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MATCH #1: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe, Final Battle 2004, 12.26.04
Joe has been the Champion since 3.22.03, and this is his thirtieth defense. Aries starts off hot and attacks Joe right away. Joe fights right back and plants Aries on the mat. Jay Lethal is in Joe’s corner and Roderick Strong is in Aries’ corner. Aries and Joe take it down to the mat and trade holds. Joe uses his power to dominate and tries the Big Joe Combo but he misses the knee. Aries goes back to the headlock, trying CM Punk’s strategy. Joe also uses a headlock. They criss-cross the ropes and Aries lands a dropkick to the knee. Aries zeroes in on the knee, which is pretty good strategy. He tries the shinbreaker / belly-to-back suplex combo but Joe blocks the suplex and hits an enziguiri. Joe goes to work with strikes and hits the Face Wash. Aries tries to fight back but Joe cuts him off and sends him to the floor. Joe goes for a dive but Aries avoids it and goes for one of his own, but Joe catches him with an enziguiri. The Champ hits the Ole Kick twice, but misses his third attempt. Aries knocks Joe back into the chair and hits an IED. Back in the ring Aries hits the slingshot elbow but Joe catches him in the Choke! Aries escapes out of that but runs right into a snap powerslam for two. Joe tries a powerbomb but Aries reverses to a rana for a near-fall. Aries hits a running dropkick that sends Joe into the corner, and then hits two IEDs in a row. On the third attempt Joe catches Aries and hits the Island Driver but it only gets two! The crowd cheers for both men, but when they cheer for Aries it just irritates Joe. They fight up on the top rope and Aries knocks Joe down and hits the 450! Joe kicks out at two! Aries gets knocked to the apron but comes back in with a sunset flip for a two-count, and then locks on the Samoan Crab! Joe powers out of the move, but Aries is tenacious and locks on the Fish Hook. That’s an illegal hold so he has to break it. Aries goes for the Brainbuster but Joe blocks it and sets Aries on the top rope. Joe unleashes a series of strikes and goes for the Muscle Buster but Aries counters with a crucifix bomb. Aries hits a series of strikes and kicks Joe down to his knees. He lands a kick to the head, the Brainbuster, and a 450 Splash to get the pin and become the fourth ROH World Champion at 17:29! This one holds up really well, with great strategy and emotion from both guys and a hot crowd to match. It was a fitting end to Joe’s epic, company-defining title reign. Joe goes out of his way to put Aries over after the match, even strapping the title on him as the crowd chants “ROH.”
Highlights: Generation Next vs. The Rottweilers, Trios Tournament 2005, 3.5.05
In the first ever Trios Tournament, the team of Homicide, Ricky Reyes & Rocky Romero beat Austin Aries, Jack Evans & Roderick Strong in the finals. As a result, Homicide earned a ROH World Title shot, which he chose to use less than a month later in Asbury Park, NJ. Seven years ago I awarded this match two-and-three-quarter stars.
MATCH #2: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Homicide, Best of American Super Juniors Tournament, 4.2.05
Aries has been the Champion since 12.26.04, and this is his eleventh defense. I’m not sure if you can see me in the crowd or not, but I did drive with Jimmy Jacobs and our friend Sarah all the way from Michigan to make it to this show. It was a fun weekend. Homicide and Aries take it down to the mat and exchange holds. Jimmy Bower reminds me about how horrible the weather in Asbury Park was that night, and that the show started late so by the time the main event started it was 12:15 a.m. They continue chain wrestling, and I wonder if that’s the best course of action for the crowd in its current condition after sitting through the disastrous Best of American Super Juniors Tournament. Aries escapes a headscissors and hits a dropkick, sending Homicide to the floor. Back in the ring Homicide goes to work on the arm. Aries hits the slingshot back elbow and Homicide dumps him right back out to the floor and Aries crashes awkwardly on the timekeeper’s table. Homicide whips Aries into the barricade and continues the abuse. Back in the ring Homicide stay son offense and tries throwing Aries back to the floor again. Aries lands on the apron and hits the slingshot corkscrew press for two and then the quebrada for two. The champ controls the action now, keeping Homicide on the defensive. Homicide fights back with a belly-to-belly suplex from out of nowhere. That gets a two-count. Homicide is back in control. He ties Aries up in the Tree of Woe but Aries I able to grab Homicide and hit a Stunner. That was unique. Aries hits the IED and then another one for a two-count. He follows with the Shock Treatment of all things for another near-fall. Aries puts on a Cobra Clutch and hits a backbreaker out of it. He hits the Power Drive Elbow for a series of two-counts. The Champ then locks on the Fish Hook and Homicide bites his way out of it. Homicide then hits a piledriver for two. He covers again but only gets two again. Aries fights back with a roaring elbow that sends Homicide to the floor. He follows him out with the Heat Seeking Missile. Aries throws Homicide into the barricade. Back in the ring Aries hits a Liger Bomb for a near-fall. Aries hits a high cross body block off the top rope for two. Homicide comes back with a rope-hang DDT for a two-count. He goes for the Lariat but Aries ducks and hits the Crucifix Bomb for two. Aries tries the Brainbuster but Homicide blocks it and hits a running big boot to the face for a two-count. They trade reversals back and forth and Aries hits the Burning Hammer. Homicide kicks out at one and no-sells the move, since he was in a real-life feud with Dan Maff at the time. I hate stuff like that. Homicide hits Aries with an exploder and a brainbuster. He goes outside the ring and sets up a table against the barricade. Homicide throws Aries onto the table and follows him out with the Tope Con Hilo but it’s a thick table that doesn’t break. It looks like Homicide took the worst of it, as he went sailing into the crowd. Back in the ring they trade blows. Aries hits a Finlay Roll and the 450 Splash but Smokes pulls Aries to the floor and decks him. Bryan Danielson comes out and takes care of Smokes, who should never be physically abused because he has no idea how to sell a beating. It’s embarrassing. Meanwhile Homicide hits Aries with a Super Ace Crusher. Homicide then hits the Lariat but it only gets two! Aries comes back with the Brainbuster and misses a 450. Homicide tries the Cop Killa but Aries slips out and hits another Brainbuster. Aries follows with two more and then hits the 450 for the win at 25:35. That was too long for what they had to work with but they did a pretty good job keeping the crowd into it given the circumstances. No one bought Homicide as a serious threat to the title at this point in Aries’ reign but it was a solid defense nevertheless.
