Monday, 3 September 2012

Austin Aries: Evolution of A-Double - DVD Review

He’s the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion, which is why Ring of Honor have once again dipped into their archives for another astute piece of marketing, a two disc set looking at the career of the man who is also a two-time ROH World Champion. The set in question is Austin Aries: Evolution of A-Double.

The set features 17 matches from his ROH career from 2004-07, so what better place to start than with…..

Disc 1
December 26th, 2004
It starts with a big one as Aries challenges Samoa Joe for the World title at Final Battle 2004.

By the time this match took place Joe had been champion for nearly two years and had an aura of invincibility about him. Which meant that hardly anybody gave Aries a chance in this one.

With Aries’ Generation Next buddy Roderick Strong and Joe’s protégé Jay Lethal watching on from ringside the big Samoan dominated the early going, clearly thinking that Aries wasn’t even in his league.

As the match progressed Aries kept coming back time and time again, frustrating the champion and taking it to him with a wide variety of moves.

Eventually Aries got closer and closer to getting the pin, and when Joe finally realised just how much fight his challenger had in him Aries countered the Muscle Buster attempt with a Crucifix Bomb, sealing the deal with a 450 splash from the top rope.

Afterwards the crowd gave Aries a standing ovation as Joe placed the belt around the new champion’s waist, telling him to defend the title with honour and pride.

April 2nd, 2005
Aries defends the title against Homicide at the Best of the American Super Juniors tournament.

This part-brawl part-technical battle proved to be a very intriguing affair, mainly because it consisted of the man everyone though was going to beat Samoa Joe for the title against the man who actually accomplished that feat.

Despite the fact that due to various delays the match began well after midnight the crowd were really into it as Aries and Homicide went at it full pelt, and although he could have easily matched the champion in the hold for hold department Homicide chose to try and beat the proverbial out of his man.

Aries put in a great performance, coming back time and time again and taking his challenger down with some nice moves, but when Homicide tried to put him through the apparently unbreakable timekeeper’s table with a dive over the top rope it looked all over. The only problem was that Homicide did a great deal of harm to himself as well when he landed over the guardrail and in the front row.

Eventually they made it back into the ring, and after Aries made his comeback and took Homicide down with the 450 splash from the top rope it looked all over, until Homicide’s cohort Julius Smokes pulled Aries out of the ring as the referee was about to count to three.

This brought Bryan Danielson down to ringside. Danielson was feuding with Homicide at the time and basically beat the snot out of Smokes as he dragged him backstage.

Back in the ring both men came close to getting the pin until Aries took Homicide down with a “three amigos” of brain busters before finally taking the winning pin after a second 450 splash from the top rope.

May 7th, 2005
Aries defends the World title against his former Generation Next buddy Alex Shelley at Manhattan Mayhem.

Shelley went into this one trying to make amends for his actions while he was the leader of G-Next, and while the locker room didn’t want anything to do with him those in attendance clearly did.

This was one of those matches that would have easily fitted into TNA’s X Division. It was a great back and forth encounter between two evenly-matched men. Both men knew the other like the back of their hand as Shelley sought revenge for the way he was thrown out of their group.

Aries’ plan was simple, to target Shelley’s previously injured neck so he could set him up for the brain buster. It that respect he did a pretty good job, but the future owner of Paparazzi Productions kept coming back, frustrating the champion.

Both guys looked great, with Shelley in particular putting in a tremendous showing, almost getting the win on numerous occasions, coming closest after he took Aries down with his Shell-Shock finisher.

It wasn’t enough to put the champion away though, and after some great sequences Aries finally managed to take Shelley down with the brain buster, finishing him off with the 450 splash.

May 13th, 2005
Aries defends the World title against James “Jamie Noble” Gibson at The Final Showdown.

These two were as even as two wrestlers could be, same height, same weight, and same technical wizardry. It was this that led to their double pin during their previous encounter, an encounter that would have continued had Alex Shelley not attacked Aries just as the referee was about to re-start the match.

It began with some great technical exchanges before Aries took control, working over Gibson’s left arm to good effect, especially when he rammed the limb into the guardrail.

As Gibson made his comeback both men brought out the heavy artillery, and towards the end it looked as if it could go either way after Gibson kicked out of a pin after Aries’ 450 splash, and Aries kicked out after Gibson’s Tiger Driver.

