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Examining Ring of Honor’s Recent Roster Turnover (2014-2017)

Examining Ring of Honor’s Recent Roster Turnover (2014-2017)

Once the home to burgening independent wrestling stars from across the world, Ring of Honor’s roster makeup has taken on a far different look and feel in recent years.

Gone are the up and comers of indie scene, now replaced by equal parts established stars such as Cody and The Young Bucks and lesser known, lower-ceiling independent talent like Beer City Bruiser and Vinny Marseglia.

I’ve been very critical of Ring of Honor’s talent acquisition over recent years wondering why talent is instead choosing EVOLVE, the European scene or elsewhere to ply their craft while Ring of Honor seemingly spins their wheels. Never was this more evident than last weekend’s NJPW/Ring of Honor Honor Rising shows when the aforementioned Beer City Bruiser found himself in three featured matchups of the weekend and was arguably the most singularly highlighted talent from Ring of Honor’s camp. While Bruiser was solid throughout the weekend, it shined a light on what I thought was a very real issue in Ring of Honor: the lack of talent on their current full-time roster.

Being the analytic person I am, I decided to dig deeper into the issue. I began by looking at the Cagematch.net listings for Ring of Honor’s roster dating back to 2014. For the purposes of the study, I only included those listed who wrestled 15 or more matches for Ring of Honor in the given year. This eliminates part-time wrestlers as well as members of the NJPW roster that came over for various tours and Global Wars shows.

From there, I looked at each wrestler’s Cagematch.net’s Rating. For a full explanation of the rating and what it means, visit cagematch.net. At its core, everything above 7 points is a good Cagematch.net rating, everything between 5 and 7 is satisfactory, everything between 5 and 3 is adequate and everything below 3 is rather poor. It’s not an exact science by any means and while wrestlers can acquire high Cagematch ratings either before or after their time in Ring of Honor, it gives us a decent barometer for wrestler’s talent level.

For each year, I’ll look at Ring of Honor’s full-time roster then the additions and subtractions each year. I’ll list the names and see how much Cagematch.net Rating was “acquired” and how much was lost in a given year. At the end, we’ll look at the four year trend to see if Ring of Honor’s roster is become less talented.

2014 Full-Time Roster

WrestlerCagematch Rating
Will Ferrara4.33
Rhett Titus4.7
Cheeseburger5.17
Tadarius Thomas5.7
Caprice Coleman5.92
BJ Whitmer6.23
Moose6.48
Michael Bennett6.7
Matt Taven7.02
Jay Lethal7.15
RD Evans7.33
Silas Young7.39
Hanson7.49
Bobby Fish7.58
Frankie Kazarian7.67
Adam Page7.87
Cedric Alexander8.12
Mark Briscoe8.12
Michael Elgin8.14
Roderick Strong8.15
Tommaso Ciampa8.16
Adam Cole8.22
Jimmy Jacobs8.38
ACH8.42
Jay Briscoe8.61
Kyle O'Reilly8.79
Christopher Daniels8.87
Kevin Steen9.26

We’ll begin our study by establishing the 2014 Ring of Honor full-time roster. Why 2014? It’s a transformative year for the company. In December 2013, Ring of Honor announced AJ Styles would be returning to the company. Styles rejoined the company in January 2014. Also in 2014, Ring of Honor announced a partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling that would include cross-promotional shows. I fully plan on expanding this study to the beginning of Ring of Honor’s existence but for the purposes of today, we’re going to set the line at 2014. 

The top talents in 2014 were Kevin Steen, Christopher Daniels, Kyle O’Reilly, Jay Briscoe and ACH. Two of those top talents are currently in the WWE system (Steen on SmackDown and O’Reilly as ⅓ of the Undisputed Era on WWE NXT). A third (ACH) has left the company and is currently a free agent working across the world including stints with NJPW, EVOLVE/WWN among others last year. The other two (Daniels and Briscoe) remain with Ring of Honor but have taken on lesser roles in the last year.

