A2Z Analysiz – ROH The Summer of Punk (CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries)

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MATCH #1: ROH World Title Match – CM Punk vs. Austin Aries, Death Before Dishonor III, 6.18.05

Punk has tears in his eyes as he makes his way down to the ring for his last ever ROH match. The crowd is grateful for all Punk’s contributions to ROH. Aries has been the champion since 12.26.04, and this is his eighteenth defense. They start off slowly with some chain wrestling. Punk targets Aries’ injured neck right away. Aries comes back and works the headlock. Punk responds with a headscissors. Aries headstands his way out of it but Punk dropkicks him right back down and locks on a headlock. Punk tenaciously holds on to the headlock despite Aries’ best efforts. The challenger has counters for everything the champion throws at him. Punk knocks Aries to the floor with a Chris Jericho dropkick and then wipes him out with a Tope Suicida. The fight migrates to the apron and Aries finally gets an advantage with a Death Valley Driver right on the edge of the ring. Finally the champion takes control and works Punk over around ringside. Punk reverses a whip into the barricade. He takes a few moments to regroup, allowing Aries to pull him face-first into the barricade. The champ resumes control. Aries is also working on the neck. They finally make it back to the ring, where Aries hits a twisting body press and a quebrada for two. The crowd is really getting into it now, doing the “boo / yay” thing. Aries works Punk over, feeding off the booing of the crowd. He exposes the turnbuckle and whips Punk into it. He goes for another whip but Punk reverses it and Aries take it chest-first, and then Punk hits a Northern Lariat. Both men are down for the count. Back on their feet Punk takes the advantage, much to the delight of the crowd. Punk hits Welcome to Chicago Motherfucker for two. He goes up top for a flying cross body block that gets another two-count. He goes for the Pepsi Twist but Aries blocks it and hits a lariat for two. Aries hits a piledriver for two. The crowd is heavily invested in Punk winning the title. Aries hits the Finlay Roll and goes up for the 450. Punk stops him and slams him down to the mat. He slams Aries down again and hits the Shining Wizard for two! The crowd wants to see Punk execute the Pepsi Plunge but Aries blocks it and hits the Super Brainbuster DANGEROUS but Punk kicks out! Aries goes up for the 450 but gets stopped. Punk looks for the inverted Pepsi Plunge but Aries fights it off. Aries then executes his own Pepsi Plunge, but Punk kicks out at one! The crowd super happy but they get pissed when Aries knocks Punk down with a roaring elbow and a kick to the head. Aries goes up and hits the 450 but Punk rolls it into the Anaconda Vise and Aries has to reach the ropes! The champ tries a crucifix bomb but Punk reverses to a TKO. Punk hits the Shining Wizard and then the inverted Pepsi Plunge to get the pin and the title at 30:28! The match went by fast and had a very infectious crowd heat. The no-selling was a blatantly obvious and took the match down a little bit, but for sheer emotion this one is hard to beat.
Rating: ****¼

Aries hands the belt over and congratulates the new champion. The crowd shows Aries some love too as he makes his way to the back. What follows is the single greatest promo and angle in the history of Ring of Honor. Punk cuts an amazing promo about how the fans are stupid for having followed him, and that he used them just to capture the ROH World Title on his way out. Some super smarks are still cheering for Punk’s vitriol filled rant against them, but the people who are not jerks boo Punk like they should. Punk says he’s taking the title with him, and that no one can stop him. Then from out of nowhere, Christopher Daniels enters the ring! Punk doesn’t see him right away, and when he turns around the crowd goes nuts. They jaw at each other briefly and then the brawl is on. The crowd chants “ring the bell.” Daniels goes for the Best Moonsault Ever and Punk rolls out of the way. The returning Daniels challenges Punk to put the belt on the line right now, WrestleMania IX style. If Punk wasn’t staying around until August, imagine how hot Daniels winning the title right here would have been. But since Punk was staying a little longer it was obviously the right call to put the belt on him. Anyway, Punk turns down Daniels’s challenge and scurries out of the arena. Daniels then proceeds to cut a promo about the reasons he left ROH back in 2004. He goes on for a little while, which of course isn’t quite as exciting as Punk.

