Ring of Honor
Final Battle 2015
December 18, 2015
2300 Arena
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

ROH Final Battle is live in Philadelphia tonight and is available on PPV, the Flipps app and in the Live Events Viewer for Playstation 3 and 4 users. Playstation+ subscribers can even benefit from a 20 percent discount if they order through their console.

Final Battle is not, however, available live on iPPV. The streaming version direct from ROH will be available on ROHWrestling.com at the conclusion of the show.

Previewing ROH’s big night for Voices of Wrestling are once-resident ROH reviewer Aaron Bentley and current resident ROH reviewer Brad Shepard.

YouTube Pre-Show Match
Cheeseburger vs. Bob Evans

Aaron Bentley: Amazingly, this feud has likely received more television time than any other, apart from the interminable Steve Corino and BJ Whitmer program. That tells you a lot about ROH TV in 2015 but now is not the time for that discussion. I am clearly not the target audience for this match. Despite Cheesburger’s rise to cult hero, he has never appealed to me. I can’t imagine a single person watching this match on YouTube and deciding they *have* to order Final Battle. Regardless, these two always work hard and have had fun matches in the past. I would expect the same here but Cheeseburger’s ironic popularity should be enough to secure the victory.

Prediction: Cheeseburger

Brad Shepard: With his physique, there’s a good chance you’d suspect Cheeseburger is serving them, rather than actually wrestling under that name. It’s what makes him the ultimate underdog babyface, and why fans love him. I’ve never been the biggest Cheeseburger fan personally, but they’ve done a nice job with him in that role, and ‘Brutal’ Bob Evans (who would be a Royale with Cheese in comparison) has done a nice job of helping him shine while playing the big, mean bully.

I like the concept of a YouTube pre-show match, and I hope they use this concept going forward. It allows you to sample the product before you buy it, so to speak. Of course, that will also put the added pressure on both of them to perform. Since this match is being watched on YouTube, and with that being the hook for you to buy the PPV, it only makes sense to invest in properly promoting this match. Unfortunately, I feel they’ve failed to do that on a consistent basis.

I do expect a physical match, with Evans as the aggressor, and Cheeseburger working underneath. We may see outside interference, or the use of weapons. I certainly wouldn’t expect a Bret Hart technical masterpiece, after Evans tried breaking and sawing off Cheeseburger’s hand.

Prediction: Cheeseburger

Dalton Castle vs. Silas Young

Bentley: When Castle and Young first met at this year’s Best in the World, I was not excited for the match. Castle and Young are polar opposites for me. I love Castle’s in-ring work but can’t stand the character; I don’t think much of Silas’ in-ring work, but his character work is top notch. And yet, they ended up having a great match. Since then, the comedy involving The Boys has started to entertain me and I have complete confidence that, once the bell rings, this will deliver. In modern wrestling, this is a fairly long-term story, having started in the spring. The only appropriate way to tie a bow on it would be to have Castle emerge victorious and move up the card. While it’s not necessarily for me, I can’t deny that Castle is 100% committed to the character, is a great worker, and deserves to be elevated.

Prediction: Dalton Castle

Shepard: In 1997, P Diddy (or whatever he’s calling himself these days) taught us that “It’s All About the Benjamins.” My how times have changed. 18 years later, “It’s All About the Boys,” and perhaps there couldn’t be a more appropriate song to describe Dalton Castle’s feels than “Ass Back Home” by the Gym Class Heroes:

I don’t know, where you’re going
Or when you’re coming home
I left the keys under the mat to our front door
For one more chance to hold you close
I don’t know, where you’re going
Just get your ass back home

There isn’t a character that stands out to me more in ROH than Dalton Castle. It’s unique in a good way. He does so many things well, and I think that’s why I’m a fan of his work. Castle missing his Boys is like a peanut butter sandwich without jelly. It’s not bad, but it’s still missing something to make it complete. Silas Young has been the perfect foil for Castle, and I’ve enjoyed his videos of turning The Boys into real men.

Again, I felt like they lacked consistency in promoting this feud, but the premise itself has been very good. Dalton’s psychology and facial expressions showing his immense sadness has been nothing short of exceptional. The Boys now appear to be loyal to Young, but how will they be a factor in the match? They’re sure to interfere, but on whose behalf?

The only ending that feels right here is Dalton Castle winning and getting his Boys back. I expect a physical, back and forth match, and a violent side to Castle that we haven’t seen yet.

