Samoa Joe vs CM Punk

DVD Release Date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MATCH #1: ROH World Title Match – Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk, World Title Classic, Dayton, OH, 6.12.04

Joe has been the champion since 3.22.03 and this is his nineteenth defense. If you look closely, you can see Brad Garoon and me in the crowd. Punk is one half of the ROH Tag Team Champions along with Colt Cabana. This is in the weird ring with the purple ropes. Before the match can begin, Les Thatcher comes out to present Joe with a new ROH World Heavyweight Title belt. I think that belt made one appearance after this show. I wonder what the deal was with that; does anybody know?

Chris Lovey and Mark Nulty are on commentary. Lovey says that Punk earned this shot by pinning BJ Whitmer in a tag team match a couple of weeks ago at Generation Next in Philadelphia, which seems like a silly reason to get a World Title shot but here we are. This is Punk’s first shot at the title. They start off slowly, feeling each other out in the early going. Joe lands a solid kick and Punk takes a quick powder. Back in the ring they take it down to the mat and have an even exchange which the crowd appreciates. Punk starts grinding away with a headlock, taking Joe down to the mat. Joe fights back with a series of strikes but Punk weathers the storm and goes right back to the headlock. Once again Joe fights out and this time he slaps Punk across the face. Punk tries some shoulderblocks, and tricks Joe with a sucker punch. This fires Joe up and they trade holds back and forth, ending with Joe trying the Big Joe Combo but Punk avoiding it. They circle each other for a bit to stall. Joe attacks with a series of brutal strikes and Punk covers up. He continues wearing Punk down with strikes, but when he goes for the Face Wash Punk takes another breather on the floor. Punk jaws with some fans before making his way back to the ring. Joe continues taking the fight right to Punk, kicking him down in the corner once again. Punk tenaciously fights back and sticks with the headlock. This time Joe takes a powder and we’re around 15 minutes in.

Joe takes time out of his title defense to punk out a Punk fan and laugh about it. Punk comes to the floor and also punks out his own fan. Back in the ring Punk locks on a headlock and then turns it into a reverse chinlock. Joe powers out again and this time hits the Big Joe Combo for two. He hits a stalling vertical suplex for another two-count. Nulty references the “Spike Lee movie about Muhammad Ali,” but Michael Mann directed that, not Spike Lee. The match turns into a brawl and Punk takes it to the floor. That could backfire. That indeed proves to be the case, as Joe whips him around into the barricades. Punk comes back and tries his own Ole Kick but can’t hit it, so he runs back into the ring. The crowd is split down the middle in support of both men. Back in the ring they trade strikes and Joe once again wins that battle. Joe traps Punk in the Tree of Woe and then forearms him to the floor. He follows him out with an elbow suicida, much to the crowd’s delight. Joe goes for the Ole Kick but Punk stops it and goes up to the apron for a rana, but Joe catches him and swings him head-first into the barricade! Finally now Joe is able to hit the Ole Kick, and the champ appears well in control. Joe hits another Ole Kick as we creep towards the 30-minute mark.

Back in the ring Joe hits a hard sidewalk slam for a two-count. Joe continues to dominate, taking Punk down and connecting with the Face Wash. He locks on a headscissors, and Punk is able to escape but Joe is right in the ropes. Punk is able to come back with a springboard cross body block and a series of kicks to the face. The kicks only fire Joe up so Punk kicks him extra hard for a two-count. Punk hits a side Russian Legsweep, and then tries some kind of submission maneuver but has trouble putting it on. Joe fights out of the hold with a series of headbutts, and then locks on an abdominal stretch. He turns that into a cradle for two. Punk fights back and hits a solid knee drop to the head. He targets the head and neck, wearing the champion down. Punk mocks Joe and pays for it with a hard kick to the back. Joe follows that with a Saito Suplex and both men are down. Back on their feet Punk hits a roaring forearm for a close two-count. He hits more forearms and then locks on a sleeper. Every time Joe tries to escape Punk is able to lock it back in. Punk takes Joe to the mat but Joe powers his way up and hits a swank enziguiri. That gives Joe time to recover. The champ hits a backbreaker and then locks on a Walls of Samoa, and then turns it into a Samoan Crab. Punk has to reach the ropes. Joe unleashes kicks and hits a running knee to the face in the corner. He sets Punk up top but gets elbowed down to the canvas. Punk drops a sloppy elbow for a two-count. He then takes Joe up for a super back suplex! We’re about 45 minutes in now.

