Wrestling History Lesson: ROH Survival of the Fittest Tournament | Smark Out Moment

Wrestling History Lesson: ROH Survival of the Fittest Tournament

Posted by Walker Stewart Tuesday, June 8, 2021

For the first time since 2018, Ring of Honor will be hosting its signature Survival of the Fittest Tournament. With the first tournament match having taken place on the June 6, 2021, edition of Ring of Honor Wrestling, we here at Smark Out Moment felt inspired to cover the history of wrestling's most honorable tournament.

For the second week in a row, it's time for another Smark Out Moment WRESTLING HISTORY LESSON Let's discuss the history of ROH's Survival of the Fittest tournament.

An Honorable Start

This tournament is based on Maryland Championship Wrestling's Shane Shamrock Memorial Cup. With MCW shutting down in 2003, Ring of Honor was determined to carry on the legacy of MCW's Shane Shamrock Memorial Cup. However, after ROH's management jumped into some hot water, the MCW association was dropped and the tournament would be renamed "Survival of the Fittest".

In this tournament, the format differs from that of your King of the Ring contests. Conceptually, wrestlers compete in singles and tag team "qualifying" matches with the winner(s) of each match advancing to the finals elimination contest. The winner of the elimination contest would be awarded an ROH World Championship match.

Evolution of the Tournament

Professional wrestling's most honorable tournament has undergone some changes since its inception. From 2004-2011, the Survival of the Fittest Tournament took place over the period of one day. The 2012 edition of the tournament would also take place on the same day, but it would be aired on tape delay over the span of a month.

With no 2013 edition of the tournament, the 2014 Survival of the Fittest Tournament took place over a period of two days at the Seagate Convention Center in Toledo, Ohio. It would stay this way until 2017, where the tournament would stretch to three nights. However, this would not be maintained; as the next year, Survival of the Fittest would become a one-night tournament again in 2018.

With ROH refusing to hold a 2019 or 2020 tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion had two years to reinvent the structure of the tournament. The 2021 Survival of the Fittest tournament is structured as a series of matches airing over the next couple of weeks (rather than being a one-day tournament.)

Fittest Facts

  • Seven out of twelve of the Survival of the Fittest winners would eventually win the ROH World Championship in their careers.
  • An astounding one individual has won the ROH World Championship in their granted ROH World Championship match opportunity after winning the tournament. That individual was Eddie Edwards.
  • Only one man has won the tournament twice - Michael Elgin.
  • Bryan Danielson was the first winner of the Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004.
  • Jay Lethal has confirmed, on record, that Eddie Guerrero was slated to win the Survival of the Fittest tournament during his short stint in ROH. However, he would later return to WWE before that could happen.
  • ROH has held the Survival of the Fittest Tournament every year since 2004 except 2008, 2013, 2019, and 2020.

The First Tournament

The first-ever ROH Survival of the Fittest tournament would take place in one day on June 24, 2004. Emanating from the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the tournament would be the full focus of this entire show.

In the first match of the event, Mark Briscoe would defeat Alex Shelley to advance in the tournament. This would be followed by ROH veteran Colt Cabana, who defeated Trent Acid in the second contest. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong would attack John Walters and Josh Daniels ahead of the scheduled Aries vs. Walters match, leading to the contest transitioning into a tag team match. Aries would score the fall, thus allowing him to advance to the finals.

Homicide would defeat Jack Evans and Samoa Joe would defeat Matt Stryker. Both of these men would advance to the finals. The finals match would be an incredible battle. Samoa Joe would be the first to be eliminated by Colt Cabana, who was then eliminated by Mark Briscoe. Briscoe and Homicide would both pin each other at the same time, leaving Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson in the middle of the ring. However, Danielson would be the one to pick up the victory to win the first Survival of the Fittest tournament.

Where Are We Now?

We are now two matches into the latest rendition of the ROH Survival of the Fittest Tournament. So far, Demonic Flamita has defeated Rey Horus, and Brian Johnson has defeated Sledge. With Flamita and Johnson confirmed for the finals six-way elimination match, who else is left in the tournament bracket? Here is the rest of your tournament bracket:

  • Eli Isom vs. Dak Draper - This match is set to take place on ROH Wrestling #508 this week. Draper and Isom have faced off before. On ROH Wrestling #501, Draper and Isom wrestled to a 15-minute time limit draw. Isom and Draper want to know the better man, and so does the ROH faithful. The winner of this match will move on to the six-way elimination tournament finals match.
  • Bateman vs. Bandido - Bateman and Bandido are set to face-off in a qualifying match for the ROH Survival of the Fittest tournament. Bateman's last appearance in ROH took place at ROH Wrestling #492 in a losing effort to Mike Bennett. Bandido has not been faring well either, as of late, with his last appearance ending in a loss to Flamita at ROH Wrestling #502. Both of these men are walking into this match with low momentum. Who is going to walk away with the win?
  • Chris Dickinson vs. O'Shay Edwards - Chris Dickinson and O'Shay Edwards are set to face-off on next week's edition of ROH Week By Week on YouTube. Dickinson has been on a roll, along with the rest of VLNCE UNLTD. Edwards can say the exact same thing. This is a match with great stakes - and I feel like it'll be pretty brutal.
  • Danhausen vs. Rhett Titus - In this match, we have one-half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions, Rhett Titus, taking on one of ROH's most beloved wrestlers, Danhausen. Danhausen has been on a painful losing streak since the turn of the year, so luck doesn't seem to be on his side. However, we will have to watch and see if Danhausen can pull off the upset victory of the tournament.

What direction will Ring of Honor Wrestling head with the completion of this tournament? Who knows! No one in this tournament has ever held the ROH World Championship, and this tournament will give one of these men the opportunity to do so. While the odds may not be in their favor (remember, one out of twelve people have succeeded in their attempt), the fans surely are in their corner.

Go watch Ring of Honor on YouTube or your local channel, and support great professional wrestling.


Avid professional wrestling fan and self-proclaimed smark. Creative Media/Journalism and Vocal Performance student at the University of Oklahoma. Buried by TJP on Twitter.


Current EVENTS

Watch Royal Rumble 2022 PPV Live Results

WWE Royal Rumble 2022 PPV Predictions and Results

Watch Elimination Chamber 2022 PPV Live Results

WWE Elimination Chamber 2022 Predictions and Results


If you would like to join the Smark Out Moment writing team, please send an email via the contact form.