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090 ROH Hell Freezes Over 1/14/2006

ROH 90 – Hell Freezes Over – 14th January 2006

It is my sad duty to report a major disaster for all fans of the McXal Tape Ratings. Unfortunately due to a server problem the entire archive has been wiped out. Naturally I’m somewhat gutted about that since it’s three years of hard graft gone. I don’t even have a copy of the old ones on my laptop anymore because that broke down last year. My first priority is to re-establish the ROH review archive since obviously Ring Of Honor is what I spend most of my time doing. I’ll still be reviewing new shows as I get them (making this show a good place to start – it’s the first show o f 2006) but I’ll also be going back to the start and re-reviewing everything from the very beginning at Era Of Honor Begins. Not wanting to pimp my own ride or anything, but I’d recommend them to even those who have read my old reviews. It’ll be interesting to go back to older shows as my tastes have changed, and I’ll be making any changes to the ratings as I see fit. This sucks I’ll admit – but on the bright side, it’s also an exciting opportunity that I’ll do my best to enjoy. I hope to have the ROH archive back up to 100% completion by early 2007 but we’ll see how it goes.

Right, update aside – onto the show. 2005 was beyond any shadow of a doubt the greatest year in the history of Ring Of Honor. After 2004 with the Joe/Punk trilogy, Jushin Liger’s visit, numerous Bryan Danielson classics and the explosive climax with Aries taking Samoa Joe’s World Title we wondered how they’d ever manage to out-do themselves, but they did. We saw so much good stuff in 2005 it’s impossible even to briefly summarise it here. But that’s in the past, it’s a new year and ROH has to work on once again getting to the bar it has set so very high…and pushing it higher still. They kick off the year with Hell indeed Freezing Over – as CZW’s Chris Hero makes his unlikely ROH debut to challenge Bryan Danielson for the ROH Title. ROH and CZW agreed a deal to work together and run the same dates in Philly after the venue in Woodbridge, CT cancelled all forthcoming wrestling events, and at December’s CZW Cage Of Death event Chris Hero laid down the challenge. Now he makes a debut many fans have been clamouring to see, and he is out to win the belt – then throw it in the trash. Elsewhere, ROH’s sister promotion FIP is in the house – with Homicide scheduled to defend the promotions Heavyweight Championship against Roderick Strong despite an injured shoulder. Daniels/Lethal, Joe/Whitmer and Styles/Sydal all have promise as well. We are in ROH’s spiritual home of Philadelphia, PA – with an attendance higher than that of the Kobashi show in the same building (Hero being a bigger draw than Kobashi apparently). Hosts are Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard, with added FIP commentary by Matt Pike, and CZW hatred during the main event supplied by his drunken half-brother Jimmy Bower. Here’s to another fantastic year ROH!

Just like last year we’re kicking things off with Generation Next celebrating a Final Battle title win. New tag team champions Austin Aries and Roderick Strong come out and vow to raise the prestige of their belts and rebuild the division. Somehow you believe them more than when Mamaluke and Rinauro said the exact same thing. Roderick also vows to add singles gold his collection. He wants a rematch against Bryan Danielson for the ROH Title, and says he’s bringing home the FIP belt tonight too. He leaves and Austin Aries calls out Ricky Reyes – I guess that’s your opening contest.

Austin Aries vs Ricky Reyes

This match is the result of the scuffle at Final Battle 2005 when Aries came out and attacked Reyes who has been doing nothing but murdering his students for the past few months. This was supposed to be the start of a big GeNext/Rottweilers feud that would be one of the major storylines in the first part of 2006, but Low Ki quit the company (again) in February and kinda put pay to that. This still stands as a huge opportunity for Ricky Reyes though. He’s really got over in the last few months by demolishing the students and generally acting like a bad ass to everyone he comes across. As of yet nobody has been able to escape his dragon sleeper variation, and if he gets it on Austin tonight he could score a huge win. You have to believe that if he delivers tonight he might get a bit of a push up the card into more meaningful matches (especially once Low Ki leaves), if he fails…then his spot could be in danger. Like Aries said at Final Battle – maybe Rocky Romero was carrying him during 2004.

HEAT SEEKING MISSILE by Aries as Reyes stalks around the ring with Smokes – it is on. Back in the ring Reyes slows his early momentum with some powerful strikes then a belly to belly suplex. BACK DROP DRIVER from Austin though. He suplexes Ricky over the ropes then kicks him to the concrete again. But again the Rottweiler comes back, this time with a T-bone suplex. In typically surly fashion he stomps the hell out of Aries in the corner then gets 2 with a gutwrench suplex. Stiff kicks again floor the Tag champion. He tries to take Aries to the corner but he gets shoved away. Aries nails a missile dropkick then the RUNNING DROPKICK against the ropes. Brainbuster attempt…COUNTERED TO THE DRAGON SLEEPER! Aries can’t escape but bridges back and pins Reyes whilst still in the hold at 05:49.

