Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

ROH Midnight Express Reunion 10/2/04 Philadelphia, PA

1. ROH Tag Title (10th,3): Rocky Romero & o-Ricky Reyes vs Izzy & x-Angel Dust (11:30) pinfall (double team backbreaker / diving knee drop)
Since one title defense against Special K isn't enough for any reign, the Havana Pitbulls get to do it all over again in ye olde "hot opener." This time, we're graced with Angel Dust instead of Dixie. If you're new to ROH, don't worry - every member of Special K is exactly the same. Putting aside the preposterousness of New Japan trained guys having to sell for scrawny flying squirrels, this really was as hot as it was supposed to be, though the match from 8/24/04 was more crisply executed. Also, there was too much nonsense with the managers: Gabe & the guy from the nursing home never once shut up about Lacey and Julius Smokes' interference predicating the finish. Special K are no longer depressed, by the way - they're cocky. It's a lateral move. All said, this sort of thing is fine to kick off a show, but absolutely shouldn't involve a championship. **

2. Four Corner Survival: B.J. Whitmer vs x-Trent Acid vs o-Jimmy Rave vs Josh Daniels (9:52) pinfall (Styles ("Rave") Clash)
All four were in form for this, but the plotting (such as it was) was torpidly predictable. The first 80% was essentially a Rave-Daniels match periodically interrupted by Whitmer-Acid with four-way interaction serving solely as transitional material. For the finish, as is always the case in matches such as these, the final blitz involved all four at an accelerated pace. In total, a nice little card-filler, but I think we're supposed to care that Trent Acid finally lost a "multi-person match" and that the Styles Clash is more deadly than Amazon tree frogs riding ICBMs. **

3. o-Low Ki vs x-Jay Lethal (14:24) Dragon Clutch
Gabe Sapolsky personally doesn't like Low Ki and Gabe Sapolsky has well documented emotional problems, so instead of either putting differences aside for the sake of booking one of the best guys on the indies or alternatively simply not booking Ki at all, Sapolsky makes him a stereotype heel who doesn't get to show off his talent. This disorder of Gabe's was at its most disgusting in this kindergarten production of Monday Night Raw. At ringside are a pod of morbidly obese folks that are apparently Jay Lethal's family. So vital to the production are these people that the production constantly cuts away from the match to show them! As Jay gets savaged, Ki and his manager constantly harass these non-wrestlers to such a sensibility offending degree that Jay gets momentum in the match from Low Ki spitting on his mother. We're "supposed to" care about Jay Lethal because he gets mugged and humiliated, but ROH fans want to see the best wrestlers wrestle. Jay Lethal doesn't hold a candle to Low Ki, but Gabe's personal issues are more important than taking the easier route and giving the fans what they want. This was absolutely embarrassing.

4. x-Homicide vs o-Nigel McGuinness (20:02) cradle from London Dungeon
Nigel deconstructs Homicide's arm with virtually no changes in momentum for 11 minutes of the 20. Though Homicide isn't a slouch when it comes to technical wrestling, he did seem rather out of his element with the British stuff - but perhaps that was the whole point. The problem was more that Homicide's comeback wasn't very believable; his arm-based signature moves (particularly the lariat) would be completely ineffective if the damage was sold, trite and lame if it wasn't. Both guys kind of split the difference, but that just made the match feel like it was more on its way to a time limit draw than a stunning upset victory. But can you really call it an upset if the winner completely dominated 55% of the match? If Homicide is the veteran, Nigel the ostensible rookie and you want such a stunning result, shouldn't it be Nigel that gets the living hell beat out of him, refuses to die, then comes back to win? The opposite happened here probably due to a catch-22 situation with Nigel's ultra-British style. It's apparently the only thing he can do at this point, so if you put him in with a J-junior worshipper type like Homicide, the match is likely going to default naturally to Nigel carrying; trying to do otherwise would make the match collapse from his stylistic inexperience. Mind you, they didn't do anything wrong as such, but dramatically this had the rolling undulation of a television time limit draw, not the sharp, climbing peaks and plateaus of a surprising, hard fought victory. ***

