Thursday, December 22, 2011

Final Battle 2011 Preview

Tom and I wanted to take a look at Final Battle in a team method, where we each offer up our views in one post.  Look for more of these to come in the future, including our 2011 Year End Awards, and our Wish List for 2012!

Final Battle is Ring of Honor’s biggest card of the year, it is their “Wrestlemania”.  We have seen dream matches, big title matches, major grudges ended, and so much more in the history of Final Battle.  2011 is the 10th edition of Final Battle, and is set to be a big, big show!  On to the matches and thoughts/predictions! 

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jimmy Rave

JIM:  I absolutely love this matchup!  And, I LOVE that Jimmy Rave is coming back to ROH.  I hope it’s for more than just one night, and that he’ll be back in full time.  Rave looked very good last spring working the Wrestlemania weekend for DGUSA, so it’s great to see him back in ROH.  I also love the play they’ll get out of Rave knowing all of Nana’s tricks.  This should be a lot of fun, but in the end, Rave is not the guy to end Ciampa’s run, Tommaso Ciampa keeps on racking up wins here.

TOM:  Bringing Jimmy Rave back for this match is such a good move by ROH.  Rave is the most identifiable wrestler in the history of The Embassy, even if many fans of ROH now were not around when he had his run.  This will be a storyline test for Ciampa and I think, in addition to being a really entertaining match, he will get the win (albeit in underhanded means).  I could see the way watch plays out set up for a re-match at ROH’s 10th Anniversary in 2012.

Michael Elgin vs. TJ Perkins

JIM:  I was super excited when this match got announced as I think it’s a great matchup of two guys that if ROH gets behind them, could be big stars for them in 2012.  Elgin is just a beast as he plows through the competition.  Perkins has some great high flying, and is a submission and ground specialist too.  The story here should be, can Perkins ground the uber powerful Elgin.  I don’t think he can, and with Elgin winning Survival of the Fittest, and having a guaranteed title match coming in early 2012, I see no way Perkins gets the win here, but I do hope he looks good in defeat and proves he can hang.

TOM:  TJ Perkins is one of my favorite wrestlers in ROH.  He brings something unique with his style, both in the ring and out.  Even with that, ROH has not gotten behind him in any capacity other than to have good matches and get other talents over.  He’s been effective with that, but I still have hope for more.  Elgin’s rise has been well documented in 2011 and he’s done much more since he joined Jim and I for an interview earlier this year.  He certainly seems to figure as a staple of ROH in 2012, so he should win a very competitive match here.

Tag Team Gauntlet Match
The Young Bucks vs. All Night Express vs. Future Shock vs. Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander vs. The Bravados

JIM:  This should be a spectacular move fest with some great tag teams getting to show off that ROH has the best tag division in American wrestling right now.  This is being billed as a “Contenders Cup” match, meaning the winning team gets a tag title shot in 2012.  At this point I can’t see ANX or Future Shock winning it, as much as I like those guys as they have had recent title shots.  So, I will go with The Young Bucks, but I really do hope that Caprice/Coleman and Future Shock both come out of this looking like stars as well.  To be honest, a Bucks/Future Shock feud over the tag belts would work for me! 

TOM:  I expect this to be the undercard match with the most excitement, as I just see this as a non-stop sprint loaded with action.  While I agree with Jim that ROH has the best tag division, I also feel like it is at the point of some rehab in terms of contenders at this point.  The only team in this match that is viable in the minds of fans and has not had a shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles is The Young Bucks, so while I would think they go ahead and pick up the win to secure that, I believe ROH go in that direction.  My choice is Future Shock of Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly and they will use this win to build to them eventually taking the titles in early 2012 from either WGTT or The Briscoes.

Roderick Strong Invitational Challenge
Roderick Strong vs. ???

JIM:  This all depends on who the mystery opponent is.  I’ve seen speculation from fans for everyone from Nigel McGuinness to John Morrison to Chris Hero.  Whoever it is, I hope that it’s worth the “surprise” factor, and I actually like that at this point, we don’t know for sure who it will be.  In the end, whoever it is, I expect Roderick Strong to get the win, even if it’s by less than legal means.  Strong seems primed for another run in the main event against whoever comes out of the Richards/Edwards match as the champ, so I think Strong gets the win here.  If the person who is in this slot is sticking around for more than one night, perhaps we’ll see a screw job leading to a short feud. 

TOM:  Strong is one of the veteran stars of ROH and to long time fans, one of the most identifiable names and faces.  I appreciate that ROH has taken the approach they have to give added meaning to his match and role at their biggest show of the year.  The build on the TV show to this is that Strong is so cocky and confident in his ability that he doesn’t need to train ahead of whoever his opponent might be.  In addition to the names that Jim mentioned, Low Ki would also seem to be a worthy candidate.  I am going to give my vote to Chris Hero, because he is a name and talent that fans would quickly get behind, has not been in the role of babyface in ROH before and could have a really good match with Roddy.  I see Roddy winning here as well, but a loss could be the beginning of signs of breakage in the foundation of The House of Truth.

