Mike Reviews – ROH Retribution: Round Robin Challenge 2 (26th April 2003) – Part One

ROH Wednesday’s Continue!

Last week we concluded our review of The Epic Encounter (Check the archives if you haven’t read that one and are feeling generous to this humble scribe) and now we move on to the next show in the form of Round Robin Challenge 2.

The first Round Robin Challenge had one of the best matches in the early history of ROH with Bryan Danielson and Low Ki going at it. This time we’ve got Christopher Daniels, Paul London and The Amazing Red competing. They’ll all wrestle each other once, and the person with the best record overall will win the challenge.

We’ll split this one into two parts as per usual

The event is emanating from West Mifflin, PA on the 26th of April 2003

Calling the action are “Chris Lovey” and Ray Murrow

We open up with a promo from The Prophecy faction of Christopher Daniels, Donovan Morgan and Allison Danger. Daniels says that the last time they were in this town The Prophecy got hammered and they never really recovered from it. However, tonight they are going to start turning things around so that they can get some retribution. Steve Corino’s Group is in their crosshairs. They introduce Dan Maff, who joined on the last show. He says he isn’t going to be following the Code of Honour anymore, because it didn’t get him anywhere.

Opening Match
Round Robin Challenge Match #1
Christopher Daniels w/ Allison Danger Vs The Amazing Red

Red is currently one half of the ROH Tag Champs with AJ Styles, and they actually took those belts from The Prophecy so Daniels is looking for some payback as well as picking up some points. Daniels does the cocky Heel shtick in the early going where he takes Red lightly, and that goes exactly how you would expect with Red eventually using his speed to shine on Daniels and show him up. Daniels eventually manages to turn him inside out with a clothesline though and takes over. That was an outstanding bump and sell job from Red there; it looked like the move destroyed him.

Danger gets some cheap shots in when the opportunity allows, because The Prophecy’s whole thing is that they don’t follow the rules in a company where you’re supposed to. It’s funny how classic Heel tactics carry even more weight in a place where you don’t see them as often. Red makes the comeback and looks really good, including getting a springboard Complete Shot at one stage, but Daniels manages to block a rana and takes him down with an Enziguri for two. The action has been very good here and the crowd has dug it.

They actually do a submission tease when Daniels puts Red in a modified cravat, but Red manages to fight out, only to then get caught in a sleeper straight after, as they’re telling a good story here of both men putting their own strategies against one another in an effort to pick up the win. Red has shown he isn’t just a spot monkey either, as the match has been structured well and he’s sold consistently throughout. It’s been the classic quicker babyface Vs more technically proficient Heel and it’s hit the spot for the most part.

We get some near falls, with Red getting a really nice Trouble in Paradise kick at one stage, only for Daniels to kick out and then hit the Space Tornado Ogawa followed by the Best Moonsault Ever for two. They haven’t gone completely nuts here either, so as to save some other stuff for later in the show. It’s been a hot opener and the crowd has gotten into it. Daniels eventually cheats once again by shoving the ref into the ropes to crotch Red on the top rope before following up with the Roll of the Dice for the three count.

WINNER: CHRISTOPHER DANIELS (1-0-0)
RATING: ***1/2

Some feller called Scott Chong comes down to the ring to be guest timekeeper for the next contest.

Match Two
Da Hit Squad (Steve Mac and Danny Daff) w/ Allison Danger Vs The Second City Saints (Ace Steel and Colt Cabana)

This is the final time that DHS will team together now that Maff is in The Prophecy. Mac and Maff aren’t exactly getting along but they are fulfilling their obligations by working this match as it was already booked before Maff turned. DHS actually control things for most of the early stages despite not entirely being on the same page. Steel and Maff trade some stiff slaps and chops at one stage, which succeeds in firing up the crowd a bit and adds a bit of spice to what has kind of been “just a match” thus far.

SCS run wild on Maff for a bit, but he manages to dodge a Cabana attack and tags in Mac, who runs wild with a series of big power moves before nearly killing Cabana with a Steiner Screwdriver, but Steel makes sure the pin doesn’t go down. This has been more an exhibition of MOVEZ than an actual story based match, although they have added some story elements in with the DHS squabbling. They pay it off with DHS missing their cannonball move in the corner and the SCS get Mac with an assisted Colt 45 for the win.

