This Friday night, from The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, Ring of Honor presents our annual year-end extravaganza “Final Battle 2011,” live on iPPV! Every year this event brings something special to the table, something that shapes the future of the company, and this year is no different. With three title matches , a grudge match one year in the making, the return of an ROH alum, a mystery challenger, state of the art tag team wrestling, and more, this year’s event looks to exceed its forefathers. Let’s take a look at the events that brought us here:
*ROH World Title Match*
Davey Richards w/ Team Richards defends vs. “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards with UFC Hall of Famer Dan “The Beast” Severn
The history of The American Wolves goes back several years through the days of Sweet N Sour Inc., a World Tag Team Title reign that helped to redefine ROH’s tag team division, and into an era where both Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards opted to pursue their individual aspirations in Ring of Honor. For Richards it meant pursuit of the ROH World Title and for Edwards it was establishing himself as individual away from the shadow of Davey & The Wolves. Championship success actually came to Edwards first when he defeated his own partner in the finals of the ROH TV Title tournament on March 5, 2010. Despite the expectations of some, this did not cause a rift in the Wolves. As a matter of fact, it was Richards who strapped the belt around the waist of his tag team partner. *Edwards-1, Richards-0…*
Edwards slowly evolved into a fighting champion, possibly paranoid about losing his first taste of success, but ultimately would go onto hold the title for 9 months, losing it on December 10, 2010 and racking up 9 successful title defenses in the process. Davey, on the other hand, struggled in his championship aspirations; falling to Tyler Black at “Death Before Dishonor VIII” and to Roderick Strong at “Final Battle 2010”. Still, many fans and Davey himself felt it was only a matter of time before the pieces fell into place and Richards dethroned Strong for the title. Fate rarely cares about the expectations of men though, and it was Eddie Edwards, in his first ever ROH World Title match, who bested Strong at “Manhattan Mayhem IV” becoming not only the ROH World Champion, but also the only Triple Crown Winner in ROH history. Fittingly, it was Davey who came to the ring to celebrate with his closest friend and once again strapped the championship around his waist.
Tension began to rise after this bout though as Eddie still seemed to carry a burning desire to prove himself better than Davey. It started in Atlanta at “Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter 2” when some miscommunication cost The Wolves a bout against Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin, and then continued to spiral out from there with spats of miscommunication and disagreement. Still the bond of brotherhood was stronger than those moments.
In his title reign, Edwards defeated Christopher Daniels, Chris Hero, and Roderick Strong in a rematch, but that desire to fight Richards still lingered, eventually resulting in Eddie stating if Davey did not fight him, he would walk away from Ring of Honor. Richards finally acquiesced with a warning to Eddie to be careful what he wished for but offered a self-imposed stipulation that if he did not win the belt, he would never challenge for the World Title again.
Enter “Best in the World 2011” & Edwards/Richards II, this time for the World Title. It was every bit the hard-hitting epic affair, a battle based in respect, that surpassed all expectations as the two warriors gave it their all for 35-plus minutes before Davey nearly kicked Eddie’s head off and finally captured the ROH World Title. There was an emotionally charged speech from Richards that followed his title victory, and as his partner did for him, it was Edwards who strapped the title around Davey’s waist. Still, one couldn’t help but notice that as Davey thanked his training partners in Team Richards (Kyle O’Reilly & Tony Kozina), Edwards was slumped in the far corner with his head in his hands. *Edwards-1, Richards-1…*
The months since have seen the relationship between these two individuals drift further into disarray. One night of tag team success at “Tag Team Turmoil 2011” gave way to acrimony at “No Escape” when The American Wolves faced Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole in tag team action. The end came when Edwards had Kyle trapped in the Achilles Lock and began to stomp on his opponents’ head. O’Reilly passed out, but due to the timekeeper not ringing the bell, Edwards did not stop until Senior Official Todd Sinclair physically pulled him away. O’Reilly was left with a potentially serious ankle injury, Richards was left angry with his partner, and Edwards was left out in the cold.
Richards defeated Roderick Strong at our first ever SBG TV Tapings to retain the ROH World Title and then journeyed to Japan for an extended tour of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Edwards, in Davey’s absence, defeated Strong in the first ever Ringmaster Challenge at “Death Before Dishonor IX”. When Richards returned to the States it was officially announced that, should he maintain the title, he would face Eddie Edwards at “Final Battle 2011” in their rubber match.
At “Gateway To Honor”, The Wolves battled ANX for the first time ever and seemed to be on the same page most of the match. But as it wore on, due to some double team action from Titus & King, Edwards inadvertently caused Davey to fall through a table and ultimately it was ANX who scored the victory. No blows were traded between Eddie & Davey, no harsh words exchanged, but the look on Edwards’ face screamed “I screwed up”.
