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058 ROH 3rd Anniversary Pt. 2 2/25/2005

ROH 58 – Third Anniversary Celebration: Part 2 – 25th February 2005

The Third Anniversary party moves on to Dayton for the second of the three celebration shows. What with Elizabeth getting the 5 hour marathon show with Homicide/Danielson and two cage matches, and Chicago getting Bobby Heenan, Jim Cornette, the third Homicide/Danielson match and the big Joe/Aries rematch, it was thought that the Dayton event was getting a raw deal. It has to be said, the Dayton area doesn’t have a great history. It’s played host to Wrath Of The Racket and Gold, two of my least favourite events ever. However, this show fought off all the preconceptions and shirked the Dayton reputation and is known as one of the best ROH shows ever. So what’s on the menu? AJ Styles makes a one night only return to the company for revenge on Jimmy Rave for stealing his Styles Clash. James Gibson makes his big debut, taking on Spanky in a “Screw Sports Entertainment” match, and we warm up for tomorrow night’s ROH Title match with a tag match – Generation Next of Austin Aries and Jack Evans take on the team of Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson. Clearly Dayton was a success as the first night of a Midwest double shot after the Gold/Joe vs Punk II weekend, so I guess that’s how it’s staying, and that’s where we are now. Hosts are Jimmy Bower and Mark Nulty.

Homicide points out that he’s 2-0 against American Dragon. Tonight he takes on Danielson’s student – Puma, is debuting a devastating new arm submission. Allison Danger arrives with a picture of Christopher Daniels and tries to recruit Homicide and Julius Smokes again. Smokes yells her off…

Air Devils vs Dunn & Marcos

The Air Devils are the new team of Fast Eddie and Matt Sydal. Originally it was going to be Joey Matthews and Sydal, but he got signed to a WWE deal before that could happen, and now you can see him on Smackdown as Joey Mercury of ‘MNM’ fame. The fans on the message boards decided on the name…Air Devils is SO not the best name they came up with. Anyway, lets see how the new duo fair, the tag division really could do with a boost. The Ring Crew Express, meanwhile, are coming off their biggest win ever, after beating four other teams in the Scramble Cage.

Eddie and Marcos start with the blind guy quick to slap on an armbar, but Jimmy steals it on commentary by talking about being hungover from partying. Both men go for some quick pins, before Marcos takes Eddie down with a lucha armdrag. Dunn and Sydal are in next, and Dunn hits a series of armdrags on Sydal. Dropkick from Sydal after a series of near misses, then a standing moonsault for 2. Eddie in with a powerslam for another nearfall. Dunn hits the Gory Driver for 2, then brings Marcos back for a kick flurry. Marcos nails a swinging neckbreaker on Eddie. The Air Devils attempt a double team with Sydal coming off the top rope but he sails way over Marcos and lands on Eddie…ouch. Inverted Rocker dropper from Sydal for 2. Fast Eddie comes in with a Tombstone, and Dunn has to break the pin. Marcos with a falcon arrow before he makes a tag. Dunn chops on Sydal and follows it by dropping Eddie on his head with a torture wrack driver. Backbreaker/elbow drop combo on Sydal, before they break out the air guitar and dropkicked to the floor by Eddie. Sydal heads upstairs for a TWISTING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Eddie opts not to dive, instead brings Marcos back in, but Marcos dropkicks him in the face. Marcos goes to the top, but Sydal crotches him by hitting a springboard dropkick on Dunn. Eddie climbs and hits the moonsault fallaway slam for the win at 08:41.

Rating – ** –
It was a fun, spotty opener which the crowd were into, and that’s really all that matters. Sydal was really off tonight, which is a shame because he is a HUGE talent (check out his IWA work), and I’m not a big fan of Fast Eddie when he’s not just a crazy blind spot-merchant…but the improvement of Dunn & Marcos over the three years of this company is noticeable. Throw in some funny commentary as well, and you have yourself a feel-good opening contest. Hard to tell how successful the Air Devils will be as a team…luckily it doesn’t matter. Read on folks…

Eddie clobbers Sydal as he celebrates, and kicks lumps out of him as he’s on the mat. So much for the Air Devils. Prince Nana and Jimmy Rave saunter to the ring to announce Fast Eddie as the newest member of The Embassy. Nana calls CM Punk trash as well – clearly he’s still sore about getting sprayed with air freshener last week. The crowd chant for AJ. Jimmy responds by giving Sydal the Rave Clash.

