ROH Best in the World 2021

Baltimore, MD – 7.11.2021

This is the first show since February 2020 with fans in attendance. It is hard to overstate just how much of a difference this makes to the atmosphere compared to the empty arena tapings.

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Caprice Coleman. At the top of “Hour One”, they inform us that due to injury, “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams cannot compete tonight. Fellow Foundation member Jay Lethal will pull double duty and defend the tag team championship alongside Rhett Titus, in addition to his previously scheduled singles match against Brody King.

Rey Horus vs. Demonic Flamita

This is a grudge match between former partners. Horus catches Flamita off guard with a kick off the apron to start. He keeps control until Flamita swipes him out of mid-air with a dropkick. Flamita teases taking off Horus’ mask before giving him a tree of woe dropkick. Horus is able to send Flamita to the floor with a bodyscissors takedown, then follows with a tope con hilo. Horus spikes Flamita with a tornado DDT, but Flamita pays him back with a slingshot DDT moments later, then gets two with a sit-out powerbomb. Horus gets his knees up to block a splash. Flamita rocks Horus with a haymaker and a pair of superkicks. Horus tilt-a-whirls up and spikes Flamita with a DDT for two. Horus brings Flamita off the buckles with a Muscle Gut Buster for two. He tries another powerbomb, but Horus cascades up into a Code Red for the pin at 9:49. I like that commentary pointed out just how much neck damage Horus had done to Flamita up until that point, as it helps to explain how Horus was able to catch Flamita with a pin despite Flamita being so in control at the time. The crowd was into the action, and especially got into Flamita antagonizing them during the course of the bout. The teased unmasking was a nice foreshadowing moment as well. Flamita attacks Horus after the match, so this issue may not be over. I’m OK with that. ***

Kenny King gives a somewhat out of character speech about how ROH is the top company, how the roster are ready to bust their asses, and welcoming the fans back. He then gets down to business, saying he won’t be competing tonight since there’s no titles for which he can challenge, but says that the rest of La Facción Ingobernable will run the table. He puts down the Baltimore Ravens while promising that Dragon Lee will defeat Tony Deppen for the Television Title, and guaranteeing that RUSH will leave with the World title.

We are treated to the first live version of “Trending With Taven”, hosted of course by Matt Taven. A disheveled Taven says some great things happened for him in Baltimore over the past year, including his own return from injury, the return of Mike Bennett, and the reforming of the OGK. All of those moments have been ruined by someone he used to call a friend. He’s interrupted by that individual, Vincent, as well as the rest of The Righteous: Bateman, Dutch, and Vita VonStarr. Taven makes an offer to Vincent – one final match between them at “Glory By Honor XVIII, Night 2” next month in Philadelphia, where win, lose, or draw, Taven will leave Ring of Honor forever. That isn’t what Vincent wants; he wants Taven’s ROH World Title opportunity (Taven never received his automatic rematch after losing the World title in September 2019). Taven says if he puts his title shot on the line, Vincent has to agree to no interference, and that their issue will be put to rest once the match is over. Vincent agrees, saying it will be a Steel Cage Match when they meet August 21st. With that business sorted Taven attacks Vincent with the circular table from his set. Vincent cracks Taven from behind with his own clipboard. Dutch and Bateman then throw Taven head first through the fluorescent “Trending With Taven” sign. Vincent says he will bury Taven in Philly, but leave just enough room for his head above ground so he can watch Vincennt become World champion. For a feud I haven’t been very invested in, I thought this was very well done. I am definitely interested in the steel cage match.

Danhausen & PCO vs. The Bouncers (Brawler Milonas & The Beer City Bruiser)

Ken Dixon is in the Bouncers corner, and Brian Zane joins commentary for the bout. Milonas body checks PCO at the start, and the Bouncers beat down the smaller Danhausen in their corner. Danhausen sidesteps a corner attack from Bruiser and gives him a German suplex. PCO tags in and lays out both men, giving them splashes in opposing corners. He then smashes Bruiser with a Swanton bomb on the ring apron! He wipes out Milonas with a tope suicida, then helps Danhausen with a chokeslam on Bruiser. Danhausen is offended at PCO’s assistance and shoves him, which causes PCO to malfunction and go after Danhausen, although fortunately it leads to him giving PCO a cannonball senton onto Bruiser against the barricades. Sledge is seen observing the match in the aisle. Danhausen headscissors Milonas into the barricades, then wakes up PCO who was laid out on the floor from a splash by Bruiser. Danhausen headbutts Bruiser before filling his mouth with teeth and hitting a pump kick. Danhausen gives Bruiser a Death Valley Driver, and PCO follows up with the PCOsault for the pin at 9:05. That was actually much better than I expected, with some fun brawling and the crowd super into Danhausen and PCO. I was trepidatious of the PCO/Danhausen pairing at first, but I think I’m on board now. Sledge and PCO try going face-to-face post match, but Danhausen gets in between them. Guess Sledge is still mad at PCO from eliminating him from the battle royal a couple months ago.**¾

