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Ramada Inn – Essington, Pennsylvania – Thursday, June 24, 2004
Jimmy Bower and Mark Nulty (dammit) are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Mark Briscoe vs. Alex Shelley
They immediately take it to the mat and exchange holds. Back and forth they go, with both men showcasing their unique offensive repertoires. Mark attacks Shelley’s knee and tries to keep him grounded. Shelley fights back with a Superkick, and then he goes to work on the neck area. That’s smart strategy given that Shelley uses the Border City Stretch and the Shellshock as finishers. Mark cuts him off with a fisherman’s buster. Both men get back to their feet and Mark is able to strike first, going right back to the knee. They continue to go back and forth, working on the neck and knee, respectively. Shelley locks on the Border City Stretch, but Mark escapes and goes for a Cloverleaf. As Shelley struggles to break free, Mark turns it into a cradle to get the pin at 10:13. That was a good choice for an opener, and both men looked good here. They both had a strategy and focused on it, and it played into the finish. That’s the kind of match I can get behind.
MATCH #2: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Colt Cabana vs. Trent Acid
Cabana is one half of the ROH Tag Team Champions alongside CM Punk. They start with some chain wrestling and Cabana turns it into shenanigans, embarrassing his opponent. Acid takes a powder as the crowd chants for Cabana. Back to the ring and it’s more shenanigans. Acid tries going to the top rope and Cabana shoves him down into the ringside barricade. That gives Cabana a pronounced advantage and he goes to work, keeping Acid grounded. Acid fights back with a tornado DDT. They fight up on the ropes and Acid hits a super gourdbuster for two. Acid keeps up the offense and goes for the Yakuza Kick but Cabana ducks it. Cabana hits a gutbuster and then traps Acid in an inescapable cradle to get the pin at 7:57. That was a perfectly solid, but not unlike most other Colt Cabana matches.
MATCH #3: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Austin Aries vs. John Walters
Aries comes out with Shelley, Jack Evans, and Roderick Strong, while Walters is on his own. Shelley gets on the mic and tells Walters he can either step down out of the tournament, or get beat down. Walters tries to fight, but four-on-one are pretty huge odds. Shelley wraps a chain around his fist and they destroy Walters. He declares Aries the winner. Gary Michael Cappetta comes out and tells Generation Next that what they just did isn’t going to fly. He calls out Josh Daniels, who tells his manager Prince Nana to stay backstage. Generation Net beat him down too, but Walters makes his way back to the ring and somehow runs off the same four guys who just whooped his ass. Walters makes a challenge for a tag team match. Referee Todd Sinclair announces that the match is on, and the winner of the fall will advance to the finals.
MATCH #3: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Austin Aries & Roderick Strong vs. Josh Daniels & John Walters
Aries and Strong try a sneak attack but Walters and Daniels are fired up and ready for them. It’s all Daniels and Walters in the early going, as they use some unique offense and double-team moves to wear their opponents down. After several minutes of abuse, Aries and Strong are able to use some dubious tactics to overtake their fiery opponents. Aries and Strong focus on Walters and wear him down in their half of the ring with seamless teamwork. Finally Walters is able to fight back and hits a desperation simultaneous Lungblower on both opponents. That allows him to make the tag and Daniels comes in a house afire. Daniels almost kills Aries with a release Northern Lights Suplex, and then continues throwing chops and suplexes all around. The referee loses control and all four men are in the ring throwing bombs. Strong dispatches Walters to the floor. Daniels has Aries up for a superplex but Strong rescues his partner and powerbombs Daniels. Aries follows with a 450 Splash to get the pin at 12:46. That worked really well as a tag match and it was nice to see some variety instead of six singles matches. Aries and Strong worked really well together as a team and you could see that right away. Walters and Daniels did too, especially for being thrown together. This got especially good down the stretch and the finish was aces.
MATCH #4: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Homicide vs. Jay Briscoe
Homicide has Julius Smokes in his corner and Jay has his brother Mark in his. They start off with some chain wrestling, but I would expect this one to get heated in short order. Homicide dropkicks Homicide to the floor and they trade dive attempts but neither man can connect. Jay is able to take control and brings Homicide down with a headlock. They continue to go back and forth, mixing in some brawling with their technical wrestling. Homicide focuses on Jay’s neck, and tries to keep him grounded. Jay is able to fight back and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb to finally get a respite. He follows up with a missile dropkick for a two-count. They trade finisher attempts but neither man can connect just yet. They both go for Yakuza Kicks and hit each other at the same time. Back on their feet Jay hits a leg lariat and a Falcon Arrow for two. Jay goes for the Jay Driller but Smokes interferes to break it up. Even so, Jay levels Homicide with a Superkick. Jay goes to the second rope and Smokes grabs onto his leg. That allows Homicide to bring Jay down with an Ace Crusher. Homicide hits the Lariat to score the pin at 15:00. Jay appears to be injured but Homicide doesn’t care, and he and Mark almost get into it. They’ll see each other again in the main event. As for this match, it was a solid back and forth contest, and Homicide worked the neck for most of it and then won with a neck submission so that works.
