Hello and welcome to the very first edition of "Five Stars and Armbars". This new article will review the greatest matches in Ring of Honor, one at a time! This idea was a culmination of requests from fans of my ROH Reviews who wanted me to review old matches and moments. There have been some great matches in the more than ten years that Ring of Honor has existed. Many ask what my favorite is, or what match stands out when I think of ROH. In this series of articles I will review the most important, and, career defining matches, that made this promotion the most respected in the world.
I will start with the most important match in the history of Ring of Honor. It was as important to the company, as Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant was at Wrestlemania III to the WWF.
It meant everything.
During the summer of 2004, ROH World Champion Samoa Joe faced CM Punk in a trilogy of matches that introduced the world to Ring of Honor. Before Punk/Joe, Ring of Honor wasn't anything noteworthy. After Punk/Joe though, that all changed because everyone knew who they were, and, what Ring of Honor was. In a series of coincidence, Total Nonstop Action made their cross-promoted talents exclusive to their company around the same time. One match changed the landscape of wrestling forever.
June 24th, 2004
"World Title Classic"
ROH World Champion Samoa Joe vs CM Punk
Streamers cover the ring (even as early as 2004) as both men stand across from the ring from each other. They shake hands and come face to face as the bell sounds. Joe in blue and white tights. Punk wearing black and red basketball shorts. It's explained that CM Punk earned this opportunity in May by pinning BJ Whitmer, who was ranked #2 in the Top 5 Contenders List.
They exchange tie ups, with neither man getting an advantage. Punk drives to the corner. Clean break. They circle around each other again. Crowd into both men. A knucklelock, and Joe with a kick to the leg. More feeling out. Joe with another stiff kick to Punk's calf that knocks the challenger down. Mat wrestling, back and forth. Announcers tell us Samoa Joe has defeated all the top names in the company such as AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and BJ Whitmer. Punk with an armwringer. They exchange reversals. Joe takes Punk to the mat into a defenseless position and smacks the back of his head and backs off to a mixed reaction. Both men up. Punk with a headlock, followed by a sideheadlock takedown. Different pin attempts by both men. Quick kickouts. Punk off the ropes, back into a grounded headlock. Joe fights up, misses a clothesline, and Punk drops the champion with another headlock takedown. Joe with hard knees, but Punk doesn't break. Joe fights out, followed by a snapping side suplex. Joe chops Punk's chest red with color! On the corner, Joe continues with hard chops and palm strikes and Punk is down!
Back elbow and uppercuts by Joe, misses a clothesline, and Punk drops Joe with hiptoss into a headlock! Punk off the ropes, and tries a shoulderblock, but Joe stands firm. Joe slaps Punk across the face! Punk off the ropes again, but he can't shake the champion. Punk with a suckerpunch, and drops the champion down off the ropes! Punk again off the ropes, Joe with a hiptoss! Punk tries a monkeyflip, but Joe reverses into a crab, but Punk rolls up the champ and gets two! They exchange armdrags and legsweeps. Joe misses a knockout kick. Both men square away. Crowd chants for both men. Punk wants a test of strength, as they lock up. Joe with kicks to the calf and leg, followed by big blows and strikes! Punk is covering up in the corner. Another tie up, as Joe outpowers the challenger easily. Joe drives Punk into the corner, following up with headbutts that drop Punk to the mat.