Rating – ** –
I think had they known this would actually have turned out to be so good it would’ve got more time. I can’t go higher on the rating because it was so brief but I really enjoyed it. Classic Aries explosive offensive flurries around a tremendous performance from Reyes, who continues to improve since his sucky days of 2004. He’s one of the more underrated guys on the roster right now. Very few people have their character grasped the way he does. He’s a bad tempered, hard-hitting, violent wrestler. He doesn’t do anything fancy, he doesn’t try to please the fans but gets the job done. Here he also did a great job of targeting Austin’s ribs and neck with all his offence so he’d find it harder to breathe once the dragon sleeper was applied. The finish was clever as well. You can’t really have Aries lose in his first match since winning a title, but a clean loss here would’ve killed Ricky. They struck a balance…

Reyes refuses to release the hold though and chokes Aries like a b*tch until Roderick Strong comes out to his aid. Finally Ricky does leave the ring but vows that 2006 will be the year of the Rottweilers.


1. Jay Lethal (after back to back wins over Joe and Daniels in the Final Battle fourway)
2. KENTA (his win against Low Ki in a MOTYC at Final Battle puts him here for January)
3. Alex Shelley (beat Steve Corino at Final Battle)
4. Jimmy Rave (beat Claudio Castagnoli at Final Battle)
5. Christopher Daniels (why is he here? He hasn’t won a big match in months)

SIDENOTE – yes, despite officially being reinstated back in October (with the Aries/Styles match at This Means War) the Top 5 finally does make a return in 06. They’re done on a monthly basis, so these five have the spots until February when the next list is released based on January performances.

Colt Cabana refuses to cut a promo but is too messed up after Homicide almost killed him with Draino in December. His actions will speak louder than words. Adam Pearce arrives to steal some camera time and he b*tches about being booked in Six Man Mayhem tonight.

Nigel McGuiness vs Tony Mamaluke – ROH Pure Title Match

Nigel is refusing to acknowledge the new Top 5 ranking system and will instead be selecting his own challengers for the title based on who he thinks will provide him with the best pure wrestling competition. He starts tonight with Tony Mamaluke (well he is the super SERIOUS super shooter after all), who will be looking to reclaim some gold right after losing the Tag Titles.

Predictably we go straight to the mat, much to the disinterest of the Philadelphia public. McGuiness full nelsons Tony and that’s enough to draw him into his first ropebreak. He disrespects Tony with a cheeky palm strike and Mamaluke flies at him. Nigel remains calm and uses his momentum against him to trap him on the mat again and Tony has to use his second break in as many minutes to escape. Mamaluke dropkicks the knee then tornado’s into a guillotine choke…which Nigel counters with a northern lights into the buckles. Again he disrespects Mamaluke with nonchalant little kicks, but this time he pays the price as he gets caught in a cross armbreaker, then a triangle choke that forces him to take his first break. REBOUND LARIAT finds the mark and both men go down. McGuiness hammerlocks Mamaluke and almost rolls him into the ropes so he almost forces him to use his final break. He talks some smack and gets tossed out of the ring but quickly re-enters with a forearm. Man alive the crowd is dead. Mamaluke gets 2 with a frog splash then goes to the cross armbreaker again to make Nigel take rope break #2. McGuiness goes for the headstand but Mamaluke busts out the Samoa Joe running boot counter. He goes mental and tries to strike at Nigel, who grabs him in a Kimura for a tap-out victory at 08:19.

Rating – * –
That was a bit horrible if you want the truth. It was boring and made a former ROH Tag Champion look like an absolute b*tch. His whole deal is he’s supposed to be a shooter and whatnot…he just comprehensively out-thought and out-wrestled by Nigel McGuiness. As a match it was dull beyond belief, as a reflection of the future prospects of Tony Mamaluke in the promotion it didn’t look so good. I award it a star because it did a good job of making Nigel look like a serious and formidable champion after months of cheating and other shenanigans to hold the belt. They were fun but if his reign is to have further longevity then at some point he does need to be a credible wrestler too.

