It’s time to step into Ring of Honor territory once again as we take a look at the two disc compilation dedicated to the man who truly defined what it meant to be a champion. The release in question is Samoa Joe: A Championship Legacy.
As is the way with these things we begin with…..
March 13th, 2003
With the #1 Contender’s Trophy up for grabs, our man faces Homicide, E.Z. Money and B.J. Whitmer in a four corners match at Expect the Unexpected.
Fast paced action was the order of the day here. It began with some nice technical exchanges between Money and Whitmer before Joe and Homicide tagged in to beat the proverbial out of each other.
It quickly moved onto to a mass brawl and the obligatory everyone flying through the air segment before it settled down into regular action again, although it wasn’t long before they began brawling once more. All four men came close to getting the win with their various finishers and submissions, but it was Joe who came out on top, countering Money’s cha-ching finisher with a rear naked choke for the submission win and a shot at the title.
March 22nd, 2003
Our man challenges Xavier for the World title at Night of the Champions.
Originally Xavier’s fellow Prophecy buddies Christopher Daniels and Allison Danger were meant to be in the champion’s corner, but just as the match was about to begin Joe’s co-horts Michael Shane and C.W. Anderson came down to ringside to deal with that particular threat.
When the match began it was a relatively short affair by main event standards. Joe sought to capitalize on Xavier’s recent concussion with a series of blows to the head, but the momentum was halted when Xavier took Joe down with an awesome move, a suicide dive into a tornado DDT on the floor.
It looked like Xavier had won the match there and then, but slowly and surely Joe began to work his way into the match until Xavier connected with his X-breaker finisher. That wasn’t enough for the champion though as he went to the top rope. But as he came down with his 450 splash Joe brought his knees up into Xavier’s bread basket.
That was the beginning of the end for the champion. A few moments later Joe took his man down and locked in a rear naked choke. Xavier refused to tap out, and it was only when he lost consciousness that the referee called for the bell to give Joe the submission win, the title and a standing ovation from the crowd.
April 26th, 2003
Our man faces British opposition in the form of Doug Williams as he defends the title at Retribution: Round Robin Challenge II.
It’s a shame that these two weren’t given more time because this was a hell of a match. The early technical exchanges between these two were great. Williams easily matched Joe move for move and hold for hold, and it was a joy to watch them going at it.
Joe’s hard hitting offence soon brought him into the match though, until Williams began working over Joe’s left arm that is. The Brit basically twisted and pounded the hell out of the limb, targeting it so Joe couldn’t go for his favourite submission hold.
Williams was doing a pretty good job, even softening the limb up with his bomb scare knee drop off the top rope. But when he went for the chaos theory suplex Joe countered, and even though Williams stoutly defended his attempts to synch in the rear naked choke at first he eventually succumbed, tapping out to give Joe the submission win.
July 19th, 2003
Our man faces the high flying Paul London as he defends the title at Death Before Dishonor.
This was London’s last match in ROH before he left for WWE, and with the challenger wanting to go out on a high he gave it everything he got.
Joe was clearly frustrated early on when London took him down with a variety of fast paced moves, but when Joe managed to catch him from a suicide dive he halted his progress by slamming him into the ring post.
The champ then beat the proverbial out of him, but no matter what he did London just wouldn’t stay down, and a few moments later he was at it again with his speedy offence as he took the upper hand once more, almost getting the win when he connected with the London star press.
It was after that near miss that Joe went into overdrive, but when he locked in the rear naked choke London fought it for as long as he could before passing out to give Joe another title-retaining submission win.
August 9th, 2003
Our man faces a former foe in B.J. Whitmer as he defends the title at Wrath of the Racket.
Whitmer came into this one wearing a mask to protect the broken nose suffered at the hands of Homicide. Normally that would have been like a red rag to a bull to anyone else, but considering that Joe targets every part of the body that mask didn’t matter.
The challenger got the better of the early exchanges, much to the delight of his hometown fans, and after Joe tried to fire him up by slapping him in the face Whitmer removed the mask, tossing it to one side as an act of defiance.
From there Joe took control with a series of hard hitting moves, even targeting the face when he took Whitmer down with a series of big boots at ringside. Moments later he locked in the rear naked choke, but unlike other opponents Whitmer managed to fight his way to the ropes, forcing Joe to release the hold.
