2 out of 3 Falls
Bryan Danielson vs. Paul London
”The Epic Encounter” – Philadelphia, PA – 4.12.2003
An aggressive collar and elbow tie-up sees no winner. The same thing happens with a test-of-strength, even with London trying to control from the mat. Danielson puts on a headscissors. London fights out but gets chopped for his troubles. Danielson plays some mind games by faking London out with a slap, then taking his hand away when asking for a handshake. Danielson hooks London’s arm in the ropes and dropkicks it. Danielson and London trade control on the mat. Danielson gets the ropes to break a full nelson. London almost gets a pinfall whilst holding onto a side headlock. Danielson puts on a headscissors. London chops Danielson when he escapes. Danielson gives a forceful kick right to London’s face in response. London overhead suplexes Danielson after being shoulder blocked to the mat. London goes up the ropes with a side headlock. Danielson gives him a backbreaker to escape. Danielson double axe handles London as London comes off the ropes for a two count. Danielson open hand strikes London in the side of the head repeatedly while trapping his arm. Danielson small packages London for two. London kicks Danielson in the stomach after landing a hard forearm. Danielson kicks London himself. He puts on an abdominal stretch. Danielson uppercuts London to the floor. When London gets back in the ring, he is able to boot Danielson to stop an attack in the corner. London nails a big lariat. London springboards into a sunset flip for two. London skins the cat after Danielson slingshots him to the ropes. London headscissors him to the floor. London enzuigiri’s him on the apron. Danielson blocks a suplex from the apron. Danielson throws London to the floor to break a waistlock. Danielson suicide dives out after him. Danielson hits a diving headbutt back in the ring for two. London ducks an elbow and backslides Danielson for two. Danielson small packages London for two. London hits a leg lariat off the second rope for two. Danielson German suplexes London to stop him from climbing the ropes. Danielson goes for a superplex. Mid-air, London switches over and lands on top of Danielson to score the first pin at 20:31. The aggressiveness picks up in the second fall with both men throwing forearms. A running forearm knocks Danielson down. London lands a superkkick and a kick to the back of the head. Danielson catches London on the top rope. London is able to knock him down. Danielson kicks London’s knee out to trap him in the ropes. Danielson kicks away at London’s leg as he is dangling in the corner. Danielson rams London’s knee into the turnbuckles. London pulls out a German suplex even though he is quite exhausted. Danielson dragonscrews London bad leg. Danielson digs his knee into the back of London’s head while hyperextending on a half-crab. London has no choice but tap out at 26:24, tying up the match at one fall a piece.
Danielson goes right to London’s leg at the beginning of the third fall. London kicks Danielson in the head multiple times to get him off. London tries a roll up and gets two. Lonodn gets two with a DDT as well. A forearm battle ends with a rolling variation from Danielson. Danielson immediately goes from that to the Cattle Mutilation. London gets his feet on the ropes very quickly. London grabs a prawn hold for two. Danielson nails an enzuigiri. A dragon suplex gets him two. Danielson puts on a half crab once again. London grabs the ropes to escape. Danielson punches London in the corner. London powerbombs him out of the corner, leaving both men in a heap on the mat. Danielson shoves London off the top rope and to the ring apron. Danielson forearms London like a mad man on the top rope. Danielson successfully delivers a superplex for two. Danielson digs his knee into London’s head while applying a half crab, the same move he used to win the second fall. London manages to crawl to the bottom rope. Back on the top rope Danielson looks for a superplex. London headbutts Danielson until Danielson falls to the mat. London manages to land a tornado DDT off the second rope. London hits the London Star Press to Danielson’s back and gets the pin at 39:39 to win the match two falls to one. At the time it was labeled a classic, and it certainly was. This is easily one of the best matches in the earlier years of ROH. This was excellent pure wrestling with a well told story and a vocal crowd who didn’t let up. This forty minute encounter flew by and was very fun to watch. One match into this collection and it’s already awesome. ****
#1 Contenders Trophy
Bryan Danielson vs. AJ Styles
”Main Event Spectacles” – Elizabeth, NJ – 11.1.2003
These two have a knuckle lock and waistlock exchange that takes to the mat and reaches a stalemate. They spill to the floor where they keep looking for control. They both get back in the ring when no clear control is established. Styles cleanly breaks a lock-up against the ropes. For it, Danielson elbows Styles and suplexes him. Danielson follows Styles to the floor where he delivers an uppercut. Styles jumps into the crowd to avoid being thrown into the barricades. Styles hits an enzuigiri from the crowd. In the ring, Styles nails a dropkick. Danielson throws Styles across the ring by his neck. Danielson kicks Styles’ arm while it’s trapped in the ropes. Danielson of course decides to now focus his attack on that very arm. Danielson butterfly suplexes Styles. The crowd gets a little more hostile when Danielson yells at them and he gets a bit more aggressive with his attack on Styles’ arm. Styles suplexes Danielson off the ring