365 Wrestling, Day 51: Chris Hero & Mike Quackenbush vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (CHIKARA, 2/20/05)

365 Wrestling, Day 51: Chris Hero & Mike Quackenbush vs. Kevin Steen & El Generico (CHIKARA, 2/20/05)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

It would be easy when picking matches for this project to just look up one of the many “on this day in wrestling history” features or identify one of the highest-rated matches from that day, watch it, and go on to the next entry. Honestly, this seems too easy, and would lead to multiple write-ups essentially saying “You should watch this match you already know is good because it is good.”

Pass.

While I have watched the occasional well-regarded match that I just happened to have miss, I’d rather go the obscure route. Give me a very good match that most people haven’t seen, or a look at a wrestler or team from the early days of their career. Or, sometimes, both. In this entry, I fire up the Wayback Machine to 2005, to see Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush face Kevin Steen and El Generico as part of CHIKARA’s Tag World Grand Prix.

You can watch this match and, I believe, the entire available CHIKARA catalog over at IWTV.

The Context

CHIKARA was known for its tournaments and had three that happened annually or almost every year: the Young Lions Cup, intended for wrestlers with less than 50 pro matches, and later those who were 25 or younger; the King of Trios, a weekend-long tournament of — you guessed it — trios matches that was one of the hottest tickets on the independent circuit in the early 2010s; and the Tag World Grand Prix. This is the second Grand Prix and has a whopping 32 teams. This match kicks off the quarterfinal round, on a night where the semifinals and finals also are scheduled.

Quackenbush is the promoter of CHIKARA and, at this point, co-head trainer of his Wrestle Factory school along with Hero. Before closing in 2020 after allegations were made against Quackenbush and CHIKARA as part of the #SpeakingOut movement, the Wrestle Factory produced a veritable plethora of talented graduates, several of whom have gone on to big careers in wrestling. Here, Quackenbush and Hero have joined forces as The Superfriends with the goal of winning the tournament. In a pre-match promo, during which Hero is sporting a sweet Kamala T-shirt, he promises he and Quackenbush will reach the finals.

Steen and Generico (you might know them better as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn) are billed here as Team IWS, representing International Wrestling Syndicate, the Quebec-based promotion where they got their start. They’ve only been part of the scene in America for a few months, and this weekend was the first time either had come to CHIKARA.

The Match

This is not what I’d call a “standard” American tag team match because it lacks that one segment where one team remains in control for an extended period of time, even though the match itself goes more than 15 minutes from bell to bell and is actually the longest of the four quarterfinals on the card.

Hero has always had a unique style, heavily influenced by European grappling with an abundance of chain wrestling, and he shows it off here, especially in the first few minutes of the match as part of a protracted exchange with Generico. He’s just not as vicious or arrogant about it as he was in his other installment in the project, when he was in pure dick-heel mode against Bryan Danielson.

If you’re a big fan of either Steen or Generico, or only seen them wrestle in WWE, this match is an eye opener. Both are 20 years old here and look every bit of it. Watching this match and surveying the rail-thin frame of Generico, he doesn’t even look like the same person.

The action is solid, and occasionally too cutesy for its own good — a common occurrence in CHIKARA, which worked comedy into its general wrestling style as much if not more than any other promotion in North America. Another hallmark of CHIKARA is having matches in unique settings. Several of their early shows occurred at a fire station in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in a room that looked like the fellowship hall I frequented in various churches living here in the Southeast, usually for meals following funerals. Here, the venue is The Staircase — an intimate concert venue in Pittston, Pennsylvania, that now appears to be closed according to my Googling. Making a habit of holding wrestling events in venues that aren’t traditional for wrestling allows for all kinds of unique angles, entranceways, and even spots. Case in point: late in this match, Quack goes outside the ring and to the back of the stage, which has several rows of seated fans. He gets a running start and, while Hero holds down the top rope, delivers a senton off the stage onto Steen. It’s a great moment in a match where most of the additional value is historic in nature, as Quack and Hero march on in their drive to win the tournament.