MATCH #3: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Alex Shelley, Manhattan Mayhem, 5.7.05
Aries has been the Champion since 12.26.04, and this is his thirteenth defense. These two know each other well from their days together in Generation Next. They start with some chain wrestling, which both men excel at. Aries takes the first advantage. He goes for the leaping back elbow off the second rope but Shelley catches him in a hard release German Suplex. Shelley then blows a snot rocket just to be a dick. He hits double knees to the chest in the corner and stomps away. Shelley actually uses Waste Land, about five years before Wade Barrett hit TV. He follows that with a slingshot elbow drop for two. Aries tries seeking solace on the floor but Shelley lands a corkscrew plancha to wipe him out. Back in the ring Aries slingshots over Shelley, and then Shelley stands there and waits for Aries to run off the rope and snap his neck off the top rope. That was awkward. Aries starts going to work on the neck now, which is good strategy given his finishing moves. He goes for the Brainbuster but Shelley counters with the Moss-Covered Three-Handled Family Credenza. Shelley goes up top but Aries pulls him down with an elevated neckbreaker. Aries locks on the Last Chancery. Shelley won’t quite so Aries releases and drops a knee on the back of the neck for a two-count. Aries continues focusing on the neck. He hits the slingshot twisting body press for two, but when he tries the quebrada Shelley gets the knees up. Shelley hits an enziguiri and a clothesline. He bodyslams Aries and goes up top for a Frog Splash! That only gets two. Shelley then locks on the Border City Stretch but Aries breaks it and puts on the illegal Fish Hook. They counter each other a handful of times and Shelley reapplies the Border City Stretch! Aries bites his way out of it. Shelley tries a superkick but it gets caught and Aries hits the shinbreaker / belly-to-back suplex combo. The Champ hits the IED and then two more for a two-count. Aries hits the Finlay Roll but misses the 450 and Shelley lands the Superkick. Shelley then hits the Shellshock for a near-fall. He hits a TKO, a tornado DDT, and another Shellshock but Aries rolled to close to the ropes and he grabs one before the referee can count three. They fight over a Brainbuster and neither guy hits it. Aries instead lands a hard forearm and the Joe Killing Combo to get the pin and retain the title at 19:33. This is a bit of a forgotten gem in the ROH cannon, as this one was filled with creative reversals and counters based on how well these two knew each other. The match flew by and was a great showcase for the best of Alex Shelley, an underrated contributor in ROH lore.
Highlights: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. James Gibson, Stalemate, 4.16.05
Gibson and Aries battled back and forth for over 20 minutes before they ended up pinning each other off an Aries Brainbuster. The referee offers for the match to be restarted, but before Aries can decide, Alex Shelley comes out and attacks the Champ with the Shellshock. Gibson is irate because the referee won’t restart the match now. All that set up the following rematch. In my initial review of this match seven years ago, I gave the match four stars.
MATCH #4: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. James Gibson, Final Showdown, 5.13.05
Aries has been the Champion since 12.26.04, and this is his fourteenth defense. Both men start the match cautiously, which makes sense due to their previous match in which they wrestled to a draw. It’s a feeling out process in the early going. Gibson works the arm and Aries tries a headlock. They take it to the floor and Gibson is in control. Gibson throws Aries back in the ring and hits a bodyslam and an elbow drop for two. He continues working the back, but Aries cuts him off and dumps him to the floor. Aries follows him out with the Heat Seeking Missile. He starts working the arm and creatively attacks the limb. Back in the ring Aries viciously goes after Gibson’s left arm. Aries tries the Brainbuster but Gibson counters with a small package for two. Gibson can’t follow up though and Aries is once again in control. Aries is relentless in his attack of the arm and Gibson is struggling here. Finally Gibson is able to hit a snap powerslam from out of nowhere for a two-count. Gibson keeps up the offense but he can’t put Aries away. He delivers a hard running knee strike to the head, and Aries pops up and hits a roaring forearm. Lame. Both men then clothesline each other and are down. Back on their feet Gibson knocks Aries to the floor. Gibson follows the Champ out and clotheslines Aries into the front row. He then goes to the top rope and wipes Aries out with a somersault senton! Back in the ring Aries knocks Gibson down and hits the twisting body press for two and the quebrada for two. So what was the point of Gibson hitting that huge move on the floor? Gibson fights back with a neckbreaker for two. He goes for the Tiger Driver but can’t connect. Aries hits the Finlay Roll and nails the 450 Splash but Gibson kicks out! The Champ is not happy with that. Aries hits a flurry of strikes and the IED. He goes for another one but Gibson moves out of the way. Gibson then locks on the End Time and turns it into the Tiger Driver but he only gets two! He hits a backbreaker and tries a moonsault but Aries avoids it. Aries drills Gibson with a kick to the head and a Brainbuster. He goes up top but Gibson knocks him down. Gibson locks on the End Time on the top rope but Aries slams him down and lands on top for the pin at 23:32. I liked Aries’ relentless focus on the arm and the finish was clever, but a lot of times during the match they didn’t let the big moves (like the somersault into the crowd) have any impact and that dulled the overall effect for me. Still overall it was a good match.
