A look back through history: The Ring of Honor World Championship - Part Three
Paul is back again with part three of the look back at the Champions of Ring of Honor!
Welcome back to this look back through history at the Ring of Honor World Championship.
Hopefully, it’s been interesting stuff so far, and we have covered some of the biggest names in wrestling today such as Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness and of course, CM Punk.
The Ring of Honor World Title was very much the title of the workhorse. It seemed to go to the people who could not only put on a great match with anyone but could also handle the rigours of working an intense, physical style of wrestling. Whilst WWE was giving us “sports-entertainment,” Ring of Honor was giving us pure, unadulterated, pro wrestling.
With the best of up-and-coming wrestlers coming through their doors, thanks in no small part to their own dojo, Ring of Honor was the place to go if you wanted to get noticed by the big leagues. The current WWE roster is literally littered with former Ring of Honor champions, with almost half of the former Ring of Honor World Champions having worked for WWE, either presently, in the past, or in some capacity. More recently, a few of them have found their way to All Elite Wrestling too (especially if the Bryan Danielson/CM Punk rumours are to be believed).
Ring of Honor provided the slingshot that catapulted many wrestlers into the spotlight, and the smart money says they will continue to do that with the rich, vibrant roster they have currently at their disposal.
But of course, it is the Championship we are here to talk about, so let's pick up exactly where we left off last time out.
Having been Champion for 545 days, Nigel McGuinness went into ROH Supercard of Honor IV in 2009 feeling very confident. He had beaten every challenger sent his way and felt sure that his next opponent would be no more difficult than anyone previously. He was wrong.
April 3rd, 2009, saw the rise to the top of the mountain by the legendary, Jerry Lynn.
Jerry Lynn started his career in the late eighties, having trained under Francisco Abarca, Brad Rheingans and Eddie Sharkey. Starting out in Minnesota and Michigan, he would win Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight Championships for Pro Wrestling America (PWA) in the early nineties.
In 1989 though he got his first big break, as he was signed on for Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association. He would work his way through the ranks, eventually earning a shot at the AWA World Title, which was held by Larry Zbyszko. Although Lynn did not win the title, this would prove to be the final AWA World Title match, as Zbyszko left for WCW shortly after, and AWA closed its doors for the final time in January 1991.
Following the closure of AWA, Lynn would decide to broaden his horizons. As well as continuing to take bookings in America, he opened himself to taking bookings In Mexico and Japan also. He would be a regular for Michinoku Pro Wrestling, taking on the likes of TAKA Michinoku and Ricky Fuji, but mostly participating in tag team matches with Terry Boy. In Mexico, he would don a mask and become Sultan Gargola for CMLL.
After working for WCW for two years between 1995 and 1997, it would be his next move where he would come to the most prominence, joining up with ECW. His time with ECW garnered countless classic matches and feuds with people such as Justin Credible, Lance Storm, and Rob Van Dam.
In fact, his match with Rob Van Dam was responsible for getting him more over with the ECW crowd. In a match for the ECW World Television Championship, the time limit would expire, and the referee would award the title to Jerry Lynn. Lynn, however, did not accept this, and instead requested a five-minute time extension. The extension was granted, and RVD would beat Lynn to retain his title, but after this, Lynn would begin to refer to himself as the “New F’N show.”
October 1st 2000, was Jerry Lynn’s crowning ECW glory, as he defeated Justin Credible for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at Anarchy Rulz. It was short-lived however, after only one month and one successful title defence, he would lose the title to Steve Corino, also the man who he made his only successful defence against. Lynn remained with ECW until its closure in 2001, appearing in the main event of their final PPV, Guilty as Charged.
Lynn had made sporadic appearances for the WWF/E throughout the years, mainly as enhancement talent, but after WWE acquired all of ECW’s assets in 2001, he would move to their roster until 2002, winning the Light Heavyweight Championship. After his stint with WWE, Lynn moved on to World Wrestling All-Stars, and then Total Nonstop Action (TNA/Impact) and, of course, ROH.
His time in TNA was his most prolific in terms of Championship wins for the larger companies, winning two NWA World Tag Team Championships and two X-Division Championships, but of course his victory over Nigel McGuinness and subsequent ROH World Title win stands at the head of the table (calm down, Roman...). During this time, he also continued to work the independent circuit, before hanging up his boots in 2013. These days he is a coach and producer for All Elite Wrestling, but there can be no doubt that Jerry Lynn was one of the absolute best performers of his generation, and arguably did not get the full recognition he deserved.
