On Saturday, it was an end of an era as Ring of Honor celebrated everything that made the promotion special. Final Battle, a name inspired by New Japan Pro Wrestling’s catalog of defunct events, is usually their big pay-per-view show to close out the year.
This year’s incarnation was bitter-sweet, considering ROH’s scheduled hiatus could be a permanent vacation. It was a fun show with some great moments, video messages from past ROH stars, and two standout matches.
NWA, Impact, and AEW helped ROH make their last stand memorable by loaning talent and setting up future storylines in new places. AEW filled the biggest hole in the main event by letting recently signed ROH pillar Jay Lethal wrestle Jonathan Gresham. Lethal absence was a huge void until fate intervened.
ROH World Champion Bandido tested positive for COVID-19 48 hours before the show and was pulled. All respect to Bandido, Gresham vs. Lethal was rightfully ROH’s final battle. They were the two biggest stars in the company before Lethal signed with AEW one month ago.
ROH showed their infamous ability to get creative under pressure. With the current version of their world title belt unavailable, the original ROH World Championship was taken out of the vault for one last hurrah as the top prize.
Submission ace Jonathan Gresham tapped out Jay Lethal with the octopus stretch at the 15-minute mark. While having a franchise player such as Lethal win the title would have been understandable, it was Gresham’s time. ROH has made a plethora of stars over its nearly 20-year tenure, and it’s poetic that Gresham’s first world championship is ROH’s last.
Rok-C won the revamped ROH Women’s World Championship in September and turned 20-years old a month ago. She’s good, really good, but where did WILLOW come from?! Before the show, I was unfamiliar with her, and now I’m a fan.
Willow naturally connects with the audience in a manner that you can’t teach. It’s organic. She was more over than Rok-C, and fans booed when she lost. That’s weird to think about, considering the impression Rok-C has made in a short period.
Match of the Night honors went to The Briscoes (Mark Briscoe & Jay Briscoe), defeating The OGK (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett w/Maria Kanellis) to win their 12th ROH Tag Team Championship. While I personally wanted to see Bennett and company ride off into the sunset with the gold, it was only fitting for the Briscoes to end the promotion’s tag team story.
Or are they?
Thanks to Tony Kahn, AAA Tag Team Champions FTR showed up and brawled with the Briscoes. It was the first physical interaction between the two teams following brewing hostility on social media.
The big question remains, are Mark and Jay Briscoe AEW bound? Will they be dubbed “All Elite” or just come in for a few matches with FTR?
In an unusual sight, for former Bruan Strowman, now going by “The Titan,” Adam Scherr stormed to the ring and assisted EC3. The whole deal came off as a promotional piece for EC3’s Free the Narrative promotion.
It was unusual because a star of Strowman’s caliber coming off WWE TV commands a high payday. Did ROH pay the quote since it was their last show, or did they get him at a cut-rate because it’s leading to something more with another promotion?
AEW’s FTR, Impact’s Deonna Purrazzo, tributes from ROH alumni, and more were sound business decisions and a way for various promoters to say thank you and goodbye.
Ring of Honor was the first real super indy and cultivated more stars than any wrestling promotion. ROH also showed diehard wrestling fans that a product based on sport over spectacle can succeed.
If Sinclair Broadcasting had funded ROH to its fullest potential, Ring of Honor would perhaps be where AEW is today, rendering all things “All Elite: inert. Regardless of the what-ifs and could’ve been’s, one thing is undeniable. Ring of Honor left professional wrestling better than they found it.
Final Battle served as one last reminder of ROH’s contributions to the industry.