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004 ROH Road to the Title 6/22/2002

ROH 004 – Road To The Title – 22nd June 2002

Show four will see us start a journey to crowning the first Ring Of Honor Champion. 16 men are divided into four blocks of four. Winners of each first round match meet in block finals. The winners of the four block final matches advance to next months fourway Iron Man Match to crown the champion. Last show we saw 8 men thrown their hats into the ring for this tournament. Tonight we’ve also got the three premier UK wrestlers (at that time anyway) coming in – Doug Williams, Jody Fleisch and Jonny Storm. Jerry Lynn also makes an appearance after impressing on the early NWA-TNA shows. ROH still hasn’t left the Murphy Rec in Philadelphia, PA. Hosts are Donnie B and Steve Corino.

BLOCK A – Spanky vs Paul London/Jody Fleisch vs Jonny Storm
BLOCK B – Christopher Daniels vs Scoot Andrews/AJ Styles vs Jerry Lynn
BLOCK C – American Dragon vs Bio-Hazard/Doug Williams vs Jay Briscoe
BLOCK D – Amazing Red vs Xavier/Low Ki vs Prince Nana

Da Hit Squad and Homicide psyche up Low Ki for the tournament. Ki calls out Daniels, saying the ROH Title will be his.

Bio-Hazard vs American Dragon – Block C
Dragon has to be one of the favourites to take the belt home next month, as the first three shows have all been built around good showings by him. His opponent is another TWA graduate in Bio-Hazard. He has a stupid haircut and looks like the moronic cousin of a Mortal Kombat character. I can’t help but notice Danielson doesn’t come out to The Offspring’s ‘Self Esteem’. It remains one of my favourite ROH entrance themes.

It’s so early that it’s not only still light outside, the sun is still shining through the windows. Bio starts fast with a springboard reverse elbow then comes off the second turnbuckle with a diving neck snap. He misses a Lionsault but still has enough left to lift Dragon into a northern lights. Now Danielson starts going through the gears with a number of hard strikes. He lands the judo DDT then a cool inverted suplex. Cattle Mutilation (which Donnie B can’t name – he sucking fucks) finishes at 02:31.

Rating – DUD –
Hazard got in way too much offence for a basic squash. Cool finishing sequence as Dragon seemed to just think ‘that’s enough now’, start stiffing his opponent then finish him off. Hopefully not every first round match is so insignificant.

Paul London vs Spanky – Block A

More TWA graduates. It’s the undefeated Spanky, who has racked up singles victories over Jay Briscoe, Michael Shane and American Dragon already against Paul London who has been exciting without really doing anything meaningful in his prior appearances – unless breaking Chris Marvel’s leg counts as meaningful.

After his pant-problems last show, Spanky seems to have some actual wrestling tights. London tries do his flippy sh*t but Spanky schools him on the canvas. He launches Paul into the ropes with a swinging monkey flip. Slingshot headscissors from London, followed by some armdrags and a dropsault. He barely catches Spanky with a spinning heel kick but he rolls to the floor anyway. Spanky rips off Dragon in the previous match with an inverted suplex, then drops London ON HIS HEAD with a back drop driver for 2. He winds up and scores with a running boot to the head to keep London on the back foot. London to the top rope for a SPRINGBOARD SENTON! Shane did the same thing to Spanky last show. Paul ducks a jumping heel kick then knocks Spanky down with a SUPERKICK that pops the crowd. Top rope again…LONDON STAR MISSES! He isn’t messed up enough to vulnerable to Sliced Bread yet though, and kicks Spanky to the floor again. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA NAILED! Slingshot Asai moonsault gets Paul another 2. He hits the full nelson facebuster but it’s still not enough for a win. He goes to the ropes again, but it’s once too often and Spanky catches him out. BOTCHED SUPERPLEX! LONDON LANDED ON HIS FACE! Spanky sets up for a moonsault but London avoids it. SLICED BREAD #2! At 09:56 Spanky’s winning streak continues.

Rating – *** –
The obvious botch looked farely brutal, but for almost 10 minutes these two went balls-to-the wall and it was hella-fun. Spanky worked hard to string together London’s spotty tendencies and string them together into a good match and, whilst at this point he still needed to add a few basics to his game, Paul’s talent was already obvious. He hits all of his high-spots quite beautifully.

