211 ROH Final Battle 2008 12/27/2008

ROH 211 – Final Battle 2008 – 27th December 2008

This is ROH’s final show of 2008, and it’s also the last Ring Of Honor show I’ll be watching for some time. I’m still buying the DVD’s, and I’ll do whatever I can to get my hands on a complete set of ROH on HDNet 2010 episodes, as I did for 2009. But I’m going to spend the next couple of months seeing what else is out there, and I have a stack of PWG, TNA, WWE and puro to watch in the coming weeks. 2008 has been a strange year for ROH. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the majority of 2008 far more than 2007…but I can’t actually put my finger on why. I don’t think the pay-per-views have been quite as strong. I don’t think ’08 has had a feud even remotely matching the quality of the Briscoes/Steen-erico wars. 2008 has had the WORST show in ROH history (Escalation), and a change of booker which I am still desperately unhappy about. BUT, the one thing 2008 has had that 2007 didn’t have…and anything after Unified in 2006 didn’t have. 2008 has been unpredictable. The frustration I had with Ring Of Honor in 2007 was that it had become so predictable. You could pick up a DVD, have seen every guy on the card a hundred times, and know exactly which matches would be good and which wouldn’t. You could almost tell whilst writing the intro whether you were going to be watching a great show or an average to poor one. If nothing else, 2008 has remedied that. Tyler Black came from nowhere to become a hot commodity. Necro Butcher became so popular that they had to remove him from Age Of The Fall to keep the group heel. Jerry Lynn returned and very much still had it. Nigel McGuinness started dragging great World Title matches from all comers. The evolution into Davey Richards becoming the biggest star in the company (as he probably is now in 2010) began. New characters like Joey Matthews, Kenny Omega and Rhett Titus arrived, stale acts like Delirious and Roderick Strong have been refreshed, and others, such as Jack Evans, Rocky Romero, Lacey and others have fallen by the wayside. Bryan Danielson has been fed fresh opponents (like Black, Stevens, Nakajima, Kanemaru, Lynn etc) and got to work tag team matches on a semi-regular basis to keep the company’s ace interesting whilst not putting him in the middle of too many major storylines. My point is that, more so than a large chunk of 2006 and most of 2007, 2008 saw ROH regain it’s ability to SURPRISE me. Whilst that hasn’t always been a good thing, it’s certainly made ROH shows easier to watch in one sitting, and given me more to talk about when writing these things.

Tonight ROH look to end the year in style with a show that boasts one of the most stacked cards in Ring Of Honor history. Headlining is Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima in a Fight Without Honor that’s been over a year in the making. Nigel defends the World Title against Naomichi Marufuji, plus Aries and Black in a #1 Contendership Match, the Briscoes against Kensuke Office, Sweet’n’Sour Inc. in a Street Fight and more. We’re back in the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, NY.

ROH VIDEO WIRE – See All Star Extravaganza 4 (ROH210) review for details

Age Of The Fall stand in the dark. Jimmy Jacobs wants to win the Tag Title at Final Battle for the second year running, and tells Delirious to forget Daizee Haze and focus on that match. Tyler Black cuts in to hype his match with Aries.

Claudio Castagnoli vs Kenny Omega

This is the fourth show in a row which has had Kenny Omega in the opening match. Every one of the previous three have been fun curtain jerkers, and this one should be more of the same. Omega has been great to watch, and Claudio tends to delivery when he works with the smaller athletes. For Kenny, defeating a former ROH Tag Champion and one of the bigger names in the promotion would be a real feather in the cap.

Castagnoli comes out in a Boston Red Sox jersey which has double meaning since New York hate it, and the Boston fans have always had a special connection with Double C. Castagnoli immediately gets on the front foot and pummels Omega. Reverse enzi by Kenny, but Castagnoli cuts him down again with a hotshot over the top rope. Gutwrench suplex gets a 2 for Claudio. Polish Hammers from Kenny, who is then knocked back once more with a European uppercut. Leapfrog into the bulldog nailed to buy him some time. STOP SIGN ENZIGURI scores, and knocks Castagnoli outside where Omega nails a CORKSCREW PESCADO! He misses a springboard crossbody and eats a Bicycle Kick. Riccola COUNTERED TO A SMALL PACKAGE! KENNY WINS! 07:00 is your time

Rating – *** –
Huge win for Omega, and it’s deserved as well. He’s been thrown in at the bottom of the card all month and has done a terrific job. He’s looked terrific himself, made Kenny King look like a star in St Louis, gave Rhett Titus his best singles match to date in Philadephia and was the standout performer in a trios match in Nashville too. Since Omega was getting the win here it was only natural they were going to give lots of the offence to Claudio, but I thought they handled that well and still gave Kenny plenty of time to hit some trademark spots, mount a few comebacks and continue to get himself over in a major way.

