The trilogy of matches between Samoa Joe and CM Punk in 2004 became the stuff of independent wrestling legend, with their first match getting praise from the live audience and subsequent DVD viewers, and the second bout not only receiving similar praise, but also receiving a five star review from Dave Meltzer, the first match in North America to have been done so since the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels Hell in a Cell bout seven years prior.
In 2010, ROH began including some single disc compilations with some of their B-shows to help boost sales, and the October 2010 event “Allied Forces” came packed with a bonus disc that included the entire Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk World title trilogy. In 2012, ROH gave the trilogy and proper release, including with it a second disc that included the out of print Punk and Joe Straight Shootin’ Series interview, one of the most popular installments of the series, and Punk and Joe’s first ever singles encounter from 2003.
ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
“World Title Classic” – Dayton, OH – 6.12.2004
Joe has been champion since 3.22.2003 and this is his 20th defense. Punk is one half of the current ROH Tag Team Champions. Before the match, Les Thatcher presents Joe with the new ROH World Heavyweight Championship (which if memory serves was never seen again, as they stick with the UWF (Watts) tribute title Joe already has with him for a while.)
Joe kicks at Punk’s leg as they circle one another. Punk slows down the pace by keeping Joe in a headlock. Joe takes back over with punches and chops in the corner, but Punk goes back to the side headlock. Punk sucker punches Joe, which makes Joe angry. After they reach a stalemate, Punk goes back to kicking at Punk’s hamstring and peppers him with shots to the side of the head, with Punk able to cover up and avoid most of them. When Punk goes for his arm, he headbutts Punk down into a slump, but Punk rolls away to avoid a facewash kick. When Punk re-enters the ring, Joe knocks him back down in the corner. Punk blocks a kick and pulls Joe back down into a rear headlock, crossfacing Joe across the nose like Joe did in their match last August. Joe takes time to make a Punk fan look like a chump in the front row, and although Punk gets a headlock on again, Joe drops a knee across Punk’s chest when he escapes.They end up fighting outside where they toss one another into the guardrails. No more messing around from Joe, as when they go inside, he blasts Punk with strikes, knees to the head, and a headbutt before knocking him back to the floor and nailing an elbow suicida. Punk tries a swinging Frankensteiner after escaping a facewash kick, but Joe counters by swinging him into the guardrails and then hitting the facewash kick thrice. Back in the ring, Punk shockingly fights on instincts, but is taken down almost instantly with a uranage slam for a two count.
Punk takes another facewash kick and is put into a headscissors, which Punk turns over and escapes. Punk pulls off a springboard high crossbody out of nowhere. He knocks down Joe with a big boot for two. He ties up Joe’s legs and pushes his boot against Joe’s left knee to apply pressure. Joe headbutts his way free and rolls up Punk in an abdominal stretch for two. The two trade strikes on their feet, which Punk ends by dropping a knee onto Joe’s forehead. Punk taunts Joe by doing one of his poses, which angers Joe into a burst of energy which he uses to land an enzuigiri and Saito suplex before dropping back to his stomach. Punk almost gets the three with a rolling forearm strike. He goes to a chinlock hoping to take the last bit of oxygen out of Joe in his current state of exhaustion, converting to a headlock when Joe momentarily escapes. Joe does escape, hitting an enzuigiri, and bringing Punk down into a high angle Boston Crab. Punk uses the ropes to break the hold. Joe throws multiple kicks to the side of Punk’s head to bring him down and crash into him with a running knee. Joe places Punk up top, but Punk