12/18 Powell’s ROH Final Battle 2015 live review: Jay Lethal vs. A.J. Styles for the ROH Title

By Jason Powell

Ring of Honor Final Battle 2015
Aired live on pay-per-view
Philadelphia, Pa. at 2300 Arena

A video package opened the show and focussed on Jay Lethal and A.J. Styles separately talking about how they have been winning championships all year long. Styles said he’s never been ROH Champion despite debuting for the company 13 years ago. He also noted that he represents the Bullet Club. Lethal had similar comments about his accomplishments in 2015…

Powell’s POV: I really liked that opening video. It’s the most creative I can remember ROH being with one of their opening video packages. I’m numb to most of the various company’s openings, but this one stood out in a good way. The negative is that the old ECW Arena somehow looks smaller than it did when ECW was running there. I know it’s underdone some changes in recent years, so I’m not sure if it’s that or just the direction of the hard camera.

Kevin Kelly and the masked Mr. Wrestling III (Steve Corino) introduced the show from ringside. They also pointed out the Spanish broadcast team that was broadcasting from the balcony of the building. One of the Spanish commentators held up a sign that read “not our table.” Funny…

1. The Young Bucks vs. Jay and Mark Briscoe vs. Kenny King and Rhett Titus to become number one contenders to the ROH Tag Titles. At 4:45, the Matt and Nick Jackson hit back to back 450 splashes on Titus and had the pin, but King broke it up. The crowd was behind the Bucks in a big way with some “Man Up” chants for the Bricoes mixed in.

The Briscoes set up for the Doomsday Device on King, but the Bucks threw superkicks at them to break it up. The Bucks followed up with the Meltzer Driver on Jay Briscoe, but Mark broke up the pin. In the end, the All Night Express hit the Super One Night Stand for the win…

Kenny King and Rhett Titus beat The Briscoes and The Young Bucks in 9:20 to become No. 1 contenders to the ROH Tag Titles.

Powell’s POV: A fun spot-fest style opening match with no regard for the standard rules of tag team wrestling. The live crowd ate it up. ANX winning is mildly surprising, though I do suspect we’ll see a tag title change later tonight, so the idea may have been to set them up as the fall guys for the new tag team champions.

A video package set up the Dalton Castle vs. Silas Young match…

2. Silas Young (w/The Boys) vs. Dalton Castle. No Beer City Bruiser? Boo! The fans were behind Castle, while The Boys applauded when Young was on the offensive. Castle performed a nice German suplex at 3:25. He came back with another into a bridge around 7:30 for a nice near fall.

At 8:25, Silas DDT’d Castle onto the bottom turnbuckle and took offensive control. Castle came back with yet another suplex. He was setting up for another when one of The Boys grabbed Young’s hand to stop Castle, while the other Boy held onto the first Boy. Castle accidentally struck one of the Boys after Young shoved him in Castle’s path. Castle was so upset over striking one of The Boys that he ended up taking Misery off that distraction and being pinned.

After the match, Young took the mic and said that he’s beaten Castle twice and taken his Boys. Young told Castle to admit that he’s the real man. Young said that if Castle didn’t call him the real man then he would unleash The Boys. They wound up with chairs and were about to him him when Castle stopped them and said, “Silas Young, you’re a man, but you’re a foolish man. Those are my Boys.” Suddenly, The Boys attacked Young with the chairs and celebrated with Castle…

Silas Young beat Dalton Castle in 10:25.

Powell’s POV: I really enjoy the Young vs. Castle dynamic and this was fun. However, the post-match really made no sense. After all, if The Boys were with Castle all along, then why would they have prevented Young from taking another suplex? It felt like they did that for the sake of the swerve. I guess you could say that Castle was willing to lose the match for that moment, but I’m not a fan of that approach. There surely was a way that they could have avoided having The Boys help Young during the match and still got to that point afterward. Still, Castle and The Boys are back together and all is right with the world. I am already looking forward to their grand ring entrance.

A video package set up the Moose vs. Michael Elgin match…

3. Moose (w/Stokely Hathaway) vs. Michael Elgin. Moose wore a painted football helmet and shoulder pads, while the broadcast team said he was going back to his roots. Elgin held up Moose for a vertical suplex for 30 seconds before putting him down. Moose popped right up and dropkicked him to the floor moments later. Moose went to the floor and tried to spear Elgin, who stepped aside, causing Moose to crash into the barricade.

