ROH Throwback: Night of Appreciation (27/4/02) Review

So old-school. Credit: ROH

The third show in ROH’s run was set-up as a night of appreciation for Eddy Guerrero who was already back on WWE TV and had actually won the Intercontinental Title. It’s weird that a company which had three shows to their name was giving someone a big goodbye, but it’s Guerrero, so who are we to argue? Let’s wander back in time to see what happened.

In classic early ROH fashion, they kicked things off with a load of stuff happening backstage, outside the building and basically anywhere that wasn’t the ring. We got more disgusting homophobia involving the Christopher Street Connection and Da Hit Squad, some terrible comedy and Spanky annoying the suits. It was all bollocks and took fucking ages.

Da Hit Squad (Mafia and Monster Mack) defeated Christopher Street Connection (Buff-E and Mace) and Prince Nana and Simply Luscious in a Three-Way-Tag

Oh, for fuck sake. We started with the Christopher Street Connection and Da Hit Squad, which gave Corino and Donnie B an excuse to spout more homophobia on commentary. When is this shit going to stop? It’s horrendous and makes Dieno look like a paragon of PC virtues.

As Da Hit Squad beat up CSC, Alison Danger turned up and turned this into a three-way-tag by introducing Prince Nana and Simply Luscious who were backed up by Elax. Of course, that turned out to be a way to provide some titillation as it didn’t take long for them to hint at Danger and Luscious having sexual chemistry which pissed Nana off enough that he left Luscious to be destroyed by Da Hit Squad. To add to the sickening nature of proceedings, Da Hit Squad pinned Luscious with their hands on her breasts. So, em, fuck this shit.

Verdict: Fuck Off

Jay Briscoe defeated Tony Mamaluke

We are teasing tension between the Briscoes with Mark having a go at his brother for being 0-2. How many times has ROH done that storyline over the years? Also, it says a lot about this show that the Briscoes are not going to be the most homophobic thing on it.

Sadly, even if this match didn’t make me want to throw up, it still wasn’t very good. They were aiming for serious wrestling and hit boredom. Making mat work interesting is difficult, and they didn’t pull it off, as it felt like the real story was happening outside the ring. Mamaluke came out to the Full Blooded Italian’s music and was wearing his FBI gear which according to the commentators was going to piss off James Maritato who wanted them to ditch that crap. Then there was Mark Briscoe continually egging Jay on or having a go at him for not being good enough.

And even getting the win wasn’t enough for wee Marky. Post-match we followed The Briscoes backstage where Mark scolded Jay for almost losing. Their parents were there and told him to stop riding his brother before Maritato had a go at Mamaluke for the comedy crap (there was no comedy crap in that match. If there had been, I might have enjoyed it).

Verdict: At Least It Wasn’t Openly Homophobic

Divine Storm (Quiet Storm and Chris Divine) defeated Joey Matthews and Christian York

The very worst of early American indie style was on display in this match. We started with a lot of choreographed chain wrestling to show that these men are ‘serious wrestlers’ before following up with a shitload of moves. I like moves (they’re kind of important) but watching this I began to understand those people who rant about indie wrestlers doing them without meaning. It was just stuff.

It doesn’t help that any charisma these men might have was not on display. They were just four guys doing things, a lot of which were sloppy as hell (there was an Avalanche Atomic Drop that looked shit) which probably didn’t help. I can’t say I hated it, sloppy can be fun to watch, but I certainly didn’t care about it.

There were a few story notes as Brian XL got involved at one point, pissing off Quiet Storm because that goes against the Code Of Honor. You’d have thought that might have caused a distraction leading to York and Matthews getting the win, but you’d have been wrong as Storm got the submission not long after. I’m finding it very hard to get enthused about this stuff.

Verdict: Less Moves, More Feeling

James Maritato defeated Scoot Andrews and Xavier

We got some pre-match promos with Maritato pushing his serious wrestler gimmick while Scoot Andrews shouted down the camera for a bit. Someone needs to teach wrestlers that shouting does not equal a great promo. Have none of these men seen Terry Funk? Or Jake the Snake? Shouting has its place but just yelling at a camera is not good.

I haven’t mentioned that ROH is keeping track of people’s records. That’s not going to stick so I won’t bother doing the same, but this match was put together because Xavier had beaten both men previously. You’d think that would mean he didn’t have to face them again, but oh well. Either way, I bring it up because it’s intriguing to see ROH do it while AEW is attempting something similar.

