A2Z Analysiz: Ring of Honor Year One (Low Ki, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe)

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~Disc 1~

MATCH #1: Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Bryan Danielson, The Era of Honor Begins, 2.23.02

This is a rather famous match, especially since Gape Sapolsky decided it would go on last instead of Super Crazy versus Eddy Guerrero. Ki and Danielson want to fight each other and try to keep Daniels out of it in the early going. Daniels takes offense to that and hits Ki with a back suplex. He then hits a suplex on Danielson into the corner. Ki fights back on Daniels with a series of kicks, and Danielson breaks those up by going for Cattle Mutilation. Daniels breaks that up and hits a couple of bodyslams. He then traps Danielson and Ki in a simultaneous Boston Crab and Camel Clutch. That’s unique. It doesn’t last too long though. Daniels has dished out most of the offense so far in this match. Danielson puts Daniels in a combination Muta Lock/Cattle Mutilation and Ki tries to break it up with kicks. It doesn’t work though, as Danielson grabs him and hits a Northern Lights Suplex for two, while keeping Daniels in the submission hold. He’s certainly tenacious. Danielson and Ki try to outkick each other, and use Daniels as a sort of crash test dummy. Daniels ducks and Ki and Danielson kick each other’s legs. All three men are down. Now Daniels takes advantage of his hurt opponents. Daniels goes to the top rope and Ki and Danielson tandem slam him to the mat and then kick him in the face. Daniels rolls to the floor so Danielson turns his attention to Ki with a series of Kawada kicks for a two-count. Back in the ring Daniels hits a belly-to-belly suplex on Ki for two. The action is quite hard to keep up with because all three guys are going all-out. Ki hits Danielson with a tornado DDT and then hits Daniels with the Tidal Wave for two. Daniels goes back to the floor to regroup. Ki puts Danielson on the top rope and Danielson knocks him down. Daniels puts Danielson in an abdominal stretch on the top rope, and Ki joins them up there to knock Danielson down. Ki then puts on the Hanging Dragon but has to let it go. After some more offense they work in a Tower of Doom spot and all three men are down. Danielson is up first and he throws a couple of suplexes at both guys. Ki comes back and puts on the Dragon Clutch! Daniels breaks it up and takes Ki down with an STO and follows with the Best Moonsault Ever. Danielson breaks that up. Ki throws Daniels into a corner and hits a Tidal Crush. Danielson gets up and sends Ki to the apron. He cracks Daniels on the back of the head and then locks on Cattle Mutilation. Ki breaks that up with a Phoenix Splash! He then hits Daniels with the Ki Krusher to get the pin at 20:04. That match is legendary for a reason and it still holds up pretty well. There isn’t a lot of selling or psychology, but the goal of the match was to go out there and sell the promotion with one match and they certainly succeeded in doing that. It’s not one of the greatest matches of all-time like Steve Corino is saying it is on commentary, but it’s excellent and a great way to cap off the first ROH show.
Rating: ****¼

After the match Daniels challenges both Danielson and Ki to singles matches, and even refuses to shake their hands! That’s actually a big deal because one of the pillars of the Code of Honor is to shake hands with your opponent before and after the match. They don’t emphasize it as much today but they did a lot in the beginning so this instantly made Daniels the top heel in the company.

MATCH #2: Low Ki vs. Bryan Danielson, Round Robin Challenge, 3.30.02

This was the first ROH match I ever saw, and I did not care for it at the time. Let’s see how I feel about it now. Ken Shamrock is the special guest referee for this match. Earlier in the evening Ki defeated Christopher Daniels and Danielson was defeated by him. Danielson and Ki take it right down to the mat and exchange holds. This is going to be a very unique match. They work in some strikes too and the crowd is into it. The commentators note that Danielson’s head was busted open during the earlier match so that could become a factor. Danielson goes after the arm and controls a majority of the opening minutes. Ki finally lands a kick and it appears to have hit Danielson right on the eye, busting it open again, and sending Danielson to the floor. Back in the ring they continue wrestling on the mat and Danielson has changed his focus to the left leg. Ki comes back with Kawada kicks that once again send Danielson to the floor. Danielson gets back in the ring and puts on a Cross Armbreaker. Ki gets to the ropes. Danielson continues the pressure and hits a back suplex. He unleashes some hard kicks and chops but can’t keep Ki down yet. Ki comes back with a hard kick to the face to break a submission hold. Now Ki is on control, keeping Danielson on the mat and punctuating his submission holds with hard kicks. That goes on for a few minutes until Danielson comes back with a Dragon Suplex for two. Danielson hits an underhook suplex and then tries a diving headbutt but Ki gets his knees up. Ouch. Ki covers and gets two. He follows with the Tidal Wave and then a dragon suplex for a two-count. Ki then locks on Cattle Mutilation. Danielson counters to the Dragon Clutch and Ki reaches the ropes. Back on their feet Danielson hits a cravat suplex. Danielson follows with a Northern Lights Suplex with a leg hook for two. Now they trade chops and Ki goes for the Tidal Wave but Danielson dropkicks him out of the air for a two-count. Danielson goes for a suplex but Ki counters and hits a brainbuster for two. Ki hits more Kawada kicks and then lands the Ki Krusher but Danielson kicks out! Now Ki goes for the Phoenix Splash but Danielson gets his knees up. Danielson hits a dragon suplex for two. He follows with a super belly-to-back suplex but it only gets two! Danielson goes for another one but Ki counters to a super Ki Krusher! A stunned Danielson rolls to the floor. Back in the ring Ki covers for two. Ki goes for the Tidal Wave but Danielson catches him and hits a nasty Regalplex for two. Danielson locks on Cattle Mutilation and Ki eventually passes out at 32:10. That match gets praised a lot, and I can see why. At the time it was completely different from what WWE was doing, and it did a lot to help ROH establish its identity. The early arm and leg work by Danielson never really went anywhere as they just switched to killing each other with strikes and suplexes. So it’s a very good match and a very fun match, but it’s not quite a great match and it’s just a shade beneath the three-way from The Era of Honor Begins.
Rating: ****

