ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson opens the show by standing outside by Madison Square Garden, where tonight’s special guest Bruno Sammartino made his legendary name. This is followed up by a brief video package for tonight’s main event.
Dave Prazak and Jared David are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Jack Evans vs. Davey Richards
This one starts off with a tense lockup. Richards tries to overpower Evans but that power advantage is negated by Evans’s speed and agility. Evans dropkicks Richards to the floor and then teases a dive but Richards moves. Back in the ring Evans continues to use his agility. He hits a flipping kick to the head and then the handspring elbow in the corner. Richards shrugs off the kick and knocks Evans to the floor. He follows Evans out and whips him into the barricade. Back in the ring Richards tries a suplex but Evans knees his way out, so Richards hits him with a gutbuster. Then Richards tosses Evans onto the top rope and he bounces off the top rope and (accidentally) breaks a table on the floor! Back in the ring again Richards tries to keep Evans grounded. Evans comes back with a rollup for two and then the springboard flipping elbow. Richards rolls to the floor and Evans follows him out with a Space Flying Tiger Driver! Back in the ring Evans goes up top and goes for the 630 Senton and Richards gets his knees up! Richards hits a running powerslam for a two-count. He locks on the Stretch Muffler or Horse Collar, whichever you prefer (I hate both names) and Evans reaches the ropes. Richards goes for a Liger Bomb and Evans counters with a rana for two. They exchange kicks, with Richards landing a series of Kawada Kicks and then the Alarm Clock. Richards then this a powerbomb and again locks on the Horse Muffler to get the submission win at 7:35. That was short and sweet, and a good opener to get the crowd going.
Backstage Nigel McGuinness is ruminating on the meaning of life and how important tonight is to his career. If he would stop chewing his gum so loud I would be much happier with this promo. Other than that it was good.
The entire locker room is around ringside to hear what Bruno has to say. Bruno appears to be in excellent shape for 71 years old. The crowd chants “Bruno” and “Welcome Home.” He talks very softly, but he puts over ROH and the wrestlers involved. He thanks the fans, and then makes his way back to the locker room. On the way back, Samoa Joe and Takeshi Morishima bump in to each other and Joe immediately gets in the ring and challenges Morishima to join him. They fight briefly and the crowd goes ballistic. The rest of the wrestlers separate them. Man that was a hot segment all around.
MATCH #2: Delirious vs. Adam Pearce
Pearce attacks Delirious before the bell and chokes him with his own tassels. He throws punches until Delirious comes back with a headbutt to the midsection. Delirious gets a small package for two and then a crucifix pin for another two. The popular masked man is in control now, and he actually crawls under the ring and comes out on the other side and knocks Pearce over with a somersault off the apron. Back in the ring Pearce hits a spinebuster and then military presses Delirious to the floor. Pearce follows him to the floor and whips him into the barricade. Back in the ring Delirious fights back (really?) and hits a series of chops in the corner. Pearce comes back by going after the eyes. He hits a backbreaker and then goes up top. He tries a Superfly splash but Delirious gets his knees up. Back on their feet Delirious takes charge and hits a leaping lariat. Delirious hits the Roots Clotheslines (60 of them!) and then a bulldog for two. He goes up and hits a missile dropkick and then the Panic Attack. He goes up top and Pearce distracts the referee, allowing Shane Hagadorn to come out and clock Delirious with a pair of brass knuckles. Pearce then hits a Piledriver to get the pin at 8:17. I’m not the biggest Pearce fan, and this match didn’t win me over.
MATCH #3: Three-Way Match – Christopher Daniels vs. Colt Cabana vs. Jimmy Jacobs
Jacobs is so upset about what’s going on between Lacey and Cabana that he actually CRIES before the match starts. As a result, Daniels and Cabana start the match while Lacey yells at Jacobs to go help Cabana. Of course Jacobs does exactly what she says. Cabana works himself into situations where he gets to touch Lacey’s boobs and then look up her skirt, much to Jacobs’s chagrin. Lacey gives the marching orders and Daniels realizes he’s pretty much in a handicap match at t his point. Jacobs tries to attack Cabana with a headlock but Lacey yells at him to stop, so he goes after Daniels instead. Prazak and David wonder why Jacobs would keep listening to Lacey since Cabana keeps humiliating him every chance he gets. Only in wrestling can someone act the way Cabana is acting towards Jacobs and keep getting cheered for it. Jacobs goes for a Spear but Daniels moves out of the way and Jacobs hits Cabana with it. With Cabana out of the picture Daniels goes to work on Jacobs. Daniels hits an STO for a near-fall. Jacobs comes back with a chinbreaker and a series of forearms. He hits a fisherman neckbreaker for a two-count. Daniels counters the Contra Code with a uranage slam and then hits the Best Moonsault Ever but Cabana breaks up the cover. Cabana hits a butt-butt in the corner and tries a lariat, but Daniels catches it and locks on the Koji Clutch. Lacey yells at Jacobs to save Cabana but luckily Cabana reaches the ropes. Meanwhile Daniels goes for the Angel’s Wings but Cabana backdrops him to the floor. Cabana follows him out with an Asai Moonsault. Back in the ring Cabana goes for the Colt 45 but Jacobs hits him with a low blow and then hits the Contra Code for the pin (and a nice pop) at 11:07.
It was more or less a handicap match but it was awesome for storyline advancement in the Jacobs/Cabana/Lacey love triangle. Jacobs is excited that he won the match since that’s what Lacey always wanted him to do, but she didn’t want him to do it at the expense of Cabana’s nuts.
Commissioner Jim Cornette
The ROH Commissioner Jim Cornette makes his way out with the brothers Briscoe. He talks about his ongoing feud with Homicide. He goes off on a rant about how New York City and its fans all suck and are terrible people to go with their terrible city. He announces that Homicide will get his shot at the title on December 23 in this building … provided that he and Samoa Joe can win the match tonight.
MATCH #4: Homicide & Samoa Joe vs. The Briscoe Brothers
Joe and Homicide charge the ring and the fight is underway. They backdrop the Briscoes to the floor and then follow them out with stereo dives! Jay and Mark get a chance to recover and we start the match proper with Homicide and Mark. They go back and forth and Joe tags in. He whips Mark into the corner and causally walks away when Mark tries a springboard cross body block. Jay makes the tag, and these two have some history for sure. Joe takes him right into the corner and punches him right down. He hits the Big Joe Combo, which will always make me think fondly of Brad Garoon. Joe bodyslams Jay and then makes the tag. Homicide comes off the top rope with a splash for two. He distracts the referee so Smokes can take a cheap shot. He hits the Three Amigos for a two-count. Joe comes back in and hits Jay with an enziguiri. Jay is just getting destroyed here. Homicide puts Jay in the Tree of Woe and hits the Chris Sabin hesitation dropkick for a two-count. Finally Jay makes the comeback with a low blow and then tosses Homicide to the floor. Mark immediately pounces on Homicide and slams his head into the barricade multiple times. He legally tags in and the Briscoes go to work on Homicide now. After a few minutes of abuse Homicide is able to make the tag and the crowd thinks Joe may do something illegal to Mark. The youngest Briscoe is unafraid, taking it right to Joe. Unfortunately for him, Joe catches him with the Big Joe Combo #2. Joe hits the Face Wash and Smokes barks in Mark’s face. He levels Mark with a spinning back fist but Mark recovers with a spin kick and makes the tag. The Briscoes go to work on Joe now. Joe hits a flapjack out of nowhere and Homicide tags in. Homicide hits Jay with a belly-to-belly suplex and a flying back elbow. The referee loses control as both Briscoes are in the ring. Even so, Homicide is able to control both of them with seeming ease. The battle spills to the floor and Mark drops Homicide on the ring apron, and then wipes him out with a dive. Jay sends Joe to the floor, and then Homicide gets in the ring and hits Jay with an Ace Crusher. Homicide signals for the lariat but Mark breaks it up, and then Joe kills Mark with a lariat of his own. Joe tosses Mark to the floor and then he and Homicide double team Jay but can’t put him away. The Briscoes go for the Doomsday Device but Joe breaks it up by puling Mark to the floor and hitting an Ole Kick. Meanwhile Jay goes for the Jay Driller but Homicide reverses it and tries the Cop Killa. Jay reverses that and tries a military press but Homicide slips out of that and kicks him in the back of the head. Homicide then hits the Cop Killa to get the pin and earn his title shot on December 23 at 17:59.
They could have cut a couple of minutes of but for the most part it was all go-go-go with tons of action and a hot finish. Cornette comes out and says that he will grant Homicide his title match, but between now and then he’s going to make his life a living hell.
Gary Michael Cappetta is backstage with Lacey and Colt Cabana at intermission. Jacobs busts in and is excited about his win. Lacey makes him apologize for hitting Cabana in the nuts. She is appalled that Jacobs would use a low blow, but it’s not like she’s ever been a virtuous babyface.
Elsewhere, KENTA is stretching in preparation for tonight’s main event.
And somewhere else, Bruno Sammartino gives a pep talk to ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson and GHC Heavyweight Champion Naomichi Marufuji. That’s a nice moment.
MATCH #5: ROH World Tag Team Title Match – Austin Aries & Roderick Strong vs. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli
Aries and Strong have been the champions since 12.17.05 and this is their nineteenth defense. The crowd is heavily in favor of the longest reigning tag team champions to date. Aries is still sporting taped ribs, which is no doubt a bulls-eye for the challengers. Hero and Castagnoli decline the handshake and attack the champions before the bell.
The champs are ready for them though, and they fight right back with vicious chops. The Kings quickly take a powder to avoid the fired up champions. The dust settles and Castagnoli and Strong start the match proper. They engage in some mat wrestling and it looks like Strong has the advantage. Strong dominates and tags Aries into the match. The champions control the pace and work Castagnoli over. Strong picks Castagnoli up for a delayed vertical suplex and drops him across the top rope, and then delivers a leg drop from the top rope for a two-count. Aries tags in and goes to the top rope, but Hero knocks him down from the apron and the Kings take control. They immediately and wisely go to work on Aries’ injured ribs. The challengers really dominate Aries, working over his ribs with an assortment of cute double-team moves. It’s amazing how much different (and better) both Hero and Castagnoli are now. After many minutes of abuse Strong can take no more and comes in illegally to kick Hero in the face. Moments later Strong enters the ring legally and goes b-a-n-a-n-a-s on both Kings. He sends them both to the floor and Aries follows them out with the Heat Seeking Missile. Aries holds them in place and Strong wipes out both Kings with a twisting plancha and lands on his feet. Back in the ring Hero reclaims control on Strong. He tags Castagnoli, who hits the Alpamare Water Slide for two. Aries breaks up the cover and Hero comes in to thwart him. The Kings take the opportunity for more double teaming on Strong. Aries hits Hero with the IED out of nowhere, and Strong follows up with the Sick Kick. The champs hit the chop/brainbuster combo. Strong hits a backbreaker and Aries goes up top. Hero and Strong distract the referee, allowing Castagnoli to hit Aries in the ribs with his briefcase. The Kings double-team Strong to send him rolling to the floor. Aries gets back in the ring and the Kings are able to hit him with the KRS-One and we have NEW ROH World Tag Team Champions at 21:32. The crowd is split on whether to cheer or boo, but either way that was a terrific tag team match and I shudder to think how much better it would be today.
BJ Whitmer cuts a promo from his couch about how Jimmy Jacobs put him on the shelf. He gives Jacobs credit but says he did not get the job done.
MATCH #6: GHC Heavyweight Title Match – Naomichi Marufuji vs. Nigel McGuinness
This is the first time the GHC Heavyweight Title has been defended outside of Japan. Marufuji has been the champion since 9.9.06 and this is his first defense. That’s a pretty big deal. They go back and forth a bit as Jimmy Bower invades the booth to thank NOAH officials for allowing this match to happen in ROH. Marufuji goes after the leg as he takes the first sustained advantage of the match. Nigel escapes a Figure Four Leglock by getting to the ropes and then he rolls to the floor to regroup. Back in the ring Marufuji continues going to work on the leg. After several minutes Nigel avoids a charge in the corner and Marufuji hits his shoulder into the ring post. Nigel takes control and relentlessly attacks the now injured shoulder. After a few minutes of abuse Nigel hits the first lariat of the match for a two-count. Nigel wisely goes right back to the arm. Marufuji fights back with a dropkick to the knee and a sliding clothesline for a two-count. Nigel comes back with another hard lariat for a two-count. He hits the headstand mule kick for a two-count. He tries the top rope lariat but Marufuji avoids it, only to get the top rope snapped back in his eyes. Nigel joins Marufuji on the apron and Marufuji is able to catch him in a Shiranui all the way to the floor! Back in the ring Marufuji covers for a two-count. Marufuji sets Nigel on the top rope but it backfires, as the challenger hits the top-rope lariat and it only gets two! Nigel hits the Tower of London but Marufuji hits the Shiranui before he sells the move, and now both men are down.
They get back to their feet and Nigel is in control with a series of forearms. Nigel hits the Jawbreaker Lariat but Marufuji kicks out at two! He sets Marufuji up top and hits the Tower of London onto the apron! Once again both men are down on the floor. They get back in the ring and Nigel covers for two. They trade slaps and then blast each other with superkicks. Marufuji wins that battle and gets a two-count. Nigel tries the headstand but Marufuji kicks him in the face. Marufuji sets Nigel in the Tree of Woe and hits the corner to corner dropkick. He follows up with a super Shiranui to get the pin at 22:32. It was obvious Marufuji wasn’t going to drop the belt, but Nigel made quite the go of it. This was a big match in establishing Nigel’s credibility, and it was really good from start to finish and the crowd was with them the whole way.
