FOURTH ANNIVERSARY SHOW
February 25, 2006
ROH attempts to kick off their fifth year in a big way, with a couple of awesome video packages highlighting ROH’s fourth year, and one of Jim Cornette’s angry promos. It’s the usual big ROH show, with old favorites returning, and current feuds further igniting, and there’s also a Ghetto Fight!
Samoa Joe . . . instructs Jay Lethal to not let the door to hit him in the ass on his way to TNA permanently.
Homicide . . . tries to kill Colt Cabana, not once, not twice, but three freakin’ times!
Jimmy Rave . . . bores me to tears, when he goes for over thirty minutes.
TONY MAMALUKE/SAL RINAURO vs. JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE vs. JASON BLADE/KID MIKAZE
Much like any non-traditional match that ROH has on their undercard, this is too rushed to be much more than a spotfest. Jay and Mark get to show off a couple of nice moves, Mark’s jumping foot stomp over the ropes was especially nasty, and the Cutthroat driver/diving legdrop they use to win was a bit mistimed, but still looked okay, and of course Mark gets to do the shooting star to the floor. But because this is so short and so rushed, nobody gets to look dominating at all. The Italians pull out some nice stuff on the mat, and Blade and Mikaze bring some flashy spots of their own. The return of one of ROH’s most heralded teams should be a big deal, but it’d have been better served in a situation where they had enough time to show off their improvement during their absence from ROH.
ADAM PEARCE vs. JAY FURY vs. AZRIEAL vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI
When did Barry Darsow find the fountain of youth? Oh, that’s Pearce. This is no different than the previous match, only instead of being too rushed to be more than a spotfest, this is mind numbingly dull. Pearce and Claudio have some amusing exchanges, both verbal and physical, and Fury’s high spots are fun to watch, but that’s the extent of things. The rest of this is nothing more than a disjointed mess. There’s no sort of running theme or story to speak of. It’s just the four of them killing time, and not doing it very well. Take the final stretch of the match for instance. It starts with Pearce getting crotched on the top turnbuckle while trying to splash Fury. Pearce sits there for five minutes, while the others mess around. Fury puts down Azrieal and then Claudio misses a charging knee at Fury and goes to the floor. Instead of taking advantage of Azrieal being down, or of Pearce still sitting on the ropes, Fury dives after Claudio, so that Pearce can recover and hit his splash to win. It’s that sort of blatant cooperation, and obvious following of a script that rears its ugly head all over this match.
JAY LETHAL vs. SAMOA JOE
This match doesn’t even sniff their match from the previous May, not even in the intensity department, and they were still buddies back in May. The biggest problem is that Lethal controls most of the match, and he’s not very interesting in doing it. With Joe coming back from a short hiatus due to a few nagging injures, Lethal could exploit those injuries, or take advantage of the ring rust. Aside from the whip into the guardrail that hurts Joe’s taped shoulder, that’s all Lethal does to go after Joe’s injuries. His target seems to be Joe’s neck, and he goes about it with lots of forearms and chinlocks. It’s technically sound, but very uninteresting. The only time that Lethal really gets anything nice is after Joe sets him up for something, such as the neckbreaker after Lethal countered Joe’s STO out of the corner, and Lethal using a knee to the head to counter Joe’s vertical suplex. It’s funny to see Lethal try to ape some of Joe’s moves, but the size difference makes it look awkward.
Joe also isn’t great here. Considering that he lost the previous match between the two of them, he should have been on a mission to kill Lethal. Instead Joe spends time just toying around with Lethal. He drags him all around the ring by his hair, and when the ref is about to count to five, he’ll either switch hands, or let loose with a big slap across the face. Joe’s offense comes in short spurts, but it’s just standard Samoa Joe stuff. Joe gives Lethal a couple of nice openings to get control back, but rather than Joe making a mistake due to ring rust, it looks more like a case of Joe taking it easy on Lethal and giving him a free shot. If the idea was for Joe to decisively beat Lethal, which is fine, but they should found a way to do it without the match having large chunks of Lethal being a bore and Joe being a warm body.
BJ WHITMER vs. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
Considering that Daniels went into the match injured, the booking of the big CZW run-in angle here is understandable. The match itself isn’t anything more than a five-minute stall tactic until Chris Hero and the other CZW guys hit the ring. It makes sense, since Daniels was hurt, but it’s still disappointing to see the only match on the card that had a real long term backstory, used as the backdrop for the big angle. Especially when the dreadful 4-way match contained two of the key figures in the ROH/CZW feud, Pearce and Claudio. And the angle itself only really serves to kick off the Briscoes/GenNext feud, and segue into the next match.
COLT CABANA vs. HOMICIDE (Ghetto Fight)
The rules of this are the same as a WWE “I Quit” match. Intensity like this is quite welcome here, especially after the last two matches based around feuds were less than spectacular. Where this goes wrong is that it’s so lopsided. Obviously Cabana is the underdog here, but at no point during the entire match, did it ever appear that he’d be able to pull off the win. The closest that Cabana comes is the short period when he works over Homicide’s injured shoulder, and that goes on far too short to even play a factor. Homicide’s brutality is shocking at times, specifically his means to keeping Cabana’s forehead bleeding, and Cabana deserves credit for some of the things he allowed Homicide to do to him, such as taping his wrists to the turnbuckle and start chucking chairs at him, as well as the piledriver through the table that he finally finishes Cabana off with.. Homicide isn’t exactly creative when it comes to attacking Cabana though. It’s nice that he can beat the tar out of him, but with this going as long as it did, and being so one-sided it needed something to retain interest, and Homicide was rarely able to do that. The two restarts were both big chances to give Cabana an upper-hand, but they both only served to slightly delay the inevitable.