Doug Williams vs Jay Briscoe – Block C

The winner advances to face American Dragon in the Block C final. Jay Briscoe got his first win at A Night Of Appreciation when he beat Tony Mamaluke – but he’s still got problems with his jealous brother Mark. Williams is easily the best wrestler to come out of the UK in recent years. He’s a phenomenal wrestler but, by and large, his talent hadn’t really been exported beyond Europe. And, as me and my friend learned at International Showdown – he loves Jaffa Cakes.

Williams cranks on a wristlock with violent intentions and immediately draws applause from the fans for his counter-wrestling ability. More nifty mat-wrestling leads to him trapping Briscoe in an anklelock – as a late Mark Briscoe arrives at ringside. He starts laughing as Doug continues to wrestle circles around his older brother. Jay tries to grab a leg and seems confused when Williams effortlessly breezes into a side headlock. Rolling snap suplexes into a gourdbuster finally register as offence for Jay. Williams hits the triple knee combo ending with the BOMB SCARE knee drop! NECK BOMB gets Briscoe a 2 count. Jay comes from the top with a big leg drop but it’s not enough. Jay Driller blocked so Briscoe changes into a butterfly stretch. CHAOS THEORY! Doug wins at 06:17.

Rating – ** –
When the match started the Philadelphia fans had no idea who Doug Williams was. Five minutes later Williams walks out of the ring as a star. The whole match was basically an exhibition for how good he is, but lets give credit to the young Jay Briscoe. It’s hard work keeping up with Doug but he did his best with what basically amounted to nothing more than a squash.

SIDENOTE –
the trance-music backing videos for all the wrestlers before the matches are doing my head in.

Jonny Storm vs Jody Fleisch – Block A

Winner moves to the finals and a match with Spanky. I’m assuming these two are booked on the back of the awesome match they had with each other at the 2002 CZW Best Of The Best Tournament. That match was just amazing, and ROH will be looking to these guys to do something similarly effective with this one. If they come out looking as impressive as Doug Williams just did they’ve done well. Storm is using a Five song as his entrance – what’s up with that? Corino points out that Jody is already big in Michinoku Pro.

Do you think these two get bored wrestling each other? They do a traditional flip off everything possible and STAND-OFF opening. Storm boots Fleisch to the floor for the DOUBLE JUMP SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! Jody flicks Storm through the ropes this time but backflip fakes on a dive. They screw something up but move so quickly it barely registers. Jonny clotheslined outside again. Fleisch sets up for the SPRINGBOARD SHOOTING STAR TO THE FLOOR! Pinfall flurry with neither man getting a win. Jody springs to the top rope but Storm goes after him with a ROPE-RUN GERMAN SUPERPLEX! They pause to sell that for all of half a second before Storm is back on the top rope for a SPRINGBOARD SUPER RANA! They’re botching as much as they hit but moving at a zillion miles per hour. REWIND RANA gets Jonny a 2. 720 DDT BY FLEISCH! They’re in the ropes though. Storm goes for the Rewind Rana again but Jody catches him with a LIGERBOMB! That’s enough to bury his countryman at 07:01.

Rating – ** –
Well, it wasn’t even close to the BOTB match, and there were countless screw-ups, but at less than 7 minutes they packed in about everything they know how to do. As far as I’m concerned the CZW match is the definitive Fleisch/Storm match and, despite having seen them wrestle each other (live and on tape) countless times, nothing has touched it since. However, they always go super-fast and throw a ton of spots in. For a 7-minute first round match that’s all you can ask for.

Jerry Lynn hangs out with the Christopher Street Connection – and eventually figures out that they’re trying to get gay with him.

Prince Nana vs Low Ki – Block D

Nana slapped Ki when they were all throwing their hats into the ring for the tournament last show. Low Ki knocked him the f*ck out with an elbow strike. Thus they’re booked together for the first round. Elax is Prince Nana’s lackey apparently – like last show. I’m guessing he’s just a straight replacement for Eric Tuttle since the role is so insignificant nobody really cares anyway.

