Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV – Friday, October 19, 2007
Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Roderick Strong vs. Brent Albright
Strong is the current FIP World Heavyweight Champion, and he has been in all three prior Survival of the Fittest tournaments, winning it all in 2005. Albright is making his SOTF debut and he has Shane Hagadorn in his corner. They start off with some chain wrestling and Albright chases Strong to the floor. Back in the ring they continue with the aggressive chain wrestling, going back and forth on the mat. Albright targets the arm, which is not a bad strategy against a guy known for backbreakers. He keeps Strong on the defensive, using a variety of offense on the leader of the No Remorse Corps. Strong is able to fight back, and Albright is one of those guys like Jerry Lynn that thinks he can’t let someone just take hear on them without coming back all the time. At any rate, Strong hits an enziguiri and a falcon arrow for two. They’re trading moves and near-falls now, and Strong lands a gutbuster. Strong then rolls Albright up and grabs a handful of tights to score the pin at 8:59. This was just nine minutes of stuff with nothing tying it all together and an abrupt finish. Not much to see here.
MATCH #2: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Chris Hero vs. Karl Anderson
This is Anderson’s ROH debut, and both men are making their debut in the Survival of the Fittest tournament. They take it right to the mat. Hero stalls and does all his flippy-flip nonsense. Anderson fights back with hard strikes. He hits a powerslam and a knee drop for two. Hero responds with strikes and starts targeting the neck. Anderson fights back and hits the spinebuster but only gets two. He follows with a gourdbuster and a kick to the head for a two-count. Hero comes back with the Hero’s Welcome and then locks on the Hangman’s Clutch for the tap out win at 7:02. That was mainly an exhibition for Chris Hero, and that’s fine, but the match was not at all exciting due to the foregone conclusion aspect.
MATCH #3: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Rocky Romero vs. TJ Perkins
For some reason Perkins makes his entrance with a water bottle sticking out of his mouth. It looks weird. Both men are making their SOTF debuts. They start off at a fast pace and take it right to the mat. Strikes come into play early on as well, and Perkins is able to take the first real advantage. Eventually he misses a knee drop and Romero quickly goes on offense. Now it’s Romero keeping Perkins grounded and assaulting him with kicks. Romero uses an Octopus Hold to almost earn the tap out, but Perkins fights on. The cocky Romero shows no signs of concern. Perkins fights back with a nice neckbreaker and both men are down. Back on their feet Perkins lands some kicks and a leg cradle Falcon Arrow for a near-fall. Perkins slams Romero and goes up top but Romero avoids the strike. A series of reversals ends with Romero destroying Perkins with knockout kicks to get the pin at 6:28. That was brief but they certainly packed a lot of action into that short time. I would have enjoyed to see more.
MATCH #4: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Austin Aries vs. Delirious
This is the fourth time Aries has been in Survival of the Fittest, and he has gone to the finals all three times and been the last man eliminated twice. Delirious debuted in the tournament last year and went on to win it all, last defeating Matt Sydal. So there is some impressive pedigree on display here. Delirious does his usual right from the start, and Aries counters that with a side headlock and a shoulderblock. The pace stays fast, and Aries targets the arm. Delirious fights back and things get heated pretty quickly. They trade control back and forth, as both men have a lot to prove in getting back to the finals. Both men utilize their signature moves but both men continue to fight back. Delirious pulls out a Cobra Clutch Suplex with a nasty landing but Aries kicks out at two. Now Delirious puts on the Cobra Stretch but Aries escapes and hits the kick to the head, Brainbuster, and Last Chancery combination. Delirious is forced to tap out and send Aries to the finals at 12.16. In some cases these move-move-move matches irritate me, but I read it as wanting to show both guys on the same level, and they had similar motivations for getting back to the finals so this worked for me.