2015 Full-Time Roster

WrestlerCagematch Rating
ACH8.42
Adam Cole8.22
Adam Page7.87
AJ Styles9.46
BJ Whitmer6.23
Bobby Fish7.58
Caprice Coleman5.92
Cedric Alexander8.12
Cheeseburger5.17
Christopher Daniels8.87
Dalton Castle8.33
Donovan Dijak7.56
Frankie Kazarian7.67
Hanson7.49
Jay Briscoe8.61
Jay Lethal7.15
Kyle O'Reilly8.79
Mark Briscoe8.12
Matt Jackson8.52
Matt Sydal8.25
Matt Taven7.02
Michael Bennett6.7
Michael Elgin8.14
Moose6.48
Nick Jackson8.51
Ray Rowe7.76
Rhett Titus4.7
Roderick Strong8.15
Silas Young7.39
Takaaki Watanabe7.63
Will Ferrara4.33

Now we can start looking at the additions and subtractions. We’ll start with the negative: subtractions and see what was done to replace the departed.

Subtractions:

  • Jimmy Jacobs: 8.38
  • Kevin Steen: 9.26
  • RD Evans: 7.33
  • Tadarius Thomas: 5.7
  • Tommaso Ciampa: 8.16

There were some heavy-hitters departing this year with Jacobs, Steen and Ciampa all moving on. Jacobs played an integral role for a decade plus in the company before setting sail for an office role with WWE. Steen, arguably Ring of Honor’s best post-Danielson talent also made his way to WWE though long-standing tension between Steen and Ring of Honor management had put this relationship on shaky ground for awhile. The same could be said for Ciampa as well who had issues with management and took his talents elsewhere. Ciampa would join Steen and Jacobs in WWE but not immediately.

Overall, Ring of Honor lost 38.85 in total Cagematch.net rating this year for an average of 7.77 (Thomas really dragged this down).

Additions:

  • Dalton Castle: 8.33
  • Donovan Dijak: 7.56
  • AJ Styles: 9.46
  • Matt Jackson: 8.52
  • Matt Sydal: 8.25
  • Nick Jackson: 8.51
  • Ray Rowe: 7.76
  • Takaaki Watanabe: 7.63

Styles came back to Ring of Honor at the beginning of 2014 but didn’t reach full time status until 2015 so he was obviously a huge boon to Ring of Honor giving them a 9.46 boost. Castle, the current Ring of Honor champion, came into the fold as well. The Young Bucks also reached full-time status this year. The duo had been on and off with Ring of Honor since 2009 but finally became vital parts of the roster in 2015. Ring of Honor also re-acquired one of their former standouts in Matt Sydal.  

Overall, Ring of Honor added 66.02 in 2015, for an average of 8.25. Not bad at all. Put up against the subtractions, Ring of Honor was +27.17 total and +0.48 average.

VoicesofWrestling.com Ring of Honor Roster Movement

2016 Full Time Roster

WrestlerCagematch Rating
ACH8.42
Adam Cole8.22
Adam Page7.87
Alex Shelley9.04
Beer City Bruiser5.32
Bobby Fish7.58
Caprice Coleman5.92
Cheeseburger5.17
Chris Sabin8
Christopher Daniels8.87
Colt Cabana8.45
Dalton Castle8.33
Donovan Dijak7.56
Frankie Kazarian7.67
Hanson7.49
Jay Briscoe8.61
Jay Lethal7.15
Jay White7.58
Kamaitachi9.24
Keith Lee9.4
Kenny King6.95
Kyle O'Reilly8.79
Lio Rush8.15
Mark Briscoe8.12
Matt Jackson8.52
Michael Elgin8.14
Moose6.48
Nick Jackson8.51
Ray Rowe7.76
Rhett Titus4.7
Roderick Strong8.15
Shane Taylor7.67
Silas Young7.39
Will Ferrara4.33

2016 was another victory for Ring of Honor. They had high-profile losses (most notably AJ Styles) but they acquired a number of high-level talents including young talents Keith Lee, Lio Rush, their relationship with NJPW proved fruitful as they were able to bring Hiromu Takahashi/Kamaitachi and Jay White into the company and they welcomed back some old faces in Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin and Colt Cabana.

Subtractions:

  • AJ Styles: 9.46
  • Cedric Alexander: 8.12
  • Matt Taven: 7.02 *lost due to injury*
  • Michael Bennett: 6.7
  • Takaaki Watanabe: 7.63

Additions:

  • Alex Shelley 9.04
  • Chris Sabin 8
  • Colt Cabana 8.45
  • Jay White 7.58
  • Kamaitachi 9.24
  • Keith Lee 9.4
  • Kenny King 6.95
  • Lio Rush 8.15
  • Shane Taylor 7.67

Ring of Honor added 74.48 in 2016 with an average rating of 8.28 (the highest for any year in our dataset). Styles was a huge blow but Bennett, Alexander, Taven and Watanabe certainly were not.

