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ROH Final Battle - Dec. 23, 2011

by SamoaRowe

-From New York, NY. Our hosts are Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness.

-The Ring of Honor Wrestling television intro plays. Weird. We’re treated to footage of the live crowd but the sound has gone out. We’re only missing out on Nigel McGuinness pandering to the fans, so no big deal… yet. We get audio as Jim Cornette announces this is the biggest live gate in ROH history. Cornette introduces Cary Silkin and the SBC COO, who’s name escaped me. Joe Koff? I digress. The COO wishes us a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Festivus. Hanukah got a bigger pop than Christmas, so you can really tell they aren’t in Kentucky anymore.

“Unbreakable” Michael Elgin (with Truth Martini) vs. TJ Perkins

Elgin gains the early advantage, tossing Perkins around. Perkins has speed on his side and drop-kicks the back. Perkins dumps Elgin to ringside and cannonballs onto him. Elgin catches Perkins in mid-air and drives him into the barricade! Elgin delivers a series of power moves but can’t gain the pinfall. Elgin blocks a head scissors maneuver and applies a waist lock. Martini knocks Perkins out of the ropes but he regains his footing and nails a dive to the floor. Springboard missile drop-kick by Perkins gets 2. Elgin blocks a sunset flip but misses a splash in classic fashion. Corkscrew senton by Perkins! Perkins once again flies into Elgin’s arms for a side slam. Perkins blocks a power bomb but gets caught in a backbreaker. Ace crusher by Perkins but Elgin rebounds with a buckle bomb. Perkins scores with a reverse hurricanrana. Elgin blocks TJ’s finisher and nails another buckle bomb and finally a sit-out power bomb for the win at 7:37. Strong victory for Elgin and a decent showing from Perkins. The match was fine as an opener, **¼.
Winner: Michael Elgin

-Tommaso Ciampa and the Embassy come to the ring for their match. The crowd is all over them as Prince Nana and R.D. take turns trashing Jimmy Rave on the mic. R.D. compares Rave to a desperate ex-girlfriend who is no longer wanted. They promise a very “silent night” for Rave.

Tommaso Ciampa (with Prince Nana and the Embassy) vs. Jimmy Rave

Ciampa is the current crown jewel of the Embassy, a spot Jimmy Rave used to have. The fans give Rave a warm welcome, something I would have never imagined in 2006. They exchange holds in the early going. Rave gets annoyed with a slapfest and spits in Ciampa’s face. The pace quickens, resulting in Ciampa nailing a hard clothesline. They brawl around ringside. Back to the ring, Ciampa delivers a pair of running knees to the face. Rave unloads some chops and a clothesline. Rave applies the Heel Hook! Rave sends Ciampa crashing to ringside. Ciampa counters a baseball slide with a wheelbarrow swing into the barricade! Ciampa rolls through a sunset flip and drop-kicks from a kneeling position! I don’t know if I’ll ever tire of that spot. Rave Clash but Ciampa kicks out! Rave looks to end it but Prince Nana hops up to offer him his old Embassy robe. Rave rejects the offer but the ring fills with Embassy members. Princess Mia nails a hard kick and Rave sends her to ringside. Ciampa is back up and nails Project Ciampa for the win at 8:33. Decent match here with some overbooked fun at the end, **.
Winner: Tommaso Ciampa

-The crowd chants “Thank you, Jimmy” at Rave on his way out. Honestly, I’m stunned.

-The crowd chants “CM Punk” during Mike Bennett’s entrance, due to the presence of Bennett‘s girlfriend, Maria Kanellis. Bennett responds by gratuitously making out with her, which is exactly the right thing to do. Bennett takes the mic and boasts that he’s making out with a Playboy model while the fans are stuck jerking off. Bennett finally does something entertaining, I’m stunned for the second time this evening.

