ROH Death Before Dishonor II - Part 1 7/23/04 Wauwetosa, WI
"Homicide is insane, Rocky Romero is a killer... Low Ki's just an asshole"
-- Gabe Sapolsky
The festivities begin with local legend Baron von Raschke. I'm sure all the teen & early 20s indy geeks fondly remember his matches from their zygote days. The Baron gives the sign of the claw and shows he doesn't own a calendar by goose-stepping around the ring. He gets on the mic, but Generation Next interrupts despite being fully half his size. Before they can do anything, the Second City Saints strike; Evans gets the Iron Claw, Ace joins in goose-stepping, resident Jew Cabana thankfully does not. ZERO1 t-shirt-clad Punk declares that he & Cabana have come as champions and will leave as champions. Kind of a pointless seven minutes, really.
Commentary is a shockingly listenable, even entertaining Gabe Sapolsky and Mark Nulty.
1. Four Corner Survival: Ace Steel vs Trent Acid[o] vs Matt Sydal vs Delirious[x] (9:13)
suichoku rakka-shiki reverse brainbuster
In poor Gabe's mind, we're returning from a commercial break, since he gives us a point by point recap of what happened one minute ago. He then puts over Acid as a "master of multi-person matches." Translation: he's locked in the undercard and is going to win this match. A bit sloppy, but fast, non-stop action. Everyone got to show off and there was even a crazy spot involving all four, but the main point was to put Acid over. Decent if shallow opener. **
2. ROH Pure Title: © Doug Williams[o] vs Alex Shelley[x] (16:49) Chaos Theory
Last week, these two showed potential but got bogged down by the Pure Wrestling concept and Shelley's over-selling ruined any drama. This time, they clearly learned from their mistakes. Unlike the disguised squash in New Jersey, here the action was competitive and very balanced (last week, rope breaks finished 3-0 in Williams's favor; here, both had to use them all). As you'd expect from these two, the technique was fluid and the counter-grappling at times astonishing, but what really made this good was simply that they weren't trying way too hard to make a point. They put together a brilliant display of purposeful technical wrestling that stood on its own without the need for overblown contrivance. They could have used another 3-5 minutes as the finish came without much drama. In general, ROH is often too reliant on overpowered, one-hit finishers, but despite this anticlimax, Shelley and Williams put forth a much better effort than last time. Even Williams's British style was less derivative! ***1/4
3. Dan Maff[x] & B.J. Whitmer vs Low Ki & Rocky Romero[o] (16:51) ude-hishigi gyaku
Danger! Allison Danger's on the mic. She begs Maff & Whitmer to return to the Prophecy (which is actually solely Danger herself at this point). Maff responds with a hearty "fuck you!" The Rottweiler duo attack before the bell, but things settle fairly quickly into a very basic tag structure. All four have trouble getting into a rhythm and Romero, in particular, seemed rather confused. While not as coma-inducing as the retro style Gen Next tends to employ, the first half or so was a clunkily worked routine that saw Maff get isolated with both 'Weilers working his arm. A hot... well, tepid... tag to Whitmer eventually leads to a scalding back and forth finish where every guy's finisher is attempted and escaped from, but a juuji from Romero is too much for Maff's damaged arm. A fast, hot second half made up for a disjointed first with the only glaring demerit coming from all tag rules being abandoned down the stretch, a consistent problem in ROH. All in all, though, a very good, clean "first half main event." ***
Danger begs the Rottweilers to join her, so Homicide gives her a Copkiller. Because she's so annoying, this puts the dastardly, evil heel Rottweilers over huge as faces to the Milwaukee crowd. Gabe, who never seems to have a problem with extreme violence towards defenseless women, sells this like a morbid tragedy, and we're shown Danger getting carted out with a neck brace during intermission.
4. Chad Collyer[o] vs Danny Daniels[x] (8:26) Texas Clover Hold
Decent if irrelevant and not particularly substantitive technical junior match. Collyer works the leg to set up his finisher. Neither looked ready for primetime, and Daniels barely looked ready for a matinee. Salud to Collyer for using "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth for entrance music.*3/4
5. Matt Stryker, Jimmy Jacobs & John Walters[o] vs Austin Aries, Roderick Strong &
Jack Evans[x] (16:48) inverted octopus hold reverse indian deathlock(?)
Gen Next is out in full, so to even the odds Walters & company summon Ricky Steamboat. Wow, Raschke AND Steamboat? Are Joe Stecher and Farmer Burns back there, too? Throughout the match both Shelley and Steamboat distract the referee like an '80s heel manager version of duelling banjos. Though annoying, this doesn't directly impact the match. Generation Next dominate the first two thirds, first isolating Stryker then Jacobs, whose hot tag offense is realistically snuffed out fast. Gen Next continues to work in an American tag idiom, but back off the tedious retrograde elements in favor of more exciting, athletic triple teams. Jacobs eventually manages a hot tag to both Walters & Stryker (which is suddenly allowed), who bring out their own cool double teams. This all accelerates into a crazy, prestissimo climax where all tag rules are fully abandoned so everyone can do everything at once. Strong powerbombs Stryker for Aries's 450 Splash, which Jacobs breaks up with a cannonball senton. Evans misses a 630 on Walters, who pounces into a strange but effective-looking llave to deliver Generation Next their first team loss in ROH. At the end, Steamboat brawled with Shelley to prevent him from interfering.
