wrestling / Video Reviews

Reviews From The Cheap Seats: Ring Of Honor Reborn – Stage One

September 11, 2004 | Posted by Matt Nute

RoH Reborn – Stage One
St. Paul, Minnesota

We start things out with a promo from Homicide. Homicide calls out Samoa Joe for attacking Julius Smokes in Jersey. The Notorious 187 is unhappy, as shown by his references to “West Counties” and the “Rockweilers”. Now, Homicide is a scary dude, but not so much so when he speaks. His slight lisp and atonal delivery makes him seem less like the top thug in the yard, and more like the top thug’s little buddy. But then he gets all intensely quiet and says “I hate you. I will kill you.” It’d sound more believable if Homicide wasn’t wearing a baggy t-shirt and standing in front of a door reading “Viking Class Room”. He finishes off with “Samoa Joe, you’re looking at the NEW champion. Ichiban, motherfucker.” See, THERE’S a catchphrase.

Next pre-show promo: HC Loc and Tony Devito of the Carnage Crew are, hey! In front of the same classroom door. Let’s see – they bitch about their crappy jobs and segue nicely into paying their dues in Ring of Honor and making it to the top of the tag ranks. Then someone in the back crapped in their bags. Yes, you read that right, the Rena Mero Special. And Devito’s livid, which is actually kind of scary. See, Homicide could learn from these two how to portray being legitimately pissed. So tonight they’re going to take on the Ring Crew Express, Dunn & Marcos. Their logic – if Dunn and Marcos won’t tell them who did it, then they’re likely the culprits. That’s crazy Homeland Security Logic! But hey, it works.

Now we have my favorite segment on any RoH tape: Samoa Joe’s Ring! – It says so in cool little “West Coast Bling” font on the screen. See, this is a segment where the champ cuts a promo and also demonstrates some of his moves on the hapless RoH trainees, who get to travel with the ring crew and pay dues by helping set up the show, the lights, stuff like that. In the ring is, oddly enough, Samoa Joe, the Ring of Honor Champion. He addresses Homicide, saying that the last time they faced off, Homicide choked him with a noose in a no-holds-barred non-title match. Therefore, in tonight’s title match, Joe will choke out Homicide with his bare hands. A lucky RoH trainee gets to be Joe’s dummy for the Front Choke demonstration. Joe locks on a vicious front neck choke, but is interrupted by Bryan “American Dragon” Danielson. Danielson voices his doubts about Joe’s credentials, since the last time he saw Joe, the champ was too busy cheerleading for the crowd to prevent Danielson from being pinned in their tag title challenge. Danielson hijacks the camera, explaining “in professional wrestling, that choke you just saw is illegal. Let me demonstrate a front facelock”, then proceeds to slap one on another nearby trainee. Danielson explains how the move gets put on, how it works – hey, that’s my column right there! Dammit, Bryan Danielson! Joe gets in his face, calls him on the carpet for being the one to get pinned and lose their match against the Briscoes. Danielson vows that the next time he sees Joe in the ring, he’ll take Joe’s title, then walks off. Nice polite, yet intense face v. face promo.

One last promo: And we’re outside with Dunn & Marcos! They intro the show, passing a massive group of at least 16 fans. They will rock you like a hurricane, I mean, they’re not going to take it anymore! Well, I say good for them!

MATCH: Nigel McGuinness v. Matt Stryker.

Quick background: Nigel’s a British wrestler with a solid grasp of technical wrestling and a rather unorthodox style. And not the WWE “unorthodox”, which means “suck”. Matt Stryker’s got a shorter haircut than when I saw him last. He’s probably Ring of Honor’s closest thing to a jack of all trades, but just can’t seem to get the fans behind him. We’re talking “Die, Rocky, Die” levels of disdain on the RoH message boards. Our announcers tonight are Chris Lovey and CM Punk. The match is described as a Pure Wrestling match, but I’m not sure if they’re enforcing the Pure Wrestling rules.

We start out with a handshake, as per RoH tradition. Crowd starts up a “Let’s go Nigel” chant. After some initial feeling-out, we start some smooth chain wrestling, with Nigel countering a hammerlock, then locking on a full nelson, segueing into a front facelock, reversed by Stryker and it’s a break. The announcers point out that Stryker is #1 contender, although Homicide has tonight’s shot because of Joe’s unsettled grudge. Stryker calls for a test of strength. Styker fakes the knucklelock and goes for the leg, Nigel reverses into a backslide for a zero count. I like that, it’s the first pin attempt of the match and no big move’s been hit, there shouldn’t even be a one-count. Nigel locks on a full nelson, shifting it into a cravatte. Stryker rolls, but Nigel maintains the cravatte. Stryker hauls McGuiness up for a bodyslam, and Nigel KEEPS THE HOLD ON. Good show of intensity and tenacity. Stryker, looking for an escape, finally powers out of the move, hits a double leg takedown, and goes for a reverse anklelock. Nigel squirms out of it and slaps on a wristlock. Stryker somersaults out of it, nice double-leg takedown, back to the ankle. Nasty cravatte style anklelock, too, using his forearms for added leverage.

More chain wrestling follows, as Nigel twists around to get a grounded headlock on Stryker, who counters with a leg scissor headlock. Nigel powers out of it, placing his feet against one of Stryker’s legs and his hands on the other. From there, Nigel just stretches out, forcing Stryker into a leg split, just stretching the hell out of his groin and hamstrings. Stryker fights it for a while, but doesn’t have the leverage to get to his feet. Instead, he leans to the side and grabs one of Nigel’s legs, rolling into an anklelock. Nigel uses leverage to escape, so Stryker follows and locks it on again, keeping the hold locked in through multiple rolls and counters. Finally, Nigel flips Stryker into the turnbuckle.

Nigel is limping, Stryker’s really worked over his ankle and knee. Both men trade forearm shots in the corner, until a huge European uppercut from Nigel. Nigel ducks a forearm and tries a rollup, Stryker reverses it into a pin for 1, Nigel goes for a leglock, Stryker makes the ropes. The announcers mention that the match is not being held under Pure Wrestling rules (only three rope breaks allowed). Dragon screw by Stryker sets up a behind-the-neck single-leg crab, but Nigel makes the ropes. Through this whole sequence, CM Punk has been running down Ricky Steamboat on commentary, furthering their feud.

Back to the match, Stryker goes for a suplex, Nigel reverses, Stryker goes behind, hits a backbreaker. Stryker goes up top – which is odd, because Matt Stryker doesn’t DO much on the top rope, and predictably gets crotched! Forearms by Nigel to Stryker’s back. Stryker falls down into the Tree of Woe position. More forearms by Nigel. Nigel tries to press the advantage, and gets pushed away. Stryker’s on the mat, so Nigel heads up top, but Stryker was playing possup and NAILS Nigel with a pop-up arm capture suplex! Cover gets 2. Stryker argues with ref about the slow count, leaving himself open to a keylock takedown by Nigel. Nice move. Jacknife pin by Nigel for 2. Both men trade European uppercuts until they’re staggered. Nigel reverses one into a backslide attempt, btu can’t force Stryker down. Both men fight, Stryker flips over Nigel’s back into the Devil Lock DDT! (One of CM Punk’s moves, sets up like a Flatliner, but with the head hooked for a DDT) On commentary, Punk deadpans that he’ll charge Stryker a 25 cent money order for that. Pin cover gets 2 when Nigel grabs the ropes. Divorce Court (single arm DDT) by Nigel. Nigel puts on a weird armlock, sort of like a short arm scissors with a half nelson, but with his legs applying the half nelson. Nigel cinches it in, can’t get the submission, so he goes for a jacknife – but it’s countered and turned into a pin by Stryker for the three.