apron and to the floor. Danielson badly lands on one of his legs. Styles gets a bit of payback by attacking that very leg. Back in the ring Danielson puts on a half crab, grinding one of his arms into the bridge of AJ’s nose. Danielson’s kick to AJ is very weak. AJ kicks away at that leg, then dragonscrews his arm into the mat. Styles puts on a figure four. Danielson reverses causing Styles to grab the ropes and break the hold. Styles grabs Danielson’s leg. Danielson tries an enzuigiri but misses. He goes for a second, so Styles wisely dragonscrews his leg. Styles kicks away at Danielson’s leg which gets Danielson angry. Styles then stomps Danielson’s head in which gets the crowd going. Danielson fights Style out of the corner and delivers an uppercut off the second rope. Danielson’s bad wheel lets him only hit a weak top rope headbutt, only getting him a two count. Styles flips off the second rope looking for a reverse DDT. Danielson catches him in a cravate, knees him in the face, then suplexes him for two. Styles reverses the momentum of Danielson’s superplex. Styles goes up top. Danielson hits the ropes so that he lands on the top rope on his stomach. Danielson brings him in with a suplex off the second rope. Styles’ landing looks a bit nasty, but he still kicks out at two. Danielson locks in Cattle Mutilation, but not for long as Styles is close to the ropes. Danielson tries for a Dragon suplex. When Styles resists, he brings him to the mat and puts on Cattle Mutilation. Styles fights out of another dragon suplex attempt and hits a Pele kick. Styles’ rolling clothesline gets him a two count. He goes for the Styles Clash. Danielson turns it into a cross armbreaker. Styles picks up Danielson and hits a modified version of the Styles Clash for two. Styles hits the real thing for the pin at 24:15. These two picked a body part, worked it over, and based the whole match around it. There’s no simpler and more effective storytelling in wrestling. These two told that story to near perfection, and again got the crowd responding to it. I can’t say much more else about these two that hasn’t been said over and over again. ****
Bryan Danielson vs. Jay Briscoe
”Final Battle 2003” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.27.2003
A lock-up leads to the corner where punches are thrown. Danielson works over Jay’s arm. Another lock-up is broken up mid-ring. Danielson’s twists Jay’s arm on the mat. Jay reaches the ropes to get him off momentarily. Jay clenches down on a side headlock. Danielson gets on a Boston Crab. Jay uses the ropes again to escape. Danielson goes back to Jay’s arm out of a lock-up. Jay digs his forearm into Danielson’s face. Danielson does the same, causing both men to release. Danielson flips Jay over his shoulders and dropkicks him for two. Back to the arm goes Danielson. Jay puts on a headlock which even a suplex from Danielson cannot break. Danielson puts on a headscissors while also pulling on Jay’s arm. Jay pops out and re-applies a side headlock. Danielson throws some European uppercuts. Jay suplexes him and nails a clothesline for two. Danielson and Jay exchange chops mid-ring. Danielson’s uppercut knocks Jay off his feet. Jay comes back with a hangman’s neckbreaker. Danielson unloads with some more uppercuts. Danielson gives Jay an airplane spin, then a Finlay roll. Danielson comes off the top with a headbutt for two. Jay slaps Danielson after blocking a forearm. Danielson slaps him back, spits in his face, then slaps him again. Jay rakes Danielson’s eyes and the crowd loves it. Jay lands a Falcon Arrow for two. Jay boots Danielson for two. Jay hooks the arms for the Jay Driller. Danielson reverses it into a suplex. Jay boots Danielson in the head right after. Danielson dragon suplexes Jay for two. Danielson then slaps on the Cattle Mutilation which causes Jay to submit at 13:36. This was only the opening match for the show and it really set the tone for the rest of the night. Danielson and Jay both worked really hard and really smart without losing the intensity of their moves. They also managed to have a great match without inadvertently outshining the rest of the card. This was perfect for its placement. ***1/4
Bryan Danielson vs. CM Punk
Special Guest referee: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
”Reborn: Stage One” – St. Paul, MN – 4.23.2004
Before anything goes down, Punk gets distracted by a fan. Danielson shoves Punk from behind which gets him back in the ring. Punk gets a cheap shot in the corner and then bails to the floor. Danielson backs Punk to the corner to break a hammerlock. Danielson chokes Punk with his boot after a European uppercut. Punk again hits the floor. Steamboat gets in Punk’s face when Punk tries to play dirty. Punk breaks a knuckle lock in the corner, turning it into a wristlock. Danielson flips Punk over to break. Punk claims Danielson pulled his hair which the fans help Danielson deny. Both guys take control in a knuckle lock. Danielson attacks Punk’s left arm, as you can tell from the previous matches he is want to do. Punk whips Danielson to the corner and backdrops him. Danielson knees Punk in the stomach and kicks him in the back. Danielson drops a knee onto his head for two. Punk Finlay rolls Danielson to the corner. He goes for a split-legged moonsault but Danielson gets his knees up to block it. Danielson chops Punk against the barricades. Back in the ring Danielson puts Punk in the Romero Special which turns into a Dragon sleeper. Punk escapes. They fight for position leading to Punk suplexing Danielson to the floor. Punk rams Danielson back first into the barricade. Punk