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  1. Here's a quickie covering a few Ikuto Hidaka matches that I found online. I guess it's all a part of looking for Zero One wrestling matches. He's a guy that really impressed me from my brief foray into BattlARTS and from an ECW match back in 2000 or so. Had ECW lasted longer perhaps he'd be in the mix with Super Crazy, Tajiri, Jerry Lynn, Little Guido etc. and the best Juniors matches on US TV. Anyhow let's take a look at what I found. & Minoru Fujita vs T. Kuroda & Yoshihito Sasaki (08/31/04): Classic structure Jr. tag match with an awesome high energy final act. Great to see FMW alum Kuroda kicking butt! And man Sasaki had a relatively short career but he's so impressive even this early. No one talks about him so I'm going to praise his work and no frills style every chance I get. Here Fujita's execution is on point and the man Hidaka is his usual wizard self. He is just so quick and clean in his movements that it's a joy to watch. Fujita's hot tag to Hidaka is just sick! This is a very very good match. & Fujita vs Spanky Brian Kendrick & Alex Shelley (03/27/05): Kendrick surprised me again! He's so scrawny that I just don't believe he's any good. Then he proves me wrong. Thank goodness! Fujita was a bit off tonight or there were communication issues so some of his stuff (especially with Alex) didn't work correctly. But Shelley vs Hidaka was sublime. Their mat wrestling was totally worth it. Really other than those couple execution errors this was looking to be a great match ('05 Shelley and Spanky make it easy). As it stands its still very good and absolutely worth a watch if you're interested or nostalgic for early 2000's ROH type stuff. vs Super Crazy (04/14/05): This was what I had hoped for! He and Crazy met in ECW and had a breathtaking encounter on ECW on TNN. Here they do it again and actually take it more to the extreme. Crazy lived up to his name and Hidaka wouldn't be outdone in his home promotion. 14 minutes of fireworks. Very good match! Absolutely left me wanting more. vs Munenori Sawa (09/19/10): Wow this was some BattlARTS shit! I kinda didn't know what I was watching since stylistically this was so different from the previous junior style matches. This was two dudes beating the crap outta each other. There was little defensive manoeuvres. It was palm strikes and kicks until someone fell down. Then try to snap a limb or pop a joint. But in BattlARTS fashion there were drop kicks and a couple more moves too. But then Sawa just punches Hidaka in the face His face swells up and is bleeding from the mouth. This was a heck of a match. Feels weird to watch something so Indie 90's Japan take place in 2010. I love it! I'm not going to give a rating but highly recommend watching this! Overall this was a fun little mini project. I know there's more Ikuto Hidaka on my horizon as I've got some Zero One wrestling dvds as well as some late 90's stuff. This has only gotten me more hyped to watch those. Thanks for reading!
  2. Ring of Honor 2003 was something that was interesting to me for a couple reasons. The first was that it featured so many highly regarded matches with great show titles - 1st Year Anniversary (3 way), London vs Daniels from Round Robin II, The Epic Encounter, Night of the Grudges, Main Event Spectacles, and Bitter Friends Stiffer Enemies and War of the Wire. ROH 2003 was also intriguing because these shows or matches are pretty hard to find. Comparatively 2004 stuff is still easy to track down because of such landmark shows or matches that have sold well over the years. Enough fans bought these back in the day either in 2004 or after that they're available on eBay or Amazon. Or they were significant enough to put on a compilation or two. Think of Joe vs Punk's trilogy, Generation Next, Weekend of Thunder, Final Battle 2004...I even see the Reborn series and some of the highlights now and again. Going back 2003 on paper had as many or more MOTYCs than 2004 but these DVDs don't see the light of day as often as 2004. It was an odd situation. One would think 2003 stuff would be more available and ROH would have gone back an re-printed those shows. I mean I got Joe vs Punk II in 2008 but I don't recall much of any 2003 stuff being available then...save the early compilations which are hit or miss in terms of quality. Sidenote - The best title is 'Let the Gates of Hell Open' which is the Rottweilers comp. Sorry for being long-winded. My point is that part of my interest in 2003 was also based upon its scarcity. 