Sign of Dishonor

This is Punk’s first promo after winning the title, from the next show in Long Island. Punk explains how he, Jerry Lynn, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels were supposed to stick together in 2004 when TNA pulled their talent from ROH in the wake of the Rob Feinstein scandal. He was the only one who stayed, as Styles, Daniels, and Punk all competed exclusively for TNA. Many at the time doubted that Punk had actually signed his WWE contract, so he literally pulls out the contract and signs it on top of the ROH World Title belt, held by Shane Hagadorn. That’s one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen. James Gibson comes out and charges the ring, angry about what Punk did. He hits Hagadorn with the Gibson Driver and challenges Punk to fight him. As Punk is making his way to the back, Christopher Daniels attacks him from behind and throws him in the ring, allowing Gibson to get a few shots in. Punk escapes the ring and leaves through the crowd.

MATCH #2: ROH World Title Match – CM Punk vs. Jay Lethal, Sign of Dishonor, 7.8.05

Punk is in the ring, declaring that since no one will fight him, he is out of here. Mick Foley then makes his way out from the back. Foley mocks Punk’s appearance, particularly his new purple hair, and even drops a handful of rare f-bombs. He says that before Punk goes off to WWE he needs to defend it against someone, and that he can’t be champion forever because Gabe Sapolsky doesn’t have a daughter he can marry. Oh, snap! Punk retorts by mocking the length of Foley’s WWE title reigns, and says he can never measure up to Triple H, or even JBL – burn! Foley gets angry and maintains that Punk needs to defend the title tonight. Punk capitulates, noting that one of the guys in the back pinned him in a tag team match back in March, so he challenges Jay Lethal to come out and face him! Lethal agrees and the main event is set.

Punk has been the champion since 6.18.05, and this is his first defense. They shake hands and Lethal immediately hits the Dragon Suplex! That’s the move he pinned Punk with back in March, but Punk wisely rolls to the floor to avoid getting pinned. Lethal presses the advantage, chasing Punk on the floor and trying to get him back in the ring. Punk continues to run and Lethal wipes him out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Lethal continues to set the tone, stomping Punk down in the corner. Punk fights back and goes to work, mixing in some solid cheating with his strikes and submissions. He sends Lethal back to the floor and beats him up out there too. Back in the ring Punk looks confident as he continues the abuse. Eventually Lethal fights back and they take the fight to the top rope. Lethal knocks Punk back and goes for the diving headbutt but Punk avoids it. Punk puts Lethal on the top rope for a back superplex but Lethal reverses the momentum and crashes down onto the champion. Both men are down as Samoa Joe makes his way to ringside to encourage his protégé Lethal. Joe’s presence seems to invigorate Lethal, who unleashes a flurry of offense on Punk but can’t quite put the champion away. Punk comes back and hits Welcome to Chicago Motherfucker and Lethal kicks out at one! He hits an enziguiri but Lethal kicks out again. Lethal comes back with a fisherman’s suplex and this time hits the diving headbutt and Punk barely kicks out at two. He continually goes for the Dragon Suplex but Punk fights it off and hits the Shining Wizard for a near-fall. Punk locks on the Anaconda Vise and Lethal reaches the ropes. Lethal fires up and goes for the Dragon Suplex again but Punk fights it off and stares down Samoa Joe before hitting the Muscle Buster! Punk then pulls Lethal up at two, just to be a jerk, and then locks on the Choke and Lethal taps out at 20:58! Foley comes back out and Joe gets in the ring as well, but Punk escapes just as James Gibson comes running out. That was even better than I remember it, particularly awesome for the finish.
Rating: ****

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

We’re in New York City now, and a four-way match is about to start when CM Punk interrupts from up in the balcony. Punk talks trash to James Gibson, who has been chasing the ROH title since he arrived in ROH in February. He doesn’t want to face Gibson tonight, but he does want to challenge Roderick Strong, since a few weeks ago he called Strong the future of the company. However, it will be a non-title match. Mick Foley then appears from the shadows and threatens to throw Punk over the balcony if he doesn’t make it a title match.