BRYAN DANIELSON © vs. JIMMY RAVE (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
The last ten minutes are a good change of pace, but getting through the first twenty is a bit of a chore. Aside from Rave ripping off Danielson’s offense, there’s precious little in the way of any story being told, and in between his aping of Danielson’s surfboard, Cattle Mutilation, and informing the ref that he’s got till five, Rave doesn’t even have any real offense of his own. And because Jimmy is the one who winds up carrying the middle portion of the match, it looks like something out of Memphis, with lots of stalling, and heel tactics, and very little in the way of offense that isn’t punches, chops, and rest holds. Rave is only ever able to score one near fall that looks plausible, a sunset flip counter, with him holding the ropes. And in a thirty-minute match, with Rave in control for most of it, he should have more add than that.
Things get marginally better when Danielson takes over the match. It almost looks like a squash match, the way he systematically starts to take Rave apart. The various suplexes, the Chickenwing, and even using Minoru Suzuki’s takeover sleeper, once he’s able to start stringing offense together, Rave is as good as beaten. It’s got a similar feel to the Misawa/Taue Champions Carnival Final in that sense, once Danielson overcame Rave’s tactics, he gets the win fairly easily. Danielson showed in his matches with Strong that he’s got more than enough offense to go for thirty minutes and beyond, but it doesn’t do anyone any good if he’s not given the chance to put it to any great use. Rave gets a few more bits of offense in, after Danielson takes out Nana, including the best running knee strike that he’s ever hit, but it only starves off the inevitable. The elbow flurry finish works on the level of wanting to really put Rave down for the count, but it doesn’t come off nearly as well as it did when he used it on Strong for the first time, as his last resort.
RICKY REYES vs. JACK EVANS
Jack going splat on the floor probably caused this to end sooner than planned, and that’s probably a good thing, actually. Most of the match is Evans taking a beating from Reyes, and Jack puts over a beating better than most. Jack gets a few bits of offense, in the form of some flashy aerial moves, but they don’t look very good, and Prazak even tries to pass off Jack’s botched dive off the top as being due to jet lag. Reyes shows nice intensity at times, but he’s not very interesting in laying the beating on Evans, and it’s not until Jack wipes out huge on the Asai Moonsault, that he shows any sort of focus, and starts targeting Jack’s neck. Reyes’ various head dropping moves that he was using looked like better finishers than his Dragon sleeper, but the Dragon sleeper is one of the few really protected finishers in the fed, so it makes sense he’d finish him off with that.
AUSTIN ARIES/RODERICK STRONG © vs. AJ STYLES/MATT SYDAL (ROH Tag Team Titles)
With such a weak show, this is an easy pick for match of the night, but its still got its share of issues. First and foremost is the lack of any real running theme throughout the match. There are a good number of fun moments here, but there’s nothing that really connects them all together to make a great match. One bit in the early going that I particularly liked was the Aries/Styles sequence of outsmarting one another. AJ dropped down, thinking Aries was going to jump over him, but Aries put the breaks on and caught him in a headlock. Moments later Styles had Aries in a head scissors, and Aries went for his standard means of escaping, only for AJ to roll out of the way. Familiarity absolutely should play a factor, Sydal and the champions are stablemates, and AJ teamed up with Generation Next several times before, but that’s the only real case of it ever creeping up. Considering that the match is happening against the wishes of the champions, the match breaking down from a wrestling match to fight also seemed like a given. The bit with Strong and Sydal early on with Strong slapping him and calling him “buddy” is fun, and when it does break down with all four, the intensity picks up quite a bit, but it doesn’t happen very often. What the match basically amounts to is a spotfest, with some fun bits that don’t go anywhere. Thankfully the four of them manage to mostly hit their spots rather well.
Probably the biggest failing of the match is perception of Sydal. This is supposed to be his match, it’s his first title challenge, and he’s doing so against the wishes of his own stablemates. Before he joined up with Generation Next he was basically a jobber, and he wasn’t much more successful after he joined GenNext, for instance he was the first to be eliminated from Steel Cage Warfare. Styles has singles victories over both Strong and Aries, so it would seem natural that all three of them should try and make Sydal look to be at least close to their level, but that rarely happens. Sydal gets two near falls in the match, one on Aries with his SSP and on Strong with the Here It Is Driver. When AJ is dispatched with a sick Yakuza kick from Strong, the champions finish off Sydal almost straight away with the Half Nelson backbreaker and Aries’ 450. There isn’t any point when Sydal gets any real advantage, or outfoxes his partners. The Matt Sydal who comes into the match isn’t much different from the Matt Sydal who leaves, and the sneak attack by the Briscoes afterwards steals some of the thunder.
Again, the four of them are good about making their spotfest a well-executed one, but the work between spots, is mostly forearms and chops. At least they didn’t hold back when laying into each other, I think Lenny Leonard used the term “lighting up” five or six times during the course of the match. What really would have helped move this along would be an extended control segment that actually worked a body part, or had one of the teams heeling things up. Had the champions really put a hurting on Sydal or AJ, resulting in Sydal being all fired up as either a hot tag, or fighting back to make the tag would have added lots of flavor and helped the perception of Sydal. There’s enough good here to make this best match of the night, but it’s still flawed. Luckily the Sydal/Tag Champions rivalry would continue and yield some better results.
Conclusion: An at-times enjoyable main event and the sick Ghetto Fight are really the only matches here worth seeing. The Danielson and Joe matches were both way disappointing given their talent, and everything else is just filler. Recommendation to avoid one of the most disappointing of ROH’s big shows in quite some time.