This review is dedicated to the late, great Chris Hyatte.

“It used to be better.” – The Lapsed Fan Pro Wrestling Podcast

ROH The Era of Honor Begins
February 23, 2002
Philadelphia, PA

Before we begin, it’s the first of what will be a staple on every review, a brief look back on various news both inside and outside the wrestling world going into this event.

LAPSED TABLE SETTING OF HONOR

Happening in sports:

  • The New England Patriots won their first of six Super Bowls on February 3, defeating the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI at the Superdome in New Orleans and marking the end of the “Greatest Show on Turf” era. This was also the final Super Bowl called by Pat Summerall.
  • Former NBA All-Star Jay Williams was arrested on February 14 for the reckless death of his limo driver Costas “Gus” Christofi.
  • Ward Burton won the Daytona 500 on February 17.
  • The February 18, 2002 issue of Sports Illustrated featured an acclaimed high school basketball player on the cover, deeming 17-year-old LeBron James of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio to be “The Chosen One.”
  • The Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were coming to a close.
  • Game-changing MLB news was made throughout the month, as on February 11, Jeffrey Loria sold the Montreal Expos to Baseball Expos LP, a limited partnership owned by the other 29 MLB franchises. This allowed Loria to buy the Florida Marlins from John Henry, who bought the Boston Red Sox by month’s end.

Happening in pop culture:

  • RIP Chuck Jones 1912-2002
  • RIP Waylon Jennings 1937-2002
  • Jet Set Radio Future was released for the Microsoft Xbox.
  • Earlier in the week, The WB aired the final episode of The Steve Harvey Show.
  • FOX aired the final episode of the cancelled Family Guy on February 14, leading to an overwhelming demand for the show’s resurrection.
  • Queen of the Damned made its theatrical release, posthumously closing Aaliyah’s acting career and taking the top spot at the box office over John Q.
  • Days after this ROH event was the first studio album release for Nappy Roots, titled Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz.
  • Billboard’s top singles included “Blurry” by Puddle of Mudd, “Good Morning Beautiful” by Steve Holy, “Butterflies” by Michael Jackson, and “Always on Time” by Ja Rule featuring Ashanti (dethroning “U Got It Bad” by Usher in the Hot 100.)

Elsewhere in pro wrestling:

  • RIP Nick Roberts 1929-2002
  • RIP Robert “Swede” Hanson 1933-2002
  • RIP Nelson Royal 1935-2002
  • About a month before this event, the world of puroresu went into chaos, as Satoshi Kojima, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kendo Ka Shin, and Keiji Mutoh (the reigning AJPW Triple Crown Champion and the 2001 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Wrestler of the Year) gave notice to New Japan in favor of jumping to All Japan. This resulted in more off-screen departures and a crazy power struggle, lazy creative aftermath throughout, and on the bright side, cross-promotional business with Pro Wrestling NOAH.
  • Six days prior to ROH’s birth, NOAH closed its Navigate For Evolution 2002 tour in Tokyo, a huge event with all kinds of interesting creative and unfortunate bad news. Headlined by Kenta Kobashi’s return after a 13-month absence, he and Mitsuharu Misawa lost to GHC Heavyweight Champion Jun Akiyama and the debuting Yuji Nagata. Unfortunately, Kobashi was re-injured in the match and would be out of action again. Underneath, the hot show-stealer was the debuting Jushin Liger & Wataru Inoue defeating Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, with a post-match indicating the cross-promotional program was far from finished.
  • That same day, an indy event named International Superstars of Wrestling: Super Slam II took place in Anchorage that has sadly never made tape anywhere. The event featured Brian Kendrick defeating Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe defeating Frankie Kazarian, and in their only match against each other, Eddie Guerrero defeating Christopher Daniels.
  • Also on that very same day, the original nWo trio made its WWF debut at No Way Out 2002 in Milwaukee; 24 hours later at the Chicago area’s Allstate Arena, Hulk Hogan made his first appearance on Raw in 9 years and was interrupted by the Rock, who challenged the Immortal One to a dream match for WrestleMania X8.

