Saturday night saw the debut of the new Ring of Honor TV show. The promotion hasn’t had a weekly television presence since the final episode of its HDNet run aired on April 4th this year, after ROH had decided to end the partnership. It seemed an odd decision at the time but things became clearer a month and a half later when it was revealed the Sinclair Broadcast Group (essentially a television network) had purchased Ring of Honor.
Since that purchase was announced ROH has kept a low profile. Only a handful of house shows were presented over the summer, accompanied by one internet pay-per-view, presumably to give the new owners and the existing management a chance to structure the company’s future in detail. Several shows have been announced for the next few months and it looks as if ROH will be on the road far more than it has been for the last year or so. That’s very much a good thing.
One of the biggest changes introduced under the new ownership (besides a new TV show) is a revamped website. Visually the site is slick and impressive and adds to the unofficial relaunch Ring of Honor has gone through with the new show starting. I was briefly worried that the list of every title defence ever made by a Ring of Honor champion had been dropped but thankfully that’s not the case (it’s now in the Champions section under Wrestlers). That’s something that that helps set ROH apart from its competitors and I’m pleased it’s been retained. There’s even a nice little countdown to the promotion’s next pay-per-view event, which I think is a nice touch.
Anyway... This first episode itself was somewhat of a mixed bag. The in-ring action was, predictably, tremendous. But there wasn’t enough of it. In an hour-long show (with ads it got around 45 minutes of air time in total) there were only two matches and a ton of video packages. In a way I can understand the decision: the video packages weren’t there for the sake of it, they were aimed at new viewers or people who have only sporadically followed Ring of Honor until now, designed to get them up to speed with the product and the wrestlers. Making the product as accessible as possible when a new weekly show launches is sensible but a third (quick) match could have been squeezed in. Despite the high quality two matches just didn’t seem enough.
The videos introduced viewers to ROH world champion Davey Richards (who droned about wanting to fight the best and ROH having the best and failed to put the promotion over as “prestigious”), the Briscoes (who referred to themselves as ‘Dem Boys’ and told anyone who’d forgotten that they’d been with ROH “since day one!”), and Jay Lethal (who came across as very down to earth and likeable, which is exactly what the company was aiming for). It was also nice to see and hear mentions made of main events for the next two weeks: El Generico will defend the TV title against Lethal next week (Lethal wins) and Davey Richards will defend the ROH world championship against Roderick Strong the week after. Hopefully this will be a regular aspect of the show as it gives viewers a reason to tune back in each week. It’s an approach other wrestling (or sports entertainment) companies could learn from.
The show was great in the ring and that’s where it matters. The first match saw Futureshock drop the Bravados. It was the perfect opening match: four young guys in a fast paced match with plenty of high spots and near falls. It made me think of the Hart Foundation v The Rockers matches from the WWF: four young guys, two of whom are related, being billed as the future of the business. I could certainly see O’Reilly and Cole holding singles belts in the future and wouldn’t be surprised if the Bravados go on to become one of the top teams in ROH.
The main event was the Kings of Wrestling v Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team. Was this ever going to be a bad match? Haas and Benjamin got another clean win over the outgoing Castagnoli and Hero in a pay-per-view calibre match. All four men were on form and showed that they’re two of the best tag teams in wrestling, which makes it all the more irritating that the Kings have left the promotion.
The show’s play-by-play and video package hosting was ably handled by former Superstars, Metal and Jakked regular Kevin Kelly with former ROH world champion Nigel McGuinness taking care of colour commentary duties. Kelly was perfectly acceptable in his roles and Nigel was incredibly impressive. He’s been known as a great promo man for years but that skill doesn’t necessarily translate well to the commentary desk. McGuinness was lively, entertaining and offered a knowledgeable insight into both matches. In short he did his job perfectly. ROH made a good call in bringing him in for the role.
All in all Ring of Honor’s new show is off to a promising start. Once things settle down and they establish a routine for their tapings they can start working in more storylines (as they were doing during their HDNet run) to add meaning to the in-ring action. I encourage anyone who hasn’t already to track the episode down online, and look out for it on Ring of Honor’s website this Thursday. It’s nice for wrestling fans to have a wrestling show to watch again.