FINAL BATTLE 2015
December 18, 2015
Adam Cole . . . proves, beyond any shadow of doubt, who the better member of Future Shock really was.
Roderick Strong . . . follows Cole’s lead in order to retain the TV Title.
Matt Taven . . . shows his dedication when he blows out his knee, but, keeps going so that the semi-main event doesn’t fall apart.
JAY BRISCOE/MARK BRISCOE vs. RHETT TITUS/KENNY KING vs. MATT JACKSON/NICK JACKSON (#1 Contenders Match for the ROH World Tag Team Titles)
To no surprise, this is a total spotfest from the get go. It’s fine for getting the crowd warmed up, but, it feels like they’re just trying to make maximum progress with minimum effort. ANX is the only team that garners any discernible heat, and, it’s apparently just due to process of elimination since they work the exact same style that the Briscoes and Young Bucks do. The work isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before, they hit their spots, their superkicks, and the big diving sequence, along with the usual near falls that get broken up at the last second. The finish isn’t any more meaningful than King and Titus hitting their finisher at the right time with nobody able to make the save, even though they had a good opening right there with Kenny’s counter of MBFYB into the Royal Flush.
DALTON CASTLE vs. SILAS YOUNG
Aside from a couple of not-bad sequences, like Silas rolling through the backslide, and, Dalton avoiding the lariat and doing the swinging neckbreaker, the work here isn’t special at all. But, Dalton’s intensity is able to make up for what they lack in actual wrestling. It’s reminiscent of the Cabana/Homicide feud (but not as well done) with the idea that losing the boys has brought out a different side of Dalton. They get too cute with the booking, with Silas using one of the boys as a shield, and then taking advantage and hitting Misery to beat Dalton. But, then, the boys turn on him and join back up with Dalton. It’d make more sense to just have them cost Silas the match. Silas had already beaten Dalton to win the boys in the first place, so, it’s not like losing here would have hurt him at all.
MICHAEL ELGIN vs. MOOSE (#1 Contender’s Match for the ROH World Heavyweight Title)
Considering Lethal/Elgin for the title was already announced for the Tokyo Dome, this is a pretty useless stipulation. Then again, this is a pretty useless match. It’s light on storytelling and engrossing work, but, very generous with no-selling, including Moose surviving the Elgin bomb, and then blowing off a buckle bomb just for a near fall from his spear. I guess it wasn’t enough to kill off Elgin’s finisher, so Moose had to kill off his own too. Moose throws a damn fine dropkick, but, it’s hard to be too inspired, since it’s not treated like a big spot. The idea of Elgin needing a super finisher like the Burning Hammer (which is more like a Spicy drop) isn’t a bad one in theory, but, it’s somewhat alarming that a beast like Elgin would even need a super finisher in the first place.
ADAM COLE vs. KYLE O’REILLY
Even though it’s got a much better finish, this doesn’t come together as well as their PWG Title match from the previous May. The limb attacks are still here, but, they don’t come off as well as they did in the PWG match. You’d think that Cole having missed five months with a shoulder injury would be a perfect set up for Kyle to shark the arm, (and the grudge match aspect of this would lend itself to those sorts of spots) but, Kyle doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been seen before from him, and neither does Cole. There are a couple of nice reminders later in the match, like Kyle’s strike flurry that ends with a legsweep, and him putting over the leg, and Cole’s failure to do the brainbuster because of his arm. The area where they really shine is in showing their familiarity with each other, especially from Cole, who seems to always have a counter or escape ready whenever Kyle catches him in an armbar. There’s also a great moment with Cole avoiding the Ax and Smash combo and getting his superkick. They once again have their punch exchange spot, but, it’s not as long or as obviously cooperative as last time. The finish is a lot more simple, without any interference or ref bumps. Kyle finally getting the triangle, only for Cole to put his feet on the ropes and cause Kyle to pin himself. No, it’s not as satisfying as Kyle’s win in PWG, but, it’s far less over booked, and, it perfectly sets the stage for a rematch where Kyle will get his revenge. ***1/4
ALEX SHELLEY/MATT SYDAL/ACH vs. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS/FRANKIE KAZARIAN/CHRIS SABIN
Aside from the fact that the heels know how to garner some heat, between Sabin’s refusal to give the fans the Motor City showdown, and, their control segment on Sydal, there isn’t much of anything to separate this from the opener. All six of them more or less show off their stuff, and then get out of the way for the next guy to have his turn, most of the time it looks okay, although ACH has a couple of flubbed spots. The heels working over Sydal isn’t bad, but, it’s more filler than it is anything else, it’s not like anything they do has any long term effect on the Sydal, or the match as a whole, and it still goes on for quite a bit longer after Sydal’s hot tag to ACH. Sabin tagging out so he wouldn’t have to wrestle Shelley got the most heat of anything they did, but, Shelley was just as guilty, seeing as the finish was Sabin getting pinned, and he just stood on the floor and watched while ACH and Sydal finished him off. He could have at least provided some sort of assist, to build up to the idea of them having a singles match down the road.
