By Andrew Berg
ROH’s 2014 ended with a success at its biggest show of the year and the company’s second-ever PPV. For fans accustomed to watching WWE’s mixture of wrestling and fluff, the three hour block of solid wrestling was both thrilling and overwhelming. I tip my cap to ROH for scaling up the production value on the event from Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen. I was also impressed that there were so many quality matches that all meant something in the context of their programs. While it is hard for a smaller promotion to reach the heights of WWE’s pageantry, Final Battle was easily one of the five best PPVs of year from any American wrestling company.
Jay Briscoe def. Adam Cole in a Fight Without Honor to Retain the ROH World Title
The feud between Brisoce and Cole has been ongoing for well over a year, but this match had a feeling of finality. Briscoe almost won immediately out of the gate with a Jay Driller in the middle of the ring, but Cole kicked out and regrouped on the floor. The street fight stipulation came into effect quickly when Cole used a staple gun to fasten an event flyer to Briscoe’s head. The action remained highly violent- Briscoe stomped Cole through a table, Cole superkicked Briscoe after stuffing his mouth with tacks, and Cole was dropped on a pile of tacks- but it rarely felt gratuitous and seemed appropriate for the hatred built up between the two wrestlers. My favorite sequence of the match revolved around Cole busting his head open on the ring post and a doctor from the Athletic Commission examining him. While the security tried to guard Cole to let the doctor close the cut, Briscoe fought through them and continued the match. Cole repeatedly came close to winning the match, but Briscoe eventually hit the Jay Driller on the title belt to knock Cole out and retain his title. Briscoe looked great and deserved to win. It was the type of performance that makes me excited to see what he will do next- he has truly ascended to “face of the company” status. A variety of heels from all over the company could step up to challenge him, and the anticipation is exactly what should follow the culminating event of the year. Meanwhile, the match also had a sense of finality for Cole. It takes him out of the ROH Title picture, so it will be a challenge to find something for him to do on his level. On the other hand, it’s also possible that this match marked his last ROH main event before he moves to WWE. I am not aware of any formal process between the parties, but the match had that kind of feeling.
ReDragon def. Timesplitters to Retain the ROH Tag Team Titles
The rubber match between two of the best tag teams in the world was fast-paced, frantic, and very entertaining. The match was a tag team match in the sense that it was two vs. two, but there were hardly any parts of the match when they tagged partners in and out. Still, there were plenty of impressive and innovative spots in the match to make it entertaining. Kushida hit a missile dropkick to Bobby Fish off the shoulders of Alex Shelley. Later, Kyle O’Reilly locked Kushida in a triangle choke and the two teammates each came off the top rope with a move to break up the submission. ReDragon finally gained control and hit Kushida with Chasing the Dragon. Kushida impressively kicked out, but O’Reilly locked him into a cross-armbreaker to force him to tap out.
Jay Lethal def. Matt Sydal to Retain the ROH TV Title
While Lethal and Sydal are both star-level wrestlers, this match was surprisingly mediocre. After some reflection, I think my problem with the match was simply that there was not enough of the electrifying offense that makes Sydal so fun to watch. Instead, Lethal controlled the match with clinical offense. When Sydal finally got real momentum going, he targeted Truth Martini and tried to hit him with a shooting star press. Lethal caught Sydal in midair with a cutter and followed up with the Lethal Injection to win and retain his title.
Roderick Strong def. Adam Page
I enjoyed the steady build to this match that saw Page identify more with the cheating elements of The Decade while Strong wanted to uphold the ideals of honor and respect that he saw as the foundation of the group. The match followed a similar trajectory and came off very well. Strong, as usual, worked on his opponent’s back. Page showed his development with some powerful offense. In the end, Strong locked Page in the Strong Hold, but Page refused to tap out. He passed out eventually and the referee stopped the match. Page looked strong against an established star in a finish reminiscent of Bret Hart-Steve Austin. Strong also benefited and could even challenge for the ROH Title in the near future if it is in the cards.
The Young Bucks and ACH def. The Addiction and Cedric Alexander
If you were to evaluate this match based on pure wrestling, it would be considered a disaster. As crazy athletic spectacle, though, it was actually very fun. It was full of insane spots, like a triple superkick and a “Meltzer Driver” (a springboard flip into a spike tombstone) by the Bucks’ team and lots of jumps to the floor by both teams. At one point, it looked like ACH might have suffered a serious injury when his foot caught the top rope on his way to the floor and he landed flat on his back on the floor. Luckily he recovered and finished the match with a 540 Splash to Alexander to secure the win, not that the final result mattered much in this one.
Michael Elgin def. Tommaso Ciampa
Elgin wrestled on top for most of the match and hit plenty of high impact offense. Ciampa managed to kick out of a spinning powerbomb and Elgin continued to look vicious in his mannerisms. Late in the match, Ciampa dug deep to spring into a big clothesline, but Elgin ducked and Ciampa hit the referee. With Ciampa under a zero tolerance policy for contact with ROH officials, Nigel McGuinness looked conflicted as he left the commentary table. Ciampa begged McGuinness to consider the circumstances, but Elgin took advantage of the distraction. He nailed a double-underhook jumping DDT to finish the match. The outcome was more about creating sympathy for Ciampa, which might be the biggest developing story to come out of the PPV.
Hanson def. Jimmy Jacobs, Mark Briscoe, and Caprice Coleman
I was surprised that this unadvertised match went on first for a big PPV; I figured ROH would want to get the fans excited with one of the higher-profile matches like Strong-Page off the bat. Even so, these four wrestlers are good workers and took turns playing to their strengths in the kickoff. Coleman nailed a nice Asai moonsault onto the floor and slid Hanson back into the ring to go for the pin and Hanson recovered in time to deliver the Spin Kick of Doom. It was not surprising that Hanson won as he is clearly being groomed for big things in ROH and this was a nice feather in his cap.
Moose def. R.D. Evans
Evans got in more offense than expected until Veda Scott turned on him and kicked him in the groin with the referee’s back turned. Moose hit a spear and pinned Evans, who still does not feel like a legitimate wrestler to me. The story in this match revolved around the years-old rivalry between Evans and Prince Nana, who is serving as Moose’s new manager. That rivalry simply has not been kept alive enough for it to mean anything now and the match did not stand on its own. Still, the future is very bright for Moose, who is incredibly athletic and coordinated for his size.