My name is Rick, and I’m the ROH recapper around here. It’s my mission to convince each and every one of you to skip Star Wars for one day and watch ROH’s biggest PPV of the year, Final Battle. And while I’m sure this may seem like a daunting task, once you see the card that’s lined up for this event, I think it’s more than a distinct possibility. As per the usual, I’ll try to make this readable for everyone, no matter your interest in ROH; for those of you who are already fans of the promotion, there will be some knowledge you already possess in this preview, but I hope you enjoy anyway.
First, let’s quickly talk about Final Battle. This year’s Final Battle will take place in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, December 18th. Final Battle is the ROH equivalent of Wrestlemania, the show they build up to for months. It has taken place since 2002, and the following is a short list of the names that have competed in the main event of Final Battle:
Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, KENTA, Low Ki, Austin Aries, The Briscoes, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), El Generico (Sami Zayn), Kevin Steen, Adam Cole, and Michael Elgin. That is quite the list indeed, and I left people out. To compete at Final Battle, especially in the main event, is very much an indicator that you should keep an eye on these guys in the future.
Ring of Honor has been more and more in the pro wrestling news lately, with their talent exchange promotion with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and their recent agreement to work with PWG. These moves open up a wider roster to ROH, and I think it gives special significance to the card this year, especially considering the main event. But we’ll get to that in a few minutes. Let’s start the PPV preview!
Of note; I’m skipping the You Tube exclusive match, which is Brutal Bob Evans vs Cheeseburger, for 2 reasons:
1) I think that the match will probably suck.
2) They threatened to CUT OFF CHEESEBURGER’S HAND WITH A SAW. It was dumb as hell and does not deserve to be celebrated.
DALTON CASTLE vs SILAS YOUNG
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Silas Young is mustachioed brawler who goes by the moniker ‘Wrestling’s last real man.’ He’s a heel who is a very capable wrestler, but he prefers to cheat if able. He’s currently allied with The Beer City Bruiser, a very agile big man, and The Boys. Dalton Castle is ROH’s most flamboyant character. Very much David Bowie if he were a wrestler, Castle frequently refers to himself as ‘peacock’ and plays his character with a ton of showmanship, which makes him stand out in ROH. He’s the face here.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – This might be the longest running feud currently in ROH. Castle used to come to the ring with ‘The Boys’, two young men who dressed in masks and allowed Castle to use them as furniture and fanned him off during matches. At ROH’s last PPV, All-Star Extravaganza, Young won control of The Boys in an attempt to teach them how to be ‘real men’. He’s been attempting to force them to change personalities to match his, including dressing them in tank tops, sunglasses, and jeans. Last week on ROH TV, they seemed to go fully over to Silas’ side, attacking the referee on command and choosing to leave with Young instead of Castle of their own volition; on this week’s episode, they distracted Castle post-match so Young could attack from behind. Castle has changed since he lost The Boys, wrestling a more aggressive style and no longer doing his full entrance with his ‘peacock’ style ring attire. He challenged Young to this match, which would assumedly be their final one. It is their 4th match, Castle leads 2-1.
WHO WINS? – I confessed to not being a huge fan of this feud despite liking both wrestlers, just due to the homophobic overtones of the feud, but ROH has done an excellent job of not going overboard on that aspect; instead, they’ve focused on the effect that losing The Boys has had on Dalton Castle, along with their temptation to the dark side by Silas. As Young has seemingly gained their confidence, one of the big questions will be ‘whose side are The Boys on?’ during this match. What do I think? I think that The Boys helping Silas has been a swerve the whole time, and they’re waiting to turn on Young in the final match, which will be here. This feud has been going on for a long time, and this should be the swan song. As such….
YOUR WINNER – Dalton Castle (possibly with help when The Boys turn on Silas)
MICHAEL ELGIN vs MOOSE
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Michael Elgin is a former ROH World Champion. After an underwhelming 2015 for the first half of the year, he went on a crazy run through the New Japan G1 Climax; while failing to advance from his block, it seemed to rejuvenate him as a wrestler, and he followed that up by winning the 2015 ROH Survival of the Fittest tournament, becoming the only wrestler to win the tournament twice. As a result of this, he will get a title shot at the ROH World Champion, and he has stated his desire for that match to take place in Japan, possibly as soon as Wrestle Kingdom 10. Moose is a former NFL player who is managed by Stokely Hathaway, and is an agile big man. He went on a tear through ROH for most of late 2014 and early 2015, being undefeated for several months. After one of his managers, Veda Scott, turned on him, he lost his undefeated streak to Cedric Alexander, but gained some measure of revenge by defeating him at All-Star Extravaganza. He also wants a shot at the World title, and this match is expected to be defining in who gets that shot.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – After Elgin defeated a jobber in less than 10 seconds on an episode of ROH TV, Moose came out the next week and defeated a jobber in even less time. As such, Stokely Hathaway proclaimed that he was better than Elgin, a notion that Elgin did not exactly agree with, to say the least. They wrestled as tag partners later, with each of them trying to show up the other doing versions of each other’s moves and claiming more devastation. This match is the literal definition of two guys who just want to prove they’re better than the man across the ring.
