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072 ROH Fate Of An Angel 7/16/2005

ROH 72 – Fate Of An Angel – 16th July 2005

Ring Of Honor is into it’s ambitious summer swing after a tremendous New York double shot weekend, where CM Punk really stepped up to the plate as the new ROH Champion, and we have some fantastic stuff going on with that. There were a number of excellent matches too, and now the company returns to the Connecticut market for the first time since Back To Basics. This show definitely has one of the more cheesy titles, but as it alludes to, one of tonight’s main features is the “dream match” between Christopher Daniels and the debuting Matt Hardy. Elsewhere on the show it’s Joe vs Rave for the Pure Title, Styles vs Strong, Ultimate Endurance 4 for the Tag Titles and James Gibson is lined up to challenge CM Punk for the World Title, assuming he shows up to avenge his humiliation in Manhattan last week. It’s a promising line-up so lets not stall anymore. We’re in Woodbridge, CT. Commentary is from Dave Prazak, Lenny Leonard and Jimmy Bower.

Samoa Joe opens the show with a promo on CM Punk. He mentions how he’s chosen TNA whilst Punk is going to the WWE. He calls Punk a disgrace and vows to put an end to his evil ways.

Nigel McGuiness vs Claudio Castagnoli

This is Double C’s ROH debut, but I’ve seen him a few times in IWA, including in the 2004 TPI with Nigel himself. He’s a solid technical wrestler with a fun gimmick, and should fit in well if he’s given the chance to shine. Of course, doing well in other promotions is no guarantee of success in ROH – look at the hard time Kevin Steen and Vordell Walker have been having. Nigel is coming off a big win over Colt Cabana at Escape From New York, which left Cabana so devastated he’s now gone to England for the rest of the month to train up in the European style.

Naturally they go straight to the mat, trading arm holds as they go. McGuiness springboards off the top rope to hit a reverse elbow, the first high-impact offence of the match. He works a cravat and repeatedly forces Castagnoli to be more inventive in escaping the hold. Claudio fires back with a European uppercut which sends Nigel down. He follows up with another uppercut to the back of the head. Next he flies all the way across the ring with a rolling European strike. He goes for the same thing again though, and McGuiness comes back with a knee. Double C smacks him out with yet another European uppercut…DIVING UPPERCUT TOPE! Castagnoli tries to slow the pace but McGuiness nails him with a wristlock takedown. He stays on the arm with a knucklelock, then driving his leg down into it. Knucklelock suplex by Nigel, continuing to take Claudio apart. He slingshots off the ropes into a roll up for 2, and that instigates a series of nearfalls. Claudio tries to shake hands, but McGuiness is wise to that. He armdrags Castagnoli, then rolls off the ropes again to fire off a clothesline. McGuiness goes for a tornado DDT…COUNTERED INTO A EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! That was awesome, and Castagnoli heads to the top rope to capitalise. Nigel crotches him, and hits the TOWER OF LONDON at 08:10 to win.

Rating – ** –
Well that was a fun little debut for Claudio there. He wasn’t earth shattering, but he was given the chance to hit a few impressive spots, and together with Nigel he just worked a fun little technical opener. I’d look to see Double C in ROH more if this display is anything to go by…he did absolutely nothing wrong.

El Generico vs Austin Aries

What a huge match for El Generico. He’s always been entertaining and impressive whenever he’s been booked, but tonight he’s in there with the former ROH Champion. A win here would have to guarantee a more permanent spot on the roster. Meanwhile Aries is having to somewhat start again now. He lost his World Title to CM Punk, and at Escape From New York his impressive streak against Samoa Joe was ended as he failed to take the Pure Title. He needs to regroup and climb the roster again…and everyone has to start somewhere.

