JZ Says: ROH Final Battle 2005 (KENTA, Low Ki)

Inman Sports Club – Edison, NJ – Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are on commentary.

MATCH #1: Jimmy Rave vs. Milano Collection AT

Rave is accompanied by Prince Nana of course. They chain wrestle to start, as is often the case in Ring of Honor matches. Milano takes the early advantage and Rave regroups with Nana. It takes a moment for that to pan out, but Rave does take the advantage with a Northern Lariat. Momentum continues to shift back and forth between these two evenly matched athletes. Milano is a little bit flashier though, and his offense keeps the crowd keyed into the match. He hits a flurry of offense, including a high cross body off the top rope for two. Rave comes back with the STO Backbreaker and Ghanarrhea for a near-fall. Milano responds with a flying clothesline and a corkscrew quebrada. He drills Rave with a step-up enziguiri for two. Rave rolls through a piledriver attempt and hits the running knee. He follows with Greetings from Ghana to get the pin at 12:46. That was a rock-solid opener that got the crowd going but didn’t do too much. I liked Milano Collection AT, but I wouldn’t have put the belt on him.
Rating: ***

MATCH #2: Colt Cabana vs. Azrieal

Cabana looks a little bit more serious, since he is in the middle of a brutal feud with Homicide. Azrieal is just happy to be there. They chain wrestle and stuff, and Cabana is generally dominant. Azrieal isn’t going down without a fight though. In fact, Azrieal hits the much larger Cabana with a Cradle Shock for a near-fall. Cabana grows weary with Azrieal’s persistence, so he unloads a string of offensive maneuvers, culminating in a huge lariat to get the pin at 7:19. That was a perfectly inoffensive little TV-style matchup.
Rating: **

As Cabana and Azrieal shake hands, Homicide’s music hits and the Notorious 187 makes his way to the ring with his arm in a sling. Ricky Reyes is out with Homicide as well. Homicide rambles on about getting surgery, Steve Corino, and some other stuff. Then nothing happens, and he leaves.

MATCH #3: ROH Pure Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. Claudio Castagnoli

McGuinness has been the Champion since 8.27.05, and this is his sixth defense. This is the second time Castagnoli has challenged McGuinness for the title. The Champion has the advantage in the early going, frustrating the challenger into issuing a slap to the face. McGuinness tries to trick referee Todd Sinclair into thinking Castagnoli punched him in the face, but outside referee Paul Turner saw McGuinness throw the punch, so the Champ is issued a warning. Moments later McGuinness once again tries to get away with throwing a right hand, but Turner catches him again and McGuinness loses his first rope break. They wrestle on the mat and McGuinness tries to use the ropes out of Sinclair’s view, but Turner catches him for the third time and McGuinness has now used two rope breaks. Castagnoli tries a series of pinning combinations and gets two-counts. McGuinness takes a powder. Castagnoli tries a suicide dive, but McGuinness pulls Turner in the way, wiping out that pesky second referee. McGuinness’ facial expression after that is priceless. The Champ goes to work on the arm now, likely to set up for That Arm Submission. Castagnoli uses his first rope break, and moments later uses his second. McGuinness tries the Mule Kick, but Castagnoli catches it and slams the Champ to the canvas. Both men rise and trade strikes. Castagnoli gets the better of it. He hits McGuinness with his own Tower of London, and McGuinness uses his third rope break to avoid getting pinned. McGuinness tries the Jawbreaker Lariat and Castagnoli avoids it but Sinclair is not so lucky. Once again McGuinness tries to use the iron to his advantage, but Castagnoli gets a hold of it and rams McGuinness’ head into it. That’s enough to get the pin at 14:37! Unfortunately for Castagnoli, Turner had come around enough to see the infraction, and awards the match to McGuinness via disqualification. That was a good deal of fun, as was usually the case with these two. The finish was a bit screwy, but it played off their previous match and built logically towards a third, so it’s all good.
Rating: ***¼

MATCH #4: Steve Corino vs. Alex Shelley

Shelley has Prince Nana in his corner. Nana punches out Corino’s personal ring announcer so Corino returns the favor. Shelley attacks and the match is on. Corino quickly grounds Shelley and goes to work on the arm. The match quickly spills to the floor and Shelley takes control. Shelley works the arm now and keeps Corino off-balance with a variety of maneuvers. Corino fights back but can’t keep the advantage for very long. Every time Corino tries to fight up Shelley takes him right back down by the arm. Finally, Corino catches Shelley with a boot to the face and an STO for two. Nana tries to interfere, but it backfires. Corino clobbers Shelley with a lariat and then hits the Old School Expulsion. Nana jumps on the referee to avoid the three-count, but for some reason there is no disqualification called. The distraction allows Shelley to trap Corino in a cradle to get the pin at 11:06. That was solid if unspectacular.
Rating: **½

Immediately after the match Homicide makes his way out to attack Corino like he promised to do earlier. Homicide tries to pour Drain-O down Corino’s throat, but Colt Cabana comes out to make the save. Julius Smokes attacks Cabana from behind and they pour the Drain-O down Cabana’s throat instead. That’s a pretty heinous thing to do.