MATCH #3: Low Ki vs. AJ Styles, A Night of Appreciation, 4.27.02

This is AJ’s Ring of Honor debut. They take it down to the mat and exchange holds. It doesn’t take long for stiff kicks to start coming from both men. Ki takes AJ down and they continue the mat battle. He lands a couple of hard kicks on AJ, and throws in a couple of chops for good measure. AJ comes back with the nip-up rana and a hard lariat for two. He follows with the vertical suplex neckbreaker for another two-count. AJ charges into the corner and Ki kicks him right in the face. Ki drops an elbow for two. AJ fights back and kicks Ki to the floor. He goes outside and delivers a superkick before throwing Ki back into the ring for a near-fall. Ki fights back with a Koppo Kick and a Mafia Kick to send AJ to the floor. He goes for the Ki Krusher on the apron but AJ fights it off so Ki puts him in a Dragon Clutch in the ropes instead. Back in the ring Ki goes for the Ki Krusher again but AJ counters it with a sick DDT! Ki recovers extremely quickly but AJ cuts him off with the Backflip inverted DDT for a two-count. AJ tries a rana but Ki hits a nasty powerbomb for two. Ki unleashes Kawada kicks but still can’t put AJ away. He hits a Tiger Suplex and again gets two. AJ fights back with a stiff lariat. He hits the Styles Suplex Special for a two-count. Ki fights back with a gourdbuster and gets two. He follows with the Tidal Crush and goes for the Phoenix Splash but AJ gets his knees up. AJ hits a Razor’s Edge into a DDT, which is absolutely sick looking. Of course Low Ki kicks out. AJ goes to the top rope and misses the Spiral Tap. They trade strikes now and Ki lands a hard kick to the side of the head. Ki goes for the Ki Krusher and AJ blocks it and goes for a Razor’s Edge again but Ki counters and grabs an inside cradle to get the pin at 18:13. They did a lot of spots without much story or selling to speak of, but the idea was for AJ Styles to go out and show all his stuff and that’s what he did so the match achieved its goals.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #4: Eddie Guerrero & The Amazing Red vs. The SAT, A Night of Appreciation, 4.27.02

Red and Jose start the match with some Lucha back-and-forth. Eddie tags in and cleans house as the crowd chants his name. Back in the ring Eddie and Jose wrestle on the mat. Eddie actually uses a Sharpshooter, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before. Honestly I can’t tell the Maximo brothers apart. Jose cuts Eddie off and tags his brother. The SAT isolates Eddie and keeps him away from Red. Jose goes up top but Eddie cuts him off and hits a superplex. Eddie makes the tag and Red is a house afire. Red hits the Red Star Press but Joel kicks out. He tries a hurricanrana but Joel catches him with a hard powerbomb. Now the SAT focus on Red and keep him away from Eddie. After a few minutes Red catches Jose coming off the top rope with a kick to the face. Tags are made. Eddie hits Joel with a brainbuster for two. He tries a crucifix powerbomb but Joel counters with a rana for two. Joel then gets a victory roll for another near-fall. Eddie cuts him off with a clothesline and then goes up top. The SAT goes up for the Spanish Fly but Red breaks it up. Eddie tries to hit Jose with a rana but Jose blocks it and tries a tornado DDT but Eddie blocks that and throws Red up for a super rana. Red takes Joel out with a dive to the floor. Eddie goes up top for the Frog Splash but Joel moves so Eddie hits the crucifix powerbomb instead to get the pin at 13:12. It’s awesome to see Eddie Guerrero in Ring of Honor and the match was solid formula stuff. But let’s face it – the SAT was never very good.
Rating: ***

MATCH #5: Low Ki vs. The Amazing Red, Road to the Title, 6.22.02

They start the match with a back-and-forth sequence that has to be seen to be believed. ROH hyped that up a lot in the early days and it’s still pretty cool. They continue to go back and forth and Ki lands a couple of hard kicks. Red ducks one and hits the Red Star Press but only gets two. He hits a flying neckbreaker off the second rope for another two-count. Ki fights back with a sick Koppo Kick. He goes for the Tidal Crush but Red cuts him out of the air with a dropkick. They take the fight to the apron and Ki kicks Red down to the floor. Back in the ring Ki continues to work on Red with strikes, mostly kicks. Red comes back with a sick tornado DDT and both men are down. He dropkicks Ki off the apron to the floor and goes for a dive but Ki cuts him off with a knee strike. Ki goes for the Ki Krusher but Red counters with an inside cradle for two. Red tries a rana but Ki block it and spins Red around, and Red sort of hits a reverse rana. Now Red goes up top for the Infrared but misses. Red tries another reverse rana but Ki blocks it and hits the Krush Rush. Ki brings Red back in the ring and tries the Phoenix Splash and misses but is able to roll through. He goes up top and Red is able to hit a spinning kick to the face. Red goes up top but Ki is able to grab him and hit a Super Ki Krusher for the pin at 11:16. That was ridiculous fun and probably the best singles match Red ever had in Ring of Honor.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #6: ROH Title 60 Minute Iron Man – Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. Spanky vs. Doug Williams, Crowning a Champion, 7.27.02

