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Arena Reports
Arena Report: Burgan's in-depth review of 12/26 ROH Final Battle 2004 - Austin Aries, Mick Foley

Dec 29, 2004 - 4:19:00 PM
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Derek Burgan, Torch Media Guy

Arena Report
ROH Final Battle 2004
December 26, 2004
Philadelphia, PA at the National Guard Armory


It just isnt an ROH road trip without everything going completely wrong. This time I thought I had everything planned out. I flew into Philadelphia in the afternoon and stayed at a Radisson Hotel about 1 mile away from the National Guard Armory. If it wasnt for the fact it was about 1,000 degrees below zero I could have walked to the show. I knew ahead of time that I was going to meet Torch Euro Heat reviewer, Celian Varini, at the show. Heres a wrestling fan so dedicated hes flying in from FRANCE to see a wrestling show. Now thats hardcore.

There were still a lot of X factors that I had little to no control over. The first was that I brought my girlfriend with me to Philly. Hell would freeze over before she went to a wrestling show, so I had to find something for her to do while I was at Final Battle 2004. I also had a third ticket - that I originally bought for Torch Japanese Reporter Keith Lipinski until he bailed out which I was going to sell to ROHwrestling.coms own gregh. Yes, the fact that I literally know at least 100 people only by their online screename is one of the most pathetic statistics I have ever heard of. I think its right behind the fact that WCW was paying guys like Nailz and Leapin Lanny Poffo for YEARS even though they did absolutely nothing for the company (thanks to the incredible Death of WCW book for that fact.) Only thing is, gregh never got back to me after he said he wanted the ticket and I had no way of contacting him.

I decided the best course of action would be to take my girlfriend over to the Franklin Mills Mall, which is basically the Mall of America East it's so big. We were having dinner at Ruby Tuesdays when my cell phone rang. It was Celian. Apparently Celian didnt know where he was so he gave the phone to his friend Mark, who lived in Philadelphia. I told Mark where I was and asked if he knew how to get to the mall.

I dont have a car.

I dont have a car.

I dont have a car.

Its 2004 and this guy doesnt have a car. WTF? So get this, he tries to give me directions to meet them in the heart of Philadelphia! I told them to call me back in 10 minutes and Ill be on my way down and he can give me directions from the highway.


I dont have a cell phone.

I dont have a cell phone.

I dont have a cell phone.

Thats right, Mark only had a prepaid calling card and these clowns were calling me from a pay phone in downtown Philly. My stress level at this point was about 1,000,000. Im an hour away from the show starting, heading into one of Americans oldest and biggest cities and Im being given directions by a guy who I wanted to start calling Eugene on the phone. Now let me tell you about downtown Philly. It is nothing but a series of one way streets with the most horrible signage you can imagine. I almost killed myself turning onto a street gong the wrong way and had like five cabs all honking their horns at me. Im driving my car like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity through the streets of Philly. FINALLY, after backtracking a dozen times just to take a god damn left turn, I found the street I was looking for. Lo and behold, there stood Celian and Mark on the street corner.

With Celian in the car it was time to head back to the National Guard Armory. On the way there I finally got a call from gregh and he asked where I was. I said I was about a minute and a half away from the building. Of course at this point I missed a cross over (which we dont have in New Hampshire) and at the set of lights where the National Guard Armory was I COULDNT TAKE A RIGHT TURN. I seriously could have killed someone at this point. Heres what I had to do. I had to drive to the next place where I could turn around, which is literally in the NEXT TOWN (Trevose, PA) and make my way back to the Armory. My minute and a half turned into ten f---ing minutes. We eventually made it to the Armory, I met gregh at the front of the building and soon after me and Celian were free to enjoy the show.

This is where things get weird.

Upon entering the building, Celian had his first look at the fabled ROH gimmick table. This was truly a sight to behold as not only were there new shirts (like the great Austin Aries one), but there were a ton of great new DVDs like the Weekend of Thunder and Jushin Liger shoot interview. This is not to mention all the other wrestling swag like the imported action figures, books and those stupid f---ing cellphone clips. This Just In: for those of you who read my review of Weekend of Thunder Night One, you know the one where I ended up buying a Jushin Liger cell phone clip? Well, I still have no idea what the hell that is or where it goes. Right now it is on my keychain.

