Ring of Honor Chief Operating Officer Joe Koff was Kevin Eck’s guest on the episode of the company’s ROH Strong podcast that dropped this morning (Dec. 20).
Koff and Eck reflected on Final Battle, the Dec. 11 PPV ROH subtitled “The End of An Era”. They did so because the Sinclair Broadcasting-owned promotion announced they would take a break after that show. They also let all of their wrestlers out of their contracts before Final Battle — moves that left a lot of wrestling fans believing the influential independent was shutting its doors for good.
On the question of whether fans & media should be asking if ROH will return after releasing their roster from their contracts and embarking on this reimagining hiatus, Koff says it’s a matter of when, not if — and that’s always been the case.
“I never talked about us shutting down. I just said we would not be touring in first quarter as we thought about how to reimagine the product, and bring it back at Supercard [of Honor]. Or bring a product back at Supercard, which may not even be what the finished product will be.
“But you know what? I’m not going to be held captive by that [the speculation ROH might not return]. I never cared about what was said. Only I know the truth, and my people know the truth. And at some point, and I think we saw it with this outpouring of love and respect and just... people trust this brand, and they’ve got to trust the buoyancy of the brand. And it’s not gonna be something that’s dumb. It’s gonna be something that’s thought out, and will enhance whatever experience or feeling they’ve had prior.
“Is everyone going to like it? Well, I don’t know because it’s not finished yet, so I don’t know if they’ll like it or not. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who won’t, and they’ll doom us. Then there will be people who will respect what we do and will laud us. We’re in the court of public opinion here, so really and whoever wants to believe what I’m saying now will believe me and whoever wants to go to the ‘if camp’, will be in the ‘if camp’. I can’t change that.”
As to what we’ll see at April’s Supercard event, and beyond? Koff isn’t willing to say much, as it’s a work in progress. A gimmick ROH has done in the past where fans voted to pick matches is mentioned in passing, and would fit in with the details the COO is willing to share:
“We have some really nice things up our sleeves for around the first of the year, and as we get into the first quarter, we will start seeing — maybe not only the blueprints, but the actual design of what the next Ring of Honor will look like...
“It really is too early for me to give much detail, but we do plan on delivering a product, one that epitomizes who we are. And not only deliver a product, but an experience for the fan that I think doesn’t exist today in the professional wrestling traditional landscape. I always say that because we’ve always identified with our fans, and always felt that they were really the lifeblood of who we are, I think that that’s kind of the reimagining that we’re moving to is that that fan engagement, that fan collaboration, that fan interest, and how do we harness that to build a promotion that’s really built for and by the fans. But that’s about as deep as I’m going to get because like I said we’re in the early stages and I’m not ready to get into full detail about that.”
Koff also talks about how COVID (and AEW’s rise) derailed their plans for growth, eventually leading to their decision to pause and rework their entire approach. Overall, it’s a very upbeat and forward-looking interview, considering how bittersweet everything around Final Battle felt.
Give it a listen here.