ROH 002 – Round Robin Challenge – 30th March 2002
Ring Of Honor returns to the Murphy Rec Center for their second dose of pro-wrestling goodness. The three competitors in the first show’s jaw-dropping main event are here for a Round Robin Challenge. It’s Low Ki, Christopher Daniels and American Dragon in singles matches against each other to truly find out who the best athlete is. The midcard gets a much-needed injection of additional talent from the first show with debuts for former ECW guys Christian York, Joey Matthews, CW Anderson and James Maritato (Guido/Nunzio). There’s also the in-ring debut of a guy called Paul London, as well as the return of last show’s cast of misfits like Spanky, Jay Briscoe, Xavier, Red, Prince Nana and the Natural Born Sinners. Philadelphia, PA is again the setting. Eric Gargulio and Steve Corino again commentate.
Christopher Daniels says ROH is just another indy and refuses to follow their Code Of Honor. He’ll prove himself better than both Low Ki and American Dragon by beating them tonight.
Da Hit Squad continue their tradition from the last show and go chat to the fans before the show – this time as they line-up outside the building. Whoever taped this is an idiot – the whole thing is blue. They didn’t learn from last show either, since again this drags on for way too long.
Quiet Storm wants to try a new hold on his tag partner. He puts a Crossface Chickenwing on Divine. American Dragon comes in to point out he’s sh*t at it and shows him how to do it properly – and chokes out Divine in the process.
Christopher Daniels vs American Dragon – Round Robin Challenge Match
First match in the RRC. Daniels was the man pinned in the triple threat last month, but he said he can beat either Dragon or Ki in singles matches. Dragon seemed to have the match won by applying the Cattle Mutilation to Daniels, and wasn’t pinned, hence will feel aggrieved to have lost in February. This match is taking place to early that most of the crowd hasn’t arrived yet. I blame DHS.
Daniels goes for a quick victory with a jumping heel kick, but Dragon beats him away with an elbow strike. He slaps on a rear chinlock with bodyscissors but it’s too close to the ropes. They’re both even in a lengthy test of strength which just drags for a little long. Dragon switches to a nice Crossface but Daniels rolls him into a pin. The pace slows still further with Danielson working a headlock to negate the early offensive flurries of the Fallen Angel. Finally Daniels breaks that with a back suplex which seems to do immediate damage to the neck. He capitalises with a neck vice as well as numerous strikes to the area. AmDrag throws some chops only for Daniels to run through him with a forearm to the neck then plant him with a high angle back suplex for 2. Again Danielson tries to mount some offence and is cut off with a neckbreaker. Daniels grounds his opponent with a half nelson variant. Dragon blocks a backslide and hits a belly to belly suplex. He can’t execute a vertical suplex due to his neck injury, but instead opts for the judo DDT. Rather foolishly he heads to the top for a diving headbutt. Daniels ducks a roaring elbow and hits an STO. BEST MOONSAULT EVER for 2! Again he ducks a roaring elbow but this time Danielson spins again and nails the elbow strike second time of asking. Fallen Angel gets 2 with a blue thunder driver but when Dragon gets up he looks for Cattle Mutilation – but the neck is too beaten up. He tries a Rings Of Saturn instead and Daniels finds the ropes. PILEDRIVER ON DRAGON! LAST RITES! CROSSFACE! Danielson taps at 14:23.
Rating – *** – This still stands up today as one of the best opening matches ROH has produced. We’d be talking an extra star were it not for the needlessly slow opening sequence. The work on the neck was superb, and perfectly sold by Dragon. The fact that Daniels didn’t finish the match with the Koji Clutch shows you how long ago March 2002 actually was. That’s the only time Dragon has tapped out in the history of Ring Of Honor. Daniels goes 1-0, whilst Dragon takes an injured neck into the main event.
Since he just made him tap, Daniels demands Dragon show him respect and shake his hand. Danielson says he has class so he’ll do it.
Prince Nana has Eric Tuttle shine his shoes in the locker-room. Elsewhere, CW Anderson gripes that he can’t face York and Matthews in a handicap match tonight. He picks a random kid from the ring crew because it doesn’t matter who his partner is – he’ll win.
