Plot: What’s it about?
In 2002, an upstart wrestling promotion took off and featured a perfect blend of high spots and technical excellence. The best talent from all the across the independent scene converged on this promotion, which was known as Ring of Honor. In this promotion, the focus would be on the wrestling, not on cheap run-in attacks, backstage politics, or egos run wild. A place for wrestlers deemed too small or too risky for the WWE, a place where these wrestlers could shine and prove themselves. Ring of Honor now enters its fourth year and ROH is stronger than ever. In this review, I take a look at the Third Anniversary Celebration: Part I event that took place in Elizabeth, New Jersey on February 19, 2005. This was the first night in a three night celebration that would offer fans three incredible nights of performances. I have given a brief synopsis of each match, without spoilers below to give you an idea of what to expect. This is a top level event in all respects, with elite technical wrestling, awe inspiring high spots, great promos, and even some good comedic spots. In other words, for wrestling fans of all kinds, this event is a must own release. If you want to grab this two disc set or other Ring of Honor titles, just visit their site at www.rohwrestling.com, where you’ll find all the details you need.
1. Steve Corino vs. Roderick Strong- A hot match in which Corino really works to make Strong look good, just how a match should be. Corino is able to get in plenty of offense himself however, so the match is balanced and at times, looked as if either man could take the win. Corino is a legend of course, but Strong is a great talent and has a bright future ahead of him.
2. Jay Lethal vs. Jimmy Rave- Rave, with all of his cronies from The Embassy, seems like a lock to win, but Lethal, once known as Hydro from Special K, mounts a great offense. Lethal is on his game here, but not at his best, so he blows a couple spots. Even so, he and Rave have good exchanges and the match never drags, even in the slightest.
3. Winner of Lethal/Rave vs. John Walters- I love Ring of Honor, but John Walter is a mediocre talent that was pushed too far, too fast. He has solid technical skills, but no charisma and often seems outmatched in the ring. In other words, not what the PURE champion should be. The PURE title rules add some flavor to this match, but Walters just can’t carry the contest like a champion should. The result is expected somewhat, though a few times the match did look like it would go the other way.
4, Billy Ken Kid vs. Ebessan- This is out and out comedy, with a few aerial spots to keep things balanced. Ebessan is a riot to watch and while he doesn’t break out his slow motion wrestling, he does great impersonations and the crowd loves it. Not much in terms of traditional wrestling, but a few exchanges do add some heat in between comedic moments. Probably not a match that all fans will appreciate, but a nice change of pace in this loaded card.
5. Alex Shelley vs. Jimmy Jacobs- I know, I know. HUSS! I don’t care much for Jacobs, as he has no real unique traits, just bits from different wrestlers. But the fans love him and as such, he is pushed and remains a frequent ROH worker. Shelley, on the other hand, is an awesome worker, not only in the ring, but also on the microphone, where he can cut wicked promos. Shelley carries the match, making Jacobs look good, which is all we can ask in this case. Shelley also tries to work the crowd into forgiving his former heel ways, which adds some additional story into the match.
6. Spanky vs. CM Punk- This is a potential dream match, with two ROH icons in the ring and Spanky fresh off a run in the WWE. As always, Punk sells his opponent and really makes the match work, though Spanky is by no means a weak performer. But he hadn’t regained his ROH style just yet, so Punk stood out as the dominant force in the match. Even so, the match flipped back and forth nicely and while the outcome is as expected, both men do well to protect the finish until it happens.
7. Ricky Reyes & Rocky Romero vs. Dan Maff & B.J. Whitmer- This one had immense heat, with Maff & Whitmer out for blood against not just their opponents, but their former manager Allison Danger. The match was a great one and tension built throughout, so the story came through quite well. The match had ample high impact moves, as expected and of course, the conclusion is more than obvious. But you still have tension, thanks to an end swerve that makes for an interesting after the match encounter. Maff is no longer with ROH, but Whitmer continues to be a solid presence in the promotion.
