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Cook’s Top 7 ROH Wrestlers in WWE

June 21, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
Daniel Bryan Smackdown 1-8-19

To be honest, Ring of Honor doesn’t do much for me these days.

It hasn’t for a long time. I haven’t attended a show since Alberto el Patron wrestled Roderick Strong in Dayton in January 2015. I rarely watch their television show that airs on one of my local stations late at night on weekends. Most of my ROH information comes from Ari Berenstein’s Twitter account…which I suppose isn’t that much different from my info coming from the Column of Honor back in the day.

One just has the feeling that ROH’s best days are behind them. If that’s the case, they sure had one hell of a run. I remember regularly going up to Dayton in the mid-2000s for ROH events that featured men that would one day rank among the biggest stars in the wrestling world.

Ring of Honor has definitely served as a pipeline for WWE over the years. Here are the seven most magnificent examples of that.

7. Samoa Joe

ROH Accomplishments
World Champion
Pure Champion

WWE Accomplishments
2-time NXT Champion
2-time United States Champion

Joe was one of those guys that you figured would do ok in WWE. Maybe not a top star or anything, but fine. Which Samoan hasn’t gotten some kind of a push? He held out and did his own thing for quite a while, working places like TNA & ROH where he could work his style. Once he got older and injuries began to take a toll, WWE seemed like a fine idea.

He had an NXT deal at first, dominating there before eventually making his way to the main roster. He isn’t quite the Samoa Joe of old, but he’s still a fearsome man that’s a threat to defeat anybody at any time. Give it a couple of years, and I figure he’ll move up a couple of spots in these rankings.

6. Cesaro/Claudio Castagnoli

ROH Accomplishments
2-time Tag Team Champion

WWE Accomplishments
United States Champion
5-time Raw Tag Team Champion
SmackDown Tag Team Champion

Cesaro’s fans often complain about how underutilized he is. Cesaro’s championship resume tells a different story. I’ve always thought he was best in a tag team environment, going back to his Kings of Wrestling days with Chris Hero. He’s held WWE tag team gold with Tyson Kidd & Sheamus, and formed a team with Jack Swagger that I’m surprised didn’t.

His relative lack of singles success in WWE is nothing new. It was the same story for him in ROH. Got a couple of chances as a single, spent most of his time in tags. It worked there too.

5. Kevin Owens/Kevin Steen

ROH Accomplishments
World Champion
Tag Team Champion

WWE Accomplishments
Universal Champion
NXT Champion
2-time Intercontinental Champion
3-time United States Champion

All Kevin Owens has done since arriving in WWE is win championships. He won the NXT Championship soon after arriving in developmental. He won the United States Championship soon after arriving on the main roster. Heck, his first match was a win over John Cena.

KO’s been a little light on titles recently, but he has gone back to his ROH roots by teaming with Sami Zayn, protege of his old ROH tag team championship partner, El Generico. His physique not being what WWE was looking for hasn’t done a thing to hold him back.

4. AJ Styles

ROH Accomplishments
Pure Champion
Tag Team Champion

WWE Accomplishments
2-time WWE Champion
2-time United States Champion

I went back & forth on whether I could include the Phenomenal One on this list. After all, most would say that he’s more associated with TNA than any other promotion. He chose them over ROH in 2004 when Rob Feinstein pretended somebody said 18. However, Styles was the first Pure Wrestling Champion, one-half of an early Tag Team Championship pairing and anytime he was with the company over the years he was prominently featured near or at the top of cards.

Wherever Styles has gone over the years, that’s ended up being the case. He has become a *fill in the promotion’s name* guy everywhere he’s gone. Hard to believe we wondered whether or not he could pull it off in WWE as well.

3. CM Punk

ROH Accomplishments
World Champion
2-time Tag Team Champion

WWE Accomplishments
3-time World Champion
2-time WWE Champion
ECW Champion
Intercontinental Champion
World Tag Team Champion

Punk wasn’t the first wrestler to transition from ROH to WWE. He was the first one to be pushed on top of the company. ROH was known more for its in-ring product than its storylines, but Punk stood out from the pack as a speaker with undeniable charisma. His road to the top wasn’t easy, he got painted with the typical Indy stereotypes backstage and was kept in developmental longer than probably necessary.

Then he got to the main roster and had more bumps in the road. Punk eventually overcame all the obstacles and got to the top on his own terms. Eventually, he left on his own terms. If Punk didn’t voluntarily end his WWE tenure in early 2014, he would be on top of this list.

2. Seth Rollins/Tyler Black

ROH Accomplishments
World Champion
2-time Tag Team Champion

WWE Accomplishments
2-time WWE Champion
Universal Champion
NXT Champion
2-time Intercontinental Champion
United States Champion
4-time Raw Tag Team Champion

Those of us who watched Tyler Black back in the day recognized his talent. We never thought he would become one of the favored sons of WWE brass. His speaking ability was non-existent, and his style, while exciting to watch, was a bit too spotty for WWE fare. Fortunately, two things happened.

-He went to NXT & Dusty Rhodes taught him how to talk
-The WWE style turned into his style

We may have a ton of complaints about WWE these days, but very few of them concern the in-ring work. The style has definitely gotten closer to the ROH/PWG/fill in your favorite indy style, thanks to the amount of workers from those companies hired over the past ten years. We feared that indy wrestlers would get re-programmed when they went to the Performance Center, but that hasn’t really happened. They’ve learned how to condense their stuff into a shorter period of time, but we’re still seeing the same wrestlers we saw at high school gymnasiums & county fairgrounds. Seth Rollins & Tyler Black aren’t that different.

Honorable Mention: Nigel McGuinness

McGuinness was one passed physical away from making it to WWE out of Ring of Honor. His failure sent him to TNA then into retirement. Fortunately, Nigel did eventually achieve his dream of working for WWE, albeit as a color commentator. We can only speculate as to what he could have done in WWE as an in-ring competitor. I was a huge fan.

1. Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson

ROH Accomplishments
World Champion
Pure Champion

WWE Accomplishments
4-time WWE Champion
World Champion
Intercontinental Champion
United States Champion
Tag Team Champion
SmackDown Tag Team Champion

Bryan’s WWE prospects faced more doubters than anybody else to come from Ring of Honor. He was too small. Too pale. His strength was working long epic matches, something he wouldn’t be allowed to do in WWE. Bryan had fine charisma for small gymnasiums, but he wouldn’t translate to large arenas.

The guy had no chance of being a top star. Everybody agreed on this, with one important exception: WWE’s fan base. Bryan became the focal point of the road to WrestleMania XXX, and his title victory was one of the greatest moments in WWE history. Anybody that says they expected that when he left ROH is lying to you.

article topics :

CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, ROH, WWE, Steve Cook