fights him off and lands a flying elbow. He then successfully super back suplexes Joe off the top! After they both make it to their feet, Punk comes off the ropes. Joe snaps off a powerslam and tries for a cross armbreaker. Punk rolls to the ropes before it can be applied. After some Kawada kicks, Joe powerbombs Punk back into the high angle Boston Crab. He turns that into his signature STF, and once again Punk gets the ropes. Punk manages to get Joe on the top turnbuckle where he brings Joe down with a super Frankensteiner for two. The Pepsi Twist gets two as Joe places his foot on the bottom rope. Joe sunset flips Punk into a rolling cradle, but even with the dizzying effect it only gets Joe a two count. Punk sneaks in a crucifix pin for two, and upon kicking out, Joe turns Punk inside out with a lariat. Amazingly, Punk kicks out of Joe’s pin attempt. Punk fights out of a waistlock and nails Joe with the Shining Wizard! Joe gets his shoulder up just before the three count. Punk gets in a desperation low blow, but it doesn’t matter, as Joe drives his knees into the mat and puts on a half crab while digging his knee into Punk’s back. Punk escapes that with the ropes, and also escapes a super Muscle Buster attempt, pulling Joe back up and hitting the Pepsi Plunge! Punk unfortunately rolls to the floor, too exhausted and his knee too hurt to be able to capitalize. This gives Joe just enough time to recover, and they knock each other down with stereo clotheslines when Punk does come back in the ring. Punk goes for broke with a Shining wizard and vertical suplex, but Joe saves himself with a dragon screw leg whip so Punk is unable to follow up. Joe hits the Joe-O-Matic off the ropes. Punk ends a strike exchange with a DDT and is too tired to go for a pin. He finally rolls on top of Punk and Joe kicks out. The 60:00 time limit expires to end the contest. The fans want five more minutes, but they are denied the request. Homicide attacks Joe with a chair after the bell, even attacking the referee, ring announcer Stephen DeAngelis, and tearing apart ringside as well. Joe and Punk shake hands and embrace as the fans chant “thank you” at them both.
A lot of time limit draws feel completely manufactured. Of course, this was as well, but there was story based intention behind it. Most of Joe’s title defenses to this point had been in the 15-20 minute range, and Punk’s goal was to artificially inflate the time to exhaust Joe and increase his chances of being victorious. Many were questioning if because of Joe’s size, his injuries, and propensity for his title matches being relatively short if Joe would have what it would take to “go” when put in such a predicament. Joe proved he was plenty capable of succeeding in such an environment, and had both the instincts and smarts to come away from the encounter as champion. Of course, Joe didn’t “defeat” Punk, Punk just didn’t defeat him, giving Punk reason for a rematch which the fans of course were clamoring for. A lot of the work early on in the match paid off in the latter stages, and while some of the latter moments may not weren’t as “clean” as they could have been (and quite honestly makes sense given they were both exhausted), the reaction from the live crowd and the impressive work by both competitors make this very much worthy of being called a classic. ****½
ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
“Joe vs. Punk II” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 10.16.2004
Earlier in the night, Punk cut a promo in the ring laying out the underlying factors in this match. The last match was in neutral territory, but tonight’s match is in Chicago, Punk’s hometown and where he trained to wrestle. Mick Foley and Ricky Steamboat are also both in attendance, with Steamboat himself notoriously going 60 minutes twice with Ric Flair.
Joe has been champion since 3.22.2003 and this is his 28th defense. Joe was originally supposed to defend the title against Steve Corino, but ZERO-ONE caused Corino to pull out. Imagine the alternate history where Corino remains.
