CM Punk comes out for a surprise promo in “Unscripted” back in September of 2002. He came to the show because he heard there was legitimate professional wrestling in Philadelphia. He plans to come back and wrestle for ROH, because like those in the company, he takes the sport of professional wrestling very seriously and appreciates that the fans feel the same way. Colt Cabana then makes his way to the ring. He tells Punk that they made each other in the Midwest. He’s not happy that Punk got the call to come to ROH and he didn’t, especially since even when Punk was out for three months with a skull fracture he went out and busted his hump even without Punk by his side. He too wants a shot in ROH. Punk would make his debut in November, with Cabana debuting the next month against Punk himself.
CM Punk vs. Colt Cabana
“Night of the Butcher” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.7.2002
Punk knocks Cabana down with a shoulder block. After some leap frogging, Cabana sends Punk to the corner with a Japanese armdrag. Punk gets in a satellite headscissors. Both snap off an armdrag and take their opponent down with a headlock takeover. They stand off after Cabana lands on his feet from a monkey flip. Punk walks the ropes while holding onto Cabana’s arm. He jumps off and snaps it across the top rope. Punk works over the arm. He goes for a facewash kick and gets clotheslined to the floor. Cabana then follows with an Asai moonsault. In the ring he hits a frog splash for two. Punk catches him with a boot in the corner. Cabana blocks his tornado DDT and gives him a tornado snap suplex. Punk gives him an uppercut and a crossbody from the second turnbuckle for two. He tries for Welcome to Chicago but Cabana throws him overhead. Punk then successfully hits the move for two. Cabana comes back with a lariat. He tries for a second lariat. Punk ducks it and spikes Cabana with a reverse huracanrana. He gets two with a dropkick. Punk shrugs off an O’Conner Roll and hits the Shining Wizard for two. Cabana drives his elbow into Punk’s head when he ducks down. He tries for the Colt 45. Punk counters it twice, but the third time Cabana is able to pull it off for the win at 12:28. It was so smart programming these two together right from the get-go. Their familiarity with one another allowed them to put their best foot forward right off the bat and leave a good impression in front of a new audience. ***
CM Punk and Colt Cabana are shown in the car driving to the show the next month where they face each other again. Cabana thought he looked great on the last show and goes through all the moves he plans to do in their rematch. He plans to be flying to the shows after he wins his ROH contract. CM Punk is not happy with his arrogance. He says 13 hours in the car with Cabana is like going to the dentist’s office. He tosses the keys to Cabana and tells him that he can drive himself home after he loses tonight.
Winner Receives an ROH Contract
CM Punk vs. Colt Cabana
“Final Battle 2002” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.28.2002
Punk counters a hip toss with an armdrag. Cabana blocks a sunset flip, so Punk gives him a Side Russian legsweep and hits a slingshot senton. Punk walks the ropes like last month but this time Cabana crotches him. Punk ducks a lariat the first time but eats it on Cabana’s second try. Cabana electric chair slams Punk onto his face. He stretches Punk out in a reverse parachute. Cabana misses double knees in the corner. Punk throws some forearms. Cabana whips him twice into the corner and follows in with a lariat. He pulls Punk out of the corner, only for Punk’s momentum to lead into a sunset flip for two. Cabana blocks his Shining Wizard. He gets two with a gutwrench powerbomb. Punk flips to the apron and drops Cabana’s throat across the top rope. He suicide dives after Cabana on the floor. They fight on the top rope. Cabana brings Punk down with a reverse superplex for two. Cabana wants another top rope maneuver but Punk belly-to-belly superplexes him instead. Punk airplane spins Cabana into a Finlay Roll. A split-legged moonsault gets him two. Punk tries for the reverse huracanrana from their last match. Cabana blocks it this time. He does however eat the Shining Wizard yet manages to kick out. He also delivers a facewash kick. The Pepsi Plunge gets him the pin at 9:23. I totally loved that they showed growth from their first match and played into it. They really seemed desperate for a win and made it seem like earning an ROH contract was a huge deal. Definitely a solid opener for the first annual Final Battle. **3/4
CM Punk vs. CW Anderson
“One Year Anniversary” – Queens, NY – 2.8.2003
After some chain wrestling, Punk puts on a key lock. Anderson makes his way to the ropes to escape. Punk tries to re-apply the hold but Anderson rolls him up for two. He puts on a Fujiwara armbar. Punk turns it into a crucifix pin. Anderson gives a TKO to Punk’s arm. Even though Anderson crotches Punk on the top rope Punk is able to thwart him with a second rope Blockbuster. They chop each other on their knees and up to their feet. Punk gets two with a suplex. Anderson comes back with his own suplex. He comes off the ropes and Punk catches him with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Punk blocks an O’Conner Roll and hits the Shining Wizard for two. Anderson catches him with a superkick for two. He goes for the spinebuster and Punk counters with a sunset flip for the pin at 9:42. It was really tough for a crowd to care about mat wrestling after seeing the riot during the Homicide/Steve Corino match. The wrestling was technically fine but not all that interesting. **1/4
Since “Expect The Unexpected” was CM Punk’s first show in Boston, he introduces himself to the crowd. Not only does being straight edge make him better than them, but also better than Raven. He continues to run down the crowd and their beliefs, saying they all aspire to be like him. As Punk heads to the back, Raven himself emerges and backs him to the ring. A war of words leads to their match later tonight being made into a Raven’s Rules match. Punk fails to sneak attack Raven. Raven almost drops him with the Raven Effect but Punk is able to escape.
