If you’ve been reading my columns through the years, you know that I have a very special place in my heart for Ring Of Honor.
I was first introduced to the company in 2005, right around the time RoH brought puroresu legend Kenta Kobashi in for a double shot of shows. When the DVD for the first of those shows, Joe vs Kobashi, became available to purchase, I did just that.
The show was full of names that would go on to become much bigger stars in the wrestling industry. Claudio Castagnoli (aka Cesaro) wrestled Colt Cabana in the opening match. Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal were involved in the next match. Nigel McGuinness took on Jay Lethal in the fourth match. Roderick Strong wrestled in the next match. Jack Evans and Homicide squared off in the match before the main event. Then, as the name of the show indicates, Samoa Joe welcomed Kenta Kobashi to RoH in the night’s main event.
I won’t sit here and lie to you, saying that it was the greatest event in the history of the wrestling business. Don’t get me wrong… the whole show was good. Almost every match leading up to the main event was anywhere from decent to pretty good, with the only match not reaching that level being a squash match that lasted 40 seconds, and therefore, wasn’t exactly designed to be an all-time classic or anything.
That main event, though… man, it was a lot of fun. It was the perfect combination of the in-ring styles that Kenta Kobashi and Samoa Joe bring to the ring. The New York crowd was red hot from bell-to-bell, making the attendance of 800 seem like it was at least three times that number.
I was hooked. The RoH website got visits from me on a regular basis, and I was buying more and more DVDs all the time. At the time, I was strictly a “cash only” person, with no debit or credit cards, so for me to purchase a Ring Of Honor DVD, I had to set the order up online and select the “money order” option. Then, I had to take myself to the mall, which was about 30 minutes away from where I lived. At the mall, there was a Post Office, and I would go in, make a money order, place it into an envelope, mail it to Ring Of Honor, and wait for sometimes two weeks for my stuff to arrive because it takes a long time for things to be mailed to and from Hawaii. Then, I would turn right around and head back home. That’s dedication.
Over the next few years, I would make a safe estimation that I spent a few thousand dollars on Ring Of Honor, from DVDs to clothing to show tickets. I was going nuts. A lot of my free time was spent watching all of the DVDs that I purchased. I was the guy who would introduce Ring Of Honor and its performers to all of my friends.
Hell, RoH was even a big part of my early column writing days. Unfortunately the columns have been lost, but the very first person I ever interviewed was Tyler Black (aka Seth Rollins), and I interviewed him twice… once when he was on the rise in RoH, and once after he won the RoH World Title.
As time went by, my love and fondness for the promotion would go up and down like a great roller coaster. Parting ways with their Booker, Gabe Sapolsky, in 2008 was the first time I really saw my fandom waver. Sapolsky knew how to put a wrestling show together. That wasn’t just an opinion of mine. He won all kinds of awards for his booking, including Best Booker four years in a row (2004-2007) from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Adam Pearce (yes, that Adam Pearce), Hunter Johnston (aka Delirious), and Marty Scurll just didn’t capture my attention with their booking after they replaced Sapolsky. Losing wrestler after wrestler, as will always happen to independent promotions, large or small, is also going to play a factor in how much you enjoy the product. If you have ten favorite wrestlers in WWE, and the next thing you know, nine of them no longer wrestle in WWE, that’s really going to affect your desire to tune in and watch Raw and Smackdown every week, you know?
Through the years, I would always keep an eye on what was going on in RoH, even if I wasn’t watching every single show. That’s why I was incredibly saddened by the recent news that the promotion will be closing its doors at the end of 2021, releasing the entire roster from their contracts, with hopes of relaunching in April 2022. On top of that, the company’s video library is reportedly up for sale. Folks, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that those are two terrible signs for Ring Of Honor’s future. Wanting to take a hiatus to rebrand is one thing. There have been numerous independent promotions that have done something like that through the years. Releasing every single wrestler under contract? Putting the tape library up for sale? Those are signs that make it seem a lot more like RoH is done, but that they’re merely hoping for the best and crossing their fingers that they will, in fact, be able to return in April.
I know that Andrew Ardizzi has already posted a column on this site about RoH, saying it was, in effect, a eulogy for the company. He did a bang up job, and I recommend you check it out if you haven’t already done so. I wanted to write something, but I’m going to have a little fun with it. Since the news of their “shutdown” broke, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about RoH. The wrestlers, the matches, the shows, the angles… everything. This column is going to be looking at my favorites in those categories. The people and the things that made me fall in love with the company. The key words for all of you to focus on there are “my favorites,” folks. They may or may not be the “best” anything, but they’re what I have enjoyed the most. Let’s get things started with favorite angles/storylines.
10. Homicide Reaching The Top Of The Mountain: Many people would have Homicide placed smack dab on the “Mount Rushmore” of Ring Of Honor wrestlers. He wrestled on the company’s very first show back in 2002, and had seen his journey littered with opportunities that he wasn’t able to cash in on. Leading up to his RoH World Title shot at Final Battle 2006, ‘Cide was 0-8 in singles title matches with the company, and he had to jump through RoH Authority Figure Jim Cornette’s hoops to get his match at Final Battle. The fact that the match was against Bryan Danielson, who was having a legendary title reign full of classic matches and performances, the last few months happening as he was dealing with some serious injuries to his chest and shoulder, made Homicide’s job even more difficult. The build for this match alone probably would’ve led me to include it here, but then the match itself was a ton of fun. More “WWE” style booking than your usual Ring Of Honor match, but it worked, and Homicide’s hometown New York City crowd ate it all up.
9. RoH vs CZW: I will freely admit to not knowing anything about CZW leading into this feud. Therefore, a lot of my initial thoughts on the promotion were shaped by the things that were said about them on RoH shows. It made me feel like I was a part of the rivalry. Who the fuck were these “outsiders” showing up at RoH shows and attacking RoH wrestlers?!? After watching all of the back-and-forth, things came to a head at Death Before Dishonor 4 event. Team RoH (Samoa Joe, BJ Whitmer, Adam Pearce, Ace Steel and Bryan Danielson) were taking on Team CZW (Chris Hero aka Kassius Ohno, Necro Butcher, Claudio Castagnoli aka Cesaro, “Spyder” Nate Webb and a Mystery Partner) inside the Cage Of Death. It was an octagon-shaped cage surrounding the ringside area, with all sorts of weapons inside. Barbed wire, thumbtacks, and all sorts of hellishness. Without spoiling too much, in the event that you haven’t seen it, Eddie Kingston ended up being the mystery partner for Team CZW, and Bryan Danielson would only last a moment or two as a member of Team RoH before revealing his true intentions of being a member of the team… to get close enough to Samoa Joe, primed to be the next RoH World Title contender, and take him out. Danielson leaves the match, and Joe has to, as well, which eventually leaves RoH down two men and being dominated. RoH needs a savior, or they’re going to lose the war. That savior? None other than Homicide. This is a feud that had some WCW vs nWo vibes, but also has a decidedly independent feel. No, that isn’t a bad thing. Lots of shit talking, and lots (and lots) of violence from the beginning of the feud all the way until the end.
8. The Samoa Joe vs CM Punk Trilogy: Because I’ve written about Joe and Punk in my “Matches That Made Me” series, I don’t need to say much here. An absolutely legendary series of matches, pretty much stumbled upon by accident, and it ended up helping both men become the stars they are today.
7. The Summer Of Punk: Most of you remember WWE’s “remake” of this story in 2011, but this was the original, and it was wonderfully done. RoH fans knew that Punk was WWE-bound at this point, so his World Title shot against Austin Aries seemed like an outcome that was easy to predict. Punk would then shock the fans by winning the match and becoming the new champ. After the match, with the “Thank you, Punk” and “Please don’t go” chants raining down, Punk would IMMEDIATELY turn heel on the crowd. He cuts one of the best promos of his career, talking about how stupid the fans are for believing him when he was just using them to win the World Title. The next time Punk showed up on a Ring Of Honor show, he cut another great promo and then riled the crowd up like crazy by signing his actual WWE contract atop the RoH World Title belt. That was such a stroke of creative genius. As he’s cutting his promo, you can hear the absolute hatred in the voices of the fans as they yell things at him about how he “sold out” to go to WWE, how he’s “turning into Triple H” with his long promos, and so on. He promised to take the title with him to WWE, and that’s a dastardly move. The next couple months saw members of the Ring Of Honor roster desperately try to defeat him and prevent him from taking the belt. Punk would defeat Jay Lethal at Sign Of Dishonor, Roderick Strong at Escape From New York, James Gibson (aka Jamie Noble) at Fate Of An Angel, and then went to a time limit draw with Christopher Daniels at The Homecoming before finally dropping the title to Gibson in a Four-Way (Daniels and Samoa Joe were also in the match) at Redemption. Two months of Punk taunting Ring Of Honor, its wrestlers and its fans. Glorious stuff.
6. Colt Cabana Feuding With Homicide: When it comes to people who are polar opposites, you’re not going to find a much better example, in and out of the ring, than Homicide and Colt Cabana. Colt has been the happy-go-lucky guy who blends comedy and old school technical wrestling, while Homicide is the guy who very well might kill you if you look at him incorrectly. This feud started off innocently enough. In a backstage segment, Colt, imitating Snoop Dogg’s “izzle shizzle” style of speaking, drops the “clean” version of a racial slur while trying to call Homicide his friend. That’s it. From there, Homicide tried to live up to his name. Throughout the next few months, he would try to cut Colt’s tongue out with a pair of scissors, pour Drano down his throat, cut his head up with a razor blade, pour rubbing alcohol over Colt’s open wounds, and much, much more. The feud had a nice blend of the old school and new school. It was new school with the style and type of violence that was being used, but the story of “Wrestler A doesn’t think Wrestler B is tough, but Wrestler B proves Wrestler A wrong by never backing down, no matter what” is something that goes way back. By the end of the feud, Colt would earn Homicide’s respect, and while his character hadn’t changed much, even the RoH fans would start viewing him differently.
5. CM Punk Feuding With Raven: This was another angle that had a simple enough backstory. Punk, notoriously Straight Edge, dipped into his personal life, talking about how much he hated Raven because Raven was too much like Punk’s dad. He would call Raven out for turning to a life of drugs and alcohol, pissing away everything that was handed to him during his career. This was the feud that really introduced Punk’s mic skills to the wrestling world, and also showed that Raven could still be successful, six years after he last held the ECW Title. This feud was personal, violent, and felt every bit like two “eras” clashing, because that’s what it was.
4. The Age Of The Fall: When you talk about making a memorable debut in wrestling, you have to talk about The Age Of The Fall. After several months of cryptic posts on the Ring Of Honor website mentioning “Project 161” and things along those lines, RoH fans began speculating like crazy. What was Project 161? Who was Project 161? Speculation pointed at the upcoming Man Up pay-per-view, which was going to be the 161st event in company history. At Man Up, The Briscoes successfully defended the RoH Tag Team Titles against Kevin Steen (aka Kevin Owens) and El Generico (aka someone that looks a lot like Sami Zayn under a mask, but they’re totally two different people) in a brutal Ladder Match. After the match, a bunch of fans in ski masks rushed the ringside barricade, causing a distraction, allowing Tyler Black (aka Seth Rollins) and Jimmy Jacobs to jump the barricade, while Necro Butcher and Lacey popped up on the other side of the ring. Necro delivers one of the most hardcore lines in wrestling history, looking at the camera and saying “I told you if you let me out of my cage, I was gonna pile bodies to the sky!” The group would attack The Briscoes and lay them out. Jay Briscoe’s feet would be tied to the rigging that holds the titles during the Ladder Match, and he would be slowly raised high above the ring, all while absolutely pouring blood below him. You know what else was below him? Jimmy Jacobs, in an all-white suit. Jacobs would go on to cut a promo while his hair, face, chest, and clothes would become increasingly COVERED in Jay Briscoe’s blood. One of the greatest visuals I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching wrestling. The group would go on to cut a path of destruction throughout multiple promotions for the next two years, from Ring Of Honor to Full Impact Pro to All American Wrestling to IWA Mid-South. Tyler Black placed himself on the map as a future star of wrestling. Jimmy Jacobs was able to reinvent himself brilliantly. Necro Butcher was… well… Necro Butcher, and that was more than enough.
