I’m sure I’m not the only one who has looked at the calendar recently and wondered where the first half of 2012 went. Seeing as the end of the world is approaching us and an end of year report seems unlikely, I thought a mid-term report would be fitting.
May signalled the 12-month anniversary of Ring of Honor under the ownership of Sinclair Broadcast Group. Since the turn of the year, though, how much has the company actually progressed? Many people would say not too much and it’s hard to argue with them. Outside of the new TV show (which, granted is a pretty huge deal), it’s hard to see what SBG has given ROH that they didn’t already possess.
The TV show, in my opinion, has been pretty good so far. It’s obvious that SBG see ROH as a television product. Despite that, the in-ring quality has not decreased and that is a testament to everybody behind the scenes. I feel they have the right blend of matches, interviews and other segments and it makes for an enjoyable watch every week. The main problem with the TV show so far is the lack of markets (especially major ones) and the poor production values. You’d be forgiven for thinking that SBG, being a television company, would be able to improve that but so far it hasn’t.
Production is arguably the biggest problem with ROH and it’s hardly a new one. The hardcore fanbase have accepted ROH’s production, that is not what we watch for. We watch for the brilliant in-ring action. However, SBG is clearly trying to appeal to the jaded sports entertainment fans and the fact is that ROH’s production values are just not good enough to attract them. ROH COO Joe Koff says a switch to HD is in the works and that cannot come soon enough. The only thing ROH on HDNet has over the new TV show is that it was broadcast in HD. However, that is not the only problem. The amount of errors with graphics and so forth has been quite staggering. From white Cedric Alexander to Charlie Hass and Eddie Edwrads, the ROH production crew are clearly not too strict on quality control. Those sort of mistakes are unforgivable and make the company look bush league when they are trying to come off as a major wrestling promotion. These issues, along with the shoddy camera work, are relatively easy to be fixed so it is frustrating that after more than a year in charge, SBG hasn’t made the changes.
Switching from the TV show to the iPPVs and I’m going to sound like a broken record. Continually botched match graphics and names are beyond a joke (let’s not even start on the website…). That’s before we even start to talk about the fiasco with actually viewing the things in the first place! While the first iPPV of the year, ‘10th Anniversary Show’ went reasonably well, the ‘Showdown in the Sun’ events did not. The first night we had terrible stream issues which meant half of the matches weren’t even viewable and on the second night we had the infamous brownout. All in all, quite a shoddy Wrestlemania weekend for the company. ROH then blamed GoFightLive for the problems and ended their relationship with them to focus on doing the iPPVs in house. Uh oh… Predictably, they screwed it up. Big time. ‘Border Wars’ was being billed as one of the biggest shows in ROH history. Unfortunately, most of the paying customers didn’t get to see the first half of the show as ROH’s website failed to deal with the amount of traffic despite testing this the week of the show. This forced them to give away ‘Best in the World 2012’ for free to everybody who purchased ‘Border Wars’. This, quite obviously, must have cost ROH a fair bit financially. Fortunately, ‘Best in the World 2012’ went surprisingly smoothly and hopefully from now on, they will have iPPV locked down.
So, while the aesthetics might have been far from great in 2012, what about the in-ring action? ROH fans have been crying out for an influx of new talent for a while now to freshen up the card but that hasn’t happened. In fact, ROH gave TJ Perkins and the Young Bucks the summer off due to financial constraints so definitely not good on that score. While I feel the beginning of the year continued the safe style of booking from 2011, the past few months have seen a change of attitudes from those behind the curtain. They are giving the younger, fresher talent more spotlight and that can only mean good things. Adam Cole has won the TV Title and it’s surely only a matter of time until he sits on top of ROH. The same can be said for Michael Elgin after a terrific match he had with Davey Richards at ‘Showdown in the Sun’. Add those two to Kyle O’Reilly who looks set to become a big star soon and the future does look reasonably bright. ROH do, though, need to bring in new blood. Why are we seeing Bennett v Storm III and Bennett v Edwards III so soon after their first encounter? The lack of depth in the roster has been a big problem and that has handicapped the bookers to some extent. The fact that El Generico is no longer booked in ROH is also criminal. Generico is one of the best babyfaces in the wrestling business today and it’s a crying shame that he’s not being used due to not signing a contract. It looks as if SBG are unwilling to dig into their financial resources to bring new faces in so for now, we’ll have to sit and wait.
Despite that, the bookers are trying to create new matches. Davey Richards’ title reign did improve towards the end. The aforementioned match with Elgin, a good match with Jay Lethal and an impressive bout versus Adam Cole were all fresh. Kevin Steen’s reign has kicked off well and they have the chance for ROH to now kick on and reclaim some of that buzz that went missing during the past 18 months or so. After Kenny King left, the Tag Titles are now also up for grabs and that gives ROH a chance to bring in one or two new tag teams but whether they are willing to push the boat out to do so is yet to be seen.
The live event market has been a bit disappointing also. ROH have tried to capitalise on the TV show (which is apparently viewed by over a million people each week…) by putting on shows in new markets. This hasn’t gone as well as SBG would have hoped. Just a few weeks ago, the upcoming shows in the Carolinas were cancelled. While ROH claimed it was due to problems with talent being available, most of the facts point to a lack of ticket sales also being a major factor. For now, it’s probably best if ROH stick to markets that they know they can draw well in. As previously said, SBG see ROH as a television product and the house shows are increasingly becoming ‘watered down’ so to speak. I hope this is a trend that doesn’t continue. While saving the biggest matches for iPPV is smart, having shows like ‘Rise and Prove’ where a majority of the card were not regular ROH wrestlers, will not endear you to the local fans.
So, overall, it has been an up and down year for ROH. In the ring, they have improved over the past couple of months after a shaky start to 2012. Even the iPPV and TV are improving which is good news after fans became increasingly tired of being let down. Production values need to be stepped up but that is, as I have said, fairly straightforward to fix if they are willing to put money into ROH. Ring of Honor seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, all we can hope is that SBG speculate to accumulate and give ROH the backing it deserves.
Overall Grade: B-