The War of The Worlds is the ROH & NJPW crossover tour, so your friendly neighborhood mark had to meet a friendly ace, a tranquil ungovernable, a polite villain and a too sweet BAYBAY.
Updated per July 14
So, what’s Ring of Honor?
Ring of Honor (ROH) is a pro wrestling promotion with its headquarters in Baltimore, MD. It is similar to WWE in that it is a traveling promotion that divides its content between TV tapings and PPV events.
To put its age in perspective, ROH just celebrated its 15th anniversary, whereas WWE has been around for 37 years and New Japan Pro Wrestling just reached its 45th anniversary.
What Makes ROH Different?
Founded in 2002, Ring of Honor filled part of the void left by promotions such as ECW and WCW (both bought out by WWE). Its stronger focus on the in-ring wrestling strikes a balance between WWE’s campy Sports Entertainment and NJPW’s strict Purowresu.
In short, “ROH is about the wrestling!"
Most recently, Ring of Honor appeared in the headlines in a Pro Wrestling Sheet report stating WWE’s attempts to purchase the promotion.
Why Would WWE Want ROH?
WWE didn’t buy the promotion, but the main suggested reason for WWE to acquire ROH was for its library of footage. Historically, ROH is where many future top WWE talents have honed their craft, such as Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, and Seth Rollins (also, CM Punk, but WWE doesn’t acknowledge him anymore).
The events where those wrestlers appeared could be harvested for future packages and WWE network specials. Further, the archive of ROH PPVs would make the WWE Network an even more valuable service.
ROH is currently owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which broadcasts the promotion’s weekly TV show on its subsidiary networks. Rumors have perennially placed ROH up for sale by Sinclair, which never promoted it with especially strong vigor, and could easily want to divest itself of the original investment.
If WWE were to buy ROH, the big question would be what became of the promotion itself. Would WWE continue the TV and PPV shows as-is, or (as it did with WCW and ECW) would it take what it wants, renegotiate talent contracts, and move on?
But as of this moment, WWE hasn’t bought Ring of Honor, so let’s talk about the promotion as it stands today.
Cody (formerly Rhodes) and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) are the most high-profile talents currently working at Ring Of Honor. All three are members of the world-famous Bullet Club pro wrestling faction..
Recently, The Bucks headlined ROH’s Supercard of Honor PPV, where they beat The Hardys (who wrestled at WrestleMania 33 the next day) for the ROH Tag Team Championships.
The rest of Ring of Honor’s top tier of talent is comprised of many fantastic wrestlers, including Christopher Daniels, Jay Lethal, Adam Cole, Marty Scurll, Mark and Jay Briscoe, and Dalton Castle.
A visit to the promotion’s roster page shows that the promotion’s roster isn’t especially deep. Not only are referees and announcers listed, but so are part-timers such as Cody (Rhodes) and Colt Cabana.
Ring of Honor is trying to do women’s wrestling, with Women of Honor, but it’s hard to actually see. When I attended the Manhattan Mayhem 2017 iPPV, the night was all men’s wrestling aside from a triple-threat dark match featuring the independent performers Sumie Sakai, Jenny Rose, and Mandy Leon. The aforementioned roster page shows plenty of talent that even weekly ROH TV watchers may not have seen (Faye Jackson, Kennadi Brink, Solo Darling).
Lately, the story of Ring of Honor is more about who’s not there.
As stated above , Ring of Honor’s top stars often leave for WWE. Over the past year, this issue became more problematic with up-and-coming stars leaving for smaller promotions, most notably Lio Rush, Keith Lee and Donovan Dijak. While all three went to EVOLVE, which is viewed as something of a feeder promotion to WWE, ROH’s inability to hold onto them is not a good sign.
What are the divisions & championships in ROH, and who holds those belts currently?
The ROH World Championship, its top title, is currently held by Cody, who won it from Christopher Daniels at the Best in the World event in June.
The ROH World Tag Team Championship is held by The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson), who claim to have recently signed the most lucrative contract in ROH history. They beat the Hardys for the titles at the Supercard of Honor XI pay-per-view.