WINNERS: SECOND CITY SAINTS
RATING: **

This was okay, but it felt a bit disjointed to me at points

Maff leaves Mac alone in the ring following that and trades smack talk with Cabana.

Dunn and Marcos, The Ring Crew Express, say they are going to Rock the Scramble match later like a Hurricane. The Outcast Killaz want some promo time too, and are annoyed that they aren’t scheduled for any.

Match Three
Scramble
EZ Money and Sterling James Keenan Vs The Ring Crew Express (Dunn and Marcos) Vs The Spanish Announce Team (Jose and Joel Maximo) Vs Special K (Brian XL and Hydro) w/ Slugga and Angel Dust

Keenan would be better known by the name Corey Graves these days. We see that the big bloke from the past couple of shows that has been trying to fight with Slugga is sitting in the crowd once again. The announcers reveal that Scott Chong was on Tough Enough and he apparently peed himself on the show? This is your standard Scramble madness; with it being designed primarily to give everyone involved a chance to do big moves and high spots. Tags aren’t required for someone to come in and Hydro gives us our first dive moments in.

As is always the case with this kind of match, if wacky spot fests with little to no psychology aren’t your thing then it’s unlikely you will enjoy this, but if you’re happy to just put your feet up and gawp at the car crash then this will likely be right up your street. It’s pretty sloppy in places, with Brian XL in particular being one of the bigger offenders, but there’s good energy to it and everyone is clearly trying very hard to have an exciting match. EZ Money is probably the star of the match, with all of his stuff looking good with a genuine star aura. Eventually The SAT get the Spanish Fly on Dunn and that’s enough for three.

WINNERS: THE SAT
RATING: **1/2

Typical wild Scramble action, with some sloppiness dragging it down at points, but it was good fun overall for the most part

Slugga tries to do the big beat down again, but the big bloke from the crowd enters into the ring to break that up, but a cheap shot from Angel Dust allows Slugga to lay him out.

Match Four
#1 Contender Trophy
CM Punk Vs Homicide w/ Julius Smokes

Doug Williams is cashing in the trophy for a Title shot later on, so these two are required to wrestle for it here to decide his next challenger. Some guy dressed like Raven comes into the ring to face off with Punk, but Daphne from WCW runs down to attack him. Punk confirms she will now be called Lucy and will be in the Second City Saints going forward, and then targets Raven as that feud will be continuing.

This is on the mat quite a bit in the early going, and it’s decent but they’re not always on the same page at some points. However, even when everything isn’t entirely crisp the match still feels like a genuine contest where both men are actively trying to out wrestle the other in an effort to win, which I appreciate. Punk delivers the Pepsi Twist at one stage and I think this was before it actually had a name as the commentary team has to basically “WHATTA MANUVERR” it.

Lucy actually cheats at one stage by going after Homicide, which isn’t on message for the SCS as they regularly follow the Code of Honour, but the announcers cover for it by saying that Lucy is still new in ROH and doesn’t quite understand the whole “honour” aspect of it yet. The match is mostly back and forth, with both men getting a chance to control things for a bit. They twice go for the Mexican Surfboard but they never quite get it, however they cover for it well enough both times and it still looks like Homicide is putting Punk in a painful hold.

Outside of some timing issues and a few moments where moves/holds haven’t really gone as you’d like from an execution perspective, this has been an enjoyable match, and it’s another one where there’s lots of effort and energy from both men. It’s one of those instances where you brute force your way through the things that go wrong and make the match good by almost force of will. Punk even suplexes Homicide out on the floor at one stage, with Homicide selling it big and taking his time to make it back into the ring.

Homicide mule kicks Punk back inside the ring to get himself back into the match, and then sets Punk up for a big rana off the top for two. That looked great. Punk responds with The Pepsi Plung (a Pedigree off the top rope) but Homicide actually gets to kick out of that in a BIG near fall. That popped the crowd big time and Homicide kicked out at the very LAST second. Homicide responds with a cutter and a Lariat, but that only gets him two, and when he tries another Lariat it gets countered into a DDT for another two.

These near falls have been really good and the crowd has been biting. Homicide nearly kills Punk with a powerslam/Tombstone styled move (with Punk landing mostly on his head) but Punk gets a foot on the ropes to break the count. Punk fights off the Cop Killer (Brain Breaker) and gets a Spicolli Driver, but that only gets a two. Homicide keeps coming though and locks in a Step-Over Toe-Hold Face-Lock, and that’s enough for the submission win.

