ROH Final Battle 2017
December 15th, 2017
Hammerstein Ballroom
New York City, New York

Before I go into the review, I’ll briefly mention the results of the two pre-show matches. The Dawgs (Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara) picked up a win over Cheeseburger & Delirious, who turned out to being the mystery partner, and Jonathan Gresham defeated Josh Woods. I only caught the last minute or two of Gresham/Woods, mainly due to the fact that I had just arrived to the venue. I won’t go into much detail, but my bus trip into New York City was a nightmare. What’s normally a three hour trip (it makes a bunch of other stops and doesn’t take a direct route) took almost six hours because of a persistent snow storm. Honestly, I’m lucky that I even got there on time.

In a quick note, I should also add that ROH seemed to add a couple of small production upgrades. They used a lot more pyro during the entrances (including some fire), and they added a small video strip that went along with the lighting rig that hangs above the ring.

Matt Taven (with The Kingdom) def. Will Ospreay

In hindsight, this was a perfect choice for the opener, and when the dust settled, it ended up being really good. They didn’t waste any time at the start, as they busted out of a couple of big dives in the first minute of the minute. This featured a lot of fun action and cool exchanges in front of a hot New York City crowd. That’s exactly what you want your opening match to be. Ospreay looked great (as he always does), while Taven had one of his best outings in ROH this year, as far as singles competition is concerned. Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan were at ringside with Taven, and they did get involved at certain points. That did take away from the match a little bit, in my view, but since their interference didn’t have a direct impact on the finish, I was more willing to tolerate it.

Taven would ultimately score the victory here, with isn’t much of a surprise, especially since it seems like Ospreay is finishing up with ROH (while it hasn’t officially been announced, it appears that he’ll be returning to EVOLVE/WWN at their WrestleMania Weekend events in New Orleans). He’s produced some great matches in his time with the company, but he was rarely used (which is a travesty, to be honest), and when he was brought in, he never really did anything important. As for Taven, even with the rest of The Kingdom getting involved, this was obviously a big win for him (probably his biggest in quite some time) as he closes out 2017 on a high note. ***3/4

War Machine def. The Addiction

This show was filled with a number of surprising results, and this was the match which kicked off that trend for the night. Given all the rumors surrounding War Machine’s future (which, as I mentioned in my preview, have persisted throughout 2017), it seemed like a lock that The Addiction would pick up the win here. In the end, however, Daniels got hit with Fallout, and War Machine got the win. These two teams had a very entertaining tag team encounter. We got a brawl on the outside to start, as Hanson & Ray Rowe attacked Daniels & Kazarian before the bell. Once things got back in the ring, there was good, solid action all the way to the finish. I really enjoyed the fact that this didn’t go too long. It clocked in as just under ten minutes, which I thought was the perfect amount of time for this one. What also helped was the fact that these two teams had issues with each other coming into the match. If you don’t follow ROH that closely, you would’ve guessed this was just thrown on the card to fill time, but in reality, they did a nice job building to this match on ROH TV.

The Addiction vs. War Machine would’ve been a good tag team bout regardless, but because they’re feuding, it adds a little more juice to it. Again, the result was a surprise, but as a whole, this was an enjoyable undercard tag. It’ll be sad to see War Machine move on to (presumably) WWE, because they’ve had a great 2017. I wouldn’t call them the tag team of the year (I have The Usos & The New Day as my #1 & #2), but they’d be a strong #3 for me. They’re incredibly consistent, giving you quality two-on-two tag team bouts every time out. ***1/2

Jay Lethal def. “The Villain” Marty Scurll

Despite the fact that everyone laughed at the notion of ROH calling this a “dream match”, it actually ended up being the match of the night. From a live perspective, it was a blast to watch. The crowd loved Scurll, of course, but Lethal did receive a fair amount of support as well (there were dueling chants in the opening minutes). This featured some great back and forth wrestling from start to finish, and the fans in the Hammerstein Ballroom were really invested (which always helps). However, the story they told here played a big role as well, and was a big reason why this was so awesome. In the build to this match, Scurll said that he wanted to face the Jay Lethal of old, who wasn’t afraid to bend or break the rules in order to win. He wanted Lethal to be more “villainous”. Of course, that led to some shenanigans in the latter stages of the match, but in this case, it had to happen, based on the story they were telling. On one occasion, when Todd Sinclair got knocked down, Scurll got a chair and tried to pull the Eddie Guerrero trick on Lethal, but just before Sinclair got to his feet, Lethal wrapped the chair around his neck and played dead to make it look like Scurll hit him with the chair (that got one of the loudest reactions of the night).

