1.  Manhattan Mayhem (A+)

Manhattan Mayhem was immediately heralded as the best show in ROH history, and was regarded that way by most until the release of Better Than Our Best a year later. Manhattan Mayhem is one of the few shows in wrestling history where nearly every match is good.

Pros: The highlights are the two singles title matches featuring a match with 6 months of build in Alex Shelley vs Austin Aries for the World title and Samoa Joe vs Jay Lethal for the Pure title. Neither match is at the level of a Match of the Year for 2005, but both are excellent, memorable matches. The tag title match is just below this level featuring Evans and Strong taking on Whitmer and Jacobs. Whitmer and Jacobs were a surprisingly great team, and despite not having many good teams to work with (outside of Strong and Evans) put together a strong title reign for that period. James Gibson’s hot 2005 continued with a really good match against Black Tiger, Rave and Punk escalated their feud with a bloody and well booked Dog Collar match and even the Special K opener was entertaining. And then there is the short but fast paced impromptu main event featuring the crazy double stomp Cop Killah finish on Jay Lethal. Colt Cabana and Nigel turn in a good effort here as well. A great, nearly perfect show.

Cons: I guess the fact there is no MOTYC?

2. Nowhere to Run (A+)

ROH has a really amazing May. The top three shows on this list are all from May and you could make an argument for each one being #1. Nowhere To Run was a part of a double shot with two huge cage matches main eventing each night, and neither disappointed. In the case of NTR and TFS they are virtually tied in every way, but this one gets the #2 slot for CM Punk’s great celebration following the main event. His feud with Jimmy Rave wasn’t quite as big as the Homicide/Danielson feud, but this had a more satisfying ending.

Pros: Bryan Danielson and Austin Aries are incapable of having a bad match. With one exception they are incapable of not having an excellent match. This match gets overlooked because their Testing the Limit match seems more impressive because of the length, but in my opinion this is the better match. CM Punk vs Jimmy Rave in a steel cage is much different than ROH’s previous feud ending cage matches as this one was more of a “story” based match if you want to call it that with Rave and the Embassy doing everything in their power to try and secure the win and Punk having to overcome the odds. I really can’t say enough good things about the rest of the card. Shelley and Delirious team up in a hilarious skit and have a really fun match against Strong and Evans. Homicide and Doug Williams have a really good match. Nigel and Cabana have another good one. It’s another stacked card.

Cons: The only real complaint I have is the not so good Four Corner Survival and the lame Masked _______ Superstar crap that went on in the spring and early summer of 2005.

3. The Final Showdown (A+)

The Final Showdown stands as possibly the greatest show ROH has run in Dayton, and is a fairly significant show historically. It caps off the Homicide vs Danielson best of five series which while underwhelming was a big part of early 2005. It also sees an important and funny chapter in Shelley realizing no one in ROH trusts him which sets up his heel turn. And James Gibson gets his second ROH title shot.

Pros: I’ve talked about how underwhelming the Homicide/Danielson best of five series was. There were some good matches, but nothing on the level of what the fans expected. The cage match changed that. This is a brutal, awesome cage match where both guys luckily “demanded” there be no escape rules. So what you are left with is the kind of a blow off you want to see between these two, and a strange but in my mind awesome 100 rotation Air Plane Spin Finish. Gibson and Aries have another fantastic match, and this is where Gibson’s 2005 really started to reach the stratosphere. He had several good-great matches before this, but from here on out he started on a streak that is just ridiculous against Joe, Punk, in a 4 Way, Cabana, Yang and Strong. This also marks the third of three ****+ level matches that Aries had for the title in May of 2005, something that sometimes gets overlooked because each night the spotlight wasn’t entirely on him. The whole card for the most part is really good, but I want to make sure I mention one other match. Ebessan vs Samoa Joe vs Jack Evans vs Delirious. If you haven’t heard of this match you NEED to see it. It is one of the funniest matches in history.

Cons: Again, the Masked _____ Storyline, and other than that… I guess Rave vs Sydal isn’t that good.

