ROH Final Battle 2021: End Of An Era
December 11, 2021
7:00 PM EST (Free Hour) / 8:00 PM EST (PPV)
Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena
Watch: HonorClub, PPV, FITE, Facebook (Free Hour), YouTube (Free Hour)
Well….we’re finally here. After a month or so of discussions after the news of ROH’s hiatus came out, we’ve finally reached Final Battle, a PPV that’s being advertised as “The End Of An Era” for Ring Of Honor. Now while the official company position is that they’re taking a hiatus for the first quarter of 2020, in anticipation for a return during WrestleMania Weekend with a pay-by-appearance roster, it’s become very clear over the last few weeks (just going by how talents have been reacting to the news online, among other things), that the chances of Ring Of Honor actually coming back are….very slim, at best. It definitely seems like this is truly the end of ROH, and I suppose it’s appropriate that the final big show will be one that’s historically been ROH’s biggest show of the year. There has been a big change to the main event since I started to write this preview (more on that with a second), and there will be time later to discuss memories of ROH when we know for sure that company is gone, but here’s to hoping that ROH can go out on a high.
Much like preview ROH PPVs over the last few years, the show will have a Free Hour that starts at 7:00 PM Eastern, with three matches as well as the announcement regarding the fate of the ROH World Title (more on that in a moment).
Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham
Of course, this was originally scheduled to be Bandido defending the ROH World Title against Jonathan Gresham. Unfortunately, Bandido tested positive for COVID (missing Final Battle because of a positive COVID test for the second year in a row), and has been removed from the card. With this major bombshell, along with Tony Khan saying that AEW would be willing to support ROH with their Final Battle card, speculation ran rampant for about twenty hours or so over what was going to be done. In the end, AEW decided to lend Jay Lethal (who, ironically enough, very clearly said in his post-Full Gear presser that he considered himself done with ROH and wouldn’t be working Final Battle) to ROH for one night only to wrestle this match against Jonathan Gresham.
Now Lethal will certainly be considered a disappointing choice by some, without question (for various reasons that I won’t get into here). However, Lethal was ultimately the safest choice, and probably the most logical choice, for this spot. Obviously, he had been part of ROH for the last ten years until the news about the company’s apparent demise surfaced (Lethal actually noted himself on Chris Jericho’s podcast that he flew himself to Baltimore immediately after hearing about the news to request a release from his contract so he could put himself on the free agent market before it got too crowded), and he has a ton of history with Jonathan Gresham, dating back to their feud a few years ago that really helped elevate Gresham to a higher spot on the card. They had also been teasing dissension within The Foundation before Lethal left, as Vincent had introduced an incriminating tape of Lethal saying that he didn’t like The Foundation. So in terms of recent ROH canon, Lethal is a perfect opponent for Gresham. Plus, their matches have been great in the past, and I’m sure this one will be no different.
Obviously, I would’ve loved to have seen someone like Bryan Danielson return to ROH for one night only in this spot (against a legit dream opponent in Jonathan Gresham), but again, you have to consider what’s realistic. ROH requesting the services of Danielson to work the main event of their PPV just a few days before his big AEW World Title bout with Adam Page would’ve likely been a request that was too much for AEW. Plus, had this remained a World Title bout, you have to consider the fact that Gresham is almost certainly winning, so if you’re AEW, you’re limited in who you can send anyway. Unfortunately, this isn’t a ROH World Title bout (as I type this), as the status of the title will apparently be addressed on the free hour. Gresham winning will likely be a lock if this match with Lethal stays intact, and I’m sure it’ll be great, but who knows what the World Title situation will end up being. A lot can change. Prediction: Jonathan Gresham
So this video package for the former main event is….no longer that relevant with Bandido’s COVID diagnosis, but still worth watching:
ROH World Tag Team Titles
The OGK (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett) (c) vs. GCW Tag Team Champions The Briscoes
Looking back on it, the ROH World Tag Team Titles have really been a hot potato in 2021, though that has sort of played into the whole faction warfare story they’ve had going on for most of the year. Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham of The Foundation started the year as champions, then the LFI duo of Dragon Lee and Kenny King won them. From there, the titles went back to The Foundation (though a different pairing in the former of Tracy Williams and Rhett Titus), then to Violence Unlimited (Chris Dickinson and Homicide), then back to Dragon Lee and Kenny King, before The OGK’s Matt Taven and Mike Bennett won the titles on last month’s Honor For All special. We could be in for another relatively short title reign, however, as The OGK defend the titles on this PPV against The Briscoes.
