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055 ROH Final Battle 2004 12/26/2004

ROH 55 – Final Battle 2004 – 26th December 2004

Boxing Day brings the last show of 2004 for ROH. It’s been a tough year which has seen them get through ownership changes, talent losses, last minute venue changes and everything in between. After so many “battles” this year, it’s time for a “final” battle. We’re coming off one of the shows of the year last time out, and the card is decent again. The feature attraction is Samoa Joe defending the title against Austin Aries. With Joe looking as unbeatable as ever after his win over CM Punk is there anything Aries can do to stop the champ? There’s also one of the most anticipated rematches ever, as Low Ki and Bryan Danielson meet one on one for the first time since Round Robin Challenge almost three years ago. Those two feature matches, and the return of the Fight Without Honor, last seen at Final Battle 2003. We’re in Philadelphia, PA for the third annual Final Battle. Hosts are Jimmy Bower and CM Punk.

Bryan Danielson talks about putting ROH on the map with Low Ki. He’s not pissed off at Ki turning on him, but that he had the Rottweilers jump him from behind. Much like last time, it’s not for wrestling, it’s a fight out of hatred. Then he vows to take Homicide out in their Best of 5 series which is coming up.

Trent Acid vs Jimmy Jacobs

There’s a lot on the line here, as both men have relatively shaky spots on the roster. Despite scoring a big win with Colt Cabana at the last show, Jacobs still isn’t quite a regular, and future east coast bookings could depend on a win here. Meanwhile Acid is pissing the fans off, management off, and it seems (much like Jimmy Rave and Matt Stryker before him) he’s the victim of a lot of hatred these days. His only win recently came at All Star Extravaganza 2, but that was a three minute nothing match against Jerk Jackson.

Jimmy wants some HUSS action. Trent refuses so Jacobs stomps on his hands and forces him to. Springboard armdrag from Acid, but Jacobs comes back with a bite to the hand. Acid gets knocked to the floor, but he heads back into the ring to avoid a baseball slide. Trent goes out the other side…AND JIMMY CHARGES RIGHT OUT AFTER HIM WITH A TOPE! Acid fights back with a running powerslam into the guardrail. In the ring Acid slows it with a chinlock. Jacobs gets crotched on the top rope, then takes a neckbreaker whilst in a tree of woe. Acid misses a Yakuza kick attempt and Jacobs almost gets a couple of quick pins. Trent blocks the Contra Code and blasts his opponent with a superkick. Running forearm from Jimmy…YAKUZA KICK FROM ACID for 2. Jacobs blocks the Shovel Driver and NAILS THE CONTRA CODE! Jacobs wins at 06:01. Trent Acid promptly announces that he quits ROH.

Rating – * –
There were some decent spots, but not a lot outside of that. Jimmy’s HUSS stuff is fun, but it’s not as over as it used to be. I’d like to see him go in a direction similar to that he’s taken in IWA-MS, where he’s still crazy, just without the HUSSing. Acid quitting isn’t the most surprising of developments, but I do think he’s been unfairly treated by the majority of fans. He’s not that bad a talent. He’s always looked decent in the spot matches he’s featured in, was a member of a decent tag team when he was part of the Backseat Boyz, and I think people are far too quick to forget the Homicide matches he put on back in 2003. I liked the idea of him becoming really scruffy since he doesn’t care anymore, but they needed to go further with it. The ring attire he’s been wrestling in is reminiscent of Justin Credible, the Carnage Crew or even Homicide – and they were/are never criticised for not wearing the correct gear. I assume Acid will be back at some point in 2005, hopefully with a better gimmick to relaunch his career – just like Jimmy Rave.

Deranged/Lacey vs Angeldust/Becky Bayless

Yes, Special K is truly coming apart now, as the two rival factions prepare to fight for the first time. It finally broke down at All Star Extravaganza 2, when Lacey directed her boys (Izzy, Deranged, Cheech and Cloudy) to attack Dixie, Angeldust and Becky, but there has been tension ever since Lacey debuted as Izzy’s girlfriend at Scramble Cage Melee. Izzy and Dixie aren’t here tonight – Dixie is in rehab and Izzy is just too high to show up. Cheech and Cloudy have turned up though.

