We are quickly coming up on Ring of Honor’s nineteenth anniversary. Things that make people like me feel old. The first ROH show I attended was part of the Third Anniversary Celebration. AJ Styles’ return to the promotion after a brief falling out between TNA & ROH over the Rob Feinstein incident drew a nice house for Dayton.
I regularly attended ROH shows there for the next several years, then things got not as interesting and I tuned out. Kinda kept track of what was going on, but wasn’t as interested. I’ve only started watching their TV regularly since the passing of Larry Csonka led to many voids needing to be filled on 411. People get mad at me sometimes because I’m not completely in tune with their current presentation. It is what it is.
Back in 2019, we took a look at the Top 7 ROH Wrestlers in WWE. (Shout out to the folks that commented then: Sami Zayn never competed in Ring of Honor was the angle I was working back then.) Today, we’re going to look at the Top 7 ROH Wrestlers that never appeared in WWE. I’m making this hard on myself…it would be easy to include somebody like Nigel McGuinness that only had one match on Heat that nobody in the world remembers. I doubt he & Doug Basham remember that they had a match in September 2005 in Nashville, but it’s apparently a thing that happened. A shame, because Nigel was going to be very high on this list, and I doubt the money he made off of a random Heat appearance lasted very long. Maybe I’m wrong.
I’m also not listing some of the Japanese wrestlers that appeared in ROH over the years, because it’s way too easy. Also, nobody in the world thinks of Kazuchika Okada or Naomichi Marafuji as ROH wrestlers.
I might be wrong about some of these people never appearing in WWE, because they really should have! Here’s the list, folks!
It’s easy to see how WWE never signed Delirious. The man has been one of the creative minds behind Ring of Honor for the past decade or so. Unless WWE is going to offer the man a top writer gig, or he gets the axe from Sinclair, I don’t see it happening. Certainly not anytime soon.
I was always a fan of the character and his in-ring work back in the day. He had some classic matches with Matt Sydal & Bryan Danielson. His feud with Rhett Titus led to some good character work. The one beef I have with Delirious is I thought he would develop more characters as head booker of ROH, since he did such a great job with his own character. That hasn’t really translated. The more distinct characters that have come through ROH, such as Dalton Castle & Danhausen, were not created by Delirious. Not saying ROH has been totally awful under his supervision, I just expected something different.
6. Matt Taven
While fellow Kingdom members Michael Bennett & Maria Kanellis-Bennett went to the WWE main roster & Adam Cole found a home in NXT, Matt Taven stayed behind. Taven had already been Television & Tag Team Champion, but still had other business to attend to. He formed a new Kingdom with TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marsegila & led them to the 6-man tag team championship. Later on, he defeated Jay Lethal & Marty Scrull in Madison Square Garden to become the ROH World Champion.
Bennett has since returned to ROH and is currently teaming with Taven. One wouldn’t expect Taven to be heading to WWE anytime soon, but it certainly can’t be ruled out down the road.
5. Dalton Castle
Castle had most of the qualities WWE looks for in a Superstar. The personality was clearly there. Dalton was real solid in the ring too, and has an amateur background that WWE scouts certainly appreciate. People made comparisons with the characters of Dalton Castle & the Velveteen Dream, and WWE might wish they had Castle in NXT instead of Dream these days. Castle isn’t the biggest guy, but he’d fit in with the rest of the current generation.
Dalton’s still young, and he’s looking for places to go, but his main drawback these days is his physical health. His body’s taken a pounding over the years, and he really hasn’t been the same since injuring his back during his run as ROH World Champion. Should Dalton manage to get back to 100%, the sky’s the limit. If he can’t, ROH seems to be his ceiling.
4. B.J. Whitmer
I’m absolutely shocked Whitmer wasn’t brought into WWE for at least job duty at some point, especially considering all of his friends did it. How did WWE miss this guy? I’m not saying he should have been a top WWE Superstar, I’m saying they should have seen a picture and brought him in for a look at some point. Putting aside the fact that B.J. was incredibly popular with his peers, he looked like a guy that WWE would at least bring in for a look.
Oddly enough, the reason he ended up leaving ROH the second time around was the fact they wouldn’t let him do a guest trainer stint at the WWE Performance Center. Probably because B.J.’s buddy Steve Corino pulled that trick on them. Once Whitmer left ROH, he got an AEW job and he still hasn’t gotten a paycheck with WWE’s name on it. He was never the flashiest guy in the ring, but he was always really solid, which makes him a great person to have as an agent/producer.
We’re talking about a man that debuted in pro wrestling rings in 1993. It’s easier to name the promotions Homicide hasn’t worked for over the years. He’s worked for pretty much every Northeast indy one can name. Multiple runs in TNA/Impact Wrestling. Most recently with the NWA. And, of course, Homicide was a huge part of early Ring of Honor in 2002-07, being one of the guys along with CM Punk, Samoa Joe, American Dragon and many others that helped put the company on the map.
Most of ROH’s top all-time stars have made it to WWE at one point or another. Not Homicide. It probably won’t be happening at this point, unless they sign him as a coach for NXT. Cide has said he wants to get into training for one of the major promotions, so we’ll see if that leads to anything.
2. Jay & Mark Briscoe
Apparently the hangup here involved Jay making some homophobic posts on Twitter. Which, let’s be honest, isn’t always disqualifying from getting signed by WWE. Lars Sullivan! I’m not excusing Jay for being an idiot on Twitter, I’m just pointing out that WWE has overlooked these things in other instances.
Jay & Mark have been one of the best tag teams during the 21st century. Nobody can argue against that with a straight face. We mentioned the Twitter issue, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that WWE & the Briscoes wouldn’t have been a perfect marriage otherwise. Fortunately for Jay & Mark, their chicken franchise seems to be profitable enough that they don’t need the WWE schedule & ROH works better for them. In this day & age, you need multiple sources of income. Especially when you’re a pro wrestler & the top company frowns on you making money any other way even if they are able to limit your income on a whim.
As awesome as the Briscoes would have been in NXT or WWE, I feel like things have worked out for them. And if things work out with ROH and other non-WWE promotions, Jay & Mark could still find other places to work, as long as it aligns with their schedule. An AEW crowd would go nuts for a random Briscoes appearance is all I’m saying.
1. Jay Lethal
Lethal might not be a Day One ROH guy like the Briscoes, but he’s pretty dann close to it. Except for a stint in TNA where he was most known for his entertaining Ric Flair & Randy Savage impressions, Lethal has spent most of his career in Ring of Honor, becoming the promotion’s franchise player along the way. He’s accomplished everything there is to do in ROH. He’s the guy the youngsters look to for advice. His experience is invaluable & he’s been a constant for a promotion that has seen a lot of people come and go.
Will Jay Lethal ever make the jump to WWE? He hasn’t ruled it out, and the guy’s only in his mid-30s. There’s plenty of time to make it happen, and the longer he waits the more likely they’ll use him in a good spot. The wait didn’t hurt AJ Styles’ WWE prospects.