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By Mike Johnson on 2004-12-21 11:00:00

by Mike Johnson

Ring of Honor always has an interesting mix when it comes to atmosphere. While the fans will chant for their favorites and to get under the skin of the heels, they will also watch intently in the same vein of Japanese wrestling fans. The shows are populated by older wrestling fans who remember the "Good old days" of ECW and the NWA in Philadelphia, as well as Internet fans who live for workrate and want to see something different, so they can enjoy being smart fans and be in all their glory, as well as rebelling against the evil WWE regime. I always enjoy going to ROH as there's a great group of fans who I have known from our days as regulars at ECW shows. It's always good to catch up, trade stories, and just have a good time. At ROH Saturday night, a good time was definitely had. Results and Thoughts:

*Homicide, who is going to get a major singles push here, forced Prince Nana tap with the STF. Nana was a substitute for Izzy (aka Insane Dragon) who was hurt in the JAPW bout the night before. This was a decent opener putting over Homicide.

*In a great Tag Team Scramble match, The Maximos defeated Dixie and new Special K member Joey Matthews (did Christian York drop off the face of the earth in the last month?), Da Hit Squad and Divine Storm. This was everything a Tag Scramble match should be and was a much better match than the initial one ROH did at previous show. There was one insane spot which saw all six battle in the corner and do numerous moves to the other at the same time in stereo. A must see spectacle. Dixie suffered a fracture of his left tibia and will be in a cast for about four weeks.

*Next up was a Gauntlet Series to determine the number one contendership to the ROH championship held by Xavier. It started with Michael Shane pinning CM Punk. I've heard a lot of good things about Punk from those who have seen IWA Mid-South, but it seems like every time I get a chance to see him, there isn't much to remember. This was a slow start to the bout. The crowd was into Punk. Next up was Paul London, who has been feuding with Shane as of late in the promotion and is a big favorite here. London got the pin with a DDT variation, only to have Shane break the promotion's "Code of Honor" by saying that no matter what happened, there was no way he was going to shake London's hand.

Shane walked out of the ring and to the back, looking like it was simply a ploy to build heat on him, but instead it turned out to be surprise number one of the evening as out came the WWE's Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer pointed Shane back to the ring as one by one, everyone in the audience realized who it was and popped huge since after all, Dreamer was and is the embodiment of ECW and ECW was born in Philly. Dreamer brought Shane back to the ring and took the ring mic to announce that there was no way he was going to let Shane leave without shaking hands. The place gave Dreamer a standing ovation that rivaled the reaction of the ECW Arena the night they pulled the sheet off of Terry Funk when he attacked Cactus Jack. Dreamer spoke about how for eight years he was involved with something special, ECW at the ECW Arena and that he's seen tapes of ROH and that ROH was turning into something special as well, as was the Murphy Recreation Center (which he called a building of honor). He said that while he loved ECW, and he was heartbroken when it was gone, he realizes that ROH is turning into something special for those same fans. He said that people don't appreciate what it truly special until it is gone and he is not going to let anyone hurt ROH. Dreamer mentioned working in front of the Philadelphia fans and that he always felt he was working for his friends and not fans. Moved by his speech, Shane shook hands with London....only to clothesline him. Dreamer shook his head, kicked Shane in the stomach and hit his patented DDT. The place erupted and Dreamer asked the sound guy to hit his music, as he was feeling nostalgic and wasn't leaving until they did. "Man In The Box" played and off Tommy Dreamer went....finally having his farewell to his ECW fans in Philly and giving ROH tremendous rub in the process.

There's a reason Tommy Dreamer is one of my favorite wrestlers and this was the epitome of why. He came in, likely without pay, on his own time to help and give back to a promotion he doesn't even work for, in order to give something special to the fans that made his career and to help a younger crew of wrestlers who are trying to do what he something. The appearance was his idea and the speech was completely improvised. Whether you are a fan of Dreamer or not, you have to respect that he cares enough to try and build the wrestling business and give back to it, when so many are concerned with holding down others and getting the most they can for themselves. It was a special moment and one that made the weekend a memorable one for me.

Getting back to the Gaunlet, London continued on by defeating the Amazing Red in their first ever meeting, which was a really fun match. London was then eliminated by American Dragon via submission with the Cattle Mutilation. I don't know if I never noticed this aspect of his work before or it was something he picked up in New Japan, but Dragon seemed much more animated than I could previously recall. This was a fun back and forth scientific match, and I was disappointed to see London lose as I've grown to enjoy his work (He's another RVD in terms of pure athletic ability in my eyes) but in a match like this, you can never truly be disappointed. With Dragon's victory, he moved onto a final match against AJ Styles later in the evening.

