The end of 2018 has seen a wave of free agent signings, as many of the top indie stars have departed long time homes or the indies to head to bigger pastures. While the WWE has gained the bulk of the headlines with such big signings as Ricochet, War Machine, Chelsea Green, Keith Lee, Matt Riddle and more, there has also been huge news out of those leaving Ring of Honor – particularly the cast of Being The Elite in The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes and Hangman Page (Marty Scurll has signed an extension through at least April of 2019). And while ROH also lost Punishment Martinez and most likely SCU (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and potentially Scorpio Sky), it should be noted that Ring of Honor has spent the past few months creating new stars and signing loads more to restock the company for 2019. Here’s a look a the faces that are going to be stealing the show in an ROH ring next year as the new faces of Ring of Honor take shape.
New Face of Ring of Honor
One of the breakout Mexican stars of 2018, Bandido made a huge splash in North America as part of MexaBlood with partner Flamita in promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), DEFY Wrestling and All American Wrestling (AAW), as well as in the UK with PROGRESS and RevPro. At September’s All In, Bandido was separated from Flamita and joined Rey Fenix and Rey Mysterio Jr in the main event against Kota Ibushi and The Young Bucks. Bandido will be starting his time in Ring of Honor solo as no word on Flamita joining the young lucha star in 2019.
PJ Black is best known to many as former WWE Superstar and Nexus member Justin Gabriel, where he was a former 3x WWE Tag Team Champion with Heath Slater. He left the WWE in 2015 and returned the international indies under his former name of PJ Black, working with indies across the globe, including debuting with Lucha Underground the same year he left the WWE. He made his ROH debut at this past November’s ROH Survival of the Fittest and worked December’s ROH TV tapings. A veteran high flyer, Black would bring some veteran leadership into the locker room and some excitement in the skies.
Coast 2 Coast (Leon St. Giovanni & Shaheem Ali)
Still a young tag team, the pairing of Leon St. Giovani and Shaheem Ali in Coast 2 Coast has been a part of ROH since 2015. But with ROH’s tag team division being so top-heavy, with teams like Young Bucks, reDRagon, War Machine, Briscoes, The Addiction and many more, Coast 2 Coast has been the enhancement on more occasions than the priority. The two have spent the past three months on an excursion to Germany to work with Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) and just recently returned to the US. With so many teams now gone from ROH, Coast 2 Coast has the chance to finally step up and become impact players in the tag team division.
A relative unknown outside of the Hawaiian indie scene until he broke out with Lucha Underground in 2015 as the Monster Matanza, Cobb has made up for lost time over the past few years as one of the top indie stars in promotions like PWG, AAW, Bar Wrestling, Smash Wrestling and others. He regularly competes in NJPW now in the World Tag League, and had a breakout year in 2018, winning this year’s PWG Battle of Los Angeles as well as the PWG World Championship. He made his shocking ROH debut in September, winning the ROH World Television title from the departing Martinez, and is now poised to enter 2019 as one of the fastest rising stars on the ROH roster.
While the former WWE Superstar known as Emma has been with ROH all year, the Women of Honor brand has had its stops and starts as it solidifies its roster. Not to mention, Tenille Dashwood‘s unfortunate health issues have kept her out of action since September. She should be back in the fold in the new year and with WOH under a new direction with Kelly Klein as the new WOH World Champion, Tenille Dashwood has the opportunity to become the star we all know she can be.
Midwest indie star Facade has been a staple with Pennsylvania’s International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) since 2006, but it’s only been in the last few years the high flyer has been breaking out nationally. Working with other companies like Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), EVOLVE, Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), Bar Wrestling, and others, Facade has gotten his name on a lot more lips of late. He worked a few ROH dates early in the year before a summer excursion to Japan to work for DDT Pro, but he returned to ROH at November’s TV tapings and Survival of the Fittest, and worked the December tapings as well. Ring of Honor is the perfect national platform for the indie veteran.
One of the indie scene’s best-kept secrets and most underrated ring technicians, “The Octopus” Jonathan Gresham is finally coming into his own in ROH. He broke in Europe well before the US indie scene, working with Germany’s wXw and in the UK scene (where he teams with Chris Brookes in the Calamari Catch Kings (CCK)), but he’s been with ROH since 2014 in some capacity. But it’s only really felt like Gresham has been pushed as a potential star this past year and his match against Zack Sabre Jr. at ROH Final Battle in mid-December showcased to the world the untapped potential the 30-year old star has. Hopefully, he finally gets the fully concentrated push he deserves next year as one of ROH’s main event stars.
Guerrero Maya Jr.
With ROH’s alliance in the IWGP Conception, they have a partnership with Mexico’s top promotion, CMLL and routinely feature some of their stars. Guerrero Maya Jr. made his ROH debut this summer in the State of the Art series in Texas this past June in CMLL vs ROH bouts but made his return at Survival of the Fittest in November. The 33-year old luchador could find more appearances in ROH next year, as lucha libre makes its biggest splash in the US indie scene since the rise of the WCW Cruiserweight division in the 1990s.
One of the elite stars in the booming UK indie scene, Mark Haskins spurned an NXT UK deal to remain independent. A former PROGRESS World Champion, 2x IPW World Champion, Smash Wrestling Champion and Over The Top (OTT) No Limits Champion, Haskins is one of the unmatched stars of the UK style. Well rounded and charismatic, Mark Haskins’ signing was finally made official this past week after rumors emerged from backstage at Final Battle that it was signed and sealed.
