On Friday December 18th at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ring of Honor hosted their annual Final Battle. This year's event was once again filled with angst, championship matches and unbridled competition by all involved. An interesting development on commentary was the tandem of Kevin Kelly and "Mr. Wrestling 3," Steve Corino. In storyline, Corino stepped down from commentary in order to wrestle once again. But he could not return to the ring due to neck surgery, so to have his alias appear alongside Kelly was actually quite clever. Corino continued to show fans why he is among the best commentators in wrestling, as he often will be able to add little nuances that make watching ROH so much fun. This event was no different, as both Kelly and Mr. Wrestling 3 added colour and depth to the match calling on Ring of Honor's final pay per view event of the year.
The results appear to have further implications moving forward. For example, the winner of the ROH World Heavyweight championship match between challenger AJ Styles and current champion Jay Lethal will face "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Japan. Elgin had said he would capitalize on his championship opportunity that he earned by winning the Survival of the Fittest tournament. Some of the notable matches that stood out on this night consist of a World Heavyweight championship match, a grudge match between former best friends, and a tremendous triple threat tag team match to determine the #1 contenders for the ROH tag team championships. Here are the 10 biggest matches and moments from Ring of Honor's Final Battle 2015.
10 Triple Threat Tag Team #1 Contenders
The match pitted the Briscoes against The Young Bucks against the All Night Express. The crowd was behind both The Young Bucks and The Briscoes, but not so much behind the ANX. The fact that they were in Philadelphia may have been a part of it. If fans will remember, Titus and King were hugely popular when they appeared at All-Star Extravaganza.
The action between all three teams took place both inside and outside the ring. What is great about all three teams is that they possess an uninhibited nature that pushes them to take risks to get the crowd on their feet. The match itself went about 10 minutes, but possessed spot after spot that the Philadelphia couldn't get enough of. In the end, the All Night Express came out on top with a super edition of their One Night Stand finisher. The crowd didn't appear pleased with the finish, but there is no denying how all teams stood out in this match.
9 Silas Young Once Again Gets The Better of Dalton Castle
The ongoing feud between these two was detailed through a montage prior to the match, showing how "the boys" came to be in the corner of Silas Young. Young shared how he has made them into real men during their time with him. As the match got under way, there was nothing but vengeance on the mind of Castle. This dimension of the character was much more intense. Both men took the fight to each other, taking turns throughout the match at getting the better of their opponent. The fans were clearly behind Castle, chanting either “Dalton Castle” or “Free The Boys.” What was interesting during the match was how the boys appeared unresponsive to Castle, and supported Young when they stood in Castle's way a number of times, preventing him from getting at Young. In the end, an accidental bump by Castle into one of "the boys" led to him being distracted and beaten by Young.
8 The Boys Return Home
After the match was over, Young forced Castle to admit that Silas was a "real man." Castle was recovering from being beaten, but initially refused to admit such a thing. Finally, Young forced Castle to admit it when he warned that he would beat one of the boys down with a chair. As Castle stood up, he told Young that he was "a man" but was quick to point out that he was "a foolish man…because those are my boys." Upon which, both of the boys repeatedly struck Silas with chairs, laying waste to him. The result was that even though Castle lost the battle, he ultimately won the war as the boys returned to his side. The boys even pantomimed using fans on Castle.
7 Moose and Big Mike Bring The Fight To One Another
As always in ROH, the match began with the tale of the tape. While height and youth were an advantage for Moose, it was Michael Elgin who had the experience advantage. One of the most impressive spots of the match was the 30 second suspended suplex that Elgin hit on Moose. Elgin also hit a somersault plancha onto Moose from the apron to the floor. Moose wasn't without his own set of creative spots as well. He hit a standing dropkick from the apron while Elgin was sitting on the top rope, knocking him to the floor. The most impressive sequence of moves and counter moves was when Elgin hit a bucklebomb onto Moose, who came right back and hit Elgin with a spear. The match eventually ended with Elgin holding Moose up onto his shoulders in torture rack position, shouting "Jay Lethal, I'm coming for you" and hitting Moose with the burning hammer. Elgin covered Moose for the count of three.
6 Do We Ever Get An Answer to Alex Shelley's Animosity Towards Chris Sabin?
This was an interesting choice for a match. Was there enough animosity between ACH/Matt Sydal and The Addiction to have them face-off against one another? It was great to have both Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin competing in the ring. The promo package before the match showcased how Shelley revealed to Sabin that he was the man behind the KRD mask from a few weeks ago. There had been speculation that Sabin's career may be over, so seeing the former TNA World Heavyweight champion and X-Division champion competing once again was great to see. The match had a number of great spots; both Matt Sydal and ACH didn't hold back as they attempted several moves on Daniels, Sabin and Kazarian. One had to wonder if there would be some form of double cross, and if Shelley and Sabin would once again reform their Motor City Machineguns tag team from TNA. This did not happen, and the match eventually went to ACH, Sydal and Shelley. What will this mean for all involved moving into 2016?
