ROH Final Battle 2018 Review

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Credit: ROH

The winds are a changing, as Final Battle 2018 will go down as the end of an era in ROH. The Bullet Club/Elite are moving on and potentially taking a shitload of fans with them. It’s time for those in charge of Ring Of Honor to step-up and find the next big thing. Otherwise, next year’s Final Battle might be a very different affair

Kenny King defeated Eli Isom

Kenny King is a decent wrestler. He can be slotted into any number of feuds in the lower mid-card which people won’t care about. However, he’s never going to be the man. He has established a career as just a guy. On the other hand, Eli Isom is someone who Ring Of Honor sees something in. They are giving him a chance to impress and prove that they can still produce talent of their own.

So, why didn’t he win this match? He wasn’t wrestling Jay Lethal or Jeff Cobb. Guys against whom a battling performance is enough to elevate you. It was Kenny King, someone for whom a loss to a rookie will do no damage.

The match was decent, it was worked similarly to a Young Lion opener with Isom fighting from underneath and showing fire. He’s green and couldn’t get King up properly for a Powerbomb at one point, but there’s potential. With ROH desperate for new talent, they should be capitalising on that.

Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars

Jeff Cobb defeated Hangman Page to retain the ROH Television Title

The rise of Hangman Page is one of 2018’s great stories. A year ago I would have described him the same way I did Kenny King. Now? I’ve not so much leapt on that wagon as clambered to the front in a desperate attempt to snuggle up with him.

It’s matches like this which have changed my perspective. Cobb and Page hit the ring at full speed and never stopped. Within seconds of the bell, Cobb had plucked Page out the air off his Shooting Star Press from the apron and tossed him over his head. We had a hoss battle from two men who can move like cruiserweights.

Which is at times a problematic style. It is difficult to work that pace and keep up the intensity as your strength is bumped to second place. That was never the case here, though. Cobb and Page were beating the hell out of each other while Big Jeff was flashing the horns to the crowd while holding Hangman up for a Stalling Superplex. This was impressive in both speed and strength.

It was also the perfect way for Hangman to go out. Both of these wrestlers are talented, but Page’s Elite connections gave him star power. By the end of this, some of that star power had rubbed off on Cobb. I pondered at the start of this review whether ROH could make new main event wrestlers. Well, when it comes to Jeff Cobb, they’re heading in the right direction.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Kelly Klein defeated Sumie Sakai, Madison Rayne and Karen Q to win the Women Of Honor Title

This was a thoroughly fine match. It had many of the faults you associate with multi-person clusterfucks as it felt disjointed and people spent a lot of time lying around, but I’d have been shocked if it didn’t.

The problem is that the Women Of Honor division is lacking in great wrestlers. To be honest, it lacks good ones too. Compare these four to the best around, and they’re not even close. You could see their brains ticking away as they tried to work through the action.

In the end, Sakai’s uninspiring reign came to an end as the belt went to Klein. However, if ROH wants the Women Of Honor division to stand equal to the rest of the company, it still needs a hell of a lot of work.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Jonathan Gresham

If you ever want to cast doubt on the infinite universe theory Zack Sabre Jr. and Johnathan Gresham are the men to do it. Because I don’t care what’s happened, I refuse to believe there’s a world in which this match is anything less than fantastic.

These two men stood in the centre of the ring, battling for supremacy and crafting their story. On one side, you had Zack Sabre Jr who alongside his technical excellence brings the arrogance of a year where he established himself as one of New Japan’s best. On the other, Jonathan Gresham. The man many believe to be in Zack’s league, but who doesn’t get the recognition. While Zack is an established star, Gresham is still proving himself.

What a battle it was too. While most wrestlers sit in submission holds, these two twist in them. Constantly looking for the best spot to cause the most pain. It’s never dull, as the slightest shifting of body weight can see the entire match flip around. Then, when they stand up, they start slapping seven shades of hell out of each other. Each blow sending sweat flying into the air.

In the end, Zack would get the win. Blocking a Clutch of Gresham’s he slipped into that always reliable European number and took the win. However, unlike Kenny King, going the distance with Zack does make a difference. Gresham is one step closer to being recognised for what he is. One of the best.

