We start with the closing segment from “It All Begins” from January 15, 2005, the first ROH show of the year. Mick Foley tells the Boston area fans he has something to give to Samoa Joe, and introduces him as the former ROH World Champion. You can sense maybe some venom in that, as Joe just lost the title the previous show. Foley presents Joe with a Cactus Jack “Wanted Dead” t-shirt. That isn’t what he plans to give Joe. Instead, he is giving Joe a shot against Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship! Not exactly, but he is prepared to give Joe a spot in the Royal Rumble. If he wins that, he could find himself in the same ring as Triple H! He tells Joe he can make it happen with just one call, but Vince said Joe would have to tone down his style. He makes a comment about having to cover Joe’s boobs, which gets Joe angry. Joe tells Foley that he won’t take his insults, and unless he came to fight, he better find something else to say. Foley changes his tune, saying Joe did an incredible job becoming one of the best in ROH, but Joe has nothing left to achieve. Foley wants to know if Joe can do it again on the big stage, and from there talks about how ROH by comparison is low rent and craps on the crowd too. Joe tells Foley he is right – he would like to take on a WWE superstar. That superstar is Foley himself, and Joe wants to face him tonight. Foley wants Joe to put himself in his shoes and ask if he would accept the challenge under these circumstances. As soon as he says the match isn’t going to happen, he cracks Joe in the head with the microphone. He hits Joe with the microphone several more times. Joe is able to get in a few strikes and an enzuigiri which sends Foley to the floor. Joe sends Foley into the guardrails as Foley tries to flee, and Foley comes back with a chair shot to Joe’s head. Back inside the ring he gives Joe a double armed DDT onto a steel chair. He gives the crowd a Cactus Jack style “BANG BANG!” Despite him shitting on them, the crowd cheers for Foley. In that sense the segment didn’t work as intended, but was pretty interesting nonetheless.
ROH World Championship
Austin Aries vs. Colt Cabana
“Third Anniversary Celebration Night 1” – Elizabeth, NJ – 2.19.2005
Aries goes for the cage door right away. Cabana stops him from exiting. Cabana shoulder blocks Aries down and tries to climb the cage. Aries pulls him down. Cabana stops Aries from throwing him into the cage. He tries a sunset flip but Aries dropkicks him in the face. Cabana throws Aries into the cage. When Aries tries throwing Cabana into it, Cabana hops off the second rope and delivers a forearm to the face. Aries dropkicks his legs out when he begins to ascend the ropes. He dropkicks Cabana’s face into the cage twice and gives him a springboard axe handle. Cabana is now busted open. Aries rakes his forehead against the cage. Cabana hangs Aries in the tree of woe and tries escaping the cage. Aries grabs his legs to stop him and gives Cabana a rope assisted Ace Crusher. Aries punts him in the forehead. Cabana fires up when Aries throws some strikes at him. He throws Aries into the cage multiple times. Cabana comes off the top of the cage with a moonsault! Aries and Cabana fight on the top rope. Aries brings him down with a Frankensteiner. Cabana lands closer to the door and goes for it. Aries stops him. He dropkicks Cabana, which almost backfires because Cabana falls through the door. Aries holds onto his legs and drags him back in. Once again they fight on the ropes with both guys crotching themselves. Cabana spins Aries around in a Razor’s Edge. He drops him and goes for the pin. When Aries kicks out Cabana goes for the door. Aries tries climbing over him. He then goes to climb the cage. Cabana stops him. Aries goes onto Cabana’s shoulders and spikes him with a reverse Frankensteiner for two. Cabana suplexes Aries into the side of the cage twice before hanging him up on the wall. He gets in some strikes and then gives Aries his own brainbuster. Aries kicks out. They fight on the ropes once more. Cabana knocks Aries down and climbs the cage. He’s almost to the floor when Aries dives out of the door and to the floor to retain the title at 20:35. As far as steel cage matches go, this was one of the more creative ones I have seen, especially with the ending. I give Aries and Cabana a lot of credit for thinking outside the box, building up a good amount of drama, and making me believe Cabana could win. Aries and Cabana’s mini rivalry from this time period rarely gets mentioned, but it was executed very well. ***¾
Scramble Cage Match
Generation Next (Roderick Strong & Jack Evans) vs. Special K (Izzy & Deranged) vs. The Carnage Crew (DeVito & Loc) vs. Special K (Dixie & Azrieal) vs. The Ring Crew Express (Dunn & Marcos)
“Third Anniversary Celebration Night 1” – Elizabeth, NJ – 2.19.2005
Platforms are on the corners of the cage so dives and flips can be done more easily. The winners of the match receive ten times their pay, and the team that takes the losing fall are suspended for 90 days. The match begins with two teams with a new team entering every two minutes, and that match cannot end until all five matches are in the ring. Order of entry is in the order the teams are listed. Strong straight up throws Izzy out of the ring and into the guardrails. The Carnage Crew enters as Strong is ramming Deranged into the cage. They are beating down Generation Next as the other Special K team enters. Strong is brought backstage after taking a suplex into the cage. Dixie and Azrieal don’t cautiously get into the ring as the Ring Crew Express make their way out. They stage dive off the platforms onto everyone else. Evans and Azrieal end up on a platform while everyone else fights underneath. Evans throws Azrieal down into the ring, then hits a 630 splash onto Dunn. DeVito does a moonsault off a platform, and Azrieal blows out his ankle with a double stomp. The Carnage Crew bring a table inside the ring as the Special K teams and Evans fight outside. DeVito pulls Izzy up onto a platform, with him and Loc looking for a super spike piledriver. Dunn low blows DeVito to stop him. Izzy does a Phoenix Splash to the floor. Marcos places Loc on the table. Dunn assists Marcos with a super senton off of the platform onto Loc to get the pin at 10:25. This had enough big moments to keep the fans happy, and was brief enough to not get repetitive or overstay its welcome. It was flips and such for the sake of flips and such, but that’s it’s whole point. *½
ROH Pure Championship
John Walters vs. Jay Lethal
“Trios Tournament 2005” – Philadelphia, PA – 3.5.2005
At “Final Battle 2004”, Prince Nana paid Walters a handsome sum to join the Embassy. Lethal had a shot at Walters back at “Third Anniversary Celebration, Night 1”, but Walters forced Lethal to challenge for the title as soon as Lethal had competed against Jimmy Rave. After three straight jacket back crackers, he held onto the ropes and pinned Lethal to retain the title. On this night, CM Punk, who at the time was feuding with the Embassy, chased both Prince Nana and Jimmy Rave away to ensure a fair fight for Lethal. Lethal also has one shut eye because he was attacked by a mystery assailant earlier in the evening.
