ROH 82 – Enter The Dragon – 14th October 2005
Welcome to an incredibly sleep-deprived ROH review. Bryan Danielson won the World Title from James Gibson at Glory By Honor 4, and we haven’t seen him since due to other commitments. In that time a new contender for his belt has emerged (Roderick Strong at Survival Of The Fittest) and we had the spectacular Kobashi weekend. It’s back to business as usual, and it’s a fitting point for the new champ to make his arrival. He has a big weekend ahead with defences slated against Austin Aries and Steve Corino. Tonight’s card has a lot of other decent looking stuff too, but I can’t be bothered to go into too much detail. We’re debuting in a new market with this event, so lets head over to Cleveland, OH. Dave Prazak, Lenny Leonard and Jimmy Bower await us.
Dave Prazak is in the ring as it happens, and he brings out Bryan Danielson right off the bat. I really like the look of the venue by the way. Dragon thanks all the ROH Champions of the past for making his belt so special, and upon the mention of his name, Austin Aries comes out as well. He says he’s going to end the shortest reign in ROH history – just like he ended the longest. Danielson repeats what he said at Glory By Honor – the belt represents wrestling freedom and he treasures that.
Steve Corino walks in confused as to what’s going on. He thinks he has his world title shot tonight…but Colt Cabana informs him he has a tag match. Corino thinks it’s him and Punk against Lethal and Joe (the original Back To Basics main event lol). He gets pissed off when Colt tells him he’s wrestling Homicide and Low Ki. Funny stuff…
Claudio Castagnoli vs Nigel McGuiness
The Pure Title isn’t on the line tonight since Claudio is a newcomer, and Nigel is concentrating on his big title defence tomorrow night against Samoa Joe. These two are actually developing a little rivalry at the moment. McGuiness beat Castagnoli on debut in July, and they had some heated exchanges in a four corner match at Unforgettable. Claudio already has one big upset under his belt – beating Colt Cabana at Joe vs Kobashi – another one here would see him move into title contention.
Swanky new tights for Castagnoli make him look even more ridiculous/awesome. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict these two will start with a nice series of chain-wrestling exchanges. Castagnoli handstands out of a headlock then fakes Nigel out of a handshake. The Pure Champion has had enough and goes for headbutts to the stomach, then slaps him in the face. Claudio low-bridges McGuiness and fakes him out on a dive, since Nigel is expecting the diving uppercut tope. McGuiness headstands in the corner to allow him to hit a double boot to the chest. He scores with a running European uppercut in the corner, and follows that with another to the back of the head for 2. Focusing on the arm now, Nigel grounds Castagnoli with a hammerlock. Duelling European uppercuts leave both men reeling, but eventually Claudio hits an uppercut flurry to floor McGuiness. UPPERCUT TOPE SCORES! Back inside he hits a rolling version of the European uppercut as well. TOWER OF LONDON…but Claudio gets his arm on the rope. Nigel punts him right in the spine in a tree of woe position. Headstand again, but Claudio counters McGuiness’s DDT attempt with ANOTHER uppercut! Nigel uses the ref as a distraction but it doesn’t work and Castagnoli backslides for 3 at 09:49. It’s another big win for Double C!
Rating – *** – Really solid opener as they say. McGuiness kept enough of his heel stuff from Pure Title matches here whilst still giving a great rub to Castagnoli, who is a surprisingly good babyface to play off him. The chain-wrestling between these two is a joy to behold, and the way they one-upped each other with European uppercuts was fun in the middle portion of the match. You feel they have even better in them with a bigger time allocation.
Dave Prazak is backstage now and he walks in on argument between Corino and Cabana. Steve really isn’t happy about wrestling Homicide again, and isn’t stoked about Low Ki either.
Ricky Reyes vs Matt Stryker
Poor Stryker. He won the Field Of Honor in 2003. He was Gabe’s project…he got pushed down our throats and never quite delivered. Now he’s reduced to being just another victim for Ricky Reyes, who’s in the midst of a minor push at the moment. He massacred some students over the Kobashi weekend to get some momentum going and will want to keep it going now. Stryker looks like he just rolled out of bed.