WHO WINS? – Elgin has been on a major roll since returning from Japan, putting on good matches and showing more fire than he has in years. His character’s focus has been completely on the ROH World title, and if Lethal retains in the main event, he is expected to challenge for the title at WK10 in January. And while I’m pretty high on Moose, especially a man for his size, the truth is that there’s no reason to stop the Elgin train at this point. He’s a big candidate to dethrone the champ at some point in 2016, no matter who it is; I’d expect him to win the match here. There’s a case to be made that since Elgin already has the title shot thanks to SOTF, he can job here without much damage, especially if Hathaway interferes; but I don’t buy into that. Just push Elgin and be done with it.
YOUR WINNER – Michael Elgin
ACH, MATT SYDAL, & ALEX SHELLEY vs THE ADDICTION (CHRISTOPHER DANIELS, FRANKIE KAZARIAN) & CHRIS SABIN
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – One of the greatest collections of Indy talent over the last several years, that’s who they are. Let’s start with the face team. ACH and Matt Sydal just finished a best of 5 series against each other; both are high-flyers in every sense of the word. Sydal you may know better as the former Evan Bourne from the WWE. Alex Shelley is the former long-time tag partner of Chris Sabin as one of the Motor City Machine Guns and the current tag partner of KUSHIDA in NJPW as the Time Splitters, having just reappeared in ROH over the last two weeks. The Addiction, Daniels and Kazarian, are the former World tag team champions….of the World, and have been members of the ROH and TNA rosters for years. Chris Sabin has been aligned with them for months, but hasn’t wrestled in quite some time; he is also a former tag champ with Shelley in TNA and a former TNA World Champ.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – Okay, here we go. The Addiction lost the tag belts to The Kingdom at All-Star Extravaganza, and have been frustrated with their inability to regain said belts. Mostly, this is due to interference from a man in a red mask, part of the Knights of the Rising Dawn (KRD). Formerly aligned with The Addiction and assumed to be Sabin, the KRD had been costing The Addiction matches instead of helping them win. Two weeks ago while the Addiction were in Japan participating in the World Tag League, Sabin called out the man in red mask, and he came out, revealing himself as Shelley. Sabin was shocked and left the ring, and Shelley has yet to give a reason for his actions. One would assume it has something to do with their former partnership, but that will be a huge focal point for this match. Also, Sabin’s health will come into play, as he’s been out for quite some time; it’ll be interesting to see what happens with that.
WHO WINS? – Is ‘I have no idea’ an acceptable answer? No? Okay, so here’s what I’d guess. With Shelley being the big reveal as the KRD member, I’d guess that he has to be part of the winning team here to further his feud with Sabin, if they’re going that route. I have to assume that he’s back for more than just the one match, so if Shelley and Sabin are going to face off, I’d have Shelley’s team go over. The opposing argument is that ACH and Sydal are a thrown together team, while the Addiction are an established unit; put Sabin over here in the tag and have Shelley win the singles match. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. Let me just flip this coin here….
YOUR WINNERS – ACH, Matt Sydal, and Alex Shelley
ADAM COLE vs KYLE O’REILLY
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – 2 of the best damned wrestlers in the world.
WHAT’S THE HIS – Oh, fine. Adam Cole is a former ROH World Champion, a former ROH World TV Champion, and a member of The Kingdom. He is ALSO the former tag team partner of Kyle O’Reilly. Cole is a regular in ROH and PWG, along with many other independent promotions. Kyle O’Reilly is my current pick for the best wrestler in the world. He is a former partner of Adam Cole in the tag team Future Shock, and a current member of reDRagon with Bobby Fish; they are 3-time former ROH tag champs and the current IWGP tag champs.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly were members of a tag team known as Future Shock. After they split, Cole went on to become a member of The Kingdom and win the ROH World Title. Kyle formed a tag team with Bobby Fish known as reDRagon and won the tag belts multiple times, so all was well, so to speak. After Cole dropped the World Title to Jay Briscoe, he challenged him for it at Final Battle 2014, losing the match and thereafter announcing that due to a shoulder injury, he would be taking time off. O’Reilly, meanwhile, started to have more singles success, culminating in his run to the finals of the 2015 NJPW Best of the Super Juniors against KUSHIDA, which is my Match of the Year. When Cole finally returned from his shoulder injury, he seemingly started buddying up to Kyle again while shunning his former Kingdom stablemates. It was announced that Kyle would get the shot at the World Title against Jay Lethal at All-Star Extravaganza; after copious amounts of interference, Cole came down to seemingly help Kyle….and turned on him, costing him the match and the title against Lethal. Post ASE, Cole went on a rampage against O’Reilly, cutting multiple promos threatening to run him out of ROH, all because O’Reilly didn’t deserve a title shot, Cole did. And more to the point, everyone started talking about Kyle O’Reilly while he was injured, instead of talking about Adam Cole, who was clearly the better member of Future Shock; to prove it, Cole’s going to beat the crap out of him and make Kyle O’Reilly quit ROH forever. Is that great, or what? O’Reilly for his part, wants revenge for what Cole did to cost him the belt at ASE, and is ready to take out his former tag partner to do so, even if he has to cripple him.
