ROH Aries vs. Richards 11/13/2009

ROH 243 – Aries vs Richards – 13th November 2009

Only twice before in Ring Of Honor history has a match been deemed SO good that the show was named after it. Both of those (Joe vs Punk 2 and Joe vs Kobashi) were awarded 5* by myself and many others, so it’s fair to say that the titular match in question tonight has some pretty lofty standards to live up to. The main event tonight will see Austin Aries defend the World Title against the #1 Contender Davey Richards in what should be a classic. But this actually looks like a strong top to bottom card too. Never one to let a crisis thwart them, ROH officials switched the injured KENTA’s plane ticket and, at short notice, were able to book Katsuhiko Nakajima so he’s in this weekend – and tonight faces Kenny Omega with the chance to get into Pick 6 contention. In other matches with Pick 6 ramifications, we’ll see Strong/Hero and Tyler/Claudio should be pretty good too. Lots of tag action as well with Briscoes/HOT and Bucks/Steen-erico rematches. We’re in Novi, MI – a new building for the Detroit area. New no frills DVD production means there’s no menu music, no moving menus, no bonus features or video wires. Tonight the action speaks for itself…unless you choose the audio channel with commentary, in which case you have Dave Prazak, Chris Hero and Eric Santamaria.

Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs Josh Raymond/Christin Able

This is a rematch from Clash Of The Contenders. There it was the Briscoes coming out on the winning end of a really decent tag team match – one I have down as the HOT’s best in ROH thus far. Will Raymond and Able manage a shock victory tonight and gain a measure of revenge.

Mark starts with Raymond, and within 90 seconds Josh is down on the canvas and pinned for the first nearfall of the show. Able in with Jay next, and impressively the newcomer manages to outstrike Briscoe to hand his team a momentary advantage. It doesn’t take long for the Briscoe’s fluid double teaming to put them on the front foot once again – hurling Christin across the ring with the Briscoe Biel. Truth Martini trips Jay through, leaving him in position for a slingshot DDT from Able. Double dropkick combo in the ropes by the HOT nailed as well, and they bring more sweet double teams with a double flatliner into a powerbomb senton combo for 2. Able gets another nearfall with a fisherman buster on Jay whilst Martini lures Mark around the ring and into a missile dropkick off the apron from Raymond. That leaves the younger brother on the floor and unavailable for a tag temporarily. Eventually he does get the tag, and roars in to drop Christin with the urinage suplex. Second rope cutter on Josh, but Truth saves Able from the Cut-Throat Driver. Jay captures Martini…and he nearly eats a Doomsday Device until Raymond makes the save. DOOMSDAY DEVICE on Able instead! Briscoes pick up another victory over the House Of Truth at 10:34

Rating – *** – I preferred Clash Of The Contenders, but this was another solid tag team encounter. I liked that this match showed off the fact that Raymond and Able are solid wrestlers without necessarily needing to go to the well of multiple high spots and crazy dives to get noticed. They took a while to convince me, but I’m really becoming fans of the HOT

SIDENOTE – If you watch this show with commentary you basically get no crowd noise at all. Although having checked out other reviews, it seems like the crowd aren’t up to much anyway. ROH really needs to sort these production issues though

Tyler Black (2) vs Claudio Castagnoli (6) – Pick 6 Series Match

As I said during my Boiling Point review, Jim Cornette introduced the Pick 6 Series as ROH’s latest gimmick to determine contenders for the World Title. Basically you can only challenge for the belt if you’re in these rankings, with higher ranked contenders getting priority in title shots. As such, with Tyler ranked at #2 whilst Claudio is only #6, he currently is ahead of Castagnoli in the pecking order. You must earn a place in the Pick 6 standings by defeating a ranked guy. As such, Claudio is looking to claim Tyler’s #2 spot and move himself up in this one. Confusing? You bet it is…

