Ring of Honor is known for producing stars and helping bring eyes to many of today’s biggest names in wrestling. From AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), and Christopher Daniels, to CM Punk, Samoa Joe, and Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens), all have found themselves in ROH.
The one prize that all of those men sought while in ROH was the Ring of Honor World Championship. The ROH World Championship was held by every single person on the above list, except for one (AJ Styles), but it can be argued that only one man has set the standard that all the others have since had to follow. That man is Samoa Joe.
In the entire history of the ROH World Championship, there have only been 29 champions since it’s inauguration in 2002. In ROH’s 17 years in business, only 4 men have held the title more than once (Jay Lethal, Adam Cole, Austin Aries, and Jay Briscoe), with Adam Cole having the most reigns at 3. Jay Lethal is the current ROH World Champion, and is currently the longest reigning champion with combined reigns in the company.
However, as it stands at the moment of writing this, there is only one man who holds the longest single title reign in ROH history. That man is Samoa Joe. Joe’s reign towers over the rest in ROH, despite the fact that Joe has only held the title once. Joe’s reign lasted a staggering 645 days – a length of time in modern wrestling that is extremely rare.
While ROH was known early on for producing good shows and highlighting top independent talent like Low Ki, AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson, and Christopher Daniels, it can be argued that the promotion only started to get noticed on a wide scale during the reign of Samoa Joe. In fact, it’s the foundation that Joe laid that help build Ring of Honor into the promotion it is today, and helped them sell out Madison Square Garden for the ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard.
In its first year of existence (2002), ROH drew 5,300 fans, with an average attendance of 442 (Attendance numbers were supplied by Lavie Margolin). The first ROH Champion was crowned at ROH’s 5th show, seeing Low Ki win the title in a match against Spanky (Brian Kendrick), Doug Williams, and Christopher Daniels.
Low Ki’s reign was short-lived though, and he lost the title after only one successful title defense against AJ Styles. On September 21, 2002, Xavier defeated Low Ki, and went on to defend the title 4 times, defeating Jay Briscoe, AJ Styles, and Paul London twice before the fateful day on March 22, 2003, when Samoa Joe claimed the title that would soon be the talk of the independent wrestling world.
Throughout this article, I will have videos of various matches from Joe’s ROH career. Not all of them are the title matches mentioned, but they should help give you a taste for what Joe did in Ring of Honor to make himself a legend there.