The Women of Honor Championship Tournament

In 2015, Ring of Honor established its own women’s division which they branded as “Women of Honor.” At “Final Battle 2017”, the Women of Honor championship was introduced, along with the announcement of a tournament taking place to crown the first ever champion.

These matches were taped all over the place and aired in a specific order on YouTube, with the semi-finals airing on Facebook during “Supercard of Honor XII’s” fan convention, and the finals airing on the PPV that evening. All dates below are the broadcast dates for the matches on ROH’s YouTube channel, not the filmed date, to follow the order in which they were presented.

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Qualifying Match
Gabby Ortiz vs. Jessie Brooks

Philadelphia, PA – 1.3.2018

The smaller Ortiz surprises Brooks with a headscissors and corner dropkick. Ortiz also follows Brooks to the floor with a crossbody off the apron. Brooks however caught a crossbody back inside the ring and tossed Ortiz overhead with a fallaway slam. After taking some suplexes, Ortiz tries for a tarantula stretch, with Brooks throwing Ortiz off her back before it can be applied. Ortiz is able to spike Brooks with a DDT for two. Brooks lands a Liger bomb for two. Ortiz surprises Brooks with a crucifix driver for two. Brooks damn near beheads Ortiz with a clothesline to stop a charge, then Dragon suplexes Ortiz for the pin at 5:45. Ortiz was the more impressive of the two, but with Brooks as the more opposing character, I get the decision in having her qualify for the tournament over Ortiz even if I don’t agree with it. *

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Qualifying Match
Brandi Rhodes vs. Stella Grey

Philadelphia, PA – 1.17.2018

Karen Q is on commentary. I’m torn on whether it’s hilarious or sad that 90% of the shirts on the hardcam are Bullet Club/Elite related. The state of ROH at this time. Related, there was never any doubt who was winning this one. Stella utilized some solid offense while also showing off some attitude, and to Brandi’s credit, she had some interesting counters in her bag of tricks. After a Dusty Elbow and Sling Blade, she knocked down Grey with a dropkick off the missile turnbuckle for two. Through The Looking Glass (an X-Factor) also got her a two count. Grey pulls Brandi into an elevated DDT for two. Brandi slips off of Grey’s shoulders and drops her with the Eye of the Hurricane for the pin at 5:50. I’ll admit, this was much better than I expected, with some genuinely impressive offense from Brandi and a solid opponent in Grey. Karen gives Brandi a sarcastic applause after the bout. **

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Madison Rayne vs. Mandy Leon

Nashville, TN – 2.21.2018

Rayne scores the first big offensive maneuver with a spear and superkick. Leon comes back with a bulldog for two. Rayne responds with a neckbreaker. They throw each other down by their hair. Leon Complete Shots Rayne into the Koji Clutch and Rayne gets her feet on the ropes to escape. Leon follows Rayne to the floor with a PK and cannonball senton. Rayne kicks out of a pin back in the ring and drops Leon with a cradle neckbreaker for two. Rayne misses a crossbody and Leon hits the Astral Projection for the pin at 7:30. This was a perplexing match in that there was no trajectory. They did a bunch of stuff and then reached a point where they decided it was time for Mandy to hit her finisher. I can’t even say it was bad because it was just nothing. Strange way to kick off the tournament proper. ½*

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Brandi Rhodes vs. Karen Q

Nashville, TN – 2.21.2018

Karen antagonized Brandi after her qualifying match. She also attacks Brandi before the bell as Brandi poses on the ropes. Brandi lands a dropkick, but quickly Karen pulls her face first into the middle turnbuckle to keep the advantage. After taking Brandi down with a suplex, Karen rubs Brandi’s face into the canvas. Brandi kicks Karen as Karen charges her in the corner and takes Karen down with a Code Red for two. Karen shuts Brandi down with a superkick. Karen strings a rolling suplex and standing moonsault together for two. Brandi rolls out of the way of Karen’s frog splash, taking down Karen with a Dusty elbow and Sling Blade for two. Karen side steps a dropkick off the second turnbuckle and locks Brandi in a Boston Crab. Brandi gets the ropes to escape. She goes up and over Karen in the corner, supposedly hurting her ankle. As Karen pursues her, Brandi small packages Karen for the pin at 7:28. This was a totally solid story, as Karen took Brandi lightly and became angry when Brandi was more competent than she anticipated. Even Brandi admitted she had the experience disadvantage, but because Karen’s anger was at a high, it made her susceptible to something like a fake out injury more easily. This exceeded my admittedly low expectations, and I really appreciate Karen bringing a lot of emotional energy to the proceedings. **½

