Roderick Strong vs Samoa Joe
A Tent, East Windsor, Connecticut, United States
(reviewed 05/25/2019) This takes a minute to get going but once it does it’s one of my favorite matches of 2006. These guys were miles apart in 2004 but Roddy’s a completely different person now. By fall 2006 he’s won the ROH tag titles and Survival of the Fittest. He’s started touring with Dragon Gate. He’s taken Bryan Danielson to the limit in like four ROH World title matches. He’s no longer some meathead pushover but instead one of the world’s rising stars. Even if Joe manages to catch him with a mini STJoe early to assert dominance it’s Roddy who takes firm control of the match first, using his chops to wind the beast:
It’s only Joe’s stellar counter game that allows him to get back to his feet, where he’s able to cave in Roddy’s chest with a series of horrifying kicks. Roddy takes advantage of Joe slowing down but in doing so he awakens Joe’s temper, which is a big part of why this match rules. The big man’s always cocky and charismatic in his matches but he flips a switch when he’s in there with someone who pushes him, someone who pisses him off. You see that against Necro and Bryan and Punk and Ki but there’s something about this young shithead from Florida that really gets to Joe. He can slip through Joe’s defenses in frustrating ways and it lights a fire under Joe’s ass, to the point that he actively tries to clown on Roddy along with beating him down.
Roddy’s also smarter, in a sense. Back in 2004 he could only wait for his openings or take a wild swipe to hope for a comeback. Here, when Joe tries to wear him down with some headlocks, Roddy’s got the awareness to fight free along with the power to do so, knowing that a faster match benefits him. Even more than withstanding Joe’s punishment it’s Roddy throwing the man off his game that’s impressive. He even manages to one-up Joe’s big counters and steals his signature tope. Two years ago a win felt impossible but now Roddy’s got the tide behind him.
Everything reaches a fever pitch toward the end. Joe can’t get any of his usual stuff going against Roddy, at least not for long, and the crowd can sense an upset. Worth noting that while tents are trashy venues, this show is packed even tighter than the usual places ROH is running around this time and it gives this match a real intimate feeling. Along with hearing every thud of every move, you can hear everybody in the crowd throwing their support behind Roddy and it makes for some huge nearfalls by the end. Roddy’s first backbreaker (12 minutes in, way later than he’d usually hit one in other matches) gets a huge reaction, as does all his other signature offense. Dropping Joe down on his knee repeatedly takes a lot out of him, though, to the point that he can’t lift the man for the Gibson Driver. He makes do with a butterfly suplex but it’s not nearly enough, so he takes Joe up top. There Joe’s able to pull out a big alternative in a way his inexperienced opponent couldn’t, as he murders Roddy with a sick death valley driver off the top for an out-of-nowhere three.
Look at the expression on Joe’s face. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about Roddy as a competitor? Didn’t need 50 minutes and him kicking out of three Muscle Busters to get there, either.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: I’ll take Joe’s expression here over whatever horseshit Shawn and Taker were pulling in Houston. Dramatic acting my ass.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25