009 ROH All Star Extravaganza 11/9/2002

ROH 009 – All Star Extravaganza – 9th November 2002

The last couple of events have been disappointing. There have been historic and outstanding matches, but as well-rounded cards, they’ve fallen disappointingly short. I’m looking for that problem to be remedied with this show. On paper it’s possibly the strongest of 2002. Shinjiro Ohtani and Masato Tanaka join us from Zero-ONE in Japan for the main event. A system for establishing number one contenders for the ROH Title is put in place with a gauntlet for the new #1 Contenders Trophy. There’s also a big 6-man tag for the ROH Tag Title. Yes, a 6-man tag for the title. Xavier continues his quest to not suck as champion with a defence against Jay Briscoe. There’s also the early debut of CM Punk – given what he would go on to achieve I’d suggest that’s quite a landmark. Once again we’re in Philadelphia, PA. Jeff Gorman and Chris Lovey continue commentary.

Steve Corino walks into the locker room and tells Low Ki that the Z-1 office has booked them against Ohtani and Tanaka. Homicide and Corino argue about losing to the Backseat Boyz but Ki stops them.

SIDENOTE –
Second show in a row where a music video gives away every big spot and exciting moment on the show. It’s retarded. That’s a BAD RFVideo. No Neverland Ranch visits for you…

Special K vs Divine Storm vs SAT vs Da Hit Squad – Scramble Match

DHS step into the scramble environment for the first time. The Carnage Crew beat them in a brawl last show. They bring a new brutal dynamic to the spotfest. Special K are represented by Dixie and Joey Matthews. Clearly Joey has gone over to the drug side since the last show. Expect the same old same old from the Maximos and Divine Storm.

Sure enough Storm and chubby Maximo do the same old stuff when they start. Joey gets a load of heat when he goes in with Jose. Mack rather hilariously swats Divine away as he attempts some fancy moves and clobbers him with a lariat. Dixie knocks Mafia down with a roaring elbow. All the little guys go to the top for superplexes. DHS show up…POWERBOMB SUPERPLEX CARWRECK! Now that’s how you do one of them big multi-person spots. Monsta Mack drops Jose on his head with a SECOND ROPE GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK! Divine manages to get him over for a German suplex, but Jose is back after his previous head drop for a cradle back suplex. Joey hits him with a reverse DDT. He blocks the Burning Hammer from Mafia. HEAD DROP KOBASHI-PLEX! Mafia tries to press slam Dixie but the Special K man counters it with a DDT. Storm with SPINAL SHOCK on him! Joel returns with MAXIMO EXPLOSION! The Maximos TRADE German suplexes on poor little Quiet Storm. MOONSAULT/LEG DROP COMBO! Matthews kicks Jose in the balls. DHS have Dixie with Mafia wiping him out with the cannonball senton. FATTY FROG SPLASH by Monsta Mack. Divine Storm take out Mafia with a double flatliner. SAT powerbomb Storm in the turnbuckles to crotch Dixie. SPANISH FLY ON DIXIE! SAT win at 10:12.

Rating – *** –
Up there with the best Scrambles ROH has ever done. Da Hit Squad did indeed add masses to this with their best performance of the year. They looked like terrific throwing around the smaller men like toys. Elsewhere they minimised the sh*tty pseudo-lucha which always looks messy and sucks they instead went through a stream of non-stop head drops. Most importantly they hit everything clean. Don’t expect them all to be so good – but this it what happens on the rare occasions all the monkeys get it right. Importantly, they learned the lessons of the previous show and made the match 10 minutes shorter.

The Prophecy are in full force tonight. Samoa Joe is still pulling faces behind Daniels back which is still utterly hilarious. Simply Luscious tells Xavier not to let Briscoe give him the Jay Driller again. He brags about his match with Low Ki. I wouldn’t do that kid…it sucked. She also yells at Joe for shaking Low Ki’s hand. He says he’s paid to kick ass, not to break the Code. Midcard sarcastic Joe rules.