Joe misses a running kick in the corner, as Punk rolls to the outside to regroup. Back in, Joe with a southpaw jab, followed slaps and chops. Joe buries Punk in the corner with knees and kicks to the face. Joe with a nice front legsweep! Joe with kicks to the chest and back, but Punk drops Joe into a frontface headlock. Punk with grounded with forearms across the face. Joe rolls to the outside. He taunts a Punk fan in the front row as the fans chant "JOE JOE JOE". Back in the ring, Punk jumps into a headlock into a takedown. Joe fights up with fast fists to the gut. Joe almost knocks Punk head off with a kick, but misses a kneedrop. Punk grounds the champion with a rear chinlock. Knees to the back. Joe up with fists to the gut again. Snapmare by the champion, chop to the back, hard kick to the chest! Joe with a kneedrop to the face! Pin, and Punk kicks out at two! Joe with a 20-second vertical suplex! Joe with a pin, and Punk kicks out. Joe with hard slaps and chops and knees in the corner. Punk with a thumb to the eye! Side headlock by Punk grounds the champion. Back suplex by Joe, but Punk rolls into another headlock! Referee checks on Joe. Punk with hard chops! Joe goes down! Punk with a hard chop in the corner! Joe with hard chops! Punk to the outside and drags Joe to the outside as both men exchange blows on the outside. Joe with a headbutt that drops the challenger. Joe runs Punk to the opposite side of the ringside and throws Punk face first into the barricade!
Joe tries again the other way, but Punk reverses and drops Joe face first! Joe chases Punk back into the ring. Dual chants for both men as we're at the 20 minute mark. Both men with punches and kicks. Joe drives the challenger to the corner with hard knees and a HARD PALM STRIKE! Punk is out! Joe flips Punk over the the turnbuckle and knocks him to the outside with a running forearm. SUICIDA SPLASH BY JOE THROUGH THE ROPES! Both men down on the outside. Punk tries a splash off the apron, but Joe catches Punk and spins him head first into the barricade!! Ouch! Joe seats Punk near the barricade and DRIVES A RUNNING BOOT INTO PUNKS FACE! OLE KICK! Crowd chants "Ole! Ole Ole Ole!" Joe walks Punk around the ring, and connects with another OLE KICK! Joe crushes Punk skull one more time with a third Ole Kick! Joe gets in the ring and poses as Punk is destroyed outside. Punk can barely stand as he tries to drag himself into the ring. Punk reverses a suplex, off the ropes, and JOE BURIES PUNK WITH A SPINNING SIDESLAM! Joe with a pin, and Punk kicks out! Chops, punches, slaps, knees in the corner by the champ. Joe with running knee to Punks face!! Joe with a legvine sleeper trying to put Punk to sleep. Referee checks on Punk.
Both men up. Punk with a boot to the face, springboard crossbody by Punk! Punk with kicks to the face, Joe doesn't stay down. Hard boot by Punk drops Joe. Pin, and Joe kicks out. Headlock by Punk! Punk with an armwringer, followed by kicks to the chest into a russian legsweep! Punk with a three-quartered leglock! Its locked in! Joe chops Punk trying to break the hold, but Punk twists the knee! Joe tries to fight out. Punk keeps the pressure on. Joe with multiple headbutts and Punk breaks the hold. Joe with an abdominable stretch into a guillotine pin, but Punk rolls out. Both men with hard slaps. Punk off the ropes, kneedrop! Punk with a hard whip into the corner! Punk with a flying legdrop off the top. Joe kicks out of three pin attempts. Snapmare, then a dropkick to the back of the champs head. Punk with a pin and Joe kicks out again. With Joe on the mat, Punk mocks Joe. Joe up, enzuguiri! Back suplex! Both men down. Punk with a spinning forearm! Cover, JOE KICKS OUT!
CM Punk locks in a sleeper hold in the middle of the ring! Joe fights out, but Punk with the sleeper again! Joe to his knees.. Referee checks on the champion. Joe fights up. Tries the Coquina Clutch, Punk escapes, another sleeper! Samoa Joe is down on the mat! The ROH World Champion is limp in a sleeper hold. The crowd chants for Joe, as he fights out, CORKSCREW ENZUGUIRI to Punk! Both men are down as the crowd is on their feet! Samoa Joe with a backbreaker! Joe lock in a hard boston crab! Knees to the back by Joe! Joe sits on Punks back! PUNK IS SCREAMING! Punk scratches to the ropes..... and makes it! Joe with HARD kicks in the corner to the chest and head. Running knee by Joe! Joe sits Punk on the turnbuckle. Punk with elbows, Joe is down! Punk on the top rope. DIVING ELBOW! Punk with a cover.. Joe kicks out at two and a half! Punk puts Joe on the top rope. TOP ROPE BACK SUPLEX! Both men down! Joe was folded in half! The referee starts a ten count. Both men up at 9! Punk off the ropes. POWERSLAM! Joe with a cross-armbreaker in the middle of the ring!! Punk rolls through and gets to the ropes as we're at the 45 minute mark.
