Ring of Honor Wrestling returns to pay-per-view this Friday night, July 21st, with the 20th anniversary of DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR! On July 19th of 2003, just an hour north of Trenton up the New Jersey Turnpike, the Rexplex became hallowed ground for the ROH faithful when it hosted the first-ever DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, an event near and dear to their hearts, in part because it was named via fan-voted poll! Over the years this tentpole event has seen Dog Collar Matches, the beginning of The Summer of Punk, Cage of Death, Ladder Wars, chair riots, championship tournaments, and just a year ago, Claudio Castagnoli winning his first World Championship!
This year will be just as loaded as every Ring of Honor championship will be defended including Castagnoli challenging “The Bastard” PAC to come to DBD '23 and fight after the events of Blood & Guts, ROH Women's World Champion Athena challenged by Willow Nightingale, the very women who eliminated her from the Owen Hart Tournament, and Samoa Joe defending his ROH World TV Title against former ROH World & TV Champion Dalton Castle! Plus Shibata versus Garcia for the ROH Pure Title, The Lucha Brothers defending the ROH World Tag Titles against three challengers, and The Mogul Embassy taking on an interesting trio in a World Six-Man Championship bout.
All that and more goes down this Friday at DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2023, live from the Cure Insurance Arena, and if you can't be there in-person, be sure to catch it live on pay-per-view and for the first time ever, the event will be available on Honor Club!
ROH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Claudio Castagnoli(c) vs. “The Bastard” PAC
At the behest of Eddie Kingston, this was supposed to be Mark Briscoe challenging Claudio Castagnoli for the ROH World Championship, the first shot at the title since September 28, 2013 when he unsuccessfully challenged Adam Cole at A NEW DAWN. It could have been a tremendous moment in the life of Mark Briscoe, as well as one for the ROH faithful, but instead an injury to Mark necessitated a very last minute adjustment to the fight, with the intention being to announce a new challenger following Claudio's participation in the Blood & Guts Cage Match on DYNAMITE this past Wednesday. Well, whatever the intention may have been, Castagnoli took any other options off the table when he challenged “The Bastard” PAC following his abandonment of The Blackpool Combat Club in the midst of the fray.
“The Bastard” was quick to respond, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the man's career what he had to say in response to the ROH World Champion. So it shall be, this Friday night in Trenton, as part of DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR's 20th anniversary, “The Bastard” PAC will return to Ring of Honor for the first time since August 2007's MANHATTAN MAYHEM II event, and challenge for the ROH World Championship for the very first time as well! Coincidentally, it was one week after that ROH event that Claudio and PAC had their last singles match against one another, a Quarter-Final bout in PWG's 2007 BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES event! Their only other singles bout went down the week before MMII during a CHIKARA event, and between the two fights, Claudio and PAC are 1-1, essentially making this a rubber match in their lifetime history.
That being said, both men could not possibly be more different than they were in the Summer of 2007, each having grown immensely as competitors, garnering so much varied experience in the last 16 years, and perhaps most importantly, each developing a harder edge than they've ever had. At this point in 2023, both men have become ruthlessly violent competitors, and while it may not have been a surprise with PAC, seeing how The BCC has honed Claudio into the vicious machine he is today is a bit of one. “The Swiss Superman” has always been a premiere athlete, one of the strongest men in modern professional wrestling, and knowledgeable in multiple styles of the game, but it wasn't until he entered the AEW arena last year and became part of Blackpool Combat Club that his viciousness bubbled up to the surface.
But is he on the level of “The Bastard”? Both are utterly terrifying men when their anger rises, and after the events of Blood & Guts, there is no doubt that the rage is overflowing, which is going to lead to something that is less a wrestling match and more a knockdown drag-out fight. It was one year ago at DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2022 when Claudio captured his first ROH World Championship, and over the years the event has seen Castagnoli participate in bouts like Cage of Death in 2006, a No DQ war against The Briscoes with Chris Hero at his side in 2010, and historically he's 4-4 at DBD over the years. Which side of that W-L record will 2023 fall on for the defending ROH World Champion? Will the .500 record tilt towards the win or the loss, and we will be calling “The Bastard” PAC the new Ring of Honor World Champion will all is said and done in Trenton on Friday night?
