Hello friends, I’ve decided I am going to go right back to the start of ROH and watch it from show one up until, well, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe until Gabe leaves? We’ll deal with that when we get to it seeing as it’s at least five years worth of wrestling, so it will probably be a while yet. Today we kick off with the very first show, The Era Of Honor Begins which has a card full of future stars, people you’ve forgotten and people you’d never heard of in the first place.
Da Hit Squad (Mafia and Monsta Mack) defeated The Christopher Street Connection (Buff-E and Mase)
Damn, The Christopher Street Connection have aged horribly. Scrap that, homophobia was horrible in 2002 too. They were doing a gay gimmick which saw them come out to the ‘YMCA’. Meanwhile, the commentators (Steve Corino and Eric Gargiulo) were talking about their ‘alternative lifestyle’ and declared they had no business being here. The crowd then proceeded to chant ‘faggot’ at them before Buff-E and Mase kissed which caused Corino and Gargiulo to react with disgust.
Da Hit Squad eventually came out and squashed the Connection before putting their valet, Allison Danger, (who is referred to as a slut by the commentary team) through a table. That was disgusting. Funny how ROH doesn’t mention that the first segment they ever ran was homophobic bullshit.
Verdict: Fuck This Shit
Amazing Red defeated Jay Briscoe
Talking of homophobia, here’s Jay Briscoe. His long-term association with ROH suddenly makes a lot of sense. Mark accompanied him to ringside and, fuck, they are all children. If you told me Amazing Red was twelve when this match happened, I would have no trouble believing you. He was 19.
Despite his tender years, Red is as incredible as you remember him being. If you don’t have any of those memories, you’ll want to change that. He was a huge inspiration on the likes of Will Ospreay with the speed he was working at being genuinely astounding. This isn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, yet he still looks great. He bounces around the ring for Briscoe before being murdered with a Jay Driller (which isn’t the finish as Red’s foot reaches out for the ropes).
The most surprising thing about it is how Jay Briscoe comes off as just a guy in a singlet. He was already a decent wrestler (especially when you take into account his age), but there’s no personality there, and he’s outshone by his opponent. Considering where The Briscoes are now, that’s a weird thing to see.
Amazing Red gets the win with an Infrared followed by a Running Shooting Star Press. This is more notable for what these men would go on to achieve than for what happened in it.
Verdict: Three Stars
Xavier defeated Scoot Andrews
I don’t know either of these wrestlers, but Scoot Andrews is now averaging a match a year while Xavier appears to have retired. (All this info will be from Cagematch, I’m willing to be corrected).
Things nearly went horribly for them too. At one point, they lost track of what they were doing which had the unfortunate consequence of poor Scoot getting dropped onto his head. He seemed to be fine, but that looked nasty, and he gave Xavier a stiff looking Alabama Slam shortly after.
That moment aside, this was a decent match. It was two athletic guys going at it and throwing some brutal looking strikes. There was nothing particularly spectacular about it, but if you put this on a standard episode of Raw, it would be one of the better matches shown that week.
Scoot Andrews would get revenge for being dropped on his head by driving Xavier’s into the ground with The Force Of Nature (a Rikishi Driver with the emphasis on the Piledriver aspect) only for Xavier’s leg to be under the rope. As Scoot argued with the ref, Xavier would recover and get the win with a neckbreaker. At this point, it was the best match in ROH history.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Boogie Nights (Danny Drake and Mike Tobin) defeated The Natural Born Sinners (Homicide and Boogalou) by Disqualification
Natural Born Sinners came out with a chainsaw. Thankfully, it didn’t prove to be Chekhov’s chainsaw because that would be a disaster. They will be remembered as the tag team that gave us Homicide as Boogalou hasn’t gone on to much of anything. The same can be said of the Boogie Nights who never went on to do anything of note as both appear to have left wrestling.
In-ring there wasn’t much to this one. We got to see that insane Cannonball Dive from Homicide and, in what won’t be the last time, he nearly kills himself doing it. Apart from that, it’s straightforward domination from the Sinners as they beat the shit out of poor Tobin and Drake. To call anything they do hope spots would only make people wonder how little hope you have in your own life.