CM Punk vs. Raven
“Expect The Unexpected” – Cambridge, MA – 3.15.2003
Trinity is in Raven’s corner. Punk is impressed with himself as he’s able to take down Raven with some hip tosses. Raven gets in his own hip toss before dropkicking Punk to the floor. He follows with a slingshot back splash. In the ring he gives Punk a Perfect neck snap and applies a side headlock. Punk backs him to the corner and takes a break on the floor. He charges at Raven with a chair. He ends up hitting himself in the head and going back to the floor. Raven chases after him and gets knocked down by the chair. Punk rams the back of it into Raven’s chest a few times, then throws him to the guardrails. Raven also throws Punk into them. Punk has control when they return to the ring. He places a chair in the ropes and whips Raven into it. Punk misses a top rope legdrop. Raven gives him a back suplex. Punk puts him in a sleeper. Raven is busted open. Raven shoots Punk to the ropes and reverses the sleeper. Punk escapes using a chinbreaker. Raven nails a rolling clothesline and a knee lift. He brings Punk out of the corner with a bulldog for two. Punk tries a dropkick. Raven blocks and it applies a sharpshooter. Punk gets the ropes. Raven goes to bring a table into the ring and Punk dropkicks it into his face. Trinity checks on him. Punk whips her into the guardrails! She recovers and moonsaults onto Punk while he’s dealing with Raven. As Raven is setting up the table, Punk throws a chair at his head. Punk places Trinity on the table and legdrops her through it! In the ring he hooks Raven in a new submission after hitting the Raven Effect. Raven escapes. Punk goes for a clothesline and ends up hitting the referee. Punk seems kind of happy about that. Raven drop toe holds Punk face first into an upright chair. He goes to revive the referee. Punk low blows Raven to stop the Raven Effect. He hooks on the Devil Lock (the name of the submission) and taps at 18:49. I was surprised at just how good Raven looked and how hard he worked. Punk looked like a star facing him and like a giant jerk being willing to hurt a woman. It was great for both guys’ characters and a great way to kick off this feud. ***1/4
Punk makes Raven shake his hand. Raven does, but then goes for the Raven Effect. Punk escapes.
CM Punk & Ace Steel vs. Raven & Colt Cabana
“Night of the Champions” – Philadelphia, PA – 3.22.2003
Some pre-match jabber turns this into another Raven’s Rules bout. Punk avoids Raven in the beginning. Steel becomes frustrated that Raven is able to outwrestle him. Cabana tags in and comes off the second rope with a double axe handle to Steel’s arm. He snaps off a couple armdrags and a dropkick. Raven smacks him in the head with a trashcan lid. Cabana backs Steel to his own corner. Punk tags in and hits a leg lariat. Cabana drives his knees into Punk’s chest in the corner. Raven tags in causing Punk to bail to the floor instantly. Steel is able to attack Raven with a chair from behind and send him into the barricades with a side Russian leg sweep. Now that Raven is hurt, Punk is willing to beat him down in the ring. Raven gets the ropes to break the Devil Lock. Punk backs Raven to the corner to stop the Raven Effect. Raven does however drop toe hold him into a chair. Cabana clotheslines Punk to the floor. Punk trips Cabana from the floor and Raven Cactus clotheslines Steel out. Raven hits Punk with a chair from the floor. Cabana hits the Colt 45 and Steel breaks the pin. Punk gets two with Welcome to Chicago on Cabana. He and Steel hit the King’s Swing also for two. Punk blocks Steel from being whipped to the corner. Steel dropkicks Cabana into a Blockbuster from Punk. Cabana catches Punk coming off the top rope. He turns him from a Royal Butterfly into a body slam. Raven tags in and cleans house with a trashcan. Raven clotheslines Steel and bulldogs him out of the corner for two. Punk springboards in only for Raven to meet him with a trashcan shot. Raven drop toe holds Steel onto Punk on the floor. He then dives after him. Cabana moonsaults after them but lands badly on his knee. Back in the ring Steel stops Raven from giving Punk the Raven Effect. Punk misses an elbow drop through a table. Raven tries to cover but Steel is there to stop him. Raven gives Steel the Raven Effect for the pin at 15:52. This was a fun way to incorporate Punk’s beef with Raven and Cabana together. It adds an interesting new twist to the feud and this match was a nice way to solidify the Second City Saints as heels. ***
Punk refuses to shake Raven’s hand after the match, even though Raven did so in their last match. Punk once again escapes taking the Raven Effect. Raven gives Steel the move instead. Punk sneak attacks Raven. He convinces Cabana to side with him and Steel since they were all together in the Steel Domain wrestling school. They put the boots to Raven before Punk hits him with his own Raven Effect.
