Woodbridge, CT – 7.16.2005
World Champion: CM Punk
Pure Champion: Samoa Joe
Tag Team Champions: The Carnage Crew (Loc & DeVito)
Commentary is provided by Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.
Samoa Joe says CM Punk fooled the world. He has to hand it to the Punk – when the companies came calling, they made their choices – Joe chose one, Punk chose the other. Punk has made a splash in wrestling everywhere he’s been, and the impact he made in ROH is quite simple: win the ROH title, declare it the greatest title in wrestling, then disgrace it by signing his WWE contract on top of it. Joe says he is going to put an end to the disrespect Punk has shown ROH and its championship.
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Nigel McGuinness
This is Claudio’s Ring of Honor debut. He and Nigel trade arm holds to start. McGuinness uses the ropes to do a backflip and nail Claudio in the face with a back elbow. Nigel puts Claudio in a cravate and Claudio uppercuts him away. He avoids McGuinness’ mule kick and uppercuts him in the neck. He tries a rolling uppercut, and when that fails, he uses a regular uppercut to send McGuinness to the floor and follows with an elbow suicida. Back in the ring, McGuinness throws Claudio to the mat in a top wristlock, then continues to work over Claudio’s arm. Claudio and McGuinness end up trading pin attempts, ending with McGuinness hitting the rebound lariat for two. McGuinness puts on a Guillotine choke. Claudio very impressively breaks free with Swiss Death for two. Claudio ascends the ropes, but McGuinness cuts him off and crotches him on the top turnbuckle. McGuinness hits the Tower of London for the pin at 8:10. That was a fun match to ingratiate Claudio to the ROH audience, showcasing his style and personality against someone who had a complimentary style who could make him look as good as possible. Claudio also showed he was able to hang with a rising star, and Nigel gets a nice decisive win to keep his momentum going as we wait for Cabana’s return to the U.S. **¾
Austin Aries vs. El Generico
Aries is surprised but impressed by Generico chopping him down in the corner. Aries retreats back to the corner after Generico snaps off a pair of armdrags and a hip toss. Aries hits both the slingshot and springboard elbow to get some momentum back. He’s cut off by a toreador armdrag and leg lariat from Generico which sends Aries to the floor. Generico dropkicks Aries into the barricades when Aries tries to re-enter the ring. Aries swats Generico out of mid-air when he attempts a springboard dropkick. He wears down Generico’s back and neck. Generico manages to send Aries to the corner, but Aries avoids the yakuza kick and hits the IED for two. Generico fights off a superplex, bringing Aries down with a sunset bomb. Aries wants the brainbuster when they get to their feet. Generico counters into a Michinoku Driver for two. Aries trips Generico from the floor. He hits a slingshot splash and a quebrada to Generico’s back. Generico weaves out of a headlock attempt and runs the corner for a tornado DDT. The yakuza kick connects this time and gets Generico a two count. As Generico pulls Aries up, Aries throws Generico to the apron. Generico forearms Aries down and comes off the top with a 450 splash. Generico crashes and burns. Aries puns him in the head, delivers a brainbuster, then gives him his own 450 splash for the pin at 11:25. I am totally blown away by how much offense Generico had in this match. Given Generico had been a non-entity during this ROH run, and Aries was a bonafide main eventer and former champion, I was expecting the complete opposite of how this match played out. That said, knowing what Generico would become a year and a half later, and seeing the crowd dig his stuff, this match put a smile on my face. It for sure made me want to see more of Generico going forward, it would just take a little while longer for ROH to get on board. ***
Azrieal vs. Dixie vs. Homicide vs. Kevin Steen
