July 10, 2011
Matt Peddycord
The Powerdriver Review

ROH: Road to the Title
Philadelphia, PA
6/22/2002

Your hosts are Donnie B and Steve Corino.

Tonight we have four different tournaments going on with 16 guys to determine the four challengers who will compete in the Four-Way 60-minute Iron Man match on 7/27/02 in Philly so we can crown the first ROH champion.

American Dragon vs. Biohazard – Road to the Title Block C Semifinals
Both are graduates from Shawn Michaels’ Texas Wrestling Academy. Biohazard is the 21st century’s answer to Adam Bomb. Biohazard catches Danielson with a springboard back elbow to take control. He unloads with kicks in the corner and gives Danielson a Mr. Perfect flip over neck snap as he comes off the middle rope. That gets two. Biohazard misses a quebrada, but gets a Northern Lights suplex for two. They get into a chop battle, which of course American Dragon wins. Dragon runs into a boot in the corner, but ducks a clothesline and hits a Tiger Mask DDT. Reverse suplex sets up the CATTLE MUTILATION for the win. (2:30) Nothing wrong with that. Biohazard wrestles a lot better than the usual slugs with gimmicks like this one. *½

Paul London vs. Spanky – Road to the Title Block A Semifinals
We’ve got the future WWE tag champs squaring off here. Both also TWA grads. They exchange armlocks to start. London hits a nice looking slingshot headscissors in from the apron. London flips over Spanky and catches him with a spin kick. Spanky hits the floor and London wants a suicide dive, but Spanky wisely moves out of the way. Spanky flips back in and delivers a reverse suplex. Back suplex gets two. Meanwhile, TWA trainer Rudy Boy Gonzales shows up at ringside to get a closer look. Spanky stops a London sunset flip with a stomp to the face and then dropkicks him for 1-2-NO! London wins a forearm fest and nails Spanky with a corkscrew moonsault. Superkick by London! Shooting Star Press from London, but there’s nobody in the pool. London blocks SLICED BREAD #2 by dropping Spanky on the top rope. Springboard enziguri puts Spanky down on the floor. Tope Con Hilo by London! London slingshots back in for a quebrada on Spanky for 1-2-NO! Spanky has his foot on the bottom rope. London delivers the Waffle Face for 1-2-NO! Spanky catches London up on the top rope and botches a superplex. Oops, London fell on his head there. Spanky drops London again on his head with a DDT and then hits SLICED BREAD #2! Cover, 1-2-3. (9:57) This was nearing *** territory before Spanky botched those last couple moves. Still a good match though. **¾

Doug Williams vs. Jay Briscoe – Road to the Title Block C Semifinals
One of my faves is this tournament is Doug Williams. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Brits and their wrestling ways. Robinson, Dynamite Kid, Regal, and now Doug Williams. Some arm work to start with Williams obviously dictating the pace. Mark Briscoe finally comes down to support his bro. Williams manages to hold on to a headlock almost no matter what Briscoe tries to do to escape. Briscoe finally manages to back suplex out for two. He follows up with a couple snap suplexes and then a front suplex for 1-2-NO! Williams reverses a cross corner whip and catches Briscoe in the corner with a knee to the jaw. With Briscoe staggered, he comes off the ropes with a high knee. Flying knee drop gets 1-2-NO! Briscoe slips out of a slam and executes a powerbomb for 1-2-NO! Jay follows up with a flying leg drop for 1-2-NO! Williams avoids the JAY DRILLER and finishes Briscoe off with the CHAOS THEORY (rolling cradle into a German suplex). (6:18) One of my favorite finishers these days. Very good match for the ROH debut match of Doug Williams. ***