Despite only holding the title for 71 days, Lynn made seven successful defences against some top-quality opposition. Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black (known universally today as Seth Rollins, or the “Blossoming Bastard” to RR member JP!), Colt Cabana and Chris Hero, among others. But his reign ended on June 13th, 2009, and in the process, history was made by crowning the first ever two-time Ring of Honor World Champion, Austin Aries.
After losing his first ROH World Title to CM Punk, Austin Aries would find his way to TNA, becoming Austin Starr and teaming up with Alex Shelley and Roderick Strong, effectively reforming Generation Next, but under the TNA brand. Eventually though, the now Austin Starr would join up with Kevin Nash’s Paparazzi Productions, turning heel in the process.
Unfortunately, though, Aries bad attitude ended up costing him his job with TNA. After being suspended for two months previously in February 2006 for turning up to a PPV late, Aries was again suspended, this time for ninety days, for his attitude towards TNA asking Austin to tape promo vignettes on a day he believed to be his day off. Although he would end up doing the vignettes, TNA saw this as a bad attitude and therefore suspended him. As a result of this, Aries requested, and was granted, his release.
Not that this phased him, as he returned to Ring of Honor (not that he had ever actually left), and within two months was ROH World Champion again. This reign would see him defend the title successfully 14 times in a 245-day reign, beating the likes of Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness, Davey Richards, and a certain AEW World Champion, Kenny Omega.
After leaving ROH in 2010, Aries wrestled for Dragon Gate for two years, before returning to TNA/Impact Wrestling, and becoming their World Champion, setting the precedent of “Option C”, cashing in the X Division title for a shot at the World Championship. In the years that followed, Aries would win the Impact World Title twice more, in addition to a total of six X Division Championships, one World Tag Team Title and a single reign as Impact Grand Champion, making himself a Grand Slam champion within the confines of TNA. During one of those World Title reigns, Aries became “The Belt Collector,” turning up in other promotions across the world and winning their respective Championships, at one point holding the Defiant, IPW:UK, WSW, Defy, Impact Grand and Impact World Titles all at the same time.
Once again though, it appeared that Austin’s bad attitude cost him again, as he lost the Impact World Title to Johnny Impact, Or John Morrison, at Bound for Glory in 2018. Losing the title is fine, but the fact that he no sold the finish and just got up and left after the bell had rung, flipped off the fans and Impact management as well as using bad language was disrespectful at best. Since then, there have been many different theories regarding this, from Aries suffering a concussion mid match to a feud started without management’s position.
Whichever way you look at it, despite his talents, Austin appears to be a somewhat difficult person to work with at times.
Going back to ROH, February 13th, 2010, saw Aries defend the ROH World Title for what, at this point, is the final time. At the 8th Anniversary show, Austin defended, and lost, the ROH World Title to quite possibly one of the best workers in the business today, Tyler Black.
Before he became Seth Rollins, Colby Lopez was working his way up the professional wrestling ladder as Tyler Black.
Having made his debut in 2005 after training with Danny Daniels, he would begin to make his name on the independent scene in his native Iowa, before signing up with IWA Mid-South.
After his stint with IWA:MS, he would join up with NWA Midwest, where he teamed with Marek Brave for the first time, and the two soon won the NWA Midwest Tag Team Championship. The two continued on their path as a tag team until Brave was injured in a match for Full Impact Pro, as he and Black took on the FIP Tag Team Champions, The Briscoe Brothers, for the titles. This led Black to pursue singles competition, and on June 10th, 2007, he made his debut for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla taking on and beating Joey Ryan. Whilst with PWG, Black formed a new tag team with Jimmy Jacobs, and won the PWG Tag Team Championships in June of 2008. Six months later, he would defeat Go Shiozaki and win the FIP World Heavyweight Championship. His reign would end five months later, when, unable to compete, he forfeited the title to Davey Richards.
All of that said, the thing that Tyler Black was most famous for was his Ring of Honor debut as he, Jimmy Jacobs, and Necro Butcher stormed ROH’s Man Up PPV in September of 2007, attacking the Briscoe Brothers and hanging Jay Briscoe from a noose fashioned out of a lighting rig. The footage was so controversial that it was removed from the taping.
