Former stars of Ring of Honor are currently leading the new era of wrestling in the WWE. A small independent wrestling promotion founded in Philadelphia had the intention of creating a new style of wrestling in a market wide open for experimenting following the deaths of WCW and ECW. TNA had the money and platform to create something special but chose to take the lazy route of recycling old talent (a script we've seen before). ROH focused on the young hungry talent on the independent wrestling scene and allowed them to shine. The spotlight on the in-ring work helped create a new niche in the business.
Most of the top names in ROH went on to become big stars in the wrestling industry. The WWE has seen a good percentage of their top new stars of the past decade come from Ring of Honor. The rise of the internet helped get the word out and spread matches of their top stars to grow their reputation. They also gained experience by performing in a high-pressure climate which required them to step up in big matches. That helped transition them into the bigger roles in the business.
In this article, we’ll look at the history of the company with the top fifteen ROH stars of all time and will find out what they are doing today.
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15 Tyler Black: WWE Main Event Star
ROH signed Seth Rollins at the very young age of 21 to enter the promotion around one of the company’s best time period. Working under his independent wrestling name of Tyler Black, the young man showed potential that made him an instant star among the fans. The company pushed him as a singles star and he would eventually win the ROH Championship. Unlike many other ROH legends, Rollins never really developed a huge legacy in the company due to the WWE signing him three years into his ROH run.
The WWE saw the potential and excellence of Rollins at a young age. They signed him to a developmental contract with him spending several years learning various tools for the WWE style in FCW and NXT. Rollins made his debut on the main roster as part of The Shield and skyrocketed to the top of the WWE. Following the breakup of The Shield, Rollins stood out more than his former partners, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Seth is currently one of the biggest stars in the WWE and the top face on Raw.
14 Jimmy Jacobs: WWE Writer
Jimmy Jacobs is the former tag partner and mentor of Seth Rollins. He also happened to be a legend in ROH. Jacobs shined in Ring of Honor and various other promotions due to his genius storytelling. His work led to some of the greatest stories in ROH history. From his relationship with Lacey to the creation of "The Age of the Fall" faction, Jacobs gave his all to ROH for many years.
Despite the overwhelming talent, Jacobs didn't gain enough momentum to get signed by WWE as a wrestler. The company however reached out to him and agreed to a deal that saw him join their writing staff. Jacobs currently works as a member of the creative department due to his experience as a wrestler, along with his college degree. The fact that Jacobs worked with many of the WWE stars and is well aware of their strengths helps the company add a refreshing opinion and one that is certainly needed to the writing of the shows.
13 Adam Cole: Current ROH World Champion
One ROH star still working for the company is Adam Cole. Similar to Seth Rollins, Cole was signed at a young age and everyone saw his obvious potential. Cole has been the face of the ROH brand over the past few years. He is currently having his second reign as the ROH World Champion and has been established as one of the best heels. Cole’s personality and character work sets him apart from the rest of the roster.
The rumors are already circulating that Cole’s contract will expire in 2017 and that the WWE will aggressively pursuit him. At 27 years old, Cole is just entering his prime despite already being a top tier name in the history of ROH. The promotion has struggled at building new top stars in recent years, but Cole is one of their better stories.
He is currently focusing on making his ROH title reign become a memorable one as he continues to thrive for the company.
12 Davey Richards: TNA Star/Paramedic
Davey Richards' career has seen many ups and downs. Richards achieved the majority of his early success with Ring of Honor. His style of hard-hitting action and highly athletic moves made him a perfect fit for the promotion. His work saw him excel in various tag teams before progressing to the top of ROH. Richards adopted a MMA style during his singles run and became a polarizing ROH World Champion.
Things would get ugly between Richards and ROH, with him not liking the direction of his booking and the overall future of the company. TNA signed him when his contract expired along with his American Wolves tag team partner Eddie Edwards. Richards and Edwards have endured a great run in TNA, but Richards is currently on the injured list.
Outside of the ring, Davey works as a paramedic. The life of Richards is rather hectic but apparently fulfilling.
11 Christopher Daniels: ROH Tag Star/Assistant Booker
Christopher Daniels was one of the first stars since the inception of ROH. The first big storyline saw Daniels refusing to follow the company’s “Code of Honor” rule that all competitors must shake hands before and after a match. Daniels fought several great matches and created countless memories in his early ROH tenure before TNA forced him to stop working for other promotions. The long road of Daniels’ career saw him have a few different runs in ROH before officially making it his home now.