Jonny Storm vs. Jody Fleisch – Road to the Title Block A Semifinals
Now we’ve got two more British stars in Jonny Storm and Jody Fleisch who started in wrestling together as a tag team. Lots of quick flip-flop counters that leads to a stalemate to start. Storm kicks Fleisch out to the floor and follows him out with the Thunderstorm Splash. Back in, Fleisch flips out of the corner and enziguri kicks Storm to the floor. Storm moves out of the way to escape any chance of a diving Fleisch. Back in he goes where they blow a Jacques Rougeau back flip. It works the second time. Storm takes a superkick and gets clotheslined out to the floor. Fleisch seizes the moment and hits Storm with a springboard SSP! They head back into the ring for an extended rollup sequence. After all that, Fleisch heads up top, but Storm is right behind him for a Super German Suplex! Storm crawls over for the cover and gets 1-2-NO! Storm delivers a springboard rana for 1-2-NO! Fleisch comes back and handsprings into a torso rollup for 1-2-NO! Storm catches Fleisch with the REWIND HURRACANRANA for 1-2-NO! Fleisch comes back again and hits the PHOENIX DDT! That gets two. Fleisch tries for another, but Storm puts on the brakes. He tries for another Rewind Rana, but Fleisch sees it coming and drops Storm with a sitout powerbomb for the win. Fleisch goes on to face Spanky in the Block A finals. (7:02) This is exactly the kind of match that made me dislike ROH in 2002. All style (when it wasn’t messy), and very little substance. I can appreciate these matches a little more now, but they still lack alot that makes a good wrestling match. To me, this match is like choosing Soulja Boy over Nas. I will choose Nas every time. **¼

In the back, the Christopher Street Connection bother Jerry Lynn while he eats a banana. You see, the CSC are really gay. Jerry Lynn yells help and runs away. All they wanted was a bite of his banana. If you know what they mean. *wink wink wink wink wink wink wink wink*

Low-Ki vs. Prince Nana (w/Elax) – Road to the Title Block D Semifinals
Low Ki and Nana have had their problems in ROH. Nana has slapped him and Low Ki has KO’ed him with an elbow! No handshake between these two. Nana attacks immediately as Low Ki flips into the ring. He corner splashes Low Ki a bunch and follows them up with buttalanches. Low Ki chops back and KO’s Nana with a spin kick. Nana is done. (3:53) Nana needs some assistance after this match. Low Ki easily advances. ½*

Xavier vs. Amazing Red – Road to the Title Block D Semifinals
With Xavier clearly the bigger guy, he overpowers Red to start. Satellite DDT by Red puts Xavier on the floor. Red meets him on the floor with a tope con hilo! Back in, Xavier catches Red doing a corkscrew moonsault and gives him an excellent powerbomb. Red flips out of a pumphandle and ranas Xavier into the ropes where he NO-SELLS and handsprings into Red with a crossbody. Awesome! Red dropkicks Xavier and delivers the Code Red (sunset flip powerbomb) for 1-2-NO! Xavier hits the Kiss Your X Goodbye (pumphandle sitout facebuster). 450 SPLASH? Nobody there. Red hits the Springboard Moonsault DDT you saw Rey Mysterio do to Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc ’97. Xavier catches Red up top and goes for Splash Mountain, but Red flips out and hits a roundhouse kick. INFRARED connects! Red Star Press gets 1-2-3! (4:21) Nice back and forth action from these two. **¼

We head to the back. Christopher Daniels yells at Xavier for failing to beat Amazing Red so he could later on eliminate Low Ki. Daniels yells at Red too and tells him he BETTER beat Low Ki or else.

Elsewhere, Sheldon Goldberg introduces Joshi wrestler Sumie Sakai to Scoot Andrews.

Christopher Daniels vs. Scoot Andrews – Road to the Title Block B Semifinals
“The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels feels discriminated against by ROH, so he has decided to lead a group of athletes to kill this promotion off for good. Ladies and gentlemen, the newest member of the Prophecy is Simply Luscious! We have another ‘attack at the bell’ start. Andrews levels Daniels with a Jim Brunzell-esque dropkick. He blocks a running bulldog out of the corner with a clothesline. FORCE OF NATURE is countered, but a tiger driver is not, which gets two. Daniels comes back with the STO and the Uranage. Best Moonsault Ever gets 1-2-3. (2:30) With Christopher Daniels becoming the #1 heel in the company, they had to get this one over fairly quick for people to take him seriously. Afterwards, Simply Luscious talks some smack to Andrews. Scoot doesn’t care for that too much and calls out Sumie Sakai to do his dirty work since he shouldn’t beat up a woman to set up an impromptu match. *

