ROH posted a picture on their Twitter feed, showing the Briscoe Brothers, the current seven-time Tag Team Champions, on one side and the Chikara logo on the other. The words "Proving Ground" and the date "1/20/12" were also embedded, which is the day ROH FINALLY returns to Philadelphia. Nothing else was included on the picture at all. No other wrestlers, no other information, nothing else was given. It was a total tease, and yet like many other people who saw it, my imagination totally started running wild. Which tag team would the Briscoes be facing? Would it be The Colony? The Batiri? Hallowicked and UltraMantis Black? Was this just the beginning of something bigger? Would there be a partnership between the biggest independent wrestling company in America and the most critically relevant one?
Of course, every question I asked myself was nothing more than feeding into speculation. Proving ground matches in ROH don't always lead to something bigger. A lot of times, they're just avenues for local talent to get paydays. In Philly, it doesn't get much more local than Chikara without dipping into companies that are on a somewhat equal footing with ROH (read: CZW). All the hysteria over this could very well just be that, hysteria. There's no working relationship implied past the one match. To claim such would be irresponsible journalism, and hey, that's better left to the Rajahs and Lords of Pains of the world.
However, that doesn't mean a partnership between the two companies wouldn't make all the sense in the world. In fact, I would say that it would benefit both companies more than it would if they remained separate for the next year. We all know how it would benefit Chikara on the business side of things; ROH has TV that penetrates a lot of markets that Chikara has yet to visit with live shows. The kind of exposure a company gets with having anything on television is worth more than all the DVD sales in the world. However, I'm not interested in the dollars and cents as much as I'm interested in artistic impact. It's in this area where I'm mostly interested.
Both companies have problems with how they're perceived by the audience at large. ROH is seen as not having a sense of humor by some. Their main event in 2011 was populated by guys who seemed like they'd rather be doing MMA, and the big "get" for Final Battle was Dan Severn, a guy who wasn't even all that relevant when he was relevant. For all those who are about to fire at me that he was a beast back in the infant days of MMA, well, that's all well and good. That being said, when he was the man in UFC, that promotion wasn't even a blip on the radar of popular culture, and when he came to wrestling, he was a total flop. The last time I checked, ROH appealed to wrestling fans, not UFC junkies.
In the same vein, the main stumbling block for people trying to get into Chikara is that it has TOO much of a sense of humor. People look at the roster full of wrestling ice cream cones, insects, demons and other characters that would make Santino Marella as he is right now seem super-serious, and they shrug at it, blithely calling it too kiddie for their tastes without even watching a minute of its programming. While I can blast them for not giving the company a chance, even I know that people judge books by their covers all the time. Hell, I do it too, so I can't be too mad.
The thing is, neither label is completely true. ROH may have a SUPERSERIOUS ZOMG main event, but even in 2011, there were wrestlers on the roster who provided color and personality in ways that made their events worth watching. That color was further bolstered at Final Battle when Kevin Steen was confirmed to be returning full-time. Conversely, Chikara has proven for the last few years that they can do serious storylines, intense feuds and gravitas as well as any of the big wrestling promotions can. Admittedly though, both need help not only in developing those sides, but also in displaying them to new audiences.
That's where teaming up would come in. Working with Chikara would help ROH develop its personality, its sense of humor and its lighter side in ways where it would come off as genuine and likable to wrestling fans all over. Conversely, ROH would not only give Chikara the stage to show that they're more than just comedy, they'd help with the air of gravitas. The different creative teams would do well to be able to bounce off each other and make sure neither goes too far in the extreme direction, and the result theoretically would be the best of both worlds coming together to benefit both promotions.
Again, this is all just speculation. That being said, the Briscoes are the perfect starting point for any cooperation between the two companies. If this is just a one off, okay, then it'll be a welcome change of pace for that Philadelphia return card. But if it truly is the beginning of a partnership? Then my my, what a partnership it would be, and what a welcome change to the wrestling landscape in 2012.