3. RoH vs Japan: This might be cheating a bit. Technically, it isn’t an angle, but I don’t care. Through the years, Ring Of Honor has found themselves going to war with different wrestling promotions in Japan, whether it’s for one show or a series of them. Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling NOAH, New Japan, All Japan… there has almost always been some sort of working relationship between Ring Of Honor and puroresu. It has allowed numerous wrestlers from Japan to either make their debuts or returns to North America, introducing them to an entirely new set of eyeballs that may not otherwise have been able to watch them. KENTA, Mitsuharu Misawa, The Great Muta, Kenta Kobashi, Naomichi Marufuji, Shingo Takagi, Takeshi Morishima, Go Shiozaki, Kazuchika Okada, Satoshi Kojima, and Jushin Thunder Liger are just some of the names that have come through to work with RoH. I’ve just enjoyed the hell out of watching the different work, as a longtime fan of the Japanese style.
2. The Ballad Of Lacey: In 2005, Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer had two RoH Tag Team Title reigns. They were a team that was almost randomly thrown together after Whitmer’s previous partner, Dan Maff, left RoH while he and Whitmer were the Tag Team Champions. After Jacobs and Whitmer lost the titles for the second time, they would be revealed as the newest “Lacey’s Angels” team, aligning with Lacey, who was a manager in the company back then. As time went by, the story is that Jimmy would begin to fall in love with Lacey. His feelings and attention would get in the way of his matches, causing him and Whitmer to lose more matches than Whitmer was willing to lose. This led to their team splitting up and giving us the insane feud between the former tag partners. Multiple memorable moments came to us from that feud. During one match, Whitmer went for a Powerbomb from the top rope, only to slip off the ropes, falling to the floor and taking Jacobs down with him, causing Jacobs to hit his head on the apron on the way down. In another match, Whitmer would go for another Powerbomb from the top rope, but this time, he jumped from the top, over the guardrail and into the crowd, disappearing with Jacobs into a sea of humanity. Jimmy’s love for Lacey would only grow and grow, but that love was never quite returned. Colt Cabana would get involved as Lacey’s love interest, becoming Jimmy’s tag partner and creating for some great storytelling with Jimmy going out of his way to impress Lacey in their matches, only for Lacey to be caught up in paying attention to Cabana. Brent Albright and Daizee Haze would find themselves caught up in the story after a while. Without getting too far deep into things, we got a really lengthy, movie-like story here. Lacey was the “mean girl” that was out for the power, glory and success that came with being successful in pro wrestling. Jimmy Jacobs was the lovestruck “kid” that was too one-track minded to see who she really was. Wildly enough, the story would continue to have twists and turns that people didn’t see coming, and it would last a lot longer than anyone expected it to. Pure entertainment in a complex, layered storyline.
1. El Generico Feuding With Kevin Steen: The first known time that Kevin Steen and El Generico shared a ring for a match is on September 11th, 2004 at a CZW show. They were in a Four-Way Dance with Sexxxy Eddy and EXceSs 69, which I’m pretty sure is just someone’s AIM screen name from back in the day. On another CZW show exactly three months later, Steen and Generico would team up for the first time, losing to Excalibur and Super Dragon. They would spend some time being tag partners and being opponents for a while before joining Ring Of Honor, where they would become partners on a full-time basis. The years would be kind to their team, as they won the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla Tag Team Titles twice and the RoH Tag Team Titles once. At Final Battle 2009, Steen would turn heel by attacking Generico after their match against The Young Bucks. This would set in motion a rivalry that has spanned several years and multiple promotions. After Final Battle 2009, these two have faced each other 24 times in singles matches alone and have competed as partners another 18 times. They’re friends, then they’re enemies, then they’re friends again, then they’re enemies again, and it just continues on. Fight Forever, indeed.
10. The Era Of Honor Begins (February 23rd, 2002): The very first Ring Of Honor show. Without the success of this one, I wouldn’t be typing this column right now and would probably be talking about the size of Batista’s dick or something like that. There are some pretty good matches on here, but it will, ultimately, be remembered more for the list of talent that wrestled on the card. The Amazing Red, Jay Briscoe, Xavier, Homicide, The Maximos, Brian Kendrick, Super Crazy, Eddie Guerrero, Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, Bryan Danielson… most of them weren’t known to many people at all before this show, but it helped to launch their careers to a new level.
9. Good Times, Great Memories (April 28th, 2007): After Colt Cabana signed a WWE developmental deal, this was his farewell show. His main event match against Adam Pearce was decent, but it’s still worth checking out for the overall goodbye that Colt received from his fellow wrestlers. If you’re looking for some top notch in-ring work on the show, there are definitely a few matches that fit that bill. The Briscoes defended the RoH Tag Team Titles against The Motor City Machine Guns duo of Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin in a Match Of The Year contender. Jack Evans vs Roderick Strong was a great blend of styles. Takeshi Morishima defending the RoH World Title against Shingo Takagi was a straight up hoss battle. Every other match, except one, was at least pretty decent. The only match that wasn’t, Tank Toland vs Alex Payne, was a sub-three-minute squash that wasn’t supposed to win any awards.