4. Joe vs Kobashi (A)

Joe vs Kobashi is one of the most important matches in ROH history. Neither night of Kobashi’s double shot did huge live gates (although New York couldn’t because of the small venue) but both generated a huge amount of buzz and sold ROH a huge amount of DVDs, and created a bunch of new fans. It made Samoa Joe look like a legit star, and gave ROH a huge boost after losing one of its biggest stars in CM Punk.

Pros: There’s no commentary on Joe vs Kobashi on DVD, and I really shouldn’t try to give any. But I will say it is one of those matches that feels perfect to me. An electric atmosphere, Joe trying every trick Kobashi’s past foes have used against him, Joe getting his chest and neck DESTROYED by chops, and a logical finish from there. This match feels as “real” as wrestling gets in my mind.

Other than this there is a lot to like on this card. There’s no second great match like the previous three, but there are two really good bouts with a lot of significant. Rave and Strong have one which sets up Steel Cage Warfare and the Jade Chung turn. Gibson and Yang have the other one which is part 1 of Gibson’s farewell, and stands as Yang’s second best match in ROH. That doesn’t say a TON, but he had several good matches, and a great one against Danielson, so it isn’t underhanded either. While Azrieal drags the first portion down, the Daniels vs Sydal portion of their three way is very fun, and hints at their future series. Claudio and Cabana had a fun opener, and while their reign largely sucked I thought Rinauro and Mamaluke vs Whitmer and Jacobs was a good match. Homicide and Evans was also surprisingly good with an entertaining interlude by Cabana.

Cons: Nigel vs Lethal is an example of how weak Nigel’s reign was in 2005. It just doesn’t get going, and is short. The finish with the iron is fairly well done, but it really feels like a nothing match. Nigel didn’t really start having great Pure title matches until 2006 when he really figured out how to great screwjob finishes that fit the match perfectly. Reyes kills a student in an angle that led virtually nowhere, besides two undercard matches with Aries.

5. Punk: The Final Chapter (A)

This show could easily swap places with Joe vs Kobashi. This is now CM Punk’s second to last show in ROH as he returned for one night at Unscripted II, but this show has the most memorable moments. The cover photo of Punk showered in streamers is one of the moments that I’ll always think of when I think of ROH.

Pros: Punk’s farewell obviously. His final match with Cabana is hilarious, though not much if you are expecting an epic wrestling contest. Cabana’s antics are priceless and Punk’s speech is wonderful. This show also features Matt Hardy’s last match in ROH, in a great match against Roderick Strong that really launched Strong’s star into the ROH main event scenes and made a lot of fans think he was going to be an ROH champion in 2006. Joe and Lethal vs Low Ki and Homicide ends in a DQ, but the real meat comes after the DQ when both teams have a crazy around the arena brawl which stands as one of the wildest in ROH history. Every match on this show is at least enjoyable. The only exception would be Steel vs Collyer if you hate oodles of blood.

Cons: I guess the fact that there’s no real blow away match, but Strong/Hardy is pretty close.

6. Vendetta (A)

Here’s my question, why is this just called “Vendetta” instead of “Vendettas!” There’s multiple Vendettas on this show! This is an absolutely stellar show with three excellent matches, but one that is in sort of a weird position because there isn’t a ton of history here. Every feud on this show is established, nothing is really blown off or begun, but there’s lots of fantastic wrestling.

Pros: Bryan Danielson and Roderick Strong have one of the best matches of 2005. After an excellent match a week earlier they topped themselves with a 45 minute classic here, which saw Strong frustrate Danielson to the point where he needed to bring out the MMA elbows to finish him. I cannot say enough good things about this match; in fact it made me a huge fan of Roderick Strong. There are two other excellent matches on this card. Chris Daniels vs Samoa Joe stood as a huge improvement over their match at Night of the Grudges II, and better than either of their two TNA singles matches. The 8 Man war between Aries, Sydal, Evans and Styles vs Nana, Abyss, Rave and Shelley is also great and features Daizee Haze turning on Matt Sydal to give The Embassy the win and the advantage in Steel Cage Warfare. The rest of the card isn’t too bad either, as Homicide and Cabana had a heated brawl which added some needed physicality to their feud, and solid matches between Rinauro and Jacobs and Whitmer and Claudio.