In addition, some newsletter notes and excerpts of relevance (issues are dated usually 5 days after their actual publishing date):

“RF Video is getting into the wrestling promoting game with its first show on 2/23 at the Murphy Rec Center (around the corner from the ECW Arena) in Philadelphia, called Ring of Honor promotion. They have one advantage when it comes to doing indie shows in that they can sell their tapes and merchandise at the shows and can make money from bringing in hot indie matches for their tape clientele and selling the tapes of matches with guys like American Dragon, Spanky, Low Ki, Guerrero etc. whose names won’t sell tickets but will have great matches.” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated December 10, 2001)

“RF Video’s Ring of Honor promotion debut show on 2/23 at the Murphy Rec Center in Philadelphia features a double main with the Eddy Guerrero vs. Crazy match listed last week, plus a three-way with Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. American Dragon” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated December 24, 2001)

“During the [WWF’s 1/17 media conference call, Jim Ross] didn’t rule out the possibility of re-signing Eddie Guerrero, Jeff Jarrett, and other free agents. Ross said Guerrero will likely be re-signed once he deals with his personal problems: “His life and how he leads his life is much more important than how pretty his huracanrana is.” ” – Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter (#689 – Dated January 26, 2002)

“Eddy Guerrero continues to get compliments as the hardest working in-ring “national star” currently on the indie scene” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated February 4, 2002)

“R.F. Video sold out its debut Ring of Honor show with Super Crazy vs. Eddy Guerrero (400 tickets) [ultimately 425 total] at the Murphy Rec Center in Philadelphia five days before the 2/23 show” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated February 25, 2002)

Lastly before moving on, some ROH nostalgic podcast plugs:

With that, the table is now set. It’s time to dive into the ROH vault and find out if indeed, it used to be better. The era of honor now begins on this lapsed journey.

This review is for the remastered DVD release issued in the mid-2000s, not the original RF Video release, nor the Takedown Masters retail version (which was actually my intro to ROH when I saw it at a video store like Sam Goody or FYE.) I should note that the remastering definitely makes a game-changing difference, as it includes a proper menu with video and audio playback in the background, as well as transitions during the feature presentation, along with highlight videos featuring various music; all of that was missing from the original DVD releases, to be detailed at a later time in this journey.

The DVD started with a horrendous excuse for an intro video to the same generic techno music that’s on the DVD menu (and would be utilized as DVD menu music for the first 4.5 years), briefly showing everyone’s entrance from later on the show. Then everyone’s name was also shown. This is somehow supposed to excite me. Why not just include Doug Gentry’s video that was released prior to the event instead?

Next up was Da Hit Squad (identified as DHS) welcoming fans from the NYC bus earlier in the day. Brian Kendrick is actually on the bus. This is fucking horrendous less than 2 minutes in, as it comes across as a recreational home video rather than any attempt to be something meaningful. They shit on sports-entertainment in a sorry excuse for a rallying cry, and the gullible fans chant the team’s name. The “ROH” chant is also rather pedestrian. Dan Maff listed talent to appear on the show, mistakenly mentioning AJ Styles (who isn’t on the card at all, nor is he on the next one) and nobody corrected him. This must have gone about five fucking minutes and I wish I could get it all back. Maybe I should’ve just stuck to cherry-picking.

OH MY FUCKING GOD THIS CONTINUES as they also greeted the fans who traveled from Boston. Maff got a good cheap pop by mentioning Boston’s “Super Bowl hangover.” They also once again said ROH would be the fans’ new drug. This is hysterically dragging as much as the closing minutes in the series finale of Dexter.

Steve Corino and Eric Gargiulo are serving as the commentary team as the DVD finally goes to the actual event.

The First Ringside Segment in ROH History

A flamboyantly gay tag team called the Christopher Street Connection (comprised of Buff E and Mase) apparently crashed the opening, accompanied by Allison Danger. Before they even stepped in the ring, the commentary was already being homophobic and juvenile, saying to keep the homosexual stuff in the parking lot “so we don’t have to see it.” Buff E also kissed a guy in the crowd on the lips, which Corino was absolutely appalled by, saying “and worse than that, he just kissed a male fan.” I cannot fathom being a member of the LGBTIQ community 18 years ago and watching this.

As they got in the ring, Corino had another gem: “I would pay great money to see these three get the crap beaten out of them.” (To be fair, some of this may have been sibling rivalry talk as he’s Danger’s real-life brother.) Gargiulo had yet another gem when Buff E was holding a microphone: “He looks really comfortable with that microphone in front of his mouth, doesn’t he?”

Buff E brought up that he knows his kind isn’t wanted there, which the commentary confirmed, as did the crowd with chants of a homophobic slur. He said ROH would stand for the “Ring of Homosexuals” as both men passionately kissed. As the commentary was disgusted, Da Hit Squad arrived to beat the shit out of them to the crowd’s roaring approval. Maff put down Mace with a Burning Hammer, and HC Loc was present as a ref to count the pin. Strictly based on a technicality, there was no opening bell, so no fucking way am I recognizing this as an official match, let alone ROH’s first-ever official match.

Danger tried attacking the apparent homophobes after the match, only to get blocked. As Maff held her by the hair, Monsta Mack brought in a table. The commentary mentioned that maybe this wouldn’t have happened if she had accompanied a heterosexual tag team, and that she played with fire, so she gets burned. Maff then powerbombed her through the table onto Mace to the crowd’s approval.

