When Ring Of Honor announced the creation of the Women Of Honor championship at the Final Battle 2017, wrestling fans were instantly stoked. 16 of the best female wrestlers from around the world will now compete in a single-elimination tournament, with the last woman standing raising the Women Of Honor title belt victoriously over her head. Three first round matches kick off the tournament in Nashville on Jan. 20, and one of the biggest opening bouts includes Madison Rayne, 31, taking on Mandy Leon, 25.
For those who don’t know, Madison is a five-time TNA Knockouts Champion, one-half of the first-ever Shimmer Tag Team Champions, and arguably, someone who could make it all the way to the final. Yet, it won’t be easy for her, because standing in her way is “The Exotic Goddess,” and one of the women credited with kickstarting the Women of Honor Division.
“Ring Of Honor has always been male-dominated, and pro wrestling in general, kind of. The company itself really only featured women’s wrestling on occasion in dark matches, once or twice a year. But there was no division,” Mandy told the Pittsburgh City Paper. She points to her 2015 match with Deonna Purrazzo, 23, as the turning point for women’s wrestling in ROH. “So when they gave us the opportunity to Deonna and I to have that match was such a surreal experience…. And overnight they put it on YouTube and it turned into a viral sensation and people wanted to see more.”
Oh, ROH fans will see plenty. In addition to Madison versus Mandy, ROH’s Music City Excellence will feature the odds-on favorite to win the event, Kelly Klein, facing “The Baddest Woman On The Planet,” Jessie Brooks. When Kelly debuted in ROH in 2015, she defeated her opponent in one minute via submission. That begun an undefeated streak that lasted for two years. One by one, Kelly’s opponents fell to her inescapable guillotine choke submission (appropriately dubbed the “End Of The Match.”) It was Karen Q who did the unthinkable, ending Kelly’s streak in May 2017. Still, “The Gatekeeper” remains a scary-powerful force inside the ring. Expect her to bring her full supply of suplexes and submissions when she goes up against the woman called “Bonesaw.”
Speaking of Karen Q, the wrestler – known for her hybrid style of martial arts strikes and submission moves – will have her hands full when she goes toe-to-toe with Brandi Rhodes, 34. “Mrs. Nightmare” is coming off of her debut on WAGS Atlanta, but that’s reality television. This is wrestling. With husband Cody Rhodes, 32, losing the Ring Of Honor World Championship to Dalton Castle, 31, at Final Battle, this is Brandi’s chance to bring some gold back home.
The tournament kicks off at Ring Of Honor’s Music City Excellence event in Nashville, Tennessee, on Jan. 20. In addition to the six women announced, four stars from STARDOM, Women of Honor’s international partners in Japan, will join six more of the top female professional wrestlers in the world. Limited tickets remain for the Nashville event, taking place at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium (Meet & Greet at 4:30 PM CST, Bell Time at 6:00 PM CST) Check our ROHWrestling.com for ticket information and the latest on the Women of Honor Championship tournament.
HollywoodLifers, are you psyched for the Women of Honor championship tournament?