The original scouting grounds for the WWE has been and always will be the third biggest promotion in the United States, Ring Of Honor (ROH). Ask any devoted member of the IWC about their pro wrestling preferences and the popular answers would be New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and Ring of Honor.
Let's keep the Japanese giant aside here and focus on Ring Of Honor. For a company that was always billed to take over TNA’s position as a big ticket alternative to the WWE, Ring of Honor has till date, not reached the mainstream status as its trouble peer. One of the contributing factors for Ring of Honor's inability to break away as a viable competitor to WWE has always been WWE’s relentless poaching capabilities and the mutual understanding between the contrasting promotions.
Many marquee names from Ring of Honor have jumped ship to WWE over the years. A validation of Ring of Honor’s quality is the fact that many of the Ring of Honor alums have gone on to become the quintessential guys in the WWE. This slideshow takes a look at those uberly talented names and also the others who’ve been a part of the WWE and Ring of Honor but didn’t necessarily make it big in Vince McMahon’s empire.
Honourable guest appearances
Over the years, Ring Of Honor has seen the who’s who of professional wrestling grace their rings in some capacity or another. After leaving the WWE initially in 2001, Eddie Guererro lost in the promotion’s debut show – The Era of Honor Begins – against Super Crazy for the IWA Intercontinental title. The legendary Dusty Rhodes’s made his first in-ring indy appearance for ROH in an "I Quit Bunkhouse Riot."
That’s not all, as a part of his quest to establish himself as a legitimate singles superstar akin his tag team partner Edge, Christain worked two matches for ROH while he simultaneously made a name for himself in TNA during that period. The current NXT Tag Team Champions, Tommaso Ciampi and Johnny Gargano have also worked for the company, with Ciampi being a former ROH World Television Champion.
Many other legendary names such as Abdullah the Butcher, Harley Race, Tommy Dreamer, Honky Tonk Mank, Bruno Sammartino and Ken Shamrock boosted the star power of ROH by appearing in a non-wrestling capacity.
Other names familiar to the WWE fans who worked for ROH include Shane Douglas, Kota Ibushi, Shinsuke Nakamura (in a match against Kevin Owens), Scotty 2 Hotty, Sunny, Lance Storm, Dlo Brown, Jimmy Yang, Joey Mercury, Terry Funk (who faced CM Punk) and Alberto Del Rio.
Jobbers in the WWE, assets for ROH
There were also a bunch of jobbers or developmental rejects in the WWE who found success in Ring Of Honor. The likes of Adam Pearce, Brent Albright, Chad Collyer, Mike Kruel, Jerry Lynn and Joey Ryan were just seen as enhancement talents in the eyes of the WWE, but not so in ROH.
Two other indie darlings, Kenny Omega and Christopher Daniels – who couldn’t make it into the WWE for various reasons -- found comfort in ROH and other promotions around the world.
Remember Zach Gowen? Yes, the disabled bloke who was sadistically decimated by Brock Lesnar on SmackDown. If you don’t, then this video will do the job:
Gowen was a glorified jobber in the WWE who faced the likes of John Cena, Vince McMahon (yes, the boss himself) and many other top names before being released from the company. He wrestled in ROH for some time after his departure from the WWE. He currently works for Juggalo Championship Wrestling.He appeared on American Ninja Warrior obstacle course last year.
#1 Daniel Bryan
Undoubtedly one of the greatest underdogs in WWE history, Daniel Bryan's whose exponential rise from headlining indie shows to triumphing on the grandest platform in sports entertainment of WrestleMania is nothing short of incredible.
Daniel Bryan is known as one of the founding fathers of the promotion as he headlined the company’s first event in a triple threat match against Christopher Daniels and Low Ki in 2002. Wrestling under the name Bryan Danielson, the retired WWE superstar was involved in some memorable matches against the likes of Austin Aries, Nigel McGuinness, Homicide and Samoa Joe. He won both the Ring of Honor World Championship and Ring of Honor Pure Championship once.
The American Dragon – his indie moniker – is a Ring of Honor legend before being a WWE superstar and the staunch Ring of Honor fans will forever be indebted to his services for the promotion.
Interesting Fact: Daniel Bryan’s last match was against close friend Nigel McGuiness, who coincidentally, was also having his last match for ROH.
It’s a shame how WWE turns one of the most technically diverse wrestlers in the world into a mere afterthought. Nevertheless, Cesaro is an indie darling who worked for every wrestling promotion under the sun including Ring of Honor with his real name, Claudio Castagnoli. Cesaro along with Chris Hero – collectively known as the Kings of Wrestling, made waves in Ring of Honor by winning the Ring of Honor World Tag team championship and Wrestling Observer Tag team of the year accolade.
The Kings of Wrestling vs. Briscoe Brothers feud instantly comes to mind when you think of Cesaro’s Ring of Honor tenure. The Swiss Superman’s matches against Daniel Bryan, Shelton Benjamin, and many other notable wrestlers warrant a watch.
Interesting fact: Cesaro was voted as the most underrated wrestler from 2013-2015
#3 Chris Hero
The other half of the Kings of Wrestling, Chris Hero is another seasoned indie wrestler whose WWE story ended even before it began. Hero’s Ring of Honor career kicked off as part of the Combat Zone Wrestling-Ring of Honor invasion angle, where he was seen interfering in every match despite not being a part of the roster. The angle culminated with Hero and Cesaro winning the World Tag team Championship. Surprisingly, that was the sole title accomplishment of Hero’s Ring of Honor stint.
Interesting Fact: Working under the Kassius Ohno moniker at NXT, Hero was initially pitched to be a Shield member. He was released from his contract as he didn’t do much to impress the WWE top brass. After the exit, he returned to his old stomping grounds and till date, continues to wrestle for various indie promotions.