One year ago, a certain writer wrote all about Ring of Honor was destined to have a great year in 2020. From the buzz surrounding Marty Scurll’s decision to re-sign with the company to the feeling that ROH Final Battle 2019 kicked off a new era, the beginning of the year was an exciting time for the company and its fans. It may sound cliché, and it felt like nothing could stop Ring of Honor — but a devastating global pandemic turned the world upside down.
Companies like WWE and AEW adopted the mentality that the show must go on. But to protect its wrestlers, Ring of Honor shut down. The company stopped holding live events for several months. Many fans eagerly awaited the company’s return, and Ring of Honor rewarded the fans with an incredible tournament to crown the new Pure Champion. The whole bracket was full of physical, hard-hitting matches that brought the company back to its pure wrestling roots.
As it turns out, the tournament was an emphatic first step in Ring of Honor’s return to basics. After Jonathan Gresham defeated Tracy Williams in the finals, “The Octopus” and franchise player Jay Lethal joined forces with “Hot Sauce” to form The Foundation. This intriguing new stable is a manifestation of the company’s mission to showcase pure wrestling again. The quartet has been on quite a roll, and they enjoyed a clean sweep at ROH Final Battle, the promotion’s first pay-per-view since the pandemic started.
This show was a love letter to Ring of Honor’s passionate fans. Pure wrestling was featured throughout the card, but the event was filled with various styles. From impressive heavyweights like PCO, Brody King and Shane Taylor to world-class talents like Dragon Lee and Rush, Final Battle truly offered something for everyone. The show also kicked off the new year a little early, as it hinted at the exciting things fans can expect to see in the next few months. A dynamic clash between La Faccion Ingobernable and The Foundation is at the top of that list.
Ring of Honor is finally back on track after a daunting 2020 threw numerous challenges at the promotion. The company began 2021 with a flurry of transactions that demonstrate the roster’s loyalty and the company’s desirability for talented performers.
The following performers have officially re-signed with Ring of Honor:
“Hot Sauce” was a breakout star in the Pure Tournament. He emerged as a surprising favorite to win it all when he scored an upset win over Lethal, a former world champion. Gresham defeated Williams in the finals, but Williams’ remarkable performance throughout the tournament showed everyone that he’s surely destined for greatness. As a member of The Foundation, he can reach new heights in Ring of Honor. But at the moment, he’ll have to go through his stablemates if he wants to win the Pure Championship or the ROH World Tag Team Championship.
Bandido is one of the top high-flyers in the world. Unfortunately, travel restrictions have prevented the fan-favorite star from appearing on ROH programming. Plus, a positive COVID-19 test delayed his return at ROH Final Battle. As a member of MexiSquad, Bandido currently holds the ROH World Six-Man Championship. But every time he’s in an ROH ring, it’s clear that he could become one of the company’s top stars. As a competitor, he has an amazing blend of speed and strength. (Have you seen one of his moonsault slams?) Bandido also oozes confidence. External factors have gotten in his way, but with a little luck, Bandido will have a breakout year in 2021.
“Overkill” Mark Haskins is in a similar position as Bandido. He has been limited by travel restrictions, though a pre-taped match (in which he defeated Lethal) aired earlier this year on ROH Wrestling. Haskins is one of the most tenacious performers on the roster. He’s agile and physical, and he’s also a talented pure wrestler. During the pandemic, he enjoyed a successful 2020 overseas in RevPro. Hopefully, his winning ways will continue when he returns to Ring of Honor. He was set to challenge RUSH for the world title in March before ROH went on hiatus.
Clearly, the company has big plans for him, and it should. Haskins’ wife, Vicky, accompanied him to ringside for his match with Lethal, and they had 2000-2001 Triple H/Stephanie McMahon vibes. They could be a heat-seeking heelish duo for Ring of Honor. But Haskins is also a strong babyface, as he seems genuinely likable. Either way, Haskins could be at the forefront of ROH programming sooner rather than later.
Don’t sleep on “The Mecca.” He has been one of the most impressive wrestlers in Ring of Honor since the company returned last fall. He nearly defeated former world champion, Dalton Castle, in an excellent match on ROH Wrestling. This performance opened many fans’ eyes, as Johnson had been underutilized for most of his time in ROH. Believe it or not, “The Mecca” has been wrestling for 13 years, but his chance to become a distinct star is just starting. Johnson’s promos on ROH Wrestling have been fantastic. He’s an old-school heel, and he plays the role brilliantly. His performance on commentary during the annual ten-man tag team match was delightful, as he insulted the competitors all match long.
