The following wrestlers were all trending upward as 2017 came to a close and are strong candidates to rise to even greater heights in 2018.
5. SHANE TAYLOR
The Rebellion being forced to disband in June due to a match stipulation ignited a fire in Taylor, and the bruiser from the mean streets of East Cleveland became more dangerous than ever. ROH’s gun for hire has made it clear that he will do whatever he has to do to provide for his family. However, if Taylor decides to focus on titles rather than cash-filled envelopes in 2018, “One-Punch Shane” will be just one devastating right hand away from becoming a champion.
4. KELLY KLEIN
“The Gatekeeper” has been setting the bar in Women of Honor for a couple years now, and she still has yet to be pinned or forced to submit in WOH competition. In addition to her success domestically, Klein -- who possesses an impressive combination of physicality, mat wrestling skills and submission mastery -- has also been a force in Japan for Stardom, the premier women’s wrestling promotion in the world. Klein undoubtedly is one of the favorites to win the upcoming tournament to crown the first WOH Champion.
3. MATT TAVEN
Taven may be obnoxious, arrogant and a conspiracy theorist, but there’s no denying he has the talent to capture the one title that has eluded him in ROH -- the ROH World Championship. In 2017, Taven scored victories over former world champions Jay Lethal and Adam Cole, and he also defeated rising young stars such as Will Ospreay, Jay White and Flip Gordon. Taven is just now entering his prime, and no one should be surprised if the leader of The Kingdom is crowned ROH World Champion in 2018.
2. FLIP GORDON
The amiable youngster from Kalispell, Mont., impressed ROH fans with his incredibly innovative and acrobatic offense from the moment he debuted this past spring. It wasn’t long before Gordon was accumulating wins, and by October he was competing in main events. During the latter part of the year, Gordon took the fight to Bullet Club after being targeted by the powerful faction, and that rivalry shows no signs of cooling off. Having come so far, so fast, it appears the sky’s the limit in 2018 for the high-flying star.
1. PUNISHMENT MARTINEZ
Not only did “The Creeper of Violence” continue to blaze a path of destruction in ROH in 2017, but he also showed that he has the skills to defeat the very best in the sport. The demonic Martinez won the Survival of the Fittest tournament in November, pinning former ROH World Champion Jay Lethal in a first-round match before outlasting Flip Gordon, Silas Young, Matt Taven, Shane Taylor and Jonathan Gresham in the final to earn a future shot at the ROH World Title. Despite all his success in 2017, Martinez may have just scratched the surface of what he’s truly capable of. Now that’s scary.