The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. PJ Black & Brian Johnson

The Briscoes have reunited and have re-started their trajectory towards the tag team titles. After Johnson lost the Survival of the Fittest tournament, Black got Johnson on board to re-forming their tag team after telling Johnson that he saw a vision of them as tag team champions. After some brawling, Mark wipes out Johnson with a chair assisted tope con hilo to the floor. Black tags in when Johnson hits the ropes and wipes out Mark with a springboard crossbody. Jay is also able to tag in when Mark hits the ropes, taking out Johnson with a clothesline. Mark wipes out Black with a pescado. Jay takes out Johnson with a neckbreaker but Black is able to save Johnson from Redneck Boogie.Jay accidentally forearms Mark to the floor, but they’re able to keep their composure. Jay kicks out of a couple schoolboys from Johnson as Black saves Johnson from a Doomsday Device. Johnson hits Spike Eskin on Jay, and Black follows up with the Placebo Effect for two. Jay big boots Black and Mark wipes him out with a running blockbuster off the apron. Johnson falls to a spicy dropkick and Cactus elbow. In the ring, Jay gives Black the Jay Driller, and Mark hits the Froggy Bow for the pin at 8:07. Starting the PPV proper with arguably the most popular act in the company was a great choice. The Briscoes mostly dominated, but Black saving Johnson from certain doom a couple times was a nice way to show us the mentor/mentee relationship between the two of them. Great way to kick off the show. **¾

EC3 vs. Flip Gordon

EC3 does a bunch of shoulder blocks and Gordon attacks his leg. EC3 takes down Gordon with a Thesz Press and a TKO onto his knee. Gordon throws EC3’s leg into the ring post and applies the Submit To Flip (STF). EC3 uses the ropes to escape and stops Gordon on the top turnbuckle with a superplex. EC3 takes down Gordon with a butterfly facebuster and locks in The Purpose (Border City Stretch) for the submission at 11:12. These two ambled around the ring for a while with a loose story and it killed the crowd. After a really good outing against Jay Briscoe at the 19th Anniversary Show, it was a shame to see EC3 in such a flat match. To make matters worse, after refusing to shake EC3’s hands multiple times, Gordon spat in EC3’s face, which isn’t great considering how he openly called COVID a “plandemic” on ROH television, presumably meaning he isn’t vaccinated. Doody all around. ½*

ROH World Six Man Tag Team Championship
Shane Taylor Promotions (Shane Taylor & S.O.S. (Kaun & Moses)) vs. Dalton Castle, Dak Draper & Eli Isom

Shane Taylor Promotions have been champions since 2.19.2021 and this is their third defense. O’Shay Edwards is in STP’s corner. God bless Dalton Castle, the most dependable person to get a crowd fired up, which was sorely needed after the last match. The champions enjoy a healthy advantage over all three of the opposition. A smug Castle is rocked by a Taylor from haymaker, leading Castle to retreat and tag in Isom. Taylor gives Isom a spinebuster, leading to STP pummeling him in their corner. Castle yanks down Kaun by his hair behind the referee’s back, and even though Isom doesn’t seem to agree with the tactic, Draper immediately jumps on Kaun, assisting Castle with his beatdown. Isom almost has Kaun pinned after a spin slam, which Castle does not appreciate as he wants the pin. Draper jumps in to try and prevent Kaun from tagging out, but he gets shoved into Isom and in comes Moses. Moses wipes out Castle and Isom on the floor with a cannonball senton off the apron. Draper is able to catch Moses with a Colorado Stampede, but unbeknownst to him, Taylor had tagged himself in beforehand. Draper ties a Doctor Bomb, but Taylor counters with a headbutt and the Marcus Garvey Driver. Isom breaks the pin and impressively drops Taylor with an Air Raid Crash. An interruption from Isom gets Isom stuck on the top turnbuckle. Kaun brings him down with a super Jackhammer. A series of offenses leads to Taylor blasting Draper in the face with a knee strike and hitting Welcome To The Land for the pin at 10:55. I’m torn here, because I thought this match was a blast and the crowd was way into it, but I am also not thrilled at Draper and Isom being in what feels like a dead-end spot. Obviously being tied to a former champion, especially a really entertaining one, has promise, but considering where Draper was at the 19th Anniversary Show and where he is now, I can’t help but feel frustrated. It doesn’t help that the Six Man Tag Titles could quietly be put to rest and no one would notice or shed any tears. That’s no knock on STP who are doing their damndest as a trio, the titles are just excessive at this point. ***

