Ring of Honor Crowns A New Women’s Champ
At their Bound By Honor show last night (Feb. 10) in Miami, which was streamed live on their HonorClub service, Ring of Honor crowned the third Women of Honor champion in the title’s history.
This was a bit of a surprise. Kelly Klein just won the belt in December after chasing it and first ever titleholder Sumie Sakai since early 2018. She was working an angle as a fighting champion, putting the title on the line in all of her matches. That cost her at Bound By Honor, as a pair of top rope moonsaults from Stardom’s Mayu Iwatani led to a pinfall loss for Klein.
It’s an interesting move, for several reasons.
For one thing, this wasn’t a pre-show match or YouTube exclusive like many WOH bouts were during Sakai’s reign. Fourth from last isn’t exactly Women’s Evolution-level “historic”, but it’s progress.
For another, Iwatani is joshi star. She was one of three women Stardom sent to the States for shows such as Lucha Underground back in 2016 - along with Mae Young Classic ‘17 winner Kairi Sane & Mae Young Classic ‘18 runner-up Io Shirai. She’s held pretty much every title in Stardom, one of if not the top women’s promotion in Japan. And now it looks likely she’ll get a prominent match at Madison Square Garden on WrestleMania week.
ROH has another pay-per-view (PPV) between now and the G1 Supercard show on April 6, but if there’s going to be buzz about a women’s match on a show being promoted with New Japan, Mayu is the name you want to list.
This could also be the way ROH strengthens their ties to Stardom. All Elite’s arrival in the market kicking off a rush for free agents and partner promotions, and AEW says they’re putting a focus on their own women’s division. There’s probably no better way for ROH to quickly make the Women of Honor division more legitimate than by making it known they’re the place where U.S. fans can see Stardom’s biggest stars.
We’ll see what happens. Klein could win the belt back on a YouTube exclusive before Mar. 9’s 17th Anniversary PPV and render all my wishful thinking moot. Or this could be a sign ROH is finally serious about pushing women’s wrestling.