In the old days, WWE would fill up its roster by raiding the territories. However, by the time WCW shuttered its doors, there was nowhere left for WWE to steal already trained talent. That all changed in 2002 when two brand new companies opened for business. The first was TNA Impact Wrestling, which became the number two brand in the U.S. for many years.
However, the most promising talent came from the smaller company known as Ring of Honor. ROH was all about cultivating talent into top-notch professional wrestlers. While some insult it as the "indie style," many of these men all went on to have amazing careers, with several becoming world champions later in WWE. Here are the 10 most successful wrestlers to come from Ring of Honor.
10 DANIEL BRYAN
From the moment that Ring of Honor opened its doors, the name that sat at the top as the best pure professional wrestler in the company was easily the man known as Bryan Danielson. Trained by Shawn Michaels and William Regal, Danielson put on 5-star matches regularly for ROH.
However, he ended up as possibly the most successful wrestler to ever leave Ring of Honor as well when he signed with WWE. While his career as Daniel Bryan started out rocky, he stuck with it, and fans soon rallied to his side. Bryan is a five-time world champion in WWE and has held four mid-card titles there as well.
9 AJ STYLES
Most fans know AJ Styles from TNA Impact Wrestling, where he was the backbone, heart, and soul of the company. He was a former X-Division and world champion there. WWE fans even know that he went to New Japan and won their IWGP title as well.
However, AJ Styles got his break in WCW before they shut down and then signed with both TNA and ROH when the companies opened their doors. He worked for Ring of Honor from the time they opened until 2006 and then returned part-time from 2014-2016. He is a two-time WWE world champion.
8 SAMOA JOE
Samoa Joe is another wrestler known for his days in TNA Impact Wrestling, where he feuded with everyone from AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels to Kurt Angle and Sting. He is also considered one of the best X-Division champions of all time, as well as a former TNA world champion.
However, his greatest success came in Ring of Honor. Until Jay Lethal broke his record, Samoa Joe was the longest-reigning Ring of Honor champion in history at 21 months. He was also undefeated in TNA after he moved there full-time for 19 months. In WWE, he held the NXT title twice and U.S. title twice.
7 CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
The one name on this list that did not wrestle in WWE (outside of single dark matches) is The Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels. He was one of the top wrestlers in TNA for many years, a tag team, and X-Division champion. However, at the same time, he was making his name as The Fallen Angel in Ring of Honor.
He was the company's first real villain, someone who rejected the Code of Honor and started his own stable to combat the "pure" ROH stars. He even returned to ROH later in his career to do one thing he had yet to do before — win the company's world title. Lately, he is part of one of AEW's top tag teams, SCU.
Cesaro is routinely called the best wrestler who isn't given a fair shot in WWE. He gets TV time, but outside of his fantastic tag team with Sheamus, where they won multiple titles, he enjoys little success in WWE and rarely gets a notable feud. However, he still is a six-time tag team champion and a one-time U.S. Champion.
In Ring of Honor, he was part of one of the best tag teams in the world, known as the Kings of Wrestling with Chris Hero The duo won the ROH tag titles twice. Cesaro also made a name for himself in Chikara and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
5 CM PUNK
CM Punk is no longer a professional wrestler, retiring from the sport at the top of his game due to his disgust in WWE. However, before WWE took away the love of the business from Punk, he was one of the best wrestlers the world had ever seen. He was a six-time world champion and had the longest world title reign in modern-day WWE.
Interestingly, after Punk signed with WWE, he won the Ring of Honor world title. It was unexpected and made no sense because he was leaving, but it was a memorable moment in his career. Punk was known for his fantastic feud with Samoa Joe in ROH and then became the Best in the World in WWE.
4 SETH ROLLINS
Seth Rollins made recent comments where he said that fans wanted him pushed to win the world title, and then when he won it, they turned on him. It was interesting because that sounds like something Rollins has faced before. In Ring of Honor, he was Tyler Black, and fans wanted him to be world champion.
However, ROH made his trip to the top too long, and by the time he won it, the fans had moved on. They rejected him as ROH world champion the same way they reject him as a WWE world champion. In WWE, he is a four-time world champion.
3 KEVIN OWENS
When Kevin Owens arrived in WWE, he started at NXT and was there to celebrate his best friend Sami Zayn's NXT title victory. Then, Kevin Owens turned on Zayn and beat him down and then beat him for the title. No one should have been surprised. See, Owens and Zayn were tag team partners in ROH, and Owens turned on him there too.
In Ring of Honor, Kevin Steen was a former world champion and world tag team champion. He held the PWG title three times and their tag titles three times as well. In NXT, he was the champion, and on the main brand, he is a one-time world champion, two time IC champion, and three-time U.S. Champion.
2 ADAM COLE
Adam Cole got his start in CZW, which is also where Dean Ambrose/Jon Moxley is from. However, Cole got his big break in Ring of Honor. He started in the tag team Future Shock with Kyle O'Reilly before breaking off on his own and becoming the ROH TV champion. By the time he left, he was a three-time world champion and leader of the Bullet Club in ROH.
Adam Cole is now in WWE NXT, with his former tag team partner O'Reilly, Bobby Fish, and Roderick Strong — all former Ring of Honor stars — as The Undisputed Era. Cole is also the current NXT world champion and one of the top names in WWE right now.
1 BRIAN KENDRICK
While only a minor player on 205 Live now, The Brian Kendrick has been hugely successful in his professional wrestling career. He got his start at the Genesis of Ring of Honor. Known at the time as Spanky, Kendrick trained under Shawn Michaels, just like Daniel Bryan did.
Unlike Bryan, Kendrick never won a title in Ring of Honor. However, he signed with WWE years before Bryan did and was in a massively successful tag team with Paul London. The two held the WWE tag team titles for 334 days, the second-longest single reign ever for that title. Kendrick was also a one-time cruiserweight champion.