ROH 46 – Testing The Limit – 7th August 2004
July was a fairly eventful month, with three shows inside a week, and every one with something seemingly “can’t miss” about them. Low Ki’s return was at Reborn Completion, then the Death Before Dishonor 2 weekend brought a plethora of great matches, rounded off by the nutty Chicago Street Fight. Into August we go, and kicking things off is this show, headlined by a 2/3 Falls Match pitting Bryan Danielson against Austin Aries. They produced something spectacular back at Survival Of The Fittest, I expect more of the same tonight…each fall has a 60 minute time limit and everything. Also on the card, the Saints defend the tag straps against the Havana Pitbulls, the Briscoes take on Low Ki and Homicide and 2 Cold Scorpio makes a special appearance, appearing in Philadelphia for the first time since his ECW days. We return to the ballroom of some hotel in Philly. Hosts are Jimmy Bower and CM Punk, who is perfect for commentary on the 2/3 Falls match, given his history of going long himself with men like Chris Hero and Samoa Joe.
GOOD TIMES, GREAT MEMORIES – Colt Cabana welcomes Prince Nana to his show…and he brings the Outcast Killaz with him because we’re talking about The Embassy. Apparently Jimmy Rave is relaxing in Ghana. He claims Jimmy Rave invented the Styles Clash, and from now on it’ll be called the Rave Clash. The Killaz want the treatment Rave gets…Nana sends them off to run his bath water.
John Walters vs Nigel McGuiness
This should be a decent way to kick off the show. Walters has become a rather tepid midcard act since his push at the start of the year got derailed by WWE rumours, and needs something to get him going again, but at least he’s got some talent. McGuiness is starting to solidify his spot on the ROH roster. He works the British style that everyone loves, and unlike Doug Williams (who isn’t on tonight’s show), is far easier to book for extended periods of time. Winner gets a shot at Williams’ Pure Title at the next show in Boston. No entrances are shown for the first half of the card as ROH clip as much as possible from the tape to save time for the lengthy main event.
They open up with chops before they trade pinfalls on the mat. Walters slaps Nigel in the face to show some signs of character. McGuiness headstands in the corner and boots Walters in the face as he comes in. Walters tries to Alabamaslam him out of the corner but Nigel counters with a DDT. Hammerlock DDT from McGuiness, then a shortarm scissors which Walters has to use the ropes to break. Double knee gutbuster from Walters, then the capture stunner. He gets 2 with a big clothesline. McGuiness goes for more British wrestling but gets caught with the Lungblower for 2. McGuiness with another headstand, and he comes out of that to reverse suplex Walters into an Ace crusher. He snapmares Walters into the ropers, then puts him into a deathlock. Walters rolls McGuiness up out of nowhere to snatch the win and the title shot at 05:40.
Rating – ** – I’ve generously given this 2*, because I like both men and what was there was pretty entertaining. Apparently there’s some clipping in here somewhere because the lights went out, but it’s pretty seamlessly done. Unfortunately what that leaves us with is five minutes of nice work, with not a lot of point, and a roll-up finish which everyone knows I don’t like. It also deprived us of the Williams/McGuiness match that everyone wanted to see.
Roderick Strong vs Izzy
Strong demolished Dixie at Reborn Completion, and essentially now Izzy is out to get some revenge for his brother and Special K partner. This also runs a little deeper, as it was Special K who first suffered abuse at the hands of Generation Next back in May at the Generation Next show. Can Izzy pull out an unlikely victory and jumpstart a bit of a singles career for himself? Special K, of course, are still embroiled in their own post-At Our Best slump…
Izzy starts quickly with a headscissors takedown and some more high paced stuff. He rolls through a German attempt and moonsault kicks Strong to the floor. Strong avoids a dive from Izzy, then catches him after a headscissors attempt and swings him first into the guardrail THEN into the ringpost. Surfboard from Strong, then he slams Izzy’s face into the mat for a 2. Big chop from Rod, and the crowd had been waiting for that. PUMPHANDLE BACKBREAKER leaves Izzy writhing in pain. He gets put into a camel clutch as Strong continues to bring the pain. Stalling brainbuster bounces Izzy across the ring again. Izzy springboards off the ropes, but has his rana attempt blocked. He manages to counter a powerbomb attempt with a DDT. He makes the same mistake again and this time gets plastered with a powerbomb backbreaker. Flipping inverted DDT from Izzy gets 2. Strong heaves Izzy into SPINAL SHOCK and that’s this one done at 06:29.
