The History of the Women of Honor Championship

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 the “Festival of Honor’s” fan convention, and the finals airing on the PPV that evening.

4/7/18 Supercard of Honor XII - New Orleans, LA | ROH Wrestling

Women of Honor Championship Tournament Final Round Match
Sumie Sakai vs. Kelly Klein
“Supercard of Honor XII” – New Orleans, LA – 4.21.2018

Klein defeated Bonesaw Brooks, Mandy Leon, and Mayu Iwatani en route to the finals, while Sakai defeated Hana Kimura, Kagetsu, and Tenille Dashwood. 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

Women of Honor Championship; Elimination Match
Sumie Sakai vs. Karen Q vs. Kelly Klein vs. Madison Rayne

“Final Battle 2018” – New York, NY – 12.14.2018

Sakai has been champion since 4.21.2018 and this is her seventh defense. The two more seasoned competitors, Sakai and Rayne, wipe out Q and Klein on the outside before going to battle with one another. Q makes a possible mistake by turning a rear-naked choke from Sakai to Rayne into a double Boston Crab. Q and Klein dang up on Rayne after throwing Sakai to the floor. Rayne got a nearfall on Q with a crucifix driver. Klein wipes out all of the other competitors, and pins Q with a K-Power (a modified Death Valley Driver) at 6:54. Rayne avoids the same fate shortly after. Sakai is able to take out Q with Smash Mouse, but before she can cover, Klein steals her glory by booting Sakai away and getting the pin on Rayne at 8:54. Sakai gets Klein down and in her signature cross armbreaker. When Klein gets the ropes to escape, Sakai drops her with Smash Mouse for two. Klein catches a Frankensteiner attempt and powerbombs Sakai for two. Sakai kicks out of K-Power, much to Klein’s chagrin. Super K-Power, however, does the trick, getting Klein the pin and the title at 13:41. Klein winning the title, as well as all three falls in the process, is a perfect way to establish her as the top competitor in the Women of Honor division. While I appreciate that there was a solid amount of time between falls, some of the time at the beginning was not filled in any meaningful way. Fortunately they ended strongly. ***

ROH Women of Honor Championship
Kelly Klein vs. Mayu Iwatani

“Bound By Honor 2019, Night 2” – Coral Gables, FL – 2.10.2019

Klein has been champion since 12.14.2018 and this is her sixth defense. The inaugural champion, Sumie Sakai, is in Iwatani’s corner. Despite their size disparity, Iwatanti was game to match Klein’s intensity on chops. Klein’s size did end up overwhelming Iwatani. A prime example of this is when Klein was on the floor and Iwatani landed a high crossbody. Despite this impact, Klein managed to release German suplex Iwatani after the fact to get a moment of respite and possibly win the match by count out (she didn’t). Iwatani landed her own German suplex back inside the ring. After some kicks to the head and two moonsaults, Iwatani pinned Klein at 11:02 to become the new Women of Honor champion! The structure of the match made Iwatani look like a convincing underdog, and the crowd was delighted when she scored the win. It felt like a big accomplishment as she vanquished the big bad of the Women of Honor division. ***

ROH Women of Honor Championship
Mayu Iwatani vs. Kelly Klein

“G1 Supercard” – New York, NY – 4.6.2019

Iwatani has been champion since 2.10.2019 and this is her fourth defense. Sumie Sakai is in her corner. Kelly decides to attack Iwatani’s left knee, which has some extra protection on it due to being previously injured. While on the mat, Iwatani locks in a sleeper hold. Klein is able to muscle Iwatani up to her feet and back her into the corner to break the hold. Iwatani avoids a corner attack and kicks Klein to the floor, following her out with a high crossbody off the top turnbuckle. Klein is able to throw Iwatani’s left hard into the ring post before getting back into the ring. Iwatani blocks a powerbomb attempt with a reverse Frankensteiner for two. Klein takes down Iwatani after avoiding a dragon suplex, and also knocks her down with a clothesline to buy some time. After some high kicks, Iwatani dragon suplexes Klein, but unfortunately Klein’s foot lands on the ropes so she cannot pin her. Iwatani goes for what won her the title originally, a moonsault. This time, Klein moves out of the way and hits a lariat. A powerbomb and two K-Power’s get Klein the pin and the title at 10:37. This was totally fine, but fell short of their first encounter, and the crowd was polite at best. While I appreciate some callbacks to that first encounter, very few in the massive crowd likely had any clue about those callbacks. **¼

After the match, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky surprised the audience, confronting Klein. Women of Honor stalwart Mandy Leon, who was on commentary, made her way to the ring as well. Leon attacked Klein from behind. Fellow Women of Honor roster members Stella Grey and Jenny Rose tried to come to Klein’s rescue and ended up being wiped out. Love, Sky, and Leon would declare themselves “The Allüre.” Sky would only appear at “Masters of the Craft” later that month before exiting the company, and Love and Leon would continue on as a duo.