Joe with fast kicks to the face! Joe tries a powerbomb, Punk with a sunsetflip! Two and a half! JOE NAILS A POWERBOMB! Pin,.. into a boston crab! Joe is sitting on Punks back again! Joe turns the lock into an STF in the middle of the ring! Punk is screaming! Punk is crying! Punk is scratching, but he gets to the ropes!! Punk up and off the ropes! Boot to the champions face! Both men on the top rope. FRANKENSTEINER! Punk with a pin, and Joe kicks out!! Punk with a stepover mulekick to the champions face! Pepsi Twist! Pin, and Joe gets the foot on the rope! Punk thought he won. Joe tosses Punk in the air as the challenger lands flat! They exchange sunset flips. Joe with rolling cradles into a pin, Punk kicks out! Joe tries a lariat but Punk ducks, crucifix pin! JOE KICKS OUT! LARIAAATTT BY JOE! Punk flips inside out! Joe crawls and makes a cover. CM PUNK KICKS OUT!! Punk blocks a dragonsuplex. Elbows. SHINING WIZARD DROPS THE CHAMPION! Punk crawls over Joe. TWO AND A HALF! Joe kicks out! Both men down. Punk can't believe it.
Punk misses a clothesline. Joe with a back tieup, Punk with a lowblow! Joe with a jawbreaker! The champion locks Punk in a half-crab, but Punk too close to the ropes and breaks the hold. Punk fights out of a Top Rope Musclebuster. Joe escapes the Pepsi Plunge. Joe slaps Punk. Joe tries a superplex but PUNK REVERSES INTO THE PEPSI PLUNGE!!!!! Punk bounced outside on impact! He can't make the cover! The champion is down in the ring. Punk crawls in. Punk picks Joe up. Haymakers by the challenger. Double clothesline! Both men down again as we're 55 minutes. Punk up first. Shining Wizard! Suplex by Punk! Punk tries another, but Joe with a dragonscrew takedown! Joe puts Punk on the top rope and drops him with a sleeper slam to the mat! Both men down again! To their knees, slaps, chops, punches, slaps, kicks. Punk with a DDT! Punk can't make the cover. Punk finally tries a pin, and Joe kicks out as the 60 minute time limit expires!
WINNER, and still ROH World Champion: Samoa Joe @ 60:00
Thoughts: That is great wrestling. The name of this article takes it name from this match, as we got five stars, armbars, and everything else. I think I feel a little more alive than I did before I started watching this. From the very beginning Punk tried to wear Joe down with headlocks, which sapped the energy from Joe for the duration of the match. Joe has a killer offense, utilizing quick and hard strikes that he used to try and mame his opponent into physical submission. During multiple points, I thought he may have broke Punks nose. Absolute spectacle. Everything was brilliant. Everything had a purpose. Joe tried to destroy Punk, that didn't work. Joe tried to make Punk submit, and he couldn't. CM Punk used everything he had, but it wasn't enough to win the championship. One of the most exciting exchanges I have ever seen happened near the end when they exchanged reversals on the top rope, before Punk hit the Pepsi Plunge. I was sad when Punk bounced from the ring, because that was his shot to win. They made wrestling feel important and believable. Suplexes were important, sleeper holds and headlocks were important, and, Punk almost won the ROH World Championship with a DDT! Because the moment was right. That's perfection. This match is a classic, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
Join me next week as I review the second chapter, "Joe vs Punk II" on October 16th, 2004 in Chicago!