CM Punk vs. BJ Whitmer
“The Epic Encounter” – Philadelphia, PA – 4.12.2003
They aggressively look for control in the beginning. Whitmer ends up kicking Punk to the floor and diving out with a tope con hilo. Whitmer’s head hits the floor partially in the process. He side slams Punk back in the ring. Punk snaps his neck on the top rope and hits a springboard dropkick. He hammerlock DDT’s Whitmer giving him another nasty shot to the head. He sets up a table on the floor. Punk tries to crucifix bomb Whitmer through it. Whitmer slides out, but takes the Shining Wizard for two. Punk puts on a Boston Crab. Whitmer gets to the ropes. Punk tries for a facewash kick. Whitmer cuts him off with a knee strike. He gets two with a Northern Lights suplex. Punk hits a German suplex. They trade strikes and nearfalls for a few minutes. Punk rakes Whitmer’s eyes to stop a forearm exchange. Whitmer throws some Kawada kicks from the ring apron. After more forearms, Punk German suplexes Whitmer through the table! Referee Paul Turner checks on BJ Whitmer and calls for the bell at 12:21. The match is thrown out due to both men being laid out on the floor and unable to compete. Some really solid wrestling led to a pretty brutal finish. I mean brutal as in painful looking, not bad. It was an interesting watch, but really not much to it aside from it leading to Whitmer’s inclusion in future matches against Punk. **3/4
CM Punk & Colt Cabana vs. Raven & BJ Whitmer
“Night of the Grudges” – Cambridge, MA – 6.14.2003
Punk pummels and stomps Raven down in the corner. Raven turns it around and stomps Punk in the corner. Raven lands a superkick causing Punk to tag out. Whitmer trips Cabana into a front facelock. Cabana escapes a wristlock. He does an arrogant strut and turns around into a brainbuster. Punk clobbers Whitmer with a steel chair. Raven does the same to Cabana leaving Punk and Raven standing off with chairs in hand. Punk bails and Raven gives chase. Raven brings some trashcans and lids from backstage. He buts Punk open with them. They fight into the crowd. Raven has a clear advantage when Cabana makes his way into the crowd. Raven drop toe holds him into a chair. Whitmer does the same to Punk. Punk crotches Raven onto the barricades. Cabana forearms Whitmer off the apron, but his foot gets stuck in the ropes. Punk whips Raven into the barricades so that he and Cabana can isolate Whitmer. Punk misses a second face wash kick but Cabana is there to keep on Whitmer. Punk accidentally huracanrana’s Cabana when he comes back in. Raven gets tagged in. He fires himself up as he tears into both opponents. He clotheslines Cabana while simultaneously giving Punk a bulldog for two. Raven drop toe holds Cabana to the floor. For the first time, Raven hits the Raven Effect on Punk! Cabana pulls Raven to the floor to stop him from getting a pin. Whitmer nails a diving headbutt onto Punk. Cabana this time pulls the referee to the floor to stop the pin. Whitmer brings Cabana back in with an exploder suplex from the apron. Punk hits a chair-assisted Shining Wizard. He places Cabana on top of Whitmer. The referee makes it back in the ring a few seconds later, giving Whitmer some time to recover and kick out. However, Cabana gives him the Colt 45 right after that for the pin at 16:51. The best part about this feud is that growth comes with every battle. Punk has become less afraid of Raven and more fierce as the feud wears on. Here we got to see just how violent everyone is willing to get to win the war. To further portray that, Punk dives onto Raven through a table ringside after the match. All four men played their roles perfectly and I cannot wait for the next installment. ***1/2
At “Wrestlerave ‘03”, Punk and Cabana teamed to take on Raven and Christopher Daniels. Lucy (Daffney) is Punk/Cabana’s corner while Allison Danger is with Raven and Daniels. Cabana accidentally knocked the referee down. Raven had the win with the Raven Effect but Lucy broke the pin. Danger attacked Lucy and Punk superkicked Danger. Daniels had the win on Punk with the Angel’s Wings. Cabana breaks the cover and gives Daniels the Colt 45. Punk chokes Raven with a chain and uses it for assistance with a neckbreaker. He whips Raven a few more times with the chain to pick up the win. He continues to choke Raven with the chain while Cabana hooks Daniels in a submission and forces him to watch. Backstage Punk cuts an amazing promo about how Raven threw his life away for drugs and alcohol. Come July 19th, he himself will become a monster so he can fight the monsters of the world.
