Who is winning the Wednesday Night Wars? Part Two: ROH
Since its inception, Ring of Honor has been relegated to specialty channels, the internet, and individually packaged video releases. If you wanted to see it, you had to look for it.
As of June 3rd of 2015, the indie promotion entered into a new age of exposure. Destination America has added the promotion’s weekly programming to its schedule, slotting it to follow TNA Impact.
Although only a recent addition to the array of pro wrestling television available to the public, they are so well established in the industry that they deserve a closer look in The Daily Jobber’s evaluation of the Wednesday Night Wars.
Ring of Honor (ROH) Wrestling
11:00 E/P on Destination America
commentary team: Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino
running time: 46 minutes
first aired: March 2009 (HDNet) / September 2011 (Sinclair Broadcast Group) /
June 2015 (Destination America)
- War Machine vs The Decade. B.J. Whitmer gives his spot in the match to Colby Corino, who is dominated and pinned easily. Steve Corino attempts to get at Whitmer post-match.
- Cedric Alexander vs Moose. Alexander challenges undefeated Moose in attempt to regain credibility. Moose refuses to use foreign object, but Alexander uses it instead and gets the upset pin.
- Tetsuya Naito & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Matt Sydal & ACH. Tanahashi hits sling blade and frog splash for pin-fall victory.
- Contract signing between ROH World Heavyweight Champion Jay Briscoe and ROH Television Champion Jay Lethal. Trash talk gets heated, but no real brawl.
What the show does well:
- Legitimacy. Even without ROH’s massive reputation on the independent wrestling scene preceding it, everything about the promotion, from the “Tale of the Tape” before every match, to the (fairly) regular show of sportsmanship before and after contests, to the gritty reality portrayed due to low production value, screams authentic sport. Here, wrestlers don’t push storylines based on supernatural phenomena or love triangles. The story and conflicts always revolve around wrestling, nothing more or less. They leave theatrics to to side, choosing to focus on in-ring action as the star of the show.
- Booking. There exists a sweet spot that ROH has appeared to hit when it comes to balancing larger-scale live events with regular weekly programming. The championship titles are not defended every week, though the champions are never too far removed from sight. This keeps the titles, the title-holders, and the contenders relevant without devaluing the auspiciousness of a championship contest. The shorter run-time of the show allows them enough time to feature only so many wrestlers/story-lines every week. This keeps talent fresh and prevents audiences from getting too used to (or even bored of) seeing certain performers.
- Character and story. Not getting too convoluted in elaborate, soap opera-type drama allows story-lines to remain simple and effective. Sometimes the best stories are told this way. No matter how high or low-down on the card, the story being told in the ring becomes the focus of the show. The announce team adequately puts over the story in progress while getting across larger and persisting stories. As a fan, you are never lost as to what is happening. Above all, characters are (for the most part) believable. their desires and claims come across as honest, partly because they are not asked to step far outside their own personae.
What the show doesn’t do well:
- Production value. The essence of ROH is in its independent, low-budget style. However, the reduced quality has an undeniable effect on the viewer, which can taint their ability to enjoy the program even before the action begins. Personality is undoubtedly more important than looks, and it is what is inside that counts, and you can’t judge a book blah blah blah – but the total, balanced package is better than either extreme done to the detriment of the other. The real challenge would be to bring higher production costs, bigger venues, more polished camera work and slicker sets to ROH while not losing the heart and soul of what brought it to the dance.
- Mandy Leon. Apologies to “the Exotic Goddess”, but her “Inside ROH” segment stinks up the show. This is also not a comment on her ability as an in-ring performer, only her ability as a broadcast personality. The segment would benefit from the presence of a more credible anchorperson, which would play off of Leon’s style and personality. As it stands, she seems like a fish out of water.
- Commentary. The play-by-play during programming is adequate to a degree, the announcers doing a fair enough job to get over story-lines and build excitement. However, for large periods of time the commentary is silent, or sparse. This does not engage the audience watching at home. Often, the announcers will fail to call a big spot, or fail to rise in excitement along with the crowd. This gives an impression of disconnection. The commentary is meant to embody and direct the emotion of the viewer, and if the commentary feels disconnected the viewer will as well. Also, it is detrimental to the action when the announce team takes time out during a match – every single match, no less – to push the 1-800 insider hotline. This irritation should go away entirely. There is a place to push services like this, and it is not during a match.
- Physical story-telling. When the action is non-stop from bell to bell, the spots are high and the performers hit them one after the other in an impressive display of physicality, the audience can lose a personal connection with the narrative. There is a danger of going to the other extreme as well, of sacrificing exciting action for “boring” character work and hamming for the camera, but again it is the total package that satisfies completely. If a character doesn’t take the time to sell moves properly, or appears just as fresh at the match’s start as he does at the end, how is that performer supposed to garner the proper amount of sympathy to get him over?
ROH is the middle ground between your neighbourhood friend’s backyard wrestling promotion and the billion-dollar entity that is WWE. It combines the intimate feel and break-neck pacing of an indie wrestling show with the quality talent and consistent booking of a large-scale promotion.
In terms of in-ring ability, cohesive story, character development, adequate presentation and announcing ROH is doing everything right. The only thing that holds it back is the scale of its production and its exposure.
Certainly WWE would relish the opportunity to purchase ROH in attempt to elevate its production value and give to it exactly those elements it lacks, but simply observing the history of ECW and its dealings with Vince McMahon should be lesson enough to stay true to itself.
With a move to Destination America, in a time slot directly following well established TNA Impact, audiences for the still largely obscure promotion will surely grow. Perhaps we may yet see ROH reach its full potential as a big stage player.