wrestling / Columns

Top 7 ROH Final Battle Moments

December 15, 2023 | Posted by Steve Cook
FTR Briscoes ROH Final Battle, Dax Harwood Image Credit: ROH

I don’t like referring to events as a wrestling company’s version of WrestleMania. I get the point of each company wanting to have a Super Bowl or a signature event, but when you start comparing them to WrestleMania or the Super Bowl, things get a little silly. Even with New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom, it feels a bit much.

However, Ring of Honor’s biggest event of the year is coming up this weekend. It’s a little different this year, as none of the company’s top male championships are on the line due to various booking decisions. Final Battle has still been ROH’s tentpole event, the one show that people would point to and call ROH’s version of the World Series. Today, we look back at seven of the most magnificent ROH Final Battle moments.

7. ROH vs. All Japan (2003)

Early in ROH’s existence, there was a pretty big overlap between fans of ROH’s product and fans of Japanese pro wrestling. It made sense, as ROH was founded by a tape trading company, and most of your old school traders were obsessed with wrestling from overseas. So it was a big deal when wrestlers from All Japan Pro Wrestling came over at the end of 2003 to face off with some of ROH’s best.

This wasn’t exactly the All Japan from just a few years earlier that set the tape trading world on fire. Misawa, Kobashi, Taue & other big names to ROH’s audience had moved on to Pro Wrestling NOAH after the death of All Japan’s founder, Giant Baba. There was still some good talent, and a very good draw for American wrestling fans. If there was one Japanese wrestler that everybody in 2003 knew, it was the Great Muta. Muta, Satoshi Kojima & other All Japan wrestlers gave ROH fans a night to remember, and All Japan working with ROH here was a sign of things to come for the future.

6. Castle Ends Cody’s Reign (2017)

One of the main knocks against ROH over the years is that they didn’t really foster an environment for outlandish characters. Especially in the 2000s & early 2010s, ROH got a reputation for having generic wrestlers with workrate, tights, boots & not much personality. I thought it was ill-founded considering there were a few that stood out from the pack, but nobody really stood out from the pack as much as Dalton Castle did.

Dalton’s flamboyant personality jumped off the page the moment he entered ROH, and fortunately the fans’ acceptance of him showed how much the promotion had grown. Early in ROH’s history, the fans weren’t kind to wrestlers that were a bit flamboyant. Quite frankly, early ROH used fans’ homophobia to get heat on certain wrestlers. Those segments on early shows don’t age well. Fortunately, by the time Dalton Castle & his Boys came along, (and while we’re being frank, Dalton & the Boys worked their gimmick much better than the people ROH used back in the early 2000s), the fans were more with it. I was so happy so see Dalton rise through the ranks and earn ROH fans’ respect, and become the right person to take the World Championship off of Cody. Our man Cody was a great champion but had other irons in the fire. Dalton’s body gave out soon after becoming champion, which was a shame. He still fought through it, much to his personal detriment, and is still one of the most entertaining characters today.

5. Steen Turns Against Generico, The Kings Return (2009)

Sometimes things happen in one night to make everything make sense. ROH’s tag team division had been dominated by Kevin Steen & El Generico for a couple of years heading into Final Battle 2009. Steen & Generico lost to the Young Bucks on the show, then Steen teased taking time off before turning heel & destroying his best friend. This was the first time I saw Kevin destroy a best friend, wouldn’t be the last. Seems like a nice guy, just don’t get too close.

Steen & Generico splitting meant there was some real estate for an enterprising tag team to take up in ROH’s tag team division. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli had found success in ROH as the Kings of Wrestling in 2006, but it seemed like they needed to split up when Claudio got signed by WWE. They dropped tag team titles all over the place, then it turned out Claudio wasn’t actually signed. So that was incredibly awkward. Hero & Claudio did their own things in ROH for awhile with mixed success. Hero lost a feud to Eddie Kingston, Claudio lost a feud to Brent Albright. Hero became That Young Knockout Kid while Claudio was Very European They were finding themselves, but also missing a little something. Hero & Claudio needed each other to reach their pinnacle, and once they got back together they found it.

4. Homicide Wins The Big One (2006)

2006 was one of my favorite years of Ring of Honor. The feud with Combat Zone Wrestling provided a lot of exciting moments and introduced some new talent. Bryan Danielson had a tremendous reign as ROH World Champion while Nigel McGuinness stepped his game up & brought the Pure Championship to new heights. As usual during this time period, the Notorious 187 was a key factor in it all. ROH needed Homicide to put them over the top in their feud with CZW, so he was offered three wishes. One of those wishes was a World Championship match with Bryan Danielson, as his previous shot at the title ended with a controversial referee stoppage. The re-match would take place at Final Battle on Homicide’s home turf of New York City.

