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By Chris Vetter, Torch Contributor
Ring of Honor returned to Philadelphia, Penn., on Jan. 14, 2006, for “Hell Freezes Over,” which references the first-ever appearance of Chris Hero in ROH. Many fans had requested Hero in ROH since the promotion’s inception, and it seemed like he would only appear… when hell froze over.
The crowd is a legit 900 or more, and like all recent ROH releases, sound & lighting are good. Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard are back on commentary, and they are the best announce team going today, hands down.
The tape opened with Austin Aries & Roderick Strong coming to the ring to show off their newly-won tag titles. Aries promised they would take the tag titles all over the world to defend them. Strong promised he would be the next world champion. Strong left; Aries took off his button-down shirt and he called out Ricky Reyes.
(1) Austin Aries defeats Rickey Reyes (w/Julius Smokes) at 5:49. Aries dove through the ropes onto Reyes on the floor, and they brawled on the floor. In the ring, Reyes hit a belly-to-belly overhead suplex. Aries hit a Saito Suplex, a field goal kick to the stomach, and they went to the floor again, where Aries tossed Reyes into a guard rail. In the ring, Reyes hit a back suplex and some stomps. He hit a nice gutwrench suplex for a nearfall at 3:30.
Reyes hit three spin kicks to the chest. Aries hit a nice top-rope missile dropkick, then a running dropkick to the face in a corner for a nearfall. Reyes applied a Dragon Sleeper; however, Aries leaned backward (and just like how he pinned Samoa Joe in Feb. 2005), he pushed down Reyes’ shoulders for the three count. Good, short opener.
The heels went to continue attacking Aries, but Strong made the save. Reyes said that he proved Aries isn’t better than the ROH students, because Aries couldn’t escape the Dragon Sleeper.
An all-too-quick graphic showed the top five rankings.
Colt Cabana cut a backstage promo, saying he isn’t sleeping well. He said he had to throw up Drano (that Homicide poured down his throat) just to live. “I don’t have words; but I have actions. And my actions speak louder than words,” Cabana said. Good promo.
Adam Pearce jumped in front of the camera as Cabana left, and he complained that a six-man mayhem match isn’t his style of match. Pearce said that he and Jim Cornette are not on the same page.
(2) Nigel McGuinness defeats Tony Mamaluke at 8:16 to retain the Pure Title. Solid match. The ref explaining the rules of the match has been cut again. Nigel applied a Masterlock/full nelson, and Mamaluke used a rope break. Nigel tied up Mamaluke’s legs, and Tony used his second rope break at 2:00! Prazak talked about what happened earlier in the day at the CZW show (which is really important to help fans understand what this show is about.) Mamaluke applied a Front Guillotine Choke, but Nigel escaped it with a suplex.
Nigel is playfully kicking at Tony. Mamaluke applied a cross-armbreaker, and Nigel used his first rope break. However, Mamaluke was forced to use his last rope break at 5:00. Nigel tied up Mamaluke in the Tree of Woe and hit a kick to his back. Leonard acknowledged this match is “slow paced, methodical style.” Mamaluke hit a Frogsplash for a nearfall. Nigel did a headstand in the corner, but Mamaluke nailed him with a Mafia Kick. Nigel applied a keylock/armbar behind the head, and Tony tapped out. This match didn’t click for me.
(3) Jimmy Rave & Alex Shelley defeat Claudio Castognoli & Azrieal (w/Colt Cabana) at 14:17. Rave was buried under a sea of toilet paper again, and the fans chanted, “Die Jimmy Die!” Rave and Claudio started, and Claudio overpowered him, and he hit a nice dropkick. Azrieal hit a nice dropkick on Shelley. The heels hit their simultaneous spear & clothesline on Azrieal at 3:00. Shelley hit a Lionsault for a nearfall, then a running basement dropkick on Azrieal’s shoulder. The heels hit a team slingshot on Azrieal on the top rope. Shelley hit a back suplex; Rave hit a standing neckbreaker. Azrieal finally hit a blockbuster on Shelley, and he made the hot tag to Claudio at 8:30.
Claudio hit a diving European Uppercut on Rave’s back. Claudio picked up Shelley for a delayed vertical suplex, and the crowd counted to 32, before Castognoli dropped him! Claudio then gave Rave a vertical suplex (this one only for a 6 count), and he dropped Rave on Shelley! Nice. Azrieal checked back in and he hit a dropkick on Rave’s head. Claudio tied Shelley behind his back, and he hit a swinging faceplant on Shelley. Azrieal hit a top-rope doublestomp on Rave’s head for a nearfall at 11:00.
