ROH ‘Manhattan Mayhem’
May 7th, 2005
ROH always produces stellar cards, but it was turned up a notch here. Just like it was turned up at ‘Reborn: Stage 2’ and the ‘Death Before Dishonor’ weekend in 2004, ROH turned it up here and put on perhaps their best card of all time. Pick it up from ROHWrestling as usual and check out Scott at BLUETHUNDERVIDEO~! and Parts Unknown.
Losing Team Must Split Up: Azrieal and Dixie vs. Lacey’s Angels
Ring Crew Express of course were supposed to be in this but they get attacked by the returning Carnage Crew, so this leaves us with a straight tag match. One thing you’ll notice in this match is that if you go a year back and watch these 4 guys wrestle, there would be a few blown spots, but in this match there are no blown spots or miscommunication. They also really add a sense of desperation to the match, showing that they do not want to break up. That’s something I thought they’d forget about but luckily they don’t.
Azrieal takes a nice beating as well, selling it in fine fashion. One more thing though that you’d notice if you went back and watched these guys wrestle is that they’re now building their matches better and aren’t just throwing random moves out, they’re making their matches make sense. Both the teams also have some killer double teams, Azrieal and Dixie. They had a really good looking one in the Camel Clutch-Top Rope Double Stomp (sadly many people are using double stomps to the head these days, but nobody will ever do them like Super Dragon), which accidentally hit Dixie and ended up costing Azrieal and Dixie the match. How it cost them the match is it left Azrieal 2-1 and even though he took out Izzy, he couldn’t take out Deranged and was put away with that reverse Hurricanrana Piledriver. ***
Colt Cabana vs. Nigel McGuiness
What I love about this match is that they mix great comedy with tremendous psychology. Just look at Cabana’s comedic escapes and how they continue to get Nigel frustrated to the point he thinks he has a counter for them but Cabana just continues to reverse Nigel’s reversal. Nigel does his share of throwing Cabana off with escapes as well, especially with his escapes of Cabana’s pinfall.
I love Cabana thinking he’s got Nigel’s ode to Jonny Saint covered but Nigel outsmarts Cabana in the end and is able to go through with it. As I said above with Cabana’s comedic escapes, the main one is him continually rolling through and crawling away off Nigel’s stacking cradle. The finish is also a really well done one, as it leaves the question mark did Nigel really mean to catch Cabana with a low blow when attempting to roll through the legs or didn’t he? Whether he did or he didn’t it really adds another dynamic to the feud. ***1/4
James Gibson vs. Black Tiger
Both men’s great 2005 run continues as they have their rematch from ‘Back to Basics’ but this time with Romero under the mask. Gibson really brings great intensity to this match with him not only trying to get momentum into his World Title match a week from this event but also try and prove to New Japan management that he belongs in the Best of Super Juniors tournament. Black Tiger on the other hand wants momentum going into his Tokyo Dome Junior Title match with Tiger Mask.
Romero continues with the Black Tiger way here and really dicks it up, but he slowly does it. To start, he’s willing to give Gibson clean breaks and what not, but he slowly turns into the true Rocky Romero and starts not giving Gibson clean breaks and dicks it up only the way Rocky Romero can. Gibson does a great job selling in this match and does some pretty funky reversals, especially the escape out of the Juji-Gatame into a Texas Cloverleaf.
It’s interesting that the psychology in this match comes in the closing moments, but it is a nice touch. Romero doing the Fisherman Suplex-Ankle Lock is pretty innovative, but simple and it makes you think why anyone hasn’t done it before. Gibson’s selling; much like vs. Strong at BOASJ is once again top notch and really puts thought into selling the ankle. His selling after catching Romero with a gutbuster off a crossbody attempt is really a site to behold. Gibson’s victory is not about him being the better wrestler, as they were both pretty even, but more him being the smarter wrestler as he reverses Romero’s Northern Lights Suplex into the Guillotine Choke. ***3/4
ROH Tag Titles: Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer vs. Roderick Strong and Jack Evans
When it comes to tag team spotfests, this is one of the best around. Both teams having a big man and a little man really adds to the match as well. When it comes to punishment as well, both Jacobs and Evans are great at it, as Jacobs is a fine seller and Evans is able to take bumps thought impossible. Speaking of things thought impossible, Jacobs takes a move thought impossible as he is laid on the middle rope and his stomach and then Strong launches Evans from a powerbomb position and Evans lands in a double stomp on Jacobs back.
When Jacobs is getting worked over, not only is it great for his selling but with the high impact offence Strong hands out it is made even better. Just look at Strong’s Yakuza Kick. Gen Next’s double teams are top notch as usual, bringing the Boosted Phoenix Splash. Evans’ offence is a sight to behold as usual with all his flips and flops. Although Gen Next’s offence is really hard hitting, it is due to their arrogance that Jacobs is able to tag out.