Deranged has a sock puppet which he proclaims as a new member. Angeldust has tights on for the first time tonight. Deranged and Angeldust start, but Lacey almost immediately cheapshots Dust. Becky responds by doing the same thing to Deranged. Armdrag frk Angeldust, and he goes for the South Of Heaven. Deranged tries to fight it, so Dust just dumps him on his face with an electric chair facebuster. Quebrada by Deranged, into a swinging DDT, then a running high knee in the corner. Deranged almost flattens Angeldust with a springboard double stomp to the chest. Lacey tags in and kicks Dust in the ribs then drops an elbow to the groin. Deranged comes back but Angeldust blocks a top rope hurricanrana attempt then double stomps him in the head. Tags to the girls and Becky scores with some forearms and clotheslines. She gets 2 with a bulldog. Deranged comes in so Becky slaps him. FOREARM ON BECKY! Deranged goes to the floor with Cheech and Cloudy…SOMERSAULT PLANCHA from Angeldust wipes them all out. Lacey with an Implant DDT on Becky for the win at 07:39.

Rating – * –
Not a lot to say about this one. It wasn’t very good, but it was never going to be with Becky involved in a wrestling capacity. I’d have liked to see some more in-ring action between Lacey and Angeldust, and I think ROH missed a chance to establish her as a wrestling talent as well as the b*tchy raver girl – which could’ve been useful if they plan to establish a serious women’s division in 2005. It probably shows how much Angeldust has improved that this match even made it to 1*. The steps forward in his overall game since 2002/2003 when he just botched EVERYTHING are staggering.

Lacey leads her boys in an assault on Becky…but Dunn & Marcos run in for some payback (from Glory By Honor 3), and to round off the WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE Tour 2004. Cheech gets singled out for a beating as everyone else runs away.

Josh Daniels vs Homicide

For the first time since the summer, Homicide has some purpose and direction, thanks to the looming feud with Bryan Danielson in their Best of Five series. He’s been treading water and wrestling matches like this ever since he failed to win the ROH Title from Samoa Joe back at Death Before Dishonor 2. For Josh Daniels, he’s been around for well over a year, and despite a big win over Steve Corino at The Conclusion, an appearance in the Pure Title tournament in February, a run in The Embassy and a few other appearances, he just hasn’t gotten over enough to get a spot. Now he has a chance against one of the top guys on the roster.

Daniels scores the first takedown of the match and works the wrist. Homicide just smacks him in the face then backs him into a corner. Daniels blocks a monkey flip, hits a body slam then applies a rear chinlock. Homicide throws Daniels out, but Josh comes right back in and almost rolls Homicide up for a pin. Headlock from Daniels, as he continues to try to dictate the pace. Daniels with a northern lights suplex for 2. Armbar DDT from Homicide, then a flipping hammerlock. He locks in an armbreaker trying to work over the arm some more, but Daniels gets to the ropes. He elbows and knees the arm, then applies an armbar. He attempts a Crossface but Daniels quickly takes the ropes. Homicide attempts to trade chops with Daniels, but he can’t take the stiffness, so pokes him in the eyes. Daniels tries to use the ropes to get up but Homicide just rolls off the top rope right across the exposed arm. Shoulderbreaker nailed, and Cide heads upstairs to MISS a diving headbutt. Daniels with a clothesline and a back body drop but he can’t move his injured arm. Suplex from Daniels before he goes to the top…but this time it’s his turn to miss a diving headbutt. Daniels ducks the Lariat and hits a German suplex for 2. Homicide blocks a northern lights suplex and scores with an Ace crusher for 2. Dragon suplex from Daniels, but he can’t hold the bridge for three because of his arm. He goes for another dragon suplex, but Homicide rolls him into a submission hold (which I’ve since been told is a version of the Kimura) and Daniels taps at 10:19.

Rating – *** –
That was a pleasant change of pace from the two matches we’ve had on the show thus far – some really solid pure wrestling. There was nothing fancy about it, just Homicide targeting the arm, and Daniels selling it very well. You won’t ever get overly excited by this, but it’s certainly miles above Acid vs Jacobs or the Special K tag. Clever booking as well if you think slightly further ahead. The Rottweilers injured Bryan Danielson’s arm at All Star Extravaganza. Now Homicide demonstrates how dangerous he will be attacking that injury in the Best of Five with a vicious attack and new submission hold aimed at just such an injury.

John Walters vs Jimmy Rave – ROH Pure Title Match

This is a rematch from All Star Extravaganza 2, and it’s been granted because Nana threatened to sue ROH. He claims it was illegal for the referee to send himself and the Outcast Killaz to the back before the match in New Jersey…and since ROH couldn’t afford to go to court, they simply granted this. Nana has guaranteed that The Embassy will hold the Pure Title by the end of the night.

