Tales from the Eastside Directory -Whew, finally finished with all the stuff I was writing! This is the "key ROH matches review" I've been promising for epochs. On a more down note, turns out WGTW shifted Wildside's timeslot from 1 am to midnight, so I ended up taping "A Different World" instead. I could give you a report on that ethnically-charged show with a message, but instead I'm going to see if I can get someone to send me the past two episodes of Wildside TV to review.

-Time for a NEW FEATURE~! It's called the "Eastside Spotlight"; it's kind of like the "Single Shot" I introduced last month, but more expansive. Basically, once a month, I find something in the world of wrestling to highlight (be it a company, a wrestler, a type of match, etc.) and I devote an entire column to it, reviewing relevant matches and giving commentary. I think Ring of Honor is the logical first choice for this column, since it's weekly TV show has just started and this is a good way to learn about all the big matches that most likely won't get shown (at least in complete form) on ROH TV. I was originally planning on reviewing the Chris Daniels vs. American Dragon vs. Low-Ki match from 2/23 and the Daniels/Dragon, Daniels/Ki and Ki/Dragon matches from 3/30, but they're going to be aired on ROH TV (albeit in clipped form) so I've decided to hold off on them for a bit. I'll probably review the unclipped versions in a standalone column.

-Starting off on 2/23, with "The Era of Honor begins". ROH's first show, and also a statement on what exactly ROH was offering (pure wrestling, no Sports Entertainment nonsense). Notable undercard matches saw Eddy Guerrero beat Super Crazy and Red beat Jay Briscoe. In the main event, Low-Ki beat American Dragon and Christopher Daniels with a Ki Krusher on Daniels in a match that went over twenty minutes and got universal praise. After the match, Daniels disrespected his opponents and Dragon reminded Ki that he was never pinned, so Ki set up a Round Robin series between the three for the 3/30 ROH show.

-Stemming from the shenanigans after the Ki vs. Dragon vs. Daniels match, we now go to 3/30 and "The Round Robin Challenge". Aside from the Round Robin matches, there was also an excellent Spanky vs. Jay Briscoe match that saw Spanky win to continue Jay's losing streak, and a very watchable match between James Maritato and Xavier (this aired in full on the debut ROH TV episode) where Xavier won via a jackknife cradle. The first Round Robin match (which was the opener) saw Daniels beat Dragon by submission with a Crossface hold in a little over fifteen minutes, after spending the majority of the match working over Dragon's neck. Daniels tried the same strategy against Ki in their match, but Ki was a fresher man and he was able to endure the neck work. Ki won by countering the Last Rites into the Dragon Clutch for the submission. The main event was an absolutely incredible match that saw Dragon beat Low-Ki. After over a half hour of action (with more than half of it dominated by intricate matwork), Dragon was able to lock on the Cattle Mutilation. Ki refused to submit and ended up passing out from the pain. If you're looking to buy an ROH tape this is probably the best of all their shows so far.

-Next up is 4/27, and the debuts of two very notable outsiders in Donovan Morgan and AJ Styles, who have matches with Chris Daniels and Low-Ki respectively. Also, the "Heartbreak Gauntlet" series, which saw Spanky win the gauntlet over Paul London, John Hope, Michael Shane and American Dragon (Spanky defeated Dragon in the final match of the gauntlet). Styles/Ki and Morgan/Daniels are the main event matches, and the matches featured here.

-AJ Styles vs. Low-Ki. The crowd chants "Low-Ki" while he makes his entrance. Ki slingshots into a tumble to enter the ring. Circling, then the two square off. Knucklelock, Ki breaks with a drop toehold and he floats over to a front chancery. Styles counters to an armbar, then to a front facelock when Ki makes it to his feet. Ki quickly flips Styles shoulders to the mat for a zero count, but Ki keeps up the attack with a ground side headlock. Styles with the headscissors counter, Ki tries to turn out and Styles tries for a head drive, but Ki grabs Styles legs and flips forward in a bridge (figure-four jackknife hold) for a two count. Both men back to their feet and we're gonna go again: Knucklelock, Ki forces Styles to his knees but Styles is able to fight back and force to fall backwards. Styles with a standing grapevine on one of Ki's legs while they're in the knucklelock, and he forces Ki backwards in a bridge, pinning his shoulders for two. Styles works the knucklelock for another two count. Ki is on the ground, fighting to keep his shoulders from falling, and he throws four kicks to Styles' leg to break the knucklelock. Styles and Ki are both back to a vertical base and we're gonna try that knucklelock one more time. Ki with a kick to Styles' theigh to quickly break it up, and Styles responds with an identical kick to Ki. Styles yells "c'mon!" and it looks like a kickfest is ready to erupt. The two exchange kicks starting at each other's legs but escalating higher with each kick, eventually they both throw high kicks at the same time and their feet collide. Styles tries a high kick but Ki ducks, then shoots him to the mat from behind. Ki floats over to a front chancery, but Styles powers out and flips Ki over into a pin for a one count. Ki back to the front chancery, but Styles breaks it with ease and goes to the mount. Styles trying a right, but Ki catches it and turns it into a Triangle Choke! Styles refuses to submit and counters out to a front chancery. Ki counters that by riding Styles to the mat in an armbar, then locking on a front chancery of his own. Styles chain wrestles his way out of that to an inverted chancery (or ground inverted facelock if you like). Styles wrestles Ki's shoulders down with the inverted chancery for a two count, but Ki bridges up before he can be pinned. Styles steps over to the mount and he flails away with three rights. Styles to his feet and he hits another right, but Ki fires back with a chop.

Staredown, but we're quickly back to the wrestling. Collar-and-elbow tieup, Ki with a pair of kicks to Styles' left leg to break. Ki with a kick to Styles head and a chop, then a snapmare. Ki cinches in a front facelock but Styles counters out to a single-leg takedown and pins Ki's shoulders for a one count. Styles with another quick pin attempt, this time an inside cradle, and he gets a two count. Styles wants a front facelock, but Ki blocks it with a hard kick to the face. Now Styles wants a single-leg takedown and Ki kicks him in the back of the head. Two chops by Ki and he whips Styles into a high kick while the crowd works up a "Low-Ki" chant. Styles quickly hits his kip-up headscissor takeover to Ki. Lariat attempted by Ki, Styles ducks and tries a roundhouse but Ki dodges that. Ki comes off the ropes and Styles hits him with a lariat, then covers for two. Front facelock by Styles and he adds a clubbing forearm. Styles with his swanktastic Vertical suplex into a neckbreaker, then he covers for another two count. "AJ" chant from the crowd. Stomp by Styles and then a right that sends Ki reeling back to the corner. Corner whip by Styles, trying an avalanche but Ki kicks him right in the mush to put a stop to that. Backbreaker out of the corner by Ki, then a powerdrive elbow. Cover by Ki, one, two, no. Well, Mutoh never got a pin with that so why should Ki? Chop by Ki but Styles fights back with a slap to the face, then a kneestrike and leaping enzuigiri. Ki rolls outside to take a powder and Styles follows, throwing a high kick that nails Ki right in the face, then a Superkick that lands right under Ki's chin. Ki leans against the guardrail, trying to catch a breather but Styles won't relent. Styles rolls Ki back in the ring and he covers, but only a two count. Brainbuster by Styles, another cover, again Ki kicks out at two. Right by Styles, Irish whip, Styles telegraphs the backdrop so Ki hits him with a rolling koppou kick! Ki follows up with a Yakuza Kick that sends Styles through the ropes and to the floor. Ki follows Styles to the floor and hits him with a chop. Styles rolled onto the apron and Ki hits him with a stepkick. Both men standing on the apron now, Ki with a pair of knees but Styles fires back with a pair of rights. Styles backdrops Ki back in the ring, but Ki lands on his feet and holds on to an inverted facelock, then turns that into a bodyscissors and Dragon Sleeper between the ropes! Think of a Tarantula Dragon Sleeper, kinda; a quick visit to Ki's odd little website reveals that he calls it "the Bite of the Dragon".