Television Championship:
Jay Lethal © vs. Mike Bennett (with Brutal Bob Evans and Maria Kanellis) vs. El Generico

The fans are still chanting “CM Punk.” Okay, we get it: Maria used to date CM Punk and you guys are all just the smartest fans in the world for knowing that. Congratulations. Anyways, Mike Bennett stalls heavily in the early going, waiting for Generico and Lethal to turn their backs to strike. The plan backfires as they double team Bennett. Generico and Lethal can’t decide who is going to dive onto Bennett first so they settle on dual suicide dives. With Bennett temporarily out the picture, Lethal and Generico have a nice back and forth contest. Bennett returns to drop Lethal onto the apron and pick up the scraps of El Generico. Lethal returns just as Generico is making a comeback and nails a springboard clothesline. Brutal Bob and Maria console Bennett while the other two duke it out. Bennett returns and goes to work wearing Lethal down. Lethal drop-kicks Bennett to the floor but Generico flies across the ring to knock him down. Lethal creatively ties Generico and Bennett together for a combination of moves. Exploder suplex by Generico but Evans blocks the Yakuza kick. Generico gets past Evans and Bennett hides behind Maria. All three men go down after a flurry of finishers. Generico floors Lethal with a cannonball to the floor and dives through the turnbuckles onto Bennett. Yakuza kick and Half Nelson suplex by Generico but Bennett kicks out!! Lethal hits the flying elbow drop on Generico! Bennett pulls the tights to eliminate Generico at 18:03! Luckily, Lethal immediately delivers the Lethal Injection for the win at 18:15! Hot, hot finish. Holy crap, I think I’m starting to like Mike Bennett. Great match here, elevated by the personalities involved, ****.
Winner and still Television Champion: Jay Lethal

-Generico and Lethal shake hands and celebrate together. Such good sports.

-Special referee Jimmy Jacobs, Jim Cornette, and Cary Silkin come to the ring for the big Kevin Steen match.

Steve Corino vs. Kevin Steen

If Steen wins, he’s reinstated in ROH. This is Steen’s first ROH match since Final Battle 2010, where he lost his job to El Generico. They collide and trade punches. The fight quickly heads to ringside. Steen delivers a cannonball on the apron! Corino dives off the apron to repay the favor. Corino directs traffic, cracking a chair over Steen’s head. Steen super kicks the chair into Corino’s skull. Powerbomb onto the apron by Steen and a frog splash to the floor! Steen hoists a piece of barricade over his head and drives it into Corino. Steen follows up by power bombing Corino onto a chair propped on the guard rail. Steen takes a break to say hi to Nigel, I wonder if that’s leading somewhere. Steen sets a table up on the outside but Corino blocks a power bomb attempt. Corino fills the ring with weapons but Steen counters. Corino is busted open after getting his head smashed into a trash lid. Corino kicks low and drives a trash can into Steen’s skull. Suplex onto the chair! Power slam onto a pile of chairs by Corino. Flying splash by Corino gets 2. Corino sets a piece of barricade up on four chairs in the ring. Superplex onto the steel by Corino! That spot was seriously scary as Steen landed pretty badly. Steen starts setting chairs up on the propped table. Corino counters, sending Steen crashing off the ropes through three chairs and table! Steen counters and suplexes Corino onto a standing chair. A defiant Corino spits and kicks out after taking an unprotected chair shot to the head. Jimmy Jacobs prevents another chair shot and Corino delivers a sneaky shot with what seems to be a roll of quarters. Corino attempts a Piledriver on four standing chairs but Steen counters with a package Piledriver! Jacobs reluctantly counts a slow three count to give Steen the win at 23:12! Steen is officially back in ROH! This match was off the charts violent and brutal… perhaps a bit too violent and brutal. I was genuinely worried about the safety of both participants at times, which effected my enjoyment of the match. In retrospect, since neither man suffered any bad injuries during the bout, this one will probably age well. Overall, this was a **** brawl.
Winner: Kevin Steen

-Steen grabs a microphone and declares “Merry Christmas, the devil is back!” Steen says he had three goals tonight. The first was to beat Corino, check. The second was apparently to murder Jimmy Jacobs with a package Piledriver. The third target is obviously Jim Cornette, as Steen lunges after him. Luckily, El Generico runs in for the save! The building explodes as they begin to brawl. Generico delivers the Yakuza kick but Steen blocks a top rope Brainbuster. Steen low blows and delivers a package Piledriver off the apron through a table!! Generico is lifeless as Steen basks in the glory of his accomplishments.

