Ring of Honor
Final Battle 2023
December 15, 2023
Curtis Culwell Center
Garland, Texas

Watch: HonorClub / YouTube (Zero Hour)

ROH Final Battle 2023 Zero Hour
Taya Valkyrie (w/ Johnny TV) def. Jazmin Allure

This was an extremely late addition to the card (I don’t even think Tony Khan announced it on Twitter before the show like he did with some of the other Zero Hour matches). Taya Valkyrie has been spending much of her time in ROH as of late, and now that QTV is pretty much dead, her husband, Johnny TV, has now joined her. Jazmin Allure got a move or two in, but this was basically an extended squash for Taya. Nothing much else to say here. I suppose she’ll be on the list of potential challengers for the ROH Women’s World Title going into 2024. N/R

ROH Final Battle 2023 Zero Hour
The Von Erichs (Marshall & Ross Von Erich) def. The Outrunners (Truth Magnum & Turbo Floyd)

In what would be the first of a few instances of licensed music on this show, Marshall and Ross Von Erich came out to “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent. Surprisingly, Kevin Von Erich didn’t come out with his sons here. Marshall and Ross were in control early as the Texas crowd was firmly behind them. The Outrunners used some trickery on the floor to isolate Ross, but he eventually made the hot tag to Marshall, who ran wild before the brothers locked in a pair of Iron Claws to secure the win. Kevin Von Erich came out after the fact to celebrate with his sons. This was….not the greatest match in the world, to say the least. I haven’t really seen much of Marshall and Ross, but from what I’ve heard about their MLW run, there was a reason why they barely worked normal tag team matches. While I totally get wanting to feature them right now (for very obvious reasons), there wasn’t much to this one. At least it was in a pretty harmless spot on the Zero Hour. **

ROH Final Battle 2023 Zero Hour
Survival Of The Fittest Qualifier
Bryan Keith def. Jack Cartwheel

Going into Friday, the final participant in the Survival Of The Fittest Finals was still a mystery. I was concerned that we were just going to get a mystery sixth entrant for Survival Of The Fittest (which I wouldn’t have liked at all, as that’s never how Survival Of The Fittest has ever worked). Fortunately, we got the sixth and final qualifier on the Zero Hour, as Brian Keith (who also had licensed music in the form of “Still Tippin” by Mike Jones) earned that final spot with a win over Jack Cartwheel. This was a very interesting match in terms of how it was worked. For the most part, it was a showcase for Jack Cartwheel. He was on offense for the majority of the contest, and he actually won the fans over very quickly with some of the cool stuff he was able to pull over. In the end, however, Keith got the victory with an out-of-nowhere knee strike and a sit-out powerbomb. It sort of reminded me of various Battle Royals or Royal Rumble matches over the years where a guy gets showcased right before he gets eliminated. Cool to see Bryan Keith getting a spot on a big show in his home state, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jack Cartwheel in ROH again. ***1/4

ROH Final Battle 2023 Zero Hour
Daniel Garcia def. Blake Christian

Another surprise addition to the card, courtesy of Tony Khan (who came out and gave a quick speech before revealing this match). Of course, Daniel Garcia is a former ROH Pure Champion and is currently in the middle of the Continental Classic. Meanwhile, Blake Christian has been a semi-regular member on the ROH roster ever since Tony Khan bought the company last year. Garcia scored the victory here in just over twelve minutes after locking Christian in the Dragon Tamer (Garcia leaned back on the hold before Christian tapped out, which was interesting to see given that him doing that in his Continental Classic matches has been a bit of an Achilles Heel for him). There was a lot of entertaining action in this bout, but it also seemed a little sloppy at points as well, which did hurt it a little bit. Still, it was a good way to close out the Zero Hour before heading into the PPV proper. Also cool to see Garcia get a win while he’s been in the middle of this losing streak in AEW. ***1/2

AAA Mega Title
El Hijo del Vikingo (c) def. Black Taurus

This was such a perfect choice for the PPV opener. El Hijo del Vikingo has had a historic run with the AAA Mega Title. Not only does he hold the record for most defenses in a single reign (a record he extended after this match), but he’s also only a few weeks away from surpassing Kenny Omega’s record for the longest individual title reign. He’s defending the title against Black Taurus here, who’s making his ROH debut.

