October 2, 2005
Derek Dempsey . . . adds an impressive sounding footnote to his career.
James Gibson . . . gives ROH a going away present by tearing things up against Roderick Strong.
Low Ki . . . shows the Half nelson suplex more respect than anyone else in at least five years.
TONY MAMALUKE/SAL RINAURO © vs. DUNN/MARCOS (ROH World Tag Team Titles)
If ROH just needed a team to keep the titles warm for a couple of months, I don’t know why they didn’t put them on Dunn and Marcos. Mamaluke had never been committed to ROH full time, Sal wasn’t a permanent fixture, and Dunn and Marcos as champs would have made for a ‘rags to riches’ story. They went from setting up the ring to being the champs. The match itself isn’t anything special. There’s nothing from the new champs to show any sort of superiority. Mamaluke tries to show his mat skills in the first minute with an attempt at a juji-gatame that doesn’t get applied, and doesn’t do anything else. Neither team does anything to tell a story, and it’s too rushed to develop any themes. There’s zero build to the finish, and the double team that they use to get the pin on Dunn almost gets botched .
NIGEL McGUINNESS vs. JAY LETHAL vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI vs. DAVEY ANDREWS
Aside from the opening exchange between Nigel and Claudio, and the Lethal versus Everyone Else stretch that featured Lethal staying ahead and keeping himself out of trouble. This is the usual forgettable affair. Once Claudio finally gets some offense in on Lethal he tags out so that the others can also work him over. Claudio and Nigel find an excuse to get out of the match so that Lethal and Andrews and work the finish. You might think that, with Lethal having been worked over a bit, that Andrews would get a chance to look good against a former title holder, but, that apparently makes too much sense. So, Claudio and Nigel bugger off and Andrews misses an elbow strike to allow Lethal to hit a Dragon suplex and pin Andrews. I suppose this accomplished what it needed to. Claudio was able to get over with the ROH fans, and Nigel was able to stay protected by not losing.
JIMMY RAVE vs. MATT SYDAL
If Jimmy working over Matt’s neck had wound up mattering, then this would have been good. Granted, Rave has never been a super worker, which makes his performance here that much more impressive, but, he had a few good ideas. The Full nelson may not be seen as an impressive finisher anymore, but it was a nice way for Rave to keep the focus on the neck and also show the disparity in size. The NLB was also a surprisingly smart spot that resulted in a good near fall.
Jimmy might have been passable, but Matt’s lack of long term selling halted any momentum that they might have had. Yes, Matt is supposed to be a flyer, but, there isn’t any reason for him to pull off any spot that requires him to roll through and not continue selling. Hell, even the finish is him getting a “flash” cradle on Rave while he’s distracted, and he even does that while doing a headstand. Granted, the storyline of Jimmy using the bootlace was lame anyway, and it really wasn’t needed here. It’d have been just as easy for Jade Chung to foul him in order to give Sydal the opening for the cradle. An O’Connor roll might have been pushing it, since Matt would have had to roll backwards on a bad neck, but it’s still better than the stupid headstand. It’s nice to see Sydal pull off the upset, which justifies his getting a spot in Generation Next, and it’s also nice to see Jade get revenge, but they could have done both without sacrificing the story of the match, especially when it’s the first match that actually tried to tell one.
RICKY REYES vs. DEREK DEMPSEY
Dave Prazak actually summed it up perfectly: “At least Derek Dempsey can say he wrestled on the same show as Kenta Kobashi.” Ricky squashes him in under a minute.
RODERICK STRONG vs. JAMES GIBSON
For the most part, this is insanely good. It’s always fun to watch Roddy sharking on the back, and instead of going right for the backbreakers and high impact stuff, it’s nice to see him change things up and work some holds. The grounded bearhug was an especially nice touch, and he does little things like planting his knee in the back as he works the chinlock. Gibson adds some great moments of his own to keep things moving. The first time that he can’t do the Tiger driver, he lets go and gives Roddy a running knee. He gears up for a second one and runs himself right into a backbreaker. There’s another smart moment from Gibson when Roddy is trying to get him in the Stronghold. Gibson is weak, but he’s able to wiggle himself free just enough to keep Roddy from putting it on completely. Roddy eventually gets the hold, but Gibson is right by the ropes and is able to get the break.
