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Column of Honor: 12.31.09: Final Column 2009 Part Five – Top 100 ROH Matches of 2009 # 100-31

December 31, 2009 | Posted by Ari Berenstein

Ring Toss
-Outside Looking In: #110-101
-The Top 100 ROH Matches of the Year 2009: #’s 100-31


Based on 38 DVD shows from and 12 HDNet Tapings (36 episodes) from 2008-2009 (counting Double Feature II as two shows) as compared to 38 DVD shows and PPVs from 2007-2008.

Includes matches from The French Connection (11/07/08) through Clash of the Contenders (10/09/09).The list also includes matches from ROH’s Rising Above 2008 PPV show since its first airing was in January of 2009. The list includes all HDNet shows taped through September 11th 2009, running through airdates on November 30th, 2009.

Excludes matches from the November 5th & 6th 2009 HDNet tapings as well as DVD programs from Survival of the Fittest 2009 (10/10/09) onwards, including 11/07 (Edison, NJ), 11/13 (Novi, MI) , 11/14 (Mississauga, Ontario), 12/5 (Chicago Ridge, IL) 12/18 (Manassas, VA) 12/19 (Manhattan, NY). All of the matches for these shows will be eligible for next year’s list.

Based on a number of factors including match quality, importance (i.e. a title vs. non-title match, a match that has an important sea change in ROH history), atmosphere & crowd reaction, as well as personal taste.

For your consideration:

=On the Outside Looking In: #110-101=
These matches just missed the Top 100 cut:

110. Falls Count Anywhere Match: The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs & Brodie Lee) vs. Tyler Black & Necro Butcher
—Steel City Clash (Elizabeth, PA 03/20/09)
109. Roderick Strong vs. Nigel McGuinness
—The Final Countdown: Boston (Boston, MA 09/25/09)
108. Bryan Danielson vs. Mike Quackenbush
—Steel City Clash (Elizabeth, PA 03/20/09)
107. Markham Street Fight: Delirious vs. Jimmy Jacobs
—Tag Title Classic (Markham, Ontario, Canada 04/18/09)
106. Three-Way Match: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Eddie Edwards
—Never Say Die (Boston, MA 05/08/09)
105. Davey Richards vs. Tyler Black
—A Cut Above (Dayton, OH 04/24/09)
104. “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen vs. Davey Richards
—Proving Ground 2009 Night 2 (Orlando, FL 02/07/09)
103. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe
—Glory By Honor VIII: The Final Countdown (New York, NY 09/26/09)
102. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Eddie Edwards
—The Homecoming II Chicago Ridge, IL 4/25/09
101. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny King
—Contention (Manassas, VA 06/12/09)

=*******The Top 100*******=

(***½ matches)

100. The Briscoes vs. The Super Smash Brothers (Player Uno & Player Dos)
—Death Before Dishonor VII Night 1 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada 07/24/09)

A hard fought contest from Players Uno and Dos against a Briscoes team that was returning to form. There is some brisk back-and-forth including some classic double teams from The Briscoes and the SSB showing off their wares as well.

99. Austin Aries vs. Roderick Strong
—Steel City Clash (Elizabeth, PA 03/20/09)

One of the best avoidance chop sequences you’ll find sees Aries ducking almost every time for the opening ten minutes of the match while unleashing his own meak attempts (which do not measure up to Strong). He then resorts to running all around ringside and back. Strong catches up with him and finally lands the chops and absolutely lights up Aries’ chest and neck. Aries wins with the brainbuster after King and Titus provide some distraction. Hated the intrusion of those two late in the match, loved everything else.

98. Non-Title: ROH World Tag Team Champions “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. The Dark City Fight Club (Jon Davis & Kory Chavis)
—Proving Ground 2009 Night 1 (Coral Springs, FL 02/06/09)

The first big opportunity for DCFC and they make the most of it. Steen & Generico have proven to be great “first opponents” for new tag teams. They allowed Chavis and Davis to feature their offense and look dangerous, including their biggest (and coolest looking) combinations like their Total Elimination variation and Project Mayhem. That gets them over with the audience, but Generico and Steen then look even better because they can take all that offensive firepower and still win.

97. Roderick Strong, Erick Stevens, & Brent Albright vs. Dark City Fight Club (Jon Davis & Kory Chavis) & Francisco Ciatso
—Proving Ground 2009 Night 2 (Orlando, FL 02/07/09)

I was very entertained the whole way through, which was a bit of a surprise considering I hadn’t seen much of DCFC or Ciatso before. All three played very well against the heavy-hitters of the ROH roster. Davis’ POUNCE on Strong is a memorable highlight (loved it when Monty Brown used to do it and I think Davis’ is even better). The faces take over on the homestretch and wreck the opposition, but this regardless was a good two-night stand for DCFC that got them future bookings.

96. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Alex Koslov
—Supercard of Honor IV (Houston, TX 04/03/09)

Kozlov had begun to make a name for himself in AAA in Mexico after working in PWG and on the West Coast. It was a fun ten minute match where we were able to see some of Kozlov’s entertaining signature spots based on his Russian heritage while Dragon played off that and let the crowd reaction push him forward as the match progressed.

95. Fight Without Honor: Delirious vs. Jimmy Jacobs
—ROH on HDNet Episode 15 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 05/29/09, Aired 06/27/09)

While the first match these two had against each other was actually at Insanity Unleashed, this one might be more well remembered when all is said and done because it was featured on the HDNet show. Delirious made sure to pay back Jacobs for every minute of pain and suffering he had to endure as a member of Age of the Fall. They brawled around ringside, they went through tables, but when all was done it was Delirious who found revenge and Jacobs who was soon to be on his way out of the company.

94. Sonjay Dutt vs. Delirious
—ROH on HDNet Episode 28 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 08/15/09, Aired 10/05/09)

Unlike their first match on HDNet which was boring and pedantic (also suffered due to the lack of crowd heat since that match took place in the middle of a tapings), this one was fast-paced, well-executed and had a molten hot crowd that loved Delirious’ act. Delirious responded to the crowd love with some extra hustle in this match, diving multiple times to the outside and adding in lots of interaction with the fans.

