Back in early 2007 I began to see results from this Philadelphia based indy promotion called Ring of Honor. Being originally from the Philly area I was intrigued. I kept seeing these rave reviews of technical wrestling that had been long lost in wrestling at the time. In addition there were names on there that I was familiar with from TNA like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. I decided to give the product a try and I purchased a DVD from their website. Starting on a product that you aren’t familiar with can be difficult, especially when they have been around for a few years already. Where do you start? I decided instead of going all the way back to the beginning that I would start relatively close to the current product. I also wanted to pick a Philly show as they were running the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory, a venue that I went to a lot as a kid for baseball card and comic shows. I settled on the 100th Show because it sounded like a milestone and big things typically happen on big shows right?
The story for this show is that ROH had begun to plant the seeds of a feud with rival Philly promotion CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling). CZW focuses much of their wrestling on hardcore/deathmatch types but also do have a love for technical wrestling, which is left out for this storyline because then things wouldn’t be so easy. The feud is based on ROH being pure, technical wrestling and CZW being the “garbage” promotion that resorts to weed whackers and fire. The crowd is claimed to be around 1000 with one side of the building having bleachers for CZW fans and one side being for ROH fans. This leads to dueling chants all night between the two factions of fans. In reality most of the chants consist of “Let’s go <insert name>!” and “Shut the fuck up!” in retort. Nothing insanely groundbreaking but a few witty ones come up once you get up to date on the story.
The card was 8 matches coming in at a little over 3 hour show with contests that ranged from technical clinics to bloodbath brawling. Going back and watching this show I am instantly reminded of small things that made me instantly fall for this promotion. They started almost every DVD with promos from wrestlers and valets alike to bring you up to date on some of the storylines. Colt Cabana talks about how the ending of his feud with Homicide has gotten him ready for his ROH World Title shot with Bryan Danielson (who we affectionately know as Daniel Bryan today). Lacey wears an over sized t-shirt and promises to bare all if Jimmy Jacobs can be successful in his match. Little things like that work even teased nudity.
Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are our commentary team with occasional drop ins from Jimmy Bauer (real life head booker of ROH at the time; Gabe Sapolsky). I love how they play Bauer off as a fallen from grace commentator that has resorted to the bottle, Prazak and Leonard poke at this anytime he comes by. Does this make me an asshole that is unsympathetic towards those that suffer from alcoholism? Maybe but this is pro wrestling and this is my soap opera, god dammit!
Our opening contest is a singles match between up and comer Claudio Castagnoli (WWE’s Cesaro) and “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels. This was everything that a certain jerker should be, two great workers putting on a solid performance. Looking back you can see that Claudio has always been insanely strong with a delayed vertical suplex to Daniels in which he holds the Fallen Angel for 68 seconds before dropping him. Daniels wins a hotly contested match up with a roll up and offers his hand in respect to Claudio afterward. While handshakes before and after matches were common place in ROH the Fallen Angel never did them, it was his character. So it’s a pretty big deal for him to offer his hand to the young gun.
A staple in ROH was the Four Corner Survival match. Four wrestlers take to the ring with only 2 allowed in the ring at a time. Tags are required to enter the match and the first pinfall wins. I know, I know, the name says Survival and it’s not elimination. Our contestants in this match are Jimmy Rave, Jimmy Yang, Jimmy Jacobs and Jimmy…..wait no….it’s Delirious. Yes, there are three guys named Jimmy in this match. The Rave Jimmy has one of the best entrances in the game with fans tossing toilet paper instead of streamers at him once he enters the ring. The Jacobs variety of Jimmys has a sympathetic character to where his manager Lacey (absent from ringside) plays him no matter how much he loves her. His love for Lacey costs him the match to Delirious as he refuses to pin a prawn opponent after her promise to bare it all with a Jacobs win. A guy’s got to have his priorities right?
We get a ROH World Tag Team Title match with champs Austin Aries and Roderick Strong taking on the Rottweilers of Ricky Reyes and Homicide. Homicide has such a way with words as he tells the CZW fans to perform fellatio on him in a much more direct phrasing than myself. Where Homicide lacks as a cunning linguist he more than makes up with his in ring performance. He can fly and hit hard as his lariat is one of the most under appreciated in the business. Roddy and Aries retain the titles in a hard hitting match.
ROH World Title match with Colt Cabana challenging Bryan Danielson is up next. The Final Countdown entrance for Bryan still gives me chills. CZW fans are all over Bryan that prompts him to drop his tights and full on moon the crowd. A very technical work from the get go, Colt tries a number of interesting pinning combos to no avail until Bryan shocks Colt and gets a flash roll up for the win in just over 5 minutes. Colt can’t believe it and Bryan has barely broken a sweat. Really interesting choice to have a really short match here when ROH title matches usually are given much longer.
Oh yeah, Gary Michael Cappetta, of early WCW fame, does a lot of the backstage interviews. Brings back a lot of old memories.
After a match that included of couple of ROH Wrestling School students Bryan comes right back out and addresses the crowd. He is a heel at this time and damn was he good at it. Eventually he wants another match and offers Delirious a title shot. Delirious is the only one to win from the first half of the show that Bryan hasn’t fought and beaten so it makes sense to him, and just makes sense in general. Absolutely brutal match at points including Delirious getting busted up. Might not seem like a big deal until you realize that the dude wears a mask! Bryan’s focus on the injury is evil and calculating with him even ripping at the mask to expose the wound. He even went as far as to bite at the flesh that would typically receive a “You sick fuck” chant but all these CZW fans on hand make it seem like business as usual. Eventually the lizard faced one, that’s Delirious for those of you playing at home, makes a comeback before being halted by a barrage of elbows to the head by Bryan and a ref stoppage.
