Ring of Honor DVD Review: Greatest Rivalries

Welcome to the PulseWrestling review of the second recent ROH retail DVD that you can pick up at your local Best Buy or FYE. This one focusses on the greatest rivalries in ROH history while featuring big names such as CM Punk, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Homicide, Austin Aries, Bryan Danielson, Raven and the Briscoes. Of course, the best match on the DVD doesn’t include any of those guys, but you’ll see that as you read on!

Match 1: Raven vs. CM Punk – Dog Collar Match(*** ½)

The feud between Raven and CM Punk is based around Punk’s hatred for Raven’s drug and alcohol abuse. As a straight edge superstar, Punk resents what Raven represents and all the opportunities he squandered due to his misuse of those aforementioned substances. In fact, the reason Punk hates Raven so much is because Punk’s father was an alcoholic.

This dog collar match is an ECW style brawl that is heavy on storyline. Raven is the fiery face, while Punk tries to show up and destroy Raven. With multiple run-ins and a lot of blood and violence, this one really brings the hate. At the time it was a reminder of why everyone loved ECW so much, but it hasn’t hold up as well as ROH’s early technical classics. Post-finish there are also some great shenanigans that are cut off. Still, if you liked ECW, or enjoy violent brawls, but don’t mind them being rather slower, this won’t disappoint.

Match 2: Samoa Joe vs. Homicide (**** ¼)

Samoa Joe was in the midst of an epic ROH World Title reign and Homicide was his main heel challenger. ‘Cide needed the ROH World Title to prove to his family and friends that he didn’t make the wrong choice in becoming a wrestler. In early encounters, ‘Cide was unable to take the title and got more and more frustrated until he threw a fireball at Joe’s face. This would be Homicide’s last title shot while Samoa Joe held the title, win or lose.

This match begins with Homicide’s Rottweiler’s distracting and interfering with Joe, so they’re kicked out and it’s Joe vs. Homicide straight up. This is a clinic in how to make a monster face work against a credible challenger. Joe is physically dominant, but Homicide, not by being a coward, but by being angry and simply not caring, is able to wear down and hurt the big man. Joe’s refusal to stay down and how desperate Homicide gets upon every comeback make the build work particularly well. Everything Joe does is a combination. Every time Homicide interrupts one, it feels like he’s escaped a storm. Joe’s attacks are focused on the head, with knockouts or the eventual choke. Homicide’s assaults are all about tiring out Joe, so he can’t unload with his big moves. Of course, the fans are in ‘Cide’s head, so anytime they distract him at all, the weardown ceases to matter as Joe can catch his breath and smash his opponent. The crowd is hot, the story builds and they even reverse what part each is working as ‘Cide hurts his back, then attack’s Joe’s neck, and justice is ultimately served. The stiffness is epic and it’s hard for me to imagine a wrestling fan not enjoying this one, though the ending does go a bit overkill, it’s at least for a feud ender and, make no mistake this is how to blow off an epic feud!

Match 3: AJ Styles vs. Jimmy Rave (***)

AJ brought Rave into ROH when Rave was very green, then left for TNA. Rave was booted for not winning before rejoining ROH in the employ of Prince Nana, as the Crown Jewel of Nana’s stable, the Embassy. To win matches, Rave used the Rave Clash, which he claimed he invented. In 2005, when AJ returned to ROH, he wanted revenge on Rave who had made him look so badly. The feud was on and would be settled in a match where the winner would be the first to hit the Styles/Rave Clash and the other could never use the move again. Rave had Nana at ringside, so AJ came out with Mick Foley to even things up.

This match is a giant chunk of revenge for AJ on the cowardly heel who mocked him. Of course, the sneaky Rave gets control eventually and, of course, since Rave is a consummate heel, his offense is punches, chokes, and stomps, while AJ had all the flashy offense. They eventually get a bit hardcare as Rave constantly threatens to win a match he clearly has no business winning, while the crowd gets angry! AJ, meanwhile, elevates his offense, incorporating hardcore with his usual hard hitting and high flying, as the crowd gets more and more behind AJ until the big finish. Nothing hugely special, but this had a good story with good heat.