MATCH #5: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Bryan Danielson vs. Jack Evans
They start off by trading dance moves. It doesn’t take long for Danielson to aggressively attack Evans with chain wrestling. Danielson stretches Evans in unnatural ways, but the plucky Evans tries his best to fight back. After a few minutes of that Evans is able to fight back with a series of kicks that send Danielson to the floor. Evans follows him out with a ridiculous dive. Back in the ring Evans hits a standing Phoenix Splash for a two-count. Danielson responds with a European Uppercut that turns Evans inside out. He then literally bends Evans in half with a submission hold to get the tap out win at 11:00. That went on a little long for what they were going for but Danielson stretching Evans is good fun and this was a unique combination of styles.
MATCH #6: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Samoa Joe vs. Matt Stryker
Joe is the ROH World Champion but the title is not on the line tonight. They start off with some chain and mat wrestling, as these two are not strangers to each other after a title match in April at ROH Reborn: Stage Two. Joe knocks Stryker to the floor and takes him out with the elbow suicida. He tries the Ole Ole Kick but Stryker avoids it and scurries back to the ring. Joe goes back to the ring and Stryker catches him with a leg trap DDT for a two-count. Stryker goes up top and comes down with a neckbreaker for another near-fall. Joe fights back with an enziguiri and then the powerbomb that he turns into an STF. Stryker catches a charging Joe with a powerslam for two, and then hits the Death Valley Driver for another two-count. They fight up on the top rope and Joe shoves Stryker down to the mat. Stryker perseveres and brings Joe down with a superplex! That gets a two-count. Stryker goes for another DVD but Joe blocks it and hits the Island Driver to get the pin at 9:35. Stryker obviously had no chance to advance here, but he made a solid go of it. It was about as good of a match as these two could realistically have given their places on the card.
MATCH #7: ROH Tag Team Title Scramble Match – CM Punk &
Colt Cabana vs. Dunn & Marcos vs. Outcast Killaz vs. Special K
Punk and Cabana have been the Champions since 5.15.04, and this is their second defense. Dixie and Hydro are representing Special K tonight. I’m not sure what any of the jobber teams did to earn a shot at the titles. Punk and Cabana come out together, but Punk says he wants Cabana to focus on winning Survival of the Fittest, so he’ll go it alone. The titles can only change hands if Punk is pinned.
Punk and Dunn start it off, but Punk shows little interest in that so Dixie takes his place. The action immediately gets fast paced and heated and fast-paced, and everyone takes a shot at pinning Punk. Hydro gets all up in Punk’s face, and it’s the battle of basketball shorts! Punk bails again and lets Oman Tortuga and Diablo Santiago take Hydro out. Marcos comes in and the Killaz stay on him. The jobber teams continue to go at it while Punk picks his spots and mostly stays on the apron. Hydro is able to hit a double release Dragon Suplex on Dunn and Marcos, and Punk sneaks in and dumps Hydro to the floor. That allows Punk to steal the pin at 4:53. That was fun enough while it lasted, but it was really only there to set up the following…
MATCH #8: CM Punk vs. Hydro
Punk gets on the microphone and challenges Ricky Steamboat for the next show, and denigrates the teams he just beat. Hydro takes exception and challenges Punk to face him in a singles match. He calls Punk a pussy and that brings Punk back to the ring to retort. Punk says he is Straight Edge and Hydro slaps him in the face. Hydro offers a handshake for the first time ever and away we go.
Nulty immediately irritates me by confusing Special K with the Christopher Street Connection. I guess they’re practically the same stable … not. Punk tries to intimidate Hydro in the early going but it doesn’t work. They take it to the mat and Hydro gets an early advantage. Hydro knocks Punk to the floor and Punk takes his time regrouping. Back in the ring Punk hits a powerslam and starts going to work. Punk hits what Nulty calls a “crotch hold left, backbreaker, European style.” I hate Nulty so much. Anyway, Punk dominates for several minutes, making Hydro look very overmatched. Punk hits Welcome to Chicago and Lethal looks to be in great pain. This continues and Punk appears to be going for the Pepsi Plunge. Hydro fights back and hits a superplex. He follows up with a flurry of offense, including a leg lariat for two. Punk comes back with a Shining Wizard for a two-count. Hydro responds with a combo ending with a suplex for two. They trade more holds back and forth and Hydro clobbers Punk with a clothesline. Punk comes back with the hammerlock DDT and covers but pulls Lethal up at two for the second time in the match. He hits a super hurricanrana but it leads to a brief fish out of water spot, and then Hydro hits the release Dragon Suplex! He doesn’t cover right away though and only gets two. Hydro tries a hiptoss but Punk executes an “Oklahoma Side Roll into a Bridge” for the win at 18:48. That was a little bit long for Hydro at that time, but it did work in helping him become more serious and Punk made him look good.