Gargiulo: “It’s not about bashing anybody. It’s about the Ring of Honor. Representing Ring of Honor.” I believe that as much as Vince McMahon saying the health and safety of his performers are paramount above his other priorities. They then gloat as if this was a sensational way to kick off the company. Da Hit Squad also cut a rally cry verbal blowjob promo, not to be confused with an actual blowjob of course.

It breaks my heart that the first official chapter on this journey has to begin this way. But I knew when I made the commitment to revisit ROH’s glory days in their entirety, there would be some great, there would be some good, there would be some bad, and there would be some ugly.

I consider Matt Feuerstein and Trevor Dame, as the co-hosts of the ThROH the Years podcast, to be the closest thing to a Siskel & Ebert tandem that there is for old-school ROH. But right now, I feel like the two of them are collectively Gene Siskel, and I am individually Roger Ebert. I feel somewhat of a parallel to Siskel & Ebert’s review of a film that was released literally a decade before this, down to the exact same weekend. That film was Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

Undoubtedly as shown in the included audio excerpt, the ThROH the Years tandem carved up this segment and deservedly so, just like Siskel did for that 1992 abortion of a film. But I feel like Ebert in his response to Siskel in that film review.

Because as far as I’m concerned, Feuerstein and Dame were almost being a little bit easy on it. This is one of the worst wrestling segments I’ve ever seen.

Back in the mid-2000s, when I would loan out this DVD release to introduce others to ROH, I always strongly urged and left a note to just skip the first 20 minutes of it. Back then, I was simply worried about ROH making a lame first impression on potential new customers, as this was simply just a God-awful piece of business to sit through. It had no redeeming value whatsoever from an entertainment perspective.

But at that time, my buddies and I were like so many other people. We didn’t outright hate gay people, but we could definitely be uncomfortable with very open and flamboyant displays of homosexuality, especially from the male gender. To see two guys passionately kissing was an unpleasant experience. Over the past 15 years, I’m proud to say that it no longer bothers me. After all, if I could watch Edge and Lita doing the same thing years later without a problem, then there’s no logical reason I couldn’t watch it in this instance.

We’ve obviously come a long way as a society and we’ve grown so much in the fight for the rights and acceptance of LGBTIQ people. I understand that this segment is a product of its time, just like so many movies from the 20th Century that used racist and sexist elements. The crowd’s reaction definitely indicates that. It’s also important to keep in mind that this was the early 2000s, a time when the proudly homophobic Marshall Matthews was at his cultural peak.

But knowing what we know now, I am absolutely shocked that the company’s founder Rob Feinstein approved of this segment. I’m not going to speculate on what could’ve led to him making that decision. What I will say is that he displayed an appalling lack of leadership, making a complete mockery of a demographic that already had to deal with more than its fair share of hate and bigotry, and very likely turning away customers in the LGBTIQ community. From both a moral and business perspective, there’s no justification for this segment to have been approved anywhere on the card, let alone as a rallying cry to be the first impression ROH would make on the audience and tape-watching viewers.

Everyone else involved in the making of this segment also deserves blame, including booker Gabe Sapolsky, commentators Steve Corino and Eric Gargiulo, referee HC Loc, Da Hit Squad, Allison Danger, and even the Christopher Street Connection, and anyone else involved behind the scenes as well. These were all adults and while time has allowed for growth and reflection, they do not deserve to be let off the hook for any reason on this; the audience cheering on this bigotry doesn’t either.

I can think of a lot of vocabulary words to describe this segment. But perhaps one sticks out the most in my mind.

To use flamboyant homosexuality as a representation of undesired “sports-entertainment,” and to somehow frame it as being “dishonorable,” that in itself was the only actual display of dishonor.

This wasn’t just dishonorable, this was a completely, utterly, despicable, steaming pile of dog shit. There were no redeeming qualities to be found in this vile, shitty excuse for any form of entertainment, let alone a pro wrestling company that claimed its shtick would be largely centered around “honor.”

Perhaps someone will enlighten the folks at WrestleCrap about this segment, maybe even share the ThROH the Years audio that discusses it. If there’s anything that is long overdue for a Hall of Fame induction, it is this unbelievably, absolutely abysmal piece of business.

I know there will be ugly times again on this lapsed journey. But I will be shocked if this doesn’t turn out to be the worst segment when the end has been reached. I definitely hope it’s true that this segment was completely scrubbed out on Honor Club.

With that shit out of the way, it should be pointed out that we’re 19 minutes into this DVD and just now finally getting to something of substance. But hey, the King of Indies wasted 20 minutes to kick off its second day a few months earlier, so should we really be that surprised?

