The Beer & Coffee Rant for AJPW Summer Impact (8/30/14)

The Beer & Coffee Rant for AJPW’s “Summer Impact”
Live from Nagoya, Japan – 8/30/14
[ Click HERE to see the show in it’s entirety without spoilers ]


It’s AJPW’s big show to close out the summer with 4 title matches, including Joe Doering’s first world title defense as the big, nasty American as champion. Plus, it’s LIVE on TV!

SUSHI vs. Yohei Nakajima

Yes, it’s SUSHI. To the Impact
Wrestling fans he’s Kiyoshi. He was actually the All Japan TV Champ as recently
as a couple months ago. Program guide says he’s taking on the 20-year old Naoya
Nomura who wrestled for about a month in April and disappeared after a back
injury. Instead we’re getting a rematch between SUSHI and his former tag
partner Menso-re Oyaji, who unmasked last month and now
goes under his real name Yohei Nakajima. Clean break from Nakajima to start,
but SUSHI goes to the eyes. The action spills to the outside and a tope suicida
from Nakajima sets up a two count. They trade snap mares and stiff kicks to the
back. Nakajima with some more stiff kicks across the chest. Once again to the
outside, and SUSHI gets off a wicked looking somersault plancha. Back in,
Nakajima manages to sink in an octopus variation that even Gorilla Monsoon
would endorse, but gets hip tossed out. He connects with a kick to the running
SUSHI. Vertical suplex and a Cousin Fergal footstomp gets two. SUSHI goes for
the Tekkamaki rollup and
they trade two counts, before he hits the Katsuo no Ipponzuri (fisherman brainbuster)
for three @ 8:27 ** ½ Just a little back-and-forth opener, though Nakajima
certainly had a few chances to pull it out. Would’ve liked to see him get off
to a win streak since ditching the old gimmick (as partners, SUSHI represented
sushi and Oyaji represented Ramen noodles and beer, true story) but this was
fine as an introduction to the character if it remains to be his positioning on
the card.

Winner: SUSHI


Fuchi is in his SIXTIES now and still comes down to Kenny
Loggins’ “Danger Zone”. Spectacular. For North American fans, he also holds the
distinction of pinning Reid Flair in the kid’s last match before his tragic death. For those who never saw Reid in Japan, he was coming along nicely. Think
Charlotte. Aoyagi’s not far behind at 57 and is rocking a sweet purple gi
tonight. Kanemaru & Hijikata start out with some clean chain sequences, and
Aoyagi comes in with some pretty decent strikes for someone who can get a
senior discount. Speaking of, Fuchi tags in and we’re watching two guys go at
it that are combined 117 years old. Kind of mind blowing how aesthetically well
the 55 year old Sting has held up in comparison, but I digress. Fuchi gets his
ass kicked literally, and heads up the aisle to let his buns rest. 57 year old Aoyagi
is really laying those kicks in there. He’s only on TV once or twice a year so
I’m not really familiar with the guy, but fuck, he’s awesome. He takes the belt
off his gi and hangs Kanemaru over the top rope, before tagging out to
Hijikata. Fuchi comes back in and body slams him to a nice pop; the crowd knows
what’s coming. And again with a slam. And a third. And then he slams Aoyagi.
And a second one. Delayed body slam to Hijikata (a 6th one, all
together) as the crowd claps along. Old man Fuchi and his wacky slam fetish.
Kanemaru comes in and it’s time to fly, as he hits a Steamboat Cross Body,
followed up by a jumping DDT from the second rope. Tag in to Fuchi and he hits
a Dropkick (!), plants Hijikata with a belly-to-back, and gets a couple inside
cradles for two. All 4 men brawling in the ring now, and Hijikata gets the cross
armbar for the sub @ 12:15 ** Way more fun than it looked like on paper.

WINNERS: Masashi Aoyagi &
Ryuji Hijikata


DDT World Six-Man Tag Team Championship: Shigehiro Irie, Keisuke Ishii & Soma Takao (c) vs. KENSO, Mitsuya Nagai & Kengo Mashimo

KENSO is the former Kenzo Suzuki. He’s actually pretty great here in AJPW with
the beanie and the sunglasses and his crew Dark Kingdom. He’s also fresh off a
bloody match with Zeus on the last show (not Tiny Lister). Irie, Takao, and Keisuke
(no relation to Tomohiro Ishii) are the DDT 6-Man Tag Team Champions having
just defeated my favorite 6-man tag team going today, Shuten Doji. KENSO and Dark
Kingdom come out in a stretch Hummer with a Dark Kingdom logo on the side.
Class! If KENSO had only played this character back in ’04, instead of the
whole samurai deal. KENSO slaps Irie before the bell, and it’s on. All six men
brawling on the floor. We finally settle in with Keisuke & Nakai back in
the ring. Tag to KENSO and he works in a nicely applied belt-assisted choke. He
follows by taking apart the turnbuckle. Who does he think he is, Toru Yano?
Takao gets rammed into the exposed steel and eats a lariat. Nagai back in and hooks
the Cloverhold-o, but Takao makes the ropes. Mashimo whips him into the buckle
again and tags in KENSO, who proceeds to slap the shit outta b….. Dark Kingdom
really putting a strong whooping on Takao, but he’s full of fire and makes a
comeback finally making the tag to Irie, who’s a house of fire. He works in his
wacky head-based offense, but KENSO gets a lariat and the Kingdom is in control
again, looking strong. Keisuke in for some help, to no avail. The action spills
to the outside, and KENSO wipes everybody out with a dive to the floor. Crowd
very much into the Kingdom, and as I type that Mashimo turns on KENSO with a
lariat and a brainbuster. Crowd confused now. Irie finishes with a Superfly
Splash @ 11:59 to keep the titles. ** ½ Nagai demands an answer but Mashimo
ignores him, so Nagai launches a chair at him as he walks away. KENSO’s facials
of shock and defeat are Hollywood worthy.


WINNERS, and still Champions: Shigehiro
Irie, Keisuke Ishii & Soma Takao


Meanwhile, we bring out a bunch
of elementary school kids for a synchronized karate exhibition. Kinda cool.


It’s “brother” YASSHI’s first TV
match since leaving ZERO1 for AJPW. Really bummed about ZERO1, looking like it
could be out of here even before TNA, which is a shame because the ZERO1 shows
are really easy to follow, with great matches and maybe even better vignettes
(Daemon Ueda!). The former Triple Crown Champ Suwama starts out with Zeus (not
Tiny Lister), who has actually surprised me so far this year with some pretty
decent matches and a lot of character. He’s a big musclehead looking Japanese
dude, sort of a mid 80’s Luger/Batista hybrid with a touch of that Goldberg
“I-just-sacked-a-bitch” snap when posing after a move. They run through a bunch
of power-based spots with Zeus coming out on top before tagging out to YASSHI.
Suwama takes a bunch of YASSHI’s chops, shakes them off, and breaks him off one
of his own, sending YASSHI to the mat. A couple of slams and Sato tags in. He
throws YASSHI to the outside, where Suwama whips him hard into the guard rail. YASSHI
gets hit with a huge double chop over the guard rail, as both are back in now
and Suwama chucks him to the other side of the ring with a clean belly-to-belly
throw. Whips him around, hits another, but Zeus breaks a pin attempt at two.
YASSHI goes low with a Greco Roman Dick Grab, hits a sweet ass neckbreaker and
tags out. Zeus, bringing the goods with plexes, but then inexplicably goes to a
bear hug (cuz he muscles!). Before this takes long and bothers me, he turns it
into an even better looking suplex than the ones before. Pin attempt with
CHARISMA, dammit! This fucking guy. Him and Suwama are trading blows back and
forth, and it’s pretty damn great. Suwama with a lariat out of nowhere. Sato in
and he goes for a Rouseybar but Zeus hits the ropes. Working strength-related
offense against this dude seems pretty dumb. Strikes occur in duel fashion as
Suwama and Sato hit a couple of nice combinations. Suwama with a big German.
How the fuck do you throw a guy that big that far? Sato hits a “PK” (called on
commentary) for two. Zeus blocks a kick and hits a killer chop. This guy would
have the rocket strapped to him in the states by the end of next year if he
wasn’t a walking wellness violation. If WCW was still around, he’d be the Champ
by Starrcade. Holy shit, YASSHI absolutely drills Suwama in the dome with a
loud chair shot (they’re men, stop complaining), and yanks him to the outside.
That shit hit like a crispy snare on a Wu track. Sato goes for another armbar
like a frigging idiot and Zeus, the manliest manly man on a planet of only
manly men, power bombs this moron for trying. He hits a lariat so loud that I
think we just woke the neighbors up popping for it. The sweat FLEW, brother!
Zeus hits the Jack Hammer for the win @ 13:17. Yes, his finisher is the Jack
Hammer. Trust, I’m not the only one who sees the comparisons. *** ¼ Badass tag
match. Zeus is the fucking dude. Where the hell did this guy from all of a
sudden? (according to Cagematch.net the answer is Osaka Pro.. Well, ok then..) YASSHI
cuts a killer promo after the match. Zeus goes over to Kenta Kobashi on
commentary and shakes his hand. And then bows. Like at least 11 or 12 times.

