Ring of Honor is home to the best wrestlers in the world, so it’s no surprise that other wrestling companies will try to acquire the talent ROH helped established. There are reports that former ROH World Tag Team Champions the Kings of Wrestling have received a try-out with the WWE. If they do sign with the WWE, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli will hope to add their names to the list of ROH wrestler who have found success after leaving the company. That begs the question: Who are the top five most successful ROH alumni?
Here is my answer to that question:
5. Paul London
ROH Career: 2002-2003
ROH Championships: None
Paul London signed with the WWE in 2003 and debuted on “Smackdown!” in October of the same year. London and Spanky (Brian Kendrick) quickly formed a tag team and stayed together until Spanky left the WWE in 2004. London started teaming with Billy Kidman not too long after and the team won the WWE Tag Team Championship by defeating the Dudley Boyz and the team held onto the belts for 63 days.
London focused on singles competition after his team with Kidman broke up and London won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship in March 2005 in a battle royal. London held onto the Cruiserweight Championship for over four months before losing it to Nunzio.
London and Kendrick once again teamed together beginning in late 2005, and this time the team found great success. They defeated MNM for the WWE Tag Team Championships and they became the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time. They held the belts for 331 days before losing the belts to Deuce ‘n Domino in April 2007.
London and Kendrick would go on to capture the World Tag Team Championship, but they lost the title three days later.
London has since returned to the independent wrestling scene and he is experiencing the same success he did while he was in the WWE.
4. Jay Lethal
ROH Career: 2002-2006, 2011
ROH Championships: ROH Pure Championship
Jay Lethal became a TNA crowd-favorite after debuting for the company in 2005 by showcasing his amazing wrestling skills and his funny personality. Lethal quickly found success by being on the winning team of the 2006 World X Cup that featured the best X Division-style wrestlers from around the world.
Lethal would adopt the “Black Machismo” gimmick the same year. It was during his time as the “Black Machismo” that he would see the most success. Lethal became a six-time X Division champion, which is tied with A.J. Styles for the most reigns in TNA history, and held the title for a combined 295 days. Lethal would also win the TNA World Tag Team Championship with Consequences Creed in December 2008, but lost the titles less than a month later to Beer Money, Inc.
Lethal is scheduled to make his ROH return at “Best In the World” June 26 and is set to wrestle Mike Bennett. Will he see the same success in his second run in ROH as he did in his first? We will have to wait and find out.
3. Samoa Joe
ROH Career: 2002-2007, 2008
ROH Championships: ROH Pure Championship, ROH World Championship
Samoa Joe is the most dominant ROH World Champion in the company’s history, and he started his run in TNA as being just as dominant by having an eighteen-month winning streak. Joe won the X Division Championship for the first time in December 2005 by defeating A.J. Styles. Joe has been the X Division champion four times for a total of 265 days.
Joe’s biggest rival for much of his TNA career has been Kurt Angle. Angle was the person to end Joe’s end streak by causing “The Samoan Submission Machine” to tap to the Ankle Lock. Joe and Angle would compete on the same side of a tag team match against Team 3D where every championship was on the line. Joe pinned Brother Ray to win the TNA Tag Team Championship and decided to hold the title alone rather than hold the belts with Angle. Joe lost to Angle less than a month later and lost both the tag team and X Division titles to Angle.
Joe ended up winning the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at “Lockdown 2008” by defeating his long-time rival Angle. Joe would hold the belt for over 180 days before losing the title to Sting at “Bound for Glory” of the same year.
2. A.J. Styles
ROH Career: 2002-2004, 2005-2006
ROH Championships: ROH Pure Championship, ROH Tag Team Championship (w/ Amazing Red)
A.J. Styles is often called the “Face of TNA” and TNA is often referred to as the “House That Styles Built,” and both statements are the truth. Styles is the first wrestler fans think of when TNA is brought up. Styles and champion are often said in the same sentence. He is the first TNA Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion and has held every title in the company. Styles was the first X Division champion in TNA and he and Jerry Lynn became the first tag team champions in the company’s history. He won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 2003 and would win the title three times for a combined 196 days.
Styles success would continue after the NWA and TNA severed their ties in 2007. Styles and his partner Tomko won the TNA World Tag Team Titles from Team Pacman in October 2007 for a record 187 days. Styles also became the longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion after winning the title in September 2009 by holding onto the title for 211 days. Styles is also a two-time TNA Legends/Television champion and his two reigns combine for the longest time for one wrestler to hold the title at 271 days.
Styles has been arguably the most successful wrestler in TNA history and is one of the most successful ROH alumni, but there is one wrestler who has had more success than any other.
1. CM Punk
ROH Career: 2002-2005, 2006
ROH Championships: ROH Tag Team Championship (2x w/ Colt Cabana), ROH World Championship
CM Punk has gone from fan-favorite to most-hated in the span of his five year WWE career. He started his career on ECW and accumulated a six-month undefeated streak before losing to Hardcore Holly. Punk defeated John Morrison to win the ECW Championship in September 2007 after numerous attempts at Morrison’s title. He held onto the belt until January 2008 when he was beaten by Chavo Guerrero after interference by Edge.
Punk won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 24 to earn a World Title shot any time he wanted. Punk cashed it in on RAW in June 2008 to defeat Edge and win the World Heavyweight Championship. He would lose the belt in September of the same year after he was unable to compete in his match following an attack by Legacy.
Punk won the World Tag Team Championship with Kofi Kingston just over a month later by defeating Legacy. They would lose the titles a little over a month later to Miz and Morrison. Punk would enter an Intercontinental Title Tournament and defeated William Regal for the title in January 2009 to become the 19th Triple Crown winner in WWE history. Punk would lost the belt to John Bradshaw Layfield in March 2009.
Punk would once again win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, this time at WrestleMania 25. Punk cashed in the briefcase this time on Jeff Hardy after Hardy had just competed in a Ladder Match at Extreme Rules. Punk’s demeanor also changed during this time as he began to condemn everything that wasn’t straight edge. Punk would feud with Hardy throughout the summer of 2009 and ultimately defeated Hardy in a TLC match at SummerSlam to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the third time and force Hardy to leave the WWE.
Punk has since been the leader of two dominant stables in WWE. He first led the Straight Edge Society for much of 2010 and became the leader of the New Nexus after Wade Barrett was forced out of the group. As the leader of the New Nexus, the Nexus team of Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga has won the WWE Tag Team Championship and Punk is currently the number one contender to face WWE Champion John Cena at “Money in the Bank” in July.
There you have it, my list of the top five most successful Ring of Honor alumni. I’m sure some will agree with the list, but I know many will disagree. Who do you think the top five most successful ROH alumni are? Let us know by tweeting us @ROH_World. By posting on our Facebook wall: Facebook.com/ROHWorld or by e-mailing us at: contact@ROHWorld.com.