Dog Collar Match
CM Punk vs. Raven
“Death Before Dishonor” – Elizabeth, NJ – 7.19.2003
Before the match, Raven runs down Danny Doring who was under Raven’s tutelage and is in the crowd tonight. He drink a beer in Punk’s face, so Punk says that because beer has never and will never touch his lips, he is better than Doring is. Raven comes out with the Dog Collar to shut him up and get the match underway.
Punk tries to escape but Raven pulls him back in the ring by the chain. Raven clotheslines him with the chain and whips it across his back. He sends Punk into the barricades with a side Russian leg sweep. He throws Punk into the barricades a few times before bringing him back in the ring. Punk is busted open as Raven throws firsts to the cut. A table is set up in the corner. Punk reverses Raven’s Irish whip which sends Raven through it. Punk drives his elbow and punches Raven’s head trying to open a healed laceration. He throws Raven into the barricades. Punk brings him into the crowd and hip tosses him into some chairs. Raven throws a chair at Punk and pulls him back ringside by the chain. Back in the crowd Raven brings Punk to the bleacher seats. Raven throws his head into a fans’ chair. He poses on the top of the bleachers and Punk yanks him all the way back to the floor. Back in the ring Punk hits an enzuigiri. He climbs to the top rope. Raven uses the chain to crotch him on the top rope and then pull him down. Punk asks “Flamingo” if that’s all he’s got. Raven fires up with clotheslines and strikes to shut him up. He whips Punk into a chair in the corner. He gets two with a knee lift. Raven drop toe holds Punk into the chair. He tries to hit Punk with the chair but Punk ducks and he nails referee Paul Turner instead. He drops Punk with the Raven Effect but of course the pin can’t be counted. Colt Cabana runs in to give Raven a low blow and a DDT onto a chair. Danny Doring comes in to take Cabana out. However, Punk covers Raven and Turner recovers to count it at 18:44. This did a great deal to help both guys out, especially Punk. The finish wasn’t so great, but it played a part in the larger picture of the feud and led to one heck of a moment after the match. There was also some really cool spots with the chain so props to them for using the stipulation in a creative way. ***1/2
Punk ties up Raven to the ropes in his crucifix pose. He pours some beer all over Raven and asks him how it feels. Tommy Dreamer appears from the crowd and nails Punk with a chair! He also gives him a DDT. He ties Punk to the ropes, then unties Raven. Dreamer and Raven embrace to the fans’ delight. Raven then pours a beer onto Punk’s face! Dreamer does the Sandman beer drinking/spitting spot to celebrate. Awesome moment.
CM Punk vs. Terry Funk
“Glory By Honor II” – Philadelphia, PA – 9.20.2003
Punk slaps Funk in the face. He controls Funk on the mat for a bit. Funk backs him to the corner and delivers a neckbreaker. Punk punches him out to the floor. He proclaims the match to now be under hardcore rules. He charges at Funk who backdrops him into the crowd. When they come back ringside Punk slams his face into the timekeeper’s table. He hits Funk across the back with a chair. Funk mocks Punk asking if that’s as hard as he can hit. He hits Funk with the chair again. Punk positions himself to put Funk through the table, but Funk ends up suplexing him through it instead. He sets up for his famous moonsault back in the ring. Punk is able to evade it. It’s evident that Funk’s knee is hurt, so of course Punk targets it. Punk gives him a few spinning toe holds before locking on a figure four. Funk rolls into the ropes to escape it. Punk takes a chair and walks it against Funk’s leg a few times. He reapplies the figure four. Funk makes his way to the ropes. Punk pulls him back and tries to put the hold back on. Funk punches Punk and gives him a couple of spinning toe holds. Punk shoves him down and reapplies the figure four again. Funk grabs the ropes. Punk reapplies it while Funk is in the ropes. Punk refuses to release at the five count and gets disqualified at 15:53. That was a crummy finish to an unspectacular match. Then again, what do you expect from Terry Funk in 2003? Not much, which is exactly what this match was. **
Colt Cabana comes out and puts Funk in a figure four while Punk puts the boots to him. Raven runs out to send them packing and check on Funk. Tommy Dreamer however brings Cabana back into the ring so he can take a Raven Effect.
