“It used to be better.” – The Lapsed Fan Pro Wrestling Podcast
This review is dedicated to the late, great Casey Michael.
ROH Round Robin Challenge
March 30, 2002 – Philadelphia, PA
We begin with a brief look at what was happening throughout the past month both in and out of wrestling.
LAPSED TABLE SETTING OF HONOR
Happening in sports:
- RIP Bob Smith 1925-2002
- RIP Jack Baer 1914-2002
- RIP Pat Flaherty 1926-2002
- Tragedy befell the NHL community on March 16; an errant hockey puck struck a fan named Brittanie Cecil in the crowd. She would, unfortunately, pass away just a couple days later, two days from her 14th birthday. As a result of the accidental tragedy, the NHL implemented mandatory netting at both ends of every arena’s hockey rink starting with the 2002-03 season.
- MLB headlines included the Boston Red Sox hiring Grady Little as their manager on March 11; and on March 22, the Chicago Cubs traded Dontrelle Willis, Ryan Jorgesen, Julian Tavarez, and minor leaguer Jose Cueto to the Florida Marlins, getting Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca in return.
- The MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas held the UFC 36: World Collide PPV on March 22. In the main event, Josh Barnett dethroned Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, improving his record to 27-1 and handing Couture his first-ever Octagon defeat. However, Barnett would be stripped of the title due to testing positive for steroids afterwards. The event was also the final fight for Pete Willams in his defeat to Frank Mir, and also Pat Miletich’s last UFC contest in his defeat to Matt Lindland.
- This was the closing weekend for the 2001-02 NCAA Men’s Basketball season at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with the Final Four taking place on the same day as this ROH event. Two days later, Maryland would win the National Championship game over Indiana 64-52, with Juan Dixon also being crowned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Happening in pop culture:
- RIP Don Haig 1933-2002
- RIP Milton Berle 1908-2002
- RIP Randy Castillo 1950-2002
- RIP Dudley Moore 1935-2002
- RIP Billy Wilder 1906-2002
- DC Comics released the 600th issue of The Adventures of Superman.
- On March 22, The Sims dethroned Myst as the all-time best-selling computer video game.
- Battlefield 1942 won Game of the Year at the 2002 D.I.C.E. Awards, which was held as part of the inaugural D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas.
- In a very busy month for the franchise, Capcom released a critically-acclaimed remake of the original Resident Evil on March 22 for the Gamecube.
- It was a month of strong franchises for the silver screen, as the first films for Ice Age and Resident Evil were released on March 15, followed a week later by Blade II (which as a reminder, would have one of its songs used for the highlight reel of The Era of Honor Begins.)
- The 74th Academy Awards were held on March 24, with marquee winners including Best Picture going to A Beautiful Mind, Best Director going to Ron Howard (for A Beautiful Mind), Best Actor going to Denzel Washington (for Training Day), and Best Actress going to Halle Berry (for Monster’s Ball.)
- The 44th Annual Grammy Awards were held on February 27, with marquee winners including Album of the Year going to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, Song of the Year going to “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys, and Record of the Year going to “Walk On” by U2.
- Celine Dion returned to the music scene with the release of her album A New Day Has Come.
- Billboard’s top singles included “Blurry” by Puddle of Mudd, “Blessed” by Martina McBride, “Lights, Camera, Action” by Mr. Cheeks, and “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” by Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule and Cadillac Tah (topping “Always on Time” by Ja Rule featuring Ashanti in the Hot 100.)
Elsewhere in pro wrestling:
- RIP Tony Graham (The Dream Machine) 1949-2002
- RIP Kiyoshi Sagawa 1922-2002
- RIP Tony Gonzales (The Mysterious Medic) 1930-2002
- All Japan held its first-ever PPV on February 24, an acclaimed event in front of a sold out crowd in Tokyo’s Budokan Hall. The event featured Kaz Hayashi’s debut in the company, Genichiro Tenryu defeating Satoshi Kojima in an acclaimed match, and Toshiaki Kawada dethroning Keiji Mutoh for the Triple Crown in the acclaimed main event.
- All Japan Women also held its first-ever PPV on February 24 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym. This was also critically acclaimed, with the standout matches being Momoe Nakanishi defeating Kumiko Maekawa in a contest spanning over 40 minutes, and Manami Toyota dethroning Kaoru Ito for the WWWA Title in the main event.
- New Japan’s chaos continued. First, Katsuji Nagashima was forced out after having been a powerful figure in the company since 1989, with it publicly being said that he resigned from his position on the Board of Directors. This was the fallout from the situation with All Japan. In addition, Kiyoshi Sagawa’s death looked to give his 40% ownership of the company to Antonio Inoki, who already owned 15%.
- Donovan Morgan won ECWA’s Super 8 tournament on March 2, defeating AJ Styles in an acclaimed final. (Sadly, the match appears to be unavailable for online streaming.)
- Jerry Jarrett and his son Jeff reached an agreement with iNDEMAND PPV for a new promotion starting on June 19, kicking off a weekly two-hour Wednesday broadcast for approximately $10 per episode. There were discussions of including the NWA name for the promotion, as well as theories that former WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vince Russo would be the creative ghostwriter.
- It would be a historic, loaded month of news for the World Wrestling Federation, but before the calendar entered March, they got the hammer. On February 27, the company lost its appeal in England, being ordered to cease using the WWF initials for marketing outside the United States. This was a result of Vince McMahon breaking his agreement with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature to not advertise his pro wrestling company with those initials outside America, choosing to do so for various PPV events held in the U.K. in recent years.
- On the WrestleMania X8 go-home edition of Raw held March 11 in Detroit, wrestling fans got the only in-ring meeting EVER between Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, as the original nWo trio collided with Austin and the Rock in the main event.
- Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock then lived up to its dream match expectations, absolutely electrifying the Skydome crowd in Toronto six days later at WrestleMania X8. Also on the show, the Undertaker celebrated his victory over Ric Flair by counting all 10 of his fingers, indicating that he was now 10-0 on the Grandest Stage of ‘Em All; this was the company’s first acknowledgement of that streak. In the closing match, Triple H won the Undisputed Title from Chris Jericho.
- The following day on Raw, Hogan received a lengthy display of adoration from the Montreal crowd; later that night, the much-heralded “Class of 2002” kicked off when Paul Heyman debuted his new client Brock Lesnar, who had won the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championship in 2000. Meanwhile behind the scenes, Steve Austin walked out due to creative frustrations.
- Five days before this ROH event, the WWF continued dominating the headlines, as it went forward with a roster split, holding its first-ever draft lottery on Raw at Penn State University in State College.
- In definitely the biggest WWF news from an ROH-centric lens, the company agreed to terms with Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio, Jr. Both had to cancel various dates, but the former agreed to keep his underground commitments, including ROH; NJPW was among Eddie’s cancellations.
In addition, some newsletter notes and excerpts of relevance (issues are dated usually 5 days after their actual publishing date):
“The idea of [Takao Omori] working for Ring of Honor in the U.S. has been floated…
Ken Shamrock will be appearing on the 3/30 Ring of Honor show in Philadelphia headlined by Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. American Dragon where each has a singles match against the other. Shamrock won’t be wrestling on the show, but will be making an appearance.” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated March 25, 2002)
“Lots of notes from the 3/30 Ring of Honor show in Philadelphia. The bad news is that even with all the rave reviews of the debut show, the crowd dropped from about 400 to 325 for the second show. You can say Easter weekend and all that, but it just shows how limited the workrate audience to see indie guys really is. The show was built around that Christopher Daniels, Low Ki and American Dragon would all wrestle each other.” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated April 8, 2002)
Lastly before moving on, some ROH nostalgic podcast plugs:
With that, the table is now set. Can ROH appropriately follow up its historic debut, or was it all just a flavor of the month? Only one way to find out; it’s time for that deep dive once again into the ROH vault.
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. 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 opens with another stellar promo from Christopher Daniels, gloating rightfully that he’s the man on the indies. He shits on the Code of Honor, and he’s here to win matches, not shake hands. He vows to beat both Low Ki and Bryan Danielson tonight in singles matches, dismissing their three-way match result in which Low Ki pinned him.
The opening video then plays, first with some techno music that builds like an epic as the previous event’s highlights air. Then it switches up to preview footage of tonight’s event as thrash metal plays. I’ve no idea what the title is of either song; they’re both major improvements over the generic techno last time, as these tracks ultimately make me wanna see these athletes get in the ring and fight. Unfortunately, they spoil some of the marquee post-matches, as well as Ken Shamrock being the guest ref for Ki vs. Danielson.
Oh, a Hit Squad promo is next? That’s what I wanna see in the wake of #SpeakingOut! Even better, they mingle with the fans outside again before the show!!! Dan Maff gets the NYC travelers hyped up and chanting for their hometown, as well as him and his partner. There’s no problem whatsoever with Maff and Monsta Mack hyping these paying fans up before the show; in fact, that’s smart business. The problem is that this had no business being included on the DVD release. Oh, a couple fans traveled all the way from Wisconsin, and they are totally marking out for Hit Squad. The Boston travelers have a funny guy in the mix, as he screams “Jets! Jets! Jets!” at the New Yorkers. Fantastic just coming off of Super Bowl XXXVI. Da Hit Squad promise to hurt someone tonight, but don’t know who yet as they trigger more dueling chants between the New Yorkers and Bostonians.
The Code of Honor is officially introduced and explained:
- Competitors must shake hands before and after each match.
- No interfering in matches or having others interfere on your behalf.
- No harming a referee or causing others to harm an official.
- No sneak attacks.
- Any violation in the ring will result in a DQ.
More non-ringside content airs. Quiet Storm wants to try a Crossface Chicken Wing on Chris Divine, but Bryan Danielson is kind enough to show its properly done the aggressive way
Steve Corino and Eric Gargiulo are serving as the commentary team.
Round Robin Challenge Match #1
Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels
This is a first-time one-on-one encounter between these two, and this match alone would’ve been a ticket and video draw. And yet this is the fucking opener!
Daniels declines the handshake in the pre-match He goes for control and a pin early, wanting to end this early to be fresh for Low Ki later, but Danielson ain’t having that. Daniels should’ve waited for the biggest stage of ‘em all and literally an entire decade after this weekend if he wanted an opening match victory that quickly against Danielson.
They have a knuckle lock after some damn good mat wrestling, and I hope at the time this was drawing comparisons to the Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit classic that took place on the grandest stage 363 days before this event, especially since Danielson was able to break the control of Daniels and apply a Crippler Crossface. Danielson keeps control with a front face lock and a shoulder charge that cuts off Danielson, allowing him to then apply more headlocks.
Daniels tries a head-scissors to escape, but Danielson breaks it, returning to the headlock. When Daniels gets out of it, Danielson still keeps control with a dropkick until the Fallen Angel delivers a backdrop driver when Danielson predictably goes for another headlock. Daniels focuses on Danielson’s neck from there, applying submission to wear that body part down. They have a very good chopping exchange until Daniels kicks Danielson’s right arm and then forearms him in the neck and back of the head. Danielson’s selling is top-notch.
Daniels retains his focus on Danielson’s neck, dropping the American Dragon with a backdrop suplex and applying another Cravate. Danielson manages to come back briefly, but can’t sustain control due to his neck pain. Daniels stays on the neck until Danielson cuts him off with an Overhead Belly-to-Belly Suplex. As Danielson is in control, he still sells his neck, making it a bullseye I’m sure. Due to the bad neck, he can’t deliver a Snap Suplex overhead, having it do it more like a DDT. Danielson foolishly hits a diving headbutt; in kayfabe, this is incredibly astounding considering Benoit had legitimately been sidelined with a neck injury for 9 months at this point thanks to doing moves like that.