ROH Women of Honor Championship
Kelly Klein vs. Angelina Love

“Death Before Dishonor 2019” – Las Vegas, NV – 9.27.2019

Klein has been champion since 4.6.2019 and this is her seventh defense. Love pinned Klein at “Best in the World 2019” in a tag team match. Mandy Leon is in Love’s corner. Love lands a neckbreaker for two, and Klein comes back with a backbreaker for a one coin shortly after. Love rolls outside after being dropped on the top turnbuckle and taking a clothesline, and Klein follows with a crossbody off the apron onto Love and Leon. Love is able to send Klein into the guardrails. Klein responds in kind and gives Love a high back suplex in the ring for two. Love surprises Klein with a Complete Shot and then locks on a Koji Clutch. Klein made it to the rope to escape. Klein then follows Love to the top turnbuckle and brings her down with a fallaway slam. Love lands a second rope cutter. Klein was surprised when her modified Death Valley Driver only got a two count. Mandy Leon distracted the ref so Love could blind Klein with hairspray. The Botox Injection followed, but Klein kicked out. Leon then entered after accidentally blinding Love. Klein speared and pummeled Leon, giving Love time to recoup and hit the Botox Injection for a second time to get the pin and the title at 9:06. The match meandered for a while before getting into the usual Allüre nonsense, which does nothing for me. The high point was the emergence of Maria Manic after the bout to save Kelly Klein from further beatdown, as she was a perfect person to help reboot the Women of Honor division at the time. This match also serves as a prime example as to why a reboot is welcomed. *

ROH Women of Honor Championship
Angelina Love vs. Kelly Klein

“Glory By Honor NOLA” – New Orleans, LA – 10.12.2019

Love has been champion since 9.27.2019 and this is her second defense. Mandy Leon is in her corner. Klein pummels Love until Leon distracts Klein long enough for Love to dropkick her off the apron. Love is able to choke Klein with her shin back in the ring behind the referee’s back. Love kicks out of a few pinning combos before dropping Klein with an elevated Complete Shot and locking on the Koji Clutch. Klein escapes and Love goes for the Botox Injection, Klein blocks and gives Love a front facelock drop. Klein gives Love two fallaway slams and a belly-to-back suplex before hitting K-Power for two. Love hits Botox Injection for two. Klein rolls to the floor to catch her breath, but Love instead lands a high crossbody. Klein is able to recover back in the ring and hit K-Power again, accidentally knocking down the referee in the process. Leon gives her the weakest chair shot of all time, resulting in the lights going out and Maria Manic appearing. Manic no sells a chair shot to the back and torture racks the crap out of Leon before dropping her with a Burning Hammer. Manic clotheslines Love before leaving. Klein hits K-Power again for the pin and the title at 11:57. There’s a decent story to tell with Manic being the equalizer in Klein’s battle with the Allüre, but the nonsense in the title matches is not at all what I wanted to see out of this division. The wrestling was a step-up from the first title change, but that ending really mucked things up. *

Klein would defend the title twice before exiting the company. It’s remarkable looking back to see that she was in every single match where the title changed hands. At no point did it seem as if ROH fully got behind the Women of Honor division. It was rare the matches were featured on television, mostly being placed on YouTube with little to no promotion. To call it a “division” was also generous, as it only consisted of a handful of women at any given time. They mostly wrestled each other along with a revolving door of competitors who oftentimes were only around for one-off matches. In general, it felt like the Women of Honor was a way for ROH to have women’s matches to satisfy the growing desire for women’s wrestling in North America, not to mention to avoid the poor optics that may have come if women were not in the company at all, without much thought or effort behind the matches aside from “having women’s matches just to say we have them.”

With Klein exiting the company, the Women of Honor title was declared vacant in early 2020. A more earnest attempt at a division seemed to be on the rise with the additions of Session Moth Martina and Nicole Savoy to the roster, and a tournament put on the books for June of 2020 to crown a new champion. However, the COVID-19 pandemic would push those plans back an entire year. ROH would also axe the Women of Honor concept entirely, naming the new title the ROH Women’s World Championship, wisely distinguishing it from the previous lineage. With all but one tournament match featured on the weekly television show and PPV, this title is already off to a much stronger start than its predecessor.

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