Ring of Honor has been an underrated wrestling promotion for quite a long time now, as it tends to produce some superb talent and is the perfect stepping stone to catapult one into a world-class athlete. We’ve seen so many ROH alumni find much success in other promotions, and many have found success in the WWE as well, as Vince McMahon’s fascination to pick off independent wrestlers and transform them into one of "his guys" has made some ROH alumni into definitive stars today.
WWE agents have been keeping track of Ring of Honor for a long time now and persuading their talent to come join a more exciting prospect in WWE, but the rise in popularity in the promotion in the past few years has made it somewhat difficult to swoon their talent away from them. ROH recently got a TV deal which lets them air their show on Destination America, slowly turning into a low-key rival to WWE.
The Ring of Honor recruits in WWE mostly have to go through their developmental territory to blend in to WWE’s schedule, but many thrive at the opportunity and slowly but surely climb the ladder to the top. We’ve seen so many of Ring of Honor's talents become stars of the company and have headlined their big shows day in, day out. Not all have this luck, as many couldn’t fit in to WWE and had to leave the company in failure and had to try their luck somewhere else. But time and again ROH has proved to be the most profitable independent wrestling product for the WWE, who can always hope to steal away some of their best products with their wooing presence.
15 Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn had quite the cult status in the indy scene as El Generico, a masked luchador who was always happy to thrill the audience. He spent 7 valuable years in Ring of Honor where he won the ROH TV Title once and also the tag titles with Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens as we know him now) and found huge popularity among the fans. So it came as no surprise when he was finally signed by the WWE and became known as Sami Zayn, whose underdog status is beloved by many. He had quite the time in NXT, winning the NXT Championship and being at the top throughout his time there. His journey in the main roster is pretty good so far as he’s being pushed as this strong mid-carder and could expect more glory if he continues to entertain us with his fantastic wrestling ability.
"The Man That Gravity Forgot" had quite a roller-coaster career before making his jump to the WWE as he wrestled for many promotions and his incredible wrestling skills gathered the attention wherever he went. He would debut in Ring of Honor in their Liverpool shows in 2007 where he faced off against Roderick Strong and Evan Bourne in both losing efforts. But his impressive ability would make ROH come calling again soon as he faced off against Daniel Bryan and then, in ROH’s Manhattan Mayhem, would lose to Davey Richards. After some years at Dragon Gate, Neville would be called upon by WWE where he would soon become NXT Champion and hold the title for 287 days. He would be called up to the main roster, where he would be the highlight reel of the show with his phenomenal "Red Arrow" and gather so many victories in the mid-card. Although injured now, Neville will shine with the Brand extension and deserves a title sooner rather than later.
13 Luke Harper
Known as Brodie Lee in his Ring of Honor days, Luke Harper wasn’t exactly as successful in the promotion as he’d want himself to be and stayed their only for about a year. After making his mark that was felt in many other independent promotions, he was called by WWE in 2012 and was introduced as Bray Wyatt’s follower and a member of the Wyatt Family. They continued to haunt and hurt people on their way as Harper, along with fellow member Erick Rowan, won the NXT Tag Team Championships. But when the main roster came calling, they became a terrifying and popular stable. After some memorable feuds, Harper went his own way to become Intercontinental Champion and have a successful singles outing before reuniting with Bray in 2015. Recently, Harper suffered a horrible injury and there’s no date on when he’ll return but one can expect him to make an impact when he does.
12 Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe is one of the main stars who heralded ROH into stardom by dishing out some unreal matches for them, including a 5-star match against CM Punk during his 21-month reign of his ROH Title. He would usher Ring of Honor to success but would leave for TNA where he had a big impact throughout his career, but left in 2015 because of TNA’s pathetic state. He would return to ROH for a short stint, before finally joining WWE and making for a stunning debut. He’s now booked as this badass in NXT and carries himself amazingly as NXT Champion. With the experience and potential he possesses, one could expect big things when he moves to the main roster.
11 AJ Styles
Although he’s known as more of a TNA guy, AJ Styles first rose in the scene in Ring of Honor where he started off his career in a prominent manner by becoming the ROH Pure Champion and also winning the ROH Tag Titles with Amazing Red. After a glittering career in TNA, where he’d win everything there is to win and develop himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world, Styles would again return to ROH in 2013 and appear in many of their TV tapings, while also avidly working for NJPW. He finally got the long awaited call from WWE and made his debut in the Royal Rumble, and has been in the top tier ever since. After a solid feud with Chris Jericho, he challenged WWE Champion Roman Reigns twice and delivered two spectacular matches which elevated his reputation in the company furthermore. He’s now feuding with John Cena and is touted for big things in the near future and deserves all the success he gets.