MATCH #3: ROH World Title Match – CM Punk vs. Roderick Strong, Escape From New York, 7.9.05

Punk has been the champion since 6.18.05, and this is his second defense. He antagonizes Strong in the early going and tries to avoid him, particularly the chops. Strong wisely keeps his composure as they chain wrestle; he knows what a big opportunity this is for him. Jimmy Bower gets a message from Artieinmyearpiece, which I always get nostalgic for. Strong goes for a couple of his signature moves but can’t hit them, so he clotheslines Punk near the ropes and they both tumble to the floor. Punk continues to duck chops on the floor, much to the crowd’s chagrin. Back in the ring Punk grounds Strong with a headlock as the crowd chants “Die Punk Die.” Finally after over seven minutes, Strong lands his first chops. I would hate to take those. Punk tries a Flair Flip but Strong knocks him off the apron and then wipes him out with a house show dive. Strong chops so hard that Punk’s chest is bleeding. He abuses Punk all around ringside, even throwing him into the audience. Back in the ring Strong hits his first backbreaker for a two-count. Strong wisely continues focusing on the back, but Punk catches him with a Stun Gun. Samoa Joe, James Gibson, and Mick Foley are watching the match from the balcony as Punk dismantles his challenger du jour. Every time Strong tries to fight up Punk has an answer for him. Strong finally gets a sunset flip and pulls Punk’s tights down, exposing his bare buttocks. Punk pulls a Ric Flair and doesn’t pull them up, and then goes to the top rope only to get slammed all the way down. Strong lands the gutbuster and the Sick Kick but Punk kicks out at two. The challenger keeps up the flurry but can’t put Punk away. Punk comes back with a Shining Wizard for two and then tries the Anaconda Vise but Strong fights out of it, so Punk then hits a swinging DDT and locks on the Anaconda Vise. Strong reaches the ropes. Punk follows up with the Pepsi Twist and then goes up top for a springboard guillotine legdrop (what?) but Strong avoids it. Strong locks on the Stronghold and Punk is able to reach the ropes. Punk drills Strong with a hammerlock DDT but it only gets two. Strong fights back with a series of backbreakers and a nasty suplex for a close near-fall. The challenger looks exasperated. Strong tries an O’Connor Roll but Punk sloppily reverses it and puts his feet on the ropes for extra leverage to get the pin at 26:29. That went by super fast and other than the awkward finish was great stuff.
Rating: ****

After the match Punk gets on the microphone and says he’s finally leaving with the title. James Gibson comes out to protest and Punk escapes through the crowd. Samoa Joe and Mick Foley team up to chase Punk back to the ring, where Gibson hits the Gibson Driver and Foley counts an imaginary pinfall. Gibson challenges Punk to face him next week in Connecticut.

James Gibson Confrontation

CM Punk is standing in the middle of the ring as the crowd directs a derogatory chant at him. He talks trash about James Gibson as the crowd chants “Sunday Night Heat.” The crowds were so awesome during these Summer of Punk shows. It doesn’t take long for Gibson to come out and confront Punk, who of course runs away. Gibson responds and steals the belt, saying he’ll hang on to it to make sure Punk doesn’t try to run away. When a referee tries to reclaim the belt, Punk sneaks back in the ring and abuses Gibson with a steel chain, busting his head open.