The closing sequence is amazing with high impact moves being handed out left and right, but they still manage to make sure the legal men are involved in the pinfall. The match also has two false finishes where the fans believed were 3 in the Doomsday Rana and the Ode to the Bulldogs where Evans came down with a Phoenix Senton instead of a Moonsault. Another great part about the closing sequence as well are the hard hitting moves or exchanges between Strong and Whitmer. Since Evans kicked out of Jacobs and Whitmer’s tag finisher, it causes them to pull out their trump card if you will in the Doomsday Contra Code with Evans landing on his head. If you’re a fan of spotfests, you’ll love this. ****
ROH Pure Title: Jay Lethal vs. Samoa Joe
Without Pure Title rules Joe would most probably have the advantage, but due to Joe not being used to the Pure Title rules, the student is the one with the advantage. Joe likes to strike his opponents and wear them down and even though it is effective, it doesn’t really advantage you in a Pure Title match since if all of your rope breaks are gone, you can be placed in a hold in the ropes and the match is quickly over, unlike normal matches.
One more problem is one of Joe’s main sequences, the Tenryu jabs and chops. First time he jabs Lethal he gets a warning and Joe quickly realises what he has done, but Joe does not learn from his mistake and later on in the match he once again uses a closed fist, under different circumstances but it costs him his 3rd and final rope break. As if Joe wasn’t at a disadvantage with this being his first match under Pure Title rules, he now has no rope breaks, yet his opponent and student has all 3 remaining. Joe quickly realises he has to do something and fast and forces Lethal to use his first rope break in the Powerbomb-Boston Crab-STF combination.
Lethal is a really smart wrestler in this match as well, not only forcing Joe into a corner by making him lose all his rope breaks but by knowing Joe’s trademarks. A prime example is the Face Wash and how Lethal avoids the final one and nails Joe with an explosive dropkick. He also softens up the neck in the early going to set up for his Dragon Suplex. He uses many neckbreakers to soften in up in the early going and even uses one in the final moments.
A table spot may seem out of place for a Pure Title match, but it really added to the match. One reason was Joe had really nothing else he could do as he was locked in a choke in the apron and had no rope breaks, a second is that it was really spontaneous and a third is that it added a real question mark onto the match as to what could happen next.
Back in is where the match really heats up even more, with the offence being uses smartly. Hoe realises that he needs to make Lethal lose one of his rope breaks for a possible Choke in the ropes and does it in the Snap Powerslam-Juji-Gatame. Lethal on the other hand keeps up with the neck work using another neckbreaker and a Diving DDT in preparation for the Dragon Suplex. There is doubt though whether Lethal will be able to get Joe up for the Dragon Suplex, but he can always rely on some sort of a neck submission in the ropes as a backup. He is able to hit it though, but does not get him the victory, but it got him close. Lethal should’ve followed up with a neck submission in the ropes but tries for the Dragon again and that’s what costs him the match with Joe being able to reverse out and dust off the Chimeraplex combo (German Suplex-Dragon Suplex-Aztec Suplex) for the win.
What’s great about this match are all the little stories in it. From Joe having trouble with the rules, Lethal trying to prove himself vs. his mentor, Joe’s struggle to not only win the Pure Title but to not be beaten by his student and Lethal wanting to prove not only to Joe but the fans he is a force to be dealt with in ROH. Plus the moves are laid out really well and aren’t just random moves being thrown out. I expected a great match coming in, but not the match the levels Joe and Lethal put out and I never expected it to be the front runner for MOTY. ****1/2
Post match the Rottweilers come out looking deadly and beatdown Joe and Lethal, setting for a match later on.
Dog Collar Match: CM Punk vs. Jimmy Rave
Two words sum up this match, intense and fun. I’ll get to why it’s fun later but first for the intense. This feud has been based on Rave trying to make his name at Punk’s expense; much like Punk did to Raven. Rave’s approach vs. Punk though is different to Punk’s approach when he faced Raven and also the reasoning. Punk and Raven was a differing of lifestyles, this is more a young punk trying to make his name. The approach is different as well since Punk’s feud with Raven seemed justified, that it was a differing of beliefs, but this more Rave picking an ROH legend and trying to make his name.
The reasoning for the Dog Collar stipulation was that Rave could always run from Punk and now he can’t, so it’s pretty simple. The one problem it does have though is that even though Rave can’t run, the Embassy can still be a factor. The fact that Punk is 1.0 Muta as well adds so much to the match and it really amazes how much a huge loss of blood can add to a match. Just look at Hase vs. Muta from 1992 and Joe vs. Jay in the Cage and how much it added to the match. Now for how the match is also fun. Punk’s early offence in how he shows up Rave is pretty fun and it’s fitting to see Rave become Punk’s bitch now he can’t run and when Punk is pounding on the other members of the Embassy in the closing moments of the match is also pretty fun.