MATCH #5: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson, Nowhere to Run, 5.14.05
Aries has been the Champion since 12.26.04, and this is his fifteenth defense. These two have pretty amazing chemistry together. Samoa Joe joins Jimmy Bower and Dave Prazak on commentary. Aries and Danielson start with some tit for tat, taking turns hurling each other across the ring. They take it down to the mat and start exchanging holds. Danielson scores the first advantage and works Aries’ neck. He hits an Earthquake Splash for a two-count. Danielson keeps up the abuse until Aries grabs him with the shinbreaker and then dumps him to the floor. Aries follows him out with the Heat Seeking Missile. Back in the ring Aries hits a TKO for a two-count. Aries pours on the pressure now, and works on Danielson’s arm. He even tries using the Cattle Mutilation but Danielson knows how to counter it of course. Danielson unleashes a series of kicks in the corner. He hits a bridging butterfly suplex for a two-count. Danielson is aggressive in trying to wrest the title away from one of his most heated rivals. Aries comes back with a leaping back elbow off the second rope. Danielson responds with a powerslam for two. He follows up with the diving headbutt for a two-count. Danielson goes for the Airplane Spin but Aries wisely avoids it. They trade pinning combinations for two-counts and Danielson kicks Aries to the floor. Danielson hits a baseball slide dropkick and a hard European Uppercut off the apron. Back in the ring they fight on the top rope. Aries knocks Danielson down and goes for the 450 but misses. He instead hits the IED and then another one for a two-count. Aries goes for the Brainbuster but Danielson avoids it and hits an atomic drop. Danielson puts Aries up top and hits the belly-to-back superplex with thunderous impact. He locks on Cattle Mutilation and turns it into a cradle for a near-fall. Danielson executes the Airplane Spin. Aries is able to counter it with a crucifix bomb (sort of). He lands a forearm strike and a Brainbuster. Aries then goes up top and hits the 450 to get the pin at 24:24. As usual these two brought out the best in each other and had a terrific match. They both had a clear focus during the match, they worked in some good high spots, and the finish was neat.
MATCH #6: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Spanky, New Frontiers, 6.4.05
Aries has been the champion since 12.26.04 and this is his seventeenth defense. They start off with an intense lockup and Spanky pushes Aries into the corner. Now Aries backs Spanky into the corner and hits a short elbow to the face rather than a clean break. They take it down to the mat as Bauer notes that Aries is coming into this match with an injured neck, which of course bodes well for Spanky’s Sliced Bread #2 finishing move. The pace starts to pick up so Spanky rolls to the floor to break the momentum. Back in the ring Aries takes Spanky down with a headlock. Spanky counters with a headscissors but you know how that turns out. He tries an early Sliced Bread #2 and can’t connect, but he is able to hit a belly to back suplex, which is also impact on the neck. Spanky wisely focuses on the neck, trying to wear the champion down. Aries rolls to the floor and then pulls Spanky out with him. That proves to be a mistake though, as Spanky reverses a whip and sends Aries into the guardrail. Spanky dumps Aries into the crowd and tries to snap mare him back over, but Aries blocks it and snaps Spanky’s neck off the guardrail. Aries then grabs Spanky and hits a piledriver right on a wooden chair! Ever the comedian, Aries makes sure to say “I’ve got a splinter in my ass” right in front of the camera.
Back in the ring Aries tries a senton but Spanky avoids it. Aries reverses a whip and sets Spanky on the top rope for an elevated spinning neckbreaker. He sends Spanky into the corner backwards and hits the IED, damaging the neck even further. Aries hits a knee drop but then takes too much time to follow up and misses a second one. Artie Inmyearpiece tells Bower that next week in New York Samoa Joe will defend the Pure Title against Nigel McGuinness, while Homicide will battle James Gibson. Meanwhile Spanky is on offense and he locks Aries in a half crab, then turns it into a modified STF. Aries breaks the hold by raking the eyes. He hits a Cobra Clutch Backbreaker and then the Power Drive Elbow for two. Spanky comes back with a DDT and a Northern Lariat. He hits a back heel kick for two. Aries comes back with a Finlay Roll and goes up top. Spanky joins him up there and hits a super rana. He follows up with an STO and then goes up top himself, hitting a solid elbow to the back of the neck. When he covers Aries rolls him over for a quick two-count. Spanky goes for a superkick but Aries catches him with the shinbreaker/belly to back suplex combo. Aries picks him up and Spanky grabs him for a Sliced Bread #2 but Aries reverses it to a Tombstone Piledriver! That would have been an awesome finish. Aries bodyslams Spanky and goes for the 450 but misses it. Spanky lands the superkick, and then hits a kick to the back and a bridging German Suplex for two. They exchange forearms, and then Spanky lands a knee to the face. Spanky again goes for Sliced Bread #2 but Aries blocks it, only to get hit with a Super Sliced Bread #2! Aries tries to roll out of the ring but Spanky pulls him back, just not far enough from the bottom rope so he only gets two. Spanky then goes for a necktie submission but Aries (with a bloody chin now) slips out of it. Aries comes back with several kicks to the head and the brainbuster. He then goes up and hits the 450 Splash to get the win at 18:35. Both men worked the same body part which was interesting, and they had some great reversals and counters and believable false finishes.
