Devoid of gender revolutions, cruiserweight and other non-classics, international/regional pushes, streaming service conundrums, controversial exclusivity agreements, developmental roster explosions, ownership infighting, and sex scandals galore, Ring of Honor (ROH) exits 2017 almost as it began.
Which – in today’s chaotic pro wrestling environment – is an incredible feat.
The most amazing aspect is that so much has seemingly gone wrong for ROH. Adam Cole, Roddy Strong and Red Dragon now in WWE, Mexican stars that wouldn’t stick, Jay Lethal on semi-retirement, and several full timers simply walking away. Steve Corino is working with WWE developmental talent. There was also some inkling of Sinclair Broadcasting receptive to selling the promotion to the right bidder.
Yet here we stand. Its champions consist of arguable wrestling royalty, a tag team of global indy wrestling stalwarts, and TV a guy who was recently on ‘The Bachelorette. ‘ (The irony of the last one is semi-obvious.) Dalton Castle, The Briscoes and Young Bucks remain as top draws. It smartly welcomed, re-embraced Colt Cabana.
What ROH does best is it sticks to what it knows. Yes, there are fun storylines and rivalries, and War of the Worlds must-see PPV. What remains, however, is consistently good, conservative wrestling with a fanbase respectful of its conservatism. Its ticket prices remain mid-upper tier, venues accessible, and even weekly television shows (crammed into multi-hour blocks during taping) fresh feeling. Moreover, their merchandise fulfillment is consistently stellar and affordable. The promotion literally rewards those who subscribe annually with terrific discounts and ticket access. It’s boring in the best way.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m certain there are undisclosed warts within ROH’s inner sanctum. From this end, however, I see a roster – from top to bottom – capable of always being: a) safe, b) entertaining, and c) willing to engage with fans. ROH also is loyal to those who respect its mission. Kenny King, Shane Taylor and Silas Young serve as perfect examples. All have much deserved spotlights.
Related, ROH and its fans understand it both a landing and launching pad, one not afraid to anoint or wave goodbye to top talent. Many of its champions found stardom in ROH…only to leave for alternate pastures. Conversely, oodles of talent came to ROH to be longstanding anointed beyond a Pro Wrestling Guerilla appearance or regional scene. ROH isn’t apologetic about this reality nor does it embrace it. It’s a daring stance for a pro wrestling scene dominated by social media headlines.
In typical ROH fashion of being seemingly late to every party, it now considers the possibility of adopting a streaming service…a business decision literally years behind its competitors. Also typical of ROH is its prudence in conservative timing and expenditures. No worries about FloSlam licenses, filling airtime, or YouTube adjusting its paid subscription laws.
As usual ROH stayed the course.