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  1. G. Badger

    Ring of Honor - Year One

    The thing about watching Ring of Honor's back catalog is that you have to plan ahead or have a watchful eye online. Many of the original shows have been out of production for years and although they have put out a lot of fantastic compilations to compensate, those too are no longer in production. I have never bought any of my ROH DVDs as they come out. I'm always running behind...sometimes nearly a decade behind! This is the case with ROH Year One. When I first got into ROH, I was interested in getting stuff that featured puro stars I had not yet figured out a way to get anything of Japanese origin. Fortunately, ROH was in the middle of their partnership with NOAH and I was able to snag stuff with KENTA, Morishima, Kobashi, and Misawa. Some of that stuff is pretty hard to come by nowadays. Cool! I only later got interested in their back catalog but, did not have a good idea of what I should buy. Combine that with having to make the choice between buying classic AJ/NJ/AJW DVDs or ROH stuff, I went with the Puro/Joshi. I still stand behind that decision I have picked up stuff here and there over the past decade trying to fill the gaps of my ROH collection with compilations and keeping an eye peeled on eBay/Amazon. Like I started with, ROH had a fantastic run of compilations from perhaps 2014 covering all of their big stars (and some long time minor stars), factions, feuds, and even years. These have since dried up and only a few are still available at a discount on Highspots. ROH changed warehouses a couple years ago (I have a nice rant about this in one of my earlier blog posts) to MD and got rid of alot of product that wasn't moving. Highspots seemingly bought a bulk of it and do have a Year Four and Best of Alex Shelley set (which I bought a few years ago) that I would highly, highly recommend. I'm on a tangent...sorry. Year One is something that I thought I probably would never get around to seeing. I was able to get ROH's Year Two DVD set (back when I got the Yr. 4 and Shelley DVD) and I've not seen it available for a reasonable price since. Year One wasn't available at that time or if it was I was a dummy. But, I've pieced enough of it together with Youtube posts, Takedown Masters editions, and one compilation match to present to you my review of Ring of Honor Year One! I'm only going to be reviewing the stuff I enjoyed or that have been recommended elsewhere. If I haven't seen something I'll let you know A couple things are from memory but, again I'll let you know. The Era of Honor Begins - The first show. This is from the Takedown Masters Edition. These are the best versions to get IMO because they cut out the junk matches and none of the matches you want to see are messed with. There's some folks saying these are clipped but, that's not true. Seriously, get this version. It'll be cheaper than the official ROH release. Jay Briscoe vs Amazing Red - Good match but they were just throwing everything out there in no particular order. Scoot Andrews vs Xavier - Not Scott vs Xavier I guess had a really good series of matches on the Northeast Indies. This wasn't really any different. I had a good build and was really good sound match. Super Crazy vs Eddie Guerrero - Eddie's looking in a bad way here. Took awhile to get going but was a good match. Tons left on the table. I'm sure this is the match the people paid to see but, we get our main event next. American Dragon vs Low-Ki vs Christopher Daniels - Man! The Fallen Angel gimmick is one I really miss. Anyhow, this is still a classic match. It wasn't full of cliches and really introduced a new era of wrestling in the States. It is steps ahead of the other matches on the show in both layout and execution. I would say if you're into M-Pro wrestling of the 90's or the ECW 3 Way Dances of Super Crazy, Tajiri, Jerry Lynn, Little Guido, Spike, etc.(I'm showing my age right?) then, this is right up your alley. Round Robin Challenge - Show Two and a follow up to the conclusion of the last show.Ditto on this being the Takedown Masters version. This is labeled as Round Robbin Challenge Its all good. Everything you'd want to see is here in full. American Dragon vs Christopher Daniels - This has got to be top 5 or 10 best ROH show openers. This is a near classic encounter. Things were kept simple with Daniels targeting Am Drag's neck. There were plenty of teases and cut-offs to keep it exciting as well. These two rarely disappoint. Daniels vs Low-Ki - Another near classic but, a tad below the above match because in-ring story wasn't as compelling. Still, the intensity was there with the Fallen Angel looking to hit his big moves on Low-Ki and wrap things up early. Ki was just kicking and fighting the whole way. The finishing segments shows how in tune these guys were with their moves. They could seemingly pull a finish out of thin air. Spanky vs Jay Briscoe - I have no idea why anyone thought Spanky was a good wrestling name. Brian Kendrick is a good name and good enough that he's ran used it the rest of his career. So, it sucks to hear the announcers refer to him as Spanky and take him or them seriously. Nevertheless, this was a good match once Kendrick started bleeding. Despite both guys being young and trying to show-off, they kept it simple. Los Maximos (SAT) vs Brian XL & Amazing Red vs Chris Divine & Quiet Storm - On the other end of the spectrum we have matches like this. This was fun but also cringe inducing at times. These guys got into a ring and wanted to do everything they could think of. It wasn't very long and this style does typify independent wrestling at the time so, its a worthwhile time capsule. American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Ken Shamrock guest refs this. Again, they needed someone to put on the posters to get people to show up to the Murphy Rec Center. It makes sense though because both guys have a shoot style influence as well as martial arts background. So, this was what I would call a Inoki Strong Style match. It starts with shoot style grappling and works its way up to pro-wrestling moves as the match escalates in intensity. Historical importance aside, this is a classic match. Low-Ki is a scowling hard ass and Danielson is a baby face here so, its hard not to root for the Am Drag here. But don't be fooled, once Dragon gets that look in his eyes, he's a bad as they come. BUT we don't quite know that in 2002 do we? We certainly find out this match. He is a tough as nails, aggressive, and technically masterful. He has to be if he has any chance of beating the man they call Low-Ki! Classic stuff for sure. A Night of Appreciation - Show #3. I don't have this and cannot find the AJ Styles vs Low Ki match that looks to be the highlight. There is there 07/17/02 TNA on Youtube that could be watched as substitute I suppose. Eddie's last match for ROH. ROH Road to the Title - Takedown Masters Edition. Again, nothing that I wanted to see here was clipped or cut out. There are tons of matches here too. This one is not labeled as a Must See tape like the first two shows but, I disagree. This may not have the classic match but, this is Ring of Honor's first stacked show. Like the others unlike the other shows, I think I may have watched every match. I'm not going to review all of them but, I will talk about the ones I'm recommending. This tournament sets up the 4 way Iron Man match to crown the first ROH World Champ. Jerry Lynn vs AJ Styles - Holy Cow! No one has talked about this match but, it was great. They were doing stuff at NWA-TNA PPVs but, I've never seen those. Maybe those are better but, if so then, I've got to watch 'em. This bout was like one long sequence full of reversals, counters and dodges. If you dug RVD vs Jerry Lynn then, you've got to see this! Near classic match to me. American Dragon vs Doug Williams - Doug's ROH debut and it is a banger. Stiff strikes, powerful suplexes and competitive mat wrestling. It was a great match that could have been something more if it wasn't a tournament match I think. This was a dream match. I wonder if they had a better one than this? -Oh I should mention Spanky Kendrick and Paul London had a good match. There was a botched superplex but, it didn't really look like that. It looked like they were going for something far riskier like a Kendrick dropping London's throat across the top rope from the superplex position- Low Ki vs Amazing Red - This was a little too choreographed for my tastes to be a great match. It wasn't too long and did have some nice moves and Ki was brutal like Yumiko Hotta here. Red or Ki did fumble a reverse rana and that didn't help things. Good match though. Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles - Like I even need to talk about these two together. There was a lot of mat wrestling here which is probably different than their TNA stuff. It was great as was the whole match. They really might be each other's best opponents since they are so evenly matched. Crowning a Champion - Don't have this DVD but, the main event match is/was on ROH's Youtube channel. It is a 60 minute match and is pretty great. I'm writing from memory but, I'd say it was ****-****1/4. Certainly worth seeing once. Honor Invades Boston - Features Mark Briscoe's first ROH match since they are outside of the Murphy Rec Center and he can legally wrestle in MA. He and Jay have a great match against each other. I've only seen clips from ROH TV when they aired the Briscoes special right as everything shut down for the pandemic. It also features an AJ Styles - Low Ki classic. This takes places days after the aforementioned TNA match so, maybe watch that here in its place. I would like to find this DVD but, I guess there are a lot of DUDs on the card as well. Unscripted - This has some good matches on paper with Dick Togo, Ikuto Hidaka and Takao Omori but, it doesn't amount to much. This is the show where Xaiver (RIP) beats Low Ki for the belt and joins The Prophecy. I didn't see this match but, I've never had a problem with Xavier in ROH. Now I haven't seen a ton but, I think alot of the flack he got was for beating the ROH ace for the belt a couple shows in with A CHAIRSHOT! (and 450 splash). That really seems like the antithesis of what ROH was about especially at this time. The fans champ was beaten by cheating and lost the belt after one show. That does seem like some Sports Entertainment B.S. especially without the benefit of hindsight. Most notable though is Michael Shane vs Paul London. This is a great match and should be seen. This is the genesis of the "Please Don't Die" chant for London. It is warranted. I don't know how much people thought of London at the time but, he is THE underdog dark horse of ROH. Glory by Honor - This is Samoa Joe's debut and this was supposed to be a one time only appearance. He was hired by The Prophecy to beat up Low-Ki. These two just beat each other up and it was pretty great. I don't think it was a classic as its really just a collection of potato shots but, this is the only Ki vs Joe singles match in ROH history. The unofficial re-match is considered to be PWG's All Star Weekend V night 2 in '07. I should get this next Highspots sale. All Star Extravaganza - This is the remastered version and it a ROH release. This is out there still so, I recommend picking it up for sure. It was the first Year One ROH DVD I got and helped encourage me to check more of the early stuff out. Michael Shane vs CM Punk - Punk's debut and its a pretty good one. It is more of an in-ring-story match than full of a bunch of moves. ROH getting more talent in the wrestling department vs the moves department (Maximos, Quiet Storm, Brian XL etc.) is what helped make ROH a lasting promotion. Historical match and vintage Punk is always worth a watch. Like Daniels, he had a character and could talk and that was a big plus for ROH as well. American Dragon vs Paul London - Since I've already watched this show once or twice I wasn't going to sit through the whole #1 Contender Tourney but, London had already beaten 2 guys before facing Dragon. That does not bode well for him. But, do NOT count out Paul London! Most folks do not know how awesome he was year one & year two of Ring of Honor. He was the dark horse underdog of the company for sure. Mid card matches like this prove just how great he would become when given the opportunity. He and Danielson have a very good match where he's hanging with a fresh Dragon on the mat...despite being on his third match. And he throws a mean elbow too! Daniels, Donovan Morgan & Samoa Joe vs Homicide, Doug Williams & Low Ki - Great 6 man match where the tag rules eventually go out the window. I don't mind too much in matches where they're trying to push the level of chaos. Joe vs Doug is a match I gotta see. This was also Homicide coming out party as far as my viewing has gone. He's done alot of throw-away undercard tag stuff but, here he is allowed to be the great maniac we love. Low-Ki & Steve Corino vs Shinjiro Ohtani & Masato Tanaka - This is the main event of the show but, really should be behind the Tourney finals in my book. SO, I watched it before that and am reviewing it first. I've also reviewed it early on the blog for my Masato Tanaka post ECW post. This is still a great match that's full of double teams and hard hits. This wasn't a big time event for Zero One so, this wasn't going to be more than what it was but, it was really great. The fans were really loving it. American Dragon vs AJ Styles - This was like an evolution of the NJ Jr. classics of the 90's. Excellent fast mat wrestling gave way to hard hitting action. AJ's bumping his butt off and Dragon gets busted open. If you can believe it AJ doesn't hit any dives here and it content grappling with THE grappler of ROH. They leave a lot on the table here but, still have a classic match. The organic and brutal finish seals the deal. Post show Homicide stabs Corino with a fork in the eye... Scramble Madness - Oh there's another Doug Williams vs Bryan Danielson match on this. I need to see this...but, nothing else looks too hot. Night of the Butcher - I look Abdullah but, I have no idea why he was booked. There is another Paul London vs Bryan Danielson match here - sweet! I think this DVD is pretty rare so, probably never going to see if (but I do have some stuff from Year Two) Final Battle 2002 - I don't have the show DVD but, this is from the Steve Corino DVD set put out by ROH. They may still have the set available on their website at a discount. It has the following match as well as most/all of the Homicide matches and later stuff with Steen/SCUM from the early 2010's. Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe - This was a First Pin or Submission Wins match. There's a lot of back story here with each guy. I've picked up on some in my viewings and have had to read elsewhere but, generally speaking Ki & Dragon respect each other but, are still rivals. Ki & Joe respect each other but, are more than rivals...enemies is probably the best term. Corino is allied with Joe for his Group which was supposed to be the next big thing after The Prophecy but, it never took off (but ignore that part for now). Joe and Dragon are rivals. Ki and Corino tagged at All Star but, I wouldn't say they're friends either. Oh also note that since Corino has been in Z1 he's muted his antics and is much more a puro style wrestler. He stil will take short cuts but, he is not out of place in this match. I could go on about this match as there were so many highlights. My favorite had to be Low Ki double stomping Dragon while we was applying Cattle Mutilation to Joe. What was the craziest part is that Bryan did not break his bridge so, it left Ki standing atop his abdomen like a foot stool. Danielson is a machine! Everyone looked like a beast at some point during the match to be honest. This was another classic for Year One. I've never heard it in that conversation but, it was another must see. It goes long so, set aside some time but, it ends Ring of Honor's first year with a bang. In summary, ROH Year One (2002) is really enjoyable. I am really happy that I have what I would consider the 4 essential DVDs in Era of Honor Begins, Round Robin Challenge, Road to the Title, and All Star Extravaganza. Honor Reclaims Boston seems like another worth seeking out but, the Takedown Master versions make those first 3 DVDs listed much easier to find. The prices do spike but, if you keep an eye on them then, you can get them for under $10 each for sure. As far as I understand it, ROH's Honor Club doesn't show things this old. They show things from the past few years but, their vaults are not open...which is crazy to me since not only do they NOT have these for sale in DVD format but, they are cutting back their DVD production way down. So, the prospect of any of these being available in physical media seems unlikely. Maybe I'm wrong about the Honor Club. And maybe Honor Club members have access to this stuff on Youtube somehow? I'm person that like to have the physical copy and if you are too then, its not too difficult to track down enough of the great and classic ROH matches to really enjoy yourself. The production quality is rough but, that is some of the charm. One thing I'll mention to tie this into the ROH Pure title revival is that most of the great matches in 2002 should be used as a stylistic template for ROH to come. There is no reason that the talent that Ring of Honor has right now cannot emulate the athletic competitive wrestling of Year One. Most of their current roster has much more experience and training than those guys almost two decades ago. Sure there is Hall of Fame talent there but, I'm sure that there is HoF talent in the ROH ring right now as well. I think this Pure Title revival is more than just bringing a secondary belt back. I hope it is a return to the snug aggressive wrestling we see at the heart of ROH's first year. There is still room for high flyers, brawling, hardcore matches, and comedy but, the focus of the company should be on the competition and the "sport" of professional wrestling. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!
