ROH 012 – Final Battle 2002 – 28th December 2002
Ring Of Honor’s eventful first year of business ends tonight. They’ve spent 2002 bringing great wrestling back to the fans. There have been numerous classic matches, memorable moments, and we’ve witnessed the start of famous careers. Now they aim to end the year with a bang. On tap tonight is The Prophecy defending the Tag Title against the SAT, Xavier defending the ROH Title against the remarkable Paul London, Jody Fleisch returns and there’s a fourway for the #1 Contenders Trophy. Lets get our asses to Philadelphia, PA. Hosts are Chris Lovey and Ray Murrow again. That sucks since the Gorman/Lovey pair weren’t bad.
CM Punk and Colt Cabana are back as driving buddies. Colt is still bigging himself up for winning last show. Ace Steel is in the back of the car filming! Punk parks the car and says he’ll be flying home after winning the ROH contract tonight.
GMC is with Steve Corino, who’s back after quitting two shows ago. He’s here to announce the formation of a new group to take over ROH. Allison Danger comes in and for the first time we learn that she’s his sister.
HIGH IMPACT TV – Homicide d. Jay Lethal
CM Punk vs Colt Cabana
For the third time in 2002 the stipulation is that the winner is given an ROH contract and will be flown to shows. At Unscripted we saw that it was CM Punk not Colt Cabana who was called in to debut for ROH, a fact that Cabana objected to. He was brought in as well and beat Punk last month. He’s created further tension with his friend/rival by bragging about it on their long drives back to Chicago.
This is clipped annoyingly. Punk slingshots off the apron with a hilo for 2. He tries that mega-rope walk again and Cabana crotches him. Colt rocks Punk with a hell of a lariat as well, then an electric chair gourdbuster. Inverted surfboard applied but it’s more for show than to win. Cabana tries the cradle DDT he did at Night Of The Butcher but Punk blocks it. Colt uses Punk’s body to break the turnbuckle pad instead! Instead of flipping out of the corner like he’s done before Punk goes into a sunset flip. Cabana blocks the Shining Wizard with a powerbomb for 2. The familiarity counters in this match are immense. Cabana gets a guillotine on the top rope before Punk takes to the air with a tope suicida. They go to the ropes…REVERSE SUPERPLEX by Cabana! They incredibly go upstairs again. This time it’s Punk’s advantage with a BELLY TO BELLY SUPERPLEX! Punk breaks out the airplane spin and then a split-legged moonsault for 2. He tries the reverse rana that worked last show but Colt blocks it. BRUTAL Shining Wizard gets 2. Punk keeps bringing the violence with the boot scrapes. To the top rope again…PEPSI PLUNGE! Punk gets the contract at 09:23 shown.
Rating – *** – As good as the last match, if not a tad better (even with clipping and less time). The amount of countering moves that worked last time was awesome. Cabana was pretty decent as the cocky playful heel, whilst Punk continued to display all the potential that he’d go on to realise throughout the course of his ROH career. Seriously, these guys are very green compared to how good they’d GET in this match, but it’s still really good. If this is the first time you’re hearing about Punk or if you’ve only seen him in WWECW the Pepsi Plunge is a top rope Pedigree. Yes, a top rope Pedigree.
Homicide walks into the Backseat Boyz. They all agree that Steve Corino is a dick.
Cappetta is in the ring now, and brings out Christopher Daniels and Simply Luscious. Daniels complains about Alexis Laree attacking Luscious at Night Of The Butcher, and orchestrates an impromptu match between them. Luscious wins in 30 seconds after Daniels hits Laree with Last Rites. Next Steve Corino comes to the ring and again announces that he’s forming a group to take over ROH. Given that Daniels’ Prophecy owns all the titles and pretty much holds all the top spots, that puts them at odds. Corino dumps Luscious for being in The Prophecy, but Daniels leaves before they can fight. Homicide comes out to try and get into a ruck with Corino as well. When did I start watching the Steve Corino show?
HIGH IMPACT TV – Christopher Daniels/Donovan Morgan d. Dunn & Marcos
Da Hit Squad psyche themselves up for their three-way tag tonight. They get to beat on the disrespectful Special K, and get to test themselves against the highly rated Backseat Boyz.
