We are nearly halfway through the year and what a year it has been! 2019 has been a year of change and transformation in Ring of Honor with a series of high-profile stars joining the ranks of The Best Wrestling on the Planet and stars like Matt Taven, Shane Taylor, and Kelly Klein claiming their spot at the tops of their respective thrones.
With the poll up for the Match of the Year (So Far) up now on ROHWrestling.com, I decided to look back at my five favorite matches of the first half of 2019!
Honorable Mention: Honor Rumble at Madison Square Garden
It was a professional thrill to call Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s professional debut at The World’s Most Famous Arena, a long awaited coda or even exclamation mark on one of the greatest career’s of all time. But it was also just as thrilling to see Brooklyn’s Tracy Williams achieve a childhood dream of wrestling in The Garden, watch Cheeseburger join the rare company of athletes that have competed in both the Tokyo Dome and Madison Square Garden, and be as shocked as anyone to see The Great Muta make his own MSG debut!
In a match filled with the biggest stars from around the wrestling world, Liger and Muta, once bitter rivals, united to eliminate The Kingdom before Kenny King outsmarted them both and walked out the winner of the 2019 Honor Rumble in front of nearly 20,000 fans!
5.) Villain Enterprises Capture the ROH World Tag Team Championships in Main Event of 17th Anniversary
PCO and Brody King ran through the Tag Wars 2019 field to earn themselves a shot at the ROH World Tag Team Championships.
With fan’s expectations sky high due to ROH’s history of having tag team wrestling at the top of the marquee, PCO and King battled, bruised, and bled their way to the ROH World Tag Team Championships in their first shot at gold, defeating The Briscoes in the Main Event of 17th Anniversary in what was one of the most violent tag team brawls in company history!
4.) Street Fight for the Women of Honor Championship: Kelly Klein defends against Jenny Rose
What a birthday present Honor Reigns Supreme was! And my favorite match that night was a street fight that pitted two of Women of Honor’s standard bearers two-time and current Women of Honor World Champion Kelly Klein against long-time rival now tag team partner Jenny Rose. As Rose’s beloved Eagles fought for their playoff lives, Rose came within milliseconds of becoming the Women of Honor World Champion. But it was in those margins, milliseconds and millimeters that Klein was able to get the advantage and pin Rose following one of the wildest Women of Honor matches of all time!
3.) Bandido defeats Mark Haskins on ROH Television to kick of 2019 tapings
Change was in the air and two of ROH’s blue chip signings were set to kick of the 2019 ROH schedule. Haskins was a known quantity to ROH fans for winning the 2018 International Cup and nearly capturing the ROH World Championship from Jay Lethal. Bandido was one of the fastest-rising stars in the wrestling world, going from relative obscurity to main eventing All In in September 2018.
The two put on one of the greatest matches I have ever called for ROH television, leaving the Center Stage faithful in Atlanta on their feet, getting a standing ovation. Both men turned heads that night and have become staples in ROH.
2.) Bandido defeats PJ Black, Flip Gordon, & Caristico in an insane Four Corners Survival bout at Masters of the Craft
Bandido may have picked up the win but PJ Black proved why he belongs to be talked about as one of the best internationally and Flip Gordon provided one of the most-GIF-able aerial displays ever captured in this wild, Four Corner Survival Bout!
1.) Challenger Matt Taven takes ROH World Champion Jay Lethal to 60-minute draw in Las Vegas at 17th Anniversary
Sometimes, our setbacks and how we overcome them define us more as humans than our greatest achievements. For Matt Taven, going 60-minutes with the then-World Champ and long-time rival Jay Lethal did exactly that.
For an hour, Taven endured everything Lethal had to offer while giving Lethal his very best shots. The outing showed the world that Taven, who at the time sat just the ROH World Championship shy of completing the ROH Grand Slam, belonged in the upper echelon of wrestlers.
It was the pain of not winning but also not losing that drove Taven to be the best he has ever been, capturing the ROH World Championship at Madison Square Garden. But it was this match that cemented Taven’s place among wrestling’s elite and highlighted a four year’s-long rivalry between two of ROH’s pillars.
What are your favorite matches so far for ROH in 2019? Chat me up @ianriccaboni on Twitter with your picks!