ROH’s World Television Championship is its secondary singles championship. It’s currently held by KUSHIDA, a New Japan Pro Wrestling talent who works in ROH due to a talent-sharing agreement between the promotions.
The confusingly-named ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship is the promotion’s trios belt, in that it’s held by three wrestlers at a time. It gains that name because the belts are seemingly only defended in 3v3 scenarios. The current title-holders are Dalton Castle and The Boys.
What’s up with the handshake?
ROH matches (typically) begin with The Code of Honor, a handshake seen as a sign of mutual respect. Formerly, the Code of Honor contains more rules, such as respecting the ref and a lack of outside interference.
So, ROH works with New Japan?
NJPW talent currently appears in the states during shows held by Ring of Honor. The two promotions have a tenuous relationship that includes sharing talent.
The two promotions use annual Honor Rising (in Japan) and War of the Worlds (in the US) co-events to highlight this relationship.
And those announcers?
ROH’s main play-by-play commentator is Ian Riccaboni, who took the position after Kevin Kelly sort of stopped working with the company. Riccaboni is awkward as heck, but very enthusiastic and not mean-spirited. Colt Cabana is the color commentary guy.
The big shakeups in ROH commentary began when Nigel McGuinness, the current NXT color commentator, left the company. McGuinness did color commentary and acted as ROH authority figure.
Alright, I’m curious: how does one watch ROH?
Ring of Honor appears both as a weekly program and a Pay Per View.
Maybe you have one of the channels the ROH Wrestling show appears on. Starting soon, I won’t! But that’s OK. The FITE app, which is on available iOS and Android gets ROH episodes every Monday night. That’s how I watch, by mirroring them to my TV. Ring of Honor also allows you to watch a terribly pixely version of its weekly program on its website. You’re better than that, though.
ROH does pay per view events in the traditional and expensive-to-buy way. The same way that the WWE network’s price makes hard to swallow. Those events can be purchased and streamed via the FITE app or from satellite and cable providers.
WWE Match of the Week:
The Big Show vs Braun Strowman
Monday Night Raw, 2/20
The last time the Twitter timeline blew up this much was … well, last week’s Festival of Friendship . But seriously, folks, if you didn’t think Strowman deserved his own Mania match, this is the moment that elevated Big McStronghuge past the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Not only did Strowman deliver a good match with (or out of?) Big Show (who’s been less than relevant as of late) but he did so during his first 1-on-1 match in a main event. Oh, and that (assisted) kip-up! Maybe this is a case of lowered expectations, but damn, it was a fun time.
Honorable mentions go to SmackDown Live’s Nikki Bella vs Natalya (which would have been my pick it if not for the finish) and 205 Live’s Mustafa Ali vs Noam Dar
Non-WWE Match of the Week:
Christopher Daniels vs Jay Briscoe in the Finals of The Decade Of Excellence Tournament
Ring of Honor, 2/20
This match is the culmination of an 8-wrestler tournament to decide the next number one contender to Adam Cole Bay Bay for the ROH World Championship. In the build up to this match Daniels’ long-time tag partner Frankie Kazarian has done at least one, if not multiple, promos talking about this being his aging buddy’s last shot. This has been awkward, teasing some kind of turn.
The match on its own, is excellent, and it all begins at the commentary table. Adding Mark Briscoe and Kaz to the commentary table is the first time Kevin Kelly hasn’t been drowning since Nigel McGuinness left. Kazarian over-emphasize the story of Daniels’ last chance tempts fate about the split-up of The Addiction.
This episode of Ring of Honor is available for free on the FITE app. After watching the match, you can spoil the next four weeks of tapings by googling “ROH taping results.”