Daniels counters Danielson’s roaring elbow with an STO, then hits a Best Moonsault Ever for a hot near-fall. Danielson surprises Daniels with kicks to his left hamstring, allowing him to hit the roaring elbow for another near-fall to this crowd’s appreciation. They have another chop exchange which Daniels wins thanks to a palm strike, allowing him to clothesline Danielson for another near-fall. He hits the Blue Thunder Driver for another near-fall, further damaging Danielson’s neck.
When Daniels goes for another clothesline, Danielson blocks it and goes for the Cattle Mutilation, but his neck is too damaged to bridge and apply it. Danielson improvises with the Rings of Saturn, but Daniels reaches the bottom rope. Daniels blocks a Dragon Suplex, forearms Danielson’s neck, and then drops him with a Piledriver for a near-fall. Daniels hits the Last Rites then applies his own version of the Crippler Crossface, focusing on tugging the neck with both hands instead of hooking an arm, and Danielson taps out immediately!
In the post-match, Daniels makes a rude comment about a fan, and he demands a hand shake now from Danielson. The American Dragon obliges, saying he’d be a better man in defeat than the Fallen Angel.
That was a terrific opener and a worthy comparison to Angle vs. Benoit that I referenced from WrestleMania X-Seven. This is even better thanks to a much, much superior, organically built finish. Every aspiring wrestler should be shown this match (and since it’s free on YouTube, there’s no excuse not to provide it at training schools), as it was a true purist’s dream match, telling an engaging story with selling and body part work.
There will be more terrific ROH openers on this journey. But it’ll be a long time before any of them come close to matching this; and I’d honestly be surprised if it gets surpassed. Just two shows into the ROH vault, and we have a contender for the greatest opener in company history.
And once again, I wonder why a treasure like Daniels was relegated to the indies, rather than being in the mainstream having a program with someone on his performance level like The Rock or Chris Jericho. Rating: ****¼
Prince Nana tells Eric Tuttle to wipe his boots, which is obliged.
CW Anderson selects a complete nobody to be his tag partner in his debut tonight against Christian York & Joey Matthews.
Da Hit Squad vs. Prince Nana & Eric Tuttle
Nana & Tuttle are accompanied by Texas Wrestling Academy student Simply Luscious, and Corino gloats about her on commentary, obviously having a thing for her. Nana cuts an amusing promo talking shit to a fan. He feels so disrespected by the fans Tuttle has to shine Nana’s boots again and shits on the Code of Honor, which is enough for Maff and Mack to arrive, having enough of his shit.
The crowd is completely behind Hit Squad as they demolish Nana & Tuttle. The highlight is their version of a Hart Attack, but the Bulldog is replaced by a Mexican Suplex. Maff finishes Tuttle with a Burning Hammer, then chickens out on a low-blow.
OH GOD FUCKING DAMMIT.
“YMCA” blares on the stereo system to indicate the Christopher Street Connection’s arrival. Now in kayfabe, it makes sense that they’re not happy about last month, but nobody needed this to become an arcing storyline. Maff dumps Tuttle to the outside, but nobody is properly in position to catch him. I’m sure this was totally worth it for him.
This horrendous segment continues as Luscious gets assaulted by Hit Squad. They take it easy on her, tossing her out like Tuttle, and thankfully she’s caught safely. Nana opts to not carry her away, instead dragging her by her hair. Hit Squad are kind enough to shake not just Tuttle’s hand, but the Christopher Street Connection’s hands too. Yeah, that definitely softens what happened last time.
This gets REALLY creepy, as the Christopher Street Connection grab Tuttle’s limbs and take him to the back, then they try to perform CPR on him, but Nana won’t let them do that. Once again, I’m sure this was totally worth it for Tuttle. They then practice CPR on each other.
HOLY FUCKING SHIT WHAT DID I JUST WATCH?
Let’s do this in bulleted format:
- A complete squash match, although admittedly quick and harmless.
- The follow-up to the most homophobic assault in wrestilng history.
- A beanpole average joe being dumped on the gym floor because his colleagues didn’t catch him.
- A teased assault on a defenseless woman by two beefy men.
- That same woman being dragged away by her hair.
- The gay tag team attempting to sexually assault the defenseless, unconscious beanpole average joe until he got saved by his misogynistic emotional abuser/master.
Last month, The Lapsed ROHbot Flagship kicked off just days before the #SpeakingOut movement. I had no idea that by the time I got just to ROH’s second event, that movement would already have an impact on this journey.
I stand by my description as the “match” that kicked off ROH between Da Hit Squad and Christopher Street Connection as one of the worst wrestling segments I’ve ever seen. This follow-up has proven to be a worthy successor; without hesitation, this is also one of the worst wrestling segments I’ve ever seen.
Whereas last month’s kickoff segment was so vile because of its homophobic bigotry, this brought the same level of vile from a different angle. In this case, we got the very real physical trauma that Tuttle experienced, a prime example of how this business tends to chew up and spit out the little guy again and again and again. But in addition, there was man-on-woman violence again, and it really says something that part wasn’t even close to the most revolting part of this segment. Perhaps the fact that Luscious was shown mercy while being physically fucked off, that everyone made sure she got the physical cushioning from her colleagues, also mentally cushions that moment for the viewer.
I cannot imagine being a part of the LGBTIQ community though and seeing that the act that is supposed to represent me on the roster got portrayed as sexual predators. The decision to portray the company’s gay tag team in that manner was another layer of homophobia, an attempt to vilify and stereotype homosexuals in a manner that should’ve NEVER been viewed as acceptable.
This was another appalling failure to display leadership from owner Rob Feinstein and booker Gabe Sapolsky. In the former’s case, I’m surprised on one hand, while not so on the other. This type of booking is often said to be the product of a team that is led by cis-gendered, heterosexual white men. It’s been said that this type of segment is the product of not having proper representation from non-whites, non-males, and non-heterosexuals in leadership positions.
