On May 17th 2003, under a year and a half since its first card, Ring of Honor co-promoted a show at York Hall in London along with the Frontier Wrestling Alliance. Featuring a series of matches pitting ROH’s top names against some of Britain’s best workers it was a solid show that showed the US-based promotion had a fan base abroad. It was also a bold step for ROH to take.
Three years later the company returned to British shores for a two night stint that took in Broxbourne (a small town notable for very little except possessing a great venue for wrestling shows) and Liverpool. Two shows were run in Liverpool in 2007, drawing the promotion’s Fifth Year Festival series of cards to a close and playing host to Samoa Joe’s final performance as a regular member of the roster.
Since then… nothing. Ring of Honor has not returned to Britain since 4th March 2007.
I find this surprising. The UK has always been a country keen on wrestling and Ring of Honor has proven to themselves and others that they can attract crowds here. WWE attracts hot audiences when it puts on shows in Britain, but that’s to be expected: they have been promoting here for decades and are regarded as the only wrestling company in the world by Joe Average on the street.
More compelling is the success of TNA in Britain. The Orlando group has been running an annual tour of Britain for several years now, and is always rewarded with its largest, loudest crowd of the year. There are a number of differences between the two groups, such as a size of budget, TNA utilising stars of yesteryear and, most importantly, having a TV presence in the market in question.
I am of the opinion that ROH could attract some very healthy crowds if they returned to the UK, despite these obstacles. The central reason for not returning to our shores can only be financial. Ring of Honor simply can’t afford to fly its roster (or even select members of its roster) overseas for two or three nights. The answer to that is simple: co-promote.
Ring of Honor has some of the biggest names in independent wrestling at its disposal. They could use that to their advantage and get UK promoters to help fund the cost of air travel in exchange for using ROH talent on their shows. If planned well enough there could even be a series of cards pitting ROH grapplers against various UK promotions.
In order for this to work ROH would need to be over here for longer than two or three nights and cut corners wherever possible (housing ROH wrestlers with Brit talents is a fine example there). It would be well worth it though. More and more wrestlers are being signed to TNA and WWE from the UK. ROH should get in on the act too. The likes of Spud and Johnny Storm have seen action in Ring of Honor before, and there are guys like Dave Mastiff, Bubblegum, El Ligero, Zack Sabre Jr, Marty Scurll, and Sam Bailey who would all fit nicely onto the ROH roster.
An influx of new talent could help increase interest in DVD sales and help the company find a new big money star to offer a regular deal to. Surely another run of shows is worth it if those are the rewards?