NIGHT OF THE GRUDGES
June 14, 2003
More ROH in 2003, I wasn’t going to review this show, but I got a very nice e-mail asking me to do so, after they enjoyed my Epic Encounter review, and I’m nothing if not accommodating. Well that, and I can’t pass up the chance to see more of Paul London’s greatness.
Justin Credible . . . debuts in ROH with not so much of an impact, in a 4-way match and does almost nothing.
CM Punk . . . bleeds buckets and nearly dies, so that the feud with Raven can live on.
Paul London . . . gives AJ Styles quite possibly the match of his career.
LOC/DeVITO vs. MACE/BUFF E.
Ugh, there’s just too much time given to this. Mace and Buff E. don’t have any interesting offense other than their suggestive looking stuff, and while it’s funny to see Loc and DeVito’s reaction to it, it doesn’t look effective in the least. Even their finisher, The Gay Basher (the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers’ finisher) doesn’t look very threatening, and Loc has to sell it like he’s almost out. The Carnage Crew don’t bring anything other than their usual spots, DeVito’s Crossfaces, the double suplex, Loc’s facebuster, etc. There’s somewhat of a twist to the finish, with the Spike piledriver being forgone in favor of DeVito’s moonsault, but that’s the only real surprise of the match.
MATT STRYKER vs. CHANCE BECKETT
It’s official, Bryan Danielson has lost his title as “The Palest Wrestler in the World,” the new champion is Chance Beckett! As for the match, there’s a couple of cool moments in the early going, like Stryker doggedly holding the hammerlock, and Beckett returning the favor with a Dragon sleeper, but it’s rather bland, because neither of them really does anything to make the viewer root for/against them. Beckett does some brief leg work, but it’s gone as soon as it’s there. Once Stryker gets a bit fired up, things get better, it was pretty damn cool to see him whip Beckett into the corner with such force that he actually stayed in a Tree of Woe position, and watching Stryker start throwing forearms and chops was a nice change from the bland matwork they were doing, it was technically sound stuff they were doing, but there was no urgency or excitement to it until the very end. Stryker went for his Stryker Lock and Beckett counters with a Gorilla Clutch, which Stryker rolls through to escape, and then slaps the Stryker Lock back on for a tap out. The spot was cool, and Stryker sold the Gorilla Clutch well, as did Beckett the Stryker Lock, but why couldn’t Beckett block or counter the hold again? Stryker didn’t do anything other than cause him to lose his balance, with his newfound aggression, it’d have been neat to see Stryker plant him with a DVD and then put the hold on. It’s not a bad match, it’s just not terribly interesting, and if this is an example of some of the “Great Pure Wresting” to be found in ROH at this time, then it’s a good thing things got better after the Pure Title came around.
JOHN WALTERS vs. HOMICIDE vs. CHRIS SABIN vs. JUSTIN CREDIBLE
The pop that Credible gets from his surprise appearance makes me recall why I was such a big fan of his . . . when I was sixteen. Typical ROH 4 way match here, it’s not so bad when Homicide and Walters are going at it, but other than that it’s just a bunch of spots being thrown out and not much else. Sabin looks pretty good at first, his flying makes a nice contrast to ‘Cide and Walters keeping things on the mat, but that’s all he’s got to offer, and Credible does nothing other than his usual moves, and a plancha. Walters and Homicide’s exchanges are good stuff though, with Homicide catching Walters off guard and punishing him on the mat, including a nice cheap shot for good measure. That leads to Walters coming back more aggressively, leading to Homicide coming back more aggressively, and it’s New York vs. Boston, they work together briefly with then double stretching Sabin, but it only lasts about ten seconds. And New York wins this battle, with a cool STF variation, and making Boston tap out by holding his hair.
CM PUNK/COLT CABANA vs. RAVEN/BJ WHITMER
Blood and violence, woohoo! The best parts of this match are when Raven and Whitmer are beating on the Second City Saints on the floor and in the crowd, they use chairs, trash cans, and even the drop toehold onto the chair. Cabana and Whitmer both do an excellent job selling the initial chair attacks, when Punk gets Whitmer off guard and Raven returns the favor by hitting Cabana, they’re both taken totally out the picture, letting Punk and Raven brawl on the floor and into the locker room to attempt to settle their issue. Things slow down a bit when they get back into the ring, and try to build to BJ hot tagging Raven, but if it’s a no dq match, why bother tagging? There’s a couple of nice hope spots, and Punk hits a nice backdrop suplex and a double knee smash in the corner, but it’s mostly just them pounding him, it makes sense since this is a big feud, but it’s not very exciting. Raven’s hot tag is met with the Saints bumping like mad for him, and Punk puts over the Raven Effect for all it’s worth. Whitmer also puts over the Shining Wizard with the chair awesomely, and just barely kicks out, leaving zero doubt that the Colt .45 will finish him off. All four of them brought something to the table, it just lacked a really strong in-ring performance from an offensive standpoint, as it is, it’s quite fun, but a bit on the dull side at points.
PRINCE NANA vs. DIABLO SANTIAGO
It’s the first match after the intermission, and it involves one half of a tag team who almost never works main shows, taking on a non wrestler for the most part, how much time and effort do you think went into this? Diablo gets a couple of shots (including a nice sitting blockbuster), but he’s no match for Nana, and he gets quickly dispatched with the ass to the face and a sick implant DDT.