*In a six man tag match, ROH Tag Team champions Christopher Daniels, Donovan Morgan and Samoa Joe successfully defended the ROH tag titles by defeating Low Ki, Homicide & Doug Williams. Forgiving the silliness of the Tag Titles' first defense being in a six man, this was a great back and forth six man with tons of submissions, near falls and highspots. Joe choked out Homicide to win, setting up a rematch. They teased Low Ki vs. Joe a few times in the match but never gave the fans a rematch of their stifffest from the previous show. They did an angle where Joe shook hands with The Prophecy's opponents after the match and Daniels and Morgan were not happy about it. Joe could easily be this promotion's Rhyno in terms of being this huge, badass monster. Great work from everyone involved. This was the best Morgan has looked in the promotion as of yet. Another super match.

After intermission, Alexis Laree defeated Allison Danger. This was what you would expect, but was entertaining. Danger did a deal where she kissed Laree and then crawled over her in a sexy manner meant to embarrass her.

*The Carnage Crew defeated The Ring Crew in a Bunkhouse match. This had been building for some time as the Crew usually bullies and beats up the ring crew in vignettes and interviews on the ROH tapes. The poor ring crew, including Marcos and Dunn who do a fun, goofy rock gimmick, were destroyed with chairs, hubcabs and other weapons.

The promotion then rolled out surprise number two, as Gary Michael Cappetta introduced JT Smith. Smith was one of the original indy stars in the Philly market all the way through to his starting out the FBI gimmick in ECW before he retired in 1996 to take a job out of the business and spend more time with his family. Smith got a nice ovation as a good portion of the crowd recognized him for his work in the past. Special K hit the ring and harassed Smith, who started throwing punches. They worked him over when the large guy who has been hitting the ring and chokeslamming people attacked them, hit the chokeslams and then shook hands with Smith. Smith said it wasn't over. I was real happy to see Smith, a great worker who never got the exposure or respect he deserved, and unfortunately never made the big money he should have in wrestling. Hopefully this will be the start of something interesting.

*ROH champion Xavier pinned Jay Briscoe. Briscoe bled a ton and showed tons of fire. One could draw a comparison between him and Tommy Dreamer in ECW as like Dreamer, he comes close only to fall at the end. As much as the fans are into Briscoe, they aren't into Xavier as champion. While Xavier has had some good and great matches on the indy scene, he has yet to break out in ROH and hasn't won over the ROH audience. Simply Luscious tripped Jay (the first time the promotion has done interference) while he was on the top rope, setting up Xavier to get the pin.

*In what was the best match of the show, which is saying a hell of a lot, AJ Styles defeated American Dragon in just under 25 minutes to win a title shot after a pair of Styles Clashes. Dragon was busted open and bleeding badly from a stiff shot. They did an awesome spot where Dragon whipped Styles into the railings, but Styles leaped over them and hit a superkick at the oncoming Dragon. This was simply a tremendous, great back and forth match.

*In the main event, Shinjiro Ohtani and Masato Tanaka defeated Steve Corino and Low Ki in a bout presented by "Zero-One." Ken Nakamura from Zero-One was announced before the bout and Ki had the International Junior Heavyweight championship with him. This was the typical strong style Zero-One bout, which the audience here just ate up and loved, getting a chance to see the type of bout they usually have to enjoy on video. Tanaka especially got a huge reaction as the fans loved him in ECW. A great ending.

Notes: This was easily the best effort ROH has done to date, as the show flowed, had different styles and cooled off in the middle to allow a build to a great ending....They did their best crowd to date, as there were easily 500 there....Buffy of the Christopher Street Connection was not at the show and word is going around he's leaving the business. If that is the case, he was one entertaining guy in the ring and I'll miss the CSC gimmick if it's done....Joey Matthews had one hell of a scary injury to his eye. How he worked was beyond me....It's nice to see a promotion give fans a surprise without pushing it, and for once, delivering on it rather than teasing and not giving it....While 3 ½ hours is too long for a show in my opinion, in this case, I was never tired out. It almost felt like an ECW Arena show during the heyday of that promotion....ROH returns to Philly on 12/28/02.

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