So, there's this pro wrestling company, right?
It's been around for a while, roughly eleven years. A few times, fans thought it was ready to break big on the national stage - maybe even compete with TNA. A few times, it's been pretty close to going away all together.
Talent that we're pretty excited about in WWE and TNA have roots with this promotion, including one of only a handful of bona fide WWE main eventers. Odds are, a few guys we'll be marking out for in the future are working there now.
They have a big broadcasting company that owns them and gives them a kind of, national-ish weekly television presence. That show is available for free to anyone with an internet connection and an email address at which they're willing to receive
spam advertising emails.
So, why hasn't this promotion, with a DVD library a mile deep, made a bigger splash with the pro wrestling fan base? How is it that this company, featured in an Academy Award nominated film, doesn't get discussed and dissected more in the internet wrestling community (IWC)?
Well, that's what we're here to find out.
The company, of course, is Ring of Honor Wrestling, or ROH for short.
And this column, which I am initially aiming to bring to you at least once a month, is going to be yours truly thinking out loud about their wrestling product. I might even run down some results while I'm at it.
Their weekly television show, creatively titled Ring of Honor TV, airs on affiliates of their parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting. You can find a list of the markets it airs in, on what channels, at what times, on their website, here.
Alternatively, you can catch it on their website every week. With a free "General Admission" membership, the show streams the Thursday following its broadcast date. As a paid "Ringside" member, you can get the show on Monday, as well as discounts on their internet pay-per-views (iPPV), access to more archived video and other perks. The Briscoes say, "Man up and sign up".
ROH is coming off of a widely praised iPPV (although not completely issue-free) that you can read all about at those links. It feels like that show, 11th Anniversary, could be a turning point for the company, with new champions crowned and fresh blood pumped into their biggest angle. Before we get to that, though, let's do a championship roll call:
Ring of Honor World Champion: Kevin Steen, champ since 5/12/12, 17 successful title defenses
Ring of Honor Tag Team Champions: reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle OReilly), champs since 3/2/12, no title defenses
Ring of Honor Television Champion: Matt Taven, champ since 3/2/12, no title defenses
ROH TV tapes in four episode chunks, so spoilers are out there. The show does air in my home market, and I usually try to watch if I'm home on a Saturday night. This past Saturday happened to be one of those nights. It was also the first show that aired, continuity-wise, following 11th Anniversary.
- Their big angle is S.C.U.M. (Suffering, Chaos, Ugliness, Mayhem), a faction seemingly led by the champ, Kevin Steen, is bent on a mission to destroy Ring of Honor, the company. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) veteran Steve Corino had been kind of a co-mouthpiece for the group, which had previously only consisted of Steen, Corino and Jimmy Jacobs. At the iPPV, SCUM added Cliff Compton, Rhino, Jimmy Rave, Rhett Titus and Matt Hardy (yes, that Matt Hardy) to their ranks. The big, show-closing angle teased that Corino was now in charge and Steen wasn't crazy about the whole thing.
- SCUM is a horrible name.
- Everything else about this is pretty exciting, though. Aces & Eights (until very recently) may have soured wrestling fandom on the invading group cliché, but there's still room for it. There are ways to do it right; having the group fronted by a champ with an impressive reign helps.
- Steen has long suffered from CM Punk syndrome - no matter how disgustingly evil he acts, a certain segment of the audience is going to cheer him. Teasing and possibly executing a turn with the SCUM story is an example of booking with your fans instead of at them.
- The March 16th show opens with ROH matchmaker (general manager/authority figure) Nigel McGuiness rallying the pro-company troops around him in the ring. This was a solid promo and segment to move the story along. SCUM is barred from the building right now, but Nigel will put his job on the line to make sure that management lets them back in, because the former champ wants to defend his company by fighting face-to-face.
- The big downside to this is, even with his legendary status with the promotion, McGuiness shouldn't be leading this charge. Someone who is the future of the company, someone who could unseat Steen, should be. But the most obvious choice for that position, former Television champ Adam Cole, is most likely on his way out the door to WWE soon. This is ROH's major dilemma: they're essential the equivalent of AAA baseball, and they have to book around that.