Technique: B+ Both men were smooth and crisp in their moves, selling everything well. Both made their reversals look spontaneous, and hit their cues well

Pacing: D. The match was VERY slow and plodding. Not a good choice to start the night with. I assume they were counting on Nigel’s popularity with the crowd to get people on their feet, but the mat-based technical stuff got very repetitive. Normally a ground-based technical match can be exciting, but these guys were just too slow.

Storytelling: C-. This was more of a warm-up match for Stryker, to keep him busy before the next night’s title shot. With nothing really on the line, it ended up just being a “who’s the better technical wrestler” match, which again didn’t come across very well. In the match itself, both men sold their injuries well and worked specific body parts (Nigel with the arms and neck, Stryker with the ankle) to set up their individual submissions – which is why the pinfall reversal finish was so anticlimactic.

Excitement: C. While I dig technical wrestling, this match was bog-standard. A good exhibition of some basic technical stuff, but nothing that got me really going.

We go to a promo from Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Man, Steamboat looks old. Well, that’s because he’s, you know, old. He mentions that he was brought in to bring order to the Prophecy v. Second City Saints feud. He even references his feud with Don Muraco. Unfortunately, these promos really spotlight the indy nature of RoH, as Steamboat seems as if he’s distracted by reading off of moving cue cards.

MATCH: The Ring Crew Express (Dunn & Marcos) v. Carnage Crew (Loc & Devito)

Dunn and Marcos are like a team of Spike Dudleys. Underdogs who bump sicker than anyone else, professional ragdolls in 80’s hair metal shirts. And the Carnage Crew are here to, well, murder them. Loc is wearing a bandanna headband that makes him look vaguely like a pirate. Crowd is ALL into the RCE. Handshakes are made. I like that. Even when Loc and Devito are out for blood, they respect Ring of Honor’s traditions.

Marcos & Loc start. Lockup, and surprisingly good chain wrestling from the metalhead kid and the ex-ECW ref. Shoulderblock by Loc, leads to the standard lay-down/leapfrog sequence into a chop by Loc and press slam, countered into a arm drag by Marcos! Loc responds with one of his own, but Marcos takes him down for 1! Loc reverses for 1! Double missed dropkick and the indy staredown! Hot opening first minute by guys who are RoH’s equivalent of the folks you see on Sunday Night Heat.

Marcos slaps the taste out of Loc’s mouth and gloats. Loc decapitates him with a clothesline, as Devito hollers from the corner “You do NOT slap my partner!” Devito tags in, and Marcos bails. Dunn tags in and immediately receives a barrage of kicks and punches from Devito. On commentary, CM Punk rips into Dunn’s “Poison” shirt. Dunn recovers from the beating with some smooth armdrags, making me wonder if it’s Steamboat Tribute Night. Devito lands on his feet from one, counters with a punch and a NICE standing dropkick from the big man! Devito takes Dunn down and starts leaning over him and laying in some BRUTAL crossface punches. He picks Dunn up and heaves him into the corner, goes for a charge – but Dunn grabs the ropes and rolls up into a nice hurricanrana that sends Devito out of the ring! Loc runs in, but so does Marcos as Loc gets double-teamed with kicks and rolls out of the ring. Dunn & Marcos go for stereo Stage Dives (top rope splashes), but the Carnage Crew heads for the hills to catch a breather. In the ring, Dunn and Marcos celebrate with some Bill-and-Ted high fives and air guitar. Rock on!

However, the Carnage Crew slip swiftly back into the ring and Loc just PLANTS Marcos with a Saito suplex as Devito hits a sidewalk slam on Dunn. CM Punk comments “The last time I saw Tony Devito run that fast was after a bucket of fried chicken.” Devito keeps beating on Dunn, then tags Loc in. CARNAGEPLEX (like the Au Revoir only at waist level into a neckbreaker) on Dunn! Cover by Loc for 2. Dunn gets his second wind and begins trading chops with Loc. Back on commentary, CM Punk suggests a DNA test on the poop that was found in the Carnage Crew’s bag. Chris Lovey’s stunned response: “Um, I don’t think they kept the poop.” HHH-style knee facebuster into swinging neckbreaker by Loc. Cover gets 2. Devito tags in. Kick to the gut and Dunn is in a world of hurt. Slaps from Devito. Dunn is thrown to the ropes and counters a clothesline with a SICKLY BOTCHED GORY BOMB! Drops Devito knees-first! Ugly!

Both men down, Dunn looking for tag and makekes it! Marcos in! Enziguri to Loc! Cover for 2! HUGE swinging DDT on Devito by Marcos! Electric Chair toss Senton onto Loc! Devito breaks up pin. UnskinnyBop (partner-assisted Sliced Bread #2) on Devito! Loc breaks up pin! Press slam/brainbuster by Loc on Marcos for 2! Devito NORTHERN LIGHTS SUPLEXES Dunn into the turnbuckle! Devito goes up top, CARNAGE DRIVER (Second rope spike piledriver) on Marcos! OF COURSE IT GETS THE THREE, MARCOS IS DECEASED!

Dunn and Marcos are apparently “eliminated as suspects”. Gotta say, I love the keen detective skills of the Carnage Crew.

Technique: C+. I’d rate it higher, but that botched Gory Bomb was jarring enough to drop it a bit. Devito’s all-brawling offense also gets really old, really fast.

Pacing: A. THIS is how you pace a tag match. Good segments of the little guys getting the beatdown by the obviously tougher bruisers, but it didn’t fall prey to the tired old “Ricky Morton” style of babyface beatdowns. Multiple comebacks and momentum shifts kept it fresh.

Storytelling: A. Although the logic of “Beat these guys up to force a confession” seems like the Carnage Crew consulted Donald Rumsfield for strategy, they got out there and put over the fact that they’re angry as hell and won’t show mercy to anyone. The Ring Crew Express, for their part, put on one of their best tag showings, standing up to the Carnage Crew and giving as good as they got.

Excitement: B+. Sometimes the beatdown sequences lasted a BIT too long, and the outcome was pretty much certain from the beginning. But for a moment, you actually believe the RCE could pull out the win – but in the end, that Carnage Driver just seals it.

And now it’s time for GOOD TIMES GREAT MEMORIES! with your host, Colt Cabana! This is a “talk show” style segment where Cabana hilariously skewers some of the other RoH wrestlers, while usually advancing at least one storyline for the show. Great way to get over a match where one or both of the parties involved don’t really have the excellent promo skills that a guy like Cabana does. Colt shills the new RoH website and the Newswire (“Hey, now youdon’t have to wait a whole week to find out BJ Whitmer’s a douchebag! You don’t have a wait a whole week to find out just how furry Jimmy Jacobs’ taint is!” (Ew.) “Here’s the date today, Alison Danger had her period. Awesome!” He goes on to hype the tag team division, and puts the Second City Saints (he and CM Punk) over as the number one tag team, then the Briscoes, the Carnage Crew – riffs on the Havana Pitbulls, goes for the mother jokes – enter the Pitbulls! Ricky Reyes and Rocky Romero, two guys from down Cuba way. Romero deadpans with Cabana, serious as a heart attack. “We’re here for one thing. That’s to make money and get to the top. (That’s two things)” Romero keeps cutting off Colt’s humor. He calls out the Briscoes, says they’ll make their name on them in tonight’s non-title match. Reyes gets all up in Cabana’s face, calmly demanding some respect. They make one last comment on the Briscoes, then leave. Very good, very intense.