MIKEY WHIPWRECK/DIXIE vs. JOEL MAXIMO/JOSE MAXIMO
How sad is it that the only member of this match who was able to deliver the goods was Dixie? All he was there to do was to bump for Joel and Jose, and he did just that, many times over. Watching the SAT roll out their offense is laughable, because they can’t seem to do more than two or three spots without screwing something up, and after taking three tries to correctly pull off a double team on Dixie, Gabe comes up with the best way to sum up the SAT “That’s what they do best.” And as if screwing up wasn’t enough, they can’t seem to grasp the idea of slowing down or letting their moves mean anything, they just keep rolling out spots to the point where Dixie is kicking out of things that should be more than enough to put anyone, let alone a scrub like him, away, and all the pinfall attempts play to crickets chirping, and even the final pin on the Doomsday DDT has no real reaction. Why Mikey was even involved is beyond me, they could have just paired Dixie with another Special K jobber and had the same match. Everything Mikey did (Whippersnapper, a nice dive, and some slaps) could have been done by him behind the ref’s back or on the floor.
AJ STYLES vs. PAUL LONDON (#1 Contenders Trophy)
How ironic that on the ‘Night of the Grudges’ the match with the most heat and most hate is the only major match that’s not really based on a big personal vendetta. As awesome as the London/Danielson 2/3 falls match was, this is even more remarkable because it doesn’t have the luxury of going for forty minutes and being 2/3 falls, and it’s not the kind of match that you’ll typically find with AJ Styles. The first ten minutes or so based on the mat is even worked well, neither is really known for taking things to the mat, but they do so here, several times, and keep it interesting. But once the sportsmanship and handshakes are out of the way is when the real fun beings. AJ and London clobber each other with some of the hardest shots you’ll ever see, and both do a good job in putting over not just how much the shots are taking out of them, but how much they’re taking out of themselves by throwing their strikes with such force. As if the strikes weren’t enough indication for what to expect, the first big spot of the match does that, when London gets Irish whipped toward the barricade, and puts on the breaks and then gives a charging AJ a drop toehold headfirst into the barricade. Not to be outdone, London takes a sick bump of his own off AJ’s lariat.
In addition to some good stiffness, there’s a whole lot of good wrestling going on too, especially when London starts working over AJ’s knee. London doesn’t do anything really extravagant, except maybe the side figure four that Owen did to Bret during their WM match, but he doesn’t have to, the way he uses AJ’s other leg as a plant, and twists it, or slams it over the ring apron, or any of the straight kicks to the leg do more than paint the picture. The SSP to the leg was a bit much, but it was an effective way to use his finisher without devaluing it. AJ’s selling of the leg is about as good as it gets from him, there’s one point toward the middle where it looks like he’s blowing it off, when he does his quebrada DDT, but he sells it afterwards. London puts over the Styles Clash as death, although it’d have been nice if AJ spent a bit longer selling his leg before the cover. London’s best selling moment (which says a lot concerning this match) comes very early, when he gets hit with an enzuigiri, it looks like he’s blowing it off, but he’s actually doing a very subtle Terry Funk style of selling while no-selling. The only real slight on the match is the stupid finish, which they pretty much had to do, AJ had just won the NWA Title for the first time, so he couldn’t job, and London needed a reason to challenge Joe for the ROH Title on his last night with the company the next month, so they go the double pin route with AJ’s German suplex and him being unable to bridge. London/Danielson may have been a better technical match, but this stands right alongside it, despite lacking the “Epic” tools that match had. ***3/4
CHRISTOPHER DANIELS/DAN MAFF/DONOVAN MORGAN vs. SAMOA JOE/CW ANDERSON/MICHAEL SHANE
Anything having to follow London/Styles would have been in trouble, but this has enough problems on it’s own. For starters neither team is able to maintain control for a decent length of time, and nobody stays in the ring for a decent length so there’s very little sense of flow or build. The one nice thing that gets established is Maff’s jaw being injured (he came into the ring with it bandaged), and whenever Maff takes a shot in the face he reels back a mile and puts over the damage. Other than that, the bulk of the match is just lots of random tagging with stuff going on in between all the tagging, occasionally something interesting (like Shane busting up Morgan’s arm) but usually not something interesting. Even the commentators are so excited by the action that they spend most of the match talking about the stipulations and history of the feud, rather than what’s actually happening. Once Daniels gets the hot tag, the match starts to look like the SAT match, with a bunch of spots and near falls getting rolled out to little or no crowd reaction, hell, the only real big pop was for the finish, and only because it was completely out of the blue, with Maff taking down Joe with a surprise roll up, establishing that roll ups and cradles were his big weakness. The Prophecy won, The Group disbanded, and Anderson and Shane were never seen in ROH again, thank you and goodnight.
Conclusion: Good stuff from the Punk/Raven tag, and London/Styles was just awesome. I’m always on the fence about recommending a one match show, because with downloads and comps it’s not essential to get the full show. But there is some good stuff to see here, so I can recommend picking this up with a clear conscience.