Prediction: Dalton Castle

Alex Shelley, Matt Sydal & ACH vs. The Addiction & Chris Sabin

Bentley: While the talent may have felt slighted, this is the match I would have put on the YouTube pre-show. The KRD angle and all its offshoots have been dead on arrival but these two trios will undoubtedly put on an outrageously fun spotfest. If you tuned in and saw this match for free, my guess is you would be interested in what else Ring of Honor has to offer. Alas, the bout is instead fated to keep the crowd energized and exact at least one “this is awesome” chant. It seems to me the logical conclusion is for Shelley and Sabin to eventually end up back together again. All the interest in this match, apart from pure spectacle, will be whether that reformation starts here.

Prediction: Alex Shelley, Matt Sydal & ACH

Shepard: This is the match I am the second least emotionally invested in, due to the lack of a real build. Although the build outside of the Sabin and Shelley dynamic is lacking, the match itself should be athletic and highly entertaining.

Matt Sydal’s nickname of “Reborn” is as real as it gets. What a breath of fresh air he has been on the indie scene since leaving WWE. I think it’s fair to call him one of the best workers in the world right now. He’s really found himself, and he looks like he’s having fun again. ACH is a great athlete, and the added element of Shelley and Sabin is intriguing. I would love to see Shelley and Sabin reunite and reform the Motor City Machine Guns in what is already a red hot tag team division, but for now they’re foes.

The Addiction noted that they’re doing a tour of NJPW, so this may be there final match in ROH for a little while.

I would love to see them do more with Sydal. He could have great matches with Strong for the Television Title, with him as the babyface and Strong as the heel. Ultimately, I hope this match advances the direction they’re going with Sabin and Shelley.

Prediction: Alex Shelley, Matt Sydal & ACH

Number One Contender for ROH World Tag Team Championship
The Briscoes vs. The Young Bucks vs. The All Night Express

Bentley: Over the last year or so, I’ve grown weary of multi-team tag team matches but I can’t shake my confidence that The Briscoes and The Bucks will ensure this is great. I’ve felt for some time that ROH was building toward a Briscoes/War Machine feud for the tag titles. That program could be easily set in motion with a Briscoes win here. However, it’s certainly possible that those plans were changed after The Young Bucks signed an exclusive deal or after The All Night Express reappeared in ROH and began feuding with The Briscoes. Still, I think Briscoes/War Machine is the best avenue going forward and the one I expect ROH goes down.

Prediction: The Briscoes

Shepard: Triple threat tag team matches can be hard to pull off, but all three teams have the ability to put on a show stealing match together.

The Briscoes and All Night Express have a storied history, and the Young Bucks matches have more spots than a leopard, so all of the elements are in place for this to work if executed properly. I expect this to be one of the best matches of the night, if they remember to sell, and manage their spot work to tell a story.

The triple threat stipulation is a good lead-in to continuing the feud between The Briscoes and The All Night Express. I expect a fast paced, athletic match, with more kicks than a Foot Locker.

Prediction: The Young Bucks

Moose vs. Michael Elgin

Bentley: While Moose is a relative neophyte, he has continued to prove himself capable of putting on great matches, even when he is not expected to do so. I certainly did not foresee a great match between Moose and Cedric Alexander at All-Star Extravaganza, especially with the no disqualification stipulation. Instead, they had a wonderful match and Moose showed that he is as adept at brawling as he is at displaying his athletic prowess. Though there will be no weapons involved, that match should be useful to Moose as he and Big Mike lay out this contest. Adding to that, Elgin seemed to establish himself as a ring general during his run in New Japan’s G1 Climax and is performing at the highest level of his career. I expect Elgin and Moose to mesh extremely well and put on a fantastic match. However, as my colleague Brad points out below, Elgin’s contractual issues with ROH point toward a Moose victory. All the better from my perspective as someone who has been agitating for some time now that Moose be pushed to the top of the card. A clean win over Mike Elgin would be a huge step toward that.

Prediction: Moose

Shepard: Every year in Spain and other areas, they hold a televised festival which includes the running of the bulls; a dangerous event where Darwin Award Winners run from raging bulls that let their balls hang low, with the intent to maim or kill these mouth breathing oxygen thieves.

Now, imagine a televised event where two raging bulls let their balls hang low and fight, and you’ve got this match – Big Mike versus Moose. The lead-in to the match was basic but effective.

Anything you can do
I can do better
I can do anything better than you

No you can’t
Yes I can. No you can’t,
Yes I can, no you can’t.
Yes I can
Yes I caaaan!

Big Mike pinned his opponent in 10 seconds, Moose pinned his in eight. I expect an entertaining, and physical match of one upmanship. With word that Big Mike hasn’t re-signed with Ring of Honor (connect the dots), I can’t see him winning.