Walters misses a chop to start. Lethal responds with some of his own chops and takes down Walters with a bulldog for two. They fight outside the ring after Lethal gives Walters a missile dropkick and backdrop. After fighting on the outside of the ring, Back inside Lethal gives Walters a monkey flip and puts him in a parachute stretch. Walters grabs the ropes to escape, causing him his first rope break. Lethal places Walters on the top turnbuckle, but Walters fights him off and gives him a backpack stunner off the second turnbuckle. He claws at Lethal’s injured eye before earning a two count with a suplex. Lethal stps Walters momentum with crucifix pi attempt. Walters blocks a huracanrana and puts Lethal in a sharpshooter. Lethal spends his first rope break to escape. Walters elbows Lethal in the kidneys and pummels on his back before giving him an electric chair drop. Lethal blocks a straightjacket back cracker. They trade several pin attempts, and Walters instinctively uses his second rope break to stop one of the counts. They knock down one another with simultaneous clotheslines. Lethal takes control when they get to their feet. He fights off a suplex attempt from Walters and gives him a powerbomb for two. After some backbreakers, Lethal rolls Walters into a Camel Clutch. Walters escapes and gives Lethal three straightjacket back crackers like he did in their first title match. This time, however, Lethal is able to get his shoulder up before the three count. Walters brings Lethal to the top rope, hoping for a super backbreaker.. Lethal throws him off the top and nails the Flying DDT for two. Walters elbows Lethal in the corner and goes for another straightjacket backbreaker. Lethal blocks it and turns Walters inside out with a clothesline. Lethal finally hits the Dragon suplex he had been looking for through most of the match, getting the pin and the title at 11:19. By this point, the audience was very much into Lethal and pretty much had their fill of Walters, so this was absolutely the right call. They did a nice job harkening back to their previous match and making Lethal’s work revolving around the Dragon suplex meaningful. It felt like a big moment for Lethal and was a perfect way to end his issue with the Embassy. The one thing really holding this match back was a fairly dead crowd, who fortunately did come alive for the ending. Samoa Joe comes out and celebrates with Lethal. ***
Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal vs. Homicide & Low Ki
“Manhattan Mayhem” – New York, NY – 5.7.2005
Lethal and Joe attack Ki and Homicide from behind and pitch them to the floor. Stereo suicide dives follow. The bell officially rings as all four men are fighting it out in the ring. Joe gives Ki to Lethal. He holds Ki in a tree of woe so Joe can give him a facewash kick. As Homicide and Lethal fight in the ring, Ki attacks Joe on the apron. Homicide sends Lethal to the floor and tope con hilo’s after him. Ki stomps on Lethal’s face for two. Ki and Homicide destroy Lethal in there half of the ring. Homicide gets two with a piledriver. Lethal blocks a lariat and gives Homicide a Dragon suplex. Joe tags in. He throws boots and strikes. Ki gets tossed down with the STJoe, and Joe overhead suplexes Homicide into the corner. Ki gets in some Mongolian chops. Lethal helps Joe by giving Ki a clothesline. Joe goes for the Muscle Buster. Homicide kicks his legs out. Ki double stomps Joe on the second rope! Lethal drops Homicide with a running suplex. Ki dropkicks Joe to the corner. Lethal goes for a superplex on Ki. Ki knocks him into Homicide. Homicide and Ki hit the AMAZING double stomp/Cop Killa combo on Lethal for the pin at 10:07. Talk about packing a lot of action into a short amount of time. That finish was an awesome ending to a wild, fun brawl. ***¼
Delirious vs. Ebessan vs. Jack Evans vs. Samoa Joe
“The Final Showdown” – Dayton, OH – 5.13.2005
Delirious freaks out at the bell and goes under the ring. Evans dances to “serve” Joe. Ebessan tags in and does his own dance. Evans does another dance, so Ebessan stomps on his face. Evans gives him a tornado enzuigiri. Delirious and Ebessan get in some sort of incoherent shouting match. When they get down to business, they have the weakest, purposefully slow exchange ever. It’s quite a sight to see. Dave Prazak on commentary really makes the sequence. After jabbing one another in the throat, they tag in Joe and Evans. Joe fights off Evans’ kicks and smacks him in the face. Joe kicks Evans so hard in the chest his shoes fall off. Delirious gives Evans the Neverending Story clothesline. Ebessan does some damage to Evans’ arm and hurts his own back in the process. After doing the Flair Strut, Ebessan goes up top. Evans tosses him off. Ebessan pokes him in the eyes. Evans backdrops him and Ebessan Flair flops. Delirious pins him for two. He kicks Ebessan down in the corner with Evans’ shoe in his mouth. Evans and Delirious form a makeshift team to wear down Ebessan. Ebessan makes a comeback by giving Evans a Shining Wizard and Delirious a Falcon Arrow. Joe tags in and cleans house. Joe and Ebessan end up in the ring together. Ebessan’s enzuigiri and chop do nothing. Joe puts him in the Coquina Clutch. At the same time, Evans hits a 450 splash on Delirious to get the pin at 13:47. This had Ebessan and Delirious in it, so of course it was good. Even Evans and Joe played along with the comedy and best of all the ending lead directly into a tag match the following night. This was a lot of fun, and it was nice to see Joe in something more comedic than usual. ***
Steel Cage Match
CM Punk vs. Jimmy Rave
“Nowhere To Run” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 5.14.2005
Rave tries to escape right away but Punk won’t allow it. He throws Rave multiple times into the cage head first to the point where Rave’s head busts open. Punk punches his open wound. He uses a chair on Rave. Punk goes to leave the cage. Jade Chung is awaiting with the door to slam on Punk’s head. Punk stops the door but Nana throws powder in his eyes! Rave smacks him in the head with the chair. Nana tries pulling Rave out of the ring. Punk ends up stopping him. Rave gets control until he and Punk fight on the top rope and end up crotching themselves simultaneously. Punk wins a strike exchange. He goes to climb out of the cage. Rave follows and brings Punk down with a Side Russian leg sweep. He applies a crossface while using the same boot lace he used a few months back. Punk fights out. He drops Rave onto his stomach and hits the Shining Wizard for two. Jade Chung enters the ring and jumps on Punk’s back. Punk throws her off. Rave tries sneaking in a spear and ends up hitting Chung with it! Punk tries a Frankesnteiner, but Rave counters it with the Rave Clash! Unfortunately for Rave, he is too worn down to go for a cover immediately. Both guys climb the cage again. Rave looks for a Super Rave Clash. When that doesn’t work, he comes off the top with a flying Doppler Effect. Punk kicks out. Nana again tries helping Rave escape. Punk again stops Rave and Welcomes him to Chicago. Punk chokes Rave with the boot lace. Rave fights Punk off momentarily. Punk pulls him up for the Pepsi Plunge. Nana enters the cage ready to fight. Punk grabs him. Rave almost spears Nana but stops when he realizes Punk had moved. Punk kicks them both in the side of the head. He sends Nana into the cage. Punk and Rave make it to the top of the cage. Punk superplexes Rave back to the mat! Punk crawls over and gets the pin at 24:15. This was a very emotional and fitting end to this feud, with several callbacks to their Third Anniversary Celebration and Manhattan Mayhem battles. Even though the cage didn’t completely put a halt to the Embassy’s interference, Punk and Rave utilized the cage in a very interesting way, including the ending which was awesome. Thus ends one of ROH’s best cage matches and what I believe to be one of the more underrated feuds of the era. ****
ROH World Championship
Austin Aries vs. CM Punk
“Death Before Dishonor III” – Morristown, NJ – 6.18.2005
This was promoted as Punk’s final match with ROH before departing for WWE. Because of this, the audience is completely behind him. Punk enters the ring with tears in his eyes and gets drowned in streamers by the crowd during Bobby Cruise’s introduction. Punk earned this title shot by winning his feud against Jimmy Rave. He defeated Aries’ partner Roderick Strong six days earlier at “The Future Is Now”, but Strong achieved his goal of wearing down Punk’s back. Aries is coming into this match with a messed up neck. The wear and tear of defending his title around the world had already been taking its toll on him, but three moments specifically did damage to his neck. First, Samoa Joe gave him a Muscle Buster at “Nowhere To Run.” A few weeks later, Spanky would hit him with the Sliced Bread #2 at “New Frontiers.” Finally, at “The Future Is Now”, Low Ki gave him a super Ki Krusher. Considering Punk’s finishers right now are the Pepsi Plunge and Anaconda Vise, that does not bode well for the defending champion. This is also the rubber match for these two, as Punk defeated Aries at “Glory By Honor III”, and Aries defeated Punk at “Weekend of Thunder, Night 1.” Aries has been champion since 12.26.2004 and this is his nineteenth defense.