It looks like Punk is going to employ the headlock strategy from the first match, but instead surprises Joe with a crucifix pin for a nearfall. A few minutes later he does decide to implement the headlock strategy for real. While Joe does escape on a couple of occasions, Punk finds a way to re-apply the hold moments later. When Joe does escape, Punk makes him pick up the pace and kick out of a pin attempt so that he’s forced to hit the floor to regain his composure. Joe headbutts Punk and peppers him with strikes. Punk responds in kind, but Joe ducks his back elbow and high Punks to the back of the head, resulting in Punk falling to the floor. Joe overpowers Punk in a top wrist lock, so Punk kicks away at it and picks up the aggression in damaging Joe’s left arm and shoulder. Joe manages to forearm Punk hard enough to send him back to the mat. Punk blocks a chest kick and pulls Joe back down into a side headlock. While still in a headlock, Joe pulls Punk to the outside of the ring and suplexes Punk onto the exposed floor. Back inside, Joe scores big with a running knee drop. Punk avoids the facewash kick and delivers one of his own to Joe. Joe damn near snaps Punk’s spine with a stretch to the mat. Punk is able to turn a whip to the corner into a crossbody attempt, but Joe simply walks out of Punk’s trajectory causing him to crash and burn. Joe focuses his attack on Punk’s back, even utilizing the high angle Boston Crab we saw in the previous encounter. He cathartically nails a facewash kick in the process. Out of desperation Punk is able to deliver a flying Frankensteiner and follows Joe to the floor with a tope suicida. While outside, Punk gives Joe two facewash kicks into the guardrail. Punk tries another flying Frankesnsteiner off the apron, but Joe catches Punk and swings him into the guardrails. Angrily, Joe chops Punk into the chair and hits his own facewash kick into the guardrail. A charged up Punk tries a corner attack back inside, and is shut down by a uranage slam for two. He follows Punk to the floor with an elbow suicida, and commentary abandons the ship to let the rest of the match speak for itself.
Back in the ring Punk tries a running knee but is cut off by a spear from Joe. Joe makes a rare top rope splash attempt and misses. Even though Punk mule kicks Joe several times, Joe still takes him over with a powerslam and locks on a cross armbreaker. The crowd cheers when Punk gets his foot on the ropes and are disappointed when a big boot doesn’t put Joe away. After a tornado DDT Punk puts Joe in the Anaconda Vise, which he uses the ropes to escape. He nails Punk with a lariat for two. The crowd comes alive when Punk blocks another lariat with the Pepsi Twist for two. When he tries again, Joe blocks with a powerbomb and locks on the STF, converting to a crossface. The crowd explodes when he gets the ropes. Punk knocks down Joe to one knee. Joe avoids the Shining Wizard at first, but Punk hits on his second try. Joe is close enough to grab the bottom rope and avoid being pinned. Punk gets two with a top rope moonsault. Punk ducks a lariat and brings Joe down into a rear-naked choke! Joe gets to his feet and suplexes his way free when Punk turns it into a headlock. Punk fights to pull Joe to the top turnbuckle. The fans boo when Joe fights out of Punk’s double arm hook and superplexes him. Joe places Punk up top for the Muscle Buster. Punk fights that off and the last three seconds of the match see Joe land another superplex. The time limit expires at 60:00.
It speaks a lot to the match that the announcement from Bobby Cruise that only ten seconds remained surprised, because I was so enthralled by the action that the time flew by. Joe and Punk expanded upon the story from their first match, while also making great use of the fact that Punk had the hometown advantage. Punk mixed a bit of what worked in the first match with some new (and old) tricks, while Joe made use of exploiting Punk’s back on the floor to create a new strategy, which like the work on Punk’s arm in the first match helped him avoid certain doom from the Pepsi Plunge. I also liked that in the first match, Punk seemingly had the match won when the lime limit expired, and this time it was Joe who almost had things under wraps by the time the bell sounded. It’s not often in wrestling where the sequel lives up to the original, and even more rare when it bests the original. This had all the same elements that made the first match so great, the opportunity to refine and tinker to make those elements even better, and had a hot, biased crowd to make it even more memorable. I’m reviewing this match sixteen years after it originally happened, and it’s still a contender for the best ROH match ever. *****
Punk cuts a promo backstage. He says he isn’t sure Joe is able to pin him with the Muscle Buster. He knows they’re bound to meet again, and says when they do, they will have no choice but for the match to have no time limit so they can determine who is truly the king in ROH. Joe however says Punk isn’t going to have any more chances. Punk may have survived, but the goal was for Punk to beat him, and Punk couldn’t get it done. Of course, they would have that third match, and the no time limit stipulation was implemented.
