THE BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN
January 10, 2004
Nigel McGuinness . . . puts on a fun match, and then still gives the fans some juice.
Homicide . . . turns a dream match into a nightmare.
The Briscoe Brothers . . . continue their good match streak from the previous show.
MATT STRYKER vs. ALEX SHELLEY (ROH Pure Title Division Rules)
Being the first ever match under these rules, obviously there were going to be problems, but you can’t chalk everything up to just the rules. Shelley’s inconsistency in selling his knee (especially after Stryker had already singled it out as his target) has zero to do with the new rules. There are quite a few good points of the match though, specifically that Shelley isn’t known for being the mat worker that Stryker is, and it shows in some of the things Shelley does, such as using the ropes to break up a pin after a power slam, instead of simply kicking out. It’s still a failing on Stryker’s part though, because he doesn’t do anything to compliment it, such as finding an escape to one of Shelley’s submissions so he won’t waste a rope break. In fact, the most innovative looking submission comes from Alex Shelley, and his Necktie Muta Lock. The only time Stryker ever really comes off as having the decisive advantage over Shelley is when he starts to take his leg apart.
Shelley also plays off his youth and inexperience in the way he’s throwing it all on the line instead of stopping to think. Even after Stryker had singled out his knee for abuse, Shelley still attempts a neckbreaker using his own knee as a weapon. He’s also able to maintain the bridge in the Necktie Muta Lock, which would speak well of his endurance or pain threshold, had he not tried going up top and lost his balance and hung himself up. Of course, being the first match under these rules, there is that little bit of confusion, when Shelley puts on the illegal submission in the ropes, but the Stryker is still docked a rope break. That isn’t altogether a bad thing though, and it would also creep up during the finals of the Pure Title tournament, establishing that like everything else in the world, nothing is perfect the first time around. Shelley holding the ropes while in the Stryker Lock (despite being out of rope breaks) is a bit on the anticlimactic side though, and only made the tap out all the more inevitable. The match is able to achieve its primary goal though, of getting over the three rope break rule.
NIGEL McGUINNESS © vs. CODY HAWK (HWA Heavyweight Title)
Although this isn’t much more than a one trick pony, it’s still lots of fun. Both Nigel and Hawk do a lot of cutesy switches and reversals to one another, and it’s nice to see that Nigel doesn’t have Cody totally outclassed with the European style he works. Nigel’s bump into the post and subsequent juice also serves to make this a keeper, and the fact that Cody was right there to keep working over Nigel’s head and worsen the cut only adds to the fun. The ending is a bit out there, with Cody escaping all of Nigel’s tricked out looking cradles, but then falling prey to a fairly basic one, but it’s not a big stretch to think that they rushed the ending to get Nigel’s cut looked at.
CHRIS SABIN vs. JIMMY JACOBS (ROH Pure Title Tournament Qualifying Match)
Considering what’s on the line in this match, and what was on the line in the opener. This match should probably have been under the Pure Title rules. Then again, considering Jacobs’ Bruiser Brody imitations and that this is little more than a spotfest for crowd pops, it’s just as well. Sabin does bring some nice stuff with him, but more often than not it’s just rolled out there for kicks and cheers, rather than any actual reason. The only thing Sabin did to show that he’d be able to win a potential match under Pure Rules is the Necktie/Reverse Surfboard, which actually winds up with Sabin in a pinning position. Some of Sabin’s stuff is impressive, such as catching Jacobs in mid air in suplex position, as well as the Cradle Shock off the second rope that he uses to put away Jacobs. But Jacobs is the one who impresses more, because he’s able to take the beating, and keep on fighting.
JIMMY RAVE vs. CAPRICE COLEMAN vs. TODD SEXTON vs. RAINMAN (Four Corner Survival)
Just like the last match, the Go-Go-Go style pretty much ruins any momentum that they might have been able to build. Jimmy Rave’s so called ‘aggression’ that he’s been picking up from AJ Styles is nowhere to be found, and certainly isn’t instrumental in him scoring the win. The match contains all the usual things like the crazy four way submission, and the dives to the floor. The only one who really stands out is Coleman, his stuff looks the best, and he’s always fired up and getting the crowd into a frenzy. It was obvious that Rave was going to walk out the winner, but Jimmy’s first big win should have meant more than him simply hitting the running knee to the head, when nobody was around to break the pin.
AJ STYLES vs. HOMICIDE
It’s simultaneously a testament to the work ethic of AJ and ‘Cide, as well as an indictment of wrestling fans, for how far the workers have to go in order to keep the fans hot. As expected Styles and ‘Cide start off going after each other full tilt. They take things to the floor, and AJ gets his jump into the fans, and also leaps over Homicide to send him into the guardrail in a cool spot. Things settle down a bit and AJ works over Homicide’s mid section, while Homicide sticks to AJ’s head, and the occasional shots at his knee (to set up a potential STF). Both of them bring the fun offense as well, with AJ’s pumphandle back breakers, and abdominal stretch. Not to be left out, Homicide also counters AJ’s lariat with an Ace Crusher, does the always awesome John Woo. But after Homicide wipes out on his tope, and the subsequent gap in the match, things just fall apart. The previous work they’d both done is completely forgotten about, in favor of Homicide no-selling everything, and then Styles has to follow suit. Watching them both lay into each other with forearms is just like one of those kick trade offs you see in NOAH, only they don’t rebound off the ropes, just get back to their feet. Homicide had also been selling his shoulder after the dive, but after he misses a diving headbutt, that goes away too. AJ takes quite the nasty looking piledriver, and has to more or less shrug it off. While all this is going on, the fans are going crazy for it. The attempted Hurricanrana countered to the Styles Clash isn’t a bad finish, but it’s not enough to make up for some of the tripe that it had to follow. To say that this is a classic isn’t far off the mark, it’s a classic example of what can happen when the goal becomes getting pops rather than building up a logical match.
