Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the only reviews that accrue less wisdom with age, Cewsh Reviews! We have a special treat for you tonight, that hits home on a personal level. See, a few months ago while I was on my extended vacation, the smark messiah known as Daniel Bryan hung up the boots once and for all, and many of the top wrestling writers of the day wrote long pieces on what Daniel Bryan meant to them and to wrestling. That’s all great and worthy and everything, but that’s not how we immortalize people around these parts. Instead, I pulled from out of my collection a dusty copy of the first show I ever saw Daniel Bryan wrestle on, ROH Era of Honor Begins, the very first ROH show and the very same copy that I purchased from a Tower Records in 2003.
This will give us a chance to not only look at the adorable baby Dragon, but also play our favorite game of Where Did Their Careers Go From Here, be befuddled by the state of indy wrestling in 2002 and marvel at a world that seems a lifetime away. Consider it our love letter to a world that is coming to an end.
So without any further ado, let’s do a motherfucking review!
Segment 1 – INTRODUCTION!
Cewsh: In order to talk about the first ROH show, we need to first recall exactly what environment it was born into. Ring of Honor was, if nothing else, in the right place at the right time. It’s been said by a lot of industry talent scouts, that you can expect a wave of great talent to come around about 10 years after each wrestling boom. Wrestling gets exposed to new audiences, kids fall in love, five years to a decade later, you have an industry booming with hot new stars in the making. This isn’t always true, but in the late 90s it absolutely was, as there was so much great and interesting talent, that it not only supported THREE mainstream wrestling promotions, but also allowed for a small, but high quality indy scene in places like East Coast Wrestling Association, NWA Wildside and Ultimate Pro Wrestling. Then, once WWE bought WCW and ECW and a metric fuckton of talent flooded the market, it gave rise to a massive indy boom, as every promotion grapples with each other to fill the void of Not-WWF. By the same token, working with all of that talent, accelerated the progress of the new generation, resulting in the most polished, and show-ready indy workers that we had ever seen to that point.
Xavier Was There Too.
Into that void, crept Rob Feinstein, who was the founder and owner of a massively successful online tape trading empire, and who was the primary distributor of ECW’s DVDs. He founded Ring of Honor with the idea of bringing together all of these burgeoning indy promotions and all of this great talent, and having occasional super shows showcasing the best of the best from every area, like how NWA occasionally did back in the day. At least, that was the stated idea. The reality is that Feinstein just wanted to start up a new cash cow to replace ECW and ROH never presented their talent as anything other than ROH talent. In the process they wound up fucking over pretty much every other indy promotion, and Feinstein would soon after be arrested for being a gigantic pedophile. That is what ROH was founded on. It doesn’t get much more pro wrestling than that.
“lol ill pretend u said 18” Never Forget.
What this supershow template did provide, though, was a huge tape trading audience to present with new talent. Right from the get go, people like Low Ki, Bryan Danielson, and Christopher Daniels because household names among the smark set, and things only grew from there after Cary Silkin and Gabe Sapolsky took over. ROH would go on to smash through all notions of what an indy wrestling promotion is and has to be, and is now arguably the second biggest promotion in the US. Not bad.
Let’s get started!
Segment 2 – The CSC vs. Homophobia
Cewsh: Let the record show that the first thing that Ring of Honor ever chose to put on a broadcast, was two offensive gay stereotypes getting maimed by two huge brutes after they had the temerity to kiss in public.
“WE HEARD THERE WAS GAY HAPPENING AND WE HAD TO PUNCH IT.”
I mean, yes, this was totally a different time, and the Christopher Street Connection are just playing with the same gimmick that Lenny and Lodi had recently vacated, but for fuck’s sake man. Here are some choice quotes from the commentators, specifically Steve Corino, who is very much playing a babyface to start the show:
“I understand that these two have exchanged plenty of favors, BUT DO THEY HAVE TO DO IT IN PUBLIC?!”
“He just kissed a fan! And worse than that, he just kissed a male fan! That’s disgusting!”
“He looks very comfortable with that mic in front of his hand, doesn’t he?”
“I don’t want your kind here.”
All of that served up to a background chant from the crowd that is exactly the word you think it is.
