This is another great piece of work from our Ring of Honor correspondent Steven Forrester. Check out the rest of his stuff here, and thanks for reading.
Top 5 ROH Matches
2002 – 2010
In this article I will be listing my top five matches from Ring of Honor from 2002 to 2010. I have chosen this period as I believe that between those 8 years is when the promotion was at it’s finest and most pure, and also when it’s best matches occurred.
A future article will go into the three years (and beyond) after those, but I feel that ROH is a very different beast than it was during it’s infancy and it’s apex. Extensive talent raids have cost ROH a solid core of it’s best wrestlers with no sign of WWE or TNA slowing down in their poaching of talent. From Bryan Danielson to Austin Aries and beyond, a large portion of ROH’s most historically significant wrestlers are now signed to either WWE or Impact Wrestling. It’s an unfortunate situation familiar to any student of professional wrestling history.
This poaching mirrors infamous raids by WWF and WCW in the mid to late 1990’s of Extreme Championship Wrestling, raids that led to the birth of stars such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, the Dudley Boyz and the infamous Chris Benoit, and also the raids of the old North American territories in the early 1980’s by WWF and the National Wrestling Association once wrestling moved into nationally syndicated television, the most famous result of that period is undoubtedly Hulk Hogan.
Also in 2010 the Sinclair Broadcasting Group purchased ROH, leading to a very different feel to the company. No longer a truly independent wrestling promotion, ROH has managed to consolidate it’s position in the world of wrestling, to the point that (in my opinion of course) it is now the number two promotion in the United States. No prizes for anyone who guesses number one.
However this growth has come at the price of a much more corporate friendly product and the departure of several of the people who were key in the development of the company, most importantly in my opinion being head booker Gabe Sapolsky who has gone on to set up EVOLVE Pro Wrestling and DragonGate USA. These two companies are much more in the vein of the early years of Ring of Honor. Long term and intricate booking has given way to old school, simplified angles that barely last beyond a single Internet Pay Per View. While this style has it’s own merits, it’s a far cry from the inventive booking that gave rise to things like the Summer of Punk, Generation Next and the Age of the Fall.
So with no further a do, these are my 5 favorite matches from Ring of Honor, 2002 to 2010:
1: Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima
Fight Without Honor
Final Battle 2008
For months on end the American Dragon had been chasing the monstrous Japanese heavyweight Morishima. In the first of their matches, the Dragon suffered through perhaps the most infamous (that little 18 seconds thing notwithstanding…) moment of his career when Morishima dislocated Bryan’s eye socket, an injury that still plagues him to this day. This match was billed as the payback that Bryan was so desperate to hand out. It’s an amazingly brutal match, full of vicious strikes and spots that leave you wondering just how these two athletes are still active. The highlight is undoubtedly the ending of the match that saw Bryan hitting Morishima with a never-ending flurry of strikes, with his elbow wrapped in a steel chain. This is the first match that comes to mind whenever I’m asked to recommend ROH.
Bryan and Morishima going at it
2: CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe
This is the match that ended the drought of PWI 5 star matches in North America. A follow up to their first incredible hour long match, this is in my opinion as close to a perfect match as you can find. Like the Steamboat/Flair feud of the late 1980’s, this match and the feud it was part of is the perfect example of what can happen when you put two wrestlers with amazing chemistry in the ring and give them the ball to run with. It’s a breathtaking show of stamina, resilience and skill. This is a match that any fan of professional wrestling has to see before they die.
Joe and Punk squaring off
3: ROH Vs. CZW – Cage of Death
Team ROH: Samoa Joe, Adam Pearce, BJ Whitmer, Ace Steel and Homicide Vs. Team CZW: Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Necro Butcher, Nate Webb and Eddie Kingston
Death Before Dishonor IV
2006 saw what few wrestling fans thought they would ever witness in North America: a successful invasion storyline between two competing wrestling companies. Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling couldn’t be any more different if they tried. They represent diametrically opposed ends of the wrestling spectrum. One company showcases sheer athleticism and technical ability. The other is built from the ground up on hardcore wrestling, where it’s more about the pain a wrestler is willing to put himself through than any idea of a ‘perfect’ match.
So when CZW wrestlers, spearheaded by Chris Hero, started showing up at and interrupting ROH shows, wrestling fans had a feeling that they were in for something special. Over the course of a few months ROH and CZW put on a series of amazing events that showed what the two companies were capable of. It all culminated in this match: the Cage of Death between team ROH and team CZW.
If you’ve never seen a Cage of Death match, it’s one of those matches that has to be seen to be believed. Picture a wrestling ring surrounded by a massive hexagonal cage and then fill it with dozens of different and deadly weapons. Then slap the classic War Games rules on top and you’ve got a recipe for destruction. This was the end of a massive feud and it featured something that I had never seen before: two sets of fans of different companies battling it out with their voices to support their guys. It also featured one of the most shocking moments in ROH history. The match itself is something of a car wreck: you just can’t look away.
Cage of Deathhttp://gumgod.com/host/images/cod_logo.JPG
4: Tyler Black vs. Bryan Danielson
This is a brilliant little match that in my opinion encapsulates everything that was, and still is to a large degree, so great about Ring of Honor. It featured two amazingly athletic wrestlers who both had a wealth of knowledge of different holds, strikes and counters. At times it featured classic slow paced technical brilliance, and at others it explodes into a blistering pace. It’s a match that you really have to see for yourself.
As an aside, this match (and many others) is why I still feel a little astounded when I realize that both Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) and Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) are both mainstays of the WWE roster right now, and in years to come are likely to be joined by other former ROH veterans like Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro), CM Punk, El Generico (Sami Zayn) and Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno). We could be seeing matches like this on a regular basis at events like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. It’s a lot to take in for a fan of a company that frequently gets shots thrown at it from TNA fans about the quality of it’s wrestling. In a few years the WWE roster will arguably be at the best it’s ever been (Golden Age and Attitude Era included) for pure wrestling talent. And a lot of that will have to do with the years those wrestlers spent with Ring of Honor.
Bryan and Black (the future of WWE)http://dailywrestlingnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/bryan-tyler.jpg
5: The Briscoe Brothers (with Papa Briscoe) vs. the Kings of Wrestling and Shane Hagadorn and Sara Del Rey)
Final Battle 2010
The last of my list is from my two favorite tag teams, at the end of my personal favorite feud in Ring of Honor history. The Briscoes and the Kings were certainly no strangers to each other but 2009 saw the bad blood reach boiling point over the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship. But the thing that pushed this over the top was the involvement of the managers. Papa Briscoe is exactly what he sounds like and Mike Hagadorn and Sara Del Rey were both key members of the Kings of Wrestling stable. With all these elements added together it led to something special.
Fast paced wrestling, quick tags, insane dives to the outside and brutal striking. It has everything you could want from a tag team match. This match is classic tag team wrestling and classic Ring of Honor at the same time.
Well I hope you enjoyed Steven’s piece. I personally thought it was his best yet. Hit ‘Follow’ for more Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling and of course WWE posts. Thanks for reading, and for supporting The Real Mid Card.