Jimmy Rave/Alex Shelley vs Claudio Castagnoli/Azrieal

Colt Cabana was originally scheduled to team with Claudio here (in fact, I believe before that it might even have been booked as Cabana/Milano – but Milano is gone of course) but he has a few nagging injuries and is being held back to put over the mental turmoil the Draino incident has caused. He is in the corner of Claudio and Azrieal though. Rave and Shelley hold spots in the Top 5 and both opponents know that a win here could get them a spot next month. Castagnoli will be particularly keen given that he is in pursuit of another Pure Title shot, and Jimmy Rave beat him last month so. Shelley’s unfortunate bleached streak looks ridiculous!

Claudio starts with Jimmy Rave and he tries to throw the Crown Jewel off by going for the ass grope. AYYYY! ‘Jimmy likes it’ – Philly. Shelley tries to intervene but that just leads to a comedy misfire segment as Castagnoli and Azrieal drop him on top of Rave, then reverse it and drop Rave on top of Shelley. Slingshot hilo by Az gets an early 2 count. Spear/running neckbreaker combo by the Embassy duo to swiftly change things up and go on offence against the artist formerly known as Angeldust. Shelley get 2 with a Lionsault. Azrieal tries to mount some offence against Rave but is out of luck and falls victim of a nice guillotine/facebuster Embassy double team. Alex rolls him into a hammerlock with a leg around the neck for extra leverage, and cuts off his escape attempts by raking the nose. Rave keeps it simpler with an abdominal stretch, and Alex makes that worse by double booting him in the face. Azrieal blocks a superplex and comes down from the ropes with the blockbuster. Hot tag to Double C who Europeans Rave in the back of the head. Super-stalling vertical suplex on Shelley – that move is as over as the American Dragon airplane spin by the way. He suplexes Jimmy onto Shelley after that for 2. Azrieal tags again and you can feel the energy Claudio just gave the crowd fading away again. He misses the double stomp on Shelley who lays him out with a superkick then a final cut. CRAPPY WIZARD from Rave. CC hits the Match Killer on Rave’s partner then leaves the Crown Jewel prone to a double stomp by Az for 2. Rave blocks the Alfa Mari Water Slide once but doesn’t a second time as Castagnoli counters Ghanarea into the Water Slide. Claudio goes upstairs only to be crotched by Shelley. He (eventually) hits a super rana and Jimmy comes from the top as well with a Savage elbow drop. Castagnoli blocks Greetings From Ghana AND the Crappy Wizard, but Rave actually BACKFLIPS INTO THE CRAPPY WIZARD! Azrieal breaks the pin with his kick combo then comes in legally with a diving clothesline. He sets up for South Of Heaven but Shelley saves. Azrieal blocks Greetings From Ghana but Rave drops him into a double underhook guillotine which I shall call the Rave Stretch and he taps at 14:18.

Rating – ** –
I’m a huge fan of the Rave/Shelley team. There’s no better heel unit in wrestling right now. Jimmy Rave is so easy to hate and has an awesome old school vibe to what he does, whilst Shelley has all the little things nailed down so well to be an enormous prick. Anytime Claudio was in the ring with them it was great entertainment. Rave/Castagnoli and Shelley/Castagnoli were both good singles matches last year and I’d like to see rematches at some point in this calendar 12 months. The problem was, the whole match was built around the isolation of Azrieal – and it’s hard to get into the drama and believability of the contest when he is so hard to watch. He’s not even bad anymore like he was as Angeldust…he’s just so blah. He failed last summer when he was getting pushed and that just makes him even more boring to watch now because you KNOW he’s not capable of much better. His moveset is uninspired and unexciting, making his big babyface comebacks hard to get into (something I pointed out last summer when he was getting booked in a few big fourways with the likes of James Gibson) and it sucked all the heat out of this match every time he got in. He will surely be dropped from the roster at some point in 2006.

GMC is in the FIP Mobile Studio indicating that it’s time for the Full Impact Pro segment of the show. He explains the ANYTHING GOES motto the promotion lives by. Homicide is called out for an interview first. He says he’s here to fight despite his injured shoulder. Roderick Strong says he’s the golden boy of FIP and he deserves to be the champion. They look set to go when Dave Prazak (owner of DP Associates) leads his charge Bryan Danielson to the mobile studio. He uses the ANYTHING GOES format to change the match to a three way dance.

Homicide vs Roderick Strong vs Bryan Danielson – FIP Heavyweight Title Match

Homicide has held the FIP Title for over 16 months, and the list of guys he’s defended it against is insane. It’s literally a who’s who of indy wrestling in the last couple of years. Roderick Strong won #1 contendership to the gold the previous week on an FIP show by beating fellow GeNext member Jack Evans in what is being pimped as the best match since Gabe took over the booking. Bryan Danielson coming into this is an interesting extra. He obviously had an intense feud with Homicide in the first half of 2006, winning their violent Best Of 5 Series in June. He’s also clashed with Roddy in both ROH and FIP in the past. He and Strong had two epic MOTYC’s in the space of a week last autumn and as we heard at the start of the show, Roderick wants another shot at the champ so.

