ROH Final Battle 2019 (12/13/2019)- Baltimore, MD
“Hour one” is a terrible name for a pre-show.
SILAS YOUNG & JOSH WOODS vs. JOE HENDRY & DALTON CASTLE (w/the Boys)- 6.25/10
Silas & Woods win clean in ten minutes. The match was fine, setting up challengers for the tag titles (Woods & Silas are now 6-0) and Dalton and Hendry were able to work as a team with no issues, so that’s a step forward for them as well.
BRIAN ZANE INTERVIEWS THE ALLURE- Angelina cut a good promo to build up to her title match tonight. She does not fear larger opponents because she has defeated them many times in the past.
ALEX SHELLEY PROMO- bad
He starts off with a blatant lie, saying that Baltimore “has been one of the ROH mainstay cities since pretty much the beginning.” ROH ran a grand total of two shows in Maryland during the first nine years and ten months of its existence, and neither of those shows were in Baltimore proper. ROH had been running over a year and a half before holding a single show in Maryland (or anywhere barely south of by Philly), after their second show in Baltimore they went almost eight years before coming back.
He framed ROH as “pro wrestling’s greatest classroom,” which I HATED. Can we not make the same mistake as EVOLVE by making ourselves look secondary to bigger promotions? He said he’s outraged that the most underrated wrestler in history, Colt Cabana, doesn’t have a match tonight, and he has never wrestled Colt one on one before, so he lays out the challenge. Colt accepts the match in a very clumsy promo. If you wanted to book this match, JUST BOOK IT! Have Shelley make this challenge and have Colt accept it on social media or, even better, on a previous show so that we’re not wasting time with this on the biggest show of the year!
At the top of the show Ian Riccaboni told us that we had three matches scheduled for this hour, but we could only get to all three of them if time permits. If time is so of the essence, why are we wasting time letting Alex Shelley talk? This is the biggest show of the year! I CAME TO SEE THE MATCHES!
RHETT TITUS vs. KENNY KING (w/Amy Rose)- 6.75/10
Speaking of blatant lies, Ian Riccaboni claims that this match is “years in the making.” Every clip of an actual issue between those two in the video package we just saw was from the past few months. This is a team that has broken up TWICE, and both times were amicable splits.
Kenny comes out to the old All Night Epxress theme song and does the old All Night Express handshake with Amy Rose, which was supposed to… make Rhett feel bad, I guess?
They worked hard and had a very good match that ended when Kenny cheated, so this feud will continue.
BRIAN ZANE INTERVIEWS THE BOUNCERS IN THE CROWDS- They go for the cheap pops, then are asked who they think will win the main event. They disagree. This was supposed to be funny but failed miserably.
DAN MAFF vs. JEFF COBB- 5.75/10
They had a mediocre hoss fight. Maff looked fine, but just “fine” is not ROH quality, especially for a forty-six-year-old with little name value beyond nostalgia to a very small part of the fanbase. After the match they shook hands, then chopped each other as a sign of… respect, I guess?
BANDIDO & FLAMITA vs. VILLAIN ENTERPRISES (Flip Gordon & Marty Scurll)- 8/10
Injured Villain Enterprises member Brody King replaced Colt Cabana on commentary. He said insightful things, but sounded WAY too uninvested in what was going on. Flamita & Bandido won an awesome all-action match. On commentary Brody made a quick comment that “this would have never happened if it was me and PCO.” Hopefully this actually leads to something rather than just being a throw-away line.
MATT TAVEN vs. VINCENT- 8/10
Vincent is Vinny Marseglia. I have no idea why he is going by just “Vincent” now. It seems like a terrible idea, simply because Virgil’s time in WCW turned it into a total jobber name.
This match was announced as a “grudge match,” but “Relaxed Rules”- a term that has an actual definition in ROH, would have fit it better, because it would have allowed them to use the few weapons they did and fight outside for so long without it bothering me. Other than that, this was awesome. Yes, I do realize that I am saying that about a Vinny Marseglia singles match. Taven sold well, they kept up the necessary intensity and feeling of hatred throughout the match, and had several convincing false finishes.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- very good
Bateman showed up and hit Taven with a Tombstone Piledriver. Then Vincent grabbed a wooden block and smashed Taven’s ankle into it with a chair. I like this just because it now makes sense if O’Ryan wasn’t in on it, but still makes sense if he is, so we’ve either got tag team feud coming or Vinny as the leader of a new Kingdom.
STREET FIGHT: Bully Ray vs. Mark Haskins (w/Vicky Haskins)- 4.75/10
The match started with Bully ramming into Haskins from behind with a big board covered in barbed wire. Vicky then ran at Bully, who simply held the board out and Vicky ran into it and sold it like she was dead. Everyone was outraged by this (the referee even yelled “SHE’S A WOMAN, BULLY!” at Bully), but I’m finding it kind of hard to blame Bubba here because he was acting in full self-defense. Putting the board down would have left him vulnerable, and if Vicky Haskins is as vicious and dangerous as the commentators have repeatedly told us that she is over the course of this year, then it’s not really fair to demand that Bully go out of his way to drop such a cumbersome weapon that he is holding when she charges at him.
From there the usual Bully Ray dog and pony sh*t show began, as he wasted a bunch of time attacking and menacing the ringside attendants tending to Vicky, because he thinks that shouting menacing things at expendables at ringside still gets heat. He’s yelling at the referee and calling him a moron. He struts. He throws streamers back at the fans. It’s possible to have a slow-paced match where you use the pacing to sell and help things build rather than what Bully does, which is just kill time.
The match continued where Bully would do one thing to Haskins, then waste a bunch of time getting the next weapon to hurt Haskins, rinse, wash, repeat. Eventually he got a microphone and wasted a bunch of time talking. He called Vicky Haskins “trash.” Hmm… that doesn’t seem like something Bully would say to his mother, so by his own logic someone should take him backstage and give him a thorough talking to. Why don’t we do that right now so that this match will f*cking end already?
And I’m clearly not the only one who felt this way, as this match got repeated “BORING!” chants. When was the last time you heard that happen in a weapons match?
Haskins made a comeback and things got exciting for a bit, but then they once again started to go downhill. For a guy who seems to fancy himself as this master of old school psychology, you’d think Bully Ray would be smarter than to do a Muta-style elbow to Haskins through a table, then get up and do a Muta pose. Did he expect people not to pop for that? These are the same fans who just cheered for him getting a table out when he has been a clear heel all match.
After that he went for a pin and only got a two-count, so attacked the referee for more cheap heat. He set up another table, but Vicky Haskins ran in and hit Bully in the nuts with a cheese grater, so Mark Haskins can’t even beat Bully on his own. Making matters worse, the camera zoomed in to a spot to make it clear that the cheese grater was on Bully’s thigh and nowhere near his testicles, even as he overdramatically screamed “MY BALLS!” He then moved his hand down to cover his actual crotch, which the camera also caught, once again making it clear these were two people working together to only pretend that this was happening. Bully then got put through a table, hit with Overkill and pinned. I feel bad rating this so low when Mark Haskins too so much punishment during this match (multiple falls onto a guardrail which didn’t seem to give at all), but large chunks of it were impossible to enjoy because they were Bully Ray just wasting time.
ALEX SHELLEY vs. COLT CABANA- 4.25/10
This was six and a half minutes of fine technical wrestling. I guess the purpose of this was to be a palate cleanser? I think the PPV would have been off to not have this the give the time this match, the promo segment to set it up, and its entrances took to other matches.
MARIA MANIC vs. ANGELINA LOVE (w/Mandy Leon)- DUD!
Maria Manic is finally wrestling her first match in ROH even though he has been appearing for SIX MONTHS ALREADY. This doesn’t make her debut feel any bigger. It makes it feel smaller because I’m already bored of her showing up and doing the same sh*t over and over again, and if she was such a big f*cking deal why did it take ROH management SIX F*CKING MONTHS to get around to actually booking her in a wrestling match?
