Ring of Honor
Final Battle 2018
December 14, 2018
New York City, New York
Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T) def. The Bouncers (The Beer City Bruiser & Brian Milonas) & The Kingdom (Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan)
While this was technically the pre-show match, it looked like it was either taped for TV or taped as an Honor Club exclusive, so I’m sure it’ll show up somewhere. I went into this expecting a solid bout, but it was much better than I was expecting. These teams put together a really entertaining three-way tag, and I would go so far as to say that it was better than a number of matches on the PPV itself. There was a lot of fun action throughout this one, and the crowd seemed to be into it. Everyone involved got opportunities to shine, and there were certainly some memorable moments. At one point, The Kingdom managed to give Beretta a spike piledriver on top of The Beer City Bruiser, and later on, The Beer City Bruiser managed to hit a big dive from the top rope to the floor! Best Friends ultimately came out on top (which honestly wasn’t much of a shock), and as a whole, this was a very enjoyable way to get the show started. I wouldn’t call this an outstanding match by any means, but whenever this bout becomes available to watch, I’d say it’s worth checking out. ***1/2
Kenny King def. Eli Isom
This was the match that kicked off the PPV proper, but before the bell rang, we got….a Kenny King promo (how exciting). King brought up how he had Jay Lethal beat in Toronto, and then complained about having to face someone like Eli Isom, saying that he’s just a glorified ad for the ROH dojo. He then delivered a cheap shot to the young rookie to get things started. Even though this wasn’t quite as good as the three-way tag, this was still a fine opening contest with some nice action from start to finish. Isom looked pretty solid in his first PPV outing, and it’s clear that he’s got potential. However, this just wasn’t his night, as King eventually picked up the win. I know that some thought that Isom should’ve gotten the win over King here, especially given ROH’s current situation. Honestly, I would’ve been totally fine with that, but realistically, I couldn’t see that happening unless someone got involved and caused King to lose. ROH clearly holds Kenny King in a higher regard that most of the people who will read this review (I don’t even dislike him that much, but I would say ROH still likes him a lot more than I do) and, for better or for worse, he’s still going to be a big part of the ROH mid card going forward. ***1/4
ROH World TV Title
Jeff Cobb def. “The Hangman” Adam Page (c)
I was a little surprised to see this match go on this early, but nonetheless, I was pretty excited to see it. The crowd in the Hammerstein Ballroom was very excited as well, as they gave Adam Page a MASSIVE ovation when he made his entrance. Given all of the news and speculation surrounding The Elite, I figured they would all get big reactions, but Page’s reaction here was insane. It might’ve been the biggest reaction out of all the guys from The Elite on this show (and that’s saying something considering how popular The Young Bucks are).
Jeff Cobb got a fairly solid reaction in his own right when he came out, and as someone who was live in the building, the atmosphere just seemed a little different. These two went right after each as soon as the bell rang, and when the dust settled, we were treated to an awesome, hard-hitting contest for the ROH World TV Title. The action in this one was great, are there were plenty of memorable moments throughout. Early on, Cobb managed to counter Page’s shooting star press off the apron into a belly-to-belly on the floor. Later on, Page was able to counter Cobb’s incredible power with some feats of strength of his own. From an in-ring standpoint, this absolutely delivered, and depending on what you thought about the match coming in, you might say that it surpassed expectations. However, the crowd really took this to the next level in a big way. I’m not sure how it came across on the PPV broadcast, but in the building, the crowd was MOLTEN hot for this match. They were into it from start to finish, and it added so much.
While the majority of the crowd was behind Page, it wasn’t like they were totally ignoring Jeff Cobb either. He had a good amount of support as well, particularly during the dueling chants. Page gave it everything he had, but he just wasn’t able to put Cobb away. In the end, Page got pinned after Cobb managed to hit him with two Tour Of The Islands. An awesome match with an incredible crowd. There’s not much else to say about this one. For Cobb, it was his best outing in ROH to date, while Page goes out on a high note. ****1/4
Women of Honor Title – Four-Way Elimination Match
Kelly Klein def. Sumie Sakai (c), Madison Rayne, & Karen Q
To my knowledge, this was scheduled to be just a regular Four-Corner Survival Match. I guess the decision to add eliminations was a late change, and even though Bobby Cruise made that point clear during the ring introductions, the crowd still seemed very confused when the match kept going after that first elimination. In the moment, I had no idea why this was changed to an elimination match at the last minute, but given how it ultimately played it, I now understand what they were trying to go for. They wanted to put Kelly Klein over strong, and they did so by having her eliminate all three of her opponents here (first Karen Q, then Madison Rayne, and finally Sumie Sakai) en route to winning the Women Of Honor Title. The bout itself was decent enough, but it certainly felt like a cool down after the barn burner that was Adam Page vs. Jeff Cobb.
