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Ring of Honor:
Top 5 Defining Moments
In this post I will be looking at what I consider the Top 5 defining moments of Ring of Honor. These are moments that truly speak out and say “This is what ROH is all about”
Put yourself in the average ROH fans shoes in 2005. The news has spread like wild fire through the dirtsheets and across the Internet: CM Punk has accepted a WWE developmental contract. With [arguably] the biggest star in the company on the way out, the future may look a little dim; but at least you get to say goodbye to Punk in the best way. In his final match in the company, CM Punk will wrestle Austin Aries for the ROH World Championship at Death Before Dishonor III. And it truly is a special night and an incredible match, full of all the things you expect from ROH.
But then the unthinkable happens. CM Punk wins. He wins the match and the championship. He looks as shocked as anyone and the roof is about to be blown off by the crowd reaction. Punk takes a microphone, and a legend is born:
Right now, in my hands, as of this day 6/18/05, THIS becomes the most important belt in the world! This belt in the hands of any other man is just a belt, but in my hands it becomes power. Just like this microphone in the hands of any of the boys in the back is just a microphone, but in the hands of a dangerous man like myself it becomes a pipe-bomb. These words that I speak spoken but anybody else are just words strung loosely together to form sentences. What I say I mean, and what I mean I say, and they become anthems! You see, if I could be afforded the time here a little bit of a story. There was once an old man, walking home from work. He was walking in the snow, and he stumbled upon a snake frozen in the ice. He took that snake, and he brought it home, and he took care of it, and he thawed it out, and he nursed it back to health. And as soon as that snake was well enough, it bit the old man. And as the old man lay there dying he asked the snake, ‘Why? I took care of you. I loved you. I saved your life.’ And that snake looked that man right in the eye and said, ‘You stupid old man. I’m a snake.’ The greatest thing the devil ever did was make you people believe he didn’t exist…and you’re looking at him right now! I AM THE DEVIL HIMSELF! And all of you stupid, mindless people fell for it!
… This is my stage, this is my theatre, you are my puppets! When I pulled those marionette strings, and I moved your emotions, and I played with them, and honestly it’s ’cause I get off on it. I hate each and every single one of you with a thousand burns and I will not stop…I will not stop until I prove that I am better than you, that I am better than Low Ki, that I am better than AJ Styles! I’m better than Samoa Joe. Ladies and gentlemen, the champ is here! You don’t have to love it, but you better learn to accept it. ‘Cause I’m taking this with me, and there’s not a single person in that locker room that can stop me!”
It’s a moment that will live forever in infamy. ROH, the most smark friendly company seen since ECW just managed to completely swerve their hardcore fanbase. What followed that promo was three months of some of the best and most highly charged promo’s and matches in professional wrestling history as the fiendish CM Punk constantly teased the fanbase and fellow wrestlers that he would take the title with him to WWE. Pipebomb!
For a long time before this match, Bryan Danielson was seen as a hero to many in ROH. Here was this guy who is so clearly passionate about his job and is so ridiculously talented at doing it. But after this match, Bryan Danielson became more than just a man. He became myth. Barely five minutes into his match with the monstrous Takeshi Morishima, Danielson is caught with an elbow that completely dislocates his eye socket. This is five minutes in. Did Danielson lay down and get taken to hospital? No he didn’t, and twenty odd minutes later the match ended and the American Dragon’s legend continues to grow to this day. For any WWE fans reading, this match right here is why Bryan was legitimately angry his match with Randy Orton on Monday Night Raw was stopped due to injury.
It’s 2007. It’s a ladder match. El Generico and Kevin Steen v The Briscoe Brothers. Insane match. But that was only the beginning of the chaos of this night. A soon as the bell rings the Briscoe Brothers are assaulted in the ring by three guys-Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black and the Necro Butcher- who jumped the barricade. As a wrestling fan this is the kind of thing you see all the time. But this was something else and before anyone knew what was happening one of the most iconic and visceral scenes in wrestling history would unfold: Jay Briscoe was hung from the rafters with his blood literally raining down on Jimmy Jacobs. This was the debut of the Age of the Fall.
For months leading up to the event (ROH: Man Up!) there had been teases and little hints dropped throughout the Internet. They all led to one thing: Project 161. This style of long term and incredibly complex booking, that requires the watcher to be an active participant in the behind the scenes of the company is the best reason that the Age of the Fall typifies the mid to late 2000’s era of Ring of Honor.
Samoa Joe and CM Punk had a series of the most legendary matches in wrestling history. The second of these matches achieved a seemingly unthinkable task: Dave Meltzer gave it 5 stars. It was the first North American match to receive this honor in over five years and to date only one other match has received it: CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money In The Bank 2011. It wasn’t WWE who received this honor, it wasn’t TNA. It was the scrappy little Philadelphia company.
What is it that’s so good about the match? Honestly, everything. I know it’s a bit of a cop out to say it but it’s one of those that you really have to see for yourself to fully appreciate it. It really does have everything: two extremely popular wrestlers, a scorching hot crowd, unbelievable athleticism, pitch perfect timing and the weight of history behind it. It has to be seen to be believed.
The Briscoe Brothers are perhaps the most beloved tag team in ROH history. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin have the honor of belonging to a select group of wrestlers (along with Rey Mysterio, Edge, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio- all known as the “Smackdown Six”) who managed to make wrestling fans change their mind about Smackdown and made it into the flagship television show in the Ruthless Aggression era.
So when the self styled “World’s Greatest Tag-Team” showed up in Ring of Honor, it was a reflection of changing times in the North American wrestling industry. Five years previously ROH had lost it’s biggest star to WWE. More recently WWE had taken the legendary Bryan Danielson, with others supposedly on the way out. But the WGTT chose to come to ROH. No longer was WWE sticking with it’s tried and tested developmental process. While in the past it had produced such stars as John Cena, Dave Batista and Randy Orton, since 2006 or so the most exciting talent in wrestling was to be found outside WWE’s walls. With the talent raids WWE was acknowledging that wrestling did exist outside the “WWE Universe” and it wasn’t AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Chris Sabin or Samoa Joe that they went after, it was Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, El Generico, Chris Hero and Tyler Black. For all these reasons and more it is my opinion that the Briscoe and WGTT feud represents the point that Ring of Honor became the second most important wrestling company in the United States of America.
From the technical perfection of Joe/Punk II, the unbelievable resiliency and passion shown by Bryan Danielson or the brutality of the Age of the Fall. I believe that if you took all these moments and watched them back to back, a new comer would have a pretty good idea of what Ring of Honor Wrestling is all about.
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