Ring Of Honor
Final Battle 2019
December 13th, 2019
UMBC Event Center
Baltimore, Maryland

Watch: FITE.tv

Two Guys, One Tag (Silas Young & Josh Woods) def. Dalton Castle & Joe Hendry

This match kicked off the “free hour” of Final Battle, and turned out to be a pretty solid tag team contest. There wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, but the action was good throughout, and all four men had opportunities to shine. Ultimately, the team known as Two Guys, One Tag (yes, that is their tag team name) got the win with their tag team finisher, where Silas Young catapults his opponent (Dalton Castle, in this case) into a flying knee strike from Josh Woods. Those two have an interesting dynamic, where Young is the heel that we’ve always known him to be, while Woods is his goofy babyface tag team partner. With this win, they’re still undefeated as a team, so I would imagine they get a shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles at some point. This bout was the textbook definition of the Gentlemen’s Three. ***

Up next, Alex Shelley came out on the entrance stage, and cut a promo putting over Colt Cabana before challenging him to a match later that night. Cabana accepted, and we would get that later on in the show. This seemed like a random addition to the card at the time, but given what we know now (Cabana is leaving ROH), it makes more sense in hindsight.

Kenny King (with Amy Rose) def. Rhett Titus

Titus greeted his family before the match began, while King came out to the old All-Night Express theme music. Going in, I really wasn’t looking forward to watching this one, but when the dust settled, it ended up being a fairly decent match. There were a few rough spots here and there (including a big dive to the outside by Titus that didn’t look entirely clean). However, the wrestling throughout most of this match was perfectly fine. For some reason, King tried to do a Lethal Injection in the closing moments, but Titus was able to hit King with his own finisher, the Royal Flush, for a nearfall. Titus looked to capitalize after this, but Amy Rose provided a timely distraction, which took the referee’s attention away long enough for King to kick Titus low. He followed up with the Royal Flush for the win. While this was by no means memorable in any way, it was a decent match for what it was. **3/4

Jeff Cobb def. Dan Maff

It’s really incredible to see how far Jeff Cobb has fallen over the course of this year. He had a big moment in MSG back in April when he became a double champion after defeating Will Ospreay in a fantastic opener. He would go on to lose both of those titles (the ROH World TV Title and the NEVER Openweight Title) by the time June rolled around, and his undefeated streak in ROH came to an end in a very underwhelming PPV main event with Matt Taven. Since then, he’s been on the free pre-show for the last two PPVs (Death Before Dishonor back in September, and this show). I get wanting to promote this free hour by putting some noteworthy match on it, but is that really the best use of Jeff Cobb? Why couldn’t this match have been on the PPV? It’s just baffling in many ways.

My complaints about the usage of Jeff Cobb aside, he had an extremely entertaining hoss fight here with Dan Maff, who was making his first Final Battle appearance since 2004. These two just went balls-to-the-wall for just under ten minutes, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy this match from start-to-finish. Maff did the best he could for a guy who’s forty-six years old, but the fact that it was kept under ten minutes was certainly a plus. Cobb looked really good, as per usual, and even busted out the spot from the Shane Taylor match earlier this year, where he sends himself flying to the outside after hitting a big clothesline. He eventually puts Maff away with two straight Tour Of The Islands. For what this was, I really enjoyed it. It was short, and packed with action right from the opening bell. You can’t ask for much more. ***3/4

Afterward, Cobb and Maff shook hands, chopped each other, then shook hands again.

Mexablood (Bandido and Flamita) def. Villain Enterprises (“The Villain” Marty Scurll & Flip Gordon)

This kicked off the PPV portion of the show. It certainly had a ton of potential on paper, given who was involved. In the end, it absolutely delivered, as Mexablood picked up a big victory over Villain Enterprises. Aside from one botch in the middle of the match where Flamita lost his balance on a dive attempt, this was pretty action-packed from start to finish. Even though all four guys had opportunities to shine, this really served as a competitive showcase for Mexablood. The fact that they got a win over Marty Scurll and Flip Gordon probably means they’re going to be fighting for the tag team titles sooner rather than later (should Bandido decide to stay which, at this point, I believe he will, but who knows). The finish was pretty cool, as Mexablood did a cool 619/21-Plex combination. However, the big story with the finish itself is that Bandido pinned Marty Scurll clean. We all know that Scurll became a free agent a few weeks ago, and the fact that he appeared to challenge NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis at the end of the NWA’s Into The Fire PPV appears to indicate that he’s likely on his way out. We’ll see if Scurll ends up dropping his third of the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles at the TV Tapings in Philly, or if they do something to write him off, but it certainly seems like his exit from ROH is imminent. As for this match, it was an awesome tag team encounter, as I already mentioned. It is definitely worth checking out. ****

Vincent def. Matt Taven

I still find it hilarious that Vinny Marseglia is just “Vincent” now. They aired a weird video package beforehand which saw Matt Taven get transported to some wooded area, for some reason. This same video package also featured a Vincent promo where he said “man” at the end of every sentence, like he was a hippie or something. To accompany his heel turn, Vincent has new music (which includes finger snaps that he snaps along with when he walks to the ring), and a pose that is very similar to the early years of Bray Wyatt. It’s probably fair to say that there weren’t that many people who actually cared about this Matt Taven/Vincent feud coming into the PPV. That being said, these two went out there and had a very solid grudge match.