MATCH #7: Austin Aries vs. AJ Styles, This Means War, 10.29.05
They lock up intensely to start the match. The winner of this one will be the #1 Contender. They start chain wrestling and trading holds back and forth. This goes on for several minutes. Aries works a headlock, which Styles reverses to a headscissors. You know how that turns out. Styles fights back and hits The Dropkick for a two-count. He was the TNA X-Division Champion at this time. I think it would have been cool if he defended it in ROH more than just the one time in 2002. Styles hits a wicked backbreaker for a two-count. He hits a traditional backbreaker for two again. Styles presses the advantage and keeps Aries on the defensive. The crowd chants for both men in a dueling fashion. Styles goes for the springboard forearm but Aries dropkicks the top rope. That was pretty cool. Now Aries goes on offense and he sends Styles to the floor. Aries follows with the Heat Seeking Missile, of course. He focuses on the chest, which is an interesting strategy you don’t see too often. Aries hits a Perfect Plex for two. He busts out the Fish Hook, which is still illegal. They get up and trade blows, and Styles wins that battle with a huge lariat. Styles hits a nasty hammerlock belly-to-back suplex for a two-count. A pumphandle backbreaker also gets two. Styles goes for the Styles Clash but Aries drops him face-first on the turnbuckle and then hits the IED. Aries follows with an inverted Finlay Roll. He hits a missile dropkick for a two-count. Styles tries the flip-over inverted DDT but Aries counters it with a chinbreaker. On the second attempt Styles is able to hit the move and it gets a two-count. Styles goes for the Rack Bomb but Aries counters to the Crucifix Bomb for two. Aries hits the Brainbuster for another two-count. He goes up top for the 450 but has second thoughts and comes down. Styles grabs a quick cradle for two. Aries lands a solid kick to the head and goes back up top for the 450 but this time Styles knocks him down. Styles hits the Pele and then connects with a Super Styles Clash to get the pin at 20:24. These two have similar styles and they meshed well. The finish looked good too.
Highlights: ROH World Tag Team Title Match – Tony Mamaluke & Sal Rinauro vs. Austin Aries & Roderick Strong, Final Battle 2005, 12.17.05
Aries and Strong were able to end Mamaluke and Rinauro’s travesty of a Tag Team Title reign after two and a half months of mediocrity in the tag division. It was the best thing that ever happened to the belts. I gave the match 3.25 stars when I reviewed it in April 2006.
MATCH #8: ROH World Tag Team Title Match – Austin Aries & Roderick Strong vs. Bryan Danielson & Jay Lethal, Tag Wars 06, 1.27.06
Aries and Strong have been the Champions since 12.17.05, and this is their first defense. Strong and Danielson start the match. They had already wrestled twice for the ROH World Title in phenomenal matches at this point. As soon as Strong lands one chop Danielson tags out. Lethal acts like a jerk so Strong hits him with a backbreaker. Danielson would rather not tag in, so Lethal takes a powder to regroup. Aries tags in and they go back and forth chain wrestling. Lethal makes the mistake of putting Aries in a headscissors and pays for it. Strong tags in and Lethal’s reaction is great. Aries tries throwing chops as well but he realizes he can’t do it as hard as Strong. That’s an awesome spot. Lethal ducks a chop and pokes Strong in the eyes. Danielson tags back in and the challengers go to work on Strong in their half of the ring. Strong fights back and levels Danielson with a chop and the fight spills to the floor. The official gets distracted by Aries, allowing Danielson and Lethal to double-team Strong and reclaim the advantage. The challengers are really clicking even though I Believe it is their first time ever teaming together. Danielson misses a charge into the ropes and Strong makes the hot tag. Aries hits Danielson with a Finlay Roll and then a Frog Splash for a two-count. He follows with the Airplane Spin, and then hands him off to Strong for more airplane spinning. They make another tag and Aries continues the maneuver. Aries hits another Finlay Roll and then the champs wear Danielson out with chops. Danielson forces Aries back into his corner and makes the tag to Lethal. Aries fights back with chops and a back body drop. Danielson cheats to regain control. Lethal sends Aries to the floor and hits him with the Ole Kick! Samoa Joe won’t appreciate that. The challengers continue on offense, as Danielson hits a superplex for two. Strong is getting frustrated on the apron. The challengers miss stereo diving headbutts and Aries makes the tag! Strong is a house afire and the referee quickly loses control of the match. The challengers are able to thwart Strong’s momentum and Danielson hits Strong with the belly-to-back superplex for a two-count. Lethal flattens Strong with a top-rope DDT and then Danielson locks on Cattle Mutilation. Aries comes in to break it up. Strong gets up and hits Danielson with a backbreaker. Lethal clobbers Strong so Aries knocks him to the floor and hits the Heat Seeking Missile. That leaves Danielson and Strong in the ring together. They slug it out and Danielson hits a huge roaring forearm for a two-count. Danielson then locks on Cattle Mutilation. Strong fights out of it and hits the gutbuster. He follows with two Sick Kicks and the Gibson Driver for two! Strong hits the half-nelson backbreaker and locks on the Stronghold. Lethal tries to break it up but he can’t and Danielson taps at 29:18! That match could have gone on all night and I wouldn’t have minded. Danielson and Lethal were a great team together despite no experience as a unit, and everyone was just on their A-game tonight. They did creative spots, worked the crowd perfectly, and the Champ tapped clean for the finish. This is an overlooked gem in the ROH catalogue.
