Ring of Honor: Austin Aries – Evolution of A Double

Disc One

ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe (Champion) vs. Austin Aries

“Final Battle 2004” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.26.2004

Aries refuses to shake Joe’s hand. Aries gets the jump at the bell, but Joe pops him up for a slam to stop his momentum. Joe takes him to the mat in a headscissors. Aries wrenches Joe’s knee as he pops out of it. Joe however takes Aries back to the mat. Aries evades a knee drop and puts on a side headlock. He has trouble knocking Joe to the mat, so he kicks his knee out. Aries focuses his attack on that knee. Joe enzuigiri’s Aries to stop a shinbreaker. He facewash kicks him in the corner. Joe forearms Aries to the floor. Aries slides back in to avoid an elbow suicida. Joe kicks Aries from the floor to stop the Heat-Seeking Missile. Joe facewash kicks Aries into the barricades, twice. Aries is able to dropkick Joe’s head into the barricades himself. In the ring Joe goes for a choke. Aries rolls out but gets powerslammed for two. Aries reverses a powerbomb attempt with a huracanrana and gets two. He nails the IED three times. His fourth time, Joe catches him and hits a running Island Driver for two. Aries rakes Joe’s eyes when he tries to take him off the top rope. Aries then hits the 450 Splash for two. Joe again forearms Aries to the floor. Aries this times sunset flips in for two, then turns Joe into a Boston Crab much like Joe would. Joe breaks out, so Aries fish hooks his mouth and stretches out his arm. Joe fights back and gets Aries up for the Muscle Buster. Aries counters with a crucifix bomb. A few body blocks from Aries actually fires Joe’s up. Aries kicks out his knee, kicks him in the head and gives him the brainbuster. Aries follows up with the 450 Splash for the pin and the title at 17:30! I remember when this title switch happened. I wasn’t even watching ROH at the time, but the message boards EXPLODED when this occurred. Years later, this match holds up. The story was great, both Joe and Aries conveyed a ton of emotion, and the fans were going absolutely bonkers. That may be the fastest 17 minutes in wrestling history. A very exciting match and a great way to finish Joe’s iconic ROH title run. ****

The Rottweilers (Homicide, Ricky Reyes & Rocky Romero) won the 2005 Trios Tournament in Philadelphia, PA on 3.8.2005 after defeating Generation Next (Austin Aries, Roderick Strong & Jack Evans). The match ended when Homicide defeated Aries with the Cop Killa. Homicide would get a world title match at “Best of the American Super Juniors Tournament” because of this victory.

ROH World Championship
Austin Aries (Champion) vs. Homicide

“Best of the American Super Juniors Tournament”– Asbury Park, NJ – 4.2.2005

Homicide spits in Aries hand instead of shaking it. They take to the mat for the opening minutes. Homicide foolishly puts Aries in a headscissors, which of course he pops out of it and hits a dropkick. Frustrated, he goes for the arm. Aries gets in a couple armdrags and a back elbow before Homicide dumps him out onto the timekeeper’s table. Homicide throws him into the barricades. He rakes Aries’ back before bringing him back in the ring. From the apron Aries hits a slingshot corkscrew splash. The following quebrada gets him a two count. So does a side slam. He huracanrana’s Homicide off the top rope. Homicide rolls through, but Aries just rolls back for a dropkick upon hitting the canvas. Homicide catches him coming off the topes with a belly-to-belly suplex. Aries turns Homicide’s offensive maneuver against him, using the ropes for an Ace Crusher. Two IEDs get a two count. A backbreaker has the same result. Another backbreaker leads to the Powerdrive elbow. He bites Aries’ finger to stop his fish hook. He gives Aries a piledriver for two. Aries escapes a second piledriver and connects with a rolling elbow. He delivers the Heat-Seeking Missile right into the barricades. Back in the ring Aries gets two with a Liger Bomb. He comes off the top with a crossbody. Homicide uses the top rope for a dangling DDT. Aries ducks a lariat and delivers a crucifix bomb for two. Homicide gives him a running boot. He goes for the Cop Killa. Aries turns it into a Burning Hammer and gets one. Homicide fires up and gives Aries a suplex and brainbuster. He tosses Aries onto the ringside table and tope con hilo’s onto him! The table doesn’t break, and Homicide tumbles into the crowd. They both get back in the ring and trade strikes. Aries Finlay rolls him and goes for the 450 splash. He hits , but Julius Smokes pulls Aries out of the ring to break the cover. Bryan Danielson runs out to attack Smokes and take him backstage. Homicide has enough time to climb up and give Aries a Hamachan Cutter. He also hits a lariat to get a two count. Aries gives him a brainbuster. Homicide avoids a 450. Aries slides out of a Cop Killa attempt. Three brainbusters and a 450 splash finally puts Homicide away at 25:35. They had the crowd on their side for the most part, but they lost focus at certain points and because of it the match dragged. Getting Danielson involved was also a little needless. Still, both guys put in a strong effort. ***1/4