Rhett Titus vs Chris Hero vs Necro Butcher vs Jerry Lynn

Obviously this is primarily a way to get everyone onto the card and doesn’t have any major issues, but I like all four of these guys. Rhett Titus is the first guy that has managed to throw off the tag of ROH student and look like he offers something more than being a miniscule spot merchant. Necro and Jerry have been two unlikely success stories this year. Necro is massively over with the live crowds (even though, in the ring, he’s been lousy in recent months), whilst Jerry Lynn turned what appeared to be a one-off opportunity into an extended run with ROH thanks to some remarkable performances, belying his advancing years. And Chris Hero has spent the year largely on autopilot, still the centrepiece of Sweet’n’Sour Inc, still doing a fine job in his role on the undercard without ever really being given a major ball to run with…and occasionally chiming in to remind everyone he’s damn good in the ring too with the likes of Nigel McGuinness, Roderick Strong, and even Pelle Primeau.

Referees are starting to check Chris Hero’s elbow pad for hidden foreign objects after his recent tainted victories with the Loaded Elbow. Necro starts with Titus, an off-shoot of the confrontation between the two in Nashville. Rhett pokes him in the eyes, but is soon floored with a single punch and rolls to a corner and tags out. Lynn gets in with Hero next, desperate to make up for his loss to Sweeney’s charge at Driven 2008. Hero bails…and NECRO CHAINS WITH JERRY! Manhattan marks out like f*ck for Necro rolling into a wristlock, then trading nearfalls with the former ECW Champion. Hero gets the blind tag and elbow smashes Butcher from behind. Dave Prazak says he’s received confirmation from NOAH that Mitsuharu Misawa has officially passed the Roaring Elbow onto Chris Hero. Rhett strings together a nice body avalanche/knee strike combo after Hero has incapacitated the Necro Butcher. But Necro finally block a rolling elbow from Hero and CONNECTS with a big punch. Jerry in again, and he turns into the ROLLING ELBOW! Butcher breaks the fall at 2. Lynn quickens the pace with a flying headscissors, then a springboard crossbody. Inverted DDT gets 2 before Jerry moves aside to allow Rhett’s elbow drop to connect with Hero. Titus goes for a sunset bomb to the floor on Necro, but he COUNTERS with a rana up the aisle! Chris Hero tries to hit a Cradle Piledriver, and in the ensuing shenanigans with Larry Sweeney on the apron, Hero smuggles the loaded elbow pad into the ring and onto his boot. LOADED BOOT MISSES! CRADLE PILEDRIVER! Lynn wins at 12:49

Rating – *** –
Completely insignificant and forgettable, but the performances of all four men were absolutely spot on so I had to give a decent score. Rhett Titus looked completely at home in the ring with four vastly more experienced competitors. Admittedly his moveset was a little more basic but he didn’t look lost at all and held his own. Hero and Lynn have been around for an extremely long time, and now exactly how to work undercard matches like this, giving the crowd enough to keep them interested, but keeping plenty in reserve for later matches on the card. Oh, and Necro (who is always popular) put in his best performance in months too.

Jimmy Jacobs interrupts the festivities to call Necro Butcher a ‘Hollywood sellout’ (commenting on Necro’s memorable segment in ‘The Wrestler’) and berates him for helping Daizee Haze in trying to get Delirious out of Age Of The Fall. Delirious arrives to jump Necro…and soon the ROH Tag Champions (flanked by Daizee) are out too, so we go straight into our next match

Kevin Steen/El Generico vs Jimmy Jacobs/Delirious – ROH Tag Title Match

This is a rematch from Escalation, where Delirious’ issues with Daizee Haze and Rhett Titus ended up costing Age Of The Fall their chance at regaining the belts. After the euphoria of winning the belts, the reality of being Tag Champions is starting to set in for Steen and Generico now. After coming last in the LAX Iron-Team match, they now find everyone from Briscoes, Age Of The Fall to the newest tag team force in ROH, the American Wolves, gunning for them

Delirious and Jacobs try to run away, only for Steen to flatten them with a SOMERSAULT PLANCHA! The champions dominate the opening minutes. They work over Jimmy’s midsection, including the double team backpack senton for 2. But finally Delirious slithers into the ring and makes a beeline for Steen’s knee, injured at the hands of Davey Richards and a pipe in Philadelphia last night. And with that it’s the challengers’ turn to dominate by assaulting Steen’s leg. Mr Wrestling lunges for a desperate tag but is cut off in AWESOME fashion by both Jacobs and Delirious pouncing on his legs simultaneously to drag him down. Panic Attack misses though, and this time he does get the hot tag to El Generico. SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR BY HIM! Cannonball senton from Steen, then the big splash from Generico gets 2. Yakuza Kick blocked, but Generico lifts Delirious into a Michinoku Driver instead and gets a nearfall. Jacobs goes after Steen’s legs again…but this time Delirious accidentally knocks him off the apron. Steen’s knee won’t allow him to Package Piledrive Delirious…so it’s the SHARPSHOOTER for him instead! Jacobs lunges in to save his partner and position Steen for the Panic Attack. SHADOWS OVER HELL TO THE LEG! SENTON BOMB FROM JACOBS! TWO COUNT ONLY! Delirious gets momentarily distracted by Daizee again, and Kevin is right on him with a pumphandle cradlebreaker…onto his OWN bad knee meaning it hurts him more than Delirious. Steen tries to climb the turnbuckles for another dive, but his knee gives out. Daizee tries to do it for him, and gets dragged down by Jacobs. Delirious tries to save the Haze form Jacobs. SUPERKICK BY STEEN! YAKUZA KICK BY GENERICO! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! BRAINBUSTER! The champions retain at 13:33

