Several times a year, Joe Koff is interviewed and he is asked about competing with the WWE. He has a pat answer that ROH is not a competitor. He once recounted a story of taking a picture of WWE’s production trucks and explaining to the CEO of Sinclair that we’ll never be like that.
I understand why Mr. Koff provides that answer. Sinclair may not be ready to commit the resources to compete and it is safer to say that you don’t want to be #1. We didn’t want to date the Prom Queen in high school either, right? Cary Silkin kept ROH afloat for years in a bottom line media company and that is to be highly commended. Joe Koff has since helped integrate ROH into SBG’s business plan. Where this goes is up to speculation as it took a while for ROH’s production to get better, whether or not this was the fault of funding or budget.
But you know what? Mr. Koff and ROH may not want to compete with the WWE but the WWE would like to compete with them. The WWE competes on contracts with wrestlers, booking towns and signing talent to merchandising deals like toys. It is impossible to ignore an aggressor that is interfering with your business.
WWE may be huge in the smaller pond of the pro wrestling world but Sinclair Broadcast Group is a huge media company. Period. Why should they play second fiddle to anyone? There have been rumors that Viacom owned Bellator CEO Scott Coker was told to build a Murderer’s Row lineup to compete with the UFC. Murderer’s Row is an analogy to the 1927 Yankees, the greatest collection of superstars in all of sports. What if ROH was given the same directive? Could a brash executive like an Eric Bischoff, circa 1995 (no, not today’s Eric Bischoff, please!), build up a “team” that could compete, at least creatively, with today’s WWE?
When contractually able (due to his UFC deal), I believe the first choice should be CM Punk. As an ROH original, he would do a wonderful job bridging the gap between the hard cores and the casual fans. If (and only if) healthy, my next choice would be Bryan Danielson when his WWE contract expires. If is still unclear whether his retirement was due to WWE’s being overly cautious or actual health concerns. Bryan has also crossed over into the mainstream and would help to grow the brand.
If given the directive to build a Murderer’s Row: Who would you sign that is currently a free agent and who would you make an offer to once his/her WWE deal was up?
All comments here are speculative and for entertainment purposes only and no misrepresentation of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Ring of Honor or related brands is intended. Full disclosure: I am a Sinclair Broadcasting Group (SBG) shareholder.