ROH All Star Extravaganza 2 12/4/04 Elizabeth, NJ
1. Angel Dust, x-Izzy, Dixie & Deranged vs Davey Andrews, Shane Hagadorn, o-Anthony Franco & Matt Turner (4:48) schoolboy
The rookies get their first-ever win when Franco grabs a flash pin during a clusterfuck. This existed solely to set up next show's epic match of Angel Dust & Becky Bayless vs Deranged & Lacey. n/r
2. o-Jay Lethal vs x-Weapon of Mask Destruction (6:38) pinfall (high-angle Dragon suplex)
The Weapon (actually Flash Flanagan) destroys Jay for a few minutes until Jay can use his finisher. Kind of a reverse squash where the jobber gets all the offense. *
3. Tag Team Scramble: Dan Maff & B.J. Whitmer vs H.C. Loc & Tony DeVito vs Kevin Dunn & x-Kirby Marcos vs Diablo Santiago & o-Oman Tortuga (9:23) pinfall
Maff & Whitmer have been feuding with Loc & DeVito, so they generally ignore the "real" match to brawl with each other, in the end going at each other in the crowd while the other four jobbers have at it. At one point Loc tries to suffocate B.J. with an empty pizza box. Never seen that before. The feuding teams have a Fight Without Honor next show, so this was yet another television angle passing for a match. *
4. ROH Pure Title (3rd): o-© John Walters vs x-Jimmy Rave (16:50) ring out
Walters and Rave are both good, developing prospects within a UDG-type medium. Walters has had solid performances as Pure Champion, Rave has been inconsistent but promising (terrible gimmick and manager aside). Unfortunately, this match is on a show that ROH inexplicably does periodically: the pretend television taping. Whatever the logic may have been at the time (and believe me, I'm through trying to psychoanalyse Gabriel Sapolsky), this show has taken a very remedial, introductory character as all matches have been stripped down and all commentary has existed to aggressively sell the company and its constituent elements as though you've never even seen professional wrestling before. Here, instead of allowing Walters and Rave to just do what they can do and put on a show, they were forced to squeeze every possible quirk and vagary of the "pure rules" into one match. While they do, Sapolsky incessantly hawks the match concept to the brand new audience that apparently exists in his head. Rave is forced to take on World of Sport heel affectations - really not his forte - and Walters has to go too far out of his way to show that "hey look, you can eventually do submissions around the ropes in this kind of match!" The finish is especially contrived: Rave loses all his rope breaks, Walters locks a scorpion hold and Rave rolls them both to the floor. Walters holds on until the count of 16 before dashing back into the ring just to show us that Pure Title matches can end by ring out. Both of these guys deserve a better opportunity to show off their skills. **
5. #1 Contender Match: v-Low Ki vs v-Austin Aries (20:00) full time draw
The story of this match - as has been the case much of the year - was Austin Aries refusing to die. Momentum changes a few times in meandering, vague fashion but one way or another the plot returns to Aries getting abused because he's the face and Ki's the heel. But the abuse itself was pretty vacuous - just big sparks here and there between long rest holds because apparently a 20 minute time limit is too much for guys who have worked hour-long matches (an hour and a quarter, in Aries' case!) So slouch there way to the end they do, working ostensibly a long Monday Night Raw match with harder strikes - in fact, the style and pace they display here eerily presages New Japan's WWE mimicry of the mid 2010s. In the end, Aries nails his 450° but the time expires just as the ref is bringing his hand down for three. ROH officials decide to give the match five more minutes, but Low Ki doesn't want to give the fans what they want and walks out. We're supposed to be outraged at Ki's selfishness, but I'm left wondering why a #1 contender match had just a 20 minute time limit in the first place. **
6. ROH Tag Title (10th,6): © Rocky Romero & o-Ricky Reyes vs Nigel McGuinness & x-Chad Collyer (16:24) pinfall (backbreaker / diving knee drop)
The first nine minutes are quite entertaining as Nigel & Collyer control the match with creative technical wrestling. Nigel gets most of the ring time so Collyer isn't exposed. During this stretch the champs get very little offense, but it doesn't matter because the challengers are so interesting. Of course, this is ROH and like all their other matches, Romero & Reyes cannot do anything without manager interference, anachronised cheating and incompetent refereeing. Eventually, the challengers get momentum back with The Hot Tag and Collyer locks his Texas Cloverleaf finisher on Reyes, only to stupidly let go when the manager jumps on the apron. The champions hit their finisher and that's that. Same crap, different match. Like the previous two matches, these four could do so much more if they were ever allowed. **
7. o-Trent Acid vs x-Jerk Jackson (3:29) pinfall (vertical drop reverse brainbuster)
A guy with a terrible name who's not on the roster beats the hell out of Acid until Acid stops selling and uses his finisher. Why was this on the card at all?