Tag Team Gauntlet:
The Bravados vs. Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander

The winning team of this gauntlet will receive a shot at the ROH Tag Team Championship in 2012. The Bravados ambush Cedric and Caprice before the bell and they duke it out at ringside. Cedric surprises with a dive onto the Bravados. The match settles into Lancelot Bravado getting double teamed in enemy territory. Harlem Bravado puts Coleman down at ringside. Cedric is briefly isolated before countering with a double enziguri. The match quickly breaks down. Alexander scores a roll-up pinfall at 4:56. Next.

Tag Team Gauntlet:
Cedric Alexander and Caprice Coleman vs. Future Shock

Kyle O’Reilly starts against Cedric Alexander in a back and forth contest. Adam Cole tags and assists in a double team. Both teams make blind tags to set up surprise double team moves. Coleman finds himself the victim of a O’Reilly backbreaker. Coleman rolls through a double clothesline attempt and makes the lukewarm tag to Alexander. Cedric cleans house on Future Shock. Coleman hoists Cole up for a flying double stomp/power slam combo! Frog splash on O’Reilly! Alexander suffers stereo drop-kicks to the face while stuck in a tree of woe. Future Shock delivers Ride the Lightning for the win at 5:28. Not bad for the time given.

Tag Team Gauntlet:
Future Shock vs. The Young Bucks

The Bucks spend too much time posing and suffer dives to the floor, courtesy of O’Reilly and Cole. They duke it out on the ring apron, with the Bucks getting the advantage. Cole finds himself the victim of a double team face buster/neck breaker combo. The Bucks isolate Cole for a few minutes, putting over their arrogance in the process. Nick Jackson helps deliver a flying double stomp and then immediately delivers a suicide dive onto O’Reilly. Cole overcomes the double team assault on O’Reilly gets a hot tag. Double dragon screw leg takedown by O’Reilly! Matt Jackson eats a suplex and O’Reilly blocks a slingshot attempt by Nick. Rolling butterfly suplexes by O’Reilly! Future Shock delivers a suplex combo but the pinfall is broken. Nick hits a face buster but Cole wheelbarrows him into the ring apron. O’Reilly misses a running knee strike off the apron. Matt tries to pin Cole with a handful of tights. The Young Bucks catch Cole with More Bang for Your Buck for the victory at 6:54. These two teams have great chemistry, good chapter here.

Tag Team Gauntlet:
The Young Bucks vs. The All Night Express

Rhett Titus is sporting a bad knee due to an attack from the Young Bucks at a recent live event. They battle it out at ringside, with Kenny King nearly taking a spill off the barricade. Nick wraps Rhett’s knee around the ring post. King nearly puts Matt away with a spinebuster. The Young Bucks go to work on King while Titus sells the knee injury on the floor. King catches Nick with an exploder suplex. Titus gets the hot tag and limps around while cleaning house. Titus suffers a sit out power bomb and a flying knee to the face. King saves Titus from a double team assault to the knee. Matt DDT’s King onto the ring frame! Titus tries to mount a comeback, but Matt clips him behind the knee. Matt applies a toe hold and Nick delivers a 450 splash to the knee! The referee stops the match at 8:17! The Young Bucks win the gauntlet! Business really picked up when the Bucks got involved. *** for the whole gauntlet.
Winners: The Young Bucks

-The Bucks continue to attack the knee of Rhett Titus until Kenny King chases them off once and for all.

-Kevin Kelly asks Nigel McGuinness if he was considered for Roderick Strong’s open challenge. Nigel kind of dodges the question, putting the focus back on Strong.

-Roderick Strong and Truth Martini come to the ring and it’s time to find out who Strong’s mystery opponent is. Strong thinks it’s sad that at the biggest show of the year he couldn’t be given a main event match. Strong dismissed every possible opponent ROH came up with so he’s just going to wrestle no one. The bell rings and Truth Martini begins a slow count to 10, insulting the fans in the process. The 10 count is interrupted by none other than Chris Hero! Business is about to pick up! I guess Hero didn’t sign with WWE after all.