Prince Nana/Eric Tuttle vs Da Hit Squad
After being destroyed by him at Era Of Honor Begins, Towel Boy now joins forces with Prince Nana as some form of lackey. Nana has also added a female valet (Simply Luscious) to his entourage. Da Hit Squad already destroyed one OTT gimmick team last month. Now they have the Ghanaian prince and the goofy towel boy in their sights.
Sound quality isn’t good enough to understand any of Nana’s pre-match rant. DHS eventually run in to interrupt him. Mafia puts Nana in a figure 4 whilst Monsta Mack goes to the top for a FATTY FROG SPLASH! Towel Boy walks right into a big spear. LARIAT/OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX COMBO! Prince Nana has already left apparently. BURNING HAMMAAAAA! Tuttle pinned at 01:49.
Rating – DUD – Needless squash that accomplished nothing more than had already been done at the previous show. We’ve established that ROH isn’t about dumb gimmicks. We’ve established that DHS drop people on their heads. Now give them a decent match, and if they’re not up to it then stop booking them. Tuttle and Nana definitely have no place on the (wrestling) roster.
Christopher Street Connection make another unscheduled appearance and get into an argument with Nana in the aisle. Mafia hucks Tuttle over the top rope onto all of them. He tries to give Luscious the Burning Hammer, but instead Mack press slams her over the top rope to join the pile on the floor.
The Boogie Knights are worried about the Sinners tonight. Danny Drake suggests they steal their chainsaws, but the box is empty save a rubber chicken.
Christian York/Joey Matthews vs CW Anderson/Elax
York and Matthews were a promising young team at the tail-end of the old ECW. It’s probably the RFVideo connection that has led them to debut in ROH. You might recognise Matthews as Joey Mercury of WWE fame. Along with Y&M, Anderson makes his debut tonight too. Elax is the random jobber kid from the ring crew he picked because he couldn’t just have a handicap match.
Anderson starts with Matthews, eventually taking him down with a powerful clothesline. Satellite headscissors from Joey takes him down and allows him to tag in York to hit a double dropkick. Elax comes from behind only to be given a senton splash by York. More double-teaming from York and Matthews, until Anderson comes in. Superkick on York, then an arm stunner for Matthews. HAMMERLOCK Michinoku Driver gets 2. He instructs Elax to keep working over Joey’s arm. Matthews gets crotched by CW for a STALLING superplex. Joey is able to hit a neckbreaker out of desperation and finds the hot tag. York gives Elax a spinning Gory special then walks into a Ferris Wheel suplex from CW. Matthews hits a running Ace crusher, then gets taken out by an Elax missile dropkick. Anderson gets 2 with his patented spinebuster. PROBLEM SOLVER (flapjack/DDT combo) gets York and Matthews the win over The Enforcer at 07:06. CW blames it on Elax and gives him a spinebuster as punishment.
Rating – ** – Elax and York didn’t look very good, whilst Matthews and Anderson did. It’s that simple, and in 7 minutes the basic formula stuff didn’t work out too badly. Matthews should’ve remembered to sell the arm after the hot tag though. As a rule CW Anderson bores the hell out of me so it was good to even be mildly entertained by his work.
James Maritato says he’s coming to ROH not as Little Guido from ECW. He’s going back to his days as a successful shooter in UWFi tonight in his match with Xavier.
James Maritato vs Xavier
Xavier was perhaps the most disappointing performer at the Era Of Honor Begins, but he picked up a win over Scoot Andrews – who isn’t here tonight due to a broken leg. Maritato is another ECW cast-off making his debut, but he’s easily the most talented of the bunch debuting tonight. He put on some great matches back in the day and is bringing a serious side to ROH.
Xavier impressively hangs with Maritato at first, then gets dropped into a cross armbreaker. Maritato starts to ride him and reel off some disrespectful slaps which force Xavier to roll to the floor. He misses a slingshot sunset flip and Maritato locks on a grounded headscissors. Xavier counters to a bow and arrow stretch leading to a nice back and forth hold sequence. SLINGSHOT DDT finally gives him an advantage over the Sicilian Shooter. Unfortunately he follows that cool move up with more clumsy punches. Maritato eats knee strikes in the corner followed by a running elbow strike for 2. He attempts a Stratusphere but Maritato blocks it with a top rope Lion Tamer. He then counters a running powerslam attempt with a swinging DDT which sends Xavier outside. SICILIAN SLICE TO THE FLOOR! Xavier tries a cobra clutch only to be dropkicked in the face. Kiss Of Death blocked and Xavier snatches the win with a bridging pin at 06:59.