MATCH #4: ROH World Title Match – CM Punk vs. James Gibson, Fate of an Angel, 7.16.05

Punk has been the champion since 6.18.05, and this is his third defense. Gibson comes out with his head bandaged up and the fight is on. Punk charges and gets dumped to the floor, and then Gibson wipes him out with a very dangerous looking dive. Back in the ring Gibson hits a cross body block off the top rope for two. Gibson continues on offense, keeping Punk off-guard. He goes for the Gibson Driver but Punk escapes. The bandages fall off Gibson’s head and Punk literally smells blood. Gibson responds by throwing Punk shoulder-first into the ring post. He goes right after Punk, focusing on his shoulder and trying to end the match early because of the cut on his head. Punk also has a gash, on his back from the guardrails outside the ring. He’s able to come back and clothesline Gibson over the top rope to the floor. Back in the ring Punk jumps off the second rope and Gibson catches him in a Fujiwara Armbar but Punk reaches the ropes. Punk comes back with a Stun Gun, which he has used to great effect during his title reign. That puts Punk in complete control. They spill back to the floor, where Gibson fights back and hits a DDT on the ring apron. Back in the ring Gibson continues trying to put Punk away with a variety of offense but Punk perseveres. Gibson hits a bridging German Suplex for two and tries a Gibson Driver but Punk escapes and hits an enziguiri for two. Punk goes for the Pepsi Twist but Gibson counters it to the Dragon Sleeper, which Punk breaks out of and hits the Shining Wizard for two. Punk locks on the Anaconda Vise but Gibson is too close to the ropes. He hits the Pepsi Twist but Gibson no-sells it and hits a nasty looking Gibson Driver for two. Gibson puts Punk on top and calls for the Gibson Driver but backdrops Punk instead and follows him down with a moonsault press for two. The challenger follows that up with the Guillotine Choke but the champion powers out of it. They trade pinning combinations and then Gibson reapplies the Guillotine Choke. Punk counters it with a vertical suplex, and then locks on the Anaconda Vise. Gibson powers out of it but Punk counters and gets an O’Connor Roll with an assist from the ropes to get the pin at 27:44. That ran a little bit long but Punk’s heat was nuclear so that overcame any of the length issues. I think Lethal and Strong as underdogs made better opponents for Punk than Gibson, who was perceived as on his level or higher.
Rating: ***¾

Punk gets on the microphone and gloats about his victory, and says once again that this was his last match in ROH. Christopher Daniels comes out to attack him and they brawl, with Daniels getting the better of Punk by nailing him with the ROH World Title belt.

MATCH #5: ROH World Title Match – CM Punk vs. Christopher Daniels, The Homecoming, 7.23.05

Punk has been the champion since 6.18.05, and this is his fourth defense. Daniels is accompanied by Allison Danger. This feud actually stretches all the way back to Do or Die in Philadelphia on May 31, 2003. They open with some stalling, so we’re probably going to be here a while. When they finally do make contact they’re definitely not in a hurry to get anywhere. Daniels takes Punk to the mat and focuses on his arm and shoulder. Punk counters by utilizing the side headlock, which he used so famously against Samoa Joe about a year ago. Momentum shifts back and forth several times in the early going, but Daniels would likely be ahead on points as they reach the 20-minute mark. Daniels lands an Arabian Press and then locks on a Crossface. Punk gets to the ropes and rolls to the floor, but Daniels follows him right out and keeps working on the neck. Finally Punk is able to come back with a knee to the midsection. Punk now focuses on the midsection, keeping Daniels on the mat. They cross the half-hour mark with the champion in control. Daniels fights back with a flurry of offense including a quebrada, but he can’t put Punk away. He goes up to the top rope and Punk pushes him down to the floor to regain the advantage. The momentum continues swinging back and forth as both men are looking for the win. Daniels hits a Death Valley Driver but only gets two. Punk fights back with a missile dropkick but Daniels moves out of the way and the referee takes it instead. Daniels hits a Blue Thunder Bomb but there’s no referee. Punk comes back with the Pepsi Twist but the referee is still out. Daniels hits the Best Moonsault Ever and Todd Sinclair FINALLY makes his way out for the count but Punk is just barely able to kick out. They take it to the floor and trade shots. They take it up to the apron as we cross the 50-minute mark. Back in the ring Punk hits a superplex but it only gets two. Daniels is able to lock on the Koji Clutch and Punk reaches the ropes. Punk shrugs off a series of headbutts and hits a big boot for two. The pendulum swings back and forth as 55 minutes have gone by. Punk locks on the Anaconda Vise and Daniels makes the ropes. Unfortunately Punk is able to lock the hold right back on. Amazingly, Daniels is able to power back to his feet as we’re down to a minute remaining. Daniels is able to hit the Angels Wings but time suspiciously expires a few seconds before the 60:00 minute time limit. I dislike hour-draws that end with a guy pinning the other guy for a two-count, it’s just so played. The match was good, but it was painfully obvious they were going an hour and it looked like they were stretching a bit.
Rating: ***¼

