ROH Throwback: The Round Robin Challenge (30/3/02)

I can only apologise for the long gap between old-school Ring Of Honor reviews. Truthfully, that is going to be the norm. These articles are something I’ll drop back into whenever there isn’t anything else to talk about/when I’m in the mood. I never promised it was going to be a fast history lesson. Anyway, ROH’s second show was based around a pretty simple premise. Low Ki, American Dragon and Christopher Daniels are fucking great. Let’s have them wrestle lots. Sounds good to me.

The show opened with Daniels running down ROH. We then moved to Da Hit Squad greeting fans outside the venue. That happened before the first show too although I didn’t write about it because it was cringe then, and it might have been even worse the second time around. Fingers crossed they stop doing that. Finally, Quiet Storm wanted to try out a move on Chris Devine only for Dragon to turn up and school them in how to do it in a rather more violent manner. That was at least mildly amusing.

Christopher Daniels defeated American Dragon

It should be of no surprise to anyone to hear that this was an impressive match. No matter the year, Dragon vs Daniels is going to rule, and while they clearly held back due to it being the opener, this proved no exception.

The turning point in the action was Daniels going after Dragon’s neck. From there on, Dragon was selling that injury wonderfully, and there were two key moments where it held him back. Firstly, he was going for a Suplex only for that neck to give out on him, forcing him to switch to a DDT. That foreshadowed the second moment which was when he went for Cattle Mutilation. Once again his neck couldn’t bear the strain, and he was forced to move away from his finisher, locking on another hold instead.

Those moments allowed Daniels to survive despite arguably being out-wrestled for most of the bout. He’d then go on to use that injury to get the win, hitting a Piledriver before slipping into a Crossface and wrenching back, forcing Dragon to tap. Great opener.

Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars

Da Hit Squad (Mafia and Monsta Mack) defeated Prince Nana and Eric Tuttle

Eric ‘Towel Boy’ Tuttle has been recruited as the Prince’s lackey. They’ve also got Simply Luscious out with them who Corino is drooling over. Nana cut a pre-match promo, but the sound quality was so bad that I only got bits of it. Tuttle was then made to clean Nana’s shoes before The Hit Squad attacked.

What followed was a rather uninteresting squash in which Tuttle was destroyed. Poor lad.

Verdict: One Star

Afterwards, The Christopher Street Connection made their entrance at which point Da Hit Squad threw Tuttle at them in a ridiculously unsafe way. The kid almost died. They then did the same to Luscious although that wasn’t quite as close to being a murder.

Sadly, the appearance of The CSC and their attempts to give Tuttle mouth to mouth also gave our commentators a chance to run through all their homophobic views. It all ended with CSC kissing which was played for ‘look at the gay people’ laughs. If you thought ROH were a nice company pre-Sinclair then spend some time watching these shows, it will quickly disabuse you of that notion.

You’d think it would be time for another match, but first, we learned that one of The Boogie Knights took a shit in Eric Tuttle’s bag. They’re trying to hide from The Natural Born Sinners who are armed with a chainsaw and a rubber chicken. Christ, this shit is awful.

Christian York and Joey Matthews defeated CW Anderson and Elax

Joey Matthews and Christian York cut an awful promo beforehand. York once won a TNA contract through Gut Check although I won’t pretend to remember that. He seems to have had a decent indie career. Elax, meanwhile, is being portrayed as a random crew member Anderson has recruited. He looks happy to be there. Or he’s on drugs. That feels just as likely. According to Cagematch he hasn’t wrestled regularly since 2002. Jesus Christ, Corino just used the r-word to describe him.

When CW Anderson and Joey Matthews were in the ring together, this was fine, if a bit boring. It was when other people tagged in that it went to shit as neither Elax or York were very good. Thankfully it was short, as Anderson ate a Problem Solver before taking the three. He then beat up Elax in frustration which seemed harsh. He’s the one who demanded the kid team with him. What a bully.

Verdict: Two Stars

Xavier defeated James Maritato

James Maritato is Little Guido/Nunzio of ECW fame. This was the start of him going back to his shoot wrestling roots as he was apparently a UWF guy back in the day. I wish I could tell you whether he was good or not, but I’d be talking out my arse.

