Ring of Honor: The Homecoming

Philadelphia, PA – 7.23.2005

Championship Rundown
World Champion: CM Punk
Pure Champion: Samoa Joe
Tag Team Champions: The Carnage Crew (Loc & DeVito)

Commentary is provided by Dave Prazak, CM Punk (first half), and Jimmy Bower (second half).

One of the dark matches that was not featured on the DVD release was the first ROH singles match between El Generico and Kevin Steen. Given they were non-factors at ROH at this time, and the need to cut footage so the show could fit on one disc, the omission was understandable. Years later, when Steen and Generico had become prominent figures in ROH’s history, the match finally saw the light of day on Kevin Steen’s “Ascension to the Top” compilation DVD. You can read my review of that match here.

Backstage, Christopher Daniels and Allison Danger are still in possession of the ROH World Championship, which they stole from CM Punk the previous weekend. Daniels says he didn’t steal the title because he believes he deserves to be ROH Champion, but because he believes he deserves an opportunity to challenge for it. Were it anybody else holding the championship, he would’ve been happy to work his way up the ladder and earn a title shot like everyone else, but with Punk’s threatening to leave ROH as the champion, he was left with no other choice. If Punk thinks Daniels is going to allow Punk to do so, then Punk is out of his mind.

Alex Shelley says there is speculation as to who his mystery partner is in his tag team match tonight against Roderick Strong and Austin Aries. He says he could’ve gone to the past, present, or future in choosing his partner, but in wrestling he’s learned loose lips sink ships, and tonight he is going to float. Huh?

Azrieal vs. Deranged vs. Nigel McGuinness vs. Spanky

Lacey and Cheech are in Deranged’s corner. Deranged’s obnoxious behavior (specifically slapping McGuiness in the face when he’s on the apron) annoys everyone. During his and Azrieal’s exchange, McGuinness low bridges Deranged to the floor so he can get in his shots, and Spanky eagerly gives him some strikes as well. McGuinness spikes him with a Tower of London, dizzying Deranged and forcing him to regroup on the floor. Spanky blasts Azrieal with a leg lariat. Spanky does a kick flip off of his chest, but Azrieal runs out of the corner and nails an enzuigiri. Deranged kicks Spanky low when he enters the ring which Lacey approves of. Sinclair misses that, but does catch Deranged’s eye rake and admonishes Deranged for doing so. Azrieal and McGuinness both work over Spanky’s left leg. Spanky stops a charging Azrieal and sends him face first into the turnbuckle pad with a Complete Shot. Spanky tags in Deranged as Azrieal tags in McGuinness, and Deranged takes him down with Déjà Vu. McGuinness comes back with a rebound lariat and tosses Deranged onto Cheech outside. Azrieal wipes them out with a tope con hilo, and Spanky stage dives out onto McGuinness. In the ring, Deranged moonsault presses onto Azrieal, turning that into a tornado DDT. A Tower of Doom from McGuinness takes down Azrieal and Deranged. Spanky hits Sliced Bread #2 onto McGuiness. Spanky superkicks Azrieal. Azrieal and McGuinness fight as Spanky drops Deranged with Sliced Bread #2 and pins him at 16:07. It’s good that Spanky returned to ROH with a victory, but this was just a needlessly long, filler match. They filled the time well enough, but I can’t help but think McGuinness has progressed past these pointless matches by now. **½

Gary Michael Capetta invites Prince Nana to join him in the ring to address his actions towards Jade Chung. GMC tells Nana that ROH management has decided he cannot be physically abusive towards Chung anymore, and if he disobeys, the entire Embassy will be fired from Ring of Honor. Nana says he will abide, and even tells Jade Chung who also came with him to the ring that she is free to leave The Embassy if she chooses to do so. However, if she does, she will be sent back to Thailand to return to her less than stellar living conditions. Chung tells Nana he’s right, that things back home are really bad, and because of this, she will stay with the Embassy. Nana says he has a solution that he thinks will make them happy. Nana has taken the edict of no longer physically abusing her literally, he has Mike Kruel bring out a shroud to cover him up, and a chain with a leash on it. This way, he can never put his hands on her directly but still lead her around. This is fucked up in so many ways. Also, in the story, why would ROH management allow this? Wouldn’t they just change the ruling?