Later, Lethal caught Scurll trying to use an umbrella, but when Sinclair went to put it away, Scurll got a second umbrella, whacked Lethal with it, and hit a piledriver for nearfall. Finally, when Sinclair was trying to deal with that second umbrella, Lethal kicked Scurll in the nuts, and hit the Lethal Injection for the win, in another surprising result. While those shenanigans would’ve hurt any other match, it totally worked in the context of this specific story. The combination of great action, really solid storytelling, and a hot crowd resulted in the best bout on this PPV. Even though both guys have their fair share of detractors, they’ve easily been the two best wrestlers on the ROH roster this year, as far as singles competitors are concerned. Lethal’s had a sneaky good year, particularly when it comes to the bigger shows, while Scurll has just been awesome ever since he joined the roster at the end of 2016. They closed out 2017 with an incredible match against each other, but in the end, Lethal outsmarted “The Villain” for the win. ****1/4

ROH World Tag Team Titles
The Motor City Machine Guns def. Best Friends

This was one of the only matches on this card that didn’t have much of a backstory, I was really looking forward to it. Both teams are great, and I’m sure most were expecting this to be one of the best bouts of the night. Unfortunately, it failed to meet those expectations. While it was still a fairly solid tag team encounter, with some good exchanges and fun moments, it just never got to that next level. I don’t think the amount of time this got was a big issue, as it’s totally possible to have a great match in ten minutes. As someone who was in the building, something I noticed immediately was the different reactions for the two teams. This crowd loved Best Friends, but the Motor City Machine Guns got a very timid reaction. It’s not like they didn’t react to them at all, but the gulf between the responses these two teams got was pretty big. The first half was pretty entertaining, and featured some funny spots (one of which involved Beretta & Chuckie T being forced into some “awkward” positions by Sabin & Shelley). Things got a little less interesting in the second half, and not only did the finish come out of nowhere, but it didn’t make a lot of sense either. Chuckie T hits Sabin with a piledriver, and sends Sabin back up so Beretta could hit a piledriver of his own (they’ve used this combination of piledrivers before), but Sabin just catches Beretta in a pinning combination, and gets the win for his team to retain the ROH World Tag Team Titles. The fact that Sabin seemingly no sold a piledriver is pretty ridiculous. I mean, it’s one thing if that’s done by a guy like Jeff Cobb, or Tomohiro Ishii, or some other big dude that either has a similar size or a similar style, but Chris Sabin? Really?

There’s no doubt that this finish was very anticlimactic, and it capped off what was easily the most disappointing match of the night, even though it was still a fine match overall. ***1/4

ROH World TV Title – Four-Corners Elimination Match
Silas Young (with The Beer City Bruiser) def. Punishment Martinez, Kenny King, & Shane Taylor

Punishment Martinez had a really cool entrance where he came out of a coffin while being surrounded by zombies. I think it’s fair to say that this was the biggest unknown on the card. We really didn’t know what kind of a match we were going to get, or how good/bad it was going to be. When the dust settled, this ended up being a fine four-way that featured a lot of ups and downs, in terms of quality. The first part of the bout was slow and relatively uninteresting, which was a little surprising to me, considering that it was a multi-person match. The crowd was pretty quiet for that first part as well, and while it seemed like everyone was putting forth an honest effort, it just wasn’t working (“lethargic” would be a great word to describe the first part of this one). Shane Taylor was eliminated first by Punishment Martinez, but the turning point was the elimination of Kenny King, who got pinned after Silas Young smashed a beer bottle into the back of his head. Not only did that spot wake the crowd up, but they got more invested with the revelation that we were going to get a new champion. It came down to Punishment Martinez vs. Silas Young, and these two had a pretty fun exchange in the closing minutes. At one point, Martinez appeared to injure his ribs on a dive, and that was the opening Young needed. He went after the ribs, hit Misery, and captured his first title in ROH.

Another factor that really hurt this match was the length. I understand that a bout involving eliminations needs to be on the longer side, but this was the longest bout on the card at just over seventeen minutes. You could pull that off if the match featured guys that the audience was more invested in (and that’s not to say that absolutely nobody cared about the four guys involved here), but the truth is that not a lot people cared about this one, and it dragged on too long when people were patiently waiting for the last three matches. As for the result, I’ve seen some people upset with the fact that Punishment Martinez didn’t win, but as I mentioned in my preview, he didn’t need to win this title right now. He’s just coming off winning Survival Of The Fittest, and is in line for a shot at the ROH World Title at some point next year. Silas Young was absolutely the right guy to win here. It’s really the only thing he hasn’t done yet in ROH (it was the next logical step for him), and if he didn’t win, then he would’ve been left directionless headed into 2018. Again, the match had its rough spots for sure, but it was far from bad. ***

I didn’t get to hear this, since I was there live, but Colt Cabana apparently noted on commentary that Silas Young has an undefeated streak at Final Battle, which currently sits at 4-0.