ROH WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
“The Fallen Goddess” Athena(c) vs. Willow Nightingale
This is the rubber match that ROH fans have been waiting for: Athena versus Willow Nightingale Round III, and the ROH Women's World Championship is once again the line! The first time out, the second episode of ROH ON HONOR CLUB, Willow succumbed to the defending champion after nearly fifteen minutes of hard-hitting action. To be fair to Willow, she nearly had Athena beat with her devastating Doctor Bomb, but the champion managed to get her shoulder off the mat moments before the referee's hand struck the mat for the three count, and the only reason “The Fallen Goddess” walked away still champion was because she lured Nightingale out of the ring, shoved her fingers into the challenger's eyes, slammed her on the ramp way, and slammed Willow head first into the stairs before tossing her back into the ring. That onslaught left Nightingale an easy victim for the O-Face, and allowed Athena to leave as champion.
Their second outing took place just a few weeks ago, four months removed from that first encounter, but rather than a championship being on the line, it was a spot in the Finals of the Women's Owen Hart Foundation Tournament. This time around it took Willow Nightingale just under 11 minutes to defeat the ROH Women's World Champion, and advance to the Finals, where she would go on to defeat Ruby Soho and become the 2023 Owen Hart Foundation Women's Tournament Champion. That victory over Athena, combined with her win in The Owen, led Jerry Lynn and Stokely Hathaway to set-up this rubber match for DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2023 that, despite the protestations of the champion, was further supported by ROH President Tony Khan.
Athena recently surpassed Mercedes Martinez as the longest reigning ROH Women's World Champion since Rok-C first won the title at DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2021, and she also stands as the most successful champion with 11 defenses to date. On top of that, prior to her loss against Willow on RAMPAGE last week, Athena had not lost a one-on-one match in ROH or AEW since ALL OUT 2022's TBS Championship bout with Jade Cargill, and as far as Ring of Honor-related competition is concerned, “The Fallen Goddess” remains undefeated in 31 battles. She is an absolute warrior who has no qualms about assault and violence above and beyond what's necessary to win a fight, or for that matter, to perpetrate her attacks after the match has ended. Whether one likes the way Athena conducts herself or not is inconsequential, because the bottom line is that it has brought her great success, and made her the measuring stick of the ROH Women's Division.
Can Willow Nightingale take that mantle this Friday night in New Jersey and become the litmus test for women in Ring of Honor? Can she score her second huge championship win of the year after defeating Mercedes Mone to become the 1st NJPW STRONG Women's Champion? It's clear Nightingale is in the head of Athena after toppling her in The Owen, there may be no better opportunity for Willow to take a second victory over “The Fallen Goddess”!
ROH WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix)(c) vs. The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent Beretta)
This is quite the interesting scenario surrounding the ROH World Tag Team Championship held by The Lucha Brothers. It has been two months since Penta and Fenix last defended the titles, and their last two bouts on ROH programming were in multi-man bouts nearly a month ago. As a point of fact, despite being one of the greatest tag teams of this generation, The Lucha Brothers have not actually competed in a tag team affair since their last championship defense against The Blackpool Combat Club back on the May 31st edition of DYNAMITE.
Meanwhile The Kingdom of Matt Taven and Mike Bennett have been working on rebuilding themselves after their brutal Fight Without Honor loss to Action Andretti and Darius Martin. The former 2-Time ROH World Tag Champions and former IWGP Tag Champions have won six of their seven fights since that FWH, including that Four Corners match Thursday night on Honor Club. They are primed for the fight, ready to take back the championship they lost to The Briscoes at FINAL BATTLE 2021: END OF AN ERA, and were unable to claim at SUPERCARD OF HONOR 2023's Reach for The Sky Ladder Match.
