Reader Rob Brown sent in a very detailed review of Ring Of Honor’s Final Battle Internet pay-per-view, which took place Saturday night.
Take it away, Rob:
On a night where so many fans were primarily focused on the fate of the Ring Of Honor world championship, the natural assumption seemed to be that the match between champion Roderick Strong and challenger Davey Richards would be last on the card. Instead, however, the unsanctioned "Fight Without Honor" between two former tag team partners who had become bitter enemies over the last year – Kevin Steen and El Generico – was the final match of the night.
The official reason for this was that they had to get all of the sanctioned matches out of the way before allowing Generico and Steen to end their feud in a fight that ROH assumed no responsibility for. But after the match began, it was clear that it deserved to be shown when it was. Both men put on a great show, both in terms of wrestling and acting. It was arguably an even better match than the world championship bout that preceded it, and that's saying a lot.
Over the last year, Steen has done an amazing job playing the role of a hate-filled psychopath who has been obsessed with hurting the man who was once his greatest friend, the man whom a deranged Steen had come to believe was the cause of everything wrong in his life. El Generico, for his part, has done extremely well given the limitations of his gimmick, which doesn't allow him to speak more than a sentence or two of English without breaking kayfabe.
Nevertheless, Generico was always convincing in his role. Originally too hurt by his best friend turning on him to even put up a fight when Steen attacked him, Generico eventually reached the point where he could take no more and gave as good as he got. With Colt Cabana and Steve Corino in Generico and Steen's corners, respectively, the story was so emotionally charged that when the two men stood across from each other in the ring at Final Battle, fans in attendance chanted "Feud of the Year!"
The match was brutal, with Steen being busted open early. Later on, as Steen was stalking and toying with a dazed Generico, he tore a large hole in Generico's mask near the eye, and Generico was soon bleeding from that exposed part of his face. I've seen plenty of matches where wrestlers have bladed or been busted open hardway, but there was something disturbing about the sight of Generico's bloody scalp and face showing through his torn mask. It seemed to create the illusion that an entire layer of skin had been ripped from his head.
At one point, Steen pulled the covers off of the ringside barricades one after the other and blasted Generico with each one in succession, burying him beneath a pile of them before hitting a frog splash on top of it. At another, Generico punched Steen several times with a chain wrapped around his hand, before tying the chain around Steen's head while he was propped up in the corner and hitting a Yakuza kick to Steen's face. Ladders, tables, and chairs were all brought into play at different times.
When Steen was on the offensive, he continued to be convincing as a lunatic; he seemed to be experiencing euphoria as he saw Generico suffer, and he was “creative” with the blood. By which I mean that after Generico started bleeding, Steen put a hand to Generico's face, got a handful of Generico's blood, and then licked it off. He then ran the blood through his hair and slathered it on his arms, a sadistic smile on his face, as fans chanted "You sick ****!" Steen also actually kissed Generico before picking him up and slamming him onto a ladder in the middle of the ring.
Steen initially didn't seem to care whether he got hurt so long as he could inflict punishment on El Generico. On one occasion, Steen was down on his knees and still spit at Generico, who unloaded on him. After taking all the shots, Steen flipped him off with both fingers and spit on him again. Three referees were needed before it was over, with the original one getting taken out by a normal ref bump and with Steen losing it and taking out his replacement with a package piledriver after only getting a two count on Generico.
Both men kicked out after taking a ridiculous amount of punishment, from finishers (including Steen kicking out after Generico hit him with a brainbuster onto the top turnbuckle) to shots from foreign objects to getting put through tables. In the end, though, Steen finally seemed to lose his heart for the match as Generico was poised to deliver a chair shot. He flinched, shielded his face and held out something for Generico to take.
It was Generico's old mask, the one that Steen had stolen from him at Glory By Honor IX in September. Steen apparently meant it as a peace offering, and he was pleading with Generico. Generico took the mask from Steen's hand, looked down at it with an expression that suggested memories flooding back of his past with Steen, both good and bad – and then he turned on Steen and laid him out with the chair for the three count. (While it was sold as a chair shot to the head, you could see that the chair really made contact with Steen's shoulder, which is good.)
Thoughts on the other matches:
Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong: Practically everybody wanted Davey to win this. Roderick Strong is a great performer in the ring, but on the mic he's really not very good. Davey Richards is skilled in both areas, and in my opinion would make a much better champion. The fans thought so too, chanting "Best in the world!" and "Next world champ!" when Davey came out.