First of all, I love that Taven just attacked Vincent straight away. His former best friend turned on him and attacked him with an axe. They shouldn’t be starting the match with a collar-and-elbow tie up, or a quick grappling exchange. This should’ve started as a brawl, and that’s exactly what happened here. Taven had the edge in the first couple of minutes, but Vincent eventually gained control after a nasty suplex onto the exposed concrete floor. He worked over Taven’s leg for a big before Taven made his comeback. At one point, Taven connected with this really cool frog splash from the top rope to a prone Vincent on the apron where it looked like he got a ton of hang time. Then, towards the end of the bout, Taven went to use Vincent’s axe in an attempt to get revenge, but once he got back in the ring, Vincent was about to hit Taven with a sliced bread and just….pinned him clean. I was fully expecting Vincent to win this one (as this was the first match of what will probably be a long feud, he should’ve won), but the ending did feel a little sudden. While the bout was by no means a spectacular one, both guys definitely put for the effort. Taven in particular did a very fine job here. This really felt like a true grudge match, and I enjoyed it more than I was expecting to coming in. ***1/4

Afterward, Taven tries to confront Vincent, but he’s attacked from behind by Tyler Bateman, who recently signed with ROH. Bateman and Vincent then get a block of wood from under the ring, and use it to hold Taven’s legs in place so that Vincent could swing a chair into one of Taven’s legs (it was straight out of the horror film Misery). Looks like Tyler Bateman and Vincent are going to be paired together going forward, and (as expected) this Matt Taven/Vincent feud is continuing. It seems like Ian Riccaboni teased on commentary that more people might be coming to join Vincent, so we’ll see if that actually comes to pass.

Street Fight – Mark Haskins def. Bully Ray

Another year, another Street Fight at Final Battle involving Bully Ray. While everyone (myself included) is pretty much sick of seeing Bully Ray in ROH at this point, I still had some hope that this might be somewhat decent. After all, the Street Fight between Bully Ray and Flip Gordon from last year’s Final Battle was much better than I was expecting (thought it was very much an ECW tribute in the way it was booked).

Unfortunately, what we got was a terrible match that saw Bully Ray on offense for what felt like eighty percent of the bout. It actually got off to a shocking start, as Bully Ray used a barbed-wire board to attack Mark Haskins and his wife, Vicky Haskins. There were a couple of cool moments involving Mark about midway through the match that did improve this whole thing slightly. At one point, after Bully Ray verbally ran him down on the mic, Mark told him to fuck off a few times, and fired up after eating a number of kendo stick shots to the chest. Then, he did go after Bully’s arm with a chair for a minute. However, beyond those key moments, Bully Ray pretty much dominated. The good news is that we at least got the right finish. Just as it looked like Bully was going to put Mark away, Vicky returned and took a cheese grater to Bully’s balls (even though it looked like she was digging it more into his inner thigh than his balls). The husband and wife duo then sent Bully through a table, and Mark hit a double stomp for the pin. I have mixed feelings about the finish itself. Mark doesn’t exactly come off looking good, since his wife had to help him win after Bully Ray was destroying him for most of the match. At the same time, the way this match started pretty much told you that Vicky was coming back to get her bit of revenge as well. Plus, with the way this feud had been going, it had to end with husband and wife getting their revenge on Bully, so there’s that to consider as well.

I wish that was the end of my review of this match, but I must mention that, as soon as the referee’s hand hit the mat for the three count, Bully Ray still kicked out. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. What an absolute asshole this guy is. He can’t just let someone beat him clean? He has to make sure that everyone knows that you didn’t really lose, because you still kicked out as soon as the pin was counted. That’s Hulk Hogan levels of carny bullshit, and we don’t need that kind of crap in any wrestling company going into the next decade. Why couldn’t Bully Ray just put Mark Haskins over strong by letting him beat the shit out of him on his way to a decisive victory? Is that really so hard? I could go on and on about how Bully Ray needs to just go away. However, I would just be preaching to the choir at this point. They got the result right in this one, but not much else. *1/2