Verdict: Four And A Half Stars

Matt Taven defeated Dalton Castle to retain Taven’s World Title

Dalton Castle makes me happy. If you’re feeling sad today, please go and watch his entrance. Submerge yourself in how wonderfully over the top it all is and feel a bit better. Sadly, despite returning from injury, all reports suggest that the shape of his body is not quite as fabulous. Poor Dalton’s beaten the hell up.

Meanwhile, Matt Taven has decided he’s World Champion. There’s a story to it, but I can’t be arsed writing it out. You can look it up yourself. He’s got a purple belt, though. Dalton liked it enough that he decided he wanted it making this a ‘World Championship’ fight.

Poor Matt Taven better like that belt, because he nearly fucking died in his attempt to retain it as The Kingdom’s horrible history with barricades continued. Overshooting a dive, he crashed rib first into one, and quite frankly he was lucky he went as far as he did. If he’d come down on his throat or face, this match would have ended a lot sooner than it did.

It took a while for this to get going, but when it did, it was good fun. Weirdly, the change came when The Boys and The Kingdom started getting involved. That moment ignited the action, as Castle hit a Bang-a-Rang into the ring post before TK O’Ryan broke up a pin by throwing a Boy at it. That would prove pivotal as a second Bang-a-Rang was too close to the ropes for Castle to get the pin. When he went for number three, Taven countered and stole the win.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Marty Scurll defeated Christopher Daniels

Everything was set up for this to be a cracking match. The story of Christopher Daniel’s last shot is an old one, but a good one while both of these men are capable of greatness.

So, why did it do nothing for me? Oh wait, I know the answer to that question. It’s a Marty Scurll match with someone not named Will Ospreay.

Marty is a talented wrestler, he’s proven that in the past. However, some themes continually pop up in his matches that make them very hard for me to enjoy. The main one is that they consistently go far too long. This was eighteen minutes when it would have been better off going twelve.

And the fact I care about the time shows that the action wasn’t good enough. Marty wrestles like a man in a comfort zone, driving through the same shtick again and again. I’m bored of finger breaks and fake out Superkicks. We’ve seen a million times before.

And it wasn’t awful. Christopher Daniels did a great job playing the desperate veteran, clinging to his career. While Marty did improve as he ramped up the aggression, looking to not only keep the legend down but punish him too.

Sadly, though, those details were never enough to push this past decent. Christopher Daniels’ last match in ROH should have felt like the biggest thing in the world. This just felt like a thing.

Verdict: Three Stars

Flip Gordon defeated Bully Ray in an I Quit match

While Daniels soaked in the crowd’s cheers, Bully Ray snuck up behind him, hit a low blow and tossed him out of the ring before calling Flip Gordon out. I get using a leaving star to put over an angle, but it would have been nice not to take away from Daniels’ moment.

Anyway, Flip Gordon came out waving an American flag and wearing army gear to battle the foreign invader Bully Ray. What do you mean he’s from New York? Oh, so it was just America being America then? Fair enough.

I hate this feud, I hate the I Quit stipulation and I hate wrestling’s obsession with trying to put on ECW style matches at a time when ECW style matches are played out, so if you’re looking for a positive review, move on.

The ECW thing was my main barrier for getting into this match. I can kind of accept it from Bully Ray – he’s attempting to cling to something approaching relevancy – but Flip was also running a one-man ECW tribute show. He kept pulling out old RVD and Sabu tricks. Does anyone need to see that?

Also, can someone tell Cary Silkin that no-one wants him on TV? He not only had Christopher Daniels take a kendo stick shot for him, but he then got to play the hero and save Flip’s girlfriend (who I don’t think was ever given the honour of a name) from a Powerbomb through a table.

That wasn’t the only interruption. Colt Cabana and Silas Young got involved too while even the aforementioned other half hit a low blow on Bully Ray. Then there was the moment Flip Gordon flew off the top rope to crack Bully on the head with an American flag. It was an overbooked mess.