Following his last stretch of unhappiness in TNA, Daniels returned to ROH with tag partner Frankie Kazarian. They have continued their work as a tag team over the past few years as "The Addiction." Daniels and Kazarian were recently the ROH Tag Team Champions before losing the straps to The Young Bucks in a epic Ladder Match. At the age of 46, Daniels is trying to set up another career in the pro wrestling industry and has joined the ROH booking team. Daniels is currently the assistant booker working under the lead booker, Delirious.
10 El Generico: WWE Star
The El Generico character gave ROH one of the most beloved faces in company's history. Generico was the masked luchador from Mexico that could not speak English. Along with the charm of his character, Generico always delivered in the ring. Generico teamed with longtime friend Kevin Steen in an absolutely amazing tag team that fans loved. Steen and Generico eventually split up and it resulted in arguably the greatest ROH rivalry of all time.
Generico’s amazing work in ROH put him on the WWE's radar and landed him a spot in developmental. Triple H felt it was best to unmask Generico and have him work as himself rather than the gimmick. With the new name of Sami Zayn, it proved to be the right decision. Zayn became the first major star in NXT, helping to bring the brand to a higher level and one that fans actually began to follow, similar to Raw or SmackDown. WWE has Zayn on the Raw brand these days and the future is looking very bright for the Canadian.
9 Roderick Strong: NXT Star
Roderick Strong's tenure in ROH was one of the longest and it feels like Strong has always been in the company. ROH benefited from having his consistency through the years when many of the top stars left the company and they’d go through transition periods. Strong wrestled as a popular tag team wrestler for many years with Austin Aries and later moved into singles work, where he’d spend the rest of his ROH career.
Through the years, Strong achieved everything in promotion, winning all three active titles and having one impressive ROH World Championship reign. Strong stepped his game up in the past year, doing some of the best work of his entire career. The talented worker hit the free agent market and was signed to a WWE developmental contract. Strong is scheduled to debut in NXT very soon and sustain a big role on the show moving forward.
8 Homicide: Semi-Retired
One legendary name that's sadly forgotten in the history of Ring of Honor is Homicide. The early names people viewed as the godfathers of ROH were CM Punk, Samoa Joe and Homicide. Two of the three went on to have incredible careers, but Homicide never received the same opportunities. as ROH was the only wrestling promotion to truly use Homicide in a meaningful capacity. He was best served playing the bad ass anti-hero that delivered some serious violence every time he stepped foot in a ring.
The epic moment of Homicide defeating Bryan Danielson to win the ROH World Champion still deserves to be mentioned among the best title changes in company history. Fans rallied behind Homicide and he was truly a special performer at his peak. TNA wasted him away for many years, forcing him to become irrelevant in the wrestling industry after he left ROH. After he left TNA, Homicide tried returning to ROH, but it just wasn’t the same. Homicide struggled to get consistent bookings and is semi-retired making rare appearances on the independent circuit.
7 Austin Aries: NXT Star
Austin Aries had great success with the promotion from day one. Early into his ROH career, Aries pulled off a shocking upset by being the one to end Samoa Joe’s legendary 645-day title reign. This made Aries an instant top flight star and put him in a great position for the rest of his tenure with the company. Aries made history as the first man in ROH to win the World Championship on two occasions.
TNA brought Aries in following his eventual departure from ROH. Austin had another great run in TNA, winning every relevant title and proving he could hang with the main eventers on a national television program.
Finally, after years of working towards it, Aries signed with WWE in the past year to work for NXT. Triple H signed him to help keep NXT relevant with all of the top stars moving up to the main roster during the brand split. Aries is among the top heels on NXT today and could find his way to Raw or SmackDown very soon.
6 Nigel McGuinness: Retired Wrestler/ROH Commentator
Nigel McGuinness' ROH career is up there with any other star in the company’s history. Unfortunately, bad timing and unfortunate luck prevented him from reaching the same success as his peers following his ROH run. McGuinness made every moment in ROH count with some of the best matches to ever take place in a Ring of Honor squared circle. His heel run as ROH World Championship was among the better times for ROH, with Nigel delivering classics every weekend.
McGuinness agreed to a deal with WWE and was supposed to join the company at the same time as Daniel Bryan. They actually wrestled their final ROH match against each other receiving a special celebration on the way out. Things worked out terribly for Nigel as an injury was reported in his WWE physical and his contract offer was rescinded.
TNA signed McGuinness and used him well until Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff arrived. McGuinness eventually retired from the sport due to various injuries. You can still find him in ROH these days as the authority figure and color commentator.