Shelley came back with a top-rope hurricanrana on Claudio. Rave hit a top-rope elbow drop on Claudio for a nearfall. Rave hit a running knee on Castognoli. Azrieal hit some spine kicks on Rave, then a top-rope clothesline on Rave. Rave went to put Azrieal in the Greetings from Ghana/pedigree, but Azrieal blocked it; Rave applied a butterfly submission hold instead, and Azrieal tapped out. This match topped my expectations.
A clip of Jack Evans vs. Roderick Strong from FIP aired. At ringside, Gary Michael Cappetta stood in front of the FIP set, and he explained to the fans that FIP is “ROH’s sister promotion.” Capetta interviewed Homicide, while several clips of Homicide in FIP aired. Dave Prazak came out in a sharp white suit, and he has American Dragon Bryan Danielson with him! Prazak said that DP Associates is the top faction in FIP, and he asked that the title match be a three-way! Homicide agreed.
(4) American Dragon defeats Homicide and Roderick Strong to win the FIP title at 4:31. Disappointingly short, but hot while it lasted. Colt Cabana jumped Homicide and tossed him shoulder-first into a guardrail, re-injuring Homicide’s shoulder. Meanwhile, Dragon hit some chops and European Uppercuts on Strong, and they traded blows on the floor. Strong hit some of his loud, vicious chops. Jimmy (Gabe Sapolsky) Bower briefly joined the commentary team to say that Homicide has been taken to the locker room.
Prazak is fun as a heel! Strong and Dragon finally entered the ring at 3:30, where Strong hit his Gorilla Press Gutbuster over his knees, then a Tiger Bomb, and he applied the Stronghold/vertical Boston Crab. Suddenly, Homicide re-entered the ring, and he broke up the Stronghold. Dragon grabbed Homicide and applied the Fujiwara Armbar on Homicide’s injured shoulder, and Homicide immediately tapped out. Dragon declared himself “the best wrestler in the world.” Too short, but that’s understandable with Homicide’s injury.
(5) Christopher Daniels (w/Allison Danger) defeats Jay Lethal at 14:55. Prazak has rejoined Leonard on commentary. The crowd booed Lethal, and they traded basic armbars early. Daniels hit some armdrags, and Lethal stalled on the floor. In the ring, Daniels hit some stomps to the chest and a spin kick to the chest for a nearfall. Lethal did a cartwheel out of a hiptoss to land on his feet, and he hit a basement dropkick on Daniels’ head at 6:30. Lethal took control with a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall, then a Cobra Clutch over his knee.
Lethal hit some chops; Daniels fired back with some chops and forearms. Lethal hit a high back suplex. Daniels hit a Flatliner/reverse Russian Legsweep at 10:30, and both men were down. Daniels hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, then a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. Lethal dove through the ropes on Daniels, then he hit a spinebuster in the ring for a nearfall. The crowd loudly chanted, “Lethal sucks!” Lethal hit a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall.
Daniels hit a Death Valley Driver for a nearfall. Lethal went for the Benoit flying headbutt, but he landed on his feet when he saw Daniels move. However Daniels sat up, rolled up Lethal, and scored the pin. Prazak said that Daniels win “avenges his pinfall loss at Final Battle.” (DP didn’t acknowledge Lethal’s win over Curry Man.) Good match, but a bit below my expectations.
Samoa Joe ran into the ring after Jay Lethal, but he somehow wound up brawling with Daniels. Suddenly, B.J. Whitmer entered the ring, and he hit an Exploder Suplex on Daniels. “These fans may have forgiven you for walking out on the company two years ago, but I haven’t forgiven or forgotten,” Whitmer said on the mic. Whitmer turned to Joe and said he saved him from the attack, because he wants Joe at 100 percent for their match later. Good promo by Whitmer.
Gary Michael Cappetta interviewed A.J. Styles backstage. Styles said he challenged Matt Sydal to a match as “a test for me.” He wouldn’t explain further. Pearce again walked on-screen, and he asked where Cornette is. Capetta said Cornette isn’t here.
(6) Jack Evans defeats Kid Mikaze and Jason Blade and Adam Pearce and Trik Davis and Sal Rinauro in a six-man mayhem match at 11:28. This is a one-fall match. Mikaze, wearing yellow pants, and Blade, in blue trunks, opened the match, and they traded quick offense; they obviously know each other’s style well. Evans got in the ring, across from Pearce! Evans did some breakdancing. Pearce tried to show his moves, but he couldn’t kip up. Sal tagged in and hit some chops on Evans. Trik entered the ring at 4:00, and he hit some armdrags and a one-legged dropkick on Sal.
Pearce got in and he beat up Trik with some hard chops. Pearce gave Trik a Giant Swing, knocking all the other four competitors down. Pearce was dizzy and fell to the mat, so all six competitors are down at 7:00. Sal hit his doublejump Famouser on Pearce. Sal hit a Lionsault on Blade & Mikaze. Pearce hit a Frogsplash on Sal for a nearfall. Blade and Evans traded some nice quick offense (I think I want to see a singles match here!), and Evans hit a fisherman’s buster.