Aries also managed to survive Gibson’s submission hold of choice at the time, the guillotine, but when he missed a moonsault Aries raced up to the top rope to attempt another 450.

Gibson managed to head him off at the pass though, and after a couple of well-placed chops he climbed the ropes himself and applied another guillotine choke. It meant nothing though, and as the referee tried to get Gibson to release the hold Aries dived forward, driving his challenger into the mat for the winning pin.

May 14th, 2005
One day later Aries defends the World title against Bryan Danielson at Nowhere to Run.

If you’ve read my recent review of ROH’s DVD tribute to Danielson you’ll already know about the storied rivalry between these two, so it seemed fitting that the future Daniel Bryan would feature here.

As with Gibson Aries was a match for Danielson in every department. It’s another classic between two guys who know each other so well, but unlike the other title defences Aries displayed a few heel mannerisms, such as grabbing hold of Danielson’s busy beard when the Dragon tried to whip him into the ropes.

At one point Aries tried to take a leaf out of Danielson’s play book, threatening to use the aeroplane spin before attempting a Cattle Mutilation, which Danielson managed to easily escape from.

Despite having had his arm worked over by Aries Danielson eventually managed to lock in the Cattle Mutilation himself, but it didn’t get the job done. He then went for the aeroplane spin, and after about 20 or so rotations Aries managed to counter with his Crucifix Bomb, setting his challenger up for the Brain Buster/450 splash combination and the winning pin.

June 4th, 2005
Aries defends the World title against Brian “Spanky” Kendrick at New Frontiers.

Out hero was in full heel mode in this one, having helped his Generation Next cohort Roderick Strong send their former buddy Alex Shelley to the hospital. He also had a neck injury to worry abut.

It was an injury that Spanky targeted to good effect early on with a variety of holds, and he almost went for his trademark move, Sliced Bread #2, at one point.

Aries soon replied in kind when the action spilled out of the ring as he took Spanky down with a piledriver onto a chair. When the action returned to the squared circle he began to work over Spanky’s neck, trying to beat him at his own game.

So with both men going for the same body part it became a very interesting contest offence-wise, with Spanky almost getting the win when he finally took the champion down with Sliced Bread #2, only for Aries to break the pin by grabbing the ropes.

Moments later Spanky did further damage to Aries’ neck with a Tombstone, but it wasn’t long before Aries came out on top, executing the 450 splash for the winning pin.

October 29th, 2005
Now bereft of the World title Aries goes up against A.J. Styles at This Means War.

I’ve said this many times before, the ROH version of Styles was a completely different animal to the one we’ve seen in the Asylum and the Impact Zone over the past ten years, and it showed again in this match.

This was one of those intriguing back and forth affairs filled with great technical action from start to finish. Aries entered the ring with a back injury courtesy of his exertions at Survival of the Fittest, which meant that as far as Styles was concerned he had a massive bull’s eye on his spine.

Styles did a good job of exploiting the injury, and although Aries was able to make a few comebacks his pain meant that it was difficult for him to execute certain moves later on.

He did managed to take Styles down with his brain buster at the second attempt, but Styles managed to foil his attempt to fly from the top roe before taking him down with a unique version of the Styles Clash as he flew backwards and sent Aries crashing to the mat for the three count, Aries’ first defeat in this collection.

January 7th, 2006
Aries is a champion once again as he joins Roderick Strong in defending the Tag Team titles against World Champion Bryan Danielson and his number one contender Jay Lethal at Tag Wars.

This was good. Danielson and Lethal were in full heel mode here, with Danielson cocky because of his recent title win and Lethal arrogant after turning his back on his mentor Samoa Joe.

These roles were evident early on when Danielson chopped Strong in the corner and immediately tagged Lethal in so Strong couldn’t get in a shot or two of his own.

From there we saw Strong taking a beating at the hands of the heels. They enraged the crowd when they slammed Strong down before getting the quick tag over and over again.

It wasn’t long before Strong got the tag, and in a notable turn of events the Generation Next team took it in turn to take Danielson down with their version of his aeroplane spin, making frequent tags so they didn’t get too dizzy.

The bodies then began to fly all over the place as the inevitable brawl began, with Lethal looking particularly good when he came down off the top rope and took Strong down with a DDT.

It looked all over moments later when Danielson put Strong in the Cattle Mutilation. Strong managed to survive, and as Aries kept Lethal occupied Strong put Danielson in the Stronghold, with the American Dragon tapping out as the champions retained their titles.

