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ROH Isn’t Your Grandfathers Indy Promotion Anymore – Inside The Wheelhouse

The American WolvesIt’s been over six month since Ring of Honor was purchased by the Sinclair Broadcasting group from Cary Silkin and the landscape & image of ROH has changed in the eyes of the wrestling fans over that short period of time. Many wondered if ROH would change with the ownership move and it clearly has as it molded itself into a wrestling company like the WWE or TNA & not a company like an ECW. Is that a good thing for ROH? Yes it most certainly is but it is no longer your “grandfather’s indy promotion” anymore either.

Whether you are a sports fan, music fan or in our case, a wrestling fan, you love to be the first to know something or see something/someone. Sports fans want to be the first to see a superstar in the making as I still talk about to this day the time I watched the Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice tear it up against my high school football team before he was in the pros. Music fans talk about all the latest “underground” music out there and who you need to listen to because they are a future star. In wrestling it’s the same thing as you want to see a talent before he or she becomes noticed at a larger wrestling audience and that was something Ring of Honor offered to you for almost 10 years.

Ring of Honor was part of the big independent wrestling boom of the early 2000s after ECW & WCW closed their doors and the WWE was the only game left in town. As time wore on many of those independents from that time period have closed up shop or aren’t running as many shows as they used to. ROH survived that period and is a reaching a ten-year milestone, something that deserves a lot of credit for especially in this economical landscape.

I remember friends of mine telling me to check out the ROH product and needing to see matches that involved the likes of Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe AJ Styles, Low-Ki and a whole slew of many talented wrestlers. Once I saw the matches I was in awe of the quality of the events and the matches in the ring, it was putting to shame anything I saw on television on a weekly basis. It quenched the hunger of what wrestling fans wanted to see, pure athletic wrestling that told stories in the confines of a squared circle, the basic foundation of professional wrestling.

Time grew on and those wrestlers left for what some may call “greener pastures.” The landscape of ROH would change on a yearly basis and despite losing so many names that laid down the foundation of their company they continued to survive by finding some of the best talent in the country. Like I said before despite everything ROH had to deal with during their ten years they made it and you have to respect all that they accomplished.

I don’t know the financial situation for Ring of Honor towards its last couple of years under Cary Silkin’s reign as owner but you heard the rumblings that at times they were struggling financially. Something that many wrestling fans shouldn’t be surprised by with the way the economy was at the time. You figured that it would be hard for any business to be very successful during the tough times the United States face in its economy.

Despite financial pressures and talents leaving ROH still looked the same as it did from day one. Great in-ring action and survival based off of DVD sales & basic word of mouth. It was a basic business survival plan being showcased in a modern era where you were told it just could never be done that way anymore.

Then in May 2011 ROH was sold to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group and gave ROH longer years of life that probably many didn’t expect. They had a TV deal yet again, the talent was going to be under contract and they were going to start to be noticed more on a national level then the local levels they thrived on. But with those changes came changes to their products, changes that put a nail in the coffin of them being what we could refer to as an “independent promotion” anymore.

With the ownership move has come changes to the product both on the inside and from the outside. Gone from Ring of Honor are the Colt Cabana’s of the company, guys who would be veterans for ROH and be the foundation for the promotion. Gone are the longtime announcers like Dave Prazak as they have been replaced by Kevin Kelly who worked with the WWE at one time. Talents like Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin, while terrific in-ring talents are not original ROH talents yet they are being featured prominently in ROH’s current marketing. It has gone from an independent promotion to another form of a Jim Cornette promotion.

ROH has followed suit with prior Jim Cornette ran promotions like Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW) and Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) where they have that late-80s/early 90s television feel to them. With those changes while positive for the longevity of ROH I believe it has hurt their promotion in the eyes of wrestling fans which should be the most important thing of all. For years ROH depending on those wrestling fans and they don’t want to lose them either.

Ring of Honor recently held their biggest PPV of the year “Final Battle” in New York City on December 23rd and had a tough time selling the place out. Granted you can chalk that up to it being right around Christmas but it isn’t a good sign when wrestling fans that are home & can make the drive aren’t going to the show. Reviews for the show have been mediocre at best with the Steen/Corino match being the most talked about match of them all while Richards/Edwards has received poor reviews from fans for being the “same match again.”

The differences between those two matches are clearly the styles of the match. The Steen/Corino match, while brutal, told a story in the ring, something ROH fans have loved since day one, in-ring story telling. The Richards/Edwards match has been compared to some sort of hybrid MMA/Wrestling match that fans really never got a hold of throughout the course of the actual match. To me, as an long time ROH fan it’s clear that these two matches were showcasing the old (Steen/Corino) and the new (Edwards/Richards) Ring of Honor.

While all this has been going on for ROH it has helped companies like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla & DGUSA/Evolve become the favorite “underground” promotion to watch for. I remember last year ROH’s feuds and matches were the normal talk of the wrestling world for fans wanting to see wrestling. And as for 2011 there was a lot more talk for PWG & DGUSA/Evolve then there has ever been with some of their events being referred to as “must own” DVDs. Something you’d normally hear for ROH shows and something you rarely heard after June 2011.

2012 will be a very defining year for Ring of Honor in how it will be accepted by wrestling fans. It will be its first full calendar year under the SBG ownership and it will be telling if they can receive the same rave reviews that would get under their old business makeup or if they will continue to lose the popularity with the hardcore wrestling fans like they slowly have over the last six months. Maybe wrestling fans are upset that ROH isn’t the “underground” promotion it used to be who knows, but it definitely can be said that Ring of Honor is no longer your “grandfather’s indy promotion anymore.”

For more on this topic join us for the Thursday January 26th edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com or www.wrestlechat.net.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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