Ring of Honor: Year Three

Disc One

The Second City Saints (CM Punk, Colt Cabana & Ace Steel) vs. The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels, Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer)
“The Battle Lines Are Drawn” – Wilmington, OH – 1.10.2004

Traci Brooks is in the Saints’ corner while Allison Danger is in the Prophecy’s. Daniels and Punk start out, but Punk tags Steel in before they make contact. They chain wrestle to start and then Steel throws Daniels’ head first to the canvas. Punk gets in a choke when Steel is chopping Daniels against the ropes. Daniels takes Cabana and Steel over with hip tosses. They attack Daniels before he can touch Punk. Whitmer and Maff send Cabana and Steel the floor. Each Prophecy member gets in some shots on Punk until he is taken to the floor by his partners. Maff and Whitmer backdrop Daniels onto the Saints on the floor. The Prophecy gets control after a fight breaks out on the floor. Steel ends up being beaten down in their corner. Steel gets Maff to the Saints corner. Punk and Cabana throw jabs before Punk gives him a facewash kick. Maff powers Punk to his corner. He and Daniels both lay in some shoulder blocks. Daniels gets some shots given to him by the Saints until he brings Cabana back over for his partners to help him work over. Punk helps Cabana tag out. He gives Daniels the Welcome to Chicago for two. Daniels gives him a Shotei. Maff tags in. He ends up being busted open by Cabana and Steel on the floor while Punk ties up referee Paul Turner. The Saints gang up on Maff, mockingly showing his bloody face to his partners at certain points. Maff makes a tag at one point but the Saints had Turner tied up so he did not see it. Maff manages to kick out of a top rope legdrop, block a Shining Wizard, and mow down Punk with a lariat to finally tag out. Daniels fights off all of the Saints by himself. He gets two with a Blue Thunder Driver on Punk. Whitmer takes Punk to the floor. Cabana Asai moonsaults onto him. Maff suicide dives onto Whitmer by accident. Steel and Punk dive onto Whitmer and Maff, then Daniels Arabian Presses onto them. Daniels gets two on Cabana with an STO. Cabana fights out of the Angels Wings. He gets two with a DDT. Whitmer Saito suplexes Cabana. People are taken out until Daniels and Punk are left fighting. Daniels ducks the Pepsi Twist and gives him a uranage. The BME follows for two. Danger and Brooks fight in the ring. Punk begins choking Danger. Whitmer tries hitting Punk with a chair but ends up nailing Turner. Punk superkicks the chair into Whitmer’s face. Everybody begins fighting amongst the crowd. Danger and Brooks are left fighting in the ring. Whitmer comes back in the ring and stops Brooks from choking Danger. He gives her an exploder suplex! Lucy appears from the crowd to low blow Whitmer. Steel comes in with a Flying DDT. Cabana puts Whitmer on his shoulders so Punk can give him a Doomsday Blockbuster. With all the brawling going on, other referees decide to throw the match out at 28:31. I actually didn’t think the match felt all that long, though most everyone else seems to think otherwise. I had fun watching it. The crowd stunk for the whole show, and I think paying off a feud that mostly took place in the Northeast in the Midwest was a big mistake. Lucy’s return was a total afterthought as well. As it was, it was a fun brawl that’s only remembered because of the post match angle where Punk gives Daniels a Pepsi Plunge through a table that put him out of ROH for 18 months. ***

ROH Pure Championship Tournament Finals
CM Punk vs. AJ Styles

“Second Anniversary Show” – Braintree, MA – 2.14.2004

The winner of this match becomes the inaugural ROH Pure Champion. The rules of the pure match dictate that each competitor only gets three rope breaks, closed firsts are illegal, there’s a twenty count on the floor (at this time there were no count outs.) Traci Brooks is in Punk’s corner. Punk uses the ropes to counter a wristlock which the referee counts as his first rope break. Styles goes for the Styles Clash early. Punk grabs his leg and Styles gets the ropes to block whatever submission may be coming. That costs Styles one of his rope breaks as well. A lock-up ends up on the floor where they go all around the ring. Back in the ring they criss-cross the ropes. Styles decides to go after Brooks to neutralize her, and in anger Punk pescado’s onto him. Punk stops himself from being whipped into the barricades but Styles dropkicks him, landing on his previously injured leg. Punk notices this and puts on a Boston Crab back in the ring. Styles uses his second rope break to escape. Styles puts Punk in a headscissors in the ropes. The referee counts that as Punk’s second rope break. Styles goes for a springboard move and gets his legs swept out from underneath him. Punk puts on a half crab. Styles’ third and final rope break is used to escape that hold. Punk puts on a key lock. Styles violently rips away in a chinlock to force Punk to the ropes. Both guys are now out of rope breaks. They fight to the top rope where Styles brings Punk down with a super Gourd Buster. Styles hits a discus lariat which he used earlier in the night to beat Jimmy Rave. Punk rolls to the floor to avoid being pinned. When Punk comes back in he hits a Shining Wizard for two. Punk puts on a modified cloverleaf. Styles uses the ropes to twist himself around and kick Punk away. Punk kicks out his leg. Styles blocks the Shining Wizard to hit the Styles Clash for two. Styles hits one from the second rope for the pin at 16:34. This match did a really great job showcasing the rules a Pure Title match carries, especially when it comes to rope breaks. Each rope break was spent or lost in a very clever way and the story portrayed that those rope breaks can also be beneficial if done so wisely. They had some great callbacks to both their earlier tournament bouts as well as their match from “The Tradition Continues.”. I think this gets overlooked by the awesome World title match on the same show, as well as the rematch they had at “At Our Best”, but I think this is worth revisiting. ***¾

ROH World Championship – Steel Cage Match
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. Jay Briscoe