MATCH #5: Four Corner Survival – BJ Whitmer vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Jay Lethal vs. Samoa Joe

Whitmer has Lacey in his corner and Daniels is accompanied by Allison Danger. Lethal avoids Joe in the early going due to their ongoing feud. Joe and Whitmer start the match proper. That goes well for Joe, and when Whitmer tries to tag out Lethal drops to the floor so Daniels gets tagged in instead. Daniels sends Joe to the floor and then takes it to Lethal. “The Fallen Angel” is looking good in the early going. The battle spills to the floor, where Lethal continues to avoid Joe. Back in the ring Lethal turns the tide on Daniels, and he works with Whitmer to wear him down. Lacey tries to interfere, and Danger takes offense, triggering a cat fight in the ring. Whitmer grabs Danger and Daniels drills him with a step-up enziguiri for his troubles. Joe tags in and he wants Lethal. He gets his wish and tears into his former protege, throwing him around the ring. Lethal bails and Whitmer tosses Daniels to the floor. Joe turns his attention to Whitmer, hitting an STJoe for two. Whitmer hits an exploder for a near-fall. He goes low and takes Joe off his feet. Joe comes back with a nasty Death Valley Driver for two. Daniels and Lethal take over in the ring, as this one is getting hard to call. All four men are brawling in the ring until Joe and Daniels toss Lethal and Whitmer to the floor. Daniels and Joe tear into each other and when Lethal and Whitmer try to get back in the ring they toss them out again. Joe hits Daniels with the Muscle Buster on the TNA X Division Title belt, which was brought in the ring by Lethal. Whitmer cracks Joe with a chair behind the referee’s back. Lethal drills Whitmer with a springboard missile dropkick. He then goes up top and lands the diving headbutt on Daniels to get the pin at 15:03. That was suitably chaotic given the participants and the storylines of the time. Lethal going over was the right choice and doing it in the slightly shady manner he did helps his character.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #6: Ricky Reyes vs. Davey Andrews

Reyes attacks right away with kicks. The brawl continues but they cut away from the match to show Gary Michael Cappetta talking to Steve Corino, who is leaving the building. Corino basically says he’s afraid of Homicide so he’s outta here. Back from that odd interruption Reyes is still dominating. Andrews tries to come back with a powerslam, but Reyes turns that into the Dragon Sleeper to get the win at 2:20. That’s almost hard to rate because they didn’t even show the entire match, but I don’t think we missed much.
Rating: ¼*

After the match Reyes uses a baseball bat to destroy the Top of the Class Trophy until Austin Aries and Roderick Strong come out to run him off. That segues nicely into the next match.

MATCH #7: ROH Tag Team Title Match – Tony Mamaluke & Sal Rinauro vs. Austin Aries & Roderick Strong

Rinauro and Mamaluke have been the Champions since 10.1.05, and this is their fifth defense. Strong and Mamaluke start the match. The duo of Mamaluke and Rinauro are remembered for having one of the lamest tag team title reigns ever. The Generation Next duo earned this title shot by beating Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal at A Night of Tribute. Strong and Mamaluke chain wrestle back and forth, as these two are familiar with each other from their matches in FIP. Rinauro tags in and he looks game, but Strong starts tying him up on the canvas. Strong and Aries are simply dominating here. Finally, the Champs use some less than savory tactics to take the advantage on Aries. Mamaluke and Rinauro keep Aries in their half of the ring and away from Strong. After what seems like forever, Aries makes the hot tag and Strong is going ballistic in there. The Champs use their own version of the Hart Attack on Rinauro, but Mamaluke breaks up the cover. Aries hits Rinauro with the Finlay Roll and he goes up top. Mamaluke knocks him down and goes up to hit a huge superplex. The referee has lost control of this one. Mamaluke and Rinauro go for Au Revoir on Aries but Strong breaks it up with a big boot. Aries takes Mamaluke out with a Brainbuster. Strong punishes Rinauro with a half-nelson backbreaker. Aries follows with the 450 Splash to get the pin and win the titles at 18:19. All four men put in in quite the effort but was the result ever seriously in question. It was pretty squash-tastic for the first 10 minutes, but they came around and made a decent show out of it.
Rating: ***