Aries takes Generico down and rides him like a b*tch to start, clearly feeling pretty confident. The luchadore fires back with a hard chop which sends Austin to the ropes. He scores with a series of armdrags on the former champion, and again Aries retreats to the safety of the ropes. He fires back with a slingshot reverse elbow strike in the corner, then flies across the ring with the springboard reverse elbow as well. Again the generic luchadore comes back though, again with an armdrag and Aries runs to the floor. Generico fakes a dive then dropkicks Austin off the apron for good measure. He goes for a springboard dropkick back in but Aries swats him away, and follows up with a sidewalk slam for 2. Austin goes to work on Generico’s back, driving knees right into the spine. He drags him by the mask into a backbreaker, and elbow drops him in the back whilst he’s down. Generico is obstinate though, and sets up for his running Mafia kick in the corner…but misses. RUNNING DROPKICK from Aries for 2. He sets up for the brainbuster, but Generico knows that move well and blocks it. They fight to the top rope where Generico blocks a superplex and counters with a sunset flip powerbomb. Tilta-whirl backbreaker on Aries, followed by a Michinoku driver for 2. Aries goes after the back again with a slingshot corkscrew splash, then an Asai moonsault. Generico blocks the brainbuster again and runs the ropes into a DDT. RUNNING YAKUZA KICK…Aries kicks out. Now he wants to hit a brainbuster but gets sent to the apron. He scales the ropes and MISSES a 450 splash. FACE KICK…BRAINBUSTER…450 SPLASH! Goodnight El Generico. 11:26 is your time.

Rating – ** –
Hardly a memorable contest, but it wasn’t bad or anything. It was actually a fun contest, with Generico again playing the underdog very well, and having a brief, yet enjoyable flurry of offensive towards the end as he looked for the upset. In truth, Aries looked a lot better than Generico, and you never honestly felt like he was losing, but no matter. The work on the back was fun, there were a few awesome spots, and Aries’ “go home” face kick/brainbuster/450 combo rocks.

Kevin Steen vs Dixie vs Azrieal vs Homicide

This is the summer of the four corner survival it seems, and Azrieal and Homicide are finding themselves in quite a few of them. Az has been given quite the chance to shine on the last three shows, participating in two big fourways and wrestling Rod Strong as well. He’s been alright without looking ready for a big push yet. Then again, I didn’t think Jay Lethal was ready when his push came and he’s getting better and better right now. Homicide and Steen wrestled at New Frontiers so there might be some heat there. Kevin Steen is gradually getting better with each one of his ROH appearances. Much like Vordell Walker at Escape From New York, I think this sort of match where he can throw around the little guys and doesn’t have to carry a straight singles match is far more likely to hide his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths.

Homicide goes right after Steen before the bell even rings, so I guess there is still heat from New Frontiers. He dropkicks Kev to the floor and rocks him with the TOPE CON HILO! He slings Steen into the barrier, then smacks him right in the head with a chair. In the ring former partners Dixie and Azrieal go at it. Az dropkicks Dixie in the face out of a sunset flip, but Dixie fires back with a swinging DDT off the second rope. Homicide powerbombs Dixie but Steen breaks the pin. He boots Cide right in the jaw for 2. Homicide tries to return fire and eats a somersault leg drop. Eventually he goes to the eyes and tags out to Azrieal. He blocks a Package Piledriver attempt and hits a satellite headscissors. Dixie in with a springboard dropkick on Az for 2. He backbreakers his former partner and stretches him out, which makes sense considering how much Azrieal had his back and ribs worked over last weekend. The former Special K guys collide in mid-air going for crossbodies and both are left needing tags. Steen and Homicide in to go at it again, and Steen gets the advantage with a spinning heel kick. Homicide nails the Canadian with a running knee in the corner, backbreakers Azrieal and Ace crusher’s Dixie all in under five seconds. Steen nails a kryptonite crunch but Azrieal breaks the pin. MOONSAULT on Dixie, but Azrieal breaks that pin with a double stomp. He nails Homicide with a super rana, but Cide avoids another double stomp attempt. Dixie dishes snap Germans to Cide and Az then neckbreakers Steen. SWINGING CRADLE BACK DROP in response. Azrieal goes for a pescado…AND STEEL FALLAWAY SLAMS HIM INTO THE GUARDRAIL! Homicide LARIATS STEEN OFF THE APRON! Dixie goes for another swinging DDT but this time isn’t successful. GERMAN SUPLEX NO SOLD. COP KILLAAAA! Dixie is just another victim at 08:38.