Rating – **** – Worlds apart from the snoozefest that these two teams had in Dayton. This was so much fun. It wasn’t an epic, main event level tag, but for quality of wrestling (like the way Jacobs sold his ribs early on, and Steen’s phenomenal sell job on his knee), entertainment and storyline progression, for the time it was given, this was superb.

Kevin Steen has to be helped to the back, leaving Jimmy Jacobs in the ring screaming in anger at Delirious.

The Briscoes tell Kensuke Office to ‘man up’ in their own loving way…

American Wolves/Go Shiozaki vs Roderick Strong/Brent Albright/Erick Stevens – Street Fight

Initially we were going to be seeing Steel Cage Warfare between S’n’S Inc. and a team of their enemies that Albright was going to be putting together. Adam Pearce put that one on the backburner, but we’re still going to see an escalation in violence in this feud. The babyface team are clearly united in such a passionate dislike for S’n’S Inc. that it has brought formerly bitter enemies Roderick Strong and Erick Stevens together. Everyone is in street clothes to emphasise that this one is going to get messy and violent.

All six brawl at ringside after Team Albright make their entrance under cover of darkness to get the jump on their opponents. Albright himself batters Go on one side with chops as the Wolves team up to attack Strong. Roddy winds up levelling Edwards with a steel chair before they bring their little battle into the ring. Stevens hits a version of the Choo Choo on Shiozaki as he sits slumped in a chair at ringside. Roderick tries to get into a chop fight with Go but Richards saves the Japanese former FIP Champion. Edwards has positioned a table in the corner of the ring but gets driven to the mat with a lifting lariat by Stevens before he can use it. Shiozaki in…GERMAN SUPLEX THROUGH THE TABLE! Albright has an unfortunate crotch/asscrack rip in his jeans which is amusing. Strong traps Eddie in the corner with a flying Sick Kick. GUTWRENCH LIGERBOMB with amazing power from Richards gets 2. Albright in to try and wrestle al three opponents by himself. CROWBAR ON DAVEY! Eddie and Go save with chair shots, before Edwards holds the chair in position for Shiozaki to knee drop it into Brent’s face! Strong and Stevens are still down, meaning Brent is still left taking a pounding and prompting the New York fans to chant for Bobby Dempsey – no sign of Bobby or Larry Sweeney as yet. It’s Stevens that makes a save out of nowhere with a big powerslam on Davey. Choo Choo on Edwards on Go. DEATH BY RODERICK/LARIAT COMBO by Stevens and Strong for 2. STRONG AND RICHARDS TRADE STRIKES! BOTH FALL TO THE FLOOR! They get back to the apron and are still chopping and kicking lumps out of each other. Strong with a BACK SUPLEX OFF THE APRON THROUGH A TABLE! In the ring Albright counters the Go Flasher but gets punted in the testicles. GERMAN SUPLEX ON STEVENS! GERMAN SUPLEX ON GO! SICK KICK BY STRONG! CROWBAR ON GO! Shiozaki taps at 14:37

Rating – **** –
Low end 4* match for me. There was some dead time but the fact that all six men were stiffing each other and working an extremely physical style for the whole match carried proceedings. The Richards/Strong battle near the end had the place in a real frenzy proving that the real money of this everyone vs S’n’S Inc. feud is in that particular combo. In fact, every time Davey was involved here it was super intense gold dust. Shiozaki looked like he was having a great time brawling around ringside, swinging chairs and using tables with gay abandon too.

After the match Richards and Edwards walk out on Go, extremely unhappy that he tapped out to lose their team the match. I sense this might be Shiozaki’s last night as a regular in ROH as he takes a few moments to accept the applause of the fans, then takes a final look around before storming up the aisle.

Kensuke Sasaki/Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe

If Nakajima carries the bulk of the work for his team, this one could be really good. I think Briscoes vs Kensuke Office should generate a lot of interest in Japan since Jay and Mark are two of the more popular gaijin on the NOAH roster these days. Plus if they win, it’d be a huge coup to score a victory over a team containing the GHC Heavyweight Champion. This will go one of two ways, either house show Sasaki will suck the life out of it, or the younger trio will carry it and then utilise Kensuke at the right moments to contribute effectively.

