After what felt like at least 1,000 years, Ring Of Honor invited fans back into the building for live professional wrestling Sunday night during its Best In The World pay-per-view. I was there, and I have the disgusting taste of a Truly still in my mouth to prove it.
There’s no use running down the show match by match because Jason Powell already did that last night in his live review. What I will do, however, is outline the five most memorable things of my night. Note that I said my night. Not the night. Everyone had their own unique experience, and from what I understand, there were other people who write about pro wrestling in attendance (including fellow Dot Net staffer Rich Bailin!), so this isn’t gospel. These are just observations.
But enough about that. Let’s get to it.
THE HOT MESS
Though the introduction from Maria Kanellis-Bennett felt a little clunky at times, count me among those who were pleasantly surprised to see Chelsea Green come out and cut a promo. It seemed like the prevailing thought was that she would be the one to challenge Deonna Purrazzo at Slammiversary for the Impact Knockouts Title, but unless we’re mixing and matching promotions again, it doesn’t appear that will happen.
Which might be a good thing for Green, who received one of the better pops of the night when she appeared. In a weird way, Impact could feel like somewhat of a regression for her — even if that would have potentially opened the door for some interesting matchups with AEW crossover talent. In Ring Of Honor, though, she’ll be at the top of the class, which will do her well, considering how many non-starts and complete stops she endured in WWE.
In other words, this could be a good bounce-back portion of Green’s career. Between Kanellis-Bennett and her, the women’s division in Ring Of Honor should have enough mainstream star power to attract fans who look for women’s wrestling on a regular basis. At the end of the day, it gives the division a needed boost in momentum while also providing Green a space for her to grow. It’s a win-win for both the company and the talent.
The only off-putting thing about Green’s appearance Sunday night? I’m just so tired — so tired — of hearing all these ex-WWE’ers tell the same story about how they were so wronged during their time in that company, and Green just couldn’t help herself in her introductory promo. It catered to the crowd — if you’re ever in need of finding a place where everybody’s ready and willing to denigrate WWE, it would be the seats at an ROH show — but at this point, it’s just tired.
And that’s even with the mind that Green was kind of given the short end of the stick in WWE. I’m not taking that away from her. I’m just saying give us something different. Like, “Hi. I’m here. I’m going to dominate. See you around!” I don’t know. Either way, this was both unexpected and welcome, so kudos to Ring of Honor and kudos to Chelsea Green for finding what looks to be a mutually beneficial landing spot.
I understand he’s not for everybody, but it sure does feel like Danhausen has as many fans as any other wrestler in ROH. Shoot, he might even have more than anyone else in that company. Between his online presence and higher profile appearances over the last year or two, more people than ever know who he is and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel like there’s something of a groundswell behind him.
Case in point: The amount of people who showed up with their faces painted like him. In the first five minutes of being in the parking lot alone, I saw two people walking with the paint on their faces. Then, inside the building, there was a group of four other fans who had their Danhausen faces on as well. All of it led me to ask one question …
… Why the hell was he on the pre-show? I guess you want to put something out there that will entice viewers to buy the main card, but with Danhausen’s growing fan base, an argument could be made to have him kick off the pay-per-view just to bring in those potential customers who wanted to see only him. Not that I’d imagine someone would buy a pay-per-view to see only one wrestler, but it just kind of felt like a missed opportunity.
Anyway, him teaming with PCO is a lot of fun and I hope ROH gets more run out of them as a duo. In the time being, put respect on the guy’s name. He sure does know how to grow a fan base.
KING OF THE RING
The match of the night for me was Brody King vs. Jay Lethal, and that’s not even to discount any of the other matches, which, by and large, were pretty good. But King vs. Lethal felt important, it felt intense, it felt real. I had half a mind to think King would come out and squash Lethal, but I’m actually glad he didn’t, and I’m even more glad that they took the slow monster approach instead.