But we now know that Feinstein is part of the LGBTIQ community. Last month’s segment? Perhaps it was just him trying to hide his sexual orientation, a mask to try to fit in with the dominant homophobic culture at a time when Marshall Mathers was at his peak of popularity and relevance. So from that point of view, it’s puzzling that considering there was LGBTIQ representation in the top spot, that these segments were getting approved.
On the other hand, perhaps the way in which he found out about Feinstein’s lifestyle choices should make this segment not so surprising. Perhaps the Christopher Street Connection’s creative direction in this segment was a form of odd hint about Feinstein. Maybe it wasn’t; maybe it was just a really awful, immature, bigoted form of wrestling booking from the minds of Sapolsky and others involved.
Either way, two months ago, this segment had already failed miserably to stand the test of time, a true no-brainer to one day be inducted into the WrestleCrap Hall of Fame. That miserable failure is only compounded all the more in the wake of #SpeakingOut.
Before moving on: if this event has been uploaded to Honor Club, then the entire post-match needs to just be scrapped. That vile shit cannot be available to consumers after the events of this summer. Period.
The Boogie Knights are shown having a discussion backstage, and they go looking to steal the Natural Born Sinners’ chainsaws. One of them is sporting a baseball bat. They find the chainsaw case, but there’s no chainsaw, just the rubber chicken, then they scram without even grabbing that.
Christian York & Joey Matthews vs. Elax & CW Anderson
A brief, cheesy promo airs from York & Matthews before the match. I hope this match is just as quick.
Matthews and Anderson have mechanically fine action at the start. When Elax gets tagged in, he’s the obvious weak link. I do like Anderson’s Seated Powerslam and that’s about it for this match. This did nothing to prove the WWF wrong for letting the ECW veterans involved from fucking off to the indies in the wake of ECW’s bankruptcy. The ref also counts a non-legal pin once, and the consistent team obviously wins this one, but Anderson does the job surprisingly. Post-match, Anderson blames Elax for the loss and then assaults him. Rating: less than ***
Xavier vs. James Maritato
Xavier has a promo from earlier, bummed that he can’t face Scoot Andrews in a rematch due to injury. Instead, he gets the former Little Guido, going by the name of James Maritato. I don’t give a single shit about Maritato’s promo, and considering that Xavier has headlined other indy events against the likes of Low Ki and Homicide, this should be a mismatch in my book. I’m not swayed by Maritato’s UWFI experience.
Maritato keeps Xavier at bay for a bit until getting dropped off the top rope with a DDT. Maritato cuts Xavier off though when he blocks a corner Frankeinsteiner attempt and turns it into a Boston Crab from the top rope before hitting a shotgun dropkick. All Xavier has to do though is lift Maritato overhead and drop him to regain control.
However, Maritato blocks a powerslam, hitting a Tornado DDT and causing Xavier to powder. He keeps on the attack, going for the STF and then what Garguilo calls an Oriental Scorpion. Xavier is giving way more than I would’ve allowed here. Xavier surprises him with a pin variation though, and I’m not a fan of a victory for him that isn’t so decisive. To be blunt, if a secondary singles title were to eventually be introduced, I’d be eying Xavier or Bryan Danielson to be the first champion. Rating: less than ***
Footage is shown from earlier with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission’s Frank talent talking to the entire locker room as Brian Kendrick listens to headphones instead.
Boogie Knights vs. Natural Born Sinners
The Natural Born Sinners say they’re playing mind games with the Boogie Knights in a pre-recorded promo. Homicide is far from a good promo, but his charisma is undeniable. Boogaloo is far less charismatic when he says they’ll never get his chainsaw.
The crowd chants “Fuck the Yankees” to ignore the Bronx native Boogie Knights; that’s funny with Homicide on the other side.
Once again, the Sinners feel like complete alpha males in their prison inmate type outfits, this time navy blue instead of orange. Homicide gets to use the rubber chicken early while Boogaloo diverts the ref’s attention. Drake gets in position to do mat wrestling, but Boogaloo doesn’t fall for his antics.
As expected, this is a quick squash, the Sinners just demolishing the Knights. CROWN THIS TEAM ALREADY DAMMIT.
Live footage that wasn’t shown:
“The negatives, besides the attendance, was that an angle where H.C. Loc & Sledge attacked Homicide & Boogloo didn’t get over.” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated April 8, 2002)
Round Robin Challenge Match #2
Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels
Low Ki has a pre-recorded promo, saying Daniels will respect him by the end of the night.
Daniels refuses to shake hands at the beginning, which is no surprise. That only pisses Low Ki off, and he’s an electrifying house of fire. Daniels can only have brief comeback attempts, falling prey to strikes and chops, as well as a Border City Stretch. They have a perfect moment when Low Ki goes for Krush Combo; Daniels gives him the middle finger before the roundhouse kick, only to get his hand slapped away and get the combo still completed on him. The crowd is totally into Low Ki for that.
When Daniels looks to gain control in the corner, his palm thrust is blocked and turned into a Cross Arm- Breaker. Daniels finally comes back moments later, putting Low Ki down with multiple STOs. He appears to primarily target Low Ki’s back, going for submission and bombs. Low Ki teases a comeback, evading the Best Moonsault Ever and landing a Tidal Crush. Daniels blocks the Ki Crusher and an apparent Iconoclasm, applying a Dragon Sleeper and hitting a Palm Strike and Iconoclasm of his own for a near-fall.
There’s no reaction to Low Ki kicking out of the Angel’s Wings. I’ll fault that on them not having any dramatic brief struggle; they just did the move and near-fall. Low Ki still manages to get in position to hit a Ki Crusher, which does get a reaction thanks to how they get to that moment. Ki can’t go for the pin, but hits a Tidal Wave once they’re back up in separate corners. Daniels blocks another Ki Crusher, which is returned by Ki blocking another Angel’s Wings. Daniels calls for the Last Rites, but Ki turns him over to hit a Dragon Clutch for the quick tap out victory to the crowd’s applause.
