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Found 24 results

  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. Very good opener, and the first match of the Round Robin Challenge between Daniels, Dragon & Low Ki. The opening exchanges are just perfunctory, feeling-out sequences. Nothing particularly memorable, but nothing bad. The match becomes more compelling once Daniels starts isolating the neck of Dragon. The commentary is selling how huge a deal this is since Daniels' finisher is neck-based. Dragon does an excellent job selling the neck, and there's multiple moments in the match where he's unable to create offense because of the neck. Curiously enough, he decides to hit a diving headbutt, but besides that oversight he was very good at incorporating the injured neck into the story of the match. Dragon fails to hold the bridge during the Cattle Mutilation because of the neck & Daniels reverses it into a Crossface for the submission victory. Daniels never even teases the Angel's Wings, but he wrenches viciously on the neck of Dragon in that Crossface, so that ruled. They understandably don't go all-out since both are wrestling again this evening, but both guys worked hard and produced a good, well-paced match. Rating: ***½
  3. This is the second match of the Round Robin Challenge. Ki is, as usual, vicious & beats the hell out of Daniels in the beginning. He targets the head with those nasty kicks of his to set-up for the Ki Krusher. Daniels' is simply overmatched when it comes to dealing with Ki -- his wiliness & experience edge all come short when matching up with Ki's brutality. Not only that, but Ki's fresher since this is his first match of the night. Daniels' falls back on the neck work to soften up Ki for the Angel's Wings, but it's not as effective as it was on Dragon. He's slowing the pace down to conserve energy, but the prior wear-and-tear is leaking into his offense & lessening the impact of his moves. The Angels' Wings fail to keep Ki down & Ki catches him in the Dragon Clutch for the submission victory. A tad below the Daniels vs. Dragon match, but still quite good. Rating: ***¼
  4. Given the participants, and the chemistry that these two teams had - witness both the cage matches between them - this is a massive disappointment, and a complete mess. And a lot of it is down to the structure of the match inhibiting the wrestlers from being able to produce anything watchable. First of all, it's a gimmick better suited to one on one matches, second, while it's No DQ by definition as being a last man standing match, the wrestlers adhere to making tags after the first couple of mins where everyone is in the ring at the same time brawling. Then you have the rules whereby someone needs to be pinned before the 10 count is administered so you get - as can happen in Iron Man matches where people get pinned after a couple of mins by moves they would normally be kicking out of. While some of the work is decent because of the guys involved, because of the fundamental inhibitions of the match, it's so choppy with no flow. What AMW excelled in was classic southern tag formula but this doesn't allow that, as it's also elimination rules. The story coming in is that James Storm's knee was injured, but he doesn't really sell that much, although he is pinned and can't stand off a chair shot to the knee, which at least is logical. There is then a small heat section with Chris Harris having to fight of Daniels and Skipper but Daniels is eliminated very quickly, so we don't get much time for any heat to build from being two on one. I'm not sure where it happens, but Elix Skipper I think gets a concussion at some point - he definitely hits the back of his head hard on a chair for the final pin - and while it looks like he kicks out, the ref counts three anyway. In fact, both Daniels and Skipper's eliminations look botched. How bad this match is, can be summed up by the fact that Harris looks actively disgusted on being announced the winner, so happily they would get the chance to redeem themselves the next month with a terrific cage match at Turning Point. This match though is not good at all. (*)
  5. Daniels is the only guy in the tournament that wasn’t a former WCW or ECW ‘name’ (I know he was in WCW briefly, but he was essentially a guy that was making his name on the Indies). Because of being a key part of the first few months of ROH – there’s probably a fair crossover with the crowd from the early ROH Murphy Rec shows – there’s a buzz when he comes out and the crowd are behind him in this match despite him ostensibly being the heel. Vamp has lost the dreadlocks and face paint from his WCW run here, and Joey Styles on commentary is trying to put over the story of him being a more serious character and training in MMA. In the early exchanges there is a lot of mat work, and it’s wrestled at a very deliberate pace. Perhaps surprisingly – given he was coming off a run in WCW where he was involved in lots