ROH Final Battle 2011 12/23/2011

ROH 295 – Final Battle 2011 – 23rd December 2011

It’s Final Battle time again – Ring Of Honor’s annual year-ending extravaganza. It is arguably the most eagerly-anticipated night in the ROH calendar, with so many historic moments taking place on this very night over the years gone by. Historic moments like Great Muta in ROH, Austin Aries dethroning Samoa Joe, Homicide doing the same to Bryan Danielson, KENTA defending the GHC Jr. Heavyweight crown, ROH debuting on internet pay-per-view, Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima destroying each other and Kevin Steen’s ROH career ending – all great moments from Final Battle’s past. And the card is stacked tonight to ensure this instalment lives up to the high standards set by years previously. Richards/Edwards III gets all the headlines and will main event tonight – with former tag partners and friends finally looking to settle the score between them and prove who the better man is. Other highlights include Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team and the most successful team in ROH history looking to end their bitter rivalry with the ROH Tag Titles on the line…as well as Jimmy Rave returning to ROH, Roderick Strong facing a mystery opponent in the Roderick Strong Invitational, Jay Lethal defending the TV Title against both El Generico and Mike Bennett (who has promised that his Playboy cover star girlfriend will be in the building)…and Kevin Steen’s year long crusade to get his ROH career back comes to an end as he faces Steve Corino in a No DQ Match. We’re in Manhattan, NY with Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness on commentary.

SIDENOTE – Once again the production looks slick on this double DVD set with great cover art, animated menus, dramatic music, decent graphics throughout the presentation etc. Have SBG finally cracked it and got Ring Of Honor’s DVD releases up to a decent standard??

Michael Elgin vs TJ Perkins
2011 has been a decent year for both of these talents. In January TJ exploded back onto ROH’s radar with a thrilling match against Davey Richards in California…and eventually signed a contract when Sinclair took over. He’s been short of wins or many impressive performances since then but is clearly a talented guy and could be one big win away from kick-starting his career. Elgin, meanwhile, took a little longer to get going after debuting right at the end of the HDNet era…but his year ends on a massive high as he goes into 2012 as Survival Of The Fittest winner with a guaranteed World Title shot in his back pocket.

Truth Martini’s outfit this evening is as horrendous as it gets. Nonetheless, he looks delighted with the dominant start his enforcer makes – shaking off TJ’s offence and throwing him around the ring with ease. Perkins has to put his body on the line – and flies off the apron with a cannonball. BUT ELGIN CATCHES HIM AND SLAMS HIM INTO THE RAILS! TJ is desperate, and he takes another splattering fall as Michael catches him going for a headscissors and crushes him into the canvas. Even the reliable ‘hang in the ropes’ trick doesn’t work for Perkins as Martini is on hand to shove him back inside. Finally he nails a somersault plancha and a missile dropkick after nearly five minutes of unrelenting violence from the 2011 SOTF winner. He tries a somersault dive from the top only to be CAUGHT into a sit-out suplex from Elgin! Argentine backbreaker gets 2! TJP looks for a rana…and winds up countering the Spiral Bomb into a reverse rana for 2! Detonation Kick easily blocked though, with Elgin hitting the spinning back fist into the SPIRAL BOMB! He wins at 07:34

Rating – *** – Perhaps I’m overrating this a little, but I found it to be a fun game of cat and mouse which really got the crowd going. I criticised TJP of phoning it in during a recent TV match against Chris Silvio but, to be fair to him, he was busting his ass here – bumping like a lunatic to make Elgin look so good. 2011 has been a decent year for Unbreakable. You could argue he’s been under-utilised and has always delivered the goods no matter what position he’s put in on the card. 2012 is clearly going to be a massive year for him…

Tommaso Ciampa vs Jimmy Rave
What a big night this is for both men in this match. Jimmy Rave is the former Crown Jewel of Prince Nana’s Embassy, and the centrepiece of the faction that dominated ROH in 2005. He hooked up with The Embassy again in 2009 but wasn’t able to recreate the same success and eventually faded away from ROH with Nana blaming the likes of he and Necro Butcher for nearly ruining his beloved faction. But from that despair Nana hooked up with Barrister RD Evans and together they recruited the current Crown Jewel – the undefeated ‘Dominant Male’ Tommaso Ciampa. Can Jimmy earn his ROH job back and get one over his former manager? Can Ciampa continue his undefeated streak in the face of his toughest challenge thus far?

