Last night, Ring of Honor sister brand Women of Honor‘s tournament to crown the first ever Women of Honor Champion kicked off on ROH TV, in a match that saw Mandy Leon defeat former 5x Impact Knockouts Champion Madison Rayne to advance to the second round. It marked the debut match of the tournament to be televised. The tournament semi-finals will occur at the ROH Festival of Honor on April 7 during WrestleMania weekend. The date for the finals has not been determined, although they could occur later that night at ROH Supercard of Honor XII.
Code Of Honor after @MandyLeonxo celebrates her huge victory in the first round match in the @Women_of_Honor Championship Tournament against @MadisonRayne! #Honor #Respect #WOH #WatchROH #ROHTV pic.twitter.com/22nlynH1CE
— Women of Honor (@Women_of_Honor) February 11, 2018
With Leon now advancing, there’s still lots of ground to cover in the tournament. And while several other opening round match-ups have been taped for future ROH TV episodes, we will not be spoiling any results for any of the ones that have not yet aired. With that in mind, here’s a look at the tournament and the upcoming match-ups to determine the first ever Women of Honor Champion
KELLY KLEIN vs. JESSE “BONESAW” BROOKS
The winner of this match-up goes on to face newly advanced Mandy Leon. Kelly Klein is a lot of people’s favourites to win the first WOH title, as she’s been a mainstay with Women of Honor since 2015. She’s also been virtually unstoppable, as she’s never been pinned in singles competition, taking out the likes of Candice LeRae, Crazy Mary Dobson (WWE’s Sarah Logan), Solo Darling, Deonna Purrazzo, Brandi Rhodes and just about anyone else put in front of her. Bonesaw Brooks is a tough competitor though, as she returned to WOH last year since her ROH debut in 2013 (in a loss to MsChif). She defeated Gabby Ortiz last December to qualify for the tournament, but she faces a tough challenge in Klein.
HZK vs. MAYU IWATANI
One of two matches to take place in Japan as part of Women of Honor’s partnership with Japan’s premier women’s wrestling (joshi) promotion, Stardom. 20-year old HZK is a huge star on the rise and is currently part of Stardom’s top stable, Io Shirai‘s Queen’s Quest, alongside Momo Watanabe, AZM and Viper (aka Piper Niven in WWE). At such a young age, she’s already a 4x Artist of Stardom Champion (Stardom’s trios titles) with Queen’s Quest. She’s current reigning alongside Shirai and Viper. But her work may be cut out for her, as she’s facing arguably one of Stardom’s greatest stars at the moment in 24-year old Mayu Iwatani, “The Icon of Stardom”. Iwatani is a former 2x Wonder of Stardom Champion (sort of Stardom’s IC title) and last year lost her World of Stardom Championship to Toni Storm following a nasty injury. A 3x Artist of Stardom Champion in her own right, Iwatani is easily one of the favourites to win this tournament as well.
HOLIDEAD vs. DEONNA PURRAZZO
Holidead has been making waves the past few years, but most noticeably as part of the Twisted Sisters with Thunder Rosa. But that’s perhaps overshadowed the fact that the current Resistance Pro (RPW) and Renegade Wrestling Alliance (RWA) Women’s Champion is a solid singles competitor in her own right. She’ll be looking to take her singles career to a national level in claiming the WOH title to her collection. But first she’ll have to go through one of the hardest working women on the indie circuit of the past five years, Deonna Purrazzo. Not only did she work the very first Women of Honor match when the brand relaunched in 2015, she’s worked for everyone from NXT to Impact Wrestling, Stardom to SHIMMER, Game Changer to CHIKARA, and PROGRESS to RevPro. She just signed with Ring of Honor and this would be a huge step for her nationally to capture the very first WOH Championship.
JENNY ROSE vs. KAGETSU
Jenny Rose has been an ROH/WOH staple since her ROH Dojo days as Jamilia Craft, competing for ROH starting in 2010. A year later, she headed to Japan to work with World Women Pro-Wrestling DIANA, where she spent six years working joshi, as well as furthering her craft around the US indies as well. She returned to ROH in 2013 as Jenny Rose and is now entered into the WOH tournament to crown the first champion. She’ll be heading back to Japan for her match-up to face another Stardom star, 25-year old Kagetsu. Kagetsu was trained by the legendary Meiko Satomura of Sendai Girls and has been wrestling since 2008. She made the jump to Stardom in 2016 (although she worked with them sporadically prior) and immediately made an impact, leading the faction Oedo Tai. She’s the current reigning and 2x Goddess of Stardom Champion (Stardom’s tag team titles). A tough competitor, this could be one of the hardest hitting matchups of the first round.
SUMIE SAKAI vs. HANA KIMURA
She may be 46-years old, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Sumie Sakai is an “old timer”. Like another elder member of the ROH roster, Christopher Daniels, Sakai only improves with age. Sumie took part in ROH’s first ever Women of Honor match back in 2002, so it’s only fitting that one of indie wrestling’s true women’s pioneers gets a shot at the WOH Championship, in the company she helped out start in the early days. Trained by legends Jaguar Yokota and Lioness Asuka, she debuted in 1997 with Jaguar’s Jd’ Star promotion before heading to the United States in the early 2000s (she continued her training in New England with Killer Kowalski). As a 21-year pro, Sakai has been wrestling longer than her opponent has been alive. Three year wrestler Hana Kimura is only 20 years old, but she’s been another of Stardom’s emerging stars. A member of Kagetsu’s Odeo Tai (she’s current tag champion partners with her), she’s also a former JWP Junior Champion. A clash of the old vs the new, this will be a classic battle of youth vs. experience.
STACY SHADOWS vs. TENILLE DASHWOOD
The last matchup announced for the tournament, it was only finalized when the formerly known as Emma, Tenille Dashwood, debuted at ROH Honor Reigns Supreme this past Friday. Wisconsin’s Stacy Shadows is a 9-year veteran of the squared circle and tough as nails, working out of Brew City Wrestling (BCW) where she’s a 5x BCW Ladies Champion, and currently Milwaukee’s Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) (not to be confused by the Scottish promotion of the same name). Shadows is a 2x ICW Tag Team Champion as well, taking on the men as well as the women. She made her WOH debut last year. Her opponent has just recently been freed from the WWE and Tenille Dashwood is hungry for the championship success that eluded her in the WWE Universe as Emma. She made her WOH debut this past Friday, teaming with Mandy Leon against Shadows and Kelly Klein, and is determined to have a good showing in this tournament to prove her naysayers to the North wrong.
BRANDI RHODES vs. KAREN Q
Much like Dashwood, Brandi Rhodes has been determined to prove the WWE wrong for misusing her during her tenure with the company. Used as a ring announcer in Stamford, she’s become a popular and successful women’s wrestler on the indie circuit since leaving the company alongside her husband Cody Rhodes. After a short stint as an Impact Wrestling Knockout, she joined Cody in ROH and has since become a fixture with Women of Honor. Her opponent, Karen Q, emerged from the shadows of the indie scene last year and became another breakout star, working with SHIMMER, ECWA, RISE, Women’s Wrestling Revolution (WWR) and more, as well as making her WOH debut last year. Both of these two competitors are tournament favourites, so somebody will be exiting far sooner than they deserve.