ROH Final Battle 2018

ROH Final Battle 2018

By Big Red Machine
From December 14, 2018

ROH Final Battle 2018

KENNY KING vs. ELI ISOM - 6.75/10

We started off with Kenny King cutting a promo basically telling the truth by saying that "Eli Isom is a commercial for the ROH Dojo" and that the current form of the Dojo "sucks." Kenny's promo was excellent, and he used the pretext of cutting it to get neat Isom with the microphone so he could hit Isom in the head with it.

They announcers noted that this match actually stems from the events of Global Wars Tour 2018: Buffalo when Eli Isom came out to protect Cheeseburger from a Kenny King beat-down. Great! They also pushed how big of a deal it was that Isom was getting an opportunity to wrestle at Final Battle just one year into his wrestling career.

These guys proceeded to have a solid nine-minute match in which they did a great job of telling the story of Kenny being the arrogant veteran doing a little too much toying with the young up-and-comer. Throw in some great false finishes and you've got yourself a great little opener.

Jeff Cobb(c) vs. Adam Page - 8/10

This was, more than anything else, a "championship match." Everything they did just felt like it had an extra special bit of energy to it. The match had a nice little story of one-upmanship, some great false finishes, and an extremely hot crowd. This was the sort of awesome match that the TV Title hasn't in a darn long time.

Sumie Sakai(c) vs. Kelly Klein vs. Karen Q vs. Madison Rayne - 6.75/10

Mandy Leon joined Ian Riccaboni and Colt Cabana on commentary, and the first thing she said- and right after Ian said it, no less- was that we were "making history" with this match because it was "the first Women of Honor Championship match at Final Battle." Can we not be WWE, please? And it's not this, either (although their insistence on sticking a woman on commentary for the women's match even if said woman is not actually good on commentary doesn't help), as Ian's newfound need to tell us how many times each wrestler has previously wrestled at Final Battle or how many times each belt has been defended at Final Battle (which, by the way, I'm almost certain he got wrong for the TV Title), just smacks of Michael Cole's inane prattle during all of WWE's Big Four or gimmick-match PPVs.

And the first thing Mandy does once the bell rings is to point out that this match is taking place one year after the title was announced. Not only is this a point Ian had already made, but more importantly: WHO CARES?! Stop wasting your breath trying to convince me that this is an important match because of some coincidence of the calendar and start showing me that this match is important by paying attention to the match itself and the competitors competing in it. I don't care about the approximate one-year anniversary of an announcement; I care about who is suplexing who and which of these women will leave the building as the Women of Honor World Champion.

And while we're on the subject of the commentary, someone needs to tell Ian not to brag about "trending number four in the United States." If you're not trending worldwide you shouldn't be mentioning it at all because anything else makes you sound small-time next to WWE. Actually, you shouldn't be mentioning it at all, period, because there is no reason anyone should give a sh*t about Twitter, and the only people who will hear you are people who have already bought the PPV, so they don't need you to convince them how cool you are; they're already customers.

Geez. Even the booker's girlfriend is going on commentary and subtly burying the booking (in this case the criminal ruination of Kelly Klein, who has gone from undefeated bully monster to being just another woman on the roster).

And speaking of the booking, I think that was a bit odd here. There was really no reason for this to be an elimination match other than to have more falls, which actually just hurts the division and doesn't really help the match. The match itself was very good, though a little clunky at times, and featured people breaking up pinfalls and submissions in an elimination match, which is a pet peeve of mine. The false finish in the final two segment with Kelly and Sumie were good enough that I almost had a conniption when it looked like Sumie was about to retain, and Kelly's facials in particular were excellent. Most of all, I'm just glad that Sumie's reign of "I can't believe it's not mediocre" is over, and that the title is currently being held by the woman who more than any other embodies and is identified with the current incarnation of the Women of Honor Division, and that its "Gatekeeper," Kelly Klein.