  2. A return to form for this week of the Pure Title tournament. We have Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams and Josh Woods vs PJ Black. Yehi vs Williams - Well, this was a great match and certainly the top 2 best matches of the tourney thus far. It was hard hitting and made good use of the rope breaks. This was one of the longer matches and am waiting to see this in full somewhere. A bit of an unexpected finish (it didn't go to a time limit draw like I thought was possible) and the winner was no who I picked. Nevertheless, both guys are winners in my book. We get another promo section this week. Here we get EC3's first appearance and damn he made an impression. His message was fantastic in content and delivery. I really recommend checking this out...it was chilling stuff especially with an empty arena. Then, we get a set up for a Shane Taylor Enterprises vs Briscoes/EC3 match. Who knows when but, that could be some fun stuff. Black vs Woods - Both guys had seconds which actually helped make this a louder match than we're used to. Silas was in Woods corner and Brian Johnson in PJ's. This was more on-the-mat than the Yehi/Williams match if you can believe that. I really liked it and thought it was pretty good stuff. I'll spoil it - Woods wins it. They must be really have a lot of faith in him for the future. That's good because he seems like he'll be loyal to ROH in the future. And after the Elite exodus and others going to AEW, they really need that. So, I'm gonna say who won the Williams-Yehi match now so, if you haven't seen it yet go watch it Then, come back. OK so, here we go: In the Final Four we have Woods vs Gresham and Jay Lethal vs Hot Sauce. That is a little bit of a surprise but, not a giant one. I think the big revelation of today's show were the post match promos that start off the show. Lethal came out and addressed the elephant in the room of the finals being him vs Gresham...which felt like he was talking directly to my last blog post. SO, that means that it probably won't be Lethal Gresham in the finals Or may it will be a double fake-out and it will be Lethal vs Gresham! LOL I am thinking it will be Hot Sauce vs Gresham and that is based on Gresham's promo. He talks about being the foundation of ROH, and bringing the Pure Style back, and then somewhat confusingly says he's looking for stylistic freedom in wrestling (while knocking Sydal's high flying style...even though Sydal did one flip move per match). It was a mixed message I thought but, it was very similar to Hot Sauce's promo (which they re-broadcast) after he beat Rust Taylor. It was about bringing honor back to Ring of Honor. So, Tracy and Johnathan seem to have the same goal, message, agenda. That leads me to believe they are the pillars or Foundation in which they're building the Pure Division upon. Based on Woods' win/push and Yehi's performance, I think they can be included in that. I said it last week that Williams vs Gresham is good in my book. I was thinking Yehi was more likely but, they're rewarding Tracy for being a loyal worker. I'm down with that. Now, some more speculation and brainstorming...Perhaps The Foundation isn't just going to be Gresham's new gimmick but, will be a faction in ROH. I could see it being Gresham, Williams and Yehi as The Foundation. Although Gresham has been with ROH for a couple years along with Williams, they cut their teeth on wrestling this shoot style on the indies along with Yehi. This would also play into the ROH 6 man division which is always fun. Who knows...just throwing that out there. That might be something that happens down the road. I did like that Johnathan Gresham did talk about Sydal after his match. That gives me some confidence that we'll be seeing more of Sydal. I've mentioned Lethal vs Sydal but, perhaps Sydal and Lethal as a tag team? All in all this was a really good week of the show. I'm glad I kept some hope alive Yehi vs Williams is a must see for ROH TV as is the EC3 promo. Can't wait for next week! In the meantime, I'm going to try and type up my ROH Year One review that I've been working on in the background. Thanks for reading and stay safe!