MATCH #5: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Claudio Castagnoli vs. Davey Richards
These two start off hot, trying to end the match quickly. Castagnoli executes the Giant Swing, and I admit that I had to stop myself from typing Cesaro there. Richards comes back and goes to work on the left leg, softening up the lanky Castagnoli. It doesn’t take long for Castagnoli to fight back and fire up the crowd with some of his signature spots. Castagnoli goes for the Riccola Bomb but Richards counters with a rana. Richards goes back to the leg and locks on a Stretch Muffler. Castagnoli fights out and executes the Alpamare Water Slide for a near-fall. He puts Richards on the top rope but Richards is able to score a sunset bomb and a running kick for a two-count. Castagnoli looks a little messed up here, so Richards kicks him in the head again. I think Castagnoli realizes he’s in trouble so he digs down and blasts Richards with a European Uppercut, and then plants him with the Riccola Bomb to get the pin at 8:04. This was another match a bit on the short side, but I love how the finish played out, with Castagnoli realizing he was in danger and pulled through to hit his big finish and get the win. Good stuff.
MATCH #6: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness
This is McGuinness’ first match since becoming ROH World Champion, but the title is not on the line here. These two have wrestled each other many times, so there is a definite familiarity there. They take it down to the mat and exchange holds, both men trying to establish dominance and set the pace. McGuinness goes after the arm and Danielson goes after the leg in the early going. We cross the 10-minute mark and they have been trading control back and forth, battling on the mat. No one else in Ring of Honor can have the kind of unique mat battles that these two have and it’s a lot of fun to watch. They finally start throwing out some strikes as the time limit starts to become a factor. Both men are worn down but they refuse to quit fighting. McGuinness busts out the Tower of London, which Danielson counters, but McGuinness re-counters to the Divorce Court for a two-count. The Champ goes for the Jawbreaker Lariat but Danielson dropkicks him low and puts on a half crab. McGuinness reaches the ropes. Danielson hits a suplex and then goes up top for the diving headbutt and hits nothing but boot. The pace quickens and both men are pulling out the big guns now. Time is running out as Danielson brings McGuinness to the top rope McGuinness sets up for the Tower of London but the time limit expires at 20:00. Both men are eliminated from the tournament now. I love watching these two wrestle, as they can make a 32-year old lifelong wrestling fan who has a pretty good understanding of how the business works believe that they are really battling each other in there. Both men came into this match with a well-defined strategy and they stuck to it, and both guys’ selling was spot-on throughout the match. The time limit draw is fine here, as it wasn’t the main event and it helps to build to a title match between these two down the road.
MATCH #7: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Three Way Match – Shane Hagadorn vs. Human Tornado vs. Tony Kozina
This is a last-minute qualifying match so that there won’t be a weird five-way finals again. You know what’s interesting about Tony Kozina? Nothing. Everyone in this match is wearing red gear. Things start off fast, with everyone trying to grab that last available spot in the finals. Tornado is quite over with the crowd and he gets them going with his unique offense. Hagadorn takes himself out of play by running into the steel ring post, and Tornado catches Kozina with a half nelson suplex to get the pin at 3:28. Not much they could do with three minutes and 28 seconds, but Tornado kept it pretty fun while it lasted.
