Thursday 13 December 2012

Final Battle: Doomsday preview

It's been a tough year for Ring of Honor. The company has faced backlash from fans over Jim Cornette's maddening approach to booking while lurching from one iPPV blunder to the next and failing to create any new bankable stars.
It would be unfair to say all of this is a result of the ROH's new owner, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, failing to understand what a wrestling audience wants from a wrestling product. A shrunken talent pool and reduced scheduled haven't helped matters. Sinclair aren't blameless though. The parent company is indirectly responsible for many of the roadblocks ROH, and fans, have had to put up with.
Things are looking up as 2012 draws to a close. Cornette has been removed from both his on- and off-screen roles, replaced by Nigel McGuinness and Delirious respectively. Hopefully he will be given the creative freedom to get ROH back on course.
Final Battle: Doomsday will be a good indication of where the new (or, to be more precise, reinstalled without Cornette) booker will take the product. It typically draws one of the league's largest audiences of the year which makes it the perfect time to introduce new feuds and switch titles. It's perfectly place to work as a reboot show, and I hope Delirious seizes upon that opportunity.
A very good looking card has been put together using Ring of Honor's sparse team of regulars and two outsiders (both of whom have worked for the company before). Considering how long it's been since anyone new was introduced to the group that's quite a feat, and a promising sign.
The first outsider is former ROH world champion Jerry Lynn. He will face Mike Bennett. 'The Prodigy' had a trio of matches earlier in the year with celebrated technical wrestler Lance Storm. It feels to me like ROH is trying to emulate that here. Not that that's a bad thing. Anything that places more of a spotlight on Bennett, one of the most overlooked acts at the company's disposal, can't be all bad. I'm hoping he and Lynn have a cracking bout.
The winner of this one should be Bennett. Lynn has announced he will retire on March 23 next year and ROH have stated this will be his final appearance for them, so return bouts unlikely. 'The Prodigy' has far more to gain from a win than does Lynn so he should be the man getting a tick in the win column.
The second outsider is Bobby Fish. He will team with Kyle O'Reilly to tackle the American Wolves. This will be the first time Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards have teamed in over a year and a half. I expect them to get a very positive reaction from the New York fans and for Kyle O'Reilly, who's been booked like a petulant child for months now, to get drowned in boos. I think this match should be one of the show's highlights. The Wolves are my choice because I think they need to play an important role in the tag team division early in 2013.
O'Reilly's former Future Shock partner and current television champion Adam Cole will wrestle a non-title match with the luckiest man in wrestling, Matt Hardy. Lucky because he's managed to stay relevant and gain work with major promotions despite being an average worker with no proven money drawing ability.
That said I like what's been done with him since he joined ROH. The story is that Hardy believes himself to be better than everyone else in the company based on his WWE stardom, which has led to condescending remarks which have rubbed the roster the wrong way. What is it they say? The best wrestling gimmicks are based on reality?
Why Adam Cole has been lumbered with Hardy is anyone's guess. Must've played politics with the wrong people. I'd much rather see him face someone like Johnny Gargano, TJ Perkins or Sammi Callahan if outside talent are being brought in. With Cole involved it should be an above average match, but the youngster deserves better.
The victory should go to Cole but I've a feeling Hardy will win to set up a title match. That will be won be Cole.
Former TV champ Jay Lethal will face Rhino. I'm not entirely sure why this match is happening. It feels like an excuse to get Lethal onto the card.
The dissolution of the House of Truth makes me think 'The Man Beast' could be off the roster fairly soon, and Lethal's recent turn to the wild side would provide the perfect way of writing him out of the company. Perhaps the former 'Black Machismo' (he really needs a new moniker for me to use) could wrestle so ferociously that he ends up getting disqualified, leading to a post-match beating of Rhino. Alternatively he could lose and assault his foe in frustration. Or he could lose on a rollup and go nuts. Whichever was chosen Lethal would be presented as a wildman and Rhino would be gone.
This assumes ROH is getting rid of the final ECW champion, of course. It also assumes Lethal will remain a heel. And it would require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief to accept Lethal destroying a man as stocky as Rhino. None of this seems far fetched but its still a bit of stretch to see all of that come together.
I'll predict a win for Jay as he's more likely to feature in the world title scene than Rhino next year. Don't expect a pretty bout though.
The feud between Rhett Titus and Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team started well over six months ago when Titus was still teaming with Kenny King as the All Night Express. When King left for TNA he was replaced by BJ Whitmer. The new team have not excited audiences as ANX did and as such it's harder to care about their confrontations with the former WWE superstars.
It feels like the rivalry has been rumbling on forever. I hope Final Battle is the last encounter between the teams for a while. All four men would benefit from something fresh. With that in mind I'm going to predict a win for the babyfaces. They need a boost more than Wrestling's Greatest.
The last tag team match to preview is the three-way pitting champions SCUM against the brothers Briscoe and the C&C Wrestle Factory. I'm not a fan of this match. Mark and Jay have become overexposed thanks to the profound lack of new teams, meaning they've already had several shots at the doubles gold already. Meanwhile the title reign of Steve Corino and Jimmy Jacobs feels like a waste. They became the champions in a tournament that should have been used to introduce and showcase new units but instead just gave us stuck safely to the tried and tested names and approach. Coleman and Alexander should have made it to the finals and won the belts. That they didn't was a massive disappointment. I'm hopeful that that wrong will be righted on Sunday and we'll finally get some champions that can make the ROH tag scene interesting again.
Prince Nana and RD Evans' disagreement will come to a head in a scuffle (you can't call it a match). The dispute, for those who don't know, centres on Evans nabbing all of Nana's dosh and taking control of The Embassy for himself. The fiend!
It will almost certainly be a comedy affair. Nana is capable of wrestling a normal match (or he used to be) and Evans is an active wrestler in other promotions (most notably as The Mysterious And Handsome Stranger in CHIKARA) but the characters they play in ROH are not the sort to wrestle a competent bout. I'll be interested to see Nana playing face and who he brings to ringside to combat QT Marshall. My top picks are Jimmy Rave and Tommaso Ciampa (The Outcast Killers seem unlikely). It’s a perfect point to bolster the ranks of The Embassy or start a new heel stable. Evans to win via shenanigans.
The match pitting Roderick Strong against 'Unbreakable' Michael Elgin feels very late arriving. The two have been rivals for most of the year but due to both being members of the House of Truth a match between them has never materialised. The trouble with stories like this is that they can only be stretched out so far before they become boring and-or counterproductive. Strong and Elgin should have faced one another months ago and then had a proper feud.
I'm expecting a lot from this one now that it's here. Strong is one of the most reliable men in ROH and Elgin is (or was) one of its best hopes for a future star and capable of phenomenal showings if given the chance. This is easily a match of the night contender.
Had this contest happened while both were members of the House of Truth and Truth Martini had been at ringside I would have probably selected Strong to get a tainted victory. As that's no longer the situation I'm instead hoping for a clean victory for 'Unbreakable'. If Ring of Honor is to have a good 2013 it needs to elevate Elgin. That will be tough to do if he loses to Strong on the final big show of 2012.
Finally there's the ladder war between former friends, teammates and tag champions Kevin Steen and El Generico. I wrote an article on Monday in which I said that Final Battle would be the ideal time for a title change and that 'The Generic Luchador' would make a good replacement for Steen at the top. That can be read here. Basically I think Generico is sufficiently different from the men pushed by other companies to be an ideal top star for ROH. He would allow the promotion to present itself as alternative, which used to be one of its strengths.

