Big thanks again to Steve Melo for the awesome new banner for 2014! Go Hero Thor!

Rejoice, friends! The Honor Roll is back! Hip hip….

Before I get into the first Ring of Honor show of 2014, I need to get on my soapbox a bit. Last week, on the final ROH show of 2013, they aired the Match of the Year for 2013, which was Kevin Steen vs. El Generico in a Ladder War for the ROH World Championship. I don’t have a problem with the match being selected; it was extremely brutal (the good kind of brutal), and tied a bow on the Steen/Generico feud. My problem was that the match took place in 2012.

I’ve been yelling at the wall it seems with my distaste for including previous years’ matches in Match of the Year polls. Yes, I understand that not every ROH fan gets the opportunity to see a match the second it happens, but *some* do. This match in particular was aired on an iPPV, where every ROH fan had the opportunity to view the match live as it was happening. I can understand the hemming and hawing over a house show or television taping match that took place in December but was released in January being included on a Best Of list. But the fact that ROH puts every show they do up on Video on Demand within a week seems to render this point moot.

The easiest solution seems to be waiting until February or March to decide what the Match of the Year for the previous year was, but it’s trendy and hip to do “Best Ofs” immediately as the year ends, so I realize that I’m fighting a losing battle here. It just seems wrong to me that a 2012 match wins a 2013 best of poll. It puts a damper on the year that was. ROH had one of their best years in 2008, but a match that took place in November 2007 (NOVEMBER!!!) won the poll (Nigel McGuinness vs. Austin Aries from the Rising Above Pay Per View). It really diminished everything that ROH accomplished in 2008 match quality wise.

Enough of that. Let’s get into this week’s show, which samples two matches from the Final Battle 2013 show, both of which feature the Briscoe Brothers.

Match 1 - Strap Match: Mark Briscoe vs. Silas Young

This has been a nice little mini feud that has given Silas Young a much-needed rub off the Briscoe name, despite the fact that Mark is being booked as the lesser of the two Briscoes. Overall I found the match disappointing, as it was supposed to be a blowoff. In the ROH of old, these guys would get 15 minutes to beat the hell out of each other, somebody would bleed, and the crowd would be absolutely worn out by the end of the night (this was only the second match of the night on the card). But Silas Young would be made as one of the next big stars with a statement victory over an ROH mainstay, and for the long-term growth of the company, it would be the best route.

In today’s ROH, these guys got about six to eight minutes, and while the strap was used, it wasn’t the focal point of the match. There was a really excellent spot where Silas was standing on the outside and Mark was above him on the apron. Silas tied the strap around Mark’s neck like a noose, then flung the strap forward, sending Mark into a 360 and having him land flat on his back on the outside. Mark’s body hit with a sickening thud, and he remained motionless.

I thought this was going to be the turning point of the match where Silas would get in the heel beatdown segment before Mark would mount his babyface comeback, but they immediately went to the finish of the match where Silas carried Mark’s limp body on his shoulders in a Fireman’s Carry position, and walked around touching the corners, but Mark was secretly touching them as well, shrugging off all effects of the mega-move he just suffered. It would actually have made a bigger statement had Mark remained unconscious, but then he would have looked really bad in defeat. It would have taken a lot of cojones to put Silas over big-time at Mark’s expense, but ROH needs to make new stars, and Mark would have eventually bounced back. This finish was a cop out, not to mention being done to death from previous strap matches. I think ROH missed a huge opportunity here. *1/2

Winner: Silas Young

Main Event - ROH World Championship: Adam Cole © vs. Jay Briscoe vs. Michael Elgin

This one took a while to get going. The story at the beginning of the match was both Jay and Elgin wanting a piece of Cole, and Adam playing chickenshit heel and retreating to the outside, letting Jay and Elgin beat the hell out of each other and then interjecting when one was getting close to beating the other. Finally, they got their hands on Cole and took turns destroying the champion. At one point, Elgin got Cole up for the stalled suplex and held him up there for a count of 60 while Jay stood on the outside and caught a breather, rooting Elgin on, and then coming in and stomping Elgin in the head when he finally dropped Cole. Everything made sense, but it wasn’t as fast-paced as I normally expect triple threats from ROH to be.

Things easily picked up toward the end of the match when Matt Hardy got involved and revealed himself to be Adam Cole’s mentor. Hardy is universally despised by the ROH audience, so the heat picked up dramatically. Mark Briscoe came out to neutralize Hardy, allowing Jay Briscoe two hit two consecutive Jay Drillers on Michael Elgin, both of which he kicked out of. The crowd had turned toward Elgin down the stretch. Elgin was going for the spinout powerbomb, but Cole superkicked Elgin in the back of the head, superkicked Jay, then rolled Elgin up, grabbing the tights for the win. The match definitely picked up toward the end. ***3/4

Winner, and STILL ROH World Champion, Adam Cole

After the match, Hardy and Cole celebrated and knocked out Elgin, Jay and Mark with both the ROH World Title and Jay’s custom made “World Title.” Suddenly, Chris Hero’s music hit, and while Cole and Hardy were looking toward the entranceway, Hero came through the crowd, hit Hardy with a rolling elbow, then put on the “lucky” loaded elbow pad and nailed Cole with a rolling elbow, sending the crowd home happy.

Final Thoughts

I think there were other matches from Final Battle that ROH could have used for the opening match. Specifically I would have liked to see one of two other matches: Roderick Strong and Jay Lethal vs. Eddie Edwards and BJ Whitmer, because it was the forming of The Decade, or Tomasso Ciampa vs. Matt Taven, because we had a new champion. But I get it…they want people to buy the show on demand. The main event was pretty good, but not on par with Final Battle main events of past (Aries/Joe, Low Ki/KENTA, Danielson/Homicide, Danielson/Morishima, and Steen/Generico in 2010 and 2012 come to mind). Still, for free TV, it was a good idea to show the main event, especially with Hero coming back (and facing Kevin Steen on next week’s TV show). It looks like a good start to 2014.

Score: 8