Rise of ROH: Ring of Honor Riding High

ROH aka Ring of Honor separates itself from WWE by showcasing more in-ring action than the self-proclaimed “Leader in Sports Entertainment.”

“When we say we have the best wrestling on the planet, that’s not just a slogan,” Gordon said. “Right now, yes, we are the No. 2 wrestling company in the country. But I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t eventually be No. 1.” Flip Gordon said during a recent phone interview with us here at Pro Wrestling Stories.

Punishment Martinez standing on the ropes during a recent ROH event
Punishment Martinez lives up to his name during a recent Ring of Honor event

"We absolutely know the history of [all the towns we’re visiting]. The history of [these towns] motivates our locker room to make our own mark, to really go out and perform at the best level that we can.”

Flip Gordon a ROH talent working the crowd on the ropes
Flip Gordon set a goal that he’d be a full-time professional wrestler within two years of turning pro. He did that. And now he’s got his eyes set on other goals as well.

Ring of Honor benefits from its ownership structure with Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns the largest network of TV stations in the United States. SBG currently owns 173 stations across the country, and if all of its currently proposed sales go through, it will own 233. That means the stars of ROH can be seen from large cities like New York and Washington, D.C., to tiny markets like Dothan, Alabama.

In a business where the talent has often felt the need to look out for their own interests above the needs of the promotion, the ROH locker room is a different kind of place.

“From the office to the wrestlers to the crew, everybody here wants to succeed as a team,” Punishment Martinez said. “There’s not one person here who’s just looking out for themselves. That’s real. Fans can see that because it’s real. You can’t fake the kind of passion.”

Martinez, who stands 6-feet, 7-inches tall, is one of the new breed of wrestlers who don’t have to just rely on his size to get by in the ring.

“You have to remember that what a wrestler is supposed to be has changed over the last few years,” Martinez said. “Yes, I’m a bigger guy, but you have to be able to do more in the ring now. You can’t just be big.”

When he was growing up, Martinez idolized the Undertaker, and some of the Deadman’s gimmick still leave a lasting impression on him.

“He was a larger-than-life character,” Martinez said. “I loved everything about him–the way he walked, his entrance, his look, the way he talked.”

And, of course, it didn’t hurt that the Undertaker, who had been trained by Don Jardine, was agile and could work rings around other big men in the sport. You can see shades of that in Martinez’s explosive offense today. Martinez’s size, build, and talent have landed him in prominent roles on ROH TV in angles with stars like Steve Corino, BJ Whitmer and the legendary Kevin Sullivan.

Related: The Spoiler Don Jardine: The Man Who Trained the Undertaker

New talent like Gordon and Martinez are the lifeblood of Ring of Honor, and the promotion has withstood raids that put ROH veterans like Kevin Owens (Kevin Steen), Sami Zayn (El Generico), A.J. Styles, C.M. Punk, and Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) into the WWE fold. Most recently, ROH mainstays Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish made their debuts for WWE’s NXT brand.

ROH has proven resilient since its inception in 2004 building (and re-building) stars and maintaining consistently strong match quality across the lifetime of the promotion.

By the time up-and-comers like Gordon and Martinez reach ROH, they already have a body of experience behind them.

“It was a long process,” Gordon said. “Before I trained as a wrestler, I did gymnastics, MMA, amateur wrestling, acting–anything I thought could help me–but I always knew I could do it. My goal was, within two years, to be a full-time wrestler with a TV company. It wasn’t easy. For two years straight, I worked seven days a week. I don’t think I got more than five hours of sleep a night for those two years. It sucked. But it was worth it.”

Want More? Choose another story!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, Threads, YouTube, TikTok, and Flipboard!
Pro Wrestling Stories is committed to accurate, unbiased wrestling content rigorously fact-checked and verified by our team of researchers and editors. Any inaccuracies are quickly corrected, with updates timestamped in the article's byline header.
Got a correction, tip, or story idea for Pro Wrestling Stories? Contact us! Learn about our editorial standards here.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us provide free content for you to enjoy!

Bobby Mathews is a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories as well as a veteran journalist whose byline has appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Birmingham News, The Denver Post, as well as other newspapers around the country. He's won multiple awards for reporting and opinion writing, and his sports journalism has garnered several Associated Press Managing Editors Awards. He has covered Division I college athletics and professional sports including MLB and NFL games. He has won awards from press associations in several states, including a General Excellence award from the Georgia Press Association while sports editor at The Statesboro Herald. He currently lives in suburban Birmingham, Alabama and can be reached on Twitter @bamawriter.