Again, I totally get the reasoning for making this an elimination match, but when you have a women’s division that’s filled with wrestlers who are slightly above average at best (and some would say I’m being generous), I wouldn’t be trying to make their matches longer than they need to be. Everyone involved put forth solid efforts, but this definitely one of the weakest matches on the card. On the bright side, we finally got the title off Sumie Sakai. I can understand wanting to give her a title reign as a “gold watch” of sorts, but her reign was entirely too long. While I’m not the biggest Kelly Klein fan in the world, I’ll keep an open mind going into 2019. **1/2
Cary Silkin presented the Kelly Klein with the Women of Honor Title afterwards, and she then received a congratulatory embrace from the former champion Sumie Sakai.
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Jonathan Gresham
This was my first time seeing Zack Sabre Jr. live, and the idea of a singles bout between him and Jonathan Gresham was very exciting. Now while this wasn’t exactly the super great match that I was expecting going in, it was still a very strong singles bout that was completely different from everything else on the card. We got some really cool technical wrestling between the two (no shock there), with some nasty strikes mixed in. Sabre was in full dick mode here, as he shoved Gresham before the bell, and that attitude carried over into the match itself in the form of the aforementioned strike exchanges. The crowd in the Hammerstein Ballroom seemed to enjoy the technical wrestling, but those strikes and slaps between Gresham and Sabre definitely got the biggest reactions of the match. Gresham really took the fight to Sabre here, but he ultimately came up short after Sabre trapped him in the European Clutch for the win.
From a live perspective, it was clear that the fans in the building were very familiar with Zack Sabre Jr., and that wasn’t just because of the large response he got. When he locked Gresham in the European Clutch, everyone in the building knew that it was potentially the finish. Everyone knew that he’s won so many matches in PWG and New Japan with this hold, and as it turned out, it got the job done once again. The wrestling from start to finish was very good in this one, and again, seeing Zack Sabre Jr. live for the first time was awesome. However, it just felt like they left something in the tank for a potential rematch down the line. Hopefully we get that rematch, and hopefully, we get to see more of Zack Sabre Jr. in ROH in 2019. ***3/4
Matt Taven def. Dalton Castle
Dalton Castle had another grand entrance (as he always does for these big PPV events), but he still had his one leg wrapped up, and he was still wearing a back brace. Meanwhile, Matt Taven and TK O’Ryan forced Bobby Cruise to announce this match as being for Taven’s “real” ROH World Title. In the preview for this show, I noted that I was a little concerned about how this one would turn out, mainly because of Castle’s injuries. It’s very clear that he’s still far from being 100%, and he wasn’t in a match that many people were excited about. What that being said, this was a surprisingly good singles bout which managed to hold my attention from start to finish. Much like the Jeff Cobb/Adam Page match from earlier, these two didn’t waste any time, as they started brawling immediately. The fight spilled to the floor, and we got two big spots that inflicted a ton of damage.
First, Taven went for a big running dive to the floor, but Castle moved out the way, and Taven crashed into the barricade hard. From my vantage point, it looked like he smashed his skull on the top of the barricade, but it turns out he landed sternum first (that’s not much better, but at least it wasn’t his head). Then, shortly thereafter, Taven manage to backdrop Castle onto the entrance stairs, which is the same way Castle suffered his back injury several months ago. The wrestling throughout this match was very solid, and it felt like they brought the type of intensity that was fitting for what could be considered a grudge match of sorts. We did get an assortment of shenanigans towards the end, with The Boys and TK O’Ryan getting involved, and Vinny Marseglia dragging one of The Boys under the ring, but honestly, that didn’t bother me as much as it probably should have. Perhaps it was because I was at the show, and crowd didn’t seem to be bothered by it that much either. Anyway, Taven won in a relatively clean fashion, as he hit the Climax after the countering the Bang-A-Rang. I’m guessing I’m the high person on this one, but live, I enjoyed it. ***1/2
#1 Contender’s Match
“The Villain” Marty Scurll def. Christopher Daniels
Christopher Daniels needed to win this one in order to keep his job in ROH. Marty Scurll got a big ovation from the crowd during his entrance (as he always does). I was very much looking forward to this one, but when the dust settled, I was a little disappointed. From a technical standpoint, there was really nothing wrong with the match itself. There was lots of good wrestling from start to finish, and they managed to tell a solid story with Scurll targeting the neck of Daniels. However, it just….didn’t connect that much with me for some reason, and it sucks that I have to say that because I’m a big fan of both guys. Perhaps it was the fact that the match went close to eighteen minutes (which was probably about five minutes too long). It was also around this time that the thought of this being a four-hour show started to weigh me down a bit, so that probably wasn’t a good mix with a really long match in the middle of the show.