This was an excellent match, with a good mix of technical wrestling, brawling, and high flying. Perhaps the best spot saw Davey execute a suicide dive on Strong that not only knocked Strong down, but sent Davey literally several rows into the crowd.
Davey eventually made Strong tap out with an ankle lock, but the ref was distracted by Strong's manager, Truth Martini, and didn't see it. Davey responded by knocking him silly, but the damage was done. Both men absorbed a lot of punishment, which I'm not sure was necessarily a good idea; earlier this year, people complained about John Cena getting DDT'd on the concrete floor and bouncing back from it, and they had a point. In this match, Davey Richards got put through the announce table, and moments later got hit with a Gibson Driver – one of Strong's finishing moves – on the floor.
Strong then threw him into the crowd and got back in the ring, ordering the ref to start counting Davey out. Davey managed to get back in the ring before he was counted out, which required more suspension of disbelief from me than usual. That was more than a DDT on the concrete, after all. Strong immediately hit him with two more finishers, but still couldn't get the pin. After that, Davey came back and got in some more offense, locking on a cloverleaf (his own submission finisher) to chants of "Tap!" from the crowd. When Strong had Davey in his Stronghold submission finisher, the crowd chanted "Please don't tap!" As I said, they all really wanted Davey to become the champion.
The finish came about when Davey got another ankle lock on Strong, but suddenly seemed to become disoriented and have trouble staying on his feet, causing him to release the hold. Strong capitalized, hitting him with a couple more finishers, both of which Davey somehow kicked out of. While this was a very entertaining match, I'm a little old-fashioned since I believe finishers ought to finish a match nine times out of 10. Strong finally locked on a move similar to Chris Jericho's Liontamer (not a normal Boston Crab, but one where the wrestler applying the hold has his opponent almost vertical and is driving a knee into his back), and the ref stopped the match, not because Davey tapped, but because he had lost consciousness. Earlier on, the announcers had told us that it was possible to win by knockout in ROH, so Strong retained his title.
After the match, a number of people were in the ring checking on Davey. He was bleeding either from the side of the head or the ear, and it seemed like he might be legitimately hurt. It got scarier when the ring announcer asked everybody to be patient, since they were checking to see if he had a concussion. Finally, Davey did get up under his own power. The announcers were saying that it looked like the people in the ring were telling him what happened, that he lost via KO, and Davey did a tremendous job of acting crushed by the news. As he was accompanied to the back by his tag team partner Eddie Edwards and his protege Kyle O'Reilly, there was a "Thank you, Davey!" chant.
Briscoes vs. Kings of Wrestling and Shane Hagadorn: I personally think that this feud should have finished much earlier, either after the KOW's second consecutive victory over the Briscoes, or after their third. Nevertheless, ROH chose to book this final non-title match that involved KOW manager Shane Hagadorn and "Papa" Mike Briscoe, who earlier this year jumped the guardrail and attacked Chris Hero after Hero kept on insulting the man's sons to his face. Hero responded by knocking him out, and according to the story, this means that Papa Briscoe could sue the pants off of Chris Hero if he wanted to. So remember, kids, if a wrestler makes you angry at a live event, if you're stupid enough to jump the guardrail and attack him, and if he beats you up after you hit him first, that means that you have legal grounds for a lawsuit! (Just to make 100 percent sure that nobody gets the wrong idea, that was sarcasm.)
I've had a hard time seeing the Briscoes as the babyfaces during this feud, even though the Kings (Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli) have been cheating and acting arrogant like heels are supposed to. For one thing, the Briscoes attacked Sara Del Rey at Supercard Of Honor V after she provoked them by doing, well, not much of anything, according to the results. The Briscoes just ran out during a match between KOW and the Motor City Machine Guns and attacked the Kings. Their reasoning seemed to be that because Sara was associated with the Kings as the "Queen of Wrestling", she was fair game. That this happened before the incident with Papa Briscoe and Hero makes it even more unwarranted and disturbing.
Since Daizee Haze was also attacked by Austin Aries on ROH's TV show this year, and announcer Mike Hogewood acted outraged about Aries (a heel) hitting a woman, the message here seemed to be that it's never OK to hit a woman unprovoked, unless she's a heel, in which case it's perfectly fine. The addition of Papa Briscoe to the mix didn't help matters, since the Briscoes cut promos talking about how dangerous their dad was, how they knew because their dad had been beating them since they were little.
