Though Ring Of Honor are supposedly drawing good ratings for their new television show on Sinclair Broadcasting's affiliates (I say supposedly as hard numbers have not yet been released), this success has not translated to improved attendance on the road. A week ago, ROH debuted in the Spartanburg and Greensboro markets, where their ratings are purported to be above average, but they only drew 350-375 fans at each show, according to Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Moreover, in the last few days they cut general admission to $10 in a failed attempt to improve walk up business. This would definitely be a disappointing start in their attempt to open up new markets to tour in, as they would need several hundred fans more per night to have broken even on the events, proving once again that the correlation between ratings and business metrics in the wrestling industry is very weak indeed.
I'm doubtful that follow up business in these markets will do much better, as subsequent shows won't have the novelty of being the first opportunity to see live ROH action in person. I hear that they plan to do more angles on their television show soon, now that their top wrestlers have been introduced, but the damage of their stilted opening weeks may have already been done. As they say, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. There is definitely mixed feelings about the taste left in people's mouths by having really long main events to close both the Spartanburg and Greensboro shows. The latter had an epic eighty minute Survivor Series style eight man elimination main event, while the former finished with a lengthy fifty minute Royal Rumble match. The quality of both matches was strong, with the performers working their socks off as the matches will be aired in an edited format on TV over the Christmas period, but one questions whether catering to hardcore fans in such a way will put off families and more casual viewers from turning up in future.
One gets the feeling that ROH is being run by a territorial wrestling mark in COO Joe Koff who doesn't really understand what made the Carolinas such a hot market in the first place and that his booking henchman Jim Cornette is perfectly happy to fulfil his misguided vision in order to be along for the ride and keep a dream job. This is Koff's attempt to recreate the magic of the Battle Of The Belts shows, which he syndicated in the mid 1980s, that were all headlined by lengthy NWA World heavyweight title matches with Ric Flair defending against the likes of Wahoo McDaniel, Barry Windham and Lex Luger, perhaps not realising that it was Flair's charisma, star presence and powerful performances on the mic, more than his working ability that brought fans in their droves to the arenas. The ROH roster is full of excellent in ring technicians, but few, if any, that exude a larger than life character or are strong talkers. Until they fix that, then they'll probably continue to draw small crowds in the markets they're trying to break into. Whether they realise that's a problem remains to be seen.