Claudio goes straight for the Les Artess Lift which demonstrates his impressive strength, but Tyler is a flexible guy and he manages to counter out to leave us at a stalemate. Black steals Claudio’s glove before taking him over for a kick to the spine…so an angry Double C boots him all the way out of the ring. Impressive strength from Tyler too, as he counters a suplex to deliver a STALLING vertical suplex of his own. Castagnoli drags him around by his plentiful hair to buy himself some time, then retreats to the council of Prince Nana…only to eat the somersault plancha to the floor from Black. SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT OFF THE GUARDRAIL MISSES! Claudio looks to counter with a flying crossbody, and he MISSES TOO! Black attacks the legs, but is knocked back and Claudio delivers a limping crabwalk elbow drop for 2. Giant Swing INTO THE RAILS! That’s all damage to the surgically repaired neck right there. Nana grabs Black’s legs, allowing Claudio to shunt him off the apron all the way to the guardrails again. Chinlock applied now, doing more damage to the neck as we cross the 10 minute mark. STALLING Les Artess Lift gets 2. Pop-Up European…BUT TYLER BACK FLIPS OFF CLAUDIO’S SHOUDLERS INTO THE PELE KICK! He kicks Nana away then scores with the Springboard Lariat. SUPERKICK ON OSIRIS! BICYCLE KICK! UFO attempted, but Black counters to a roll-up…and wins at 11:51

Rating – *** – Great match, and great in a way befitting of the second match on the show, meaning that they worked well, but also kept a lot back to not steal the thunder of matches higher up the card. Claudio used his power to dominate and attack the neck, whilst Tyler used all his reserves of endurance and sheer pluck to continually fight back and find counters to some of Double C’s key moves. Does this mean Claudio’s #6 spot in the Pick 6 is now vacant?

Joey Ryan/Erick Stevens vs Super Smash Bros.

Not an awful lot to this. Stevens is the new muscle in The Embassy now Bison Smith is being phased out, whilst Ryan has been pretty wasted in the faction all year. The Smash Bros. have always been entertaining whenever they’ve made their way to ROH and, having picked up a win over Steen and Generico, have proven they are a genuine threat of The Embassy team take their eyes off the ball here.

No handshakes from Ryan or Stevens, instead they opt to beat down Uno and Dos in pretty brutal fashion. Double backflip kick from Player Dos to knock them back, and he’s joined by Uno for a couple of nice double teams. Stereo kick combo floors Stevens, and has Nana hopping around in fury on the apron. It’s all a distraction though, allowing Ryan to lay Dos out with a big spear. Stevens is in seconds later to totally dominate the smaller individual with raw power. He gets 2 with his Embassy Elbow which is amusingly admired by the elbow-loving Chris Hero on commentary. Dos misses out on a tag with Ryan pulling Uno off the apron, then turns into a big back suplex from Erick. Abdominal stretch, with added illicit assistance from Ryan as The Embassy continue to isolate Player Dos. Eventually the Canadian baits both opponents into laying out each other and makes the hot tag to Uno. All four guys brawl in the ring, with the Smash Bros. dropping Joey with a double Golden Gate Swing. Stevens clobbers Dos with a lariat out of nowhere to win at 09:15

Rating – * – Pretty flat. I don’t understand how Ryan, who is such a heat magnet in PWG, is quite so dull with The Embassy here in ROH. It looks like Jimmy Rave is all but gone, so why not push Ryan as the centrepiece of the group rather than waste time trying to rebuild Erick Stevens who has never really gone anywhere in ROH, despite multiple pushes. For what was a complete squash, giving this nearly ten minutes became extremely tedious. Not saying I wanted the Smash Bros. to go over, but they’re a fun act so seeing them basically buried for so long was pretty brutal.

Kenny Omega (3) vs Katsuhiko Nakajima – Pick 6 Series Match

Given that Kenny is already starting to get a lot of exposure in Japan with the DDT promotion, this should be something special that makes news in the Far East too. KENTA was originally scheduled to work this weekend, but he sustained a pretty severe injury and his entire tour was canned. No replacement could be booked in time for last weekend’s HDNet/Boiling Point tapings, however, Nakajima has been booked on pretty short notice to return for his fourth ROH tour having previously appeared at Glory By Honor 7, Final Battle ’08 weekend and then at the Wrestlemania shows in Houston earlier this year. He’ll get a chance to earn more bookings and a potential future World Title shot if he can beat Omega and force his way into the Pick 6 tonight.

