ROH World Title Classic DVD 6/12/04 Dayton, OH
The DVD opens with Colt Cabana and Ace Steel wandering around the parking lot not being funny. Rule #1: draw your audience in. Don't make them want to rush to the nearest railyard and go Anna Karenina on themselves. The segment went four minutes, which was about five too long.
Your designated Michael Cole and Mike Adamle for the show is Gabe Sapolsky Fake Name #2 and something called Mark Nulty. A fun drinking game during this DVD: do a shot whenever Nulty misidentifies a move. You'll be dead of alcohol poisoning before the third match. Suffice to say, commentary slagging will be minimized for this review as I don't want it to exceed 950,000 words.
1. Danny Daniels & MASADA[o] vs Kevin Dunn & Kirby Marcos[x] (6:31) gattai shoulder
The New & Improved Carnage Crew are neither new nor improved. Discuss. Basically a nothing squash that felt too long at 7 minutes. They worked in the tedious American tag style, so the match was almost entirely slow-developing, uncoordinated double teams from Daniels & MASADA. MASADA looked the best, but I'm grading on a curve. *
-- A tag match looks like its going to start, but Homicide comes out and declares a desire for murder. He beats everyone up and gives an Exploder to Lacey (who was there for some reason), which sadly did not break her neck. No one ever bothered to identify the jobbers, by the way. Five more minutes of nothing.
2. 6-Man Mayhem: Matt Sydal vs Jimmy Jacobs[o] vs H.C. Loc[x] vs Delirious vs
Rainman vs Caprice Coleman (9:52) nadare-shiki Contra Code (Shiranui)
This was a typical indy spotfest with lackluster and sloppy execution. There was a nice - albeit choppy - sequence of submissions, but beyond a brief sequrence of Sydal & Delirious, no one distinguished themselves. *1/2
3. John Walters, Jimmy Rave[x] & Matt Stryker vs Alex Shelley, Austin Aries[o] & Rodrick
Strong (16:22) Nagata Lock III (almost)
This was presented as Shelley vs Stryker, but Shelly gets on the mic and declares that he & Generation Next (all midcarders) are going to take Walters', Stryker's & Rave's (midcard) spots by force. The crowd seems to care as much as I do. Gen Next then assaults Stryker, who blades nicely. Ultimately, after nearly 10 minutes of screwing around the trios match listed on the DVD menu is at last declared.
The bell rings and they brawl for a few seconds only to stop dead and politely rearrange
themselves into a normal oneiromantic American tag match. Gen Next wails on Rave for half
the match, stealing Kaientai DX triple teams and distracting the ref with just about
every '80s heel trick in the book until some sort of magic makes Rave explode into offense
and a hot tag. He's given about 30 seconds of rest before getting tagged back in to do
the job. In a cool finish, Aries gives Rave a 450 splash while he has Strong in a
Nagata Lock II, then makes him tap to his own Nagata-based submission. Including the lead-in segment, this went almost a half hour, which was way too long given the slow, deliberate anachronistic style they used. **1/4
4. ROH World Title: c Samoa Joe vs C.M. Punk (60:00) full time draw
Before the match, Les Thatcher presents Joe with a new belt to commemorate his 14+ month, 19 defence title reign.
The story here was a good one: Joe is a hard hitting, strong style power fighter and Punk
is a crafty technician. Joe likes to come out firing and end matches like he's
double-parked, Punk has wrestled over 90 minutes and wins through intelligent execution
of technique. Punk's strategy: wear the big man down by using his weight and striking
propensity against him through headlocks, while covering up and rope-a-doping when any
strikes come. Drag the match out, make him tired, pick your spots. Joe's strategy, then,
is basically to fight through that; to figure out Punk's tricks and smash through into his own match.
Over the course of the hour, both men's strategies almost worked. Punk controlled early, but Joe eventually figured the plan out. Once the match exceeded the 45 minute mark, the stalemate was broken with fatigue as both resorted to more reckless use of signature moves to try and get the win. A beautiful moment came in the 55th minute: Punk hits his Pepsi Plunge (top rope Pedigree) finisher, but because Joe had been working the knees, Punk not only couldn't cover, he had to roll to the floor in agony. When the hour time limit expired (unfortunately at 59:56), it was actually Punk that had hit more finishers, while Joe was unable to connect with a single Muscle Buster or Island Driver, showing that Punk really had the right idea and deserves a rematch, but also that Joe didn't avoid loss by accident.
