One after another, Ring of Honor have been revealing the participants in the 2 upcoming tournaments, the first to crown the new ROH Women’s World Champion, the second for the returning ROH Pure Championship. Find below the portraits of the eight first participants announced for the tournaments. Eight more women wrestlers have yet to be announced, as well as eight more male wrestlers.
Sumie Sakai knows all about winning championship tournaments. Two years ago, Sakai won the tournament to crown the first Women of Honor Champion. She went on to hold the title for a record 251 days. Now, Sakai is looking to make history again by winning the Ring of Honor Women’s World Title tournament. It would be fitting for Sakai to win the tournament. She defeated Simply Luscious in the very first women’s match in ROH in 2002, and no woman has competed in more matches in ROH than her. However, it will be a drastically different Sakai in this tournament than the Sakai we saw in the 2018 event. For years, Sakai was the epitome of an honourable competitor, but that changed recently.
After a miscommunication cost Sakai and Nicole Savoy their match against The Allure (Angelina Love and Mandy Leon) at Saturday Night at Center Stage in January, Sakai shocked everyone by attacking Savoy. Savoy and Sakai faced each other the next night at Honor Reigns Supreme, and Sakai once again showed her newfound vicious streak, as she nailed Savoy with a chain to steal the victory. With her “no more nice Sumie” attitude, Sakai is more dangerous than ever. The 23-year veteran has the skill, experience and killer instinct to go all the way in the tournament.
The first entrant looks to become the first-ever two-time Pure Champion. After defeating Alex Shelley in a tournament final in 2004 to become just the second Pure Champion, Doug Williams held the Championship proudly. Williams has been synonymous with the Pure style and his impact on early ROH is still talked about to this day. Since departing ROH, Williams has maintained his status as one of the world’s best and most innovative stars, racking up Championships in New Japan, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Progress, and the TNA World Tag Team Championships with Nick Aldis. In 2018, Williams showed he was still one of the best in the world, mixing it up with The Briscoes and The Young Bucks on the Honor Re-United Tour!
Williams adaptability to any style has made him dangerous in every division, whether it is the Pure style, the X-Division, brawling, or hardcore, but his mat technicianship makes him an especially dangerous competitor in the Pure Title Tournament! Williams and AJ Styles are the only two competitors to ever win tournaments to capture the ROH Pure Championship – will he make history again by becoming the first-ever to win a second tournament and second Pure Championship?
Kellyanne may be a new face to many ROH fans, but she is certainly not a newcomer to pro wrestling. Despite being just 26, Kellyanne has been wrestling for more than a decade. In addition to competing in Australia, Kellyanne has wrestled in Mexico, New Zealand, the UK and Canada, where she trained under Lance Storm. She also has wrestled for Shimmer in the U.S. Combining hard-hitting offence with strong technical wrestling skills and agility, Kellyanne has won championships all over the world. Now, the no-nonsense competitor is seeking her crowning achievement: outlasting 15 other world-class competitors to become the new ROH Women’s World Champion.
Since Jonathan Gresham made his ROH debut in the 2011 Top Prospect Tournament, many fans noted that he was tailor-made for the Pure Championship Division. “The Foundation” fits like a glove, as his ability to tie opponents up in submissions and quick pins leave them no choice but to seek rope breaks. And for one half of the World Tag Team Champions, the Pure Rules can take away sometimes the only method of escape for his foes: the rope break.
Gresham’s surgical precision has made him a threat in all divisions but his knowledge and application of the rules, for better or worse, have taken his career to a different level. A genius inside of the ring, Gresham, one of two men to compete in the last Pure Rules match at Best in the World 2019, is one of the odds-on favourites to add his name to the storied lineage of the Pure Championship.
If there was ever a Number One seed announced, Gresham would have to be among them for his ability to cradle, capture, bend, manipulate, twist, turn, and tie-up his opponents. And who will be able to stop Gresham when he forces his opponents to burn their rope breaks early in their match?
No one in Ring of Honor — male or female — has won as many singles world championships as Angelina Love. That automatically makes her one of the favourites to win the ROH Women’s World Title tournament. Love, who came to ROH nearly a year ago as a six-time former world champion, went on to win the Women of Honor World Title, and now she’s looking for world title No. 8.
Love, Mandy Leon and Velvet Sky — collectively known as The Allure — put the ROH women’s division on notice when they stormed onto the scene at G1 Supercard before a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden last April. The controversial trio immediately drew the ire of the fans for their repeated sneak attacks and “mean girls” attitude. However, as easy as it is for fans to hate Love, no one can deny her immense talent. The Toronto native has wrestled all over the U.S. as well as in Europe and Mexico and defeated some of the biggest names in the sport.
