WWE tag team legends The Hart Foundation
As I mentioned in a previous article, I did not like Xavier as ROH Champion at all. I didn’t see the reason for this title reign, who he sucked up to, or why ROH thinks he deserved it. His matches were not intriguing, nor did they didn’t really catch my attention. So luckily, Ring of Honor created a “secondary title” that at the time was more interesting and intriguing than the World Title picture itself.
Seeing how Ring of Honor was a young and upcoming promotion in 2002, the only title it had at that time was the Ring of Honor Title. It didn’t have the status of the World Title. The status of World Title would happen at the crossover show with F.W.A. in England, when Samoa Joe decided to defend the ROH title. During the time that Xavier held the ROH Title there was a ranking system the promotion created and the person on top of that ranking system would hold the created “Number One Contendership Trophy”. This trophy can be defended against other opponents and made you eligible to go for a shot at the ROH Title. This “title” could be considered a secondary title similar to the Intercontinental Title in W.W.E.’s world. Ironically, some of the matches where this trophy was on the line were the best matches.
One of those matches was the first ever match to determine the first ever owner of the Number One Contender trophy. When I say first match, I actually mean when the actual trophy was on the line. When the concept was first brought up, ROH at “All Star Extravaganza” decided to have a Gauntlet Series to decide the winner. The participants were C.M. Punk, Michael Shane, Paul London, The Amazing Red, A.J. Styles and Bryan Danielson. When all was said and done, the final two competitors would be A.J. Styles and Bryan Danielson. The match we will talk about here.
Bryan Danielson was established as a main ROH talent, after already having some great matches in ROH, despite having some leaves of absences for Japanese commitments. Up to this point, A.J. Styles could not be considered a main ROH guy. He got eliminated in the second round of the ROH Title tournament. He defended the T.N.A. title in another show, and lost a title match against Low Ki for the ROH Title. This match was awesome for the time. Revisiting it, the match is as good today as it was back then. Unfortunately, as for lots of ROH matches in 2002, this might be only for hardcore fans.
Bryan Danielson is the first to come out, with A.J. Styles to follow. Both men shake hands as the fans chant.
Both men lock their hands up and struggle for position, but turns into a neutral struggle.
They lock arms again and again battle for position. Dragon and Styles go back and forth with some great mat wrestling too hard to keep up with, as the fans get up and applaud both men.
A.J. Styles tackles Dragon to the floor as both men go back to mat wrestling back and forth as then get into the ropes and the ref breaks it up.
Again they lock hands and struggle for position. Dragon takes Styles into the corner as they eventually break it up.
Again they lock hands and Dragon goes behind Styles into a full nelson as Styles reverses it, but Dragon re-reverses it into a headlock. A.J. Styles leads Dragon into the ropes as Dragon comes off and shoulder blocks A.J. Styles to the ground. Dragon goes for Styles on the floor with a front face lock.
Styles fights it off and they are both struggling for position for a while until Dragon gets another front face lock on.
A.J. Styles fights it off and applies a type of head lock, as both men get to their feet, with Dragon breaking the hold, twisting the arm of Styles and applying a standing head lock. Styles punches Dragon in the gut, as Dragon runs off the ropes with Styles nailing a dropkick for a two count.
Styles picks up Dragon and hits a chop to the chest and a forearm to the head. Styles Irish whips Dragon into the ropes which Dragon reverses with a drop toe hold with Styles slipping to the outside. Dragon runs as if he will dive outside but Styles ducks as Dragon then slips to the outside.
Dragon nails a European uppercut on Styles. Dragon whips Styles to the barricade but Styles jumps the guard rail, turns around and super kicks Dragon. Styles picks up Dragon and drops him across the guardrail throat first and then kicks him while he is down. Styles picks up Dragon and throws him back into the ring, and goes for the pin but Dragon grabs the ropes at one.
Styles picks Dragon up and hits a side backbreaker into a gutbuster. Styles picks Dragon up again and hits two forearms which drop Dragon to the floor for a two count. Styles picks up Dragon, and with a forearm to the forehead, as both men lock up hands.
Dragon monkey flips Styles over but both men still hang onto the lock as Styles gets up and gives Dragon a monkey flip of his own with both still hanging on.
Dragon head butts Styles three times, but Dragon falls to the ground. Styles goes for Dragon but Dragon kicks him in the head. As Styles is groggy on the ropes Dragon kicks him. Dragon places Styles’ arm under Styles’ head and stomps down on it. Dragon then grinds his foot into Styles’s armpit and drops a knee on his arm and goes for a knuckle lock on the ground.
