Friday 1st April will see the start of an new era in Ring Of Honor when the first event of the Tony Khan ownership of ROH takes place with Supercard Of Honor and to celebrate the dawn of a new era, lets look back at the past 20 years and rank the Top Ten ROH wrestlers in its history.
As per course, we will look at various criteria to separate the Samoa Joes from the Shane Hagadorns
Length and number of World Singles and Tag Title Reigns
Match quality (Sourced from Dave Meltzer's Star Ratings and Cagematch Ratings)
Awards won by wrestlers in their time in Ring Of Honor
So who has been the stars of Honor in the past two decades.
#1- Bryan Danielson
With his 462 day reign as ROH World Champion chronicled in our Top Ten Title Reigns list that is in our website's archive being his shining achievement from his 7 year run in Ring Of Honor, his quality of work in ROH is unparalleled with Danielson having 70 matches rated 8.00+ on Cagematch with "The American Dragon" finishing second on the Dave Meltzer Star Rating List (who finished first won't surprise you, more on that later)
Amount of matches rated 8.00+ on Cagematch
1-Bryan Danielson 70
2-Austin Aries 46
3-Roderick Strong 43
5-Davey Richards 37
5-Nigel McGuiness 37
7-Kevin Steen 30
8-Samoa Joe 27
9-AJ Styles 21
10-Young Bucks 20
10-Jay Lethal 20
*9 Jay singles matches with 3 Mark vs Jay matches
Danielson would win plaudits for his time with Ring of Honor with the readers of the Wrestling Observer Award awarding Danielson with 11 awards (5 Best Technical Wrestlers 05-09, 4 Most Outstanding Wrestlers 06-09, 2007 Match of The Year (vs Morishima) and also the Most Outstanding Wrestler of The Decade Award in the 00's which 4 more than the next best in this category The Young Bucks with a second place placing in the 2007 Wrestler of The Year Award, the highest placing from a ROH wrestler in the company's history.
Danielson's 462 day reign is the fourth longest World Title reign in ROH history with a defence every 12 days (more details on this reign in the Top Ten Title Reigns column) is his greatest period as a wrestler pre-WWE but his accomplishments away from those 462 days should not be forgotten and put Danielson at the top of this list.
#2- Samoa Joe
Joe's record breaking ROH World Championship reign of 645 days is also chronicled in our Top Ten Title Reigns list at two places below Danielson's reign. That reign would put ROH in the second tier of US promotions alongside NWA-TNA in 2004 despite it's smaller budget compared to the Nashville based promotion and would put Joe into third position in the 2004 Wrestler Of The Year Award in the Observer Awards.
Longest ROH World Title Reigns
1- Samoa Joe 22/3/03-26/4/04 645
2- Nigel McGuiness 6/10/07-03/4/09 545
3- Rush 29/2/20-11/7/21 498
4- Bryan Danielson 17/9/05-23/12/06 462
5- Jay Lethal 19/6/15-19/8/16 427
6- Kevin Steen 12/5/12-4/5/13 328
7- Davey Richards 26/6/11-12/5/12 321
8- Jay Briscoe 6/9/14-19/6/15 286
9- Jay Lethal 30/6/18-6/4/19 280
10- Adam Cole 20/9/13-22/6/14 275
A joint-fourth place placing in the Meltzer Star rating list and an eighth place in the Cagematch list shows Samoa Joe's level of work in ROH with Joe being the only wrestler to have two 5-star matches in ROH (Joe vs Punk II and the Kobashi match).
Add the three Observer awards (Best Brawler 05-06 and 2005 Most Outstanding Wrestler) and Joe's ROH resume is only just behind Danielson and makes Joe a worthy inaugural member of the ROH Hall of Fame.
#3- Mark and Jay Briscoe
The Briscoes 100% deserve their place in the first ever ROH Hall of Fame when you look at the cold facts. Jay alone has had a storied career in ROH with his nine 8.00+ matches on Cagematch putting him in the Top Ten of ROH singles matches over the 8.00 threshold and his 375 days as ROH Champ over a two reign stretch puts Jay eighth in the combined days as champ list.
