By Andrew Berg
Wrestler of the Week – Jay Briscoe
Ring of Honor’s Final Battle is the company’s version of Wrestlemania, so it should not come as a surprise that ROH headlines the best wrestling of the last week. With a tip of the cap to the great work done by Roderick Strong and Adam Cole before and during the event, Jay Briscoe wins the award. He has become the standard-bearer for ROH and its most identifiable star at the moment. Briscoe beat Cole in a Fight Without Honor at Final Battle to conclude their lengthy blood feud. The match involved plenty of weapons- a staple gun, thumb tacks, Briscoe’s ROH Title belt, and lots of tables and chairs-, but the weapons were used to help tell the story of their mutual hatred. Even if Cole is the most purely talented wrestler in ROH, Briscoe is unique, charismatic, and plenty skilled in his own right. He carries on the proud tradition of the likes of Bryan Danielson, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Nigel McGuinness, Tyler Black, and Kevin Steen. What might make Briscoe different from that group is that he might not leave ROH for the greener pastures of a bigger promotion. If the ROH Title keeps him with the company, it’s an even more deserving honor for him.
Match of the Week – Jay Briscoe def. Adam Cole
As mentioned above, Briscoe’s win over Cole to retain his ROH World Title was full of blood and gore, but featured enough narrative that it never verged on “garbage match” territory. My stomach churned when Cole used a staple gun to fasten a flyer to Briscoe’s head. On the other hand, I thought it was creative when Cole got busted open and Briscoe fought his way through the security and doctors who tried to patch up his cut. While a backdrop on a pile of thumbtacks is mostly a garbage spot, I appreciate that they took the time to build up to it, tease it, and sell the pain when Cole finally landed on them. For the biggest event if the year, it was almost inevitable that both wrestlers would kick out of the other’s finishing move. Briscoe finally ended it with a Jay Driller on the ROH Title belt, which was a nice way to tie a bow on the rivalry once and for all.
Quote of the Week – Matt Striker
“If you know your wrestling history, you know that there have been many flamboyant stars with effeminate tendencies- Gorgeous George, Ricky Starr, and The Miz.” –Matt Striker, tweaking his old colleague during a Pimpinela Escarlata match.
Must See Wrestling
1. Seth Rollins Dominates the Slammy Awards
Like Owen Hart before him, Rollins made good use of the Slammies as a prop for his heelish behavior. He won several Slammies- some for good things and others for bad things- on the Raw Preshow. Once the telecast started, he hijacked an award that Sting won and claimed that he deserved it to bring his total Slammy count to five. Rollins has become better and better as an entitled, whiny heel, and it is nice to see that the dissolution of The Authority cost him very little of his heat.
2. Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose Get Serious
Wyatt and Ambrose struggled through weeks of a directionless program that could not answer the fundamental question of why they wanted to fight one another. Wyatt has slowly turned the corner and started to make his promos slightly more concise and direct. I appreciate the focus on the wrestling matches because I think that is an essential part of his promos, no matter how mystical and meandering they become. On Smackdown, Wyatt drove a chair into Ambrose’s throat to send him out on a stretcher. He disowned and insulted his fans on Raw, so when Ambrose emerged from an ambulance, he got a major pop. Ambrose chased Wyatt away with an array of weapons and it set the stage for them to have a fight with some real animosity behind it. The feud has to make up for a lot of wasted time, but a snapshot of the last seven days shows a solid finish to the program’s build.
3. NXT R-Evolution Draws Near
With four major American wrestling PPVs in four weeks, it would be easy to grow a little fatigued. Nonetheless, the card at the worst named PPV in memory is enough to whet my appetite in a serious way. The slow-building antagonism between champion Adrian Neville and friend/challenger Sami Zayn should set them up for a classic encounter. Finn Balor and Hideo Itami will face The Ascension in their highest-profile match since arriving in WWE. On top of that, Kevin Owens will make his wrestling debut for NXT. If the card delivers in the same way that NXT’s two prior PPV-style shows have, it could go down as one of the best wrestling shows of the year.