Austin Aries is the subject of our latest review as we take a look at another of Ring of Honor's compilations, a collection of matches that presents us with these questions: is he really as good as he boasts? Is he really The Greatest Man That Ever Lived?
As always with these collections let's start right at the beginning with.....
February 23rd, 2008
Our man begins this collection by taking on Japanese opposition in the form of Go Shiozaki at the 6th Anniversary Show.
To say that this was a great way to begin this whole collection would be a colossal understatement, because for twenty minutes these two put on one of the best matches I've seen in the past few months.
From start to finish it was jam packed with an absolute ton of hard-hitting action. We took a trip to chop city as they tried to take the skin off each other's chests, with Shiozaki invoking the spirit of his mentor Kenta Kobashi and winning that particular war. From there they put together some incredible sequences, the likes of which I haven't seen in quite a while. Aries did his thing, Shiozaki did his, and together they had the fans eating out of the palms of their hands.
It didn't matter to them just who won. When Aries was in trouble they cheered for him, and when Aries put his man in his horns of Aries submission hold they cried "please don't tap".
Eventually something had to give, and that was the visiting star. After Aries took him down with a brain buster in the corner he climbed to the top rope and came down with a 450 splash for the winning pin. Afterwards the fans rose as one to give both men a standing ovation.
But after they shook hands and Aries was about to celebrate his win the lights dimmed as he found himself on the receiving end of two propositions, one from Jimmy Jacobs and the Age of the Fall, and the other from Tammy Sytch, who promised that Aries would be seeing a lot of "sunny days". Mr. Aries asked for a little tip to think over this offer.
March 28th, 2008
Our man faces Japanese opposition once more as he takes on Genki Horiguchi at Dragon Gate Challenge II.
A short and sweet encounter here, and an altogether different type of foreign visitor, with Horiguchi not afraid to bend the rules a little in his attempt to gain victory. These two matched up pretty well in the size and speed department, with Horiguchi looking to get Dragon Gate's night off to a winning start. The only problem was that no matter what he did Aries kept coming at him.
But just when it looked like Horiguchi was going to take the upper hand Aries came back with a brain buster, and a few seconds later he was tapping out to the re-named last chancery to give Aries the submission win.
Once again Aries' post-match celebrations were interrupted by Jimmy Jacobs and Lacey of the Age of the Fall as they demanded that he give them an answer to their offer to join them. Tammy Sytch was there again too, but as before Aries turned them all down, saying that he wanted to focus on his upcoming World title match with Nigel McGuinness, and after he left Tammy and Lacey in the ring the two ladies argued briefly until Lacey took Tammy down with a boot to the bread basket and a DDT.
June 27th, 2008
After spurning Jimmy Jacob's advances the feud with the Age of the Fall is in full swing as our man takes on the Necro Butcher in a relaxed rules match at Battle for Supremacy.
So the question here is did Aries manage to make the Butcher look good? The answer to that is yes....and no.
The match began in the normal way. There was quite a bit of brawling, and once again Necro's offence and overall performance looked pretty poor, while that of Aries was the polar opposite. But five minutes in, and after Aries had dropkicked Necro off the ring apron and through a table things changed completely.
Aries took to the microphone and tried to convince the Butcher that Jacobs was using him to do his dirty work. He then said that because he had no problems with him that he wasn't going to fight him any more, that he wanted to save all of his anger for the following night's match with Jacobs. Necro didn't quite know what to make of this, and when he eventually began to unload on Aries again Aries just kept getting back up, standing with his arms behind his back, once again telling the Butcher that he wasn't going to fight.
The somewhat confused Butcher soon had enough. He soon found a chair and clobbered Aries over the head. A three count later it was all over, and the Butcher had the win.
June 28th, 2008
A day later our man finally gets his hands on Jimmy Jacobs at Vendetta II.
If you want to see an example of what a great grudge match should look like then watch this one. It has all the ingredients you could want in a heated feud, two guys who hate each other, some great wrestling and mind games early on, a brawl through the crowd, and that's just the first five minutes.
Seriously though this was a great encounter. Both guys worked their socks off for nearly thirty minutes in what has to be one of the most heated matches I've seen in a while as they beat the proverbial out of each other all around the arena. Everything they did just looked so good, from the brawling on the bleachers through to the big moves at ringside and, most importantly, the action in the ring.
