DRAGON GATE INVASION
August 27, 2005
ROH comes back to Buffalo, and in addition to me being in the front row as opposed to the second row. ROH brought a much better show with them this time around.
Curry Man . . . lucked out and got on the show, when “The Fallen Angel” didn’t make it.
Roderick Strong . . . will leave you both green with envy, and red with blisters as a result of his chops.
James Gibson . . . doesn’t look like a real world champion.
PUMA vs. RICKY REYES
For an opening match, this is fairly inoffensive. It’s really rushed, and both Puma and Reyes throw a whole lot out there without much in the way of build or story. There is some early fun involving Puma going after Ricky’s arm, but it gets dropped quickly. Puma and Ricky both lay into one another with kicks, and Puma also brings several nice hope spots with some quick counters and reversals, as well as beautiful transition into a sharpshooter. Reyes uses a few power moves with him, including a brutal Ohtani-like spiral bomb. The O’Connor roll countered to the body scissors Dragon sleeper makes for a fun enough finish, with Reyes finally getting one over on Puma. It’s too bad that Puma hasn’t been seen since, and that Reyes can’t seem to win anymore, unless he’s squashing the ROH wrestling school students in mere seconds.
CHAD COLLYER vs. KEVIN STEEN vs. JIMMY JACOBS vs. DAVEY ANDREWS (Four Corner Survival)
Even if he had succumbed to the punch, kick nonsense that the other three do for the majority of the match, Collyer would still have been the best performer of the match, just for his Mohawk. Collyer does bring some fun matwork to the mix though, as well as not just throwing out his big spots whenever he sees fit. The same sure as hell cannot be said for the supposed “Mr. Wrestling,” who does little else but punch and kick, aside from his attempts to drop someone on their head. He can’t even be bothered to do a knee lift. But he seemed more concerned with playing to the crowd anyway, when putting on a good performance would have been the best way to get the fans chanting his name.
The only real story that comes into play is things get a bit heated between Steen and Jacobs, with several cheap shots and blind tags between them. And the heat spills over into them going at it on the floor and results in neither of them being around for the finish. The work itself is almost non existent in favor of a ton of punch and kick stuff, and then the finishers and finisher attempts start to fly out, without any sort of build up to them. Andrews is the obvious weak link, and he does a decent job of taking the bulk of the punishment, but he does make his two spots count. Andrews doing the Pepsi Twist and yelling “Punk says hi!” is a fun moment, and Collyer does a nice sell job for his jumping knee strike. The foolishness and inexperience come into play though and Andrews’ missed dropkick results in a Texas Cloverleaf and submission. Considering Punk is gone, and now Andrews isn’t simply wrestling his fellow students, this match does make for a decent learning experience for him.
HOMICIDE vs. EL GENERICO
This going as long as it did would have made sense if Generico had been allowed to actually get anything in other than a few hope spots. But unfortunately he doesn’t and the result is a match that’s more or less a total squash, and one that’s too long. Homicide just beats the tar out of Generico, and works in his usual stuff like the Ace Crusher, Cop Killa attempt, and of course jawing with the fans, before finishing him off with the lariat. It’s a tribute to Generico’s toughness that he took the kind of punishment that Homicide dished out to him, and still kept going. But aside from a couple comedy spots and the occasional hope spot, Generico gets nothing. Everyone already knows that Homicide is an angry man, and has no regard for rules or sportsmanship. So in a nutshell all this winds up accomplishing is telling people what they already know.
SHINGO TAKAGI vs. CURRY MAN
Considering that Takagi has all of ten months experience, and he’s in another country, obviously this wasn’t going to set the world on fire. They mostly work with basic holds, which really isn’t all that bad. It allows Takagi to keep up with Curry Man, and they don’t look lost out there. Which is an improvement over the ROH/All Japan series from Final Battle 2003. But the biggest failing on the match isn’t so much due to what the wrestlers do, but rather what they don’t do. Shingo doesn’t really put his obvious power advantage to any real use. Sure, he can drop Curry Man with a shoulder block and lariat anytime he tries, but that happens in every match so it’s nothing particularly unique. What Shingo doesn’t do is go all out with his strength to wear him down. Shingo also uses a couple of nice submissions to target Curry Man’s arm, but doesn’t use anything simple and effective to make way for using them, so he did nothing more than bring them out to show that he could do them.
Curry Man gets his own power moves into the mix though, with a Blue Thunder driver, a Uranage, and of course the Spicy Drop to get the win. Curry Man has never been known as much of a power wrestler, so setting up the Spicy drop with other power moves, doesn’t do a thing to make Takagi look like he could have been able to pull off the win. What Curry Man fails to do, is anything to help put over Takagi (a total unknown here) in any form. He doesn’t do anything as far as over the top selling and bumping, or use his flying skills to keep Takagi at bay. A veteran like him, doesn’t even use the experience edge to his advantage. So Curry Man is actually just as at fault for Takagi’s showing. The early comedy spots were a nice touch to keep things light, but in the long-run Shingo is probably going to be best remembered in ROH as the Japanese guy who did pushups.
