ROH TV from this past week was another Road Rage, mainly featuring the Richards/Steen main event. That’s been covered in detail so instead of a recap, I’d like to throw in some thoughts about what ROH could do to prop up their company. In the state it’s in, they’re turning off established fans, and they aren’t replacing them with new fans in any significant numbers. The Sinclair deal likely saved the company, but it’s not likely that they’ll continue pouring money into Ring of Honor if they don’t see significant returns on their investment. Former ROH loyalists like Austin Aries have gone on record as saying they don’t recognize the company they once loved anymore, while others are getting snapped up by WWE developmental or will only do occasional shows for the company, like El Generico and Homicide. The Kevin Steen saga has built for several years to the point it’s at now, and all that remains to be seen is the aftermath where he “holds ROH hostage” as he’s been threatening to do, but other than that, they don’t have any decent storylines on the boil. So as the BoD’s resident ROH writer, I present my list of ideas to help revitalize Ring of Honor before they lose their way completely.
definitely with you on that. It seems weird to me that in a world where
more and more people consume their movies and TV shows through
web-enabled devices, indie wrestling companies are still wary of
embracing the internet. I don’t know if it’s old-school carny mindset or
just a lack of knowledge over how to do things differently than they’ve
always been done. Everyone has a hard on for the idea of a live show,
so they sign up with iPPV companies that can’t handle the demand. They
want to sell DVDs, so they try to police YouTube for unauthorized video.
They’ll air their TV show on their websites, but only if they already
have a regular syndicated deal with a real TV station and only after
it’s already been aired. Shit, tons of people use Netflix and Hulu plus
for streaming, and all you can stream on there for wrestling is WWE
Why aren’t any of these places creating their own TV specific for the
web? Why haggle for DVDs when you can sell ad-space on a site and
potentially make more than a sluggish DVD sale? Why fight YouTube when
you can use it to your advantage to spread the word about your product
and use that to build a fanbase BEFORE you start trying to hook them
into spending tons of money on DVDs and live shows? I just think none of
them have thought of it. What little I’ve dealt with indie promoters on
a small scale, I’ve found that most of them just don’t have a keen
business sense or any creative ideas for promotion and basically just
want to try and do things the same way everyone else has, and that isn’t
helping anyone. Indies appeal to niche audiences, and generally niche
products find their audiences on the internet, yet somehow a lot of
these people think they’ll get there by using promoting techniques from
That was what I posted on the recent “WWE as a Monopoly” thread regarding ROH and other indies. While some of these ideas wouldn’t help ROH, some of it refers to them specifically. Keep all of this in mind as we proceed, because it’s already being implemented in places like Wrestling Retribution Project and they will not be the only ones, mark my words.
1. Let iPPVs Die
–After the problems they’ve had with Go Fight Live regarding the feed cutting out during shows such as Young Wolves Rising and Showdown in the Sun, and then the outright failure to make an iPPV work in-house with Border Wars, ROH is in a shitty place when it comes to their volume of fans. They have just enough people interested in viewing their shows that they’ll crash their regular servers, but they don’t have enough fan base going that they can afford to field a PPV on cable and turn a profit. Rock and a hard place, for sure, but that’s where they are. The easy solution? Don’t do them until you know you can do them right. ROH kept itself alive for years on DVD sales. While that idea has it’s share of dust on it (which I’ll get to), it might be worth it to let a few more shows build up their name on DVD. How many people found means of tracking down Davey Richards vs. Michael Elgin from Showdown through illegal means or on replays, which, divided by Ringside Member discounts and everything else, meant people were paying maybe $10 on average to watch what amounts to one or two matches? With the word of mouth that thing built, how much more money would have been made if anyone who didn’t see it live ended up having to buy the DVD for $20 instead? Granted, you’d lose some people over the price point, but ROH built it’s name on those “must see” matches that people paid a mint for. The only other option with iPPVs is to show them on enough of a delay that they can let them air with a smooth transmission, but that will take time to rehab the impression people have that you pay for iPPVs and then don’t get what you paid for, or a rerun.
2. Fire Delirious
–Hunter “Delirious” Johnston has worked for Ring of Honor continuously from 2004. In August of 2010, he replaced Adam Pearce as head booker. Since that time a number of ROH standouts have parted ways with the company: Tyler Black, Austin Aries, Colt Cabana, Claudio Castagnoli, Chris Hero, Christopher Daniels, and Homicide. As Aries said recently in an interview, ROH has turned into “Smoky Mountain of Wrestling”. Some of the unique characters that made up the company’s lifeblood during their peak years have fallen by the wayside, and in exchange, there are a lot of people who make up the “ROH stereotype”. That is to say, the bland, smallish white guy who cuts stoic promos about competition and has great workrate but no charisma. Basically, a whole promotion of Dean Malenkos. While that’s never been exactly true, it’s not far off. What is Eddie Edwards’ character? What about Michael Elgin? What about Adam Cole, who has a bankable gimmick of the “Panama City Playboy” in other indies but is just a plucky young whitebread face in ROH? For that matter, where do the storylines go? Davey & Eddie feuded for more than a year, teasing a heel turn for Eddie, and they just never delivered. Eddie stayed in exactly the same place doing exactly the same things, until it was blown off in a triple threat match that was already being overshadowed by the Richards/Steen program. It built at an unreasonably slow pace, and then everyone was basically in the same place when it ended as when it began. At Young Wolves Rising, it seemed as though Kyle O’Reilly was turning heel, and yet he’s still Davey’s lil’ buddy and playing the underdog. That’s just not how storytelling works, regardless of anyone’s opinions about wrestlings. There’s no payoff and snail’s pace build to most of their storylines. The last 2 years of ROH programs could fit into maybe 9 months of a reasonable booker’s storylines (or 6 weeks of a Vince Russo show). This is killing the enjoyment of the company. While ROH has always been about great matches, they had storylines that were memorable at their peak as well. This needs to come back, and Delirious apparently just doesn’t have the ability to do it.
