I haven’t watched a large chunk of my ROH DVD collection for a while, so I decided to work my way through them and do some reviews in the process. There’s going to be no real pattern to these reviews and I’ll mostly just get to them as and when I can. I also don’t have the entire ROH DVD collection, so you’ll see things jump ahead quite a bit sometimes.
As the Title suggests, this was the show where ROH crowned it’s first ever Champion. Wrestlers had won qualifying matches on a prior event called Road to the Title, with the four finalists due to compete for the Title on this show.
ROH from this period can be a tad hit and miss, but you were usually promised one or two great matches considering that the show was almost a Super Bowl of independent wrestling, with some of the best Indy guys all competing under one roof.
Right, let’s settle in and watch some chuffing wrestling!
The event is emanating from the Murphy Rec Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Calling the action are Donnie B and Steve Corino
We open up with a slew of promos and skits, as was the fashion at the time;
– Low Ki recaps his previous big bouts in ROH and hypes up the Main Event
– Steve Corino brags about dating Simply Luscious, although she makes clear that he professional status as the manager of Christopher Daniels remains paramount
– The Christopher Street Connection (A stereotypical gay tag team made up of Buff E and Mace) are walking backstage and notice that Brian XL and Dixie are having a rave in their locker room
– James Maritato and Tony Mamaluke are talking backstage. Maritato wants Mamaluke to drop the old FBI gimmick from ECW. The Natural Born Sinners (Homicide and Boogalou) interrupt and challenge them to a match for a later show
We get an opening video package set to trance and rave music, which differentiated ROH from other indies at the time as they were focusing more on rap and nu metal for their music
Tony Mamaluke Vs Jeremy Lopez
Mamaluke still has his FBI gear and music because he isn’t willing to stop using the gimmick. Lopez is trying to earn himself a roster place with a good performance. He’s decent enough in the ring for his level of experience at the time but he’s not especially charismatic or interesting as a character. This is your typical work rate focused independent opener, as both guys trade the initiative with neither gaining a clear advantage. The work is a bit sloppy on occasion, but it’s mostly executed well and the crowd enjoys it. Mamaluke kicks out of a Tiger Driver from Lopez and then locks in a modified guillotine choke for the submission victory.
WINNER: TONY MAMALUKE
This went about six minutes and was fine as an opener. Mamaluke gets a win but Lopez got to hit some moves and look competitive, so both gained from it.
Mamaluke raises Lopez’s arm at the end in a show of respect
Divine Storm (Quiet Storm and Chris Divine) are planning for their match later when the Christopher Street Connection come over to bother them by offering them banana’s. Oh ho, is funny because they are gay men offering straight men phallic shaped objects. Oh ho hooooooo!
Prince Nana and Jacobs Ladder Vs Christian York and Joey Matthews w/ Alexis Laree
Nana is a Ghanaian prince and Ladder (whose name sounds like a terrible teen drama show on Sunday evenings) has been brought in to be his personal servant. York and Matthews are a spunky babyface team who got their first proper exposure in the final days of ECW. Matthews would end up as Joey Mercury in WWE. Laree would end up becoming a prominent women’s star in the Ruthless Aggression Era of WWE as Mickie James. Nana cuts a heel promo before the match stating that he got knocked out by Low Ki on a previous show and asks York and Matthews not to hit him there.
York and Matthews agree to this, only to then get jumped when they go for the pre-match handshake (This was back when ROH wanted all matches to start and end with a handshake). York and Matthews are unhappy at this behaviour so they break the pre-match agreement and give Nana a double enziguri in retribution. Nana flees following that, leaving Ladder to get pinned with a double team move.