MATCH #8: ROH World Title Match – Bryan Danielson vs. Naomichi Marufuji

Danielson has been the Champion since 9.17.05, and this is his eighth defense. They immediately start chain wrestling and they appear evenly matched in the early going. A chop exchange happens quickly, and things get heated. Danielson avoids a dropkick and then both men go for one at the same time but neither connects. They continue trading strikes, trying to establish who the alpha male is. Danielson takes Marufuji down to the mat and tries to hold him there. He throws in some knee strikes as well. Marufuji fights out and goes after the arm. They exchange slaps and Marufuji appears to slap harder. Marufuji throws some kicks in and keeps Danielson off balance. He pitches Danielson to the floor but gets pulled down face-first on the apron. Danielson goes for a suplex on the apron but Marufuji blocks it and goes for a sunset bomb to the floor. Luckily for Danielson he blocks that, as there are no pads on the floor at all. Danielson takes advantage now, throwing Marufuji around ringside. Back in the ring Danielson covers for two. Danielson locks on the surfboard and stomps Marufuji’s quads. He continues the leg work, using a spinning toehold. Danielson hits an interesting looking DDT for a two-count and then goes back to the leg with a Figure-Four Leglock. Marufuji turns it over and Danielson rolls into the ropes to break the hold. Back on their feet Marufuji slaps the Champion, which just angers him. Marufuji lands a dropkick and then a basement dropkick. He goes for a super rana and Danielson pushes him off. Danielson tries coming off the ropes but Marufuji dropkicks him right out of the air. They battle over a suplex and Marufuji suplexes Danielson all the way to the floor. Marufuji tries a baseball slide out but Danielson avoids it and throws him into the barricade. Danielson then wipes Marufuji out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Danielson hits a missile dropkick and then a bridging Butterfly Suplex for two. Danielson sets Marufuji up top for the belly-to-back superplex but Marufuji slips out and puts Danielson in the Tree of Woe. Marufuji hits a sliding dropkick and then a big coast-to-coast dropkick. That gets a two-count. Marufuji hits a superkick and goes for Shiranui but can’t hit it. Danielson hits a roaring elbow and a bridging German Suplex for two. He follows up with Cattle Mutilation and Marufuji reaches the ropes. Danielson then lands the belly-to-back superplex and it gets two. He goes right back to Cattle Mutilation and turns it into a cradle for a near-fall. Danielson goes for a Regalplex but Marufuji reverses it and hits Shiranui! Marufuji is too worn down to cover, and both men struggle back to their feet. They trade pinning combinations and Danielson holds Marufuji down at 23:44. The match really picked up a lot in the second half. I think they could have done more, but since they were the semi-main and Low Ki versus KENTA was still to come, I can see why they held back.
Rating: ***¾

MATCH #9: GHC Junior Heavyweight Title Match – KENTA vs. Low Ki

KENTA has been the Champion since 7.18.05. This is the first time the title has been defended in America, and the second time Low Ki has wrestled for it. They get aggressive with each other early on. Ki locks on an arm submission in the ropes but of course lets it go. They chain wrestle back and forth, trying to establish dominance. Ki is the first to land some hard kicks, but KENTA is quick to land some of his own. KENTA puts on a submission in the ropes, and then follows with a leaping lariat off the top rope for one. The fight spills to the floor and KENTA whips Ki into the barricade. Back in the ring KENTA hits the slingshot delayed kick to the head for a two-count. Ki responds with a rolling kick to the head from out of nowhere to take control. He knocks KENTA to the floor and follows him out with a dive. Back in the ring Ki resumes control as ten minutes have gone by. Jeez that was fast. Ki hits a double stomp out of a sunset flip for a two-count. He uses a bearhug on the mat and KENTA reaches the ropes. They go back to the floor and Ki drives KENTA hard into the barricade. Back in the ring Ki hits a hard double-stomp to the back from the top rope. That was sick, but it only gets two. KENTA grabs Ki in a powerslam as 15 minutes have gone by. The momentum has shifted, and KENTA is firmly in control, hitting a series of kicks. KENTA hits a springboard missile dropkick for two. He follows with a butterfly suplex and turns that into a cross armbreaker. Ki reaches the ropes. KENTA hits a Falcon Arrow for a two-count. He puts Ki up on the top rope but that backfires, as Ki hits the Warrior’s Way! Ki makes a late cover and only gets two. He lands a series of chops. KENTA fires back but Ki cuts him off with a springboard kick to the back of the head for a two-count. Ki goes to the top rope, but KENTA hops up there and hits a super Falcon Arrow! That gets a two-count as 20 minutes have gone by. Both men get up and trade strikes. KENTA wins that battle and gets two again. He picks Ki up but then runs right into a Ki Krusher, which gets a two-count. Ki hits the Tidal Crush and calls for the Ki Krusher but KENTA counters to a bridging Tiger Suplex for two! KENTA hits a series of strikes but Ki cuts him off with a shotgun dropkick. Ki goes up top and hits a HUGE double stomp, but it only gets two! He goes up top again but misses the Phoenix Splash. KENTA hits Go 2 Sleep (hey, that’s the title of his DVD!) and then follows with the Busaiku Knee Kick for the pin at 24:59. That was tremendous stuff from both men, and one of the fastest 25-minute matches I’ve ever seen. This one holds up well over time.
Rating: ****½

JZ Says
The undercard is sprinkled with good matches, and the last two bouts send the show out on a high note. It was such a cool thing at the time to see KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji in ROH, so there’s some historical cache here too.

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