got poop?” shirt and is acting like an immature spaz. The match goes as you’d expect, with Elax getting beat down by the established team, and Anderson doing a solid job holding his own against them. Anderson tries to help Elax, working over Matthews’ left arm and feeding it to him, but Elax has to tag out soon after when Matthews fights back against him. Matthews tags out to York after dropping Anderson with a neckbreaker. York takes down Anderson with a back elbow off the second rope and stretches Elax out in a Gory Special. Anderson drops York with a spinebuster for two. Matthews whips Anderson into Elax. York and Matthews then surprise Anderson with the Snap Shot for the pin at 7:05. Surprising to see Anderson take the pin here, but that is for sure the more interesting choice. This was a fairly pedestrian match overall, and things got really messy when York was the legal man. Anderson blames Elax for the loss and lays him out with a spinebuster. *½

Xavier tells us that he was supposed to wrestle Scoot Andrews in a rematch from the first show, but Andrews broke his leg. Instead, he will wrestle James Maritato, the former Little Guido. Maritato tells us he is going back to his UWFi roots, where he wrestled before everyone knew him in ECW. He knows ROH presents a hard wrestling style, and he plans to utilize that style when against Xavier. He tells Xavier that he is going to feel the wrath of James Maritato.

James Maritato vs. Xavier

Maritato goes for a Fujiwara armbar early. Xavier quickly gets out of it and scrambles to the floor when he can’t hold the mount on Maritato. Xavier misses a slingshot senton and Maritato puts him in a headscissors. Xavier turns that into a bow and arrow, which Maritato flips out of, leading to a pin exchange with Xavier. Xavier sends Maritato to the apron. He brings him in with a facelock, releasing him off the top rope and to the canvas with a facebuster. When Xavier attempts a super Frankensteiner, Maritato puts him in a Boston Crab while on top turnbuckle. He releases before the five count and comes off the middle turnbuckle with a dropkick for two. Xavier back drops Maritato and gives him a side Russian leg sweep before dropping a knee onto his face. Maritato tornado DDT’s Xavier to counter a slam and then delivers a Sicilian Slice off the apron and onto the floor. Maritato puts him in an Oriental Scorpion (?) stretch. Xavier locks on a Cobra Clutch upon escape. Maritato climbs the ropes to escape and hits Xavier with a single leg dropkick. Maritato hooks Xavier for a modified facebuster. Xavier counters by pulling Maritato into a back bridge, pinning him at 7:13. That ending made it feel like Xavier stole the victory rather than earning it, which is not what he needed in the embryonic stages of his big push. I surmise that because the match was a card change they figured a more even match would be a satisfactory change for the crowd, but it felt like the wrong long-term decision. That tradeoff happens a lot in wrestling, it seems. I liked seeing this side of Maritato. **¼

FRANK TALENT from the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission is backstage. He tells the ROH locker room there is to be no cursing or bleeding on tonight’s show, and probably told them no spitting too. Spanky is brushing his teeth with headphones on during this talk, I guess to show he is aloof or doesn’t take things seriously. Homicide then says they’re going to kill the Boogie Knights. As long as the murder doesn’t involve blood, it sounds like Frank Talent won’t take issue with it.

The Natural Born Sinners (Boogalou & Homicide) vs. The Boogie Knights (Danny Drake & Mike Tobin)

This is a rematch from last month, which the Boogie Knights won due to a disqualification when Homicide used his rubber chicken as a weapon. He uses it again, but Boogalou distracts referee John Finnegan this time. This is a squash for the Sinners, who pin Tobin after a lariat/half-nelson suplex combo, a very similar combination Da Hit Squad uses, at 2:49. Solid follow up from last month. *

Low Ki says Christopher Daniels thinks that he is the top athlete in Ring of Honor, but Ki is in ROH to prove he is the best athlete all around. Ki rebukes the claim that it took two people to defeat Daniels last month – it only took one, him. Daniels refused to shake his hand last month, and knows Daniels doesn’t respect him, but says by the end of the night, he will.

