Since Ring of Honor’s inception in 2002, some of the most talented competitors in the industry have held or competed for the company’s singles championships (the ROH World Title; ROH World Television Title; and ROH Pure Title, which was unified with the world title in 2006)
Here are the five competitors who have spent the most days as a singles champion in ROH.
5. BRYAN DANIELSON
Days as champion: 462. Title reigns: One (ROH World Champion, Sept. 17, 2005 - Dec. 23, 2006).
“The American Dragon” owns the third-longest ROH World Title reign, during which he unified the ROH World and Pure championships by defeating Nigel McGuinness on Aug. 12, 2006 in Liverpool, England. Danielson had a well-deserved reputation for being one of the greatest technical and submission wrestlers in the world, but he also proved that his wrestling ability was matched only by his toughness. During an ROH World Title defense against Colt Cabana in 2006, Danielson suffered a separated shoulder early in the match but he fought through the pain and ended up going to a 60-minute draw. In a match against then-ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima in 2007, Danielson suffered a detached retina from a punch to his eye, but he competed for another 15 minutes before he was defeated.
4. ADAM COLE
Days as champion: 691. Title reigns: Four (ROH World TV Champion, June 29, 2012 - March 2, 2013; ROH World Champion, Sept. 20, 2013 - June 22, 2014; Aug. 19, 2016 - Dec. 2, 2016; Jan. 4, 2017 - March 10, 2017).
Cole is the only three-time ROH World Champion and is one of five men to have held the ROH World and ROH World TV titles. He won the ROH World Championship the first time in a tournament after the title had been vacated by Jay Briscoe due to an injury. Cole defeated Mark Briscoe and Jay Lethal in the first two rounds before beating Michael Elgin in the finals. Cole’s final reign as ROH World Champion was historic not only because he became the company’s only three-time world champion, but also because the match took place in Tokyo, Japan at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 11, marking the only time the title has changed hands outside of North America.
3. SAMOA JOE
Days as champion: 757. Title reigns: Two (ROH World Champion, March 22, 2003 - Dec. 26, 2004; ROH Pure Champion, May 7, 2005 - Aug. 27, 2005).
Joe’s 645-day reign as ROH World Champion is the longest reign for any singles titleholder in company history. It also remains the longest world title reign in a U.S.-based wrestling company since Ric Flair held the NWA World Heavyweight Title for 793 days in 1984-86. During Joe’s reign, “The Samoan Submission Machine” engaged in a classic series of title defenses against CM Punk. They wrestled to two 60-minute draws, and in their other meeting, Joe scored the victory. Joe made his much-anticipated return to ROH in 2015 after a seven-year absence, but he came up short in his match against then-ROH World Champion Jay Briscoe at Supercard of Honor IX.
2. NIGEL McGUINNESS
Days as champion: 895. Title reigns: Two (ROH Pure Champion, Aug. 27, 2005 - Aug. 12, 2006; ROH World Champion, Oct. 6, 2007 - April 3, 2009).
McGuinness is the second-longest reigning ROH World Champion (545 days) and the longest-reigning ROH Pure Champion (350 days). The London native won the latter title by defeating Samoa Joe. During his reign as ROH World Champion, McGuinness successfully defended the title against the likes of Bryan Danielson, Kevin Steen, Tyler Black, El Generico and Claudio Castagnoli. McGuinness, who went on to serve as ROH matchmaker and color commentator for “Ring of Honor Wrestling” for several years after his in-ring career ended, had a longstanding rivalry with Danielson over the ROH World and Pure titles that produced a number of classic matches.
1. JAY LETHAL
Days as champion: 1,288. Title reigns: Four (ROH Pure Champion, March 5, 2005 - May 7, 2005; ROH World TV Champion, Aug. 13, 2011 - March 31, 2012; April 4, 2014 - Oct. 23, 2015; ROH World Champion, June 19, 2015 - Aug. 19, 2016)
It’s no wonder Lethal is regarded as ROH’s franchise player. He is the only man to hold the ROH World and ROH World TV titles simultaneously, as well as the only man to hold all three ROH singles titles. His second reign as ROH World TV Champion lasted a record 567 days, and his 798 combined days as ROH World TV Champion is a record as well. Lethal also owns the fourth-longest ROH World Title reign, at 427 days. One of Lethal’s most high-profile successful title defenses occurred at Final Battle on Dec. 18, 2015, when he defeated AJ Styles. Given the fact that Lethal is just entering his prime, it’s highly likely “The Greatest First Generation Wrestler has more title reigns in his future.