Omega knocks Naka down with an early shoulder tackle, but celebrates too early and EATS a boot to the mouth from the lethal feet of the Japanese athlete. B*TCH SLAP DUEL! Nakajima unloads more kicks then drops Kenny ON HIS NECK with a bridging German suplex for 2. Kenny rolls out of the ring almost limp. Not wanting to wait, Nakajima decides to take the fight to his opponent on the floor. He kicks Omega’s leg against the railings, causing the Canadian to limp heavily. They battle on the ramp, with Naka kicking the knee out again to hit a DDT ON THE STEEL! Before Omega can get back to the ring Nakajima dropkicks him in the stomach, plummeting him to the floor once again. And when Kenny does make it back to the ring, his opponent goes back to work on the legs. Finally Kenny mounts some offence with a rana then the Canadian Hammer strikes, but he is still struggling to walk. He limps into the Leapfrog Bulldog for 2. Frog Crossbody COUNTERED WITH A DROPKICK TO THE KNEE! Nakajima is f*cking awesome! Danielson-esque Judo DDT into a running kick to the chest flatten poor Kenny again. Saito Suplex blocked, but when Omega lands on his feet and hurts his leg again, Naka pounces to hit a dragon screw into a Figure 4. A second dragon screw is blocked, then Kenny ducks and weaves to evade some big roundhouse kicks then delivers an urinage suplex to leave both men down. More kicks to the leg but Omega blocks the rebound kick out of the corner and shoves Nakajima to the floor. BERMUDA TRIANGLE MOONSAULT SCORES! SPRINGBOARD MISSILE DROPKICK RIGHT ON THE NECK! BLUE DESTINY! Nakajima kicks out at 2! He lines up the Dragon Suplex, since he can’t hit Croyt’s Wrath, but Naka lands on his feet and takes him to the corner for a kick to the gut. Rebound kick out of the corner then A GRUESOME KICK TO THE CHEST! BRAINBUSTER NAILED…OMEGA KICKS OUT! REVERSE RANA! Now it’s Naka barely kicking out at 2. Croyt’s Wrath blocked with a kick to the knee. STOP SIGN…NAKA SLAPS HIM IN THE MOUTH! HADOUKEN STRIKE! DRAGON SUPLEX! NAKA NO SELLS! DRAGON SUPLEX AGAIN! ONE COUNT OF DISRESPECT!!!! Still Nakajima blocks Croyt’s Wrath. SUPERKICK FLURRY BY NAKAJIMA! SUPERKICKS BY KENNY! CROYT’S WRATH COUNTERED WITH A RANA FOR 2! Spinning heel kick misses…ugly counter. DRAGON SUPLEX AGAIN! CROYT’S WRATH! Omega finally wins at 18:28

Rating – **** – Throw some knee-selling in there from Omega, and take out that ugly screw up right near the end and we’re talking an MOTYC right here. I’ve seen this match really torn apart in some quarters, and I’ll concede that the last five minutes are total overkill, but this is still a total blast. Only the staunchest of elitist technical freaks could have sat through this and HATED it. This was hard-hitting, fast-paced and exciting 21stcentury wrestling at it’s best. Sure it had some shortcomings, but it was still a hell of a match, with Nakajima continuing to prove he’s comfortably one of the best workers anywhere in the world right now.

There are guys in the background jumping around, high-fiving and knuckle-bumping at how good that match was. An irate Nakajima lays Omega out with elbow smashes after the match, which in an odd way is a sign of respect and they wind up shaking hands.

In the back Colt Cabana and Delirious cut a pretty surreal promo ahead of their match with the All Night Express up next…

Kenny King/Rhett Titus vs Colt Cabana/Delirious

Lots at stake here. Cabana has had issues with Austin Aries both on DVD shows and HDNet tapings in recent months. Having made him tap out at Boiling Point, he’s also now preparing for a World Title showdown with Aries (assuming he is still champion) next month in Chicago. Scoring a win over Aries’ protégés would be great preparation for that. And his partner isn’t short on motivation either. He’s had issues with Rhett Titus stretching back to last year, and will also want to get back at Aries after the World Champion obliterated Daizee Haze with a brutal Heat Seeking Missile at Clash Of The Contenders in October.

