ROH Survival of the Fittest DVD 6/24/04 Philadelphia, PA
A show bearing a title referencing the work of Charles Darwin ironically opens with an H.C. Loc promo. Yes, the guy you never heard of is still feuding with that Texan from BJW and the guy who brought Tyler Black into wrestling (yet was never arrested for it), ultimately because of feces. Loc says there can be only one Carnage Crew. I think the world would be OK with fewer than that. Oddly enough, this is promoting a show in July and has nothing to do with this show. No one from either Crew is even booked!
In Survival of the Fittest, six singles matches determine finalists for an elimination main event. No goofy stipulations here, just straight wrestling.
Additional counterargument to Darwin's postulations come in the form of your commentary crew, once again Gachrimby Sabolovaursky and - out from the home on a day pass - Mark Nulty.
1. Survival of the Fittest Qualifier: Alex Shelley[x] vs Mark Briscoe[o] (10:13) figure-four jackknife hold
Mark largely dominates the action with aggressive and interesting attacks on Shelley's knee. Shelley does his usual Euro-lucha stuff, focusing on the neck to set up the Border City Stretch, but when he gets it on, Mark contorts out into a figure-four jackknife that specifies the damaged knee. Intelligent, well crafted little match. **1/4
2. Survival of the Fittest Qualifier: Colt Cabana[o] vs Trent Acid[x] (7:57) lucha
They open with comedy, highlighted by a nice Three Stooges-esque strike exchange before settling into a routine indy match. The whole time commentary doesn't shut up about Cabana debuting a new finisher, which ends up being a slow-developing Rube Goldberg lucha cradle. Nulty calls it something, but if its coming from that guy, there's a 100% chance that's not the name of the move. Not bad, but you see this sort of thing on the indies all the time. *1/2
It was nice to see Acid having fun, since you know he's not having any where he is now.
-- The 50th state of the Union interviews the Briscoes. Their protolinguistic utterances tell us one thing: parents, don't let your children play high school football.
3. Survival of the Fittest Qualifier: Austin Aries[o] & Roderick Strong vs John Walters & Josh Daniels[x] (12:47) 450 Splash
This was "supposed to be" Aries vs Walters, but we have to sit through more mic-bleating from Gen Next. Shelley oversells his knee from earlier and limpingly attacks Walters with a chain. Ten minutes and fifty mic spots later, an irrational tag occurs, still somehow a qualifier.
Once again the decayed, dismembered corpse of old school American tag wrestling is dragged out. Walters gets isolated, Gen Next does their anachronised heel routine, then eventually Daniels gets the hot tag, cleans house... and loses. A nonsensically booked reasonable execution of insipid obsolescence with an illogical finish. **
4. Survival of the Fittest Qualifier: Homicide[o] vs Jay Briscoe[x] (14:20) Western
Homicide refuses to shake hands. SCANDAL!
Dominating J-junior style performance from Homicide. He may be Puerto Rican, but his wrestling soul is Japanese. Its a shame his career path would lead to multiple arrests, being overweight and worst of all, TNA. Jay made a comeback in the end, but clumsy interference from Homicide's manager set up the big lariat. Both guys looked good with lots of big match potential, but this was too one-sided to be a real highlight and the interference was contrived. **3/4
They sell Jay having a neck injury, which somehow makes Homicide snap again and assault everyone. Whatever.
5. Survival of the Fittest Qualifier: Bryan Danielson[o] vs Jack Evans[x] (10:59)
henkei gyaku ebi-gatame-rashii sebone-ori
Jack Evans is the most annoying wrestler west of Matsuda Keizo. Not so much a match as an exhibition of Danielson using Evans' flexibility to stretch him into unique, impossible knots. Evans was graced with a minute or two of flippy offense near the end, then Danielson broke him in half with a submission you'll never see again. This was about all they could do since a competitive match would've been laughably unrealistic. *1/4
6. Survival of the Fittest Qualifier: Samoa Joe[o] vs Matt Stryker[x] (9:36) Island
Speaking of unrealistic competition, here's Matt Stryker. If last show's Joe-Punk match was the opposite of a typical Joe squash, this was the opposite of that. Joe did his usual nifty ass-kicking and allowed Stryker some difficult to believe courtesy offense, but the result was never once in doubt. *3/4
Afterwards, Punk comes out to demand a rematch, but Homicide ruins the moment once again. Joe runs after him and they brawl NHL-style into the back.
-- Joe presses his face into the camera and bellows that Homicide has until JULY!!! Why July, he didn't say.
-- In addition to public speaking, Danielson also has a problem with Homicide. He also wants the title from Joe.
