Decade of Dominance: End of An Era For Young Bucks in ROH

At Friday night’s Ring of Honor Final Battle, The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) compete in Ladder War VII for the ROH World Tag Team titles against ROH Tag Team Champions The Briscoes and SCU‘s Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky. It will mark the third straight Ladder War for the Young Bucks, in what could be the duos final match with the promotion they’ve worked for for the past decade. With their contracts up at the end of the year, The Young Bucks seem poised to depart both Ring of Honor (and New Japan Pro Wrestling following Wrestle Kingdom 13 in January) to enter the free agent market (or start All Elite Wrestling if the reports prove true). It will mark the end of an era for tag team wrestling, as one of ROH’s most dominant tag teams in the company’s 16 year history.

When the Young Bucks debuted with Ring of Honor in 2009, they were merely 5-year pros who were just breaking out of the West Coast indie scene that had nurtured them. They’d worked for such promotions as Empire Wrestling Federation (EWF), Alternative Wrestling Show (AWS), and Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, and had just become emerging new stars with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG). They were not even a year into their first PWG World Tag Team reign (that lasted an epic 616 days) when they debuted for Ring of Honor in May of 2009, against the tag team duo of Brandon Day & Sal Rinauro, in a short two-minute intro match. They were also just one year removed from their debut in Japan, working for Dragon Gate. In their first year, they began their storied rivalry against The Briscoes (Mark & Jay Briscoe), feuded with Kevin Steen & El Generico, and had their first shot at ROH tag team gold in a failed opportunity against American Wolves (Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards) on ROH TV that September.

The next two years would see their roles in Ring of Honor put on hiatus – while they still competed with ROH in 2010 and 2011, they had signed with TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, where they debuted as Generation Me (Jerry & Max Buck), where they feuded with the likes of future ROH rivals Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) and Beer Money Inc. (Bobby Roode & “Cowboy” James Storm) but failed to win tag gold during their tenure in Nashville. But they continued to compete regularly with PWG, winning their second set of PWG Tag Team Championships in April of 2011. While they were used heavily in ROH storylines during those two years, they did have big matches against the likes of The Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli, aka Kassius Ohno & Cesaro) and future Undisputed Era stars Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly.

They departed TNA in the summer of 2011, splitting their time with ROH and PWG, and in Ring of Honor had to work their way back up the tag team ladder into contention, feuding with The All Night Express (Rhett Titus & Kenny King) and C & C Wrestle Factory (Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander) throughout 2012. While tag team gold eluded them in ROH, they were slowly acquiring a trophy room of titles from other indies – the 2x PWG Tag Team Champions also won tag team titles in CHIKARA, House of Glory (HOG), Dragon Gate and Future Stars of Wrestling (FSW).

During 2013, The Young Bucks rarely saw an ROH ring, wrestling only three matches. They divided their year primarily with PWG and CHIKARA in the US, and debuting with NJPW that fall in the NJPW Super Junior Tag Tournament. The Young Bucks were instant stars with New Japan, winning their first time in the tournament by defeating Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero) in the finals. They would cap of the year by winning their first IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles at NJPW Power Struggle, defeating Suzuki-gun‘s Taichi & Taka Michinoku. Their arrival in New Japan wasn’t by coincidence either – they debuted as the newest members of a new faction that had just formed in NJPW that February named Bullet Club.

The Young Bucks returned to ROH with a vengeance and new attitude in 2014, and in March they finally captured the ROH World Tag Team titles for the first time, defeating reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish), while still holding the IWGP titles. The year would also see them continue their rivalry against the Briscoes and start new ones with reDRagon and The Addiction – although they’d fought The Addiction before in TNA, when Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian were known as Bad Influence. By June, ROH entered into a partnership with NJPW – called the IWGP Conception – that allowed for a more free travel between the two companies, with Bullet Club using their influence on both sides of the Pacific Ocean now.

Their first reign as ROH Tag Team Champions only lasted 70 days, but they continued to dominate in New Japan, where they were 3x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions by the end of 2015. By September 2016, they captured their second ROH Tag Team Championships, defeating champions The Addiction and Motor City Machine Guns in Ladder War VI at ROH All Star Extravaganza VIII.

In March 2017, the Young Bucks won their third (and final) ROH World Tag Team Championships following a feud against The Broken Hardys (“Broken” Matt Hardy & “Brother Nero” Jeff Hardy) at ROH Supercard of Honor XI in Florida over WrestleMania weekend, in the Hardys last ROH match before heading back to the WWE the next day at WrestleMania 33. During that reign, they also won their 6th IWGP Junior tag titles.

In August of 2017, The Young Bucks paired up with fellow Bullet Club and “Being The Elite” cast member Adam “Hangman” Page to form The Hung Bucks, a trio that went on to capture the ROH 6-Man Tag Team Championships. They would win the titles a second time this year, partnered with Cody Rhodes, before losing them last month to The Kingdom (Matt Taven, TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia) at ROH Survival of the Fittest. They would also occasionally work 6-man matches with fellow Golden Elite partner Kenny Omega.

Which leads us to Friday’s match for the ROH Tag Team titles. The Young Bucks have held the titles three times for a combined 399 days, putting them fourth on the longest reigning champions list in ROH history (behind The Kings of Wrestling (433), reDRagon (672) and the 1000+ days of The Briscoes). And while they could also do what Cody has claimed to do if he beats ROH World Champion Jay Lethal at Final Battle – take the belt to free agency – they will most likely be walking into their own final ROH battle, against one team that they’ve battled since 2009 and another team that may be facing their own final stand in Ring of Honor as well.

There’s no denying the impact that performing for Ring of Honor has had on making The Young Bucks the international phenomenon they are today – from a hugely popular YouTube series in Being The Elite to Hot Topic merchandising, Funko Pops, LJN Figures and All In, The Young Bucks have conquered the world of professional wrestling like very few tag teams (if any) have before them. With 2019 wide open, it’s going to make for an exciting new chapter for the brothers Jackson – but at least we know they’ll do it with honor.