Homicide and Steen get into it before any hand shakes can be made, as fallout from their encounter at “New Frontiers.” Homicide wipes out Steen on the floor with a tope suicida. Homicide whips him into the barricades and follows in with a chair assisted attack. They continue to fight around ringside, so Azrieal and Dixie become the legal participants. Dixie takes down Azrieal with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors. Homicide stops Dixie with a sit-out Alabama Slam. Steen breaks Homicide’s pin attempt. He gives Homicide a corner clothesline and a big boot for two. Steen’s somersault leg drop also gets him two on Homicide. Homicide pokes Steen in the eyes and tags in Azrieal. Azrieal headscissors Steen after evading a Package Piledriver. Dixie springboard dropkicks Azrieal in the back of the head for two. They collide mid-ring when they both attempt crossbodies at the same time. Steen and Homicide both tag in, and Steen wipes out Homicide with a spinwheel kick. Homicide knocks him down in the corner and delivers a running knee. He takes down Azrieal with a backbreaker and Dixie with an Ace Crusher. Steen stops Homicide with the Go Home Driver. Azrieal breaks up Steen’s pin. Steen comes back with a moonsault to Dixie, but Azrieal uses a double stomp to break up that pin too. Azrieal brings Homicide off the top with a Frankensteiner. He misses a double stomp to Homicide’s neck. Dixie German suplexes both Azrieal and Homicide and gives Steen a neckbreaker and springboard forearm drop. Steen drops Dixie with a swing-out slam. Azrieal Buszakiu knees Steen to the floor. Steen catches his pescado and fallaway slams Azrieal into the barricades. Homicide lariats Steen off the apron. Dixie hits Homicide with a rolling elbow for two. Homicide blocks a second elbow but takes a German suplex. Homicide fires up and drops Dixie with a Cop Killa for the pin at 8:39. While this was very much “Homicide and three dudes”, the action was no-stop and everything seemed impactful. I kind of wish they went further with the Homicide and Steen feud, but what can you do? This would be Dixie’s final appearance in ROH. **½
CM Punk makes his way to the ring in a light blue polo shirt and black dress pants. He invites anyone in the crowd to come take his title if they think they can. He gives Gibson props for being a great wrestler, acknowledging that some fans call him the MVP of ROH for 2005. Punk that may have been if he weren’t the champion. He also says Gibson has been unable to secure many victories during his ROH run. Punk makes a baseball analogy when describing Gibson: he’s a great pitcher, but he’s not a closer, and tonight he will fail once again. James Gibson appears in the entrance ramp, ready to wrestle. Punk tells Gibson it’s over for him if he gets in the ring, but of course, when Gibson does get in the ring, Punk hits the floor, dropping his title belt in the process. Gibson says there is no way in the world he is going to let Punk continue to disrespect ROH and its title. Gibson holds the title in his hands as he tells Punk that he doesn’t play games and has no puppet strings for Punk to pull. He is going to hold onto the title to make sure Punk doesn’t try anything funny. Referee Mike Kehner comes into the ring to try and take the title back for Punk. While Gibson and Kehner are talking, Punk from behind attacks Gibson with a chain. He tells Gibson to never touch something that doesn’t belong to him before proceeding to pummel him repeatedly with the chain in the corner and busting him open. Multiple referees break things up, and with Gibson laid out and bloody, he may not get his match against Punk after all.
ROH Tag Team Championship; Ultimate Endurance Match
The Carnage Crew (Loc & DeVito) vs. The Ring Crew Express (Dunn & Marcos) vs. The Embassy (Fast Eddie & Excess) vs. Lacey’s Angels (Cheech & Deranged)
The Carnage Crew have been champions since 7.9.2005 and this is their first defense. An Ultimate Endurance match is a two out of three falls match where each fall has a different rule. Excess is Excess 69 of the Montreal wrestling scene, who I have to imagine was an extra passenger with Steen and Generico. Prince Nana and Jade Chung are in the Embassy’s corner. Lacey of course is in the corner of her Angels.
The first fall is a scramble rules. The Carnage Crew beat up Cheech until the Embassy entered and sent the Crew packing with tandem offense. Deranged and Marcos send the Embassy outside with stereo headscissors. Marcos spikes Deranged with a tornado DDT, and now every team but the RCE are on the floor, and Marcos and Dunn stage dive onto all of them. Eddie follows with an Asai moonsault and Deranged follows that with a tope con hilo. DeVito cuts off a dive from Cheech, backdropping him onto everyone. Loc takes him out with a Saito suplex. Deranged sends Loc out with a springboard dropkick and tornado DDT’s Eddie. Eddie hits a fallaway powerslam on Deranged. DeVito moonsaults onto both of them. Eddie dumps DeVito on his head with a cradle suplex, and Cheech sends Eddie to the floor with a Busaiku Knee. Excess strings a backbreaker and Complete Shot together on Cheech before putting him in a tarantula. Dunn elbow drops Excess to break that hold, then tosses Marcos onto him with an off-the-shoulder senton to pick up the first fall at 5:24.
