“My god,” that’s all I could say after watching Claudio Castagnoli vs Konosuke Takeshita.
After a solid week of AEW programming, the match that stole the week was the ROH championship bout. This gave off classic ROH championship match vibes, something I feel we haven’t gotten in the last couple years. Maybe it’s a fresh Castagnoli re-entering the wider wrestling world with a possibility of match ups against old opponents or new faces. Perhaps it’s the young hungry ace of DDT making a name for himself in AEW, having incredible matches almost weekly. This match captured what peak ROH would’ve looked like if it was in front of 5 to 6 thousand people in an arena instead of the 600 to 1000 seat venues they would run in the 2000s. This felt like the moment that truly announced ROH as being back.
I first saw the match when I was hiding at work in one of the empty patient rooms. I was determined to watch this match no matter what. This match just screamed a big time fight to me, especially after all the hype it was getting the night before. After watching the live reviews on Friday night, I couldn’t really sleep. I just kept pumping my fist in bed like some geek waiting for those tapes from Japan in the 90s. That wasn’t ideal, because I had to work at 6 in the morning and had to be up at 4am. Naturally, I was even more exhausted than usual after a long 15 hours of work but after hiding and watching that match I got my 5th wind to help me finish off that shift. The last two hours all I could think was “Fuck man, I gotta watch this shit again” which probably isn’t the best thing to do when I should be watching other matches for WrestlePurists so that Monty can stop judging me over the only 5 to 6 matches I rate weekly.
Nonetheless, I said “fuck it” and watched it another 6 times. I even watched it before I went to bed that same night. The match just ruled, I couldn’t help it. Even on Sunday during my lunch break I just said “ Fuck it, im going to write about it” so after a ‘Dumb Guy’ Twitter space, I stayed up for a little longer to start writing this review or just general thoughts of the match. Maybe I’m crazy staying up to 3 or 4 am writing this thing but man, I LOVE THIS SHIT. And maybe I should stop cursing when I write wrestling reviews but man, sometimes I get fired up and just put everything I’m thinking in an article.
Everything from their entrances to them following the Code of Honor just felt so important and special. Takeshita felt like such a big deal to me when the announcers were fighting over each other just to talk about how special of a talent he is and how he’s going to be a big star for this company in the future. It really hit me hard when Willam Regal of the Blackpool Combat Club said that “this is the match some young child at home that’s sat there watching this who decided tonight that they wanted to be a professional wrestler. Those words from Regal really hit me hard.
Watching two of the very best go at it like that was so awesome. Maybe what impressed me the most was just seeing these two legit heavyweights go at it like that. Especially how both guys were able to move like cruiserweights in the ring. Everything felt impactful, whether fighting on the mat for position or trading in the strike exchanges, a battle of wills. No man wanted to show they were less than the other. Claudio came into AEW after an ultimately underwhelming WWE run to join the hottest faction in the world right now, beating Zack Sabre Jr at Forbidden Door and then wrestling in Blood and Guts on the way to this moment at Battle of the Belts. Claudio is finally the face and world champion of Ring of Honor, something that eluded him his whole career.
Claudio is defending his newly won title on a big stage. Everyone is here to watch Claudio vs Takeshita. Claudio was doing his best to get the best of the young hungry 26 year old star from Japan trying to get his first big win on AEW television. You know Takeshita really wants this win after facing losses from Jay Lethal, Hangman, Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley. This is the first championship match that he’s gotten in AEW, falling short in prior title eliminator opportunities. Claudio made a statement by proving that he wasn’t going to get bullied by Takeshita, just as strong and physical as his foe. Even Takeshita had a hard time adjusting at first but finally was able to put a string of offense together after getting outshined on the mat.
The crowd is rowdy, chanting non stop for both guys. The louder the crowd got, the more both guys wanted to prove they were better than other. Claudio hitting perfect european uppercuts on Takeshita at different angles, keeping him on his toes. But once Takeshita started pulling tricks of one of his idols El Genrico, he was able to take control after a top rope DDT and blue thunder bomb, then able to match Claudio with his own european upper cuts as well as forearms and lariarts. Even though Takeshita is the ace of DDT and has 13 years of experience, he came up short against a veteran who has been fighting for this title for even longer.
Claudio wasn’t going to lose this title on his first defense. Both men showed incredible resolve; they were the perfect definition of fighting spirit. The crowd couldn’t help but stand the final 10 minutes of the match, just watching 2 men who are the best of their crafts battling it out. After Takeshita’s final yet explosive sequence with forearms and a teardrop brain buster, Claudio fought back with a rolling uppercut, a lariat and the famous BCC elbows to the face, all weakening Takeshita so that Claudio could finally hit his famous Ricola Bomb for the win.
Without a doubt, Takeshita came with his best and probably would’ve beaten anyone else but it just happened that the ROH champion that night was the ‘Swiss Superman’ Claudio Castagnoli. It really was a special match and one that helped re-establish ROH as the home of professional wrestling. Where the best of best compete for a title with so much beautiful history behind it. As someone who found his love in wrestling again through 2000s ROH title matches, I got pretty much emotional watching this. I know this sounds corny but Honor is back. Honor is real.