WINNERS: YORK & MATTHEWS
This was more of an angle than a match, and not an especially good one either
The Christopher Street Connection (Seriously, why are they all over this show?) try to console Nana in the Gorilla Position, but he’s having none of their non-conventional ways and storms to the back. Alison Danger is with them as they come down to the ring for promo time on York, Matthews and Laree. The gist is that they tease a lesbian pollen angle between Laree and Danger (Oh the irony) which leads to a brawl where Danger gives Laree a spank. This was not only hugely out of a place in a supposedly serious company like ROH but it was also pretty offensive and this sort of gay bashing character was years past the point of being relevant by this point in time
The Texas Wrestling Academy guys show up after completing a 25 hour drive to get there. Michael Shane is being a jerk.
Winner of the fall gets an ROH contract
Michael Shane and Bio-Hazard Vs Paul London and Don Juan
I wonder if Bio-Hazard’s lives at a particularly evil residence? All of these guys are repping the Texas Wrestling Academy and head trainer Rudy Boy Gonzalez is at ringside to oversee things. The winner will be flown in from now on and won’t have to suffer the arduous drive up to Philly from Texas. Corino hates Rudy Boy and rags on him throughout the match. Shane and London are both the stronger workers of these four, so then they work together it’s pretty good and less so when the other two are in, though I wouldn’t call either of them terrible or anything like that.
Shane and Bio-Hazard get some heat on Juan for a bit, with Shane doing his usual good job of being a dislikable heel. Juan eventually manages to get his knees up on a Bio-Hazard moonsault and makes the tag to London, who does a good job executing the hot tag. London gets a nice Quebrada on Shane for two and Shane replies by catching him with a super kick not soon after for a two of his own.
Things break down at this stage, with everyone coming in to hit a move and steal the contract. Both teams are breaking up pins by their partners, as even the faces know what is at stake here. Shane delivers a big move to Juan and makes the pin at the same time London does similar to Bio-Hazard, but the referee deems that Shane is indeed the legal man and counts his pin to give him an ROH contract.
WINNERS: MICHAEL SHANE & BIO-HAZARD (SHANE GETS AN ROH CONTRACT)
Shane and London were very smooth together and they would go on to have further matches
Shane cuts a heel promo post-match and London takes umbrage to it, leading to a brawl where they both miss moves from the top rope. Rudy Boy ends up stopping the fight and then dragging both men to the back, where he sets up a match between them for a later show in Boston (Which I think I have but I’ve misplaced the DVD sadly)
Da Hit Squad (Monsta Mack and Dan Maff) Vs Divine Storm (Chris Divine and Quiet Storm)
I think Quiet Storm is still going I believed, working mostly in Japan. Mack and Maff are still working in Jersey All Pro I think, but don’t hold me to that. This one is all about the speed of Divine Storm against the bulk and brawling of Hit Squad. That being said, Divine is deceptively powerful and actually throws Maff around with suplexes as well as managing to hoist him up into a DVD.
The match is basically just a tornado match, with everyone in the ring at the same time and the ref not really bothering to get them on the apron waiting for tags. The action is fought at a high tempo and is good for the most part, with everyone hitting big moves to pop the crowd. Things get rougher towards the end though and they sadly end up botching the finish, as Maff is supposed to counter a Divine head scissors into a powerbomb but ends up losing grip of him and has to end up getting a really ugly looking powerbomb for the three.
WINNERS: DA HIT SQUAD
This was going along just fine until they got into the closing stages, at which point it sadly fell apart. I had fun with it for the most part though and it helped Divine Storm’s standing that they were able to go in there with the two bigger men and hold their own.
We get a post-match handshake, as Divine Storm have earned Hit Squad’s respect
Low Ki is warming up for the Main Event. Xavier comes over and asks for a Title shot if Ki wins. Ki seems open to that idea
James Maritato Vs Jay Briscoe w/ Mark Briscoe
The story here is that Mark can’t wrestle in Philly because he is only 17 and the commission says you have to be 18 or older, so he’s instead stuck being Jay’s second and he’s bitter about it. Maritato used to be Little Guido in ECW and would go on to become Nunzio in WWE. We get some good fast paced technical wrestling in the early stages, as Jay holds his own with the more experienced Maritato. Mark makes his presence known though by distracting Jay, which keeps giving Maritato openings to take control as he’s too experienced to get distracted by stuff like that.