8. Final Battle 2006 (December 23rd, 2006): I’ve already mentioned this show’s main event of Bryan Danielson defending the RoH World Title against Homicide in front of a wild New York City crowd. If you’re making a compilation of matches that those new to Ring Of Honor need to watch, Danielson vs Homicide definitely makes the cut for that. It’s certainly not a one-note show, though. The Briscoes vs The Kings Of Wrestling (Hero and Castagnoli) was awesome. Shingo, CIMA & Matt Sydal vs Austin Aries, Roderick Strong & Delirious was a super entertaining spotfest. Nigel McGuinness vs Jimmy Rave was good. You even get to see Ring Of Honor fans be doofuses over Allison Danger dressed up as a Girl Scout.
7. Final Battle 2018 (December 14th, 2018): On pure in-ring quality, this show might actually deserve to be ranked a little higher. There are four matches on the show that I feel deserve to reach, or top, the four-star mark. First, Jeff Cobb defends the RoH TV Title against “Hangman” Adam Page. Then, Jonathan Gresham took on Zack Sabre Jr. in a technical classic. Christopher Daniels vs Marty Scurll was a lot of fun. The show’s main event saw SCU (Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) defend the RoH Tag Team Titles against The Briscoes and The Young Bucks in a Ladder Match that was a wild, bloody war. I also enjoyed the Flip Gordon vs Bully Ray “I Quit” Match that saw a surprise appearance from another ECW Original, as well as the RoH World Title match between champion Jay Lethal and challenger Cody “Not Quite Rhodes Yet.” Nothing against any other show, but this is definitely my favorite show of the “modern” RoH era.
6. Fifth Year Festival: Finale (March 4th, 2007): To celebrate their fifth anniversary, RoH decided to hold a series of shows under the “Fifth Year Festival” title. Over the course of 16 days, the company had a show in New York City, Philadelphia, Dayton, Chicago, and then closed out with two shows in Liverpool, England. As the title of the show indicates, this was the last of the FYF events. If you’re into comedy wrestling, the show opener of Colt Cabana vs Delirious is for you. There really isn’t a ton of real action to speak of, but both men did what they do well to keep the crowd laughing. There’s also a relatively short brawl between BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs here. It isn’t their best match, but that’s not a knock on this match at all. Matt Sydal vs Pac was a lot of fun, but if you haven’t seen it, lower your expectations just a bit. Pac wasn’t even three years into his career at this point. He was still athletic as all hell, but he certainly wasn’t the polished performer that he would become through the years. Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe decided to have a match against each other, simply to motivate one another after losing both the GHC Tag Team Titles and the RoH Tag Team Titles in a short amount of time. The Briscoes would beat the ever loving fuck out of each other for nearly 30 minutes like only brothers can do. Naruki Doi and Shingo defended the RoH Tag Team Titles against Roderick Strong and Davey Richards in another really solid match. Nigel McGuinness and Jimmy Rave had a fun one, but the match is mostly remembered for Nigel’s Rebound Lariat that broke Rave’s jaw on impact. If you listen closely, you can just about hear the break when it happens. Fun! The main event of Samoa Joe vs Homicide was pretty decent, but it was Joe’s “farewell match” for the company, so it’s worth checking out.
5. Manhattan Mayhem (May 7th, 2005): There are eight matches on the card here. Of those eight matches, I have eight matches rated at least three stars. That’s amazing consistency. The only thing keeping this from reaching all-time classic status is that half of the matches stay in the three-star range instead of reaching, and topping, the four-star range. The strongest matches on the show are, in chronological order: Black Tiger (Rocky Romero) vs James Gibson, BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs defending the RoH Tag Team Titles against Roderick Strong & Jack Evans, CM Punk vs Jimmy Rave in a Dog Collar Match, and Austin Aries defending the RoH World Title against Alex Shelley. The main event of Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal vs Low Ki & Homicide is a short-and-sweet brawl that features Ki and ‘Cide combining their finishing moves to damn near murder Lethal.
4. Man Up (September 15th, 2007): I’ve already talked about the debut of The Age Of The Fall, and that alone makes this show worth checking out. The main event of The Briscoes vs Kevin Steen & El Generico is one of the best, and wildest, Ladder Matches you’re ever going to see. Takeshi Morishima vs Bryan Danielson was a master class in storytelling. The Best Of Three series of matches between The Resilience and No Remorse Corps was fun. Nigel McGuinness vs Chris Hero vs Naomichi Marufuji vs Claudio Castagnoli was a great show opener. When RoH debuted on pay-per-view, their cards were a little shorter than their other shows, with less matches. This one had six matches, but they’re all good. If you come across the DVD release of this show, it includes some bonus matches that didn’t make air for the pay-per-view itself. Those bonus matches are a bit of a mixed bag, with some good and some not-so-good, but if you just focus on the pay-per-view itself, you’re looking at high quality.
3. Better Than Our Best (April 1st, 2006): The show starts out with a fun six-way spotfest with Jack Evans, Jimmy Jacobs, Matt Sydal, Jake Crist, David Crist, and Ace Steel. Another even better spotfest features Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito taking on Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley & Masato Yoshino. AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels vs Jimmy Yang? Yes, please. Roderick Strong and Austin Aries defending the RoH Tag Team Titles against Naruki Doi and CIMA? A fantastic match. Lance Storm coming out of retirement to challenge Bryan Danielson for the RoH World Title? Quality. Colt Cabana vs Homicide in a Chicago Street Fight? One of the most violent, hard-hitting brawls in RoH history to end their incredible feud. This was when Ring Of Honor started doing their WrestleMania weekend shows, and were often when the cards were as stacked as they would be all year long. This was certainly a case of that, and this is one of the more well-rounded shows you’re going to see from the company. There’s something here for everyone, whether you like high-flying action, technical wizardry, brawls, tag action, and so on.