Rating – * – A squash, and not an overly thrilling one. The signs for the future were good though, as Izzy played the plucky underdog well, and Strong was seriously over as the bruiser of GeNext…but it didn’t make this one any more fun to watch.
Allison Danger makes her way to the ring to b*tch about Maff and Whitmer for destroying The Prophecy and feeding her to Homicide at DBD2 Part 1. She owns their contracts, and tonight she’s booked them against the Carnage Crew to beat them up. Loc and DeVito don’t seem to care too much about what she wants, but are up for a fight anyway.
Carnage Crew vs Dan Maff/BJ Whitmer
The Carnage Crew are one of the toughest teams in ROH, so it’s natural that Allison would book Maff and Whitmer against them in her quest to get even with them for ditching The Prophecy. Maff in particular has a long history with the Crew, as he, as part of Da Hit Squad had a feud with them back in 2002/3. There’s no hatred here, but both teams love a good fight. Will Maff and Whitmer be 100% following their brutal Chicago Street Fight at the last show?
DeVito pokes Whitmer in the eye, and this provokes a four man brawl to kick this off. To the floor and Maff slams Loc into the guardrail then NAILS HIM WITH A TOPE! Whitmer sends DeVito into the railing as well. The roles reverse in the slam each others heads into the guardrail contest before DeVito shows shocking agility and gives Whitmer a dropkick. Maff and Loc are brawling in the aisle meanwhile. Back in the ring Loc escapes a Burning Hammer attempt and drops Maff with a back suplex for 2. DeVito arrives – MOONSAULT MISSES! Maff levels him with a lariat for 2. BJ is in with Loc now, and he blocks a neckbreaker with a backslide. HEAD DROP EXPLODER from Whitmer, and DeVito has to save. Maff gives DeVito a belly to belly then goes to the top. Allison Danger crotches him…SPIKE PILEDRIVER FROM THE CARNAGE CREW! They get the victory at 05:34.
Rating – ** – That was actually a really fun little sprint. I enjoy these brawling matches so much more when they stay away from the dull fighting in the crowd stuff and just throw some violent spots together, and this was an example of that. It’s nothing spectacular or overly memorable, but it’s a quiet reminder of why the Carnage Crew are in ROH after a few months in the wilderness.
2 Cold Scorpio vs Alex Shelley vs Ace Steel vs Jay Lethal
This is a special attraction on this show, as Scorpio returns to Philadelphia for a rare appearance on the American indy scene. These days he lives in Germany and predominantly works for NOAH in Japan, but for one night only, he’s in ROH. Meanwhile Alex Shelley has deals with everyone in this match. He’s trying to get to the top, so making a name for himself at the expense of Scorpio is obviously going to help that. Generation Next and the Second City Saints (of which Ace Steel is a part) have a heated rivalry developing, particularly after GeNext destroyed the Saints in Chicago last show. He also asked Lethal to join Generation Next a few months ago and got turned down. Lethal could use a win here to get his singles career going…whilst Ace continues to bounce around the midcard doing nothing when he’s not supporting Punk and Cabana.
Shelley takes the mic to piss everyone off before the match starts. He offers Lethal a spot in GeNext again…and again gets turned down. Shelley doesn’t like that and we get underway with those two slugging it out. Shelley bails as soon as Lethal gets the upper hand though. Steel tags in and Shelley bails again, tagging out to Scorpio. There’s respect between these two and they go through some duly respectful exchanges. STIFF elbows traded before Steel goes to the headlock. They’re pretty even with shoulder blocks, so Scorpio drops Ace with a diving shoulder tackle. He tags out to Shelley with a slap to the face. Shelley comes in willingly now Ace is down, but Steel quickly takes the advantage. Shelley tags out to Lethal who gives Ace a backbreaker, then a back suplex. More elbows from Steel, then a big clothesline drops Lethal. Scorpio takes a tag and breaks out a somersault leg drop for 2. Shelley in with a Russian legsweep into a stretch. Lethal tags in Scorpio who gets thumbed in the eye. SUPERKICK from Scorpio drops Shelley in a heartbeat.
