084 ROH This Means War 10/29/2005

ROH 84 – This Means War – 29th October 2005

Yay for ROH running a show on my birthday. Coming off two thoroughly decent shows in Cleveland and Buffalo that saw new World Champion Bryan Danielson burst onto the scene with two great main events, we now return to the Connecticut market. At the top of the card it’s American Dragon defending against Roderick Strong, who cashes in his title shot for winning Survival Of The Fittest. Can Roddy continue his incredible emergence in 2005 by taking the belt? Elsewhere we have Styles/Aries in a potential dream match, Jay Lethal against Chris Daniels and a continuation of the Homicide/Cabana feud as the Rottweilers bring in B-Boy as their newest recruit to face Cabana. Ebessan is back (with another new name – Kikutaro), there’s debuts for Nosawa, Kid Mikaze and Jason Blade and a promising technical opener with Double C taking on Alex Shelley. It’s not the most explosive of cards ROH has ever lined up, but looks can be deceiving and there’s certainly potential. We’re in Woodbridge, CT with your hosts Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.

Jade Chung thanks Roderick Strong for giving her the strength to leave Prince Nana. Roddy says that although he’s got his eyes on Steel Cage Warfare, tonight it’s all about him and Dragon.

Nigel McGuiness invades the ring before the match and says that if Claudio doesn’t lose this match he’ll give him a Pure Title shot.

Claudio Castagnoli vs Alex Shelley

Both these two have been tremendous recently. Shelley is one of ROH’s most under-valued performers in 2005. His babyface run was unique and since joining The Embassy he’s kicked his game up again and put on credible performances is quite a few matches now. Castagnoli hasn’t been on the full-time roster for a month yet but he’s really shaken the midcard up. His feud with Nigel McGuiness is brewing (and it’s good to see a proper feud for the Pure Title), he’s strung a few wins together and is really over with the crowd. All this makes for an interesting match to kick off the show.

Lots of intricate chain-wrestling to start because these two are some of ROH’s foremost mat technicians. Castagnoli seems to get the early advantage, but Shelley chimes in with a Devil Lock. He scores with a couple of lucha armdrags and locks in the Border City Stretch which sends Claudio to the ropes. Shelley rolls UP Castangoli to victory roll back down into a pendulum that gets countered into a bridging pin. Some of the counter-wrestling in display here is a real treat. Double C with an inverted figure 4 submission but Shelley counters with the highly technical spit ball to the face. As you’d expect Claudio isn’t thrilled with that and scores with a springboard reverse elbow. Weird horse collar submission applied on Shelley…apparently it’s called the Neutraliser. Alex acts like he wants to make friends again then kicks him in the leg. MONKEY FLIP TO THE FLOOR! Shelley follows it with a SPRINGBOARD PLANCHA DDT! Did I just see that? In the ring again and Alex decides it’s time for the Skullf*ck. Lionsault nailed and gets a 2 count. He wants Shellshock but Castagnoli is a big guy and he’s able to block with a European uppercut. DIVING uppercut to the neck next. Shelley gets hung in the ropes and Claudio rolls to the floor for another Euro uppercut from that position. Wheelbarrow bulldog from Shelley and both men stay down. Castagnoli blocks the Air Raid Crash and hits the Match Killer (swinging X-Factor) for 2. Stalling vertical suplex by the Most Money Making Man! SATELLITE HEADSCISSORS INTO THE BORDER CITY STRETCH! COUNTERED TO THE NEUTRALISER! Shelley makes the ropes and as Claudio looks for the Riccola Bomb the bell rings. We’re at 20:00 and the time limit has expired. At least Claudio gets a title shot…

Rating – *** –
That rocked, and it was a match Castagnoli needed to have to prove he wasn’t just a spotty chain-wrestler with an over gimmick. With the help of the always-excellent Alex Shelley he took all his pseudo-comedy stuff from his previous matches, his excellent mat skills and a host of new high-impact moves to put on a good, lengthy match to truly show he belongs on the roster. I’ll admit that at times it felt more like a wrestling exhibition than a match, but a lot of the chaining was superb, and from the 10 minute mark (when Shelley made it personal by spitting) it was heaps of good sh*t. Hopefully we’ll see a rematch in the future…

Jade Chung runs in to slap Nana after the match, and Nigel jumps Claudio, busting him open with the iron in the process.