Kelly pulled Sumie in for a hug after the match, and between than babyface action and the way the announcers framed Kelly's win as the story of a woman who had fallen and was now trying to climb the mountain once again, this whole thing almost felt like a babyface turn for Kelly, which is very much not what this division needs right now, unless they've got some new mega-heel ready to debut, because everyone of consequence in the division at this point has now lost a championship match in their most recent match (the three losers in tonight's match, plus the still-injured Tenille Dashwood back at Death Before Dishonor XVI in September) so Kelly really has no one that even resembles a ready challenger (there is Sumie's rematch, but they should get that out of the way quickly and certainly ont waste a PPV spot on it).


Zack got into an ROH ring for the first time... and immediately walked over and slapped his opponent in the face. HEEL. After spending so much time telling us how highly-anticipated this match-up is and how awesome it is to finally see Zack Sabre Jr. in an ROH ring... it's not even two whole minutes before some idiot decided to cut away from Sabre and Gresham exchanging holds to show us fans leaning over the guardrail to cheer. If were in charge of this company, that person would have been fired before they even had time to give the order to switch back to the shot of the ring. It's PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. If you are cutting away from the action in the ring to show us anything that is not more action outside of the ring, or a lynchpin moment of a storyline, you're doing something heinously wrong, and so obviously wrong that you have absolutely no excuse not to know that it's wrong. When the quarterback throws a pass, does CBS cut away from the play to show you people in the stands? NO! So you shouldn't be doing it here, either.

That one obnoxious hiccup aside, this match was just under twelve minutes of intense technical wrestling nirvana. Hold and counter-holds, wonderful quickness, and emotion conveyed not just with strikes and facial expressions but with seemingly every movement of the body being a window through which we could see the competitors' mental states.

Matt Taven(c) (w/T.K. O'Ryan) vs. Dalton Castle (w/the Boys) - 7.25/10

Hey, Ian! How about if you stop looking at whatever device you're looking at to see to who is watching on Twitter and start watching the wrestling match instead?

The fact that O'Ryan is at ringside with Taven but Marseglia isn't obviously means that he's hiding under the ring so he can do his dumb spot. You're not even surprising anyone anymore and the spot is f*cking idiotic (is this guy really hiding under the ring the whole show just in case Taven's opponent or his seconds happen to step within reach?), so why are you doing it?

These two had a great brawl (though they were on the outside for WAY too long at one point). Taven took a really scary bump that reminded me of the spot where O'Ryan shattered his shin bones last year except instead of his shins landing hard on the barricade, it was his chest. Aside from the Marseglia stuff I thought the overbooking was pretty clever and helped the match a bit, and that Bangarang into the post was an AWESOME spot that I hope to see Dalton win many future Falls Count Anywhere or Last Man Standing matches with. Taven gets the win, but Dalton's being fall being broken up by O'Ryan throwing the Boy into the referee keeps the feud alive... if Dalton wants it to, which considering Dalton's stance on the legitimacy of Taven's "Real" ROH World Title, he might not even care to, which will only make Taven more angry and perhaps go to even greater lengths to get his claims to being the ROH World Champion accepted as legitimate.

Marty Scurll vs. Christopher Daniels - 8.5/10

This might very well be the final ROH match for Christopher Daniels- one of ROH's "founding fathers"- and the fans threw about ten times more streamers for Daniels' opponent in this babyface vs. babyface match. There were about twenty people who threw streamers for Daniels. If you were at that show and are not one of those twenty people, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.

The announcers brought up The Prophecy and said they thought it was poetic that Daniels' dishonorable conduct has finally caught up with him and his behavior in 2017 is standing in the way of him getting a contract for 2019... and while that might be true, the fact that for at least four or five months the idea seems to have been that Daniels has changed his ways and is a model citizen now undermines things by making ROH management look bad for not being accepting of the sinner after he has changed his ways. The "Fallen Angel" has reverted to conducting himself in pure and virtuous ways, but those sitting in judgment are ignoring his repentance even while they seemingly purposely look past the same sins (and worse) when others commit them.
Unfortunately, Daniels did lose this match, and the story of it was very much the old cowboy's last ride. Marty kicked out of all of Daniels' stuff, and Daniels tried and tried to keep going but eventually just didn't have enough left in the tank and had to give it up. The emotion-level was high, the storytelling was great, and Daniels' selling was top notch. The match was awesome, but the result feels, in a lot of ways, devastating.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Annoying. Daniels is getting the big "THANK YOU!" treatment from the fans... and someone (who wears a lizard mask) decided that instead of letting us have this moment, we had to have Bully Ray come and attack Daniels from behind for some completely unnecessary last-minute heat before the...