8. Samoa Joe vs. Vordell Walker- Mick Foley’s mystery opponent for Joe is Walker, touted as one of the elite prospects in the business. I know I said no spoilers, but come on, everyone knows that Joe squashes this kid and doesn’t break a sweat. He does let Walker get in some offense and save face, but Joe is too much for this rookie and hands him his ass on a platter. But afterwards, Foley promises another opponent to take care of Joe, which leads us to the next match.
9. Samoa Joe vs. Ebessan Jack- Ebessan returns, but this time with a Cactus Jack inspired mask and outfit, which is just hilarious. He works the match just as Jack would, only makes sure to throw in liberal doses of comedy, much to the crowd’s delight. The segment in which Ebessan does Cactus Jack’s infamous elbow from the apron is just too classic for words. Joe actually handles the match well and really makes it work, though of course, he does what he does best once he has had enough.
10. Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson- This was part of a best of five series between these two and this time, the match was booked as a taped fists contest. The heat is massive between these two and stiff shot after stiff shot is landed on each wrestler. A brawl from start to finish, but a great one with a nice series outside the ring that adds a lot to the feud A great example of how to extend and intensify a feud, both men look good and the match was brutal, a well executed encounter.
11. Austin Aries vs. Colt Cabana- A rematch for the ROH World title, but this time, Aries and Cabana meet inside the steel cage. I’m always hesitant on cage matches, as not all workers can put on a good show inside the cage, but this match was great. Cabana launched some good aerial attacks, which he does rarely these days, but also shows off his technical skills. As always, Aries plays the wounded, fearful champion and does so with great skill, so the match is balanced and well executed. The finish is all we could ask from such a match, as a split second determines the winner.
12. Scramble Cage- An ROH tradition, the scramble cage takes a bunch of guys and throws them inside the cage, then all hell breaks loose. Roderick Strong & Jack Evans team up against Dunn & Marcos, The Carnage Crew, Izzy & Deranged, and Azrieal & Dixie, in a wild free for all. Evans goes insane as always, with some over the top selling and crazy aerial assaults. He might not be a great wrestler, but he is fun to watch and is always a draw in ROH. The four members of Special K do what they do best, which is take bump after bump after bump, so they leap, spin, and dive throughout. The Carnage Crew runs demolition derby over everyone, while Dunn & Marcos throw the El Coronado and rock like hurricanes. The winners of the match take home ten times their normal pay, while the team that is pinned is out of ROH for 90 days. So you guessed it, the two teams that were in the finish are to be engaged in a feud once the suspension was lifted.
Video: How does it look?
The event is shown in full frame, as intended. This is an independent wrestling promotion, so production values are on the low side. But the camerawork is good, with multiple cameras at ringside to follow the action while a fixed camera gives us the basic shot of the ring. A few spots do get missed or almost missed, but for the most part, the cameras follow the action well. No jerky motions either, this is solid camerawork that all indy feds should try to imitate. The action in the ring looks good, thanks to very, very bright lights, though the brawls in the crowd do come off as overly dark. The earlier shows don’t look this refined, but this event looks excellent and the production values should only improve over time.
Audio: How does it sound?
Not much to talk about here, as the audio is just live wrestling action and the crowd around it. If you’re in an ROH crowd however, you’re probably going to hear yourself on these DVDs, as the events are small and very intimate. You’ll hear all the classic ROH chants, random fans spouting off at the wrestlers, and even some of the in ring dialogue between the wrestlers. The impact of the slams and power moves comes across well, so you’ll almost feel the harder slams yourself. The commentary is clean and crisp, but as usual, this is one of the less than perfect sides to ROH. A decent mix of humor and technical data, all while the storylines are covered, but this could be better, no doubt.
Supplements: What are the extras?
No extras on this one, but with over four hours of action, what else could we want?