Colt brings out his backup plan, Becky Bayless. She’s sort of RoH’s resident cute raver bimbo, hanging out with the spot-fest guys from Special K. But Special K is all fuckered up after Scramble Cage, and Becky can’t find them. Colt consoles her by having her touch her elbows behind her back and do jumping jacks with him. What a heart.

MATCH: John Walters v. Justin Credible.

This match isn’t listed on the tape. Walters has the Benoit unshaven thing going. Credible has a Carnage Crew shirt worn like a skirt. What the hell, I say? Honestly, Credible has charisma live. I have no idea where it gets sucked out on tape.

Handshake, and it’s a wristlock reversal sequence that sees Walters somersaulting for reversals, and working on Credible’s fingers? I suppose if his fingers are hurt, he can’t hit… um… okay, back to the match. After another series of arm wringers, Credible bails for a breather to the outside. CM Punk takes the opportunity on commentary to mention Credible’s experience, that he knows when to let his opponent cool down and lose their momentum. Never thought of it that way.

Back in, both men trade waistlocks, then a headlock and Walters is pushed off to the ropes. Ducks a clothesline then it’s armdrag, dropkick, armdrag into armbar by Walters! Credible moves around looking for the ropes, then rolls and SLAPS Walters in the EYE to recover! Nice counter! Credible pushes Walters into the corner and starts laying in some chops. Walters brings his knees up to block a chop (nice counter!), then comes off the second rope with a sloppy-looking Blockbuster (flipping neckbreaker). Pin cover gets a two count and Walters goes back to the armbar. His strategy’s making more sense now, if he works over the arm, Credible can’t hit his “That’s Incredible” tombstone piledriver. Credible gets thrown to corner, does the classic “Flair Flip” over the turnbuckle on to the apron, and an elbow shot by Walters sends him into the rail. Walters goes to the floor and charges, drop toe hold by Credible sends Walters headfirst into the rail. JC throws across into opposite rail. Crowd pop for JUSTIN! Holy cow, I think this is a first in HISTORY! Justin goes to the well another time and slams Walters into the rail again! Justin tosses Walters back into the ring, and the crowd is loud with “Justin Credible” chants! I am baffled!

Justin goes for a suplex, BIG delayed vertical that drops Walters right onto his back. Cover for 2. Chinlock to wear down Walters. Walters elbows out, then runs off into a backdrop. Credible goes to a camel clutch without the arms hooked, Punk calls him on it and explains why hooking the arms would prevent Walters from going for the rope break. Walters, then, predictably reaches for the ropes. Credible jumps on his back and shifts to a more grounded chinlock. Walters powers out with elbow strikes, then hits a swinging neckbreaker on Justin. Both men down and the ref starts counting.

Walters recovers first, laying in a few clotheslines. Walters goes up top, nails a missile dropkick and gets 2. LAME superkick attempt countered into a MUTA LOCK by Walters! NICE move! Credible going for ropes, can’t reach. Makes it! Hold broken, Walters goes up top again. A splash misses, and Credible goes up top! Justin hits a crossbody, rolled through for two! SUPERKICK takes Walters down for 2! Justin Credible has the momentum, goes for That’s Incredible, but has trouble locking it in with his injured arm. Walters floats over, grabs Credible’s head and tucks his knees up – LUNGBUSTER TO THE BACK OF THE NECK! OW! That’s legalized execution! Gets the three! Easily Credible’s best singles match in RoH. Crowd got really into it.

Technique: C. These guys’ offenses didn’t quite click well together, and while Walters can brawl well, he needs to stick to the purist-style technical wrestling where he excels. Credible shows his usual fault of telegraphing a move that’s going to be countered by just half-assing it, as came across with his superkicks. However, what they DID hit, they hit very well.

Pacing: B-. Nice short match, with good use of brawling on the outside. Any longer and it would have exposed more of Credible’s weaknesses and possibly become repetitive.

Storytelling: C. Credible was trying to avenge a loss to Walters earlier, simply a matter of pride. However, I believe that Justin has NEVER won a singles match in Ring of Honor, which ought to be a bone of contention at some point. Well-done with the brawling on the outside, and letting Credible use his hardcore experience to good use. Spotlighted him as the veteran, and put over Walters as the young guy with talent.

Excitement: B-. I hate to admit it, but I was really into this match. Even with Justin Credible in it! The ending came nicely, but there were some spots where it sort of dragged, and that can be death to a short match.

MATCH: Six Man Mayhem! Danny Daniels v. Masada v. Jimmy Jacobs v. Alex Shelley v. Jimmy Rave v. Jack Evans

Quick rundown: Danny Daniels is a former ECW talent, Masada is the young buck of the Carnage Crew, Jimmy Jacobs is a 5’5″ guy who does the old Berserker “HUSS” gimmick, Alex Shelley is a phenomenal technical wrestler out of Michigan, Jimmy Rave is on thin ice with RoH, and Jack Evans is immune to gravity. Evans during his walk to the ring “I may be a spot monkey, but I’m the craziest motherfucker you’ve ever seen!” – he’s kinda got me there. Evans is a guy who does one thing and does it very well. Two things, if you count selling like he’s on double commission. I swear, he comes with a little device that just turns gravity off.

We start off with Rave and Shelley in the ring. Rules are that anyone may enter the ring whenever another person leaves it. First fall or submission wins. Some nice arm work by Shelley to begin, shifting a knucklelock into a standing keylock into a fingerbreaker on Rave. As Rave comes up from his knees, Shelley slaps on a hammerlock, forcing Rave to his stomach, then Shelley flips over him and locks in a cross armbar. Shelley switches that over into a headlock, which gives Rave the opportunity to scramble out of the hold, but Shelley catches him in a sweet Fujiwara armbar to the delight of the crowd. An arm wringer sets up a kick to the back, but Rave ducks, rolling Shelley up for a two count. Rave takes the opportunity to tag out to Daniels, while Shelley tags out to Jacobs.

Jacobs is all about the HUSS, but Daniels is all about the shoulderblock, which trumps the HUSS. Shooting Jacobs into the ropes, Daniels goes for a clothesline, countered with a stiff headlock takedown by Jacobs. Second headlock takedown puts Jacobs firmly in control until Daniels defeats the little man’s strategy by standing up. Damn his criminal mind! Daniels grabs Jacobs in a reverse fallaway slam position, then releases his legs and drops him into an over-the-knee gutbuster! Awesome move! Daniels gets two off a senton, then drags Jacobs up and slams his head into the turnbuckle. Jacobs channels the POWER OF SAMOA and slams his own head back into the turnbuckle repeatedly! He turns around and all the HUSSing in the world doesn’t protect against a thumb to the eye! Jacobs eats some chops, but comes back with a hurricanrana followed by a dropkick that sends Daniels out of the ring! And in comes Masada!