Shelley low blows Scorpio, dropkicks him then gives him a neckbreaker for 2. Knee strikes from Scorpio, then some big kicks as well. He drops a slingshot splash for 2, but Shelley goes back to the eyes then tags out to Lethal. He floors the legend with a dropkick for 2, then puts him in a chinlock. Scorpio kicks out of that then drops Lethal with another superkick. He sends him flying through the air with a German suplex for 2. Scorpio goes to the top rope – MOONSAULT gets 2. Steel gives Lethal a dropkick, before Scorpio tags out to Shelley. Scorpio and Lethal team up on Shelley…before Scorpio moves Shelley out of the way of Lethal’s diving headbutt. Scorpio powerbombs Lethal then goes upstairs for another SOMERSAULT LEG DROP…FOR 2. Lethal gets up…AND GIVES SCORPIO A DRAGON SUPLEX! Steel makes the save and gets superkicked by Shelley. SHELLSHOCK ON LETHAL! Shelley scores a huge win at 14:58.
Rating – *** – Nothing outlandishly good or fantastically exciting, but it’s a solid match, with Scorpio certainly not looking out of place with far younger talent like Lethal and Shelley. In fact, everyone performed pretty well (I’d argue that it may even be Ace Steel’s best singles match in ROH). It won’t go down in history or anything, but it’s a one-off opportunity to see a guy like 2 Cold Scorpio in a Ring Of Honor ring, and its good wrestling – you can’t really go wrong..
Shelley gets the mic again to gloat some more and says that nobody (including the soon to debut Mick Foley) can stop them. Lethal demands a rematch with Shelley one-on-one. Scorpio takes the microphone now and puts over ROH then Jay Lethal, which is lovely. He dances to ‘Jungle Boogie’ with Lethal…which is quite the sight.
Homicide/Low Ki vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe
The issue between the Briscoes and the Rottweilers has really escalated after the heated exchanges in July. At Reborn Completion Homicide fireballed Mark (although he was aiming for Samoa Joe), then the Rottweilers beat down Jay Briscoe before Ki’s debut. At Death Before Dishonor 2 Part 2 Cide and Ki wrestled Jay and Mark in singles matches, and were pretty devious in walking away with wins in both matches. Julius Smokes is, of course, in Homicide and Low Ki’s corner.
It’s a big brawl to start with, as Mark and Ki battle on the floor and Homicide and Jay go at it in the ring. They go to the floor as well, with Jay slinging Homicide into the railings. Inverted atomic drop from Mark on Ki, before Jay arrives to deliver the backbreaker/knee drop combo. Homicide gets slammed off the top rope and then he takes a leg drop/sidewalk slam combo. Jay hits a snap suplex on Low Ki for 2. CAPO KICK from Ki. Homicide cheap shots Jay from behind whilst Mark argues with the referee. Smokes sweeps Jay’s legs from under him as well, but still Jay tries to fight back. Smokes starts swinging at him as well, and it’s finally him that gives the Rottweilers the advantage. Ki gets 2 from the Mutoh elbow drop. Homicide comes in and gets another nearfall with a T-bone suplex. Ki gets tagged back after a bulldog as the fans start duelling chants for him and Jay Briscoe. Ki saps the excitement from the fans by taking it to the mat and grounding Jay with a headscissors.
Homicide figure 4’s Jay and Ki DOUBLE STOMPS OFF THE TOP ROPE! Jay gets put in a vicious neck crank by the former ROH Champion but he escapes a boots him over with a Yakuza kick. Mark tagged and he takes out some aggression on both Rottweilers. Springboard missile dropkick takes down both guys. Homicide pulls Mark off the apron as the Briscoes go for the springboard Doomsday Device. Jay blocks the Dragon Clutch with a Jay Driller attempt, but finally gets a kick. Kawada kicks on Mark…HEAD DROP HEAD AND LEG SUPLEX FROM MARK! He goes to the top rope but Homicide shoves him into the extremely low ceiling! LARIAT ON JAY! Homicide covers but the ref doesn’t count since Homicide isn’t legal (neither is Jay for that matter). JAY DRILLER ON HOMICIDE! Ki comes in but Jay blocks the Ki Krusher. SMALL PACKAGE…THREE COUNT! At 12:42, Jay Briscoe becomes the first person to pin Low Ki in ROH since 2002!
