062 ROH Best of American Super Jr.’s Tournament 4/2/2005

ROH 62 – Best Of American Super Juniors Tournament – 2nd April 2005

One of the more infamous shows in ROH history, this event has quite the reputation. It’s main focus is the BoASJ tournament itself, where eight of America’s top Jr. Heavyweight talents will compete for a spot in New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament. NJPW has the book here, meaning ROH is not in control of who wins and who loses…and this causes somewhat of a debacle around the mysterious Dragon Soldier B entrant, but more on that later. Outside of the tournament itself, we have Austin Aries defending the ROH Title against perhaps his most dangerous challenger to date – Homicide, in his fifth attempt to win the ROH Title. The vacant ROH Tag Title is up for grabs, and CM Punk will get his hands on The Embassy – it’s Punk and Cabana against Jimmy Rave and Fast Eddie in a No DQ match. This show boasts the most wrestling action on any single-disc ROH release ever…but there is minor clipping throughout. By and large it’s not noticeable I don’t think. Tournament matches don’t count towards rankings, title petitions and the like, since it’s NJPW action, not ROH. Since the RexPlex went bust, tonight we’re in the historic Convention Centre in Asbury Park, NJ (yeah, the place where the ECW shows were held – remember Taz and Bigelow?). Your hosts are Jimmy Bower and Mark Nulty. There’s not a lot of room for promo’s on this tape so we’re going straight into the action.

Spanky vs Bryan Danielson – BoASJ First Round

Easily the pick of the first round matches in the tournament. Danielson is a hot favourite to win this whole thing, since he’s a regular for NJPW, and pretty freakin’ good. However, it’s been said by some that his star is on the wane in Japan, and he’s currently embroiled in the feud with Homicide – will that distract him? Spanky can cause a huge stir if he qualifies. He’s a regular for Zero-One in Japan, meaning it’d be a real shocker for him to quality for a NJPW event. This is the first time these guys have had a singles match for some time (their only singles meeting in ROH came at Night of Appreciation – after a gauntlet series).

The NJPW logo flashes across the screen repeatedly just in case you might forget New Japan booked this tournament. Spanky controls the opening exchange by working on Dragon’s arm. Danielson retaliates with a deathlock, but Spanky escapes. Danielson surfboards Spanky then drops into a chinlock to retain control. Spanky with a headscissors but Dragon escapes and belts him with a European uppercut. Spanky runs Danielson to the floor, then kicks him right back out when he re-enters. Slingshot dropkick from Dragon, followed by a sunset flip for 2. Danielson backflips out of the corner and kicks Spanky square in the chest. Spanky gets trapped in the corner and nailed with more kicks, then grounded with the judo DDT for 2. Big dropkick from Danielson, and he is hitting everything with huge force tonight. Mexican surfboard applied, into a pin, but Spanky is right under the ropes. Flying forearm from Spanky as he is desperate to land any kind of offence right now. He scores with a jumping heel kick then a back body drop. He scores 2 with a Yakuza kick. Danielson gets slammed head-first into the buckles, but he blocks a tornado DDT attempt and throws Spanky all the way to the floor. Dragon attempts a spear through the ropes but Spanky moves…AND HE FLIES BACK OUT WITH A TOPE!

Springboarding back in Danielson catches him – CATTLE MUTILATION! Spanky gets the ropes, but now he’s in real trouble. Dragon goes for the arm, driving it down over his own shoulder repeatedly. Trapping Spanky on the canvas, Danielson picks at both arms like a vicious bastard. More kicks from Dragon, then another big European uppercut before he goes back to the arm, applying a hammerlock. Spanky goes for a hurricanrana but gets caught…CRADLE DOUBLE UNDERHOOK SUPLEX! Moonsault kick in the corner from Spanky, but Dragon comes right back with the AIRPLANE SPIN! Dragon to the top rope only to miss the diving headbutt. Spanky heads upstairs…FROG SPLASH MISSED! Superkick from Spanky AND THEN SLICED BREAD #2…ONLY FOR 2! FROG SPLASH NAILED…for 2 again! Danielson comes right back with a sharpshooter. Spanky makes the ropes so still we continue. Dragon takes it to the top again for a back superplex. CATTLE MUTILATION AGAIN! SPANKY COUNTERS WITH A ROLL-UP, but Dragon kicks out. Danielson blocks Sliced Bread…then Sliced Bread off the second rope. REGALPLEX…Danielson wins! What an opener! 24:01 is your time.