Azrieal/Davey Andrews vs Jason Blade/Kid Mikaze

Blade and Mikaze are a new team debuting tonight. I can’t tell you a whole lot about them so I’m not going to try. The crowd do think Kid M looks a whole lot like Rufio (from Hook) though. Azrieal’s unfortunate summer push thankfully seems to be over. Davey is still young and improves all the time, but his last showing against BJ Whitmer was pretty boring.

Andrews runs out of the corner and spears Mikaze at the bell. Azrieal scores with a springboard crossbody for 2. Corkscrew enzi from Kid and he tags out. Legsweep/enzi combo from the debuting team for 2. Az kicks lumps out of Blade’s spine then rolls through into the low dropkick. Andrews hits a slingshot dropkick to the neck. Rufio in again and the new guys with a double Japanese armdrag. Andrews peppers his opponents with slaps and chops Mikaze down with a fierce clothesline. He runs to the floor but Davey goes after him setting him up for a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA from Az! Blade and Kid take control though…AND MIKAZE SPRINGS OFF BLADE’S BACK INTO A PLANCHA! Blade nails rolling back suplexes on Azrieal but Andrews comes back to dish out knee strikes. Standing blockbuster by Kid M then Davey DUMPS him with a HEAD DROP GERMAN! Azrieal double stomp finishes off Rufio at 05:53.

Rating – * –
Nothing more than a brief showcase for the new talents. I’m not sure how good they are at longer matches but they’ve certainly got some impressive spots so, they’re probably worth a second look. Great showing by Davey Andrews – he looked really good abusing guys with less ROH experience than him with his strike-based offence. His “intensity” actually came off as intensity today, as opposed to…whatever the hell it normally looks like.

It’s time for Ricky Reyes to demolish a student. Mitch Franklin is the victim, and Reyes is OVER with this gimmick. He polishes this guy off with the dragon sleeper in just 22 seconds.

Bryan Danielson talks about Roderick Strong. He’s got a lot of hype, but he also works for TNA, who Dragon has deemed to be ‘corporate America’. He rambles on about how much he dislikes ‘corporate America’ and he’s keeping that belt’s independent spirit alive by keeping it tonight.

Nosawa vs Kikutaro vs BJ Whitmer vs Nigel McGuiness

Weird dichotomy of talent going on in this fourway. Kikutaro (TAFKA Ebessan) is best known for his comedic exploits. This is Nosawa’s ROH debut. I’ve seen him work a few different places such as TNA and MLW without ever really standing out. Whitmer just joined Lacey’s Angels of course, and is fresh off a win over Davey Andrews, whilst Nigel McGuiness is Pure Wrestling Champion and seems like an odd fit for the whole thing.

Ebessan and Nosawa start, and the comedy starts immediately as Eb takes on the role of referee between Nosawa and Todd Sinclair. He wants an arm-wrestling match but it’s all a fake so he can stamp on Nosawa’s back. Fast-paced cruiser stuff ending in a SHINING WIZARD from Nosawa. Whitmer in and he gets planted with a pumphandle facebuster. Nigel tags for a rematch of the Pure Title contest at Survival Of The Fittest. He headstands into a double boot on the Angel. Kikutaro wants at the Pure Champion and out-smarts enough to stamp his head. McGuiness doesn’t take that kindly and starts stiffing him with European uppercuts. Nosawa in with the masked oompa loompa and Ebessan repays the favour from earlier with a SHINING WIZARD! Moonsault misses…SHINING WIZARD DUEL! Tags to the big/serious wrestlers who exchange some real strikes. BJ counters the headstand with a running chop then gets 2 with a lariat. Ebessan/Whitmer with the Japanese competitor getting press slammed off the top rope Flair-style. Whitmer brainbusters Kikutaro but Nosawa breaks the pin. HEAD DROP EXPLODER…for 2! HEAD DROP WRIST CLUTCH! EBESSAN IS A DEAD MAN! Whitmer wins in 09:39.