This will decide the first-ever ROH Champion. Daniels beat Scoot Andrews and AJ Styles to get here; Ki beat Prince Nana and Amazing Red; Spanky beat Paul London and Jody Fleisch; and Williams beat Jay Briscoe and Bryan Danielson. I think it’s safe to say that everyone earned it. Ki and Daniels start the match but Daniels tags Williams before any contact can be made. The way the scoring works in this match is +2 if you score a fall and -1 if you have a fall scored on you. Ki and Williams chain wrestle back-and-forth in the early going. Williams has the advantage on the mat so Ki takes a breather by tagging Spanky. This is the first time Spanky and Williams have been in the ring together. They go back-and-forth a bit and then Spanky tags Daniels. Williams and Daniels continue the chain wrestling. Spanky comes back in and he trades holds with Daniels. No one is in a hurry, as they know they’re going to be there for an hour. Ki tags in and goes to work on Spanky, keeping him on the mat. Spanky comes back and goes to work on the leg. Williams tags back in and continues the leg work. Daniels does the same and Ki is in trouble here as just over 10 minutes have gone by. Ki is able to stumble back in a corner and tag Williams. Daniels is disappointed by this, since his feud here is with Ki and he had him in a compromising position. Williams goes after Daniels’s arm. He tags Spanky, he follows suit. Daniels comes back with a neckbreaker and then a modified inverted DDT for two. He tags Williams, and then Spanky tags Ki. Williams puts Ki in the Torture Device and then slams him down. He tags Spanky and he goes to work on Ki’s legs. Ki fights back and starts building momentum so Daniels tags him out of the match. We’re over 20 minutes in now and still no one has gotten a fall. Spanky and Daniels battle back and forth until Spanky makes the tag to Ki. This is the chance Low Ki has been waiting for. Ki unloads with kicks but Daniels ducks one and chop blocks Ki’s knee. The referee loses control and all four men get in the ring to do battle. Everyone hits a big move on someone else and all four men are down. Daniels and Ki clear the ring. Ki goes for the Tidal Crush but Daniels cuts him off with a Chop Block. Daniels then hits the Last Rites to score the first fall at 25:30. That gives Daniels the lead at +2, Spanky and Williams stand at 0, and Ki is in last place with -1.

Spanky and Daniels start the next fall while Ki tries to recover out on the floor. Williams tags in and takes it to Spanky. Daniels comes in and goes to work on Williams, but Williams comes back and targets the arm. Spanky comes back in and Daniels hits him with a DDT. We’ve crossed the 30-minute marl and Williams is in the ring working on Daniels’s arm. Daniels comes back with a spinebuster. He tags Spanky, who immediately covers but can only get a two-count. Williams tags Daniels, who keeps Spanky on the mat. Spanky hits a neckbreaker and tags out to Williams. Ki is back on the apron. Daniels and Spanky tag each other and both work on Williams. Spanky ties a hurricanrana but Williams counters with a Chaos Theory! Daniels wisely breaks up the pin and hits Williams with a Flatliner, which Corino calls the same move as beat Low Ki, but it’s not, that was the Last Rites. Daniels puts Williams in the Koji Clutch and Ki breaks it up with a double stomp. Ki comes back in and Williams puts him in the Gory Special and runs him into the turnbuckles repeatedly. Williams then hits a dropkick to the back. We’re about 40 minutes in as Ki traps Williams in a triangle choke. Ki then turns it into an armbar but Williams reaches the ropes. Spanky tags himself in and Williams goes for the Chaos Theory on Ki, but Ki flips over and grabs Spanky in the Dragon Clutch for the submission at 42:00! Um, that was awesome. Daniels still leads with +2, but Ki is on the board at +1, Williams is at 0, and Spanky is at -1.

Daniels decks Ki from behind just to be a jerk. Spanky tags himself in again and tries to keep Daniels down for a pin but cannot do so. He’s able to hit a spinning Pedigree off the second rope but it only gets two. Daniels tags Williams, who hits Spanky with an Ocean Cyclone Slam (that’s the best name I can come up with). Williams hits a couple of high knees and then lands the Bomb Scare on Ki. All four men are in the ring again as 45 minutes have gone by. Ki and Daniels battle back and forth and then Daniels tags himself in. Daniels hits Williams with the STO and then the Best Moonsault Ever for two. He goes for the Angel’s Wings but Williams dumps him to the floor. Spanky tags in and hits a high cross body block for two. Ki tags back in and locks Williams in a Dragon Clutch in the ropes. Obviously he has to break that. All four men are back in the ring and Ki hits a Phoenix Splash, landing mostly on his head but it’s still enough to get the pin at 48:45. That puts the standings at Ki in first place with +3, then Daniels with +2, and both Spanky and Williams at -1.