Ki breaks the BotD at the count of four, then he covers for a two count. Ki Monkeys Up and sets Styles up for the Ki Krusher but Styles counters with a DDT! Styles going for the Styles Facebuster (1), but Ki rolls through that to a Dragon Sleeper! Ki's going for the Dragon Clutch, but Styles holds on so that Ki can't get the Camel Clutch part of the move on correctly. Styles gets to his feet and Ki puts on an inverted facelock. Styles reverses to an inverted facelock of his own, trying to wrestle Ki into a Camel Clutch (or maybe the Dragon Clutch?) but Ki is able to counter to a waistlock. Ki going for a waistlock roll-up, Styles grabs the ropes to block and throws two back elbows to break the waistlock. Styles springboards off the second rope with his quebrada inverted DDT (2), then covers for a close two count. Whip by Styles and he tries for a 'rana but Ki immediately counters to a Jackknife Powerbomb, one, two, NO! VERY late kickout from Styles. Donnie B tries to sell that it was actually a three count and calls it "controversial" but he's an idiot so we'll just move on. Ki with four stepkicks to Styles, then he Monkeys Up and delivers three more. Kick to the leg by Ki and he delivers two more stepkicks, another kick to the leg, then he finishes off the brutality with three more stepkicks. That was fourteen nasty kicks in rapid succession, for those of you keeping score. Cover by Ki, one, two, Styles somehow gets the shoulder up. Ki with a chop and a whip, Styles reverses and goes for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker but Ki goes behind and takes Styles over with a Tiger Suplex hold! Ki gets yet another two count. Ki with a whip, but Styles reverses and turns Ki into a lariat. German suplex by Styles, and he rolls through to the Styles Facebuster! Cover by Styles, but it's not enough to but Ki away and he kicks out at two. Styles with a facelock and he sets up for a brainbuster, but Ki blocks it twice and counters to a gourdbuster! Ki covers, but again Styles manages to get the shoulder up before the three count. Chops by Ki and Styles falls back into the corner. Corner whip by Ki and he hits the Tidal Crush, then pulls Styles into position. Stardust Press attempted, but Styles gets the knees up! That looked kind of ugly. Styles with a SICK Cliffhanger (3), almost a Canadian backbreaker to Emerald Frosion there. Cover by Styles, one, two, NO! Another close nearfall. Styles going to the top floor, trying the Spiral Tap but Ki rolls out of the way. Ki with a right, Styles with a right, Ki, Styles, Ki with a slap, Styles with a slap, Ki with a chop, Styles with a chop and Ki ends the strikefest with a hard kick to the back of the head. Ki with a facelock, setting Styles up for the Ki Krusher but Styles blocks with two kneelifts. Styles going for another Cliffhanger, but Ki counters into an inside cradle for the flash pin (19:13, 84). Donnie the Jackass tries to sell more "controversy" but not even Styles is disputing that it was three.

This was a good match, not great but extremely watchable. It was kind of like a class in "East Coast Indy Wrestling 101": Start with matwork, finish with highspots and headdrops, throw in some hard strikes and you've got a match everyone will love! This aspired to be no more than that, but it was very good for what it was. Ki threw in some moves you don't normally see from him (backbreaker, Tiger suplex) and Styles stayed away from the excessive flipping and flopping. In fact, this was a really good performance from Styles, as he stuck to what he does best (selling, late kickouts; basically, getting the crowd behind him). Overall, it's a good match as long as you don't think about it too much.

-Donovan Morgan vs. Christopher Daniels. Daniels gets a surprising face reaction (he is the top heel in ROH after all); he gets a "Fal-Len Angel" chant as he enters while some ringside fans display a "Fallen Angel is Our God" sign. Referee John Finnegan reads the rules to both men and Daniels seems pretty uninterested. Waistlock by Morgan to start, standing switch by Daniels but he goes down courtesy of a drop toehold by Morgan. Morgan with a single-leg crab attempt but Daniels won't let him turn it completely, so Morgan goes to a front chancery. Daniels grabs one of Morgan's arms and counters to a ground hammerlock. Daniels with a kneedrop or two to Morgan's arm while the ground hammerlock is applied. Morgan makes it back to a vertical base and he gets a single-leg takedown on Daniels. Morgan to a ground side headlock, but Daniels flips it over for a quick two count. Morgan right back to the headlock, turning to a hammerlock but Daniels counters out of that with a fireman's carry takeover to an armbar. Morgan counters to a headscissors, really wrenching it in. Daniels struggles, but he's able to make it to the ropes for a break. Collar-and-elbow, Morgan with a waistlock but Daniels counters with a side headlock takeover to an armbar. Daniels to a ground side headlock, Morgan reverses and then chain wrestles to a wristlock. Daniels flips out and reverses to one of his own, but Morgan reverses to a wristlock and single-leg takedown. Morgan throws off Daniels leg and immediately straps on a ground headlock. Daniels gets to his feet and tries to shoot Morgan off into the ropes, but Morgan keeps hold of the side headlock. Morgan tightens the headlock, and Daniels face is actually turning purple! Daniels again tries to throw Morgan off into the ropes, but again Morgan has the headlock on too tight and he's able to maintain the hold. Daniels with a pair of elbows and finally he's able to send Morgan into the ropes. Morgan connects with a shoulderblock, then he comes off the ropes...right back into the ground side headlock! This is brilliant. Daniels with a Back suplex to Morgan to break the headlock, but when Morgan gets to his feet he once again reapplies the headlock. Corino talks about how fans today have been taught to think headlocks are boring, but it's actually a very effective move. Daniels throws Morgan off into the ropes, Morgan tries a lariat but Daniels ducks and he drops Morgan on his neck with a Back suplex. Daniels may have gotten the upper hand but he holds his neck, suffering the effects of Morgan's headlock.

Daniels with a cravate, cranking it in before snapmaring Morgan over and hitting a kneedrop to the face. Cover by Daniels and Morgan kicks out at two. Daniels with two elbows across the back of Morgan's neck and then he whips Morgan into a hiptoss. Legdrop right across Morgan's neck, and Daniels covers for two again. The story here is obvious, as Daniels is trying the same strategy he used against Ki and Dragon in the Round Robin matches, attacking Morgan's neck to set up for the Last Rites and Angel's Wings. Irish whip by Daniels, then a backdrop to keep up the assault on the neck. Back suplex by Daniels and a cover, one, two, no. Headbutt by Daniels and he tries a scoop slam, but Morgan gets a go-behind and waistlock. Daniels breaks the waistlock with a pair of elbows but he's thrown into the ropes. Gutshot by Morgan and he sets up for the Fisherman's Neckbreaker, Daniels blocks and tries a more standard neckbreaker but Morgan won't go over. Daniels tries another move, this time a Northern Lights suplex, but Morgan counters to a neckbreaker. Keep in mind that Morgan's finishers (Fisherman's Neckbreaker and the Sayonara (4)) also target the neck. Morgan tangles Daniels in the ropes and pulls back on his neck. Snap suplex by Morgan and a cover, but only two. Headscissors and armbar locked in by Morgan, but Daniels uses his free arm to throw elbows to break the hold. Morgan with a snapmare and dropkick to the back of the head. Morgan lays Daniels under the bottom rope and goes out to the floor to give him an elbow and forearm across the neck. Irish whip by Morgan and he tries a hiptoss, but Daniels does the Rocker Dropper feign flipout and goes for a lariat, but Morgan ducks. Daniels is more successful when he runs off the ropes with a lariat. Whip by Daniels and his dropkick finds the mark. Cover by Daniels, but it's not enough and Morgan kicks out.

