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CALDWELL DVD REVIEW FLASHBACK - ROH Death Before Dishonor 2005: Origins of C.M. Punk's title hostage program now playing on WWE TV in 2011

Jun 21, 2011 - 12:30:23 PM
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PunkCM3_130WK.jpg
WWE began a program with C.M. Punk on Monday's Raw remarkably similar to how Punk exited Ring of Honor six years ago. The "Summer of Punk 2005" began with Punk vowing to leave the promotion with the ROH Title. WWE is going for a similar theme in Summer 2011 with Punk's storyline vow to take the WWE Title with him out of the company.

The following is a flashback to Torch assistant editor James Caldwell's DVD review of ROH's "Death Before Dishonor III" event, which featured Punk capturing the ROH Title, turning heel, and setting in motion the Summer of Punk 2005.


***

The Perspective with James Caldwell
By James Caldwell, Torch assistant editor
Original Headline: Snakebitten by a Punk - "ROH Death Before Dishonor III" DVD Review
Originally Published: Torch Newsletter #881
Cover-Dated - October 1, 2005


"One winter a farmer found a snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. ‘Oh,' cried the Farmer with his last breath, ‘I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.'"

- An Aesop's Fable

"Yeah!" cried the Morristown, N.J. crowd when C.M. Punk landed a right hand to the face. "Boo!" cried the crowd when Austin Aries fought back to take the offensive advantage. On June 16, 2005 at "Death Before Dishonor III," after 18 minutes of passionate wrestling, the crowd knew what it wanted and was determined to see it happen.

"They know everything Punk has sacrificed for ROH," said commentator Jimmy Bower following a mid-match round of boos for Austin Aries. "They want him to win."

Twelve minutes after the crowd selected its rooting interest, C.M. Punk won the ROH World Title at 30:28 following a top rope Pepsi Plunge. As the crowd exploded in unadulterated excitement, Punk clutched his head in his hands.

What followed the World Title victory was surreal - made even more poignant by the explanation of the hero's journey over the course of two discs and nearly four hours of promos, footage, and wrestling.

Centered around C.M. Punk's "final show" in Ring of Honor, "Death Before Dishonor III" began with Classic Colt Cabana's "Good Times, Great Memories" segment - a staple of ROH DVDs as much as tremendous wrestling and Prince Nana disrespecting someone. Cabana was determined to have his fellow Second City Saint on GTGM even if Punk was as elusive as a slippery wet snake.

At the time of Cabana's second attempt to bring Punk on GTGM, Cabana was torn between preparing for his Pure Title match against Samoa Joe or waiting for Punk to show up for his proper send-off. At the time, Cabana held his emotions in check despite his disappointment and frustration just inches below the surface. It was only a matter of time before Punk granted his best buddy a little one-on-one interview time. Or, so he and the viewers were made to believe.

Following the opening match of Jimmy Rave & Fast Eddie falling to Jimmy Jacobs & B.J. Whitmer in an ROH Tag Title match, a string of video footage recapping C.M. Punk's career in ROH was introduced. Chronicling Punk's beginning, middle, and career-making trilogy of ROH Title matches with Samoa Joe, the DVD began to tell a story of Punk's journey to the top of ROH.

At "ROH Unscripted" on September 21, 2002, C.M. Punk made his debut in ROH as a skinny, tattooed kid with a backwards cap and straightedge t-shirt. Accompanied by Colt Cabana, Punk stood in the center of the ring as Cabana introduced their feud. "Here I am, ready to go," Punk said almost sheepishly as he described the footage from his ROH debut, "ready to make an impact in Ring of Honor." From humble beginnings as a meek independent wrestler amidst a locker room of veterans, the hero's journey began.

Along the way, Punk described footage of his brutal feud with Raven that brought out the best in both men and led to a dog collar match at "Death Before Dishonor" on July 19, 2003. In gaining respect for the opposition, Punk said, "As much as he hated me and I hated him, I remember learning a lot from Raven."

As the DVD backed up to April 26, 2003 for "Round Robin Challenge II," Punk was without a path. Becoming serious about his craft, Punk asserted himself as a wrestler after working with Homicide - the 2003 ROH MVP - in his breakout match; the "show stealing contest," as ROHWrestling.com described.

