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[2004-12-26-ROH-Final Battle 2004] Samoa Joe vs Austin Aries

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Final Battle 2004 - December 26, 2004

 

 

 

ROH Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Austin Aries
By itself, this match is good/forced or awesome, depending on your tastes. But when one watches everything that led up to this classic like I did, you realize what a masterpiece of a story this truly is.
This match played off the majority of Joe's title reign, including the title defenses against Punk, Danielson, Homicide, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels. It also played off the classics Aries had against Danielson and his victory over Punk the month prior. Coming off of a grueling 21 month reign and two ***** defenses against Punk, Joe had been exposed as being vulnerable and even went so far on the prior show as to blatantly attempt to cheat in order to remain ROH Champion.
On the other hand, Aries had that victory over Punk and a HUGE one a few months earlier in the 2/3 falls match against Danielson, plus he showed absolutely no fear or inferiority on the prior show against Ki. Reflecting back, the seeds were planted all along for ROH's final moment of 2004.
Aries brought everything in this match towards Joe - explosive maneuvers, crisp and intelligent technical wrestling, incredible tenacity. But the champ would not go down without a fight, smacking around the smaller Aries and showing a vicious side that hadn't been seen since his feud against Homicide.
In the end though, all the elements that led to this historic match, as well as the gameplan that Aries brought to the table, finally brought the epic reign of Samoa Joe to an end. The atmosphere in the closing moments, and especially the finish, was just beyond electric.
This is truly an incredible match, one that paid off two storyline arcs that overlapped on a very special night, closed out the year with a bang, and truly saved a shitty in-ring ROH event.
Post-match, Aries follows the Code of Honor for the first time at Joe's request, and he has to hide back his emotions temporarily.
Rating: ****1/2

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Awesome stuff. What a compact, simple story that still holds up today. Aries brings the fire whereas Joe does his best to prove that he's still the dominant ace of ROH. The Ole kicks do slow things down a tad but Aries comes right back with that sick corner dropkick and things go into overdrive very soon after. The crowd can feel that something special is happening and you can't help but get invested in that finishing stretch. Joe tries to smother Aries with strikes but Aries just keeps fighting back and mounting offense until he finally gets the Brainbuster/450 combo and the crowd explode. Even knowing the result, I still kind of lose it going into that final stretch.

 

****1/2

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I thought this was 'just' a great match (****) up until the last two minutes where the urgency to finish the fight was palpable. It felt like a big boxing or mma bout in the sense that they were swinging to the fences hoping to get a big shot in and wrap things up. Aries came through with ferocity especially with his running elbow and a head kick to a downed Joe that would make Hotta & Dynamite Kansai shutter. Classic stuff. Big ups to Joe for putting Aries over so well. That really made all of the difference in the end. I can't believe I hadn't seen it sooner...

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ROH World Champion Samoa Joe vs Austin Aries - ROH 12/26/04

CM Punk mentions that Aries was not even in ROH a year ago and that is really key. Generation Next was the beginning of the Second Wave of US Indies workers. This match is an extension of the 90s US Workrate style with more puroresu influences because Joe is such a disciple of King's Road & Hahsimoto. That is not present here. Aries wrestles this match like an undersized Chris Benoit. He is pugnacious and he throws himself into every dropkick and forearm. I love how he lunges into everything. He really feels outgunned compared to the dominant asskicker Samoa Joe that is 21-months deep into a championship reign that is seemingly interminable. Also, love how Aries changes strategy three times in this match. My favorite thing about Flair is his ever-evolving strategy. Here we see that with Aries. At first he tries the bumrush approach, but the bigger Joe stops him in his track. Then in an escape of a hold, he manages to wrench Joe's knee in a nice, quick touch that can almost be missed. Joe misses a kneedrop and its the same knee. Now Aries goes to work on the knee. It is solid work including his power elbow. Joe quashes this with some wicked Kawada-like head kicks. That's the key is that Joe does not blow off the knee work rather he stops it in time before it takes too much of a toll. The reason Aries does not go back is that Joe knocks him so loopy over and over again with kicks and facewashes. Aries resorts to desperation offense. Just hurling his body at Joe whether it is a forearm or a dropkick you believe Aries throwing every single ounce of his body against Joe and more often than Joe is just absorbing and returning the pain. Then Aries ups the ante and starts to get nasty. He gouges Joe's eyes to avoid the Musclebuster so he can hit a 450 splash. He fishhooks Joe in a submission. The fishhook is such an underutilized gnarly move. He is doing every thing to win. It feels gritty and nasty. Aries to his credit is absorbing a lot of punishment including an Island Driver. He wriggles free of the choke and in a MuscleBuster is just able to wrestle Joe down with a Crucifix. Aries ROCKS Joe with a massive forearm! Aries absolutely SMOKES Joe with a wicked kick! Aries Nails a BRAINBUSTER! That was his third attempt of the match and it finally hit. 450! 1-2-3! New champ and a massive upset. It is feels thoroughly earned. Joe was in command the entire match. Aries got his hope spots in and never died. He just kept chipping away. That last minute was just a thrilling onslaught. Excellent work all around two men that played their roles to perfection. ****1/2 

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