Colt Cabana charges in and attacks Homicide then throws him shoulder-first into the railings. He has to be helped to the locker room after that. Meanwhile Bryan Danielson and Roderick Strong are brawling through the crowd. The fans seem to enjoy a real close look of Roddy’s sadistic chopping but Dragon comes back by stealing someone’s coat and choking him with it. After another round of stiffing each other they actually manage to find their way to ringside. In the ring Strong hits the fireman’s carry gutbuster then the GIBSON DRIVER for 2. STRONGHOLD…but Homicide struggles back out and breaks it with one arm. He misses the Lariat which is probably for the best. Danielson lays out Strong with a roaring elbow then ducks another attempted Lariat from the Notorious 187. FUJIWARA ARMBAR…and the ref stops it before AmDrag ends Homicide’s career at 4:42. New FIP Champion!

Rating – DUD –
To be completely honest, I really hated the overlapping of the two promotions since, as Matt Pike/Jimmy Bower/Gabe Sapolski pointed out on commentary, they are like parallel universes. Here you had the champion of 16 months, a babyface in FIP but a heel in ROH taking on his deserving challenger, who went through a gruelling match the week before to earn his shot against the heel in FIP, tweener in ROH, World Champion all coming together in a mish-mash, thrown together three way with one guy injured and one with a big match later. It just didn’t “feel” right. It also made FIP look somewhat second rate. You’ve got their long-term top guy jobbed out in less than five minutes on the midcard of an ROH show to make ROH’s top guy look even better going into the big ROH/CZW showdown tonight…and the only real long-term result of this seems to be the furthering of the Danielson/Strong feud…which is in ROH too.

It was a nice taster of the ANYTHING GOES atmosphere of FIP events so if you like that kinda thing, check those out. Personally I don’t follow the promotion all that closely. I keep up to date with their results and it seems like they have some good matches, but I’m not so interested in the AG format and 80’s vibe they’re trying to get over so I’ll only really be dabbling into them to check out their most-hyped matches (Danielson/Punk 2/3 Falls for instance – it’s awesome)…so it was nice to get a sample of what I’m missing. I don’t really want to see FIP back though. I also don’t want to see Dragon with the FIP title on future ROH shows. If Homicide didn’t carry the belt with him – neither should Danielson.

Jay Lethal vs Christopher Daniels

Following up from the thrilling fourway at Final Battle we have two singles matches tonight featuring those four men. Lethal pinned Daniels to win the match last month, but only after Joe had almost killed his rival with a Musclebuster on the TNA X-Division Title belt. Obviously Daniels, who has still managed to sneak into the Top 5, will be looking for revenge against the man that has climbed to #1. Wrestling’s hottest free agent is on a hot streak after beating Daniels and before that his former mentor Samoa Joe. Speaking of the Samoan, these are his two biggest enemies right now, so he’ll be watching this one closely you’d suspect.

Lethal is obviously pretty confident and demonstrates that by quickly hitting a dropkick. He’s equal to Daniels’ initial attempt to out-wrestle him as well. ‘You’ll never beat Joe that way’ – Lethal being an arrogant dick. Daniels has had enough and stands on the youngster’s head. Jay tries to pitch him to the floor and is almost surprised when Daniels charges back in and goes for a flurry of roll-ups. He attempts a slingshot move and only soars into a palm strike. Lethal hits back with a clothesline to the back of the head. He produces a nice sequence with a cartwheeling hiptoss straight into a low dropkick for 2. Now he opens up on Daniels’ spine, first with a backbreaker then a cobra clutch stretch over the knee. Daniels tries to go for a suplex but doesn’t have the strength and Jay falls on top of him in a crossbody. He keeps the Fallen Angel trapped in the corner with driving shoulder charges then cuts off a potential comeback by nailing a back suplex. Again he goes to the ropes though and Daniels drops him with a flatliner to counter a springboard. A tilta-whirl backbreaker scores, then the blue thunder driver – Daniels doing some damage to Lethal’s back now. Wrestling’s hottest free agent promptly puts a stop to that by throwing Daniels out and taking to the air for a tope suicida. Back in the ring a spinebuster gets 2. A gutbuster/neckbreaker combo produces the same result. But AGAIN he makes the mistake of going to the top rope and Daniels counters with a running DVD. He goes for the BME but has to land on his feet only to be superkicked by Lethal. Daniels tries to counter the diving headbutt but Lethal sees it goes for a roll-up. Chris suckers him in though and rolls through that into a pin and beats the #1 ranked guy at 14:58.