Daniels with forearms, then he comes off the ropes (presumably for another lariat) and he's surprised with a sunset flip by Morgan! It only gets two before Daniels gets a pinning predicament of his own for two. Morgan flips that back the other way for a two count, Daniels flips it forward for another two but that's countered into a kneebar by Morgan! Daniels is too close to the ropes and he's able to force a break. Jawbreaker by Daniels and he sets up for the STO, but Morgan counters with a lariat! Release Vertical suplex by Morgan and he covers, but Daniels is able to kick out. Forearm by Morgan, another and then he sends Daniels off the ropes and right into a hard back elbow. Another cover by Morgan, and once again Daniels manages to get the shoulder up. Corner whip by Morgan and he tries an avalanche, but Daniels blocks with a back elbow. Morgan again trying to lariat Daniels in the corner, and this time Daniels counters with a boot to the face. Daniels is out of the corner and Morgan tries the lariat one more time. Daniels counters once again, this time tossing Morgan across the ring with a German suplex! Lariat by Daniels and an elbow, he feigns a right causing Morgan to drop down- getting himself in perfect position for a neckbreaker from the Fallen Angel. Daniels with a slow crawl to a cover, and Morgan kicks out at two. Daniels snaps Morgan to the mat with the STO and he goes up top. Double Jump Moonsault by Daniels hits perfectly and he covers, one, two, NO! Daniels doesn't allow himself to be frustrated and he stays on Morgan, running him back-first into the corner. Morgan gets cinched on the second rope and Daniels cracks him with a Shotei for good measure. Daniels going for the Iconoclasm, but Morgan kicks him off twice, then he leaps off the second rope with a DDT that drives Daniels right to the mat! Cover by Morgan, getting a very close two count as Daniels is just able to kick out.

Morgan whips Daniels stomach-first into the corner, then gives him a lariat right to the back of the neck. Back suplex out of the corner by Morgan and he covers again, but somehow Daniels manages to get the shoulder up in time. Whip by Morgan, Daniels reverses and he surprises Morgan with a single-leg cradle, Morgan swiftly kicks out at two but he gets taken right down into the Crossface! The Crossface was enough to beat American Dragon on 3/30, can it beat Morgan? Not this time, as Morgan's able to get his foot on the bottom rope to force a break. Daniels continues to work the neck, applying a tight side headlock. Morgan throws Daniels off the ropes but Daniels hits a shoulderblock and drops right into a cover, but Morgan won't stay down for three. Daniels comes off the ropes, Morgan drops down and tries to catch him as he comes the other way with a lariat but Daniels ducks, grabs a waistlock and drops back into a schoolboy for another nearfall. Morgan fights back with a forearm and a nasty lariat, but Daniels isn't going to stay down either and he kicks out. Corner whip by Morgan and he charges, but Daniels backdrops him to the apron. Daniels tries to lariat him to the floor, Morgan ducks and hits a back elbow. Shoulderblock through the ropes by Daniels but Morgan shrugs it off and tries to slingshot in with a sunset flip. Daniels rolls through, going for Last Rites but Morgan hooks Daniels' leg and counters to the Fisherman's Neckbreaker! Morgan leaning back to a cover, one, two, Daniels gets his foot on the rope! Morgan makes sure that it was only a two count. Morgan winding up for a lariat but Daniels ducks. Scoop slam attempted by Daniels, go-behind by Morgan to a waistlock, Daniels with a standing switch but Morgan throws a pair of back elbows to break that and hits another Fisherman's Neckbreaker! Morgan goes RIGHT into a cover (making it like a Fisherman's Neckbreaker hold) and gets the hard-earned pin (13:16, 90). The two show each other respect after the match, foreshadowing Morgan's move to join The Prophecy.

This is one of those matches that makes you mark out for matwork. The headlock sequence at the beginning of this match was simple, yet more effective and much more engrossing then all of the borderline pointless matwork in Ki/Styles. This wasn't a fancy match; it was old-style all the way, with the addition of some brutal suplexes to keep things interesting. Daniels and Morgan were given pretty much equal amounts of offense overall, and both men kept it interesting and psychologically sound. There was no wasted motion (with the possible exception of Morgan's kneebar), as both men targeted the neck- a bodypart that was being worked over from the very beginning with Morgan's side headlock on Daniels. My only real quibble is the lack of face/heel structure, but given the overall strength of this match it's easy to forgive that fault. Probably the best match I've ever seen out of Morgan, easily besting his NOAH stuff and the Super 8 '02 finals with Styles.

-We conclude our journey through ROH with a stop at the 6/22 show, which saw the ROH World Heavyweight title tournament to narrow down four competitors for a sixty minute Iron Man match on 7/27. To keep my own sanity (since I've reviewed quite a bit of wrestling so far in this column), I'm only going to review the tournament final matches here, with the exception of Spanky vs. Paul London, which was easily the best first round match and well worthy of mention.

-Spanky vs. Paul London in the ROH World Heavyweight title tournament Block A semifinals. Both men trained at the Texas Wrestling Academy under Shawn Michaels, so they know each other pretty well going into this match. Their primary trainer from TWA, Rudy Boy Gonzalez, is at ringside. Collar-and-elbow tieup London with a waistlock that is quickly countered into an armbar by Spanky. Spanky goes to the wristlock, London flips out and reverses to his own wristlock. Spanky flips out, but instead of countering back to his wristlock he takes London over with a headscissors into a cradle (Jimmy Rave uses a variation on this move)! It only gets two, as of course we're only in the opening stages of this match. Spanky with a gutshot and then he knucklelocks London, chaining from there to a wristlock and ground hammerlock. Spanky bridges over while applying the ground hammerlock, putting on a swank little submission hold. London gets to his feet but he's still in the hammerlock, and Spanky turns it into a wristlock. London reverses to his wristlock but Spanky hooks London's arm and puts on a standing armbar to counter. Spanky with a forearm or two while keeping the armbar on, he throws London off the ropes but London reverses. London trying to take Spanky over with a hiptoss, but Spanky reverses to a monkey flip. London's down and Spanky charges him, allowing London to shift the momentum with a drop toehold. London floats over to a front chancery, but Spanky breaks that by charging London back-first into the corner. Spanky with a pair of shoulderblocks in the corner, then he whips London to the opposite corner. London reverses and goes for an avalanche, but Spanky backdrops him to the apron. London with a forearm to Spanky, then he slingshots in over the ropes with a flying headscissors! London with an armdrag, Japanese armdrag and dropkick in rapid succession. Whip, Spanky reverses but he telegraphs the backdrop and London flips over him. Spanky throws a chop but London ducks and gets thrown off into the ropes. Spanky tries to catch London with a gutshot, but London catches it, throws off Spanky's leg and pummels him a brutal spinning heel kick!