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Kelly Klein vs. Jessie Brooks

Nashville, TN – 2.23.2018

Klein refers to herself as “the gatekeeper” of the division. Klein crossbody elbows Brooks in the corner, but Brooks clotheslines her to the floor and sends her into the barricades. Klein escapes a suplex and takes down brooks with a clothesline. Brooks is able to string together some forearm shots to the chest back inside the ring. Klein halts a running Brooks with a modified chokeslam. A forearm exchange ends with Klein trying a Guillotine Choke. Brooks throws her off quickly and Tiger suplexes Klein for two. They both land German suplexes fisherwoman suplexes. After her suplex, Brooks goes for a cross armbreaker on Klein. Klein escapes and dumps Brooks with a modified Death Valley Driver for two. Klein knocks out Brooks with a knee strike to the chin for the pin at 8:21. This was a solid slugfest, albeit a bit aimless. The apathetic crowd didn’t help much either. Brooks definitely looked better here than the qualifying match, and I think it helps that Klein was equally formidable. **½

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Deonna Purrazzo vs. Holidead

“Honor Reigns Supreme” – Concord, NC – 2.23.2018

Although Holidead’s imposing presence loomed at the beginning of the match, Purrazzo after a failed Fujiwara armbar was able to take Holidead to the floor with a headscissors. Holidead made Purrazzo pay for that by ramming her back first into the ring post and delivering a leg drop on the ring apron. In the ring, Holidead suplexes Purrazzo into a pendulum stretch. Purrazzo evades a charge, which sends Holidead shoulder first into the ring post. Purrazzo side Russian leg sweeps Holidead for two. Holidead pulls Purrazzo into a spine buster for two. She also gets two with the Dead Drop. Purrazzo escapes Holidead’s Canadian backbreaker and brings her down with La Mistica for the submission victory at 6:18. To no surprise, this was the best match of the opening round thus far. Purrazzo going for her signature armbar in early going was a mistake, but when Holidead’s arm struck the ring post, it was only a matter of time before she got it locked on again. Holidead got to show off her power in the process made it so both competitors came out for the better. **¾

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Tenille Dashwood vs. Stacy Shadows

Atlanta, GA – 3.7.2018

Dashwood pinned Shadows in a tag team match at “Honor Reigns Supreme.” Deonna Purrazzo is on commentary for this match. Dashwood holds her own in a lock-up with the larger Shadows, taking her down with a side Russian leg sweep for two, then hits the Taste of Tenille (the former Emma-mite Sandwich) after a drop toe hold into the middle turnbuckle. Shadows comes back with a spinebuster. Shadows misses a Vader Bomb after a slam. Dashwood snaps Shadows neck across the top rope and takes her out with a high crossbody for two. Shadows blocks a punt and muscles her up onto her shoulders. Dashwood escapes and sends Shadows into the ring post. The Spotlight Kick gets Dashwood the pin at 9:14. The crowd was very much into Dashwood, as she had just debuted for ROH the previous night and was fresh off of her WWE tenure. She also put in a very good performance. Shadows was a perfectly acceptable foil for Dashwood, and I like that Dashwood defeated her the same way here that she did in their tag team match. **½

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Jenny Rose vs. Kagetsu

Stardom – Osaka, Japan – 3.15.2018

Kagetsu is a member of the Oedo Tai faction, and her stablemates Natsu Sumire and Hana Kimura are in her corner. Rose surprises early on, taking down Kagetsu with armdrags and scoring a two count after a DDT. Kimura and Sumire drag Rose to the outside and beat her down while Kagetsu distracts the referee. Kagetsu and Kimura also dig their feet into the sides of Rose’s face. Kagetsu rakes Rose’s eyes and flips her off. An angry Rose comes back with a headscissors and fisherwoman’s suplex for two. Rose nails a flying clothesline for two. Kagetsu gives Rose a few kicks to the back of the head before hitting a Death Valley driver for two. Rose halts her with a spear and goes to the top rope. Kimura distracts the referee as Sumire crotches Rose on the top turnbuckle. Kagetsu brings her down with a superplex, and surprisingly Rose pops up with a desperation clothesline for two. Kagetsu rolls Rose into a cross armbreaker. Rose escapes and also kicks out of a chokeslam. Another Death Valley Driver and a 450 splash get Kagetsu the pin at 8:37. I really like the idea of having a couple first round tournament matches in Stardom; a different environment makes the matches stand out and feel more fresh. There were some curious selling choices by Rose and the interference was a little overdone, but otherwise that was totally solid. **½