MATCH #8: Street Fight – The Briscoes vs. Jimmy Jacobs & Necro Butcher
The Briscoes are the ROH World Tag Team Champions but the titles are not on the line here. No one wastes any time in getting this brawl going. The fight immediately spills to the floor and into the crowd. They battle all over the building, and make their way up to the staging area, where Necro is able to Chokeslam Mark off and through a table. Eventually Necro and Jacobs take Jay back to the ring and continue to double-team him while Mark recovers from taking that Chokeslam. Necro finds some chairs and things do not look good for the Briscoes. He hits the Chair Slam for a two-count, and then the Tiger Driver on the chair for another near-fall. Mark crawls his way back to ringside but has a hard time getting back to the ring. Jay gets a second wind and attacks, sending Necro to the floor. Mark is back and hits Jacobs with a chair. Necro responds by hitting Jay with a chair. That leaves Mark and Necro to duke it out, and Mark wins that battle. Mark is all fired up with his Redneck Kung Fu, but Necro and Jacobs are able to fight back. Jacobs and Necro set up a chair and try to slam Jay through it, but Jay hits Jacobs with a Stunner and then slams Necro off the top rope right on top of said chair. The Briscoes then drop Necro on the chair right on his head, and Jacobs has to break up the pin cover. Jay and Mark continue to dominate, using chairs and double-teams but they are not able to score a win. Necro takes Jay out and holds him back as Jacobs hits Mark with a DDT on a steel chair. Jacobs locks in the End Time for the win at 12:43. That was a good brawl and it had definite reason to exist given the blood feud between these two teams. It made much more sense than just having a regular match. Jacobs and Necro also went over clean so that’s a good bridge to a title shot.
MATCH #9: Survival of the Fittest 2007 Final Six Way Elimination Match – Roderick Strong vs. Chris Hero vs. Rocky Romero vs. Austin Aries vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Human Tornado
Aries and Romero start the match, and Strong attacks from behind to give the No Remorse Corps team an early advantage. Meanwhile, Hero is working out up by the entrance to avoid Claudio, his hated rival. Aries knocks Strong and Romero to the floor and wipes them out with the Heat Seeking Missile. Claudio then traps Hero in the ring and goes to work on him. Hero bails and tags in the Tornado, who dumps Claudio to the floor and then wipes everyone out with a dive. Hero gets in the ring and hits a celebrating Tornado with an inverted suplex and the Hero’s Welcome to score the first elimination at 3:59. Claudio and Strong battle each other now. Aries works with Claudio as a way to counter Strong and Romero working as a unit. The makeshift duo isolates Romero for a bit until Romero is able to avoid a brainbuster and tag Strong. Hero is back up by the entrance, sitting in a chair watching the match. Aries is able to survive long enough to tag Claudio, who shows No Remorse to Romero and Strong. Claudio and Strong fight up the ramp while Aries and Romero go back and forth in the ring. Hero hides up by ringside now. Aries hits Romero with the Brainbuster and then hits the 450 Splash. Hero blind tags himself in and grabs Aries off the cover and powerbombs him onto Romero for the second elimination at 13:33. Aries and Strong battle in the ring now after Hero bails again. Hero makes another blind tag, this one on Strong, and is able to roll Aries up for another elimination at 15:38. Sweeney pays off Strong to work with Hero, and they go to work on Claudio. Strong hits Claudio with the Gibson Driver and Hero double-crosses Strong, hitting the Hero’s Welcome to eliminate his fourth opponent at 19:49. Hero then takes the money back from Strong and hands it to Sweeney.
It’s all Hero as he tries to become the first man to eliminate everyone in a Survival of the Fittest match. Claudio tries the Riccola Bomb but Hero reverses it and hits a big boot to the face for two. Momentum continues to shift as both men know each other’s moves from their history together as a tag team. Claudio goes for the Alpamare Water Slide but Hero avoids it and hits a rolling elbow and a cravat suplex for two. The pendulum shifts again as Claudio hits a Bicycle Kick and the German Suplex for a near-fall. Claudio goes for the Riccola Bomb but Hero lands on his feet and hits a forearm strike and the Hero’s Welcome but Claudio kicks out again! Hero puts on the Hangman’s Clutch and Claudio makes it to the ropes. Claudio comes back and hits the Riccola Bomb but Hero kicks out of that! He runs right into a boot, and then Hero hits a cravat neckbreaker off the second rope. Hero goes up and hits a double stomp and then locks on the Hangman’s Clutch again. Claudio passes out at 27:40. So far this has really been the only Survival of the Fittest match to try something a little different, and it actually worked really well and turned out to be pretty memorable.
Tags: Austin Aries, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, ROH, Survival of the Fittest