DVD Review: Ring of Honor's Third Year Anniversary Celebration, Part 1

Reported by Ben Bauer of WrestleView.com

On Monday, July 25, 2005 at 3:42 PM EST

I recently watched part 1 of ROH’s Third Anniversary Celebration Week and decided to try my hand at writing reviews. I don’t do much play-by-play in them, since I figure if I find reading reviews with lots of PBP to be boring, writing one must be even worse. Instead I focus mostly on my feelings and opinions on the matches. So, here goes:

Ring of Honor "Third Anniversary Celebration Week Night 1", 2/19/05
Location: Elizabeth, NJ

-Show opens with most of the locker room coming to the ring. Punk gets on the mic, talks about 2004 being ROH's biggest year yet. Says 2005 will pass 2004. The wrestlers then give the crowd a standing ovation, since the crowd has given so many to ROH wrestlers over the past 3+ years. Very classy.

Roderick Strong vs. Steve Corino

Corino is working this match with a broken hand he suffered in Japan, plus selling a knee injury suffered at the hands of Strong at ROH's It All Begins a month before this show. Corino gets on the mic before the match, say we don't get an introduction (damn, I love Corino's intros too), and tells Strong to get his "green ass" out there. Them sound like fightin' words to me. They start off with some ringside brawling. The brawling in this match isn't nearly as memorable as Corino's two brawls with Homicide from 2003, but nevertheless, the match is still up there with Jay Briscoe vs. Bryan Danielson from Final Battle 2003 for best opening match in ROH history. Strong goes for a knife-edge chop on Corino at one point while Corino is leaning on the ringpost on the floor. Corino dodges it, and Strong chops the post freakin' hard. Match eventually moves into the ring. I haven't seen many matches of Corino's with lots of 'wrestling' in them, but he looked damn good in this one when the action got in the ring. Match eventually ends with Corino hitting a big lariat on Strong for the win. I really liked this match, one of Corino's finer showings in ROH against someone not named Homicide. Rough start to the night for Strong, but it would get worse.

Jimmy Rave vs. Jay Lethal: Winner gets a Pure Title Shot later that night

As usual, Prince Nana gets on the mic before the match. And really, that's how it should be. Nana is great on the mic, very charismatic. Nana invited Pure Champion John Walters to ringside, and I have to ask: What in the hell was Walters wearing? I mean, I was happy to see him get a gimmick when he joined The Embassy, but I'm sure there are homeless people who would reject that outfit if they found it in a park somewhere. Fortunately, he wrestles better than he dresses. Hometown boy Lethal comes out to a big pop. I'm a big fan of anytime Rave and Lethal hook up. Their match from Weekend of Thunder, Night 2 is ridiculously underrated in my opinion. Probably Rave's best match of 2004. Anyway, this match is another fine outing between these two. These two light each other up with chops early, with Lethal ending up with the advantage after that exchange. Rave works Lethal's ribs heavily throughout the match, obviously softening him up for a Rave Clash. Lethal sells it pretty well. Announcer Mark Nulty talks about how Rave may be acting as a "policeman" to soften up Lethal for Walters. Lethal ends up reversing a Rave Clash attempt beautifully into a Dragon Suplex for the win. No "DANGEROUS!" call though. Damn. Nevertheless, Lethal earns a Pure Title match later that night against "Well Dressed" John Walters. But...

John Walters vs Jay Lethal: Pure Title Match

In classic heel form, Walters uses the power granted to him by Prince Nana's attorneys, and takes the match with Lethal right away. Remember all the rib work Rave did to Lethal? Well, fortunately, along with softening Lethal up for the Rave Clash, it also softens him up for Walters' lungblower. Walters continues the work on the ribs started by Rave, including a very cool seated abdominal stretch in which he also had Lethal's leg tied up. He turned the abdominal stretch into a pinning combination, similar to how Bryan Danielson does sometimes with his Cattle Mutilation submission. When/if John Walters comes back, I hope he uses that somewhat regularly, and maybe even have it end up being a finishing option for him. Lethal puts up a good fight against Walters and the rest of the Embassy, including hitting a tope onto the Outcast Killaz on one side of the ring, and one on Walters a bit later on the other side of the ring. All for naught though, as Walters finishes off Lethal with not one, not two, but three lungblowers. With Lethal out of rope breaks, Walters also heels it up a bit more by using the ropes for leverage on the cover, as if he needed to. Good stuff, and Walters picks up his first win as part of The Embassy.

