From 2010-19, Ring of Honor produced some of wrestling’s best talents, a collection of great matches, incredible moments, and compelling storylines. And a few weeks ago, ROH left it to their loyal fanbase to decide the best of the best of the last decade.
ROH Holy S*** Moment of the Decade
Nominees: Chris Hero returns (Final Battle 2013), Ring of Honor debuts on PPV (Best in the World 2014), Ring of Honor vs New Japan Pro Wrestling for the first time on U.S. soil (War of the Worlds 2014), Samoa Joe returns (13th Anniversary Show 2015), Adam Cole joins Bullet Club (Global Wars 2016), the Hardys debut and win the tag team titles (Manhatten Mayhem 2017), PCO wins the world title (Final Battle 2019).
Looking back, this was a great selection of moments for Ring of Honor to put on the ballot. A new chapter opened for the company when they debuted on PPV as it did when their partnership with NJPW saw the two companies compete in a co-branded show for the first time on U.S. soil.
PCO’s recent world title win saw the shocking end of Rush’s year-plus undefeated streak in singles competition, and no one expected that former Kingdom member Adam Cole would become the newest addition to Bullet Club, but that’s exactly what occurred much to the shock of the Global Wars crowd.
The returns of both Hero and Joe were unexpected and thus met with incredible reactions. Joe, whose 645-day reign with the world title is by far the longest in ROH history, had last been last seen with the company in 2008 before reappearing in 2015. Hero had just parted ways with NXT when he made his return to the company where his 363-day tag title reign with Claudio Castagnoli as Kings of Wrestling, remains ROH’s longest all-time. Two all-time champions making their ROH returns is certainly worth celebrating, but neither was as momentous, as game-changing, as WONDERFUL as the moment that fans voted as their pick for the top of the decade.
And the Winner is…
In 2016, something inside of Matt Hardy‘s head snapped leading to the Broken persona which went on to captivate and enthrall wrestling audiences. Alongside, Brother Nero, throughout the rest of that year and into early 2017, the Broken Hardys and the universe surrounding them became one of the hottest and most-talked about things in professional wrestling. In late February, the Broken Hardys became free agents, something that opened up the possibilities for the “Expedition of Gold” the brothers had embarked upon.
No one knew where the Hardys would land, though, at the time, a return to WWE seemed the most likely option. But that wasn’t what happened, at least not right away. After the Young Bucks successfully defended their ROH Tag Team Championship at Manhatten Mayhem, the lights went out causing the crowd to wonder what was going on. When they came back on, the audience erupted in shock and awe as standing face-to-face with Nick and Matt Jackson were Matt and Jeff Hardy. The Hardys challenged the Bucks to put the titles on the line that very night and the Bucks agreed, giving everyone involved a once-in-a-lifetime dream match between the Bucks and a team they idolized and took inspiration from growing up. Needless to say, a “holy s***” chant was had, followed by one of jubilation when the Hardys held high the ROH titles.
ROH Best Match of the Decade
Nominees: Davey Richards vs Michael Elgin (Showdown in the Sun 2012), Jay Briscoe vs Adam Cole (Final Battle 2014), Jay Lethal vs AJ Styles (Final Battle 2015), the Young Bucks vs the Addiction vs the Motor City Machine Guns (All-Star Extravaganza 2016), the Hardys vs the Young Bucks (SuperCard of Honor 2017), Jay Lethal vs Jonathan Gresham in an iron man match (ROH TV 2018), Kevin Steen vs El Generico (Final Battle 2010), Jay Lethal vs Jay Briscoe (Best in the World 2015), Matt Taven vs Jay Lethal (17th Anniversary 2019), Kevin Steen vs El Generico (Final Battle 2012)
One of ROH’s long-standing and one of its greatest wrestlers in history, Lethal unsurprisingly appears on this list several times. Styles vs Lethal dazzled and hit all the right notes from two great champions, Lethal vs Briscoe saw an incredible build culminate in a fantastic title match that ended in a historic result, Lethal vs Taven was the marquee defense of the latter’s title reign and finally Lethal vs Gresham, was a TV match that could have main evented a PPV for any wrestling company in the world.