Reyes flies out of the blocks and fires off a stiff kick. Stryker comes back with some strikes of his own, then blocks Reyes’ dragon sleeper. He hits the DVD for 2. He chopblocks the knee then dragon screws Ricky into the Strykerlock but he’s too near to the ropes. Reyes with more stiffness and he slaps on the dragon sleeper to choke Matt out at 02:14.
Rating – * – Stryker looks like crap, but this was as good a squash as it gets really. He worked the leg before the Strykerlock, then get choked out like a b*tch to continue the Reyes push. It was a logical step to have this match. Ricky pounded students into oblivion at the last shows, and by beating the former FOH winner in similarly rapid time, he proves he’s for real and can do more than just bully students. His new dragon sleeper choke thing is bad ass.
Jade Chung talks about her freedom, and laughs about how she cost Jimmy Rave the win last show. She promises to interfere in The Embassy’s business for all the disrespect they showed her. Another good promo from her…
Tony Mamaluke/Sal Rinauro vs Lacey’s Angels – ROH Tag Title Match
It’s the new Angels of BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs getting their rematch. Mamaluke and Rinauro shocked everyone by winning the belts from BJ and Jimmy in New York. Now they have to prove it wasn’t a fluke and beat the former champs again. Meanwhile, they’ll be looking to make quite the impression in their first match under the guidance of Lacey.
The smaller guys start and Rinauro scores with a couple of armdrags. Jacobs acts all heelish and gets atomic dropped out of the ring as punishment. BJ tries to interfere and he gets a couple of atomic drops too. The champs botch a double dropkick as it all breaks down. Mamaluke comes in with much seriousness and headbutts Whitmer. Jacobs gets caught in the ring as Mamaluke and Rinauro bicker over who is actually going to work him over. Nice hammerlock back suplex by Tony, then a series of kicks to the shoulder. BJ gets sent through the ropes with a headscissors, and Mamaluke dives under the bottom rope into a front choke. CANNON BALL SENTON BY RINAURO ON JACOBS! WHITMER SPEARS MAMALUKE INTO THE RAILS! Mamaluke has his neck and back worked on by Whitmer and Jacobs after that. Double team offensive flurry ends with the powerbomb senton from the challengers. Jimmy goes upstairs but Mamaluke gets the knees up to block the senton bomb. Hot tag to Sal who gets a nice rana on Whitmer for 2. He scores with a suplex side effect as well and Jacobs has to break the pin. Second rope suplex on Jacobs into a frog splash from Mamaluke. Tony triangle chokes Whitmer…JACOBS BREAKS IT WITH THE SENTON BOMB! Rinauro hits the springboard corkscrew enzi on Jacobs. BJ gives Mamaluke an exploder suplex then climbs the ropes himself. Sal tree of woes him for a Poetry In Motion basement dropkick. They give Whitmer a powerbomb/Russian legsweep combo to win at 13:04.
Rating – * – I really hated that. It was sloppy, had a bunch of stuff that either went nowhere or was completely no-sold and the hot streak at the end was completely ruined by constant confusion over who the legal man was. There were some cool spots, and Whitmer’s performance was great (especially playing off the intensity of Tony Mamaluke) but the first match was miles better. Seriously…why’d they take the belts off Whitmer and Jacobs again?
Jim Cornette isn’t on the show tonight but cuts a promo from his office. He addresses the lacklustre tag team division since he loves tag wrestling so much. He promises it’ll be more of a focus from now on. To that end we’ve got a big tag match tonight – Rave/Shelley vs Joe/Lethal – as well as two other tags on the card.
