On Friday, December 2nd, Ring of Honor presents their biggest pay-per-view of the year, Final Battle 2016! As usual, I’m here to take you through the card and try my hardest to convince you all to part with some hard-earned cash to check it out!
Let’s begin, shall we?
First, a brief trip through history. Final Battle has been the flagship of the ROH year since its inception in 2002, where the main event was Bryan Danielson vs Low-Ki vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe. Over the 14 year history of the event, the Final Battle main event has been host to wrestlers including:
Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, The Great Muta, KENTA, Austin Aries, The Briscoes, Tyler Black, Takeshi Morishima, El Generico, Kevin Steen, Michael Elgin, Adam Cole, Jay Lethal, & AJ Styles, just to name a few.
For the record, that list includes all 3 top champions in the WWE currently, with Styles, Steen, & Joe. The main event of Final Battle is a good indicator of the top talent on the indys and who will be the ‘man’ someday in the biggest company of them all.
It has been held in New York City’s Manhattan Center 10 of the last 11 years, including this year’s edition, which will be in the Hammerstein Ballroom.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s card of 8 matches, and see what we’ve got to work with on Friday:
Kenny King, Caprice Coleman, & Rhett Titus vs The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) & Donovan Dijak
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Kenny King and Rhett Titus are the All-Night Express, former ROH World Tag team champs, while Caprice Coleman is probably best known as part of C&C Wrestle Factory with Cedric Alexander. Recently, the 3 had formed a comedy unit known as ‘The Cabinet’, playing off the recent election. The Motor City Machine Guns, Sabin and Shelley, are former TNA tag team champions and IWGP Jr Heavyweight tag team champs. Donovan Dijak is a former Top Prospect tournament winner who is currently managed by Prince Nana.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – We need more 6-man teams? This was thrown together to pad out the card. The Cabinet basically threw down their gimmick a few weeks ago on ROH TV, burying the entire concept and promising to become much more dangerous in the future, and that they weren’t alone. Meanwhile, the Guns are on a mission to recruit help against the Bullet Club using some of the younger talent in ROH, and Dijak fits that bill.
WHO WINS? – While the Guns and Dijak would conceptually be my choice to establish them as a legitimate threesome, my money would go with the Cabinet. Dijak is ostensibly a heel, and easily could walk out on the Guns whenever he pleases, or they could have Dijak get pinned here to further a possible face turn and split with Nana. Either way, I’m pretty sure that the faces are going down here.
YOUR WINNER: Kenny King, Rhett Titus, & Caprice Coleman
Colt Cabana vs Dalton Castle
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Colt Cabana is a longtime ROH wrestler who left the company during the Cornette purge but returned to the company this past year to unsuccessfully challenge Jay Lethal for the ROH World title, and has been back ever since. He’s one of the more well-known independent wrestlers in the world, and may be best known for his podcast ‘The Art of Wrestling’. Dalton Castle is probably the most popular wrestler in all of Ring of Honor. A flamboyant showman who refers to himself as a peacock, he is accompanied to the ring by two young men in scantily-clad outfits that he refers to as his ‘Boys’, who he uses for furniture and to fan him off. He is unlike anyone else in ROH.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – At All-Star Extravaganza, Castle and Cabana teamed together and surprisingly won a 4-Way match to become the #1 contenders to the ROH World Tag Team titles. During Glory By Honor, an 8-man tag team elimination match came down to the Bucks vs Castle and Cabana; Castle decided that the time was right to cash in the title shot, and the Bucks agreed. The Bucks retained in that match, frustrating Colt. After a few more matches on ROH TV, in which Colt tried to get Dalton to work without the Boys, Cabana finally decided that he wanted to win titles in ROH and told Castle that it was time to go their separate ways. Dalton agreed and called Colt into the ring to give him a farewell hug; Colt came in and kneed him in the balls instead, turning heel and giving us this match.
WHO WINS? – Well, if they’re going to keep this feud going, probably Colt. My theory is this is just to keep Dalton at the forefront of things and get him on the PPV, so that would point to a Castle victory to end the feud, which is what I think will happen.
YOUR WINNER: Dalton Castle
Silas Young vs Jushin “Thunder” Liger
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Silas Young is a mustachioed brawler who goes by the moniker “The Last Real Man” in wrestling. He can work a decent variety of styles, to be sure, but stays in character much of the time while still busting out a few moves here and there (headstand moonsault, that type of thing) in opposition to that character to play up the hypocritical nature of it. I don’t think that anyone who read this website needs to know who Jushin Liger is, one of the most celebrated light heavyweights in the history of Japanese wrestling.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – Young has been on a rampage recently through the childlike behavior of adult males, first with ACH and his obsession with anime and video games, and now with Liger and his super-hero outfit and mask. He’s called Liger a coward for hiding his face and mocked Liger’s fans for supporting him.
WHO WINS? – Neither guy needs a win here, and there’s probably no program going forward past this PPV. Young would probably be the dude to give it to, in that he just recently came up short against Adam Cole for the ROH World title, but I’m not sure that Liger is jobbing. Flip a coin.
YOUR WINNER: Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Jay Lethal vs Cody Rhodes
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – Jay Lethal is the former ROH World Champion, having reigned for over a year before being dethroned by Adam Cole. This will be the first time in 3 years that Lethal does not have one of the 2 ROH singles titles around his waist at Final Battle, as he was the TV champion previously for over a year as well. Cody Rhodes, most of you all will probably remember, left the WWE to try out the independent circuit, having now already appeared for TNA and PWG. This will be his Ring of Honor debut.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – Cody needed a top opponent for Final Battle and his ROH debut; Lethal had just lost his rematch against Adam Cole for the ROH World title and was available. As Lethal was the most prestigious wrestler in ROH without an opponent for Final Battle, matching him with Rhodes makes the most sense.
WHO WINS? – This is tricky. While Cody has said that he doesn’t want to be tied down to any one promotion, he is expected to do several more dates with Ring of Honor following this weekend. While I wouldn’t expect Jay to job to non-contracted talent outside of Japan most of the time, this is probably an exception to that rule. Cody is set to at least be around for a few more months, so him getting the win over Jay makes the most sense here.
YOUR WINNER: Cody Rhodes
KUSHIDA, Lio Rush, & Jay White vs The Kingdom (Matt Taven, TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia) – Finals of the Ring of Honor 6-Man tag team championship tournament
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – KUSHIDA is one of the best wrestlers in the world and the current IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion in NJPW. Jay White is a graduate of the New Japan Dojo and is in his first tour of the United States. And Lio Rush is the winner of the 2016 Top Prospect tournament and one of the quickest high-flyers I’ve seen in a long time in wrestling. The Kingdom is a heel faction led by Matt Taven, who is a former ROH World TV Champion just returning from injury recently. His Kingdom members are the relatively new TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia, both of whom were introduced in the first round of the tournament.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – This is the Finals of the tournament to crown the very first ROH 6-Man tag team champions. There is no personal issue beyond the titles.
WHO WINS? – While my heart is with KUSHIDA and crew, this one feels like a no-brainer, as the Kingdom were introduced as a new heel faction just at the start of the event, and them making the Finals seems to indicate that they’re going all the way.
YOUR WINNER: (and NEW ROH 6-Man Tag Team champs) The Kingdom
The Young Bucks (c) (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) – Ring of Honor World Tag Team championship match
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – The Briscoes are ROH royalty. Mark and Jay have 8 ROH tag team title reigns already, and Jay Briscoe is a 2-time ROH World champ as well. They’ve been around ROH since the very first show. The Young Bucks are the current ROH World Tag Team champs, members of the Bullet Club, and are one of the most polarizing tag teams in the world. Their style includes intricate double-team spots and superkicks, and they are also the tag team champions in PWG and in NJPW in the Jr Heavyweight division, making them triple title holders.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – The Bucks won the belts from the Addiction at All-Star Extravaganza in Ladder War 6 in a match that also included the Motor City Machine Guns. Almost immediately, the Briscoes declared their intentions to become the 9-time ROH tag team champs, so here we are. This match is all about the belts; although the Briscoes have tangentially been involved in the Bullet Club angle, that’s not what this match is about.
WHO WINS? – This one could go either way, and it probably depends on the contract status of the Young Bucks. Their ROH contract expires on December 31st, and it’s well-known that they are in demand by pretty much every wrestling company in the world. According to Dave Meltzer, there is a contract offer on the table from ROH, as is one from TNA. I’m sure there are others. Depending on when they make their decision, it could factor into the decision to either keep the belts on them or take them off. So, absent that information, one would expect that the Bucks will keep the belts as they just won them at the last ROH PPV and it doesn’t make much sense to drop them in their first PPV defense.
YOUR WINNER: (and STILL ROH World Tag Team champs) The Young Bucks
“The Villain” Marty Scurll (c) vs Will Ospreay vs Bobby Fish vs Dragon Lee – 4 Corner Survival match for the Ring of Honor World Television title
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – It’s an international affair! Bobby Fish is the partner of Kyle O’Reilly in reDRagon, and is the former TV champion, having lost it on the UK tour. The man he lost it to is Will Ospreay, a top high-flyer from NJPW. Ospreay was the winner of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament this year, and has recently signed with ROH after making a run to the finals of the PWG BOLA tournament this year. Ospreay held the TV title for less than 48 hours before dropping it to “The Villain” Marty Scurll on the final day of the UK tour. Scurll is one of my favorite wrestlers on the indy scene, one of the most perfect meldings of ringwork and character as the dastardly ‘villain’, with heel tactics coupling with perfect expressions and interviews. In addition to being the ROH TV champ, he was the winner of the PWG BOLA tournament this year. Dragon Lee is a renowned wrestler from CMLL who defeated Fish in a Proving Ground match to earn this title shot, which has now become a 4-Corners Survival match.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – On the first night of the UK tour, Ospreay defeated Fish for the title in Will’s debut match. Fish is owed a rematch. On the last night of the UK tour, Marty Scurll defeated Ospreay for the title; thus, Will is owed a rematch. Dragon Lee earned his title shot by defeating Fish on ROH TV and was set for a 1v1 shot here, so he’s owed a match. In short, everyone in the match is in line for a title shot, so they’ll all get it here.
