ROH had been floundering creatively for awhile under Jim Cornette. Have two shows under a new booker given the company the spark it needs to get back on the ground running?
The big news last week was that Ring of Honor demoted Jim Cornette from the head of creative and reinstalled Hunter "Delirious" Johnston as the booker. A lot of people groaned because Cornette wasn't completely jettisoned from the company and because Johnston himself didn't really seem like anything more than lateral movement. I wasn't completely sold at first, but then again, sitting back and thinking about it, the last time ROH actually excited me was when Johnston had his short stint in charge. He was the guy behind Eddie Edwards winning the World Championship and Roderick Strong aligning with Truth Martini (the best manager in pro wrestling today, bank on it). He also oversaw the apparent end of the El Generico/Kevin Steen feud that lit the wrestling world on fire in 2010.
Still, it was going to take awhile to remove Cornette's stink from the product, right? Well, judging from the last two shows, the house show in Rahway on October 6 and Glory by Honor XI this past Saturday, "awhile" meant two weeks. After a controversial finish to the Rahway show where Steen spat on Jay Lethal's mother (causing a near riot) and then a shocking end to GBH when Steen received Generico's mask as a harbinger of his return, it seems ROH got its mojo back in short order.
Obviously, it's worth noting that this is an EXTREMELY small sample size of shows to judge a guy as a head booker. It's also worth noting that it's also very easy to reel off impressive beginnings of stories in wrestling but very hard to bring them to satisfying conclusion. That being said, there are a few things that are promising about Johnston at ROH's creative helm.
The first is that he had a decent track record before being replaced at Sinclair Broadcasting Group's order by Cornette. I mentioned Edwards, Strong and the Steen/Generico feud, a resume that isn't trivial by any means. He didn't get a chance to execute on his stories long term because SBC came in and seemingly wanted their man in charge, not because Johnston was screwing up. If anything, any of the negatives that could be attributed to Delirious would be out of his control anyway. Could he have done anything to stop Tyler Black or the Kings of Wrestling from going to WWE outside of hitting Powerball and gaining the magical ability to match their contract offers? I seriously doubt it.
Secondly, Delirious is a Chikara regular. It's not a secret that I think Mike Quackenbush is the best booker in America right now, and he's on a shortlist of guys I'd consider to be the best bookers of all-time. You don't hang around a guy like Quack and not take in some of his example if you're in the same line of work. I'm not expecting ROH to become Chikara overnight, nor should you. The truth is,
Johnston shouldn't totally try to bite off Chikara's oeuvre, because ROH has its own identity that has been established for as long as the former company's has, if not for a little bit longer. However, there are things that translate into any wrestling promotion, no matter what their mission statement is.
To piggyback off that point, this could also mean further cooperation with Chikara. At no point in Cornette's tenure as head booker did ROH feel as fresh or exciting as when they partnered with Chikara, especially at the beginning of the year at Homecoming in Philadelphia. Again, a full-fledged invasion angle would be a bit hackneyed at this point, but stuff like Eddie Kingston getting a ROH World Championship shot on iPPV or Kevin Steen leading a team into Chikara's annual cibernetico match is totally what the doctor ordered.
I feel like people might be getting a bit too excited now, but then again, ROH has been dull for the better part of a year. That's a long time in wrestling. I don't think Johnston has got the immediate panacea for ROH's problems, and I also think that he's still a bit too unproven to say that he'll be a smashing success without any hesitation. However, hope is a fine feeling to have, and right now, ROH is more exciting than it has been at any point since they put the World Championship on Edwards back in early 2011. If ROH hasn't gotten its mojo completely back, it's definitely on its way. Hopefully, Johnston is up to task to see this all the way through.