Osaka Pro Special Attraction Match: Ebessan vs. Billy Ken Kid

Now, before I get to this match, I have to say that Ebessan in an ROH ring is really a dream come true for me. I have a strong heterosexual love for Ebessan as a performer. There's not really any middle ground on his gimmick; you'll either love it or hate it, and I, being a big fan of comedy wrestling, love it. I had never seen Billy Ken Kid prior to this match, and i must say, the guy is a pretty gifted athlete. He had a couple very minor slip ups in this match on springboards and whatnot, but they were so ridiculously minor that they didn't hurt the match at all in my view. As for the match itself, there were some good comedy spots here, including a chop exchange ending in Ebessan doing the Flair-Flop, and Ken Kid doing Flair's strut. This match wasn't nearly as funny as some Ebessan/Kuishinbo Kamen encounters, but Billy Ken Kid doesn't appear to be anywhere near the comedy worker Kamen is. I've only seen this match with him though, so I could be wrong I suppose. Ebessan also does the Flair strut following a chop to Ken Kid in the corner later in the match. Ebessan hit a BEAUTIFUL sit-out death valley driver on Ken Kid at one point. Note to John Cena: That is how the FU should look. Anyway, Billy Ken Kid ends up picking up the win with a 450 splash in a pretty anti-climatic ending. Sort of disappointing. Luckily for me at least, we'd get more of the Clown Prince of Osaka Pro later in the night.

Alex Shelley vs. Jimmy Jacobs

There’s lots of history in this one, some of which is highlighted in a small video segment before the match starts. Shelley is out of Generation Next at this point, and wants to prove to the locker room he’s sorry for his role in GN in 2004. Very intense start to this match. As usual with Shelley and Jacobs, there were some innovative spots throughout. It was hard to get into the match though, as the crowd seemed to not know who to cheer and boo. No one seemed to want to cheer Shelley even though he’s technically a face at this point, and Jacobs, normally a huge babyface, was using some shady tactics against longtime nemesis Shelley. Shelley hit three super kick’s that HBK would be proud of at one point. The finish was a very cool sequence, with Jacobs stealing two of Shelley’s finishers, but Shelley countered out of the Border City Stretch, and smoothly transitioned the BCS onto Jacobs, picking up a tap out win. Jacobs does a bit of a beat down after the match, even though Shelley offered him a hand shake.

CM Punk vs. Spanky

I have no idea why, but I can never seem to get into Spanky. I don’t hate him, nor do I think he’s a bad worker, because really, he’s quite good. For some reason though, I’m not a fan of the guy. Nevertheless, he and Punk put on a pretty good match here. Some generic chain wrestling starts it off. After a little while, Spanky takes control, working Punk’s left leg heavily. This comes into play a lot late in the match, as Punk’s offense is limited by his bad leg. Spanky ends up getting the win with Sliced Bread #2, continuing his winning ways at the start of 2005. The CM Punk/Embassy feud gets started post-match, when Spanky turns down Prince Nana’s offer to join the Embassy, and Punk laughs about it. Punk, with his bad leg and all, cleans house on Nana and the OCK. I didn’t really like this, as his selling of his leg injury pretty much ended at that point. Good move with the Punk/Embassy feud though, and his would lead to some great things in the following three months.

Dan Maff & BJ Whitmer vs. The Havana Pitbulls – ROH Tag Team Title Match

For a long time, I thought the best thing about the Pitbulls was their entrance music. I wasn’t much of a fan for quite a while. But since watching a DVD from a promotion out West where Ricky and Rocky took on a certain ‘arrogant’ tag team, they’ve grown on me in leaps and bounds. Here they face Maff & Whitmer, who must split up if they lose. So here we go: the most successful tag team in ROH history, Reyes and Romero vs. the team with the dubious honor of the shortest ROH tag title reign in history, Maff & Whitmer. Hard hitting action early, as should be expected with these four. Typical interference from “The Devil’s son-in-law”, Julius Smokes here and there. That’s something a lot of people don’t like, since ROH was built on clean wins and losses, but obviously with the top heel group in the company, to solidify them as heels, they need to have Smokes cheating on their behalf. Whitmer takes the beating on the face side early. Eventually he gets the tag to Maff, who ends it not long after with a burning hammer on Reyes, but no DANGEROUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUS call for the burning hammer. Bogus. Nevertheless, we have new ROH Tag Team Champions, and most successful tag champs in ROH are now titleless.

Samoa Joe vs. Vordell Walker\

I’m not going to go into detail on the Mick Foley segment, as it’s just him talking about how his plans for a former WWE Superstar (Test) to take on Samoa Joe fell through. He instead chooses Walker, and thankfully, this doesn’t take long. It wasn’t a bad match, but I don’t think anyone expected Joe to struggle to get by Walker. Walker gets some offense in, but it takes less than five minutes for the former 21 month champion to dispose of him with the choke.