Special K vs Backseat Boyz vs Da Hit Squad – Scramble Match
K are represented by Deranged and Angeldust. They’ve also got even more new fraggles at ringside (including Jay Lethal as Hydro, and Yeyo). This is Acid and Kashmere’s second ROH appearance. They debuted at Glory By Honor to announce ROH and CZW running double-headers in Philadelphia. Apparently it’s a real dream match to see DHS and the BSB wrestle each other. If that was the case why put friggin’ Angeldust in there?
The fans are hyped for Mafia and Acid starting, so Deranged pisses them all off by tagging Mafia out. Trent almost dropkicks his head off in a great little sequence. Angeldust botches the first thing he tries then gets a mid-air spear by Kashmere. Mafia enters with a CRADLE DRAGON SUPLEX! Spasticdust must be dead. Mafia sets him in the corner then suplexes Deranged on top of him. Now it’s DHS and the Backseatz. Hit Squad mock their dancing then squish them both with powerbombs. Angeldust moonsaults to the floor onto Mafia, then Deranged hits a SPRINGBOARD TWISTING MOONSAULT onto everyone else. On the floor the rest of Special K try to interfere. Mack powerbombs Hydro onto everyone as a result. STEREO somersault planchas by the Backseatz. Mafia continues this lengthy dive stretch with his big tope suicida. Acid and Kashmere catch Deranged in a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo for 2. Dream Sequence on Angeldust follows. Yeyo interferes again. Angeldust screws up a double superkick spot, then back body drops Deranged into a somersault senton. Mack tries a press slam but Angel catches Deranged. MAFIA JUST PICKS THEM BOTH UP WITH A GERMAN SUPLEX! Figure 4 FATTY SPLASH for Dust. Acid brings the Yakuza kicks but still gets floored by a Monsta clothesline. KOBASHI SUPERPLEX on Deranged. Mafia wants the Burning Hammer but Dixie and Izzy save with their crutches and casts. Special K steal it at 10:24.
Rating – ** – It was good when DHS were in because they’re absolute beasts and look great tossing the little monkeys around. However, Angeldust is so truly bad and all the Special K interference was annoying. The Backseat Boyz are now full-time in ROH apparently so hopefully we’ll get DHS vs BSB in a normal tag match soon enough.
HIGH IMPACT TV – Jay Briscoe d. Ace Steel
Christopher Daniels/Donovan Morgan vs SAT – ROH Tag Title 2/3 Falls Match
The Prophecy have belts now but they’re the cheapest pieces of tinfoil crap imaginable. SAT won a Scramble at Night Of The Butcher to earn this shot. They’re one of the more popular acts in ROH for some reason, so you’d imagine this is their chance to show that they’re capable of working the best wrestlers in ROH and aren’t just spot-match guys. This is only the second time Daniels and Morgan have defended their belts (unless that Dunn & Marcos match was for them) and the first time as a duo.
This is clipped, not a good start. It isn’t clipped before I hear Daniels calling Joel ‘fat man’ though. Modified Human Taffy Machine applied, before fat Joel blows himself up then barely connects with a rope-running dropkick. Morgan hits a basement dropkick on Jose in the corner to put the SAT in their place. Daniels distracts the referee and Joel whilst Donovan abuses the slimline Maximo on the floor. Daniels then gets 2 with an Arabian press. Jose is looking shattered, and he blows a double hiptoss. Seriously, the Maximos are crap. How did they get so over in 2002? Jose tries a small package but Morgan stops the official from seeing it. ‘The Prophecy in much better condition than the Maximos’ – Lovey. Fallen Angel thumbs Jose in the eye but still takes a tornado DDT allowing the hot tag to El Chunko Maximo. DOUBLE SPRINGBOARD crossbody by El Chunko. Well, that was cool. REVELATIONS on Jose. That gets the first fall on the non-legal man at 08:19. Prophecy go up 1-0.
I assume this is so one-sided because Daniels and Morgan have realised how rubbish the SAT are in a normal match.