Hero’s wording in the pre-match promo is key, as he betrays Quackenbush in the finals against Arik Cannon and Claudio Castagnoli (aka Cesaro). He’s been teasing a turn throughout the tournament and that continues here. After Quackenbush pins Steen, he stays in the ring for a show of sportsmanship with his opponents, while Hero quickly heads for the back.

Random Thoughts

–Watching this match reminded me that, aside from starting a podcast, Hero has remained on the sidelines since he was released from WWE in April of 2020. I think he’d be a great asset for any promotion with television but probably the best fit with ROH. Just my opinion.

Bryce Remsburg, now part of AEW, is the referee here.

Dave Prazak and the late Larry Sweeney are on commentary here. We’ll definitely get to Sweeney at some point in the project.

Final Rating: 5.5

There are a few moments ranging between good and great (Quack’s senton from the stage is pretty spectacular), but this match just felt too long. That said, it’s a nice snapshot of Steen/Owens and Generico/Zayn at an early stage in their career, and serves as a plot point for Hero’s betrayal in the main event, but not really a match I would say you should go out of your way to watch unless you’re a big fan of the wrestlers involved or watching CHIKARA shows in full to digest the twists and turns of their booking.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Up Next

Prepare yourself… for the White Castle of Fear! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN!

Got something to say about this match, or the project, or anything wrestling-related? Reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)

365 Wrestling, Day 14: Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero (ROH Hell Freezes Over, 1/14/06)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

As mentioned before, the January portion of this project is about showing love to some all-time favorites of mine. Mostly favorite wrestlers, but also promotions, eras… and feuds. My selection for January 14 is the first chapter in one of my favorite feuds of all time: the Ring of Honor vs. CZW rivalry from 2006.

This inter-promotional feud just underscores what the WCW/ECW Invasion could have been. The CZW interlopers exact some major violence in a “shock and awe” campaign on an ROH roster known more for “pure” wrestling and splintered by their own interpersonal rivalries. Strange alliances are made, like loathed heel Adam Pearce becoming one of the standard-bearers for ROH and a subsequent fan favorite. The overarching invasion splinters off into individual feuds, like BJ Whitmer and his issue with Super Dragon, then Necro Butcher. We’ve got secret traitors. We’ve got betrayals. We’ve got highs and lows, all culminating in a CZW specialty — the Cage of Death — that summer to settle the score and also immediately launch the main storyline in ROH for the latter part of 2006.

I love this feud so much and I’ve seen most of it … except the first match where it really all began, when Chris Hero challenged Bryan Danielson (you might know him better as Daniel Bryan) for the ROH World Title.

You can watch this match on Ring of Honor’s YouTube channel.

The Context

This all started when ROH and CZW both booked shows in Philadelphia on the same day. CZW opted to move its event, which had been scheduled first if I recall correctly, to an afternoon bell time so fans could have the option to attend both. That made Hero, a CZW mainstay and one half of the promotion’s tag champs with Claudio Castagnoli (now known as Cesaro in WWE), quite unhappy, and led to the following promo:

Meanwhile, 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. This was dubbed as an “open contract” format and led names like Steve Corino and Naomichi Marufuji to come in and test their mettle against Danielson. Hero would use this “open contract” to get his own shot at the champ.

Now, neither promotion had TV and YouTube was not the online powerhouse that it used to be. So, when it came to talking trash and building heat before walking into ROH as the hated invader, 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 big title match, when he crashed the 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 Match

I spent a good portion of my professional career covering college football and this felt like a rivalry game: with loud boos for the road rival, who also is represented by a small but vocal contingent of its own fans. As if there already isn’t enough heat and hype surrounding this match, Hero adds to it with a promo where he vows to win the title, take it back to CZW, and throw it in the trash. Hero gets his mic cut as “The Final Countdown” plays out Danielson.