The referee has little control of the match, but Daniels and Ki take center stage and take each other down with simultaneous clotheslines. Back on their feet Daniels hits Ki with a uranage slam but then misses the Best Moonsault Ever. Ki tries a Phoenix Splash but Daniels gets his knees up. Spanky tags Daniels and Ki quickly hits Spanky with a tombstone piledriver. Daniels breaks up the cover and then hits Spanky with the Burning Hammer. Williams hits Daniels with a piledriver for two. Ki goes for the Tidal Crush but Williams catches him and hits a powerbomb for two. Spanky puts Ki on the top rope but gets knocked down and Ki hits him with a 450 Splash. Ki can’t capitalize though and rolls to the floor. Spanky hits Daniels with a DDT for two. He goes up top and hits a Frog Splash but Ki breaks up the cover. Ki tags in and Spanky hits a Back Drop Driver. Spanky takes Williams out with a dive to the floor. Daniels gets a sunset flip on Ki for two. He continues trying to score a fall on Ki while Spanky and Williams battle on the floor. Daniels hits Ki with a Blue Thunder Bomb but only gets two. He tries the Last Rites but instead turns it into the Dragon Clutch! There’s less than a minute left. Ki rolls out of it and hits Daniels with the Last Rites as time runs out at 59:54 (close enough), making Ki the first ROH Champion. Everyone deserves tons of credit for that match, going an hour in that sweltering hot building. It was a little slow at first but I don’t mind that in Iron Man matches because you already know it’s going sixty, unlike matches that start slow and turn into a 60-minute draw. All four guys were on their game and the crowd stayed with them through the whole thing. This is a fitting match to decide the first ROH Champion.
Rating: ****½

MATCH #7: Jay Briscoe vs. Mark Briscoe, Honor Invades Boston, 8.24.02

They immediately start by slapping each other in the face. Mark is only 17 at this point, which is why he couldn’t wrestle on the Philadelphia ROH shows but he’s able to now that they’re in Boston. They take it down to the mat and Mark has the advantage, since he’s the one with the most to prove. Jay goes after the arm but Mark fights back with a Northern Lights Suplex for two. The elder Briscoe responds with a big boot to the face that sends his little brother regrouping to the floor. Jay joins Mark out there and pays for it, as Mark takes control, whipping Jay into the barricade and the ring apron. Mark trash talks his brother as he punches his now bloody forehead. Back in the ring Jay fires up and hits a dropkick and a hard clothesline. Mark responds with a belly-to-belly suplex. He continues to attack the head, wearing down his older brother. Mark hits a nasty DDT for two. Jay recovers way too fast and hits a low dropkick and stomps the hand. He follows with a gourdbuster and then goes up top, but Mark knocks him down. Mark hits a springboard Ace Crusher for a two-count. He follows with a Tombstone Piledriver, which the commentators don’t even call! This is ridiculous. Mark goes up top but misses a knee drop. Jay focuses on the knee now, and also hits a torture rack backbreaker. Mark fights back with an exploder suplex. Jay rolls to the floor and Mark tries to follow him out with a dive but misses, further injuring his knee. Mark hits a low blow and follows Jay back in the ring with a springboard dropkick. At least Mark sells the knee but there’s no way he should be able to do that move. Jay goes for the Jay Driller but Mark slips out so Jay hits a hard sideswipe powerbomb instead. Back on their feet they trade reversals and Mark hits a bridging German Suplex for two. Mark follows with a Dragon Suplex for another two-count. He hits a fisherman buster and goes up top but misses a moonsault. Jay takes Mark’s head off with a lariat. He follows with a Death Valley Driver but it only gets two. They trade more reversals and Jay hits the Steiner Screwdriver but then misses a senton. Mark hits a flying knee (the injured one) and then hits the Cutthroat Driver for the win at 16:46. That was completely absurd, with an ungodly amount of head drops and no selling whatsoever. It was still fun to watch the Briscoes kill each other for our amusement and I can see why that match was a big deal at the time, but man it has not aged well.
Rating: **¾

