ROH Weekend of Thunder Night One 11/5/04 Revere, MA
1. x-Ace Steel vs o-Jimmy Rave (11:18) pinfall (Styles ("Rave") Clash)
This would've been a decent opener had it not been entirely predicated upon Jimmy Rave and his new heel unit. They actually worked more than one momentum change each and seemed to be on the way to something a bit beyond typical "hot opener" fluff, but Jimmy's irritating manager distracts Ace for the finish. Throughout, Ace inexplicably ripped off Punk's headlock stuff from the two Joe matches. Rave, meanwhile, remains bafflingly inconsistent as a worker. **
2. Four Corner Survival: o-Homicide vs Kevin Dunn vs x-Angel Dust vs Fast Eddie (11:50) pinfall (Copkiller)
ROH has a new affectation of making the audience lose track of who the legal man is, then have the ref remember during a pin attempt as though it's some clever kind of nearfall. Here, such silliness is used repeatedly to keep this lazy match going as the curtain-jerkers get destroyed by Homicide. In the end, the guy who couldn't possibly lose doesn't possibly lose. I can't tell you what something like this does for anyone. Are we supposed to think Homicide is stupid because he forgets who the legal opponent is? Are we supposed to praise Sapolsky for ROH being really rules conscious even though such a contrivance kills drama? Are we really supposed to believe Angel Dust could beat Homicide? I honestly have no idea. Worse, most of this was simply a vehicle for Sapolsky to blab about some new angle between Special K and Lacey. Raw Junior once again. *½
3. Street Fight: x-Dan Maff & B.J. Whitmer vs o-H.C. Loc & Tony DeVito (7:50) pinfall (stereo trash can attacks)
This is "non-sanctioned," so of course it appears on the dvd and has a referee, opening bell and commentary. They brawl around in virtually identical form to their last match until Allison Danger comes to ringside and comically fails at throwing trash cans into the ring. Whitmer stupid, stupid, stupidly goes after her, leaving his partner alone to take a "Contrashcanto" (as Sapolsky puts it) and the loss. Happy Jushin Thunder Liger Day, everyone. ų
4. o-Low Ki vs x-Chad Collyer (17:13) pinfall (diving double stomp)
The Japanese media is present to cover the Liger match. Somehow, this must have inspired Sapolsky to go for as much infuriating, fan-insulting American booking as his warped little brain could conceive. As if the first three matches weren't quite bad enough, here we're given a sloppy, overlong Raw match predicated upon a worked shoot injury to Low Ki's ankle. ROH even pretends the dvd is a live broadcast and cuts away from Ki's suffering to show a promo. When they return, of course Ki was faking and he immediately takes control of the match. Though this was supposed to put over how despicable Low Ki is, the fans actually started chanting for him! This assuredly turned Gabe puce, but he's not even done insulting our intelligence: both Ricky Reyes and Rocky Romero distract the referee so Ki can win. Collyer looked quite poor, blowing spots even in a simplistic snoozefest that was 45% Ki stalling on the floor. This made no one look good: Collyer made himself look bad and Ki was made to look bad by needing exaggerated trickery and help from two other guys to defeat a lower-level talent. Plus, it all took nearly 20 minutes no one is ever going to get back. Just pull the plug and stop booking Low Ki entirely if this is the best you can do, Gabe. ų
5. Samoa Joe & x-Jay Lethal vs John Walters & o-Nigel McGuinness (18:10) London Dungeon
Ring of Honor's tag matches work really well for overworked indy guys who try to wrestle 4-5 days per week without health insurance because they're so easy to do. I'd imagine they even play rock-paper-scissors in the back to decide who gets isolated. Easy as it is, the American tag formula also makes good wrestlers look really boring. What's worse here is that over the past couple shows Sapolsky has been on this warped "ROH is going to enforce the rules really strictly" kick. This translates to the referee bitching at the non-legal men so frequently that they've officially made a spot out of "team A keeps momentum because the referee didn't see team B's tag." Essentially, a terribly boring formulaic match is now made to be boring, formulaic and intelligence insulting as the referee takes a front-seat role to assure nothing interesting can happen!