  3. Here we are and Round 2 of the Ring of Honor Pure Title Tournament! We've got Jay Lethal vs Dave Finlay and Matt Sydal vs John Gresham. Lethal vs Finlay: I wasn't really feeling this match. It felt rather flat and by the book. Finlay felt rather vanilla and perhaps it was unfamiliarity with Lethal or Lethal knows he's got more matches to go and is pacing himself. Nonetheless, Lethal did a fine job selling the leg work but, this was just an OK match. I didn't have any expectations so, not really disappointed. I think they cut 5 minutes or so of the match from the TV episode btw. The match was at the 5 minute mark then, we went to commercial and then they said 10 minutes has passed. I wonder what if that 5 minutes would have changed my opinion. Then, we get a segment with Vinnie in the ring speaking of some vague nonsense. What is this? Get back to the wrestling! Eventually, we get the answer to the the questions no one's been asking about the The Trend videos ---it's Matt Taven! Taven then proceeds to squash theheck outta Vinne capped off by a sweet flying splash putting Vinnie through a table. There's a couple things going on here for me. I don't want the hokey talkie crap, that's why I watch ROH. That's the benefit of their 1 hour show...they don't have time to waste on guys prattling on about nothing. So, to stick this in the middle of the Pure Title Tournament was jarring for a few reasons. One, it reminded me that ROH still has mediocre guys on their roster like Vinnie that they're trying to do something big with. And in that vein, ROH still wants to play the sport entertainment game despite no one wanting to see it which should be proven to them by the buzz the Pure Tournament is causing. My other concern is that they did this because the Gresham/Sydal match wasn't going long and they needed filler. Thankfully, Taven crushed Vinnie. My hope, although I do think Vinnie has some potential, is that this is the last we see of him in ROH. At least in this Wyatt family/horror movie knock-off incarnation. He and Bateman as a tag team could be good but, I'd take Taven running him out of the company. Its nothing personal but, its a derivative gimmick and looks cheap next to the athletic display of the Pure competitors. Sydal vs Gresham: I've been looking forward to this match since Sydal beat Delirious on week #2 This did not disappoint. It had excellent counter wrestling and strikes but, unfortunately was over just as it was picking up steam. In fact it was over before, I even knew what happened. Gresham did a Mexican Surfboard and then did some position change where he popped Sydal's torso up and to the side but kept the knees locked in the surfboard position. So, all of Sydal's weight was pulling against the leverage point of Gresham's foot and separating Sydal's knee joint. He insta-tapped so, we didn't get much time to study the hold. It looked like a legit reaction/injury. Sydal was back on his feet to shake The Octopus' hand so, perhaps it was just great selling on Matt's part. Good match but, if given a couple more minutes it could have been great. It just didn't feel like it had an ending third. A couple things to note from today's episode. Lethal winning was predictable and Gresham's win wasn't too much of a surprise either. I hate to say this but, I think those two are going to be in the finals as I thought on week #1. The reason, I 'hate to say this', is because the stakes are getting lower for me & others to care about the outcome should that be the case. I still want to see the matches but, if they're going to play this safe and use this as an opportunity for re-visiting Lethal vs Gresham then, this will all be a whole lot of nothing. The whole tournament will be just drawing that obvious match out over the course of 2 months. Last week I had all kinds of ideas with Yehi, Williams, PJ Black, and Josh Woods to a lesser extent. I think ROH may continue to be 'unpredictable' with these matches but, really what does it matter when its seems very clear that they want Lethal vs Gresham? I can see Woods upsetting Black. I could see Yehi going over Williams (that too would be predictable since Yehi is the only invited wrestler to go over an ROH talent thus far further burying Silas Young in the process). I could envision a time limit draw and Lethal gets a by-week into the finals. This would protect Williams and Yehi from losing to Lethal as well as give them a storyline/feud with each other right out of the gate. BUT! That's if ROH was smart and wanted to get to Lethal vs Gresham but, use the losses as part of their booking...and to be honest after this week, I'm really doubting that cleverness. This week's show seemed like business-as-usual in Ring of Honor. Like who ever is booking (is it Delirious still?) has no creativity left and does not want to take any chances. Or perhaps its some suit telling him "No" on doing anything interesting...I was not convinced of that by the mere fact that ROH was doing this Pure Rule tournament in the first place. I want to take a detour and talk about Yehi because his story seems like the only thing 'up in the air.' If they don't do a draw then, I would love to see Yehi 'shock the world' defeat Lethal. That would take some cajones and it would restore my hope in the company. As far as B Block, its got to be Gresham. No one is left in Block B that can beat him. Especially since Gresham went over a vet like Sydal in less than 15 minutes. Yehi vs Gresham in the finals and have it go long...I would be a happy fan. That leaves me with the losers in the tournament. If ROH was smart, they should be moving them in story lines to keep them relevant. I would love to see a program with Lethal and Sydal. He left a LOT on the table in both the Delirious and Gresham match so, I think he's still protected somewhat. So, having Lethal lose to Yehi (or Hot Sauce) would free him up. Who knows if that will happen? I'm starting to feel that Gresham is winning the whole shebang though so, perhaps that'll leave Lethal free anyhow. Dalton Castle should be in that mix along with Silas. All I know is that I want to see these guys more. All in all though, I think I've spent more time fantasy booking this tournament than ROH spent. Some of that perhaps is due to them having to call an audible due to COVID-19. But, I do think some if it is due to uninspired booking. I don't know if they really care about having any kind of interesting story for their fans. And honestly, I don't know if they're interested in giving their fans matches they want to see. I honestly think they still have no idea what to do after the guys who formed AEW left. They were on Bullet Club-The Elite auto-pilot that they didn't even need to book anything so long as the had The Elite and NJPW guys there. I am still hopeful that this Pure Title will help give them some direction and focus. Things aren't going to change completely due to one tournament but, I really do hope that it is a step in the right direction. This week's episode was a mis-step but, want them to get back on track. I know that they can do some really great things. Thanks for reading! Stay safe!
  4. Here we are at week # 4 of ROH's Pure Title Tournament. This week was the weakest on paper to me with Tracy Williams being the only guy I actively enjoy. PJ Black is cool but, the other two I've never heard of. That being said, everyone's interviews got me psyched on them and the match. Rust Taylor seems like a real star in the making for ROH and if they sign him would be perfect for their roster. I guess he's been working NJPW. And Tony Deppen no one even on the show seems to know where he came from but dammit, he's a punk rock skater who's a technical wrestler! I've got to support him! Tracy Williams vs Rust Taylor: The first match but, very good stuff from both men. Taylor looked to have the weight advantage on Hot Sauce as well as a solid gameplan. Tracy looked in big trouble once the arm work started getting to him. He doesn't have the arm/shoulder bandaged anymore but, its got to be a psychological weak point if not a physical one. Very good match overall. I thought the finish was rather quick but, Hot Sauce did push that combination of moves as a finisher so, I bought it. PJ Black vs Tony Deppen: PJ the Darewolf looked to have Deppen squashed after the first few minutes. His size/physique advantage as well as his experience looked to me too much for Deppen. But like a true underdog, Tony wouldn't quit and went for broke! Busting out some stiff strikes and a Shiryu/Homicide dive that was killer! The finish was pretty great as PJ had to empty the tank to keep his hungry opponent down. Overall, this was another great week of wrestling. I thought this was going to be the weakest show but, honestly was one of the better ones as there was a strong simple story for both matches. Little known underdogs taking on ROH talent to advance in the Pure Tournament and secure a spot. I don't know if this is the last we'll see of these two but, I hope not. In fact, they really have the guys to make a shoot style/strong style stable with these two along with perhaps Hot Sauce and Yehi (maybe Gresham?). I'm going to sound like a broken record but, I really prefer to see these type of wrestlers in ROH. We're on to round #2 with the brackets looking like this: Jay Lethal vs David Finaly (A) Jonathan Gresham vs Matt Sydal (B) Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams (A) Josh Woods vs PJ Black (B) These are 20 minute matches now so, I expect one of these to judge's decision. I'd say Gresham & Sydal or Yehi & Williams. The former would make both guys look strong as you know they're doing something with either after the tournament. Williams vs Yehi has the EVOLVE history behind it and they could use this match as a program starter with