~Disc 2~

MATCH #8: ROH Title Match – Low Ki vs. Xavier, Unscripted, 9.21.02

Ki has been the Champion since 7.27.02, and this is his second defense. They start with some basic back-and-forth, as the commentators note what honorable men these two are. Xavier tries tome kicks but Ki kicks a lot harder. Even so, Xavier won’t back down and he goes shot for shot with the first ROH Champion. Xavier takes Ki down to the mat and absorbs some more kicks to keep Ki down. Ki escapes and knocks Xavier down, and then unloads with the Krush Kombo. They exchange more kicks and Ki no-sells because he’s so tough. Things get heated and they trade slaps and strikes and Xavier picks Ki up and slams him down. Xavier uses a chinlock to wear Ki down. He goes for the X-Breaker but Ki avoids it and hits a rolling heel kick. Ki hits another one to knock Xavier off the apron and to the floor. He goes outside and whips Xavier into the barricade and then bodyslams him. Ki hits an elbow drop and then throws Xavier back in the ring for more punishment. Xavier fights back with a Buckle Bomb and a butterfly suplex. He then locks on a modified Cattle Mutilation, with Ki sitting instead of supine. Xavier breaks the hold and covers for two. He dumps Ki to the floor but Ki comes back with some kicks to the chest. Back in the ring Ki hits a bodyslam and then a Savage Elbow for two. Ki throws Xavier back to the floor as I die a little on the inside of boredom. They blow more spots and look generally lazy. Xavier manages to pull off a powerslam for two. Ki comes back with the Dragon Clutch in the ropes, and then holds on to it when they fall off the ropes. Xavier falls back on Ki and gets a two-count. He goes for Kiss Your X Goodbye but Ki breaks out of it and tries the Tidal Krush, but Xavier catches him and slams him for two. Christopher Daniels makes his way out and watches from the aisle. Meanwhile Xavier goes after Ki’s knee. Xavier goes for a 450 Splash but misses. Ki attacks with Kawada Kicks and then goes outside the ring to argue with Daniels. Xavier takes the opportunity to attack Ki from behind, and then crushes Ki’s chest with one of the barricade poles. He also uses a chair with Daniels’s help, yet the referee doesn’t call for a disqualification. Ki takes approximately a year to crawl back to the ring and when he finally makes it there Xavier hits a 450 Splash to get the pin and become the second ROH Champion at 25:42. Having Xavier join the Prophecy in this fashion and getting the belt off Ki is a good storyline but sweet merciful lord that match was bad. They could have done it in 15 minutes instead of 25.
Rating: *¼

MATCH #9: Street Fight – Paul London vs. Michael Shane, Unscripted, 9.21.02

They tear into each other before the bell can ring and here we go. London hits an early dropsault and dumps Shane to the floor. Shane recovers and throws London into the ring post. Back in the ring Shane goes up top but London slams his nuts on the top rope and then hits an enziguiri for two. Shane throws London to the floor, but London tries to skin the cat so Shane spears him off the apron. He hurls London into the barricade and talks trash to him. Shane tries to set up a table but London recovers to thwart the attack. London grabs a chair from under the ring and stupidly shows it to the crowd, so Shane hits a dive on to the chair to wipe London out. Now London is busted open. Back in ht erring Shane continues to work on London and wear him down. Shane wedges a chair between the middle and top ropes and it backfires, as London reverses the momentum and sends Shane careening into the chair. Both men are bloody now. Shane grabs a ladder but London kicks it back into his face. Back in the ring London goes up top and tries a rana or something and Shane sort of catches him for a powerbomb. Not exactly sure what they were going for there. Shane goes for a monkey flip and London lands on his feet, but Shane is able to hit a belly-to-belly suplex into the ladder for a two-count. They fight into the corner and London is able to hit a headscissors that sends Shane crashing through a table on the floor! London pulls out another, taller, ladder and then goes over to dropkick Shane’s face into the barricade. Back in the ring London sets up the ladder in the corner. Shane charges and London backdrops him onto the ladder! That sends Shane to the floor for a breather, but London runs up the ladder and hits an amazing flip dive! That is ridiculous. The crowd is going banana. Back in the ring London goes to the top rope and tries to leapfrog a ladder into a hurricanrana but Shane catches him with a powerbomb. Shane goes to the top rope and London crotches him. He knocks London back down and this the Picture Perfect Elbow but London kicks out at two! London hits a superkick and the London Star Press but this time Shane kicks out! Once again London climbs the tall ladder but Shane knocks him down and hits the Picture Perfect Elbow. London kicks out! Shane ties to climb the ladder again but London hits a quebrada to knock him down. That was awesome. London then goes to the top of the tall ladder and the fans chant “Please Don’t Die!” What a great chant. London then hits the London Star Press to get the pin at 20:38. They blew a few spots but they made up for it by making me think they really didn’t like each other and were doing all they could to hurt the other guy. I appreciate that. This is a very famous match in both men’s careers, and maybe the best Michael Shane ever had (but certainly not London).
Rating: ****¼

MATCH #10: ROH Tag Team Title Tournament Final – Bryan Danielson & Michael Modest vs. Christopher Daniels & Donovan Morgan, Unscripted, 9.21.02

This match decides the first-ever ROH Tag Team Champions. Danielson & Modest beat Divine Storm in the first round and then got a bye to the finals, while Daniels & Morgan had a tougher route, beating The SAT and then Dick Togo & Ikuto Hidaka on their way to the finals.

Daniels and Modest start the match with some chain wrestling. Morgan tags in and takes it to his shoot business partner. Apparently Modest and Morgan also tag together in NOAH, but they don’t get along in ROH because Modest doesn’t want to join the Prophecy. Also, Modest trained Morgan so there’s a student-teacher dynamic there. Modest knocks Morgan down with a hard forearm shot and makes the tag. Danielson takes Morgan down to the mat but Morgan backs him into the corner and tags Daniels. The Prophecy focuses on Danielson’s leg. Daniels throws Danielson to the floor and they continue the abuse. After some more punishment in the ring Danielson is able to hit Morgan with a suplex and then tags are made. Modest is a house afire, cleaning house on the Prophecy. The referee loses control and modest and Morgan fight to the floor. Daniels then takes both of them out with an Arabian Press for some reason. Danielson then wipes out Daniels with a tope, but Danielson appears to have injured his knee. Back in the ring Modest hits a super Perfect-Plex on Daniels for two. I love how commentator Jimmy Bower notes that Modest hasn’t sold anything all night. Morgan tags in and hits the Golden Gate Swing for two. Danielson gets a tag and hits the Regalplex and then locks on the Cattle Mutilation (but can only put weight on one leg, nice). Daniels breaks that up. Danielson puts Morgan on the top rope but Morgan catches him with a sit-out powerbomb. Daniels follows with the Best Moonsault Ever for two. He hits Danielson with the Blue Thunder Driver for two. Daniels hits an STO and locks on the Koji Clutch. Modest comes in so Morgan comes in to cut him off. They fight to the floor as Danielson hits Daniels with an enziguiri for two. Danielson puts Daniels on the top rope but Morgan grabs the leg and Daniels is able to fall on top of Danielson for a two-count. Daniels then hits the Last Rites to get the pin and make the Prophecy the first ROH Tag Team Champions at 14:42. That was so backwards, as Daniels & Morgan had to fight three matches, while Danielson & Modest got a bye and then lost in the finals. Weird booking aside, the match was fine but didn’t feel important despite what was on the line. Bower’s burial of Mike Modest made it apparent how happy he was with the match.
Rating: **¾

