With ROH essentially airing clip shows over the previous two weeks and seeing where the company has gone throughout the last nine months, it led to a particularly summative method of thought processing. I have been attempting to carry the flag for this promotion at every available opportunity and I want people to see that Ring of Honor is so much further from death than so many would have you believe.
Yes, the AEW exodus had a very powerful impact on Ring of Honor’s place in the zeitgeist, but the promotion retained a distinctive core that has truly begun to find its footing in the bubble-era of ROH. Final Battle very much felt like the period at the end of a clear statement by all involved. While the return was, in my opinion, a massive success, what is next?
I find lists to be a generally lazy way of writing an article about a specific topic…even though people seem to constantly click on them…so I am attempting to make this the least list-like list that has ever lived. 2021 is a new yet hazy horizon for ROH and I believe there are certain aspects of the company that will come to define not only this year but the next few years as well. Here’s how ROH will continue to restore their honor.
Marty Scurll is Officially Gone
This was a lingering issue for many that I talked to about getting back into the product around the beginning of the Pure Tournament. While Marty was nowhere to be seen across any level of ROH media output, people felt Sinclair took way too long to release ANY public information. There isn’t much to say about this other than recognizing that a thick smog has been blown out of town. Contract litigation is extraordinarily complicated, so I personally understand why this may have taken an extended period to settle. I just hope other former fans can finally re-engage after the fact.
This is where “maybe 2022” comes into play. New Japan and ROH have had a cooperative relationship for quite a few years at this point, but there were a number of suppositions throughout 2019 and 2020 regarding the possibility of that relationship being strained. With NJPW launching New Japan of America (whose tour was not well received), and ROH struggling to draw the houses they had through 2018, New Japan simply seemed disinterested. That being said, 2020’s Supercard of Honor sought to re-establish some of those much-desired ties. There had not been such a cooperative card since the G1 Supercard the previous year in Madison Square Garden…of course, this show never happened, but the involvement of many ROH talent throughout the run of NJPW Strong on NJPW World seemed to confirm that the pandemic was not the death knell some people thought it may be.
Speaking of death, the NWA was one of the strongest inclusions on ROH television throughout 2019. While Ring of Honor’s popularity was obviously waning, NWA Powerrr was a studio wrestling show that spoke to almost every wrestling fan in one way or another. NWA World’s Champion, Nick Aldis, was a mainstay on ROH television and was cementing himself as one of the great modern champions.
While Aldis has not been present on AEW television, the NWA women’s division is inarguably more must-see than the AEW women’s division at this point. Has the NWA abandoned ROH for AEW? Nobody knows, but I do know that the close personal relationship between Aldis and Scurll was a fairly important aspect of that relationship coming about in the first place. While I believe ROH has a much better chance of being able to stand on its own two feet in 2021 than in 2019, the question remains.
The pandemic has spurred an entirely new level of inter-promotional cooperation across the board (e.g. PrimeTime Live), but ROH has largely separated themselves from such things in favor of isolationism. No matter what, the landscape post-pandemic will be drastically different.
ROH has been famous for a technical and high flying style up to this point and, since the return, it has been as grounded as it ever has been. Even in the current and former eras of “purity”, ROH was never really known for its inclusion of giant men. The addition of Brody King and Shane Taylor in the main event changes dynamics pretty drastically. Every match these two have been in throughout the recent months has been incredibly physical; the Final Battle main event between Rush and King for the ROH Championship being no exception. Diversity in any facet is always a cumulative positive on a wrestling show if booked with intention, and ROH has certainly been intentional.
The Ring of Honor WOMEN’S DIVISION
It has been specified that the “Women of Honor” division is dead and a new championship is in the works along with a completely re-vamped presentation. I always felt as though the separate distinction was slightly detrimental to the division itself; not only was the pink aesthetic completely outdated, but it never felt like much of a concern.
To be clear, it hasn’t been much of a concern since the return either. However, Quinn McKay has been adamant that the division is very much a concern backstage. While there isn’t much information about what we should be expecting, at the very least we will be getting a vital re-branding that hopefully leads to some new and interesting talent spearheading a division that so many want to see succeed.
He is very nice, very evil, and very popular in the independent wrestling world. There are an outspoken few that really do not enjoy the shtick of Danhausen, which I cognitively understand, but find subjectively ludicrous. Danhausen is the definition of a self-made manhausen. He dedicates a significant amount of time and effort to creating entertaining content for his fans inside and outside the ring. I adore him. Not to mention, there were some quirky details added to the production of Final Battle while Danhausen was making his entrance. If ROH devotes a fraction of the effort Danhausen devotes on a regular basis, their presentation could be something that genuinely catches on.
Heel Dragon Lee being a Sexy Murder Man
I suppose that heading is fairly self-explanatory…Dragon (Ryu) Lee has been SORELY missed in NJPW’s junior division this year. His matches with Hiromu and Ospreay in the recent past have been highlights for me in a company whose highs are always pretty high. Not only was Lee absent from the ranks of New Japan, he was absent from wrestling altogether. While Rush is the ROH World Champion and the de facto leader of ‘Faccion de Ingobernables, Dragon Lee is inarguably the most exciting performer in that group. Lee’s aesthetic at Final Battle immediately informed what we should be expecting from him as a performer in the near future.
Yes, this is essentially the catchphrase of ‘The Foundation’, but when Jonathan Gresham speaks about restoring honor, I believe it means far more to him than a simple catchphrase for a catch wrestling stable. The controversy surrounding the women’s division, Scurll and the general malaise surrounding the company has soured many on making ROH appointment viewing…especially when there is SO much for wrestling fans to consume. The Foundation’s catchphrase is actually a mission statement, not only for themselves but for the company the four proudly represent. I don’t think Gresham, Lethal, Titus and Williams are going anywhere else any time soon, so I am expecting them to “live their gimmick”, so to speak. There is no doubt that ROH has FELT like an entirely different company since its return to television with ‘The Foundation’, ‘Faccion de Ingobernables’, ‘Shane Taylor Promotions’ and ‘The Righteous’ shifting the landscape, but whether or not everyone can maintain their balance on this wave remains to be seen. I, for one, have a lot of confidence in everyone’s ability to do so.