Having watched King battle with JR Kratos on NJPW Strong over the last several months, I haven’t seen King positioned as the ruthless giant I always thought he could be … until Sunday night. And I don’t think I was the only one who came away feeling that way as the sparse crowd was as alive for this match as it was for anything else all night.
Plus, while I loved the two Gonzo Bomb piledrivers, let me tell you this (brother): You do not, on any level whatsoever, understand the velocity of those Brody King chops unless you’ve been in a building and you have heard hand meet chest live and in color. Because hoooooooo boy, I felt like I had to say a prayer for Lethal each time King landed those bad boys. And they only seemed to echo more as the match wore on.
It was a star-making performance for King in Ring Of Honor and coming off this, I don’t quite understand why NJPW wouldn’t want to use him similarly somewhere down the road. Sure, he’s seen as a monster in that company, too, but he’s never had the dominant, electrifying presence he had Sunday night while wrestling for New Japan. It almost made me want to buy his Honor Pal at the merch stand.
Gresham and Bennett was very good. And the obvious headline coming out of the show was Bandido winning the Ring Of Honor World Championship in a match where we all knew who was going to win, but we didn’t see the finish coming, which was a rare victory in modern day pro wrestling. Also, I’m a fan of Chris Dickinson’s work, so seeing him have gold around his waist now makes me smile.
But speaking of that gold around his waist, the team that I would love to see challenge Dickinson and Homicide for those tag belts would be the Briscoes. Why? Because, man, I got a kick out of their Fight on the Farm last week, and the pop they receive from the Ring Of Honor crowd never disappoints. Such is why I was just happy to see them Sunday night.
I know. It sounds a bit absurd, because the Briscoes are as synonymous with Ring Of Honor as Moose is with Impact or The Undertaker is with WWE. Add to that the fact that they competed early in the night in what could be perceived as a meaningless match against somewhat of a thrown-together tag-team, and you have a recipe for irrelevancy. But, hell. The heart wants what it wants.
And, so it was nice to see them. Now, if what Papa Briscoe said at the end of the fight last week about starting from the bottom is true, I’m anxious to see these guys work their way through the ranks again. Here’s hoping by the time they get back to the top, Dickinson and Homicide still have the straps.
BEST IN THE WORLD
I wouldn’t have even been at the show on Sunday night if a friend of mine didn’t end up with an extra ticket, and that extra ticket was a result of the fact that his girlfriend ran off with another guy last week. When I asked him if there was anything I could do to help, he said, “Come with me to Best In The World.” So I did.
And it being the first show back with fans for Ring Of Honor after nearly a year-and-a-half with no fans, the moment wasn’t lost on me that Sunday night meant a lot to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. It wasn’t sold out, and everybody’s seats were fairly spread out, so it wasn’t like it was a packed house. In fact, it reminded me a little of AEW Full Gear in November, when at Daily’s Place, we were all spread out and the crowd was sparse but fun.
Baby steps, though, right? Ring Of Honor won’t be bringing in fans for the next TV tapings, but this was certainly a step toward returning to normal for the company. And, in a lot of ways, though the wound is still fresh, Sunday was also a step toward returning to normal for my friend. Seeing him light up at some entrances, listening to him join in on a few chants — it reminded me of how essential wrestling is to so many of us.
At the risk of waxing too poetic, I’ll only say this: WWE and AEW are hitting the road and getting into arenas to perform in front of thousands of people. But there are other companies out there still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and they aren’t as popular, and they aren’t as successful. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a special place in many wrestling fans’ hearts.
And in some cases, that place is synonymous with healing and happiness. I’d like to think all the Ring Of Honor talent felt those things Sunday night as they heard a crowd chant for the first time in far too long. Where you think that company ranks in the professional wrestling galaxy didn’t matter Sunday night. Because if only for four hours, to some people in Baltimore, Maryland, on a hot July night, it was … well, it was actually the Best In The World. And I have the PCO Honor Pal to prove it.
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