SAMOA JOE © vs. NIGEL McGUINESS (ROH Pure Wrestling Title)
A big theme of Joe’s title reign has been finding himself defending the title in different situations, against old rivals (Daniels and Aries), lower ranked opponents (Nigel and Cabana), and new opponents (Gibson and Rave), and everyone had their own plan with how to take him down, but were always unsuccessful. With this being their third singles match together in 2005 (and their second one for the title), it’s obvious that Nigel should at least be aware of some of Joe’s weakness. What wasn’t obvious however, was how well Nigel would be able to exploit them and the result being nearly as good as Joe’s title win.
Getting under Joe’s skin and frustrating him isn’t a new tactic in the least. Lethal and Cabana both did a good job with it in their title matches against Joe. What makes Nigel’s method of it work so well is that he’s not getting under Joe’s skin by outsmarting him, but he’s simply pissing Joe off and making him lose his cool. The punches to the face with the ref out of position aren’t going to have much effect on Joe, and Nigel knows that. The only effect they have is on Joe’s temper and when he finally has enough and returns the favor, he loses his warning, and then later it costs him one of his rope breaks. Nigel does have to pay the price for ultimate pissing Joe off though, when Joe starts to tee off on him with chops and slaps, the big boot to the jaw, and of course the face wash. The bit with the chair is questionable though. It makes sense as far as Nigel getting one-up on Joe again, and really giving himself a good opening. But why the hell wasn’t he disqualified? In a regular ROH match that would have been a DQ on the spot, but in a match with such strict rules, the only penalty is losing a rope break?
Regardless of Sinclair’s questionable judgment call, Nigel sacrificed one rope break for a huge advantage. Joe’s arm took the brunt of that chair shot, and Nigel is right there to work it over, with several freaky arm submissions which quickly eat up Joe’s rope breaks. Joe does a nice sell job, even having trouble executing his patented sidewalk slam out of the corner. Nigel isn’t as heelish about going after Joe’s arm as he could have been though. After using the punches behind the ref’s back, and using a chair to get where he is, it seemed like Nigel could have kept going that route. The ropes, and the post are both excellent ways to further weaken Joe’s arm. Nigel going back to his wrestling routes isn’t a bad thing in the least, just a bit on the odd side.
The only real weak points of the match come toward the end, when Joe and Nigel both seemingly feel the need to start using their trademark stuff, regardless of what’s been done previously. Nigel doing headstand in the corner along with Joe’s counter, and Joe’s attempt at the Muscle Buster both make appearances, for no real reason, since they don’t further along the match or add to the story in any way. Unlike Joe’s missed running knee to the corner, which allowed Nigel to hit Joe with the Tower of London (and Joe made sure to take the brunt of the fall on his bad arm) for the shocking three count. It seems odd that someone as protected as Joe got beaten so easily. But at the same time, it shows how ROH books logically rather than trying to revolve around certain workers. ***1/4
SPANKY/JIMMY RAVE vs. AUSTIN ARIES/RODERICK STRONG
Watching Strong and Aries here, it’s hard to believe that Roderick and Jack Evans are thought of as “the tag team” of Generation Next. Strong and Aries have their timing and execution of double teaming down almost pat. It’s equally hard to fathom why Roderick was simply “the power wrestler” of Generation Next, he’s easily the MVP of this match, putting on a much better performance than he did in June against Shelley. Roderick’s chops are simply thunderous. Spanky and Rave both run away in fear of having to take one, Ric Who? But Roderick eventually makes them pay for running like a couple of chickenshits, when he unloads all over both of them.
What hurts the match though is when the heels finally do get a chance to dish out some punishment to Strong. Strong does a good job with it, he doesn’t sacrifice his tough guy image at all by suddenly looking like a huge pansy, but still doesn’t just blow off the work they do. The problem with the work they do, is that it isn’t anything of dire consequence to make it seem like they’ve got a chance at winning. The way Aries and Strong were racking up double teams early on shows how polished as a team they are. Spanky and Rave finally have things under control and they aren’t doing anything to show that they could still pull off the upset. Even one big double team would have at least given the idea that Roderick was in a fair amount of trouble. It’s a bit funny to see Aries go nuts on the apron when Rave does the fish hook on Roderick, since Aries put that same tactic to great use during his World Title reign. When Aries gets the hot tag, the finishers and finisher attempts start coming out, which is a bit of a drag with the fun stuff previously. As much as it sucks that the match had to end with Shelley hitting Aries with a chair, it did make sense given the story being told in the match. ***
CIMA vs. AJ STYLES
Just like the Shingo/Curry Man match, this is a bit of a spotfest. However, this is a much more tolerable spotfest because CIMA is more than capable of getting over with the fans on his own, and doesn’t need AJ to work for two. The only thing this really lacked was a strong selling performance from Styles, which is something that can be said for an awful lot of his matches. CIMA wisely didn’t do anything to establish an offensive focus either, that way AJ’s usual selling problems wouldn’t detract as much away from the match. Of course when CIMA does do something extra wicked, like the double stomp on AJ’s back, he does do a worthy sell job. But nothing that CIMA does is really long lasting. It’s the same story when CIMA has AJ on the turnbuckle, and levels him with both the Venus and a nasty superkick. AJ obviously sells the strikes, but nothing to the point of them coming off as long lasting damage.