2004 was pretty available and 2002 due to the Takedown Masters and other re-print/re-packging was available (although I dragged my feet on that). Yeah 2003 had all of these classic bouts but never seemed within reach. So back in 2016 I scooped up ROH's Year Two DVD set as fast as I could (along with some other stuff) because I knew ROH's comps always went out-of-print. Knowing the lack of availability of these matches/shows for a fair price, this seemed like the only chance I would have. Its stupid but fear of missing out was at the heart of this. History has shown that to be a good move on my part. Since then ROH has dramatically cut back on their DVD production especially their compilations, which I think is their biggest asset (re-issuing their back catalog). I was finally able to see the all time classics mentioned above and man I was so glad. These were awesome contests and the biggest discovery was just how amazing Paul London was then. Seriously if he had stuck around, ROH would have been a different place for the better. But as you can tell from the title of this post, its not about him. Its not about those matches but the ones that were omitted. There was no Corino vs Homicide. I really wanted to see those but apparently they were omitted to be put in the Notorious 187's comp from the same time. I passed on that due to the problem of too many duplicated matches from other DVDs. So years went by and I just figured I'd miss 'em. That's part of being a fan is knowing you won't see everything you want to. However, at the start of the pandemic a lot of places put stock on sale. ROH was one of them and the Homicide one wasn't available but there was a Steve Corino one!? But there was Bitter Friends Stiffer Enemies and War of the Wire listed. The backstory of the feud has to do with Corino kicking Homicide during a tag match in 2002. Homicide then gets revenge at All Star Extravaganza when he stabs him with a fork ala Abdullah the Butcher. Final Battle 2002 sees Corino hurt 'Cide and take his place in the 4 Way match. That's a classic match you should see. So now we're onto 2003 with the 1st Anniversary show where Corino introduces his ill-fated Group of Samoa Joe, Michael Shane and CW Anderson. This causes a big problem for ROH as this goes against the official booking. Of course this is a work. It doesn't matter because the fans are pissed. The match happens and its OK but the excitement comes from the fans shouting at Joe and company at ringside. It really is at or beyond ECW levels of unrest. Eventually the fans spill over the guard rail and attack Steve and his group. This is crazy! There is some certainty that most of these folks were plants but its been pointed out that a few real people rushed the ring as well. Supposedly Homicide breaks character and protects his foes. I for sure saw Joe beat the hell out of one guy. This was a tremendously risky booking decision but it paid off. I would consider this more of an angle than a match. vs Homicide (Bitter Friends Stiffer Enemies 2003): Here's the first real meeting in my view and its a battle. Its a relaxed rules match and the only real rules enforced are the rope breaks and the ring-out count. Beyond that it appears anything goes! The blood was flowing and hits were connecting. Early on Corino eggs 'Cide to give him his best shot and gets a hard slap in return. This pops Corino's ear drum and as you may know he's left permanently deaf in that ear. What's odd to me is that this blow takes place so soon. I had always thought it took place late in the match. Credit to Corino for continuing after this injury. This was a great match (****) but it left room for the feud to continue. ----- vs Homicide (War of the Wire 2003): It makes perfect sense that they escalated to a barb wire match. Although I'm sure CZW did barb wire matches, I look to this bout as the sequel to Funk vs Sabu in ECW. ROH was the true heir to ECW's throne. To me this match felt like bringing the wire out of retirement after Paul E. vowed never to do another Barb Wire match. As if to say that the hate was so intense that only an ancient and forbidden battle would settle the score. They did it justice as both wrestlers put their bodies on the line. Their seconds got involved as well and made things more chaotic. I think it was a classic ROH match. Do not expect a work rate match with barb wire though. He had it in him in 2002 ASE and Final Battle but he'd gained some weight. More than that, I appreciate that as it puts over the damaging effects of the wire (If you are looking for something like that BJW has you covered.) That being said I wouldn't say it was the best wire match EVER but it was worth the wait. ----- In all honesty, I can't see why this was omitted from the Year Two DVD in terms of quality of content. These matches deserved to be on Disc #2 of that set as both are iconic matches. Secondly, disc #2 is the weaker of the set. I think we all would have picked these bouts over the Scramble Cage Match from Main Event Spectacles or AJ vs Kaz Hiyashi from Final Battle for instance. Perhaps swap one out at least. That being said, I'm glad they were available on this Steve Corino DVD. Like Paul London, I think ROH would have been a different place had Corino stuck around long term. His story in ROH is an odd one. He comes and goes every few years but always feels like an outsider threatening the principles and values of the company. In the included interview, he compares himself to Riki Choshu in this regard. I'm glad I got to see his first invasion and am looking forward to his return and the SCUM storyline in the future. Thanks for reading!