ROH World Championship
Austin Aries (Champion) vs. Alex Shelley

“Manhattan Mayhem”– New York, NY – 5.7.2005

This is a battle between former stablemates. Shelley breaks a lock-up cleanly, but Aries smacks him in the face. Shelley then spits in his. Some chain wrestling ends with Aries breaking a headscissors and nailing a dropkick. Shelley spots Aries coming off the second rope with a back elbow and catches him with a German suplex. He drives his knees into Aries’ chest. He punts Aries in the chest after he kicks out. He gets two after a slingshot elbow as wear. Aries gets sent to the apron. He comes back in with a back elbow, but Shelley explodes out of the corner with a clothesline right after. He hits a twisting dive to the floor. Aries snaps Shelley’s throat across the top rope. He gives him a neckbreaker on the second rope too. Shelley blocks a brainbuster with the Golden Gate Swing. Aries uses the top rope for a twisting neckbreaker (like the Total Anarchy). Aries puts on the Last Chancery. He drops his knee onto Shelley’s neck for two. He catches Shelley coming off the ropes with a side slam. The powerdrive elbow gets a two count. When Shelley fights back, Aries drops him neck first across his knee. Aries snaps his neck on the top rope before hitting a twisting slingshot press. Shelley gets his knees up to block a quebrada. Shelley gives him an enzuigiri and turns him inside out with a clothesline. He gets two with a frog splash, then transitions right into the Border City Stretch. Aries breaks right away and fish hooks Shelley’s mouth whilst twisting his neck. Shelley rolls Aries back into the Border City Stretch. Aries bites his wrist to escape. Aries blocks a superkick. He strings a shin breaker and suplex together. With Shelley in the corner, Aries hits the IED twice. A Finlay roll leads to a 450 attempt. Shelley moves and hits the Shellshock for two. Shelley blocks a crucifix bomb with a TKO. A second Shellshock results in another two count thanks to Aries grabbing the ropes. Aries knees out of a brainbuster attempt. A rolling forearm, a punt to the head and a brainbuster lead to the 450 splash. That gives Aries the win at 19:32. As former partners, these two were able to showcase their best offense and had the fans believing they had an equal chance of walking away champions. I love that not only did Aries work over Shelley’s neck the entire time, but also used the same combination of moves he used to win the title to retain against one of his tougher opponents. This match is part of the reason while the “Mahattan Mayhem” show name carries so much weight. ****

We cut to the end of Austin Aries defending the ROH World Championship against James Gibson at “Stalemate” (Dorchester, MA – 4.16.2005). Gibson actually looked like he was close to winning the belt, but the match ended up with a double pinfall. Gibson petitioned for the match to be restarted, but Alex Shelley attacked Aries and therefore the restart never came to be. They would have a rematch less than a month later at “The Final Showdown.”

ROH World Championship
Austin Aries (Champion) vs. James Gibson

“The Final Showdown”– Dayton, OH – 5.13.2005

Aries gets the first true upper hand moment by stomping on Gibson’s arm. Gibson runs up the ropes with a headlock. Aries escapes a headscissors and nails a dropkick. Gibson knocks Aries to the mat. Aries rolls to the floor and Gibson dropkicks him into the barricades. A reversal of fortune sees Aries knock Gibson out of the ring and into the barricades, then following up with the Heat-Seeking Missile. Aries takes Gibson’s arm and slams it into the barricades. In the ring Aries does more damage to the arm. Gibson monkey flips Aries right onto his head. A thumb to the eyes lets Aries keep control. A Samoan drop and powerslam get Gibson a two count. He holds his injured arm close to the chest while delivering a second rope leg drop. His instincts cause him to elbow Aries in the face, but with the bad arm. Still, Gibson delivers some knee strikes to Aries’ forehead. Double clotheslines knock both men down. Gibson knocks Aries back to the floor. Gibson crotches Aries on the barricades and clotheslines him into the crowd. Gibson tries bringing Aries back in the ring. Aries snaps his arm against the rope and brings himself in with a slingshot twisting splash. Gibson comes back with a neckbreaker. Aries strings the Finlay Roll and 450 splash together for just a two count. Aries hits the IED, and Gibson moves on his second attempt. Gibson puts him in a Guillotine choke. When Aries escapes, Gibson gives him a Tiger Driver for two. Gibson misses a moonsault. Aries goes up top again, but Gibson catches him and puts on a Guillotine. Aries comes down, slamming Gibson into the mat for the pin at 23:31. I thought that was a really clever finish and lended itself to Aries’ arm work he had put in. That arm work by the way was done so well. Gibson was so great at milking it at every opportunity, and it got the crowd going nuts by the end. This was a lot more fun than I remembered. ***3/4