“At Our Best” – Elizabeth, NJ – 3.13.2004

Jay goes right for the cage door when the match begins. Joe hip tosses him back to the center of the ring. Joe holds onto his arm while tossing him about. Jay trips Joe and goes for the door again. Joe stops him but gets booted to the mat for his troubles. Jay ducks a clothesline and goes for the door. Joe grabs his legs. He folds Jay up in a German suplex. He tosses Jay head first into the cage. While Jay is down, Joe kicks the cage door into Mark Briscoe’s face and locks the cage door with a chain. Jay is now busted open. Joe drops a knee for two. Blood is left on the cage as Joe rubs Jay’s head into it. He facewash kicks Jay into the cage twice, causing blood to go to the floor. Jay fights up and boots Joe to the mat. Jay climbs the cage. Joe follows and gives him a super Saito suplex! Joe lights him up with strikes in the corner. Jay gives Joe his own Saito suplex. Joe follows him to the top rope. Jay brings him down with a super Ace Crusher! When he recovers, Joe looks for a Dragon suplex. Jay kicks him in the crotch to block, so Joe gives him an enzuigiri instead. Jay gets up first and goes to climb out of the cage. Joe of course follows. Jay is able to kick Joe down, but he also loses his balance and falls back to the mat. Joe gives Jay such a hard Ole kick that the cage is broken. That works for Jay though, as he is close to climbing out of the cage through that opening. Joe stops him and powerbombs him into the STF. Joe lets go when Jay refuses to quit. Joe gets blood all over himself by throwing slaps. Jay successfully delivers the Jay Driller but is too worn out to make the most of it. Mark Briscoe looks to climb the cage to help out Jay. However, AJ Styles comes out and gives him the Styles Clash on the floor. Joe stops Jay from climbing out the cage. He gives him a super Muscle Buster for the pin at 14:23. Years later this is still a brutal and gross match. Watching Jay bleed so much that it clots is one of the most disgusting sights I’ve witnessed in wrestling. However, the blood added so much to the match and because of it, the crowd was going ballistic. Joe’s super Muscle Buster was also a killer finish as well. This was a spectacle worthy of preceding WrestleMania. ****

Bryan Danielson vs. CM Punk
Special Guest Referee: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
“Reborn: Stage One” – St. Paul, MN – 4.23.2004

Before anything goes down, Punk gets distracted by a fan. Danielson shoves Punk from behind which gets him back in the ring. Punk gets a cheap shot in the corner and then bails to the floor. Danielson backs Punk to the corner to break a hammerlock. Danielson chokes Punk with his boot after a European uppercut. Punk again hits the floor. Steamboat gets in Punk’s face when Punk tries to play dirty. Punk breaks a knuckle lock in the corner, turning it into a wristlock. Danielson flips Punk over to break. Punk claims Danielson pulled his hair which the fans help Danielson deny. Both guys take control in a knuckle lock. Danielson attacks Punk’s left arm. Punk whips Danielson to the corner and backdrops him. Danielson knees Punk in the stomach and kicks him in the back. Danielson drops a knee onto his head for two. Punk Finlay rolls Danielson to the corner. He goes for a split-legged moonsault but Danielson gets his knees up to block it. Danielson chops Punk against the barricades. Back in the ring Danielson puts Punk in the Romero Special which turns into a Dragon sleeper. Punk escapes. They fight for position leading to Punk suplexing Danielson to the floor. Punk rams Danielson back first into the barricade. Punk puts on a chinlock back in the ring. Punk delivers a backbreaker for two. Danielson chops Punk in the corner until Punk thumbs him in the eyes. Danielson rolls up Punk for two. Danielson drops Punk stomach first on the top rope. Punk blocks a dive by draping Danielson’s neck across the top rope. Punk’s missile dropkick gets him a two count. Punk gives Danielson some spinning toe holds. Danielson puts his foot up to kick Punk in the groin. Punk goes for a backbreaker. Danielson flips off the ropes and into a suplex for two. Danielson dives off the second rope with a European uppercut. Danielson airplane spins Punk into another Finlay roll. Danielson misses a diving headbutt. Danielson puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Punk escapes. He hits a Shining Wizard for two. Punk sets up for the Pepsi Plunge. Danielson fights Punk off. Danielson turns the Plunge into a superplex. Punk fights off an O’Conner Roll. Punk misses a second Shining Wizard. Danielson gets a second O’Connor Roll for two. Punk counters Danielson’s crucifix with a Samoan Drop. Punk puts Danielson into an arm-capture half crab. Danielson gets the ropes. Punk comes off the top and eats a dropkick. Danielson dragon suplexes Punk for two. He puts Punk in an abdominal stretch. Punk taps out at 26:01. This may not be the classic one may expect when they see these two matched up against one another. For whatever reason it felt both guys held back a bit which might be because they knew it was their first time encounter in ROH and would likely get the chance to really break out later. I do think it’s awesome that the abdominal stretch was built up to be a completely believable finish. ***½

ROH Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) (Champions) vs. The Second City Saints (CM Punk & Colt Cabana)

“Reborn Stage 2” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 4.24.2004

Mark elbows Punk in the face after breaking a lock-up against the ropes. Punk comes back with a series of chops. Out of a double knuckle lock they each try some quick roll-ups. Punk does some damage to Mark’s arm. Cabana and Jay then tag in. Jay’s first shoulder tackle fails. Cabana tells Jay to go for it again and trips him. He then takes Jay to the corner with a headscissors and an armdrag. Cabana cranks his neck with his feet. Punk comes in with a slingshot senton. He and Cabana drop tandem elbows, then put him in a Billy Goat’s Curse/Camel Clutch combo. Mark comes in. Punk uses him to stomp on Jay’s nuts. Punk and Cabana then put them in stereo Camel Clutches. Punk hits the Welcome to Chicago on Jay for two. Mark blind tags in when Punk has Jay in a headlock. He comes in with a springboard dropkick and the Briscoes take control. They choke him many times when the referee is tied up. Punk fights his way out of the corner, ducks two clotheslines, and tags in Cabana. He throws fists before taking both Briscoes down with a quebrada press. He hits double knees on both Briscoes in the corner, then gives Jay an Air Raid Crash across the back of his leg. Punk and Cabana try a Doomsday Device, but Mark blocks it with a reverse huracanrana for two. Punk mule kicks him and then hits an enzuigiri. He gets two with a DDT. Jay gives him a Gourd Buster and a Death Valley Driver for two. The Briscoes try their own Doomsday Device. Punk catches Mark mid-air with a powerslam. Cabana feed Mark to Punk for a Pepsi Plunge. Jay and Cabana fight on the floor while Mark backdrops Punk off the top. He dives after with an enzuigiri. All four men end up knocked down in the ring. Cabana tries for the Colt 45 on Mark but settles for a butterfly suplex. Mark brings Punk off the top rope with an Ace Crusher. Jay gives Cabana the Jay Driller for two. The Briscoes try to superplex Punk. Cabana pulls himself up by the ropes which crotches Mark. Punk shoves Jay to the floor where he hits the guardrails. Punk pulls Mark into the Pepsi Plunge for the win and the titles at 19:39. That was top notch tag team wrestling with an awesome crowd. They were totally behind the hometown heroes, so when the Saints won it felt like a huge achievement. For ROH’s Chicago debut, there was no better way to end the show. ****

