Sunday, 25 January 2015

DVD Review: Bryan Danielson: World Champion

He's regarded as one of the best in the world, but he's been missing from our screens because of long-term injury problems. Now he's back, so what better time is there to look at Ring of Honor's tribute to Bryan Danielson: World Champion.

As is the custom with these things, let's start at the beginning with…..

Disc One
October 14th, 2005
Our man makes the first defence of his World title against a future TNA World Champion in the form of Austin Aries at Enter the Dragon.

If you could apply the saying "start as you mean to go on" to a wrestling career then Danielson's first defence of his newly-won title was definitely a good marker to lay down.

This thirty minute encounter was a great way to kick off this collection. These two had so much history between them going into this one that you were guaranteed a quality encounter, and that was definitely the case here. There many not have been an overabundance of explosive moves, but everything they did just seemed so perfect, especially for an encounter of this kind. The technical exchanges were brilliant, the storytelling sublime, and the performances of both men were almost faultless.

But in the end there could be only one winner, and although Aries came close to getting the win after his trademark brain buster it was Danielson who came out on top when Aries tapped out to his crossface chicken wing.

November 4th, 2005
Continuing the theme of facing a future TNA World Champion our man defends his title against Chris Sabin at Showdown in Motown.

It's always interesting to see TNA guys in ROH matches. I've said it many times before that the two distinct styles those companies have means that the TNA guys often change their in-ring styles accordingly, as was the case here with Sabin. There were a few moments where he brought out the X Division-style stuff, but overall it was a pretty solid wrestling match, with two very good performances.

Danielson's performance was spot on throughout. At the time he was in the middle of a rivalry with Roderick Strong, and he used this match to mock his rival by taking Sabin down with a series of Strong-like backbreakers. Dragon didn't have it all his own way though as Sabin worked over the champion's neck, causing him quite a few problems, and giving me a certain sense of irony considering our man's current medical

Towards the end Sabin came extremely close to getting the pin after he came back with a piledriver, but after Danielson escaped from Sabin's cradleshock attempt, and after they jockeyed for position on the top rope before a Danielson belly to back superplex the champion finally gained the win when he mocked Strong again and locked in the stronghold for the submission win.

December 3rd, 2005
Our man faces a Rottweiler as he defends against Rocky Romero at Steel Cage Warfare.

Romero won his shot at the gold when he and his buddies won the Trios Tournament a few months before, and although this match was a little shorter than some of the others on this collection it was still quite an intriguing affair.

Basically what we had here was part strike-fest, part technical. The palm strikes, and in particular the kicks looked a little brutal at times, and it was during these early exchanges that Romero showed that he was more than capable of keeping up with the Dragon.

The technical exchanges soon followed, and Romero proved to be just as adept in that department as well, but no matter what he did Danielson kept coming back.

Towards the end it looked like there was going to be a new champion when Romero applied his version of the guillotine and Danielson slumped to the canvas. The Dragon managed to get his second wind though, and although Romero got the better of some more striking it was Danielson who came out on top, locking in a half crab as Romero tapped to give him the submission win.

January 28th, 2005
The TNA World Champs keep on coming as our man defends his title against A.J. Styles at Dissension.

I really enjoyed this one. It was the kind of match that made people take notice of ROH when they first began way back when.

It's a near thirty minute encounter with both men putting in top notch performances. The storytelling was perfect throughout. Danielson was looking to get a measure of revenge on Styles, with the Phenomenal One having beaten him in their two previous encounter, and it first it looked as if this was going to be a sporting contest, until the champion took the aggression level up a notch or two early on.

All of these ingredients are what made this match so good, and once again Styles showed a different side to his game, a more technical side, the likes of which we didn't get to see much off during his stints in the six sided ring back then.

Danielson turned the aggression up even further later on when he bloodied his challenger's nose. But despite Styles' best efforts he couldn't get his man into position for a Styles clash. Eventually Danielson managed to lock in his submission hold of choice, the cattle mutilation, but when Styles managed to escape from that particular hold Danielson locked in a cross-face chicken wing, and it wasn't long before Styles was tapping out to give Danielson the submission win.

February 22nd, 2006
Our man defends his title against Prince Nana's crown jewel when he faces Jimmy Rave at the 4th Anniversary show.

If truth be known I've never really been a fan of Jimmy Rave, probably because of the gimmicks he was lumbered with during his stint in TNA. But I have to admit that his performance here was pretty decent.

It was another thirty minute-plus affair, with both men giving as good as they got, and then some. Danielson, as always, was at his best, while Nana's boy was at the top of his game, often matching the champion hold for hold, and using a few of the Dragon's tactics against him in the process.

Things got even better when they kicked it up a couple of gears. Rave managed to survive cattle mutilation before he came back, taking Danielson down with a variety of moves, each one taking him closer and closer to that elusive three count.

But it was never meant to be. Danielson finally came back, and after cruxifixing Rave's arms he delivered a series of elbows to the side of his challenger's head. It wasn't long before Rave passed out as the referee called for the bell to give Danielson the stoppage win.

