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[2003-04-12-ROH-Epic Encounter] American Dragon vs Paul London (2/3 falls)

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2/3 Falls Match

Paul London vs. Bryan Danielson
"You're my bitch!" - Paul London as he's locked in a seated abdominal stretch
THIS. IS. ART.
I could probably write an actual essay on this, but I'm too tired to do so. First of all, this match makes me wanna pop in some Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit and Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat just to compare. Every single thing in this match was perfect. Remember what I said about them being a little worn out at Night of the Butcher? Well they fucking proved me right in this one.
This is the match anybody would watch and wonder why the FUCK London let his own ego get in the way. This kind of effort, in which his selling NEVER gets sacrificed, is what you want as a centerpiece of the WWE. Maybe Brian Kendrick by association killed his attitude, but there's no logical reason when looking at this match that London shouldn't be on CM Punk and Danielson's level right now. He looked like the second coming of Jushin Liger or Shawn Michaels in this match.
I must not forget Danielson's performance in this masterpiece as well. He dove further into his subtle heel persona, giving us even more of a sign of things to come down the road. For the first time in ROH, he momentarily antagonized the opposition fanbase. His frustration, in the end turning to what appeared to be desperation, was nothing short of flawless going against London's tenacity.
What also puts this match above Christopher Daniels vs. Doug Williams for me as the best ROH match of 2003 so far is that these men were both babyfaces; this wasn't a story of a clear-cut heel, and then failing to fully engage the crowd to its fullest potential. Danielson played the subtle heel to London's scratching-and-clawing babyface, and it got MORE of a reaction than the black-and-white Daniels vs. Williams. That is a true testament to both of these men.
Get yourself the new ROH Danielson compilation if you haven't seen this yet - this match alone will be worth every penny. You don't need to wait for a sale.
This is more engaging than Low Ki vs. Danielson; it's also my favorite ROH match so far in my rewatch. And there is NO way that this can be topped for 2003. NO WAY.
Rating: *****

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This was indeed an epic encounter. Stiff, hard fought, with plenty of little touches of violence like a Tsuruta & Tenryu match. It was a little rough around the edges and could have been a minute or two shorter but, that helped in a way. It looked like they really were trying to kick each others ass.

 

Paul London is on of the greats from ROH that may be most overlooked. He was there for a short amount of time relative to Danielson, Daniels, Joe but, was clearly on their level or beyond. Perhaps he went to WWE too soon or he should not have gone at all.

 

Also these earlier matches lack the production quality (announcing is pretty terrible) so they seem more Indy-like than later stuff. Also unavailability of the early shows or even comps has hurt his ROH legacy. He really does shine despite these things.

 

ROH has a Best of Year 2 DVD 2 disc set from 2012 available still which is how I watched this classic match.

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This is a really great match. There are lots of little things I really loved about it. I loved Bryan tugging at the ear after locking up and after side headlocks and how he was stepping and grinding on London's face after the knuckle lock. In turn, I also like how he tried to elbow grind his way out of side headlocks. I thought it was a cool moment when London yelled at the ref "he's using the fist!" So, Bryan beating the face of London with open hand strikes. London's offense was really high impact for the most part. His flying clothesline looked incredible, and his counter kicks looked really stiff in the third fall (to Danielson's face!). It was a nice touch going back to selling the leg after the cattle mutilation because London had to stretch his injured leg out to reach for the rope. He sold the head/neck for a few seconds and went right back to the leg. Good stuff. Great match.

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Love the unique character work that they lay out in the first fall to set the tone for the rest of the match; Danielson & London both have some respect for one another, but they clearly do not like each other. They tell that story pretty much perfectly throughout the first fall w/ great, competitive, tight work on the mat. The first real major moment comes when Danielson shoves London's face w/ his foot, and London has this expression that says "oh yeah? that's what we're doing?" - the match starts to get more intense by the minute, they're busting out strikes & putting forearms on each others' faces while having holds in & THEN in THE major moment of the first fall, as Danielson has London in the abdominal stretch, London yells to him "YOU'RE MY BITCH!", which Danielson then answers to accordingly by smacking the crap out of his FACE. That's when the tone REALLY changes & Dragon starts blasting London all around the ring; London is wonderful taking a beating from Danielson, as he makes every strike he receives look like million bucks. The finish to the first fall, with London reversing Bryan's back bodydrop off the top rope attempt into a pin, was brilliant too & Danielson's facial selling of that was superb. Then as the 2nd fall officially begins, London, in a great callback to the first fall banter between them, offers a handshake to Bryan in the name of HONOR & all, and Bryan accepts, but right after he had very quickly shook London's hand, he blasts him with a slap, followed by a barrage of forearms & chops. It's fairly even, awesome back & forth for a while - that is until Danielson dropkicks London's knee as he was on the top turnbuckle, trying to go for that SSP of his. The knee becomes an instant target for Dragon, as he goes to town on it. London's selling is terrific & I love, love, LOVED all of his comebacks after the knee comes to play; he becomes aggressive & super crappy. It's really great. Bryan eventually gets the 2nd fall w/ a half crab, and they bring that up a few times in the last fall w/ him trying to go for it - it created for some nice drama, and London's selling is still really great throughout the final fall. The finish with him basically sacrificing his knee in order to execute that SSP was superb. It's a real classic overall with terrific performances by both; fantastic, somewhat unique psychology w/ the character work + great limb work & great selling. ****3/4

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The first fall is great & sets the tone for the match perfectly; the work on the mat is competitive & tight, looks & comes off as really great. Some very fun mind games that make the match get meaner eventually with London calling Danielson a BITCH, which causes him to get his ass kicked -- BUT it did eventually pay off for London, as he countered Dragon's signature back bodydrop from the top attempt into a pinfall to make it 1-0. Great first fall. They continue right where they left off in the 2nd fall with Bryan accepting London's handshake, but then starting to blast him right away with strikes. London gets some comebacks here n' there, but it's mostly Bryan on top, and it's oh so fantastic. The major moment of the 2nd fall was when London was going for that SSP, but Bryan recovers quickly enough to dropkick his knee to stop that from happening; from then on, Bryan's target is on that knee, and the attack on it is obviously fantastically vicious, focused & compelling. That fall ending half crab, which looked kind of like a Liontamer was such a brutal looking hold. Terrific 2nd fall. The 3rd & final fall is also absolutely amazing with Bryan continuing that attack on the knee -- Bryan continues to be an awesome aggressor, London's selling is superb & it creates for some superb drama w/ the half crab. That finish is all kinds of awesome as well with London's truly great selling. It's a really fantastic way to finish this classic; it's always been one of my favorite matches, and that ain't changing. It keeps you, or at least me, hooked for the entire 40-minute duration of it. Pure brilliance. It really probably is the best match ROH had up to that point, even though Danielson/Styles & especially Danielson/Ki give it some extremely tough competition. ****3/4

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