As they’re posturing, Aries shoulder blocks Punk in the corner, and Punk forearms Aries in the neck. This lets each other know that they’re aware of their injuries. Aries lands a springboard back elbow off the second rope and grounds Punk with a side headlock. Punk counters into a headscissors, wisely dropkicking Aries when Aries goes for his patented headstand escape, and puts Aries in a side headlock himself. Punk holds onto it tightly no matter what Aries does to escape, harkening back to Punk’s strategy against Samoa Joe in their trilogy. Punk finally bulldogs Aries for a two count. Punk also gets two with a fisherman’s suplex. Aries goes for a brainbuster, but Punk escapes and drops Aries with a neckbreaker. Punk gets Aries to the floor and suicide dives onto him. However, as they get to the apron, Aries is able to give Punk a Death Valley Driver onto it! Aries sends Punk into the barricades twice. When he tries a third time, Punk reverses it and Aries crashes it into the barricades instead. Aries however pulls Punk by his trunks, sending him face first into the barricades. Inside the ring, Aries follows that up with a twisting body press and a quebrada to Punk’s lower back. The fans jeer Aries as he hits his shin breaker/back suplex combo. This continues as Aries sweeps Punk into a side slam. An entire turnbuckle pad is removed. Punk is sent back first into the exposed buckles. Aries is then sent chest first and flipped inside out with a Northern lariat. Punk busts out a flying forearm. After a couple back elbows he whips Aries to the corner twice and gives him a backdrop. Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker gets Punk a nearfall, as does a high crossbody. Aries blocks the Pepsi Twist and knocks down Punk with a running clothesline for two. Aries hits the IED. Punk ducks a rolling forearm, but Aries jackknife pins him. Punk reverses into a backslide for two. Aries gives Punk a piledriver for two. After a Finlay roll, Aries goes up top. Punk slams him back down to the mat. He tosses Aries up in the air, and when Aries lands, Punk blasts him with a Shining Wizard for two. Punk brings Aries up for the Pepsi Plunge. Aries counters with a super brainbuster, and Aries can’t believe it when Punk is able to kick out. Aries heads up top in the hopes of delivering a 450 splash again. Punk punches him several times in the forehead. He then hooks Aries’ arms. Aries reverses and gives Punk the Pepsi Plunge himself. Punk kicks out one and the fans go wild. Aries knocks him down with a rolling forearm strike and kicks him in the head. Aries nails the 450 splash, but Punk pulls him over into the Anaconda Vise! The fans are hoping for a tap out, but Aries gets his feet to the ropes. Aries crucifix pins Punk for two. Aries tries a crucifix driver, but Punk turns that into a TKO. Another Shining Wizard connects, and Punk finally hits the Pepsi Plunge for the pin at 30:26 to become the NEW ROH World Champion. The wrestling and story here were awesome, but it was the fans that made this match. They were dying to see Punk win the title, and their desperation made all of Punk’s comebacks, kick outs, and bigger moves even more significant due to their excitement, and their excitement helped make the match even more exciting. It felt like their adulation actually willed Punk to withstand Aries’ finishing moves and get the strength necessary to pull off the Pepsi Plunge. Them sprinkling in the neck and back work along with some callbacks to the Joe vs. Punk series were icing on the cake. This ruled, both serving as a fantastic end to Aries’ title reign, while also cementing Punk as an ROH icon. ****¼
Like a pro, Aries hands Punk the championship and raises his hand in victory. The fans chant “thank you, Aries” as he walks to the back. Punk says it was during his rivalry with Samoa Joe that he declared the ROH title the most important title in North America, but because of his victory, it is now the most important title in the world. In his hands, the title becomes power, and a microphone in his hand is like a pipe bomb. He tells a story about an old man who nurses a snake back to life, only for the snake to kill him once he is better, because that is what snakes do. Punk tells this story, because that’s exactly what he did to the fans. He used them and their emotions to win the title, and now that he has it, he doesn’t need them anymore. He says he’s better than Low Ki, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe, putting a fine point on it by saying “the champ is here.” He says he is taking the title to WWE, and there isn’t a single person in the locker room who can stop him. Punk looks towards the entrance ramp, but Christopher Daniels enters the ring through the crowd. The Fallen Angel chants let Punk know exactly who is in the ring. He whips around and the two of them go face to face. They trade blows with Daniels getting the better of the exchange. Punk slips away when Daniels goes for the BME.
Christopher Daniels vs. Matt Hardy
“Fate Of An Angel” – Woodbridge, CT – 7.16.2005
Daniels sends Hardy to the floor with a leg lariat. Hardy comes back with a clothesline and controls Daniels by his wrist. Daniels flips over his back drop attempt. He goes for the Angels Wings. Hardy counters and tries the Twist of Fate. Daniels shoulder blocks him repeatedly in the corner to block it. He Complete Shots Hardy into the Koji Clutch. Hardy grabs the bottom rope to break it. Daniels hip tosses Hardy to the floor and follows with an Arabian Press. He misses a slingshot elbow. Hardy gets two with a legdrop. He also gets two with the Side Effect. Same goes for a crucifix bomb. Daniels takes him down with an enzuigiri. He kicks Hardy into an STO. He gets two with the Blue Thunder Bomb. Hardy meets him on the top rope and superplexes him. When Daniels kicks out he tries to do it a second time. He pulls it off but the result is the same. Two more superplexes wears himself out as well. They trade strikes. Daniels side suplexes Hardy off the top rope. Hardy misses a moonsault. Daniels hits the BME for two. Hardy gets his knees up to block a quebrada. He rolls Daniels up for two. He nails a lariat for two. Daniels pulls off a Death Valley Driver. CM Punk makes his way ringside and punches Allison Danger. Daniels shoves hardy into the referee to block the Twist of Fate. Punk punches Daniels with the chain. Hardy then hits the Twist of Fate for two. Hardy puts him in a butterfly lock. The referee calls for the bell at 19:36. These two gave the live crowd exactly what they wanted. As a DVD viewer, it felt like the two of them were merely going through the motions here. Even though the story was very good, nothing about the wrestling itself stuck out as being particularly captivating. Punk’s interjection was by far the most intriguing part of the affair. ***
ROH World Championship
CM Punk vs. James Gibson
“Fate of an Angel” – Woodbridge, CT – 7.16.2005
Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his third defense. Gibson back drops Punk to the floor and suicide dives onto him. Back inside, Gibson lands a crossbody. Punk escapes a Tiger Driver attempt and sends Gibson’s bandaged up forehead into the buckles. Punk pulls one of the turnbuckle covers off to expose the metal underneath. It backfires as Gibson is able to send Punk shoulder first into the ring post. He works over Punk’s shoulder on the mat. Punk scoops him up into a backbreaker. Punk misses an elbow drop, and Gibson takes him back down with an armdrag so he can continue to do damage to Punk’s arm. Punk’s side also has been lacerated due to being thrown into the barricades a few times. He clotheslines Gibson to the floor. He pummels Gibson on the floor before bringing him back inside. Punk tries a crossbody, but Gibson catches him mid-air into a Fujiwara armbar. Punk gets his foot on the ropes to escape the hold. Punk Hot Shots Gibson onto the top rope. As Punk nurses his arm, he gives Gibson two backbreakers and a dropkick to the back of the head. Punk does more damage to Gibson’s head and neck, including using the ropes to add leverage to a side headlock as Gibson’s blood falls onto Punk’s wrist. Punk stops Gibson as Gibson begins to fight back by putting him in a bearhug. Gibson elbows his way free. Gibson reverses a knee strike with a schoolboy, looking for the original Trailer Hitch. Punk blocks and chokes Gibson with his wrist tape, causing Gibson to fall to the floor. Punk follows. They end up on the apron where Punk stops a Gibson Driver attempt, but ends up being dropped with a DDT. Gibson fires up with headbutts to Punk. He reverses a Punk suplex attempt into a crossbody, drops Punk with a neckbreaker, and delivers a legdrop from the second turnbuckle. but none gets him the pin. Gibson does get close with a German suplex. Punk evades a Tiger Driver, knocking down Gibson with a mule kick and enzuigiri. Punk ducks under a Pepsi Twist and rolls Punk into a Dragon Sleeper. Punk snapmares his way free, hits Gibson with the Shining Wizard, and tries the Anaconda Vise. Gibson is close enough to the ropes that Punk cannot get it applied. Gibson fires up from a Pepsi Twist and finally delivers the Tiger Driver, but Punk kicks out at two. When they get to the top turnbuckle, Punk wants the Pepsi Plunge, but Gibson backdrops Punk to the mat and follows up with a moonsault press instead. He then puts Punk in a Guillotine Choke. They end up trading pin attempts before Gibson re-applies the hold, this time with Punk on the mat. Punk muscles up and escapes with a vertical suplex. He puts on the Anaconda Vise. Gibson fights to his feet and fervently elbows his way free. Punk pulls him by the tights into an O’Connor Roll and holds onto the ropes to pin Gibson at 27:44. The despair from the audience was palpable as they hoped Gibson would defy the odds and take the title from Punk. Despite his injury, Gibson put up a tremendous fight and had Punk on the figurative ropes several times throughout the course of the match. You can’t help but wonder if Gibson had come into the match at 100%, and of course had Punk not cheated, if Gibson could have pulled it off. The great storytelling and hot crowd made this an awesome main event. ****
ROH World Championship; Elimination Match
CM Punk vs. Christopher Daniels vs. James Gibson vs. Samoa Joe
“Redemption” – Dayton, OH – 8.12.2005
Punk has been champion since 6.18.2005 and this is his fifth defense. Given the circumstances of “The Homecoming” it is worth noting that if this match goes the time limit, even if Punk is eliminated, he will remain the champion. Punk and Gibson trade holds to start. When Punk sends Gibson tumbling with a shoulder block, Daniels blind tags himself in, much to Gibson’s chagrin. The pace picks up as Punk and Daniels are determined to match one another when exaching holds. Joe requests to be tagged in, and Daniels fulfills the request. Gibson nor Daniels will allow Punk to tag out. Joe dumps Punk on his head with a Saito suplex, but Punk rolls outside to avoid Joe’s knee drop combo. Gibson however attacks Punk with a cannonball senton off of the apron. Punk slips through Joe’s legs and tags in Daniels. Daniels is determined to wear down Joe in a side headlock, but when Joe escapes twice, Daniels decides to tag out to Gibson. Despite Joe taking most of their exchange, Gibson avoids a senton splash and gives Joe one of his own. Joe dazes Gibson with a knee strike to the side of the head and tags in Daniels. Gibson works over Daniels’ left arm. Punk blind tags himself in when Gibson has Daniels in a hammerlock. Daniels and Gibson manage to take Punk down with a double hip toss. All three opponents get in their shots on Punk, leaving the champion dazed ringside. Daniels does some damage to Punk’s neck. Punk slaps Joe in the face to tag out. Joe focuses his anger on taking Daniels down and delivering the facewash kick. Punk tags himself in, then mocks Joe by hitting the same combo Joe attempted to hit him with earlier, but instead of a knee drop delivers an elbow drop. Punk gets Daniels in an Anaconda Vise in the ropes. Joe facewash kicks Punk while he is vulnerable, getting revenge for all the taunting. After Gibson tosses Punk back into the ring, Punk wears down Daniels’ back. When Punk tries to mimic Joe’s “Ole” kick, Joe stands in his trajectory. Punk re-enters the ring and continues to attack Daniels’ back and neck. Daniels gets his knees up to block a split-legged moonsault. He drops Punk with an STO. Gibson tags in. He gets in some offense on Punk, but ends up accidentally knocking Joe off the ring apron. Gibson backdrops Punk to the floor and follows with a pescado. Daniels hits an Arabian Press onto them both. Finally, Joe lays out all three of his opponents with an elbow suicida.
In the ring, Joe sends Gibson shoulder first into the ring post. Punk nails Gibson with a chair behind referee Todd Sinclair’s back, slamming Gibson’s head into the ring post! Gibson is busted open. He wants to get back in the ring, but several referees take him backstage instead. Joe wins a battle of hamstring kicks against Punk. Joe then powerslams Punk for two. Punk comes back with a Pepsi Twist and crooked moonsault or two. Daniels almost has Punk pinned with an O’Connor Roll. He then drops Punk with a Death Valley Driver. Punk evades a BME and hits Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker for two. A second BME lands. Punk however kicks out and tags in Joe. Joe boots and powerbomb Daniels before locking him in an STF. Daniels uses the ropes to escape. He Samoan drops Joe and hits a quebrada for two. Daniels then pulls Joe into the Koji Clutch. Joe’s arm almost drops for a third time, but he does get his foot on the rope to save himself. Joe avoids the Angels Wings. He gets Daniels in a rear naked choke. Daniels had his foot on the ropes, but Todd Sinclair doesn’t see it, and Punk shoves Daniels foot off the ropes before he can. Daniels passes out and is eliminated at 41:04. Daniels comes to and is not happy. Joe holds Punk in a waistlock. Daniels looks to give Punk a enzuigiri, but he ducks and Daniels hits Joe with it instead. Punk low blows Daniels. Punk then small packages and pins Joe at 42:07. Joe and Daniels fight ringside, not happy that they more or less both eliminated one another from the match. Joe gets his leg cut on the guardrail as referees split them up. The crowd chants for James Gibson, who commentary tells us is at the hospital across the street. Gibson then makes his way back out to the ring, with blood still on his forehead. Punk throws him outside to stop an onslaught of punches, but Gibson comes right back in with a high crossbody for two. Punk catches a running crossbody attempt and drops Gibson with a TKO. Gibson dropkicks Punk’s knee, but once again Punk tosses him to the floor. Gibson crotches Punk on the barricades and slams his leg against the barricade with a chair. Despite this, Punk is able to manage a super Frankensteiner in the ring. Gibson rolls through and locks on a cloverleaf. Punk reaches the ropes to force a break of the hold. Punk pops Gibson up, sending him crashing to the mat. Punk hits the Shining Wizard for two, then pulls Gibson into the Anaconda Vise. Gibson gets his feet on the ropes to escape. He pulls Punk into a crucifix pin for two. He reverses a whip into a kick to the stomach and drops Punk with a Tiger Driver. The crowd boos Punk when he kicks out at two. Punk pulls Gibson to the top turnbuckle for the Pepsi Plunge. Gibson however reverses it into a super Tiger Driver, pinning Punk and becoming the new ROH World Champion at 50:39. The amount of joy and relief felt by Gibson is palpable. A huge smile comes across his face as the babyface locker room and Gibson’s wife comes out to celebrate.