Joe comes back and hits a snap powerslam out of nowhere for two, and then locks on a Cross Armbreaker! Punk makes it to the ropes. Joe lands a couple of Kawada Kicks and goes for a powerbomb, but Punk counters with a sunset flip for two. Seconds later Joe hits the powerbomb and then turns it into the Samoan Crab. Joe turns that into the STF and Punk once again reaches the ropes. They quite clearly have a spot calling conversation in the corner, and Punk pops up and hits a running boot to the face. Punk hits a super hurricanrana but Joe kicks out at two! He follows up with a Mule Kick and the Pepsi Twist for another near-fall. Punk takes his elbow pad off and hits a couple of forearms, and Joe responds by throwing Punk up in the air and then executing the rolling cradle for two. Joe tries a lariat but Punk counters with a crucifix for two. On the second attempt Joe decapitates Punk with a clothesline but Punk kicks out at two! Punk fights back and hits the Shining Wizard but Joe kicks out at two! He goes to clothesline Joe and manages to miss even though Joe doesn’t duck, and then hits a low blow. Punk charges but Joe catches him and slams him knees-first into the canvas. Joe then locks on a half crab and Punk once again reaches the ropes. The champ sets up for a super Muscle Buster but Punk avoids it and counters with the Pepsi Plunge! Unfortunately for Punk he lands on his injured knees and rolls to the floor.

With less than five minutes to go Punk gets back in the ring and hits more forearms. They clothesline each other and both men are down. Nulty says he hasn’t seen a match go 60 minutes since the Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat series of the ‘90s. Wow, there’s just so much wrong with that statement. Punk hits another Shining Wizard and follows up with a vertical suplex. Joe comes right back with a dragon screw and both men are down. Back on their feet Joe takes Punk up top and hits a super sleeper drop (I guess?) and both men are down again with time winding down. They start exchanging slaps and Punk wins the battle with a DDT but can’t make the immediate cover. He finally gets it but Joe kicks out at two and the time limit expires at 59:56 (close enough). All these years later, it’s still a great match. It loses points for some blatant stalling and obvious spot calling, but all in all this is an exciting match and a harbinger of things to come.
Rating: **** ½

The crowd chants “five more minutes,” and Homicide runs out to attack Joe with a steel chair. Dave Prazak tries to get a word with the Notorious 187 but gets punched in the mouth for his troubles. Homicide takes Joe’s new belt and destroys the timekeeper’s table. Homicide leaves and then Punk hands Joe the belt and puts him and the title over.

MATCH #2: ROH World Title Match – Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk, Joe vs. Punk II, Chicago Ridge, IL, 10.16.04

Before the show, Punk was in the ring to cut a promo about tonight’s important rematch. Punk was actually a last minute replacement for Steve Corino. That’s a scary thought. He talks about how Chicago is his hometown and that gives him the advantage. He says he Will Win the ROH World Title tonight and end Joe’s reign. Brad and I were at this show too.

Joe has been the champion since 3.22.03 and this is his twenty-seventh defense. Jimmy Bauer and Mark Nulty are on commentary. Joe immediately asserts his power advantage so Punk takes it down to the mat and scores a quick near-fall with a crucifix. Punk locks on an early headlock, mirroring his strategy from last time. The sound on my DVD is all messed up; so I’m missing the commentary and the all the other sounds. While I get irritated with the sound, Joe takes Punk down to the mat with a hammerlock. Joe keeps Punk down on the mat and Punk counters by going right back to the headlock. At least the sound has been restored, as Punk continues to frustrate the World Champion. Joe gets angry and goes right after Punk, but Punk avoids him and gets a schoolboy rollup for a close two-count. The Champ takes a rare powder to compose himself as we cross 15 minutes.

Back in the ring they commence exchanging holds again, and then Joe unleashes some strikes. This time Punk fires back and gets his head kicked off for it. Now Punk takes a powder to try and collect himself. When he gets back in the ring Joe takes him right back down to the mat with a knuckle lock. Punk comes back and goes after the arm. He walks the ropes like the Undertaker and drops a leg on Joe’s arm. He also uses the headlock to keep Joe off balance, not knowing where he is going to be attacked. The spill through the ropes to the floor but Punk is able to maintain the headlock. Joe escapes it with a back suplex. Back in the ring Joe gets a two-count. Joe hits the Big Joe Combo for another two. He unleashes strikes in the corner and goes for the Face Wash but Punk rolls out of the way and whips Joe into the opposite corner. Punk follows Joe in with a running back elbow and then his own Face Wash. He goes up top and uses his knee to drive Joe’s face into the mat, which gets a two-count. Joe comes back and locks on a modified STF that stretches Punk in a very unnatural way. The hold is broken and we’re 30 minutes in.

Punk tries to come back with a springboard cross body but Joe avoids it. Joe hits a backbreaker and a stalling vertical suplex for two. He locks on a Boston Crab and Punk reaches the ropes. Punk tries fighting back but Joe keeps knocking him right back down. Finally Punk gets up to the top rope and hits a rana, sending Joe to the floor. Punk follows him out with a suicide dive, and then hits his own Ole Kick. He follows up with a second Ole Kick. Joe looks like he’s out. Punk goes to the apron to try another rana but Joe catches him and swings him into the guardrail. Joe goes for his own Ole Kick but Punk cuts him off and they exchange chops. A determined Joe wins that battle and this time nails the Ole Kick. Back in the ring Punk comes back with a headscissors to send Joe into the corner, but then he runs right into the STJoe. That gets a two-count for the champ. Joe knocks Punk back to the floor and follows him out with an elbow suicida. Bauer declares that this match will now speak for itself as they leave the booth to go watch the match in the crowd about 42 minutes in. As is custom, I will also break from play-by-play and meet you back here for the finish.

If you’re reading this I imagine that you already know that the time limit expires at 60:00 (really 59:58, but close enough). This was so much better than the already great first match, with less awkwardness and spot calling and more awesome. It never felt like they were stalling or going 60 just for the sake of it. It’s as close to a perfect match as can be, and it’s probably still the best in ROH history.
Rating: *****

After the match Punk challenges Joe to face him one more time but with no time limit. Joe comes back and says that this was Punk’s last chance and there will be no third match.

MATCH #3: ROH World Title Match, No Time Limit – Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk, All Star Extravaganza 2, Elizabeth, NJ, 12.4.04

Of course Joe is a liar because here is the third match right here, and there is no time limit. Joe has been the champion since 3.22.03 and this is his twenty-ninth defense. Bauer and Nulty are on commentary again. Ricky Steamboat is at ringside watching on.

They are cautious early on, anticipating that they could be here for a while. Punk tries an early headlock but Joe is sick of that. Joe continually avoids the headlock and a frustrated Punk takes a powder. Back in the ring they challenge each other to chop contest and Punk wisely ducks and gets a quick backslide for two, and now Punk gets the headlock on. That was awesome. Punk viciously attacks Joe’s neck, wearing the champion down. Joe comes back with some chops and a headbutt. Nulty is a little too animated in his commentary here; it’s very distracting. Punk comes back with a springboard dropkick to the back for just a one-count. He tries to keep Joe grounded but that’s easier said than done. Joe tries the STJoe but Punk counters it and they trade pinning combinations. Punk goes right back to the headlock. Joe powers up and forces Punk into the corner, and then unleashes a series of strikes. Punk fights back with strikes and takes Joe right off his feet. Nulty is losing his mind here. Joe comes back with a series of knee strikes to the head. He blasts Punk with a kick to the face, sending him to the floor. Punk has been busted open. Back in the ring Joe wisely targets the cut on Punk’s head. Joe hits the Big Joe Combo for two. The champion is dominant here, keeping Punk down and working on his bloody head. Punk takes a quick powder and Joe waits for him. Joe is totally dominant here, cutting off a Punk comeback attempt and knocking him to the floor again. The champ follows him out with the elbow suicida.