We’ve got a big-fight feel, with several other members of the CZW roster walking to the ring with Hero like cornermen for a boxing match or MMA fight. The two combatants go nose to nose and, since it’s both a title match and the main event, we get the boxing-style intros from longtime ROH announcer Bobby Cruise.

As much as I enjoy his career whether he went by Danielson or Daniel Bryan, and not to downplay any of his later feats (like main eventing a WrestleMania), this ROH Title run is my favorite iteration of Danielson’s. He’s a supremely confident, technically proficient bully of a champion, bringing that same attitude to his defenses whether facing a fan favorite like Samoa Joe or Colt Cabana or a member of The Embassy.

Hero, meanwhile, looks and wrestles quite differently than he has in later years — either as Hero on the independent circuit or Kassius Ohno during two runs under the WWE banner. He’s yet to adopt the big, brutalizing strikes that are now his bread and butter. Hero leans more on the European-influenced mat aspects of his style, which is part of Danielson’s wrestling ethos, too. That technical proficiency also allows Hero to stave off some of Danielson’s signature offense, such as the surfboard.

Danielson controls about the first half of the match until 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. First, after Hero delivers a rolling elbow right to the bicep of the injured left arm, he hooks one of his signature submissions — a hangman’s clutch (or inverted cravate) with the arm trapped. Danielson gets to the ropes, and a few moments later, he ensnares Hero in his Cattle Mutilation submission. Hero rolls through while still in the hold and gets to the ropes. Even though he was close to victory, Danielson comes out of his trademark submission clutching at his left arm, selling the physical toll of the match.

Pay attention to the crowd dynamic throughout this match. For most of the contest, the ROH fans are incredibly vocal whether mocking Hero with chants encouraging him to fornicate himself, and overall thirsting for his bloody, violent end at the hands of their champion. As the match progresses, though, he starts earning the begrudging respect of the ROH fans — though not their support,. In what marked a ballyhooed debut match in ROH, Hero more than holds up his own end before eventually succumbing to a crossface chicken wing at center ring.

Random Thoughts

— I mentioned it before but watching Hero here and watching any of his matches from the last five years or so is almost like watching two different wrestlers. I like what Hero brings here, but I prefer the modern version, for the record.

— The collection of CZW personnel accompanying Hero includes Spyder Nate Webb, Adam Flash, Necro Butcher and a young Bryce Remsburg in the black and yellow stripes of as CZW referee shit. Necro is so hyped before the match he punches himself in the head repeatedly until he draws blood. The CZW crew stay docile observers throughout the match, which adds to the “real sport” feel of the bout.

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 late in the match, Leonard’s repeated yelling “No!” adds to the imminent peril of the title changing hands.

— I might focus on commentators more than most where I’ve done that work, but the third man in the booth does NOT add to what we see. Gabe Sapolsky, who went by the nom de plume of Jimmy Bower whenever he was part of the perpetually unseen commentary booth, makes several verbal appearances during the match as an unabashed ROH cheerleader, burying Hero and all the CZW personnel for most of his appearances before delegating a small bit of respect to the challenger late in the match. Gabe, I mean Jimmy, sometimes adds a lot on commentary where he’s also the one building the stories and making the matches but I would have preferred they stick with the two-man commentary team for the duration on this one.

— Line of the match: Prazak tells Hero to “back up his words on his LiveJournal.” What, no Myspace status?

— As far as longevity goes, where do the runs of Cruise and referee Todd Sinclair with ROH rank at this point? Both have been with the company for more than 15 years.

— Danielson still has welts on his chest match from a brutal defense against Roderick Strong in the fall of 2005 which is amazing and vicious and might make me break my rule about not re-watching matches as part of this project.

Final Rating: 6.9

This is a very good match worth seeing on its own and a fine microcosm of the Danielson ROH reign as a whole. The ROH-CZW rivalry adds plenty of atmosphere. 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.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

The Lariat cometh.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.