Tag action up next with the Briscoes, Mark and Jay, taking on AJ Styles and Matt Sydal. Looking back I couldn’t quite understand how a thrown together team like AJ and Sydal, who many know as Evan Bourne later on, could match up with the Briscoes. Well upon this rewatching I can confidently say that this was the match of the night. Sydal is relatively new in his position with ROH and spent a lot of the match being the face in peril to them Briscoe boys. The Briscoes are, to this day, one of the best tag teams I’ve ever seen and this early days match is no exception. They are no nonsense and hit you hard but offer up some great innovation with their offense. A springboard Doomsday Device got me out of my comfy chair to pop huge for a spot that I have seen many times before. Oh yeah and that was a near fall. Eventually the boys from Sandy Fork, Delaware pickup with win but damn was this a hell of a match.
After a video package highlighting the first 99 shows we have Gary Cappetta in the ring to moderate a debate between ROH Commissioner Jim Cornette and CZW owner/wrestler John Zandig. JEEZUS! And by debate I mean that Corny gives his typical witty insults and refuses to let the other person talk. While Zandig certainly didn’t obtain acclaim for his mic skills you sort of feel bad for the guy when he isn’t really allowed to get much of a response in. While Cornette continues to cut down CZW and put over Philly wrestling fans Zandig put well placed jabs in there calling out Cornette’s failure in Smokey Mountain Wrestling to bring in hardcore wrestling and the fact that half of the ROH locker room also works for CZW. Breaking kayfabe or foreshadowing? OOOOOHH! The suspense! Unsurprisingly Zandig has had enough of Cornette not giving him time to talk. He may not have agreed with being called a “faggot fucker” by Corny either. Honestly I can’t blame Zandig there either.
CZW wrestlers Chris Hero, Super Dragon and Necro Butcher come out to surround the ring. Samoa Joe, BJ Whitmer and Adam Pearce are to the rescue and we get the main event, a 6 man, no DQ match. CZW and ROH each have a referee out for this, because why not. Pearce and Necro are busted open early and Pearce is covered in blood, and I mean covered. Lots of unprotected chair shots in this one with brrawling all over the building. And boy are the crowd eating it up. I forgot how great BJ Whitmer was in brawling matches like these. He get’s put through a table on the floor by Super Dragon for being as such. Oh yeah, there is no commentary during this match. It’s just the sounds of the match and the crowd. ROH was good at this and would “let the action speak for itself” during big matches. It’s a little strange at first but damn does it sell things better. Zandig is back out but obviously for legit reasons. Eventually the refs get into a shoving match before ROH’s ref is clocked by Necro. Well this is no good for ROH. Out comes Claudio to even the score. YAY! He grabs Hero to allow Joe to hit the ropes for a big move but Claudio swerves and hits Joe with a big European uppercut. Somewhere else in Philly M. Night Shyamalan is pleased. Claudio assists Hero to do a Hero’s Welcome on Pearce and they get the pin. CZW celebrates with their fans while ROH is in seeming shambles. They just had one of “their own” turn on them. In reality Claudio is one of those guys that Zandig mentioned about working for both companies and they played it off perfectly. The DVD closes out with a shot of Adam Pearce’s H shaped gash in his head getting medical attention in the back. It’s gnarly. This was a pretty awesome brawl though the unprotected chair shots were rough to watch with today’s environment in mind. Only two guys got color and that really was really all that was needed.
As a whole this was a fun event especially when I watched it the first time. I knew not to expect the hardcore match in ROH shows in the future but the feud they were running in this cross promotional angle was quite good. I was hooked and began buying more ROH DVDs after this especially when they ran crazy deals like buy 4 and get 2 free.
I continued to follow ROH religiously for the next few years even attending their Wrestlemania weekend shows in Orlando right before Wrestlemania XXIV in 2008. Eventually with the HDNet TV deal I didn’t see them as much. I didn’t have HDNet and the DVDs became sparse. I still read the results and will watch matches that ROH puts out on their YouTube channel for free. I want this promotion to continue to succeed and hopefully get a better TV deal to where I can watch more often. No, Destination America doesn’t count because I don’t get that channel either.
I intend on continuing this series of past independent show reviews and they will be pretty ROH heavy because I have a shit ton of DVDs still. The end of the ROH/CZW feud is a pretty damn good show too, maybe that will be next. But be on the look out for other stuff from Chikara and PWG as well.
There were 3 separate matches that contained moments that should have resulted in DQs but did not.
– Prince Nana, Jimmy Rave’s manager, attacked Jimmy Yang on the outside and barely got admonished by the ref.
– Homicide put Roderick Strong through a table on the outside with a double stop in complete view of the referee and not even a mention by the ref.
– Bryan Danielson grabbed the ref to intimidate and complain. Nothing from the man in stripes.
The Briscoes using Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gimme Back My Bullets as their entrance music fit them so well.
No, I will not be linking to a picture of Bryan Danielson’s ass.
Lost track of the usage of the word fuck pretty early on.