Cons: I like Bill Watts, but his segment is really dull. Pearce’s squash of Davey Andrews is also pretty dull, and the opener of Nigel/Collyer vs Steel/Delirious is a bit dull. Other than that this is one hell of a card.

7. Final Battle 2005 (A-)

KENTA and Marufuji make their ROH debuts! Aries and Strong start their historic tag title run! Cabana almost drinks Draino!

Pros: KENTA vs Low Ki is one of the most beloved matches in ROH history. I think it is a bit overrated and would put it below Joe vs Kobashi, Strong vs Danielson II and Danielson vs Gibson as far as ROH matches of the year, but it is still one hell of a match. Stiff, athletic, and well paced despite its length. The only real fault is Ki obviously has no chance of winning, but what can you do? Marufuji vs Danielson is also great, but not quite up to the level of their match at A New Level. Otherwise you have a historic tag title change which isn’t a bad match either (it might be the worst match Aries and Strong would have until after they lost the belts though.) Claudio vs Nigel is pretty good with a silly but fun ending, and it is really Nigel’s first notable defense.  Finally the Four Corner Survival is a fun match.

Cons: This is the show where the Homicide/Cabana feud got silly to me. Homicide trying to force Cabana to drink Draino is just a whole new level of ridiculous. Reyes’ pointless destruction of the students continues, and Cabana vs Azrieal is exactly what you’d expect given Azrieal was out of ROH a couple months later.

8. Third Anniversary Celebration Part 3 (A-) For my money the second and third parts of the Third Anniversary Celebration are the most underrated doubleshot shows of 2005. There aren’t any real blow offs here, but what you get is some storyline development and good to great wrestling.

Pros: Joe vs Aries for the title isn’t as good as on Final Battle, but it is nearly up to that level. It is missing the drama of the previous match, but could it really compare? The only other complaint is the finish is kind of clunky, but it doesn’t really detract unless you are really nitty. Jimmy Rave kicks off his second big feud in as many days taking on CM Punk in a match that is good, but doesn’t match up to their later matches. My personal highlight of the show is the return of the Cornette/Heenan feud. The match isn’t quite as hilarious as the first one, but as a match it works a little better. So either way it is one hell of a fun time. Alex Shelley vs Jack Evans is exactly what you’d expect and it is great for it. Finally, Gibson vs Puma, Spanky vs Jacobs and Danielson vs Homicide are all very solid, although the latter is hard to follow at times.

Cons: Fast Eddie vs Sydal I guess. Nothing on this show is must MUST see, but pretty much everything is good.

9. Third Year Anniversary Celebration Part 2 (B+) The Embassy can’t get along with anyone! Lots of angle development here too.

Pros: CM Punk vs Alex Shelley is an overlooked minor classic. This is one of the best wrestling matches Punk had in ROH outside of the Joe trilogy, and it is rarely talked about. Joe and Danielson reform the tag team of awesome to take on Aries and Evans in a surprisingly silly, but great match. Evans and Joe have the best interactions. Jimmy Rave kicked off his feud with AJ Styles, in what might be their best match of the feud.  Finally Nigel and Cabana had a good little match and Gibson’s 2005 kicked off against Spanky in a very good match.

Cons: Part 2 is not as strong of a top to bottom card as Part 3. The AIR DEVILS explode in their uninteresting debut notable only for their crappy name. The women’s four way is also below average, although it doesn’t really last long enough to do much.

10. This Means War (B+) I really love this show. It features the first classic defense of Danielson’s reign, but has a nice mix of technical, comedy and fast paced hard hitting wrestling. That and a weird Jimmy Rave promo from “Ghana.”