the two. They could do the human game of chess type thing for 20 minutes and have it go to a decision. Or with either - they could not I think if ROH is adding on 5 minutes they want to show that somehow. No one was disqualified but, that was the "reason" Kenny King lost in the decision with Woods. Also, Hot Sauce if I remember correctly, was down to 0 rope breaks and looked in big trouble. So, ROH rightfully wants to play up the stipulations. I can't see them changing course in Round 2. I have to see Lethal winning as he is their franchise, ace, etc. I can't see Finlay as an NJ talent going over here. Gresham vs Sydal is trickier. This tournament seems to be a way for Gresham to get singles gold however, ROH has to want to use Sydal big time once things get back to normal. He's still got IT and frankly is ROH's #2 to Lethal in terms of accomplishments within ROH, history and connections to the golden era (which the company is playing up big time with this tournament). So, they could do a lot with either facing Lethal. You may notice I'm treating it as a forgone conclusion with Lethal facing either Sydal or Gresham in the finals. I could be wrong here. It all depends on how much of push they want to give Yehi, Williams, PJ, and/or Josh Woods. And I suppose, it depends how much of a distinction they want the Pure Title to be. If they want it to be like Shoot Style LITE then, I could see Yehi or Williams going over Lethal. I think it was a pretty big deal with Fred Yehi going over Silas Young. Similarly, I could see Woods over PJ Black. An interesting thought is that ROH still doesn't know how to use Silas. I thought his stable with the Beer City Bruiser and Brian Milonas was pretty fun. But, Silas is top tier heel talent. PJ Black is a guy that I really see the potential in every time he's on TV. This week's Pure Match was no exception. He's got a great look and the moves to also be up there. They're having him mentor Brian Johnson but, I don't know who actually care since Black himself isn't really making waves in the company. The Pure Championship could be a way to do that though. If we look back at who were the Pure Champions from its inception in 2004 to its end in 2006 when Unified with the World Title, we might be able to find a pattern or some logic in how this tourney may go. Champs in order with defenses and the length of their reign: AJ Styles (1 defense, 70 days) - Won in a tournament was vacated & never defeated Doug Williams (3 defenses, 42 days) - Won in a tournament John Walters (6 defenses, 189 days) Jay Lethal (2 defenses 63 days) Samoa Joe (6 defenses, 112 days) Nigel McGuinness (17 defenses, 350 days) Bryan Danielson (0, unified with World Title) The case of AJ and Joe, ROH wanted to have big talent that was signed with TNA still on the marquee. With Joe, it was also about him holding all of the belts in the company and raising the prestige of the Pure Title like he did with the World Title as well. I could see ROH wanting to do that with Jay Lethal as well. He's in a similar situation as they were with Joe. He should be World champ BUT other people need to get pushed and have the spotlight. So, we have him as a secondary champ. In the case of Doug Williams, John Walters, Lethal, and Nigel - these were guys Gabe/ROH saw their talent but, perhaps the fans didn't at the time. Its a venue for them to show their skills. I could see Hot Sauce or PJ being in this territory like Walters or Doug Williams. Depending on what they do with Yehi, I could see him being like Nigel in terms of defenses and essentially being on par with the World Champion. He came out like a beast versus Silas so, I hope they continue to book him this way. I could see a Yehi vs Gresham finals...power vs technique. I don't see Josh Woods going to the finals as he looks like he needs a little bit of work still. Like Nigel, he could be that diamond in the rough and down the road he could get better with each show. He's got the look and the combat sports background. He's got some character work to do as well as snug up his strikes a little bit (probably afraid he's going to hurt someone) and I think he can do a lot. Anyhow, this is just some brainstorming. I could be totally off base but, its fun to think about Oh, there was an EC3 video at the end of ROH TV this week. Looks like he'll be working for both ROH and Impact. I gotta think he's going straight for the World Title. Very excited about this! Thanks for reading!
  5. Another good week of ROH TV with the Pure Tournament in full swing. Here are some more thoughts on that and the outlook of ROH. Fred Yehi vs Silas Young: Very good match and perhaps my favorite. Silas and Yehi are a good pairing. Both big guys were ready to put on a beating. I think the physicality of the bout is what got me over Romero and Finlay. Still the Finlay backbreaker and brainbuster to knee still was great. I think Fred Yehi would be a great permanent addition to ROH. I'm going to try and catch this on the re-braodcast if I can. I can see them having Fred vs Hot Sauce in Round #2. Kenny King vs Josh Woods: Woods is I guy that I like but, does need some polishing still. Nevertheless Kenny & he have a good match. The finish wasn't exactly as I envisioned it. It did put the Pure Rules to good use and was clever in doing so. Fantastic neckbreaker suplex thing off the top rope. It has to be one of the more spectacular moves of the tournament thus far. Another thing of note, I believe ROH has changed their opening title video. I only caught a little bit but, I was glad to see that. This whole tournment really should be about Ring of Honor changing their direction even if that is going back to what made them the best wrestling company in the States. I really value the athletic combat sport presentation that this Pure Tournament has. I frankly think it should spread to the company as a whole. The empty seats plays up to that aesthetic as well. This is sport for the sake of sport. In that regard, ROH has the best fanless show amongst those I've watched during the pandemic (Smackdown & Impact). They are using the interviews to really build the matches up beforehand and disregarding unnecessary gimmickery. Same with the post match interviews we see (on the following week's show). ROH TV really has a good formula going and I hope sticks to it. Its a fantastic use of an hour. I've been watching Impact and while the matches are pretty good there's a lot of goofy fluff that doesn't really need to be there because they're trying to fill 2 hours of TV. They could really learn a lesson with what ROH is doing. But perhaps that's just my preference... I think I also really enjoy that this Pure Tournament is in a bubble from the rest of the promotion. That thought came about when they showed Rush and Dragon Lee during Kenny King's interview. That stuff just looked so out of place from what the last few weeks has been. So, I'm glad its been in a bubble. I was not really psyched on where 2020 Ring of Honor was headed. And I think the whole 'lucha thing' in ROH doesn't really work for me. I made pretty clear my opinion of Rush as World Champ last post. Dragon Lee as TV champ is OK but, really neither guy needs to the belts to help them get over. Los Ingobernables doesn't need to "hold all of the belts" to get over. I, as a long time ROH fan, don't see either guy as an ROH wrestler OR Los Ingobernales as an ROH faction trying to run the company or anything. They aren't Generation Next, The Embassy, The Prophecy, Age of the Fall, or even The Kingdom. They are just blue chippers brought in to drum up interest in ROH. I think that is the case with all of the lucha guys like Bandido & Flamita...is Rey Horus there too? They don't need storylines or belts. Just put them in TV matches with guys that you do want to build the company around. You'll get exciting live & TV matches and that's all the fans want out of them. Have them win some-lose some matches in the tag & six man division. Do some flips, do some dives and we'll be happy. The wrestlers in the Pure Title Tournament is the bulk talent that ROH should be using to push their company along in all regards. Hopefully that is WHY we are seeing them here (and not just dumb luck). Haskins should be in that picture as well as Taven & Scurll (not sure what's going on with him as ROH's roster page is not updated as it shows Alex Shelley and Jeff Cobb still with them). Having Sydal in that mix as well as Yehi, I could see ROH doing something good. I'm going to be honest the guys that I care about in ROH, the guys whose matches I want to see, the guys that put on good athletic matches, that tell good stories in the ring or have characters that I can love or hate are the guys I've mentioned. Lethal, Gresham, Castle, Sydal, Yehi, Silas, Kenny King, Hot Sauce, Haskins, Taven, Scurll are those guys I want to see rep ROH. You've got the Briscoes in the tag division which is where Dragon Lee and Rush should be having great matches with them. Shane Taylor should be TV champ duking it out with Brody King, PJ Black, Flip Gordon some of the lucha guys now and again. Josh Woods is a good guy to put in this division. Then, you've got the 6 man which should kinda be the waiting area for the tag division where you've got the lucha guys, Vinny's crew with Bateman, you can form a group around PCO there, visiting CMLL guys etc. But at the core of the promotion should be the World Title and the Pure Title and the guys who are constantly in the hunt for one of those two belts. Those are guys who every TV episode should feature. Those are the guys stories that should be told week in and week out. They've only got one hour a week to tell it so, why not keep it simple? Make it about wins & losses. Make it about being the best...about being the champion... Thanks for reading!