Now, there was an actual reasoning why this was the first thing. In the weeks leading up to the show, ROH swore that there would never be any theatrics or sports entertainment in their promotion, no matter what. So sending out the, ahem, clowns to piss off the crowd is a fine heat tactic I suppose, but when you actually watch it straight out, this is probably the most homophobic segment in wrestling history.
Anyhow, Da Hit Squad hits the ring, looking like someone cloned Homicide, added Rikishi’s DNA and washed it in a river of sweat. They beat the CSC half to death and finish it off with a Burning Hammer that serves only to make me sad that Kobashi won’t be here for another bunch of years. Then the CSC’s manager, Allison Danger, tries to intervene and is put through a table while Steve Corino, her actual real life brother, screams for Da Hit Squad to “teach that slut a lesson” by giving her the wood. It is…a special kind of something, man. A special kind of something.
Also, of note? A young Allison Danger, acting as the manager and official hag to the CSC, would go on to be the most well respected wrestler of any of these five.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
The Christopher Street Connection – Steep Decline: A whole lot of nothing. Though they did start a feud with Billy Gunn over the Billy and Chuck storyline, which is pretty funny.
Da Hit Squad – Steep Decline: Well, Dan Maff was pretty much ostracized from the wrestling business after the rumor got about that he had sex with one of Homicide’s underage relatives. So there’s that. Monsta Mack never really did anything outside of Jersey All Pro Wrestling after this, and more people watch colonoscopy footage on Youtube than JAPW shows.
Allison Danger – Steep Incline: After a fine career managing half of Ring of Honor, she only went and founded Shimmer with Dave Prazak, serving as den mother and most beloved star until her forced retirement last year.
Segment 3- The Amazing Red vs. Jay Briscoe
Cewsh: Like bell bottom pants, leg warmers and flannel, this show is also going to show us a few relics from a bygone era that we thought were super cool at the time. Take The Amazing Red, for example. He was one of the first people who got me interested in indy wrestling, as clips of his crazy moves, set inevitably to “Faint” by Linkin Park, flooded the internet around this time. Red was fast, he was cool, he was…this.
That is a very tiny, very young, and very indy generic looking dude. What on Earth made us think he was so cool in the first place?
As the first match on this show, and the first in ROH history, it is fascinating to see the wrestling style on display. It’s tough to remember back when the style that would become known as “spot-fu” was cutting edge and drawing a ton of attention from disaffected fans. The fact that matches made up almost entirely of lazy transitions from spot to spot, followed by endless chain wrestling for the sake of it were considered “REAL WRESTLING” is a very definite commentary on just how bad the actual wrestling had been in WWF and WCW in the years leading up to this. If you held this match, this exact match, on an ROH show today, the fans would call you a spot monkey tool and boo you out of the building. It’s a crazy transition from there to here.
I mean, we’re talking about a match where Jay Briscoe debuts on a national stage his finisher, the Jay Driller, and it looks so goddamn nasty and sloppy that it made me cringe.
At What Point During This Do You Think Red Started Wishing He Was A Janitor Instead?
That does not end the match. Red sells it for all of 30 seconds, before this happens for some reason:
WHAT THE FUCK WAS RED GOING FOR THERE? Was he going to do a springboard backflip Van Terminator 450 Cockplancha? Whatever it was, Briscoe punishes him for it, drops him on his neck one more time for good measure, and then goes for the very greatest move in his arsenal. A move so diabolical and feared that it is whispered through the ages and across the cosmos, in more languages than a man could learn in a lifetime. It is the light, the darkness, the TAINT SPLASH.
TAINT You Very Much.
This is a fine match. It doesn’t hold up to today’s scrutiny, obviously, but that’s not what it was meant for. If nothing else, the crowd seemed into it, and it’s easy to see why these two seemed like exciting talents at the time.
Also interesting: this was originally slated to be a tag, with Jay teaming with his brother Mark. That got put on hold though, because Mark was only SEVENTEEN when this show took place and couldn’t legally wrestling in Pennsylvania. If that doesn’t make you feel old then nothing will. Hell, that’s him in the background, looking blissfully unaware of what the years would have in store.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Amazing Red – Steep Decline: Boys and girls, human beings have these things called knees. And if you are mean to your knees, they will be mean to you. A lesson for life.