Now, what I didnt mention until now was that before the show, I got about twenty emails from Torch ROH News Guy Sean Radican detailing what he wanted me to pick him up at the show. Ever see the movie Swingers with Jon Favreau? Well, if so then you remember the scene of him leaving like 10 messages on a girls answering machine, each one more desperate than the last. This was what it felt like getting all of Radicans emails. He went back and forth on what he wanted. First he wanted both the Weekend of Thunder DVDs. Then he wanted the Aries shirt. Then he wanted the Jushin Liger shoot. Then he wanted all of them. Then he wanted nothing because he spent too much money at Christmas. THIS WAS INSANE. Finally he said he wanted the Jushin Liger shoot and that was it. One day I am going to print out all these emails and publish my own book, The Rise and Fall of What Radican Wanted at the ROH Gimmick Table. Im sure Amazon will give you a deal if you buy it along with Pat McNeills All the Tables Were Broken.

So anyhoo, while I was looking for that Liger DVD for Radican, Celian was taking pictures of the gimmick table with his camera. This went over as well as Rob Feinstein applying for a job at Chuck E. Cheese. I think Ross ruler of the ROH gimmick table almost had a heart attack. Celian was told in no uncertain terms to get that camera out of the building. After all that drama unfolded, me and Celian went to our seats and got ready for the show. Of course anyone who has ever been to an ROH show knows how incredibly bad some of the seating can be. I would say the front row at an ROH show could comfortably fit about 17 chairs. Well, they sell 20 tickets. Celian and I had seat numbers 17 and 18 in Row A. I was sitting right next to the person who had seat #1 in Row B. I feel really bad for the people next to me in Row A (who had seat #s 19 and 20) because they paid first row price for what was basically a second row seat. If there was any good news in any of this, ROH didnt have those f---ing tie wraps on the chairs so maybe someone in the company came to their senses. They also must have been doing brisk business at the gimmick table because the bell time of the show was pushed back from 6:00 PM to 6:15.

On to the show!

(1) Jimmy Jacobs beat Trent Acid. The mini-Bruiser Brody Jimmy Jacobs had a huge following in Philly and his Huss chant was over big time. Trent Acid came out in his goofy new convict look which I dont get at all. He went straight into the crowd and was still given dollar bills by some undersexed girls. Jacobs also went outside the ring and was given dollar bills as well. The typical ROH ring rat is obviously an easy one. In a funny exchange to start the match, Jacobs held out his hand for a huss handshake but Trent refused. So Jacobs asked for a high five, and Acid followed. Jacobs then put his hand on the mat for a low five, I guess, but when Acid put his hand down on the mat Jacobs stomped it. This all led to Acid holding his hand in pain just like Jacobs holds his hand for the huss chants. Crowd was way behind Jacobs the entire match which is odd considering Acid is pretty much a local guy, but these Philly fans seem to be tougher than most. Pretty fast match which ended after Acid almost took Jacobs' head off with a Yakuza kick, but pulled Jacobs up at the two count. Acid then tried to pick Jacobs up for a suplex, but Jacobs countered out of it and quickly hit Acid with the Contra Code (ie: Sliced Bread #2, The Dudley Dog) for the win. After the match Acid wouldnt shake Jacobs hand and instead grabbed the microphone and said, I quit! Acid then left through the crowd. (6:00)

(2) Deranged & Lacey (w/Special K) beat AngelDust & Becky Bayless. This was billed as the first ever intergender tag team match (I guess the Insane Clown Posse match from ROH Uncensored doesnt count). I honestly dont understand this Special K when Izzy and Dixie are barely involved. I can overlook that for this match considering I think Deranged is one of the most underrated guys in the company and Lacey is not hard on the eyes at all. For some bizarre coincidence this was the fourth show in a row Ive been to live in which Laceys ass was directly in front of me all night. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

Now Gumgods ownMatt Aponte swears to me that Becky Bayless was trained by Homicide, but I find it hard to believe. Its like someone telling me Rob Liefeld was trained to draw by Neal Adams. Thankfully she stayed on the ring apron most of the match. Deranged and AngelDust had quite the little battle with some serious look springboard and off-the-top-rope double stomps to each others chests. Unfortunately the two didnt do anywhere near the amount of high flying they are capable of. Lacey kept getting in shots to AngelDust behind the refs back and was even able to do a couple of offensive maneuvers to the guy after a tag from Deranged. Becky got the hot tag and went to town on Lacey hitting her with a bad looking spear and a poor mans version of Trish Stratus bulldog. While AngelDust was taking care of Cheech and Cloudy (this group needs some new guys ASAP) outside the ring, Deranged tripped up Bayless leading to a DDT and pin by Lacey. After the match Deranged, Lacey, Cheech and Cloudy celebrated in the ring. Deranged actually punched Bayless. Woah. This brought out Dunn and Marcos to Twisted Sisters Were Not Gonna Take It and those two gave an assisted Sliced Bread #2 to Cheech while the rest of the group bailed to the back. (7:30)