Rating – **** –
First time I saw this match it was my pick for MOTY thus far, but rewatching, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. It’s still an awesome match, but it’s just lacking in a little drama and epic feeling, especially compared to some others the company has produced. I think my main problem with it was that it made Spanky look a little weak. After being built as one of the company’s top guys over the past few shows, he just spent 25 minutes on the back foot with American Dragon, scoring minimal offensive flurries, and in the end taking a sound beating. It’s not a squash, but not massively even either. I also didn’t buy the sharpshooter as a legitimate near-fall either. Nulty sold it as Danielson returning to the legs he worked on earlier…I don’t buy it. The legwork early in the match was hardly consequential, and if it was so devastating that the move is a match-ender…why wasn’t Spanky selling it for the 15+ minutes in between? Sorry to pick holes in this, because it’s awesome…but I really don’t think it holds up to Punk/Shelley or Joe/Lethal vs Punk/Spanky. It is, however, the best opening match in ROH…ever. And Spanky is on an absolute role of great matches at the moment. He can do no wrong.

The Embassy are back from Ghana…but have left John Walters there. He’s been replaced by an insanely hot girl (Jade Chung)…and a new bodyguard – Mike Kruel. Nana promises something big for CM Punk later.

Matt Sydal vs Dragon Soldier B – BoASJ First Round

And so begins the Dragon Soldier farce. First off, Dragon Soldier is Kendo Kashin, which is ridiculous in itself considering he’s Japanese and this is supposed to be for American juniors. Anyway, at this stage, he’s still a big mystery. His opponent is Matt Sydal, who is picked for big things in 2005, but he really needs a break-out match in ROH.

Fireman’s carries from Kashin to start, but Sydal comes back with a dropkick. He sets up for a dive but Dragon Soldier runs away. He wants a handshake (it’s ROH after all) but barely even bothers to touch Sydal. Soldier acts like he wants a test of strength but instead drop toeholds Sydal into a headlock. Sydal works a leglock, but Soldier counters into one of his own. No rope break from Dragon, instead he stomps on Sydal and traps him in a surfboard, then a camel clutch. Sydal works Kashin’s leg again, but he doesn’t really bother selling the bridging leglock that’s applied. Hurricanrana from Sydal, and that sends Dragon to the floor. MOONSAULT PRESS OFF THE TOP! In the ring again Matt takes Soldier to the top rope for a hurricanrana. Springboard twisting moonsault for 2. Sydal wants another super rana, but Dragon holds onto the ropes. He rolls Sydal up still holding the ropes and gets the win at 07:45.

Rating – ** – Can’t say I was overly impressed by Dragon Soldier, but Sydal worked hard and made it a decent little match. He plays the gritty, inexperienced underdog well, and it made his act all the more over considering he was facing the already unpopular Japanese wrestler. It wasn’t so much that Kashin was bad in this, it was that he looked lazy. His heel tactics were lazy, the way he barely sold any of Sydal’s offence was lazy and somewhat disrespectful. I realise he’s being set up as the heel of the tournament, but it wasn’t good heel work here. He goes on to face the winner of Roderick Strong/James Gibson.

Alex Shelley vs Black Tiger IV – BoASJ First Round

Shelley makes his return from the injuries given to him at Third Anniversary Celebration Part 3 by Generation Next here, competing against the fourth generation Black Tiger. Tiger is Rocky Romero under a mask, as NJPW are real high on Romero and want to push him under the Black Tiger gimmick – so he has to be a favourite for this whole thing. Shelley is another guy that works for Z1 Max, so if he wins this deal, it’ll create quite the stir in the land of the rising sun.

Tiger is all about the speed and he hits an early satellite headscissors. Shelley has to escape a couple of kravatte attempts but takes a monkey flip. Pendulum stretch by Shelley which forces Tiger to grab the ropes. Russian legsweep scores, and Shelley breaks out a unique submission hold. A kick flurry from Tiger culminates with a big kick to the spine, but Shelley comes right back up and responds with one of his own. Cross armbreaker from Black Tiger and that has Shelley grasping for the ropes. They jostle over an abdominal stretch with Tiger coming out on top and applying an octopus, rolled into a pin for 2. Octopus stretch from Shelley now but Tiger picks a leg and goes to a bow and arrow. Shelley escapes that and immediately gets trapped in a surfboard. Dragon screw from Shelley, then an enziguri kick. Off the top rope Shelley hits a knee to the back of the head. He gets 2 with a superkick. Cross-legged brainbuster blocked…TIGER SUPLEX! Black Tiger advances at 08:36.