Add in a brawl between the Briscoes and Jacobs' lackeys Tyler Black and the Necro Butcher, MsChief joining Jacobs' cause by spraying green mist into Aries' eyes, and Aries signalling his hatred for his opponent by delivering six successive running dropkicks into the corner then you've got yourself the kind of match you'd give a no-prize to.
In the end it was Aries who came out on top. After the aforementioned dropkicks he climbed to the top rope and came down with a 450 splash onto the prone Jacobs. A three count later and the battle had been won, with those in attendance giving both men a richly deserved standing ovation.
August 2nd, 2008
Our man battles Jacobs once more, but this time the Necro Butcher is thrown into the mix in a triple threat match at Death Before Dishonor VI.
Throughout the feud with Jacobs Aries had continued to try to convince the Butcher that Jacobs was just using him, and this was where things really came to a head as far as that aspect was concerned.
At first it looked as if this was going to be a handicap match, but after Aries managed to take Necro out with his suicide dive into the barricade it became a one on one affair as Aries and Jacobs went at it once again, and each time Necro tried to get back into the ring Aries sent him packing with a well-placed kick or punch.
Eventually the Butcher joined his boss in the ring, and for a short time all looked well as Jacobs directed traffic and Necro slammed Aries onto a chair. But when Necro went for the pin after Jacobs came down with a top rope senton onto Aries things began to fall apart. Jacobs was irate that Necro had tried to win the match, and although they quickly sorted things out their relationship fell apart completely a few moments later.
Jacobs grabbed the microphone and demanded that Necro pull out Aries' eyes with his own fingers. The Butcher was conflicted and reluctant to carry out Jacobs' orders, and after Jacobs pushed him away Aries came back with a chair in his hand. Jacobs ducked the shot as the Butcher took the full force of the blow on his back.
Aries quickly tossed the chair to Jacobs before he fell to the mat, and the first thing Necro saw when he turned around was Jacobs holding the chair. The Butcher was irate, convinced that his boss had clobbered him. Jacobs tried to talk his way out of the situation, but Necro was having none of it, and it wasn't long before he was unloading on Jacobs, putting an exclamation point on things when he smashed the chair over his head before leaving the ring.
As these events unfolded Aries had laid on the mat, and when he got back to his feet with a big smile on his face he soon finished what Necro had started. A running dropkick to the corner was followed by a brain buster, and a 450 splash from the top rope sealed the deal as Aries took the win.
November 8th, 2008
On the day of my 37th birthday, our man faces Jacobs again, this time in a dog collar match at Bound by Hate.
There's nothing like a good gimmick match to keep a feud going, and this one mixed sound psychology with a nice bit of gore.
As the match began Jacobs refused to put the collar on, and for the first five minutes or so he dominated the action as he used the chain to good effect. At one point he wrapped the chain around the ring post and tied Aries up in the corner, smashing a chair into his back. Eventually Aries managed to free himself, and with the studded collar wrapped around his fist he clobbered Jacobs in the skull, busting him open before finally putting the collar on him.
A brief appearance from Tyler Black saw Jacobs regain control, but as the back and forth brutality continued both men brought out the big chain-assisted moves. However, it was Aries who found the best way to use the chain, wrapping it around his knee so he could deliver several knee strikes to Jacobs head before applying the last chancery, and with the blood pouring down his face Jacobs had no choice but to tap out, giving Aries the submission win, as well as earning both men another standing ovation.
November 22nd, 2008
It's our man's final confrontation with Jacobs, this time in an I Quit match at Rising Above.
Out of all of the matches between these two on this collection this was by far the best, and it was certainly the most dramatic. That drama began before the start of the match when Aries revealed that, despite the fact that Jacobs had Tyler Black in his corner, ready to throw in the towel if need be, he didn't need anyone watching his back.
When the bell sounded they proceeded to beat the proverbial out of each other. Neither man held anything back in their attempt to gain that one last victory. But when Jacobs introduced the previously used dog collar chain into the equation the tide turned against Aries, and this time it was his turn to wear the crimson mask.
It got to the point where Jacobs used the chain to tie Aries to a chair in the middle of the ring. But then, from out of nowhere, Lacey, the woman who Jacobs tried to use to recruit Aries but ended up turning on him suddenly appeared, months after she'd been driven away from ROH by the Age of the Fall, pulling out a towel to reveal that she was acting as Aries' back-up.
