A look back through History: The Ring of Honor World Championship Finale
It's been a fun trip, but its time to come back to the present as we come right up to date on the Ring of Honor World Championship
Hello one and all, and welcome to the final part of our look back through history at the Ring of Honor World Championship.
This has been one of my favourite titles to look back on, and as a result I found it difficult to write this last part, as I didn’t want it to end!
But end it must, and so here we are to bring it right up to date. And hey, I can always add more to it in a few years’ time, right?
Whilst Ring of Honor is somewhat smaller than what it could have been considered a few years ago, there is no doubting that it is a spirited company full of men and women who are passionate about the sport of Professional Wrestling. We have seen a lot of former ROH World Champions take their craft to a higher level, and that is no small part due to the stellar work they did on the indies and in Ring of Honor.
Ring of Honor has been hit hard by the pandemic, but there is no doubt, in my mind at least, that once everything gets back to some semblance of normality, Ring of Honor will bounce back and continue to showcase phenomenal talent.
When we left off, the American Nightmare, Cody Rhodes was walking into the 2017 edition of Final Battle as the World Champion, with a brand-new title belt to boot. But he wouldn’t have very long to acquaint himself with the new gold, as he would lose the title that night to a man who loves to party with his boys;
“The Party Peacock” Dalton Castle.
Dalton Castle seemed destined to enter the pro wrestling world since childhood. Between middle school and college, he wrestled regularly, representing his school in 2003, and winning a varsity tournament a year later. He was also an NCAA wrestler, winning a New York Championship in Greco-Roman wrestling and competing three times on the NCAA All-State team.
Castle made his pro debut sometime around 2008, and played the independent scene hard, with matches in numerous promotions between 2009 and 2015, with appearances for NWA, IPW:UK, CZW, PCW and most notably Chikara, where he began to make his name, becoming the beneficiary of his (kayfabe) uncle, Darkness Crabtree’s estate. In this, he inherited a great deal of money and altered his gimmick to that of a yachtsman, as well as changing his name to Ashley Remington.
During his time with Chikara, he made a handful of appearances for ROH, but in 2015 he entered the Top Prospect Tournament. Whilst he was defeated by Ashley Sixx in the first round, eventual winner Donovan Dijak would voluntarily relinquish his ROH World TV Title match he won in order to join the House of Truth stable that the current TV Champion, Jay Lethal, was part of. This prompted Dalton, accompanied by his Boys, to come out and challenge Lethal for the Television Title. He lost, but Dalton Castle was here to stay.
With his exuberant entrance and his Boys, who would often act as his chair, ring steps, or whatever may be needed, Castle would light up the crowd as soon as he entered the arena. Coming down to the ring to a modified instrumental version of Queen’s “I Want It All”, and then throwing up his plumage, Castle brought a sense of excitement to his matches.
When he entered into a feud with Silas Young in September of 2015, he agreed to put the Boys on the line. He initially lost, and so Silas Young took ownership of the Boys to turn them into “real men”, but he would eventually get the Boys back after defeating Young at Final Battle 2015, and then again in a Fight Without Honor in April of 2016.
Castle then moved on to chasing championship gold after winning a number one contenders four corner survival match at Global Wars to earn a shot at Bobby Fish’s Television Title, but he was unsuccessful in winning the gold.
After a short-lived tag team with Colt Cabana ended with Cabana turning on him, Castle once again entered Final Battle 2016 and beat Cabana, ending their feud. Six months later, he finally got a taste of championship gold as he and the Boys won the ROH Six Man Tag Team Titles from Bully Ray and The Briscoes at Best In The World 2017, but just two months later they would lose the titles to the Hung Bucks of Adam Page and the Young Bucks.
This though set of a chain of events where Dalton began to go after another Bullet Club member in Cody Rhodes, who of course was the World Champion, and this culminated in Castle defeating him and becoming ROH World Champion at Final Battle 2017.