Out of all the matches on the PPV, this is the one that has the best/longest build, at least in terms of the storying involving The Briscoes. Jay and Mark were having disagreements during the first part of the year, and that all led to their big Fight On The Farm during the summer (which was pretty good as far as cinematic matches go). Once their issues were settled, that set up their second half of the year, where they started from the very bottom of the ROH tag team division, with the intention of working their way through everyone until they eventually got another shot at the titles. They’ve racked up a lot of wins since then (including capturing the GCW Tag Team Titles and defending them on the aforementioned Honor For All card), but their one stumbling block along the way came at Death Before Dishonor in September when they lost to Matt Taven and Mike Bennett.
These two teams have a ton of history together in ROH, which really dates all the way back to 2014, when The Briscoes (mainly Jay) were feuding with Adam Cole, Mike Bennett, and Matt Hardy, which was the original version of The Kingdom (you had stuff like actor Nick Searcy cornering The Kingdom on a PPV, Maria Kanellis stealing Jay Briscoe’s World Title and rechristening it The Title Of Love, and so on), but once Matt Taven joined the group, we got a series of really strong matches between The Briscoes and the Bennett/Taven duo in 2014 and 2015, which culminated in a great Armageddon Two-Out-Of-Three Falls Match…basically a Three Stages Of Hell Match if you’re looking for a WWE comparison…in the main event of a show in Atlanta in February 2015 (which was a great show as a whole, and if you don’t believe me, just look at this card). Their recent match on the aforementioned Death Before Dishonor PPV was very solid, and with this potentially being the final ROH event, these two teams are going to go all out.
In terms of the result, this is one that seems very obvious. If this is truly the final ROH show ever, then the only result you can go with is having The Briscoes win the ROH World Tag Team Titles for a twelfth time. It just seems like the right thing to do in this spot. The Briscoes have been with this company for its entire existence (aside from a brief period from mid-2004 until early 2006 when they were away from wrestling), and been the constant in this company throughout all the different eras and booking regimes and so on. It would be the feel-good moment of the night without question. Prediction: The Briscoes
ROH Women’s World Title
Rok-C (c) vs. Willow
I feel really bad for Rok-C. At such a young age, she gets this big push (easily the biggest push of her very young career) in this latest revival of the ROH women’s division, goes all the way to the Finals of the Women Of Honor World Title Tournament at the Death Before Dishonor PPV in September, beats Miranda Alize to win the title, and now the company is likely going under. It sucks, though I’m sure Rok-C will quickly find work in other places (she’s already booked for MLW in January). Anyway, since winning the title, she’s been defending it in both ROH and in various independent promotions. Now, she’s making her first (and probably) last defense on ROH PPV against Willow (aka Willow Nightingale), who won a #1 Contender’s Tournament on ROH TV to earn this shot. This has the potential to be a pretty good match. Rok-C is very solid considering her age and experience, while Willow has also impressed me on the few occasions that I’ve seen her. In terms of the result, this is a match that I could see going either way, as there really isn’t the sort of buildup or sentimental favorite that you have in the ROH World Title bout or the ROH World Tag Team Title bout. A title change wouldn’t surprise me, but I feel the safe bet is that Roc-K will retain here. Prediction: Roc-K
ROH World TV Title – Four Corner Survival
Dalton Castle (c) vs. Joe Hendry vs. Rhett Titus vs. Silas Young
In a surprising result, Dalton Castle captured the ROH World TV Title from Dragon Lee on a recent episode of ROH TV. There had been various discussions and rumors going on for months surrounding the futures of RUSH and Dragon Lee in ROH (more so RUSH, but Dragon Lee by extension), so Lee losing the title wasn’t necessarily a shock. Deciding to go with Castle as the guy to take the title off of him was definitely an interesting move, though with the future of the company in question, it’s really hard to guess potential directions with the titles that aren’t the ROH World Title or the ROH World Tag Team Titles. Castle will be defending his newly won ROH World TV Title in a Four-Corner Survival, and all three of the challengers have either motivations, connections to Dalton Castle, or both.
