ROH Final Battle 12/14/2013

ROH 343 – Final Battle 2013 – 14th December 2013

Ring Of Honor like to hype Final Battle as the biggest show in their calendar year. To that end, they’ve certainly packed as much into this line-up as they possibly can. On paper, the card is decent, but there’s so much on it, I fear everything is going to be screwed for time unless Delirious and SBG get over their boner for shows going no longer than 3-hours. So what are the choice picks of this year-ending extravaganza? All three championships will be defended tonight. Adam Cole defends the World Title against Michael Elgin and self-proclaimed ‘Real World Champion’ Jay Briscoe. Matt Taven is now the longest reigning TV Champion ever, and wants a celebration of Hoopla tonight as he meets Tommaso Ciampa. reDRagon’s Tag Team Championship, however, is under serious jeopardy as they are challenged by the unpredictable and dangerous team of Outlaw Inc. – who are competing in their hometown. Michael Bennett and Kevin Steen’s feud ends in a Stretcher Match, Mark Briscoe and Silas Young look to settle their differences in a Strap Match…plus the return of Matt Hardy, the Young Bucks are back for the first time since the summer and Eddie Edwards’ farewell match is scheduled too. Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness are ready to host a huge show in Manhattan, NY.

Matt Hardy vs Adam Page
This is the first time Hardy has been in ROH since SCUM ended. The kayfabe explanation is that Hardy was contractually ‘owed’ one more payday by Ring Of Honor – i.e. he had a contract saying they had to book him at least once more. He appeared around the internet demanding to be booked for Final Battle – and ROH eventually relented. They’ve put him in the ring with one of their top prospects. Page has started to stagnate, but is very talented and supposedly very hungry for the opportunity to progress his career in this promotion.

Hardy gets a predictably hostile response from the New York fans. The pop for the guy who (eventually) tosses Matt’s shirt back from the crowd at him is deafening too. Page slaps him in the face! He rattles off a couple of drop-saults next…only for Hardy to take advantage of his youthful inexperience by back dropping him to the floor. Side Effect off the apron blocked…for Page to hit the shooting star press to the floor! Flying clothesline back into the ring gets 2 for Page, but he tries to go to the top again, and is punished with a snapmare off the turnbuckles. Hardy is gassed, so clings desperately to a sleeper hold whilst gasping for air. Side Effect gets 2. As with every other Hardy match in ROH, he goes for multiple Side Effects…but sees the Twist Of Fate countered into a powerslam. Side Effect (again) countered into a roll-up for a close nearfall. Frog crossbody misses, and Hardy hits the Twist Of Fate to go over another promising up and comer at 07:21

Rating – * – I groaned out loud when ROH announced they were bringing Hardy back. He is the sh*ts. I can only hope ROH has actual, tangible evidence, supplemented by pie charts, bar graphs and all kinds of facts and figures to prove that booking him is good for business. Because in the ring he absolutely sucks. Watching him go over everyone in ROH for the last year has been crap. Adam Cole was ROH’s brightest young talent – Hardy beat him. Kevin Steen was ROH’s biggest star – Hardy beat him. In fact, outside of a super-tainted defeat to Jay Briscoe, where he didn’t take the Jay Driller and was massively protected by as much over-booking as possible, he hasn’t put anyone over. Except himself. Don’t get me wrong, I could care less about him going over Page. But I don’t want him here at all. Clearly this won’t be a one-shot deal, and he’ll be getting more bookings from now on, and I am not happy about that in the slightest. This was the same as every other Hardy/ROH match. His opponent had to work twice as hard to carry his lazy ass. He did about 3 moves, and won.

Silas Young vs Mark Briscoe – Strap Match
The rules are simple – a leather strap will connect the two wrestlers, and the first to touch all four turnbuckles is declared the winner. Mark and Silas have been feuding since A New Dawn, when they came to blows during a match, and then during the Honor Rumble. They’ve traded wins, engaged in chaotic brawls across multiple shows…and this stipulation came about after Young beat Briscoe at Glory By Honor then started whipping him with referee Todd Sinclair’s belt.

