Mandy Leon On How ROH Was Responsible For The Formation Of AEW

Ring of Honor star Mandy Leon sat down with Wrestling Epicenter to talk about the last year in ROH. Leon talked about working for the promotion during the COVID-19 pandemic and how hard it was to go without performing while ROH was locked down.

"It has been crazy!" Leon said. "I think crazy is probably the best word that you could use. It has been hard because, at least for me, we've not really been wrestling. At the beginning, a lot of us kind of lost hope. Like 'are we ever going to get to come back? Is this ever going to end?' But when we got the news that we were going to start things up again, no crowd for now but at least we were coming back, it kind of made everyone's day! It provided that glimmer of hope."

Ring of Honor has spent most of the last year holding shows without fans, only bringing crowds back for their Best In The World PPV. Leon talked about the difficulties of working without an audience.

"Every wrestler has had this dream where our music hits and we're not ready!" Leon said with a laugh. "We don't have our boots on, we don't have our gear, but we hear our music playing when we're backstage and it is just a nightmare. I remember, when we came back and the music hit and I went through the curtain for the first time to no crowd, it felt like one of those dreams! It was like 'this is weird! This is off! This isn't right! There's no fans here!' But it was okay. Then, just a few weeks ago when we had the pay-per-view in Baltimore and the crowd was back, they were hot and it was great!

"None of us had that hope that we would hear that crowd again. But, when the first music hit for the first match, everyone cheered and us (in back) were like 'this is what we've missed! This is our glimmer of hope! OK, we're back! We're slowly getting there!' It was great. And, even though we're not having fans at the TV tapings yet for safety reasons, it is still fun because we're working and we're wrestling and we're doing what we love!"

One thing that has changed since ROH returned was a revamping of their women's division. Once it's old brand called Women of Honor, Leon says the pandemic in allowing ROH to try a new direction with the division.

"When we did have the Women of Honor, it was a women's division but it was kind of its own brand and separate from the regular show," Leon explained. "It was around for a long time. We had multiple champions and there were some great matches. But again, with the pandemic, we haven't been able to wrestle. So when we came back, we wanted to come back with a bang. And the way to come back with that bang was to have a Ring of Honor Women's Championship with a brand new belt, which is beautiful by the way, and have a brand new tournament and introduce new women. That is exactly what we're doing. And, it has been so exciting! It has been great so far."

As of now Ring of Honor remains one of the few promotions to not explore the 'Forbidden Door' alliance of AEW, AAA, New Japan, Impact Pro Wrestling and others. Leon, who pointed out that ROH helped start this movement with All In, wouldn't be opposed to ROH working with these other companies.

"I think what a lot of people don't realize is that Ring of Honor produced All In almost entirely," Leon said. "So the start of AEW and that whole brand, in my eyes, was helped by Ring of Honor. A lot of the guys that were here went there and they're doing great. You never know what is going to happen. As you said, these "Forbidden Doors" are opening all over the place. But it is different for us.

'A lot of these companies have been running nonstop during the pandemic. We're kind of one of the very few companies to entirely shut down and say, "Safety first! Lets think about what we're doing here.' Unfortunately a few months at a time. But, now that we're back doing TV and having pay-per-views and back in front of live fans, I think anything could happen! I don't see anything wrong with opening those "Forbidden Doors!" I mean, why not?"

Whether or not ROH does begin working with other promotions, Leon remains confident in the company's growth. In fact, she believes the only thing preventing them from more notoriety is the lack of a TV deal equal to AEW or WWE.

"Honestly, we are not on cable television that is as easily accessible as WWE or AEW," Leon said. "If we were, I have no doubt we would be number one. No doubt. When it comes to Ring of Honor, we focus on pure wrestling. We focus on wrestling, wrestling, wrestling and a little less on the entertainment. We have a good mix. Our champions are amazing, a diverse roster. If we had that platform, forget about it! We would be number one in a second!"

You can watch the full interview below.