Spanky rolls outside to take a little break. London looks ready to dive out onto him, but Spanky moves and London has to halt himself. Spanky gets on the apron and shoulderblocks London through the ropes, Spanky flips in over London but his lariat attempt is ducked. London attempting a hiptoss, but Spanky grabs the ropes to block and then he takes London over with a Reverse suplex! Back suplex by Spanky and he covers, one, two, no. The camera cuts to see Rudy Boy looking on attentively. Whip by Spanky and he hits London in the face with a jumping back elbow. Spanky covers again and London kicks out at two. Cravat by Spanky, London breaks the hold with a knee and two forearms. Whip, Spanky reverses and telegraphs the backdrop again. London attempts a sunset flip, but Spanky counters by turning out and kneedropping London in the face! Spanky taps his toe (ala Shawn Michaels signalling for Sweet Chin Music) and then sprints into a sliding dropkick that hits London right in the face! If I'm Paul London, I'm thinking something along the lines of "It'd be nice if Spanky would stop hitting me right in the face" right now. Spanky covers, one, two, no. Spanky attempts to pull London to his feet, London with some punches to the midsection to try and turn things around but Spanky hits a right and follows up with a Snap suplex, floating over into a cover but London gets the shoulder up at two. Spanky with a forearm or two, London fires back with one of his own, Spanky, London, Spanky, London, London, and London with one more forearm to give us a decisive winner in that strikefest. Corner whip by London, Spanky nips up and tries to run London face-first into the turnbuckle but London hits a back elbow to stop him. London vaults up to the second rope, then he flies off with a twisting senton bodyblock! London made good contact on that move but it looks like it took a lot out of him as well. London steadies himself in the corner, Spanky tries to charge in with an avalanche but London puts up his boot to block. Gutshot by London and some forearms. Corner whip, Spanky nips up and catches London with a flying headscissors all in one motion! Spanky tries to follow up with a dropkick, but London dodges it and connects with a Superkick! He made perfect contact with that and Spanky is out, while the crowd works up a "Holy Shit" chant. Gonzalez yells, "Go for a cover, Paul!" but it doesn't look like London is heeding his trainer's advice, instead crawling to the corner. Spanky throws some rights but London blocks them and goes to the top rope. Spanky sprints up top to meet London, but London shoves him right back down. London flying off with the Shooting Star Press, but Spanky rolls out of the way and London crashes to the mat! Spanky going for Sliced Bread #2 (the Shiranui for all of you Marufuji fans out there), but London counters by throwing Spanky onto the top rope and crotching him. Spanky is left stradling the ropes, and London springboards off of the near ropes into an enzuigiri that sends Spanky to the floor! "Lon-Don" chant from the crowd. Spanky is rolled back in the ring, London gets on the apron and slingshots in to a Quebrada. Cover by London, one, two, Spanky kicks out! London pulls Spanky to his feet, Spanky with forearms and he tries for a Back suplex onto the top rope but London springboards off the top rope to his feet. London drills Spanky with a Tiger suplex setup to face-first powerbomb, then he covers, but Spanky kicks out at the last second! Scoop slam and he signals to the crowd, then goes to the top rope. Maybe he's going for the SSP again, but we'll never know as Spanky crotches him on the ropes. Spanky joins London on the top floor, going for a Superplex but London blocks with a knee, so Spanky gives London an OUT OF CONTROL Front Superplex! Spanky Front Superplexed London from regular Superplex position, off the top rope, and London landed right on his head! Insane. Spanky covers, but he neglects to hook the leg and London is able to kick out in time. Spanky with a Snap Brainbuster (!), and now he's going to the top rope. London dropkicks Spanky in the back, but Spanky still maintains his footing. Now London is sprinting up the ropes to try and attack Spanky, but Spanky kicks him off. Moonsault by Spanky, London ducks out of the way but Spanky lands on his feet. London tries a roundhouse kick, Spanky ducks and grabs London, then drops him with Sliced Bread #2! It's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it's enough for Spanky to get the fall (9:52, 86) and advance to the Block A finals. This may have been a spotfest, but it didn't feel like a spotfest. It felt like a cohesive match, with buildup for all the big spots. Everything hit crisply, and Spanky did a really good job holding things together. London continues to show why he's the most underrated indy talent out there (see also his tag match with Adam Windsor vs. Blackout in Wildside). This was twenty minutes of action condensed into ten minutes, and it's another accomplishment for Spanky, who is turning into a ligit world class worker.

-Jody Fleisch vs. Spanky in the ROH World Heavyweight title tournament Block A finals. Fleisch beat Jonny Storm in a disappointing match to advance here. After the obligatory Handshake of Honour, the two circle. Collar-and-elbow tieup, Spanky with a wristlock. Fleisch reverses to one of his own, Spanky tries to reverse back but Fleisch cartwheels out and maintains his wristlock. Fleisch wrenches it in but Spanky reverses back to his wristlock, and turns it into a hammerlock. Fleisch counters to a hammerlock of his own, then leapfrogs Spanky from the hammerlock. Fleisch with a roll to his feet, right into a legsweep from Spanky. Fleisch with a whip, dropping down and then leapfrogging Spanky has he comes the other way. Armdrag by Fleisch, Spanky with an armdrag of his own in response. Spanky goes for another armdrag, but Fleisch blocks and steps over with La Majistral for a two count. Spanky rolls outside to collect himself. Once he re-enters, Spanky grabs a hammerlock on Fleisch. Fleisch feels around while in the hammerlock, looking for a counter. He tries a snapmare, lifting himself high in the air but he's unable to get Spanky to release the hammerlock. Again trying the snapmare, this time Spanky grabs the ropes to prevent being taken over. Fleisch rolls out of the hammerlock to his feet, slides under Spanky's legs and catches the new Showstopper with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors! Spinning heel kick by Fleisch and Spanky again takes a powder.

Fleisch attempts to fly out onto Spanky with a Spaceman Plancha, but Spanky is able to crotch Fleisch when he goes for the springboard. Spanky points to his head- he's smart, you know! Spanky slingshots back into the ring with a senton to Fleisch's back. Vertical suplex by Spanky, floating over into a cover for a two count. Wristlock by Spanky, into an Irish whip and a leg lariat that catches Fleisch right in the mush. Spanky covers, hooking the leg but Fleisch still kicks out at two. Cravat hold by Spanky, then he spins Fleisch out and into a Back suplex. Another cover by Spanky, and once again Fleisch kicks out at two. Fleisch with a trio of uppercuts and he tries a whip, Spanky reverses. Spanky going for the Telegraphed Backdrop, so Fleisch kicks Spanky in the head. Fleisch tries a lariat, Spanky ducks and goes for Sliced Bread #2 but Fleisch counters that by dumping Spanky on the apron. A spinkick by Fleisch sends Spanky to the floor, and it looks like the Phoenix is going to fly. Fleisch with a SICK Asai Moonsault, catching about 10% Spanky and 90% guardrail! Ouch. Give it a replay! Fleisch slowly gets to his feet, earning a round of applause from the crowd and a "Jo-Dy" chant. Spanky is rolled into the ring and Fleisch goes to the top floor. Fleisch tries for the Shooting Star Press, but Spanky moves out of the way...and Fleisch lands on his feet! Lariat by Spanky, Fleisch ducks and goes for a 'rana. Spanky holds on and tries for a powerbomb, but Fleisch drops behind and rolls through to a sunset flip- one, two, no. Corner whip by Fleisch, Spanky reverses, Spanky tries an avalanche but Fleisch floats through the ropes (kind of like a mortal if you want to get all lucha about it) to get out of the way. Spanky is temporarily stunned, so Fleisch springboards off the far ropes and tries the 720 DDT, but Spanky ducks and latches on a modified La Majistral- one, two, no!Rights by Spanky and a whip, Fleisch with the armwringer reversal right into a fireman's carry but Spanky drops out of that and quickly catches Fleisch with Sliced Bread #2! Spanky covers for the pin (5:52, 83) and he's the first man to advance to the 7/27 ROH title Iron Man match!

Spanky poses and struts like only he can after the match, then (after much deliberation and weighing of the possibilities) shares a handshake with Fleisch. Man, everything Spanky does is awesome, isn't it? This was as good a sprint as you can accomplish with six minutes, all action and no downtime. Fleisch has impressed greatly in his little mini-tour of the US, having an excellent match in CZW with Jonny Storm (as well as pretty good matches with Ruckus and Trent Acid, although both matches were spot-heavy they were pretty entertaining, and the BotB '02 finals with Acid was very dramatic and exciting with the finish) and a good match here with Spanky. Of course, Spanky is the second best worker in ROH (behind American Dragon) and he did his usual great job here.