Unfortunately, that decision held this match back. They spent a lot of time rolling around on the ground which is a hard thing to make entertaining. It also didn’t seem to fit in with what Xavier wanted to do. He’s going for Handstand Super Hurricanranas while Maritato wants to do some serious wrestling.

Still, it wasn’t a bad match. There were some cool sequences and both men laid into their strikes. ROH appeared to be into Xavier at this point, and you can see why. He had a good look, and while he was green, he showed potential.

Verdict: Three Stars

We cut to a video of some old guy (Frank Talent) talking about the rules for the show. While he was blabbing Spanky was brushing his teeth behind him because he’s ‘weird’. They haven’t done a decent backstage segment yet. Can the Natural Born Sinners change that? Homicide is threatening to kill someone. I guess that makes sense since Boogalou has a chainsaw. Can we talk about how stupid it is that one of them is taking a chainsaw to the ring seconds after we saw the nice Frank Talent tell them that there was no blood or swearing allowed?

Natural Born Sinners (Homicide and Boogalou) defeated The Boogie Knights (Danny Drake and Mike Tobin)

Steve Corino and Eric Gargiulo are becoming one of my least favourite commentary teams. They’re fucking awful. Thankfully, this was a squash, so I didn’t have to listen to them for too long. The chainsaw didn’t get used, but the rubber chicken did.

Verdict: One And A Half Stars

Low Ki defeated Christopher Daniels

To repeat what I said about the opener, you can go into this knowing that Low Ki and Christopher Daniels aren’t going to shit the bed. The question is whether it will be good, or great?

Low Ki came out the gates fiery, determined to kick his way through Daniels. He was so quick at this point in his career. I say that as if it surprises me, but I’m still a bit disappointed every time I watch a Low Ki match where he isn’t working super fast.

Daniels, meanwhile, continued his tactic from earlier in the night by attacking Low Ki’s neck. It was all done to set-up for Angel’s Wings, but when he hit it, he fucked-up. He took a second before going for the pin and then was too arrogant to hook the leg. That gave Low Ki the chance to kick out and fired him up at the same time.

That led to what seemed to be turning into a hot finish only for it to end out of nowhere. Low Ki slipped into the Dragon Sleeper, and Daniels had no choice but to tap. Not that it ruined the match. Considering Daniels had already had a tough bout an hour before, I’d go as far as saying it was damn good although there’s no doubt that a fresh Daniels vs Low Ki would be a lot better.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

After Daniels refused to shake Low Ki’s hand we followed him through the curtain for some more goofy backstage shit. It ended with Spanky dancing. We then saw Amazing Red and some other people fall out while playing basketball. God, when did they stop doing this utter shite? I really hope it’s soon.

Paul London defeated Chris Marvel

Holy shit, Paul London looks hilarious. He looks like a serious wrestler dude, but a serious wrestler dude who does lot of flips. This is in the stage of his career where you’d call him impressive rather than good, but that doesn’t stop him being a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Although he’s also lucky that he didn’t break both his legs after they came down on the barrier off an Asai Moonsault. Unfortunately, Chris Marvel wasn’t as blessed, as his leg gave way underneath him in a sickening manner. The camera picked up the fact that his boot was facing in the wrong direction so yea, that wasn’t nice.

Verdict: NA

Spanky defeated Jay Briscoe

What I was saying about Paul London can be applied to these two. They had an exciting match with a load of cool spots, but I’m not sure you can claim it was great wrestling. Briscoe and Spanky were showing off what they could do which as young wrestlers make perfect sense. Unfortunately, they sacrificed the storytelling in their quest to look good.

Towards the end, we discovered that Spanky really wasn’t listening to the man that told them all the rules. He went chest first into the corner and (seemingly deliberately) slammed his head off the ring post. As he turned back towards Briscoe blood began pouring down his face and into his eyes. I’m not one to demand gore in my wrestling, but I can’t deny that it fired this match-up. Spanky looked badass with his face stained by the red stuff and Briscoe was right there with him by continuing the attack. It led into these two going full American indie and spending the last few minutes hitting each other with moves until one of them didn’t get up.