King and Titus try to get the jump on their goofy opponents, but their heel tactics are no match for the sheer lunacy of Cabana/Delirious double teams. Delirious cannonballs off the apron into a senton to wipe out Kenny whilst Colt chases Titus around the ring cartoon-style. Delirious covers King’s face in saliva, but that grotesque act motivates him to get an important tag to Rhettski, who flattens the masked man with his dropkick of doom. ANX isolate Delirious for the next few minutes, including an awesome near-miss tag spot where Titus sweeps Cabana off the apron at the last possible second, leaving Delirious in position for the SHOTGUN KNEES from King. Of course, the hot tag does finally come. Colt is such a consummate professional he botches the quebrada press spot and actually turns it to his advantage by making a comedy moment out of it. Flying Asshole blocked by Kenny who catches Colt and shows impressive strength to swing him into a backbreaker/knee drop combo with Titus. They set up for the Jerry Lynn Driver only for Delirious, now wearing Cabana’s headband, to save. PANIC ATTACK/FLYING ASSHOLE COMBO! SHADOWS OVER HELL! Cabana slaps the Billy Goat’s Curse on King, who taps out at 11:10

Rating – ** – There was some really intelligent stuff in there, and some great comedy too. My problem comes from booking inconsistencies with the HDNet show here. I know we’re building Colt up for a title match in Chicago next month, but putting him over King seems at odds with how Kenny has been booked on HDNet recently, by putting Lynn out, getting lots of promo time and main event wins as of late. Still, as far as throwaway filler matches go this was certainly an entertaining watch. Cabana and Delirious are always spot on with the midcard comedy act, and King and Titus are no slouches with that either.

Roderick Strong (1) vs Chris Hero – Pick 6 Series Match

These guys had a couple of really underrated matches back in 2008 – particularly their hard hitting battle at Battle For Supremacy which, for many, stole the show. Of course this one will be hard hitting and physical, but with the top spot in the Pick 6 up for grabs, the stakes are extremely high as well.

We get an extremely tentative opening period, with both men seemingly aware of the inherent striking danger their opponent poses, so they attempt to engage in a cagey mat battle instead. Strong is the first to nail his signature strike – chopping Hero so hard that Chris screams in pain then immediately exits the ring. He lays in a second chop, forcing Hero to collapse in the corner and hug the bottom rope in a defensive position a’la Road Dogg in the 2000 Royal Rumble. To the floor again where Roddy continues to pepper Hero with chops…until Shane Hagadorn steps in with a distraction. Flash Kick through the ropes turns the tide in Hero’s favour quickly. He starts to work Roderick’s right arm, which of course will nullify that chopping ability in a hurry. Intelligently, Strong throws kicks at Hero instead, then powers him up for the first backbreaker of the match. Chris returns fire with the first big elbow of the match, leaving Roddy with a glazed expression. And more smart strategy from Hero follows as he starts working Strong’s right leg, meaning he can’t hit backbreakers or the Sick Kick. Roddy tries to block a senton by getting the knees up, but that hurts his own leg and leaves him worse off than he was before. Enziguri in the corner connects, but leaves Strong on the canvas for nearly a minute recovering. Pumphandle backbreaker nailed only for Roddy to crumple on his bad wheel again. LEFT HANDED CHOPS! And Hero can endure those, spinning Strong round for a volley of elbow smashes for 2. He looks for the Rolling Elbow variant only for Strong to block with a cradle backbreaker. Death By Roderick gets 2, and leaves both men down and struggling to recover. ROARING ELBOW blocks the Gibson Driver and allows Chris to power him up for a Ligerbomb. Ripcord Elbow nailed, but still not enough to put the resilient #1 ranked athlete down. Death Blow countered to a TORTURE RACK BACKBREAKER! SICK KICK! That gets 2 before Strong gets distracted by Hagadorn. Golden Elbow Pad is in play! LOADED ELBOW SMASHES! Hero picks up the win at 15:31

