@MikeKillam — Facebook.com/MountKillamanjaro
It's that time of the month again. No, not that time of the month, the one where I run down pay-per-view cards and motivate you to WATCH MORE WRESTLING. Today's write-up is a double feature, as I get the pleasure of plugging the next cog in WWE's never-ending machine, as well as – and I can't tell you how long I've wanted to say this – a Ring of Honor iPPV you need to watch.
I'm not trying to be antagonistic by implying that you don't "need" to watch all the other Ring of Honor iPPV events; think of it more as a testament to how drastically my feelings have improved towards the product. They have some of the best "professional wrestlers" (a term whose meaning I'm starting to care less and less about) in the world working for them, but commendable storytelling is an art found few-and-far-between in the indy realm. It's frustrating, but often understandable.
With a smaller fanbase with much less consistency, Ring of Honor – not unlike CZW, PGW, etc. – have a need and financial responsibility to keep most angles broad. Without the million dollar video production, fans actually have to pay attention on a weekly basis, or risk falling out of sync. And trust me, after a decade of predominantly mind-numbing, spoon-fed crap from "big leagues" and an over-saturated entertainment industry, asking wrestling fans to pay attention is easier a said then done. So Ring of Honor and many other successful promotions have to rely on the basics: good wrestling and a quick rate of exchange. You're not going to see a three month arc with the same match on iPPV each time, because they have to continue bringing in fresh faces to give fans a new reason to order. This is probably a good thing in the long run, because they can't rest on the same safety net for years on end.
This month I am happy to say that Ring of Honor has managed to put together one of the most compelling iPPV products I have ever seen from an indy promotion. There are stories that branch over months, and in some cases, years of drama. Every match has validated its presence on the card. I'm not going to dive into detail on each match; if you want a full explanation of every story going into today's show, you can check out my latest episode of Rope Break with ROHCast.
The big draw for ROH Final Battle is the main event: the fourth ever Ladder War in company history, this time with the ROH World Heavyweight championship on the line. Kevin Steen will defend his title against El Generico in what has to be one of the past decades most intense rivalries. Former best friends and tag team partners, turned mortal enemies by Steen's jealousy and ego. In story, Generico was the reason Steen was forced to leave Ring of Honor years ago; this is their first encounter since his return. There are no masks or careers on the line, just the World Title. What you really need to know is that this match is going to be long, bloody and insanely violent. It's going to come across as two men trying to kill each other, and that's something I think a lot of wrestling fans miss in modern era storytelling.
In other news, Matt Hardy returns to face off against the current TV Champ Adam Cole, who also happens to be the PWG World Champ, after defeating Kevin Steen just a few weeks ago. The American Wolves, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards reunite in a moment many fans have been waiting a long time to see. There's also Jerry Lynn's final match in Ring of Honor, a tag team 3-way and some great drama involving Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team and the former ANX.
WWE's TLC pay-per-view feels less urgent, but still has some great reasons to watch. Chief among them, the Shield's WWE in-ring debut. Fans are dying to know what Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and yes, Roman Reigns are like in between the ropes. Personally, I'm just waiting for Rollins to come face-to-face with Daniel Bryan. The other big story is Dolph Ziggler's Money in the Bank contract being on the line against John Cena. This has to be seen as the defining moment for Ziggler, and will reveal if WWE is actually ready to commit, or will once again fall back to their safety net. Two solid mid-card title matches and a tag team tables match that doesn't involve the champs; yet another sign of dedication outside of the main event picture.
Both shows should be good, but I have to lean towards Ring of Honor's Final Battle as the more daring endeavor. The Hammerstein is going to draw a great crowd of hardcore wrestling fans, and for $15 you really can't go wrong. If WWE pulls off a better match tonight than Steen/Generico I'll be incredibly surprised. I can appreciate that a lot of fans won't give ROH the time of day, but take it from somebody that has been highly critical of their product for quite some time: if you only watch one ROH show this year, let it be Final Battle on iPPV. I can respect a company that takes a bold shot outside their safety net.
Ring of Honor is live on iPPV tonight at 2pm ET. Visit ROHWrestling.com for more information.
WWE TLC is live on PPV tonight at 8pm ET.