Rating – *** –
Whilst it was better than anything else on the show so far, this was far from being particularly exceptional. There was a nice storyline element that pitched Daniels’ age and experience against Lethal’s brashness and confidence stemming from two big wins. The back work from Lethal was ok (although it did annoy me that Daniels tried to win with the BME after all that – why not Last Rites or Angel’s Wings?) and the finish played off the age vs experience deal. It just never really kicked into a higher gear. It was fairly solid at the end of the day, and after what has thus far been a fairly substandard show, but I guess I expected more from them.

Samoa Joe runs in to get at Jay Lethal, but then ends up in a fistfight with Daniels since he hates him too. Like a sneaky little b*tch now Lethal dives in with a low blow. Daniels tries to pull Jay away…as BJ Whitmer turns up to give him the EXPLODER ’98! He hasn’t forgiven him for walking out on The Prophecy then tells Joe to be ready for a fight later. The whole segment ends with Joe laying Daniels out for a second time with a big boot. That segment was the best thing in the entire first half…

INTERMISSION – Gary Capetta asks AJ Styles why he challenged Matt Sydal tonight. Styles says it’s ‘a test’. Huh? Adam Pearce invades his second interview of the night and complains some more.

Jack Evans vs Adam Pearce vs Sal Rinauro vs Jason Blade vs Kid Mikaze vs Trik Davis

I think The Future Is Now was the last time Six Man Mayhem got an airing so. This one also has a unique vibe since most of the talent is fairly new. Blade and Mikaze team regularly and earned more future bookings by beating Dunn & Marcos at Steel Cage Warfare. Sal Rinauro just lost the tag belts and like Mamaluke earlier, will be looking to bounce back. We all know Jack is the premier spot-merchant on the independent scene today. Adam Pearce returns from suspension tonight after raising the ire of Commissioner Jim Cornette last time in the Midwest when he repeatedly interrupted his promo segments. Pearce has made quite an impact since debuting in September. This is Trik’s main show debut, but not his debut match, since he jobbed to Jack Evans in a dark match taped for before the show. I’ve seen him on a few IWA-MS shows. He’s also had some Chikara training I believe. He has goofy hair…

Mikaze and Blade start and show off their familiarity with each other by countering all their strikes, then simultaneously laying themselves out with right hands. Pearce and Evans take the tags…and Adam gets served break-dance style by the man who defies gravity and bone structure. He sulks and tags out to Sal. Lots of near-miss stuff again until Rinauro lands a couple of shots on Evans. Davis in and he slows it down as he feels his way into his big main show debut. Pearce blind tags and clubbers Davis from behind. ‘GET UP YOU MIDGET’ – Pearce. He rakes at the face then slaps the poor kid around. Davis gets planted with a spinebuster then we rewind to the 70’s as Pearce wipes out all his opponents with a GIANT SWING! Rinauro with a double stomp Rocker dropper on Pearce. Evans tries to hit a Busaiku Knee on Sal and succeeds only in flying all the way to the floor. Blade and Mikaze try to team up on the former Tag champion and both get wiped out by a running quebrada. Pearce blocks a frankensteiner…SUPERFLY SPLASH! Evans makes the save then muddles through something into a fisherman buster on Blade. Springboard corkscrew enzi nailed by Rinauro. He botches his springboard dive but recovers quick with a somersault pescado. Trik wants to dive and gets shoulder blocked by Pearce. Still he evades him and hits a tope suicida to the floor. Blade and Kid M team up on the Scrap Daddy – BUT MISS THE SPANISH FLY SENTON! JUMPING PILEDRIVER on Mikaze. EVANS BREAKS THE PIN WITH THE 630! In the end it’s him that sneaks the win at 11:31.

Rating – ** –
It was nice to see something new and different out of the ROH spotfest. You still got the old staples – meaningless dives, fancy near-miss exchanges and a few pre-planned multi-person spots…as well as a few messy moments and obvious botches. However, I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would because Adam Pearce rules. His bitter old school heel act was hilarious, especially set against the backdrop of all the smaller, flippy wrestlers that are stylistically so different. He and Evans were a class above anyone else here. Blade and Mikaze hit some nice spots but still had their little green flashes. I thought Davis was pretty sensible out there and played it safe, avoiding screw ups on the big stage by wrestling within his limitations. To be honest I thought Sal was a little sloppy. As a yet more filler, with the sole purpose of further establishing Adam Pearce’s character, you can consider it a success.