First blood to Mark, who whips Young across the chest with the strap. They go to the floor, where Briscoe bashes Silas’ skull into the guardrails…only for Silas to get up and start flinging him into the barriers using the strap for leverage. Camel clutch with the strap…but he only gets to two turnbuckles before Briscoe pulls him back for the urinage. In turn Young stops him going to the turnbuckles by jerking him back into a lariat. He hits a DDT from the apron to the floor – which knocks Mark out, but of course he’s now too far away to get to the four turnbuckles. Briscoe comes back with some deafening strap shots which produce some nasty welts on Young’s back. Froggy Bow nailed…but as Briscoe goes for the fourth turnbuckle Young dives out of the ring! Briscoe tries to retrieve him, but Young hits a STRAP-MARE from the apron to the floor! He fireman carries Mark around the ring, touching all four turnbuckles to win at 09:12

Rating – ** – They did some rather inventive things with the strap, and the crowd were really lively which helped them a lot. However, ultimately the stipulation was still rather restrictive, and given their spot on the card there wasn’t a lot they could really do to make this particularly significant. I’m glad Silas won (he’s a talent worth elevating), but people don’t remember feuds for very long if none of the matches were that great.

Adrenaline RUSH vs Young Bucks
Relations between Ring Of Honor and the Young Bucks thawed over 2013, and they took their first bookings with the promotion since their contracts were unceremoniously run down the previous year back during the summer. It was great to see them back, and ROH have promised to continue to try to book them as often as their NJPW and other commitments allow. Tonight they face ACH and Tadarius Thomas, an exciting and often high-flying team in their own right. For Adrenaline RUSH, they’ll know a victory over one of the world’s premier tag teams (and current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champs) could open an awful lot of doors.

NYC absolutely loves the Bucks. They try to be heels, but they are getting cheered to the rafters. Even Matt cheap-shotting ACH and battering him into the ground is roundly cheered. ACH rises above it and takes it to the younger Jackson with a flurry of armdrags and dropkicks, which leaves Nick so angry he falls over! The Bucks knock Thomas off the apron with the headscissors/big boot combo, and set to work isolating him. They work his arm and open up what appears to be a serious shoulder injury. HANDSPRING BACK RAKE by Nick, with Matt then compounding TD’s misery by hitting a shoulderbreaker. Defensive capoeira kicks by Tadarius, finally allowing him to make the hot tag to ACH. He knocks both Jacksons out of the ring! TOPE SUICIDA ON MATT! HEAT SEEKING MISSILE ON NICK! MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR BY THOMAS! ACH returns to the ring with the slingshot cutter on Matt. SUPERKICK PARTY FOR ACH! Assisted Shiranui/Shining Wizard combo gets 2! ACH scoops Matt up…BIG BOOT/RUBIX CUBE COMBO gets 2 for Adrenaline RUSH! Nick accidentally knees his own partner in the face…HALF NELSON SUPLEX/FROG SPLASH COMBO! SUPERKICKS BY MATT! TD blocks More Bang For Your Buck, but gets a double stomp TO THE SHOULDER for his trouble. SPRINGBOARD SPIKE TOMBSTONE NAILED, but ACH breaks the fall! He tries to fight both Young Bucks at the same time, evading the superkicks to hit a DOUBLE RANA! TOPE SUICIDA COUNTERED WITH A MID-AIR SUPERKICK PARTY! MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK! Thomas is pinned at 12:28

Rating – **** – That’s why the Young Bucks rule, that’s why their treatment in 2012 was appalling, that’s why ROH should never have let them go, and that’s why ROH should now be kissing their asses to book them as much as possible. A great match, where the Bucks pulled out all their usual tricks in front of an adoring crowd. It was also a real pleasure watching ACH and Tadarius keep up with them. Thomas gets a lot of stick because he’s not as over as ACH, but he didn’t look out of place in this match, and did a hell of a job selling the shoulder when he really didn’t have to considering what a total spot-fest this was. ROH missed their chance to make Young Bucks main event stars and legitimate draws for the promotion. They had them under contract and they blew it. Now all they can do is try to work their budding relationship with NJPW and try to secure Matt and Nick as often as their schedule allows. This was an awesome display…

Michael Bennett vs Kevin Steen – Stretcher Match
I’m really hoping these two are given enough time to produce something decent for this blow-off. Their feud has been surprisingly fun, and a great way to use Steen to elevate a midcard talent whilst he’s out of the World Title picture. This started all because Bennett claimed he had the best piledriver in wrestling. Steen didn’t like that, believing that his Package Piledriver deserves that accolade (after all, Jim Cornette hated it so much he banned it). His light-hearted interruption of some Bennett/Maria promo time led to a full-blown conflict. Bennett has attacked Mr Wrestling from behind, and given him the piledriver multiple times, often with the help of his fiancé Maria Kanellis. It went further at Glory By Honor 12, when Maria hit Steen in the balls, handing Bennett a cheap victory during that match. At The Golden Dream in Cincinnati, Steen had the chance to add his name to the Final Battle main event, and even had Jay Briscoe beaten…before Maria Kanellis interfered to cost him both the match and the potential World Championship opportunity. Tonight they settle it.