Although, technically, they do end up getting the win. The Sinners decided they didn’t care about such things and chose to beat their opponents with a rubber chicken. Christ, early ROH was budget ECW, wasn’t it? Anyway, this is only worth it if you want to check out young Homicide.
Verdict: Two Stars
Post-match Homicide and Boogalou stabbed the ref in the head before dropping him on that same appendage. We then nipped backstage for some more casual homophobia. Fucking hell, ROH.
Quiet Storm defeated Brian XL, Chris Divine, Joel Maximo, Jose Maximo and The Amazing Red in an Elimination Match w/Mikey Whipwreck as the special guest referee
Everyone apart from Brian XL and Amazing Red (who is pulling double duty) is a Whipwreck student. This was billed as an Ultimate Aerial Elimination match and was being worked with two men in the ring under Lucha rules. It will be interesting to compare it to the flippy boys we have nowadays.
It was chaos. You’ve got six guys in there, so they spent a lot of time setting up the next person to do a flip. There were moments of sloppiness and confusion caused by that, but there was also some inventive spots. At one point, Red got Brian XL up for an electric chair, only to be picked up for a double back suplex which was capped off by the people hitting that being caught with running neckbreakers. It was an improvement on the old Tower of Doom spot.
Brian XL showed off some impressive flying while Quiet Storm (who is the same Storm who works in NOAH) brought a more technical edge to proceedings. As we’ve already established, Red is incredible, but everyone involved showed off something fun.
As to how it compares to the modern day stuff. Well, it was definitely a touch slower. Although, it is worth saying that this was six young wrestlers who were still green, so it’s harsh to compare them to an Ospreay or Ricochet. On the whole, it was some damn good flippy shit which made up for a lot of the clumsier clusterfuck elements of it.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Prince Nana defeated Eric Tuttle
Prince Nana is now more famous for managerial role in ROH where he’s run various iterations of his Embassy stable. Eric Tuttle, meanwhile, would spend a few years in CZW before presumably retiring.
Anyway, this was a squash with the idea being that Tuttle was sent out to die by Steve Corino. He was even billed as ‘Towel Boy’. Also, Nana is being sold as a real-life prince. For a company that’s so anti-sports entertainment, they’ve got a lot of it.
Nana beat him in thirty seconds. Nothing to see here.
Verdict: One Star
Spanky and Ikaika Loa defeated Michael Shane and Oz
Aside from Spanky (who is better known as Brian Kendrick), we’re once again in a situation where most of these guys have now either left wrestling or are competing irregularly. Although, Michael Shane did have a pretty decent career popping up in the then TNA throughout the years. They’re here as representatives of the Texas Wrestling Academy trainees (Shawn Michael’s school) and the winner would earn themselves an ROH contract.
Even at this stage, Sparky shines brighter than everyone in the ring. He’s in his early twenties, and he just gets it. Bouncing around the ring for his opponents and already showing that weird offence which would become his stock in trade.
The only person who comes close to him is Michael Shane (the shoot cousin of Shawn Michaels) who had a few sweet sequences with Spanky. It was a nice contrast of styles as Shane looked to slow his excitable opponent down and use his superior power to get the win.
Everyone else in the ring was okay, but you can tell they are early in their careers. There’s a lot of very basic wrestling which only serves to let Spanky stand out all the more. The final minutes introduced some intrigue as it descended into a free for all when they realised only one man could earn themselves that contract. Of course, Spanky got the win, and it’s fair to say ROH made the right choice there.
Verdict: Three Stars
There are backstage segments between some of these matches that are all awful. Here we got Whipwreck shouting at his students about fuck knows what followed by the ref that Natural Born Sinners beat-up moaning about it on the phone. More sports entertainment from the company that hates it.