Round Robin Challenge Match #2
Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels

When Daniels denies Ki’s handshake, Ki makes Daniels pay for that choice by lighting him up with chops and strikes. Daniels ducks the Tidal Crush but takes a roundhouse kick immediately after Daniels kicks Ki in the head from the apron, but an incensed Ki blasts him with a Koppu Kick seconds later for a two count. Ki strikes Daniels in the head and chest repeatedly. Ki pulls down Daniels into a Border City Stretch. Daniels turns that into a roll-up to escape, but succumbs to another roundhouse kick after flipping off Ki. When Daniels tries a shotei, Ki pulls him into an armbar in the ropes. Daniels halts Ki with two STO’s back in the ring. Dniels utilizes the same approach he did in his match with Dragon, working over Ki’s neck with strikes and submissions. Ki gets a reprieve when he avoids the BME and blasts Daniels with the Tidal Wave. Daniels blocks the Ki Krusher and the Black Out. He shotei’s Ki on the top turnbuckle and brings him with an Iconoclasm. Daniels then drops Ki with the Angel’s Wings for two. Ki escapes a second attempt with a sunset flip and picks up Daniels onto the Ki Krusher. After taking a moment to recover, Ki delivers the Tidal Crush for two. Daniels calls for Last Rites, but Ki counters into the Dragon Clutch and Daniels submits at 11:02. This was a terrific follow up from the first Round Robin encounter. Ki was in control from the start, most likely due to coming in fresh, and Daniels’ attempt to win the same way failed because Ki had it scouted. The crowd also really enjoyed seeing Ki kick the crap out of Daniels, which admittedly was very fun. The action gave you a great sense of both men’s characters too. Another very good match in this tournament. ***½

Daniels calls Ki’s win a fluke and won’t shake his hand because of it. He says this win proves nothing, and that he refuses to wrestle again until the Ring of Honor title is on the line. Commentary flips out wondering what the Ring of Honor title is. When Daniels goes backstage, Xavier pats him on the shoulder and congratulates him on the win. A frustrated Daniels continues downstairs where he’s met by Da Hit Squad and the Natural Born Sinners. Mafia gives him an earful about not obeying the Code of Honor. Daniels exits before the confrontation escalates, and the cameraman is intercepted by Spanky who is dancing while listening to his portable CD player.

Earlier in the day, Amazing Red, the SAT, and Chris Divine were playing basketball. The SAT leave pissed off when Red scores on them and they say they’ll see Red in the ring.

Paul London vs. Chris Marvel

London and Marvel are both Texas Wrestling Academy graduates. Fellow TWA graduate Masada is in Marvel’s corner, and TWA head trainer Rudy Boy Gonzalez is in London’s corner. The match unfortunately ends early and tragically, as Marvel breaks his leg upon taking an Asai moonsault from London. Referee John Finnegan calls the match at 2:08. I’m not sure why this wasn’t cut from the DVD. I guess they felt London’s debut was important enough to be included despite the injury, or, they thought someone breaking their leg would sell more DVDs.

Jay Briscoe is fired up for his match with Spanky. Mark Briscoe gives him grief for losing last month, and Jay shoves him away.

Jay Briscoe vs. Spanky

Mark Briscoe is in Jay’s corner. The match is fairly even until Jay Magistral cradles Spanky, who Spanky bails to the apron to reset the match. Jay scores with a pair of vertical suplexes and a slingshot Magistral cradle for another two count. Spanky flapjacks Jay face first onto the top turnbuckle and follows up with a springboard knee drop to the back of Jay’s neck. Spanky vertical suplexes Jay, floating over and following up with a side Russian leg sweep. He jams up Jay’s neck using a cravat buster. Jay sends Spanky into the corner where his forehead hits the post and busts him open. Jay German suplexes Spanky across the ring and takes him down with a backdrop and back elbow. Jay dropkicks Spanky right in the wound and drops him with a Gourd Buster for two. Spanky manages to knock Jay to the floor and hops off the top rope and splashes onto Jay on the outside. In the ring, however, Jay gets his knees up to block Spanky’s top rope splash. He powerbombs Spanky onto his neck, and Spanky has the wherewithal to grab the bottom rope. Spanky weaves out of the Jay Driller and surprises Jay with Sliced Bread #2 for the pin at 11:23. I like the story they’re building with Jay clearly being a skilled wrestler but unable to get the job done in the ring, and his younger brother giving him a hard time for it. Things got really good once Spanky was busted open. Before that, it was solid but unremarkable. ***