As for Best Friends, Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta had a great deal of experience in Ring of Honor from 2017-2019, including challenging for the ROH World Tag Titles and World Six-Man Championships, but their involvement in the new era of honor has been limited. A tag match win on episode 9, a multi-man victory on episode 10, a failed Proving Ground match against Claudio Castagnoli for Chuckie T, a failed Television Title fight for Trent against Samoa Joe, and several Roppongi Vice bouts involving the ROH World Tag Titles in 2022. On top of that recent ROH history, the big picture is that The Best Friends have never held a Tag Team Championship anywhere during all these years spent together. It's been nearly a decade since their first time teaming up, and now, more than ever, Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta have their sights on becoming champions here in Ring of Honor. This is their golden opportunity...and something similar could be said for Aussie Open.
Prior to Mark Davis' injury, they were riding high as both IWGP World Tag Team Champions and NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions but had to vacate both as a result. With their inclusion in this bout, not only do Aussie Open have an opportunity to add a new championship to their title case, but they will have the chance in Davis' first match back since said injury occurred in May. As far as their ROH resume, prior to the injury, Aussie Open was 3-1 in tag team competition, with that one loss marring their record stemming from the Reach For the Sky Ladder Match at SUPERCARD OF HONOR 2023. So, technically speaking, one could say they are an undefeated tag team in that they haven't been pinned or submitted, they merely watched Penta and Fenix ascend a ladder and acquire the tag team championship belts.
So what we have here is quite an intriguing array of team all vying for the ROH World Tag Team Championship, and whether they are the defending team, the only former champions in the field of challengers, or the two teams looking to taste ROH gold for the first time, all are top tier fighters capable of walking away as champions. Penta and Fenix are at the greatest risk, they do not need to be beaten to lose these titles, thus they need eyes in the back of their heads for any pinfall or submission attempt that could take place. Statistically speaking, the history of DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR is in their favor though, in the 11 tag title matches that have taken place across the history of the event, nine of them have seen the champion retain, only once has the defending team lost, and in the 11th instance the titles were vacant with the 2012 edition hosting the Finals of the tournament to crown new champions.
So will history repeat itself, will we see the champions retain as they did last year when FTR defeated the Briscoes in an epic 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match, or will it be like 2017 when The Motor City Machine Guns dethroned The Young Bucks?
ROH WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Samoa Joe(c) vs. Dalton Castle
With 464 days under his belt as ROH World Television Champion, Samoa Joe stands as the third longest reigning champion in the title's thirteen year history, just five days less than the length of Dragon Lee's reign, but full disclosure shows that the length of Dragon Lee's reign could be attributed to his inability to defend the title during pandemic restrictions, having no matches from February 29, 2020 until December 18, 2020. That is absolutely not said to discount Dragon Lee's amazing work as ROH World Television Champion, simply to illustrate there's a very real possibility Samoa Joe would be number two on that list behind Jay Lethal's 567 day reign. So while Joe has a long way to go to catch up to that, just as he needs to defeat many more challengers to match the 36 defenses Lethal netted during that reign, almost none of Joe's dozen challengers have come close to ending this run. Mark Briscoe and Juice Robinson probably came closest, pushing Joe into his longest championship defenses thus far, but still coming up short in their respective bids.
Enter: Dalton Castle. A former ROH World Television Champion himself, albeit owning one of the shortest reigns in the title's history, much like Samoa Joe, Dalton Castle is one of the men who can claim Triple Crown Status in Ring of Honor. In addition to the TV Title, Castle is a former ROH World Champion and a 2-Time ROH World Six-Man Champion alongside The Boys, but in all that success, he's never fought a man like Samoa Joe. He dethroned Cody Rhodes to claim the World Title, and conquered EVIL, Punishment Martinez, and Jay Lethal, among others, during the course of the reign, but none of them are Samoa Joe. That's not a knock on their abilities, all are world class athletes, but none have that x-factor that Joe has, the one where a mere look sends chills of terror down your spine, and standing toe-to-toe with him makes one quake in their wrestling boots.