Jacobs goes for a dive onto Daniels outside the ring, but is cut off by a lariat from Masada. Masada hauls Jacobs up into an electric chair position, then swings him down as if for a wheelbarrow-style faceplant, but holds him there and starts to spin in place. Jacobs tries to HUSS his way out of it, but in springboards Jack Evans with a NASTY dropkick to Jacobs’ head! Evans pushes Jacobs out of the ring while Masada mocks Evans with some attempted breakdancing. Crowd loves it. Evans tries to arm drag Masada, no luck. He goes for some acrobatics (CM Punk: “Ooh, watch Flippy McFlippenstein here!”) but gets planted with a huge hip toss from Masada. Evans comes back with a hurricanrana, though, followed up by a somersault kick that looks like something out of Street Fighter 2. Crowd chants “You Got Served!”. Evans comes in with some elbows as I question the logic of the toothpick attacking the big man with strikes. Sure enough, Masada catches him, spins, and drops a SICK looking shoulderbreaker! Evans rolls out of the ring and Masada motions for a dive! He runs for it, but Shelley slides along the apron and kicks him in the head! Shelley hops in the ring with Masada and we’re still going!

Shelley mocks Jacob’s HUSSing, and goes for a palm strike to Masada, who catches it! Masada goes for OLD SCHOOL ropewalking, but gets crotches on the top rope and dumped. Rave comes in and starts chopping the crap out of Shelley. Launches Shelley to the ropes, Shelley comes back and counters with a nasty back-of-head smash to the knee! Shelley catches a kick from Rave, spins him around and locks on a sort of standing STF! Rave counters out of it with a combination STO/backbreaker, pulled back up into a Russian leg sweep right into a cross armbreaker! Nice little series of moves chained together by Rave! Daniels and Jacobs run in and Jacobs locks Daniels in a Camel Clutch! Masada runs in but gets caught in a standing armbar by Evans! And before anyone blinks TOO much at that last one, remember that Evans did come out of the Hart Dungeon, albeit not under Stu’s watch. Kid does know his mat wrestling. No one taps, so the holds get broken and it’s chaos!

Rave up, kicks to Jacobs and Evans! Evans gets tossed into the corner and takes a clothesline from Jacobs, followed by a spear from Rave, double knees from Shelley, a running forearm from Daniels, but dodges Masada’s splash! Masada in the corner takes (second verse, same as the first!) clothesline from Jacobs, spear from Rave, knees from Shelley, and a huge dropkick from Daniels! Rave spins Daniels around, but they both eat superkicks from Jacobs and Shelley! Evans springboards in with a double dropkick on Shelley and Jacobs! Jack Evans’ do-rag is gone by this point, and this hilarious pompadour of blonde hair is flopping everywhere.

Evans charges Shelley in the corner, tries to leap over him but gets caught by the ankles for a HUUUUGE elevated Alabamaslam! Shelley hoists Evans up into a piggyback position – Backpack Stunner! Shelley takes a kick from Masada who follows up with a big fisherman’s buster that spikes Shelley’s shoulder right into Masada’s knee! Pin gets two, but Rave breaks it up and chops Masada. Rave goes for the Dusk Til Dawn (his hurricanrana-to-crossface), but Masada goes for a powerbomb! No! Masada tries a sunset flip, Rave slips out of it, and hits the Doppler Effect (running knee to face). Rave goes for the pin on Masada, and Jacobs breaks it up! Jacobs hits the Contra Code (sitout Acid Drop) on Rave! Jack Evans goes up top, but gets crotched by Jacobs! From the tree of woe, Jacobs hits a swinging elbow drop on Evans! Sick! Cover gets two, broken up by Daniels! Daniels goes for a tiger driver, countered into a Contra Code attempt, but Daniels counters THAT with a backbreaker! Danny Daniels hoists Jacobs onto his shoulders for an electric chair drop, but bends his head forwards – SITOUT ELECTRIC CHAIR DRIVER! HOLY SHIT! 1-2-Evans breaks up the pin! Corkscrew kick to Daniels! Daniels rolls to the outside where Rave and Masada are brawling, Evans hops onto the apron and hits a SPRINGBOARD PHOENIX SPLASH onto them!

Amidst the chaos, Alex Shelley sneaks into the ring, sees Jacobs laying there, and slaps on the Border City Stretch, torquing Jacobs’ destroyed neck! Jacobs taps!

Technique: B. The only trouble with the six-man matches is that they inevitably devolve into spotfests. However, there were a LOT of innovative ground moves used, and everyone got some varied wrestling in. No one botched anything horribly, and some of the new moves I saw were just insane.

Pacing: B+. The hardest thing to pull off in these multiple-man matches is timing, when to change competitors, how long to keep folks on the apron, and when to dissolve into chaos. This one handled it perfectly, and with the exception of some awkward moments switching competitors, was nicely paced.

Storytelling: B Rave fought like a man possessed, knowing that were he to be pinned or tap out, he’d likely lose his job with RoH. Jacobs and Shelley bring a months-long rivalry to the table, especially with the knowledge that on the next night after this match, they would be tagging together. Masada, Daniels, and Evans were mostly there to show off – although note that Masada and Daniels never actually went up against each other. Keep that in the back of your mind for a while.

Excitement: A. Not a dull moment in this match. No extended restholds, and nothing that seemed totally out of place. The last four minutes or so are nothing but nonstop moves, counters, broken pins, and finishers. I can only imagine how awesome it came across live.

The camera follows Alex Shelley into the back after handshakes. Jacobs is against the wall holding his neck. Shelley asks if Jacobs will be okay for tomorrow night’s tag match. He doesn’t want Jacobs to be the weak link, after all. Jacobs mouths off, then says he’ll be fine.

MATCH: Colt Cabana v. BJ Whitmer (grudge match, no Code of Honor)

First, they announce Ricky Steamboat as the special guest ref. Crowd, of course, loves it. Huge “Steamboat!” chants. It’s weird, realizing that most of the RoH live crowd wasn’t even alive when Steamboat was having his best matches. And out comes Cabana, accompanied by CM Punk – oh lord. Cabana’s carrying a Cabbage Patch Kid and wearing a Karate Kid style gi, obviously mocking Steamboat’s “Family Man” days. Hah, Cabana’s totally in full-on mockery mode here. This is fantastic. Punk and Steamboat have a little faceoff (How is CM Punk the only guy who can be a full-on dick heel wearing a DARE shirt?) and Punk takes the mic. Talks about past, present, and future. Steamboat is the past (crowd cheers), he and Cabana are the present, the greatest tag team in the world (crowd cheers), and the future is tomorrow and their title shot in Chicago, because St. Paul sucks (the expected cheap heat from the crowd and “Shut the fuck up!” chants). Punk puts over the Second City Saints and how they put Christopher Daniels out of RoH. Calls out “Hillbilly Jesus”, and says Colt will take out Whitmer, and Punk himself will take out another enemy – ouch, even making a Dallas Northstars reference. Uncalled for!

Whitmer comes out, and the match begins. But before the bell even rings, CM Punk drags Steamboat out of the ring and beats the crap out of him! “That’s for Jersey! That’s for fucking with me!” he shouts. Cabana and Whitmer just kind of circle the ring until another ref comes in to handle the match while Steamboat is escorted to the back. Match is on!