Flip Gordon vs. Bully Ray - DUD!

For even more heat, Bully had to try to cut a promo, even though this is a PPV. Flip Gordon came out dressed in army fatigues and a flak jacket and carrying an American flag to give us a completely pointless reminder that he was in the army before his big blow-off match with Bully. It's been nine months of build for this match! Nothing extra you do here tonight will get any more heat for it, especially something as obnoxiously exploitative as having Flip wave an American flag or having Bully ruin Daniels' moment.

Also, did no one think that having him show up in an item of clothing that is at this point most associated with Roman Reigns while coming out of the crowd like Roman Reigns might backfire? Also, what the f*ck was Flip doing in the crowd, dressed like this, and carrying a flag? Shouldn't he have been in the locker room?

Oh my G-d why are Bully Ray and Flip Gordon getting streamers AFTER THEIR MATCH HAS ALREADY STARTED?! Does the current crop of fans even understand the history of the streamers? You don't throw the streamers just to throw things!

We're about a minute and a half in, and I can already tell that Ian and Colt's commentary is going to be unbearable. They apparently follow the Matt Striker school of thought where just because someone is dressed like a soldier you think you have to try to force some sort of reference to war or the military into every single f*cking sentence. It is my personal belief that every single professional wrestling announcer should always be asking themselves "how would Matt Striker call this situation?" Then, once you have identified how Striker would call it, you can easily determine the best way to make your call by simply doing the exact opposite of that.

There was some good brawling and weapon shots, but we also got things in here like Bully Ray wasting time by going over and getting cheap heat for yelling at Cary Silkin and Bobby Cruise. Both Bobby Cruise and Todd Sinclair got shoved during this. Did it get boos? Yes. Did it allow Bully to occupy himself with something else while Flip Gordon recovered from his big bump? Yes. Did it help the match? No. Because the result of this is Flip not overcoming Bully through force of will, toughness, and quickness, but rather only having the chance to recover and eventually overcome Bully because Bully apparently has an ultra-douchy version of ADD and so he went over to yell at some other people instead of following up on Flip. Our hero Flip was completely out of the action for several minutes while this whole thing played out.

Bully eventually got a Singapore Cane and threatened Cary Silkin with it, only for Daniels to run in and make the save. Daniels "took a bullet" for Cary, as Ian Riccaboni put it in an excellent call, which I'm sure will be used to justify keeping him around if he isn't going to All Elite Wrestling. But the problem with Daniels getting involved is that just this past week on TV we saw Bully get involved in an I Quit Match between Flip Gordon and Silas Young, resulting in that match being "thrown out," so why isn't this one being thrown out due to Daniels trying to attack Bully?

Flip eventually made his big return to our screen saving Cary by diving onto Bully. Moments later, he ate a huge back body drop on the floor and Bully was back in control. Flip refused to quit, so Bully Ray PULLED A RANDOM FAN OUT OF THE STANDS AND THREATENED TO POWERBOMB HER THROUGH A TABLE. Flip begged Bully not to do it and Bully screamed for Flip to get on his knees, and meanwhile this poor innocent fan is in danger and NO ONE IS COMING OUT TO HELP HER. Not security, not other babyfaces, not Bobby Cruise who just a few minutes ago stood up to defend Cary Silkin. No one.

Flip is just begging and begging but doesn't actually quit, but Bully doesn't actually try to lift the woman up to start giving her a powerbomb, either, so they're both dumb. Eventually Cary Silkin hits Bully Ray with the Singapore Cane. Bully no-sells it, but it does distract him and get him to let go of the poor lady. Thank G-d Cary Silkin was here to save the day because all of our other heroes apparently don't give a sh*t if an innocent bystander gets hurt. Bully cornered Cary, but now the fan got to repay the favor to Cary by saving him from Bully, this time via a low blow.

Flip rolls Bully into the ring, then makes out with the woman. I guess that's Flip's significant other? It would have been nice if they had told us that. Or even better, if they hadn't done any of this dumb sh*t and just let this match be Bully Ray vs. Flip Gordon, not Bully Ray vs. Flip Gordon, Cary Silkin, Christopher Daniels, Bobby Cruise, Todd Sinclair, and the lady from the front row.

