Ring of Honor: Year Two

Disc One

Samoa Joe vs. Bryan Danielson
“Revenge on the Prophecy” – West Mifflin, PA – 1.11.2003

Right off the bat Danielson slaps Joe in the face and goes after his leg. Joe throws forearms to try to escape but Danielson remains steadfast. Joe turns him over in a grapevine. Danielson grabs the ropes instantly and kicks Joe in the shoulder. Joe chops him up in the corner. Danielson key locks Joe’s legs and snaps back on them. Joe crawls to the ropes. He turns Danielson inside out with a clothesline for two. Joe also gives him the facewash kick. He then puts on a Boston Crab while digging his knee into Danielson’s back. Danielson gets the ropes. Joe suplexes Danielson to the floor! He Ole kicks Danielson into the guardrails. In the ring he puts on a STF. Danielson crawls to the ropes. Danielson tries to fire up from Joe’s chops but ends up falling to the mat. He manages to suplex Joe after a couple of forearms. A diving headbutt gets him two. They trade uppercuts and kicks. Danielson throws a few rolling forearms before Joe takes him down with a jump-up enzuigiri. Joe hits the Island Driver for the pin at 10:36. This was obviously not at the level of their later encounters, but a really good taste of what was to come and a nice showcase for both guys. Joe got to look like a monster while Danielson looked like guy capable of hanging with the monster. This was a fun look back on where both guys were at the time. **3/4

#1 Contenders Trophy
Paul London vs. AJ Styles vs. Low Ki

“One Year Anniversary” – Queens, NY – 2.8.2003

London forearms both opponents. Ki jumps off Styles’ back for a Mongolian Chop to London. He gives London part of the Krush Combo before Styles springboards in with a forearm. London dropsaults both guys. London baseball slide dropkicks Styles through the second rope. He sends Ki to the floor. He goes for a suicide dive but Ki cuts him off with a Koppu Kick. Styles and Ki trade chops on the floor until Ki Koppu Kicks him. He sends Styles into the guardrails. Styles Hot Shots Ki onto them. London frog splashes onto both of them. London slingshot Oklahoma Rolls Ki for a two count. London tries to skin the cat. Styles grabs him, Ki kicks his back, and Styles drops London back first onto the floor. Styles dropkicks Ki. He gives him a back and stomach breaker. London missile dropkicks Styles in the back of his head for two. Styles huracanrana’s London from the mat. London responds with two Northern Lights suplexes and a Fallaway Slam. Ki breaks the pin. He spinkicks London in the corner. Styles gamengiri’s Ki. Ki uses a knee strike to counter the Phenomenon. Ki puts London in the Dragon Clutch. Styles sends them both to the mat in a reverse Phenomenon. Styles t-bone suplexes London and Ki breaks the pin. He puts London in a Muta Lock. Ki kicks at London’s chest while Styles hold onto his neck. Ki puts Styles in the Dragon Clutch. London puts Ki in a chinlock until he releases the Clutch. Ki hits Styles with the Tidal Wave and the Krush Rush. He tries the Krush Rush on London, but London counters with a DDT. London helps Styles out with giving Ki a super Styles Clash. Ki however huracanrana’s Styles into a powerbomb from London! Ki dropkicks London to break that cover. He Koppu Kicks London in the corner and throws Kawada kicks at Styles. Styles gives him a German suplex, but Ki counters the follow up and puts on a Dragon Clutch. London gives Ki a modified neckbreaker. Ki gives London the Tidal Crush as he sets up Styles in the corner. Ki gets two with Black Magic on Styles. He goes for a super Ki Krusher on London. Styles comes up top, leading to Ki giving him a super Ki Krusher! Ki’s back is hurt, so London is able to hit the London Star Press for the pin at 18:48. That had some sequences that to this day are still quite amazing. All three guys brought their A Game and made it seem like they would do whatever it takes to get a shot at the ROH championship. This would be an easy inclusion on a Best of ROH set for any of the competitors involved, and is an oft-forgotten gem of the early years. ****