Dave Prazak, the heel commentator, was making these very same points, and I found myself agreeing with him. The fans in attendance were at the very least divided; there were chants of "Chris is awesome!" when Hero was in the ring, and "[F] you Briscoes!" To be fair, there was also a "Man up!" chant, which is used by Briscoe fans.
When the Kings and the Briscoes were in the ring, I enjoyed the match, because all four men are talented wrestlers. A couple of good spots involved Castagnoli hitting a European uppercut on one of the Briscoes as he flew off the top rope, and both Briscoes going airborne simultaneously and crashing onto Hero, Castagnoli, and Hagadorn on the floor.
When Papa Briscoe and/or Hagadorn were in the ring it wasn't that great. Hagadorn, who's a legit student of ROH's wrestling school, could have perhaps put on a good show if any of the Briscoes bothered to sell his offense. Pretty much everything Hagadorn did, aside from a low blow, was no-sold. Meanwhile, Papa Briscoe is pretty muscular and looks to have some wrestling experience, but he's still old and thus limited in what he can do. So Hagadorn was basically there to get beat up and run away, and Papa Briscoe was there to beat him up and chase him. Hero actually hit Papa Briscoe with a loud rolling elbow near the end of the match, which knocked him out cold and got a big pop, so apparently there were a lot of people in the building who weren't big fans of the guy.
Del Rey interfered in the match by pulling Papa Briscoe out of the ring. The "woman acts afraid of man, man grabs her, man makes like he might hit her, man kisses her" spot ensued. Then Del Rey was ejected from ringside. While I'm sort of glad that he didn't hit her, this spot was old a decade ago, and I wouldn't have been very entertained by it even if the male wrestler was one that I actually liked. Prazak kind of saved it, though, by complaining that Sara was being sent to the back and saying "She was the one who got violated by that pervert!" The way he said it made me chuckle.
The match finally ended with Hagadorn falling victim to a Doomsday Device, with Papa Briscoe hitting the clothesline off the top rope. The night immediately before this pay-per-view, ROH put on a show in Plymouth, Mass., in which the Kings of Wrestling took on the American Wolves (Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards). I would have much rather watched that match than the six-man.
Christopher Daniels vs. Homicide: Fresh off of winning the ROH Television title, the Fallen Angel was facing the Notorious 187, giving both men a chance to demonstrate that TNA made a mistake in releasing them. Before the match, there was a loud "[F] TNA!" chant from the crowd. Both Daniels and Homicide gestured for the fans to stop, with Daniels pointing to the ROH logo in the ring; the fans responded by chanting "ROH!"
It wasn't a bad match by any means, but I've seen both of these guys do much better. In Daniels' case, I saw him put on a match that was twice as good as this one with Austin Aries at the previous pay-per-view, and saw him have a great match against Roderick Strong when I attended the November ROH show in Mississauga, Ontario. I also saw Homicide in action that night against Jay Briscoe, and he was impressive as well. But for whatever reason, this particular match just didn't measure up to what I've seen from these two in the past.
There were some cool moments, such as Daniels hitting an Arabian press on Homicide outside the ring, and Homicide hitting Daniels with Eddie Guerrero's "three amigos" series of vertical suplexes (starting up an "Eddie!" chant). The finish was a little bit strange, however. After a ref bump, Homicide took off his shirt and threw it in Daniels' face. That's probably a little bit disorienting, but it's not what you expect a wrestler to do when taking advantage of a ref bump. Homicide followed that up by hitting the Ace Crusher on Daniels, and got the pin after the ref came to in time to make the count.
At ringside during this match was one of ROH's newer acquisitions: Mike Bennett, a.k.a. "The Prodigy", along with Bob Evans, his trainer and a guy who dresses like Mickey from the "Rocky" films. Bennett was there to scout his future opposition, apparently. After the match, Bennett grabbed the Television title belt, got up on the ring apron with a mic, and said "Hey Chris, that was a real impressive win, bud." He then handed him the title belt and walked away acting very smug, with Daniels seething. Looks like the beginning of a program between these two.
