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By Mike Johnson on 2/22/2006 12:22 PM

by Mike Johnson

Ring of Honor ran the first of three planned Third Anniversary events on Saturday 2/19 at the Rexplex in Elizabeth, New Jersey, drawing in the area of 900-1,000 fans. The show opened with the company's babyfaces coming to the ring. CM Punk said that when the fans give ROH's performers a standing ovation, it is because they earned it. He said that the fans stuck by the company in their worst days during 2004 and were there for them when they turned it around. He said that they all promise that 2005 will top 2004 and then all the wrestlers gave the fans a standing ovation in appreciation of them. It was a nice, classy moment. As they were leaving, Samoa Joe and Colt Cabana started the slow, respectful clap that is usually done by the crowd to rally the performers. That was funny

*Steve Corino pinned Roderick Strong. Corino came down to the ring and said that he was one-handed (from his hand surgery) and was hurt, but wanted a piece of Roderick Strong. He called out Strong, who hit the ring. They had a pretty fun back and forth match with Corino getting the pin with a lariat. Corino was working four days removed from hand surgery, so he's one tough SOB, not to mention completely insane. After the match, Corino said that six years ago, he made his name by going after veterans and now he's one that gets targeted, but he's still the smartest. He offered Strong a handshake but Strong blew him off and walked out, shades of Christopher Daniels at the first ROH show.

*Jay Lethal pinned Jimmy Rave to earn a ROH Pure championship match. Lethal is now wearing his hair in braids. ROH Pure champion John Walters was introduced before the match and came out wearing African garb including a turban. That was priceless. I think he got his pants from Sabu's garage sale. Nana is just great at ringside, almost a 2005 version of Slick. In fact, he should adopt the "Doctor of Style" moniker. Lethal got a huge pop coming out as he was the subject of a newspaper article that came out the day before the show in the area. This was a great and fun back and forth match with some good wrestling.

*Prince Nana declared that the Pure title match would take place right now, with ROH Pure champion John Walters pinning Jay Lethal. They each used two rope breaks. Lethal worked his butt off here and was pinned after a trio of lungblowers, but had his foot under the ropes during the pin. They were going for something similar to what helped get Paul London over at the First Anniversary show, where he earned a title match and lost but had a great showing during that time. I think the crowd truly expected a Lethal title win and were surprised they didn't get it. ROH will be rematching Lethal vs. Walters at 3/5 in Philadelphia, PA.

*Alex Shelley forced Jimmy Jacobs to tap out. Shelley said that he had a lot to atone for from his time as a member of Generation Next and offered Shelley his hand. Shelley took it, then attacked him and laid him out. If I was Jacobs, I would have laid him out too! The storyline is that the locker room isn't forgiving Shelley for his past misgivings. Jacobs spit in the face of a fan as he left the ring, which is always a pretty disgusting thing to do.

*In an "Osaka Pro Attraction", Billy Ken Kid pinned Ebessan with a 450 splash in a bout that had a lot of comedic elements. There were two distinct crowd feelings on this match - those who ate it up because the guys were from Japan and were entertained by the comedy aspects, and those who just shook their heads wondering what they were watching.

*Spanky pinned CM Punk. Spanky got a nice pop coming out and a "welcome back" chant. Punk got a nice reaction for his entrance, but was also booed by some Spanky fans. There was some decent wrestling here. Prince Nana offered Spanky a spot in the Embassy but was turned down. Nana insulted Punk, leading to Punk taking out the Outcast Killaz and spraying air freshener all over Nana, teasing an Embassy vs. Second City Saints feud. Some fan gave Punk static as he was leaving the ring, so he took the mic and said, "There always have to be one person who contradicts what I said about the classy fans earlier tonight. You keep trying to put yourself over and I'll keep putting you down."

*Danny Maff and BJ Whitmer defeated the Havana Pitbulls to win the ROH Tag Team championships in a bout where they would have been forced to split up if they had lost. The crowd went nuts for the title change. Allison Danger got in the ring and tried to say she signed them to a non-title match since she still owned Maff and Whitmer's contract. They made her rip it up. Whitmer hit her with an exploder. Maff locked on a figure four and Whitmer splashed her off the top.

*Gary Michael Cappetta announced that when ROH returns to the Rexplex on Saturday 4/2, there will be a one night 8 man tournament with the winner heading to New Japan Pro Wrestling for the Best of Super Juniors tourney. The crowd liked that.

*Mick Foley came out and said that he needed to explain to the crowd that what they were going to see wasn't going to happen. He teased that he was going to bring Test to face Samoa Joe tonight but Test wasn't ready to wrestle yet. He then teased that he was going to be his own mystery person, but that he likes to get paid a lot of money to compete and at the same time, he knows that he can't go anymore. He then said that he was giving someone a chance and introduced Vordell Walker. Samoa Joe choked out Walker pretty quick, which surprised me as Walker has a ton of potential. This led to Foley introducing "Ebactus Jack" a parody of Cactus with Ebbesan wearing a specially created mask with long Foley-like hair, and the trademark red and black flannel shirt. They played this up for comedy partially and the crowd loved it because it was so out of the ROH world. There was a funny spot where "Jack" went to the top to drop the elbow and primed the crowd for it, then didn't want to jump. He climbed down to the middle, primed the crowd and didn't want to jump. He kept climbing down until he was on the floor and dropped an elbow. The crowd chanted, "Holy sh**" which was pretty funny. Foley got involved stomping Joe and avoided the Ole Ole kick outside. Austin Aries hit the ring and attacked Joe, laying him out. Foley said on the mic that unlike Joe, Aries was someone who understood a good offer and he was going to call WWE writer Bryan Gerwitz on his behalf.

