By Akash Roy
At a time when the pro-wrestling industry provided no alternatives, Ring of Honor slithered in to gain rapid prominence. From producing quality matches, with matured themes and storylines, it soon had its cult following.
Fighting with a "Code of Honor" became their trademark. It separated them from others as wrestlers were to abide by the company's code. The code instructed that the opponents should shake hands before and after every match, have no outside interference, and respect the officials. It made the company unique, with fewer shenanigans compared to what others were doing at that time.
ROH became the first big break for several independent wrestlers, who found it extremely difficult to showcase their potential in the saturated market of WWE. Household names of today like Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Austin Aries, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness, Jerry Lynn, Tyler Black, Kevin Steen, El Generico, Adam Cole, Christopher Daniels, Matt Taven, Dalton Castle, Doug Williams, Amazing Red, Jay & Mark Briscoe, Matt & Nick Jackson all had their development inside the squared circle of ROH.
ROH peaked at a time when its graduates became global superstars of their own accord, only leaving the promotion for tremendous success. Competing with a shoestring budget, ROH created its niche and enjoyed success during a period when the market share was significantly split between WWE and TNA.
Unfortunately, ROH had to shut down its operations recently. They were incurring heavy losses from the pandemic. It became an unmitigated disaster, but fortunately, All Elite Wrestling owner Tony Khan acquired the future rights of the promotion by buying out the company. In the process, Khan retained all of ROH's championships and video library. AEW also acquired some of its talented roster for the foreseeable future.
The Samoan Submission Machine was once deemed unfit to pursue his dreams of becoming a wrestler. He, however, did not let that demotivate him. Joe perfected his craft in Japan and returned home to find ROH's trust in 2002. Starting as Christopher Daniels's "hired assassin," Joe debuted at Glory by Honor to take out Low Ki.
Though Joe got booked for only one match against Low Ki, his hard-hitting style captivated the audience. As a junior Judo champion for California, his distinctive wrestling technique incorporates martial arts. ROH booked him full-time after the fans received him.
Joe's rise in ranks was rapid, as it took him a short while to claim the biggest prize of the promotion laying out any challenges pitted against him. As the ROH World Champion, Joe would dominate the competition and have a trilogy of classic matches against CM Punk. Those three battles put ROH on the map. The second match between Joe and Punk earned five stars from Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
It became the first American match in seven years to do so. Joe held the championship for twenty-one months before losing it to Austin Aries at Final Battle 2004. Dave Meltzer's second five-star rating was awarded to Joe when he faced Japanese wrestling legend Kenta Kobashi in a once-in-a-lifetime match. The match went on to win the Wrestling Observer Newsletter award for "Match of the Year."
Joe has won ROH Pure Championship once and is the current ROH World Television champion. Now signed to AEW, we can be part of many more legacies that will come in Joe's way.
During ROH's inception in 2002, Danielson was the founding father of the company. He was there when ROH had its first event. He feuded with Homicide for a series of matches and performed at his limit against Austin Aries in a 74-minute contest. His work ethic and technical prowess made him progressively climb the ranks.
Taking a hiatus after failing to cash in on his opportunity after winning the inaugural Survival of the Fittest tournament, Danielson returned to win his first ROH World Championship against James Gibson at Glory by Honor IV. He faced many challenges that year and was victorious in all his title defences.
In an inter-promotional event with Combat Zone Wrestling- Danielson became a central figure in the company feud. However, when a battle took place for brand supremacy, Danielson would abandon his side by turning on them instead. He fended off challengers from both promotions and participated in some memorable matches.
Two of his matches against Nigel McGuinness to unify the prestigious World Championship with the Pure Championship remain popular. Danielson's fifteen-month title reign finally ended after he lost to Homicide at his 39th defence. After some unsuccessful challenges in the title picture, he signed with WWE leaving the indies for several years.
Bryan is now part of the Blackpool Combat Club in AEW with Jon Moxley, William Regal, Claudio Castagnoli, and Wheeler Yuta. He looks hungry for more in AEW to extend his legacy.
Cole made his ROH debut in 2009 but signed a contract with the company a year after. He allied himself with fellow newcomer Kyle O'Reilly to form Future Shock. Both became instant fan-favourite tag teams inside the ring and real-life friends outside it.
Cole's singles career picked up pace briefly after the disbandment of Future Shock. He won his first championship in ROH, defeating Roderick Strong to become the ROH World Television Champion. He defended the title on pay-per-views until Matt Taven would dethrone him ending his reign at 246 days.
Adam Cole shifted his sights to bigger things in the promotion as he tried to go after the ROH World Championship. For the vacated World title, a tournament took place to crown a new champion. Cole would defeat all comers against him to stand as the sole victor. After being presented with the title belt by the former champion, Cole attacked Jay Briscoe viciously, establishing himself as a villain.
ROH soon realised his undeniable charisma to develop him further to make him an asset to their company. By this time, Cole adapted the moniker of Adam Cole "Bay-Bay" to bring out one of the most involved entrances in the wrestling world that he carries to perfection- to this day.
Despite serving as an obnoxious heel, he was too good to be disliked. That earned him a call to join the heelish faction of Bullet Club. Cole, alongside Matt and Nick Jackson, elevated Bullet Club's appeal in the American landscape.
Adam Cole again would win the ROH World Title on two separate occasions before bidding adieu to the indies. Now, after years elsewhere, Cole is back in AEW as the leader of the Undisputed Elite.