Views From The Turnbuckle: ROH And Watching The Alternative, Its Strengths And Its Weaknesses
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.
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