Take a look at the current list of champions in WWE. Now, take a look at the rising stars and big-time names in FCW, the developmental territory in WWE. See something in common with some of these guys? Many of them have ties to Ring of Honor, one of the most famous independent promotions in the United States today.
Ring of Honor has just signed its first major TV deal, appearing weekly in select cities. It also will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2012. So why is this all so important? Well, it may just be a hunch, but this may be the biggest year in Ring of Honor's short history.
The fascination with this idea began during the Summer of Punk storyline. During Punk's now infamous shoot promo, Punk refers to Ring of Honor by name and is not bleeped about it at all. Punk was an ex-champion in Ring of Honor and much of this storyline seemed derived from his last storyline in ROH. Punk had tried out for WWE in 2005 and was going to become a WWE superstar. In June 2005, almost six years before this storyline in WWE happened, Punk won the ROH World Championship and threatened to take it to WWE with him. Punk even signed his WWE contract in an ROH ring and signed it on the championship belt.
As many of his friends have still worked for Ring of Honor in the years that have followed, Punk has stayed with WWE. In recent months, however, he has brought back an ROH feel, even beginning to use "Cult of Personality," his entrance theme in ROH. To have ROH climbing in notoriety as CM Punk is WWE Champion is suspicious.
Then, there is Daniel Bryan. The ROH crowd knows him better as Bryan Danielson, one of the most popular stars in the short history of ROH. Bryan is considered a "founding father" of Ring of Honor, winning the world championship once and being the last man to be recognized as the ROH Pure Champion.
Daniel Bryan, at the exact same time, now stands as World Heavyweight Champion on the Smackdown brand. Basically, the two world champions of the biggest wrestling promotion in the world both paid their dues in Ring of Honor first. Bryan also mentioned his original name after being eliminated off of the first season of NXT. Bryan seemed to be almost poised for a similar roll to what Punk actually did this past summer, but he settled for a feud with Michael Cole instead.
You can also add Evan Bourne into the fray as current champions in WWE who got their start in wrestling in ROH. So of the seven people on the WWE roster who hold championships, three of them have ties to Ring of Honor? It seems too coincidental, especially when looking at the developmental roster.
In Florida Championship Wrestling, there are a few wrestlers who once appeared in ROH. Corey Graves and Peter Orlov are just two of those men that have done so, but it is more about the recent acquisitions that are making some waves. For one, there is Seth Rollins, who is now touring with the main roster and doing live events. To ROH fans, he is known better as Tyler Black, one of the longest-reigning world champions in ROH history.
Also signed to FCW is Antonio Cesaro, but he is better known as Claudio Castagnoli from his Ring of Honor days. When Castagnoli was being signed by WWE, another name being discussed was Chris Hero, a fixture of ROH programming and one of those big names in the independents yet to get their chance in WWE. High levels of testosterone have derailed that deal, but the deal seems to still be in line for the future.
We also cannot talk about the links to ROH done by WWE without mentioning those which did not work out in recent years. The winner of NXT season two was Kaval, known as Low Ki in the indy world and known in ROH as the longest-reigning champion ever. WWE also had a member of their recent Tough Enough show with ROH ties. Matt Cross appeared on the show, but he was voted off when he lacked the ability to show his charisma and passion for the business.
Even the current ROH roster has ties to a relationship with WWE, mainly with tag teams. WWE brought in both The Briscoe Brothers and The Young Bucks in recent months for try-out matches, which did not seem too successful for either team, especially The Young Bucks. ROH has a former WWE tag team on their hands as well. Ring of Honor is currently the home of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, known together as The World's Greatest Tag Team.
It isn't as if WWE has not had working agreements with other promotions while the promotions were still in existence. Way before WWE tried to pass off ECW as its own brand of WWE, the original ECW had invasion storylines with the then-World Wrestling Federation. Stars from either promotion would appear on the other to create inter-promotional exposure.
Ring of Honor does not need to be bought out by WWE for this to work. It can be WWE's way to create a working relationship with the promotion and repair the relationship with other ROH personnel, such as play-by-play commentator Kevin Kelly and ROH executive producer Jim Cornette, two former WWE employees. It would cause unique storylines with fresh superstars and dream matches for wrestling fans. ROH's Code of Honor would even be able to provide an unusual atmosphere for some WWE superstars.