Ring of Honor (ROH) has been one of the most important and influential promotions in the past 20 years. Without ROH’s emergence, the landscape of wrestling would be significantly different. You can’t watch professional wrestling nowadays without seeing at least one ROH alumni. No matter what promotion you choose to watch, ROH’s influence is that deep and lasting. However, in recent years the former “Super Indie” has fallen to the wayside in favor of AEW, NJPW, and of course the titan that is WWE. Speaking of WWE, most would say NXT wouldn’t be possible without Ring of Honor and that NXT owes its image and vision to the revolutionary organization. Meanwhile, AEW has seemingly benefited the most from ROH in recent years because some of their big names chose to jump ship and be part of the number two company in the United States. This left ROH in disarray and scrambling. To this day, they’re still feeling the effects of the creation of All Elite Wrestling. A current lack of direction on ROH’s part can be attributed to an identity crisis which can be remedied by one thing, the Ring of Honor Pure Championship.
The title was established on Valentine’s Day back in 2002 when AJ Styles was crowned the first-ever ROH Pure Wrestling Champion. Styles defeated CM Punk in a tournament final at ROH’s Second Anniversary show. The title went on to be held by the likes of Samoa Joe, Doug Williams, Jay Lethal, and John Walters. The Pure Wrestling title was defended and contested from 2002 to 2004 and was ultimately unified in Liverpool, England. The unification bout saw ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson against reigning ROH Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness. Danielson came out on top in the “Winner-Take-All” matchup and months later defended it against McGuinness to a one-hour draw which led to the retirement of the Ring of Honor Pure Wrestling Championship for nearly 14 years. But it’s wrestling. Nothing stays retired forever, and in 2020, the Pure Championship made its return in a tournament that was won by Jonathan Gresham.
The ROH Pure Championship is one of the most unique titles in existence because the championship must be contested, defended, and won under the “Pure Wrestling Rules Match” stipulation.
The rules for “Pure Wrestling” matches are:
- Every match begins and ends with the Code of Honor handshake.
- Each wrestler has three rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a wrestler exhausts his rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by his opponent are legal.
- Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted; only open-handed slaps or chops to the face are allowed. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist will get a warning; the second will be a disqualification.
- As in standard ROH matches, there will be a 20-count when a wrestler is on the floor.
- Outside interference will result in automatic termination from the roster for the wrestler that interferes.
- Once a Pure Champion is crowned, the title can change hands via disqualification and count-out.
A Promising Present:
The title was brought back in 2020 after 14 years of extinction, and has been picking up all sorts of momentum ever since mainly because of the “Pure Tournament.” The Pure Division is surely the division that separates the men from the boys. Nobody embodies this division quite like the current champion, Jonathan Gresham. The man eats, breathes, and bleeds pure wrestling. His in-ring prowess is currently unmatched inside the ROH ring. Look no further than his tournament performances and his first title defense at Final Battle late last year. Gresham proved why he’s the rightful person to spearhead the revival and growth of the division. Although Flip Gordon more than held his own against the reigning champion, it was evident that Gresham was in a league of his own. Gresham ran circles around Gordon, exhibiting holds and maneuvers only highly-skilled students of the game could execute.
Gresham made it known that you don’t jump into this division and expect it to be a walk in the park. Athletic ability will only get someone so far, ask Gordon. One must possess the necessary skills and work ethic to succeed in his division. He capped off that magnificent showcase of in-ring technique by knocking out “The Mercenary” and retaining the Pure championship. It was a shocking but very refreshing finish to a match type many have not seen lately. It was a sight to see one competitor knock out his opponent to end a match and retain the championship. But in the context of “Pure wrestling rules,” scenarios like that are considered fairly normal.
A Bright Future:
Jonathan Gresham and The Foundation will be cornerstones for Ring of Honor in the years to come. He and the stable will be key to unlocking the full potential of the division and restoring the promotion’s luster. Gresham could do what Jay Lethal did for the promotion in the mid-2010s. He could put eyes on the promotion and be the main driving force of the company. ROH has been a unique promotion from the beginning, from their style to the “Code of Honor.” The promotion just lost its identity along the way. The Pure division is reminiscent of the “X-Division” in the early days of IMPACT Wrestling. It put them on the map and set them apart from the competition. The promotion coined the tagline “It’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits.” The X-Division catapulted the company into the stratosphere of professional wrestling.
The Pure Wrestling division could do the same for Ring of Honor. It’s the unique selling point that will lead fans to flock back to the product. Wrestling purists who only watch the top talent embroiled in one-upmanship never wavering until the best comes out on top. The division’s reemergence could elevate the company back to its former glory. 2021 is a pivotal year for Ring of Honor. If the promotion is serious in reclaiming prominence, it should undoubtedly be the year of Jonathan Gresham and The Foundation. Above all else, it should be the year of the Ring of Honor Pure Championship.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
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