CM Punk vs Michael Shane – #1 Contenders Gauntlet

This is the first round of a gauntlet which also includes Paul London, Amazing Red and American Dragon. The winner goes on to face AJ Styles later in the show with the new #1 Contenders Trophy on the line. Michael Shane had a bit of an argument with Xavier at the end of Glory By Honor. He turned down a spot in The Prophecy and said he wanted a match with the champion somewhere down the line. CM Punk debuts with a big reputation. We saw at Unscripted that he’s excited about working for this promotion and determined to make his mark. Becoming #1 contender on his first night would be cool.

Punk holds his own on the mat whilst the crowd get on Shane’s case for being an asshole. Shane proves the asshole-heat correct as he gestures for a test of strength then gets the advantage in it by kicking Punk in the stomach. Punk kicks at Shane’s arm then starts armdragging him. Next he bangs the limb on the ground to exacerbate any injury. ROPE WALK LEG DROP over the arm! He tries to do the same move a second time which never works. Shane moves then plants him with a back suplex. He’s carrying his arm limp by his side and tries to negate Punk by using his good arm to apply a chinlock. Almost Perfect Elbow connects on Punk’s neck for 2. He applies a front facelock using his bad arm, which I don’t like. I think I catch some fans chanting ‘sell your arm’ which I don’t like either. ‘Boring’ – moronic fans. Punk tries to rally back and gets poked in the eyes. Chinlock again, almost to annoy the fans that thought he was boring. Punk again tries a comeback but gets speared. The move hurt Shane’s arm and he can’t follow up. Punk hits an armbar DDT then a slingshot hilo over the shoulder for 2. A jumping enziguri rattles his brains though. Shane tries a powerbomb but it’s easier for Punk to escape and counter to a cross armbreaker due to the injury. Punk tries a split-legged moonsault but Shane gets the knees up. Punk flips out of the corner but attempts a crossbody and gets met with a SUPERKICK. PICTURE PERFECT ELBOW misses. Punk gets 2 with a Shining Wizard. Shane rolls him up using the ropes to win it cheaply in 13:04.

Rating – *** –
Despite a bad crowd (it’s what happens when you put the scramble on first – any slower mat-based matches get sh*t on) they put on a solid technical match that effectively debuted Punk and showed off the heel stylings of Michael Shane. His style seems to be a hybrid of 2006 Bryan Danielson and Jimmy Rave, only not as good as either. Rewatching these shows I’d love to see him (as Matt Bentley I guess) get another shot. It’s not like TNA does anything with him. Aside from one instance where he didn’t sell the arm the psychology was great too.

Michael Shane vs Paul London – #1 Contenders Gauntlet

We know the history between these two young men. Shane won an ROH contract at the expense of Paul London, he’s abused him ever since. He’s also taken shots at Paul’s trainer Rudy Boy Gonzalez along the way. They had an epic Street Fight in September which London won, only for Shane to attack him again after the match. It was also Shane that eliminated him in a triple threat match at Glory By Honor. London will be looking for revenge and a title shot for himself.

London’s back wearing his ugly singlet. Shane punches him after a handshake because, as I keep pointing out, he’s a dick. He tries to brawl on the floor only for Paul to boot him in the back of the head. London takes a sick bump into a guardrail. He gets suplexed on the wooden floor to make it worse. CANADIAN BACKBREAKER gets 2. Shane works a Lion Tamer but can’t tie the flexible London in it for too long. A swinging DDT keeps the babyface in the dodgy singlet down. Paul takes a gutbuster and seems to be seriously injured. He sells it hard…BUT IT’S A ROUGE! He pops up with a legsweep DDT to eliminate Shane in 04:37.