Sal hit a sloppy dive to the floor on Evans. Trik dove on Sal & Evans. Blade & Mikaze went to do a team flip off the top rope on Pearce, but they missed him. Pearce nailed a jumping piledriver on Mikaze for a believable nearfall; however, Evans nailed a 630 splash on Pearce’s back, and Evans covered the prone Mikaze for the pin. Good non-stop action.
(7) Samoa Joe defeats B.J. Whitmer (w/Lacey) via knockout at 13:20. Good match. They traded standing switches, and Joe hit a hard spin kick to the chest, then a running knee to the chest. Joe hit his back chop/front kick/knee drop combo. Prazak on commentary said Daniels went to the hospital with a concussion! Joey unloaded his jab/chop series. They traded hard open-hand slaps to the face. Joey dove through the ropes on Whitmer at 4:30. They traded more chops on the floor, and Joe blocked Whitmer’s attempt at an Ole Kick!
Joe then hit his Ole Kick. Joe got the timekeeper’s table, and he leaned it against a guardrail. However, B.J. hit Joe with an Exploder Suplex on the floor. (It looks like B.J. meant to hit it on the table, but missed. The way the ref checked on Joe makes me think this was a mess up.) Whitmer rolled Joe into the ring and got a nearfall at 8:30. Whitmer hit several kicks and suplexes, and he is dominating the action, but he missed a frogsplash. Joe fired back with a flying kick and a senton for a nearfall.
Joe hit a powerbomb-into-the-Boston Crab, but Whitmer reached the ropes. Whitmer hit an Exploder Suplex for a nearfall at 12:00. Joe planted several knee lifts to the head, and he tried to apply the rear-naked choke. Whitmer hit some stiff forearms. Suddenly, Joe hit a HARD Kawada Kick to the face. Joe went to continue attacking B.J., but the ref jumped in, saw that Whitmer was knocked out, and he stopped the match.
A fun backstage vignette with Jimmy Jacobs aired. “I’m not the little kid Alex Shelley used to poke around and beat up,” Jacobs said. He said he and Whitmer are two-time tagteam champions, and they beat everyone. However… something was missing. And that, apparently, is Lacey. Lacey has filled a void in Jimmy’s heart. “You complete me, Lacey,” he said. He sat on a bed and filled two glasses of wine, saying one is for Lacey. He kissed a picture of Lacey. Fun & funny.
(8) A.J. Styles defeats Matt Sydal at 17:07. Excellent match, and my pick for match of the night. They traded quick reversals, and Styles hit a headscissors takedown, and we have a standoff. They traded armdrags, and Sydal hit a nice snap headscissors takedown. Styles hit his standing dropkick to the face at 3:30, then he hit a vertical suplex, a flying knee, and a cool brainbuster on the ring apron! He hit a neckbreaker over his knee, and he continued to work on Sydal’s neck. Sydal hit a spin kick off the second rope, and both men were down at 7:00.
Sydal applied a nice ankle lock; it’s almost a Konnan Tequila Sunrise. Sydal hit a nice neckbreaker over his knee, and he planted his knee in Styles’ lower back. Sydal is doing a good job of selling his neck injury. Styles went for a springboard move, but Sydal caught him with a dropkick. A.J hit an enziguri on Sydal as Matt sat on the top rope. They fought to the floor, where Styles unloaded a series of stiff forearms. In an awesome spot, Sydal climbed to the top turnbuckle at 11:00 and hit a moonsault to the floor, clearing the guardrail, and landing on Styles in the crowd!!
Sydal rolled Styles in the ring for a nearfall. The crowd is hot! Styles hit a wheelbarrow overhead suplex. Sydal hit his floatover Famouser for a nearfall, then a standing moonsault for a nearfall at 14:30. Sydal missed his Shooting Star Press, but he escaped Styles’ Phenomenon/backflip inverted DDT. Styles hit a spinning backbreaker for a nearfall. The crowd alternated chants for both men. Sydal escaped the Styles Clash, and he hit a snap hurricanrana for a believable nearfall. The crowd chanted, “ROH!” They fought on the top rope, where Sydal hit another nice hurricanrana to the mat; however, Styles rolled through the hurricanrana into a rollup for the pin. Excellent match. The crowd chanted, “Thank you both!”
Styles got on the mic and said, “This was a test, and you passed.” Styles said he has been searching for a tag partner since he won the title with Amazing Red. He asked Sydal to be his tag partner.
Samoa Joe cut a backstage promo about Christopher Daniels. “We’ll finish it, and I’ll finish you.”