puts on a chinlock back in the ring. Punk delivers a backbreaker for two. Danielson chops Punk in the corner until Punk thumbs him in the eyes. Danielson rolls up Punk for two. Danielson drops Punk stomach first on the top rope. Punk blocks a dive by draping Danielson’s neck across the top rope. Punk’s missile dropkick gets him a two count. Punk gives Danielson some spinning toe holds. Danielson puts his foot up to kick Punk in the groin. Punk goes for a backbreaker. Danielson flips off the ropes and into a suplex for two. Danielson dives off the second rope with a European uppercut. Danielson airplane spins Punk into another Finlay roll. Danielson misses a diving headbutt. Danielson puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Punk escapes. He hits a Shining Wizard for two. Punk sets up for the Pepsi Plunge. Danielson fights Punk off. Danielson turns the Plunge into a superplex. Punk fights off an O’Conner Roll. Punk misses a second Shining Wizard. Danielson gets a second O’Connor Roll for two. Punk counters Danielson’s crucifix with a Samoan Drop. Punk puts Danielson into an arm-capture half crab. Danielson gets the ropes. Punk comes off the top and eats a dropkick. Danielson dragon suplexes Punk for two. He puts Punk in an abdominal stretch. Punk taps out at 26:01. This was definitely good, but I don’t know if it was as good as you might think seeing these two names on the bill. For whatever reason it felt both guys held back a bit which might be because they knew it was their first time encounter in ROH and would likely get the chance to really break out later. I do think it’s awesome that the abdominal stretch came off as a completely believable finish. That right there is magical. ***1/2
Final Fall – 2004 Survival of the Fittest Finals
Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries
”Survival of the Fittest 2004” – Philadelphia, PA – 6.24.2004
The Survival of the Fittest match is a six-way elimination match ROH holds annually. 2004 was the first year it was introduced, and 2008 is the only year since where the tournament did not happen. In this match were then ROH World Champion Samoa Joe, Colt Cabana, Homicide and Mark Briscoe. They all got eliminated earlier (Danielson and Aries were not involved in any of the previous falls) and it is now down to Danielson and Aries. The DVD starts with just them being left in the match.
I feel weird doing play-by-play for a match in full, so I’ll explain to you what this was. Essentially, this was Austin Aries’ coming out party that solidified him as a main eventer and the next ROH World Champion. At this time, Danielson was running through people, having defeated CM Punk, Homicide, Jay Briscoe and many others in the past few months. Aries and Danielson had yet to face off in ROH until this bout. While it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Danielson would win, Aries was smart enough to hang with Danielson and take advantage whenever Danielson made a mistake. The fans were going nuts for all of Aries’ pinfalls as they thought he had a chance to beat one of the top stars in ROH. Not only that, but Danielson did so much damage to Aries’ back that a Boston Crab was able to earn him the submission victory at 21:37 shown of 42:48. To this day people call it the best Survival of the Fittest match ever. It certainly stands the test of time and is truly amazing. While it’s nice to enjoy the match in its entirety, Aries vs. Danielson can be viewed completely separately from the rest of the match and be enjoyed. This was stellar, but I also don’t want to give a technically incomplete match a star rating. I can tell you though that the match as a whole would be roughly ****1/2.
There was so much hype and praise from just those two in the finals that a few weeks later we would get an epic rematch between them…
2 out of 3 Falls
Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries
”Testing the Limit” – Philadelphia, PA – 8.7.2004
Since each of these falls have a sixty minute time limit, and I know the match goes quite long ahead of time, I am opting to give you the highlights of each fall as opposed to play-by-play. Trust me, you don’t want to read all that play-by-play anyway.
Fall One: Lots of feeling out and mat work in this fall. Aries takes the approach of going to Danielson’s arm and neck while Danielson went for the Cattle Mutilation a few times early on. Danielson switches his concentration onto Aries’ neck. The pace begins to pick up and Aries lands a super huracanrana. The aggression picks up one it is announced fifteen minutes in the fall have elapsed. Aries blocks a Cattle Mutilation with a illegal fish hook, which the referee does not admonish Aries for. Danielson gets control with a super gutbuster. Danielson of course now goes to target Aries’ mid-section. Danielson does a few things to get the crowd on his case, such as grab the ropes when he has Aries in an abdominal stretch. Aries manages to send Danielson to the floor and hit a twisting pescado around the thirty minute mark. Aries keeps control back in the ring until Danielson delivers another gutbuster. After more stomach and back work, as well as an airplane spin, Danielson heads up top for a headbutt. Danielson misses and Aries capitalizes with a moonsault press for two. Aries goes up top only for Danielson to superplex him. Danielson hits the top rope headbutt for two. A few pin attempts from both guys end when Aries hits a crucifix bomb. Aries locks on the Rings of Saturn. He then softens up Danielson’s neck before transitioning into the Cattle Mutilation. Aries makes Danielson tap to his own move at 42:07.