5 Kevin Steen: Current WWE Universal Champion
The golden era of ROH ended when names like CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness were no longer around. ROH desperately needed new stars and one man stepped up more so than the rest and that man was Kevin Steen. He had a great run in Ring of Honor working with El Generico in a tag team. They were a perfect fit but both exceled even more once they broke up. Steen proved he was a top star during the feud with Generico and eventually worked his way to the top of ROH due to the fans demanding his push.
Many would argue Steen was the final true top ROH star to leave the company and move on to greener pastures. Triple H signed him to NXT under the name of Kevin Owens. Much like the rest of his career, Owens took his opportunity and ran with it. His NXT success led to him joining the main roster rather quickly as he embarked into a feud with the WWE's top star, John Cena. Owens has become a fixture on the WWE roster and is the current WWE Universal Champion on Raw. Expect to see Owens continue to dominate the WWE world for the next couple of years.
4 The Briscoes: Current ROH Stars
One act that has remained in ROH through every era and regime are The Briscoe Brothers. The duo are without a doubt the greatest tag team in ROH history and their most loyal wrestlers. Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe showed tremendous talent from day one in the early stages of Ring of Honor. The company made them the faces of the tag division and that never changed. The Briscoes have held the ROH Tag Team Championships on eight separate occasions.
Jay has a storied singles career as well, capturing the ROH World Championship on two occasions. Mark delivers great singles matches when called upon as well. ROH has been blessed to have the consistency of The Briscoes to this very day. No matter who comes or goes, fans can always count on Jay and Mark adding a familiar face to the show. It would be great to see The Briscoes get a chance on the big stage with the WWE, but they appear to be at home in ROH.
3 Samoa Joe: NXT Main Event Star
ROH’s early rise came with the excellence of Samoa Joe making him a must-watch performer. Joe had the longest reigning ROH World Championship stint in company's history and more importantly delivered classic matches frequently as champ. One of the major factors in ROH's success was the World Title being viewed as a symbol of greatness. Joe helped create that legacy through his incredible work. Sadly, Joe’s ROH tenure would end when TNA demanded all of their contracted performers to stop working for the independents.
Joe had a great run in TNA. He was one of their bigger stars but they always managed to use him poorly in comparison to ROH. TNA never thought of him as the face of the company and it led to him to growing frustrated over the years. Joe took a huge risk leaving TNA in early 2015 and it's paid off. WWE signed him to a deal to work in NXT. Joe is now the top heel and a former NXT World Champion. Aside from being a top player in NXT, Joe is likely slated for a main roster run quite shortly.
2 CM Punk: Retired Legend/Active UFC Fighter
You can’t mention Samoa Joe’s ROH excellence without adding CM Punk’s name into the mix. The two men had a trilogy of legendary matches against each other that helped put ROH on the map. Punk’s overall work stood out in bringing in viewers to Ring of Honor. Not only could Punk deliver great matches, but his promos were on another level. The storyline of Punk threatening to take the ROH World Championship, known as the "Summer of Punk," led to a red hot stretch of shows for the promotion growing some serious momentum.
Punk joining WWE also helped ROH when he started to become a big star on the nationally televised Raw and SmackDown programs. The internet was starting to become more prominent in the world of wrestling, so fans started to seek out ROH after word of mouth spread about CM Punk having even better matches in ROH. Punk went on to have a great career in the WWE before ending his run out of frustration for the political landscape. The legendary wrestler now is struggling to get his MMA career going in the UFC.
1 Bryan Danielson: Retired Wrestler/SmackDown General Manager
The one man most associated with everything the history of Ring of Honor represents is Bryan Danielson. On the surface, no one looked at Danielson and saw anything special. ROH allowed him to showcase his superb technical wrestling and grow as a performer. The fans viewed him as the best wrestler in the world during his legendary ROH World Championship reign, as Danielson had must-watch matches every time out and became synonymous with the ROH brand.
WWE signed Danielson in 2009 and had him work under the modified name of Daniel Bryan. His journey had its fair share of struggles, but Bryan worked his way into a relevant position. WWE fans started to love Bryan for the same reason ROH fans did. You could see him giving his all every single night. Bryan went on to win all of the World Championships in the WWE becoming one of the most popular stars in company history. Concussion issues forced him to retire young and no longer compete in the ring. WWE hired Bryan to be the SmackDown General Manager and he is doing a great job helping to establish the show following the brand split.
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