But the bread and butter of Jay's ROH career has been teaming with his brother Mark to be Ring Of Honor's greatest tag team with 12 reigns as champs, quadruple of the next best amount with the 1,373 days and counting in the combined days as champs are double of reDRagon's 672.
Reigns x Combined days- ROH Tag Team Champs
Reigns Combined days as champs Total
1- Briscoes 12 1,373 16,476
2- reDRagon 3 672 2,016
3- Kings of Wrestling 2 433 866
4- Young Bucks 3 399 1,197
5- Addiction 2 311 622
6- World Greatest Tag Team 2 308 616
7- American Wolves 2 267 534
8- Lethal/Gresham 1 436 436
9- Whitmer/Jacobs 2 168 336
10- Dragon Lee/King 2 157 314
Mark and Jay finish joint 4th in the Meltzer list with a 6th place finish for the team in the Cagematch rankings with Jay's nine 8.00+ matches propelling the team to fourth in that list. The three Mark vs Jay matches in ROH all get the 8.00+ treatment from Cagematch.
Whatever happens at Supercard of Honor in the match against FTR and whatever to happens to the Briscoes in the new era of ROH with Jay's comments towards the LGBT community coming under the microscope in the last few months, it will take an herculean effort to top Mark and Jay as the companies greatest ever team.
#4- Davey Richards
The first coronated champion of the Sinclair era of ROH, Davey Richard's 321 days as champ is the seventh longest reign in the first 20 years of the companies existence and the fourth longest of the Sinclair era which constituted the second half of ROH 1.0.
As one half of one of the three ROH matches to get the 5-star treatment from Dave Meltzer (vs Michael Elgin), Richards ends up at third in the Star Ratings List but the Cagematch voters have given Richards high marks with them giving his matches a rating of more than 8.00 on 37 occasions and of those 37, 18 are singles matches putting Davey fourth on the list of wrestlers with ROH matches with singles matches with 8.00+
Davey's time in ROH teaming with Eddie Edwards as the American Wolves earned rave reviews with 12 matches over the 8.00+ mark, the third most for a tag team in ROH with two reigns as tag champs helping the Wolves into seventh in the Tag Team Champions list.
One of the most decorated wrestler in ROH history, Richards is now plying his trade on the indys (his match vs Malakai Black earlier in 2022 is great) should TK look to go nostalgic at any point in his ownership of the promotion, Davey deserves his seat at a ROH show.
#5- Jay Lethal
Not gonna lie, this is an uncomfortable entry to the list with allegations surfacing about Jay Lethal's conduct in ROH and his signing to AEW drawing understandable and rightful criticism from fans concerned about Lethal's alleged past conduct. But when you have to grit your teeth and look at the emotionless stats on offer, Jay is a rightful top 5 ROH wrestler of all time.
Lethal's two reigns as ROH Champ both have an entry in the longest World Title reigns list and puts him top of the overall ROH World Champs list.
Reigns x Combined days- ROH World Champs
Reigns Combined Days Total
1- Jay Lethal 2 707 1,414
2- Adam Cole 3 445 1,335
3- Rush 2 575 1,150
4- Austin Aries 2 419 838
5- Jay Briscoe 2 375 750
6- Samoa Joe 1 645 645
7- Nigel McGuiness 1 545 545
8- Bryan Danielson 1 462 462
9- Kevin Steen 1 328 328
10-Davey Richards 1 321 321
A joint 6th place finish in the Star Ratings list is combined with Lethal scraping into the Top Ten 8.00+ on Cagematch list in 10th with 16 of his 20 matches over the 8.00 threshold beign singles matches putting Jay 7th on the list of most singles matches at 8.00+.
One of only three to achieve the ROH Grand Slam (World, Tag, Television and either Pure/6-Man), Lethal also tops the Television Title Reigns x Combined Days as Champ list with his two reigns for 798 days(1,596).
Add a Survival Of The Fittest victory in 2012 and a Pure Title reign in the first incarnation of the belt and Jay Lethal has done it all in ROH and whether we all like it or not (I'm not a fan of Lethal at all) he should be in this list and in the Top 5.
