ROH ‘Best of American Super Juniors Tournament’
April 2nd, 2005
A lot of fans are very bitter towards this show due to what happened in the tournament, but I’m always up for a tournament and Danielson/Spanky, Romero/Shelley and Homicide/Aries drew me to this show. Let’s see how it turned out.
Round 1: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Spanky
These two first met in ROH at ‘Night of Appreciation’ and due to the evolution of both wrestlers, it’s only fitting this match blows it away. The match is so different to the NOA match as well due to the change in their status in ROH and the change in their styles. Back then, Danielson and Spanky were still fine tuning their styles and were not who they were in this match. Circumstances are also different because Spanky is no longer undefeated in ROH and Danielson is no longer in the midst of struggling for victories.
So with that said, Spanky is the underdog of this match due to Danielson’s superior technical ability and due to the fact that the tournament is run by New Japan and that Danielson works for NJPW, while Spanky works for Zero-One MAX. So Spanky has to rely on what he usually uses, high impact, explosive offence. This isn’t to say Spanky doesn’t use his smarts either. Early in the match he outsmarts Danielson a few times and sending him to the outside. He gets a little too overaggressive at times though, as is shown when he tries a springboard forearm, but Danielson catches him into a Wakigatame and segues into the Cattle Mutilation.
After Spanky makes the ropes, Danielson decides to work the arm and attempt to take away Spanky’s finisher, Sliced Bread #2. It neutralises Spanky so well since it is his only finisher. Problem is though Danielson gets annoyed with the fact that the arm work isn’t getting it done soon enough for him and resorts to trying to beat Spanky down, beginning with the Airplane Spin. A short while after that though, Spanky was able to put together a Superkick-Sliced Bread #2 combination. Sure it didn’t cost Danielson the match but it shows the mistake he made, he opened Spanky’s finisher back up to him.
One problem with Spanky is that besides from Sliced Bread #2, he has no other finishers. When that doesn’t get it done, he had to resort to the Avalanche Style version, but if that doesn’t get it done he’s left with nothing. He tries for the Frog Splash as a finisher, but it won’t get the job done. It’s too obvious now he has to resort to his trump card and what won him his match vs. Danielson at NOA, the Avalanche Style Sliced Bread. It doesn’t hit though and in short order he is finished off with the Regal Plex. Both came in with a strategy, but Danielson’s was smarter and paid off in the end. ****
Round 1: Matt Sydal vs. Dragon Soldier B
Dragon Soldier B is none other than Kendo Kashin and if you’re wondering whose stupid idea it was to put him in the American Super Juniors Tournament, blame New Japan. Sydal tries his heart out to get something good out of the match here, but it’s Kendo Kashin in lazy mode and when Kashin is lazy, you need a real miracle worker. Sydal’s moonsault to the floor and Twisting Quebrada make the match a little more watchable, but once again, it’s Kendo in lazy mode. Kashin’s whacky psychology doesn’t help things either, as he goes from working the leg one second to using an impact move and forgetting about the leg work.
Kendo telegraphing the finish also doesn’t help. Everyone could clearly see he was holding the ropes and Sydal was falling straight on his head from the Avalanche Rana. You could’ve tried to cover it up. And why does Kashin need to use the ropes to defeat Matt Sydal? Would he use the ropes to defeat Akiya Anzawa? The answer is no.
Round 1: Alex Shelley vs. Black Tiger
Black Tiger is none other than Rocky Romero and I couldn’t think of a better wrestler to be the 4th generation of the Black Tiger gimmick. Sadly though, this match continued the woeful begin to the year for Shelley. It all started when he lost to Spanky in the opener at ‘It All Begins, lost to Punk at 3YA Part 2 and then was out for a month (he was in Japan). The only victories he had had were against Jacobs and Evans.
The comeback isn’t the best one either, as he and Romero look good in this match, but aren’t given enough time to build it into a proper match. Romero doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s him under the hood, which I have no problem with but the commentators act absolutely clueless to the fact that it’s Romero. Speaking of the announcers, they also don’t bring up the fact that this is the second NJPW vs. Zero-One MAX match of the night, which would’ve been neat.
