Could ROH be the last hope for Professional Wrestling?

Since the boom era of the mid 1990s, the Professional Wrestling industry has weakened with audiences dropping significantly. With the 9th Anniversary of ROH coming up in just over a week’s time, could ROH be the last hope for Professional Wrestling?

When you look back at the first ever ROH show – The Era of Honor Begins, on February 23 2002 – it was obvious to see that the mantra of the company was to show off the best independent wrestlers from not just the United States, but all over the world.

Fast forward nine years and ROH will be celebrating their anniversary with what should be a brilliant show from Chicago. It will also be broadcast worldwide on gofightlive.tv or as ROH like to call it, an iPPV (internet pay-per-view). Not many people would have given ROH nine years, let alone think that they could be broadcasting their shows live around the globe.

Ring of Honor is widely regarded as the “third promotion” in the United States but puts on the best wrestling around. Some people might point to the more popular promotions – WWE and TNA – and argue that they do but any sane wrestling fan will tell you that if you want the best in-ring wrestling, you watch ROH.

Long gone are the days of the 1960s, 70s and 80s when wrestling was seen as a legitimate sport and the competitors treated it as such. Even though the 90s are regarded as wrestling’s ‘golden age’, it could also be said that it severely damaged the business. Promoters were coming out and more or less saying that wrestling was pre-determined but popularity didn’t wane. That was until the stars of that era started becoming too old and stale and new stars either weren’t brought through or were just not good enough.

Somewhere down the line, ‘sports entertainment’ was created. The term comes with very negative connotations and rightly so. Pro Wrestling had suddenly become a soap opera with very watered down in-ring product. Obviously there has to be a storytelling aspect of wrestling but I feel not enough of it is done in the ring.

Too much emphasis is placed upon looks or charisma. Of course these are a plus but certain promotions won’t consider a guy unless he’s over 6’5’’ and weighs more than 250lbs. This is where ROH shines. Guys of all height and weight prove that what they can do in a ring is far better than those supposed ‘stars’.

It’s a sad situation but wrestling hasn’t helped itself. Or should I say people inside the business haven’t. Some people are quick to point out that wrestling isn’t real and that why would people want to pay to watch two men have a ‘fake’ fight?

Professional Wrestling is an art. An art that is slowly dying out because of the ‘sports entertainment’ product that is rammed down our throats. It takes skill and craft to tell a story in the ring, a lot more skill than people imagine. Little things can add to a match and make it truly memorable.

Some wrestling promotions flat out don’t care for their fans. You know who they are. All they care about are the ratings and buyrates. They don’t care what the fans want and insist that what they give them is what they desire when it clearly isn’t.

Ring of Honor consistently put on great shows. After watching Final Battle 2010 I found I enjoyed it more than any other wrestling I’d seen for years. Watching the likes of Roderick Strong, Davey Richards, El Generico and Kevin Steen put everything on the line was something special. After every ROH iPPV I’ve watched, I came away feeling like a thief. The show cost just $15 and I would have gladly paid twice as much because the shows are that good.

When you watch guys willing to bleed to increase the tension in the match, it really makes you appreciate it. You can tell that their main aim is to entertain the fans. There were two 30 minute matches at Final Battle 2010 but they were that compelling that it felt like five minutes; five minutes of a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

ROH make me proud to be a wrestling fan. Sometimes when I watch other wrestling promotions, I cringe and even question why I still watch wrestling – something which I have loved for over 10 years. But not with ROH. Watching Ring of Honor makes me feel like a kid again; actually being excited to watch a wrestling show rather than feeling obliged to watch it just because it’s wrestling.
You can tell how much everyone in the company cares about wrestling. From the producers to the commentators to the wrestlers themselves, they all take great pride in their jobs and how they represent the sport of Professional Wrestling.

Sure, ROH might not get the big ratings or the big buyrates but they champion the art of wrestling. Finding the right balance between in-ring action and storylines is very difficult but I feel that ROH accomplish it better than anybody else.

Most wrestlers dream of receiving ‘the call’ from one of the big promotions. You can’t blame them really; added job security and increased wages make it a no-brainer. But whilst there are still promotions such as ROH around, the men that help create new stars of the industry and sometimes become stars themselves still have a place to show off their craft.

The only worry is that without ROH and others like it, Professional Wrestling could well be fed to, and ultimately savaged by, the wolves behind ‘sports entertainment’.

Steven Coney

"Stuff Pants" Steven is the co-owner and editor of ROHWorld.com. He founded the website in February 2011 with Harry. Last spotted trying to take down ROHCast with his SCUM faction.