WWE Segment of the Week:
The SmackDown Live Women’s Title Picture, featuring Daniel Bryan and Naomi, and then Alexa Bliss
SmackDown Live, 2/21
I thought Naomi had cemented herself as a popular fan favorite with her new entrance and title win over Alexa Bliss, but this segment proved that the glow is more widely felt than I’d realized. Naomi’s heartfelt, teary-eyed promo was only enhanced by having the retired-by-injury Daniel Bryan be the person she had to return her title to, and for the fans in the arena to be so vocally on her side.
Making matters even better, Alexa Bliss (the latest ultimate opportunist?) coming out to demand the title be handed to her was icing on the segment.
Unfortunately, while I read this segment as a storyline, and not the result of a legitimate, shoot-injury, I was wrong. Rumors point to her injury being as bad as the one recently suffered by Rollins, leading to her liable to miss Wrestlemania.
For now, I’ll hope that even the injury rumors leaking out are all a part of the work. If it is, Naomi’s win at Mania 33 could be huge.
Honorable Mention: Kassius Ohno’s actual return, which could have gone higher, but it’s all a little too meta for me. I’m loving it, but I don’t know if the whole audience is too.
Non-WWE Segment of the Week:
Laurel & Braxton’s Wedding ft. Mike Bennett gives Braxton Sutter advice
While Lucha Underground is off, it’s up to Impact Wrestling to create televised non-match segments outside of the WWE that are worth noting. And for once, they did it without the Hardys.
Wrestling Weddings are a great way to get a ton of performers (Allie, Mike Bennett, Maria Kanelis Bennett, Aron Rex, Rockstar Spud, Sienna, Braxton Sutter … and a few more later on) into the ring at once to play off of each other and create some great (or at least lively) dramatic moments.
While I couldn’t stand Mike Bennet, Worst Bachelor Party Host Ever, his role as drunk best man fits this whole awkward rom-com thing a lot better. This whole story is based on manipulation and misinterpretation, so for him to push Sutter closer to breaking off the wedding, that works.
Also great were the fact that the wedding is entirely about Maria, but what I wish I understood was how Rex and Spud connected to the story. They’re heel, sure, but with no background in this, and only being used as “flower girls” because homophobia.
Flaws and all, though, the Impact Zone crowd ate this one up like they were stoned at the buffet. Tons of expected chants (“We object!”) and even the Delete! let this simmer to a boil and explode. Earlier, during a spot where the Broken Hardys fought in a dark high school gym, I wondered if Impact would be better in a tinier venue, but this showed that given the right prodding, the people passing through at Universal Studios Florida can make it work.
WWE Match of the Week:
The 205 Live Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match
205 Live, 2/7
As should be the case more often, the best wrestling in the last week in the WWE happened on 205 Live. The show, designed to be a path to superstardom for performers from the Cruiserweight Classic, was struggling to find its sea legs until around the time that Neville returned from injury with an undercut hairstyle and complete badassery. This match took the five most-over other guys in the division: Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher, and T.J. Perkins, and let them shine.
From submission holds to high-flying moves, this match let each performer show off why they are on the WWE roster. While the surprise victory probably doesn’t mean anything (I doubt he’s beating Neville, this match gives hope for those who worried about the division. Shows all they need is time and stakes. Oh, and the dickishness of Noam Dar. That’s essential.
Non-WWE Match of the Week
Donovan Dijak vs. Chris Sabin vs. Alex Shelley vs. Lio Rush vs. Jay White vs. Jonathan Gresham
ROH Wrestling, 2/5, available on the FITE app for free.
So, it wasn’t a great week for televised (or even streamed) matches outside of WWE this week, but watch this match to enjoy a good spectacle of frenetic wrestling. Not only should you know Lio Rush’s name by now, but check out the big man Donovan Dijak, who is as big and agile enough for Vince to have signed him years ago.
Also, a fun fact about Dijak: he’s left ROH. Expect to see him in Evolve in March and probably in NXT by the year’s end.
WWE Segment of the Week:
Nikki, Natalya, and John Cena
The Natalya vs. Nikki Bella storyline taking place on SmackDown Live (which arguably started at Survivor Series) is one of the better but least buzzed about feuds in the WWE at this moment. It’s been driven by Natalya, who finally found that she can be compelling on the mic, though only as an utter savage.