Pros: Some people argue that Strong vs Danielson I is as good or better than the Vendetta rematch. I don’t quite agree, but it is an amazing match with another intense finish that is so well done some people swear it was a “shoot.” You need to see this match. You also need to see the opener between Shelley and Claudio. This is Claudio’s coming out party in ROH, where he really shows what he’s capable of. This is probably the best time limit draw ROH has done without a title on the line, and it is a huge shame there was never a rematch. Curry Man makes his return to ROH and has a hilarious match with Jay Lethal, and sadly Chris Daniels arrives too late to meet him. Austin Aries and AJ Styles face off in what is a slight disappointment, but still a good match.

Cons: The Four Corner Survival is hilarious to me, but a number of people hate this match. If you love Kikutaro, this match is for you. If not… eh. Reyes continues his fall of pointlessness, and Jason Blade has a dull tag with three untalented guys. I miss Blade in ROH. B-Boy also doesn’t impress in a match with Cabana.

11. Unforgettable (B+): Kobashi weekend Part 2! This time it is Joe vs Kobashi in tag team action and it does not disappoint. Also, a new ROH commissioner is named and James Gibson bids ROH farewell!

Pros: This show has two absolutely stellar matches. Joe and Low Ki vs Kobashi and Homicide is ROH’s best tag team match of 2005. Homicide doesn’t seem quite up to the level of the other three guys here, but look who he is in there with! But my favorite match on the card is Roderick Strong vs James Gibson. If an ROH fan were to see it fresh now it might not be as impressive as Roderick has been in these kind of big move big kickout spectacles since then, but Gibson really helps bring this to a new level, along with the emotion of his farewell. However, there is really only one other match on the card worth seeing, Jimmy Yang vs Chris Daniels. The Percy Pringle/Jim Cornette segment amused me, but some people hate it so buyer beware.

Cons: The Italian’s first tag title defense is a mess, but then again it is against Dunn and Marcos so what can be expected? Whitmer and Jacobs join Lacey’s Angels and destroy the old Lacey’s Angels in not much of a match. Reyes destroys a student. Cabana and Evans and Sydal and Rave are both average and inoffensive, but not really worth seeing.

12. Redemption (B+) Another Summer of Punk show, and despite the historic title match this show gets overlooked quite a bit.

Pros: THE WORLD TITLE MATCH! This match is such grand story telling. From Gibson being taken out to his grand come back and the crowd getting behind him, this match is so wonderful. I don’t want to spoil too much, but seriously, this match rules. This isn’t a one match card either as the 6 Man between Gen Next and the Embassy is really good as well. There’s a wonderful Embassy skit on this show as well… but nearly every Embassy skit in 2005 is great. Matt Hardy and Homicide have a good match with a let down of a finish, and the tag title match is good as well. Colt vs Spanky is good fun too.

Cons: I’m not a fan of the Ki vs Lethal feud and this show really is no exception. The Four Corner Survival is the only other really sub par match, so over all this is a wonderful show.

13. Escape From New York (B) Of all the Summer of Punk shows this is the most enjoyable top to bottom. It’s one of the forgotten New York shows, which is odd considering how many memorable moments there are on it. Well, Mick Foley threatening to kill Punk is at least memorable, right?

Pros: The most obvious pro of every Summer of Punk show is Punk. His promos, his commentary, his smug look, it’s all great. On this night he also had a stellar match against Roderick Strong, Strong’s best singles match to this point. Austin Aries challenges Samoa Joe for the Pure Title in a match that ranks third of their four singles matches. Joe’s reign was the first time since Williams that the belt felt like it was being elevated,  and a match like this against the one guy in ROH who he couldn’t beat only helped that. The four corner survival is also really good,  but it is an ROH match with James Gibson in it, so I guess it had to be. You know why this show ranks so high? Because even the Carnage Crew have a pretty good match, facing off against Whitmer and Jacobs for the tag titles.

Cons: The opener is pretty bleh, but that’s to be expected. What isn’t expected is what downers Nigel/Colt and Homicide/Lethal are. Homicide/Lethal is merely below average, while Nigel/Colt is a mess. They do a European Rounds match and it just doesn’t work.