Rating – ** – That was a better match than Xavier provided us with last show, but then again, Maritato is a much better wrestler than Scoot. Indeed, it was Nunzio’s awesome wrestling skills that made this match. Don’t get me wrong, Xavier showed flashes of what he’s capable of here with some nice wrestling exchanges, but he still makes everything he does look far too scripted, and his inconsistency is the mark of someone still far from being the finished product. Maritato showed up with his working boots and gave us a promising display. Unfortunately WWE signed him up before his ROH run produced anything too memorable.
Earlier tonight, Spanky brushes his teeth listens to music rather than listen to the PA Athletic Commissioner tell the ROH roster not to swear.
Boogie Knights vs Natural Born Sinners
Drake and Tobin got a DQ victory over the Sinners at the last show after Loc DQ’d Homicide for using a rubber chicken. Now the Sinners have a rematch with Homicide promising to kill them and Boogalou pissed off because they attempted to steal his chainsaw.
Boogalou shoots right into a nice throw on Tobin, then distracts the ref as Homicide starts pelting him with the rubber chicken again. Drake says he wants to amateur wrestle with Boogalou and gets taken to school. Homicide gives him a head and leg suplex then a scoop Tombstone…and that’s just a transition spot for a top rope double stomp. POWERBOMB BACKBREAKER on Tobin. LARIAT/HALF NELSON SUPLEX COMBO! Sinners win at 02:49.
Rating – * – Another squash, but at least a necessary one this time. The Sinners needed a win after putting the Knights over last show. They looked as dominant this time round as they did last time. It’s cool going back and watching Homicide’s start in ROH knowing what a successful act he’d go on to become. It is a shame the Natural Born Sinners team didn’t get to do more though.
Christopher Daniels vs Low Ki – Round Robin Challenge Match
It was Low Ki that pinned Daniels to win the triple threat, so it was him that was most disrespected by his refusal to shake hands and statement that he only lost because he had to wrestle two guys at once. Daniels instigated this whole challenge by saying he could beat both guys on the same night, and has the chance to back up his words after beating American Dragon in the opener.
Daniels slaps Ki rather than follow the Code Of Honor. Tidal Krush ducked but he still walks into a big roundhouse kick for 2. RUNNING CAPO KICK! Daniels again manages to avoid Ki’s strikes, only to be taken down into a modified crossface. He raises a middle finger in the midst of the Krush Combo so Low Ki KICKS THE HAND! Daniels goes for a palm strike in the corner only to be caught in a hanging cross armbreaker. Finally Ki makes a mistake and runs straight into a couple of STO’s. Daniels suplexes him over the top rope then uses the ropes for extra elevation on a leg drop to the back of the head. Daniels traps Ki in a variety of submission holds but can’t force a submission. He executes an urinage slam but Ki rolls away from the BME to hit the SPRINGBOARD ENZI! Ki goes for a version of an Iconoclasm but almost has it countered into Last Rites. Fall From Grace gets Daniels a 2. ANGEL’S WINGS only gets 2! Did the fatigue of two matches mean he couldn’t cover as quickly? KI KRUSHAAAA! But Low Ki is too hurt to pin straight away. TIDAL KRUSH! Daniels attempts Last Rites but Ki counters to the DRAGON CLUTCH! Daniels taps at 11:02 to finish at 1-1.
Rating – *** – Not as good as Daniels/Dragon but still a solid match and much better than any of the filler in between the two RRC matches thus far. It started and ended well but ambled along somewhat in the middle portion which is a disappointment since, until February 2006, this was their only singles match. The image of Daniels flipping Ki off only to be kicked in the hand is, to me, an iconic image of early Ring Of Honor.