Mark starts with Nakajima, and bravely tries to go strike for strike with the hard-hitting Japanese prodigy. Jay in, quickly falling victim to the same kicks that beat his brother back moments earlier. Nakajima hits a somersault senton off the apron as he continues to lead the attack on the former ROH Tag Champions. Jay hits a Samoan drop and Naka crawls backwards in a hurry to bring Sasaki in. Jay withstands a barrage of chops and is then clubbed down with a lariat. But just as Kensuke used his power to dominate Jay, Jay is able to do the same thing when Nakajima is brought back, driving the youngster back into the Briscoe corner to isolate him. Rolling legsweep from Nakajima takes Mark down, and Kensuke is brought back in to work him over. Sasaki shows he’s been watching his tapes as he starts attacking Mark’s problem knee. That’s a nice tactic, and the Kensuke Office continue this focus to keep Mark well away from his corner as we approach 10 minutes. Mark finally drops Naka with a fisherman buster and dives into the hot tag to Jay. DVD blocked and Nakajima kicks Jay in the back of the head! Rope-run springboard kick nailed and he gets the tag to Kensuke. The GHC Champion batters Jay with chops then a VICIOUS facecrusher. Judo throw gets 2 and injures Jay’s arm, something that Sasaki immediately uses to his advantage by applying his Stranglehold. He suplexes Nakajima into a somersault senton for 2, then flips him into a TILTA-WHIRL KIK on Mark. SUPERKICK FLURRY ON JAY! Jay has been knocked goofy and just falls to his knees. One more superkick nearly wins it for Nakajima. Rope-run springboard kick countered…but Mark CAN’T HIT THE SPRINGBOARD DOOMSDAY DEVICE! The bad knee buckles under him and he tumbles to the mat. Jay drops Nakajima on his neck with a back suplex. REGULAR DOOMSDAY DEVICE! Sasaki saves his protégé at 2. JAY DRILLER! Briscoes score a HUGE win at 16:47

Rating – **** –
Once again this is in the low end of the 4* rating (maybe three and a half stars if I went with the half stars), but it really was fun, and Kensuke Sasaki’s best ROH match by a long way. Much as I said at the start, my hope was that Nakajima and the Briscoes would carry the bulk of the match, with Kensuke utilised for a few impact spots and whenever his team were on offence. And so it proved, Naka worked the bulk of the match, with Sasaki in periodically to dominate the Briscoes for his team. I loved the quite unexpected sub-plot of Kensuke Office having done some homework and attacking Mark’s bad knee (and of course, the pay-off was that he couldn’t execute the Springboard Doomsday Device). I had feared this was going to go the way of Sasaki/Claudio from Glory By Honor 7 and turn out to be a real disappointment – I’m glad to say it delivered.

The American Wolves don’t let the Briscoes enjoy their moment for long. Davey handcuffs Jay to the ropes before joining Eddie Edwards to wear Mark’s knee out with a chair. Amazingly it’s Steen and Generico who come out to save the Briscoes. But then the Wolves turn their attack to the Tag Champions, and it’s Strong and Albright who arrive to save. There’s now a ring full of guys all extremely pissed off with this new team now.

Brent Albright furiously asks Cary Silkin whether he wants Sweet’n’Sour Inc. to keep ruining matches and shows with the run-ins they have been dishing out in recent months. He demands a Steel Cage Match with Sweeney’s group…and Cary agrees. GREAT promo by Brent there. All the babyfaces (except Steen and Generico) help carry the injured Mark Briscoe to the back.

INTERMISSION – Kyle Durden interviews Naomichi Marufuji who (through a translator) promises to take the ROH World Title back to Japan with him. Later Durden catches up with Takeshi Morishima (who dwarfs him). Morishima (through the same translator) says he’s going to ‘roll over’ Dragon.

Tyler Black vs Austin Aries

Obviously these two have wrestled a few times over the past year during Aries’ feud with Jimmy Jacobs. However, this serves a direct rematch to the showstealer they contested at Wrestling At The Gateway where Black scored a clean win with the God’s Last Gift. Both men are looking to get into contention for another shot at the ROH World Championship in 2009, and this match is scheduled to serve as a #1 Contendership Match. Aries, who suffered a broken nose during that last bout in St. Louis, seems to have gotten more bitter and annoyed after winning his feud with Jacobs, will be desperate to overcome Tyler, end his issues with Age Of The Fall and reignite his campaign to become the first ever two-time ROH Champion.