2. Glory By Honor 5, Night 2 (September 16th, 2006): The main event of Bryan Danielson defending the RoH World Title against KENTA is my (spoiler alert) all-time favorite match in Ring Of Honor history. That alone would put this show on my list. Fortunately, this is more than just a one-match show. Jack Evans vs Davey Richards had a fun opening match, but at barely 7:30, it probably could’ve used some more time. An in-ring segment with, of all people, Bruno Sammartino, leads to a locker room clearing brawl between Samoa Joe and Takeshi Morishima, which is like if an aircraft carrier got into a fight with a cruise ship. Colt Cabana vs Christopher Daniels vs Jimmy Jacobs was a decent enough match, but it did a lot to continue the story with Jacobs, Cabana and Lacey. Jim Cornette cuts a Jim Cornette promo in the ring and draws a ton of heat, and it leads to a super fun tag match where Samoa Joe and Homicide take on The Briscoes. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong defend the RoH Tag Team Titles against Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli in a wild one. Naomichi Marufuji vs Nigel McGuinness for Marufuji’s GHC Heavyweight Title was more than good enough to be a main event on most RoH shows. Then we get to the main event. This was a hot show, performed in front of a hot crowd, during an especially hot stretch for the company.
1. Supercard Of Honor 3 (March 29th, 2008): I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again here… when it comes to overall match quality, this is my pick for the best wrestling show ever. I’m slightly biased because I was in attendance for this show, but that bias only goes so far, because the show is even better when you watch it on television. The first match, Go Shiozaki vs Delirious, is designed to be a comedy match, and it succeeds in that regard. It was followed up by a match that is also more of a comedy bout than anything, featuring Bushwhacker Luke wrestling. There are five more matches on the show, and while I know wrestling is subjective, here are the ratings I gave them. Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens for the FIP Heavyweight Title technically never officially got underway, but it was a wild, STIFF brawl that deserved at least four stars for what those men put their bodies through for “no reason” at all. The Briscoes vs Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black was another wild brawl that went all over the building, featured one of the best-looking reversal finishers you’ll ever see, and got 4.25 stars from me. Kevin Steen & El Generico vs Shingo & BxB Hulk? I gave it 4.75 stars. Nigel McGuinness defending the RoH World Title against Austin Aries? That gets 4 stars. CIMA, Dragon Kid & Ryo Saito vs Genki Horiguchi, Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino? Another 4.75 stars. Just an epic night of wrestling.
(Writer’s Note: I’m only including “official” Ring Of Honor matches here. For example, matches on joint-promoted shows with New Japan are fair game for inclusion, but not if the match featured a New Japan wrestler taking on another New Japan wrestler, and things like that.)
10. Davey Richards vs Michael Elgin (Showdown In The Sun, Day 2 – March 31st, 2012): To show how good this match was… I’m not exactly a fan of Davey Richards or Michael Elgin. They both exceeded my expectations here, with the match coming across as more of a heavyweight boxing fight than anything else. From start to finish, Richards and Elgin were throwing haymakers at each other. If you’re someone who isn’t a fan of the “independent style” of wrestling, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t like this. It fits in with a lot of those independent wrestling stereotypes. This makes my list of favorite RoH matches simply because of how much better it was than I thought it would be.
9. Jay Lethal vs Jonathan Gresham (RoH Wrestling TV – September 8th, 2018): A 30-Minute Ironman Match featuring two of the best technical wrestlers that Ring Of Honor has ever employed? You know it’s going to be really good. Having the RoH World Title on the line in said match? You know it’s going to be great. The match got off to a bit of a slow start, but that’s not a complaint. You’re not going to go into matches like this flying around like a crazy person right off the bat. Once things got going, though, they really got going. Matches that go 30 minutes, Ironman or otherwise, can sometimes drag a bit. This match hit the 30-minute mark, but had fans wanting more. Luckily for those fans, they would get a sudden death period once the 30 minutes ended with Lethal and Gresham tied at one fall each.
8. Bryan Danielson vs Homicide (Final Battle 2006 – December 23rd, 2006): I’ve already talked a lot about the build to this one, but the match itself was so, so enjoyable. As I said earlier, the booking here is a lot more similar to WWE main event matches than you’ll usually see in RoH, but it all made sense. In the storyline, Homicide was sick and tired of being screwed by the company and everyone involved. Some interference happens, and just when it looks like the match is going to be thrown out and Homicide gets screwed again, Referee Todd Sinclair says he isn’t going to let the match end that way. Danielson tries to get himself disqualified later on, but Sinclair sees through it and refuses to fall for it. It’s an up and down roller coaster ride for your emotions, especially if you’re rooting for Homicide. The crowd was STRONGLY rooting for Homicide, their hometown guy. They helped add to the fun of the match, like all great crowds do. It was fun to watch Homicide, there from the company’s very first show, finally overcome the obstacles and reach the top. The match also put an end to Bryan Danielson’s World Title reign, arguably the best reign in the title’s history, and one where he spent a few months competing with some serious shoulder and chest injuries. The loss allowed him to take the time off he needed to heal, and he would be gone for nearly five months.
7. Team RoH vs Team CZW (Death Before Dishonor 4 – July 15th, 2006): I talked about this one earlier, too. It’s a bit of an “in between” Death Match, in my opinion. The match is violent, and features a lot of blood and weapon usage, but it’s nothing like what you expect when you think of the gore that comes with the “Death Match” tag. As previously discussed, it isn’t just a spot, blood, spot, blood, spot, blood, spot, blood match, either. There’s actual storytelling here, from Bryan Danielson’s deception to Chris Hero and Eddie Kingston putting their personal rivalry aside to go after a common enemy to Homicide blowing the roof off of the building coming to the rescue of a promotion that he feels has been fucking him over for a long time. As an added bonus, the post-match stuff with Kingston and Jim Cornette really helped send THAT story into overdrive, weaving one into another.
