Best and Worst Booking Decisions of ROH Final Battle and WWE NXT Deadline PPV Results

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 11, 2022

Best and Worst Booking Decisions of ROH Final Battle and WWE NXT Deadline PPV Results

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    Credit: ROH

    It was a packed Saturday for wrestling fans as both ROH Final Battle and NXT Deadline pay-per-views went down, featuring nearly 20 matches of action over eight hours.

    Titles changed hands, new No. 1 contenders were established, the Iron Survivor Challenge debuted and more.

    There were some great moments capping off the year, as well as some questionable calls that led to some downers and disappointments.

    Let's look back on what transpired and break down the biggest pros and cons of both special events!

Worst: Final Battle's Series of Matches with No Setup or Hook

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    Credit: ROH

    One of the biggest problems with ROH Final Battle was how nearly every match happened "just because" and not due to any storyline or setup whatsoever.

    Samoa Joe has been feuding with Wardlow and beat him for the TNT Championship at Full Gear. Why was he fighting Juice Robinson, other than because Tony Khan thought it would be a good match?

    That it was. But since Joe simply won clean, it didn't do any favors for Robinson, nor push the Wardlow story any further. It was just an unnecessary detour.

    Five other matches had zero setup, too.

    It can be argued that the four on the Zero Hour were just bonus matches meant to whet your appetite, but it can also be counter-argued that any semblance of a hook or story would have been an upgrade.

    After all, what separates Jeff Cobb vs. Máscara Dorada from being a free match on YouTube while A.R. Fox and Blake Christian fought Dralístico and Rush on the main card?

    Even Swerve in Our Glory's match with Shane Taylor Promotions was poorly set up.

    Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland have been dancing around splitting up since the moment they started teaming. Why were they put back together for this?

    Seemingly, the answer was that Lee has a history with Shane Taylor that AEW didn't spend any time elaborating on. You were just expected to be a diehard ROH fan who happened to also remember and care about something that happened a whopping five years ago!

    Khan's booking philosophy of appealing to the most dedicated pro wrestling fans is good for some things, but alienating in other ways.

    ROH died out from not having enough of a loyal fan base as it is. It can't succeed by playing "inside baseball" with a limited market, hoping fans will either do their own homework or care about Wrestler X vs. Wrestler Y simply because it is happening—particularly if the casuals don't know who those wrestlers are.

Best: Athena, The Embassy and The Briscoes Win ROH Titles

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    Credit: ROH

    Title changes can be major boosts to an event—especially if they make sense and freshen things up.

    Athena's fallen into the Ruby Soho trap of coming to AEW with a lot of buzz and quickly fizzled out, accomplishing nothing. Winning the ROH Women's World Championship in her home state with her new heel persona helps undo that damage considerably, while upgrading the roster's perception, as she's a more household name than Mercedes Martinez.

    The Embassy is a pet project faction who make far more sense to hold the Six-Man Tag Team Championship than the joke team of Dalton Castle and The Boys. This also helps make up for Brian Cage's lack of progress, just like Athena's.

    The absolute highlight of the entire show, though, was the Double Dog Collar Match which saw The Briscoes win back the ROH World Tag Team Championship over FTR.

    While it's sad to see Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood drop one of their titles, The Briscoes are a staple of the Ring of Honor tag team division. If they weren't going to hold those belts, who else could have beaten FTR?

    FTR's contract status is also going to be in question come April. They might be leaving. It's better to get the belts off them now, rather than to wait and rush if they decide to part ways.

    A good point was also made that FTR are the more skilled wrestlers, but The Briscoes are the better brawlers, in that you'd pick Terry Funk in a dog collar match more so than Bret Hart. This was the perfect rationalization for FTR coming up short.

Middle of the Road: Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta Regain Their ROH Titles

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    Credit: ROH

    Pay-per-views don't need all the titles to change hands just to be special. If done correctly, a champion retaining can be just as entertaining, if not more.

    But with Chris Jericho and Daniel Garcia losing their titles to the two men they beat to win the belts in the first place, it calls into question why the reset button was hit.

    Did Khan book Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta to drop their championships with the game plan in mind to wait a few months and win them back, all for nothing, in a sense? Or were there other plans that didn't come to fruition and Khan felt the need to return to the previous status quo, rather than have something alternative in mind?

    The jury is still out to call this a best or worst.

    Maybe they'll have great matches and feuds going forward that will justify why Jericho and Garcia couldn't hold onto the titles, and the feel-good moments of seeing Blackpool Combat Club winning will be worth it.