Both guys worked hard, but from a live perspective, this was definitely disappointing. Daniels gave it everything he had in an attempt to gain that ROH World Title shot. However, Scurll proved to be too much for him, and he forced Daniels to tap out to the Crossface Chickenwing. ***1/4
After Marty Scurll left, the fans gave a big ovation to Christopher Daniels. As he was posing on the turnbuckle, Bully Ray ran out and took Daniels out with a low blow. He called out Flip Gordon for their I Quit Match, and that’s what we got next.
I Quit Match
Flip Gordon def. Bully Ray
Gordon made his entrance through the lower balcony. He was wearing his military gear, and brought a big American Flag with him. I was very intrigued to see how this match was going to play out, especially since Gordon had to win here (there was really no other result). What we ended up getting was a fascinating match that you’re either going to love, or hate. This was basically a callback to old-school ECW in a lot of ways. There were a ton of bells and whistles here, and while that’s normally a bad thing, it totally worked in this environment. It was one of those classic “getting right up to the line without crossing it” situations.
Bully Ray attacked Todd Sinclair and Bobby Cruise. He threatened to attack Cary Silkin, and later pulled a random girl from the crowd (who I’m guessing was Gordon’s girlfriend) and threatened to powerbomb her through a table if Gordon (who was busted open at this point) didn’t quit. This led to a big spot when Cary Silkin attacked Bully with a singapore cane! We then got a ton of interference in the second half, which started when Silas Young attacked Gordon, who had Bully trapped in an American Flag assisted crossface. They teased lighting a table on fire, but it never came to be, as Cheeseburger and Colt Cabana both interfered on Gordon’s behalf. After those two were taken out, the building went dark, and when the lights came back on, The Sandman showed up! He helped Gordon fight off the heels, and ultimately, Gordon finally got Bully to say “I Quit” after repeated singapore cane shots (in a callback to the angle on ROH TV where Bully attacked Gordon with a singapore cane). What really makes the interference work in the second half was that everyone who got involved had been part of this Bully Ray/Flip Gordon feud at various points. Say what you will about this match, but it totally worked in front of this crowd, on this night. They were into it right from the beginning and reacted huge for everything you would’ve expected them to react big for. It definitely sucks that it took them eight long months to get to this point, but I have to say that the conclusion of this feud was pretty entertaining, all things considered. ***
ROH World Title
Jay Lethal (c) def. Cody (with Brandi Rhodes)
Cody came out wearing camouflage colored tights and was doing a loose cosplay of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid video game series. This wasn’t the best idea since it seemed like he was just copying Flip Gordon. Anyway, Cody did get a big reaction from the crowd (as you would’ve expected), but before the match got going, he tried to turn himself heel by insulting the NYC crowd. He said that if he actually cared about them, he’d be working the MSG show in April. The previous bouts between these two (Cody’s ROH debut at Final Battle 2016 and the Texas Bullrope Match at Supercard of Honor XI in 2017) ranged from good to really good, so I was hoping that they would conclude the trilogy with another fairly solid match. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got here. Instead, we took a trip down memory lane, back to the days when Cody was having subpar ROH World Title defenses.
