Mike Reviews – ROH First Anniversary Show (08/02/2003)

Hello You!

I’ve actually had this one hand written for yonks, but the classic ROH reviews seemingly got little to no interest and I never bothered typing it up. However, with want of anything better to review this week and the fact that this show features the sadly departed Xavier during his brief ROH Title run, I felt it would be appropriate to finally upload it.

I should point out that this version of the show was taped off the short lived Wrestling Channel over here in the UK. They used to have a special super card event every Sunday on the channel, which was usually a show from one of the main company’s they had on their books. They showed quite a bit of early ROH on the channel when it first started, with this show being amongst the events they aired.

One downside is that they’ve had to trim the show a bit in order to make it fit the three hour window (This includes advert breaks) which means some matches have been cut and others have been edited. It’s a shame, but ROH events were all kind of treated like big super cards with loads of matches, so needs had to must when it came to cramming in as much as possible for a set slot of TV time.

The event is emanating from The Elk’s Lodge in Queens, New York on the 8th of February 2003

Calling the action are Chris Levy (Gabe Sapolsky) and Ray Murrow

We open up with a Paul London backstage promo, where he says he’ll give 1000% tonight. I’m sure Sheldon Cooper would thank him for his positive attitude whilst also gently reminding him that giving more than 100% is not only impossible but also not especially advised.

Opening Match
Chad Collyer Vs EZ Money Vs Colt Cabana Vs Michael Shane

Funnily enough I recently finished the original run of ECW Hardcore TV and the last episode of the show featured EZ Money wrestling in this exact building. This is one heck of an opener based purely on the talent involved. This is done with two guys in the ring with the other two waiting on the apron needing a tag, but the first fall wins the match. Everyone involved here is not only capable of going at it on the mat but you’ve also got guys in Money and Shane who can do some high flying if needs be. Heck, even Cabana was no slouch in that department in his younger days. The action is fun and the crowd is into it, with Shane working as a clear heel and the crowd responding to it.

Money in particular looks great here, as I think he’d only recently left the WWE developmental system after being snapped when WCW died. Collyer was trained by Dean Malenko, and that’s really obvious when you see him wrestle as he clearly takes after his mentor when it comes to his movement and move delivery.  Cabana can not only wrestle but he also brings entertainment to the table as well thanks to his personality, which leads to this being a very good combination of guys to work this style of match, as everyone brings something of their own to the table.

Shane and Collyer essentially work a heat segment on Money, which is an interesting way of working this sort of match that you don’t tend to see, and eventually he catches Shane with a second rope DDT and makes the tag to Cabana. Cabana runs wild with punches and high impact moves, showing some good fire in the process. Things break down following that and everyone comes in to hit a move, as things start getting a bit more Indy.

We get the big series of dives to pop the crowd and that leads into the near falls. Some of the big spots are great, such as Cabana catching Shane with a cutter when he tries a dive into the ring, and Money taking out both Cabana and Collyer with a Buckshot Lariat. Shane tries the sneaky heel roll up on Money, but Money kicks out and replies with the X Plex to pick up the clean win.

WINNER: EZ MONEY
RATING: ***

This was a good choice for the opener, with lots of fun action and some well executed near falls. Everyone played their allotted part well and all the wrestlers came out of the match looking good as a result.

Everyone shakes hands following that one, even heel Shane.

Throughout the show we get flashbacks of the events that took place in ROH’s first year. This one is Tommy Dreamer showing up on the 9th of November 2002.

Match Two
Mark Briscoe Vs Jay Briscoe

Mark had been a heel and part of The Prophecy heel stable, but the death of one of his friends has led to he and Jay reconciling. As a result they will have a respectful bout with one another here and will then wrestle as a team in ROH going forward.

This one is a nice scientific bout to start until Jay catches Mark in the face with a running big boot. Mark sells like he has been knocked out by that, but it’s all a ruse and he goes after Jay’s leg when Jay gets too close. The action here is decent, but it also looks a bit overly rehearsed at points, probably because both lads likely went through this match together numerous times as they grew up together.

Things escalate with both men doing bigger moves and counters, with some of the counter wrestling being executed very well, although it also borders on looking a bit too choreographed sometimes. A Cactus Clothesline sends both men outside for a slugfest, which is done well and pops the crowd. Jay bleeds following that and Mark gets him with a dive before getting a moonsault to the floor. That was nuts!

In a nice touch, the crowd just chants “Briscoe” for both men in appreciation for their efforts. Jay gets a Spicolli Driver back inside for two but gets caught with a knee in the corner right after and takes a springboard cutter for two. Both brothers slip out of the others finishing move attempts and Mark tries another cutter, but Jay counters to one of his own in a cool spot and that leads to a double down.