Special Ref – Jimmy Jacobs: If Steen wins, he is reinstated
Kevin Steen vs. Steve Corino

JIM:  This could be one of the matches I am most looking forward to.  This entire story, through all it’s twists and turns has been going on for 2 years now.  That is unheard of in pro wrestling these days.  The best part is, they’ve kept it interesting all the way through!  No chance Steen loses this match, but what happens to get there is the story.  Does someone turn?  Have Corino and/or Jacobs been playing us all?  What will happen with Jim Cornette at ringside?  This is going to be a spectacle to see, no doubt!  Steen back in ROH next year will be a very, very good thing!

TOM:  This bout is one year in the making since the incredible fight between Steen and El Generico last year at Final Battle, that sent Steen out of ROH for good.  The build to this match has so many facets and layers, it has really been very effective in getting fans to care, possibly just as much, if not more than the World Title Match.  With Corino’s history at the Hammerstein Ballroom from his ECW and Steen’s penchant to violently raise the bar, I expect this to be an unreal contest from a violent, brutal but also storyline perspective.  The outcome could go a number of different directions and with the players involved (Steen, Corino, Jacobs, Cornette) it should be interesting.  To me, Steen must win as his reign of evil will be a main storyline in ROH in 2012!

ROH World TV Title Elimination Match
Jay Lethal (C) vs. El Generico vs. Mike Bennett

JIM:  Well, Jay Lethal has had draws against both Generico and Bennett, so we’ve got this match.  Anyone who has talked to me about ROH knows that I am not a Mike Bennett fan, not in the least.  However, he did promise last year that he would hold ROH gold in the year 2011.  And while there will only be a week or so left in the year come this Friday, I do expect him to walk away with the gold.  Generico should then slowly be moved into the main event picture, eventually building to a rematch with Steen when Steen wins the World Title (which I expect to happen in 2012). 

TOM:  I must be honest that this match is the one I am least connected to.  I just am not a big fan of Lethal and Bennett still has not won me over.  I am a huge fan of Generico and know he will be the glue that holds this bout together, while he is a part of it.  Following up on Jim’s point about Bennett’s title win guarantee, he makes good on that and takes the title here with Maria Kanellis on his arm!

ROH World Tag Team Title Match
World’s Greatest Tag Team (C) vs. The Briscoe Brothers

JIM:  The World’s Greatest Tag Team has cooled off significantly for me in recent months.  Hopefully after the attack Benjamin suffered on TV a couple of weeks back with have them coming into this match like a ball of fire looking for revenge.  Hopefully there will be lots of emotion in this one.  The Briscoes have just been on fire since they became heels again in the spring, and actually may be more popular now than they have been in quite some time.  I hope ROH doesn’t decide they need to be babyfaces again…just keep them as crazy rednecks, and if the crowd cheers, that’s ok, don’t change a thing!  I think it’s time for the Briscoes to win back the ROH Tag Team Titles this weekend!

TOM:  The build for this bout has been going for a good 10 months and while not embroiled in a feud that entire time, since they met at the 9th Anniversary Show I believe the plan was for these two teams to match-up at Final Battle with the titles on the line.  I am in complete agreement with Jim; Jay & Mark are hot, they are fresh again as #DemBoys from Sandy Ford, DE and just want to fight!  I will be very interested to see the next steps for WGTT as well, coming out of this bout.

ROH World Title Match
Davey Richards (C) vs. Eddie Edwards

JIM:  This is the third one on one meeting between the two, with Edwards winning the TV Title in a tournament final by defeating Richards on 3/5/10, and Richards won the World Title from Edwards on 6/26/11.  Both matches were absolutely outstanding, and I expect nothing less from this match.  There isn’t a bigger match in ROH right now outside of Kevin Steen vs. Davey Richards, and that has only just begun to simmer, and Steen has to get back into ROH first anyways, so there was no chance for that this year at Final Battle.  This absolutely had to be the main event here, and I personally can’t wait to see it.  Will Davey Richards be able to hang on to the title?  Will Eddie Edwards become only the second man ever to hold the ROH World Title for a second time?  I have to admit, I’ve really struggled with my pick on this one, but for now, since I think Steen vs. Davey has legs, I’m going to go with Davey Richards winning this one.  Edwards will hold the title again someday, but I don’t see it right now.

TOM:  While I agree with Jim that the “money match” in ROH has got to be Davey Richards vs. Kevin Steen, I think recent history has shown that no matter what and even if the fans want it, ROH has a plan and will see that though to the end.  I have no doubts that Richards vs. Steen goes down in 2012, but the ROH World Title might not be the bargaining chip on the line.  I digress, as there will be more time and another place to re-visit that match.  I expect Richards-Edwards III to be epic, to have a “major” fight atmosphere and the added element of Dan Severn will make the MMA context of this battle that much more meaningful.  Will it come down to a battle of Richards’ BJJ prowess versus the Octagon experience and prep that Severn, along with the wrestling background which he’s been coaching and working with Edwards on for months?  Needless to say, I cannot wait and my pick is Eddie Edwards to re-capture the ROH World Title in what will no doubt be an instant ROH classic!

NOTE:  Check out our interview with Eddie Edwards by clicking here!

We'll be back next week with our Year End Awards and our wishes for pro wrestling in 2012!  

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