Final Battle is an event that has become synonymous with big matches in Ring of Honor history and the 2011 instalment looks no different. In the main event, Davey Richards defends his ROH World Championship against Eddie Edwards in Richards v Edwards III. Kevin Steen tries to win his ROH career back against Steve Corino and the Briscoes aim for their seventh Tag Team title win against Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team. All that and more on yet another stacked Final Battle card, so did ‘Final Battle 2011’ (12/23/11) deliver? Read on and find out:
We kick off the show with an interesting match between Michael Elgin and TJ Perkins. This really is a clash of styles but despite that, these two put on a fantastic opening bout. It’s quick, fun and included some really innovative spots. Elgin managed to catch TJP a couple of times when he went for diving moves but one in particular, when Elgin caught TJP and instantly transitioned it into a suplex, was very impressive. This match did what it was supposed to without going too long – a perfect way to kick off the show. Elgin got the win the spinning sit-out powerbomb.
Next up we have Tommaso Ciampa taking on the returning Jimmy Rave. Unfortunately for this one, it followed a very good opening contest and it just seemed a bit flat in comparison. Rave got a nice reaction from the crowd but once the match began, that ended and it was a largely uneventful bout. Both men tried but it didn’t click and in the end, Ciampa got the win with the Project Ciampa.
The first title match of the night between Jay Lethal, Mike Bennett and El Generico continued the show. While there was nothing wrong with this match, the first 10 minutes or so are easily skippable – nothing really happened. The last five minutes are terrific but this one takes so long to get going. The problem is that Bennett hardly featured and when he did, he interrupted Lethal and Generico just as they were starting to get going. This made for a very stop-start match but as I said, the final few minutes are extremely good. With Bennett looking nailed on to win the title, he pinned Generico with a handful of tights but then walked straight into the Lethal Injection as Lethal retained. Good, but could have been better.
Up next is Steve Corino against Kevin Steen. Jimmy Jacobs is our special referee with Jim Cornette watching on from ringside. Corino comes out with died blonde hair – many fans will remember that look from his ECW days and Steen starts out on the balcony before making his way to the ring – this is awesome already! If Steen wins, he’s reinstated and this is a No Disqualification match. This match was just a flat out brawl, you name it, it was used; table, chairs, barricades, trash cans, rolls of quarters! This was just a crazy match and one hell of an entertaining one! It was everything people hoped it would be and included some gut-wrenching spots. Steen was superplexed onto a barricade and sent through a table but refused to stay down. Corino took a trash can lid to the head and had a nasty looking gash by his ear which led to bloodshed. Eventually, Steen won his job back in ROH after hitting a package piledriver through a bunch of chairs set up in the ring. After the match, Steen hit the piledriver on Jacobs and went to attack Cornette before his old foe El Generico hit the ring. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do much either and ended up on the end of a package piledriver though a table. This was all kinds of awesome and was one of the best brawls you’ll see anywhere. Definitely up there with Steen v Generico from Final Battle 2010 – simply awesome.
After the intermission, we return with the Contenders Cup tag-team gauntlet match. The winners will get a shot at the Tag Titles in 2012. Kicking off the match are The Bravados and Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander. Alexander eliminated the Bravados after reversing a rollup and pinning Harlem Bravado. Future Shock entered the match next to meet C&C. C&C were the next to be eliminated after the Ride The Lightning (high/low) on Caprice. Next in are The Young Bucks. The match really improved with these two teams and the pace quickened. O’Reilly went for the dropkick off the apron but missed and the Bucks took full advantage to hit the More Bang For Your Buck on Cole to make it the Bucks vs. All Night Express. The end ‘match’ was almost a two-on-one as Titus was on the outside for a while with his injured left knee. The Bucks took advantage of this and won after Matt Jackson got Titus’ leg in a spinning toe-hold and Nick Jackson hit the 450 splash. Referee Paul Turner stopped the contest and gave the Bucks the win. This was a strange match; while there was nothing wrong with it, it never really got going and dragged on for quite a while (around 30 minutes). Not bad but should have been a lot shorter and a lot faster paced considering it was the first match after intermission.