Super Crazy defeated Eddy Guerrero to win the IWA Puerto Rico Intercontinental Title
Eddie Guerrero’s time in ROH is one of those things that has helped populate a million ‘Ten Wrestling Facts You Didn’t Know’ lists. Because of that, everyone knows about it. It’s no secret that he had his demons at this time and it’s interesting to see him work outside of the confines of WWE. One thing is for sure, he’s fucking jacked.
After watching a lot of green talent, these two look all the better for how smooth they are. There’s a naturalness to the way they move around the ring that comes from having spent so much time in there. Eddy holds himself like a legend which makes him feel like one (a status that he would cement before his death).
Unfortunately, the action doesn’t quite live up to the names of the men involved. To put it bluntly, Guerrero is taking it easy here. Sauntering around the ring, hitting a move and then slowly making his way to the cover. In contrast, Super Crazy is, well, Super Crazy, he’s a constant flurry of activity, but it’s hard to raise the energy when you’re the only person doing so.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad. There were some cool spots with Eddy hitting a Brainbuster on the floor and a vicious looking Powerbomb. However, the lack of intensity makes it hard to buy into what’s happening. Even when he’s hitting a brace of Brainbusters.
Super Crazy steals the win with a Small Package and, truthfully, this match will be more iconic for its status as a pub quiz answer than an in-ring display. However, it was still pretty good.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Low-Ki defeated Christopher Daniels and American Dragon
Now we’re talking. When I decided I wanted to watch old ROH it was so I could see these men, not horrific homophobic abuse. At this time, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki and American Dragon (Bryan Danielson) were three of the best young wrestlers on the planet and ROH threw them all in the ring together. This is the stuff that built their reputation.
You can see the start of that in this contest. These three kill it. Right from the bell, they are working with an intensity that stands in direct contrast to the last bout. At one point, Low-Ki has Dragon by the hair and is repeatedly booting him in the face. I think it’s safe to say that he wasn’t pulling those kicks too much.
What makes it really stand out is how they avoid the trap of having two men wrestle while someone sells on the outside. The fact there are three men in the ring is a constant factor in the tale they’re telling. People are adapting their offence to deal with the fact someone else is in there.
It’s also fun watching spots that will return throughout these men’s careers pop up here. We get Low Ki and Dragon taking it in turns to kick Daniels in the back before he begs off only to be booted into submission by the two of them. Something that will be familiar to TNA viewers from back in the day. Although there’s an added flourish here as he ducks the final two kicks causing Dragon and Low Ki’s feet to collide.
The final stretch is outstanding. All three men are going all out, and it’s big moves built on top of other big moves. Some of the kicks Low Ki is throwing are particularly vicious while everyone gets their moment to shine. The final seconds saws Low Ki break up a Cattle Mutilation with a Phoenix Splash before putting Daniels away with a Ki Krusher and fucking hell, that ain’t a shabby way to close out your show.
Look, it’s just a damn fine match. It plants the seeds for what Ring Of Honor is set to become and thank God it went down this route rather than some of the other shit on this show. If you haven’t seen it before, go out of your way to watch it now.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
After the bell, Danielson got on the mic and challenged Low Ki to a singles match (you can kind of see where the myth he was a lousy promo came from). Daniels isn’t happy about that and tells both men to go to hell saying he’d beat both of them. That sets up the Round Robin Challenge that ROH’s second show will be built around. Sounds good to me.
There is a hell of a lot of shit on this show. Some of which is downright offensive and I’m not willing to take the year it was made in as an excuse for that. Homophobia was still disgusting in 2002. I’m also not going to claim that good wrestling can make up for that, but you can see the start of what ROH would become in some of these matches. While the main event is the obvious one, it’s there in Super Crazy vs Guerrero, Briscoe vs Amazing Red and the high flying clusterfuck. However, they still had a long ass way to go.
Top Three Matches In ROH History
1. American Dragon vs Low Ki vs Christopher Daniels – Four And A Half Stars
2. Ultimate Aerial Elimination Match – Three And A Half Stars
3. Eddy Guerrero vs Super Crazy – Three And A Half Stars
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