Steel Cage Match
CM Punk vs. Raven
“The Conclusion” – Fairfield, CT – 11.28.2003
Punk attacks before Raven makes his way in the cage. Raven also has “PUNK SUX” written on his torso. In the ring Punk scrapes his knee against Raven’s face and drop toe holds him onto a chair. Punk attempts a triple jump moonsault. Raven throws the chair at him while he’s on the top rope. He throws Punk into the cage which busts him open. Raven lays in a trifecta of knee lifts for a two count. He utilizes the drop toe hold onto the chair. He gets two with a piledriver. He gives Punk a piledriver on a chair, also for two. Punk superkicks the chair into Raven’s face. He places a chair in the corner and sends Raven into it with a side Russian leg sweep. Punk digs the chair into Raven’s throat. They throw each other into the cage. Raven goes for a spear. Punk side steps it, sending Raven into the cage once again. Punk lawn darts Raven into the cage right after. Punk goes for an elbow and Raven drives a chair into it instead. Raven escapes a sleeper hold by driving Punk into the mat. Each of them tries climbing out of the cage door, but they stop one another from doing so. Punk hits an enzuigiri. He ascends to the top of cage. He comes off with a legdrop and misses! Raven takes him down with a bulldog out of the corner for two. Punk comes back with a Raven Effect onto the steel chair. Punk is agonized by Raven kicking out. He goes for it again but gets back to the corner. Raven tries a small package. Punk kicks out and superkicks him. Punk tries climbing the cage. Raven shoves the door open to crotch Punk onto it. Punk swings his leg around, slams the cage door into Raven, then drops down to the floor to win the match at 17:03. Kind of underwhelming given the hatred these two had for each other and the stipulation. Really, the Dog Collar match should have ended it. ***1/4
CM Punk & Colt Cabana vs. Tomoaki Honma & Kazushi Miyamoto
“Final Battle 2003” – Philadelphia, PA – 12.27.2003
Cabana and Miyamoto are tentative in their approach. Miyamoto chops Cabana to the corner. Cabana gets in some of his own chops but then gets dropkicked in the back. Punk and Honma tag in. Punk takes Honma to the floor and sends him practically neck first into the barricades. Miyamoto and Cabana go at it again. Punk slaps Miyamoto from the apron which helps Cabana put him in the Billy Goat’s Curse. Punk adds a Camel Clutch too it, causing Honma to come in and dropkick them both. Punk and Cabana pick up the aggression on Miyamoto after the attack from his partner, though Cabana still has a goofy agenda he wants to uphold. Miyamoto escapes by reversing Punk’s suplex and giving him mule kick to the side of his face. Honma unleashes some forearms to both Punk and Cabana. He drops them both in a Complete Shot/DDT combo. Punk tosses Honma off the top rope. Honma is still able to catch a charging Cabana with a powerslam right after. Cabana gives him an Air Raid Crash across the back of his leg. Honma comes back with a DDT. Miyamoto tags in. Cabana immediately huracanrana’s him for two. Miyamoto throws some palm strikes and gets two with a Swanton Bomb. Honma and Punk exchange chops. Punk gives him a Michinoku Driver. A series of moves knock all four guys down. The first big move upon recovery is Honma giving Punk a blockbuster. Honma and Miyamoto double superplex Punk. Cabana breaks their pin. Miyamoto tries a pescado onto Cabana. He misses and Cabana delivers an Asai moonsault. Punk ducks Honma’s lariat and suplexes him. Honma fires up. Punk ducks another lariat and drops him with a hammerlock DDT for two. Welcome to Chicago puts Honma down but Miyamoto breaks the cover. Cabana helps lift Honma up to the top rope. Punk brings him down onto his head with the Pepsi Plunge for the pin at 16:35. This was easily the best of the All Japan vs. ROH matches on the show. All four guys brought their A game and had an exciting, fun encounter that the crowd ate up. ***3/4
The Second City Saints (CM Punk, Colt Cabana & Ace Steel) vs. The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels, Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer)
“The Battle Lines Are Drawn” – Wilmington, OH – 1.10.2004
Traci Brooks is in the Saints’ corner while Allison Danger is in the Prophecy’s. Daniels and Punk start out, but Punk tags Steel in before they make contact. They chain wrestle to start and then Steel throws Daniels’ head first to the canvas. Punk gets in a choke when Steel is chopping Daniels against the ropes. Daniels takes Cabana and Steel over with hip tosses. They attack Daniels before he can touch Punk. Whitmer and Maff send Cabana and Steel the floor. Each Prophecy member gets in some shots on Punk until he is taken to the floor by his partners. Maff and Whitmer backdrop Daniels onto the Saints on the floor. The Prophecy gets control after a fight breaks out on the floor. Steel ends up being beaten down in their corner. Steel gets Maff to the Saints