Dan Maff and BJ Whitmer are still happy about winning the Tag belts in New Jersey. Again Maff vows to become the longest reigning champions ever.

Puma vs Homicide

This isn’t actually Puma’s debut, he wrestled at the Final Battle 2003 convention card. He immediately earns points with by entering to Sum 41’s ‘No Reason’ from the awesome ‘Chuck’ album. He’s a product of the New Japan dojo in LA, has experience in Japan and Mexico, and a student of Bryan Danielson. He’s got quite some pedigree, despite his Pokemon costume. Meanwhile Homicide, currently embroiled in a feud with the American Dragon, will be looking to send him a message by beating up one of his students. Dragon and Homicide are banned from touching each other tonight, if they do they forfeit their pay for the night.

Puma takes Homicide down right away with a firemans carry, and controls him with a headlock. Homicide quickly goes for the arm, since he’s debuting a new submission finisher tonight remember. They test each other’s strength, but Homicide grounds it with a leglock. The crowd seem more interested in Smokes’ antics at ringside. Armdrag from Puma, then a headscissors out of the corner…then a dropkick. Judo DDT from Puma for 2. He dropkicks Homicide in the back of the head for another 2. Deathlock on Homicide, but Cide escapes and counters another satellite headscissors attempt with a facebuster. On the floor Smokes gets a cheap shot in on Puma whilst Homicide distracts the ref. He applies a version of the Rings of Saturn, but doesn’t hold onto it for too long. Cide breaks out the abdominal stretch next, and the fans actually get behind Puma. The youngster responds by trapping Homicide in an armbar. Unique sunset flip from Puma for 2, but he gets dropped with a neckbreaker. Homicide chokes Puma in the corner, then when the referee stops him, Smokes does it instead. Puma misses a springboard crossbody, but still manages a schoolboy on Homicide. A kick flurry from Puma floors Homicide, and he follows that with another big kick to the head for 2. Puma goes to the top but Homicide cuts him off and throws him down with the double underhook superplex for 2. Homicide tries the Cop Killa but it’s blocked…SO HE APPLIES CATTLE MUTILATION! Puma taps at 10:01, and Homicide just sent a big message to his nemesis.

Rating – *** –
Good match, that I guess is worthy of three stars. The body work to set up the submission from Homicide was a little inconsistent, but the match had an excellent heel/face dynamic, and the crowd were great, really getting behind Puma. Certainly the new guy didn’t do any harm to his chances of future bookings. The finish was a clever way of continuing that Homicide/Danielson feud, which is a massive part of the main event scene right now.

Julius Smokes gets on the microphone as Homicide holds on to the Cattle Mutilation. Smokes urges Dragon to come out and save his student. Danielson has to be held back in the aisleway. ‘Cut that beard you cocksucker’ – Smokes.

James Gibson and Spanky talk about their match tonight. They’re looking forward to wrestling without the limitations the WWE placed on them. Gibson warns Spanky he needs to be bringing his A-game though, since he’s not in ROH for fun.

Nigel McGuiness vs Colt Cabana

McGuiness is back after losing to Samoa Joe at It All Begins, and Cabana needs a win after failing in his efforts to win the ROH Title. Not a lot more to say than that. It should be interesting to see how these guys mesh. McGuiness is obviously a gifted chain-wrestler, whilst Cabana has reportedly become very proficient in such matters after his extended stay in England last Autumn.

