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[2003-08-16-ROH-Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies] Xavier vs Christopher Daniels


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ROH Title Shot Match
Xavier vs. Christopher Daniels
The pre-match promo did a perfect job in laying the psychological groundwork for what turned out to be a forgotten classic. To me, this holds up extremely well over the years and has gotten better; I consider it the second most under-appreciated match in ROH history. The match starts off as a feeling-out process, which for two stablemates you would think it was a waste of time, but you must recall this is Xavier's first major ROH match in five months. He needed to use the feel-out to not only get his feet wet again, but also show Daniels that he was his equal as an in-ring technician and could one-up the real Prophecy leader. Eventually though the real meat of the story came into play.
Knowing that the same strategy worked on Paul London at Retribution: Robin Challenge II and almost on Doug Williams at Night of Champions, Daniels focused the majority of his work on Xavier's ribs, which cost the former ROH Champion many opportunities to finish the match (such as being in too much pain to pin Daniels after a successful 450 splash.) It was quite obvious to me that during his time away, Xavier studied those two classics Daniels had, in particular the loss against Williams. If you recall, Williams worked heavily on the neck of Daniels (a fairly well-known injury since WCW) in that one, which is what Xavier went for in this one.
Not only is the neck work brilliant because of the backstory to the Daniels vs. Williams match, but it plays into how Xavier had successfully defeated Paul London twice, as his finish is a modified (more dangerous) version of the neckbreaker. The selling of both men in this one was quite phenomenal, and makes you wonder what exactly caused Xavier to pretty much drift off into obscurity over the past several years. Based on the day, I may say this tops Xavier's emotional encounter against London at the One Year Anniversary Show.
What I really love about this one is that it legitimized Xavier and showed after all almost a full year of usually not living up to his position in the company, he deserved it and was finally ready. He not only went toe-to-toe technically with the established Daniels, he went toe-to-toe with him in terms of selling and playing the psychological games. In the end, Daniels proved he was superior when it came down to who knew how to play dirty and get away with it. A VERY pleasant surprise here, and I encourage Alan (of f4wonline.com) to go back and watch the work of Daniels in the early days of ROH. He was just tremendous.
Rating: ****1/4
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  • GSR changed the title to [2003-08-16-ROH-Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies] Xavier vs Christopher Daniels
  • 2 years later...

5 months earlier Xavier lost the ROH Title to Samoa Joe, and this is his first match in the company since that. He is going up against his Prophecy pal in Christopher Daniels, so this already has a pretty intriguing dynamic from the start. As the match starts & goes on, it plays out kind of like you would expect it to go between two stablemates; it's some really good, charming back & forth that comes with a nice feeling of caution. Def kept me hooked throughout, and then Xavier unloads the first punch of the match, which shocks Daniels, who of course then returns the favor. From that point it's truly ON, with them upping the intensity & one-upmanship -- one of the best moments of the entire matches came right after they traded those punches, as they try to trick one another into thinking it's a "clean" fight again without punches, but it turns out they both tried to double-cross each other, resulting in a full-on SCRAP with fists flying. That whole sequence truly captured the essence of this heel vs. heel match-up. Eventually Daniels finds a target in Xavier's mid-section, and he truly doesn't forget about that target for the entirety of the thing, as it becomes the focal point of his onslaught. Daniels' work over the ribs is fantastic throughout & Xavier's selling is really good. Xavier finding an opening & noticing Daniels banging his neck on the barricade, which then resulted in him fully attacking that said neck was a great, compelling gameplan to counter Daniels' hellacious beating of his ribs, too -- Xavier's work over it is also great, and Daniels' selling is very good as well. A full-on ribs vs. neck story this turns into, and it rules so much. There's lots of great, perfectly dramatic moments involving those said targeted bodyparts of the two, and the wrestling is just super compelling each step of the way. It all really blew me away. Now Xavier had some really good matches vs. the likes of Paul London & Low Ki before this in his ROH career - all those matches had some overbooking which either hurt or helped them though, but then comes THIS? Those said matches vs. London & Ki were indeed really good, but THIS? What. a. gem. I think it's very comparable to Daniels' fantastic match vs. Doug Williams from Night of Champions earlier on in the year, but I would probably put this even above it, because of the super charming heel vs. heel dynamic & the way they tell their story with it. Absolutely tremendous match in every way possible. Xavier & Daniels wrestled their asses off, straight up. ****1/2

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