Samoa Joe vs Roderick Strong
Ted Petty Invitational 2004 First Round Match
Lincoln Center, Highland, Indiana, United States
(reviewed 05/15/2019) The first instance of one of my secret favorite matchups in wrestling history. Roddy might not have ended up as one of my favorite wrestlers ever (and easily one of my most influential wrestlers as far as my own work goes, as basically all I did was a bunch of backbreakers building up to a submission finish) if not for Joe’s guidance. Between 2004 and 2006 they have a bunch of matches all over the place and Joe pushes this kid to become even tighter, even more focused, even more intense. Roddy’s nothing but raw power and potential by this point, being way less polished and way less flashy than his Generation Next partners. He’s an established name, sure, but it’s not a name that carries much weight outside of some good chops. Here Joe etches that name in indie history with yet another midcard banger, a match where he demolishes Roddy to the point that the kid has to show some tremendous fire just to avoid being eaten alive. Even when he finds an opening Joe still has all the stopping power in the world…
…so Roddy has to pull out all the stops, as it were:
This is part of why this match rules so much: Roddy really has to struggle to pull even with Joe, let alone to get ahead. Watching this match is watching a guy get better before your eyes, watching a guy put the pieces together in order to hang with the best of them. You don’t see this sort of match all that often anymore. Wrestling and its fans are far less interested in hierarchies than they used to be, especially on the independent scene. Nearly every person in every match is presented as roughly on the same level, largely thanks to the efforts of places like ROH to build cards full of dream matches. It’s certainly exciting to watch evenly-matched competitors give it their all but that evenness is reduced to flatness with time, preventing any sort of growth in terms of skill and kayfabe. Here Roddy improves by leaps and bounds by hanging with THE biggest name on the indies and it’s only because he came in as a relative nobody. Everyone in this venue wants to see him get better, wants to see him survive, wants to see him do the impossible. You can’t have the impossible when everybody’s on the same level.
Roddy’s control segment struggles because he doesn’t have that laser focus yet but whenever Joe forces him to snuff out a comeback attempt it’s great stuff. That culminates with this incredible nearfall toward the end, as Roddy buries his knees into Joe’s ribs with a gutbuster before knocking a few teeth out of place with a kick. It gets the biggest pop of the night and the crowd is convinced of the upset. Even when they don’t get it that energy is carried forward, as Roddy goes for the kill with a piledriver. He’s been able to hoist Joe up repeatedly throughout the match, something no one else in the world can do outside of fellow freak athlete AJ Styles, but exhaustion takes its toll and Joe avoids it. He chucks Roddy up on the top rope and paintbrushes him with a few slaps, connecting with the Muscle Buster to score a narrow victory. Even more so than his match with Hero, this feels like Joe being taken to his limit and it’s part of what makes Roddy’s career.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Yet another great example of what I love about Joe: he delivers insane beatdowns that manage to relate some sort of overarching story. Often that story isn’t anything more complicated than “can this young guy take it to the top dog on the indies?” but it doesn’t have to be complicated to get its hooks in you, as evidenced by the people losing their minds for Roddy’s last gasp here. Shawn/Taker, for all its drama and spectacle, never imparts that sort of feeling on me, never makes me care about seeing either man win. It tries to tell so many stories at once without a sufficient foundation that none of them ever grab a hold of me. The missed dive and chokeslam are about as good as any of the spots in Joe/Roddy but they lack the investment that this tournament match is brimming with.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25