Mike Reviews – ROH Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies (16th August 2003) – Part One

Welcome back to another ROH Wednesday!

The big match on this half of the show will likely be Matt Stryker and BJ Whitmer going at it, as Stryker got a big win on the previous show against Justin Credible whilst Whitmer had a darn fine World Title match with Samoa Joe. There’s also a match scheduled between Christopher Daniels and Xavier, as The Prophecy EXPLODES!

The event is emanating from Fairfield, CT on the 16th of August 2003

Calling the action are “Chris Lovey” and Ray Murrow

We open up with a Raven promo. He says that he didn’t attack Lucy on the previous show, even though a note was left with song lyrics that he also happens to have a tattoo of on his arm. He does concede that he thinks Lucy getting taken out was funny, but it’s got nowt to do with him guvnor. He then cuts a good promo hyping up his upcoming cage match with CM Punk.

Rob Feinstein is talking to the cameraman, but CM Punk storms in angry that Lucy got attacked. Oman Tortuga and Diablo Santiago interrupt, so Punk beats them up and then demands that Feinstein find out who attacked Lucy.

Special K is hanging out backstage. Deranged says that they need more women in their faction, which leads to them inviting Alexis Laree to join. She chews them out and then fronts up to Becky Bayless when she tries to spike her drink. They’ll be wrestling one another tonight.

Opening Match
Prince Nana Vs Homicide

This looks like it was supposed to be Nana taking on someone else, but Homicide doesn’t want to wait till later to fight Steve Corino and comes down to call him out. Guillotine Le Grand comes down to the ringside area to confirm that Corino is in the building but he’ll be out when he’s ready and he isn’t going to do this by Homicide’s schedule.

Nana wants a match with Homicide seeing as Homicide is here and his originally scheduled opponent got beaten up by Punk earlier. Nana actually gets a flurry on Homicide to start, hitting him with some big power moves including a BIG BOI running back senton splash. Homicide fights back though and gets some big moves of his own, including a dive to the floor.

Nana gets enough offence here that it isn’t a squash and he doesn’t look too bad in the match itself either. It’s kind of nice of Homicide that he gives Nana as much as he does to be honest considering he is so much further up the card than Nana is. Nana does eventually lose to a Step-over Toe-hold Face-lock, but he wasn’t disgraced in the match itself.

WINNER: HOMICIDE
RATING: *1/2

Not bad for a quick match to open up the show

Homicide cuts a further promo following the match and shows Nana some grudging respect for having the guts to face him. Feinstein comes down to let Homicide know that Corino will be out later, meaning that Homicide is going to have to wait. Gary Michael Cappetta comes into the ring to try and calm Homicide down and then flees before Homicide can kick his butt for good measure. This was a good open to the show actually and was refreshing as something a bit different.

Loc and DeVito of the Carnage Crew are backstage. DeVito says he had to miss the previous show in Dayton because he had to work, and then his wife bugged him all night when he got home anyway. Loc complains about Special K cheating him out of a win on that show. They hype up the Scramble match for later by talking about how much they hate the other teams. Not a great promo but it got the point across.

Match Two
Dunn & Marcos Vs The Purists (John Walters and Tony Mamaluke)

This match is clipped, either because it wasn’t that good or because they were running out of time. This show clocks in at just under 3 hours, so I’m guessing it was the latter and they wanted to make sure they could squeeze everything in. Normally I’d be annoyed at a match getting cut down in order to fit in all the storyline stuff, but the storyline stuff they do in ROH is actually interesting to me and a selling point for the show, and this is ultimately an under card match designed to give The Purists a clean win, so if you were going to cut anything it might as well have been here. The Purists still get over from the amount of match shown.

WINNERS: THE PURISTS
RATING: N/A

Dan Maff cuts a promo backstage to hype his match up with Low Ki later on. It’s a bit of a rambling promo to be honest and most of the content within it doesn’t really land, but you’ll never learn unless you try sometimes. I think a big issue is the delivery and length, as the delivery doesn’t feel genuine and the promo itself is just too long. Maff hysterically talking about how he wanted to slap his daughter because Low Ki is her favourite wrestler doesn’t really feel that earned either as this isn’t a big enough issue to really justify a line like that yet.

Match Three
Invitation to The Field of Honour
Matt Stryker Vs BJ Whitmer

The Field of Honour will be a round robin styled tournament like the G1 Climax over in New Japan, with two blocks of four and the winner of each block advancing to the finals. This is a really good match, with it being back and forth to start with both men throwing strikes and working holds on the mat. Whitmer has a big brace on his left leg, so Stryker fires off a Dragon Screw at one stage and starts working the leg over, with Whitmer selling that well.

The crowd treats both men as stars and gets into the match, with some duelling chants even taking place at one stage. Both men even fight outside the ring on more than one occasion, with Whitmer firing off a neck breaker out there in order to get himself back into the match before throwing some stiff kicks with his good leg back inside the ring. This has been a hard hitting believable looking match and it’s gotten over with the crowd.

It’s been an interesting tactical battle actually, with Stryker going after the leg and Whitmer targeting the head and neck following the neck breaker outside the ring. It’s psychology that makes sense and both men have been consistent in their selling, which has really added to things. We get some good near falls with both men coming close to winning and the crowd continues to get into the action.

Stryker manages to deliver a Spicolli Driver off the top rope at one stage, but Whitmer kicks out and some of the Stryker fans are legitimately angry about it. I love it! Stryker tries heading up for something, but Whitmer cuts him off and superplexes him back down for another near fall. Both men end up cleaning the others’ clock with a forearm and that leads to the match going to a time limit draw as they only had 15 minutes to play with.