Rating – ** –
Nothing more than a spotfest, but at least it was fairly clean, and didn’t go on for too long. Steen was fine for this sort of match, since he has cool spots and throws around smaller guys like Dixie and Azrieal like they’re nothing, but he’s not really worth the cost of booking him for shows where he’d have to be flown in etc. I actually thought Dixie looked far more crisp and impressive than Azrieal…maybe it’s him that should be getting the push. Unfortunately, this is his last ROH booking for some time. Homicide is miles better than a match with these three, but he’s easily capable of entertaining in this environment and he showed that again. His exchanges with Steen were the highlight of the match for me. Maybe we could see a Cide/Kev rematch somewhere down the line.

CM Punk comes through the curtain next, so clearly he has taken the bait from James Gibson, and has at least turned up tonight. I guess that means THIS is his last night in ROH instead. He claims he’s the ROH MVP for 2005, not Gibson. The only reason he’s giving him a title shot tonight is to see him lose another big one, just like against Aries and Joe. Gibson has heard enough and he chases Punk out of the ring. He snatches the belt and puts it over, not wanting Punk to disrespect it anymore. He wants to keep hold of it just in case Punk tries to weasel out of their title match…but as Gibson gets distracted by a referee Punk attacks him with a chain and busts him wide open. Chances of him winning later tonight just got slimmer then…

Carnage Crew vs The Embassy vs Lacey’s Angels vs Dunn & Marcos – ROH Tag Title Ultimate Endurance Match

Lacey’s Angels are Cheech and Deranged. The Embassy is Fast Eddie and Excess69, making his ROH debut. He’s another guy from the same EWR roster that produced Kevin Steen, El Generico, Sexxxy Eddie and the like. This is the Crew’s first defence of the titles they won from BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs last show, and it’s a tall order, despite holding a clear size advantage over all their opponents. In fairness, they’re pretty out of shape, and have never advanced beyond the first fall of an Ultimate Endurance match before now in two previous attempts so. Remember they’ve been feuding with the Ring Crew Express, so Dunn & Marcos would love to snatch the biggest win of their careers here. First fall is a Scramble Match, second fall is Anything Goes. Then when it’s down to two teams the ROH Tag Titles are on the line.

DeVito immediately clobbers away on Cheech before Loc joins him to hit an early Carnageplex. The Embassy break the fall on that. Death Valley backbreaker on DeVito, but Marcos and Deranged come right in. Eddie and Excess both eat satellite headscissors. Deranged acts like he’s going to air guitar with Marcos and rakes his eyes instead. Marcos comes back with a DDT, now everyone goes to the floor. RCE to the top – STAAAAAGE DIIIIIIVE! Eddie is blind, but still flies out with an ASAI MOONSAULT! SPRINGBOARD SWANTON from Deranged. Cheech goes for a dive but gets back dropped over the ropes instead by DeVito. He breaks out a springboard headlock on Loc, who just dumps him with the Saito suplex. Springboard double stomp from Deranged, who goes right into the quebrada swinging DDT on Excess. Eddie takes Deranged to the top for FALLAWAY MOONSAULT! DeVito breaks that with a moonsault, as Cheech kicks Eddie to the floor. Excess flatliners Cheech then locks in a half crab Tarantula. Dunn breaks that with an elbow off the top, and the Ring Crew Express eliminate The Embassy after the electric chair senton on Excess. 05:37 was your time for the first fall.

It’s anything goes now, and the Carnage Crew come right in with trash cans to obliterate their old foes. On the floor Loc suplexes Dunn right through a can. The Angels take over on the RCE, giving Marcos a Doomsday Ace crusher for 2. Dunn gives Deranged a CUTTHROAT POWERBOMB! Assisted Shiranui on Cheech, and they go for the electric chair senton again. The Carnage Crew stop that and toss the Express to the floor. Cheech gets laid out with a garbage can on top of him…SPLASH MOUNTAIN NECKBREAKER ON DERANGED THROUGH THE CAN! You better believe Lacey’s Angels are eliminated at 08:09.