corner. Punk and Cabana throw jabs before Punk gives him a facewash kick. Maff powers Punk to his corner. He and Daniels both lay in some shoulder blocks. Daniels gets some shots given to him by the Saints until he brings Cabana back over for his partners to help him work over. Punk helps Cabana tag out. He gives Daniels the Welcome to Chicago for two. Daniels gives him a Shotei. Maff tags in. He ends up being busted open by Cabana and Steel on the floor while Punk ties up referee Paul Turner. The Saints gang up on Maff, mockingly showing his bloody face to his partners at certain points. Maff makes a tag at one point but the Saints had Turner tied up so he did not see it. Maff manages to kick out of a top rope legdrop, block a Shining Wizard, and mow down Punk with a lariat to finally tag out. Daniels fights off all of the Saints by himself. He gets two with a Blue Thunder Driver on Punk. Whitmer takes Punk to the floor. Cabana Asai moonsaults onto him. Maff suicide dives onto Whitmer by accident. Steel and Punk dive onto Whitmer and Maff, then Daniels Arabian Presses onto them. Daniels gets two on Cabana with an STO. Cabana fights out of the Angels Wings. He gets two with a DDT. Whitmer Saito suplexes Cabana. People are taken out until Daniels and Punk are left fighting. Daniels ducks the Pepsi Twist and gives him a urange. The BME follows for two. Danger and Brooks fight in the ring. Punk begins choking Danger. Whitmer tries hitting Punk with a chair but ends up nailing Turner. Punk superkicks the chair into Whitmer’s face. Everybody begins fighting amongst the crowd. Danger and Brooks are left fighting in the ring. Whitmer comes back in the ring and stops Brooks from choking Danger. He gives her an exploder suplex! Lucy appears from the crowd to low blow Whitmer. Steel comes in with a Flying DDT. Cabana puts Whitmer on his shoulders so Punk can give him a Doomsday Blockbuster. With all the brawling going on, other referees decide to throw the match out at 28:31. I actually didn’t think the match felt all that long, though most everyone else seems to think otherwise. I had fun watching it. The crowd sucked for the whole show, and I think paying off a feud that mostly took place in the Northeast in the Midwest was a big mistake. Lucy’s return was a total afterthought as well. As it was, it was a fun brawl that’s only remembered becaude of the post match angle where Punk gives Daniels a Pepsi Plunge through a table that put him out of ROH for 18 months. ***
ROH Pure Championship Tournament Finals
CM Punk vs. AJ Styles
“Second Anniversary Show” – Braintree, MA – 2.14.2004
The winner of this match becomes the inaugural ROH Pure Champion. Traci Brooks is in Punk’s corner. Punk uses the ropes to counter a wristlock which the referee counts as one rope break. Styles goes for the Styles Clash early. Punk grabs his leg and Styles gets the ropes to block whatever submission may be coming. That brings him down to two rope breaks as well. A lock-up ends up on the floor. Back in the ring they criss-cross the ropes. Styles goes after Traci to neutralize her. Punk pescado’s onto him. Punk stops himself from being whipped into the barricades but Styles dropkicks him. He lands on his previously injured leg. Punk notices this and puts on a Boston Crab back in the ring. Styles uses his second rope break to escape. Styles puts Punk in a headscissors in the ropes. The referee counts that as Punk’s second rope break. Styles goes for a springboard move and gets his legs swept out. Punk puts on a half crab. Styles’ third and final rope break is used to escape that hold. Punk puts on a key lock. Styles violently rips away in a chinlock to force Punk to the ropes. No both guys are out of rope breaks, so the ropes can be used. Both guys fight on the top rope where Styles brings Punk down with a super Gourd Buster. Styles hits a discuss lariat which he used earlier in the night to beat Jimmy Rave. Punk rolls to the floor to avoid being pinned. When Punk comes back in he hits a Shining Wizard for two. Punk puts on a modified cloverleaf. Styles uses the ropes to twist himself around and kick Punk away. Punk kicks out his leg. Styles blocks the Shining Wizard to hit the Styles Clash for two. Styles hits one from the second rope for the pin at 16:34. That was a masterful way to introduce the title. They showed off the three rope break rule in a very clever way and showed how losing those rope breaks can help if you’re smart about. There was some ingenious work put in from both competitors. I really do feel this gets overlooked by the awesome World title match on the same show, and the rematch they had at “At Our Best”. ***3/4
ROH Pure Championship
AJ Styles (Champion) vs. CM Punk
Special Guest Referee: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
“At Our Best” – Elizabeth, NJ – 3.13.2004