-Doug Williams vs. American Dragon in the ROH World Heavyweight title tournament Block C finals. Williams beat Jay Briscoe to make it here, while Dragon beat fellow Texas Wrestling Academy trainee Bio-Hazard in a short match. Dragon calls out "You and me! You and me!" to Williams while he makes his entrance. Collar-and-elbow, Dragon with a side headlock that's quickly countered to a side throwover by Williams. Collar-and-elbow again, Williams with a facelock that's broken up by an armdrag by Dragon. Williams goes for a single-leg trip but Dragon counters by grabbing Williams leg and hitting an enzuigiri! A third collar-and-elbow tieup, Williams with a wristlock, turning it into a hammerlock but Dragon kicks him off. Snapmare by Dragon, but Williams immediately goes back to the hammerlock before Dragon can try another hold. Dragon with another snapmare to break the hammerlock, trying for a side headlock but Williams floats through and goes back to the hammerlock yet again! Williams turns it back to a wristlock, Dragon again with a snapmare and this time he adds a kick to the back to prevent any immediate countering by Williams. Reverse chinlock by Dragon, Williams counters out to a wristlock in short order. Dragon reverses to a wristlock of his own, trying to stepover into a kick but Williams counters that into an over-the-shoulder leg takedown. I am loving this match so far. Collar-and-elbow, Williams with a waistlock takedown and he grapevines the legs so he's on top of Dragon, putting pressure on the legs and trying to force Dragon's shoulders to the mat. Williams with a forearm as he continues to try to pin Dragon's shoulders, another forearm attempted but Dragon grabs it and rolls through to an armbar. Dragon switches from the armbar to a headscissor, really torquing it in. Williams turns out so his head is flat on the mat, so Dragon tries to turn that into a pin (in kind of a mutated Gedo Clutch that still looks good), but Williams ducks through and hooks on a reverse Indian Deathlock, going from there to a front chancery! Dragon gets to his feet but Williams keeps hold of the front facelock, which Dragon breaks with a single-leg takedown to an anklelock. Williams tries to keep his shoulders from falling to the mat while using his good leg to try and kick Dragon off. Twice Williams is unsuccessful at getting Dragon to break the hold, but a third time he does manage to kick him off. Dragon backs Williams into the ropes and tosses him the other way with a Judo throw, and then they standoff to a round of well-deserved applause. Collar-and-elbow, to a knucklelock. Dragon forces Williams to his knees, trying to force Williams' shoulders to the mat. Williams blocks with a front bodyscissors, alleviating the pressure somewhat. Williams then blows my mind with this incredibly swanky submission hold, going from the bodyscissors to using his legs to split Dragon's legs far apart while pulling back on Dragon's arms! However, Williams is still on his back and he lets his shoulders fall for a one count, forcing him to be more careful and having to break the hold. Williams goes back to the front bodyscissors, Dragon with a forearm to try to get him to break, Williams fires back with a forearm of his own, Dragon with another forearm in return. Williams lets his shoulders fall to the mat again for another one count and Dragon gives him another forearm, so Williams finally decides to break the front bodyscissors. Williams does keep on working Dragon's midsection, though, this time locking on an Abdominal Stretch. Dragon gets stretched for a bit before he's able to counter out to a waistlock, trying to push Williams off the ropes into a waistlock rollover but Williams grabs the top rope to prevent being cradled. Eventually Williams does get taken over, but he's able to roll all the way through to his feet. Williams with a stomp or two for Dragon and he whips him into the ropes, Dragon ducks a lariat and then ducks a chop, trying for a crossbody but Williams catches him and gives him a backbreaker. Williams isn't done, pulling back on Dragon's limbs after the backbreaker (while Dragon is still bent over Williams' knee) and turning it into a submission hold! Dragon refuses to give, so Williams turns it into a Bow-and-Arrow hold. Dragon flails, trying to find the ropes, leading to Williams adding a chinlock to the Bow-and-Arrow to really stretch Dragon! Dragon eventually is able to get a rope break and Williams taunts him, making "c'mon!" gestures to the beaten and stretched Dragon. Williams with a wristlock, turning that to a double-arm hammerlock and then throwing Dragon over with a double-arm hammerlock suplex! First cover of the match by Williams and he gets a two count. Williams continues to work over Dragon's midsection, this time with a reverse Gory Special. Dragon still refuses to submit, so Williams runs him stomach first into the turnbuckle from the Gory Special! Dragon is left hanging in the corner, leaving him open to a dropkick to the back from Williams. European uppercut by Williams. Dragon is whipped into the corner and Williams charges into him with a running kick to the throat, then Williams runs off the ropes with a high knee. Williams to the top rope, flying off with the Bomb Scare kneedrop to Dragon's back! Looks like Williams hurt his knee on the landing, giving Dragon the opening he's been looking for all match. Dragon to his feet and he works over Williams' knee with a Dragon Screw legwhip. Dragon with a standing anklelock, the same move he used earlier in the match except now it has much more of an effect on Williams. Williams with four kicks using his good leg to try and get Dragon to break, but Dragon doesn't let go and instead drops back into a Cross Kneescissors. Williams rolls under the ropes and to the floor, but Dragon still won't break the hold! Looks like Dragon learned that from his 3/30 match with Low-Ki when Ki put on a Cobra Clutch and Dragon rolled to the floor but Ki still kept the hold on. Dragon puts Williams on the apron and goes to suplex him back into the ring, but Williams blocks twice and suplexes Dragon out to the floor! Dragon is rolled in and Williams tries for another Vertical suplex. Dragon drops behind and grabs a waistlock, but Williams counters that with a gutwrench to a Kiwi Roll! Williams doesn't hold on to the roll into a cover, instead choosing to paste Dragon with a Euro forearm. Corner whip by Williams, but an avalanche is stopped when Dragon blocks with his boot. Dragon trying a lariat out of the corner, Williams ducks and smoothly floats over into another corner whip, again trying the avalanche. Dragon moves, Williams sticks out his leg to stop himself from hitting the corner and he's able to come out of the corner with the Revolution DDT! Donnie B, the jackass, says both the Bomb Scare kneedrop ("flies off the top rope") and Revolution DDT ("spinning DDT") were "unorthodox" moves for Williams, despite the fact that they're two of his signature moves. Gargiulo would've known that, dammit! WE WANT ERIC!

Anyway, Williams covers after the Revolution DDT, one, two, Dragon kicks out! Williams with a Euro uppercut, another, trying a third but Dragon catches it and turns it into a chickenwing, going from there into an elevated front chancery suplex! Williams stumbles to the corner, Dragon pulls him out. Now it's Dragon with a Euro uppercut! Williams with a Euro uppercut of his own in return, Dragon, Williams, Dragon with a Euro forearm, Williams, Dragon, Williams, Dragon, Williams tries coming off the ropes with a forearm but Dragon meets him with a forearm at the same time and both men go down! Dragon's back to his feet first and he takes Williams over with his signature Snap Butterfly suplex. Dragon going to the top rope, and he drops a Diving Headbutt onto Williams! Cover by Dragon, Williams with a late kickout. Dragon pulls Williams to his feet and chops him, whip into the corner, Williams nips up and takes Dragon over from behind with the roll-through German suplex (5)! It beat Jay Briscoe! Williams holding the bridge, one, two, NO! Williams is in disbelief. Dragon pulled up by his hair, Williams with a forearm and an Irish whip. Armwringer reversal by Dragon and he kicks Williams, then knocks him loopy with a high kick. Williams cinched up on the top rope, and brought down the hard way with a Back Superplex from Dragon! Both men are down, Dragon crawls over and rolls Williams onto his back and covers him, but he can only get a two count! Dragon wants to finish things now and he hooks Williams up for the Cattle Mutilation, but as Dragon bridges back Williams bridges up to his feet and he turns Dragon into a Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex! Williams goes from the Ocean Cyclone to a neck bridge and cradle, one, two, three (13:39, 93)! Doug Williams gets a huge upset! Dragon was the clear favourite here to advance to the 7/27 title match, but I have no problem at all with Williams advancing.

