Bryan Danielson vs The World
As the name implies, this DVD set is loaded with matches between Danielson and a variety of foreign opponents. While most of the matches are against Japanese wrestlers, particularly ones from Pro Wrestling NOAH, we also get a handful of matches against European opponents.
Probably the most prominent opponent on this set is Takeshi Morishima, whom Danielson faced in five different singles matches in ROH. Every one of those matches is on here, starting with their first encounter at Manhattan Mayhem II where Morishima not only defeated Danielson, but beat him so severely that he legitimately detached his retina. They were back in the ring only three weeks later at Man Up, when an eyepatch-clad Danielson was again defeated by Morishima, who mercilessly attacked his injured eye with elbowstrikes until the referee stopped the match.
Morishima's callous brutality in the Man Up match turned this feud personal, and Danielson responded with an equal measure of brutality when they next met at Glory By Honor VI Night 2, low blowing Morishima and then repeatedly stomping on his groin until he got disqualified. They faced off yet again at Rising Above 2007 with relaxed rules, which basically meant that they could still get disqualified, but had a lot more leeway than they normally would. Morishima busted Danielson open about a minute in, then continuing to batter him until he returned the favor from the last match by stomping on Danielson's groin and then shoving the referee down when he tried to intervene. Morishima had crossed the line and gotten disqualified even with relaxed rules, but he then kept shoving down more officials as they ran into the ring until Danielson grabbed the ring bell hammer and ground it into Morishima's eye to try and take his vision out as Morishima had done to him.
All this led to their final encounter a full year later in the main event of Final Battle 2008, when Danielson and Morishima faced off in a Fight Without Honor, the one match violent enough to settle their issue once and for all. This was easily the most brutal match of the series, as Danielson was busted open yet again mere minutes into the match before Morishima upped the ante by bringing a chain into the ring and using it to choke and bludgeon Danielson. Morishima's strategy backfired, as Danielson used the chain to basically handcuff Morishima so he could repeatedly stomp on his groin again, deliver MMA elbows with the chain wrapped around his arm, and then finally strangling Morishima unconscious with the chain while putting him in Cattle Mutilation to finally win the feud.
Though Morishima was easily Danielson's most hated opponent from NOAH, he was not the only one Danielson faced a tough and prolonged series against. KENTA was probably Danielson's toughest challenger as ROH World Champion, as Danielson lost to him twice in non-title encounters before finally facing him with the title on the line. This set includes one of those non-title victories, as KENTA defeated Danielson and Samoa Joe in a three way encounter at In Your Face, pinning Danielson after hitting Go To Sleep and then demanding a title shot. KENTA then got his opportunity when he challenged Danielson for the ROH World Title at Glory By Honor V Night 2 in what I consider the ROH Match of the Year for 2006 and, to this day, one of the three or four best matches in ROH history. Danielson came in with torn ligaments in his shoulder and pectoral, but still managed to have a 40 minute classic with KENTA before finally beating him with Cattle Mutilation to retain the title. I would recommend any DVD purchase for this match alone.
Other matches on this set between Danielson and NOAH stars include Danielson facing SUWA at Anarchy In The UK, Go Shiozaki at Live In Tokyo, teaming with Austin Aries to face Shiozaki and Nigel McGuinness at Double Feature, his second ROH match with Naomichi Marufuji from A New Level in 2008 (their first match at Final Battle 2005 was better but isn't on this set), a three way against Shiozaki and Claudio Castagnoli from Driven 2008, and the match from the Tokyo Summit where he defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title. Although not against a full time NOAH opponent, Danielson's GHC Junior Heavyweight Title defense against Katsuhiko Nakajima at Glory By Honor VII is also included.
Danielson didn't just wrestle against Japanese wrestlers, there was also one very special match where he teamed with Marufuji and CIMA to face the team of Davey Richards, Rocky Romero, and Masaaki Mochizuki at Live In Osaka. This was a match made the day of the show because an injury forced a change, so Danielson asked Marufuji (whom he called the best wrestler in NOAH) and CIMA (the best wrestler in Dragon Gate) to team with him (the best wrestler in ROH) to face Mochizuki and the No Remorse Corps.
As I said at the earlier, we also got a few matches against European opponents. Included are Danielson's pair of matches against Doug Williams, first at Road To The Title and then the 30 minute Ironman rematch at Scramble Madness, as well as a match with PAC (who would go on to become a huge star in Dragon Gate and eventually earn a WWE deal last year), and Soviet throwback Alex Koslov at Supercard Of Honor IV.
Though there is absolutely nothing here that is important from a storyline standpoint other then tha Morishima and KENTA matches, this set is so full of awesome matches between Danielson and the best that Japan and Europe has to offer that there's no way I can give this anything other than a resounding thumbs up.
CM Punk: The Second City Saint
This set tells the story of CM Punk's first two years in ROH and shows his development as he first became a main eventer and then a champion. We start off at the very beginning, as Punk split a pair of matches with Colt Cabana at Night of the Butcher and Final Battle 2002. Cabana won the first, but Punk won the second (in the opening match, mind you) to earn an ROH contract. Punk and Cabana obviously have a long history together, and we'll see a lot more of Cabana through the rest of the set.