Daniels acknowledges that he asked Danielson to his hand earlier, and that this proves nothing, making the excuse that this was his second match, refusing to shake hands. “Low Ki is not the better man, and I will not wrestle him again until the Ring of Honor Title is on the line!” Daniels is great talking shit to a fan in the front row as he leaves; Xavier is at Gorilla and gives props to Daniels as he just walks away. He walks into a locker room with Low Ki’s friends in there, not welcomed. Brain Kendrick is shown listening to music on his headphones.
Good match to advance this obvious program, with a nice tease of a world championship to come. There’s a nice touch too in the post-match; Ki and Daniels are my top two candidates for the world title if I’m booking, with Kendrick as a dark horse pick. As stated before, Xavier and Danielson would be my top two for a secondary singles title as well, and Kendrick would be a fine choice to consider for it too. All five were shown or mentioned right here in the post-match. Rating: ***½
Amazing Red and Quiet Storm are shown playing two-on-two basketball with the SAT. Terrible segment to build heat for their match.
Paul London’s ROH Debut
Paul London vs. Chris Marvel
Garguilo mentions that Terry Funk had humongous praise for London. He definitely looks seasoned, especially for his experience level. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone before this hit a Moonsault Dropkick.
London goes for an Asai Moonsault, and unfortunately Marvel’s leg breaks from the impact less than two minutes into this. Terrible, terrible break for Marvel in every way, and definitely for London’s opportunity to have a spectacular debut. I wanna see more of London.
Jay Briscoe vs. Brian Kendrick
In a pre-recorded promo, Mark Briscoe gets under his brother Jay’s skin, interrupting him to ask if he’s gonna win this match.
They trade arm twists early until Jay hits a La Magistral cradle for a near-fall, causing Kendrick to take a breather. They continue having a back-and-forth contest until Jay cuts Kendrick off on the top rope, only to get pancaked by Kendrick. Kendrick retains control when he shoves Jay down on a Snap Suplex attempt. Kendrick also hits a knee strike to Jay’s face, coming down from the corner for it. This has been quite dull so far.
It finally gets interesting when Kendrick hits a corner post, causing him to bleed on his face. Jay is far more interesting being the one in control, constantly knocking Kendrick down. Kendrick has to fight from underneath, having hope spots only to get knocked down again by Jay thanks to a Yakuza Kick. Kendirck manages to cut Jay off long enough to hit a dive outside, but Jay gets his knees up on a Superfly Splash attempt. Jay is frustrated after a Powerbomb near-fall, which is long enough for Kendrick to avoid a Double Underhook Piledriver and then plant Jay with a Shiranui for the win.
The Briscoes bicker in the post-match as Mark chastises Jay for another loss.
Not a good match at all, just average with a slight boost thanks to Kendrick’s partial crimson mask. No story ever substantially developed here. There was no urgency from either, no body part focus, no brilliant scouting of each other’s arsenal. They just did some moves and didn’t sell much struggle if at all. Rating: less than ***
“At one point there was fear that the athletic commission would shut down the show after Marvel’s leg injury as he apparently said if another guy bled bad, they would stop, in particular if Dragon, busted open earlier and scheduled to come out, bled bad. At that point Spanky bled bad, but they were able to keep it going.” – Wrestling Observer Newsletter (Dated April 8, 2002)
Gabe Sapolsky is shown taking a Texas Wrestling Academy popularity poll with others. His haircut is absolutely not one that stands the test of time.
Lucha Rules Elimination Match
The SAT vs. Divine Storm vs. Amazing Red & Brain XL
This match is totally useless for me. Some of the moves looked good, some of them were sloppy and almost botched. Red is better than these guys, but it’s because of him being involved with this spot monkey tripe (rather than working singles mid-card action) that I can’t consider him a viable contender for a hypothetical secondary singles title, let alone the actually teased world title. He’s the only one in these matches that doesn’t come across as a shopping mall kiosk winner (ie, most of the modern-day indy workers 18 years later.)
Red and XL argue over who should get the pin, leading to an SAT victory. I’ll leave my commentary for that finish later on in this review. Rating: less than ***
Thankfully after that, it’s main event time. It’s the King of Indies tournament final rematch!
Round Robin Challenge Match #3
Low Ki vs. Bryan Danielson
Guest Referee: Ken Shamrock
Low Ki has another pre-recorded promo, vowing to go 2-0 in the series tonight.
Danielson’s left eyebrow is cut and bruised, and he’s selling his neck too.
Before the match begins, Ken Shamrock arrives and offers to officiate the match, praising their submission skills; the offer is accepted. Hey, he officiated what many say is the greatest match in the history of professional wrestling 5 years plus one week ago. Does he have the magic touch perhaps? Then again, it’s Mike Keener giving up the spot, and he was the referee in last month’s main event masterpiece. Shamrock has a high standard to adhere to. It’s also a brilliant way to give this main event some oomph since there’s no animosity between Low Ki and Danielson.
ALL of the early work is on the mat, and it’s absolutely phenomenal. As neither can get the advantage, exchanging submission attempts, Low Ki mixes in some forearms, including one to the back of Danielson’s head. Once Low Ki gets a leg-scissors on Danielson, he delivers some headbutts and goes for a Sleeper, but Danielson elbows out of it and organically transitions it into a Pendulum submission, then takes Low Ki back down to the mat with his own sleeper. None of these submissions, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM, is a rest hold.
Low Ki mounts Danielson with more strikes, and even arches over for a submission I’ve not seen before, arching in a way visually similar to the Cattle Mutilation, but it’s not the same submission in any way. Daniels rolls out it to hold into the headlock, then applies a crossface, pulling on Low Ki’s nose before hitting crossface forearm strikes before going for the sleeper again. Low Ki’s able to get a Front Chancery applied, landing some knee strikes to the head before Danielson stands him up. They block each other’s strikes and have a brief, respectful stalemate, the crowd completely glued to this technical showcase. This is how to properly establish participants as equals in the first several minutes.
