Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ring of Honor - Top 25 in 2002 - Pt. 1 (of 5)

In the past couple years, Ring of Honor (ROH) has made strides to become a bigger and more significant pro-wrestling company. It's unique brand of pro-wrestling has made an internet darling for years, but the company has certainly had its growing pains since its inception in 2002. The product is undeniably excellent in terms of in-ring match quality, but in recent times it has tried to develop in the realm of storylines and angles.

In that first year, ROH took their approach, secured top independent talent, notable free agents and made an impressive go at it. While that product differs from the current product in many regards, it is still significant in looking at how far the company has come in the past near-decade.

I will be presenting a series of reviews I did from 2002-2004 featuring the top 25 matches from ROH in those formative years.  From the time of Ring of Honor being designed largely to fill the coffers of RF Video until the sexual solicitation scandal that led to Rob Feinstein selling his shares of the company and ROH taking a new turn under the ownership of Cory Silkin.

**Please excuse some of my ratings if they seem low, basically they are to be taken with a grain of salt.**

25. Christopher Daniels vs. Doug Williams (Ring of Honor - 10/5/02 "Honor by Glory")
These two competed in the big ironman match and are the first of any of the pair to wrestle each other since that match, as weird as that seems. The big Briton shows great agility and that Euro-goodness we all love. Daniels re-establishes that he's the heel here by "breaking the code of honor" in an effort to stay even early on. Williams' offense is so excellent and Daniels gives him a lot of room and sells like a champ. The finish is strong with Daniels escaping again and again, before using the ropes to get the pin. Decent, though it lacked something. Williams is yet to have a "off" match in the US from what I've seen.
Rating: ***1/4

24. AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels (Ring of Honor -11/16/02 "Scramble Madness")
These guys had an tremendous match in June, so I'd expect something of that level at least. Styles is pretty on here, which means as long as Daniels can keep everything in order this'll be good. This is kind of more of the same, a lot of counter-wrestling, big moves and a fair amount of hard strikes. It was the indy-style countering though that was the best here as these guy's appeared to be in one another's mind. Not a slick and story-driven as the June match, which is amongst ROH's best matches for was the best match on their best show after all. I expect more out of high-caliber rematches and this didn't deliver on the level it should have I didn't think. I guess the heat between thew two was kind of lacking and they were more "having a good match" than telling a story. AJ gets his win back, which is fine, the post-match brawling with ROH guys and the Prophecy is fine as well. This just seemed to lack most of the qualities that made first so excellent.
Rating: ***1/2

23. American Dragon vs. Paul London (Ring of Honor - 11/9/02 "All-Star Extravaganza")
This is the final match in a gauntlet series that was very well booked in my humble opinion. We saw London defeat his rival Michael Shane (who had a previous match with CM Punk) that saw him take a pounding. Then after a strange Tommy Dreamer promo and a cheapshot by Shane, a fast-paced match with Red, he met American Dragon. The strategy is simple, break London down with submission holds and stiff strikes. London is banged up, but still has fight in him, but is it going to be enough. The finish makes sense, Dragon going over a weakened London and it strongly sets up a rematch, however the actual moves made it fall flat. London got a nearfall, but Dragon came back with a Dragon Suplex and Cattle Mutiliation for a quick tap. I prefer pinfalls in this situation and at least a fight until the very end. Contextual this is hit-and-miss, stand alone this is hit-and-miss. I would have preferred they worked more for the context, however Dragon still had a match with AJ Styles after this. The rematch is far more interesting methinks.
Rating: ***1/2

22. Steve Corino & Low-Ki vs. Shinjiro Otani & Masato Tanaka (Ring of Honor - 11/9/02 "All-Star Extravaganza")
A so-called "Zero-One Challenge match." Ki's place would be filled by CW Anderson the next night at Corino's PWF show, which was a fun *** match. What's funny is Anderson and Ki are juniors in Japan, even though they're top guys in PWF and ROH respectively. So basically this is the top tag team in Japan against two gaijins who aren't really on their level as far as status, but who cares? The fans love Otani and his tactics, so there are no real heels here, which makes it funny. Tanaka is the big worker here because that's just how is, while Ki hangs best he can and Otani & Corino just do their schticks. This is decidedly better than the PWF match as its a little more innovative and more fun in my opinion, however gauging Emblem's efforts in America is kind of ridiculous because it's a different world to them and they work differently.
Rating: ***1/2

21. American Dragon vs. Spanky (Ring of Honor - 4/27/02 "Night of Appreciation")
This was the final match in the Heartbreak Gauntlet Series that featured some pretty uneventful short matches, but it started the Shane-London feud I guess. London over Hope in a clipped match, Shane over London in like 4 minutes, before a nifty little Shane-Spanky match. After Shane played a bleeding babyface who takes Spanky the distance before going down. Big pop for Dragon and you knew you'd see these two in there somewhere, so why not make it the final match. Dragon busts out his garb from the TWA days for this match and I'm diggin' it. Dragon controls most of this as you'd expect and you just dunno which way this'll go. Spanky, after being the heel in the previous bout, is slowly getting over as the lovable goofball (how can't you love a guy with Hawaii print pants with a torn out crotch?) This picks up really well with Dragon killing the kid, who's getting over great because he can take a beating and is spunky and stuff. A fantastic final few minutes and finish that made this just awesome. These two needed a rematch, but we'd never get it. For something so short this was really all one can ask for. Despite some of the shortcomings due to Spanky working around 30 minutes at an elevated rate, but he sold really well and got over well with Dragon really carrying him when he needed to. Really enjoyable match.
Rating: ***1/2

20. Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Donovan Morgan vs. Low-Ki, Doug Williams, Homicide (Ring of Honor - 11/9/02 "All-Star Extravaganza")
The first tag title defense and it's a six-man. Fine by me as long as it has some order to it unlike the "scramble tags." Ki and Morgan open things up nicely with fast-paced counterwrestling. The big men check in (Williams and Joe) and pace things a bit. Then Daniels and Homicide (the respective capitains) do there thing. Ki-Daniels is given no fanfare as Daniels is merely playing the weak link of his team, which makes sense because he's the smallest, but he is the leader after all. Williams ends up playing his team's for much of the match, which again is fine, but he is the big man so it looks kind of funny. They did the dive-after-dive deal, the finisher teases and hits towards the end. The finish is kind of anticlimatic, but served its purpose. This has qualities of those great early 90s AJ tags, but it's obviously not on quite that level.
Rating: ***1/2

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