Disc 2
February 25th, 2006
Aries and Strong defend their Tag Team titles once again, this time against A.J. Styles and Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal at the 4th Anniversary Show.

Sydal, at the time, was a member of Generation Next with Aries and Strong, but after Styles competed against him the Phenomenal One wanted Sydal to become his partner. A somewhat reluctant Aries agreed to Sydal’s request.

Out of the two tag matches featured in this collection this was by far the best. Both teams were pretty much even in every department, and that made for a highly enjoyable encounter.

Styles and Strong took it in turns to act as the crash test dummy in this one as both teams engaged in bouts of hard-hitting action, and in between these segments we saw all four men take to the skies, with Sydal out-doing everyone with his moonsault from the top rope to the floor.

The mass brawl took the action up a notch as we saw numerous false finishes. Sydal came close to getting the win for his team when he took Aries out with a shooting star press from the top, only for A-Double to put his foot on the rope when he went for the pin.

In the end the champions emerged victorious. Strong took Sydal down with his many back breaker variations before Aries finished the job with a 450 splash from the top rope.

Afterwards, as the ticker tape rained down from the ceiling all four men were given a standing ovation by the fans in attendance.

March 11th, 2005
Aries faces Sydal again, this time in singles competition at Arena Warfare, ROH’s debut at the famous ECW Arena.

This was a continuation of Sydal’s friendly rivalry with his Generation Next team matches, and those of you who are only familiar with Sydal’s high-flying antics may be a little surprised with the first few moments in this one.

Sydal was able to match Aries hold for hold early on, even stifling his usual head scissors into a dropkick escape. The sequences here were pretty good, but it wasn’t long before both men took to the air.

As time went on Aries began to get more and more frustrated. He was throwing everything he had at Sydal, but he kept coming back time and time again, coming close to getting the pin on numerous occasions, the closest being when he took Aries down with his Here It Is Driver.

Aries managed to avoid the Shooting Star from the top rope though, and it wasn’t long before he finally took Sydal down with the Brain Buster for the winning pin.

September 15th, 2006
Aries, still co-holder of the Tag belts, takes on Davey Richards at Glory by Honor V Night 1.

Aries came into this one with his rubs taped up, having suffered some broken bones during a title defence against the Briscoes during ROH’s first ever show in England. It was an injury that took him out of the following night’s show, forcing a drastic change in the match line-up that night.

Despite the obvious target Richards hardly attacked Aries’ injured ribs. Instead these two engaged in a tremendous wrestling contest, exchanging a wide variety of holds as well as numerous hard-hitting blows.

Richards showed just why the company would put so much faith in him a few years later as he matched Aries move for move, using the kind of tactics that would take him to the World title.

Although he was injured Aries didn’t let that stop him as he kept up with the promotional newcomer, but as the match went on he began to realise just what Richards was all about.

It looked all over when Aries finally took Richards down with the Brain Buster, only for the future American Wolf to kick out at the last minute. A quick hard-hitting exchange followed before Aries took his man down with a second Brain Buster for the winning pin.

February 23rd, 2007
Aries is without a title as he faces Tag Team Champion Matt Sydal again for Sydal’s Dragon Gate Open the Brave Gate title at the Fifth Year Festival show in Dayton.

This was the first time a Dragon gate title had been defended on American soil, and it was a pretty good encounter, a lot different to their previous match on this collection.

Aries, now sans his Generation Next faction after being attacked by Roderick Strong and Davey Richards the previous month went into this one nursing an ankle injury, and although it slowed him down at times he put in a pretty good effort.

Sydal, for his part, pulled out more of his high-flying arsenal than in the previous match, and the move where he leapt up from the mat to take Aries down from the top rope with a flying head scissors looked pretty cool.

But despite putting on a good showing Aries came up short. Sydal managed to take his former team-mate down with the Here It Is Driver before sealing the deal with the Shooting Star Press from the top rope.

April 27th, 2007
Aries gets another crack at the World title when he challenges Pro Wrestling NOAH star Takeshi Morishima at The Battle of St. Paul.

This was brutal, but in a good way. Aries attacked the big man as soon as the bell rang, but it wasn’t long before Morishima began to brutalize his challenger, throwing Aries around the ring as if he was a piece of rubbish.

