Sunday, July 4, 2010

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

The TOP FIVE, in my humble opinion, ROH matches of their first year!

5. Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe (Ring of Honor - 8/24/02 "Honor Invades Boston")
Ah, the Briscoe brothers, they work sooo much better with each other than they do with anyone else, but I guess that isn't surprising. Mark, still 17 here, could never wrestle in Pennsylvania and Jay has been struggling in ROH since it's conception. They start with some nice even matwork and you know it's just beginning, but it's damn good off the bat. When did Mark become a great heel? His mannerisms are better than nearly everyone on the show and at his age that's pretty mind-boggling. Jay is bloodied and his little brother doesn't let up a bit, in fact he goes after it! These two knowing one another's movesets makes this thing great as all the greenness seems to disappear and everything is hit really well and they sell things as well as they are able. Jay returns fire, attacking the right hand, which is cool and then the knee, which Mark puts over very well. Then at the end they go to the big moves, which they go all out on. Jay looked really good here, but Mark looked even better. They stole the show at CZW's first Best of the Best show about a year before this and man this smokes that match. Amazing match considering many factors and one that will be tough to duplicate, but if they keep improving...who knows? These two seemed to be working beyond their abilities and it was quite a thing to watch, but if you haven't seen much or little of either you might not think as highly of this as I do.
Rating: ****1/4

4. Christopher Daniels vs. AJ Styles (Ring of Honor - 6/22/02 "Road to the Title")
Great beginning with an intense feeling-out where any bails look like counters, so it's all good. It flows right into the body of the match which is surprisingly mat-based. Their KOI `01 match (**3/4) was pretty spotty, so seeing something totally different is nice. The cameraman checking out Simply Luscious is kinda disturbing, but he does provide the better shots of the action after all. Styles looks really crafty here, but Daniels looks even better. Story was basically, Daniels grounds AJ very well, but he busts loose eventually and gets his highspot offense in and Daniels must weather that storm. He uses a few tricks to do that and a blooded AJ Styles is game, but not game enough. Great see-saw battle that makes you really wonder (especially after Dragon's elimination) because Daniels is the top heel, but AJ is seen as a major star. Daniels was great here and provided the best story of the night, hell, he even botched a spot and it worked (ala Liger-Sasuke). The ending and finish were tremendous and made this the MOTN.
Rating: ****1/4

3. American Dragon vs. Doug Williams (Ring of Honor - 11/16/02 "Scramble Madness")
These two had a really great Euro-style match in June and here's the rematch, a thirty-minute ironman match. I would have prefer a 2/3 Falls match, but you take what you can get. The early stuff is tons of fun as they work wrestling holds, not "real" holds. They keep off the striking pretty well, so when they finally get to it, it's real meaningful. They go between holds and strikes the first fifteen minutes and then go to the big power moves, which has to be a killer. A pair of Dragon Suplexes gets the first win for Dragon leaving Williams with a scant 12 minutes to even match him in falls. He quickly turns it around and goes on the offense and his is top notch, but it's taking everything out of him and he just can't put Dragon away. It goes down to the final five minutes with some hot nearfalls that sees Dragon kick out of everything. You really expect Williams to get the fall to even it up and it provides for great drama right up to the end. Doug gets a hot cradle nearfall and runs to the end with Dragon's injured neck in the clutches of a Crossface Hold, but he hangs on. Tremendous old style match with a lot of great matwork early on and suplexes later on. A real gem of a match that leaves a third match in the wings.
Rating: ****1/2

2. Low-Ki vs. American Dragon (Ring of Honor - 3/30/02 "Round Robin Challenge")
These two are so great against one another, but here they wrestle a totally different kind of match...matwork galore! Dragon's neck is hurting and his eye's bloodied and he suffered a loss, while Ki is pretty fresh and 1-0 for the night. Sort of a worked shoot (Ken Shamrock as the ref works really well too) where they toss in some Euro-type stuff to keep this a pro-wrestling match. They hold off the strikes for a bit, but when they open em up it's everything you expect. Ki goes right after the eye, Dragon takes offense to that and it's on. Dragon is really banged up and seems to be at a major disadvantage in the middle, but ends up turning it around and dominating the last 1/3. Big high-impact moves see the momentum swing back-and-fourth and heat the crowd up big time. Nice clean win for Dragon, who would kind of be put on the backburner in the following months, while Ki became the man in the company. The post-match really set a tone for how ROH should always be, but ya wonder if that style could last.
Rating: ****1/2

1. Low-Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Spanky vs. Doug Williams (Ring of Honor - 7/27/02 "Crowning a Champion")
An interesting collection of talent in a real interesting gimmick match. Ki-Daniels have the long-running storyline feud and Spanky has kind of been plugged in as being like Daniels (sorta ignores the Code of Honor), while Williams is just a damn good wrestler they want to establish further. Rules are 2 points for a win, -1 for a loss and this is an 1-hour ironman match. Williams works everyone and establishes the slow technical base very well. I like the others, but they aren't on his level in that aspect. That is what the first 15+ minutes are though, no big spots, just wearing down the body. The announcing is pretty excellent too as they get over each guy in their own way, while presenting a key weakness as well that will likely play out here. Ki has great strikes, but can't survive without them. Daniels is a psychologist, but is overconfident. Spanky has great heart, but is quick-tempered. Williams is the most powerful, but also carries the most weight. Ki-Daniels is held off until about 20 minutes in (Daniels would only tag in and beat on a downed Low-Ki), which is pivotal as Ki seems like he's behind with his bad knee and they also use this time as the accelaration point. The plot thickens as Ki is kept out, Daniels and Spanky create an alliance of sorts and Williams continus to look strong, but he still ain't winning. A great spot heats things up with just over 15 left and Daniels remains in control and in the lead. The story becomes great as Daniels is in control, Ki still hangs on, Spanky is hungry and Williams is fading fast. It picks up going into the homestretch with Daniels yet to lose a fall and growing desperate to score another to pull ahead. The nearfalls are hot and everyone is busting out good-looking stuff despite apparent exaustion, it goes to heated final few minutes with Ki and Daniels finishing it. Everyone but Daniels congradulates the champ and Ki breaks down in the back in a show of emotion that wrestling never has. While everyone impressed me and I'm not disappointed with the finish, I think Williams and Spanky really stepped it up here and were largely the backbone of this match, in the first and second halves respectively. Daniels was kept strong, as he should be and Ki was made the champion, which is as good as anyone. As good of a story as you'll ever se told in the ring and thankfully the announcers were there to explain it for anyone who might not know what was up. Yes, this had a few flaws...every match does, even the best, but this had a great story and something at "this level" being this good is truly a great thing. MOTYC for sure and perhaps the best indy match wouldn't be hard to make a sound case.
Rating: ****1/2

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