Sumie Sakai (w/Scoot Andrews) vs. Simply Luscious (w/Christopher Daniels)
Sakai wears a Phillies hat and immediately I hate her. Corino agrees with me. We get a rollup sequence to start. Luscious gets in a nice sitout powerbomb on Sakai for 1-2-NO! Sakai comes back and hits a pair of front missile dropkicks for a nearfall. She hits Luscious with some Mongolian chops and hooks on an ab stretch. Sakai hits a moonsault for 1-2-3. (2:26) Nice touch for Sakai to win with the moonsault considering that’s Daniels move. Daniels helps Luscious to the back and tells her that the end begins tonight for ROH. *

Jerry Lynn vs. AJ Styles – Road to the Title Block B Semifinals
Over the next few months, these two would compete a whole bunch over the TNA X-Division title. Finally, a match starts with a collar-and-elbow tie up. Great armlock exchange during which Corino shills TNA just days after their first PPV. Well, in relation to when this show first happened. Maybe not when they did the commentary. Both guys take turns with armdrags, including a moment where they both go for armdrags at the same time. Lynn levels AJ with a clothesline and applies a bow-and-arrow submission. Styles lands on his feet out of a German suplex, but runs into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two. They do the spot where Lynn gives AJ a release Northern Lights into the corner. That gets two. Lynn puts AJ in the Inverted Gory Special. AJ slips out and hits a superkick for two. Styles can’t suplex Lynn, so he spins him around with a swinging neckbreaker. Lynn catches AJ with a boot in the corner and delivers a Steiner Bulldog for two. AJ kicks at the arm as Lynn gets to his feet and starts to go to work. Styles extends the arm back really far during a hammerlock. Lynn makes the ropes and legdrops Styles as he sticks his head through the ropes. Ahh, I hate that unrealistic BS spot. AJ comes back with the suplex into the neckbreaker for two. Styles goes back to the arm with a cross armbreaker. Lynn fights up, so AJ puts him back down with the Quebrada DDT. Slow covers gets two. Lynn backdrops out of a piledriver and hits an enziguri to slow AJ down. Styles counters a CRADLE PILEDRIVER and goes into a rollup sequence. From there, Lynn delivers a SICK bridging German suplex for 1-2-NO! Tornado DDT by Lynn gets another two! Styles catches Lynn for a fireman’s carry and drops Lynn neck-first on his knee! Cover, 1-2-NO! Lynn stops Styles up on the top rope, but gets shoved back down for the SPIRAL TAP! Cover, 1-2-NO! Lynn wins a slugfest and hits a TKO on Styles for 1-2-NO! Out of nowhere, Styles manages to counter the Cradle Piledriver with a STYLES CLASH! That does it for Jerry Lynn. (15:31) The typical great match that we would later become accustomed to seeing in TNA from these two. ***½

Dunn & Marcos interrupt our intermission time by running their mouths and calling themselves the top tag team in ROH. Da Hit Squad (who look like a pair of Hernandez’s from LAX) proceed to kill these two, ending with the Burning Hammer on Dunn or Marcos. I really can’t tell the difference, but does it really matter? DHS just proved they were the best tag team, but Divine Storm comes out for a rebuttal. Quiet Storm yells out our first obscenity over the PA system in ROH. The SAT run in to start a three-team brawl. It’s not a match, but there’s some pretty freakin’ incredible spots here. After that’s over, we have the Christopher Street Connection come down with Allison Danger. CSC kiss in the ring, which brings out the Natural Born Sinners. Apparently, it’s queer bashin’ time. They are Homicide and Boogalou who dress up in orange convict overalls and wear Michael Myers and Leatherface masks. Danger gets a whoopin’ while Buff E from CSC takes the COP KILLA. Now we have the Carnage Crew to run in and destroy the NBS until the Da Hit Squad wakes up and helps them take out the Carnage Crew with a Dudley Boyz powerbomb through a table. Despite being friends, both the Sinners and the Da Hit Squad think they’re the best tag team in ROH. In the back, Low Ki is confused as to why his crew is falling apart. Well, this is one way to showcase your entire tag team division. Probably not the best way, but whatever.