93. The Briscoes vs. Kenny King & Rhett Titus
—ROH on HDNet Episode 24 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 06/20/09, Aired 09/07/09)

The first official tag match for The Briscoes in 2009 on HDNet after Mark Briscoe returned from injury and they worked so well that it was as if they had never been apart. King and Titus are sorely underrated as a heel tag team, but they very much were the glue that held the structure of this match together. A really fun opening sequence where The Briscoes ran roughshod on King & Titus, then King’s swagger kept the heat interesting.

92. Three-Way Match: Roderick Strong vs. Jay Briscoe vs. D-Lo Brown
—ROH on HD Net Episode 19 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 06/19/09, Aired 08/21/09)

What on the surface seemed like a throw-away bout was actually really solid and told a great story of Jay and Roddy teaming up against D-Lo until each was isolated by Brown. All three men reunite for final volley against each other. There is a well-timed finish with Strong taking advantage of D-Lo’s Sky High attempt and converting it to the sunset flip and holding the cradle roll-through for the three-count.

91. Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana & “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Bison Smith & Jimmy Rave
—Seventh Anniversary Show (New York, NY 03/21/09)

A ho-hum show up until this point when Prince Nana brought down the thunder in the return of “The Crown Jewel” Jimmy Rave. Danielson had a secret mystery partner as well, but it wasn’t Grizzley Redwood, who got chucked by Bison Smith almost as soon as he entered ringside. No, it was none other than the return of Colt Cabana, just a few weeks after being cut loose by WWE. The Hammerstein Ballroom exploded to Barry Manilow’s “Copa Cabana” as it became NYC’s personal soundtrack for those few minutes. The match itself was almost secondary to the magic that was the set-up and the return of Rave and Cabana, but what they gave was a likeable comedy-centered performance with Danielson giving just enough a touch of seriousness with his technical panache. Befitting of his return, Cabana outshines Rave and steals his glory throughout the match, to the utter disdain of Nana.

90. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Kenny King & Rhett Titus
—Manhattan Mayhem III (New York, NY 06/13/09)

This was not the first Bucks match in ROH but it was perhaps the most important. New York City can be a very critical crowd with talent they don’t know very well. The Bucks went in as the first match of the evening, with many fans catcalling them, referencing them as Hardy Boyz wanna-bes or Rockers rip-offs. After an awesome, near non-stop sequence of the Bucks best and coolest signature moves, the NYC crowd was swooning with love for The Bucks. King and Titus more than held their own as well as drawing lots of crowd heat. The finish which included The Bucks nailing More Bang for Your Buck (rapid-fire Finlay Roll to 450 Splash to Moonsault) was met with wild applause and standing ovations. No doubt, NYC was impressed and this match was a success.

89. KENTA & El Generico vs. ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness & Davey Richards
—Steel City Clash (Elizabeth, PA 03/20/09)

While this pairing was done more to set up the next night’s matches, it was still a worthy main-event for the show with KENTA proving to be the real highlight. KENTA picked up the pinfall on McGuinness during this one, which was quite impressive for the timeframe.

88. Kensuke Sasaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Brent Albright & Roderick Strong
—All Star Extravaganza IV (Philadelphia, PA 12/26/08)

You have the NOAH tag style of pairing a junior and a heavyweight against a junior and another heavyweight, but in this case it was Strong’s audacious challenge to Sasaki that carried the body of the match. These four fired some heavy lumber against each other. The strong style combined with the intriguing combinations of the fresh pairings of these men created excitement and intrigue, which made this match mean a heck of a lot more in the long run. Sasaki would pin Albright after a Northern Lights Bomb for the victory.

87. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. Up in Smoke (Cheech & Cloudy)
—The Final Countdown: Boston (Boston, MA 09/25/09)

A fantastic opening match that pits babyface teams against each other in a battle of tag team “can you top this?” The Bucks look great, Cheech & Cloudy look like they can hang and the crowd gets way up in enthusiasm. Just a genuine hell of an effort by all four men and I wish ROH would do more with the C&C connection.

86. ROH World Title Match: Austin Aries (c) vs. Delirious
—Clash of the Contenders (Collinsvile, IL 10/09/09)

Delirious shows some serious skills here and it results in the crowd taking him as a serious and significant challenge to the champion. It’s the first time in a long time that Delirious really looked like he could win the ROH World Title. Aries struck a very good balance between his heel act and pressing the action. The brawl in the crowd was fun, with Delirious spitting soda on Aries. Delirious had some nice counters in the middle of the match and surprised Aries with moves like the Bizarro Driver for close falls. Aries’ wipe-out of Daizee was fantastic and unexpected but so logical that it definitely added to the match. This had one of the best executions of the panic attacks because there was just enough space to make it look like Aries was “flying” backwards into the turnbuckle and that visual worked out well. There is a hot reversal series ending with a crazy looking cobra clutch suplex. Aries finally kicks Delirious as he is coming down with Shadows Over Hell and hits a brainbuster for the three.

85. ROH World Tag Team Titles: “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico (c) vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe
—Bound By Hate (Markham, Ontario, Canada 11/08/08)

This was a huge win for the newly crowned tag team champions—a clean win (via victory roll) over their former long time nemesis in their home country. The fire was still burning between these two teams before, during and after the match, which led to some very clever moments like Steen taunting Jay about the lack of a man in the corner to tag, pulling down the ropes several times on the opponent, and a very memorable series of Steen spitting on Mark (who goes bug-eyed in disbelief) after Mark repeatedly attempts to break up the sharpshooter on Jay. A slow heat segment in the middle and the finish being a bit too sudden hurt this tag title match a bit when compared to others on the list, but the match definitely was fitting of the title to the show and a worthy main event.