Last Man Standing Match
Josh Woods vs. Silas Young

Woods attacks Young from behind during his entrance. After using Young’s own FYB/FYF combo against him, Woods gets a chair from under the ring. Young uses the chair on him and brings a table out from under the ring. Woods sends Young crotch first into the ring post and introduces his own table into the ring. A ladder was propped up against the apron as well. Woods tries to suplex Young through the table after setting it up in the corner, and Young ends up driving Woods back first through it. During a slugfest, Woods rolls Young into the Gorilla Lock. Since rope breaks don’t matter, Young crawls to the floor to escape. Woods sets up a second table on the floor next to the one Young brought out. He grabs a waistlock and Young kicks him low. Young tries a somersault senton as Woods is seated on a chair, but Woods catches Young and powerbombs him onto the ladder! Back in the ring, Young catches Woods on the middle rope, hitting him in the back with a chair before giving him a German suplex. After Woods rolls to the floor and onto his feet to avoid being counted down, Young pulls him up to the apron. This backfires against Young, as Woods German suplexes him off the apron through both previously set-up tables. Only Woods is able to recover before the count of 10, making him the winner at 14:08. This was a great conclusion to the feud, with the right man coming out on top, and the action being appropriately brutal for a Last Man Standing match. I’m still waiting for all the good will Woods earned in the Pure title tournament to be capitalized on, and I am hopeful with Young in his rearview he will get his due soon. ***½

Jay Lethal vs. Brody King

Lethal outmaneuvered King to start, even hitting the Lethal Injection early. King kicked out at one, ate a bunch of suicide dives, and still found the strength to dump Lethal over the top rope and to the floor. King beat down Lethal until Lethal found an opening to give King a powerbomb off the middle rope. King avoided a figure four and dropped Lethal with a snap piledriver. He crossbody’s Lethal in a chair against the barricade and gives him a death valley driver on the ring apron. In the ring, King gives Lethal a huge lariat and TWO Ganso Bombs for the pin at 10:43. I may have griped about how some of the folks who are on the roster have been utilized, this match was absolutely perfect. King demolished Lethal, one of the most decorated ROH superstars, in a convincing fashion. He immediately becomes a World title contender with his and at the top of the ROH food chain overall with this win. This was perfectly executed. ***¼

ROH Pure Championship
Jonathan Gresham vs. Mike Bennett

Gresham has been champion since 10.30.2020 and this is his sixth defense. ROH Ambassador Cary Silkein joins commentary for this bout. The Pure Rules are as follows:
*The competitors are to obey the “Code of Honor”, shaking one another’s hand before and after the match.
*Each wrestler has 3 rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a wrestler has used all 3 of their rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
*Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist results in a warning, a second will be a disqualification.
*This match has a 60 minute time limit. If the match goes past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.