The announcers spoke regularly about Elgin challenging the winner of the ROH Title match on January 4 in Japan. Elgin had offensive control at 8:30 when Moose came back with punches. There were chants of “Moose” whenever he would hit an offensive move, and there were also fans who chanted “sucks” afterward.

Elgin performed a powerbomb. He went for another and Moose blocked it, but Elgin held him in that position and eventually hit another powerbomb and then the Elgin Bomb, but Moose kicked out. Elgin did a good job of expressing his shock that Moose kicked out, and Corino put it over big while saying you don’t kick out of the Elgin Bomb.

Moose came back with a big spear and went for a cover, but Elgin kicked out. At 11:10, Moose went to the ropes, but Elgin was right behind him to trip him up. Elgin hoisted up Moose in a Torture Rock. Elgin yelled, “Lethal, I’m coming,” and then slammed Moose down (Burning Hammer) and pinned him.

After the match, Elgin looked into the camera and said whether it’s Lethal or Styles who wins the main event, he will see them at the Tokyo Dome on January 4. Moose offered Elgin a handshake. Elgin accepted and raised Moose’s arm…

Michael Elgin beat Moose in 11:45.

Powell’s POV: The match was entertaining, particularly down the stretch. It’s rare to see anyone kick out of the finishers of Elgin and Moose, so it was effective here, and appropriate given that this was a battle of the two big men. I honestly forgot about Elgin challenging for the title in Japan. With that in mind, it was logical for him to go over. Elgin yelling the name of Lethal reenforced my belief that Lethal is going over in the main event. Granted, he mentioned Styles afterward too, but it’s worth noting that Styles has another match advertised for Tokyo, so I don’t expect him to go in as ROH Champion on January 4.

A video package set up the next match with good, intense taped promos from both men…

4. Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly. Cole attacked O’Reilly to start the match, which worked well given the intensity of their feud. O’Reilly threw his great series of kicks to chop Cole down a few minutes later. O’Reilly got a near fall that was followed by “Adam Cole” chants. The crowd was also into his “baby” line prior to the match.

Cole came back with his neckbreaker onto his own knee a short time later. They eventually went to ringside where Cole performed the same move. Cole rolled him back inside the ring and covered him for two. Cole applied the figure four, which was eventually broken when Cole reached the ropes.

At 14:15, O’Reilly caught Cole in the Cross Arm Breaker, but Cole reached the ropes to break the hold. The crowd chanted “this is awesome.” They replayed the footage that showed O’Reilly trying to hang on by his finger as Cole eventually pulled away. Great replay footage.

Cole blasted a seated O’Reilly with a superkick that caused O’Reilly’s mouthpiece to fly out of his mouth. O’Reilly caught Cole in the guillotine. Cole moved so that he was on top of O’Reilly and then put his feet on the ropes to get the pin. O’Reilly didn’t release the hold until a several referees ran out. O’Reilly released the hold briefly, but then reapplied the hold. He eventually let it go and then Cole headed to the back selling the arm as the referee placed an ice pack on it…

Adam Cole pinned Kyle O’Reilly in 16:20.

Powell’s POV: The best match of the night and it’s not even close. I like the finish because it keeps the feud alive and gives the heel the upper hand. Cole didn’t make good on his promise to rid ROH of O’Reilly. It was an interesting threat because O’Reilly and Bobby Fish have had rocky contract negotiations with ROH. It’s possible things have improved, but it’s also possible that they could be written out at the television taping tomorrow. ROH is crazy if they don’t go above and beyond to keep those two. As great as Cole is, I’d love to see him fight to be the biggest heel in the promotion. If the crowd is into the “baby” line, then don’t give it to them. It seems like he’s content with the crowd cheering for him, but I’d really like to see him be the guy with no redeeming qualities who does everything he can to turn the fans against him.

A video package recapped the masked man revealing himself as Alex Shelley to Chris Sabin…

5. Alex Shelley, ACH, Matt Sydal vs. Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Chris Sabin. Prince Nana was on commentary. Corino, er, Mr. Wrestling III said he finds Shelley to be a little strange and got Nana’s feedback on him. He asked Nana if he’s sure he wouldn’t be better suited being with the Spanish broadcast team. Funny.