ROH World Championship
Austin Aries (Champion) vs. Bryan Danielson

“Nowhere to Run”– Chicago Ridge, IL – 5.14.2005

Aries throws Danielson across the ring by his beard, so Danielson throws Aries across the ring by his hair. Danielson switches between a head vice and double arm lock after breaking a double knuckle lock. Aries goes after the wrist. He evades a dropkick. Aries keeps a side headlock on for some time, even grabbing Danielson’s beard when it’s in danger of being broken. Danielson drops a knee across Aries’ nose for two. Danielson breaks a Japanese stranglehold by driving Aries into the corner. Danielson gives Aries an Earthquake splash (?!?!?!) for two. He gets two by turning a modified Stretch Plum into a crucifix pin too. After a shin breaker, Aries suplexes Danielson to the floor. The Heat-Seeking Missile follows. Aries wants to mockingly give Danielson an airplane spin, but when Danielson tries to fight out, Aries gives his arm a TKO instead. As we saw in his match with Gibson, Aries now focuses on the arm. Aries uses the Cattle Mutilation himself. Danielson escapes and kicks at Aries’ chest and ribs. He gets two with a butterfly suplex. Aries hits an elbow from the second ropes. Danielson powerslams him for a two count. He kicks Aries to the floor to block an O’Conner Roll pin. Danielson comes off the apron with a running uppercut. Danielson brings Aries up for a superplex. Aries headbutts Danielson down. He hits the IED twice. Danielson is able to get in a superplex for two. He then puts on the Cattle Mutilation. He turns it into a crucifix pin to no avail. He goes through 30 rotations in an airplane spine before Aries drops him with a crucifix bomb. Aries hits the 450 splash for the pin at 24:23. There’s was a little more goofiness in here than I expected, but if nothing else that separated it from being too similar to the Gibson match from the night before. While the arm work was clearly better in that match, these two provided a fun, engaging contest that was only a glimpse into what they would produce years later. ***1/2

ROH World Championship
Austin Aries (Champion) vs. Spanky

“New Frontiers”– Williamsville, NY – 6.4.2005

Aries breaks a lock-up in the corner and elbows Spanky in the face. Spanky rolls to the floor when Aries begins to pick up the pace. Spanky goes over Aries’ neck, which has been aggravating him as of late. After Aries slips out of a Sliced Bread #2 attempt, Spanky suplexes him. Aries rolls out after taking a lung blower and a side Russian leg sweep. Spanky throws him into the barricades. Aries reverses a neckbreaker in the barricades. He gives Spanky a piledriver through a wooden chair! Spanky attempts a comeback. Aries gives him a dangling swinging neckbreaker to prevent that. The IED to Spanky’s neck gets a two count. Spanky gets in a back elbow when Aries begins to showboat. Still, Aries is able to hit the Powerdrive elbow. Spanky blocks a DDT and goes for a brainbuster. He fails, but is able to give Aries a clothesline to the back of his neck. Aries gets in a Finlay Roll. He goes up top and gets caught. Spanky brings him down with a huracanrana. He gives Aries a Complete Shot. Aries rolls up Spanky for two after Spanky drops an elbow. Spanky goes for Sliced Bread #2. Aries turns it into a tombstone piledriver for two. Aries misses a 450 splash. Spanky superkicks him into a German suplex for two. Aries goes to the eyes. Spanky knees him and goes for Sliced Bread #2. Aries crotches him on the top rope. Aries goes up for a superplex but instead takes a super Sliced Bread #2! Aries grabs the bottom rope just in time to break the cover. Spanky turn him over into a Japanese stranglehold. Aries breaks free. He throws some kicks at Spanky’s neck. He drops him with a brainbuster and nails the 450 splash for the pin at 18:34. I adored the neck work both men put in. Really, all the neck work Aries had done leading up to his title loss against CM Punk was really well done. I always like when a guy is getting his body part worked over, uses that same tactic against their opponent, and it ends up working. That’s exactly how this went down here. The only problem was that the crowd in the beginning could not possibly have cared less. Maybe in a better environment this would have been something special, but this will have to settle for just being a very good match. ***1/2