84. Jay Briscoe vs. Roderick Strong (II)
—Tag Title Classic (Markham, Ontario, Canada 04/18/09)

A very good reprise of their first match that featured more of the competitive spirit on display—and plenty of stinging man-sized chops as well. Strong gets a bit testier with Jay in this one, so you know it’s going to be Jay who takes advantage of that. He rolls up Roddy for the pin to even their series at one-apiece.

83. Davey Richards vs. Claudio Castagnoli
—The Final Countdown Tour: Dayton (Dayton, OH 09/18/09)

Heel vs. heel matches are difficult to do, but these two absolutely came through. This one did not concentrate too much on any overt heel tactics done, although there was still a bit of heel intrigue with the presence of Nana and Hagadorn at ringside. The focus was on the desire of each man to prove his superiority—The American Wolf against the Very European wrestler. Richards hit the hardest and had the better strategy, so he won.

82. No DQ Match: Jimmy Jacobs vs. Delirious
—Insanity Unleashed (Indianapolis, IN 03/14/09)

A lot of this match is payback from Delirious onto Jacobs for the months of abuse and manipulation. It’s all about the multiple panic attacks, which are very brutal and really take this one over the top. Jacobs does win it by smashing Delirious through a table with The End Time DDT locked on. Both men really felt in the groove here and it resulted in an intense grudge match worth watching over and over again.

81. ROH World Title Match: Jerry Lynn (c) vs. Roderick Strong
—A Cut Above (Dayton, OH 04/24/09)

Strong being cut open and bleeding gobs of blood may have been a fluky incident, but it put what was at that point a very good main-event match into overdrive. Would this match have been as good without the blood? Doesn’t matter. The blood bath and Strong’s crimson mask and the resulting drama of both men trying to finish each other as quickly as possible worked out for the best. It also resulted in an iconic DVD cover for the year as well as helped to build Strong’s popularity for his 2009 babyface run.

80. ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness (c) vs. El Generico
—Caged Collision (Chicago Ridge, IL Taped on 01/31/09l, Aired on 04/17/09)

It was obvious that Generico wasn’t going to win the title against McGuinness, but he could still make you believe. McGuinness gets a great sneak attack in the beginning, sending Generico’s head careening into the title belt. Some death-defying dives from Generico here (one of which Generico deftly saved from disaster) put McGuinness at risk. Kevin Steen’s presence as a cheerleader throughout the match helped to keep the crowd on edge and rally around Generico’s underdog comebacks, which are what helps to make Generico’s matches, win or lose, that much more satisfying. However, Nigel does win with the London Dungeon.

79. Tyler Black vs. Chris Hero
—The Homecoming II (Chicago Ridge, IL 04/25/09)

Black’s impact offense against Hero’s impact offense? I’m down for that. Lots of elbows here from Hero and he actually takes the advantage throughout most of the match. Black absorbs a superbomb and soon after comes back to win with God’s Last Gift.

78. Kenny Omega & The Briscoes vs. ROH World Champion Austin Aries, Kenny King & Rhett Titus
—Death Before Dishonor VII Night 2 (Markham, Ontario, Canada 07/25/09)

There’s something wacky with Omega and The Briscoes teaming up—they work well together (see their previous team up during Southern Hostility). This is a very well-put together tag match and the obvious focus is on Aries and Omega, who pins Aries for the second time. He wasn’t given a title shot on this night but he would lock in his opportunity for a future shot with that pin.

***3/4 matches

77. Tyler Black vs. Davey Richards
—Proving Ground 2009 Night 1 (Coral Springs, FL 02/06/09)

This was the main of the evening and it turned out to be the right call to make because both upped their game and put forth an effort to make it a true main event. There was some terrific psychology with Richards focusing his strikes on a specific body part, thus affecting Black the rest of the way through. The spin kick to the corner looked sick, with Black flying backwards into the turnbuckle. Some great counters based off proximity and timing (countering the handspring with the baseball slide dropkick) and eventually Black wins after a gritty comeback with the Bucklebomb and superkick.

76. Jerry Lynn vs. Tyler Black
—Motor City Madness 2009 (Detroit, MI 01/30/09)

Just a fantastic and easily watchable babyface versus babyface match— and I always appreciate one of those. Lynn and Black do counter wrestling early on, then let loose on furious pinfall exchanges, finally ending in some high impact moves saves by the ropes and by the bell. I am usually disappointed by time limit draws in non-title matches, but this one was an exception. It felt like both men gave a great effort and that they had come to a reasonable and logical endpoint for the match to finish in the draw.

75. ROH World Tag Team Title Match: American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards) (c) vs. Bryan Danielson & Tyler Black
—ROH on HD Net Episode 15 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 05/29/09, Aired 06/27/09)

This match set up the final Black vs. Danielson match in the HDNet series, with the angle that Black and Danielson couldn’t quite work with each other in their efforts to win the tag titles. Each would get their own advantage but couldn’t capitalize, while The Wolves not only responded with their own divide and conquer, but they used Danielson and Black’s mistrust in order to obtain a decisive advantage. Good storyline, excellent execution.

74. Three Way Match: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Tyler Black vs. Kenny Omega
—Bound By Hate (Markham, Ontario, Canada 11/08/08)

This one wowed the fans and me with some of the unique exchanges done—DOUBLE Cattle Mutilation and double bridge lift up by Danielson, for instance. The enthusiasm for Omega from his home country crowd definitely helps him fit right in with ROH’s top names. He has some very clever moments attempting to manipulate Black and Danielson then paying hell for it. An impressive outing by everyone involved—fast paced, innovative, entertaining and everyone looked better for having participated. Danielson wins with the MMA elbows on Omega.

73. Anything Goes Match: “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen vs. Davey Richards
—Never Say Die (Boston, MA 05/08/09)

Steen really shines in hardcore style matches going all the way back to his days brawling with Super Dragon in PWG. Last year he had a series of wonderfully brutal bouts against Necro Butcher in Boston, and in 2009 he had singles matches against both members of The American Wolves. It’s one of those pretty looking brawls in that it has a relatively fast pace and the back-and-forth exchanges have a certain artistry to their brutality (although I’m sure taking a superplex through a bunch of chairs also hurts like hell). This is the match where Steen proposed marriage to Richards and then took it back—what an Indian giver. Lots of chairs and table action (even a ladder) between the two, finishing with Steen’s extremely savage looking package piledriver through the wood.