BJ Whitmer vs Samoa Joe

The other half of the Final Battle match now collide. Samoa Joe would’ve won in December were it not for BJ Whitmer smacking him in the head with a chair right when he was about to pin Daniels. And as if that wasn’t enough Joe will be extra-pissed after Whitmer punked him out earlier. Like the Samoan earlier, now it’s Chris Daniels’ turn to sit and watch his two big rivals do battle. I like booking these two together. They haven’t. Does TNA have some kind of hair dye fetish? Joe has red streaks…

Joe attempts to play nice, ignore the ‘Joe’s gonna kill you’ chants and wrestle with BJ but Whitmer doesn’t play ball, continually blasting him in the jaw with Misawa-like elbows. Joe snaps and unleashes a volley of stiff kicks. He goes for a big knee strike in the corner…and connects with so much velocity he tumbles over the top rope and lands on his ass on the floor. He recovers quickly to score with the chop/kick/knee drop sequence. A mega b*tchslap finds the mark and has Hillbilly Jesus reeling. He tries to return fire with a slap of his own but that just provokes Joe to kick him off the apron for the ELBOW SUICIDA! Whitmer goes for an Ole Ole Kick but gets cut off with a throat chop. Joe goes for the kick and BJ blocks it with an eye poke. This match is ultra-physical man…and my point is proved as Joe whips Whitmer against the railings then KICKS HIM INTO THE FRONT ROW! He sets up a table but Whitmer levels him with a kick. EXPLODER SUPLEX THAT MISSES THE TABLE AND DROPS JOE ON HIS HEAD ON THE CONCRETE! Amazingly Joe isn’t dead, and even more amazingly, he kicks out of the ensuing pin at 2. BJ shows no mercy and levels him with a BRAINBUSTER! He scales the ropes but misses a frog splash. Joe explodes with his atomic drop/big boot/senton splash flurry then has BJ scrambling for the ropes with the Samoan crab. He sets up for bootscrapes but Whitmer pops up before the running facewash to score with a HEAD DROP EXPLODER…FOR 2! STJoe countered only for BJ to run headlong into a lariat. Joe goes for the Kokina Clutch but Whitmer counters by biting the arm. Misawa elbows…SO JOE KILLS HIM WITH A KICK TO THE FACE! He pounces and murders him with such vociferousness that the referee stops it and awards him the match at 13:23.

Rating – *** –
And sure enough, it was a fresh-feeling new match for the start of 2006. It wasn’t pretty and was somewhat strewn with errors but for straight-up stiffness, physicality and balls to the wall toughness it probably won’t be topped tonight. Basically the ROH equivalent of a slobberknocker…only good. Sure it has the same rating as Lethal/Daniels, but I appreciated the finesse and storyline that went into that one. For sheer excitement and mass appeal, this was streets ahead. I think it’s fair to assume Whitmer just stepped up a gear. The new year could be a breakout one for him. Assuming he wakes up from that kick. I rewound and rewatched that bastard like five times – it’s brutal.

FROM ROHWRESTLING.COM – Jimmy Jacobs has made a home video declaring his love for Lacey. He ends on his bed, pouring glasses of wine and staring at a picture of her. That’s pretty goofy…

Matt Sydal vs AJ Styles

This match was pretty inevitable when you think about it. AJ is a vocal supporter of Sydal – he always raves about him whenever he’s mentioned in interviews, he loves to work with him and has done in most promotions they’ve worked together in. He’s already teamed with Sydal in the past in ROH – defeating Jimmy Rave and Abyss at Showdown In Motown. He’s calling tonight a test, but for whom?

AJ looks to control Sydal and negate his speed advantage on the mat but can’t do that so takes him over with a nip-up rana. They trade armdrags but Styles catches Sydal out going for another one and plants his face into the canvas. Enzicanrana by the GeNext member – his first significant offence of the contest. Styles hits the dropkick in typically dynamic fashion to retake the advantage. They jockey for position on the apron before Styles hits a CANADIAN BRAINBUSTER! That was brutal and he follows it up with a neckbreaker over the knee which will further soften up that body part. Matt connects on a spinning heel kick from the second rope but can’t capitalise straight away due to the injury. He looks for a submission with an inverted Devil Lock but he’s too close to the ropes. That appears to damage the back though and he follows up using a firemans carry backbreaker and a bow and arrow. Styles springboards off the ring but Sydal counters his move by dropkicking the ribs. He goes to the top rope but AJ enzi kicks him in the head. He misses a pescado but lands on his feet and looks for the quebrada ddt from the apron. Sydal shoves him over the railings then hits the ropes for a F*CKING MOONSAULT INTO THE FIRST ROW! He gets to his feet first and impresses me by at least remembering to sell that neck. Back in the ring Styles counters a wheelbarrow with a high angle back suplex. Sydal uses his inverted Rocker dropper to evade AJ’s suplex neckbreaker. Here It Is Driver blocked though and Styles back drop faceplants Matt. Sydal hits a STANDING MOONSAULT for 2. To the top rope but he misses a shooting star press, still manages to counter the quebrada DDT for a second time, only to be downed with a swinging backbreaker. He still manages to block the Styles Clash…THEN COUNTERS WITH A SNAP HURRICANRANA FOR 2! He tries to set AJ up for his moonsault belly to belly finish…but AJ goes to counter with another Styles Clash attempt. SYDAL GOES FOR THE RANA COUNTER AND THIS TIME STYLES ROLLS THROUGH IT! He pins Sydal in an exciting 17:09.