Steen is absolutely BURIED in streamers during his entrance. He rewards their support by exploding into action and flattening Bennett with the Cannonball senton. Next he whips him into the guardrails with such force that the back of Bennett’s head is cut open. The beating continues with multiple trips crotch-first into the ringpost. He steals chairs from Bobby Cruise, Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness and brings them all into the ring to beat on Bennett with. It’s almost out of desperation that Michael grabs one and swings it into Steen’s spine. It’s only temporary respite though, as Steen counters another chairshot with a Codebreaker on the chair! CANNONBALL SENTON WITH A CHAIR! Package Piledriver COUNTERED to the TKO though! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER! Nigel declares the match over…but Maria distracts the two security guys as they try to carry Bennett out on the stretcher. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA THROUGH THE STRETCHER by Steen! He goes mental, smashing up the stretcher then throwing it up the aisle at a rapidly fleeing Maria Kanellis. Mr Wrestling is on the rampage, but his decision to stop and talk to the fans comes back to haunt him – as Bennett punches him in the balls. He wears out Steen’s midsection with a chair. CON-CHAIR-TO TO THE NUTS! Naturally Kevin struggles to get up after that, giving Bennett time to set up a couple of tables on the outside. He drops Steen again with the spinebuster, then escorts him to the apron. He wants to repeat the BJ Whitmer piledriver from the apron…and when Steen blocks it he grabs him for a BOX OFFICE SMASH OFF THE APRON, THROUGH THE TABLES! Steen is dead, but since he destroyed the stretcher, nobody has any real idea how either guy can win the match now. Steen crawls back into the ring, straight into the Piledriver from Bennett. Steen gets a second wind from nowhere though! BRAINBUSTER THROUGH AN OPEN CHAIR! STONE COLD STUNNER! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER AGAIN! But there’s still no stretcher! He makes a stack of three open chairs in the ring. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER THROUGH THE CHAIR STACK! Paul Turner stops the match, giving Steen the victory at 16:43

Rating – **** – During his Hell Rising DVD, Steen talked about making Final Battle ‘his show’. From his heel turn in 2009, his ‘career-ending’ Fight Without Honor in 2010, getting his job back in 2011, to ending Generico’s ROH career in Ladder War 4 last year. It was clear he wanted to do something special with Bennett this evening, and he definitely succeeded. I’m not sure why they destroyed the stretcher though (presumably Steen thought the gimmick was stupid?). It helped play up Steen’s crazy persona, but the confusion as to how a Stretcher Match is won or lost without a stretcher didn’t really help them. That said, the carnage in the ring was fantastic, and provided a fitting ending to what has been an entertaining little feud. Bennett’s stock has certainly risen as a result of this program, even in defeat. The toughness he showed here, getting busted open and surviving multiple crazy bumps in front of a blood-thirsty New York crowd should help propel his career forwards. I must confess to being sceptical about this. Sinclair-ROH have a history of not giving feud-ending grudge matches on their undercards enough time. I expected these guys to get 10-minutes and have to rush through it. Instead they got a decent allowance and rewarded Delirious with a great match. It goes right up there with the Lance Storm matches as the best of Bennett’s ROH career.

Bobby Cruise makes the announcement that Bennett can no longer use the Piledriver in ROH. But as he does so Maria gets into the ring to slap Steen! He acts like he’s going to let her leave…but of course it’s an act. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER ON MARIA! YES! The Hammer-Steen erupts!

INTERMISSION – Steve Corino replaces Nigel McGuinness on commentary for the second half.