The First Match in ROH History
Jay Briscoe vs. Amazing Red

Pre-taped promos aired, with Jay definitely showing some potential as a talker; he was accompanied by his brother Mark Briscoe.

The first few minutes were basically 50/50 until they picked up the action. This had the obvious goal of being a nice appetizer, and in that sense, the match succeeded. Because this was Day One, I can understand why when Jay won the struggle to hit an electrifying Double Underhook Piledriver, it turned out to just be a near-fall, but at least that was via a rope break. Both had to get their shit over, so they couldn’t really think about protecting any finishers.

Red didn’t sell any real damage from that move, nor for a Half-n-Half Suplex that saw him appear to be dumped on his head, which was expected but disappointing. I suppose I could point to Red having an additional 2 years of experience as the best explanation for him eventually winning this historic match, doing so by evading a Top Rope Senton and then quickly capitalizing with a Red Alert and Standing Shooting Star Press for the desperate win.

I highly suggest that, assuming the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us by early 2022, that these two rematch in the opener at the 20th Anniversary Show.

Rating: ***

Low Ki provided a generic promo that may have been best to have near the beginning of the DVD. Then the Natural Born Sinners were shown cutting a promo in what Homicide says is his neighborhood, citing past gang activity. They displayed a rubber chicken and Michael Meyers mask, promising to bring the street mentality to ROH.

Xavier was shown being encouraging to an absolute nobody that’s later revealed as “Towel Boy” Eric Tuttle. Then Scoot Andrews had a promo promising 2002 to be his year, saying Xavier would be his stepping stone.

Scoot Andrews vs. Xavier

Xavier got “AC Slater” chants from the crowd before even the opening handshake. I was surprised by how good this was. Andrews reminded me way more of Dean Malenko than Ric Flair or anyone else in the “Nature Boy” lineage – his movements, his balding, his attire, his body type. Unfortunately, there was a botch in which Andrews landed straight on his head, but they continued.

I was really impressed with how much Xavier sold his neck after taking a Pumphandle Reverse Piledriver, and even more so that it was a near-fall via rope break. He certainly appeared to be the ring general in this match, shining through most of it. It was smart of them to show that Xavier scouted the Pumphandle Reverse Piledriver coming again, turning it into the X Breaker for the victory. I’ve enjoyed this so far event since the actual wrestling started.

Rating: ***¼

Boogie Knights vs. Natural Born Sinners

The Natural Born Sinners were shown apparently yielding a chainsaw in the locker room.

Boogalou is sporting the chainsaw that was just teased. The Natural Born Sinners come across as complete stars and alpha males in their prison gear, especially compared to these Boogie Knights nobodies named Mike Tobin and Danny Drake. They absolutely dominated the match and it was glorious; the little bit of shine that the Boogie Knights got resulted in no reaction.

The Sinners brought an energetic sense of danger, and they better be penciled in to eventually be the company’s first tag champions. I also was completely unaware of Boogalou’s mat wrestling ability and apparent amateur background; I’d love to see him work matches against the likes of Doug Williams, Bryan Danielson, and Christopher Daniels.

Homicide carried a higher charisma and a bit more of a chaotic vibe than Boogalou, but they complimented each other so well. I even loved that Homicide got his team disqualified when he chose to use the rubber chicken, which made referee HC Loc none too happy. Both the Sinners and the crowd were pissed about the official’s decision, resulting in a post-match confrontation that led to Loc getting his forehead carved with a fork and then being put down with a Kudo Driver.

No rating is needed for this, and I don’t even give a shit about the tag legality mistake. In this match, I think it works considering that this was escalating chaos and that Loc wouldn’t bother considering how out of hand this competition was getting. In fact, had the Sinners 100% squashed the Knights, I’d give this entire segment a five-star rating. This was a star-making piece of business, one to definitely be learned from for both bookers and aspiring wrestlers.

Holy shit I am loving this show now.

The Knights got very briefly shown backstage afterward on the lookout for the Sinners. The more bullying from the Sinners, the merrier, I say.

Meanwhile, the Christopher Street Connection consoled each other; Brian Kendrick is in the same locker room and listening to music on his headphones, stuck in his own little world as Bryan Danielson is also getting dressed. This was totally pointless, as it was afterward to also show Tuttle using a towel to wipe the ring ropes to the crowd’s audio participation.

