Final Challenge 2012

On September 15th ROH world champion Kevin Steen will defend his title against the House of Truth’s Rhino. The winner of that match (which most assume will be Steen) will put the belt on the line against Michael Elgin at Glory By Honor XI on October 13th.

The next confirmed iPPV after GBH XI is Final Battle. New York City will host ROH’s final show of the year on Sunday December 16th. Rhino, Steen or Elgin will walk into that show as the Ring of Honor world champion, but who will they defend against?

First of all I feel I should state that I think it will be Steen that walks into the Hammerstein Ballroom as champion. Rhino doesn’t strike me as someone likely to defeat ‘Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare’ or as world championship material. Elgin does strike me as a likely candidate for a reign as the ROH champ but I don’t think it will happen at Glory By Honor: Strong interfering to keep the gold off his stablemate seems likely.

A second bout between Elgin and Steen could occur at Final Battle. ‘Unbreakable’ is someone ROH should be thinking of as a long term headline star. One way to ensure he is seen as such would be to have him win the world title at Final Battle. As one of the company’s biggest annual events and the last one of the year (clue’s in the name) it has been used as a way of launching new angles and hosting important title switches several times before.

Elgin challenging for the world title on that show would set him up as a dominant force in the company. That he’s already set to challenge for the gold makes him wrestling Steen at Final Battle unlikely though. I think a likelier opponent for Elgin at Final Battle is Roderick Strong.

Strong himself could be considered as a potential challenger on the show, though he seems less likely to wrestle for the gold than does Elgin. Strong v Steen does not have the big match feel that a Final Battle world title match requires. It would also necessitate someone else wrestling Elgin, which doesn’t seem likely at this point.

Someone I’ve suggested before when discussing challengers for Steen is El Generico. There is a natural storyline for the two that would make Final Battle a fitting event for them to wrestle at: Steen turned on Generico at the event in 2009, and ‘The Generic Luchador’ defeated ‘Mr Wrestling’ at the 2010 instalment. They have had one of the fiercest rivalries in ROH history and would close the show, and the year, in a fittingly enjoyable match.

The only trouble I see with this potential match is that Generico hasn’t been used by Ring of Honor in months. Depending on who you listen to this is either because Generico refuses to sign a contract or because the booking team has nothing worthwhile for him. The reason for his absence doesn’t matter: if he is to be used as a challenger to Steen at Final Battle 2012 Generico would need to return to the company fairly soon. It doesn’t appear that’s close to happening.

Adam Cole is another possibility. The former Futureshock member currently reigns as TV champion but he could lose the belt before December and be booked as a challenger to the more prestigious title. Even if he keeps hold of the TV strap it would be easy enough for ROH to book a champion versus champion bout.

Eddie Edwards is a strong possibility too. He mounted an unsuccessful challenge back in June and hasn’t had a title shot since. December would be a good time to give him a second world title match with Steen.

What makes the possibility of ‘Die Hard’ challenging for the belt slightly less likely are the rumours of an American Wolves reformation. If Edwards were to reunite with Davey Richards at or shortly after Death Before Dishonor 10 then Final Battle would seem a likely time for them to wrestle for the ROH tag team titles.

It’s possible the promotion will do something bold for the champ’s final defence of the year. The lack of roster depth could mean they bring in a big name outsider for a title match. A member of the CHIKARA or PWG rosters could be brought in but that would feel anti-climactic considering the status of the show.

If a working arrangement could be reached between ROH and Gabe Sapolsky then someone from Dragon Gate USA or EVOLVE could be used as a title challenger. Not only would that provide a desperately needed fresh match for fans but it could also be used as a way of launching a crossover between Gabe’s outfits and Ring of Honor.

They could do something really daring and bring in Ric Flair. The no compete clause on his TNA contract expires on September 10th and it’s believed WWE will avoid signing him until their legal battles with the Orlando outfit is over. That would make Flair available to ROH.

‘The Nature Boy’ has worked for ROH before and could still be a big draw for the company if used correctly. Even though he is long past his prime a match pitting him against a character like Steen would be an interesting novelty. It wouldn’t be a great match but it would at least allow both to both men’s strengths: lots of blood, weapon shots, and ringside brawling. It would also help to set ‘Mr Wrestling’s’ title reign apart.

Flair’s price tag may make this a long shot but don’t forget that Jim Cornette is now heavily involved in the booking process. It’s the sort of scenario you could easily imagine him proposing. I could imagine SBG being keen on it too.

The one man we know won’t be wrestling for the world title (assuming Steen keeps hold of it until the end of the year) is Davey Richards. ‘The American Wolf’ cannot challenge for the title again until after Steen has lost it. That could be another reason to think Eddie Edwards will face Steen. If the Wolves reunite then Richards could state he wants Eddie to be the man to take the title from Steen and support a proposed Steen v Edwards Final Battle clash.

Whoever ends up clashing with the ROH champion at Final Battle will need to be a big name or someone ROH has very clear plans to elevate. If they get Final Battle 2012 wrong there’s a chance we won’t see Final Battle 2013.

Dave Hatton

Dave is one of the columnists here at ROHWorld, with a brand new column being published regularly. Check back as Dave discusses a variety of ROH related topics.