Fans chant ‘next World Champ’ for Tyler. I’d love to know if he watched Gabe’s Book Of ROH Secrets and how he feels here knowing that, under Gabe, he would’ve won the World Title here. Aries doesn’t seem overly enthused by New York’s support of Tyler. He dominates a very slow, methodical opening period, the pace noticeably different to the Collinsville match. Headscissors escape dropkick misses, and draws an audible ‘same old sh*t’ chant. Black back flips and takes Aries to the mat. HEAD SCISSOR ESCAPE DROPKICK ON ARIES! Fans go nuts for that and Austin just gets more annoyed. He takes too much time playing to the fans and misses a Power Drive Elbow…and gets another ‘same old sh*t’ chant. The dynamic between Aries, Black and the crowd thus far has been AMAZING! Tyler takes too much time in the corner, and is tagged by Aries. The former World Champion mocks his traditional corner posing before the IED, but Black drops that. Springboard attempt…BLACK SHOVED TO THE FLOOR! HEAT SEEKING MISSILE! Now it’s the Aries fans who can be heard chanting loudly. IED on the floor nailed and gets a two count. Aries looks for the Last Chancery and forces Black into a desperate crawl to the ropes. With Tyler escaping his finisher, Aries tosses him out of the ring in frustration, clearly letting the negative crowd chanting get to him. He looks for a DVD on the apron, but Black turns it round. F-5 ON THE APRON! HOLY SH*T! Black misses another springboard attempt, but this time lands on his feet to hit an overhead kick. RUNNING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! And Black is up quickly to throw Austin back into the ring and try to pin him. God’s Last Gift blocked and Aries unleashes a barrage of strikes in the corner. Brainbuster…COUNTERED TO PEROXISM FOR 2! He looks for the Buckle Bomb…but Aries escapes. KNEE STRIKES! LAST CHANCERY! KNEE STRIKES AGAIN! Out of nothing Tyler kicks him in the side of the head. BUCKLE BOMB GETS 2! Black lines up the Phoenix Splash, but gets distracted by Jimmy Jacobs shouting instructions on the apron. PHOENIX SPLASH MISSES! BRAINBUSTER BY ARIES! But he’s so out of it he falls of the apron! 450 SPLASH! ARIES WINS! 17:08 is your time.

Rating – **** –
Even though he technically didn’t interfere, I’m absolutely gutted they let the finish to this match be tainted by an external factor. Before Jacobs’ arrival this was genuinely a superb match. Austin Aries proved why he’s one of the very best wrestlers in the world as he immediately picked up on the hostility of the fans, and used it to his advantage. This match made Black seem like a bonafide superstar, and that was largely down to Aries’ intelligent manipulation of the fans. Black played his role very well too (the fiery, inexperienced, talented young talent), probably honed after his epic series of matches with Bryan Danielson earlier this year. Had they put a clean finish onto the end of this you’d be looking at an easy MOTYC in my opinion, I enjoyed it that much. Kudos to the New York fans as well. I’m sure Austin Aries probably felt a little cheesed off at their total rejection of him (he hasn’t fully turned heel yet as far as I’ve seen, although it’s coming), but even he surely wouldn’t deny the immense contribution the vocal Hammerstein crowd made to this outstanding contest.

‘F*ck you Jimmy’ – New York. Jacobs berates Black for losing, saying he was supposed to be the ‘chosen one’. Tyler shoves him down and gets a huge pop…LOW BLOW ON BLACK! END TIME! The Age Of The Fall is imploding before our eyes! Austin Aries saves Tyler from further damage at the hands of Jimmy Jacobs. THEN LEVELS BLACK WITH A CHAIR HIMSELF! Incredibly Aries and Jacobs have found some common ground in disliking Tyler Black…and have joined forces to leave him bloody in the middle of the ring. Jacobs drops the towel that Tyler refused to throw in the ring at Rising Above 2008 and walks out. Hugely entertaining, if slightly confusing segment. I’m sure all will become clear…either way Tyler leaves 2008 as a huge babyface.

Nigel McGuinness vs Naomichi Marufuji – ROH World Title Match

The seeds of this match appeared to have been sewn at Death Before Dishonor earlier this year when Marufuji made it clear he wanted a shot at the World Title. But Nigel has since made it clear that he wants this match every bit as badly as Marufuji. In what, at that point at least, was one of Nigel’s career defining matches, he challenged unsuccessfully for Marufuji’s GHC Heavyweight Title at Glory By Honor 5 Night 2, ROH’s debut in the Manhattan Centre. He wants to avenge that loss, this time with his own championship on the line, to prove that, having gained two years of experience, it’s now he who is the better man.

Nigel is battling to become the first man to last a full calendar year as Champion. He won’t be the longest reigning champion as yet (Samoa Joe still has that at 21 months), but nobody has managed to last a full, January-December 12 month period (although both Joe and Danielson fell short at the Final Battle stage during their runs, so Nigel isn’t there yet!). McGuinness goes for an early Jawbreaker Lariat but Marufuji has the move well-scouted. The challenger looks to work Nigel’s neck it seems, focusing the majority of his early offence on that body part. DOUBLE FACEWASH from a standing position leaves McGuinness down in a heap, and proves that the challenger means serious business tonight. Running stomp to the back of the neck gets 2. Skullf*cks, from a grounded headscissors position, follow next, and that drives Nigel to go back to his basics and hit the hammerlock DDT. They spill out of the ring where Nigel shunts Marufuji shoulder-first into the barrier. Marufuji’s response? A superkick then a SHIRANUI OFF THE GUARDRAILS! But as that was on the floor Marufuji isn’t able to react quickly enough to score the victory with that. HAMMERLOCK front slam drops Maru down onto his shoulder again though, and the World Champion goes back to his methodical assault on the NOAH star’s shoulder.