It’s down to the Carnage Crew and Dunn & Marcos for the tag straps. DeVito clotheslines Marcos, and gets 2 with a northern lights suplex. Loc hits an elbow off the second rope for another close call. DeVito slows it right down with a chinlock because he probably needs a rest by this point. Loc goes for another Saito suplex but Marcos counters with a sunset flip. After a pretty messy enziguri spot Marcos is finally able to make the tag to Dunn. He sails in with a top rope leg drop on Loc. He throws Marcos into a hurricanrana on DeVito, before they hit their trademark kick combo. Assisted Shiranui on Loc, ending with a splash on DeVito for 2. SECOND ROPE ELECTRIC CHAIR SENTON but DeVito puts Loc’s foot on the ropes. He plants Marcos with a side effect, but Dunn is able to block the Spike Piledriver. SPIKE PILEDRIVER on Dunn instead. The Carnage Crew retain at 13:36.

Rating – * –
A few good spots, but mostly a whole load of crap, with the final fall in particular being a real mess. I liked the concept of the Ultimate Endurance match, and the first two (World Title Classic and Glory By Honor 3) were really good, but the last two have been bad, so maybe it’s time to give this gimmick a rest. The UE format became nothing but an extended spot match, with so many guys in the ring at once it was almost too chaotic to function. It was a nice pay off to the Crew/RCE feud to have those guys as the last two in the ring, and I do like the concept of the Crew as champions – fat drunk brawlers pissing off the workrate fans with their mere presence. The problem is they need teams the standard of Whitmer and Jacobs to give them decent matches.

Backstage Shaun Price (who looks really ill) informs us that the cut on James Gibson’s head won’t close, and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to compete later.

Roderick Strong vs AJ Styles

The Hardy/Daniels match later is being billed as a “dream match”, but in my book I’d much rather put that description on this contest instead. These two have two of the most exciting and explosive movesets on the ROH roster, and it’ll be great to see Styles’ all impact style go up against Roderick’s devastating arsenal of backbreakers. As everyone keeps mentioning, Strong is on an incredible streak of matches right now, but is lacking in some big wins. Most recently he took World Champion CM Punk real close but couldn’t quite get the win. Now he faces arguably the top guy on the indy scene right now in AJ Styles, who is on a role since returning to the company, defeating both Petey Williams and Jimmy Rave. He’s still looking for vengeance on Rave and The Embassy though. Will his issues with those guys distract him from this match?

The initial lock-ups are intense, and almost entirely even. AJ looks to work a headlock, but Strong escapes by placing him on the top rope. Styles goes for his dropkick, Strong has it scored, so AJ simply backflips and hits a hurricanrana instead. He follows that with a spinebuster for 2. AJ looks for the Styles Clash but it’s way too early. Roderick goes to the apron and suplexes Styles onto the top rope. He tries to get back in the ring but Styles QUEBRADA’S onto him as he steps through the ropes. He finally does hit the dropkick which sends Strong all the way to the outside. PESCADO CONNECTS, leaving Roddy in real trouble as we pass 5 minutes. Styles jumps the barrier into the crowd, then comes back to ringside with a SPRINGBOARD FOREARM OFF THE RAIL! Onto the apron…WHERE STRONG HITS A BACKBREAKER! That was sick, and he follows up by booting Styles into the guardrail. The Messiah of the Backbreaker starts to go to work on the back, and does even more damage by countering a monkey flip into an overhead suplex. He locks on the leg full nelson and rolls it into a camel clutch, still softening AJ up. Styles looks to fire back but runs into an impressive dropkick from his opponent. AJ starts bridging out of pin attempts which seems to piss Roddy off.

