This week’s TV episode features three championship bouts from Ring of Honor’s past:
ROH Pure Wrestling 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. Traci Brooks is in Punk’s corner. Punk uses the ropes to counter a wristlock which the referee counts as one 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 brings him down to two rope breaks as well. A lock-up ends up on the floor. Back in the ring they criss-cross the ropes. Styles goes after Traci to neutralize her. Punk pescado’s onto him. Punk stops himself from being whipped into the barricades but Styles dropkicks him. He lands 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. 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. No both guys are out of rope breaks, so the ropes can be used. Both guys fight on 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. That was a masterful way to introduce the title. They showcased the three rope break rule in a very clever way and how losing those rope breaks can also be beneficial if done so wisely. There was some ingenious work put in from both competitors. I really do feel this gets overlooked by the awesome World title match on the same show, and the rematch they had at “At Our Best”. ***¾
ROH World Championship
Bryan Danielson vs. Delirious
“Ring of Homicide” – Edison, NJ – 5.13.2006
Danielson has been champion since 9.17.2005 and this is his twentieth defense. Delirious gets the better of Danielson by jumping him at the bell. Danielson manages to roll to the floor to avoid a punt to the head. He spends some time on the floor before attempting Cattle Mutilation when comes back into the ring. Danielson does more damage to Delirious’ arm before trying it again, and once more the ropes save Delirious. Delirious counters Danielson’s suplex with a headscissors takedown and nails a leaping clothesline for one. Delirious ducks a rolling forearm and delivers a belly-to-back suplex. Daneilson grabs the ropes to escape a Cobra Clutch attempt, and Delirious Cactus crossbody’s Danielson to the floor. Danielson takes control of the match by dropping Delirious’ throat first on the barricades and throwing a chair at his head. He puts Delirious in the Romero Special before choking him with his own mask tassels back in the ring. He sends Delirious crashing into the barricades again before putting Delirious in a variety of submissions. Delirious spins around and sends Danielson outside to avoid a chicken wing, and follows him with a suicide dive. Danielson cravate suplexes Delirious to stop his barrage of chops in the corner. When Delirious attempts a diving headbutt, Delirious catches him mid-air into an Ace Crusher. After a running dropkick, Delirious uses a crucifix to maneuver Danielson into the Cobra Stretch. Danielson gets his foot on the ropes and nails a diving uppercut off of the second turnbuckle. A Dragon suplex gets Danielson a two count, and he then successfully puts Delirious in the Crossface Chicken Wing. Delirious uses the ropes to escape, and the crowd rejoices. When Danielson goes for a belly-to-back superplex, Delirious reverses in mid-air and lands with a crossbody. He hits the Panic Attack and Shadows Over Hell for two. He gives Danielson a backbreaker before reapplying the Cobra Stretch. Danielson rolls to the ropes and Delirious goes for Shadows Over Hell again. Danielson catches him coming off the top and locks him in Cattle Mutilation. Danielson gets angry when Delirious once again gets his foot on the bottom rope, so he throws elbows to the side of Delirious’ head. Delirious fights out and punts Danielson in the head twice. When Delirious charges again, Danielson catches him in a small package for the pin at 24:28. This is up there as one of Delirious’ best matches in ROH, and is probably his best singles match overall. He looked really strong against Danielson and believably came close to winning the belt on a couple of occasions. The group of fans on their feet when Delirious fought back right before getting pinned gave me life. Danielson having to catch him off guard to get the win speaks a lot to how much either Danielson or management were behind Delirious at the time. This also had some fun call backs to their first match. In summation, this match overachieved. ****
ROH World Championship
Austin Aries vs. Tyler Black
“8th Anniversary Show” – New York, NY – 2.13.2010
Aries has been champion since 6.13.2009 and this is his thirteenth defense. Since their title match at “Final Battle 2009” went to a sixty minute draw, three judges are present in the event this match also goes to a draw. Aries chose Kenny King as one judge, Black chose Roderick Strong as one judge, and Jim Cornette is the third judge. All three judges are seated at a table ringside.
Aries cracks Black with a rolling punch before the bell. Aries gives him a back rake, and a slap from Black results in Aries bailing to the outside. Aries also rolls back outside when Black nails him with a springboard clothesline. Black snapmares Aries into a back kick for two. Aries looks for a springback elbow and gets caught in a back suplex from the challenger. Aries kicks out of an O’Connor Roll, sending Black shoulder first into the ring post. Aries comes off the top with a double axe handle to Black on the floor. Aries does more damage to Black’s back and neck inside the ring. Aries blasts him with a missile dropkick and Black gets his foot on the rope to stop Aries’ pin attempt. Aries uses the top rope to assist with a brainbuster for two. Black single leg dropkicks Aries to crotch him on the top turnbuckle. He superplexes Aries and then pulls him up into an F5 for two. Black forearms Aries off the apron and into the crowd, and then follows with a springboard dive onto Aries in the crowd. In the ring, Aries is able to backdrop Black to the apron to avoid a powerbomb, and then drop Black on the ring frame with a Death Valley Driver. Black simply steps out of the way of Aries’ Heat-Seeking Missile and brings him back into the ring. Black pulls Aries off of the turnbuckles and into a Rubix Cube! The follow-up Phoenix Splash misses. They trade strikes until Aries whips Black to the corner and delivers the IED. Aries follows up with two brainbusters. Black gets his knees up to block Aries’ 450 Splash and cradles him for a two count. Aries tries another brainbuster, and Black counters with God’s Last Gift for two. King jumps to the apron when Black goes to the top turnbuckle. Strong follows him to try and stop King, but in doing so accidentally crotches Black on the top turnbuckle! Black superkicks Strong, and then superkicks Cornette when he tries to talk sense into Black. Black then superkicks Aries after resisting an O’Conor Roll. A Buckle Bomb and two superkicks lead to Black landing the Phoenix Splash and getting the pin at 22:24. I had been a big Black fan for a few years, but when this happened, the overwhelming feeling was “well, it’s about time.” That’s possibly the coldest, most cynical response to a title change one could have, but with the way ROH dicked around with giving Black the title for a year plus, it’s no surprise that it seemed to be the general sentiment at that time. They had a totally fine match, and while the interference wasn’t overdone, it felt a belt needless. At least Black finally got his due. ***½
Title matches with big names isn’t a bad way to fill another week of TV. We got three more classic matches coming at you next week, but also, Minoru Suzuki defends the ROH TV Title against Samoa Joe.