8. o-Colt Cabana & Jimmy Jacobs vs Roderick Strong & x-Jack Evans (17:17) pinfall (manager shenanigans)
Cabana and Jacobs are accompanied by Bobby Heenan, Strong and Evans by Jim Cornette. This was just barely a wrestling match. The four wrestlers existed just as a rationale for a Vaudeville routine between Cornette and Heenan. I suppose if you're particularly nostalgic for the mid-80s (or earlier), this would bring a wistful tear to your eye - but if you have no interest in two old managers hamming it up and rolling through their entire ostentatious routines you won't even be able to get through the 17 long minutes. ROH's obsession with obsolete good ole boy tag rasslin' has reached the point of singularity. All matter will be sucked in and not even light will escape. This actually would have been a cute quasi-comedy curio if ROH wasn't already overflowing with such anachronism. Unbelievably, the "extra smart" ROH fans lapped up every second of this. n/r
9. o-Bryan Danielson vs x-Homicide (25:27) crucifix cradle
For reasons apparently external to the action of the match, Homicide has a grievously injured ankle. He grimaces, limps, retreats, stalls and even earns the sympathy of the referee, who late in the match physically restrains Danielson from doing anything while Homicide screws around with the laces of his boot. Aside from a few stomps, Danielson does not work on this obvious target, feeling content to do his usual stuff to set up the Cattle Mutiliation. In the end, Bryan entices Homicide into firing the exact back kick low blow that won the match for him in April; Danielson dodges and uses Homicide's resultant lack of balance to pull him into a crucifix cradle for the win. Clever call-back to their previous bout though that was, this match was still predicated almost entirely on Homicide stalling, then later on the referee stupidity and manager interference that ROH apparently must do in every match now. The psychology lacked logic - Homicide was so obviously "hurt" that intelligent technician Danielson should have been all over that ankle and finished him off in way less than 25 bloated, uneventful minutes. The issues of this match mirror those of ROH as a whole: nothing was truly predicated upon the wrestlers' efforts to defeat one another, rather upon the extraneous happenstances that cause a wrestler to be defeated. There's a huge difference between the two. **˝
10. ROH World Title (3rd,28): o-© Samoa Joe vs x-C.M. Punk (31:30) referee stop (rear naked choke)
From its very beginning, Ring of Honor has gone overboard with commanding the fan to see not what is actually happening but what they are supposed to see. If you don't get castrated, don the correct jogging suit and Nike shoes and drink their Kool-Aid, then you won't be able to board ROH's magical spaceship hiding in a comet. Any failures in a performance never have anything to do with ROH and its wrestlers - the fan just didn't see and do what they were supposed to. Nowhere has this propaganda been more apparent than in the handful of "epic" matches in 2004, especially those featuring ROH pets C.M. Punk and Samoa Joe. On commentary, ROH promoter Gabe Sapolsky and recently exhumed color man Mark Nulty tell you in no uncertain terms that what you are seeing are the greatest matches in wrestling history - what is actually taking place in front of your eyes be damned.
In the first two chapters of this trilogy, Punk's mission was twofold: make it look real, but look real and keep Samoa Joe alive. This was attempted by Punk utilising the headlock - the story being that Punk is the first challenger to ever actively attempt to grind Joe down. While commentary shrieked about the "genius" strategy with such superfluity you would think Punk just now invented the oldest single move in history, what unfolded in the ring was a standard rest hold. Samoa Joe is a non-prospect with poor cardio and even worse workrate, so large swaths of both draws were predicated on laying on the mat in the headlock, Punk allowing Joe to get to his feet, a skirmish to escape the headlock, then having the move re-applied to start all over. After enough time was killed in this manner, Punk called out Joe's usual scanty offense and sold it graciously. In the first match, this latter phase was a back and forth battle while in the remix Punk brought to bear everything he had and more, but Joe withstood it all. Thanks to yeoman work from his buddy, after 120 minutes Joe went from being the guy who destroys all comers in 15 minutes of form offense to being an untouchable immortal. Punk's effort must be praised, but at the end of the day, it was demanded of us to believe too much.