(3) Rockin Rebel beat Danny Moore. I think his name was Danny Moore at least. This match was totally f---ed up. Rebel beat the hell out of the kid to start the match. After a couple minutes Moore got some offense and it led to Rebel taking off his belt and Moore pulling down Rebels underwear to spank him. At some point during this Moore put a water bottle in Rebels ass crack. This was official the gayest thing Ive ever seen in ROH. Well, outside of that weird Jerry Lynn and the banana stuff from 2002. Rebel finished off Moore with some sort of move off the top rope and then grabbed a microphone to wish the fans a happy holidays and said they can keep booing him in 2005. Well, thats nice. (4:20)

(4) Homicide (w/Julius Smokes) beat Josh Daniels. Im trying to think of a way for Josh Daniels to be more boring and Ive got nothing. Whatever happened to him in the Embassy anyway? Did I miss a show? Julius Smokes was on FIRE here playing to the crowd. The two guys had a really stiff match with some insane looking chops. Homicide kept working over Daniels arm the entire match and ended up winning with some sort of submission move. I was in the front row and I had no idea what was going on when the ref rang the bell. Thats not good. (11:20)

(5) John Walters beat Jimmy Rave (w/Prince Nana & The Outcast Killaz) to retain the ROH Pure Championship. I hated, Hated, HATED the finish of this match. Both guys used up all their rope breaks (Rave also got warned about punching with a fist) and the finish came with Rave wrapped up in the turnbuckles while Walters was outside the ring applying some sort of submission in which Rave's arms were being pulled across his face. The ref was counting to 20 (for Walters outside the rig) and Rave TAPPED at 19. Thats just insane. That makes Rave look like the dumbest wrestler in the world. Am I supposed to believe he cant hear the ref and that he cant hold out for ONE SECOND MORE? Please. Other than the finish it was a good back and forth match though. (11:30)

After the match Nana and the Outcast Killaz got into the ring. Nana grabbed the microphone and offered John Walters a spot in the Embassy. Nana pulled out a wad of cash and said it could be Walters if he joined. Walters came back in and got the money. He talked a little trash and Nana gave him some more money. Walters asked if this would be the kind of payday he would get every night in the Embassy. Nana said yes. Walters asked if Nana thought he could be bought off. This must have been a rhetorical question because Walters said, Youre right and joined the Embassy. Good angle. Rave was visibly upset during all of this but Nana assured him he would still be the crown jewel. Walters then gave Rave half his bankroll. This made Jimmy happy.

walters.jpg
John Walters, selling his soul and joining the Embassy (photo by Mary Kate www.rohwrestling.com)



(6) Dann Maff & BJ Whitmer beat The Carnage Crew (Loc & DeVito) in a Fight Without Honor match. Everything but the kitchen sink was used here. Allison Danger made her way to ringside pretty early in the match but really did nothing of note. Each guy was thrown in the metal ringside banners several times and both Whitmer and DeVito were bleeding like stuck pigs. The guys used ladders to attack each other and set up a way-too-elaborate spot in which Whitmer climbed up one and DeVito the other, ending with a chokeslam of sorts from DeVito to Whitmer. A kendo stick was brought in and each side dished out oh my god worthy shots to the head. Out came MICK FOLEY!!!!

Foley grabbed the microphone and wished everyone in the crowd a happy holidays. Foley also said it wasnt complete without a gift from him. Foley went into his sweat pants like he was going to pull out Mr. Socko and instead pulled out a red stocking. He then dumped the stocking, which was full of THUMBTACKS, onto the mat. Yikes. At some point after this DeVito took off his shirt, which is something best left on. Both teams teased being hit onto the tacks, but eventually DeVito took an Exploder suplex from Whitmer onto the tacks and soon after took the pin. Foley put over both teams after the match and all four hugged/shook hands. So I guess that feud is over. (16:35)

foley.jpg
Mick Foley's X-Mas gift to the hardcore fans (photo by Mary Kate www.rohwrestling.com)



Foley then called out Ricky Steamboat! Foley made some excellent points about Steamboats seemingly hypocritical take on hardcore matches by noting hes been involved in famous strap, kendo stick and steel cage matches throughout his career. Steamboat admitted he had and said that maybe he was wrong. Steamboat said that hardcore wrestling had its place in ROH, as long as it was in addition to pure wrestling matches. Foley brought up what happened between him and Ric Flair on RAW a couple weeks ago and said he (Foley) was wrong to disrespect Flair because he was lower on the food chain. This all led to Foley saying he wanted an apology from Samoa Joe because Joe is lower than Foley on the food chain. Oh no he didnt!