They quickly return it to the mat, Danielson blocking Low Ki’s strikes and applying an arm submission that traps both shoulders. Low Ki is able to roll out of it, kicking Danielson to take control and apply another sleeper that goes to the ropes. Shamrock makes a judgment call; rather than make it a rope break, he just grabs Low Ki, dragging them both to the middle of the ring. Everyone’s rightfully fine with the call as this mat wrestling masterpiece continues.
Low Ki takes advantage, going for the Sleeper again, but Danielson headbutts out of it to get on top of him. As Low Ki goes for an arm submission, Danielson lifts him up to deliver a one-armed Powerbomb to the crowd’s approval. Both of them take a much-needed quick breather before teasing a knuckle lock, but they return to the mat again, Low Ki dragging Danielson down to then target his left arm, going for a Cross Arm-Breaker or Juji-Gatame but that gets blocked. Danielson instead bridges and rolls out, trapping and wrenching Low Ki in a submission that I’ve no clue what the name is. The crowd can only applaud when it’s a rope break.
Low Ki proves that defense can be his best offense, crouched down and surprising the upright Danielson with a kick to his bruised left eye. After Danielson takes a brief powder, selling the potential obstructed vision, they keep going at it in the ring. Low Ki applies a pin variation, but Danielson Crucifixes him over to trap Low Ki for a submission and pin attempts. Once again, even I don’t know the names of all these submission holds. As this goes on, it’s announced that AJ Styles and Donovan Morgan will debut next month, with them respectively facing Low Ki and Christopher Daniels, plus it’ll be Eddie Guerrero’s return even though he’s been signed to the World Wrestling Federation.
Danielson remains in control, now targeting Low Ki’s left leg. Low Ki tries using his right leg to kick Danielson’s spine and break it, but Danielson is too determined. Corino is right on commentary to point out that this match needs to be studied by all wrestlers, adding to my film study recommendation of Danielson vs. Daniels earlier on the show. Low Ki finally breaks the holds with multiple kicks to the spin, then goes for Kawada kicks, largely targeting Danielon’s left eye. The crowd’s applause continues, so refreshing that it’s for this type of match rather than just high spots and big bombs.
Once Danielson gets back in the ring, he furiously takes Low Ki Down, throwing forearms and going for a Cross Arm-Breaker, but Low Ki immediately gets a rope break. As they have a knuckle lock, Ki headbutts Danielson, but Danielson hooks his right leg, then takes him down for a pin attempt. That’s brilliant, as Ki would’ve had some damage in the left leg, so he wouldn’t have enough strength to stand his ground. Danielson keeps control and goes for the Cattle Mutilation, but Low Ki won’t allow it, bringing both to the ropes for a break. Danielson drags him back to the middle of the ring and catches him off-guard, delivering a backdrop suplex.
With Danielson in control, he brings the strikes, including kicks and chops. Low Ki is absolutely fantastic as he sells the pain of those strikes. Danielson does a knuckle lock from behind on a seated Low Ki, and once again, Low Ki shows his defensive brilliance, hitting small knee strikes to give enough room to then stun Danielson with a kick to the face. Low Ki returns the kicks and chops from moments earlier, Danielson’s eyes bulging out to sell the pain. Low Ki appears to be going for the Cattle Mutilation, but Danielson blocks it and gets a spinal kick for his trouble.
Danielson blocks Low Ki’s Dragon Clutch, so Low goes for a Cobra Clutch variation. Danielson manages to stand up and drag them both outside, but Low Ki holds on to a sleeper outside. Shamrock chooses to let the action keep going, a call that I love since there’s no animosity. An exhausted Danielson kicks out once back in the ring, and bridges up when Low Ki stands on him, so Ki cuts him off by stomping on him. Danielson blocks the Ki Crusher and hits a roaring elbow, then has a Dragon Suplex near-fall. The crowd chants for Danielson as he hits a Snap Double Underhook Suplex and diving headbutt.
Because Danielson is so damaged, it’s Low Ki that goes for the pin. He puts Danielson in the corner to eat a Tidal Wave and a Dragon Suplex near-fall. Low Ki is so exhausted that he has to let go as his shoulders are also down. Low Ki applies the Cattle Mutilation, but Danielson gets out and applies the Dragon Clutch! Danielson can’t fully arch it in standing position, so he drags Low Ki back for a good 45-60 seconds before the ropes are reached. Danielson hits a Cravate Suplex, as well as a Bridged Northern Lights Suplex for a near-fall. I know at this point they’re starting to do callbacks to their classic match five months earlier.
They’re both exhausted as they have another strike exchange, so Low Ki goes for the Tidal Wave. He scouts that Danielson might predict it, so he tries landing on his feet, only to still get dropkicked on the way down. Low Ki kicks his leg and drops him with a Brainbuster on a suplex struggle, but doesn’t have the energy to quickly go for the pin. He brings back the Kawada kicks, causing Danielson to collapse. He hits the Ki Crusher, but Danielson kicks out! Ki can’t believe it as the crowd gives this a standing ovation and chants for Danielson!
Ki then goes for the Phoenix Splash, but his damaged gut takes more punishment as Danielson gets his knees up. That’s followed by a Dragon Suplex for a regular pin near-fall. Ki gets crotched on the rope, in position for a Super Backdrop Suplex, Danielson hits it and is too damaged as well to go for the immediate pin. He looks to go for it again, but Low Ki chops him from the top rope, then hits a motherfucking Super Ki Crusher!!! That kills both of them as the crowd is absolutely delighted!
Danielson intelligently rolls outside as the crowd is absolutely mesmerized by this masterpiece. Low Ki gets him back in and the time outside proves the correct strategy as Danielson kicks out. Low Ki’s selling of exhaustion is outstanding on the pin attempt; he can’t hook Danielson’s leg, so instead he tries compensating to add more weight on the pin by extending himself to be on his tippy-toes. Both warriors exhausted, it continues with more chops and Low Ki goes for the Tidal Wave, but Danielson catches him and tries applying the Cattle Mutilation, a callback to the King of Indies!