After the match Punk punches Allison Danger for no real reason, and then fights off Daniels as well. James Gibson comes out to make the save. Punk recovers and lays out both Gibson and Daniels with the belt. The crowd chants for Joe and the man himself comes out and sends Punk running to the back.

MATCH #6: ROH World Title Elimination Match – CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe vs. James Gibson vs. Christopher Daniels, Redemption, 8.12.05

Punk has been the champion since 6.18.05, and this is his fifth defense. Joe is the current Pure Champion, but obviously that title is not on the line here. Brad Garoon and I were at this show. Joe and Punk start the match, but Punk tags Gibson before any contact can be made. Then Punk tags Joe out of the match, just to be a dick. They mat wrestle a bit before Daniels tags in to get his hands on Punk. After some more mat wrestling Joe tags in to renew his rivalry with Punk. All three challengers are rabid to get at Punk in this match, for obvious reasons. Punk gets a respite while all the challengers feel each other out. When he gets back in the ring he just continues to stir everyone up and act like a jerk, mostly avoiding Joe. I love it. Punk goes to work on Daniels, reprising their match from The Homecoming. Gibson is able to make a hot tag and he’s all over Punk. He accidentally knocks Joe off the apron, which is sure to anger the big Samoan. Punk charges and Gibson dumps him to the floor, and then wipes him out with a house show dive. Daniels then follows with an Arabian Press to wipe out both Punk and Gibson, and then Joe follows with a dive to wipe out all three of them. Back in the ring Gibson charges and Joe throws him shoulder-first into the ring post, and while the referee has his focus on Joe and Daniels, Punk waffles Gibson’s head with a steel chair. Daniels and referee Todd Sinclair check on Gibson, who has been busted open. More referees come out to carry Gibson to the back.

The action resumes with Punk and Joe trading shots. Joe wins that battle and brings the crowd back into it. Punk fights back with the Pepsi Twist and a moonsault off the top rope for two. He hits the mule kick and that staggers Joe back to the corner and Daniels tags in. Daniels hits a Death Valley Driver for two. Punk avoids the Best Moonsault Ever and hits Welcome to Chicago Motherfucker for two. Bower says we’re passed 30 minutes, but we’re actually closer to 40 minutes in. Punk goes for the Pepsi Twist but Daniels avoids it and hits a uranage slam and the BME for two. The champ hits a jawbreaker and tags Joe, who drills Daniels with a running boot for two. Joe follows up with the powerbomb for two and turns it into the STF. Daniels reaches the ropes. Joe continues the onslaught but Daniels catches a knee and hits a Samoan Drop. Daniels hits a quebrada for two and then locks on the Koji Clutch. This time Joe is able to reach the ropes. Daniels goes for an O’Connor Roll but Joe pulls him back into the Choke! The referee can’t see Punk o the floor, and when Daniels gets his foot on the bottom rope Punk shoves it off and Daniels passes out at 41:09! The crowd is not happy with that, but I thought it was awesome. An angry Daniels tries to hit Punk with an enziguiri but he hits Joe instead, and Punk traps Joe in a small package to eliminate him at 42:12! Punk has finally defeated Joe. Out on the floor an angry Joe attacks Daniels. I’d say Joe has a right to be angry. They fight to the back and Punk looks exhausted.

