Ring of Honor was originally a small promotion that set out to change the wrestling world and they achieved the goal. After WCW and ECW ended, ROH was created to showcase the best unsigned independent wrestlers across the country in super-indie shows. It was an alternative product to the WWE and developed a small following of diehard fans that went to shows and purchased DVDs. Most important, the company created new talent and gave a chance to hungry young wrestlers that would become the stars of the current pro wrestling world.
Wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens and many more made their name and reputation in ROH before going on to bigger spots in WWE. The current in-ring style of more fast paced action and a higher level of work rate were prominent in ROH for years and now it’s become the new WWE style. ROH has undergone many changes through the years and are no longer an independent promotion. Sinclair Broadcasting purchased the company and it has a television show on various affiliates across the country, as well as a weekly Wednesday time slot on Destination America.
The popularity of NXT becoming a hot product similar to ROH has created an unofficial rivalry between the two. NXT has scheduled live shows head to head with ROH in various cities. In other words, they’re trying to run ROH off the road. With the company in an interesting place trying to grow its brand and keep its own talent, there are now exclusive contracts and a working relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling. ROH has created a roster of core talent they believe in and view as stars the fans of today want to see. In this article, we are going to look at the top fifteen wrestlers currently in Ring of Honor.
If you'd like to read a little more about ROH, check out this terrific interview with Rhett Titus from TheRichest.com!
ACH is arguably the best aerial wrestler in the industry today. With his incredible move-set and an inherent charisma, ACH connects with the fans in a way very few young wrestlers can dream of. There have been rumors of NXT showing interest in ACH but it looks like he’s in ROH’s plans for the foreseeable future. ACH delivered some of his best matches in Ring of Honor with Alberto Del Rio, Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal and a few others. Used mostly as a midcarder or tag team wrestler with Matt Sydal, it will be interesting to see if ACH can elevate himself into the upper echelon of ROH in 2016.
14 Dalton Castle
As one of the most unique and flamboyant characters in wrestling, Dalton Castle is a rising star in ROH. Castle participated in ROH’s Top Prospect tournament in the early portion of 2015 and also did a couple taped PPV matches for TNA. The two companies were bidding for Castle’s service and he ultimately chose ROH as the better fit for him. ROH fans absolutely adore Castle and he’s been one of the bright spots for the company recently. The knock on the ROH of old was that there was too much serious wrestling and not enough characters or fun. Castle personifies the fun character while still putting on great matches.
13 The Kingdom
They’re all on the list together because they work best as a package deal. The Kingdom is represented by current ROH Tag Team Champions Michael Bennett and Matt Taven with manager Maria Kanellis. Of course, Maria is most known for her time as a WWE Diva but she has excelled at managing in ROH as she works alongside her husband Bennett. The Kingdom are cocky heels and they all gel perfectly together. Bennett and Taven achieved success in New Japan earlier this year before winning their first ROH tag team titles together. Adam Cole is also in the faction but he’ll be discussed later on.
12 Cedric Alexander
Cedric Alexander is one of the most promising members of the Ring of Honor roster at just 26 years old. During Kevin Owens’ final speech in ROH before leaving for the WWE, he put over Alexander as the future star of the promotion. It was huge and unfortunately Alexander has not been able to live up to those expectations as of yet. Seemingly lost in the shuffle, Alexander puts out great matches but has not been showcased as anything more than another good wrestler on the roster. Still very young and nowhere near hitting his potential, better days should be ahead for Alexander as he puts all the pieces together.
11 Michael Elgin
Former ROH World Champion Michael Elgin has been having a hell of a year after going to Japan for the summer and performing very well in NJPW’s G1 Climax. Making ROH proud, Elgin is one the strongest men in wrestling and uses that to his advantage in showcasing innovative moves. Elgin’s ROH World Championship run in 2014 was extremely disappointing but he’s been working hard to put that in the past. If he gets another shot in the world title picture, Elgin will likely have extra motivation and continue to remind everyone why the company believes in him.
In an interesting story not many people would have believed 10 years ago, a former NFL player is one of the biggest stars in Ring of Honor today. Moose started training for pro wrestling after a seven-year NFL career playing offensive tackle for four different teams. Many former team sport athletes entering pro wrestling tend to develop a reputation of being lazy or entitled and Moose is the exact opposite. The big man works and improves from show to show and will be a name to look out for over the next few years as he continues to progress. His potential is unlimited and he will likely end up in the WWE one day.
9 Bobby Fish
As a member of the reDRagon tag team with Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish is a very versatile performer who excels in both tag team and singles matches. Fish will deliver in a promo segment, an opening match or a main event. Promotions always appreciate having someone like that on a roster.