Everyone thinks the stage is set for Daniels to shake hands. But instead he says the only reason he lost is that he’s already wrestled once tonight…so he still won’t be shaking any hands. He won’t get in the ring with Low Ki again until the Ring Of Honor championship is on the line. He walks to the back where Xavier congratulates him. That’s a little shady. The rest of Low Ki’s crew (Da Hit Squad and the Sinners) are pissed off with him…but Spanky hijacks the camera to do some Britney Spears karaoke.
All the spot fraggles (SAT, Divine Storm, Brian XL and Red) play basketball but it all gets a little heated and they start throwing the ball at each other like kids.
Chris Marvel vs Paul London
After the impressive debuts of Spanky and Michael Shane at the last event, it’s time for two more TWA graduates to get chances to shine in the Ring Of Honor. TWA Head Trainer Rudy Boy Gonazalez is again at ringside to watch his students wrestle.
Apparently Terry Funk is a big fan of London. He flips around and impresses the fans with some displays of agility. He rolls over Marvel’s back to hit a spinning heel kick, a dropkick then performs the first ever dropsault in ROH. Marvel rolls out and London dives after him with an ASAI MOONSAULT! That snaps Marvel’s leg so badly his foot is backwards, and this is thrown out.
Rating – N/A – I’m not rating that due to the injury. It was a sickening accident and as someone that has suffered a severe broken leg in the past, particularly uncomfortable viewing. Before that London showed some potential as a flippy highspot merchant. Steve Corino’s wisecracks and Funk, Rudy Boy and puns about leg breaking are amusing.
Mark Briscoe goads Jay for not beating Red last month.
Jay Briscoe vs Spanky
Like Mark just pointed out, Jay Briscoe lost his first match – the exciting first ever official ROH match with Amazing Red. Spanky won a tag team match to earn a full-time ROH contract and gave one of the most entertaining performances of the entire night. He’s already been goofing off backstage. Can he get his gameface on and overcome the impressive 18-year old Briscoe?
Briscoe seemingly succeeds in pissing Spanky off and making him take the match semi-seriously. They do some semi-decent chaining for a couple of guys with less than 2 years wrestling experience. It doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot and it’s not especially remarkable but the effort is there, and I keep stressing how much I appreciate that. Jay strings together a couple of suplexes and gets 2 with a slingshot Oklahoma roll. They go to the top rope where Spanky drops Briscoe with a SUPER HOTSHOT! Jay goes for another suplex but it’s blocked and Spanky dropkicks him in the side of the head. He tries to control Jay with chinlocks and a neck vice – softening him up for Sliced Bread. He climbs the ropes for a tornado neck vice takedown. Sliced Bread #2 blocked so hard that Spanky’s head rattles off the ringpost and starts bleeding. Jay shows no mercy and drops him on his head with a German suplex. It looks quite a nasty cut as well, and the blood spurs Jay on towards a big comeback. Spanky with a Tiger Mask kick, but Briscoe comes out of the corner with a Yakuza kick. Musclebuster blocked, and Spanky pushes Jay all the way to the floor. DOUBLE SPRINGBOARD PLANCHAAA! Spanky pulls Jay back in, but he gets the knees up as Spanky attempts a frog splash. Powerbomb on the neck gets Jay a 2 count. Jay Driller blocked…SLICED BREAD #2! Spanky picks it up at 11:19.
Rating – *** – A bit of a slow start, and compared with how good they are today it’s not outrageously good. But for two young guys still learning the business it’s a great little match. They through in some big moves, but Jay was noticeably more grounded less reliant on head droppery from the match with Red last show. Having laid the groundwork for his character, Spanky too looked intent on showing off more of his wrestling skill, and by and large looked impressive with that too. The unexpected bleeding added to the drama too. A great commercial for the talent these two had at this point in time.
Mark Briscoe yells at his brother for going 0-2 in ROH. Backstage Gabe Sapolsky looks at an internet poll voting for the best TWA graduate. American Dragon wins with 64% of the vote.