Rating – ** –
There was some really good stuff in this match, particularly the finish which is a superb reference to their Honor Invades Boston match as London used Shane’s own cheap tricks against him. Despite being short that could’ve pushed this match into 3* territory had it not completely disregarded Shane’s previous match. There was no reference or selling to the arm injury that he struggled for almost 15 minutes with against Punk. That kept it down…

Michael Shane walks out refusing to shake hands because London cheated. BUT TOMMY F’N DREAMER STOPS HIM IN THE AISLE! Naturally the Philly crowd goes mental. He says ROH reminds him of ECW, then compares the Murphy Rec to the ECW Arena. There’s an oddly prophetic statement in there about ‘in a couple of years’ maybe the bigger promotions will notice ROH and start stealing their talent. How f*cking right you were Tommy (except that WWE had already taken Spanky by this point). He orders Shane to show respect and honour to London. He does…then clubs him just like at Unscripted. DREAMER DDT ON SHANE! ‘Man In The Box’ plays him out. ECDUB!

Paul London vs Amazing Red – #1 Contenders Gauntlet

But we’ve still got a gauntlet series to run. These are easily the two most talented fliers in ROH at this point so I’ve been looking forward to seeing them put in the same ring with each other. Hopefully a singles match outside of the limitations of the gauntlet will be booked somewhere down the line too.

They do some quick stuff but London tags Red with a forearm then the dropsault. Red gives him the 718 to the stomach. MOONSAULT OFF THE APRON CAUGHT…RED COUNTERS TO A DDT ON THE FLOOR! Red tries a baseball slide to follow but London catches his legs and swings him into the railings. Lovey/Gabe is still having an orgasm over Tommy Dreamer and ignoring the match. Paul holds Red in a stalling brainbuster. That’d be more impressive if it was against someone that doesn’t weigh about 50lbs. Red retaliates with a corkscrew enzi then step dropkicks the back of the head. RED STAR PRESS gets 2! They go to the top rope…STANDING SUPER RANA! London still kicks out. He drops Red with a Rydien bomb then finishes it off with the London Star at 05:45.

Rating – ** –
A couple of nice flashy highspots but they really didn’t get enough time to scratch the surface of what they’re capable of between them. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it fine for a sub-6 minute affair. But it left me wanting more…

Paul London vs American Dragon – #1 Contenders Gauntlet
This would be the final leg of the gauntlet part of the Trophy series. The winner of this match gets a break and goes on to face AJ Styles with the trophy on the line later in the evening. These are two graduates of the TWA school, except Dragon trained when it was the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy under HBK, whilst London was trained by Rudy Boy as we’ve seen. Danielson is fresh from his first tour of NJPW where he worked all the top juniors there. London, meanwhile, is knackered having already been through a grudge match with Shane and an aerial match with Red.

Naturally Dragon takes London down and takes him to school on the canvas. He tries hard but in truth it’s not even a contest! Dragon applies an STF and pulls at the face to make it worse. London tries to escape and Danielson just rides him in circles. A double underhook suplex allows Dragon to throw his opponent to the outside. He ties Paul in the ropes and takes free shots at the poor guy…then dropkicks him RIGHT in the face. SICK European uppercuts greet Paul when he insolently tries some forearm shots. London attempts a moonsault but gets DROPKICKED IN THE FACE! London still keeps coming back and switches a hiptoss into a DDT. Dropsault connects as well, then a standing moonsault for 2. He blocks a back superplex and hits a second rope legsweep. He thinks it’s an opportunity for the LSP…but it’s not. Danielson hauls him off the top rope in a superplex. DRAGON SUPLEX! CATTLE MUTILATION! London taps at 10:11.

Rating – *** –
A tad one-sided but that was the right story given that Dragon is an awesome wrestler, and London started fairly tanked after going through two matches. In the end it was a well-paced underdog story with Danielson trying to take London apart, whilst he did his best to hang with Dragon and beat him with one final flurry of offence. Basically it was Dragon carrying a knackered Paul, but that it was this good tells you that a singles match with both of them fresh would be money.

Christopher Daniels/Donovan Morgan/Samoa Joe vs Low Ki/Homicide/Doug Williams – ROH Tag Title Match

Apparently the Tag Titles are being defended in a 6-man due to a loophole exploited by The Prophecy. Since officially “The Prophecy” are listed as champions that means that all of the group can defend them. We all know the history between Ki and Daniels so that adds a lot of flavour to this match. Daniels cheated to beat Doug Williams at Glory By Honor to stop him shaking hands. Homicide is on this team because he trained Ki and is friends with him – it’s only natural Ki would want him on the team. Will The Prophecy be able to co-exist considering Joe is only being paid to team with them?

The heels have a laugh pretending to jump their opponents, but they get the last laugh because they just attack them all, forcing The Prophecy to bail. Joe and Ki want to go at it, but Daniels orders Joe out of the ring. Morgan and Ki wear each other down, ending with Ki locking in his hanging crucifix stretch. Doug and Joe go back and forth for fun. Joe tries to throw a kick only for Williams to grab the leg and roll into a leglock. Homicide looks up for this, since it’s his biggest match so far. He hits an exploder on Daniels, takes out the rest of his team then goes back to boot the Fallen Angel in the face. Ki drops the Mutoh elbow on his arch nemesis but Joe comes in for a cheap kick. Joe is invading the ring again to break a pin after a slingshot knee drop by Williams. DOUBLE MAFIA KICK in the corner by the future Rottweilers. Doug puts Daniels in a Gory special, then hooks up Donovan as well. Joe isn’t standing for that and boots the Englishman in the face. Via Joe The Prophecy are able to change the momentum and isolate Williams and start working him over. Daniels puts on an abdominal stretch, and that’s made far worse as Joe strides in to punt Doug in the ribs. Then the leader distracts the referee whilst his cronies beat up Williams on the floor. Morgan applies a leg half nelson but that’s stupid because Doug is able to counter into a surfboard. Williams pins Daniels but Joe occupies the official whilst Morgan puts Daniels on top.

BEST MOONSAULT EVER gets 2! Doug manages to land a flurry of strikes on Morgan and Daniels, then gets the hot tag to Homicide. SUPER Ace crusher on Daniels as the match starts to degenerate into a brawl. DOUG WITH A PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! ARABIAN PRESS by Daniels! Homicide winds up…TOPE CON HILO! The Prophecy catch Homicide on that so Ki SPRINGBOARD DIVES ONTO EVERYONE! The fans want a dive from Joe. HE OBLIGES WITH A F*CKING CORKSCREW PESCADO! He takes Williams inside for a dragon suplex. Williams blocks the Island Driver so Morgan plants him with a Saito suplex. The tag format has gone now. GOLDEN GATE SWING on Homicide! Notorious 187 comes back with the STF. Daniels saves with a Mongolian chop from the top rope. Ki and Daniels counter each other’s finishers. TIDAL KRUSH MISSES! DANIELS WITH A SUPER REVERSE RANA! Angels Wings countered as Homicide runs in, but Joe quickly stops him nailing a Cop Killa. Doug blocks the Island Driver…Morgan blocks Chaos Theory. Sayonara blocked with the DRAGON CLUTCH BY KI! Daniels lifts Ki out of that into REVELATIONS! That’s the Daniels/Morgan double team finisher but Williams saves. CHAOS THEORY ON DANIELS! Morgan breaks the win. GOLDEN GATE SWING AGAIN! Homicide brainbusters Donovan then EATS Kawada kicks from Joe. Joe no-sells Homicide’s lariats so Homicide kicks him in the balls. Joe powerbombs into the STF…THEN THE CHOKE! His partners are stuck on the floor so Homicide is choked out at 23:27.