TIME LIMIT DRAW
RATING: ***1/2

The fans want 5 more minutes following that, which leads to Gary Michael Cappetta joining us in the ring saying the result stands and that both men will now qualify for The Field of Honour due to the draw. Stryker and Whitmer then do some quick mic work where they both say they will win the tournament before shaking hands.

Match Four
Scramble
The Backseat Boyz (Trent Acid and Johnny Kashmere) Vs Special K (Izzy and Dixie) Vs The Carnage Crew (Loc and DeVito) Vs The SAT (Joel and Jose)

This is your usual Scramble match, with it being dedicated to big moves and high spots, whilst psychology and selling are low on the totem pole. As with a few of these Scramble’s there are moments of sloppiness where moves don’t quite land or guys’ timing is off, but in general it’s a fun match that delivers the requisite wild action you would expect and/or want.

The Carnage Crew looks to have it won with a spiked piledriver on Izzy, but the rest of Special K break it up, which isn’t a DQ because it’s a Scramble match. That leads us directly into our crazy dive section of the match, with all the auxiliary members of Special K being there to catch people. Eventually Kashmere goes after Special K member Lit, who isn’t in the match, and that allows Dixie to get a roll up for two.

WINNERS: SPECIAL K
RATING: **

They’re going strong with this Special K push I must say. The match was the usual Scramble chicanery, so if that’s something you like then you will probably like this

Alexis Laree comes right down for the next match.

Match Five
Becky Bayless w/ Special K Vs Alexis Laree

Bayless is someone who was all over the indie scene during this period and eventually got a run in Impact Wrestling too, but I never really got the hype with her to be honest. They work this like a Manager Vs Wrestler match, with Bayless’ only offence coming from when her buddies attack Laree whilst she distracts the ref.

Gabe Sapolsky really seemed to have some pent up frustration towards rich kid ravers because this gimmick feels like he’s trying to purge himself of some real life angst. Wouldn’t be the first time a wrestling promotor/booker used a gimmick on a wrestling show to work through a personal issue of some kind. Heck, Triple H’s original gimmick was Vince McMahon taking an indirect shot at his stuffy Greenwich neighbours by booking a Blue Blooded Snob.

This is kind of a waste of Laree, and she pins Bayless with the first proper wrestling move of the match when she drops her with a Reverse DDT. I would have preferred them to bring in a real wrestler for her to fight, or just leaned into the whole inter-gender thing considering she spent the majority of the match fighting the Special K guys anyway.

WINNER: ALEXIS LAREE
RATING: N/A

More an elongated angle than a match

The Special K dudes now try it on with Laree, but she isn’t interested.

Match Six
Battle of The Prophecy for the #1 Contender Trophy
Xavier Vs Christopher Daniels w/ Allison Danger

Xavier was the ROH Champ whilst in The Prophecy, but he doesn’t seem too pleased with being associated with the faction now and even cuts a promo on Daniels before the match starts. Xavier actually demands that Daniels lay down, which essentially puts Daniels into the babyface role here, which he’s kind of been doing on some of these shows anyway recently, notably when tagging with Raven and taking on The Group.

They work this on the mat a lot in the early going, with both men doing some nice stuff. It’s a nicely built match, with Xavier being the first guy to give up on the technical side of things by throwing a punch, leading to Daniels throwing one of his own. They’ve told a good story here of the two stablemates gradually getting more and more frustrated with one another, leading to a gradually more aggressive bout as a result.

Eventually fists are flying from both men, as this one has completely broken down and now they are outright trying to out-Heel one another in a fun dynamic. We get some bigger moves as the match progresses, including Xavier getting a really impressive looking Moonsault out to Daniels on the floor where he bounced off the ropes first, which gets a big pop from the crowd. I like how they’ve built to the big spots too, as they started it out on the match and have gradually introduced things like dives and big power moves.

Xavier ends up targeting the head and neck of Daniels following that, with the idea to weaken it for his neck breaker finishing move. Daniels sells that well and Xavier busts out some nasty looking strikes and holds to get the psychology across. Daniels replies by going after the mid-section of Xavier, making both men’s tactics clear and adding an additional element of storytelling to the bout. Both men consistently selling the body parts has helped a lot too.

It’s fun seeing Daniels breaking out moves like gut busters and even a spear to stay on the mid-section of Xavier, whilst Xavier cranks in vicious neck twists and delivers stiff enziguri’s to try and make the most of working the head and neck. Daniels even struggles to hit moves at certain points because the head and neck pain makes it too difficult.

They do a great spot where Xavier gets a big 450 Splash off the top, but the ribs delay him making the cover and that allows Daniels to get his foot on the rope to break the count. We get some more near falls, with both men doing an excellent job timing the kick outs. It’s a really fun closing section, with both men trading momentum and the crowd getting into the action. Xavier tries winning it with his feet on the ropes, but the ref sees it and whilst they argue it allows Daniels to get a tights assisted roll up for the three.

WINNER: CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
RATING: ***3/4

Great match there, with good action and consistent storytelling throughout. I like how the finish showed that, regardless of how sneaky and smart Xavier has become during his time in The Prophecy, it is Daniels who is still the master and he was able to squeak out the last gasp win as a result. I had lots of fun with this one

And with that it’s intermission, so I think we’ll bring Part One to an end. Hopefully I’ll see you all next week in the concluding part when ROH Wednesdays continue!