Cabana with a slap to start. Mocks Whitmer and poses on the turnbuckle. Whitmer returns, Cabana bails. Punk makes it back to commentary, which is slightly distracting from the match as Whitmer slaps a hammerlock on Cabana and chucks him into the ropes, only to be surprised when Cabana hits a headscissor takedown! Whitmer recovers, and chops Colt out of the ring. Shoulderblock, both guys go nowhere. Another, same effect. Another, Whitmer drops, Cabana rolls him up for 2! Whitmer reverses for 1, Cabana rolls through for 2. Both guys do an intricate pinfall reversal sequence, nice to see something other than the Benoit/Malenko sequence, some innovative bridges used here. Ends when Whitmer chucks Cabana through the ropes to the floor.

On the floor, Cabana reverses a whip, and sends BJ into the safety rail. Dragging the Prophecy member to his feet, Cabana goes around the corner and sends him into a second one! Goes for third, Whitmer reverses. Whitmer with a charge, and gets back body dropped into the crowd! Cabana drops a chair on him, and they’re both into the crowd! Ref follows as BJ and Colt brawl with chairs on the floor. Whitmer reverses a whip, sending Cabana somersaulting onto a row of empty chairs. Whitmer throws a chair, planting Colt. Repeated chairshots by Whitmer. BJ drags Colt around, gets a drink from a fan (Awesome!) and Cabana whips him into a section of chairs! Guess it’s all standing room now. Now Cabana brings the stiff-as-hell chairshots. Man, I know these are plastic folding chairs, but shit! More brawling, and they make their way back to ringside.

Back in the ring, Cabana suplexes Whitmer, Whitmer floats over and lays in some forearms. Whitmer goes for a sunset flip, Cabana slips out, fakes a kick, when Whitmer blocks, Cabana rolls him up for 2. Smart. Both trade chops. Blind charge by BJ into corner gets boot. Cabana goes for the tornado snap suplex, Whitmer blocks, and hits a Russian leg sweep! 2 count. Whitmer goes for the Exploder, but Cabana elbows out. Reversal sequence, Cabana goes for the Colt .45! NO! Whitmer counters into a Northern lights suplex setup, but Cabana slips behind, SICK backdrop suplex! Cabana charges into corner, hits the leaping double knees to Whitmer! Drops the knee pads! Goes for another, Whitmer counters and just biels Cabana shoulder-first into the turnbuckle. Whitmer tries for the Wrist Clutch Exploder – NO! Cabana tries to fight out and is forced into the corner. Cabana elbows his way out, goes up top and is cut off by a BJ forearm. Fighting on the turnbuckle, Whitmer has advantage – TOP ROPE WRIST CLUTCH EXPLODER! Whitmer gets the three, NO SHIT! Friggin’ devastating move right there.

Technique: B-. Cabana’s groundwork, although innovative, can really take away from an intense match. Whitmer’s also nowhere near the ground wrestler Cabana is and had trouble keeping up. On the upside, both men worked stiff-as-hell and made it look like they were out for blood with some of their moves.

Pacing: C. The brawl on the outside seemed too contrived at points, taking forever to get the audience out of the way. Both Cabana and Whitmer had to oversell a simple move at times to allow their opponent enough time to set up the next spot. Thus is the danger of crowd involvement.

Storytelling: A. This balls-out match kept the Saints/Prophecy feud going, being one of the more definitive Prophecy victories so far. These guys pulled no punches, despite being often thought of as the “weak links” of their respective teams.

Excitement: B. Despite the slow crowd spots, this match had some awesome moments. The top rope wrist clutch exploder is just devastating to see. It’s a nasty enough move on the ground, with that added drop, I was certain Cabana wasn’t getting up, and I was right.

BACKSTAGE: Dave Prazak does a quick interview with “The Next” Alex Shelley. Alex puts over the other five guys in his six-man mayhem match “Jack Evans does flips, Jimmy Jacobs brings the HUSS, Jimmy Rave can go from Dusk Till Dawn (nice reference to Rave’s hurricanrana-to-crossface), Danny Daniels does a lot of stuff, and Masada… he’s a psycho.” Shelley proceeds to put himself over as the best wrestler of the six, and hypes the upcoming Generation Next PPV. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call good foreshadowing.

MATCH: Delirious v. Matt Sydal

This is a sort of tryout “Do Or Die” match for these guys. Both wrestle in the Midwest, and have a pretty loyal fan following. Delirious is in a weird lucha-type match, Sydal looks like your generic “Create-A-Wrestler” from a video game.

Lockup to start, amateur stuff sliding around ends in a Sydal wristlock on Delirious. Reversed to a top wristlock into spinning fireman’s carry by Delirious for a one count. HUGE wristlock takeover by Sydal. Delirious counters with an arm drag into pin attempt for 1. Delirious plays possum and… um… goes spastic. Seriously, that’s the only way to describe it. Delirious spazzes off the ropes for a headscissor takedown, then some quick chain wrestling, ending in a grounded side headlock by Sydal. Delirious goes for a tiger suplex, countered into chops and a clothesline, then a dropkick. Lots of spinning around by Delirious, followed by a headlock takedown. Delirious with some lucha-style mat legwork, and then the double-shoulderblock spot. Both guys stare at each other, then argue in the middle of the ring about which ropes they’ll run off of next. Seriously. Totally breaks the pace of the match.

Sydal points to the ropes, Delirious runs off, ducks a clothesline, and runs in circles around Sydal ending up landing a sunset flip for 2. HUGE calf kick by Sydal, shades of Lance Storm. Sydal lays in some forearms and monkeyflips Delirious ALL the way across the ring. Awesome! Kicks and forearms to Delirious in the corner, countered into more matwork and a combination cross armbreaker/facewash by Delirious. Nice. CM Punk on commentary: “Ohtani’s rolling over in his grave, and he’s not even dead yet.”

Nice twisting headscissor takedown by Sydal puts Delirious on the defensive, multiple reversals lead to the standard “blind charge gets boot” for Delirious, Sydal hooks up a tornado reverse DDT setup into a sort of reverse “Play of the Day” for two. Looks similar to the Big Show’s reverse DDT-to-legdrop. Nifty move for a cruiserweight, actually.

Sydal goes up top, flies off in a Shooting Star Press, but Delirious rolls out of the way! Sydal lands on his feet, eats a few elbows, Delirious goes for a powerbomb, Sydal counters for a backslide, but Delirious powere him back over and hits a NASTY powerbomb-into-Ace Crusher! Pause the tape as I try to describe: Delirious lifts Sydal up for a powerbomb into an over-the-shoulder backbreaker (like the Train Wreck) – but spins Sydal and lands in an Ace Crusher! SWEET! Pin attempt gets two! Only two off that? Delirious goes up top now, Sydal kicks him to counter, sets up for a top rope flipping belly-to-belly suplex for the three.

Not a bad little match – and Sydal’s valet, Daizee Haze, comes in to help her man up. Cute, but damn, I have to agree with CM Punk’s panicked reaction “Good lord, someone feed that girl a sandwich! Like, right NOW!”

Technique: C. It was very obvious both these guys were trying a bit too hard. The groundwork was a lot of scrambling and slapping that comes across poorly on video. In time, I can see where both of these guys have a lot of potential, but this wasn’t the match to showcase it.

Pacing: C-. That blatant pause where they literally discussed which set of ropes to go off of just threw me out of the match’s rhythm. They were going well until that point. It seemed to just dissolve into spot-after-spot stuff from there, and never quite recovered.