72. Tyler Black vs. Austin Aries
—Wrestling At The Gateway (Collinsville, IL 12/05/08)

What at the time was viewed as something of an upset win for Tyler Black as Black put Aries away with God’s Last Gift. This was a really smart back-and-forth tempo, with Black really impressing with his aerial moves. The nice twist at the end works well, where it seemed like Aries was going to win with the brainbuster and instead Black muscles him up for the GLG. This match also served as the final straw for Aries’ heel turn that would come just a few weeks later in a rematch.

71. Four Corner Survival Match: Austin Aries vs. Kenny Omega vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Silas Young
—Stylin’ & Profilin’ (Collinsville, IL 03/13/09)

Started out as something of a stand-off between the two heels, but when Omega and Young (at that point a face) forced the issue, then it became a super fast-paced four-way that harkened back to the scramble matches of old. It seemed like every second someone was busting out a flying move and using speed and momentum as a deciding factor. If you’re going to go for such a match, you just have to throw yourself into it and do the best match possible for this style. I feel that was accomplished here and Omega especially had good opportunities to show off. Aries takes it with a brainbuster on Omega.

70. El Generico vs. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson
—Proving Ground 2009 Night 2 (Orlando, FL 02/07/09)

The several-minutes long preamble to the match might be remembered more than the match itself, with the crowd chanting for Danielson to kick Generico’s head in, but then when Generico gets upset then they force Danielson to apologize. Good comedy stuff and even better when they get serious and tell a great in-ring story. Danielson has the edge as usual with his submissions, bending Generico like he used to do to Jack Evans. When Generico takes flight, he throws Danielson off guard. The finish has an unnecessary and unfortunate appearance from Bison Smith (interference after a good and long match being a bad habit of booking early in the year) but at least he didn’t technically get in the ring. Instead Danielson deals with him and the temporary distraction gives Generico enough time to recover and cut off Danielson on the rope. That leads right to the awesome turnbuckle brainbuster for the pinfall, which in ROH is an upset win for Generico.

69. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries
—ROH on HDNet Episode 3 (Philadelphia PA, Taped on 03/01/09, Aired on 04/04/09)

This should have been the main event of the first episode of the HDNet series, not the third. Even though this iteration of Aries-Danielson was a simplified version of the content usually involved, it still involved two of the best wrestlers on the roster at the time with really good wrestling action. Interesting that Aries was not far off from winning the ROH World Title, but it was Danielson that won via submission, demonstrating that he was to be one of the main players early on in the HDNet series.

68. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs. The Dark City Fight Club (Jon Davis & Kory Chavis)
—The Final Countdown Tour: Chicago (Chicago Ridge, IL 09/19/09)

You’d think that The Bucks would be overpowered and outmatched against a bigger team like Dark City, but in both this match and their battle on HDNet it was The Bucks who dominated with their blistering speed and combination moves. They used their brains and agility to win against brawn. Good stuff here.

67. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Kenny Omega
—Glory By Honor VIII: The Final Countdown (New York, NY 9/26/09)

Initially I was dismayed when I learned that this match would take place on this card—after all, New York City had already seen it happen. However, this rematch was eons better than their first and almost stole the entire show out from under Ladder War 2 and Danielson-McGuinness. Omega’s determination to win came through and he played off the tactics he used in the first match to dazzle Claudio and catch him off-guard. Claudio responded with some amazing displays of sheer brute strength, which gave the fans—at this point used to booing him—no choice but to mark out for what he was doing. Prince Nana supplied the x-factor on the outside. The two more memorable spots will be the declaration of a duel using opposing gloves and of course Claudio’s “no hands” airplane spin torture rack. It wasn’t the first time he had used the move in ROH, but it was the first time most in NYC had seen him use it, and popped the crowd something fierce.

66. Eight-Man Elimination Tag Match: Team Cabana (Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana, Brent Albright, Necro Butcher & Grizzly Redwood) vs. The Embassy (Jimmy Rave, Claudio Castagnoli, Ernie Osiris & Prince Nana
—ROH on HDNet Episode 23 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 06/20/09, Aired 08/31/09)

It’s a bit of a puzzler how The Embassy managed to gain the three-on-one advantage over Cabana’s team when they had Osiris and Nana in their line-up—hardly the bastions of endurance and strength. Still, there is plenty to enjoy about this match, a “Survivor Series” elimination style bout done right. Everyone gets a chance to make an impression (and everyone’s actions ring true to their persona). There are some clever moments of teamwork (including the abdominal stretch that utilized the entire front row) and a great set of babyface clear-outs (at the beginning by all four men and then during Albright’s big comeback) that really put the focus on the strategy of the match. Cabana endures his team being whittled down and uses wrestling (yay!) and intellect to get it down to him and Nana, who is always great playing the desperate weasel manager afraid of getting his just desserts. Cabana taps him out to the Billy Goat’s Curse.

65. Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong
—The French Connection (Montreal, Quebec 11/07/08)

A match that sort of came out of nowhere on this, the first of the Adam Pearce shows. We were right in the middle of the Richards vs. Strong fallout from the end of the No Remorse Corps faction and these two hadn’t wrestled against each other for ROH in two months. Still, the hatred and vitriol was there. This was a foreshadowing of the breakthrough year that Richards would have—he was really pushing himself in this one, and the result of that extra effort is now apparent.

64. The Briscoes vs. “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico
—ROH on HDNet Episode 25 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 08/14/09, Aired 09/14/09)

A near classic match whose overall effect is dampened by a run-in meant to push forward a storyline angle for future television and house shows. It seems like that television-style match often seen in WWE and TNA crept its way more often into ROH programming in 2009, especially once, you know, they got their own television show. This was the first time these two teams were pitted against each other since Mark was injured and had to take time off. Yet the chemistry between the two teams was there and so were the reasons why we rooted for each team: Each team acting as a family, united by a bond and a desire to be the best tag team in the world, up against another team who won’t back down from anything. Again, a great television main event, but for that run in by the American Wolves, this one would have been way higher on the list.

