Ring of Honor: The Summer of Punk

Disc One

ROH World Championship
Austin Aries vs. CM Punk

“Death Before Dishonor III” – Morristown, NJ – 6.18.2005

This was promoted as Punk’s final match with ROH before departing for WWE. Because of this, the audience is completely behind him. Punk enters the ring with tears in his eyes and gets drowned in streamers by the crowd during Bobby Cruise’s introduction. Punk earned this title shot by winning his feud against Jimmy Rave. He defeated Aries’ partner Roderick Strong six days earlier at “The Future Is Now”, but Strong achieved his goal of wearing down Punk’s back. Aries is coming into this match with a messed up neck. The wear and tear of defending his title around the world had already been taking its toll on him, but three moments specifically did damage to his neck. First, Samoa Joe gave him a Muscle Buster at “Nowhere To Run.” A few weeks later, Spanky would hit him with the Sliced Bread #2 at “New Frontiers.” Finally, at “The Future Is Now”, Low Ki gave him a super Ki Krusher. Considering Punk’s finishers right now are the Pepsi Plunge and Anaconda Vise, that does not bode well for the defending champion. This is also the rubber match for these two, as Punk defeated Aries at “Glory By Honor III”, and Aries defeated Punk at “Weekend of Thunder, Night 1.” Aries has been champion since 12.26.2004 and this is his nineteenth defense.

As they’re posturing, Aries shoulder blocks Punk in the corner, and Punk forearms Aries in the neck. This lets each other know that they’re aware of their injuries. Aries lands a springboard back elbow off the second rope and grounds Punk with a side headlock. Punk counters into a headscissors, wisely dropkicking Aries when Aries goes for his patented headstand escape, and puts Aries in a side headlock himself. Punk holds onto it tightly no matter what Aries does to escape, harkening back to Punk’s strategy against Samoa Joe in their trilogy. Punk finally bulldogs Aries for a two count. Punk also gets two with a fisherman’s suplex. Aries goes for a brainbuster, but Punk escapes and drops Aries with a neckbreaker. Punk gets Aries to the floor and suicide dives onto him. However, as they get to the apron, Aries is able to give Punk a Death Valley Driver onto it! Aries sends Punk into the barricades twice. When he tries a third time, Punk reverses it and Aries crashes it into the barricades instead. Aries however pulls Punk by his trunks, sending him face first into the barricades. Inside the ring, Aries follows that up with a twisting body press and a quebrada to Punk’s lower back. The fans jeer Aries as he hits his shin breaker/back suplex combo. This continues as Aries sweeps Punk into a side slam. An entire turnbuckle pad is removed. Punk is sent back first into the exposed buckles. Aries is then sent chest first and flipped inside out with a Northern lariat. Punk busts out a flying forearm. After a couple back elbows he whips Aries to the corner twice and gives him a backdrop. Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker gets Punk a nearfall, as does a high crossbody. Aries blocks the Pepsi Twist and knocks down Punk with a running clothesline for two. Aries hits the IED. Punk ducks a rolling forearm, but Aries jackknife pins him. Punk reverses into a backslide for two. Aries gives Punk a piledriver for two. After a Finlay roll, Aries goes up top. Punk slams him back down to the mat. He tosses Aries up in the air, and when Aries lands, Punk blasts him with a Shining Wizard for two. Punk brings Aries up for the Pepsi Plunge. Aries counters with a super brainbuster, and Aries can’t believe it when Punk is able to kick out. Aries heads up top in the hopes of delivering a 450 splash again. Punk punches him several times in the forehead. He then hooks Aries’ arms. Aries reverses and gives Punk the Pepsi Plunge himself. Punk kicks out one and the fans go wild. Aries knocks him down with a rolling forearm strike and kicks him in the head. Aries nails the 450 splash, but Punk pulls him over into the Anaconda Vise! The fans are hoping for a tap out, but Aries gets his feet to the ropes. Aries crucifix pins Punk for two. Aries tries a crucifix driver, but Punk turns that into a TKO. Another Shining Wizard connects, and Punk finally hits the Pepsi Plunge for the pin at 30:26 to become the NEW ROH World Champion. The wrestling and story here were awesome, but it was the fans that made this match. They were dying to see Punk win the title, and their desperation made all of Punk’s comebacks, kick outs, and bigger moves even more significant due to their excitement, and their excitement helped make the match even more exciting. It felt like their adulation actually willed Punk to withstand Aries’ finishing moves and get the strength necessary to pull off the Pepsi Plunge. Them sprinkling in the neck and back work along with some callbacks to the Joe vs. Punk series were icing on the cake. This ruled, both serving as a fantastic end to Aries’ title reign, while also cementing Punk as an ROH icon. ****¼