Rave tries his best to beat Punk without the Embassy, but just can’t do it. He did a nice job early on by attacking Punk from behind to try and get it over and done with early on and even though that doesn’t get it done, he’s lucky enough to catch Punk showboating and bust him open but even when working over Punk, he’s still not able to put him away on his own. You can try and make your name as much as you want and you’ll get so far, but if you can’t beat the guy cleanly you will ultimately never reach your goal.
Rave has attacked Punk many ways in his feud. He attacked his eye sight with bug spray, he attacked his girlfriend, he attacked his mental state by defeating Punk in his home town, he attacked Punk’s identity by trying to scrape Punk’s Straight Edge tattoo off with a cheese grater and now he attacks Punk’s skull, which has been cracked before with many sickening chair shots. Rave attempted to beat Punk on his own, but once again he had to rely on the Embassy. It is now apparent that the only way that the feud can truly be settled is the Cage Match, scheduled for a week after this show took place. Will Punk finally beat Rave and get his revenge or will Rave be able to defeat Punk on his own finally? ***3/4
ROH World Title: Austin Aries vs. Alex Shelley
What’s amazing here is how much Shelley outclasses Aries when it comes to being an overall wrestler. Don’t get me wrong, Aries is a good wrestler but he does a lot of things here that take him down a few notches in my book. His selling is all off in that one moment he’s all loopy but he’s ok a split second later and that even though he’s a heel; he acts as though he’s a face at times. He should be really acting like a dick and attempting to get the crowd behind Shelley as much as he can, not the opposite.
Shelley though brings real intensity to the match and helps the story of the match flow. Aries attacked him and kicked him out of Generation Next, a group Shelley built, so he’s obviously looking for revenge, even though he’s met the error of his ways he doesn’t appreciate being betrayed. Doing simple things like yelling “You mother f*cker” before delivering a double knees attack in the corner does wonders for the intensity. The story is that Shelley found Aries and got him to levels that would’ve taken Aries years to attain, so he’s obviously going to know his signatures and on many different occasions blocks Aries signature combinations. When he’s reviewing Aries’ combinations, he’s selling the punishment so well you realise that he can’t block it because of the pain he’s feeling.
One problem the match does though is at times it makes Shelley seem like a chump. This is really due to the different ways both men sell. Shelley sells everything like death but Aries on the other hand will be selling the move like death but then without even shaking it off he’s back to normal. It makes Shelley’s offence seem somewhat inferior to Aries’ at times. He doesn’t always do it during the match, but at times it’s really easy to notice what’s going on. A good example would be his selling of the first Shell Shock and how it helped get it over as a potential finish. His selling of the second Shell Shock is also really well done as he has to resort to the ropes to save himself.
The problem here with the booking surrounding the match, the only suitable finish is Shelley showing why he was the leader of Generation Next and taking the victory. Plus the way the story of the match and the psychology used was really calling for the Shelley victory. Instead we get Aries being able to survive Shelley’s trademarks and getting finished off with the Brainbuster-450 combination. Hell, I would’ve settled for Aries having to dig down deep and have Shelley survive a few Brainbusters before being put down to show Aries really had to fight for the victory, but instead it’s just Brainbuster, 450 and thanks for coming. Weird result aside though, this match was split up into positives and negatives and even though the positives were pretty damn good, the negatives stop it from being the classic I had hoped. ***1/2
The Rottweilers come out and have words with Aries, but he backs away and then Joe and Lethal attack to set up out impromptu main event.
Homicide and Low-Ki vs. Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal
How they fit as many moves they do into 10 minutes is really beyond me but amazingly they do it. Don’t mistake it for a bunch of moves being thrown out with rhyme or reason though; they’re getting over the hatred. Joe and Lethal’s hot and heavy start really gets over the hatred and when the Rottweilers work over Lethal, they aren’t trying to beat him. Sure, a victory would be nice but ultimately they’re trying to hurt Lethal and try and end his career.
When Lethal is finally able to make the tag, after the Rottweilers cheating many times it is only fitting Joe is pissed off and a house of fire. Ki does a really nice job with his Double Stomps in this match as well by using them to control an opponent. When working over Lethal he uses one while Homicide was holding Lethal up and then he did it to Joe who was on a roll after tagging in. The offence used by both teams and the demeanour all the participants have really adds the hatred to the match as well.
Coming into this show the Rottweilers claimed they were going to make an impact since ROH is on their turf. The beat down on Joe and Lethal earlier in the show seemed like the impact they were going to make but it was only the calm before the storm, as the finish to this match was the real impact. The Cop Killa is a dangerous enough move and was thought that it could not get any more dangerous, but it did in this match. When Homicide first set Lethal for the Cop Killa the fans went nuts but when they realised Homicide was holding Lethal in place and Ki was rising on the top rope and they slowly became quiet. When Ki came off with a Double Stomp and made it a Spike Cop Killa, even though they got the win on their home turf that really wasn’t the point. They may have fulfilled what they were attempting when working over Lethal and that was end his career. ***1/2