Cabana is back in full-on comedy mode after going serious for his title challenge. They go right to the chain wrestling, with Cabana pricking his hand on McGuiness’ hair. Nigel goes for a roll-up but Colt crawls away. Cabana mounts McGuiness, but Nigel clamps on a bodyscissors to negate that. More counter-wrestling, but again Colt crawls away when McGuiness goes for a pin. Artful dodger from McGuiness, and he traps Cabana on the mat and stretches out his shoulders. Full nelson from McGuiness, but Cabana counters into a waistlock. Backslide from McGuiness for 2, as the intensity just kicks up a notch. McGuiness has Cabana’s attempt to trip him up as he runs to the ropes scouted, and they’re all even on shoulder blocks. They absolutely fly into a series of nearfalls, eventually Cabana crawls away again, this time with Nigel on top of him. Colt goes for more pins, and eventually they wind up pinning each other at the same time for a series of 2 counts. Cabana blocks a hiptoss and takes Nigel down with an armbar, even holding onto it when McGuiness goes for a headscissors. McGuiness eventually flips off the referee and slams Colt’s arm into the canvas. He targets it hard to soften Cabana up for his finisher, with a wristlock takedown for 2. Hammerlock DDT from Nigel, then his shortarm scissors submission. Cabana wasn’t worn down enough though, and he breaks out the Artful Dodger chaining and pins Nigel out of nowhere at 12:08.

Rating – *** –
That was awesome! Seriously, that could’ve gone another 10, even 15 minutes and still had my attention. It really felt like that hadn’t even scratched the surface of what they could do together. Their chaining was floorless, and a great exhibition of what both are capable of. The comedy made it even better, and the timing was perfect throughout, as both men got more and more serious. I always knew Cabana was good (I’ve been noticing his vast improvement since the summer)…but I had no idea he was THIS good. Sign these guys for a rematch…or put the Pure Title on one of them and book a long ass feud over it. The only criticism I have of this match is that it just didn’t go long enough.

Dan Maff/BJ Whitmer vs Jimmy Jacobs/Delirious – ROH Tag Title Match

What have Jacobs and Delirious done to earn a title shot? They’ve teamed together once ever (beating Special K at ROH Gold) and are generally job-fodder for the rest of the roster. They do seem to be prime lambs to the slaughter as Maff and Whitmer need to look more dominating than ever on their first night as champions.

Maff and Whitmer jump their nutty opponents before the bell even rings, and single out Jacobs for the first beating. Jimmy takes a double powerbomb before Delirious finally comes back. He hits a hurricanrana on Whitmer, but gets back dropped to the floor right afterwards. Whitmer throws Delirious into the guardrails as Maff beats on Jacobs in the corner. Press slam from Maff, into a senton splash. Whitmer pounds away on him for a while, then Maff comes back and powerbombs him into the turnbuckles. Whitmer gets 2 with a northern lights suplex. Maff comes back with a brutal powerslam for another 2, as Jacobs is taking an absolute mauling at the moment. Running chops in the corner from Maff, but he misses the cannonball senton, and finally a window opens for Jacobs to tag. Delirious and Whitmer in, and Delirious fires off the chest-punches on the redneck. Foley-style running knee in the corner for 2. Maff puts an end to Delirious’ momentum with a spinebuster, then puts him in a figure 4. Whitmer prepares for the frog splash BUT JACOBS BREAKS THE FIGURE 4 WITH A SENTON! BJ and Jimmy fight on the top rope…SUPER POWERBOMB COUNTERED INTO A HURRICANRANA! SHADOWS OVER HELL ON WHITMER…BUT MAFF SAVES! Maff with a blue thunder driver on Delirious. WRIST CLUTCH EXPLODER on Jacobs…but the champions don’t make a pin. They take Jimmy to the outside and launch him head-first into the railings. BURNING HAMMER for Delirious! The champs retain at 09:27.

Rating – *** –
I really wanted not to like this. I hate thrown together teams of singles wrestlers (like Jacobs/Delirious), it’s something the WWE does and really frustrates me. However, that was a lot of fun. The isolation of Jimmy Jacobs started to get a little tedious, but from the second the hot tag came it was all action, and that wild segment where Delirious almost won the titles was crazy – the crowd seriously thought a title switch was coming. Maff and Whitmer need to be in with high-fliers more often. They looked brutal up against the smaller men.

Spanky vs James Gibson

So here is one of the top attractions on tonight’s show. Spanky has been on red-hot form since his return to ROH – he’s beaten Alex Shelley and CM Punk on consecutive shows. Now he faces the hottest debutant the company has had in some time. Gibson (formerly Jamie Noble in the WWE) was released over some drugs-related matter (I’m not interested enough to go find details), but now he’s on the independent circuit and is able to show what he’s truly capable of. He looks good in NJPW, and has made a commitment to ROH when he’s not in Japan. Tonight these two want to show everyone what they’re capable of without agents telling them what they can and can’t do. Spanky’s entrance is fantastic. Gibson gets a HUGE pop and standing ovation just for walking through the curtain.

‘Smackdown sucks’ – Dayton. Gibson gains the first control with a front facelock, then takes him down with a northern lights throw. Gibson forces Spanky down in a test of strength, but Spanky hangs with him and fights back. Gibson blocks a dropkick, then escapes a camel clutch, but eventually gets caught in a hammerlock. Big forearms from Jamie, but Spanky runs him to the floor. SPRINGBOARD PLANCHA FROM SPANKY! He quickly sends Gibson back inside and goes for a crossbody, but gets caught in a fujiwara armbar. Gibson opens up his offence on the arm, rolling Spanky into a hammerlock. When that gets broken he just slams the arm into the mat, then gives it a leg drop for good measure. Spanky gets thrown arm and shoulder first into the turnbuckles, and Gibson follows that with a hammerlock back suplex for 2. Spanky comes back with a bulldog and a flying forearm, so Gibson responds by throwing him over the top rope to the floor. Outside he goes for the Tigerbomb, but Spanky backdrops him into the front row.

Back in the ring Spanky soars off the top with a frog splash for 2. A neckbreaker over the knee follows that. Stepping enziguri from Spanky, followed by a jumping heel kick, but Gibson fires off a powerslam out of nowhere for 2. They fight on the top rope, and Gibson rolls through a super hurricanrana attempt. Spanky traps Gibson in an armbar, but Gibson counters it into a Texas cloverleaf. Spanky goes for Sliced Bread #2 but Gibson counters it with a neckbreaker. Spanky with a superkick for 2. He goes for a second, but quickly has to block a Tigerbomb attempt from Jamie. Double underhook DDT from Gibson…INTO THE TRAILER HITCH! Spanky taps at 13:38

Rating – **** –
I’d suggest that was quite the debut right there. The match itself won’t be to everyone’s liking, as it doesn’t have a massive amount of highspots and legitimately exciting moments. But I dug the solid arm work Gibson put in, and the match just had a beautiful flow and intensity to it that you just don’t see all the time. I’m disappointed it didn’t go maybe a few minutes longer, but what was there was good. If Gibson looks that good all the time believe me he’ll be a great addition to this roster.

INTERMISSION – Dave Prazak is with CM Punk, who is still in a good mood. Apparently it’s because he gets to finally get revenge on Alex Shelley tonight. He closes by again warning The Embassy not to mess with him.

Lacey vs Tracy Brooks vs Allison Danger vs Daizee Haze

Well, at the tail-end of 2004 ROH hinted that they wanted to get some form of Women’s division started in 2005. They’re going the right way about it by getting Lacey involved. For my money she’s one of the best US female workers going at the moment, and I really mean that. She impresses me every time she steps into an IWA ring. Tracy and Daizee wrestled at Joe vs Punk 2 and didn’t look appalling, for what it’s worth. Allison Danger hasn’t been in a match, probably since her days of managing the Christopher Street Connection.

