ROH Final Battle 2018
December 14, 2018
8:00 PM EST
New York City, New York
Watch: Traditional PPV, Honor Club (rohwrestling.com), FITE.tv/the FITE app, PlayStation 4 (Live Events Viewer)
For the twelfth time in the last thirteen years, New York City plays host to ROH’s biggest event of the year: Final Battle.
Plenty of fantastic matches and incredible moments have taken place at the historic event over the years, but this year’s Final Battle is shaping up to be one of the most important events in the history of the company. Continued speculation surrounding Cody, The Young Bucks, and Adam Page means they could be finishing up with Ring of Honor this weekend. While Marty Scurll appears to be staying with ROH well into 2019, the other members of The Elite could be on their way out of the company as they prepare to form a whole new wrestling company of their own: All Elite Wrestling. What this could mean for the future of ROH is a big question as the promotion heads into 2019. The Elite have clearly the biggest stars in ROH over the last couple of years, and the rise of “Being The Elite” YouTube Series has led to the group becoming even more popular.
There’s no question that the potential departure of 80% of ROH’s biggest act could leave a massive hole. If you’ve watched ROH long enough, you’ll know very well that wrestlers moving on has been a part of this company’s history since the very beginning, but this would be the biggest set of departures since Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness both left in 2009.
While ROH has signed new names from the independent scene over the last couple of months (Jeff Cobb, Brody King, PCO), and tried out a few others (Andrew Everett, Tracy Williams), the promotion is heading into uncharted waters with a lot of questions that will need to be answered. How much will the attendance of ROH events (from your rank and file live events, to TV tapings, to the PPVs) be impacted? What will be the response from a booking standpoint? How will these departures and the potential rise of AEW impact ROH’s relationship with New Japan (who just announced a new set of US events for early 2019) following the big Madison Square Garden event on WrestleMania Weekend? We’ll find out the answers to all of these questions in the coming months. If nothing else, this news means that ROH might be the most fascinating promotion to follow in 2019, just to see how they respond to these losses.
Now before I get into my preview, I should make an important note with regards to the PPV itself. Instead of the usual 9:00 PM start time (like most ROH PPV’s in the past), Final Battle 2018 will be a four-hour PPV, with an 8:00 PM start time. Per Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio, this move is being done to give the matches more breathing room on PPV. This doesn’t necessarily mean the PPV will go the full four hours, but I’m fine with this move. At times, ROH has tried to cram too much into a three hour PPV window. When they’ve done nine-match PPVs in the past, at least a couple of bouts have felt rushed. Even with the traditional eight-match PPVs (eight is the perfect number, in my view), it seems like you’ll still get one match that is short-changed a little bit. This way, everything should get the appropriate amount of time. Keep the time change in mind come Friday Night.
ROH World Title
Jay Lethal (c) vs. Cody
Believe it or not, Cody hasn’t received a one-on-one rematch for the ROH World Title since losing to Dalton Castle at last year’s Final Battle. He was involved in a Triple Threat Match and a Four-Corner Survival back in June, but this is his true rematch for the title. Something else that’s interesting is Cody’s history with Final Battle. Two years ago, he made his debut against Jay Lethal. Last year, he lost the ROH World Title to Dalton Castle. This year, he’s going to have his rematch for the title in (what appears to be) his final ROH match against Jay Lethal. With the news and rumors surrounding the potential formation of All Elite Wrestling, the outcome of this one doesn’t seem to be in much doubt. Jay Lethal should retain his ROH World Title. However, how they get to that point should be interesting. I can’t see this being a great match, though I’m sure it’ll be a really solid main event (I hope Ladder War VII gets the main event spot over this, but I would guess this goes on last). Lethal always delivers in big match situations, and even though Cody doesn’t have the best track record in singles matches, I’m sure he’ll put forth a ton of effort in his final ROH PPV outing (for the time being). Leading up to this bout, both men have promised that they’ll do whatever it takes to walk out of the Hammerstein Ballroom with the ROH World Title. It wouldn’t shock me if we some shenanigans towards the end of this one, but in the end, Jay Lethal should successfully retain his title. Prediction: Jay Lethal
ROH World Tag Team Titles – Ladder War VII
SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) (c) vs. The Briscoes vs. The Young Bucks
So even though there have been two more Ladder Matches in ROH since Ladder War VI in 2016, this is being referred to as Ladder War VII, not Ladder War IX. Why are those last two Ladder Matches (The Hardys vs. The Young Bucks and SCU vs. Flip Gordon & The Young Bucks) not counted in the larger Ladder War lineage? I have no idea.