Fall Two: Aries keeps on top of Danielson at the beginning of the fall. Danielson is able to shove Aries off the top rope and into the barricades to turn the tide. Danielson traps Aries’ leg in the barricade and kicks at it. As you would guess, Danielson works over Aries’ leg back in the ring much like he did with Paul London at “The Epic Encounter.” Danielson actually does a great job being methodical in his attack while also keeping the crowd invested. When Aries elbows his way out and tries to fight back, Danielson pitches him to the floor. Danielson beefs it on a dive and seemingly scrapes his head against the barricade. While Danielson is laid out on the floor, Aries delivers an elbow drop off the top rope. That move clearly did no favors for Aries’ leg. Aries rams Danielson back first into the guardrail. Aries brings Danielson back in the ring and tries multiple quick pins. All of these attempts fail. Danielson has finally recovered and goes back to work on Aries’ arm. Even with a short fiery comeback from Aries, Danielson is able to lock on the Cattle Mutilation and turn it into the pinfall to win the second fall at 1:03:15, tying up the match at one fall a piece.
Fall Three: Danielson takes Aries to the top rope. That backfires, and Aries brings him down with a super DDT. In a throw back to their Survival of the Fittest bout, Danielson body slams Aries multiple times. Aries blocks one with a small package for two. Danielson puts on a bear hug to squeeze the air out of Aries. Aries manages to reverse the bear hug in his favor. Danielson reverses that and pulls Aries down into a modified Boston Crab, much like he used to submit Aries at Survival of the Fittest. When Aries throws headbutts, Danielson suplexes him overhead. Aries gets the ropes to break a Cattle Mutilation attempt. Aries fights Danielson to avoid a superplex. A flurry of offense sees both men on the mat. Aries has an awesome ending stretch, hitting a super brainbuster, two regular brainbusters, and a 450 splash for the pin at 1:16:09
There was a lot of good things to love about this match. Danielson using a lot of tactics that got him big victories in the past was sheer brilliance, and I commend the commentary team for playing those victories up. Aries was a great foil and wrestled a very smart game himself. Even with all this brilliance, I don’t feel the utilized the 76 minutes the best they could. There seemed to be a few pockets of “dead air” that they had a problem filling. This probably would have been a much more well-rounded match were it kept shorter. That aside, this was still quite excellent. ****
ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. Bryan Danielson
”Midnight Express Reunion” – Philadelphia, PA – 10.2.2004
Would you believe this was Danielson’s first shot at the ROH World title? You should, because it’s true. Joe and Danielson feel out each other quite a bit in the opening. Joe goes for Danielson’s ankle, and Danielson lands an enzuigiri for a quick two count. Joe goes for a triangle choke but Danielson gets the ropes very quickly. Although it’s Joe who takes Danielson to the mat, Danielson is the one who gets control by wearing down Joe’s leg. Joe’s aggression gets Danielson to cower in the corner. Danielson attacks the leg again in response. Joe headbutts Danielson multiple times in a knuckle lock. Joe pins him for two. Danielson delivers a dropkick to bring Joe back to the mat. Danielson grabs at Joe’s face multiple times. Joe gets angry and chases Danielson around the ring. Joe is able to knee him in the side of the head and get a two count. Danielson stretches out Joe’s arm while applying pressure to his neck. Joe gets his foot on the ropes to break it. Joe suplexes Danielson to the floor. Joe goes for the Ole Kick, but Danielson catches it and throws Joe’s leg into the barricades. Danielson springboard dives from in the ring back out onto him. Danielson then dropkicks Joe into the barricades. Danielson gets a two count back in the ring. Joe fires up, throwing many chops against the ropes. Danielson cheaply thumbs him in the eyes to stop him. Danielson continues to stretch Joe on the mat. Joe unleashes a barrage of knee strikes. Danielson kicks Joe in the face from the mat, then throws multiple European uppercuts. Joe knees Danielson in his mid-section in various ways. Joe puts on a half crab, digging his knee into Danielson’s shoulder blades. Danielson gets the ropes to escape. Danielson throws repeated Polish hammers to Joe’s arm. Joe sweeps Danielson’s legs for two. Danielson suplexes Joe and heads up top. Danielson connects with a diving headbutt for two. Joe comes back with a fisherman’s suplex and an enzuigiri which sends Danielson to the floor. Joe suicide dives onto him. Joe finally delivers the Ole kick twice. Danielson clips Joe’s leg once they get back in the ring. As you would presume, Danielson keeps on Joe’s leg after clipping it. Danielson flies off the second rope with a European uppercut for two. Danielson hops off the second again. Joe catches him with a uranage for two. Joe turns a powerbomb into a STF. Danielson escapes. Joe goes for a lariat. Danielson kicks out his leg and locks Joe’s legs up. Joe powerslams Danielson for two after he escapes. Joe goes for a cross armbreaker. Danielson rolls out and gives him a Regalplex for two. Danielson locks on Cattle Mutilation. Joe rolls his shoulders to pin Danielson for two. These two fight for control on the top rope. Joe slips out and German suplexes Danielson off. Joe delivers a lariat for two. Joe sets up for the Muscle Buster. Danielson slips out, throws some forearms and then dropkicks Joe’s leg out. Danielson Dragon suplexes him for two. Danielson puts on Cattle Mutilation. Joe puts his foot on the ropes. Joe knees Danielson in his hurt ribs. Joe drives his knee into the side of Danielson’s head multiple times. Danielson does the same to Joe’s forehead. More knees from Joe lead to him putting on a rear-naked choke. Danielson taps out at 39:16.