In a 197-day reign as Champion, Castle successfully defended the title against Punishment Martinez (WWE’s current United States Champion, Damian Priest), Tarkan Aslan, Beer City Bruiser & Trent Beretta in a triple threat match, Jay Lethal, Marty Scurll, EVIL, and Cody Rhodes & Marty Scurll in another triple threat.
Castle has stated though that he was disappointed with his World Title run, as a persistent back injury (he had broken two bones in his back) meant that he was unable to perform to his best. Since losing the title, Castle has remained with Ring of Honor, most notably turning on his boys in 2019, and has recently been involved in a program with Eli Isom and Dak Draper, going after the World Television Title once more.
Dalton’s last match as World Champion took place on ROH TV, when he lost the title in a four-corner survival match to a man who is synonymous with Ring of Honor, Jay Lethal.
With this being Lethal’s second reign, and with his first reign being so monumental, it was going to be difficult for Lethal to match it, but he had another solid run, as he held the title for 280 days. With fourteen successful title defences against Jonathan Gresham, Mark Haskins, Flip Gordon, Will Ospreay, Silas Young, Scorpio Sky, Chris Sabin, Kenny King, Cody Rhodes, Gabriel Kidd, Dalton Castle, Vinny Marseglia, TK O’Ryan, and Matt Taven,
With a total of 26 title defences across his two reigns, Lethal is definitely near the top of the list of greats ROH World Champions, in fact, he tops the list with most days as Champion at 707.
After losing the title, it didn’t take long for him to get back on the championship horse, as he won the ROH World Tag Team Championships with Jonathan Gresham at Final Battle 2019. As The Foundation, they held the titles for 441 days, although a lot of that was due to the Coronavirus pandemic closing everything down.
Despite that, The Foundation is still an active unit in ROH today, and at 36 years old, its almost certain that not only does Jay Lethal have plenty of time left in the tank, but almost certainly another World Title reign too.
Going back to his loss of the World Title though, Lethal lost it on 6th April 2019 at the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard that took place at Madison Square Garden. On the card, he was scheduled to face Matt Taven and Marty Scurll for the title in a ladder match. In what was a great match to see happen, Matt Taven emerged victorious as the new Ring of Honor World Champion.
Few could, or even would, argue that Matt Taven was not fully prepared for a career in Professional Wrestling. With a bachelor’s degree in sports, entertainment and event management, and a minor in psychology, Taven had given himself all the tools he would need to ensure sustained success in the often-harsh world of wrestling.
What is also interesting is that, aside from his debut year in 2008, Taven has had at least one match for Ring of Honor every year since, with his 2009 appearances both being dark matches, one in a loss to Jaleel Patel, the other being a tag team victory with Bobby Dempsey against Gino Giovanni and Jaleel Patel, he has gone on to bigger and better things ever since.
Whilst his initial few years with the company boiled down to essentially being a jobber, 2013 saw his stock begin to rise. By this point, he had been honing his craft on the indies with companies such as Top Rope Promotions and Chaotic Wrestling and had become a two-time TRP Heavyweight Champion and two-time CW New England Champion, as well as a former Northeast Wrestling Heavyweight Champion.
Taven was entered into the 2013 Top Prospect tournament, and beat ACH, Silas Young and Tadarius Thomas to win the tournament, earning himself a shot at the ROH World Television Title. There was just one catch. The Champion was Adam Cole bay bay!
It proved to not be much of an issue for Taven, as he beat Adam Cole and won the TV Title, holding it for a massive 287 days after winning it. And he certainly got the cream of the crop in his title defences too, beating names like Matt Hardy, Mark Briscoe, Eddie Edwards, Jay Lethal, Davey Richards and Roderick Strong, Taven had a strong reign as champion before losing to the Sicilian Psychopath, and current two-time NXT Champion, Tommaso Ciampa.