An enjoyable match, but I suspect that watching this in 2019 is very different from watching it in 2002. The all-out movefest style has evolved to such an insane level at this point that something like this seems a bit tame. Spanky bleeding all over the place added to it, but not enough to make it anything incredible.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

The SAT (Joel Maximo and Jose Maximo) defeated Amazing Red and Brian XL and Divine Storm (Chris Divine and Quiet Storm) in a Three-Way-Dance Elimination Match

Everything that happened in this match makes me feel a bit silly for describing Briscoe vs Spanky as a movefest. These six men were determined to make that look like a storytelling masterclass as they doubled down on doing cool shit. If that was the goal, they probably succeeded.

Not that it was pretty. Parts of this match were a goddamn mess. It’s a miracle they didn’t all come out the other side with broken necks. Bodies were flying all over the place, and I’m not entirely sure they were in control of where they landed.

Amazing Red eliminated Divine Storm by pinning Quiet before Jose Maximo rolled up Brian XL for the win after he fell out with Red over who got to make a pin (which made no sense since it was a tag-team match). That was the perfect ludicrous finish to this chaos. They’re reversing Draganranas into Powerbombs and dropping each other on their heads, but it’s the fucking roll-up that gets the win. Beautiful.

I can’t say this wasn’t entertaining because it was. However, that’s not always the same thing as it being good. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Verdict: Em, Three Stars?

American Dragon defeated Low Ki

Low Ki was a fucking atrocious promo in 2002. I hope they learn to stop letting him do pre-match interviews soon. Also, Ken Shamrock made his way to ringside before they could start and made himself guest ref. Why? Who knows.

The opening of this match worked brilliantly to prove my point about Maritato vs Xavier. Where that match struggled on the ground, Low Ki vs Dragon was engaging. Their submissions looked as painful as the strikes as they grappled for control, looking for openings to try and force the victory. These two men know how to wrestle that style and, more importantly, make it fun to watch.

Things stepped up a notch when Low Ki started Kawada Kicking Dragon in the eye reopening a cut from earlier in the night. From there the intensity of this started to flow over with Dragon going to work with an extra vicious edge. Work vicious against Low Ki, though, and you’re going to get kicked. Dragon vs Low Ki was still a fantastic technical wrestling match, but now it had a nasty edge which made it all the better.

As this went on, it became a strong style war full of stiff hits and limb wrenching submissions. They went over thirty minutes and didn’t slow down once, pushing each other to go further and further. Even the old and grainy ROH footage couldn’t hide the fact these two were beating the shit out of each other as we got stolen finishers, last gasp kick outs and a Super Ki Crusher which somehow wasn’t the end as Low Ki couldn’t capitalise and Dragon managed to roll out the ring.

That failure to get the win would prove decisive as not long after Dragon hit a fantastic Northern Lights style Backdrop Suplex before locking in Cattle Mutilation. When Low Ki seemed to be making his way to the ropes, Dragon just dragged him back to the centre and put it on again. Eventually, Shamrock had to make the call. Low Ki was out.

Stunning match. You could main event a New Japan show with that in 2019, and it would be treated like the wonderful piece of wrestling it was. Loved it.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Before they finished the show, ROH engaged in a collective circle jerk about how good the match was. It was all a bit much, to be honest. Dragon cut a decent, if short, promo, before we cut to a recap of the night. Do they realise we just watched this stuff? It did make the valid point that the tournament ended with everyone on one win, so nothing had been settled.

Finally, we finished on a bunch of backstage promos as Mikey Whipwreck shouted at Amazing Red then Paul London, Spanky and American Dragon flexed at each other over an internet poll ranking the best graduate from the HBK School. Christ, why would you put all of that after the fantastic match? Surely good wrestling is the best way to end a wrestling show?

Overall Show

Wow, ROH really was a mixed bag in this period. Everything with Low Ki, Daniels and Dragon is brilliant. You need to see that shit. However, the rest of the card is all over the place. There are horrific slurs, wild spotfests and then some outright bullshit that seems right out of WWE’s play book. It’s safe to say that they were still finding their feet.

Top Three Matches In ROH History

1. American Dragon vs Low Ki, Round Robin Challenge – Four And A Half Stars

2. American Dragon vs Low Ki vs Christopher Daniels, Honor Begins – Four And A Half Stars

3. Christopher Daniels vs American Dragon, Round Robin Challenge – Three And Three Quarter Stars

If you enjoyed this review, please consider contributing to my Ko-fi, even the smallest amount is appreciated.

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