March 11th, 2006
Our man faces the other Motor City Machine Gun, and another of Nana's boys,  as he defends his title against Alex Shelley at Arena Warfare.

Danielson's debut match at the old ECW Arena, and the adopted home of company rivals Combat Zone Wrestling, certainly made for interesting viewing, and not just because of the action in the ring.

Early on the fans made their presence known by telling Shelley how to wrestle. Shelly came back with a couple of great lines (remember, this is a family column folks, so I can't repeat what he said here!), and when the two of them began with a few good old fashioned wrestling holds the boring chants began.

But as the match went on they began to warm up to what was going in between the ropes, and what they were treated to was a pretty decent encounter. Shelley put on a really good display here, and like others before him showed us that he was a different animal outside of the Impact Zone.

Both guys came close to getting the win on numerous occasions, especially when Shelley began working over Danielson's neck, but after Danielson connected with a dive over the top rope to take out Shelley and Nana in the front row the tide began to turn not just in the match but with the fans as well.

Shelly still had a few chances left though, but when he went for sliced bread #2, a move that the champion was meant to have no counter for, Danielson countered with a back suplex before going for his cattle mutilation hold. Danielson didn't sink in the hold, and instead opted to roll the challenger up for the title-retaining win.

April 1st, 2006
Our man faces one of the best wrestlers of the past twenty years as he defends his title against Lance Storm at Better Than Our Best.

When I heard that Storm was coming out of retirement to face Danielson I knew that it was a match I just had to see. Well, it only took me nearly nine years, but it was well worth the wait.

Storm looked like he hadn't missed a step as he gave the champion a hell of a battle, matching him move for move and hold for hold. Even then in those early stages it was a joy to watch two of the best in the world going at it.

The great technical action continued throughout the contest. In Storm Danielson was probably facing one of the biggest threats to his title, especially with the Chicago crowd willing Storm on, cheering everything he did.

But sadly for the man from Calgary there wasn't a fairy tale moment, and although he managed to counter Danielson's first cattle mutilation attempt it wasn't long before he was tapping out to the second, giving Danielson the title retaining win.

Disc Two
June 24th, 2006
Our man faces one of my favourite wrestlers of the 21st century as he defends his title against Colt Cabana at Chi-Town Rumble.

This was just was I expected from these two, and more. With both men having spent a great deal of time in Europe it was obvious what kind of match these two were going to give us, and for nearly thirty minutes they delivered.

While Cabana brought out a few of his comedy stylings he was all business as he matched the champion in more ways than one. Their early exchanges were a joy to behold, and as the match went on and the action became a little more serious things got a whole lot better.

Danielson seemed in his element against the home town hero, and although he stuck to the rules for the most part he wasn't averse to using a few underhanded tactics. But Cabana was more than a match for the champion as he came close to getting the pin quite a few times.

The challenger's best chances came right at the end. Having survived Danielson's cattle mutilation Cabana turned the tables and used the hold himself. A short time later he took Danielson down with his trademark colt 45 finisher, but when he went for the pin Danielson managed to reverse the positions to take the three count and win, much to the annoyance of the hometown fans.

August 5th, 2006
It's future WWE Champion against future TNA Champion as our man defends his title against Samoa Joe at Fight of the Century.

Now this is the sort of match you've got to give your utmost attention to, and that may be a little difficult for some, given that it's an hour of pure class.

For sixty minutes these two put on one of the best ROH matches I've seen ever, an intriguing back and forth encounter with Joe attempting to become the first man ever to regain the ROH title. However, standing in his way was the best in the world.

Joe did a good job of frustrating the champion early on, and it took a while for Danielson to work his way into the match. From there we were treated to some great back and forth action and countless near falls as the match moved towards it's rather intriguing finish.

As the time limit neared Joe went all out to get the win, and despite surviving countless attempts Danielson kept coming back, but when Joe locked in his rear naked choke it looked all over bar the shouting. The only problem was that time was against him, because just when it looked like there was going to be a new champion the bell rang. Joe, and everyone else in the building were convinced he'd won the title, only for the ring announcer to spoil hiss moment when it was announced that the time limit had expired and the match had been ruled a draw.

August 13th, 2006
It's a trip to jolly old England for our man as he defends his title against Tag Team Champion Roderick Strong at Anarchy in the UK.

Danielson had certainly been a busy boy on this particular weekend. He'd already defeated Nigel McGuinness to unify the World and Pure titles the night before, and earlier in the show a successful defence against Japanese star SUWA had left him with a gaping wound on the top of his head. Strong, meanwhile, had originally been scheduled to defend the Tag Team titles against British duo Doug Williams and Jody Fleisch, but with his partner Austin Aries injured the opportunity to challenge for the title once again presented itself.

The match itself is quite short when compared to some of the others in this collection, lasting a shade over twenty minutes, but when you put these two in the ring against each other you just know you're going to get a quality encounter.

