The SmarK DVD Rant for Ring of Honor: Joe v. Kobashi.
Gotta admire them for honesty in the titles.
Anyway, I previously had done a review of the main event on the blog, but I figured that I’d sit down and do the whole show because I wanted to watch the match again, just for kicks. Or in this case, chops.
– Taped from Manhattan, NY
– Your hosts are Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard.
– Colt Cabana v. Claudio Castagnoli.
Colt is still his fun-loving self at this point, so it looks like Homicide has not yet ruined his life. Claudio starts with a wristlock, but Colt takes him down with an armdrag and controls the arm. They dodge each other for a stalemate, but Cabana monkey-flips him and keeps on the armdrags. Claudio catches him with a European uppercut to take over, and throws a seated forearm for two. A quick try at a surfboard submission gets two, and a delayed vertical suplex is unexpectedly reversed to a small package for two when he holds it too long. Oh, nice spot. Claudio keeps coming with the inverted suplex for two, but Cabana dumps him and takes too long with a quebrada attempt, so Claudio heads back in. Cabana charges into the corner with a high knee and a butt-butt in the other corner to set up a lariat for two. Claudio comes back with a spinning neckbreaker for two, but Colt elbows out of another move and sets up to finish. He gets distracted by Homicide’s lackeys, however, and Claudio finishes with the, uh, Ricolabomb.
(Claudio Castagnoli d. Colt Cabana, powerbomb — pin, 7:48, **1/2) A good opener, nothing spectacular. Claudio’s Euro-trash gimmick is fairly interesting, however.
– Matt Sydal v. Christopher Daniels v. Azrieal
Gotta say, as long as the allusion is biblical and not Smurf, Azrieal is right up there with the coolest wrestling names I’ve heard. This is elimination rules, according to the DVD packaging. Daniels gets a big-time star reaction here. Armdrags galore to start and Sydal briefly teams with Azrieal before they turn on each other. Sydal chops on Az in the corner, but gets powerbombed by Azrieal for two. Daniels gets a leg lariat on Az for two, and the crowd is clearly behind Daniels here. Az snaps off a rana on Daniels and goes back to chopping Sydal, and it leads to a nice spot where Daniels monkey-flips Sydal into an Az powerbomb attempt, but then clotheslines both guys to take over. Backbreaker on Sydal and he adds a chop in the corner, but Sydal goes up. Daniels tries to bring him down with a superplex, but Sydal fights him off and launches off Az with a tornado DDT on Daniels for two. A crowd member comments “You fucking suck, Azrieal!” Ouch. Az gets a cobra clutch slam on Daniels to set up a Sydal legdrop for two, and they double-team him. However, that goes badly and Daniels easily comes back with a simultaneous bulldog and clothesline on them. That’s awesome. He kills them with clotheslines and powerbombs Sydal for two. Azrieal takes advantage of the distraction and clotheslines Daniels off the top for two, setting up a guillotine legdrop with Daniels between the ropes. Sydal turns on Az again and gets a leg lariat for two. Daniels bails, so Sydal follows him out with a rana from the apron to the floor, and Az adds a pretty lame pescado onto them. Back in, the kids slug it out and Az gets a leg lariat for two. They head up and Sydal brings him down with a top rope belly to belly to eliminate him at 9:26.
That leaves us with Daniels v. Sydal, and he gets a couple of quick rollups for two, but Daniels PLASTERS him with a lariat. That’s a case where the Jannetty Sell works. Backdrop suplex gets two for Daniels. Death Valley Driver gets two. I like the addition of ramming his back into the turnbuckle, but he should go all Oklahoma Stampede with it and do it into all four. Sydal fights back with chops and an enzuigiri, and a standing moonsault gets two. Sydal goes up with a high cross for two. Rollup gets two. Daniels finishes with the Angel’s Wings to put him away, however.
(Daniels d. Sydal & Azrieal, Angels Wings — pin Sydal, 13:02, **3/4) Azrieal looked totally out of place with those two, and it would have been a better match one-on-one. Finish was kind of out-of-nowhere, too.