No need for the Code Of Honor it seems, as Nana jumps Ki during his entrance and starts clubbering away on him. He squishes Ki in the corner which drops him for the RUNNING ASS STRIKE! He chops Low Ki down in the opposite corner for another big ass strike. He stomps him down in a third corner and levels him with a third running butt. Ki finally starts fighting back with chops, He avoids a third butt strike. JUMPING ENZIGURIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII! Nana just got knocked the F*CK OUT! The referee stops the match at 03:50.

Rating – DUD –
Match sucked because, who wants to see three minutes of Nana working over Low Ki with his over-sized ass? At least it was sensible booking because that finish puts over Ki’s kicks as the most dangerous thing in ROH. Nana is nothing more than a midcard comedy act anyway so what does it matter if he gets made to look like a b*tch anyway?

Jerry Lynn has escaped the CSC and listens to some music. Xavier asks what it is. Why have we now seen two pointless backstage Lynn skits? The SAT and Divine Storm make peace with Red and wish him luck.

Amazing Red vs Xavier – Block D

The winner of this one faces the enticing prospect of Low Ki in the block final. Red finally got a win over the SAT at Night Of Appreciation whilst teaming with the great Eddie Guerrero. Xavier lost his first match in ROH and will want to rebound and advance in the tournament. He’s still yet to actually impress with his ring-work.

Xavier launches Red across the ring with a biel, immediately establishing his strength advantage. Tilta-whirl countered to a DDT by Red who immediately throws himself over the top rope with a SOMERSAULT SWANTON! He looks for a corkscrew senton back in but Xavier CATCHES HIM and powerbombs him hard. Knee strikes in the corner rock the little guy. Kiss Your X Goodbye blocked but Xavier rides a hurricanrana into a HANDSPRING ENZIGURI! Red fires back with a corkscrew enziguri. CODE RED for 2! KISS YOUR X GOODBYE! That gets 2 as well. Xavier misses a 450 splash. Red wows the crowd with a SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT DDT! Xavier drags him off the top rope but Red blocks a splash mountain attempt. Lionsault misses for Red to land another corkscrew enzi. INFRA-RED…RED STAR PRESS! Red advances at 04:20.

Rating – *** –
Four minutes long but there was so much awesome sh*t squeezed in. Xavier worked a lot better when he didn’t have to wrestle as much as he had to catch the smaller guy and throw him around. After slumming it with the SAT/Divine Storm losers Amazing Red brought his A-game here and broke out his flippiest spots. Ki vs Red should be awesome.

Christopher Daniels yells at Xavier since now he can’t rely on him to eliminate Low Ki from the tournament. He then tells Red he’ll kick his ass if he loses to Ki. Out in the ring he cuts a landmark promo announcing the formation of The Prophecy – with the goal of bringing down the ROH. He brings out Simply Luscious as his first member. That makes sense since she yelled at Rob Feinstein last month for booking her as Prince Nana’s valet in April.

Christopher Daniels vs Scoot Andrews – Block B

They had a war of words at A Night Of Appreciation, ending with Scoot challenging Daniels to a match in the first round of the tournament tonight. Daniels is another one who should be considered a hot favourite to win the whole thing. He’s another guy who’s been on top form since show one.

Andrews sprints to the ring anxious to get the match started. Tilta-whirl facebomb splatters Daniels on the mat and a follow-up dropkick gets him 2. Daniels drops him with a swinging neckbreaker. Scoot counters a bulldog with a fast STO. Force Of Nature blocked but Andrews still takes the Fallen Angel over with a Tiger driver. Goku Raku Edge-O-Matic gets him a 2 as well. STO from Daniels rocks Scoot and the urinage slam leaves him in prime position for the BME! Daniels wins in 02:31.

Rating – DUD –
Holy crap Scoot just got buried. Clearly management have decided he’s just not an able replacement for Mike Quackenbush. All his credibility just got crushed with this devastating loss. Not that I care, he did nothing for me, but still.

Simply Luscious gets in Scoot’s face. He brings out Sumie Sakai (Japanese female wrestler) to beat her up.

Simply Luscious vs Sumie Sakai

I think this is the first ever female match in Ring Of Honor. Sakai has been around the US indy scene, but I think this was one of her earlier appearances. Luscious has joined The Prophecy because she was pissed off at how she was used. She’s also a TWA graduate – but can she hang with an established female wrestling talent?