Can you tell I don’t have much to say about the actual match? It was quite good while it was on, but they didn’t go very long. As I’ve said in previous reviews, Xavier is fun, but he’s green. Andrews, meanwhile, has some cool power moves but is pretty immobile while Maritato was there to hold it all together. At one point he took that role literally, basically placing Xavier in place for a Scoot Force of Nature (his Sit-Out Piledriver) and even following the move down to make sure it connected fine.

He was rewarded for his work with the victory as he caught Xavier in a Fujiwara for the submission victory. Nothing offensive or particularly shit happened here, so I think that makes it the best match on the show so far.

Verdict: We’re Moving In The Right Direction

Simply Luscious was backstage complaining to Rob Feinstein (cunt) about being booked with Prince Nana. Eh? Are we breaking kayfabe now? How weird. He promised her something better, but I wouldn’t trust that prick.

Low Ki defeated AJ Styles

2002 AJ Styles is a massive dork who takes himself far too seriously. It’s easy to forget how long it took him to develop something resembling a sense of humour.

Corino and Donnie B (I have no idea who he is, by the way) are obsessed with telling you that what you’re watching is going to be the greatest thing you’ve ever seen and it’s kind of annoying. Don’t tell me, show me. This was a good match, maybe even a great one, but when you’re shouting it at me, it makes me want to dislike it.

A big part of what made it enjoyable was Low Ki’s determination to kick AJ’s head off. These two were working that big move, look at all this cool shit we can do style, but it was given a real edge by Low Ki being stiff as shit. There was a thrust kicked that had me rewinding just to watch the soul leave Styles’ body again and again.

Of course, that meant it was lacking is anything approaching psychology. At times it felt like they were just taking it in turns to hit their moves, AJ Moonsaulting into the Reverse DDT only for Low Ki to come straight back with a vicious Powerbomb. It all looked crisp, and the crowd was going wild, but they lacked an emotional hook and went far too long. By the end, my mind was drifting, the constant flurry of action blurring into one.

All of which is not a way to instantly dismiss this match. It was the style ROH was going for, and AJ was far from the finished product at this point in his career. This is the exact performance you’d expect AJ Styles and Low Ki to have in 2002 and if I’d watched it back then (I was ten), I’d have loved it.

Verdict: Good, But Where’s The Heart?

The Carnage Crew (DeVito and Loc) defeated Marcos and Dunn

The Carnage Crew squashed Dunn and Marcos while the fans chanted boring. They are DeVito who did some job work for WWF and was in DaBaldies in ECW and Loc who had an ECW run as HC Loc. Dunn and Marcos, meanwhile, were apparently making their debut and took a beating for it. As far as Cagematch is aware, Loc is the only one still wrestling.

Anyway, there was nothing to the match. The fans didn’t seem to take to The Carnage Crew which, considering they are called The Carnage Crew, is perhaps not that surprising. There is joy in a good squash, but I didn’t find it in this one.

Verdict: More Meh

Donovan Morgan defeated Christopher Daniels

Daniels went out of his way to put over Morgan in his pre-match promo, showing that even back in 2002 he was a pro’s pro. Morgan was someone who had try-outs for WWF and WCW but found his feet in Japan working for NOAH. In fact, around this time, he’d been wrestling tag matches with Mike Modest against Marufuji and Misawa which is pretty awesome.

And this match could not have been more different from those that came before. While Low Ki and Styles went for flash, Morgan and Daniels built their match on wrestling. They started with simple holds, battling over headlocks before moving up through the gears. Those holds began to turn into Germans before eventually morphing into each man’s signature offence.

It was also a great way to instantly establish Morgan as a threat. Daniels has been built as one of the top guys in this company, but Morgan went out and matched him, going hold for hold before kicking out of the Best Moonsault Ever. Finally, they gave him a decisive pinfall, as he hit a Swinging Neckbreaker before transitioning straight into the pin.

Maybe I’m just a contrary bastard, but I’d take this match over AJ vs Low Ki every day of the week.

Verdict: Great Stuff

Post-match, Daniels called Morgan back to the ring for the Code of Honor, which he hasn’t been adhering to (an angle they went into far too early. If they’d had everyone shake hands for the first year or two and then had someone break it that would have been so much better). He changed his mind about the handshake, but put Morgan over and seemed to be setting up a partnership between the two of them.