Alex Shelley def. Colt Cabana

Not only was this a very cool late addition to the card, but apparently this was the first time that these two had ever faced off in a singles match in ROH. That’s pretty crazy, especially when you consider the fact that both guys were big parts of ROH during the promotion’s heyday in the mid-2000s. This match didn’t go very long (it clocked in at just under seven minutes or so), but it was an entertaining technical exhibition. They just went back and forth, exchanged holds, and eventually, Shelley caught him in a cradle for the pin. A fun bout while it lasted, but as we would learn later that night (as first reported by Post Wrestling), this was Colt Cabana’s final scheduled appearance with ROH. I’m sure that Cabana will continue to wrestle all around the world, but whether or not he signs an actual contract with another promotion remains to be seen. It’s a real shame that Cabana is gone, as he was not only a great color commentator, but showed time and time again that he could still go in the ring. ***

“Maneater” Maria Manic def. Angelina Love

In my preview of Final Battle, I said that any layout for this match that didn’t involve Maria Manic destroying Angelina Love would be objectively wrong. Well, for once, ROH actually made an incredibly smart booking decision, as Maria Manic destroyed Angelina Love. What I didn’t see coming was how long this was going to go. I was expecting a quick, Goldberg-esque squash. Instead, we got an extended squash that went over six minutes. I know six minutes isn’t a lot of time on the surface, but this extended squash went so long, and was so one-sided, that it might’ve made you think that Angelina Love was leaving, and this was her write-off. I have no idea if that’s the case or not, but I have no idea what they do with Love after this absolute beating she took. Manic wins with the Torture Rack, and we also got a brief Teddy Hart sighting, as he came out in the front row to watch his girlfriend wrestle. N/R

ROH World TV Title – Dragon Lee def. Shane Taylor (c)

For these next two matches, I’m going to be taking a massive victory lap, because I called two of the title changes that occurred on this show. The first of those happened in this match, as Dragon Lee (he was billed as Dragon Lee here, as opposed to Ryu Lee) captured the ROH World TV Title from Shane Taylor. I was honestly a little surprised that there didn’t seem to be a ton of discourse about the possibility of a title change in this one beforehand. With the news that came out (thanks to Joey Mercury) about ROH not wanted to renew Taylor’s deal for next year, I had the feeling that the chances of a title change were strong, and that’s exactly what happened.

The match itself was pretty great. It’s not a huge surprise that Dragon Lee had an awesome outing, but Shane Taylor more than held up his end of things as well. It’s a real shame that Taylor’s won’t be staying with ROH. For me, whenever I’ve seen him over the past few years, I’ve always just seen him as the guy that ROH inexplicably picked over Keith Lee (as he really seemed like the Marty Jannetty of that Keith Lee/Shane Taylor tag team). Now while I still think Keith Lee is a better talent than Shane Taylor, there’s no denying that 2019 has been a breakout year for Taylor. It started earlier this year with that great match for the ROH World TV Title against Jeff Cobb at the 17th Anniversary Show, and then once he actually won that title in Toronto back in May, he’s had a very solid reign (even though the whole “contract buyout” storyline seemed a bit silly).

Dragon Lee went right after Shane Taylor early on, but Taylor managed to gain the advantage, and just beat him down with leg drops and strikes. Once Dragon Lee finally managed to mount a comeback following a series of big dives to the floor, this match really got into that next gear. In the second half, we saw some awesome exchanges between these two, with a couple of excellent nearfalls. Lee managed to kick out after Taylor hit him with his finisher (Greetings From 216), so at that point, it was kind of a tipoff that we were going to see a title change. After Taylor kicked out of a deadlift suplex (which Ian Riccaboni called the Desnucadora, but it wasn’t, as there’s absolutely no way Lee can hit that move on a guy of Taylor’s size), Lee intercepted a chain that a guy from Taylor’s entourage tried to introduce. He wrapped the chain around his leg, kicked Taylor with it, then got rid of the chain before hitting a knee strike for the pin. A super enjoyable match to watch from start to finish. It should be interesting to see what Dragon Lee does with the ROH World TV Title, especially now that he’s signed with New Japan. ****

ROH World Tag Team Titles – Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham def. The Briscoes (c)

This was the second of the two title changes that I correctly predicted, as Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham captured the ROH World Tag Team Titles from The Briscoes. For Gresham, this was his first title win since coming to ROH. For Lethal, he added another achievement to his amazing legacy in ROH (if you count the old ROH Pure Title, he’s now won every title in ROH that was established pre-Sinclair buyout). This was also Lethal’s first match in almost two months, after he broke his arm on the UK Tour back in October.