ROH has just a handful of Dave Meltzer-rated five star matches in their history. Among them? Richards vs Elgin from Showdown in the Sun, a match that was inspired by a Japanese style and featured two hard-hitting guys just going at it.
In its history, ROH has only had only a handful of ladder matches, 10 to be exact. Four of those matches appear on this list. Cole vs Briscoe, the Young Bucks vs the Hardys and the Bucks vs the Addiction vs MCMG all met in ladder wars, culminating feuds that were compelling and exciting. Each match was good in its own right as they all featured high-intensity spots and great storytelling. But none was as intense, held as great of a backstory, and floored as many fans, like the one between two guys who seemed destined to “fight forever.”
And the Winner Is…
In 2009, former ROH World Tag Team Champions, Kevin Steen and El Generico, who had debuted as a team two years prior, split when Steen attacked his partner after a loss, leading to a one-year blood feud that seemingly culminated with another match on this list, Steen vs Generico at Final Battle 2010. The match was an unsanctioned Fight Without Honor that saw Steen put his career on the line against Generico’s mask. Generico won and as per the stipulation, Steen would disappear from ROH for a while. In 2011, Steen returned, attacking his other former tag partner, Steve Corino, setting up a match that led to Steen regaining his ROH career.
Steen, who also attacked Generico that night, would next face his former best friend turned rival in a last man standing match at Showdown in the Sun. The feud between the two would reignite from there and would lead to Steen putting his title on the line and taking on Generico in the latter’s ROH send-off. Given the two, as a team, had taken part in and popularized the ladder war, it only made sense then that this match would be ROH’s first singles ladder war, and one of just two to date that have not featured tag teams.
This war had pretty much everything one could want in a ladder match. The ladders were aplenty, the spots were jaw-dropping and the compelling storyline of two men who now genuinely hated each other was told so poetically, even as both tried to kill each other in the ring. Generico and Steen brutalized each other for nearly 30 minutes with the match finally ending in one of the most horrifying spots ever seen in a ladder war as with two ladders set up like a bridge and another two ladders stacked in between them, Steen hit Generico with a devastating piledriver that broke the first ladder and sent his former partner crashing to the mat. It was the perfect end to their ROH feud.
ROH Best Tag Team of the Decade
Nominees: The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian), the American Wolves (Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards), reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish), the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), the Briscoes (Jay and Mark Briscoe)
There was a period in time where ROH had arguably the best tag team wrestling in the world and look no further than the five teams included on the ballot as a major part of the reason why. Ring of Honor has crowned 56 tag team champions in its history. 21 of those reigns belong to the five teams on this list. And if speaking purely within the past decade, more than half of the tag champs from 2010-19 are held between the men above.
The Young Bucks and ReDRagon each won the titles three times and the Addiction and American Wolves each won the belts twice. For as good as these teams were and for as much as they meant to ROH, there is one duo that stands far and above the rest. For the fans, this one was probably the easiest vote among the four categories on the list as the winner of the best tag team over the past decade could really only belong to Dem Boys.
And the Winner Is…
With both debuting in ROH in its inaugural year in 2002, the Briscoes have spent parts of the past 17 years (excluding a brief sabbatical from wrestling in 2004-06) as focal points of the company. While Jay has found singles successes as well (he’s a two-time world champion), specifically, the Briscoes have been the anchors, the standard-bearers of the tag division. When others have left, including the other four teams on this list, the Briscoes have remained. They’ve been a constant and continue to be as they are the longest-tenured ROH wrestlers still with the company.
Over the course of the past two decades, the Briscoes have established themselves as ROH’s best tag team ever and they certainly belong in the conversation when it comes to best teams all-time regardless of promotion. The Briscoes are record-setting 11-time tag team champions and have defended those titles over 50 times. Additionally, in September 2018, the duo surpassed the 1,000-day mark of total days with the tag titles, something only three other teams in all of wrestling have accomplished.