Johnson has a legitimate chip on his shoulder, as he’s perpetually underrated and underappreciated. But he has been capitalizing on his opportunity in the spotlight. “The Mecca” maximizes his minutes, and he could thrive as the heel everybody loves to hate.
As a member of The Righteous, Bateman has been featured alongside Vincent for most of his ROH career. Based on how he’s been booked, Bateman is the Erick Rowan to Vincent’s Bray Wyatt. He’s often overshadowed by the figurehead of The Righteous, but he makes the viewer take note of him every time’s he’s on the screen. From his menacing size to his distinct look, Bateman genuinely comes across like a cold, calculating monster. He had a standout performance at Final Battle, where he and Vincent lost to Matt Taven and Mike Bennett. But this feud isn’t over, so Bateman will remain involved in one of the company’s hottest rivalries.
Amy Rose is one of the company’s few bonafide managers, as she’s the voice of La Faccion Ingobernable. Her most notable performance came on the road to ROH Final Battle; in a taped promo, Rose hyped up RUSH and Dragon Lee, who had been absent for several months. Like other ROH talents, she was unable to compete for most of 2020. But now that the company is back, Rose should have the chance to be featured with her stablemates. She’s the mouthpiece for the ROH World Champion and the ROH World Television Champion, so Rose is arguably one of the most important members of the roster.
End of an Era
Early on in 2021, Ring of Honor announced that it parted ways with Marty Scurll, the former head booker of the promotion. “The Villain” was one of the company’s most recognizable stars, but the company may have felt that it had no choice aside from this course of action. Scurll was one of the many wrestlers that were accused during the Speaking Out Movement, as he was surrounded by negative press and publicity, so the company cut ties with him. Losing Scurll’s star power hurts, but it was absolutely the right call and Ring of Honor has plenty of talented performers who can fill this void.
The company might also lose former ROH World Champion Dalton Castle. Ring of Honor offered him a “very good” contract, but he’s reportedly a free agent that’s testing the market. If he signs elsewhere, Ring of Honor would lose one of its most popular wrestlers. One could argue that he’s the most charismatic performer on the roster. Though injuries have somewhat derailed his career, he’s still a top-level talent. Personally, this writer hopes he stays with the company, as he’s always a highlight of any show that he’s on.
As of this writing, most of the gold in Ring of Honor is held by two stables. The Foundation holds the ROH Pure Championship (Gresham) and the ROH World Tag Team Championship (Gresham and Lethal.) Meanwhile, La Faccion Ingobernable has the reigning ROH World Champion (RUSH) and the ROH World Television Champion (Lee.) The exciting ending of ROH Final Battle, where the two factions stared each other down, suggests that the company is gearing up for an epic stable war. This feud could be absolutely amazing, and it could carry the company for the better part of 2021. Many fans thought that ROH Final Battle might be the end of RUSH’s run in Ring of Honor, as his contract status was uncertain. Instead, RUSH and Lee might be sticking around, as they’re negotiating new deals. If they stay, La Faccion Ingobernable could rule Ring of Honor. The Foundation is the only thing that’s standing in their way.
Otherwise, MexiSquad (Bandido, Flamita and Rey Horus) hold the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship. They’ve been unable to defend the gold in recent months, and their latest match (at ROH Final Battle) was postponed when Bandido tested positive for COVID-19. Shane Taylor Promotions (Taylor and the Soldiers of Savagery) will be looking to get their shot at the champions sooner rather than later.
Knock on wood, but Ring of Honor is truly set up for success in 2021. After they went dark for a few months, the company came roaring back with the Pure Tournament and hasn’t looked back ever since. Fans should be encouraged by the company’s flurry of re-signings, as wrestlers clearly view Ring of Honor as a place they want to be. The prospect of a dynamic feud between La Faccion Ingoberbale and The Foundation exhilarating, and it’ll be fascinating to see many of the company’s promising wrestlers flourish if and when they get the opportunity to do so.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of WrestleZone’s Ring of Honor podcast, which airs live on the WrestleZone Facebook page. Tune in to the show every Monday night after ROH Wrestling on FITE TV.