This starts out with a close up of Joe's face and I swear I could see a community of tiny people living in his pockmarks. He cuts his slow, threatening promo which is always entertaining even if I know he's searching for cool things to say.
This probably clocked in at around 7 minutes, which is perfectly fine for this opener. This was one of Claudio's first matches so he wasn't showcased like he is now. I wasn't digging his methods in this match, ex. setting Nigel up in a far corner, then running to the opposite one just to do a front somersault and then trying to hit a move? & hitting a plancha to the outside then coming back in to lock on a headlock? It was all over the place, but Nigel didn't blow through his whole arsenal and hit a decent Tower of London for the win.
2) Austin Aries v. El Generico- 5
Aries being the former champion is now relegated to working his way back up the ladder, starting with this masked wonder. Generico is showing some of the same psych problems as Claudio, hitting highspots way too soon in the match then bargaining down with restholds during the middle sections. Both guys are hitting their signature moves with tons of impact, except the tornado DDT Generico botches. They have good chemistry together and a satisfying 450 finish makes this a decent yet still not recommendable encounter.
3) Kevin Steen v. Dixie v. Azrieal v. Homicide- 3
Okay, as soon as all 4 guys come out, it's pretty obvious who's going to win. This starts out with Steen and Homicide engaged in a sloppy brawl that more resembles two brown bears pawing over a honeycomb than a wrestling match. 3 matches, 3 planchas, even if Homicide's looks pretty cool. Dixie and Azrieal have a decent outing and they leave them paired up throughout the match quite a lot, except Dixie looks like the Dick Tracy Villain the Blank, no expression on his face as he does 3 flips on a sell. Steen already building quite a resume of big power moves which he breaks out 3 in a row sometimes before making a cover. Homicide no sells a big German from Dixie just to hit the Gringo Killa for the win- another poorly done 4 corners brought to you by ROH bookers.
4) The Carnage Crew v. Lacey's Angels v. Dunn & Marcos v. The Embassy (Eddie Vegas/ Xcess) (Ultimate Endurance Match)- 4
Any match featuring two guys who are wearing shirts proclaiming their love of beer and being fat don't belong in a match titled "Ultimate Endurance." The first fall is pretty fast paced with any number of guys in the ring at one time doing any number of high risk moves. It ultimately breaks down into a huge dive spot and I so wish they were diving off the side of a high rise instead of a concrete floor. Ring Crew Express hit the two best double teams I've seen in a while (flying elbow backbreaker and senton off the other guy's shoulders) to finish the first fall. 2nd is anything goes and just becomes a wandering brawl with a few chair shots thrown in for good measure. It ends pretty quickly with Lacey's Angels going out. 3rd fall is the best of the 3 because it halfway resembles a normal tag match. These two teams are born for their roles here, with Carnage Crew being big bully team and Ring Crew being their beating dummies. They cap it off with that crazy spiked piledriver from the 2nd rope. Better than I expected after seeing all this faction warfare shit from last year.
5) AJ Styles v. Roderick Strong- 7
Now, this is what I call a match! Roderick is fun to watch trying to keep up with AJ's really fast spots as you can see Roddy's baby fat bounce around. AJ working in your face (as always- keep your eyes out for his forearms) but Roderick was born to strike- he has the fresh faced exuberance and when a match gets slow, he's the kind of guy who just starts chopping the flesh off your chest. AJ channels Foley after taking a side slam on the apron then gets kicked in the back and takes a header into a seated chair and pulverizing the guard rail with his face. EUREKA! I've got it! I just pinpointed what makes this ROH announcers so fucking mundane when calling such a high impact product- they've seen so many crazy and innovative moves, they start calling them like their fucking headlocks! Roderick hits a back breaker from a full nelson that folds AJ like a cheap road map and it barely elicits any volume in their voices as they call it out. For home viewing audiences, that kills the move because no one's excited about it. Same with the ROH crowd- they're so desensitized because they see so many crazy moves that most of them barely register any more. NOW, that pisses me off. The finish is awesome and perfectly accentuates AJ's athleticism- I won't spoil it, just find this match and watch it till your eyes bleed and your TV dinner gets cold.
6) Samoa Joe v. Jimmy Rave (Pure Title Rules)- 4
The whole novelty of this match, the only thing you want to see is Joe just brutalize Rave, or if I may use the common vernacular, whip his punk ass around the ring. After the first few slaps and slams, Rave takes control and you totally lose interest. He plays the whiny punk real well and Joe slaps harder than God so it's fun to watch. Rave's offense consisted of using a shoe string to choke Joe, who looked like a drugged circus lion and his extremely goofy offense (ex. grabbing the back of someone's leg and the back of their head to do a spin move that drops them on their necks- people make it look good but think about it really? Why would you ever attempt that?) Nana gets his comeuppance and Joe safely retains the title in a match that can be skipped unless you really hate Rave (and I know there's a large contingent of people who do.)
7) Matt Hardy v. Christopher Daniels- 6
V1 is one of my favorite current performers on any roster, so I've been stoked to see his other ROH matches, especially since that Homicide one was the shits. These guys are nearly identical in theory; both sound on the ground, both can be flashy when the time is right and both are known for putting on good matches. You could see Matt was having fun in there, just dishing out right hand after stiff right hand (one of the best anywhere in the world) and trying moves you've never seen him use on USA network, such as Splash Mountain powerbomb and running palm strike. Daniels plays perfect foil to all of this offense but Hardy looks a little lost at some points because he's used to being the guy on defense. Daniels plans all of his spots out pretty perfectly and the sweat is just pouring off of both men like they were in a sauna with the Human Torch. CM Punk runs down for needless interference, more than likely a booking issue so Hardy can't get a clean win over Daniels but he does with a version of Zybyzsko's front face choke. I think the match went a little long because they had to use some filler but Hardy was just putting the stank on Daniels and he was being his technical self with very few facial expressions.
8) CM Punk v. James Gibson- 7
Punk busted Gibson open earlier in the show after a long winded promo, and now Gibson was back with a huge "Darkman" type bandage on his head. It came off quickly and exposed a small bloody wound that juiced occasionally. Punk didn't work the cut very often though which I thought would have made a lot of sense. Instead he used his height advantage to bully Gibson, but they don't call him the pitbull for nothing- he was really smooth here, just his matwork flowed so well. He took such simple spots and worked them in so well the match had a good pace. Punk got his back sliced like a piece of deli meat on the large ROH tin signs on the guard rail. It looked like a Chinese vagina. This match had some time to it, nearly 35 minutes and the back and forth worked well although sometimes Punk wouldn't sell something to get to the next spot and he and Gibson's punches were both questionable. But, overall this felt like a World Title Match and they didn't burn everything out so fast. Punk worked the crowd well and they just liked Gibson; maybe some of them were his cousins. The finish worked as it made Gibson come out strong and Punk still the greasy heel the crowd wanted to boo. This doesn't have the emotion when Gibson wins the title ( at the Dayton show I attended) but I think it is more technically sound. Overall, this is a very good ROH show and you don't feel like puking afterwards because you've seen everything but the kitchen sink used and at least 3 of the matches had good structure and were well done.