And this is what we had here. They tied each other in knots, kicked and chopped the proverbial out of each other, and had the Brits in attendance eating out of the palms of their hands as they put on a terrific encounter.

Once again Strong came extremely close to capturing the title that had eluded him for so long, but no matter what he did to Danielson the champion just wouldn't give up, despite all the punishment he'd taken in his previous title defences.

But just when it looked like Strong was going to put his man away with his trademark gut buster Danielson came back. A series of elbows to the side of the head set Strong into could cuckoo land, so by the time he applied the cattle mutilation he was out cold, which made the referee's job easy as Danielson took the submission win.

September 16th, 2006
In a match you could see in a WWE ring, our man defends his title against Japanese star KENTA at Glory by Honor Night 2.

Now this was good. From the moment this match started you just knew you were going to get a tremendous match, and that's just what we got.

Danielson came into this one suffering from a severe injury to his right shoulder, and the tape he wore around the injured limb was like a red rag to a bull as far as KENTA was concerned. The NOAH star showed no mercy as he attacked the shoulder time and time again.

The champion managed to suck it up though, coming back time and time again despite the injury. He gave as good as he got, and gave the visiting star no end of trouble.

But as they moved into overdrive and brought out the big guns it looked like the title could be heading for the far east when KENTA caught Danielson as he came off the top rope, taking him down with the go to sleep. He'd defeated Danielson with this move once before in a non-title match, but this time around Danielson draped his foot over the bottom rope to break up the pin.

Both guys continued to fight as hard as they could, but after Danielson tore off the tape on his shoulder and connected with a series of elbows to KENTA's head it was only a matter of time, and when he finally synched in the cattle mutilation it was only a matter of time before KENTA tapped out to give Danielson the submission win.

October 28th, 2006
Our man faces Samoa Joe once more, but this time in a non-title no disqualification match at Irresistible Forces.

This was heated to say the least. It began with Joe taking Danielson out with a suicide elbow as he walked around the ring before the big Samoan threw him from pillar to post at ringside. A wrestling match broke out briefly before the brawling resumed as they took a brief walking tour of the arena.

Back in the ring Danielson showed he could get down and dirty when he introduced a Billy club into the equation, and at one point it looked like he was going to get the submission win with a club-assisted chicken wing. But it was not to be. Joe was made of stronger stuff, as was proved when he came back after Danielson whipped the hell out of him with the referee's belt.

Eventually Joe managed to get his hand on Danielson's weapon of choice. He quickly took inspiration from his opponent when he used the belt to assist with his rear naked choke, and even though the Champion managed to survive the first attempt he fell to the second, passing out to give Joe the submission win.

December 23rd, 2006
It's the final match of the collection as our man defends his title against Homicide at Final Battle.

This was a match packed with drama and with a lot of the line. Homicide had stated that if he didn't win the title he'd leave the company forever, and his case wasn't helped much when Danielson hired Adam Pearce and Shane Hagadorn to take out his buddy Julius Smokes. Then there was the question of his perennial shoulder injury as well.

The challenger did pretty well early on as he matched the best in the world move for move, but about ten minutes in, just when things were really starting to go his way the aforementioned Pearce and Hagadorn hit the ring and took him down with a spiked shoulder breaker. Julius Smokes then made a surprise appearance, which saw the start of a brief brawl between Homicide's buddies and Pearce and Hagadorn. While all this was going on Danielson grabbed his title belt and headed for the back with a big smile on his face.

That smile didn't last long though. Just as the ring announcer was about to announce the DQ win for Homicide the referee stopped him and announced that the match would continue. Needless to say that the champion was none too happy as he made his way back to the ring.

This is where things got even better, because what we had here was a challenger fighting for his life and career against a champion who was willing to do everything to keep his lengthy title reign going. It was riveting stuff as Homicide, cheered on by his hometown fans, came back time and time again.

Eventually the heavy artillery came into play, and when Danielson applied the chicken wing it looked all over. Homicide managed to survive that scare, and numerous cattle mutilations, frustrating the champion more and more.

Homicide came back, but when Danielson kicked out of the pin after his cop killer it didn't look like it was going to be his night until he connected with a lariat that turned Danielson inside out. But a three count later it was all over. Homicide had taken the pin and the gold, and Danielson's lengthy title reign was all over.

In conclusion: I always enjoy watching these Ring of Honor collections. Not only is it a great way of looking back at the company's rich history but it's also a good way of seeing the development of their chosen subject before they performed under the even brighter lights of the "big two".

Which was once again the case with this collection. While his style and personality may have changed a little the matches here show just why he was so admired outside of WWE and TNA. There's no duds in this collection, just plenty of great matches against a wide variety of opponents, most of whom have gone on to grace bigger stages.

So if you want to see what the leader of the "Yes" movement was doing before he grew the beard then this is a collection that will probably interest you. And if you're still not sure whether to buy this thing, maybe if I give it the big thumbs up your opinion will be swayed.

With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Bryan Danielson: World Champion can be purchased online at www.rohwrestling.com.