Rating – **** –
A hell of an athletic wrestling match. Not exactly a purists dream but for state of the art, fast-paced wrestling for the 21st century, this truly delivered. Of course there were a lot of big spot exchanges, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone – it’s what these two do. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of psychology they managed to pack into this one. Little things like Sydal holding his neck after vaulting into the crowd, AJ taking a few seconds to recover after hitting the swinging backbreaker on his injured back before attempting the Styles Clash, and the magnificent “learn from past mistakes” finish with AJ countering Sydal’s counter to the Styles Clash make this a little treat. Matt finally has that break-out singles performance he’s been threatening since late 2004.

AJ reveals the meaning of tonight’s test. He says he needs a partner to replace Amazing Red and help him regain the Tag Titles and extends that offer to Matt Sydal. Apparently forgetting his own stablemates are the incumbent champions, Sydal agrees. A new team is born…

Samoa Joe says his brutalising of BJ Whitmer tonight is an example of how far he’ll go to finish things. He shares Chris Daniels’ desire to end their feud very soon. Adam Pearce invades a record-breaking third promo of the night and complains AGAIN about Six Man Mayhem. But he says he’ll do whatever it takes to prove himself to Jim Cornette and whoever it takes to get to the top in ROH. I like that…

Chris Hero walks in through the front door flanked by Necro Butcher, Nate Webb, Adam Flash and CZW referee Bryce Remsburg, and immediately demands the soundman use the music he’s supplied (the CZW theme) to play him to the ring. Main event time…

Bryan Danielson vs Chris Hero – ROH World Title Match

Hell has frozen over – Chris Hero is finally making his ROH debut. He made the challenge when ROH and CZW reached the deal to work together. He was pissed to see his company working with the promotion he so despised, and particularly trashed World Champion Bryan Danielson in his LiveJournal entries. American Dragon responded and showed up at the CZW show earlier in the day to fight with Hero, and sparked an ROH/CZW riot featuring guys like Nigel McGuiness and Generation Next as well. However, he also sent CZW one of his open contracts for a title shot, and Hero is the man who has signed that to take his place here. As well as brawling in the CZW Arena earlier in the day, both men have already wrestled twice (Hero on the CZW show, Danielson in winning the FIP Title earlier). Will that affect their performance? In the time it took me to write that intro, Necro Butcher has already somehow managed to bust himself open. Hero compares Gabe and ROH’s elitism to Hitler and the Third Reich then promises to throw the ROH Title in the trash…

The ROH fans are HATING on Hero, but there are CZW fans in attendance too. Remember – Chris Hero is a bigger draw than Kobashi based on tonight’s attendance. Danielson dropkicks Hero in the face and he immediately runs to the floor. ‘Hit Green Lantern’ – Philly. What did GLF do to them!? Both men play to the crowd as they further stall actually wrestling. Jimmy Bower is ripping into Hero and the CZW posse on commentary in hilarious fashion. Hero connects with a dropkick of his own but Danielson pops up and levels the challenger again. He goes for an early Mexican surfboard but Hero makes the ropes. On the floor Dragon continues to press home his advantage. ‘What’s a Necro Butcher?’ – Bower. Hero sits the champ in a chair and chops away on him…so Dragon SLAPS the taste out of his mouth. Danielson tenaciously goes for the Mexican surfboard but Hero keeps blocking it so he switches to a sexy sexy deathlock. Hero counters with his first kravat of the match. Champion and challenger take it in turns to lay into one another with some heavy duty strikes. Hero targets Danielson’s arm by dropping an elbow on it, then hammerlock charging him into the corner to hurt it some more. He breaks out a trusty Fujiwara, then an even more trusty cross armbreaker. Dragon finds a way to escape but can’t capitalise because his arm is hurt. Hero hammerlocks Danielson and hits a backbreaker from that position.