Roderick Strong (with Truth Martini) vs. Chris Hero

Strong is visibly thrown off his game and stalls. Hero takes full control, lighting Strong up with some chops. Hero sends a hapless Strong to the floor but Roderick manages to avoid a dive. Truth Martini clocks Hero in the head with the Book of Truth and the momentum shifts to Strong’s favor. Strong plants Hero on the apron and continues the assault in the ring. Strong targets the back, utilizing the apron again (with more help from Truth Martini). They trade shots to the head and Hero scores with a big boot. Hero no sells a chop and delivers a hard forearm. Strong rolls to ringside to recover from a back senton. Hero lands a cravat suplex off the turnbuckles for 2. Roderick delivers a knee to the face for 2. Backbreaker onto the turnbuckles by Strong! Hero kicks out! Hero escapes the Strong Hold and hits a cravat suplex. The knockout shot by Hero isn’t enough to end it. Hero lands on his feet in a moonsault and Strong drops him into the turnbuckle. Gut buster and Gibson Driver by Strong only gets 2.5. They trade shots with Hero coming out on top with some roaring elbows. Hero should’ve won with a Death Blow but Truth Martini breaks the cover. Hero chases Martini, allowing Strong to roll him up. Hero kicks Martini off the apron but Strong lands a hard kick for the victory at 16:40. The match really cooled off after a hot start and overcompensated with some silly near falls. Overall, a middle of the road effort, **½.
Winner: Roderick Strong

-The Briscoes and WGTT make their entrances for the Tag Team title match. Before the bell rings, WGTT jump the Briscoes, using the belts as weapons. Haas back suplexes Mark onto the barricade in sickening fashion. Benjamin suplexes Mark onto the steel ramp. Haas unloads on Jay with a chair. Benjamin sends Mark crashing into another chair shot. The Briscoes take a prolonged beating (perhaps a bit too prolonged, as WGTT run out of hardcore tricks pretty quickly). The crowd turns on WGTT, chanting “Fuck you, Charlie” at Haas as he stands tall with a chair. It’s hard to tell if this is meant to be a double turn or if we’re just witnessing a case of bad booking. Jay is bleeding after taking some more unprotected chair shots. Haas keeps heeling it up for the crowd, so I’m now leaning towards “double turn” here. WGTT botch the Leap of Faith and the crowd is more than eager to let them know they effed up.

ROH Tag Team Championship:
Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin © vs. Jay and Mark Briscoe

For some reason the referee chooses now to ring the bell and the match finally begins. WGTT attempt another Leap of Faith but this time Jay breaks it up with a super kick. Jay and Haas slug it out. We finally seem to have legal competitors with Benjamin working over Mark Briscoe. Mark rebounds with a spear to the previously injured ribs of Shelton Benjamin. Jay loses his temper and continues to target Benjamin’s ribs. Haas gets a needed tag and unloads on the Briscoes. Mark takes a nasty spill over the ropes but Jay sends Benjamin crashing into the barricade. Mark makes a comeback against Haas. The springboard doomsday is blocked. Haas of Pain! Benjamin sacrifices himself to protect Haas from a flying Jay Briscoe. Benjamin is carried to the back while Haas suffers a 2 on 1 beat down. What a weird match. Benjamin bravely returns with a 2x4. The crowd sarcastically give Benjamin a Jim Duggan response as the Briscoes eat wood. That came out wrong. WGTT look to end it with a Doomsday Device, but Mark blocks with a piece of table. The Briscoes nail the Doomsday Device for the win at championship at 13:13! For my thoughts on this debacle, see the following rant.
Winners and new ROH Tag Team Champions: Jay and Mark Briscoe

-Excuse me while I rant for a minute. Nothing on the ROH television show leading up to this event would have lead anyone to expect what we just witnessed. The dastardly heel team of the Briscoes get ambushed before the bell rings and suffer repeated weapon shots to the head? A wild and crazy brawl transitions into a normal wrestling match? I know that WGTT was looking for payback but this was over the top and unnecessary. Seriously, when commentator Nigel McGuinness is BEGGING Jay Briscoe to put up his hands to block a chair shot to the head, you know something is very wrong. It’s also clear to me that half the live audience either doesn’t watch the TV show or decided they suddenly like the Briscoes again after turning on them last year. ROH cannot afford to turn every wrestler on their roster based on the whims of the NYC crowd, we’d be left with a roster full of Mr. Andersons and Big Shows. My original draft of this review had the match at *½, but in hindsight, this match truly and utterly sucked. I’m giving it a DUD because the booking was ass-backwards, the spots were needlessly dangerous and didn’t fit the storyline, and it was no near close to resembling the match I was expecting. This was one of the worst matches of the year.