5. Elimination Match: C.M. Punk, x-John Walters, Ace Steel & Jimmy Jacobs vs Alex Shelley, o-Austin Aries, Roderick Strong & Jack Evans (34:11) pinfall (450 Splash)
Absolutely nothing in this match exists outside Generation Next's American '80's heel bag of tricks. After a couple brief minutes of hot action to trick you into paying attention, this bloated apotheosis of obsolescence oozes and gurgles across it's impossible duration like a b-movie blob creature. Fortunately, it does not consume anything in its path but the audience's wakefulness and interest. Only the heels get to work. Jacobs gets pounded on for seven straight minutes but can only get defeated by a chair shot behind the ref's back. Then Punk gets beaten on without offense and disqualified for using a chair even though Roderick Strong brought it into the ring. The ref gets distracted and misses tags by the faces every other minute. Walters cleans house with a hot tag only to sell like he's been on vacation in Darfur just two minutes later. If something stupid, irritating, boring or intelligence insulting happened during an '80's tag match, it happened here at least twice. Down the stretch, they tried to sell Walters having superhuman heart and courage, but an exhausted, outnumbered corpse constantly grabbing the ropes during submissions is just dead freaking boring. And that's precisely what this was. Apparently, Sapolsky decided the maximum effort quasi-oudou from 5/22/04 was a mistake. It was corrected with impunity here. **

6. ROH World Title (3rd,24): o- Samoa Joe vs x-Bryan Danielson (39:13) rear naked choke
On 6/12/04, C.M. Punk and Samoa Joe battled to a sixty minute time limit draw. The primary (and kayfabe) reason for the broadway was Punk's strategy of using as much of the time limit as possible to wear the big man down. Punk figured he couldn't out-strike or out-power the champ, but he could grind away, befuddle and frustrate. Conversely, Bryan Danielson, in his first ever title challenge, had a much different - and we could say, less self-depricating - strategy from Punk's. Danielson saw himself as simply the better wrestler, better conditioned athlete, better striker, better everything and sought to dominate the champ. To stand in the middle of the ring and say "I am better than you and that belt is mine." All things considered, Danielson proved exactly that. Though Joe fought very hard indeed within his obvious limitations, Danielson showed in both the story of the match and to anyone who looks harder into the nuts and bolts of wrestling that he is without question the faster, smarter, better man to the point where the building was positively buzzing with the energy of a big title change. It seemed utterly improbable that Joe would be booked to pull out a victory, but the champ just would not quit. Out of necessity, all action was carried and controlled by Danielson, which lessened the drama in places due to Joe's rather poor sense of dramatic timing (for example, bringing out his silly "ole kick" in the 30th minute). Joe would periodically ignore or forget that Danielson had targeted his knee, most egregiously for the finish: though his knee had been utterly destroyed, he exploded with furious PRIDE-style ground knee strikes to set up a rear naked choke. The explosion of fighting spirit can be forgiven (and even praised, if timed well), but the problem was it ended the match on rather a down note. It was so obvious to everyone that Danielson had proved who the true star was, the energy was so clearly flowing towards a title change that a mixed martial arts "guy gets rocked, then choked out" finish became almost the same as a more staid, midcard "first guy to hit the finisher wins" sort of ending. Indeed, the finish itself would have been perfect as-is had the challenger-champion dynamic been flipped. If someone won a title in that manner, it'd look spectacular. As things stand, we're left thinking not that Joe has the "heart of a champion" and some secret reserve of Toukon offense that blazes through his veins when his back is against the wall, but that he wriggled off the hook to an obviously superior opponent. But do not misunderstand: these two put together a wonderful title match. While in total it wasn't quite on the level of Joe-Punk from 6/12, it was psychologically and stylistically a seperate entity that can be enjoyed along side it as the ongoing story of Joe's waning title reign nears its conclusion. Once again, stand, salute and throw streamers at what a brilliant, precocious ring general Bryan Danielson is, because the success of this match was entirely his will. He took Joe for the ride of his life, and did it in a much different way than C.M. Punk. ****

* * * * *

This show featured the requisite couple of pointless spotfest openers, an utterly embarrassing slab of Raw-worship, a 35-minute reactionary snoozefest, a weird styles clash and a genuinely great, pretension-free title match. Contrary to the propaganda, ROH has no clue what it wants to be. Having violently, radically different philosophies for every match doesn't make you cosmopolitan, it makes you confused and possibly disturbed and schizophrenic. Watch the title match and be glad you don't suffer from whatever horrible brain-worms that burrowed into Gabriel Sapolsky's cerebrum.


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