ROH Final Battle 2021 HOT TAKE
"Dreams pass in time."
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
One of the sad realities of life inside and beyond professional wrestling is that every single one of us is united in one true root of life, that at some point, we will have to say goodbye to someone or something that we truly love and cherish.
On February 23rd, 2002, a fledgling promotion designed to fill the void that came with the deaths of WCW and ECW, Ring of Honor was born in front of 450 fans in a Rec Center in South Philadelphia. From that day, ROH has gone on to springboard legends into the annals of of wrestling history - Bryan Danielson, Low Ki, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, The Briscoes, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Nigel McGuiinness, The Young Bucks, Jay Lethal - and that's just a short list that could go on for miles.
ROH's legacy is that it crawled, day by day, month by month, battle by battle from the humble beginnings inside that forgotten venue all the way to the greatness of a tradition-shattering G1 Supercard inside Madison Square Garden, in creating and celebrating a true World Championship that was defend far and wide across the world and in inspiring countless other wrestlers and promotions into existence, moving from a tiny independent promotion and morphing into a hallowed hallmark of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, forever leaving an eternal legacy that will forever be traced back to that magical day in 2002.
But, all things run their finite course in the race of life. Ring of Honor announced several weeks ago that their next FITE event, Final Battle 2021: End of an Era on Saturday December 11th has indeed been aptly named. After this event, Ring of Honor, the company that once raged against the machine will now go silent, promising to reorganize and transform into whatever the next chapter of ROH will reveal itself to be. What had been and what is will be no more, placing Ring of Honor's prized combatants into an environment where there is no reason to hold back, no tomorrow to wait for, nothing left. It is all or nothing, one final moment to stand and plant the flag of revolution, to show the world exactly who they are, unbridled and unfiltered.
One last moment to wave the flag of Ring of Honor and turn themselves into legend before the blackness of night surrounds those three glorious letters and the world waits to see what, if anything is next.
The Charm City of Baltimore will be the epicenter of Ring of Honor's Final Battle, but no matter where in the world you reside, FITE will open the doors for all of us to have a ringside seat on a night where anything can happen as the history and stars and dreams of Ring of Honor stars past, present and beyond are all rightfully celebrated in one final glorious night.
One Final Battle.
Do. Or do not. There is no try." — Yoda
For Jonathan Gresham, Final Battle represents the culmination of a career, a moment that he has dreamed of since he first entered the Ring of Honor fray, a chance to be the Ring of Honor World Champion, but he never dreamt this would be the environment, potentially the final ever ROH World Championship bout.
"Yeah, it's crazy to think about it like that," Gresham told FITE.TV. "It quite possibly could be the last Ring of Honor show, and I don't know for me, I think everything happens for a reason. I fell in love with Ring of Honor. It got me out of a lot of trouble, kept me out of a lot of trouble when I was younger. That I became obsessed with the company and I was already obsessed with wrestling but then I found my destination, and everything I did, travel around the world training with people, different things like that was all because I wanted to get the Ring of Honor and finally got to Ring of Honor. I started to evolve until I am today aAnd to see everything that I was blessed enough to accomplish, to be in this position, it's kind of full circle for me. So regardless of win or loss, I've lived my dream to the fullest and I'm just looking towards the next chapter now, after Final Battle."
For Gresham to stand tall as the ROH World Champion as the bell tolls and December 12th rolls around, he will have to have taken every life lesson and every moment he endured as the face of ROH's Pure Wrestling Division to somehow outperform and outlast Mexican star Bandido, who's shocking defeat of Rush brought the entire wrestling world to a stop. The high-flying aerial assault antics of Bandido interlocked in combat with the mighty technical finesse of Gresham is exactly the style of match that Ring of Honor was born to present. As the inevitable darkness and sadness seeps into reality, Gresham vs. Bandido will paint one more vibrant ROH portrait for the world to admire.
We had each other. That's how we won." —Lando Calrissian
If there are two teams who deserve to stand tall in battle against each other at Final Battle: End of An Era on FITE, it's the reigning Ring of Honor World Tag Team Champions The OGK, Matt Taven and Mike Bennett and the forefathers of ROH, Jay and Mark Briscoe.
The Briscoes have bled ROH red since that first magical night in Philadelphia and if there is anyone who has Ring of Honor tattooed on their soul, it's Delaware's favorite sons. It's only right that they are gunning for a record twelfth Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship victory. It is indisputable that they are the walking, living definition of Ring of Honor, what it was and what it has become. Dem Boys grew up in Ring of Honor and ROH grew up, in part, because of Dem Boys.