I’m probably the only one that’s really bothered by this classification issue.
Anyway, I’m fully expecting this to be an utterly insane spectacle, with no shortage of crazy spots and dangerous moments. The Young Bucks always excel in this type of environment. I expect that they’ll work very well with SCU, and with this being their last big ROH event (for the foreseeable future, at least), I’m sure they’ll want to go out with a bang. While we know what we’re going to get from SCU and The Young Bucks, I see The Briscoes as being the real wild cards here. This is the first time they’ve teamed together in a Ladder War since Ladder War III in 2011, when they lost to the All-Night Express. The Briscoes can fly when they need to, but when it comes to Ladder War, they thrive on the brutality and chaos that this kind of match encourages. In a recent promo they did for the second episode of the new “Pinnacle” series, they promised to bring the violence back to Ladder War, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to become ROH World Tag Team Champions for the tenth time. As far as the winner is concerned, The Young Bucks are obviously out of contention, given what they know about their future (a scenario where they win the titles here and lose them at the TV Tapings the next day in Philadelphia is possible, but not very likely). I could easily see SCU retaining here, but given that Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky already earned new contracts with ROH by virtue of coming into this show as ROH World Tag Team Champions (the storyline was that SCU needed to hold championship gold by time Final Battle 2018 came around in order to earn new contracts), they don’t necessarily need to win here. It would be a huge moment for The Briscoes if they managed to win the ROH World Tag Team Titles for the tenth time, and at this moment, I’m going with them to emerge victorious here. On paper, this has the potential to steal the show. Prediction: The Briscoes
ROH World TV Title
Jeff Cobb (c) vs. “The Hangman” Adam Page
Jeff Cobb has only been in ROH for a few months, but he managed to make an impact very quickly. In his first official match with the company, he absolutely blitzed Punishment Martinez in less than two minutes to capture the ROH World TV Title. Since then, he’s been on a tear, with his biggest victory coming in a non-title singles match against EVIL during the recent Global Wars Tour. Despite the fact that Cobb won the title at the very end of September, he’ll be making his first defense at Final Battle as he takes on Adam Page. Now the result of this one is obvious, for a variety of reasons. Of course, we all know what the situation is with Page (along with Cody and The Young Bucks, as I’ve already mentioned), and the chances of Cobb losing in his first defense aren’t very high either. That being said, this should still be a very strong contest that could be a dark horse contender for match of the night. I’m sure that Cobb will be working hard in his first appearance at the Hammerstein Ballroom, while Page will be looking to leave on a high note. Not much else to say here. These two will beat the crap out of each other, and it’ll be a ton of fun. Prediction: Jeff Cobb
Jonathan Gresham vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
When it was revealed during WrestleMania Weekend that Zack Sabre Jr. would be leaving EVOLVE to become a full-time member of the New Japan roster, my hope was that he would show up in ROH at some point. Well, nearly eight months later, the “technical wizard” is finally making his debut in ROH, and he couldn’t be matched up against a better opponent.
Even though his win/loss record hasn’t been the best, Jonathan Gresham has certainly risen up the ranks in 2018. His three singles encounters with Jay Lethal were incredible, and did wonders for his positioning on the roster. Since then, Gresham’s been teaming more often with the ROH World Champion, and has started to pick up more victories in the last few months. Now he heads into Final Battle for what should be an incredible technical battle. Much like Ladder War VII, this has the potential to steal the show, but what’s awesome is that this is an entirely different kind of match. Zack Sabre Jr. is absolutely fantastic (we all know this), and he’s going to work well with Gresham (obviously). The quality of this match isn’t in doubt, but I’m very curious to see how this New York City crowd reacts to it. This will be a very different match from what they’re used to seeing. I can’t see see a scenario where Zack Sabre Jr. doesn’t win here (he won’t be losing in his debut), but on paper, this has the potential to be nothing short of awesome. Prediction: Zack Sabre Jr.
#1 Contender’s Match
Christopher Daniels vs. “The Villain” Marty Scurll
While his SCU stablemates earned new ROH contracts by virtue of holding championship gold heading into Final Battle, “The Fallen Angel” hasn’t been as fortunate. After failing to capture the ROH World Tag Team Titles alongside Frankie Kazarian at Death Before Dishonor XVI, Daniels came up short again in the finals of this year’s Survival Of The Fittest Tournament. On that night, he was the last elimination, as Marty Scurll pinned him to become the 2018 Survival Of The Fittest Champion. Of course, a shot at the ROH World Title goes to whoever ends up winning Survival Of The Fittest.
In a backstage confrontation afterward, Daniels goaded Scurll into putting his title shot on the line, and thus we have a #1 Contender’s Match. This probably won’t be in the conversation for match of the night, when all is said and done, but it should be a really strong singles contest. Daniels continues to a very solid wrestler (despite his age), while Scurll always brings his A-game for big ROH events. The result of this one is going to be very interesting, as Daniels needs to get this title shot in order to remain in the company. When this storyline first started a year ago, I thought it was going to lead to Daniels’ retirement. With the rise in popularity of SCU, however, the result of this one is a little less obvious. Ultimately, I’ll go with Scurll to retain his title shot (it seems like the safe bet), but I guess it all depends on what the future of Christopher Daniels is. I remember reading not that long ago that his actual contract is indeed coming up at the end of the year, and with all the rumblings surrounding All Elite Wrestling, this could be the last stand for one of ROH’s founding fathers. I suppose some sort of angle could happen at the TV Tapings that would lead to Daniels “earning” a new contract, but I see “The Villain” escaping with the win here. Prediction: Marty Scurll
I Quit Match
Bully Ray vs. Flip Gordon
This feud got started with an atrocious angle back at Supercard Of Honor XII in New Orleans, and it’s gone on much longer than anyone anticipated.
In their previous encounters on PPV since then, Flip Gordon has had upper hand on Bully Ray, but by the end of those bouts, he wasn’t the one standing tall. At Best In The World, Gordon beat the crap of Bully Ray, but he only won after Bully Ray kicked him the balls. Then, it looked as though Gordon was about to win a Tag Team Tables Match (with Colt Cabana by his side) against Bully Ray and Silas Young. However, Bully Ray pulled some chicanery, and his team got the win on that occasion. The feud between these two then took a violent turn on ROH TV, when Gordon was forced to take a vicious beating with a Singapore cane after losing another tag team match to Bully Ray and Silas Young (Oddly enough, THE SANDMAN of all people was Gordon’s partner). Gordon refused to quit after taking those shots from the Singapore cane, and that’s led us to this I Quit Match.
Honestly, I just want this feud (which was dragged on for months) to be over, but I must admit that they’ve done a decent job building up to this match. On one hand, I really don’t have a ton of confidence in this match (I mean, come on, we’ve got Bully Ray involved). On the other hand, this doesn’t necessarily need to be a show-stealer. It’s going to be a violent brawl, which is exactly how this feud should end, based on what they’ve done up to this point. It’ll be interesting to see what they do to differentiate this from Ladder War (which is going to be violent in its own right). I don’t think it’s the best idea to do multiple hardcore-style matches on the same show, but again, my hope is that they’ll differentiate them enough that they can stand out. This certainly seems like the blow-off to the rivalry, and there’s absolutely no reason for Bully Ray to win. I’m sure he’ll be behind at first, but ultimately, Flip Gordon should absolutely destroy Bully Ray en route to definitively winning this match. Hopefully, he’ll finally be able to put this feud with Bully Ray behind him. Prediction: Flip Gordon
Dalton Castle vs. Matt Taven
The story between these two goes back several months. Back in May, Dalton Castle was scheduled to defend the ROH World Title against Matt Taven at a War Of The Worlds event in Lowell, Massachusetts (home turf for The Kingdom), but the match never happened, as Castle was injured. Taven claimed Castle was ducking him, and when the two did meet as part of a Four-Corner Survival in June (a match that also featured Cody and Jay Lethal), Taven managed to get a visual pinfall on Castle. However, the referee was out at that point, and Jay Lethal would go on the win the title several minutes later. The rivalry between these two reignited once Castle returned after taking some time off, and it took a more serious turn at the Global Wars event in Buffalo, New York last month when The Kingdom viciously attacked The Boys.