Surprisingly, Gresham is the first person to use a rope break, utilizing it to escape Bennett’s London Dungeon. Not happy with this, Gresham becomes aggressive in attacking Bennett’s left arm and going for various crucifix style pin attempts. Gresham holds onto Bennett’s arm when Bennett body slams him and puts him in a kimura lock. Bennett backs Gresham to the ropes, spending his first rope break to escape the hold. Bennett catches Gresham’s springboard dive to the floor. From there, Gresham reapplies the kimura and Bennett taps out, but it doesn’t count since it’s on the floor. Gresham keeps the hold applied as they get in the ring, and Bennett uses his second rope break to escape. Bennett gets on the London Dungeon again, forcing Gresham to use his second rope break as well. Bennett drops Gresham with a Death Valley Driver for two and reapplies the London Dungeon afterwards. Gresham is able to escape without using the ropes and is met with a forceful clothesline from Bennett’s healthy right arm. Gresham drops a knee on and kicks out Bennett’s left arm to take back over. Bennett fights out of an O’Connor Roll but is taken down by a lionsault press. Bennett kicks out of a European Clutch and Gresham kicks him in the arm again. Bennett uses his third and final rope break to prevent Gresham from putting him in an Octopus Stretch. Bennett is able to cut off Gresham mid-air with a superkick. He pins him after a clothesline and superkick, which Gresham reverses into a crossface. Bennett muscles up Gresham, driving him into the corner with a backpack senton. A lariat and piledriver get Bennett a pin with a three count, but referee Joe Mandak realizes after the count Gresham’s foot was under the rope. Gresham’s third and final rope break is removed and the match continues. Bennett’s second piledriver attempt fails. Gresham takes out Bennett’s knee and rolls him forward into a high angle ankle lock using his legs. Bennett tries to fight out, but ends up tapping out at 19:21. Bennett absolutely stepped up to the plate and with Gresham delivered an engaging, unique match that utilized the rules really well. The fake out pin was perfectly executed and surprisingly not completely pooped on by the crowd. After watching this, I’d be plenty happy with Bennett staying in the Pure division. ***¾

As Kenny King joins commentary, we go backstage where Rhett Titus catches Gresham as he returns to the locker room. Titus tells Gresham that Lethal was hurt during his match with Brody King, so he needs Gresham to step up as his partner in the tag title match tonight. Gresham is worn out from his Pure Title match, but with no other choice, he agrees.

ROH World Television Championship
Tony Deppen vs. Dragon Lee

Deppen has been champion since 4.30.2021 and this is his second defense. La Bestia del Ring is in Lee’s corner. A slugfest ends with Lee rocking Deppen with an especially hard chop to the face. On the floor, Deppen gives Lee a suplex, and then stuns him with a tope into a Destroyer! In the ring Deppen clobbers Lee in the back of the head with a forearm shot for two. Lee knocks down Deppen in the corner and clobbers him a delayed dropkick. Lee catches Deppen on the top rope, double stomping him out of a tree of woe onto the ring apron. Once back in the ring, Deppen counters a powerbomb attempt into a sunset flip for two. King attempts to interfere but is shut down. Lee and Deppen exchange offense, with both men being laid out after a reverse spike Frankensteiner and Deppen coming back with a lariat. Lee has Deppen down with a Dragon Driver but Deppen gets his shoulder up just before three. Lee pulls Deppen into a lariat. After Desnucadora, Lee hits the Incineration Knee for the pin and the title at 10:13. This was really fun to watch, with the two of them beating the crap out of each other and nailing one another with big offense. Some of those moments could have used more time to breathe, but there may have been a time crunch due to the Pure Title match going long. I do like that Lee defeated Deppen the exact same way he did at Final Battle to win back the title, but I liked Deppen as champion and was hoping for more out of his reign. ***¼

When Kenny King and Bestia Del Ring stop celebrating with Lee and turn their attention to Deppen, Deppen’s fellow VLNCE UNLTD partners Chris Dickinson and Homicide hit the ring to make sure Deppen isn’t attacked. With Dickinson and Homicide in the ring, The Foundation come out and our tag title defense on!

ROH World Tag Team Championship; Fight Without Honor
The Foundation (Rhett Titus & Jonathan Gresham) vs. VLNCE UNLTD (Chris Dickinson & Homicide)

The Foundation have been champions since 3.26.2021 and this is their third defense. Gresham is replacing Jay Lethal who was replacing Tracy Williams. The Foundation surprisingly charges the ring and takes the fight to VLNCE UNLTD. As Dickinson and Gresham fight outside the ring, Titus gives Homicide the Thrust Buster onto a chair. Dickinson shoves Titus off the top turnbuckle and onto the chair. Titus and Homicide find their way outside the ring, where Titus gives Homicide a Falcon Arrow through the timekeeper’s table! Dickinson pummels Gresham in the ring until Titus surprises him with a chair shot to the back from the floor. Homicide crotches Titus on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a Hamachan Cutter. Titus gets revenge by dropkicking a chair into Dickinson’s face, and giving Homicide a chair-assisted belly-to-belly suplex. Gresham has Homicide in an Octopus, pounding at the side of his face at the same time, and Dickinson throws Titus onto him to break the hold. Titus prevents Homicide from using a Ghetto Fork on Gresham after Homicide’s slides a table into the ring. Titus yakuza kicks Dickinson twice and sets up the table Homicide brought into the ring. However, Dickinson turns things around and gives Titus a super Pazuzu Bomb through the table! Homicide then drops Gresham with the Cop Killa for the pin at 11:03 to win the titles. The plunder portions of the match were great but the middle was slow. They had to make the best of a bad situation with Williams injured and I think they did fine, and Titus deserves big time kudos for more or less carrying the entire weight of the Foundation’s portion of the bout. This is another situation where I was hoping Titus and Williams would have been champions longer, but what can you do? **½