MATCH #11: Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki, Glory By Honor, 10.5.02

This is Joe’s ROH debut and a bit of a legendary match in Ring of Honor. It’s also the first Fight Without Honor. Joe is the hired assassin of Christopher Daniels and the Prophecy here, and Ki is coming off dropping the ROH Title to Xavier on the last show. Both men are cautious early on, going for some light strikes. They take it down to the mat and continue striking each other. The camera man is right there on top of the action. Joe goes after Ki’s ankle, locking on a half crab variation. Ki tries to chop his way out of a hold and Joe looks annoyed so he slaps him. They get back to their feet and trade strikes. Joe hits several big kicks to the chest to take Ki down. He misses a big boot in the corner and Ki unloads on him, landing a roundhouse kick to the head. Ki hits the Koppo Kick for a one-count. He hits Joe with some more strikes and Joe absorbs them and comes back with a big lariat. Joe hits some kicks to the chest and a vertical suplex for a one-count. He locks on a Cross Armbreaker and then rolls it over into a Crossface. Ki powers up but Joe cuts him off with chops and an enziguiri. Joe hits a German Suplex and hangs on, going for a Dragon Suplex. Ki breaks out of that and locks on an arm submission I don’t know the name for. Joe slips out but he’s hurt, and Ki capitalizes with chops and kicks. Ki drops Joe with an enziguiri for a two-count. He continues to strike at Joe, who comes back with slaps to the face. Ki responds in kind and then hits another enziguiri to knock Joe down. These guys are crazy. Joe whips Ki into the corner and hits a Drive By, and then the Face Wash. He hits the powerbomb for two and then rolls it into the STF, which he turns into a Crossface. Ki reverses it to a Cross Armbreaker and Joe gets the ropes. He locks on another submission hold, which Joe strikes his way out of. Ki hits a Back Drop Driver, dropping Joe right on his head for a two-count. He goes for the Dragon Clutch but Joe powers his way out of it and hits a Death Valley Driver! Joe hits an Island Driver for a two-count when Ki gets his foot on the ropes. Ki blocks a headbutt and kicks Joe in the back of the head. He snap mares Joe down and kicks him across the back. Joe just gets angry and gets back up to slap Ki in the face. He returns the favor, and Ki rises. They take off the wrist tape and pull down their knee pads. They knock the crap out of each other and Joe wins the battle with a lariat. Ki responds with Kawada Kicks and knee strikes. He lands a couple of elbows to the back of the head and finally Joe is down for the pin at 16:27. That match was a huge deal at the time because it was so different from anything that we were seeing on TV. It’s still fun to watch today, and it really bums me out that ROH never pulled the trigger on a one-on-one rematch, especially when Joe was the champion.
Rating: ****¼

MATCH #12: #1 Contender’s Trophy Match – Bryan Danielson vs. AJ Styles, All Star Extravaganza, 11.9.02

The winner of this match faces ROH Champion Xavier on December 7. They start with some tense back-and-forth mat wrestling and the crowd loves it. These two are very evenly matched, but Danielson is a bit better grappler and AJ is a bit better high-flyer. Danielson also has the power advantage, and he uses that by knocking AJ down with a hard shoulder tackle. The back-and-forth continues and AJ cuts Danielson off with a dropkick. Danielson drop toeholds AJ to the floor and then follows him out for more abuse. He tries to whip AJ into the guardrail but AJ jumps over it and lands a superkick. AJ drops Danielson on the guardrail, and then takes the match back into the ring. He starts working the back and Danielson responds by going after the arm. AJ comes back and tires the flipping inverted DDT but Danielson catches him and hits a Northern Lights Suplex for two. Danielson has been busted open somehow. He goes for a suplex but AJ counters to a brainbuster. AJ continues working Danielson over, hitting the suplex into the neckbreaker for two. Danielson fights back with a bridging German Suplex and a sort-of DDT. He goes up top and hits the diving headbutt for a two-count. AJ fights back with a roundhouse kick. He hits the Styles Suplex Special for another near-fall. AJ goes up top but Danielson knocks him down and hits the belly-to-back superplex for two. Back on their feet they trade strikes and knock each other out with simultaneous clotheslines. Back on their feet Danielson goes to work but AJ counters with the flip-over inverted DDT for two. AJ goes for the Styles Clash and hits it but Danielson kicks out! Danielson hits the Dragon Suplex for a two-count. He locks on Cattle Mutilation and turns it into a pinning combination for two. Danielson goes up top and AJ knocks him down. AJ pulls him out of the corner into a powerbomb. He hits another powerbomb and then hits another Styles Clash to get the pin and win the #1 Contender’s Trophy at 22:29. I couldn’t believe the match was already ending, it went by so fast. This was fantastic stuff and an easy MOTYC for ROH in 2002.
Rating: ****½