5 Cedric Alexander and Veda Scott Crash The Broadcast
The commentary team were joined at ringside by Cedric Alexander and Veda Scott, who were dressed, in their civvies. Their reason for being there wasn't to wrestle, but to share the legal action that they are taking against Ring of Honor for an "unsafe working environment." Fans in attendance didn't hide what they thought of Alexander and Scott, as their chants of "Shut the F*** Up" were unmistakable. Scott went on and on about why Cedric wouldn't be competing on the show, saying it stems from his loss to Moose after a wrench was brought into the feud. Of course, being heels, they omit the fact that they are the cause of the unsafe environment in the first place while voicing their displeasure when they are affected. They deserve credit for making every effort to draw heat from the crowd in the most classic heel way possible.
4 New Tag Team Champions Crowned
As we went into this match a great deal was made about War Machine and how much they had improved as a team. After everything Raymond Rowe endured personally the year prior, followed by his and Hanson's resurgence as a team, the formidable team were on a trajectory to success. They competed against the Killer Elite Squad among many other teams, and certainly made every effort to be considered serious contenders for the Ring of Honor tag team championships. On the other hand, we had the team of The Kingdom, with Matt Taven and Mike Bennett having a banner year professionally after capturing their second title. What some may not have been aware of was that during the day, on social media Mike Bennett was "saying goodbye," as this was his and his wife Maria Kanellis' last match in ROH. Bennett has improved both in the ring and on the mic over the past few years, so his departure is certainly bittersweet. Ultimately, War Machine was successful and walked away as the new ROH tag team champions.
3 Roderick Strong Goes Heel?
An important element for this match is that Bobby Fish had multiple victories over Roderick Strong this past year. The difference this time around was Strong was defending his Television championship against one half of reDragon. One of the bigger spots was when Fish hit Strong with an exploder suplex into the corner turnbuckle. Throughout the match, it appeared as though Fish had the advantage over Strong. This is the second major pay per view where Bobby Fish has taken the fight to a champion, the other being against Jay Lethal at All-Star Extravaganza. There wasn't a moment in the match where it could be said that Strong had the better of Fish until the end. As Fish had Strong tied up in a leg submission, Strong tapped while out of the view of the referee. Fish released the hold and began to celebrate, but as he was celebrating he was left open for a sick kick by Strong. A pin and a win for the champ. A dastardly way for the face champion to win.
2 Kyle O'Reilly and Adam Cole Nearly Kill Each Other
The match began with a promotional video discussing the animosity that has built between these men leading into this match up. Fans may be aware that O'Reilly had his opportunity for the ROH World title taken away when Cole superkicked him, costing him his chance at the title. As the bell rang, O'Reilly didn't hesitate and took Cole down with a series of punches. He was relentless as he attacked his former best friend and tag team partner. Cole eventually recovered and hit O'Reilly with a number of strikes. As the match went on, O'Reilly worked over Cole's left arm, the one on which the former ROH World Heavyweight champion had shoulder, tricep and elbow surgery earlier this year, keeping him out of action for five months. O'Reilly wasn't kind, as he used the arm breaker countless times throughout the match. At the finish of the match Cole, while on the wrong end of a submission move, pinned O'Reilly while Cole's feet were on the ropes. He came out on top, but that didn't matter to O'Reilly who had to be pulled off of his opponent afterward. This feud may be over, but it will be interesting to see what 2016 holds for these two adversaries.
1 Lethal World Champion
The match lived up to every expectation and promise. It was great to see was the inclusion of former ECW television champion Jerry Lynn; before the match they showed Lynn approaching Lethal in the ring and warning him about AJ Styles. The warning was meant to simply bring Lethal back to earth, as "The Phenomenal One's" achievements and accomplishments are known the world over, during his time not only with TNA, but with NJPW.
The match went back and forth, with Jay Lethal hitting Styles a number of times with suicide dives. Eventually this didn't work out, as Lethal dove through the ropes only to be caught by a lunging Styles who struck him in the head. After being tossed over the top rope, and onto a table and almost being counted out, Styles was caught by Lethal and hit with the Lethal Injection. The result was Styles kicking out of Lethal's finishing move. An angry Lethal then pointed to Lynn who was sitting at ringside and hit Styles with a cradle piledriver (Lynn's finishing move.) Lethal followed up with a second lethal injection for the pinfall and the win.