– ROH Tag titles: BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs v. Sal Rinauro & Tony Mamaluke
Mamaluke and Whitmer take it to the mat to start, as Whitmer powers out of an armbar and brings in Jacobs. Rinauro comes in as well and gets overpowered and armdragged. He catches an armbar, however, and brings Mamaluke back in for a rollup that gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. He dropkicks the knee and goes after the leg, but then goes to a camel clutch. Sal comes in and Mamaluke dumps him on Jacobs for two. Whitmer comes in and tries a DDT on Mamaluke, but Tony blocks with a choke, so BJ suplexes him into the corner instead. How is Mamaluke not paralyzed yet? Jacobs comes in with a chop off the top and they use the CLUBBING FOREARMS in a comedy spot. Jacobs drops some elbows for two. We learn that tagging someone’s boot is legal, as the champs double-team Mamaluke into jelly and Whitmer powerbombs Jacobs onto him for two. Mamaluke fights him off with a double-knee and makes the tag to Rinauro, who comes in with a flying rana on Jacobs. Back to Whitmer, who hits Sal with a rolling suplex and misses a big boot, but catches a lariat instead. Mamaluke has apparently made a blind tag and comes in kicking, then takes BJ down with an armbar. This turns into a triangle choke, but BJ powers him into the turnbuckle to break. Back to Jacobs, who goes up into Doomsday Device position, and hits Mamaluke with a rana off Whitmer’s shoulders for two. That’s quite the finisher. Whitmer keeps going after Mamaluke, however, and goes up, but Sal dropkicks him to the floor. Jacobs also tries to bring Mamaluke down, but gets powerbombed as a result. Sal gets an enzuigiri and they hit a double-team DDT for the titles? Did not see that coming.
(Sal Rinauro & Tony Mamaluke d. BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs, Rubik’s Cube Driver — pin Jacobs, 13:48, **1/2) This was kind of a meandering match, hovering between comedy and serious, and it didn’t really feel like it had the tag formula that most good tag matches do.
ROH Pure Wrestling title: Nigel McGuinness v. Jay Lethal
Nigel’s arrogant pre-match promo is great stuff. Lethal takes him down with a headscissors to start, but Nigel powers out of it. Another headscissors by Lethal, but Nigel escapes again, and walks away from a chop attempt. Can’t blame him. Nigel takes him down with an armbar and slugs away, blocking chops at the same time, and takes him down again with a neck vice. They trade stuff out of a knucklelock and Lethal bicycle kicks him and follows with chops, before Nigel takes him down with a leglock. Lethal resists the temptation to use up a rope break and fights out, then pounds him with forearms in the corner. He whips Nigel into the corner, where he does a headstand and mulekicks Lethal after luring him into a blind charge. Lethal bails and recovers before heading back in. Nigel goes to work on the arm with a single-arm DDT and hangs him in the Tree of Woe, and then kicks him in the back when he pulls himself up. NASTY. Lethal escapes another attempt and this time avoids the headstand kick by chopping him down. Spinebuster and he blocks a blind charge, following with a leg lariat on Nigel for two. Nigel avoids a dragon suplex, but Lethal gets a backdrop suplex anyway and goes up with a diving headbutt for two. A superkick sets up a leglock submission by Lethal, forcing Nigel to use a rope break. However, Nigel uses his trusty iron behind the ref’s back for the pin.
(Nigel McGuinness d. Jay Lethal, iron — pin, 10:59, ***) Match was nothing special, but Nigel is going to be a superstar once the WWE steals him.
– Jimmy Rave v. Roderick Strong
Prince Nana’s valet-on-a-leash routine cracks me up. Rave dodges Strong to start and grabs a headlock, and they trade chops in the corner. Strong wins that one, sending Rave to the floor. Back in, Rave goes to the headlock again and stays on that, but Strong suplexes out of it and whips him into the corner. A couple of more of those and Rave bails, so Strong baseball slides him into the railing and adds another chop. Nana distracts him, however, and Rave sends him into the railing to take over. Back in, a suplex gets two. Rave adds a Brutus Beefcake stomp and a neckbreaker for two, and he goes into a neck vice. Strong comes back with a crossbody for two, but Rave hits a lariat to the back of the neck to slow him up, and gets two. Choking sets up another neckbreaker for two. Roderick fights back with forearms, but Rave takes him down with a legsweep into a submission, which gets two. Strong fights out with chops and a backdrop, and a dropkick gets two. Backbreaker sets up a Boston Crab, but Rave makes the ropes. Sunset flip is blocked by Rave, but Strong reverses for two. A uranage variation of the backbreaker puts Rave down, and a big boot gets two for Strong. Running forearm into a backbreaker gets two. Another one is reversed by Rave and he spears Strong, into a Snow Plow for two. Nana throws a chair in, but Strong gets the gutbuster into the Stronghold (ha!) to finish.
