Ring of Honor is at an obvious crossroads in 2020, but this company has seen major change on many occasions in the past and has continued to find ways to stay alive. If I was writing this review two weeks ago, I would be going on about how excited I was to see this most recent change in leadership. In fact, the recent change is what led me to re-engage with ROH. Currently, I do not find it appropriate to do so. I also want to use this platform to express my gratitude for the absolutely profound bravery shown by members of the wrestling community using #SpeakingOut. I believe these industry leaders have changed the business we all adore for generations to come. You all have endless love and support from me.
This week’s episode of Day by Day centers on Bandido; an absolutely blistering luchador who has been burning up canvases in ROH, NJPW, Dragon Gate, PWG, AAA, and CMLL, just to name a few. My introduction to Bandido was in the far too compact main event of All In. Yes, the match was great, but will we ever see The Young Bucks, Kota Ibushi, Rey Fenix, Rey Mysterio, and Bandido in the same ring again? Unfortunately, I doubt it, so I’m allowed to be a little sad about that six-man tag not getting the half-hour it deserved. Since that time, Bandido has accrued championships and accolades across the globe and is currently one of ROH’s Six-Man Tag Team Champions as well as the PWG Champion. It is very easy to become a fan of Bandido, as I am sure you will see in this week’s episode.
Bandido vs. Mark Haskins (Atlanta, GA – January 12, 2019)
First of all, how awesome is the commentary team for this match? Ian Riccaboni, Colt Cabana, and Juice Robinson; this has to be entertaining. The first match on this episode is actually Bandido’s debut match in ROH. I was automatically struck by Bandido’s ability to make me feel as though he is a mainstay in ROH when he has only been in the company for a year and a half. In 2018, Bandido was not on the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 list. In 2019, he was ranked 81. This debut match is the starting gun for that rise through the industry.
The beginning of the match is fast, technical, athletic, and powerful. It reminded me of what one might see in the ring of a wrestling academy when the instructors are teaching the noobs how to wrestle. The crowd is immediately behind Bandido after moments of extreme athleticism. Case in point: Bandido kicks up out of a headstand in order to dodge a Haskins kick. No big deal… Matches like this one are what allowed ROH to become a part of the zeitgeist for the casual wrestling fan. Haskins and Bandido have an answer for every move, usually involving something you wouldn’t necessarily think either of these smaller guys would be capable of. There was not a single “transitional move”. Every single moment carried weight.
This match is less than ten minutes. Not only is it a perfect television match, but it is also a perfect debut for Bandido. At this time, the celebratory streamers were still widely used by the fans in ROH. For Bandido to get so many of the streamers, which are usually saved for main events, says a lot about just how much he connected with that audience.
Bandido vs Flip Gordon vs PJ Black vs Caristico – Four Corners Match (Columbus, OH – April 14, 2019)
The four names you see here should tell you quite a bit about what you’re going to see. All of these men are known for their athletic prowess and technical mastery. Just after the action begins, the commentators joke about their ability to call the play-by-play; I wouldn’t try to do such a thing either.
The fans are all the way behind Bandido in this one, with Flip being the secondary babyface. While the beginning of the match is filled with the kind of incredible offence one would expect, there are maybe one too many points where two wrestlers are facing off in the ring as the other two are simply waiting outside. As you will see in many multi-man matches in this modern era, some of the spots come off as contrived. That being said, when this match hits the next gear, they slam on the gas pedal.
PJ Black was spending his time ruining everyone’s fun with insane multi-man top rope spots. The fans dearly wanted to see Flip and Bandido square off, but Caristico and Black would interfere at every single turn. One of the best moments of the match would have to be Black throwing Caristico into the crowd (which was a little stiff for the front row, if you ask me) and Bandido following the two in order to get in on the action. Well, Flip Gordon decides to do a springboard somersault into the crowd which is on a RAISED PLATFORM. I started a “holy s***” chant alone on my couch… Spectacular. Mexican Destroyers, top rope Moonsault Slams, and moves I don’t even know the name of.
If your favorite era of wrestling is late 80s WCW, you may not enjoy this one very much. However, if you are entertained by incredible athletes performing seemingly impossible manoeuvres back to back, it is definitely worth the fifteen minutes of your time.
Bandido vs. Jay Briscoe (Dearborn, MI – September 6, 2019)
Jay Briscoe is an absolute legend in ROH. The Briscoe Brothers are absolutely synonymous with the promotion, as they have been a part of it for well over a decade now. Bandido actually states that this match was him attempting to prove he belonged at the top of the food chain in ROH. In the company for only nine months at this point, to be matched up with one of the company stalwarts tells you everything about the level of confidence ROH had in Bandido. Mark Haskins accompanied Bandido and Mark Briscoe came out with his brother, Jay.
This match is all about respect; showing it and gaining it. Jay Briscoe is the definition of a heavy hitter, so I was definitely expecting a very different style from the previous matches on this episode. Bandido used his trademark speed to get the upper hand on Jay almost immediately, but when Jay Briscoe kicks you in the face after coming off the top rope, you’re probably going to slow down just a little bit. Briscoe started to get ruthless with extremely stiff shots and even resorted to choking Bandido with a camera cable. After some serious punishment on the outside, it started to look like Bandido didn’t have a chance in this one. Side note: Mark Briscoe spends a moment on commentary and I learned I would pay quite a bit of money simply to hear that man speak for an hour.
Once we make it back inside the ring, the match finally becomes competitive. Bandido is not your average high-flyer, he is also an expert on the mat. He was able to find inventive counters to some of Jay’s most powerful moves. Bandido kicked out of a Jay Driller, Jay kicked out of the Moonsault Slam at one, and Jay hit one of the nastiest Spikeranas I have ever seen. The final stretch of this match is what wrestling is all about. You can truly feel the energy of the crowd all the way behind Bandido. If he was attempting to prove a point and show he belonged, he was certainly successful in that endeavour.
If you have never watched Ring of Honor, the Day by Day series is the perfect way to catch up on all of the biggest stars in the company. It was easy to feel like the company would die after the likes of Adam Cole, The Young Bucks, Cody, Hangman Page, SCU, and others left for larger promotions. Wrestlers like Bandido remind you that ROH is far from being six feet under. It may actually be entering one of the strongest periods in company history.