Rave is more of a babyface than Walters. He promptly gets a warning for using a closed fist on the Pure Champion. Walters grounds Rave with a reverse elbow then keeps him down with a side headlock. Rave tries a number of counters but Walters continually out-wrestles him and keeps hold of the headlock. Jimmy finally gets free but immediately misses a dropkick. Walters puts him in a Mutalock right next to the ropes, and Rave obliges him by using his first ropebreak. Ghanarea from Rave out of nowhere. He kicks Walters in the corner, then just chokes him as he sits on his ass. Walters comes back with chops, but Rave just shoves him over the top rope to the floor. Walters takes a whip into the guardrails…RUNNING KNEE OFF THE APRON from Rave! Jimmy is aiming for a countout win, but Walters makes it into the ring at 19. Rave covers right away, and Walters uses his opening break to break it. Dropkick from Walters, then a big clothesline for 2. Punk tries to get Bower to call it dangerous. Walters covers again and Rave uses his second ropebreak kicking out. Hurricane DDT from Walters for 2. John climbs the ropes but Rave crotches him and goes for the Rave Clash. Walters blocks that but Rave hits a tornado DDT into a front choke. Walters has to go to the ropes to break it. SATELLITE CROSSFACE from Rave! Walters uses his last ropebreak to escape. Walters immediately responds by locking in the Sharpshooter. Jimmy gets forced to utilise his last break. Rave rolls Walters up and uses the ropes (since they’re legal now) but still only gets 2. Rave goes upstairs but gets crotched. Walters stretches Rave in a tree of woe but Walters is outside the ring! Walters could be counted out here, but at 19 seconds on the count Rave finally taps. 11:32 is your match time. But we’re not done. Nana is determined to fulfill his guarantee, and offers Walters money to join The Embassy. He accepts….

Rating – *** –
It was probably a little worse than their previous encounter, but I enjoyed Rave’s attack on the neck. It also had another innovative finish, which I think was a little lost on the live crowd sadly. Walters seriously couldn’t be any less over if he tried. This series of matches with Rave hasn’t helped that much. Both guys tend to have their better matches when they have more explosive, exciting wrestlers to work around (hence both have had good matches with Chris Daniels for instance) and didn’t mesh all that well together. Clearly they’re hoping Prince Nana will do for John Walters what he did for Jimmy Rave.

Dan Maff/BJ Whitmer vs Carnage Crew – Fight Without Honor

Joining Ki/Joe, Acid/Homicide and Walters/Xavier, this is the fourth every Fight Without Honor, and it has a lot to live up to given the quality of the previous three. They’ve been feuding since Testing The Limit when the Carnage Crew stole a win over Maff and Whitmer with the help of Allison Danger (who owns the contracts of Dan and BJ, and signed them up for this match). Since then, the Crew eliminated Maff and Whitmer from Scramble Cage Melee, but then themselves were eliminated from the Ultimate Endurance match at Glory By Honor 3. They’ve also had a couple of rubbish brawls – a hardcore match at ROH Gold, officiated by Mick Foley, and a Boston Street Fight at Weekend Of Thunder Night 1. Mick Foley is watching this match with interest tonight. Can they impress and have a match much better and more memorable than their feud itself? Allison Danger is at ringside to witness the violence.

Maff and Whitmer are in street clothes, just like they were for their Street Fight at Death Before Dishonor 2. It’s a big slugfest to begin with, then they go to the outside for the inevitable throw each other into the railings stuff. Loc rings the bell over Whitmer’s head then suplexes him on the ramp. Maff hits DeVito with a chair then drags a ladder out. He boots it into Loc’s face to help out BJ. Whitmer places the ladder over DeVito’s head and slams it into the ringpost. In the ring Loc is hitting Maff in the head with a chair. DeVito is bleeding on the floor. Loc with a neckbreaker on Whitmer. TRASH CAN CON-CHAIR-TO on Whitmer. Maff throws DeVito out as Loc scrapes at a laceration on BJ’s head. Maff stops all that by throwing a ladder on top of him. The Carnage Crew set up a table in the ring and rip off the spot the Saints used by driving a ladder into Whitmer’s head that the Saints used on him in their Street Fight. Loc slams him into a ladder and DeVito comes off the top with a MOONSAULT for 2. SPIKE PILEDRIVER ON MAFF! That should be it but Whitmer makes the save with a kendo stick. Loc drops Whitmer with a Saito suplex. Whitmer attempts an Exploder through a table on Loc, but misses the table.