ROH Tag Team Championship
The Carnage Crew (Loc & DeVito) vs. BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs

The Carnage Crew have been champions since 7.9.2005 and this is their second defense. The Carnage Crew of course defeated Whitmer and Jacobs just two weeks prior to win the titles at “Escape From New York.” Whitmer and Jacobs attack them as they pose with the titles in the corners. The two teams fight around ringside. Back in the ring, Loc drops Whitmer with a Saito suplex. Jacobs comes in with a flying forearm to Loc. DeVito backdrops Jacobs into a powerbomb from Loc for two. The Carnage Crew isolates Jacobs from Whitmer until Jacobs victory rolls his way out of a Doomsday Device attempt. He crawls through DeVito’s legs and tags Whitmer. Whitmer takes out Loc with a pair of suplexes. He boots DeVito and then powerbombs Jacobs onto him for a two count. Loc shoves Jacobs outside and gives Whitmer a neckbreaker. He somersault sentons off the top onto Whitmer, and DeVito follows that with a top rope moonsault for two. Jacobs takes down DeVito with a super Frankensteiner and Loc with the Contra Code for two. Whitmer saves Jacobs from a superplex. Whitmer and Jacobs drop DeVito with a Super Contra Code to regain the tag team championship at 9:22. This fell a bit short of the “Escape From New York” bout, but was still a solid match. The brevity of Carnage Crew’s tag title reign was certainly for the best, and it wouldn’t be long until they were through with ROH entirely. **½

Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal & James Gibson vs. The Rottweilers (Homicide, Low Ki & Ricky Reyes)

A brawl amongst all competitors starts off the match, with Joe’s team clearing the ring. When the dust settles, Reyes and Joe officially start off as the legal competitors. Reyes gets in some kicks but Joe ultimately drops him with a STJoe. Gibson and Ki tag in. Gibson controls Ki by his arm and Ki kicks him from the apron to escape. Gibson gives him a neckbreaker and tags in Lethal. Ki looks like he’s going to lock-up but ends up tagging in Reyes. Lethal intensely belly-to-back suplexes Reyes for two. Lethal holds Reyes in a tree of woe so Joe can give him a facewash kick. Joe drops a big knee for two. Gibson legdrops Reyes. Homicide knees him from the apron and Reyes gives him a belly-to-belly suplex. The Rottweilers have Gibson cornered until he manages to hit a dropkick on Homicide. Lethal tags in and clears a path to Ki. Ki hides behind referee Todd Sinclair until Homicide manages a sneak attack. Ki throws Lethal to the floor where Homicide and Reyes do some damage. They all take turns beating Lethal down back in the ring, with some more damage being dealt on the floor as well. Even Julius Smokes gets a shot in with a baseball bat. Lethal eventually escapes with a running suplex to Homicide. Joe tags in and whoops that ass. He gets a two count on Homicide after a senton. Gibson blind tags in and crossbody’s Homicide. He shoves Ki off the apron before backdropping Homicide. Gibson gives him a DDT and looks for the Tiger Driver. Ki uses a springboard gamengiri to save his partner. Lethal comes in to attack Ki. After a gutwrench suplex, Lethal ascends the ropes and lands a dropkick. He calls for a Dragon suplex onto Ki. Homicide makes the save with Ki trip Lethal and pull him crotch first into a ring post. Reyes dropkicks the top of his head after the fact. Ki and Homicide set up for the double stomp/Cop Killa combo. Gibson comes to Lethal’s aid. Joe’s team sends Ki’s team to the floor and follows with triple suicide dives! Gibson and Homicide end up inside the ring. Homicide escapes the Tiger Driver. Julius Smokes distracts referee Todd Sinclair while another Rottweiler associate (Grim Reefer) comes out and passes a chain to Homicide. Homicide clotheslines Gibson with the chain and gets the pin at 23:33. Everybody brought their A-game in this match. Homicide and Reyes did a great job playing the roles of gatekeeper in keeping Lethal away from Ki, further adding animosity to their feud. Gibson’s mini rivalry with Homicide added another nice wrinkle to the bout and made the ending even more impactful. Joe delivered the goods as usual, making for a very successful affair. ***½

During intermission, Gary Michael Capetta shows us an issue of Entertainment Weekly that features an excerpt about ROH. As a follow up from “Fate of An Angel”, Lacey suspends Deranged due to him losing yet another match tonight.

Alex Shelley comes to the ring. He says December he’s been apologizing to everyone for his actions from when he was a member of “Generation Next”, and those apologies have gotten him absolutely nothing. The only person who has agreed to team with him since then was a lizard boy (Delirious). He can live with his past decisions, but now it is time for him to move onto another key goal of pro wrestling: to make money. He then tells the crowd that he didn’t sell out, but rather, he bought in. The Embassy of Prince Nana, Jimmy Rave, Jade Chung, Fast Eddie, and Killer Kruel come to the ring. Jimmy Rave tells Shelley that he taught him that nice guys finish last, forgives Shelley for all he did when he was in Generation Next, and welcomes him into the Embassy. Given Austin Aries declined joining The Embassy at “Escape From New York”, this is a nice bit of kismet. Shelley’s new stablemate Fast Eddie will partner with him in the upcoming tag match.