Roderick Strong vs Jimmy Yang
Jimmy had an impressive debut weekend, certainly catching my eye with his efforts against James Gibson and Chris Daniels. But he lost both those matches and is back tonight looking for a win. Roderick Strong is off his best showing of 2005 (and that’s saying something) in his MOYTC with Gibson and Unforgettable. He also beat Jimmy Rave in NYC too, so it was quite a weekend for him as he prepares for his ROH Title shot on October 29th for winning SOTF. It’s really noticeable that Strong is getting himself into better shape by the way…
Yang starts well with an armdrag, then he rides Strong on the mat to make a point. He hits the Sayama kick in the corner…but he gets caught with a DROPKICK TO THE SPINE when he misses a rolling heel kick. PESCADO by Strong, then a flurry of chops on the floor. In the ring Roddy delivers a couple of rolling backbreakers for 2. Chinlock applied with the knee right in Yang’s spine to cool off after three minutes of wild action. Strong goes for a springboard elbow but Jimmy counters with a spinning kick. He follows up with the hanging headscissors, then a springboard dropkick that gets 2. To the floor where Yang slings Rod into the barriers with much velocity. Strong with a jumping heel kick…Yang hits back with a superkick. Russian legsweep into a royal octopus that works the arm and the neck – both of which Jimmy has focused on. He makes the mistake of pissing Strong off with a disrespectful slap though, and Roddy goes mental with chops. Jimmy tries to fly but Strong crotches him then delivers a couple of basement boots. Yang sidesteps Roderick’s running boot and POUNDS him with a spinning heel kick. Strong tries to block Yang Time…STANDING YANG TIME ANYWAY for 2! REGULAR YANG TIME MISSES! CRADLE BACKBREAKER! HALF NELSON BACKBREAKER! PUMPHANDLE DRIVER! That’s a hell of a flurry, and Strong wins in 11:02.
Rating – *** – Jimmy Yang is awesome people. That was a great match, just delivering all-out, non-stop action for 10 pulsating minutes. It was another step in the evolution of Roderick Strong as he showed he could take his trademark style and make it work both in lengthy, hard-fought matches with the likes of James Gibson, and in 10 minute X-Division-esque sprints like this. I don’t understand why TNA don’t bring Yang back (he used to be part of the Flying Elvis’ way back). He’d be a perfect fit there. As is, this is his last ROH appearance of 2005. He’ll be back next year though…
Colt Cabana/Steve Corino vs Homicide/Low Ki
Julius Smokes told Cabana at Unforgettable that he was getting a free pass since Homicide was concentrating on the big Kobashi tag he was in. With that over, it’s back to business, and he’s out for retribution after Colt disrespected him with a rap in his hometown. Cabana told us at Glory By Honor he was bringing back Cide’s old nemesis Corino in to help in his war with the Rottweilers…hence this tag. Corino is playing mindgames, coming out in CM Punk attire. His intro lists all the careers the WWE has ruined, and he leads a 5-bell salute to Punk’s career (since Vince probably owns the 10-bell version). This is Corino’s first ROH show since the Trios Tournament.
Corino and Homicide look set to start, and their feud is so much more over than Homicide/Cabana. In the end Colt starts with Low Ki though. He is tentative but eventually Ki catches him and slaps on a hanging armbreaker. Cabana tries for a hanging armbreaker of his own but ends up falling over the top rope. Ki doesn’t give Colt a clean break, not that you’d expect him to. Homicide/Corino in, but the Notorious 187 takes his time getting involved. The heat between them is obvious as they scrap into the ropes. Cabana wants at Homicide and they roll into the ropes in similar fashion. Steve in again, and he targets Homicide’s ear, looking for some payback from Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies. Swinging DDT off the second rope by Cide sends Corino to the floor. Low Ki beats on him out there whilst Homicide brawls with Colt in the ring. Ki tags in legally now and peppers Corino with kicks before double stomping his head for 2. On the floor again and Homicide smacks CM Gut in the head with a chair. Everyone brawls in the ring as tempers flare, with the Rottweilers eventually hitting Corino with a double boot in the corner.
Homicide hits Corino so disgustingly hard I cringe, but the he fires right back with a brainbuster. Second rope Ace crusher by Cide for 2. Corino blocks the Lariat and hits an Ace crusher of his own. Tags on both sides and Cabana cleans house. He can-can’s with the Rottweilers then flattens both of them with a quebrada press. LARIAT on Ki for 2. He goes for a super Colt 45 but Homicide cuts him off. TREE OF WOE DOUBLE STOMP! Corino breaks the pin so Ki DOUBLE STOMPS him as well! LARIATOOOOO by Homicide. Cabana blocks a Lariat attempt on him with a rana. Corino tags Colt out so he can go at it with Cide again – drilling him with a northern lights bomb. BLACK MAGIC from Low Ki to break the pin. Homicide STF’s Corino which goes right back to their feud in 2003. Ki and Cabana trade strikes…GHETTO STOMP IN THE ROPES! Corino hits another northern lights bomb on Homicide and wins at 25:04…but only because Cabana shoved Homicide’s foot off the ropes.