Rating – *** – Unlike DBD2 Part 2, I thoroughly enjoyed Low Ki as a heel this time. Large sections of the fans actually gave him a heel response, and as a result he let loose a little more and it made for a much more enjoyable match. Although, is it really surprising given that this was a tag match involving the Briscoes? There really is no better tag team in the States right now.
Low Ki DESTROYS Jay with a kick to the head…and Mark Briscoe goes nuts. Samoa Joe charges out and attacks Low Ki…and the locker room empties to pull these guys apart. CM Punk is out there, the Carnage Crew are out there, so are Maff and Whitmer, Jay Lethal, the Outcast Killaz, Dunn & Marcos and numerous jobbers. Samoa Joe punches Low Ki right between the eyes and the brawl spills out into the aisle, then to the back where they tear the black curtain down…then out to the parking lot. Smokes, Ki, Homicide, Joe and Mark Briscoe literally tear chunks out of each other, whilst Jay is unconscious in the ring. AWESOME angle. Intermission promos and segments are cancelled due to the insanity.
SIDENOTE – This is the last time we’d see the Briscoes in 2004. Jay Briscoe suffered a concussion somewhere in that match (you’d presume that kick from Low Ki) and Mark Briscoe was in a motorcycle accident right before Glory By Honor III. This was enough to rule both of them out for the foreseeable future.
CM Punk/Colt Cabana vs Havana Pitbulls – ROH Tag Title Match
After that all that insanity, the Rottweilers are back out here now, and with a Tag Title match. Apparently Homicide, Low Ki and the Briscoes have all been thrown out. The Pitbulls debuted at Reborn Stage 1 in a high profile match with the Briscoes, and have been pushed hard ever since. Punk and Cabana are defending the belts they won from the Briscoes back at Round Robin Challenge 3. They’ve defended the belts valiantly against both the Briscoes (in a great 2/3 Falls match at Death Before Dishonor 2) and Maff/Whitmer (at Generation Next in a No DQ Match). Julius Smokes somehow avoided being thrown out along with Homicide and Ki, and is in Reyes and Romero’s corner.
Colt Cabana pays tribute to Rick James during his entrance, comedy gold. Punk and Reyes start and they go through a series of gruelling early holds as each jockeys for supremacy. Punk scores with a mule kick to gain the first advantage. Romero cheap shots Punk and gets a PLANCHA for that! Cabana dropkicks Reyes through the ropes and now it’s out to the floor. Cabana tries to chop Romero but gets nothing but ringpost. The Pitbulls isolate Punk in the ring and Reyes drops a big double boot right in Punk’s face. Romero strikes at Punk, but gets a tilta-whirl backbreaker. Cabana tags in and gets 2 with a swinging sidewalk slam, then traps Rocky in a chinlock. A reverse suplex dumps Romero on his face, and back in comes Punk. He hits Romero with a couple of backbreakers, then puts him in a surfboard. Reyes tries to interfere, but Cabana stops him, then applies a “surfboard” of his own.
Punk crashes shoulder-first into the corner, and Romero quickly unloads with a big kick to the head. Reyes comes in and applies an armbar as the Pitbulls act quickly to expose an injury on CM Punk. Romero drops a double axehandle over the same spot. Punk tries to tag but Romero takes out Cabana then kicks Punk square in the spine. He rolls into a cross armbreaker, and Punk has to grab the ropes to break the hold.
Fujiwara armbar on Punk, and Cabana has to save. Punk blocks a double suplex…then floors Reyes with the Pepsi Twist. He again goes for the tag but Romero cuts him off with an armbar. Punk muscles Rocky up and slams him into the canvas…now both men are down. Punk finally makes the hot tag and back comes Cabana, who still has glasses on from his ring entrance. Cabana misses the double knee but mounts the turnbuckles. Both Pitbulls miss kicks – ASAI MOONSAULT PRESS FROM CABANA! Reyes escapes a Colt 45 attempt but gets caught in the inverted crab/camel clutch combo from the Saints. Romero traps Punk back in the cross armbreaker which Cabana has to break. The Saints want to hit a Doomsday Device but Reyes pulls Cabana out and Romero rolls Punk into the cross armbreaker again. CABANA BREAKS IT WITH A FROG SPLASH! Reyes tries to pin Cabana now, as it seems everyone is legal. Punk dropkicks Reyes off the apron but Romero small packages Cabana and wins the straps for his team somewhere in the 18/19 minute region.
Rating – ** – Some exciting flashes, but nowhere near good enough for 20 minutes of these two teams. I appreciated the psychology of the climax, as Romero repeatedly attacked Punk’s arm, but the indecision as to who the legal men were was just a joke. I appreciate sometimes you have to look the other way a little, but it literally went right from Romero trying to force Punk to tap out, then Reyes trying to pin Cabana five seconds later. That’s amateur stuff, and not what I’ve come to expect from either this company or the four men concerned. On a much brighter note, I thought Cabana’s performance in this match was good, and he’s really turned his game up in the last few shows…I like what he’s doing right now.
Backstage Shawn Price is with Dan Maff and BJ Whitmer. Maff warns her to stay out of their business in typically serious fashion. Grrrrrrr…
Next up is clips of Samoa Joe defending the ROH title against Trent Acid. Acid injured his ankle on the outside, and Joe takes the win with the Island Driver soon afterwards. This match was pretty much a non-event due to Trent’s injury, and as such it’s been largely chopped from the tape to fit in the Main Event.
Austin Aries vs Bryan Danielson – 2/3 Falls Match
Main Event time…and this is what you paid to see. This is the rematch between these two after their first classic encounter at Survival Of The Fittest. Due to my disappointment at the shunning of the unique six man elimination format, I rated that match at a low 4*, however, the Aries/Dragon interaction really is top notch…and now they get to go full throttle in this environment, I really can’t wait. Each fall has a 60 minute time limit, so you know from that these two are planning on going long. Aries is without his GeNext allies, as once again we see a GeNext member enter a big match flying solo (much like Shelley and Aries in their Pure Title matches, or Aries in the SOTF Elimination Match).
Aries won’t shake hands because Dragon split his chin open last time. Danielson goes to Aries’ leg early, but Austin scrambles to the ropes. Aries tries to get control with headlocks, and Dragon plants him with a back suplex. Into a test of strength, and it’s pretty even until Austin drives a knee into Danielson’s chest. CATTLE MUTILATION! Aries gets to the ropes like lightning to escape that! Danielson actually strikes at Aries’ chin, possibly trying to bust it open again. Aries traps Danielson in a neck crank. Danielson escapes and goes to the legs again. He gets 2 with a bridging double underhook suplex. Surfboard from American Dragon, and he is dictating the pace early. Aries goes for another head crank but Danielson rolls him to the mat and applies one himself. Danielson tries to go upstairs but gets cut off. ARIES CONNECTS WITH A SUPER RANA! Aries has turned up the pace and kicks Danielson in the spine before pinning for a 2.
He gets another 2 with a swift clothesline. Aries goes for a suplex but almost gets put in Cattle Mutilation again! FISHHOOK CROSSFACE! Dragon escapes that and rolls into a pin for 2. The crowd is split and start duelling chants to demonstrate. Aries takes Dragon to the top rope but gets shunted…SUPER GUTBUSTER from Dragon! That’s so not good for Austin! He immediately follows up with a front suplex over the top rope, focusing on the ribs right away. He follows it by dropkicking Aries into the guardrail. Back inside, Danielson traps Aries in an abdominal stretch…complete with top rope cheating! Aries finally escapes but almost gets his head taken off with a clothesline. Danielson next breaks out a camel clutch. Aries tries to fight back but takes a flurry of shoulders in the stomach. Seated abdominal stretch from Danielson, similar to the move he made CM Punk tap out to at Reborn Stage 1.