Rating – *** –
I’m sure if they had longer they could’ve stolen the show with this match. In 8 minutes, all they really had time to do was a pretty exhibition of what great submission wrestlers they are, and work in a few cool spots along the way. Alex Shelley is seriously someone to watch right now, he looks quality again. Rocky Romero also continues to impress in singles matches (after his great match with James Gibson last month)…

James Gibson vs Roderick Strong

Gibson and Strong clashed at Back To Basics, with Strong and Jack Evans attacking Gibson after he defeated Rocky Romero to earn himself a future World Title shot. This, then, is another chance for Roderick Strong to soften up Gibson for a challenge at Austin Aries’ belt. After his good match against Homicide last month it’s also a real chance to break-out again. Gibson must be another favourite for the whole tournament, since he’s already pretty regular in NJPW.

Gibson has the edge on Roderick in the chain-wrestling stakes, and he controls his opponent early. Strong’s first offence is a bow and arrow stretch, immediately turning his attention to the back. Big right hands from Roderick keep Gibson on the back foot. Gibson forces Strong to the floor with a running forearm then dives right out after him with a tope. Big forearm exchange, and Gibson dropkicks the knee. Rock Bottom backbreaker from Roderick, and Jamie rolls to the floor that hurt so much. But Strong smells blood, taking the fight to the floor where he flings Gibson back-first into the guardrails. He drives Gibson into the ringpost before putting him back into the ring. Gibson goes for a slam but his back gives out. Back suplex from Roderick for 2. That gets followed with a sweet double underhook suplex. Slowing it down, Strong applies a chinlock with the knee lodged right in the injured back. Gibson tries to fight back and almost gets his face rearranged with a huge dropkick. Camel clutch from Strong, then a surfboard as he continues to attack that back like a bastard. Saito suplex from Gibson but Strong is up before him. Swinging neckbreaker from Gibson, but again that hurts him almost as much as Roderick. He hits the knee strike to the head then a brainbuster for 2. Top rope hurricanrana from Gibson for another 2. Strong blocks the Tigerbomb and catches Gibson with a backbreaker…then a monster lariat. He wants the half nelson backbreaker but Gibson counters with the crucifix pin. Double knee gutbuster from Strong…RUNNING BOOT for 2! TRAILER HITCH FROM GIBSON…but Strong powers out. LION TAMER FROM STRONG! Gibson counters that into a roll-up to win at 14:16.

Rating – **** –
If last months match with Homicide didn’t break Strong out, this performance surely must do. Gibson’s selling of that back made Rod look like an absolute killer. His back-related offence has been over for months, but having one of the company’s top guys take an absolute murderising from him surely pushes Strong to that next level. And, as mentioned, great sell-job by Gibson, as he continues to be awesome. It’s a shame this show is so jam-packed because like Shelley/Tiger, this match really could’ve done with going longer.

Jimmy Rave/Fast Eddie vs CM Punk/Colt Cabana – No DQ Match

The next instalment in the Punk/Rave feud is here and now. Nana took his Embassy to Ghana and the lot of them missed the Back To Basics event, but they’re back now, and Punk has sought the help of his friend Cabana in his plight for retribution. This started at the Third Anniversary Celebration Parts 1 and 2 when Punk sprayed Nana with air-freshener, then helped AJ Styles fend The Embassy off after his loss to Jimmy Rave. At Part 3 Rave defeated Punk by spraying bug spray in his eyes, then gave Tracy Brooks the Rave Clash. Punk spent most of the Trios Tournament preoccupied with Jimmy too. Rave and Eddie have Nana, Oman Tortuga, Jade Chung and Mike Kruel all out with them.