Maria, an unlikable psychopath monster, proceeds to beat up both members of the Allure for seven straight minutes. We now have not just no real babyface, and no threatening heels for the supposed babyface Maria to feud with because she just obliterated the only two we had.
ROH WORLD TV TITLE MATCH: Shane Taylor(c) (w/Ron Hunt) vs. Dragon Lee- 8.25/10
I would have preferred for this match to be totally clean (especially because the chain only resulted in Taylor kicking out at one), but it was certainly an awesome encounter and well worthy of the ROH World TV Title. Odd as it seems, my favorite thing in this match was how not smoothly Dragon Lee’s power moves came off. It SHOULD be that way because he’s so much smaller than Taylor. He should have extreme amounts of trouble hitting him with Desnucadora. We all knew how great Dragon Lee was, but Taylor deserves a lot of credit for how much he has improved this year.
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The Briscoes(c) vs. Jay Lethal & Jonathan Gresham- 8.5/10
Excellent action, with a shockingly small amount of cheat by our heels, but they sure did cheat when it counted. I eagerly anticipate many brilliant title defenses from our new champions.
P.J. Black was on commentary for this match, pushing the idea of getting himself a protégé from the dojo to be his tag team partner.
FRIDAY THE 13TH MASSACRE MATCH FOR THE ROH WORLD TITLE: Rush(c) vs. PCO- 5.5/10
The name is just a long way of saying that this is a weapons match. These two aren’t feuding or anything. It’s just that PCO can’t have a good match without gimmicks, which really makes you wonder why he is getting an ROH World Title match in the main event of the biggest show over the year, doesn’t it?
They fought and used the weapons for a while. They fought over towards a car that apparently belonged to PCO. Why is there fog coming out of PCO’s car? And I don’t mean a little bit. The entire interior of this automobile is clearly full of smoke! Why is no one concerned about this?
Rush threw PCO off the stage onto a pile of barricades and stuff. Instead of following up he spent several minutes posing and saying his catchphrase. While this was happening, Destro showed up and attached jumped cables to PCO’s thumbs, then hooked him up to the car battery to repower him or whatever so that he could beat Rush up. This was moronic.
Look… I’m fine with PCO being the “French Canadian Frankenstein” and “not human” who takes insane punishment and comes back from it because of the combination of the way he sells and his look. The problem comes when you take the idea out of the realm of metaphor and introduce a cartoon mad scientist who “repowers” him by shocking him with electricity. It’s no different than WWE insisting that the guy who wins the “King of the Ring” tournament start walking around with a crown and a scepter and add “king” to the front of his name.
PCO made his comeback but Rush cut him off again, and once again instead of follow up, Rush went off to do something else. In this case it was set up a bunch of wooden doors in the ring. He did this while Destro walked PCO back to the ring. As you can probably guess, this match didn’t flow very well. They did some moves and used some more weapons. PCO won. The main event of Final Battle saw two guys have a weapons match for no reason other than that one of the wrestlers can’t have a good match without them, and ended with cartoonish monstrosity that feels like a Jim Herd idea let loose in ECW is now the Ring of Honor World Champion.
This was an awesome show from ROH, but with quite the comedown at the end. So much felt like it was going right for this promotion, but the world title picture is an abomination, and the women’s division is little better. 2019 was the best year ROH has had in quite a while (at least since 2015), and this show felt like it reflected that, with Gresham finally a major player, guys who had previously dragged cards down like Taylor and Marseglia having found their niches both in the ring and as characters and excelling in them, and guys like Hendry, Woods, Shelley, and the newly-heel Lethal helping things to feel fresh. Since ROH’s big downturn a few years ago, I have mostly left Final Battle with optimism (Final Battle 2017 being the sole exception), but despite this being a show that feels like it was in the same league as those other Final Battles (upon looking at my ratings, 2018 was a notch above the others, but this show was still awesome), I don’t feel as optimistic as I should right now, because the problems in the men’s and women’s singles divisions are so obvious, and feel like things that management is just plain unwilling to fix. You should definitely watch this show because it rocked, but I can’t say I’m as excited for 2020 as I should be.
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