At 3:45, Sabin and Shelley ended up in the ring together. There was a loud “Motor City” chant as they were about to lock up. Sabin tagged out to avoid facing Shelley and mocked the live crowd with a smile. In the end, ACH hit his finisher on Sabin, then Shelley performed a great Shooting Star Press onto Sabin and pinned him for the win…

Alex Shelley, ACH, Matt Sydal beat Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Chris Sabin in 15:20.

Powell’s POV: I had a hard time getting up for this match despite liking all six wrestlers involved. They never bothered to explain why Shelley and Sabin are no longer on the same page. There are no major issues between them, so while I know Sabin is the heel, it’s not like he did anything that you want to see Shelley avenge. Even the announcers said they were left with more questions than answers. I was actually hoping that Sabin and Shelley were going to turn on their opponents and reunite. There was good action throughout the match, but this easily could have been the opening match, as at least there was at least something at stake in the three-way tag match to make it feel like more of a spot fest. Meanwhile, in update on the venue, @Prowrestling.net follower @JmsnthnyPllnt noted that 2300 Arena is a lot smaller than it was back in the ECW Arena days, as it’s now two separate rooms.

A video package set up the ROH TV Title match…

6. Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Fish for the ROH TV Title. The wrestlers shook hands before the bell. The match was entertaining and back and forth early on with the live crowd split in their chants for both men. They fought to ringside at 10:45 and Fish executed a backbreaker. Fish went to the top rope, but Strong cut him off and ended up picking him up and performing a backbreaker on the top turnbuckle.

They traded punches in mid-ring at 12:30. Fish connected with a nice spinning kick to the head and covered Strong for two. Fish came back moments later with a falcon arrow from the top rope and got another two count. They went back to trading punches. There was an awkward simultaneous dive that resulted in Fish applying a leg hold.

Strong tried to apply a hold of his own, but Fish countered into the Fishook. Strong tapped out, so Fish released the hold and started to celebrate. Everyone in the building other than the referee saw the tap. The fans chanted “you tapped out” and Fish pleaded with the referee before turning into a high knee from Strong, who then pinned him and celebrated. After Strong left, multiple referees tended to Fish, who acted knocked out from the knee…

Roderick Strong defeated Bobby Fish to retain the ROH TV Title in 15:20.

Powell’s POV: This was very similar to the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar finish at SummerSlam. Corino was there to make the call that David Otunga did on the Raw Pre-Show by saying that Strong may have strategically tapped out. Corino and Kelly said only Strong knows for sure whether he was tapping out to submit or doing it for strategic reasons. Does this mean Strong is a heel again? I guess Undertaker didn’t turn heel, so maybe not.

As the broadcast team was talking about the match finish, Veda Scott and Cedric Alexander walked to ringside. Veda spoke about her lawsuit storyline. The fans eventually chanted “Shut The F— Up” loudly. Veda said they would want to hear what she had to say. She said there had been a settlement and she and Alexander are very happy with the confidential terms of the settlement…

Powell’s POV: I concur with the live crowd. And that’s coming from someone who would like to hear some live promos between the matches.

7. Matt Taven and Michael Bennett (w/Maria) vs. War Machine for the ROH Tag Titles. Taven and Bennett hit War Machine with the tag belts before the match started. Corino stated that it’s not a DQ if you do it before the bell. Taven dove over the top of one of his opponents on the floor and they replayed it for some reason.

The tag champions teamed up for a spike piledriver on Ray Rowe on the floor. Taven came up holding his left knee. Bennett rolled Rowe inside the ring. The referee called for the bell to start the match for God knows what reason, and Taven covered Row for a two count.

War Machine ended up making their comeback at ringside. Rowe powerbombed Bennett into the ringside barricade. Inside the ring, War Machine hit their Fallout finisher and got the win…

War Machine defeated Matt Taven and Michael Bennett in 1:50 to win the ROH Tag Titles.

