With the untimely retirement of the one American Dragon, I decided to look back on this incredibly overlooked chapter in his career against the Crown Jewel himself (the real one, sorry Chase Owens) Jimmy Rave. Jimmy went on record recently on Twitter explaining that this ROH title match he had with Bryan at Ring of Honor’s 4th anniversary show in 2006 was one of his favorite matches ever. That was the other part of the inspiration of doing this as I’ve become a huge Rave enthusiast these days and it’s fun to go see earlier portions of his career and see how he’s evolved as a wrestler as well.
At the onset of this, you could tell why Rave thinks this is one of his best matches. It starts at just the purely incredibly atmosphere for this main event. Rave comes out first, with Prince Nana alongside him. This was the Embassy days of Jimmy Rave, for those not familiar The Embassy was Prince Nana’s stable during this time (Nana is one of the all time great non-wrestler characters by the way, and still is and definitely outweighs his actual in ring work in the early ROH days) and Jimmy Rave was one of the guys in the forefront of The Embassy along with guys like Abyss, Alex Shelley, and a number of other notable ROH talent that would come in and out of Nana’s clutches via Nana’s storyline tax money from Ghana to dominate ROH. This crowd in Edison, New Jersey was immediately hostile towards the heels and it was a sight to behold as Rave started launching streamers back at the fans, something you just didn’t do to the ROH faithful then. This generated “DIE JIMMY DIE” chants, and Nana attempted to hold back Rave and clear his head before this huge title match against the champ, Bryan Danielson. Danielson by this time was literally god to ROH’s hardcore fanbase, having earned so much respect in those 4 years with the company with his amazing technical ability and natural charisma. He came out to Final Countdown, and you couldn’t help but feel the chills in your body with the affection being poured on him while coming out to the song.
Rave started the match wrestling right alongside Bryan, and he sure can. Rave is one of the better technicians out there, a thing people certainly forget at times. But Bryan quickly kiboshed that with one of his trademark soccerball kicks to the back and Rave high-tailed it out of there into the arms of Prince Nana, infuriating the volatile Jersey folk. Jimmy got back in there, tried to mat wrestle again but Bryan once again got the upper hand, tying him up in an Indian Deathlock, and it’s amazing how Bryan could get such a reaction out of doing such simple submissions and grappling escapes which is a true testament to the natural aura he gave off. Rave got to the ropes and the ref started his 5 count, in which of course Bryan yells his “I HAVE TIL’ FIVE” at him. Bryan could probably take a steaming dump in the middle of the ring and it would be given 5 stars by these fans. And I mean that in a very good way, that’s how over this guy was. Rave came back with vicious chops but Bryan came right back and tried to tie him up with a surfboard stretch, and Jimmy countered that! So evenly matched.
After a beautiful counter and chain wrestling sequences between the two, Rave started laying into Bryan in the corner with chops and gut kicks to take Dragon off his mat game. The story was, Rave scouted Danielson’s “superior” mat game and was able to counter out of a ton that makes the Dragon seem so dangerous. When Rave used Danielson’s FIVE catchphrase, to say Edison was not pleased would be an understatement. Bryan started reverting to a slightly more stiff style to battle back, and at one point had Rave legit upside down in a pull back surfboard. And then he proceeded to stand directly on Rave’s head, prompting Nana to brilliantly ask “ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL HIM?” in which the bloodthirsty Jersey folks answered for Bryan and loudly approved. The Crown Jewel wasn’t having it though and hung Dragon over the top rope and dropkicked him from the apron, sending him to the outside where Jimmy was taking it to Bryan at time hanging over the fence so the ROH faithful can see their hero getting smacked around. To add even more insult to injury, Rave locked in Bryan’s Cattle Mutilation on Bryan himself! Jimmy was an absolute heat magnet here and it was beautiful to watch, only magnified by Nana’s various quips, cheap shots and madness on the outside. Probably not Rave’s best idea, as a pissed off American Dragon breathes the hottest kind of fire and he started absolutely teeing off on Nana’s boy.
This quickly turned into an absolute shoot, both guys cracking each other with chops, kicks, and even closed fists at some points. Bryan even turned a Rave Shining Wizard into a half crab in a seamless transition that just defines how silky smooth he was in that ring. But, Jimmy ended up locking on a devastating sleeper, to the point where it looked like he had all his weight laying down on Bryan with the sleeper. Like always, Bryan always seemed to have an answer and fired himself up, hit a Saka Otoshi on Rave and locked in Cattle Mutilation, and somehow Rave fought to the ropes, Nana throwing his jacket in the process. Everything about this just felt like a big fight, including how Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak sold it on commentary. Then, after yet another Cattle Mutilation that Dragon ended up turning into a Tiger Suplex, he for sure had the 3 count until Nana grabbed ref Todd Sinclair from under the ropes, prompting Todd to scream “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE NANA!?” absolutely chastising the spoiled rich brat. So of course, Danielson takes this opportunity to hit a tope suicida into Prince Nana erupting the crowd and even normally mild mannered Dave Prazak, this is amazing. Everyone was fired up. Bryan tried to ride this wave of momentum by jumping off the top rope, only to be met with Rave spearing him out of mid air and nailing him with a beautiful running knee strike.
A great callback sparked the end of this match; Rave finished off Danielson with a Pedigree at their previous matchup at the Unscripted show, but Bryan was able to push him into the corner this time and break the underhook. You gotta love psychology like that. Bryan finally decided enough was enough, popped Rave with an unreal forearm, and then crucifxed Rave and elbowed him to the point of defenselessness, leading to Sinclair ringing the bell and awarding the match to Bryan. My god, what a match. A tale of two guys that just have amazing mat technique paired with outstanding in-ring personalities. These two always seemed to have an answer for the other in this match, Rave catching Bryan off guard with how many times he was able to escape Dragon’s holds and even use some of his own holds against him; and then Bryan with his trademark fiery comebacks out of nowhere that quelled Nana and Rave’s attempts to circumvent the rules and take the easy road to the title. There are no easy roads to Bryan Danielson and he proved that in this match when he left Rave completely knocked out by the end of it all. This is a must see match from the ROH glory days and one of the best matches in both of these guys’ extensive in ring catalogs.