The problem the match has that sure, given 5 more mins this would’ve clearly passed the *** mark, but all they try and do is get Romero’s stuff over. Shelley is capable of having excellent 8 min matches, just look at his match with Matt Stryker at ‘Round Robin Challenge III’ but in this match, he gets hardly any trademark stuff in and doesn’t even attempt any of his finishers in Shell Shock and the Border City Stretch. Romero on the other hand gets a lot of his stuff in. I don’t mind there being a match for the new Black Tiger to get his stuff over, but it shouldn’t be against a guy the calibre of Shelley.
Round 1: James Gibson vs. Roderick Strong
Unlike the last match, this is a very smartly worked match. Sure, they had around 6 mins more but just watching the match you can tell they’ve got a story to the match rather than getting over any one man’s trademarks. Gibson had Aries coming for a title shot at the next show and Strong’s main focus here is to hurt Gibson, much like he did to Homicide at the previous show. Sure, advancing in the tournament is a nice consolation but he’s the enforcer for Aries and must do his job.
Where the match really picks up is when Strong begins attacking the back of Gibson. The assortment of backbreakers Strong has makes sure things don’t get repetitive. The way Strong just nailed Gibson with backbreakers made him look like a monster. He also got over as a very smart wrestler when he monkey flipped Gibson over, who landed on the ropes and tried for a crossbody, only to be drilled with another backbreaker.
Gibson’s selling also makes this match a real treat. He makes sure not to try things that wouldn’t make sense, Unlike Shawn Michaels’ selling from Summerslam 2002. When he’s upright he’s hunched over and has trouble moving, showing he’s clearly one step behind Strong. He thinks he’s ready to try something but once again his back gives out and Strong is able to drill him with another backbreaker or high impact move. Strong gets a lot of believable near falls in as well, which is a surprise because Gibson works (or maybe worked now) for NJPW and Strong doesn’t (although he needs a Japan deal). In the end, Gibson must take whatever chance he gets for the win and he does that, cradling Strong out of a Liontamer attempt (I’m not talking Jericho’s pussy Boston Crab, this was the real deal back when Jericho did it right). ***1/2
No DQ: CM Punk and Colt Cabana vs. Jimmy Rave and Fast Eddie
I love Rave’s heel work and the Embassy as a whole, but it’s a little hard to believe Fast Eddie in this position. The guy is legally blind and I mean no offence to Eddie, he’s a great competitor for the circumstances he has but still, it’s hard to believe anything he’s doing to two established guys like Punk and Cabana. I would’ve thought Matt Sydal would’ve been better suited for this position because he’s a great wrestler, needs a break and IMO he has that look for a great cocky heel. Thankfully Eddie doesn’t get a lot in this match.
It is only fitting for a show that held an ECW event (maybe more, I never really followed) to be an ECW style brawl. They go all over the building and brawl in true ECW style. Too bad I as never a fan of ECW outside of guys like Benoit, Eddie, Malenko, Tanaka, Awesome, Tajiri, Super Crazy, Guido and Lynn. This isn’t to say I’m not a fan of the hardcore style. I’m big fans of guys like Necro Butcher and Hayabusa’s matches vs. Onita and teaming with Tanaka vs. Funk and Pogo are two of my favourite matches of all time, but they had over the top violence and stellar story telling, this didn’t. It is fun though, I’ll give it that, but I might chalk that up to the fact that I like Cabana, Rave and Punk.
Semi-Final: James Gibson vs. Dragon Soldier B
To really show what ROH thought of Kendo and his position in the tournament, not only shitting all over him on commentary they cut off around 3 mins of the match for a Punk promo (which was worlds better than this match). They ran an angle where Gibson wasn’t able to continue but insisted on it and his selling is the only good point of the match. Kendo’s back work is so generic that Gibson is practically wrestling for 2 men here. At least the finish doesn’t make Gibson seem like a complete chump like the match with Sydal did, with Spanky throwing in the towel for Gibson. This only added to Kashin’s heel heat, but it wasn’t good heat.
Semi-Final: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. Black Tiger
These two met in the finals of the previous year’s BOASJ (not held in ROH) and Dragon came out victorious on that exchange. This time Romero is under a different gimmick and is a lot different of a wrestler. This is also probably only one of few matches where Danielson has been outclassed by his opponent. Romero was really on in this match and all the things he did just stood out more than Danielson’s. His springboard seated senton to the floor is really a sight to behold.