ROH Best Wrestler of the Decade
Nominees: Adam Cole, Matt Taven, Christopher Daniels, Kevin Steen, Jay Lethal
Ring of Honor has had some incredible wrestlers come through their doors since those doors first opened in 2002. Among them have been fantastic champions, trailblazers, and men whose impact on the pro wrestling industry is still felt today.
From 2009 to 2017, Cole became a huge name within ROH, emerging from the ranks of a top prospect to the company’s first-ever three-time world champion. His other accolades include a reign with the ROH World Television Championship and a victory in 2014’s Survival of the Fittest. His track record with the company speaks for itself as for much of the last decade, Cole was one of ROH’s main stars.
In 2002, Daniels debuted for ROH’s first-ever card and remained a part of the company for the next five years. After a short hiatus, Daniels briefly returned to ROH from 2010-11, and again on a fulltime basis in 2013, where he stayed with the company until 2019. Over those 15 years that Daniels spent either in full or in part with ROH, he became one of the company’s best and most reliable talents. A former four-time tag champion with three different partners, Daniels also won the TV title, world six-man belts and in 2017, for the first time in his career, the world title. When Daniels, the winner of the 2016-17 Decade of Excellence Tournament, left ROH, he left with a remarkable career and as the company’s first-ever grand slam winner.
The history of Ring of Honor cannot be written without Steen, who was an absolute force for the promotion almost since the first day he stepped foot in the company in 2005. After a year away in 2006, Steen returned to ROH in 2007 where he remained as one of the company’s top stars until his departure for NXT in 2014. Over those nine years, Steen won the tag titles once and the world title once. But his time in ROH isn’t characterized by the lack of belts he won, but rather by the level of competition he brought and the all-around wrestler he was. In the ring, on the mic, and with all the intangibles that make a performer great, no one could touch Steen over the last decade in ROH.
ROH’s Wrestler of the Year for 2019, it would on the surface appear that Taven is a name that doesn’t belong in the same breath as the rest on this list, though appearances can be deceiving. Debuting with ROH in 2009, Taven is the only guy on this list who spent the entirety of the decade wrestling at least once per year in ROH. While that in and of itself isn’t an accomplishment, Taven’s titles are. He’s a former one-time tag champ, three-time six-man tag champ and one-time world champion. He also won the Top Prospect Tournament in 2013.
That leaves just one and when you think about it, its hard to imagine anyone else as ROH’s Wrestler of the Decade.
The Winner Is…
First debuting for ROH in a dark match at Final Battle 2002, Lethal wrestled for the company until 2006 before leaving for TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. When he returned to ROH in 2011, Lethal was a brand new man and it didn’t take long for him to show it. After having failed to find championship success the first time around, in just his second match back, Lethal claimed his first ROH title, the World Television Championship, and held it for 231 days. His second reign with that title would come two years later, where Lethal set several records that still stand.
In his second reign with the TV title, of which he was the first to win the belt twice, Lethal was champion for 567 days. He defended the belt successfully 36 times with his most important defense coming on June 19th, 2015 at Best in the World where the self-proclaimed “Greatest First Generation Wrestler” defeated Jay Briscoe in a title for title match. This gave Lethal his first-ever ROH world title and in the process, made him the first and thus far only man to simultaneously hold both ROH’s active singles championships. Lethal continued to hold the TV title until October and continued to hold the world title until August 2016, for a total length of 427 days. That meant that from April 2014 through August 2016, Lethal had gold around his waist in Ring of Honor.
In June 2018, Lethal recaptured the world title (just the fifth person to do so), holding it for 280 days. This meant that when it came to combined reigns, Lethal now held the record for most days with both the TV title (798) and with the world title (707). A former holder of the Pure Championship as well, in 2019, when alongside partner Jonathan Gresham he defeated Villain Enterprises to win the tag team championship, Lethal became just the third grand slam champion in ROH history.
As Ring of Honor noted in their write-up of the winner, Lethal set the “gold standard” for ROH in the 2010s. It was a decade of unprecedented success for Lethal, who will no doubt go down as one of the best wrestlers to ever step foot in an ROH ring.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch ROH replays at HonorClub.