ROH Championship
Xavier (Champion) vs. Paul London

“One Year Anniversary” – Queens, NY – 2.8.2003

Xavier forces London to wrestle him right after the previous match, as opposed to waiting for the main event. Allison Danger, Xavier’s manager, distracts London so Xavier can jump him from behind. London is able to fight back and snaps off a couple armdrags. He nails a spinwheel kick and a dropkick. Danger trips London allowing Xavier to hit a belly-to-belly suplex. Alexis Laree runs out to neutralize her. Xavier stops their skirmish. In the ring London kicks him out of the corner and schoolboys him for two. Xavier counters a tornado DDT with a German suplex. London grabs the rope to block a Cobra Clutch suplex. He uses the turnbuckles to push Xavier back and get a two count. He uses his modified neckbreaker from the previous match for a two count. Xavier sends London through the timekeeper’s table! He then whips London into the guardrails and tosses him head first into a ring post. In the ring he rubs blood from London’s now busted open head on his chest. He chokes London on the middle rope and gives him the Cobra Clutch suplex for two. Xavier tries for a superplex. London turns over to crossbody Xavier to the mat. That gets him a two count. London hits two dropsaults and connects with a springboard forearm. He slams him near the corner in the hopes of hitting a London Star Press. Xavier rolls to the floor thinking he could avoid an attack, but London turns around and crossbody’s Xavier in the aisle way! London takes Xavier to the corner. Behind the referee’s back Xavier kicks London in the groin. London manages to backslide Xavier anyways for two. Danger accidentally trips Xavier. London dropkicks him to the floor. He goes for a pescado, but Xavier moves and London lands on Danger! London still manages to hit a moonsault off the guardrails. In the ring he hooks Xavier’s leg for a DDT and gets two. He would have had the win after a London Star Press, but Danger pulled Xavier out of the ring. Laree and her get in a fight inside the ring while London and Xavier fight on the floor. They end up trading blows back in the ring. The combination of a Kiss Your X Goodbye and a 450 splash to London’s back only get a two count. London gets a couple quick nearfalls before Xavier grabs the tights to pin London at 19:30. Having this done right after the previous match was smart as it kept the fans love of London alive (along with their hatred of Xavier). They did a tremendous job making London look like an absolute star. That being said, Xavier didn’t do a ton of interesting stuff, the women’s involvement was unnecessary and the cheap finish was not at all what the crowd wanted. They did the right thing with London here but the rest of the match left a lot to be desired. You could do worse in a title match on an anniversary show, but you could also do a lot better. **3/4

ROH Tag Team Championship
The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels & Xavier) (Champions) vs. AJ Styles & The Amazing Red

“Expect The Unexpected” – Cambridge, MA – 3.15.2003

Xavier is standing in for Donovan Morgan thanks to the Freebird rule. Allison Danger is in the Prophecy’s corner while Alexis Laree is in Styles and Red’s corner. The Prophecy jump Red and Styles at the bell. Styles clotheslines them both and Red dropkicks them to the floor. Styles and Red follow with stereo tope con hilo’s. The Prophecy threaten to leave but end up sticking around. Xavier absorbs some kicks from Red. Red gives him a tornado enzuigiri to knock him down. He toreadors into a tornado DDT for two. Xavier bails when Styles and Red whip him to the ropes. Daniels and Styles look for control on the mat. Daniels hip tosses him into a dropkick. Styles gives him and Xavier a spinwheel kick. Styles trips Daniels into a Tiger Feint Kick from Red. Red gets two with a satellite headscissors. Styles works on his arm until Daniels pokes him in the eyes. Xavier gets caught with a kick upon tagging in. He snaps off a powerslam for two. The Prophecy keeps Styles isolated in their corner until he catches them with a double dropkick. Red tags in and hits his own double dropkick from the top rope. He monkey flips Xavier across the ring. He tries to do the same to Daniels, but Xavier grabs Red and drops him neck first across the top rope. Xavier holds Red for a clothesline. Red ducks causing Daniels to hit Xavier. Styles tags back in. He uses the Phenomenon on Daniels and gets two with a neckbreaker. Danger grabs Styles’ legs. Laree and her fight in the ring. The distraction allows Xavier to hit Kiss Your X Goodbye on Styles. Red gives Xavier the Code Red. Daniels breaks the pin. The Prophecy uses a back suplex/neckbreaker combo on Styles. Red breaks the pin. He takes a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo. Styles breaks the pin and sends Daniels out with an enzuigiri. He spinwheel kicks Xavier. He gets two with a brainbuster and a Dominator DDT. Daniels drops Styles with a STO. He hits the BME on Red. Styles breaks the pin. Daniels drops him with a Complete Shot and puts on the Koji Clutch. Red breaks the hold. Daniels gives Styles the Angels Wings and again Red saves his partner. Styles gives Daniels the Styles Clash for the pin at 21:09. This probably would have been better off losing a few minutes but it was a solid encounter nonetheless. Red and Styles weren’t yet the well oiled machine they would become in their Briscoes encounters but still serviceable. Between this and the last match I don’t know what ROH saw in Xavier back then. Daniels worked his ass off though and held up more than his teams fair share. This probably would have been better if Morgan had been Daniels’ partner but it was still a fine title match. ***1/4

