Everyone in wrestling heard the news via a press release on May 21st--Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest television broadcasting companies in the country, has purchased Ring Of Honor Wresting. While it's been barely two months since the sale was announced, talks began well more than a year ago, and movement began in earnest at the beginning of this year. I am proud to say that I was able to play a small part in getting the parties together and the deal done, and it has taken up quite a bit of my time over the last 6 months, which explains the lack of attention I have paid to not only this website, but friends, acquaintances, loved ones and even my low-carb diet over that time.
People who know me know that I don't view pro wrestling as a job, or a hobby, but a way of life. Our sport is a unique American art form--as the most outspoken member of the younger wrestling generation, CM Punk, has said, the only things America has truly given the world are comic books, jazz, and pro wrestling. It has ground my gears and chapped my ass for so long that wrestling has ended up in the state it is currently in--presented as a clown show with no credibility, promoted by senior citizens and money marks and scripted and controlled by "writers" who, as Cowboy Bill Watts would say, would be whistling "Stranger in Paradise" if they found themselves in a locker room, and populated by aging, main event "stars" who can't, won't, or simply refuse to get out of the way and give the younger talent a chance. That is why I have worked almost exclusively with Ring of Honor over the past 2 years, as it was the only wrestling promotion I saw out there with the product, the wrestling talent, and the style to take our industry into the 21st century--even if we are 10 years late.
Everyone who I exposed ROH to said the same things I did, that this was the greatest live event wrestling experience they had ever seen, that it was "the greatest show nobody saw", and that there was no way that you couldn't sell this product to a younger generation in love with UFC, MMA, extreme sports and viral videos, that this was a style of wrestling for modern times. All ROH needed was a platform, a way for larger numbers of people to see the incredible athletic competition and intriguing life stories of it's stars. Thanks to the benevolence of Cary Silkin, former owner of ROH and, when you think about it, maybe the most successful wrestling promoter of the past 10 years, ROH made it where all other companies have failed, fallen, or fucked up. Instead of a schizophrenic booking philosophy, an overreliance on the past, or an inability to listen to the fans that has plagued every other company in that decade, Cary's ROH stayed true to it's booking, it's style and it's fans, and has now made it to the next step toward success.
Credit must also be given to my old friend Gary Juster, live event promoter par excellance for the past 30 years, for having a longstanding relationship with Joe Koff, the new head of Sinclair's ROH and a longtime wrestling fan as well as TV and wrestling insider who was able to see the future where others saw only the past. This is not a situation where wrestling is the "family business", or where a multimillionaire's relative wants to run a vanity promotion--it's a large media company recognizing the tremendous potential of a new form of a business that has literally built TV empires in the past, and wanting to be in on the ground floor.
Learning from others' mistakes, the first thing Sinclair Broadcasting said was they WEREN'T going to change the product, or the talent, or the style or mission of ROH. This isn't WCW in 1988. In the music business, every 10 years or so, the product is in the doldrums, mainstream tastes rule the day, and things get stale until something new and fresh comes along--Elvis in the 50's, the Beatles in the 60's, arena rock in the 70's, punk in the 80's, rap & hiphop in the 90's, etc. All wrestling fans agree the sport has never been more blase, and it's been well overdue for a shakeup since the emergence of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock, who remain the two biggest draws in this industry 15 years after they started in the WWE. What does THAT say about our industry's starmaking talents and ability to keep things fresh?
The new Ring of Honor under Sinclair will be the same soul in a new body--the same great matches, emphasis on competition and credibility, young stars for young (and young at heart) fans with cool music and a dynamic presentation. It will be enhanced by an upgraded website delivering content in new ways, better production and distribution on internet Pay-Per-Views and DVD's, the ability to sign and present the best young wrestling talent, and an increased live event schedule to "tour behind the record" and bring live ROH action to a lot more locations than ever before. All of this will be spearheaded by what we truly hope will be one of the most innovative pro wrestling television programs ever aired.
The ROH TV show debuts on 9 /24/11, a day that we believe will prove historic in our sport, across the entire Sinclair Broadcast Group network of stations, 35 markets in all, reaching almost a quarter of US homes. But unlike all the other promotions of today, this will not be a cable network, but a network of BROADCAST stations, firmly entrenched in their local markets and capable of promoting live events in those areas as well as our worldwide ippv's. Success there will spawn efforts at further domestic, even international, syndication. The website, rohwrestling.com, will be able to deliver our programming to every corner of the globe. Just as nothing in nature emerges from it's womb fully formed, neither will ROH. Longtime fans will see major changes in the next 3 to 6 months in every aspect of ROH delivery, but even new fans will continue to see upgrades and improvements as the project evolves for the future. Just in case you think we're starting from complete scratch, bear in mind that our June 26th ippv from the sold-out Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, "Best in the World 2011", set an alltime ROH live attendence and gate record, as well as being viewed by more viewers than any other pro wrestling ippv EVER. And by the way, the World Title match with Davey Richards capturing the crown from Eddie Edwards was not only one of the greatest matches, but possibly THE most emotional moment I have seen in the 40 years I have watched and worked in wrestling.
As I said at the beginning, instead of just complaining about things, I have chosen to do my part to help CHANGE things. I invite all the thousands of fans who have contacted me since the start of this website, telling me how badly they want WRESTLING back, to do the same thing and become soldiers in the new ROH revolution. This won't be old-school pro wrestling, and it won't be modern sports entertainment--it will be a fresh, new approach to an age-old art form that brings athleticism, excitement, and most importantly EMOTION back to an industry that has lost it's way by trying to be "too cool for school", to be the Harlem Globetrotters instead of the Boston Celtics. ROH will not run the WWE out of business (TNA is doing a fine job of running themselves out of business). We will not be marketing those ice cream bars (no matter how good they taste, Punk), and we won't be shooting action-adventure soap operas. We WILL be providing thrills and excitement instead of giggles and pyro, a "big fight" atmosphere instead of scripted "drama". It's what the young wrestlers of today and the future deserve. It's what fans have been asking for, even demanding. It's what I have longed for as a way to help leave this profession a little better than I found it. And hopefully, it's what YOU, my loyal readers, will be able to enjoy and support. That's our goal, and I invite you to let us know how we're doing. As far as further Commentaries, now that there are such exciting things going on, as Mama Cornette used to say, "It won't be as long as it's been."
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