Low Ki blocks the Cattle Mutilation, so Danielson hits a Dragon Suplex Bridge for a sensation near-fall! Fueled by adrenaline, he finally locks on the Cattle Mutilation! The crowd is totally rocking here as Low Ki shows his resilience and determination. Danielson can’t hold on, so he goes for it again, applying a variation of it. Low Ki can’t break it as he starts losing consciousness. Shamrock is no stranger to this situation, and when Ki’s arm drops without response, that’s it.
The crowd gives this a standing ovation, obviously deservedly so, both collapsed on the mat. They break out in a “Ring of Honor” chant, absolutely appreciative of this work of art. The appreciation only increases as both men get to their feet, absolutely sore and exhausted as the crowd chants for Danielson then Low Ki. They shake hands in a beautiful moment, the crowd’s respect and admiration serving as the perfect soundtrack as Shamrock readies to raise Danielson’s hand in victory. They shake hands again as the crowd thanks them.
Moments later, Danielson cuts a promo, poking fun at his weakness in that department. He thanks the fans, Shamrock for his officiating performance, and Low Ki for such a great match.
This match started off phenomenal, a terrific contest about halfway through. State-of-the-art submission strikes and wrestling from two performers that had incredible cache with its audience, it culminated in its closing minutes, elevating this to an all-time masterpiece. Two shows in, ROH earned the full monty with flawless main events. But this one was completely different. The month before proved that this was the federation for a coherent, action-packed spectacle. This time, ROH proved it could be the absolute best in technical wrestling, especially with Chris Benoit and Kenta Kobashi both sidelined at this time.
For the month of March 2002, one cannot go wrong picking either this or Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock. While both masterpieces are completely styles of matches, they both told the perfect story in front of the perfect audience, with those audiences equally mesmerized, albeit in different ways too. While the Skydome just ate up everything Hulk Hogan did in his titanic battle on the Grandest Stage of ‘Em All, this Murphy Rec Center crowd appreciated every hold and strike, glued from start to finish too. They loved the beginning, they loved the middle, they loved the end, and they also loved all of Shamrock’s judgment calls.
Speaking of Shamrock, he once again played his part in officiating a flawless match, and as mentioned, although this was a match different journey of a match, the finish with Low Ki passing out in Danielon’s Cattle Mutilation was an excellent callback to Steve Austin passing out in Bret Hart’s Scorpion Deathlock five years earlier. In this case, Shamrock’s presence and performance gave the rub from both his time in UFC and WWF, a much different sports-centric situation than him being needed to handle the greatest grudge match of all-time.
This had absolutely everything one would want in a perfect wrestling match. The end of 2002 awards will be quite stacked at this rate. Rating: *****
Immediately, a preview video airs for the next event, and once again I wish I knew any info about the song being used. It definitely sounds like a decent attempt at epic techno music. The video starts with highlights of the first two events, then shows Donovan Morgan and AJ Styles to hype up their debuts. It’ll be ROH giving its appreciation for Eddie Guerrero, and they seriously air footage from the next event with him holding the WWF Intercontinental Title. That’s a fucking inexcusable chronological spoiler.
Mikey Whipwreck rants on the spot monkeys, saying he’ll find a partner for Red. They just pretty much spoiled it in the fucking preview video!
A conversation airs involving the Texas Wrestling Academy’s Paul London, Brain Kendrick, and SImply Luscious, and they congratulate Bryan Danielson for his main event victory. Kendrick is butthurt about Danielson winning the TWA popularity poll and tries dismissing London, who doesn’t get bullied. Rudy Boy Gonzales says he’ll talk to Gabe Sapolsky to get all the TWA trainees in a match together. This is absolutely not what I would’ve been doing with Danielson coming out of this show, but I’m incredibly glad to see London being protected in this segment.
A highlight video for the show airs. Why did the next event’s preview video get slotted before this? Anyway, this video isn’t the best, as it does a bad job of trying to make this epic, but I definitely enjoy this music used; of course, there’s been no info provided or shared about it with me. The same can be said for the other techno song it switches to during the Ki vs. Daniels highlights. The video reveals that the next event is April 27, deeming it a “a night of appreciation for Eddie Guerrero.” Matches include Low Ki vs. AJ Styles, Donovan Morgan vs. Christopher Daniels, The SAT vs. Red & ? (already spoiled), a TWA gauntlet match, Scoot Andrews vs. Xavier vs. James Maritato, Jay Briscoe vs. Tony Mamaluke, Divine Storm vs. Christian York & Joey Matthews. It’ll be Eddie Guerrero’s last ROH appearance.
The three marquee matches all delivered to varying degrees, each of them telling a different story that culminated in a crescendo at the end of the evening. Danielson’s matches are must-see for fans and wrestlers, delivering what might be the greatest opener in ROH history along with another all-time great main event. Ki vs. Daniels served perfectly in the middle as storyline advancement, providing a quality match that had a much bigger takeaway in the post-match, with Daniels teasing a world title to come for the company.
Other positives included the Natural Born Sinners continuing to be booked as alphas, although this month wasn’t as chaotic; the Briscoes’ tension continuing to simmer, and Paul London giving a very small taste of a very promising in-ring ability.
Everything else about this was completely throwaway. The booking was a step back for Xavier against the former Little Guido, Jay’s match against Brian Kendrick was a bunch of nothing, the spot monkeys continued to be spot monkeys, and the tag match involving names from ECW’s dying days just feels like a needless attempt to hang on to those affiliated with that federation.
Nothing was as vile as the post-match activities involving Da Hit Squad, Prince Nana, Eric Tuttle, Simply Luscious, and the Christopher Street Connection. Just absolutely inexcusable, so creepy and pathetic that I now have to “offset” it in the charity spotlight again. It’s yet another example of how we didn’t use to be better as a society; we’re better now, even with such a long road still ahead of us in the fight for everyone’s equal rights and respect.