WINNERS: Zeus & “brother”
YASSHI

AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Atsushi Aoki (c) vs. Kotaro Suzuki

BURNING collides! These two were an amazing tag team,
former AJPW All-Asia Tag Team Champions. Their program against Junior Stars
(Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka) last year was nuts. GREAT MATCHES! Kotaro
is already the TV Champ AND ½ of the All-Asia Tag Champions, a title win
featured here on the BoD just a week ago. A win here makes him Lance Storm (3/8
Ultimo). A lock up, and Aoki grants him a clean break. We get next, what
literally might be the single nicest sequence of the year, I shit you not. A
flawless stalemate; should be a GIF. Some picture perfect mat wrestling leaves
Kotaro on the outside, but he stuffs a tope suicida with a right hand from the
floor. Back in, he hits a big vertical and follows with a neckbreaker for a
barely two. Aoki takes a trip to the floor, suckers Kotaro in, and drills him
on the way back. Sweet. On the floor now, Aoki superplexes Kotaro off of the
skinny metal guard rail. I can dig it. Damn good five minutes, so far. Aoki
goes to work with kneedrops on the back. Boston Crab, which Kotaro struggles
out of for a rope break. Aoki goes for his arm-based offense off the ropes, but
Kotaro was playing possum. Hits the Bit Blaster, and evades Aoki’s attempt to
counter with a dropkick. Kotaro hits the running knee in the corner and jumping
shin to the throat for two. One of my top 5 favorite spots in wrestling. 619
from Kotaro gets two. They fight for a suplex and Aoki regains control, hitting
a frog splash for two in the process. Back up to the top, as they now fight for
a top rope superplex. Kotaro switches in mid air for another two. Aoki to the
outside and gets drilled with tope suicida. Back in the ring, Aoki goes for the
left arm but Kotaro gets to the ropes. Lariats, kicks and spirit-related no-selling
abounds. Head butts from Aoki but Kotaro rocks with a forearm and pounds away
with strikes. Ref gets in between them like he’s gonna wave it off but opts for
a 10-count instead. Aoki up at 8, gets forearmed down but kicks out at two.
Kotaro goes for a Tiger Driver but Aoki powers him up to the top rope and his a
dropkick to the seated Kotaro. Aoki to the top, setting up the flying armbar.
He hits and yanks a fighting Kotaro from the ropes but Kotaro turns it into the
three rolling majistrals for a series of two counts. They’re breaking out the
good shit. Gory Special but Aoki kicks out at 2.9.  Back to the Tiger Driver but Aoki reverses
that into an armbar, pulling back on the digits. Kotaro struggles to power out,
to no avail, as he finally submits @ 21:31 *** ¾ Really good stuff, right here.
After the match, Aoki walks over to commentary and refuses a handshake from
Kenta Kobashi. What a dickbag!


WINNER, and still Champion: Atsushi Aoki


 

No introduction can suffice,
gonna be a killer match. Before the bell we get a great non-shaking of the
hands bit. Referee Kyohei Wada nails it. Akiyama powers Shiozaki into the
ropes, and we get a clean break. Second one now and Akiyama’s on the other end
for another clean break. Back and forth we go, as they try to determine the better
man. Akiyama hits a shoulder block and evades a dropkick, but misses an elbow
drop and we end in a stalemate. Omori & Miyahara in now, Miyahara backs
Omori up but the vet is not impressed, they exchange chops and the action hits
the outside. On the apron now, Miyahara can’t hit the Tiger Driver but gets KILLED
with a piledriver in return. Hardest part of the ring. Could be considered a
bit much, to some. Omori absolutely chucks Shiozaki into the guard rail, and
Akiyama hits Shiozaki with a DDT on the hard concrete entrance way. Japanese
commentary: “DDT !!!” I’m telling you, we don’t need whitey touching this
product. Omori and Miyahara exchange blasts on the outside. Akiyama with a big
suplex to Shiozaki on the concrete aisle. Back on the mat, the champs hit a
great looking double team for two, while Omori holds off Shiozaki. Akiyama with
a guillotine choke into a pin attempt, for two. Double shoulder block again
from the champs. Akiyama hits an exploder and Omori hits a piledriver, as the champs are in full control. Miyahara gets backed into the opposite corner and
responds with some serious fire. Serious fire. Omori boots him down and they
double team him down. Akiyama with a huge knee to the seated Miyahara and the
champs have effectively cut the ring in half. They fight over a brainbuster and
Miyahara finally gets off a suplex. Big tag, Shiozaki finally in. Omori attacks
him, but Shiozaki suplexes him and nails Akiyama with the same. Omori kills the
mo with a flying spin kick and sets up an Axe Guillotine Driver, but can’t hit
it. To the top, and Omori hits a big superplex, and finally connects with the
Axe Guillotine Driver. Pinfall attempt is broken up by Miyahara at the last
millisecond. Akiyama throws him to the outside while Shiozaki blocks an Axe
Bomber from Omori and hits one of his own. Orange Crush is broken up at two by
Akiyama. Omori & Shiozaki Axe Bomber each other to a knee, and then flat on
the mat in a great bit of synchronicity. Hot tag, and Miyahara is a house of
kasai. He gets off all of his Tanahashi/Muta/Steamboat looking offense. He
climbs to the top but gets hit with an Akiyama superplex, BUT HULKS THE FUCK UP~!
Unfortunately, he immediately gets drilled with an exploder from Akiyama. All
hell breaking loose in there as the match hits a fever pitch. Too much going on
to call it, but all four down now. Gigantic knee from Miyahara and he almost
gets a three count via powerbomb. “German Suplex Hold-o” on Akiyama gets two.
Miyahara sinks in his Heart Break pedigree-variation, but Akiyama kicks out of
the hold. Extra large Axe Bomber from Omori connects hard, but Shiozaki breaks
up the 3 count. Double-arm DDT from Akiyama and he absolutely drills Miyahara
in the back of the head with fkn’ knee. But Miyahara comes back and they hit
each other with some of the most vicious strikes you’ll see all week. Akiyama
gets 2 off an exploder. Miyahara is getting hit with everything here. Finally,
he eats Exploder ’98 from Akiyama for the clean 1-2-3 @ 24:44 Strong **** Great
stuff here as Miyahara builds his catalog. All four came to play. Worth going
out of your way to see if you’re interested in hopping on the Miyahara
bandwagon before he becomes the Ace of the company. The champs go shake hands
with Kobashi on commentary after the match.

