In April 2001, professional wrestling video distribution company RF Video was in need of a new promotion to lead its video sales after Extreme Championship Wrestling, their best seller, went out of business. At the time, RF Video also filmed events held by other less popular regional wrestling promotions and sold them through their catalog and website. RF Video owner Rob Feinstein decided he would fill the void left by ECW by starting his own promotion and distributing the DVD and VHS productions exclusively through RF Video. The first event, title The Era of Honor Begins, was held on February 23, 2002, featured nine matches, including a match between Eddie Guerrero and Super Crazy, and a triple threat match between the early mainstays of ROH, Christopher Daniels, Bryan Danielson and Low Ki.
In its first year of operation, from February 2002 to February 2003, ROH confined itself to a limited amount of venues and cities in the northeast United States. Ten shows were run in Philadelphia, PA, two in the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts, one in the Pittsburgh, PA area, and one in Queens, NY.
In 2003, ROH expanded to other areas of the United States, including Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland and began to build its international identity by co-holding an event with Frontier Wrestling Alliance in London, England.
ROH has continually expanded its presence on the United States and international independent wrestling scenes, holding events in more mid-western states, revitalizing its UK connections and routinely importing stars with international appeal.
In 2004, the primary owner of ROH and RF Video, Rob Feinstein, was caught in a sting operation when he tried to solicit sex from a minor. It was announced that Feinstein and ROH had severed their ties, but Feinstein was still involved with the company until June 2004. This garnered bad publicity for the company, which resulted in a decline in business for a period of time. As a result, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling pulled their contracted wrestlers, most notably AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, from all Ring of Honor shows. This was also a factor in the decline as both wrestlers were marquee names for the company.
Feinstein's ownership was eventually sold to Doug Gentry, who would then sell it to Cary Silkin. Ring of Honor would start its own mail and online order store which sells DVD's of its live events, as well as shoot interviews with wrestlers and managers. They also sell other wrestling related merchandise not limited to products created by their company. As such, it continues the function RF Video had for the company.
Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer has given full five-star ratings to several ROH matches, including the Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk sixty-minute bout from Joe vs. Punk II on October 16, 2004; Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi from Joe vs. Kobashi on October 1, 2005; and Do FIXER (Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito) vs. Blood Generation (CIMA, Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino) from Supercard of Honor on March 31, 2006. At the time of Joe vs. Punk II, Meltzer had not rated any wrestling match in the US the full five-stars since 1997.
The Joe vs. Punk feud brought back interest in the company, but it took a year before the company would become self-sufficient in November 2005. Up until this point, since the split from RF Video, the company had not made profit. The strong sales of the DVD of the October 1, 2005 event Joe vs. Kobashi is attributed to this.
On January 23, 2007, Ring of Honor announced in their newswire that they would be running two shows in Japan in July. The first show they will be working with Pro Wrestling NOAH, and the second with Dragon Gate, both of which they have had a strong working relationship with. ROH has become the 1st US-based promotion to have its titles held entirely by non-American wrestlers with the Japanese Dragon Gate team of Naruki Doi and Shingo Takagi holding the ROH World Tag-Team Championship, whilst their fellow countryman and Pro Wrestling NOAH star Takeshi Morishima holds the ROH World Championship.