Homicide vs. Spanky
“Round Robin Challenge III” – Lexington, MA – 5.15.2004

This was Spanky’s first ROH match since the first Glory By Honor, and his first match back since leaving WWE in January. Spanky insults homicide by biting Homicide’s hand after holding onto his arm after an armdrag. Homicide throws Spanky into the mat by his hair and they go back to square one. Homicide snaps when he gets dropkicked to the floor, throwing a char into the ring, which Spanky throws into his head when Homicide tries to re-enter. Spanky then backdrops him onto the exposed floor. Homicide drops a knee across Spanky’s neck when he catches Spanky with a boot to block a corner attack. Homicide then focuses his attack on Spanky’s neck. Spanky gets a respite when he dropkicks Homicide off the top rope and to the floor, then follows him to the outside with a high crossbody! The referee stops Homicide from using a chair, and Spanky uses the chair to assist with Sliced Bread #2 on the floor. In the ring he gives Homicide a clothesline for two. Homicide is shot off the ropes, but stops short of a backdrop and gives Spanky a tiger driver for two. Spanky stops Homicide with a Complete Shot for two. Spanky goes up top, but is caught by Homicide and brought down with a butterfly suplex. Homicide becomes frustrated when Spanky kicks out of the pin and goes for a diving headbutt which he misses. Homicide’s yakuza kick and Spanky’s superkick leave both men lying. The fight for their respective finishers, with Spanky instead victory rolling Homicide for two and then hitting an enzuigiri for another two count. Spanky hits a top rope elbow drop after avoiding interference from Julius Smokes for two. Smokes then pulls the referee out of the ring when Spanky has Homicide pinned with a Sliced Bread #2. Spanky wipes out Smokes with a pesado kick. Homicide hits the Hamachan Cutter and a lariat to get the pin at 16:13. Spanky’s return was a big success as he was treated like an equal against one of the upcoming challengers for the World Title. He lost the bout due to interference, but not in a way that cheapened the match. Even with Smokes’ interjection, it was Homicide’s neck work that allowed for the lariat to be effective enough to end the contest, and it was also a significant win to give him some momentum heading into his title match against Samoa Joe. Given how well he did, it’s unfortunate that at the time it was a one-off bout for Spanky, but we’d get to see much more of him the following year. ***½

Survival of the Fittest Finals
Mark Briscoe vs. Colt Cabana vs. Austin Aries vs. Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe

“Survival of the Fittest” – Philadelphia, PA – 6.24.2004

This is an elimination match. In the qualifying matches, Briscoe defeated Alex Shelley, Cabana defeated Trent Acid, Aries went to a no contest with John Walters which triggered a tag match with Aries and Roderick Strong defeated Walters and Josh Daniels, Homicide defeated Jay Briscoe, Danielson defeated Jack Evans, and Samoa Joe defeated Matt Stryker.

Mark Briscoe goes berserk on Homicide to start, after Homicide hurt his brother in the opening round, but some help from Briscoes rival Cabana brings things to a relatively normal pace. Mark unfortunately becomes the target of choice for the other participants, as he also has to endure Danielson and Joe as well. Some forced tags lead to Aries in the ring with Joe, who surprises the champ with a crucifix driver, but shortly after is shut down with an STO. Danielson and Mark take turns wearing down Cabana until he tags in Homicide He and Mark go back at it until Homicide hits a DDT. Danielson and Aries each get some time in with Briscoe, with Danielson attacking his legs. A pissed off Joe takes down Aries and Homicide. Danielson dropkicks Joe and dives outside onto Briscoe. Aries pescado’s onto both Briscoe and Danielson. Cabana slingshots in with a sunset flip onto Joe, pinning the World champion at 15:22! This would earn Cabana a World Title match next month. Cabana lamost pins Homicide with a rope-assisted stunner. Homicide comes back with a lariat. Briscoe blind tagged himself in, so Homicide can’t pin Cabana. Instead, Briscoe lands a shooting star press and pins Cabana at 17:07. Homicide almost pins Briscoe with a piledriver. His neck is so hurt, that when he German suplexes Homicide, his neck is too weak to hold a bridge. The referee counts both Homicide and Briscoe’s shoulders down at 19:04. This eliminates both men, leaving Aries and Danielson as the final two competitors.

Danielson’s sole focus turns to wearing down Aries’ back with great vigor. Aries capitalized on Danielson going to the top rope. He knocked Danielson down, and Danielson in turn fell down so that his leg with stuck in between the top and middle turnbuckles. Aries attacked his knee, releasing Danielson with an IED kick to the knee. He then whipped Danielson shoulder first into the guardrails. In the ring, Danielson stops Aries’ offense with some headbutts to the mid-section. Aries suplexes Danielson over the top rope, resulting in Danielson landing poorly on his knee. Aries follows that up with a Cactus elbow. He misses a 450 splash in the ring, and is taken down by Danielson with a running clothesline. Danielson tiger suplexes Aries, then turns him over into the Cattle Mutilation. Aries escapes and puts Danielson in a Rings of Saturn with a fishhook. The fans are losing it as he converts into the regular Rings of Saturn. Danielson fights his way to the ropes to escape. Danielson blocks a brainbuster twice but after a forearm to the forehead, Aries hits it a third time. Danielson kicks out, so Aries pulls Danielson over to the corner looking for the 450 splash. Danielson gets his knees up to block it. Danielson body slams Aries three times. Aries forearms Danielson to block and forth and wants a brainbuster. Danielson instead twists out and knocks down Aries with a rolling forearm. Aries grabs the bottom rope to stop a pin attempt. Danielson scores with a super back suplex. Aries kicks out, sp Danielson slams him twice. Aries counters a third slam with a small package for two. Danielson forearms Aries before slamming him and applying a bear hug. He lowers Aries to the mat in the bear hug, turning it over into a hybrid Boston Crab/Walls of Jericho, forcing Aries to submit at 42:18.