So it’s great to see this scene, which ties everything together for Survivor Series. From Nikki talking about John letting her fight her own fights to Natalya’s BRU-TAL run-in to Cena almost convincingly act like he didn’t know what happened while he was off camera. It sets up the Elimination Chamber match as well as future stuff between Nikki and Cena.
Honorable mention: NXT, 2/8 Points to Bobby Roode for laughing his ass off after saying “no wait, of course I’m the kind of guy who loves to point out he was right.
Non-WWE Segment of the Week
The Broken Hardys Expedition Of Gold
Impact Wrestling, 2/9
So you’ve probably heard that Broken Matt Hardy has been threatening to take the tag titles from teams in other promotions, such as ROH’s Young Bucks. And while that’s actually booked for Mania weekend this April in Orlando, he’s also made less-likely challenges to WWE’s The Wyatt and New Day.
So while this all seems unlikely, the Hardys managed to surprise again on Impact, using a new and improved Vanguard 1 drone. Jeff got to play the role of the doubter this week, asking Matt to explain his plot to jump over to other promotions, which is based around using Vanguard 1, the sass-mouthed drone that can now teleport the Hardys. I’ll shut up now, so you can watch and find out their first stop.
WWE Match of the Week:
Sami Zayn vs. Seth Rollins, for a spot in the Royal Rumble.
Monday Night Raw 1/23
By now you know what happened with this one, but I still need to call it out anyways. Everything about it works, from the well-paced match to how it advanced something for everyone.
Sami’s into the Rumble where he can work out his aggression with Strowman. Rollins’ feud with Triple H gets the jumper cables (thankfully not from Kane). And the Foley/Steph distrust comes back.
WWE Segment of the Week:
AJ Styles Called Out John Cena
SmackDown Live, 1/24
I give this point to John Cena who is still cold blooded when he needs to be. While I originally gave this spot to Mickie James (love her distaste for how Women’s Revolution erases her work), I had to pick Cena because this flipped my pick for the Rumble.
This felt like Cena flipped his switch back into serious mode and that he’s actually going for it tonight. That promo broke AJ apart so much that I can’t help but imagine the trajectory now sees Styles losing the belt at the Royal Rumble.
Also, note the shades of Cena’s The Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick when he yelled out I’m A Bad Bad Man.
Non-WWE Match of the Week:
Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee vs. KUSHIDA
ROH Wrestling, 1/23
You might be familiar with the Ospreay from his match against Ricochet at Best of the Super Juniors last year. If you’d like some more wacky and wild flippy stuff (specifically, 50 percent more) this is for you.
NJPW’s Kushida sometimes can’t keep up with Ospreay, but CMLL’s Dragon Lee gets time to shine here (which he didn’t at Final Battle in December). Still, though, Ospreay made the biggest impact on me here, especially with his standing shooting star press to break up a pinfall.
Non-WWE Segment of the Week:
New Impact Grand Champion Drew Galloway Promos
Impact Wrestling, 1/26
The current I’m here to save you all heel gimmick that Drew Galloway is working is so good no matter where he is. I first saw it work in Evolve, but here in Impact, he’s still preaching that he’s the man to save the company. And as we all know, Impact needs all the help it can get.
Galloway is so boo-ably heelish in fact that this made me want to watch the TNA Grand Championship match it led to, so I could see him get his comeuppance. Unfortunately, the Impact Zone crowd still cheered him, and the Grand Championship matches stayed unwatchable.
No video of this, so you probably can’t find it without POP or a torrent of Impact. Not going to say it’s great enough for either of those though.
WWE Match of the Week:
Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate
WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament, 1/15
What’s more amazing, that WWE’s match of the week featured two talents that never graced the E’s network until a week before it aired, or that these two are at this level at this young an age? I like to joke with my Ring Post co-host Myke Hurley that the rest of us hate him for his youth, but Tyler Bate’s goofy nineteen-year-old ass is another hamper of crazy-pants all-together.
