Last night’s news during Ring of Honor‘s Final Battle PPV that their women’s division, Women of Honor, was getting a WOH Championship belt was probably the biggest story of the night that didn’t include Dalton Castle. It’s been rumoured every since WOH relaunched as it’s own brand in 2015, and it’s been something sadly lacking in Ring of Honor since its first women’s match back in 2002. ROH has had some great women compete with them in the past 15 years that could have really carried that belt and division to a greater impact in the Women’s Revolution – Sara Del Rey, Lacey, LuFisto, Jessicka Havok, the list goes on. But sometimes timing is everything, and it now appears that the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Not simply because women’s wrestling is now at an all-time high peak for interest, but because they’re now partnered up with Japan’s premier women’s wrestling (joshi puroresu) promotion, Stardom. This opens up the field for participation in Women of Honor in 2018 to an international playing field and would potentially give ROH the strongest women’s division of all the major co-ed promotions.
— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) December 16, 2017
WOMEN OF HONOR: THE TOURNAMENT
Of course beyond the announcement of the WOH Championship was the second reveal that in 2018 they would have a 16-woman tournament to crown the inaugural title holder, featuring women from around the world. Women of Honor tweeted today that the 16-spots will apparently be filled through a series of qualifying matches (presumably at ROH Live Events, as well as Stardom and potentially sister affiliates like SHIMMER and/or RISE). Tonight’s qualifier, at the old ECW Arena in Philadelphia, features Brandi Rhodes vs. Stella Grey vs. “Bonesaw” Jessie Brooks vs. Gabby Ortiz.
Tonight in Philly at the 2300 arena! The first two qualifying matches for the #WOH Championship Tournament will take place! @TheBrandiRhodes vs @StellaGrey215 & @BonesawJessieB vs @Gabbity! pic.twitter.com/9kA7uGslXB
— Women of Honor (@Women_of_Honor) December 16, 2017
THE WOMEN OF HONOR
Women of Honor has been building up its women’s division the past few years since WOH officially relaunched in 2015, with the likes of Kelly Klein, Mandy Leon, Deonna Purrazzo, Solo Darling, Jenny Rose and Scarlett Bordeaux leading the way. Veteran Sumie Sakai is a strong influence, and a fitting one – she actually competed in the very first WOH match in history at ROH Road to the Title in June of 2002, just five months after the company started, in a winning effort over Simply Luscious. They’ve also been adding more and more students from the ROH Dojo, trained by WOH veteran Daizee Haze, such as Stella Grey, “Bonesaw” Jessie Brooks, and Faye Jackson, as well as adding some new stars recently like Brandi Rhodes and Karen Q. Sadly, two former long time WOH wrestlers, Taeler Hendrix and Veda Scott, both left the company in the past year, but perhaps this news will entice them back, even part-time.
WOMEN OF HONOR: THE STARDOM POTENTIAL
— 岩谷麻優＊Mayu Iwatani (@MayuIwatani) December 16, 2017
Stardom is already home to arguably the top women’s wrestlers in the world – WWE recently snagged Kairi Sane (formerly Kairi Hojo) from Stardom, but she’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as talent goes. As seen last night, Stardom sent 24-year old Mayu Iwatani as their Stardom representative for the announcement, which automatically makes her one of the #1 contenders for the title. Iwatani is a former World of Stardom Champion (Stardom’s top singles title), who just recently returned from a terrible injury suffered during her title loss match to Toni Storm. Speaking of Storm, there are plenty of Stardom’s gaijin talent that could compete in this tournament, including Stardom and PROGRESS Women’s Champion Toni Storm, not to mention Viper (aka Piper Niven), Mari Apache, or Kris Wolfe (who already wrestled for WOH this past summer). And there’s plenty of Stardom’s homegrown who could compete as well, including Io Shirai, whom many consider the best women’s wrestler on the planet right now.
WOMEN OF HONOR: LAS LUCHADORAS
With Ring of Honor and NJPW also having an alliance with Mexico’s CMLL, there could even be potential crossover to feature many of CMLL’s top luchadoras, such as current CMLL Women’s Champion Dalys la Caribeña, or the recently unmasked Princess Sugehit (who got international exposure this past summer with a strong showing in the WWE’s Mae Young Classic).
WOMEN OF HONOR: THE INDIE CONTINGENT
With Women of Honor finally getting it’s own championship, one would assume this means that ROH is planning on pushing WOH heavily in 2018 in order to create storylines with an ultimate purpose now – as in chasing the championship. There are so many phenomenal talents on the indie circuit right now, and with WOH opening up, it now provides another major alternative to heading to NXT or Impact Wrestling. So it’s not out of the question that we could see stars such as Santana Garrett, Ivelisse, Vanessa Kraven, Tessa Blanchard, Mia Yim, or whomever making runs in WOH, even if they’re short.
So who would you like to see join WOH in 2018? Who’s your pick for inaugural champion? Let us know in the comments below!