More hard hitting exchanges followed as both men came close to getting the pin, but when Joe took Whitmer down with a series of suplexes it was the beginning of the end, with the champion sealing the deal after crossing Whitmer’s arms and pinning him with a suplex and bridge.
September 20th, 2003
Our man faces his former Prophecy partner in crime as he defends the title against Christopher Daniels at Glory by Honor II.
So far on this DVD Joe’s title defences have been relatively straight forward affairs. This one, however, was far from it because Daniels really gave him a run for his money.
Joe began his stint with a good old fashioned kick to the face, and Daniels barely escaped from the following pin. The next few minutes saw Joe at his brutal best, and it seemed as if Joe was going to make light work of his challenger.
But as our esteemed commentators began to speculate about Joe’s conditioning Daniels mounted his comeback. It was as if the Fallen Angel had been using the old Mohammad Ali tactic, hoping that Joe would punch himself out.
And for a while it looked like the tactic was working. As the back and forth exchanges continued Joe began to look fatigued while Daniels was running rings around him and taking him down with moves like the BMC and angel’s wings. Joe, however, kept kicking out of the pins and coming back for more.
Joe then countered Daniels’ last rites with his rear naked choke, and with Allison Danger cheering him on at ringside the fading challenger managed to make it to the ropes. The groggy Daniels was still ripe for the picking though, and after connecting with an enziguri Joe took his man down with the island driver for the winning pin.
October 6th, 2003
Our man takes on tag team standout Jay Briscoe in a title defence at Tradition Continues.
As the match began it seemed as if the champion was taking his challenger a little too lightly. Briscoe did well in the opening exchanges, but as soon as Joe took control he had that air about him, as if he was saying “this will only take a few minutes”.
But when Briscoe countered a second face wash attempt with a Yakuza kick he began to show that he was a real threat to the title when he show Joe that his offence was just as hard hitting, and although Joe connected with his ole ole kicks on the outside the young Briscoe kept taking the punishment and coming back for more.
As Briscoe kept kicking out of pin after pin it became apparent to Joe that he had a real fight on his hands, and when Briscoe came back and took the champion time and time again the three counts kept getting closer and closer.
Then Joe went for the rear naked choke, and once again Briscoe had a counter, a simple bite to the hand to stop him from applying the hold. Joe soon came back with a dragon suplex and the island driver, but when neither of those moves got the job done Joe went into overdrive, slapping and kicking Briscoe before taking him down with a hard lariat clothesline that finally put him away for the three count.
November 29th, 2003
Our man faces another future TNA opponent as he defends the title against A.J. Styles at War of the Wire.
These two had some classics in TNA, but if anything this was a whole lot better. It began with some nice exchanges on the mat, but it wasn’t long before the niceties went out of the window and the hard hitting came into play.
Styles went all out to take the big man out, even taking him down with a powerbomb at one point, but as good as his offence was Joe was able to match him in every department, although as the match went on Joe began to resort to eye scrapes to get out of certain situations.
Then the big bombs came out, and when Styles took his man down with the Styles clash it looked like a title change was on the cards, until Joe kicked out of the pin. Moments later Joe took his man down with the island driver. It still wasn’t over though, with Styles kicking out of that pin.
It was a short time later when Joe stopped Styles flying off the top rope before taking him out with the muscle buster. He then sat on his challenger’s back and applied a rear naked choke, adding a little camel clutch styling in the process, and as he reared back Styles faded fast and quickly passed out, giving Joe the submission win.
February 14th, 2004
Our man faces three challengers to his title in the form of Low Ki, Dan Maff and B.J. Whitmer in a four corners match at the Second Anniversary Show.
There were some quite interesting situations surrounding this match. In Maff and Whitmer you had two members of the Prophecy who were also co-holders of the #1 Contenders Trophy and with Allison Danger in their corner, as well as the returning Low Ki, who demanded to be put into this match because he was the first ever ROH Champion.