Rating – **** – If Omega/Nakajima was fun in an exciting, mindless fashion, this match was equally fun but in a completely different way. I loved the psychology of Hero here, dismantling Roddy to prevent him from hitting all his trademark offence effectively. In truth I could have done without the Hagadorn interference and Loaded Elbow shenanigans, as I think it would have been a much more effective conclusion, and done more for the stature of both wrestlers, had the finish been clean. Strong’s selling of his injuries wasn’t perfect, but he certainly put a lot of effort into making Hero’s strategy credible and believable. Personally I loved this…both guys have really come into their own in the second half of 2009.

Young Bucks vs Kevin Steen/El Generico

The Jacksons made their ROH DVD debut back in Manassas in an exciting, commendable but ultimately losing effort to Kevin Steen and El Generico. Since then they’ve become permanent members of the Ring Of Honor roster and are looking to get themselves into Tag Title contention with a huge win over the former champs here.

Ultimate Warrior doesn’t agree with Dave Prazak’s policy on boot tassels…just saying. Steen starts with Nick, using his ‘density’ advantage to leave the Jackson brother struggling on the mat. Generico tagged, and Nick shows his own lucha abilities by spring up the ropes into a gorgeous corkscrew lucha armdrag. Matt in, taking some armdrags from Generico before backflipping into a headscissors takedown. The Bucks do the machine gun tag spot they do in every match, before El Generico wisely tags in Mr Wrestling who steps in and mows down Nick with total ease. He brings his luchador partner back in, and once again Generico succumbs to the precise, fast-paced tag team style of the Jacksons. Steen returns, and this time decimates both opponents, throwing them around the ring like children. ARABIAN PRESS TO THE FLOOR by Generico as Steen drops Matt with an Air Raid Crash for 2. Mr Wrestling ensures his team capitalise on this opportunity, cutting the ring in half and getting to work Matt over for the next few minutes. But Generico takes too long putting his boot up for a double team spot…leading to Matt getting to drive Steen into his own partner’s boot. Jackson manages to land a standing Shiranui on Steen and does get the big tag to Nick. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA OUTSIDE BY MATT! SPRINGBOARD CROSSBODY IN FROM NICK! Matt and Generico trade kicks, with Matt blinking first and eating the Michinoku Driver for 2. STUNNER on Matt, followed by the big pumphandle cradlebreaker to get Kevin a nearfall too. YAKUZA KICK BY GENERICO! SUPERKICK BY MATT! SHARPSHOOTER ON HIM! NICK SAVES WITH A SUPERKICK! Nick plants Generico with the slingshot facebuster…BUT MISSES THE SLINGSHOT MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR AND GETS POWERBOMBED INTO THE APRON BY STEEN! GENERICO SUPLEXES MATT INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! STEEN-TON BOMB GETS 2! GENERICO ACCIDENTALLY YAKUZA KICKS STEEN! INVERTED CODE RED GETS 2! Springboard splash/standing moonsault combo nearly wins it for the Young Bucks as well. The Jacksons grab Steen, but Generico breaks More Bang For Your Buck with a YAKUZA KICK! SHARPSHOOTER ON MATT! BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH ON NICK! Steen-erico for the win at 19:26

Rating – **** – Best Young Bucks match in ROH thus far, hands down. I’ve been openly critical of them working basically the same match every show, and this had a lot of the same problems, but you have to give them their dues and when it breaks down to a frantically paced, crazy spotfest like this, they are really great workers. But the real brilliance in this match came from Steen and Generico. They did a great job in sewing subtle seeds of discontent, disharmony, miscommunication and doubt into their tag team work. At this point it wasn’t necessarily obvious, but knowing where they were going with the Steen-erico creative direction, they did an amazing job starting to disintegrate their team here tonight. This one was worth going out of your way to see.