Jacobs tried to use her to his advantage when he threatened to shove his trusty old railway spike into Aries' throat, telling her he'd do it if she didn't throw in the towel. The plot didn't work, and eventually Aries managed to free himself from his restraints and make his comeback.
After this it wasn't long before the blood was flowing from Jacobs as well, and after the brutality levels were turned up to eleven Jacobs tried to use Aries' own last chancery move to get the win. It didn't work, and neither did another attempt to use the railway spike.
All of this led to the ending. After Aries himself failed to put Jacobs away with his submission move of choice he finally got his hands on Jacobs' spike, and it was only after Aries stabbed him in the head a few times that the crazed cult leader finally said the magic words, giving Aries the much deserved win.
December 26th, 2008
Our man resumes normal service as he faces another visiting Japanese star in the form of Naomichi Marufuji at All Star Extravaganza IV.
While the ultra-intense feud with Jimmy Jacobs made for enjoyable viewing it was nice to see Aries get back to basics if you will. This match may not have had an extensive back-story to it, but that didn't matter. What did matter was that this was a very enjoyable encounter between two wrestlers at the top of their game.
So on the eve of big matches for both men it was just bragging rights that were up for grabs, and from start to finish this one was filled with great back and forth action as they matched each other hold for hold and move for move, with neither man able to get a sustained advantage.
As good as this match was though I couldn't help but think about some of the moves the visiting Japanese star executed. It seemed as if quite a few of Marufuji's most famous moves have since made their way into the arsenals of some top WWE stars. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, as they say.
As for the ending, well, that was kind of special in it's own way. When Marufuji grabbed Aries around the back of the neck everyone thought he was going for his version of sliced bread. Instead Marufuji pulled his man forward in what could be described as a somersault neckbreaker. It was a great-looking move, and enough to give Marufuji the winning pin.
December 27th, 2008
One day later and our man is facing Tyler Black for a shot at the gold at Final Battle.
As this match began I wondered if our esteemed commentators had a crystal ball with them when they praised Black and said that he was destined to become World Champion one day. Okay, I know they meant the ROH version, but I smiled a little considering what he's doing today.
But back to the matter at hand. This was a keenly contested affair, and a very interesting one, mainly because of the way the crowd were reacting. Aries was still in babyface mode here, but he began to grow increasingly frustrated with the support Black was getting, even though he was one of Jimmy Jacobs' Age of the Fall stooges.
Despite this Aries managed to get on with the task at hand, and although Black put in a great performance and almost took the pin on numerous occasions Aries cause was helped a little by his old enemy.
With Aries lying prone near the corner Black went to the top rope, but just as he was about to come down with a phoenix splash the aforementioned Mr. Jacobs appeared in the aisle telling him not to use the move. Black decided to go for the move anyway, the only problem was that by this time Aries had recovered, and after Black crashed and burned Aries took him down with a brain buster and sealed the deal with a 450 splash off the top rope, taking the pin and earning a shot at the title.
It was then that things took a slightly dramatic turn. Jacobs climbed into the ring to berate his charge, but when he grabbed him around the throat Black fought back, shoving him to the mat. Jacobs tried to plead his case until he connected with a low blow and locked in his end time submission. He then grabbed a steel chair and placed it around his neck.
Aries then returned to the ring and removed the chair, and just when it looked like he was going to renew his rivalry with Jacobs he turned around and smashed the chair over Black's head. A few moments later there was the somewhat surreal sight of Jacobs and Aries double-teaming Black, busting him open as the fans voiced their displeasure.
June 13th, 2009
With Nigel McGuinness as the special enforcer it's onto a triple threat elimination match as our man is joined by Tyler Black as they challenge Jerry Lynn for the World title at Manhattan Mayhem III.
Long-time readers will know that I'm a massive Jerry Lynn mark, which meant that my eyes were glued to my television for twenty minutes of pure excellence, not just from Lynn, but from all three men.
Originally this was meant to be a one-on-one between Aries and Lynn, with Ric Flair as the special enforcer, until Black used the title shot he'd earned to insert himself into the match, turning this into a three-way (now where have I see that before?). As for Flair, McGuinness took his place having apparently returned to Stamford, and judging by the Flair-mocking that came from the commentators and those in the match I assume the Nature Boy left with a flea in his ear.
