A2Z Analysiz: ROH Manhattan Mayhem (Austin Aries, Alex Shelley)

Manhattan Mayhem

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New Yorker Hotel – New York City, New York – May 7, 2005

Good Times, Great Memories

Colt Cabana is out on the streets of New York, getting pumped up for his big match with Nigel McGuinness tonight. Cabana harasses people on the street, most of whom don’t want to talk to him, but he doesn’t let that affect his level of excitement.

Inside the arena, Samoa Joe is in the ring waiting for Jay Lethal, his opponent tonight. Lethal thanks Joe for all he’s done for him. That just fires Joe up, because Lethal should be showing his opponents no sympathy. Lethal turns it around on Joe ad says he’ll be in the driver’s seat after tonight.

The first match is set to begin, and Dunn and Marcos make their entrance first. The Carnage Crew comes out to attack them! Back in February the Ring Crew Express won the Scramble Cage match at Loc and DeVito’s expense, which took them out of ROH for 90 days, so the Carnage Crew want their revenge. Loc and DeVito assault Dunn and Marcos with hubcaps, and hit Dunn with the Carnage Driver through a table on the floor. Loc gets on the mic and tells New York to kiss their asses. Obviously Dunn and Marcos are out of the opening match tonight. Luckily for them, now they surely won’t lost and be forced to split up.

MATCH #1: Dunn & Marcos vs. Lacey’s Angels vs. Dixie & Azrieal

The losing team will be forced to split up. Deranged and Izzy are representing Lacey’s Angels tonight, and they have Cheech and Cloudy in their corner but no Lacey. Azrieal and Dixie are ready to go but Deranged and Izzy stall to start. Deranged and Azrieal start the match proper and they exchange slaps to the face. Tags are made so Izzy and Dixie, former Tag Team Champions together, can do battle. The pace is absurdly fast, to the shock of no one. Dixie hits a neckbreaker for two and makes the tag. He puts Izzy on his shoulders and Azrieal flies in with a guillotine legdrop. Azrieal and Dixie continue to keep Izzy isolated in their half of the ring. Izzy catches Azrieal with a Death Valley Driver for two and then makes the tag. Lacey’s Angels are in control now and they keep Azrieal away from his partner. Deranged and Azrieal fight on the top rope and Azrieal is able to hit a huge superplex. Tags are made and Dixie is a house afire. The referee loses control and all four men are flying around the ring. I no longer recall who is legal. At any rate, Deranged catches Azrieal with a reverse rana into a piledriver to get the pin at 10:17. That was a hot opener that went by really fast. When the moves are hitting in matches like this they are quite fun and everybody was on point here. Great start to the show.
Rating: ***

MATCH #2: Colt Cabana vs. Nigel McGuinness

The chain wrestling starts right away, and these are two of the best at it. They do a lot of European style mat wrestling, which is very unique to American audiences. It’s a little bit hard to describe exactly what they’re doing, but the crowd is eating it up and both men are looking great in the early going. The back and forth continues as neither man can gain a sustained advantage on the other. McGuinness finally starts targeting the arm with the first high impact moves of the match almost 10 minutes in. Cabana comes back with a series of pinning combinations for near-falls. McGuinness catches Cabana with a kick to the face and then a kick to the knee. He then catches Cabana with what appears to be an accidental kick to the groin. McGuinness then gets a victory roll for the pin at 11:52. No one in ROH at the time could have pulled off a match like that except for these two, and I love how different and unique it was. McGuinness showed some subtle heel tendencies that would come out further later on this feud, so all in all this was a very fun and very successful match in building the feud.
Rating: ***½

Backstage – Alex Shelley is forced to change outside the locker room because the boys are still pissed at him for his role in Generation Next. Shelley talks about how hard he worked to earn his spot in Ring of Honor, and how much he did to help build the company. He says he is the one that recognized the talent of Austin Aries, Jack Evans, and Roderick Strong. Shelley puts Aries over for taking the ROH World Title from Samoa Joe and building its prestige by taking it all over the world. He says he’s always been God fearing, but tonight he doesn’t know. Good promo from Shelley, of course.