Elimination Match
Chris Divine vs. Amazing Red vs. Jose Maximo vs. Joel Maximo vs. Quiet Storm vs. Brian XL
(Guest Ref: Mikey Whipwreck)

Red was apparently a last-minute addition, getting a good pop after his performance in the opener. This had no tag rules or anything of that nature, just being a total spot-fest and not hiding from that whatsoever. I was disappointed Red didn’t sell any neck damage from the opener, as well as him being the first elimination since he was the only one that didn’t come across as a complete vanilla midget. That’s not to say some of the moves weren’t spectacular and executed well. I just can’t possibly care. Completely disposable and too bad for everyone besides Red for coming around 15 years too early; they’d possibly be headlining top indies nowadays with other shopping mall kiosk workers masquerading as simulated combat fighters.

Rating: less than ***

The Sinners wanted no cameras in their locker room as they started venting about their DQ loss.

Prince Nana asked Rob Feinstein who his opponent is, only to be sent out to the ring without an actual answer. As Nana went out to the ring, Feinstein sent Eric Tuttle to be his opponent; Tuttle was helpfully told “get yourself over” by Corino, who looks to have briefly stepped aside from the commentary booth.

Prince Nana vs. Eric Tuttle

Corino immediately returned to the commentary booth. This was just a quick squash for Nana

Texas Wrestling Academy alumni were shown talking, leading to the next match.

Full-Time ROH Contract for the Individual Who Gets the Winning Fall
Oz & Michael Shane vs. Brian Kendrick & Ikaika Loa

Oz is not to be confused with Kevin Nash. For whatever reason, a full-time ROH contract was up for grabs, but only for whoever got the winning fall; it didn’t go to both members of the winning team. This is convoluted and I don’t give a shit about trying to oblige TWA Head Trainer Rudy Boy Gonzalez and get paydays and experience for the lesser-known students. If only one person could get the contract, just give us the more heated Shane vs. Kendrick singles match to maximize the stipulation and make this the strongest card for the best first impression possible.

This match predictably had non-legal pin flaws, and the heavies just weren’t as over as the juniors were. With that said, the heavies were mechanically fine, far from hopeless. I was happy that at least Kendrick got the win and contract; his stock coming in was head-and-shoulders above everyone else’s in this match. In the post-match handshake, Shane makes it clear he isn’t happy about the loss, teasing a potential program with Kendrick going forward.

Rating: less than ***

Mikey Whipwreck was shown frustrated at the earlier elimination match’s vanilla midgets for bitching at each other, grabbing Super Crazy to also be a translator. Whipwreck assigned a future three-way tag pitting the SAT against Divine Storm and the tandem of Amazing Red & Brian XL.

Referee HC Loc was shown making a phone call, pissed about what the Sinners put him through. He still had blood and scars on his front scalp and forehead. He made it clear that as a seven-year veteran, he was done officiating. “It’s time for them to see the real us… I’ll see you at the dojo tomorrow.”

Vacant IWA IC Title Match
Super Crazy vs. Eddie Guerrero

Eddie’s reaction from the Philly crowd was absolutely incredible during the pre-match intro, but the crowd was also behind Crazy by the time of the opening bell.

A quality match as expected that smartly didn’t go out of its way to steal the show, this was the third sudden, shocking pin-fall loss I’ve seen for Eddie during this lapsed journey. Considering how similar this is to the way he lost to Low Ki a few months earlier, perhaps it’d have been nice to switch it up a bit, However, Super Crazy did suffer damage from a Brainbuster on the gym floor, as well as two more inside the ring after also having to eat a high-impact Powerbomb from the Hall of Famer. In that case, it makes sense that like Low Ki and Doug Williams before him, Super Crazy had to do a sudden, desperate small package to eek out the win.

In hindsight, I believe Eddie wasn’t too keen on losing decisively, based on what I’ve seen so far as well as what Gabe Sapolsky shared a decade later.

With that in mind though, I think there was a missed opportunity. Since Eddie had now suffered his third sudden pin loss on the underground in as many months, there should’ve been a storyline narrative throughout the scene centered around that. If anybody could perfectly pull off the story of selling this vulnerability, it was a peak, motivated Eddie Guerrero. I know that his time on the underground wasn’t quite done yet, which means he’s not done being chronicled on this lapsed journey. We’ll see if any of my instincts play out, although I don’t expect it.

As the new IC Champion got backstage to embrace with Eddie, Christopher Daniels was waiting in the company’s version of Gorilla, scoffing at them and mockingly saying “Ring of Honor” before heading out for the main event.

Rating: ***¼

Low Ki was shown cutting another generic promo. This probably should’ve opened the DVD followed by Doug Gentry’s ROH intro video.



The First Main Event in ROH History
Low Ki vs. Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels

This match has held up even more than anyone else has claimed. I’ll dig into the notes I took before giving my assessment.

After several minutes, Danielson took advantage of Low Ki’s final psyche-up kick planned for Daniels, going for the Cattle Mutilation, only for Daniels to immediately break it up and hit them both with scoop slams. Daniels then forced Low Ki to hit a leg drop on Danielson; that was followed up by Daniels simultaneously putting Danielson in a Boston Crab, on top of having Low Ki in a Camel Clutch.