But, Gibson injects some silliness that tears down some of what they build up. The big one is that he stops selling the back when it’s convenient for him. One of the themes throughout the match is Gibson’s inability to do the Tiger driver. But, at no point during the match, is his back the reason that he’s unable to do it. It’s always predicated on Roddy sandbagging him. Gibson winds up going right off the deep end when he starts doling out German suplexes, six of them to be exact, culminating with a bridging German for a near fall. Gibson’s reaction and Roddy’s selling are both perfect afterwards, with Roddy looking all but dead and Gibson almost being in shock that Roddy survived. But, there was simply no need to go into that kind of suplex overkill, especially with the story of the match being Gibson’s back being hurt. It’s just like with the Tiger driver, they could have done the spot and made it work with the story. Gibson could hit a single bridging German and lose the bridge due to his back, a la Kawada’s knee in the 1993 tag league. They do their spot, get the near fall, and keep the story moving.
Even more strange about Gibson’s selling lapses is that he’s usually spot-on with things. The way that he puts over the backbreakers and the superplex only makes it more jarring. Hell, he even makes inconsequential moves seem important. Roddy hits an early dropkick, a spot which has never meant anything, and this was a while before he established the knee or running boot as KO shots. But Gibson puts over the dropkick as though it knocked him out, he even seems to deadweight Roddy when he tries to pick him up.
To their credit, they come back to earth for the finish, which they pull off flawlessly. There’s a mini break, with Gibson taking a minute to get himself together after the shock wears off from the German suplex near fall. Gibson goes for broke with the Tiger driver off the top, the same thing that he had to pull out to win the ROH Title. Strong realizes what Gibson is going for, and winds up escaping and doing his gutbuster. He’d tried it early in the match, and Gibson scouted and countered it, but with Gibson being so drained, he’s not in position to counter it again. The gutbuster stuns Gibson enough to let Roddy get the Stronghold, and with the back worn down and nowhere to go, Gibson taps out. Honestly, Roddy didn’t even need to go over. He’d already beaten Matt Hardy, won the Survival of the Fittest tournament, and he beat Jimmy Rave the night before, so it wasn’t like he needed any rub. Rather than Roddy winning in twenty-eight minutes, they could have easily let them go for thirty and done a hard-fought time limit draw as Gibson’s farewell. Partially due to the fanbase, but, also because of their penchant for taking things seriously, there are very few promotions that can create genuine emotion as well as ROH, and, this is one case where they absolutely succeed. It’s just too bad that the wrestlers weren’t able to put on a classic match to go with it. ***½
COLT CABANA vs. JACK EVANS
Stylistically, this is more or less the same match that Evans had the night before, only without the distraction angle to save him. He takes a few hellish bumps, and Cabana stretches him like crazy, but, you wouldn’t know that it has any real effect on him. Evans takes a boot from Cabana that turn him inside out, but the next sequence is Evans getting a reversal and taking over the match. It’s the same thing after Cabana stretches him with the move that would become known as the Billy Goat’s Curse. Evans gets free of the hold, and then quickly gets a counter and takes over, to the point that Evans even gets to attempt his 630 finisher. The only thing that seems to put Evans in real danger is Cabana swinging him into the post, and even that doesn’t really go anywhere. Once Cabana gets him in the ring, he just gives him some basic bumps, but ramped up a bit to showcase their size difference.
The only real positive to take away from this is how well it puts over the lariat. Evans misses the 630 and Cabana pulls of the armband and hits a running lariat, just like Homicide. Evans takes a huge bump and gets pinned afterwards. But, after seeing the punishment that Cabana dished out to Evans, it’s hard to understand why that single lariat finishes him off so decisively, when nothing else seemed to do much.
CHRISTOPHER DANIELS vs. JIMMY YANG
This would have been good if anything they did before the finish was made to mean something. Even though both Daniels and Yang work an extended control segment, the match itself still comes off feeling like they’re just taking turns. It’s fun to watch Daniels work over Yang’s back, but it doesn’t really play out like he’s actually trying to tell a story with it, even when he comes back around to it, after he regains control, it comes off like he’s just bumping Yang with his usual stuff, rather than consciously trying to wear him down. It also doesn’t help that Yang doesn’t do much to sell his back. Two of his first big spots when he takes over the match are a hanging choke over the corner, and a springboard dropkick. Yang busting out a kimura was a pleasant surprise, but, beyond that, he didn’t continue working over Daniels’ arm, and Daniels didn’t sell to any great extent.