MATCH #9: ROH World Tag Title Match – Austin Aries & Roderick Strong vs. AJ Styles & Matt Sydal, Fourth Anniversary, 2.25.06
Aries and Strong have been the Champions since 12.17.05, and this is their third defense. Strong and Sydal start the match. They wrestle to a standoff so Styles comes in and tries his hand at wrestling Strong. Neither man gets anywhere so Aries tags in. Aries and Styles go back and forth and things get heated pretty quickly. Styles takes control and tags Sydal. The challengers focus on Aries and try to keep him in their half of the ring. Aries is able to force Styles back into his corner and Strong tags in. The champs work on Styles until he catches Aries with a pop-up rana and then nails Strong with The Dropkick to send him to the floor. Styles goes for a dive but Aries illegally cuts him off with a clothesline. The Champs continue working on Styles with their high-impact offense. Finally Styles is able to hit Aries with a Pele and tags are made. Sydal is a house afire, flying around the ring. He hits Strong with a standing moonsault for two. Sydal drills Strong with a step-up enziguiri that sends him to the floor. He goes up top but Aries knocks him down. Styles takes offense and clubs Aries, and then hits the dive himself. Aries takes Styles out with the Heat Seeking Missile, and then Sydal takes out everyone with a huge moonsault off the top rope. Back in the ring Sydal covers Strong for two. The challengers are firmly in control now and they have Strong cut off from his partner. Finally Strong has enough and levels Sydal chop. Aries tags in and hits Sydal with a missile dropkick. He hits Styles with one as well, and then lands the Power Drive Elbow on Sydal for two. Sydal tries a rana but Aries catches him with a big powerbomb for two. Styles made the save and he goes for the Rack Bomb but Strong makes the save there. The Champs try to double-team Styles but he hits them with a double inverted DDT. Sydal covers Aries for two. The challengers hit Aries with stereo enziguiris for another two-count. Styles goes for a springboard but Strong kicks the ropes out from under him. Strong then hits a torture rack backbreaker on Sydal for two. The referee has lost all control. The Champs hit Styles with the Hart Attack and then go after Sydal. Strong hits a huge gutbuster and Aries follows with the Brainbuster. Styles breaks up the pin. Action is coming from all over the ring. Aries puts Sydal on the top rope but Styles suplexes Aries down. Sydal follows down with the Shooting Star Press but Aries gets his foot on the bottom rope. Styles goes for the Styles Clash on Aries but Strong breaks that up with the Sick Kick! Sydal goes for the Here It Is Driver on Strong but Aries breaks that up. Strong hits Sydal with a half-nelson backbreaker and Aries follows with the 450 Splash to get the pin and retain at 23:04. These four certainly went all out and had the crowd with them. The finishing sequence was pretty awesome.
MATCH #10: Austin Aries vs. Matt Sydal, Arena Warfare, 3.11.06
They take it down to the mat to start, with Sydal working a headlock. Aries comes back and uses a side headlock of his own. Things get heated and momentum shifts back and forth several times. Aries hits a belly-to-back suplex and Sydal comes back with a headscissors and a dropkick to send Aries to the floor. Sydal follows him out with a hands-free dive. Back in the ring Sydal goes to the second rope for a legdrop and gets a two-count. They fight up on the ropes and Aries knocks Sydal to the floor. Sydal goes back up and Aries knocks him down again and then hits the Heat Seeking Missile. Back in the ring Aries hits a slingshot senton and a big elbow drop for two. Sydal tries to fight back but Aries cuts him off with a gourdbuster and then locks on the Last Chancery. The doesn’t work so Aries tries a powerbomb but Sydal slips through to a sunset flip, which Aries rolls through and hits a dropkick for two. Aries hits a Finlay Roll and then a beautiful Frog Splash for a two-count. He sets Sydal on the top rope but Sydal kicks him down and hits a wicked swinging DDT. Sydal is a house afire now, but he blows a rana off the ropes and the crowd lets him have it. That’s Philadelphia for you. Aries is up first but Sydal slips out of a suplex. Sydal sweeps the legs and hits a standing moonsault for two. He tries the Here It Is Driver but Aries fights it off. Aries hits the slingshot elbow in the corner and then adds a couple more for fun. He hits an IED for a two-count. Aries goes for the Brainbuster but Sydal frees himself with knees and hits the Here It Is Driver for two. Sydal goes for the Shooting Star Press but Aries rolls out of the way. Aries tries the Brainbuster but Sydal gets an inside cradle for two. Sydal gets a backslide for two but Aries rolls right out and kicks Sydal square in the dome. Aries hits the Brainbuster and goes up top for the 450 Splash. That’s enough to get the pin at 16:52. It took this one a little while to get going and the crowd wasn’t so into it until the last couple of minutes. These two seemed to struggle in singles matches against each other, despite their success in a tag team setting.
MATCH #11: Austin Aries vs. Davey Richards, Glory By Honor V, Night 1, 9.15.06
Aries is one half of the ROH Tag Team Champions along with Roderick Strong. He was originally scheduled to face Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Title, but with Danielson’s injury they wanted to rest him for the match with KENTA tomorrow night, so Davey Richards got subbed in. Aries has a giant bulls-eye on his ribs, which are heavily taped.