Shortly thereafter, news got out courtesy of Kyle O’Reilly that Eddie Edwards had begun training with the legendary Dan “The Beast” Severn in preparation for his ROH World Title match. Apparently this was a desire of Davey’s, one he was unable to accomplish due to his Japanese commitments, leaving Edwards to swoop in and begin his tutelage under the former World Champion fighter. And now, watching the back footage of the initial title announcement, Edwards looks Davey in the eyes and tells him that it would be wolf versus wolf but there would only be “one beast in the ring that night”; leaving everyone to speculate just how long this training had been going on.
At “Survival of the Fittest 2011,” both Edwards and O’Reilly made it into the finals, and although neither man won, another inadvertent accident came into play as Edwards, while hitting Truth Martini off the apron, caused Kyle to fall through a ringside table. The following night at “Glory by Honor X”, Edwards then defeated Kyle using Severn’s patented Dragon Sleeper submission while later in the night Davey went on to defeat El Generico in a World Title bout to officially make “Final Battle 2011” the Richards/Edwards III bout.
What could potentially be the final nail in the coffin of The American Wolves went down this past weekend on “Ring of Honor Wrestling” Eddie inadvertently struck Davey with the title belt while fending off The House of Truth. A brawl erupted between the two men in which security had to intervene to pull them apart. Is this the end of The American Wolves or is this a family squabble that only time can heal? Either way, at the center of it all is the most prestigious title in professional wrestling today: the ROH World Title. It symbolizes the true best wrestler in the world; It represents heart, dedication, and fighting spirit like no other championship; And on Friday night, two brothers will go to war for a third time to claim that prize.
*World Tag Team Title Match*
Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas defend vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe
The Briscoes will tell tales of how Charlie and his late brother Russ showed them the ropes when they first broke into wrestling, and by “show them the ropes”, they mean gave them a beating at every turn. Still in that same breath they would likely accredit those whoopings to toughening them up for the road that would lie ahead. Little did anyone expect that Jay & Mark would stand there years later, with chairs over their heads, putting a beating on Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team unlike any that Charlie & Shelton had previously felt. That was, following the “Best in the World 2011” Elimination Tag Title Match, after the former 6-time champions were put out first by ANX, where WGTT would ultimately go on to retain their titles. It was only the intervention of Rhett Titus & Kenny King that prevented the beating from getting worse as The Kings of Wrestling just watched in amusement, having been the last team eliminated..
This wasn’t even the first meeting of The Briscoes and WGTT since Haas & Benjamin made their debut here in ROH. That came at the “9^th Anniversary Show” where the teams took the main event slot of the evening and fought it out over the rights to challenge for the ROH World Tag Titles. Charlie & Shelton won out that night, as they would again do a few weeks later at “Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter 1” when the claimed the titles from the KoW. Immediately upon winning the belts, the new champions were called out in their dressing room by Jay & Mark to put the belts up. Words were exchanged, a brawl was avoided, and the title match would be set for “Revolution: Canada”. WGTT again defeated their challengers, with some unwanted assistance from ANX, leading to the Four Team match at “BITW ‘11”.
Since that brutal assault, The Briscoes have been relentless in their pursuit of claiming the titles for a 7^th time. A loss at “Death Before Dishonor IX” in Ladder War III to ANX derailed their title aspirations temporarily but they rebounded on “Ring of Honor Wrestling” TV by defeating Titus & King in a rematch where the winner would receive a title match at “Final Battle 2011”. This only gave way to Jay & Mark antagonizing WGTT at every turn, whether it be interfering in the matches, or blatant assault as was witnessed on a recent episode of TV, the Briscoes left no doubt as to the lengths they would go to in order to get those titles. Still, following their most recent chair assault that left Shelton with cracked ribs, it may seem that the boys from Sandy Fork have pushed way too far. Charlie Haas is in a fury that the ROH faithful have never seen from the highly decorated wrestler, willing to take on Jay & Mark solo if need be, and fight until he draws his last breath. This rivalry is personal for WGTT, the titles have become secondary and hurting the Briscoes now seems to be the primary objective for Charlie Haas. Has this been the game plan all along for Jay & Mark? Have they truly been underestimated in how calculating they can be? Or have they simply unleashed an animal they cannot hope to tame in Charlie Haas? And in this whole picture the question still lingers: what condition are Shelton Benjamin’s ribs in? There are a lot of possibilities heading into this title bout, a lot of speculation, one thing is certain though, you won’t get tag team wrestling action like this anywhere else…