of garbage matches and hokey supernatural storylines – Vamp looks good in the mat work and he more than holds his own with Daniels. You can tell that there’s probably a mix in the crowd between fans who had been going to the early ROH shows and were starting to get into more technical wrestling and those that had been ECW fans, as you can sense some getting restless at the beginning but it never spills over into any “boring” chants. Daniels is so smooth in his movement and exchanges and you can already see how polished he is. The match is fairly low key until Vampiro takes it to the outside, where as more of a brawler he has the advantage. It’s clear that MLW is going down the ECW route of not really having DQs as Vamp uses a chair and then the timekeepers hammer to hit Daniels low. As I mentioned, I think Vampiro was meant to be the face here, but it’s Daniels who the crowd seems to be behind especially when he starts to bust out some of his big moves like the Best Moonsault Ever. This gets a good nearfall, before Vampiro takes the match with a belly to belly suplex off the top rope. (** ¾)
  6. Michinoku Pro could still deliver dope 6 man tag action in the 2000s. This a trademark high spot filled formula tag with everyone playing their roles. Curry Man is a pretty good use of Christopher Daniels as he doesn't pretend to be a master worker but just acts like a tool. His missed dive was pretty insane. Super Boy always looks so great in M-Pro (where the hell is his lucha material?) and this was no exception, he is so awesome as a massive fat guy crushing the tiny dudes with flippy moves, and working miscommunication spots. Hidaka was also a really good team captain, trying to unmask TMIV and attacking his bad arm, twisting up Yuasas leg and getting kicked in the face etc. Nishida as a Spike Dudley inspired guy working highspots with Super Boy was really fun too. This is the kind of match that is completely predictable but still puts a smile on your face.
  7. There's some sequences where I think the match became a little too "cute", but all in all, this was an absolutely great weapons trios warfare. The SCU lads especially did such a good job selling the gimmick of the thing w/ their viciousness. Great, brutal spot action w/ some really great psychology with the continuity of Matt Jackson's banged up back. ****1/4
  8. Going into the main event, things are tied between the FWA and ROH at 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw each. Daniels makes it known beforehand that he is not representing ROH, but the Prophecy. In fact, he’d actually been FWA British Heavyweight Champion just two months before this, having defeated Fleisch in October 2002. He lost the belt to Doug Williams at ROH’s Night of Champions in a match that I’d heartily recommend. Williams is actually an interesting absence from the card tonight, given his prominence in both companies, but I'm pretty sure that was because of commitments in Japan where he was part of NOAH. Fleisch was also someone appearing somewhat regularly for ROH at this time, but he’s not in his Special K guise tonight, rather as lead babyface for the FWA. Early on we get plenty of stalling from Daniels, with him threatening to walk and arguing with members of the crowd on the balcony. When Daniels finally gets in the ring, Jody’s signature gymnastics and high flying quickly sends him running for the outside again and more crowd arguing. Once the match settles down, Jody is actually the one that tries to take a more mat based approach and I enjoyed his working of the headlock to stay on top. The result is Daniels trying to up the pace which proves a mistake and Jody headscissors him and hits a quebrada. As in the AJ Styles/Jonny Storm match earlier in the night, they fight up to the ramp where Jody gives Daniels a snap suplex on the entrance platform and then disappears and returns with a chair, which he springboards off into a rana on Daniels. The spot is fun, but the fact he had to go back stage to grab a chair to then do a rana off felt very unorganic and takes you out of the moment. This was a criticism I had of some of the spots in his ladder match at British Uprising. When they return to the ring, Daniels is finally able to get some control, where he proceeds to work over the back and neck. The work is pretty consistent and I enjoyed The Best Moonsault Ever onto the back which then sets up a cross face. Fleisch gets a late flurry including a springboard Shooting Star Press, but Jonny Storm, cementing his heel turn, hits Jody with a chair as he tries a second one and Daniels picks up the win, and completes a come from behind 3-2 victory for ROH. At just under 25 mins, the match is probably too long, with lots of stalling from Daniels early on. I appreciate him trying to build heat, but you feel that comes at the expense of the match in the beginning. I actually liked Jody adopting a more methodical pace and working in some chain wrestling at times, showing versatility. There are lots of nice sequences, but a tighter match would make it feel more coherent. Even though the ending features interference I liked the story of Jonny allowing his personal jealously of Jody to get in the way of company unity, and it further escalates the issues between them which the company was looking at as one of the key storylines for the year. Further heat is added in the post match where Storm and Daniels try to piledrive Fleisch on a chair, until both locker rooms chase them off, however, Storm and Daniels take out the FWA’s acting Commissioner at that point – Dino Scarlo - with an absolutely brutal and hard-to-watch-with-2018-eyes chair shot. (*** ¼)