Simply put, that was awesome. Both guys went balls to the walls and threw everything they had at each other. Both of them had a game plan and is just so happened that Joe’s worked out. This is often overlooked for some of these guys’ more classic matches, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of my favorite Samoa Joe title matches that didn’t include CM Punk. ****1/4
Bryan Danielson vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Weekend of Thunder Night 1 – Revere, MA – 11.5.2004
A handshake leads to a lock-up. Liger controls with a headscissors on the mat. Danielson transitions out, but Liger manages to put on a Camel Clutch. Danielson dragonscrews Liger’s leg. Liger grabs the ropes when Danielson twists his ankle. Liger arm whips Danielson to the mat which frustrates him. Danielson slaps the back of Liger’s head when going for the Romero Special. Liger fights Danielson off and puts the hold on himself. Liger turns it into a Dragon sleeper. Danielson goes for the mask, so Liger releases the hold. Liger delivers a quesadora backbreaker. Danielson goes to the floor for a breather. Liger however kicks him into the barricades and pescado’s out onto him. Danielson chops and uppercuts Liger in the corner. Both men throw chops. Danielson knees him in the stomach and drops him stomach first on the top rope. Danielson dropkicks Liger out to the floor. Danielson whips Liger into the barricades. Danielson puts on a seated abdominal stretch and rolls up Liger for two. Danielson gets two with a suplex. Danielson goes for the mask which gets the crowd turned against him. Danielson airplane spins Liger into a Finlay roll. Danielson misses a top rope headbutt. Liger also misses one. Liger comes back with a palm strike. Liger huracanrana’s Danielson off the ropes for two. Danielson dropkicks Liger’s arm to block another palm strike. Danielson German suplexes Liger for two. He puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Danielson turns it into a crucifix pin for two. Danielson sits down on a prawn hold for two. A rolling forearm leads to a Dragon suplex for another two count. Danielson reapplies the Cattle Mutilation. Danielson goes for a suplex. Liger reverses it and hits a brainbuster of his own. Liger hits a palm strike once Danielson is back up. Danielson slips out of a Liger Bomb, but Liger hits a Koppu Kick right away. The Liger Bomb only gets Liger a two count. Liger gives Danielson a super brainbuster for the win at 18:35. While that finish was certainly killer, I am pretty annoyed how much Danielson was in control of this match just to lose in the end. I’m sure it’s political, but still pretty unsatisfying. This was a fine encapsulation of Liger in action and Danielson was able to hang with him the whole time. Not the classic I’m sure ROH wanted, but a very good match still. ***1/2
Bryan Danielson & Low Ki vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Samoa Joe
Weekend of Thunder Night 2 – Elizabeth, NJ – 11.6.2004
Ki and Joe “start off.” Ki tags in Danielson before any contact is made. Danielson stomps on Joe’s hands to end a test of strength. Joe shrugs off Danielson’s chops and uppercuts. Joe rocks Danielson with a forearm. Danielson trips Joe into a key lock. Danielson leans back on it, causing Joe to grab the ropes to escape. Joe snapmares Danielson into a dragon kick. The pain is enough for him to tag in Ki. Joe decides to tag in Liger per Liger’s request. Ki breaks a lock-up and goes for a clothesline. Liger ducks it. Ki shrugs off a shoulder block. Liger delivers a quesadora backbreaker to both Ki and Danielson. Joe suicide dives onto Danielson while Liger hits a rolling senton off the apron onto Ki. In the ring Liger puts on a Dragon sleeper. Danielson kicks Liger to break it. He and Joe wishbone Ki’s legs. Ki backs Liger to the corner. Danielson holds Liger so Ki can dropkick him. Ki and Danielson isolate Liger in their corner to wear him down. During this wear down period, Liger surprisingly kicks out of Ki’s Ghetto Stomp. Liger avoids a springboard tornado kick and gives Ki a brainbuster. Liger finally tags in Joe. Joe boot scrapes Ki and gives him a running kick to the floor. Joe follows that with the Ole kick. Liger gives