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Sumie Sakai vs. Hana Kimura

“ROH 16th Anniversary Show” – Las Vegas, NV – 3.19.2018

This is Kimura’s U.S. debut. Her Oedo Tai stablemate Kagetsu is her corner, and together they are the Goddesses of Stardom champions. Kimuara flips her hair into Sakai’s face instead of shaking her hand. Sakai lands a headscissors and prawn hold, but Kagetsu pulls Saki to the floor and whips her back first into the apron before choking her. Kimura and Kagetsy then dig their boots into Sakai’s face. Kagetsu also tries to stop Sakai from getting the ropes to escape a half crab, but Sakai manages to do so anyhow. Sakai also counters a suplex from Kimura with a DDT. Sakai gives her a neckbreaker, but Kimura comes back with a shotgun dropkick and massive boot to the side of the head. Sakai maneuvers Kimura into a German suplex for two. With Kagetsu’s help, Kimura stops Sakai on the top turnbuckle and brings her down with a superplex. She follows that with a stalling suplex for two. Kagetsu holds Sakai for a boot from Kimura. Sakai avoids it, sends Kimura to the floor with Kagetsu and lands on both of them with a high crossbody. In the ring, Sakai lands a top rope dropkick and Smash Mouse for the pin at 8:00. Both women brought a lot of energy and the interference was much more smartly and wisely incorporated into this match than it was in Kagetsu’s match with Rose. The fans really got behind Sakai which made everything click even more. Throw in the history Sakai has with Hana’s mother Kyoko and you have a heck of a stew going. ***

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
HZK vs. Mayu Iwatani

Stardom – Osaka, Japan – 3.21.2018

HZK’s incredible speed is difficult for Iwatani to keep up with. Iwatani snapmares HZK into a back kick and chokes her with her boot. Iwatani slaps HZK in the face, and HZK double axe handles Iwatani in the chest as Iwatani comes off the ropes. HZK chokes Iwatani on the bottom ropes. Iwatani sweeps out HZK’s legs when HZK tries a facewash kick, and dropkicks HZK through the middle and bottom ropes. Iwatani lands a huge crossbody onto HZK on the outside. After the break, HZK lands a senton onto Iwatani’s back inside the ring for two, then puts on a crossface until Iwatani makes it to the ropes. HZK Manami rolls Iwatani around the ring. HZK spikes Iwatani with a DDT. After a Bakatare Sliding kick and Michinoku Driver, HZK ascends to the top turnbuckle for a seated frog splash. Amazingly, Iwatani kicks out. HZK hits another Bakatare Sliding kick for two. Iwatani switches out of a waistlock and German suplexes HZK. She comes off the top with a double stomp for two. She also gets two with a crucifix driver. Iwatani finally pins HZK with a bridging Dragon suplex at 7:17 (shown of 11:48). Compared to everything else in this tournament, this felt like a Dragon Gate style match with how fast they went and how much incredible offense was portrayed. I could probably nitpick how some of the bigger offenses had no real chance to soak in, but damn if this wasn’t a good time. ***¼

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Quarter-Final Round Match
Brandi Rhodes vs. Tenille Dashwood

“ROH 16th Anniversary Show” – Las Vegas, NV – 3.27.2018

Dashwood catches Brandi’s early kick attempt, and also trips Brandi from the apron. Dashwood also tricks Brandi into exhausting herself by running the ropes. Brandi slaps Dashwood as a receipt, and Dashwood double legs her down, pummeling Brandi on the mat. Dashwood drop toe holds Brandi into the turnbuckles but Brandi slides out before she can hit the Taste of Tenille. Brandi gets Dashwood to chase her around the ring. Back inside, Brandi hits the Dusty elbow and an X-Factor for two. She drops Dashwood with a Sling Blade for two. Dashwood avoids a corner splash and drops Brandi with a wrap around clothesline. After putting Brandi in the Tarantula, the Taste of Tenille connects for two. Brandi feigns a knee injury so she can bait Dashwood into the Cross Rhodes, and she’s stunned when Dashwood kicks out of it. Brandi misses a second rope dropkick, and Dashwood hits the Spotlight kick for the pin at 7:29. These two got the crowd invested in the falls and made Dashwood’s Spotlight kick look great. I also like anytime someone uses someone else’s finisher and it just isn’t as effective, as was the case with Brandi aping her husband’s signature move. Credit to Brandi, she exceeded my expectations in this tournament. **¾