This was a matwork classic, every bit as good as the hype for it lead me to believe, and better than their King of the Indies '01 match. The opening matwork was awesome, very back-and-forth without coming off as masturbatory (CM Punk, on commentary in IWA-MS, once commented on the chain wrestling/respect standoff sequence by saying "Oh look, we can all wrestle, good for us, clap clap clap" which, cruel as it sounds, is pretty on target). Once Williams took control he kept things interesting, working over Dragon's midsection. It sounds like a rather broad target but Williams attacks always felt effective. The finishing sequence was very good, they didn't kill Dragon's Back Superplex as he delayed heavily before covering, and Dragon kicking out of the Chaos Theory and Revolution DDT established that Williams would have to pull out something new to defeat Dragon. Also, Dragon was sufficiently worn down enough that it was believable he couldn't put as much behind the Cattle Mutilation as he would normally, making it easier for Williams to counter out to the Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex. Just great stuff all around.

-Red vs. Low-Ki in the ROH World Heavyweight title tournament Block D finals. Red beat Xavier to make it to this match, while Ki KOed Prince Nana with a high kick to advance. Staredown between the two while the crowd chants "You Killed Nana" at Ki. Red doesn't let go of the Handshake of Honour right away, opting to throw a right at Ki before breaking. Ki responds with a kick to Red's leg. Red and Ki square off, looks like we're setting up for a knucklelock- nope, Ki throws another kick to Red's leg but Red dodges it and nails Ki with a savate kick. Ki backs off into the corner, Red runs in and tries for a monkey flip but Ki throws him off. Red lands on his feet but Ki rages out of the corner with some Angry Monkey lunging punches, there's a left, a right, a left, a right, a left, trying another right but Red catches it. Legsweep by Ki and he tries a guillotine kick to the grounded Red, but Red slides through Ki's legs. Another guillotine kick, Red dodges it and throws a kick that hits Ki in the ass instead. Red tries a punch, Ki blocks and throws a left, then a right. Red stumbles back to the corner, Ki growls and charges but Red gets the boot up. Ki drops down for a monkey flip but Red does a tumbling leap over Ki, then lands on his feet while Ki also lands on his feet with a flip of his own at the same time. They standoff while the crowd goes insane. I guess you had to be there, because to me that looked goofy and incredibly choreographed.

Ki and Red square off again and lace knuckles. Ki puts a knee up to Red while they're in the knucklelock and forces him back into the corner. Knucklelock bridge by Ki to pin Red's shoulders to the mat for a one count, then Ki starts peppering Red with forearms while in the knucklelock (three in all). Ki still has the knucklelock on and he tries to monkey flip Red, but Red holds on and pins Ki's shoulders to the mat, getting a one count. Ki shoots Red back into the corner, Red turns out with a kick but Ki blocks it. Another kick attempted by Red and Ki blocks again, Red with a third kick and this time Ki catches it and hits a Dragon Screw legwhip. Red tries a legsweep kick while he's on the ground but Ki evades it and nails Red with two hard kicks to the chest. Ki Monkeys Up and goes for the Angry Monkey Kick, but Red blocks by legsweeping Ki's other leg, then he hits a quick Red Star Press! Cover by Red, Ki kicks out at two. You know Red's getting angry because he just threw off his 'do rag! Clubbing forearm by Red and he chops Ki. Corner whip by Red, Ki reverses and charges but Red gets the boot up. Red flies off the second rope with...something. Whatever it was, it sure was ugly. Red covers for another two count. More clubbing forearms and chops by Red, another corner whip, Ki again reverses. Red nips up, does a superflous tumble and tries a 'rana, Ki holds to counter to a powerbomb. Red backflips off of Ki's shoulders, so Ki immediately catches him with a rolling koppou kick! Ki pulls Red up by his 'fro, hitting him with a trio of chops. Whip into the corner by Ki and he goes for the Tidal Crush, but Red springs up to the second rope and hits a missile dropkick to counter Ki in mid-handspring! Okay, that was pretty cool. The crowd thinks likewise, working up a spirited "Red" chant.