This whole feud is awesome.
WHO WINS? – Well, Cole got the last two tastes, so to speak; he interfered in Kyle’s title match and cost him the strap, and he got the pinfall on O’Reilly in a triple threat that included AJ Styles. One would think that Kyle is due to pick up the victory here. Now, they could be readying Cole for another run at the World Title if either Styles or Elgin ends up with it soon, while there has apparently been some interest in reDRagon from the WWE, which would indicate a loss for Kyle to strengthen Adam. That’s a distinct possibility.
On the other hand….nah.
YOUR WINNER – Kyle O’Reilly
THE YOUNG BUCKS vs THE ALL-NIGHT EXPRESS vs THE BRISCOES – #1 CONTENDER’S MATCH FOR THE TAG TEAM TITLES
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – In order, the Young Bucks are members of the Bullet Club in Japan. They are brothers, Matt and Nick Jackson, and are high-flyers who are known for their double-team maneuvers and superkicks. They were formerly known as Generation Me in TNA. The All-Night Express is Kenny King and Rhett Titus. King rather famously left ROH for TNA right after ANX won the tag team titles for the first time in 2012, leaving both ROH and Titus in the lurch; it was widely thought that he would never work for ROH again. At ASE, they made a surprise return, defeating the Briscoes. Speaking of which, the Briscoes are Mark and Jay Briscoe, 8-time former tag team champions in ROH. Jay Briscoe is also a multi-time ROH World Heavyweight Champion; his latest reign came to an end at the hands of the current World Champ, Jay Lethal. They are redneck brothers who kick ass.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – Everyone wants the belts. Not a ton beyond that. They’ve interacted with each other trading wins over the last several weeks on ROH TV, allowing each team to gain a claim to the belts. ANX defeated the Briscoes at All-Star Extravaganza, with the Briscoes returning the favor on ROH TV. In the meantime, the Young Bucks took out the Briscoes on last week’s episode of ROH TV to get themselves in the mix as well. Since the tag belts are important in ROH, this fight is just over wanting to win the titles, and therefore whoever wins gets the shot. Sometimes, the simplest storylines are the best.
WHO WINS? – I don’t know if this is as complicated as it first appears. ANX is probably the least likely winner to me, if only because I would have to think that Kenny King still has some trust issues he needs to work out with the ROH brass. As for the Briscoes, they have the chance to win, sure, but the ability to split Jay off and run him as a single is tougher with him defending the tag straps; that leaves the Young Bucks. My feelings on them are mixed, to be sure, but they just signed with ROH for a year and have ties to NJPW; my gut tells me that they are going to pick up the belts sooner rather than later, just to pay off the investment ROH made in them. Therefore….
YOUR WINNERS – The Young Bucks
BOBBY FISH vs RODERICK STRONG (C) – WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Roderick Strong has been a stalwart of ROH for more than 10 years. He is a former ROH World Tag champion, a former ROH World Champion, and now a 2-time ROH World TV Champion. He is a superb wrestler, but not the most charismatic guy on earth. Bobby Fish is currently a member of reDRagon with Kyle O’Reilly, and this will be his second shot at the TV belt in as many PPVs; he lost against Jay Lethal at ASE.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – So, Roderick Strong was the first challenger for Jay Lethal after Jay unified the belts at Best in the World. He and Lethal fought to a draw for the World Title, and Strong had a rematch, which he lost by pinfall. After those two matches, Nigel McGuinness said that Strong would receive no further World title shots; however, he could get a shot at the World TV title that Lethal happened to be carrying around. Strong made the most of the opportunity, tapping Lethal out with the Stronghold to win the TV title. Thus far, Lethal has shown no interest in attempting to regain the belt from Strong, so a new challenger had to be named. Bobby Fish is that challenger. Last week on ROH TV, he attempted to give some depth to the feud, running Strong down on commentary by mocking his number of title shots at Lethal, then taking the belt and putting it on his own waist. Strong responded by ripping the belt off Fish’s waist, and the two went nose to nose before being broken up.
