**HOUR ONE (a.k.a, the pre-show):**
LUCHA RULES FOUR CORNER SURVIVAL MATCH FOR A TV TITLE SHOT LATER TONIGHT:
Tony Deppen vs. LSG vs. Josh Woods vs. Dak Draper - 6.75/10
This was a good action opener that showcased all four guys. Draper seemed to be given the most time to shine. Deppen pinned LSG with a roll-up.
QUINN MCKAY INTERVIEWS TONY DEPPEN - Deppen cut a very intense promo about how he wouldn’t lost tonight because that would be showing his newborn child that he is a failure. He was intense enough that he either needs to win the title, or he needs to snap in some way afterwards, be that violently or failing into despair or quitting out of shame, or maybe something else. Something needs to happen if he loses.
QUINN MCKAY INTERVIEWS SHANE TAYLOR & THE SOLDIERS OF SAVAGERY, WHO TURN DOWN THE OPPORTUNITY TO AWARDED THE ROH WORLD SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLES VIA FORFEIT - Good. Taylor cut a good promo outlining their reasons for turning down the titles (they want to win the belts the right way, and they don’t want this asterisk on the legacy they will carve out). So are these guys babyfaces now, too? Is everyone other than The Righteous a babyface?
Upon finding out that Rey Horus is in the building but now doesn’t have a match, Dalton Castle volunteers to wrestle him. Even better, we would later see Jay Briscoe arrive at the building, so that explains why Dalton didn’t offer to wrestle Jay Briscoe when he found out earlier that Jay’s match was also cancelled.
QUINN MCKAY INTERVIEWS BRIAN JOHNSON - Johnson was loud and annoying, but I guess I’m stuck rooting for him tonight if I want Danhausen gone from ROH.
QUINN MCKAY INFORMS JAY BRISCOE THAT HIS MATCH HAS BEEN CANCELLED - Fine. Jay immediately goes to Mark to try to get Mark to give him PCO’s spot, but Mark tells him too bad. Shane Taylor appears and challenges Jay to a match, so now everyone (other than the Soldiers of Savagery) has a match. HOORAY!
PURE RULES TAG TEAM MATCH:
Fred Yehi & Wheeler Yuta vs. The Foundation (Tracy Williams & Rhett Titus) - 6.75/10
The rules here are the usual new Pure Rules combined with the usual tag rules (five seconds in, you have to hold the tag rope and stick your hand over the top rope), but with the following two twists 1) All tags must be hand to hand. 2) If you come in to break up a pinfall or submission, you are penalized a rope-break. If you do it when you don’t have any rope-breaks left, you get disqualified.
This was an exciting match that made very good use of the rules. If I had to guess, half of the purpose of this match was to show the rules off. We got a nice show of respect after the match.
** MAIN SHOW **
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Foundation (Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham)(c) vs. Mark Briscoe & PCO - 6.75/10
This was solid, but kind of weird at points because neither team felt like babyfaces. Gresham and especially Lethal were complaining that Briscoe and PCO weren’t treating this like Pure Rules match, even though it wasn’t, while Briscoe and PCO were the ones who threw a chair into the ring to distract the referee so they could have more time to beat the smaller wrestlers up on the outside, which is definitely a heel move.
What Gresham and Lethal were doing does advance the idea that they want to be defending their titles in Pure Rules matches, but it didn’t make them likable here. They seemed to be setting up something of a story that Lethal and Gresham wanted make this a wrestling match while Briscoe and PCO wanted to make it a fight, but having PCO outwrestle Lethal and having Lethal and Gresham hit a Doomsday Device followed by a Shooting Star Press from Gresham both work against that.
The finish saw Gresham roll PCO up for the win after PCO accidentally speared Mark Briscoe off the apron when he was aiming for Gresham. Hopefully this is the beginning of PCO putting people over on his way out.
DALTON CASTLE vs. REY HORUS - 6.75/10
A good wrestling match with a rather unexpected result. I’d love to see a rematch that gets more time.