WINNERS, and still Champions: Jun Akiyama & Takeo Omori

So the story here is that Doering
(the former Drake Brewer in WWE/FCW) just won the title on 7/27/14, a booking move
I never knew if they would ever pull the trigger on. While there are other guys
on the roster that would make for a better first defense in terms of match
quality, Akebono was never defeated for the Triple Crown title during his reign
earlier this year. He was sidelined with pneumonia in the spring, and AJPW got
tired of him missing defenses and stripped him of the title. Doering ended up
defeating long-time tag partner Suwama for the title later in the year. Before
he can move on in his title reign, hopefully a lengthy one, he has to defeat
the former champ who was never beaten. Doering is rocking the Stan Hansen
mustache even better than Silas Young these days. The t-shirt is pretty def as
well. Big staredown and test of strength to start, with huge shoulderblocks and
Doering finally goes down. He eats an elbowdrop from the big man and rolls to
the outside. Doering suckers him in for an Avalanche against the ring post and
ducks out of the way. Back in the ring they battle for position some more.
Doering gets backed into the corner and comes back with forearms but gets
powered down and stepped on. They exchange strikes and Akebono finally goes
down this time. He gathers himself, overpowers Doering, hits the avalanche this
time in the ring and follows with another elbow drop for two. Doering fighting
back hits a lariat for one. Attempts a fireman’s carry but can’t handle the
weight and crashes to the mat. Hogan-esq Big Man vs. Bigger Man stuff. Akebono
slams him to the mat and a big splash gets two. A second one misses, and
Doering flies off the ropes only to get caught and drilled with a World’s
Strongest Slam for another two count. Akebono attempts a powerbomb but Doering
back body drops him out of it. Doering goes for a powerbomb now resulting in a
similar fashion. Doering hits an FU/AA for one. Doering nails a piledriver for
the win @ 11:11 **1/4 Doering looks the part and definitely has a certain
gaijin hoss charisma, but I’m sure it’ll be the main event match quality of these
defenses that defines the title reign. Tough to get a good match out of
Akebono, but he’s not embarrassing out there. He’s Mark Henry, basically.
Doering cracks beers with his crew and cuts a little promo backstage at the
presser. “No one’s stronger, no one’s faster, no one’s a killer like Joe
Doering”. And we’re off the air.
WINNER, and still Champion: Joe Doering

A good little show. The two matches
that looked strong on paper delivered. Check it out if you haven’t seen Zeus or
Kento Miyahara, as they should provide some good times for wrestling fans over
the next couple of years and perhaps beyond.

Another perspective on the summer angle

Scott,

I will offer yet another perspective on the current WWE main event angle. 
I think most would agree that HHH makes a better heel than face.  The problem is: no one else ever seems to GAIN when HHH is the dominant heel (not "showing ass", getting too many shots in during promos, and just generally becoming the focal point of angles).  He doesn't work as the "Evil Boss", because, unlike the cartoonish Vince or Johnny Ace types, he doesn't get smacked around by the good guy and makes far too many relevant, anti-heel points in his promos.  I think it would have made more sense for HHH to take on the role of the more progressive COO, who endorses the Bryans, Punks, etc in direct opposition of Vince.  McMahon plays the aging, increasingly-senile king, who is hanging on to the old way of doing business.  He hates Bryan and Punk because they are not his '80s muscle men or polished corporate guys.  HHH, with his anti-establishment background in DX, can convincingly play the guy who wants WWE to get with the times.  He has the defiant history (DX), but the reputation for being all about the Business: he can balance the two by supporting the smaller guys AS best for business.  I realize it still puts HHH in a prominent role in the big angle, but at least the heel side (Vince and company) are more likely to have the faces get over on them and play out the Corporation angle the way it can work so effectively.  

Bryan could have won the title against Cena, with HHH's endorsement afterward, only for Vince to start throwing "his" type of guy (Ryback, Del Rio, etc) at Bryan unsuccessfully.  The HHH vs. Vince thing still plays a prominent role, but Bryan and the title remain the focal point that way.  Eventually maybe you have Orton cash in as Vince's new Corporate Champ and play it out en route to Wrestlemania anyway.  

I just think there was more to be gained overall by HHH remaining the progressive boss supporting the new wave of babyface champions against the more appropriate Evil Boss, Vince McMahon.    

Yeah, honestly I was 99% sure that was how they were going to go with the Summerslam deal until the rumors of good Vince v. evil HHH started up and then HHH went heel for some reason.  And you're right, it makes WAY more sense for DX HHH to infiltrate the establishment and piss off Vince, and then later on you can tell the story of the aging rebel who gradually becomes more and more exactly the kind of asshole boss that he thought he was rebelling against the whole time.  It really does make way more sense than turning both Steph and HHH and taking Vince off TV completely without any explanation.  
Where I'd really like it go is bringing Undertaker into it for Wrestlemania as the avatar for one of them, so that the fans are put into a position of either seeing the streak come to an end, or having HHH's reign of terror come to an end.  So you'd have HHH somehow blackmailing Undertaker into wrestling on his behalf against Vince's guy (John Cena), with the stipulation that whoever wins gets ultimate control of the company.  So for the fans to get the desired ending to the storyline, the streak would have to end.  Now THAT would make for some awesome drama.  

Summer slam 88

———- Forwarded message ———-

Scott,
Why didn't Beefcake participate in the first Summerslam? Was he hurt and supposed to win title? What was plan with Ultimate Warrior if Beefcake would've participated and/or won the IC title?
Thanks,
Jim

—————————————-
Although Beefcake missing out on Summerslam 90 was a legit accident, the 88 thing was planned months in advance.  They should totes bring back the BIG RED X OF DOOM to cover up blood instead of stopping matches, though.  

Could TNA and WWE be running identical Summer storylines?

Scott,


TNA, if they are building towards Hogan vs. Bully at Bound For Glory might be running the same storyline as WWE is now. Take a gaander:

TNA – Roster + Brooke Hogan + Dixie Carter begging Hulk to not wrestle against Bully Ray. He says he has to

WWE – McMahon family + Roster beggiing Triple H to not wrestle because of his "concussion" incident. 

Quite strange. Both men booking themselves in the same sympathy storyline. Which do you prefer? I definitely prefer Hogan's. 


I find the HHH one pretty distasteful because it's not a story that anyone is interested in seeing or believes, and it plays on a problem that exists far too often in the real world.  Not to mention that the World champion has been out for weeks with a concussion because he's been killing himself for the company for years.  Whereas HHH does two matches a year and makes sure to put himself over the best talent in the company whenever he works.  

With the Hogan story, my problem is that Hogan CAN'T work the match and we know it.  The story itself is fine, but we're just sick of seeing the guy and we already know he's not going to move the numbers.  

Summer of Punk revisited

Scott, 

With a couple years of time and perspective, how do you think the "Summer of Punk" should have played out?  With the massive momentum of Punk's "pipebomb" promo and the classic win over Cena at MITB, where do you think it should have gone?  Do you still have Del Rio cash in and let Punk chase for a while, impeded by corporate types like Laurinaitis and HHH?  Do you keep the belt on him via hook & crook, with Punk outsmarting HHH's contenders until an eventual HHH-Punk showdown?  

I think the booking was OK, but just not decompressed enough.  They should have had Punk win the belt at MITB, take a few weeks off and send in videos from his house or Bermuda or wherever he was holding the belt hostage.  Then they could strip him of the title and do the tournament at Summerslam with Mysterio winning, then Cena wins it from him at Night of Champions and the next night Punk comes back and he's all "Yo dog, that's my title, let's engage in professional wrestling action to settle this like men" and they can squeeze another three PPVs out of it.  HHH and Nash can go jack each other off in the corner and sext each other or whatever the fuck that storyline was about and ADR can rot on Smackdown for all I care.
There you go.

Seminar on the WWE Summer of Punk

Hi Scott,


Just came across an interesting news blurb on 411:

The "Ignite Baltimore" speaking event will have a presentation on CM Punk's "Summer of Punk" WWE storyline from last year by Michael Special. Tickets are sold out, but people in the waiting list usually get in. You can find more details here (http://www.ignitebaltimore.com/)

Here's a synopsis: Despite a reputation for being "fake", the complex and politically charged world of professional wrestling routinely blurs the line between fiction and reality, sometimes with spectacular consequences. In June 2011 the talented but underutilized WWE wrestler CM Punk was weeks away from the expiration of his contract. Tired of his company's cartoonish presentation of wrestling, with a live microphone and nothing left to lose, Punk abandoned his script. He broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience, castigating WWE's creative direction, its management and even wishing death upon its CEO. A panicked production room cut his feed. Punk was suspended.

The event ignited a firestorm of support from fans who endorsed Punk's "real life" vision of wrestling, leaving WWE with a catch-22 – stick to the "story" and alienate a large, vocal portion of their fan base or acknowledge the legitimacy of Punk's claims and spark a very real battle for the soul of the sport itself.