Gabe Sapolsky and two other people are on a computer looking at a poll on the ROH website asking who the best Texas Wrestling Academy graduate is. They all agree they should vote for American Dragon. Other options included Spanky, Michael Shane, Shooter Schultz, and Lance Cade. Dragon won the poll with 64 percent of the votes.

Tag Team Elimination Match
The Amazing Red & Brian XL vs. Divine Storm (Chris Devine & Quiet Storm) vs. The SAT (Joel Maximo & Jose Maximo)

This match, compared to “The Era of Honor Begins” match that featured these six men, is like when Taco Bell introduces a new menu item – the ingredients are identical to their other offerings, and are simply presented in a different way. That’s an analogy Mike Stoklasa could be proud of. It’s also a match you’ll know whether or not it’s for you before the bell even rings. Everyone took their turn on offense, with no rhyme or reason as to what the moves were or at what point in the match they were executed. Joel Maximo gave Quiet Storm a super brainbuster. Red then did a shooting star press off of Joel’s back onto Divine to “steal” the pin at 7:48, eliminating Divine Storm. Red brings down Joel with a super Code Red and Joel kicks out at two. What isn’t kicked out, however, is a schoolboy pin from Jose, who pins Red with that at 12:20. That happened because Red and Brian XL, partners, argued over who would get the pin. Nevermind the fact they BOTH WIN if one of them gets the pin. Dummies. Red was clearly the best of the bunch and I can’t wait for him to move away from the rest of this crew. *

Low Ki cuts another promo, basically saying he is going to defeat American Dragon and that all he can do is be ready. Before their match, Ken Shamrock enters the ring, shakes both Ki and Dragon’s hands, and calls for a microphone. He tells both Ki and Dragon have incredible submission and wrestling skills, and says that it would be an honor to be the special guest referee for this bout. Mike Kehner literally gives Shamrock the shirt off of his back. Shamrock changes into the shirt and brings Dragon and Ki into mid-ring to explain the rules, similar to how an official in boxing or MMA would do. It was totally needless but did add something to the presentation of our main event.

