Breaking Down the 1st Round of the ROH Bracket of Honor (Part 1)

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ROH bracket of honor
Credit: Ring of Honor

This week would have started the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament, a time of the year when fans go crazy over trying to compile the perfect 64-team bracket. Unfortunately, the rapid spread of Covid-19 forced the cancellation of this American phenomenon, as well as sporting events worldwide. That includes live events/TV tapings for Ring of Honor and other high profile wrestling promotions. So with no March Madness and no new ROH episodes to tape, ROH decided to announce a 32-man Bracket of Honor Tournament for fans to vote on over the coming days and weeks.

In a statement on their website, ROH said regarding the Bracket of Honor:

“With no college basketball tournament brackets to fill out this year, we’re hoping to fill the void in some small way and provide a fun distraction for our fans at this difficult time.

We’ve put together an online tournament featuring top current and former ROH stars. The field of 32 wrestlers is composed of the 27 men who have held the ROH World Championship plus five “wild-card” competitors. Winners in each matchup will be determined by your votes.”

bracket of honor
Credit: Ring of Honor

Now, what would be a bracket competition without a little bit of bracketology added to the mix? Take a walk down memory lane as we break down the ROH Bracket of Honor round by round, recapping and comparing each competitor’s ROH successes head-to-head with those of their opponents, as well as providing you with all of the information you’ll need when it comes to making your selections.

Voting for round one is until from now until March 26th at 10 AM ET. Here is part one, focusing on the left side of the ROH Bracket of Honor.

ROH Bracket of Honor Matchups – Upper Bracket (Part A)

Samoa Joe vs James Gibson

In college basketball, this would be what one would call a #1 seed vs #16 seed level of matchup. James Gibson, known in WWE as Jamie Noble, spent just one year, 2005, in Ring of Honor yet he earned his spot on this list by virtue of his 36-day world title reign. Gibson pulled off a shocking upset to win the title when he emerged out of a four-way with Christopher Daniels, CM Punk and his first-round opponent, Samoa Joe, to win the belt. He lost the title to Bryan Danielson in his fifth defense.

And then there’s Joe. This one is as much of a layup as layups get. Samoa Joe is one of ROH’s all-time greats and for many, deserves to be on the company’s version of a Mount Rushmore or within a Hall of Fame. One of the best wrestlers in the world at the time, Joe debuted for ROH in its inaugural year in 2002 and remained with the company until early 2008. In 2015, prior to joining WWE, he had one last brief run. A former Pure Champion, Joe’s crowning ROH achievement is his exceptional nearly two-year run as world champion. From March 2003 to December 2004, no one was as dominant as Joe, who defended the belt successfully 28x during his 645-day reign, which still stands as the longest single world title reign in company history.

Jeff Cobb vs KENTA

Jeff Cobb has wrestled just over 50 matches in his ROH career, but in that three-year span from 2018-20, he enjoyed a period of dominance. Cobb won the ROH Television title on his debut and held that title for 222 days. He didn’t lose a match in the company period in his first year, and didn’t lose his first one-on-one singles match until June 2019, nine months after his debut in September 2018. Cobb never won the ROH world title, he’s one of the wildcards in the tourney, but what he did in a short period of time certainly makes him worth entry here.

Making this one of the more even matches in the tourney, akin to the #8/#9 seeds in a March Madness competition, KENTA also only wrestled a handful of matches over a handful of years with the company and also never won the world title making him the second of five wildcards included. Debuting in 2005 and remaining through 2009, the longtime Pro Wrestling NOAH product defended his GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship several times in ROH rings, though he never did win an ROH belt.

Adam Cole vs Marty Scurll

In 2017, Marty Scurll replaced Adam Cole as he was kicked out of Bullet Club. Might the Villain be able to kick Cole out of this tourney as well? It certainly won’t be so easy this time around as Adam Cole’s ROH resume is tough to compete against. From 2009-17, Cole made himself an invaluable part of ROH’s continued evolution. With names like CM Punk, Kevin Steen, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, etc all moving on, ROH became Cole’s playground. While starting as an up-and-coming team tag star alongside Kyle O’Reilly, both men broke out and carved their own ROH legacy. Cole’s saw him win Survival of the Fittest in 2014 and the ROH world title tournament in 2013. He’s a one-time television champion and record 3x world champion. To this day, he is the only man to hold the ROH world title thrice.

Marty Scurll made his ROH debut in 2016 and within three days and three matches with the company, he had become the television champion, defeating Will Ospreay for the belt. Scurll held the title for 175 days. Shortly after he dropped the title, he joined Bullet Club and was immersed in that storyline up until the rest of the Elite all left New Japan Pro Wrestling to create All Elite Wrestling. Scurll, with time remaining on his contract, remained with ROH and created a new dominant faction known as Villain Enterprises. Alongside PCO, Brody King and Flip Gordon, Scurll won and held the world six-man titles for a record 301 days. Signing a new contract in 2020 which puts him on the creative team as well, there are likely to be big plans for Scurll in the future.

Kevin Steen vs Eddie Edwards

This is one of those matchups where you curse a random draw because it is way too early to lose one of these two in the first round. Kevin Steen’s name is synonymous with Ring of Honor in oh so many ways. In fact, if there were an ROH Mount Rushmore, he’d undoubtedly have his likeness carved on that mountain. In 2005, Steen made his debut with the promotion, returning in 2007 where he began a seven-year period as one of ROH’s premier stars. Steen stood above the rest and ascended to the top on the merits of his fantastic mic skills, consistent in-ring performances, and a mastery of his heel character unlike any other. In his career, Steen helped establish ROH’s ladder wars, taking part in three of the first four. He’s a former tag team champ (alongside El Generico), and ROH world champ, where he enjoyed a fantastic 328-day reign.