Low Ki vs. Jody Fleisch
“Night of the Champions” – Philadelphia, PA – 3.22.2003

Ki controls Fleisch by his arm and kicks him in the back. Fleisch’s kick to Ki’s leg has no effect. An impressive exchange ends up with Ki kicking Fleisch in the chest from a headstand. Both guys stand off after their finishers (the Phoenix DDT and the Dragon Clutch) are evaded. Ki headscissors Fleisch from the mat after Fleisch survives his body being bridged back. Fleisch satellite headscissors Ki to the ropes. He gives Ki a reverse Frankensteiner to send him out. Fleisch flies to the floor with a springboard shooting star press! Back in the ring Ki manages to hit the Tidal Wave. He gets two with a double underhook suplex. Fleisch evades a corner attack and hits a spinwheel kick. A spinning crossbody gets him two. Ki blocks the Phoenix DDT. Fleisch puts on an armbar. Ki picks him up for the Krush Rush and a Koppu Kick. Fleisch ducks a kick, so Ki throws a flurry of Kawada Kicks instead. Fleisch German suplexes Ki out of the corner. Ki turns Fleisch’s pin attempt in a full body stretch until he gets to the ropes. They knock each other down with kicks to the head. Each guy gets in a pin attempt to no avail. Fleisch tries another satellite headscissors. Ki throws him to the corner to block. Ki sends Fleisch to the floor with the Tidal Crush. Fleisch comes back in with a kind of sort of shooting star piledriver. It was flubbed pretty heavily but managed to still look impactful. They both end up on the top rope. Ki brings him down with a super Ki Krusher. Ki looks hurt, but manages to crawl over and get the win at 19:40. There was some totally crazy stuff in here, but by and large I wouldn’t call this a spot fest. They actually had some reasoning behind the bigger moves and Fleisch came as close as any of the ROH main eventers to putting Ki away. I’m impressed that they filled the near 20 minutes effectively and refrained from going overboard. This was a fun watch. ***1/2

ROH Championship
Xavier (Champion) vs. Samoa Joe

“Night of the Champions” – Philadelphia, PA – 3.22.2003

Joe’s partners from The Group, Michael Shane and CW Anderson, take Christopher Daniels and Allison Danger away to ensure a fair fight. Joe mauls Xavier with strikes and throws him face first into the corner. Xavier tries to skin the cat when Joe tosses him over the top rope, but Joe just kicks him to the floor. He gives him the Ole kick into the guardrails. Joe throws some Kawada Kicks back in the ring. Xavier blocks the Island Driver with a Back Cracker. He drives his forearm into Joe’s neck for two. Xavier dropkicks Joe to the floor and then suicide dives into a swinging DDT. He goes more damage to Joe’s neck back in the ring. Joe gets incensed when Xavier dropkicks him in the face. He absorbs Xavier’s chops and throws some of his own. Joe remains standing when Xavier throws a couple clotheslines. Joe turns Xavier inside out with one of his own. He gives Xavier three various suplexes that drop him on his head. Xavier turns Joe’s bridging German suplex into a lateral press for two. Joe blocks the X-Breaker but takes a knee strike to the head. He successfully hits the X-Breaker and goes up top. Joe gets his knees up to block the 450 Splash. He throws some knees to Xavier’s head before locking on the Coquina Clutch. Xavier’s arm drops three times, giving Joe the win and the title at 11:21. In addition to this being a very important match in ROH’s history, it told a good story and kicked off Joe’s reign of dominance convincingly. It got to show that not only could Joe absorb a lot of punishment but that he was smart and not just a guy who did power moves. Xavier’s reign may not have been the best but at least his final defense served its purpose and kicked off arguably the most important ROH title run ever. ***

2 out of 3 Falls
Bryan Danielson vs. Paul London

”The Epic Encounter” – Philadelphia, PA – 4.12.2003

An aggressive collar and elbow tie-up sees no winner. The same thing happens with a test-of-strength, even with London trying to control from the mat. Danielson puts on a headscissors. London fights out but gets chopped for his troubles. Danielson plays some mind games by faking London out with a slap, then taking his hand away when asking for a handshake. Danielson hooks London’s arm in the ropes and dropkicks it. Danielson and London trade control on the mat. Danielson gets the ropes to break a full nelson. London almost gets a pinfall whilst holding onto a side headlock. Danielson puts on a headscissors. London chops Danielson when he escapes. Danielson gives a forceful kick right to London’s face in response. London overhead suplexes Danielson after being shoulder blocked to the mat. London goes up the ropes with a side headlock. Danielson gives him a backbreaker to escape. Danielson double axe handles London as London comes off the ropes for a two count. Danielson open hand strikes London in the side of the head repeatedly while trapping his arm. Danielson small packages London for two. London kicks Danielson in the stomach after landing a hard forearm. Danielson kicks London himself. He puts on an abdominal stretch. Danielson uppercuts London to the floor. When London gets back in the ring, he is able to boot Danielson to stop an attack in the corner. London nails a big lariat. London springboards into a sunset flip for two. London skins the cat after Danielson slingshots him to the ropes. London headscissors him to the floor. London enzuigiri’s him on the apron. Danielson blocks a suplex from the apron. Danielson throws London to the floor to break a waistlock. Danielson suicide dives out after him. Danielson hits a diving headbutt back in the ring for two. London ducks an elbow and backslides Danielson for two. Danielson small packages London for two. London hits a leg lariat off the second rope for two. Danielson German suplexes London to stop him from climbing the ropes. Danielson goes for a superplex. Mid-air, London switches over and lands on top of Danielson to score the first pin at 20:31. The aggressiveness picks up in the second fall with both men throwing forearms. A running forearm knocks Danielson down. London lands a superkkick and a kick to the back of the head. Danielson catches London on the top rope. London is able to knock him down. Danielson kicks London’s knee out to trap him in the ropes. Danielson kicks away at London’s leg as he is dangling in the corner. Danielson rams London’s knee into the turnbuckles. London pulls out a German suplex even though he is quite exhausted. Danielson dragonscrews London bad leg. Danielson digs his knee into the back of London’s head while hyperextending on a half-crab. London has no choice but tap out at 26:24, tying up the match at one fall a piece.