Homicide had previously said he would quit ROH if he didn’t win the World Championship by the end of 2006, so of course he got that business done on ROH’s last show of the year. It only made sense. Homicide’s reign as champion might not have lasted long, but he did put his name alongside other ROH greats that held the title.

3. Generico’s Mask vs. Steen’s Career (2010)

ROH was going through the early parts of a transition in 2010. Adam Pearce was booking at the beginning of the year, with television airing weekly on HDNet. By the end of the year, Pearce had been replaced by Hunter Johnston with some influences from Jim Cornette. Several key talents left the company. The most consistently entertaining & compelling part of 2010 for ROH was the feud between El Generico & Kevin Steen, which was largely left alone by the bookers. They’d split at Final Battle 2009 after years of teaming in ROH & other independent promotions. Steve Corino was revealed as the man that influenced Steen to turn against Generico & encouraged his descent into evil. Colt Cabana, a long time friend of all involved, joined up with Generico & the side of good. The war was on.

Like most things in Kevin Steen’s ROH career, the climax was reached at Final Battle. He was always smart about things like that. Steen & Generico would meet in the main event of Final Battle 2010 in an unsanctioned Fight Without Honor, with the most important things in both men’s lives on the line. El Generico’s mask vs. Kevin Steen’s ROH career. There was only one possible result for this match, and that was Kevin Steen going away for awhile. We all know that people leaving town come back eventually, unless they move to a better town. Steen hadn’t done that at this point, he would later. It was still a damn good ending for a fantastic story told over the course of a year.

2. Dem Boys’ Last ROH Match (2022)

Of course, we had no idea that the last time Jay & Mark Briscoe would team in an ROH ring would be on December 10, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. We did know that it was the last part of a trilogy of matches that highlighted the new ROH’s pay per view efforts during that year. The Briscoes had come up short in their two previous encounters with FTR, and would hope to regain the Tag Team Championship they dominated for most of ROH’s existence in a Double Dog Collar match. It was a brutal, bloody affair, as Dog Collar matches tend to be. All four men left it all in the ring, and at the end of the match Jay & Mark became ROH World Tag Team Champions for the thirteenth time. We hoped it would lead to more, but we know it didn’t for the most tragic of reasons.

As anybody that’s followed Ring of Honor for any length of time knows, you can’t tell the story of ROH without talking about the Briscoes. Jay & Mark were there for Day One at the Murphy Recreation Center, and they were there at the end. You also can’t talk about Final Battle without mentioning Jay & Mark. The Briscoes won the Tag Team Championship on six different editions of Final Battle and lost it on two. Some will argue that the Briscoes would be better remembered by future generations if they were on a bigger stage, but I would say that ROH was the perfect stage for the Briscoes.

1. Joe’s Historic World Title Reign Ends (2004)

Some people would hold the ROH World Championship for more reigns. Others would make more title defenses & get more stars thrown their way. However, I don’t think there’s much of a debate over who the best ROH World Champion was, or who had the most important reign as Champion. Samoa Joe was Champion during a perilous point in ROH’s existence. One of the company’s founders & owners had been outed on television as at the very least an attempted pedophile. Nobody wanted to be associated with that, and fears that the individual was still working with Ring of Honor led to TNA Wrestling refusing to allow talent contracted to them to appear on ROH shows. This included a number of wrestlers ROH had built around since its inception, most notably AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels. More established names that had agreed to appear with ROH pulled out of their agreements as well. It was fair to wonder whether ROH had much of a future during the summer of 2004.

People decided that ROH did have a future. One of those people was Samoa Joe. He’d already been a dominant presence for quite some time, but he stepped his game up another level and made sure that people wanted to buy those DVDs to see his matches. Kids these days think that wrestlers always hold on to title belts forever because that’s what they’ve been taught. Quite frankly, ROH had some reigns that lasted long beyond their expiration date too. You have to put your mindset in 2004 to understand how ridiculous it was that Samoa Joe was ROH World Champion for 645 days. We were not too far removed from the apex of Vince Russo booking where title changes happened more often than costume changes. The idea of anybody holding a title for a year was ridiculous, forget about somebody holding on for as long as Joe held onto that ROH World Championship.

Austin Aries was the man of that moment. Aries had a killer 2004, wrestling great matches all across the indies and emerging in ROH as the leader of Generation Next. He was the underdog going into Final Battle, but once the fans realized what was happening they got behind it. Joe managed to not overstay his welcome, a new champion got to enter 2005, it was a good time.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up at [email protected] or on the social media with thoughts, comments or suggestions. Until next time, true believers!

article topics :

ROH Final Battle, Steve Cook