But he gets distracted by jawing with the crowd, allowing Marufuji to hit an amazing vertical leap dropkick in the ropes. Blindside lariat gets 2 for Marufuji. COBRA CLUTCH TRIANGLE CHOKE ON NIGEL! That’s a double whammy as it works the bad neck and is a variant on a move Bryan Danielson has used effectively on Nigel in the past. He turns it into a Lungblower for 2. Tower Of London blocked…but so is the Shiranui. Nigel looks for the Super McLariat but Maru STANDS ON THE ROPES to hit a springboard dropkick. SHIRANUI ON THE APRON! But once again he’s hit his finish and it’s left Nigel in a position where he can’t pin him. He thinks about the Van Marufujinator…but, having taken that move at Glory By Honor 5, McGuinness knows to sit out of the tree of woe to counter. Nigel rakes the eyes. TOWER OF LONDON TO THE APRON! Marufuji ducks the Jawbreaker Lariat, but as he tries to turn that into his Blindside Lariat, McGuinness sensibly ducks that one and CONNECT with a spinning McLariat…and appears to damage his own arm in the process. SUPER MCLARIAT gets 2, but Nigel’s right arm now hangs limp at his side. Superkick counters Nigel’s headstand in the corner. VAN MARUFUJINATOR SECOND TIME AROUND! SUPERKICK! SPINNING SUPERKICK! LOW SUPERKICK! NIGEL KICKS OUT! JAWBREAKER LARIAT OUT OF NOWHERE! NIGEL WINS! 18:15 is your time.

Rating – **** –
This was surprisingly difficult to call. By that I mean, the quality and excitement of the bout wasn’t that much of a surprise. At this stage in their careers both of these two are genuine world class performers. BUT, I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t show more progression from the match they had 2+ years ago. Whilst not identical, this was largely very similar. Both worked body parts without ever really going anywhere with it, or any intention of selling their own injury. And both matches eventually broke down to hitting major high spots like finishers on the apron/to the floor etc. I’m not saying it wasn’t an absolute blast, because it was. But I’m saying that, in reality, it had the same positives and negatives as the clash they had before. If you liked the first one you’ll like this too. If you didn’t like it first time around, I’m not sure this one will provide improved enjoyment for you.

Jerry Lynn comes to the ring to pay respect to both men. But Nigel yells at him for stealing his spotlight, and compares him to Mickey Rourke’s character in ‘The Wrestler’. Jerry gets all shouty about that…I guess we’ll be seeing them lock horns again.

It’s time for the main event. BUT PRINCE NANA IS IN THE HAMMERSTEIN! He begs for his job back once again, before being tossed out by security.

Takeshi Morishima vs Bryan Danielson – Fight Without Honor

This is a match one year in the making. These two men had an electrifying feud during the final months of 2007, but unfortunately didn’t get to settle their differences before Morishima’s tenure as a full-time member of the ROH roster came to an end. Their first interaction was actually as tag partners in the superb tag team main event of Ring Of Honor’s first ever pay-per-view. But the inevitable first clash for Takeshi Morishima’s ROH World Championship finally came at Manhattan Mayhem 2, when Mori edged out Dragon in what many called MOTY for ’07. That fight was so violent Danielson actually fractured his orbital bone, and suffered a detached retina, leaving his eye rolling about uncontrollably in his head. This was a serious injury, and one that Morishima used to his advantage to win the subsequent rematch at Man Up…much to the annoyance of Danielson. Their feud continued after Morishima lost the World Title, with the two sharing heated brawls and trading DQ victories at Glory By Honor 6 weekend and Rising Above 2007. The two men were kept apart during Morishima’s visit earlier this year as he was holding the GHC Heavyweight Championship at the time. With NOAH’s top prize no longer in his possession, Morishima is free to put his body on the line and go to war one last time with the American Dragon.

No traditional entrance for Dragon, come comes through the darkness to hit a SPRINGBOARD KNEE STRIKE THROUGH THE STREAMERS! SPRINGBOARD SUICIDE PLANCHA INTO THE FRONT ROW! And it’s New Jack style chaos as ‘The Final Countdown’ continues to play as the brawl goes on. Dragon goes straight for the ring bell, something we saw a lot of during their 2007 clashes. He can’t get the heavy Morishima into his usual Mexican surfboard, so stomps the back of the legs instead. They go to the apron where Mori blocks whatever Dragon had in mind and clubs him to the floor. BUTT SPLASH ON THE APRON! He viciously throws Danielson into the guardrails, and that slices him wide open. It’s a bad gash too, quickly covering not just Dragon’s face, but also leaving huge smear of blood on the torso of the NOAH competitor. He swings a chair in the direction of Danielson, but does almost as much damage with his savage forearms and kicks which leave Dragon on his hands and knees outside the ring. Morishima goes hunting under the ring, and pulls out a chain which he starts using to choke Dragon out. Dave Prazak points out that a referee has had to stop a Morishima vs Danielson match to protect the safety of Bryan in the past (Man Up). Morishima climbs the ropes but misses his monster missile dropkick to give Danielson some crucial breathing space. TOPE SUICIDA NAILED! Danielson ends up in the front row again.

