By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
These thoughts were written in real time based on my instant reactions during ROH Final Battle 2018.
-The opening match between Kenny King and Eli Isom was a logical choice and the right person went over. As much as Isom appears to have the potential to become a full time roster member, he’s not quite there yet. Given the build up they’ve been giving Kenny King over the last few months since his brief feud with Austin Aries and his new attitude, I would have been very surprised if he had been fed to a youngster. Overall, a decent match as well to kick off the show.
-Damn, Jeff Cobb vs. Hangman Page for the ROH TV Championship was intense from start to finish. If this is indeed the final PPV match in ROH for Adam, he can certainly hang his hat on a great performance on his way out. Again, the right person went over with Cobb looking like the new big star that ROH will have to build around if the Elite members and SCU are on their way out.
-The four-way elimination match for the Women of Honor Championship between Sumie Sakai, Kelly Klein, Madison Rayne, and Karen Q was the best women’s match I’ve seen in ROH. I haven’t been as big of a fan of Sakai’s title reign, not because she hasn’t done good work, but it’s felt like she hasn’t been on television as much as you would like the first champion of a new division to be. With Klein as the champion, they have a potential great heel who the babfaces can chase, which I thought would have been the smarter way to begin the division to begin with, so I was delighted with this result.
-I was so disappointed with the Jonathan Gresham vs. Zack Sabe Jr. match, not because the quality wasn’t there because it was in spades, but it was just too short. If Zack is doing more business with ROH in the near future then the result makes sense, but if he’s going to be like Will Ospreay in terms of coming in for the odd match here and there I think it’s a mistake. Despite how good Gresham has been in 2018, quickly name me one singles match that he has won on either TV or PPV? It’s not easy to remember, is it?
-DAMN!!!! How Matt Taven was not only able to get up from that nasty spot on the guardrail but perform for another 10-12 in a very good match is beyond me. The sign of appreciation from the fans afterwards was great to see as he deserves all the plaudits in the world for gutting his way through the rest of the match. Dalton Castle looked great here and it was good to see the Peacock back up to pace as I’ve felt he’s looked a step or two off since returning. With that being said, despite my interest level being quite low going into this match, this was the best match of the show up to this point.
-The Christopher Daniels vs. Marty Scurll match was good, but it never felt that it got out of third gear. When it was time to step it up they did a decent job, but I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t as epic as they would have hoped. Scurll in 2019 is going to be interesting if he is indeed the sole member of The Elite left in ROH. Will he go full heel and tell the crowd that he doesn’t want to be there? It would be the perfect way to turn the popular Englishman. I liked how classy the ROH fans were after the match as they stood for the seemingly end of Daniels in ROH. I don’t see the after match attack by Bully Ray going anywhere, I think it was simply a way of Bully Ray playing with the fans emotions in a negative way to get more heat for the match. As a result, the start of the next match was incredibly hot, so I don’t think we are going to see Bully Ray against Christopher Daniels anytime soon.
-Wow, I don’t even know where to start with the I Quit match between Bully Ray and Flip Gordon. Emotional yes, and the right person definitely went over. Exciting? Hell yeah. When you look at it in retrospect, they didn’t really do anything that would be considered dangerous or “extreme” except the kendo stick shots, but ultimately the multi layers of stories being told played with the emotions of the fans. I’ve been on record that Bully Ray has been great for ROH, but his feuds haven’t had a satisfying conclusion until now and it happened at just about the right moment.
-The return of Sandman was logical storytelling considering he was Flip’s choice to face Silas Young a couple of months ago and it was great seeing the reaction from the fans when the lights came back on.
-I know she’s not in the business, but couldn’t have Flip’s partner looked a little bit more into the match before and after her angle?
-Despite what I said about Daniels and Bully Ray earlier, and after the involvement of Daniels in the match, I still don’t see a Daniels against Bully mini feud on telly. With Daniels putting his body on the line to save Cary Silkin it will show Joe Koff that Daniels is a changed man and he’s selfless. Another great little storyline wrinkle added to this multi-layered match.
-Does anybody else remember when Steve Corino was banned from commentary because announcers in ROH can’t get involved in matches? How many times has Colt Cabana ran to the ring during Bully Ray segments? I know it’s a small thing, and I personally have no problem with Colt getting involved as it pops the crowd big, but I wish they would address it so this little nitpick stops gnawing at me.
-Wow, the ROH Title match between Jay Lethal and Cody had a tough act to follow. With the I Quit match before it and the Ladders Wars after, does that make the title match the Diva buffer match?
-See kids that’s how you generate heel heat with a “pro you” crowd when you want to be a heel. Cody has been great since the start of his ROH run in terms of turning a pro crowd against him.
-Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman worked hard to try and make the match outcome seem 50/50 by addressing rumors of Cody leaving, but I still felt that it was only a matter of time before Lethal got the victory. That being said, I did question myself after the Lethal Injection by Jay on Brandi followed by CrossRhodes, but that shows how effective the close two count was.
-The Adam Page “Survivor Series ‘97” moment was just weird and it took the wind out of the crowd who were really getting into the match. In a funny moment, did anyone else catch the terrified lady in the front row who shrieked every time Lethal hit one of his multiple suicide dives?
-As noted, the outcome was predictable because although they could have given the belt to Cody for a night and had him drop the championship at the television taping, it wouldn’t have been the right decision to break Lethal’s championship momentum for a “swerve, brother”. Cody looked strong on the way out, and Lethal looked great in defeating a tough competitor.
-30 minutes left in the show as the main event entrances start for Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky vs. The Young Bucks vs. The Briscoes in a Ladder war… This match has a lot to top and it’s not a stretch to expect this match to be insane.
-Because the larger companies these days rightly pull back on the violence in their shows, it makes the blood in this match all the more shocking and dramatic.
-Was Matt Jackson tossing the sledgehammer aside symbolic?
-Could Caprice Coleman have sounded less enthusiastic when The Briscoes won the match?
-That was one hell of a match and deserved the main event placing. I’m speechless with how much of their bodies all six men gave for this match. Tremendous stuff, and just like Page and Cody, if this is the last ROH match for four of these men they can more than hold their heads up high. There was a tinge of sadness to think that these six men may not face each other again for a long time, but still the match was tremendous.
-Overall, Final Battle 2018 was beyond great. Every match delivered and then some with the exception of the Gresham vs. Sabre match, which was only designed to be an exhibition anyways. Although some matches went into the show feeling like they could or should have had another month’s worth of build, this was made up during the actual contests with great ring psychology and story telling. I can’t recommend this PPV highly enough.
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