Ki his own Ole kick! That was cute. In the ring Joe powerslams Ki for two. Ki goes for a crucifix driver. Joe blocks it, but Ki manages to lariat Joe. Danielson rocks Joe with uppercuts. Joe sweeps Danielson’s legs. Liger tags in and palm strikes both Ki and Danielson. Ki springboard tornado kicks Liger as Danielson holds him. Danielson folds him into a press for two. Liger prawn holds Danielson for two. Danielson puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Joe breaks it with a senton. Ki hits Black Magic on Joe. Ki puts Liger in a standing cross armbreaker. Liger grabs the ropes to break it. Ki misses the Phoenix Splash. Liger runs at Ki, only for Ki to hit the Koppu Kick. Ki successfully delivers the Phoenix Splash. Danielson covers Liger and Joe breaks the pin. Danielson Dragon suplexes Liger for two. Joe enzuigiri’s Danielson. Liger hits a palm strike and a brainbuster. Ki makes the save. Danielson accidentally forearms Ki. Joe lariats Ki to the floor as Liger palm strikes Danielson. Liger hits the Liger Bomb onto Danielson for the pin at 21:16. Awesome bell-to-bell action, a hot crowd that never let up, and a one-of-a-kind tag bout make for a fantastic tag team extravaganza. You get exactly what you expect from these four. Liger going over Danielson didn’t bug me here because he was not nearly as dominant as their singles encounter. Definitely check this match out. ****
Steel Cage Match
Bryan Danielson vs. Homicide
The Final Showdown – Dayton, OH – 5.13.2005
This is the fifth match of a Best of 5 Series these two were engaged in. The score is tied up with Danielson and Homicide having two wins each. This match determines the winner of the series.
Homicide jumps Danielson in the aisle and digs his fork into Danielson’s head. Homicide throws him into the barricades a few times as well. When Homicide finally brings Danielson in the rig, he digs and stabs the fork into his head again. I wonder if Homicide is a fan of “It’s Always Sunny.” Homicide throws a chair at Danielson’s head. Danielson recovers and throws Homicide into the cage twice. He also throws the chair at Homicide’s head. Danielson uses the fork, giving Homicide a taste of his own medicine. Homicide is now busted open and Danielson throws European uppercuts at him. Danielson gets two with a butterfly suplex. Danielson digs his fingers into the wound on Homicide’s head. Homicide suplexes Danielson onto two chairs. Homicide hits Danielson with one of the chairs and then slingshots him into the side of the cage. Danielson and Homicide throw slaps at each other. Danielson unleashes knee to the head. Danielson hits a few forearms before using a chair to assist with a forearm in the corner. Danielson puts on the Romero Special. Danielson climbs up to the top rope. Homicide follows and trades headbutts with him. Homicide hits a super Hamachan cutter for two. Danielson ducks a lariat. He gets two with a Regalplex. Danielson and Homicide fight near the top of the cage again. Danielson tosses Homicide to the mat. From the top of the cage, Danielson flies off with a headbutt. It takes a few seconds to recover, so Danielson only gets a two count. Danielson tries an airplane spin. Homicide slips out and delivers a piledriver for two. Danielson suplexes Homicide off the top rope for two. Homicide kicks Danielson low to block a Dragon suplex. Homicide gets two with a lariat. Homicide pulls out brass knuckles. Danielson ducks them and delivers a forearm. He airplane spins Homicide for awhile. Like, the longest airplane spin you have likely seen. Believe it or not, that gets Danielson the pin at 17:08. I thought that was actually really well paced. Danielson and Homicide played their roles to perfection and made the match engaging even with a little goofiness. While the ending wasn’t the best, it was still a very good match and the best one of the whole series. ***1/2
The next night, Danielson had an ROH World Title match against then champion Austin Aries (not shown on this DVD). When Danielson lost, he quit ROH because he felt he had nothing left to do. Danielson resurfaced in September for Glory By Honor IV where he would get another shot at the ROH title. This time, it would be against champion James Gibson.
