5 Former ROH World Champions who have achieved success in WWE
- We look at 5 former ROH World Champions that have made it big in WWE.
The start of the new millennium was a trying time for the wrestling business. With ECW and WCW shutting shop and WWE buying out both the promotion, it left a huge void in the wrestling landscape in North America. While WWE becoming the biggest game in town was good for the company, it meant that young, up and coming talent had limited options when it came to making a name for themselves in the business.
Over the past two decades, there have been numerous promotions that have tried to challenge WWE in its home turf of North America. While none have been able to come to replicating WWE's success, there have been a few who have been able to carve out a niche for themselves. The biggest among them is Ring of Honor, a promotion started by Rob Feinstein and Gabe Sapolsky in 2002. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Independent wrestling, as we know it, wouldn't exist without ROH. The company has over the past two decades been a breeding ground for some of the best talents in the world.
A major chunk of top talents in WWE today has worked for ROH at some point in their career. Names like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Samoa Joe were synonymous with ROH before making their way to WWE. All of the members of The Undisputed Era are former ROH talents. And it's not limited to in-ring talent. Former ROH head booker, Adam Pearce, currently works for the company as a road agent and ROH Co-founder and a protege of former ECW head honcho, Paul Heyman, Gabe Sapolsky is a consultant for the company.
With ROH holding it's 18th-anniversary show on March 13, here is a look at five ROH World Champions who have achieved great success in WWE :
#5 Samoa Joe
The longest reigning ROH World Champion, The Samoan Submission Machine is without a doubt, the greatest ROH World Champion of all time. The California-native's stint with the Sinclair-Owned promotion started in 2002 as the hired good for Christopher Daniels. Initially, Joe's stint with the company was supposed to be a one-off, but the Samoan impressed fans and management to such an extent that he was offered a full-time contract with the company.
Joe defeated The Zebra Kid on May 17, 2003, to become the ROH World Champion. The biggest highlight of Joe's 634-day reign as the top dog in ROH was his trilogy of title defenses against CM Punk. The duo first locked horns on June 12, 2004, at World Title Classic with the end ending in a time-limit draw.
The second bout between the two took place on October 16, 2004, at an event aptly titled 'Joe Vs Punk II'. The match once again ended in a time-limit draw as neither Punk or Joe were able to score a pinfall or submission within the stipulated time limit (60 minutes). The match earned a rare five ratings (trust us, it was very rare in those times) by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The third and the final meeting between Joe and Punk took place on December 4, 2004, at All-Star Extravaganza II in a match with no time-limit, which Joe ended up winning.
Joe's record-setting title reign came to end on December 26, 2004, at Final Battle 2004 when Austin Aries defeated him to win the ROH World Championship. Joe's first stint with ROH ended on March 7, 2007, where he defeated his longtime rival, Homicide. Following his departure from TNA in 2015, Joe had a brief stint with ROH before signing with WWE. He unsuccessfully challenged Jay Briscoe for the ROH World Championship at Supercard of Honor IX during WrestleMania 31 weekend.
While Joe hasn't had the same level of success in WWE, he is still considered to be one of the top guys in the company. He was one of the figureheads of NXT during the brand's rise to prominence within the wrestling world. He holds the distinction of being the first-ever two-time holder of the NXT Championship.