This title change was a very gratifying end to Punk’s short yet incredibly impactful title reign. Given that he was never able to defeat Joe during Joe’s reign as champion made it logical for him to avoid him at all costs. He also wasn’t able to defeat Daniels in their match at “The Homecoming”, which is why he also attempted to avoid him as well, albeit to a lesser extent than Joe, and thus hoped to run out the clock once again. He did however defeat Gibson at “Fate of An Angel”, so he was fine getting in the ring with him. In that match, Gibson subverted the Pepsi Plunge. While in that match he did so with a backdrop, here it was a super Tiger Driver, and that is what it took to finally unseat the man who kept threatening to take the title with him. Gibson was also busted open by Punk in their previous title match, but in this scenario, two other people also worked to wear down Punk, making it somewhat less of an obstacle that Gibson had to fight back from. On top of that, this match finally got Punk his pinfall victory over Joe, and reignited Joe and Daniels issue with one another. Suffice it to say, there was a lot to love in this match. While it probably didn’t need to be 50 minutes, and there is an argument to be made that perhaps Daniels should’ve won this match instead, the crowd response to Gibson winning and his tremendous celebration erased any doubts I had that he was not the “right” choice. All four parties put in a tremendous effort and produced something really special. ****½
Spanky playfully tells Gibson he can’t wait to get that first title shot, brother. Gibson celebrates with a Coors Light as the fans chant “match of the year.” If only they knew what was coming October 1st. Gibson thanks the fans and puts over the locker room. Gibson even thanks Punk, shaking his hand.
2 out of 3 Falls
CM Punk vs. Colt Cabana
“Punk: The Final Chapter” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 8.13.2005
Punk and Cabana shake hands and embrace before Todd Sinclair calls for the bell. After feeling each other out they engage in a double knuckle lock. Punk shoulder tackles Cabana three times. Cabana trips him to avoid a fourth. He takes Punk down with an armdrag and headscissors him to the corner. Punk headscissors Cabana into an armdrag to show him up. He comes off the second rope with a crossbody for two. Punk keeps armdragging Cabana and Cabana keeps putting him in a headscissors. They criss-cross the ropes. Cabana tries his old face slapping gag but it doesn’t work. Cabana stomps on both of Punk’s feet instead. Punk low blows Cabana behind the referee’s back in retaliation. Punk gives Cabana the Colt 45 to pick up the first fall at 12:41. Punk catches Cabana in an Anaconda Vise in the ropes. After releasing the hold he comes in with a missile dropkick. Cabana catches Punk with a lariat to pick up the second fall at 16:06. Both guys talk some trash as they exchange chops. Cabana fires away with some chops and strikes to the chest. Punk goes for another Anaconda Vise but Cabana simply dumps Punk to the floor. They go in and out of the ring until finally Punk comes off the apron with a Frankensteiner. Back in the ring he goes for an underhook maneuver. Cabana counters with a butterfly suplex for two. Cabana forearms Punk off the apron and follows with an Asai moonsault. Back in the ring Punk gives Cabana a Frankensteiner. Cabana rolls through and applies a Boston Crab. Punk escapes and spikes Cabana with a reverse Frankensteiner. Punk hits him with a Busaiku Knee. Cabana brings Punk off the ropes with a belly-to-back suplex that sees Punk land on his head. Punk kicks out. When he and Cabana recover, Punk applies the Anaconda Vise. Punk brings him to the top with a Pepsi Plunge. Cabana brings him down with a Samoan Drop. Punk crucifixes him for two. He also gets two with a running knee strike. Punk and Cabana switch positions in a roll-up until Cabana catches Punk with a three count at 27:46 to win the bout. The rest of the Summer of Punk offers the better matches from Punk, but that isn’t what this match was about at all. This was all about him and his best friend in the business having one last match and having fun while doing so, and leaving the crowd with a positive impression of someone who made an indelible mark on the promotion. The match was held under the right circumstances: in Chicago under in 2 out of 3 falls rules (which is the type of match that put their names on the map in the Midwest) and in front of the right audience. This won’t be remembered as a classic, but as a fun farewell for one of the most important wrestlers in Ring of Honor history. ***
Punk is bewildered that Cabana got him for a three count. Ultimately though he comes to terms with it and shakes Cabana’s hand. Punk’s parents and the entire locker room enter the ring to send him off, including Cary Silkin. Cabana showers Punk with Pepsi and also presents him with a champagne flute of Pepsi. Punk says tonight is very emotional for him, as he loves ROH. He says it’s the best place to wrestle, and has both the best fans and locker room. He says tonight is one of the best nights of his life, thanks Chicago, and drinks his Pepsi along with Cabana and Steel. Punk also thanks Gabe Sapolsky who is standing in the entrance way, along with the Rottweilers. He says ROH is his family and that they are the future of wrestling. The show concludes with Cabana and Steel holding up Punk on their shoulders and leading everyone in a “CM Punk” chant.
ROH World Championship
James Gibson vs. Bryan Danielson
“Glory By Honor IV” – Lake Grove, NY – 9.17.2005
This is Danielson’s first match back in ROH since May. Each guy snaps off an armdrag. Gibson and Danielson trade control of the others’ arm. Gibson swipes Danielson’s dropkick away. Danielson gets the ropes to get Gibson off his arm. Danielson fakes a chop but breaks away cleanly instead. Danielson shoulder blocks Gibson to send him to the corner. Gibson shoulder blocks Danielson himself. Danielson pops up to hit a dropkick and drops a knee across Gibson’s face. Gibson gets the ropes to prevent Danielson’s Cattle Mutilation attempt. A knuckle lock sees Danielson monkey flip Gibson. Gibson flips back up and suplexes Danielson for two. Danielson gives Gibson a quesadora backbreaker. Gibson knees Danielson in the stomach. He gets two with a suplex. Gibson puts on a seated abdominal stretch. Danielson hip tosses his way free. Danielson European uppercuts Gibson to the apron. Gibson suplexes Danielson to the floor, causing Danielson to land on his feet and collapse. Gibson dives off the apron with a knee strike to send Danielson into the barricades. Gibson uses the barricades some more before throwing Danielson back into the ring. Gibson works over Danielson’s back and neck in a fairly aggressive manner. Danielson flips out of the corner and delivers a tornado kick. Danielson delivers a charging forearm and a slingshot suplex for two. Danielson stomps Gibson’s knees into the mat. Danielson puts on the Romero Special while applying a chinlock. Gibson grabs the ropes to break the hold. Danielson airplane spins Gibson. He misses a diving headbutt. Gibson rolls Danielson into a bridging reverse prawn hold for two. Gibson counters a hip toss with a Guillotine choke. Danielson suplexes his way out. Gibson ducks a clothesline and looks for the Tiger Driver. Danielson sits down on Gibson’s chest to block it. Danielson successfully hits the diving headbutt for two. Danielson flips Gibson to the floor. Danielson suicide dives after him. Danielson kicks Gibson’s arm against the barricades. Danielson missile dropkicks him back in the ring. Danielson divorce courts Gibson’s arm for two. Danielson hyper-extends Gibson’s arm. Gibson shoves Danielson to the ropes three times, each time Danielson shoulder blocking Gibson in his bad arm to the mat. Gibson delivers a quick Samoan drop to get a moment of relief. Danielson Northern Lights suplexes Gibson into a cross armbreaker. Gibson reverses it into a Cloverleaf. Danielson crawls under the ropes to break the hold. Danielson and Gibson fight for position on their feet. Gibson hits a Tombstone Piledriver and goes up top. Gibson comes off with a legdrop for two. Gibson reapplies the Guillotine in the middle of the ring. Danielson drives Gibson into the turnbuckles. Gibson delivers a swinging DDT and the Tiger Driver for two. Danielson fires up as Gibson throws a chop. Gibson pokes him in the eyes, but Danielson is still able to hit a rolling forearm. Danielson dropkicks Gibson into the turnbuckles. He hits a Dragon suplex for two. Danielson twists Gibson into the Cattle Mutilation. Gibson gets to his feet, so Danielson Dragon suplexes him again. Gibson uses the ropes to roll Danielson into a pin attempt for two. Danielson applies a crossface chicken wing! Gibson taps out at 32:23, and Danielson is the NEW ROH World Champion.