Rating – * – Some of the comedy was fun, but in truth I’m a little bored of Ebessan’s routine. It’s always good for a laugh but the Flair-tribute act, the quirky broken English, it only gets him so far. Nosawa again didn’t really do anything – good nor bad. Not like it matters, he gets enough work on the US indy scene, in Mexico and in Japan for AJPW. Nigel has the feud with Claudio on-going, and Whitmer needed the win to keep his momentum going following his gimmick change. It served it’s purpose but it was all filler which didn’t interest me.

AJ Styles vs Austin Aries

It’s a bit of an ROH dream clash here. When TNA pulled AJ back in early 2004 and Aries first began to take a spot people often compared him to Styles. Certainly they’ve both got explosive, eye-catching offensive flurries. Personally I’d argue that Aries is a far better technical wrestler than AJ (compare his series with Bryan Danielson to AJ’s two ROH clashes with AmDrag), but then again, Styles is probably a better high-flier so. Anyway, tonight we get them thrown together in a match which should’ve happened in the UK at Universal Uproar…until TNA pulled Styles from the show. Oh the irony! The winner will be #1 in the first Top 5 Rankings as Commissioner Cornette is reinstating them.

Two minutes of even back and forth action ends with Styles hitting the nip-up rana and securing the first major takedown of the match. More back and forth stuff culminates with Aries evening the takedown score with a springboard reverse elbow. AJ uses the arm to keep Aries on the mat and that works fine until he switches to the grounded headscissors…which Austin ALWAYS counters with a dropkick. Styles comes back with his trademark dropkick sequence for 2. He furthers his advantage with a swinging neckbreaker. Aries blocks a brainbuster but gets caught instead with a swinging backbreaker, and AJ follows right up with a second backbreaker then the MutaLock. He goes for the springboard forearm strike but Austin is able to counter by dropkicking the top rope. HEAT SEEKING MISSILE SCORES! Back in the ring the GeNext man gets 2 with a fisherman suplex. Swinging gutbuster, followed by the power drive elbow to the sternum as Aries targets the midsection of the X-Division Champion. Fishhook Crossface applied for the maximum of five seconds. Roaring elbow by Aries is met with a DISCUS LARIAT from Styles and both men collapse. Hammerlock back suplex on Austin, then a pumphandle backbreaker. Styles Clash blocked as Aries lifts AJ chest-first into the top rope. Inverted Finlay roll nailed and Aries flies off the top with a missile dropkick. They stall for a noticeable period of time as Styles seems to be working out how to hit his quebrada inverted DDT. Eventually he does but it’s messy and doesn’t get the job done. Torture wrack by Styles countered with the crucifix driver. BRAINBUSTER NAILED but AJ kicks out at 2. He cuts Aries off as he goes for the 450 with the Pele kick…SECOND ROPE STYLES CLASH! AJ wins and goes to the top of the rankings in a lengthy 20:35.

Rating – *** –
There were threads on the ROH Message Board calling this the most disappointing match of 2005. I think that’s a little harsh, but it was clear for all to see they just didn’t click in this match. It was almost as if they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to wrestle an X-Division style offensive blast or an ROH-style mat-based encounter and in the end got stuck somewhere in between. I liked that AJ focused all his offence on the back…not that Aries sold it particularly well. The first five minutes or so also seemed like quite the waste of time as not a whole lot really happened. It was decent throughout, but you know both men are capable of much better.

Prince Nana and Alex Shelley jump Aries as the fans give him a standing ovation. Jade Chung comes out and gives Nana a SWINGING DDT to make the save. Shelley almost jumps her but gets smacked in the face by Aries. Nana gets a brainbuster from the former ROH Champion to end the segment.

INTERMISSION – GMC has Jay Lethal with him. He’s missing Samoa Joe, since Joe’s run of 61 straight ROH shows ends tonight. Jay promises he’ll beat Chris Daniels for his mentor tonight.

B-Boy vs Colt Cabana

This was originally scheduled to be Homicide/Cabana but I believe Cide wound up injured, or in trouble with the law. It’s usually one of those two that causes him to miss shows. Luckily ROH was able to draft the “West Coast Rottweiler” B-Boy in at the last minute to give Cabana an opponent. At the last double shot weekend we saw the feud escalate again, first with Colt causing Homicide to be pinned by his hated rival Steve Corino in a tag match, then Cide costing Cabana the match against Low Ki the next night at Buffalo Stampede.