Rave starts the match running away from Punk but almost runs right into Colt Cabana. Eddie drags Punk to the floor and it’s a brawl all over the shop. Cabana fights with Rave in the ring as Punk beats on Fast Eddie outside. Tortuga interferes as Punk is about to get his hands on Jimmy, but it’s No DQ so. Punk gets through Oman but now Eddie is back so again he can’t get at Rave. Tortuga attacks Punk on the floor again, but Punk finally gets his hands on Rave. This time both Oman and Eddie make the save. Davey Andrews gets himself involved and everyone spills into the crowd. Punk gives Rave a hiptoss into a row of chairs. Cabana and Eddie are brawling elsewhere, and eventually Punk turns up throwing trashcans at poor blind Eddie. Next he drags Rave up into the cheap seats but Jimmy comes back with a low blow. Rave unloads with chops and headbutts as the fight spills onto the stage. Punk scores with a snap suplex up there, but Rave comes back with a Russian legsweep. Back towards the ring we go, and Rave gets dropped rib-first over the guardrails. Eddie dumps Punk on the timekeepers table as Colt takes over the fight with Rave. Punk hits Rave with a superplex and both men are down. Tortuga and Andrews brawl into the ring again. CABANA WITH AN ASAI MOONSAULT ONTO THE EMBASSY! Mike Kruel somehow avoided that and he starts hammering on Colt, and they brawl to the back, leaving Punk by himself. Rave gets nailed with the Shining Wizard, into the anaconda vice. Jade breaks that by pulling Punk’s hair. Punk goes all Tommy Dreamer by going for a piledriver, but Prince Nana smacks Punk in the face with a pipe and Rave sneaks the win at 12:59.

Rating – ** – I actually enjoyed it way more than the Homicide/Danielson Falls Count Anywhere match, and it was a really good way to get over the intensity of the Punk/Rave feud. The constant skirmishes involving everyone at ringside was quite the visual. It also did an effective job of conveying the hatred, without putting Punk and Rave together for too long – save that for a later date. Cabana and Eddie were somewhat wasted, as they pretty much did nothing, but still, the real issue is the Punk/Rave feud, and that got furthered.

The Embassy aren’t finished though. Nana pulls a cheese grater from Jimmy’s ring jacket, and they start grating on the ‘Straight Edge’ tattoo on Punk’s stomach. DANGEROOOOOUUUUS!

INTERMISSION – GMC is with BJ Whitmer. He’s now a former tag champion since Dan Maff is gone. He’s picked Jimmy Jacobs as his partner to take on #1 contenders Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal.

It’s time for the tournament semi-final between James Gibson and Dragon Soldier B. Gibson is ruled unable to continue due to his back injury, but he comes out anyway (flanked by Spanky) and says he wants to go. He gets jumped by Dragon Soldier who’s a bastard, but we cut to a CM Punk promo.

Punk (with a huge ‘CENSORED’ sign across his stomach) seems pretty pissed off. He promises to cripple, and destroy Rave for all that he’s done. He says he’s killing Jimmy next show in Boston. AWESOME promo, just like his days feuding with Raven.

Dragon Soldier B vs James Gibson – BoASJ Semi-Final

Dragon Soldier cheated his way past Matt Sydal in the first round to establish himself as a heel, and now he faces what could be an easy road to the final. Gibson can barely walk after having his back picked apart by Roderick Strong in his first round match. Can he overcome the odds for an unlikely win against the unpopular Kendo Kashin?

We JIP with Gibson flooring Soldier with a clothesline for 2. He hits his brainbuster then decides to go to the top rope. GUILLOTINE LEG DROP SCORES…but he can barely move. Dragon Soldier comes back with a guillotine over the top rope, and he goes for the same illegal roll-up he beat Sydal with…but this time the ref spots it. Stalling suplex from Kashin, before taking Gibson to the top rope for a superplex for 2. The fans are HATING Dragon Soldier as he hits an inverted DDT. Dragon sleeper applied, into a Gory stretch. Spanky throws in the towel for Gibson at 04:13 shown.

Rating – DUD –
Well, Dragon Soldier is totally getting over as a heel, but that’s not a good thing. The fans hate him, as he has done nothing for two matches now, and has somehow got himself into the final of this thing despite 1) sucking, and 2) not being American. Gibson sold the back like a champ again, but for ROH, this deal sucks. The angle is going nowhere, and all it means is some guy that won’t be back just got put over one of ROH’s top stars. Screw you NJPW…

Gibson is pissed off at Spanky for losing the match for him but in the end they make up.