  9. We are in the Broxbourne Civic Hall, which was the company’s main base for most of it’s run. It was a building that had a cool set up for wrestling with tiered seating on one side and a stage which the FWA also set up with seating that then gave off an appearance of being a bigger venue than the 450 or so capacity it had. It’s a venue that traditionally always had a hot crowd. Going into this match, Doug was in his first reign as FWA Champion and was already starting to be presented as the ace of the company. Timewise, it is just a week before the big Revival show which I’ve written about here: http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/39613-doug-williams-vs-eddie-guerrero-fwa-revival-king-of-england-tournament-02092002/ We are also in the midst of the main storyline going on in the FWA for most of 2002; the ‘Old School’ - veterans who didn’t like the new direction for wrestling in the UK and the newer, younger guys brought up on the Attitude era and ECW. This match plays into that, with Christopher Daniels being managed by the Old School’s manager Dean Ayass and brought into be a hired gun to take the title off Williams. When the promotion wide storyline had begun Doug was something of a tweener, but after rejecting the Old School’s advances he’s now very much in a face role. The nice hook is that Daniels has been brought in specifically as he already has a victory over Williams in the UK. This is a really fun match, and as you’d expect between these two, very smooth and technically sound. Both guys match up well and Daniels is excellent at playing the slimy heel trying to exploit any advantage or opening. Looking at the FWA roster at the time, Doug was clearly the most polished and best performer and he’s really enjoyable in showcasing his mat wrestling skills, incorporating a number of traditional British wrestling/WOS counters to keep Daniels off his game. Recognising that he is outmatched technically, Daniels is always looking to up the pace and when the match speeds up he is able to take control. I enjoyed his work on top in the match, as he kept working the neck and upper back, It was also refreshing that Ayass on the side didn’t get too involved to overshadow or distract from the match. Earlier in the show he’d been involved in a tag match and he sells his neck, which I guess was also an effective way of stopping him getting constantly involved. At this point in 2002 you could see why Daniels was so highly regraded on the indy scene and why he would be a key part of the early days of ROH and then TNA. He is already very polished and everything he hits is crisp and on point. I know some find him to be a guy that can be quite mechanical in the ring, but I’ve always been a big fan and in this match he brings a nice variety to his offence and moves that would become his signature spots. The match has a satisfyingly clean ending which puts Williams over nicely, showing he can defeat an opponent that already had a growing reputation. It’s a rivalry that interestingly the FWA would revisit later in the year and into 2003 and which also crossed over into ROH, and shows how well the two guys meshed. Their matches together in ROH are well worth seeking out, as is this one. (*** ¾)
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bftPCKrQfpA This is just a couple of weeks after the big British Uprising show and kept up the FWA’s momentum nicely. On the undercard there is not too many big stories to note, the biggest probably being Alex Shane and Ulf Herman beating the UK Pitbulls for the tag titles. Given the very bloody and intense feud that Shane and Herman get into with The Family that runs for pretty much all of 2003, that’s a big moment. We are in Walthamstow Town Hall, which is a fun venue (I’m biased for having worked there), and one I’m glad that Rev Pro is now running again. The main event is Fleisch putting the belt that he won at Uprising on the line for the first time, with Daniels a late addition to make it a three way. With Fleisch and Williams both being faces, the addition of Daniels means there is an antagonist which helps the structure. At the beginning he is content to sit out while Fleisch and Williams go at it. It’s interesting that the Low Ki/Daniels/Dragon three way from the first ROH show was