The OGK are just as important to ROH as the Briscoes, if truth be told. Matt Taven will forever be known as the man who won the ROH World Championship inside Madison Square Garden at the G1 Supercard. A true ROH loyalist, Taven epitomizes the very work ethic that The Briscoes helped perfect. Mike Bennett was one of the first stars to flourish in Ring of Honor during the Sinclair Broadcast era, exploding from New England sensation to ROH superstar alongside his wife Maria Kanellis-Bennett. When he departed ROH, if we are being truthful, it wasn't until he returned that once again found purpose and vitality inside the squared circle. Certain things are made for each other. The OGK and ROH are those things.
At Final Battle, these four unique, colorful competitors have zero reason to hold back, lashing out at each other with everything they have to give for the glory and the bragging rights of stating that when the End of an Era came, they stood tall as Tag Team Champions, helping to define the same legacy and lineage as The Prophecy, Special K, The Age of the Fall, The American Wolves, ReDragon and so many other immortal tandems before them.
Never Tell Me The Odds" - Han Solo
If there was one competitor who defines raging into the night, it's Brian Johnson, because as anyone in the Ring of Honor locker room will tell you, Johnson never shuts the hell up. He is one of the most antagonistic, verbally overwhelming, inhospitable personalities in the history of Ring of Honor. Yet, he's a hell of a wrestler.
Ring of Honor has always been a nexus within professional wrestling. It's where great performers find themselves. It's where veterans rebound towards their future. It's where great acts go to become discovered.
At Death Before Dishonor a few months ago in Philadelphia, it's where Josh Woods achieved his dream, capturing his first-ever professional wrestling championship, overcoming the sadness of the loss of his father, who never got to see him wrestle in person. Now, Woods finds himself tasked with taking on an angry, underrated Brian Johnson, who sees Woods as the last obstacle standing between himself and the glory that comes with being the Pure Division Champion.
ROH's Pure Division has been one of its true hallmarks over the last several years, the window to reintroduce Ring of Honor as it navigated itself out of its pandemic-induced slumber. It is only fair that the division is spotlighted at Final Battle: End of An Era live on FITE...even with Brian Johnson involved. Just ask him, he'll tell you.
Rebellions are built on hope." —Jyn Erso
One of the true joys over the last year for Ring of Honor fans has seen the promotion assemble an impressive cavalcade of some of the most talented and underrated competitors across the globe to stand tall together as part of the Ring of Honor Women's division, culminating with Rok-C emerging victorious, having truly earned the right to call herself the very first Ring of Honor Women's World Champion by virtue of a victory over Miranda Alize.
Stepping into Final Battle, Rok-C waves the banner for those who unmistakably love women's professional wrestling and the unique style and flavor it brings to ROH. At Final Battle, Rok-C will be tasked with standing tall one final time as champion, proving to the world that everything Ring of Honor has built for that division will stand the test of time within the Book of Eternity.
While Rok-C's challenger has not been officially revealed, it will either be long-time ROH veteran Mandy Leon, seeking to finally capture her first singles championship inside a Ring of Honor ring or Willow Nightingale, the NYC star who has captured the imagination and love of wrestling fans over the last year. Two very distinct and dangerous personalities inside the ring.
For fans who have poured over ROH's Women's Division Wednesday and ridden the roller coaster of ROH's Women's Division, get ready for one more emotional ride on FITE on December 11th.
I like firsts. Good or bad, they're always memorable." —Ahsoka Tano
The Ring of Honor Six Man Tag Team Championship has existed by one rule since its inception - Chaos Theory.
Even the best tandems or alliances cannot 100% strategize what is going to happen when two six man units go to war. There's going to be a moment where tempers flare and pandemonium breaks loose. There's going to be that sliver of a second where the rules are thrust aside and bedlam reigns. There's going to be blood and war and yeah, I said it, chaos.
ROH's Final Battle: End of an Era on FITE is no exception. We know things are going to get insane, but we don't know exactly how twisted and mangled, because while we know all the players, we have zero insight into how combustible it will be when they face off for the first time with the gold at stake.
Vincent's Righteous legions have trampled a path of destruction in corners of Ring of Honor. Now, he aligns himself with bruiser Dutch and the twisted Bateman, seeking to take one more bite out of the heart and soul of the promotion and steal the Six Man Tag Team Championships for themselves, like three Jokers running rampant over a bloodied Gotham City. Imagine that scene as the final memories of this era of Ring of Honor.
Standing in the way of that brutal reality, thankfully, are Shane Taylor Promotions, The Soldiers of Savagery and O'Shay Edwards, all of whom entered Ring of Honor on their own individual trajectory before forming like Voltron to become a mighty force aligned with Shane Taylor. Whether it's turning back the challenge of La Facción Ingobernable or other would-be pretenders to their throne, Edwards, Moses and Kaun have proven themselves time and time again as indelible combatants.