The Prophecy switch roles from the first fall, with Morgan distracting the referee and the other Maximo as Daniels attacks on the outside. Koji Clutch on Joel but Jose breaks it. Joel thinks he’s going to get a hot tag but Donovan clubs his brother off the apron. El Chunko clotheslines through both champions and tags Jose. Sayonara blocked…DOOMSDAY DDT on Morgan! Daniels goes to the top…SPANISH FLY! It’s 1-1 at 15:01. Again there was some piss-poor legal man rulings there. SAT have exhausted their supply of cool moves now though, so they’re f*cked. Oh no, Joel pulls Morgan through the ropes into an APRON DDT! SAT SUPER-BOTCH a somersault plancha. Go home you pathetic Mexicans. Maximo Explosion countered with the Golden Gate Swing. Jose hits a frog splash on Morgan. Daniels takes him out with Angels Wings but Joel breaks the pin. BME misses…Maximo Explosion for 2. The SAT look for the Doomsday DDT again BUT MORGAN COUNTERS WITH A MID-AIR SPINEBUSTER! LAST RITES on Joel. This atrocity is finished at 19:02 shown.
Rating – * – That was like the Tag division equivalent of Low Ki vs Xavier. SAT just have no business getting in the ring with actual good wrestlers. They are truly awful. They looked absolutely knackered after less than 5 minutes, had to be carried through 2 heatless segments by an increasingly desperate Daniels and Morgan and blew spots anytime they were let loose on offence. As per usual there were a few decent spots scattered here and there…but in almost 20 minutes that’s just not enough. I suggest they never again venture away from their spotfest environment. I also suggest giving Daniels and Morgan some decent competition. Oh, and get some better referees. The legal man rules in this were slack beyond belief.
HIGH IMPACT TV – Samoa Joe d. Outcast Killaz
Special K introduce themselves to Jody Fleisch. Apparently Jody also likes to party…
Carnage Crew vs New Christopher Street Connection
As we learned at Scramble Madness, Buff E. is done with ROH so he’s been replaced by some new guy who isn’t anywhere near as fun. The Crew are fresh from hilariously getting their asses kicked by Abdullah The Butcher and Homicide. They’re promising more violence in the coming year.
The new guy is called Guappo, and he appears to be Mace’s protégé in gayness. This is also incredibly clipped. ‘You’re not gay’ – crowd at Guappo. He proves it by refusing to kiss Mace. Mace ends up kissing DeVito instead and the clubbering continues. Loc and DeVito kill them with hubcaps and get disqualified at 01:19 shown.
Rating – DUD – Nothing but a clipshow, but it was entertaining to see the cranky Carnage Crew decimate the gays. Guappo is lame. Hugging isn’t gay enough to be funny…
Homicide cuts one of his best promos ever (not that the competition is that tough). He reveals that he’s on probation, can’t work in Japan anymore, can’t get a regular job and is a single parent. He wants to give his son a better life and to make the most money he needs to be ROH Champion. That’s why winning it means EVERYTHING to him. That’s a key promo in the evolution of his character.
Jody Fleisch vs Amazing Red
This is billed as an international dream match and it should be quite the high-flying spectacle. Jody was brought in with Jonny Storm at Road To The Title and looked impressive (and a little crazy) then. Red is pretty much Ring Of Honor’s premium high-flying act as he’s shown he can do the spot matches and also mesh with the best talent like Low Ki, Chris Daniels.
They do the switching stuff in classic, fast-paced, kill time until the highspots fashion but it looks pretty solid. Fleisch flips off the top rope, then neither man can even score a one count. Red nails a corkscrew enzi which sends Jody out. RUNNING SOMERSAULT PLANCHA by Amazing Red. Hopefully Jose Maximo watched that and learned. 718 misses and Jody kicks Red in the head. He’s out now for the SPRINGBOARD SHOOTING STAR TO THE FLOOR! He does it in every match but it’s still super-impressive. Fleisch stands on the top rope until Red goes up after him. SPANISH FLY ON EACH OTHER! That was cool. Special K come out and surround the ring as Red nails the INVERTED Styles Clash for 2. Fleisch gets 2 with a moonsault press. INFRA-RED…but Special K pulled Jody out of the way. 720 DDT and Jody wins at 06:13.
Rating – ** – It was all decent and high-paced, but way too short for a “dream match”. It’s a shame because they meshed really well, and neither guy is as good now as they were then. The Special K interference ruined it but…lets face it. As the Corino stuff shows Final Battle 2002 is a HUGE building show. He’s being positioned as a top heel in the promotion. Special K are being pushed as a serious force as well after winning earlier, adding guys like Hydro and Jody Fleisch to their ranks now…and there’s more to come.