Cabana clowns around in his normal fashion from the outset, barking at Julius Smokes at any given opportunity. He grounds B-Boy with his consummate mat-skills, frustrating the new Rottweiler who retreats to the floor. He returns to the ring and hits a spinning heel kick to re-establish himself. Flipping neck-snap and a stepping enziguri to the back of the head follow that. On the floor Smokes gets in some cheap-shots whilst B-Boy occupies the referee. Colt with some Artful Dodger but he’s unable to lock on whatever submission he was going for and ends up getting choked over the middle rope. Grounded abdominal stretch by the New Age Punisher and Cabana has to kick his way free. Chinlock now because slowing the pace down was just what this match called for. Colt eventually does escape the hold with a body slam. He goes for a series of quick pins but B-Boy rocks him with a swinging neckbreaker for 2. Jump swinging DDT out of the corner…FACELIFT DROPKICK! Cabana kicks out at 2. B-Boy counters the Twirly Bird but Colt ducks the Shining Wizard and wins with a lariat at 12:24.

Rating – * –
That was pretty rubbish, as every report I’ve read suggested it would be. Slow pace, a near-complete lack of excitement. Both athletes seemed to phone in their performance here. It’s as if they knew that ultimately the match didn’t matter. All they were out there to do was to add another chapter to the Cabana/Homicide feud and that’s pretty much all you can take from this. I suppose B-Boy did at least focus his offence around the neck, but it’d be a stretch to call it sustained psychology. Don’t expect to see him back again anytime soon after this showing. I wish Cabana would ditch that f*cking lariat as a finish. It’s crap…really really crap.

Grim Reefa tries to get involved and he gets a lariat as well. Homicide’s music plays and it turns out he is here after all. He and Colt brawl into the crowd where it’s too dark to see much. It comes down to four-on-one with Reyes, Smokes and Reefa helping the Notorious 187. In the end it’s Homicide with an ACE CRUSHER OFF THE APRON THROUGH A TABLE! ‘Holy sh*t’ spot and both men look dead.

Allison Danger is dressed as a slutty nun for Halloween. She announces that Christopher Daniels isn’t here tonight because he’s with his new son. Luckily she’s found a suitable replacement…

Jay Lethal vs Curry Man

Yes indeed, Curry Man makes his second appearance in ROH ring. Last time we saw him he filled in for the mysteriously absent Chris Daniels against Dragon Gate’s Shingo Takagi and he came up victorious with the Spicy Drop. Lethal is coming off wins on the last three shows, and seems to be positioning himself for a tag title shot alongside Samoa Joe. A win over an international star and former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champion would keep him hot…

The match starts with duelling ‘hot’ and ‘spicy’ chants which Curry Man loves. Jay seems upset that nobody chants for him so, rather than wrestle, they pose in the corners for applause. Finally they do wrestle in a battle for supremacy on the canvas. Armdrags into the Curry shuffle by CM, prompting Woodbridge to demand a dance from Lethal. He obliges them with a sublime hip-wiggle. Now Lethal and Curry dance with each other, getting a ‘holy sh*t’ chant for their fly moves. CURRY SHUFFLE BY THE REF! Curry Man is so impressed he does the Flair flop. CURRY SHUFFLE BY ALLISON DANGER! In the midst of all the dancing Jimmy Bower has invaded the broadcast booth lol. We cross the 10-minute mark and CM actually has to get on the mic and begs the crowd to let them wrestle. Jey starts to fly with a springboard crossbody, a slingshot rana that sends Curry to the floor then a TOPE SUICIDA! Hiptoss backbreaker on the masked man gets 2. Stranglehold camel clutch applied, and that’s softening Curry up for the Dragon Suplex.

Jay goes for the diving headbutt but it’s way too early and Curry Man press slams him off the top rope. Springboard reverse elbow sends Lethal to the floor where CM rocks him with a pescado. Lethal takes a tilta-whirl backbreaker when the action goes back inside again and Daniels stays on the back with a slingshot elbow drop. Jay batters his way out of a chinlock only to run flush into a jumping heel kick. Spinebuster from Lethal to leave both competitors in a heap. He follows up with a neckbreaker and a second rope heel kick for 2. Flatliner by Curry Man gets 2 as well. SPICIEST MOONSAULT EVER MISSES! SPRINGBOARD DDT from Lethal! But now he misses the diving headbutt. Duelling near-falls exchanged with neither man securing the win. Dragon Suplex blocked twice and CM calls for the Spicy Drop. COUNTERED TO THE DRAGON SUPLEX! Huge win for Lethal at 22:31.