The match itself was full of stiff shots and hard hitting exchanges, and it was pretty enjoyable in the process. Early on this was more or less a tag team match, with Joe and Ki acting as a unit as they used Whitmer for punching practice. The situation changed drastically when the action spilled to the outside, especially when Joe suffered a bad cut to his hand. With the referee hastily helping him to wrap tape around the wound the champion continued, but he soon found himself on the receiving end of the punching bag treatment from the Prophecy boys.
So after taking a massive amount of punishment Joe managed to get the tag to Ki, and the future Kaval promptly cleaned house with the sort of no nonsense offence he was famous for. It was a great performance, until he was tagged out of the match.
While Ki had been cleaning house Joe had undergone more running repairs to his hand, and with the hand now tapped up more firmly he wanted to get back into the match. His opportunity came when Ki jumped onto the middle rope, facing Joe, about to launch a flying attack on his opponents. Joe had other ideas though and tagged himself into the match by slapping Ki in the face.
So after Joe did a little house cleaning of his own the confrontation that everyone had been waiting for happened as Joe and Ki stiffed the hell out of each other. I hadn’t seen any exchanges like that in years, and it was only broken up when Whitmer and Maff interrupted for a few brief moments.
The Prophecy was soon dealt with, but just when it looked like Joe and Ki were going to go at it again Maff came back into the ring and speared Ki through the ropes. This left Joe in the ring with Whitmer, and Whitmer was easy prey as Joe synched in the rear naked choke for the submission win.
April 23rd, 2004
Our man faces an old rival as he defends the title against Homicide at Reborn Stage 1.
This was a very heated battle, which is actually quite an apt description considering what happened at the end of this match.
These two didn’t bother with any nice technical exchanges at the beginning. After a brief argument about Homicide’s cap the Notorious 187 attacked the champion as soon as the match began, and from there these two proceeded to beat the hell out of each other.
It certainly proved to be a very interesting encounter. The stiff exchanges were intertwined with some great wrestling exchanges, and as the match went on the heat factor certainly went up a degree or three, especially when they began slapping each other.
As they brought out the big guns the mood turned nasty. As Joe was delivering a series of kicks to Homicide rolled Joe up. The referee made his count, and just when he was about to slap the mat for the third time Joe kicked out, although everyone else thought he’d counted to three.
Homicide began to argue with the referee immediately as the referee confirmed Joe had kicked out at two, but despite what the official said Homicide continued to protest, and as the protests went on the angrier he got until he decked the referee with a big right.
Then things got worse as the lights went out, and with the hall in complete darkness Homicide launched a fireball into Joe’s face, blinding the champion, and as several referees came down to check on Joe’s condition Homicide decked them as well, before taking out a few wrestlers who’d raced down to the ring as well.
May 22nd, 2004
Our man faces Homicide once again, this time defending the title in a relaxed rules match at Generation Next.
This was certainly a lot more heated than the last match. They didn’t even wait for the streamers to be cleared from the ring before they attacked each other, and it was somewhat surreal to see these two trying to beat the hell out of each while wrapped in large streams of paper.
Eventually the debris was cleared from the ring, but that didn’t matter anyway as the action quickly spilled out to the floor as Joe tried to take out Homicide’s manager Julius Smokes. He managed one ole kick against him, but the second was broken up by Homicide.
Back in the ring these two continued to beat the proverbial out of each other, but when Homicide tried to take Joe out with a dive over the ropes the champion moved out of the way, leaving Homicide to crash through the table that he himself had set up moments earlier. A few seconds later Joe added insult to injury by suplexing him through what remained of that particular item.
Homicide managed to suck it up though as he came back into the match, and taking inspiration from Abdullah the Butcher he took a fork out and proceeded to stab Joe in the forehead, drawing blood.
From there these two continued to beat the hell out of each other, with Homicide using the fork once again when he applied an STF, but despite all of this Joe came back, and even though his signature moves failed to get the job done a good old fashioned brain buster helped him get the winning pin.
June 12th, 2004
Our man defends his title against one half of the Second City Saints and Tag Team Champion C.M. Punk at World Title Classic.
It’s a match joined in progress, around the forty minute mark, and by this time it’s become the proverbial war of attrition. With both men looking absolutely exhausted they were almost moving around in slow motion as they looked for that one move that could put the other away.