Short answer no – she looks way out of her league already. Sakai is walking her through everything – including a basic body slam. Did she learn anything in the TWA? An awful looking dropkick finally drops Sumie. Finally she does something right and hits a nice sit-out powerbomb for 2. She stomps on Sumie’s stomach – eloquently called by Corino: ‘kicking her right in the baby hatch’. A couple of missile dropkicks from Sakai almost put Luscious away. Abdominal stretch applied but courageously Simply doesn’t tap. BOTCHED body slam. Sumie wins it with a moonsault in 03:32.

Rating – DUD – If I gave minus stars you’d better believe this would get it. For the record I don’t think Sumie is anything more than an average female worker, but Simply Luscious was f*cking awful. Seriously, her performance makes a Torrie Wilson pillow fight look like a Chris Benoit match. She almost botched 2 body slams. How the hell does anyone mess up a friggin’ body slam? How did this match last longer than Daniels/Andrews?

AJ Styles vs Jerry Lynn – Block B

This is the final first round match, with the winner advancing to a final block match with Christopher Daniels. By this point TNA had just started running and these two, along with Low Ki, had set the world on fire with their series of matches over the fledgling X-Division Title. ROH acted on this and brought the New F’n Show for his ROH debut and booked him against Styles to give another high-quality round one match. Hopefully this gets more time than anything else has done so far otherwise I’ll feel incredibly ripped off.

They fight over a wristlock but since it’s these two they make it pretty interesting. Throw in a few armdrags then progress to the indy stand-off. Steve Corino shills TNA which just seems bizarre on an ROH tape. AJ flips out of the corner but Lynn sees him coming, and they know each other so well they both go for armdrags at the same time. Jerry thinks it’s time to slow it down and applies a bow and arrow stretch. Just seconds after saying Lynn isn’t famous for his submission skills or anything like that, Donnie B starts calling him a technical genius. Corino is STILL putting over TNA. Lynn plants Styles with an over the shoulder tilta-whirl backbreaker for 2. AJ blocks a tornado DDT but gets clobbered and takes a SUPLEX INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! Spinning Gory Special on Styles, but AJ rides it out then lands on his feet to drop Lynn with a superkick. Jerry blocks the suplex neckbreaker so AJ changes it up with a swinging neckbreaker instead – awesome. He quickly falls victim to a second rope facebuster though, putting Lynn on offence again. He has a DDT blocked, allowing Styles to plant him with a divorce court then lock in an armbar. AJ stays on the arm, going to a grounded hammerlock. Unfortunately he gets lifted onto the apron for the inevitably SECOND ROPE LEG GUILLOTINE! I still love that spot. Styles is able to come up with his suplex neckbreaker this time. To the arm again with another cross armbreaker. Phenom DDT lands but fatigue is setting in and he takes a couple of seconds to cover. Lynn blocks the Clash, flips Styles over and lays him out with an enziguri. Cradle Piledriver blocked with a much better nearfalls sequence than Jody and Jonny did earlier. HEAD DROP GERMAN gets Jerry a 2. He reels off a swinging DDT as well, but soon Styles shoulders him for a DVD over the knee. AJ crotched but he still has enough fight for a SPIRAL TAP! JERRY KICKS OUT! Mild screw-up leads to a Lynn DDT. TKO ON STYLES…for 2! STYLES CLASH NAILED! AJ gets the win at 15:31.

Rating – **** –
Much as with their stuff in TNA, or much as with the Lynn/RVD matches in ECW, this was pretty awesome. I think they did some better stuff with some of their TNA matches, but this one is longer than most of them so. They mesh so well together with Lynn’s fluidity perfectly complimenting the explosive, exciting offence of Styles. Great booking to bring Lynn in and show off what he can do with AJ, and a fitting main event for the first round matches.

INTERMISSION – All the tag teams have a big ruck over who the best team in ROH are. DHS muller Dunn & Marcos, including a brutal KOBASHI-PLEX on Dunn. Divine Storm yell at DHS saying they can’t be the best team in ROH since they haven’t had a real match yet – fair point. That brings their old rivals the SAT out, meaning it’s spot-monkeys vs Mack and Mafia, until the spotboys start fighting each other. I like the idea behind this segment but it should’ve been clipped up since it goes on for way too long. Oh…it’s not over. Here come the Christopher Street Connection. Thankfully they’re quickly murdered by the Natural Born Sinners. SICK Cop Killa on Mase. The Carnage Crew come out to assault the Sinners with hubcaps – those two teams have a feud going on remember. DHS end up powerbombing both members of the Crew through a table. Is it over yet? Oh…nope. Now the Sinners are pissed off with Da Hit Squad. Jeez…nice idea. F*cking hell can you say ‘EDIT’ though?