  6. This is just a musing about what ROH is doing with the Pure Title. Its got a couple take away reviews but, its mainly about my hope that this will be the shot in the arm that the promotion needs. I am very excited to see ROH bring back the Pure Title. I think it helps differentiate them from the other companies out there. It is a gimmick sure but, it is an interesting one and encourages a more technical style. ROH has the talent. I also think it's a better secondary title than the TV title. That belt is passed around like hot potato to guys who leave the company after a year or so. I'm thinking of Punisher Martinez and Jeff Cobb. I was excited for Cobb to stay because they really could have done great stuff with him. Anyhow, Shane Taylor is a good heel TV champ and they should keep him as such for awhile. He's a fantastic rough neck midcard boss. The Pure Title on the other hand I get the feeling is being crafted for either Lethal or Gresham. I think moreso Gresham, he's 5'4" but, it a wizard. I can't see them putting the World Belt on him but, the Pure Title will be his prize I believe. He really goes back to the pure ROH style. If he doesn't win the tournament then, they will get him into the Pure Arena sooner or later. It wouldn't surprise me if it is Lethal vs Gresham for the Pure Crown. It was a great rivalry and we could get another classic/near classic out of it. Will it spell the end for their partnership? Perhaps...I do think the months long Covid break has reset the booking for the company though. The tournament so far: Castle vs Lethal: Good match, good way to start it out with ex champs opposing each other. Add prestige right away to this belt. Gresham vs Yuta: OK match but, a great finish with Gresham bringing out his vicious side. Romero vs Finlay: Good match perhaps the best in terms of bringing out the big guns. Loved the finish from Finlay...he's a guy ROH could use and Romero is a vet that the locker room needs. Delirious vs Sydal: Old rivals back at it again. I'm guessing Delirious put the boots back on since COVID restricted travel to a few guys from overseas. So, firing up the old friendship rivalry to welcome Sydal back was pretty sweet. Probably the best match but, the finish was standard for a round 1 match whereas the Finlay finish (backbreaker and Brainbuster to Knee) was aces. The rest of Round one is looking at: Silas Young vs Fred Yehi Josh Woods vs Kenny King & Tracy Williams vs Rust Taylor PJ Black vs Tony Deppen I've heard good stuff about Yehi and I'm a big Silas supporter so, I'm looking forward to that match for sure. Josh Woods has looked good and Kenny is always able to deliver solid matches for TV. I got to say I'm thinking they're going to pit Young & Woods against each other to test out the tag team partner as opponent angle if they match up in the bracket. Plus, I think King is going to be the first DQ loss of the Tournament. Thus far, the Pure Rules hasn't put anyone into Jeopardy but, they've got to show that they have real consequences sooner or later. King should go over due to his experience and being a title holder in the past BUT he's been on a cheating kick and is a Los Ingobernales member etc. But, I could see him cheating (behind the ref) to get ahead another round. It'll catch up with him if they go this route. For the final show of Round one, I got to say both ROH guys are winning. I've never heard of either of their opponents. So, I can't think they're going to push them ahead of their own talent here. Plus Tracy Williams seems like another guy that the Pure Revival is built around. He's too talented to just squander as filler talent. PJ Black I think may be getting a boost from this as well. I'm ambivelent about him. I've liked what I've seen but, I'm not sure ROH knows what they want to do with him. I mean maybe that's what the Pure Title is all about...figuring out where they're going to put guys like Silas, Woods, Hot Sauce and Black...and Castle for that matter. Hopefully, the guys they brought in for the tournament stick around in some capacity. I hope this is a bonus of the Pure Division. I would love to see Ring of Honor invite different talent in once in awhile to challenge for the Pure belt. Having the above mentioned guys just focus on the the Pure Title would be good stuff. Plus, I know there was some international talent that was slated for the original tournament before Covid shut everything down. Yuji Nagata was one that would have been sweet to see! He would have had to win it IMO just because I'm such a fan. Plus it would give the belt so much prestige...even if he would have only defended it a few times. I also appreciate them bringing back guys from the past like Romero & Sydal. And to that point, I'm glad Sydal is back with ROH. I would be OK with him winning the Pure Tourney for sure. He's got everything but, I'd rather see him as World Title champ to be honest. He's a great babyface and could be booked similar to later RVD or Jeff Hardy. He's got great moves still (as seen from the Delirious match) and is a recognizable talent. I think that's where Rush as champ as failed...I just don't think we was a draw for ROH plus, I don't think his matches were that impressive (on TV) & he's not doing promos to gain new fans. Having him on TV serves no purpose. Putting the belt on PCO was bananas and probably the lowest point for the ROH title if I'm going to be honest. I saw the Final Battle match and wow was that Sports Entertainment. Fun but, not up to the standards of a ROH title match. PCO as a tag wrestler sure, 6 man yup but, on his own...no. And as champ...never. Rush unfortunately has not been much to write home about other than a couple matches. I digress! Getting Sydal reintroduced via the Pure Tournament is a good start. An even better one is getting him in the World title picture. I just browsed the ROH roster online and they've got a ton a guys that would be great for the division like Flamita, Dragon Lee, etc. but, it all is a matter of how they use everyone. But, I think that's the case for ROH in general for the past few years. But this is about the Pure Title right now...I do think it is a step in the right direction having this tournament and hopefully every match shown on ROH TV. The biggest thing I think they need is a story that carries over from one episode to the next. I know they have a pretty big roster for 1 hour a week but, they really need to focus on their titles as the main "story" for each week and show less filler. Right now, The Pure Title seems like a bigger deal than the World Title and if that's what they want to do, I'm OK with it. Like I said above, the World belt's prestige has got to be repaired. I think the Pure Belt will be used like the WWF IC belt was used - as a way to move guys to the top and a way to give a place for top guys to wait for their next big time program. Anyhow, this has all got me thinking and interested in current ROH's stuff. I hope to follow this Tournament here in the blog every couple of weeks
  7. An absolutely bonkers ringside brawl with 8 dudes just going at each other recklessly. Not exactly Onita & Goto vs. Kurisu & Dragon Master, but still a wild brawl in it's own right. Some absolutely brutal bumps featuring chairs such as Fast Eddie hitting a brutal German suplex on Masada on top of a chair and Masada hitting Fast Eddie with a Spider German suplex through a chair. Plus a ton of nasty unprotected chairshots and a spike piledriver off the ring apron through a table on the floor. This lacked blood which would have elevated this, but it didn't lack intensity for a second.
