By Rich Bailin, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@RichBailin)
Saturday night, my son and I attended Ring of Honor’s Final Battle at the UMBC arena (yes, I will still call it that over Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena) for what may really be the final time.
I have mentioned in the past that I have been to quite a few ROH shows from Baltimore, but after looking back I can safely say I have been to most, if not all, of the ROH shows that have happened in Baltimore since late 2011 or early 2012. Many times, I would buy my tickets for the next show during intermission of the current show I was at (usually front row or as close as I could get). Needless to say, it was bittersweet buying tickets to this show knowing it may very well be for the last time.
I chose to get to the arena a little later this time as we were expecting rain and heavy winds in the area and I did not want to wait in line early with my son and get caught in anything. We arrived shortly after 6pm and the line was already moving to let people in. First thing we did this time was wait in line at the merch table. There was a lot more merchandise this time than there was for Best in the World, but a lot of it was older stuff discounted for quick sale. I did manage to pick up a Final Battle t-shirt and poster and a Danhausen micro brawler for my son.
There was no pod seating for this show and there were definitely more fans in attendance than for Best in the World. They possibly could have opened up more of the arena if they wanted too as one side of the arena was completely taped off. Right before the show started, I got to meet fellow Dot Net staffer Colin McGuire for the first time. I know he has plenty to say about Final Battle in his Monday blog coming out later today, so I will try to keep my match comments brief.
Overall, this was a really good show with a lot more surprises than I expected. I want to make a general statement about the videos that were sent in by ROH alumni. First off major kudos to Tony Khan, Scott D’Amore, and Billy Corgan for allowing their talent to appear either live or on tape. It really added to the magnitude of this show. The only issue we had live with the videos was hearing them as whatever was happening post-match was still happening as they aired.
Moses, Kaun and O’Shay Edwards (w/Ron Hunt) vs. “The Righteous” Vincent, Bateman, and Dutch (w/ Vita VonStarr) for ROH Six-Man tag titles. This was a good match to get us started and set the tone for what we were about to witness throughout the night. It was not a surprise to see The Righteous win the belts. I couldn’t help but wonder why this didn’t make the main show but by the end of the night it made sense.
Chelsea Green, Allysin Kay, and Marti Belle vs. Miranda Alize, Angelina Love and Mandy Leon. A bit of a surprise with The Allure and Alize winning, but with that being the result, Leon making the pin made sense. The result may have been different if this was not the “last” show.
Beer City Bruiser, Brian Milonas, Famous CB, Flip Gordon and PJ Black vs. LSG, Demonic Flamita, Will Ferrara, Sledge and Max the Impaler (w/Amy Rose). Prior to this match, my son told me he was hungry, so off to concessions we went and missed this match.
Dragon Lee vs. Rey Horus. Rey Horus was also in the opening match of Best in the World. This was the right match to start the PPV portion of the show with.
Dalton Castle (w/Dak Draper, Boys) vs. Joe Hendry vs Rhett Titus vs. Silas Young in a four-corner survival match for the ROH TV Title. Castle received the biggest reaction of the four. Hendry was close second, and I think he surprised a lot of fans in attendance by how much he bulked up. Rhett Titus winning was a bit of a surprise, but it did make sense if this was truly the end.
Josh Woods vs. Brian Johnson for the ROH Pure Championship. The outcome of this match was a surprise. With Josh Woods appearing on AEW Dark recently, it seemed Johnson may win this one. I have seen a lot of people who were impressed with Johnson’s promo prior to the match. Personally, I have seen his promo work improve through his work with Maryland Championship Wrestling, which is also a partner of ROH’s Dojo. Johnson is the current MCW Heavyweight Champion and has most recently been feuding with Moses of Shane Taylor Promotions. His work is worth following there. The match itself was fun with Johnson trying to cheat every chance he got. I did bite on a couple of the near falls.