MATCH #3: James Gibson vs. Black Tiger

They start with some mat wrestling as Jimmy Bower explains that Gibson was upset about not winning the Best of American Super Juniors Tournament so he asked to face someone from New Japan Pro Wrestling, so he gets Black Tiger, the man who lost in the finals to Dragon Soldier B. Tiger shows off some of his lucha skills as well, showing what a well rounded competitor he is. He sends Gibson to the floor and goes for a dive but Gibson catches him and slams him on the apron. Gibson then picks Tiger up and drives him right into the barricade. Back in the ring Gibson goes to work. Tiger fights back and hits a springboard missile dropkick. He focuses on the back, working Gibson over both in and out of the ring. Tiger misses an elbow drop off the top rope but is able to shrug it off and lock on a Cross Armbreaker. Gibson counters that to a Texas Cloverleaf and Tiger reaches the ropes. Momentum continues to shift back and forth, as these two show how evenly matched they are. Gibson hits a nice neckbreaker and both men are down. Back on their feet Tiger hits the Tiger Suplex but Gibson kicks out! Tiger hits a Perfectplex for two and then locks on the Ankle Lock. Gibson reaches the ropes but Tiger puts the hold right back on and this time Gibson counters it to a cradle for two. They fight up on the top rope and Tiger puts on an Ankle Lock! That is neat. Tiger releases the hold and then come flying off the top rope but Gibson catches him in a gutbuster. Gibson counters a Northern Lights Suplex into a front guillotine choke and Tiger is forced to tap out at 15:57. That was a tremendous back and forth contest between two pros. They did some cool reversals and counters, and the finish was particularly neat.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #4: ROH Tag Team Title Match – BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs vs. Jack Evans & Roderick Strong

Whitmer and Jacobs have been the Champions since 4.2.05, and this is their first defense. Jacobs and Strong start the match. They go back and forth a bit and Jacobs is able to keep Strong on the mat with a headlock. Whitmer tags in and Evans follows suit. Evans shows off some impressive dance moves and Whitmer responds with a slap to the face. Strong comes to his partner’s aid and trades chops with Whitmer. The challengers powder out and Whitmer heaves Jacobs over the top rope to wipe them out. Back in the ring Whitmer powerbombs Jacobs on top of Evans. The Champions are firmly in control. After several minutes the challengers are able to respond with their unique tandem offense and the focus on Jacobs. Evans and Strong decimate Jacobs, who tries hard to fight back but continually gets cut off. Strong puts Jacobs on his shoulders and Evans goes to the top rope. Jacobs ducks Evans and hits Strong with a reverse rana! The hot tag is made and Whitmer is a house afire. Strong catches Whitmer with a half-nelson backbreaker. The referee loses control and all four men are brawling in the ring. Jacobs hits Evans with a Spear and Strong breaks up the cover. The Champs hit Evans with the Doomsday Rana but it only gets two! Strong hits Whitmer with another backbreaker. The challengers hit Ode to the Bulldogs and Evans covers Jacobs for a close near-fall. Evans and Whitmer fight up on the top rope and Evans hits a hurricanrana. It only gets two. Strong hits Whitmer with a gutbuster and Whitmer fires right back with a huge lariat. The Champions hit Evans with the Doomsday Contra Code to get the pin at 14:46. This was almost non-stop action from two great teams. I think the conventional wisdom was that Strong and Evans were going to get the titles here so the result was a bit of a surprise. It’s too bad this was the only match these teams ever did; they could have had a nice program.
Rating: ***¾

MATCH #5: ROH Pure Title Match – Jay Lethal vs. Samoa Joe

Lethal has been the Champion since 3.5.05, and this is his third defense. This is a classic teacher versus student contest. Joe tries to intimidate Lethal in the early going but the Champion will have none of it. I hate it when someone refers to a wrestler as a “Grand Slam Champion” for holding three titles. That makes them a Triple Crown Champion, not a Grand Slam Champion. Anyway, Joe and Lethal take it to the mat and exchange holds. Lethal is able to trap Joe in the Parachute Hold and Joe uses his first rope break. Joe avoids a cross body block off the second rope in classic Joe style. He then uses a closed fist and receives a warning for it. Lethal puts on a Cobra Clutch Crossface and Joe uses his second rope break already. Joe fights back with the STJoe and the Big Joe Combo for two. He uses another closed fist and costs himself his third rope break. Joe’s expression of anger is awesome here. He hits the powerbomb and turns it into the Samoan Crab and then the STF. Lethal uses his first rope break. Joe continues the abuse and goes for the Face Wash but Lethal catches it and traps Joe in the corner! Lethal runs in with a hard dropkick. He follows with a vertical suplex and the diving headbutt for two. They fight on the apron and Lethal uses a closed fist, which I believe is a warning for him. Joe knocks Lethal to the floor and follows him out with the elbow suicida. The referee starts the count but both men make it back to the apron. Lethal goes for a Sleeper since Joe can’t use a rope break, but Joe runs and leaps off the apron, sending both of them through a table! That was a unique bump. Back in the ring they trade chops. Joe hits the snap powerslam for two and then locks on a cross armbreaker. Lethal uses his second rope break. Joe goes for another powerbomb but Lethal slips out and hits a neckbreaker and a top-rope DDT for two. They trade some strikes and Joe wins that battle, and then hits a Northern Lariat. Lethal hits the Dragon Suplex from out of nowhere but it only gets two! He goes for another one but Joe escapes and hits a hard German Suplex, Dragon Suplex, and the Chimera Suplex for the pin at 16:35. These two had tremendous chemistry together and I really like how they structured the rope breaks. The table bump was awesome and the finish was great. This is one of Lethal’s best matches.
Rating: ****