Like a pro, Aries hands Punk the championship and raises his hand in victory. The fans chant “thank you, Aries” as he walks to the back. Punk says it was during his rivalry with Samoa Joe that he declared the ROH title the most important title in North America, but because of his victory, it is now the most important title in the world. In his hands, the title becomes power, and a microphone in his hand is like a pipe bomb. He tells a story about an old man who nurses a snake back to life, only for the snake to kill him once he is better, because that is what snakes do. Punk tells this story, because that’s exactly what he did to the fans. He used them and their emotions to win the title, and now that he has it, he doesn’t need them anymore. He says he’s better than Low Ki, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe, putting a fine point on it by saying “the champ is here.” He says he is taking the title to WWE, and there isn’t a single person in the locker room who can stop him. Punk looks towards the entrance ramp, but Christopher Daniels enters the ring through the crowd. The Fallen Angel chants let Punk know exactly who is in the ring. He whips around and the two of them go face to face. They trade blows with Daniels getting the better of the exchange. Punk slips away when Daniels goes for the BME. Daniels on the microphone lets Punk know he is coming back for revenge after Daniels’ sixteen month absence Punk caused. Punk asks “the ROHbots” if they want to see that match. He then tells Daniels he has to wait sixteen more months to get a title match and that he can kiss his ass. Punk then leaves the building.

We jump ahead to “Sign of Dishonor” three weeks later. As has become customary for ROH, the show after a World championship victory opens with the new champion addressing the crowd. Punk is wearing a black suit with a lavender button up shirt and shiny tie underneath. Although he doesn’t think the crowd deserves an explanation for why he did what he did, he can’t resist. He explains that a year and half ago he was still working for a promotion called Total Nonstop Action (TNA). Of the four individuals who were told they had to make a choice between working for TNA or working for ROH, he was the only one of the four who chose ROH. The other three individuals he identifies: AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Christopher Daniels. This occurred despite the fact that the four of them agreed to stick together no matter their decision. He also knows for a fact there would not be an ROH for Styles and Daniels to come crawling back to if it were not for him. Everybody else turned their back on the company. Even though he was the one who decided to stick around, all the fans did was ask when everyone else was coming back. He was the backbone of ROH, and now he is their champion, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Fast forward a year later and he gets an offer from WWE. The fans doubted that he would sign a contract with WWE, and Punk admits he has not signed a contract – yet. He then pulls out his WWE contract from his inner jacket pocket, showing it to the camera and crowd. He calls it his key to freedom and to not have to see the ROH fans again. He asks ring announcer Bobby Cruise to hold the ROH World title so Punk can sign his contract on top of it. Cruise refuses, as does senior official Todd Sinclair, but Shane Hagadorn enters the ring and happily holds the title belt for Punk, his trainer. Hagadorn tells Punk this is the greatest moment of his life. Punk tells the audience to kiss his ass goodbye as he signs atop the ROH title. We then see from the entrance ramp James Gibson taping up his hands. He gets in the ring and gives Hagadorn a Tiger Driver as Punk flees. He yells at Punk that there is no way he is leaving with the title. As Punk backs up to the entrance, he is met by Christopher Daniels who pummels him. He throws Punk into the ring where Gibson gets in a few shots. Punk escapes their grasp and leaves through the crowd.

