The craziest news story of last week, Dave Meltzer's report that Destination America had provisionally decided to cancel all TNA programming at the end of September, just got a whole hell of a lot more confusing.
That's because Destination America has announced via Twitter that Ring Of Honor Wrestling is going to debut on the station on Wednesday June 3rd in the 8/7c time slot:
As was announced two weeks ago, on that same night TNA Impact makes its permanent move back to Wednesday nights at 9/8c, which means that the ROH show will serve as TNA's lead-in.
What this means for the future of TNA is unknown. It can be argued that Ring Of Honor will entice more wrestling fans to check out Impact and this could be a mutually beneficial relationship for both promotions. However, if ROH outdraws TNA in viewership, then Destination America could be tempted to ditch TNA completely and replace Impact with more ROH programming.
It's also unknown how WWE will react to the news. Currently Samoa Joe is scheduled to work for both NXT and Ring Of Honor simultaneously, but that was before Destination America announced their television deal with ROH. This could lead to Samoa Joe being forced to choose between NXT and ROH, as WWE may not want one of their wrestlers working for a company that is helping out their main rival.
We will update this story as it progresses.
Update 1: Destination America has just issued the following official press release (credit to f4wonline.com):
Destination America announced today that it has signed a national broadcast deal with professional wrestling league RING OF HONOR, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., bringing one of the most respected wrestling organizations to the only network dedicated to all-American entertainment. Destination America is now the one-two-punch to professional wrestling, adding RING OF HONOR (ROH) to its line-up after launching IMPACT WRESTLING in early 2015. RING OF HONOR has been delivering top wrestling matches for ten years with captivating hard-hitting stars such as Jay & Mark Briscoe, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, The Young Bucks, Maria Kanellis, Adam Cole and Jay Lethal. Destination America will pack on the action beginning Wednesday June 3 with the series premiere of RING OF HONOR at 8/7c leading into brand new premieres of IMPACT WRESTLING at 9/8c.
"With the electric and intense matches that RING OF HONOR provides, Destination America is the network for fans to get an entire evening of jaw-dropping entertainment on Wednesday nights," said Marc Etkind, general manager of Destination America. "RING OF HONOR showcases tenacity, athleticism and passion and it serves as the place where America’s favorite wrestling stars are born."
"We are very excited to be partnering with Destination America for the broader distribution of the ROH programming," commented Joe Koff, Chief Operating Officer - Ring of Honor Wrestling. "ROH will now reach an additional 57 million households including those in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and other large cities where Ring of Honor is not currently airing. ROH has a loyal fan base and is one of the fastest growing major wrestling franchises in the country. With this great partnership with Destination America, we can continue to expand our footprint and reach while producing entertaining, original content and continuing to provide wrestling fans some of the best wrestling content available."
RING OF HONOR will premiere on Wednesday, June 3 leading into IMPACT WRESTLING, making Destination America the home for wrestling every Wednesday evening. The first match will feature the Briscoe Brothers, Mark and Jay, as they face off with the House of Truth in the main event. Also catch athletes of New Japan Pro Wrestling battle it out with the RING OF HONOR stars and follow former NFL lineman Moose compete against BJ Whitmer.
As indicated in the press release, Ring Of Honor's television show will continue to air on Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates, which means that the company will have greater exposure than TNA currently does and clearly it has now supplanted TNA as the number two promotion in the United States. Given that Samoa Joe is one of the stars explicitly mentioned in the release, that would be a sign that ROH plans to feature Joe on upcoming television shows.
Update 2: According to MVP, TNA wrestlers have been blindsided by the news that Ring Of Honor is debuting on Destination America next week:
At no time was TNA talent (that I'm aware of) notified of ROH airing on @DestAmerica . I'll refrain from commenting until after "the call".— MVP (@The305MVP) May 27, 2015
Classy...— MVP (@The305MVP) May 27, 2015
Yeah so ummm... PROMOTERS! BOOKMVPNOW@GMAIL.COM— MVP (@The305MVP) May 27, 2015
2 maybe 3 more years. Then I'm retiring. Ya gotta love the wrasslin' biz!— MVP (@The305MVP) May 27, 2015
Obviously, this is going to hurt the already fragile morale within the company.
Update 3: Bryan Alvarez has claimed on his message board that the reason MVP (or any other TNA wrestler, for that matter) wasn't told about the ROH news in advance was because nobody in TNA management knew about Destination America's decision until this morning.
Update 4: Bryan Alvarez has reported on Wrestling Observer Live that the deal between Ring Of Honor and Destination America to syndicate the former's existing television show has been in the works for months (which obviously coincided with DA souring on their deal with TNA very quickly).
In ominous news for TNA, Destination America's deal with ROH is for significantly less money than they are currently paying TNA, making it a much more financially viable proposition for them. Clearly, ROH is very happy with the arrangement, as it increases their television exposure and generates additional revenue for them without incurring any extra cost, since they're offering DA a program that they already produce for most Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates.
Alvarez stresses that there is no relationship between TNA and ROH, as TNA was kept completely in the dark about this move.
Regarding Samoa Joe, whose unique NXT contract is only believed to prevent him from working for rival promotions with national television agreements, Ring Of Honor believes that WWE will tell them that they won't be able to use Joe any longer because of their newly struck deal with Destination America, but they haven't been officially told that yet, and they're planning for both the best and worst case scenarios.
I'd recommend Observer subscribers to listen to the show in full as there's plenty of other details/opinions on the topic I haven't mentioned here.
Update 5: According to James Caldwell of PWTorch.com, Destination America have picked up ROH's television show for 26 weeks, which will allow them to evaluate its success in generating viewers before deciding upon whether or not to renew the arrangement for a longer period of time.
Update 6: According to Dave Meltzer in a breaking news audio update, early word from Dixie Carter's conference call with her TNA wrestlers is that they said nothing about their future on Destination America, telling their talent that they couldn't answer their questions on this subject at this present time for legal reasons. Unsurprisingly, a lot of performers vociferously voiced their disapproval about the company's recent and continued lack of communication regarding the problems plaguing TNA at the moment. It sounds like this call did nothing to allay concerns amongst their workers and only served to stoke up more frustration and resentment with TNA management.
Update 7: Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com has confirmed that there is no relationship between TNA and ROH, but that TNA has taken it upon themselves to encourage their talent to plug their new lead-in show on Twitter (likely realising that the success of this new wrestling block of programming is the only way to get Destination America to change their mind about Impact's provisional cancellation in September). He also corroborated that "there were some less than happy TNA contracted talents" on today's internal conference call led by Dixie Carter.
Update 8: Privately, a lot of TNA wrestlers may be mad, but publicly they have to put on a happy face. In a bid to combat recent negative publicity, TNA have instigated a #ShowYourImpact campaign to #StandUp for the beleaguered company, kickstarted by Drew Galloway doing a fluff Q&A on Twitter and silly in-character "shoot" videos at TNA's offices using Periscope:
Dixie Carter announced as much on Twitter and has also just welcomed Ring Of Honor to what is arguably (in her mind only) the "hottest wrestling network in the industry":
In my opinion, such a palpably choreographed and fake reaction shows what contempt they have for their audience.