2018 has been a banner year for Ring of Honor -- and we’re only halfway through it! Here’s a look at the top stories from the first six months of the year:
5. BULLY RAY GOES FROM ENFORCER TO MENACE
After Bully Ray announced his retirement from in-ring competition early in the year, ROH COO Joe Koff appointed him to be the ROH enforcer. Bully’s job was to right any wrongs that he witnessed in ROH, and that’s exactly what he did. But it didn’t last. As he has done so often throughout his career, Bully Ray turned on the fans and reverted back to his reprehensible behavior.
Beginning with his deplorable attack on Cheeseburger at Supercard of Honor in April, Bully has targeted ROH’s young competitors, including Flip Gordon. Bully believes the younger generation is destroying the wrestling business, so the Hall of Famer is intent on destroying them. After Koff removed him from his role as enforcer, Bully returned to active competition and has been as dangerous and violent as ever.
4. SUMIE SAKAI CROWNED FIRST WOH CHAMPION
Honor Nation demanded a Women of Honor Championship, and ROH officials listened. A 16-woman tournament to crown the inaugural champion began in January, featuring the top stars of both WOH and Japan’s highly regarded Stardom promotion. Tenille Dashwood, one of pro wrestling’s hottest free agents, was announced as the final competitor.
Dashwood made it to the semifinals at Supercard of Honor, where she was defeated by Sakai. Kelly Klein knocked off Stardom’s Mayu Iwatani in the other semifinal. In the championship match later that night, Sakai dealt Klein her first pinfall loss in WOH to win the title. It’s only fitting that Sakai is the first (and so far the only) WOH Champion, since she was victorious in the very first women’s match in ROH in 2002.
3. BULLET CLUB IS FINE -- OR IS IT?
Perhaps the state of Bullet Club thus far in 2018 was best described by “The Villain” Marty Scurll when he sang a stirring rendition of the Avril Lavigne standard, “Complicated,” on the “Being The Elite” YouTube series. On one hand, Bullet Club is bigger than ever, as Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Cody, Scurll and Adam Page continue to win championships, sell tons of merchandise and blaze trails in the wrestling industry. In May, All In -- the independent wrestling show funded by Cody and The Young Bucks that takes place Sept. 1 -- sold out the 10,000-seat Sears Centre Arena in Chicago in less than 30 minutes.
However, the heated rivalry between Omega and Cody over leadership of the group forced members to choose sides, and Bullet Club-on-Bullet Club violence became a thing. In a much-anticipated showdown at Supercard of Honor, Cody defeated Omega thanks to an inadvertent assist from The Young Bucks. But nothing was truly resolved, as Omega, now the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, will put his title on the line against Cody at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s G1 Special in San Francisco July 7. Meanwhile, Cody and Scurll held nothing back as they battled each other (and then-ROH World Champion Dalton Castle) in a Triple Threat Match at Best in the World on June 29.
2. JAY LETHAL ENDS DALTON CASTLE’S REIGN
Castle began the year as ROH World Champion after having defeated Cody for the title at Final Battle in December. Some critics couldn’t see past Castle’s elaborate entrance and flamboyant personality, but he proved the naysayers wrong. Castle successfully defended the championship for more than six months against top competitors such as Lethal, Cody, Marty Scurll, Punishment Martinez and NJPW star EVIL. Despite going into his Triple Threat Match against Cody and Scurll at Best in the World with a slew of injuries, Castle dug deep and retained his title.
The next night at ROH’s international TV taping in Fairfax, Va., Castle again showed that he’s a fighting champion by offering to put the title at stake in a Four Corner Survival Match in response to Lethal, Cody and Matt Taven all claiming to be the No. 1 contender. Lethal, who spent 427 days as ROH World Champion in 2015-2016, went on to win the match to become just the fourth man to regain the title. It was a long journey back to the gold for Lethal, but his recent performances prove that he’s at the top of his game once again.
1. SUPERCARD OF HONOR SETS ROH ATTENDANCE RECORD \ HONORCLUB LAUNCHES
In addition to all the newsworthy things that occurred between the ropes in ROH so far in 2018, it’s also been a historic year in terms of expanding the company’s reach. A crowd of 6,000 fans jammed into UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans for Supercard of Honor April 7, which shattered the previous attendance record of 3,500 fans at last year’s Supercard of Honor event. The landmark show was headlined by the Cody versus Kenny Omega match and ROH World Champion Dalton Castle’s title defense against Marty Scurll.
The other major business story in ROH was the launch of HonorClub, ROH’s streaming service, in February. ROH pay-per-views and live events are live-streamed through HonorClub, which also features archived ROH shows and exclusive compilations on former ROH stars such as CM Punk and Kevin Steen.