New York City Street Fight
The Briscoes def. Bully Ray & Tommy Dreamer

So Bully Ray made his entrance thrown the lower balcony, and ended up right where I was sitting (I was the guy wearing the white G1 Climax 27 T-Shirt). He did his best Sandman impression by chugging a beer, and I got out of dodge since I didn’t want Bully Ray of all people to spill a ton of beer on me (I did get splashed by a little bit of beer, but “a little bit” is way too much for me).

If you want proof that ECW nostalgia still exists in 2017, just listen to the crowd reactions during this match. They were really invested, chanting “ECW” throughout, and in general, they loved a lot of the spots. All sorts of weapons were involved, including chairs, kendo sticks, tables (of course), a ladder, a cheese grater, and even lightsabers, which garnered a massive “Use The Force” chant (hey, at least the usage of lightsabers here was timely, with the new movie that just came out). The Briscoes worked hard here, and honestly, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have cared much about this one. Normally, I enjoy hardcore style matches in ROH, but this felt more like an ECW style hardcore match. The difference (to me), is that the latter seems to be just using weapons for the sake of using weapons. With the former, the weapons are important, but they don’t rely on them solely, as they’re mixed in with the great wrestling, athleticism, and storytelling of the competitors involved (I hope that made sense). Anyway, the two teams went back and forth, and at one point, Bully Ray got busted open. Towards the end, it looked like Bully Ray was going to set a table on fire, but The Briscoes stopped him. They tried to hit Bully Ray with the 3D, but they couldn’t get him up fully, and the table didn’t break. Mark Briscoe then went to the top rope, and hit the Froggy Bow to put Bully Ray through the table to secure the victory. That was an anticlimactic finish.

Thankfully the right guys won here. The fans in the building loved this, but even though it had its moments, it was the worst match on the show, in my view. I’m very interested to see where The Briscoes go in 2018, now that they’re heels. As for Bully Ray, I don’t know if he’s done or not (with him, you never really know). The story was that the ECW originals were gunning for revenge, but they came up short, and it seems like the feud is over, so I don’t know where Bully Ray would go from here, if he’s sticking around. **1/4

Afterwards, Bully Ray did a long post-match bit where he left his boots in the ring, to signal that he’s retiring, but he was hilariously cut off but Ian Riccaboni, who was making an announcement regarding Women of Honor on the entrance stage. The timing of this was really weird. If you were watching the PPV, you’d think the crowd was going wild for the women on stage, but in reality, they were all clapping and cheering for Bully Ray, who was still in the ring.

Anyway, Ian Riccaboni introduced a number of Women of Honor competitors (Brandi Rhodes, Deonna Purrazzo, Jenny Rose, Jessie Brooks, Kelly Klein, Mandy Leon, Stella Grey, and Sumie Sakai), plus Mayu Iwatani from STARDOM (who did get a good reaction when her name was announced, from my vantage point). He then announced that ROH will be introducing a Women of Honor Championship in 2018, and I would presume that most, if not all, of the women on stage during this segment will be involved in the tournament. If I had to make an early guess, I would say that Mayu Iwatani is probably going to make the finals, before losing to whomever the eventual first champion will be.

ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles
The Bullet Club (The Young Bucks & “The Hangman” Adam Page) def. Dragon Lee, Flip Gordon, & Titan

On paper, this had potential to be wild, and that’s exactly what it was. There was non-stop action in this bout from start to finish, with bodies flying all over the place as the crowd went crazy. As you probably would’ve guessed, The Young Bucks were one of the most over (if not the most over) acts of the night, and the crowd loved everything they did. The name for this particular Bullet Club trio, The Hung Bucks, has caught on pretty quickly, as the fans chanted it throughout this one. Flip Gordon also got his fair share of chants from the crowd, which is good to see. His athleticism is incredible, who knows how good he’ll be with a few more years under his belt. Dragon Lee & Titan were incredibly entertaining to watch (as they always are), but it was so sad to see them come out to basically no reaction. There’s really not much to add about this match. It was basically a fifteen minute spotfest with a ton of “movez & flipz” (to be clear, that’s not a negative at all, as the match was a ton of fun to watch), with a few “Being The Elite” references thrown in. While Dragon Lee, Flip Gordon, & Titan put up a good effort, they ultimately came up short, as The Hung Bucks retained their titles. ****

Afterwards, Scorpio Sky (who was on commentary) came out to check on Flip Gordon, but then The Addiction attacked The Bullet Club from behind. Scorpio Sky then turned on Flip Gordon, and it was revealed that he had joined forces with Daniels & Kazarian. It looks like they’ll be the next challengers, though the Scorpio Sky heel turn got almost no reaction, probably because a lot of people didn’t know who he was.