Prince Nana comes to the ring to talk about the talent he’s signing up for the 2014 Top Prospect Tournament, which leads him to discuss his last recruitments Outlaw Inc. reDRagon definitely weren’t happy with that…and come out early to lay him out with Chasing The Dragon.

reDRagon vs Outlaw Inc. – ROH Tag Title Match
This is the title shot Homicide and Kingston have been campaigning for ever since they returned to ROH at Manhattan Mayhem 5. That night they broke Kyle O’Reilly’s fingers…and since then reDRagon have suspiciously ignored them. The Outlaws have interrupted matches, they’ve sat in the crowd and watched title defences, they’ve won high profile matches, and refused to let up in their demands for their opportunity. After defeating the American Wolves at Pursuit Night 2 Nigel finally relented and booked the match – which is just as well because Fish and O’Reilly pissed them off by stealing their clown masks whilst they were in the ring. Will reDRagon’s second title reign come to an unceremonious end in front of Homicide and Eddie Kingston’s hometown crowd?

The Outlaws enter from opposite sides of the arena, and with the champs distracted by Kingston climbing over the rails, Homicide is able to sneak up the aisle to attack O’Reilly. Kyle is defenceless, and takes a real beating in the opening few minutes. Fish tries to come to his partner’s aid (whilst Corino and Kevin talk about the conception of Corino’s new baby)…but Homicide is sharp to the danger and CLOBBERS O’Reilly with a lariat on the floor. MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON! That is a major offensive strike from reDRagon, which was desperately needed as they were fighting from way behind the 8-ball. It leaves Kingston in real pain and hands the champions the initiative for the first time. They have Eddie completely isolated for several minutes, and even when King does fight back to his corner he finds O’Reilly on hand to knock Cide off the apron. The crowd are starting to switch off during this heat segment, and a few ‘boring’ chants start to be heard. It becomes less boring as Kingston suplexes Kyle into the turnbuckles and makes a long-overdue hot tag to Homicide. INVERTED RAZOR’S EDGE ON FISH! TOPE CON HILO NAILED! At the same time Eddie hit an awful elbow suicida which sort of killed it. Three Amigos on Bobby…only for O’Reilly to nail Cide before he can scale the ropes for the Frog Splash. Tilta-whirl backbreaker/knee drop combo gets 2 for reDRagon…but Homicide recovers to drop O’Reilly with the Ace Crusher for 2. Meanwhile Fish KO’s Kingston with a boot to the face! The crowd are chanting ‘end this match’ now, which seems a little harsh. Fish throws a belt in the ring to distract the referee and stop Homicide hitting the Cop Killa. CHASING THE DRAGON WITH A CHAIR! reDRagon retain at 15:03

Rating – ** – This was a rather ugly clash of styles. Homicide and Kingston are solid brawlers, with an outstanding grasp of their anarchic characters. The one thing they’re not are super-smooth, highly technical, martial arts-influenced tag team specialists – like reDRagon. These two teams never really got it on the same page, and were rather exposed in front of an unforgiving crowd. Personally I didn’t think the match was that bad, and definitely had some bright points. Mostly these came from Homicide’s offensive flurries. This may not be popular, but personally I thought Homicide was more interesting to watch in this than anyone else. I’m sure he and Eddie will be blamed for the failure of the match, but personally I thought Cide was the one salvaging things.

Outlaw Inc. vent their frustration after the match. Homicide floors a security guy with a Cop Killa, whilst Kingston tears into the New York fans who are booing the sh*t out of them. He hops the rails and argues with a few of them whilst Homicide throws garbage cans around.

Matt Taven vs Tommaso Ciampa – ROH TV Title Match
The House Of Truth are hoping this match is going to be a celebration of Hoopla, as Taven enters it now officially the longest reigning ROH Television Champion of all time. He won it from Adam Cole back at the 11th Anniversary Show and whilst the Tag Titles were passed around like hot-cakes over the summer, and whilst the World Title had to be vacated, he’s serenely continued on with his belt undisturbed around his waist. Ciampa won a #1 contendership match to be here, and was considered by some to be a surprise winner, given that Nigel McGuinness had considered Jay Lethal to be the top challenger as recently as Glory By Honor (when Lethal was a part of Champions vs All Stars). Ciampa came close to being TV Champion back in 2012, and reached the semi-finals of the World Title tournament. But this is the closest he’s come to a championship for a long time, and he’ll be desperate to bring home the first silverware of his Ring Of Honor career.