Fish has improved gradually over the years. He couldn’t get a spot on the ROH roster despite making a few one-off appearances until a couple of years ago when he teamed with O’Reilly. Showing his personality and charisma, Fish put it all together and became one of the best talents in ROH.
8 The Briscoes
One of the best tag teams in wrestling over the last decade has been Jay and Mark Briscoe. The brothers from Delaware are real life chicken farmers with an intense look and ass-kicking wrestling style. Very few wrestlers in any company are as believable as the Briscoes. As a tag team, they’ve been extremely successful but also shined as singles stars. Jay was the second ever two-time ROH World Champion before losing it to Jay Lethal in June. Mark has been one of the most consistent wrestlers in the company over the last two years. ROH signed the brothers to exclusive contracts and have made them the cornerstones of the company.
7 Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong is one of the names most associated with independent wrestling and Ring of Honor. Aside from a very short stint in TNA, Strong has never left the company and has been one of the best in-ring performers for years. 2015 has arguably been his best year yet as he’s taken his game to a new level and established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world. When NJPW came to America for a week of joint shows with ROH, Strong was the best performer of the entire stretch. ROH secured a contract extension with Strong in July and he will play an important role in the company’s future.
6 Kyle O’Reilly
As mentioned earlier, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are a tremendous tag team as reDRagon. O’Reilly might be even better as a singles star. With submissions and counters never lacking, O’Reilly is an elite in-ring performer and is on the rise as one of the main eventers in the near future. With legitimate training in MMA and the gradual improvement of continuing to learn his craft in pro wrestling, O’Reilly has been successful in ROH and recently, NJPW. He finished second in NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors and is the current IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champion with Fish. O’Reilly is in one of ROH’s biggest feuds right now with former partner Adam Cole.
5 Matt Sydal
After spending a long time on the shelf recovering from injuries and then getting released by WWE, Matt Sydal was at a crossroads of his career. It could have gotten ugly as many stars regress and take less bookings when leaving WWE but Sydal has used the opportunity to re-establish his reputation as a premiere performer. Sydal has been having incredible matches in 2015 and is once again viewed as one of the best talents in ROH. Between his athletic ability and aerial moves, he makes his matches a must-see highlight reel. WWE made a huge mistake letting Sydal go and ROH getting to use him regularly is a big coup for the company.
4 The Young Bucks
Many diehard wrestling fans often refer to The Young Bucks as the best tag team in the world. Brothers Matt and Nick Jackson have been on the independents for years but it wasn’t until they were let go by TNA that they became elite performers. The team has been stealing shows in ROH, PWG, NJPW and many other smaller promotions over the last few years. Currently as members of the red hot Bullet Club in NJPW, the Bucks are one of the top acts working for both ROH and New Japan. Recently, Matt and Nick signed the most lucrative contract in ROH history as the company wanted to lock up their star tag team.
3 Jay Lethal
One of the biggest success stories of a wrestler leaving TNA and becoming a star on his own is Jay Lethal. Following his TNA departure, Lethal was given an opportunity in Ring of Honor and has made the absolute most of it. Lethal turned into a ROH regular and worked his way up to becoming the current dual ROH World Champion and ROH Television Champion. The former Black Machismo has found his own voice and has elevated his work into being one of the best all-around performers in the business today. Lethal is now one of the faces of the ROH brand and one of the best wrestlers in the world.
2 Adam Cole
At just 26 years old, Adam Cole is already creating quite the legacy for himself in Ring of Honor. Cole had a long and successful title reign end in 2014 but has remained a main event act for ROH. Serving as the leader of The Kingdom, there aren’t many heels in wrestling as good as Cole. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching a typical "wrestling bad guy" but rather a true television villain. He’s the kind of character in any form of art that plays with your emotions. You look at Cole and want to love him due to his talent but he can easily make you want to watch him get destroyed by his opponent. Cole is young, has the “it factor” and is a top star in any promotion he steps foot in. ROH is very lucky to have him.
1 A.J. Styles
When leaving TNA, the first booking A.J. Styles took was in ROH. The match against Roderick Strong was successful but more importantly, it showed Styles was still a big deal to the avid wrestling fan. After years of mediocrity in TNA, people weren't sure if he was still an elite wrestler and if fans would care about him. Well, Styles quickly answered those questions by succeeding in ROH and New Japan. Of all the talents to compete for both companies, A.J. is by far the biggest star. Watching his current matches feels like you’re watching a rare superstar in his prime writing out his legacy. Styles is one of the four biggest stars in NJPW and serves as a main eventer in ROH. The main event for the company’s biggest show, Final Battle, will be A.J. Styles challenging Jay Lethal for the ROH World Championship.