Alex Shelley’s connection to Pure is deeper than what meets the eye. The veteran of nearly two-decades competed in the very first ROH Pure Rules match against Matt Stryker and made it to the finals of the second Pure Championship Tournament! At just 36 years old, Shelley is renewed and refreshed, having earned two college degrees in his time off, developing an even greater understanding of the human anatomy, and defeating Colt Cabana at Final Battle, inserting himself firmly among Championship contenders.
Shelley’s Championship history, which includes the ROH World Tag Team and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championships, has seen him compete as a Champion all over the world, calcifying Shelley’s shoulders to the pressure that will face in this tournament. Shelley’s knowledge of submissions, particularly of his patented Border City Stretch, will serve him well, as will his connection to the original Pure Championship as the muscle memory of the strategies of this unique match style will likely return to him during Pure Excellence Weekend!
Nicole Savoy holds the record for the longest reign as Shimmer Champion in the 13-year history of the prestigious title. Now she is looking to start a new reign as Ring of Honor Women’s World Champion. Savoy, a nine-year veteran who held the Shimmer Title for 721 days from 2017-2019, has made a strong impression in her short time with ROH. In her debut match at Final Battle Fallout in December, she defeated former Women of Honor World Champion Sumie Sakai. Aptly nicknamed “The Queen of Suplexes,” Savoy has a background in Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu. When she was Shimmer Champion, Savoy successfully defended the title against the likes of Mercedes Martinez, Deonna Purrazzo, Britt Baker, Cheerleader Melissa, LuFisto, and Kimber Lee, among others. With her in-ring ability and big-match experience, Savoy figures to be a tough out in the tournament.
The first man to hold Championships in Ring of Honor, New Japan, and CMLL returns to ROH to do something he has never done in his nearly 20+ year career that has taken him all around the world and then some: compete in a Pure Rules match in a ROH ring. And for Rocky Romero, the Pure Championship represents an opportunity to do something else he has never done in ROH: win a singles ROH Championship.
By 2005, Rocky Romero, then at the age of 23, had already held titles in ROH, New Japan, and CMLL and was one-half of the then-longest reigning ROH World Tag Team Champions of all-time, The Havana Pitbulls. Since then, Romero has captured both the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight singles and Tag Team Championships, breaking the record for most reigns as one half of the latter.
Romero has been a fixture in ROH, whether it has been with Ricky Reyes, Alex Koslov, or Beretta for almost the entirety of ROH’s existence and his blend of United States, Mexican, European, and Japanese styles make him one of the most difficult wrestlers in the world for which to game plan. But Romero has not yet competed in a Pure Rules wrestling match inside a ROH, a rare missing achievement in a career that is already on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
Katarina has won championships around the globe, and now she is headed to Ring of Honor looking to add another title to her resume. Born in Germany before relocating to England, Katarina is a two-time former Knockouts Champion, having defeated Mickie James both times to win the title. After beginning her career in the UK, Katarina travelled to France in 2005 and won the World Queen of Chaos Championship in a Rumble match against competition from all over the world. She successfully defended the title in France and Switzerland for 387 days before relinquishing it to sign with WWE. While competing on a show co-promoted by ROH and Frontier Wrestling Alliance in London in 2003, Katarina made waves in a six-person hardcore match by diving off the balcony. It was voted as one of FWA’s top 10 moments.
“The Preacher’s Son” Mark Haskins has been on the doorstep of Championship gold in ROH since winning the 2018 International Cup. Haskins has submitted former ROH World Champions Jay Lethal and Dalton Castle, defeated perennial contenders Kenny King and Silas Young, and, as of this announcement, is on a singles winning streak that includes wins against Hallowicked, Alex Shelley, and Bully Ray.
Haskins enters the Pure Championship Tournament as one of its favourites irrespective of the tournament’s rules but the rules play heavy into the hands of Haskins! Haskins’s nearly-inescapable submissions will force his opponents to make a series of split-second decisions including whether they want to try to endure the pain and look for counters or burn precious rope breaks. Haskins’ repertoire will be an instant advantage and will make him one of the toughest outs in the tournament.
Jenny Rose has steadily climbed the ranks in Ring of Honor since making her debut a decade ago, and she believes the time has arrived for her to reach the top. A Philadelphia native, Rose began training at the ROH Dojo when she was 17. Just a few years later, she was wrestling in an ROH ring against the likes of Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze. Rose continued to hone her craft in Japan, where she has competed extensively since 2011. She has scored victories over the likes of Mandy Leon, Brandi Rhodes and Holidead in ROH and come close to winning the Women of Honor World Title on several occasions. Last year, Rose competed in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, where she and Oedo Tai (Hazuki and Kagetsu) defeated Sumie Sakai, Hana Kimura and Stella Grey in a six-woman tag match at G1 Supercard.