Overall, they lost 38.93 (average of 7.79). Another win for Ring of Honor as they were +35.55 on the year (+0.49 average).

VoicesofWrestling.com Ring of Honor Roster Movement

2017 Full Time Roster

…And then came 2017. This one hurts.

WrestlerCagematch Rating
Adam Cole8.22
Adam Page7.87
Alex Shelley9.04
Beer City Bruiser5.32
Bobby Fish7.58
Bully Ray7.63
Cheeseburger5.17
Chris Sabin8
Christopher Daniels8.87
Cody7.17
Dalton Castle8.33
Flip Gordon7.53
Frankie Kazarian7.67
Hanson7.49
Jay Briscoe8.61
Jay Lethal7.15
Jay White7.58
Josh WoodsN/A
Kenny King6.95
KUSHIDA8.95
Leon St. GiovanniN/A
Mark Briscoe8.12
Marty Scurll8.77
Matt Jackson8.52
Matt Taven7.02
Nick Jackson8.51
Punishment Martinez7.33
Ray Rowe7.76
Rhett Titus4.7
Shaheem AliN/A
Shane Taylor7.67
Sho6.95
Silas Young7.39
TK O'RyanN/A
Vinny Marseglia7.4
Will Ferrara4.33
Yohei6.88

In 2017, Ring of Honor lost talents for a myriad of reasons. ACH, Keith Lee and Michael Elgin departed. Colt Cabana entered into a commentary role and no longer was a full-time talent. Hiromu Takahashi/Kamaitachi returned to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Donovan Dijak signed with WWE. Moose signed with Impact Wrestling.

The biggest blow of them all: “Mr. ROH” Roderick Strong left the company after 13 years, signing with WWE.

Subtractions:

  • ACH: 8.42
  • Colt Cabana: 8.45
  • Donovan Dijak: 7.56
  • Kamaitachi: 9.24
  • Keith Lee: 9.4
  • Kyle O’Reilly: 8.79
  • Michael Elgin: 8.14
  • Moose: 6.48
  • Roderick Strong: 8.15

In their place, Bully Ray and Cody. Welp.

Additions:

  • Bully Ray: 7.63
  • Cody: 7.17
  • Flip Gordon: 7.53
  • Josh Woods: N/A
  • Marty Scurll: 8.77
  • Matt Taven: 7.02
  • Punishment Martinez: 7.33
  • Sho: 6.95
  • TK O’Ryan: N/A
  • Vinny Marseglia: 7.4
  • Yohei: 6.88

Okay, there were more but it was obvious 2017 was a year Ring of Honor took a much different approach to talent acquisition instead looking for name talent over emerging young talent. That’s not to say they didn’t bring in young talent—Flip Gordon, Punishment Martinez, and Vinny Marseglia are all talents with a chance to make a name for themselves—they just don’t replace the Roderick Strongs of the world.

Marty Scurll (8.77) was a big get but Ring of Honor lost 74.63 in 2017 with an average of 8.29 per wrestler. In their place was 66.68 in total additions and a 7.41 average.

Overall, Ring of Honor was -7.95 on the year for a loss of -0.88 per wrestler.

VoicesofWrestling.com Ring of Honor Roster Movement

Overall Year-to-Year

Let’s take a quick look at the overall rating of Ring of Honor’s full-time roster throughout these years.

  • 2014: 205.97 (Average: 7.36)
  • 2015: 233.16 (Average: 7.52)
  • 2016: 259.55 (Average: 7.63)
  • 2017: 246.48 (Average: 7.47)

VoicesofWrestling.com Ring of Honor Roster Movement

Conclusion

I’ll make sure to update this during the year to see what the trend is looking like. Given early returns on the year, it could be another year of loss for Ring of Honor but overall, I owe the company an apology. I’ve been very critical of their talent base and acquisition in recent years but they’ve done well, particularly in 2016.

As a follow-up, I do plan on looking at Ring of Honor’s roster makeup historically and date it back to the company’s inception.


About The Author

Rich Kraetsch

Rich Kraetsch is one of the founders of Voices of Wrestling, co-host of the flagship Voices of Wrestling podcast, co-host of The K&P Show on the VOW Podcast Network and handles many of the day-to-day operations of the site.

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