Lacey and Haze start and Daizee tries to control it with a headlock. Brooks blind tags in, and tries to pin Lacey with a small package. Danger comes in but Tracy takes her down with a drop toehold. Allison comes back by throwing Brooks over her knee for 2. Gutwrench suplex from Tracy, and she tags Daizee in who MISSILE DROPKICKS ALLISON IN THE FACE! Daizee kicks Lacey to the floor then goes to the top…DIVING PLANCHA ONTO LACEY AND TRACY! Haze with chops on Lacey but Allison Danger is back. She POWERBOMBS LACEY AS SHE SUPERPLEXES DAIZEE! Brooks and Danger trade chops but Lacey blind tags in and runs through Tracy with a clothesline. Allison with a Cattle Mutilation on Brooks as Lacey traps her in a Boston crab. Daizee almost steals it by rolling up Lacey for 2. They blast each other with big forearms whilst Tracy and Allison fight down the aisle. Ace crusher from Lacey for 2. Stunner from Haze, but Lacey won’t go down. Daizee gives Lacey the dreaded HEART PUNCH, then a big boot to the face to seal the win at 06:19.

Rating – ** –
Very respectable stuff there, by a long way the best female match in ROH. I don’t think Allison or Tracy particularly added anything (and I think Allison Danger got knocked out by that missile dropkick) but Lacey and Daizee are decent workers. Maybe next time they could wrestle in a singles match. The big spots in that match were definitely a treat to watch.

Alex Shelley vs CM Punk

This is CM Punk in his quest for revenge for all Shelley did to him as the leader of Generation Next. Shelley might have been kicked out of the group, reformed his character etc, but Punk is still sore, and they need a straight match to settle their differences. Shelley is still searching for respect and friendship after being kicked out of GeNext, and has a title petition in to get a shot at Austin Aries and the ROH Title. I just realised on the spot that both of these guys have lost to Spanky in 2005…that’s not relevant. Punk is wrestling in trunks for the first time tonight. Think he wants the WWE to notice him?

Punk grounds Shelley out of the handshake and yells at Alex to prove himself and his reformed character. Naturally it starts a little tentatively, with both men battling for control. Punk traps Shelley in an armbar, and Shelley misses an elbow drop when he finally escapes to further the damage. Shelley finally escapes and looks to work on Punk’s arm in return. Punk with a leg drop over Alex’s arm, then traps him in a wristlock. Punk with an armdrag then continues the work on the arm, as he has done for the majority for the opening five minutes. Finally he increases the pace with a series of kicks, then a dropkick. He gets in another dropkick to the back of the head then covers for 2. A hammerlock suplex leaves Shelley absolutely writhing in pain. Shelley tries to fight back but Punk kicks him in the shoulder. ROPEWALK LEG DROP ON THE ARM! That’s the first time he’s used that since the Samoa Joe trilogy, and Shelley bails to put his elbow pad on his injured arm that hurt so much. Punk stomps on the shoulder, but looks for a springboard crossbody which Shelley counters with a gutbuster. He attacks the ribs right away, suplexing Punk over the top rope then kicking him to the floor. He sets up for a whip into the railings, but he’s a nice guy now so opts to throw Punk back in the ring instead. He double stomps the back to keep up the pressure on the midsection. Shelley hits a gutbuster, then a modified STF to continue the work. He follows that up with a ribbreaker, as now he’s going after the ribs as aggressively as Punk worked the arm. Punk goes for a hiptoss which allows Shelley to apply the abdominal stretch. PUNK COUNTERS TO THE CRIPPLER CROSSFACE! Shelley grabs the ropes in a flash to escape that. Shelley goes back to the abdominal stretch. Punk looks set to escape so Shelley goes for a monkeyflip…but Punk lands on his feet and drills him with a superkick. Flying forearm from Punk, followed by a jawbreaker then a jumping heel kick to the neck for 2. Punk with a cross armbreaker, but Shelley escapes and kicks at the ribs. Punk comes off the second rope, but Shelley catches him in mid-air with a spear. FROG SPLASH FROM SHELLEY! He goes right back to the top…FROG SPLASH TO THE BACK! BORDER CITY STRETCH!! He can’t apply it properly because of his injured arm though! Shelley climbs the ropes again but this time he gets caught. SHINING WIZARD from Punk for 2. Shelley blocks the Pepsi Twist but Punk hits a Samoan drop…ANACONDA VICE! Shelley makes the ropes though. Punk goes for the Pepsi Plunge, but Shelley counters with a back drop. DOUBLE STOMP TO THE BACK…BORDER CITY STRETCH AGAIN! PUNK COUNTERS TO THE ANACONDA VICE!! SHELLEY TAPS!! Punk is your winner at 22:01.

Rating – ****1/2 –
What a match! What a freakin’ match! I wasn’t even expecting that much from it when I was ordering the DVD. I mean, it was Punk and Shelley so it wasn’t going to be bad…but I certainly didn’t expect it to produce ROH’s best match thus far this year. For me that was just 22 minutes of masterful, yet wonderfully simple wrestling. Two guys effectively going after body parts, setting up for their respective submission finishers, and as the match progresses making it more and more dramatic. Just like Gibson/Spanky, this isn’t for everyone since it builds very subtly until the last five or so minutes…but that was a classic in my eyes. If that doesn’t get Punk’s Anaconda Vice over as a finisher – nothing will. Meanwhile Alex Shelley hasn’t had a bad match yet this year…he’s really becoming one of my favourite wrestlers.

The Embassy jump Punk after the match…but Alex Shelley makes the save. He sends Rave, Eddie and Nana running for cover and finally wins over a crowd that had been somewhat sceptical of him all night. Shelley gets on the mic to apologise some more, and to slag off Generation Next. He offers Punk a handshake, and it’s accepted. Punk says he hasn’t forgotten what Shelley did, and he’s got a long road ahead if he wants to earn forgiveness. Punk gets the fans to give Shelley a standing ovation…and that’s followed by an ‘ROH’ chant. Great match…

Samoa Joe/Bryan Danielson vs Generation Next

Representing GeNext is Austin Aries and Jack Evans. Rod Strong is out with the ankle injury he sustained in the Scramble Cage I guess. Tomorrow night sees the big Joe/Aries rematch, so we get to hype it tonight as they both look to soften each other up. It’s also the renewal of an old rivalry, as for the first time since Testing The Limit, Bryan Danielson and Austin Aries are going to get to lock up. Jack Evans might be looking for some revenge too, since back at Survival Of The Fittest, Dragon did his best to snap him in half in their qualifying match. However, where is Danielson’s head, and will he be concentrating on this with the feud with Homicide getting so intense?

Evans starts out with Dragon, and opts to demonstrate his break dancing ability. Joe and Danielson break out a dance of their own which pisses Evans off. Eventually Evans and Dragon lock up, and Dragon almost pins him with a backslide. Dragon grounds Evans again, then busts out the devastating forward roll to further show off his dancing ability. Evans gets in a forearm which he enjoys. Danielson retaliates with a dropkick which sends Jack clear across the ring. Evans gets up again and demands Samoa Joe instead. Is he insane? Joe comes in like fire and throws Evans at Aries, demanding the champion instead. Aries obliges and gets knocked silly with a forearm. Evans tags in again and prepares to go ninja on Joe. Joe blocks all Evans kicks…B*TCHSLAP OF DEATH! Jack sails all the way to the floor. Joe with the chop/kick combo, then the crushing knee drop before tagging Dragon in again. Camel clutch from Danielson, almost snapping poor Jack Evans’ back…eventually Aries has to save. Dragon with a Border City Stretch, then a double underhook suplex for 2. Joe comes in and kicks Evans clean out of his shoes. Dragon distracts the ref whilst Joe slaps Jack about with his own shoes. Stalling suplex from Joe, complete with Evans screaming to be put down. Danielson comes back to stomp on the back of Evans’ knees, then apply the Mexican surfboard. Joe charges in to dropkick Jack in the head whilst he’s being stretched like a pretzel anyway. MAN this brutal. Danielson goes for a superplex, but Aries sprints in and back suplexes him off the ropes. Aries is in legally now, and it’s Aries/Danielson for the first time since August. He hammers Dragon down whilst Joe distracts the ref, then brings Evans in again.