They take it right down to the mat for some aggressive mat work. Jimmy Bower comes into the booth to apologize to everyone for the show being in a tent and it’s starting to rain. Meanwhile Aries and Richards decide to play “lets kick each other really hard and not sell it for fun” game. Richards begs for it, and Aries wisely wins the battle with a headlock. Aries controls the match and goes for the slingshot senton but Richards moves and hits a back elbow. Now Richards wisely goes to work on the injured ribs. He tries the stupid handspring spin kick but Aries dropkicks him out of the air. Aries is in control now and he keeps Richards off guard with a variety of strikes and submission moves. Richards fights back and they trade forearms. After a few forearms they clothesline each other and both men are down. They get back up and trade forearms and kicks again. Aries levels Richards with a forearm as David and Prazak mention that two guys beating each other up in a tent is representative of the history of the business. Richards kicks out at two. Aries picks Richards up and dropkicks him in the knee for some reason, and then Richards hits the springboard spin kick. Richards suplexes Aries onto the top rope, and then dropkicks him to the floor. He follows Aries out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Richards unleashes hard kicks to the chest. Aries catches a kick and hits the shinbreaker/back suplex combo. He follows up with the IED for a two-count. He tries the Crucifix Bomb but Richards counters to a gutbuster. Richards hits a sit-out powerbomb (it’s only a Liger Bomb if you run, Prazak) for a two-count. He goes to work on the leg now and locks on the Horse Collar. Aries reaches the ropes. Why wouldn’t Richards work on the ribs? Anyway Richards hits more kicks and tries a German Suplex. Aries lands on his feet and kicks Richards in the head. He hits a gourdbuster and then another kick to the head. He then hits the brainbuster and it looks like a three-count (you know, because Richards never got his shoulder up) but I guess it was only two. Richards gets a small package and a backslide for two-counts. Aries comes out of the backslide with another kick to the head and another brainbuster to get the pin at 17:15. The psychology was all over the place and the selling was non-existent.
Highlights: ROH World Tag Team Title Match – Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal vs. Austin Aries & Roderick Strong, Fifth Year Festival: New York City, 2.16.07
Aries and Strong tried to regain the belts they lost to the Kings of Wrestling back in September, but Daniels and Sydal were able to overcome them and retain the gold. I gave the match 3.25 stars when I reviewed it in May 2007. The real story is after the match though, when Strong turns on Aries and aligns with Davey Richards to start the No Remorse Corps. They beat Aries down and leave him lying. Jack Evans comes out to check on Aries. They cut a brief promo afterwards, and Aries says that Strong started a war he won’t be able to finish.
MATCH #12: Open the Brave Gate Championship – Austin Aries vs. Matt Sydal, Fifth Year Festival: Dayton, 2.23.07
Sydal has been the Champion since 2.12.07, and this is his first defense. I believe this is the first time the Open the Brave Gate Title has been defended in the United States. They take it down to the mat to start and Aries uses a headlock. Sydal tries a headscissors and Aries reverses to a headscissors of his own, a nice variation to his usual. Aries hits the jumping back elbow off the second rope. Momentum shifts back and forth as they roll at a fast pace in the early going. Aries knocks Sydal to the floor but misses a dive, hurting his ankle. Sydal dropkicks him and looks for a dive but Aries trips him up. Aries hits the slingshot senton and an elbow drop for two. Aries controls until Sydal is able to trap him in the Tree of Woe. Sydal is attacking Aries’ ankle, which he has had some trouble with recently. He mixes in some aerial attacks but remains primarily focused on the ankle. Sydal goes to the second turnbuckle and misses a cannonball legdrop. Aries unleashes a flurry of offense, even atomic dropping Sydal to the floor. He follows with the Heat Seeking Missile. Back in the ring Aries hits a bodyslam and then slingshot corkscrew press for two. The quebrada also gets a two-count. Aries hits a missile dropkick and then the IED for a near-fall. He goes for the Brainbuster but Sydal slips out and hits the Hog Log. Sydal goes for a standing moonsault but Aries gets his feet up. Even so, Sydal is able to catch Aries out of the corner with Chemical Imbalance II for a two-count. Sydal goes for the Here It Is Driver but Aries avoids it and they trade pinning combinations for near-falls. Aries hits the kick to the head and the Brainbuster but Sydal kicks out. Now Aries goes up top but Sydal crotches him. Sydal hits an impressive pop up rana and then a headscissors that sends Aries into the buckles. He hits the Here It Is Driver and then lands the Shooting Star Press to get the win and retain the title at 13:45. This was a little bit better than their other match, but for a Dragon Gate Title match I expected a lot more.