Later in the night, Punk returns. Not shown on the DVD due to all the copyrighted music is him challenging Low Ki, Bryan Danielson, and the Briscoes. When they do not answer his challenge, Punk decides he’s leaving. Mick Foley then enters the ring. He says tonight will be the first time many people will hear him use the F word, because when he saw Punk earlier with ihs purple streaked hair and his suit, he thought Punk looked “fucking ridiculous.” As ridiculous as Punk looked, he thought what Punk said was even more fucking ridiculous. He knew full well none of the people he challenged would be available, but he also thought it was ridiculous that Punk claimed he single handedly made ROH. Although he admires Punk for choosing ROH over TNA, it is more accurate to say that ROH made Punk. He thinks Punk should offer a title shot to one of the hungry young wrestlers in the back, as it would be the right thing for business. Punk says when it comes to business, Foley as WWE champion wasn’t even in JBL’s league in terms of filling seats and selling PPV’s. Foley says in terms of his legacy as a wrestler, what he brought to the table was knowing deep down that his opponents were better off for having him involved in their career. He asks Punk if he wants to be remembered as the guy who had five star matches with Samoa Joe, or the guy who left ROH in a worse place than when he found it. He thinks deep down he needs to have that match with one of the up and comers in the locker room. Punk disagrees that he has to help out ROH, but he does have a loss to avenge, and it just so happens that the loss he wants to avenge also fits the bill of the type of competitor Foley has in mind. Tonight, he will defend the title against the man who pinned him at “Back To Basics”, Jay Lethal. Lethal accepts the challenge, and we are treated to the clip of him pinning Punk with a Dragon suplex from “Back To Basics.”

ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. Jay Lethal

“Sign of Dishonor” – Lake Grove, NY – 7.8.2005

Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his first defense. Lethal immediately Dragon suplexes Punk at the bell. Punk rolls to the floor to avoid being pinned. Lethal desperately pummels his back and shoves him in the ring, but Punk rolls out another side of the ring. Lethal continues to attack Punk around the ringside area, including a suicide dive. Back in the ring, Lethal stomps Punk down in a corner before giving him a suplex for two. Lethal also gets two with a belly-to-back suplex. As Lethal tries an up-and-over in the corner, Punk catches Lethal and drops him neck first across the top rope. Lethal’s neck was worn down by Low Ki at “Death Before Dishonor III”, and Punk takes advantage of that by centering his offense around Lethal’s neck. On the floor he drives Lethal’s back into the barricades before going back to Lethal’s neck inside the ring. Lethal tries a sunset flip and a crucifix pin, but Punk kicks out of two both teams, and halts Lethal’s momentum with a neckbreaker. When Punk brings Lethal to the top turnbuckle, Lethal is able to pummel Punk and send him falling to the mat. Unfortunately, his falling headbutt attempt misses. Lethal however is able to save himself from a super belly-to-back suplex, by twisting over in mid-air and driving Punk into the canvas with a crossbody. Samoa Joe is now ringside cheering on his protégé. Lethal holds onto his bad neck as he fires up against Punk. He strings together his own neck based offense, getting a two count after a jumping neckbreaker. A flying leg lariat also gets Lethal a two count. Punk gets up his boot to stop a charging Lethal. Punk lands a crossbody. Lethal rolls through and pins Punk for two. Punk hoists Lethal up and hits Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker for two. Lethal almost hits a Dragon suplex again when he catches Punk coming off the ropes. Punk weaves his way out of it and delivers an enzuigiri. They fight for a suplex, and then trade waistlocks. Lethal ends up giving Punk a fisherman’s buster. He successfully lands the diving headbutt, but Punk is able to kick out from his pin. Punk escapes three Dragon suplex attempts. He hits a Shining Wizard and puts Lethal in the Anaconda Vise. Lethal scrambles to the ropes, forcing Punk to release the hold. Joe from the floor gives Lethal an encouraging slap to the face to fire him up. It works, as Lethal unloads a series of chops on Punk. Punk once again escapes a Dragon suplex. Lethal goes to the top turnbuckle. Punk palm strikes Lethal and mocks Joe by giving Lethal a Muscle Buster. He then puts Lethal in a rear-naked choke while locking eyes with Joe. Lethal taps out at 20:57. Of all the potential options and dream matches for Punk at this time, Lethal was probably not on anybody’s list. However, because of Lethal’s win over Punk, and giving Punk the ability to antagonize Joe in the process of wearing down Lethal, this challenge worked out really well. Lethal gave Punk a heck of a fight, and the crowd was with the match from the hot start all the way to the end. Kudos to Lethal for stepping up to the plate, and kudos to Punk for helping to produce a match that at that time may have seemed like a disappointment and ended up an absolute hoot. ***¾

Punk immediately gets in Punk’s face after the bell. Foley interjects and pushes Joe aside. Joe gets in Foley’s face, and Punk knees Joe in the back, which also knocks down Foley. Punk pounds on Joe and Foley until Gibson runs out. Punk hightails it through the crowd, holding his title high.

