This is quite a week for wrestling in Philadelphia. On Monday, Roman Reigns won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship – more on that later in Heel Turns – and WWE chairman Vince McMahon made his first on-air appearance in more than a year. On Friday and Saturday, the Philadelphia state belongs to Ring of Honor.
Ring of Honor comes to 2300 Arena on Friday (8:30 p.m.) for the Final Battle ’15 pay-per-view. If you want to see Final Battle, it’s a good thing it’s available on pay-per-view. As the Greek God of Wrestling writes this column, only standing room tickets were still available. Ring of Honor sticks around Saturday (6 p.m.) for a television taping.
The main event for Final Battle is Jay Lethal defending the Ring of Honor World Championship against AJ Styles. Lethal has been involved in some terrific matches this year. Styles has been one of the most sought-after stars on the independent circuit since leaving TNA. Despite being sidelined recently by back issues, Styles says he will be ready for Final Battle.
Roderick Strong, who won the Ring of Honor World Television Championship from Lethal, defends that title against Bobby Fish. Kyle O’Reilly, who teamed with Fish to win the tag team titles, battles Adam Cole.
The Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship will be on the line, with The Kingdom (Matt Taven and Michael Bennett) defending the titles against War Machine (Raymond Rowe and Hanson). The tag team title match may not be as highly anticipated as the triple-threat tag team No. 1 contenders match, which features Jay and Mark Briscoe, the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and the All Night Express (Rhett Titus and Kenny King).
The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, the former tag team champions, will team up with Chris Sabin to face ACH, Matt Sydal and Alex Shelley, who was revealed as the masked man who cost Daniels and Kazarian the tag team championship.
Other matches Friday are Michael Elgin vs. Moose, Dalton Castle vs. Silas young and, in a YouTube exclusive, Cheeseburger vs. Brutal Bob.
Ring of Honor almost always delivers with its major events. Final Battle doesn’t appear as if it will be an exception.
SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: Ring of Honor has announced some matches for its Saturday show, being billed as the Final Battle Aftermath TV taping, at 2300 Arena. Adam Cole battles Michael Elgin in a revival of one of 2014’s top rivalries.
Other matches include Mark Briscoe vs. Adam Page, a four-way match featuring Jay Briscoe, Dalton Castle, Moose and Matt Sydal, and a tag team match between RPG Vice (Rocky Romero and Beretta) and the All Night Express (Rhett Titus and Kenny King).
A pair of women’s matches will also grace the card. Mandy Leon and Sumie Sakai team up to face Deonna Purrazzo and Hania the Huntress. There will also be a four corner survival match featuring Taeler Hendrix, Kelly Klein, Kimber Lee and Veda Scott. Kimber Lee, who will be making her Women of Honor debut, recently became CHIKARA’s Grand Champion.
REIGNS BEGINS HIS REIGN: What a difference a year can make. Last January, Philly fans booed vociferously when Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble. This past Monday, the Wells Fargo crowd erupted when Reigns defeated Sheamus to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
When Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank title opportunity to defeat Reigns at Survivor Series after he had won a tournament to earn the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Achilles Heel explained how WWE was trying to build sympathy for Reigns in order to generate a positive reaction when he eventually wins the title.
WWE upped the ante by having Reigns confronted by HHH after losing to Reigns at TLC, with plenty of interference by the League of Nations, and then doubled down Monday by having WWE chairman Vince McMahon play the antagonist role. McMahon delivered a kick below the belt midway through RAW, but received a Superman punch in return during the main event.
In the same build in which he was booed nearly 11 months earlier, Reigns was cheered as he won the WWE World Championship.
TLC REVIEW: Despite a lack of build for many of the matches, TLC turned out to be a pretty good event. The tables, ladders and chairs match between Roman Reigns and Sheamus was a worthy main event.
The most spectacular match at TLC was the opening ladder match for the tag team titles. New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) retained the titles in an insane match with Jimmy and Jey Uso and the Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara and Kalisto). Even the outstanding writing of the Greek God of Wrestling couldn’t do justice to the awesome maneuvers executed by the participants in this match.
There was a title change at TLC, with Dean Ambrose defeating Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship in a fine match. Owens’ loss makes more sense after Reigns won the WWE World Championship on RAW. Owens could be a challenger for Reigns.
The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman) won a hard-hitting tables elimination match against Devon and Bubba Ray Dudley, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno at TLC, and then won an even better brawl Monday on RAW. In a chairs match, Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger managed to make the fans care even though Del Rio was a lock to retain the United States Championship.
In a Divas Championship match, Charlotte, with Ric Flair in her corner, defeated Paige to retain her title. Even Rusev and Ryback managed to draw the fans into their match.
HOT CROWDS: Both TLC and RAW benefited from hot crowds. What else would you expect from Boston and Philadelphia?
LONDON CALLING: Finn Balor successfully defended the NXT Championship against Samoa Joe on Wednesday at NXT Takeover: London, the latest excellent special event from NXT.
As expected, Balor and Joe were tremendous together. Bayley defeated challenger Nia Jax by guillotine submission in a well-executed David vs. Goliath match for the NXT Women’s Championship. Dash and Dawson, a terrific team, successfully defended the NXT Tag Team Championship against Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady in yet another good match.
In a bit of a surprise, Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews. Corbin had to stretch himself out in this match, which was much longer than a typical Corbin match. Asuka continued to impress while defeating Emma in an entertaining opening match.
As is almost always the case with NXT, the focus was on wrestling, and the wrestlers delivered.
CAGE OF DEATH SURVIVOR: Matt Tremont retained the Combat Zone Wrestling World Championship last Saturday in a cage of death match with AR Fox, Masada and Devon Moore at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. The tag team and CZW Wired championships changed hands, Sami Callihan made a triumphant return and the Gulak brothers defeated the Beaver Boys.
IMPACT COMES TO BETHLEHEM: Plenty of good seats remain for TNA’s five-night standing at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center from Jan. 5-9. Achilles Heel’s assistants were able to pull up Row D seats in a ring side section for the Jan. 5 show, which will be TNA’s debut on Pop TV and will feature the semifinals and finals of the World Title Series tournament. For the Jan. 6 show, my assistants found Row B seats. By the way, the seats in both these ringside sections were $10 apiece.
SLAMMY TIME: The Slammy Awards, usually an extremely entertaining show, take place next Monday on RAW.