#6- The Young Bucks
Would it surprise anyone that The Young Bucks top the Dave Meltzer Star Ratings list for ROH?
Dave Meltzer Star Ratings List
*****- 10pts, ****3/4- 8pts, ****1/2- 6pts, ****1/4- 4pts, ****-2pts
***** ****3/4 ****1/2 ****1/4 **** Total
1- Young Bucks 0 3 11 11 6 146
2- Bryan Danielson 0 3 4 5 4 70
3- Davey Richards 1 2 3 2 2 56
3- Briscoes 0 1 2 6 5 56
5- Samoa Joe 2 0 1 5 1 48
6- Nigel McGuinness 0 2 3 1 3 44
6- Jay Lethal 0 0 1 5 9 44
8- Austin Aries 0 1 2 4 1 38
9-Christopher Daniels 0 1 2 2 2 32
10- Frankie Kazarian 0 1 2 2 2 32
It's not even close between 1st and 2nd on the above list. Even if you take Uncle Dave being a fan of the Bucks work, other mitigating circumstances are at play. With a big disparity of ROH matches reviewed by Dave in the second decade of ROH to the first, Meltzer would have seen more of The Bucks than those that thrived in ROH in the pre-Sinclair days.
The Bucks like Jay Lethal only just squeeze into the Top Ten Cagematch matches with 20, fifty short of Danielson's top mark. Compare that to Matt and Nick Jackson's 31 four stars or more matches from Meltzer which is fifteen more than Danielson's total.
The Bucks would dominate the Wrestling Observer Tag Team Of The Year in their time in ROH winning the award five consecutive times between 2014-2018 which was five of eight Observer Awards with two wins in Best Maneuver (2009-More Bang For Your Buck and 2014-Meltzer Driver) and Best Tag team of the 2010's.
Matt and Nick would go on to wrestle in front of a bigger audience with the formation of AEW helping Matt and Nick put their foot firmly into the debate of who is the greatest tag team ever with their 2021 success but their run in ROH will go down as one of the best in ROH history.
#7- Austin Aries
While Austin Aries might have unified fans from all promotions in thinking that he is a horrible human being, his body of work in ROH puts him on our list with it being very difficult for me to keep him away from the Top Ten.
Fourth in the World Champions list, eighth in the Star Ratings list and second in the Cagematch rankings tells you all about Aries accomplishments in Ring Of Honor. He was the man to end the reign of Samoa Joe and teaming with Roderick Strong, he was part of the fourth longest Tag Title reign in ROH history with 273 days under their belts.
Austin also has 4 appearances in ROH's Survival of The Fittest tournament final, their annual competition in which the final consists of a multi-man elimination match. Only one other person has more appearances in a final, Aries tag partner Roderick Strong.
His days now being spent wrestling in the NWA and trying to control his narrative are a huge fall from grace from his days in ROH but in those days he was one of the best in the world and one of the best to ever grace a Ring Of Honor arena.
#8- Nigel McGuinness
The longest reigning ROH Pure Champion and the second longest reigning World Champion, the first and only European to hold ROH's biggest title has top ten placings in the Star Ratings and Cagematch lists (Joint 6th and Joint 4th respectively) and in his seven years in ROH, McGuinness has wrestled in many classics with four of the top ten matches in ROH's history according to Cagematch voters featuring McGuinness.
1- Kobashi vs Joe 9.67
2- Danielson vs McGuiness (9/6/07) 9.64
3-Danielson vs McGuiness (12/8/06) 9.61
4- CIMA/Yoshino/Doi vs Saito/Dragon Kid/Horiguchi 9.60
5- Punk vs Joe II 9.59
6- Danielson vs KENTA 9.59
7- KENTA vs Low Ki 9.53
8- Aries vs McGuinness 9.52
9- Punk vs Joe III 9.51
10-Danielson vs McGuinness (22/11/08) 9.49
Nigel McGuinness wouldn't reach the heights he did in ROH when in TNA wrestling under the name Desmond Wolfe (His match against Kurt Angle in the Six Sides Of Steel in a Three Degrees of Pain match is a banger though) and would have to retire shortly after now working as a commentator on NXT UK but his work in ROH puts him on him deservedly on this list and would be a sure fire candidate for a future induction in the ROH Hall of Fame when he can be able to be inducted.