DeVito and Whitmer set up ladders and start climbing them. Maff and Loc climb the other side and end up crotched on the top rope. SIDE EFFECT OFF THE LADDER BY DEVITO! Everyone is down…and out comes Mick Foley. He pulls out a special Mr Socko, and it’s full of tacks which he dumps all over the ring. Maff and DeVito start teeing off on each other with kendo stick. ACE CRUSHER by DeVito for 2. WHITMER DOUBLE ARM DDT’S LOC INTO THE TACKS! Loc and Maff fight onto the apron…LOC NECKBREAKERS MAFF THROUGH A TABLE! Whitmer and DeVito are still in the ring though…WRIST CLUTCH EXPLODER INTO THE TACKS. DANGEROOOOOOUUUUS! Maff and Whitmer win at 14:57.

Rating – *** –
That was hard to grade, since some of it was really exciting, violent stuff, but other parts just reeked of the sucky nature of the rest of this feud. It’s not on the level of the previous Fights Without Honor but there are some brutal spots to enjoy. All four men had their backs exposed as they got thrown around in the tacks, whilst Loc’s swinging neckbreaker off the apron through a table was wild. This was definitely as good as I could’ve hoped, if not better. If I gave out half stars this would get an extra one.

Foley has the four guys shake hands and hug which is a touching sight. Once they’re gone Foley is left alone in the ring, and out comes Ricky Steamboat. This is his last night in ROH since he’s signed to be an agent with the WWE. Some of the fans give him the ‘You Sold Out’ treatment which is incredibly harsh. This is billed as the final Hardcore/Pure Wrestling confrontation between these two. Foley admits he was wrong about calling ROH ‘Ring Of Hardcore’ and that it’s built on pure wrestling. He does get some cheapshots in about Steamer going to the WWE. ‘F*ck Triple H’ – Philadelphia. Ricky admits that hardcore does belong in ROH. That’s done, and Foley starts talking about Ric Flair again. He confirms that Flair punched him when he was on RAW earlier that week…but he ties it in to Samoa Joe being disrespectful to him. This brings the champ to the ring. He wants Joe to admit he was wrong for disrespecting him at All Star Extravaganza 2. Joe shakes Foley’s hand…but he wants more – he wants a hug. JOE LAYS MICK OUT LIKE A SUCKA!! Joe again challenges Foley to a match and walks off. This would be an awesome angle if they could actually get Foley to wrestle. Ricky gets a big ‘Thank You Steamboat’ as he heads out with Foley.

That was clever booking there. Steamboat going to WWE forced the hardcore/pure wrestling issue between Steamboat and Foley to end a little prematurely, so using their “final confrontation” to further heat the Foley/Joe angle was a smart move. The problem still remains, Foley just isn’t going to wrestle is he?

INTERMISSION – Capetta is with The Embassy. Nana is jubilant because now The Embassy has the Pure Champion in their ranks. The Outcast Killaz complain about not being booked tonight after winning last time…but Nana sends them off to prepare the next Weapon Of MASK Destruction.

SSP catches Trent Acid as he leaves the building. He doesn’t say much, but does say he’ll be back sometime. Surely that’s not quitting then is it Trent?

Jay Lethal vs Weapon Of MASK Destruction #2

The Embassy’s war on Jay Lethal continues tonight, as Nana unleashes his second Weapon Of MASK Destruction to take out Samoa Joe’s protégé. After slapping all of The Embassy at Weekend Of Thunder Night 2, Jay defeated the first Weapon at All Star Extravaganza 2 to further piss them off. The second weapon is a lot smaller (because Nana had to ‘sell parts’ to afford John Walters), and is in fact El Generico. He’s from the IWS promotion in Canada, and their talents (such as Generico, Kevin Steen and Sexxxy Eddie) are all the rage on the indy scene at the moment.

#2 goes for a cheap shot out of the handshake just like the first Weapon, but Lethal is wise to it this time and takes control of the match. Lethal sends the Mask to the outside with a jumping heel kick. He prepares for a tope, but #2 comes back into the ring and clotheslines him for 2. Alley-oop onto the top turnbuckle from the Weapon for another 2. Lethal springboards in but gets planted with a sitout powerbomb. The Mask misses a moonsault though, and both men are down. Chops from Jay, then a running heel kick with the Weapon in a sitting position. Clothesline from Lethal for 2. Jumping DDT off the second rope, but still #2 kicks out. Spinning fisherman’s buster from Destruction for 2. DRAGON SUPLEX from Lethal. He wins again at 06:21. Lethal calls out Jimmy Rave after the match, but Nana refuses and leaves.