As posters go I find this uninspiring
Just because I think it would be a good idea doesn't mean I think it will happen. Generico has a more varied schedule than 'Mr Wrestling', working for a wider variety of promotions. This places limits on him appearing for ROH which I expect they'll be willing to work around but will preclude the masked man from getting the championship. ROH will want their champion available for every show and I don't think they'll get that with Generico.
The ladder war would be an ideal way of introducing a new star to the roster, or reintroducing someone from the past. If a newcomer interfered, helping either man, then a new programme would be created that could be featured on shows early next year.
Ring of Honor doesn't have an easy job attracting buys for this show up against the might of WWE and the TLV pay-per-view but I think anybody that does tune in will be rewarded. Final Battle is always a satisfying event that features genuine surprises and the best performances. This year's instalment should also give us an indication of the direction Delirious's booking will take. It's worth a look for that alone.
Predictions summary:
Kevin Steen to defeat El Generico
American Wolves to defeat Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly
C&C Wrestle Factory to defeat SCUM and the Briscoe Brothers
Matt Hardy to defeat Adam Cole
Michael Elgin to defeat Roderick Strong
Mike Bennett to defeat Jerry Lynn
Jay Lethal to defeat Rhino
Rhett Titus and BJ Whitmer to defeat Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team
RD Evans to defeat Prince Nana

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