After spending six months stalled, Ring of Honor’s return had one key attraction. Hosting the long-awaited Pure Title tournament, a piece of promotional history was finally being revived. Even with so many options, that still brought some viewers back, attracted by the memories of ROH’s once famed identity. I was one of those viewers, adoring the critically acclaimed pure bouts and meeting some rising stars along the way. At the tournament’s conclusion, the product’s variety increased also, prominently featuring familiar faces such as Matt Taven, Brody King and Shane Taylor.
A former Television Champion, Taylor’s status always intrigued me. I remembered Taylor as Keith Lee’s partner, sharing a brief but memorable stint as the ‘Pretty Boy Killers.’ Since my interest in the promotion had faded, Taylor’s importance increased, climbing the ranks after Lee had departed. From the outside looking in, he didn’t feel like a natural fit and considering the recent feats of purity, that was particularly pronounced now. I quickly realized that Taylor’s progression had rendered those details meaningless though, projecting a presence that complements any promotion.
Taylor has a confidence, an identity that separates him from the pack. In a landscape filled with technical excellence, Taylor is an assured brute, battering foes with a spiteful intensity. Taylor doesn’t need visual thrills, he brings a sense of danger, a palpable violence. With just one strike, Taylor can shift the promotion’s dynamic, altering the whole presentation. That’s a cliche, especially among monsters and powerhouses but with Taylor, it’s truly established within the fabric of his work. Matches have been built around that right hand strike; it’s refreshing.
I don’t want to limit Taylor in that regard either, showing more than enough range to deliver when it matters. Taylor shared a particularly enthralling clash with the aforementioned Brody King, battling away in a fashion that stood in direct opposition to the style slowly dominating ROH. That isn’t an unspoken contrast either, quite the opposite in fact. Taylor certainly wasn’t an immediate thought when pondering the promotion’s potentially pure direction, but his performances said otherwise, cementing Taylor as an integral piece of this rebuild.
Previewing a bout between his Shane Taylor Promotions and The Foundation, Taylor dismissed the recent progression of purity. Unmoved, Taylor refused to conform, an unapologetic antithesis to their supposed movement. In many ways, that brief promo captured Taylor’s purpose perfectly. Upon arriving in ROH, Taylor wasn’t the touted star of tomorrow, he wasn’t the latest in a long line of technical greats. Taylor was and is different, which remains his greatest strength. Taylor is firmly on his own path, speaking with a conviction that enhances his whole style.
This isn’t a rigid situation either, not a conflict frozen in place. Instead, ROH is an evolving landscape, one rich with genuine uncertainty. Taylor’s take carries weight in that regard, especially when supported by such a conquering display. This isn’t yet a traditional tale of good vs. evil, nor is it right vs. wrong, it’s an increasingly complex clash of ideologies. As well as The Foundation themselves, Taylor is a perfect example of exactly that, avoiding wrestling’s more simplistic archetypes and still very much standing for something.
This isn’t a mute, mysterious figure operating in shades of gray but instead, one that’s actions speak just as loudly as his already powerful words. In the same way that physically, Taylor’s smallest action can have the biggest impact, his simplest gesture can make the boldest statement. Final Battle captured that rather well, as Taylor refused to accept the Six-Man Tag Team titles, desperate to complete this chapter in more emphatic fashion. That decision leads us to Taylor’s next step, vying to claim both those titles as well as the world heavyweight crown.
Taking on Rush, this is the chance Taylor has been waiting for, the opportunity his recent form warrants. From the outside looking in, this may seem like just another title match but in the world that ROH is steadily establishing, it actually feels quite special. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there myself and even if not completely separated from this product, there are hurdles ahead. After all, this isn’t a PPV match and ROH remains only months into their rebuild, with Rush recently re-signing too.
This may look like a mere roadblock for the champion but within Taylor’s developing narrative, it appears rather different. That’s a credit to Taylor, a clear result of his steady storytelling both in and out of the ring. As the promotion heads in a direction that Taylor has so boldly opposed, he has an opening to take control, a window to expand his leadership. Much like The Foundation’s process, Taylor’s evolution is an overarching journey, it’s the story that follows him into each and every match.
It’s a simple tale but one completely at home in ROH, as Taylor simply seeks recognition and respect. As peers come and go, he remains on track, climbing the promotion’s ladder as an almost unappreciated constant. To the promotion’s protective viewer, Taylor may seem out of place but as an on-screen ingredient, that’s only made his fit more seamless. Taylor isn’t the first choice to rebuild this promotion and that’s apparent, the ideal motivation for this character to continue on his own path.
An ROH led by Shane Taylor is a mystery, but this isn’t a looming villainous threat either. In his own way, Taylor represents what Ring of Honor can be, improving dramatically from within the promotion’s ranks. He’s never the first name listed, never the career cited but yet, his climb continues to capture the promotion’s value. He may not represent the style that you remember, or the genre you cherish but he can still represent this promotion. It’s where he’s flourished, the place he calls home.
That’s as on-screen as it is off, with Taylor’s increasing importance coupling neatly alongside his constantly improving skill-set. There’s a grounded sincerity to his success, making the most of an opportunity and forcing the wrestling world to reassess. I’m not sure that everyone has managed that yet but for those that have, Taylor’s evolution is admirable. The Pure Title revived my interest in ROH but Taylor maintains it, a compelling contrast that captures the value of variety.
Shane Taylor Promotions are a pivotal piece of the increasingly pure Ring of Honor and though just the start, that feels like a feat in itself.