Jay Briscoe – Steep Incline: There’s no fucking way you can watch this show and see a future World Champion in Jay Briscoe. Here, he’s just a kid with dreams of future gold and a career to be proud of. It would almost be heartwarming that he would eventually make it all the way to the top along with his brother, but…
65 out of 100
Amazing Red Over Jay Briscoe Following The Code Red.
Segment 4 – Scoot Andrews vs. Xavier
Cewsh: Let’s talk about the two people in the match for a moment.
This is Scoot Andrews. He is not given a nameplate, (racism,) calls himself the “Black Nature Boy” and he is here to play the part of “guy from this show that you forgot existed.” He is really, really good at that role.
His opponent is Xavier, who would go on to do the very first Cewsh Interviews segment on our site, and also become the first ROH champion. If you ask him which of those things was a bigger honor and privilege, I think you know what he would pick.
Xavier has gotten an somewhat undeserved bad rap over the years. I actually really liked what I saw from him here, and if I were doing a scouting report on this show, I would be very encouraged by his potential. Scoot Andrews, for his part, is also a person.
Despite their best efforts, this match peaks at “fine” with quite a few stops in “ZzzzzZZ” along the way. There’s really not much to break down to explain why that is, since the moves are crisp and well executed, and the pacing is fine. The match just doesn’t go anywhere. That is, until we are presented with a perfect example of how one mistake can build and build until something bad happens. At one point, Xavier and Scoot are running the ropes, but seem to be on a totally seperate page about what to do next. They dance around a bit, lift each other up uncertainly, and then BOOM.
For the next few minutes, they try to dance around the fact that Scoot probably has a concussion, and the pace of the match slows considerably. Eventually it gets back going, just in time for Scoot Andrews to get his head drop revenge on Xavier with the third nasty looking head drop on this show.
In 2002, Concussions Hadn’t Been Invented Yet.
That move doesn’t end the match, but luckily the skip button on my DVD player does.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Scoot Andrews – Decline: Scoot would eventually retire in 2005, and is set to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame any day now.
Xavier – Incline: It’s an incline, because later on he will become the first ROH World Champion, and will briefly be a big name within the company. If you asked me the same question again in 2004, this entry would just be full of crying emojis.
52 out of 100
Xavier Over Scoot Andrews Following The X Marks The Spot.
Segment 5 – Enter Spanky.
Cewsh: One of the best things about watching these old indy shows, is you get to see guys 7 or 8 gimmicks ago. In this case, we go backstage to find the CSC commiserating together over the gay bashing they just endured, and while they wonder aloud why they even came to Ring of Honor, Brian Kendrick dances by them, causing them them to change their mind abruptly and decide to stay if it means a shot at Kendrick’s sweet, sweet ass.
As goofy and odd as Kendrick would later become, and as ultimately disappointing as his career would wind up being, it’s important to remember that a) the man was ridiculously good looking at one point and b) he and Christopher Daniels were the only people on the independent scene at this time who had even the slightest idea of what a character was. Kendrick’s dancing, hearthrob weirdo would take him to WWE by a much faster route than all of his ROH peers. It didn’t go super well, but he still got there!
Segment 6 – Lucha Libre Rules, Ultimate Endurance Match – Quiet Storm, Chris Devine and Brian XL vs. The S.A.T. And The Amazing Red w/ Mikey Whipwreck as Special Referee
Cewsh: Believe it or not, this was the first time I ever saw Mikey Whipwreck.
So when I heard about how he was a tiny underdog in ECW I was more than a little confused. This Mikey Whipwreck is not tiny, and may possibly have eaten the underdog with cheese and extra chili. He’s here to referee this match because he trained everybody in it except for Brian XL, who everyone keeps calling Little Bow Wow, because those are both black people.
As for the rest of these guys, i’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to explain who Brian XL and Chris Divine are. You really don’t need to know. But The S.A.T. and Quiet Storm are acts that looked like they might really go somewhere at this point. S.A.T. are basically Red in tag team form, and Quiet Storm is a tiny man in the Lance Storm vein. They will be perfectly fine in a number of other matches in a number of other places. Here, they take a deep breath and plunge into a swirling cyclone of chaos.