  8. This is pretty much a Jersey All Pro showcase on a ROH show and it was a ton of fun and one of the under the radar matches from early 2000's indy wrestling. Low Ki and Da Hit Squad worked as bully faces against the obnoxious smarmy smaller heels in Special K. The Special K crew are excellent at taking beatings and they were fearless when it came to taking bumps. Opposite Low Ki and Da Hit Squad are as good as stiff butt kickers as you'll find. So this all worked excellently. Loved Special K also having endless members at ringside who wouldn't mind getting some cheap shots in and helping them get some heat on Mafia. Worth noting they were also smart enough to know that working this as a 50-50 match as everyone does know would not work, so they didn't go in that direction. The restart had that goofy segment with Special K trying to get Ki to take a dive into some pills, but they made up for it with a wild follow sequence and a perfectly synchronized triple finish.The botched Van Damniator from Monsta Mac looked bad, but everything else clicked.
  9. Without further ado, let's take a look at Night #2 of wXw's 2011 16 Carat Gold Tournament! Axeman vs Rico Bushido vs Tommy End vs Bad Bones - Hard hitting wXw guys doing a fun spot match. Jay Skillet vs Jon Ryan - I like Ryan from his match with Davey but, you can skip this match. It wasn't bad. It's nothing special to me though. Colt Cabana vs Marty Scurll - Another outright comedy match. Marty is much better at this than Zack just because he's more vocal and outgoing. Fun stuff Carnage vs 2-Face - This was OK. They probably didn't need to hit as hard for this kind of match. Post match stuff had storyline stuff so, this was a vehicle for that. Poor use of Carnage IMO. Mark Haskins vs Big Van Walter - A simple David vs Goliath match with Haskins showing a ton of heart. He didn't have the cleanest execution but, it looked natural when going up against the juggernaut of Walter. Good match and best thus far. Day 2 is OK thus far but we're only half way through. Let's see what part 2 has to offer...It should get better. El Generico & Emil Sitoci vs Future Shock (Cole & O'Reilly) - I was really glad they took their time in setting up heel vs face dynamics here. Sitoci made a great first impression. He reminded me of Paul London. That's interesting because London and Generico had a nice tag team in PWG in 2010. So, that dynamic was here against the cocky upstart team of Future Shock. This was an exciting match with nice offense and fake-out spots. Best match of the show thus far. Great stuff! Sami Callihan vs Yoshihito Sasaki - Man, this looks promising! Sami really looks like he's got a screw loose! He brings so much intensity and bravado to the ring that, I'm invested before the bell rings. A handshake to start the match means Sasaki and Sami are going to be rough. And good gravy, this is violent wonderful wrestling and a near classic bout. This really puts the night back on track by topping the tag match. Go Shiozaki vs Kotaro Suzuki - NOAH match in Germany! This was a very good match but, felt it was lethargic compared to the previous couple matches. Also, the fan cam on the ground wasn't in the best position. So, we could see the action OK but, we were mainly seeing their backs. They were in a different venue and the hard cam and the floor cam were coming from the same side of the ring for this match. These things don't bother me too much but, I felt that because we couldn't see the impact as well as could be expected, we were missing some of the action. The crowd also seemed tired and I could only say it was very good at best. Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. - I understand the pacing and card placement with the NOAH match now. They wanted to give the crowd a cool down for this battle. The pacing was aggressive from bell to bell and Holy crap, they just beat the slop outta each other! This has grappling, strikes, nice counters & escapes. Up & coming ZSJ vs top tier Richards provided a classic encounter without a doubt. If you're a fan of either guy, you should see this for sure. Daisuke Sekimoto vs Johnny Moss - Match for the wXw belt. This was a good ***1/2 bout to close the night out. There was no way they were going to top the previous match so, they gave the fans a nice hard hitting simple title fight. Overall, Night 2 was a great show but, really one of two parts. Part one was nothing special although the 4 Way opener and the Haskins/Walter matches were worthwhile. Your best bet is to watch those two and skip to the 2nd half where stuff really picks up with a 3 amazing matches. Davey vs ZSJ is the best bout thus far. Thankfully, the 2011 tourney is sold as a set so, if you're looking to buy this DVD or that DVD, you don't have to choose one night over another What's even better is that we've still got Night 3! Thanks for reading!
  10. Low Ki defends the ROH Title Man, Low Ki was just killing everyone in 2002. He was just blasting Xavier left and right here. Xavier is someone who is pretty much forgotten. I am not sure if it's unfair or not, as he looked like a good solid pro wrestler, with a tendency to do cool moves and not much of a clue on match structure. Structurally this wasn't great and they started running out of interesting ideas about 15 minutes into it, but Ki walloping Xavier over and over kept this entertaining. Should add Kis subtle leg selling was quiet great. Run in was pretty bad and took way too long.