They go to the mat to start. They’re more cautious about getting the ropes. Styles gets the ropes to break a headlock but Punk takes a bit of time breaking the hold. They stand off after trading armdrags. Punk slaps Styles against the ropes. Styles angrily brings Punk to the corner and lights him up with strikes. Steamboat separates them when they go head to head. They throw forearms at each other in a knuckle lock. Styles avoids a shining wizard and delivers a dropkick. Punk ducks a discuss clothesline. The momentum carries Styles to the apron and Punk dropkicks him into the barricades. Punk whips him to the guardrails. Styles jumps over them and catches Punk with a superkick. Punk gives Styles a neckbreaker in the ropes when they head back to the ring. Punk sits down on a headlock. Styles decides to fight out of the hold instead of getting the ropes. He puts on a Muta Lock. Punk uses his first rope break to escape. Styles German suplexes him. Punk blocks an enzuigiri and clotheslines Styles in the neck. He puts Styles in a Boston Crab. Styles gets the ropes for the second time. Welcome to Chicago gets Punk a two count. Punk forearms him in the neck and Styles right away responds with an enzuigiri. They fight on the top rope until they both tumble off the top rope and to the floor. When they come back in Punk tries for a Shining Wizard. Styles goes for a Styles Clash. Punk blocks that and hits his own Styles Clash! Styles stops the pin by using his third and final rope break. Punk chokes Styles in the ropes which Steamboat breaks up. Punk gets in Steamboat’s face, calling him an old man. Steamboat ignores it. Punk puts Styles in a sleeper hold. Styles’ arm drops three times, but Steamboat notices him regaining consciousness as he goes to call for the bell. He decides not to call for the bell which obviously makes Punk angry. Styles gets an adrenaline rush and runs Punk’s head into the corner. Styles takes him down with a few clotheslines getting a one count each time. A third lariat gets him the win at 24:09. They played up the happenings in their previous match and put on a worthy successor. The hand dropping didn’t bug me as it built to Punk and Steamboat’s rivalry really well. I actually think this and the 2nd Anniversary match are on the same level. If you include their encounter from “Tradition Continues”, these two had an excellent series of bouts. ***3/4
ROH Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) (Champions) vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana
“Reborn Stage 2” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 4.24.2004
Mark elbows Punk in the face after breaking a lock-up against the ropes. Punk comes back with a series of chops. Out of a double knuckle lock they each try some quick roll-ups. Punk does some damage to Mark’s arm. Cabana and Jay then tag in. Jay’s first shoulder tackle fails. Cabana tells Jay to go for it again and trips him. He then takes Jay to the corner with a headscissors and an armdrag. Cabana cranks his neck with his feet. Punk comes in with a slingshot senton. He and Cabana drop tandem elbows, then put him in a Billy Goat’s Curse/Camel Clutch combo. Mark comes in. Punk uses him to stomp on Jay’s nuts. Punk and Cabana then put them in stereo Camel Clutches. Punk hits the Welcome to Chicago on Jay for two. Mark blind tags in when Punk has Jay in a headlock. He comes in with a springboard dropkick and the Briscoes take control. They choke him many times when the referee is tied up. Punk fights his way out of the corner, ducks two clotheslines, and tags in Cabana. He throws fists before taking both Briscoes down with a quebrada press. He hits double knees on both Briscoes in the corner, then gives Jay an Air Raid Crash across the back of his leg. Punk and Cabana try a Doomsday Device, but Mark blocks it with a reverse huracanrana for two. Punk mule kicks him and then hits an enzuigiri. He gets two with a DDT. Jay gives him a Gourd Buster and a Death Valley Driver for two. The Briscoes try their own Doomsday Device. Punk catches Mark mid-air with a powerslam. Cabana feed Mark to Punk for a Pespi Plunge. Jay and Cabana fight on the floor while Mark backdrops Punk off the top. He dives after with an enzuigiri. All four men end up knocked down in the ring. Cabana tries for the Colt 45 on Mark but settles for a butterfly suplex. Mark brings Punk off the top rope with an Ace Crusher. Jay gives Cabana the Jay Driller for two. The Briscoes try to superplex Punk. Cabana pulls himself up by the ropes which crotches Mark. Punk shoves Jay to the floor where he hits the guardrails. Punk pulls Mark into the Pepsi Plunge for the win and the titles at 19:39. That was top shelf tag team wrestling with an awesome crowd. Of course they were totally behind the hometown heroes, so when they won it came off like a major deal. Definitely the right way to cap off ROH’s Chicago debut. ****
BJ Whitmer attacks CM Punk after the match. Jay Briscoe joins in. Ace Steel comes out and absolutely waffles Whitmer with a chair. How many dumb things has Whitmer done in ROH for Christ’s sake?