A product of the ROH Dojo, Indiana’s Eli Isom made his ROH debut in 2017 as part of the ROH Future of Honor series. He’s spent the bulk of this year in tag matches with another prospect in Ryan Nova and in programs with ROH fan favorite Cheeseburger. But the past few months have seen the young Isom’s stock rise considerably, facing Kenny King at Final Battle and working the TV tapings afterwards. Either as a rising singles star or in a continued tag team with Ryan Nova, Isom is a name to watch in ROH in 2019.
One of the US indie scene’s great success stories, the God’s Hate vocalist switched from a musical career to one in the ring in 2015 and exploded in 2018 as one of the US indies best big men in the game. A fierce competitor and fearful brawler, Brody King honed his craft on the West Coast indies with PWG, PCW ULTRA, Bar Wrestling and Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, as well as in Major League Wrestling (MLW), AAW, DEFY and Smash (amongst others). It was only a matter of time before one of the majors came knocking, and ROH has won the bidding war. Brody King debuted as part of Marty Scurll’s post-Elite faction Villain Enterprises.
Another product of the West Coast indie scene, he debuted in 2009 and worked for a few years as Austin Draven before joining NXT in 2012 as Judas Devlin. He was cut in 2013 and went somewhat dark, until debuting in Lucha Underground in 2016 as the dragon-faced Vibora of the Reptile Tribe. While his character finally met its demise in this year’s season of Lucha Underground, he’d already begun to establish his indie career outside of LU as Luchasaurus, working extensively with Bar Wrestling, as well as House of Hardcore, DEFY and Beyond Wrestling. He worked a dark match with ROH in September before debuting at Survival of the Fittest, as well as working the past TV tapings. He’s also been announced for more tapings in January, indicating the reptilian big man will have a new TV home to look forward to in 2019.
Much like his frequent tag partner Eli Isom, Ryan Nova is another product of the ROH Dojo who made his debut in 2017. Working alongside Isom and Cheeseburger, the New Jersey native is another bright prospect that could be one of the new faces of 2019, most likely in a hungry new team with Isom.
Will Ospreay has worked for ROH before, but the runs were always rather short ones – five matches in 2016, nine in 2017 and only one this year (against Jay Lethal at ROH Death Before Dishonor). With ROH’s close relationship with NJPW, the options are always there, but his use in New Japan has limited his involvement with ROH. But with the signings of such young athletic stars like Bandido and fellow Brit Mark Haskins, ROH is hoping to use Ospreay more in 2019 than ever before.
Arguably the greatest comeback story in the history of pro wrestling, the former 3x WWF World Tag Team Champion and former Quebecer Pierre Carl Ouellette – now known simply as PCO – emerged as one of the indie scene’s top draws as the “Not Human” French-Canadian Frankenstein after nearly six years away from the sport. This year he had huge matches against the likes of WALTER, Nick Gage, Matt Riddle, Brian Cage, Homicide, Joey Janela and many, many more, emerging as one of the best big men in the game. He made his debut in mid-December as part of Marty Scurll’s Villain Enterprises and returns to major wrestling television for the first time since working for IMPACT Wrestling briefly as X in 2003 (and WCW in 2000 prior to that).
The NJPW star has always had the ability to work with ROH and like fellow New Japan star Will Ospreay, Juice Robinson has worked a handful of matches for the company since 2016. But Juice appeared at December’s TV tapings after Final Battle and told the audience that they can expect to see much more of Juice Robinson in ROH come 2019, adding some extra charisma to the locker room.
One of CMLL’s biggest stars, Rush is the co-founder of Los Ingobernables, one of the most popular stables in all of Mexico. His work with Tetsuya Naito in Mexico lead to Naito’s formation of a Japanese branch, Los Ingobernables de Japon. While his home CMLL has always had an alliance with ROH via the IWGP Conception, Rush only made his ROH debut at the recent December TV tapings. While he also works for MLW, Rush could be looking to expand his US presence by forging a closer working agreement with ROH as well. Reports indicate he’s softened his stance on going to the WWE due to the spotty booking of his real-life friend (and Los Ingobernables co-founder) Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (formerly La Sombra).
Zack Sabre Jr.
Similar to Rush, Zack Sabre Jr. has always had the option to work for ROH through the NJPW alliance, but he only made his ROH debut at Final Battle in one of the event’s stand out matches against Jonathan Gresham. He worked the following tapings as well, as it appears that ROH is hoping to secure more services from the Technical Wizard in 2019.
Twisted Sisters (Holidead & Thunder Rosa)
One of the hottest tag teams in the US indies, the pairing of Holidead and Thunder Rosa – collectively known as The Twisted Sisters – made their ROH debut together in November on ROH TV. They’ve worked a few sets of TV tapings now and appear to be a new addition to the WOH roster. Thunder Rosa made her ROH debut earlier in June at State of the Art, while Holidead has worked a couple dark matches in singles action going back to 2017.
“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams
A longtime star with EVOLVE and Beyond Wrestling, the current AIW Absolute Champion and Powerbomb.tv Independent Champion walked away from EVOLVE earlier this year after a five-year run that saw him capture the EVOLVE Tag Team titles on two occasions as part of Catch Point. Now more focused on his singles work, Williams made his ROH debut at Survival of the Fittest and was brought back for the December TV tapings. Ready to make the jump to the next level and national television, Williams has all the tools to be a top level player in ROH.