10 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens -known as Kevin Steen in his indy days- was quite the wrecking ball in Ring of Honor as his stiff, hard-hitting moveset and ability to pull of amazing matches made him extremely valuable to the promotion who paid him well to keep a hold of him. Owens would win the ROH Championship and also the ROH Tag Titles in his 7 years at the promotion where he was among the main men of the roster. Owens would get the call from WWE in 2014 where he would betray his good friend Sami Zayn to make an impact on his first night and establish himself as this arrogant heel who soon won the NXT Title. He kept it for quite a long time till creative was forced to give him an early promotion to the main roster where he blended in quickly and transitioned from NXT seamlessly. He would win two Intercontinental Championships in his first year on the main roster and become one of the top heels in the company with a big fan following. With the direction he’s headed in, the future looks very bright for Owens whose fights equal money for WWE.
The "Swiss Superman" hasn’t earned that name for nothing, as he had to work his way up to being at where he is now. Cesaro would impress ROH with his debut in the CZW invasion angle, and would push for the ROH World Championship soon but failed to win it. He would win the ROH Tag Team Titles along with Chris Hero and they had an amazing 363 day reign as tag champions before dropping it to The World’s Greatest Tag Team. Afterwards he’d leave ROH and join WWE’s developmental territory in FCW, where he had an impressive outing and soon got called to the main roster where he’d be booked strongly and win the US Title, holding it for 239 days. But afterwards he’d be degraded as a part of a horrible tag team in The Real Americans and would fail to capture creative’s attention even after showing inhuman power to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. According to Vince, he "wasn’t connecting with the crowd", but he would silence his doubters by having entertaining outings with everyone he faced, becoming one of the most beloved babyfaces in WWE right now, as one hopes he gets rewarded soon for his immense work in the past years.
8 Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins would be the force of Ring of Honor during his years at the promotion where he put in amazing matches day in and day out as Tyler Black. Having won the ROH Tag Team Titles and then the prestigious ROH World Title, Rollins would decide to leave for the WWE in 2010, and even he probably didn’t realize what was coming his way. He would arrive at FCW and become the inaugural FCW Champion and also won the FCW Tag team titles with Richie Steamboat. After FCW transitioned into NXT, he would win the inaugural NXT Championship and then form The Shield with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. He would win the NXT Tag Titles with Reigns, as The Shield focused on heralding justice in the main roster which they took by storm. After an impressive debut, the popularity of The Shield only got bigger as they destroyed everyone and Rollins and Reigns won the Tag Titles as well. They turned face and took on The Authority, but Rollins soon betrayed his friends to join the villainous group. He would become THE prime heel during this time, and win the Money in the Bank briefcase which he would cash in at WrestleMania 31 to win in the main event. He would enjoy a successful 220-day reign as WWE Champion, in which he also held the US Title together to become the first man to do so. But an injury hampered his reign as he would be out for around 6 months before returning at Extreme Rules, and is now set on recapturing what is his.
7 CM Punk
CM Punk would join Ring of Honor as a nobody, but would soon have many eyes on him because of an exciting feud with Raven culminating in some extreme matches. He would form The Second City Saints with Colt Cabana and win the ROH Tag Titles twice and then go on to "The Summer of Punk" where he put on some incredible matches with Samoa Joe, with one being a 60-minute draw, rated 5 stars by Dave Meltzer. Punk would take an offer from WWE and leave ROH in tears, and join OVW and become the OVW Champion soon enough. He was called to the main roster in the ECW brand of WWE, winning the ECW World Title off John Morrison in 2007. His push would begin soon, as he won the Money in the Bank contract twice in a row at WrestleMania XXIV and XXV, establishing himself as a top heel after a feud with fan favorite Jeff Hardy. He would get his spotlight in 2011, when a shoot "pipebomb" made him a favorite among fans and he went on to have an entertaining 434-day reign as WWE Champion where many would become his devotees. But this wasn’t to be topped, as after some top level feuds he left the company in 2014 promising to never return again and focus on his UFC career, but fans are hopeful that they see the outspoken Saint once again.