Rating – ** – At times I honestly thought it would never end. I’m torn on how to rate this. On the one hand, the storyline was perfect. There were so many feuds going on in this match (and Low Ki who’s just bad-tempered anyway) that it was only right that it’d be nothing more than an ugly, ugly fight. That was good…but my god it was so painfully slow. 25 minutes of this – are you kidding me? Unnecessarily long, especially with the storyline they were going for. The finish was at least intelligent, with Corino getting a big win before his title shot, and Cabana stoking the fires of his feud by costing Homicide a win against his most-hated enemy.
INTERMISSION – Prazak is all over this show. He’s interviewing Nigel McGuiness now. The Pure Champion says he only lost to Double C because it wasn’t a Pure rules match. Tomorrow night he’ll retain his belt against Joe because he’s the best there is, the best there was…lets go to the second half.
It should be a students tag match with Davey Andrews and Shane Hagadorn of the first class taking on Derek Dempsey and Pelle Primeau of the second class…but Abyss comes out and kills them all. Davey does at least get a spear in on Prince Nana, but it’s all academic – Black Hole Slam for him.
Abyss vs Jack Evans
This is somewhat mean. The Embassy suffered two losses at the Kobashi weekend, as Jimmy Rave went down to both Rod Strong and Matt Sydal. Tonight he brings the group’s hired weapon back to put a beating on poor Jack in this David vs Goliath style contest. Jade Chung is in Evans’ corner.
Jack tries to hit and run…but can’t take Abyss down. He finally does drop the big man with a wheelbarrow bulldog but he pops right back up and wipes Evans out with a big boot. He tries to elbow drop a chair onto Jack, who uses it to crotch the big man. SPRINGBOARD CORKSCREW MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Abyss blocks a handspring elbow and nails the torture wrack backbreaker. BLACK HOLE SLAM…and we’re done at 02:32.
Rating – * – Is this night of the entertaining squash? Exactly what this should’ve been. Evans got enough offence in to stay credible before Abyss murdered him – keeping him over as ROH’s resident monster, and giving The Embassy some much-needed steam after a bad Kobashi weekend.
Jade Chung tries to protect Evans from further damage so Nana sicks Abyss on her. Roderick Strong comes out with a chair to make the save. HALF NELSON BACKBREAKER on Nana!
Jimmy Rave/Alex Shelley vs Samoa Joe/Jay Lethal
There’s no issue here, it’s just new Commissioner Jim Cornette putting two teams of big players in ROH together to help re-establish the tag team scene. Obviously Rave and Shelley cannot afford to be preoccupied with their feud with Generation Next here. Tomorrow night it’s an Embassy/GeNext No DQ 6-man as we continue towards Steel Cage Warfare in early December. Will Joe and Lethal take advantage of that distraction to pick up the win here? No Nana at ringside after the last segment…
Shelley uses some of the toilet paper that gets hurled at Rave to stuff his pants. How have more people not commented on that? Lethal tries to chain wrestle with him which probably isn’t the smartest idea ever. In the end he fakes on a handshake to stiff Jay…who responds by tagging Joe in. Rave and Shelley argue over who has to take the inevitable beating. In the end it’s Alex who gets floored with a jumping knee strike. Dave Prazak is doing hilarious Nana impressions. Joe with bootscrapes and a running facewash on Rave. Lethal tags and holds Jimmy in position for a running boot for 2. Rave runs away and tags Shelley who works the heel offence. Russian legsweeps from the Embassy duo, before Shelley uses one of his Toryumon-inspired submissions to work the neck. He guillotines Lethal into a sit-out facebuster by Rave. Figure 4 headscissors applied next, rolled into the Skullf*ck. He throws the toilet paper at Lethal who gets pissed off but his comeback is smothered quickly. Double clubbering by Rave and Shelley gets 2. Jay tries another fight but Rave stops him with a clothesline to the neck. Masterlock applied (‘how hard can it be to break a full nelson? – Prazak) and the fans start getting behind Lethal now. Finally his moment comes and after laying out both Embassy members he gets the hot tag. Jimmy Rave is singled out by Joe for an absolute flurry of offence which only ends when Shelley dropkicks the Samoan to break an STF. GHANAREA to counter knee strikes though! CRAPPY WIZARD for 2! Spear/running neckbreaker combo by Rave and Shelley for 2. Lethal tags back and DIVING HEADBUTTS Shelley. To his credit he does pause to fit in some selling. Shelley drops him on his head with an Air Raid Crash into the Border City Stretch which Joe breaks. SPRINGBOARD DDT by Lethal who then tags out. Shelley goes for a tornado DDT but Jay stops him. DRAGON SUPLEX ON RAVE! MUSCLEBUSTER ON SHELLEY! That’s it at 20:02.
