Ring of Honor: Dalton Castle Deserved A Better World Championship Reign


At Ring of Honor’s Best in the World PPV, Dalton Castle retained the ROH World Championship in definitive fashion, only to lose it to Jay Lethal the very next day in taped four-way match.

The bout took place at a Ring of Honor TV taping in Virginia, and was made available to Honor Club members soon after. While it was a solid match with worthy contenders in Jay Lethal, Matt Taven and Cody, the manner in which Castle lost the title represents the culmination of a run that never reached its true potential.

Ring of Honor has had an unfortunate habit of undermining the value of the ROH World Championship in recent months by allowing it to exist on the peripheral of other, deeper stories. The championship became nearly redundant in the months following Dalton’s win as Ring of Honor’s main storylines began to revolve around Bullet Club, and its stable of NJPW stars.

Castle initially won the title from Cody at Final Battle in December, in a bout that was more about Cody’s loss than Dalton’s gain. The feud was later derailed by a short intermission between Cody and The Kingdom’s Matt Taven, before advancement of the Bullet Club leadership drama pushed Dalton out of the main event scene almost entirely.

In the lead up to Supercard of Honor XII, Ring of Honor became an almost symbiotic extension of NJPW as Kenny Omega and Cody’s blood feud leaked into regular TV programming. While Cody had become an incredible heel in his own right, it’s arguable that his claim to Bullet Club leadership deserved such a shining spotlight in Ring of Honor.

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Advertising and promotions leading up to Supercard focused solely on Kenny and Cody’s feud, with both wrestlers taking centre stage on the official event poster, and not a single mention of the champion. Despite this, they weren’t the main event. Supercard was instead headlined by Dalton Castle’s title defence against Marty Scurll, although given the lead up to the match, you’d barely know it, or remember.

Supercard followed a pattern of unexciting title defences by Castle, who retained the title in bouts against Punishment Martinez, Jay Lethal, Scurll, NJPW star EVIL and at Best in the World in a three way against Cody and Scurll. While each bout has been expectedly solid, with the Lethal bout standing out among the rest, stories leading into defence were often weak and uninvolving.

While part of the title run’s lack of success can be attributed to injuries that plagued Castle throughout his reign, there’s a lot to be said for the lack of narrative support from Ring of Honor itself. Despite the many nuances of Dalton’s character, his title run became lacklustre at best, devoid of any deeper exploration of his story, or his character.

Like many others before him, Castle has now turned to vlogging as a creative outlet, with the launch of his Planet Peacock vlogs. Arguably, the purpose of these vlogs have been to illuminate his character and connect more with fans, a concept that Ring of Honor has dropped the ball on with many of their featured talent.

In putting their faith in Dalton, Ring of Honor had the perfect opportunity to showcase an intriguing, non-traditional character who had quickly become a fan favourite. Instead of shining the spotlight on a talented and hard-working member of Ring of Honor’s roster, who rightfully deserved the title, the focus shifted towards a feud that arguably should have been self-contained within Japan.

Castle is an important character because in a colourful world rarely full of nuance, he stands out as a strong, creative character with something worthwhile to say. Castle himself has frequently spoken about the flamboyance and arrogance of his character, and all the ways he represents non-traditional masculinity.

The character has often been compared the sexually ambiguous Goldust, guided by the same androgyny and exploration of gender. As such, Castle has become an icon for many queer wrestling fans, and given the chance, could become the centrepiece of more progressive, accessible wrestling for everyone.

Next: Matt Taven Talks ROH Best in the World, NJPW, and the Conspiracy

While Castle likely has a long road ahead in his recovery, we can only hope that his eventual re-emergence in Ring of Honor will be as fabulous, charming and iconic as he deserves.