RODERICK STRONG © vs. BOBBY FISH (ROH Television Title)
It’s too bad the finish (while clever, and certainly a step up from Jay Lethal’s title defenses) negated what came before it, because this was actually coming along nicely. Strong has always been good with using the backbreaker variations to wear someone down, and this is par for the course. Bobby didn’t really bother to sell all that much when he was in control, but, Roddy controlled the bulk of the match, so the fans mostly get a good show. It seems odd that the Stronghold only makes a quick appearance as a counter to the legbar, and Bobby escapes it easily, but, keeping it stored away keeps the hold protected to an extent. It’s also fine to see Bobby trying to wear down the leg, but, it doesn’t come off as well, since his legbar doesn’t really need to be built up to. It’s usually preferred to see a clean finish on PPV, but, this is another clever one. Bobby finally get his legbar and Roddy taps out, but does it out of the ref’s view, so that Bobby thinks he’s won the title, and then Roddy KO’s him with a jumping knee for the pin. The running boot would have been a more believable knockout shot, or taking advantage of Fish being stunned by the knee and making him pass out in the Stronghold would have played into the body of the match much better, but it still comes off well. It’s another case where a rematch seems to be in perfect order. ***
MICHAEL BENNETT/MATT TAVEN © vs. HANSON/RAY ROWE (ROH World Tag Team Titles)
There isn’t really a whole lot to be said about this. Taven blows out knee doing the first big spot of the match, and keep going, doing far more than he needed to, in order to keep the match together. The Kingdom does what they can, and then hand match over to War Machine for a quick ending. Obviously, this wasn’t the courageous comeback and victory that the spike piledriver to Rowe would have set up, but, they made it work just fine.
JAY LETHAL © vs. AJ STYLES (ROH World Heavyweight Title)
If they had a finish that would have played into AJ’s back injury, then this would have easily been the best match of the show. Lethal looked so much better here, ruthlessly attacking AJ’s back, than he looked in any of his TV Title matches. Commonplace spots for him like the Lethal combination and the tope trio had a new purpose, and, he came up with some good ideas like the suplex into the corner, as well as his block to the Styles Clash.
For his part, AJ performs well. He’s not really expected to do much more than some familiar spots, and sell his back to the point that things look hopeless for him, and he more than meets expectations, and he even sells the back when he hits his own moves, to keep it in focus. It was a nice to see him focus more on the calf killer, than the Styles Clash, and he doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. With how well they’d been performing, it makes the finish run all the more disappointing. The Lethal Injection off the second rope could have been a good near fall, but, it’s just a setup for a regular one that AJ counters to get them to the table spot. AJ barely beats the count, and then another Lethal Injection still doesn’t put him away. It’s only after they do a Styles Clash tease and escape, and Lethal hits a cradle piledriver, followed by another Injection that Styles stays down. It’s fine that Lethal needed a setup for his finisher, his TV Title run had already established that, but there were much better ways that didn’t forget about AJ’s worn down back, and didn’t make Lethal’s finish look almost worthless. ***
Conclusion: Elgin/Moose is the only big negative to this show. But, other than that, it’s solid at worst, with several good matches.