365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
On January 14, 2006, Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling both held events in Philadelphia. No one knew it at the time, but this sparked a lengthy inter-promotional feud that provided a modern blueprint for what storylines of this type can be.
ROH called its event on this date “Hell Freezes Over” and it was an apt title with Chris Hero coming in and, in his very first match in the promotion, challenging Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Title. In the wake of this match, the CZW interlopers start showing up on a regular basis and exact some major violence in a “shock and awe” campaign on an ROH roster known more for “pure” wrestling and splintered by their own rivalries.
You can watch this match on Ring of Honor’s YouTube channel, which I’ve embedded below:
Since winning the ROH Title the previous September, Danielson had made a point to defend against competitors from other promotions as well as ROH mainstays. Hero used this “open contract” as his pathway to a title shot.
But how oh how to build it? Neither promotion had TV and YouTube was not the online powerhouse that it has become. So, how would Hero get his message to the masses? Twitter didn’t even exist yet. Neither did Instagram. Facebook, like YouTube, was still a relative neophyte in the online world.
There was only one answer. Hero had to write out what he had to say on LiveJournal, y’all!!!
Danielson added extra sizzle the day of the title match, when he crashed the afternoon CZW show in street clothes and cut a scathing interview on the promotion, its wrestlers and its fans, leading to a pull-apart brawl involving wrestlers from both rosters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t track down video from this.
The atmosphere at the start of the match is tremendous. There are MMA walkout vibes as CZW wrestlers Spyder Nate Webb, Adam Flash, Necro Butcher and a young Bryce Remsburg accompany Hero to the ring. The challenger is the invader and gets booed loudly but there is also a vocal contingent of CZW fans present. Whipping the fans into a frenzy, Hero grabs the mic and vows to win the title, take it back to CZW, and throw it in the trash. Meanwhile, Necro is so hyped before the match he punches himself in the head repeatedly until he draws blood.
This ROH Title run is my favorite iteration of Danielson’s work. The closest comparison came recently, when he emerged as the top challenger for Hangman Adam Page in All Elite Wrestling. Here Danielson is a supremely confident, technically proficient bully, bringing that same attitude to any and all title defenses.
Hero proves a nice foil for Danielson. After quite a bit of stalling and crowd work, we get into a strong technically-minded match that devolves into strikes, and then goes back to mat wrestling and holds, and so on. Momentum swings when Hero focuses in on the left arm of the champion. This includes a nifty hammerlock into a backbreaker with Danielson’s arm pinned behind his back that would have made the Andersons nod in approval 20-some years prior. Check out the 18-minute mark of the match or so, for some slick arm-related torment by Hero and some equally smooth counters by Danielson.
The champ breaks out of the hold by literally slapping his way out of it, unloading with strike after strike using his good arm and hand. After an aggressive back-and-forth of pin attempts between the two, both men try to finish it by submission — Hero with a version of the hangman’s clutch (or inverted cravate) with the arm trapped, and Danielson with his Cattle Mutilation.
It’s worth noting the changes in the crowd dynamic over the course of the match. As the match progresses, though, Hero starts earning the begrudging respect of the ROH fans — though not their support — before eventually succumbing to a crossface chicken wing at center ring.
Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak do a fine job on commentary: Prazak as the straight man calling it right down the middle and Leonard as the analyst leaning to favor the home team. When Hero hits his Hero’s Welcome finisher, Leonard’s repeated yelling “No!” adds to the imminent peril of the title changing hands.
Unfortunately, we have very little time to digest the outcome. Hero and the CZW crew make an immediate retreat after the final bell, and a segment ensues with The Embassy that sets up new potential challengers for Danielson but feels quite rushed.
Final Rating: 6.6
This is a good match worth seeing independent of the ROH-CZW feud and a fine microcosm of the Danielson ROH reign as a whole. Seek it out and, if you haven’t seen it and have access to ROH’s 2006 shows (which, like most of the promotion’s early library are out of print and have not been released on the ROH Honor Club streaming service), I recommend going for the ride and checking out the entire seven-month run of shows chronicling the feud between ROH and CZW.
The Lariat cometh to All Japan.