Dragon gets 2 after a backbreaker. Now he lifts Aries into a Canadian backbreaker…but Aries escapes and muscles Dragon over the top rope to the floor. Baseball slide from Aries…CORKSCREW PLANCHA NAILED! Back in the ring Aries traps Danielson in a hammerlock, with a leg around the head as well. Incredibly, Danielson breaks that by biting Austin’s thigh. Back rake from Aries, then a clothesline to the back for 2. Dragon breaks Aries’ momentum by hitting another gutbuster. Danielson fakes another front suplex over the ropes then switches into a slingshot suplex instead. He keeps Aries trapped on the mat in various holds for literally minutes as this dissection continues. He drops a big knee across the back then goes back to the camel clutch. Aries blocks another slingshot suplex attempt and almost snatches the first fall with a quick cover. Airplane spin from Danielson, before he goes to the top. DIVING HEADBUTT MISSES! Aries tries to take advantage and gets 2 with a Golden Gate Swing. Rolling front slam from Aries…MOONSAULT OKLAHOMA ROLL FOR 2! He goes back to the top but this time Danielson catches him. SUPERPLEX NAILED, despite the super-low ceiling! DIVING HEADBUTT NAILED THIS TIME…but Aries gets a boot on the ropes at 2. Danielson takes Aries up again but Aries counters a back superplex attempt with a mid-air crossbody. Crucifix driver from Aries – RINGS OF SATURN! ARIES WITH CATTLE MUTILATION! Danielson taps and loses the first fall at 42:10!!
Rest period over and after Aries softened up Dragon’s head and neck in the final few minutes of the first fall, he continues his attack there. Danielson fires back with a running forearm, but Aries dragon sleepers Danielson into a neckbreaker. Aries goes to the top again but Dragon shoves him all the way to the floor. He sets Aries’ knee up in the rails and kicks them. Shinbreaker on the floor, and now Danielson has opened up a second injury. He focuses on the leg just like he did in the second fall against Paul London at Epic Encounter. He actually mirrors the Epic Encounter again by locking Aries in a half crab. It’s switched to a deathlock…before Dragon stands and BRIDGES OUT! BRIDGING DEATHLOCK from Danielson! Dragon rolls it over into a form of a cloverleaf but Aries makes the ropes. Aries tries to come back but can barely walk, and Dragon rolls him out to the floor. Danielson takes a run up…BUT HE LANDS ON HIS FACE IN A TOPE ATTEMPT! DAAAANGEROOOUUUS!
Dragon is literally out cold, and he doesn’t move for minutes. Aries has a comic argument with the ref, then goes to the top rope. DIVING ELBOW DROP ALL THE WAY TO THE FLOOR! Back inside Aries gets 2 with a slingshot splash, then an Asai moonsault. Aries drops Danielson to the mat with another neckbreaker but it’s still only good for 2. Aries sends Dragon back to the floor with a roaring elbow. He goes for forearms on the floor, but he inadvertently forearms the ringpost, and now Dragon goes nuts on the arm. He slams it into the guardrails and the ringpost. Back inside as we cross the hour mark and he slams the arm across his own shoulder. BRAINBUSTER FROM ARIES! Aries ducks a roaring elbow attempt and hits an STO. He gets 2 from the swinging elbow drop. Danielson hauls Aries to the ground – CATTLE MUTILATION! Turned into a pinfall…and Danielson takes the second fall at 62:23.
The final rest period up, and it’s time for the third fall. Danielson comes out with a series of strikes then shunts him to the top rope. Aries blocks a superplex…SUPER DDT FROM ARIES! ‘Holy Sh*t’ – Philly. Bodyslams from Aries, just like Danielson did to him at Survival Of The Fittest. Danielson finally escapes and hits a slam flurry of his own. Aries counters a slam attempt with a small package for 2. Dragon goes to the bearhug, and after all the early work on the midsection this move is especially effective. Aries somehow escapes that and applies a bearhug of his own. Dragon counters – GUTWRENCH LIONTAMER! IT’S THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST FINISH! But Aries somehow pulls himself up and headbutts. Belly to belly suplex from Dragon…and both guys are slow to their feet. Danielson takes Aries to the top rope – BACK SUPERPLEX SCORES THIS TIME! ARIES KICKS OUT AT 2! CATTLE MUTILATION APPLIED! Aries makes the ropes and escapes the hold. To the top again but Aries manages to shove Dragon down. 450 SPLASH MISSES! He still manages to drag Dragon down into a backslide for 2. They blast each other with forearms. Danielson goes to the leg but Aries just keeps kicking him in the head. ROARING ELBOW FROM DANIELSON! ROARING ELBOW FROM ARIES! Aries again takes Danielson upstairs – SUPER BRAINBUSTER! He covers…TWO COUNT ONLY! ROLLING BRAINBUSTERS FROM ARIES! 450 SPLASH SCORES! IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER! ARIES WINS IT!! 74:17 (excluding rest periods) is your time…ohhhhh yeah!