Here are a few things about this match that would have been great to know as a viewer before it started. The first is that this is a 6 man Ultimate Endurance match, meaning that it’s elimination rules, and the team that eliminates everyone on the other team first is the winner. The second is that they’re operating by lucha libre tag rules, where whenever the legal man leaves the ring, he automatically tags in one of his partners. If that sounds really complicated, then you’re only halfway there, because during the match. The commentators start mentioning that this is actually a 6 way. So after you’re done beating the members of the other team, you have to beat the members of your own team as well. Got it? No? Me either. Let’s get started.
The match does not waste time getting down to it. These men are here to flip, and so help me god, they are going to flip. Big flips, small flips, high flips, low flips, flips with props, flips with socks, flips that like to eat bagels with lox.
After several minutes of flippy floppies, Jose Maximo get knocked backwards into Red and instinctively goes for a backslide pin, and gets the three count. So, I guess they could have been fighting and pinning each other this whole time? There is literally no effort made in the match before now to indicate to the crowd that this is possible, as it has really just been a straightforward 6 man tag up to this point. Immediately after this, Quiet Storm and Chris Divine team up to do the same thing to Brian XL, eliminating him quickly. In theory that would leave us with a fatal four way, but no, it just goes back to being a normal tag match, while Mikey Whipwreck looks on, bemused.
“Did Someone Say Something About Hot Dogs Earlier?”
After that beautiful Spanish Fly, Joel Maximo goes to pin Chris Divine, but Quiet Storm sneaks up and german suplexes Jose, resulting in a double pin, because for some reason this match refuses to let the teams not be symmetrical at any given time. The pace abruptly slows to a halt without a whole bunch of people flying around, they trade sloppy looking moves for awhile, and then Quiet Storm wins.
How can I realistically grade this as a wrestling match? You know how sometimes you hear about great artists who do things like taking a rabbit’s foot, dab it in paint and drop it on a canvas from a third story balcony a hundred times, and then present it as art? This is that. This is technically a wrestling match, but it is so lacking in what fundamentally makes up a wrestling match that it is completely abstract. There’s no meaning here. No form or function. Just flips extending into infinity, searching for a place to land.
With that said, it was pretty fun to watch.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Amazing Red – See Red/Briscoe
The SAT – Decline: On the indy scene at this point, they had as much potential as anyone. They had great chemistry, a sick finisher, and they were getting a ton of bookings, but somewhere along the line they just fell off the map.
Divine Storm – Steep Decline: Quiet Storm would eventually head over to Pro Wrestling NOAH and get some work as an undercard guy, but in the end, this storm was very quiet indeed.As for Chris Divine, well, let’s just say that i’m sure that he pictures from this match framed on his wall because it didn’t go well from here on.
Brian XL – Decline: He’s more a story of a guy who never actually made it than he is of one who decline, but he now owns and operates an indy promotion called House of Glory. Unfortunately it is not affiliated with the legendary Ring of Glory, so I can’t give him credit for it.
52 out of 100
Quiet Storm Over Everyone Else.
Segment 7 – IWA Intercontinental Championship – Eddie Guerrero vs. Super Crazy
Cewsh: I love Eddie Guerrero. You love Eddie Guerrero. Every human being alive who existed in 2006 loves Eddie Guerrero. But this is not Eddie Guerrero.
This match took place during the sabbatical from WWE that Eddie had to take due to his extremely serious drug addiction and accident. He got himself clean, rededicated himself to his craft and would eventually go on to one of the most feel good main events runs in wrestling history. But at this point he is still very raw, and is just starting to dip his toes back in the wrestling pool. His trademark fluidity isn’t there, and he seems meek and uncomfortable in front of the crowd, which is almost unthinkable from one of the smoothest and most natural wrestlers ever to enter a ring. Frankly, it’s a little hard to watch.