The group called themselves, “The Age of the Fall,” and were able to capture championships in All American Wrestling, Full Impact Pro (Tyler’s aforementioned FIP World Title was won whilst part of the Age of the Fall), IWA Mid-South, PWG and of course, Ring of Honor. Black and Jacobs won the ROH World Tag Team Titles twice, and the stable ran roughshod over ROH until the stable was declared to have “died” at “End of an Age” in 2009.
Black would win the ROH World Title, and the newly designed title belt on 13th February 2010, at the company’s eighth anniversary show. His reign would last for 210 days, with eight successful title defences against opponents such as Roderick Strong, Kenny King, Chris Hero, Davey Richards, and Kevin Steen.
Shortly after losing the Ring of Honor World Title, Black was signed to WWE, and renamed Seth Rollins. From there, we all know what happened. Seth has gone on to unprecedented success. He won everything in FCW, before it was rebranded as NXT, and he became the first ever NXT Champion. Shortly after that, with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns he formed the Shield, with the group becoming a dominant part of the main WWE roster for the best part of two years, winning tag team gold with Roman Reigns, before going on to win Money in the Bank and being the first person to successfully cash in the briefcase at Wrestlemania to win his first WWE World Title.
Seth overall title record in WWE stands at four WWE/Universal Championships, one United States Title, two Intercontinental Titles, and six Tag Team Championships with five different partners.
Today, he is the “Friday Night Messiah” on Smackdown and has recently become a father, as he and “The Man” Becky Lynch gave birth to a daughter, Roux. Seth will no doubt be around for many more years to come, as he is only 35, and will likely add many more titles to his already impressive list.
The next person on the list to take on the lineage of Ring of Honor World Champion is another man who would eventually make his way to WWE, albeit some years after Seth Rollins would. At Glory by Honor IX, Tyler Black would lose the title in a no disqualification match to Roderick Strong.
Way before he was ever part of the Undisputed Era, Roderick Strong was a crown jewel in the independent wrestling landscape. Strong debuted in 2000 having completed his training under the tutelage of Jim Neidhart and Terry Szopinski, otherwise known as The Warlord.
His early outings were on the Florida independent circuit, performing under the name of “The Jester.” He then wrestled for Independent Professional Wrestling, winning the Florida Unified Cruiserweight Championship and the IPW Tag Team Championship, until it closed in 2003, moving on at that point to NWA Florida.
During his time with NWA, he would win the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title, defeating Mikey Batts, as well as winning The NWA Florida X Division Title twice. For a time, he was also the head trainer of the wrestling school associated with NWA Florida.
In 2003, Strong joined Ring of Honor, forming the Generation Next stable with Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, and Jack Evans. He would win the ROH World Tag Team Championships with Austin Aries, before eventually branching out as a singles star after four years as part of Generation Next. Throughout this time Strong was incredibly active, wrestling just about everywhere it is possible. He wrestled in Europe for IPW:UK, FWA, and WXW, in addition to Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan. Back on American soil, he wrestled for TNA, CZW, PWG, and FIP, winning titles along the way, such as his three Full Impact Pro World Titles, in addition to two FIP Tag Team Championships and three PWG World Tag Team Championships.
Roddy’s big breakout moment came at Glory by Honor IX on September 11, 2010, when he ripped the World Title away from Tyler Black following a no disqualification match. Months earlier, Strong had turned heel, aligning himself with Truth Martini, and this led to a 189-day reign as ROH World Champion, with successful defences against Christopher Daniels, Davey Richards, Jay Briscoe, El Generico (who looks suspiciously like Sami Zayn...) and former World Champion, Homicide. Whilst his reign was one of the shorter World Title reigns in ROH, when he lost the title on 19th March 2011, he didn’t let this derail his momentum, as he went on to win two ROH World Television titles, and over in PWG he was able to win the PWG World Title, which he them held for 449 days, which he made seven successful defences of before losing to Zack Sabre Jr.
Strong’s 13-year association with Ring of Honor ended when he was finally given a shot in the big time when he signed with NXT, with ROH announcing he would be leaving following the June 25th, 2016, TV tapings. Upon signing with WWE, and heading to NXT, he initially attempted to win the NXT Championship, before transitioning into a storyline where he resisted efforts by the Undisputed Era to get him to join them. But join them he did, and from there he won two NXT Tag Team Championships, and a North American Championship also. Now, he is part of the Diamond Mine faction, following the disbanding of the Undisputed Era, and is teamed up with Tyler Rust. Word is he is set to be pushed hard in the Cruiserweight Division, but whatever he ends up doing, Roddy has the skills to back it up and will absolutely be a success.