Storytelling: D. Who are these guys, other than “wrestlers from the Midwest”? I don’t know, and the announcers didn’t fill anything in. Other than trying to earn a spot on the RoH roster, we knew nothing about them one way or the other. Delirious at least LOOKED like a character, it would have been helpful to know something about him. The match itself was one of those “I’ll sell your move but then immediately pop up and hit mine” things that makes all the early work meaningless.

Excitement: C+. Despite the flaws, these two did put on a reasonably entertaining, if spotty, match. Would definitely like to see them against some of the RoH regulars, to compare and see if they just didn’t click here.

MATCH: The Havana Pitbulls (Ricky Reyes and Rocky Romero) v. the Briscoes (Jay and Mark) – Non-title

To start, the Briscoes lay the belts down in the ring. The Pitbulls barely look at them. Good way of getting across that they’re not here for the belts, but to make their names. Handshakes and it’s ON! Mark and Rocky in to start. Romero throws some really swift low kicks, finally landing one to the hip of Mark. Chain wrestling follows, with some nice arm work from Romero. Standing front facelock countered onto double-leg takedown from Mark, rolled through into a break, Romero snapmares Mark over, indy kick to the BACK OF THE HEAD! Jesus, man! No call to be that stiff ninety seconds in!

Cover by Rocky gets 1. Romero slaps on a cross armbreaker, Mark makes the ropes. Test of strength, Mark goes behind for a takedown, leading to a grounded headlock. Romero reverses into a hiptoss, and a leg-leverage keylock. Mark rolls through but gets locked into a double armbar (almost the Rings of Saturn, but not quite). Mark makes the ropes, then tags in Jay. Reyes comes in, and both fresh men go at it.

Reyes is the powerhouse of the Pitbulls, as is Jay for the Briscoes. Some great hammerlock reversals – nonstop chain wrestling and matwork from these guys. Really smooth. Jay locks in a wristlock, Mark tags in and lands a big back elbow. Reyes counters with a Japanese style leglock (cross legbreaker?) then pulls Mark to the corner and tags in Romero. Pining combination gets two. Mark shoots a small package for two, and it’s the INDY STAREDOWN! Lockup and Romero pushes Mark into the ropes. Again with the stiff-ass kicks to the legs. Mark pushes Romero into his own corner, Reyes tags in and lays in some forearms. Mark bull-rushes the bigger man to the opposite corner, where Jay tags back in. Boots in the corner, and Jay takes the advantage with a headlock. Reyes reverses the hold, gets sent off the ropes, shoulder block, then it’s DUELING ELBOWS! Jay goes nuts, and then hits the HUGE dropkick! Pitbulls both bail for a breather. Crowd is chanting loudly for both teams, making Rocky Romero stop, glance past the camera and audibly mutter “…fuckin’ A, St. Paul…” Nice little bit to put the crowd over.

Jay and Reyes back in the ring, Jay hits a nice snap suplex. Tags in Mark, Briscoes chop Reyes in the corner, shoot him to the other corner, and it’s double running forearms! Romero attacks Jay as he passes by the Pitbulls corner, which distracts Mark to get taken down by Reyes. Nice tactics.

Romero hops in to stand on Jay’s chest and play to the crowd. Kicks and chokes on Jay in the corner of the Pitbulls, Romero runs to kick Mark off the apron. Double arm wrench on Jay, Pitbulls off the ropes – Big Boot to Romero by Jay! Punches to Reyes! Mark runs in to back up his brother and the Pitbulls bail again. Mark leans over the ropes to call out the Pitbulls, Reyes actually spits into his face from the floor. Some good range on that loogie, I have to say. Jay and Romero battle on the apron, and the ref separates the teams.Jay and Reyes back in, STIFF dueling forearms! Romero and Mark go at it on the outside with chops!

Inside the ring, it’s broken down to mat based brawling while on the outside it’s nasty striking time! Back in the ring, Reyes starts in with the kicks to Jay’s legs, taking out his stability. Tag in to Romero, who covers for two after a knee strike. Leaping knee strike to Jay, Romero draws mark into the ring to distract the ref, while the Pitbulls double-team Jay with stomps. Reyes in, throws Jay into the ropes. Blind tag by Mark, Jay rolls under a clothesline setting Reyes up for a top rope knee strike by Mark! Briscoes just lay into Reyes in the corner, forearms, clotheslines, and double running boots. Cover by Mark gets 2. Headbutt by Mark. Forearm! Bridging Northern Lights for 2 by Mark. Tag to Jay, who gets two off a dropkick, broken up by Romero. Reyes is the victim of some massive forearm shots by Jay, Reyes retaliates with kicks. Bodyslam to Reyes, tag in Mark, who hits two stomps and a running knee to the downed Reyes. Romero runs in and gets fought off, but it lets Reyes recover and throw Mark to the Pitbulls’ corner. Legal tag to Romero, double back elbow to Mark and Romero hits the running stomp and knee strikes to Mark’s throat. Slaps to Mark and some repeated kicks to the head! Mark may be KOed here. Pin gets 2! Mark tries to fight back, but he’s knocked loopy. Suplex by Romero, Mark floats over – FISHERMAN’S BUSTER! Both men are down and out!

Crawling for corners… Rocky grabs Mark’s ankle – enziguri! Tag to Jay, who scores with chops. Off the ropes, Jay ducks a spin kick from Romero, who eats a quick superkick! Reyes runs in to lay into Jay, then whip his partner – RIGHT into another superkick from Jay Briscoe! Jay is on fire, backdrop driver to Reyes!

Romero now in with Jay, who hits a backbreaker, holds Romero for a double stomp by Mark! Cover gets 2. Mongolian chops by Mark to Reyes, who gets thrown into the corner. Mark goes to charge Reyes and gets LAUNCHED all the way to the floor! Jay runs over with the elbows to Reyes, who responds with those low kicks and a backbreaker – holds Jay in the backbreaker position for a TOP ROPE KNEE STRIKE TO THE NECK from Romero! Cover gets two – Mark makes the save!

Reyes takes Mark out to the floor, then gets legally tagged in. Romero holds Jay up for a back suplex, Reyes launches himself from the second rope and simultaneously hits a Blockbuster! Pin cover gets 2, and everyone’s looking woozy. Reyes in with a t-bone suplex attempt, floated over into a rollup! Reyes kicks out at 2! Mark tags in with a springboard dropkick in reyes! Dropkick to Romero! Exploder on Reyes! Cover gets TWO! Mark is staggered but Jay comes in, sets up the DOOMSDAY DEVICE! But no! Romero takes out Mark on the apron! Pitbulls double-team Jay with repeated running knee strikes, and a lariat that FLOORS Jay! Cover by Reyes, and Jay kicks out at two!

Reyes and Jay now in the ring, Reyes laying in forearms. Suplex is blocked by Jay, sets up the JAY DRILLER, Mark comes off the top rope for a HOLY SHIT SPIKE JAY DRILLER! Pin gets three in the NO SHIT! moment of the night! Freaking AWESOME tag match! Both teams shake hands afterwards, and I’m relieved that Ricky Reyes isn’t paralyzed. For my money, the Briscoes are better than ANY current WWE tag team, and I’ll stick by that.

Technique: A-. This was one of the better debut matches I’ve ever seen for a tag team. The Havana Pitbulls are both masters of the west coast “new strong style” offense, and the Briscoes have a hybrid style all their own. This was a phenomenal exhibition match, and displayed some great mixing of the two styles.