Funnily enough, it’s Super Crazy who does the heavy lifting here. He flies around and keeps things interesting, and does a lot to help protect Eddie, and keep him in his comfort zone. In the end, Crazy even picks up the win, which was a pretty big deal for him at the time, and everyone involved shows Eddie a tremendous amount of respect. But while ROH tries to present this match as a badge of honor, it’s more like watching a physical therapy session.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
Eddie Guerrero – Steep Incline – He had a little bit of success after this. Maybe you can watch this video to remind yourself of it, and also so you can FEEL THE WHITE HOT SEARING PAIN OF LOSS OH MY GOD THIS VIDEO BURNS. IT BURNS INSIDE MY SOUL
Super Crazy – Incline – Would go on to become WWE’s most popular lawn care specialist.
64 out of 100
Super Crazy Over Eddie Guerrero Following A Sad Scene All Around.
Segment 8 – American Dragon vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki
Cewsh: I just turned 31, (yeah, yeah, old man etc.) So it has been about 13 years since I first watched this match. I had watched a lot of wrestling before that, and I have watched an absolute fuckload since, but I would be hard pressed to name many other matches that had such a major impact on me. This match changed the way I thought about professional wrestling, and what could be done in a wrestling ring. It opened my eyes to the existence of different wrestling styles, and to the world outside of mainstream WWE in general. It made me a fan of Ring of Honor, and even though ROH would go on to a ton of cool things over the years, this is the core of my affection for that company and the reason why i’ll never truly stop rooting for them deep down. This match was THE SHIT in 2003. It didn’t just change me as a wrestling fan, it changed the wrestling industry’s idea of how triple threat matches were supposed to work, and you could see the ripple effect from WWE to Japan and back again.
But does it live up to my memories?
It may be the nostalgia talking, it may be the clear influence this show had on everything that followed it, and it may be my overwhelming love for everyone wrestling in this match, but this thing is truly something special. I have heard people refer to it as the greatest triple threat match of all time, and while I wouldn’t go that far, it’s definitely in the running. Low Ki is so goddamn fast and excellent, Daniels is so smart and crafty, and Dragon is such a goddamn machine, that they are able to do things with three people that nobody had even ever considered before. Hell, the finish to this match is a Phoenix Splash from Low Ki breaking up Dragon’s Cattle Mutilation hold, which you have seen done time and again by now, but which was MIND BLOWING back then. In fact, they do several spots just like that, though amusingly, in the match I handpicked to honor his career, Bryan Danielson is the least interesting part of most of them.
You owe it to yourself to watch this match, and to try to do so with innocent eyes. This was a once in a lifetime kind of wrestling moment, and it was never truly replicated anywhere else. It was the start of Bryan Danielson’s rise to being a guy that your grandmother has heard of, and it was the spark that the wrestling world needed.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
American Dragon – Steep Incline – If I told you that Bryan Danielson was a top 10 wrestler all time, would you have to stop and consider it? Then yeah, he did pretty fucking okay for himself.
Low Ki – Incline – In all honestly, this was the hottest period of his career, and he cooled off considerably after he started fucking over promoters left and right. But since he would eventually make it to the biggest promotions and have huge matches in WWE, TNA and NJPW, I think incline will do.
Christopher Daniels – Incline – WHY DID NO ONE EVER GIVE YOU A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, CHRIS?! WHY IS THE WORLD A CRUEL AND UNFAIR PLACE? Christopher Daniels groomed, taught, pushed and was there for more future world champions than perhaps anyone in the 21st century, and was passed over in favor of his many proteges time and time again. The massive unfairness of this is only surpassed by his pride in the people he helped. The man is too nice for this world.
90 out of 100
Low Ki Over Everyone Else Following A Ki Krusher.
Cewsh: Aside from the main event, this show kind of blows. But even though it absolutely does not stand the test of time, the building blocks of what can rightly be called a wrestling revolution are all present here. It took a long time, and a lot of talent and hype to get things to where they really needed to be, but the future of wrestling really did start in this tackily decorated gymnasium in Philadelphia. The wrestling world may never be able to repay the debt that it owes this promotion and this show, but if they ever decide to try, they can start by refunding the money that I paid for it. Because, to reiterate, this show is like getting hit in the balls with a petrified badger.
I mean a badger that has been petrified. Not a badger that is very scared. That would just be mean to the badger.