Joe came out and got right into Foleys face. This was awesome. Foley put over Joe and said he kept dropping Joes name to the brass at the WWE. Foley wanted Joe to shake his hand and apologize for calling Foley out when he knew damn well at Glory By Honor III Foley was at a hockey game. Joe shook Foleys hand. Joe then said they should hug and when they did Joe punched Foley down. OH MY!!! Steamboat tried to keep the peace but Joe told Foley he wanted him in the ring and left. Steamboat told Foley, Now thats hardcore. Steamboat then left to his music as the crowd chanted his name. What a great moment.

***Next up was intermission. Steamboat went to the gimmick table and was available for autographs. He was SWAMPED. Me and Celian went over to the Maui-wowi stand to get some overpriced smoothies. It was pretty damn hot in that building.

(7) Jay Lethal beat Weapon of Mask Destruction #2 (w/Prince Nana & The Outcast Killaz). Samoa Joe came out with Lethal, but quickly went to the back. I was hoping for a big surprise in the form of WMD#2, but it was just some skinny white guy who obviously has never read Triple Hs book. His mask was kinda cool though as it looked like it was stitched together Frankenstein-style and the guy was a decent enough wrestler. I honestly dont even remember how lethal won the match, and Im looking forward to seeing this again on DVD someday. (6:30) I just think this was a golden opportunity to put the Embassy over HUGE if Walters would have already joined the group and to have an even bigger name unveil as WMD#2 would have given the group a night like the Prophecy had back at Final Battle 2002. I think I just went into this match expecting way too much.

(8) C.M. Punk (w/Tracy Brooks) & Steve Corino beat Roderick Strong & Alex Shelley. Lots of comedy to start this match. Both Corino and Punk came out with ring boys. Punks were some of his students I saw wrestle at the Midnight Express Reunion show while Corinos were Alex Law and Ricky Landell. Corino also had a new young Lex Luthor-like personal ring announcer. The gimmick this show was naming off all the famous wrestlers that came from the Philadelphia area, like J.T. Smith, Rockin Rebel and The Sandman. When the new announcer went to grab a bottle of water, Bobby Cruz grabbed the microphone and said, Thats my gimmick! He then grabbed the water and drank it. The new announcer went back to reading more names. After that was done the announcer read off Corinos weight in kilograms and in one of the greatest moments of the night, Corinos boys jumped off the ring apron and pointed to the Green Lantern Fan in the front row. The announcer then said, Weighing in tonight at an even 110 kilos, or 242 pounds for the virgin in the front row with the Green Lantern shirt trying to do the math. This brought the house down and a you got served chant started up. Im kinda torn on the GLF myself. I think in one sense its great that ROH has fans like him who are incredibly passionate. However, I also think he tries to become part of the show and I find that to be obnoxious. But, those goofs in ECW Arena like Sign Guy became more famous than most of the wrestlers so its hypocritical for anyone to diss GLF without also saying the ECW guys were a bunch of self serving jerks as well. I still cant get over GLF having two different shirts for the Midnight Express Reunion show. One for the afternoon card, and one for the night. I would bet anything he gets married in a Green Lantern tux one day to a girl he meets online.

Once the match started the comedy continued as Corino kept getting beat on, but once he got a little offense would tag in Punk. About a second later Punk would quickly tag Corino back in. The third time Punk tried this, Corino ducked out of the way of the tag. Strong hit seemingly 100 backbreakers in this match, much to the crowds delight. Corino I think was calling out some Japanese names before hitting some moves. He also called out Steamboat before throwing an armdrag. After Strong had quite a bit of offense, Tracy went to the ring apron and the ref stared at her tits. Strong wondered where the ref was and also got caught staring at her rack. Apparently they dont watch Seinfeld because the words of wisdom, take a quick look, and then look away was never more appropriate. The finish was some sort of f---ing submission by Punk on Alex Shelley which again I could barely tell what was going on from the front row. What a weird night. (17:30) Fun match.

After the match Austin Aries came out and said back at Scramble Cage Melee, Shelley said it was time for the group to stick together and for Aries to know his place. Aries said since that point Shelley disappeared from ROH and it was time for Aries to take his spot as leader of Generation Next. Aries told Shelley he had five seconds to make up his mind, but attacked Shelley after two. Strong separated the two guys, but only so he could attack Shelley by himself after he nailed the former GeNext leader with a backbreaker. Strong and Aries left the ring together. Fantastic segment.

reign1.jpg
No, this is not Bryan Danielson, but it might as well be.