*World TV Title Triple Threat Match*
Jay Lethal defends vs. El Generico vs. “The Prodigy” Mike Bennett with Brutal Bob
“Best in the World 2011” is where a great deal of our stories began and “Final Battle 2011” is where many of them are converging. In June, El Generico captured the ROH World TV Title from Christopher Daniels, finally capturing his first singles championship in Ring of Honor. Unfortunately the joy of victory was short-lived as Jay Lethal bested Generico in his first defense on “Ring of Honor Wresting” TV and claimed the title for his own in an overtime period. In the 6 months since, Lethal has gone the distance with both Mike Bennett and El Generico, as well as turned back potential challengers (including Mark Briscoe, TJ Perkins, and Adam Cole) in a number of Proving Ground matches. Still each of his challengers in this Triple Threat have legitimate claims to the title. In the case of Bennett, he went the distance with Lethal and was in a dominant position in the closing moments, begging the official to stop the match as he rained punches down on the champion. As for Generico, his rematch with Lethal also went the distance but largely due to a distraction provided by Bennett in the final seconds of the contest, once again leaving the outcome questionable. Generico did exact some vengeance, besting Bennett in a singles bout at “Gateway To Honor”, but “The Prodigy” assaulted his opponent following the match and left him laying. Bennett has been on small streak since losing to Eddie Edwards at “Survival of the Fittest 2011”, beating both TJ Perkins & Adam Cole in the Carolinas, while Generico drew with Steve Corino, then was beaten by Eddie Edwards & Michael Elgin in the Carolinas. As for Lethal, he went the distance with Roderick Strong in the Proving Ground (earning Strong a future TV Title match), then turned back Perkins & Cole in Proving Grounds as well. So now the three men who have circled the TV Title the 2^nd half of 2011 will enter into NYC to see which man is truly the best. Lethal & Generico will stand alone while Bennett will apparently be accompanied by one Maria Kanellis in addition to Brutal Bob. Will this sway the game into Bennett’s favor?
*Grudge Match- No Disqualification*
Steve Corino vs. Kevin Steen
/*If Steen wins he is reinstated./
/**Jimmy Jacobs is the guest referee/
/***Jim Cornette & Cary Silken will be in attendance at ringside/
At “Final Battle 2009” this saga began when Kevin Steen, at the prodding of Steve Corino, turned his back on El Generico and together they embarked on a year-long campaign to destroy the life of Generico and, by proxy, Colt Cabana. That crusade culminated at “Final Battle 2010” where Steen, now long past the point of Corino’s control, battled Generico in a match with his ROH career at stake against Generico’s mask. The bloody result saw Steen banished from Ring of Honor, freeing Generico, and leaving Corino left in the lurch. Yet when 2011 dawned, the ROH faithful were greeted with a new facet of Steve Corino, a humble side of the man, one looking for forgiveness for his crimes against both Generico and Ring of Honor. He was willing to sacrifice whatever it took to earn this forgiveness, to finally give back to the youth of today in a positive fashion, and in time maybe even earn the forgiveness of El Generico himself.
It took months & months, loss after loss, and humiliation after humiliation (mostly at the hands of Mike Bennett), but finally in May of this year, ROH officials placed enough trust in Steve to allow him to bring his sponsor into Ring of Honor. That man turned out to be none other than Jimmy Jacobs, the former leader of The Age of The Fall and one of the most violent men in the history of ROH. Officials allowed Jacobs to speak his piece at “Supercard of Honor VI” that evening at which point he then peacefully left the arena as a gesture of good faith and in hopes of being allowed to return to the fold. Corino, feeling he was making headway, finally requested another favor from officials, one that was summarily dismissed almost as soon as it passed Steve’s lips: the return of Kevin Steen.
Suffice it to say that Corino’s plea has led to complete and utter chaos in every sense of the word for Ring of Honor, Jim Cornette, Jimmy Jacobs, El Generico, and Corino himself. It is a moment that Steve regrets, likely the thing he regrets the most since he began down this road of purging the evil from his system. His “monster” had been fully unleashed, and now it is in Steve’s hands to end this as he essentially stated in his recent blog after ROH officials acquiesced and allowed Steen to return to ROH for one night to battle Corino. At stake: Steen’s Ring of Honor future, and to up the ante, ROH officials recently declared this match would be contested with No Disqualifications to insure that there are no excuses should Corino beat Steen. So, we all sit in breathless anticipation at what Saturday 12/24 will bring to the landscape of Ring of Honor. Will it be a world free of Kevin Steen, one where Steve Corino has fully restored the Honor to his corner of ROH? Or will we wake up to find that ROH now stands for Ring of Hell?
*Roderick Strong Invitational Challenge*
Roderick Strong with Truth Martini vs. ????