63. Jerry Lynn vs. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson
—Injustice II (Edison, NJ 01/17/09)

Both wrestlers are faces, but while there is a lot of respect between the two they also don’t hold back against each other, and the desire to win makes them both start to take liberties. Dragon become super aggressive here using more physical moves and strikes as opposed to the first match. Yet it’s Lynn who ties up the score here by using the Cradle Piledriver out of a really cool reversal to secure the pinfall.

62. Sonjay Dutt vs. El Generico
—Death Before Dishonor VII Night 1 (Toronto, Ontario 07/24/09)

A fifteen-minute draw that absolutely flew by and that’s a good choice of words because both Generico and Dutt rack up some frequent flier miles with the amount of air they got in this one. Also, the final minutes didn’t feel obvious or predictable as some draws are wont to do. Generico was very popular in Canada so they were very much behind him and really got into the possibility of him winning the match. Dutt has been hit-or-miss in his return to ROH, but he was excellent here.

61. ROH World Tag Team Title Match: The American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards) (c) vs. The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe)
—The Final Countdown Tour: Chicago (Chicago Ridge, IL 09/19/09)

Again another match that but for an unclean finish (in this case a disqualification when Richards dropkicked the ref blatantly) would have ranked much higher on the list. This match was originally scheduled as a non-title bout, but in a rare case of The Briscoes using their brains to get one over their opponents instead of their brawn, they used their win from the Honor Rumble as leverage for Cary Silken to change the match to a title shot. The change was certainly met with approval by the live crowd and ramped up the intensity of the near-falls.

60. KENTA, “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. American Wolves & Chris Hero
—ROH on HDNet Episode 17 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 05/30/09, Aired 07/18/09)

It was KENTA’s second appearance on HDNet and he gets to be a true bad-ass here, leveling his entire opposition at one point with kicks and closelines. The good guys don’t quite get the job done though, as Generico taps out to the Cloverleaf. Regardless of the unhappy ending, this was an excellent six-man main-event that was given plenty of time for this to become a really great match. Everyone had a chance to shine in the spotlight, but Edwards was given a strong showing here as he continued to demonstrate his improvement as a member of The Wolves.

59. Eight-Man Elimination Tag Match: Team Cabana (Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana, Brent Albright, Necro Butcher & Grizzly Redwood) vs. The Embassy (Jimmy Rave, Joey Ryan, Bison Smith & Claudio Castagnoli w/ Prince Nana)
—Death Before Dishonor VII Night 1 (Toronto, Ontario 07/24/09)

The good guys won the HDNet match but the heels proved superior here due in part to a stronger line-up (swapping Osiris and Nana for Bison and Ryan was definitely a STOCK UP move for Nana), which means they split the series 1-1. This was the better of the two elimination matches due to the more intricate in-ring storytelling and improved match strategy utilized by each team. Smith absolutely manhandled Grizzley Redwood, bloodied him greatly, but Griz took it and still wanted to fight. Colt once again was left the sole man on his team but this time he could not overcome the odds and was eliminated by Joey Ryan.

58. Roderick Strong vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
—Supercard of Honor IV (Houston, TX 04/03/09)

I really enjoyed this one, even though it’s a shorter match than would be expected when dealing with the caliber of wrestlers as Strong and Nakajima. In that respect, personal preference pushes this one up a little further than others might have it. The match only ran about ten minutes, but in that time they packed a hell of a wallop—and by that I mean of course Strong’s scorching chops on Nakajima’s chest, and Nakajima’s kicks blasting into Strong’s ribs. A bit of an upset in this one with Strong scoring the win over someone who was being pushed very strongly in Japan as Kensuke Sasaki’s protégé and KENTA’s prime rival.

57. ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness (c) vs. Tyler Black
—Injustice II (Edison, NJ 01/17/09)

One of the more difficult matches to place on this list and I’ve moved it several times. The extracurricular activities really brought down the match but the actual wrestling between McGuinness and Black were quite excellent. We will never know how great this match could have been if it had just been Nigel and Tyler fighting it out one-on-one for the duration of the match and without the interference. So I can only judge the match that happened, with all the gaga involved, and this is what I came up with—not the worst of the year but certainly not belonging anywhere near the top.

56. ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness (c) vs. Jerry Lynn
—Supercard of Honor IV (Houston, TX 04/03/09)

You could really tell that Nigel was hurting here, but major respect for him still pulling out one last very good effort before taking time off. The chain wrestling in the beginning brings you back to their non-title match in 2008 that saw Lynn begin his comeback in ROH. Nigel doesn’t cut out the lariats, and the grimaces he gives after landing them add to the drama, whether or not it was real pain (and considering his condition at this time, I wouldn’t doubt it). Lynn takes advantage of the obvious injury and uses it for several submission spots. Sound psychology and in the end it pays off for him as he maneuvers out of one last lariat attempt into the cradle piledriver to win the ROH World Title. Regardless of the debate as to Lynn winning the title, it is an incredibly important match as it was the first ROH World Title change in over eighteen months.

55. Non-Title Match: Tyler Black vs. ROH World Champion Jerry Lynn
—Contention (Manassas, VA 06/12/09)

Once again Black has a really good match in a non-title situation in Virginia. He just seems to thrive in that area. This match and the one against McGuinness tell the kind of interesting stories of athletic competition that I want out of my ROH product. Lots of interesting counter wrestling from both men (including the cool snapmare escapes early on). Black finally gains some solid momentum at the end and takes out the champion with his Bucklebomb / Superkick combination, just like he did to McGuinness.