Special K put the boots to Red, then overwhelm SAT, Divine Storm and Trinity as they try to make the save. In the end Da Hit Squad with JT Smith (who Special K disrespected a few shows ago) get beaten up by the Lennox Lewis/Undertaker hybrid. He’s Special K’s new security guard.
Xavier vs Paul London – ROH Title Match
Is London the miracle man? Is he the one to get the performance out of Xavier that proves he’s worthy of the ROH title? Xavier has undeniably got better as the year has gone on but he’s still to really have a defining match. He resents people calling him an unworthy champion – go out and prove us wrong kid. London won the #1 Contenders Trophy in his best career performance to date at Night Of The Butcher. He started 2002 as an unknown but ends it on the cusp of main eventing. He’s become one of the most popular talents in the company, and will want to end the year in fairytale fashion.
Xavier’s pre-match promo winds the crowd up so they start in a frenzy of hatred for him. He jumps London as he gets in the ring. London standing moonsaults Xavier across the back for 2. He sends the champion to the floor with a hurricanrana, and Xavier takes some recovery time to piss everyone off some more. London avoids a slingshot sunset flip and continues winding Xavier up by controlling him with a headlock. In the end Xavier takes a cheapshot to get an advantage. London tries a satellite headscissors but Xavier catches him and slams him on his face. With Xavier on offence the pace slows and gets a little more tedious but he still remembers to continue getting on the fans which keeps them in the match. ‘Move to Jersey’ – New York fans to Xavier. ‘We don’t want him’ – Jersey fans to NY. Xavier has started targeting the neck with lots of big clubbing shots then rocks his head back with knee strikes in the corner. The fans are hating this guy tonight, and he keeps on London’s neck with an alley-oop over the top rope then a German suplex for 2. He’s managed to go almost 10 minutes before looking winded tonight, but still hits a great rolling necksnap over the top rope. It’s too early for the 450 splash and London goes up after him. Xavier KILLS him on the ringpost (including a sickening thud). Still Paul manages to tip the champion crotch-first onto the ropes and gets 2 with the dropsault. He tries the pump powerbomb that beat Angeldust on High Impact TV but Xavier hangs on for a messy facecrusher. Xavier goes to the floor to avoid the LSP. London just turns round…LONDON STAR PRESS INTO THE AISLE! He lines Xavier up for another LSP but he moves and Paul eats mat. London uses the tricks he learned against Michael Shane by faking a head injury, then hits the LEGSWEEP DDT! Xavier is in the ropes for a superb false-finish. Xavier hooks the cobra clutch and holds on. COBRA CLUTCH SUPLEX! X-BREAKER! Xavier wins at 17:05.
Rating – *** – There you have it, the match that shows you he can be a good champion. The chemistry was just right for this match. Xavier was hated anyway but worked hard for extra heel heat meaning the fans were literally baying for a new champion. Throw in the incredible popularity of Paul London as well and you have a really intense atmosphere for the match. It dragged at times but was always watchable, had some excellent focused body part work by Xavier and, in the ultimate testament to the effectiveness of the match, the fans were buying that legsweep DDT and buying that Paul could be your new ROH Champion.
Gary Cappetta tries to interview Special K but they’re too doped up to make any understandable comments, and try to stroke his bald spot. The black man (Slugger is his name) ejects the camera crew and tells Da Hit Squad they’re not allowed in the locker room unless they have a VIP pass.
The Steve Corino show continues as he comes out (again), this time dressed in ring gear. ‘Who booked this sh*t’ – Philadelphia. It’s funny but jeez what assholes. Corino says you can’t have a main event without him in it. Homicide comes out and Corino commits the ultimate asshole act by assaulting him with a fork, then taking him out of the match with piledrivers. There’ll be no better life for Homicide’s son tonight I guess. Rob Feinstein rebooks this on the fly…
Low Ki vs Bryan Danielson vs Samoa Joe vs Steve Corino – #1 Contenders Trophy Match
So this is the big match to send ROH out for 2002. Low Ki and Bryan Danielson both hate The Prophecy and would love a crack at their ROH Champion. Samoa Joe is IN The Prophecy but only paid to do so. I’m sure he’d be fine with kicking Xavier’s ass if he won the match. He’s also friends with Steve Corino who has made himself HATED by Ki for injuring Homicide. Don’t forget Low Ki also has deals with Samoa Joe and AmDrag stemming from their memorable clashes earlier in the year. Corino has pretty much owned this show. He says he wants to take over Ring Of Honor. Winning the trophy then beating Xavier for the ROH Title is the way he will want to do it.