Here, they worked at a slightly extended mix of the usual formula. Joe does his Joe things. When he does these exact Joe things he does in every match to John Walters, Gabe tells you those moves show you how much Joe disrespects the Pure Title. Once you come to your senses as a wrestling fan and mute the television, the match that ends up unfolding isn't too bad, but no one's trying very hard until the last couple minutes when they finally decide to use Japanese tag rules. Nigel and Lethal got the most ring time, while Joe and Walters' encounters were clearly just to tease the lame World Title vs Pure Title feud commentary wants to sell you. This would have been inoffensive but for the infuriating "rules enforcement" garbage. That has to go, and it has to go fast. ROH tag matches weren't that watchable in the first place. A promotion using the same formula to death can be acceptable if it's a good formula. This one isn't, and it's now been made even worse. **¾
6. Diablo Santiago & o-Oman Tortuga vs x-Davey Andrews & Shane Hagadorn (3:33) pinfall
Workout session between jobbers and jobber understudies. It got four guys work, but how did a pre-show match make it this far up the card?
7. x-C.M. Punk vs o-Austin Aries (22:47) kata ebi-gatame
My main complaint in their previous match (on 9/11) was Aries' inability to realistically carry when he needed to. Punk compensated by overselling a missed dive and flopping around until going back to the arm he had been working on to start. This time around, they start by going to and fro with some nice but aimless chain wrestling. Eventually, Punk connects with a tope suicida. He controls on the floor and looks for a Shining Wizard. Aries dodges, Punk's knee cracks the ring post and once again Aries gains momentum on a technicality, not his own skill. But they must have really wanted Aries to go to school because the rest of the match is all him trying to carry. He completely dominates by working on the knee for literally 11 minutes. Punk makes something of a comeback, but Aries counters an ill-advised Shining Wizard by grabbing the leg out of mid-air and rolling backwards directly into a half crab in one smooth motion - without question the coolest individual spot seen in ROH in quite some time. In the end, once again we find Punk and his opponent pawing at each other on the top rope for way too long. Aries continues assaulting the knee, even adding his 450 Splash directly to it (which can't honestly do much damage, can it?) and then locking in the half crab. They milk it, but Punk taps.
I can't deny that Aries is learning, which is good. He showed improvement from their last match in his actual pro-wrestling skills, but did so at the cost of putting on an entertaining match. This was actually one of Punk's worst performances all year. He seemed to blow up early and got busted open hardway but even from the beginning he didn't seem eager to perform at a high level. Maybe he wanted all the attention to be on Aries, which I could understand, but at the same time I've always felt the best way to put a guy over is to have a maximum effort match so the other guy's going over actually looks realistic. This just felt like Punk was told "we have nothing for you, so go make him look good." **¾
8. ROH Tag Title (10th,4): © Rocky Romero & o-Ricky Reyes vs Roderick Strong & x-Jack Evans (17:54) pinfall (tombstone piledriver)
Once again, we get yet another moribund, life-sucking staging of an ever-increasingly logical rationale for suicide: ROH tag team wrestling. You've seen it before, you won't see it again because next time it'll put you all the way into a coma. Same script, different people, only this time the referee is incompetent (and maybe not even on a kayfabe level!) so in addition to the usual excrutiating inaction propelled by the "rules enforcement," this guy fucks up the finish. Jack hits the 630. The referee counts to three then immediately leaps to his feet and bounces around making random hand gestures to show the match is still going. One friendly fire spot later and Evans gets dropped in one of the most antclimactic finishes seen in a promotion that's overflowed with them.