Flip gets that flag he was carrying to the ring, which apparently has a Singapore Cane as the pole, and comes off the top rope to hit Bully Ray in the head with it. Flip then stands there with the flag... allowing the flag to drag on the mat. Don't they teach flag etiquette in the Army National Guard? Surely one would think they would at least drill into you that exploiting the American Flag for a cheap pop in a professional wrestling match is a bad idea. Maybe Flip was sick on that day of training.

He then uses the flag to choke Bully Ray with until Silas Young runs in to make the save. Silas is, by my count, the fourth non-participant so far to interfere in this match (I'll give Bobby Cruise a pass because I don't think he ever initiated any sort of physical contact with Bully). ON this week's TV just one person running in during this same type of match resulted in the match being thrown out, but apparently not anymore.

Silas pulls out some lighter fluid and begins to pour it on a table. That's a good choice, as trying to burn the American flag probably wouldn't have bothered Flip one bit, seeing as how he was content to use it in a professional wrestling match knowing that it would spent a good chunk of time just lying crumpled on the mat. And no, I won't let this go, because you don't get to pretend to be patriotic by waving and cheering and displaying the American flag if you're not going to treat it with the prescribed respect. That's not patriotism; that's exploitation.

Cheeseburger ran in to help Flip but got laid out by Silas Young. Colt Cabana then ran down to the ring and ran wild on the heels with a chair until Silas managed to hit him with a low blow. Silas went to light the table on fire but the lights went out... and not even in a well-timed "oh no! Did the power go out?!" way, but rather in a way that made it seem like the people controlling the lights did it on purpose to f*ck with the heels. When they came back on, a fat, old, grey-haired Sandman cosplayer was in the ring with a Singapore Cane. Riccaboni then f*cked the lyrics to "Enter Sandman" by saying "enter light, exit night, we're off to Never-Never Land." I hope Sandman heard that and decides to leave the heels alone and cane Ian instead.

The old, fat, washed-up man who hasn't been relevant in almost two decades took out Silas Young. He and Bully then had a stand-of, both armed with Singapore Canes... and then this idiotic pulls a beer out of his pockets, opens it, leans back, and begins to drink, putting himself in a ridiculously vulnerable position due to an apparently crippling addiction to alcohol. Bully, of course, just stood there during all of this. When Sandman finally spit some beer at him, he charged at Sandman and missed, running into the turnbuckle. Bully then did some spots with Flip while Sandman stood in the corner and just watched. If you're just going to stand there when at least make yourself useful and pick the American flag up off the ground.

Sandman gave Flip his Singapore Cane and Flip picked up the other and started dual-wielding them, which is actually probably a lot less effective than swinging one with both hands, but it still did the job nonetheless, as Bully quit, finally bringing this stupid clusterf*ck to an end. Flip and Sandman then drank beer together, because someone apparently thinks that drinking in a beer with The Sandman on a PPV will get you some sort of rub in 2018. Hardcore Hak and Mr. Army Guy celebrate... and meanwhile, the American flag is just lying there on the floor. Todd Sinclair eventually noticed this and picked it up, but kept it all crumbled up instead of actually holding it the way you're supposed to. He eventually gave it to Flip who started waving it. Knock that sh*t off, Flip. Former military or not, you don't deserve to hold that after everything you put it through tonight.

I'm sure that whoever put this match together thought they were being all artistic and drawing all of the elements of this feud back in for a big ending, but a Jimmy Jacobs feud this was not. If not for this week's TV when they established that interference in an I Quit Match will result in the match being thrown out, I could have stomached short run-ins by Silas on Bully's side and either Cabana or Cheeseburger on Flip's, and the Daniels spot at least had a decent idea behind it, but everything else here was just a f*cking mess. Just because someone played a small part in this feud (Sandman) or was an occasional victim of Bully's bullying (Bobby Cruise) does not mean they need to be involved in the blow-off, and certainly not when the majority of the match is Bully Ray facing off against people who aren't his billed opponent. And that's not even getting into Cary Silkin and Flip's lady-friend, because those two are really just extreme version of what basically everything in this match was, which was cheap. There was no story here; just a series of spots designed to get cheap pops or cheap heat. Throw in the exploitation and disrespect of the American flag- and by a former national guardsman who really ought to know better, no less- and I can't give this anything other than a DUD!