Corino is still acting like a prick as the match starts but it’s Ki/Danielson first. If you’ve seen their Round Robin Challenge match you’ll know the standard of matwork these two put together. Dragon seems to have an edge so Ki goes to the kicks. Danielson refuses to tag Joe – there’s growing heat there. In the end Joe tags himself in eventually, and he and Danielson spill to the floor in their anxiousness to fight each other. Corino comes in and starts a stiffness war with Joe. That’s never a good idea, and Joe is soon kicking his ass. Ki wants in and now Joe refuses to tag. Corino is getting beaten up so he rolls out and chills in the aisle. Low Ki tries to get his hands on Corino but only has time to drop a Muta elbow before Steve tags out. Danielson knees Ki in the head then grabs him for the CRAVAT SUPLEX! Everyone takes a turn working Ki over as we approach 15 minutes. Corino grabs a cross armbreaker but Ki dropkicks the knee then rattles him with the KRUSH COMBO! Joe blocks the Tidal Krush so Ki SPRINGS BACK and hits Danielson instead! Joe and Ki both use a strikes to work over Dragon but Danielson hits back with a fallaway slam on Ki, meaning it’s still him that’s isolated in the ring. He kicks more lumps out of Corino but we’re not quite at the stage where he can apply the Dragon Clutch. Corino eventually breaks it with a DDT. He tries an abdominal stretch and gets kicked in the head again. ‘Unlike the SAT I think all four of these guys are in top condition’ – Lovey. ZING! Joe tries an armbar on Danielson and gets put in CATTLE MUTILATION! Ki tries a double stomp to break it but Dragon HOLDS ON! Corino eventually breaks the hold and Joe gets 2 on Danielson with a German suplex. Corino and Joe try to attack Dragon’s leg with submission holds but Ki breaks them with more kicks.
Joe slaps on the CHOKE as we home in on 30 minutes. Danielson fights out so Joe dumps him with a back suplex. Ki tries the Dragon Clutch again but Dragon keeps escaping. Krush Rush instead…that gets 2. BRAINBUSTER nailed next and Danielson rolls to the floor. Ki goes out there for a suplexes him on the hard wood. Joe gets 2 on Dragon with an urinage. LARIAT/GERMAN COMBO by Corino and Joe. The fans are still getting on Corino so he tries to bore them with a chinlock…until Ki gives him his 80th kick to the head of the match. Danielson finally knocks Joe down with a big elbow and gets a hot tag out with less than 10 minutes left in the time limit. It’s Ki/Corino now, and Steve is still working the fans by choking Ki in the ropes. Low Ki applies the standing crucifix stretch, but then has to counter out of the Old School Expulsion into TIDAL KRUSH! Joe facewashes Ki then runs across the ring to do it to Danielson too. Corino puts a figure 4 on Joe. Ki and Danielson break it with DIVING HEADBUTTS! 5 minutes left in the time limit with the action gathering pace. Joe starts putting submissions on everyone, clearly we’re not regarding legal man rules again. Ki ends up booting Joe’s face to stop that. SPRINGBOARD ENZI for Corino. Ki blocks Cattle Mutilation and enters into a FOREARM WAR with Dragon. ROARING ELBOW gets Danielson 2. JOE VS KI STRIKE DUEL! Just like Glory By Honor they start pulling off the tape to add to the blows. The other two come back to break it up. T-BONE SUPERPLEX from Corino as Dragon gives Joe the judo DDT. Joe pulls Corino from the top with a SUPER ACE CRUSHER! Stereo jumping enzis from Joe and Ki as there’s a minute left. KNEE STRIKE gets Joe a 2. HEAD DROP GERMAN on Joe! Ki knocks Danielson out with a kick. KI KRUSHA ON JOE! DRAGON CLUTCH ON CORINO! He taps, but the 45 minute time limit had already expired. It’s a draw, and we have no #1 contender.