6. Samoa Joe vs Kenta Kobashi (Joe vs Kobashi – October 1st, 2005): If you’re going to bring Kenta Kobashi to America and have him wrestle in Ring Of Honor, there’s not a lot of people that can stand across the ring from him and be a believable threat. Samoa Joe is on the very short list of people who can be that believable threat. This was like watching a giant moose battle another giant moose. Thwump, thwump, thwump. Smack, smack, smack. Joe and Kobashi spent the entire match trying to destroy each other. When you add an electric atmosphere, with a crowd that truly seems to understand the history they’re getting to witness, you have a must-see match.
5. Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuinness (Unified – August 12th, 2006): Nigel McGuinness wrestled for nearly five-and-a-half years after being a part of this match. It’s almost a surprise he made it that far. This is a man who had zero concern for his own personal safety. There’s a spot in the match where Danielson and McGuinness are standing at ringside, on opposite sides of a ringpost. They lock arms and Danielson REPEATEDLY pulls McGuinness toward him, causing Nigel to SLAM into the ringpost, forehead-first, over and over, busting him open the hard way. Why in the red hell would you agree to a spot like that? It didn’t do anything to hurt the match for me or anything like that, but it was still something that wasn’t necessary. The rest of the match was just fantastic, though. With Unified taking place in England, the crowd was strongly behind their guy, Nigel, willing him along.
4. The Briscoes vs Jimmy Jacobs & Tyler Black (Supercard Of Honor 3 – March 29th, 2008): I wrote a few paragraphs about this match in my “Matches That Made Me” column about the 2000’s, so I don’t need to say much else here. I was just excited to be able to watch a match in person, after decades of being a fan of this sport we love so much, and to mark out like a little kid.
3. Samoa Joe vs CM Punk (Joe vs Punk 2 – October 16th, 2004): Like the previous entry, I wrote a bunch about this match in my “Matches That Made Me” column about the 2000’s. If you round up 1000 people that have watched the entire Joe vs Punk trilogy and asked them which of the matches was their favorite, I think you’d see some pretty even numbers. Not only was this one my favorite of the three, but I also think it was the best of the bunch. Two star-making performances.
2. Blood Generation vs Do FIXER (Supercard Of Honor – March 31st, 2006): Before watching this match, I had seen a good deal of wrestling from Japan. Matches from the likes of Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, The Great Muta, Toshiaki Kawada, and even some of the truly twisted Death Matches that had come out of the country. Even some of the stars from Japan that came to America to wrestle like The Great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku. With that said, I had never seen anything like what I saw in this match with the stars of Dragon Gate. The Do FIXER trio of Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito went to battle against the Blood Generation trio of CIMA, Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino. This was a 20-minute match that featured at least 45 minutes worth of action. As fast paced a wrestling match as you’re going to witness. It was the perfect introduction to the wild Dragon Gate style for a ton of fans that, like me, had never witnessed anything like it before.
1. Bryan Danielson vs KENTA (Glory By Honor 5, Night 2 – September 16th, 2006): Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I wrote a bunch about this match in my “Matches That Made Me” column about the 2000’s. Three weeks before this match took place, Danielson injured himself in a match against Colt Cabana. He separated his shoulder, tearing two tendons in that shoulder in the process, and tore another tendon in his chest. Danielson was already worn down after one of busiest and most epic title reigns you’re ever going to see, but now, he was also injured. That he even made it to this match is insane. The punishment that he took in the match, much of it to the chest and shoulder area from KENTA’s lethal striking offense, forever earned him my respect. As good as the other matches on this list are, this one is easily my favorite. Not only that, but it’s probably in the top five for my all-time favorite matches from any promotion.
10. Nigel McGuinness: One of the major knocks on McGuinness that I’ve seen people say is that he has a “boring” style. With his old school European in-ring style, he wasn’t flipping, flopping and flying all over the place. He was all about pure technical wrestling and the solid, believable striking offense that would go along with it. If you understand that, and can appreciate that style, you’ll love Nigel McGuinness. He’s one of the best at what he did, and he matched up well with anybody. He worked well against high-flying wrestlers, those who also performed at a high level with their technical magnificence, people who preferred to brawl, and just about everyone in between.
9. Tyler Black: I pride myself on being one of the very first writers on a “mainstream” site to really sing the praises of Tyler Black. When I said that he would be a future World Champion, there was a lot of negativity surrounding that. Why, I have no idea, but there was. Needless to say, I was right, and I’m proud of that. I really enjoyed watching him grow from a relatively unknown when he debuted for Ring Of Honor to being a decorated performer by the time he left three years later. As he climbed the proverbial ladder within the company, you could see him grow as a wrestler, too. His matches became better and more well-rounded, and so did his promos. When he debuted at Man Up, he was a 21-year-old kid, only two years into his wrestling career. Those two years in RoH really prepared him for his time in Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT, where he would continue his growth.
8. Kevin Steen: There was a time when people thought Steen’s “look” would prevent him from ever being any sort of singles star in the business. Not only was he able to become a huge star as a singles performer, but he did it without having to change anything about himself, so kudos to him. Starting off as a part of the Kel Steenerico tag team, Steen is someone that would immediately grab your attention. Not only could he wrestle, but he oozed charisma, and he even excelled at the little things like facial expressions and trash talk during matches. There aren’t many people in the history of Ring Of Honor that have been able to find a huge amount of success in everything he did, from tag work to singles, from face to heel, and from bottom of the card to the very top.
7. Jonathan Gresham: You hear this a lot in the world of professional wrestling… if so-and-so was just a few inches taller, they would be a huge star. It’s something you would hear more in eras gone by, as smaller wrestlers have been able to find more success in numerous promotions across the globe. Jonathan Gresham is a special case of that saying. He’s one of the best wrestlers alive today, capable of putting in work with any and everybody he steps into the ring with. A lot of people look at him and immediately write him off, though, because of his height. At 5’4″, he’s considerably shorter than just about any “short” wrestler you can think of, other than Rey Mysterio, Marko Stunt, and very few others. If Jonathan Gresham was, say, Bryan Danielson’s height, I have no doubt that he would’ve already been a title holder of some kind in WWE, NXT, or AEW. That’s not a knock on him. Again, he’s one of the best in the business right now. Those are just the cards he has been dealt.