Austin Aries vs Davey Richards – ROH World Title Match

Main event time, and this one should be an absolute cracker. As Tyler Black has floundered, lost momentum and struggled to ‘keep his eye on the ball’ at main event level, fans have slowly started turning towards Davey Richards to give him the ‘next World Champ’ treatment. He earned this title shot by winning the Toronto Gauntlet at Death Before Dishonor 7 Night 2 and, after becoming a centrepiece of ROH in 2009 thanks to his sensational run as half of the Tag Champs with Eddie Edwards, can he wrap up that year by dethroning A-Double?

Aries gets on the mic to run down all the critics who have accused him of ‘scraping by’ and phoning in his World Title run, whilst Davey has been having the ‘best matches’. He wrestles for himself, and promises tonight is going to be a straight fight between a ‘hard kicking prick’ and a ‘straight shooting asshole’. As ever, Austin is bang on the money and adds another layer of ‘big match feel’ to this, easily Ring Of Honor’s biggest match since the departures of Danielson and McGuinness. Davey is very fired up for this, and repeatedly drives the champion back into the ropes in the opening minutes. But Aries is on the ball himself, grabbing his boot as he goes for the bridging kick spot he does a lot, leaving them at a stalemate again. Richards evades the headscissors-escape dropkick seconds later. A-Double lays in a couple of cheapshots, then rolls out of the ring to avoid the Handspring Enzi, leaving Richards to cut a frustrated figure in the centre of the ring. Handspring back elbow from Aries, then he heads to the floor again, desperately trying to get into the challenger’s head. At last Davey does some damage, dragging Austin to the mat and delivering a hard kick to the spine. Aries does the same thing right back but it’s NO SOLD! Austin tries to clown his way out of another serious wrestling exchange, but this time has to absorb a flurry of big kicks. This time when Aries bails the challenger gives chase, chasing him round the ring to dish out more kicks, including a running mafia kick which knocks the champion into the crowd. 10 minutes in and Richards is on top, but gets knocked off the turnbuckles when attempting a rash high-flying move and allows A-Double to scale the ropes himself for the Randy Savage Double Axehandle to the floor. He wrenches the neck against the apron, opening up an injury in that area to set up for many of his finishing moves.

The next few minutes are all Aries, continually pressing home his advantage by dropping Davey to the mat on his neck, and shutting down all his explosive offensive outlets. He starts working the midsection too, which will obviously be significant should he opt to use the Last Chancery or 450 Splash to go for the win at a later point. Power Drive Elbow misses though, allowing Richards to spring back to life and knock Austin off his feet with a big roundhouse kick. Flying Wolverine headbutt connects right on the shoulder, with Richards looking to lock in a cross armbreaker seconds later as we approach 20 minutes. Davey goes for one big kick too many, missing a Yakuza Kick in the corner and allowing Aries to clip his standing leg from under him. Handspring Enzi connects, but now Davey has a bad leg to add to his problems. SHINBREAK BACK SUPLEX follows right away, Aries smelling blood and attacking the injury right away. They fight in the corner with Richards still favouring his leg. Avalanche DR Driver COUNTERED WITH A TOP ROPE DDT! LAST CHANCERY! No win there, but now Richards has serious problems with both his neck and leg. Tombstone by Richards, although he has to modify it thanks to his injured leg and it doesn’t get the same force he might usually deliver it with. SHOOTING STAR PRESS MISSES! MORE DAMAGE TO THE KNEE! Aries capitalises again with a modified IED straight at the leg, then slapping on a Half Crab. ROLLING SHINBREAKERS…INTO A BACK SUPLEX OVER THE ROPES! HEAT SEEKING MISSILE SCORES! He pins the leg in the guardrail…IED AGAINST THE STEEL! Richards goes for the Alarm Clock in desperation, but finds it blocked. POWER DRIVE ELBOW TO THE KNEE! FIGURE 4 LEGLOCK!