MATCH #13: Low Ki & Steve Corino vs. Shinjiro Ohtani & Masato Tanaka, All Star Extravaganza, 11.9.02

Tanaka and Ki start the match. They do some fast-paced back and forth, and Tanaka hits an early pump handle powerbomb that sends Ki to the floor. Back in the ring they mat wrestle a bit as Chris Lovey announces that Konnan will be at the show on December 28. Tanaka takes Ki down and makes the tag. Ohtani uses a chinlock so Ki bites him and then makes the tag. Corino puts the boots to Ohtani, who was the first WCW Cruiserweight Champion, by the way. Ohtani fights back and tags Tanaka. The Zero-1 team double-teams Corino briefly. Corino then backs Tanaka into his corner and makes the tag to Ki, who goes to work. That doesn’t last long before Ohtani tags back in. No one has had control of this match for more than 90 seconds, tops. Ohtani works over Corino until the King of Old School uses some questionable tactics to take control. Ki tags in and goes for the Ki Krusher but can’t hit it so he tries the Dragon Clutch instead and Tanaka breaks it up. He goes for the Tidal Crush but Tanaka ducks it and hits a hard superkick. Tanaka tags in and runs right into a Koppo Kick. Ki then hits the Tidal Crush for two. Tanaka responds with a Spear and a suplex into a Stunner. That looks cool. Tanaka follows with a Frog Splash for two. Ki fights back with Kawada Kicks and makes the tag. Corino hits a leg lariat but Tanaka fights right back with a clothesline. Ohtani tags in and hits a leg lariat and a tornado DDT. Tanaka grabs Corino and hits another tornado DDT. Corino comes back with an exploder suplex and then the Three Amigos for a two-count. Meanwhile Ki and Tanaka are fighting on the floor. Corino hits the Old School Expulsion for two. He follows with the Old School Bomb and gets another two-count. Ki comes back in the ring and accidentally hits Corino with the Tidal Wave. Tanaka takes Ki out with a lariat. Ohtani hits Corino with the springboard missile dropkick and then the Spiral Bomb for the win at 15:25. That was fine enough but there was no internal story to the match, just a bunch of moves.
Rating: ***

MATCH #14: Scramble Match – The SAT, Amazing Red & Divine Storm vs. Special K (Joey Matthews, Deranged, Slim J, Izzy & Angeldust, Scramble Madness, 11.16.02

I don’t expect to do much play-by-play here. Deranged, making his debut, starts the match against one of the Maximos. They spill to the floor so Red and Slim J take over in the ring. That doesn’t last long before the other Maximo and I think Izzy get in the ring. The action continues at a frenetic pace, as Lovey tries to call Scrambles more than just spot fests. Joey tags in and works a headlock, which is pretty awesome. The SAT and Divine Storm team get knocked to the floor and Special K hits five simultaneous dives. Back in the ring the SAT goes to work on poor Deranged. All of Special K gets dominated by the babyface team. Special K comes back and I love how Joey is the only one who does any sort of real moves. It’s pointless to call all the moves in a match like this, since the rules are made to encourage tons of movez. One cool spot sees the SAT and Divine Storm each takes a member of Special K and hit them with a powerbomb off the top rope. Of course no one gets a pin yet. Special K comes back with a quadruple moonsault and they all get two. Red hits Slim J with the 718 and Storm hits the Storm Cradle Driver but the pin gets broken up. I thought that would be the end. Joel hits Deranged with four straight powerbombs and the Maximo Explosion. The SAT then hits Angeldust with a Doomsday Tornado DDT and Red follows with the Infrared to get the pin at 17:40.That was positively ridiculous in every possible way but it was tons of fun. Scrambles were a staple of early ROH so one had to be included on this DVD and they picked the best one. Sure, spots were blown and the selling was non-existent, but a strength of early ROH was presenting different types of matches up and down the card and this certainly was different than the super serious matches the main event guys were having.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #15: ROH Title Match – Xavier vs. AJ Styles, Night of the Butcher, 12.7.02

