Ring of Honor is in trouble. While nearly every wrestling promotion has been hurt by WWE’s sweeping up of talent for NXT, they have taken the brunt of the attack. The company that set the template for modern day American wrestling is struggling.
Nothing made this more apparent than their shows with NJPW in the last week. While New Japan brought Okada, Naito and Goto to the party, ROH’s big guns were Jay Lethal, The Briscoes and Punishment Martinez. (I’m ignoring Bullet Club here as they straddle both companies.) It’s no offence to those guys, I like most of them, but they don’t scream stars.
Which is understandable. In the last three years, ROH has lost an incredible amount of talent. From Kevin Owens to Jimmy Jacobs. From El Generico to Roddy Strong. If you go back further, then ROH has lost most of the best wrestlers in the world to the Big E.
Of course, you could argue that this isn’t an entirely fair point. Most of these wrestlers didn’t work exclusively for ROH. In fact, you could make the argument that PWG have lost just as many wrestlers to WWE as ROH and most of them are the same guys.
And yet, PWG have gone from strength to strength while Ring is Honor is floundering. The last few months has ramped up the number of people leaving as even the announcers flee the sinking ship. There are still some incredible wrestlers in the company, but it feels less and less like anyone cares.
A thought that might get to the crux of the matter; when ROH were at their best, they were a pool of one. They were the counter-culture to WWE’s mainstream. Sure, TNA were there, but TNA are always there, and it doesn’t make a difference. Now, they’re one of many. If you’re a wrestling fan looking for something different you can choose to watch everything from Progress to NJPW to ICW. ROH suddenly feel like old news.
Which is a perception that they have to change. The longer this goes on the closer to TNA territory they fall, and that is a genuine worry. They need to convince people that they are cool again. It’s all very good having Bullet Club pop up (and they do help) but what are they doing with them? Do you have a clue what their current storyline is? I don’t.
How do you make yourself cool again? Well, they could do with actually focusing on storytelling a bit more. I don’t want ROH to turn into WWE, but they’re current television product often feels like a random collection of matches rather than a coherent structure. After that, it’s all about the talent. ROH need to take risks and establish their own guys and, sorry, Punishment Martinez isn’t the future. ROH’s coolest wrestlers aren’t seen as ROH guys, they’re seen as New Japan or Progress talent.
I love ROH. I remember stumbling upon CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe fighting to an hour long draw when I was younger and being blown away by it. I’d never seen anything like that before, and it changed what wrestling was to me. Since then I’ve watched so many incredible wrestlers come out of that company and blossom into stars. I don’t want them to disappear, but they are scarily close to going that way.