Austin Aries vs. AJ Styles
“This Means War” – Woodbridge, CT – 10.29.2005

Each guy takes an exchange to start. Aries comes off the second rope with a back elbow after breaking a waistlock. They go to the mat where Aries escapes a headscissors and delivers a dropkick (as usual). Styles catches Aries with a dropkick after a leapfrog. He drives his knee into Aries’ face and gives him a twisting neckbreaker. Aries blocks a suplex, but takes a backbreaker across Styles’ back. He stretches out Aries’ neck while key locking his legs. Aries sends Styles to the apron. When Styles goes for a springboard move, Aries dropkicks the ropes to bring him down to the mat. He sends Styles to the floor with a chest kick and hits the Heat-Seeking Missile. Aries goes to work on the ribs and chest. Styles knocks Aries down with a rolling lariat. He gets two with a hammerlock suplex. He goes for the Styles Clash and gets dropped face first on the top rope. The IED and a reverse Finlay Roll end up with Aries on the top rope. He comes down with a missile dropkick and gets two. Styles goes for the Phenomenon. Aries stops it the first time, but his hurt back allows Style to deliver it on the second try. Styles keeps Aries in a torture rack. Aries crucifix bombs his way out of it for two. Aries gets two with a brainbuster. He punts Styles in the head and goes to the top rope. Styles gives him a Pele Kick and looks for a reverse super Styles Clash. He hits it! That gets him the pin at 19:47. There was some really good and exciting wrestling throughout the affair, but the whole was not as good as the sum of its parts. It’s still a good match, and very fun, but not exactly the classic you would expect these two to put on. ***1/4

At “Final Battle 2005”, Roderick Strong and Austin Aries became the heroes to ROH fans everywhere when they ended the universally disliked tag title reign of Tony Mamaluke and Sal Rinauro. A backbreaker from Strong and a 450 splash from Aries onto Rinauro got them the victory and the titles.

ROH World Tag Team Championship
Austin Aries & Roderick Strong (Champions) vs. Bryan Danielson & Jay Lethal

“Tag Wars 2006” – Dayton, OH – 1.27.2006

Strong and Danielson were at odds with each other, building an intensely competitive and personal issue between them after Strong had two shots at Danielson’s world title. Danielson gets in a chop to Strong before tagging right out to Lethal. Lethal wants to tag out after Strong gives him a backbreaker, but Danielson is not down with that. Aries comes in. Lethal ends up taking him down with a hip toss into a dropkick. Lethal covers up to block a dropkick, but gets a knee to chest anyhow. Strong and Aries take turns delivering strikes to Lethal. Lethal goes to Strong’s eyes to stop the onslaught. With Strong not on offense, Danielson is willing to come in and help Lethal wear him down. A lot of their attack focuses on Strong’s back. Strong takes Danielson out to the floor with chops. Lethal stops Strong from getting back in the ring, and he and Danielson double team him while Aries is tied up with the official. Lethal and Danielson do more damage to Strong until Danielson accidentally crotches himself on the middle rope. Aries tags in. He hits a Finlay Roll and frog splash. Lethal breaks the cover, so Aries airplane spins Danielson. Strong finishes the Spin for him, knocking down Lethal who tries to run in. Strong delivers some chops and a second rope elbow. Danielson backs Aries into the corner. Lethal helps Danielson take out Aries, including using Samoa Joe’s facewash kick into the barricades. Their downfall comes when they go for stereo diving headbutts and miss. Aries tags in Strong who dishes out chops to both guys. He gives Lethal two backbreakers and Danielson breaks his pin attempt. Aries missile dropkicks Danielson to the corner and follows up with the IED. Lethal leg lariats Strong. Danielson delivers a super belly-to-back suplex for two. Aries breaks up the pin. Danielson elbows Strong into Lethal’s Flying DDT. Danielson then puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Aries fights off Lethal and then kicks Danielson in the ribs to break the hold. Lethal shoves Aries off the top rope. He goes for a pescado, but Aries goes back into the ring and comes back out with a crazy suicide dive. In the ring, Danielson ducks the Sick Kick and nails a rolling elbow for two. He puts on the Cattle Mutilation. Strong fights out. He gives Danielson the Death by Roderick and two Sick Kicks. He follows up with a Tiger Driver for two. Another backbreaker and the Strong Hold give Strong the submission win at 29:08. Really good outings from everyone involved. Danielson and Lethal really played up their heel personas, and I totally loved Lethal’s jab at Joe in using the Facewash kick. Aries and Strong showed a lot more cohesion which played a key role as to why they got the win over the World champion and #1 guy in the Top 5 rankings. The match flew by, told a great story, and gave Strong a logical follow up title shot at “Supercard of Honor” which was also a fantastic match. Great stuff all around. ****

Disc Two

ROH World Tag Team Championship
Austin Aries & Roderick Strong (Champions) vs. AJ Styles & Matt Sydal

