I'll have to admit that of all the indie wrestling promotions in 2011, the one that piqued my interest the least was Ring of Honor. After a 2010 that was carried by a blisteringly hot feud between El Generico and Kevin Steen, their 2011 was so flat. There are several reasons for this. One is that Steen was missing from most of ROH's programming, televised or otherwise. They lost the Kings of Wrestling to WWE's grasp, while inexplicably letting Austin Aries, Colt Cabana and Necro Butcher that their services wouldn't be required. Outside of a few token shots given to Generico, the World Championship matches have been some iteration or combination of Roderick Strong vs. Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards. Everything has just felt flat.
Granted, some people do like a promotion dominated by the Wolves, Strong and The World's Greatest Tag Team of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. They enjoy a company with top stories built on friendly competition, where the challenger in the main event of the biggest show has a largely irrelevant former MMA fighter turned wrestler in his corner. I'm not one of those people. I like to have conflict and color in my wrestling, and from where I sit, ROH eschewed those tropes to try and appeal to a crowd that would rather be watching UFC.
Given that the blandness comes from the top, it's hard to imagine ROH changing much for the better in the future. That being said, there is some modicum of hope that exists for people who want to have some flavor added into their bulk wrestling. The first sign of this is that Steen is on his way back. He'll be wrestling Steve Corino in a match where if he wins, he'll get his ROH career reinstated. Steen is the kind of wrestler who can overcome bad writing and booking decisions. Everything he's done in the last two years has been dripping with intrigue. They've signed TJ Perkins to a contract, and he's got attitude, swagger. Generico, Jay Lethal, the Bravado Brothers, the Briscoes and the All Nite Express are also guys who know how to add pizzazz to the proceedings. It's not that ROH doesn't have guys who can elevate the proceedings to something more than pro-wrestling-presented-as-shootfighting. They just aren't pushing them.
Granted, the Wolves and Strong aren't going anywhere. Neither are the team of Future Shock, containing Richards' protege Kyle O'Reilly, or the "Prodigy" Mike Bennett. However, guys like Steen, Generico and the All-Nite Express at the least are looking to seize 2012 by the shorthairs. Lethal still holds the Television Championship (although he'll probably drop it to Bennett at Final Battle). Perkins figures to play a bigger part in the promotion's plans. Plus, with executive producer Jim Cornette's ties to Louisville, there's a chance they could score guys like Nick Dinsmore to come in.
I'm willing to write 2011 off as a mulligan for ROH. Maybe they were banking on having Tyler Black around or doing something with the Kings of Wrestling before they were called by WWE. I don't know. However, they do need to inject some life into their booking. Wrestling matches alone won't keep big crowds or critical limelight shining on them.