But no matter what they threw at each other they just couldn’t get the job done. Joe brought out his big guns including the muscle buster, and he still couldn’t get the pin, while Punk came out with the Pepsi plunge, the momentum of the move sending him out of the ring and unable to capitalize on it until Joe had recovered.
As the seconds ticked away and the time limit got ever nearer they resorted to slapping each other until Punk connected with a DDT. But as he crawled over to Joe to make the cover he collapsed, his fuel tank on empty, and when he eventually made the cover Joe managed to kick out.
And that was it. A few seconds later the time limit expired, and the match was declared a draw as Joe kept his title. The crowd chanted for five more minutes, but it was obvious that this wasn’t going to happen.
June 24th, 2004
Our man faces international opposition as he defends the title against Shinya Makabe at New Japan USA.
I guess you could say this was the strong style part of the collection. Although this was an ROH title match it was contested under New Japan rules, which basically meant that count outs were permitted. As for the match, it was about ten minutes long, with both guys beating the hell out of each other.
Makabe began his challenge by booting Joe in the bread basket before taking him down with a spear, and from there it looked as if he was actually out Joe-ing Joe with his array of powerful moves.
Joe managed to come back into the match though as he brought his own power game into play, and the back and forth exchanges proved to be very entertaining.
Eventually Joe took control, and even though he failed to get the submission win with his STF into crossface submission a powerful lariat clothesline secured the title retaining pin.
July 24th, 2004
Having already faced C.M. Punk in a title defence our man defends his title against the other Second City Saint and Tag Team Champion Colt Cabana at Death Before Dishonor II Night 2.
Hometown favourite Cabana began the match in his usual manner, but it wasn’t long before the challenge was all business as he tried to match Joe in the power department. It took him a while, but he eventually managed to knock the big man off his feet.
His early success was soon curtailed though as Joe took control, and although Cabana had a few good moments Joe managed to maintain his momentum until Cabana fired himself up after a series of hard kicks to the chest.
The back and forth exchanges quickly followed, and although Cabana put up a good fight and almost took the pin after a frog splash from the top rope it wasn’t enough, and just as Cabana was about to come off the middle rope Joe stopped him and took him down with the muscle buster for the winning pin.
September 11th, 2004
Our man gives Doug Williams another shot at the title at Glory by Honor III.
If anything this was even better than the Anarchist’s first shot at the title. The Brit began his night’s work by jumping onto the challenger with a body lock. It was a sign of things to come as Williams tried a few submission holds before Joe took control.
But as the champion brought out his big moves he showed a distinct lack of respect for his challenger, often trying to pin his man by putting one knee on his chest. This arrogance would later prove to be his undoing when Williams came back with his strong arsenal.
So with Williams bringing out his big guns it looked like a title change was on the cards until Joe blocked Williams’ chaos theory attempt. A few moments later Joe managed to take his man down with the muscle buster, and you can imagine the champion’s surprise when Williams kicked out of the pin.
A quick exchange of moves followed, but when Joe connected with the big lariat clothesline that was it. A three count later and Joe had retained his title.
October 2nd, 2004
Our man faces a difficult challenge as he defends his title against Bryan Danielson at The Midnight Express Reunion.
The slow methodical approach was the order of the day in this near-forty minute encounter, and it was filled with an absolute ton of great technical exchanges.
It began with Joe moving away from his usual striking game as he tried to match Danielson move for move in the mat wrestling department. It worked for the most part, although Danielson always remained one step ahead of him.
As the match went on the great sequences continued, and at one point Danielson was even matching Joe in the striking department, frustrating the champion before he began working over one of those big legs of his.
The champion gave as good as he got though, and after they passed the thirty minute mark they brought out the big guns. The battle was becoming even more intense, as evidenced by their exchange of knees to the head on the mat, and when Joe won that particular war he locked on his rear naked choke. Danielson was still fighting, so Joe turned him over into a camel clutch-like position, and a few seconds later the Dragon tapped out to give Joe the submission win.
October 15th, 2004
Our man defends his title against Tag Team Champion Rocky Romero at Gold.
