Folks, I’ll be honest with you, if you’ll let me rant for a spell. This year has been a struggle to get through, including yours truly. Trying to find a sense of whatever constitutes for normalcy is like me trying to find a unicorn, or politeness in politicians. Zoom calls and getting let go of our jobs under the specter of a pandemic has just played havoc with everyone mentally and emotionally, and don’t even get me started on seeking to sports for solace. Even the best of us, including wrestlers, have tried to keep moving on and it can, and has been, challenging. With Ring of Honor, keeping on has had its share of trouble, not the least of which is when their talents like EC3, Kenny King, Flamita, and Bandido get pulled due to ROH’s COVID precautions. So how will Final Battle look like while they and the rest of America are still in the grips of a terrifying pandemic?
To paraphrase the late, great Utah movie critic Jimmy Martin: Let’s start the show, and show me what you got ROH.
Live from the UMBC Events Center in Baltimore, MD
Caprice Coleman and Ian Riccaboni have the call.
Hour One has Dalton Castle joining Coleman and Riccaboni for the free Hour One show. If you missed it, you can catch up to it here. But here are the highlights:
Tony Deppen vs. LSG vs. Josh Woods vs. Dak Draper – Four Corner Survival match for a shot at the ROH World Television Championship later in the show
Match went all over the place, as they are wont to do when there are four competitors. End saw LSG splash woods, who rolled out of the ring, and while LSG scambled to get the pin, Deppen rolled up LSG to get the three count and the shot at the Television title.
Fred Yehi and Wheeler Yuta vs. The Foundation (Tracy Williams and Rhett Titus) – Pure Rules tag team match
I’ll explain the Pure wrestling rules in a minute when we get to the Gresham match. But it’s important to know that the end had Williams use the ropes as leverage on Yuta to get the submission win. Personally, I’m not a big fan of preshow content. But Hey, if it scratches your itch, don’t let me stop you.
We then head to the Main Show, which had a nice vignette as the members of The Foundation were featured quite a bit as holding on to the honor of the company.
First Match: The Foundation (Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham) (c) vs. Mark Briscoe and PCO – ROH World Tag Team Championship Match
If you told me at the beginning of the year that PCO teaming up with Mark Briscoe was the strangest tag team of all time, you would be right. But these days, barely anything shocks me. But then again, I’m preaching to the COVID Choir. Riccaboni notes that Gresham is doing double duty tonight with the tag title defense and the Pure title against Flip Gordon tonight. PCO gets things start and he is every inch the monster in the ring (Best line by Coleman tonight, “He speaks English, he speaks French, he speaks Frankenstein.”) Highlight of the match has PCO do a scary senton on the apron that Gresham just barely escapes.
From there, it’s The Foundation taking control, but PCO …Just…Won’t…Die. Hot tag to Mark has all four men brawling in the ring. PCO and Mark go up top for the Froggy-bow (Mark) and the Moonsault (PCO). Mark tries to get Lethal, but gets Lethal’s knees. PCO connects but Lethal breaks the cover. Foundation back in control and Lethal hits Briscoe with a powerbomb onto a prone PCO. Then Lethal and Gresham set up PCO and nail the Doomsday Device on PCO, with Gresham following up with a shooting star press, but PCO… Just…Won’t…Die. End has PCO and Briscoe attempt a double team, but miscommunication by the mismatched tag team has PCO accidentally spearing Mark from the apron and Gresham using the confusion to roll up PCO for the pin.
Your Winner and Still ROH World Tag Team Champions: The Foundation
Riccaboni and Coleman both reiterate from Hour One that EC3, Flamita, Kenny King, and Bandido will not be in due to ROH’s COVID rules. So kids, the moral of the story is that in the time of COVID, the phrase “This card is subject to change” ain’t hyperbole. Because while we’ll miss those performers, we get a couple bonus matches like…
Rey Horus vs. Dalton Castle
So I personally was wondering how Castle would be involved in the PPV after my recent interview (cheap plug), and I wonder no more. Intro had Castle with The Boys in full regalia, and the best part was one of The Boys giving Castle a squirt of hand sanitizer. Match went back and forth, with Horus showcasing the high flying style that he’s famous for. Big move of the night shows Horus soaring from the top rope and hitting Castle on the floor below. Castle started to take control on the outside and tries to ram Horus in to the barricade, but Horus dodges in time to see Castle topple over. Castle gamely gets back in the ring, where he catches Horus with a high knee, and then hits with Coleman called a North/South powerslam (I’ll call it a Peacock Clash, myself), but Castle gets a two count. Castle goes up top for a high risk maneuver, but Horus reverses in to a tornado sunset flip powerbomb, and gets the win.
