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ROH Final Battle 2022 recap & review: New era of champions

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ROH closed the year with the Final Battle PPV. There was an energy in the air that felt like a turning of the page into a new era as five of six ROH championships changed hands. Not all new champions are new per se, however, even those that regained or retained gold evoke curiosity of what is to come in their title reigns.

Claudio Castagnoli sits at the top as new ROH world champion after besting Chris Jericho. The Final Battle name will hopefully be apropos as the final battle between the Blackpool Combat Club and the Jericho Appreciation Society. That feud has run its course, and it’s time for fresh opponents on both sides. Without news of an ROH television deal, that means Claudio’s title defenses are likely to come on AEW programming. AEW has shown a habit to book hot matchups without much build. That can fit right up the alley for Claudio. The memory of ROH has a reputation as the best wrestling in the business. Claudio can keep that legacy alive by producing excellent matches one after the other against unique competition. This is an opportunity for Claudio to make a case as the best wrestler in the world.

The Briscoes are 13-time ROH tag champions after beating FTR in a dog collar match. It will be interesting to see where Dem Boys ply their trade from here. Rumors say that Warner Media executives aren’t keen on welcoming the Briscoes on their networks due to past behavior. Without a broadcast avenue to air title defenses, that puts the Briscoes in a pickle. AEW is fully aware of the situation, so they surely have a plan, right? Time will tell if the Briscoes can be fighting champions or just become a PPV-only attraction for ROH.

Samoa Joe was sandwiched between those two feature bouts to retain gold against Juice Robinson. Joe holds the ROH World Television Championship and the TNT Championship. The King of Television’s near course seems set on a collision with Wardlow, but that will likely be for the TNT strap. Joe should proceed with business as usual killing people in the ring.

Athena is the new queen of honor after winning the ROH Women’s World Championship from Mercedes Martinez. This title change is the freshest of the bunch. Athena and her rude, new attitude get a chance to flourish as one of the most aggressive women in AEW.

Wheeler Yuta is back in the driver’s seat of the Pure division after conquering rival Daniel Garcia for the ROH Pure Championship. As with Claudio, the BCC versus JAS feud should be over for now. Yuta can focus on technical wrestling to break out of the shadows of his veteran mentors. AEW has no shortage of capable challengers in the Pure style.

Brian Cage is a champion once more. The Machine was joined by Kuan and Toa Liona taking the ROH World Six-Man Championship from Dalton Castle & The Boys. The Embassy work excellently together as men of muscle. They smash and smash hard.

Claudio, the Briscoes, Joe, Athena, Yuta, and the Embassy as a group of champions are a strong crew to create entertainment. It has me looking forward to the next step in development of the ROH brand.

Let’s break down the full card from top to bottom. Check out the Final Battle live results for greater play-by-play detail.

ROH World Championship: Claudio Castagnoli defeated Chris Jericho. (Full details here.) Claudio ducked a Judas Effect to counter for a giant swing. Jericho tapped out during the 33rd rotation.

That was a fitting match to represent professional wrestling versus sports entertainment. Jericho was crude to the fans, threatened the commentary team, had help from Daddy Magic and Cool Hand for a sneaky baseball bat cheat, and then lost in a comical fashion slapping the mat while being swung through the air. It wasn’t all fun and games with Jericho. He also brought his wrestling skills as BWE BSEE. Jericho and Claudio had cool counters to set up moments for high drama. The finish played out as a fresh wrinkle in their feud. I love the giant swing. To see Claudio use it to finish a bitter rival was excellent.

ROH World Television Championship: Samoa Joe defeated Juice Robinson. Joe hit the ropes to knock Juice off balance on the turnbuckles. A musclebuster sealed the deal.

This was a typical Joe match in his current ass-kicking style. The missing element was Juice never being able to make me believe he could win. The action lacked that one moment forcing me to second-guess an obvious Joe victory.

ROH World Tag Team Championship: Briscoes defeated FTR in double dog collar match. (Full details here.) Jay Briscoe superplexed Dax Harwood onto a pile of chairs. Harwood kicked out, so Jay used the chain as an instrument of pain in a submission. Harwood passed out.

Round three between these two teams was damn good. I’m more partial to standard wrestling competition than hardcore stuff, but this match held up well in comparison to the previous two matches between the Briscoes and FTR. There were callbacks to past finishes, creativity and logic in setting up spots, as well as emotion adding an extra level of entertainment. Cash Wheeler shouting, “Fucking murder him,” widened my eyes with a grin. The false finishes had the crowd in the palm of their hands. It’s interesting that Dax Harwood took the loss this time. Wheeler appeared distraught after being pinned in defeat to The Acclaimed. This should ensure that there are no storyline cracks in the unity of FTR.

ROH Pure Championship: Wheeler Yuta defeated Daniel Garcia. Yuta seized the moment for a piledriver then hammered elbows until Garcia went unconscious. Afterward, Garcia did not shake hands, but he did hand the title over to Yuta. Commentary viewed that as a little sign of respect.