The next night at “Escape From New York”, Punk appears in the balcony of the New Yorker Hotel, interrupting a four corner match involving James Gibson and Roderick Strong. Punk’s attire tonight consists of white dress pants and a red dress shirt. Punk mockingly chants “let’s go Gibson.” He had fully intended to challenge the winner of tonight’s Four Corner Survival to a title match tonight, but since Gibson stuck his nose where it didn’t belong twice last night, and because of his recent win-loss record, he doesn’t think Gibson deserves the challenge even if he were to win this match. He tells Gibson that he will never be the ROH Champion. He thinks Rave and Azrieal are great competitors, but he has his eyes on one guy tonight, Roderick Strong. He called Strong “the future” a few weeks ago after they wrestled at “The Future Is Now.” He’s not done teaching Strong a lesson, and tonight he will teach him another lesson, except, it’s going to be in a non-title match. Mick Foley then appears behind Punk. He goozle Punk and threatens to push him over the balcony and to the floor unless Punk makes it a title match. The crowd pops when Foley quotes Dirty Harry: “do ya feel lucky? Well do ya, Punk?” That’s cute, because his actual name is Punk, you see. Punk agrees to make the match a title match as soon as Foley puts the microphone in his face. Foley let’s go, leaving an exasperated Punk recovering against the rail.

ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. Roderick Strong

“Escape From New York” – New York, NY – 7.9.2005

Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his second defense. Samoa Joe stares down Punk from the balcony. Punk chops Strong in the corner, then immediately runs into the opposite corner and ducks between the ropes to avoid retaliation. Punk snapmares Strong into a back chop and then hits the floor. Punk smacks Strong on the back twice whilst also maintaining a side headlock. As the pace picks up, Strong goes for a gut buster and the Stronghold. Punk quickly escapes both, but Strong Cactus clotheslines him to the floor. Punk kicks Strong in the chest as Strong re-enters the ring. Punk ducks Strong’s chops while peppering Strong with his own, then brings him back down in the side headlock. Finally, as Punk goes for a leapfrog, Strong halts and lands his first chop of the match, then a few more for good measure. Strong follows Punk outside with a pescado. Strong chops him around ringside, even chopping him into the laps of a couple fans. Inside the ring, Strong scoops up Punk into a backbreaker, then drops Punk with a belly-to-back suplex. Punk stops a charging Strong by dropping him chest first across the top rope. After Punk pummels Strong and dropkicks him in the back of the head, he yells to Joe and James Gibson in the balcony that he built ROH. Strong lands a crosbody off the second rope, but is quickly knocked back down with a clothesline. Punk also holds onto the ropes as Strong tries a dropkick, resulting in Strong crashing back to the mat. Punk gives Strong a delayed vertical suplex, impressing himself with his own strength. He digs his knee into Strong’s back while applying a chinlock. When Strong escapes, Punk takes him back down with a knee to the stomach. Punk is in disbelief when Strong does not pass out in a side headlock. Punk’s buttocks are shown as Strong inadvertently pulls them down in a sunset flip. Foley has joined Joe and Gibson in the balcony as Strong throws Punk off the top turnbuckle. The End of Heartache and Sick Kick follow, but Punk kicks out. Strong also gets two with a big dropkick. Strong’s uranage backbreaker doesn’t get it done either. Punk escapes a half-nelson backbreaker. He hits Strong with the Shining Wizard for two. Strong crucifixes his way out of an Anaconda Vise. Punk superkicks Strong after kicking out of a schoolboy. He tornado DDT’s Strong into the Anaconda Vise. Strong makes his way to the ropes to the crowds delight. Punk hits the Pepsi Twist but misses a springboard legdrop, giving Strong the chance to lock in the Stronghold. Punk grabs the ropes, forcing Strong to release it. Punk drps him with a hammerlock DDT for two. Punk tries a rolling elbow. Strong catches him with a half-nelson backbreaker. He scoops Punk up into another backbreaker, then a pump-handle piledriver. Punk once again uses the ropes to save himself from defeat. Punk escapes a powerbomb. Strong O’Connor rolls Punk for two. Punk rolls Strong onto his back and puts his feet on the ropes for extra leverage, getting the pin at 26:28. No doubt about it, that ending was weak. Fortunately, the rest of the match ruled. Lots of intense action, psychology, a hot crowd, and them being able to build uncertainty around somebody who was still finding their footing as a singles competitor made for a terrific main event. ****