While this definitely got off to a slow start, the pace started to pick up after the match broke down into a brawl on the outside. The story behind Gresham and Lethal turning heel is that (according to commentary) they saw people breaking rules constantly in ROH, so they decided to start doing more heelish tactics to keep up with everyone else (at least, that’s the gist of what happened). At points in this match, The Briscoes would have the edge, but then Gresham and Lethal would regain control after some timely cheating. Even though there were moments like that at various points, this still featured great back-and-forth action, particularly in the second half of the bout. The Briscoes always perform in big spots like this, while Lethal and Gresham have become a very good tag team in their own right. There were some very cool nearfalls in the closing minutes (Lethal breaking up a pin after a Doomsday Device on Gresham, and Jay saving Mark after he got hit with a Lethal Injection and a Shooting Star Press). Despite all of that fun action, the cheating ways of Gresham and Lethal eventually won them the ROH World Tag Team Titles. Gresham saved Lethal from a Doomsday Device, and Lethal rolled up Jay with a handful of tights to capture the titles for this team. Under most circumstances, I wouldn’t be a fan of this finish, but it fits in perfectly with the story, as Gresham and Lethal have now fully embraced the ways of the dark side (had to pull out a Star Wars reference a few days before the new movie comes out). I don’t think I would put this above Shane Taylor vs. Dragon Lee or the opener, but this was still a great match from start to finish. ****

Afterward, Gresham and Lethal exchanged words with The Briscoe Family (including Papa Briscoe), who were at ringside.

ROH World Title – Friday The 13th Massacre Match – PCO def. RUSH (c)

Well, I took a massive victory lap with the last two matches, with regards to my correct/spot-on predictions. On this one, I have to take a massive L, because I didn’t see this title change coming at all. PCO (who is turning fifty-two years old on December 30th) won the ROH World Title from the undefeated RUSH, in the main event of Final Battle, in a Friday The 13th Massacre Match. Now, this wasn’t announced with that stipulation by Bobby Cruise, but Ian Riccaboni made that stipulation very clear on commentary.

I honestly have no idea what to make of this match. The first half went about the way I thought it would, with lots of brawling on the outside, and various weapons (a miniature ladder, a table, a few chairs) were used. Then the two brawled up the entranceway and towards the stage. RUSH made a pile of barricades and chairs, and then tossed PCO off the stage and onto that pile of junk. Everything up to this point is stuff that I would’ve totally expected to see in this match, but then the “sports entertainment” portion of the main event began. Destro came out, and used some jumper cables with the nearby hearse to revive PCO. Now this didn’t go according to plan, as Destro basically had to punch out the grill of the hearse after he struggled for what felt like an eternity to get the hood open. Meanwhile, RUSH was just standing there in the entranceway, looking like a total geek, as this all transpired.

Once RUSH saw that PCO was revived, he returned to the hearse, only to get chokeslammed on the hood and then took a leg drop on the hood. RUSH recovered rather quickly though, and sent PCO flying through the hearse. PCO then broke the windows of the hearse with a crowbar (not to be confused with Crowbar from WCW, who will be wrestling at the TV Tapings in Philly), and that really didn’t play into the match at all. It was at this point that the GCW portion of the match began, as RUSH busted out some doors. RUSH takes out Destro, and then he and PCO do have a decent back-and-forth exchange in the ring, with some good nearfalls and spots involving the various doors. Eventually, we got a proper table introduced, and PCO successfully connected with a moonsault through the table for the win.

Again, I had no idea what to make of this match. Certain aspects of the brawl were perfectly ok, but parts of this really felt like a sports entertainment, smoke-and-mirrors match. With PCO involved, a smoke-and-mirrors hardcore match was the only way this had any chance of being good, but they absolutely went too far with the hearse stuff. Whie that crap’s fine in the PCO videos, I don’t think you should be doing that in the actual match. Imagine telling someone in 2006, during Bryan Danielson’s incredible ROH World Title reign that this type of the match, for that very same title, would happen on ROH’s biggest show of the year, and title would be won by the former Jean-Pierre LaFitte. It’s a cool moment for PCO for sure, and caps on an incredible career renaissance for him that started with a match against WALTER at Joey Janela’s Spring Break II in New Orleans. However, the fact that the show went off the air with PCO celebrating as the new ROH World Champion, with the rest of Villain Enterprises (including Marty Scurll) celebrating with him in the ring speaks volumes. I’m going to slap ** on this, but only because I thought it was better than the Bully Ray match. **

Final Thoughts

The 2019 edition of Final Battle was certainly a mixed bag of a show. It ended up being an eleven-match card in total (including the free hour), and the quality of those matches was all over the place. I would definitely recommend checking out Mexablood vs. Villain Enterprises, Shane Taylor vs. Dragon Lee, The Briscoes vs. Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham, and even Jeff Cobb vs. Dan Maff. The rest of the show featured a couple of average to solid matches, a women’s squash, and two hardcore matches that were easily the low points of the show. When it comes to what’s going on with ROH in 2020, we got some of those questions answered on this show, but plenty more remain unanswered.