#9- Kevin Steen
The artist now known as Kevin Owens' 328 day reign as ROH champ is the 6th longest reign in the companies history with it being the third longest in the Sinclair era of ROH with the disclaimer on the longest reign (Rush 2020/21) having taken place during the pandemic which was disrupted by lockdown and travel restrictions.
While Steen has a seventh place in the Cagematch list with 30 matches over 8.00 with 17 of those being singles matches putting him 5th on that list
Singles matches with 8.00+ rating from Cagematch
1- Bryan Danielson 55
2- Nigel McGuinness 27
3- Austin Aries 20
4- Davey Richards 18
5- Samoa Joe 17
5- Kevin Steen 17
7- Jay Lethal 16
8- AJ Styles 13
9- Adam Cole 11
10- CM Punk 9
10- Jay Briscoe 9
But Kevin Steen's most famous moments in ROH would take place in his feud with former tag partner El Generico which is featured in our Top Ten Feuds list that dropped last year. It's a rivalry that would help catapult Kevin to stardom and being part of the main event segment of Night One of WrestleMania 38 12 years after this rivalry.
While Steen is a few places shy of being in the Rushmore of ROH, his legacy is up there with the best in ROH history.
#10- Adam Cole
Adam Cole is the only man to win the ROH World Title on three occasions and while it could be said that the likes of Joe and Danielson would have had multiple reigns matching Cole had other companies not snapped them up, Cole's achievements should not be dismissed.
His third title win would come on NJPW's biggest night at Wrestle Kingdom 11 on the same night that Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada wrestled the first of their classic tetralogy and add a Television Title reign and a Survival Of The Fittest victory in 2014 and the Elite member's trophy room has a large wing dedicated to his ROH accomplishments.
Honorable Mention- CM Punk
If you've spent the entirety of this article thinking "Where the hell is CM Punk?" well, I was thinking the same while compiling all the data for this article.
CM Punk should be in this Top Ten. He is one of the faces of the early years of ROH with his feud with Raven earning a Top 3 place in Feud of the Year in the Observer awards in 2003 and his trilogy against Samoa Joe one of the greatest 3-match series in wrestling history. So why isn't Punk in the Top Ten.
It's circumstances out of the control of "The Second City Saint" that keep Punk out of the list with the ROH Hall Of Famer only having four matches rated by Dave Meltzer according to Cagematch's records and 32 matches rated by Cagematch readers. 16 of those have a rating of 8.00+, four shy of a place in the top ten 8.00+ROH matches. The Dog Collar Chain match against Raven has a 7.89 rating while the Clockwork Orange House Of Fun Match doesn't even have a rating.
A lack of visibility of ROH in the first couple of years of ROH in which DVDs of the events would have to be bought exclusively on RF Video, one of the founders of the company, compared to the Sinclair era and the PPV's and television deals from Sinclair Broadcasting was a big reason for the lack of attention from Meltzer and voters on Cagematch and while Punk's World Title victory and subsequent speech is one of ROH's greatest moments, the title reign that followed that was the original "Summer Of Punk" lasted 55 days and so the numbers don't lie and CM Punk numbers do not top those in our Top Ten.
But CM Punk is one of the greatest wrestlers in ROH history. His time in Ring Of Honor still gets referenced in pro wrestling canon with his entrance at Revolution bringing back memories for those who followed him in ROH. Punk's connection to the company is obvious when you watch the post-Revolution presser and how emotional Punk got talking about his former workplace and it's a feeling replicated by ROH with Punk's inclusion in the first class of the ROH Hall Of Fame, something that was called 17 years ago during the Punk vs Aries match when Punk won the ROH World Title.
When you think of CM Punk and his legacy, ROH is one of the key parts of it. So maybe, just maybe in this case, number do actually lie.