Shane Taylor vs. Kenny King in a Fight Without Honor. The match of the night up until this point. Very hard hitting with lots of weapon spots. There was a scary moment when they were standing on the ladder as it seemed like one of the people holding the ladder moved it accidentally during the Marcus Garvey Driver spot and they may have missed part of the ladder.
Rok-C vs. Willow for the ROH Women’s World Championship. I felt bad for Rok-C during this match, as the crowd turned on her. I’ve read some reviews where it came across as 50/50, but live it felt like 80/20 for Willow. Personally, I felt some spots did not work in this match, but they worked hard and the crowd was definitely into it. Deonna Purrazzo coming out afterward was definitely a surprise with the fans cheering for her over ROK-C as well.
Brody King, Homicide, Tony Deppen and Rocky Romero (w/Chris Dickinson) vs. EC3, Tracy Williams, Eli Isom and Tyler Rust. Going into this show, this is the match I would have pegged for the pre-show rather than the ROH Six Man Tag title match. Once it was over, it made sense why this match made the main card. The sequence of ROH finishers of the past was fun, as was the overall match. The post-match with EC3 was confusing until he released the Titan. This was a surprise I did not expect or necessarily want. Honestly, nothing on this show felt more like an End of an Era than the formerly Braun Strowman showing up. If ROH continues past April, I just can’t see anyone on the ROH roster nor any top indie talent I want to see him compete against.
“The OGK” Matt Taven and Mike Bennett (w/Maria Kanellis) vs. Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe for the ROH Tag Titles. This was an excellent match with the right team going over. No team epitomized ROH in Baltimore or ROH as a whole than the Briscoes. I remember many shows where everyone in the front row would be banging on the ringside barriers screaming “Man Up” every time the Briscoes were in the ring. I have missed that. The fans around me were starting to get upset whenever Taven or Bennett would kick out of a pin attempt. The post-match with the Briscoes calling out every team, which led to FTR coming out to brawl with them was amazing to see live. The crowd went nuts to the point we couldn’t even hear FTR’s music when they came out.
Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham for the original ROH World Championship belt. ROH was put in a very tough spot here with Bandido missing the show due to Covid. I did prep my son that he would not be there once it was announced and while he understood why, he was still disappointed he did not get to see one of his ROH favorites. The match itself was good but a little short. Gresham winning was expected, and it was fitting that it was against Lethal, so I was glad he was able to appear. I don’t know what ROH could have come up with had they not gotten Lethal. All the wrestlers coming out during the match was not a surprise and did signal to me the end was coming. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen that at an ROH show.
After the match, Gresham cut a promo that got really confusing towards the end of it. He said that to be Best in the World he would need to face two men who were important to ROH’s history (CM Punk and Bryan Danielson) and those matches will happen eventually, but he will continue to defend the belt under Pure Rules. He addd that as of tonight the ROH Championship has been purified.
This is where it got confusing. Gresham said for some many years he believed this company cared for them but it took a global pandemic for him to realize that the company did not care and only used them, the pure technical wrestlers. He realized they did not care about honor. So as long as he is ROH Champion, he will not allow ROH to get back on its feet and abandon them again. He will take the heart and soul of this company and take it to Terminus (his startup promotion). He said they will not be treated as an afterthought anymore and he is The Foundation.
Personally, I’m glad that none of this aired on the pay-per-view because it was confusing and I don’t understand why they would end the show with Gresham saying that ROH did not care about the wrestlers and was using them. I’m curious if there will be any follow up to that or if it was meant as a shoot. I don’t think that it was a shoot, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, it was just an odd promo to end a show that was billed as an End to an Era.
And to me it was an End of an Era. I expected more returns than debuts and we got both. The match of the night for me was the Fight Without Honor and the moment of the night was FTR appearing and fighting with the Briscoes.
I hope this is not the last time I will see ROH in Baltimore. I’m happy I got to share the experience with my son and was able to take him to three ROH pay-per-views, and I know he doesn’t want it to be his last either. I am grateful for the close to ten years worth of shows that I personally got to see live.