6 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan was called "The Founding Father" of Ring of Honor during its debut show. "The American Dragon" as they called him would go on to dazzle fans and attract them onto the show with his sublime moves. It would take some time for him to become ROH champion, but when he finally did in 2005, he would go onto have a 15-month title reign during which he also won the ROH Pure Championship. He would lead ROH to more success before moving onto his dreamland of WWE in 2009 when he ended up in FCW. He was a part of the inaugural NXT and would be regarded as this weak underdog no one paid much heed too. He would be part of the Nexus invasion but soon was wrongly fired from WWE. He would return soon enough and win the US title off his former NXT mentor The Miz to begin his underdog status. An entertaining outing as Team Hell No got the fans behind him, who heralded him to win his first ever WWE Title at SummerSlam 2013, but was screwed over by Triple H. He won the WWE Title against all odds at WrestleMania XXX but an injury would lay him out for some months. He would return and win the IC Title at WrestleMania 31 to become a Grand Slam Champion, but another injury would put an end to his glorious career for which he will always be recognized as a legend in the wrestling business.
5 Evan Bourne
One of the most exciting high flyers in recent times, Evan Bourne made his way into WWE through Ring of Honor where he won his first competitive title in the ROH World Tag Team Championship with Christopher Daniels. He joined WWE through their developmental system in OVW and FCW and would debut on the main roster in WWE’s ECW Brand. He was like the highlight reel of the show winning matches with his amazing Air Borne, which is a shooting star press. But he never really got a singles push in the main roster, only winning a tag title with Kofi Kingston. He did stay for around 7 years in the company, but never really shined to his potential and his WWE career will probably be best remembered because of that wicked RKO counter of his finisher in a match against Randy Orton.
4 Colt Cabana
Colt Cabana had quite a good following in Ring of Honor where he was two time ROH Tag Team Champions with good friend CM Punk, who later headed his own way to a glittering singles career. Cabana was signed by WWE developmental in 2007, and spent a year in OVW before making the move to the main roster as Scotty Goldman. He would be a jobber who lost every match and mostly participated in battle royals or qualifiers for a championship match, as the only good thing seemed like a show starring him named "Good as Goldman". But he’d be let go 1 month after the show premiered, spelling the end to a very disappointing run as he would go on to become a very popular podcaster in the future.
3 The Wolves
One of the most exciting tag teams in the world right now, the duo of Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards ruled the roster in Ring of Honor for some time by winning the ROH Tag Team Championships twice and both winning the ROH Heavyweight Title once each. The talented duo had won it all in Ring of Honor and decided to move on in 2013, when they went for a tryout in WWE NXT to take a crack at the top promotion. After a week-long tryout, they were rejected by the WWE and went on to do great things for TNA, changing the whole landscape of their tag team division and continuing to entertain us with their superb talent which WWE must be regretting missing out on.
2 Chris Hero
Chris Hero was almost like the king of the indy scene before making his move to the WWE in 2011 where he was signed to FCW. Hero was a legend in ROH, spending almost 7 years in the company and winning some titles in between as well, and definitely had the experience and potential to live up to in WWE. After FCW became NXT, Hero was moved there as Kassius Ohno who was mostly taking part in tag team action being an experienced tag team wrestler as he had won the ROH Tag Titles twice. After feuds with wrestlers and tag teams who would be promoted to the main roster, Hero was failing to make a mark on management who let him go in 2013. Interestingly, Hero was originally set to be a member of The Shield but Triple H decided against it, as one could wonder what would’ve happened if he was a Hound of Justice.
1 Low Ki
The first ever Ring of Honor Champion, Low Ki was like the crown jewel for the promotion in his first years and put in some fantastic matches. He would gradually climb down the ladder but that didn’t go well with him, as he left the company after some disputes with the management. He then went to TNA, Japan and even PWG before arriving at WWE’s FCW where he won the tag team titles with Michael McGillicutty. He would win the second season of NXT with team LayCool as his mentors and move with them to SmackDown. But this was all null and void as he continued to lose matches on the main roster to every other guy. He got a slight push when he earned the opportunity to face Dolph Ziggler for his IC title, but then again went downwards after failing to capture it. He was released finally in December 2010, in a year where he was voted as ‘The Most Underrated Wrestler’ by Wrestling Observer.
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