MATCH #9: Survival of the Fittest Elimination Match – Mark Briscoe vs. Colt Cabana vs. Austin Aries vs. Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe
Mark and Homicide start it off, and Mark is angry after what Homicide did to his brother Jay earlier tonight. Homicide quickly tags out and lets Cabana chain wrestle with Mark. Cabana and Mark are certainly no strangers to each other. The feeling out process continues as Danielson comes in and takes it to Mark. Danielson works Mark over on the mat, focusing on the leg. Joe tags in and continues where Danielson left off. Homicide tags in and the crowd is amped to see him and Joe fight, so he tags out and lets Aries fight Joe instead. Aries plays a little duck and move, and then levels Joe with a crucifix driver. He celebrates though and Joe makes him pay for it. More tags are made and all six men get a chance to battle each other and try to establish some kind of dominance. Things really get out of hand and Joe gets fired up. Danielson wipes Mark out with a dive to the floor and then hurls him into the barricade. Aries follows them out and takes both of them out. Cabana attacks Joe and gets dumped to the apron, but he comes back in with a sunset flip to eliminate the ROH World Champion at 15:22! The crowd is in shock. The match carries on with Homicide stepping in to battle Cabana now. Homicide drills Cabana with the lariat but Mark had made a blind tag. Mark comes in with a Shooting Star Press to pin Cabana at 17:07. That leaves Mark and Homicide to duke it out while Danielson and Aries watch on from the apron. They battle back and forth with ferocity and Mark hits a German Suplex, but he cannot maintain the bridge with his injured leg so both men are counted down at 19:04.
They take it to the mat right away and Danielson establishes dominance. Danielson is absolutely vicious in attacking Aries, who was very new to ROH at this time. Aries fights back and gets a little cocky with the ROH veteran. Danielson has been scratched over the right ear and he’s bleeding as Aries takes control with strikes and kicks. That doesn’t last long before Danielson comes back and hits a butterfly suplex for two. Aries tries the fancy back elbow off the second rope that he does, but Danielson cuts him off with a dropkick. Now Danielson goes to work on the back. Danielson goes to the second rope and Aries dropkicks him, causing Danielson’s leg to get tangled in the ropes. Aries follows up with another dropkick, this one to the back of the head, and Danielson tumbles to the floor. Sensing an advantage, Aries follows Danielson out and whips him into the barricade twice. Back in the ring Aries hits a slingshot splash for two. Aries hits the IED and another dropkick to the back of the head for two. Danielson is able to fight back with a series of hard chops. Aries goes to the apron and Danielson tries to suplex him back in but Aries reverses it and sends Danielson back to the floor. Somehow Aries’ chin has been busted open. Back in the ring Aries hits the shinbreaker/belly-to-back suplex combination. Aries then goes up for the 450 but misses and Danielson clobbers him with a running forearm. Danielson hits a series of clothesline for a two-count. He follows with a bridging Dragon Suplex for two, and then locks on Cattle Mutilation. Aries breaks out of it and turns it into a Fish Hook, and then into the Rings of Saturn. Danielson reaches the ropes. Aries continues the momentum, hitting the Brainbuster for a two-count. He goes up for the 450 again and this time hits nothing but knees. Danielson unloads with a series of bodyslams and a roaring forearm for a two-count. He sets Aries on the top rope and hits the belly-to-back superplex for two. Danielson goes back to bodyslams, and Aries cuts him off with a quick small package for two! That just angers Danielson, who goes back for more bodyslams and then locks on a bearhug. Danielson really wrenches it in and twists Aries’ body into unnatural positions and Aries is forced to tap at 42:28.
This match made Aries a star in Ring of Honor. The final sequence between himself and Danielson was tremendous stuff, with both men pulling out all stops to try and earn the title shot. The match leading up to that was also great, with non-stop action and lots of developments happening: Cabana earning a title shot by pinning Joe, both Mark and Joe continuing their wars with Homicide, and Aries keeping pace with five very established Ring of Honor stars. The progression of the eliminations also made sense, even though the first four were in pretty rapid succession. Ten years later and this is likely still the best Survival of the Fittest match.