On September 24th, 2011, Ring of Honor returned to television on Sinclair Broadcast network. Former owner Cary Silkin has stayed on with them as an executive and although Sinclair doesn’t have a channel in many cities, the company sees this as a positive step forward. For those who are unable to see it on television, you can view each week’s episode for free on their website.

However, on September 27th, Sara Del Rey noted on her Twitter:

I just noticed I’m not a part of the ROH roster anymore…boo

In fact, if you take a look at the website, not only is Del Rey not listed as part of the roster, but neither are fellow Women of Honor Daizee Haze or MsChif. The only woman who is listed is Mia Yim, as part of Prince Nana’s Embassy stable. Given that this is considered a new start of sorts for the company with their debut on SBG, perhaps it isn’t that surprising that ROH is choosing to focus on their male talent and grow their audience from there. However, other fans have taken note of this. Over at ROHWorld.com, Dave Wood wrote a piece explaining why he believes a female division in ROH would be a benefit, and gives details on how to re-create one, which you can read here and here.

One consistent criticism was the lack of time given to their matches. Another was that there were no storylines, except for sporadic times (such as last year when Daizee and Del Rey were clamouring for competition). You would have a match every now and again on the HDNet show or on the iPPV with no background attached. It’s hard to be invested in a division that isn’t really given any real focus.

Other companies have taken the ball ROH dropped and ran with it. Two promotions come instantly to mind that have incorporated women into not only a division of their own but have integrated them with the male roster, producing memorable feuds and showing that when booked right, women can have great, credible matches with men.

The first is Texas-based promotionAnarchy Championship Wrestling. Although its women’s division didn’t really come into its own until 2009, it always had a female presence since its creation in 2007. Rachel Summerlyn kicked off ACW’s first show “Guilty by Association” on January 14th, 2007 wrestling as Rachel Putski against Mickie Knuckles, which was a rematch from their original bout at IWA: Mid South Queen of the Deathmatch Tournament on November 3rd, 2006 – Rachel’s debut show. The fact that her first match was in a deathmatch tournament is still impressive, and something she discussed during her appearance on the Women Of Wrestling Podcast earlier this year.

From that first show to the present, there have been very few shows that have not included a female wrestling. What’s more is the fact that a lot of these matches featured women (usually Rachel, who changed her last name from Putski to Summerlyn by March of 2007) facing off against the men. Infact, Rachel’s first title win was one half of the tag team titles when she partnered with Skylar Skelly. On one show, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on April 22, 2007, Daffney Unger challenged then-IWA: Mid South Women’s champion Mickie Knuckles so there was some cross over between promotions, and meant you either had a female v female match, or a female v male match on each show. In 2008, ACW kicked it up a notch by debuting several new female talents, names such as MsChif, Sara Del Rey, Athena and Portia Perez. Sometimes you would have more than one women’s match on a show.

Compare this to Ring of Honor which had a show once a month when it started in 2002 – their women’s matches were scattered about, meaning you may have one on the November and December shows then not have one until the April show. Granted, ACW put on more shows per month at the beginning than ROH did (they still put on more shows per year than ROH). However, even at the start their attention was more focused on the men, whereas ACW started putting a spotlight on their women from the beginning. It got to the point where the women needed a title to fight for. On August 23, 2009, at their “Distrust, Dismay and Anti-Social Behaviour 3″ show, Perez won a scramble elimination match against Daffney, Diamond Icee, Jessica James, Angel Blue & Summerlyn to be crowned the first ever ACW American Joshi Champion. Two years later, the team of Rachel and Jessica’s Egg-cellent Tag Team won the ACW tag titles on February 20, 2011 at “A Psychotic Break.” They successfully defended their titles several times against female tag teams, male/female tag teams and male tag teams before losing them earlier this month.

Equality has been a staple of ACW since the beginning. Instead of restricting their female talent, they’ve allowed them to win over fans with their skill and their toughness. The matches are booked to make everyone involved look good and as the name indicates, there can be quite a bit of anarchy in the shows. This past January at “Guilty by Assocation V,” Summerlyn faced off against “The Wrestling Goddess” Athena in a 10,000 thumbtack match. It didn’t involve only thumbtacks – the finish was Athena body splashing Rachel off the stage onto a board covered in barbed wire that also had thumbtacks on it.

Anarchy indeed. Also in 2009, two months before introducing the American Joshi Championship, ACW held the first American Joshi Queen of Queens Tournament. It gathered talent from several places in the United States as well as those who had been with ACW since day one to compete and see who was the best. Over the next two years, you had more up and coming names (such as Amanda Fox and Mia Yim) competing in the tournament, which gave them more exposure and experience. ACW gives chances to those who are looking to make a name, not just those who are established in the grap game.

It’s a very storyline driven promotion. They have a good mix of storyline and wrestling – in fact, what first caught my attention was one of the most chilling, effective promos I’ve ever heard. Robert Evans had just had his heart broken by Perez, and the video he released after this spread like wildfire and introduced me to ACW in the first place. This ignited a feud between the two that is still ongoing at the end of 2011. Another storyline involves Jessica James’ alter-ego Lady Poison. Everyone knows that Jessica is Lady Poison – except Jessica herself. Only time will tell where this one will lead.

To sum it up, Anarchy Championship Wrestling has done extremely well combining great wrestling, compelling storylines and no limits for women. The promotion should be immensely proud of the product it has, and who knows – there just may be a female ACW Heavyweight Champion in the future. Perhaps as soon as tonight at the 6th Annual Lone Star Classic. In a tournament where the ultimate winner will become the ACW Heavyweight Champion, there are two females entered. One is Portia Perez. The other is Rachel Summerlyn. Very fitting that these two have a chance to win the ultimate prize in ACW.

Tomorrow I’ll return with a look at another promotion that lets the guys and girls compete on equal footing.

– Jennifer Logsdon