ROH: New wrestler ranking system has a lot of potential

TOKYO,JAPAN - MAY 24: Jonathan Gresham looks on during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'Best Of Super Jr.' at Korakuen Hall on May 24, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
TOKYO,JAPAN - MAY 24: Jonathan Gresham looks on during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'Best Of Super Jr.' at Korakuen Hall on May 24, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

On ROH’s weekly YouTube show, the company introduced its brand new rankings systems for two of their championships, a format with plenty of benefits.

It looks like All Elite Wrestling (AEW) won’t be the only U.S.-based promotion that features a rankings system.

On this week’s episode of Ring of Honor (ROH) Week By Week, the company introduced its rankings system, displaying the standings for the ROH World Television and Pure Championships — it will likely add one for their women’s championship once they crown a champion. Eventually, they will add rankings for their World Tag Team and World Six-Man Tag Team Titles.

In addition to the two lists the company released, Week By Week host Quinn McKay also relayed the guidelines for each of their rankings, many of which giving the company an edge over its Tony Khan-owned competitor in terms of how these will streamline the logic and formatting it hopes will separate it from the likes of AEW and IMPACT Wrestling (we’ll just ignore WWE since, well, you’ve seen their shows).

The main one that stands out is the stipulation that a wrestler ranked in the top three is eligible for a championship match as deemed by the ROH Board of Directors. Unlike what we see from time to time in AEW, where wrestlers ranked outside of the top five get title shots, this condition keeps the rankings from becoming somewhat farcical.

Having distinct rankings for each championship helps with this, too, as does making wrestlers — in kayfabe — file a request to the Board of Directors if they want to move to a different rankings list. It eliminates the ambiguity of wondering which championship a wrestler is pursuing (AEW’s singles rankings, for example, features Cody Rhodes, who is barred from challenging for the AEW World Championship and doesn’t make note of it).

And, most impressively, ROH noting the criteria for making the cut for each division adds a direction and focus to the rankings that AEW hasn’t quite figured out yet. Yes, it’s good to have a rankings list that heightens the stakes for even the most innocuous of preliminary matches, but with ROH explicitly stating that the rankings are based on records, strength of opponent, caliber of win/loss, and past resume — the other two, fighting style and “fan influence”, should be implicit in the booking — plainly spells out the consequences to everything that happens when the bell rings, from the end result to the time it takes to get there.

Still, there are still aspects of this that ROH needs to refine. ROH has done a better job recently of showing a wrestler’s record and any sort of winning/losing streaks during the broadcasts, but to maintain some level of integrity, the company will have to give its audience access to the wrestlers’ records on the television show AND on the ROH website (that, and it gives fans another reason to closely follow the product).

Also, having the wrestlers request to switch to a different singles rankings list does run the risk of making certain champions look weaker than the others, but to be fair, this does keep them feeling more equal than having, say, a soccer-style relegation system would.

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But even with those small concerns, the positives these rankings bring outweigh the negatives. Generally speaking, promotions don’t need a rankings system to produce compelling television, but they can help keep the booking logical and organized, which mostly encapsulates what Ring of Honor has been about.