Pacing: B. Slightly off at times, it seemed that the momentum would swing too quickly between the teams. For my money, if a guy’s been beaten down or taken a large move, it lessens his ability to make a quick comeback. It’s one thing to see it at the end of a match, but in the middle it seems like a “false finish” too early.

Storytelling: B+. From the moment the Pitbulls stepped in the ring, their intentions were clear. They didn’t care if they won or lost, they wanted to make a name for themselves. And they did, going all-out against the dominant tag champs. The Briscoes were fighting for pride, not their belts, but still gave it 110%, because that’s how they are. They live for matches like this. The handshakes afterwards add to the fact that this was one of the most solid tag matches in years.

Excitement: A. Holy crap, this had me on the edge of my seat. Near-falls, quick tags in and out, the entire time I was breathless. Both teams are amazing, hands-down better than 90% of anything you’ll see on free TV. If you want to introduce someone to what real tag team wrestling is, show them this match.

MATCH: CM Punk v. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson

Punk’s entrance goes on for about two full minutes, long enough to completely go through AFI’s “Miseria Cantare”. Danielson, however, gets a hero’s welcome from the St. paul crowd, coming in wearing an awesome “I MUST BREAK YOU” t-shirt. Match is ready to start – out comes Steamboat! Ricky takes the mic, and announces that he was paid to referee a match, and he’ll live up to his contract – by refereeing THIS one. Awesome!

Handshake to start. “Fuck him up, Dragon, fuck him up” chant from the crowd. Punk goes to the outside to taunt a fan, Dragon goes out, Punk slips back in. Lockup leads to cheap shot by Punk to Dragon in the corner. Second lockup to Punk hammerlock on Dragon, Dragon backs Punk into the corner. Euro uppercuts and foot choke from Dragon. Lockup leads to some grounded matwork with Dragon winding up with a grounded wristlock on Punk. Punk drapes his foot over the ropes to break the hold. Punk takes some time to argue with Steamboat, but Ricky gets right in his face. Knucklelock battle goes Punk’s way as he works a wristlock on Dragon through a series of reversals. Dragon escapes with a monkey flip. Punk complains to Steamboat about hair-pulling, crowd echoes “Bullshit!” chants.

Back to a knucklelock, Dragon gets advantage, Punk unloads kicks to Dragon’s gut, takes advantage, Dragon reverses with a somersault, cranking Punk’s wrists around while maintaining the knucklelock. Dragon kicks one hand loose, hits a Northern Lights Suplex, and starts working Punk’s arm and wrist. Armbar/Abdominal stretch by Dragon on Punk in the middle of the ring. Almost like a Regal Stretch, but standing. Back down to the mat working the armbar. Punk backs Dragon into the corner to break the hold, throws Dragon across the ring, then backdrops him and goes for the kneeling chinlock. Elbows by Danielson to escape, floors Punk with a knee to the gut. Knees to Punk on the mat, cover gets 2.

Dragon goes back to the armbar, then locks on a kneeling crossface, into a neck vice. Punk punches his way out, starts laying in kicks to Dragon’s shoulder and locks in a cravatte to snapmare to front facelock. Both men get to their feet, and Punk hits a surprisingly vicious shoulderblock. He goes off the ropes, and counters a leapfrog into a rolling fireman’s carry to the corner. Dragon’s down, so Punk goes up top and the split-leg moonsault gets KNEES! Dragon goes back on the offensive and hits a series of standing headbutts to Punk’s gut. Punk bails to the floor, but Dragon follows with some chops against the rail. Back in the ring, Dragon goes for a surfboard, pulling Punk’s upper body all the way back into a dragon sleeper! Punk works his way out of the hold, and comes back with some kicks and chops against the ropes. Danielson goes for another abdominal stretch, Punk scrambling to reverse, then back suplexes Dragon OUT OF THE RING!

Brawling on the outside, with Punk just laying into Dragon, slamming him into the rails. The crowd is into the viciousness, and most of the metal covering the rails has fallen off with the night’s abuse. Back in the ring, Punk starts beating Danielson down with stomps and knees, back to the kneeling chinlock. Punk continues laying in knees to Dragon’s back. Dragon powers out, off ropes right into a CM Punk backbreaker that gets two before Dragon meets the ropes. Dragon mounts a comeback with euro uppercuts and chops, until Punk thumbs the eye. Standing dropkick to the back of Danielson’s head by Punk. Punk kneels with his calf across Dragon’s throat to argue with Steamboat some more. Punk gets right in Steamboat’s face, schoolboy by Dragon gets 2! Punk goes for a vertical suplex, blocked into a slingshot into the ropes by Dragon, big Euro uppercut! Dragon charges, gets throated across the rope by Punk, Punk springboards in with a dropkick to the back, cover gets 2. Punk locks on a camel clutch style chinlock. Danielson tries to power out, Punk keeps jumping on his lower back. Punk goes to jump on Dragon’;s back ahgain, Danielson rolls and gets a knee up to crotch Punk! Danielson now with chops in the corner! Euro uppercuts aainst the rope, throws Punk to the ropes, backdrop attempt gets countered with an attempt by Punk at an over-the-shoulder backbreaker, but Danielson kicks off the ropes and bridges over for a pin cover! Punk kicks out at two.

Blind charge by Punk eats boot, Danielson starts a raging comeback with a forearm. Fireman’s carry to airplane spin! Damn, he’s spinning for a LONG while here. Ends it with a rolling fireman’s carry, Danielson is WAY dizzy. Danielson goes up top, diving headbutt misses! Punk hits the Rico armbar-kick, Danielson comes back trying for the Cattle Mutilation, GETS IT! Punk rolls out of it, drops to the ground to release the hold. Shining Wizard by Punk gets TWO! Exhausted, Punk throws Danielson into the corner, drags Danielson up for the Pepsi Plunge… Danielson won’t go! Danielson fights out of it with forearms! Battling it out on the ropes, Danielson falls off, comes back with a euro uppercut to Punk. Danielson sets up a HUUUUUGE superplex, hits it! Both men are DOWN! Steamboat counts 9 before both men stagger up. Chops from Danielson, forearms from Punk. Suplex by Punk, floated over by Danielson who tries a german suplex, Punk holds on to the ropes! Punk goes for the Shining Wizard, Danielson ducks, gets the rollup and bridges over for TWO! Danielson goes for a crucifix pin takedown but Punk Samoan Drops him to the mat! Punk locks on the Devil Lock (Leg grapevine Hammerlock+cloverleaf-style leglock), segues into a half-crab! Dragon makes ropes! Punk goes up top, leaps, Danielson connects with a dropkick! Dragon suplex by Danielson gets TWO! Danielson locks on the abdominal stretch again! Punk taps!

Dragon offers the handshake after, Punk takes it. Afterwards, Punk has some words for Steamboat. steamboat pushes Punk, Punk insists he wasn’t tapping out, that Steamboat was out to screw him. Cabana comes into the ring behind Steamboat’s back. Second City Saints double-team Steamboat, with Colt holding him for Punk to lay in punches and chops. Steamboat gets in a good kick on Punk, but in come the Briscoes to make the save!

Technique: A. These guys are two of the best on the indy circuit, and this match showed it. Lots of technical, high-flying, and brawling exhibited in this match. Easily one of Punk’s better matches in recent months.

Pacing: B+. There were a few moments where it seemed the guys took a little too long to set up the next sequence of moves. Use of restholds wasn’t overdone, though, and they knew just how to escalate the severity of their moves.