Business will be booming in the Pure Championship Tournament when Australia’s Slex enters the field of sixteen to vie for Championship Gold. Slex enters the tournament as one of its biggest wildcards to the other previously-announced stars but not a secret to the international scene.
Slex’s impressive resume in Melbourne City Wrestling, including rivalries with Adam Brooks and a dream match against the IWGP Heavyweight Kazuchika Okada, has led him to international stardom and to a Ring of Honor contract. The question marks around how stars like Jonathan Gresham, Alex Shelley, Doug Williams, and others might handle him are reciprocated but one thing is for sure: Slex only goes where the biggest dollars and the biggest competition is, with the fastest way of getting the biggest bucks being winning the Pure Championship.
Slex’s power is one of his biggest strengths but he has been able to stretch his opponents limb-from-limb and his impressive submission arsenal will help Slex compete under the Pure Rules! Don’t be surprised if Slex is the man with the Championship around his waist when the tournament concludes.
Session Moth Martina loves to drink beer and grind on everyone she sees, but don’t let her party-girl antics fool you. The charismatic Irish star is a serious competitor who fancies the ROH Women’s World Championship. Martina made her highly anticipated ROH debut at Free Enterprise on Feb. 9, and she lived up to the hype by defeating former Women of Honor World Champion Sumie Sakai. That victory did not come without a price, however. It caught the attention of The Allure (Angelina Love and Mandy Leon), who attacked Martina during her post-match interview. Before signing with ROH, Martina wrestled throughout Europe as well as for Stardom in Japan. She’s won championships in Ireland and Scotland, and now has her sights set on the ROH Women’s World Title.
“Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams is one of the best strikers in professional wrestling. His strikes, which include open palms, knife-edge chops, and kicks deep into the tissue of his opponents are already adjusted for the Pure Rules. Combining his strikes with his array of submissions, which includes a guillotine choke and ankle lock submissions, Williams enters the Pure Championship Tournament with an arsenal already fine-tuned to take full advantage of the Pure Rules.
In 2019, Williams earned shots at the Ring of Honor World and World Television Championships and competed for the Ring of Honor World Six-Man Tag Team Championships but since Williams’ entry into ROH, many fans have observed that Williams would have been tailormade for the previously-retired Pure Championship. Now, with the title back, “Hot Sauce” enters the tournament with a Championship repertoire ahead of the tournament’s start in Columbus.
Tasha Steelz made a strong impression in her handful of Ring of Honor appearances in 2019. Now “The Boricua Badass” is determined to become Ring of Honor Women’s World Champion in 2020. There may be more experienced and decorated competitors in the tournament, but Steelz is not someone who should be slept on. Last year, Steelz was victorious in three of her four matches in ROH: She won a No. 1 contender’s four-way match over Angelina Love, Jenny Rose and Stella Grey; beat Love and Karissa Rivera in a Triple Threat; and teamed with Kris Statlander to win a three-way tag bout over Sumie Sakai and Rose, and Gabby Ortiz and Rivera. When powerhouse Maria Manic entered the ring after one of those matches, Steelz was the only competitor who showed no fear and stepped right up to her, proving that she is as fearless as she is dangerous.
In his third night and third match in Ring of Honor, “The Villain” Marty Scurll captured the Ring of Honor World Television Championship. From then on, Scurll has been 1/3rd of the longest-reigning ROH World Six-Man Champions as the CEO of Villain Enterprises and firmly entrenched in the ROH World Title hunt. Now, “The Villain” has his sights set on the newly re-christened Ring of Honor Pure Championship.
Already a master mat technician in bending the rules around the ropes, now, Scurll will become more dangerous, particularly with his ability to catch opponents in pinning combinations on the mat and in his devastating, Championship-winning Chicken Wing! How far Scurll will go may depend on the match-ups within the tournament: will he face a mentor like Doug Williams who has taught him so much of his own repertoire over the years or will he face a young upstart in the first round? Either way, the man with the Championship pedigree has an opportunity to end the tournament with a new piece of gold around his waist.
The tournament to crown the inaugural women champion begins with eight first-round matches at Quest For Gold on Friday, April 24 at Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena. The tournament to crown the first Pure Champion in nearly 14 years begins with first-round matches at Pure Excellence in Columbus, Ohio on Friday, April 10 and Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 11.
All pics courtesy of ROH