Generation Next (Austin Aries & Roderick Strong) vs. The Embassy (Alex Shelley & Fast Eddie)

Aries and Strong control Eddie with great ease in the opening portion of the match. It takes both a foot grab from Kruel and an enzuigiri from Shelley from the apron that allows Eddie to get in a fisherman’s buster across his knee on Strong. Shelley and Eddie take great joy pummeling Strong in their half of the ring. Aries does interject to get Strong out of a skullf*ck from Shelley at one point. Strong chops Eddie and tags in Aries. Aries knocks Strong off the apron and drops the powerdrive elbow onto Eddie. Aries goes up top, but Shelley shoves him off the top, sending Aries crashing onto the ropes throat first. Eddie German suplexes him for two, and now it’s Aries who finds himself trapped in the Embassy corner. Strong inserts himself on several occasions due to growing frustrations at Embassy double teaming and choking. Aries Frankensteiner’s Eddie to escape a Doomsday Device, knocks down Shelley with a rolling elbow, and finally tags Strong back in, who delivers backbreakes to both of his opponents. Shelley superkicks Strong before dropping him with the Golden Gate Swing. Eddie capitalizes on that with a moonsault for two. Aries comes in with a slingshot elbow to Shelley after Shelley misses a corner attack. Aries gives both Shelley and Eddie IEDs in opposite corners. Strong Sick Kicks Shelley and then gives him a uranage backbreaker. Aries lands a 450 splash and Eddie breaks up the pin attempt on Shelley. Strong follows Eddie to the floor with a pescado. Rave hits Aries with a steel chair, then a chair assisted Doppler Effect on Aries while referee Todd Sinclair is dealing with Strong and Eddie. Shelley pins Aries at 12:52. It feels like someone should’ve taken notice that there were two tag matches on the show where the good guys avoided a Doomsday Device and then made the hot tag, but I digress. This was action packed, heated, and although Shelley technically was able to finally get a pinfall on Aries, there’s an asterisk next to that victory. This felt like a fresh start for Shelley, who now has direction after months of wandering, and a new issue exists between The Embassy and Generation Next. This would be Eddie’s last match in ROH. ***¼

The Embassy put the boots to Aries until AJ Styles runs out and fights them off. This leads us right into…

Street Fight
AJ Styles vs. Jimmy Rave

Rave gets in the first couple of strikes. Styles brings Rave to the floor with some punches and then drives the back of his head into the barricades repeatedly. He then whips Rave into the barricades twice before tossing him over the barricades and into the crowd. They fight towards the back of the building where Styles drops Rave onto the merchandise table. Styles avoids being whipped into the barricades drills Rave with a spear. Styles goes for a suplex on a chair but Rave counters with a DDT. He throws Styles into the barricades a few times before bringing him back into the ring. Rave nails the Doppler Effect for two. When he goes for the Rave Clash, Styles fires up, throwing punches and headbutts to Rave like a man possessed. Rave is now busted open. Styles belly-to-back suplexes him through the timekeeper’s table from the ring apron. He sets up for the Styles Clash back in the ring onto a steel chair. Rave backdrops Styles onto the chair instead, then stomps Styles face into the chair. Rave sets up the chair in a seated position. Styles however utilizes it first by dropping Rave onto it with a brainbuster. Mike Kreul and Fast Eddie run out to help, but Styles gets rid of them both (and Prince Nana) with a pescado. Jade Cheung even comes into hit Styles. Styles shows some mercy and leads her out of the ring. He once again sets up Rave for the Styles Clash. Alex Shelley runs in and gives him the Shellshock. Rave then hits the Rave Clash for the pin at 12:51. This had all the makings of your standard street fight, and even though it lacked some ingenuity, it was still a totally solid match. Even though the litany of interference halted a lot of momentum the beginning portion of the contest created, it was still a fun watch and does a fine job in keeping Rave and Styles’ rivalry going. ***¼

Austin Aries and Roderick Strong out to try and help Styles from his post-match beatdown, but the numbers are in the Embassy’s favor, and they stand tall in the end.

ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. Christopher Daniels

Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his fourth defense. Punk gets in a slap to Daniels face early on, then kills a lot of time on the floor. Daniels smacks Punk in the face several times when he comes back in the ring, and Punk bails back outside. Daniels controls Punk on the mat in a side headlock and then an arm hold. Punk gets Daniels in his own side headlock after a failed headscissors, only for Daniels to get Punk back into his own side headlock. He knocks down Punk with a clothesline and headbutts when Punk escapes. Punk wears down Daniels by sending him head first into the canvas, and then several turnbuckle pads. Danielsand Punk take each other out with Manhattan Drops. Punk misses a crossbody and Daniels swoops in with a neckbreaker for two. This begins Daniels focusing his offense on Punk’s neck. After an Arabain Press, Daniels locks on a crossface, and Punk manages to get his foot on the ropes to escape. Daniels repeatedly bashes Punk’s head into the barricades before bringing him back into the ring. Punk knees Daniels in the stomach once he escapes Daniels’ side headlock. Punk puts Daniels in a bodyscissors. Upon release, Punk misses an elbow, Daniels misses an Arabian Press, and Punk pummels away at Daniels on the mat. Punk drops Daniels stomach first onto the top rope and gives him a neckbreaker in between the middle and top rope. A strike exchange ends with Punk stopping a charging Daniels and putting him in an abdominal stretch. Daniels fights out and puts Punk in an abdominal stretch. Punk hip tosses his way free, and Daniels prawn holds him for two. Punk cuts off Daniels with a knee to the stomach. Daniels lands on his feet when Punk tries a monkey flip. He drops Punk with a Complete Shot and takes the moment to catch his breath. Neither a quebrada press nor a Falcon Arrow get him more than a two count. Punk runs into the turnbuckle. Daniels tries a springboard move after sending Punk face first into the turnbuckle, but Punk shoves Daniels to the floor. He drives Daniels back first into the barricades and has a violence party against one of the ring posts. Daniels gets a burst of adrenaline back in the ring as Punk kicks at his chest, but it stops when Punk delivers a running boot for two.

Back to the body scissors goes Punk, who releases when Daniels lights him up with chops. Punk tries a flying Frankensteiner, only to be cut off in mid-air with a powerbomb for two. Daniels picks up momentum with multiple offensive maneuvers, getting a two count after an STO. When he goes for the Iconoclasm, Punk kicks at his ribs. Daniels pushes Punk away to stop a tornado DDT and knocks the champ down with an enzuigiri for two. Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker gets Punk two, as does a spear. Daniels escapes the Pepsi Twist and drops Punk with a Death Valley Driver. Punk stops Daniels from an Iconoclasm again. When he tries a missile dropkick, he accidentally hits referee Mike Kehner. Daniels drops Punk with a Blue Thunder Bomb and there’s no referee to make a count. Daniels hits the BME. This time, referee Todd Sinclair runs out to make the count, but Punk kicks out and Daniels can’t believe it. Punk pulls Daniels to the floor and they slug it out ringside. They make their way up to the top turnbuckle where Punk brings Daniels back into the ring with a superplex. Daniels finds it in him to kick out from Punk’s pin attempt. He also finds a way to get Punk in the Koji Clutch. Punk crawls his way to the ropes to force Daniels to release. As Daniels charges at Punk, Punk knocks him down with a boot to the face for two. Punk attempts to mock Daniels by delivering his own BME, but Daniels gets his boot up and it nails Punk in the face on his way down. Daniels lands a high crossbody for two. Out of desperation, Punk pins Daniels by placing his feet on the ropes, then by grabbing Daniels tights, and neither gets him the pin. Daniels kicks out of a small package, then drops Punk with a urange. He hits the BME. Daniels mid-section had so much damage done to it, that it takes a moment for him to get his bearings, but he’s pulled right into an Anaconda Vise from Punk before he can attempt a pin. Daniels is able to get his foot on the rope and escape. Punk gets the hold back on by reversing a crucifix pin from Daniels. Even with throwing knees to the back of Punk’s head Daniels is unable to escape. Daniels takes Punk over with an armdrag as the 1:00 minute time remaining announcement is made. Each man goes for pinning combinations out of desperation. Punk blocks the Angel’s Wings and backdrops his way out of it. Punk sweeps Daniels’ legs out. Daniels hits the Angels Wings, but as he covers and Todd Sinclair counts one, the clock expires on Daniels at 60:00. This match is declared a draw and thus Punk remains ROH World Champion.

The crowd chants “five more minutes” and “bullshit,” Punk tries to attack Allison Danger. Daniels stops Punk, but Punk turns things around with a neckbreaker. James Gibson runs out to punch and stomp Punk on the mat. Punk lays out Gibson and then Daniels with the ROH title belt. The crowd chants “Joe” and on cue, Joe runs out and brakes out Punk with several kicks. Joe chases Punk backstage as the show concludes.

There is no denying the backstory and the build-up to this match was terrific. However, an hour draw between Punk and Daniels is definitely not what the crowd wanted. It’s possible politics came into play with Daniels in TNA, but nothing about the story that led to this match, nor the story told by them during the match, made a time limit draw seem like the reasonable outcome to go with. With a lot of stalling in the beginning as well as long submissions punctuated by flurries of action, it became clear they were artificially inflating the time. To Daniels and Punk’s credit, they seriously got things cooking in the second half, and the last five minutes were really exciting as both of them went for broke in their attempts to leave as champion. The ending itself too was fantastic, as Daniels being robbed and Punk being saved by the bell both felt like authentic consequences from the draw. In summation, a match I think people went into expecting to be a classic, or at the very least something extraordinary, was “just” really good. ***½

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