CM Punk says he is leaving ROH as the only undefeated champion in history. He tells the crowd to say goodbye to the Champ. James Gibson runs to the ring. Punk jumps into the crowd with Gibson egging him to come back to the ring. Samoa Joe gives chase to Punk through the crowd, leading Punk back ringside. He backs up to the entrance way where Foley meets him and pummels him right to Joe. Joe and Foley throw Punk into the ring. Gibson drops Punk with a Tiger Driver and Foley gives a three count. Gibson grabs and admires the ROH Championship. He stands over Punk and says if he has any guts, he’ll give him a title shot next week in Woodbridge, CT.

In Woodbridge at “Fate of an Angel”, CM Punk would make 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, and that some people call him the MVP of ROH in 2005, which may be true if it weren’t for 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, our title match was in jeopardy.

A few hours pass, and despite losing a lot of blood and a big bandage on his head, Gibson refuses to let the opportunity to challenge Punk pass him by. Punk meets Gibson in the aisle and they trade blows. Gibson throws Punk into the ring and the match gets under way.

ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. James Gibson

“Fate of an Angel” – Woodbridge, CT – 7.16.2005

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.

Disc Two

ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. Christopher Daniels

“The Homecoming” – Philadelphia, PA – 7.23.2005

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 really 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

ROH World Championship; Elimination Match
CM Punk vs. Christopher Daniels vs. James Gibson vs. Samoa Joe

“Redemption” – Dayton, OH – 8.12.2005

A video package precedes this match, showcasing CM Punk’s title win over Austin Aries, and the quest of James Gibson, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe to prevent him from leaving ROH and going to WWE with the title.

Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his fifth defense. Given the circumstances of “The Homecoming” it is worth noting that if this match goes the time limit, even if Punk is eliminated, he will remain the champion. Punk and Gibson trade holds to start. When Punk sends Gibson tumbling with a shoulder block, Daniels blind tags himself in, much to Gibson’s chagrin. The pace picks up as Punk and Daniels are determined to match one another when exaching holds. Joe requests to be tagged in, and Daniels fulfills the request. Gibson nor Daniels will allow Punk to tag out. Joe dumps Punk on his head with a Saito suplex, but Punk rolls outside to avoid Joe’s knee drop combo. Gibson however attacks Punk with a cannonball senton off of the apron. Punk slips through Joe’s legs and tags in Daniels. Daniels is determined to wear down Joe in a side headlock, but when Joe escapes twice, Daniels decides to tag out to Gibson. Despite Joe taking most of their exchange, Gibson avoids a senton splash and gives Joe one of his own. Joe dazes Gibson with a knee strike to the side of the head and tags in Daniels. Gibson works over Daniels’ left arm. Punk blind tags himself in when Gibson has Daniels in a hammerlock. Daniels and Gibson manage to take Punk down with a double hip toss. All three opponents get in their shots on Punk, leaving the champion dazed ringside. Daniels does some damage to Punk’s neck. Punk slaps Joe in the face to tag out. Joe focuses his anger on taking Daniels down and delivering the facewash kick. Punk tags himself in, then mocks Joe by hitting the same combo Joe attempted to hit him with earlier, but instead of a knee drop delivers an elbow drop. Punk gets Daniels in an Anaconda Vise in the ropes. Joe facewash kicks Punk while he is vulnerable, getting revenge for all the taunting. After Gibson tosses Punk back into the ring, Punk wears down Daniels’ back. When Punk tries to mimic Joe’s “Ole” kick, Joe stands in his trajectory. Punk re-enters the ring and continues to attack Daniels’ back and neck. Daniels gets his knees up to block a split-legged moonsault. He drops Punk with an STO. Gibson tags in. He gets in some offense on Punk, but ends up accidentally knocking Joe off the ring apron. Gibson backdrops Punk to the floor and follows with a pescado. Daniels hits an Arabian Press onto them both. Finally, Joe lays out all three of his opponents with an elbow suicida.