I could try to describe everything that happened in this match, but words won’t be able to do it justice. This was an awesome, action-packed match from start to finish. In some ways, it was similar to the Bryan Keith/Jack Cartwheel match from Zero Hour, in that Black Taurus got a ton of offense in this match. Vikingo got in his fair share of offense, and it was far from a one-sided affair, but it was very clear that one of the main goals of this match was to showcase Taurus in the best way possible. He both demonstrated his power (including that insane top rope military press, which never fails to look amazing) and showed off that he could keep up with Vikingo in the speed department. As far as Vikingo goes, he was really good on the whole, but far from perfect. There was one point where he had trouble going for a springboard dive to the floor, and it ultimately took him three tries to get it right. Had he connected with that on the first try, this is probably my definitive Match Of The Night. Unfortunately, those hiccups existed, though it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the match.

In the end, Vikingo retained after hitting a 630 Senton off the top rope. Sometimes, I just want to sit back, relax, and watch a match with a bunch of MOVEZ. This bout absolutely satisfied me in that regard. It wasn’t a perfect match by any means (and it certainly wasn’t the best Vikingo performance), but it still gave me exactly what I wanted from this and then some. I hope this match opens the door for more Black Taurus appearances in both ROH and AEW. His run in Impact wasn’t exactly the best (more of an issue of how Impact used him), but he rocks and deserves more opportunities where he can truly showcase what he can do. ****1/2

ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles
The Mogul Embassy (Brian Cage & The Gates Of Agony with Prince Nana) (c) def. TMDK (Shane Haste, Bad Dude Tito, & Kosei Fujita)

The Gates Of Agony are making their return to ROH after taking part in New Japan’s World Tag League. Based on what happened during the tour, it looked like we were going to get a match with The Mogul Embassy against United Empire (Great O-Khan and HENARE did beat them during the tour, and I believe there was also another angle between them). Instead, they’re defending here against TMDK who, to be fair, did beat them during the tour as well. Speaking of TMDK, I had presumed that we’d be getting the same Shane Haste/Mikey Nicholls/Bad Dude Tito combo that we got back at WrestleDream in October. Instead, we’re getting Shane Haste and Bad Dude Tito teaming with Kosei Fujita, who is working only his second match ever in the United States (he wrestled on an Impact/New Japan show in Philly earlier this year).

This went about twelve minutes or so, and was honestly a lot of fun for the time that it lasted. If there was an award for trio of the year, I might give that honor to Brian Cage, Bishop Kaun, and Toa Liona. They’ve really developed into such an entertaining trio since they first formed. They’re three absolute monsters who just toss dudes around the ring during their matches. While TMDK ultimately came up short, they had a fairly good showing here that I would say was better than their match against The Acclaimed at WrestleDream. In particular, I thought Bad Dude Tito looked super impressive. He’s probably never going to get a serious push, but every time I see him, I always come away thinking about how awesome he is. The match came to an end when Fujita was on the receiving end of a three-on-one beatdown after Shane Haste and Bad Dude Tito had been taken out. Aside from that brief blip a few months ago when Adam Page and The Young Bucks won these titles for a couple of weeks, The Mogul Embassy have been pretty unstoppable in ROH, and they show no signs of slowing down. This is a match that might get lost in the shuffle, given some of the other incredible stuff that happened on the card, but if you haven’t seen the show yet, I’d say this match is well worth a watch. ***3/4

I Quit Match
Ethan Page def. Tony Nese (with Mark Sterling)

I find it ironic that we’ve gotten a feud in ROH between two guys who were such big focal points of EVOLVE during the 2010’s. The issues between these two have been going on for a few months, and they each have a victory over the other. Now it’s come to an I Quit Match as the two look to settle their issues. “Smart” Mark Sterling was set to be handcuffed to the ring post so he couldn’t interfere, but after he initially refused, he quickly accepted getting handcuffed after being threatened by Texas native Mark Henry.