Jody Fleisch vs Spanky – Block A Final

Spanky continued his undefeated streak in the first round by pinning Paul London. Jody Fleisch is trying to make a big impact on his first night in ROH by shocking everyone and making it to an ROH Title match. This would be a big upset if he could pull it off.

Fleisch tries to show he can wrestle with Spanky, and succeeds to the point where Spanky runs for the sanctity of the floor. He’s sensible enough to shake the ropes and crotch Jody as he goes for another dive though. Slingshot hilo to the neck by Spanky. He back suplexes the Phoenix straight onto his neck as well. Sliced Bread blocked and Fleisch kicks his opponent off the apron. SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT THROUGH THE GODDAMN GUARDRAIL! How the hell did Fleisch not break his legs there? How the hell does he still not stay down for more than three seconds to sell anything! He misses a shooting star press but Spanky still can’t pin him down. 720 DDT misses and Spanky almost rolls him up for 3. SLICED BREAD #2! Spanky advances to the finals at 05:13.

Rating – ** –
Another spot-tastic effort from Jody. In truth neither of his matches were anything special. He was booked to go out there and wow the crowd with his spots, so that’s what he did. I actually preferred this one to the Fleisch/Storm round 1 match simply because it was all clean, and the moonsault to the floor thing was mental. Spanky really didn’t do anything more here than string the sequences together and win. I’m glad he’s made it to the Iron Man final. He’s perhaps the most underrated guy on the roster during these early ROH shows.

SIDENOTE – Umaga. I hate the gimmick (it’s out-dated, cartoonish and mildly racist), and I bet Samoa Joe thanks his lucky stars he picked TNA over WWE. But you know what – Jamal/Umaga really entertains me. Check out some of his AJPW matches if you don’t believe me that he’s good.

Doug Williams vs American Dragon – Block C Final

Both men advanced through their first round matches with a degree of ease. Williams impressed the crowd with his ultra-smooth wrestling in his first win over Jay Briscoe, whilst Dragon humoured Bio-Hazard for a while before beating him in about 3 moves. This is one of the few times when Danielson will be in the ring with a guy who can wrestle as well, if not better than him which instantly makes it perhaps the most intriguing of the block finals.

First thing Doug does is drop Dragon to the mat as he attempts a headlock. That reeks of ‘you ain’t sh*t to me, kid’. Dragon enziguris him in the side of the head and this is ON! Williams starts countering everything Danielson tries until, getting rich applause from the Murphy Rec. Dragon gets some distance with a judo throw. Inverted surfboard from Doug which leads to a forearm duel with their legs intertwined. Williams with a ribbreaker, followed by a bow and arrow stretch. He Gory Special’s AmDrag into the turnbuckles as he continues to school the young American. He hits two thirds of the triple knee combo but the Bomb Scare is COUNTERED WITH A DROPKICK! Danielson follows with a dragon screw. They both slap leglocks on each other and roll to the floor STILL holding them. Dragon gets the better of that, so Williams SUPLEXES HIM OFF THE APRON! The Revolutions DDT gets the British import a 2 count. CRAVAT SUPLEX by Dragon! EUROPEAN UPPERCUT DUEL! ELBOW STRIKE DUEL! Dragon boots Williams in the face then lays him out with the judo DDT. The Benoit headbutt lands but he’s winded and takes too long to cover. CHAOS THEORY! DRAGON KICKS OUT! He rattles off some kicks to the head then takes Doug to the top for a back superplex. CATTLE MUTILATION BUT WILLIAMS JUST STANDS UP! He takes Dragon down with an inverted suplex and pins him at 13:36.

Rating – **** –
Absolutely awesome match that cemented Williams place as a new star in the fledgling ROH. This match didn’t make him look as good as American Dragon, it made him look BETTER. That’s why I hate the finish so much. A quick pin doesn’t really protect Dragon when he’s spent most of the match being out-wrestled, it’s just a deflating finish to a great match. These two are both such skilful workers and they pulled off a real masterpiece – with the young technician American Dragon struggling to come to terms with a better mat wrestler than he is. I’d love to see them wrestle in 2006, since they’re both better now than they were even then. Doug winning means we’ll see him get at least one future booking in ROH which totally rules.