Handspring elbow from Jack…but Joe breaks the count by throwing one of Jack’s shoes at him. Evans throws Dragon to the floor and dumps him into the railings. Danielson starts forearming Jack in the face, but Aries dropkicks him in the back of the head. Gutbuster from Aries, into the swinging elbow drop, but again Joe breaks the pin by throwing Jack’s shoes. Evans again takes Dragon to the floor and pounds on him whilst Joe complains. Spinning back kick from Danielson but Aries tags in before the tag is made. Back on the floor Aries dives off the apron to deliver a flying forearm. ELBOW SUICIDA ONTO EVERYONE from Joe! He sets up for an Ole Ole Kick on Aries…BUT EVANS NAILS HIS OPPONENTS WITH A SPRINGBOARD 450! 630 SENTON ON DRAGON…but it was only a glancing blow, and Danielson gets up to give him a European uppercut. Joe and Aries in, with Joe dominating the champion. STO SLAM SCORES! Evans right hands Joe to no effect, but Aries chopblocks the knee. Standing twisting moonsault from Evans. Aries hoists Dragon onto his shoulders and Evans climbs up to moonsault off his back…but he slips off and misses horribly. ‘You still tried’ – Dayton. Aries goes to the top and frog splashes Joe for 2. Joe with a powerslam on Evans…as Danielson hoists Aries up for the airplane spin. Evans goes for a hurricanrana…but Joe plants him with a HEAD DROP DVD! Joe almost kills Jack with a lariat, then almost stretches him in half horse-collar style. Evans finally taps at 23:13.

Rating – **** –
That match was that good for one reason alone – Jack Evans. Unquestionably he was the star of the show. Aries stayed out of the ring for the majority of the match, and Evans just stood there and took mounds of abuse from two of the hardest hitting guys on the roster. It was great comedy for 10 minutes, then turned into a brutal ass-kicking. Joe and Aries were kept apart nicely, and their limited exchanges built the rematch tomorrow night well…but to be honest, everyone will leave this remembering Evans’ performance alone. A real break-out match for the guy here. It’s gutting he messed up the Skipping A Generation moonsault off Dragon’s back…maybe if his shoes hadn’t fallen off.

Homicide jumps Dragon in the aisle, and they brawl off through the crowd, forfeiting their pay for the night as they go.

Jimmy Rave vs AJ Styles

This is your main event, the one-night only return of AJ Styles, and one of the most anticipated matches of the Third Anniversary week. During his time in ROH, AJ took Rave under his wing. He tried to coach him and help him become more aggressive. They even wrestled each other at the Second Anniversary Show, where Jimmy went after AJ’s knee injury but was finally pinned and eliminated from the Pure Title tournament. Since then, AJ was pulled from ROH by TNA, and Jimmy has joined The Embassy. Under Prince Nana’s tutelage, he has finally learned how to be aggressive and win matches…and is now one of the top heels in the company, stealing AJ’s finishing move as he went. Rave claims he invented the Rave Clash, now Styles is coming for revenge on his old protégé. Rave has a new footstool lady.