The segment was fun but I think some fans were let down by a very rare ROH bait and switch. What was originally planned was for Foley to tease Test and then attack Joe and they would brawl for a good 8-10 minutes so the former WWE superstar would have been Foley. For whatever reason, Foley changed his mind. ROH toyed with using a name like Al Snow or Billy Gunn but felt the expense wasn't worth it plus stylistically it wouldn't be a good match. They eventually went with Foley's idea of using Ebessan as Foley has known him since he was touring with IWA Japan a decade ago back when Ebessan was a young boy setting up rings.

*Homicide defeated Bryan Danielson in a taped fist match after Julius Smokes taped brass knuckles to Homicide's fist and he clocked Danielson. Homicide is now 2-0 in their five match series. They brawled around the Rexplex, peppering each other with really stiff shots. The entire out of the ring sequence looked to be a scene out of ECW with the security creating a circle around the guys. This was a match where you needed to be sitting ringside to appreciate the work ethic and I am looking forward to watching this on TV. I really liked the finish here as it puts Danielson in the desperate position of trying to catch up, plus it gets Homicide over as the seedy heel willing to do anything.

*ROH champion Austin Aries defeated Colt Cabana in a Steel Cage match when Aries dove through the cage door to hit the floor just as Cabana was about the reach the floor from climbing down the cage. Aries' ring entrance to "Personal Jesus" looked really cool. Cabana was trying to be very serious since he was going into a Cage match for the top belt. I got the feeling that the crowd didn't buy this as a main event match when they started, but were won over by the hard work. Cabana was busted open after being beaten into the cage. He hit an Asai Moonsault off the center of the top ropes onto Aries. There was a tremendous false finish where Aries dropkicked Cabana through the cage door and dove to grab his foot so Cabana didn't end up on the floor with the win and the title. They shook hands after the bout, which seemed weird to me that Cabana did that when Generation Next had "put him out" with a shoulder injury.

*Dunn and Marcos defeated The Carnage Crew, Roderick Strong & Jack Evans, Izzy & Deranged, and Azrieal & Dixie when Marcos hit the Stage Dive off Dunn's shoulders while standing atop the cage, putting Loc through a table for the pin. The Carnage Crew are now out of ROH for 90 days, although for those who asked, they aren't done with the promotion as the booker loves them. They do need a little freshening up, so this was a smart move in a way. There's actually a few characters that could use some time away to come back fresh at this point. Roderick Strong suffered severely strained ankle and severely strained ligaments in his knee when someone landed on him while taking a bump and was removed from the match. There were a lot of crazy spots including an Dixie double stomp off the top of the cage onto someone draped off the ropes, Devito hitting a moonsault off the top of the cage, and Izzy hitting a twisting corkscrew moonsault off the top of the cage to the floor. A fun, albeit short main event. There was a miscue with the finish as the referee Gary Mohere thought it wasn't the finish. I guess ROH will edit that sucker right out!

Notes & Thoughts: The crowd was in the 1000-1100 range....The show was, how can I put this bluntly, WAY TOO LONG. There is a lot of great work ethic in ROH but it's hard to want to sit there for five plus hours and see it all in one sitting. I honestly think one of the reasons the DVDs do so well is that you can pace watching them on your own time. I understand that the promotion wants to let the guys go all out and give the fans their money's worth, but at the same time, running so late that I know of 13 fans personally who went home before the steel cages went up isn't a great thing. If the short time of the last bout was due to the late night, it might be better to clip some time from the undercard rather then the top billed bout. If anyone attends ROH for the first time at the Rexplex, I will HIGHLY suggest shelling the extra money for ringside as the ringside fans never tire out because they are on top of the action, so you'd likely have a more enjoyable experience sitting up front as compared to sitting in the bleachers....When referee Mike Kehner came out for the first time, there was a "Hanson" chant in reference to former ROH official Sean Hanson. I guess the crowd was trying to show respect to Hanson, but they shouldn't expect to see him back anytime soon. He had been on thin ice for some time after a July incident at the Rexplex and got into hot water again for an incident (which can be seen on the "It All Begins" DVD during Steve Corino's ring entrance) where he started badmouthing ring announcer Bobby Cruise when the two bumped into each other. Hanson might have been brought back but getting into a huge verbal clash with Gabe Sapolsky probably ended those chances. I've always thought Hanson's work was good, but screaming at the boss isn't the best way to get your job back....The promotion has tons of Japanese merchandise I've never seen offered in the States before including Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa bobbleheads....For more information on Ring of Honor, visit

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