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DEROSENROLL'S CLASSIC ROH FEUDS: History of "Final Battle" ROH World Title matches (2002-2005)

Dec 19, 2009 - 12:35:20 PM
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ROH Classic Feuds Preview - Final Battle 2009
Review of 2002 - 2005 "Final Battle" World Title matches
By Mike DeRosenroll, Torch ROH specialist


Tonight, Ring of Honor forays into the world of online pay-per-views by offering Final Battle 2009 on gofightlive.com. Final Battle has been the name of the last ROH show of each year since the promotion started in 2002. In that time, it has evolved into one of the biggest shows of the year, where feuds climax, new angles begin for the coming year, and titles change hands.

Tonight's main event will feature Austin Aries, the only two-time ROH World Champion, defend the title against Tyler Black. There is a very good chance that Black will become the twelfth wrestler to win the ROH championship tonight, and the third to win in at a Final Battle show. Here is a look back at the history of ROH World Title matches at Final Battle, focusing on the angles and feuds that led into them.

Final Battle 2002: Xavier retained the ROH Title over Paul London. Xavier is the only cheating heel to get a run with the ROH Title to date. Originally a mid-card babyface, Xavier won the ROH Title from Low Ki at "Unscripted" in September 2002 by turning heel during the title match and winning thanks to interference by the Prophecy (a heel faction led by Christopher Daniels). It was revealed that Xavier had joined the Prophecy and challenged Low Ki to the title match as an elaborate set-up to steal the title.

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After Xavier's title win, ROH ran an angle that autumn where Xavier exploited a loophole in the rules to avoid giving Low Ki a title re-match. Xavier defended the title as infrequently as possible, preferring instead to wrestle non-title against undercard wrestlers. This angle was very well executed to put heel heat on Xavier, and Daniels did an excellent job of selling the storyline with his promos as the leader of the Prophecy.

The storyline reaction from ROH management was to create the #1 Contender's Trophy and require the champion to defend the title against the trophy-holder. Paul London became the first wrestler to win the Contender's Trophy by winning a four-wrestler, one-night tournament at "Night of the Butcher," setting up his title shot at Final Battle 2002. London's tournament final match against "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson at "Night of the Butcher" was excellent, as was the title match with Xavier at Final Battle 2002.

Final Battle 2003: Samoa Joe retained the ROH World Title over Mark Briscoe. Samoa Joe was nine months into his record-setting twenty-one month reign as ROH World Champion, and this match was part of his feud with the Briscoe Brothers that began in September at "Beating the Odds" and continued through to the 2004 WrestleMania weekend show, "At Our Best."

The feud began when Jay Briscoe scored a rare pin on Joe during a non-title Four Corner Survival Match at "Beating the Odds." This earned Jay a World Title match with Joe a month later at "Tradition Continues," which Joe won cleanly. Frustrated, the Briscoes aligned themselves with manager Jim Cornette, who arranged for the Briscoes to sneak attack Joe at "Main Event Spectacles" in November. This made the feud personal.

Joe went for revenge at the next show, "The Conclusion" (so named because it was the conclusion of the excellent C.M. Punk-Raven feud), by teaming up with A.J. Styles to challenge the Briscoes for the ROH Tag Team titles. The Briscoes retained the tag titles after Mark Briscoe pinned Joe. Pinning Joe in the tag title match earned Mark a shot the Joe's singles title at Final Battle 2003.

The Joe-Mark Briscoe title match was actually on the undercard of Final Battle 2003 because ROH had brought in several top talents from All Japan Pro Wrestling for the show, led by The Great Muta, and the main events were a series of ROH-All Japan challenge matches. The real highlights of the Joe-Briscoes feud would come in 2004, particularly the blow off cage match between Jay Briscoe and Joe at "At Our Best."

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Final Battle 2004: Austin Aries won the ROH World Title from Samoa Joe. This edition of Final Battle is a landmark in ROH history because it was the show where Samoa Joe finally dropped the ROH World Title after a twenty-one month reign. Austin Aries winning the title was a surprise at the time because Joe's major feud in the months leading up to this show was with C.M. Punk.

Aries broke into ROH just six months earlier as part of the Generation Next heel faction, along with Alex Shelley, Roderick Strong, and Jack Evans. Aries steadily climbed the card in the second half of 2004, thanks to a breakout match against Bryan Danielson in the main event of "Survival of the Fittest" in June. This led to Aries and Danielson facing each other in a two-out-of-three falls match that went 75 minutes at "Testing the Limit" in August, which Aries won.

Aries would go on to defeat C.M. Punk at "Weekend of Thunder, Night 1" in November, and go to a twenty-minute time limit draw with Low Ki at "All-Star Extravaganza II" in early December. These results again top contenders earned Aries the title shot against Joe at Final Battle 2004. The crowd pop when Aries hit his finisher on Joe and got the three count was quite a moment.

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Final Battle 2005: Bryan Danielson retained the ROH World Title over Naomichi Marufuji. In 2005, ROH returned to the formula started in 2003 of bringing in international special attractions for Final Battle. This year, it was Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA from Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan. Marufuji and KENTA were coming off an almost two-year run as Noah's GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, and this excellent run had made their names internationally.

The storyline explanation for Marufuji getting a title shot against Danielson was that ROH sent a series of open contracts for title matches with Danielson to other wrestling promotions, setting up a series of Danielson title defences against special attractions, and NOAH nominated Marufuji for their title shot. KENTA, who had just won the GHC Jr. Heavyweight title, defended against Low Ki on the show, the first time a GHC title was defended on a ROH show. This planted the first seeds for Danielson's eventual showdown with KENTA nine months later at "Glory By Honor V, Night 2," which was arguably the pinnacle of Danielson's fifteen-month ROH World Title reign.

-- PART 2: Coming Soon - 2006-2008 Final Battle World Title matches


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