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Honor Returns: Ring of Honor Best in the World Review

Two decades ago, Ring of Honor became the premier name in independent professional wrestling. The promotion gave home to wrestlers who were considered undesirable by mid-aughts WWE standards and launched countless careers. Along the way, the company’s in-ring style helped redefine pro wrestling in North American. However, over the past half-decade, ROH seemed to lose touch with its roots.

Though its exposure is significantly higher today, the promotion became just another company, notably as the home to New Japan’s top stars in the US. After the foundation of All Elite Wrestling in 2019, the roster was decimated, and its influence plummeted. Then COVID-19 shut the company down for the majority of 2020.

During the pandemic, Ring of Honor made a series of moves that set the company up for a revival. At the Best In The World pay-per-view, the company that created the indie wrestling revolution showed that it was ready for a triumphant return.

With an electric roster and top-notch video production, Best in the World was ROH’s first show in front of live fans since March 2020. Ring of Honor returned last fall with a new focus and direction. The weekly ROH show, which can be watched for free every week on FITE.TV and ROHWrestling.com, shifted its format. Taking inspiration from the late ’80’s WWF studio programs like All-American Wrestling and Prime Time Wrestling, host Quinn McKay sets the stage for matches commentated by the most underrated US television commentary team, Ian Riccobani and Caprice Coleman. The program offers the best promo packages on US television. The interviews are more like HBO Boxing or UFC than anything else in pro wrestling.

The biggest change the company implemented during the pandemic was reestablishing the Pure Championship. The title was a centerpiece of the 2000s heyday, held by competitors like Samoa Joe, Brian Danielson, and Nigel McGuiness. The rechristened division was essentially made for current champion Jonathan Gresham.

Gresham, possibly the best mat wrestler in the US, faced off against former WWE star Mike Bennett in an exciting Pure rules match. After his victory, Gresham teamed with Foundation stablemate Rhett Titus to fill in for the injured Tracy Williams. The team defended the Ring of Honor Tag Team titles against the recently returned former ROH World Champion Homicide and Chris Dickinson in a Fight Without Honor. The tag match was one of the most fun US plunder matches of the year, which showcased Gresham’s adaptability as both a mat technician and fighter. In the end, Homicide and Dickinson won the ROH tag titles, the second of three title changes of the evening.

The first champion to lose his title tonight came when Tony Deppen lost the ROH Television Championship to former champion Dragon Lee. The match was an all-out sprint and star-making performance from Deppen, a familiar face to GCW fans.

Shane Taylor Promotions (Shane Taylor, Moses, and Kaun) successfully defended the ROH World Six-Man tag team titles against the makeshift team of Dak Draper, Dalton Castle, and Eli Isom. Brody King showed why he’s one of the best big men in pro wrestling by decimating former two-time World Champion Jay Lethal. While Josh Woods won a Last Man Standing match over Silas Young.

The card exhibited the depth and versatility of the ROH roster. From comedy acts like Danhausen to the hard-nosed Briscoes, over-the-top characters like PCO and the Righteous, Ring of Honor has put together a locker room that can entertain in multiple fashions. The company doesn’t need to rely on the same structure for every match.

No place was better exemplified than in the main event where two of Mexico’s most prominent luchadores, ROH World Champion Rush and Bandido. The champion currently leads La Facción Ingobernable (ROH’s Los Ingobernables) the top heel group. The challenger has become a real-life hero helping Mexico’s COVID-19 relief efforts, encouraging mask-wearing in the streets of Mexico City wearing his own mask.

The match was a perfect mix of Lucha and US pro wrestling that ended when Rush tried to remove Bandido’s mask, only to be rolled up. Bandido, one of the most likable babyfaces in North America, is the new Ring of Honor World Champion.

What a perfect ending to help usher ROH into a new era.

Ring of Honor Best in the World replay is available of FITE.TV and HonorClub.

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