After the match, Homicide, Low Ki, Julius Smokes, Rocky Romero, and Monsta Mack come out and attack both Joe and Lethal, just to be dicks. Ki reveals that he was the one that attacked Lethal back at Trios Tournament 2005. This would lead to an impromptu tag team main event later in the show.

Backstage – Gary Michael Cappetta, “The Scoopster” himself, is backstage with Nigel McGuinness. Cappetta asks McGuinness about the low blow, which McGuinness maintains was accidental, but adds that if Cabana has a problem, he’s not hard to find.

Jimmy Bower narrates a clip of Spanky from FIP Violence is the Answer, stating that Spanky is currently in Japan but he is eager to get back to ROH and compete for titles.

MATCH #6: Dog Collar Match – CM Punk vs. Jimmy Rave

The Embassy is out in force tonight, with Oman Tortuga, Diablo Santiago, Prince Nana, Jade Chung, and Mike Kruel accompanying Rave to the ring. Nana announces that Rave got sick from a New York City subway water fountain, so Mike Kruel will be taking his place just like at Stalemate. Punk is wearing a Chris Candido shirt because they became best friends after Candido died. Kruel replacing Rave turns out to be all a ruse, as Rave attacks Punk from behind to start the fight. Rave unloads on Punk for a minute before referee Todd Sinclair can attach the collar to Rave. That gives Punk the chance to fight back, so he does. Punk uses the chain to abuse Rave in addition to his usual offense. He goes outside the ring and grabs a steel chair. Rave uses the chain to pull Punk into the ring post, and Punk is busted open. Now Rave is like a shark, focusing on Punk’s bloody head. Rave goes for the Rave Clash but Punk fights out of it and hits a Shining Wizard! Punk unleashes a flurry of offense and has the crowd all kinds of juiced up. He hits a superkick for two. He goes for a powerbomb but Rave counters with From Dusk Till Dawn, using the chain to make the Crossface even more painful. Punk escapes by going to the eyes. A series of reversals ends with Punk locking on a half crab. Nana gets up on the apron to distract Punk, allowing Rave to hit the running knee for two. Rave takes Punk up for a Pepsi Plunge but Punk backdrops his way out of it. Punk hits a powerbomb and then two more. He covers for a two-count and then tries the Anaconda Vise but the Embassy interferes. Fast Eddie makes his way out as Punk hits the Pepsi Twist. Eddie goes up top for a moonsault but Punk moves and he hits Rave! Punk has to fight off the entire Embassy and he does a remarkably good job of it. Even Jade Chung interferes, and that allows Rave to kill Punk’s head with multiple chair shots to get the pin at 13:38. The Embassy continues the beating after the match until Colt Cabana, James Gibson, Azrieal, and Dixie run out to make the save. That was an awesome bloody brawl that effectively put heat on Rave going into the feud-ending Cage Match next week in Chicago. Punk looked like a world-beater but eventually the numbers were just too much for him. This is a great, very overlooked feud from the ROH history books.
Rating: ****¼

After arriving backstage Punk cuts yet another money promo on Rave. Punk runs down the things Rave has done to him and promises to make him pay next week in Chicago in the cage, where no one from the Embassy will be able to interfere. Great stuff all around here.