Hero’s big problem is that every time he settles down to work a hold on the ROH guy Danielson is able to find a way to counter and stop him applying it for any length of time. He goes back to a Fujiwara armbar, this time with added FINGER STRETCHING! Finally now he has done enough damage and he is able to wear Danielson down with an extended hammerlock. Eventually Dragon manages to flip out of that though and he unleashes a SLAP FLURRY! Judo ddt connects…so does the swandive headbutt for 2. He goes for Cattle Mutilation but Hero escapes into an armcwrench STO. More big strikes traded…until Hero pokes the eyes. ARM CAPTURE HANGMANS CLUTCH! He looks for a hammerlock Hero’s Welcome but has to settle for a Saito suplex. Double stomp misses and Danielson wipes Hero out with a big forearm smash. CATTLE MUTILATION…but Hero makes the ropes. Was the injured arm strong enough to keep the hold applied? He attempts a back superplex but Hero backflips free. Kravat buster nailed…then an ARM CAPTURE Kravat Buster for 2. ARM CAPTURE CLUTCH AGAIN! Still Dragon makes the ropes. Danielson fights it desperately but it doesn’t work…HERO’S WELCOME! JUST A TWO COUNT! Hero goes for it again but this time Danielson finds a counter with a tiger suplex. CROSSFACE CHICKENWING! HERO TAPS! 29:08 is your time, and wow did that ever fly by.

Rating – **** –
I can’t believe more hasn’t been said about this match. Considering the heavy, mat-intensive style both guys like to work it really seemed to flow by. In fact, my biggest criticism was that it didn’t get to go even longer to allow more time to tell a better story. The opening five minutes were entertaining but it was basically all posturing and stalling. The second portion of the match was great as it was Danielson looking to defend the honour of ROH, attempting to take Hero to school…only he couldn’t do it. Then the man deemed not good enough for ROH proceeded to dominate their World Champion, dissecting the arm and looking to provide the ultimate insult – out-wrestling the self-proclaimed ‘best wrestler in the world’. Unfortunately Danielson proved himself too tough – surviving everything his challenger threw at him and sneaking away with the victory. My biggest criticisms were that I don’t think Danielson did enough to sell the arm-work of Hero. I’m a fan of the often-subtle ways that Dragon sells things, but in this instance, the way he stuck to his established finishing moves like the Cattle Mutilation somewhat no-sold Hero’s HEAVY arm-focus. The finish was also ridiculously sudden – hence I’d have liked to see a further five, maybe even ten minutes. Tapping so suddenly after dissecting the ROH Champion for like 15 minutes again didn’t make Hero look so hot. I think another Danielson control period somewhere else in the match, and a few extra minutes at the end for some more hot nearfall stuff could’ve tipped this into a very early MOTY territory. Not quite there, but still worth checking out.

AmDrag has no time to bask in his glory though, as Prince Nana marches to the ring. Remember we saw him applaud Dragon after he overcame the challenge of Marufuji last month. He is here to buy the World Title from Danielson it seems. ‘The money in Ghana ain’t worth sh*t’ – Danielson. We don’t have a deal…so Jimmy Rave and Alex Shelley emerge from the back to put a beating on the World Champion. Alex Shelley uses Sliced Bread #2 to lay Danielson out I guess Embassy vs American Dragon is on.

Tape Rating – ** –
Definitely the weakest ROH show for sometime. I think it’s an important show in terms of laying the groundwork for a lot of storylines and characters for the early months of 2006, but as a stand alone event, particularly with regards to match quality, it doesn’t quite meet ROH’s (admittedly very high) standards. The start of the GeNext/Rottweilers feud, McGuiness destroying Mamaluke, the Joe/Lethal/Daniels/Whitmer interactions, Jimmy Jacobs declaring his love for Lacey, Adam Pearce’s determination to prove himself, the Styles/Sydal team, Embassy/Dragon at the end there…like ROH is throwing every single potential storyline and character at the wall in one big mud-pie and seeing how much of it sticks. Laying the groundwork is important and for the completists this is a nice event to own as the payoff that will come as the feuds and characters progress in future shows will be that much greater. It does, however, mean that this show is a little hit and miss as a result though. It’s not all bad though. The invasions of FIP and CZW give it a unique vibe, whilst the top three matches all delivered to a certain extent. It’s not must-have by any stretch of the imagination and only gets a mild recommendation…you could do worse though.

Top 3 Matches

3) Samoa Joe vs BJ Whitmer (***)

2) AJ Styles vs Matt Sydal (****)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Chris Hero (****)

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