Rating – **** –
That was a hell of a match. There was a ton of talent packed in on either side and it delivered what it promised. Technically it’s probably not as good as I remember but it holds up fairly well. The opening 15 minutes were an awesome 6-man, with the faces going after the weasly head honcho of the opposition, then the heels gaining control with a few shady tactics along the way. They totally abandoned tag format and legal man rules for the last few but at least the crazy spotwork was good. The dive sequence was better than anything the scramble boys put together, then the stretch with everyone blocking everyone elses finishers led brilliantly to the finish. Homicide didn’t get to do a whole lot but this was back before he’d really proven himself as a viable singles star. He was pretty much in the match to take the fall. Joe was the star, looking like a real machine any time he was in.

Joe sticks around to shake hands with Ki and Homicide (not Doug since he can’t). Daniels, Morgan and Luscious aren’t impressed with that…but they Joe looks at them and they run away.

Allison Danger vs Alexis Laree

Dave Prazak wishes he could book this for SHIMMER these days. Anyway, Danger had a big girl-crush on Laree, and slapped her ass with glitter to announce that. At Glory By Honor the Christopher Street Connection pinned Alexis in an intergender 6-person. She’s coming for revenge on Danger, who has Mase in her corner.

Danger comes from behind and pulls Laree’s hair. Alexis is like ‘you wanna play it that way?’ and starts dragging Danger around by her own hair. She connects with perhaps the worst baseball slide ever, then forearms Mase off the apron as well. Plancha to the floor wipes out Mase but Allison again comes from behind to bash her head into the apron. Danger gets 2 with a neckbreaker over the knee. She goes for the big liplock, then does Mase’s full body grind spot. That just pissed Alexis off and she gets speared. An inverted DDT finishes Danger at 03:25. Mase dishes out a big gay beating post-match.

Rating – DUD –
Blah. Nobody really likes sports-entertainment style womens matches. Alexis is pushed as the best female wrestler but even she wasn’t especially good at this point. This was still years before Allison Danger became credible in the ring. The backstory is total comedy filler and that’s all this match was. Really nothing more than a popcorn post-intermission match.

Carnage Crew vs the whole ring crew – Bunkhouse Match

Since they debuted at Night Of Appreciation the Carnage Crew have constantly taken liberties with the ring crew. They attack them after shows, they massacred Dunn & Marcos during a show. However, since then the Ring Crew Express have gotten over as lovable losers and are now leading a ring crew rebellion for revenge against Loc and DeVito. The Crew are fresh off a big win over Da Hit Squad at Glory By Honor, and are now preparing for Homicide and Abdullah The Butcher next month.

Loc and DeVito immediately start smacking their opponents about with hucabs. CON-HUBCAP-TO! Wait a minute…that’s not Dunn & Marcos. Oh, there they are. The Crew were beating up random ring crew people but then kill Dunn & Marcos with faceplants. SPIKE PILEDRIVER finishes Marcos in 02:32.

Rating – DUD –
Not even so much a squash as a decimation. The Crew showed off some more spots than we’ve seen from them so far but that’s pretty much it. The hucap shots at the start were brutal.

Gary Michael Cappetta brings out JT Smith (old ECW guy – he used to be in the FBI). JT doesn’t get to say a whole lot before Special K come to interrupt him. Joey Matthews (w/ black eye) says they’re cancelling his appearance in favor of a rave. They end up hitting him in the leg with some kind of wooden implement. The Outcast Killaz make their first on-camera appearance to make the save. How random! Anyway, the big black dude blasts through the rails to take out the OCK.

Xavier vs Jay Briscoe – ROH Title Match

Jay gets a title shot because he beat the champion in a non-title match last time. That match wasn’t particularly good but maybe familiarity will work for these two and they’ll produce better second time around. Jay will be pissed since after that win The Prophecy beat the crap out of him.