Ki leans against the ropes to recover, Red charges him and gets backdropped to the apron. Ki tries a high kick but Red ducks to avoid it. Shoulderblock through the ropes attempted by Red, Ki sidesteps and clocks Red in the face with a kick! Ki trying a charge now, but Red hits a chop to stop that. Ki with a Tiger Mask dive feign/6-1-9 through the ropes, Red meets him with a pair of kicks as soon as he's back in the ring. Ki recoils back and goes for the Tidal Crush to knock Red off the apron, but Red uses the ropes to bridge back and avoid it. Ki immediately counters that with a rolling koppou kick through the ropes that knocks Red to the floor! That gets a replay. Referee John Finnegan checks Red, who says he's okay to continue. Ki goes out to roll Red back in the ring, and he covers for two. Ki with a pair of headbutts, then a reverse hair slam. Again Ki covers and gets two. Kick to the back by Ki and then he smacks Red in the face with some open-hand slaps. Whip by Ki, Red ducks a lariat and hits a tilt-a-whirl DDT (!). Ki goes out to the apron and Red dropkicks him in the back to send him to the floor. Red gets a running start, going for a tope suicida but Ki snaps back up to the apron and NAILS Red with a knee as he's about to dive! Cover by Ki, Red gets the shoulder up late. Ki signals for the Ki Krusher and he gets Red up, but Red counters into some kind of cradle (let's call it a front crucifix) for two. Ki tries a lariat and Red ducks, Red going for a 'rana now but Ki holds on for a powerbomb. Red spins 180 degrees and (allegedly) spikes Ki with a reverse 'rana. That looked more like Ki gave Red an Electric Chair Drop and somehow both guys got hurt. Red drags Ki into position and he goes up top, but the InfaRed Legdrop (Skytwister Legdrop) misses! Irish whip by Ki, Red reverses and slides through Ki's legs, getting up on his shoulders for a victory roll but Ki resists. Unable to roll Ki up, Red instead opts to drop out the back way with a funky bridging motion and he turns right into a Euro uppercut from Ki. Ki has Red up for the Ki Krusher again, taking him to a corner then running to the opposite corner and slamming Red stomach-first into the turnbuckle! Red spilled out to the floor after that and he's pretty wrecked. Ki rolls him back in and puts him in position. Going for the Stardust Press, but Red moves out of the way. Ki manages to land on his feet but he's on the opposite side of the ring now. Ki with a forearm, going back to the top rope but Red leaps and blasts Ki in the back of the head with an enzuigiri! Ki accidentally hooked his foot on the middle rope so he doesn't fall to the floor. Red goes up to the top floor now, he hits a pair of rights and goes for a 'rana (jeez, it's been countered twice already Red, give it up!) but Ki holds on and counters to an avalanche-style Ki Krusher! Red is about thirty six different flavours of dead and he's not getting up. Ki gets the pin (11:16, 78) and becomes the third man to advance to the 7/27 title match. Red does a good job selling the Ki Krusher, lying motionless for several minutes before making it to his feet (drawing another "Red" chant). This is a match everyone should see, because I get the feeling everyone's going to have a different opinion on it. Me, I didn't really like it that much. There were some great spots, but some sloppy ones as well and in retrospect the match felt more like a series of sequences then a cohesive wrestling contest. Red bumped like Dynamite Kid on a healthy dosage of painkillers, but much of the offense he was allowed to get in felt awkward. This was a glorified squash for Ki; Red got some hope spots in, but not enough and I never felt that Red had a good shot at winning. Of course, some people are pimping this like it's Jesus vs. Jumbo Tsuruta for sixty minutes, so your mileage may vary. -AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels (with Simply Luscious) in the ROH World Heavyweight title tournament Block B finals. Before his first round match with Scoot Andrews, Daniels took the mic and said that "the birth of the Prophecy" is at hand, signalling the official beginning of his splinter group. Daniels convinced former valet Luscious that she was being misused and convinced her to join his cause (this lead to Luscious having a short and extremely disappointing match with Sumie Sakai). Styles beat Lynn to make it here. Finally, after Daniels makes his entrance we cut backstage to see Jose Maximo and Joel Maximo chatting. Brian XL interrupts and starts ranting about how the Maximos haven't had his back recently, and the Maximos respond by talking about XL being disrespectful. XL says that he's going to go out on his own from now on, and Joel has the nerve to steal XL's catchphrase and call him a "little bia-bia-biatch". We cut back to see the bell has already sounded, with Daniels and Styles in center ring in a staredown. Daniels with shove and Styles responds with a shove of his own. Collar-and-elbow tieup, Styles with a waistlock, Daniels with a standing switch. Styles bridges back while in the waistlock to get a hammerlock on Daniels, then he adds a facelock. Daniels is able to counter that to a ground side headlock. Styles gets back to his feet and takes Daniels over from the side headlock, pinning his shoulders to the mat for a quick one count. Styles to a front facelock and Daniels is trying to turn his shoulders now, Daniels to a front chancery and he does flip Styles shoulders down for one before Styles kips up. Daniels with a wristlock on Styles, wringing it in before Styles counters to a wristlock of his own. Standing armbar by Styles, taken to a ground double-arm hammerlock. Styles goes to fall on top of Daniels, but Daniels flips him over for a two count. Daniels to an armbar, to a ground hammerlock. Styles gets to his feet and Daniels converts to a waistlock. Standing switch by Styles, and he has his waistlock on exceptionally tight. Daniels feels his way around and unlaces Styles' right arm, trying to step over with La Majistral but Styles sits back to counter and gets a two count. Styles with a front chancery, to a hammerlock and he tries to pin Daniels' shoulders back down again. He gers a one count but Daniels fights to keep his shoulders from going down any more. Styles keeps on the arm with a double-arm hammerlock, to a facelock with hammerlock. Daniels grabs Styles' arm and gets a wristlock. Daniels to a waistlock, shoving Styles into the ropes and going for a waistlock roll-up but Styles grabs the ropes to prevent being rolled up. Styles turns and goes for a kick, but Daniels covers up to block and scoops Styles up in a schoolboy for two. Armdrag to an armbar by Daniels, Styles with the textbook counter to a headscissors. Daniels tries to counter by grabbing one of Styles' legs, but Styles has the headscissors on too tight. Daniels turns out and Styles hammers him with six clubbing forearms to the back. Styles trying for a Gedo Clutch but Daniels floats out to a leg grapevine, then he locks on a Crippler Crossface while pelting Styles with forearms. Styles gets to his feet but Daniels puts him right back on the mat with a side headlock takeover. Daniels holds the side headlock to pin Styles' shoulders to the mat for two, but Styles hooks an arm between Daniels legs and fights for a roll-up. Daniels resists but Styles is able to roll his shoulders down for a two count, however Daniels is immediately able to go right back to the side headlock. Styles throws Daniels off the ropes, Daniels counters to an armwringer and armbar. Styles with a pair of forearms to try to get Daniels to break, and in a subtly funny spot he tries to pull Daniels hair as a way of escaping from the hold (Daniels, of course, is bald). Styles makes it to a vertical base and he hits four forearms before whipping Daniels into the ropes. Styles drops down and leapfrogs Daniels as he comes the other way, then catches the Fallen Angel with a dropkick. Styles with an armdrag to an armbar, Daniels is able to make it to his feet and he counters to an inverted facelock (going for Last Rites?), but Styles swiftly counters back to a front facelock. Cravat hold by Styles, then a drop toehold and he goes to the back mount. Ground full nelson by Styles and he tries a three-quarter nelson, Daniels tenaciously fights to keep himself from being pinned. Styles forces one of Daniels' shoulders down and after more struggling he eventually achieves the three-quarter nelson, getting a two count. Daniels escapes the pin and latches on a front chancery, Styles counters to a side headlock and he throws Daniels into the ropes. Daniels catches Styles with a shoulderblock. Daniels tries coming off the ropes, Styles drops down and goes for a hiptoss when Daniels comes back the other way. Daniels reverses and gets a legsweep, then he puts on a ground side headlock. Styles gets to his feet and he tosses Daniels off the ropes, Daniels again hits Styles with a shoulderblock. Daniels coming off the ropes again, but Styles catches him with his kip up headscissors!

Styles was the first man to get a big move, so logically he's now the one in control. Daniels backs off the corner to catch a rest and Styles stomps him. Whip to the opposite corner by Styles and he charges in with his backflip dropkick. Styles going to follow up with a lariat, Daniels ducks and hits two chops and two forearms. Hard corner whip by Daniels, then he does the same to the opposite corner. Daniels charging for an avalanche, Styles backdrops him to the apron then dropkicks him to the floor. Styles catches a breather in the center of the ring, then he flies outside with a twisting pescado! Daniels gets back onto the apron, Styles nails him with a right hand and tries a shoulderblock, but Daniels sidesteps and hits a clubbing forearm. Daniels trying a suplex to the outside, Styles blocks and tries a suplex in but Daniels blocks that. Daniels again trying the suplex to the outside, he gets Styles up but Styles is able to land on the apron. Daniels throws some right hands, Styles responds with forearms. Daniels takes control with a questionable kneelift. Styles is doubled over on the apron, so Daniels comes off the ropes with a shove that sends Styles crashing head-first into the guardrail! Looks like Styles sliced open his forehead hitting the guardrail.