Rating – **** – The crowd was pretty dead unfortunately (aside from the usual ROH lets make funny comments smarks) but that there was some good tag team wrestling. Rave and Shelley are an awesome heel combination – kinda like Rave/Eddie from earlier in 2005, only Alex is miles better than the blind guy. They’re focused work on Lethal’s neck added extra punch to the standard isolation formula. It could’ve done with more of a finish (once Lethal made the inevitable hot tag it was a bit of a Joe offence exhibition) and Jay forgot about the neck to a degree. But still, it was a fun 20 minutes.
Bryan Danielson vs Austin Aries – ROH World Title Match
This shouldn’t need much build-up as these two have a storied rivalry going back to 2004. Aries’ big coming out party was Survival Of The Fittest 2004…against American Dragon. Later they’d go on to have their epic 75 minute 2/3 Falls match which has been largely forgotten about despite being amazing. Aries forced AmDrag to quit ROH (and break the Code Of Honor) back in May after retaining his World Title in another stellar match at Nowhere To Run. This is the first time he’s wrestled for the title since losing it to CM Punk at this year’s Death Before Dishonor. And he’s back using ‘Personal Jesus’ as his entrance music thank god.
The initial mat trade-off is great as they both try to one-up each other’s counters, ending with duelling nip-ups. After proving they can both bridge impressively Danielson establishes his first advantage with a monkey flip then going after the neck. Aries blocks a piledriver so AmDrag counters in an instant with a backslide for 2. Goku Raku on the challenger who has to use the ropes, only to eat a dropkick from Danielson. Austin has had enough of getting schooled and tries to slow it down with a headlock…of course Dragon has a counter to that too. Aries goes to dropkick out of the grounded headscissors like he always does but Dragon has a counter by driving him head-first into the canvas. Eventually Aries is too quick though and does hit that dropkick. Danielson goes to the arm now, setting up for both his submission finishers. Armbreakers score and he follows it with a back suplex. Now the champ gets nasty in the ropes, pulling on Austin’s nostrils then double booting him right at the top of the back for 2. CATTLE MUTILATION but it’s far too early and Aries can get to the ropes. Bridging butterfly suplex gets 2, and it’s another move that works all the weaknesses he’s opened up. Leonard also points out that Aries is left-handed, so Danielson is taking his striking power away too. Aries finally manages to elbow out of a hammerlock and hit a NECK DROP back suplex. He starts to use his rapid offensive style to bring himself back into the match, then goes after the neck with a chinlock.