Spanky defeated American Dragon, Michael Shane, Paul London and John Hope in a Gauntlet Match

There was a backstage segment before this match that was so badly acted and cringe-inducing that I had to turn down the volume. The long and short of it was that Spanky’s an arrogant asshole who is pissing people off. Then, for reasons not explained, we were only treated to highlights of the Paul London vs John Hope part of the gauntlet. That would be poor John Hope’s only appearance for ROH.

The treats kept coming as Simply Lucious was on commentary, sounding like she’d never interacted with a human being before. Amazingly, that wasn’t the worst part about it as Corino drooled all over the poor lass. How long does this commentary team stick around? They are roughly 40% responsible for why it’s taking me so long to get through these shows.

Anyway, the match was alright. Michael Shane and Spanky had a surprisingly physical segment, with Shane being busted open. They had Simply Lucious refer to their dislike as a ‘shoot’, so they’re obviously trying to get across the idea that the hatred between these two is real. It might be a bit more believable if either of them could act, but at least it gave the gauntlet a smidge of a story.

After that, it would have made all the sense in the world to have Dragon come out and beat Spanky relatively easily. Sadly, they weren’t that smart, and Spanky kept up the momentum. It was a very different match, with Dragon out-wrestling Spanky early (how daft are these names, by the way?) before hitting a series of big moves in the final minutes, with Spanky kicking out of all of them, surviving by the skin of his teeth. A feat made all the more impressive by the fact his trousers had split, leaving everyone thankful that he was wearing underwear.

It was all clearly designed to put Spanky over and, in that sense, it worked. He got through a rival in Michael Shane before showing a lot of heart against Dragon and beating a guy who ROH had highlighted on their first two shows. They’re telling a story with him, and while I can’t pretend I loved this match, I’m willing to go with it.

Verdict: Spanky Is The Man

Spanky cut a post-match promo that was attempting to channel Shawn Michaels (he called himself the Showstopper) and, well, fell flat. Anyway, he was putting his hat in the ring for the title tournament (first we’ve heard of this, but it started on the next show) which brought out a whole load of people who decided to do the same. The sound mix is so bad that it’s hard to figure out what everyone is saying, but it was all very WWE-lite.

‘I want to be the champion.’

‘No, I deserve to be the champion.’

And, so on.

Eddy Guerrero and The Amazing Red defeated SAT (Jose Maximo and Joel Maximo)

Watching Eddy wrestle is always a joy, and there is an instant calm when he enters the ring. There were a lot of talented wrestlers on this show, but he has an aura about him that stands out. Some of the people already mentioned would go on to gain that same aura over the years, but at this point, Eddy is a star, and no-one else is.

Truthfully, the match is nothing special. Guerrero was on his way back to WWE, and he wasn’t pushing himself. It’s built off the fact that it’s Eddy Guerrero and he’s in an ROH ring, which is generally credited with giving the company a legitimacy that it might have struggled to find otherwise. Red does some cool shit because he’s Amazing Red and that’s what he does. He still looks like a child, but damn, he a very flippy child and he bumps around for SAT who matched his inventiveness with some enjoyable double team moves.

Enjoyable is probably the keyword. This wasn’t a masterclass or something that you need to see, but it was enjoyable. All four men did what they had to do with the three ROH guys letting Eddy do his thing. I could question the decision to have Guerrero go over on his way out, but let’s face it, that was probably part of the deal when they booked WWE’s Intercontinental Champion.

Verdict: Eddy! Eddy! Eddy!

Eddy Guerrero defeated Brian XL

We weren’t quite done, Brian XL came out and said some stuff I couldn’t understand and Eddy said some more stuff I couldn’t understand in response (sound problems, not because they chose to speak a foreign language). It led to an impromptu match which Guerrero won in less than a minute. There was nothing to this, and it felt a bit unnecessary, but the live crowd ate it up.

Verdict: Why Not?

Overall Show

Was this a good show? No, not really. I enjoyed parts of the matches, but this period of ROH is tough to watch (hence me taking such big breaks between each review). It’s packed with bullshit and I’m not talking about the occasional bit of lousy wrestling. Some matches are worth a watch, but if you’re asking whether you should sit down and give this show several hours of your time, then the answer is no.

Top Three Matches In ROH History So Far

1. American Dragon vs Low Ki, Round Robin Challenge

2. American Dragon vs Low Ki vs Christopher Daniels, Honor Begins

3. Christopher Daniels vs Donovan Morgan, Night Of Appreciation

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

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