After losing the TV Title, it would be nearly two years until he would hold ROH gold again, as he teamed up with long-time friend Mike Bennett in 2014 to form The Kingdom. Taven and Bennett had trained together at Spike Dudley’s school, and so they were a natural fit together as a team, having won the IWGP Tag Team Championships in April 2015. They soon added the ROH World Tag Team Championships in September of 2015, beating the Addiction of Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels and the Young Bucks in a three-way match at All Star Extravaganza VII.
After a near three-month reign, they would drop the title to War Machine of Hanson and Rowe, and again Taven had to wait for his next taste of ROH gold (though he was in the midst of a huge second reign as Northeast Wrestling Heavyweight Champion).
This time though, it wasn’t two years, but just two months he waited, as he would win the ROH Six Man Tag Team Titles with TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia in a reformed Kingdom, a championship that the trio would hold three times between 2016 and 2019.
Having also spent some time throughout his career wrestling in Mexico, it was also no surprise that he added a title to his collection from there, as he won the NWA World Historic Welterweight Championship from Volador Jr, although he would lose it back to him just four months later.
2019 saw Taven reach the Pinnacle (no, not MJF’s super heel group) as he walked out of the G1 Supercard show having taken the title from Jay Lethal in a three-way ladder match. Prior to this, he had been carrying a replica of the ROH World Title, but on purple leather, and proclaiming himself to be the True Ring of Honor World Champion. In his 174 days as ROH World Champion, Taven defeated Flip Gordon, Jordon Aries, PCO, Mark Haskins, Tracy Williams, Jeff Cobb, Jay Lethal & Kenny King in a three-way, Marko Estrada, Alex Shelley, JT Dunn and Volador Jr.
With his World Title win, he became only the second Grand Slam Champion in ROH history, but many felt that Taven winning the title hurt ROH as he was not a draw, with the majority feeling the title should have gone to Marty Scurll, but with everything that has come out since, I believe many of those critics may well be eating their words. Taven was a good champion, and while he may not be a superstar name in the business, he is a solid and dependable hand, and did great things with the title.
Shortly after his loss of the title, Vinny Marseglia turned on Taven, with Taven going face, and he has since been on something of a redemption story alongside a returning Mike Bennett, forming the OGK (Original Kingdom). Taven is also a young man in the wrestling game, so has many years left ahead of him at 36 years old, and whether he chooses to remain with ROH or seek pastures new, he has built a credible legacy in Ring of Honor.
Matt Taven walked into Death Before Dishonor 2019 secure in the knowledge that he was the World Champion, but sixteen minutes later that security was gone as his reign ended. 27th September 2019 would be the final day of his reign as he would lose to the Mexican sensation, Rush.
Rush (pronounced Roosh for those unaware) had been a staple of CMLL in Mexico since 2009 prior to turning up in ROH. Rush was born into the business, with his father, Bestia del Ring, and his brother Dragon Lee, being wrestlers, not to mention his uncles who worked as Pit Bull I & Pit Bull II in Mexico.
After debuting in 2007, he would mostly work tag team matches, often as a face (or tecnico in Mexico) and it wasn’t until 2011 when he won his first championship, the Mexican National Trios Championships with Angel de Oro and Diamante (again, not AEW’s Diamante).
Just one month later, Rush won the CMLL World Light Heavyweight Title from Ephesto and embarked on an incredible 693-day reign as Champion until he vacated the title on January 15th 2013.
Whilst he held the title though, he formed El Bufete del Amor with Maximo and Marco Corleone (the former Mark Jindrak), and the trio would end up winning the CMLL World Trios Championships, and then went on a dominant 445-day reign with the titles.
That wasn’t his only trios success though, as well as the aforementioned Trios title he won for his first ever championship, he would win a second Mexican National Trios Title, this time with La Mascara and Titan. By mid 2013, Rush had been teasing a heel (or rudo) turn and cemented this by cheating to win a match at CMLL’s 80th Anniversary show.