14. Steel Cage Warfare (B) The Embassy and Generation Next finally settle their feud! Rocky Romero finally cashes in his Trios Tournament win! Corino and Homicide rekindle their feud!

Pros: The Steel Cage Warfare match takes up about ¼ of this DVD, and it is epic. It is bloody. There are some insane spots. The entrances are really well timed. And it tells a nice story of heel hubris, with a really satisfying finish. Rocky Romero and Danielson have a really good match that gets lost in Danielson’s epic title run, because honestly… really good was below average for Bryan Danielson from Enter the Dragon on.  Jay Lethal gets the upper hand on Samoa Joe in a really good, dramatic match that isn’t quite up to their Manhattan Mayhem bout, but is it fair to expect that? This is just a seriously well done heel turn. Mamaluke and Rinauro have their first solid title defense taking on MCAT and Cabana, but even this isn’t really that much of a match, just a fun little tag. That this stands out in their reign shows how far the tag titles had fallen.

Cons: This one is hard to do. Some people loved Corino and Homicide. Some people hated it. If you like the idea of these two brutalizing each other, put this in the pros. If you think it sounds like a plodding bloodfest, maybe not. Mikaze continues to drag down Jason Blade in the opener. Finally, Davey Andrews and Pelle Primeau have a singles match in 2005… yeah.

15. Fate of an Angel (B) Another really good, though not amazing Summer of Punk show. This also features Matt Hardy and more CM Punk greatness, although it isn’t Punk who steals the show.

Pros: Roderick Strong vs AJ Styles is yet another great Strong match, which you’ll find a lot of in 2005. Styles didn’t have as good of an 05 in ROH, so this is probably his best ROH singles match, but that isn’t to put down his run, every match he had was above average, and most were quite good. James Gibson vs CM Punk is quite good and made better by the angle done with Punk bloodying up Gibson. Hardy vs Daniels is good, though not as good as you’d expect. Joe vs Rave is pretty good as well, but the weakest of Joe’s title reign.

Cons: There are some major cons on this show. Ultimate Endurance is a freaking mess. It’s just awful. Aries vs Generico isn’t bad, but it’s just average so if you see it and think WOW ARIES VS GENERICO don’t cream yourself too quickly. The four corner survival is pretty weak as well, there’s a reason that the fans were sick of them when 2006 rolled around.

16. New Frontiers (B) It’s a Buffalo Stampede! Wait, that’s later. There are probably more smark star rating matches on this show than the previous two, but the previous two are highly significant and have some big entertaining promos so this one gets knocked to 19. (After thinking about it, screw it, this goes up to 16…)

Pros: Spanky vs Austin Aries and James Gibson vs Samoa Joe for the World and Pure titles are as good a pair of ROH title matches you’ll find up until 4th Anniversary. Spanky’s second run in ROH wasn’t much since he was barely around, but this match is his best one on one match in ROH. As for Gibson vs Joe, it is James Gibson vs Samoa Joe in 2005. If you don’t know what that means because you are new to ROH… that means it is damned good. Shelley vs Strong is also very good, like, damned good. Shelley had a great 2005, but as I go through these shows Strong had even more great matches even earlier than I remembered. I completely forgot about this match, and it’s nearly **** quality stuff. The semi main tag between the Purists and the Second City Saints is pretty good, Homicide vs Steen is Steen’s first notably good ROH match, there’s so much good stuff on this show!

Cons: The Masked ______ Superstar gimmick continues and the bad matches continue. Loc’s match sucks too.

17. Night of Tribute (B-) This show has sadly been out of stock forever. It’s the show done right after Eddie’s death, hence the title. It also features one of the hardest to describe title matches, Daniels vs Danielson.

