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National Guard Armory – Dorchester, Massachusetts – Saturday, September 24, 2005
Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Jay Lethal vs. Sal Rinauro
They start off with some chain wrestling, as Prazak explains that Rinauro gained entry into this tournament by winning a Four Corner Survival match at Do or Die V in August. That show was never released on DVD sadly. Lethal scores the first big move with a spinebuster for two. They continue to go back and forth, both men getting some offense in but Lethal clearly looking stronger. Lethal puts Rinauro on the top rope but it backfires when Rinauro brings Lethal down with a super bulldog! Rinauro is fired up now and he unleashes a flurry of offense, including a sick tornado DDT for a near-fall. He hits a combo ending with a German Suplex for another two-count. Lethal comes back with the running vertical suplex and a diving headbutt for two. A series of counters and reversals ends with Rinauro hitting a Stunner for two. Rinauro goes to the apron and tries a springboard spin kick but he misses badly. Lethal hits the release Dragon Suplex to get the pin and move on at 11:38. Rinauro had no chance here but he a made a solid go of it and they built some nice drama down the stretch. Good choice for an opener.
MATCH #2: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Colt Cabana vs. Ricky Reyes
Reyes tries a sneak attack but Cabana avoids him and unloads with punches and elbows. A dropkick sends Reyes to the floor to regroup. Back in the ring Reyes lands some kicks and stomps Cabana down. Reyes targets Cabana’s left arm. Cabana fights that off and delivers a series of offensive maneuvers. Reyes cuts him off with a Fujiwara Armbar. Cabana reaches the ropes and then hits Reyes with a quebrada press for two. Reyes gets a rollup for two. Cabana comes back with a big lariat to get the sudden pin and advance to the finals at 4:28. They didn’t have much time to get a whole lot going, but I don’t really care to see much more of Ricky Reyes than what was seen here so that’s okay. The finish was certainly abrupt.
MATCH #3: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Roderick Strong vs. Jerrelle Clark
They start with some chain wrestling, both trying to use armbars to subdue their opponent. Clark shows off his agility but Strong isn’t impressed. Strong switches it up and goes after the left leg, but Clark busts his way out of that. Clark shows off some impressive skills and sends Strong reeling to the floor with a headscissors. Strong isn’t paying attention and Clark flies through the ropes with another headscissors. Back in the ring Strong catches Clark with a leg lariat for two. Strong goes to work on Clark, trying to keep him grounded. Clark tries to fight back but Strong just viciously cuts him down. Strong is looking dominant, but Clark comes back and starts flying all over the place and Strong is caught off-guard. Clark scores a series of near-falls with some high flying moves and pinning combinations. Strong is all like “F this” and he press slams Clark into the turnbuckles! Cool spot. Strong covers a couple of times just to make Clark expend energy kicking out. Clark catches Strong with a tornado DDT, and follows with a series of dropkicks for a near-fall. Strong comes back with a slingshot and then tries a powerbomb but Clark counters with a rana. Clark tries to follow up but Strong destroys him with a powerbomb for a near-fall. The back-and-forth continues, but Strong ends all that with a hard backbreaker. Strong then cinches in the Stronghold and Clark taps out quickly at 11:14. Clark looked good here, but man Strong was just on fire at this time, able to look dominant while not making his opponent look like a jobber. These two meshed very well together and this was quite the entertaining match.
MATCH #4: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Jimmy Rave vs. Austin Aries
Rave is accompanied by Prince Nana and Jade Chung, whom Nana has on a leash, literally. Aries charges the ring and attacks before the bell, as Generation Next and the Embassy have been feuding for the last few weeks. He knocks Rave to the floor and wipes him out with the Heat Seeking Missile. The crowd is digging on Aries just destroying Rave all over the ringside area. Nana interferes as they try to get back in the ring, allowing Rave to knock Aries off the apron and into the barricade. Rave is in control now and he beats on Aries for a while and they finally make it back to the ring. Aries is looking worse for wear, and every time he tries to make a comeback Rave is able to cut him off. Finally Aries is able to land a roaring elbow and an IED, and both men are down. Back to their feet Aries is building momentum, unleashing a series of maneuvers on Rave, but he’s not able to keep him down for the three-count. Aries goes for the Brainbuster but Rave counters it and gets a schoolboy rollup with a handful of tights for two. In a nice little change, Aries hits a torture rack into the Finlay Roll, and then goes up top for a beautiful frog splash that unfortunately for him does not connect. Rave hits a Spear and the running knee but only gets two. He hits Ghanarrhea and then goes for another one but Aries flips out of it and kicks Rave right in the skull. Aries goes for the Brainbuster again but Jade distracts the referee and Nana brings a chair in the ring. Rave gets control of the chair and cracks Aries across the back right in front of the referee. That’s obviously enough for the DQ and Aries moves on at 12:54. That was a good heated contest between two rivals and the added bonus of something at stake. Disqualifications in ROH were pretty rare at this time so this was a cool finish that worked both for SOTF and for the larger feud. Good stuff here.