ROH World Championship
James Gibson (Champion) vs. Bryan Danielson
”Glory By Honor IV” – Lake Grove, NY – 9.17.2005
Each guy snaps off an armdrag. Gibson and Danielson trade control of the others’ arm. Gibson swipes Danielson’s dropkick away. Danielson gets the ropes to get Gibson off his arm. Danielson fakes a chop but breaks away cleanly instead. Danielson shoulder blocks Gibson to send him to the corner. Gibson shoulder blocks Danielson himself. Danielson pops up to hit a dropkick and drops a knee across Gibson’s face. Gibson gets the ropes to prevent Danielson’s Cattle Mutilation attempt. A knuckle lock sees Danielson monkey flip Gibson. Gibson flips back up and suplexes Danielson for two. Danielson gives Gibson a quesadora backbreaker. Gibson knees Danielson in the stomach. He gets two with a suplex. Gibson puts on a seated abdominal stretch. Danielson hip tosses his way free. Danielson European uppercuts Gibson to the apron. Gibson suplexes Danielson to the floor, causing Danielson to land on his feet and collapse. Gibson dives off the apron with a knee strike to send Danielson into the barricades. Gibson uses the barricades some more before throwing Danielson back into the ring. Gibson works over Danielson’s back and neck in a fairly aggressive manner. Danielson flips out of the corner and delivers a tornado kick. Danielson delivers a charging forearm and a slingshot suplex for two. Danielson stomps Gibson’s knees into the mat. Danielson puts on the Romero Special while applying a chinlock. Gibson grabs the ropes to break the hold. Danielson airplane spins Gibson. He misses a diving headbutt. Gibson rolls Danielson into a bridging reverse prawn hold for two. Gibson counters a hip toss with a Guillotine choke. Danielson suplexes his way out. Gibson ducks a clothesline and looks for the Tiger Driver. Danielson sits down on Gibson’s chest to block it. Danielson successfully hits the diving headbutt for two. Danielson flips Gibson to the floor. Danielson suicide dives after him. Danielson kicks Gibson’s arm against the barricades. Danielson missile dropkicks him back in the ring. Danielson divorce courts Gibson’s arm for two. Danielson hyper-extends Gibson’s arm. Gibson shoves Danielson to the ropes three times, each time Danielson shoulder blocking Gibson in his bad arm to the mat. Gibson delivers a quick Samoan drop to get a moment of relief. Danielson Northern Lights suplexes Gibson into a cross armbreaker. Gibson reverses it into a Cloverleaf. Danielson crawls under the ropes to break the hold. Danielson and Gibson fight for position on their feet. Gibson hits a Tombstone Piledriver and goes up top. Gibson comes off with a legdrop for two. Gibson reapplies the Guillotine in the middle of the ring. Danielson drives Gibson into the turnbuckles. Gibson delivers a swinging DDT and the Tiger Driver for two. Danielson fires up as Gibson throws a chop. Gibson pokes him in the eyes, but Danielson is still able to hit a rolling forearm. Danielson dropkicks Gibson into the turnbuckles. He hits a Dragon suplex for two. Danielson twists Gibson into the Cattle Mutilation. Gibson gets to his feet, so Danielson Dragon suplexes him again. Gibson uses the ropes to roll Danielson into a pin attempt for two. Danielson applies a crossface chicken wing! Gibson taps out at 32:23; Danielson is the NEW ROH World Champion.
There was no better way possible for Danielson to return to ROH than this match. It made total sense that he would return just for the title since the reason he left (in storyline) was because he lost a title match and that was the only thing he cared about. It was a very good match and a nice passing of the torch moment that would launch ROH into its next era. In a time where CM Punk had just left and James Gibson was also leaving, getting Danielson back into the mix made things fresh and exciting once again. ****1/4
Danielson puts over Gibson for sticking around ROH when he already had a WWE contract and didn’t have to defend the title any longer. Gibson leaves Danielson to talk. Danielson says the last few ROH champions’ goals have been to use ROH as a platform to go to WWE or TNA. Danielson said he became a professional wrestler so he could have freedom to wrestle as he chooses and states that the ROH title represents wrestling freedom. He says he will not go to WWE or TNA as long as he is champion and will fight like a man in defending it.