54. Non-Title Match Roderick Strong vs. ROH World Champion Austin Aries
—ROH on HD Net Episode 22 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 06/20/09, Aired 08/08/09)

This is a far better match than their earlier effort on HDNet and that’s thanks to a faster pace and a louder, more interested audience. The story is Strong going for his backbreakers and Stronghold attempts but Aries finding a way to weasel out of them. However Strong does weaken Aries enough to the point that when Aries has an advantage he can’t fully capitalize with his normal finishing moves. Strong applies his Stronghold but Aries resorts to cheating to win by a roll up and feet using the ropes. That’s old school heel work that actually works in this context—it’s a fine line to be sure.

53. Non-Title: “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. ROH World Tag Team Champions The American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards)
—End Of An Age (Chicago Ridge, IL 06/27/09)

Steenerico lets it all hang out in this match in order to ensure they have one more chance to win the ROH World Tag Team Titles. This one is more about the balls-to-the-wall action and it makes sense because Generico and Steen have to forgo the formalities and press the action. There is a good deal of tag team psychology at work here as when either team has the two-on-one advantage they easily hit their big double team combinations. The tandem alarm clock kick that Edwards and Richards use is one such example. Steen and Generico do get a measure of payback for their knee injuries by getting Edwards to tap out to the sharpshooter while Generico unleashes the turnbuckle brainbuster on Richards. A clear-cut win by Steenerico that brings the rivalry between the teams into its final act—they would use the title shot here for Ladder War 2 at Glory By Honor VIII.

**** matches

52. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Tyler Black (II)
—ROH on HDNet Episode 8 (Philadelphia PA, Taped on 04/29/09, Aired on 05/09/09)

When you want to see a match that is move-for-move and hold-for-hold, check out this effort from Danielson and Black. Although he’s known for more high impact offense, Black is right there with Dragon for much of the early going wrestling hold exchanges. Dragon also knows how to compete with Tyler in the air game. The three-match series was definitely about Dragon having the edge and Tyler doing his best to prove he was at Dragon’s level. Danielson has the experience and knowledge but Black had the power and athleticism to counter him. This match goes twenty minutes of excellent wrestling before it ends in a double count-out, thus necessitating a third bout in the series. I understand then, the booking of the finish, but its obviousness in happening and the audible disappointment both the live audience and the viewer feels without a concrete resolution certainly knocks it down a peg.

51. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Jerry Lynn
—All Star Extravaganza IV (Philadelphia, PA 12/26/08)

If you’re a fan of wrestlers trading holds and trying to outmaneuver each other you’ll love this match. It’s full of different counters and reversals from unique positions, befitting of the technical expertise of both men. Watch for the cool reversal of the Cradle Piledriver into the Triangle Choke—very creative. Dragon vs. Lynn was a unique and fresh combination for ROH at the time, pitting one the best wrestlers of the current generation against a guy who was a leader of a more fast-paced style of the previous generation. Danielson wins this first-ever bout by getting his shoulder up during a small package cradle. It was a clean-enough win to put Danielson over as the better man on that night, but held back enough to force a rematch, which was almost as good.

=*******The Top 50*******=

**** matches

50. Jerry Lynn & Bryan Danielson vs. The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs & Delirious)
—Proving Ground 2009 Night 1 (Coral Springs, FL 02/06/09)

If only Danielson and Lynn had more time together as a team—they could have provided some damned fine efforts against the likes of The Wolves, The Briscoes or Steenerico. Alas it was not to be, but you do get this as a hint of what might have been. They work so well together in this match, combining their technical moves for precision teamwork. They run circles around Jacobs and Delirious, who have to resort to savagery in order to gain the advantage. A great hot tag sequence and run to the finish wraps up the match in the favor of Team Technical. This match definitely has been slept on all year, but I will not neglect recognizing it for this list.

49. Four Corner Survival: Roderick Strong vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Delirious vs. Grizzley Redwood
—Glory By Honor VIII: The Final Countdown (New York, NY 09/26/09)

Don’t skip this one if you get the DVD. Everyone is super motivated—even Grizzley Redwood looks like a world beater here—and the result is one of the surprise hits of a show filled with great matches and important moments. Strong and Dutt deliver against each other once more—their exchanges are fun and crisp. Strong is a beast here with his chops and jumping kicks, while Dutt’s selling in particular of the massive beatdown Strong gives him at the end of the match is a sight. Throw in Delirious running after Dutt all match for some variety and unpredictability and you’ve got a hell of four-way. Strong wins over Dutt with a massive Gibson Driver, but all due to credit to all involved.

48. ROH World Title Match: Jerry Lynn (c) vs. Chris Hero
—Never Say Die (Boston, MA 05/08/09)

The second best title defense for Lynn next to the four corner match on HDNet and I think this one gets overlooked when considering some of the better title defenses of the year. Hero was booked when his tour of Mexico was cancelled due to swine flu, but it turned out to be for the best because this was a hell of an effort from both Hero and Lynn. Hero pressed the offense and at times overwhelmed Lynn with the force of his elbow attacks and the diversity of angles used in landing them. Lynn persevered and used his savvy to counter several big blows, allowing him to maneuver Hero into pinning positions and nearly winning. Eventually it would take two cradle piledrivers to win, but doing so sent the message that Lynn would not be denied his place as champion and that he had the ability to win when the chips were down.

47. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson & Austin Aries vs. The Age of the Fall (Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black)
—The French Connection (Montreal, Quebec 11/07/08)

One of the last matches where Danielson and Aries were together as “Team Work” before the Aries heel turn and they do go out on a high note. This match is in service of the Aries vs. Jacobs feud, so a lot of it is Jacobs manipulating his way out of fighting Aries…but unlike using this tactic in a singles match there is a lot of action going on because he still has to fight Danielson. In fact sometimes he walks right into Danielson’s attacks! Aries is able at last to go at it against his enemy and secures the victory with The brainbuster / Last Chancery combination. Just a fantastic tag team match as even early on in the Pearce-led ROH was showing its strengths in the tag division.