Evans & Strong attempted some UDG-type sprinting double team sequences, but they were very sloppy both from themselves and from Reyes & Romero apparently not following what they were trying to do. When Evans wasn't getting pounded, most of the offense was predicated on Strong throwing him. The Havana Pitbulls looked fine, but the match structure and rather incompatable opponents makes it hard for anyone to truly distringuish themselves. With a looser structure and better booking, these four could have an entertaining match, but the current sensibilities of the promotion have stacked the deck against anyone wrestling in a tag team format.
The crowd absolutely hated this. They were pretty quiet for most of it and savagely booed the terrible finish. For once, a crowd reaction actually says it all. Unfortunately, the only thing Gabe Sapolsky can listen to is his own ego. **
9. o-Jūshin Thunder Liger vs x-Bryan Danielson (18:24) pinfall (nadare-shiki suichoku rakka-shiki brainbuster)
Bryan Danielson worked as a semi-regular for New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 2004. He appeared in a total of 65 matches and earned 19 wins, including victories over New Japan stalwarts El Samurai, Kanemoto Kōji and Kakihara Masahito en route to a semifinal appearance in the prestigious Best of the Super Junior league. With Curry Man (Christopher Daniels), he defeated Gedō & Jadō for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Title - defending it once before losing it back to the previous champions - and unsuccessfully challenged for Tanahashi Hiroshi's Under-30 championship. All in all, a pretty impressive run in a high level professional promotion for a guy who has yet to get any significant push in this small American indy called Ring of Honor. What sticks in the man's craw though is his failure to defeat the legendary Jūshin Thunder Liger. In their only direct result against each other, Liger beat Danielson during the Super Junior tournament. Now, in his home country, Danielson wants revenge. In his pre-show comments, he even said this match was more important to him than defeating Samoa Joe - so this must be really huge.
Huge... it most certainly is not. Being back in America must have given Liger flashbacks to early 90s WCW, because the pace is slow and he oversells everything like he's Lex Lugarcito. The crowd is in ecstasy at Liger's presence, so Danielson decides to be the standard old fashioned heel: he carries the first 11 minutes with the usual empty motion of yelling at the ref, going after Liger's mask, flopping around like an idiot to sell his own airplane spin, and locks in the Cattle Mutilation a couple times. Liger emerges from hibernation for the final five minutes after connecting with the magical +3 New Japan Brainbuster of Momentum Change, shows the marks his palm strikes, koppo-abise-geri, Liger Bomb and gets the victory and easiest paycheck of his life with the vertical brainbuster from the top. The fans got what they wanted to see, but those of us with higher standards sure didn't get a real match. **½
A wrestling fan scrolling through old results will likely come across this show, see "Liger vs Danielson," and excitedly scramble to find it. After all, Bryan Danielson has had great matches, Jūshin Thunder Liger has had great matches. Naturally, the two of them facing each other in a main event would be a no brainer of at least 4 stars, right?
Wrong! Liger is clearly on vacation, Danielson and ROH clearly knew all the crowd wanted to see was Liger himself right in front of their faces, so no one even tried to acheive, much less overacheive. Meanwhile, the rest of the card is atrocious, over-booked, under-worked garbage that could without exaggeration be called Ring of Honor's worst undercard in 2004 - and boy howdy have there been some serious contenders for that title. This show was a cynical waste of time that should be avoided. Liger's had great matches with many different wrestlers. Go watch those and forget this tension-extraction experiment ever existed.
To conclude, I would be remiss if I did not address something. Get this straight and get it final, marks: Jūshin is not a given name, Liger is not a surname, and Thunder is not a nickname. Yamada Keiichi donned a stupid-looking anime cosplay outfit a long time ago, turning into Jūshin (a made-up word using kanji that means "Beast God") Liger (a dopey, overlarge crossbreed of a tiger and lion): Beast God Liger. When he got a slightly less stupid looking outfit, he powered up, becoming Beast God Thunder Liger - a mythological fierce cat creature imbued with the power of thunder. Got it? Good. Now never again put the word thunder in quotation marks.