Rating – * –
About as good as the first MASK Destruction match, and that’s not saying a lot. Beyond Jay’s battle to hit the Dragon suplex on his opponent, there wasn’t a really anything at all happening in this. Lethal is solidly getting more over, and he definitely has the crowd support. If ROH wants to pish him in 2005, and he can deliver in the ring, then it could work out well. He still looks a little generic and unpolished, but he has the raw ability in the ring. 2005 is a big year for this young man and his future career, both in ROH, and in the business on the whole. El Generico will be back in 2005 as ROH joins the list of promotions booking the IWS guys.

Homicide and Smokes. He accepts the Best of Five series, and says the first match will be a Tap Out Match.

Generation Next vs CM Punk/Steve Corino

GeNext is Alex Shelley (back for the first time since October) and Roderick Strong. This is supposed to be a grudge match, because CM Punk still has hatred for Generation Next after the hell they put the Second City Saints through this year (yeah, the GeNext/Saints feud really went nowhere in the end but). This is the first time Corino has been in ROH since Glory By Honor 3, when CM Punk brought him back during his match against Austin Aries – saying if GeNext wanted him, they’d have to deal with his friends as well. Corino looks in decent shape, although I don’t like his new, short hair. Punk has Tracy Brooks and his students in his corner. Corino brings out his students as well. His new entrance music is about as annoying as music can get…and this is a guy that used to use a Scooter song.

Corino still has his ultra-long introduction – this time it’s a run down of wrestling legends from Philadelphia. Corino starts with Strong for his first match in ROH since War Of The Wire in November 2003. Strong tries some shoulder blocks but Corino doesn’t budge. We have a forearm exchange, which finally ends when Strong traps Corino in a headlock. Shelley comes in and Corino tags out. Punk goes for an armwrench then tags right back out. Armdrag from Corino to Shelley. He tags out, but again Punk tags him right back in again. Corino gives Shelley another armdrag, and this time is wise enough to duck when Punk tries to tag right out after being brought into the match. Punk gives Strong an armdrag to one-up Corino again. He tries to convince Corino to come off the top rope, but Steve just refuses. Instead Punk fireman’s carries him then knee drops Rod – to use his extra weight. Shelley gets a thumb to the eye from Corino, but he causes Corino and Punk to clash heads and almost fight each other. Shelley manages to miss both of them with a missile dropkick, and Punk follows up with a dropkick to the back of the head. Punk with crossface strikes on Strong, then they start chopping each other. Strong with a dropkick and gets 2 with a cocky cover. Shelley chokes Punk over the middle rope, then draws Corino into the ring as Roderick takes some free shots. Russian legsweep by Shelley, into an submission hold. He’s exposed to Corino though, who boots him in the back. The ref admonishes the King of Old School for that, so Strong just starts kicking lumps out of Punk’s back. Tracy Brooks gets on the apron to distract the ref and Rod Strong…and that allows Corino to start kicking Shelley again. More double teaming from Generation Next as Shelley catapults Punk into a big boot from Strong, who follows right up with a senton splash. Pepsi Twist from Punk, and now everyone is on the mat. Punk tags Corino who nails a DDT/Stunner combo on both opponents. Running STO on Shelley, then a big clothesline on Strong. He gives Shelley a jumping enziguri…AND STRONG NAILS HIM WITH A CRADLE BACKBREAKER! Surfboard on Corino, into a full nelson with the legs, before tagging Shelley back in. Modified abdominal stretch from Shelley, which Punk breaks – hurting Corino’s ear in the process. Facebuster from Shelley, then running neckbreaker. He goes to the top rope but MISSES a frog splash. Punk tagged in and he gives Shelley a German suplex. Strong wipes him out with a big boot though. Corino with a jumping enzi on Strong. SUPERKICK from Shelley to Corino. Punk rounds it all off with a SHINING WIZARD on Shelley. Double underhook backbreaker on Shelley for 2. Punk hits the mule kick, into an enzi kick to the back, then the Anaconda Vice, but Strong saves. Corino and Strong brawl on the floor. SHELLSHOCK ON PUNK but Corino saves. HALF NELSON BACKBREAKER from Strong to Punk for 2. Corino saves, and he holds Strong open for a running neckbreaker from Punk. Punk puts the Anaconda Vice back on Shelley, who taps at 17:31.

Rating – *** –
That was weird. Good weird, but weird nonetheless. It was the Punk and Corino show entirely, as they made their opponents completely irrelevant to the match as they broke out all the comical one upping which was fun to watch, but made Shelley and Strong look like total nobodies. Punk is supposed to have been feuding with these guys since July, but in one match he forgets about that to ass around with Corino? Luckily once the match finally strayed away from the comedy, it’s a decent affair. Everyone hits some trademark offence and there were some nice spots. It won’t win any MOTY awards, but it’s fun and watchable.

Austin Aries is out there after the match to console his friends on their defeat. He reminds Shelley that at Midnight Express Reunion they both said they were going for the ROH Title – and Shelley told him to remember where his loyalties lie. Yet, since the October shows, Shelley has been in TNA, hardly demonstrating a huge amount of loyalty himself. Aries says he’s taking the spot as leader in Generation Next. He gives Shelley an ultimatum, and punches him in the face before he can even answer. Strong gives Shelley the half nelson backbreaker to show where HIS loyalties lie. Shelley well and truly just got booted from the group. ‘You may have talent on loan from God, but tonight I am your Personal Jesus’ – Aries. WHAT a great line…good segment. Tonight surely can’t be Aries night…can it?

Low Ki vs Bryan Danielson

American Dragon’s feud with the Rottweilers continues, remembering earlier tonight he vowed to take every member of the stable out of ROH. He gets the chance to remove Ki tonight, in a hugely anticipated rematch from the first Round Robin Challenge. Together, with their fantastic matches and abilities, these guys put this company on the map in 2002. Now they meet again with the entire landscape of the promotion different – and their attitudes different as well. Ki hates ROH and the fans he used to work so hard for, whilst Danielson is now driven by hatred and a desire for revenge after the Rottweilers jumped him at the Weekend Of Thunder. Dragon carries an arm injury into this match, after he was mugged by all five of the Rotts at All Star Extravaganza 2.

Before the bell rings Ki takes off his gangsta pants and sends Smokes to the back to show how serious he is…so now both guys are in all black, kickpads and razored short hair. Duelling chants as they run through their opening exchanges. They scrap on the mat looking for an advantage but one isn’t forthcoming. Wristlock from Danielson, then a double underhook. He works a surfboard which Ki escapes, but puts his head right into a dropkick from Dragon. They test their strength, with Danielson driving Low Ki to the mat, then switching to a stranglehold. Ki escapes with his kick to the head from a grounded position. Both men demonstrate their ability to kick with some ferocity. Dragon grounds Ki again and rakes at his face, so Ki bites at his hand. Mutoh power elbow from Low Ki for 2. He wrenches Danielson’s arm then kicks him in the shoulder, and he’s finally started to attack the injury he helped create at the last show. He works it over, wrapping the arm in the rope and kicking at it. Armbar on Danielson, switched into a hammerlock. Again Ki takes Danielson to the ropes, stretching the arm in them as he chokes him out. Dragon comes back with a volley of kicks, but he hesitates for a second thanks to the injury and Ki pops right up with a dropkick. A hammerlock back suplex from Low Ki continues the punishment.

Danielson goes for a sunset flip but can only use one arm so Ki DOUBLE STOMPS THE SHOULDER! Dragon is a mess in the corner, but still yells for more. Ki chops and kicks at the shoulder, but Danielson stands tall. He catches a kick attempt and knees Low Ki in the leg. Leg whips from Danielson, then he STAMPS on the ankle. Mexican surfboard, but he can’t use the arm so he switches to a chinlock, then shoves Ki’s head so far back it’s between his legs! Mexican surfboard applied this time, but again he changes it to a chinlock variant. Danielson goes for a running elbow strike in the corner, but Ki gets a knee up to the injured arm. He goes to the top rope but gets crotched. Superplex from American Dragon, but Ki kicks out at 2. Danielson goes for the airplane spin…DRAGON CLUTCH…but Danielson spins anyway! Both men tumble through the ropes to the outside. Dragon kicks Ki over the guardrail, and they brawl into the crowd. AIRPLANE SPIN IN THE CROWD by Danielson! He scores with more kicks then throws Ki into a wall. Homicide comes from behind with Julius Smokes and nails Danielson with a chair. This must be over at 20 minutes due to the interference.

Rating – *** –
With a finish here, we would be talking at least an extra star, if not more. It’s not as good as their first match obviously, but still a really fun technical match, with lots of fun arm psychology as we build to the Homicide/Dragon Tap Out Match at the next show. Live reports from these shows complained at both Low Ki matches due to the non-finishes, and whilst they’re frustrating, I think some people are missing the point. Both times, the non-finish has led so something productive (Aries getting the title shot last show, this time it builds the Homicide/Danielson feud more…plus in a second it’ll serve as a way to get Low Ki out of ROH as he departs for a lengthy tour of Japan with NOAH in the new year). He’s produced two really good matches in the month of December, and has added much to the two shows with his presence and charisma as a performer. I still don’t like heel gangsta Ki as much as 2002 stiffest Ki, but his matches in the last three shows have been an awesome response to the really appalling match he had with Chad Collyer on Weekend Of Thunder Night 1.