MATCH #7: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Alex Shelley

Aries has been the Champion since 12.26.04, and this is his thirteenth defense. These two know each other well from their days together in Generation Next. They start with some chain wrestling, which both men excel at. Aries takes the first advantage. He goes for the leaping back elbow off the second rope but Shelley catches him in a hard release German Suplex. Shelley then blows a snot rocket just to be a dick. He hits double knees to the chest in the corner and stomps away. Shelley actually uses Waste Land, about five years before Wade Barrett hit TV. He follows that with a slingshot elbow drop for two. Aries tries seeking solace on the floor but Shelley lands a corkscrew plancha to wipe him out. Back in the ring Aries slingshots over Shelley, and then Shelley stands there and waits for Aries to run off the rope and snap his neck off the top rope. That was awkward. Aries starts going to work on the neck now, which is good strategy given his finishing moves. He goes for the Brainbuster but Shelley counters with the Moss-Covered Three-Handled Family Credenza. Shelley goes up top but Aries pulls him down with an elevated neckbreaker. Aries locks on the Last Chancery. Shelley won’t quite so Aries releases and drops a knee on the back of the neck for a two-count. Aries continues focusing on the neck. He hits the slingshot twisting body press for two, but when he tries the quebrada Shelley gets the knees up. Shelley hits an enziguiri and a clothesline. He bodyslams Aries and goes up top for a Frog Splash! That only gets two. Shelley then locks on the Border City Stretch but Aries breaks it and puts on the illegal Fish Hook. They counter each other a handful of times and Shelley reapplies the Border City Stretch! Aries bites his way out of it. Shelley tries a superkick but it gets caught and Aries hits the shinbreaker / belly-to-back suplex combo. The Champ hits the IED and then two more for a two-count. Aries hits the Finlay Roll but misses the 450 and Shelley lands the Superkick. Shelley then hits the Shellshock for a near-fall. He hits a TKO, a tornado DDT, and another Shellshock but Aries rolled to close to the ropes and he grabs one before the referee can count three. They fight over a Brainbuster and neither guy hits it. Aries instead lands a hard forearm and the Joe Killing Combo to get the pin and retain the title at 19:33. This is a bit of a forgotten gem in the ROH cannon, as this one was filled with creative reversals and counters based on how well these two knew each other. The match flew by and was a great showcase for Alex Shelley, an underrated contributor in ROH lore.
Rating: ****

After the match the lights go out and the Rottweilers make their way back out. Aries wisely decides to bail, and then Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal come charging out for an impromptu main event!

MATCH #8: Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal vs. Homicide& Low Ki

Joe and Lethal charge out and knock Homicide and Ki to the floor. They wipe them out with dives and then wait for them to enter the ring. The fight is on and this one is going to be wild. Joe and Lethal are furious, with good reason after the heinous attack they sustained after their match earlier. Homicide and Lethal pair off in the ring while Joe and Ki fight on the floor. It doesn’t take long for Homicide to knock Lethal to the floor and hit the Tope Con Hilo. The Rottweilers take control, working Lethal over in their half of the ring. Homicide hits an elevated DDT and then Ki hits the Warrior’s Way. Ki covers and gets two. An awkward spot ends with Homicide hitting an Ace Crusher. Lethal is getting destroyed here. Homicide hits him with a piledriver for two. He tries the Lariat but Lethal ducks and hits the Dragon Suplex! Lethal dropkicks Ki and makes the tag! Joe is a house afire. He hits Ki with the STJoe and Homicide with an exploder into the buckles. Ki starts coming back but Lethal cuts him off with a clothesline. Joe puts Ki up for the Muscle Buster but Homicide breaks it up. Ki then hits Joe with a double stomp off the top rope to the back. Lethal hits Homicide with the running vertical suplex. Ki drills Joe with the shotgun dropkick. Lethal goes for a superplex but Ki nocks him down. Homicide grabs Lethal for the Cop Killa and Ki adds a nasty double stomp. Lethal lands horribly on his neck and head and that’s enough for Homicide to get the pin at 9:18. That was an awesome brawl and a really good example of a good sub-10 minute match. This kicked off a huge feud that would go on until September.
Rating: ***½

Backstage – Prince Nana and Jimmy Rave are talking about how ROH is trying to put him out of the business with these dog collar and steel cage matches. Rave isn’t scared of Punk and says next week he’s just going to be another stepping stone.

Jimmy Bower narrates a clip of Bryan Danielson versus Homicide matches and announces that their Best of Five match series and feud will end next week in Dayton in a Steel Cage Match.

James Gibson says he should be happy about beating Black Tiger tonight, but he’s still upset about not winning the ROH World Title at Stalemate. He says he will not make the same mistakes at The Final Showdown when he gets another shot at Austin Aries and the ROH World Title

My boy Sugar Shawn Price is with Colt Cabana, who is upset about his loss to Nigel McGuinness. He makes fun of McGuinness for being British, and then McGuinness himself walks in and they stare each other down.

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