Now, we come to the no time limit final chapter. ROH shifts perception control to an unbelievable higher gear, prefacing the match with a highlight package of the first two with Punk explaining in lurid detail exactly what you were supposed to be seeing in them. Across those two hours, we are supposed to believe that Samoa Joe learned to adapt to Punk's tactics. In this third match, they open by going out of the way to show you that's the case: Punk quickly tries for the headlock, but Joe frantically avoids and counters until, well, he doesn't and Punk gets the headlock anyway because Joe's conditioning hasn't magically upgraded. At half the length of the previous two encounters, they ostensibly skip straight to the latter half of their script. They internally rationalise cutting to the chase by having Punk strike even more than before; after a furious trade he gets busted open. Joe works on the cut the whole match, culminating in a sleeper hold so flaccid it makes John Cena's STF look brutal. Though Joe's arms are draped loosely about Punk's neck, he fades all the way down to the mat. The ref makes the arm test once, twice, and three times. Punk is out and the match is over, except Ricky Steamboat physically prevents the timekeeper from ringing the bell. In a company that has gone enragingly out of it's way to tell you how strictly the rules will be enforced, the referee is totally fine with it. Not only that, Steamboat assaulting an official magically revives Punk in full. He breaks the sleeper by ripping off the finish to Piper-Hart from Wrestlemania VIII, gets several more nearfalls from cradles until Joe pulls him into a rear naked choke and the ref stops the match.
This was pretentious nonsense to the level of a junior high garage band covering Dream Theater. They wanted a faster, more direct battle from beginning to end as opposed to the skirmishing of the other two matches. But instead of playing it straight and just having a hard hitting war in the spirit of an old Budôkan main event, they took their basic original script, remixed it yet again and clipped it down with ridiculous contrivances and ripoffs. From predicating action on a blade job to Steamboat's idiotic inclusion to Joe's terrible technique in all areas and Punk's aggressive selling of it, this starkly proved just how minor league these guys truly are. It is both comical and insulting that ROH commentator Mark Nulty - with a straight face - compared this to Thesz-Rogers, Dory Jr-Jack Brisco and Flair-Steamboat! I'm sure if Nulty got tapes from Japan in his sarcophagus, he'd have mentioned Misawa and Kawada, too! Yes, C.M. Punk is a genuine prospect, but that's all this is. It's an ambitious student of the game showing off so he can make it to the big show. Ultimately, he would succeed. As a matter of fact, some of the sequences in this match would end up in Punk's series with John Cena several years later. So, of course Punk deserves congratulations for following his dream and scratching and clawing to attain it - as does anyone else who works hard to fulfill their goals. But let's all take our foot off the crazy pedal and see these matches in unfiltered reality for what they actually are. Praise the effort, even praise the story, but understand that these are not epics and they're not peers with the best of the best. They are a minor league prospect's learning process and a means to an end. ***
As alluded to throughout the individual match analyses, ROH's current booking attitude has ostensibly left every wrestler bereft of free competitive will. Instead of toe to toe action where one man wins and one man loses by their own abilities, all results come from something else, whether the referee being stupid or overbearing, interfering managers, worked injuries that took place outside the action of a specific match, broadly painted "personality" issues, someone's manipulative girlfriend (Sapolsky clearly has issues with women, and it'll only get worse in the future) or any other suffocating booking tactic that every match - no matter how insignificant - gets buried under. What is particularly baffling is that these stressful affectations have gotten substantially worse over the course of 2004. The autocratic booking has so stifled every aspect of the company that the only thing missing is prohibiting moves off the top rope.
All-Star Extravaganza 2 was a bloated, over-booked, under-worked pretend television taping that was promoted as a pay-per-view type supercard - very similar indeed to the LaBrea Tar Pit earlier in the year known as Reborn: Completion. Couple that with the aforementioned reactionary booking issues and top it off with a massively over-promoted, overrated main event and you get a show that is nigh unto unwatchable. Ring of Honor would eventually get better than this, but it's a long walk before you get there - and no oases exist through that desert.