In the end, it looked like Flip was set to be Powerbombed through a flaming table when the lights went out only for the fucking Sandman turned up. I mean, what? You’ve built this feud for months so your plucky young babyface could win thanks to a 55-year-old Sandman? Fuck off.

Verdict: One And A Half Starts

Jay Lethal defeated Cody Rhodes to retain the ROH World Title

I feel like I’ve been bored by this match before? In fact, I feel like I’ve been bored by it semi-regularly over the last few years. Oh well, at least this should be the last time.

This was set-up as Lethal fighting for ROH while Cody wanted to take the belt and go on his way. Despite that, the fans loved him, even as he (to give him credit) worked his arse off to get them to boo him.

Unfortunately, the same effort wasn’t put into the action. This was Cody at his shit house best. All stalling tactics and slow, unexciting beatdowns. Throw in Brandi getting involved at every opportunity and Hangman ringing the bell for an attempted screwjob – a moment that produced confusion rather than the heat they were going for – and this one lost me pretty quickly.

The problem is that as good as Lethal is, he’s prone to a dull showing too. He’s someone who seems to move to the level of his dance partner, working the match they want to work. This one saw him go after the leg of Cody, working like this was 1982 and Dusty was backstage cheering them on. Back then it might have blown the house down, in 2018 it slowly rocked me to sleep.

To be fair to the talent, the finish they had was a cool idea. With Todd taking a bump, Lethal drove the title into Cody’s knee, giving him a taste of his own medicine to set-up for a Figure Four. Unfortunately, rather than popping, the ROH crowd booed Lethal, somewhat ruining the story. Oh well, they tried.

After all that, it might surprise you all to know that I’m about to slap three stars on this. Truthfully, it’s because this isn’t a bad match. It’s just not for me. If you’re into that old-school heel style that Cody is better at anyone on the indies at, then you’re going to love it. I can appreciate that even if it doesn’t work for moi.

Verdict: Three Stars

The scum defeated The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and So Cal Uncensored (Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) in a Ladder Wars Match for the ROH Tag Team Titles

I want to make it clear that The Briscoes are homophobic scum. In other circumstances, I would ignore their match. However, it’s The Bucks’ last ROH match, and I want to talk about that. I’m going to basically pretend they weren’t there apart from in places where that’s impossible.

The Ladder Wars stip brings with it a hefty history in ROH. It’s tended to lead to their craziest matches, with moments like Steen vs Generico embedded into the company’s history. Therefore, it should be no surprise that this was wild. An unhinged spotfest with bodies and weapons spending as much time in the air as they did on the ground.

And on their way out, we have to once again pay praise to The Young Bucks. No-one does this shit better than them. At a time when they’re proving they can do old-fashioned tag wrassling in New Japan, they haven’t forgotten how to go balls to the wall mental. It all culminated in Nick’s final bump which was terrifying. How that boy ain’t dead, I don’t know.

In saying that, Kazarian also deserves a shitload of credit. He was the first to be busted open and took one hell of a beating. Although I would be remiss to not point out that there were multiple chair shots to the head throughout this. I’m generally of the opinion that wrestlers are grown men who can do what they want, but it’s dumb, dangerous and not needed. Companies should be banning wrestlers from doing that shit.

Despite the madness, I think this goes down into the lower section of Ladder Wars matches. It was great, but you became numb to the chaos, and once you got past that, there wasn’t much depth to anything that was going on. While the commentary team did a decent job of trying to cover the number of times that teams could have gone for the belts and didn’t, it was hard to get past the feeling that it was because the wrestlers wanted to do more cool shit.

Still, there is no way you ain’t going to be entertained by this shit. Unless you’re a Jim Cornette type, in which case fuck off.

Verdict: Four Stars

Overall Show

A bit of an up and down showing from ROH, but on the whole, I’ve got to give this a thumbs up. The only thing that actively offended me was the Flip vs Bully nonsense, which I’m happy to accept just isn’t for me. This show was always going to be decent, though. The question is where ROH go next now The Elite is no more. It’s at least going to be interesting to find out.

Watch Final Battle:

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