“Fourth Anniversary Show” – Edison, NJ – 2.25.2006

Sydal and Strong end up in a stalemate. Styles comes in and controls Strong by his wrist. He armdrags Strong to the corner where he tags in Aries. Aries keeps on a side headlock. When it goes to the mat, Styles puts on a headscissors. Aries pops out, but Styles rolls back to avoid a dropkick. Some chops pick up the aggression, and Sydal comes in to stomp Aries down. He gets two with a hip toss Falcon Arrow. Aries chops Styles back to his corner and tags in Strong. He and Aries wear down Styles in their half of the ring. Even when Styles has an opening to tag, he goes for a dive instead and it backfires. When he gets a second chance after a Pele Kick, he makes no hesitation to tag in Sydal. Sydal takes out both of his Generation Next partners with relative ease. Styles even assists by sweeping Strong’s legs so Sydal can deliver a standing moonsault. Sydal dropkicks Strong to the floor. Aries stops him from taking a dive, but Styles comes out with a pescado. Aries sends Styles into the entrance way with the Heat-Seeking Missile. Sydal moonsaults to the floor onto Aries and Strong. Styles and Sydal take control of Strong back in the ring. Strong chops off Sydal when Sydal goes for an O’Conner Roll. Aries tags in and dropkicks both opponents. The Powerdrive elbow on Sydal earns him a two count. Sydal puts him up in a torture rack. Strong makes the save. Styles gives Aries and Strong the Phenomenon at the same time. Aries eats a gamengiri and enzuigiri. Strong prevents him from being pinned. Strong dropkicks Styles to stop his springboard maneuver. He gives Sydal a torture rack backbreaker for two. Styles comes in and takes the Hart Attack. Strong pops up Sydal for the Death by Roderick. Aries gets two with a brainbuster. Styles catches Aries with a belly-to-back suplex. Sydal’s shooting star press only gets two due to Aries putting his foot on the ropes. Strong Sick Kicks Styles when he goes for the Styles Clash on Aries. Aries saves Strong from the Here It Is Driver. The half-nelson backbreaker/450 splash combo get Generation Next the win at 23:03. This was so entertaining. Lots of fun spots, but ones that flowed into another nicely and got more exciting as the bout went on. These guys got the main event of the 4th Anniversary show and delivered. Styles and Sydal were a pretty underrated team, even if they only had a handful of matches together. ****

Austin Aries vs. Matt Sydal
“Arena Warfare” – Philadelphia, PA – 3.11.2006

Sydal takes a page out of Aries’ book and utilizes a side headlock in the opening stretch. Aries shoves Sydal to the corner and forearms him in the back. He comes off the second rope with a back elbow. He now puts on his own side headlock. Sydal reverses. Sydal gets on a headscissors and rolls over to stop Aries’ usual method of escaping. Aries rolls out and headbutts Sydal’s neck while applying a front chancery. He gives Sydal a suplex to stop his headlock attempt. Sydal dropkicks Aries to the floor and follows out with a twisting tope con hilo. In the ring Sydal gets two with a second rope legdrop. A short chop battle ensues. Aries and Sydal fight in the corner. Aries knocks him to the floor and hits the Heat-Seeking Missile. Another chop battle breaks out back in the ring. Aries drives him into the mat and puts on the Last Chancery. Sydal escapes. He goes for a sunset flip, but Aries rolls through and hits a dropkick. Aries also blocks a crucifix driver by hitting a Finlay Roll and a frog splash. Aries brings Sydal to the top rope. Sydal knocks him to the mat and comes off with a swinging DDT. Sydal tries a huracanrana, but both men crumple to the canvas instead. Sydal recovers and gets two with a standing moonsault. Aries fights off the Here It Is Driver. He nails the IED for two. Sydal knees his way out of a brainbuster. He successfully hits the Here It Is Driver, but Aries is able to kick out. Aries evades a shooting star press. Sydal cradles Aries to block a brainbuster. Aries kicks out of a backslide. He punts Sydal and drops him with the brainbuster. The 450 splash puts him away at 16:50. Most of the action in the contest was good, but some miscommunication and a quiet crowd took kept this from reaching a higher level. ***

Austin Aries vs. Davey Richards
“Glory By Honor V, Night I” – East Windsor, CT – 9.15.2006

Aries’ ribs are taped up. Some back and forth on the mat ends with Richards kicking Aries in the shoulder. Aries escapes a headscissors. He kicks Richards in the chest instead of going for the dropkick. Richards gives him his own chest kick. Aries rolls over him and comes off the second rope with a back elbow. Aries misses a slingshot senton and gets mowed down with an elbow. Richards knees Aries in the ribs to take him back down. Richards goes for the Damage Reflex but gets dropkicked in the back of the head on the rebound. Aries’ slingshot senton and a frog elbow get him two. He puts on the Last Chancery. Richards grabs the bottom rope to escape. They trade forearm strikes. They end up knocking each other down with stereo clotheslines. Aries dropkicks Richards’ knee out to stop his barrage of boots. Richards however hits the Damage Reflex successfully. He drops Aries ribs first on the top rope, then dropkicks him to the floor. Richards suicide dives after him. In the ring, Aries blocks a kick. He hits the IED after a suplex. Aries goes for a crucifix bomb. Richards turns it into a gut buster. He powerbombs Aries for two. He puts on the Stretch Muffler, and Aries gets the ropes to break it. Aries escapes a German suplex. He kicks Richards in the head twice so he can hit the brainbuster for two. Another kick and brainbuster gets him the pin at 17:13. I don’t know what happened here, but this just totally lacked any and all energy. This was essentially connect-the-dot moves from bell to bell, and even Aries’ injured ribs didn’t come into play that much. This was it such a letdown. **