46. Non-Title Match: ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness vs. Tyler Black
—Full Circle (Manassas, VA 01/16/09)

As mentioned earlier, Black does really well in Manassas and this was one of the first examples of that town producing some of his better efforts. There are a lot of reversals of signature moves into another move, as for instance Black gets the paroxysm out of a turnbuckle lariat attempt. The small package driver even gets reversed into a small package by McGuinness in a bit of ingenuity that was followed up on against Lynn at Contention. Black defeats McGuinness with an excellent reversal into the bucklebomb / superkick (debuting that combo as a finish) here to prove he is line for a title shot, which he would helpfully receive the next night, a storyline move that would be repeated again in June.

45. Naomichi Marufuji vs. Austin Aries
—All Star Extravaganza IV (Philadelphia, PA 12/26/08)

Another excellent Aries match in the lead up to his heel turn. This one sees Aries start to skirt the line, but still using (and mostly landing) babyface moves to take down his opponent. Marufuji is just spectacular here, with such a wild and diverse set of moves to attack Aries. His coast-to-coast dropkick lands flush, surprises the fans with his push down front stomp out of the turnbuckle and so on. Marufuji wins this attraction bout with his “Mindtrip-like” flip snapmare driver, which I always mark out for when I see it.

44. KENTA vs. Roderick Strong
—ROH on HD Net Episode 14 (Philadelphia PA, Taped 05/29/09, Aired 06/20/09)

This was the HDNet audience’s first chance to watch KENTA and experience one of the finest wrestlers from Japan do his thing in the ring. It was also Strong’s best outing to that point on HDNet. Strong’s chops against KENTA’s kicks and throw in a dash of high flying from both men to top it off (KENTA’s closeline is a thing of beauty). A very (very, very, very) hard hitting match with both men doing what they do best. Strong gets a good deal of offense against KENTA but comes up short to the Go To Sleep.

43. ROH World Title Match: Nigel McGuinness (c) vs. Jerry Lynn
—Southern Hostility (Nashville, TN 12/06/08)

On this night these two made wrestling a four-star main event look easy. If I recall, Lynn is billed in the introductions as currently residing in Nashville, juicing up the response from the crowd just that extra bit. This also takes place before the fans began to turn on Lynn for being over pushed despite the proof of plenty of worthy wrestling matches such as this one that put the emphasis on wrestling and in-ring storytelling. The story here is Lynn outwrestling Nigel and showing he could win, thus making Nigel step up his game. Lynn pushes on, forcing Nigel to get desperate and use the ropes to win. A post-match angle saw Nigel continue to antagonize Lynn about his age and his presence in ROH, which foreshadowed the title change in Texas.

42. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson & Jerry Lynn vs. ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness & Claudio Castagnol
—Wrestling At The Gateway (Collinsville, IL 12/05/08)

A finely-tuned grudge match (Danielson and Castagnoli were at the zenith of their feud, while McGuinness and Lynn were right in the middle of theirs). Some really innovative tag moves from the heels involving European uppercut volleys and combinations. Meanwhile, Danielson and Lynn make a very cool dream team, both having enough technical ability to keep the chain wrestling going, but also able to bust out the high-flying on the tail end of the match.

41. No Disqualification Match: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Claudio Castagnoli
—Southern Hostility (Nashville, TN 12/6/08)

Blood, chairs, European uppercuts and a battle for possession of the referee’s belt—yup, sounds like another chapter in the Castagnoli vs. Danielson feud that closed out 2008. This match gets extra points because Danielson gets extra violent trying to gain vengeance for Claudio’s continual attacks to the head. He gets retribution with a few chair stomps late in the match and adds the belt in with the triangle choke submission to force the win. I love a good finale to a grudge match and this was definitely a worthy blow-off.

40. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Tyler Black (I)
—ROH on HDNet Episode 6 (Philadelphia PA, Taped on 03/02/09, Aired on 04/25/09)

The first of the Danielson-Black three-match reprise of their 2008 series ends in a twenty-minute draw, but you can’t get a much better match than this one for that time limit. As would be the norm for their series, the opening half of the match sees a mostly ground based wrestling game, exchanging holds and grapple positions with Danielson generally winning them but Black muscling him into the advantage. Black uses his backflip and turns it into a hurricanrana in a cool variation of that sequence. Meanwhile Danielson loves to stretch Black, including his painful looking upside down Dragon Sleeper. The match picks up in pace in the second half with both men exchanging their signature flying strikes and dives. Danielson has Black in the triangle choke when Black lifts him up and uses a running bucklebomb to break free and then the bell rings to signal the time limit. This really set the table for the rest of the Danielson vs. Black HDNet rivalry but also showed the true quality of the main event matches for the television series.

39. Roderick Strong vs. Sonjay Dutt
—Manhattan Mayhem III (New York, NY 06/13/09)

This one kind of came out from nowhere—an undercard match that no one was expecting all that much out of suddenly became a ROH classic. It was about the point when Strong caught Dutt flipping over the ropes into the backbreaker position that the entire crowd realized this was not going to be a generic bout, but something far more special. Dutt was on-point throughout, and while he hadn’t turned heel at this point his use of WWE taunts certainly was noticed and caused some big pops (or heat, depending on who you were rooting for) with the crowd. In addition, Dutt had great snap to his moves, but Strong matched him in that category—with precision timing of his backbreaker combinations and sick running kicks. Strong with an unbelievably nutty combination of the fireman’s carries gutbuster, reverse gutbuster backbreaker and the Gibson Driver to earn the victory. One of the better matches on the MM3 card.

38. Samoa Joe vs. Tyler Black
—Rising Above 2008 (Chicago Ridge, IL, 11/22/08, DVD Bonus)

A bit of a “coming of age” match for Black, pitted against one of ROH’s legends making a one-night only return to the company. It was really a great thing to see Joe in an ROH ring again and to his credit he didn’t half-ass anything—we got the ROH Samoa Joe back on that night, using the moves he used in the company like throwing the Ole Kick and his submission combinations. He gave Black a great match (Black kicking out of the Island Driver at a one-count was something else). Joe dominated with his brute force, but Black fought back with springboards into and out of the ring to throw Joe for a loop. Black showed his toughness and “never-say-die” attitude enough to match up against a made guy, but ultimately Joe proved to be the better man on that night.