This was an interesting one, a mixture of styles if you will, because as the match began it seemed more like an MMA fight that a wrestling contest as they exchanged kicks and strikes. However, we were quickly reminded that it was a wrestling contest when Romero’s corner man Homicide tried to interfere. If his mission was to annoy the referee he certainly accomplished it, because the referee banished him from ringside a few seconds later.
When the action began in earnest Romero proved that he was no push over. Although Joe took the upper hand early on Romero was soon matching him in the striking department, showing no fear as he went toe to toe with the champion.
Joe managed to get in a few of his signature moves, including the ole ole kick on the floor, but when Romero connected with a jumping knee to the jaw Joe went down like the proverbial sack of spuds. Romero went for the cover, and the referee made the three count, but when he saw Joe’s hand barely touching the bottom rope he quickly reversed his decision, much to the annoyance of the celebrating Romero.
The champion quickly regained his senses though, and after powering his way out of Romero’s armbar attempt he went for a submission of his own, with Romero tapping out to the STF.
October 16th, 2004
It’s one day later, and our men defends his title against C.M. Punk once more at Joe vs. Punk II.
As with their previous match against each other it’s joined “in progress”, with the last twenty minutes so, and if anything it’s a lot more intense than the last twenty minutes of their previous encounter.
In fact the action was so hot that the commentators decided to leave their position to join the fans in the crowd, using the old actions speak louder than words cliché.
And you know what? They were right. Despite the fact that they’d been going at it for forty minutes these two were still beating the proverbial out of each other. The coverage began with Joe taking Punk down with the ole ole kick at ringside, but it wasn’t long before they were back in the ring and bringing out their big guns.
Both combatants put in a tremendous performance, and as the match went on and the crowd clearly favoured their hometown hero Punk took the champion down with a variety of moves. But the one move he couldn’t take him down with was the Pepsi plunge, and after Joe blocked the attempt and they jockeyed for position on the top rope the champion eventually won out and took his man down with a superplex.
It still wasn’t enough to get the pin though, and with the clock ticking down Joe took Punk down with another superplex. But as champion and challenger hit the mat the bell rang. The time limit had expired once again, and the match was declared a draw.
December 4th, 2004
It’s the final match of the collection, and our defends his title against Punk for a third time at All Star Extravaganza II.
This one had a lot to live up to, given what they’d done together before, and I think they just about topped all of that off.
It began with Punk working over the champion’s neck, but within the first ten minutes or so the challenger was already bleeding, courtesy of a big boot from Joe, and as the crimson mask began to form you could tell you were going to get a great piece of storytelling here.
As the old saying goes both guys put in tremendous performance in what turned out to be the perfect way to end their trilogy. Just like the other matches they pulled out all the stops, and just like the other matches they just couldn’t put each other away.
Until Joe went for a sleeper hold that is. No matter what Punk did he just couldn’t get out of the hold, and when the referee saw that he was fading he was about to call for the bell. Ironically it was Ricky Steamboat, someone Punk had tangled with in the past and who was sitting at the ringside table as an observer who noticed Punk’s hand moving, and after quickly informing the referee the match continued.
The big guns soon came out, and once again each man had trouble putting his opponent away. It was a gripping piece, as was evidenced by the fact that everyone in attendance was standing on their feet.
Eventually something had to give, and give it did when Joe eventually synched in his rear naked choke. Punk fought it for as along as he could, but he could only hold out for so long, and when the referee saw that he’d passed out he called for the bell to give Joe the submission win.
In conclusion – so after over six hours and four and a half thousand words we’ve finally reached the end, and once again I’ve got to say that Ring of Honor have gone and done it again.
A Championship Legacy is the perfect tribute to a true ROH legend. It’s absolutely packed with tremendous matches from start to finish. Not only do you get to see how ROH’s main belt becomes such a prized possession you also get to see how Joe’s career progresses as well, and how his title defences actually get longer and more intense as his reign goes on.
Also, like other compilations of this kind, it’s another who’s who of the great and the good of the wrestling business, of guys who would later go on to grace the biggest stages in the world, some alongside Joe in TNA, and some in WWE.
Despite the fact that it’s missing a couple of important matches this release is the perfect chronicle of Joe’s World title reign, and that’s why this writer is going to give this release the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Samoa Joe: A Championship Legacy can be purchased online at www.rohwrestling.com.
By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!