For Rhett Titus, while he’s held the ROH World Tag Team Titles, he’s never held a singles title in ROH, so he’s got that possibility in front of him. Silas Young is a multi-time holder of the ROH World TV Title, but he does have a history with Castle, as the two of them had a feud over The Boys (the original Boys) which lasted nearly a year. Then there’s Joe Hendry. Of course, he was one of the international talents that was signed to ROH (he actually joined the promotion in the middle of 2019), but got stuck in his home country due to the pandemic. He still remained active with ROH during that time (he did a lot of content for their website, as well as their YouTube page, if I recall correctly), though I certainly didn’t expect to see him back once the recent news regarding ROH came out. He does have a history with Dalton Castle, as they were a tag team before the COVID lockdowns happened.
The match itself will probably be pretty solid. I’m not expecting it to be match of the night (or anything like that), but I’m sure it’ll be a fine midcard bout. As I mentioned earlier, this is a title match where they could go in pretty much any direction, as the result really doesn’t matter with this particular title. Castle would seem like a safe bet since he’s been with the company for years (plus he just won the belt), but if this is truly the end, why not just put the title on Joe Hendry to close things out? The dude’s been waiting for nearly two years to come back to ROH, and it’s probably going to be for this one match, so why not throw the guy a bone? Prediction: Joe Hendry
ROH Pure Title
Josh Woods (c) vs. Brian Johnson
Josh Woods ended the lengthy ROH Pure Title reign of Jonathan Gresham back at Death Before Dishonor in September, and joined The Foundation shortly afterwards. He also hasn’t lost since May, so he’s been on quite the winning streak in general. He’ll be defending the ROH Pure Title against Brian Johnson, who became the #1 Contender after using heelish tactics to put together a string of victories. It’s pretty clear what the story of this match is going to be. Brian Johnson is clearly the underdog, but he’s going to use every trick in the book to try and steal the title from Woods. Johnson has been very good in his role, and plays his character well, though I don’t see him winning this match. Again, it really doesn’t matter with the company probably closing up shop, but I feel Woods is a good choice to be the final Pure Champion. Prediction: Josh Woods
Fight Without Honor
Kenny King vs. Shane Taylor
So this is a story that actually dates back a number of years. Kenny King and Shane Taylor were members of The Rebellion, a midcard heel stable (which also included Caprice Coleman and Rhett Titus) that was around in 2016-2017. They went their separate ways after the stable broke up, though it’s been noted throughout this feud that the two were close friends. That all changed earlier this year, when Shane Taylor was wrestling RUSH for the ROH World Title. They had been teasing dissension with King and the rest of LFI, but it was all a ruse, as King attacked Taylor and cost him the match. While they’ve clashed in a few multi-person matches, this is their first singles meeting since King’s betrayal, and it’ll be a Fight Without Honor. There’s going to be a ton of effort in all of these matches (given the circumstances), and this one is no different. I expect this to be a pretty violent affair, as these types of matches usually are, with King and Taylor absolutely killing themselves to have the best match possible. Since a Fight Without Honor is usually a feud ending, Taylor winning would make the most sense, as he finally gets his revenge on King. Prediction: Shane Taylor
Violence Unlimited (Brody King, Homicide, & Tony Deppen) vs. Tracy Williams, Eli Isom, & Taylor Rust
Unfortunately, we won’t get to see all four members of Violence Unlimited on this night, as Chris Dickinson will still be out for a number of months that he suffered on the New Japan Battle In The Valley show last month. We will be seeing the other three members, however, as they take on a contingent of pure wrestlers led by Foundation member Tracy Williams. This should be an entertaining six-man tag, and since Williams is leading a makeshift team on the other side, I fully expect Violence Unlimited to come out on top. Not much else to say about this one, other than it caps off a first third of this card (if you include the free hour) that really feels like a big New Japan show with all of these multi-person tags. Prediction: Violence Unlimited