Ridiculous inconsistent rules and pointless manager antics aside, this is much closer to what all these Generation Next tags were supposed to look like. Whether they're simply more comfortable with each other or they made a conscious effort to wrestle like its the 21st century, the bottom line is they brought exciting wrestling free of much of the nonsense that dragged down previous matches. Though I would've liked to have seen a more evenly contested match, real growth was exhibited here. ***1/2
6. ROH World Title: © Samoa Joe[o] vs Homicide[x] (24:00) hadaka-jime → referee
Homicide is accompanied by the full Rottweiler retinue. They immediately attempt to interfere so the referee tosses them. Because this is Homicide's "last" shot at the title, he orders them to go and the match gets underway without incident. In the opening stages, Joe dominates with his usual moves while Homicide eschews his J-junior & Kojima worship for more typical heel shortcut attacks, including the silly Hulk Hogan back scratch. Joe targets the lower back while, unusually, Homicide goes after the eyes (which I hadn't seen since the 1995 Champion Carnival final).
In the first half, there wasn't much of a story beyond Homicide taking a beating and being a jackass, but once things picked up, holy crap! In a ferocious finish that sent the crowd into ecstasy, Joe withstands a top rope Koji Cutter and the Western Lariat, but Homicide kicks out at 2.9 to both the Muscle Buster and Island Driver. Joe can only put him away by choking him out. Homicide never tapped; the ref called a stop after he failed to make the arm test.
The match wandered somewhat aimlessly for the first third or so, damaged, I feel, by Homicide having to really go out of his way to play heel. Kicking out of all the big finishers flirted with blatant unbelievability, but it effectively displayed just how desperate he was to win the title. The fans wanted to cheer for him as a '90s Kawada-like underdog. Though by the end the action was so fierce alignments didn't have room to be a factor, the truth is people simply want to see the best action and cheer for the wrestlers that give it to them. Had Homicide been the guy he was pre-Rottweilers, the first half would have been more technical and smoothly paced, pushing this possibly past four stars. But what we did get was damn exciting nontheless. ***3/4
Joe refuses to release the hold, so the Rottweilers attack. Everyone gets a shot in and Low Ki chokes him out. They then - as Sapolsky puts it - "rape the belt of its dignity" by spitting upon it. No one comes to Joe's rescue, but at some point his carcass must've been swept up because the ring is empty for the main event.
7. ROH Tag Title - 2/3 Falls: © C.M. Punk[o] & Colt Cabana vs Jay Briscoe & Mark
A slow feeling out process gradually builds in pace and intensity much like a one-fall match, but with an added touch of everyone testing the waters with cradles & flash pins more than usual. Mark gets cut off first, but eventually secures a tag through some rule-bending by both Briscoes. The tables then get turned on Punk, who takes quite a beating before a hot tag. Weirdly, almost immediately after Cabana cleans house, Punk tags himself back in and soon suffers the Jay Driller.
1st fall (0-1): Jay x Punk (20:13) Jay Driller
Punk is out the entire second fall, but Cabana had very little ring time so he's sold as
being fresher than both Briscoes. He uses his craftiness to induce friendly fire, some
spots of which were almost believable. When the Briscoes look to finish with a Hart
Attack type move, Cabana pulls Jay's head into the path of the attack and cinches in a
lucha-esque cradle to level.
2nd fall (1-1) Cabana x Jay (6:02) cradle
The Briscoes attack before the bell, really amping up the heel tactics to regain
control of the now one-fall match. Colt flails desperately to his corner for a tag, but
no one's home. Six minutes was apparently not enough time to recover from Jay's finisher,
but when the Briscoes seek victory with the springboard Doomsday Device, Punk
materialises out of thin air to make the save. Though he continues to sell his neck, Punk
is refreshed for the hot tag. All four bring out the big moves in a final blitz; Mark
does a shooting star press to the floor, Cabana adds a huge Asai moonsault. Eventually in
something of an anticlimax, Punk is able to hit the Pepsi Plunge to retain.
3rd fall (2-1): Punk x Mark (10:16) Pepsi Plunge
All four did a good job selling energy loss, which was important because the structure was essentially a pendulous series of man advantages, stretched beyond believability during the brief second fall. The third fall finish lacked specific psychodramatic integration beyond the winning move being Punk's declared finisher and thus inconsistent with the attention to detail accomplished across the rest of the match. A fine effort overall, but a single, 40 minute epic one fall match would have had more drama. ***3/4
Absolutely unbelievable. In just one week Ring of Honor pulls a full 180-degree turnaround. Reborn: Completion was a sports entertainment show with television (or worse) level matches, bad promos, tedious overbooking and awful commentary.
This, however was a WRESTLING show. There were zero backstage promos and just three total non-wrestling segments. The matches were allowed to breathe, the workers allowed to work, even the commentary somehow got good! I've never seen a more neck-snapping, rapid change in quality.
There's very little to add beyond what this card says for itself. Go watch it!