HYDRO/DIXIE/SLIM J/JOEY MATTHEWS vs. LOC/DEVITO/DUNN/MARCOS (Scramble Match)
This is actually one of the better Scramble matches that ROH has put on. Because instead of following the usual formula to a tee, the feud between Special K and The Carnage Crew is put into the forefront. Although the RCE isn’t feuding with Special K, they’re still an important factor. In real life they were brought into the business by Loc. In storylines, they’re busting their humps on the ring crew, while Special K gets everything handed to them. While all the usual spots of a Scramble match take place, such as the submission spots, the dives to the floor, and the Special K cheating to win. In between all that is plenty of Carnage Crew ass whooping, hilarious overselling, as well as the RCE showing their own aggressive side. Hydro once again manages to be a standout performer, going toe-to-toe with the Carnage Crew, and even outshining Joey Matthews, who is supposed to be the worker of the group. The Abyss run in to give Special K the win is a copout, but still makes sense given the beating that Loc and Devito puts on Special K, in addition to Dunn and Marcos not being the cakewalk opponents that they usually are.
MARK BRISCOE/JAY BRISCOE © vs. SAMOA JOE/BRYAN DANIELSON (ROH Tag Team Titles)
Given the two singles matches at the previous show (and how well they both turned out) this match is the next logical booking step. The match itself takes the good aspects from both of the singles matches, and while that makes for what’s mostly a good fun tag match, it also leaves a couple of odd moments. The best things that the tag match takes from the previous singles matches are Joe and Danielson’s respective aggressiveness and intensity, as they both just smack the champions around, as well as stretch them out a bit for fun. Whenever either of the Briscoes fire back with a weak shot, it’s not sold, and it’s met with a “What the hell was that?” reaction, before they show them how to follow through. Danielson and Joe are first concentrating on the arm and shoulder region of both Jay and Mark, in some nice continuity from the previous show, but after a while, that’s forgotten about in favor of the disdainful smacking around.
Another thing that carries over from the two singles matches is that the champions reign themselves in, which is something that could be chalked up to lessons from their manager. Watching their title win over Special K, you had to wonder what Cornette saw in them, as they were playing the Scramble spotfest game. In this match though, when they do get control of Danielson with a little cheating behind the ref’s back, they work him over simply and logically, without resorting to big spots. They do a really nice job of cutting the ring in half, giving each other little assists from the apron, and baiting Joe into the ring for some double teaming, the sort of stuff the Midnight Express would be proud of. For all the abusing he gave the Briscoes, Danielson takes his beating like a man too, he puts it over well but not to the point of overselling. At various points in the match, the Briscoes look like they belong in the same class of workers as their challengers. When the Briscoes try to bring the same level of offense, they run into trouble though. Joe’s hot tag is one of the best moments of the match, he allows nothing to slow him down (not even an airborne Mark) and when he locks an STF in on Jay, he puts the bad mouth on him as payback for the ways he baited him into the ring.
Unfortunately, a few odd moments do wind up popping up though, and it does put some tarnish on the good match going on, like the Doomsday Device that they use to finally get their own run of offense on Danielson. Not that a big double team shouldn’t be used to turn the tide, but considering the abuse he’d been laying down, it looks odd to see him taken out so quick. The road to the finish also was a bit bumpy, with Jay taking a super backdrop and then one of Danielson’s European Uppercuts, and then a single boot being enough to soften up Danielson for the Jay Driller. It’d work if the Driller was something that could be hit out of nowhere like Randy Orton’s RKO, or one of Roderick Strong’s back breakers, but the time it takes to set up negates that notion, and as a result it looks like they just went with the finish they had to do, rather than doing a better job building up to it. Odd moments like that aside though, it’s nice to see that the Briscoes are capable working tag matches in the same fun manner as their singles matches, and it’s all the more sad that they couldn’t do it on a more regular basis with other teams. ***1/2
CHRISTOPHER DANIELS/DAN MAFF/BJ WHITMER vs. CM PUNK/COLT CABANA/ACE STEEL
Considering the angle and storyline that set up this match, this is almost *too* structured. Everything you’d expect to happen does happen, but not until the end. Before then, this is pretty organized. The Prophecy (mostly Daniels) gets the quick offensive run, with some nice spots, and Punk plays the chickenshit and runs away from Daniels, even though he’s supposed to want to rip his head off. The Saints get a long heat segment on Maff, which does have its fun parts, but it mostly drags because they can only do so much to Maff, due to his size, as well as Maff taking three top rope moves in sequence and then kicking out at one. Things also take a bit of a Scramble like mentality with everyone taking a dive to the floor, and then a sequence of attempted pins being broken up, until everyone gets a turn. Things finally do degenerate down, and the match gets thrown out (which should have happened much sooner), after the ref takes a wicked chair shot. Of course that doesn’t stop them from fighting in the least. Lucy makes her return to get revenge on Whitmer, and then Punk gets his revenge on Daniels with a Pepsi Plunge through a table. It’s odd that Daniels was taken out so early into the feud, but at the same time, it was smart because TNA was about to pull Daniels from ROH shows anyway.
Conclusion: There is some fun stuff on the undercard, including a somewhat decent Scramble, and a good tag title match. So all in all, this is a passable ROH show. Nothing to really go out of your way to go after unless you’re a completest, but there have been much worse shows, that have gotten way more praise.