You can’t fault the effort of either man. The concentration is written all of their faces as they begin some matwork. It’s nothing exceptional but all solid, and certainly done with more charisma than the previous month. Xavier tries to pick at Jay with various holds but he can’t keep the young man down. Eventually he kicks him instead. The first touch of lameness arrives with a tentative-looking slugfest. Jay looks for the Driller but Xavier quickly hauls ass and takes a powder. He finally comes in and falls victim to a string of offensive moves from the challenger. Spinning facebomb is followed by a running clothesline which sees both men crash outside. Simply Luscious has man-shoulders. They amble onto the apron then Xavier suplexes Jay to the floor again. This isn’t bad, but it’s just so ponderous and so devoid of intensity. Elbow drop off the apron by Xavier, then he feeds Briscoe to the guardrails. He needs to spend more time on the floor, since he looks as aggressive as he ever has by muscling Jay up then driving his back into the ringpost. Luscious uses the ropes to throttle Briscoe as the champion leads the referee to the opposite side of the ring. Jay gets 2 with a gourdbuster. Xavier comes back with a belly to belly suplex.

Luscious continues to bring the dishonour by tripping the challenger. SPRINGBOARD ARABIAN PRESS TO THE FLOOR! Xavier f*cking nails that move. He introduces Briscoe to the ringpost again, then BOOTS a chair into his head! That’s Briscoe bleeding everywhere now. Xavier stomps on the cut, but then throws in a random backbreaker. He applies a grounded Tazmission with very little intensity, despite Jay’s blood pouring down his arm. SEATED Cattle Mutilation again, but he doesn’t hold onto it for more than a second. He misses a second rope senton, but has enough about him to block a second Jay Driller attempt with an Alabamaslam. He tries something off the top rope but Jay almost counters with a sunset flip bomb…only to get punched in the bloody head. Briscoe does hit a superplex leaving both men down. Jay eventually follows with a German which gets 2. Kiss Your X Goodbye countered with a DVD. Briscoe to the top rope for a big leg drop. Jay Driller blocked with a kick to the face. COBRA CLUTCH SUPLEX! The Kiss Your X Goodbye does succeed this time but Jay still kicks. X-Breaker countered with a powerbomb. Jay wants a moonsault but gets a nutshot from Luscious. SECOND ROPE X-BREAKER! It’s over at 20:49.

Rating – ** –
Same rating as last time. There were some signs of improvement from Xavier. Finally he gave us a reason to hate him aside from crap wrestling. It might be cheap heat and outside interference, but at least it’s a reason to hate him that isn’t being sh*t. This match had so little crowd interest because, whilst the fans might hate him, they’ve also got no interest in watching him for 20 minutes. In truth I was expecting a lot worse. Aside from being a tad one sided, my problem with this was that it was SO long, and it never seemed to get out of second gear. It was pedestrian the whole time, featuring two somewhat green performers who don’t really possess the in-ring mannerisms and charisma to stretch their match for such a long time period. Aside from the odd few spots it was never really picked up. Still, if you hold this up against the appalling Xavier/Ki match I think the improvements are obvious. He IS getting better – but he should be making this improvement in the midcard.

American Dragon vs AJ Styles – #1 Contenders Trophy Match

The #1 Contenders Trophy is supposed to work like a secondary title, with the holder defending it like a championship until he is able to take his title shot. It’s a nice principle but ROH runs too many shows, even at this point. Anyway, Styles gets the advantage of drawing last in the gauntlet series meaning he didn’t have to wrestle earlier. Although Dragon pretty much dismantled London in a one-sided 10 minute affair. This should be a hell of a contest.