Spanky vs. Jody Fleisch – Road to the Title Block A Finals
Some decent arm wringer exchanges to start lead to a stalemate. Fleisch tries a flying mare on Spanky to escape a hammerlock, but Spanky holds on and rolls through. Fleisch escapes and floors Spanky with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors. Spanky crotches Fleisch when he tries to springboard out and delivers a Hilo back in. Brainbuster gets two. Spanky starts to let his temper get the best of him. Back suplex gets another nearfall. SLICED BREAD #2 attempt is shoved off, but Spanky lands on the apron. Fleisch spin kicks Spanky to the floor as he follows Spanky out with a quebrada and takes out the guardrail and catches a little bit of Spanky. Good gosh. How are his legs not broken? Back in, Fleisch lands on his feet after an SSP. Spanky blocks a powerbomb, but pulls Fleisch up into a sunset flip for 1-2-NO! Fleisch crashes and burns when he tries the PHOENIX DDT. Spanky cradles him up for 1-2-NO! Spanky gets the SLICED BREAD #2 for the 1-2-3. (5:16) Spanky is our first entrant in the four-way Iron Man match. The action was much more controlled and sensible in this match than the other Fleisch match with Jonny Storm, making it just a tad better. **½

American Dragon vs. Doug Williams – Road to the Title Block C Finals
This is the match that I’ve been waiting to see. Nice to witness someone outwrestling Danielson at every turn in the early going as they exchange wristlocks and headlocks. Danielson finally just snapmares Williams over for a kick to the back. Williams still manages to pick back up with the wristlock no matter what position he’s in. It’s incredible. After mentioning that Williams is a five-year long judo champion, Danielson judo tosses Williams across the ring. From there, Williams applies what appears to be an inverted surfboard. Whatever it is, it’s great. After an ab stretch, Williams catches Danielson trying a crossbody and breaks him over his knee. He keeps hold of Danielson and floats over into the bow-and-arrow. Awesome. Nice hammerlock/single-underhook suplex, which I’ve never seen before. That gets two for Williams. With Danielson stuck in the Inverted Gory Special, Williams BACKS him up into the corner and follows up with a running dropkick! Williams charges into the corner with a knee and comes off the ropes with a High Knee. Now the Flying Knee Drop, which I believe he calls the Bomb Scare. Danielson catches him in mid-air with a dropkick I assume. Danielson delivers a dragon screw leg whip and legbars Williams. They wind up rolling out to the floor where Danielson continues with the hold. On the apron, Williams gives Dragon a suplex to the floor. Back in, Williams gives Danielson a rolling cradle for 1-2-NO! British Revolution (tornado DDT) by Williams! But Danielson gives Williams the Cravate Suplex. They get into a forearm battle, which ends with Danielson hitting a Yakuza Kick. Snap suplex sets up the Swandive Headbutt for 1-2-NO! Off a cross-corner whip, Williams flips over Dragon and delivers the CHAOS THEORY! Cover, 1-2-NO! No one can believe it. Danielson kicks back at Williams and delivers a belly-to-back superplex! Slow cover gets 1-2-NO! Williams maneuvers out of the CATTLE MUTILATION into a reverse gutwrench suplex. Williams rolls Dragon over with a cravate and gets the 1-2-3! (13:37) Great hard fought match. I like the continued trend of Danielson kicking out of everyone’s finishers and slapping sports entertainment formula in the face at the same time. ***¾