AJ gets a monster pop for his return unsurprisingly. He drops Rave on his head immediately to show he means business tonight. They scrap on the canvas, jostling for dominance. Fujiwara armbar from Rave but Styles gets back to a vertical base. He throws Rave to the floor…and he retreats for a teamtalk with Nana in the aisle. Jimmy spears Styles from behind and grinds his face into the mat. AJ sets up for his dropkick but Rave sees it coming and slides to the floor…so Styles dropkicks through the ropes instead. PESCADO FROM STYLES…but Rave counters it with a gutbuster on the floor. He whips Styles at the guardrail, but AJ jumps it. Rave dives out after him…SO STYLES SUPLEXES HIM INTO A ROW OF CHAIRS! They brawl through the crowd all the way up to the bleachers. Styles goes for a press slam off them, but Jimmy escapes and DDT’s him into the steel. Back in the ring Styles hits a back suplex, then his trademark dropkick for 2. Styles hits a knee drop, and Nana grabs the microphone and starts yelling. Styles goes after Nana, then comes back into the ring to get a back suplex from Rave. He mounts Styles and just punches the crap out of him. Backbreaker from Styles, then a big lariat. He climbs the ropes but Rave drags him down. Nip-up hurricanrana from Styles, but Rave comes back with a Russian legsweep for 2. He follows that with a swinging suplex for another 2. Jimmy calls for the Rave Clash, but Styles slams him into the corner. Abdominal stretch from Rave, eventually rolled into a pin. They fight over the ropes…AJ WITH A BRAINBUSTER ON THE APRON! Springboard forearm from Styles, followed by a German suplex, then a facebuster for 2. Rave ducks the discus lariat and spikes AJ with an STO backbreaker, then nails the Ghanarea for 2. Styles hits the discus lariat out of nowhere, now both men are down. Satellite Crossface from Rave, but AJ is too near the ropes. Styles comes back and just f*cks Rave up with knees, punches and kicks. HANDSPRING OVERHEAD KICK nailed by AJ. Rave blocks the Styles Clash and they break out a near-falls sequence. CRAPPY WIZARD for 2. It’s Rave Clash time again, but Styles comes off the ropes with a quebrada. Torture wrack powerbomb from Styles for 2. Nana argues with the referee so AJ goes after him again. He turns round and Rave sprays air freshener into his eyes and pins him at 22:06.

Rating – *** –
Meh, after everything we’ve seen tonight that was a little disappointing. The big spots were great, and the passion the two displayed was fine, it just went a little too long, and was a little too sports-entertainment for my liking. After the fluidity of the Gibson/Spanky match, the psychology of the Punk/Shelley match and the sheer entertainment of Joe/Danielson/GeNext that really wasn’t as good as it might have been. Still, it was great seeing Styles back, they broke out some neat stuff, and by putting Rave over at the end…ROH has pushed him over as a HUGE heel all of a sudden.

Nana, Fast Eddie and that random woman celebrate with Rave. They continue to pummel on AJ who is getting overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. CM Punk charges in to make the save and get some revenge on The Embassy. Punk chases Nana and Rave off…leaving Styles and Eddie alone. STYLES CLASH ON THE BLIND GUY!

But Gabe (‘one of the office lackeys’ – Jimmy Bower) pulls the camera man away and drags him to the parking lot…where Bryan Danielson and Homicide are still fighting. Homicide suplexes Dragon onto a car before they brawl through fans as they empty the building. Danielson gives Homicide a back body drop on the pavement as the feed cuts out – just like it did at It All Begins. I like that gimmick…

Cabana puts over his match with Nigel McGuiness…and brings Nigel as his guest. Cabana randomly puts over FCUK and chicken breasts. McGuiness seems drunk and smiles a lot. He wants a rematch somewhere down the line. Cabana suggests they team together in the near future. They seem like they’re friends. Tomorrow night it’s Live GTGM with Bobby Heenan.

Tape Rating – **** –
That was one of those shows where everything comes together and the end result is great. No less than THREE 4*+ matches, lots more solid stuff on the side, and lots more fun besides. The Homicide/Danielson angle was progressed nicely without going overkill on the Best of 5 series, we got hype for tomorrow night’s ROH Title match. Gibson debuted and looked great, AJ Styles got a big pop for his return, plus an early MOTYC with Punk/Shelley. Hell, even the opener and the women’s match were hardly “bad” matches. The Embassy stuff throughout the night was great, as they recruited Eddie, then attacked Punk. By the main event everyone in the building hated them and were begging AJ to kick Jimmy Rave’s ass. Booking in hindsight I’d have maybe given Gibson/Spanky more time and taken maybe even 10 minutes of Rave/Styles, but whatever. This won’t be for everyone, as some may be less enthralled than I was by the Gibson match, or the Punk match…but hell, maybe you might find yourself liking the main event more than I did. I highly recommend both Third Anniversary shows thus far it seems…roll on Chi-town. On paper this was the weakest card of the week…but this is the show you’ll want the most.

Top 3 Matches

3) Samoa Joe/Bryan Danielson vs Generation Next (****)

2) James Gibson vs Spanky (****)

1) CM Punk vs Alex Shelley (****1/2)

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