Interesting, although the whole thing was totally scripted and Punk had already verbally agreed to a new contract by the time they "cut off his mic".  

Ring of Honor: The Summer of Punk

In the summer of 2005, CM Punk was one of the biggest stars in Ring of Honor. He had wrestled there for a few years but he had lots of memorable moments during that time: his feud with Raven, the formation of the Second City Saints with Colt Cabana and Ace Steel, his feud with Ricky Steamboat, his battles with The Prophecy, and his modern classic trilogy of matches with Samoa Joe. During that summer it was revealed that Punk had signed a developmental contract with WWE. While we all know now the heights to which he would eventually rise in WWE, at that time something had eluded Punk: the ROH world title. Death Before Dishonor III on June 18, 2005 was supposed to be CM Punk’s last night with ROH before moving on to developmental in OVW. No one knew at the time, but the first Summer of Punk was just beginning…

ROH’s new 2-disc set, The Summer of Punk, opens up with what was supposed to be the end of Punk’s ROH run, a title match against ROH champ Austin Aries. Punk gets the hero’s welcome to start off. He’s the babyface here, and the story that the commentators put over is that Punk wants one chance to prove he can win the big title in ROH before he moves on to WWE. The commentary briefly touches on what will happen if Punk does win, suggesting a tournament of some sort but saying they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. At this point in their careers, Punk and Aries were pretty similar in their styles, with a lot of mat wrestling building into some high spots on the outside. Punk’s style has always evolved and shifted over his career, and at this point he was honing the strike & submission style that was the basis of his earliest days in WWE. The crowd in Elizabeth, NJ here was not only firmly supportive of Punk, but cementing Aries as the heel, which makes what is to come all the more special. This was classic heel formula, with Aries dominating most of the long match with brawling on the outside and vicious high spots (including a sloppy Avalanche Brainbuster that Punk kicked out of) and kicking out of Punk’s big spots (which at the time, included the Pepsi Twist and the Shining Wizard, and the Anaconda Vise, which at the time didn’t have the top wristlock component and was just a weaker-looking head & arm headlock.) At the end Punk gets Aries up in a fireman’s carry, and for a moment he almost looks like he’s setting up for the GTS, but he wasn’t doing that move yet, and instead dropped Aries with a TKO. Followed up quickly by a Shining Wizard and the Pepsi Plunge (a Pedigree off the top rope), Punk did what he set out to and won the ROH title on his last night with the company, greeted by “Please Don’t Go” and “We Will Miss You” chants. Which makes what happens next all the more fascinating…

Punk takes the mic in the middle of the ring, covered in streamers, and declares that the ROH world title belt is the most important belt in the world. “This belt in the hands of any other man is just a belt. In my hands, it becomes power. Just like you put this microphone in the hands of anyone else in the back, and it’s just a microphone. But you put it in the hands of a dangerous man like myself, and it becomes a pipe bomb.” (Little known trivia: the “pipe bomb” reference likely comes from a now-defunct folk punk band from Florida called This Bike is a Pipe Bomb). He goes on to recite the parable of the old man and the snake; you all know the moral “You stupid old man, I’m a snake.” In Punk’s words, “The greatest thing the devil ever did was convincing the world he didn’t exist, and you’re looking at him right now.” It builds and builds until Punk tells the crowd that “you stupid, mindless people fell for it!” He also debuted the “I’m not mad at you, I just feel sorry for you” line he used in The Promo in 2011. Punk promises to leave ROH with the title, to prove once and for all that he’s better than Low-Ki, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe, as well as all the fans. In an interesting bit of foreshadowing to WWE’s Summer of Punk, Punk even declares “The champ is here!” Christopher Daniels, a longtime former rival of Punk’s, finally came out to stare down Punk, and trade blows with him, setting him up for the BME as the crowd chants “Ring the bell!” In the end Punk dodges the moonsault and escapes with the title to the chants of “CM Pussy”.

I can’t think of any other time in wrestling when someone managed to completely have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, having more babyface heat than anyone else in the company, peopple crying and chanting “Thank you”….and then with nothing more than a promo manage to have the entire arena calling for their blood in one night. It’s especially remarkable since this is ROH, home of the usually unflappable ROH-bots, fans who will cheer for anyone they enjoy, face or heel. It was a remarkable achievement, and was something that had never been done before in ROH or anywhere else. It’s not surprising that Punk was so adamant about using that same jumping point for the framework of last year’s Summer of Punk, and it’s really interesting to see it in its primal stage. It’s kind of like seeing that grainy camcorder footage of Nirvana playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with different words at a house party in the 80s. With just some tweaking and being presented on a larger scale, something that at once seemed grimy and intimate would later become world-changing. The moral remains the same in both cases: like Cobain, Punk was capable of greatness, but first the mainstream had to bend itself to his indie aesthetic.

Next we cut to July 8th in Long Island. If seeing Punk in a blazer the first time he sat down at a WWE commentary booth was shocking, imagine seeing him here, with purple streaked hair, and wearing a 3 piece suit. Punk related the story of himself, Jerry Lynn, Christopher Daniels, and then NWA champ AJ Styles deciding, as a group, to push the issue when TNA first refused to allow their wrestlers to work for ROH. As Punk told it, since AJ was the champ, they needed him, because he had all the power. Then of course, all of them caved in to TNA’s demands except Punk. In Punk’s words, he was the only one who never turned his back on ROH, and yet never getting any respect from the ROH fans until he got his offer from WWE, at which point he heard chants of “please don’t go”. At his mention of the NWA title, he mentions that that title means nothing compared to the ROH belt he’s holding right then, which is very cool of Punk to still put over the importance of the title considering the risks he was taking with its credibility. And principle amongst those risks would be what Punk does at the end of this promo: he signs his WWE contract on top of the Ring of Honor title, with Shane Hagadorn holding it after ring announcer Bobby Cruise and referee Todd Sinclair refuse (and hell, Hagadorn was never gonna work as a face anyway.) This time Punk is confronted by James Gibson, better known to many as Jamie Noble. Gibson spikes Hagadorn with the Gibson Driver (tiger bomb) and sells the intensity when he tells Punk “there’s no FUCKING way you’re leaving with that belt!” Christopher Daniels blocks the entrance as Punk tries to leave, and he & Gibson beat Punk back into the ring & out through the crowd. In retrospect I’m not sure that Gibson was the best choice as “the guy” to pin Punk’s last days on, but in terms of intensity, he can’t be beat. Even though he’s a decent technical wrestler, he’s actually better at the character driven stuff (I could easily see Jamie showing up as a criminal-of-the-week on Justified). And of course, his “Redneck Messiah” character is a perfect choice to play off of Punk.

Later in the same night we get Punk dressed to compete, mentioning how there is no one in the locker room that will challenge him on his last night. Out comes Mick Foley, who was doing work with ROH at the time. Foley mentions how some family and friends are in the crowd, and they’d never heard him use foul language before. But Foley says that’s about to change, because when Punk came out in his suit with his purple hair, Foley thought he looked, quote, “fucking ridiculous.” Considering Foley’s nice guy image that he’s always manifested, it made perfect sense in a looser setting like ROH to really drive home how Foley was acting as an ROH surrogate by having him cut loose like that. Foley makes clear that, contrary to Punk’s opinion, he didn’t make ROH, ROH made him. Foley gets a good one in: “In the wrestling business there is only one way to be the champion forever, and unfortunately for you, Gabe Sapolsky does not have a daughter you can marry.” Punk retorts with some general pissing on Foley’s career and his short title reigns, and Foley comes back with some stats of his own, leading to the broader point: Foley left the company in a better place than when he found it, and Punk needs to do the same. All this leads to Foley imploring Punk to challenge a young talent that hasn’t gotten a shot. Punk says he doesn’t intend to lose on his way out, but he wants to do something for himself, and get a win back that he had lost against Jay Lethal. All this with Foley was absolutely the right move to make, both because Foley and Punk were well matched on the mic and because Foley has such respect and such a general air of positivity in his character that it draws a clear line: Punk is the heel, and acting like it. Again, to get heel heat in front of ROH fans, you really have to go above and beyond to get booed, and it helps by having such clear cut babyfaces like Foley and Lethal on the other side.

