The final time I reviewed a Paul London ROH match I used to be pleasantly stunned by how superior it was. London placed on the most effective matches of the last decade reverse AJ Kinds and it made me appear him in a unique mild.
Because it seems, that wasn’t London’s solely huge singles match with a fabled wrestling workhorse. He additionally had an amazing but considerably forgotten match in opposition to ‘American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson that main-evented certainly one of ROH’s earliest exhibits. However was this London match additionally nice? Let’s discover out.
As a reminder, I’m reviewing 5 Star and almost-5 Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes again to the Eighties and I’m going to select completely different matches from completely different eras to see how they give the impression of being at this time. Try earlier entries in my 5 Star Match Critiques sequence proper right here.
Not a lot of a narrative right here; simply two rookies seeking to present one another who the higher wrestler is. Neither one had greater than 4 years’ value of expertise in wrestling so we get to see how properly they fought earlier than ROH actually received placed on the map. Additionally, London had a little bit of a gimmick whereby followers would chant “please don’t die” at him because of his high-risk fashion. However would he return to these roots right here? Or would Danielson’s technical and mat superiority floor London and pressure him to adapt?
This match initially occurred on April 12th, 2003. It was by no means given a proper ranking by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, so we don’t have that affect looming overhead as we revisit this match virtually twenty years later.
It is a two-out-of-three falls match. The bell rings and a lock-up results in a stalemate. They do the Greco-Roman knuckle lock and Bryan overpowers London. London tries escaping with a headscissor however Bryan maintains management and pushes London right into a pinning place for a one-count. Bryan steps on London’s head and throws him apart to pressure one other stalemate.
Bryan goes for a single leg however London blocks and the chain grappling begins. Bryan applies an armlock and takes London down through headscissor, after which retains it in as London tries and fails to flee. London manages to change right into a bridge for a two-count after which escapes a backslide. Each guys faux one another out and Bryan pulls his hand again on a handshake to start out taking part in video games with London.
Bryan hammerlocks London however London will get a fast ropebreak. London will get an armlock of his personal however Bryan escapes in a intelligent manner: he walks between the second and third rope, then again in between the primary and second rope, after which wraps London’s arm between the underside two ropes and kicks it. It’s all the time good to see one thing new being finished in wrestling, particularly when it is smart.
Bryan takes London down and applies a camel clutch after which a entrance chancery. London tries flipping it over however Bryan counters right into a standing cravate maintain. Bryan takes London down once more whereas nonetheless holding the cravate and London has to remain on just one shoulder to keep away from a pin, thus worsening the ache from Bryan’s maintain. London counters right into a full nelson however Bryan will get a ropebreak main to a different stalemate. They lock up once more and London lands a headlock takedown. Bryan rolls over for a one-count after which sends London into the ropes however London lands a shoulderblock to ship Bryan down. London applies one other headlock and Bryan tries sending him into the ropes however London does a Spike Dudley-style run up the turnbuckles to keep up his headlock. London will get some fast two-counts and does one other Spike run to keep up management over Bryan. Bryan manages to counter right into a headscissor and makes use of his elbows to maintain London’s head in place. However London nonetheless escapes and the 2 wrestlers hit some stiff strikes as they separate.
London applies yet one more headlock however Bryan does some intelligent counters this time and applies his personal. Bryan tackles London down however London kips up after which hits an overhead belly-to-belly suplex for a two-count. London will get a two-count off one other headlock takedown and goes for the Spike run however this time Bryan has it scouted and lands a counter single-knee backbreaker. It’s nice seeing a wrestler be taught from earlier and block a transfer that will get repeated later.
A strike change ends with an ax deal with from, and a two-count for, Bryan. Bryan applies a grounded stomach stretch and makes use of his free hand to hit palm strikes to London’s head for an additional two-count. Bryan will get yet one more two-count off an uppercut and a small bundle, after which he wins one other strike change with London. A again suplex yields Bryan yet one more two-count so he goes to the stomach stretch once more. However this time London clasps his palms collectively to forestall it from being utilized. Bryan manages to struggle via London’s resistance and lock within the maintain however London escapes with elbows.
Bryan lands some head-butts as the group chants for each guys. Bryan will get one other two-count off a kneelift after which uppercuts London so arduous he falls via the ropes to the ground. Each guys go for the Ric Aptitude over-the-rope suplex commerce spot and Bryan lands one regardless of London’s greatest efforts. One other pin and one other two-count for Bryan. Bryan sends London right into a nook and expenses however London kicks him again. London follows with an Irish whip and a lariat, counting on the weakened arm Bryan focused earlier. Bryan reverses an Irish whip however London counters with a springboard sundown flip for a two-count. Bryan goes for a slingshot into the ropes. London lands safely and headscissors Bryan to the ground. As Bryan climbs onto the apron, London lands a Jericho-style triangle enzuigiri. London goes for a again suplex into the ring. Bryan lands on his ft and teases a dragon suplex. London counters with a rear waistlock. Bryan rushes ahead and sends London again to the ground and hits a suicide dive.