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Quarter-Final Round Match
Sumie Sakai vs. Kagetsu

Las Vegas, NV – 3.27.2018

Kagetsu cuts off Sakai during his entrance with a dropkick from the inside of the ring and then lands a big springboard crossbody to the floor. In the ring, Kagetsu lands a dropkick off the top turnbuckle. After some running forearm strikes in the corner she suplexes Sakai for two. Kagetsu pulls at Sakai’s face to humiliate her. Sakai counters a chokeslam by rolling Kagetsu into a cross armbreaker, converting that into a triangle choke. Kagetsu eventually muscles her up into a corner powerbomb to escape. Sakai suplexes Kagetsy before giving her a fisherwoman’s buster and a moonsault for two. Kagetsu lands a high kick for two. She misses the 450 splash, and Sakai capitalizes with Smash Mouse for the pin at 7:36. Sakai showed her resilience and cunning in this match, and got to gain a measure of revenge on Kagetsu for being an annoyance during her opening round match. Kagetsu spits in Sakai’s face instead of following the Code of Honor, but her semifinal round opponent Tenillie Dashwood who was on commentary, does shake Sakai’s hand. ***

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Quarter-Final Round Match
Mandy Leon vs. Kelly Klein

Las Vegas, NV – 3.28.2018

Leon isn’t afraid to bring the fight to Klein to start, but she’s shut down relatively quickly with a backbreaker. Klein thinks she has Leon pinned with a boot, even giving the camera a smile, but Leon gets her shoulder up before the three count. Leon pushes Klein to the floor after avoiding a corner attack and follows her out with a rolling senton off the apron. In the ring Leon is able to score a Kryptonite Krunch for two. Klein is able to halt Leon on the top turnbuckle and bring her down with a super fallaway slam. Leon backs Klein to the corner. She takes her to the mat to try and do some damage to Klein’s knee. Klein converts into a dragon sleeper. Leon fights out of that, rolling Klein up into the Astral Projection for two. Leon has Klein in a submission called Havana Dreams. Klein taps on Leon’s leg out of sight of referee Paul Turner. Leon releases the hold thinking she won, but Klein knows what’s up. She boots and suplexes Leon before rolling Leon into a Guillotine Choke. Leon passes out at 9:09. This was a lot more competitive than I expected, and Leon performed much better than she did in her opening round match. The finish was pretty clever too. **½

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Quarter-Final Round Match
Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mayu Iwatani

Las Vegas, NV – 4.4.2018

This is Iwatani’s U.S. debut. The match is fairly even until Iwatani wrecks Purrazzo with a dropkick in the ropes. Purrazzo cuts off Iwatani from following up on the attack and suplexes her for a two count. Purrazzo wears down Iwatani’s right leg after taking her down with a dragon screw. Iwatani rolls Purrazzo into a corkscrew elbow strike. She gets two on Purrazzo with a Northern Lights suplex. Iwatani tries a dive to the floor, and Purrazzo catches her on the way down in a Fujiwara armbar! In the ring she gives Iwatani a brainbuster for two. Three rolling German suplexes have Purrazzo fired up. Unbelievably, Iwatani ducks a clothesline and hits a desperation dragon suplex to catch her breath. Iwatani is also able to cut off Purrazzo with a Sling Blade. After a top rope dropkick, peppers Purrazzo with shots, though Purrazzo catches her hand and puts on a Fujiwara armbar. Iwatani uses the ropes to escape. Iwatani roundhouse kicks Purrazzo in the mid-section when Purrazzo misses a running boot. After a couple more kicks, Iwatani hits a bridging Dragon suplex for the pin at 9:28. This was probably the most engaging match of the tournament so far, as I very much enjoyed watching Iwatani demolish Purrazzo while Purrazzo skillfully applied her armbar throughout the contest. Iwatani winning was a genuine surprise as Purrazzo had been on commentary for several tournament matches and framed as a pioneer of the Women of Honor revival. Iwatani’s two tournament matches were great, however, so I am not upset at the decision whatsoever. ***

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Semi-Final Round Match
Kelly Klein vs. Mayu Iwatani
“ROH on SBG #344” – New Orleans, LA – 4.21.2018