At this point in his career, Lethal was very talented but not as innovative as he is now. A lot of his moveset was based off of his association with Samoa Joe. Most of this match was brawling on the floor and rapid fire high spots. While at the time I’m sure the story worked really well to imagine a plucky up & comer like Lethal being the one to keep the title in ROH, the truth was it wouldn’t be long before Lethal was gone to TNA himself. Joe comes out to ringside to cheer Lethal on, and Punk ends up defeating Lethal with Joe’s own Kokina Clutch. Joe & Punk stare each other down and Foley gets involved, leading to Punk taking both out and getting chased into the crowd by Gibson.

We see Roderick Strong in the ring with Gibson, and all of a sudden the lights go dark, and the spolight finds Punk in the balcony, dressed in a dress shirt & khakis that make him look like a long lost Los Boricua. Punk makes it clear he isn’t going to give Gibson a title shot. He mocks Gibson’s redneck lifestyle, positioning himself as the elitist. It’s a risky move, in ways, because most ROH fans are not hillbilly Southerners, but thankfully the crowd seemed to grasp the dynamic well. Punk instead challenges Roderick Strong for tonight, in a non title match. This brings Mick Foley out of the shadows, or more specifically, though he isn’t called such by name, Cactus Jack. In full Cactus look and voice, Foley threatens to dump Punk off the balcony to the floor unless he makes the match against Strong for the title. He even works in the Dirty Harry “Well do ya, PUNK?” line. The match against Strong did serve to make Roddy look good, as was basically the point of Punk leaving ROH: putting people over on the way out. The match wasn’t the best either would ever have, mainly because Roderick wasn’t the worker in 05 that he is today. While he had all the basics down, he worked best in tag teams at that point, where he could either be the Ricky Morton taking the beating or the Robert Gibson, coming in and hitting all his backbreakers for the win. Punk wins this mostly mat-wrestling based match with an O’Connor roll, using the ropes for leverage. Punk tries to bail through the crowd only to be blocked by Gibson from one direction, Joe from another, and Foley from the entrance. Gibson plants Punk with Gibson Driver and gets a facetious pinfall, formally gaining his title match against Punk at the next show.

After a heated promo between Gibson and Punk that ends with Punk laying Gibson out with a chain wrapped around his fist, we get their one on one match from July 16th. Gibson was left bleeding after the promo and in the match later, he’s sporting the full bandage head wrap. Most of Punk’s matches on this set start with a mat wrestling portion in the first half before transitioning into a brawl on the floor with some high flying moves mixed in. This one works a different formula, as they tear into each other at the start. Punk pulls the bandage off Gibson’s head early, but the blood doesn’t start flowing too fast yet, because they transition into the mat wrestling portion instead. Working his babyface portions, Gibson definitely shows that he can hang with the more strong-style influenced workers in ROH, but at heart I’ve never really bought into him as a mat technician. Everything he learned from Dean Malenko (and taught to Roderick Strong, for that matter) makes for a great wrestler on paper, but in practice it doesn’t seem congruent with Jamie’s character. I always felt like he should have developed better in the striking and brawling areas, but Gibson always worked a methodical mat style, and I think that hurt him in the long run. Still, matched against an opponent who can offer much the same, they can make magic. This match has great heat behind it, and as it goes on both men begin to spill more and more blood. Each near fall gets more & more desperate for Gibson, until Punk finally steals one by, again, holding the ropes in an O’Connor roll. This time Punk really turns the knife, being adamant that he’s leaving ROH with the title and that Gibson failed to pull it off. Once again Daniels makes an appearance and brawls it out with Punk, leaving him laying with the ROH belt and challenging Punk for one more match, on threat of following him to any WWE show he might be on.

Hour long matches are a trademark in ROH, and if I’m being honest, they often feel somewhat gratuitous. While a lot of their wrestlers are so talented that they can fill an hour or more with no problems, more often than not these matches take long, drawn out portions of mat wrestling and reversals just to stretch the time limit, and it feels detrimental to the match. There’s no point in deciding a match is going to be long and then retro-fitting it to accomplish that. It’s like a video game with lots of fetch quests to pad the overall hours of playtime: if it’s not going to be all that fun, it isn’t really necessary. In Punk & Daniels’ case, that’s really only a problem for the middle portion of their match, but that portion is longer than a lot of decent matches. Punk and Daniels throw all their greatest hits at one another, trading submissions and power moves, fighting over the Pepsi Plunge on the top rope, and hitting each other with moonsaults and enziguris. While part of the match grinds to a near halt, it can’t be argued that Punk and Daniels, in 2005 and now, are not on the short list for the best wrestlers on the planet. The ending sees Punk nearly blacking Daniels out with the Anaconda Vise, before getting to his feet and trading pinfall attempts with Punk for most of the last minute, before scoring with Angel’s Wings but not being able to beat the clock for the win. Another post match brawl sees Gibson and Joe both come out, setting up the 4 way for 8/12.

The 4 way match between Joe, Daniels, Gibson, and Punk is a little bittersweet for me. Mainly, I feel like Gibson kind of fucked up the momentum of the storyline when he re-signed with WWE. I can’t blame the guy for wanting to make a few more bucks, but it did ROH no favors to see the guy who was supposed to be the lynchpin for defending ROH (Daniels & Joe were both about to be splitting their time with TNA, and not many other babyfaces on the roster were quite capable of working that whole summer and filling the role of “ROH savior.”) This 4 way was under tag rules, with only two men in the ring at a time and it was elimination rules. For most of the early part of the match, Punk tagged in and out to avoid being in the ring at the same time as Joe, his old foe and someone who had consistently shut him down at every turn over the summer. The acrimony between Daniels, Joe, and Gibson played well into the storyline: it’s still about the title, not about shaming Punk for leaving ROH, but about making sure he doesn’t disrespect ROH’s title. When Gibson gets posted near the half hour mark, Punk slams a chair into his head, leaving Gibson bleeding and apparently concussed on the floor. The match grinds to a halt while they carry Gibson out, and he is presumably eliminated. After that Punk is finally in the ring with Joe, and they recreate some of the magic of their classic trilogy. Joe & Daniels end up in an extended sequence, trading signature spots, until Joe has Daniels in the Kokina Clutch. When Daniels gets his foot on the ropes, Punk shoves it off before the ref can see it and the ref drops Daniels’ arm for the submission. When Daniels gets up, he attempts an enziguri on Punk while Joe has him in a waistlock, and Punk ducks, finishing Joe with a small package. It should have been clear that the match wasn’t over, since they didn’t ring the bell, but regardless: as Joe & Daniels brawl to the back, Gibson makes his return, soaked in blood. In the end, Punk attempts the Pepsi Plunge, and Gibson reverses into a top rope Gibson Driver and scores the win, keeping the ROH title in ROH. Again, it’s kind of a Pyrrhic victory, since Gibson would soon be back in WWE himself, but nevertheless, the ROH locker room comes out to celebrate with Gibson. He would soon after drop the belt to another person who would go on to fame in WWE: Bryan Danielson, or Daniel Bryan if you prefer.

