It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Ring Of Honor Again
With the Best In The World Pay-Per-View quickly approaching on July 11th, it’s time to fixate your attention back on Ring Of Honor.
There once was a time only a few short years ago when ROH was considered the #2 wrestling organization in North America, which is a very coveted spot. Led by now AEW stars Cody, Hangman Adam Page, the Young Bucks and also occasionally touting NJPW sensations Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and the Guerrillas of Destiny, the company flourished.
They set a record attendance of 6,100 at their 2018 edition of SuperCard Of Honor. Only the next year, they ran a show in conjunction with New Japan Pro Wrestling at Madison Square Garden and had an attendance of 16,000+. Multiple ROH superstars had their T-Shirts in major North American retailer Hot Topic and their PPV buy rates were at all-time highs. Business was booming for the company.
Until it wasn’t.
On January 1st, 2019 the creation of All Elite Wrestling sent the wrestling world into a spiral. Top ROH/NJPW stars Cody, Adam Page, Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks and trio SCU all left to work for the billionaire backed upstart. It left ROH scrambling as they had focused on “The Elite” heavily in storyline for years and didn’t have a new face of the company ready.
This would lead to an immediate decline in popularity, only providing further evidence that “The Elite” were major draws. They would still sell out the previously mentioned MSG show called “G1 Supercard” but to be fair, the event sold out before “The Elite” left the company.
Fans became more and more frustrated after said event when the ROH side of the card didn’t impress many. Weird finishes, an Enzo/Cass run in that wasn’t even cleared by NJPW officials, and especially because it was the start of a very controversial world championship reign from Matt Taven, when the company had a chance to give the title to a white hot Marty Scurll.
The bad news kept coming. Attendance dropped 31% in 2019, and PPV numbers would drop 77% over a course of only three months. Rumors of a sale to WWE swirled for a few months even.
It wasn’t only business blunder after business blunder for the Sinclair Broadcasting led company, but they also had PR nightmares. Bully Ray pulled a heckling fan backstage, then there was the Kelly Klein incident where she accused ROH of not having medical professionals backstage.
You would think constant blow after blow would have ROH down for the count, but they somehow persevered. In late 2019, the company would crown their next superstar, RUSH, as the ROH World Champion. It didn’t help though. There was still a lot of bad booking and just plain weird choices that led to a lot of ill-will from fans.
On February 1st, 2020 things seemed to begin looking up. After being asked for years upon years, ROH announced the return of their infamous Pure Championship. It was something fresh and new for the brand and it would hopefully produce a few new stars.
Only a few weeks later though, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world. It shut down practically all of wrestling minus the two industry giants – – WWE and AEW. This gave ROH time to wipe their entire slate clean and start all over. They officially returned from hiatus on September 12th, 2020 with a lot of changes, including the start of the Pure championship tournament.
I’ll reiterate the title again – it’s time to put the past grudge behind you and get back aboard the Ring Of Honor bandwagon. Let me illustrate why.
First off, they made their weekly TV show important again. In my eyes, it hadn’t really been “must watch” these past few years and I would just follow the HonorClub specials and PPVs. But currently, I think ROH can compete quality wise with any weekly wrestling TV show.
I’m a firm believer that the roster is very well rounded again. You have three top factions in The Foundation (Jonathan Gresham, Jay Lethal, Tracy Williams and Rhett Titus), La Facción Ingobernable (RUSH, Dragon Lee, Kenny King, Bestia Del Ring) and VLNCE UNLTD (Brody King, Homicide, Chris Dickinson, Tony Deppen). All of these factions currently hold 4 out of the 5 championships in the company. RUSH is the World Champion, Tracy Williams and Rhett Titus are the Tag Team Champions, Jonathan Gresham is the PURE Champion and Tony Deppen is the Television champion.
Shane Taylor Promotions is another faction, and they currently hold the 6-Man Tag Titles. Shane Taylor has made leaps and bounds in the ring and on the mic over the past few years and might genuinely be my favorite competitor in the company. The faction also hosts Moses, Kaun and O’Shay Edwards. All four of these guys have a very menacing and gritty presence to them, and their story is genuinely easy to get behind. They’re also all really good wrestlers.