Going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, when the dust settled, these two guys ended up putting together a really good match to close out their rivalry. Both Page and Nese put forth a ton of effort into this one, and it’s fair to say that effort paid off in a big way. Page got busted open early on, but refused to quit. Nese would introduce a number of workout themed weapons (fitting for his gimmick) including protein powder, a jump rope, and a forty-five pound weight plate. We also got some more traditional weapons like chairs and tables, and at one point, Page managed to connect with a cutter through the ropes to the floor on Nese, putting him through two tables in the process. There was some chicanery towards the end when Sterling managed to get out of his handcuffs, but Scorpio Sky made his return (after another lengthy absence) and helped even the odds. While Nese did manage to handcuff Page’s hands together after Scorpio took Sterling away, Page was able to fight back, escaped the cuffs (thanks to some help from the referee) and finally got Nese to say I Quit after choking him with the cuffs.

As I mentioned already, these two put a lot of effort into this one, and they managed to put on a fairly solid blow-off match. It’s not anywhere close to the Match Of The Night discussions, but it definitely surpassed my expectations. I’m curious to see where Ethan Page goes from here, especially since he’s been mainly a ROH guy for the last few months. He could go for singles gold, but with Scorpio Sky coming back, are we in for a Men Of The Year babyface run? I guess time will tell on that one. ***3/4

Nyla Rose def. Vertvixen

Originally, when this was added to the card, I thought it was a Zero Hour Match. As it turned out, it was actually put on the main card. I don’t have much to say about this one, as it was very similar to the Taya Valkyrie/Jazmin Allure match on the Zero Hour. While Vertvixen got a more or two in, this was just a showcase for Nyla Rose, who picked up the win with the Beast Bomb in just under three minutes. With two women on the heel side of the roster getting showcased on this card, I figured that was a sign of what the result of the main event could be. Even though that prediction ended up being incorrect (more on that later), I don’t mind the fact that we’re setting up some new challengers for the first part of 2024. This also served as a bit of a buffer between a wild I Quit Match and the Survival Of The Fittest Finals. N/R

ROH World TV Title – Survival Of The Fittest Finals
Kyle Fletcher def. Komander, Bryan Keith, Lee Moriarty, Dalton Castle, & Lee Johnson

It’s so great to see Survival Of The Fittest back. It’s been a consistent feature of ROH since the concept’s inception in 2004, with a few gaps here and there. Sadly, the tournament’s been more sporadic after 2018 (it only happened once….2021….in the previous four years), but I’m glad that it’s back, and I hope it goes back to being a regular part of the ROH calendar.

For the first time ever, a title was on the line in the Survival Of The Fittest Finals, as a new ROH World Television Champion would be crowned after Samoa Joe vacated the title about a month ago. The first portion of the match was pretty good, but by no means outstanding. One of the standout spots early on saw Dalton Castle get continuously thrown out of the ring by everyone else in the match, which eventually built to a spot where Castle tossed Fletcher out of the ring (which got a pretty decent pop). Lee Johnson got some nice showcase spots before Moriarty eliminated him with the Border City Stretch. We then got some shenanigans as Johnny TV came out and distracted Castle by throwing The Boys into the ring. This allowed Moriarty to take out Castle and score the elimination (the crowd was NOT happy about Castle being eliminated). The shenanigans here annoyed me a little bit, but Johnny TV is feuding with Castle at the moment, and this was (fortunately) the only nonsense we got for the entire match.

Bryan Keith and Lee Moriarty had a nice exchange before Keith eliminated him with his version of the Tiger Driver. Keith was then eliminated by Fletcher after a jumping tombstone piledriver. With that, the final two were Komander and Kyle Fletcher, and they went on to have an amazing final stretch that took this match to a whole different level. We were treated to some awesome sequences between these two that the crowd came unglued for. Komander connected with a springboard Canadian Destroyer and a mind-blowing rope-walk 450 Splash on the apron (the margin for error with that spot was INSANE, but he pulled it off perfectly).

Fletcher managed to survive that, and took a page out of the El Generico playbook with a brainbuster on the top turnbuckle followed by another tombstone piledriver. That proved to be enough, and Kyle Fletcher is your 2023 Survival Of The Fittest Winner AND your new ROH World Television Champion.