Finally, it comes full circle: Punk vs. his best friend and former partner Colt Cabana, in their hometown of Chicago. Looking back, it’s really special for Punk that he was able to have so many of the defining moments in his career in Chicago, a city he’s always been so proud of. Very few other wrestlers will ever get to say that. Even though this is just one night from the previous match, the fans realize the storyline is over and they give Punk the warm exit he had originally had when he won the title. Punk is choking back tears as they announce his name to the Chi-Town crowd (or, well, the Chicago Ridge crowd, but I’m sure it was mostly people from the city making the trek). Punk & Cabana’s trainer Ace Steel is at ringside for this one, as is their friend Samoa Joe. The Code of Honor handshake leads to the two friends hugging it out in the ring. This one is just Punk & Colt’s greatest hits, in a 2 out of 3 falls match. Colt does his English-style mat wrestling combined with his comedy spots, and Punk does his striking and submissions. Colt does the “up here” spot with Punk, leading Punk to lose his patience and low blow Colt, before hitting him with his own finisher, the Colt 45, for the first fall. Some back & forth action leads Colt into hitting a lariat on Punk and scoring the second fall. At that point, both men take it up a notch and they trade punches, elbows, forearms, and chops. The action gets hotter at that point, with brawling to the outside. Colt hits a big Asai moonsault at one point, and Punk busts out the reverse hurricanrana. Colt does mess up at one point, hitting Punk with an inverted DDT off the top rope that looked to drop Punk right on his head. Punk recovered quickly, however. In the end, both men trade rollups until Colt holds on for the win. The aftermath sees everyone in the locker room come out to congratulate Punk and wish him a farewell, including the people he had been feuding with like Joe & Gibson. Colt does the old champagne pour on Punk with a bottle of Pepsi, and they toast each other with it while Joe slams a can of it down. Punk is extremely emotional as he thanks his fans in Chicago and the family that Ring of Honor is, and despite the heel turn Punk worked on them, Punk left ROH with the emotional send off from the fans that he deserved.

All in all, The Summer of Punk combines some of the best promo and storyline work that ROH had ever done with a string of some of the best matches of Punk’s career. Admittedly, it can get a little draining to watch the same wrestler in every match on a disc like this, but the quality opponents he faces are more than up to it. I don’t star rate, but if someone out there does I’m sure that at least half these matches are north of 4 stars. The storyline stuff was revelatory for its time, and it still stands as a fascinating contrast to 2011’s Summer of Punk. While we all know what kind of bigger and better things CM Punk would ascend to in WWE, in his last 2 months with the company, Punk worked overtime to make sure that ROH was, as Foley said, better than when he got there.

Highly recommended.

Ring of Honor: The Summer of Punk

In the summer of 2005, CM Punk was one of the biggest stars in Ring of Honor. He had wrestled there for a few years but he had lots of memorable moments during that time: his feud with Raven, the formation of the Second City Saints with Colt Cabana and Ace Steel, his feud with Ricky Steamboat, his battles with The Prophecy, and his modern classic trilogy of matches with Samoa Joe. During that summer it was revealed that Punk had signed a developmental contract with WWE. While we all know now the heights to which he would eventually rise in WWE, at that time something had eluded Punk: the ROH world title. Death Before Dishonor III on June 18, 2005 was supposed to be CM Punk’s last night with ROH before moving on to developmental in OVW. No one knew at the time, but the first Summer of Punk was just beginning…

ROH’s new 2-disc set, The Summer of Punk, opens up with what was supposed to be the end of Punk’s ROH run, a title match against ROH champ Austin Aries. Punk gets the hero’s welcome to start off. He’s the babyface here, and the story that the commentators put over is that Punk wants one chance to prove he can win the big title in ROH before he moves on to WWE. The commentary briefly touches on what will happen if Punk does win, suggesting a tournament of some sort but saying they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. At this point in their careers, Punk and Aries were pretty similar in their styles, with a lot of mat wrestling building into some high spots on the outside. Punk’s style has always evolved and shifted over his career, and at this point he was honing the strike & submission style that was the basis of his earliest days in WWE. The crowd in Elizabeth, NJ here was not only firmly supportive of Punk, but cementing Aries as the heel, which makes what is to come all the more special. This was classic heel formula, with Aries dominating most of the long match with brawling on the outside and vicious high spots (including a sloppy Avalanche Brainbuster that Punk kicked out of) and kicking out of Punk’s big spots (which at the time, included the Pepsi Twist and the Shining Wizard, and the Anaconda Vise, which at the time didn’t have the top wristlock component and was just a weaker-looking head & arm headlock.) At the end Punk gets Aries up in a fireman’s carry, and for a moment he almost looks like he’s setting up for the GTS, but he wasn’t doing that move yet, and instead dropped Aries with a TKO. Followed up quickly by a Shining Wizard and the Pepsi Plunge (a Pedigree off the top rope), Punk did what he set out to and won the ROH title on his last night with the company, greeted by “Please Don’t Go” and “We Will Miss You” chants. Which makes what happens next all the more fascinating…

Punk takes the mic in the middle of the ring, covered in streamers, and declares that the ROH world title belt is the most important belt in the world. “This belt in the hands of any other man is just a belt. In my hands, it becomes power. Just like you put this microphone in the hands of anyone else in the back, and it’s just a microphone. But you put it in the hands of a dangerous man like myself, and it becomes a pipe bomb.” (Little known trivia: the “pipe bomb” reference likely comes from a now-defunct folk punk band from Florida called This Bike is a Pipe Bomb). He goes on to recite the parable of the old man and the snake; you all know the moral “You stupid old man, I’m a snake.” In Punk’s words, “The greatest thing the devil ever did was convincing the world he didn’t exist, and you’re looking at him right now.” It builds and builds until Punk tells the crowd that “you stupid, mindless people fell for it!” He also debuted the “I’m not mad at you, I just feel sorry for you” line he used in The Promo in 2011. Punk promises to leave ROH with the title, to prove once and for all that he’s better than Low-Ki, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe, as well as all the fans. In an interesting bit of foreshadowing to WWE’s Summer of Punk, Punk even declares “The champ is here!” Christopher Daniels, a longtime former rival of Punk’s, finally came out to stare down Punk, and trade blows with him, setting him up for the BME as the crowd chants “Ring the bell!” In the end Punk dodges the moonsault and escapes with the title to the chants of “CM Pussy”.

I can’t think of any other time in wrestling when someone managed to completely have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, having more babyface heat than anyone else in the company, peopple crying and chanting “Thank you”….and then with nothing more than a promo manage to have the entire arena calling for their blood in one night. It’s especially remarkable since this is ROH, home of the usually unflappable ROH-bots, fans who will cheer for anyone they enjoy, face or heel. It was a remarkable achievement, and was something that had never been done before in ROH or anywhere else. It’s not surprising that Punk was so adamant about using that same jumping point for the framework of last year’s Summer of Punk, and it’s really interesting to see it in its primal stage. It’s kind of like seeing that grainy camcorder footage of Nirvana playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with different words at a house party in the 80s. With just some tweaking and being presented on a larger scale, something that at once seemed grimy and intimate would later become world-changing. The moral remains the same in both cases: like Cobain, Punk was capable of greatness, but first the mainstream had to bend itself to his indie aesthetic.

Next we cut to July 8th in Long Island. If seeing Punk in a blazer the first time he sat down at a WWE commentary booth was shocking, imagine seeing him here, with purple streaked hair, and wearing a 3 piece suit. Punk related the story of himself, Jerry Lynn, Christopher Daniels, and then NWA champ AJ Styles deciding, as a group, to push the issue when TNA first refused to allow their wrestlers to work for ROH. As Punk told it, since AJ was the champ, they needed him, because he had all the power. Then of course, all of them caved in to TNA’s demands except Punk. In Punk’s words, he was the only one who never turned his back on ROH, and yet never getting any respect from the ROH fans until he got his offer from WWE, at which point he heard chants of “please don’t go”. At his mention of the NWA title, he mentions that that title means nothing compared to the ROH belt he’s holding right then, which is very cool of Punk to still put over the importance of the title considering the risks he was taking with its credibility. And principle amongst those risks would be what Punk does at the end of this promo: he signs his WWE contract on top of the Ring of Honor title, with Shane Hagadorn holding it after ring announcer Bobby Cruise and referee Todd Sinclair refuse (and hell, Hagadorn was never gonna work as a face anyway.) This time Punk is confronted by James Gibson, better known to many as Jamie Noble. Gibson spikes Hagadorn with the Gibson Driver (tiger bomb) and sells the intensity when he tells Punk “there’s no FUCKING way you’re leaving with that belt!” Christopher Daniels blocks the entrance as Punk tries to leave, and he & Gibson beat Punk back into the ring & out through the crowd. In retrospect I’m not sure that Gibson was the best choice as “the guy” to pin Punk’s last days on, but in terms of intensity, he can’t be beat. Even though he’s a decent technical wrestler, he’s actually better at the character driven stuff (I could easily see Jamie showing up as a criminal-of-the-week on Justified). And of course, his “Redneck Messiah” character is a perfect choice to play off of Punk.