The second fall is Anything Goes, which Carnage Crew start by attacking Dunn and Marcos with trash cans. They fight outside as Lacey’s Angels take a breather in the ring. This gives them a chance to easily control Dunn and Marcos when they do enter the ring. Dunn is able to save Marcos from a pin after a Doomsday Ace Crusher. Dunn drops Deranged with a cut-throat powerbomb. Loc low blows Dunn. They give Deranged a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo onto a garbage can placed onto Cheech to get the pin at 8:04. The final fall is traditional rules with the titles on the line. The crowd is dying to see Dunn and Marcos win the titles. The Carnage Crew pummel Marcos in their half of the ring until Marcos nails Loc with two enzuigiri’s. Dunn flies in with a super dropkick to the back of Loc’s neck. They gives DeVito some tandem offense and hit an assisted shiranui on Loc, landing on DeVito. Their tandem avalanche senton on Loc would have had the pin if DeVito had not placed Loc’s foot on the ropes. DeVito pulls Dunn outside and takes him out. Dunn does save Marcos from the second rope spiked piledriver, but unfortunately for him, Dunn falls victim to the second rope spiked piledriver moments later, and the Carnage Crew pick up the win and retain the titles at 13:29. This was doomed from the start with four teams who either weren’t serious contenders for the titles, weren’t over with the ROH crowd, or both. The action was sloppy, mindless, and the structure of the rules made the match less exciting as it progressed. What a strange first defense for the Carnage Crew. *
Sugar Sean Price let us know it is doubtful that James Gibson will compete in the main event, and that we will get updates as the night progresses.
AJ Styles vs. Roderick Strong
Styles schools Strong on the mat. Strong picks him up and places him on the top turnbuckle, but Styles bails to the floor. Styles fakes him out with a dropkick, then sends Strong to the ropes with a Frankensteiner. Styles then delivers a spinebuster for only a one count. He calls for the Styles Clash but Strong grabs hold of the ropes. Styles Pele kicks Strong as he dangles on the second rope. After a knee drop doesn’t get Styles a pin, he dropkicks Strong to the floor and pescado’s after him. Styles hops into the crowd when Strong whips him to the barricades. From there he springboards back ringside with a diving forearm. Strong gives him a backbreaker onto the ring apron and Sick Kicks him into the barricades. After a few more back first Irish whips into the barricades, Strong brings Styles into the ring. Strong continues to wear down Styles back. He even mocks Styles after delivering a dropkick. Strong gets two with a butterfly suplex and then kicks Styles in the face. Styles enzuigiri’s and Pele kicks Strong to end a forearm exchange. Styles gets two with a reverse DDT, then again with a suplex/pump-handle gutbuster combo. Strong responds with two backbreakers and Death by Roderick. Styles sweeps out Strong’s legs as Strong comes charging. Strong escapes an O’Connor Roll and hits the Sick Kick for two. Styles avoids an over the shoulder backbreaker and turns Strong inside out with a clothesline. Strong follows Styles to the top turnbuckle but Styles shoves him to the mat. Styles misses the Spiral Tap and Strong puts him in the Strong Hold. Styles grabs the ropes to escape. Styles blocks a half-nelson backbreaker and hits the Styles Clash for the pin at 16:38. This match reminded me that my favorite thing about the Styles Clash is the clever ways Styles manages to counter moves into it, and that he is able to bust it out from various positions. Strong and Styles were really awesome foils for one another, both making each others’ offense look really convincing, which made Styles’ victory seem like an achievement. This was Styles best match so far since returning from TNA, and Strong continues to show he is capable of hanging with ROH’s top contenders. ***¾
Gary Michael Cappeta tells us it is unlikely James Gibson will be able to challenge CM Punk tonight. Lacey then yells at Cheech and Deranged for losing three matches in a row. She says if they and Cloudy, who is also nearby but trying to distance himself from Deranged and Cheech, do not shape up, there may be some personnel changes in Lacey’s Angels.