The match actually reminds me of something Maritato would have done during his ECW days on an episode of Hardcore TV, as the pace is high and both men continue to hit bigger moves as it progresses. Everything is executed well for the most part and the crowd is into the action. Mark eventually decides to walk out in disgust at his brother not sowing things up, which distracts Jay and allows Guido to catch him with the Tomikaze/Pulp Friction for the three count.
WINNER: JAMES MARITATO
This felt a bit rushed but it was fun for the most part
We get the handshake post-match, as Maritato isn’t a heel but he’s not a mug who’ll pass up a victory either
Christopher Daniels and Simply Luscious cut a promo backstage. Daniels says there is no doubt that he is the best wrestler in ROH and that the Code of Honour is a lie. The Prophecy will bring truth to the people and tear down the code when he wins the Title tonight. This was a good promo, as Daniels was into this character and knew what beats to hit to make it work
Doug Williams has an unnamed person in a Stretch Muffler and growls that this will be his opponents in the Main Event later on. That’s kind of genius on ROH’s part actually, as Doug wasn’t much of a talker back then but this covered for that well and achieved the goal of making him look like a dangerous guy who was not to be trifled with
We get a video recap of Homicide hitting his opponents on the first ever ROH show with a rubber chicken, thus earning him a DQ from referee HC Loc. He attacked Loc because of this, which led to Loc bringing in Tony DeVito to form the Carnage Crew
Carnage Crew (HC Loc and Tony DeVito) Vs Natural Born Sinners (Homicide and Boogalou)
I know very little about Boog outside of his ROH run. I think he ended up jumping to XPW at one stage, which is why Homicide ended up being more of a singles act. DeVito was in Da Baldies back during ECW, and is a decent worker who just never got a chance in a major company (Although he had a cameo as an evil priest in one of the WWECW shows from 2006). This is a very bloody brawl, with blood even working it’s way onto the camera lense for an ultra gory visual. This is atypical from the usual high flying and technical matches you’d find in ROH, so it works well as a palette cleanser.
It’s not long before everyone does a blade job, with Loc in particular looking like he poured the contents of a tin of tomato soup over his head and body. It feels like a real hate filled brawl between two teams that want to destroy one another, rather than just an aimless brawl for the sake of it. At one point DeVito puts some barbed wire on Homicide and then gets him with a lovely moonsault from the top rope. As Corino says on commentary, he took 1 to give 2 there.
Boog wraps his arm in the barbed wire and delivers a lariat to DeVito, in a spot that would be as potentially dangerous to him as it would be Loc due to all the veins and whatnot in your arm. Homicide sits Loc on a chair outside the ring and then follows with a dive from inside the ring, destroying a section of the guardrails in the process. This leaves Boog and DeVito in the ring alone, which leads to the former wrapping barbed wire around the face and mouth of DeVito for a brutal submission finish.
WINNERS: NATURAL BORN SINNERS
This was a war and that finish was an all-time brutal one
The crowd chants “ROH” following that one. Carnage Crew aren’t done and attacks The Sinners following the bout. This leads to Hit Squad coming down to rescue The Sinners, but Homicide isn’t happy about this and declares that he doesn’t need their help. This keeps the story ticking along nicely whilst also delivering a violent satisfying brawl
Spanky cuts a promo where he addresses the fact that he has beaten Ki and Daniels in singles matches before, whilst also training with William Regal and Robbie Brookside to prepare him for Doug’s European styled technical wrestling. He says that wrestling is his soul and questions whether it’s the same for the other three. This was a fantastic promo and you can see why he’s had numerous chances in WWE over the years
TNA X-Division Title
Champ: AJ Styles Vs Adam Jacobs Vs David Young
Jacobs was a guy I’d often sign when I played EWR if I was running an Indy group, as he had good technical and speed stats most of the time. He looks a bit like Jordan Devlin actually. Young worked for TNA on and off in the 00’s. AJ is someone I expect you’ll all know. This is under elimination rules.