WINNER: HOMICIDE
RATING: ***

There were some timing issues there and some of the execution was a bit off, but the near falls at the end were great and both men were working super hard to have a good match

Punk shakes hands still following that, because he may be a jerk but at least he believes in the concept of honour.

Match Five
No DQ
Carnage Crew (DeVito, Loc and Masada) Vs Texas Wrestling Academy (Don Juan, Fast Eddie and Hernandez) w/ Rudy Boy Gonzalez

Fast Eddie is legally blind, but still manages to wrestle. I’m guessing he can see a little bit otherwise he’d never get signed off to wrestle by a commission? I’m practically blind without my glasses to be honest (20/20 is the best you can be and I’m something like -7 in both eyes) so maybe he can see but just really poorly and glasses/contacts won’t fix it?

This is a wild brawl, which was the usual modus operandi of the Carnage Crew, with the reason for the match being that the Crew attacked Rudy Boy in New York, so his students are now fighting for his honour. Rudy Boy gets a few cheap shots in and it’s not long before the claret is flowing. Hernandez looks like an absolute beast as per, with a great mix of power moves and high-flying, as continues to look like an absolute sure-thing for stardom in these ROH shows.

This is another match where whether you like it will come down to whether you enjoy this style of wrestling. If bloody brawls are your thing then this will give you everything you’re looking for, with big weapon shots and plenty of plasma. If that style of wrestling is something you dislike though then this match isn’t going to do anything to convert you. I personally find it to be entertaining, but it also has elements to it I really hate such as unprotected chair shots to the head.

Eddie actually rana’s Masada off the top rope through two chairs outside the ring at one stage, and then demands that Hernandez fling him out onto Loc and DeVito in the aisle way. That second spot actually looked safer because Loc and DeVito did their jobs and caught him, whilst Masada got nothing but chair and wooden floor on his bump. DeVito then gets a sickening chair shot in on Hernandez when Hernandez tries and dive, which leads to the second rope piledriver on Eddie back inside for the three count.

WINNERS: THE CARNAGE CREW
RATING: ***

Some of the spots in this were outright terrifying, but it was a suitably wild brawl and all six guys left it all in the ring. Again, this sort of match is an acquired taste and I don’t blame anyone for hating it due to the violence and blood

Rudy Boy chases The Carnage Crew off with a chair post-match, so they head outside and bully Chong at the timekeepers table, mugging him 3 on 1 until Rudy rescues him.

Match Six
Round Robin Challenge Match #2
Paul London (0-0-0) Vs The Amazing Red (0-1-0)

London wears an AJ Styles shirt on his way to the ring, as London was tagging with AJ before AJ teamed up with Red and won the tag belts with him. As a result London isn’t too fond of Red right now, feeling that he usurped him. London looks great here in the early going, working as the bigger man for a change now that he’s in there with Red. Red fights back though, but when he tries a move off the apron London is able to block it and then gives Red a Stun Gun on the guardrails.

London is working this match in a pretty heelish fashion, mugging for the camera and giving off a vibe that he doesn’t respect Red and is taking him a bit lightly. London can actually work that type of match quite well, as despite his classic babyface look he’s got a definite Heel charisma in the way he carries himself. The wrestling is good as well for the most part, with London getting some really neat counters at points, especially when he counters a Canadian Destroyer into a Northern Lights Suplex. London even mocks AJ Styles’ pose at one stage in order to continue to tease a Heel turn.

Red gets a near fall with a Yoshi-Tonic off the top, as the match is starting to pick up. Interestingly though they take it home pretty quickly just as it’s starting to really get going, as London catches Red with a Styles Clash and picks up the three. I kind of like that actually, as they could have gone near fall crazy but these two are probably going to meet again down the line, so it wasn’t the worst idea to leave the fans wanting more and the finish helps continue to tell the story of London being bitter over AJ winning the belts with Red instead of him.

WINNER: PAUL LONDON (1-0-0)
RATING: ***1/4

Good match that felt like it could have kicked into a potentially higher gear but they decided to save that for another day, with the match being more about the story of London slowly morphing into more of a jerk as his dislike for Red intensifies

Red is now out of the running with a (0-2-0) record

London shakes hands following that, but there’s definitely still tension between the two.

Right, I think we’ll conclude Part One there seeing as its intermission now. We’ll pick up the final part next week as ROH Wednesday’s continue!