ROH Pure Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Jimmy Rave
Joe has been champion since 5.7.2005 and this is his fifth defense. Rave earned this title shot by winning a four corner survival at “Escape From New York.” Prince Nana and Jade Chung are in his corner. Jimmy Bower hops on commentary for this match. Joe swings around to send Rave flying outside when escaping a wristlock. Rave gets right in Joe’s face and slaps him. Joe peppers Joe with multiple slaps in response, sending Rave to retreat back outside. After another hard slap, Joe facewash kicks Rave hard in the corner. Rave is proud of himself for avoiding a knee strike, even giving Joe a Nelson Muntz laugh because of it, but Joe shuts him up with a superkick off the apron and an elbow suicida. He puts Jade Chung in the trajectory of Ole kick, which does get Joe to halt, but he is able to drop an elbow on Rave back in the ring. A distraction from Nana allows Rave to low blow Joe and choke him with a shoelace. Joe uses his first rope break to escape, with Rave successfully hiding the shoelace from Sinclair. He disguises it while applying a side headlock to Joe. Joe escapes, and because he’s lost his cool, he uses a closed fist and is issued a warning. Rave pulls Joe into Ghanarea, and Joe spends his second rope break to escape. Todd Sinclair finally catches Rave with the shoelace and gets rid of it. Joe nails Rave with several forearm strikes and powerslams him. He drops Rave with an STJoe for two. Rave slips out of a Muscle Buster attempt and blasts Joe with the Doppler Effect for two. Rave brings Joe down with From Dusk Til Dawn. Joe uses his third and final rope break to escape the crossface. Joe sweeps out Rave’s legs to stop a second Doppler Effect. He drops onto Rave with a senton splash. He lights up Rave with several chest kicks and calls out Hashimoto’s name before dropping Rave with a DDT, in tribute to the recently deceased legend. Rave uses his first rope break to stop Joe’s pin. Rave pulls Joe in for the Rave Clash. He instead places Rave on the top turnbuckle, gives him a palm strike, and hits the Muscle Buster for the pin at 17:28. The story of Rave having to cheat to get any semblance of control over the champion was a lot of fun to watch play out. It put Joe in a predicament you do not often see him in, and added some levity you also don’t see in many of Joe’s bouts. Very good stuff from both combatants. ***½
Prince Nana blames the loss on Jade Chung, and says she is trying to upstage Rave. He tells her to get back to the floor and be a foot stool again. Rave trips and falls when trying to exit the ring on her, and Nana once again blames her for making a fool out of Rave. As Nana winds back and is about to slap Chung, the lights go out. When they come back on, Matt Hardy is in the ring. The Embassy bail as Hardy poses to all four sides of the ring. He puts over the fans and the locker room while sprinkling in some anti-WWE rhetoric. After a lot of talking, he says he didn’t come here to talk, but to work, and we move on to tonight’s advertised dream match.
Matt Hardy vs. Christopher Daniels
Daniels sends Hardy to the floor with a leg lariat. Hardy comes back with a clothesline and controls Daniels by his wrist. Daniels flips over his back drop attempt. He goes for the Angels Wings. Hardy counters and tries the Twist of Fate. Daniels shoulder blocks him repeatedly in the corner to block it. He Complete Shots Hardy into the Koji Clutch. Hardy grabs the bottom rope to break it. Daniels hip tosses Hardy to the floor and follows with an Arabian Press. He misses a slingshot elbow. Hardy gets two with a legdrop. He also gets two with the Side Effect. Same goes for a crucifix bomb. Daniels takes him down with an enzuigiri. He kicks Hardy into an STO. He gets two with the Blue Thunder Bomb. Hardy meets him on the top rope and superplexes him. When Daniels kicks out he tries to do it a second time. He pulls it off but the result is the same. Two more superplexes wears himself out as well. They trade strikes. Daniels side suplexes Hardy off the top rope. Hardy misses a moonsault. Daniels hits the BME for two. Hardy gets his knees up to block a quebrada. He rolls Daniels up for two. He nails a lariat for two. Daniels pulls off a Death Valley Driver. CM Punk makes his way ringside and punches Allison Danger. Daniels shoves hardy into the referee to block the Twist of Fate. Punk punches Daniels with the chain. Hardy then hits the Twist of Fate for two. Hardy puts him in a butterfly lock. The referee calls for the bell at 19:36. These two gave the live crowd exactly what they wanted. As a DVD viewer, it felt like the two of them were merely going through the motions here. Even though the story was very good, nothing about the wrestling itself stuck out as being particularly captivating. Punk’s interjection was by far the most intriguing part of the affair. ***
Punk gives props to Matt Hardy for knocking Christopher Daniels out of title contention. He’s planning to leave with the title, but James Gibson’s music hits, and despite losing a lot of blood and a big bandage on his head, he refuses to let the opportunity to challenge Punk pass him by. Punk meets Gibson in the aisle and they trade blows. Punk throws Gibson into the ring and the match gets under way.
ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. James Gibson
Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his third defense. Gibson back drops Punk to the floor and suicide dives onto him. Back inside, Gibson lands a crossbody. Punk escapes a Tiger Driver attempt and sends Gibson’s bandaged up forehead into the buckles. Punk pulls one of the turnbuckle covers off to expose the metal underneath. It backfires as Gibson is able to send Punk shoulder first into the ring post. He works over Punk’s shoulder on the mat. Punk scoops him up into a backbreaker. Punk misses an elbow drop, and Gibson takes him back down with an armdrag so he can continue to do damage to Punk’s arm. Punk’s side also has been lacerated due to being thrown into the barricades a few times. He clotheslines Gibson to the floor. He pummels Gibson on the floor before bringing him back inside. Punk tries a crossbody, but Gibson catches him mid-air into a Fujiwara armbar. Punk gets his foot on the ropes to escape the hold. Punk Hot Shots Gibson onto the top rope. As Punk nurses his arm, he gives Gibson two backbreakers and a dropkick to the back of the head. Punk does more damage to Gibson’s head and neck, including using the ropes to add leverage to a side headlock as Gibson’s blood falls onto Punk’s wrist. Punk stops Gibson as Gibson begins to fight back by putting him in a bearhug. Gibson elbows his way free. Gibson reverses a knee strike with a schoolboy, looking for the original Trailer Hitch. Punk blocks and chokes Gibson with his wrist tape, causing Gibson to fall to the floor. Punk follows. They end up on the apron where Punk stops a Gibson Driver attempt, but ends up being dropped with a DDT. Gibson fires up with headbutts to Punk. He reverses a Punk suplex attempt into a crossbody, drops Punk with a neckbreaker, and delivers a legdrop from the second turnbuckle. but none gets him the pin. Gibson does get close with a German suplex. Punk evades a Tiger Driver, knocking down Gibson with a mule kick and enzuigiri. Punk ducks under a Pepsi Twist and rolls Punk into a Dragon Sleeper. Punk snapmares his way free, hits Gibson with the Shining Wizard, and tries the Anaconda Vise. Gibson is close enough to the ropes that Punk cannot get it applied. Gibson fires up from a Pepsi Twist and finally delivers the Tiger Driver, but Punk kicks out at two. When they get to the top turnbuckle, Punk wants the Pepsi Plunge, but Gibson backdrops Punk to the mat and follows up with a moonsault press instead. He then puts Punk in a Guillotine Choke. They end up trading pin attempts before Gibson re-applies the hold, this time with Punk on the mat. Punk muscles up and escapes with a vertical suplex. He puts on the Anaconda Vise. Gibson fights to his feet and fervently elbows his way free. Punk pulls him by the tights into an O’Connor Roll and holds onto the ropes to pin Gibson at 27:44. The despair from the audience was palpable as they hoped Gibson would defy the odds and take the title from Punk. Despite his injury, Gibson put up a tremendous fight and had Punk on the figurative ropes several times throughout the course of the match. You can’t help but wonder if Gibson had come into the match at 100%, and of course had Punk not cheated, if Gibson could have pulled it off. The great storytelling and hot crowd made this an awesome main event. ****
Punk with a sly smile tells Gibson to “keep workin’ hard, kid, and you may be something someday.” He says Gibson has the prestigious honor of being his final opponent in ROH. He says since nobody can beat him to say goodbye to the champ. Enter Christopher Daniels who runs to the ring and exchanges fists with Punk. Punk is able to fight out of a uranage and grab his chain off of the timekeeper’s table, but when he turns around, Daniels clobbers him with the title belt. Daniels says Punk can leave for WWE if he wants, however, if he ever wants to see the actual title belt again, he’s going to have to fight him to do it. Daniels leaves with the title belt, telling Punk to come and get it as he backs his way up the entrance ramp.
Backstage, Sugar Sean Price interviews Nigel McGuinness. He informs McGuinness that Cabana has gone to England to learn the same style and techniques McGuinness learned, so he can come back to the U.S. and beat him at his own game. He wants to know McGuiness’ thoughts on this. McGuinness says none of that will matter. Whether Cabana likes it or not, he will have a title around his waist soon enough, and he will happily defeat Cabana again if that is what Cabana wants.
Daniels says he bided his time for 16 months before returning to ROH. During that hiatus, he asked himself why Punk hated him so much and why Punk decided to target him. He finally realized it was out of jealousy. Punk looks at Christopher Daniels and sees the superstar he wants to be. He remembers the night Punk dressed up as Daniels and walked to the ring to his theme music – Daniels has never dressed like Punk and walked down the aisle to his theme music. He thinks Punk was disappointed when he realized he cannot meet the standard Daniels has set. Since Punk has been running from him, Daniels decided to take matters into his own hands. Next show, he is going to give Punk the farewell he deserves, and the ROH belt he has taken captive will officially become his.