Ring of Honor and Sinclair Broadcasting Group today issued separate press releases announcing that Sinclair has purchased the company from owner Cary Silkin. Sinclair is a public company that owns TV stations covering 22% of the country. A new weekly ROH TV show will launch in September on Sinclair stations and the ROH website, with syndication on other stations and internationally being considered for the future. According to F4WOnline.com, the promotion will expand to run shows in the new markets where they have TV in addition to running their strongest current markets like New York, Chicago, and Toronto (none of which have Sinclair stations). The rest of the ROH business model (taping every house show for DVD release and using the TV to build to internet PPVs on Go Fight Live) will stay the same. ROH had been promising a major announcement and, well, they delivered.
The current front office staff will stay in place, with Silkin staying on "in an advisory role," Joe Koff of Sinclair coming on board as Chief Operating Officer, and long-time WCW local promoter Gary Juster joining him in charge of live events as Vice President of Operations. Executive Producer Jim Cornette is now Vice President of Creative. Hunter "Delirious" Johnston "will still handle matchmaking" according to the ROH release but was not mentioned in Sinclair's or mentioned as having an official title. The ROH release described Cornette's job as being "in charge of talent and matchmaking" with Johnston. Kevin Kelly, who does the play by play on internet PPV events, will now fill that role on TV.
Long-time DVD and TV play by play announcer Dave Prazak (who does color commentary on the IPPVs) was conspicuously not mentioned in either press release, even though ring announcer Bobby Cruise and senior referee Todd Sinclair (no relation as far as I know) were. I don't know if that means anything. Shimmer, Prazak's women's promotion, works closely with ROH, as they handle production and sales of the DVDs of each show. Dave's a good guy and a fine announcer, so I hope he's not done with the company. I have a feeling that it's most likely an oversight, but if by some chance he's gone, those would be the reverberations.
Koff has been with Sinclair since 2003, most recently serving as Director of Sales. According to Sinclair's release, he was "responsible for personally creating, producing, marketing, syndicating, and selling barter inventory" for the three "Battle of the Belts" live syndicated specials promoted by Championship Wrestling from Florida in 1985 and 1986. These specials, best remembered for the classic Ric Flair vs Barry Windham match on the second show, featured defenses of all of the titles in the territory, Flair's NWA World Heavyweight Title, and outside titles from the AWA. I have no idea how hands-on he actually was, but I hope he knows what he's doing. I'm worried that this is comparable Turner Broadcasting hiring Pizza Hut executive Jim Herd in 1989 to run WCW because he had worked for KPLR in St. Louis, Missouri in a non-wrestling production role on "Wrestling At The Chase." They honestly felt this made him capable of running a wrestling company.
Sinclair, as a whole, has seen a fair share of controversy in recent years:
- Seven of Sinclair's nine ABC stations were ordered not to run a 2004 episode of "Nightline" that paid tribute to American soldiers killed in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq because "The action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." ABC's response was to explain that the program was meant to be "an expression of respect which seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country."
- All 62 Sinclair stations were ordered to run a documentary critical of John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activism two weeks before the 2004 US Presidential election. There was a ton of fallout, including company stock nosediving and not fully recovering until 2006.
- On the weekend preceding the midterm US Congressional elections this past Fall, six stations (all in swing states) owned by Sinclair broadcast a bizarre infomercial critical of President Barack Obama. During the ad, it was claimed that Obama accepted campaign donations from terrorist group Hamas and once gave a speech where he proclaimed "You want freedom? You're gonna have to kill some crackers! You gonna have to kill some of those babies." It was also alleged that Obama adviser John Holdren had said that trees should be able to sue humans in court and that the government should control the population by forcing abortions and sterilizations. Really.
I really have no idea what to think of this. If Koff doesn't know what he's doing and takes any kind of active role, then obviously it'll be a disaster. Cornette should get paid now at least, and we may hear some funny stories now that he's working for a large corporation with political views that are in direct contrast of his, which may have appointed the second coming of one of the men he hates most on this planet to be his boss. I have no idea if they can draw well in any of the new markets off these TV clearances.
Hell, can they even be considered an "independent" promotion anymore?
It all seems very out of the blue. I feels like something that will either be a big success or a massive failure, with no middle ground.
More on this later, including a look at ROH's history.
In the meantime, after the jump, you can check out the list F4WOnline gave of Sinclair stations that will likely carrying ROH.
Via the same article we linked earlier:
- 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