At “Round Robin Challenge III”, The Briscoes, The Second City Saints, and The Prophecy (BJ Whitmer and Dan Maff) competed in a round robin style tournament. In the first match of the night, the Saints defended the tag team titles against the Prophecy. The Saints tried getting counted out and losing the titles but Ricky Steamboat did not allow for that to happen. Whitmer ends up pinning Cabana with the Wrist Clutch Exploder suplex to win the titles. Punk and Cabana beat down Steamboat after the match. Later on in the tournament, The Briscoes won the tag titles from the Prophecy. That would mean in the final match of the evening, The Briscoes would defend the titles against The Second City Saints in a rematch from “Reborn Stage 2.”
ROH Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) (Champions) vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana
“Round Robin Challenge III” – Lexington, MA – 5.15.2004
Punk fights for control with both Briscoes. Cabana takes the Sidewinder for two. Punk takes Jay over multiple times in a side headlock. Mark catches him with a springboard clothesline. Punk fights away and tags in Cabana. He and Mark switch side headlocks. Cabana catches Mark with a gut buster, a crucial maneuver since Mark’s ribs were hurt in his previous encounter with the Prophecy. The Saints work over Mark’s mid-section in their corner. After being worked over forever, Mark drops down the top rope to send Punk to the floor. Cabana turns around into a missile dropkick. Jay tags in and gets two on Cabana with a mafia kick. He nails a dropkick before diving onto Punk. Mark heel kicks Cabana in the back of his head for two. The Briscoes double facewash kick him in the corner. Punk crotches Mark on the top rope and hits Jay with the Shining Wizard. Jay sends Cabana to the floor and boots Punk for two. Punk underhook suplexes Jay. Mark hits a shooting star press to break the pin, doing more damage to his ribs. He goes for a pin but Cabana pulls referee Todd Sinclair to the floor. Cabana dropkicks Jay to the floor. Mark shoves Punk to the floor to block the Pepsi Plunge. He tries a crossbody only to eat a gut buster on his way down. Cabana hits a frog splash for the pin and the titles at 18:57. The first match was better, but this was still quite good. The novelty of having three title changes in one night was kind of cool for the time but would probably piss me off today. All three teams for the tournament fight afterwards and Steamboat gets his comeuppance on Punk. ***1/2
ROH Tag Team Championship – No Disqualification
CM Punk & Colt Cabana (Champions) vs. The Prophecy (BJ Whitmer & Dan Maff)
“Generation Next” – Phialdelphia, PA – 5.22.2004
Punk slaps Whitmer. Whitmer spits in his face and also delivers a slap. Cabana tries a sneak attack but gets caught. He and Maff double back elbow Cabana for two. Maff throws Cabana into Punk. Punk trips Maff from the floor, then helps Cabana suplex him. Punk goes for a headscissors. Whitmer punches him from the apron and and Maff drops him onto his stomach. He sentons onto Punk’s back for two. Maff goes for a cannonball senton. Cabana trips Maff and crotches him into the ring post. Cabana drives his knees into Whitmer’s chest. Punk suplexes him out of the corner for two. Whitmer gets beaten down by the Saints as Maff recovers. Punk misses a facewash kick, giving Whitmer time to tag in Maff. He throws a flurry of strikes at Cabana. Punk comes in with a springboard. Maff catches him and overhead suplexes him onto Whitmer. Punk mule kicks Maff. He blocks Whitmer’s exploder suplex with a victory roll. Whitmer pops up Punk for a huracanrana on Maff. Maff lariats Punk into a suplex from Whitmer. The Prophecy dive onto Punk and Cabana on the floor. Maff cannonball sentons Punk into the barricades. The brawl files out into the crowd. When they get back in the ring, Punk gets a two count on Whitmer with a Shining Wizard. Whitmer superplexes Cabana. Maff gives Cabana a diving headbutt. At the same time, Punk lands a super legdrop on Whitmer. After a reverse Atomic Drop Punk sets up for a Shining Wizard. Maff uses a lariat to cut him off. Cabana pitches him to the floor. He dropkicks Maff into the barricades. Punk brings Whitmer to the top rope. Maff and Cabana join them. Maff gets knocked down through a table. Punk gives Whitmer the Pepsi Plunger for the pin at 19:18. The mayhem in the middle was kind of whatever, but they began and ended strongly so it wasn’t all that bad. ***1/4