ROH Wrestler Of The Year: Jay Lethal

Jay Lethal had one goal for 2018: to regain the ROH World Championship, which he hadn’t held since 2016. He received a shot against then-champion Dalton Castle at the ROH 16th Anniversary pay-per-view in March, but he came up just short. When Lethal asked ROH officials for another title match, they told him he needed to amass some victories to earn one. Lethal accepted the challenge and took it a step further: he vowed to defeat any competitor who had scored a recent victory over him.

Lethal did exactly that, avenging his losses to Punishment Martinez, Matt Taven, Chuckie T, Mark Briscoe and KUSHIDA. The night after his victory over KUSHIDA at the Best in the World pay-per-view in June, Lethal challenged Castle to put his title on the line against him. Former ROH World Champion Cody and Taven also issued challenges to Castle, who agreed to face all three men in a Four Corner Survival Match later that evening. Lethal won the match by pinning Castle, becoming just the fourth man in history to regain the ROH World Championship.

Lethal once again showed why he is regarded as “The Franchise of ROH,” as he met and defeated all comers during the second half of the year. He successfully defended the title against Jonathan Gresham in a 30-minute Iron Man Match, UK star Mark Haskins in London, Flip Gordon, Will Ospreay, Silas Young, Scorpio Sky and Kenny King. At Final Battle last month, Lethal faced perhaps his biggest challenge in Cody. Two years earlier at Final Battle, Cody won his debut match in ROH by using a low blow to defeat Lethal. This time, however, Lethal erased any doubt as to which of them was the better man, as he forced Cody to tap out to the figure-four leglock.

Now Lethal is chasing history. Having held the ROH World Title for a combined 618 days (as of Jan. 7), he trails only Samoa Joe, who held the championship for 645 days. If Lethal makes three successful title defenses, he will break the record of 38 held by Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness.