As this two disc set would reveal, the situation wasn't quite that simple, and the shocking outcome of the Punk-Aries match would kick off what I personally consider the best storyline in ROH history.
We start off Disc 1 with the Punk-Aries match at Death Before Dishonor III, and right away you knew there was no doubt about whose side the fans were on. It was a bit unfortunate for Aries because, even though he had worked hard as champion, the fans still rejected him to a certain extent as they felt the title should belong to someone like Punk or Samoa Joe. I think a good comparison to describe the fan reactions to both men was that the building was Yankee Stadium, Aries was the Red Sox, and Punk was Derek Jeter. A subplot was that Aries had been slowly wearing down and accumulating injuries since winning the title, and in particular had taken a lot of punishment to his neck and was apparently not coming into this match at 100% That played into the finish as, after bringing the fans up and down several time with false finishes, Punk hit the Pepsi Plunge (a top rope Pedigree) and pinned Aries to win the ROH World Title.
The crowd went NUTS for Punk's victory (it actually didn't come across anywhere near as loudly on the DVD as it did live), but what followed made jaws hit the floor when Punk completely turned on the fans, saying that he suckered them all in and used their support to get what he wanted, the ROH World Title. He declared that he would take the title with him when he left and there isn't anyone in the locker room who could stop him. Nobody from the locker room did come out, but Christopher Daniels (who had been put out of action a year and a half earlier when Punk gave him a Pepsi Plunge through a table) gave us shocking moment #2 when he came out of the crowd to attack Punk and demand an impromptu title shot. Punk teased the fans by asking them if they wanted two title matches in one night, then told Daniels "Screw you, wait another 18 months because I'm outta here" and escaped through the crowd.
Nobody saw any of this coming, and it turned Punk's "happy ending" into one of the most masterfully orchestrated angles I've ever seen. Still, Punk escaped to fight another day, and ROH announced that Punk would appear one more time to defend the title at ROH's debut on Long Island a few weeks later. This was a great way to get people to buy tickets to the show since everyone thought the Death Before Dishonor III match was a swerve, and he would just show up to Long Island, drop the title, and be on his way. He came out at the top of the show and cut a great promo explaining that he turned on the fans because, while he had spent the last year carrying the company, all the fans kept asking was when AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Low Ki were coming back, and if it weren't for Punk, there would be no ROH for them to come crawling back to. Now that he has his offer from WWE, he came to Long Island to sign his WWE contract on the ROH World Title belt, which he did right in the ring, and would kiss the ungrateful ROH fans goodbye forever. Daniels and James Gibson both ran out to attack Punk, but he managed to escape through the crowd.
Later in the night, Punk again tried to leave with the title, but was stopped by Mick Foley, who said that Punk didn't make ROH, because it was actually the other way around. He wishes Punk well in WWE, but says that he has to do the right thing on the way out and offer some hungry young guy a title shot. Punk says he's helped the company out enough, but if that's what Foley wants, then he'll defend the title against Jay Lethal, who pinned him in a tag match a couple of months earlier and fits the mold of the young guy Foley mentioned. Punk tried to embarrass Lethal in the match, which drew Lethal's mentor (and Punk's old rival) Samoa Joe out to ringside to cheer his protege on. Punk decided to rub it in Joe's face by giving Lethal a Muscle Buster, pulling him up at 2, then tapping Lethal out with Joe's own rear naked choke while staring Joe right in the eye with a big smile on his face. Joe went after Punk after the match and Foley tried to calm them down, but Punk cheapshotted them both and ran again as Gibson came back in to try and get his hands on Punk.
Punk showed up the next night at Escape From New York, appearing in the balcony at the New Yorker to say that he had been planning to offer Gibson a title shot, but since he acted so unprofessionally the night before, he decided that he doesn't want to wrestle someone who likes to drink Coors Light, get pilled up, and go out riding on his ATV since those aren't qualifications to be a champion. He offers to wrestle Roderick Strong in a non-title match, but Foley comes out behind Punk and threatens to throw him over the balcony unless he gives Strong a title match. Punk wisely agrees to Foley's terms, and so Roderick earned his second of an astounding 15 failed opportunities to win the ROH World Title, and the first in ROH (his first title shot happened on an FIP show in Florida). Strong seemed to have Punk's number, but Punk used the ropes to pin Strong and then told the fans to say goodbye to the champ. He tried to run again, but found himself cornered in the ring by Joe, Foley, and Gibson, who flattened Punk with a Gibson Driver before taking the belt and telling Punk that if he's got any guts, to come to Connecticut next week and face him for the title.
Punk did show up in Connecticut, and goaded Gibson out to the ring early in the show by calling him a loser who failed against both Austin Aries and Samoa Joe, and that he'll send him back to West Virginia a loser again after tonight. Gibson of course ran out to go after Punk, but Punk used a chain to lay Gibson out and bust his forehead open. Punk repeatedly drilled Gibson in the face with the chain and then knocked him out with the ROH World Title belt before telling Gibson that the title would never be his. Gibson somehow found the willpower to come out and face Punk later in the evening, albeit with a big, bloody bandage wrapped around his head. Gibson proceeded to destroy Punk, throwing him to the floor and battering him around ringside. Punk accidentally sliced his back open while getting rammed into the barricade, but Gibson weathered the storm and fought back. He hit the Gibson Driver, and Punk kicked out so Gibson went for the guillotine choke he had beaten several people in ROH with, but Punk survived and again used the ropes to pin Gibson and escape with the title.
After his victory, Punk took the microphone and told the fans that they can now say goodbye to the champ since nobody here can beat him, but Christopher Daniels ran out and started brawling with Punk. Daniels grabbed the title belt and knocked Punk out with it, then said that if he wants to take the title with him to WWE, Punk will have to beat him first. What was not shown on the DVD was what happened after Daniels left, as Punk took exception to some fans who were throwing junk at him from ringside. He spotted one of the fans who was throwing stuff and chased him through the crowd, out of the building, and down the road outside.
The review continues with the second disc on Page 2!