Xavier has been the Champion since 9.21.02, and this is his second defense. AJ attacks the Champion right away and hits an early Styles Clash but doesn’t cover right away for some reason and Simply Luscious puts Xavier’s foot on the bottom rope to save the title. Luscious gets in the ring to mouth off to AJ, so Alexis Laree comes in the ring and takes her out with an inverted DDT. Newest member of the Prophecy Mark Briscoe comes out to take Luscious away. The match settles and Xavier takes AJ down to the mat. AJ fights back with a nasty back suplex and a hard lariat. He knocks Xavier to the floor and wipes him out with a dive. Back in the ring Xavier is able to cut AJ off with a hard slam for a two-count. Xavier works AJ over both in and out of the ring, but AJ fights back with a dropkick on the floor. The champ immediately cuts him off through and throws him back in the ring. Xavier goes up top but AJ knocks him down and hits a superplex! Back on their feet they trade strikes and AJ lands a hard enziguiri. They trade reversals and AJ hits the flipping inverted DDT for two. AJ signals for the Styles Clash but Xavier counters with a waterwheel slam for two. Xavier tries a powerbomb but AJ counters with a rana and they do the fish out of water sequence for a series of near-falls. AJ tries a cross body block off the second rope but Xavier rolls it over for a two-count. Xavier catches AJ going for a victory roll and hits a release German Suplex for two. He focuses on the back now, and locks in a Camel Clutch. Xavier breaks that hold and puts AJ up top. AJ sunset flips out and hits a piledriver for two. Xavier fights right back and attacks the knee. They trade strikes and Xavier hits Kiss Your X Goodbye but AJ kicks out! Xavier goes up top but misses the 450 Splash and runs right into a superkick. They fight up on the top rope and AJ hits a Super Styles Clash! Unfortunately AJ hurt his knee on the way down. AJ crawls over to make the cover but Xavier is able to grab the bottom rope. Xavier goes right back to the knee and traps AJ in a cradle to get the pin at 17:07. The match was really solid but the finish was anti-climactic. It would have made more sense if Xavier had worked the knee the entire match instead of for about 30 seconds before AJ hit the Super Styles Clash.
Rating: ***¼

MATCH #16: #1 Contender’s Trophy Match – Bryan Danielson vs. Paul London, Night of the Butcher, 12.7.02

London beat EZ Money earlier in the evening, while Danielson defeated Chad Collyer. These two are very evenly matched and they spend the first several minutes jockeying for position and trading holds and strikes. They have the kind of dynamic that things can get very heated but they still respect each other. London goes to work on the arm and keeps Danielson on the mat. Danielson takes a powder to collect himself. That proves to be a good idea, as back in the ring Danielson takes it to London with some hard chops and European Uppercuts. Danielson uses an abdominal stretch and an Indian Deathlock to further wear London down. London ducks a clothesline and hits a couple of dropsaults and then a springboard flying forearm. He hits a gutwrench suplex and standing moonsault for a two-count. Danielson comes back with a straightjacket suplex, dropping London hard on his head. He hits the snap suplex and then the diving headbutt for two. London fights back with a modified Roll of the Dice and both men are down. Back on their feet Danielson goes for a back suplex and both men tumble to the floor. London gets up first and goes for the Asai Moonsault and Danielson blocks it, but he can’t block a superkick. Back in the ring London hits a high cross body block off the top rope for two. London keeps Danielson down and goes up to the top rope. Danielson knocks him down and hits the Back Superplex, re-aggravating a knee injury he suffered earlier against Collyer. Now Danielson locks on the Cattle Mutilation and London is able to reach the ropes. Danielson goes up for another Back Superplex but London knocks him down, but Danielson won’t quit, going back to the top rope twice more but getting knocked down each time. Finally London hits the London Star Press to get the win at 18:36. It’s not as good as their match from The Epic Encounter but it is very good. I like the perseverance both guys showed in the finish.
Rating: ***¾

MATCH #17: ROH Title Match – Xavier vs. Paul London, Final Battle 2002, 12.28.02

Xavier has been the Champion since 9.21.02, and this is his third defense. The match is joined in progress with Xavier clubbing London down. London comes right back and takes it to the Champion. He sends Xavier to the floor and goes for a dive but Xavier moves out of the way and London is able to stop himself. Back in the ring London takes Xavier down with a headlock. Xavier takes a cheap shot but London cuts him right off with a leg lariat. London tries a headscissors but Xavier catches him and slams him face-first on the mat. Xavier goes to work on the head and neck area. London continually fights back but Xavier is able to keep him down and keep the pressure on. Xavier hits a bridging German Suplex for a two-count. He goes up top for the 450 and London goes up there to fight him. That proves to be a mistake as Xavier knocks London all the way to the floor. London perseveres and goes back to toss Xavier down crotch-first on the top rope. Back in the ring London hits the dropsault for two. London follows with a sloppy powerbomb and then goes up for the London Star Press. Xavier rolls to the floor so London hits the move to the floor! Back in the ring London goes back up top but misses the London Star Press and Xavier rolls him up for two. London comes back with the inverted Roll of the Dice for a near-fall. Xavier tries to throw London into the turnbuckle and London avoids it but slaps the turnbuckle pad for affect. That’s pretty cool. A cocky Xavier then walks right into a DDT but it only gets two! That would have been a great finish. The crowd is not happy with the referee. Xavier hooks on a Cobra Clutch and London rolls it into a cradle for two. The Champ h olds on to the Cobra Clutch and turns it into a suplex. Xavier then hits the X-Breaker to get the pin at 17:01. That was a really good match with solid psychology, great crowd heat, and a logical finish. Xavier was not so bad.
Rating: ***½

The Pulse: This is an absolutely phenomenal DVD, with great matches across the board and a great representation of the first year of Ring of Honor. Even the matches I didn’t love (Jay versus Mark, Ki versus Xavier, and Daniels/Morgan versus Danielson/Modest) had historical purpose for being there and felt like necessary inclusions. Fans have been clamoring for a set like this for years, and hopefully the series will continue on to the other years in ROH. This gets my absolute highest recommendation and you SHOULD purchase it at the ROH Wrestling Dot Dom Shop.

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