  3. Generally speaking, I live in a cave with my head under a rock when it comes to contemporary wrestling. I poked it out a little bit last year to see the empty seats of Smackdown for historical purposes. When the Wonder Wall was debuted, I lasted 15 minutes before I became dizzy. I took a small trip away from the cave to see Ring of Honor attempt to return to form with their Pure Title tournament. I thought it was fantastic but they squandered or scared away whatever interest that drummed up. Now with CM Punk (and perhaps Bryan Danielson) in All Elite Wrestling, I am compelled to lift the stone from my head and check it out. So I watched his return promo in Chicago and man! that's entertaining! He's still got it. I'm not going to watch anything else on purpose mind you but I wanted to see that. You know...for historical purposes. I liked Punk's speech because he explained his comments regarding wrestling when he was doing MMA/UFC. He acknowledged his time in ROH and made the distinction between that wrestling and what he was doing for almost a decade in WWE. I was confused by a few (hundred) fans booing ROH in a past life. I'd be less confused if they booed ROH in their present form. Who boos a mention of ROH from 2002-2005? Are these folks completely ignorant of the giant influence the company had on both CM Punk and the current American pro wrestling landscape? That's an aside though.What I thought of after a couple days after is more interesting than the excitement of CM Punk back in a ring. Or more interesting on the historically ignorant fans. What really stuck with me is that Punk's history is kind of not true. Now I know it may have been kayfabe but Mr. Brooks, Phil if you will, has a tendency to blur the lines between a work and a shoot when on the mic. So we can say some of this was true for Punk & Phil. But I don't think any of it was any form of an objective truth. Chick Magnet Punk says that things had run their course in ROH and then went to WWE where he didn't wrestle for almost a decade. Now that's not true because no one wrestled in ROH either. I'll defend WWE's " sports entertainment " ideology in so much that what they do isn't wrestling. Pro wrestling is more dramatized combat with melodrama than wrestling like you'd see in high school, college, the Olympics etc. That's a sport. But frankly, I could say all professional sports aren't sports either but are this sports entertainment since no one's playing in an empty gym (until last year) and people are being entertained either through TV, videos, clothing, games. There isn't intentional and planned melodrama (although it happens organically). It lacks nuance for Punk to say he left wrestling in 2005 and came back now in AEW. It is kinda not true. I've watched his stuff in ROH (as we'll see below) and all in all it wasn't that different from what he was doing in WWE. Punk never mentions UFC. I wouldn't either. What he left in 2005 was the freedom and identity that ROH and the Indy scene afforded him. He could be himself. Brooks left a community that embraced him for an opportunity to make a living and potentially make a fortune. I don't think he anticipated what it would cost. I don't think he knew it would cost him friends and fans and would embarrass himself in the process...I recall him saying if UFC had been around when he was younger he would have gone into that instead of wrestling. Man, you ever hear of karate or judo? That wasn't true when he said it. And I don't think anything he said the other night is true either. This is why I stay in my cave and keep my head beneath a boulder. He's not the same person. I just know too much about Phil Brooks to really believe CM Punk anymore. But maybe that's the state of contemporary wrestling in general? I just know too much to really believe any of it. That's all a lead in to some reviews of when Brooks or perhaps Punk was a wrestler before not being a wrestler (never was a wrestler) and becoming a sports entertainer (always was a sports entertainer) and then a mixed martial artist (a sports entertainer but STILL not a wrestler believe it or not!) and a wrestler again (still