Sidewalk slam for 2. Inverted Finlay roll…then a frog splash to the back. FISH HOOK CROSSFACE! Dragon Tiger Mask’s out of the corner into a corkscrew enziguri and both men go down. The champion relentlessly kicks Aries in the stomach then scores with a gutwrench suplex. Aries misses a missile dropkick and gets put into the Mexican surfboard. The judo DDT finds the mark BUT ARIES GETS THE KNEES UP on his diving headbutt attempt. Austin legsweeps Danielson into the buckles then hits the RUNNING DROPKICK for 2. Rings of Saturn applied, a hold he hasn’t really used since 2004. To the top rope…BACK SUPERPLEX BY DANIELSON! CATTLE MUTILATION AGAIN! Aries still isn’t tapping so he switches to the CM pin that won him a fall in the 2/3 falls match for 2. Airplane spin…COUNTERED WITH THE CRUCIFIX DRIVER! But he’s still disorientated and can’t follow up right away. Dragon counters the brainbuster but nearly gets rolled up. Aries with forearms but his arm is still hurting him. AmDrag is trying to block the brainbuster with knee strikes – AUSTIN DOES IT ANYWAY! Danielson avoids the 450 Splash and JAPANESE ARMDRAGS ARIES INTO THE BUCKLES! CATTLE MUTILATION…TIGER SUPLEX…CROSSFACE CHICKENWING! ARIES TAPS at 30:23.
Rating – ****1/2 – A stunning mat-based encounter with so much depth it seriously almost rivals Danielson/Gibson, or their 2/3 Falls match. In fact, with a hotter crowd it may well have done. Completely different from their match in May, where Danielson (fresh from his Homicide feud) was more aggressive, and the match took on more of a puro who’s more of a man style contest. This was all about a rejuvenated Danielson establishing a dominance on the mat and Aries having to bust his ass and hit his fiery offensive flurries to stay with him. Tremendous psychology as well from both guys too. Dragon’s working of the arm and neck was brilliant – and the Japanese armdrag into the buckles to set up for the finish was unreal. Aries knows his big finish is the brainbuster and he focused on the neck, but wasn’t able to do enough damage in big flurries. My real criticism of this would be that in all three of their previous matches, Aries has been hyped to the moon as someone that can hang with AmDrag in wrestling matches. He put up an incredible fight at Survival Of The Fittest…managed to hang with him in a wrestling clinic at Testing The Limit then managed to combine the two and beat him again in the Nowhere To Run match. Here Dragon dismantled him and he was reduced to a sheer battle for survival. It was a perfect match to establish Bryan Danielson in his first defence as champion…but in the context of the rivalry and Aries’ career, it seemed a little harmful. That’s why it wasn’t pushing for the extra half star. It’s still a wrestling masterclass by the ROH Champion though.
Steve Corino gets more air-time. He b*tches at everyone you can think of. Homicide, Low Ki, Colt Cabana…ROH. He’s pissed off they booked him as a babyface when he’s at his best when he’s an unpredictable, uncontrollable heel. He says he needs the ROH Title to control Ring Of Honor. If you hate Corino’s business-exposing promo’s then you won’t like it. I thought this was a welcome return to the intense Steve Corino of 2003 ahead of his big match tomorrow night.
Tape Rating – *** – Honestly, this wasn’t too good a show until the last two matches. Granted McGuiness/Castagnoli and Strong/Yang were good, but they took up about 25 minutes between them. Aside from that there was the really bad tag title match, two squashes (well-done squashes, but squashes nonetheless) and the interminable Rottweilers-Cabana/Corino match which, whilst logical from a storyline point of view, was hard work sitting through. I don’t think the crowd helped too much either. It wasn’t a top night of action but they were pretty quiet throughout. I guess it’s natural in a new market – but I liked the new building so I hope Cleveland gets another shot. Thankfully the top-liners saved the day. Rave/Shelley-Joe/Lethal was a really well-done, nice and long, formula tag match, and the main event was a mat classic which is worth going out of your way to see. Some call Aries/Danielson 4 the best in their series. Some say it’s the worst…but either way it’s good. Personally I’d place it second, ahead of SOTF 2004 and Nowhere To Run…but the 2/3 Falls match is one of my favourite matches in company history. Basically Enter The Dragon is 50% good stuff, 50% not so good. If you can live with that then get it…
Top 3 Matches
3) Roderick Strong vs Jimmy Yang (***)
2) Samoa Joe/Jay Lethal vs Jimmy Rave/Alex Shelley (****)
1) Bryan Danielson vs Austin Aries (****1/2)