This can basically be discussed in two parts. The first half had a lot of wrestling that fit into the logic of the match (nobody wanting to stay in the ring too long to risk being pinned), but also heated up some current rivalries. It got Cabana a big upset and future title shot, and continued the tension between Homicide and the Briscoes. Then the second portion of the match was Austin Aries’ coming out party, where he went from “one of the guys in Generation Next” to “future ROH main eventer” in just twenty minutes. In his match with Danielson, he got his back absolutely wrecked, but he preserved and made sure to capitalize each and every time Danielson made a mistake. He went for many nearfalls, each of which got a big reaction from the crowd. Aries almost catching him in the cradle pissed Danielson off enough that he went back to what submitted Aries’ partner in the qualifying round to win the match. The match did good for a lot of people, but definitely the most for Aries. The match was such a success ROH has continued to hold the event (even as multi-night events) for many years to come. ****½

ROH Pure Championship Tournament Finals
Doug Williams vs. Alex Shelley

“Reborn: Completion” – Elizabeth, NJ – 7.17.2004

AJ Styles was forced to leave ROH by TNA in the wake of the Rob Feinstein controversy, and thus a new Pure Champion needed to be crowned. Earlier the night, both Shelley and Williams won two separate four corner survival matches to earn the opportunity to challenge for the title. Shelley denies Williams a handshake before the bell. Shelley’s arm is still in pain from his match earlier in the night. Their chain wrestling leads to Williams pushing Shelley’s legs as far apart as he can using his head and legs. Williams traps Shelley in a headscissors. Shelley rakes Williams’ eyes, so Williams forearm strikes him away. Williams embarasses Shelley by tying him up in the Black Pool Ball, which Shelley does scoot himself out of. Shelley also wiggles his way out of a grounded headlock. After trading control on the mat, Williams picks up the intensity by throwing Shelley shoulder first into the turnbuckle. Shelley uses his first rope break when Williams headbutts an upturned wristlock. Williams hammerlock’s Shelley’s arm, applying extra pressure with his own and adding a chinlock. Shelley blasts Williams with an enzuigiri and punts him in the ribs before delivering a neckbreaker. He chokes Williams in the corner and uses the ropes for a slingshot legdrop for two. Shelley stomps Williams’ face into the mat and rakes his eyes. Shelley sends Williams to the corner. Williams stops Shelley with a back elbow. He tries the Bomb Scare knee. Shelley sidesteps that, but Williams pulls Shelley down into a cross armbreaker. Shelley has no choice but to use his second rope break. Shelley goes back to work on Williams’ neck. Williams is able to catch Shelley as Shelley comes off the ropes with a running crossbody. He gives Shelley a shoulder breaker across his knee. Williams hits the Bomb Scare and then puts Shelley in a bridging hammerlock! Shelley rakes his eyes to escape, but Williams re-applies it, forcing Shelley to spend his third and final rope break. Shelley blocks a hammerlock, planting Williams with a DDT. Williams blasts Shelley with a series of knees to the head. Shelley escapes a Fujiwara armbar, placing Williams in the Border City Stretch. Williams goes to Shelley’s eyes to break it. Shelley comes off the top with a double stomp to the back of his head. Shelley plants him with Shellshock for two. Williams catches Shelley with a knee as Shelley tries a shoulder block through the ropes. Williams legally applies a hammerlock in the ropes, pulling on Shelley’s neck in the process. Shelley submits immediately, making Williams the new Pure Champion at 19:20. I think what I love most about Williams is the pride he took in not ever using the ropes to escape a submission. Not only did he not want to find himself at a deficit, but it speaks to his character. Shelley on the other hand grew weary of trying to out wrestle him and took shortcuts to get control, but also focused on the neck in the hopes of getting on the Border City Stretch again. Williams’ decorum emphasizes what the Pure title represents, and Shelley’s lack of dignity was a perfect counterpoint. I really like both these participants, but even I am surprised that I enjoyed this Pure title tournament final more than the original. ****

Disc Two

Samoa Joe & The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. Homicide & The Havana Pitbulls (Rocky Romero & Ricky Reyes)
“Reborn: Completion” – Elizabeth, NJ – 7.17.2004

This is billed as a Six Man War, and that’s exactly how the match begins. On the floor, Joe belly-to-belly suplexes Homicide onto Julius Smokes into the barricades. Things finally settle into a traditional trios bout. Romero kicks at Joe’s legs, so Joe angrily knees him in the face several times in the corner. Reyes backs Mark to the corner where Homicide snapmares Mark into a hard back kick. Reyes suplexes Mark for a two count. Jay is tagged in, chopping up Reyes in the corner. Reyes comes back with a flurry of kicks and back elbow. Romero confuses Jay with the Lady in the Lake, so he tags in Mark. Romero pulls down Mark in a double arm stretch, but Joe breaks the hold for Mark with a smack to the back of Romero’s head. Joe continues to punish Romero, shoulder blocking Romero to the floor when he attempts to turn things in his favor. Reyes and Jay get into a slugfest, ending with Jay superkicking Reyes down and shoving him to the corner. The Briscoes demolish Reyes’ face with a basement dropkick/facewash kick combo. Reyes gets his neck worn down and is only saved thanks to Romero kicking Jay as he hits the ropes. Reyes back suplexes Jay, then brings in Homicide who gives Jay a hangman’s neckbreaker and high vertical suplex. Jay takes an absolutely brutal elevated DDT but manages to kick out. Homicide spits in Joe’s face as he and the Pitbulls continue to wear down Jay. Jay ducks a pair of clotheslines from Reyes and hits a flying lariat. Jay big boots Reyes before tagging in Joe who powerslams an oncoming Homicide. He assaults Romero with open hand strikes and an enzuigiri. Mark accidentally takes out Jay on the floor and Romero dives onto both Briscoes. Homicide gets dragged out by the Briscoes when he feigns a dive. The four men outside brawl as Joe plants Romero with a corner uranage for two. Joe blocks the Diablo Armbar and Mark dropkicks Romero off of Joe’s arm. Jay lands a flying leg drop but Reyes breaks up the pin attempt. Mark saves Jay from Romero’s Octopus Stretch. Jay then kicks out of Reyes’ fisherman’s buster on his own. Reyes is taken out by a Doomsday Device. When he kicks out, the Briscoes try a springboard variation. Mark lands on the top of his head trying a shooting star press on Reyes. Amazingly Mark is able to throw around Homicide and Romero, and goes up top once again! Homicide pulls him down and gives him a butterfly suplex for two. Joe tags himself in. Homicide pokes his eyes but Joe spikes him with a cradle Death Valley Driver. Joe punts Romero in the head. Homicide throws a fireball at Joe, but Mark jumps in his way and takes the hit himself! The referee calls for the bell at 32:01, giving Joe and the Briscoes the win by disqualification. This definitely lived up to the title of being a war. Even though the match went by quickly, it did get a little too formulaic with one guy getting isolated for a while, then someone else from the other side would be isolated, rinse and repeat. Mark scrambling his brains was legitimately scary, and you could tell it resulted in him being just a step off for the ending fireball. Despite all that, this was pretty dang fun. Romero and Joe have awesome chemistry. ***½