Bryan Danielson vs Black Tiger IV – BoASJ Semi-Final

With Dragon Soldier B already in the finals, the ROH fans must surely be routing for AmDrag to make it there too and stick it to him. To do that he’s gotta overcome the impressive Black Tiger, who put on a fun little match with Alex Shelley. He’ll also be much fresher than Danielson, given that his match went 8 minutes as opposed to the 25 Dragon wrestled with Spanky. Still, this should be good…

Tiger slaps Dragon after a handshake and hammers away with a series of big kicks. He sets up for the Mexican surfboard, but Danielson escapes and unleashes his own set of kicks. Mexican surfboard from Danielson, showing Romero how it’s done. That’s followed by a couple of absolutely disgusting kicks to the spine. Tiger goes lucha and sends Danielson to the floor with a hurricanrana. SPRINGBOARD PLANCHA DOWN THE AISLE! That was awesome…how come Romero never does that? Back in the ring Tiger chokes Danielson in the corner. Rocky goes for the octopus stretch, but Danielson blocks and counters to a stretch on the arms and shoulders. Beautiful counter from Romero into a Rings of Saturn and Dragon has to use the ropes. On the floor again, Tiger throws Danielson into the railings. Dragon blocks the Tiger suplex, but Rocky busts out the lucha again with an armdrag. Inverted suplex from Danielson, and both men are down. Knee strikes from Dragon…KRAVATTE SUPLEX for 2. AmDrag tries to pull the mask off but no luck. Slingshot suplex gets 2, and he follows with a headscissors crossface submission. Headbutts to the stomach from Dragon, then a standing Banzai drop for 2. Cattle Mutilation is locked in, but Romero is right by the ropes. Instead Danielson goes to a camel clutch but still Tiger doesn’t tap. Springboard dropkick to the neck by Black Tiger. He gets 2 with a Mexican roll-up. Danielson catches him on the top rope and pulls him down with a superplex. DIVING HEADBUTT for 2. They decide it’s time to trade stiff strikes, ending with Dragon flooring Romero with a roaring elbow. Romero counters the Regalplex…JUMPING KNEE. TIGER SUPLEX SCORES! Tiger goes on to the finals at 13:31.

Rating – *** – Decent again, but I’m sure they could do a lot better had they both not already been through earlier matches, and got longer to really put on something special. Romero has been damn impressive under the Black Tiger mask. His submission wrestling was great, and the elements of the lucha-libre style he worked into his repertoire were fun to watch. I hope he sticks with that, or maybe keeps the Black Tiger persona in ROH. Can’t say I’m not disappointing that the final is Dragon Soldier/Black Tiger rather than Danielson/Gibson…but at least you can say that Romero deserves to be there.

Dunn & Marcos vs Dixie/Azrieal vs Lacey’s Angels vs Generation Next – Scramble Match

Winners become #1 contenders for the new Tag champions, whomever they may be. It’s the first time out for Izzy and Deranged as ‘Lacey’s Angels’. They lost the rights to the Special K name after losing to Dixie and Azrieal at Back To Basics, so some revenge along the way against them wouldn’t go amiss. Dunn & Marcos have put a couple of wins together recently (Scramble Cage on 2/19 and Team Corino on 3/12) so would love a title shot. Roderick Strong is back to join his regular partner Jack Evans as they look for another shot at the belts, after coming so close at the Weekend Of Thunder Night 1.

Strong starts with Marcos and this is an obvious mismatch. Marcos avoids a press slam and hits a hurricanrana then a dropkick. On the floor Strong slams Marcos into the ringpost then the railings. Dixie and Dunn in to turn up the pace. Springboard tornado DDT from Dixie…SOMERSAULT PLANCHA onto some guys on the floor. Allison Danger is at ringside for no apparent reason. Izzy gives Azrieal a hurricanrana. Azrieal avoids the moonsault dropkick and drives Izzy down from an electric chair. Octopus stretch from Az, into a headscissors. Springboard dropkick from Deranged before he goes at it with Evans. SPACE FLYING TIGER DRIVER! Strong chops on Dixie like it’s Reborn Completion all over again. Powerbomb backbreaker absolutely destroys the smaller man. He press slams Evans into Azrieal…SKIPPING A GENERATION ON DIXIE! Dunn & Marcos with the electric chair senton on Evans. Izzy hits a double standing Shiranui on the Ring Crew Express. Deranged dropkicks Marcos in the face, and gives him the moonsault dropkick/Mad Scientist Bomb combo. REVERSE RANA from Evans to Izzy. Dunn gives Jack with cutthroat powerbomb. SOUTH OF HEAVEN by Azrieal on Dunn. Roderick gives Azrieal a pumphandle suplex. Deranged with an Ace crusher on Strong. Marcos gives him a swinging neckbreaker then a swinging DDT. Double underhook atomic drop by Izzy for 2. Camel clutch/double stomp combo on Izzy by Azrieal and Dixie. Assisted phoenix splash on Dixie by Evans, and he taps to Roderick Strong’s Lion Tamer at 09:07.