Taven completes his usual ring entrance by skinning the cat…STRAIGHT into a German suplex from Ciampa! He delivers a running knee strike with such ferocity that the guardrails almost give way beneath them…and the Hoopla Hotties have to get involved just to buy Taven some recovery time. Martini himself tries to choke Tommaso on the floor after the champ hits a spinning heel kick. RUNNING SUICIDE DIVE by Taven! He celebrates by mocking Ciampa…so the Psychopath tosses him THROUGH the rails in the aisle! AIR RAID CRASH ON THE BARRIER! Tommaso grins like a lunatic…and delivers an emphatic Bare Knee strike. Scarlett Bordeaux tries to save Taven…SO HE KNEES HER IN THE FACE! Martini levels Ciampa with the Book Of Truth. NO SOLD! BURNING HAMMER ON TRUTH! PROJECT CIAMPA ON KASEY RAE! FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH BY TAVEN! FOR 2! SICILIAN STRETCH! CIAMPA WINS! New champion at 04:22

Rating – *** – I can understand why people were a little disappointed by this. It does seem weird that ROH would spend most of the year putting Taven over basically the entire roster (when 90% of the fanbase were calling for him to drop the belt earlier this year), only to them squash him in four minutes. However, this was as much fun as ANY of Taven’s title defences. We’ve seen Taven and the HOT circus overwhelm so many opponents, having seen basically every title defence ruined by interference – getting to watch Ciampa steamroll everything and kill everyone was hugely rewarding. It’s a massive boost for Ciampa’s career, and after a solid 2013 he’ll begin the new year with a massive amount of momentum. Taven does look bad in a defeat of this manner, there’s no getting away from that. However, he can still brag about how long he held the belt, and the damage is only superficial. It’s nothing that a few good performances in early-2014 wouldn’t fix.

It’s time for Eddie Edwards’ farewell match, with speculation still running rife about exactly who his mystery partner is. This was originally scheduled to be a farewell to the American Wolves, but ROH pulled Davey Richards for undisclosed reasons…and promised an appropriate replacement who wouldn’t disappoint fans. Nigel McGuinness is in the ring to announce that it’s…BJ Whitmer. To say the response is lukewarm would be an understatement.

Roderick Strong/Jay Lethal vs Eddie Edwards/BJ Whitmer
So here we go. The crowd are audibly disappointed in the reveal that BJ is Eddie’s partner. The reasoning Nigel gives is that Whitmer wants one last match to say goodbye to ROH – just like Die Hard. After supposedly having his career ended with a Michael Bennett Piledriver at Manhattan Mayhem 5, it will be interesting to see just how healthy his neck truly is. But the main focus is on former World Champion Eddie Edwards. By this point the American Wolves had already appeared on NXT television, so the assumption was that they’d be on their way to the WWE very soon. With Davey canned, we are simply saying goodbye to Eddie Edwards. He is a legendary figure in this promotion. The guy competed in Ladder War 2 with a fractured elbow. He won Survival Of The Fittest 2010 despite having such a severe shoulder injury he couldn’t move his arm. He was the first ever ROH TV Champion, and later became the first Triple Crown Champion when he defeated Roderick Strong for the World Championship. In fact, it’s fitting that Roddy is on the opposing side tonight, given that these two have shared some truly outstanding matches together over the course of their ROH rivalry.

Such is the respect the fans have for Eddie, it’s clear they are desperately trying to avoid crapping on Whitmer’s reveal because they don’t want to sour Eddie’s last match. Whitmer starts with Lethal, and sensibly grounds him with a headlock to keep him as far away from the neck as possible. Sensibly Strong and Lethal try to isolate Whitmer – with Jay snapping the neck back with the cartwheel to dropkick combo. Steve Corino is angry that BJ was a jerk to Allison Danger (his sister) during The Prophecy days, so enjoys seeing him in pain. He has been in the ring and isolated for well over five minutes now…but finally makes the hot tag to Edwards after a spinebuster on Strong. Backpack Stunner on Lethal for 2…only for Jay to fire back with the Lethal Combo. Olympic Slam from Roddy gets 2. Capture backbreaker nailed to counter a mafia kick…and this time Whitmer has to break the fall to save his partner. HEAD DROP back suplex facebuster by Eddie! As BJ throws Lethal into the turnbuckles with an exploder. SIMULTANEOUS ROLLING TOPE SUICIDAS by Edwards and Lethal! LETHAL INJECTION on Eddie! All four men go down! The first two up are the Dojo Bros, who limp to the middle of the ring for one last big strike exchange. SUPERPLEX/HAIL TO THE KING COMBO NAILED! But Edwards kicks out! He has enough about him to evade the Orange Crush Backbreaker…and feeds Strong to BJ who hits rolling fisherman neckbreakers! Flying double stomp gets 2 for Die Hard! CHOP DUEL BETWEEN STRONG AND EDWARDS! Neither man gives an inch! Strong HAMMERS Eddie with a flurry of knee and elbow strikes…then nearly has his head taken off with a superkick! NO SOLD! GIBSON DRIVER! FOR 2! STRONGHOLD! COUNTERED! SICK KICK! NO SOLD! ORANGE CRUSH BACKBREAKER…COUNTERED TO A ROLL-UP! EDDIE WINS! Edwards wins his last ROH match at 16:18