Amazing Red vs Low Ki – Block D Final

Winner will be the third man advancing to the Iron Man at the next show, where Spanky and Doug Williams are already waiting. Low Ki has been the stand-out athlete on the first three shows, stealing the show each time and stepping up to be the principle upholder of the Code Of Honor and the like. Amazing Red opened up the promotion against Jay Briscoe but has since got bogged down working with his less talented partners in the SAT. Can he produce a performance here to show off his singles skill?

Bell rings, Red slaps Ki and…’HOLY CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON!!!’ KI THROWS STRIKES…RED AVOIDS THEM ALL. HE FLIPS OUT OF THE WAY…THE CROWD GOES BALLISTIC! That’s some crazy kung-fu movie sh*t! Ki starts forearming Red in a knucklelock then dragon screws him down. Red throws more kicks which Ki artfully avoids and belts him with kicks of his own. Krush Combo kick avoided with a RED STAR PRESS FOR 2! He dives off the second rope with a neckbreaker only for Ki to kick out again. Red tries to flip off his shoulders so Low Ki just watches him…MEGA CAPO KICK! Red is totally f*cked up! Ki looks for the Tidal Krush but Red blocks it with a missile dropkick. Red goes to the apron but foolishly sticks his head through the ropes and eats a big kick to the chest. He climbs to the second rope but gets CAPO KICKED TO THE FLOOR! Low Ki is trying to bully his opponent now, dragging him around by his 14-year old afro. Red hits a desperation tilta-whirl DDT and dropkicks Ki off the apron. He sets up for a dive…JUMPING KNEE TO THE HEAD BY KI! Red is still able to cradle out of a Ki Krusha attempt. He goes for a rana but gets dragged back up…REVERSE RANA INSTEAD! INFRA-RED MISSES! MURDERISING Krush Rush sends poor little Red crashing to the floor all limp. Ki wants the Phoenix splash but Red moves and he has to roll through. He climbs again and eats a corkscrew enzi. Amazing Red up there with him now. TOP ROPE KI KRUSHAAAAAAAAA! RED IS DEAD! Timed at 11:16.

Rating – **** –
Chalk up another show-stealer for Ki. That was unbelievable stuff for the majority of it. Imagine your typical plucky underdog vs dominant superstar dynamic, except with two ultra-quick wrestlers who can take that story and jazz it up with ridiculous high spots. Everyone remembers THE minute for the kung-fu movie stuff, but the whole match is really well done. There’s botches here and there but, with the absolutely amazing stuff they’re doing you can’t expect 100% cleanliness all the time. I always show this to my WWE-liking friends and they’re always amazed by it. Still holds up today as a spectacular effort. It was so good that TNA booked basically the same match weeks later.

Brian XL is cheesed off at the treatment he got at Night Of Appreciation. He lays Red out with his funky X-Clamation Point move which brings out the SAT to kill him with the Spanish Fly. Backstage XL yells at Divine Storm for not watching his back. Brian goes to find new friends to roll with.

Natural Born Sinners challenge Carnage Crew to a Bunkhouse Match on July 27th.

AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels – Block B Final

Yep, these two were getting booked against each other years ago as well. Daniels vowed he wouldn’t get in the ring again with Low Ki until the ROH Title was on the line. That’s lucky since Ki is one of three men awaiting him if he wins this match and progresses to the title match. Styles will be the more worn down of the two men given that he worked 15 minutes with Jerry Lynn earlier, whilst Daniels took less than 3 to finish off Scoot Andrews. Simply Luscious is in Daniels’ corner.