The match wasn’t overly terrible, but it was the most disappointing match on the card, without question. There was some classic Cody stalling early on, and while they told a good story at points (Lethal going after Cody’s injured knee), the match wasn’t very interesting at all. I was actively bored at points during this bout, and that’s not something that should happen if you’re live at a show. The various shenanigans we got here (Brandi Rhodes interfering a couple of times, Adam Page randomly coming out to ring the bell in an attempted Montreal Screwjob rehash). To be honest, the best part of the match was Lethal just killing Cody in the final few minutes. He hit several dives, several superkicks, a Lethal Injection, and belt shot to Cody’s injured knee, before finally locking in the Figure Four for the submission victory. That part was great, but aside from that, this was a pretty average match that (at twenty-three minutes) went ten minutes longer than it needed to. Again, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly brought the show to a screeching halt, which is not what you want out of a semi-main event. **1/2
Afterward, Marty Scurll came out to confront Jay Lethal. We then got an appearance from NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis, who looked on from the ramp before departing. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of him in ROH next year.
ROH World Tag Team Titles – Ladder War VII
The Briscoes def. SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) (c) & The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks came out wearing some cool Rockers-inspired gear. We all knew that this was going to be a really awesome, yet incredibly violent, affair (as Ladder Wars usually are). When the dust settled, it definitely met those expectations. It wasn’t the best Ladder War by any means, but it was still exciting to watch from start to finish. SoCal Uncensored and The Young Bucks thrilled the crowd with some of the stuff they were able to pull off, while The Briscoes brought the violence in a big way (both of The Briscoes and Frankie Kazarian got busted open in the first half of the match). We got crazy table bumps, insane ladder spots, and a whole lot more.
A couple of notable highlights included Jay Briscoe bringing out a staple gun (though it was never used), a big slingshot cutter by Kazarian on Mark Briscoe through a table on the floor, Mark jumping off a ladder to block a Meltzer Driver attempt, Kazarian giving Jay a Styles Clash on a chair, Mark taking a big fall onto a ladder bridge, and finally, Nick Jackson taking a big spill off a ladder and through tables on the floor. That was a particularly scary bump. There were two tables set up, and while Nick did go through the first, he came up short on the second and appeared to smack his head on the table. Much like the Matt Taven guardrail spot from earlier, however, he wasn’t seriously hurt, which is a good thing. The Briscoes emerged victorious to become the ROH World Tag Team Champions for an unprecedented tenth time. This was easily the match of the night, and all six guys worked their asses off here. It was a violent spectacle, and a great way for The Young Bucks (and I guess SoCal Uncensored) to finish off their ROH tenures. ****1/2
After the show went off the air, we got a big goodbye speech from pretty much everyone involved with Being The Elite (Flip Gordon wasn’t out there, and even though Marty Scurll isn’t leaving right now, he was out there as well). The Young Bucks put over how much they loved wrestling in the Hammerstein Ballroom, how much they love the fans, and how much they’ve enjoyed working with ROH over the last few years. They promised to return to New York City, said “We’re All Elite, right?” and all bowed to the audience.
There’s no question that Final Battle 2018 had a ton of interest coming into it. Given all of the news and speculation surrounding the status of The Elite, most people saw this show as being a historically significant one (especially with regards to ROH). While this was an important event, in the sense that it was the final PPV for many of the current top stars of ROH, we really didn’t get many real surprises or true hints as to what ROH would look like going forward. There were no surprise debuts, announcements, or anything like that. Instead, this show just seemed more like your traditional ROH PPV, and if you were watching the PPV broadcast (and didn’t know what was really going on), you probably had no idea that the majority of the Being The Elite crew was leaving. I can somewhat understand wanting to save some of that stuff for the TV show, but I’m honestly a little surprised that we didn’t get any major hints towards 2019 (aside from a tease involving future World Title bouts with some combination of Jay Lethal, Marty Scurll, and Nick Aldis).
As for the wrestling itself, there really wasn’t anything terrible on the card, but it was certainly an uneven event in some regards. Ladder War VII was incredible (as expected), while Jeff Cobb vs. Adam Page blew the roof off the Hammerstein Ballroom early on. You also had a couple of strong matches on the undercard, including Jonathan Gresham vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Dalton Castle vs. Matt Taven, and even the three-way tag team bout before the PPV (which I’m pretty sure will be available somewhere at some point). Christopher Daniels vs. Marty Scurll was good, but very disappointing at the same time, while Bully Ray vs. Flip Gordon worked brilliantly for those in attendance, despite not being a good match. The opener was solid, and the two other title matches (the Women Of Honor Title Four-Way and the Lethal/Cody ROH World Title bout) were okay but had their own flaws for sure.
Final Battle 2018 was a PPV that featured some incredible highs and (mostly) good wrestling throughout, but it didn’t really give any answers as to what the future of ROH is going to look like come 2019.