Danielson took turns chopping both opponents, then got Daniels in a submission I’ve no idea of its proper name, only to be vulnerable for Low Ki, who would knock Danielson down as Daniels was still leg-locked. Danielson had Low Ki scouted seconds later, hitting him with a Northern Suplex pin near-fall as Daniels continued suffering, only to then shift Daniels over for a pin near-fall as the three of them received a standing ovation.

The commentators rhetorically speculated on how good Danielson would be once he was a 10-year veteran: “Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.” Indeed, that word didn’t just apply to AJ Styles.

Ki and Danielson took a portion from their King of Indies tournament final, exchanging Snapmares and Spinal Kick combos, then took turns doing it to Daniels, trying to one-up each other at his expense. In hindsight, this was the first sign of a personality from Danielson. It was there from Day One for the Hall of Famer.

They then gave Daniels stereo kicks after he tried begging off, only for him to eventually duck and have their shins collide. This was just so much incredible, logically structured fun. Daniels managed to block the two from suplexing him, instead taking his opponents down simultaneously with a stereo DDT and Neckbreaker.

Danielson would give receipt Kawada kicks to Low Ki, then later eat a Tornado DDT that had gained momentum from Daniels shoving Low Ki off. Danielson’s second Cattle Mutilation attempt would be escaped by Low Ki, who hit an immediate Pele Kick, leaving Danielson prone for a Blue Thunder Powerbomb from Daniels for another incredibly received near-fall.

In a rarely organic spot of this nature, Daniels got underneath Danielson, who had Low Ki positioned for a Superplex. Daniels gave Danielson a Belly-to-Back Suplex as Low Ki still ate the Superplex, drawing a “holy shit” chant as the crowd rallied for this classic to continue.

When Danielson got an exhausted Daniels in the Cattle Mutilation, that left both prone to eat a sensational Phoenix Splash from Low Ki. With Danielson out of the picture, Low Ki had enough to put Daniels down with a picture-perfect Ki Crusher, bringing arguably the greatest three-way match in professional wrestling history to a fittingly fantastic conclusion.

Obviously, there was a standing ovation and “Ring of Honor” chant afterward, all three men exhausted as some in the crowd tried starting a “Match of the Year” chant. Danielson pointed out that Low Ki didn’t beat him, proposing a one-on-one match next month between the two of them. But before Low Ki could answer, Daniels grabbed the mic, getting everyone to calm down and then shockingly saying “You both can go to Hell!”

Daniels claimed he could’ve beaten them both one-on-one, and could even do it on the same night! Low Ki proposed three one-on-one contests on the next show in a “round-robin tournament.” Ki and Danielson shook hands, while Daniels blew them off in that regard, cementing himself as the top heel on Day One.

This was a beautiful work of art, providing the highest level of spot-fest that there can be in a multi-man match. Over the past 18 years, it’s become commonplace in these types of matches for it to generally be a bunch of pasted-together one-on-one battles, with one participant spending a significant amount of time on the outside and then suddenly being immediately ready to participate again, replacing someone else in the action.

While those particular types of three-ways have proven at times to have epic capabilities (and that would prove to be the case in this very same city 13 years later at Royal Rumble 2015), this benefited from its breathtaking pace, each participant only briefly being down in pain and exhaustion, almost if not always in the ring.

With the breathtaking pace was the fact that everything in here was crisp, with some eye-popping shit and combinations that the audience hadn’t seen before. In addition, the spectacular action was all delivered in a logical manner, even the multi-man combination spot in the corner near the end of the match. As the drama built, these cream-of-the-crop performers made sure to do so in an organic fashion, each spot, strike, and counter looking plausible, with everyone being right where they needed to be at all times.

That includes referee Mike Keener. His performance in this match was truly the work of an unsung hero, keeping up with these three world-class artists. Never once did he get in their way, never once did he overshadow any of them, never once was he out of place to count a near-fall or false finish. As far as I’m concerned, the audience’s post-match standing ovation was also for him, and I’m sure he got glowing reviews from his colleagues upon walking backstage afterward.

If every match is a film, then that also means more often than not, it needs to have the right musical score. In this business, that comes from the commentary, as well as the audience in attendance.

With that in mind, the Murphy Rec Center crowd also deserves kudos. Their reactions to this masterpiece were the perfect background noise, enhancing the drama for the viewer at home and certainly boosting the wrestlers with more adrenaline. They have already proven to me that I’ve made the right choice to forgo the empty arena predicament that’s happening during this current pandemic, and instead revisit these glory days. Even when the pandemic has concluded and fans come back, they’re not going to have the same energy that this audience did. It just won’t be the same, and it never will.

