I'm going through my one-off DVDs trying to get some wrestling in while reducing my backlog of unwatched stuff. I've been meaning to watch Reborn Stage 2 for awhile after picking it up for cheap on eBay (longer than I can remember ago). As always with these things, I cherry pick. This is a pretty historically important show so let's begin!
Austin Aries vs Nigel McGuinness vs Jimmy Rave vs Rocky Romero: Aries' big show debut, Rocky Romero's 2nd night in ROH, Nigel's biggest match to date...that's amazing! And all 4 guys showed that they really were going to be the future of the company (even if for a short while). The technical ability exhibited was top tier and beyond the card position. And I think that was exciting about the match was it was mainly about arm bars, escapes, counters and reversals. Some of these we would get used to and take for granted but here they were fresh and revolutionary. And the crowd reacted accordingly. So it's unfair to measure this against what they were doing a couple years later. It is best to judge this own its own merits. It is really good technically oriented stuff with a great batch of spots towards the end. The fact that all four would become mainstays (Romero coming back with RPG Vice) is the cherry on top. These guys were damn good wrestlers. Great match.
Bryan Danielson vs Homicide: Great slow build match. Nice technical but uneventful beginning. I am not complaining though. Eventually 'cide damages Danielson's neck. Dragon holds on and finds an opportunity when the 187 punches the steel barrier. Now we have a battle! What will give out first? Great selling by each guy. Smart action where there's consequences for mistakes. Some think its a classic so I recommend checking it out and you decide. Either way it's highly recommended. I might even re-watch as I'm a fan of both.
Dunn & Marcos vs Carnage Crew vs Sydal & Jack Evans vs Shelley & Jacobs: Tag team scramble match so its kind of a free for all. And with that, this is mainly a series of cool spots. And it was a blast! It was very good for what it was. It reminded me of some of the gimmick matches in TNA. Crazier more athletic stuff was done here but when the crazy stuff is performed in TNA, it is more meaningful. So in some ways they balance out. This isn't as good as the opening match in terms of gimmick matches but, it still well worth your time. You can see where Gabe got the idea for Generation Next with a match like this.
Samoa Joe vs Matt Stryker: So yeah I always thought Matt Stryker was Matt Striker...uh that's not the case. Man, that's some damn name theft by Striker/WWE or maybe vice versa? Anyhow this was a good challenger vs champion match. Stryker even had a couple believable near falls. Joe did an excellent job looking vulnerable when he needed to while still being a badass. His strikes were fantastic and hits an absolutely brutal lariat. If this would have been shorter in duration, I could rate this a little higher. Kinda in the 15 minute range vs 18.It didn't drag but Stryker didn't have a ton of charisma or an electrifying moveset so it was like taking the long way around when they could have gone the quicker way. Makes sense booking wise with the main event... giving people a chance to be entertained but really pop for the tag title fight.
The Briscoes vs Second City Saints (Punk/Cabana):The Saints come home to Chicago! They start this out really well with a good albeit schticky shine section. Kinda like in lucha or M-Pro where the baby faces are tying the heels up and making them look foolish. Very fun to ham it up. Dem Boys eventually isolate Punk and do excellent heel work beyond their years. You really can see where they would go as one of the best teams of the 2000-2010s. Punk makes the hot tag to Colt and we get one long finishing segment. I usually don't gripe too much about tag legality but the ref was being by-the-book with everything else. This is what made the middle so great and it just goes out the window. We even get guys trying to pin the wrong guys. Admittedly I lost track too so you just have to go with the flow, I guess. I think if this took place a year or more later this would be a classic. The rough edges, the early Marufuji-like complexity, etc. would have been minimized for sure. I think in the early & mid 2000's this was excused or viewed as innovative and some praise this latter part over the beginning and middle. Still it's a great big tag match that delivers on the action and excitement especially since we're in Chicago (for the first time!). If you're a CM Punk fan this is an essential ROH match. If you're a Briscoe Brothers fan who wants to see some of best early stuff this is one to see.
From what I watched, this was a great, super consistent show. Nothing was a classic but everything I watched was very good or great (well Joe vs Stryker was only "good" but it was brutal at times). Very good purchase and somewhat indicative of 2004. It is a transition year but as you can see shows like this help create the golden era of 2005-2007 ROH.
I've asked this in the Ring of Honor thread in the Mega thread Archive but wanted to ask it here as well. I'm curious on what people think is the best and worse in ring years for pre-Tony ROH. Exclude the quarantine stuff if you want. Or if you want what were the best/worst of the Gabe years, post Gabe, Sinclair era etc.
Any unpopular opinions are welcome because I'm always interested in revisiting /re-evaluating these types of things. Same with any under-rated or overrated matches/shows. I'm curious what folks views are in 2023 as we're pretty much looking in the rearview mirror with ROH.
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Thanks for reading!