Decent match. I might have missed something setting up for the finish. In my view, it sort of came without building momentum. Garcia controlled much of the match, and then Yuta won. Garcia’s strategy was creative for a Pure rules contest. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pure match similar to how Garcia forced Yuta’s rope-breaks by applying submissions in the ropes. One spot Garcia needs to dump is leaning back to crank on the Sharpshooter. The result is always the opponent grabbing his neck. For a technical assassin, that should be the type of mistake he learns to never do again. And yet, it might have cost him the match. Garcia had an early Sharpshooter that Yuta escaped from in that manner. After Yuta’s rope-breaks were used up, Garcia cinched a Sharpshooter near the ropes. Yuta couldn’t break, because he had no more rope-breaks. Garcia leaned back again exposing his neck, and Yuta hooked him to cause both men crashing down off the apron. If Garcia would have stayed upright in a traditional Sharpshooter stance, Yuta may never have escaped.

ROH World Six-Man Championship: Brian Cage, Kaun, Toa Liona defeated Dalton Castle & The Boys. Prince Nana caused a distraction for the Embassy to power through to victory. A powerbomb from Cage earned the win.

This match was tons of fun. The clash in styles made it a hoot. Castle’s peacock power with the Boys is the kind of comedy I enjoy in wrestling. It’s showmanship but also effective in skill. They had a genuine underdog vibe that was easy to root for in this specific matchup. The Embassy’s muscle power is hosstastic. Throwing the Boys around showcased proper strength.

Keith Lee & Swerve Strickland defeated Shane Taylor & JD Griffey. Lee socked Swerve by accident. Swerve was not pleased, so he ditched his partner. Lee rallied solo to pin Griffey on a fireman’s carry powerslam.

Very good match. They worked to build anticipation for a hoss clash between Lee and Taylor, but it wasn’t fully delivered on. I hope we get that hoss fight soon. Griffey was the newcomer for me, and he impressed with an MMA style. I don’t think this classifies as a breakup just yet for Swerve in Our Glory. Lee ditched Swerve at Full Gear, so this evens the score between them. I’m conflicted about the finishing sequence. On one hand, Lee was way too strong surviving a signature piledriver finisher from Taylor and a knee to the face from Griffey. On the other hand, it was exciting as heck to see Lee kick out when doom seemed near. I guess it depends on how AEW plans to proceed with Taylor and Griffey. If their appearance was primarily for the PPV, then might as well use them to build Lee sky high.

ROH Women’s World Championship: Athena defeated Mercedes Martinez. Athena dropkicked Martinez into exposed turnbuckle steel then finished with the O-Face flying stunner.

This fight delivered on advertised intensity. It was a skillful slobberknocker putting a smile on my face. It’s ironic that Athena won the title on her home turf in front of a supportive crowd. Her heel turn started when booed against a local talent.

AR Fox & Blake Christian defeated Rush & Dralistico. This had an odd finish. The babyfaces blitzed offense for Fox to pin Dralistico on a 450 splash. The luchador kicked out as the referee counted three. It was ruled a clean win for Fox & Christian. Afterward, Los Ingobernables beat up their opponents out of anger.

Electric PPV opener with creative offense from the babyfaces and rugged attitude from the rudos. The finishing moment was that blurring of the lines between intentional story and referee botch. I’m leaning toward story, but I’m not certain. Whatever the case, the result added an element of unpredictability for the evening.

Moving over to the free pre-show.

Top Flight defeated The Kingdom. The Martin brothers executed a spectacular double-team finisher. Darius Martin lifted Mike Bennett up for a powerbomb position, then Dante Martin leaped for a double springboard moonsault cutter of sorts. It was a genuine ‘holy shit’ move. This match is definitely worth watching, especially since it is free. Bennett and Matt Taven may have to take the cake for crappiest fall from grace upon big debut. They talked strong upon arrival in AEW about getting an ROH tag title shot with FTR, and then they disappeared for weeks and lost on the PPV pre-show. Yikes. Good thing that the Kingdom is talented enough to get back over if given opportunity.

Willow Nightingale defeated Trish Adora. Huge Pounce from Willow to set up a gutwrench powerbomb. Willow’s charisma radiated. She worked on adding little flourishes to her repertoire taking her crowd connection to the next level.

Daddy Magic & Cool Hand defeated Shinobi Shadow Squad (Cheeseburger & Eli Isom). JAS worked tag team tactics to isolate Isom for a double lifting DDT. Comedy action with JAS personality shining.

Jeff Cobb defeated Mascara Dorada. Cobb popped up the luchador for the Tour of the Islands swinging slam. Enjoyable action to get in the mood as the first match of the show. Cobb looked like force to be reckoned with. I was hoping for a face-off with Samoa Joe later on, but that never came to pass.

Studs of the Show: Top Flight

Top Flight scored a huge win over a decorated tag team in the Kingdom. Top Flight is no longer the future. They are ready now for big things.

Match of the Night: Briscoes vs. FTR

Briscoes and FTR had that special history to create a hot attraction, and they backed up the hype in the ring.

Grade: A-

Entertaining matches up and down the card all night long. It was the kind of show to turn on to watch great wrestling talent.

Share your reactions to Final Battle. Who was the standout star on this evening? Which match stole the show?

Catch the PPV replay on Bleacher Report and Fite TV , depending on your location.

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