Rating – *** –
The ten minutes of dancing ruled, and when they wrestled, they put on a fun-filled back and forth contest that kept the crowd into it after they’d been worked into a frenzy by all the humour we started with. Fun for all the family, and it’s matches like this that proves ROH has something for everyone, not just the work-rate elitists like myself.

Jimmy Rave cuts a promo from Ghana. He’s not working the show tonight in protest at all the toilet paper fans have been throwing at him. He promises he has devised the most devastating move in wrestling history for his new finish and brags about what he’s done to men like CM Punk, AJ Styles and Roderick Strong. Awkward at times but probably the best promo of Rave’s career there.

Bryan Danielson vs Roderick Strong – ROH World Title Match

After winning the 2005 Survival Of The Fittest tournament, Rod Strong immediately issued a challenge to Bryan Danielson, demanding a title shot as his reward. And that’s where we are now. Strong has had an incredible 2005, beating the likes of Matt Hardy and James Gibson, and putting on countless great matches too. Dragon is fresh off back to back victories over Austin Aries and Steve Corino in his first shows as World Champion. He treasures the title because it represents wrestling freedom. That’s why he can’t let Strong win the belt tonight. Roddy is on the TNA roster after all. AmDrag’s shirt is one of the goofiest, hippy clothing items I’ve ever seen.

Danielson opens up backing Strong into the corner then making a joke that he’s going to chop his challenger. Seconds later he gives him another cocky clean break. Strong responds by giving Dragon a break of a very similar nature. Danielson tries to gain superiority on the mat but no matter what he tries Roderick seems to have him matched…so instead he dishes out a big chop. Now he delivers a chop instead of giving Roderick a clean break. Dragon goes to work on the mat, pointing out to the crowd that Strong can’t hang with him. Strong finally hits a chop of his own and it’s so hard Danielson heads for the hills. Handshake fake-out INTO A SLAP from Danielson as punishment. The champ throws a series of chops in the corner. Both goes land on their feet to evade monkey flips and Danielson runs outside again after another Roddy chop. In the ring again and Strong is able to land a few uninterrupted chops before AmDrag runs away yet again. Roderick’s arms seem to be the focus of Dragon’s attack, then he instead opts to claw at the challenger’s nostrils. Double underhook suplex on Strong for the first 2-count of the match. Between moves here Dragon is frequently using a knee drop to the head to further the damage. Roderick fights back with chops again but Danielson goes to the eyes! He doesn’t willingly accept being put in the Mexican surfboard and Strong winds up getting taken into the ropes where the champion starts mauling his face again then delivers a running dropkick right on the back and shoulder.

Roddy puts an offensive flurry together at last, based around his stinging chops but Dragon somehow manages to monkey flip him to the outside. On the floor it’s nothing more than a fight with both men trading stiff strikes around ringside. Strong takes the advantage until AmDrag drives him into the guardrails. More eye raking sets the challenger up for an OLE OLE DROPKICK! The fans call for one more but Danielson tells them to f*ck off! He camel clutches the GeNext man on the floor with nails dug into the nose and mouth again. Strong with chops in the corner, prompting Dragon to Tiger Mask flip RIGHT INTO A BACKBREAKER! 21 minutes in and that’s Rod’s first backbreaker landed. He looks for the Stronghold but it’s too close to the ropes. Danielson blocks a superplex and hits a missile dropkick to get some distance. Strong ducks a roaring elbow and nails a Rock Bottom backbreaker for 2 then is able to lock on the Stronghold for a few seconds before Dragon makes the ropes. He looks for a superplex again but Danielson resists it and they end up trading slaps as both hang perilously close to falling to the floor. To the outside again where Rod is successful with a scoop slam, damaging the back some more. Leg full nelson in the middle of the ring but Dragon counters into a surfboard in beautiful fashion. CATTLE MUTILATION but the pain inflicted on the back means Roderick is able to roll out.