The next night in New York City, Aries and Strong would lose the ROH World tag team titles to the Kings of Wrestling (footage of that is not shown, but the full match is shown on the Chris Hero compilation). We are shown however Aries and Strong taking on then champions Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal at “Fifth Year Festival: NYC” on 2.16.2007. Daniels and Sydal end up retaining the titles after Daniels hits the BME on Aries. After the match, Strong turns his back on Aries and gives him a backbreaker. Davey Richards helps with Strong’s beatdown, and a new faction called “The No Remorse Corps” is founded. Aries says Strong started a war that he won’t be able to finish.

Open The Brave Gate Championship
Matt Sydal (Champion) vs. Austin Aries

“Fifth Year Festival: Dayton” – Dayton, OH – 2.23.2007

Sydal had just won this Dragon Gate title eleven days prior, defeating Masato Yoshino in Hyogo, Japan to win the belt. This is his first defense, and the first defense of any Dragon Gate title on US soil. Neither man can get a grasp of the other on the mat. They break down into a chop and forearm battle. Aries puts on a side headlock. Sydal turns it into a headscissors, which Aries reverses. Aries comes out of the corner with a back elbow. Sydal snaps off a couple armdrags but then gets dropped with a facebuster. Sydal and Aries fight for some offense on the apron. Aries eventually gets a slingshot senton and a frog elbow in for two. Sydal twists up Aries’ bad ankle in the ropes. He gets two a slingshot corner dropkick. He grapevines the ankle. When Aries gets the ropes, Sydal delivers the cannonball legdrop. Aries gives him a Manhattan Drop and an atomic drop to send Sydal to the floor. He follows with the Heat-Seeking Missile. Back in the ring he gets two with a quebrada. Aries missile dropkiciks him to the corner and hits the IED for two. Sydal comes back with a reverse DDT/legdrop combo maneuver. Aries gets his feet up to block a standing moonsault. Aries tries a headscissors. Sydal turns it into the Implant for two. Sydal tries for the Here It Is Driver. Aries instead gives him a brainbuster. Aries goes up top. Sydal brings him down with a Leap of Faith. He headscissors Aries into the second rope. The Here It Is Driver and a shooting star press give Sydal the victory at 13:44. A lot of awkwardness in the beginning dragged this down. It ended up turning into a solid affair by the end at least, so kudos to them for damage control, but not exactly what you expect in a Dragon Gate title match. This would end up being Sydal’s only successful defense, as Genki Horiguchi would defeat him for the title in his second defense a month later in Japan. **3/4

ROH World Championship
Takeshi Morishima (Champion) vs. Austin Aries

“The Battle of St. Paul” – Minneapolis, MN – 4.27.2004

Morishima does not shake hands. Aries forcefully attacks Morishima in the corner right at the bell. When Morishima shoves him off, he hits the IED. It has no effect. Aries kicks at his leg so he can knock him down with a clothesline for one. Morishima sends Aries to the apron with a hip attack. He boots Aries into the barricades. Morishima clobbers his arm and shoulder back in the ring. He boots Aries down in the corner and steps on his throat. Aries grabs the ropes to block the Backdrop Driver. Morishima knees him in the gut to bring him back down. He throws Aries into the barricades as well. Morishima twists up his neck and grabs at his face. He bowls over Aries with a rolling back splash. Aries hooks his leg in the ropes to block another Backdrop Driver. He claps his arms around Morishima’s head and snaps his neck across the rope. He sends Morishima to the floor and gives him the Heat-Seeking Missile. Morishima puts Aries in a chair against the barricades and delivers a running hip attack. He misses on the second attempt, and Aries dropkicks his head into the barricades twice. Aries gets a couple nearfalls back in the ring thanks to a slingshot senton and a quebrada. Morishima fights out of a brainbuster attempt. He gets two with a slam. He cartwheel splashes Aries in the corner. Aries side steps a top rope dropkick. He puts on the Rings of Saturn. Morishima gets the ropes. He overhead suplexes Aries to the corner. Aries is able to hit a crucifix bomb. Morishima gets up and clotheslines Aries to stop his momentum. Aries uses a crossbody to counter the Backdrop Driver. Aries can’t hit a second crucifix bomb. He does avoid Morishima sitting on his chest, and manages a brainbuster! He goes up top and the fans are going wild. He hits the 450 splash. Morishima gets his foot on the bottom rope. He goes up top again but gets crotched by Morishima. He brings Aries down with an avalanche Backdrop Driver! A lariat follows and Aries somehow kicks out. A regular Backdrop Driver puts Aries down for the count at 15:03. I absolutely adored the fact that Aries used the same tactics he used to put down Samoa Joe in that match. For long time fans it was an awesome call back, as well as for those who are watching this compilation. Morishima beating down Aries got the fans just that much more behind him in the end. Really good work from both guys. ***3/4