Jay takes his brother backstage, leaving Joe all alone to endure the wrath of Homicide and the Havana Pitbulls. Jay comes back to help but gets knocked out with a slapjack. LowKi hits the ring, saving Joe from Homicide and the Havana Pitbulls. Homicide and Ki exchange words. He talks about Homicide disrespecting ROH and the World title, then says only he is allowed to disrespect it. Ki then cracks Joe with the title and the beatdown resumes! Homicide declares Ki a member of the Rottweilers, then rips an ROH banner off the side of the ring. Ki says ROH has gone nowhere but down since he’s been gone. He stands on Joe’s back and holds up the World title, saying the champ is here. All the Rottweilers pose over Joe’s fallen body, then lay the ROH Banner over Joe’s body.

Chicago Street Fight
The Second City Saints (CM Punk & Ace Steel) vs. BJ Whitmer & Dan Maff

“Death Before Dishonor II, Night 2” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 7.24.2004

Whitmer and Maff drag the Saints to the floor and throw them into the barricades. Back in the ring they beat down Steel while keeping Punk out. Punk pulls Whitmer out and throws him into the barricades. He and Steel throw punches and bionic elbows at Maff. Punk catches Whitmer coming off the top rope with an exploder suplex. Punk dives onto Maff. Whitmer uses a chair to stop Steel’s suicide dive, then throws it at Punk’s head. They bloody both Saint members on the floor and whip them with their belts back in the ring. Steel does a good job fighting them both off. He throws Maff face first into the barricades. Whitmer puts a table in the ring. Steel throws him into the barricades too. Punk dives in from the crowd onto Maff. In the ring Steel dropkicks a chair into Maff’s. Punk facewash kicks Whitmer thrice. As Whitmer sits in the corner, a table is set up so one edge is near his throat. Steel places a chair on his face. Punk slides a ladder into the chair into his face. He busts Whitmer open further with a belt buckle. He uses a barbed wire 2×4 on both Whitmer and Maff. Whitmer uses it to give Punk a side Russian leg sweep. Maff hits it into Punk’s crotch. He does the same thing to Steel. A barbed wire board is brought into the ring. Punk and Whitmer fight for a suplex onto it. Punk goes for a tornado DDT and gets tossed into the wire instead! Steel prevents Whitmer from hitting an exploder suplex. Maff moves the board so Steel only suplexes Whitmer onto the canvas. The board is set up in the corner. Whitmer cuts off Punk from sending Maff into it. Maff sends Punk through it with a cannonball senton! Steel then breaks the barbed wire board by throwing Maff into it. He gets two with a Tiger Driver. Everybody stands in the ring with a chair in hand. Punk and Steel take the first shots. Although reeling, then hit Whitmer and Maff back. Maff and Whitmer fire each other up and throw back more shots. Steel breaks his chair over Whitmer’s chair. Punks shot sends Maff to the floor along with Whitmer. The crowd begins to throw all their chairs into the ring. The two teams brawl on top of the sea of chairs. Maff suplexes Punk on top of them. He then suplexes Maff. Steel and Maff spill out to the floor. Maff places a ladder between the barricades leading down the aisle. He places Steel on top of it. Whitmer poises for a dive, but Punk throws him into the chairs. Steel rams the ladder into Maff’s face. He places Maff onto the ladder and Punk successfully dives onto him! In the ring, Steel hits Whitmer with a chair. They fight over who will go through a table. Steel ends up putting Whitmer through it with a tombstone piledriver off the second rope! That gives Steel the pin at 27:41. These teams bled and killed each other for our amusement and I loved it. The action was super intense and felt very real. I think it’s very smart that the ROH had the Saints anchor the first two Chicago Ridge ROH shows where they achieved two major victories in main events. This is the exact kind of match one would want to end a blood feud. ****

The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. The Rottweilers (Low Ki & Homicide)
“Testing The Limit” – Philadelphia, PA – 8.7.2004

A wild brawl kicks the match off. Ki and Mark chop each other on the floor while Jay controls Homicide in the ring and then on the floor. Mark atomic drops Ki. He comes off the top with a knee strike across Jay’s knee. Jay tosses Homicide off the top rope. They give Homicide the Sidewinder. Ki Koppu kicks Jay. Homicide comes in behind the referee’s back to help Ki fight Jay. Julius Smokes trips Jay. Jay goes after him. Jay stops Homicide and Ki’s cheap shots, but can’t fend off Smokes’ kick and back rake. Homicide and Ki keep on Jay back in the ring as Mark looks on. Jay fights off Homicide and superkicks Ki so Mark can tag in and clean house. Ki goes to his eyes. Mark side steps attacks from both opponents and comes back in with a springboard clothesline and dropkick. Homicide stops them from hitting the Doomsday Device. Ki kicks Jay in the side of the head after fighting off the Jay Driller. Mark catches Ki’s Kawada kick and suplexes him onto his head. Homicide shoves Mark off the top rope. Jay gives Homicide the Jay Driller. Ki tries the Ki Krusher on Jay. Jay counters with a small package for the pin at 12:41. This marks the first time Low Ki was pinned in ROH since “Unscripted” when he lost the ROH Championship. Both teams showed a lot of intensity and energy in this bout, which made everything they did seem really impactful. ***

Ki punts Jay in the side of the head. Mark tackles Ki and they get in a fight. Joe comes out to attack Ki and Homicide gets on top of him. Punk and others from the locker room come out to hold everyone down and keep them separated. The two sides get in some shoots ringside as the locker room continues to try and keep them separated. The curtain that separates the locker room and arena is even torn down as the two sides get in a fight backstage and into the parking lot. They did a good job making this seem legit at the time, but I don’t know if it holds that same effect all these years later. Sadly this would be the Briscoes final ROH match for about a year and half, and their absence definitely hurt the tag team division.