Pearce again walked in front of the camera, and he’s still upset about the 6MM match. He has a sore throat from getting hit there. He was upset he was in a match with “midgets and retards.”
We head back to the arena, where Chris Hero walks in through the back, with Nate Webb, Adam Flash, Necro Butcher, and ref Bryce Remsburg. They are all wearing yellow CZW shirts. (It looks like Hero has compiled a group of homeless men to be in his corner.) The crowd immediately chants “F U Hero.” They came to the ring through the crowd. Hero got on the mic. “There’s a lot of stupid SOB’s who thought Chris Hero would never wrestle in ROH,” Hero said. He said that ROH makes him sick to his stomach. He said he would win the ROH title, take it back to CZW, and throw it in the trash! American Dragon came out to Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” and the crowd went nuts in support of him. They butted heads in the ring, and there is a noticeable “CZW!” chant.
(9) American Dragon defeats Chris Hero at 29:06. Very good match, and much better than the live reports indicated. Dragon was announced as “too good to ever wrestle for CZW.” Hero wore his CZW tag title belt. (The announcers rightfully ignored that his tag champ partner is Claudio Castognoli – that would just confuse this ‘invasion.’) Prazak said on commentary, “Hell has indeed frozen over, Chris Hero is in Ring of Honor.” The crowd is HOT.
They started with some standing switches, and Dragon hit a dropkick. Hero stalled, and he jawed with the fans. Dragon played to the fans. Jimmy Bower is back in the commentary booth, adding this gem: “Has he ever lifted a weight or seen a tanning bed?” Bower quickly told the story of Hero’s rant at the December CZW “Cage of Death” show, which led to this match. Dragon stomped on the back of Hero’s legs. They fought on the floor, and Dragon hit some hard chops at 6:00. Dragon tossed Hero into the guardrail. Bower is perplexed… he doesn’t believe that Necro, Flash & Webb are actually wrestlers!
Dragon hit repeated slaps to the face. In the ring, Dragon hit a spine kick and a knee drop for a nearfall. He tied up Hero’s legs, snaps backward, and cranks on Hero’s knee. Hero applied a cravate at 10:00. Dragon applied a Muta Lock, but Hero reached the ropes. Prazak listed all of Hero’s accomplishments – who trained Hero, where Hero has wrestled, etc. They traded chops. Dragon hit a European Uppercut. Hero applied a Fujiwara Armbar at 15:00, then a cross-armbreaker. Hero stomped on Dragon’s fingers and twisted them, and the crowd booed him. Hero slowed it down with some arm holds, and he really worked over Dragon’s left arm.
Dragon fired back with some right-handed slaps at 19:30. Dragon hit a Benoit Flying Headbutt for a nearfall, and he went for the Cattle Mutilation/double armbar, but Hero escaped it. They traded rollup attempts. Hero applied the Hangman’s Clutch, but Dragon reached the ropes at 23:00. The crowd alternated chants, “Let’s go Dragon,” “Let’s go Hero!” Dragon went for the Crossface Chickenwing, but he couldn’t get it on. Hero hit a Saito Suplex. Dragon fought back and applied the Cattle Mutilation, and the crowd begged for Hero to tap, but Hero made it to the ropes. Dragon is really selling his arm, and he had the ref pull on it, as if to snap it back into place. Cool.
Hero hit a swinging cravate neckbreaker for a nearfall at 26:30, then he applied another Hangman’s Clutch/modified Crossface, and the crowd chanted, “Please don’t tap!” Dragon reached the ropes. Hero then nailed the Hero’s Welcome/spinning faceplant for a believable nearfall at 28:00. Dragon fought back with a butterfly suplex for a believable nearfall. Dragon applied the Crossface Chickenwing, and Hero tapped out. “This is going to be the last time I have to hear the name ‘Chris Hero,’” Bower said. This match came across very well on tape.
Prince Nana came to ringside, and he offered to buy the ROH World Heavyweight Title! Dragon said that Nana’s Ghana money “isn’t worth sh!t.” Nana slapped Dragon; Dragon hit Nana. Shelley & Rave hit the ring. Shelley shouted that he “knows this guy’s Kryptonite,” and he hit a Sliced Bread #2/spinning overhead bulldog.
Final thoughts: Tape runs 2 hours, 58 minutes. Good show. Not a great show, but a good show. Sydal-Styles got a great crowd reaction, and they work seamlessly together, and that’s match of the night. Hero-Dragon is second-best. The crowd heat was awesome, the mat wrestling was good, and Bower’s jab comments during the match were fun.
Other matches, like Lethal-Daniels and Whitmer-Joe are good matches, but I hoped for more in both. Nigel-Mamaluke was a letdown. While I understand the need to keep Homicide’s match short, it also was disappointing to see Strong wrestle less than five minutes here.
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