Vicious crossfaces from the champion then a neckbreaker for 2. Switching tack again, Bryan starts working the legs, applying a figure 4 leglock with a cocky grin that just screams ‘I can out-wrestle you and beat you anyway I want’. He slingshots Strong into the bottom rope and has Roderick in a world of trouble. DIVING HEADBUTT MISSES because he took too long posing to the fans. Strong with a series of roll-ups until AmDrag puts pay to his momentum with a fisherman suplex. Crossface Chickenwing COUNTERED WITH A BACKBREAKER! But he can’t capitalise because Danielson has hurt his leg! Eventually he’s able to throw his weight behind some chops and FINALLY nails that superplex! STRONGHOLD…but after all the wearing down he’s done in the past 35 minutes escaping is easier that it otherwise might be for Bryan Danielson. Elbow strike by Roderick…DANIELSON IS KNOCKED OUT! HE’S AWAKE AGAIN! ANGRY B*TCHSLAPS…CROSS ARMBREAKER! Strong taps to avoid having his arm snapped off at 37:08.

Rating – ****1/2 –
American Dragon just single-handedly put on one of the most spectacularly psychological wrestling displays I’ve ever seen in my life. The lack of flat-out excitement is what cost this match that crucial final ½ star but if you want to watch wrestling as an art-form as opposed to lots of flippy spots and aerial spectaculars, this is the match for you. Dragon came to the ring expecting to dominate Roderick Strong. You could tell that from his t-shirt, his jocular, cocky demeanour at the outset. But with every chop Strong landed, and every time he wouldn’t just stay down and accept his beating, Danielson got more and more aggressive – what with eye rakes, slaps, face-raking and more. Indeed, the finish came about in very similar fashion, as he was so irate that Strong was able to knock him out he literally tried to rip his arm off. And in terms of his wrestling, everything was done for a reason. He worked the neck to prepare for the Cattle Mutilation and Regalplex, he worked the arm to set up for the Crossface Chickenwing and eventual finish of a cross armbreaker. He worked the back almost to piss Roddy off more and one-up him. He started working the leg late into the match to again show off what a proficient wrestler he is, and to put a stop to Roderick’s assault on his back. And there was still more depth to this story, as the match marked Danielson’s character transition from Backlund-esque babyface to cocky tweener. Yeah he’s the best wrestler in the world, but he knows it too. He pisses off his opponents, he pisses off the fans and he pisses off the referees because he has the ability to do whatever he wants – he’s just that good. And I haven’t even talked about Roderick Strong. He was great in this as well. His facials and selling were superb, and he worked pretty much 40 minutes from his back there, putting over his defiance in the face of a decimation from the American Dragon tremendously. It’s a testament to his skill as a performer and his comeback timing that he was able to go 37+ minutes taking a hell of a beating by the champion and actually coming away with more credibility as a top-liner – not less.

Chad Collyer replies to the Ace Steel promo we saw at the end of the last DVD. He refuses to grant Ace a rematch but says he will face him in a tag contest instead.

Commissioner Jim Cornette talks about the forthcoming weekend’s double shot. He announces that Chris Sabin has signed an open contract for a World Title shot in the Detroit debut. He’s also booked a Danielson/Strong rematch for the Chicago second night regardless of whether Dragon retains.

Christopher Daniels arrives incredibly late for the show and is devastated to find out he missed Curry Man again. BJ Whitmer comes over and says Daniels has forgotten the people that used to help him. I was wondering if there’d be any post-Prophecy heat between those guys.

Tape Rating – *** –
Not a DVD that will set the world on fire, or indeed a DVD filled with matches to go out of your way to see. The only match that broke 3* was Danielson/Strong, and apparently their rematch at Vendetta is better so you can just get that instead. However, this show does have four 20+ minute matches all ranging from solid to really good so it does enough to get a recommendation. Shelley/Claudio, Styles/Aries, Lethal/Curry Man and Danielson/Strong are where your $20 is going for this show. Everything else is pretty crap…

Top 3 Matches

3) Jay Lethal vs Curry Man (***)

2) Alex Shelley vs Claudio Castagnoli (***)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Roderick Strong (****1/2)

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