There are few men who are able to strike terror in the hearts of their opponents the way Samoa Joe can with just a look, and may heaven have mercy on you if you're a foe who actually angers the ROH Legend. For as hard-hitting as he is, for as deadly as he can be in the submission game, Joe is generally a very cerebral fighter who picks apart his opponents, often with a wry smile on his face, but if you anger the man, be prepared for violence unparalleled, and there are few things more anger inducing than someone trying to take his championship away.
That is what Dalton Castle has in store on Friday night in Trenton; he has to stand across the ring from the longest reigning ROH World Champion in history, a man who also happens to be a former Pure Champion, and who is revered by the ROH faithful regardless of how reprehensible some of his actions can be, i.e. choking the life out of CM Punk after seemingly shaking his hand following their Owen Hart Foundation Tournament battle.
Now Dalton is strong, deceptively so as evidence by his ability to pull off a Bang-a-rang on Shane Taylor on Thursday night, but whether or not he'll be able to put that strength to use against Samoa Joe is a whole other question. Whether or not he'll be able to put his suplexes to use against Joe is definitely a big question mark, but one thing that is not a question mark is how throughout his career, Samoa Joe has proven vulnerable to a flash roll-up pinfall like the one CM Punk used to defeat him. Perhaps that's the best strategy for Castle if he hopes to become a 2-Time Television Champion, work towards one of those pinfalls and hope it brings him the same luck.
If not, he may find himself on the receiving end of a Muscle Buster sooner than later, or on the wrong side of being choked out by the defending ROH World Television Champion, and if Dalton Castle fails as the other 12 men did before him, who will be the next to step up and try their hand at ending this epic run Samoa Joe has been on since taking the title from Minoru Suzuki?
ROH PURE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Katsuyori Shibata(c) vs. Daniel Garcia
At SUPERCARD OF HONOR 2023, Katsuyori Shibata defeated the only 2-Time ROH Pure Champion to claim the crown as his own, a fitting championship for a man billed as “The Wrestler” and a title he's successfully defended on three occasions, including one against his own student Alex Coughlin. With the last defense taking place on June 2nd in San Diego, it has been over six weeks since Shibata's last title fight, but doesn't mean he's been sitting around waiting for the next challenger.
In fact, he knew Daniel Garcia had begun making overtures towards reclaiming the Pure Championship he lost to Yuta at FINAL BATTLE 2022, and had been winning several Pure matches to prepare himself for the confrontation he craved with Shibata. One of those victories was even against another of Shibata's L.A. Dojo students, The DKC, and it was that one that really got the attention of “The Wrestler”. So much so that Shibata would come to AEW, team with Orange Cassidy, and wage tag team battle against Garcia and NJPW World Television Champion Zack Sabre Jr. That bout led directly into a battle at FORBIDDEN DOOR 2023 over Orange Cassidy's AEW International Championship, a fight Cassidy would win by pinning Garcia, but it didn't quell Garcia's drive to face Shibata in a head-to-head clash.
Well this Friday night in Trenton, a year after he lost to Wheeler Yuta in their Pure Title clash at DBD '22, Daniel Garcia will get his wish when he finally steps between the ropes to face “The Wrestler” one-on-one! Much like when he faced, and defeated, Bryan Danielson, this is a dream come true for Daniel Garcia, but unlike that fight, it doesn't appear that Garcia carries the same respect for Shibata that he did for Danielson. This fight for the championship is about Garcia showing the world he deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as this man, as Danielson, because he truly believes he is just as good as them now, and will surpass them as his career continues.
Shibata's career is already a miracle given that he had to medically retire from competition several years ago, with no one believing he would ever compete again, but Shibata proved everyone wrong the first time he stepped back into the ring, and has demonstrated that he's better than ever with the fights he's had since that return grappling exhibition. Capturing the Pure Championship was the icing on the cake of the comeback, and he isn't likely to let it slip away easily in this fight with Daniel Garcia. If Daniel wants the championship, Shibata is going to make him earn it every step of the way, and that means Danny may have to dip into every trick he learned from Chris Jericho in order to get the job done.