Hearing Nigel commentate on Jimmy Rave given the wars those two went through together is very unique. And it’s really cool to see the ROH faithful showering the ring with streamers for him. He is very tentative in the opening minutes, which is probably understandable given the magnitude of the evening and the threat that Tommaso poses. He starts pissing Ciampa off by continually out-wrestling him, then shows some of the old Jimmy Rave by spitting in his eyes. But a single big lariat from Ciampa stomps him in his tracks and knocks him out of the ring. The Twinky morons are out in full force for this one annoyingly…the New York crowd piss me off so much. Thankfully they are silenced as Tommaso blasts Rave in the jaw with a running knee strike. HEEL HOOK OUT OF NOWHERE! Sadly for him Ciampa makes the ropes and MURDERS him against the guardrails! CRAPPY WIZARD! RAVE CLASH! Isn’t that still banned in ROH? Surely he should be disqualified! Anyway, Tommaso kicks out at 2. He sets up for Greetings From Ghana…as Nana pulls out Jimmy Rave’s old ‘Crown Jewel coat’. Jimmy tries to sucker punch Nana…but settles for socking RD Evans instead. Mia Yim inadvertently levels Ernesto Osiris…but in the melee Project Ciampa downs Rave for 3 at 08:30

Rating – ** – This was good fun for long-time ROH fans if nothing else. Being brutally honest Jimmy Rave is past his best and doesn’t seem to have much left to offer on the indies, but he was a good sport here. He got off a plane from India and came straight to the building to put Tommaso over and deserves a lot of credit for that. Even as recently as 2009 I really thought there was a place for him in ROH…but here, even though he’s lost a bit of weight since then, he looked slow, ageing and a shadow of the guy that terrorised ROH in 2005 and 2006. Maybe it was jet lag…

Jimmy Rave leaves with a well deserved round of applause and ‘thank you Jimmy’ chant. After going out the back door with no announcement of his departure at all in 2007 and 2009, and it was great to see him get that moment. The Rave/Shelley/Abyss/Jade Chung/Nana incarnation of The Embassy remains one of the best factions in ROH history.

Jay Lethal vs Mike Bennett vs El Generico – ROH TV Title Match
These three guys have been going round in circles fighting over the Television Championship basically since the new SBG show went on the air. It was Lethal who won the belt from Generico (during his very first defence) on Episode 2 of the show. Lethal and Bennett went on to contest a time limit draw (which The Prodigy felt he won), then Bennett helped ensure the Lethal/Generico rematch ALSO went to a draw when he interfered. Will one of these guys finally score a decisive victory this evening? At the end of 2010 Mike Bennett arrived in ROH and promised that by the end of 2011 he’d be ROH World Champion. That hasn’t happened, and the promise has since been downgraded to he’ll be a champion of some kind. This evening is his last chance to live up to his promise – and as an extra insurance policy to make sure that happens he’s brought his famous girlfriend, former WWE star Maria Kanellis, with him. If ROH can lock her into any kind of deal to get her appearing regularly that would be quite a coup as, in wrestling valet terms, she is very talented in what she does and a much bigger name than anyone else on the roster.

‘CM Punk’ – New York fans to Bennett and Maria. In response The Prodigy leaves the ring and instructs Lethal and Generico to fight it out amongst themselves, only periodically sneaking in to deliver a cheap shot before diving back to the floor. Jay and Generico tire of this game and team up to forcibly drag him into the contest. Nigel is doing his best Jerry Lawler impression with Maria hiding behind him by the way. STEREO TOPE SUICIDAS by Lethal and Generico! That immobilises Bennett for a time which frees up his two opponents to renew their rivalry. The Prodigy uses that time to recover and when he eventually returns it is to smash the champion into the guardrails. Generico gives Mike a similar ride…then walks into a springboard dropkick from Lethal. The whole match thus far has been two guys in fighting, one lying on the floor injured which has pretty much put the crowd to sleep by this point. Generico misses an Arabian press but recovers to throw armdrags around on both opponents. Turnbuckle Exploder on Lethal, but when he turns his intentions to Bennett The Prodigy decides to hide behind Maria! TKO on Generico…YAKUZA KICK IN RESPONSE! Lethal floors the luchador with a superkick to leave all three men down. Jay hits Lethal Injection #1 on Generico (the same combo that won him the title) but this time it’s just 2 before Mike is hauling him up to deliver a spinebuster. Jay climbs the ropes only to walk into another Yakuza Kick from the masked man! DOUBLE SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR BY GENERICO! THROUGH THE ROPES TORNADO DDT TO THE FLOOR ON BENNETT! HALF NELSON SUPLEX! BENNETT KICKS OUT! Lethal kills Generico’s momentum with a neckbreaker then climbs for the Lethal Injection #2 (Macho Elbow)…only for Generico to kick out again! Bennett interrupts – and rolls up Generico using the tights to eliminate him at 18:03! LETHAL INJECTION #3! Jay Lethal retains the title at 18:16!