With that said, the triple main event makes this an easy recommendation, providing a main event for the ages. They were the matches counted on to carry this event, and they absolutely did that, proving in conclusion that yes, when it comes to ROH… it used to be better.
Like last time on The Lapsed ROHbot Flagship, we’re learning right now that the wrestling business certainly didn’t used to be better from a human rights perspective. But this has been a great summer for band-aids getting ripped off, exposing a rape and abuse culture epidemic that has spanned as far back as the Fabulous Moolah’s heyday.
This will not be the last time that the topic of sexual predation is brought up during this journey, particularly The Lapsed ROHbot Flagship. But I am happy to see that this shit storm is unfolding, and I can’t help but think of a line from my favorite film The Dark Knight.
“Things were always going to get worse before they got better.” – Alfred Pennyworth
The Speaking Out movement has only further enhanced just how truly despicable the booking was involving the Christopher Street Connection in ROH. When factoring in that the segment epitomized the culture of abuse in the industry and also portrayed homosexuals as sexual predators, it’s crystal-clear that there will be more charity spotlight opportunities in correspondence with those issues in the future.
The wrestling world (and indies in particular) also had this dark summer get bleaker with the passing of Xavier at just 42 years of age, a reminder of how precious and fragile life is and to appreciate each other while we’re still here.
Of course, the wrestling industry’s #SpeakingOut movement has not been the only ugly, necessary band-aid removal. There’s still the topic of civil unrest, systemic racism, and criminal justice reform, now also intensified thanks to Jacob Blake’s shooting. We’ve still got a long way to go to appropriately clean up that particular filth too.
For today’s charity spotlights, this is a plea that if you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, please know there is help available immediately. Let today be the first day towards healing and justice. Let’s also continue to be tolerant and embracing of the LGBTIQ community, and sensitive towards the discrimination that’s been thrown its way. In addition, please keep the fire alive to seek the continued evolution of the American justice system so that it is truly fair for people of all colors, genders, and sexual orientations.
Today’s charity spotlights:
John “Xavier” Bedoya’s Memorial Fund
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
Toll-Free 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)
A charity that seeks to assist victims of sexual assault and address sexual violence through various resources, including the toll-free 24/7 hotline listed above, Hall of Fame wrestler Mick Foley has offered his time and services to this organization, as have other celebrities. In addition, the charity operates the Department of Defense’s Safe Helpline.
From the charity’s web page:
“RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”
From the charity’s Wikipedia:
“The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is an American nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, the largest in the United States. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, as well as the Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline, and carries out programs to prevent sexual assault, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice through victim services, public education, public policy, and consulting services.
RAINN was founded in 1994 by Scott Berkowitz. Tori Amos was the organization’s first spokesperson. Christina Ricci is the current national spokesperson and a member of its National Leadership Council.”
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
NSPCC’s Toll-Free Helpline: 0808 800 5000
Monday to Friday 8AM to 10PM
Weekends 9AM to 6PM
Dating back to the 19th Century, this UK-based charity seeks to protect children from abuse and exploitation throughout the United Kingdom and Channel Islands.
From the charity’s About Us page:
“We’re the UK’s leading children’s charity. We’ve been looking out for children for over 130 years – and we couldn’t do it without you.”
The NSPCC’s core values:
- Children must be protected from all forms of violence and exploitation
- Everyone has a responsibility to support the care and protection of children
- We listen to children and young people, respect their views and respond to them directly
- Children should be encouraged and enabled to fulfil their potential
- We challenge inequalities for children and young people
- Every child must have someone to turn to
The Trevor Project
TrevorLifeline (Toll-free and 24/7/365)
Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.
From the charity’s Wikipedia:
“The Trevor Project is an American non-profit organization founded in 1998 focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Through a toll-free telephone number, it operates The Trevor Lifeline, a confidential service that offers trained counselors. The stated goals of the project are to provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25, as well as to offer guidance and resources to parents and educators in order to foster safe, accepting, and inclusive environments for all youth, at home and at school.
The Trevor Project is committed to producing research that brings new knowledge and clinical implications to the field of suicidology. The organization looks to fulfill their mission through four strategies: provide crisis counseling to LGBTQ+ young people thinking of suicide, offer supportive counseling and a sense of community to young LGBTQ+ people in order to reduce suicide, educate young people and adults who interact with young people on LGBTQ+ competent suicide prevention, and advocate for laws and policies that will reduce suicide among LGBTQ+ young people.”
The Sentencing Project
Focused on criminal justice reform, this charity has successfully pushed legislative change, with recognition received from U.S. Senators as well as major university law professors.
From the charity’s web page:
“The Sentencing Project is a leader in changing the way Americans think about crime and punishment.
Founded in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.
Our work includes the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns, and strategic advocacy for policy reform. As a result of The Sentencing Project’s research, publications, and advocacy, many people know that this country is the world’s leader in incarceration; that racial disparities pervade the criminal justice system; that over six million Americans can’t vote because of felony convictions; and that thousands of women and children have lost food stamps and cash assistance as the result of convictions for drug offenses.”
From the charity’s Wikipedia:
“In 2010, The Sentencing Project contributed to the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act which reduced the disparities in sentences associated with convictions for possessing or trafficking in crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. Representatives of the organization have often testified before Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and other government and scholarly meetings…
Senate Minority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL), a leader of the bipartisan congressional reform effort, said of The Sentencing Project: “They bring to our attention those specific cases that we can use to dramatize the need to get this done. I can’t say enough for their research work.”…
The executive director of The Sentencing Project since 2005 is Marc Mauer, who has authored a number of books, articles and studies about the criminal justice system. University of Pittsburgh Law School Professor David Harris called Mauer “the go-to guy for any major media organization or any legislative body that wants the truth on what’s been happening with our prisons and our jails…. His testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2015… should be required reading for every public official in this country.”
See you next time with some April 2002 content!