Match 4: Austin Aries and Roderick Strong vs. Jay and Mark Briscoe (**** ¾)

These teams had a great rivalry over Aries and Strong’s tag titles. This match is the very definition of fast-paced overkill, but this is the highest pedigree of that kind of wrestling. They start slow and build to an absurd frenzy that will have even the most jaded fan at the edge of their seat. The overkill goes on too long, but if you sit back and relax, there is nothing but great fun here.

Match 5: Jimmy Jacobs vs. BJ Whitmer (**** ¾)

The blowoff for the most emotional feud in ages took place inside a cage. Jimmy and Whitmer were tag partners and like brothers until Jimmy decided he loved the manipulative Lacey. Whitmer knew Lacey was bad news so refused to be a part of Lacey’s stable, so at Lacey’s behest Jacobs spent the better part of a year trying to kill BJ Whitmer and earn Lacey’s love.

This started off as most of their matches do, with Jacobs speed setting up his brawling offense and Whitmer’s power doing the same. The match also featured the slow breakdown of the last vestiges of Jimmy’s sanity as he shows the lengths he will go to be with Lacey. Everything from barbed wire to the dreaded railroad spike gets involved and neither man will ever truly be the same after a war of this magnitude. How one match can carry such violence and convey such emotional weight still awes me to this day.

Match 6: Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries (**** ¼)

Aries and Danielson could both be considered the Ace of ROH. The Ace is the top guy, champion or not. In late 2007, they had a best of three series to determine not only who the Ace of ROH was, but who would be the number one contender. Featured here is the third match in their series.

The match itself is a pure technical affair that works better if you are familiar with both the first two matches in the series and the usual movesets of each wrestler. That is because the match is set around counters to counters. These men know each other so well by this point that they are playing what Gorilla Monsoon would rightly call “a game of human chess.” The match isn’t long, but its action filled and some of the best pure wrestling you can find in the world today. You can chop quarter or half a star off if you aren’t familiar with these guys offense. Ultimately, the first match of the series should have been on here, not this one.

Match 7: Team CZW of The Necro Butcher, Super Dragon, Claudio Castagnoli and Nate Webb vs. Team ROH of Adam Pearce, Colt Cabana, Ace Steel, and BJ Whitmer (*** ½)

The wrestlers of CZW invaded ROH in a hardcore vs. pure wrestling war. The feud is among the most heated in ROH history as CZW invaded all through the ROH circuit. Here we have just one of the two companies’ wild brawls.

Samoa Joe opens with a promo calling CZW out and is jumped for his troubles until the troops, Colt Cabana and Ace Steel, come out to save him. That leads to Joe beating the hell out of the Necro Butcher and the two brawling to the back where Joe is incapacitated. CZW controls until a hurt Whitmer and Pearce join the fray and it becomes a wild crowd brawl with all the weapons and craziness that you’d expect and quite a few wild and great spots on the way to the finish, which is a sick, sick spot.

Match 8: Roderick Strong vs. Erick Stevens (****)

Roderick is the FIP champion and was the leader of the No Remorse Corps. Erick Stevens is a Florida wrestler, like Roderick, but was a member of the rival Resilience. The Resilience broke up and the NRC injured Stevens, so he came back for the title and revenge.

The match saw a heated Stevens go right at the heelish Strong in a hard hitting affair, but ultimately, end up taking a huge, stiff beating. Great selling and great comebacks were the order of the day as Stevens struggled to turn his physical skills into results in one of better traditional encounters in recent ROH.

Summary: Okay, first off, buy the damn DVD. The worst match here is very good. This one will be more comfortable for traditional wrestling fans with most matches either being great normal heavyweight action (Stevens vs. Strong and Joe vs. Homicide) or giant brawls, most notably the excellent Jacobs vs. Whitmer cage match, but also the ROH vs. CZW, Raven vs. Punk and AJ vs. Rave brawls. There’s only one technical classic on here, but it’s Danielson vs. Aries, so that’s plenty great. The last match is something fans of TNA, at the least, have seen a watered down version of, a wild spotfest between the Briscoes and Aries and Strong that is among the best of its kind by American teams ever. Overall, this has two matches I’d consider all time classics (the tag title match and Whitmer vs. Jacobs) with three other excellent matches (Joe vs. Homicide, Strong vs. Stevens, and Aries vs. Danielson) with every other match being very good. This is a little brawl-heavy, but is a perfect ROH primer for the American wrestling fan, providing great action relatable almost entirely in an American mainstream context.

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