not a wrestler). vs Raven (Death Before Dishonor 2003) : This was a dog collar match and I believe the consensus is that this is their best bout. I don't know since its all I got to watch but this is very much a Raven match. If you like his style and character (which I do) then this is something that you want to watch. Its a bit on the loner side but it pretty simple in terms of execution and scope. Its violent like it needed to be. Its got some stuff ECW fans would like too...remember this is only a couple years after they closed so that wasn't as odd as you might think. Great match vs AJ Styles (Tradition Continues 2003) : This is almost a 180 from the Raven ECW style match. Instead we see Punk stay in step with the Phenomenal One. It was full of fantastic counters and reversals. The human game of chess cliche is going to be applied to this match because I'm not always very good at describing what make a good match so very good. I think something I appreciate on this viewing is the teasers they chose to do. It just felt organic and competitive and dammit I'm a fan of that. I'm going to say this is a classic match. If you're keeping track, I wouldn't put it in the top tier but its certainly overlooked because it takes place in 2003 which probably doesn't get much love. And if anyone wants to sample 2003/Year 2 ROH they'll usually go to matches of AJ, Danielson and London putting on masterpieces. But in 2021, do people even do that anymore? Other than me? W/Ace Steel (Second City Saints) vs Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer (The Prophecy) (Death Before Dishonor II 2004) : Second City Saints was an awesome name. BJ Whitmer lousy name. Here's my BJ Whitmer rant: I can't believe that he/they wanted to keep a name with a double entendre in it and not have it purposely imply that 2nd meaning. Case in point D.P. Associates in FIP was a purposeful double entendre for the sake of a bunch of 20 year old guys having a laugh. BJ Whitmer never struck me as the type of talent that had a sense of humor about his in-ring persona. That aside, this was a bananas garbage wrestling spot mtach. This was your typical overkill wrestling to show how tough you were. As a match, it stunk BUT as a violent spot driven spectacular, it was great Its a few years ahead of its time but does bite off more than it needed to in order to get the same message across. vs Jimmy Rave (Manhattan Mayhem 2005) : Here we see Punk's (Phil's) version of the dog collar match. And you know its not bad at all. Its decidedly more move oriented but with Punk and Rave in there I did not mind. Rave is such a great opponent for Punk because he can stooge when he needs to, he can get nasty when he needs to, and he can do moves when he needs to. Frankly he's much like Punk in that regard. We get a good deal of blood from Punk and we get the Embassy interfering. Its quite great to be honest. I've not seen this before but I have seen their cage match and man this was a great (probably forgotten) feud. So there you have it. A few matches from CM Punk's time wrestling/sports entertaining in ROH. As you have already figured out, I picked some unsung ones for 2021. They aren't the Joe matches or Summer of Punk ones. 3 of the 4 are quite like stuff you could see in WWE actually. Again, either he never was a "wrestler" or he never left wrestling when going to the WWE. All semantic games aside- He should have been honest in saying he made a mistake in leaving pro wrestling and its fans when going to the UFC. And if he (Phil is Punk at this stage in his career) should have said thanks for welcoming him back despite his mistakes. In my opinion, CM Punk is the best all around pro wrestler of the last 20 years. His return to the square circle is huge and his promo was exhilarating. He will do great business for AEW. However, I think his cleverness in dissing WWE hides the real hurt of his MMA phase. As great as I know him to be, I just can't trust CM Punk anymore. I have to forgive him first. I'm probably making a mountain out of a molehill. I'll be back in my cave. Thanks for reading!
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