The match itself featured a ton of exciting sequences. As expected Black and Lynn doubled up on Aries early on, and as the match progressed Aries brutalised Black's knee, hampering him a great deal, while Lynn put in his usual solid performance and made everyone, including himself, look a million dollars.
As for the eliminations.....
Lynn was the first to go. As Aries held him in a front face lock in preparation for a brain buster Black came back and took Aries down with a superkick, which Aries inadvertently taking Lynn out with a DDT. Black then grabbed the champion and connected with his God's last gift finisher for the pin.
So with the realisation that there would be a new champion Aries and Black resumed the match, putting together some excellent sequences. Despite his bad wheel he kept fighting back, and when Aries took him down with his brain buster/450 splash combo Black frustrated him even more when he reached the ropes.
More Flair mocking followed as Aries applied a figure four, but when McGuinness stopped him using the ropes for assistance it almost cost him when Black came back with a schoolboy roll-up. More great back and forth exchanges followed, but when Black went for his patented buckle bomb his knee gave out completely. This was the chance that Aries needed, and after taking Black out with another brain buster he took the winning pin to become the first two-time ROH World Champion.
July 24th, 2009
It's multi-man action once more as our man faces three challengers to his World title in the form of Tyler Black, Jerry Lynn and Nigel McGuinness at Death Before Dishonor VII Night 1.
This proved to be another quality multi-man encounter, and the addition of McGuinness, fit again after his injury problems, made for some very interesting exchanges.
All four men put in flawless performances throughout. It began in the usual way as they broke off into two groups of two, and as the match went on and they exchanged opponents things certainly became more heated and intense.
Move of the night came when McGuinness was trying to take both Aries and Lynn down from the top rope with his Tower of London move, but when Black came in and connected with a superkick to McGuinness the former champion slumped to the mat, inadvertently still executing the move he wanted to do in the first place.
With just one pin needed to get the win it was Aries who came out on top as he picked the bones as it were, and with a little help from a friend. After Lynn took McGuinness down with the spiked piledriver Black took Lynn out with a superkick. But when he went to the top in preparation for his phoenix splash Aries' flunky Kenny King pushed him off the top rope, taking him out of the action. Aries then seized the opportunity and came down off the top rope with a somersault leg drop for the title-retaining pin.
ROH on HDNet Episode 22
It's a non-title match for our man, and an encounter with his former tag team partner in a television match against Roderick Strong.
These two have such great chemistry together that they could probably wrestle each other wearing blindfolds. This was a corker of a match and a great piece of storytelling from start to finish. Both combatants put in great performances.
It began with them matching each other hold for hold, but it wasn't long before the hard-hitting exchanges emerged. Strong's chops looked as brutal as ever, and his backbreaker variations looked just as devastating.
Aries, for his part, looked in fine fettle, and with the burden of a title defence lifted from his shoulders he was able to match Strong in every department, although he did throw in a few underhanded tactics along the way.
For a while it looked like Strong was going to get the win as he took Aries down time and time again, but when he went for the stronghold Aries countered with a schoolboy roll-up, using the ropes for a little extra leverage as he took the winning pin.
September 19th, 2009
It's a battle of two future "big two" World Champions as our man puts his title on the line against Bryan Danielson at The Final Countdown Tour: Chicago.
Speaking of two guys who have great chemistry these two had a series of classic matches a few years before, including one that lasted nearly eighty minutes, so it seemed kind of natural that they should face each other again in one of Danielson's final ROH appearance.
As with the Strong encounter it's a top notch match from start to finish, with move countered by move and so on and so forth, with Aries annoying the fans when he tried his luck with a few of the Dragon's trademark moves.
The best sequences came as the match went into overdrive. Both men came close to getting the win on numerous occasions, the best of which came when Aries went for a 450 splash off the top rope and Danielson caught him and locked in a triangle choke as he hit the mat. Only someone like Danielson could make that look as smooth as it did.