To say Danielson is outclassed doesn’t mean he’s not great in this match, he is, but he’s not Danielson great for some reason. It may be due to him not being happy about the way NJPW was treating him, and I sure wouldn’t be if I were Danielson. He went from the semi-finals of the Best of Super Juniors tournament to only the semi-finals of the BOASJ. Nulty does piss me off by calling Danielson “innovative” for using the Cravate Suplex, which is a Chris Hero trademark and the one who made moves like that popular. One different thing you can tell from Danielson a year ago are the re-introduction of the kick pads to his attire, adding more kicks to his arsenal and boy does he know how to deliver them.
Both men were also pretty even coming into the finish and it was only for Romero being as quick as a cat (tiger?) on the finish for him getting the win. Both men had evenly built up harder hitting offence when coming into the finish, Romero with his springboard dropkick and Danielson with a Superplex-Diving Headbutt combination. The strike sequence followed the even trend of the match and it seemed that Dragon was going to take it home when he nailed the Rolling Elbow. Danielson was smart to revisit the sequence that won him his opening round match vs. Spanky in the Rolling Elbow-Regal Plex combination but as I said above, it is due to Romero’s speed he takes it. He’s able to escape the Regal Plex and nail a lighting quick knee strike, followed with the Tiger Suplex. ***1/4
Scramble Match: Roderick Strong and Jack Evans vs. Ring Crew Express vs. Azrieal and Dixie vs. Lacey’s Angels
This is your usual scramble fun, with great spots and innovation. Of course when you have Strong and Evans in a scramble you know they’re going to stand out, not only with their amazing double teams. Strong makes sure to continue his rampage from earlier, killing people with many high impact moves and Evans with his amazing high flying moves. This isn’t to say the other 6 in the match don’t put in great work as they do. RCE are fun as usual and Azrieal looks like gold in his exchanges with Evans, showing he’s going to be a star. The finish is different to the usual scramble matches as well with Strong finishing off Dixie via submission, with his evil Liontamer, bending Dixie almost in half.
Vacant ROH Tag Titles: Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal vs. BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs
Bauer makes up a story saying Maff is no longer able to wrestle due to being in a car crash and the titles are vacated. The real story from what I have gathered is Maff went after Homicide’s kid (once again this is only what I can gather, but Homicide calling Maff a “paedophile” and saying that “he has to make sure his son isn’t trying to kill Dan Maff” point to it). What this match does though is show the Whitmer and Jacobs combination (Hillbilly JesHUSS) completely outshines the Maff and Whitmer team, showing Maff was indeed the weak link there.
This match reminds me of a lot of the Heavyweight and Junior vs. Heavyweight and Junior tag matches in Japan. Jacobs IMO is the star of this match as well. His work at the beginning with Lethal was great and due to his small stature, when getting worked over by Joe and Lethal he sold it so well and garners a lot of sympathy. Joe and Lethal also have a nice little strategy, try and take Whitmer out of the equation and beat down Jacobs and try and take the belts home. They can’t do this though and Jacobs is able to make the tag to Whitmer and luck. He went for the Contra Code on Lethal, but in Joe stopping the move from happening he was able to make the tag to Whitmer.
Once Whitmer came in he went crazy, since he was the one who probably wanted this win more than anyone. He won the tag titles back at RRC III and then had them taken away later in the night from The Briscoes. He then worked for all of 2004 and early 2005 to recapture them, he wasn’t going home empty handed. His desire hits its peak when he overcomes some Kawada Kicks from Joe and levels him with an Exploder. Whitmer and Jacobs impress all as well by hitting the Doomsday Rana, a spot even Benoit and Otani couldn’t pull off cleanly. In the end, it is only fitting for Whitmer not only to pick up the win, but to dig right down deep and use the Avalanche Style Exploder ’98 for the win. ***
Best of American Super Juniors Final: Black Tiger vs. Dragon Soldier B
Everyone (including myself) when coming into this show were expecting and wanted a Danielson vs. Gibson final. When I was at home reading the live results, I was pissed to say the least this was the final. I love Romero and would’ve even settled for Romero vs. Gibson, but having Kendo in the final is ludicrous. The announcers also agree with me. And Jesus Christ if things couldn’t get any worse, we get the old clichÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© “the ref’s down while the face has the heel beat” spot. At least Kendo pulls out the only good thing he had done in the tournament for the finish, his Avalanche Style Juji-Gatame. Even the though the tournament had great matches, I haven’t seen the booking of a tournament f*cked up this bad since the Puerto Rico Light Heavyweight Title tournament in ’98 (who the f*ck flies Great Sasuke and Tiger Mask IV over from Japan and books them against each other in a 3 min double countout?).
