Ring of Honor: Final Battle 2005
Final Battle is the last show Ring of Honor holds every year. There is usually something noteworthy on these shows. 2005 was no different as Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA from Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan made their debuts with Ring of Honor on this show. The date is 12/17/05.
Opening Segment: We have Low Ki talking about how he's improved in a year since being in NOAH. Various clips of Low Ki are played as pictures of KENTA are seen as these two are the main event into with the GHC Juinor Heavyweight Title being defended! Truly an honor.
First Match: Jimmy Rave w/Prince Nana vs. Milano Collection AT
Backstory: None. Outside of the crowd continuing to throw toilet paper at Rave pre match. God that's a great bit.
Outcome: Jimmy Rave via pinfall after Greetings From Ghana
Analysis: First of all, it's sad that MCAT never got more time in Ring of Honor. He was a fairly good talent but left for reasons that are unknown to me. Any help would be grand. Regardless, this is a fine choice for an opener. The crowd hates Rave thus the crowd would be hot to start the show. Fine wrestling in this one, sure it has that generic stuff I can live without but what are you gonna do? Milano Collection AT brings quite an interesting offense into this match. He is able to frustrate Rave at a few points here or there along with some good looking moves. One of which showed us his leaping ability as Rave was on the apron, down and MCAT jumped from the floor to dropkick him in the face.
Rave brings the typical Rave stuff. Nothing flashy, almost bore you to sleep. But at this point you know its coming so why bother fighting it and just accept that Rave as a heel while wrestling is just generally boring. Although it was great seeing him break out the From Dusk Till Dawn again. Been a while since it had been seen at this point. However, they do appear to botch a Northern Lights Suplex so that's not fun. But outside of that, there is nothing wrong at all with this match. It continues to show that Rave is a generally boring wrestler with the best manager in the world at ringside to help garner heat for him. This match accomplished what it was supposed to do. Get the crowd interested in the show and put on a good display.
Like I said though, I just wish MCAT would have been around longer. But as it is, great opener, good heat, good match. ***
Second Match: Azrieal vs. Colt Cabana
Backstory: This was supposed to end the Colt/Homicide feud but Homicide had an injured shoulder that forced him to not compete in this show. So we get this instead.
Outcome: Colt Cabana via pinfall after a Lariat complete with flip by Azrieal.
Analysis: This match is divided into two parts. Comedy and all out serious. Colt comes into this match, still messed in the head because of the feud with Homicide. Azrieal on the other hand, wants to have fun in the match like Colt wants to. So in the early stages, Azrieal tries to act like a mini Cabana. Would have been a great gimmick for him as he pulled it off really well. But Colt wants nothing to do with the fun and games. One of the things to notice is Azrieal chanting dance towards Cabana but Cabana wants none of it. So as you could tell, Cabana is business like. The second half of the match sees Azrieal take control for a bit but it's just too much Cabana for him. This whole match was just designed to show Cabana is still messed in the head because of Homicide. While it wasn't all that great in the wrestling aspect, it just put over that Cabana just wasn't himself. And he'd stay that way for quite a few more months until he ended his feud with Homicide. Fun stuff from Azrieal and great seriousness from Cabana.
However, these two didn't really click all that well once the wrestling portion of the match started. Mainly angle advancement as far as I am concerned as at one point, a fan told Cabana to show some mercy. Cabana responds with "Why show mercy?" See, it's the things like that that help out a character. But like I said, the wrestling was bland but just enough to be entertaining. **
In Ring Segment: Right after this match, the lights go out as Homicide's music hits. Homicide comes out with his arm in a sling and cuts a heel promo. He mainly talks about how much he hates Ring of Honor, Steve Corino for messing up his shoulder and that he plans on killing Corino tonight. Well, he isn't called Homicide for nothing yanno. He does tell Cabana to stay out of his mother-effin' business or he will eff him up. THIS IS A SHOOT! So you know what is gonna be coming on later.