Prediction: Moose

Fight Without Honor
Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly

Bentley: With A.J. Styles’ injury calling into question his ability to perform at the level we are accustomed to, this is my most anticipated match of the night. ROH has done a great job of making this feel like a legitimate blood feud. I hated the finish of the Lethal vs. O’Reilly match at All-Star Extravaganza but it has led to the best character work of O’Reilly’s career. Honestly, it feels like Cole needs the victory because he hasn’t won a big match since his return from injury. But I do think he is over enough that he can withstand the loss and I would hate to have O’Reilly (who feels younger and fresher despite being two years older than Cole) lose two big matches in a row if he is going to transition into a heavier focus on singles work.

Prediction: Kyle O’Reilly

Shepard: This should be one of the best matches on the card. Cole has promised to end O’Reilly in ROH. They did a reasonably decent job of promoting this match.

Both are great workers, and I really enjoy how Cole can manipulate the audience. I do hope this will be the blow off for the feud, as I’m not a big fan of singles feuds when you’re part of a serious tag team.

Prediction: Kyle O’Reilly

ROH World Television Championship
Roderick Strong © vs. Bobby Fish

Bentley: All I know about this match is that, in 2015, Roderick Strong delivers. However, Bobby Fish has shown the ability to have below average singles matches with great workers. The Fish/Lethal match has to be the worst singles match of Lethal’s recent stellar run. There is probably a reason Fish is primarily a tag worker at this stage of his career. That being said, Strong has had great matches with everyone of late. The real concern here is that there isn’t much, story-wise, to grab onto, and if Fish doesn’t step up to the plate, this match could easily get lost on a very strong card.

Prediction: Roderick Strong

Shepard: This is the match I feel the least connected to. The build was subpar, and I don’t know why essentially a couple of rude comments about Roderick Strong by Bobby Fish would lead to a championship match at Final Battle.

They’re both good workers and athletes, Strong even more so in my opinion. I have no doubt the match will be good, but for me I need to see more of a story for this to be on such a big show.

I feel like this was thrown together because Kyle O’Reilly had a feud, Fish and Strong needed something to do, and they knew they could have a good match together. Meh.

Prediction: Roderick Strong

ROH World Tag Team Championship
The Kingdom © vs. War Machine

Bentley: I’m all in on War Machine. They have believable offense and, despite being big guys, are able to work a pace that is energetic and fun. On the other side of the ring, The Kingdom is a tag team that partakes in professional wrestling. It’s time to put the straps on War Machine and build toward that War Machine vs. Briscoes match I mentioned earlier.

Prediction: War Machine

Shepard: They’ve done a good job of building up War Machine as two bad ass guys who want to fight, and who are credible threats to beat anyone. Personally, I like War Machine because they’re a throwback to an old school tag team (much like Dash & Dawson in NXT).

War Machine are elusively quick for big men, so I expect a physical match, but fast paced at moments as well. War Machine has momentum, and could benefit from holding the titles more than The Kingdom could at this point.

Prediction: War Machine

ROH World Championship
Jay Lethal © vs. A.J. Styles

Bentley: In the immediate aftermath of All-Star Extravaganza, the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast completely sold me on A.J. Styles walking into the Tokyo Dome on January 4th with the ROH World Championship and defending it against Shinsuke Nakamura. I believed more and more in that scenario when ROH TV built up on commentary that New Japan stars were interested in challenging for ROH’s top prize. The possibility seemed especially intriguing with ROH planning to do a Japan tour and needing drawing star power. And yet, New Japan seems to have spoiled that Jay Lethal will be defending the ROH Championship against Michael Elgin at Wrestle Kingdom 10. That’s fine, and will be a good match, but sucks the intrigue out of this contest and likely hurts the ROH Japan tour.

Despite all that, there’s no chance this isn’t wonderful and, if A.J.’s back complies, it could easily end up on the cusp of MOTY consideration. The build has been nonexistent due to Styles’ injury but all that will fade away when the bell rings. This will undoubtedly be worked in the style of every ROH main event but Styles and Lethal are two of the best in the world at that style.

Prediction: Jay Lethal

Shepard: Obviously this isn’t just the main event, but the early favorite for match of the night. Only AJ Styles’ back problems could prevent this from being an absolutely excellent match.

The build for this match was just alright for me. I understand that’s mostly because of AJ Styles’ schedule and recent injury. Styles should have been at the go-home show for Final Battle, but I digress. My biggest criticism of ROH is their lack of episodic TV. It’s been a consistent theme in line with how they’ve fallen short on promoting matches for Final Battle. It’s a bigger issue than their production value, which still needs serious improvement, by the way. They sustain mostly on match quality, which unfortunately will probably never allow them to grow to the next level. No worries though, the wrestling on this card will be very good, and Styles and Lethal will be no exception.

I expect this match to be fast paced, with several false finishes, and lots of athleticism. I would prefer a clean finish, but I don’t expect Styles to win the title and if he’s sticking around for the foreseeable future they may want to protect him.

Prediction: Jay Lethal