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Bandido will defend his ROH title at what is potentially the last Final Battle
While the future of Ring of Honor looks bleak, there is still a lot to like about its present.
Once the home for the industry’s pioneers and trailblazers, ROH’s current prospects are uncertain. After Saturday, the company will go on an indefinite hiatus. But before focusing on the future, the present stars—led by ROH champion Bandido—are ready to put on an outstanding Final Battle pay-per-view Saturday.
The main event will see Bandido defend the title against Jonathan Gresham. It is a meeting of two incredibly talented performers who have earned their spot atop the card, and Bandido wants their bout to honor the ROH belt and all it has stood for over the past 19 years.
“I am proud to be the one in this position,” Bandido says through a translator. “I know how important it is, not only to be the champion in Ring of Honor, but I know all about the legends that built it, too. I am especially proud to represent all Latinos and the faithful Ring of Honor fans that have built this into such an amazing place.”
Final Battle will mark the end of an era for ROH, so naturally all eyes will be on the champion. Bandido is seemingly reaching new heights each month. The reigning ROH champ is also the top performer in indie powerhouse Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and he is now working with Game Changer Wrestling, which will certainly widen his reach throughout the industry. Bandido is also coming off an important weekend in Mexico, where he wrestled in the main event of AAA’s Triplemanía Regia for the mega championship.
“I want to hold a belt of that magnitude in Mexico,” says Bandido, who had previously starred for Mexican promotion CMLL. “AAA is very different from CMLL. They are very different companies and each one has their own way of working and capturing their fans with good quality encounters. I am excited to make more opportunities.”
Bandido’s first run with the mega championship will have to wait, as it was El Hijo del Vikingo who won the belt in a five-way match that also included Bobby Fish, Jay Lethal and Samuray Del Sol. The match allowed Bandido another chance to see the brilliance of Vikingo, who is a genuine trailblazer in the industry.
“Vikingo, he is spectacular,” Bandido says. “What he can do above the ring is amazing. I want to do more with him, either against him or with him as a partner.”
With or without ROH, Bandido still has a busy start planned for 2022. That includes a PWG show at the end of January where its famed Battle of Los Angeles tournament will be held. Jonah Rock (better known as Bronson Reed in NXT) and Alex Shelley were just announced as the first two entrants, and while Bandido may not be part of this year’s tourney, it does not lessen his desire to eventually win it.
“That is an amazing tournament, and I will always aim to take it home,” Bandido says. “PWG is a dream world for me. I can’t wait to show people what I have in store.”
Only days removed from a decisive moment in his career at Final Battle, Bandido reflected on what he will miss most in ROH.
“Without a doubt, it is the dressing room,” Bandido says. “There is a brotherhood and companionship that make you feel at home. That is what I will miss greatly.”
Final Battle will likely have its share of surprises, but there is no better tribute to the company than an all-world title match to close out the card. That is a challenge that the champion is ready to embrace.
“I owe everything to the fans, and that’s why I wrestle the style I do,” Bandido says. “They have brought me to where I am now, and I will always, always, give my full, maximum effort for them every time I step in the ring, just like I will at Final Battle.”
The past just as important as the future for Bron Breakker
When Bronson Rechsteiner made his debut in September as Bron Breakker, he took his first step toward becoming the future face of NXT. He also paid tribute to his past, wearing a classic Steiner Brothers singlet originally worn by his father, the great Rick Steiner.
“The one from my debut match, that was his,” Breakker says. “The past couple I’ve worn have been made for me, like the one from WarGames and the one from Halloween Havoc. But the one that’s the same colors as NXT 2.0, that was my dad’s from the ’80s and ’90s. That’s paying tribute to him. I want to keep that legacy alive.”
The NXT product has changed significantly, which is not the most endearing transition for those who found the black-and-gold presentation so compelling. But Breakker is so captivating that he would fit in anywhere. It is particularly fun to watch him develop on a weekly basis, especially as he finds his footing in pro wrestling.
Breakker closed out WarGames on Sunday by pinning NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa in a WarGames match. He did so with an impressive gorilla press powerslam, a yet-to-be-named finisher that underscores his power, promise and potential.
“At the moment, I don’t have a name for it,” Breakker says. “But I think WarGames was a step in the right direction. I want to keep being a sponge and keep learning and become the best in this sport.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- The Vikingo era has officially begun.
- Well done by Adam Scherr (formerly Braun Strowman in WWE) and EC3, who teamed up to raise money for a worthy cause.
- NXT 2.0 is an entirely different show than what was presented during the Triple H era of the brand. If NXT loses talent like Johnny Gargano and Kyle O’Reilly—and it certainly felt as though they were being written off on Tuesday night’s show—the brand will feel even more developmental.
- Bryan Danielson is challenging “Hangman” Adam Page for the AEW title next week at the “Winter Is Coming” edition of Dynamite, the same show where, a year ago, Kenny Omega won the belt from Jon Moxley. While I don’t think lightning will strike twice, AEW has done exceptional work making people think a change is a distinct possibility.
- Brock Lesnar returned to SmackDown on Friday, showing a lot of personality in his earlier interaction with Sami Zayn before sending him to Suplex City.
- Kofi Kingston also returned on SmackDown, and this New Day–Usos program will hopefully lead to a match at WrestleMania 38. Fortunately, that would not interfere with the upcoming convention about the brilliance of all things Golden Girls, which takes place a few weeks later that April.
- Sasha Banks continues to add value to WWE every time she steps on screen. Her match with Shayna Baszler was fantastic, and a reminder of how Baszler should be presented.
- Difficult news regarding Jeff Hardy, who, according to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, was sent home from the road this weekend.
- Insider has a piece worth reading on indie sensation Effy.
- Matt Cardona made his presence felt at NWA’s Hard Times 2 this past weekend, and that 10 pounds of gold would be a great addition to his collection of titles.
Former ROH champion Rush offers his gratitude
With the future of Ring of Honor unknown, former two-time champion Rush wants to express his gratitude to wrestling fans who enjoyed his run as the top act in the company.
“Thank you very much to all the ROH fans who supported me since my arrival,” Rush says. “I learned a lot from the fans. I will miss them a lot, as well as my whole family in ROH.”
Rush debuted in ROH in December 2018. He started an undefeated streak that gained momentum the following March at the 17th Anniversary Show where he defeated Bandido, then had an emphatic 15-second victory against Dalton Castle at the G1 Supercard event at Madison Square Garden in April 2019 co-promoted with New Japan. He won the ROH title that fall, had a brief stretch where he dropped it to PCO, then regained the title and carried it from February ’20 until July. Rush also built La Facción Ingobernable in ROH, which allowed him to work closely with his brother Dragon Lee and father La Bestia del Ring.
“ROH will always be La Facción Ingobernable,” Rush says. “Thanks to the fans for teaching me to be a better person. Having been the face of the company for a long time and becoming champion twice, thank you for making me become a better fighter.
“Once again, thank you very much, and I wish at some point to return home.”
Tweet of the Week
Lee Moriarty looked fantastic in his match last week against CM Punk. Now he needs genuine programs on Dynamite to make it to the next level.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.