I haven’t been to a wrestling pay per view since Ring of Honor’s Best in the World in 2018, so when they announced that Final Battle would be taking place nearby I went and got a ticket. A few weeks prior came the shocking and sad announcement that ROH would be shutting down after this show to figure out a new direction and would be reopening in April for Supercard of Honor. No one I talk to is particularly optimistic about what it all means, and took that as saying that Ring of Honor as we know it was for all intents and purposes dead. And when ROH stalwart Jay Lethal asked for his release and made off for AEW that was more or less the sign anyone needed about where things may be headed. So it looked as if Final Battle would live up to it’s name in more ways than one.
It’s a shame that things went the way that they did for Ring of Honor as it was a great promotion in itself while being a proving ground for a lot of people that went on to do bigger things later. A few of them recorded some thank yous that were played throughout the show – Eddie Edwards, Jimmy Jacobs, Hangman Page, Adam Cole, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), and the Young Bucks). The show itself was treated much more like a thanks for everything than a see you in four months kind of deal. Most everyone hugged it out after the match and even hit poses together in the ring. Lots of them hugged ROH President Joe Kopp who was at ringside as well.
There were some surprise appearances (I’ll get to those) and the champions both newly crowned and retaining look like they will be keeping those titles and defending them wherever they work between now and April. Assuming they come back then that makes for a good maintenance of continuity, and I would implore the powers that be to keep those folks in place for a while as they are all good choices. Now I’m not gonna run through all eleven matches here but there are a few that really did make an impression on me and here they are:
Fight without Honor – Kenny King vs Shane Taylor
This is one the matches I bought a tocket for and it delivered. Shane and Kenny used all the weapons at their disposal here – tables, ladders, chairs, kendo sticks – and beat the crap out of each other for almost 18 minutes. The story behind the match, King’s betrayal of Taylor earlier this year leading into a feud between their respective factions, put the heart and the fire into everything they did, and both guys pulled out some stuff that left your jaw on the floor. The story in this match lived up to the story they’ve been telling through the whole feud. And then there was this moment after the bell.
The black men who work for ROH coming out to check on both men, and then all standing together with both was a powerful moment. Shane and Kenny ended their beef, and stood together as brothers once again. They fought, they settled the matter, and now it’s done and they are family as before. To do this at a wrestling show, a business not known for being particularly welcome of this kind of display from us, is not something to be taken lightly. Too many times we are asked to tone it down, to not fully express ourselves or be who we are to the fullest so to see this kind of display will always make me feel good. Kudos to all for pulling this off.
Pure Title Match: Josh Woods vs Brian Johnson
The revival of the Pure division was one of the best things in wrestling in 2020, providing a unique type of matches while being the place that Jonathan Gresham found his way as a wrestling character on his way to the main event. Woods title victory over Gresham this year was one of the better matches I watched this year, so I was ready to see him here. Brian Johnson cut a hell of a promo here that got across his ‘Mecca vs everybody’ motto, and sold me on him despite having never seen him in a big match before. They had a good one here that could have gone a few more minutes than they did. Hopefully if ROH does resurface in April they will continue the Pure division, because it has been a great addition since 2020.
ROH Tag Team Title Match: OGK (Mike Bennett and Matt Taven) vs The Briscoes
The OGK are who really jumped out and impressed me here. I missed the original run of The Kingdom and hadn’t really seen Taven and Bennett work together in a big match. Those guys are really good and would be great for anyone’s tag team division in the future. The Briscoes winning their twelfth ROH tag team on the last ROH show is fitting as they have defined the tag team division there for seemingly their entire careers and you can’t make a best of the 2000s tag team list without including them. Great match, great work from everyone involved. Bennett’s career resurgence in ROH over the past year has been one of the nicer things going on in what can be a cold world of professional wrestling. The big story came afterwards when the victorious Briscoes challenged anyone to come face them and were met by…….FTR!!! The four men brawled in and out of the ring for a few minutes before being separated; I imagine this will be continued on a Wednesday night sometime in the near future and maybe an AEW pay per view.
Main Event: Jonathan Gresham vs Jay Lethal
This was supposed to be Gresham vs ROH World Champion Bandido, but Bandido failed a COVID test and was pulled. Lethal was a fitting and suitable replacement, given that he is a former 3 time champion himself, and that he and Gresham have a long history together as tag team partners, stablemates and friendly rivals. Gresham’s journey from prospect, a guy who was a great wrestler but needed to find some kind of persona or character to move to the next level to Pure title holder and serious world title contender is something that probably could have only happened in Ring of Honor. This wasn’t the first time the two men have tangled, and they didn’t get to go as long here as they have before, but this match was a fitting entry in their history. They put on a really good proper wrestling contest and this moment when the entire locker room came out to watch the finish was great symbolism of what ROH is all about:
Gresham winning the title on the last night of ROH as we know was a fitting end to it all. Few people embody what ROH has been about than Jonathan Gresham and seeing him win the title that has eluded him for years was awesome. And as great a match as he would have had with Bandido, closing it out vs Lethal was much more poetic. As to what happens next, Gresham is starting his own promotion called Terminus and pledged to take the title there and defend under the rules of ROH’s Pure division. While I hope ROH makes it back in something similar to what it was I’ll be looking to see what Gresham offers us with Terminus.
The wtf moment of the night has to go to the run in from Adam Scherr fka Braun Strowman in WWE. Adam is one of the last people who you’d expect to show up at an ROH show so when he did it was crazy.
Doing it on the last night of the promotion seems pretty strange, but not as strange as whatever this thing EC3 has going on that led to him coming in. Are they going to take this act (which also features Wesley Blake from WWE and one other guy who has yet to be identified) on the road, or was this just some kind of preview of something that will be featured in whatever the restarted ROH looks like in April? I have no idea. It was well done, but I can’t tell you where it leads.
The ROH women’s champion Rok C is one to watch, and is her challenger for the night Willow. Their match wasn’t bad, but I’d like to see them go again and work out the kinks. Both of them are part of the future of women’s wrestling in the US so hopefully if ROH does not return like it was they can catch on somewhere. OK, that’s putting it mildly. WWE would be remiss if they didn’t try to get both of them. But the main thing to come out of this was a post match challenge by Deonna Purazzo, who came to the building and laid it down face to face. When that happens you should definitely check it out.
It was a really good show to witness live, and I’d recommend checking out the replay if you can. It really was a bittersweet night, though. Everyone put in work to celebrate this company but the vague notice that it would be back in April didn’t overcome the feeling that this was indeed the end. Almost everyone hugged it out after their matches were over and the locker room emptying during the main event said it all. I do hope that does make it back, and that the in ring product stays as it was. ROH was putting on some really good wrestling in 2020 and 2021 after a tumultuous 2019 and deserved your attention. There are some great wrestlers there who would not have otherwise gotten the chance to shine anywhere else, and they deserve the kind of platform that ROH gave them. As someone who was very late to the game and only started watching them in 2017-2018 I can say that even in that short period of time they gave me a lot to enjoy.