First of all, I didn’t buy Bates at the start, especially due to his gee-golly ‘charm’ and the fact that his “I’ve got two fists” line ripped off James Ellsworth almost verbatim (though who knows, The Chinless Wonder might have been copying Bates).
But from the moment Pete Dunne popped up on the screen, I hated him and enjoyed it. He’s got the perfect aesthetic as a bully, and his combination of a sneer and his fist-against-jaw give me thoughts of Miz and Kevin Owens at the same time. Plus, he’s all packed into a Sami Callahan-esque frame that makes it all feel fresh.
But how did they get this match to be so awesome?
Well, by keeping the two on a steady progression of heel and face dynamics and preceding the match with Bate winning Wolfie’s respect and Dunne’s run-in on Bate, trying to break his shoulder. That’s compact storytelling, and William Regal’s outrage (and Michael Cole’s focus on said outrage) tied it all together, man. That all made the match mean a lot. You had someone to cheer, someone to boo, and they both played their parts.
Bate and Dunne both look their respective parts as well, Bate looks like the kid who always gets picked on by Dunne’s bully, and they were able to show and not tell over the span of the night.
This match follows those expectations, and Dunne spends most of the match ravaging Bate’s shoulder, including a Kimura lock that looked downright grizzly.
If you had to take the match by itself, I’d almost prefer Mark Andrews vs Pete Dunne (which I think had a better-paced finish) from the previous round, but this one just shows how much the story-telling can add.
The match made both of these guys huge, and I look forward to seeing what they have coming up.
Here’s a short clip. Watch the whole thing on the Network.
Best WWE Segment of the Week:
The King’s Court with Jerry The King Lawler and Dolph Ziggler
SmackDown Live, 1/17
I’ll be the first to say I’m shocked that I’m giving credit to Dolph Ziggler and Jerry Lawler. Both rank high on my “fall off this planet, please” list, and will likely stay there for some time. But since Degree of Difficulty matters for me when trying to compare wrestling moments, I need to give this segment its due.
Wrestling’s performed gimmicks always glimmer more when they’re fused with reality, and so it’s reasonable that a segment where Dolph Ziggler returned to finish the job of killing Jerry Lawler flat-out held me in its hands.
It’s the end of the simmer-segment of Ziggler’s heel turn, which is now at full-boil.
Lawler’s also part of the Royal Rumble announce team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see those two go at it. And in one segment (which draws from ages ago), they got me to care so much more about that confrontation than the inevitable Rollins & Triple H shmozz. I’ll admit that this probably worked so well for me because going shirtless-with-cape felt like it should shame Lawler a bit.
Best non-WWE Match of the Week:
Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada © IWGP Heavyweight Championship
NJPW on AXS, 1/13
Yes, this match originally took place on January 4th, and you may know I’m not that hot on it, but the AXS TV version with Jim Ross aired for the first time on 1/13, and that’s how bad the wrestling outside of the WWE was this week.
Also, I need to explain something.
You know how Bate vs. Dunn had barely any buildup but strong face vs. heel dynamics and performances? Omega vs. Okada was the pinnacle of Good Moves and fast pacing at the end, but it had tons of build time but zero face vs. heel storytelling in the ring. As dramatic as it is to be the main event at Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome, this match lost so much by not attempting anything aside from moves.
The one story, if you’ll call it that, was “this is Kenny Omega trying to achieve, but he needs his finishing move and Okada won’t let him do it.” That’s so tiny, it gets lost in the scale of it all.
Amazing moves though, I can’t believe Okada’s neck is still intact after all of that. And good for Kenny Omega for finally getting the attention he’s earned.
Best non-WWE Segment of the Week:
Cody (Rhodes) Will Judge YOU, ROH Fans
Ring of Honor, 1/15
This Cody right here: the post-Final Battle-heel turn on Jay Lethal, pre-Bullet Club, is the best version of Indie Cody the wrestler we cannot call Rhodes.