  11. I have been meaning to watch this tournament for awhile now. I bought this along with the 2010 tournament so, this has been a long time coming. The box art of the DVD set features all of the participants in this year's event. It is pretty damn stacked even compared to the previous year. We have stars from ROH, Big Japan, NOAH, Independent US talent as well as European wrestlers. This 16 Carat Gold event may be the most diverse and globally representative tournament assembled in recent memory. Enough fluff! Let's get to the wrestling! Kyle O'Reilly vs Karsten Beck vs Marty Scurll vs Axeman: This 4 man match will determine who will be an alternate for the tournament. Nice to have some incentive for the guys...they surely fought like they meant it. Axeman was a nice surprise. He and Kyle have a similar style. Fast paced fun opening match. Yoshihito Sasaki vs Carnage: Sasaki is a guy who's name I've seen here and there the past decade but, never knew how he flew under my radar. I mean, I have Fire Pro Returns and don't recall seeing him. Ha! I was wrong. He's listed under the Zero-1 promotion as a low ranking wrestler. That was 2004 in Japan and in 2011 he's made his way in the world. And I have to say, damn! I was missing out. He's got a no nonsense hard hitting style that I appreciate.His opponent Carnage does as well. I remember him from 2010's shows. Very good match here and a proper way to start the tourney. Two matches in and this feels better than 2010. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Colt Cabana: Is Colt NWA champ here!? This was funny at times but, took too long to really go anywhere. This was a popcorn match to me. You'll be OK fast forwarding to the last five minutes or skipping altogether. Much like the other World of Sport style matches (not that this was exactly but, it had that feel and style) of 2010, this feels out of place next to 2010 puro style bouts. Adam Cole vs Mark Haskins: Both dudes have come a long way from here. This was a very scatterbrained Indy wrestling match. Stuff was done with little rhyme or reason. Unlike the ZSJ/Cabana match, this was relatively short and an OK watch. Go Shiozaki vs Johnny Moss: Thank goodness they got the show back on track. Fans started out pretty much behind Moss but, Go won them over with his hard hitting never say quit attitude...kinda like how Rocky won over the Russian crowd in Rocky IV. This was a very good match and the ending portion was that stuff you want from NOAH's top dog. This was another very good pairing. Big Van Walter vs Rico Bushido: Never heard of Bushido but, he reminds me of how I imagine Ricky Reyes fought and looked like in the Rottweiler days of ROH. That's probably all wrong but, I'm cool with that assumption. He was all martial art kicks and Walter put him down after a few power moves. Short and unoffensive match. I have nothing against so-so matches but, at least make them short like this match. Davey Richards vs Jon Ryan: Ryan has no chance in hell beating Davey...just by the looks of him. But to Davey's credit he gave a lot to J.R. He got some heel moves in and was able to fight Richards and be a credible opponent. So, don't let his cheesy ring gear and physique fool you! I really thought an upset might happen. Another very good match. Sami Callihan vs Tommy End: This was an intense, fast, hate filled match. These guys were wXw regulars and this must have had some back story to it. You don't need to know it though. These dudes were aiming to maul each other. Tommy End is much improved since 2010 and Sami has gotten even better. The best bout so far! Great match with a fantastically aggressive submission finish. Yes! Kotaro Suzuki vs El Generico: This is a pretty high profile match for 2011. It's like an unofficial Best of the Super Jrs. match. It had lots of good action that kept the excitement and drama going. Who would win? Generico is a mega star in indy wrestling and Kotaro is GHC Jr. champ...every nearfall felt like the one that would do it. They both have so many tricks in the bag so, the end was always in doubt. Great match. As good or better than the previous bout for sure. A sweet way to end day one!! Wait...that wasn't the main event? Daisuke Sekimoto vs Bad Bones (wXw Hvywt. Championship match): This is like the cherry on top of a sundae. It starts of slow but, gets action packed as the match progresses. The last few minutes made a big difference as this was scratching at great match territory. Reminded me of the Hayabusa/Tanaka era FMW matches. Very good match overall...like ***3/4 territory. Then we get a very enjoyable post match with Bones and Johnny Moss comes out to challenge Daisuke. Very psyched to see Night 2! This was a heck of night of wrestling. This was much better than I remember the 2010 Night #1 being. Each match that I enjoyed delivered the excitement and entertainment that I was hoping for. Not one wrestler in those matches dogged it and in many cases they went above and beyond to have the best match they could. If they can keep it up then, this might be one helluva ride. Thank you for reading!
  12. I took a small break from my New Japan 1988 project to cherry pick a few Golden Era Ring of Honor matches that I had been wanting to see. The theme I guess would be Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson but, KENTA is in two of the three matches. So its really Joe, Danielson plus KENTA matches that I wanted to see AND are free on ROH's Youtube channel. I've had these bookmarked for months and been waiting to see for more than a decade. There's no time like the present to check these out! Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH Title, Midnight Express Reunion 2004): I've seen their 2003 match and heard that this was their best. It is considered a classic and in 2004 with the storyline of Joe post Punk encounter #1, I can see giving it that status. I'm not going to take that away in honesty because, I'm sure there are wrinkles that I've missed in 2020. That being said, I thought as a stand alone title fight this was very good (and perhaps great). I think the story was Dragon trying to force Joe to go long (like Punk had) but, also try to systematically dismantle the champ. That and Danielson post NJPW tour could hit with the hardest so, Joe didn't stand a chance. However, the Samoan Submission machine was in Terminator mode not only eating what Danielson was throwing but, dishing out some sickening blows himself and possession "the choke" or Coquina Clutch as TNA would brand it, I've read comparisons to 90's AJPW and I can see that as there were few slams and suplexes compared to strikes and submissions. Where this differs is the organization department. Most notably Joe's need to fit in the Ole kicks 2/3rds of the way in. This is the point where my excitement went off track. Each guy was desperate to close the fight and now Joe finds it necessary to do his showboat/insult move? He should have just faked it out and just chest kicked Danielson or something more visceral. And that's the thing... the match was at a gut level violent...like Tsuruta vs Tenryu then, Joe (and I don't really blame him in '04) inserts an Indy fan service move. A bit of wind went out of my sails. My other quibble is Danielson's attack psychology. The awful 2004 announcers (whom I muted on the 2nd watch) even acknowledge the change in gameplan. This is so heavy handed on their part frankly...they're explaining rather than letting the wrestler do so with their actions. Anyhow, I would have preferred a Liger-like focus from Bryan on Joe's leg or neck early on then settle into the middle of the match only to call-back to that to set up the ending portion...even if it would not lead to the finish. Instead, it doesn't seem like he can commit to a single plan of focus and neither can Joe from a selling standpoint. So, the story of the challenger doesn't come across as strongly as it should have, Those things would have made this an all time classic in my eyes...I think this was the time where Gabe S. was really pushing the long matches = great match ideology for ROH. The above flaws would have been less bothersome if this was 5 -10 minutes shorter. Not that it NEEDED to be but, they story would have been tighter and the earlier portion would have look less like time-filler. Nevertheless, I watched the damn thing twice in two days and enjoyed it both times so, I gotta recommend watching this. Samoa Joe vs KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (In Your Face 2006): This is another match that I'd been wanting to see for a decade plus. I'd seen clips from the ROH Live Wire from another DVD and thought this looked awesome but, perhaps too good to be true. I was wrong. This was precisely the match I'd hoped it would be. A high intensity, ultra stiff action packed 3 way match during their peak.Honestly, 2006 was the peak of their peak and this was special. A classic match that doesn't go too long or get too cute. Perhaps an all time classic if I'm going to be honest with myself. The shorter match length (20+ minutes I think) kept everything mean and showing how much Joe & Bryan had improved in just over a year...and ROH for that matter. Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA vs Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson (Best In the World 2006): I watched this bout right after the above and if you have the luxury, I suggest you do the same. It plays off of (and in real time sets-up) the heat between Joe & KENTA beautifully. Not only that but, we have 4 of the best wrestlers in 2006 facing off and this is probably the closest to a AJPW Big 4 match as ROH did. Some have given this **** but, that's the bare minimum in my view. This match deviated from the balls to the wall fest that many were hoping for and instead provided all kinds of build ups and cool-downs that only master wrestlers can do. And I'm not talking about kickouts but, they achieved this by scaling up the intensity and urgency through body language, speeds, how hard they through their strikes, when they chose to tag, etc. It was a thing of beauty and like all true classics, I could have watched this all night. Even when a error was made, it was forgiven and forgotten as a miss rather than a mistake. If you are a fan of these guys and this style, check this out. You may not think as highly of it as me but, you will have fun. That goes for all of the above! Three remarkable matches available for free on ROH's 'tube page. I'd like to get the DVDs of the ones featuring the NOAH guys since I'm old school but, if not I'm stoked that I saw them. Thanks for reading! We'll get back to NJPW 1988 next week for sure!