Danielson goes right to London’s leg at the beginning of the third fall. London kicks Danielson in the head multiple times to get him off. London tries a roll up and gets two. Lonodn gets two with a DDT as well. A forearm battle ends with a rolling variation from Danielson. Danielson immediately goes from that to the Cattle Mutilation. London gets his feet on the ropes very quickly. London grabs a prawn hold for two. Danielson nails an enzuigiri. A dragon suplex gets him two. Danielson puts on a half crab once again. London grabs the ropes to escape. Danielson punches London in the corner. London powerbombs him out of the corner, leaving both men in a heap on the mat. Danielson shoves London off the top rope and to the ring apron. Danielson forearms London like a mad man on the top rope. Danielson successfully delivers a superplex for two. Danielson digs his knee into London’s head while applying a half crab, the same move he used to win the second fall. London manages to crawl to the bottom rope. Back on the top rope Danielson looks for a superplex. London headbutts Danielson until Danielson falls to the mat. London manages to land a tornado DDT off the second rope. London hits the London Star Press to Danielson’s back and gets the pin at 39:39 to win the match two falls to one. Even at the time this was labeled as a classic and I believe that accolade still holds true. This is easily one of the best matches in the earlier years of ROH. This was excellent pure wrestling with a well told story and a vocal crowd who didn’t let up. This forty minute encounter flew by and was very fun to watch. ****

Paul London vs. Christopher Daniels
“Retribution: Round Robin Challenge II” – West Mifflin, PA – 4.26.2003

London mocks Daniels’ crucifixion pose. Daniels almost bails he’s so angry. London schools him on the mat which further frustrates him. He gets on the mic and tells London if he doesn’t start showing him so respect that he will kick his ass. London asks for a handshake if Daniels wants respect. Daniels uses that to bait him into a kick to the stomach. London dropkicks him to the floor and follows with a pescado. He gets two with a slingshot Oklahoma Roll. He also gets two with a dropsault. Daniels knees London in the stomach, thus beginning his targeting on London’s mid-section. London dodges a corner attack and leg lariats Daniels in the face. Daniels dropkicks him in the ribs for two. London dodges another corner attack and schoolboys Daniels. Daniels gets up and connects with a lariat. He hits the Angels Wings for two. He continues to target London’s mid-section against the ropes. London desperately hits a springboard forearm strike. He hits an enzuigiri for two. He misses a slingshot quebrada which further hits his mid-section. Daniels brings him off the top rope with an Iconoclasm for two. He misses the BME. London goes for a sunset flip but Daniels drops an elbow to block it. They fight on the top rope. London drops Daniels and hits the London Star Press. However, he’s too hurt to make an immediate cover giving Daniels some time to recover. When he does go for a pin Allison Danger hops on the ring apron. London sends Daniels to the floor onto her! London suicide dives onto Daniels. In the ring he gets two with a DDT. Daniels drops him with a Complete Shot and hits the BME for the pin at 19:54. These guys are terrific storytellers and made the most out of working over London’s ribs. It was the second match of the night for either guy so I’m curious how they would have done on a full tank of gas. Even still this was very good and a strong victory for Daniels’ towards his inevitable title match with Joe. ***1/2

