Around the Loop: The New Ring of Honor is a Blast

If there is one thing Tony Khan has done correctly, it has been showcasing multiple wrestlers from different companies under his own grapple-happy umbrella. You want to watch guys from New Japan Pro Wrestling go up against some of the best North American wrestlers? Forbidden Door II is coming to Canada in June. You want to see ex-WWE employees back in the ring? The Outcasts would like a moment of your time. Khan has provided a platform for these performers, allowing some to be seen by perhaps a wider audience than they’ve ever been exposed to.

I’m calling it the Khan-jureverse and you can’t stop me.

After founding All Elite Wrestling, Khan’s riskiest venture was buying the Ring of Honor promotion. Not only did Khan purchase the ROH video library, he promised to kickstart the company and bring it back to its former glory with new subscription-based weekly programming. Well, Khan’s not quite there yet. However, I’ll say this.

Besides AEW Dynamite, Honor Club TV is the best wrestling program out there. Put very simply, the new Honor Club TV kicks all of the ass. In less than a month, the show has become the hub of the Khan-jureverse. Wrestlers from AEW work in the company, moving in and out like they’re crossing an invisible veil. They work seamlessly with ROH personnel to weave this wild wrestling web, providing crossover matches we didn’t know we needed.

As much as I love Honor Club TV, and I do, there is room for improvement.

Visually, Honor Club TV looks a lot like AEW Dark and Dark Elevation. That makes sense since all of those shows are filmed in the same venue at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. There isn’t any directorial flair or unique presentation incorporated into the production to set Honor Club TV apart from its AEW internet exclusive counterparts. If the company logos projected onto the LED screens weren’t different, one would be hard-pressed to distinguish between the products.

Currently, almost all of ROH’s title holders are workers we’ve seen tearing the roof off the joint in AEW. Claudio Castagnoli and Wheeler Yuta, both members of the AEW heel faction Blackpool Combat Club, hold championships in Ring of Honor. Athena, the ROH Women’s Champion, has been battering mid-card workers and local talent on AEW and its ancillary YouTube content for weeks. The Embassy, featuring AEW stalwart Brian Cage, hold the Six-Man Tag Team Championship.

It will be a good day when all the Ring of Honor titles are held by wrestlers who are mainly associated with ROH. That will help the company establish its own identity in the Khan-jureverse without being overly reliant on AEW talent to reel in subscribers.

Despite my quibbles, there are more reasons to watch Honor Club TV than not.

ROH’s secret weapon is the announce team of Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman. Riccaboni comes across as a wrestling nerd with an encyclopedic knowledge of the business and the enthusiasm of a church youth group member trying to divert traffic into their car wash. All profits go to our missionary trip to Brazil!

Color commentator Coleman is smooth, providing Riccaboni’s high-tenor rendition of facts and history with a foundation of mainstream coolness. After Riccaboni finishes screaming about some match that happened in some Pennsylvania VFW lodge in 2009, Coleman slides in with his baritone catchphrase, “That’s right, Riccaboni.” If Riccaboni and Coleman aren’t one of the best two-man tables in the history of this great sport, I’ll eat Ric Flair’s stained boxer shorts.

As of this writing, we’re three weeks into the ROH reimagining. So far, there has been no bloodletting. That’s a distinct difference from not only Dynamite, but old-school Ring of Honor. This is the company that allowed Jimmy Jacobs to do a straight-up promo underneath a stream of blood falling from the gigged forehead of Jay Briscoe, raised above the ring by a chain and a BDSM spreader bar.

Instead of juice, Honor Club TV has provided something better: some of the best wrestling in recent memory. This may be a hot take, but I’ll go ahead and put the title bout between Athena and Willow Nightingale on my list for Match of the Year. Between all the false finishes and slams on the ramp, I was on the edge of my seat throughout that fight. Guess who bladed? Guess who willingly ripped open their face? No one. It was simply a great wrestling match, back-to-basics stuff that kept me on the edge of my seat until it ended.

ROH currently serves as the way station for everything in the Khan-jureverse. The Mad King is here and, boy, is he pissed at Claudio Castagnoli. Blake Christian has graduated from Dark and landed himself in a trio with Metalik and AR Fox. Dalton Castle and the Boys have continued to grace audiences with their flamboyant style of wrestling. If there’s a glorious surprise on Honor Club TV, it’s Wheeler Yuta.

We don’t need to see Wheeler on AEW anymore. Honor Club TV is Yuta’s show, through and through. He’s the Pure Champion, main-eventing his ass off and consistently delivering. His title defenses have been small hunks of glory. Watching Yuta go from the least of the Best Friends to a powerhouse in Ring of Honor has been crazy. It’s a character arc to savor, especially as Yuta and the rest of the Blackpool Combat Club lean into their heel turn. Yuta has held his own against vicious competitors like Timothy Thatcher and Clark Connors. It’s like someone laced his trunks with Miracle-Gro and old Dusty Rhodes promos. If you think Yutes is decent on AEW, you should see him on Honor Club TV. That dude can go.

The most compelling reason to watch Honor Club TV is the most intangible. Under Khan’s leadership, the new ROH has managed to capture the spirit of old-school ROH. Matches still begin and end with a handshake between competitors. Wrestlers on the outside still get a 20-count from the referee. It’s as if the scrappiness, that manic devotion to an archaic Code of Honor and a keen sense that wrestling can be better than what audiences have been presented with, remains the driving force of the show. The heart of Ring of Honor has been transplanted into a new body and it is deliriously alive.

With no commercial sponsors to answer to and matches that go until they stop, Honor Club TV has quickly become the home for great wrestling. It needs more company-specific storylines, and a few visual quirks to distinguish it from the rest of the Khan-jureverse, but none of my piddling complaints take away from the high quality of the matches. Honor Club TV has some of the best stuff out there right now, and that’s saying a lot.

Take that ten bucks out of your budget every month and subscribe. Wrestling fans can’t afford to be without Honor Club and the new weekly Ring of Honor. It’s great now. It can only get better.

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