FIGHT OF THE CENTURY
August 5, 2006
Bobby Dempsey . . . sees his dreams of winning “that goddamn trophy” go up in flames in record time.
KENTA . . . has some fun at the expense of his supposed American protégée.
Samoa Joe . . . attempts to regain the ROH World Title in, arguably, the biggest match that ROH could possibly put on.
COLT CABANA vs. SAL RINAURO
This is a fun opener, if nothing else. It does its job of getting the crowd warmed up thanks to Cabana’s comedy. Not only can Cabana outwrestle Sal effortlessly, but he shows that he can do it and have fun in the process. Sal gets a couple of openings thanks to the interference from Nana and Rave, but isn’t able to parlay that into any real advantage or chance to beat Cabana. When Sal is left to his own devices, he’s hopelessly outmatched and Cabana easily dispatches him with the Billy Goat’s Curse. I wouldn’t want to see Cabana have this sort of match with just anyone on the roster, but, it’s fine for someone like Sal, who doesn’t mean very much. His being a former tag team champion notwithstanding, and I’d argue that the Mamaluke/Rinauro title reign was one of the lower points in the titles’ history.
SHANE HAGADORN © vs. BOBBY DEMPSEY (Top of the Class Trophy)
Shane KO’s him with knucks and does a crossface for the ref stoppage in literally ten seconds. The match isn’t noteworthy, for obvious reasons, but the banter with Adam Pearce afterwards was the beginning of the ROH students being treated like actual roster members.
NIGEL McGUINNESS vs. JAY LETHAL vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI vs. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
Structure-wise, this is worked more like a southern tag match, with the Europeans against the Americans. Nigel and Claudio work over Daniels, to build the hot tag to Lethal. And, after Claudio pushes Lethal off the top, the match breaks down the same way that a tag match typically would. The work itself is fine, with the focus on Daniels’ midsection, although it never seems like Daniels is in danger of losing, which is one of the drawbacks to this format. There’s no incentive for Nigel to let Claudio get the pin. It also doesn’t help that when Daniels takes control, after Lethal’s bump to the floor, there isn’t anything from him as far as selling goes that might have put the midsection back into focus. Even the spot where Claudio avoids the BME and Daniels lands on his feet could have elicited some sort of selling to show that the spot still put some strain on him. The finish is fun, with Claudio getting some comeuppance for his heel turn. Claudio gives Lethal an uppercut, and winds up sending Lethal out of Nigel’s path, and the result is Nigel giving Claudio the lariat and getting the pin (with a fast count from the ref). Had Claudio let Nigel connect with Lethal, he could have broken up the pin or dispatched Nigel somehow and possibly stolen the win for himself, but, his lack of awareness winds up being his undoing.
AUSTIN ARIES/RODERICK STRONG © vs. JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE vs. JACK EVANS/MATT SYDAL vs. JAKE CHRIST/DAVE CHRIST (ROH World Tag Team Titles - Ultimate Endurance)
Aside from the exchanges between the Briscoes and Aries/Strong to further their feud, the first fall is pretty much a mess. Everyone gets in some of their stuff, but very little of it means anything. Of course, there’s an obligatory spot where all of them have to dive to the floor. The one nice touch is the finish. It’s definitely a surprise to see the Briscoes get eliminated first, and the Christ bros doing it is a sign that ROH sees something in them. But, before they finish off Jay, Strong takes out Mark with a backbreaker on the apron, so that he can’t make the save. They may not have gotten the winning pin, but it’s one more case of Aries and Strong getting one over on the Briscoes.
The second fall is more structured, if nothing else, although the work isn’t anything special. It’s based around Dave getting his midsection worked over, which eventually leads to him tapping to the Stronghold. But, save for the end of the fall with Roddy, Aries is the only one who tries to actually submit him, with both a camel clutch and later on the Last Chancery (which Evans breaks up for no apparent reason). Sydal only adds a couple of kicks and Evans does a stomp to his back, but they don’t do anything to actually attempt to win the fall. In fact, the finish seems to be as much a result of Jake’s foolishness as it is Dave being hurt. Jake was the fresh one, but he tags Dave back in so they can once again attempt their finisher, which wouldn’t do them any good in a submission only fall. The move gets broken up, and Dave is easy prey for Roddy to finish off.
The final fall is a fun enough ‘power versus speed’ match, but, it’s far too rushed to be very effective. Jack and Matt use their agility to get some good shots on Strong, but the match never gets to the point of seeming like the titles are in genuine danger of being lost. If nothing else, Matt takes a wicked bump for Strong’s running boot, which perfectly sets up the finish of Strong’s backbreaker and Aries’ 450. If the time for all three falls was given to one of them, then this would have made a good tag team match, but, this seemed to be more about cementing Aries and Strong as the true ‘winners’ of the Generation Next stable, and furthering their feud with the Briscoes.
HOMICIDE/BJ WHITMER vs. ADAM PEARCE/STEVE CORINO
Overall, this is just a mindless brawl with a lame finish. There’s a couple of moments that Pearce shows that he can get heat from the crowd, like spitting at Homicide to draw him in for the ref distraction, and the false tag where Pearce claps his hands so the ref thinks that he and Corino legally tagged. There was a chance for something good, when Homicide pulled Corino up at a two-count in order to keep inflicting punishment. The next sequence was Corino getting a surprise counter and mocking Homicide’s lariat, only for it to get blocked. It would have been nice to see Corino actually connect with something to take over the match, and make Homicide’s mistake more costly. The match breaks down in the usual manner, Corino and Whitmer exit stage left, the Briscoes attack Homicide, and the ref calls it off.