They stand off in the middle of the ring trading strikes. Styles wins that battle with a jumping enzi and the Pele kick. Quebrada inverted DDT scores for 2. HEAD DROP back suplex nailed, and AJ follows that with a pumphandle gutbuster, but this time Strong is too close to the ropes. Discus lariat attempt…COUNTERED WITH A ROCK BOTTOM BACKBREAKER! CRADLE BACKBREAKER for 2! Strong looks for the half nelson, but opts to hit the double knee gutbuster instead. Styles has another big boot scouted and counters with a legsweep – both men are down again. Strong hits the boot second time of asking but it’s not enough. AJ escapes the powerbomb backbreaker and LEVELS Roderick with a lariat, but all the damage means he’s slow to cover. Inexplicably he decides to go for the Spiral Tap but gets caught on the top rope. He headbutts Strong down…SPIRAL TAP MISSES! STRONGHOLD LOCKED IN! AJ guts it out somehow and fights to the ropes. Strong looks for the half nelson again…INTO THE STYLES CLASH! WHAT A COUNTER! AJ wins at 16:38.

Rating – **** –
I enjoy AJ matches, but critics of him will probably not really like it so much. It’s really a classic AJ match, tons of awesome, innovative spots, lots of physicality, but some damn awful selling at times. Seriously, some of the stuff these guys did was unreal…like the half nelson backbreaker to Styles Clash finish for instance. But you just can’t rate this any higher with such glaring selling problems from AJ. Strong absolutely massacred his back, hitting all his trademark backbreakers, even coming up with a new way to hit one on the apron…and AJ just steamed ahead anyway with quebrada’s and Spiral Taps and the Pele kick. It’s a classic criticism of Styles and he really isn’t likely to change any time soon, so why spend time worrying about it. This is a great match…AJ Styles is a great wrestler. But he’ll be struggling to put on any 5* matches whilst he has such problems. It’s just awesome to see him back in ROH.

INTERMISSION – GMC reiterates that it’s unlikely Gibson will be able to compete later. He brings in Lacey’s Angels…and Lacey is pissed off at how much they’ve been losing. ‘Cheech screwed it up’ – Deranged. If they don’t start winning she’s going to make some personnel changes.

Samoa Joe vs Jimmy Rave – ROH Pure Title Match

Rave earned this shot by winning the four corner survival at Escape From New York, and will be looking to bring the Pure Title back to The Embassy for the first time since John Walters’ brief stint with the group at the start of the year. Joe has turned the fortunes of the Pure Title on it’s head with a string of awesome defences against Gibson, McGuiness, Cabana and Aries. Now he faces another stern test, not just in Jimmy, but also with the rest of The Embassy surrounding the ring. It’d be an interesting dimension added to the Styles/Rave feud if Jimmy can win the belt here, given that AJ won the Pure Title in it’s previous incarnation but had to be stripped of it due to his TNA commitments.

Rave tries to work the arm, but Joe is way too strong and just hurls him through the ropes to the floor. The Woodbridge fans absolutely hate Jimmy! He slaps Joe who comes back with E HONDA SLAPS and Rave dives to the floor to escape the abuse. Rave is literally hiding in the ropes to avoid wrestling Joe, and the second he ventures into the middle of the ring he eats a huge B*TCHSLAP. Joe rocks the challenger with the running knee in the corner, and that can only mean that it’s facewash time right afterwards. Rave takes a big running knee strike and goes down again. He tries to fight from the apron but Joe just superkicks him into the aisle. ELBOW SUICIDAAAAA! The Champ is in total control at this stage…OLE OLE KICK! He prepares for a second one, but Nana shoves Jade Chung into Joe’s path. Back in the ring Joe continues to obliterate Jimmy with the chop/kick combo into the knee drop. Now Nana starts yelling at the referee to try to help out his Crown Jewel…who finally mounts some offence with a low blow. That gets followed up with a northern lariat…and he pulls out a bootlace as the ref is still occupied. In shades of the CM Punk feud, he starts choking him with the lace and acting like it’s a sleeper. Joe has no choice but to use his first break here.