HOMICIDE NAILS DANIELSON IN THE ARM WITH THE CHAIR! Jay Lethal and a band of the students lead an attempt to save Danielson. That doesn’t work, as they all take a bit of a beating, but this does allow officials to get Dragon to the locker room for treatment. Low Ki and Homicide trap the ref in the ring and Ki demands to be declared the winner. The official decision is Danielson winning by DQ…AND LOW KI SNAPS! Right hand on the referee…AND HE CHOKES HIM OUT WITH A BELT! He’s not just breaking the Code Of Honor, he is pissing on it!

BREAKING NEWS – NWA-TNA has given AJ Styles permission to return for one night only for a match with Jimmy Rave. That takes place on the 25th of February in Dayton as part of the Third Anniversary.

Samoa Joe vs Austin Aries – ROH World Title Match

This is the culmination of a magnificent year for both these men. For Joe, he has established himself not only as a great champion, but truly one of the best wrestlers in the world. His trilogy with CM Punk will go down in history, not just in ROH, but in wrestling as a whole. Aries, meanwhile, has charged through the ranks since debuting at Do Or Die 2. He only made his main show debut at Reborn Stage 2, and since then, with the help of Generation Next, has shot to the top. He got a shot at Joe after going to a time limit draw with Low Ki – who refused the overtime and bailed, leaving Aries to be awarded this match. Joe seemed unstoppable after at last beating CM Punk at All Star Extravaganza, and even punked out Mick Foley earlier in the show. But then again, Aries has already had a big night as well, taking control of Generation Next and kicking Alex Shelley out. This is a big match then. Aries has a great new entrance, using Marilyn Manson’s ‘Personal Jesus’ and a LOT of artificial smoke. Rod Strong is working his corner, whilst Joe has Jay Lethal seconding him.

No handshake from Aries, instead he charges at Joe swinging fists at the bell. Joe quickly responds by dumping Aries on his face. He slows it down with a headscissors, immediately stopping all Aries’ early adrenaline and momentum. Aries looks for a headlock, but Joe doesn’t let Austin take him down, and finally he breaks it with a back suplex. Joe with the chop/kick combo, but Aries dodges the knee drop and kicks him in the chest. Aries tries a shoulder block and gets slapped for such insolence. They criss-cross until Aries dropkicks Joe in the legs and takes him down. Dragon screw from Austin, then a knee into the leg, as he is targeting that limb. Swinging elbow drop to the leg, then an STF, but he doesn’t keep hold of it for too long. Shinbreaker from Aries, but Joe comes right back with an enziguri kick. Aries gets placed over the top turnbuckle, where he is exposed to some big chops and a kick to the chest. Bootscrapes from the Champ, then the running facewash. Joe just kicks Aries around the ring, but somehow the challenger finds the guts to fire back. He attempts a brainbuster which is foolish and gets lifted onto the apron. Joe forearms Aries to the floor then sets up for his elbow suicida. Aries rolls inside and goes for a tope but gets BLASTED WITH A KICK TO THE HEAD! Aries hangs limp between the ropes and Joe drags him to the floor for an OLE OLE KICK! Joe takes him across the floor and tears up ringside before hitting a second Ole Ole Kick to pile on still more abuse. He grabs a chair from the fans but Aries avoids a third Ole Ole Kick and crumples Joe in the chair. RUNNING OLE OLE DROPKICK FROM ARIES! Aries takes it back inside and looks for his slingshot reverse elbow…RIGHT INTO THE CHOKE! Aries escapes but then walks right into a powerslam for 2. Joe goes for a powerbomb but Aries counters with a hurricanrana for 2. DROPKICK FLURRY from Aries. ISLAND DRIVER FROM SAMOA JOE…FOR 2!! Joe goes for the Musclebuster but Austin blocks. He forearms Joe off the ropes…450 SPLASH SCORES! JOE KICKS OUT!! Aries goes for the brainbuster again but Joe is just too heavy. Aries gets dumped on the floor again…BUT ARIES SUNSET FLIP COUNTERS THE ELBOW SUICIDA! Joe kicks out again, but Aries turns it right into a Boston crab. FISHHOOK CROSSFACE…but that’s illegal so he has to break it. The rival Joe and Aries fans are on their feet. Joe blocks the brainbuster again and deposits Aries on the top and kicks him right in the head. He goes for the Musclebuster again…ARIES COUNTERS WITH THE CRUCIFIX DRIVER! Running elbow from Aries…clothesline from Aries…BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH! 450 SPLASH SCORES AGAIN!! ONE…TWO…THREE!! NEW CHAMPION…NEW F*CKING ROH CHAMPION! 17:29 is the time.