WHO WINS? – Besides the main event, there isn’t a match I’m looking forward to more on the card. Everyone in this match can work, and it’s the ROH PPV debut of both Scurll and Ospreay. After watching Dragon Lee tear down the house against Kamaitachi at the last PPV, and knowing what Fish is capable of, this is truly a pick ’em. So I’m going with my heart and who I want to win, with the cerebral reason being that it’s right to push the new signees…..
YOUR WINNER: (and STILL ROH World TV champ) “The Villain” Marty Scurll
Adam Cole (c) vs Kyle O’Reilly – Ring of Honor World Championship match
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? – They’re the reason we’re watching this show. Adam Cole is the current Ring of Honor World champion, and the North American leader of the Bullet Club. This is his second reign with the World title, having ended Jay Lethal’s year+ reign earlier this year. Cole is easily one of the most talented wrestlers on the independent scene, having also been the longest-reigning PWG champion in history. Kyle O’Reilly is the most talented worker in the world, in this recapper’s humble opinion. He wrestles an MMA-infused style and used to work light heavyweight, having made the Finals of the NJPW Best of the Super Juniors tournament 2 years ago, losing to KUSHIDA in a classic ***** match in the Finals. He is also a former PWG champion, and is one-half of reDRagon with Bobby Fish, the former ROH Tag Team champions.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE HERE? – How long ya got? Okay, here we go. Cole and O’Reilly teamed together as part of a tag team called ‘Future Shock’ back in 2010 when both were rookies in ROH. They had the inevitable falling out and battled at Best in the World 2012 in a ‘Hybrid Fighting Rules’ match, which was won by Cole; would you like to hear his recollections of that match on espn.com with a handy link? Here you go!
After that, Cole and Kyle seemed to go their separate ways, and Cole won his first ROH World title as O’Reilly made a name for himself in Japan and in ROH with new tag team partner Bobby Fish as reDRagon. Fast-forward to 2015. Cole was returning from injury as O’Reilly was beginning to get noticed for ROH World title shots. Cole seemingly allied himself with O’Reilly on ROH TV, even tagging with him as part of a Future Shock reunion. All seemed to be well, until Kyle got his shot at Jay Lethal at All-Star Extravaganza for the ROH World title; during the match, in chasing off the House of Truth, Cole turned on Kyle, jealous that his former partner had risen to a title shot while he was out with an injury, allowing Lethal to pin him to retain the title. Thus, the feud was revitalized and turned nasty quickly. In-between sneak attacks on each other, a match was signed for Final Battle 2015, in which Cole won the match by cheating; Kyle became enraged and attempted to break the arm of Cole before being pulled off. The feud continued through Supercard of Honor in April of this year, where they faced off in the main event in a Fight Without Honor (No Holds Barred), which Kyle won by choking Cole out with a chain and leaving him unconscious. I was at that match and it was a-fucking-mazing. So that’s it, right?
Not even close. Cole was out for almost two months after that match, as Kyle once again rose to challenge for the ROH World title. Adam returned, however, as the leader of the North American chapter of the Bullet Club. When Kyle was set to face off against Lethal for the title on ROH TV, Cole and the Bullet Club attacked before the match and destroyed O’Reilly, slamming him in the shoulder with a chair several times as Cole repeated his promise from earlier in the year, that Kyle O’Reilly would NEVER win the Ring of Honor World title as long as Adam Cole was part of Ring of Honor. Kyle went through with the match anyway, but fell to Lethal when the injury to the shoulder became too much to overcome. It was Kyle’s turn to take a break to recover, while Adam went on to end the title reign of Jay Lethal and become a 2-time Ring of Honor World champion. As soon as the match ended, Cole was laid out by the returning O’Reilly, who posed with the title belt in the air.
And now, it all comes down to this; Adam has promised that this is the LAST time that Kyle will get a shot at the title; this truly is the Final Battle for these two. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
WHO WINS? – Despite my rah-rah O’Reilly stuff, I truly and wholeheartedly believe that it’s now or never for Kyle. He’s been chasing the belt and, to a lesser extent, Adam Cole for almost the last two years. Cole has managed to come out on top in almost every instance, honestly, and he has lived up to his word not only in winning the belt back, but in keeping it from Kyle. Cole has played the douchebag heel to absolute perfection in every way, shape and form and the time has come for him to get his. There is literally no scenario in which it makes more sense for Kyle to win the strap than this one; if he doesn’t win it here, then he’s not going to win it. At the end of the day, sometimes the best booking is the straightforward route, and that route ends with Kyle holding the belt up high at the end of the show.
YOUR WINNER: (and NEW Ring of Honor World champ) Kyle O’Reilly
That should just about do it! 3 of the 4 title matches will almost certainly deliver and are worth the money alone, with a more than decent undercard to complement the stacked main events. ROH PPVs have been on a roll, and Final Battle looks like it’s going to bring 2016 to a close in a big way. I’ll see you all on Friday night!
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter