Ring of Honor - Top 25 in 2002 - Pt. 2 (of 5)
19. Christopher Daniels vs. American Dragon (Ring of Honor - 3/30/02 "Round Robin Challenge")
The opening match of the night starts quickly and fairly intensely. Dragon grounds Daniels with his plain matwork, but they don't stay there for too long. The pacing is great here as it's fast and slow with just the right amount of both, which keeps the crowd into it, but neither burns them out nor bores them. Daniels breaks down the neck and Dragon sells it very well and you can almost see it happening. The final few minutes are back-and-fourth, but Dragon's offense is hindered by his hurting neck. Strong clean win by Daniels and Dragon will only have a short while to prepare for Ki. The length here was fine, but trying to sell an injury in such a short match is kind of lame. I think stretching this and Daniels going after Dragon's neck.
18. American Dragon vs. Paul London (Ring of Honor - 12/7/02 "Night of the Butcher")
The finals of a really poor #1 contenders tournament with these two knocking of new comers Chad Collyer and EZ Money respectively in the first round. London emerged as a major in a few months earlier in a "street fight" against Michael Shane. These two are the top workers (IMO) out of the two waves of Shawn Micheals' Wrestling Academy. This is a great match here with them working a nice combination of stiffer than average strikes, limited matwork and some campy face-heel stuff to make this different. Dragon, who was starting his "call me Bryan Danielson" phase, heels it up here beating on the young up-and-comer. The fans don't really get into that stuff like I'd prefer, but you can't depend on the smart marks for making good marks. I think he figures that out and decides to lay in the strikes rather than play a prick. It works really well because I think a lot of indy heels mail it in on the working side and just do the cheap heat. He studied under Regal though so he knows where it's at. London is a superb underdog type and hits plenty hard here, so we actually get one of the stiffer ROH matches. The finish is excellent with Dragon getting pounded down again and again, but refuses to die before London hits the Shooting Star and scores the upset win. Dragon could be a great touring junior working an Otani style where he punks out people and lets them win every once and a while. It's a role that everyone gets into, yet few do it. A nice step in the right direction for him and London looked as good as I've ever seen him look in his typical role.
17. Samoa Joe vs. Homicide (Ring of Honor -11/16/02 "Scramble Madness")
A logical battle after Joe choked out Homicide at the last show in a six-man tag. Homicide played a big part in the popularization of puro-influenced wrestling on the East Coast and Joe has been doing that style on the West Coast for a few years now, so it's a fun battle in that sense. Homicide's shoulder is taped up and you know he's gonna taken an ass-whoopin here. Joe interestingly works on his eye early on, making Homicide's offense seem more desperate because he's smaller and all hurting. Nice seesaw action with both guys hitting hard and doing some head-dropping too. The end is strong with Joe pounding the dog outta Homicide, but he manages to sneak in a flash pin. A nice simple story where it was all visuals with no real intricacies. One of the lesser talked about ROH matches worth checking out.
16. Low-Ki vs. Christopher Daniels (Ring of Honor - 3/30/02 "Round Robin Challenge")
The feud that would become the main program for ROH in their first year is the second in the Round Robin Challenge, where Daniels made Dragon tap. Daniels turns down the handshake early and Low-Ki explodes on him, controlling the opening segment of the match with all the stiff strikes you expect and a few submissions here and there, it all being well done and Daniels selling puts it over the top. Daniels turns it around with a slower, more methodical pace as is appropriate for heels. Ki gets strong hope spots in the last part before leading into a slick reversal into a clean submission victory that sets up the last match big. A great 12-minute match, but producing a classic in that span of time is nary impossible.
15. Christopher Daniels vs. Donovan Morgan (Ring of Honor - 4/27/02 "Night of Appreciation")
Morgan's ROH debut as both West Coast wrestlers meet on the East Coast...weird. Too bad Daniels never mentions how he beat Morgan in the first King of the Indies tournie, but I guess that'd mean Morgan would have to get one back here and you don't wanna spoil anything. They do straight wrestling with Morgan doing headlock work, which is fine. This is simple stuff with not many highspots, but the work is solid and it's busting with nice, lil' intricies. They limit the big bumps, so that when they actual deliver them the fans like it, which is how you work boys. This was very much a APW type match minus about 5-10 minutes of matwork because they just don't have the time. Morgan was made to look like a great counter wrestler and that's how he got it done. This made Morgan to a degree, but the chorus of boo's after doesn't tell if he's over or the fans just hate him. Too short to really make the impact that a 25-minute match with more meaningful matwork would have had, but they got the crowd going with their aborted NoCal style, which is cool. Nothing looked sloppy, but they were tired with the closing sprint, but they kept it together.