Your Winner: Rey Horus
And faster than you can say The Devil’s Rejects, we get…
The OGK (Matt Taven and Mike Bennett) vs. The Righteous (Vincent and Bateman) (with Vita VonStarr)
Very nice video package that showcased the history of the feud between The Righteous and Taven, with his former Kingdom stablemate Mike Bennett coming back to help his friend. This match is (if I may quote the philosopher Jim Ross) tougher than a $2 steak, as both men brought that ultraviolence to the ring, and The Righteous showing early dominance. A quick tag to Bennett and he was a Kingdom o’ Fire, waylaying the faction. Bennett in the corner for a spear to Bateman, and… what in the name of Melina?! VonStarr does the splits in the ring to distract Bennett, and that’s all the time needed for Bateman to take advantage of the situation, and it’s Mike who is now your Kanelis in Peril.
Vincent locks the Grim Sleeper (guillotine choke) on Mike, but Bennett powers out to a brainbuster. A desperation tag to Taven, and now Matt is a Trend o’ fire. Vincent goes back with the Grim Sleeper on Taven, but Taven manages to grab the ropes to break the hold, and all hell breaks loose in the ring. OGK get Bateman with the spike piledriver, but Taven pulls up on the knee, and the cover is only a two count. Bennett then hits a Spicolli driver to Bateman on apron, while Taven tries the Aurora Borealis (Frog Splash) to Vincent but get his knees instead to knock the wind out of his lungs. End of the match showed some unique offense, with Bennett has pulling Vincent halfway out of the ring and hanging from the ring apron, as e Taven hits Aurora Borealis on the outside for the bull’s eye to knock him out of commission. One Shining Wizard/backpack stunner by OGK on Bateman, and that’s all folks.
Your Winners: The OGK
Just as Taven and Bennett were still celebrating, VonStarr dropped low and hit both of The OGK in the…err, little kingdoms (or is it fiefdoms?). In any case, Vincent and Bateman zip tie Taven to the ropes, and VonStarr gets Taven locked in a unique submission to make him slowly pass out. Vincent, meanwhile, goes outside while Bateman subdues Bennett, and Vincent grab a 2 x 4, placing it between Bennett’s ankles, while getting a steel chair, because he wants Taven to watch. Well, faster than you can say “Annie Wilkes,” Vincent slams the chair onto Bennett’s ankle, leaving Bennett howling in utter Misery.
(See what I did there? With the Misery and Annie and… ok, never mind.)
In any case, this leaves The Righteous as more vicious than anything Rob Zombie could come up with onscreen. So how do you follow up that savagery?
Brian Johnson vs. Danhausen – Danhausen will get an ROH Contract if he wins
If you’re new to Danhausen, I would explain him like this: imagine if Tim Burton created a wrestler who is, in his words, “Very Nice. Very Evil.” There you go.
Also, if you feel that Danhausen has no place in wrestling, let along ROH, then I will counter every time that it was that same argument that people made with Orange Cassidy, and if booked right, he can be huge. Of course, Brian Johnson (who looks to me like a smaller Braun Strowman) feels differently and wants to prevent Danhausen from getting said contract. Start of the match has Johnson getting stymied by Danhausen who has some impressive moves of his own. Out of frustration, Johnson then waylays in to Danhausen, grabs a mic, and start commentating on the beatdown. Johnson says he is The Mecca, and tries to knock out Danhausen, but Danhausen…just…Won’t…(waitasec, I just did that with PCO).