Rating – * –
Honestly I didn’t think too much of this. It felt like 2002 all over again, with a bunch of teams hitting a bundle of spots with no rhyme or reason, and it just went on for too long with now flow or any kind of build. None of the guys in this match are atrocious workers, especially in this kind of environment, and it should’ve been way better. Every one of these eight men has shown remarkable improvements since the turn of the year, and this felt like one ginormous step backwards for all of them.

Samoa Joe/Jay Lethal vs BJ Whitmer/Jimmy Jacobs – ROH Tag Title Match

The belts are vacant here, after Maff quit wrestling following a “car accident”. Joe and Lethal won this title shot at Back To Basics after beating CM Punk and Spanky (with a little help from Stevie Richards), and it’s a big chance for them. Joe wants to be a triple crown champion, so obviously wants to win this. Lethal will become the first ever double champion in ROH history if they win. BJ Whitmer was given the chance to win back the belts since he didn’t really lose them. He’s selected Jacobs as his partner since he has ‘untapped toughness’ apparently. Lets see if this thrown together team can click as well as the Punk/Spanky duo last month.

Lethal and Jacobs start out, and it’s Jacobs that works the arm for an early advantage. Lethal blocks an armdrag but gets caught in a crazy satellite headscissors which leaves both men dizzy. Jimmy isn’t satisfied though, he demands Lethal tag Joe in. Joe promptly comes in and hiptosses Jacobs right into the turnbuckles. Whitmer in and he gets taken down into some fierce cross-face strikes. Lethal and Jacobs are legal again and it’s Jimmy chopping Jay in the corner. Lethal comes back with a back suplex for 2. Joe and Jay hit Jacobs with a double press slam. Chop/kick combo from Joe, then the knee drop. Jacobs misses a missile dropkick on Lethal and he is thoroughly isolated from his corner. Lethal holds Jimmy prone for the running bootscrape of Joe and BJ has to make a save. He’s still fighting though, so Joe starts to wear him out with a Boston crab. Lethal comes in with a snap powerbomb for 2, before he tries to drain Jacobs with a chinlock. Jacobs avoids a bulldog attempt and hits a double bulldog on Joe and dropkicks both opponents. Lethal blocks the Contra Code and shunts him to Joe…but Jacobs hurricanrana’s Joe straight back into Jay! There’s the hot tag to BJ and he absolutely powers Lethal into a brainbuster. Lethal blocks the Wrist Clutch and scores with the second rope DDT for 2. Superkick on Joe but the former ROH Champion fires back with the STO slam. HEAD DROP Exploder by Whitmer and they’re both out. Tags all round so Lethal and Jacobs chop the crap out of each other. Jacobs counters the dragon suplex with a bulldog. BJ comes in for a DOOMSDAY RANA ON LETHAL! Jay comes back with a jumping heel kick and tags Joe who powerslams Whitmer. Jacobs tries to break the pin with a senton but Jay catches him and throws him out. STO/back suplex combo on Whitmer for 2. ELBOW SUICIDA ON JACOBS! Meanwhile Whitmer and Lethal are on the top rope…TOP ROPE WRIST CLUTCH EXPLODER! Whitmer wins it, and he’s a tag champion again! 18:03 is your time.

Rating – *** –
That was good. I’m guessing it could kinda be classed as a disappointment because, despite going nearly 20 minutes, it never really looked like becoming a classic or anything close to it. It was a sound contest though, with some neat spots (the doomsday rana and Lethal catching the senton bomb come to mind) and some fun little Jimmy Jacobs moments thrown in.