Now Taven is finally getting his singles bout with Castle, but he’ll be defending the “real” ROH World Title (a purple version of the actual ROH World Title bet that Taven’s been carrying around in recent months). They’ve done a decent job building up to this one, and under normal circumstances, I would say it has the chance to be a very solid undercard bout. However, I’m not too confident, and that’s mainly due to the condition of Dalton Castle. He’s been wrestling in a back brace since his return, and it’s very clear (based on the most recent events) that he’s not fully healed from his laundry list of injuries. I’m sure both guys are going to be working hard, but I’m not sure what the ceiling for this really is. Even if Castle is in better shape, I imagine we’re going to see some involvement from The Boys and The Kingdom. On paper, this has a lot of things working against it, but we’ll see what happens on the PPV. If this “real world title” thing with Taven is going to continue, then I could see him winning. Even with Castle’s injuries, this could either way. In the end, I’m going to go with Taven to win, mainly because I hope that I’ll be wrong, and Castle will win instead. Prediction: Matt Taven
Women Of Honor Title – Four-Corner Survival
Sumie Sakai (c) vs. Karen Q vs. Kelly Klein vs. Madison Rayne
When it was announced late last year that there would be a tournament to crown the first-ever Women Of Honor Champion, I don’t think anyone expected Sumie Sakai to capture the title. It was a shock to see her emerge as the inaugural champion at Supercard Of Honor XII in New Orleans, but what’s even more shocking is that her title reign has lasted eight months. I get that this was probably just a “gold watch” of sorts (for someone who first appeared in ROH back in 2002), but she didn’t need to be champion for this long. Her various title defenses have ranged anywhere from “decent”, to “fine”, to “mediocre”.
In all honesty, this reign is a microcosm of this entire Women Of Honor division. Outside of the occasional upward spikes in quality due to imports from STARDOM, the matches have mostly been just….there. It’s easily the weakest women’s division in North America right now. WWE easily has them beat, and at least Impact Wrestling has an interesting mix of women’s wrestlers. It was good to see ROH finally get serious about the Women Of Honor division three years ago, but right now, they just don’t have the talent. That being said, I’m cautiously optimistic about this match, mainly because it’s a four-way. Plus, they did do a fine job building up to this one, with the qualifying matches and the big brawl that broke out on the recent Global Wars event in Toronto. If this gets less than ten minutes and is wrestled at a quick pace with some good action, I’ll be satisfied with that. As far as a winner goes, I’m hoping this is when we FINALLY get a title change, and I see Madison Rayne emerging as a new champion. That’s not really based on anything specific with regards to the booking. I just know that Rayne signed a one-year deal with ROH a month or two ago, and with Tenille Dashwood injured, she’s probably the biggest star in the division, in terms of name recognition. I wouldn’t be shocked if Kelly Klein won the title, but Madison Rayne is my pick to win. Now watch me be completely wrong when Sumie Sakai somehow manages to retain the title again. Prediction: Madison Rayne
Kenny King vs. Eli Isom
With the recent announcement that this PPV would be a four-hour event, it wasn’t a total shock to see a late addition to the card. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton to say about this particular match. I’m sure this will be a fine showcase for Eli Isom on a (relatively) big stage, but this seems more like a rehab of sorts for Kenny King after coming up short in his recent bid to defeat Jay Lethal for the ROH World Title. It’ll be a perfectly fine singles contest that you probably won’t even remember by the end of the night. Now while the match itself doesn’t have many stakes to it, I wouldn’t be shocked if one of the new signees makes an appearance here. King did call out Brody King on Twitter recently, so there’s a couple of possibilities here. He could show up after the match and attack King, or he could come to distract King, leading to a surprise win for Eli Isom. I would lean towards the former scenario. Prediction: Kenny King
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