A chopfest follows once both men are back up, which ends with Jay giving Mark a Yakuza Kick. They’ve built this match well actually, starting out scientifically and building up to the bigger moves and spots. Jay gets a back senton splash from the top rope for two and then goes for the J-Driller, but Mark blocks it and gets one of his own for two in a great near fall. Mark goes for a moonsault following that, but Jay dodges it and replies with a multitude of J-Drillers to finally but his brother away.

WINNER: JAY BRISCOE
RATING: ***3/4

This was a great match that built to a crescendo and featured some really exciting action. They took it home at just the right time for me too, which is a knack the Briscoe’s would sadly lose once they reached the 2006-2009 Era of their career

Our next flashback is from the 22nd of June 2002, where Low Ki and Amazing Red have a strike trade inspired by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Match Three
Fight Without Honour
Steve Corino w/ Simply Luscious and Samoa Joe Vs Homicide

Corino and Homicide were a tag team at the first Glory by Honour event, but they ended up having a falling out and it led to a blood feud, as you do. Corino cuts a promo before the match to establish that he will be forming his own Group in ROH and it will be made up of himself, Luscious, Joe, Michael Shane and CW Anderson. In a clever touch, having Joe as backup whilst he cuts the promo explains why Homicide wouldn’t just rush across the ring an assault him. CW had been fired from ROH after taking a Japanese booking instead, which leads to Corino telling Rob Feinstein and Gabe Sapolsky that he runs this place and not them.

The fight is one right from the bell, with all of The Group now surrounding ringside, and there’s some good intensity to it as I believe both of these guys genuinely did not like one another in real life. Levy is of course ranting about CW on commentary (Gabe reportedly legitimately hated him in real life at the time. I’m not sure if they’ve smoothed things over since) and the crowd is directing mean chants at The Group itself. The match is pretty back and forth, with both men trading the advantage. Homicide gives Corino DDT at one stage but the referee takes a bump at the same time, meaning there is a delay in him making the count, which allows Corino to kick out.

Homicide fights Corino outside the ring and The Group doesn’t attack him because they do believe in ROH’s Code of Honour, despite still being jerks. Joe even gets in Homicide’s face at one stage and tells him that he’s lucky this is ROH, otherwise he’d have already clobbered him. Homicide eventually crashes and burns on a TOPE SUICIDA attempt, which leads to Corino actually needing help from The Group just to heave him back into the ring. Corino gets a two from that, as Homicide is being gutsy but doesn’t look like he’s got anything left in the tank. Corino locks him in a sleeper and that actually leads to him winning clean, drawing big heel heat in the process.

WINNER: STEVE CORINO
RATING: **1/2

This was fine and was focused on telling a story rather than both men tearing the house down with a great match

We get an Indy staple from this period of the fake “riot” when The Group taunts Homicide post-match. You know it’s a work because Julius Smokes makes his debut to jump the rail. Ah, the Indy Riot, I’ve been involved in a couple over the years and they always seem to work. It’s probably not advisable to do them because it sends the wrong message to the audience, especially when you’re dragging plants out of the crowd to get involved in it. If there had been a real riot then they definitely wouldn’t have shot it this way as it would have left them open to potential lawsuits, and I have a feeling Paul E would have taught Gabe about that seeing as he pretty good knowledge when it came to that subject due to his past experiences.

Our next flashback is Michael Shane and Paul London’s wild match from Unscripted on the 21st of September 2002.

Match Four
Samoa Joe Vs Bryan Danielson

Joe had defeated Dragon in a previous match, so this is the rematch. They trade submissions and counters to start, and it’s as good as you’d expect from two guys with their level of technical expertise. We were at a stage here where “American Dragon” was more of a nickname for Danielson and he instead wrestled under his real name. The ante gets upped after some good grappling when they start throwing some slaps, although Danielson makes the mistake of head butting a Samoan, which ends the usual way for someone who is trying that.

Danielson keeps coming though and shows good sire until Joe trounces him with a Uranage Slam out of the corner. That was a fantastic sequence and it really fired up the crowd. We actually get a ten count knock out tease, but Danielson drags his way up to his feet, only to get power bombed into a Stepover Toehold Facelock. The work has been on point here, with good execution and selling from both men. Danielson just tenaciously keeps fighting and the crowd gets behind him and explodes when he manages to catch Joe with an enziguri.

Joe does a great job of selling that Danielson is managing to gradually break him down, registering every strike just that little bit more, which is really good storytelling. Joe teases coming off the top, but Danielson stops him and superplexes him down before getting a diving head butt for two. Joe replies with stiff MMA Style knees, but gets caught with an inside cradle and that’s enough for three. The debut of Danielson’s world famous small package!

WINNER: BRYAN DANIELSON
RATING: ****

Excellent match with stiff action, good storytelling and a finish that protects Joe whilst also making Danielson look tough and resourceful

We get a handshake post-match, as Corino’s guys are jerks who still follow the code.

Our next flashback is Xavier defeating Low Ki for the ROH Title at Unscripted.

