In today's never ending circle of redundancy in professional wrestling, a lot of fans may be looking for an alternative to the sometimes extremely mundane offerings of both the WWE and TNA. Although currently those are the only legitimate wrestling companies with weekly television shows, there will always be an alternative program for wrestling fans out there, as long as they know where to look.
I first started watching Ring of Honor a few years ago when I had become fed up with the current offerings of TNA and the WWE. For a long time, TNA was always viewed as the alternative product to the WWE machine, and in some ways they still are, but ever since Hulk Hogan and company have hopped aboard, TNA has gone from alternate promotion to WWE Lite.
Ring of Honor, founded in 2002 and based in the Philadelphia area, is far and away the third largest company in the United States today. Although the gap between TNA and ROH is not quite as large as the gap between the WWE and TNA, ROH lacks the exposure, marketing and production value that TNA or the WWE does. But when it comes to in-ring action, Ring of Honor far out paces the two larger companies.
Ring of Honor is really a place where wrestling matters, to the point where fans who are more accustomed to the storytelling and antics of larger promotions may be turned off by how much of it is presented. While the WWE may dedicate about 1/5th of its 3 hour show to actual in-ring competition, Ring of Honor easily puts about 50% of its one hour show to promoting actual wrestling and have very little of the sanctimonious bullcrap that usually fills up a lot of both Raw and Impact. From a purist's standpoint, ROH is by far the most old-school product being presented right now.
Ring of Honor's biggest issue is a lot like ECW's biggest problem. They just do not have the financial where-with-all to compete on the same level as the WWE and TNA. Over the past several years, ROH has lost an incredible amount of its top level talent to both WWE and TNA. In recent times, the WWE has appeared to take a very big interest in the talent of Ring of Honor, most likely based on the success of ROH alumni CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. With the exception of perhaps the American Wolves and the Briscoes, all of Ring of Honor's biggest stars have found homes in the WWE or TNA, including Punk, Bryan, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Antonio Cesaro, Nigel McGuinness, El Generico, Austin Aries, Kassius Ohno and others. The use of ROH as a feeder system for the larger companies is a great thing for the talent, but a real curse for the company.
Recently, ROH has struggled with the disastrous involvement of Jim Cornette (whose presence in the company was turned into a wacky storyline) and the recent purchasing of the company by the Sinclair Broadcasting group. Similar to when WCW was purchased by Turner, albeit on a much smaller scale, Sinclair could do a lot for ROH on the television scale but it would also detract from the company in the ring. Now that the company was owned by a corporation instead of being self-supporting, ROH has had to make a lot of changes to the philosophy of its product, for better or for worse.
Even with these recent headaches plaguing the company, in my opinion, ROH still consistently turns out a better product then either the WWE or TNA. The quality of the company has dropped off in the past few years (as has the WWE and TNA, but for different reasons) but the ideal of the company still remains the same: To present the wrestling fanbase with the best WRESTLING action in the world, period.
Ring of Honor is still very much in a transition phase, as it is still working out it's issues with Sinclair and dealing with the departures of many of its top performers. The company is slowly being built up as they develop new talent that will hopefully stick soon enough.
From a talent standpoint, it actually reminds me quite a bit of how the WWF was in the mid-1990's. The company had lost an incredible amount of its stars in a 3-4 year span, and that by 1996 the company was really a shell of its former self. Young guys such as Steve Austin, The Rock and HHH were in their formative years getting ready for the main event while a few of the company stalwarts, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and the Undertaker held down the fort. In ROH, they suffered a Litany of similar departures, so they are currently awaiting the development of some of their younger stars ( Michael Elgin, Jay Lethal and Adam Cole to name a few) while a few last holdovers like Kevin Steen, the American Wolves and the Briscoe's steady the ship. It will be interesting to see how the company develops in the future.
Lastly, a big problem with ROH is that there are a percentage of fans who would like to get into the company, but have no idea how/where to start. Thankfully, ROH has made that step very easy in the past few years. Simply follow them on Facebook or Twitter to read about all their upcoming news and events, as well as reading the news provided for you on Wrestling Inc. of course. To watch their weekly television show, simply go to rohwrestling.com and create a free account. They present a new, hour long episode every Thursday. I also recommend in investing in a DVD deal or two, since ROH is always selling DVD's for $5-$10 on their website.
Ring of Honor is a definite alternative to the larger companies, and the attention they put towards wrestling and their matches is really something that is unmatched in any company. If you are interested in something different, watching ROH is a great way to go.