Styles tries to go after the arm, but I assume that’s mostly part of a feeling out process. Daniels counters and attacks the arm in return. This opening is all pretty slow and mat-based. They’re feeling their way and allowing the crowd to recover from the excitement of Ki/Red. Even in 2002 AJ did the EXACT SAME dropkick sequence, and people were equally dumb in falling for it. At least they’re doing a great job of making everything look like a real struggle. Daniels seems to be targeting the head and neck. He walks into the nip-up hurricanrana then takes a Sayama kick in the corner. Daniels dropkicked to the floor for AJ to hit a corkscrew pescado. They jostle over a suplex on the apron until Daniels knees Styles incredibly low. That leaves him exposed and Fallen Angel barges him off the apron into the guardrail leaving him bleeding on the floor. Daniels immediately starts punching the head to make it worse. He’s attacking that laceration like a complete bastard, and the blood loss will just add to AJ’s fatigue. Lionsault misses allowing Styles some time to regroup. He nails Daniels with a sick brainbuster then takes it to the apron where he goes low like Daniels did earlier. Daniels hangs in the ropes for a SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT from Styles. He comes back strong with the KOJI CLUTCH! That’s the ROH debut of that hold, and will make poor AJ even more exhausted. He hangs him over the ropes then comes off the top with a leg drop to the neck. Styles hits a standing enziguri kick from nowhere to leave both men face down. Daniels eats the German suplex/gourdbuster combo for a 2. Daniels sweeps him out again with an STO straight to the head and neck again. He attempts the BME but AJ shakes the ropes and he drops on his head. THUNDERFIRE DDT for 2. Thankfully he didn’t try dropping Daniels on his head like he did with Ki last month. Styles Clash blocked with an anklelock. This is breaking down to a real scrap now, with nearfalls galore. Quebrada DDT blocked…LAST RITES! That’s the win for Daniels at 21:51.

Rating – **** –
It took a while to get going, perhaps due to wrestler fatigue, perhaps due to fan fatigue, but from the blood loss thing onwards it became a really good match. Of course these two have done miles better with each other but this whole match came off as a colossal struggle. Every single hold, move and counter was at a premium, with this gruelling theme continued through everything they did. The finish was surprisingly sudden, but made sense continuing Daniels had worked the neck and head for large portions of the match. I’d have appreciated a few more exciting nearfalls though, since it took a while for the match to come alive. I think the fans would’ve appreciated this more had it not come after Low Ki vs Red but, whatever. Great main event to round off an awesome show.

Donnie B comes to the ring to announce that ROH High Impact TV starts in September 2002. Unfortunately it never really took off as a concept and got take off the air fairly promptly. Daniels, Ki, Spanky and Williams are called to the ring for the unveiling of the ROH Title belt. Daniels acts like an asshole through the whole thing and everyone ends up brawling. Low Ki puts him in the Dragon Clutch and tries to kill him. Eventually wrestlers and officials carry the two men to the back with Ki STILL choking Daniels.

AJ Styles says it’s not over between him and Daniels. He also says that next month he’s bringing two other wrestlers from NWA-Wildside to show off what the south is all about.

Spanky laughs at American Dragon since he’s in the title finals, whilst Danielson isn’t even on the show. Dragon challenges Spanky to a 2/3 falls match at the Boston debut. Unfortunately Spanky took a booking in Japan instead so the match never happened. Which sucks…

Carnage Crew beat up some of the ring crew guys to send a message to the Sinners. Meanwhile outside Steve Corino is making out with Simply Luscious. What a weird way to end the show…

Tape Rating – **** –
Maybe a tad generous but this is an epic show that every ROH fan should see. I don’t think I own a three hour show with MORE wrestling crammed into it. Was everything good? No, it wasn’t. There are some inane squash matches, and the abortion that was Sakai/Luscious. Most of the first round matches are also really brief. But there’s just so much to enjoy. FOUR 4* matches make this a show you should go out of your way to see by yourself. Plus most of the other matches, despite being short, pack a load of good stuff in there. Obviously the stand-out match is Ki vs Red, with the whacky minute which still holds a place in ROH folklore four years later, but it’s not the be all and end all. Whenever a modern day ROH fan wants to check out some 2002 ROH and asks me for a recommendation I ALWAYS say they should watch this. I don’t think it’s the best show of 2002, but I think it’s the most varied and, particularly to fans of the modern day product, you’re getting the most bang for your buck. There’s lots of wrestling, lots of DIFFERENT wrestling. Probably the best one night, squish lots of matches into three hours, tournament ever to take place.

Top 3 Matches

3) Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles (****)
2) Doug Williams vs American Dragon (****)
1) Low Ki vs Amazing Red (****)

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