He became known as “the most hated wrestler in CMLL”, and was awarded the tag team titles with La Mascara due to the previous champion, Rey Bucanero, being injured and unable to defend the title after they had won a tournament to face the champions.
Soon after Los Ingobernables were formed, with La Sombra (now known as Andrade el Idolo) and La Mascara being the founding members. This group of course has gone on to spawn its Japanese division led by Tetsuya Naito, and in 2018, Rush won the CMLL Tag Team Titles again, with stablemate El Terrible. This would be his final title win in CMLL, as he would announce in 2019 that he would be leaving and forming a new stable, La Faccion Ingobernable in AAA and ROH.
Due to the partnership between CMLL and ROH, Rush had his first match for ROH on February 9th 2019, and by September 27th he was the World Champion having defeated Matt Taven. His first reign as Champion lasted just 77 days, with successful defences against Silas Young and Jeff Cobb, before he suffered som real bad luck at Final Battle 2019.
In a Friday 13th Massacre No Rules match, PCO won the title from Rush, making himself the oldest champion in the titles history.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who PCO is, but for those who may be unaware, Pierre Carl Oullet is the former Quebecer of the WWF tag team The Quebecers, who were known also as the Amazing French-Canadians in WCW.
PCO (which now stands for Perfect Creation One) began his career way back in 1987, working the independent circuit and forming a team with Eddie Watts known as “the Super Bees”.
By 1993, he was a regular for IWA in Puerto Rico, and it was here he was spotted by WWF and offered a try-out.
The try-out was a success, and he was teamed up with Jacques Rougeau to become the Quebecers, and by the time the team went inactive in 1994 they had won the WWF World Tag Team Championship three times. After his release from WWF in 1995, Oullet signed with WCW, and was once again teamed with Rougeau, but without the tag team title success this time around. He had a brief spell in ECW in 2000, again without any title success
After WCW and ECW went under the corporate bus that was the WWF/WWE, Oullet dotted around the scene for a time, taking in spells with NWA: TNA, and a brief one-off return to WWE in 2003, before heading back to Canada and working the scene there, whilst also working in Puerto Rico. He also began working in Europe, most notably Germany, for WXW and DWA in 2008, as well as two more matches in WWE in 2007 and 2008.
Oullet retired from wrestling in 2011 and spent five years out of the game before the pull of the bright lights brought him back in 2016, and since then he has been on something of a hot streak.
After easing back into it with just a handful of matches in 2016 and 2017, 2018 saw PCO kick it into Full Gear (I’m doing this on purpose now…) and after winning the XZW Ironman Championship at the back end of 2017, he went on to win the GNW Canadian Championship, and the GCW Extreme Championship, before finding his way to Ring of Honor.
He joined ROH, and immediately joined Villain Enterprises alongside Marty Scurll and Brody King, and within three months the group were ROH World Tag Team and Six Man Tag Team Champions.
Whilst their ROH World Tag Team Title reign didn’t last long, ending just a month after it started, PCO and Brody King would win a tournament for the vacant NWA World Tag Team Titles, holding those from 27th April to 7th September 2019.
As ROH were heading towards Final Battle, they held a tournament to determine the number one contender to Rush’s ROH World Title, and PCO would be the winner. He would take this momentum into Final Battle and beat Rush for the title.
This very much led into the storyline of Rush turning heel, as his only two title defences after winning the title in his 78-day reign were against Rush and Dragon Lee, before he dropped the title back to Rush at Gateway to Honor on February 29th, 2020 in a three-way match with Mark Haskins.
Since then, PCO has been used sporadically, but it appears he has got his fire back for Professional Wrestling, and it doesn’t seem like it will go out anytime soon.
As impressive as it sounds for Rush that he then held the ROH World Title for 498 days, sadly the majority of that was during the Coronavirus pandemic when Ring of Honor was essentially shut down (COVID-19 has an awful lot to answer for, and let’s face it, this is the least of it!)