Divine Storm vs SAT vs Amazing Red/Brian XL
This is a tag team elimination spin-off from the six-way elimination match between these guys last month. Jose Maximo pinned pinned Red to cause tension in the SAT faction. Quiet Storm ended up winning the match, whilst everyone hates Brian XL since he’s a muppet. Senseless spot-mania ahoy…
XL (dressed in budget Hurricane gear) starts with Divine and they manage to draw a polite ‘lucha libre’ chant. Storm slips on the ropes but hits a springboard rana on fat Joel. He misses a roaring elbow and they trade slaps. Red acts all pissed at Jose for pinning him previously. All of these guys are so sloppy. Storm hits a tope con hilo on Joel. JUMPING HILO from XL. Red slips on the top rope but recovers quickly to hit a SPRINGBOARD CORKSCREW MOONSAULT! Storm takes Red into the ring for Spinal Shock. Joel intervenes and eats a northern lights bomb. Real Deal from Divine to Brian. ‘Where was the tag there’ – Corino. Divine dumps Jose with a DVD as well. He stands around waiting for someone to get in position then hits a tope suicida. Joel heaves Quiet Storm out of the corner with a superplex. RED STAR PRESS ONTO BOTH OF THEM! Red pins Storm to eliminate Divine Storm at 07:52. He plants Jose with a back drop driver, and Maximo promptly gets back to his feet. MAXIMO EXPLOSION on Red for 2. XL gives Jose a standing moonsault. He goes for a dragonrana but Jose blocks with a sit-out powerbomb. He gets 2 with the X-Clamation Point. Red goes to the top rope with Joel…SUPER CODE RED for 2! They took an eternity setting it up though. Red and XL hit a double corkscrew enzi on Jose, before Red goes up top to barely connect with a phoenix splash. XL attempts a springboard 450 but lands on his ass on Jose’s ribs. Red and Brian start arguing with each other over who gets to pin and Joel rolls up Red at 12:20.
Rating – * – I hated this match and genuinely thought it was worse than last month. Not only were there noticeably botches, they seemed to be constantly taking too long to set things up and everything was generally quite sloppy. Throw in the usual assortment of hit or miss spot shenanigans and it totally didn’t push my buttons. Watch the Dragon Gate tag matches from the Milestone Series, watch the 8-man from Generation Now. Then watch this match back and tell me it isn’t sh*t. I think the star for the stuff I enjoyed is being generous.
Ken Shamrock comes out and kindly asks if he can referee the deciding match in the Round Robin Challenge. It’s Ken Shamrock and since the scheduled ref isn’t Tito Ortiz he gets his wish.
American Dragon vs Low Ki – Round Robin Challenge Match
Ki is determined to prove himself the top athlete in ROH and is already 2-0. He needs to win this to win the first Round Robin Challenge. Dragon is an awesome wrestler but he’s not winless in two big matches. He needs to prove he’s worthy of his spot at the top of the card by ending the RRC at 1-1. These two have a lengthy history having met in ECWA and the APW King Of The Indies. Both matches are awesome by the way…
They immediately go to the ground and jostle for control of their opponent. Ki is the first to unleash some mounted strikes but by and large they spent their time battling to apply a hold. Dragon manages to put Ki in a swinging pendulum then a sleeper hold – a good way to neutralise the striking ability. He camel clutches Ki, pummels him with crossfaces, then rolls back into the sleeper. I am loving this opening sequence. Low Ki seems to be testing Danielson’s neck injury with a front facelock and he immediately backs them to the ropes for a break. Ki tries to strike again and gets put in an armbreaker variant. He tries an armbar of his own only for Dragon to powerbomb himself free. Finally Low Ki creates enough distance to kick American Dragon in the head, and he immediately rolls to the floor to recover. 10 minutes gone and we’re still in the feeling out process here. The recovery time is effective as Dragon comes back in and starts getting an advantage with his submission holds, enjoying success with a leg grapevine until Ki manages to kick his way free. KAWADA KICK FLURRY to Dragon’s eye which is cut from the first match. Again Danielson rolls to the floor, but the cut is bleeding again. He cranks up the intensity when he comes back in, quickly unloading with a volley of mounted punches. Low Ki isn’t beaten up enough for him to apply Cattle Mutilation though. Danielson switches to a back suplex instead, which opens Ki up for him to hit some more strikes.