Joe then nails Punk with the Ole Kick. He goes for another one but Punk cuts him off and goes up to the apron for a dropkick! Punk hangs Joe off the apron and hits a knee drop off the top rope, right to the back of the neck. Back in the ring Punk hits a high cross body block off the top rope for two. Punk tries to take Joe down with clotheslines and then sticks him with a tornado DDT for two. He goes for the Shining Wizard but Joe catches him with the snap powerslam for two. Joe then tries a Cross Armbreaker but Punk rolls that into a cradle for two. The champ hits the powerbomb and awkwardly turns it into the modified STF. Joe is doing awesome stuff like using the ropes and grabbing Punk’s hair because he’s desperate to retain the title. Punk comes back with the leg-hook DDT for two, and then locks on the Anaconda Vise (not called as such). Joe gets to the ropes. Punk hits the Pepsi Twist and follows up with a sick moonsault but Joe kicks out at two! Punk goes up top and Joe is actually able to hit him with a rana! Joe then hits a vicious lariat but Punk kicks out at two! He goes for a Samoan Drop but Punk knees his way out of it and hits a mule kick and the Shining Wizard! Joe kicks out at two! Punk tries another Pepsi Twist but Joe blocks it and locks on a sleeper! The referee thinks that Punk’s arm dropped for a third time, but Ricky Steamboat keeps the timekeeper from ringing the bell because Punk isn’t actually out yet. Punk tries to break it with two jawbreakers but Joe won’t let go! He tries the Bret Hart pin but Joe is able to kick out at two. Punk rolls out a series of flash pins but can’t keep Joe down. Joe tries a backdrop driver but Punk falls on top for two. Back on their feet they exchange forearms. Joe scoops Punk’s legs in the corner and puts his own on the ropes for leverage. The crowd boos, surprised at Joe’s lack of honor. Punk looks for the reverse Pepsi Plunge but Joe knocks him down and misses a splash. Joe’s knee made contact with Punk’s face though. Punk tries an O’Connor Roll but Joe rolls it into the Choke. Not satisfied with just that, Joe hits a German Suplex and a Dragon Suplex before really cinching in the Choke and Punk is out at 31:29.

I think the crowd was surprised since this match went about half the length of the other two. Outside of the small Steamboat involvement that was quite unnecessary this was an amazing match, playing off the other two matches and adding some new wrinkles. Both men looked like they were legit trying to beat the other guy, which is the ultimate goal in wrestling anyway, to make the audience believe. It’s not quite as good as Chicago but it’s really close.
Rating: ****¾

BONUS MATCH: Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk, Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies, 8.16.03

Joe is the ROH World Champion but this is a non-title match. Joe is the ROH World Champion but this is a non-title match. They start off slowly with some chain wrestling, with both men trying to find a weakness in their opponent. Punk attacks the arm and looks to be building momentum until Joe catches him in an STJoe. The Champ tries to follow up but Punk is able to catch the arm and go right back to work. Joe comes back and delivers the Face Wash, busting Punk’s mouth open. They go to the floor and Joe goes for the Ole Ole Kick but Punk counters with a drop toehold! Take that Raven! Punk goes for his own Ole Kick but Joe catches it and gets pissed off, delivering an extra hard running kick to Punk’s face. Joe goes for the move a third time, but Punk is able to roll out of the way. Back in the ring Punk slugs away and goes at the arm. Joe catches Punk and slams him on his knees, which were in bad shape coming into this match. Punk ignores the leg work and flips out of the corner to hit a Divorce Court. Punk then does a slingshot senton to the arm, and then sells his knee afterward. He continues to attack the arm, but when they fight to the top rope Joe is able to take control and abuse the knee. Punk comes back and uses his non-injured knee to hit the Shining Wizard for a two-count. They trade some strikes and Punk thinks he has the battle won but Joe surprises him with a dragon screw leg whip. Joe then cinches on a nasty half crab and leans back, forcing Punk to tap out at 13:00. That was obviously not on the level of their later matches, but this is a nice primer for what was to come. Both men had a solid strategy that they utilized very well, Joe just happened to get the right hold and the right time and Punk wisely tapped out. Good stuff here, obviously.
Rating: ***½

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