Rating – ***** – Right now that is ROH’s MOTY. Nothing short of spectacular technical wrestling, and I feel privileged to own a copy of such a wonderful encounter. For 75 minutes these two bust out a near-flawless epic, working in so many wonderful stories it was unreal. They used themes from the Survival Of The Fittest match to great effect…such as the body slam war, or Danielson’s early attempts to bust Aries’ chin open again, or the gutwrench liontamer attempts. I loved Danielson’s multi-layered attack on Aries throughout the match. First he went to the midsection, but after Aries grabbed the first fall it was clear that wasn’t working fast enough. So he went to something that worked in the past (i.e. the 2/3 Falls match with London) and attacked the legs in the second fall, until Aries exposed a weakness by himself by smacking the ringpost. There’s much debate about the tope spot…which is fitting because that, to me is the key point of the match. Aries wins the match because his assault on the neck and head (culminating in the multiple brainbusters at the end) was more devastating than any of American Dragon’s attacks. The reason that head assault was so effective was because Danielson knocked himself out with the tope attempt. The debate itself surrounds whether the spot itself was intentional. Interesting discussion, as Dragon undeniably gets his feet caught in the ropes and does himself some serious damage. HOWEVER, Aries clearly moved, so I would argue that the spot was at least someway planned. However, it’s not impossible that someone with the abilities of Bryan Danielson took the legit injury and made it a key theme of the match on the fly – he’s that good. Anyway, awesome match, in my estimation just a touch better than Joe/Punk from World Title Classic. You need to see this match, it’s one of the best in the company’s history! With his performance is this Aries is now, in my eyes, a top line player in ROH…whilst Dragon is still the best American wrestler on the planet.
Aries takes the applause for a fine match, but then marches off without shaking Danielson’s hand. We fade out with Dragon standing in the middle of the ring as the fans chant ‘Thank You’.
Tape Rating – *** – With the precedent I set way back at Crowning A Champion, where I have a show 3* despite being pretty much a one-match card, I really have no choice but to do the same again here. With matches like Shelley/Lethal/Steel/Scorpio and the Briscoes vs Cide/Ki this is undeniably better than Crowning A Champion anyway. Actually, this show is not unlike the original Epic Encounter. It’s not a bad show, but nothing bar the main attraction (i.e. the 2/3 falls matches) particularly stands up and says ‘watch me’. Epic Encounter had the hugely disappointing Daniels/Homicide match, whilst this had the disappointing Saints/Pitbulls match. Anyway, despite me not dishing out a particularly unremarkable rating, you pretty much need Testing The Limit. The Dragon/Aries match is simply too good to miss. The obvious question…is it better than Dragon/London. It’s tough, but yeah, I’d argue this is better. For one, I think Aries is a better wrestler than Paul London was at Epic Encounter. Certainly London is/was a better high flyer, and had far more in-ring charisma, flair and more of a connection with the fans. However, as a sound, solid, capable technical wrestler, I think Aries has the edge. For two, Bryan Danielson is a better wrestler in August 2004 than he was in May 2003. His travels around the world have cultivated his talent quite superbly, and he’s at the stage now where he definitely is amongst the very best wrestlers on the planet. Basically what I’m saying is – get this show for this alone, you won’t regret it.
Top 3 Matches
3) Alex Shelley vs Jay Lethal vs Ace Steel vs 2 Cold Scorpio (***)
2) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Homicide/Low Ki (***)
1) Austin Aries vs Bryan Danielson (*****)