MATCH #13: ROH World Title Match – Austin Aries vs. Takeshi Morishima, The Battle of St. Paul, 4.27.07
Morishima has been the Champion since 2.17.07, and this is his fourth defense. Aries charges Morishima right away and lays into him with strikes. Morishima uses his strength advantage to thwart the fired-up challenger. Aries won’t be deterred though, he continues to slap Morishima and attack his legs. Morishima cuts him right off with a flying hip attack. He then boots Aries off the apron into the steel barricade. The Champ is firmly in control now, using his impressive size and power to wear Aries down. Morishima goes for the Back Drop Driver but Aries is able to avoid it. Aries can’t avoid a knee lift to the gut though, but he can roll to the floor to collect himself. Morishima won’t let him rest though, going out and whipping him into the barricade. Back in the ring it continues to be all Morishima. Aries is able to come back by clapping Morishima’s ears and snapping his neck off the top rope. He low bridges the top rope and Morishima crashes to the floor, so Aries follows him out with the Heat Seeking Missile! Aries tries to whip Morishima into the barricade but that that gets reversed. Morishima then crushes him with the Ole Butt-Butt, but misses a second attempt. Aries then hits an IED. Back in the ring Aries hits the slingshot corkscrew body press for two and the quebrada for two. Aries signals for the Brainbuster but Morishima blocks it and drops Aries face-first. Morishima hits a Boss Man Slam for two. He follows with a cartwheel before crushing Aries in the corner. Morishima goes up top and puts the miss in missile dropkick. Aries puts on the Rings of Saturn and Morishima reaches the ropes. Now Aries goes to the top rope but he gets caught and hit with a belly-to-belly suplex. Aries comes right back with a crucifix bomb and a series of clotheslines but Morishima cuts him off with a clubbing clothesline of his own. After a series of reversals Aries hits two kicks to the head, the Brainbuster, and the 450 Splash but Morishima got his foot on the bottom rope! The crowd bought that. Aries goes up top and Morishima knocks him down. Morishima hits a Super Back Drop Driver and then a huge lariat but Aries kicks out! The angry Champ hits a clothesline in the corner and another Back Drop Driver to get the pin at 15:04. That was fast-paced all the way through and the crowd was hot, definitely buying some of the near-falls. Morishima was such a great Champion and Aries made a great opponent for him, especially given the history of how Aries took the title from Samoa Joe.
Return: Driven, 6.23.07
Aries had been gone for about two months in TNA and he came back with a truly awful haircut. Anyway, at the Driven pay-per-view, Roderick Strong, Davey Richards, and Rocky Romero, the No Remorse Corps, defeated Delirious, Matt Cross, and Erick Stevens in a six-man tag team match. Aries then came rushing in from the crowd and sent the NRC high-tailing it back to the locker room. He cuts an impassioned promo about how ROH is where he’s supposed to be, ROH is great, etc. The crowd goes ballistic as Aries signs his new ROH contract and makes it official.
MATCH #14: Austin Aries vs. Roderick Strong, Undeniable, 10.6.07
These two know each other very well from their years teaming together and their many singles battles as well. They wrestle on the mat to start and Aries is at an early advantage, sending Strong regrouping to the floor. Strong fights back with a hard chop. Aries quickly recovers and starts wearing Strong down with a headlock. Strong responds with more chops. Aries knocks Strong to the floor and takes the fight to him out there. Back in the ring Aries this the slingshot senton and an elbow drop for two. Strong fights back and goes to work with backbreakers. Momentum continues to shift back and forth, no doubt because these men are so familiar with each other’s attacks. Strong dumps Aries to the floor and works him over. He goes for the Gibson Driver but Aries backdrops his way out of it. Aries whips Strong into the barricade and then hits an IED. He follows with running double knees. Back in the ring Aries hits the slingshot corkscrew body press for two. Aries then tries the quebrada but Strong gets his knees up. Strong goes for the gutbuster but Aries avoids it and scores a couple of quick near-falls. The reversals continue as neither man can keep the advantage. Strong hits a half-nelson backbreaker for two. He hits another one and goes for the Gibson Driver but Aries counters with a rana. Aries hits the shinbreaker / belly-to-back suplex. He goes for the IED but Strong moves. Strong hits a backbreaker across the top turnbuckle and Aries tumbles to the floor. On the floor Strong sets up a table between the ring apron and the barricade. Strong tries to throw Aries through the table but Aries slips out and clotheslines Strong to the floor. Aries follows with the Heat Seeking Missile. Back in the ring Aries hits a series of elbows and the IED. Aries then hits the Brainbuster for a near-fall. He goes up top and Strong knocks him down. Aries knocks Strong down and hits the 450 Splash but Strong kicks out! Strong gets a quick small package for two. Aries counters with a backslide for two. He tries the kick to the head but Strong catches and goes for the Stronghold, but Aries counters that into a cradle for two. Whew. Strong lands the Sick Kick and hits the Gutbuster. Strong hits the Gibson Driver but only gets two! They fight to the apron near the table and Aries hits a nasty Brainbuster! Back in the ring Aries hits the 450 with nothing but knees to get the pin at 20:47. This went by insanely fast and there were a lot of cool counters and reversals. The finish also felt very final, but I think they had an Iron Man match like a month after this too.
MATCH #15: Match 1 in The Best of Three Series – Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson, Honor Nation, 10.5.07
They start with some chain wrestling. At this time both men were babyfaces so this was a battle with respect. Even so they roll to the floor while Aries has Danielson in a leglock. That’s not very sportsmanlike. Back in the ring they continue to wrestle on the mat. This is a classic back-and-forth technical exhibition in the first several minutes. Aries knocks Danielson to the floor and hits him with an elbow smash off the apron. Back in the ring Aries hits the slingshot senton and the elbow drop for two. Aries continues to press the advantage and goes for covers often. Danielson catches Aries with a kneelift to take control. He works Aries over and goes up top but Aries knocks him down to the floor. Aries brings Danielson back in briefly before throwing him back outside and hitting the Heat Seeking Missile. Back in the ring Aries hits the slingshot corkscrew body press for two and the quebrada for two. Danielson comes out of the corner with a big flying knee strike and both men are down. Back on their feet a series of reversals sees a succession of near-falls for both men. Aries goes for a superplex but Danielson knocks him down and hits a missile dropkick. Danielson hits a roaring elbow for two and a bridging Tiger Suplex for two. He locks on Cattle Mutilation and turns it into elbow strikes. Aries powers out and forces Danielson into the corner for a series of his own elbow strikes. Danielson locks on the Crossface Chicken Wing but Aries powers his way out of that too. Aries hits the IED for a two-count. After several attempts Aries lands the Brainbuster and goes up top for the 450. Danielson gets his knees up and locks on the triangle choke. Aries won’t quit and he forces his way out of that hold too. Danielson locks on the Triangle Choke again but Aries counters it to the Last Chancery! Aries adds knees to the head and really cinches on the hold and Danielson taps out at 24:35! These two are practically automatic against each other. This was a great way to kick off the series.