Now Rave drags the referee about as Prince Nana starts choking Joe. Rave goes back to using the shoelace chinlock, but Joe fights free…CHOKE! Rave bites the hand to free himself and neckbreakers the Champ for 2. Bootlace sleeper again and Joe has to be fading fast. Joe finally gets free and fires back with closed fist strikes…and the ref has no choice but to issue a warning. GHANAREA on Joe, who uses his second break to escape the pin. Finally the ref catches Rave using the shoelace, and Joe immediately fights back with a powerslam. STO SLAM for the challenger. He tries to escape at all costs but Joe grabs him and goes for the Musclebuster. CRAPPY WIZARD by Rave for 2. He calls for the Rave Clash, but can he even lift the Samoan for it? SATELLITE CROSSFACE INSTEAD! That was an awesome switch, and it forces Joe to use his final break. He looks for the Crappy Wizard for a second time but gets caught with a legsweep and a big senton. Rave goes for a northern lights but that just isn’t happening. Joe decimates him with kicks and a HASHIMOTO DDT! Rave uses his first break at last to stop the fall. He again goes for the Rave Clash, but Joe shunts him to the top. RUNNING MUSCLEBUSTER and Rave is done at 17:31.

Rating – *** –
Like Styles/Strong it was hardly a technical masterpiece, but it was undeniably a blast, as Joe’s awesome Pure Title reign continues. This was literally JUST the match you wanted to see from these guys. Joe absolutely destroying Rave, who finally achieved dominance in the back using a number of underhanded tactics. Seriously, nobody is more over as a heel in the company than Jimmy Rave right now, and in 2005 nobody has deserved that heat more. He’s become an awesome slimy bastard that you just have to hate, and seems to be turning endless good performances right now. It was nice to see the Hashimoto DDT slipped in there by Joe, after the NJPW legend and former Zero-ONE owner passed away recently.

Prince Nana gets on the stick once Joe has departed, and he blames Jade Chung for Rave’s loss. He sends her to the floor to fulfill footstool duties. She seems to be a little unwilling…but the lights go out before Nana can teach her a lesson. IT’S MATT HARDY! The Embassy run away in a heartbeat. Matt gets the stick and rips on Johnny Ace for liking ‘300lbs muscleheads’. He leads an ‘ROH’ chant…but isn’t here to talk about Edge or Lita. He’s here to wrestle…

Matt Hardy vs Christopher Daniels

Obviously this was a big deal at the time. Matt was released by the WWE he posted stuff on his website about Edge and Lita’s affair. However, by this point he’d re-signed with Vince, and had already made his return to RAW (where he put over ROH incidentally). He’s obviously not going to be in ROH long term, but lets see if he can hang with real wrestlers in real matches before heading back to the land of the giants to work the “WWE style” for as long as he wants. This should be interesting. This is actually a rematch from the 1998 ECWA Super 8 for those that are interested.

Duelling ‘Fallen Angel’ and ‘Lets Go Hardy’ chants at the bell. Daniels scores the first knockdown with a jumping heel kick. Matt armbars Daniels, and sidesteps a second heel kick attempt before Oklahoma rolling him for 2. To the mat where Daniels works an armbar of his own. He goes for Angel’s Wings but Hardy back drops out. Twist of Fate countered by the Fallen Angel before he takes Matt to the corner to shoulder the ribs. Flatliner on Hardy, into the Koji Clutch, but he’s too close to the ropes and it’s not on for long. Daniels goes for an abdominal stretch, and when Hardy counters into one of his own Daniels hiptosses him over the ropes to the floor. ARABIAN PRESS FROM DANIELS! But he misses a slingshot elbow drop on the way back in and Matt drops a leg for 2. Side Effect on the Fallen Angel, who again kicks out. He chops away on Daniels and palm strikes him in the side of the head. The action is slowed with a cravat, with Hardy working the neck to prepare for the Twist of Fate. He takes Daniels’ head off with a clothesline for yet another nearfall. Daniels goes to the second rope, but gets pulled off with a splash mountain powerbomb. He throws Hardy to the outside again just to catch a breather. Matt sleepers him over the top rope, but eats a guillotine and a stepping enziguri…both men are down.

