By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Bryan Danielson © vs Homicide 12/23/06
ROH World Heavyweight Title Match
Some wrestlers are just better served as challengers rather than champions. The ‘money’ is in the chase, not the reign itself. That is no knock on wrestlers who aren’t best suited to being the face of a promotion. Without valid challengers and wrestlers for the fans to get behind en route to the ultimate contest for the gold, the championship means next to nothing.
Homicide, to me at least – especially as a face – is one of those men. As a heel, he garnered a tonne of heat for his often aggressively violent actions. However, as a face, he came across as the plucky underdog who could match up to anyone in the ring, mix up both technical and aerial offense and gain legitimate sympathy when under the cosh. As a good guy, he was never going to lead the company though, yet he more than deserved his moment in the sun.
For the second time in ROH’s history, Final Battle would be the climactic place for two huge title reigns to end. Samoa Joe had lost his gold to Austin Aries after almost two years in pole position at the 2004 iteration, and Bryan Danielson came into the show with well over a year on his reign. Impressively, he’d already eclipsed Joe’s number of successful title defenses, adding nine on top to make it thirty-eight times that his hand had been raised in victory. Homicide was truly the underdog here; Danielson had been imperious, even winning a four way contest the night before the big show which included Homicide, Jimmy Rave and Nigel McGuinness. To add an extra bit of intrigue to the match, Homicide had promised to leave ROH if he didn’t have the belt by the end of the year.
Even with Danielson being one of the best heels in the business during this title reign, there were more than a number of fans who wanted him to retain. The crowd felt split down the middle as the contest began, though they were less than impressed when the champion flipped the bird to Homicide before taking aim at them. The early exchanges were soundtracked by a ‘fuck him up, Homicide’ chant as the crowd made their true feelings felt. The narrative focused around the shoulders of both men, as they were carrying legitimate injuries that were targeted in some initial grappling. A tentative opening gave way to some strikes by both men, though Danielson was quick to bring the match back to the mat to continue his technical onslaught, with Homicide more than holding his own in retort.
The company teased a bullshit ending as the referee rang for the bell after Adam Pearce and Shane Hagadorn attacked Homicide in the midst of an attempted frog splash. Julius Smokes, having been attacked earlier in the show, made his way down to the ring and helped Homicide fight his way out of difficulty, whilst the referee chose to ring for the bell but then reverse his own decision. The damage had been done though, as Pearce and Hagadorn had landed a spike shoulderbreaker, attacking the challenger’s injury.
It was gut check time for Homicide as he tried to fight back against a submission offense that aimed to continue to work the shoulder, but he would use a kimura throw off of the top rope as he began to target Danielson’s shoulder in retaliation, followed up with two fujiwara armbars. Danielson was bloodied but undaunted, landing a huge dive that cleared the guard rail and wiped out his opponent. It took two attempts to land a back superplex, yet Homicide was able to kick out.
They teased a finish with multiple Danielson elbows (the finish to their last contest), but Homicide was able to fight his way out of the predicament. A chicken wing by Danielson saw Homicide reach the rope, only for the champion to refuse to release the hold. Having set a precedent, the referee refused to call for the bell and Homicide almost won the gold with an STF shortly afterwards.
The end game was nigh. Danielson avoided a Cop Killer, locking in Cattle Mutilation thrice and once more returning to the elbows that had been so effective before. A Cop Killer landed after Homicide escaped, yet Danielson managed to get a hand on the ropes to the complete dismay of the crowd. After threatening to use the ring bell and kicking out a low blow assisted small package, Homicide finally won the gold with a lariat that turned Danielson inside out. The pop for Homicide’s victory was huge, a true outpouring of hope come good.
Homicide made three title defenses before getting steamrollered by Takeshi Morishima. The reign lasted all of fifty five days. All that mattered was that he had had his moment in the spotlight, a moment that was well deserved for a man who had been there since day one and helped make the company what it was.