Mike Reviews – ROH Epic Encounter (12th April 2003) – Part One

S’up

I thought I’d stick with some classic ROH in the Wednesday slot, and once again we’ll be splitting this show up into 2 or 3 parts depending on how long it is. The big draw for this one is that Dusty Rhodes has come in to back Homicide up in the Main Event. It’s also the first show since Samoa Joe became the ROH Champ, so I think we can expect him to do something as well.

If you’d like an update on the storylines then I suggest heading into my archives and reading the two parts of ROH Night of Champions, which was the show previous to this. Heck, I’ll appreciate the page views if nothing else!

The event is emanating from the Murphy Rec Centre in Philly on the 12th of April 2003

Calling the action are “Chris Lovey” and Ray Murrow

We open up with the big dude who went at it with Slugger on the last show walking into the arena.

Alexis Laree (The future Mickie James) hypes up ROH Tag Champs AJ Styles and The Amazing Red. They will defend the belts against anyone because they are fighting Champions. Paul London interrupts and is disappointed that AJ won the tag belts with Red and not him. London was pretty funny there, and this would appear to be teasing a Heel turn. AJ suggests London find a partner so he can challenge for the belts. London closes with an “I’ll see you in church on Sunday AJ” as the Champs walk away.

Opening Match
The Backseat Boyz (Johnny Kashmere and Trent Acid) Vs Da Hit Squad (Dan Maff and Monsta Mack)

This one got set up on the previous show when DHS took umbrage to some of The Backseat’s comments and faced off with them. This is the first time they’ve actually lowered the lights here in The Murph and it looks better for it. DHS shine on The Backseats to start, and eventually The Backseats have to illegally double up on Maff in order to get some offence in. Maff shrugs that off though and flings both of his opponents around in impressive fashion.

The Backseats decide they’ve had enough and try to leave, but DHS drag them back and the fight continues, with Maff getting a TOPE SUICIDA out onto them. Maff almost overshot that and had an FML look on his face when he got back to his feet. DHS continue to destroy The Backseats but eventually a moment of miscommunication between them allows The Backseats to catch Maff with their T-Gimmick finishing move for three.

WINNERS: THE BACKSEAT BOYZ
RATING: *1/2

Some decent action in there for the most part but it never really felt like it got going

Maff storms off without shaking hands following that whilst The Backseats show some respect to Monsta Mack. Mack leaves following that, which leads to Special K joining us for a rave. For those not au fair, Special K was a bunch of spot monkeys who played the role of spoiled rich kid ravers. Mikey Whipwreck had recently taken over leadership of the group and he cuts a promo, saying he knows what constitutes good tag team wrestling, which leads to him declaring The Backseats as the best tag team in ROH. This brings out The Ring Crew Express of Dunn and Marcos though, who are annoyed because their whole deal is that they are the top tag team in ROH, even though they never win. The Carnage Crew of Loc and DeVito join us next, saying they don’t care about who the best is, they just want a fight. The Backseats have another show to make, but they say they’ll take on the winner of a match between the three teams at a later show.

Match Two
Scramble Match
Special K (Dixie and Hydro) w/ Mikey Whipwreck, Angel Dust, Brian XL, Deranged, Hijinx, Lit, Izzy and Slugger Vs The Carnage Crew Vs The Ring Crew Express

Hydro would be better known today as Jay Lethal, and he probably went on to the most success of all the Scramble crew. Scramble matches are basically an excuse for organised chaos, as everyone hits a series of big moves and high spots. Its light on psychology, but the action is good and the crowd is into it. It definitely won’t be for everyone, but if frantic wild action is your jam then you’ll probably dig this. Eventually the members of Special K not involved in the match hit some moves too and also play the role of bodies to catch the other guys’ dives. Mikey eventually comes in to save his team by hitting The Carnage Crew with Whippersnappers so that Hydro can get the pin.

WINNERS: SPECIAL K
RATING: **

Typical frantic Scramble action

Slugger (Special K’s burly bodyguard) beats up some guys following the match and that leads to the big dude from earlier coming down to the ring for a face off that Special K have to break up. Angel Dust is stupid enough to slap the big guy and ends up taking a Glam Slam.

Match Three
ROH Tag Team Titles
Champs: AJ Styles and The Amazing Red w/ Alexis Laree Vs Mark and Jay Briscoe

This is a rematch from the previous show, where AJ and Red defended the belts against The Briscoe’s in a good match. They are of course some big dives in the early going, with The Briscoe’s even missing stereo ones at one stage, leading to the Champs getting stereo criss-cross ones in a really cool spot. It’s all action for the most part, and it’s a lot of fun too, with it being more of a tornado match than a straight up tag team clash.

Things do eventually settle into a more traditional tag team match, and the action continues to be good, with lots of nicely executed moves and a continued growth in the chemistry between The Champs, as they continue to look more and more like a team with every outing. The Briscoe’s are able to cut Red off via a blind tag though, and that leads to them working some heat on him for a bit. As it’s a Briscoe’s match the heat involves them doing a lot of MOVEZ, but the moves themselves look good and that’s the sort of match this sort of crowd enjoys.

Eventually it’s hot tag AJ and that’s really good, as he hits a series of big moves and looks great in the process. We of course get some near falls with all four guys going at it, including an incredible one where Red jumps off Mark’s chest whilst AJ has him in a Burning Hammer position in order to catch Jay with a Complete Shot. That was absolutely wild! AJ continues to up the ante by giving Mark the Styles Clash on the floor,  which allows Red to finish off Jay back inside the ring with a standing Shooting Star Press.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: AJ & RED
RATING: ***1/4

Another good outing between these two teams, with some of the double teams and high spots at the end being absolutely nuts

Strangely we don’t stick around to see if we get the handshake and it’s straight to the next match.