One could argue that the back work pays off in the finish, with Yang being unable to maneuver himself out of the Koji clutch and passing out, but that’s a big stretch. Yang escapes a backdrop, but gets caught with Angel’s Wings for a near fall, and when Yang gets up the shoulder, Daniels gets the Koji clutch. If he’d used Last Rites, or some other form of back bump, it would make sense. But, the finish, and the match as a whole, just comes off as Daniels doing his usual stuff, and eventually winning.
KENTA KOBASHI/HOMICIDE vs. SAMOA JOE/LOW KI
“Unforgettable” isn’t a bad way to describe this match overall. The pairings are absurd, and, to no surprise with Kobashi, Joe, and Ki, the stiffness is off the charts. But, as far as work goes, the match is anything but. The match has quite a few nice moments, but, as a whole, the four of them aren’t able to put it together well enough to tell any real story or create much flow. One of the cooler moments of the match came when Joe tagged Ki in for the first time. Ki gives Kobashi a little shove into the corner, as if to say “This isn’t NOAH, this is my house. You aren’t going to treat me like a lowly junior here.” Ki gets something of a win over Kobashi when he suckers him into the corner and gets the hanging armbar. But, Homicide tags in before they can do anything else. The first ever Homicide/Ki sequence in ROH isn’t exactly memorable either. They work the knucklelock spot, with Homicide losing the bridge, and having to improvise to keep the sequence going.
One of the biggest missed opportunities to take the match somewhere interesting is Homicide’s hurt arm. At one point, Ki starts throwing kicks at the arm, but rather than selling, Homicide gets mad and starts pushing Ki away. Homicide throws Ki to the floor, where Kobashi works him over, and then rolls him back in so that Homicide and Kobashi can double team him a bit. But, all it takes is Ki blocking Homicide’s dive to take over again. It would have been just as easy, and more logical, for Homicide to put over the kicks and have that lead into Joe and Ki working over the arm, and building up to a hot tag to Kobashi. Ki and Joe each have signature armbar spots, and they both get used during the course of the match, but they’re done to Kobashi.
One thing that was really nice to see was the smart work with Kobashi’s suplexes. Joe blocks the Half nelson suplex, and Kobashi switches to a sleeper hold to wear him down a bit, and then drops him with the sleeper suplex. Ki tries to come to Joe’s aid, but he gets planted with the Half nelson suplex, and Ki sells it better than he’s probably sold any other big spot, and better than anyone else has put over the suplex in years. Even after Joe has recovered and is taking the fight to Kobashi, Ki on the apron still looking dazed. The only thing that would have been better would have been if Ki had climbed to the top a little slower, and took an extra few seconds before trying the diving stomp. It would have continued to put over the bump from the suplex and explained why Kobashi was able to get out of the way.
Kobashi pinning Ki for the finish isn’t exactly a surprise. It’s right out of the NOAH handbook. But, there had to be a better way to set it up than having Ki accidentally hit Joe with his flying kick. It just reeks of U.S. TV booking, where the accident causes the former rivals, now partners, to resume their feud. But, it doesn’t even get that far. Ki left ROH a few months after this, and didn’t work any other matches with Joe. So, there’s even less reason for it. Homicide hitting his lariat to take Joe accomplishes the same thing, without an unnecessary twist. It’s nice to see Kobashi respect Ki’s position in ROH, by having him kick out of a couple of his lower end moves, like the jackknife cradle and the orange crush, before finishing him with the lariat. But, it’d have been nice to see them work a genuine segment together, that wasn’t predicated on lighting each other up, before the finish. It’s fine that Ki can’t get Kobashi up for the Ki Krusher, there’s certainly no need to devalue his finisher, but, most of what Ki is able to use on Kobashi is stuff that he’s able to use on everyone else, and it never beats them either. It’s fine that Kobashi beats Ki. Homicide and Joe are around a lot more regularly, due to Ki’s NOAH commitments. But, with ROH being Ki’s U.S. Home Base, it’d have been nice to see them do more to create doubt, like Ki surviving or escaping one of Kobashi’s bigger finishers and parlaying the opening into hitting something big of his own for a good near fall. Much like Kobashi’s match from the night before, there’s obviously things to like, and the smart bits, like Kobashi’s suplexes clearly make this the better Kobashi match of the weekend. ***1/4
Conclusion: Overall, this isn’t a bad show. There’s only two standout matches, but the rest is at least inoffensive.