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ROH Final Battle draws a mildly disappointing 2,000 buys on iPPV

2011 was a year of great change for the third largest wrestling promotion in North America, Ring Of Honor. It started ominously in January with the announcement that their TV deal with HDNet would not be renewed when it expired in early April. What wasn't known at the time was that Cary Silkin was in negotiations to sell the company to Sinclair Broadcasting, a deal that was completed in mid May. Three months later, ROH pressed the reset button and debuted a new weekly one hour television show on Sinclair affiliates in late Saturday night time slots. Was this move the game changer that ROH fans, management and wrestlers hoped for? Unfortunately, early evidence suggested not: although ratings were strong to decent in many markets, their attempts to run house shows in their new TV strongholds have so far been a financial disaster, drawing in the range of 325-375 fans, half of what they need to break even. But there was still hope that their other main business stream, their quarterly iPPVs, would be boosted by their increased TV exposure in 22% of the country over the last three months.

That hope was dashed this week when Dave Meltzer published in his Wrestling Observer Newsletter that last week's Final Battle iPPV drew a mildly disappointing 2,000 buys. You can look at this statistic in two ways, half full or half empty. An optimistic carny would dwell on the fact that it's a huge improvement on their Death Before Dishonor iPPV in September, which drew less than half that number. But a pessimistic reporter would point out that that was for a lame duck show with little hype and a weak lineup where ROH champion Davey Richards wasn't even booked. A fairer comparison would be their record breaking Best In The World iPPV in late June, where they managed to obtain 2,100 online purchases many weeks after they had lost their limited HDNet viewership. So the revamped TV show led to very few, if any, new viewers for their latest iPPV, which proves that it's almost completely ineffective at its goal to widen ROH's paying fan base.

The Final Battle iPPV itself wasn't much better. Though the show delivered the expected high quality booking and workrate, casual fans may have been appalled by the shoddy production values for an iPPV they paid almost $15 for the privilege of watching live, shocked by all the unnecessary head trauma inducing chairshots on display, and unprepared for the event finishing about an hour later than expected. Meltzer was particularly scathing about all the schoolboy production errors that littered the airing:

There have been a lot of frustrations watching the company the past few months because the biggest problems are those that shouldn't be there. They are owned by a television company, Sinclair Broadcasting, and if nothing else a TV company should present a show that looks professionally produced. ...the show itself shouldn't have a minor league look to it. In this day and age, and quite frankly in almost any day and age, that would doom most wrestling products.

Sure, nobody expects them to match Raw, but they are on some real stations in some decent sized markets and they can't match the TNA production values when they were bleeding to death on Fox Sports Net years back. They can't match the production values of local regional wrestling companies from decades ago when, if anything, they should at least beat them for the look of the show.

If ROH wants to expand past their hardcore niche audience, then they need to sort this out pronto, but if anything changes, then it is more probable that their owners are going to cut even more corners, as they try to stop the money bleeding at the pace it is now.

So what will Joe Koff's and Jim Cornette's response be to their promotional struggles? A conservative duo, they'll likely hold course, while keeping their business information secret, allowing them to shamelessly lie to the wrestling media at the same time as hypocritically bashing their opposition for being feckless. When asked about their TV show in an exclusive interview by the UK's Fin Martin for his PowerSlam magazine, Corny spouted this garbage:

ROH in August had no television show. In September, we went on the air with a television show which now, nine weeks later, is being seen by about a million people every week in the US. That, I think, has been our brightest success so far: going in and doing a television programme that in a lot of cases doing a better rating than the programmes it replaced on these stations.

As Meltzer clarified in the Observer, the real figure would be much closer to 30-40% of the number Cornette is quoted as delivering, given ROH's current TV penetration. If Cornette's claim was true, then ROH would have to be drawing close to Raw level numbers in the markets they air on. Does any Cagesider believe that to be plausible?

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