(9) Low Ki versus Bryan Danielson went to a No Contest. To start the match Low Ki sent Julius Smokes to the back and ripped off his tear-away pants to reveal wrestling trunks. I thought this was a really good moment to show how seriously Ki takes the American Dragon. Now Danielson, he just looked WHACK as Jack Evans would say. Danielson is still bald and is now growing a scruffy looking beard. He looks just like the character Matthew McConaughey played in Reign of Fire. This match was incredibly stiff. Tons of counters and submission moves applied. There were actually a couple jackasses in the crowd chanting boring and I have to wonder why in Gods name they bought tickets to a Ring of Honor show. To me thats like a football fan saying last weekends game between the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts was boring. There was a crazy spot in which Dragon went to give Ki an airplane spin in the middle of the ring, but Ki countered into a Dragon Clutch! But Get This, Dragon kept the airplane spin going while being choked out by the clutch. Incredible! Eventually the two fought into the crowd and in an amazing spot, Dragon gave Ki the Airplane Spin onto the floor. I hope the DVD catches this, but this tall black guy was running away from them and took the biggest bump of the night off one of the light stands. Guy got straight up, so he obviously learned a thing or two about not selling anything from the Undertaker.

At this point I couldnt see anything because the whole crowd was on its feet and the fight was taking place over by the ROH gimmick table and I think to the front of the building. The ref, Sean Hanson, came back to the ring and declared in a No Contest. (21:00) Well, Low Ki came running back to the ring and he was PISSED. Low Ki grabbed Hanson while Homicide was egging him on. Ki told the ref to award him the match since Danielson wasnt there but the ref refused. This was not the answer Low Ki wanted to hear. Low Ki took off the refs belt and tied it around Hansons head like a noose and began to choke him out. The heels finally left, with Homicide mocking Dragon by wearing his cape to the back.

(10) Austin Aries (w/Roderick Strong) beat Samoa Joe (w/Jay Lethal) to win the ROH championship. I dont know how to describe this match other than to say it was the most amazing moment of any show I have seen this year. Keep in mind that I saw the Second City Saints win the tag team titles in Chicago. I saw the insanity that is Jack Evans in Scramble Cage Melee. I saw Jim Cornette return with the Midnight Express in a segment that blew the roof off in Philadelphia and I saw Jushin Ligers debut against the American Dragon.

This match blew all of that away.

The first half of the match was good enough as it is. Stiff offense. Great OLE OLE OLE kicks (including one right in front of me) that led to Aries reversing an OLE kick and hitting Joe with an awesome dropkick of his own. However, this all built up to a final 10 minutes which was just breathtaking to be a part of. Back in the ring Aries hit a 450 splash that had at least 90% of the crowd thinking it was the finish and couldnt believe it when Joe kicked out. Joe put Aries on the top turnbuckle and got ready to hit a muscle buster but Aries worked his way out of it and actually hit Joe with a brain buster! HOLY SHIT!!! This was after Aries could not get Joe up during the match. God, all I can think of at this point is Hogan slamming Andre at WrestleMania III. You wouldnt BELIEVE how hot the crowd was at this point. Aries than dragged Joe to the corner and hit another 450! 1.23!!! The crowd ERUPTED!! This was like nothing I have ever been a part of. (17:30)

After the match Jay Lethal consoled Joe while Roderick Strong celebrated with Aries. What really is amazing is that you can have such an emotional and amazing match that had two guys outside the ring the entire time THAT DID NOT INTERFERE.ONE TIME. Screw you WWE. Joe got the belt and grabbed the microphone. Both Aries and Joe looked on the verge of tears and either they are the greatest actors in the history of wrestling, or this match meant that much to them. This was just awesome to watch. Joe told Aries to defend the belt like a man and to respect it along with the ROH fans. Joe then put the belt around the waist of Aries. This was every bit as good as Benoit winning the WWE title at WrestleMania XX.

joe.jpg
Samoa Joe, moments before awarding the ROH title to Austin Aries



Bravo ROH, bravo.

ROH DVD Guy Derek Burgan has been writing for the PWTorch website for 3 years. He doesnt really want to review One Night in China, but knows he has to or it will haunt him forever. If you have any questions, corrections, feedback, comments and ideas, he can be reached at: derek@gumgod.com


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