He missile dropkicks the knee of Morishima before launching into a flurry of kicks to the chest. But one big boot from Takeshi floors him again. Sambo suplex gets 2, as does a massive lariat. Back Drop Driver blocked. MR SMALL PACKAGE GETS 2! GERMAN SUPLEX NAILED! CATTLE MUTILATION! MMA ELBOWS! But Morishima incredibly powers up to his feet and NO SELLS THEM! LARIATOOOOO sends Danielson flying through the air and leaves him motionless on the mat, even after hitting a mass of his finishers in quick succession. Camel clutch with the chain to choke the life out of American Dragon. But Danielson slips away from an avalanche Back Drop Driver attempt. BACK SUPERPLEX ON MORISHIMA! Now it’s Danielson’s turn to use the chain. TRIANGLE CHOKE WITH THE CHAIN! But the chain ends up helping Morishima as he uses it to haul Danielson into a powerbomb. Overhead belly to belly suplex, then another big lariat floor Dragon again. BACK DROP DRIVER FOR 2! Danielson goes to a Fujiwara Armbar as Morishima goes for the lariat once too often. And having grounded Mori he uses the chain to tie his arms behind his back. MORISHIMA FIGHTS HIM OFF WITH NO F*CKING HANDS! Bryan must be wondering what the hell he has to do to beat him by this stage. He has no choice but to go to REPEATED STOMPS TO THE CROTCH! MMA ELBOWS WITH THE F*CKING CHAIN! CATTLE MUTILATION! DRAGON WINS! DRAGON WINS! 20:46 is the time.

Rating – ****1/2 –
Epic main event, and a wonderful end to the year for Ring Of Honor. These two worked a brilliant hybrid of heated grudge match, technical warfare, garbage brawl and big man vs little man…and it was a real treat. Morishima looked like a modern day Leon White as he relentlessly battered the smaller man, and I loved how they brought in so many sweet little nuances from their previous matches (like the ring bell, Dragon attacking Morishima’s balls etc) on the way to Danielson finally scoring a decisive victory over Morishima. The segment where Danielson had tied Mori’s hands behind his back and was STILL getting beaten up was just epic, and a brilliant way to explain why Danielson, a man who ROH fans know PRIDES himself on being able to beat anyone fair and square. He said yesterday he’ll do whatever it takes to win this one…and he certainly did. To the newer fans of ROH, if you missed out on Takeshi Morishima’s run in ROH, I really recommend you go back and take a look at his work. He’s one of the best big man workers in the business today (something ROH contributed to by making him a dominant, franchise player in his time here) and if you missed his run as World Champion, you’re missing some great matches.

Babyfaces fill the ring and join Bryan Danielson, who thanks the fans for making this the largest attendance in Ring Of Honor history.

Tape Rating – ****1/2 –
Top to bottom, this was one of the most consistent shows ROH has produced…ever. I’m pretty sure I’ve over-rated a couple of matches on this card…but I’m going to put that down to the horror show that was Escalation. Maybe I’ve become a spoiled ROH fan. Maybe it took an absolute stinker like that to open my eyes and ramp up my enjoyment of shows like this. But even if you think I’ve gone too high on the rating for some matches here…you surely couldn’t deny the fact that this is SUCH a solid show. There’s not a bad match on the card, and I have a sensational SIX matches clocking in at 4* or over – making this one of the best Ring Of Honor shows I’ve ever seen. As Danielson signed off for another year I actually got pretty emotional. Not just because this is the last ROH show I’ll watch for a couple of months, but because in many ways, this show marks the end of an era for Ring Of Honor. In 2009 the landscape and entire set-up of the company changed when they launched their weekly TV show with HDNet (and later, changed further by launching the iPPV series with GoFight Live). This DVD marks the beginning of the end of the days where Ring Of Honor focuses on DVD sales for it’s revenue as, with that finance falling, instead they shift the entire direction of the promotion by going to national TV. This show saw the culmination of the majority of the outstanding ‘Gabe’ storylines too. Danielson/Morishima was tied off. The Age Of The Fall was all but ended with the Jacobs/Black split etc. It’s a superb show in it’s own right. And as someone that has watched the ROH DVD (well, when I started watching it was VHS!) series since the very beginning, this show also had enormous resonance as the closure of all that has gone before. 2009 marks the start of a whole new chapter in ROH history…so join me in January 2011 when I continue my ROH reviews.