Match Four
BJ Whitmer Vs CM Punk w/ Colt Cabana

If this is the match I’m thinking of then it got talked about a lot in the early days of ROH due one particular big spot. Whitmer was doing the Pure Wrestler gimmick at the time and having many gruelling bouts with Matt Stryker, whilst Punk was entrenched in a bloody feud with Raven, although he hadn’t gone as far as to fully reveal why he hated him so much yet. Despite being a self-satisfied Heel jerk, Punk still believes in the Code of Honour and shakes hand, which was an interesting little addition to his character.

Trinity joins us to do Raven’s sitting in the corner pose prior to the bout starting and then gets in Punk’s face before diving out onto Cabana. Cabana catches her and drags her to the back though. I wonder how much Trinity got paid to make that cameo? This is another match that starts quickly, with Whitmer diving out onto Punk in an impressive move for a guy his size, and it looks like the back of his head bounced off the floor for good measure. Ooof, that did NOT look fun.

Punk cuts Whitmer off with a springboard dropkick back inside and starts working some heat. Whitmer sells it well and Punk looks good on offence, hitting some good moves and showing off some strong character work. Punk decides he’s going to try and use a table, just to be a jerk I guess, and sets it up outside. Punk tries to powerbomb Whitmer through the table Mike Awesome style, but he loses his grip and has to modify it into a back breaker instead in a pretty good save. Whitmer slips out of another powerbomb attempt, but Punk knees him in the head right after for two.

Whitmer keeps trying to make a comeback, but Punk manages to keep cutting him off again by targeting his head each time. They’re telling a decent story here actually, with Whitmer looking resilient even though he can’t manage to get a foothold in the match and Punk looking like a keen tactician who can keep his opponent off his game. Whitmer manages to get a series of elbow shots and looks to have finally gotten back to level pegging, only for Punk to gouge his eyes and throw him out of the ring.

I love that as it shows off Punk’s hypocrisy that as finally as it looked like he was going to lose a fair fight he decided to try something underhanded to reassert his grip on the match. Whitmer keeps coming though and they fight on the apron, leading to Punk giving Whitmer a German Suplex off the apron through the table in a brutal looking bump and the ref throws the match out due to neither man being able to continue.

NO CONTEST
RATING: ***3/4

I really enjoyed this match and that finish was often talked about on the DVD releases that followed it, with the commentary team always referencing it as one of the better matches from 2003. It’s a good example of how effective ROH was at making moments like this count, as even I as someone who had never seen it before kind of knew it was coming because they’d hyped it up so often that it had become part of the company’s lore. The match itself was great, with lots of good wrestling and a good story being told as well, with Whitmer fighting from underneath throughout the bout but never giving up and Punk realising he had to pull out the Hail Mary big move at the end because he just couldn’t put him away, only for it to backfire and lead to him taking himself out in the process. It’s the rare occasion of a non-finish actually making both guys in the match look better without ripping off the fans due to how devastating the final move looked.

Referees and medics attend to both men following the match, with even some of the wrestlers coming out to help including ROH Champ Samoa Joe.

Match Five
Homicide Vs Christopher Daniels w/ Alison Danger

Homicide was feuding with Steve Corino at the time, who was himself feuding with Daniels, so this is the two rivalries intersecting. This one is JIP, with Homicide working a chinlock, which is odd for an ROH show as you’d think they’d want to show the entirety of this being that it’s a big match between two of the main stars of the promotion. Daniels breaks out of the hold and gets an enziguri for a double down. I’m not sure how much they’ve cut out of this, but the fact they’re doing double down spots would suggest they cut quite a bit.

The action is mostly good, with Homicide catching a Daniels kick and going to a Step-over Toe-Hold Face-lock at one stage, but Danger provides a distraction of the ref so Homicide has to break the hold and that allows Daniels to get back into the match. These two don’t seem to have a lot of chemistry together actually, with their timing being a bit off here and there. They are certainly working hard though and that comes across, so you can’t complain about the effort levels, I think they just don’t seem to be clicking for whatever reason.

Things pick up in the closing stages, with both men getting some nice near falls. Most of this has been back and forth, and it’s been more enjoyable the longer it’s gone. It’s a bit Japanese in that respect actually, and outside of the bit with Danger, Daniels hasn’t really cheated or anything, he’s just traded moves and mostly held his own. Homicide gets a Lariat at one stage and Daniels gets The Angel’s Wings, but neither is able to get the wrestler in question the win. Eventually Homicide catches Daniels with a flash pinning hold and that’s enough for three.

WINNER: HOMICIDE
RATING: **3/4

Picked up a bit after a tricky start

The commentators put over that wins can happen at any time in ROH, whilst Homicide tries to shake hands with Daniels. Daniels thinks about it, but before we can get an answer we are joined by CW Anderson, Samoa Joe and Jack Victory (High Spot!) who lay both men out. Dan Maff joins us and makes the save, sending Joe packing with a big boot. Daniels and Maff face off following that, but Daniels rips Maff’s shirt off to reveal that Maff has joined The Prophecy, so he was there to help Daniels and not Homicide. This was a pretty big angle at the time, as Da Hit Squad had been all about respect and now Maff has joined a group that is literally trying to tear down the Code of Honour.

That’s intermission and a good place to end Part One I think. I’ll hopefully see you all next Wednesday and we’ll close the review out there I think.