Low-Ki vs. Amazing Red – Road to the Title Block D Finals
The crowd is SO into this match. Ki and Red go through some obvious choreographed Jet Li stuff, which is pretty cool I must admit. Once it leads into a stalemate, the crowd is already giving these two a standing ovation. Low-Ki blocks some Red kicks and dragon whips him over for the Krush Combo, but he misses the third kick and gets nailed with the Red Star Press for two. Low-Ki flips Red back on his feet when he tries a rana and Rolling Kicks him into the corner. Ki tries the Tidal Krush, but Red stops him with a missile dropkick. Red gets kicked on the apron. He avoids a Tidal Krush again, but gets nailed with another Rolling Kick that puts him down on the guardrail. Back in, Low-Ki covers for two. Red comes back with a Satellite DDT. He kicks Low-Ki out to the floor for a possible suicide dive, but Low-Ki catches him with a knee as he tries to come through the ropes. That gets two. Low-Ki calls for the KI KRUSHER, but Red counters into a small package for 1-2-NO! Low-Ki tries to counter a rana into the KI KRUSHER, but Red turns around on his shoulders and gives Low-Ki a reverse rana! SICK! INFRARED misses and so does a second reverse rana, so Low-Ki gives him a European uppercut to set up the Krush Rush. Red avoids the Phoenix Splash and nails Low-Ki with a roundhouse kick while he’s up in the corner. Red wants a hurracanrana, but Low-Ki blocks and pulls Red up for a SUPER KI KRUSHER! That will finish off anybody. (11:17) I really really enjoyed this match. Low-Ki completely rules. Somewhere, Christopher Daniels is not very happy. ****

Afterwards, Brian XL comes out and berates Red for losing the match, so Red’s buddies in the SAT run down and give Brian XL the Spanish Fly.

Backstage, the Natural Born Sinners challenge the Carnage Crew to a Bunkhouse match at the next ROH show. It’s GON be INSANE!

Christopher Daniels (w/Simply Luscious) vs. AJ Styles – Road to the Title Block B Finals
Some decent mat work from these two to start. Daniels works the arm quite a bit, yet they still manage to keep it interesting. From there, Daniels works a headlock and maintains some good control. Styles comes back with the Kip-Up Frankensteiner that I wish he still did these days. AJ hits the Tiger Mask corner moonsault kick and dropkicks Daniels to the floor. Styles follows him out with a corkscrew pescado. They fight over a suplex on the apron. Daniels brings AJ to the apron and kicks him in the balls. He then runs Styles off the apron face-first into the guardrail to bust him open. Daniels takes AJ all around ringside to grind away at the cut forehead. He brags about literally having AJ’s blood on his hands. Awesome! Back in, Daniels delivers a flapjack for 1-2-NO! Daniels misses a quebrada and takes a brainbuster! AJ drapes Daniels across the middle rope and slingshots back in for a quebrada. That gets two. Daniels ducks a clothesline and hits a Flatliner into the Koji Clutch. AJ tries to fight out, but settles for a quick pin attempt for two. Daniels drops Styles across the top rope and hits a flying legdrop for two. Falcon Arrow by Daniels gets another nearfall. AJ ducks a clothesline and starts a comeback. Powerslam from AJ gets 1-2-NO! AJ hits the German suplex into the wheelbarrow facebuster for 1-2-NO! Daniels avoids a spin kick and snaps off the STO. Blue Thunder Driver by Daniels gets 1-2-NO! Daniel’s Best Moonsault Ever attempt fails as AJ shakes the ropes. AJ delivers a splash mountain into a sitout neckbreaker for 1-2-NO! Daniels counters the STYLES CLASH into an ankle lock. AJ makes the ropes. Now we get a rollup sequence. Daniels avoids the Quebrada DDT and levels Styles with the LAST RITES (rolling cutter)! Daniels covers and gets the 1-2-3 to advance to the four-way Iron Man match. (21:52) Very good match, but they would go on to have better matches in the years to come over in TNA. Plus, you knew Daniels was walking out the winner of this one anyway since Low-Ki was already included in the 7/27 title match. ***½

The next show is set: Spanky vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Doug Williams vs. Low-Ki in a four-way 60-minute Iron Man match. Plus, a bunkhouse match between the Natural Born Sinners and Carnage Crew.

Final Thoughts: Why did I start with ROH show #4 if I was going to go way back in time? Because I don’t own any older ROH shows, that’s why. One of these days I’ll get around to buying and reviewing the other original ROH shows from 2002. Anyways, with this many matches on the card, its impossible for every one of them to get enough time to really build to something special. There’s enough good here for a recommendation with four ***+ matches and one **** match out of thirteen matches. Thumbs up for Road to the Title.

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