There was no better way possible for Danielson to return to ROH than this match. It made total sense that he would return just for the title since the reason he left (in storyline) was because he lost a title match and that was the only thing he cared about. It was a very good match and a nice passing of the torch moment that would launch ROH into its next era. In a time where CM Punk had just left and James Gibson was also leaving, getting Danielson back into the mix made things fresh and exciting once again. ****¼
Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi
“Joe vs. Kobashi” – New York, NY – 10.1.2005
Joe takes Kobashi to the ropes and smacks him in the face. Kobashi gives Joe a vicious chop in the corner. Joe suplexes him out of a knuckle lock, then shoulder blocks him to the floor when he gets up. Joe follows with an elbow suicida. In the ring Kobashi fires up when Joe starts throwing chops. Kobashi throws them right back with much more intensity. Joe throws some kicks and an enzuigiri in response. Joe throws Kawada kicks to his head. Kobashi feels no pain, so Joe throws knee at his head instead to take him down. Kobashi eats the Ole kick on the floor. He chops Joe when he tries it a second time. Kobashi then chops Joe into the crowd. Ringside, he DDT’s Joe on the floor. Kobashi chops Joe to the mat and gives him three falling chops to the chest for a two count. Chops are thrown by both men with great ferocity. It is Kobashi who ends up knocking Joe off his feet. Joe grabs the ropes to break an abdominal stretch. Joe blocks a rolling chop. He drops Kobashi with the STJoe and also lands a senton. Joe throws punches and chops in the corner. He powerbombs Kobashi in the corner! Joe only gets two with a facewash kick and Muscle Buster. He powerbombs Kobashi into the STF. Kobashi gets the ropes. He dumps Joe on his head with a half-nelson suplex! Kobashi unloads with an incredible amount of chops to Joe in the corner. We’re talking roughly 100 of them, if not more. Kobashi gives him another half-nelson suplex. Joe grabs the bottom rope to stop the pin count. Joe comes back with some forearms. Kobashi catches him with a sleeper. He drops Joe on his head again with a sleeper suplex. Joe kicks out! He throws rapid fire slaps to the face. Kobashi gives him three rolling chops and the Burning Lariat for the pin at 22:13. This was unreal. When you think of the spectacle of Joe and Kobashi, this is exactly what you would have expected. I’m still surprised Kobashi took so much of Joe’s key offense and made him look great. Sure, there’s some things to complain about, but this was such a pivotal point in Ring of Honor that its faults are so easy to look past. While I don’t think it’s a perfect match like some, it’s still quite incredible and a must watch for fans. ****½
Kenta Kobashi & Homicide vs. Samoa Joe & Low Ki
“Unforgettable” – Philadelphia, PA – 10.2.2005
Joe backs Kobashi to the ropes, but unlike last night, he backs away cleanly. Joe walks through a chop and shoulder blocks Kobashi to the mat. He kicks Kobashi to the floor and dives out with an elbow suicida. A chop battle breaks out in the ring. Joe forearms Kobashi to the corner and tags in Ki. He’s able to put on a cross armbreaker in the ropes for a few seconds. He headstands into a chest kick. Homicide tags in. He and Ki go back and forth until Ki pulls Homicide to his corner and tags in Joe. Joe drops a knee across his chest. Homicide goes to his eyes and drops his own knee on Joe’s temple. Kobashi drives his knee into Joe’s chest a few times. He gets two with a falling chop. Joe snapmares Homicide and dropkicks him to the corner. Ki stomps Homicide’s bad shoulder. Homicide fires up and enzuigiri’s Ki. Homicide throws Ki to the floor so Kobashi can lay in some chops and suplex him on the entrance ramp. That makes it easy for Kobashi and Homicide to take control of the match. Ki shows glimmers of hope when throwing an enzuigiri from the floor. He stomps Homicide’s chest in after avoiding a sunset flip. When Kobashi stops him from tagging, Joe comes in and knocks down Kobashi in the corner. Homicide tries an Ace Crusher. Joe blocks it and hits a Death Valley Driver. Kobashi breaks the cover. Ki double stomps Homicide in a tree of woe for two. Homicide drops Joe with a swinging DDT and tags in Kobashi. He chops up Joe in the corner. Ki comes in, but Kobashi just chops him up instead. He pitches Ki out and goes back to chopping Joe. A spinning chop leads to a sleeper suplex. Ki lunges at Kobashi and also gets suplexed. Joe powerslams Kobashi into a cross armbreaker. Homicide breaks it up. Joe throws him out. He powerbombs Kobashi into the STF. He then drops Kobashi with a Backdrop Driver. Joe follows with the Muscle Buster. Kobashi kicks out! Ki comes in with a double stomp. Kobashi avoids it. Ki however successfully pulls of Black Magic. He attempts the Ki Krusher. Kobashi escapes but gets dropkicked to the corner. Ki puts on a standing armbar. Homicide uses an Ace Crusher to stop him. Joe cuts off his lariat attempt. Ki goes for the Tidal Wave and it ends up hitting Joe and sending him to the floor. Homicide tope con hilo’s after him. Kobashi swats away the Tidal Crush and powerbombs Ki for two. Kobashi hits the Orange Crush. Joe dives in to break the pin. Homicide takes Joe back to the floor and sentons off of the apron. Kobashi lariats Ki inside out for the pin at 26:22. That was quite the spectacle. Everyone was on point, the crowd was rocking and Joe/Homicide/Ki mixed a little bit of their history with each other in there. Obviously this does not get the recognition the Joe/Kobashi singles match does but it’s still pretty awesome. ****
ROH World Championship
Bryan Danielson vs. Steve Corino
“Buffalo Stampede” – Buffalo, NY – 10.15.2005
Danielson has been champion since 9.17.2005 and this is his second defense. In order to prove he was “The Best in the World”, Danielson sent out open World Title contracts to wrestling promotions around the world, looking for challengers. Corino signed the contract that was sent to the HUSTLE organization and Dream Stage Entertainment in Japan.