This match reminded me a lot of the 2011 Survival Of The Fittest Final (probably the best SOTF Final that you’ve never seen), in that the bulk of the match was pretty good, but it was the closing stretch with the final two (in 2011, Michael Elgin and Kyle O’Reilly were the final two) that put the match over-the-top. In this 2023 edition of Survival Of The Fittest, the bulk of the bout was very good, but the final stretch between Kyle Fletcher and Komander was nothing short of phenomenal. It might be one of the best closing stretches of a Survival Of The Fittest final we’ve ever seen. What I also really enjoyed about the match is that some of the other competitors got something out of it too, despite coming up short. Lee Moriarty scored two eliminated, while Bryan Keith eliminated Moriarty and made it to the final three. In terms of the result, Fletcher was probably the best pick of the bunch. He’s got an incredibly high ceiling, and I think giving him a run with this title could be a nice trial run for the future, when it’s time for Fletcher to truly put Aussie Open in the rearview and become a full-time singles guy. For now, I’m excited to see what Fletcher can do with this title. ****1/2

ROH Pure Title
Wheeler Yuta (c) def. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor

Nice to see “Filthy” Tom Lawlor getting a shot in ROH (especially after his PPV match with Adam Cole at Forbidden Door earlier this year fell through). Wheeler Yuta won the ROH Pure Title for a third time a few weeks ago on AEW Rampage from Katsuyori Shibata (who, as we learned a short time later, had to go back to Japan for an unknown amount of time). These two had a tough task ahead of them, having to follow that amazing closing stretch of the SOTF Final. There were some good grappling exchanges early on, and Lawlor forced Yuta to use his first rope break. Yuta took control a short time later after using the Pure Rules to his advantage (he used a closed fist behind the referee’s back, which led to Lawlor using one, which the referee caught, and issued him a warning). The two continued to go back-and-forth, with Yuta eventually being forced to use up all of his remaining rope breaks. It looked like Lawlor was on his way to winning the Pure Title, but then Yuta managed to catch him in a very awkward version of his Seatbelt Clutch for the win.

The finish definitely took away from this one. It looked as though Yuta might’ve been trying to get a foot on the ropes, or that Lawlor had one of his feet under the bottom rope and the referee didn’t see it (commentary played it off as the latter). Either way, the finish was definitely flat. Despite the issues with the finish, the match was still pretty good on the whole. Lawlor’s a good fit with the Pure Rules style, while Yuta continues to play the role of a little shithead very well. After the match, HOOK came out to save Lawlor from a post-match beatdown from Yuta, but Yuta got the last laugh when he kicked HOOK low and connected with a DDT. We know their FTW Rules match is coming soon. Just a question of when. ***1/2

Keith Lee def. Shane Taylor

Of course, there’s a ton of history behind this match. Keith Lee and Shane Taylor. These two broke into ROH as a tag team towards the end of 2015, but they really made a splash in 2016, mainly thanks to their feud with War Machine. However, at the start of 2017, Keith Lee left ROH to pursue a singles career, and ended up going to EVOLVE, which eventually led to him joining NXT a few years later. If I recall correctly, there were rumors going around at the time that ROH saw more in Shane Taylor as a singles star than Keith Lee, which is honestly an insane thing to think (no offense to Shane Taylor, who’s gone on to become a very good talent in his own right). They faced off in a tag team match at Final Battle last year, and over the last few months, they’ve gotten entangled once again, leading to this singles encounter in the same state where they made their names.

This match went a shade under fifteen minutes, and saw Keith Lee pick up the victory after hitting the Big Bang Catastrophe for the victory. A solid match on the whole, but it just felt like it was missing something. There were fun spots throughout, with the top rope Canadian Destroyer from Shane Taylor being the one big highlight. However, this just didn’t get to the level that I thought it could have. The interference spot with Lee Moriarty didn’t help. I didn’t mind the idea of doing an interference spot, but it is a little egregious when Lee brings the guy into the ring and starts beating him up in front of the referee. Lee and Taylor shook hands after the fact, so it’ll be interesting to see where the both of them go from here (we got a clue as to what Lee will be doing next on Collision the next night). Again, a fine bout overall, but it definitely had the potential to be better than it ended up being. ***1/4