Steve Corino and Eric Gargiulo are far from the greatest commentary pair, having truly embarrassed themselves with their dialogue in the opening segment. But here, their passion and enthusiasm was well-founded as they rightfully gushed over this work of art. There will come a time on this lapsed journey that such passion and enthusiasm will be missing in the commentary booth, so for all of their flaws, I cherished and appreciated how much they put over this historic match.

I could point out some subjective flaws in this match, such as I’d have preferred that Daniels sell his legs after Danielson had worked on them, the damage being escalated by Low Ki attacking Danielson at the time. But that narrative wasn’t needed in this match. It could’ve gone either way, and they decided to go with the spot-fest story instead; on this night, in this match, in front of this crowd, that was the correct choice to make.

Perhaps my adoration for this match is just nostalgia in these trying, uncertain times. Perhaps it’s been escalated by my decision to go through the “Prologue” that led to this event taking place. But that’s what the Prologue was intended to do. To give me the texture of seeing Ki and Danielson take some stuff from their King of Indies tournament final and throw a new wrinkle on it. To give me the backstory that enhanced the ambitions of this company’s creation, culminating in this main event.

There will likely be better matches on this lapsed journey. But objectively speaking, with everything that I’ve just written about this flawless spot-fest, there’s no doubt in my mind that just Day One into this company’s library, ROH now has a match that gets the full fucking monty.

Rating: *****

Eddie Guerrero spoke with what appeared to be a post-match promo from earlier, putting ROH and especially its roster over, saying it’s not about “angles,” money, or becoming bigger stars. He said he wanted to stay in ROH and challenge himself to be better after losing to Super Crazy. “It’s not over yet, not by a long shot.”

A highlight video aired, with the first thing shown being the homosexual kiss that way back then, would make me cringe. Now it does for much different and obvious reasons. It’s also set to the following track released in 1999; however, this musical piece actually got its top buzz weeks after this event actually took place thanks to the theatrical release of Blade II, indicating this DVD was obviously produced well after this event was recorded. The video ends with the next event’s date being March 30, citing a “round-robin challenge” between tonight’s main event participants.

The DVD ended with Daniels leaving the building, continuing to have a shitty attitude.

Now I ask the question: is the quote from the beginning of this review true? Did this show prove that ROH actually used to be better?

There turned out to be plenty of good shit to unpack, more than I had initially recalled years ago. There’s the masterpiece in the main event. There’s the historical significance of this entire show. There’s the incredible booking of the Natural Born Sinners, hopefully grooming them for something truly special in the future. There’s the Philly crowd treating Eddie Guerrero like the Hall of Famer he turned out to be. Xavier also had a nice little undercard gem with Scoot Andrews, which I wasn’t expecting at all. There’s the fact that I’m incredibly excited coming out of this, and greatly anticipate the next chapter on this lapsed journey.

There are certainly flaws throughout. That’s to be expected for Day One. It wouldn’t be reasonable for this debut event to be the stuff of absolute perfection. There would always be bumps in the road, lessons to be learned. But the most important lesson of them all would require well over a decade of societal growth to learn.

As mentioned, I do hope the company’s historic and tasteless first-ever ringside segment was removed upon this event being added to ROH’s Honor Club on-demand library. At the same time, I’m glad to have revisited it this one last time.

I think it’s fair to say that as an overall package and when considering this event’s historical significance, this event doesn’t just get my strongest recommendation, but proves that ROH used to be better.

It also showed that we used to be worse as a society towards the LGBTIQ community, that we have improved so much in treating them with the respect they deserve just as much as any heterosexual person does. I am glad I decided to include the opening homophobic segment on this journey. As far as I’m concerned, it serves as an opportunity for us to realize how far we’ve come, while also spotlighting that we’ve still got a long way to go for that community in the West and especially in other parts of the globe.

I’m glad that this review has fallen during Pride Month; I also chose today, June 12, for a very intentional reason. It was four years ago today that the LBGTIQ community suffered an unfathomable tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Today, this review serves as a platform to reflect on the victims of the tragedy and the loved ones they left behind.

In addition, I am not blind to the current events of civil unrest, spawned from racial tensions and a flawed justice system that can be lacking in proper moral accountability.

In correspondence with the homophobic segment that kicked off Ring of Honor, with this being Pride Month, with today being the four-year passing of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, and with civil unrest happening right now, I present the following causes for those who would like to donate to, advocate for, or get involved with in the fight for everyone’s equal rights.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today’s charity spotlights include:

The onePULSE Foundation
https://onepulsefoundation.org/

Founded by the Pulse Nightclub owners in the wake of the summer 2016 massacre, this charity pays tribute to the victims in a number of ways, including an on-location memorial site.