at the beginning of that year, as Daniels again takes on the role of being the more heelish and looking to take shortcuts. This match is in no way up to that standard, but there is a similar story they are trying to tell. As you’d imagine for the time, the action is fast paced with some pretty spotty selling, but it’s always engaging and you could tell that the UK guys were really starting to look at the style being worked in ROH as well as the X Division in TNA for inspiration. At this time, both Jody and Doug had been across to the US to compete for ROH, with Williams getting a pretty decent push. Doug is largely presented as the most dangerous of the three, being the more powerful but with the technical base, and he is coming off an impressive year when he’s been able to cleanly defeat both Eddie Guerrero and two weeks before this, Jerry Lynn. For most of the FWA’s run he was presented as the ace of the company and I like how in this match Daniels is largely trying to avoid him, which also plays into the feud they were having in ROH at the same time. A criticism would be that Fleisch - given he had just won the title in the big feel good moment at the end of Uprising I - feels like a bit of an after thought at times, although it’s more a comment on his size rather than his ability, that both the other two look to target him. He also still gets in some hugely impressive moments such as the springboard shooting star press to the other guys on the outside. This leads to the key part of the match with him selling a knee injury when landing, to where officials take him to the back and say he can’t continue. This being wrestling of course he ignores their best advice and comes storming back. It’s a decent way of trying to not make him look too weak in losing the title so soon. As befitting his character, Daniels takes advantage of Fleisch being injured to pin him and win the title in a pretty shocking moment. At the time I think a lot of people thought that Daniels being added to the match was just a way of adding cache and in terms of ‘having a good match’ and no-one expected him to win, not least as he wouldn’t be a regular and given Jody had just had his big crowning moment two weeks before. Reading Greg Lambert’s book, Holy Grail, on this period, he says that it was a way of raising the prestige of the title and getting more international eye balls on the FWA, while booker Alex Shane was also working with ROH to get them over for a show in 2003. He also says that it was a move designed to be shocking to the FWA fanbase that was very much a hardcore ‘smark’ audience. Looking back, I think it was a good move – with the FWA not running weekly shows, they didn’t need the title defended on every show and it was smart to try and raise the international prestige of the title. It also meant that the next show at the end of 2002 was centred around finding a No. 1 contender with a round robin tournament. Finally, the storyline of the title being taken hostage by an American was pretty compelling, and crossed companies to being a part of an ROH angle with Doug Williams trying to get it back. Overall, this is a fun match, with lots of action, that wouldn’t look out of place on a 2002/2003 ROH show, although I think at this time, Doug in particular was still trying to find himself, as in 2003/04 he would utilise his technical skills more. At this point I think he (along with a lot of the roster) was trying to work a more high flying/spot heavy style to fit in with the vibe that the company was trying to move away from the more traditional British style that in 2002 was seen as outdated. (*** ¼)
  11. I thought this was pretty easily the worst ROH PPV main event since their return to PPV three years ago (for BitW in fact). Yes, even worse than the Anniversary show 5-way with the bad ending. Commentary tries to put over Cody as this bad heel, but it comes off empty because the crowd is fully behind him. Then they structure parts of the match around getting him heat (like with Cary Silkin - and BC interference), which comes off as flat as possible. Poor Kazarian saves Daniels and fights off Scurll to CRICKETS. Cody's lip is legit busted pretty early, so there's that as a visual I guess. The timing is not good at all between these two. And what makes the bad timing even worse is that the final stretch - which is very planned out - looks so fake and choreographed compared to the crap earlier that it comes off terrible. Probably generous at **
  12. I thought that Cole played his role pretty much perfectly. The cocky, younger heel champ. Talking shit & dominating most of the match. I wish that Daniels had shown more emotion, thinking of something like what Lio Rush showed in his match vs. Marty Scurll, then this could've been ****1/2+ easily. I still enjoyed this tremendously, and when ol' Todd counted to 3 I got goosebumps. Gonna be hard to beat that moment this year. ***3/4
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