Anyhoo, Danhausen shows his sweet arsenal of moves, like a rope-assisted German suplex,, and then a GoodNight, Danhausen (GTS), but Johnson gets out. Johnson then garbs a jar of teeth, and make Danhausen swallow them (I know how it sounds. Work with me here, folks), and a running kick made Danhausen spit out the teeth into the ref”s eyes. Johnson knocks out Danhausen with a neckbreaker and covers for a pin, but the ref is still blinded by the flying tooth decay. Johnson is just beside himself, and goes out to grab a mic again, but Danhausen rubs the top of the mike on his forehead and acts knocked out, and before you can say “Latino Heat” (or, “Danhausen Heat”, in this instance) the ref sees this and thinks Johnson did it and calls for the bell.
Your Winner via “Disqualification”: Danhausen
Well, Danhausen just had to win to get the contract so…yeah. Why not.
Dragon Lee (c) vs. Tony Deppen – ROH World Television Championship Match
Riccaboni and Coleman tried to hype up this was a big match for the young upstart Deppen, and sprinkled their commentary with lots of “Rocky” comparisons. I get it, but unless Thunder Lips makes his in-ring debut to ROH, let’s leave the Balboa hyperbole at the door, mmkay?
Meanwhile, match had some nice chain wrestling between the two competitors, and Deppen was more than equal to the task against Lee, who apparently had some ring rust because he had not competed for some time. If he did, it was hardly noticeable, as Lee made use of his awesome aerial attacks, flying to the outside to knock out Deppen, but the kid had moves of his own. Deppen has moves launching between the ropes to a tope suicida. Of course, the champ answered back with a Moonsault Northern Lights Suplex into a goal kick to Deppen. But Deppen…Just…Won’t…(alright, alright, I’ll stop now).
Lee hits a double stomp from up top, but gets a two count. Deppen answers back with a Somersault neckbreaker and a Shining Wizard, but gets a close two count, as well. Finally, Lee turns up the fire with a reverse ‘rana, followed by a Pescadora. Deppen still has some fight left, but Lee finally gets the upstart knocked down with the Incineration (side Shining Wizard) and the three count.
Your Winner, and Still ROH World Television Champion: Dragon Lee
Lee flips off Deppen as he leaves. Gracious winner, Lee is, although he has no “Tranquilo.”
Earlier in Hour One, Shane Taylor and Jay Briscoe got heated. It went something like this: Jay was upset that EC3 was a punk, and so is Shane, and Shane was all, “oh it’s Like That, huh? You talk a big game, but can you back it up?” Or something. Anyway…
Shane Taylor (w/ SOS) vs. Jay Briscoe
Were you expecting finesse, grace, technical prowess, and sheer technical wizardry?
Yeah, me neither. If the matches between The OGK and The Righteous was the aforementioned $2 steak, this is the gristle. Nothing fancy, just two tough hosses slugging it out. Literally. Taylor knocked out Jay twice in the match like he was Deebo from the movie “Friday”, and each time his knees buckled under him. Jay came back with his Jay Driller and a bulldog choke to take out the big man, for the former Pretty Boy Killer would not go out with a fight. End had Taylor catch Jay in the Marcus Garvey Driver (package piledriver), followed by a Welcome to The Land (spinning Michinoku Driver), and to quote the philosopher Smokey, Jay, “You got knocked the F*** Out!”
And somewhere up above, Tiny “Zeus” Lister is smiling.
Your Winner: Shane Taylor
Now, we head to our two big matches of the night. The Pure Title match has its own set of rules, so for those of you in the cheap seats wondering how this match will be officiated, they are as follows (according to Wikipedia):
- Each wrestler has three rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls during the match. After a wrestler exhausts his rope breaks, submission and pin attempts under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
- There are no closed-fist punches to the face allowed in a Pure match, only open-handed slaps or chops to the face are allowed. Punches to other parts of the body (save for low blows) are permitted. The first use of a closed fist would get a warning, and the second would cause the wrestler to be penalized a rope break. If he is already out of rope breaks, he would be disqualified.
- A wrestler is subject to a twenty count by the referee if the wrestler goes to the floor.
- Never get the wrestlers wet.
- Never feed them after midnight.