The pace quickens and Daniels takes his opponent down with a running STO. He wipes Hardy out again with a blue thunder driver for 2. Again he goes to the ropes, but gets caught again. Superplex from Hardy for 2. To the ropes again…another superplex. Still that won’t finish it…ANOTHER SUPERPLEX! One more time? A FOURTH SUPERPLEX CONNECTS! But that has worn Matt out as well, and both men need time to recover. They trade big rights, with Matt flooring Daniels with a discus punch. He climbs the ropes, and it’s his turn to be caught out. Daniels drags him off with a sidewalk slam off the second rope. He tries it for a second time…HARDY MISSES A MOONSAULT! BEST MOONSAULT EVER SCORES! Hardy kicks out at 2. Daniels goes for a Lionsault but Hardy gets the knees up. Running clothesline takes Daniels down for 2. Suplex attempt blocked and Matt gets rocked with a DVD. CM Punk is at ringside…RIGHT HAND ON ALLISON DANGER! Daniels blocks the Twist of Fate, and the referee gets knocked down. PUNK SMACKS DANIELS WITH THE CHAIN! TWIST OF FATE…FOR 2! ANOTHER TWIST OF FATE! Hardy locks in a front double underhook and Daniels is out at 20:15.

Rating – ****
– If this match happened in the WWE people would have loved it. It wasn’t an ROH match in the slightest, but it was as compelling a “sports entertainment” style back and forth contest as you’ll see this year. Both guys continually one-upped each other, dishing out bigger and bigger moves and going for constant pins as they attempted to get the win. The sports-entertainment nature of this match was really compounded by the conclusion with the ref bump, Punk run-in and such. I’d rather Hardy had won it with the second Twist of Fate rather than that submission, but it’s no biggy.

CM Punk proclaims that to be the main event since James Gibson is unable to compete…and that Matt Hardy just knocked Daniels out of title contention. He tries to leave with the belt again…but Gibson’s music plays. Referee’s try to stop him…but Gibson is on his way to the ring anyway!

CM Punk vs James Gibson – ROH World Title Match

We all know James Gibson is desperate to wear ROH gold. He lost twice to Austin Aries, he couldn’t beat Joe for the Pure Title and we’ve seen him get more and more frustrated as the losing streak he’s in the midst of continues. However, he has refused to sit back and allow CM Punk to disgrace the World Title and take it to the WWE with him. His win/loss record might be awful recently, but it’s now fallen onto his shoulders to stop Punk and his diabolical scheme. The hopes of the company rest on him…

Punk starts the fight in the aisle before the bell even rings, but this one does get underway and this is your main event. TOPE INTO THE FRONT ROW FROM GIBSON! His head is bandaged but he’s starting red hot, chopping at Punk right in front of the fans and hurling him into the guardrails. Back inside he hits a top rope crossbody for 2. Punk blocks the Tigerbomb and drives him head-first into the turnbuckles. The metal bolt is exposed, but Gibson counters and launches him shoulder-first into the ringpost. Gibson works the arm right away, smacking Punk in the shoulder then grounding him with a bridging hammerlock. Blood is starting to flow down his head, but he cranks on an armbar regardless. Punk backbreakers free but runs into an armdrag and goes right back down. Jamie hammerlocks the arm in the ropes, which is illegal but does still more damage. Hammerlock back suplex on Punk, who has a pretty bad cut on his back it seems. He tries to throw Jamie to the floor, but he skins the cat back in…right into a clothesline over the ropes again. The champion starts hammering on Gibson’s wounded head as this bloody World Title match continues. He looks for a springboard crossbody…FUJIWARA ARMBAR! Punk scrambles to the ropes but he’s definitely in trouble. He hotshots Gibson over the top rope but needs time to recover before looking to capitalise. Backbreaker on the challenger, then a dropkick to the head, but he’s continuing to nurse the arm. Blood is pouring down Gibson’s head as he hangs off the edge of the apron. Outside Punk drives him into a chair to spill yet more claret. Gibson tries to come back, but misses a dropkick and lands on the back of his head, damaging his neck and back, which Punk has been targetting through the match.