The decision to give the belts to Whitmer and Jacobs is an interesting one. On one hand, the division is in turmoil, so giving the belts to established stars like Joe and Lethal could bring some stability to them. Yet on the other hand, Whitmer worked hard for his opportunity and Maff leaving shouldn’t mean he misses out, and Jimmy has busted his ass in ROH since 2003 and deserves his chance too. It’s a gamble, but they’re both talented, under-utilised guys. Using them to rebuild the tag scene in the promotion just might pay off.

Dragon Soldier B vs Black Tiger IV – BoASJ Final

So the match that every ROH fan really hoped would be Danielson vs Gibson will in fact be these two. Not that I have a problem with Black Tiger. He’s put on two good matches tonight already with Shelley and Danielson. That being said, Dragon Soldier B has no place being in this match. He’s not American, he’s already a relatively big star in Japan, this gimmick isn’t permanent and he’s miles less talented than everyone else in this thing. This show really gave me the impression that NJPW treated ROH like a small-time promotion that they could do whatever they want with – including thrust this Dragon Soldier crap on them, and as an ROH fan, it hurts my enjoyment of the product. His antics have made him over as a heel for the night…but so what? It’s not like he’ll be back in ROH to benefit from the heat. It’s just deprived paying viewers and fans of the chance to see quality matches and screwed them over. Can Romero drag a decent match out of this slug?

We have the NJPW canvas on the ring for this which does give it a big-match feel. Soldier chokes Tiger in the corner then clubbers away with cumbersome forearms. He uses an actual wrestling move with a rolling cradle which gets 2. That pisses Kashin off so he rolls up the referee for a 2 as well. Fisherman’s suplex from Black Tiger and he follows it with a dropkick. Dragon goes to the floor so Romero sails after him with a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Back in the ring Soldier blocks a crossbody but he gets caught in a front choke. Rocky uses a cross armbreaker next and everyone in the building is begging for a tap, no such luck. Tiger goes for a springboard dropkick, but Dragon Soldier pulls the ref in the way to take the hit. TIGER SUPLEX…but of course the ref is out. He scores with a brainbuster as well but that doesn’t put Kashin down either. Springboard hurricanrana nailed…and STILL Dragon Soldier kicks out. Romero with a Tombstone as well, and the crowd is irate that Soldier won’t stay down. Rolling cross armbreaker from Dragon Soldier, which is enough to make Tiger tap at 07:16. In the biggest crock ever, Kendo Kashin has won this whole tournament. ‘Don’t Come Back’ – New Jersey…and f*ck you New Japan.

Rating – * –
Again, some nice stuff from Black Tiger, but there was just so much Dragon Soldier bullsh*t that it sucked him down. The thing is, I know Kashin is a better worker than that, meaning he must have been booked to be THAT bad. There is no logic in that, it’s downright disrespectful on the part of NJPW to book Kashin over most of the ROH roster, and book him to look like sh*t along the way. What’s worse is, Dragon Soldier B, nor Kendo Kashin were even in the Best of the Super Juniors Tournament itself. Meaning this whole thing was just a big, pointless, farcical joke.

ROH STRAIGHT SHOOTIN’ SERIES – I like these commercials. It’s a good way to get some more attention for their shoots. I’ve seen the ones with Foley, Joe and Chris Daniels. Remind me to pick up the Sandman/Raven, Joe/Punk and Douglas/Funk ones when I’ve got some extra cash.

Austin Aries vs Homicide – ROH World Title Match

Homicide earned his title shot at the Trios Tournament. By virtue of his team winning the tournament he was able to book his own match, and he picked a title shot. He even has a pinfall victory over Aries – pinning him after a Cop Killa that very night in Philadelphia. Aries is back after successfully defending the belt in Europe over the last month and is just starting to establish himself as champion. After a shocking four failed attempts against Joe (Do Or Die, Reborn Stage 1, Generation Next, Death Before Dishonor 2), at the fifth time of asking, can Homicide finally get his hands on what he covets so much?