In the ring, Joe sends Gibson shoulder first into the ring post. Punk nails Gibson with a chair behind referee Todd Sinclair’s back, slamming Gibson’s head into the ring post! Gibson is busted open. He wants to get back in the ring, but several referees take him backstage instead. Joe wins a battle of hamstring kicks against Punk. Joe then powerslams Punk for two. Punk comes back with a Pepsi Twist and crooked moonsault or two. Daniels almost has Punk pinned with an O’Connor Roll. He then drops Punk with a Death Valley Driver. Punk evades a BME and hits Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker for two. A second BME lands. Punk however kicks out and tags in Joe. Joe boots and powerbomb Daniels before locking him in an STF. Daniels uses the ropes to escape. He Samoan drops Joe and hits a quebrada for two. Daniels then pulls Joe into the Koji Clutch. Joe’s arm almost drops for a third time, but he does get his foot on the rope to save himself. Joe avoids the Angels Wings. He gets Daniels in a rear naked choke. Daniels had his foot on the ropes, but Todd Sinclair doesn’t see it, and Punk shoves Daniels foot off the ropes before he can. Daniels passes out and is eliminated at 41:04. Daniels comes to and is not happy. Joe holds Punk in a waistlock. Daniels looks to give Punk a enzuigiri, but he ducks and Daniels hits Joe with it instead. Punk low blows Daniels. Punk then small packages and pins Joe at 42:07. Joe and Daniels fight ringside, not happy that they more or less both eliminated one another from the match. Joe gets his leg cut on the guardrail as referees split them up. The crowd chants for James Gibson, who commentary tells us is at the hospital across the street. Gibson then makes his way back out to the ring, with blood still on his forehead. Punk throws him outside to stop an onslaught of punches, but Gibson comes right back in with a high crossbody for two. Punk catches a running crossbody attempt and drops Gibson with a TKO. Gibson dropkicks Punk’s knee, but once again Punk tosses him to the floor. Gibson crotches Punk on the barricades and slams his leg against the barricade with a chair. Despite this, Punk is able to manage a super Frankensteiner in the ring. Gibson rolls through and locks on a cloverleaf. Punk reaches the ropes to force a break of the hold. Punk pops Gibson up, sending him crashing to the mat. Punk hits the Shining Wizard for two, then pulls Gibson into the Anaconda Vise. Gibson gets his feet on the ropes to escape. He pulls Punk into a crucifix pin for two. He reverses a whip into a kick to the stomach and drops Punk with a Tiger Driver. The crowd boos Punk when he kicks out at two. Punk pulls Gibson to the top turnbuckle for the Pepsi Plunge. Gibson however reverses it into a super Tiger Driver, pinning Punk and becoming the new ROH World Champion at 50:39. The amount of joy and relief felt by Gibson is palpable. A huge smile comes across his face as the babyface locker room and Gibson’s wife comes out to celebrate.

This title change was a very gratifying end to Punk’s short yet incredibly impactful title reign. Given that he was never able to defeat Joe during Joe’s reign as champion made it logical for him to avoid him at all costs. He also wasn’t able to defeat Daniels in their match at “The Homecoming”, which is why he also attempted to avoid him as well, albeit to a lesser extent than Joe, and thus hoped to run out the clock once again. He did however defeat Gibson at “Fate of An Angel”, so he was fine getting in the ring with him. In that match, Gibson subverted the Pepsi Plunge. While in that match he did so with a backdrop, here it was a super Tiger Driver, and that is what it took to finally unseat the man who kept threatening to take the title with him. Gibson was also busted open by Punk in their previous title match, but in this scenario, two other people also worked to wear down Punk, making it somewhat less of an obstacle that Gibson had to fight back from. On top of that, this match finally got Punk his pinfall victory over Joe, and reignited Joe and Daniels issue with one another. Suffice it to say, there was a lot to love in this match. While it probably didn’t need to be 50 minutes, and there is an argument to be made that perhaps Daniels should’ve won this match instead, the crowd response to Gibson winning and his tremendous celebration erased any doubts I had that he was not the “right” choice. All four parties put in a tremendous effort and produced something really special. ****½