MATCH #16: Match 2 in The Best of Three Series – Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson, Chaos at the Cow Palace, 10.21.07
They start with a Greco Roman Knuckle Lock and fight over it. That goes nowhere but they continue trying to outwrestle each other. They trade holds back and forth, trying to establish dominance as the crowd chants “ROH.” Danielson starts working the leg. Aries comes back with the slingshot senton and elbow drop combination for two. He starts working the leg as well, so that looks to be both men’s focus in this match. They fight over the knuckle lock again and Danielson wins the battle. Danielson goes back to work on the leg now. He picks Aries up for some strikes and suplexes, and then puts on a Cross Armbreaker, which he has used a couple of times mixed in with his leg work. Danielson tries the Crossface Chicken Wing but Aries uses momentum to send him crashing to the floor. They fight on the apron and Danielson tries a sunset flip off the top rope but Aries rolls through and hits a dropkick. Aries hits the slingshot corkscrew body press for two and then a quebrada for another two-count. He tries a Brainbuster but Danielson slips out so Aries levels him with a roaring forearm instead. Aries tries to follow up with the IED but Danielson kicks him in the face. Danielson puts on the Crossface Chicken Wing but can’t keep it on. After a couple of quick pinning combinations both men pause to catch their breath. Aries this the shinbreaker / belly-to-back suplex combo. He follows with the IED for a near-fall. Aries goes up or the 450 but Danielson knocks him down on his crotch. He hits the super belly-to-back suplex. Danielson gets trapped in Cattle Mutilation. Aries breaks out of it and then slips out of a German Suplex. Aries kicks Danielson in the head and locks on the Last Chancery. Danielson catches on of the knees and puts Aries in a small package to get the win at 18:57. This one was a little slower than the first match in this series, but the finish was absurdly awesome.
MATCH #17: Match 3 in The Best of Three Series – Austin Aries vs. Bryan Danielson, Glory By Honor VI, Night 1, 11.2.07
Everyone is chanting so loud for both men that I can barely hear the bell ring. They take it down to the mat and exchange holds and counters. As the pace quickens, Aries hits a series of armdrags and controls the arm. Danielson comes back and whips Aries into the corner. Aries tries the springboard back elbow but Danielson catches him and tries the Cross Face Chicken Wing, only for Aries to use his momentum to throw Danielson to the floor. When Aries tries the Heat Seeking Missile, Danielson gets a knee into his face. These two men know each other very well, obviously. Danielson wears Aries down, focusing on the neck. Aries tries to come back with a running knee to the face but Danielson catches it and locks him in a half crab. The versatile Danielson continues wearing Aries down with a variety of awesome moves. He ties Aries up in a Tree of Woe, and Aries kicks him in the head and then comes out with a swinging stunner. That was cool. Aries fires up and hits the Stroke and an elbow drop to the back of the neck for two. He shoves Danielson to the floor and hits the Heat Seeking Missile. Back in the ring Aries tries a quebrada but Danielson gets his knees up and then traps Aries in a Triangle Choke! Aries makes it to the bottom rope. Danielson goes to the airplane spin but Aries slips out and hits the shinbreaker/back suplex combo. Aries tries the IED but Danielson kicks him right in the face. They take the fight to the apron and exchange forearms. Danielson wins the battle and goes up for a missile dropkick. He hits it and nips up to his feet. Aries no sells the dropkick and nips up to his feet, and then both men knock each other out with forearm strikes. They get back to their feet and Danielson hits the running knee strike to the chest. Danielson tries the super back suplex but Aries falls on top for a two-count and Danielson rolls that over for a two-count of his own, and then locks on the Cattle Mutilation! Aries powers his way out and hits a series of elbows to the face. Danielson pops out of the corner with a sort of Tiger Suplex for two, and then rolls that into the elbow strikes! He tries Cattle Mutilation again but Aries falls on top for a two-count. Back on their feet Aries tries a backslide but can’t keep the shoulders down. Aries instead hits a kick to the head and then a DDT. He locks on the Last Chancery (how he won the first match) and accentuates it with knee strikes. He picks Danielson up and Danielson gets a Small Package (how he won the second match) for two! Aries counters that with the brainbuster and then the 450 Splash to get the pin and win the series at 17:19. Danielson is the guy who brings out the best in Aries and this match was no exception. They did cool offensive maneuvers, countered each other awesomely, called back to their previous matches in this series, and just generally rocked it.
The Pulse: This is an amazing collection of matches and a great showcase for one of the most important guys in the history of Ring of Honor. Many were surprised that he captured the TNA Title earlier this year, but perhaps we shouldn’t be. He’s clearly a unique talent that can really connect with the audience and have good matches with a wide variety of opponents. You can purchase this tremendous DVD set at the ROH Shop.