"This is definitely the match that brought out the wrestling side in C.M. Punk and made people realize that I am more than just a big mouth," Punk said in reflecting back on the better of two paths taken. "This was my favorite match for awhile and definitely one of the better matches I had that year."

In the third match of the show - a contender for match of the night honors - Colt Cabana wrestled Samoa Joe for the Pure Title. With Punk on commentary for the match, Punk became a cheerleader for Cabana - his Robin in the Second City Saints dynamic duo - as Cabana outsmarted Joe by forcing the champion to use his rope breaks while escaping Joe's signature moves and combinations.

However, it was before Punk began rooting for Cabana that Punk dropped a hint of discouragement, foreshadowing the end of the hero's journey later in the evening. "Let's be honest," Punk said in response to Dave Prazak's question about Punk shunning "Good Times, Great Memories." "He never has the time and now, for my last show, he expects me to be on his little talk show?"

Following Joe's victory over Colt Cabana, A.J. Styles returned to ROH for a match against the Embassy's handpicked opponent, Petey Williams. Styles represented the old guard of wrestlers who took ROH from a small independent promotion to a promotion known for first-class wrestling. Just in case Styles's return overshadowed Punk's departure, Punk reminded viewers of who made it possible for someone like Styles to return. "I was here in Ring of Honor's darkest hour to give leadership," Punk said. "I've done all that I can do and it's time to go."

One of the moments that defined Punk's career and added to his list of accomplishments was winning the ROH Tag Titles with Colt Cabana in Chicago on April 24, 2004. Appropriately titled "Reborn Stage 2," Punk found his greatest happiness at the second stage of his ROH career. After trying to establish his name in 2002 and 2003, Punk ascended to elite status in ROH as a leader. "Great moment... in my life to win the tag belts with my best friend - someone who we broke into the business together," Punk said about winning the tag titles with Colt Cabana. "All the money in the world can't replace that feeling."

Yet, immediately following a clip of the Second City Saints' shining moment, Colt Cabana was still trying to find C.M. Punk for "Good Times, Great Memories." However, Punk remained noticeable by his absence. Disillusioned or eternally optimistic, Cabana was sure all would be well when he hooked up with Punk for a celebratory moment at the end of the show.

Following Izzy & Deranged's victory over Roderick Strong & Jack Evans in a match where Strong asserted himself as the enforcer of Generation Next and Evans decided he was holding down the team, Punk's non-wrestling defining moment came to the forefront. In the midst of a bitter feud with Ricky Steamboat, Punk made a decision on July 17, 2004 at "Reborn: Completion" that changed the course of his ROH career.

As Generation Next attacked Steamboat, Punk decided to help the legend rather than assist GenNext. But, Punk's motives in helping his contemporary mentor were not altruistic by nature. Punk revealed that he helped Steamboat because he refused to be shown up by Austin Aries & Co. "Four other guys wanted to steal my idea and go after Ricky Steamboat," Punk said about helping Steamboat rather than continuing to butt heads. "I don't really necessarily need help from anybody." Despite helping his mentor, the hero still could not shake the shifting shadows of his internal desires.

Reflecting back, Punk took his experience working with Steamboat and used that for guidance in facing Samoa Joe in a trilogy of ROH Title matches that Punk described as, "the hardest fought matches of my entire life." What did the matches against Joe mean to Punk as he reached the front of the line in ROH? "Two young guys who inadvertently became locker room leaders... trying to prove why they think they were the best at the time," said Punk.

Following a look at Joe-Punk from 2004 and Low Ki inflicting a beating on Jay Lethal in the semi-main event, C.M. Punk walked to the ring for his "final" opportunity to capture the ROH Title - this time against Austin Aries.

Fighting back tears and receiving the ultimate respect from the fans that every wrestler desires, Punk walked to the ring hoping to fulfill his quest. The ring introduction was accompanied by streamers descending into the ring in recognition of Punk's achievements in ROH. Even if he walked out of ROH having not won the ROH Title, the fans were more than appreciative of his contributions.

"This is not just any talent leaving Ring of Honor," Jimmy Bower declared in an emotional tribute to Punk prior to the match. "This is a locker room leader; ROH may not be here if not for C.M. Punk."