But with Danielson soon to be leaving for the bright lights of NXT it was a little obvious who was going to come out on top, and after they treated us to a shed load of great action Aries finally got the upper hand when he took his man down with a super brainbuster and locked in the last chancery. As the crowd chanted "please don't tap" they got want they wanted, but not in the way that they wanted, and when Danielson passed out the referee called for the bell to give Aries the submission win.
November 14th, 2009
A trip to Canada sees our man defending his title against Kenny Omega at The Omega Effect.
Let's be completely honest here. As good as this match was it's probably the weakest match of the collection, the main fault being that at nearly 35 minutes it was about 10-15 minutes too long.
The action certainly can't be faulted. Both wrestlers put in good performances, although it did take a little while to get going. Omega looked pretty impressive, especially when he took to the air, and Aries put in his usual solid performance, but it was as the match went on and on it occurred to me that they'd given them way too much time.
In the end it was Aries who came out on top. When a brainbuster failed to put Omega away Aries took him down with the same move, this time keeping a hold of his head and neck for a few well-placed knee strikes before he applied the last chancery for the submission win.
ROH on HDNet Episode 37
Our man defends his title against Kenny Omega again, but this time Davey Richards and Roderick Strong join the challenge for a spot of four-way action.
Now this was a little more like it, a fast-paced television match with plenty of hard-hitting action and good performances from all concerned. In fact the action was so fast and crazy at times it's possible I may have missed something.
Omega looked a lot better here than he did in the singles match, and once again he looked at his best when he took to the air, while Strong and Richards were their usual hard-hitting selves, especially when they were up against each other. As for Aries, he matched up well with all three of them, except towards the end when he played the part of the cowardly heel perfectly.
That was when Strong and Richards were really beating the proverbial out of each other with a tirade of chops and hard kicks. Neither man backed down until Strong butterflyed Richards' arms and took him down with a powerbomb. But when he went for the pin Aries, who'd more or less disappeared from the scene, suddenly leapt into the ring and kicked Strong in the noggin to break up his pin. He then picked the bones that Strong had left by pinning Richards for the title-retaining pin.
December 5th, 2009
It's the final match of the collection as our man enters the steel cage to defend his title against Colt Cabana at Reverse the Curse.
The normally fun-loving Cabana was all business in this one, mainly because of the stipulation that stated if he lost another World title match in Chicago he wouldn't get another shot at the belt in his hometown again.
Now if you're used to cage matches where the wrestlers spend most of their time throwing each other into the metal you may be a little put off by this. The first part of the encounter was a bonafide wrestling match, with Aries working over Cabana's legs in preparation for the figure four, with Aries applying the hold and using a little legal leverage from the ropes as he looked for the submission win.
Cabana managed to survive that little scare, and as the match moved on there was quite a bit of jockeying for position on the top rope as both men tried to make their escape. There were also numerous attempts to get out through the door, which led to the obligatory slamming the door into an opponent's head spot.
There were some wrestlers getting thrown into the fence segments, some of which led to both wrestlers bleeding for their efforts, but as Cabana upped his game it looked like he would finally get his wish and finally win the title in front of his hometown fans as he took control. But when Aries was slumped against the cage Cabana went for reverse butt-butt move. However, the impact from the move broke the fence and sent Aries crashing through to the ground outside, and because made it to the floor first Aries was declared the winner, much to the annoyance of not only Cabana but of head honcho Jim Cornette as well.
In conclusion - six hours and a few thousand words later I finally have an answer to the question I was posed at the beginning of this piece. Does Austin Aries live up to the rather boastful title of this compilation.
In real-life terms no way, but that's pretty obvious. In wrestling terms I'd have to say no as well. But as far as modern day, 21st century wrestling is concerned I'd have to say that he's definitely one of the best I've seen in the past few years.
If this collection proves anything it shows that Aries is more than capable of getting a good match out of a variety of opponents in any style. He even managed to get a half-decent match out of the Necro Butcher, and that's something you won't hear me say that often. He's also great at working on both sides of the fence as it were, as a sympathetic babyface or as a boastful, cowardly villain.
Another thing about this collection, and I know I've said this before, is the who's who of future stars that appear here. If you include Aries himself there's three future "big two" World Champions, two future ROH World Champions and a former ECW World Champion. That's quite a line up.
So having said all that there's just one more thing to do, and that's to give this collection the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Austin Aries: The Greatest Man That Ever Lived is available to buy online at www.rohwrestling.com.