Later in the same night we get Punk dressed to compete, mentioning how there is no one in the locker room that will challenge him on his last night. Out comes Mick Foley, who was doing work with ROH at the time. Foley mentions how some family and friends are in the crowd, and they’d never heard him use foul language before. But Foley says that’s about to change, because when Punk came out in his suit with his purple hair, Foley thought he looked, quote, “fucking ridiculous.” Considering Foley’s nice guy image that he’s always manifested, it made perfect sense in a looser setting like ROH to really drive home how Foley was acting as an ROH surrogate by having him cut loose like that. Foley makes clear that, contrary to Punk’s opinion, he didn’t make ROH, ROH made him. Foley gets a good one in: “In the wrestling business there is only one way to be the champion forever, and unfortunately for you, Gabe Sapolsky does not have a daughter you can marry.” Punk retorts with some general pissing on Foley’s career and his short title reigns, and Foley comes back with some stats of his own, leading to the broader point: Foley left the company in a better place than when he found it, and Punk needs to do the same. All this leads to Foley imploring Punk to challenge a young talent that hasn’t gotten a shot. Punk says he doesn’t intend to lose on his way out, but he wants to do something for himself, and get a win back that he had lost against Jay Lethal. All this with Foley was absolutely the right move to make, both because Foley and Punk were well matched on the mic and because Foley has such respect and such a general air of positivity in his character that it draws a clear line: Punk is the heel, and acting like it. Again, to get heel heat in front of ROH fans, you really have to go above and beyond to get booed, and it helps by having such clear cut babyfaces like Foley and Lethal on the other side.

At this point in his career, Lethal was very talented but not as innovative as he is now. A lot of his moveset was based off of his association with Samoa Joe. Most of this match was brawling on the floor and rapid fire high spots. While at the time I’m sure the story worked really well to imagine a plucky up & comer like Lethal being the one to keep the title in ROH, the truth was it wouldn’t be long before Lethal was gone to TNA himself. Joe comes out to ringside to cheer Lethal on, and Punk ends up defeating Lethal with Joe’s own Kokina Clutch. Joe & Punk stare each other down and Foley gets involved, leading to Punk taking both out and getting chased into the crowd by Gibson.

We see Roderick Strong in the ring with Gibson, and all of a sudden the lights go dark, and the spolight finds Punk in the balcony, dressed in a dress shirt & khakis that make him look like a long lost Los Boricua. Punk makes it clear he isn’t going to give Gibson a title shot. He mocks Gibson’s redneck lifestyle, positioning himself as the elitist. It’s a risky move, in ways, because most ROH fans are not hillbilly Southerners, but thankfully the crowd seemed to grasp the dynamic well. Punk instead challenges Roderick Strong for tonight, in a non title match. This brings Mick Foley out of the shadows, or more specifically, though he isn’t called such by name, Cactus Jack. In full Cactus look and voice, Foley threatens to dump Punk off the balcony to the floor unless he makes the match against Strong for the title. He even works in the Dirty Harry “Well do ya, PUNK?” line. The match against Strong did serve to make Roddy look good, as was basically the point of Punk leaving ROH: putting people over on the way out. The match wasn’t the best either would ever have, mainly because Roderick wasn’t the worker in 05 that he is today. While he had all the basics down, he worked best in tag teams at that point, where he could either be the Ricky Morton taking the beating or the Robert Gibson, coming in and hitting all his backbreakers for the win. Punk wins this mostly mat-wrestling based match with an O’Connor roll, using the ropes for leverage. Punk tries to bail through the crowd only to be blocked by Gibson from one direction, Joe from another, and Foley from the entrance. Gibson plants Punk with Gibson Driver and gets a facetious pinfall, formally gaining his title match against Punk at the next show.

After a heated promo between Gibson and Punk that ends with Punk laying Gibson out with a chain wrapped around his fist, we get their one on one match from July 16th. Gibson was left bleeding after the promo and in the match later, he’s sporting the full bandage head wrap. Most of Punk’s matches on this set start with a mat wrestling portion in the first half before transitioning into a brawl on the floor with some high flying moves mixed in. This one works a different formula, as they tear into each other at the start. Punk pulls the bandage off Gibson’s head early, but the blood doesn’t start flowing too fast yet, because they transition into the mat wrestling portion instead. Working his babyface portions, Gibson definitely shows that he can hang with the more strong-style influenced workers in ROH, but at heart I’ve never really bought into him as a mat technician. Everything he learned from Dean Malenko (and taught to Roderick Strong, for that matter) makes for a great wrestler on paper, but in practice it doesn’t seem congruent with Jamie’s character. I always felt like he should have developed better in the striking and brawling areas, but Gibson always worked a methodical mat style, and I think that hurt him in the long run. Still, matched against an opponent who can offer much the same, they can make magic. This match has great heat behind it, and as it goes on both men begin to spill more and more blood. Each near fall gets more & more desperate for Gibson, until Punk finally steals one by, again, holding the ropes in an O’Connor roll. This time Punk really turns the knife, being adamant that he’s leaving ROH with the title and that Gibson failed to pull it off. Once again Daniels makes an appearance and brawls it out with Punk, leaving him laying with the ROH belt and challenging Punk for one more match, on threat of following him to any WWE show he might be on.

Hour long matches are a trademark in ROH, and if I’m being honest, they often feel somewhat gratuitous. While a lot of their wrestlers are so talented that they can fill an hour or more with no problems, more often than not these matches take long, drawn out portions of mat wrestling and reversals just to stretch the time limit, and it feels detrimental to the match. There’s no point in deciding a match is going to be long and then retro-fitting it to accomplish that. It’s like a video game with lots of fetch quests to pad the overall hours of playtime: if it’s not going to be all that fun, it isn’t really necessary. In Punk & Daniels’ case, that’s really only a problem for the middle portion of their match, but that portion is longer than a lot of decent matches. Punk and Daniels throw all their greatest hits at one another, trading submissions and power moves, fighting over the Pepsi Plunge on the top rope, and hitting each other with moonsaults and enziguris. While part of the match grinds to a near halt, it can’t be argued that Punk and Daniels, in 2005 and now, are not on the short list for the best wrestlers on the planet. The ending sees Punk nearly blacking Daniels out with the Anaconda Vise, before getting to his feet and trading pinfall attempts with Punk for most of the last minute, before scoring with Angel’s Wings but not being able to beat the clock for the win. Another post match brawl sees Gibson and Joe both come out, setting up the 4 way for 8/12.

The 4 way match between Joe, Daniels, Gibson, and Punk is a little bittersweet for me. Mainly, I feel like Gibson kind of fucked up the momentum of the storyline when he re-signed with WWE. I can’t blame the guy for wanting to make a few more bucks, but it did ROH no favors to see the guy who was supposed to be the lynchpin for defending ROH (Daniels & Joe were both about to be splitting their time with TNA, and not many other babyfaces on the roster were quite capable of working that whole summer and filling the role of “ROH savior.”) This 4 way was under tag rules, with only two men in the ring at a time and it was elimination rules. For most of the early part of the match, Punk tagged in and out to avoid being in the ring at the same time as Joe, his old foe and someone who had consistently shut him down at every turn over the summer. The acrimony between Daniels, Joe, and Gibson played well into the storyline: it’s still about the title, not about shaming Punk for leaving ROH, but about making sure he doesn’t disrespect ROH’s title. When Gibson gets posted near the half hour mark, Punk slams a chair into his head, leaving Gibson bleeding and apparently concussed on the floor. The match grinds to a halt while they carry Gibson out, and he is presumably eliminated. After that Punk is finally in the ring with Joe, and they recreate some of the magic of their classic trilogy. Joe & Daniels end up in an extended sequence, trading signature spots, until Joe has Daniels in the Kokina Clutch. When Daniels gets his foot on the ropes, Punk shoves it off before the ref can see it and the ref drops Daniels’ arm for the submission. When Daniels gets up, he attempts an enziguri on Punk while Joe has him in a waistlock, and Punk ducks, finishing Joe with a small package. It should have been clear that the match wasn’t over, since they didn’t ring the bell, but regardless: as Joe & Daniels brawl to the back, Gibson makes his return, soaked in blood. In the end, Punk attempts the Pepsi Plunge, and Gibson reverses into a top rope Gibson Driver and scores the win, keeping the ROH title in ROH. Again, it’s kind of a Pyrrhic victory, since Gibson would soon be back in WWE himself, but nevertheless, the ROH locker room comes out to celebrate with Gibson. He would soon after drop the belt to another person who would go on to fame in WWE: Bryan Danielson, or Daniel Bryan if you prefer.

