Friday, May 9, 2014

ROH's Time Is Now

It has already been a big year for ROH but where it will be truly defined will start tomorrow in Toronto. The first show of two in co-promotion with New Japan Wrestling which were announced a couple of months ago. It also marks ROH’s return to I-PPV which was not kind to this company in the past. During a surge of interest in the company they had massive issues with I-PPV that caused them all kinds of problems. Wrestling fans and loyal ROH fans alike were pissed at the constant issues they had. It forced ROH to abandon the whole concept until now. They are broadcasting this time around through U-Stream and that is something that has been fairly reliable for their partners from New Japan.

I admit when the announcement of the partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling I really didn’t understand what that meant. I consider myself a wrestling fan but it has always been based in North America. Since the announcement I have come to learn how important this company is to the hardcore wrestling fans. It is the number one company in Japan and has a load of talent some of the best of which are going to be featured on these cards in Toronto and New York. Both of which are complete sell outs.

ROH has always been fairly smart in terms of booking venues that make sense for their promotion. When you are not smart you get pictures of how empty buildings are like we have seen with TNA over the last year or so.

Consider these I-PPV’s as test runs for the main event which happens on June 22nd, 2014 as Best In The World will debut ROH on traditional PPV right in the backyard of TNA in Nashville, Tennessee. While being on Spike despite the poor ratings TNA does have some form of advantage the perception of the two companies could not be further apart. News breaking that TNA Star Kurt Angle is going to be out 4-6 months with ACL tear is just the latest TNA problem. ROH meanwhile has the most talented roster in North America outside of the WWE. The depth that ROH has in comparison to TNA is obvious which includes former TNA Poster Boy A.J Styles. He will not be part of the PPV in June in all likely hood though as he has a match booked for New Japan Pro Wrestling the day prior. 

While the WWE has tried to declare that PPV business is a dying dinosaur as the driving force for them launching the WWE Network they might be right. It isn’t dead yet though but if you look at UFC drawing only around 300 thousand buys for two of their top draws in Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones in recent PPV events. ROH is filling a wrestling void left by the WWE who have been dropped by a number of big cable providers in the U.S. They also plan to offer the option of watching still on I-PPV as well. This is a potential revenue boost for the company if everything goes according to plan.

Some of that extra revenue is already spent if ROH follows through on its promise to upgrade its look for this PPV event. One of the major knocks on ROH has been their poorly produced T.V. While ROH in the ring can hang with anyone on the planet, they look like a cable access independent wrestling show in some respects. Personally it doesn’t bother me, but for people that are use to watching WWE and TNA the difference is easy to see. It doesn’t take having a background in broadcasting to notice the differences.

Court Bauer has stated that ROH is working hard and making their look better in preparation for the Best In The World PPV. Rome wasn’t built in a day but it seems clear ROH is making a concerted effort to improve on their weaknesses.  They have a roster of talent worth of the effort and being presented in a better way.

If ROH is going to challenge TNA as the second company in North America that battle begins this weekend and will ultimately build to their PPV debut. TNA has still not renewed their T.V deal with Spike TV and if they do not this will be a very short war for who will be number two. We all have craved a competitor for WWE but that is at this point an unrealistic pipe dream. Competition for being the number one alternative to them could still be interesting.

ROH in addition to all of this has been smart in being booked in their own way and instead of being thought of as copying the WWE like TNA. They have been smart to market the fact they have produced a lot of the talent you see today in the WWE. Much like how WWE tries to market its NXT brand that has been the vain of ROH’s marketing. The difference is at least at this point ROH can claim more stars they have had than NXT has produced.

If ROH continues to take this measured approach on growth wrestling fans could finally have an alternative that they can count on. The other thing ROH has attempted to do is keep their price point low. Not as low as the 9.99 a month for the WWE Network but lower than TNA. The ROH product is appealing and different enough from WWE to be worth it for hardcore wrestling fans to check out.

How successful they can ultimately be depends on how many casual fans they can draw. I am not a casual wrestling fan but until recently I would consider myself a casual ROH fan. I am heading down to see my first ever ROH show live. If I am not alone in being that casual observer of ROH that is becoming a fan of their product, that is very good news for the people at ROH.