Before I go into the main event, I should note that a new version of the ROH World Title was recently introduced. Views on the new design have been mostly negative, based on what I’ve seen.

ROH World Title
Dalton Castle def. “The American Nightmare” Cody (c)

Dalton Castle made an incredible entrance on a tall platform flanked by his usual Boys (who made their returns here), along with some extra Boys. Cody came out with his wife, Brandi Rhodes, and had bleached his hair. I was really curious to see how this match would turn out, considering that Cody’s title reign has been incredibly lackluster thus far. In the end, this was a relatively good title bout, though it wasn’t exactly stellar. Fortunately, we didn’t get any stalling here from Cody, as the PPV had just under twenty minutes left by the time the match officially started. They actually seemed to work at a quicker pace than I was expecting. These guys went right after each other, brawling both inside the ring and on the floor (at one point, Cody put Castle through the timekeeper’s table). There really weren’t any dull moments that I can remember. About midway through the match, Brandi Rhodes took her heels off and hit a big dive from the top rope, to the floor, onto The Boys. That led to all three getting ejected from ringside. There was one weird spot towards the end that I thought was weird. Todd Sinclair got knocked down, and Castle locked his new submission (which he calls Julie Newmar) on Cody, who was busted open at this point (making the reason for his bleached hair all too obvious). With the referee down, Cody actually tapped out to the hold. It was weird because that’s something you would expect to see happen if the challenger is losing. That way, he has an out (Castle could say he had Cody beat), and that leads to a rematch. If I was still holding out hope for a Castle victory, they were dashed when I saw that spot, because I thought that mean he was losing. However, he didn’t lose. When Todd Sinclair recovered, Castle finally managed to hit the Bang-A-Rang and pinned Cody to capture the ROH World Title.

In the moment, the reaction from the crowd was incredible. They exploded when he won, but it was more out of shock than jubilation (though I’m sure a lot of people were very happy for Castle once the moment finally sunk in). That reaction is proof that nobody in the Hammerstein Ballroom saw this coming, and I don’t think anyone in the world saw this coming. There were plenty of people (myself included) who thought Castle should win, and who wanted him to win, but given the fact that many assumed Cody would be defending the title against Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 12, nobody gave him a chance. This has to be one of the most shocking moments of 2017, in all of wrestling, simply because nobody thought it would happen. As for the match itself, I would say that it was Cody’s best title bout to date (in ROH, at least, as I know he’s defended the title a couple of times in other promotions), though that’s not saying much. It was about on-par with his title defense against KUSHIDA in Columbus, though I’d put this match above that one, since there was a lot of early stalling in that bout with KUSHIDA. It wasn’t exactly the kind of main event you want to close a show like Final Battle, but the moment of Castle winning easily trumps that, in my view. ***1/4

The entire World Title celebration after the match was so cool, as the ring became filled with streamers while confetti fell from the ceiling. I have to give credit to Cody as well. He did a GREAT job selling the disappointment of losing his title. Instead of being angry or overly frustrated, he just looked…disheartened. Back to Castle, he celebrated with The Boys (who apparently only just signed ROH contracts very recently, which is crazy considering that they’ve been with Castle for over two-and-a-half years at this point) and cut a promo after the PPV went off the air. Putting the ROH World Title on Dalton Castle was absolutely the right call here. As I said in my preview, after all of the departures in the last eighteen months, Castle is really the only homegrown, non-Bullet Club star they have left. Now, if people like O’Reilly, Dijak, or Keith Lee were still around, Castle probably wouldn’t have been my first choice. With all of those people gone, however, the company needed to make Castle their guy. They needed to strap a rocket to his back and push him to the moon. Well, here were are in December of 2017, and Dalton Castle is the new ROH World Champion. It was an incredible moment to see in person, and I’m so glad that I finally got to see an ROH World Title change live. I’ve never left a wrestling show in a happier mood than I did last night.

Final Thoughts

Final Battle 2017 was far from a great show, but I’d say it was a pretty good show. Things got off to a strong start with a hot opener with Ospreay vs. Taven, a really fun tag team bout in The Addiction vs. War Machine, and the Match of the Night in the form of Jay Lethal vs. Marty Scurll. At that point, the quality of the show definitely went down. The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Best Friends for the ROH World Tag Team Titles was good, but disappointment, while the Four-Corners Elimination Match for the ROH World TV Title didn’t really click with this crowd. Then we had the New York City Street Fight which, while the live crowd loved it, wasn’t that good.

The Hung Bucks vs. Dragon Lee, Flip Gordon & Titan for the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles was exciting to watch, and while the main event didn’t exactly go beyond the usual Cody standard, the result and the post-match celebration completed overshadowed it. Dalton Castle winning the ROH World Title was a great note for ROH to end its year on, and I’m very intrigued to see what’s in store for the promotion in 2018.