WHO WINS? – I think that Fish is primarily here because Strong needed someone to wrestle, and since Kyle is wrestling Cole, so there’s no position for them to tag; voila! I think that Fish’s chances in this match are somewhere between 0 & 2%, with the 2% being that Strong gets hit by a bus.
YOUR WINNER – (and STILL your TV champion) Roderick Strong
WAR MACHINE vs THE KINGDOM (C) – WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? War Machine is Hanson and Rowe, 2 giants with long beards. They look like Norse Vikings, and are particularly agile big men who can come off the top rope and cartwheel around the ring if need be. The Kingdom is Michael Bennett and Matt Taven, and they are led by Maria Kanellis, Bennett’s real-life wife. They also claim Adam Cole as one of their number.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? War Machine are the #1 contenders, The Kingdom have the belts. Boom. There isn’t much of a personal history here – they did the big staredown a few weeks ago on ROH TV, and there’s been very little beyond that.
WHO WINS? – I think that War Machine would be interesting tag champs, as they don’t fit the traditional ROH mold of champion wrestlers, but I don’t see it happening here. The Kingdom just won the belts at ASE, they have a ton of potential face challengers (everyone in the #1 contender’s match is a face team in ROH), and there’s always the potential for Maria to interfere. I suspect that we are going to be in for a lot of champs retaining tonight, and this is another example.
YOUR WINNERS – (and STILL your tag team champions) The Kingdom
AJ STYLES vs JAY LETHAL (C) – WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Jay Lethal is the current ROH World Champion. He’s spent time in a ton of other promotions over the years, particularly TNA, where he did a Randy Savage knock-off character called “Black Machismo” amongst other things. Jay also unified both singles titles earlier this year when he defeated Jay Briscoe at Best in the World to become both the World Champion and the World TV Champion. He had both belts up until last month, when he finally dropped the TV belt on an episode of ROH TV to Roderick Strong. He is managed by Truth Martini and is a member of the House of Truth, a heel stable in ROH. AJ Styles is one of the most heralded wrestlers of the last decade. A TNA stalwart in the past, he frequently wrestles in NJPW and is the leader of the Bullet Club, one of the top heel factions over in Japan. He will be wrestling as a face in this match, however. Styles has held titles all over the world in a career that includes almost every organization except the WWE.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY HERE? – Lethal is coming off successfully defending the World Championship at ASE against Kyle O’Reilly, but coming off a loss to Roderick Strong costing him the World TV title. Lethal has been strongly pushing the idea that he is the ‘best wrestler in the world’ many times over, and this whole run has been seemingly about that. AJ Styles, on the other hand, won the #1 contendership at ASE in a 4-way match, defeating Cole, Elgin, and Strong for that position, and he’s been waiting for this match ever since. Styles has never held the ROH World title despite having been in the promotion for several years at various points. His travels have taken him to Japan and elsewhere, but he’s back for this huge match, which has been building for months. Lethal, likewise, wants to retain his title to continue to proclaim himself the best in the world.
WHO WINS? – The wild card in ALL of this is the health of AJ Styles. He has been battling a bad back due to a herniated disc, which has apparently gotten so painful over the last few months that it literally hurt to move. The injury grew to the point where he was sent home from the World Tag League tournament in New Japan, forfeiting the rest of his matches. He also skipped working the last set of ROH tapings, and only had a face to face confrontation with Lethal at the previous set of said tapings; it has been awhile since AJ was last in a ring taking bumps. Combine this with the fact that AJ is currently scheduled to face Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in the main even for the IWGP Intercontinental title, and it becomes extremely unlikely that AJ takes the title here. There are a ton of factors that go into this, and there is apparently STILL some doubt that AJ will actually be able to wrestle on Friday (although he has stated that he will), but the cleanest answer is always the simplest – Lethal retains because it’s the smart play for ROH. It gives them the chance to have Jay defend it at Wrestle Kingdom 10 against Elgin, it gives AJ the chance to immediately rest up for that same event, and it keeps a very good title reign going for Lethal. While I admit that I would personally like to see AJ win the strap here, I don’t feel like that’s the outcome. I think that Lethal wins a very close one and gets ready for Elgin next month.
YOUR WINNER – (and STILL your ROH World Champion) Jay Lethal
And that should just about do it! As usual, I can’t stress enough that Ring of Honor is more than worth your time to check out; it’s got a mixture of different styles and great wrestling up and down the card. As for my predictions, take all of them with the proverbial grain of salt; last time, I got 4 right out of 8, so I’m not exactly Nostradamus over here.
But what I am is a guy who plans to see Star Wars on late Thursday night instead of Friday.
Thanks for reading,
@MrSoze on Twitter