2 out of 3 Falls
Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries

“Testing the Limit” – Philadelphia, PA – 8.7.2004

Fall One: These two started off with a more methodical approach. Aries utilizes the strategy of going after Danielson’s arm and neck while Danielson went for the Cattle Mutilation a few times early on. Danielson switches his concentration onto Aries’ neck. The pace begins to pick up and Aries lands a super huracanrana. The aggression picks up one it is announced fifteen minutes in the fall have elapsed. Aries blocks a Cattle Mutilation with a illegal fish hook, which the referee does not admonish Aries for. Danielson gets control with a super gutbuster. Danielson of course now goes to target Aries’ mid-section. Danielson does a few things to get the crowd on his case, such as grab the ropes when he has Aries in an abdominal stretch. Aries manages to send Danielson to the floor and hit a twisting pescado around the thirty minute mark. Aries keeps control back in the ring until Danielson delivers another gutbuster. After more stomach and back work, as well as an airplane spin, Danielson heads up top for a headbutt. Danielson misses and Aries capitalizes with a moonsault press for two. Aries goes up top only for Danielson to superplex him. Danielson hits the top rope headbutt for two. A few pin attempts from both guys end when Aries hits a crucifix bomb. Aries locks on the Rings of Saturn. He then softens up Danielson’s neck before transitioning into the Cattle Mutilation. Aries makes Danielson tap to his own move at 42:07.

Fall Two: Aries keeps on top of Danielson at the beginning of the fall. Danielson is able to shove Aries off the top rope and into the barricades to turn the tide. Danielson traps Aries’ leg in the barricade and kicks at it. As you would guess, Danielson works over Aries’ leg back in the ring much like he did with Paul London at “The Epic Encounter.” Danielson actually does a great job being methodical in his attack while also keeping the crowd invested. When Aries elbows his way out and tries to fight back, Danielson pitches him to the floor. Danielson beefs it on a dive and seemingly scrapes his head against the barricade. While Danielson is laid out on the floor, Aries delivers an elbow drop off the top rope. That move clearly did no favors for Aries’ leg. Aries rams Danielson back first into the guardrail. Aries brings Danielson back in the ring and tries multiple quick pins. All of these attempts fail. Danielson has finally recovered and goes back to work on Aries’ arm. Even with a short fiery comeback from Aries, Danielson is able to lock on the Cattle Mutilation and turn it into the pinfall to win the second fall at 1:03:15, tying up the match at one fall a piece.

Fall Three: Danielson takes Aries to the top rope. That backfires, and Aries brings him down with a super DDT. In a throw back to their Survival of the Fittest bout, Danielson body slams Aries multiple times. Aries blocks one with a small package for two. Danielson puts on a bear hug to squeeze the air out of Aries. Aries manages to reverse the bear hug in his favor. Danielson reverses that and pulls Aries down into a modified Boston Crab, much like he used to submit Aries at Survival of the Fittest. When Aries throws headbutts, Danielson suplexes him overhead. Aries gets the ropes to break a Cattle Mutilation attempt. Aries fights Danielson to avoid a superplex. A flurry of offense sees both men on the mat. Aries has an awesome ending stretch, hitting a super brainbuster, two regular brain busters, and a 450 splash for the pin at 1:16:09

There were a lot of things to love about this match. Danielson revisiting the strategies that earned him his biggest ROH victories, including the Survival of the Fittest match, was brilliant. I commend the commentary team for shining a light on that story point. Aries wrestled a very smart game himself. That said, I don’t feel they utilized the 76 minutes the best they could, as there were a few pockets of “dead air” that they had a problem filling. In some respects it felt like they went long just to go long, which is further validated by the fact that they originally wanted to do three sixty minute draws back-to-back-to-back. I am so glad they did not do that. This probably would have been a much more well-rounded match were it kept shorter, but even so, this was still quite excellent. ****

At “Glory By Honor III” BJ Whitmer and Dan Maff won a tag team gauntlet, last eliminating a team introduced by Allison Danger: Chicano and Slash Venom (aka Flash Flanagan). Danger had introduced the team to try and get revenge on the former Prophecy members for defecting. When Maff and Whitmer are about to put their hands on Allison Danger, Mick Foley makes his way to the ring. She thinks Foley is coming to her rescue, but he makes a bunch of poorly aged sexual jokes and sends her away. The Embassy of Prince Nana, Jimmy Rave, and the Outcast Killaz enters the ring, inviting Foley into the group. He literally laughs at the prospect of joining the Embassy. Foley knocks Nana and the Killaz down, but succumbs to a low blow from Rave. All four members of Generation Next run into the ring to join the Embassy in beating down Foley. Maff and Whitmer fight off all eight men, saving Foley. A long speech from Foley gets around to him saying that from what he has seen, ROH stands for “Ring of Hardcore.” He endorses Whitmer and Maff and tells the crowd to “have a nice day.”

Disc Three

ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. CM Punk

“Joe vs. Punk II” – Chicago, IL – 10.16.2004

Joe has been champion since 3.22.2003 and this is his 28th defense. 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 face wash 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 in the match surprised me because I was so enthralled by the action. They expanded upon the story from their first match, and made great use of Punk having 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 this time around. I also like 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, but this had everything from the first match, plus the chance to refine the small holes and had the element of the 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. *****

ROH Tag Team Championship
The Havana Pitbulls (Rocky Romero & Ricky Reyes) vs. Generation Next (Roderick Strong & Jack Evans)

