ROH Joe Koff spoke with Paste Magazine on running a non-WrestleMania weekend show at MSG, how social media has changed pro wrestling, and who he'd like to see ROH World Champion Jay Lethal face. Here are some of the highlights:
Running a ROH show in Madison Square Garden without WrestleMania in town:
"Yeah, again, we apply a lot of disciplines to our decision making, and we'll take a look at that. We'll take a look at that outcome. The partnership with New Japan would lend that to other arenas. We need to get through this one first, and then we can have those conversations. But those conversations, you know the Madison Square Garden conversation really started internally when WrestleMania was announced to be in the New York area. And that's kind of what precipitates the building or the venue that you would need to have a show that weekend. Obviously it's a fantastic place to have a show, because not only are there so many wrestling fans who love to come to New York, but the metropolitan area, within three hours each way—north, east, south, west—you have probably, what, 30 to 40% of the population of the United States? It's a pretty big place to draw from.
"And I think that was the challenge. I'm not in [WWE's] minds, I don't know how that planning goes, and maybe they thought that, well, if we go to New York, where are these other promotions going to play? Because they probably don't like everybody [and I put this in air quotes] 'living off' their back, and I don't think that's the case at all. Their shows stand on their own, they sell out on their own, why shouldn't the fans who come for that weekend have an ability and availability to see other promotions that they may not get a chance to see? It works for everyone. That weekend is a fan's weekend. We can call it what we want, we can label it what we want, people can say what they want, but it's really one of the great weekends that belong to the fans in wrestling. The wrestling community—and I'm going to use that word because I just value it so dearly—when you're a wrestling fan, and you're at a match, you're with people who are also wrestling fans, and are comfortable in their skin being a wrestling fan.
"There's not a lot [of places] outside of the wrestling matches or on the internet or in the 'sheets' where you can be so overtly a wrestling fan, and not be kind of looked at a little, you know, crazily. And to be able to come to a weekend like that, regardless if it's New York or New Orleans or Orlando, or wherever it's going to get done, that's an opportunity for a fan to be a fan and not to have to hide their fandom. That's the wrestling community. It's been created, it's been grown, every organization should take a little bit of credit for that—one organization likes to take all the credit for that (and maybe it's duly deserved, and I really say that in respect of them)—but we're starting to see that they're not the only promotion.
"And since Ring of Honor has really been active in the business, which is really because of our television and our distribution and our company and just the way we have done our business, I think we've made wrestling a better business because of our presence. We see that with talent, with our talent that currently wrestles with us, talent that has left us to go wrestle with other promotions. The business is good and I think the business is good partially because of us. And I'm proud of that."
How social media has changed pro wrestling:
"Social media has changed everyone's world. We're seeing pictures of families now and pictures of pets. Maybe the old-school wrestlers are turning over in their graves when they see this is going on, but this is how people are connecting. They're connecting at 140 characters, they're connecting over a headline that's going to appear in somebody's alert, this is how we're connecting, so we have to connect to that audience in the way they want to be connected to. And the smart wrestlers and performers, and not only wrestlers but anybody in a performance mode or sports mode, that connection's become really important to the strength of their character and the popularity of the wrestlers.
"This might be different than most interviews, but this is how I see the business. I really believe in that. I really believe that we're dealing with a generation, especially the younger generation—I'm talking the wrestlers in their 20s and early 30s, which is the prime demo, even for any advertiser as well. This is their world, they're not changing the way they communicate because they're in wrestling. That doesn't happen that way."
Koff also discussed "All In" and wrestling promotions partnering up more today. You can check out the full interview by clicking here.