2 out of 3 Falls
CM Punk vs. Colt Cabana

“Punk: The Final Chapter” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 8.13.2005

The crowd chants “please don’t go” and “thank you, Punk” as referee Todd Sinclair clears the streamers from the ring. After Bobby Cruise’s introductions, Ace Steel takes a seat at the timekeeper’s table to watch the match up close Samoa Joe also grabs a seat ringside. Punk and Cabana shake hands and embrace before Todd Sinclair calls for the bell.

After feeling each other out they engage in a double knuckle lock. Punk shoulder tackles Cabana three times. Cabana trips him to avoid a fourth. He takes Punk down with an armdrag and headscissors him to the corner. Punk headscissors Cabana into an armdrag to show him up. He comes off the second rope with a crossbody for two. Punk keeps armdragging Cabana and Cabana keeps putting him in a headscissors. They criss-cross the ropes. Cabana tries his old face slapping gag but it doesn’t work. Cabana stomps on both of Punk’s feet instead. Punk low blows Cabana behind the referee’s back in retaliation. Punk gives Cabana the Colt 45 to pick up the first fall at 12:41. Punk catches Cabana in an Anaconda Vise in the ropes. After releasing the hold he comes in with a missile dropkick. Cabana catches Punk with a lariat to pick up the second fall at 16:06. Both guys talk some trash as they exchange chops. Cabana fires away with some chops and strikes to the chest. Punk goes for another Anaconda Vise but Cabana simply dumps Punk to the floor. They go in and out of the ring until finally Punk comes off the apron with a Frankensteiner. Back in the ring he goes for an underhook maneuver. Cabana counters with a butterfly suplex for two. Cabana forearms Punk off the apron and follows with an Asai moonsault. Back in the ring Punk gives Cabana a Frankensteiner. Cabana rolls through and applies a Boston Crab. Punk escapes and spikes Cabana with a reverse Frankensteiner. Punk hits him with a Busaiku Knee. Cabana brings Punk off the ropes with a belly-to-back suplex that sees Punk land on his head. Punk kicks out. When he and Cabana recover, Punk applies the Anaconda Vise. Punk brings him to the top with a Pepsi Plunge. Cabana brings him down with a Samoan Drop. Punk crucifixes him for two. He also gets two with a running knee strike. Punk and Cabana switch positions in a roll-up until Cabana catches Punk with a three count at 27:46 to win the bout. The rest of the Summer of Punk offers the better matches from Punk, but that isn’t what this match was about at all. This was all about him and his best friend in the business having one last match and having fun while doing so, and leaving the crowd with a positive impression of someone who made an indelible mark on the promotion. The match was held under the right circumstances: in Chicago under in 2 out of 3 falls rules (which is the type of match that put their names on the map in the Midwest) and in front of the right audience. This won’t be remembered as a classic, but as a fun farewell for one of the most important wrestlers in Ring of Honor history. ***

Punk is bewildered that Cabana got him for a three count. Ultimately though he comes to terms with it and shakes Cabana’s hand. Punk’s parents and the entire locker room enter the ring to send him off, including Cary Silkin. Cabana showers Punk with Pepsi and also presents him with a champagne flute of Pepsi. Punk says tonight is very emotional for him, as he loves ROH. He says it’s the best place to wrestle, and has both the best fans and locker room. He says tonight is one of the best nights of his life, thanks Chicago, and drinks his Pepsi along with Cabana and Steel. Punk also thanks Gabe Sapolsky who is standing in the entrance way, along with the Rottweilers. He says ROH is his family and that they are the future of wrestling. The show concludes with Cabana and Steel holding up Punk on their shoulders and leading everyone in a “CM Punk” chant.

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