MATCH #5: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Samoa Joe vs. Milano Collection AT
This is Milano’s ROH debut. They spend the opening moments feeling each other out and wrestling on the mat. Joe brings his power advantage to the forefront as Jimmy Bower invades the announce booth to announce that Joe will face Kenta Kobashi next week in Manhattan, and then in Philadelphia Joe will team with Low Ki to face Kobashi and Homicide in a tag team match. Meanwhile the chain wrestling continues and Milano is holding his own against the ROH Legend. Milano uses his unique offense, including use of the ropes, to take Joe off his feet and keep him off guard. He targets the arm, but gets cut off when he charges into an STJoe. That’s the opening Joe needed to go back on offense and hit the Big Joe Combo for a two-count. Joe continues the abuse, using his striking power to nearly knock Milano out. Milano gets back on his feet and is able to re-target the arm. Joe responds with a leg sweep and a senton for two. He hits the powerbomb for two and turns it into the STF. Milano reaches the ropes, and is able to take Joe down with a clothesline. He connects with an enziguiri and a running senton for two. Joe grabs Milano with the snap powerslam for two, and then he locks on the Cross Armbreaker. Milano reaches the ropes again. He hits Joe with another enziguiri and then a springboard twisting senton for a two-count. Joe gets up and hits a Death Valley Driver for two. He puts Milano up on the ropes and delivers the Muscle Buster to get the pin at 14:23. I’d say Milano made a pretty good first impression, as that was a nice clash of styles. Any time you can hang with someone on Samoa Joe’s caliber in ROH, you’ve done something right. The crowd chants “please come back.”
MATCH #6: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – James Gibson vs. Christopher Daniels
Daniels is immediately annoyed because this was supposed to be a title match, but Gibson lost the belt last week to Bryan Danielson at Glory By Honor IV. “The Fallen Angel” tears right into Gibson and works him over with a variety of strikes. Gibson appears very off his game in the early going here. They take it to the floor and brawl. I definitely expected more of a scientific matchup, so this is certainly a surprise. Gibson picks Daniels up and rams him into the barricade. Back in the ring Gibson continues to control Daniels and work on his arm. Daniels fights back and hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to buy himself a little time. He recovers and puts the pressure on Gibson’s back, keeping the former ROH World Champion grounded. After several minutes and thwarted comeback attempts, Gibson is able to hit a belly-to-back suplex and that gives him the opening he needs. Gibson slams Daniels down and hits an elbow drop off the second rope for a two-count. This time around Gibson puts his focus on Daniels’ neck area, which is good strategy given his finishers. Daniels fights back after getting worked over for quite some time, and he’s able to hit Gibson with the Iconoclasm. They make it back to their feet and Daniels has gained a second wind. They take it back to the floor and Gibson is able to retake control out there. Back in the ring Gibson misses a Best Moonsault Ever and Daniels hits the STO for two. A Blue Thunder Driver gets another two-count for Daniels. Gibson counters an attempt at the Texas Cloverleaf into the Guillotine Choke, and Daniels counters that into a cradle for a near-fall. They battle up on the ropes and Gibson goes for a Tornado DDT but Daniels counters into a Flatliner. The back and forth battle continues and Gibson catches a charging Daniels in a snap powerslam for a two-count. A series of reversals and finisher attempts ends with Daniels hitting the Last Rites to get the pin at 26:02. That was a fantastic match between two tremendous wrestlers. I love the little touch of Daniels being angry that it was no longer a title match, and it gave the match even more juice than just being a Survival of the Fittest match. They worked in technical wrestling, brawling, and signature moves without doing any huge spots and kept it entertaining throughout. These guys are just plain great.
MATCH #7: ROH Pure Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. BJ Whitmer
Nigel has been the Champion since 8.27.05, and this is his second defense. Whitmer is one half of the ROH Tag Team Champions, but his partner Jimmy Jacobs wasn’t even booked on this show. They start with some chain wrestling and that is going to favor the Pure Champion. Nigel positions Whitmer in such a way to cheat him out of his first rope break, frustrating the challenger. The chain wrestling continues and Nigel once again forces Whitmer into a rope break, leaving Whitmer with only one to use. Nigel tries to goad Whitmer into using a closed fist, which is quite illegal in Pure Title matches. The Champion continues using his stellar combination of dirty tactics and pure wrestling to keep Whitmer off guard. Whitmer is able to catch Nigel in a suplex and then drives a knee into his face for a near-fall. He takes the Champ up the ropes and brings him down with a superplex for a two-count. They rise to their feet and slug it out and Nigel wins that battle. Whitmer comes back with a huge clothesline for a near-fall. Nigel comes back with the Tower of London and Whitmer uses his third rope break to avoid getting pinned. Now the Pure Champion can use the ropes in any way he wants. They fight up on the top rope and Whitmer brings Nigel down on his head with an exploder! That looked cool, but it only gets two. Whitmer hits a dropkick and covers, but Nigel gets his foot on the bottom rope. While the referee is telling the ring announcer about the rope break, Nigel hits Whitmer right in the stones and then cradles him up in the ropes to get the pin at 14:14. I actually miss the Pure Title, as it offered a different style of match due to the unique rules, and no one used those rules better than Nigel McGuinness.