Again within the ring, Bryan lands a single underhook suplex and a diving head-butt for a two-count. Bryan goes for a Misawa rolling elbow. London dodges and will get a 2.7-count off a backslide. Bryan will get an analogous shut rely off a small bundle. London avoids a nook cost and hits a diving wheel kick and a novel cradle for an additional shut name. Bryan cuts London off to dam a dive and tries one other dragon suplex. London blocks it so Bryan switches to a bridging armtrap German as an alternative. One, two, London kicks out. Bryan goes for the top-rope avalanche again suplex. London resists and turns right into a press in midair. One, two, and three! London will get the primary pinfall of the match!
Winner of the primary fall after 20:31: Paul London
The wrestlers are given about thirty seconds to get well after which the second fall begins.
London gives a handshake to start out the autumn and Bryan each returns it and slaps London’s face. One other strike change ensues and London fires again. Bryan reverses an Irish whip however London jumps over him and hits a flying forearm. Bryan geese a superkick. London geese one other rolling elbow. London connects with two kicks to Bryan’s head and goes to the highest rope. Bryan cuts him off and tries the avalanche Backdrop once more. London stops him with a strike barrage. London will get able to dive with the taking pictures star press. Bryan cuts him off with a dropkick to 1 knee. That causes London to finish up hung the wrong way up within the nook. Bryan assaults that knee instantly regardless of the referee making an attempt to cease him since doing so isn’t “pure”. Bryan will get a blended response for his strategic assault as he lands a shin breaker into the nook. London falls to the ground however finds no security as Bryan goes after him some extra.
Again within the ring, Bryan hits some elbows and expenses however London geese a clothesline and lands a German suplex. London hits some desperation strikes and tries chasing Bryan however Bryan will get London proper the place he needs him. Bryan catches London’s foot, geese an enzuigiri, and lands a dragon screw leg whip. Then Bryan locks in a single leg crab. London will get near the ropes. Bryan pulls him again. London reaches for a unique set of ropes. Bryan pulls him again and turns it right into a torture crab together with his knee on London’s neck. London has no alternative however to faucet. Bryan will get the second fall!
Winner of the second fall after 26:24: “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson
After the thirty second relaxation interval, the bell rings and Bryan goes after London’s leg. London blocks with an enzuigiri after which makes use of his free leg to kick out of one other crab try. London lands some nasty kicks however Bryan retains going after the leg. However he tries one time too many as London counters a single leg try into an Oklahoma roll pin for a two-count. Bryan hits some uppercuts and London escapes a scoop slam, however even touchdown on two ft causes London to wince and hobble on one foot. London one way or the other manages a leg hook DDT however solely will get a two-count.
London tries a scoop slam of his personal however can’t even raise tiny Bryan Danielson up as a result of his left leg lacks the power. Superior promoting. London has no alternative however to cowl however solely will get a two-count. Each guys commerce forearms whereas standing and London staggers round lengthy sufficient for Bryan to attain a Misawa rolling elbow smash. One, two, and – London kicks out. Cattle Mutilation by Bryan. London reaches the ropes together with his ft. Bryan hits a working elbow and goes for the dragon suplex once more. London slips out and tries a victory roll pin however solely manages a two-count. One other desperation strike change ensues and London overpowers Bryan with stiff slaps. He covers however Bryan kicks out.
London makes use of Bryan to raise himself up however Bryan hits two enzuigiris. Bryan expenses, geese a clothesline, and lands a bridging dragon suplex. The referee counts one…two…and – London survives. One other single leg crab from Bryan and one other ropebreak for London. Bryan chops London right into a nook and lands completely different nook strikes when all of a sudden London catches and traps Bryan in a cradle maintain. London drops Bryan with a type of chokebomb after which slowly pulls himself to the highest rope. However Bryan knocks him down and put him in place for an additional avalanche Backdrop. Bryan lands a flurry of forearms to London’s again and connects with that top-rope suplex. One, two, and th – London kicks out. Bryan applies yet one more single leg crab and the followers chant “please don’t faucet”. Bryan pulls London again after which does the torture model with one other knee on London’s neck. However London retains going. He retains pulling himself to the ropes. Some followers even wave him over to present him hope. Then London reaches the ropes. Bryan has to launch the maintain.