Fight To Honor Jay Briscoe
FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) & Mark Briscoe def. The Blackpool Combat Club (Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, & Jon Moxley)

This is the very first time that Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, and Jon Moxley have teamed together in a trios match since the formation of the Blackpool Combat Club (when they’re usually in six-man tags, it’s typically two of those three plus Wheeler Yuta). In some other interesting facts, Bryan Danielson is wrestling in his first ROH match since Glory By Honor VIII: The Final Countdown in 2009 (his final ROH match before going to WWE), while Jon Moxley is making his first on-camera appearance in ROH (he wrestled a couple of dark matches in ROH between 2007 and 2009).

Obviously this was going to be a very emotional affair, with the match honoring the memory of the late Jay Briscoe. When the dust settled, it wound up being a wild spectacle that definitely lived up to expectations. The first seventeen minutes or so went on as a normal six-man tag, and (to nobody’s surprise) it was pretty freaking good! Very strong wrestling throughout (as you would expect), with all six guys getting moments to shine. The BCC would spend time working over both Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler, but things started to break down once Mark Briscoe finally got tagged in. There were plenty of close nearfalls during this portion of the match, with both sides coming close to winning on a couple of occasions. Eventually, it broke down into a wild brawl, and Paul Turner was forced to throw the match out due to a double count out. This result wasn’t going to stand with Mark Briscoe, who took the mic and not only demanded a restart to the match, but declared that it should be Anything Goes! This was quickly agreed to, and Mark immediately hit a dive off the stage onto a pile of wrestlers and security guys.

From here, the remainder of the match was a wild hardcore brawl, and we got plenty of crazy moments. Mox went to town on Dax with a fork, Mark Briscoe got shoved off the top rope….to the floor….onto a barbed wire covered ladder, and Cash bleeding all over the place. It was pure chaos. It looked as though the BCC had the match won, but FTR and Mark Briscoe were able to fight back. Cash put Claudio through a table on the floor, while Dax gave Mox a piledriver off the apron and through a table covered in barbed wire and thumbtacks. Finally, Mark managed to put Danielson away after hitting the Jay Driller onto a pile of chairs (Danielson took a ton of punishment for a guy still recovering from an orbital bone injury). This match was everything we hoped for in terms of a Jay Briscoe tribute. We were treated to some great tag team action (in trios form) in the first half, while the second half was a bloody brawl that featured the type of carnage and chaos that hardcore matches involving The Briscoes were always known for. A fitting way to honor the various different facets of The Briscoes and the different types of matches they excelled in. All six guys worked their asses off, and it resulted in a really special tribute just one year after Jay wound up having what would be his final ROH match. Make sure you check this match out if you haven’t seen it already. Awesome stuff. ****1/2

Proving Ground Match
ROH World Champion Eddie Kingston def. Anthony Henry

Before I talk about the match itself, I need to go over the setup, which was patently absurd. During the Zero Hour, Tony Khan is setting up for an announcement of some kind (which he never ends up making) before he’s interrupted by Eddie Kingston, who complains about how he, the ROH World Champion, isn’t on the card. Khan said that Kingston’s not on the card because he’s in the Continental Classic (which is an insane thing to say when the rest of the card featured FIVE other tournament participants), but he’s then interrupted by Anthony Henry, who challenges Kingston to a match tonight, and Khan signs it for later as a Proving Ground Match. Would it have really killed them to have announced this earlier in the day, or earlier this week, or maybe even set it up on ROH TV? Could’ve been Kingston issuing an Open Challenge that was answered by Henry….could’ve been Henry calling Kingston out….anything would’ve been better than this setup, which was honestly nonsensical and filled with more holes than Swiss Cheese.

Now the match itself was pretty solid for what it was. Anthony Henry would’ve earned a shot at the North American Triple Crown after the Continental Classic had he won, but Eddie Kingston managed to put him away in just under six minutes after locking in the Stretch Plum for the submission. I didn’t realize how short this match actually was until I checked cagematch. They managed to pack in a decent amount of action for a match that didn’t last that long. I’m happy that they did manage to find a spot on the card for Kingston, but again….that probably should’ve been announced further in advance instead of right before the show started. ***

ROH Women’s World Title
Athena (c) def. Billie Starkz

I was a little surprised that they chose this match to main event the show (especially after the Jay Briscoe Tribute Match was announced), but to be fair, Athena has been arguably the most pushed act on ROH television at the moment, and this minion storyline with Billie Starkz (regardless of what you might think of it) might be the most pushed storyline in ROH over the last few months.