After winning the title, ROH effectively ceased operations until August 2020, when the build to Final Battle began. Rush would end up defending his title at Final Battle 2020 against Brody King, and had further defences against Shane Taylor and Jay Lethal on 26th February 2021 and 26th March 2021 respectively.
His final defence, and ultimately the scene of his loss of the title, came against an opponent that, quite frankly, none of us saw coming. Bandido.
Much like Rush, Bandido was born into the business, with many of his relatives already successful wrestlers in their homeland of Mexico.
Debuting in 2011 under the name Magnifico II, he formed a tag team with his cousin who worked as Magnifico I, and they named themselves the ever imaginative, Los Magnificos. Their team took them all around the independent scene, until he was spotted by El Hijo del Santo and signed to work for his Todo x el Todo promotion under the name Cielito.
By 2016, Los Magnificos were no more, and our man went to Lucha Libre Elite, this is where he created “El Bandido”, a Wild West inspired bandit character, complete with a mask that gave the bandana around the face look.
Whilst with LLE, Bandido won the LLE Welterweight Championship, but the company closed down before he could really do anything with it. After this, Bandido travelled the world for the next few years, wrestling just about everywhere.
The Crash, OWE, CZW, RPW, DEFY, Dragon Gate, NWA, CMLL… you name it, he probably wrestled there. I mean seriously, just look at this:
See what I mean? Everywhere!
In fact, he is also a former PROGRESS World Tag Team Champion with Flamita, having won the titles from AR Fox and Chris Brookes on 11th August 2018. They held the titles for 50 days before losing them at the huge PROGRESS Chapter 76: Hello Wembley event in a Thunderbastard match to Aussie Open (A show I went to which was awesome!)
After building his name across the world for two years, Bandido, along with his MexiSquad mates Flamita and Rey Horus, landed in ROH, and within one year they had won the ROH Six Man Tag Team Championships. Sadly, the only held the titles for a month, but given that a month prior to winning them Bandido had won the PWG World Championship (which he still holds today), not to mention still being The Crash Heavyweight Champion, Bandido was anything but lacking in gold.
With 2020 being something of a washout, Bandido still managed to get some ring time on, most notably with CMLL and ROH, he must have moved into 2021 hoping for it to be a big year, but he mostly lost all of his matches until June of this year, when by some miracle he won the Survival of the Fittest Tournament. This granted him a shot at the Ring of Honor World Championship held by Rush, and at Best in the World, against all the odds, Bandido somehow emerged victorious as the new Ring of Honor World Champion.
Since winning the title, Bandido has defended it against Flip Gordon, as well as winning a four-way match involving Brody King, EC3 and Demonic Flamita (his former tag team partner who has now turned heel) and defended the title just a few days ago (at time of writing) against Matt Taven at Big Lucha in Mexico.
At just 26 years old, Bandido is still starting out in his career, but his current run in ROH as the underdog champion suits him down to the ground. He is a unique and fun to watch character, and I am sure this will not be his only World Title.
And there we have it. 36 reigns among 28 wrestlers, with Adam Cole as the only three-time Ring of Honor World Champion.
Low Ki is the youngest champion in the title’s history, at just 22 years old, while PCO easily takes the oldest champion record at 51.
Samoa Joe’s 645-day reign as champion ranks as the single longest reign in history, with Kyle O’Reilly’s 33 day reign the shortest.
But however long you hold a championship for, it cannot be taken away from you, and each and every man on this list is a World Champion in every sense. Some of them are retired, while one is sadly no longer with us, but the majority are still wrestling now, with a lot of time left ahead of them to further cement their legacies.
Thank you for joining me on this six part look back at the Ring of Honor World Championship. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it.
I will now take a little break before returning with a new Look Back Through History in the not-too-distant future.
Thanks again for reading, and please continue to support everything we do, we couldn’t do this without you!