In a new, two-part edition of ROHWorld.com’s ‘Creative Direction’ series, Dave Wood discusses the possibilities of an ROH women’s division.
Ring of Honor’s landscape has changed, drastically, over the summer months.
Established talents; such as Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Christopher Daniels, Colt Cabana and Homicide; have either parted company with the promotion or have been rumoured to be doing so, in the near future. The hole that has been left, in heart of the card, has been noticeable. Indeed, perhaps partly due to the depleted roster, ‘Death Before Dishonor IX’ is reported to have drawn a disappointing buyrate of 972.
The primary change agent has been the Sinclair Broadcast Group buyout.
The takeover has not only instigated roster movement, it has also affected ROH’s schedule. A sudden rise in the number of dates booked, going into the closing months of the year, has stemmed from the buyout, with more and bigger shows also being promised for 2012.
The recent severing of ties with long-time sister promotion SHIMMER, has been another eventuality that has it’s roots in the SBG deal. New SHIMMER volumes will no longer be distributed through the Ring of Honor website and SHIMMER head honcho Dave Prazak has gradually been eased out of his ROH commentary position, to be replaced by the new partnership of Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness.
Meanwhile, in the related genre of Mixed Martial Arts, following the UFC buyout of rival promotion Strikeforce – a company known for embracing female fights – women athletes have, once again, become a major talking point.
Amidst this climate, in this writer’s opinion, there may never have been a better time for ROH to launch it’s own female division.
In ROH’s past, female wrestling has often been relegated to a special attraction role. One-off exhibition bouts of hit-and-miss length and quality have been the status quo. Female talent, from outside the promotion, has often been brought in and, effectively, fed to regular roster members Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze.
On the occasions that ROH has promoted competitive female bouts, and has given the girls enough time to express themselves, the crowd has been largely receptive. Amazing Kong vs. Del Rey, from ‘Supercard of Honor V’, and MsChif vs. Del Rey, from ‘Rising Above 2008’, are two historical examples of women’s wrestling piquing the ROH fanbase’s interest. A more recent example of female wrestling done well would be the Joshi matches at the ‘Honor Takes Center Stage’ weekend, in which Ayumi Kurihara, in particular, wowed those in attendance and those watching live on iPPV.
It would be vital for a prospective Women of Honor division to feature competitive bouts and meaningful storylines, rather than to just exist for the sake of giving Sara Del Rey a belt to wear.
Many fans, who have closely followed both U.S. organisations like SHIMMER and the apparent resurgance of Joshi wrestling in Japan, have noticed a remarkable new generation of talent emerging worldwide and, not least, in North America. This group of rapidly-developing female competitors, in their early-to-mid 20s, has done much to convince this writer that American Joshi could be the next logical evolution of the sport of professional wrestling.
The culture shock that you may feel, whilst reading that statement, would not be unlike the culture shock that audiences in the mid-1990s felt, when faced with an unusual hispanic brand of professional wrestling, that was just beginning to make a muffled noise, in the United States. Audiences, at that time, had an initial repulsion to the concept of what is now fondly remembered as “Extreme Lucha Libre”. This bold innovation, from the genius mind of ECW booker Paul Heyman, was to, eventually, be mimicked by the larger WCW and in turn Vince McMahon’s WWE. The growing phenomenon would go on to make a global cashcow of the tiny, masked, silent Rey Mysterio.
The purpose of a new Women of Honor division would be to, not only, challenge the popular perception of female wrestling but, also, to nurture this bright young generation of stars. In doing so, it would create a stronger foundation on which to build the future of, what is currently, a stagnant, unfashionable industry.
No modern day company is better placed to begin such a trend than Ring of Honor – ECW’s modern day counterpart.
The current benchmark, in North American women’s wrestling, is the aforementioned SHIMMER promotion. For many reasons it could, in truth, be difficult for ROH management to replicate the high standards of SHIMMER, when constructing a prospective Women of Honor Division.
One of the main stumbling blocks, that this theoretical division could face, would be geography.
SHIMMER, itself, has evolved, over the course of it’s six-year existance, into a truly international organisation. The Chicago-based federation currently attracts talent from as far and wide as the American West Coast, Texas, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe. SHIMMER’s unique business model facilitates this practice. The company tapes eight DVDs a year, over the course of only two weekends’ worth of tapings. Thus saving money on flights, accomodation and other expenses.
Ring of Honor, on the other hand, is known for running around 30 shows a year, in various different locations, primarily in the North East of the United States and also in South Eastern Canada. It may, therefore, be too much to expect female talent to be flown in, from far flung parts of the world, on a regular basis. ROH has rarely flown-in any wrestlers from outside of America’s North East, since the beginning of the recession era.
Another way in which the division may have to differ from SHIMMER is in it’s style of wrestling.
SHIMMER is, predominantly, known for it’s colourful characters and focus on fun. The ROH women’s division would, in this writer’s opinion, need to replicate the traditional ROH hard-hitting, high workrate style more closely. Finding a balance, between presenting a super serious product and showcasing the unique qualities of female wrestling, would be vital.
When piecing together the roster, ROH’s top brass would face the task of identifying women that are based within the company’s catchment area, who can get over whilst working this hybrid style.
Keep an eye on ROHWorld.com in the coming days, for Part Two of ‘Creative Direction: Women of Honor’, in which Dave will outline the talent that he would select, to form the initial core of the WOH Division.