As the only guy that really got anything out of Flair’s ill-advised Ring Of Honor stint, it’s fitting that A-Double has adopted the Nature Boy’s finisher into his repertoire. Aries tries to use the ringpost at 30 minutes but finds it blocked. TOPE CON DEATH WISH BY RICHARDS! HE’S ABOUT 8 ROWS DEEP! Rush of adrenaline for the challenger who pummels Austin with kicks from all over the place. Kick Of Death countered with an enzi which knocks Aries goofy. ROUND HOUSE HEEL KICK! DOWN GOES ARIES! DR Driver countered, but Davey catches his opponent on the turnbuckles with a ROPE RUN GERMAN SUPERPLEX! RUNNING HEEL KICK! BRIDGING GERMAN GETS 2! DR DRIVER…but the knee gives way half way through! ALARM CLOCK GETS 2! DR DRIVER NAILED! TWO AGAIN! They go through the ropes…ARIES WITH A BRAINBUSTER ON THE APRON! He wants to win by count-out, so he throws the unconscious Richards into the crowd before clambering back into the ring at 40 minutes. He beats the count through, and blocks the Last Chancery with KAWADA KICKS! KNEE STRIKES VS KAWADA KICKS DUEL! He lines up the Brainbuster…BUT RICHARDS COUNTERS IN MID-AIR TO THE TEXAS CLOVERLEAF! SMALL PACKAGE COUNTER BY ARIES GETS 2! Both of them are totally exhausted at this point, but still come up from the mat swinging wildly at each other. SLAPS FROM ARIES! DAVEY NO SELLS! CRUCIFIX DRIVER! KICK OF DEATH! IED! BRAINBUSTER! RICHARDS KICKS OUT! LAST CHANCERY LOCKED IN! BRAINBUSTER AGAIN! LAST CHANCERY! Richards is KO’d at 44:24. What an epic battle…

Rating – ****1/2 – In terms of match quality, I think Davey’s matches with KENTA, Danielson and the Tag Title Classic were all better than this. However, I don’t think you can over-emphasise how important this match was to Ring Of Honor. There were vultures circling ROH at this point. Doomsday theorists were all over the internet with stories of financial difficulties, locker room problems etc. People didn’t think ROH had the roster to cope with the simultaneous losses of two of their main event talents at the same time when Dragon and Nigel left. People doubted whether Davey could step into Dragon’s shoes as the ‘go to’ guy for the whole promotion. People were seriously doubting whether Aries, who at this stage was all about his A-Double gimmick, was the right guy to carry the belt of a workrate promotion. This match is every bit as historically significant to ROH as the first Joe/Punk at World Title Classic, when people thought the company was done after the Feinstein scandal. It’s as important as Joe/Punk 2 or Joe/Kobashi since, although those were massive selling DVD’s for ROH, neither of those matches took place against the borderline poisonous landscape these two went out there in. In reality, Davey’s selling of the tremendous job Aries did working him over was terrible. In reality they probably could have done with shaving 10 minutes off the match time and not working quite such a slow pace for the first 15. HOWEVER, these guys just delivered a sensational match in tremendously difficult circumstances, and stuck an emphatic middle finger up at all the critics, doubters and haters who were calling time on ROH’s run. Davey and Austin clearly went out massively motivated, and although it had some flaws, this was a truly stunning testament to how much members of this locker room still love and still care about Ring Of Honor. Watching two talented and passionate  performers tear the place down for 45 minutes is the sort of thing ROH was created for way back in 2002. Do yourself a favour and watch this match…

Aries gets on the stick to tell all the people who accused him of ‘losing his magic’, he just ‘pulled a rabbit’ out of their ‘asses’. As much as he can whilst staying in character, he seems genuinely grateful to Davey for that match.

Tape Rating – **** – Awesome show, with four matches hitting 4* territory or higher, including a storming main event, balls to the wall contemporary junior heavyweight wrestling in the midcard with Omega/Nakajima and the best Young Bucks ROH match so far. Aries vs Richards, although not an all time classic, remains a hugely significant match in Ring Of Honor history so it’s one any fan of the promotion should own. Everything else is pretty consistent too, outside of the sucky Embassy tag match. I think this has already sold out at the ROH store, which should give you an idea of how popular it is. Track down a copy however possible

Top 3 Matches

3) Kenny Omega vs Katsuhiko Nakajima (****)

2) Kevin Steen/El Generico vs Young Bucks (****)

1) Austin Aries vs Davey Richards (****1/2)

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