6. Takeshi Morishima: 6’3″ tall. Billed at 287 pounds, but there’s no way he was any less than 300. He was like a Volkswagen Type 2 Bus, if a Volkswagen Bus had the desire to remove your head from your shoulders and dropkick it into the fifth row. Morishima wasn’t in RoH for very long, spending an overall time of less than two years, but he made a massive mark. Wrestling 30 matches for RoH in 2007, and five more matches in 2008, he was around at the right time. Samoa Joe, Homicide, Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries, Shingo, Jay Briscoe, Roderick Strong, Claudio Castagnoli, Bryan Danielson, and Kevin Steen were all great choices for his opponents. Morishima just went on an immediate path of destruction, winning the RoH World Title in his third match with the company, ending Homicide’s reign at 56 days. Nobody on this list even comes close to having as brief a run with the company as Morishima, but he was able to squeeze so much juice from the fruit, as the saying goes.
5. Jay Lethal: Here’s a man who has gone through multiple transformations in his Ring Of Honor career. In January 2003, he debuted for the company as a member of the Special K group. Under the name Hydro, he was still super green, but that makes sense. He was barely a year into his career, and incredibly enough, he was still a few months away from his 18th birthday! A year-and-a-half later, he would wrestle as Jay Lethal, and he was already a different performer than he was when he debuted. After another year-and-a-half, he was gone from the company, becoming a full-time member of the TNA roster. He spent five years there before returning to Ring Of Honor in 2011, and he might as well have literally been a different person by then. The 2005 Jay Lethal was good, but the 2011 Jay Lethal was so much better. He had a two-month reign as the RoH Pure Champion in 2005, but he was never viewed as any sort of top-of-the-card guy. A month-and-a-half after returning, he was the RoH Television Champion, holding the title for nearly eight months, and looking like someone who was going to be a real main event guy soon. In 2015, he won the RoH World Title for the first time, and he has been a permanent fixture as a top player ever since. He has two reigns as the company’s World Champion, and has held the title for more overall days than anyone else in company history. You could say he was a good wrestler in 2005, but in his second stint with RoH, he had become a great wrestler. It really is wild to sit and look at how much he was able to grow and transform through the years.
4. The Briscoes: To say that Jay and Mark Briscoe have dominated the Ring Of Honor tag team scene through the years would be a huge understatement. They have 11 reigns as the RoH Tag Team Champions, and no other team in company history has even reached four reigns. As real-life brothers, their in-ring chemistry is otherworldly, allowing them to continuously deliver innovative tag offense. Even if that was the end of it, they would be on this list somewhere. The fact that they’ve both been able to have a bunch of entertaining singles work only adds to everything. Jay Briscoe has even gone on to become one of only five men in company history to hold the RoH World Title on more than one occasion. They’ve done so much, but they’re both still going strong, nearly 20 years later. Amazing careers.
3. Homicide: There has always been a major sense of authenticity when it comes to Homicide. He’s not someone that is playing a character, and his in-ring style isn’t pretending to be something that it isn’t. ‘Cide wasn’t trying to keep up with the technical experts on the RoH roster. He stayed true to himself, it showed, and it’s why he was so beloved. As you’ve seen in this column, I continue to be very fond of Homicide’s hunt for the World Title in 2006, as it was a strong, layered story that would ultimately deliver the happy ending that everybody was waiting for.
2. Samoa Joe: Speaking of authenticity, there’s Samoa Joe. There’s no need for the razzle dazzle when it comes to Joe. He just steps into a ring and is determined to batter his opponent into a pulp. That’s how he was back then, and that’s how he is today. His 645-day reign as RoH World Champion remains the longest reign in the title’s history. It was such a dominant stretch that him losing the title to Austin Aries continued to be on “Most Shocking Moments” compilations nearly 17 years later. That’s saying something.
1. Bryan Danielson: If you’re reading these words, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re a huge fan of Bryan Danielson. Whether you were introduced to him when he was Bryan Danielson or when he was Daniel Bryan, you’ve seen and loved how he was able to stand out and blend in simultaneously. He has always looked like someone you could see at the grocery store and not even get a second look, but when he steps into that wrestling ring… he’s ready to paint his latest masterpiece. From the moment you started to hear “The Final Countdown” by Europe, you knew you were going to get something special. His 462-day reign as RoH World Champion is obviously shorter than the aforementioned 645-day reign that Samoa Joe had, but Danielson’s reign is always mentioned as the best in company history. In those 645 days, Joe had 26 successful defenses. Danielson, on the other hand, had 34 successful defenses in his 462 days. Hell, if you take April 2006 and August 2006 alone, that’s 11 successful defenses for Danielson. Think about that for a moment. There are only 61 combined days in those two months, and the man defended the title 11 times. This isn’t like a WWE Champion defending the title at a pay-per-view and then having a series of house show defenses to pad up the stats. Every Ring Of Honor show was like their own version of a pay-per-view. He was having classic after classic, with 60-minute matches sprinkled throughout, like he was Ric Flair in the NWA days. Impossible not to love that.
I don’t know for sure if this is the end for Ring Of Honor. If it is, it was a great run. So many wrestlers owe everything to their time in RoH. Not just wrestlers. On top of that, there are so many promotions that owe everything to RoH. They went from a “super independent” promotion, just taking the biggest names from the scene and throwing them on the same card, to a more well-rounded unit that was actually looking to tell and advance stories. Even if I live to be 110 years old, I will always remember my time as a Ring Of Honor fan. The matches, the wrestlers, the moments… every bit of it played an important role in making me the fan I am today.