Rating – **** – I think the mission statement for this one was to put on a barnbusting final match of the year, and I think it was successful. Was it perfect? No, it wasn’t – it certainly dragged at times, and I didn’t like the finish simply because the legal man interpretations were even more liberal than the SAT/Prophecy match. But the physicality of this was intense, with all four laying it in hard. You had Corino being a supreme heel (as he has been all night), and Joe, Ki and Danielson all bringing the great wrestling skills, and laying the groundwork for a series of matches in 2003. A really good main event.
DHS rush the locker room with the help of SAT, Red, Divine Storm and JT Smith and break up the big Special K rave. Slugger says they’ll pay for that…
The Carnage Crew don’t care that they lost tonight. They just liked hurting the gays. They promise more violence in their Weapons Match with Da Hit Squad at the next show.
Low Ki says he has three goals for 2003. He wants to hurt Xavier, destroy The Prophecy and regain HIS Ring Of Honor Championship.
Steve Corino (fittingly) ends the show by announcing the first member of his new group. It’s Simply Luscious, who has left The Prophecy to join him.
Tape Rating – ** – In some circles this show is written off as the worst ROH show ever? I don’t agree. It is, however, perhaps the most skippable show ROH have ever done. Lets face it, the whole show is built around Steve Corino, installing him as the top heel and laying the foundation for the Group vs Prophecy war which ROH hoped would define it’s product in 2003. However, it all turned out to be pointless because Corino became increasingly difficult to book and the whole Group/Prophecy feud essentially came to nothing. Thus that makes this whole show a tad irrelevant. But there are upsides to this event. Punk/Cabana is a great opener. Special K go from joke to legitimate threat with the additions of Slugger, Hydro and Jody Fleisch. There’s the escalation of the Corino/Homicide feud which actually DOES get a blow-off in 2003. Xavier/London is the ROH Champion’s best match in the promotion to date, and the main event is a lengthy slugfest that continually builds to an exciting climax. And as a final note I’ll say – Steve Corino is BRILLIANT on this show. He carries the whole promotion on his back and comes off like an absolute star. It’s a real shame the angle didn’t go anywhere because if it did this show would have legendary status as Corino’s coming out party. Too bad. It’s not an all-time classic but there’s something for completists to enjoy.
Top 3 Matches
3) CM Punk vs Colt Cabana (***)
2) Xavier vs Paul London (***)
1) Low Ki vs Bryan Danielson vs Samoa Joe vs Steve Corino (****)
The Final Battle Awards – 2002 Edition
Since ROH’s final show every year is Final Battle, I’ve decided that every time I come to review a Final Battle, thus completing my reviews of that year of shows, I’ll accompany them with an awards column. Here I’ll list my top 5 shows of the year, wrestlers of the year, top 10 matches of the year as well as awarding DUD awards to my least favourite show and match. Lets get cracking.
Top 5 Shows
1) Road To The Title (22nd June – Philadelphia, PA)
2) All Star Extravaganza (9th November – Philadelphia, PA)
3) Round Robin Challenge (30th March – Philadelphia, PA)
4) Scramble Madness (16th November – Wakefield, MA)
5) Era Of Honor Begins (23rd February – Philadelphia, PA)
Road To The Title simply had to win this. It’s probably the best one-night tournament show ever done, with endless good matches, tons of high spots and memorable moments. It’s everything a great WRESTLING card should be. All Star Extravaganza ran it close as well. It’s probably a more rounded show than RTTT with legends, MOTYC’s, a more varied card too. But for sheer match quality (which, after all, is why I watch ROH) it’s just edged out. Round Robin Challenge and Scramble Madness sneak in because they’re very consistent cards. Scramble Madness is perhaps the most underrated 2002 show. I think it gets slept on despite a clinic of a main event, the best opener of 2002, a whacky Scramble and other good stuff to enjoy. Era Of Honor Begins rounds out the list because, lets face it. It’s the first ever ROH show, and has an amazing main event. It HAS to make it onto the list.