#1 Contenders Trophy
AJ Styles vs. Paul London

“Night of the Grudges” – Cambridge, MA – 6.14.2003

Both guys aggressively fight for control on the mat and end up reaching a stalemate. Styles snapmares him into a back kick. London accepts Styles’ handshake Styles rolls London into a cross armbreaker out of a knuckle lock. London has his foot on the ropes immediately. Styles grapevines his legs while London horse collar’s Styles’ leg. Styles turns down London’s hand shake offering. They slap each other in the face and then shake hands. London forearms him in the face after breaking a lock-up. They reach a stalemate after an armdrag exchange and both of them throwing stereo dropkicks. Styles gets in his own forearm. He goes for an early Styles Clash but London fights out and gets to the corner. Styles sends him out with a springboard dropkick. He misses a pescado and London baseball dropkicks him into the barricades. London avoids being sent into the barricades and drop toe holds Styles into them. Styles hops into the crowd. London avoids a superkick and slams Styles’ leg into the barricades. Back in the ring Style gives London a swinging neckbreaker for two. He gives London an enzuigiri. London holds onto his hurt leg however and dragonscrews him to the mat. He wisely continues to do damage to that leg. Styles sneaks in a brainbuster to give himself some relief. Styles tries for a baseball slide and gets his leg slammed against the apron. London key locks his legs and digs his foot into Styles’ knee. Styles fights out of it. They throw rapid fire strikes. Styles knocks London down with a rolling clothesline and falls down in exhaustion. Styles recovers and hits an arm-capture suplex for two. London comes off the second rope with a spinwheel kick. Styles kicks out. He gets two with the Phenomenon which also hurts his own leg. London throws Styles off the top rope. He follows with a London Star Press to Styles’ hurt leg. London puts on the figure four. Styles fights his way to the bottom rope. He and London fight on the ropes. Styles gives him a Sunset Bomb and the Styles Clash! Styles clutches his knee and gets a two count. Styles German suplexes London. However, he can’t bridge up due to his hurt knee, so the match is ruled a draw at 24:22 since both guys’ shoulders were counted to the mat. That was some incredible wrestling with a great story. Both guys beat the snot out of each other and had the crowd captivated from the opening bell. It really felt like two top talents in the world were fighting for supremacy and even with that the finish didn’t take anything away from the work they put in. I rarely hear people talk about this match when discussing the great ROH bouts of all time and they really should. ****1/2

Disc Two

ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. Dan Maff

“Wrestlerave ‘03” – Philadelphia, PA – 6.28.2003

Maff stomps down Joe in the corner after jumping him before the bell. Joe rolls to the floor after taking a hip attack. Maff suicide dives onto him. Joe wins a slap battle back in the ring and takes down Maff with an enzuigiri. Joe brings Maff back to the floor for the Ole Kick. Maff moves at first, but after Joe stomps his face into the floor he manages to hit it twice. He gets two with a knee drop. Maff fires up after taking a release German suplex. He once again attacks Joe in the corner and gives him a cannonball senton. A clothesline gets him a two count. He calls for the Burning Hammer. Joe fights out and goes for a choke. Maff runs him head first to the corner and delivers a Saito suplex. Joe kicks out. Maff charges and gets caught with the STJoe. Joe puts on a crossface. Maff gets the ropes. He gives Joe his own STO. Once again he sets up for the Burning Hammer. Joe again fights out and gives him an enzuigiri. He gets the pin with a Dragon Suplex at 10:38. Maff’s father passed away the night before, and it seemed like they were trying to get across that he channeled his hurt into anger and unleashed it on Joe. That was very effective and it makes things like Maff shrygging off a German suplex more palatable. However, the finish came out of nowhere and while the work was good it was totally forgettable. **3/4

Fight Without Honor
Homicide vs. Trent Acid

“Wrestlerave ‘03” – Philadelphia, PA – 6.28.2003

Acid jumps Homicide during his entrance. He hits an Asai moonsault with his knees banging against the barricades on the way down. He chokes Homicide with his boot back in the ring. While Acid showboats, Homicide recovers and boots him to the corner. He nails a running knee strike to the face. Acid comes back with a superkick. He gets two with a missile dropkick to the back of Homicide’s head. Acid sets up a ladder in the corner. It backfires when Homicide belly-to-belly suplexes him onto it. Homicide sits Acid in a chair on the floor and crossbody’s onto him. A ladder is propped up between the ring and the barricades. Acid DDT’s Homicide onto it. Acid then kicks the ladder into his face for a two count. He throws a chair at Homicide’s head. Acid places the ladder onto two chairs and suplexes Homicide onto it! That only gets him another two count. Homicide kicks Acid’s knee out twice to stop from being hit with a chair. He puts on a STF. He follows that with a brainbuster through a chair. He sets up for the Cop Killer on the ladder. Johnny Kashmere runs in to stop Homicide and with Acid hits the T-Gimmick. Julius Smokes and Kashmere begin fighting on the floor, giving Homicide enough time to kick out of Acid’s pin attempt. Acid hits a top rope Backseat Driver for two. Homicide gives Acid an Ace Crusher and a 2k1 Bomb for two. He places Acid on a table outside the ring. Homicide climbs to the top rope, but Acid throws a chair at his head to stop him. Acid brings a second table into the ring. Acid sets up Homicide on the top rope to put him through the table inside of the ring. However, Homicide counters by giving Acid a Hamachan Cutter through the table on the floor! Clever. He brings Acid into the ring for a two count. Acid wins a yakuza kick exchange and also gets a two count. Acid begins to climb a ladder. Homicide pushes the ladder which causes Acid to crash into the barricades! Homicide props another ladder against the barricades. He places Acid onto it. He goes for a tope suicida and ends up crashing through the ladder! Acid brings Homicide back into the ring and pins him for two. Homicide ends another yakuza kick exchange by going for the Cop Killer. Acid counters with a roll-up for the pin at 19:42. That finish took the wind out of my sails. There was a lot of really cool hardcore spots here and commendably neither guy needed to resort to blood to garner a reaction. The finish however rendered most of those cool spots null and void. It’s not the “classic” the commentary team wanted us to think it was, but solid enough. ***

ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. Paul London

“Death Before Dishonor” – Elizabeth, NJ – 7.19.2003

This is London’s final match in ROH. Joe pulls London in from their handshake and shoulder blocks him to the mat. London kicks him in the face to counter a German suplex. London spinwheel kicks Joe and Joe responds with a hard forearm strike. London uses his speed to try and get a roll-up pin. Joe hits the floor to catch his breath. London however baseball slides him into the barricades. Joe whips London into the barricades himself. London boots Joe and gives him a moonsault press off the barricades. Joe fires up from London’s forearms back in the ring. He plants him with the STJoe. Joe drops him stomach first onto the top rope. He misses a kick to London in the tree of woe, causing him to crotch himself on the bottom rope. Joe catches London’s pescado attempt and slams him back first into the ring post. The Ole kick follows. In the ring he missile dropkicks London and gets two with a German suplex. He sets up for the Island Driver. London turns that into a sunset flip for two. He goes for some other desperation pin attempts. He dropsaults Joe to the corner. London tricks Joe into thinking Joe threw him into the corner even though London was able to block it. He gives Joe a leg-capture DDT. The London Star Press connects and is only good for a two count. Joe brings in London from the apron into the Coquina Clutch. London rolls back on it to get a two count. Joe gives him a Dragon suplex for two. He also gets two with a lariat. London puts on the Coquina Clutch. He ends up passing out at 14:04. I’m surprised how short this was considering it was London’s final ROH encounter, but given that the show had gone past midnight at that point I presume they truncated it for the sake of the live crowd. It was still a very good, competitive match for London to go out on and a big win for Joe. London’s farewell and speech are also shown. ***1/2

CM Punk vs. AJ Styles
“The Tradition Continues” – Glen Burnie, MD – 10.16.2003

They go to the mat for the opening exchange. Styles puts on a body scissors while he and Punk are in a double knuckle lock. That leads into them slapping each other while in headstands. Styles kicks Punk in the leg, so Punk gives him a Saito suplex. He also delivers a mule kick. Styles responds with a dropkick. He drops a knee onto Punk’s face. Punk drop toe holds Styles to the corner and follows in with a baseball slide. Styles goes for a Styles Clash. Even though Punk escapes, he gets sent to the floor with an enzuigiri. Punk avoids a dive and throws Styles back first into the barricades. He gets two with a delayed vertical suplex. He puts on a modified crossface and then gets two with a side Russian leg sweep. Styles tries the Phenomenon and ends up caught in a backbreaker. Punk’s split-legged moonsault goes awry when Styles gets his knees up. Styles takes a clothesline but then huracanrana’s Punk from the apron. Chops are exchanged. Styles gets two with a pump-handle suplex. Punk gives Styles a hammerlock DDT for two. Punk can’t get the Pepsi Plunge, so he settles for a Sunset Bomb. Styles manages to hit a rolling clothesline after recovering. He tries for a super Styles Clash. Punk blocks that and a tornado DDT. Styles counters the Shining Wizard with the Styles Clash for the pin at 18:08. That finishing stretch ruled. Before that this was a great showcase of competitive, smart wrestling. Both guys were on so point back then and rarely had a match that wasn’t worth watching. ***1/2

CM Punk vs. Steve Corino
“Empire State Showdown” – Spencerport, NY – 10.25.2003

This was during the time when Bobby Cruise was Corino’s personal ring announcer and have him lengthy ring introductions. His introduction is shown here in full, with him listing the list of great, manly wrestlers who took part in drinking and drugs in their day. Punk responds by having Stephen DeAngelis read a list of drugs he has never taken.

