These ROH reviews don’t tend to do very well, but I’ve had this one hand written for a VERY long time so I thought I might as well type it up so it didn’t end up being a wasted effort.
This was actually the first ROH show I ever bought, as I’d heard about the company but had never watched a full event before. I picked this tape up from Extreme Central UK, which was a store in Manchester that sold all kinds of wrestling and MMA stuff, including old copies of the Wrestling Observer and Pro-Wrestling Torch.
The VHS tape of this show really got me hooked on the ROH product and came around at a good time for me because I was starting to get disenchanted with WWE and having a different wrestling company to watch really helped rejuvenate my wrestling fandom.
This show is Main Evented by Samoa Joe, with the likes of Low Ki, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels on the under card, so there should be a healthy collection of fun matches.
We’ll split this up over 2-3 weeks, because the kids dig the episodic content I believe.
The event is emanating from The Murphy Rec Centre in Philly on the 22nd of March 2003
Calling the action are “Chris Lovey” and Ray Murrow
Steve Corino cuts a promo in a Japanese shower. He says he doesn’t care about Homicide or Low Ki and dares The Prophecy stable to do something to ignite a war between him and his faction.
Jody Fleisch is in the locker room with the rest of the Special K faction. He has a match with Low Ki tonight and has decided he needs to take it seriously, so he won’t be doing any drugs tonight. Mikey Whipwreck demands that metal music be played, which he enjoys but the rest of his stoned stablemates hate.
The Prophecy stable of FWA Champ Christopher Daniels, ROH Champ Xavier and Alison Danger cut a promo. Daniels says that both he and Xavier will successfully defend their respective belts tonight. Daniels even ups the stakes in his match with Doug Williams by saying that, if Doug can win, Daniels will allow Doug to start shaking hands in ROH again (He had previously lost a match to Daniels which meant he lost the right to shake hands). His reasoning for the extra stipulation is that he thinks it will put too much pressure on Doug and Doug will fold as a result. Xavier meanwhile uses roundabout logic as to why he will defeat Samoa Joe. You see, Joe lost to Low Ki and Xavier defeated Low Ki, so that means Xavier will win. Xavier cheated outrageously in order to defeat Ki of course, but we’ll ignore that. Danger challenges Corino to bring it, and Daniels adds that The Prophecy are ready for The Group. Once the promo “ends” the camera stays on all three of them and Daniels checks that Xavier is really sure about this Samoa Joe thing.
Matt Stryker Vs BJ Whitmer Vs Alex Arion Vs Dixie w/ Hijinx and Lit
Stryker and Whitmer were both doing the Pure Wrestler thing at the time and they would have quite a few matches together. Arion is, in the words of Bryan Alvarez, “just a feller” but he’s solid enough in the ring. Dixie is a member of Special K, who are a stable made up of the kids of rich parents who spend their time doing drugs and being antisocial. As a result of this, Dixie refuses to shake hands with everyone else at the start of the match.
Whitmer and Stryker open up with some nice technical wrestling together, which ends in the Central American Stand-off for the expected golf clap from the crowd. There’s actually a good dynamic between the four guys, as Dixie is more about high-flying and Arion is more about doing high-impact moves, which means this works well as an opener. Everyone gets a chance to shine, with the match being one of those matches where two guys wait on the apron whilst the others wrestle in the ring.
Arion and Dixie both cross body one another at the same time, which leads to Stryker and Whitmer both getting tags, and they trade strikes with one another whilst also making sure to keep the other two competitors at bay. The action is good fun and we of course take a sojourn down Finisher Madness™ Avenue, where everyone comes in to hit a signature move for a near fall. They don’t go OTT with the big moves, but they hit some nice stuff and the crowd digs it. Stryker looks to have it won with an ankle lock on Arion but Dixie breaks it up, only to then take an Exploder Suplex from Whiter for the pin.
WINNER: BJ WHITMER
A decent opener that hit the beats it needed to and warmed up the crowd
Mikey Whipwreck had recently gone Heel to take over the leadership of Special K, and he distracts Los hermanos Máximo and Quiet Storm (who were all guys he trained) so that Special K can jump them to set up the next match.
Angel Dust, Izzy and Deranged Vs Quiet Storm and The Spanish Announce Team (Joel & Jose Maximo)
These “Scramble” matches were all about high spots, as everyone takes turns to hit big moves and dives. It’s pretty light on psychology, but it’s good frantic fun for the most part and these matches have their place as a palette cleanser. The crowd loves the match for the most part and reacts to all the big moves. Most of the spots land, but there is a terrifying moment where The S.A.T almost kills Angel Dust with a Cutter off the second rope. Eventually Mikey decides he will have to take matters into his own hands and lays out all three of his students with Whippersnapper’s so that Special K can pick up the win.
WINNERS: SPECIAL K
As someone who was new to ROH and the “indie” style in general, this match blew my mind when I saw it all those years ago. It’s still a really fun spot fest in my opinion, but your own personal mileage may vary depending on how much you like this style of match. I didn’t even mind the finish as Special K are supposed to be Heels who you hate, so winning so cheaply works for their characters and the feud had only just started, so they needed to get a bit of heat on the babyfaces.
Special K’s big suit wearing bodyguard Slugger gets into the ring to beat up Quiet Storm post-match, which leads to another big bloke in a suit coming down to the ring to confront him. Special K drags Slugger away before he can fight with the new guy. I have no idea who that other guy was and I’m not sure if this really went anywhere, but he looked like a slimmed down Viscera.
Meanwhile, Julius Smokes is yelling at Gabe Sapolsky in the crowd and security has to intervene.
The Ring Crew Express (Dunn & Marcos) Vs The Backseat Boyz (Trent Acid and Johnny Kashmere)
Dunn & Marcos were guys on the ring crew who spent most of their time getting whomped in the tag division. The Backseat Boyz are from other Philly based wrestling company CZW and they started taking regular bookings in ROH for a while after first being promoted as an “outside” team who would challenge the ROH teams. Dunn & Marcos cut a deliberately lame promo before the match starts, saying they are going to rock the Backseat Boyz like a hurricane, which earns them laughter and derision from their opponents.
This is mostly a showcase for The Backseat Boyz, as they take the lion’s share of the match and use it as a chance to hit some of their nice tandem offence and double teams. They work the match as a Tornado one without tags, which the refs seems happy with for whatever reason. Dunn & Marcos do get a bit of a flurry and the crowd likes them, especially when they tease the upset with stereo roll up’s for two. Eventually though The Backseat Boyz win when they get their “T-Gimmick” finisher on Marcos onto Dunn for three. The move is kind of a crucifix powerbomb where both members of the team grab one of the opponent’s arms before lifting them up for the move.
WINNERS: THE BACKSEAT BOYZ
That worked well enough for what they were going for. Dunn & Marcos got a bit of a flurry so that it wasn’t a total squash whilst The Backseat Boyz got to pick up a win and showcase their move-set
Trent Acid grabs a mic following that and says that they are going to treat ROH as their home going forwards and that they want to win the ROH Tag Titles. The camera follows them to the backstage area where Da Hit Squad of Mack and Mafia take umbrage to their hubris. In a nice touch, Doug Williams has to walk past the four guys in order to make his entrance for his match and the camera follows him out through the entrance way.
Champ: Christopher Daniels w/ Alison Danger Vs Doug Williams
The FWA was a British based company that ROH worked with occasionally and Daniels had won their top belt, so Doug has now chased him to America in order to win it back. The #1 contender trophy is on the line here as well, with the idea being that Daniels wants to win it and then just defend it like a Title so that no one can use it to challenger Xavier. Doug out wrestles Daniels to start, doing some nice stuff in the process.
European styled technical wrestling is very much my jam, so I love watching Doug do his thing and I’m glad that Zack Sabre Jr is still doing it at the top level. Daniels has to switch to punches and kicks in order to regain a foothold, which is a nice storytelling point as it means that Daniels has essentially forfeited the technical wrestling battle.
Both men target a part of the other’s anatomy to work over, with Doug going after Daniels’ head and neck in order to weaken it for his Chaos Theory finisher, with Daniels going after Doug’s mid-section in order to slow the more muscular man down. As you would expect from both men, their offence looks good and their selling is top notch. They actually have the injured body parts play into the match’s story as well, with Daniels stopping a Doug comeback attempt at one stage with a quick shot to the gut.
Daniels does that a few more times, and even applies an abdominal stretch at one stage (although Gorilla Monsoon would likely have complained that he wasn’t applying it properly). Doug busts out some Jun Akiyama styled jumping knees at one stage and then takes Daniels down with a clothesline for a double down. Doug makes the comeback following that and gets a Fisherman’s Buster for two before busting out his swinging Revolution DDT move. However, Doug’s injured mid-section delays him in making the cover right away, and the delay allows Daniels to kick out. I love that as it pays off all of the psychology and also protects the move.
Daniels catches Doug with a Complete Shot for two and then goes to drag Doug into position for the BME, only for Doug to catch him in a cross face for a submission tease, with it once again paying in to all of the work on the body part. Daniels survives that and manages to get the BME soon after, but Doug kicks out at two. They’ve built this match really well and there’s been some great wrestling. Daniels tries a Koji Clutch next, but Doug applies a cravat hold to fight out of it, in another call back to all the body part work.
Doug gets a spinning Cobra Clutch and then heads to the top rope for the Bomb Scare Knee Drop, but Danger puts Daniels’ leg on the rope at two. This would normally lead to Daniels getting the win, but when he tries The Angel’s Wings Doug is able to block it and then manages to successfully deliver The Chaos Theory, and with all the work on Daniels’ neck throughout the match the three count is a formality.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: DOUG WILLIAMS
Now that Doug can shake hands again he shakes the hand of a knocked out Daniels in a funny moment.
CW Anderson, Samoa Joe and Simply Luscious join us. They are all members of Steve Corino’s Group. CW challenges Julius Smokes to get in the ring but Jack Victory attacks him before he can. Homicide and Da Hit Squad run down for the rescue and that leads us into a match.
The Group (CW Anderson, Samoa Joe and Jack Victory) w/ Simply Luscious Vs Homicide and Da Hit Squad (Dan Maff and Monsta Mack)
Michael Shane was originally supposed to be in this but he isn’t here so Victory is subbing for him. Joe and Maff go at it in the ring and Maff actually wins that battle, but a Victory cheap shot puts a stop to that and he drags him out of the ring. This one is a wild brawl with no tags and everyone just goes at it. It’s pretty sloppy in places but it’s also got some good energy to it. It works as a change in pace from the previous high-flying and technical heavy bouts.
Things get a bit hard to follow, as Corino’s buddy Guillotine Le Grande is apparently out there too and Becky Bayless ends up getting dragged over the railing into the fight by Luscious. Homicide doesn’t like that however and he takes out Luscious (Corino’s girlfriend) with the Brain Breaker inside the ring in order to heat that issue up further. CW goes after Homicide following that and we get a lame no contest finish when the referee throws it out following a Spine Buster on a metal bin.
This was an aimless brawl that was more of an angle than a match
Homicide’s crew come down to rescue him following that, with one of them even brandishing a machete!
It’s intermission following that, so I think that will probably be a good place to stop for this edition. Please join me next week for Part Two, where we will likely finish things up depending on how long the remaining bouts are.