The Rise of Generation Next
Ring of Honor
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
I have been a bit cynical about all the “Best of” sets by Ring of Honor, but these are well put together, include a ton of clips to explain the stories beyond the matches, and put a focus on what put ROH on the map – top notch wrestling and talent.
Even though far too many of the featured stars are no longer working for the company, the sets are a big positive for the promotion, first by marketing of these DVDs to a larger audience, and also showing that ROH has been the proving ground for top name talent in the business.
Who in 2004 would have ever imagined that CM Punk and Austin Aries would, in eight years, be World Champions in the WWE and TNA? Sure, it’s off by a month or so, but those modern fans who want to see how far CM Punk and Austin Aries have developed are welcome to check out this set (and others, including an awesome 2 disc set on Austin Aries and his biggest battles).
Generation Next was a premiere faction in ROH, especially in 2004 and 2005. Later it would drift and Roderick Strong would be part of the regrouping as the No Remorse Corps. In a clever move, the name came from an ROH event of the same name, providing the opportunity for several young and hungry guys to leap into the spotlight, to stake a claim as being main event level, to make their impact on the promotion.
Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong and Jack Evans.
Despite the appearances of Punk, Austin and Samoa Joe (as well as Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat)the star of this set is definitely Alex Shelley. Shelley (who’s catch phrase “talent on loan from GOD” seems oddly familiar to me) takes the mike and talks the talk in the beginning, middle and end of the 2 disc set.
Shelley begins as the outspoken general of the faction, and is attributed as the devious and dastardly genius behind the faction. He’s the guy that calls people out joins in on the beat-downs. He’s the lightning rod of divisiveness, and what’s awesome is that as his position is taken from him, the roster is far from forgiving for all the acts he committed.
But I’m getting ahead of it all, and we need to start with the players involved at the beginning:
Alex Shelley stood a bit higher than the others. In 2004, he’s more polished, more capable with the mike, more of a ringleader and definitely a guy who made TNA take notice, even though it would be years before he joined with Chris Sabin as the Motor City Machine Guns and at least got his due in that company, even if fleeting.
Shelley brought it with a passion, had high impact moves like the Shell Shock (weirdly familiar as well) and a few submission tricks up his sleeve. Of the bunch, he seemed destined for bigger things.
Austin Aries ended up fulfilling much of that promise, both in ROH and of course in TNA.
In many ways, Generation Next was the vehicle that elevated Aries from talented member of the pack to de facto leader of that pack (with the pack being ROH). Without Generation Next, there could never be a Champion named Austin Aries, as the time spent gave him the opportunity to shine, the confidence to grow and the timing to launch himself into the leadership role.
By the time Aries was ready to wrest the Generation Next leadership, he was ready to tackle the nigh unbeatable Samoa Joe.
The clips from that match’s finish were incredible, and if anything shows the difference between ROH of the Generation Next era and the ROH of today, it was the honor and respect of the ‘passing the torch’ moment when Aries seized the power from Joe.
Roderick Strong was another guy who benefitted from the faction.
Visually, Strong was a different man back then – more rounded, less sculpted, but ironically a heck of a lot more impressive and more fearsome. While the “Messiah of the Backbreaker” moniker has its audacity, there was a sense that the half-nelson backbreaker was a finisher (especially when hit a few times) and Strong was definitely the muscle of the group.
Without Generation Next, Strong never touches the ROH gold, and without that faction and a very interesting storyline with Jade Chung, there could be a lot less said about him.
Jack Evans elicited the chants “Please don’t die”, and watching this DVD set brought back that sentiment in spades. Evans took the daredevil mantle from Sabu, took it into the new millennium, and with a similar sense of selling, of doing things dangerously and (shoot or worked) the toll on his body was beyond believable.
Watching Evans do a 630 on chairs sandwiched around Alex Shelley’s arm (and landing on his neck), or watching him do a double-moonsault from the top of a cage, blindly, and all but landing on his head, and then again a little later in his career put multiple exclamation points on his ability to … well, seemingly try to kill himself in/out/and around an ROH ring.
Of all the star-crossed opportunities and talents overlooked by the industry, Jack Evans seems one that remains insanely missed. Then again, a guy who elicits chants of “Please don’t die” seems to be a guy who could go places. Furthermore, his skateboard/X Games athleticism/demeanor/appearance seemed like something that would have garnered big time attention. Evans was the Shaun White of the pro wrestling scene, but unfortunately the Vince McMahons and Eric Bischoffs of the world didn’t know White from CM Punk at that time, so go figure.
In 2004, Generation Next warred with Special K, and there seemed to be special attention to a guy named Hydro, who was all but invited into the faction, but turned them down. (Well, there also seemed to be an implied racial connotation to the invite, so that wasn’t exactly unexpected).
Ongoing opponents of the faction include John Waters and Jimmy Rave. As things progressed, Generation Next moved on from the always entertaining, mostly high-flying act of Special K to taking on the Second City Saints, with Jimmy Jacobs and seconded by the aforementioned Steamboat.
While sometimes the six man matches seemed more filler than fantastic, the progression of storylines and the evolution of the group in and out of the ring made it more worthwhile. Seeing Punk in the ring with the various members, and especially with Aries, is definitely of interest.
As the second disc opens, we get the big turn, and the opportunity of Austin Aries to seize both the leadership of the faction, and on that same night the ROH World Title. Once again, the title change was immensely meaningful.
Aries became a Champion much in the mold of Ric Flair, and his run-ins with suits, putting the sunglasses back on, and almost casually bringing about the violence, added a level to his character, even if the whole heel Champion never quite clicked.
But the matches with Shelley and his former Generation Next allies did click.
More so were the vignettes where Shelly appealed time and time again to the roster to forgive him, the beat downs that elicited no response, and the general feeling that Shelley (between being former leader and also the TNA stint) was a man with no home base.
It set up some interesting dynamics, but also set up his alliance with the Embassy and the raising of the battles to a heated war that could only be settled in a wargames type match.
Along the way, Generation Next recruited Matt Sydal as part of the group, and saw some alliances with AJ Styles, especially in regards to the always annoying Jimmy Rave (and his use of the Styles Clash).
There were several six man matches, and again those can get repetitive with the ROH Style and the same guys involved, but things were improved immensely with the Jade Chung and the Daizee Haze involvement. On the negative side, while I have nothing negative about Abyss as a worker, there’s a definite visual issue with having this guy in the ring with wrestlers who are clearly not heavyweights.
That being said, there were more than enough spots to show Generation Next overcoming the monster.
(Whatever did happen to that Matt Sydal kid?)
The Rise of Generation Next peaks with the triumph of Austin Aries and Roderick Strong, and the defeat of Prince Nana’s Embassy, and sets the stage for subsequent sets. At the time, Aries is the Champion, Storng a future Champion, and Generation Next is still a faction with muscle, daredevils and the best wrestler in the promotion, plus a guy in Sydal who was destined to hit the mainstream before anyone else in the faction.
Generation Next: a significant part of ROH history and this 2-disc set is one to watch for action, storylines and more than a few surprising faces. Whether for the mainstream names, great wrestling or watching a modern faction in all its glory, this is not one to miss!
Joe Babinsack can be reached at
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