ROH World Championship
Bryan Danielson (Champion) vs. Christopher Daniels
”A Night of Tribute” – Lake Grove, NY – 11.19.2005
Like in every Daniels match at this point, Daniels does not shake Danielson’s hand. Danielson goes to Daniels’ shoulder. Daniels shoulder blocks Danielson to the mat to reset the bout. Danielson breaks a double knuckle lock against the ropes. He slaps Daniels in the face. Danielson suplexes Daniels back to the mat and once again does damage to Daniels’ arm and shoulder. Daniels brings Danielson to the mat in a headscissors. Danielson slaps Daniels in the ear when he escapes. Danielson picks at Daniels’ ankle. Daniels grabs the ropes in pain to break free. When Danielson sees how hurt Daniels was by that, he ties up Daniels’ legs mid-ring. Danielson snapmares Daniels and drops a knee on his forehead. Daniels avoids another knee and rolls up Danielson for two. Danielson delivers a clothesline. Danielson puts on the Romero Special. Danielson leans it back for a pin, but Daniels is able to grab the ropes. Danielson drives Daniels’ throat into the middle ring rope. Daniels tries for a comeback. Danielson clobbers him with a forearm to the back and suplexes him for two. Danielson rips at a wound that has opened in Daniels’ forehead. Danielson gets two with a slingshot suplex. Danielson bites at the wound in the corner. Daniels catches him with an enzuigiri. Daniels knees Danielson to the floor. Daniels comes out with an Arabian Press. Daniels crossbody’s Danielson back in the ring for two. Daniels gives him a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Danielson comes back with an uppercut off the ropes. Daniels gets two with a prawn hold. Danielson teases an airplane spin, but hits a Finlay Roll when the fans get excited. Daniels catches Danielson climbing the ropes. Daniels brings him down with a Death Valley Driver for two. Daniels immediately transitions into the Koji Clutch. Danielson gets his foot on the ropes in desperation. Danielson tries the Dragon suplex. When that fails, he kicks Daniels in the back and puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Daniels gets his foot on the rope. Daniels fires up with some punches. Danielson pokes him in the eyes. He goes for a rolling forearm. Daniels ducks it and drops him with an uranage. Daniels hits the BME for two. Danielson crotches Daniels on the top rope. Danielson hits a superplex but it takes the air out of both men. Danielson German suplexes Daniels for two, then puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Daniels fights out of it. Danielson goes for the Crossface Chickenwing. Daniels fights out of that too. Danielson’s rolling elbow gets him the pin at 29:33. This had a great build up of drama throughout the match which was needed since the match was just made that night with little build up. Even still, these two are so good that they made the most out of every second in this match and made it matter. You can’t put these two together and not getting something great. ****
ROH World Championship
Bryan Danielson (Champion) vs. Naomichi Marufuji
”Final Battle 2005” – Edison, NJ – 12.17.2005
Marufuji steps on Danielson’s hands after winning a test of strength. He slaps Danielson in the back of his head. Danilson and Marufuji get in a chop battle. Danielson grabs the ropes to avoid a dropkick. Marufuji bridges out of a jackknife pin. They throw simultaneous dropkicks, reaching a stalemate. Danielson ends a strike exchange with a headbutt. Danielson stretches out Marufuji’s neck and arms on the mat. Danielson puts on a wristlock. Marufuji is able to reverse it. Danielson breaks in the corner and drives his shoulder into Marufuji’s ribs. Marufuji wins a slap battle. Marufuji swings through the ropes to dropkick Danielson who is seated inside in the ring. Danielson knees his way out of a Dragon sleeper. Marufuji kicks Danielson in the shoulder blades for two. Marufuji pitches Danielson to the floor. Marufuji tries to dive out, but Danielson trips him on the ring apron. Danielson fights Marufuji on the apron. Marufuji tries for a sunset bomb. Danielson blocks it and whips Marufuji into the barricades. Back in the ring Danielson puts him in the Romero Special. He releases the hold so he can drive Marufuji’s knees into the canvas. Danielson ties up Marufuji’s legs and bridges back to add more pressure. Marufuji tries to make a comeback but gets caught with a DDT. Marufuji slaps Danielson. Danielson claws his face. Danielson hops out of the corner. Marufuji meets him with a dropkick as he comes off the ropes. Marufuji kicks out Danielson’s legs and dropkicks him in the side of the head. Marufuji connects with a leaping elbow in the corner. Danielson fights off a super huracanrana. Marufuji however dropkicks Danielson as Danielson comes off the ropes for two. Danielson and Marufuji end up on the floor. Danielson throws Marufuji into the barricade and suicide dives onto him. Danielson missile dropkicks Marufuji across the ring. Marufuji crotches Danielson on the top rope. He hangs Danielson in a tree of woe and dropkicks him. Still in the tree of woe, Marufuji delivers a coast-to-coast dropkick for two. Marufuji looks for the Shiranui. Danielson blocks it and delivers a rolling forearm. A German suplex gets him two. Danielson transitions into the Cattle Mutilation. Marufuji gets his foot on the bottom rope. Danielson superplexes Marufuji for two. Danielson reapplies Cattle Mutilation. Marufuji goes for the ropes, so Danielson turns it into a seatbelt pin for two. Marufuji counters the Regalplex with a Shiranui. Marufuji lands on his feet out of a German suplex. A trade of pins ends with Danielson in a seated position and pushing Marufuji’s legs and shoulders to the mat for the pin at 23:42. That was a solid match, but the first half seemed fairly uninspired and the crowd was quiet. I’m also annoyed that Danielson’s leg work by the end was completely ignored by Marufuji. Danielson’s title reign was already spectacular at this point and I love that he was proving that he could get a finish with any move at anytime. ***3/4