RELAXED RULES MATCH:
The OG Kingdom (Matt Taven & Michael Bennett) vs. The Righteous (Vincent & Bateman) (w/Vita VonStarr) - 7/10
If a match is going to be Relaxed Rules, just let us know from the start. That’s all I ask. Don’t change the rules in the middle. Other than that, this was a great match. Hey did an excellent job of keeping the grudge match feel throughout, and Bennett getting the pin on Bateman was definitely the right finish. This was the first ROH match I’ve seen since they returned where I thought the lack of crowd was a factor. That Aurora Borealis to the floor was one of those spots that you know would have gotten a huge pop and probably a holy sh*t chant, and so when there was no noise at all afterwards, it almost made the move feel smaller than it was because the expected chant didn’t arise.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Mostly good. Vita hit the babyfaces in the nuts, then Vinny zip-tied Taven to the ropes. Vita put Taven in a hanging version of Carmella’s Code of the Silence and made him watch while Vincent smashed Bennett’s ankle with a steel chair and a block of wood, like he did to Taven at last year’s Final Battle. The execution here was very good, I do like that Taven is once again on his own, having to overcome overwhelming odds, but on the other hand, this makes the feud feel rather repetitive.
IF DANAUSEN WINS, HE GETS AN ROH CONTRACT:
Danhausen vs. Brian Johnson- DUD!
I tried REALLY hard not to let my personal dislike of both of these guys (and of Danhausen in particular, since I hate him more and because he wound up winning a contract) factor into my rating here, and I honestly think I’ve done that. They did succeed at telling the story they tried to tell. The problem is that that story wasn’t enjoyable at all, even if I didn’t hate both of them. Listening to the heel rant and scream on the microphone for minutes on end is rarely ever going to get the right kind of heat, and when the ranting and screaming is a delusional clown like Johnson trying to tell us all how great he is, it’s even more grating than usual.
This was made even worse for me by the fact that I actually agreed with Johnson’s view on Danhausen, which is that he’s goofball clown and he and his popularity are representative of much of what is wrong with the wrestling business and with wrestling fans right now.
Then there was the story itself, which was mostly Johnson legitimately besting Clownhausen without cheating, until the finish, which saw a goofy ref bump which allowed Dorkhausen to win via Eddie Guerrero. This is supposed to be Ring of Honor, and for the past few months, this promotion has actually felt more like ROH than it has any time in the past five years. We’re all about fair play and competition and following the rules… and here comes this obnoxious loser who gets his ass kicked by the single most undercard guy in the whole company, and has to cheat in order to win his way onto the roster… and I’m supposed to be happy about this? F*ck off!
And even without all of that, this STILL wouldn’t have been a good idea. ROH as ONE HOUR of TV a week right now, and one big show periodically. That’s it. In that time, they need to feature: The Briscoes, Jay Lethal, Jonathan Gresham, Rush, Dragon Lee, Matt Taven, Shane Taylor, Dalton Castle, Bandido, The Righteous, Mike Bennett Brody King, PCO, Kenny King, Tracy Williams, Silas Young, Josh Woods, Dak Draper, P.J. Black, Rey Horus, Flamita, the Bouncers, Joe Hendry, Mark Haskins, Rhett Titus, Soldiers of Savagery, Shinobi Shadow Squad… and that’s ignoring the entire women’s division and Brian Johnson, assuming EC III is only around for this one program, assuming that neither Marty Scurll nor Jeff Cobb come back, and that that the attention we’ve recently seen given to the likes of Tony Deppen and LSG is just a temporary thing (which, given Deppen’s victory tonight, I don’t think it is, at least in his case). That’s too many people already. Where the f*ck are you going to find time to feature Out-hausen?
ROH WORLD TV TITLE MATCH:
Dragon Lee(c) vs. Tony Deppen - 7.25/10
Amy Rose was on commentary for this match. At least half of the time she was speaking in Spanish here on this English broadcast, even though she knew neither of her broadcast partners were fluent. She doesn’t fit in with La Faccion Ingobernable at all, has no charisma, and she’s not a good wrestler. I’m not even sure why she’s being used at all.
They did a spot early on where Dragon Lee felt his mask was loose and he asked the referee to tie it for him, but this involved turning his back to Deppen, so Deppen tried to roll him up. This made Deppen feel like a heel, even though Dragon Lee is clearly the heel, having flipped Deppn off for no reason before the match. A few moments later, when Dragon Lee recovered, got the advantage, and was able to send Deppen to the floor, you would think he would go to the referee and his mask fixed, but instead he did a dive, and at no point during the rest of the match did he ever stop to fix whatever the problem supposedly was with his mask, which made the other spot feel completely fake because his mask is suddenly fine now that they’re not trying to do a spot based around it not being fine.
Heel Dragon Lee is weird. I don’t like it. I was hoping for a better showing from Deppen, as he didn’t seem that much better than your random serviceable indy worker here. Also, he kept doing these crazy eyes which made him hard to root for because he looked like a heel.