Daniels rolls outside and it looks like he's found the breakthrough he was looking for. "Oh, you messed up now AJ!" Daniels with a trio of measured rights to Styles' cut. Styles is woozy and Daniels rolls him back into the ring. Daniels pulls Styles to his feet and hits another measured right to the cut. Styles is laid out on the canvas and referee Mike Kehner checks to see if he's in any shape to continue. Styles gets his head slammed to a turnbuckle, then Daniels hits a headbutt to the back of Styles' head. Another headbutt by Daniels, this time right to Styles' forehead- and the cut. Styles rolls outside and Daniels follows. Daniels slams Styles' head into the guardrail, then scrapes his fingers right into Styles' open wound. Daniels shows off that he has Styles' blood on his hand (looks kind of like he has stigmata, actually). Styles rolled back in the ring and Daniels strikes with a kneedrop right to the cut. Styles pulled by his hair and Daniels gives him five close rights directly to the cut. Whip by Daniels and he flapjacks Styles to the mat. Daniels rolls Styles over into a cover, but he only gets two. Whip, Styles reverses but he telegraphs the backdrop and Daniels kicks him right in the head. Lariat by Daniels and he rolls Styles into position. Daniels springboards off the second rope with a quebrada, but Styles rolls out of the way! Daniels going for a suplex, but Styles blocks and drills Daniels with a brainbuster! Both men are down, and Daniels rolls under the ropes so he can't be pinned, so Styles runs and hits Daniels with a sliding forearm smash. Styles works over Daniels with four rights, a kneestrike and a slap. Styles hangs Daniels on the ropes, then springboards off the second turnbuckle with an Arabian Moonsault! Cover by Styles, Daniels gets the shoulder up at two. A pair of rights by Styles, he goes for a third but Daniels catches it and takes Styles down into a Can Opener with headscissors! Daniels uses a very smart strategy, keeping up the work on Styles' cut and cutting off his air supply. Styles tries to inch to the ropes, but Daniels cinches in the hold. "AJ" chant from the crowd and he slowly inches to the ropes. Daniels breaks the hold cleanly but goes right to a cover, getting a two count. Lariat by Daniels puts Styles right back down, and Daniels takes time to argue with Kehner. Daniels drapes Styles over the top rope with a Front suplex, then he springboards off the opposite ropes with a springboard legdrop right across Styles' neck! Cover by Daniels for another two count. Daniels drops Styles with a Falcon Arrow for one more two count. Daniels with a right, another, Styles fights back with a right of his own, Daniels, Styles, Daniels goes to the eyes to stop the slugfest. Whip by Daniels, he tries a lariat but Styles ducks. Daniels tries the lariat again the other way and Styles again ducks, then he clocks Daniels in the back of the head with a leaping enzuigiri! Both men are down and Kehner puts on a ten count.

Styles is the first man to his feet, and he rocks Daniels with a rotating lariat. Daniels gets back to his feet and Styles whips him into the ropes, then catches him with a powerslam right into a hooked leg, one, two, no. Waistlock by Styles, he gives Daniels a German suplex, then rolls through to the Styles Facebuster! Right into a pin by Styles, but again Daniels gets the shoulder up at two. Daniels makes sure to tell Kehner that he did indeed kick out at two. Chop by Styles and an Irish whip, he tries to hit Daniels with a roundhouse kick but Daniels ducks and floors Styles with an STO! Styles rolls to the ropes so he can't be pinned. Daniels pulls Styles back to his feet in the middle of the ring. Whip by Daniels and he drops Styles with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Daniels holds on into the cover, but Styles is able to manage a late kickout. Daniels argues the count with Kehner. Daniels says "That's All!" to the crowd and he heads to the second rope. Going for the Double Jump Moonsault, but Styles crotches him after he makes the first jump! Styles making the "That's It" motion and pulling Daniels off the turnbuckles in a Canadian backbreaker, then spiking him with the Cliffhanger! Cover by Styles, one, two, NO! Styles with the "That's It" gesture again, going for the Styles Clash, but Daniels grabs Styles' leg and counters into an anklelock! Daniels showing that he, like Dragon, has learned from the 3/30 show: There, Ki was able to counter Daniels' Last Rites into the Dragon Clutch for a quick submission, and now he's using the same strategy on Styles. Styles slowly makes it to the ropes...and Daniels pulls him right back to center ring! Styles screams, the pain overwhelming him while he's unable to find a counter. Styles desperately starts throwing kicks with his other leg to Daniels, eventually being able to turn over onto his back but Daniels STILL keeps the anklelock on! Styles with three guillotine kicks to Daniels' back and he finally breaks the hold. Styles going for a scoop slam but Daniels counters into an inside cradle, one, two, Styles kicks out. Styles with a backslide and he gets a two count as well. Daniels steps over with La Majistral for two, Styles leaning back to counter midmove and getting a retaliatory two count. Daniels gets to his feet and Styles clamps on a waistlock, rolling through to a pin for two, Daniels rolls all the way through into a pin of his own for one final two count. Daniels with a waistlock, Styles hits two back elbows to break it. Styles springboards off the ropes and goes for his quebrada inverted DDT, but Daniels spins him around and counters to Last Rites! Daniels covers and gets the pin (21:58, 90) being the final man to advance to the 7/27 title match. Luscious helps her man to his feet after the match. Daniels teases giving Styles a handshake, but pulls it away at the last second.

Very good match here, easily one of Styles' best matches ever (it'd be his best match this year if it weren't for the Styles/David Young twenty five minute draw). Daniels is one of the few pure heels in ROH, and he's perfect for the role. Daniels' heelishness gave this match a focus, and once Styles started bleeding that gave the match a story. The opening matwork was extremely well done- Styles' matches have an annoying habit where the matwork feels like filler, but not here. Daniels was tremendous working over Styles' cut; it wasn't simply "Daniels works over Styles' cut for fifteen minutes before Styles makes his big comeback" as Styles got quite a bit of offense after he started bleeding, it's just that Daniels would always find a way to halt it and shift the momentum back his way by working the cut. The finishing sequence was very heated, with the crowd into all of the nearfalls, and this was one time where you felt that maybe a backslide or cradle could actually finish the match. They did a good job protecting finishers, as well, even though they could've just as easily gotten away with using the Angel's Wings or Styles Clash for a nearfall. This was a very smartly worked match, with great effort from both sides. It's matches like this that make me sad to see Styles in TNA, since it's such a step down from the work he CAN do. A fine ending to a fine show.

-I will admit, when I first heard about ROH I was very skeptical. Feinstein doesn't exactly have a glowing track record, and there have been tons of upstart companies that hired a few big stars and thought they could be the next ECW just by running on the East Coast (MECW, anyone?). However, after having seen their first couple of shows, I am extremely impressed. ROH's booking is intelligent for the most part, and it caters to the pure wrestling fan (although I wish that they wouldn't hammer home the "we're not Sports Entertainment! we're completely athletic wrestling!" point so much on commentary; let the wrestling speak for itself, guys). Aside from dropping Eric Gargiulo from commentary after the first two shows due to Zandig's silly feud with Feinstein, ROH has made mostly good moves and I'm really looking forward to their future shows- especially the upcoming 9/21 Tag Tournament.

Now, just to make sure I don't come off like a total ROH shill, I'm going to point out my major grievance with them: What they're doing is easy. I mean, I won't complain about the high quality of wrestling, but any company with a ton of money and their own personal video shipping service can snatch up all of the big talent in a territory and immediately take over. It's just that ROH did this more effectively than MECW, 3PW or MLW did. I don't mean to bitch, and I really do love the wrestling, but ROH could've been done by any money mark with an eye for the business. I wouldn't bring this up except for the fact that Feinstein and company have been awfully self-congratulatory when it comes to ROH's success, when all of the praise should go to the workers.

But I digress. Like I said, ROH has made pretty much all the right moves so far and their booking is currently headed in the right direction. They seem to be getting farther and farther away from the typical East Coast style (typified in the Styles vs. Ki match) and leaning more towards Puro style booking and matches.

Footnotes

1) When Styles did this move on a recent episode of Wildside TV, I misidentified it as a "reverse Waterwheel Drop to face-first powerbomb"; it's actually a Back suplex setup to face-first powerbomb.
2) Styles does a quebrada over the victim and lands on his feet, hooking on an inverted facelock as he lands and dropping the victim with an inverted DDT. Kind of contrived in theory but Styles executes the move fast enough that it works.
3) I misidentified this as well when Styles did it recently- it's a Canadian backbreaker to a DDT. He's sometimes sloppy when doing it, however.
4) A Tiger Driver '91, I'm unaware if he does this in NOAH.
5) Williams calls that the "Chaos Theory"; Williams does a waistlock rollup to the victim, put maintains the waistlock and rolls through to a German suplex. It looks supremely cool.

Well, three weeks after I started this, I manage to finish it. I feel satisfied. I also feel like I'm not going to be writing again until the next ROH TV show or when I get the last two Wildside TV episodes on tape. So I'll be seeing you then.

-Patrick

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