Jay Lethal(c) vs. Cody Rhodes (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 4/10

Caprice Coleman replaced Colt Cabana on commentary, so that should make things better. The crowd was mostly pro-Cody during the entrances, so they took turns cutting quick promos to turn the crowd on Cody and get them behind Lethal, and contrary to my expectations, it actually worked for once. Well... for a while, anyway.
They did a quick sequence or two and Cody immediately went down, selling his injured knee big... and, thankfully, Lethal didn't fall for it. Even the fans didn't fall for it. The announcers did, of course, but I can almost forgive them. ROH Senior Referee Todd Sinclair eventually did give in a fall for it, though, and when he was backing Lethal up, Cody jumped up and got his cheap-shot in on Lethal. How much do you want to bet we get a similar spot in Cody's match against Juice Robinson at the Tokyo Dome?

After this, instead of following up, we got the signature Cody Rhodes stalling that has ruined so many big matches in Ring of Honor during his tenure. Some stuff happened, then Cody got some heat on Lethal but Lethal made a comeback and began to utterly destroy Cody's knee. In between Lethal obliterating Cody's knee were various spots of overbooking, one of which bordered on ridiculous as it required Lethal to- for really no reason- tease and then try to give Cody Shattered Dreams but have Sinclair get in the way, then have Sinclair get turned around and Brandi come in and try to hit Lethal with her Bionic Shoulder a second time but Lethal avoid it this time, resulting in Cody eating the spear, and then Sinclair turning around and somehow thinking that Cody selling his stomach meant that Lethal kicked him in the nads and go to DQ Lethal but Lethal stop him, even though Lethal was happily willing to get DQed by kicking Cody in the nuts at the beginning of the spot. Lethal apparently not only changed his mind but also had a convincing argument of some sort because Sinclair changed his mind and didn't call of the DQ.
So the match continued, with Sinclair making zero effort to get Brandi out of the ring. This is despite her previously having distracted him on a pinfall and now being in the ring despite not being a legal competitor. This had to happen so that she could interfere in the match right in front of Sinclair by giving Lethal the Bionic Shoulder while Lethal tried to hit Cody with a Lethal Injection, which also resulted in Brandi getting hurt, because it's a Cody match on a big stage, so of course Brandi has to take a bump. Because G-d forbid we don't do the same thing every f*cking match.

Because Cody is a heel now, he doesn't care about Brandi's health but the babyface does, and Cody takes advantage when the babyface tries to check on Brandi. This took the form of a Cross Rhdoes for a nearfall. Despite all of this bullsh*t and Cody having told them all that he doesn't give a sh*t about them and them hating him for it less than fifteen minutes ago, the crowd is now back to fifty-fifty.

Cody locks in the Figure Four... and the bell starts to ring. Apparently Adam Page did it. He then hopped out of the crowd, grabbed the ROH World Title from the timekeeper's table, and tried to hand it to Cody. Who did they think they would fool with this trick? Lethal knows he didn't submit and Sinclair knows that he didn't call for the bell, so what the f*ck was the purpose of this? To temporarily fool the fans and the announcers? In kayfabe, this serves no purpose, and outside of kayfabe, it's only going to make the match worse and serve to get fans angry because they think you're trying to do some Vince Russo bullsh*t.

The ONLY possible explanation in kayfabe is one that Caprice Coleman quickly hit upon, which is that this could all be intended to serve as some kind of distraction, but 1) wouldn't it make more sense to just have Cody keep the hold on instead of part of your plan requiring him to give up a perfectly well-applied submission hold? And 2) no one ever came out to capitalize off of this supposed "distraction." This company is finding new ways to ruin world title matches.