Rating – **** – I’m giving this a rather generous 4*, almost entirely because all the Eddie/Roddy exchanges were solid gold. I can’t stress enough how much I hate the way Delirious ended up booking this match (more on that in a moment), but considering all it had going against it, this was really enjoyable. Lethal and BJ played their parts as well, but this was all about Eddie and Roderick getting to beat the crap out of each other in New York one more time. Credit to the New York crowd too. They could have crapped on this match – and were possibly entitled to after ROH/SBG/Delirious somehow worked out that BJ freaking Whitmer is a ‘suitable replacement’ for Davey Richards (on what planet??). But such was the love for Eddie that they got behind it. That was really touching. If you’re looking for a critique on the match, I thought a lot of the first half was a little bit superficial (was the heat segment on BJ anything other than stalling?), but the pay-off with all the spots down the stretch was certainly worth the wait.

‘We will miss you’ – NY fans to Edwards. He gets on the microphone to say his goodbyes. He hugs BJ and wishes him well in his retirement…only for Whitmer to correct him that his career is just getting started. Cue an inexplicable heel turn…as Whitmer and Strong DESTROY Edwards. Jimmy Jacobs comes out to join them, and rants on the microphone about fans cheering when guys leave to go somewhere else – whilst guys like him, Roddy and BJ never leave.

SIDENOTE – I really could lose count of how many better ways there were to reach the same end result. Strong, Jacobs and Whitmer are now collectively known as The Decade, and I’ll start by saying that I LOVE the motivation behind their stable. It’s not been done in ROH before, and is certainly an angle which could revitalise all of their careers in this promotion. But the way this was booked was clueless on so many levels. If BJ and Roddy were going to join forces – why were they fighting during the match? If Delirious was so desperate to work the turn like this, why not at least be a little bit clever and keep Strong and BJ apart during the match?

Why not put up with Davey Richards’ sh*t, and book him for just one more show? Imagine how much more powerful this would have been if it had been the new Decade group destroying the Wolves? If that wasn’t an option, why not have Strong team with Eddie? They acknowledged their friendship on commentary. It’s been acknowledged that they team in NOAH in the past. They could work a comparable turn angle involving Jacobs and Whitmer after the match. It just makes NO sense that Roddy and Whitmer would be fighting each other seconds before joining forces. Like I said, I like the direction of the group, but the piss poor booking really annoyed me, and the fact that it somewhat tainted Eddie Edwards’ last match makes it even worse.

Adam Cole vs Michael Elgin vs Jay Briscoe – ROH World Title Match
There is a decent amount of history between these three men going into this one. Jay Briscoe was World Champion, and actually beat Cole in his first defence of the belt at Border Wars 2013. But after his nagging shoulder injury worsened, Nigel McGuinness was forced to strip him of the title, declaring it vacant for the first time in ROH’s 12-year history. A tournament was held to crown a new champion – with Cole finally winning after a hell of a battle in the final…against Michael Elgin. At the time of Jay’s championship stripping, Elgin was actually #1 contender for the belt. Rumour had it he was going to be handed the World Title, but refused because he wanted to earn it. Jay was on hand to present Cole with his newly won belt…but was savagely superkicked in the back of the head. This provoked Briscoe to renounce Cole as World Champion, instead pointing out that he was never beaten and so should be considered the ‘real World Champion’. At Glory By Honor 12 Nigel booked the Champions vs All Stars main event, where each champion was squared off with their respective top contenders. Briscoe was furious that he wasn’t involved (he wasn’t medically cleared to wrestle), and that night Elgin earned a title shot at Final Battle when he defeated ALL the ROH Champions in one night – including Cole in a memorable finale which left the champ with concussion. Again Jay was on hand to disrupt the aftermath – this time revealing his ‘Real World Title’ belt and laying out both his rivals. He replaced Cole in the main event of The Golden Dream – facing Kevin Steen with the winner to be added to Final Battle. Briscoe won (with a little help from Maria Kanellis)…and now here we are with a Triple Threat main event. We have the World Champion, the ‘Real World Champion’ and the Unbreakable behemoth who pinned Cole clean just two months ago in Chicago. Everyone has a claim to the gold – but only one man will leave as champion after tonight.

Of course both Elgin and Briscoe want a piece of Cole, who is in no mood to oblige them and leaves the ring. He stands on the floor and orders them to wrestle, and since there’s no love lost between them they go at it. Cole tries to trip Elgin from the floor, nearly gets killed…and then nearly loses the belt as Jay tries a flash pin on Unbreakable whilst he runs away! TOPE SUICIDA from Briscoe to Cole! At last Adam is dragged into the ring, and a temporary truce is declared between the challengers as they team up on him. BRISCOE BIEL nailed! Cole leaves the ring, but having taken a pasting he’s not as quick on his feet, and the challengers ambush him on the floor for a sick game of one-upsmanship – tossing him into the guardrails. 60-second suplex scores, but of course Jay is on hand to break the fall almost before Elgin even pins him. Elgin tree of woes Cole in the corner…then GERMAN SUPLEXES Jay on top of him! He tries to back suplex Cole to the floor…only for Cole to adapt in mid-air for an APRON DDT ON BRISCOE! Black Hole Slam from Elgin to Cole for 2! Elgin is starting to dominate now, to the extent that Kevin Kelly starts speculating whether Adam and Jay will actually form an alliance to eradicate the threat he poses to the pair of them.

There’s no union between the World Champions, and seemingly no need either as Briscoe’s striking power sees him beat down both his opponents for a couple of minutes. It’s only brief though, as Elgin powerslams Jay, then atomic drops Cole into a leg drop down on top of him. BOSTON CRAB/CAMEL CLUTCH COMBO stretches out both of them at the same time! NECK DROP German on Briscoe…and Cole capitalises with the Shining Wizard on Michael for 2. The trio battle on the ropes, with Elgin legsweeping Briscoe INTO a superplex on the champ. The twinkies sh*t starts up again…and Corino and Kelly CRAP on the NY fans in awesome fashion. Cole gives Jay the DVD over the knee…and is promptly DEAD-LIFTED FROM HIS KNEES into a front slam by Unbreakable. Dead-lift superplex nailed…with Briscoe on hand to hit a frog splash and come close to stealing the win! Jay Driller blocked…and Cole nails the cradlebreaker for 2! Figure 4 Leglock applied! ELGIN BREAKS IT WITH THE CORKSCREW SENTON! Cole goes for the Panama Sunrise…BUT JAY BACK DROPS HIM OFF…INTO THE BUCKLE BOMB FROM ELGIN! And it squashed Briscoe against the buckles too! Spiral Bomb blocked…Florida Key blocked! LARIATOOOOOOO from Elgin to Cole! The champ tries to get his belt and run for the hills but is captured by the challengers for a DOUBLE CHOKESLAM THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE!

Cole is dead, and the remaining fighters cordially invite each other back into the ring for a sh*tkicking contest! Briscoe can’t out-strike Michael and finds himself splattered into the mat with the ST-Joe. TKO over the knee! DEAD-LIFT STALLING GERMAN! With Cole still down in the wreckage of one table, Jay climbs onto Elgin’s back for a sleeper hold. But Elgin VADER DIVES OFF THE APRON and sends them both through the announce table! Adam Cole slides in and looks set to win by count-out! He stops the count…but it’s a distraction for his new mentor to arrive. It’s Matt f*cking Hardy! TWIST OF FATE ON THE FLOOR FOR JAY! Elgin blocks it and crawls into the ring…into a TWIST OF FATE BY COLE! FOR 2! Adam tries to choke Elgin out…as Mark Briscoe runs in to join his brother in a brawl with Hardy. Panama Sunrise COUNTERED TO AN AWESOME BOMB TO THE FLOOR! ELGIN HITS A FREAKING SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO WIPE OUT EVERYONE! Jay wildly counters the Spiral Bomb, and desperately counters to the JAY DRILLER! ELGIN KICKS OUT! Shades of Supercard Of Honor, as Briscoe drags Elgin up for a SECOND JAY DRILLER! STILL 2! COLE SUPERKICKS THE BACK OF ELGIN’S HEAD! SUPERKICK ON BRISCOE! Cole pins Elgin with the tights to retain at 33:41