Your turn, ReaderLand. I want to hear from you. Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind about Ring Of Honor. You certainly don’t have to drop off top-ten lists, but tell me what some of your favorite RoH storylines, shows, matches, wrestlers, and moments are. Let’s mourn, even temporarily, together.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Jon Moxley: A bit of a different entry for the top of this week’s rankings. As you’ve no doubt read by now, Moxley is entering a rehab program to deal with alcohol abuse issues. With a book that was just released, and with a return to the top of the AEW card seemingly on the way, not to mention a four-month-old daughter at home, it really speaks to the severity of the issues that he’s seeking help now. It’s an incredibly brave move to admit that you have a problem and to seek the help needed to try and solve that problem, so kudos to him.
- Bryan Danielson vs Eddie Kingston: Another week, another fantastic Bryan Danielson match against a different opponent. Eddie Kingston has been so, so good in AEW, and this was his best performance yet. As an added bonus, we got a post-match backstage segment that seemingly set up a match/feud between Kingston and CM Punk, which is going to be a blast.
- Becky Lynch vs Bianca Belair: Another pay-per-view quality match on free television. Bianca is in a really weird spot right now. She’s still being presented as a big deal, but she’s not winning like a big deal. The last time she cleanly (as in “not by count-out or disqualification”) won a match on television or pay-per-view was on August 27th. That’s a long time. Of course, wins and losses don’t really matter in WWE, so whatever, I guess.
- Hikaru Shida vs Serena Deeb: A feud with a simple enough beginning, and now they’ve had two really good matches against each other. Deeb won the first, and Shida won the second. You know what that means… let’s run it back to crown a true winner!
- Shotzi vs Charlotte Flair: Out of nowhere, Shotzi has become a player in the Smackdown women’s division. I don’t understand why she had to turn heel after the match, as live crowds really like her, but hey, WWE clearly has a well thought out plan and wouldn’t do things just to do them. Obviously.
- Chad Gable: He’s graduating from Full Sail University this week, earning his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts with a focus on Media Design. Not only that, but he’s graduating as the Valedictorian of his class with a 4.0 GPA. That’s pretty awesome.
- Abadon vs Britt Baker: In a clear sign that AEW is a very wrestler-friendly company, they continue to let Britt Baker wrestle in these wild matches that feature blood and hardcore spots. The easy thing for Tony Khan to do would be to tell her that she’s their money maker in that division, and therefore, they need her to avoid all that. She is proving to be really good at it, mind you, but my point remains.
- Damian Priest vs T-Bar: He didn’t win the match, but this is as close to a serious push that T-Bar has seen since he was Dominik Dijakovic in NXT. Will it continue? Based on history, probably not, but it should. He’s capable of so much more than this gimmick has allowed him to show.
- Rey Mysterio vs Austin Theory: For the time being, Theory is being placed with the right opponents that allow him to look good in his reintroduction to the WWE Universe. Don’t be surprised if he gets a push, ending up in a feud with Damian Priest over the United States Title sooner than later.
- New Day vs The Usos: It’s impossible for these teams to have a bad match against each other. This one was good, but it just didn’t have the same feel to it that a lot of the other matches in their feud had. Call it a lack of stakes involved, or call it the repetition of seeing them face each other so often over the years. Either way, this one just didn’t feel the same.
- CM Punk vs Bobby Fish: Another week, another really good CM Punk match. For the love of all that is holy, though, can we give him some more to do? Maybe the Eddie Kingston thing is the start of that, but he needs more than just facing random people with no story involved.
- Johnny Gargano & Dexter Lumis vs Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams: It’s still weird to see Gargano and Lumis on the same side of things, but strangely enough, it’s working so far. On the other side, Carmelo Hayes continues to show how bright his future is. If he doesn’t get called up before then, he’s got an NXT Title reign in his future.
- Dante Martin vs Matt Sydal: With every breathtaking performance that Dante Martin delivers, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen when his brother, Darius, returns. Darius has been out of action after knee surgery, and there hasn’t been any word on a return date. He had surgery in April, and this length of time is right in the sweet spot of how long wrestlers tend to be out after knee surgery. I know some people want to see Dante remain a singles wrestler, so what happens to Darius? Do the Martin brothers just do the singles thing, with occasional tag matches, like Ring Of Honor has done with the Briscoe brothers? Time will tell.
- Big E vs Kevin Owens: A good, albeit slightly underwhelming, match. The bigger news is the hints being dropped on television that Owens is possibly leaving the company in a few months. We’ve all seen the rumors by now. That kind of thing tends to hurt wrestling pushes more often than it helps them.
- Veer Mahaan: In a time when Vince McMahon has a weird obsession with taking away the last names of wrestlers, congratulations go out to Veer, who actually gained a last name for his reintroduction to Raw. Shine that WWE Title up nicely, Big E, because Veer Mahaan is coming for you.
This Week’s Playlist: “The Harder They Fall” by Koffee… “Guns Go Bang” by Kid Cudi & Jay-Z… “Better Than Gold” by Barrington Levy… “King Kong Riddim” by Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Conway The Machine & BackRoad Gee… “Demon High” by Lil Uzi Vert… “Good Night” by Maoli & Fiji… “Warfare” by Merkules, Snow Tha Product & Tech N9ne… “Cartier Lens” by Bobby Shmurda… “Sign Language” by YG… “Change My Mind” by Alina Baraz… “The Rest Of Us” by Shy Carter… “My Boo (Hitman’s Club Mix)” by Ghost Town DJ’s… “Whatz Up, Whatz Up (A-Town TV Track)” by Playa Poncho & LA Sno… “Let It Burn” by Playa Poncho… “Love You Down” by INOJ… “When Will I See You Smile Again?” by Ricky Bell… “Time After Time” by INOJ… “True City Thugs” by Ying Yang Twins… “Gift To You” by Siaki Faleta… “Foolish Love” by The Green… “Guava Lane” by Iration & Eli Mac… “Let’s Do It Again” by J Boog… “Run Up” by J Boog & Fiji… “Lifetime Lover” by J Boog… “Love Season” by J Boog