Rating – *** – It took a while to get going, was way too long and suffered from the usual triple threat irritation of two guys fighting whilst another guy stands around like a fool. BUT, despite those faults, this was actually pretty entertaining. Bennett in New York is always good to watch, so it was a good place to add Maria Kanellis to his act for the first time. Meanwhile Lethal and Generico are good, energetic workers with decent chemistry together so they carried the workrate side of things. I’d have preferred a straight Lethal/Bennett singles match to be honest (and I’d have given Mike the belt too), but despite working without a contract and bouncing aimlessly around the midcard for most of the year, Generico is still one of the most popular guys on the roster…and where else could he go on the card?

Steve Corino vs Kevin Steen – No DQ Match
This is the culmination of Mr Wrestling’s year long quest to get himself back onto the ROH roster. Two years ago at Final Battle Steen’s inner monster was revealed when he violently betrayed his tag partner and friend El Generico. With Steve Corino in his ear and pulling the strings, Steen would wage a violent, year long war with the Generic Luchador which ended in one of the most brutal ROH matches ever, last year at Final Battle. The result of Steen’s loss in that Fight Without Honor was his forced exile from ROH. And it also prompted a change in heart in Steve Corino. So long a villain of the wrestling world, seeing his friend turn into a monster of his creation and throw his career away as a result of it made Corino see the error of his ways – and he has spent this year (along with his sponsor Jimmy Jacobs) trying to reform his evil character. But despite losing his career a year ago, Steen just hasn’t gone away. He invaded the Best In The World ppv quite sensationally, ruining what was to be the big unveiling of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s ROH vision, and violently attacking his former friend Corino in the process. After several more invaded shows and a somewhat bizarre legal battle on the new SBG TV show Jim Cornette finally made a settlement offer to Steen – beat Corino tonight and he gets his career back. The deck is stacked against Steen with Cornette sitting ringside and Jimmy Jacobs chosen as the referee, but this is his one shot. Will he finally be banished for good, or will the self-appointed ‘Antichrist of ROH’ force his way back in?

I know this a serious match, but Jimmy’s zebra print boots and refereeing tank-top are making me laugh every time I look at him. Corino has bleached his hair again so he looks like the villain that stood as ECW World Champion over a decade ago now – and is even introduced as the ‘King Of Old School’ for the first time in years. Steen actually has to enter through the crowd as he wasn’t allowed in the locker room, and promises victory for guys like Shane Hagadorn and Colt Cabana who didn’t fit the SBG vision of ROH and were dropped. Steen soon takes the fight to the outside and hits a cannonball senton ON the apron! APRON DIVE BY CORINO! He is actually the first guy to use a weapon, cracking Steen across the head with a chair…but unfortunately Kevin shakes it off and superkicks it back into Corino’s face. POWERBOMB into the side of the ring! FROG SPLASH TO THE FLOOR! Steen is like a man possessed, and rips up a piece of guardrail before nearly decapitating Steve with it. POWERBOMB INTO A CHAIR ON THE GUARDRAILS! Amusingly, Steen is so crazy he stops fighting to try to have a friendly chat with Nigel McGuinness. Cornette is throwing middle fingers at him as he sets up a table on the floor. Steve is noticeably limping now (it would subsequently come out that he had a severe hip injury and had been considering retirement)…and Steen busts his EAR open by leg dropping a trash can lid into his head. He courageously gets up to deliver a northern lights bomb on the actual garbage can though. FROG SPLASH INTO A PILE OF CHAIRS BY CORINO! He props up that guardrail section amidst four open chairs then chases Steen up the turnbuckles! SUPERPLEX INTO THE GUARDRAIL! STEEN KICKS OUT! Cornette is desperately trying to fire Corino up, but it’s Kevin who recovers quicker and starts stacking chairs on top of the table on the outside. CORINO HITS HIM WITH THE TRASH CAN LID…HE FALLS THROUGH THE CHAIRS, THROUGH THE TABLE – TO THE FLOOR! Still Mr Wrestling won’t stay down though! EMERALD DREAM WITH CHAIRS…2 again! SLEEPER SUPLEX BY STEEN! CRADLE BREAKER THROUGH AN OPEN CHAIR! CORINO KICKS OUT! Then Jacobs inexplicably stops him hitting a semi-conscious Corino with a chair. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER THROUGH FOUR OPEN CHAIRS! Jacobs makes the LONGEST 3-count in the history of wrestling, and Steen wins his career back at 22:17

Rating – **** – It was never going to be on the same level as Steen/Generico from last year. No disrespect to Corino, but he’s not the same calibre of athlete as El Generico. But, to his credit, he rolled back the years with an absolutely stunning display. Steen is hugely popular with the ROH fans, but Steve was visibly working so hard that half the crowd actually started cheering for him instead. The match was good, the spots were brutal as you’d expect – and credit to the guys surrounding the ring. Jim Cornette, Cary Silkin, Jimmy Jacobs, Nigel McGuinness and Kevin Kelly all helped create an aura and perception of legitimate fear of Kevin Steen which added so much – particularly for those of us watching the pay-per-view or DVD presentation.