Third Match: Claudio Castagnoli vs. Nigel McGuinness (c) in a Pure Title Match.
Backstory: This is the blow off match for a feud that's been going on for a while. A couple of clips are shown to know what is going on but there are two refs for this match as Nigel has cheated to beat a Double C a couple of times. Nigel loves using his iron.
Outcome: Nigel McGuinness via DQ as Claudio originally won after hitting Nigel with the iron but the second ref saw Double C use it. Dusty finish basically.
Analysis: This is a good Pure Title match. If you know the story behind the need for two refs, the whole thing makes sense. If you don't, look back on some of the shows they faced off in 2005. But the story of the match is Nigel getting frustrated because of the second ref on the floor that notices all the little things he does in order to get the edge in Pure Title matches. It's a good gimmick to put onto this match, it really is. It added to what they were going for in the way of story telling. Nigel likes to cheat, he can't because of that second ref. However, once the second ref gets knocked out, Nigel is able to go back to cheating to get the edge of Claudio after a fine wrestling sequence which is what the Pure Title is all about. But yeah, after the ref on the floor eats a tope, Nigel takes over Claudio and dominates him by manipulating the ref to his advantage to gain that edge. Smart right? I thought so. What I don't like though is Claudio's comebacks. His offense mainly consisted of European Uppercuts of all varities and while those are all well and good, it gets a bit tiresome.
Otherwise the only other thing I have a problem with is the finish. But it in a sense, it fit into the whole story pretty well. Claudio used Nigel's iron to knock him out. The ref in the ring was down but the ref outside just saw it in time but was still groggy. The crowd exploded for the win as it seemed for Double C but the rug was taken out under them. Now, a real finish would have been nice instead of this but you can't have everything all the time. That said, this is still a good match. Nothing wrong with it outside of the dusty finish and the two ref bumps. ***1/4
Fourth Match: Alex Shelley w/Prince Nana vs. Steve Corino
Outcome: Alex Shelley via pinfall after a roll up.
Analysis: Outside from some good arm psychology for the most part from Shelley, this isn't much to write home about. I've never been a huge fan of Corino's in ring work. On the mic, the guy is good but in the ring, not so much. Remember this are my opinions here. Regardless, Corino bring much to the match outside of some early ear work. You heard me correctly, Corino was working Shelley's ear. I just Corino is just a bit jealous over people who can use both. Whatever though, it doesn't really go anywhere in the long run and looks a little foolish. Shelley though, he uses a few different arm locks and kicks at the arm to wear it down. Nothing exciting about it but it still works to give this match something to base on. At one point though, it looked like Corino hurt his knee legit. But with the arm work started, Shelley just couldn't switch focus. Corino loses points for using an STO with the bad arm. That's just being lazy. Then again, looking at Corino... nevermind. The ending was a bit flawed as Nana attacked the ref and never got DQed. Bleh.
The whole match isn't that bad but it's not great either. It falls in between at okay. It just had a whole kind of basic feel to it which is quite alright but with Shelley and Corino, there should have been more to it. A roll up to win didn't make a whole lot of sense either. Some kind of arm submission would have been the better way to end it then a roll up out of nowhere for the three count. At Shelley tried. **1/2
In Ring Segment: Right after the match, Steve Corino gets attacked by Steve Corino. Shit starts to hit the fan, pardon my language, once Homicide gets a bottle of Drano. Cabana sprints down to save and he ends up getting beaten down and Homicide ACTUALLY PUTS THE DRANO DOWN CABANA'S MOUTH! JESUS CHRIST. Homicide does live up to his name. A bunch of unknowns come into make the save as Cabana throws up. Not something I want to on my TV but it gets the angle advanced.