Powell’s POV: Why doesn’t everyone in ROH attack their opponents for the bell if the referee is going to let you do it and then even go so far as to call for the bell to start the match the moment you try to capitalize on the attack by going for a pin? It doesn’t seem very honorable despite the company name, but that’s what we saw here. More importantly, Taven’s injury didn’t play into anything from a storyline standpoint and appeared to be legitimate. Here’s hoping it’s not serious. It was no surprise to see the tag title change if you listened to the exclusive Dot Net Weekly audio show, as we spoke about Bennett and Maria’s deals expiring soon.

Kelly and Corino spoke at ringside. Kelly said it was a pleasure to have Mr. Wrestling III at ringside and then dismissed him, as they had two special guests scheduled to join Kelly for the main event. Corino said it was his pleasure and he was happy to have the guests join Kelly. He also thanked ROH “for everything” before making his exit…

After Mr. Wrestling III left, B.J. Whitmer came out and said everyone knew Corino was under the mask, and he tried to join Kelly on commentary. Kelly had security come out and escort Whitmer away… A video package set up the main event…

Powell’s POV: Speaking of expiring deals, this was scheduled to be the last date for Corino because of his contract situation. I was hoping that they resolved the contractual differences, but based on Corino thanking the company for everything it leads me to believe that he was saying goodbye. I sure hope not because he is my favorite color commentator going right now and adds so much to the ROH television shows and pay-per-views.

Nigel McGuinness and Jerry Lynn were introduced separately as the special guest commentators for the main event… Bobby Cruise delivered the in-ring introductions for the main event…

8. Jay Lethal (w/Truth Martini, Taeler Hendrix) vs. A.J. Styles for the ROH Title. Kelly acknowledged that Styles has been battling a back injury lately and said it’s something that has bothered him throughout his career. They used it to tell a story with Lethal targeting the lower back of Styles from the start.

Styles came back with a couple of inverted atomic drops. He also performed a face first slam and got a two count. Nigel stated that it was the first time in the match that Styles was the aggressor. Styles went for a springboard move, but Lethal caught him with the Lethal Combination and got a two count.

Styles battled back, but Lethal threw him into the air and caught him with a neckbreaker on the way down and got a two count at 14:25. Styles kicked to ringside and then Lethal followed up with a pair of suicide dives, and the second one knocked Styles over the barricade. Lethal went for a third suicide dive, but Styles connected with what appeared to be a springboard forearm off the barricade. The camera crew didn’t get a great shot of that move, but the live crowd loved it.

Back inside the ring, Styles came back and went up top, but Lethal cut him off. A short time later, Lethal hit a Diamond Cutter off the ropes and then went for Lethal Injection, but Styles avoided it and hit a Pele Kick. Styles followed up moments later with a Styles Clash attempt, but Lethal picked him up and dumped him over the top rope and through a table. The referee counted to 19 and Styles returned to the ring just before the 20 count.

Lethal immediately hit Lethal Injection and went for the win, but Styles kicked out at the last moment. Most of the crowd was standing. Lethal jawed at Styles that this is his time. Styles fired back with strikes, but Lethal avoided a Pele Kick.

Styles and Lethal jockeyed for position and Lethal ended up performing a cradle piledriver. Lethal rushed over to taunt Lynn after using his finisher, then followed up with Lethal Injection on Styles and scored the clean pin. Lethal jawed about being the best and then shook the hand of the fallen Styles to end the show…

Jay Lethal defeated A.J. Styles to retain the ROH Title in 22:15.

A graphic listed ROH 14th Anniversary on February 26 in Las Vegas as the next pay-per-view event…

Powell’s POV: An excellent main event. I was pleasantly surprised to see Lethal go over clean, as I fully expected a screwy finish designed to protect Styles. Lethal comes out of this looking extremely strong in scoring a clean pin over his most high profile opponent to date. I love the way they incorporated the Styles injury into the match. This was just a tremendous match.

Overall, this was a very good pay-per-view event. The production was stronger than usual. The ring was well lit and everything looked much more professional than we’ve seen from ROH on some pay-per-view events. They saved the best for last in terms of their 2015 pay-per-views. I do wish they would slow down a bit. They clearly go for a rapid fire pace with very little time between the matches. I’d like to hear from guys like Lethal and Styles (and some others) at some point during the show. It would make bigger matches stand out and give viewers a chance to catch their breath. Again, though, a good night for ROH capped off by a great main event. Thanks for watching along with me. I’ll have more to say in the members’ audio review later tonight or on Saturday.


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