ROH World Championship:
“American Wolf” Davey Richards © (with Team Richards) vs. “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards (with Dan Severn)

Despite their pull-apart brawl on the last TV show, they shake hands. Edwards charges as the bell rings and they sprint through a quick exchange of counters. They exchange submission holds on the mat. Davey cuts off Eddie’s momentum with hard kicks. Richards applies his modified scorpion death lock. Edwards scores with an overhead release suplex. They duke it out at ringside. Back to the ring, Eddie stretches Davey’s leg in creative fashion. Davey soccer kicks Eddie in the chest from the apron. Suicide dive by Richards! Eddie recovers from a missile drop-kick but Davey retains control. Davey blocks a chop by grabbing the arm, which leads to a unique countering sequence resulting in a Richards ankle lock. Edwards counters into a half Boston crab. Eddie plants Davey and they both go down. Eddie wins a striking contest and tosses Davey over the ropes. Moonsault to the floor by Eddie, but his knee hit the barricade. Backpack chin breaker gets 2. Eddie throws everything he’s got at Davey but can’t seem to get the pin or submission. They both stumble to their feet and trade open hand slaps. Richards nails a clothesline for a shocking 1 count. Richards delivers a pair of double stomps but can’t put Edwards away. They engage in a silly head butt war on the ropes. Richards rolls through a superplex and they both go crashing to ringside! That was really cool. They trade lighting fast shots as the match continues to be very evenly fought. They transition into trading backdrop drivers. Edwards wins the suplex contest. Eddie seems to have knocked Richards out when Roderick Strong shows up. Strong starts beating up Team Richards and Dan Severn steps for the save. Michael Elgin runs in to even things up. Severn gets his hands on Truth Martini and escorts him to the back. The match restarts with them trading blows while putting over their exhaustion. Edwards attempts a suplex into the turnbuckles but Richards’ head hits in a dangerous, awkward position. Eddie attempts a double underhook superplex but Richards decides he wants to live and blocks it. Edwards settles for a top rope hurricanrana. A pair of power bombs by Eddie only gets 2! Dragon Sleeper! Tombstone Piledriver and the Die Hard! Richards still kicks out! Edwards blocks a sunset power bomb but eats a full nelson superplex! Eddie survives but takes a suplex off the ring apron. Richards follows up with another full nelson suplex on the apron. Eddie is almost counted out. Richards applies the ankle lock, Eddie counters, but Richards reapplies. The kick to the head that defeated Edwards last time isn’t enough now. Or so we thought, Davey kicks the head a couple more times and finally gets the victory around the 42 minute mark. This was the usual incredible effort from both participants. The exhausted/sarcastic crowd didn’t do them any favors, and there were times when I felt they hurt the flow of the match to try and stir up crowd interest by overdoing it with the stiff offense. Overall, a **** bout.
Winner and still ROH World Champion: Davey Richards

-Davey asks for a mic. Richards explains that Cornette reminded him today that ROH is all about sportsmanship. He doesn’t feel he has to put over Eddie’s toughness and heart because all the fans just saw it. Richards says that he’ll always be his brother. Kevin Steen shows up to ruin the heartfelt moment. Steen taunts the raw emotion Davey was expressing and tells him to take his MMA group to the back to continue the jerk-fest. Steen vows to take the ROH title from Richards and hold the company hostage. Steen declares himself to be the anti-Christ of pro wrestling. One chapter ends, another one begins.

Final Thoughts: This was an exhausting show to get through. There was a lot to like here but I really felt like they simply tried too hard. If I were to play a drinking game and take a shot every time a wrestler took a bump onto the ring apron, I’d be completely wrecked. Also, the head shots suffered in the Corino/Steen and WGTT/Briscoes match took away from my enjoyment and left me worried for the safety of these low paid indie wrestlers. It was reported that no one suffered any concussions on this event, but I have a difficult time believing that, especially considering the punishment Jay Briscoe took. A string of **** matches are evened out by the awful DUD of a tag title match, and the bad taste from there brings this down a few notches. Check out the Steen angle though, as that continues to be a real hook for ROH as the new year begins.

Thumbs in the middle.

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