Corino reluctantly accepts Punk’s handshake. Punk humiliates Corino in some of his early offense. Corino ties him up in an abdominal stretch and shoves him to the corner. He takes control on the floor with a little help from the barricades. He gets two with a powerslam. Corino blocks Welcome to Chicago with a backslide. Punk gets two with a leg lariat. He snapmares Corino into a back kick and then delivers a bodyslam. Corino ducks a corner strike. Punk hits it on the second try and follows with two facewash kicks. He successfully pulls off Welcome to Chicago for two. Corino gets two with a sunset flip, then Punk low blows him. Both guys execute a delayed vertical suplex. Punk explodes out of the corner with a clothesline. He chokes Corino with his boot in the corner and gets two with a Side Russian legsweep. Punk smacks Corino in his bad ear, the same ear Homicide did damage to a few months back. Punk misses a frog splash. Corino hits a leg lariat. He calls out or both a DDT and STO, both of which he successfully pulls off. He gets two with the Colbykaze. A superplex and a 2k1 Bomb give him the same result. Punk blocks a clothesline. He mule kicks Corino but then gets knocked down with a clothesline. Punk kicks out at one. Corino calls for the Old School Expulsion. Punk suplexes his way free. He hits a Shining Wizard for two. Corino superkicks Punk to stop a second one. Punk comes back with a hammerlock DDT. Corino suplexes Punk when the bell is called. The 20:00 minute time limit has expired (I had 20:31, but whatever) and the match is ruled a draw. The crowd wants five more minutes, but Corino and Punk’s mutual disdain for the fans lead them to not giving them what they want. This was alright, but the action never went anywhere because they knew the result was meaningless. Admittedly the pre and post match stuff was fun, but the match in and of itself could have been a lot better. **3/4

Scramble Cage Match
The Backseat Boyz (Trent Acid & Johnny Kashmere) vs. The Carnage Crew (Loc & Devito) vs. Special K (Hydro & Angel Dust) vs. Jack Evans & Teddy Hart vs. The SAT (Jose & Joel Maximo)

“Main Event Spectacles” – Elizabeth, NJ – 11.1.2003

The Backseats start off with Hart and Evans. Hart backdrops Acid into a bulldog. Evans tornado kicks Kashmere and hits a standing twisting moonsault and standing twisting senton on Evans. Kashmere then takes a Doomsday Device. The Backseats give Evans a modified T-Gimmick and Hart a tandem bulldog. Simultaneous Saito suplexes follow. They dump Hart and Evans to the floor. The Carnage Crew enter the bout, first sending Hart and Evans into the crowd. They backdrop the Backseats into the cage. Kashmere takes the Carnageplex and Acid is sent into the cage again. The Backseats throw the Crew into the cage as The SAT make their way into the match. They wipe out Acid with Total Elmination. Kashmere takes the Washing Machine face first into the cage. As Special K are coming down the aisle, Jack Evans and Teddy Hart climb to the top of the cage. Hart huracanrana’s Evan onto the SAT! Dust and Hydro go for some cheap pins. Just about everyone ends up on the floor. Special K attack Loc after diving onto Devito on the floor. Evans takes some of their tandem offense. Hart gives Joel a DDT. Devito suplexes Hart into the cage before giving him a piledriver. Jose knocks Acid off the side of the cage and to the floor. Hydro and Joel fight on the top of the cage. Jose meets his partner and give Hydro the Spanish Fly onto everyone in the ring! Some other Special K members run in to bring the SAT to the floor. Hart dives off of the cage onto Special K, Kashmere and the SAT on the floor. Evans does the same. Loc whips Dust with his belt. The Crew gives Dust a spike piledriver. Acid boots Loc and breaks their pin. They hit the T-Gimmick on Hydro for the pin at 14:14. This was a crazy, crazy spotfest. I honestly don’t know what some of those guys were thinking with those dives. If you’re a psychology and story kind of guy, this isn’t for you. If you like crazy spots and whatnot, this is so up your alley. ***

ROH Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) (Champions) vs. The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels & Dan Maff)