Samoa Joe vs. Ebectus Jack aka Ebessan

Since Vordell failed, Foley had a second option, and brings out Ebessan, dressed like Mick Foley. Now THIS is my kind of match. As I said before, I’m a huge Ebessan fan, and when I saw him come out dressed like Foley, it made me laugh out loud. Ebessan is a known mimic in Japan, where he dresses like other famous wrestlers from time to time. To whoever came up with the idea for him to mimic Cactus Jack: great idea. One problem for Ebectus Jack though is he is no where near as hardcore as Cactus Jack. Lots of comedy in this one, including Ebessan wrestling very close how Foley did, even down to his form when he throws punches. Ebessan hits Joe with my favorite groin-shot spot ever: a simple lift the ropes up into the guy’s groin while he’s climbing into the ring. The first time I saw this, Kuishinibo Kamen did it to Ebessan (and the referee in that match), so I guess things have really come full circle now. Foley lays out Joe on the floor and tells Ebessan to hit Joe with the famous Cactus Jack elbow from the ropes to the floor. Ebessan is winding up when he looks down, and decides it’s too far down. So, he climbs down a bit, winds up again…and it’s still too far down. Down to the apron now, that can’t be too high right? Wrong, Ebessan thinks better of an elbow from there too, and climbs to the floor. There, he delivers an elbow drop from the floor onto Joe, inciting a loud “Holy Shit” chant. No one better say Ebessan doesn’t just ooze entertainment. He came back to The Final Showdown in May, and I hope he comes back a few more times. I don’t think he has the gimmick to be a regular in ROH, but he’s a nice change of pace once every other month or so. Later on, after taking a beating from Joe, Foley hands Ebessan Mr. Socko. That’s right, Mr. Socko in ROH. Unfortunately, the big Samoan comes up with something countless WWE Superstars couldn’t to counter Mr. Socko: bite the guy’s freakin’ hand. Joe eventually picks up the pinfall victory after spiking the God of Laughter with a musclebuster. No laughing matter indeed.

Bryan Danielson vs. Homicide – Taped Fist Match

I think we all understand the gimmick in the taped fist match. Match starts off with some punches being thrown, and dodged. You can see that neither of these guys have much boxing training, but that’s OK. Not long before these two get into the crowd brawling, something they really excel at. Danielson hits ‘Cide with lots of kicks throughout. I’m going to go on a tangent on Danielson for a minute. When I saw ROH’s shows from 2002, I thought to myself, “Wow, this Danielson kid is an elite worker already.” If he didn’t work to improve at all, when all was said and done, he could’ve been known as one of the greats. He was always an exceptional mat technician, however, a true testament to his greatness, he continued to pick up new things to use in the ring, including adding strikes to his arsenal, and pulling out some surprisingly agile moves as well, though I’ve seen those more on DVD’s from a company out west than in ROH. Nevertheless, I can’t talk this guy’s greatness up enough, and Homicide is an outstanding opponent for him. These two wind up back in the ring eventually, and Homicide picks up the win when Romero tapes some brass knuckles to Homicide’s hand, he proceeds to KO Danielson with them. Homicide is up 2-0 in the series at this point.

Austin Aries vs. Colt Cabana –ROH World Title Cage Match

The action in this match was pretty good. Not like Danielson vs. Aries good from Survival of the Fittest, but Cabana can hold his own in the ring. I liked his serious attitude for the match. It was very fitting given what took place at It All Begins between these two. The match goes just under twenty minutes, but for me, it’s all about the last five seconds or so. Quite frankly, it’s the greatest escape finish to a cage match I’ve ever seen. Cabana and Aries were battling on the ropes. Cabana knocks Aries to the mat, and flies up over the top of the cage. We’re not talking WWE climbing, where they move super slow to get the timing down, he was moving pretty freakin’ quick. Aries gets to his feet quickly, looking somewhat dazed, and tope con hilo’s through the door, barely beating Cabana to the floor. Simply awesome. It also really set the tone for Aries’ title reign, where he barely escaped with the title on several occasions. I can’t say this enough, just a great finish to this match. While I didn’t feel Cabana and Aries matched up great at It All Begins, this match was a great effort from both.

Roderick Strong & Jack Evans vs. The Carnage Crew vs. The Ring Crew Express vs. Azrieal & Dixie vs. Lacey’s Angels of Izzy & Deranged – Scramble Cage Match

I read a couple negative reviews of this match, and I must say that I don’t know what those people were watching. Something about how it sucked because there was only one dive from the top of the cage to the floor. Apparently we’ve been spoiled to the point where only one person risking serious injury isn’t enough. This was a really fun match in my view. Remember before when I said Strong’s night would get worse after his loss to Corino? Well, Strong takes a suplex into the corner from Devito after the Carnage Crew enter, and is shown not long after being helped to the back, apparently injuring his ankle. Poor guy. Lots of good dives off the cage in this too, including a 450 from Jack, which a lot of people thought was less than spectacular. I realize Evans did a 630 off the cage at Scramble Cage Melee and a double moonsault to the floor at Main Event Spectacles, but to be underwhelmed by a 450 from the cage is ridiculous. Also, Azrieal hit a double stomp off the cage, the RCE hit a stage dive off the cage, and Devito hit a moonsault off the cage. Not to mention, Izzy did do a phoenix splash from the top of the cage to the floor. Just awesome. Finish came when the RCE set up Loc on a table the Carnage Crew had brought into ring, and then Dunn & Marcos did the assisted senton splash from the top of the cage onto Loc through the table. With the stipulations of the match, the RCE get ten times their normal pay, meaning they can buy a lot of new 80’s shirts, and the Carnage Crew are out of ROH for 90 days.

This DVD also includes promos from Alex Shelley & Jack Evans, CM Punk & Steve Corino, a parking lot brawl between Homicide & Bryan Danielson, a long segment with Mick Foley, and clips from ROH’s third year. The clips are great, as they cover every show in ROH’s third year. Overall, I would say this is a great show, and while it isn’t the best show from 2005 that I’ve seen, it is definitely worth checking out.