Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ring of Honor Sold

By Chad Smart

At their show in Chicago Ridge on May 21, Ring of Honor announced the Sinclair Broadcasting Company had bought the independent wrestling company.  From what I’ve read it appears ROH will begin having a weekly television show on Sinclair owned TV stations and possibly syndicated in areas where there are no Sinclair stations beginning in September. In addition, the TV show will be available online so fans who don’t get the show on TV in their area can still watch it. While I don’t think WWE or TNA should be shaking in their boots right now, it could be a move that potentially changes the landscape of wrestling if Sinclair is serious about making ROH succeed.

Ring of Honor recently celebrated their ninth anniversary. They had their first show a few months before TNA did their first pay per view. While TNA was first out of the gate with PPV and a weekly TV show, ROH’s game plan was a throwback to the old territory days.  ROH focused more on running a loop of towns and building an solid fan base.  While TNA started running before they learned to walk, ROH was content with learning to crawl before walking.
For the past two years, ROH had a weekly show on HDNET. While the show was usually praised by the fans who watched it, HDNET didn’t have the penetration needed to significantly improve ROH’s live events attendance or DVD sales. I believe the new deal with Sinclair, and possible syndication, will give ROH a bigger audience than HDNET offered. ROH will have one advantage over WWE and TNA in that potential viewers will not need cable or satellite packages to view the show. All Sinclair stations are available as over the air signals.

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As I said in the intro, I don’t think WWE or TNA should be worried about this deal right now, but they also shouldn’t take this announcement lightly.  Actually, I change that thought. WWE shouldn’t worry, but TNA and ROH should be concerned about what the outcome of this deal leads to down the line. Currently ROH’s roster is mainly guys who have been on the indy scene with the exception of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, the current ROH tag team champions.  If Sinclair wants ROH to draw an audience, and have the money to spend, I can see them trying to land some bigger names.  Either guys who were recently in WWE or TNA wrestlers who have grown tired of playing second fiddle to the current ex-WWE flavor of the month.

On the flip side of the coin, if ROH’s business starts to pick up, I wouldn’t find it that surprising to see WWE throw some money at guys like the Kings of Wrestling, El Generico, Haas and Benjamin or other top talent in an attempt to knock ROH down a peg or two. They say history has a way of repeating itself.

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The one element I’m most curious to see play out over the next year is how, if at all, ROH’s product changes. I’ll admit, I’m not really an ROH fan. I haven’t bought an ROH DVD since 2006 and the last show I attended was in 2009 in Houston over Wrestlemania weekend. My biggest complaints with ROH is their production values and lack of variety.  Bad lighting and poor audio would make some DVDs a chore to sit through. While the matches featured good wrestling, they all felt the same. Lots of stiff hard hitting moves and guys kicking out of finisher after finisher made matches that could have been great seem like watching a match straight out of a video game. From reading reviews of shows online and on wrestling message boards it seems the average ROH fan considers any match that lasts at least 30 minutes and has 25 finishers a 5 star classic. To me, any time a guy kicks out of more than two finishers it exposes wrestling as being less than legit. It’s why I don’t rank the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels and Undertaker/Triple H matches from the last three Wrestlemanias as being great. They were nothing but paint by number Indy matches. I’m getting off topic.

When ROH was doing their HDNET shows, they would tape two months of shows in one weekend. I don’t know if that’s the plan with the Sinclair show or not. One change that appears to be in place is to not hold the tapings in the same location. The HDNET show, with the exception of one weekend of tapings, was taped at the old ECW Arena in Philadelphia. The first Sinclair taping is at the Field House in Chicago Ridge. I think taping in different venues is a good idea. It’ll make each show different and the same fans won’t show up for every taping.

Back to what I started to say before in regards to the ROH product, will they continue to keep the main focus on the athletic element or will they start to incorporate more typical wrestling storylines into the product?  Is Sinclair going to stick behind them for the long term or are they wanting a homerun after the first bat?

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Come September a lot of older wrestling fans will get to relieve some of the excitement of their youth. Twenty five years ago, there was WWF, NWA and AWA to choose from on a weekly basis. Fifteen years ago there was WWF, WCW and ECW.  Now there’s a choice of WWF, TNA or ROH. Are we on the cusp of another wrestling boom period? Only time will tell. 
Here’s a list of stations owned by Sinclair which should be airing the ROH weekly show.
WTTA Ch. 38 in Tampa
WUCW Ch. 23 in Minneapolis
WPMY Ch. 22 in Pittsburgh
WNUV Ch. 54 in Baltimore
either WLFL or WRDC in Raleigh
Either WUXP or WNAB in Nashville
WSTR Ch.64 in Cincinnati
Either WCGV or WVTV in Milwaukee
WMYA Ch. 40 in Asheville/Greenville/Spartanburg
KMYS Ch. 35 in San Antonio
Either WTTO, WABM or WDBB in Birmingham
WTVZ Ch. 33 in Norfolk
Either KVMY or KVCW in Las Vegas
KOCB Ch. 34 in Oklahoma City
WMYV Ch. 48 in Greensboro
WNYO Ch. 49 in Buffalo
WFGX Ch. 35 in Mobile
WDKA Ch. 49 in Cape Girardeau
WNYS Ch. 43 in Syracuse, NY
WMMP Ch. 36 in Charleston, SC

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1 comment:

  1. I've been dying for a television alternative where wrestling truly matters. (Sorry TNA, but I'll only believe it when I see it.) It's probably too early to get too excited, but I have high hopes for ROH's future. Mainstream wrestling needs serious competition badly.

    I can't agree about variety being an issue with ROH. Granted, I don't buy every DVD. But every show I've watched has wowed me with something new that I hadn't seen before, whereas WWE seems to use the same formulas every time. And personally, production values are the least of my worries.