Another In Ring Segment: Gary Michael Capetta is in the ring explaining a few things about Jay Lethal who has just turned heel. Lethal comes out and cuts a boring and dry promo about why he turned on Samoa Joe. It was all about the money. So Lethal declares himself to be the hottest free agent in wrestling today. Too bad a few months later, he would actually leave Ring of Honor to focus more on TNA and get a personality. Good for him.
Fifth Match: Jay Lethal vs. Samoa Joe vs. BJ Whitmer vs. Christopher Daniels
Backstory: Tons of it. Lethal had just turned on Joe recently. Whitmer hates Daniels for leaving RoH when TNA pulled him. Daniels and Joe are at odds because their old rivalry came back up. That's the short version.
Outcome: Jay Lethal via pinfall on Christoper Daniels after a Diving Headbutt.
Analysis: This is a really good Four Corner Survival match because all four had a reason to be in this match. As noted in the backstory, there is a lot of hate with most of these guys. This is when a four corner match shoud be booked, when they have people with reasons to dislike each other. Not just the jobber slot crapfest they were getting into the role of being. See some of the 2004 ones when Trent Acid would stink up the joint in the four corners matches. Anyways, now that little rant is over, this is a finely worked 4CS. Lethal wants to keep away from Joe the whole time. Daniels and Whitmer have a huge issue that never got settled in the long run I think. Daniels and Joe just plain out don't like each other because of what happened back in the day. The problem with this match is that it settles into a tag match like most of them do. In this case, the two "heels", Lethal and Whitmer, work over Daniels in order to gain sympathy for a hot tag. So why not book this as a tag match right? Well they couldn't because of the Daniels/Joe issue. So the tag formula worked in this case until everything went to everyone in the ring at once, hitting moves on one another.
The finish was pretty meh all things considered. I won't spoil too much of this match. But looking at this match, it was well booked and pretty well executed outside of the whole tag formula it settles into. Loads of fun, continues angles, good wrestling to boot. ***1/2
Intermission: Cappetta is backstage with The Embassy (Shelley, Rave and Nana.) The three talk about how bad 2005 was for them and how much better 2006 would be for them. Shelley thinks they should play by Ring of Honor's rules instead of beating everyone down. Fun promo stuff all around. Nana and Shelley both own hardcore. Rave isn't too bad but he was better with Nana as his mouth piece.
Sixth Match: Ricky Reyes vs. Davey Andrews
Backstory: Ricky beats up students. Davey is the top student. Good enough right.
Outcome: Ricky Reyes via submission after a Dragon Sleeper.
Analysis: I can't analyze this match as it cuts away to Corino talking about what Homicide did and why he is leaving Ring of Honor again. This is like the fifth time now.
In Ring Segment: After we get done with the previous "match", Ricky Reyes destroys the top of the class trophy which brings out Austin Aries, who was the head trainer at this time. Aries grabs a microphone and makes quite a few almost shoot comments that royally piss off Reyes, setting up a bit a feud between Gen Next and The Rotwillers.
Seventh Match: Austin Aries and Roderick Strong vs. Sal Rinauro and Tony Mamaluke (c) for the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship
Backstory: Aries and Strong had earned this shot in a few different ways.
Outcome: Austin Aries via pinfall on Sal Rinauro after a 450 Splash.
Analysis: This tag match is divided into a great team, Aries and Strong, against a fluke team, Rinauro and Mamaluke. When Aries and Strong are in control, this is a good match. Both men know each other well and made a fantastic team. Then again, Strong could team with a monkey and they'd be awesome. When Rinauro and Mamaluke control the match though, it's just boring. Mamaluke does more of his shoot style in Ring of Honor then the high flying he did in ECW. Rinauro was still getting better at this point but was still nothing to write home about. But this is near a squash match that goes quite a while to make the champs look somewhat good before their reign ended.