Neckbreaker on the challenger for 2, and now he opts to wear him out with a chinlock…using the ropes along the way. Again Gibson tries to get some momentum going but this time runs into a bearhug. Still he won’t quit but Punk blocks a Texas cloverleaf by kicking the head. Again the fight spills to the floor and still Gibson refuses to die. They go to the apron…GIBSON WITH A DDT! Both guys are on their mess, and drop to their knees to keep fighting. Jamie unleashes his swinging neckbreaker for 2. To the second rope he goes to score with a guillotine leg drop. Punk blocks the Tigerbomb again so Jamie knees him in the side of the head. A bridging German suplex keeps him down for 2. Punk fires back with the mule kick and enzi to the neck. Gibson ducks the Pepsi Twist…into a dragon sleeper. SHINING WIZARD by the World Champion. He applies the Anaconda Vice but Jamie is already right in the ropes. Punk showers him with kicks AS GIBSON HULKS UP! PEPSI TWIST NO SOLD…TIGERBOOOOMB! PUNK KICKS OUT AT 2! He takes Punk to the top rope to try it again, but quickly has to block the Pepsi Plunge. MOONSAULT PRESS…FOR 2! TRAILER HITCH IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING! TAP YOU B*TCH! Punk manages to drive Gibson into the ropes and escape. TRAILER HITCH AGAIN! This time Punk is grounded, but again he powers up. BRAINBUSTER COUNTER! ANACONDA VICE LOCKED IN! BUT GIBSON FIGHTS TO HIS FEET! MEXICAN ROLL-UP USING THE ROPES! PUNK HAS CHEATED GIBSON OUT OF HIS DREAM! This won is over at 27:45. Punk is leaving with the belt!

Rating – ****1/2 –
I’m not sure how many people agree with me on this, but I thought that was utterly fantastic, and one of the best World Title matches of 2005. The bloodshed, the violence, incredible moves. The nearfalls at the end were just unreal, and the whole match just had a sense of epic about it. I really can’t put this over enough. Tremendous psychology from Punk again, as he worked the neck and bloody head all match to set up for the Anaconda Vice. Had the early arm work by Gibson actually gone somewhere you’d seriously have been looking at an extra ½ star, this was honestly that good. One of my favourite matches of the year. I can’t believe it hasn’t got more hype to be honest.

Punk gloats about how he’s now leaving with the gold…but Chris Daniels runs out to brawl with him. Daniels smacks Punk in the face with the belt and leaves him in a heap. ‘Take the belt’ – Woodbridge. Daniels obliges them, and says if Punk wants it back then he has to defend it against him in Philadelphia.

SSP is with Nigel McGuiness, and informs him of Colt’s departure to the UK. Nigel doesn’t really care, he’ll just beat him again when he comes back.

Christopher Daniels is backstage now. He cuts an awesome promo pretty much summing up his issue with Punk. He wants to know why Punk targetted him in the first place – he’s hardly Raven after all. He decides it’s jealousy. That makes sense. He wanted to be the top faction in ROH like The Prophecy were. He wants to be the wrestler that Daniels is. He even dressed up like Chris Daniels at the Second Anniversary Show. He vows to finally kick Punk out of ROH, and take his title for real…

Tape Rating – *** –
As a wrestling show, this actually wasn’t as good as Escape From New York. EFNY flowed better, was more diverse and so on. Meanwhile half of this card is pretty much throwaway stuff. All four of the first matches were completely forgettable stuff, with the Ultimate Endurance match even being actively bad. But then again, unlike either show from last weekend, this one has THREE 4*+ matches, and you just can’t argue with that. Joe/Rave, Styles/Strong and Hardy/Daniels are great…plus you get a MOTYC in Punk/Gibson. I think it’s fair to say this show has earned it’s recommendation regardless of how forgettable the first hour and a bit might have been. People may think I’ve overrated Styles/Strong, Daniels/Hardy or even Punk/Gibson…but I think everyone can agree they’re good matches and worth seeing. Get this show people!

Top 3 Matches

3) Matt Hardy vs Christopher Daniels (****)

2) AJ Styles vs Roderick Strong (****)

1) CM Punk vs James Gibson (****1/2)

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