ROH World Championship – No Time Limit
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
“All Star Extravaganza II” – Elizabeth, NJ – 12.4.2004
Joe has been champion since 3.22.2003 and this is his 30th defense. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat is ringside to watch the action. Joe gets in the first real shot with a chop. He avoids Punk’s headlock attempts and throws another chop. Punk gets the headlock on by hip tossing out of a Saito suplex. From there, Punk decides to target Joe’s neck. Joe is able to counter the STJoe which leads to each guy getting a quick nearfall before Punk reapplies the headlock. Joe unloads with strikes in the corner. Punk throws some of his own causing Joe to fall to the mat. Joe kicks Punk to the floor. Somehow Punk is now busted open. Joe goes after that cut when Punk makes his way into the ring. Punk almost has an attack in the corner but gets caught with the STJoe for two. Exhausted, Punk throws kicks and punches to Joe’s neck as he did early on. Joe kicks him to the floor and follows with an elbow suicida. He hits the facewash kick once, but Punk blocks a second one with an elbow strike. Punk comes off the ring apron with a dropkick, faking out Joe who probably thought he was going to attempt a flying Frankensteiner. Punk drives his knee across Joe’s neck. Punk lands a tornado DDT back in the ring for two. He goes for the Shining Wizard but Joe blocks it with a powerbomb and stretches Punk’s neck and back down to the mat just like he did in Chicago. Punk transitions Joe into the Anaconda Vise. Joe gets his foot on the ropes. Punk hits the Pepsi Twist and a moonsault for two. He tries for a sunset bomb. Joe huracanrana’s through and nails a lariat for two. Punk manages to hit the Shining Wizard for two. Joe puts on a sleeper. Punk’s arm drops twice and Todd Sinclair calls for the bell. However, Ricky Steamboat stops the timekeeper because he noticed Punk’s fingers moving when his arm dropped Joe refuses to let the sleeper go. Punk uses the ropes to roll back and pins Joe for two. Punk goes for some more nearfalls to no avail. Joe almost gets the win by placing his feet on the ropes, which angers the crowd and immediately turns them against Joe. Joe knocks Punk off the second rope. His splash doesn’t connect as intended, but his knee hits Punk in the head. Punk goes for an O’Conner Roll which Joe turns into the Coquina Clutch. He lifts him into a German suplex, then a Dragon suplex, then puts the Clutch back on. Punk passes out at 31:25. While this match maybe didn’t have the “classic” feel as the other two, they showed a lot of growth from those two bouts in some creative ways and found a way to get the crowd fully invested in Punk in the final moments of the bout. Punk’s blood and his precision on Joe’s neck were probably the two things that added the most drama, and Punk’s blood loss made it logical that he would be unable to go a full hour once more. The Steamboat interjection was ridiculous, but since Punk lost anyways I can overlook it. This match seemingly gets the least amount of attention of the three, but it is a damn fine match and was a great way to end the trilogy. ****½
The main feature of the second disc is the full Straight Shootin’ interview Joe and Punk did on March 10, 2005.
The interview right away begins with discussion of the first hour long draw. They discuss how the decision was made to do an hour long draw, putting it together, how the crowd in Dayton received it, Homicide’s post-match attack, and the post-match promo. They talk about the challenges of filling an hour and why it’s not wise to unload your entire arsenal the first time you wrestle somebody. They then discuss the second one hour draw being moved up from December to October of 2004 because of Steve Corino canceling just four or five days before the show. It took Joe and Punk some convincing to do the match on that particular show, but they were able to get in the proper state of mind to pull it off, despite the crazy pressure they felt to at least match the quality of their first bout. Punk’s back was hurt and Joe’s leg was messed up going into the match, which makes the excellence of that match even more impressive. They chat about why they structured the second match the way they did based off of the first match, the benefits of calling matches based on crowd reaction, and their overall thoughts on how the second match went. They then talk about their idea for the third match, and the moment of the match Steamboat contributed that they both at first thought was a dumb idea but later came around to incorporating. They then talk about what their major goal of the trilogy was and their overall thoughts. Additionally, they’re asked about their moments with Foley leading up to the final match.