They did some more stuff, hitting or countering some big moves. Cody, who has worked so hard to be a heel all match, decided that it would be a good idea to do his legendary, deceased, beloved father's famous Bionic Elbow, then look up at the sky. Yeah. Because that's definitely not going to get you cheered. Cody eventually spit liquid in Lethal's eyes right in front of Sinclair, who did nothing. This lead to a Vertebreaker, which Lethal kicked out of. We then got a ref bump, followed by our hero Jay Lethal grabbing the ROH World Title belt and using it as a weapon. Not very heroic behavior.

We then got the sequence of superkick, superkick, Lethal Injection, but instead of going for the cover, Lethal pulled Cody up to do it again, only to have the Lethal injection countered. Fortunately for Lethal, he was able to reverse this reversal into a Figure Four Leg-Lock, and Cody tapped. There were some good parts in here, but on the whole, this was the overbooked, industrialized off-brand drama-substitute bullsh*t that passes for good wrestling in Cody's mind ruining an ROH World Title match one more time on his way out of the company. Good riddance, Space Clown. Now get out, and stay the f*ck out.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Jay Lethal shakes the Space Clown's hand because Jay Lethal is a classy guy. Marty Scurll comes out to have a stare-down with Lethal, so that will probably be Lethal's next big title defense. As the Space Clown heads up the ramp, he is passed by NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis, who has a female companion with him who is most certainly not his wife. Aldis and his lady friend stood on the ramp and she held the belt while Aldis clapped. Then they left. Does anyone really think the NWA World Heavyweight Title means anything anymore? MAYBE it'd be of some value to a promotion like AEW looking for something better than just making up their own belt out of thin air, but for ROH a feud between those two would be as ridiculous as WWF bringing Mike Rapada in to headline the Royal Rumble 2001 in "World Heavyweight Champion vs. World Heavyweight Champion match against Kurt Angle.

That pointless distraction out of the way, Scurll reached in and quickly snatched the ROH World Title away from the exhausted Lethal. He held the belt up and then, his point having been made, tossed the belt back to Lethal and left.

SoCal Uncensored(c) vs. The Young Bucks vs. The Briscoes - 9/10

Cabana was back on commentary for this match. The Bucks' gear is very... different from their usual. After over a year of supposedly not being able to 2 Sweet each other and heels taunting them over it to get heat and even their teammates getting upset that they can't 2 Sweet them back... Matt and Nick just 2 Sweeted each other, on PPV, in the USA, for WWE's biggest domestic competitor. That was stupid and pointless.

This match was almost twenty-three minutes of the expected spots, violence, carnage, blood, and heart. That's really all there is to say. Everyone involved worked their asses off and worked their hearts out. I've had a lot to say about the Young Bucks in ROH over the past few years, some of it very positive, and some of it very negative, but one thing that can't be denied about them is that every time you put them on a huge stage, they always deliver.

Final Thoughts
This was an awesome show from ROH. With all of the rumored departures, it was important for this show to leave a positive impression, and it sure did that. The big blemish on this show is that gaping hole near that top, and I am having trouble remembering another show with such a huge contrast between the quality of one important chunk of the show and the rest of the card. Fortunately, one of the people responsible for it is on his way out the door, and for all we know, Bubba will leave, too, so I'm not worried about such things happening again. I'm sure Delirious will come up with other ways to disappoint me and ruin shows, but while those ways might be frustrating and probably stupid, at least they won't be boring like when Cody ruins things. 2019 will be an extremely important year for ROH, and like with the comparable 2016, mostly-positive Final Battle 2018 had ended the year for me on a very up note, leaving me optimistic about the company's future.


1. Colt Cabana tried to convince us that "Sumie has been an underdog her whole championship run," even though Ian Riccaboni had told us earlier that Sumie has the best record in the whole company in 2018. These two statements are not compatible, and seeing as how Ian's both uses facts and passes the eyeball test (most of the Sumie defended the title against weren't even under contract to ROH and thus aren't regulars in the division), it's Colt who deserves to get called out for a Stupid Announcer Quote.

2. Ian Riccaboni tells us that Zack Sabre Jr "just won the New Japan Cup."
"Just?" That happened in MARCH. It's now DECEMBER. In the preceding match Ian himself pushed how long Sumie Sakai's Women of Honor World Title reign was, and by the time Sumie won the title, Zack had not only already won the New Japan Cup, but he had already received the IWGP Heavyweight Title shot he earned by winning it!

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