Top 3 Matches

3) Nigel McGuinness vs Naomichi Marufuji (****)

2) Austin Aries vs Tyler Black (****)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Takeshi Morishima (****1/2)

Top 5 All Star Extravaganza 4/Final Battle 2008 Weekend Matches

5) Naomichi Marufuji vs Austin Aries (**** – All Star Extravaganza 4)

4) Nigel McGuinness vs Naomichi Marufuji (**** – Final Battle 2008)

3) Austin Aries vs Tyler Black (**** – Final Battle 2008)

2) Bryan Danielson vs Jerry Lynn (****1/2 – All Star Extravaganza 4)

1) Bryan Danielson vs Takeshi Morishima (****1/2 – Final Battle 2008)

Top 10 2008 Matches

10) Bryan Danielson vs Jerry Lynn (****1/2 – All Star Extravaganza 4)

9) Bryan Danielson vs Takeshi Morishima (****1/2 – Final Battle 2008)

8) Bryan Danielson vs Katsuhiko Nakajima (****1/2 – Glory By Honor 7)

7) Nigel McGuinness vs Austin Aries (****1/2 – Supercard Of Honor 3)

6) Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Motor City Machine Guns (****1/2 – Tag Wars 2008)

5) Nigel McGuinness vs Kevin Steen (****1/2 – Northern Navigation)

4) Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – Sixth Anniversary Show)

3) Bryan Danielson vs Tyler Black (****1/2 – New Horizons)

2) Bryan Danielson vs Tyler Black (****1/2 – Breakout)

1) Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danielson (****1/2 – Rising Above 2008)

So that’s my Top 10 this year. Honourable mentions go to the Dragon Gate trios match from Supercard Of Honor 3, Age Of The Fall/Team Work from Respect Is Earned 2, Briscoes/Machine Guns from Return Engagement and Nigel/Generico from Age Of Insanity.

As ever with ROH MOTY lists, Bryan Danielson dominates this one. Even with the focus moved onto other names on the Ring Of Honor roster, he’s amassed more great matches this year than anyone else. His rivalry with Nigel McGuinness already has a rich history, and they added two more classics to their back catelogue, with both matches adding a unique, sports entertainment-esque twist on the saga with things like ‘no attacking the head’ stipulations in New York, to interference angles in Chicago. But outside of the main event scene, Danielson has contributed to the evolution of Tyler Black from hot prospect to top star in ROH (as his crowd reactions at Final Battle 2008 proved). In ROH you need to prove you can hang with the best and put on great matches. The Danielson/Black battles were genuine star-makers, and two of those classics find their way into the top 3 for this year (they also had a further superb match at Southern Navigation, and in the Age Of The Fall vs Team Work main event of Respect Is Earned 2).

But it’s hardly surprising Danielson features heavily in this list. He’s one of the finest workers anywhere in the world and is Ring Of Honor’s bonafide ace. But 2008 hasn’t been the American Dragon show by any stretch of the imagination. Those two men I’ve just mentioned in conjunction with him have also had stellar years. Nigel McGuinness overcame the critics of his first few months as champion, and is now the ONLY man who can boast that he has lasted an entire calendar year as World Champion. Of course, Nigel’s finest performances came against his greatest rival in Danielson. But he’s put on legit MOTYC’s with Austin Aries and Kevin Steen this year, and had their been less Bryan Danielson classics to choose from, you’d also likely see matches with the likes of Tyler Black, El Generico, Go Shiozaki or Naomichi Marufuji creep in there. And Tyler Black has had the best year of his career. On top of the Danielson feud, he came close to the Ring Of Honor World Championship on two occasions, had a brilliant run as one half of the Tag Team Champions with Jimmy Jacobs and ends the year as one of the top babyfaces in the promotion.

Arguably the two guys who suffered the most as a result of Danielson’s dominance have been Austin Aries and Jimmy Jacobs. They have both had great years, putting on a host of 4* matches, both have a solitary appearance in the Top 10…but both would’ve had far more were it not for the plethora of immense Dragon matches to choose from. In what history has deemed a ‘down year’ for Ring Of Honor, and one largely highlighted by the brilliance of American Dragon, these two more than held their own. From a creative point of view, Jimmy Jacobs headlined more shows than anyone else and was, more often than not, the focal point for the storylines that unfolded in ROH this year. Jimmy Jacobs’ Age Of The Fall were the only group that really left the failed ‘faction warfare’ angle with any credit and they drew such crowd reactions that their eventual Tag Title defeat to Steen and Generico at Driven 2008 was one of the feel good moments of the year. Aries, meanwhile, on top of spending most of the year in his feud with Jacobs, has been the king of the underrated midcard battle. He started the year with a criminally underrated bout against Erick Stevens, and carried on in that fashion throughout the year. And when he wasn’t going under the radar in terrific singles bouts, his partnership with Bryan Danielson in the spring/summer of the year produced some superb matches too. Indeed, such is the extent that his prolific year has gone unnoticed, it looks like we’re even turning it into a storyline of Aries feeling undervalued and unappreciated by the Ring Of Honor fanbase.

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