Sonjay Dutt vs. Eddie Edwards: Kenny Omega was originally scheduled to be Edwards' opponent, but he got injured. Dutt was a more than adequate replacement, as these two had a good, fast-paced match. While it started out friendly with a handshake, Dutt held out his hand as if to shake Edward's hand again, only to slap him across the face. Then Dutt bailed out of the ring before an angry Edwards could get him, and crawled under the ring. While Edwards was looking over the side at where he'd last seen Dutt, Dutt emerged on the other side of the ring. After putting a finger to his lips to tell the crowd full of Edwards fans to be quiet, he made a big show of sneaking up behind Edwards and getting ready to hit him from behind, only for Edwards to turn around at the last second and nail him.
Dutt showed why he should be seen on television and pay-per-view more often in the future, and Edwards proved that he deserves the push he seems to be getting after winning the promotion's Survival Of The Fittest event. (Based on the ROH Video Wire, it looks as though Edwards will be challenging for the world championship in 2011.) Edwards finally won after hitting the 2K1 on Dutt.
Sara Del Rey and Serena Deeb vs. Daizee Haze and Awesome Kong: The first thing that struck me as Serena walked out was how gorgeous she looks now that she's grown some hair back. She looked good even when she was bald, but she looks better with hair. Enough of that, since none of the women involved here are just eye candy. Del Rey and Haze have been the only women on ROH television to win consistently, being fed a steady diet of jobbers, and lately have been asking for better competition. The two of them decided to face one another, with each one picking a tag partner to join her. So two female wrestlers missed by WWE and TNA fans came to ROH. Kong had previously faced Del Rey at Supercard Of Honor V, in a match that Del Rey won by hitting her with Chris Hero's loaded elbow pad.
Haze wrestled most of the match, as Del Ray and Serena did a good job of isolating her from Kong and beating up on her. The crowd wanted Kong tagged in early on, but Serena stopped Haze from making the tag and heeled it up by taunting the crowd about it. There were chants of "[F] the divas!" and "CM Punk". Eventually Kong did get the hot tag, and while she didn't do a lot she definitely made an impact. (No TNA-related pun intended.) It wasn't long before Del Rey was down and on the receiving end of a big splash by Kong. Kong followed it up with the Implant Buster, but Del Ray kicked out. As the match continued, we also saw Del Rey hit her finisher – the Royal Butterfly – on Haze, with Haze also kicking out. Serena took Kong down near the end with an impressive spear that you'd never see from a WWE Diva, and was selling that she hurt her shoulder after crashing into Kong. The heels won the match after Del Ray hit Haze with a piledriver.
There was an amusing moment on commentary when Prazak dismissively said "Women's wrestling … it can be OK sometimes," as though he couldn't have cared less about it. For those who don't know, Prazak established and has a hand in running Shimmer Women Athletes, the all-female wrestling fed.
Colt Cabana vs. T.J. Perkins: This was a good match, although just decent by ROH standards. Cabana won with a rollup out of nowhere. Perkins looked good in defeat, since he managed to hit Colt before Colt nailed him with two of his signature moves: the bionic elbow and the flying [two syllable word that begins with A and ends with E]. Perkins looked frustrated after the loss, but Colt showed him respect by shaking his hand.
Kenny King and Rhett Titus vs. Kyle O'Reilly and Adam Cole: This was a good match to open the show. Titus isn't acting like a wannabe male stripper any more and has gotten rid of the silly bowtie that went with that gimmick, which I think is a step in the right direction. Fans might start taking him more seriously, and since he and King – known as the All Night Express – have a guaranteed future shot at the tag titles, that's a good thing. An interesting spot involved King pulling Titus out of the ring to regroup after he'd been getting beat up, followed by O'Reilly going for a suicide dive only to stop himself as his opponents moved out of the way and to another side of the ring. O'Reilly then leaped over the ropes to hit them with a cross body, only to get caught by the ANE. While they were holding onto O'Reilly, Cole flew over the ropes and crashed onto all three men. There was another spot where O'Reilly caught King by the leg, then threw King's leg at Titus (who instinctively grabbed it), then grabbed Titus' leg and executed a dragon screw leg whip that took down Titus, which also took down King since Titus was still holding onto his partner's leg. The ANE fought back, though, and finally got the victory with a combination blockbuster/powerbomb.
Also: Footage of Jim Cornette interviewing Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas, the World's Greatest Tag Team, was shown during the intermission. The two of them announced that they would be appearing regularly for ROH in 2011 and had their sights set on the tag titles currently held by the Kings of Wrestling.