This match was not quite structured like a typical 60' draw. While yes, they brought out the big stuff late, there was less a gradual acceleration and more an episodic series of skirmishes - many quite brutal (particularly when Joe was in control) - actually more reminiscent of a great heavyweight boxing match than typical long pro-wrestling matches. Their time and stamina management was good, but not perfect. Some rest periods between skirmishes were obvious and some downright contrived - one even featured clowning with fans. Once the match wore on, selling brutal strike exchanges replaced outright stalling, but they were still perhaps too conscious of stamina, though a 260+ pound Joe probably isn't capable of 60 straight minutes of action as seen in Marufuji-KENTA '08 or Manami-Kyoko '95. To their credit, there were no pure "rest" holds - every technique was done for a reason.
So, the verdict here is that while Joe and Punk put on perhaps the best match in ROH history to this point, there was room for improving and polishing the themes they introduced. ***1/2
Afterwards, the Dayton hicks chant for five more minutes, and many actually boo the announcement of a draw. Homicide attacks Joe with a chair and steals the belt Thatcher gave him, then runs off. Punk gets on the mic and declares the ROH title the most important in North America - which was a wise localisation since this took place during Kobashi's GHC reign. He and Joe then pose in a great moment while the fans finally fully appreciate what they just witnessed.
Now, for some reason, there's another match.
5. Ultimate Endurance: Colt Cabana & Ace Steel vs Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe vs Dan Maff & B.J. Whitmer vs Austin Aries & Jack Evans (37:32)
1st fall - Submission Match: Whitmer x Evans (13:38) gyaku ebi-gatame
2nd fall - Scramble: Whitmer x Mark (3:44) double impact diving jumping knee
3rd fall - Anything Goes: Maff x Cabana (20:10) Burning Hammer on table wreckage
How do you follow an hour long epic? You don't, but here we are.
This is a 4-way elimination tag match where the rules change after each decision.
1st fall: Submissions-only. Having taken a brutal powerbomb from the ring to the floor earlier (during the Gen Next segment), everyone works on Evans' back until he taps to Whitmer. This was torpid as only Aries was in his element, yet even he wasn't able to make the submission attempts look like nearfalls. Evans being abused for the bulk of the fall was not absorbing theater. No one from the Prophecy was involved with the fall until the finish.
2nd fall: Scramble. Now, the remaining three teams can play under lucha tag rules. Sloppy undercard spotfest. Kind of a neat but contrived finish; Cabana goes for the Colt .45 on Jay but Maff steals him into a double impact position for Whitmer.
3rd fall: Anything Goes. Finally, we have what should've been the match in the first place, a long, W*ING-ish street fight between the Saints and the Prophecy. They battled around the arena, hit lots of head chair shots; both Whitmer & Maff juiced. At one point, Ace throws Allison Danger into the guardrail, proclaims "fuck her!" and a fan immediately responds "I would, everyone else has!" So, even Steve Corino?
There were no nearfalls until the final three minutes. It all ends with Whitmer destroying Steel with a nadare Exploder through a table followed by Maff getting the win over Cabana with a brutal, recklessly stiff Burning Hammer on the wreckage. Unto itself this was a great ***1/2 brawl, but was severely damaged by the two lower-midcard filler matches tacked on before it so the booker could pretend he invented a new type of match, not to mention that all three were stupidly put on after Joe-Punk. As a whole, I'd give this **3/4. The midcard rubbish should've stayed on the midcard and the street fight should've been done on its own either preceeding Joe-Punk or on a different show entirely.
As all four guys lay in the ring, on commentary Sapolsky shatters several bones patting himself on the back as the fans chant ROH.
But the DVD isn't over! Loc barks out a promo, not having received the official memo stating no one gives a shit about his feud with Daniels & MASADA.
Next, as Danger shows off bottom-level amateur porn acting skills, Maff says there is no Prophecy and entices Whitmer to join him, free of Allison (and presumably, her goofy facial expressions). There was something rather homoerotic about this, like I was expecting Maff & Whitmer to end the segment by making out. Maff even declared they didn't need women and I swear he said "you have my word and my balls." Hm. I thought ROH was moving beyond such things in their Feinstein-free "rebirth"...
Prospective and expecting mothers, I beg you, do NOT smoke crack while pregnant so when your babies grow up to be wrestling bookers they know that a title match between your biggest stars that goes a full hour comes LAST. This was a terrible show beyond one incredible, meaningful match and a grossly misplaced brawl. If you find yourself in possession of this disc, I recommend watching the 3rd fall of the Ultimate Endurance first and the title match last.
Alternatively, just find the Joe-Punk trilogy release and let this show as a whole die a natural, painless death.