Of course, Steen being Steen, he’s not done yet. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER ON JACOBS! Which all of a sudden leaves Jim Cornette alone with him…until EL GENERICO RUNS IN! STEEN AND GENERICO FIGHTING AGAIN! YAKUZA KICK! Steen kicks him in the balls…PACKAGE PILEDRIVER THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! Generico needs a doctor badly, and Steen casually saunters off towards the locker room

INTERMISSION – Nigel McGuinness and Jim Cornette help paramedics stretcher El Generico out of the building and into an ambulance.

Bravado Brothers vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander – Gauntlet Match
This is a five team Gauntlet Match, with the winner earning a guaranteed Tag Title shot at some point in 2012. Neither of these two would be favourites to win anyway, so drawing #1 and #2 respectively has to be considered extremely unlucky for them. C&C recently beat the Bravados on TV, so Lancelot and Harlem will be gunning to avenge that one.

The Bravados aren’t hanging around and attack Coleman and Alexander during their ring entrance. Cedric is in no mood to hold back either as he flies into a somersault plancha to take out both opponents. Harlem retaliates by laying out Caprice with a bicycle kick on the floor. In the ring Lance gets 2 with a belly to belly suplex on Alexander. But he gets dragged out of the ring by Caprice. SPRINGBOARD MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! Cedric catches Harlem in a roll-up at 04:56

Rating – * – These four were the unlucky guys who had to follow the Steen/Corino match, meaning they were wrestling in front of near silence. As ever, the Gauntlet format meant they also had to rush their work which wasn’t helpful either. Their TV match a couple of weeks ago wasn’t bad – this on the other hand was complete filler.

Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander vs Future Shock – Gauntlet Match
After Battle In The Carolinas weekend we saw a furious Adam Cole vow to stop producing great matches and start producing great wins. He and Kyle O’Reilly have horrible won/loss records, but can end 2012 on a high if they can win this gauntlet and earn the title shot.

Having already gone through one match, C&C understandably start slowly and the speed of Future Shock is far too much for Alexander to cope with. Coleman comes to his aid with a leg lariat on O’Reilly for 2. Double dropkick floors both of them…before Cedric and Kyle take turns stiffing each other with big kicks. IRISH AIR RAID by C&C! Standing super rana by Caprice…into the path of Cedric’s frog splash for 2! Cole plasters Coleman with a jumping enzi, before Alexander falls victim to the Total Elimination. Future Shock advance at 05:27 (10:23 total)

Rating – ** – I like both of these teams and, as you’d expect, they had an athletic little match. I’d like to see them put together at a TV taping as their styles work well together and would produce a really entertaining match for the SBG show.

Future Shock vs Young Bucks – Gauntlet Match
These two teams have history and have shared some incredibly athletic contests. Indeed, it was at Best In The World 2011 that the Jacksons earned their returns to ROH after a sensational dark match against Future Shock as their TNA deal came to an end.

Amusingly, Cole and O’Reilly boot them as the Bucks do their silly muscle pose entrance. Cole scores with a tope suicida…but Matt is on hand to block O’Reilly’s missile dropkick off the apron. ASSISTED SHIRANUI ON THE APRON! In the ring the Bucks get 2 with a double team facecrusher on Cole. The Jacksons actually slow the pace as they isolate Adam, which is a sensible strategy given they need to win two back to back matches if they want to leave New York with a title shot. O’Reilly in to increase the pace – hitting the double dragon screw to take down both opponents. Rolling Butterflies on Nick…into the double arm DDT/Ocean Cyclone combo on Matt for 2! Cole grabs Nick for the OCEAN CYCLONE INTO THE APRON! O’REILLY MISSES THE MISSILE DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR! More Bang For Your Buck finishes Cole at 07:37 (18:00 total)

Rating – *** – I’ll give this a generous 3* as this was yet more proof that these two teams are just money when they get into the ring together. Even halfway through a Gauntlet Match they can still produce something like this, which speaks volumes for their talent and athleticism. It’s a shame the Bucks won’t sign an SBG contract as I’d love them to get a chance to run with the ROH Tag straps.

Young Bucks vs All Night Express – Gauntlet Match
This is a fitting conclusion, as these two teams despise each other. As we saw at Battle In The Carolinas weekend, Matt and Nick had absolutely no problems in exploiting Rhett Titus’ current knee injury to their benefit…and will most likely be planning on doing the same again tonight as Titus is still nowhere near 100%.