By the time “Driven 2007 (6.23.2007)” had come about, Rocky Romero had joined the No Remorse Corps. Their biggest rivals were a faction called the Resillience, which Aries had put together. In that group were ROH newcomer Erick Stevens and Matt Cross. Aries, and all TNA contracted wrestlers, were pulled from ROH when ROH decided to get on Pay Per View. At Driven however, Aries cleaned house on the No Remorse Corps after their match with the Resillience and Delirious. After the smoke has cleared, Aries pulls out a Ring of Honor contract and signs it in the middle of the ring. Brad Garoon pointed this out years ago, but I love that Aries signed an ROH contract instead of ripping up one from TNA. It made ROH seem like it was THE place to work and at the time was a big deal. For the record, 2007 was my favorite year in ROH history and its segments like this that remind me as to why that is.

Austin Aries vs. Roderick Strong
“Undeniable” – Edison, NJ – 10.6.2007

Aries’ aggression causes Strong to slip to the floor. He spits on Aries after giving him a shoulder tackle. A few Japanese armdrags takes Strong down, and Aries swipes the back of his head while barring the arm. Strong chops to escape. Strong should know better than to put on a headscissors but does so anyways. Aries gently pops out and slaps Strong across the face. Aries dropkicks him to the floor. Back in the ring he strings a slingshot senton and frog elbow together for two. Strong catches Aries out of the corner with an over the shoulder gut buster. Strong works over Aries’ mid-section with backbreakers and the other usual Strong offense. Aries explodes out of the corner with a clothesline. He builds up energy with more clotheslines and punches in the corner. Strong, however, dumps Aries over the ropes and to the floor. Strong looks for the Tiger Driver on the exposed floor. Aries backdrops Strong to counter, then sends him into the barricades and hits the IED. In the ring Aries gets two with a slingshot twisting body press. Strong gets his knees up to block a quebrada. He tries an O’Conner roll, but Aries escapes and kicks Strong in the chest. Strong works over the back. Aries huracanrana’s out of a Tiger Driver. He misses the IED. Strong gives him a backbreaker across the top turnbuckle. Strong brings a table out from under the ring and sets it up ringside. Strong looks to powerbomb Aries through it from inside the ring. Aries is able to fight Strong to the floor and then deliver the Heat-Seeking Missile. Back in the ring he connects with the IED and a brainbuster. Strong manages to kick out. The 450 splash doesn’t get the trick done either. They trade some quick pin attempts. Strong Sick Kicks Aries and then gives him the Death by Roderick. He only gets two with the Tiger Driver. Strong and Aries fight on the apron. Aries ends up giving Strong a brainbuster through the table! In the ring, Aries hits the 450 splash for the pin at 20:26. That was the very definition of two former partners going to war. Given their level of familiarity, I loved that each others’ key offense was not enough to put one another away, and that Aries used Strong’s own table against him to put him away. Because this match was on a show with a World title switch, I really think this gets overshadowed. Definitely a sleeper match of 2007. ****

Match 1 in the Best of 3 Series
Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson

“Honor Nation” – Boston, MA – 10.5.2007

Both men control each others’ legs on the mat simultaneously. They even roll to the floor while keeping hold of one another. They agree to break cleanly and head back in the ring. Danielson shoots Aries off the ropes to end a test of strength. He gets one with a dropkick. They do some damage to each others’ legs. Aries dropkicks Danielson to the floor and comes off the apron with an elbow. Slingshot senton and frog elbow get a two count. Aries bars the arm after a couple Japanese armdrags. Danielson knees him in the gut and goes for a variety of submissions on the mat. He heads up top after a suplex, only to be knocked down to the floor. Aries gives him a neckbreaker across the second rope. Aries snaps his neck across the top to send him back to the floor and gives him the Heat-Seeking Missile. Aries typical offense back in the ring is not enough to keep Danielson down. Danielson comes out of the corner with a running chest kick. They each go for some quick pins. Aries kicks Danielson in the chest himself. Aries calls for a super brainbuster. Danielson shoves Aries off the top and follows with a dropkick. He gets two with a rolling elbow. He puts on the Cattle Mutilation. When Aries doesn’t submit, Danielson drives his elbow into Aries’ head repeatedly. Aries throws his own elbows in the corner. Danielson puts on the crossface chicken wing. Aries escapes with his shinbreaker/suplex combo. The IED gets two. He hits the brainbuster and goes up top. Danielson gets his knees up to block the 450 splash. He puts on a triangle choke. Aries’ arm only drops twice. He picks up Danielson and rolls him away. Danielson reapplies it. Aries breaks it quickly and puts on the Last Chancery. He knees Danielson a few times in the head and re-applies it. Danielson taps out at 24:34. These guys are just so good at what they do that it is damn near impossible for them to have anything but a good match. I will say that I think this went a little too long and the crowd was a little meek during the middle portion of the match, but by and large for the first of a three match series this was very good stuff. ***1/2