Bryan can’t even raise London up as a result of London’s utterly spent so Bryan covers for a two-count. Bryan tries one other Avalanche Backdrop, however this time to the ground. Sensing hazard, London fights out and knocks Bryan down. Bryan fights again however London fights again even more durable and hits a diving spinning DDT. However London is aware of that’s not sufficient. He rolls over to a nook and slowly climbs to the highest. Taking pictures/London Star Press connects. London covers Bryan. One, two, and three! London will get the third fall to win the match!
Winner of the match after 40:39: Paul London
One other improbable match from ROH’s early days. For those who like pure wrestling with out gimmicks or something over-the-top, you’ll love this match. This match was principally a basic technical marvel however on a a lot smaller scale. It occurred in a tiny venue with a lot much less crowd noise, however that didn’t actually diminish the wrestling high quality this match had. It was forty minutes of straightforward wrestling with holds, psychology, and a extra technical method. It’s a little bit of a problem getting via the entire match, however it’s value it ultimately, particularly if you happen to’re a giant fan of Bryan’s.
The primary fall set the tone with Bryan and London jockeying for management. They tried to one-up one another and preserve their wrestling as pure and scientific as attainable. each guys have been very spectacular with the modern and distinctive strikes they pulled off right here; I’ve seen numerous huge matches and it’s all the time refreshing to see one thing new that as shocking as it’s significant to the match.
Each wrestlers wrestled in a extra ‘indy’ fashion, however it was WAY extra critical and lifelike than what’s been on show over the past decade. It was like watching a miniature Bob Backlund or Bret Hart wrestle in opposition to a good smaller Owen Hart or a smaller Eddie Guerrero. All the things was so easy and the match was centered on displaying off wrestling ability above all else.
It’s unusual; the unbiased scene from 2000 to about early 2006 was composed of straight-laced, critical wrestlers who all needed to be the subsequent Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, or Mitsuharu Misawa, however merely lacked the peak and weight. Then that Dragon Gate Six-Man match occurred and the indy scene’s priorities shifted. It grew to become all about velocity and bedazzlement, after which the PWG affect seeped in and the extra critical and skilled fashion seen on this match grew to become extra of a rarity.
That’s to not say there wasn’t any emotion; consider me there was. However that was the thought right here; what began off as a purely skilled contest grew to become emotional and intense. Insults have been thrown, stiff strikes hit each wrestlers’ faces, and all that skilled technical wrestling ended up placing one man – London – at a extreme drawback. As soon as Bryan received the second fall with a easy single leg crab, the match grew to become extra emotional and intense. London couldn’t even stroll or full a easy scoop slam, a lot much less mount an offensive comeback. He hit these fast punches and swung at Bryan to maintain him at bay as a result of he was like a wounded animal defending himself with no working limb. He bought like a boss for Bryan lengthy after he tapped out the primary time and made certain to include Bryan’s limbwork into no matter he did as a lot as attainable.
London confirmed the right way to make strikes in a match imply one thing, which is sort of a misplaced artwork today. So many matches proven at this time are all fashion and no substance however this match was the other. There have been no over-the-top characters, little in the best way of angles or gimmicks, and the motion was lifelike and aggressive as an alternative of being emotional and over-the-top. I do know some followers just like the sillier stuff, however to me, if you wish to take wrestling critically then it’s higher to understand the extra critical matches, even when they aren’t as well-known or as commercially profitable.
Closing Score: ****3/4
Similar to in his match with AJ Kinds, Paul London proved that you just shouldn’t dismiss a man as a result of he’s small. I anticipated greatness from Bryan Danielson, though he was a lot youthful and hadn’t actually established his persona at this level. However London greater than surpassed my expectations. Similar to Sheamus in his match with Gunther, London placed on a tremendous match right here. However though this match’s crowd was far smaller, the motion was of comparable high quality though it was a really completely different form of motion.
As a standalone wrestling match, this was excellent. Lengthy, however excellent nonetheless. These forty minutes flew by because of some nice wrestling psychology and motion. That is a kind of instances that present that pure motion could be simply as nice as a match with characters and angles.
However most significantly, this match proved that crowds don’t matter as a lot as they used to. Having nice crowds was once central to a profitable wrestling match, firm, or profession. However not anymore. Wrestling has survived a pandemic that noticed matches happen in entrance of empty arenas. And but, in that point, we noticed some matches that have been simply as nice as matches with crowds. So though the group for this match was comparatively small, their noise wasn’t as necessary because the motion that occurred within the ring.