A quick clothesline and Northern Lights Bomb score Corino a nearfall right at the jump. He throws Danielson into the barricades several times. Back in the ring they trade forearm strikes, ending with Danielson taking down Corino with a rolling variation. The fans chant “You’re going to get your fucking head kicked in”, which may be the genesis of that chant for Danielson. Some stalling from Corino leads to Danielson dropkicking Corino to the floor. Corino shoulder blocks Danielson when comes back in, but Danielson comes back with another dropkick. Corino becomes frustrated when he can’t get the better of Danielson in a double knuckle lock. Danielson continues to anger Corino with multiple slaps to the face and an enzuigiri. Corino finally scores with a boot from the corner and a neckbreaker. He gets a two count with a superplex, and another two count after a DDT. Corino whips Danielson to the corner, who flips off of the turnbuckles and cracks Corino with another enzuigiri. An Earthquake Splash gets Danielson a two count. Danielson blocks a Hamachan cutter and comes off the top turnbuckle with a dropkick. Due to Corino’s girth, Danielson decides to stomp Corino’s knees into the canvas instead of attempting the Romero Special. Danielson misses a diving headbutt, and Corino puts him in a Crossface Clutch. When Danielson gets to the ropes, Corino tries applying a Cobra Clutch on his feet, but Danielson German suplexes Corino for two. Corino weaves under an Irish Whip and drops Danielson with an STO for two. Danielson blocks a lariat and pulls Corino down into Cattle Mutilation. Corino gets both his feet on the bottom rope to escape. Danielson superplexes Corino and then lands the diving headbutt successfully. Danielson re-applies the Cattle Mutilation, then maneuvers Corino into a seatbelt pin for two. Danielson avoids another Northern Lights Bomb attempt. He also blocks a lariat, but Corino scoops him up and into the Northern Lights Bomb for two. Corino calls for the Old School Expulsion. He pulls up a limp Danielson, who swings out of the hold and gives Corino a Regalplex for two. Danielson puts Corino in the Crossface Chicken Wing, and Corino submits at 24:13. This was better than I expected, mostly in part to Corino doing very little shtick. He and Danielson had a really solid and interesting match, but a quiet crowd and no real threat of the title changing hands certainly hindered the bout. ***¼
ROH World Championship
Bryan Danielson vs. Roderick Strong
“This Means War” – Woodbridge, CT – 10.29.2005
Danielson has been champion since 9.17.2005 and this is his third defense. Strong earned this title shot by winning the 2005 Survival of the Fittest tournament. They play mind games with one another, backing each other to corners and threatening strikes, but ultimately breaking clean. Danielson goes for an early armbar, which Strong stops by grabbing the ropes, and Danielson strikes first with a chop. The next time Danielson takes Strong to the corner, he grabs at Strong’s face before chopping him again. Strong gets his foot on the ropes to break a wristlock. Danielson bails to the floor after a very hard chop from Strong, and slaps Strong in the face when he re-enters the ring. Another exchange ends with Danielson bailing after a hard chop. Danielson becomes angered after taking more chops, and he unleashes it by contorting Strong’s nose as he has him in a grounded abdominal stretch. He drops a knee across Strong’s nose and kicks him in the back twice. Danielson works over Strong’s left elbow. Strong Judo throws Danielson and unleashes with more chops, which Danielson stops with an eye poke. Strong crawls to the ropes to avoid the Romero Special, so Danielson decides to choke Strong on the middle rope and applies pressure to his left elbow in the ropes. Strong gets in a flurry of chops and nails Danielson with a dropkick for two. After a second dropkick, Strong charges at Danielson, and Danielson uses his feet to propel Strong to the floor. Danielson taunts the absent Samoa Joe with an Ole kick. He puts Strong in a Camel Clutch before throwing him back in the ring. Strong fires back with several chops. Danielson hits the ropes. Strong catches him coming off with a backbreaker, then hoists him into a belly-to-back suplex, and then applies the Stronghold. Danielson gets the ropes to escape. Danielson is able to nail a top rope dropkick, but Strong ducks a rolling elbow and delivers a uranage backbreaker. He locks Danielson in the Stronghold again. Danielson uses the ropes to escape and takes a respite in the corner. Strong boots Danielson in the forehead multiple times. They end up fighting on the turnbuckles, where Strong gives Danielson so many open hand shots, that Danielson falls to the floor slowly. Strong bodyslams Danielson on the floor before giving him a powerbomb back in the ring. Strong puts Danielson in a legged full nelson, which Danielson turns over. He pounds on Strong’s nose and face before driving his knee into the back of Strong’s head. Danielson stomps Strong’s knees into the mat before giving him a spinning toe hold and locking on a figure four leg lock. Strong eventually makes it to the ropes, much to Danielson’s dismay. Strong evades a diving headbutt. After trading pinning combinations, Danielson tries for the crossface chicken wing. Strong counters with a backbreaker, which hurts himself thanks to Danielson damaging his knee. Strong gets Danielson in the Stronghold. Danielson prawn holds free and Strong kicks out of that pin attempt. Strong thinks he has Danielson knocked out after an elbow strike. Danielson wakes up when Strong tries to turn him over for a pin. He peppers Danielson with slaps to the face. Strong grounds Danielson and throws forearm strikes to his face. Danielson traps Strong’s left arm in an Omoplata shoulder lock, and Strong taps out immediately at 37:05. Strong immediately bails, and Danielson is so fired up he spits at Strong twice and yells at him, with Strong yelling back from the floor. This match worked so well in making Strong as close to an equal to Danielson as he could be, and that it almost seemed like the champion winning was a fluke. The final moments felt like the best worked shoot in wrestling history, and even though Danielson defeated Strong soundly, it felt like a rematch was warranted and that Strong was even more of a made man. Killer stuff. ****¼
AJ Styles & Matt Sydal vs. The Embassy (Jimmy Rave & Abyss)
“Showdown in Motown” – Detroit, MI – 11.4.2005
Daizee Haze is in Sydal and Styles’ corner, and Prince Nana is in the Embassy’s corner. Sydal gets the better of Rave on the mat, so Rave pokes him in the eyes. When Styles tags in, Rave retreats to Abyss’ aid as fast as he can. Styles is popped in the air, but he pops off Abyss’ shoulders and takes down the big man with a Frankensteiner. He dropkicks Abyss and wipes out a charging Rave with a spin kick. Abyss throws Styles sky high as Styles comes off the ropes, and does the same to Sydal when he comes in charging. Styles and Sydal each enzuigiri Abyss, knocking him down and to the floor. Styles throws Rave onto Abyss, and both he and Sydal dive onto The Embassy. Back in the ring, Sydal takes down Rave with a headscissors and a clothesline. Abyss trips Sydal and drags him to the floor where he sends him crashing into the barricades. He throws Sydal back into the ring where Rave pins Sydal for two. The Embassy beat down Sydal in their half of the ring. Sydal humorously attempts a running crossbody which does not even budge Abyss one bit. Sydal is able to roll over a backdrop attempt from Rave, backsliding him for two, then finally getting to tag in Styles. Styles blasts Rave with a springboard forearm. Sydal assists Styles with a Pele Kick to Abyss. Styles then spins out Rave from a Toture Rack into a powerbomb. Abyss stops Styles from giving Rave the Styles Clash and drops him with the Shock Treatment. Rave spears Sydal for two. Sydal escapes Ghanareha and lands a standing shooting star press for two. As Sydal is coming off the ropes, Rave drops down and Abyss swings Sydal into a Black Hole Slam. Styles avoids the same fate and impressively lifts Abyss into a modified Styles Blash. The Spiral Tap follows, but Rave clobbers Styles with the Doppler Effect upon landing. Sydal brings down Rave from the top turnbuckle with Cyclorama for the pin at 14:17. The Sydal beat down was a bit slow, but the rest of the match was high energy and a whole lot of fun. Maybe not a crucial chapter in the Embassy/Generation Next feud, but an enjoyable way for the feud to be featured on the card. ***¼
Steel Cage Warfare
Generation Next (Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Jack Evans & Matt Sydal) vs. The Embassy (Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley, Abyss & Prince Nana)
“Steel Cage Warfare” – New York, NY – 12.3.2005
One man from each team starts out in the cage and then every five minutes a new person comes in with each team alternating. Since The Embassy won the eight man tag team match at “Vendetta”, the second entrant will be from their group, giving them the “man advantage” all match long. This match is under elimination rules. Unlike a traditional War Games match, you may pin or submit your opponent at any time; you do not have to wait for all eight people to be in the match.