It was one of those encounters you couldn’t take your eyes off as Aries kept coming back. His offence may have been fleeting but he managed to take it to Morishima time and time again, wearing him down with a variety of blows.

Eventually hell froze over as Aries managed to take Morishima down with the Brain Buster. The crowd reacted as if he’d taken down the mighty Godzilla. Aries quickly went to the top rope, coming down with the 450 splash. It wasn’t enough to put the champion away though as he managed to get to the bottom rope.

Aries went to the top again, but by this time Morishima had recovered enough to stop him, joining him on the top so he could take his man down with a Backdrop Driver. But like Aries’ attempts before it wasn’t enough to get the job done.

But after what seemed like an age of brutality Morishima finally took the win with a regular Backdrop Driver.

October 6th, 2007
Aries finally gets his hands on Roderick Strong at Undeniable.

This certainly was a highly-charged affair, and one of the best grudge matches I’ve seen in an ROH ring.

Aries managed to outwit his man early on, but it wasn’t long before Strong took control, working over his opponent’s spine with his series of backbreakers and a reverse bear hug.

The action went up a gear when Aries made his comeback, and the frustration of both men was apparent for all to see as they attempted to put the other way.

Having survived the big moves Aries could see that there was only one way to get the win, and that was by using the table that Strong himself tried to introduce into the match. With the table perched between the ring apron and the guardrail Aries put Strong through it with a Brain Buster, pushing him back into the ring for the three count and the win.

October 5th, 2007
It’s the first of the Best of Three Series between Aries and his old rival Bryan Danielson at Honor Nation.

This was good, really good. In fact it was a technical master class between two men at the top of their game.

There was no babyface/heel divide in this one, and hardly any punches as Aries and Danielson put on a great display of technical wrestling, matching each other hold for hold and move for move.

The majority of the action took place in the ring, and the only time the action spilled to the outside was when Aries took Danielson down with his trademark suicide dive.

As the match went on the big moves came out from both men. I lost count of how many times they came close to getting the win, but after Danielson almost took the win with a triangle choke Aries soon applied a submission hold that had no name, wrenching back on his head and neck as Danielson tapped to give Aries the submission win and a lead in the series.

October 21st, 2007
It’s on to the second match in the series as they face off at Chaos at the Cow Palace.

This was another classic, and for the most part it was entirely different from the first encounter.

Danielson began by working over Aries’ legs with a variety of holds, moving onto his arms at various points as he looked to lock in a cross arm breaker.

Aries kept coming back though, putting on another great display as he sought to eliminate the need for a third encounter.

Danielson looked like he was finally going to get the win when he locked in the Cattle Mutilation until Aries managed to escape. A few moments later Aries countered with the hold that brought him victory in their first encounter.

It wasn’t to be though as Danielson took Aries down with an inside cradle for the winning pin, evening the series at one apiece.

November 2nd, 2007
It’s the final match of the series, and the final match of this collection as Danielson and Aries square off again at Glory by Honor VI Night 1.

I can’t really say that they saved the best for last with this one, mainly because it was just as good as the previous two matches.

Once again it was a different kind of match than the other two in this series, and this time around they didn’t really focus on any specific body part as they matched each other in the technical department.

This time around we saw more of the trademark moves though, with Danielson bringing out the aeroplane spin for the first time in ages, a move which Aries managed to counter after a few rotations with a roll-up.

They then went for various submission holds, and at one point Danielson thought Aries had passed out when he was in the triangle choke as he barely made it to the ropes to break the hold.

As the match neared it’s conclusion Aries took control once again, taking Danielson down with his Brain Buster before getting the pin after the 450 splash, winning the series and earning a shot at World Champion Nigel McGuinness.

In conclusion - do I really need to write this bit? Well, here it is anyway.

Ring of Honor have done it again. As one of their all-time greats reigns as the World Champion of a rival promotion they’ve given us a magnificent collection showing the man at his best.

I really can’t speak too highly about this one. From top to bottom it’s filled with tremendous matches, and like the other ROH compilations I’ve reviewed in the past few months it contains a veritable who’s who of wrestlers who have competed at the very top level over the past few years.

Austin Aries may not be the greatest man who ever live, but he’s certainly one of the greatest wrestlers of the 21st century. This DVD is evidence of that fact, and it’s for this reason that Evolution of A-Double gets the big thumbs up from me.

With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Austin Aries: Evolution of A-Double is available to buy online at

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