Titus is limping badly, but nothing is stopping King as he flips around off the guardrails with sentons and moonsaults. Nick wastes no time in grabbing Rhett and smashing his knee into the ringpost. At a 2-on-1 disadvantage now, Kenny is soon isolated and beaten down. Credit to him, he catches Nick with a cradle suplex…but all he has to tag is a one-legged Rhettski. Somehow Titus drops Matt with a powerbomb, but can’t protect himself as Nick boots him straight in the face! Royal Flush by King…so Matt takes him out with a springboard DDT on the apron! The Bucks go back to attacking Titus’ knee! SPINNING TOEHOLD/450 SPLASH COMBO! The ref stops the match at 08:16 (26:16 total)

Rating – ** – Better than it had any right to be considering the Bucks had already worked one match and Rhett Titus was completely immobile. For some reason the crowd really started to get on ANX through this one, which will be a concern for ROH as they have built them to be one of the top teams this year following that feud with the Briscoes. Ultimately I’m glad the Young Bucks won as their super-arrogant gimmick is as entertaining as anything in the tag division at the moment.

It’s time for the Roderick Strong Invitational and Nigel McGuinness confirms that he applied to be Roderick’s opponent tonight – but Truth Martini didn’t want him to be Strong’s opponent. In fact, Roddy says nobody met the standards required, so demands to have the bell rung and himself awarded an obligatory count-out victory despite not having an opponent. Except as it hits 10 the Kings Of Wrestling music hits…and the place goes NUTS as Chris Hero returns!

Roderick Strong vs Chris Hero
The last time we saw That Young Knockout Kid was Episode 1 of the Sinclair TV show. The Kings Of Wrestling unsuccessfully challenged WGTT looking to regain their Tag Titles, and after that defeat were never heard of again. Claudio Castagnoli signed a developmental deal with the WWE, and Hero was expected to follow. But days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months without Chris signing a developmental deal – although he did move to Florida to be nearer the WWE’s developmental FCW promotion. Rumours of a failed medical and/or failed drugs test did the rounds too. Supposedly he was still on the brink of signing with them, but for now he’s taken a rare ROH booking so, if nothing else, Ring Of Honor fans will get the chance to give him the kind of ovation and respect he deserves after half a decade of busting his ass in this promotion.

Without wanting to be cynical, you could see how those drug test rumours spread as Hero’s physique is significantly worse than the last time he was here. It doesn’t stop him beating the snot out of Roderick for much of the opening portion of the match. That is until Martini SOCKS him with the Book Of Truth! Strong pounces to hit a back suplex on the apron and, at the 5 minute mark, it’s the former World Champion in total control. It helps that Truth Martini keeps getting involved of course. But Roderick gets into an ill-advised exchange of elbow smashes with Hero…and it’s then that Chris pounces to deliver the Flash Kick and both men are down in a heap. Strong tries to bail but is sent into the guardrails by another Flash Kick – this time through the ropes. Cravat Buster out of the corner gets 2! But the turnbuckles come back to haunt him seconds later as Roddy delivers the turnbuckle backbreaker…into the Stronghold. Hero escapes and hits a cravat suplex but he’s really looking worn down now! TURNBUCKLE GERMAN SUPLEX BY STRONG! Death By Roderick…then he nearly drops Hero straight into his neck with a Gibson Driver for 2. Rolling Elbow nailed! Roaring Elbow nailed! ROLLING FLASH KICK for 2! Death Blow somewhat scores…so Truth Martini breaks the count! Hero boots him in the mouth but doesn’t see the Sick Kick coming. Strong wins at 16:38

Rating – ** – I love Chris Hero, he’s one of my favourite performers in ROH history and I miss seeing him in this promotion dearly. But, for whatever reason, he looked incredibly rusty in there for this one. I know he’s been competing regularly since leaving ROH, but you sort of wonder whether the changes in his physical appearance and working on changing his ring style for WWE developmental took their toll on him here as he tried to step back into ‘ROH mode’. Earlier this year he was as good as he’s ever been. Of course the Kings were the best tag team anywhere, but he was in amazing shape, and even in singles he was producing absolute classics (like his World Title match with Edwards in Canada). Tonight, this whole match was ponderous. It felt interminably long, never got out of second gear and bored the crowd (who were going crazy during Hero’s entrance) into near silence.

Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin vs Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe – ROH Tag Title Match
Final Battles past have brought mixed success for the Briscoes. They’ve lost World Title shots here (Mark vs Samoa Joe in 2003) and they’ve lost Tag Titles here (vs Age Of The Fall in 2007). But they’ve also beaten the Kings Of Wrestling (2006 and 2010) and WON Tag Titles (vs American Wolves in 2009). This feud with WGTT has been raging for almost the entirety of the Sinclair-ROH era thus far. As the most successful team in ROH history, they were desperate to be Tag Champions when the SBG show went on the air…and were devastated when ANX eliminated them first in a four-team elimination match which represented their only chance to do that – at Best In The World. Their response was to beat up the champions (Haas and Benjamin) with chairs, and that kick-started the feud. For their part WGTT wanted to fight Jay and Mark, but Jim Cornette refused to reward the Briscoes for their nefarious ways. After multiple brawls, chair attacks, and a fractured rib for Shelton two weeks ago on TV, we finally get the Briscoes/WGTT iPPV rematch we’ve been waiting for since the 9th Anniversary Show.