AJ is super over with the crowd, as you’d imagine. They actually haven’t bothered to wipe the blood off the camera from the previous match. This one is a pure unapologetic spot fest, but sadly a few of them go awry and the crowd absolutely savages the wrestlers when it happens like a bunch of jerks. I never got people who booed botches. Groaning or laughing? Sure. But booing is just uncalled for.
AJ bleeds somehow, and I can’t even pinpoint how it happened so I think it’s accidental. He keeps going though and manages to get his back flip reverse DDT on both his opponents. Young catches Jacobs with a spine buster, but then turns around straight into an AJ Dragon-rana for two. AJ follows up withe Spiral Tap though and that’s enough to eliminate Young.
Jacobs and AJ go at it, with AJ getting the better of things, but when he tries heading up top he takes too long and Jacobs is able to stop whatever he has planned. Jacobs tries to rana AJ down from there but AJ blocks it and then delivers the Styles Clash from the second rope to retain.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: AJ STYLES
Sloppier than two Sloppy Joe’s held together by rubber bands. I’m not sure it really needed the elimination rule either
Rudy Boy comes down to the ring and challenges Corino to wrestle American Dragon on the next Philly show in September 2002 (I don’t think that ended up happening)
Black Gordman Jr, Brian XL and Dixie Vs Mike Tobin, Dunn and Marcos w/ Danny Drake
Tobin and Drake are usually a tag team, but Drake is injured so perennial enhancement talent Dunn and Marcos have been drafted in for this one. This “match” is actually just a music video, as XL and Dixie destroy all four men and leave, allowing Dunn and Marcos to pin Gordman Jr.
WINNERS: TOBIN, DUNN & MARCOS
Slugger (Picture Lennox Lewis if he dressed like a bouncer at a club) makes his ROH debut by coming into the ring and destroying the three winners. This was ROH essentially trying to recreate 911 with another big stiff
Carnage Crew lay out a backstage challenge to Da Hit Squad for a match in Boston
We get a video package recapping the story between Scoot Andrews and Xavier. Andrews has twice hit Xavier with his finisher but has been unable to pick up the win. If he doesn’t win tonight then he’ll leave ROH
Scoot Andrews Vs Xavier
Andrews and Xavier both did enhancement matches for WWE during this era but neither of them managed to get signed. This match is highlights, as Xavier blades (Which is becoming overkill by this stage) and gives a spirited go before getting hit with The Force of Nature (Think the Rikishi Driver) for the three count. Andrews gets to remain in ROH.
WINNER: SCOOT ANDREWS
Both men make nice following that to bring their mini-program to an end
60 Minute Iron Man Match
Winner Will Become First Ever ROH Champion
Christopher Daniels w/ Simply Luscious Vs Doug Williams Vs Spanky Vs Low Ki
Back during this time I was big into Daniels and thought his look with the faux priest entrance attire was really cool. The way this works is that you get 2 points for scoring a fall but will lose 1 point if you drop one, so points mean more than total falls won. Williams was probably the least well known of the four here due to working mostly for FWA in England whilst Spanky had been working on the US indies a lot whilst Daniels and Ki were getting exposure from working in TNA.
Doug wows the crowd in the early going with his silky smooth European styled grappling, back before you had the likes of Zack Sabre Jr and SANADA doing that style at the Tokyo Dome. It’s ludicrously warm in the building (98 degrees I believe) so the fact these four guys are going to go for an hour in those sort of conditions is quite a daunting prospect for them, and they’re not skimping on the effort either.
The main story here is that Doug, Spanky and Ki are all honourable men who are going to try and do this fairly, whilst Daniels is a jackal who will do anything he can to pick up the victory and cares little for honour or sportsmanship. He keeps ducking out when he can (especially when Ki is involved) so that he can pick his spots and attack when it’s advantageous. The work is to a high standard as you’d expect from these four and the crowd appreciates the skill on display and sticks with the action.