ROH WORLD SIX-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
The Mogul Embassy (Bishop Kaun, Brian Cage, & Toa Liona w/ Prince Nana)(c) vs.
Leon Ruffin and Six or Nine (Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi)
Collectively known as Six or Nine, Master Wato and Ryusuke Taguchi have been teaming on-and-off since 2020 and even reigned as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champions for 121 days in 2022. Now they will bring their stylings to Ring of Honor this Friday night for the very first time, Master Wato's very first wrestling trip to the United States it seems, where they will team with a very unlikely third man in Leon Ruffin.
We haven't seen Ruffin in ROH since his loss to Brian Cage back in April, but he will be making his return alongside this pair from New Japan, looking to dethrone this dominant Mogul Embassy trio. Many have tried before them, all have failed, can this ragtag trio for disparate parts of the wrestling world shock the world and claim these ROH championships for themselves?
FIGHT WITHOUT HONOR...
The Righteous(Dutch & Vincent) and Stu Grayson vs. The Dark Order (Alex Reynolds, Evil Uno, & John Silver)
It was a shock to The Dark Order's system when Stu Grayson, one of the founding members of the unit, chose to align himself with The Righteous of Dutch and Vincent shortly after his return to the fold, rather than remain with his brothers in The Dark Order.
That choice has led down a path where Vincent, Stu, and Dutch have continued to push, poke, and prod and Evil Uno, Alex Reynolds, and John Silver, to get back to their roots, to remember who they were, and reclaim the thing that once made them a feared part of AEW. After losing so many friends in the last year, be it Preston Vance abandoning them for LFI, Stu for The Righteous, or someone like Alan Angels just leaving, the final thing that cracked The Dark Order was the feeling of betrayal and heartbreak that came from Adam Page reconnecting with his Elite brethren and, in the eyes of The Dark Order, abandoning those who had been their for him in his darkest times.
“No more fake friends”
So for the first time in the nearly 21-year history of the match's existence, there will be a Trios Fight Without Honor going down this Friday night! This means there are no rules, no restrictions, nothing holding competitors back from unleashing the worst of themselves on their foes. Joe/Ki, Jay Briscoe/Cole, Shane Taylor/Kenny King, Homicide/Corino, McGuinness/Rave; those are just a few of the men who've engaged in this kind of warfare over the years, and the new era of honor has seen The Kingdom versus Action Andretti & Darius Martin. It can be bloody and violent, it can be ultra-physical and stiff, whatever form the FWH takes, it will leave its mark on the men involved and potentially change them forever.
Gravity vs. Komander
There's not a lot to be said about this beyond it being an exhibition of two of Lucha Libre's most spectacular talents competing today, at least not as far as ROH history! Beyond Ring of Honor, Gravity and Komander are two men quite familiar with one another, having operated as the Golden Guns with other like Bandido and Rey Horus, they've been part of each others lives at least since 2019, but haven't gone one-on-one since August 2021. Much of their time has spent been competing as partners in tags, trios, and other multi-man affairs all around Mexico, but also here in the United States from time-to-time.
Now their exceptional talents will be showcased on this twentieth anniversary of DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR! Komander has a bit more ROH experience than Gravity, fighting Claudio for the World Title several weeks ago, battling El Hijo Del Vikingo over the AAA Mega Title at SUPERCARD OF HONOR 2023, as well as competing on several episodes of ROH ON HONOR CLUB this year, Gravity is a newer face to the ROH scene, having debuted opposite Rey Fenix back in June, with this being his return to ROH's squared circle.
Be prepared for a stunning display of aerial artistry and Lucha stylings when Komander and Gravity go head-to-head this Friday!
DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2023: ZERO HOUR...
DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR 2023 is coming to you this Friday night live from the Cure Insurance Arena, and it is loaded with championship matches, the first-ever Trios Fight Without Honor, Lucha Libre action, and more! If you can't be there in-person, be sure to catch it live on pay-per-view, plus for the first time ever, the event will be available on Honor Club!