The interesting part about this matchup is that Steen and Eddie Edwards are no strangers to each other. Essentially spending the same period of time in ROH (Edwards was 2006-13 and Steen was 2007-14), these two battled over 20 times, primarily for the tag titles and Steen’s world championship. While Edwards was unsuccessful in unseating Steen as champ, one-half of the American Wolves, Edwards won his own world title a few years prior, defeating Roderick Strong in 2011. In addition, Edwards’ ROH career saw him win the television title once and tag titles twice alongside Davey Richards. In 2010, Edwards won Survival of the Fittest and the tournament to crown a vacant television champ.

ROH Bracket of Honor Matchups – Lower Bracket (Part A)

Bryan Danielson vs Colt Cabana

Few ROH title runs were more impressive than that of the American Dragon, Bryan Danielson, who was hands down the top performer in ROH from the end of 2005-06 and played a key role in the ROH vs Combat Zone Wrestling storyline. Bryan enjoyed a 462-day reign as champ, which is the third most of all-time. With the company from the beginning, Danielson wrestled in the main event of ROH’s The Era of Honor Begins inaugural event in 2002 and remained with them until 2009. Considered to be one of ROH’s Founding Fathers, Danielson won the first-ever Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004 and one year later embarked on his title run, successfully defending the belt 38 times including in a match to unify the world and Pure titles.

Known more for his comedic side, there was a time when Colt Cabana, the former Matt Classic, was quite the player in ROH. Enjoying three different runs with the company (2002-07, 09-11 and 16-19), Cabana has had some big moments in his ROH career including reaching the finals of Survival of the Fittest in 2004, 05 and 09. Our third wildcard in this tournament, Cabana is a two-time tag team champion, both with CM Punk as the Second City Saints. He’s been a constant presence in ROH throughout its history and has made valuable contributions to the company.

Austin Aries vs Davey Richards

Put this in the Steen/Edwards category in that this is another first-round match that easily could have been in a later round given the presence both men occupied within ROH. We’ll start with Austin Aries. Primarily with ROH from 2004-10 (and briefly in 2015 and 18), Aries first found success with Generation Next as he was hand-picked by Alex Shelley to join the stable of future stars. By the end of his first year, Aries was ROH champion, the man to end Samoa Joe’s record-reign. Aries held the title for 174 days but by six months later, he had his next belt, the tag titles alongside Roderick Strong. In his ROH career, Aries won the world title twice and tag titles once.

From 2006-13, Davey Richards was a star in ROH, taking part in some huge matches and huge angles. His career with the company began as KENTA’s protege and then transitioned to Roderick Strong’s partner in crime. Together, alongside Rocky Romero, the trio was a successful faction known as No Remorse Corps. Next up for Richards came the American Wolves with Eddie Edwards. Across those two teams, Richards won tag gold in ROH four times. But he wasn’t done there. From 2011-12, Richards held the world title for 321 days, defeating Edwards at Best in the World in June 2011. Richards also enjoyed a run with Kyle O’Reilly as Team Ambition before ending his ROH career with one final title win alongside Edwards.

AJ Styles vs Homicide

A world champion the world over, it may be hard to believe, but AJ Styles is actually a wildcard in this tourney, the ROH world title having alluded him in his career. In April 2002, AJ Styles made his ROH debut and instantly found himself at the top of the ranks, winning a #1 contendership for the world title within seven months of his debut. From the gate, it seemed there were plans for him, with Styles winning tag titles alongside The Amazing Red and becoming the first-ever Pure Champion in 2004. But Styles’ plans were put on hold when TNA decided they would no longer share talent with ROH, ending the previous partnership of the two U.S. companies. So in 2006, Styles’ first ROH run came to an end. It wasn’t until eight years later that he returned for a brief two-year stint before joining WWE.

Most people may go with Styles for the win based on name recognition but when it comes to ROH success and longevity, if this were a seeded tournament, Homicide would probably get the better draw. Debuting on ROH’s inaugural card in 2002, Homicide remained with the company until 2008 and returned for a second run from 2010-14. Unlike Styles, Homicide actually was ROH world champ, briefly holding the title from 2006-07. Prior to this, he played a critical role in helping ROH defeat CZW.

Roderick Strong vs Low Ki

An underrated matchup in a tournament of champions, the battle of Mr. Ring of Honor himself against one of the company’s Founding Fathers, is certainly worthy of better than a first-round meeting. From 2003-16, Roderick Strong was a part of ROH and at often times, a big part. Strong’s 13-year Ring of Honor career is marked by no shortage of highlights including winning Survival of the Fittest in 2005 and becoming the second triple crown winner with two TV title reigns, one world title reign and a tag title reign alongside Austin Aries. In ROH, Strong was part of so many successful stables including the Decade, Generation Next, No Remorse Corps and House of Truth. While many of the names on this list left ROH for WWE or TNA at various points, no one was as consistent with ROH as Strong was. He too left, but only after establishing a 13-year run that won’t soon be forgotten. That’s why he’ll always be “Mr. ROH.”

Low Ki will always have the distinction of saying he won the first-ever ROH main event. He also owns the right to say he was the first-ever world champion. With the company from 2002-06, Low Ki was one of the Founding Fathers who truly help build ROH’s brand. While his title reign wasn’t long, Low Ki’s impact on ROH was meaningful.

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. Make sure to vote in the ROH Bracket of Honor tournament at rohwrestling.com.

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