Friday, July 2, 2010

Ring of Honor - Top 25 in 2002 - Pt. 3 (of 5)

14. Christopher Daniels & Donovan Morgan vs. Dick Togo & Ikuto Hidaka (Ring of Honor - 9/21/02 "Unscripted")
The FEC come to America as part of a tour and they offered up some damn good matches. The fans always love the Japanese, so the Prophecy can be heels here and it really works. I really dig Daniels and Morgan pair, Morgan as the bully and Daniels as the prick. They make me think of Rip Hawk & Swede Hansen, though I imagine there's a better example. The last leg of this is great with hot nearfalls, see-saw offense and a nice heel win for The Prophecy, hopefully to set up a rematch. This would have been a better tag tournie finale, but that's only in hindsight. Everyone filled their roles excellently and the pacing and heat were right there. Best ROH tag team match I think.
Rating: ***3/4

13. Low-Ki vs. AJ Styles (Ring of Honor - 4/27/02 "Night of Appreciation")
The first high-caliber battle between these two exceptional indy stars, it's Styles' ROH debut and Ki's first match not against Daniels or Dragon, so you gotta be nervous. Styles is prone to being spotty and Ki can be dragged in as well, so it's a test to stay away from that. They warm things up with some matwork and Styles sorta surprisingly looks better and Ki makes him pay with vicious kicks. And that's how a lot of this goes - AJ starts to dominate and Low-Ki tries to kill him. Styles busts out some pretty intense offense. Donnie B makes this great analogy as Loki is the Angel of Death in Christian mythology and Styles is a born again Christian, so this is a battle of Biblical sure is. Ki gives Styles most of the advantage and the kid is on tonight, so it's damn good stuff. They do really good back-and-fourth nearfalls towards the end with the Philly fans starting to realize Styles might just beat their boy, especially after this sick head-drop DDT. The finish was a flash pin, which was good and bad. This match definitely made Styles in Ring of Honor and these two did far from the really weak match they had a few months later in NWA-TNA. A strong effort, but only the tip of the iceberg.
Rating: ***3/4

12. Amazing Red vs. Low-Ki (Ring of Honor - 6/22/02 "Road to the Title")
These two are familiar with each other, so I expect something strong. Ki KO'd Nana, so he's good to go and Red scored a win over Xavier in a "typical" match, so I want more outta these two. They start off great with the super-fun kung fu intro before Ki goes into "real" martial arts combat. They bounce between the two, which gets the crowd really into it. Sorta bad ass striker vs. great flyer, which is a really common theme in joshi. That comparision is flawed though because while this was more fun, Maekawa-Momoe this ain't do to experience, style and time constrants. This just has too much of a fun factor: goofy selling, very obvious spots and a the strikes were more "ouch!" than "ooow, son of bitch!" Red bumped big time though and the last leg of this really makes it more than a really fun match and one of the better matches.
Rating: ***3/4

11. Low-Ki vs. Samoa Joe ("Fight without Honor")(Ring of Honor - 10/5/02 "Honor by Glory")
These two had my favorite match at the KOI `01 tournie doing an MMA style that was really fun. They go right to the ground with aggressive action. Joe is a great bad ass monster here, giving Ki enough to stay competitive, but he's the man in charge here. So when Low-Ki goes on the offense he has to make it stiff and meaningful. Joe's offense is good, but I've seen it better, they most just pound the hell outta one another. Now that's psychology, actually it does make sense and it's an exciting contest. Joe's Otaniisms on top of his big man dominance get him more heat then the ROH smarts usually offer up. The tale end of this is excellent with some unique counter-wrestling shades of the UWFI. They add in some head-dropping as a little icing on top before sending it home with strikes. The finish lacked the "mmph" I wanted, but they really killed each other late and that's messed up. They shake hands and that's that.
Rating: ****

10. American Dragon vs. AJ Styles (Ring of Honor - 11/9/02 "All-Star Extravaganza")
Dragon's coming off a good match with Paul London by way of gauntlet series and Styles always is pushed pretty hard and treated like a star by the fans. They open up with some strong matwork, which the crowd respects as well as one can expect. Then spill out to the floor and things pick up for a bit physically and you know that's how this is goin'. Dragon hits the Malenko Bottlecap on the arm and goes to town on it. Styles busts open Dragon with something and we have a weird heel bleeding and face with bad arm story going now. Dragon looks dynamite here as a slightly-off Styles is kept right in there and he heels it up very well. The finish is excellent as Dragon fits for his life to avoid the Styles Clash, but he falls to it in the end. Dragon gives him the "#1 Contenders Trophy" and plays the babyface again, dammit man commit to being a heel. Dragon looked really strong here working a very basic match, letting AJ do his things and keeping them decent, but AJ was really a step off here.
Rating: ****

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