Finally, it comes full circle: Punk vs. his best friend and former partner Colt Cabana, in their hometown of Chicago. Looking back, it’s really special for Punk that he was able to have so many of the defining moments in his career in Chicago, a city he’s always been so proud of. Very few other wrestlers will ever get to say that. Even though this is just one night from the previous match, the fans realize the storyline is over and they give Punk the warm exit he had originally had when he won the title. Punk is choking back tears as they announce his name to the Chi-Town crowd (or, well, the Chicago Ridge crowd, but I’m sure it was mostly people from the city making the trek). Punk & Cabana’s trainer Ace Steel is at ringside for this one, as is their friend Samoa Joe. The Code of Honor handshake leads to the two friends hugging it out in the ring. This one is just Punk & Colt’s greatest hits, in a 2 out of 3 falls match. Colt does his English-style mat wrestling combined with his comedy spots, and Punk does his striking and submissions. Colt does the “up here” spot with Punk, leading Punk to lose his patience and low blow Colt, before hitting him with his own finisher, the Colt 45, for the first fall. Some back & forth action leads Colt into hitting a lariat on Punk and scoring the second fall. At that point, both men take it up a notch and they trade punches, elbows, forearms, and chops. The action gets hotter at that point, with brawling to the outside. Colt hits a big Asai moonsault at one point, and Punk busts out the reverse hurricanrana. Colt does mess up at one point, hitting Punk with an inverted DDT off the top rope that looked to drop Punk right on his head. Punk recovered quickly, however. In the end, both men trade rollups until Colt holds on for the win. The aftermath sees everyone in the locker room come out to congratulate Punk and wish him a farewell, including the people he had been feuding with like Joe & Gibson. Colt does the old champagne pour on Punk with a bottle of Pepsi, and they toast each other with it while Joe slams a can of it down. Punk is extremely emotional as he thanks his fans in Chicago and the family that Ring of Honor is, and despite the heel turn Punk worked on them, Punk left ROH with the emotional send off from the fans that he deserved.

All in all, The Summer of Punk combines some of the best promo and storyline work that ROH had ever done with a string of some of the best matches of Punk’s career. Admittedly, it can get a little draining to watch the same wrestler in every match on a disc like this, but the quality opponents he faces are more than up to it. I don’t star rate, but if someone out there does I’m sure that at least half these matches are north of 4 stars. The storyline stuff was revelatory for its time, and it still stands as a fascinating contrast to 2011’s Summer of Punk. While we all know what kind of bigger and better things CM Punk would ascend to in WWE, in his last 2 months with the company, Punk worked overtime to make sure that ROH was, as Foley said, better than when he got there.

Highly recommended.

Summer of Punk

I missed out on the Summer of Punk. What’s the best way to catch all the
highlights?
I realize the Money in the Bank PPV is probably a good place to start,
but I’m also interested in seeing how it unfold on RAW, not just random
clips of chair shots weirdly recolored, in music video format (the kind
of recap WWE is known for).
Is there a Best of CM Punk DVD out that covers the general storyline, or
maybe one in the works?

No, but that Dr. Horrible mashup I posted a couple of weeks ago is FANTASTIC.  Especially now that I’ve watched the original show and get how perfectly it matches up to Punk.  The only thing missing is Punk’s sad face at the end of Summerslam when NPH ends with “…feel a thing”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rz38IwXKG0 A rare second plug from me because it’s so good.  You can also find the Punk-Cena match on Dailymotion and other less reputable places, and it’s also well worth a watch.

Summer of Punk

I missed out on the Summer of Punk. What’s the best way to catch all the
highlights?
I realize the Money in the Bank PPV is probably a good place to start,
but I’m also interested in seeing how it unfold on RAW, not just random
clips of chair shots weirdly recolored, in music video format (the kind
of recap WWE is known for).
Is there a Best of CM Punk DVD out that covers the general storyline, or
maybe one in the works?

No, but that Dr. Horrible mashup I posted a couple of weeks ago is FANTASTIC.  Especially now that I’ve watched the original show and get how perfectly it matches up to Punk.  The only thing missing is Punk’s sad face at the end of Summerslam when NPH ends with “…feel a thing”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rz38IwXKG0 A rare second plug from me because it’s so good.  You can also find the Punk-Cena match on Dailymotion and other less reputable places, and it’s also well worth a watch.

Summer of Punk

I missed out on the Summer of Punk. What’s the best way to catch all the
highlights?
I realize the Money in the Bank PPV is probably a good place to start,
but I’m also interested in seeing how it unfold on RAW, not just random
clips of chair shots weirdly recolored, in music video format (the kind
of recap WWE is known for).
Is there a Best of CM Punk DVD out that covers the general storyline, or
maybe one in the works?

No, but that Dr. Horrible mashup I posted a couple of weeks ago is FANTASTIC.  Especially now that I’ve watched the original show and get how perfectly it matches up to Punk.  The only thing missing is Punk’s sad face at the end of Summerslam when NPH ends with “…feel a thing”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rz38IwXKG0 A rare second plug from me because it’s so good.  You can also find the Punk-Cena match on Dailymotion and other less reputable places, and it’s also well worth a watch.

Summer of Punk

I missed out on the Summer of Punk. What’s the best way to catch all the
highlights?
I realize the Money in the Bank PPV is probably a good place to start,
but I’m also interested in seeing how it unfold on RAW, not just random
clips of chair shots weirdly recolored, in music video format (the kind
of recap WWE is known for).
Is there a Best of CM Punk DVD out that covers the general storyline, or
maybe one in the works?

No, but that Dr. Horrible mashup I posted a couple of weeks ago is FANTASTIC.  Especially now that I’ve watched the original show and get how perfectly it matches up to Punk.  The only thing missing is Punk’s sad face at the end of Summerslam when NPH ends with “…feel a thing”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rz38IwXKG0 A rare second plug from me because it’s so good.  You can also find the Punk-Cena match on Dailymotion and other less reputable places, and it’s also well worth a watch.

Summer of Punk

I missed out on the Summer of Punk. What’s the best way to catch all the
highlights?
I realize the Money in the Bank PPV is probably a good place to start,
but I’m also interested in seeing how it unfold on RAW, not just random
clips of chair shots weirdly recolored, in music video format (the kind
of recap WWE is known for).
Is there a Best of CM Punk DVD out that covers the general storyline, or
maybe one in the works?

No, but that Dr. Horrible mashup I posted a couple of weeks ago is FANTASTIC.  Especially now that I’ve watched the original show and get how perfectly it matches up to Punk.  The only thing missing is Punk’s sad face at the end of Summerslam when NPH ends with “…feel a thing”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rz38IwXKG0 A rare second plug from me because it’s so good.  You can also find the Punk-Cena match on Dailymotion and other less reputable places, and it’s also well worth a watch.

Summer of Punk

I missed out on the Summer of Punk. What’s the best way to catch all the
highlights?
I realize the Money in the Bank PPV is probably a good place to start,
but I’m also interested in seeing how it unfold on RAW, not just random
clips of chair shots weirdly recolored, in music video format (the kind
of recap WWE is known for).
Is there a Best of CM Punk DVD out that covers the general storyline, or
maybe one in the works?

No, but that Dr. Horrible mashup I posted a couple of weeks ago is FANTASTIC.  Especially now that I’ve watched the original show and get how perfectly it matches up to Punk.  The only thing missing is Punk’s sad face at the end of Summerslam when NPH ends with “…feel a thing”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rz38IwXKG0 A rare second plug from me because it’s so good.  You can also find the Punk-Cena match on Dailymotion and other less reputable places, and it’s also well worth a watch.