Final Battle is supposedly Ring of Honor's biggest event of the year. I say "supposedly" not out of disrespect to this year's card, but because there were other shows in 2013 that, on paper, just looked that much better. That's a compliment. Still, given the frustrations that Davey Richards must have caused whilst putting together this show, Final Battle sends ROH into a new year on a great note. Not only did they do what they've always done – provide excellent bell-to-bell professional wrestling – but I dare say 2013 was a huge step forward for American's most popular indie company in terms of that taboo phrase, "sports entertainment". From the tail end of Kevin Steen's world title reign, to the whole SCUM take-over, to Adam Cole's slow heel turn, this year had more cumulative storytelling than I have ever seen from Ring of Honor in all its years past. In an unbelievably over-saturated industry, where anybody with a ring can put out a wrestling show and shop it to DVD the next day, it's great to see the "little engine that could" actually coupling some intriguing icing on its already stellar in-ring cake. Mmm, food metaphors.
But what about Final Battle, specifically? Well, most of what they attempted to do here worked. Not everything resonated with me, and some things just flat-out confused me, but I definitely came away satisfied with my purchase, thirsty to see more in the coming weeks and months.
The Messiah Returns
It's hard to come up with only one major "this is why you need to see this show" moment. Final Battle had quite a few selling points. Since it was the main event, you have to assume the angle ROH most values was the reveal of Matt Hardy (aka the "Jesus Christ of professional wrestling") as Adam Cole's mentor. For weeks Cole has been teasing that his friend, partner and mentor would be coming to Final Battle, and after dispatching up-and-comer Adam Page in the show's opening contest, Hardy "shocked" the world, helping Cole over Jay Briscoe and Michael Elgin after a grueling 30-plus-minute match. I only say "shocked" because I knew about the angle three weeks ago. I cannot stress enough how great this idea was. I have loved all the character progression that Adam has shown during his time as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's champion, but his heel persona is still new to the ROH crowd. Those who don't buy PWG DVDs don't necessarily get how good this guy can be at telling a story. Matt Hardy is the perfect way to help him in that transition period, as the former WWE star's heat is legendary. Very few people elicit that level of hatred from indie wrestling fans like Matt Hardy does in Ring of Honor.
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