37. KENTA vs. Tyler Black
—End Of An Age (Chicago Ridge, IL 06/27/09)

These two were tag team partners at Take No Prisoners but would face-off here as KENTA continued his tour against the top ROH competition. KENTA kicks, kicks and more kicks make huge impressions into Black’s body, while Black counters with closelines of the regular and the flying variety. KENTA is just so impressive with the speed and force he gets behind those kicks and flying boots—their impact really make the fans become invested in what’s happening. A double stomp he does looks like it about crushes Black, and Black retaliates with superkicks that would take the head off of normal men. It’s that kind of devastation that both wreak upon each other that elevates this match, leads it into a very intense finish where either man looked like he could win. Black barely kicks out of one Go To Sleep (the reversal sequence back and forth from God’s Last Gift to GTS looked really cool and even the slip at the end didn’t take too much away from it for me, plus they recovered). Black can’t do it for a second Go to Sleep and KENTA takes it.

36. “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico vs. The Young Bucks
—Contention (Manassas, VA 06/12/09)

The Young Bucks debuted for Ring of Honor here after months of well-deserved rave reviews from those who had seen them on PWG and Dragon Gate DVDs. They quickly established themselves here by taking it to Steen & Generico, impressing the crowd with quick double teams. They put the veteran team in danger with damaging moves (such as the multiple superkick combination on Steen). I have to credit El Generico for listening to the crowd and giving them some more snapmares and Steen also played along with the crowd very well.

35. Roderick Strong vs. Jay Briscoe (I)
—Stylin’ & Profilin’ (Collinsville, IL 03/13/09)

Here was a really important match for ROH. At the time the company was going through a slump period where there was some criticism about the finishes being too wonky and the direction skewing too heavily towards characterization over wrestling. They needed a match that would generate some buzz and become a “must-watch”. Then you had this show being the all-important debut for Flair, which looked to be a huge seller. This match opened the show and demonstrated that ROH could definitely still put the focus on in-ring competition. Strong was on the rise again, creatively with what he did in the ring and in popularity with the crowd. Briscoe had spent much of his career in tag matches. Mark was out of action so it was up to Jay to show he could contribute in the singles division (sometimes it’s easy to overlook he began as a singles in ROH and was very competent in that regard). Given all of that, Strong and Briscoe went out there first on the night and put on a fantastic effort that even had guest-commentator Larry Zybysko giving raves about their talent and ability. Their chop exchanges in particular had the fans oohing and ahhing. They received a standing ovation from the crowd after the match and set the tone for what became a very important show for ROH in 2009.

34. ROH World Tag Team Titles: “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen & El Generico (c) vs. The American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards)
—Motor City Madness 2009 (Detroit, MI 01/30/09)

This match has Kevin Steen in all of his glory, using heel tactics to frustrate The Wolves but getting great babyface pops for it. An early prototype of the matches both teams would have against each other throughout the year, you have Steen & Generico on fire with the fans and letting that feed into their moves, while The Wolves take over with brutality and a healthy dose of cheating and ambushing. The finish saw Brent Albright run in to help prevent The Wolves from using Larry Sweeney’s boot, payback for Sweeney’s involvement in Albright’s matches.

33. Four Corner Survival Match for a Title Shot: Tyler Black vs. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Jimmy Jacobs vs. Austin Aries
—Caged Collision (Chicago Ridge, IL Taped on 01/31/09, Aired on 04/17/09)

One of those “little bit of everything” matches, where you get good wrestling, good high flying and some nice tension between all parties involved. Black looked particularly impressive down the stretch hitting his marquee moves. Dragon provides the technical wrestling and ground exchanges early on while Black, Aries and Jacobs wage a huge war against each other throughout. Aries and Jacobs “relationship” was in a weird “frienemies” place, as they both despised each other but hated Black even more. So most of the time they were working together to beat down Black, but every so often they’d get in each other’s way and they’d push and shove and do all that break up / make-up stuff. Sorry for that image by the way. I liked that Black capitalized on their mistakes to take the win. Danielson is knocked out in the middle of the match by the debuting Bison Smith in a feud that went nowhere, but it explains why he couldn’t break up the pinfall.

32. Steel Cage Match: Tyler Black vs. Jimmy Jacobs
—Violent Tendencies (Detroit, MI 06/26/09)

It was going to be hard for this match to compare to the Whitmer vs. Jacobs steel cage match that finished up that bloody rivalry back in 2006. There are snippets of tribute to that match such as the railroad spike duel, but this one mostly stays away from that territory and tries to strike its own place in ROH history. The feud these had was mostly a disappointment, but this one was one the few that lived up to the potential. There is a lot of play off them being former tag partners and using their knowledge to avoid or land moves—Jacobs gets a superkick in on Black, Black is able to use The End Time again on Jacobs like he did at Seventh Anniversary Show. Finally Black jumps off the top of the cage and splashes Jacobs through a table to win the match.

31. ROH World Title: Nigel McGuinness (c) vs. KENTA
—Seventh Anniversary Show (New York, NY 03/21/09)

The more I think about this match, the more awed I become that McGuinness went through with this one—think about the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the knight gets his limbs cut off and insists on continuing with the duel. Two torn biceps and McGuinness was still wrestling this match. He managed to put on a very worthy main event title match and he did it without landing a single lariat. KENTA for his part used the arms as a point of attack and just repeatedly blasted McGuinness with kicks to the arms and body. It took McGuinness’s resourcefulness in using a painful-looking trapping variant of the London Dungeon to secure the title retention. In many ways this match reminded me of Danielson vs. KENTA from Glory By Honor V Night 2. While the match didn’t quite reach that levels of in-ring action, crowd response and while this match certainly isn’t going to be the kind of historical flashpoint for the company the likes of the former match—the bravery and guts demonstrated by Nigel is certainly comparable and appreciated.

Only one more to go… I conclude this massive missive RIGHT NOW in PART SIX. Find out about the top thirty ROH matches of the year!


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Ari Berenstein

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