What CIMA does bring though, are a bunch of nice spots that really work the crowd into a frenzy. AJ has more than his own share of favorite spots that he likes to use, but opts to leave them behind, in favor of letting CIMA have the spotlight in his US debut. When was the last AJ Styles match where he didn’t work in his Quebrada DDT, or the big leap over the guardrail? CIMA doesn’t just throw out his spots all at once either, he trades strikes, and works the mat back and fourth with AJ as well. CIMA’s work is also very well executed, with only the Tokarev (Coast to Coast dropkick) looking a bit off the mark. CIMA’s little bit of work on AJ’s knee leads to his attempt at the Perfect Driver, which at least attempts to make it count for something. CIMA clearly shows he’s done a fair bit of research on his opponent judging from how often he counters AJ’s main moves, with his own stuff. He simply grabs the rope to avoid the Phenomenal, and AJ’s Styles Clash attempt winds up getting turned into an Air Raid Crash attempt. The ARC attempt fails, but CIMA quickly locks AJ in LA MART for the pin. CIMA winning isn’t all that shocking considering Takagi had lost. He was still clearly better than AJ here, and it’s always a treat to see the better man win.
COLT CABANA vs. JAMES GIBSON © (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
Gibson’s title reign was going to be short anyway, due to his signing back with WWE, but his performance here makes it all the more telling that he wasn’t going to last long as ROH Champion. When you take a look at the men who have held major singles titles be it IWGP, Triple Crown, NWA, WWE/F, and even past ROH Champions like Samoa Joe and Austin Aries. They all have a certain dominance about them. Hashimoto, HHH, Flair, Race, Kobashi, and once again Joe and Aries, all of them dropped falls while they were the champions, but still wound up looking like they belonged on top, holding the title. In the nearly thirty minutes that this lasts, Gibson never gives off that impression.
Gibson working on Cabana’s neck to soften him up for the front choke isn’t a shocker, but the fact that the best things he can come up with being head scissors present a problem for him. Colt is already halfway decent on the mat, and having recent wrestled overseas to better learn the European style. So when Gibson locks him in a head scissors, Cabana escapes it handily and Gibson is left standing there with his fuckin’ dick in his hand. When Gibson finally does get a meaningful run of offense on Cabana to wear down his neck area, it’s not due to anything Gibson did. It was because Cabana and his clowning around finally got him fired up. Most of Gibson’s offense to wear down Cabana’s neck is in the form of headlocks, CM Punk had shown how to have an exciting match surrounding that move, but Gibson doesn’t follow suit. He does pull out a few swinging neckbreakers, including one off the top, as well as cranking Colt’s neck while he was in the tree of woe, to keep the offense simple yet varied.
Gibson’s lack of dominance is due to Cabana too. First off Cabana’s selling of Gibson working his neck over just isn’t very good. Secondly, Cabana seems to randomly decide when he’s going to pull off an important move. Moments after Gibson had him in the tree of woe and was cranking on his neck, Cabana gives Gibson his Helicopter Slam. When Gibson attempts his Tiger driver (again, *after* Gibson has worn him down) he back drops him out to the floor, and hits an Asai moonsault. After Gibson scores a near fall from a German suplex, Cabana goes and gives Gibson his own front choke submission. Why? After the neckbreaker off the top, Cabana attempts to give Gibson a powerbomb, so that he can counter into the front choke. But Cabana picks up Gibson (who is literally hanging off of his head here) and runs into the corner to break the hold. It’s amazing Gibson was able to make Cabana break a sweat, with the effect all of this work on Colt’s neck seems to have had on him. Gibson subsequently applies the hold again for the tap out to retain, but it comes off looking like they just went with the finish they had to do. It’s nice that after spending the whole match softening Colt up for that move that is paid off for him in the end. But it’s hard to praise a match for using such a fundamental concept.
Conclusion: This is definitely an improvement over the first ROH show in Buffalo. A couple of good outings, and the usual fun that comes with ROH is enough for a thumbs up for this show.