- Many future matches are set-up by this promo. Corino had claimed that there were no more contenders for Steen to face, and the former Desmond Wolfe answers that challenge. Michael Elgin and Jay Lethal, both of whom have lost title shots against the champ, will battle for the right to rematch. Jay and Mark Briscoe will both get a chance at the belt, even though the former is currently nursing a separated shoulder. Cole and BJ Whitmer will also get title matches. These are all matches I'll enjoy watching, but I don't really think any of these guys is beating Wrestling's Worst Nightmare.
- I really, really dislike Davey Richards. His faux-mixed martial arts, false finish-loving style is the opposite of what I like about pro wrestling. He's horrible on the mic as a heel or a face. And, he is, or at least hangs out with, a douchebag. So, keep that in mind as this column moves forward.
- That said, there's a fun tag match with the American Wolves (Richards and Eddie Edwards) against recently signed indy-darling ACH and Tadarius Thomas, who are apparently teaming because BLACK GUYS. The Wolves go over, as they should against a thrown together rookie team. I continue to be impressed with how Thomas integrates his capoeira moves into the flow of the match. And ACH is a guy who, with some experience, could slot in as their top face.
- Recently returned ROH veteran Whitmer faced off in a match against QT Marshall. B.J. won via referee stoppage after he basically clubbed Marshall unconscious. This was okay; Marshall is a newcomer they're trying to protect, and Punk's former nemesis is a face they want to keep relatively strong so he can be fed to main event heels. Kind of like if Kofi Kingston ever won in WWE.
- Check this one out if you get a chance for the commentary from Marshall's manager, R.D. Evans. That's Chikara regular Archibald Peck's ROH lawyer character. He's fantastic here, as always. A highlight is his subtle send-up of the recent "facial hair as character tweak" craze that's sweeping pro wrestling.
- ROH TV prominently features a lot of backstage interviews, recaps of house shows and iPPV highlights. But they're exactly the kind of promotion that should. There's not a ton of free ROH content out there and I think I'm a fairly typical viewer, in that I watch their free stuff to determine if I'm going to buy additional product.
- Truth Martini is back, managing the new Television champ and doing segments that Jerry Lawler wishes he could be a part of. Truth's charge, Matt Taven, seems okay, but I haven't seen anything to get too excited about yet. These HOOPLA segments aren't for me, but I guess they are trying to fill a gap in the PG Era...
- I don't think solo Charlie Haas is going to be a big deal. But you guys keep trying.
- As much as I don't like Davey Richards? That's how much I do like Jay Lethal. I may be the only one, but I'd love to see him get a run as World champ. It does look like he's at least staying in the mix, which means quality matches and solid promos, so that's a good thing. He's kind of central to the story of a potential Steen turn, too, as granting Lethal his latest title shot was one of the first honorable things the champ did in a while.
- Roderick Strong should never be allowed within 50 feet of a microphone, but he can go in the ring. The main event of the 3/16 episode is Strong vs Lethal with a championship match on the line for Roddy. This was a great free match, with several varieties of stiff backbreakers and realistic aerial work. The only downside is that the Messiah of the Backbreaker is directionless with the loss, but he should probably be transitioning to the third act of his career (see Whitmer, B.J.) soon anyway.
That was a lot of typing, and I didn't even get in to the ROH tag scene - something they were once synonymous with that has fallen on some tough times as of late. The talent is there to rebuild it, though, so we'll check in with it in more depth next time.
It's hard to nail down a grade on a product I don't follow consistently. But I think it's safe to say that I'm excited about where Ring of Honor is going right now, so I'm going to give them a thumbs up.
Who else is following ROH? Does anybody watch the show every week, either on TV or online? What wrestlers and angles have you feeling excited? Does anybody make you want to change the channel?
I'll be back to talk more ROH soon. I promise. I'll even shake on it.