Rating – **** – I came seriously close to calling this an MOTYC, but ultimately the silly over-booked finish (Matt Hardy? Seriously? Why is he now Cole’s mentor? How does that make sense?) and a few dead spots throughout the match counted against it. Despite that, this remains one of the best triple threats in ROH history. Outside of Ki/Dragon/Daniels at Era Of Honor Begins and London/Ki/Styles from the 1st Anniversary Show I can’t think of many others that touch this. The majority of the ‘one guy lies around whilst two fight’ segments were handled perfectly. There were some excellent counter sequences, and some clever and intricate three-person pre-planned spots too. Cole’s cowardly asshole worked perfectly, with just enough edge and aggressive intent that you still believed he was a legitimate threat to the two absolute destroyers he was in the ring with. Jay looked as good here as he has in a long time (perhaps the post-hiatus ring rust is starting to wear off), but the MVP of the match was Michael Elgin. He produced a one-man wrecking ball of a performance – steamrolling both opponents with a complete blitzkrieg of unbelievable offensive bombs. Going into the match I didn’t buy this as a Final Battle main event. I’ve enjoyed the feud, but it didn’t feel like the heated, personal showdown ROH wanted to hype it as. But the emotion and conviction with which each man delivered his respective performance made you believe it. Cole, so long forced into playing the ‘nice guy’ was vindicated for his heel turn with a victory over his two closest rivals on the biggest stage ROH can offer. Jay Briscoe was aggressive throughout, hell-bent on getting back the belt he never lost…and only thwarted by the interventions of the last man he successfully defended the belt against (and a part of the SCUM group that destroyed his shoulder in SBG TV earlier this year), Matt Hardy. And Elgin’s super-human effort, and valiant refusal to stay down despite increasingly insurmountable odds will have won him more favour with the ROH fans. A hell of a main event to end the year.

Matt Hardy presents Cole with his World Championship belt…then lays out Briscoe and Elgin with Jay’s ‘Real World Title’. Elgin gets a Twist Of Fate for good measure, and the Cole/Hardy alliance hug over the fallen bodies of their victims. But the show isn’t over…CHRIS HERO IS BACK! HERO COMES THROUGH THE CROWD! ROARING ELBOW ON HARDY! GOLDEN ELBOW ON COLE! That Young Knock-Out Kid is back!

Tape Rating – **** – I was only going to give this 3* until the main event. There are four really strong matches on this show…but outside of that there is a lot to criticise. Delirious just isn’t a great booker, and it showed here with some shocking decisions. Jobbing Taven out in four minutes was bizarre? Turning BJ Whitmer, Roderick Strong and Jimmy Jacobs in the manner he did was perplexing. Having Steen toss out the stretcher in a Stretcher Match (assuming that was Delirious’ booking?) – very odd. Bringing Matt Hardy (majorly disappointing in it’s own right), then aligning him with Cole (who he’d feuded with to no resolution earlier in the year)…inexplicable. Thankfully his ass was saved (not for the first time) by some amazing work by the talented athletes on the Ring Of Honor roster (plus guest stars, the Young Bucks). Bucks/RUSH was an utter delight on the undercard – a vindication of all those who cried foul on ROH’s treatment of the Jacksons in the past and a real tease of what could be in 2014 if they can be booked even as semi-regulars. Kevin Steen delivered on the Final Battle stage once again, helping Michael Bennett produce what could be a career-defining performance for him. The actual farewell match for Eddie Edwards (i.e. before the crappy turn) was surprisingly good…and the main event, which takes up almost a third of the show by itself, was a rousing conclusion to Ring Of Honor’s 2013 season.

Top 3 Matches
3) Kevin Steen vs Michael Bennett (****)
2) Young Bucks vs Adrenaline RUSH (****)
1) Adam Cole vs Michael Elgin vs Jay Briscoe (****)

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