Iwatani takes Flein off her feet and dropkicks her in the back of the head. Klein comes back with a huge boot to the face. Iwatani fights up from the mat with open-hand shots to the chest. Klein grabs a cravate and repeatedly drives her knee into Iwatani’s face. Iwatani ducks a kick and schoolgirls Klein for two, with Klein mowing down Iwatani with a lariat after kicking out. Klein puts Iwatani in a choke hold in the corner. Iwatani then takes down Klein off the top turnbuckle with a Frankensteiner. She hits a top rope dropkick. A superkick blindsides Klein, and a double stomp follows suit. A frog splash gets her a close nearfall. Klein blocks a Frankensteiner but Iwatani takes her over with a reverse Frankensteiner for two. Klein takes her down with a guillotine drop and lands a Death Valley Driver for two. Iwatani Northern Lights suplexes Klein for two. Iwatani goes for her Dragon suplex. Klein instead suplexes Iwatani into a guillotine choke, submitting her at 9:00. Klein winning was no surprise, but Iwatani definitely outshined her. That said, they had a good dynamic, and Klein’s guillotine is a very believable and unique finisher for the division. **¾

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Semi-Final Round Match
Sumie Sakai vs. Tenille Dashwood
“ROH on SBG #344” – New Orleans, LA – 4.21.2018

Dashwood pulls a charging Sakai into a clothesline right at the start. Sakai weaves Dashwood into a spin-out neckbreaker. Dashwood sends Sakai into opposite corners before locking on the tarantula. She then gives Sakai a neckbreaker onto the middle rope and flies onto her with a high crossbody. Dashwood puts Sakai into a modified Trailer Hitch. Sakai fights her way free and Mongolian chops Dashwood like crazy. She Judo throws Dashwood into a cross armbreaker, then converts into a crossface. When she sees Dashwood isn’t tapping she releases and stomps on Dashwood. Dashwood escapes a corner attack and hits the Taste of Tenille for two. Dashwood pops up Sakai into a sit-out powerbomb for two. Sakai rolls Dashwood up and into Smash Mouse for two. Dashwood follows Sakai to the top turnbuckle and bringing her down with a German superplex. Dashwood is angered when Sakai kicks out of her pin. She goes for the Spotlight Kick. Sakai blocks it and hooks Dashwood in a crucifix pin for the victory at 8:04. One thing I really liked about this match was it’s intensity and urgency. With one more match ahead of them in the evening, both Sakai and Dashwood wanted to end things quickly and be as fresh as they could for Klein. Despite being the veteran and ROH stalwart, Sakai’s win over Dashwood came off as somewhat of an upset, but well earned as Sakai produces another good tournament outing. ***

After the match, Ian Riccaboni invites Kelly Klein to the ring so the finalists can take a photo with the Women of Honor title. They shake hands, but Klein pulls Sakai into a forearm strike, leaving her laying.

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Final Round Match
Sumie Sakai vs. Kelly Klein
“ROH on SBG #344” – New Orleans, LA – 4.21.2018

The late Daffney is ringside for this bout. Sakai wastes no time attacking Klein with forearm shots to the face and repeated steps to the chest to start. One German suplex from Klein shuts Sakai down. Sakai reverses a whip into the corner and prawn holds her for two. Klein Stun Guns Sakai onto the top rope. She throws Sakai into the guardrails and suplexes her onto the floor before locking on a guillotine. Back in the ring, Klein gets a two count. Klein looks for a super fallaway slam. Sakai slips out and brings down Klein with a schoolgirl bomb. Klein stops a running crossbody and throws Sakai overhead with a fallaway slam. Sakai comes back with a swinging neckbreaker. Klein blocks a prawn hold with a wheelbarrow suplex. Some other tournament competitors (specifically Deonna Purazzo, Karen Q, Mandy Leon, Stella Grey, Mayu Iwatani, and Tenille Dashwood) come to ringside to observe as the two women exchange forearm strikes. Klein knocks down Sakai with a kick to the chest for two. Klein’s bridging Northern Lights suplex also gets two, leaving Klein angry. Sakai pulls off a fisherwoman’s buster. She grazes Klein with a moonsault, then pulls her up into a DDT for the pin and to become the first ever Women of Honor champion at 7:46. There was awkwardness before the DDT, with Sakai transitioning from a key lock into it, and it seemed at that moment both competitors were lost and the match had fallen apart. The action before it was great but the ending fell flat and in retrospect was somewhat of a harbinger for the Women of Honor title’s lineage. **½

While the field itself had some really solid competitors, the tournament itself was not presented as very important, with most of it being hidden in plain sight on YouTube aside from the Finals which were not very good. The Women of Honor division was hardly presented as anything of importance in the two and a half years before the tournament started, and it felt like ROH created a women’s title just to have one. The 2021 tournament and relaunch of the division blows this out of the water, and it’s nice to see there has been major progression in how women’s wrestling has been presented in ROH.

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