Rating – ****1/2 –
What a match…I feel as exhausted watching that as I did after any of the three Joe/Punk matches. Great stuff, as Aries tried to use his explosive nature, tried to go for his brainbuster and stuck to his gameplan of working Joe’s leg…but Joe just seemed to have everything scouted and come back. However, from the moment Aries countered the Musclebuster with the Crucifix Driver the crowd could just sense that title change and they went nuts. The last minute of this is as good, if not better, than the Ki/Red minute from Road To The Title. Do I agree with the title change? No, more on that in a second – but…just a great great match. I’d like to praise the crowd as well. They’ve seemed a little dead all night, and there were a few chanting ‘Boring’ during the Ki/Danielson match which pissed me off, but they MADE this match. Had they crapped all over that final minute of action, Aries going over could’ve looked like one of the biggest booking errors ever. As is, by going absolutely wild they MADE him a legitimate champion and legitimate successor to Joe. The Philly fans should pat themselves on the back.

Aries in tears and has to he held up by Roderick Strong as the realisation that HE IS the ROH Champion hits home. ‘Thank You Joe’ – Philadelphia as the man himself grabs a microphone and the title belt. He demands Aries show respect to the title and love it like he has for the past 2 years. They shake hands and Joe hands over the belt as everyone chants ‘ROH’. What a moment…

The title change…I don’t agree with it. I think Aries probably is the right man to take the belt from Joe, but now wasn’t the time. As good as the match was, imagine how much more emotional and meaningful that match could’ve been with some serious build behind it. Joe’s title reign still had some mileage in it…I’d even argue it NEEDED to continue. He needed a defence against Low Ki in my opinion, every single fan of ROH has been begging for that to happen. Without that I really can’t help but feel his near 2 year run reached a premature end. Plus, there was more for him to do. Perhaps a rematch with former champion Xavier if he ever resurfaces in the company. He had a defence against Nigel McGuiness booked for the next show. I think whilst he was doing this (and rounding off the Low Ki feud) the feud with Aries could continue boiling over. Perhaps give Roderick Strong a few wins at let him challenge Joe. They’ve put on some good matches in IWA-MS (and FIP I believe) so they could’ve done the same here. Meanwhile, 2005 rolling round meant Homicide could have one more title shot. Steve Corino never got HIS title shot which he was scheduled to get at (what turned out to be) Joe vs Punk 2. Bryan Danielson also demanded a rematch after their Midnight Express Reunion classic – that could’ve gone down. AJ Styles’ return is on the horizon. Perhaps a Joe/Styles rematch could’ve been booked, and we could get a glimpse of the feud we never got to witness when the World/Pure Title rivalry got aborted after At Our Best when Pure Champion AJ was pulled by TNA. Joe’s reign still had life in it is my point. Once these are done, give Aries the win and the belt, sometime in the spring in a rematch from their Final Battle 2004 contest…when Austin finally gets the win and the title. What I think this all came down to was Low Ki’s announcing that he’d be missing the first three or four months of 2005 in Japan with NOAH. Had he been around, I think Joe would’ve kept the belt and we’d move full steam ahead for Joe vs Low Ki to headline one of the 3rd Anniversary Shows. When Gabe realised he’d have to hold on for perhaps another six months for Low Ki to be able to return for that defence…I think he made the decision to put the belt on Aries now, and start 2005 with a new champion. That’s just my opinion, but I honestly think Low Ki is a big factor affecting this booking decision.

Tape Rating – *** –
It’s a really good show to end 2004 with. There matches meet a consistently good standard, and we round things off with one of the most unforgettable and historic moments ever in ROH – Joe losing the title. Had Ki/Danielson had the finish the rest of the match deserved, this show would’ve probably got another star. Nonetheless, it’s a good show, and a fine launchpad to head into the new year. FIVE matches rated at (***), the Joe/Aries match…you could go a lot worse.

Top 3 Matches

3) CM Punk/Steve Corino vs Generation Next (***)

2) Bryan Danielson vs Low Ki (***)

1) Austin Aries vs Samoa Joe (****1/2)

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