Pros: I think for awhile this match was described on the ROH site as Christopher Danielson vs Bryan Daniels, or something silly like that. Daniels earns his shot earlier in the night and these two tear down the house. It’s a huge shame this match is really hard to find, and a bigger shame ROH never had a rematch. (Though they did fight it out for the belt in Texas for TWA.) Sydal vs Daniels vs Styles to qualify for the title shot is also quite a fun match, but it can’t touch Danielson’s previous match. To put the winner of the 3 way on equal footing he promises to wrestle a quality opponent too. So he faces Azrieal and treats him like a total jobber. It is a burial… but it doesn’t matter, it is hilarious. Joe and Lethal vs Aries and Strong for the tag #1 contendership is good, but not as awesome as you’d expect. It does set up the Lethal turn, and the Strong/Aries title run, so it is pretty important in that regard. Homicide and Cabana’s brutal match has an even more brutal finish, and along with the Vendetta brawl gets that feud into second gear. Claudio vs MCAT is also fun.

Cons: Everything else is forgettable or bad. But really, does it matter? There’s a lot of good otherwise.

18. Glory By Honor IV (B-) This is a great show for one reason. Whenever someone on the ROH forum bitches “THE ROH TITLE CAN’T CHANGE HANDS THE MATCH ISN’T IN THE MAIN EVENT!” you can cite “What about GBH IV???” Well, that and a classic title match.

Pros: Bryan Danielson vs James Gibson is an epic wrestling match. It will remind you why you love wrestling. I can’t say anymore than that. AJ Styles vs Jimmy Rave’s finisher match can’t compete. It comes on after it, and is a pretty wild brawl ending in Styles killing the Rave Clash for good, but the reason it went on last was for Foley to say goodbye. I’m not a huge fan of Foley’s ROH run, but this was nice. Jay Lethal and Low Ki have two matches on this show, and one is pretty good. I hated this feud and hated the booking of it on this show. I think the reason was because Ki balked at jobbing, but don’t quote me on that. Nigel defends his Pure title against Roderick Strong in a pretty good match, but if you saw their DBD IV match and expected greatness here, don’t. Nigel’s reign really didn’t get going until February 06 against Aries at Unscripted II.

Cons: I already mentioned the booking of Lethal vs Ki in the pros section which is kind of weird. There’s a lot of filler on this show which is weird because GBH is one of ROH’s biggest shows of the year. But, that was kind of the tradition until GBH V, shows that just underperformed or had too much filler. Watch the final two matches and don’t feel bad if you skip the rest.

19. Death Before Dishonor III (B-) This show is like GBH IV with the problems magnified. The title match is great, although not in the same way as Dragon/Gibson and the rest of the card is even more lackluster. The title match and following angle are so good that the match sits just below the median for 2005. The CM Punk bonus features are a pretty neat touch too since this was supposed to be Punk’s final show.

Pros: CM Punk vs Austin Aries is a great match. However, it is a drama clinic rather than a wrestling one. These guys screw with the fans until the Jersey crowd which typically hated Punk is itching for him to win just as they were at ASX II. Some people hate the Pepsi Plunge kickout spot for obvious reasons, but it WORKS. The post match angle with the return of Christopher Daniels and CM Punk turning heel are even better. Other than this, Joe vs Cabana and the Four Corner Survival are the only other quality matches. AJ Styles vs Petey Williams is above average, but as a whole this card is a let down.

Cons: The Carnage Crew vs Dunn and Marcos. I hate this feud and this match sucks. Ki vs Lethal is fine, but since it never led anywhere satisfying it’s hard to enjoy it given the finish which screams for the finale to be decisive and satisfying. The opener is quite average, and Strong and Evans manage to have a below average match… blame it on Special K.

20. The Future is Now (C+)

21. Best of the American Super Juniors Tournament (C)

22. Stalemate (C)

23. The Homecoming (C-)

24. Back To Basics (C-)

25. Third Anniversary Celebration Part 1 (C-)

26. Showdown in Motown (C-)

27. Survival of the Fittest 2005 (D+)

28. Dragon Gate Invasion (D+)

29. Sign of Dishonor (D+)

30. Buffalo Stampede (D)

31. Enter the Dragon (D)

32. It All Begins (D-)

33. Night of the Grudges II (F)

34. Trios Tournament 2005 (F)

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