Aries is the firm favourite with the fans despite the fact it’s past midnight. Homicide chokes him over the top rope as J-Train gets into a verbal with Green Lantern Fan at ringside. They trade headlocks and other such hold, and it all comes down to Homicide’s power against Aries’ quickness. Austin scores with a dropkick and that sends Cide to the floor to throw a hissy fit. Aries blocks a tilta-whirl with an armdrag and fires off the slingshot reverse elbow in the corner. Homicide dumps him over the top rope through the timekeepers table which looked like an ugly fall. Outside Aries eats some guardrail to compound his misery. Homicide wants a suplex through the table but Aries manages to escape that. Slingshot corkscrew splash from Aries for 2. He blocks the Ace crusher and scores with a sidewalk slam as well. On the ropes, Homicide tries to roll through a hurricanrana attempt, but all that means is he eats another dropkick as he continues to be out-wrestled here. He does manage to hit a belly to belly suplex, and a butterfly suplex. Aries is hung in the tree of woe but still manages to kick at Homicide then swing away from the ropes with an Ace crusher of his own. Running dropkicks in the corner for 2. He muscles Homicide over his shoulders into a sweet backbreaker, but it’s still not enough.

Cobra clutch backbreaker nailed, and it’s followed by a swinging elbow drop to the same spot, targeting the back that Strong would’ve damaged at Back To Basics. Homicide counters the Fishhook Crossface by biting the hand and comes back on Aries’ neck with a piledriver. Roaring elbow from Aries, then the HEAT SEEKING MISSILE! Homicide gets caught on the second rope…RUNNING LIGERBOMB for 2. Aries follows that with a crossbody off the top. Slingshot DDT from Homicide and that’ll damage the neck as well. Austin ducks the Lariat and hits the crucifix driver. Homicide blocks the Brainbuster then nails a Yakuza kick. Cop Killa blocked…BURNING HAMMER FROM ARIES. ONE COUNT OF DISRESPECT (to Dan Maff)!! T-bone suplex from Homicide…BRAINBUSTER! Aries gets set up on a table on the floor FOR A TOPE CON HILO! Back in the ring Aries sets up for the 450 SPLASH for 2 before Smokes pulls Aries out. American Dragon comes down and brawls with him, continuing the Danielson/Homicide feud. Homicide drags Austin off the second rope with an Ace crusher. LARIATOOOO…for 2! Aries pops up with a BRAINBUSTAA! Homicide comes up…Cop Killa blocked. ROLLING BRAINBUSTERS! 450 SPLASH! At 25:36 Aries retains the World Title.

Rating – *** – Once it got going it was pretty good, but 25 minutes was just too long for them and it dragged like anything for the first 10 minutes. Neither of these two are bad wrestlers, but it took them a long time to gel with each other, and although some of the psychology was sound, and when they came, the big spots were great, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I expected to. The no-selling of moves (particularly the Burning Hammer), rather than epic and therefore good, came off as clichéd and unnecessary and just a little stupid in fact. On the positive side this match, to me at least, is the match where Aries BECAME champion. For the first time he wasn’t the guy that held the belt after Samoa Joe. He was the World Champion, all eyes were on him, and he was the man to beat at last. Maybe it was the Dragon Soldier B crap that preceded him, but from the second he walked through the curtain he oozed star-power, and kept that presence throughout. Hopefully he’s found his feet with the belt now, and with a defence against James Gibson on the cards next, he can put on some quality matches.

Tape Rating – ** –
I’ve gone low on this show because the tournament left a bitter taste in my mouth. I wouldn’t actively say you shouldn’t get it because it’s an okay show. Danielson/Spanky is really good, and there’s lots more to enjoy, such as the performances of Roderick Strong, James Gibson and Black Tiger. But the handling of the BoASJ Tournament is just disgusting and disrespectful to ROH and I didn’t approve of it, nor did I appreciate it. I pay my money to watch ROH and see good matches. I have no problem with Dragon Soldier B going to the finals and depriving me of Danielson vs Gibson. I DO have a problem with him winning the whole thing and phoning his performance, being sh*t and putting on crap matches all night. Oh, I didn’t like the Scramble either. Basically, if you get everything buy this, there’s enough on here to make it worth while. If you’re not a completist then go right past this, you don’t miss anything really (beyond the Danielson/Spanky match) and you save yourself the frustration of seeing NJPW screw around with ROH.

Top 3 Matches

3) Austin Aries vs Homicide (***)

2) James Gibson vs Roderick Strong (****)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Spanky (****)

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