Now, at Final Battle, they step into the End of an Era looking to make history with one more physical, brutal challenge, etching themselves into ROH immortality in the process. To do so, however, they'll have to go face to face with the most dangerous form of The Righteous ever seen, an incarnation that has nothing to lose and no reason to care.
Your focus determines your reality."
The shocking twists of events in Ring of Honor never cease. It was just weeks ago that former Ring of Honor World Champion Dalton Castle etched another victory in his Peacock belt, capturing the ROH World Championship from Dragon Lee. For Castle, it was a long awaited moment of redemption, scoring a massive victory that put him back, without question, in the ROH stratosphere.
When Castle enters Charm City preening all the way down the aisle for Final Battle: End of An Era, it will have to be the stratosphere he's keeping his eyes on if he wants to exit the evening still champion. His challenger that evening will be the high-flying, evolutionary Rey Horus, who was first introduced into professional wrestling by luminaries such as Konnan and Rey Misterio Sr.
While Horus has tasted championship gold in Ring of Honor, it's never been a singles title. A victory over the devious, well rounded Castle would mean having to overcome his eccentric traits as well as his incredible grappling skills. This could be yet another classic hybrid styles clash battle, the likes of which we've seen since 2010 through the battles that the 15 men who have held the championship have endured.
From Eddie Edwards and El Generico to Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong to the longest reigning ROH TV Champion of all time Jay Lethal, from HDNet to Destination America to NESN to CHARGE to Honor Club and beyond, this championship has always forged its own unique and special Ring of Honor history. Final Battle on FITE will be no different as two very different, very distinct personalities, who exist in two very different realities, will take to the mat and to the air, to emerge the definitive ROH TV Champion as the door on this era of honor closes.
I warn you not to underestimate my power." -Luke Skywalker
Ring of Honor was forged on a code of honorable combat, or that's what historians will tell you. From the very first ROH event back in 2002 however, strife and anger helped propel the promotion forward.
Whether it was The Briscoes at each other's throats, Christopher Daniels unveiling his Prophecy after refusing to shake the hands of Bryan Danielson and Low Ki, The bloody assaults from The Age of the Fall, Combat Zone Wrestling's insurgence into ROH or the New York City riot that defined Ring of Honor's first anniversary event, violence, bloodshed and war have always defined the ROH letters as much as any brilliant in-ring masterpiece.
So, it's only fitting that a true grudge match be one of the main events as part of Final Battle: End of An Era on FITE.
Shane Taylor's issues with Kenny King date all the way back to February of this year, where King ran interference for his La Faccion Ingonoberales cohort Rush in order to prevent Taylor from winning the ROH World Championship. Given King and Taylor's former alliance from their time in The Rebellion, this act ignited an insatiable anger for Taylor, who had his championship dreams stolen at the hands of Kenny King. That anger raged ever brighter after King attacked Taylor again at Death Before Dishonor, nearly costing Shane Taylor Promotions their chance to retain the Six Man Tag Team Championship. Now, with nothing left to lose and vengeance in his sights, Taylor will get King, one on one, with no sign of LFI anywhere in sight. For King, this is a chance to prove he's better than Taylor and exit this era in glorious fashion. For Taylor, it's a chance to go down swinging and take down King once and for all.
Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future." - Yoda
While there will be other competitors and other bouts announced for FITE's presentation of Ring of Honor Final Battle - End of An Era, the aforementioned are the scheduled main events for the evening.
Beyond what has been announced, it is impossible to know who or what may go down on an evening where all the regular rules of engagement are thrown out the window, forbidden doors are thrown asunder elsewhere in the world of professional wrestling and the inevitable inches ever closer the second FITE goes on the air with ROH Final Battle on December 11th.
Ring of Honor made its mark on history. Without it, professional wrestling history wouldn't be the same. Whether this is the final moment of this incarnation of ROH or the closing chapter in its magnificent, turbulent existence, we know this one true fact - it's going to be the end of an era. Whether you were there on that first night or you've ridden the insane highs and lows of your favorite ROH competitors over the years, Ring of Honor was an important piece of the professional wrestling universe.
In many cases, you don't have a moment to reflect on what was lost until it was too late. On December 11th, everyone has that moment to take one last ride with Ring of Honor, remember the good, shake your head at the bad, cheer your heroes, sneer at your villains and uphold the Code of Honor.
The Era of Honor began in February 2002. December 2021, it's the End of that Era.
Join all of us on FITE and experience it, together.
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider and MikeJohnsonWrites.com.