It is here where the story of "Death Before Dishonor III" comes full circle. As the match played out, Aries held the advantage. Aries even gave Punk his own Pepsi Plunge move from the top rope. Yet, Punk kicked out at one and "hulked up" as the crowd roared in anticipation of the storybook ending.

The final minute was Punk's shining moment as a combination TKO, Shining Wizard, and top rope Pepsi Plunge finished off Aries leading to victory. As the fans went headfirst off the deep-end celebrating the victory, a few remaining streamers filled the ring. Aries yanked the belt away from Punk as Punk sat in the corner amidst chants of "Thank you, Punk."

After an emotional sequence of "Please don't go!" and "We will miss you!" chants, Punk collected himself and took a hug from Austin Aries before receiving the ROH Title. Aries raised the hand of the new champion in a moment that could have been the end of the story; the end of the journey for the hero. But, it wasn't.

As Aries - the gracious-in-defeat former champion, who was booed routinely during the match, and represented the roadblock to what Punk and the fans desired - walked to the back with his head down and energy spent, Punk kneeled in the ring with the ROH Title in his hands.

The post-match speech could have been the hero's recognition of the completion of a journey; an appropriate ending fit for the man who carried ROH on his tattooed shoulders; a chance to ride off into the sunset with title in tow and new journeys ahead of him in WWE. Instead, the journey took a turn off course as his shadows returned to the forefront.

Telling the parable of the snake who came back to bite its savior, Punk revealed his plot of turning on the promotion that gave him an opportunity to be more than just a skinny, tattooed kid with a friend and a dream. "I am the devil himself, and all of you stupid, mindless people fell for it," Punk said as he pointed to each side of the audience. "You all believed in the same make-believe superhero that the legendary Ricky Steamboat saw one year ago today... I hate each and every one of you and I will not stop until I prove once and for all that I am better than you."

If Punk was the devil, then Christopher Daniels represented an angel as he made a sudden and unexpected return to ROH. Daniels went toe-to-toe with Punk after waiting 16 months to return to ROH. As a member of the old guard who chose TNA over ROH, leaving Punk to take the ball and run, Daniels challenged Punk to an ROH Title match on the spot. With the previous chants of "Thank you, Punk" a distant memory, Punk told Daniels, "You can wait 16 more months; kiss my ass." With that, Punk left the arena with the ROH Title in hand.

Not even a returning hero's stirring speech could persuade Punk to return for an impromptu title match. "My destiny is to be the Ring of Honor World Champion," Daniels declared. "Now I'm back. And I'm back because I want to be."

However, Colt Cabana took Punk's disappearing act more to heart. Cabana, who was on his own personal quest to find Punk, was downright dejected at the end of the DVD. Disillusioned, Cabana declared that the "fun-loving Second City Saint" was still in the building to appear. After looking to the office door just as he did at the very beginning of the DVD, Cabana realized Punk was not on the opposite side of the door. The story of Punk's send-off was complete with Punk penning the final paragraph through his actions, which spoke of ignoring his best friend.

The individual story of Punk's journey made up the larger picture of ROH's summer series. Punk began the run of future WWE wrestlers as champions, with James Gibson losing the title to Bryan Danielson to begin the fall season. Nigel McGuinness used a victory over James Gibson, Homicide, and Azrieal as a springboard to the Pure Title. Colt Cabana stepped out of a pure comedy role into a pure wrestling role.

From a production standpoint, this DVD delivered a story that complemented the wrestling. The story of C.M. Punk's journey was intricately woven into the fabric of the show to create one of the more intense and emotionally riveting post-show promos you'll ever see.

At the end of the day, "Death Before Dishonor III" (available at ROHwrestling.com) delivered a match of the year contender, the first paragraph for ROH's current day position, and the end of one journey complete with a shocking reversal of fortunes - enhanced by the post-produced segments through the beauty of the DVD medium.

For any C.M. Punk fan, this is a must-buy to see Punk's progress from a punk to Punk. Along the way, ROH brought out the best in Punk, but it also brought out the devilish nature within him. It's a classic fable best retold with an added twist - great wrestling.

[Torch photo credit Wade Keller (c) PWTorch.com]


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