Going back to his loss of the Ring of Honor World Title though, it took place at Ring of Honor’s Manhattan Mayhem IV show on 19th March 2011. In front of a packed house in New York’s Manhattan Centre, Eddie Edwards would walk away victorious as the new ROH World Champion.
It has to be said, Eddie Edwards is one hell of a talent. Following his debut in 2002, Edwards won several Tag Team and singles titles prior to landing in ROH. His early career would see him be a regular for Pro Wrestling NOAH between 2005 and 2013, and then later between 2017 and 2019. NOAH were at least partially responsible for his training. Edwards made his ROH debut on December 22nd, 2006, losing to Austin Aries, and a month later lost his second match Jack Evans.
2008 could be considered his breakout year, as he joined Larry Sweeney’s “Sweet and Sour Inc”, which also included Chris Hero and Sara Del Ray. Somewhere down the line, Davey Richards joined Sweet and Sour, and the two eventually branched out on their own, becoming the American Wolves, and around one year after they started tagging together outside Sweet and Sour Inc, they won their first of two Ring of Honor World Tag Team Titles, defeating El Generico and Kevin Steen for the titles.
With their first reign clocking in at 253 days, they made nine successful defences before dropping the belts to ROH stalwarts the Briscoe Brothers. Edwards next taste of Championship gold came when he defeated his tag team partner, Davey Richards, in a tournament final for the vacant ROH World Television Title. At this time, Edwards and Richards were easily two of the biggest stars in independent wrestling, and Edwards winning the TV Title was seen as paving the way for Davey Richards to win the World Title, but surprisingly, after his 280-day reign as TV Champion ended, Edwards would defeat Roderick Strong at the previously mentioned Manhattan Mayhem event to win the World Title. Many fans, myself included, were extremely surprised that he beat Davey Richards to the title, but then, we all should have seen what was coming next...
After seven successful defences, where he defended the title not only on ROH TV, but also at Northeast Wrestling, Independent Wrestling Entertainment and Northern Championship Wrestling, defeating people such as Adam Cole, Christopher Daniels, Chris Hero and Roderick Strong again, his reign ended at just 99 days when he was beaten at the ROH Best in the World 2011 show by... You guessed it, Davey Richards!
Just a few months later, Edwards would win the Fight Club: PRO Championship, which is the main title of Trent Seven’s promotion based here in the UK, and would hold that title for 224 days, though it has to be said he only made one successful defence, against Trent Seven, in that time.
Just over two years after losing the World Title to Davey Richards, the two won tag team gold in ROH again, though this reign ended after just two weeks, as they lost the titles to one of my personal favourite tag teams of all time, reDRagon. For those who are unaware, that would be former NXT Tag Team Champions, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish.
In 2014 though, Edwards and Richards brought their time in ROH to an end, and after a brief flirtation with NXT where they made one appearance, they signed with TNA, rebranding as “The Wolves” and within one month of debuting had won the TNA World Tag Team Championships. Whilst that first reign lasted just one week, they would win another four TNA World Tag Team Titles together, before Richards suffered an ACL injury. This pushed Edwards back into singles competition, and he took to it well, first winning two TNA X Division Championships, before winning the big one, the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, on 3rd October 2016. Upon Richards return from injury, he would end up turning heel on Edwards and costing him the title, with him losing to Lashley following a 97-day reign.
Edwards though held gold again just eight months later when he won Pro Wrestling NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight championship, which he held for 118-days, making him at that time, a three-time World Champion.
Quite possibly the biggest moment that Edwards was involved in however, didn’t even take place with a title on the line. In a match with Sami Callihan on Impact in 2018, Callihan accidently hit Edwards for real with a baseball bat, in a spot where a chair was held against his head. Unfortunately, the bat would ricochet off the chair and smash into Edwards's skull, breaking the bones in his face as well as his nose. Fortunately, Eddie made what appears to be a full recovery, but he took that moment and turned his career around with it.
He would start a new gimmick where he became more of a hardcore wrestler, using weapons and other such shenanigans in his matches. It served him well, as he won a second Impact World Title, with that particular reign lasting just 45 days. Eddie remains with Impact Wrestling today, arguably one of their bigger stars, and at 37 years old, still has plenty left in the tank.
Thanks for joining me again this week, I will be back in two weeks with part four, as we pick up on Davey Richards reign as ROH World Champion, and look at his, and other previous champions biggest moments as we continue our look back through history!
Thanks for reading!