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[2005-06-12-ROH-The Future Is Now] CM Punk vs Roderick Strong


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CM Punk vs. Roderick Strong
The hottest match of the night, and that makes it the best one too. It was leaked days prior to this event that Punk was about to sign with WWE, so this was assumed as the first of two farewell matches for him. That made this for not just a great wrestling match, but a sentimental one to boot.
Just six days away from saying goodbye to ROH and getting an ROH Title shot against Austin Aries, Punk was dialed-in like he hadn't shown before; I'm not sure he was even this dialed-in in the series against Samoa Joe. However, Roderick Strong was obviously the future of the company, coming off of his first major singles victory in a grueling match against Alex Shelley (but its audience sucked so it's not recognized as the big deal it really was for Strong), and was an established roadblock. Keep in mind that this was the third time a scheduled ROH Title challenger faced Strong on the event prior to the title shot, the others being Gibson and Homicide.
Punk was tremendous in his work on Strong's left arm and shoulder, setting him up for the Anaconda Vise. I absolutely loved how much he avoided Strong's vicious chops in the first third of the match too. Once Strong was able to land a chop, it meant something and gave Strong some much-needed confidence. It also led to the first of two wild chopping contests that had me wondering if I was watching a 1989 event, because the exchanges reminded me of Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat. But Punk was able to outsmart Strong, manipulating the less experienced powerhouse to attempt a chop, only for Punk to move out of the way and Strong's backhand to strike the ring post.
Strong was able to get the heat back in the match, relentlessly working on Punk's back as expected. Punk really did take a beating in this one, and the crowd was into every moment of this match. I also appreciated both men picking up on each other's habits as the match progressed. But with the work already done on Strong's left arm, he had no choice but to immediately tap out to Punk when he got the Anaconda Vise on again about 15-20 minutes into this match. Punk not only was dialed-in, but showed he had learned from his failure to capture the ROH Title from Samoa Joe.
Post-match, Punk gives a great speech explaining why he is destined to win the ROH Title, and mentions that it is so appropriate to have that match take place in New Jersey, the audience that hates him the most. But he also manages to put Strong over as the future of the company and give him the spotlight. This was a genuine moment, one that Punk really participated in, so it didn't come across as forced and tiresome as the millions of times that Davey Richards would go on to do it.
Rating: ****
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