JAY BRISCOE vs. SHANE TAYLOR (w/the Soldiers of Savagery) - 7.25/10
Mark Briscoe came out midway through the match to support his brother. Taylor won a great slugfest. Any time you get a win over the much-protected Jay Briscoe, it’s a good sign that the office has a lot of confidence in you. Jay losing here also feels like the right call in terms of what his story with EC III needs (that story is a bunch of gobbledygook, but it seems to me that Jay losing gives EC III more of a way into Jay’s head than Jay winning). Jay showed Taylor respect after the match. Taylor cut a promo into the camera declaring himself the #1 contender to the ROH World Title.
ROH PURE TITLE MATCH:
Jonathan Gresham(c) vs. Flip Gordon - 7.75/10
Flip worked Gresham’s taped-up knee while Gresham worked over Flip’s previously-injured elbow. They told their story well, other than the knockout finish, which felt a little out of nowhere.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Rush(c) vs. Brody King - 5.5/10
Todd Sinclair was transformed into an impotent New Japan referee here, which you absolutely can’t do if you’re going to tell us how strictly the rules are being enforced in so many other places. Like I said above, I’m fine with something being a Relaxed Rules match, but 1) you need to tell me beforehand so it doesn’t feel like Ian and Caprice are pulling the excuse out of their asses to cover for the wrestlers blatantly ignoring the rules, and 2) there needs to be an actual grudge, or else the stipulation doesn’t mean anything and the promotion feels like it’s half way to anarchy unless it’s a Pure Rules match.
Yes, I realize that not following rules is Rush’s gimmick and that letting Rush get away with this stuff sets up a contrast between the Pure Rules matches and everything else, setting up for a feud between FLI and the Foundation, but that doesn’t mean this is being done well in this case. First of all, it was the theoretical babyface, Brody King, who first introduced weapons and did the first questionable thing. Secondly, there is still no reason to make your referee look totally impotent in the face of the heel cheating. You’ve got Amy Rose in the building! Why not have her be at ringside to distract Sinclair while Rush cheats. It’s still cheating, whether the referee sees it or not, but this way it makes it look like Rush is getting away with it because his faction is devious as opposed to getting away with it because Sinclair will ignore the rules because actually doing his job and enforcing them would disappoint the fans (you know… because the fans will be disappointed if villain gets himself DQed to avoid having to defend his title against their hero, but won’t be disappointed if the villain is able to defeat the hero because he broke all of the rules while the referee stood by and did nothing?). As I’ve said many times before, if a count-out or disqualification would be so disappointing to the fans, why are they in the rules in the first place?
Anyway, they did stuff. The section on the outside with Rush choking Brody King was WAY too long. It felt like I was watching a Suzuki-Gun undercard tag. Rush got Brody back in the ring and they did some more stuff. Brody started to make a comeback but Dragon Lee showed up to distract Sinclair, allowing Bestia del Ring to hit Brody in the head with a chair to set up the Bull’s Horns for the win (because it wasn’t a DQ all of those other times Rush used a foreign object, but it would have been a DQ this time)? So yeah. The main event of Final Battle with an interference finish after a chairshot from an old guy. I get that he’s their father and that LFI need a fourth person to feud with the Foundation, but it absolutely cannot be Bestia del Ring. He’s way too old.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. The Muñoz family celebrated together. You’d think Amy Rose would also have come out because she’s part of their faction, but apparently not. Instead, we got the Foundation coming out onto the ramp to look on disapprovingly. There is obviously a direction here and it has the potential to be good, but I’m worried that, based on the track record of the guy handling it, it’s going to make the product frustrating to watch for quite a while until it gets resolved.
This was an okay show from ROH. With the exception of the Dorkhausen match and the main event, everything was solid to great, but nothing really stood out, either, and standout matches were not only the hallmark of ROH’s glory days, but are absolutely necessary for a promotion to get buzz in this day and age. As far as Final Battle’s go, this one is definitely towards the bottom of the barrel. The majority of 2017’s show was a little below this one on average, but that show didn’t have anything close to a DUD, and the main event of that show, while disappointing, was still much better than this one. I am tempted to cut this show some slack because of the pandemic and the resulting card changes, but Mexi-Blood vs. Shane Taylor promotions and Jay Briscoe vs. EC III probably wouldn’t have been as good Jay Briscoe vs. Shane Taylor and Rey Horus vs. Dalton Castle matches we wound up getting instead.<