Round Robin Challenge Match #3
American Dragon vs. Low Ki

Special Guest Referee: Ken Shamrock

Ki gets in some strikes while mounting Dragon. Dragon maneuvers him into a standing pendulum stretch and then a rear naked choke. Ki takes the mount again with more strikes to the head. A front chancery from Ki is turned into a Camel Clutch by Dragon, throwing forearms at Ki’s face while he has the hold. Ki turns him into a front facelock, throwing knees at Dragon’s face too. Danielson brings Ki to the ropes and the match resets. Ki counters a cross armbreaker with a bodyscissors chinlock. Dragon headbutts his way out of it and pulls up Ki into a powerbomb. Dragon gets him a leg-capture crossface. After Ki grabs the ropes to escape, he delivers a high kick to Dragon’s eye from the mat. That spot is where Dragon was cut in the match earlier tonight against Daniels. The kick disorients Dragon and sends him to the floor. Despite this, Dragon is able to make it back into the ring on his own accord. He goes after Ki’s leg. When Ki escapes a grapevine lock, he throws several kicks at Dragon’s eye, resulting in Dragon’s cut re-opening. Shamrock checks on Dragon, and once again, Dragon is able to get back into the ring on his own. He immediately tackles Ki and goes for the cross armbreaker, and Ki scrambles to the ropes right away. Dragon attempts the Cattle Mutilation. Ki pulls him to the corner to break Dragon’s grasp. Dragon pulls him into a full nelson, turning that into a belly-to-back suplex. Ki Pele kicks Dragon when Dragon begins to attempt the Cattle Mutilation again. After some hard chops to the back, Ki puts Dragon in a rear naked choke. Dragon intentionally tumbles through the ropes and to the floor, but Ki keeps the hold applied. Dragon muscles his way up to his feet and grabs the bottom rope, and it’s only then when Shamrock makes Ki release the hold. Dragon blocks the Ki Krusher with a rolling elbow and Dragon suplex. A double underhook suplex leads to a diving headbutt. Because of the damage he’s taken earlier, Dragon knocks himself out with the headbutt, and Ki covers him for a two count. Ki follows that up with the Tidal Wave, and then gives Dragon a taste of his own medicine with a Dragon suplex and Cattle Mutilation. Danielson counters that into the Dragon Clutch, adding a bodyscissors. Ki uses the ropes to escape, and Dragon suplexes Ki out of a cravat. The two men stagger each other with strikes. When Ki tries the Tidal Wave, Dragon dropkicks him out of mid-air. Ki counters a suplex with a brainbuster. Ki lays out Dragon with several kicks to the eye. He then drops him with the Ki Krusher, which Dragon amazingly kicks out of. Dragon also gets his knees up to counter a Phoenix Splash. Dragon dragon suplexes Ki and then delivers a belly-to-back superplex. Dragon brings Ki back to the top turnbuckle, but Ki fights back and brings Dragon down with an avalanche Ki Krusher! Dragon wisely rolls to the floor to avoid being pinned. When Ki gets him back in the ring for the pin, Dragon gets his foot on the bottom rope. Ki chops a dazed Dragon in the corner. Dragon tries the Tidal Wave but Dragon catches him in a full nelson. He converts into a Regalplex, and from there he is able to finally lock Ki in the Cattle Mutilation. Ki passes out at 32:07, making Dragon the victor, and ending the Round Robin tournament in a three way tie. This match did a great job showcasing Dragon’s tenacity and getting the crowd behind him. He not only fought back from an injury that his opponent exposed consistently, but was victorious after working all match long to get his key submission hold applied. The match was very engaging overall and provided some really exciting moments in the last third of the contest. Shamrock was a non-factor, simply there for future highlight reels of names who passed through the promotion. This was almost as good as the first main event, which is quite the achievement. ****¼

When both men are able to make it to their feet, they shake one another’s hands. Shamrock then shakes both of their hands and raises Dragon’s arm in victory. Dragon thanks the fans, Shamrock and Low Ki before posing in the corner on the middle rope.

The show ending music video tells us nothing has been settled between Dragon, Ki, and Daniels. It also mentions that both AJ Styles and Donovan Morgan will debut on the next ROH show, which takes place on April 27th. Also on that night, ROH will show appreciation for Eddy Guerrero.

The six participants from the tag team elimination match are bickering backstage. Mikey Whipwreck kicks Brian XL out of the locker room and admonishes Red for being so bent out of shape over a loss. Whipwreck says nobody has lost more than him, and that he will find Red an opponent for next month.

American Dragon is talking to Paul London and Simply Luscious when Spanky congratulates Dragon on his win tonight. He also sarcastically congratulates Dragon on winning the TWA student poll mentioned earlier in the night, but Dragon states he’s clearly better than Spanky, poll results aside. This makes Spanky angry, but London and Luscious back up Dragon, though London makes a remark about not even being listed as a poll option. Rudy Boy Gonzalez says he will talk to Gabe about making a match to help settle the debate over who is the best TWA graduate. I feel like Dragon is far above this kind of match coming out of this show.

For a company that vehemently rapped on sports entertainment, there are SO MANY backstage segments and silliness on these first two shows. The Round Robin Challenge made this a worthwhile watch, but the rest of the show was pretty dire.

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