Xavier and Jay Briscoe should watch the way these two jostle for supremacy on the mat. It’s intense, fluid and believable – bringing the fans to their feet inside a minute. AJ gets on top of Dragon, so Dragon just grabs an arm and cranks it. Same position again a couple of minutes later and I mark out like crazy for Danielson kicking and writhing until he can counter to a front facelock. Dragon reads Styles trademark dropkick sequence and tries to stop running the ropes, so AJ just dropkicks him in the ribs from there. Danielson replies with a drop toehold that sends Styles to the floor. He tries to whip AJ into the rails but he JUMPS IT into a superkick! The first time you see that you ALWAYS mark for it. Back in the ring with Styles nailing the backbreaker/gutbuster combo. AJ had an advantage there so Dragon initiates a test of strength and uses it to kick out at the arm. He follows the kick by stomping the exposed limb into the canvas. He ties it over the top rope and starts headbutting the shoulder which is pretty badass. I love a moment where AJ tries to use his aerial skills to flip away from his opponent, so Danielson goes old school and simply boots him in the face. Finally Styles is able to counter the arm work. He tries the Phenom DDT but it’s countered into a northern lights for 2. AWESOME! Dragon’s eyebrow has been split wide open somewhere there.

Styles drops him on his head with a brainbuster. Bridging Mutalock applied, but Dragon fights back to his knees where they TRADE neck crankage! The ref eventually gives up trying to find out which one is in the hold and which one is applying it. Suplex neckbreaker gets AJ a 2 count. Danielson tries a dragon suplex. That’s blocked so he hits a German instead. AWESOME! Judo DDT is the set-up for a diving headbutt. AmDrag steps out of the way of a couple of strike attempts but Styles is the quicker man and spins again with a heel kick. The German suplex/rear gourdbuster combo gets 2. He thinks Spiral Tap but Dragon catches him up top. F*CKING SICK BACK SUPERPLEX! AJ landed on his face! They do their best do knock their heads off each others shoulders ending in DUELLING DISCUS LARIAT/ROARING ELBOW! They’re down to their knees and won’t stop hitting each other. Danielson rakes the eyes so he can hit a VIOLENT barrage of forearms and chops. QUEBRADA INVERTED DDT by AJ! STYLES CLASH! DRAGON KICKS OUT! Danielson just kicks out of everyone’s finishers it seems. Dragon suplex drops AJ on his neck for 2. CATTLE MUTILATION but AJ won’t tap so he flips it over for the Cattle Mutilation pin for 2 again. Styles tries to pull Danielson from the turnbuckles into the Styles Clash but he won’t go. HE RAMS HIS HEAD INTO THE BUCKLES! ROLLING POWERBOMBS! NOW THE STYLES CLASH! AJ gets the trophy in 22:29.

Rating – ****1/2 –
Unquestionably this is an MOTYC. That was mat perfection – a gripping technical encounter from start to finish. A common complaint I see from people about Danielson’s 2002 work is that he’s a good wrestler but just isn’t exciting. HOW can people not find this match exciting, when everything is done so perfectly? It’s the little things that make it so good. Things like AJ sweeping his arms away to block a dragon suplex so Danielson just German suplexes him again. Things like AJ stepping away from his usual dropkick sequence. Things like Dragon countering the predictable Phenom spot with a northern lights. Things like that finish, with Danielson blocking the Clash so AJ going mental on him to MAKE him take it. I love it so much. My opinion, it’s third in MOTY running behind Danielson/Ki (30/03/02) and Ki/Daniels/Spanky/Williams (27/07/02).

The Prophecy (sans Joe) are still wreaking havoc. They attack Dragon as he walks through the curtain, then rush the ring to punk out AJ as well. Danielson and Jay Briscoe make the save.

Shinjiro Ohtani/Masato Tanaka vs Steve Corino/Low Ki

This is being taped for Zero-ONE’s TV in Japan, so it’s double-duty for Low Ki, who already wrestled a 25 minute match earlier. Ohtani was awesome as one of NJPW’s juniors back in the day, but since he went heavyweight he’s still been pretty good. I’ve seen a great Kawada/Ohtani match from AJPW for instance. Tanaka you should recognise from his awesome series of matches with Mike Awesome in FMW or (as is more likely) ECW. Good to see more big Japanese names paying a visit to the fledgling ROH on their US tours. In these post-Kobashi days maybe Ohtani, Tanaka, Omori, Togo or Hidaka don’t seem like much but at the time it was really significant. Corino is the top gaijin in Z-1. He’s seconded by fellow Z-1 athlete Samoa Joe – who clearly chose this over attacking AJ and Dragon.

Ohtani and Tanaka are super over. You know Ki means business for this because he’s wearing tights. He’s always up for it in the tights. His first move is to arch up and kick Tanaka in the face. Tanaka comes back with an ACE snap blue thunder bomb. Ki hits a back suplex then puts Tanaka in a surfboard. Masato powers up so Ki just grabs an abdominal stretch instead. Ohtani comes in and puts Ki in a tree of woe. He uses that position to hit a couple of basement dropkicks. He proves he’s still a badass by raking at Ki’s mouth in a camel clutch…except Ki uses his Nosferatu teeth to bite his hand. Corino tags – Ohtani shoves his shoe into Steve’s face. Tanaka mounts Corino with a string of right hands. Low Ki tags back with a pretty sadistic running boot to the face. Ohtani and Ki throw some cringing chops at each other. Corino tries a cross armbreaker, but Ohtani shows he’s learned from Ki and starts biting Corino’s hand. OHTANI FACEWASH! The Murphy Rec goes berserk for that! Ki traps Ohtani in the ropes with the BITE OF THE DRAGON! It’s too early for the Ki Krusha so he tries the Dragon Clutch instead. That gets broken by Tanaka. Springboard enzi misses and Shinjiro reverse keel kicks Ki in the jaw. Tanaka runs right into a CAPO KICK! ‘We all want to be loved on the internet’ – Lovey! Ki is still being awesome with a Tidal Krush for 2. Tanaka comes out of nowhere with a spear. STUNNER/DDT COMBO on Corino and Ki! SUPLEX STUNNER for Ki! Tanaka hits the top rope for a frog splash. Ki busts out the Kawada kicks and tags Corino. Ohtani takes him out with a spinning heel kick. Tornado DDT…TANAKA TORNADO DDT! Corino comes back to hit an exploder on Ohtani. Rolling suplexes gets 2. OLD SCHOOL EXPULSION but Tanaka breaks the pin. Corino hits the northern lights bomb too but this time Shinjiro kicks out. Ki looks for the springboard enzi but he miscues and gets Corino. Ohtani takes Steve out with a missile dropkick. SPIRALBOMB means Corino is pinned at 15:32.

Rating – *** –
In truth Ohtani and Tanaka weren’t exactly flat-out workrate but these are four guys with a lot of presence and no small amount of skill so it was still good. The match was nothing more than an exhibition, and truly felt like a TV match (which for Zero-ONE is what it was) but had a nice finish packing in everyone’s spots. People came to see the things that they’re used to seeing from Ohtani/Tanaka in person and they got that. It was a solid main event to round out a top show.

Da Hit Squad come across Homicide sharpening his ghetto fork. He flips and runs into the locker room to STAB Corino in the face with the fork. DHS pull him away before he can do anymore damage.

Tape Rating – **** – In terms of well-rounded, well-booked cards this is probably the best show of 2002. Road To The Title is better in terms of match quality but this is right up there. It’s got a great spotfest to open. The gauntlet match is all good, featuring the debut of CM Punk, Tommy Dreamer’s surprise appearance and a gutsy performance from Paul London. Then there’s the 6-man which is 20+ minutes of goodness. Cue a bit of a dead period, but at least Xavier showed some signs of improvement during his title match. How to finish a show? Try a MOTYC (Dragon/Styles) and two international superstars making appearances in the main event. If you’re not a completist and you only want a few 2002 shows then this should definitely be one you pick.

Top 3 Matches

3) Shinjiro Ohtani/Masato Tanaka vs Steve Corino/Low Ki (***)
2) Christopher Daniels/Donovan Morgan/Samoa Joe vs Low Ki/Homicide/Doug Williams (****)
1) AJ Styles vs American Dragon (****1/2)

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