(Ok, I made up the last two. But I had you going for a second, huh?)
Jonathan Gresham (c) vs. Flip Gordon – Pure Rules match for the ROH Pure Championship
Ring Announcer Bobby Cruise does the boxing style ring intros. I have stated before, and will continue to do so until this pandemic ends: I love the boxing style intros and they make perfect sense to draw and hype up the prestige and the heritage of not only the titles but also the men holding and vying for said belts. It is a great way to get the crowd invested further, but exactly how in the Blue Meanie hell does it work when there is crowd to speak of?!
In any case, Gresham and Gordon start out, and Gresham shows why he is nicknamed “The Octopus” and the variety of stretches and holds are a thing of beauty. Gresham is really showing his mastery in the Pure title match, and Gordon is unable to get started with his high-flying arsenal. This gets further highlighted when Gordon grabs the ropes to break Gresham’s holds, and he is down to less than one rope break in the first 5-7 minutes of the match. While it looked dire, Riccaboni and Coleman point out that sooner or later Gresham will start showing the fatigue from his earlier tag match. Just like that, Gresham goes for a slam, but injures his knee, and suddenly Gordon smells blood in the water.
From There, Gordon really puts on a clinic of submission from kneebars to Boston crabs to STF’s to wear down the Pure champion, but The Octopus manages each time to wriggle his way out, but not without consequence as he has to do rope breaks. Late into the match, Gresham gets caught by another of Gordon’s STF’s and he cannot use the ropes to break the hold anymore, so he grabs the ropes to throw both of themselves out of the ring. With time running out, Gresham gets Gordon up top and traps his arm into a hammerlock superplex, causing more injury to Gordon. Gresham, sensing the end, delivers forearm shot after forearm shot to Gordon’s arm until finally the ref calls match after seeing Gordon passed out from the pain.
Your Winner via Ref Stoppage, and Still ROH Pure Champion: Jonathan Gresham
Your Main Event: Rush (c) vs. Brody King – ROH World Championship
Since severing any ties with the former Villain Enterprises, King has made impressive strides in his matches and chalked up a few wins to garner a shot at the World Championship, if I am going to be #Speakingout on the matter.
Moving along, we get another boxing style intros to an empty arena.
(That sound you heard was me rolling my eyes at this. Let’s keep moving along, shall we?)
From the moment the bell rang, this was a slobber knocker and king showed Rush he had no “Tranquilo”, diving through the ropes and just runs Rush roughshod (say that three times fast!) with “Just Violence”. From there, King channels the spirit of Bruiser Brody, using steel chairs on the floor, slamming Rush onto them. Back in the ring, and King hits a Cannonball to Rush in the corner, but Rush gets out of Dodge and then gets a second wind, taking it to King on the outside, and ramming the barricade door in King’s head. Rush then grabs the production cables to choke out King, but senior referee Todd Sinclair ain’t having it, but Rush is telling Todd to just “Tranquilo.” Rush then shoves King back in the ring, and preens to the “crowd.” This is now in the wheelhouse of La Mayor Ingobernable as Rush is now playing mind games and serious poking the murder bear tthat is Brody King.
King is so frustrated he…err, rushes after Rush, who turns his momentum into a powerslam to the corner turnbuckle. Rush then sets up his Bulls Horns finisher, but King turns El Toro Blanco inside out with a sidewalk slam. King then goes up top and attempts a Pepsi Plunge (props to CM Punk), but Rush reverses to a superplex. Rush goes for Bull’s Horns again, but King answers with a spear. Sensing victory, King gets Rush in the Gonzo Bomb, but La Faccion Ingobernable members Dragon Lee and their father, La Bestia Del Ring, come out. Lee distracts the ref, while Bestia hits King with a steel chair to his cranium. Rush uses the opportunity to send king into the corner, and finally hits the Bulls Horns, and Sinclair counts the one, two, three.
Your Winner, and Still ROH World Champion: Rush
End of the match had the members of La Faccion Ingobernable celebrating Rush’s win, while The Foundation come out and stare daggers, setting up the potential for a big money match with these two teams down the road, as we fade to black.