(Roderick Strong d. Jimmy Rave, Boston Crab — submission, 13:43, ***) I really like the psychology of Strong shown here, which we never see in TNA. Instead of just being the guy who does backbreakers, here he does them to soften the back and get an easy submission from a back-related submission move.
Ricky Reyes v. Pelle Primeau
This would be the standard post-intermission ROH nothing match. Seems like it’ll be a squash. Reyes kicks him down to start and gets a backdrop suplex, into a demon bomb and choke to finish.
(Ricky Reyes d. Pelle Primeau, chokehold — submission, 0:50, DUD)
James Gibson v. Jimmy Yang.
This being the debut for Yang and the swan song for Gibson would seem to telegraph the finish, but you never know with Gabe. Some of the fans prematurely shoot their streamers for this match, which is pretty Freudian, I suppose. They fight over a lockup to start and Gibson takes him down, and they reverse until it’s a stalemate. They fight over a wristlock and Yang takes him down with a headlock, and they work off that. Yang holds on to frustrate him, but Gibson reverses to a rollup for two. Gibson starts working on the arm, but Yang spinkicks him in the corner to break. Nice armdrag sequence from Gibson, however, sets up a neckbreaker for two. Legdrop gets two, and he keeps Yang on the ground with a headscissors. Yang fights out and gets a SWEET kick combination for two, and now it’s his turn to go after the arm.
Gibson fights out and dumps Yang, then follows with a suicide dive, sending both guys into the front row. Given that the railing is about a foot away from the ring, that’s not hard, but still. Back in, Gibson comes off the top, and Yang catches him with a spinkick. Superkick gets two. They trade pinfall attempts and do the Flair sequence before clotheslining each other for a double KO. Gibson recovers first with a high knee and backdrop, into a spinebuster for two. Yang comes back with a moonsault press for two and another spinkick, and he goes up again. Yang Time misses and Gibson DDTs him into an awkward attempt at the tiger bomb which he turns into a choke, but Yang rams him into the corner to escape. Another crack at Yang Time hits, but only gets two. Back up again, but Gibson brings him down and powerbombs him into the corner, and another powerbomb gets two. I would have sworn that was the finish, but the choke ends up doing it.
(James Gibson d. Jimmy Yang, guillotine choke — submission, 15:49, ***1/2) Good exit for Gibson before going on to the much more gratifying role of being one-half of The Pitbulls on the most boring wrestling show on TV.
Homicide v. Jack Evans
They trade wristlocks to start and Evans showboats on the escape, which Homicide mocks him for. Homicide takes him down with a monkey-flip, and Evans returns the favor, but neither can take advantage. Homicide dances and the crowd chants “You Got Served” in a funny moment. Evans sends him out with a headscissors and follows with a somersault tope. Back in, running knee gets two, but Homicide hits him with a backbreaker and t-bone suplex for two. Evans catches a rana for two, but Homicide clotheslines him down again and gets a half-crab. Nice bit of dickery as he yanks on Evans’ hair and makes his head touch his foot until the ref breaks it up. Into the Tree of Woe for a sliding dropkick from Homicide, which he follows with a guillotine legdrop. Blind charge hits boot and Evans tries to come back, but he walks into a swinging DDT from Homicide that gets two. Blind charge misses, however, and Evans goes up, but Homicide crotches him right away. Evans recovers with a 450 butt splash for two. That could have ended badly for someone. Homicide bails and gets dropkicked into the front row as a result, and Evans follows with a springboard senton. Back in, Evans gets caught up with the rest of Homicide’s posse, before getting a springboard dropkick on Homicide for two. They head up and Homicide gets an Implant DDT for two. Evans is pretty much dead, but he fights off the Cop Killer, so Homicide takes him down with the Ace Crusher. Homicide lets him up and finishes with the lariat, but doesn’t cover, because Colt Cabana is on the balcony cutting a funny promo against him. This gives Evans the chance to hit an inverted rana and roll him up.
(Jack Evans d. Homicide, rollup — pin, 13:39, **1/2) This was going fine until it just died when Cabana turned it into an angle.
– At this point, the announcers sign off and let us have the live atmosphere.