Match 2 in the Best of 3 Series
Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson

“Chaos in the Cow Palace” – San Francisco, CA – 10.21.2007

They seem tentative and calculating in their opening strikes. Aries gets the ropes when Danielson goes for his legs. Aries however gives him a couple Japanese armdrags. Danielson goes for the cross armbreaker. Aries escapes the same way he would a headscissors, just without the dropkick. Danielson trips him and goes for the Romero Special. With Aries being uncooperative, Danielson grabs his face and stomps his knees into the mat. Aries escapes a bow and arrow. Danielson twists up his knee in the ropes. Aries comes out of the corner with a back elbow. The slingshot senton/frog elbow gets him a two count. Danielson goes for the cross armbreaker again and Aries gets the ropes right away. Danielson avoids a dropkick after Aries rolls through his sunset flip. Danielson twists up his legs around his own and stretches back to add pressure. Danielson claims his leg is stuck when Aries gets the ropes, allowing him to inflict a bit more damage before finally releasing. Danielson wins a strike exchange. He goes for the crossface chicken wing. Aries uses his momentum to send Danielson to the floor. Danielson comes back in with a sunset flip, and this time Aries connects with a dropkick after rolling through. He then gets two with a slingshot twisting body press and a quebrada. Danielson boots Aries to counter the IED. He gets two with a running chest kick. Right after he goes for the chicken wing. Aries flips him over. They each try a quick pin. Aries gives him a shin breaker/suplex combo. The IED follows up and gets him two. Danielson superplexes Aries to even things up. He puts on Cattle Mutilation. When that fails, he drives his elbow into the side of Danielson’s head repeatedly. Aries flips out of a suplex and punts Danielson in the head. He transitions from a brainbuster into the Last Chancery. Danielson catches Aries with a small package for the pin at 18:46. Man did I love that finish, as it harkened back to the days of when Danielson was the master of the small package. You knew that Danielson was going to win to tie the series, but even so Aries got the San Fran crowd behind him for many of his nearfalls. It also makes Aries looks like the stronger guy going into the third match, as he definitively defeated Danielson in the first encounter while Danielson got lucky. Another good match from these two, and slightly above the first encounter. ***3/4

Match 3 in the Best of 3 Series
Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson

“Glory By Honor VI, Night I” – Philadelphia, PA – 11.2.2007

Aries cleverly counters a back submission with a headscissors. Aries monkey flips Danielson before snapping off two Japanese armdrags. He goes for an elbow off the second rope. Danielson catches Aries and goes for the chicken wing. Aries sends Danielson to the floor. He goes for the Heat-Seeking Missile and eats a knee strike from Danielson instead. Danielson puts on a seated abdominal stretch. Aries throws some chops, but Danielson takes him down for the Romero Special. With Aries struggling to fight out, Danielson grabs at his face instead. Danielson counters a running knee with a half crab. He puts Aries in the tree of woe and twists up his knee. Aries kicks Danielson and kicks off the turnbuckles to deliver an Ace Crusher. Aries drops him face first and gets two with the Powerdrive elbow. Aries shoves Danielson off the top rope. This time he successfully delivers the Heat-Seeking Missile. He gets two with a slingshot twisting body press. Danielson gets his knees up to block a quebrada. He puts on the triangle choke. Aries makes it to the bottom rope. Aries stops Danielson’s airplane spin and strings a shinbreaker/suplex together. Danielson boots Aries to block the IED. They fight each other up to the top rope. Danielson forearms Aries back into the ring. He comes off the top with a dropkick. Aries kips up. He and Danielson each hit a rolling forearm before collapsing. Danielson puts on Cattle Mutilation. He repeatedly drives his elbow into the side of Aries’ head. He goes to re-apply the hold, but Aries rolls through and gets a two count. Aries puts on the Last Chancery. He then hits a brainbuster. The 450 splash wins Aries the match and the series at 17:16. This had some real fun back-and-forth wrestling, as well as a lot of harkening back to their initial two contests. In fact, I think the quality of this match goes up if you compare it to its previous matches. They had each other so well scouted by this point that it was tough to truly get an edge. This was a fine way to end the series and this DVD set. ***3/4

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