Styles knees Dragon in the back, but Dragon holds onto a face lock. Dragon gets him up, twists the arm and nails a chop, as both men chop each other and Dragon backdrops Styles onto the ground for a two count.
Dragon places Styles arm on the ropes and nails a series of head butts. Dragon nails a European Uppercut that drops Styles to the ground as Dragon grabs Styles arm but Styles retaliates with two forearms, jumps off the ropes and hits a sunset flip for two. Dragon gets up and stomps Styles in the head five times.
Dragon picks up Styles and goes for a back drop but Styles reverses in into a backdrop and Chancellor. They get up as they reverse each other until Styles goes for his infamous off the ropes reverse D.D.T. but Dragon reverses it into a gut wrench suplex for two.
Dragon’s eye is bleeding!
Dragon hits a European Uppercut as Styles nails a forearm as Dragon hits Styles with two European Uppercuts that drop Styles to the outside.
Styles crawls back inside as Dragon goes for a vertical suplex but Styles reverses it into a brain buster. Both men are down. Styles gets up first and goes for a moon lock. Styles reverses it, which makes it more painful. Styles varies the moon lock into a standing moon lock as Dragon grabs Styles and does a lock of his own. Both men have the moon lock on at the same time. Both men pull back and forth for leverage as the ref calls for stalemate. Both men let go.
Styles grabs Dragon and goes for a vertical suplex with Dragon landing on his feet and Styles nailing a neck breaker, for a two.
Styles nails a forehead and Irish whips Dragon into the ropes. Dragon reverses it, Styles jumps into Dragon’s arms (forget the name of the hold) and Dragon locks on a full nelson. Styles breaks it up but Dragon hits a German suplex and holds it for two.
Dragon nails a D.D.T. on Styles and goes to the top rope. Dragon nails a flying head butt bleeding eye and all and gets a two.
Dragon nails a European Uppercut, Irish whips Styles into the ropes, Styles ducks a clothesline, Dragon ducks a clothesline and Styles nails Dragon with a spinning back roundhouse kick. The camera shows a close up of the bleeding eye. Styles grabs Dragon from behind, nails a German suplex holds on, turns it into a back suplex, but midair he drops Dragon face first for a two count.
Styles pulls Dragon close to the corner, climbs the top rope but Dragon gets up, punches Styles as Styles gets crotched. Dragon climbs the ropes, and nails a super back suplex with Styles flipping over. Both men are down. Dragon gets Styles over and Styles gets a foot on the ropes.
Dragon nails a European Uppercut, but Styles hits back with a forearm to the case. Dragon returns one of his own. Then both men hit each other with slaps. Dragon goes for the spinning forearm and misses. Styles goes for a spinning clothesline and misses. Bothe men then connect at the same time with spinning clothesline and are down.
Both men get to their knees and exchange chops to the chest. They change to slaps, with Dragon then grabbing Styles nose leading him into the corner. Dragon is irate, nails a chop, a forearm, another chop, a European Uppercut, another chop and another European Uppercut. Dragon whips Styles into the opposite corner, runs towards Styles but Styles nails a back elbow, jumps onto the ropes grabs Dragon after a moonsault and nails a reverse D.D.T. for a two.
Styles calls for the Styles clash and nails it, but Dragon kicks out at two!!!!
Styles goes for the pin again but another two.
Styles picks up Dragon goes for a German suplex, but Dragon reverses it into a Dragon suplex which Styles kicks out of at two.
Dragon goes for the cattle mutilation (not the yes lock, for you WWE junkies. I wish he would use this submission) in the middle of the ring, and then turns it into a pin for two.
Dragon climbs the ropes, but Styles gets up and nails a forearm on Dragon and climbs the ropes. Dragon shoves Styles off the second rope, but Styles nails another forearm to the head. Styles goes for a superplex but Dragon shoves him off. Dragon gets up, but Styles leans into the ropes causing Dragon to crotch himself. Styles grabs him for the Styles Clash, but Dragon holds onto the ropes, but Styles bashes his head into the turnbuckle two or three times so that Dragon will let go, but Dragon won’t let go. So Styles drops him to the ground like a power bomb, picks him up again and power bombs him again. Picks him up a third time and nails the Styles Clash for the win!
The first ever Number One Contendership Trophy Holder, A.J. STYLES!
— Jose Perez, OWW columnist