Lexy Nair (also a featured part of this minions storyline) did the ring introductions for this one. Athena had special entrance gear inspired by Batman villain Bane, but once she took all of that off, it revealed the facemask that she was wearing. She had actually gotten her nose broken during a brawl with Billie Starkz on one of the final episodes of ROH TV before the PPV. Billie went right after Athena early on, but Athena quickly turned the tide and took control on the floor, even busting Billie open. While Billie would get in spurts of offense over the next few minutes, Athena remained largely in control of the bout. Eventually, Bille found an opening in the form of a suplex into the corner, and it became a more even affair from there.

After some back-and-forth exchanges in the ring, they made their way back to the floor, and did some more spots involving the barricades before eventually ending up on top of the announce desk. Billie pulled off a big superplex off the desk, and we got some more big moves once they got back to the ring. Athena managed to pull a page out of the Kenny Omega playbook with an Avalanche Croyt’s Wrath off the second rope, while Billie nailed Athena with a Rubix Cube on the apron. We did get one referee bump in here as well, which mainly served for a spot between Athena and Lexy that led to another nearfall for Billie. The closing stretch featured some more exchanges, but ultimately, Athena managed to lock Billie in some wacky submission, and Starkz was forced to tap.

They gave this main event a ton of time (just under a half hour), and while it was nowhere near the levels of the Athena/Willow Nightingale match from Death Before Dishonor, it was still a pretty great match on the whole. Athena continues to kill it in this role as the dominant champion. As for Billie Starkz, this was easily her best match since singing with AEW/ROH, and probably one of the best performances of her career. I’m not sure if the match needed to go as long as it did (could’ve shaved a few minutes off), but these two absolutely put forth the effort, and it resulted in a match that was actually quite brutal at times, in terms of some of the spots and bumps these two were taking.

I was definitely surprised by the result, as for the second ROH PPV in a row, Athena retained when most people thought she was going to lose. It’s a fascinating result when you consider that the other two women’s matches on this show build up heels, who seemed tailor made for a fresh babyface champion. I don’t mind them booking a long title reign for Athena, but the issue right now is that there seems to be no end goal on the horizon. There really isn’t anyone on the ROH side of the roster right now that has any chance of dethroning Athena anytime soon, so until we get that next big challenger that people will buy as a threat, this title reign seems kind of directionless. On top of all that, you have the post-match stuff, where Athena offered Billie to continue being one of her minions, which she accepted. A very odd direction for the babyface who finally seemed to break away from her bully. Is this a case of Stockholm Syndrome here? A nonsensical direction to take this story on the surface. Maybe Athena will have Billie go after the (newly-announced) ROH Women’s TV Title? I guess we’ll see. ****

Final Thoughts

Final Battle 2023 continued the trend of incredible Ring Of Honor PPVs under Tony Khan’s ownership. On this particular night, there were three matches that are absolutely worth checking out if you didn’t get to watch the show live (the Jay Briscoe Tribute Match, the Survival Of The Fittest Finals, and Vikingo/Black Taurus for the AAA Mega Title). The main event is also worth watching if you’re either a fan of Athena’s work or if you’ve been following the storyline with her and Billie Starkz. As for the rest of the show, Mogul Embassy/TMDK and Ethan Page/Tony Nese were pretty good as well. In terms of the “Honor Club Exclusive PPVs” experiment, the one thing it allowed for was a longer show, and while I don’t necessarily mind them going over three hours, there were definitely some matches that weren’t needed. I’m not sure if we’ll find out how much the PPV increased Honor Club’s numbers, but now that they’ve done this one, I’d be really surprised if they went back to doing $40 PPVs. On the whole though, you don’t need to watch every single match, but Final Battle 2023 was a great show that you should definitely make time to watch.