From out of nowhere Gibson’s music hits and he stumbles his way back to the ring. Why would his music play? Gibson hits a cross body block off the top rope for two as the crowd is going nuts for him. Punk catches him and hits a TKO. He continues the assault, working Gibson over and dumping him to the floor. Gibson comes back and attacks Punk’s leg. Back in the ring Punk goes back on offense and puts Gibson on the top rope and tries a rana, but Gibson rolls through and puts on the Texas Cloverleaf! Punk reaches the ropes, and then is able to hit the Shining Wizard for two. He switches it right to the Anaconda Vise and Gibson is able to reach the ropes. Gibson gets a quick crucifix out of nowhere for two, and then hits the Tiger Driver for a super close near-fall. The crowd bought that one hard. They fight to the top rope and Punk looks to be going for the Pepsi Plunge but Gibson counters it to a Super Tiger Driver to finally get the victory and rescue the ROH World Title from Punk at 50:42! The locker room empties to help the celebration. It starts off a little slow and I think they could have cut it down about 10 minutes or so, but the story the match told was pretty awesome, the eliminations of Daniels and Joe were great, and the biggest knock is Gibson’s music playing when he came back but that’s a minor quibble. Gibson’s celebration was great and the crowd heat was off the charts.
Rating: ****¼

MATCH #7: Two out of Three Falls Match – CM Punk vs. Colt Cabana, Punk: The Final Chapter, 8.13.05

The crowd reactions during the introductions are of course insanely loud. They take it to the mat and do some chain wrestling, as this is obviously a unique match due to the emotion surrounding Punk’s final match. Cabana brings the comedy and the crowd appreciates his efforts. He delivers a headscissors and Punk responds with one of his own that ends up as more of an armdrag. That’s Punk, doing shit he can’t do. Punk targets the arm and brings Cabana down to the mat. He hits a cross body block off the second rope for two and then goes right back to the arm. Cabana comes back and uses a headscissors and is all smiles. That annoys Punk, which has always been their dynamic. When the referee turns his back Punk hits a low blow, just to be a jerk. Punk then hits the Colt .45 to win the first fall at 12:40. As the second fall kicks off Punk is in complete control as the crowd chants for both men. Punk uses the modified Tarantula and then hits a springboard missile dropkick. Cabana fights back with a huge lariat from out of nowhere to even the score 1-1 at 16:05. They trade chops to start the third fall and then graduate to forearm and elbow strikes. The fight spills to the apron and Punk hits a hurricanrana off the apron. Back in the ring a series of reversals ends with Cabana hitting a butterfly suplex for two. Punk goes to the apron and Cabana hits a springboard flying forearm to knock Punk down, and then follows him out with an Asai Moonsault. Back in the ring they fight up on the top rope and Punk goes for a rana but Cabana rolls through to a Boston Crab. Samoa Joe is watching on at ringside. Punk reaches the ropes and is then able to hit Cabana with a nasty reverse hurricanrana. It only gets two. Punk hits a series of strikes culminating in a running knee to the face for two. He goes up top but Cabana knocks him down and hits a nasty inverted DDT, almost killing his best friend on his way to WWE. Punk sells it for all of about two seconds and locks on the Anaconda Vise. Cabana reaches the ropes. Punk goes for the Pepsi Plunge but Cabana counters it to a super Samoan Drop! I’ve always liked that move. Punk quickly rolls it over to a crucifix for two. Both men get up and trade strikes. Punk wins the battle and hits a Shining Wizard but Cabana grabs the bottom rope. They trade rollups and Cabana is able to hold Punk down to win the third and final fall at 27:46. That was certainly a unique match, and probably the best that they could do under the circumstances.
Rating: ***

The locker room empties to pay tribute to one of the most important figures in ROH history. Cabana gives Punk a Pepsi shower. Punk gives an appreciative speech about how much he loves Ring of Honor and the fans chant “Thank You Punk.” He goes out of his way to thank Gabe Sapolsky.

The Pulse: This is the easiest recommendation I could ever make. The entire Summer of Punk was the creative peak of storytelling for Ring of Honor and also produced a bevy of great matches. For anyone wondering how CM Punk got his WWE contract, or would like to see how WWE got the inspiration for last summer’s CM Punk storyline, Buy This DVD.

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