Everyone takes a turn going after Ki’s legs in an effort to take away his vicious kicks, but he keeps chugging and briefly gets a chance to lay a whupping on Daniels when Doug and Spanky drop to the floor so that Daniels can’t tag out. Daniels attacks the legs to give himself some respite and things break down following that, with everyone coming in to hit a big move for a quadruple down and a big round of applause from the crowd. Daniels and Ki are up following that and Daniels gets a cheap shot to the leg before following up with the Last Rites (Roll of the Dice) to pin Ki for three.
Daniels 2, Doug 0, Spanky 0, Ki -1
We’re about 30 minutes into the match now, which leads the other three plenty of time to fight themselves back into contention. You can really see that the heat and match length are taking their toll now, as they are drenched in sweat and the pace is starting to slow a little. Doug continues to impress with his mix of technical skills and high impact throws, and he successfully gets the Chaos Theory on Spanky but Daniels breaks up the pin attempt. The crowd is still digging the match and applauds the big moves as well as encouraging the three honourable men to keep going.
Doug busts out the old Bob Backlund lifting counter to an arm bar on Ki at one stage, which is always cool, and then we get one of the best sequences in the match. Doug prepares to deliver the Chaos Theory to Ki, but Spanky blind tags himself in just as he’s about to start run into the corner. Doug throws Ki over for the German Suplex part of the move, but Ki flips over and lands on his feet, managing to clear Spanky too who has come in following his tag. Ki lands behind Spanky and quickly locks in a Dragon Clutch, which Spanky submits to in order to give Ki a fall. That was absolutely outstanding and the crowd loses their mind at it.
Daniels 1, Ki 1, Doug 0, Spanky -1
We’ve got about 15 left now, with Ki needing another fall to take the lead, whilst Doug scoring a fall specifically on Daniels would put him into the lead. Spanky rallies to try and get himself back into contention with a good flurry on Daniels, but he can’t put him away. He tries his luck with Doug next, but ends up in a wheelbarrow and gets his head shoved into the mat a couple of times before taking a face buster for two. That looked brutal, in a good way. Doug goes all Akiyama on everyone with running high knees to everyone, but Kid breaks up his pin attempt on Spanky. Spanky and Daniels take a spill to the floor, which allows Ki to come off the top with a Phoenix Splash to Doug to pick up another fall and take the lead.
Ki 3, Daniels 2. Doug -1, Spanky -1
Daniels now needs to either win another fall or hope Ki drops one somehow. We’re well into the final ten minutes now, as Kid needs to hold on. A critique I’d have for the DVD version is that they don’t have a clock on the screen, which would help with keeping track of what’s left. The referee has long since lost track of who is legal and just starts counting pins for everyone.
The fans chant “ROH” as we reach the closing stretch. Doug gives Spanky the Revolution DDT out on the floor to take them both out of the match, leaving Daniels and Ki to close it out in the ring. Daniels locks Ki in his own Dragon Clutch hold, but Ki refuses to tap and manages to fight out and deliver a Last Rites to Daniels just as the clock runs down.
WINNER AND CHAMPION: LOW KI
This was fantastic, as all four guys entered spirited and gutsy performances in harsh conditions. The crowd was with the action throughout and the work was top notch. They smartly had Ki drop a fall to Daniels and never get it back either, thus giving Daniels a grievance to set up future matches between them. An absolute belter of a match!
Daniels refuses to shake hands and storms off following the match whilst the other three show respect for one another
Ki celebrates his win and heads to the back, where he dedicates the win to Russ Haas who had recently passed away in a nice moment
Mark and Jay Briscoe have an argument backstage, which leads to Jay challenging Mark for a match in Boston because Mark can legally wrestle there
Daniels yells at the referee about the Main Event, repeating that he didn’t get pinned
The undercard was a bit bloated with some weaker matches and storylines, but the Main Event was everything you’d want it to be and essentially makes the show a thumbs up all by itself. The next show I have is Unscripted 2002, so we’ll get to that as and when I can.