“War of the Wire” – Framingham, MA – 11.29.2003

Daniels has control of Jay early on. Mark blind tags in and nails a springboard dropkick. He gets two with a Northern Lights suplex. Daniels rakes Mark’s eyes and tags in Maff. Mark knocks him down with a back elbow. He and Jay hit the Sidewinder for one. Maff hits the floor and Jay dives after him. Daniels kicks Jay from the apron. He goes for an Arabian Press and accidentally wipes out Maff. Mark hits a shooting star press onto both Prophecy members. With Allison Danger’s distraction, Daniels throws Mark into the barricades. The Prophecy keep control of Mark in their corner until he manages to throw Daniels into Maff for a spear. Jay ducks their clothesline and double clothesline them himself. He boots Maff twice and gets two with a top rope dropkick. Daniels drops Mark with a Complete Shot for two. He hits the BME and Jay breaks the cover. Jay gives Daniels a Gord Buster and a Death Valley Driver. Maff breaks the cover. He gets two with a fisherman’s neckbreaker and then a Saito suplex. Mark catches Maff on the top rope with a springboard Ace Crusher. The Briscoes string together a backbreaker and diving knee strike on Daniels. Maff throws Jay into the barricades. Mark uranage suplexes Daniels. Danger enters the ring to stop the count. Mark looks to take her out. Daniels saves her and helps her DDT Mark while Maff is distracting the referee. They miss the Rocket Launcher. Jay boots Daniels out. He boots Maff as well. Jay takes out Danger with a Falcon Arrow. Maff takes a double flapjack and double slam. The Briscoes give him the Doomsday Device. Daniels makes the save just in time. He gets two with the Angels Wings on Mark. Same goes for the STO. Jay ducks an enzuigiri. He drops Daniels with the Jay Driller for the pin at 18:22. This was pretty much like every other Briscoes tag match around this time. It was designed to show some growing dissension in The Prophecy and it did that well. Like I said, the action was what you would expect from these guys. ***

Fight Without Honor
John Walters vs. Xavier

“Final Battle 2003” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.27.2003

Walters jump Xavier in the aisle. He powerslams Xavier in the ring. They trade chops. Walters blocks Xavier’s leapfrog by slingshotting him to the floor. He whips Xavier into the barricades. In the ring Walters misses a chair shot which allows Xavier to get in a knee strike. Prince Nana makes his way ringside as Xavier drives the chair into Walters’ face. He knee drops the chair into the back of Walters head. He tries to splash a ladder into Walters, but Walters throws it in Xavier’s face. Xavier. Walters waterwheel slams Xavier onto the ladder which bends upon impact. Walters throws the ladder onto Xavier on the floor. The ladder is propped up between the ring apron and the barricades. Xavier places Walters onto it and drives him through the ladder with a springboard Arabian Press! In the ring he suplexes Walters into a butterfly lock. Walters escapes, gives Xavier a lungblower, then kamikaze clotheslines them both to the floor. He DDT’s Xavier on a chair and busts him open with a straight shot to the head. Xavier gets Walters onto a table on the floor. He springboard 450 splashes onto him! Back in the ring he hits Walters in the back with the chair. Nana helps Xavier bring a new ladder into the ring. He climbs it until Walters brings him down with a backbreaker. He gets a two count when Nana pulls referee Paul Turner out of the ring. Walters puts a ladder on the second rope. Xavier gets two with the X-Breaker. He hits Kiss Your X Goodbye from the middle rope. Xavier sets up a ladder with a chair on top on the second rope. Both men climb up the ladder Nana put in the ring. Walters powerbombs Xavier through the ladder and chair but Walters legs also go through them. Walters gets the pin at 18:36. That was the very definition of a show stealer. These guys had a forgettable series of matches and blew it off with the type of match that is generally out of their wheelhouse. They used the weapons in very clever, innovative ways and escalated the violence as the match progressed. Years later I’m still blown away by how good this was. ****

After the match, Prince Nana announces that with Xavier as his pet project that they are starting a new group called The Embassy. If you have ever watched ROH, you’re probably familiar with that group in some iteration.

AJ Styles vs. Kaz Hayashi
“Final Battle 2003” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.27.2003

In their opening exchanges, Hayashi subtly goes after Styles’ arm. Hayashi scouts Styles’ dropkick, but takes it on the second try. Hayashi responds with an armdrag and his own dropkick that sends Styles to the floor. Styles hops into the crowd when Hayashi tries to whip him into the barricades. He comes back in the ring and a chop battle ensues. That changes into forearms. Styles rocks him with a roundhouse kick. Hayashi hits a spinwheel kick and drops Styles with a brainbuster. Hayashi escapes a Styles Clash attempt and dropkicks Styles in the face. He gets two with a piledriver. He goes for another one which Styles backdrops his way out. He catches Hayashi with a spin-out backbreaker across his own back. Styles targets his attack on Hayashi’s back. Hayashi slingshots in with a DDT. Both guys knock each other down stereo clotheslines. Hayashi plants Styles on his head in a huracanrana. Styles kicks out at two. Hayashi rolls into a crossface, then gets two with a Dragon suplex. Back to the crossface he goes. Styles get his foot to the ropes. Hayashi tries to counter the Styles Clash with a huracanrana. Styles rolls through and delivers the Styles Clash for the pin at 14:48. Hayashi’s selling was non-existent here. He may have been pinned clean, but he clearly had no real intention of making Styles look like a viable threat. The novelty factor is mostly what this match has going for it as neither guy truly brought their best effort. Even though my synopsis sounds pretty negative, all things considered it’s not terrible. Just hollow. **3/4

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