KENTA vs. DAVEY RICHARDS
If you enjoy stiff strike exchanges, then this is something you won’t want to miss. But, other than that, there isn’t much to the match. KENTA shows a few nice heelish flairs, such as the slingshot into the ring, only to errantly kick Davey across the face. Later on he straddles Davey in the corner and charges at him, only to give him a slap. The brief period of KENTA working over the midsection has a nice moment when KENTA traps Davey in a body scissors and has a sadistic grin on his face.
Other than putting over the Go 2 Sleep as strongly as possible, there isn’t much to the match as far as storytelling goes. It’s nice that Davey avoids the move like the plague, and, that when KENTA finally does hit it, it’s enough to win the match. KENTA stunning Davey with an Ace Crusher is a fine setup for the move, but, several of their sequences that only led to KENTA attempting the move come off better. The best one being Davey’s SSP hitting knees, which brings the body work back into focus, and KENTA following up with the Busaiku, and trying the G2S for a near fall. There’s another good one when KENTA blocks the DR Driver and counters by picking Davey up for it. Between their stiffness and some of their more smooth exchanges, like Davey’s seamless counter of the running boot into a capture suplex, and Davey’s near fall from the crucifix, there are certainly things to like about the match. But, with KENTA’s reputation and all the promise that Davey has shown (as evidenced by the monster push he’s gotten in ROH), this still comes off disappointing.
BRYAN DANIELSON © vs. SAMOA JOE (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
With this being the biggest possible title match that ROH could have made, the booking of the time limit draw is obvious. What isn’t obvious, although it probably should have been, is that Danielson and Joe fall into the same trap as most everyone else does when having to go the distance. They seem to be primarily focused on eating up time, rather than keeping a story moving. This is obvious by the fact that nearly the first half is pretty much eaten up by strikes exchanges, which do precious little to move the match or lay any groundwork. Danielson’s stalling works for his heel character, but, other than establishing that Joe throws hard chops and Danielson throws a mean uppercut, they do next to nothing to develop anything.
It also doesn’t help that they fail to follow through when they get openings that could have moved the match in that direction. A good example of this is Danielson’s quasi Flair flop. It seems like he’s just putting over the shot from Joe, but he plays possum and takes Joe off his feet and starts working over the leg. The announcers make a point of saying that Joe has been having some knee issues, and there’s the reminder that Danielson attacked Joe with a chop block during the Cage of Death. But, after a few minutes and a few holds, Joe makes his comeback by surprising Danielson with a Manhattan drop and then doing a running boot. And, for seemingly no reason other than to make sure the leg doesn’t seem like a factor, he counters a headlock into an Electric Chair style backbreaker. A bit later on, Joe counters the flying headbutt into an ugly Ace crusher. Danielson rolls to the floor and Joe follows him out with a dive. It would have been just as easy for Joe to roll out of the way, and take over in a manner that doesn’t involve blowing off the leg work. Danielson sharking on Joe’s arm isn’t any better, despite having two submission finishers that attack the arm, it seems like the point of the holds and Joe’s rope breaks were to tease Danielson giving his “I Have Till Five!” catchphrase. There’s also a spot when Joe’s timing is off. Danielson escapes the Muscle Buster and runs to the other corner where he catches a charging Joe with a diving uppercut, but Joe takes too long to start charging and Danielson is already perched on the turnbuckle waiting for Joe.
After Danielson takes out the knee the second time and starts working it over, the match finally picks up, and is as good as you’d expect from these two, both in Danielson’s choice of holds (including breaking out the Regal Stretch!) and with how well Joe puts it over. Even when Joe makes a comeback, he remembers to sell the leg, to the point that it seems questionable if he even should do some of his trademark spots. But, there are still some odd moments to be seen. The biggest one was Joe’s Ole kick. He manages to hobble his way across ringside and hit the kick. But, then when he tries a second one, Danielson gets up and stops him. It would seem like it would have made more sense to do it in reverse, where Danielson stops the first kick, and Joe has to do something else to wear him down and a second kick connects.
The final stretch of the match is insanely good. Joe and Danielson are two of the best wrestlers on the roster, and they’re ability to block and counter each other puts that fully on display, and, it’s done in such a way that none of their big moves seem wasted. The Muscle Buster near fall seems odd, with Joe doing it close to the ropes and not pulling Danielson far enough away to prevent the rope break. But, it also serves as a reminder of Joe’s leg being banged up, so it also makes sense for him to not do his usual routine of running into the center of the ring. Joe’s escape of the elbow flurry pushes the envelope a little, but, it’s still a long way from doing a Hulk-Up. The finishing sequence is flawless, with Joe avoiding the chickenwing, and Danielson taking advantage of his position and trying the O’Connor Roll, only to get countered into the choke, and time runs out before the ref can declare that Danielson is out.
Overall, it’s certainly not a bad match. But, with how good both of them were at this point, it’s hard to not come away from this feeling disappointed. Then again, there are very few pairings that can go for sixty and make it work, so, it’s not a slight against them for not being able to do what so many others can’t do either. It’s reminiscent of Hart/Bulldog from 12/95, where the home stretch is so great that it’s worth having to sit through the not-so-great portion that precedes it. *** 1/4
Conclusion: This is certainly a solid show, but it’s lacking anything outstanding.