Storytelling: B-. While the in-ring continuity was superb, Ring of Honor tends to overuse the “dream match” concept. However, involving Steamboat was a great way to escalate the Punk/Steamboat feud. Bringing in the Briscoes for the save at the end also made sense, since the Second City Saints will be facing the Briscoes for the tag titles on the next show, and the Briscoes are all about respecting tradition.

Excitement: A-. Two of my favorite wrestlers putting on a great match will always get a “crowd pop of one” from the Cheap Seats. It’s one of those matches where you never knew who was going to pull out what next, and with the sheer expansiveness of these guys’ repertoires, that’s a lot of stuff to draw from.

MATCH: RoH World Title Match – Samoa Joe v. Homicide

Streamers rain in the ring during Joe’s introduction. Homicide is all tangled up and pissed. Bit of an argument between Homicide and Joe about Homicide taking his hat off. Nice sequence of shoulderblocks, arm drags, and dropkicks to start. Joe takes down Cide with a drop toe hold into an STF, Homicide makes the ropes and they break. Homicide rolls to the floor for a breather and tosses a chair in. Ref throws the chair right back out.

Homicide’s stalking around the ring, screaming at the fans and throwing the ring steps. Back in the ring, Joe goes for some quick low kicks, making Cide keep his distance. Homicide goes for the leg, but Joe counters with a few crossfaces and a face stretch. Snapmare by Joe sets up a seated abdominal stretch with Joe COMPLETELY lifting Homicide off the mat! More matwork ends with Joe in control again with a headlock. Homicide’s really not getting in ANY offense here.

Hold broken in the ropes, and Homicide starts off with a chop. No effect! Staredown and they start trading slaps to the face. Joe returns with a headbutt and Cide is down! Knucklelock takes both men to the corner. Dragged into the center of the ring, Joe lays more headbutts into Homicide. Cide retaliats by CHEWING ON JOE’S EAR! Yikes! Now some nasty chops and forearms by Homidice to Joe in the corner. Punk comments, “Apparently Homicide didn’t read the chapter in his wrestling handbook about headbutting Samoans.” I hear that. Joe fights out of the corner, so Homicide locks in a leg scissor choke. Back to beatings in the corner, Homicide seems to have gained the momentum advantage.

Homicide tries to take Joe up top, isn’t happening. Joe retaliates with a running forearm and puts Cide up top. Cide jumps, right into a sidewalk slam. Homicide bails, and EATS a Samoa Joe tope! Both men fight to throw each other into the rail, Homicide gets backdropped into the crowd, then hiptossed back to ringside!

Back in the ring, Joe covers for two. Backbreaker by Joe, sets up a Boston Crab. Joe shifts his grip to the Samoa Joe version, but Homicide counters with a heel kick to the head. Punches set up a facewash by Joe onto Homicide in the corner. Muta pose by Joe precedes another running face wash. Snapmare out of the corner into a dragon sleeper. Homicide fights back with some elbows, then goes up top with a double knee strike to the head, capitalized on with a swinging neckbreaker and cover for two. Delayed piledriver by Homicide! Gets two! Joe had to drape his leg over the rope to break the pin. Snapmare by Homicide, a swift kick to the back and a tight dragon sleeper from Homicide, using his knee for added leverage. Joe reaches the ropes with his foot, forcing the break.

Joe mounts a comeback with punches and rapid chops. After a blistering chop, Joe sets up the Island Driver, Homicide floats out and hits a NICE enziguri that sends Joe tumbling through the ropes. Joe stands, right into Homicide’s flipping suicide tope!

On the outside, Joe reverses a whip to send Homicide into the rail and it’s OLAY OLAY OLAY time! Running kick to Homicide’s head! Homicide eats another toss into the rail, and gets placed in the chair for a second OLAY OLAY OLAY kick! Joe taunts Homicide as he gets to his feet, as both men stagger back into the ring. Foot choke by Joe in the corner on the exhausted Homicide. Charge into corner makes Homicide eat boot, then Joe falls prey to a second rope swinging DDT for two. Homicide goes back up top, tries anothe rtornado DDT, but gets tossed! Homicide charges right into a belly-to-bell into the turnbuckle! Powerbomb by Joe gets two! Joe locks on the STF, Homicide escapes! Homicide goes for a kick – it’s caught! Slap! Dragon screw! Joe locks on the STF again! Punk on commentary makes the reference to Masahiro Chono winning the NWA Heavyweight title with the STF as Homicide makes the ropes.

Joe backs off, prepping for a lariat, Homicide staggers up using the ropes, Joe charges – countered into an Ace Crusher! HUGE lariat to follow up by Homicide! Pin gets TWO! Homicide ditches the elbow pad, setting up for another lariat, Joe counters with a kick and goes for the choke! Homicide tries a suplex counter, Joe releases the choke and starts laying in knees to Homicide’s face! Homicide grabs the leg and gets a rollup! One, two, three-no-two! Crowd is booing the shit out of the ref’s call! Looks like Joe’s shoulder was up before the ref’s hand hit the third time – Homicide takes out the ref! Joe with a boot to Homicide! Wait – the lights go out?

Announcers are confused – FIREBALL TO JOE’S FACE! Homicide is laughing like an insane maniac – even Punk’s shocked! Crowd is shocked, and Homicide starts laying into Joe, the refs, anyone who comes into the ring! Locker room empties and Homicide takes them all on! Trainers and refs head to Joe as Punk ditches the announcer’s booth and heads down to ringside.

Technique: B. Both guys brought a lot, but this match seemed more geared towards the ending than the getting there. Some great stiff striking work from these two, and some counters I didn’t expect out of Homicide. They seemed to keep most of their arsenal in check, however, which disappointed me.

Pacing: B. It built up well to the finish. Both guys were determined to go all-out, but the match flowed perfectly. The repeated countering of finishers led to an expected dramatic finish, but the fireball and the DQ came out of nowhere.

Storytelling: A. This is a grudge match, and Homicide’s slow burn into insanity culminated perfectly. His entire in-ring attitude has changed in just a few short shows in the process of his heel turn. They keep describing him as “demonic”, and it fits. These guys portray a legitimate anger with each other, as well as their own frustrations: Joe with having lost to Homicide before, and Homicide with being unable to capture the title. This starts off a whole new feud, and one that looks to take over the World Title picture.

Excitement: B+. All in all, the match was awesome, but I felt the ending took a lot away from it. Didn’t see Homicide even go for the Cop Killer once, which irked me. Not Joe’s best title defense, but the fireball was something you don’t see in RoH. Definitely a great shooting off point for the feud, and for RoH’s “Reborn” era.

After the match:

Over a dozen guys are dragging Homicide to the back as Punk and Cabana use the distraction to jump the Briscoes! Mark goes up top – SHOOTING STAR PRESS to the outside to take down the Saints! HUGE brawl ensues! Cabana with an Asai Moonsault onto the brawling wrestlers! Dunn and Marcos with top rope dives onto the Carnage Crew! Saints and Briscoes brawling! Moonsault from Devito onto the outside! Jack Evans with a double corkscrew moonsault to the outside! Absolute chaos! STEAMBOAT comes out to attack Cabana and Punk in the ring! Chops! Armdrags for Punk and Cabana! And the crowd goes insane!

We close with the Briscoes taunting the Saints as Steamboat basks in the crowd’s cheers.


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Matt Nute

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