3. Get Out of the Baltimore Scene and Onto The Indie Scene At Large
–ROH used to be a place where some of the best workers in the world of independent wrestling would coalesce. To a degree, it still is, but now that they’re centered out of Baltimore and the DuBurns Arena, the job guys and featured local talent on their shows all come from Chesapeake-region indies. While I don’t mean to disrespect anyone’s local scene, that’s not where the cream of the indie crop comes from. ROH used to have a huge advantage being based in Philadelphia: most of the best indie workers in the country center around New York, Philly, Boston, or the short drive down from Ontario. Couple that with the alliance with Full Impact Pro, which provided a nice pipeline for the other main place where indie wrestlers gather, Florida, and ROH had access to the best talent in the world. Now, I’m not advocating moving their operations out of Baltimore again, because that’s where their bread is buttered with Sinclair Broadcasting. I am, however, advocating that ROH does more to encourage the best workers from their old stomping grounds to make the trek down to Maryland and pepper them into the shows more. The alliance with CHIKARA is great, because it keeps that option open for this kind of thing. But why limit yourself to The Colony or Eddie Kingston? You could get tons of mileage out of indie “dream matches” featuring Chuck Taylor, Johnny Gargano, Mike Quackenbush, or even Sara del Ray (assuming she’s willing to work with them again, since the last time she was working with ROH she got dumped without so much as a word of notice).They’ll be ok with the roster they have now but they can stretch it a lot further if they run different matches every show.
4. Use The Web To Its Full Potential
–This plays in to what I said in that copy & paste above. ROH is actually better about it than most but still, it feels like they’re trying to fit a TV product into an internet format. The iPPVs are an example of that: who cares if you’re seeing it live online? People don’t gather around in groups to watch shows on a computer screen, so it doesn’t really have that “event” feel that needs it to be live. The TV show is available for free online, but it’s in a diminished format: 5 days late if you aren’t a Ringside member and at least 2 days late if you are, depending. ROH is a syndicated program, so they don’t air everywhere. Asking people to pay just to get a few days closer to seeing something that those in Sinclair markets get for free and sooner? That’s just silly. Sell commercials for the online broadcast, and make that a focal point. WWE and TNA still don’t really know how to make the Net work for them, ROH should try to fill that niche. Their whole audience follows wrestling online, like literally 100% of their audience. Make the show more user friendly. Make it available as an app for smartphone users. Make it prevalent on iTunes and other download sites. Try to get a deal for the old DVDs that are out of print (which is a lot of them, as they sold off a lot of their existing stock of DVDs last year) to stream on Netflix. They’re already good about using the YouTube channel to get characters over and feature promos, so keep going in that vein. The trick is to think like a modern media company, and not in the carny mindset of trying to squeeze money out of every situation where eyes might be on your product. It’s 2012, and people are consuming more and more of their entertainment for free as it is. You aren’t going to convince a large number of people to part with their money, especially in tough economic times, without making a product that suits their needs better.
5. Have More Fun
–ROH takes itself too seriously. Always has. Even fun gimmicks like El Generico and, well, Delirious have started as comedy and then made the shift to where they’re basically serious gimmicks. Currently the tag division has the All Night Express, who can get over based on being sex-crazed party boys who can rock in the ring. Instead most of their promos focus on the “we can wrestle all night long!” aspect, and they seem like any other plain as milk babyface team. Certainly some people seem like they’re having fun in promos: Kevin Steen, for sure, and definitely the Briscoes. But it wouldn’t hurt ROH to start bringing more anarchy to their regular show. They’ve long been gimmick-averse when it comes to matches, but why not try it out? Why not have brawls that spill outside like they used to? Why not have comedy matches? Wrestling at it’s best is like a circus: if you don’t like the clowns, the lion tamer is up next. ROH can tend to fall into the rut of being like watching 10 acrobat routines in a row. It wouldn’t hurt them to toss things up more. And cut down on the hour-long matches, for that matter.
In all, these are easy fixes to make. Ring of Honor isn’t going to go out of business tomorrow; but gradually they will lose fans like water draining out of a pool until there isn’t much left to swim in. I’d love to see the company that’s featured the best wrestling in the world for the last decade have what amounts to a “second coming.” Until next week, don’t take my word for it. Go to ROHwrestling.com and decide for yourself.