Samoa Joe v. Kenta Kobashi.
And now, the main event, which is truly one in every sense of the word. Although Joe gets a big reaction, the entrance of Kobashi is like Hulk Hogan coming into the building or something.
Joe throws a kick to start while they lock up, thus annoying fans right off the bat. Once they get to the ropes, he adds a slap, and thus makes it clear who the babyface will be. Another lockup and Kobashi chops him so hard that you can almost feel it through the screen, and they fight over a knucklelock. Joe suplexes out of it and tackles him down, then baseball slides him into the railing and follows with a suicide dive. Back in, that gets two. Elbowdrop gets two. Joe goes to a chinlock, which he turns into a neck vice, so Kobashi makes the ropes to break. He tries throwing some chops in the corner, but that just pisses Kobashi off and he returns fire. Joe goes with kicks instead, a smart move, and knocks him down with an enzuigiri. He adds the short kicks to really rub it in, but that pisses Kobashi off even MORE, so Joe has to knee him in the face to put him down this time. Oh, this is sick and awesome and tremendous. Joe kicks him down and drops a knee, and Kobashi bails.
On the floor, Joe throws him into the railing and follows with the Ole Kick , but he gets sloppy and Kobashi chops him on the second attempt, and then chops him into the front row. That’ll learn him! He adds a DDT on the floor and they head back in for a facelock from Kobashi, but he decides just to chop Joe instead. How does he do that shit without taking off skin? Running knees and the big chop to the chest follow, for two. Back to the facelock, which he tries to turn into a suplex, but Joe reverses to his own. Kobashi keeps throwing chops, so Joe keeps kicking, and when that doesn’t work, they get into the nastiest chopfest ever. The sweat flying off is one of those images you don’t forget. Joe loses that one and Kobashi gets two. Abdominal stretch for Kobashi, but Joe makes the ropes. Kobashi gives him another chop for two. He goes to a neck vice and chops him on the bridge of the nose for good measure.
Joe blocks the spinning chop and takes him down with a uranage, and a senton follows as he makes the comeback after all the abuse. He throws chops in the corner and goes for a powerbomb, but Kobashi fights him, so he powerbombs him into the turnbuckle instead. Facewash time! Muscle Buster gets two as the crowd freaks out a little bit. Joe throws some UFC-style knees to the head and tries the choke, but Kobashi escapes, so he powerbombs him instead for two and turns it into the STF. This leads to one of the most awesome sequences of the match, as Kobashi looks likely to tap and the crowd chants “Please don’t tap.” Then every time he makes it to the ropes, Joe cuts off another body part and makes it look like he’ll tap. Finally he stretches his foot over and forces the break. Joe thinks it over and goes with a charge, but Kobashi chops him into a half-nelson suplex for a double-KO. And now, the most awesome sequence of the match, as Joe struggles to the corner and Kobashi absolutely destroys him with chops, throwing upwards of 70 of them and turning Joe’s chest into hamburger. He keeps throwing chops to knock Joe down and out, then adds another suplex for two, as Joe grabs the ropes on instinct to break.
Joe makes one more comeback attempt, but runs into a sleeper, which Kobashi turns into a suplex that should have finished in any other universe. Joe is done and Kobashi is all fired up, but Joe fights back with chops until Kobashi schools him with his own and ends the suffering with a lariat.
(Kenta Kobashi v. Samoa Joe, lariat — pin, 22:15, *****) Even with the insane amounts of hype that it had going on and the reputation it has gained since then, I was still not disappointed. It was a great battle of manly stoicism between two guys who just let it all hang out for the fans and beat each other into hamburger as a result. The crazy stuff like Kobashi’s million chops in the corner, where you think that he’s going to stop and then he picks up the pace again, were amazing. And the crowd reaction was one of the most rabid I’ve ever heard, especially when they started freaking out with Kobashi in the STF/crossface sequence, trying to figure out how he can make the ropes. And the finish was tremendous too, with Joe throwing everything he had at Kobashi and not being able to beat him, and then Kobashi just patiently beating Joe into unconsciousness and getting the pin. Tremendous stuff, and a ***** match for sure. It was like what a great heavyweight title fight would translate to in wrestling terms, basically.
While the rest of the show was largely forgettable, the DVD is worth the purchase for the main event alone, which is probably why they called it “Joe v. Kobashi.”
Highest recommendation for the main event.