Rave and Aries start out. Rave pokes Aries in the eyes so he can escape to the floor. Aries stops him from going backstage and from climbing into the crowd. Inside the ring he crotches Rave on the top rope. Aries knocks Rave down with an elbow, reverses an Irish whip, and backdrops him. Aries has control when Alex Shelley enters the cage with a chair, wearing a Generation Next shirt to mess with the opposing team. Aries knocks Shelley into the barricades as he tries entering the ring. Aries springboards off the second rope and knocks both Shelley and Rave down with back elbows. Aries throws both Rave and Shelley into the cage, but they take Aries down with a spear and clothesline combo. They pretty easily dominate over Aries until Matt Sydal enters. Sydal throws both Rave and Shelley into the cage right away so Aries can recover in the corner. He drop toe holds Rave onto Shelley, then moonsaults Rave onto Shelley for a two count. Sydal and Aries go for many pin attempts but can’t seem to keep them down. Abyss comes in and is jumped by Sydal and Aries right away. He boots Sydal and drops Aries with the Shock Treatment. That gives the Embassy the chance to turn things around. Shelley cracks Aries with a chair while Abyss tosses Sydal into the cage. Shelley skull f*cks Aries onto the chair. Roderick Strong is the next man out. He throws out chops and backbreakers on Shelley and Abyss like they’re going out of style. When Rave turns around, he gets chopped and kneed into the cage. Abyss overhead suplexes Strong into the cage and gives Sydal the Black Hole Slam. Raven the Pedigrees Sydal to eliminate him at 22:17. Rave throws Strong into the barricades so that Shelley and Abyss can beat down Aries inside the cage. Prince Nana enters as the fourth and final member of the Embassy. He is thrilled with how dominant The Embassy is at the moment. Rave brings Strong back into the cage. 4 on 2, the Embassy has an easy time wearing down Aries and Strong. Jade Chung comes out on the microphone. She was taken out at the end of “Vendetta” with a Pedigree on the concrete. Nana orders The Embassy to go after her. At the same time, Jack Evans enters the ring as the final participant. With all of the Embassy on the floor, Evans climbs the cage and does a double rotation moonsault onto them! Strong and Aries join Evans on the floor and send the Embassy into the barricades. They end up getting Abyss alone in the cage. Strong gives him a gut buster. Rave comes back in. From the top of the cage, Evans and Strong perform the Ode to the Bulldogs off of Rave and onto Abyss to eliminate Abyss at 32:15. The sides are now even. Rave is crotched on the top rope and all of Generation Next attacks him while he’s hanging upside down. Shelley crotches Aries on the top rope. Evans elbows him in the corner and delivers the Busaiku Knee. He follows with a 630 splash but Shelley gets his knees up. Shelley gives Evans the Air Raid Crash off of the second turnbuckle for the elimination at 35:44. Aries powerbombs Rave from the second rope. Rave spears Strong. Shelley superkicks Aries. He blocks the Pedigree, but Shelley gives him the Shell Shock. Strong breaks the pin. Rave then drops Aries with Ghanarhea for two. Nana comes in hoping to hip attack both Strong and Aries. He has both Rave and Shelley hold them. Unbeknownst to him, he accidentally hip attacks his own men. Rave and Shelley also accidentally attack Nana. Strong gives Rave the Orange Crush backbreaker and two half-nelson backbreakers. Meanwhile, Aries drops Shelley with a brainbuster through a chair. He pins Shelley at 40:00. At the same time, Strong makes Rave submit to the Lion Tamer. That leaves Nana alone with Strong and Aries. He tries escaping the cage but gets caught. They pummel him for fun until finally putting him down with a half-nelson suplex/450 splash combo at 41:36. This match was booked brilliantly. The order of entry was just right and each person in Generation Next got the revenge they needed to blow off the feud in a satisfactory way. The five minute intervals resulted in a lot of stalling, but even that didn’t feel like completely wasted time. This was a perfect way to conclude this rivalry, and to this day it is still the best Steel Cage Warfare match ROH has produced. ****¼
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship
KENTA vs. Low Ki
“Final Battle 2005” – Edison, NJ – 12.17.2005
KENTA has been champion since 7.8.2005 and this is his fifth defense. This title defense is also his ROH debut. Both men are careful when approaching the opening collar-and-elbow tie up. KENTA breaks it against the ropes and Ki ducks his kick attempt. Ki turns a lock-up in the corner to an armbar in the ropes, releasing before the count of five. Ki locks on a headscissors. KENTA switches out into a hammerlock. Ki chops KENTA against the ropes. Ki delivers some chest kicks and KENTA back elbows him down. KENTA lays in his own chest kicks. Ki kicks him back up to a standing position. KENTA and Ki trade slaps across the face. Ki kicks him in the back of the head. KENTA drops Ki’s neck across the top rope and chokes him. KENTA’s diving clothesline gets him a one count. KENTA pitches Ki out to the floor and sends him into the barricades. KENTA kicks Ki as he’s in the ropes. KENTA slingshots back in and gives Ki a back punt to the head. Ki stops KENTA’s momentum with a Koppu Kick. Ki drops him on the top rope and kicks him to the floor. Ki hops off the top turnbuckle and down onto KENTA with a double axe handle, getting a two count back in the ring. Ki ends a strike exchange with an enzuigiri and gets another two count with a slam. Ki applies a bodyscissors. KENTA drags himself to the ropes to break it. Ki blocks a sunset flip with a double stomp. Ki drives KENTA back first into the barricades. Back in the ring, Ki trips KENTA onto the second rope and double stomps his back. KENTA uses his last bit of energy to snap off a powerslam. He boots Ki in the corner and mid-ring, firing himself back up with chest kicks. A springboard dropkick gets him two. He blocks Ki’s chop and suplexes him into a cross armbreaker. Ki gets the ropes fairly quickly. KENTA gets two with a Falcon Arrow. KENTA and Ki fight on the top turnbuckle. Ki puts KENTA in a tree of woe and delivers a double stomp. KENTA kicks out. Ki lights him up with chops. KENTA goes for the KENTA Rush but gets cut off with a springboard chest kick. KENTA kicks out of that as well. Ki throws some Kawada kicks. Ki goes to the top turnbuckle, but KENTA leaps up and gives Ki a super Falcon Arrow. Both men catch their breath before trapping open hand strikes back on their feet. KENTA takes Ki down with a hard slap for two. Ki blocks the Busaiku Knee and hits the Ki Krusher for two. Ki hits a cartwheel enzuigiri in the corner. He calls for a second Ki Krusher. Instead, KENTA gives him a Tiger suplex for two. Ki dropkicks KENTA to the corner and hits the Warrior’s Way for two. Ki then misses a Phoenix Splash. KENTA delivers the Go 2 Sleep, and then connects with the Busaiku Knee for the pin at 25:00. These two tore the house down and had the fans going hog wild. This was all the awesome wrestling you would expect these two to deliver against one other. The fans are chanting “five star match”, and while I don’t agree, I’d say it’s pretty damn close. What a killer debut for KENTA. ****½