If you’re wondering what’s up with the booking, here’s Meltzer to tell you:” The actual plan for the finals was Gibson versus the new Black Tiger, and with one or the other going over. During the last week, New Japan, which had booking power over the tournament, must have signed Kashin, and then changed their minds to put him over. There was a fight over it, with the feeling Kashin, who does a lazy comedy style most of the time, wouldn’t get over in ROH, plus the fans would be mad at anyone other than Gibson or Danielson winning most likely. In the end, Simon Inoki would not budge.”
ROH World Title: Austin Aries vs. Homicide
Even though Aries’ title win vs. Joe was great and his defences vs. Cabana and Joe were great, this one is probably the smartest worked match. Homicide has probably been the overall MVP of ROH due to the fact he’s been able to pull it out when nobody thought he could and pull out amazing match after amazing match, but when I comes to World Title matches he can’t get it done. At ‘Do or Die’ back in 2003, he came so close but due to Low-Ki and Julius Smokes arguing, he went down to Joe in a ****1/2 encounter. ‘Reborn: Stage One’ he came so close again but after a rollup where he thought he had won he was denied and he snapped. ‘Generation Next’ he came in with a seemingly flawless plan but fell to a Brainbuster. ‘Death Before Dishonor II’ Part 1 and everyone thought it was his time, but he still couldn’t pull it out, but it took Joe everything he had to put Homicide away in another ****1/2 encounter. He had victories over Joe though, but they were non-title, just like his victory over Aries in the Trios Tournament, but can he break the jinx tonight?
Homicide was just like a machine in the beginning, with him taking whatever Aries wanted to dish out and handed it right back. Aries knew from then on that Homicide wasn’t going to be stopped easily, but everyone time he tries to snatch the advantage, Homicide cut him off. He tried going hold for hold with Homicide, Homicide beat him, he tried going move for move with Homicide, once again Homicide stayed ahead and he even tried to brawl with Homicide, but once again Homicide beat him. In the matches with Joe he could hang with him, in the matches with Cabana he was usually ahead, but in this match with Homicide he’s always a step behind.
I’m still torn on whether Homicide kicking out of the Burning Hammer at 1 is good or bad. On one hand, it’s the freakin’ Burning Hammer, but on the other hand the way Homicide sold it was amazing. The look in his eyes had you believing he wasn’t going to be denied and that this was his night. Of course though, the reason why it happened was probably a shot at Maff, since he used it as a finisher.
After the Burning Hammer Homicide was in kill mode, hitting Aries with a Yakuza Kick and Brainbuster. What followed would’ve finished things if it didn’t injure Homicide almost as bad as it did Aries. Aries was set on the time keeper’s table and Homicide flew out of the ring with his Tope Con Hilo, crushing Aries on the table. This leaves Homicide out of it though and unable to capitalize. He had to roll the dice though. Back in he was met with an Aries 450, but luckily was saved by J-Train. Luckily Aries had Smokes taken out of the equation by Danielson though, which got over the Homicide-Danielson feud very well. Aries and Danielson hate each other and for Danielson to help out Aries shows how much he hates Aries.
The sequence that followed had the fans believing we had a new champ. Homicide ran through one of his main finishing sequences, the Avalanche Ace Crusher followed by the thunderous Lariat, a sequence never seen in a Homicide title challenge. Aries was able to survive though. Just like DBD II Part 1 though, after such a valiant effort, he was put away, but in big fashion. Aries first Brainbuster was nailed, but the 450 missed, allowing Homicide to try for the Cop Killa, but he was still groggy from the Brainbuster and Aries made sure he would stay down for the 450 with Rolling Brainbusters. So just like Joe, he has to do everything he can to put Homicide away. And just like his matches with Joe, Homicide has the title snatched away. Great encounter which is my new 2004 MOTY so far (the original one involved Homicide as well, so great start to the year for him). ****1/2