    However, there's just as strong a chance Khan doesn't know what he wants to do with either title, though The Jericho Appreciation Society would be a fun side track until he eventually got bored with it.

    A champion losing just to win it back is easy storytelling and weakened when it happens twice with the same feuding groups.

    But at least Castagnoli doesn't have to go through the arduous story of being forced into a faction he doesn't want to be part of, as that rarely ever goes well.

Best: Roxanne Perez and Grayson Waller Win Iron Survivor Challenges

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    Credit: WWE

    The Iron Survivor Challenge matches from NXT Deadline were chaotic messes, but fun frenzies, nevertheless.

    Given the five different potential winners for both, WWE ultimately made the right call in who stood tall at the end.

    Roxanne Perez was the only true babyface in the women's gauntlet. Seeing as how Mandy Rose is a heel champion, Perez was the obvious go-to challenger. Entering first and being the smallest competitor also went along well with her underdog character.

    Likewise, Grayson Waller hasn't had a shot at Bron Breakker's NXT Championship yet and was the only viable contender outside of Carmelo Hayes.

    JD McDonagh and Joe Gacy already had multiple chances to dethrone the champion and Axiom is not only a babyface, but someone who wouldn't be taken seriously as a threat to the title.

    The way Waller virtually stole the win from Hayes was a nice touch, too. Had Hayes been a second quicker in his pin, he'd have won, but Waller pulled him out and covered Axiom for himself.

    Arrogant heels like Waller need to get wins like this to justify their attitudes and build their credibility.

    Now, more than ever, he seems poised to potentially be the next NXT champion, and he's going to let everyone know about that, for sure.

Best: Isla Dawn Beats Alba Fyre

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    Credit: WWE

    Alba Fyre has a much better win-loss record than Isla Dawn. Fyre held the NXT UK Women's Championship longer than anyone else at 649 days, while Dawn's achieved nothing so far in WWE.

    Dawn needed to win this match to establish herself for new audiences who aren't as familiar with her, since Fyre's been around on this brand much longer. Had Fyre won, she would have gotten revenge on Dawn's interference that cost her the Last Woman Standing match, but Dawn would look weaker going forward.

    But to avoid beating Fyre too much, a nice compromise was made.

    Dawn's victory came about through some kind of hex she put on referee Felix Fernandez, who began convulsing and spewing some mysterious substance. That distraction allowed Dawn to push Fyre into an exposed turnbuckle, cheating to win.

    Heels bending the rules is just good villain storytelling.

    Fyre still has an axe to grind, while Dawn got a win over a former women's champion for a boost to her credibility and showcased her witch powers better than they've ever looked in NXT UK. That's a win-win scenario.

Best: The New Day Wins NXT Tag Team Championship

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    As mentioned, title changes can create huge pops for an event. That goes double when a babyface team that has been beloved for years like The New Day make a guest spot on NXT and walks out with the tag team titles.

    There wasn't much setup for this, but still at least one segment, rather than what over half the ROH card suffered from.

    Pretty Deadly are a good team, but having Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston on NXT should help bump the ratings and generate more interest in the brand, as well as freshen up the division.

    This also gave Kingston a new record with 15 tag team title reigns and positioned The New Day as the third Triple Crown Tag Team Champions, after only The Revival and The Street Profits to win the NXT, Raw and SmackDown tag team titles.

    It was a feel-good moment and a surprise that could have easily just gone the other way to put over Kit Wilson and Elton Prince and been just as understandable.

    But now, fans will be wondering who will be the team to beat The New Day, and it will be a bigger deal.

Best: Bron Breakker Retains NXT Championship over Apollo Crews

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    Credit: WWE

    Too much of a spotlight has been put on Bron Breakker this year for him to have dropped the NXT Championship on the final event, particularly to another main roster talent.

    Breakker won the belt at the start of 2022. Heading into 2023 as champion helps solidify his spot as the top guy of this current roster.

    Having already temporarily dropped the title to Dolph Ziggler at last year's Stand & Deliver, beating Apollo Crews—someone who was positioned as his equal in many ways—shows how much he's grown as champion.

    Now, Breakker looks stronger than ever. Wins like this will put him on a higher pedestal so when he's ready to go to the main roster, not only does he seem more in line to hang with guys that Crews used to fight on a regular basis, but whoever beats Breakker for the belt will look better, too.

    Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, Spotify and everywhere you find podcasts. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.