The roster continues to round out with more standout performers you may know like Bandido, EC3, The Briscoes, and Flamita. On the other hand Mike Bennett, Josh Woods, Rey Horus, Brian Johnson, Matt Taven and Dalton Castle are guys that you may not know, but are all very entertaining and great wrestlers. Guys like Dak Draper and Eli Isom are up and comers, but definitely deserve a shout as well.
Another point that I feel solidifies the roster being well rounded is that I believe ROH has four of the top 25 wrestlers on the entire planet. Jonathan Gresham, Dragon Lee, Bandido and Tracy Williams are all guys who all consistently put on remarkable matches and to which I hold in that high regard.
Most people like their wrestling to be simple and easy to understand. Most people also don’t enjoy their intelligence being insulted on a weekly basis. ROH’s storylines follow my three major C’s in wrestling – clear, consistent and concise. Everything is quite easy to understand and for the most part, nothing is over done or outplayed.
Production value was always a big gripe about Ring Of Honor before the pandemic. Their streaming service HonorClub had widespread issues across the board and the PPVs/Monthly Specials would seem to have interruptions and streaming issues constantly. Minor things like lighting issues, sound quality and camera work would also plague the quality of the shows sometimes.
These issues have not reared their ugly head since the company returned thankfully. They haven’t had fans or crowds to worry about micing though, so we’ll see how that plays out when fans return on July 11th. The two PPV’s that they’ve held since returning, I haven’t had any issues with streaming wise.
Let’s talk about the actual wrestling, shall we? I truly believe again it can compete with any top wrestling promotion in the world. On my personal favorite match chart from 2021 so far, I have four ROH matches. Only a few of these links include the full match, but I suggest seeking out the ones that don’t.
~ Bandido vs Flamita 4/30/21 ROH TV ****1/4
Ever since they returned from hiatus in September 2019, there’s only been a handful of matches that didn’t land for me. There isn’t a bad wrestler in their current field of talent in my opinion.
ROH has always had a sports-like presentation to its wrestling, and it’s still like that today. The wrestling is hard hitting, competitive and fierce. Something that has only added to this sports-feel is the Pure Division. The only wrestler I wouldn’t group in this category is Danhausen, who is still wildly entertaining and does great numbers for the promotion.
Women’s Wrestling was only introduced to ROH in 2016. It wasn’t the most storied division to say the least, but they officially introduced the “Women Of Honor” World Championship in April 2018. Sumie Sakai, who still resides in the division today, was the inaugural champion. The title would only be around until January 1st, 2020 when then champion Kelly Klein decided to not renew her contract. The title was vacated and the company planned to crown a new champion later that year, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that.
From 9/12/2020 to 4/28/2021, a total of ZERO women’s matches took place in ROH. Over that time, the company had been steadily planning their massive Women’s Championship tournament that is set to take place this summer. For now, the promotion is airing weekly women’s matches on Youtube on Wednesdays. During this, they’re also giving big independent names like Rok-C, Allysin Kay and Trish Adora a chance to shine. You can see an updated list of participants for the tournament taking place later this summer here. I’m personally a sucker for tournaments, so this tournament has me extremely excited.
A few more knicks and knacks that I feel like help make the company great include the commentary team (consisting of Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman) and the interviewer team (Quinn McKay and Brian Zane). All four are very skilled at their own respective positions and I’ll reiterate a common theme in this article – I feel like they can match up with any top promotion in the world.
The one thing that I feel is holding back ROH from another potential company boom would be the lack of fans. The promotion hasn’t held a ticketed event since February 29th of 2020, but that will all change on July 11th when they will hold the Best In The World PPV live at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. After this show, I genuinely feel like ROH could take off again and become a well-regarded promotion again.
Hello! This is Skylar Russell, thank you for checking out my first piece for BodySlam.net. You can check me out on my socials below!
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