Maria Kanellis-Bennett and Lenny Leonard introduce the new ROH Women’s Championship as well as the brackets for the tournament to crown the champion. The tournament will begin the weekend of July 31st on television, and conclude at “Death Before Dishonor” on September 12th. We’re reminded that Vita VonStarr was removed from the tournament which leaves one open spot. Maria had someone in mind, but they are not cleared to wrestle. However, that person still has a lot to say. Chelsea Green makes her way to the stage. She had planned to compete in the tournament, but the Maryland Athletic commission has not cleared her to compete. Instead, she will be sitting ringside during the women’s tournament, studying each one of them so she will be ready when she is medically cleared to wrestle. That was a nice surprise for the live crowd, but it’s a bit limp to introduce someone who can’t compete right away. I also understand that they probably didn’t hold it off so they could beat Impact and possibly NWA to the punch of being the first company to feature Green post-release. Shout out to Ian for calling her the Queen of the Major Wrestling Figure podcast.

ROH World Championship
RUSH vs. Bandido

RUSH has been champion since 2.29.2020 and this is his fourth defense. Bandido earned this title match by winning the 2021 Survival of the Fittest tournament. RUSH immediately attacks and clobbers Bandido with the Bull’s Horns to start, but his arrogance sees him stop his pin so he can abuse Bandido against the guardrails on the outside. In the ring he repeatedly stomps on Bandido’s head and kicks him in the ribs while holding onto his wrist. RUSH punts Bandido in the corner and strikes the tranquilo pose instead of hitting another Bull’s Horns. As RUSH is showboating on the floor, Bandido gets enough energy for two torneo dives. Bandido also scores with a shooting star press in the ring. RUSH charges at Bandido. Bandido pulls him up into the x-Knee which RUSH blocks. Bandido, however, tiger walks up RUSH and spikes him with a crucifix driver for two. RUSH sits down on a wheelbarrow attempt for two. He then overhead suplexes Bandido into the corner. RUSH dropkicks Bandido to the floor and lands a tope con hilo. RUSH sets up two tables ringside. RUSH puts himself and Bandido through the tables to stop a charging Bandido with a belly-to-belly suplex. Both men make it back in the ring just before the twenty count. They unload suplexes and strikes on one another until they’re both knocked down. RUSH brings Bandido back into the ring with a superplex. Bandido catches RUSH on the top rope with the Revolution Fly. The 21 Plex gets Bandido an incredibly close nearfall. RUSH overhead suplexes Bandido again into the corner. He pulls on Bandido’s mask, ripping off the top half to reveal his eyes. RUSH gets in a spat with referee Todd Sinclair, and when RUSH turns back to Bandido, Bandido prawn holds him into the pin at 16:02 to become the NEW World Champion! RUSH and the rest of LFI attack Bandido after the match, laying the belt on top of him and all of them posing.

This is where the PPV ends, but after the PPV ended, Dragon Lee gave Bandido a hug and Bandido addressed the crowd with the usual babyface world champion speech. The ending epitomizes the match in both a good and bad way. I like that RUSH’s pride cost him the title; it fits his character and adds natural intrigue to the rematch. I’m also very pleased Bandido won the title; he’s consistently excellent and universally beloved. I do not like that for whatever RUSH needed to be protected with a less-than-definitive pinfall and having his group beatdown the new champion as soon as the match concluded. It hurts the new champion far more than it helps RUSH remain strong. The match itself was great, and I think if the PPV concluded with Bandido’s speech instead of the beatdown it wouldn’t have been as bad. Despite those gripes, this was very fun, especially live, but it definitely loses points for the sour ending. Hopefully Bandido’s title reign ultimately redeems the rough start. ***½

If you are keeping score at home, the three major factions at war now each have one title in their possession: LFI has the TV title (Dragon Lee), The Foundation has the Pure title (Jonathan Gresham) and VLNCE UNLTD have the tag titles (Chris Dickinson and Homicide). Perhaps one of them will attempt to recruit whomever is the Women’s champion come September.

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