Haas and Benjamin attack the Briscoes with the belts during the introductions…and the bell doesn’t even ring as all four men brawl out of the ring. Haas back suplexes Jay onto the guardrails and Shelton drops Mark on the ramp as WGTT struggle to control their hatred. They start swinging chairs too, but since there hasn’t been a bell that’s fine too! The New York crowd has noticeably turned on WGTT this time around, so them beating the piss out of the Briscoes with chairs certainly doesn’t help. It is, though, apt payback for the brutal attack they suffered at Best In The World. WGTT single out Jay with Benjamin demanding Haas deliver chair shots to the ribs, looking for revenge for that chair attack we saw on TV this week. Jay is bleeding badly, and not protecting himself at all from some brutal chair shots – much to the annoyance of Nigel McGuinness and a number of fans who watched on ppv and complained. BOTCHED Leap Of Faith and, of course, the crowd absolutely hate that. With Jay out on the floor bleeding all over the place the bell actually rings to get the match started. WGTT try the Leap Of Faith on Mark instead…only for Jay to save with a superkick on Shelton. Benjamin tries a Stinger Splash and, of course, that damages his ribs further – and Mark pounces immediately with a spear. The Briscoes viciously attack Shelton’s ribs, and after the way they were savagely attacked before the bell it’s hard to argue that it’s not justified. Charlie eventually saves his partner as Kelly and Nigel desperately try to explain why the crowd are totally behind the heels and booing the sh*t out of WGTT. Rolling Germans on Jay, into the Haas Of Pain. FROGGY BOW BY MARK TO SAVE…except Benjamin dives in front of his partner and takes the hit for him – right on the ribs! Medical personnel carry Shelton to the back after that, leaving Haas fighting both challengers by himself. He hoists Mark up for the Olympic Slam…and accidentally wipes out the referee in so doing. Shelton returns to the match and smashes Mark in the head with a wooden plank. The crowd, already irritated by this strange match, launch into Hacksaw Jim Duggan chants. I don’t get it – Haas was babyface in peril a second ago. Shelton made the big babyface comeback…and now WGTT are heels again beating up Jay 2-on-1 with weapons and trying to steal the Doomsday Device? Mark saves…DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON HAAS! Briscoes win the Tag belts for a 7th time at 13:25

Rating – * – This one has got a heaps of criticism and rightly so…but for all it’s faults and shortcomings, this was certainly unique. Whether it was unique for the right reasons or not, I guess that’s your decision. I’ll start with the unprotected chair shots – honestly, unless there’s been a lot of editing, there weren’t that many and they weren’t that bad. Certainly brutal, but nothing outlandishly shocking that you’ve not seen before. I understand why, but Nigel getting so worked up about it on commentary probably helped create a fan backlash that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I want or like wrestlers risking serious concussion problems – I’m just saying that I’m not sure the particular incidences in this match warranted the severity of backlash it actually received. My main issue was the inexplicable booking. Were WGTT heels, were they faces – what the hell was going on? They started by beating and bloodying the Briscoes, and ended doing the same thing and trying to steal their finishes. So why the random babyface Shelton getting carried to the back segment? The crowd had already decided they hated WGTT – why not run with it? If you’re honest, WGTT have gone downhill fast as the year has progressed. Nobody ever really liked the fact that they were the guys to end the lengthy and extremely popular reign of the Kings Of Wrestling and a number of their defences have been very poorly received. In truth this was a calamitous end to a pretty disastrous title run. HOWEVER, they are good wrestlers, and I think there’s much more value to them as heels in ROH anyway, so I’m actually very interested in seeing where they go now. And the Briscoes are deserving of another run with the belts after the way they’ve reinvented themselves this year. The ‘Day One’ promo marked a real turning point in their careers and, as the crazy, unpredictable but undeniably talented rednecks they are one of ROH’s biggest draws AGAIN.

Jay and Mark are buried under streamers as they celebrate. I’m not quite sure if that’s out of delight that they are champions again, or sheer elation that WGTT have lost but it’s quite the sight either way.