The interview then shifts from being about their trilogy to more general questions. They discuss the differences in ROH from when they first started in Fall 2002 versus when this was filmed. They also go in depth about the rumor of Foley trying to get the both of them into WWE, including the potential storyline to introduce them, which of course didn’t happen. They’re then asked if they would go to WWE developmental, and while they don’t explicitly say no, they discuss the pay cut they would take to do so and the freedom they’d lose. Of course, it wouldn’t be long after this that Punk did indeed sign with WWE and reported to OVW.
The interviewer then plays the “name game” to get some general behind the scenes stories. The names include Teddy Hart, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Steve Corino, Homicide (which produces a tremendous drunken story from PWG’s Tango & Cash Invitational weekend), Low Ki, Colt Cabana, Ricky Reyes and Rocky Romero. They also have a fun “parallel lives” theory that explains why they’re such good friends. They’re also asked about tales from FIP, where Punk talks about wrestling inside a strip club. This section also produces the most notorious story of the entire interview – Punk prank calling Gabe as Homicide pretending to pull out of Final Battle 2003 card. There’s a transvestite bar story that probably wouldn’t fly in 2005, but otherwise the stories are really entertaining.
The interview is more or less two interviews, the first being a retrospective on their trilogy and current state of ROH, and the second entailing a collection of fun road stories. The first part I think is best watched immediately after watching the trilogy, but the second part is evergreen. You can no longer purchase this interview, but there’s clips floating around on YouTube I recommend checking out.
Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk
“Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies” – Fairfield, CT – 8.16.2003
This is the first ROH encounter between Joe and Punk. At the time, Joe was ROH World Champion, winning it from Xavier in March. Joe’s left elbow and forearm are taped underneath his elbow pad, and Punk looks to exploit that injury with his opening offense. Punk snaps off a Frankensteiner. Joe takes him down with a uranage in the corner, but Punk pulls him down looking for an arm submission and Joe goes to the ropes. Joe gives Punk another uranage slam before facewash kicking him in the corner. After Punk escapes the facewash kick against the guardrails the first time with a drop toe hold into a chair, Joe throws Punk’s leg into the guardrail and hits the facewash kick twice. Punk escapes a third attempt, and when Joe slides back into the ring, Punk attacks his upper back and grabs the left wrist and elbow. Joe scoops him up and drops him knee first on the canvas, applying a leg lock to further damage the leg he threw into the guardrail. Punk kicked Joe’s arm to escape. Joe puts Punk in the tree of woe, chopping his bad knee and then giving it a facewash kick. Punk divorce courts the arm and lands a slingshot senton onto it. Joe puts his foot on the ropes to escape a cross armbreaker. Punk attempts a Pepsi Plunge but Joe kicks his leg out and crotches him on the top turnbuckle. He dragonscrew leg whips Punk off the top turnbuckle and down to the mat. Punk’s leg gets clipped when he starts to fight back, but he manages to eek out a Shining Wizard for two. When he tries it again, Joe counters mid-move with a dragonscrew leg whip. He puts Punk in a half crab and Punk taps out at 13:06. Both men kept their respective focus in terms of their oppositions body parts, and [aced the match in an exciting, believable, and logical manner. Joe winning keeps him looking strong as a champion, but the layout of the match positioned Punk to being as close to an equal to Je as he could possibly be without winning. Daniels also attacked Joe after the match to add a little doubt to their upcoming title bout at “Glory By Honor II”, which was a nice cherry on top of an already excellent match. ***½