MATCH #7: ROH World Title Match – Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA
Danielson has been the champion since 9.17.05 and this is his thirty-fourth defense. The crowd is white hot for this match from the get-go. KENTA backs Danielson into the ropes and slaps him across the face. They engage in a test of strength and Danielson wins that battle by locking in an arm submission, and when KENTA gets to the ropes Danielson knees him in the face. KENTA responds by kicking Danielson’s injured shoulder and the champion bails. Back in the ring KENTA once again goes after the arm and Danielson responds with fury. Naturally KENTA comes back by going after the injured shoulder. Danielson takes KENTA down to the mat while trying to protect his injured shoulder. He hits KENTA with a dropkick that sends him to the floor. He tries a slingshot dive but KENTA moves out of the way and maliciously attacks the injured shoulder. Back in the ring it’s more of the same as KENTA wears Danielson down, focusing especially on the shoulder. Danielson makes a brief comeback and tries a sunset flip but KENTA slaps the taste out of his mouth. KENTA goes right back to the arm. Danielson comes back with a knee to the midsection and then a cravat suplex. He lands a series of kicks in the corner and then hits a vertical suplex and then chokes KENTA for funsies. He goes for the Mexican Surfboard but can’t pull KENTA up because of his injured shoulder, so he stomps his knees into the mat. Danielson follows up with the Figure Four Leglock and uses the ropes for leverage. KENTA makes it to the ropes but Danielson isn’t letting up at all, catapulting KENTA’s neck into the bottom rope. Danielson whips KENTA into the corner and KENTA comes out with a vertical suplex and then a dropkick. The challenger wisely goes back to work on the champion’s badly injured shoulder. KENTA whips Danielson into the corner but the champ runs up the ropes and flips over KENTA. Danielson locks on a half crab and KENTA reaches the ropes. The champ hits some forearms and then hits a superplex for two. Danielson locks on a Crossface Chicken Wing and adds the body scissors, but KENTA is still able to reach the ropes.
The champ bodyslams KENTA and goes up top for the diving headbutt but KENTA kicks him in the face! KENTA goes for a springboard maneuver but Danielson dropkicks him out of the air and both men are down. They get up and exchange strikes and then up the ante to suplexes. Danielson hits a hard forearm and KENTA comes back with a hard clothesline and both men are down again. Back up once again KENTA clotheslines Danielson to the floor. KENTA charges and Danielson delivers a belly-to-belly suplex. Danielson knocks KENTA into the crowd, and then goes up to the top rope and leaps into the crowd to wipe KENTA out. Back in the ring Danielson hits a missile dropkick and goes for a roaring elbow but KENTA catches him in a Fujiwara armbar! Luckily for Danielson he reaches the ropes. KENTA tries a back suplex but Danielson slips out and lands on his feet. Danielson goes up to the second rope and leaps off, but KENTA catches him in the Fujiwara armbar again, and again Danielson reaches the ropes. KENTA tries a series of strikes but Danielson catches him in a Regalplex for two. Danielson takes KENTA up top for the super belly-to-back suplex and then locks on Cattle Mutilation! KENTA reaches the ropes. Danielson hits a front chancery suplex and goes up top. KENTA tries to hop up for the super Falcon Arrow but Danielson pushes him down. Then Danielson jumps right onto KENTA’s shoulders (what move was he even going for?) and gets hit with the Go 2 Sleep. I guess Danielson was going for a cross body block? Anyway Danielson is able to get his foot on the bottom rope at two and the crowd is going ballistic. KENTA hits a couple of knee strikes, and then Danielson is able to grab him in an O’Connor Roll with a bridge for two! Danielson bounces off the ropes and KENTA kicks him right in the face. KENTA goes for Go 2 Sleep again and Danielson counters with a crucifix for two! Danielson hits the elbows to the head but KENTA fires up! The champ tries Cattle Mutilation but KENTA rolls through for a two-count! Danielson pulls him back up and hits the Tiger Suplex for two! He’s then able to lock on the hold and KENTA finally taps out at 33:00!
What a match. KENTA went after the shoulder but when Danielson wouldn’t give up he abandoned that strategy and focused on hitting the Go 2 Sleep instead. Danielson’s strategy all along was pretty much just to survive with the title intact and he did. There was almost no slowing down for the duration of the match and the crowd was with them the entire way. This is the best KENTA match I’ve ever seen and one of the best matches in Ring of Honor history.