Davey Richards vs Eddie Edwards – ROH World Title Match
2011 has been all about these two, so it’s fitting they end the year in the main event of the biggest show wrestling each other. When the year started we were still in disbelief that Davey didn’t claim ‘his moment’ and win the World Title from Roderick Strong at Final Battle 2010. And we were even more shocked when, a few months in, it was Eddie Edwards, the ‘little brother’ of the American Wolves, who stepped into the limelight and dethroned Roddy to become World Champion. Richards tried to be supportive of his partner, but Eddie took issue with Davey’s assumption that he would win, and the inevitable happened at Best In The World 2011 as we saw Edwards defend his World Title against Davey. After an epic match which still stands up as one of 2011’s best, Richards emerged victorious to finally live up to his potential and become World Champion. Tied at 1 victory each (Eddie beat Davey in the finals of the TV Title tournament on HDNet back in 2010), the Wolves attempted to reignite their tag prospects. But they couldn’t get it together – as we saw in July when they had a spectacular falling out after beating Future Shock as Eddie refused to release a submission hold on Davey’s protégé Kyle O’Reilly. Jim Cornette made things worse by announcing Eddie as the top contender and next challenger to Davey…and as the year came to an end the divide between the ‘brothers’ is as big as ever. Davey has isolated himself in training camps with Team Richards, whilst Eddie has been training with Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn – much to Richards’ annoyance as it was originally his idea to train with him. As recently as this week on TV they were going at it, as Eddie helped Davey fight off the House Of Truth, only to end up fighting amongst themselves. That night Eddie made Davey tap out in seconds using his new Dragon Sleeper submission – possibly a positive omen going into tonight. Now it’s time for Richards/Edwards III – the rubber match, Wolf vs Wolf to determine who the better fighter is.

Eddie runs at Davey, booting him in the face almost at the bell. Dragon Sleeper attempted early, and Richards visibly panics and counters out of it hurriedly to avoid a shock early loss. Edwards also looks to have lost a few pounds and is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. It’s immediately noticeable that there is much more animosity between these two for their third encounter. Clean breaks are few and far between, and within the first five minutes there are multiple bitter little strike exchanges. Eddie is clearly the more aggressive and starts choking Davey in the corner…until Richards jerks him out into a boot to the face. In between violent outbursts from Edwards, Davey continually tries to pick him apart with submission holds. To the floor where they trade chops, kicks and guardrail spills repeatedly, but the outside is an environment where Davey clearly feels he can seize the initiative. He boots Eddie off the apron then SCORES with the tope suicida. Fans have been so bored by this opening 10 minutes the ‘twinky’ chants have started again, but I’ve actually found them quite interesting. Richards is on top now and wears Eddie out with a violent flurry of elbow strikes. Anklelock applied for the first time, but easily countered to the Achilles Lock! Edwards drops Davey on his face and both men are down.

And it’s the challenger up first to score with the Climbing Wizard. Handspring Enzi attempted…but Eddie catches Davey and THROWS HIM OVER THE ROPES! MOONSAULT OFF THE APRON! No way Dan Severn taught him that. Back in the ring he lands the Backpack Stunner for 2 as he starts to extend his advantage over the champion. Richards tries a desperate cross armbreaker, but again it’s easily countered by Eddie…who floats into an STF, then the Anklelock THEN REPEATED FACE STOMPS! Davey didn’t like that at all…and as we approach 20 minutes both men are back on the feet slapping the sh*t out of each other. Richards wins that exchange by literally smashing Edwards across the face with a discus lariat. Double stomp crashes across the back, followed by a running kick to the face then ANOTHER DOUBLE STOMP for 2! Headbutt duel on the top, which Nigel understandably can’t watch. Superplex…ROLLED THROUGH…BOTH MEN FALL OVER THE TOP TO THE FLOOR! The two weary warriors nearly get themselves counted out, but somehow drag their bodies back in to continue rattling each others skulls with fearsome strikes. Machine Gun Chops by Eddie, only for Richards to power him across the ring into Machine Gun Kicks. But still neither man will give an inch and stagger back to the centre of the ring. CHOPS VS KICKS AGAIN! KAWADA KICKS FROM DAVEY! SLAPS FROM EDDIE! BACK DROP DRIVER BY RICHARDS NO SOLD! BACK DROP DRIVER BY EDDIE NO SOLD! BACK DROP DRIVER DUEL! Edwards drops Richards with a tiger suplex, but again it’s no sold for Davey to drop him with a dragon suplex.

Both men are flat on the canvas again, as Roderick Strong comes out and gets into a fight with Team Richards. Michael Elgin is out here too…and as HOT fight with Team Richards Dan Severn drags Truth Martini out of the building. That melee buys the two fighters some recovery time, and we’re ticking past the half hour mark as they finally drag themselves back up and stand face to face in the middle of the ring to start teeing off on each other once more. TIGER SUPLEX INTO THE TURNBUCKLES BY EDDIE! Richards looks unconscious, and is dead weight as Edwards drags him up the ropes…SUPER RANA NAILED! DRAGON SLEEPER! TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER! DIE HARD! Inexplicably, Richards just kicked out of basically all of Eddie’s finishers one after the other! The guys are almost moving in slow motion now such is the level of exhaustion they’re now competing through. Davey catches Eddie on the top…DRAGON SUPERPLEX GETS 2! Edwards looks like he’s trying to escape and crawls to the apron…RICHARDS WITH AN EXPLODER TO THE FLOOR! Eddie tries to crawl back in the ring SO DAVEY KICKS HIM IN THE FACE AND DOES IT AGAIN! For a second time Die Hard crawls back into the ring, and Davey looks like he wants to murder him! KNOCKOUT KICK! HE KICKS OUT! ANKLELOCK! Davey screams at Eddie to quit but he refuses! KNOCKOUT KICK AGAIN! FOR 2…AGAIN! REPEATED UNPROTECTED KICKS TO THE FACE! Finally Eddie is down and out – and Davey retains at 41:14.

Rating – **** – I remember this one getting a lot of criticism at the time and, to be frank, I liked it more than most it seems. Admittedly large portions of the volatile New York crowd decided they hated it so were going to sh*t on it (similar to Aries/Tyler from Final Battle 2009), but I’ll defend this match as I thought it was a great main event and fitting final chapter to the Richards/Edwards trilogy. Was it too long – yes it probably was. Did they over do the head drop/no sell/fighting spirit exchanges – again, yes, they probably did. But this was an epic battle and, in the context of their rivalry, the style of the match made perfect sense. Edwards started on fire, determined to beat Davey up and finally prove himself to be the superior athlete of the American Wolves team. He was the challenger, he was the guy that lost at Best In The World, he was the guy that’s pissed Davey off all year – he was the one with everything to prove. And, the conclusion, with Eddie refusing to quit and Davey visibly furious and determined to obliterate his former partner and friend also made perfect sense. Eddie was the one who made him challenge for the belt at Best In The World. Eddie was the one who (rightly or wrongly) didn’t break the hold on Kyle O’Reilly at No Escape. Eddie was the one who (rightly or wrongly) trained with Dan Severn. Eddie was the one who laid him out with his own title belt this very week on TV. For all that they are friends and brothers – Eddie has been the one chasing him all year and Davey was desperate to put an end to it. Just because the New York crowd didn’t like the style of match, I’ll defend that it made total sense. It just went on too long and suffered from not being as good as the Best In The World match. Match of the night for me, and I’m looking forward to what 2012 has in store for both guys. Davey is a great worker, and 2011 has seen Eddie evolve into my favourite ROH guy

Davey immediately looks devastated at what he had to put his friend through to put him away. But just when we look set for another respectful American Wolf show-ending promo Kevin Steen comes out and verbally destroys him. Steen promises to be World Champion in 2012…

Tape Rating – *** – If you’re being realistic, this probably wasn’t anywhere near as good as ROH was hoping. This was the first Final Battle under Sinclair, and they have deliberately hyped this as ROH’s ‘WrestleMania’ equivalent – so the bar was set high, and vast chunks of this show didn’t really deliver. The first half of the card wasn’t bad – and the Steen/Corino match probably exceeded expectations. But it was the second half of the show which really left everyone feeling deflated. The Gauntlet Match was poor, Hero’s return was disappointing, the big Tag Title Match was a complete mess and the main event was a bloated marathon of strikes, head drops and MMA overload which left a lot of the ROH audience feeling alienated and disappointed. Make no mistake, this was a decent show, but when so many of the big matches failed to deliver, it’s impossible to deny that it feels like a flat ending to the year. It’s almost through the sheer charisma of Kevin Steen alone that ROH goes into 2012 with a fair amount of momentum – Mr Wrestling is back promising chaos, destruction and pursuit of the increasingly polarising figure of Davey Richards.

Top 3 Matches
3) Jay Lethal vs Mike Bennett vs El Generico (***)
2) Kevin Steen vs Steve Corino (****)
1) Davey Richards vs Eddie Edwards (****)

ROH 2011 Top 10 Matches
10) Jay Briscoe/Mark Briscoe vs All Night Express (****1/2 – Death Before Dishonor 9)
9) Eddie Edwards vs Chris Hero (****1/2 – Revolution Canada)
8) Eddie Edwards vs Christopher Daniels (****1/2 – Honor Takes Center Stage Chapter 1)
7) Kings Of Wrestling vs American Wolves (****1/2 – Revolution USA)
6) Davey Richards vs Chris Hero (****1/2 – Only The Strong Survive)
5) American Wolves vs Future Shock (****1/2 – No Escape)
4) Davey Richards vs Roderick Strong (****1/2 – Honor Takes Center Stage Chapter 1)
3) Eddie Edwards vs Roderick Strong (****1/2 – Death Before Dishonor 9)
2) Christopher Daniels vs Eddie Edwards (****1/2 – 9th Anniversary Show)
1) Eddie Edwards vs Davey Richards (****1/2 – Best In The World)

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