7. ROH Tag Title - Scramble: (c) C.M. Punk[o] vs Dixie & Hydro vs Kevin Dunn[x] &
Kirby Marcos[x] vs Diablo Santiago & Oman Tortuga (4:53) Hydro double dragon suplex
Punk correctly appraises the level of competition and sends Cabana to the back, then steals the victory from Hydro. A waste of five minutes with a few spot exhibitions. And yes, this was for the tag title. 1/2*
Punk gets back on the mic, his personality 180 degrees from when he talked to Joe earlier. He calls out Steamboat (yes, they're still on that...) and stating the obvious, calls the fans idiots. What's Punk's personality? Tepid, petty heel overly concerned with a has-been who has nothing to do with anything or a fiercly determined athlete hungry for the title? Pick a lane, ROH.
Anyway, this all leads to the real point of the segment, a singles match challenge from Hydro. After several hours of blabbityblah, we at last get:
8. C.M. Punk[o] vs Hydro[x] (18:47) Tornado Clutch
Hydro shook hands! Alert the wire services!!
Nulty: "You don't get noticed by wrestling guys at your level or lower" OK, ROH, so then what the hell is Generation Next doing?
Punks really brings out the cocky heel bag of tricks, including jawing and stalling, but soon overwhelms Hydro to the point of twice pulling him up at 2 when the match was won. Hydro does hang with Punk and gets in some serious offense in the later third, including a 2.9 nearfall, but can't escape a surprise Tornado Clutch. They wanted to seperate Jay "Hydro" Lethal from the retarded Special K group and make him a serious wrestler, so a courageous losing effort to one of the best was not a bad way to do it. Punk was leagues away from being in big match mode and Lethal leagues away from acquiring one, but a fine effort nontheless. The six guys in the main event in particular enjoyed the long rest this helped provide. ***
9. Survival of the Fittest: Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson[o] vs Austin Aries[x] vs
Homicide vs Colt Cabana vs Mark Briscoe (42:29)
Door (tag)-slamming farce teasing key match-ups like Joe vs Homicide is the backdrop to everyone beating on Mark. He starts the match assaulting Homicide, seeking vengeance for Jay, but the pace soon meanders leisurely until a blitz at the end. With most guys on the floor, Cabana teases an Asai moonsault but slingshots in to pin Joe for the shocking first elimination.
1st fall: Cabana x Joe @15:23 - slingshot sunset flip
Colt can't enjoy his upset because Homicide takes his head off shortly thereafter. Mark
immediately makes a blind tag and gets the elimination instead, which doesn't make much
sense as he had taken the most damage and should've just left it to Homicide. Commentary
tries to save this by saying it took both finishers to beat Colt, but that wasn't what
2nd fall: Mark x Cabana @16:07 - Homicide lariat -> shooting star press
Back where we started, Mark & Homicide trade bigger moves until a German suplex from Mark
leads to a double pin, eliciting a well-earned chant of "bullshit" from the
3rd & 4th falls: Mark & Homicide @19:04 - double pin
...so, then, 20 minutes of filler set up our real main event of Bryan Danielson vs Austin Aries.
They work a title-caliber match with unbelievably brutal strikes from Danielson. The action was balanced with many momentum swings. While Punk's job was to show Lethal he's not ready, Danielson was to show that Aries is. Danielson was the more intelligent, working the back to set up a bear hug (!), which he eventually brought into more or less the move he beat Evans with. The goal was to establish Aries as a superstar equal to Joe, Punk & Danielson. Though certainly a strong effort and although commentary WAY oversold this idea, it was quite obvious that Aries is not on that level. He can (and will) be pushed like he is, but he lacks that special quality and is in fact rather sloppy with his moves, being far more suited to tag wrestling (as we'll see throughout 2006).
Danielson carried him to a good match, but Danielson could carry a teruteru bouzu to a good match. Though Aries's offence was stiff and athletic, anything clever was strictly from Danielson's puppeteering. This was certainly good enough to forget the previous eliminations. ***3/4 (full Survival of the Fittest match overall, ***)
For the second show in a row we have a sequence of unrelated matches smashed together as a main event. No civilisations would have fallen nor would the sun cease to shine to book simply and efficiently. Don't make people wade through 20 minutes of nothing in an automaniacal attempt to rationalise why Danielson-Aries is taking place, just book it and let it speak for itself.
Ultimately, this was a solid show with far less rubbish than 6/12/04. The Survival of the Fittest concept is contrived and none of the current feuds interesting, but at least there was some decent wrestling. Borderline recommendation, and listen to the commentary at your peril.
Best match: Danielson-Aries ***3/4
Worst match: Scramble tag 1/2*