That said, this whole match is only worth anything because of Aries being able to get great heat from the crowd while playing the face in peril and the double teams Strong and Aries pull off. They were probably the best choice to take the belts off of Mamaluke and Rinauro because they were over and a regular team, not just two people thrown together like Sal and Tony were. So all things considered, this isn't a bad match by any means, just a way to get the belts off of the champs and onto the Gen Next team. **3/4
Eighth Match: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Bryan Danielson (c) for the Ring of Honor World Championship
Backstory: Marufuji signed the open contract that had been sent out to Pro Wrestling NOAH for the shot.
Outcome: Bryan Danielson via pinfall after a pinning combination.
Analysis: This was a match of two halves. In the first ten to twelve minutes in this match, it seemed that Marufuji didn't wrestle with everything in it. Almost kinda lax if you will. Danielson on the other hand, he was just starting to get into his role of being a huge asshole, something he plays very well. But the biggest downfall of the first half of the match is that there is nothing that sets Danielson apart from Marufuji. Every time Danielson would try to use a dirty-ish tactic, 'Fuji would just fire back with something. Then when they go onto work the leg of Marufuji, it's nothing really out of this world but enough to make it try to be a hindrance on Marufuji. So during his comeback segment, he completely no sells every single bit of leg work done by Danielson. Rather frustration if you ask me when that happens. But the finishing stretch to this match is just so hot, it more then makes up for the first half of the match. There were so many believable near falls done by both men. The finish was perfect as both men had been exchanging roll ups and Danielson just got the better of the whole thing.
So when you put the two halves together, you get a good match. But this should have been way better then what it was. It's one of those matches where each time I watch it, I like it less and less. That said, it's still something to see because it is Naomichi Marufuji's first Ring of Honor appearance and puts on a good match with Danielson. It's just all how you think wrestling should be with this folks. ***1/4
Ninth Match: Low Ki vs. KENTA (c) for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Backstory: Low Ki had been wrestling for NOAH for a year now and is getting a title shot. It says something that he is getting the shot in the States instead of Japan about how much they value him. Still, this is KENTA's first Ring of Honor match.
Outcome: KENTA via pinfall after his knee kick (I can't spell it.)
Analysis: STIFF KICKS! Those are two words to mostly sum up this match. Both men kick the ever living crap out of each other for quite a spell of time. Each strike is just so hard hitting, it's amazing that either of them could walk. That's half the fun in this match alone is watching them stiff each other, in my opinion anyways. It shows that both men are equal as far as wrestling ability goes (and when Low Ki is playing more a face then a heel.) But as much fun as the kicks are, that's about the only thing that they do other then plant each other with good moves or combos like the KENTA combo that you sometimes see CM Punk do now a days. This match would have been match of the year if it wasn't for one thing and one thing alone.
The whole problem with this match is the finishing stretch for the most part. These two unload the big moves on each other after they felt like they had kicked each other enough. Take the Pop Up Falcon Arrow for instance. That could have very well been the finish easily but Low Ki was still able to kick out of it and keep on going. You could make the argument that they were using the junior style of Kobashi's top this move for a pop which effectively killed Strong Style from what I've read. It's fun to watch but still, there are only so many moves a guy could take, more so at their size, before hauling it in for the day.
All of that said though, this was the best match of the night and a lot of fun to watch. I'd love to see this again someday but I'd highly doubt that as Low Ki did leave NOAH to go back to TNA. Big mistake on his part. Regardless, this caps off a very good show and made Low Ki look like a true challenger for the belt at Stateside instead of in Japan. I should track down their Japan match... oh yeah. Here is the rating. ****
Recommendation: This is a good show. Every Final Battle show always has something to go out of your way to see. 2002 had that 4 Corner Survival. 2003 had the AJPW vs. RoH series. 2004 had that huge match between Aries and Samoa Joe that has now become folklore. 2005 had KENTA and Marufuji debuting and putting on some good/great matches. This show is a very solid recommendation as it gets the viewer caught up on some of the early angles for 2006 and ends some of them that took place in just 2005. What are you waiting for? Go get it now! Ten dollar sale right now... it might be on there!