Ki again uses a kick as a defensive weapon to get some distance. He looks for the Dragon Clutch but isn’t able to so uses a cobra clutch with bodyscissors. Danielson is so determined to escape that he rolls through the ropes with Low Ki still holding on to him. The damage is done though, and Ki makes it harder for him to gain his breath by double stomping the stomach. Ki Krusha blocked with a roaring elbow. DRAGON SUPLEX gets 2! The judo DDT sets Low Ki for the diving headbutt, but Ki gets the knees up! TIDAL KRUSH! DRAGON SUPLEX on Danielson THEN CATTLE MUTILATION! Dragon counters – DRAGON CLUTCH! Dragon grabs Low Ki’s head…CRAVAT SUPLEX! Low Ki attempts the springboard enziguri only for AmDrag to meet him with a dropkick. He goes for a suplex and Ki drops him on his head with a brainbuster. KI KRUSHA…ONLY GETS 2! Ki can’t believe it and goes for the Phoenix Splash…only for Dragon to get his knees in the ribs. DRAGON SUPLEX, but Danielson can’t use a bridge anymore and has to waste time going to a lateral press. BACK SUPERPLEX…BOTH MEN DOWN! Dragon is up first and wants another back superplex. Low Ki blocks that. SECOND ROPE KI KRUSHAAAAAA! He’s too injured to cover and Danielson’s limp body splatters out of the ring. We’re approaching 30 goddamn minutes by the way. Tidal Krush attempted again…DRAGON COUNTERS WITH THE REGALPLEX FOR 2! CATTLE MUTILATION! CATTLE MUTILATION! Low Ki edges to the ropes but Danielson pulls him to the middle of the ring again! Ki is unconscious and his arm drops for a third time at 32:09.
Rating – ***** – I know some people will think I’m overrating this match, but I loved it four years ago and I still love it now. It’s such a realistic match that, aside from the slightly differing moveset that these two use nowadays, it’s not even particularly dated. It’s honestly as enthralling a mat-based wrestling match as I’ve seen. Simply put, an epic 30+ minute struggle with each little mistake punished by a devastating move. In the end it’s Dragon’s resilience (and perhaps good fortune at falling to the floor after the Super Ki Krusha) that separates the two and sees him get his first ROH victory. Not everyone is a fan of this style of wrestling, but I am and this is still a favourite match of mine. You’re as far removed from Vince McMahon and sports entertainment as it gets.
The spot-monkeys are bickering again almost causing Mikey Whipwreck to have a coronary. He sends Brian XL away, and promises Red he’ll find him a suitable partner to face the SAT next month.
Spanky tells American Dragon that the TWA graduate poll was rigged. Paul London complains that he wasn’t even in the ballot. Rudy Boy Gonzalez say’s he’ll get a match with them all involved.
Tape Rating – *** – Better matches than the debut show, but the booking wasn’t as tight and there’s a whole lot more poor and/or pointless filler. Outside Spanky/Briscoe, really the only stuff you need to watch is the Round Robin Challenge. Essentially, whilst Ki, Daniels and Dragon have been positioned as great main eventers, the talent around the undercard looks a little shakey. Spanky and Jay Briscoe look good. There are guys like Amazing Red and the Sinners that look like they’ve got a lot of potential. However, I don’t like the attempts to bolster the undercard with ECW rejects. James Maritato looked like a welcome addition and dragged a decent match out of the green Xavier. But are CW Anderson, Christian York and Joey Matthews really adding that much? Next month sees the debuts of AJ Styles and Donovan Morgan so that should help. However, lets focus on the positives of this event. It’s by and large a one-match show, but then again so are most ROH releases from this period. But Dragon/Ki is an amazing main event that all grappling fans should see. Daniels/Dragon is a terrific opener that made it to 4*, and Ki/Daniels and Spanky/Briscoe are very entertaining. Of course there are areas that can be improved upon, but it’s better than your average WWE show – and bearing in mind this is 2002, you can really see why Ring Of Honor was welcomed as a breath of fresh air.
Top 3 Matches
3) Spanky vs Jay Briscoe (***)
2) Christopher Daniels vs American Dragon (***)
1) American Dragon vs Low Ki (*****)