Xavier and his awesome entrance music (The Word by Dope Smugglaz) joins us along with his manager Alison Danger. He insults the crowd and says he’s out here to scout the upcoming match.

Match Five
Winner Gets An ROH Title Shot
Paul London Vs AJ Styles Vs Low Ki

The story here is that Xavier has defeated all three of these guys in Title matches via nefarious means, so they are matching up with one another now and the winner will get another chance to face him. London seems to be the one most over with the crowd, with Ki being a close second.

This one is fast paced innovative action from the opening bell, which makes play by play next to impossible, so I’m not even going to attempt it. It’s great stuff though, as no one is holding anything back and I’ll share some notable highlights below

  • London getting a Shooting Star Press off the top rope to both men on the floor
  • London trying to skin the cat, only to get kicked and bumping down to the floor
  • London doing two rolling Northern Light Suplexes onto AJ into a bridging Blockbuster Slam, only to then get chopped by Ki whilst making the pin
  • Low Ki getting a Pele Kick in order to fight out of AJ’s backflip reverse DDT
  • AJ DDT’ing both men when Ki has London in a Dragon Sleeper
  • Ki destroying London with kicks whilst AJ has him in a wacky submission hold
  • A wacky double submission attempt where Ki puts AJ in a Dragon Sleeper and London then puts him in a neck crank
  • London counter a Ki Krush-Rush into a DDT
  • Ki giving AJ a rana off the top rope right into a London power bomb to pop the crowd huge

It really is one of the most exciting and action packed matches I’ve ever seen, with most of the big spots all landing and some of the strike exchanges being blood pumping stuff. If you want to an insane big spot fest with psychology also included, then this is the way to do it. It blew my mind when I watched it all those years ago and still excites me even today.

Ki tries to give London the Ki-Krusher from the top rope, but London fights him off and we get a three way fight atop the top rope. AJ ends up taking the move from Ki instead, which leads to London following up with the Shooting Star Press, in one of the rare instances where someone steals the win in one of these things and it doesn’t boil my piss because it was so cool.

WINNER: PAUL LONDON
RATING: *****

Exhilarating must-see stuff, even when you take into account the matches that have followed it

There is supposed to be a Scramble Match now so that London has a chance to catch a breather before coming back out to face Xavier for the belt. Xavier is a heel and a coward though, so he wants the match right away whilst he’s fresh and London is knackered. He threatens to not wrestle if he doesn’t get his way, so London agrees and the match is on.

Match Six
ROH Title
Champ: Xavier w/ Alison Danger Vs Paul London

Danger provides a distraction and Xavier attacks, but London fights back, although in a nice touch he’s too tired to deliver his dropkick with the usual back flip. Danger trips London, so Alexis Laree comes down to attack her. Xavier maintains control though and flings London head first into the ring post to draw blood. Xavier may not have been on the same level of the best ROH workers of this era when it came to his in-ring abilities, but his heel work and act was really strong.

London sells the heat well and manages to shift his weight on a super back suplex for two before digging deep and delivering a duo of his usual dropkicks. The Shooting Star Press looks to finish, but Xavier rolls out of the ring to avoid it, so London just dives onto him on the floor for another amazing high spot in a series of them during the past two matches. London gets a Quebrada back inside for two, and Xavier goes low to halt his momentum, drawing real heel from the jaded smark ROH crowd. However, he then gets hoist by his own petard, when Danger trips him by accident.

London tries to dive on Xavier, so Xavier pulls Danger in the way like a good cowardly heel, but London keeps coming and gets him with a moonsault from the metal railings. Xavier begs off Flair style back inside the ring and eats a DDT for two in a great near fall. London heads up, but Xavier cuts him off and goes for a superplex, only for London to fight him off and get the Shooting Star Press. Danger goes to break it up, but sadly her timing is off and Xavier should have really been counted down, which is a shame as the match had been pretty faultless prior to that.

Laree takes the crowds mind off the botch by battering Danger in the ring, which is followed by Xavier laying out London and heading up top for a 450 Splash, which gets two in a fantastic near fall. London gets a desperation roll up for two and tries another, but Xavier rolls through and grabs the tights in the process in order to pick up the three.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: XAVIER
RATING: ****

Excellent match there, with Xavier being a great heel and London being equally great as a gutsy babyface fighting from underneath. Good heat, good near falls and a good heel finish in a company that didn’t normally do them. The crowd wanted a London win, but ROH had other plans and you can’t really say they were wrong when you consider who they eventually went with as Xavier’s successor

Our final flashback is Eddie Guerrero showing up on the 27th of April 2002.

They finish off with clips from a big Scramble match, but there’s not enough of it included to really make it worth reviewing. The one key storyline point is Mikey Whipwreck going heel and joining up with Special K.

In Conclusion

Among the matches cut was one involving The Carnage Crew and also a singles match between CM Punk and CW Anderson, so we got the main meat and potatoes of the show, with three matches being either **** or higher, which makes the TWC cut an easy thumbs up!