Top 5 Wrestlers
1) Low Ki
Low Ki probably had the best year of his professional career in 2002. His performances in ROH got him noticed across America (including TNA where he helped establish the X-Division) and around the world (he became a star with Zero-ONE in Japan). He had MOTN on all the first 6 events (including MOTYC’s at Era Of Honor Begins, Round Robin Challenge, Crowning A Champion and Honor Invades Boston), and even after losing the ROH Title in the worst match of the year (and missing a few shows with Japan commitments) he put in more top notch efforts including a memorable clash with Samoa Joe. It’s because of his hard work that ROH made it through year 1.
2) Christopher Daniels
Because every successful hero needs a great villain to play off. Low Ki became a runaway success on the back of the excellence of the Fallen Angel’s work as a heel. He ended the first show as the promotions top bad guy and never looked back. He hasn’t had the number of MOTYC’s that Ki has, but he’s consistent in the ring every time, orchestrated the memorable plot to put the ROH Title on Xavier and ends the year as a Tag Champion.
3) ‘American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson
Danielson was the third part of the epic triple threat that kicked off Ring Of Honor in grand fashion, and whilst it may be his lack of charisma that have stopped him going on to do as much or have the mass appeal of Low Ki or Chris Daniels, it cannot be denied that for consistent in-ring greatness – Dragon is your guy. He went to NJPW and was a hit there, and whenever he stepped foot in an ROH ring you know you were going to witness a hell of a match.
4) Doug Williams
Some may be surprised by my decision to put Doug so high, but lets face it, the guy was GOLD. He was totally unknown when he debuted in June but left that show a star thanks to an awesome mat battle with the aforementioned American Dragon. He OWNED the Crowning A Champion Iron Man and continued to do good things after that, including a solid match with Chris Daniels, a fun 6-man tag at All Star Extravaganza and an engaging 30-minute rematch with Danielson at Scramble Madness. I look forward to him being brought back in 2003.
5) Paul London
Had Spanky not left for the WWE after Glory By Honor this spot would’ve probably been filled by him, but instead London is rewarded for his meteoric rise up the card. He debuted at Round Robin Challenge by breaking Chris Marvel’s leg, but then went on to have one of the feuds of the year with Michael Shane. That produced some great matches (and a lousy one at Scramble Madness), then he ended the year with a classic against American Dragon (see how often he gets mentioned!) and dragged Xavier’s best match of the year out of him too. He ends the year as a main eventer and WWE would be sniffing around before long in 2003.
Top 10 Matches
1) Low Ki vs Christopher Daniels vs Spanky vs Doug Williams (***** – Crowning A Champion)
2) Bryan Danielson vs Low Ki (***** – Round Robin Challenge)
3) AJ Styles vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – All Star Extravaganza)
4) Low Ki vs Christopher Daniels vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – Era Of Honor Begins)
5) Low Ki vs AJ Styles (****1/2 – Honor Invades Boston)
6) Paul London vs Bryan Danielson (**** – Night Of The Butcher)
7) Low Ki vs Samoa Joe (**** – Glory By Honor)
8) Paul London vs Michael Shane (**** – Unscripted)
9) Daniels/Morgan/Joe vs Low Ki/Homicide/Williams (**** – All Star Extravaganza)
10) Mark Briscoe vs Jay Briscoe (**** – Honor Invades Boston)
The DUD Awards – Worst Show Of The Year
Glory By Honor
This was hyped as ROH’s biggest show to date, and instead what we got was a card filled with lousy filler, the London/Spanky/Shane triple threat was a disappointment of epic proportions and the main event between Daniels and Doug Williams was given a lousy 12 minutes. The only real memorable match of the whole show was the legendary, hard-hitting battle between Low Ki and Samoa Joe.
The DUD Awards – Worst Match Of The Year
Low Ki vs Xavier (Unscripted)
To clarify, I’m not giving this award to a random 3 minute Christopher Street Connection squash. I’m giving it to the most disappointing, badly booked, or really bad match of the year. Otherwise Abdullah The Butcher would be getting this by himself. But this match was really awful. Xavier should never have been given the ROH Title, and proved it by blowing himself up in 3 minutes, meaning Low Ki had to carry his botching ass for 20+ minutes of painfully average wrestling. A seemingly interminable match was made all the worse by the fact that it ended with Xavier getting the title.