MATCH #8: Survival of the Fittest 2005 Final Six Way Elimination Match – Jay Lethal vs. Colt Cabana vs. Roderick Strong vs. Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels
Aries and Strong make their entrance together. Joe and Lethal clear the ring right from the start and then take everyone out with stereo suicide dives. Back in the ring Joe and Lethal focus on Cabana and work as a team to wear him down. Cabana takes quite a beating but is able to catch Joe in a sunset flip and almost pins him just like he did last year. Daniels is able to get a tag and he unloads on Joe, but he runs right into an STJoe. Lethal tags in and the action continues rolling at a rapid pace. Generation Next finally make their presence felt and they focus on Daniels, working him over in their corner of the ring. Daniels is able to hit Strong with a desperation STO, and that fires him up enough to take on both Aries and Strong quite successfully. Joe tags in to engage Strong in a chop battle. A series of reversals ends with Joe locking on the Choke, but Strong fights his way out by attacking Joe’s injured arm. Daniels sneaks in with a Best Moonsault Ever right to Joe’s arm. Strong takes Daniels out with a backbreaker and then pins Joe for the first elimination at 13:57! For the second year in a row Joe is the first man out. Cabana, Daniels, and Lethal all take turns beating on Aries, focusing on his back that was injured by the chair shot from Jimmy Rave. Lethal misses the diving headbutt and Daniels and Strong get tagged in. Daniels is all fired up, which is impressive given the length of his match with Gibson earlier and the fact that it was the last of the qualifying matches. Too bad it’s all for naught, as Aries makes a blind tag and surprises Daniels with a sunset flip to eliminate him at 19:12. Cabana and Lethal decide it would be in their best interest to work together against Aries and Strong, and they take them out with dives to the floor. Their advantage is short-lived, as the Gen Next duo is able to isolate Cabana and keep him far away from making a tag. Cabana is resourceful though, and he is eventually able to get to the corner and bring Lethal in. Momentum shifts back and forth during this de-facto tag team match, but Gen Next is obviously the more polished team. Aries and Strong take Cabana out and that leaves Lethal all alone. Strong hits the gutbuster and Aries scores with the Brainbuster to eliminate Lethal at 31:23. Cabana is all alone, but he doesn’t have to get in the match, meaning Aries and Strong have to go at each other. Sadly that’s not to be, as they pretty much force Cabana into the ring. Strong and Aries dominate, obviously, but Cabana shows a lot of heart in fighting back. Aries goes for the 450 Splash but his injured back causes him to slip off the ropes. Strong tags in and hits Cabana with a backbreaker and a piledriver to put him away at 35:51. That leaves tag team partners and stable mates Austin Aries versus Roderick Strong to decide just who is the Fittest.
For some reason Aries gets on the mic and tells the fans not to boo Generation Next for teaming up in the match because they would have done the same thing. He tells Strong that they’ll always be friends, but that’s all being put aside to see who the best man is. What a stupid waste of time that was. None of that needed to be said and it was just an annoying distraction. Anyway, they make good on the promise to fight each other, and show no mercy as they tear into each other. Strong is in a bit better shape because he wrestled a clean match against Jerrelle Clark and didn’t get struck with a chair the way Aries did. Momentum swings back and forth between them as the crowd seems oddly subdued. Aries has trouble pulling off all his usual moves because of his back, and it’s too bad for him that his opponent’s specialty is backbreaker variations. He injures his back performing the inverted Finlay Roll, but is still able to hit an IED and the Brainbuster. So I guess he can do all his usual moves. Aries goes up top but Strong brings him down with a super gutbuster. Strong tries a half-nelson backbreaker but Aries counters to the Crucifix Bomb. Aries kicks Strong in the head and goes for the Brainbuster but Strong counters into a half-nelson backbreaker. Strong hits another half-nelson backbreaker and then locks on the Stronghold! Aries is forced to tap out at 50:29. That match had a lot to live up to after last year’s greatness, and it couldn’t quite get there. It had some good stuff, like Gen Next and Joe/Lethal working as a team, and Aries’ back injury working against him as he faced a guy known for backbreakers. But there was some awkward spots sprinkled throughout, the crowd didn’t really pick up for Aries v Strong until the last couple minutes, and Aries’ mid-match promo really killed the momentum. Still, it was a good main event and a great showing for Roderick Strong on his way to challenging Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Title.
Tags: Austin Aries, Jay Lethal, Ring of Honor, Roderick Strong, Survival of the Fittest