Weekend of Thunder Night 1 – Revere, MA – 11.5.2004

The Havana Pitbulls have been champions since 8.7.2004 and this is their fourth defense. Homicide is in their corner. Strong and Evans earned this title shot by defeating Homicide and Romero at “Joe vs. Punk II.” The Pitbulls attack Evans and Strong after both sides refuse to shake hands. They fight around ringside with some interstitials in the ring. Homicide angrily dumps Evans head first onto the floor when Evans does a dive onto him and Reyes. Strong keeps control of Romero. Romero kicks away at his legs, but Strong cuts him off with a backbreaker. Strong aids Evans with a flip senton to the crowd’s delight. Strong and Evans bust out some innovative tandem offense on Romero as they keep him trapped in their half of the ring. Romero comes off the ropes with a flying knee strike to Evans face. Reyes stomps away at Evans, as now the Pitbulls cut the ring in half as they beat down the smaller Gen Next teammate. This includes Reyes throwing Evans into the barricades. Evans is able to duck a double clothesline and hit an impressive double dropkick, finally tagging in Strong. He fights off both the Pitbulls, giving Romero a big gut buster and the Sick Kick. Strong and Pitbulls end up outside where Evans lands a corkscrew splash onto everybody. Back in the ring, Strong blocks the Diablo armbar with a backbreaker for two. Strong gives Romero another backbreaker after ducking an enzuigiri. Romero springboard dropkicks Strong’s knee out from underneath him. He then hits a flying knee but Evans breaks up the pin. Strong back suplexes Reyes after Reyes scoop slams him. Evans lands a Doomsday crossbody, but only for two thanks to Romero. They try the crossbody on Romero. Romero counters with a victory roll, putting Strong in an ankle lock. Strong escapes just in time to save Evans from pinning by Reyes with a fisherman’s buster. Evans comes back with a spin kick and standing corkscrew shooting star press on Reyes for two. Evans lands a 630 Splash on Reyes. The bell rings for the pin but the referee says it was only a 2. The crowd is angry as Evans accidentally stomps on Strong’s head during Ode to the Bulldogs. Reyes then scoops Evans into a tombstone for the pin at 17:56. The beginning portion of the match and Generation Next’s comebacks were great, but the rest of the match meandered. Evans and Strong really worked their asses off and had the fans rallying behind them. People were really not into the Pitbulls as tag team champions and that unintentional fake out ending only made their vitriol worse. ***

No Disqualification
Generation Next (Austin Aries & Roderick Strong) vs. The Second City Saints (CM Punk & Ace Steel)

“Weekend of Thunder Night 2” – Elizabeth, NJ – 11.6.2004

The Saints jump Generation Next before the bell. Steel suicide dives onto Strong. Punk gets two on Aries with a Michinoku Driver. Punk whips Strong into the barricades. Aries takes him down with a Heat-Seeking Missile. He rams Steels’ back into the barricades multiple times. Strong sends Punk through a chair with a backbreaker. In the ring, Aries slingshots in with a splash to Steel across Strong’s knees. Punk trips Strong to the floor and throws him into the barricades. He and Steel drop Aries in a legdrop/suplex combo. The Saints meet Strong with a double spinebuster. Punk kicks him in the groin. Evans emerges ringside with a ladder. Punk dropkicks it into him and then pescados onto the ladder and Evans. Steel brings the ladder into the ring and side slams Strong onto it. Aries gives Steel a receipt with a Side Russian legsweep onto it. Punk powerbombs Aries onto the ladder. Evans misses a springboard tornado kick onto Punk. The Saints try to take Evans out. With Strong’s help though, they are able to take out Punk with a Doomsday crossbody. Aries frog splashes onto Punk for two. Aries whips Steel into the ladder in the corner. He and Strong both dropkick Steel into it. Strong helps Evans perform a twisting senton. Steel comes back with a fisherman’s buster to Strong. Aries and Evans take out Steel on the floor while Strong sets up Punk’s leg in the ladder. Aries slams a chair onto the ladder. Strong sets up the chair and drives Punk’s knee onto it. Strong and Aries slam Punk onto the ladder. Exhausted, Steel smacks Aries in the back with a chair. Aries whips Punk into the chair in the corner, then dropkicks his head into it. Steel butterfly suplexes Aries onto the ladder. He flubs a chair-assisted legdrop as Punk knee strikes Strong in the corner. Punk suplexes Strong onto the ladder. Steel meanwhile has set up Aries on a table ringside. Strong stops Steel from climbing the ladder with an electric chair slam. Punk is now on the ringside table. Evans barely hits the table with his splash, getting the worst of the dive. Aries goes for an elbow drop off the apron. Punk moves and Aries collides with the table (it does not break). Strong gives Punk a backbreaker across his shoulder. Punk blocks a second Doomsday Crossbody by catching Evans and powerslamming him onto a ladder. Steel helps Punk give Strong a piledriver onto the ladder. Aries blocks Steel’s attack and Finlay Rolls him onto the ladder. He follows with a 450 splash that misses, causing him to collide stomach first with the ladder. Steel powerbombs Evans through the ringside table. Strong gets two on Punk with a backbreaker. Punk puts Strong away with an ultra sloppy Pepsi Plunge onto the ladder for the pin at 19:56. That went far too long for what amounted to a series of non-connected moves, many of which were flubbed or missed. I think it would have been much better for Generation Next to get a win here as well, especially given that they had the numbers advantage, but that brings up another gripe: if the entire ROH locker room supposedly hates Generation Next, why did nobody help out the Saints? This gets points for some nifty moments, but otherwise this was a rare miss for the individuals involved. **½

Bryan Danielson & Low Ki vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Samoa Joe
Weekend of Thunder Night 2 – Elizabeth, NJ – 11.6.2004