It creates solid, consistent loathing from the fans. Cody’s explanation of why he turned heel is that the ROH fans were going to judge him at Final Battle, but nobody judges him. That it’s the other way around, he’s here to judge us. Also, I won’t spoil anymore, except he gets point for use of the word “proboscis."
Maybe some people don’t like fan heckling like "Where’s Your Sexy-Ass Wife?” yell here and the “STAAAAAR-DUUUUUUUSSSST” fan at that the debut Defy Wrestling show in Seattle, but it works so well overall. Cody trying to call security on the guy who asked where Eden was was hysterical.
I recently realized I watch too much wrestling not to turn it into a feature here at withapassion.com. So, I give you a new feature (that I hope to turn out in weekly fashion), Don’t Miss This, a guide to the best matches and segments from the week in WWE and outside of the WWE.
What are my qualifications? Every week I watch Raw, SmackDown Live, 205 Live, Talking Smack, NXT, Lucha Underground and IMPACT. I even watch all EVOLVE PPVs and try to watch Ring of Honor and NJPW on AXS, but can’t guarantee those, as the first set already takes 10.5 hours of my week. Videos are embedded when possible, but they’re often abridged versions, especially WWE’s.
WWE Match of the Week:
The Revival vs. DIY
NXT 1/11, for the NXT Tag Team Championship
Most of you have seen The Revival vs. DIY before (and if you haven’t thanks for reading this!) but this match is still amazing even if you have. These four men do tag-team wrestling so well, that every time is a must-see. Between Revival’s inventive heel tactics, Gargano’s ability to make getting his ass kicked look amazing, and the brutality of Ciampa’s knees and elbows.
Non-WWE Match of the Week:
Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. The Monster Matanza with Dario Cueto
Lucha Underground 1/11; Death Match
More than just your standard David vs Goliath match, as Matanza is more like Frankenstein’s Monster, with his keeper, Dario, watching the match on-camera in states of fear and pride.
How do I know Jeff Cobb is great at portraying the Matanza character? I’ve met the guy (he’s super nice) but I still forget it’s him under that mask, thanks to demented mannerisms and inhuman rage. Also, Vampiro and Striker do a great job of teasing and pointing towards the finish, in a way that I didn’t realize until it was all over. It’s an excellent match to cap the middle of LU’s third season.
Oh, and if you don’t have El Rey:
WWE Segment of the Week:
Jack Gallagher and Ariya Daivari Parlay
205 Live, 1/10, contract signing for I Forfeit match
Either I have a bias towards Jack Gallagher, or the WWE didn’t offer many worthy segments this week. Probably both.
Yes, I know you can see Gallagher admit — off-mic — that he’s forgotten his line, but the rest of this is too good. From the return of William the umbrella to calling their feuding “playing silly boogers for too long,” this segment brings the humor that WWE programming is often lacking.
More importantly, this Parlay (contract signing) segment set up this Euro-tinted I Quit match as the actual end of this feud. Gallagher did a nice, Wilder-Wonka-esque job of it, stating “when you forfeit, you don’t only end the match, you end this quarrel between me and you. You lose, and you live with that.” Daivari plays his part well, responding to everything Gallagher says with a correct mix of incredulity and disgust. Corey Graves even shines, registering shock after Daivari throws William the umbrella out of the ring.
Also worth mentioning: a post-match brawl featuring Asuka on NXT.
Young Bucks Respond to House Hardy
Ring of Honor, 1/8
Again, this wasn’t the strongest week for non-match segments, so I give the outside-of-the-WWE nod to a Young Bucks talking segment. Starts off with the Bucks of Youth being smug bastards about their lucrative contract, and ends with a moment that was worth your time.
As you may know, Broken Matt Hardy challenged them at Final Battle, and here, the Bucks accept the challenge. What nobody expected was a House Hardy member to invade the taping, but as you might have already seen, that happened too.
If you don’t get ROH (and it’s hard to find) here’s some less-than-great footage posted to YouTube (credit: The Elite: the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega).