May 19, 2005
ROH Third Anniversary shows a fitting tribute
By JASON CLEVETT -- SLAM! Wrestling
Ring of Honor is a promotion that pulls out all the stops, and they certainly did the week of February 19th when they did three shows to celebrate their third anniversary. Huge rematches, violent grudge matches, some of the best talent in the world and a moment of respect for a former WWE star that never got his due are just some of the highlights of the three DVDs.
The events kick off in Elizabeth, New Jersey with night one and starts well with a great opener between Roderick Strong and Steve Corino. Mick Foley made his last appearance to date with the company by sending in a "mystery wrestler" to face Samoa Joe, and Spanky faces CM Punk.
While these would be enough for a fan to pick up the double-disc set, the triple main event makes it a must-get release. "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson and Homicide's intense best-of-five series continues with match 2 -- a bloody taped fist match. Things wrap up in steel, with ROH Champ Austin Aries and Colt Cabana beating each other up in a cage and the return of the Scramble Cage. As usual, Scramble Cage includes some crazy spots and sees Generation Next's Roderick Strong and Jack Evans, The Carnage Crew, The Ring Crew Express, Izzy & Deranged vs. Azrieal & Dixie work hard to add to the already legendary Scramble Cage gimmick.
Night two, held February 25, 2005 in Dayton, Ohio, stands out for a number of reasons. First is the "one night only" return of AJ Styles, who cements former protégé Jimmy Rave as a main event player in an absolutely stellar main event. When Styles returns full time to ROH this summer I would have no problem seeing these two go at it again. The tag match of ROH Champ Austin Aries and Jack Evans facing the dream team of Samoa Joe and "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson is highly entertaining not only from a wrestling standpoint but for some moments that will have you laughing and rewinding to catch it again. Dragon, Joe and Aries may be three of the best technical wrestlers on the circuit today, but they prove in this match that they can be entertaining in other ways as well.
CM Punk and Alex Shelley have a very good match, while Alison Danger, Lacey, Tracy Brooks and Daizee Haze prove that "women's wrestling" doesn't have to be an oxymoron. One of the best moments of the show is the "screw sports entertainment" match between Spanky and James (Noble) Gibson. The crowd shows its appreciation by chanting its thoughts on the wrestlers former "Smackdown" home and giving such an incredible ovation that you can see its effect on the face of a very emotional Gibson.
The events wrapped with up night three on February 26, 2005 in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. What better way to celebrate in Chicago then to have hometown boy Bobby "The Brain" Heenan on the show? Jim Cornette, Dan Maff and BJ Whitmere interrupt his interview segment with "Classic" Colt Cabana. The Cornette/Heenan feud is absolutely classic stuff that carries on from December's "All Star Extravaganza" and the ensuing match between Maff/Whitmere and Cabana/Nigel McGuinnes with the managers in their corner is classic wrestling with a 2005 twist.
The best-of-five series continues with match 3, a falls-count-anywhere brawl between American Dragon and Homicide. The cameras do a great job of following the action as the two men brawl throughout the arena, adding on signature spots like the airplane spin and various submissions while out in the crowd. In a day where emotion is missing in a lot of wrestling, Danielson and Homicide make you believe they despise each other and are trying to kill one another.
The ascension of Jimmy Rave continues with another great performance against Chicago's CM Punk. The match, which was very enjoyable in its own right, sparked a feud with Punk that just culminated recently with a steel cage match. One of the things that is really enjoyable about ROH is how they slowly build feuds, give multiple matches and really draw you into their storylines.
The main event of the show was one of the most highly anticipated: The man who established the ROH Title, former champ Samoa Joe, challenging the man who shocked everyone by taking it from him at "Final Battle 2004", Austin Aries. Building on their previous encounter, Joe and Aries have a classic chess match, avoiding each other's moves, outsmarting each other and building to a surprising climax.
If you haven't yet checked out Ring of Honor, the third anniversary series is a good place to start. Early feuds are established, everyone brings their A-game to entertain the thousands of people who attended, and show exactly why Ring of Honor has become one of the top promotions in wrestling today.
Jason Clevett is from Calgary, Alberta. If you are Canadian and near Buffalo, get your butt down there for ROH's debut show there June 4. He wishes he could join you.