One year ago Roderick Strong was in the official main event of “Final Battle 2010” where he successfully retained the ROH World Title against Davey Richards, smashing the dreams of the American Wolf in a match he dedicated to the memory of his grandfather. In the year since, Strong lost the World Title to Eddie Edwards, lost their subsequent rematch, lost to El Generico in a Steel Cage bout, lost to Davey Richards in the first World Title match on “Ring of Honor Wrestling” TV, and has thusly found himself on the outs in the World Title picture. In the plus column, he did earn himself a future TV Title match after going the distance with Jay Lethal in a Proving Ground bout at “Glory by Honor X”, but then got pinned in the subsequent OT period. It’s been a rough year for the former champion, but with this challenge, he aims to steal the show out from underneath Richards/Edwards III. The only issue is that, as of this writing, neither Strong nor ROH officials have received any acceptance of this challenge. So speculation has run rampant as to who will step up to the plate : Former champions; people who have never competed in Ring of Honor; the names bandied about have been many, but no one has accepted the invitation. We may not know until Friday night who Strong will face. In fact, he could likely face no one, which would only serve to fuel the raging ego of Roderick, convincing him the rest of the wrestling world is scared. Strong claims to be in hyper-training mode for this potential battle, but the video we have seen on “Ring of Honor Wrestling” screams otherwise, showing Strong partying up in the bar. Speculation also falls on whether or not Roderick is actually even ready for a fight Friday night? We will have to wait until then to get answers to any of these questions, and see just what Strong does with his night if no one answers the call.
*Tag Team Gauntlet Match*
**The winning team will receive a future shot at the World Tag Team Titles**
The All Night Express vs. Future Shock vs. The Bravados vs. The Young Bucks vs. Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander
The tag team scene in ROH is as hot as ever and each team in this battle has one goal: to claim the ROH World Tag Titles, and a victory in this gauntlet is step one in that process. Both ANX & Future Shock have battled the current champions in recent months and came up short, while The Young Bucks challenged several years ago for the belts, leaving The Bravados and Coleman & Alexander as the truly untested duos. Furthermore, Harlem & Lancelot are staring at the sidelines wondering whether or not they will get benched without a win in NYC. The ANX would love to get back in the game against either of the two teams fighting for the belts at “Final Battle 2011” but Titus is hampered by a nagging knee injury that The Young Bucks are directly responsible for. The Jackson brothers have made quite an impact since returning to ROH full-time and would cap that off with a victory here while Coleman & Alexander are still getting their feet wet in ROH and a win on ROH’s biggest stage would instill the type of confidence that wins championships. This is truly anyone’s game as the best tag team division in wrestling gets showcased with that future title match at stake. Who will take home the honors?
*Special Challenge Match*
“Unbreakable” Michael Elgin with Truth Martini vs. TJ Perkins
It has been a banner year for Michael Elgin, one in which he solidified his position within Ring of Honor through sheer brute force. He is a human juggernaut that, win or lose, has imposed his strength on every opponent he has set foot in the ring with. Essentially in his rookie year in Ring of Honor, Elgin captured the crown at “Survival of the Fittest 2011” and earned himself a future ROH World Title bout in 2012. TJ Perkins is a well traveled veteran of the wrestling wars despite his young age, competing worldwide since he was just a teenager, still despite impressive performances against the likes of Davey Richards, Chris Hero, El Generico, and others, Perkins has yet to parlay his experience into ROH success. So at “Final Battle 2011” it is a battle of strength vs. speed, force vs. technique, and a fight for one man to truly make 2011 his breakout year while the other looks to start 2012 on the right foot. Can Perkins overcame the disparate power advantage Elgin has or will Michael prove truly unbreakable?
“The Dominant Male” Tommaso Ciampa with The Embassy vs. Jimmy Rave
Tommaso Ciampa has dominated Ring of Honor since Prince Nana brought him into The Embassy. Never pinned, never submitted, “The Dominant Male” stands alone in this accomplishment and defiantly looks in the eyes of ROH officials demanding to know where his title opportunities are. He has put down ROH legends like Colt Cabana and Homicide while defeating the likes of Adam Cole, Andy Ridge, & Harlem Bravado just to name a few. As for Jimmy Rave, he was once the “Crown Jewel” of The Embassy but has been absent from ROH for quite some time. He returns now to put Nana’s newest prize to the test, and maybe…just maybe…earn his way back into Ring of Honor. Rave knows Nana’s trick better than any man alive, yet that familiarity goes both ways. Still this is the first time Rave has met Ciampa in the ring and “The Project” is not Nana…remember though that this unfamiliarity also goes both ways.
Tickets for “Final Battle 2011” can still be purchased in the ROH Store, they will also be available at the door Friday night, but if you absolutely can’t make it to the Big Apple on December 23rd, join us LIVE on IPPV at GO FIGHT LIVE!!