After Punk defeated CW Anderson at the One Year Anniversary Show, we go into the excellent Raven feud that, make no mistake, made CM Punk a star in ROH. Punk had been playing something of a mild babyface with an edge for the first few months in ROH, but when Raven came to the company in March of 2003, CM Punk practically came out of nowhere with this vendetta to not just beat Raven, but humiliate and destroy him. At its core, the Punk-Raven feud was based on the fact that Punk is straight edge and he looked at the way Raven threw away every opportunity he was ever handed because of drugs and alcohol, and how Punk hated him for it. It later got ever deeper as Punk revealed that his father was an alcoholic, and he told stories about how sometimes had to turn his father off his back after he passed out so he wouldn't die after throwing up in his own mouth.
I've always said that the best bad guys are the ones who think they're the good guy, and Punk played that part perfectly because he obviously considered himself the babyface because of the way he preached straight edge, but he was so insanely over the top about it that the fans rejected his message and cheered Raven instead. This drove Punk even more over the edge, but fueled his passion to the point where he beat Raven in literally every singles match they had but one (which isn't on here). Punk beat Raven at Expect the Unexpected (under Raven's Rules), Punk and Cabana beat Raven and BJ Whitmer in an Anything Goes match at Night of the Grudges, and Punk and Cabana defeated Raven and Christopher Daniels after Punk knocked Raven out with a chain. Raven did manage to win an Anything Goes tag match with Punk and Ace Steel, but he pinned Steel to win the match before Cabana turned on him to rejoin Punk and Steel to form the Second City Saints.
The feud kicked it up a notch when Punk beat Raven yet again in a Dog Collar match at Death Before Dishonor, but Raven got a measure of revenge when his old enemy Tommy Dreamer helped him out, tying Punk to the ring ropes so Raven could pour a beer down his throat. This was inexcusable for Punk, who vowed that he would do anything to destroy Raven once and for all. Before he got his hands on Raven again, Punk had to face Terry Funk, whom Raven had handpicked to face Punk in a Pick Your Poison series at Glory By Honor 2. Punk won when the referee stopped the match after Punk heartlessly destroyed Funk's knees and then put him in the figure four until he nearly passed out. Raven and Dreamer made the save again after the match, but Punk won the feud once and for all when he faced Raven in a cage match at The Conclusion.
Another major feud was against the Prophecy of Christopher Daniels, Dan Maff, and BJ Whitmer. The feud built for a long time before it actually started, stemming out of a match between Punk and Whitmer (which is on this set) that ended in a no contest after both men went through a ringside table. For months afterward, Punk ran Whitmer down nonstop on commentary, taking jabs at him every chance he got. In the meantime, Punk's girlfriend Lucy (aka Daffney) was put out of ROH after an attack by an unknown assailant. Punk spent months trying to find out who attacked Lucy, and accused the Prophecy on several occasions. Daniels repeatedly denied the accusation, and it was eventually revealed at Final Battle 2003 that Whitmer (who had spent all of 2003 as a generic babyface) had attacked Lucy, after which he attacked Punk and joined Daniels and Maff in the Prophecy.
The Whitmer reveal wasn't included on the set (though Punk and Cabana taking on Tomoaki Honma and Kazushi Miyamoto in the ROH vs AJPW challenge was), but the six man tag between the Second City Saints and the Prophecy from The Battle Lines Are Drawn is on here, and was the one and only time that all three Second City Saints (Punk, Cabana, and Steel) and all three members of the Prophecy (Daniels, Maff, and Whitmer) were in the same match since Daniels was pulled from ROH by TNA shortly after this. As it happens, they acccidentally booked a perfect way to write Daniels out when Punk gave him a Pepsi Plunge through a table. Various combinations of the Second City Saints would have multiple no DQ-style matches against Maff and Whitmer throughout the rest of the year, with one Punk/Cabana vs Maff/Whitmer match from Generation Next making it onto the set.
Finally, this set included Punk's attempts to become a champion in ROH, first as he sought to become the ROH Pure Champion. He made it to the finals of the tournament to crown the first Pure Champion, losing to AJ Styles, and then faced Styles in a rematch a month later with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat as the special referee. Styles won again, setting off a rivalry with Steamboat that I can't really call a feud since Steamboat never had a match with Punk. Finally, we see Punk's pair of ROH World Tag Team Title victories, both of which came against Jay & Mark Briscoe. Punk and Cabana first defeat the Briscoes in ROH's Chicago debut at ROH Reborn Stage 2, then again at Round Robin Challenge III.
I thought this was a good set overall, but I wouldn't have tried to shoehorn all this stuff into one collection. The Raven feud could have gotten its own DVD, as could the Prophecy feud, and I think that trying to fit it all onto two discs shortchanged everything that was covered. Nothing was bad, but I just didn't think this really did justice to any particular part of his early ROH career. Thumbs in the middle leaning up just because the stuff included was good.
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The final tally: thumbs up for the Danielson set, thumbs in the middle for Punk because I thought it breezed through too much of his ROH career in too short a time. I'll be back soon with my review of what is easily my favorite ROH DVD compilation in many months, From Love To Hate: The Jimmy Jacobs Story.
For now though, if you want information on ordering either of the DVD sets I reviewed today, you can do that at ROH's website at www.rohwrestling.com.