Ki and Joe are the legal men at the bell, but Ki tags in Danielson before any contact is made. Danielson stomps on Joe’s hands to end a test of strength. Joe shrugs off Danielson’s chops and uppercuts. Joe rocks Danielson with a forearm. Danielson trips Joe into a key lock. Danielson leans back on it, causing Joe to grab the ropes to escape. Joe snapmares Danielson into a dragon kick. The pain is enough for him to tag in Ki. Joe decides to tag in Liger per Liger’s request. Ki breaks a lock-up and goes for a clothesline. Liger ducks it. Ki shrugs off a shoulder block. Liger delivers a quesadora backbreaker to both Ki and Danielson. Joe suicide dives onto Danielson while Liger hits a rolling senton off the apron onto Ki. In the ring Liger puts on a Dragon sleeper. Danielson kicks Liger to break it. He and Joe wishbone Ki’s legs. Ki backs Liger to the corner. Danielson holds Liger so Ki can dropkick him. Ki and Danielson isolate Liger in their corner to wear him down. During this wear down period, Liger surprisingly kicks out of Ki’s Ghetto Stomp. Liger avoids a springboard tornado kick and gives Ki a brainbuster. Liger finally tags in Joe. Joe boot scrapes Ki and gives him a running kick to the floor. Joe follows that with the Ole kick. Liger gives Ki his own Ole kick! That was cute. In the ring Joe powerslams Ki for two. Ki goes for a crucifix driver. Joe blocks it, but Ki manages to lariat Joe. Danielson rocks Joe with uppercuts. Joe sweeps Danielson’s legs. Liger tags in and palm strikes both Ki and Danielson. Ki springboard tornado kicks Liger as Danielson holds him. Danielson folds him into a press for two. Liger prawn holds Danielson for two. Danielson puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Joe breaks it with a senton. Ki hits Black Magic on Joe. Ki puts Liger in a standing cross armbreaker. Liger grabs the ropes to break it. Ki misses the Phoenix Splash. Liger runs at Ki, only for Ki to hit the Koppu Kick. Ki successfully delivers the Phoenix Splash. Danielson covers Liger and Joe breaks the pin. Danielson Dragon suplexes Liger for two. Joe enzuigiri’s Danielson. Liger hits a palm strike and a brainbuster. Ki makes the save. Danielson accidentally forearms Ki. Joe lariats Ki to the floor as Liger palm strikes Danielson. Liger hits the Liger Bomb onto Danielson for the pin at 21:16. Awesome bell-to-bell action, a hot crowd that never let up, and a one-of-a-kind tag bout make for a fantastic tag team extravaganza. Based on their reactions I think it’s fair to say the fans got exactly what they wanted from this match. Liger going over Danielson didn’t bug me here because he was not nearly as dominant here as he was in their singles encounter. Without question this cemented Liger’s ROH debut weekend as a big success. ****

Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson
“All Star Extravaganza II” – Elizabeth, NJ – 12.4.2004

This is a rematch from “Reborn: Stage Two” which Homicide won with a low blow and a lariat. The Rottweilers attacked Danielson after he lost to Liger and Joe with fellow Rottweiler Low Ki at “Weekend of Thunder, Night 2.” They approach each other with some caution, especially Homicide. Danielson scores the first move by dropkicking Homicide to the floor. Homicide spits in Danielson’s face when a lock-up takes them to the corner. Homicide absorbs uppercuts and forearms from an angry Danielson. He’s finally rattled by knee lifts and an uppercut. Homicide stops Danielson’s chest kicks by choking him and smothering him with forearm grazes in the corner. Danielson aggressively shoulder tackles Homicide several times, sending Homicide back outside. Danielson goes after Homicide’s elbow and shoulder .Homicide pokes Danielson in the eyes and throws him to the floor where he sends Danielson into the guardrails. Danielson whips Homicide into the guardrails twice in response, then body slams him onto the metal entrance ramp! Danielson goes after Julius Smokes. He doesn’t notice Homicide who attacks him from behind, then suplexes Danielson onto the timekeeper’s table. Homicide hobbles as he chops Danielson in the corners. Danielson pulls Homicide into a surfboard stretch, pulling further back on the next to apply pressure. Homicide fights out of the first go around, but Danielson does give him an airplane spin on the second try. Danielson is poised for a diving headbutt, but pivots and wipes out Smokes on the floor instead. This time aids Homicide, who is able to give Danielson an Ace Crusher and a fisherman’s suplex, earning a two count with each. He’s able to land a super headbutt, but Danielson gets his shoulder up to stop the pin. Danielson avoids a yakuza kick and brings Homicide down into the Cattle Mutilation. He breaks the hold when he notices Julius Smokes on the ring apron. Danielson stomps on Homicide’s ankle in the corner, which is in so much pain Homicide has taken off his boot. Homicide smacks Danielson in the head with his boot as Smokes distracts the referee. While dazed, Danielson is able to get his shoulder up from Homicide’s pin attempt. Homicide goes for the Cop Killa. Homicide low blows Danielson when Danielson slips out, just like in their first encounter. Homicide goes for the lariat. This time he blocks it, and makes Homicide think he’s going for the Cattle Mutilation. Instead he pivots and brings him down into a crucifix pin to get the victory at 25:27. Danielson is attacked by The Rottweilers after the match, ending with Homicide dropping a knee across his shoulder. This had a solid enough story but the crowd was fairly lifeless. Just like their first match against one another, they also went long for no reason. There was more drama in the last thirty seconds and the post match angle then any of the 25 minutes that preceded it too, which is a big problem. On paper this sounds like Best Of material, but in execution it was not. **¾

ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. Austin Aries

“Final Battle 2004” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.26.2004

Aries refuses to shake Joe’s hand. Aries gets the jump at the bell, but Joe pops him up for a slam to stop his momentum. Joe takes him to the mat in a headscissors. Aries wrenches Joe’s knee as he pops out of it. Joe however takes Aries back to the mat. Aries evades a knee drop and puts on a side headlock. He has trouble knocking Joe to the mat, so he kicks his knee out. Aries focuses his attack on that knee. Joe enzuigiri’s Aries to stop a shinbreaker. He facewash kicks him in the corner. Joe forearms Aries to the floor. Aries slides back in to avoid an elbow suicida. Joe kicks Aries from the floor to stop the Heat-Seeking Missile. Joe facewash kicks Aries into the barricades, twice. Aries is able to dropkick Joe’s head into the barricades himself. In the ring Joe goes for a choke. Aries rolls out but gets powerslammed for two. Aries reverses a powerbomb attempt with a huracanrana and gets two. He nails the IED three times. His fourth time, Joe catches him and hits a running Island Driver for two. Aries rakes Joe’s eyes when he tries to take him off the top rope. Aries then hits the 450 Splash for two. Joe again forearms Aries to the floor. Aries this times sunset flips in for two, then turns Joe into a Boston Crab much like Joe would. Joe breaks out, so Aries fish hooks his mouth and stretches out his arm. Joe fights back and gets Aries up for the Muscle Buster. Aries counters with a crucifix bomb. A few body blocks from Aries actually fires Joe’s up. Aries kicks out his knee, kicks him in the head and gives him the brainbuster. Aries follows up with the 450 Splash for the pin and the title at 17:30! I remember when this title switch happened. I wasn’t even watching ROH at the time, but the message boards EXPLODED when this occurred because it was such a momentous occasion when Joe was finally dethroned. The story was great, both Joe and Aries conveyed a ton of emotion, and the fans were going absolutely bonkers. The excitement and pace made this feel like some of the fastest 17 minutes in wrestling history. Aries was a great choice for Joe to pass the torch to, and this match ended Joe’s historic title reign with a bang. ****

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