Up next is the Roderick Strong challenge. Strong and Truth Martini got in the ring and said they had not found a challenger so Martini began to count to 10 for the forfeit victory. Just before he could raise Roderick’s hand in victory, the returning Chris Hero came out to answer the challenge. All-in-all this was a bit of a disappointing match in my opinion. Hero looked a bit rusty after his on-and-off WWE contract has obviously seen him on the sidelines for a while. He also looked to have put on a bit of weight and there was no real flow in the match unfortunately. It was still great to see Hero again and this one did get better towards the end but I think people expected a bit better from these two. Hero should have won after the Death Blow but Martini interrupted the cover which allowed Strong to get back up and hit the Sick Kick to a distracted Hero.
The second of our three title matches now as The Briscoes try and make it seven Tag Title reigns against Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team. Before the match can actually start, WGTT attack the Briscoes with steel chairs. The beating goes on for a good six or seven minutes and Jay Briscoe starts to bleed from the top of his head. I know there was a lot of talk about the unprotected chairshots and while I’m not going to say they are needed, if a guy wants to do them then who are we to judge? Anyway, I don’t like to be too negative when watching ROH but this was just a bit of a mess. This match was the classic example of an overbooked bout and it just confused people. After the match finally started (well, the bell was rung) Shelton seemed to go back to being a face and selling his ‘injured’ ribs while Haas was taking every opportunity to yell “F*ck You!” to the crowd. The ending was also too busy and was poorly executed. Shelton went to the back with his injury so the face team of the Briscoes beat down Haas two-on-one. Then we got a ref bump and Shelton came back out and grabbed a 2×4 which he proceeded to break over Mark Briscoe’s head; Jay Briscoe also got hit too. Mark recovered and hit Shelton with a bit of broken table which allowed them to hit the Doomsday Device for the win. This match gave me a headache and as I said earlier, it just turned out being an overbooked mess which was a disappointment after the amount of build-up it received.
Our main event is the third instalment of Davey Richards vs. Eddie Edwards. Edwards had UFC legend Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn in his corner while Richards had ‘Team Richards’. As I said above, I don’t like to be negative but this match was just complete overkill. In my opinion, they needed to make this match different from ‘Best In The World’ but it was just a poorer version of that match. With the show going so long, the last thing the crowd needed was a 40+ minute main event and they were completely burned out. It’s a shame as both guys but everything they had into this one but it just didn’t come off – it was the wrong match for this situation. I also have to question why Severn was even involved? He went to the back half way through the match after Roderick Strong and Michael Elgin interfered (Severn managed to attack both…) yet we had weeks of build-up putting over how important he was. Eddie Edwards was no different to what he normally is and his Dragon Sleeper hold that had been so devastating in previous weeks was used twice and Davey escaped with ease both times. Eddie refused to die but in the end, after several kicks to the head, Richard retained the title. After the match, Davey put over Eddie before Steen came out and he said the most important thing about tonight is that he’s back. He said he will take Richards’ ROH World Title from him in 2012 and he will hold ROH hostage.
Overall Thoughts: This was like having two different events on one show. While the first half (and first disc) were very good, the second was a disappointment. At almost four hours, this was a lengthy show and I feel that the main event especially, and to an extent the tag team gauntlet match, went on for far too long and the fans (even me watching it in the comfort of my own home) were left feeling jaded. Everybody on the card gave their all and that is something that must be applauded and while there were no bad matches, there were a few that fell short of expectations. On the plus side, the opening match was fantastic and Steen/Corino was brilliant. Also, the production again was good and I like the pre-match graphics they have implemented on their new DVD releases. And the DVD gets a slight increase in overall score as there are several extras such as a few matches from the TV show, a video wire and footage of Generico being taken to an ambulance. This was a great effort from all involved but I just feel that they missed the mark on several things.
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