Dragon Lee vs. Rey Horus
Back in January, these two had an awesome match for the ROH World TV Title, and I feel it’s a lock that they’ll have another great singles bout here. I know some people aren’t that high on Rey Horus, but I feel that he can definitely step it up when the situation calls for it. Apparently Horus has never beaten Dragon Lee in a singles match (both in ROH and in Mexico), so with that fact in mind, this seems like the perfect spot for Horus to get a big upset win. As I’ve said in this preview many times already, if the company is closing, some of these results are real coin flips since we’re probably not getting a follow up. Plus, Dragon Lee was probably on his way out anyway, so I don’t see any reason for Horus not to win this. Prediction: Rey Horus
ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles
Shane Taylor Promotions (O’Shay Edwards & Soldiers Of Savagery) vs. The Righteous (Vincent, Bateman, & Dutch with Vita VonStarr)
With Shane Taylor preoccupied with Kenny King, Shane Taylor Promotions will be using the Freebird Rule as O’Shay Edwards will be teaming with S.O.S. to defend the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles against The Righteous. Ever since Vincent defeated Matt Taven in a Steel Cage Match at Glory By Honor back in August, The Righteous have been….oddly absent from ROH TV, aside from two recent trios victories and whatever was going on between The Righteous and Jay Lethal. This has the chance to be solid, and as far as the result goes, I think there’s a strong chance of a title change here, especially since Shane Taylor isn’t part of this match. It should be noted as well that Vincent still has the ROH World Title shot that he won from Matt Taven in this back pocket. I don’t know whether or not that will be addressed, but with the status of the World Title being revealed on this free hour, it wouldn’t shock me if Vincent somehow finds a way to wiggle his way into whatever they’re doing. Prediction: The Righteous
Chelsea Green & NWA Women’s Tag Team Champions The Hex (Allysin Kay & Marti Belle) vs. The Allure (Angelina Love & Mandy Leon) & Miranda Alize
So the main story here is that The Allure have been having issues with Chelsea Green ever since Green arrived in ROH, and now we have this trios match with Miranda Alize backing up The Allure, while Allysin Kay and Marti Belle are teaming up with Green. Nothing much else to really say here. It’s on the free hour, and with the future of ROH as uncertain as it is, it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. This is such a coin flip match in terms of the result. I suppose I’ll go with the The Allure side, with Mandy Leon specifically scoring the fall. I say that mainly because she’s the longest-tenured ROH wrestler in this match (which is a wild, but true, fact). Not expecting much from this one, but let’s see how it goes. Prediction: The Allure & Miranda Alize
Wildcard Ten-Man Tag
Before the news about Bandido, this was the biggest unknown going into this card. The match itself is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a ten-man tag, and we have absolutely no idea who the participants are going to be. Now given that this is on the free hour, I don’t expect this to involve any major names. Taking a look at the roster, there are a few names who aren’t booked, including The Bouncers, some of the ROH Dojo students (like Joe Keys, for example), World Famous CB, LSG, Flip Gordon, Demonic Flamita (probably the biggest name absent from the card), PJ Black, Will Ferrara, Sledge, and Delirious. So any of those names could be in this, but if they were just going to fill this match with other names on the roster who weren’t booked…..you’d think they would’ve just announced the participants. Hopefully, we get some nice little surprises in here, but I guess we’ll see when the time comes. Obviously, I can’t predict a winner because….I have no idea who’s going to be in this match.