From their web site’s About section:

“The onePULSE Foundation is a 501(c)(3) incorporated by the owners of Pulse Nightclub. The onePULSE Foundation was established to create a sanctuary of hope around this tragic day in American history which honors the 49 lives that were taken, the 68 injured victims, the affected survivors and the first responders and healthcare professionals who cared for the victims.

This fund is intended to support construction and maintenance of the memorial, community grants to care for the survivors and victims’ families, an educational program to promote amity among all segments of society, endowed scholarships for each of the 49 angels, and ultimately a museum showcasing historic artifacts and stories from the event. All donations will be used for the construction and operation of the official memorial and museum and educational scholarships. This is a defining mission and healing initiative that we hope inspires supporters who share our vision and understand the sacred responsibility to which we have been entrusted.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation
https://www.matthewshepard.org/

Founded by the late Matthew Shepard’s parents after his tragic death, this charity aims to spread love and acceptance on both a social and legal level for the LGBTQ community, and has made significant contributions in advancing those goals.

From the “Our Story” portion of their web site’s About Us page:

“On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming and left to die. On October 12, Matt succumbed to his wounds in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In the aftermath of Matt’s death, his parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his life and aspirations. Inspired by the tragedy they endured, the initial purpose of the Foundation was to teach parents with children who may be questioning their sexuality to love and accept them for who they are, and to not throw them away.

Through their personal appearances across the country and around the world, Judy and Dennis Shepard are changing hearts and minds by sharing Matt’s story and highlighting the importance of standing up for the LGBT community.

Since our formation, the Foundation has helped pioneer the country’s first federal hate crimes legislation with the passing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009; provided hate crimes training to 1,060 law enforcement officers and 76 prosecutors since May 2017; created a dialogue about hate and acceptance within communities around the world; and built a robust collection of resources to support the Laramie Project and other legacy works inspired by Matt’s story.

It is our sincerest hope that, one day, the Foundation may be able to close its doors. But the same hate and violence that sparked the Foundation’s formation still exists today, both at home and abroad. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure safety, visibility, and inclusiveness for the entire LGBT community until that ideal becomes reality.”

OutRight Action International
https://outrightinternational.org/

A charity that fights for the advanced human rights of the LGBTIQ community around the globe, this organization holds a position with ECOSOC, which is the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

From the charity’s About page:

“OutRight Action International fights for the human rights for LGBTIQ people everywhere. OutRight works at the international, regional and national levels to research, document, defend, and advance human rights for LGBTIQ people around the world.

We are registered as a 501c3 non-profit in the US. We have staff in six countries and work alongside LGBTIQ individuals across four continents towards lasting change. Our full name is OutRight Action International or OutRight for short. EIN: 94-3139952

OutRight is the only LGBTIQ organization that has a permanent presence to advocate at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for progress for LGBTIQ people. We have a major stake at the UN on human rights and hold special consultative status there, which allows us to bring to light the concerns of LGBTIQ people globally at this important world forum.”

Black Visions Collective
https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/

Minnesota’s official Black Lives Matter chapter that’s also led by those in the LGBTQ community, this charity seeks to improve the treatment of black people throughout the state, and to address the systemic flaws that tend to plague the African-American community from being treated justly and fairly.

First, a brief description from the Headwaters Foundation for Justice:

“Black Visions Collective is a Black, Trans, and Queer led organization in affiliation with the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the official chapter in Minnesota. Their genesis story begins as the official Black Lives Matter Minneapolis chapter. After building an incredible movement which intervened on the behalf of Black Lives across Minnesota, they are now shifting to a more strategic and visionary framework. They are doing this by grounding their work in long term systems change campaigns, community engagement and political education, leadership development, and cultural organizing rooted in transformative justice through a Black queer feminist lens.”

From the charity’s web site:

“Since 2017, Black Visions Collective, has been putting into practice the lessons learned from organizations before us in order to shape a political home for Black people across Minnesota. We aim to center our work in healing and transformative justice principles, intentionally develop our organizations core “DNA” to ensure sustainability, and develop Minnesota’s emerging Black leadership to lead powerful campaigns. By building movements from the ground up with an integrated model, we are creating the conditions for long term success and transformation.

Black Visions Collective envisions a world in which ALL Black Lives Matter. We use the guidance and brilliance of our ancestors as well as the teachings of our own experiences to pursue our commitment to dismantling systems of oppression and violence. We are determined in our pursuit of dignity and equity for all.”

We’ve come a long way, and we’ve still got a long way to go.

The Lapsed ROHbot returns on June 23. But there may be something else coming in the meantime…