POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: The Future of Ring of Honor

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2021/12/10/pollocks-news-update-the-future-of-ring-of-honor/

POST IT NOTES

**Tonight, Rewind-A-SmackDown is LIVE at 11:15 p.m. ET with Wai Ting joined by Kate from Montreal for reviews of SmackDown and AEW Rampage. They will also open the phone lines to take your calls on all subjects. The show, including live access, is available to all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**On Saturday morning, WH Park is releasing the latest edition of The Long & Winding Royal Road. This month’s guest is Dylan Fox from the Eastern Lariat podcast to discuss the May 1, 1998 match between Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa from All Japan’s 25th Anniversary card at the Tokyo Dome.

**The UFC 269 POST Show will be LIVE on our POST YouTube channel immediately after the main event with Phil Chertok and Eric Marcotte reviewing the show. The audio version will be on the free POST feed early Sunday.

**We will also have an ROH Final Battle POST Show available for all POST Wrestling Café members on Saturday night hosted by Mike Murray and I.

**The POST Wrestling Christmas Show will be released on Xmas Eve. Submissions for our annual Jingle Contest can be made on the POST Wrestling Forum with the deadline set for December 20th.

THE FUTURE OF RING OF HONOR

Final Battle may be the most appropriate title for Ring of Honor’s year-end pay-per-view because, for many, it will likely signal their final stop with the promotion.

The future remains unknown as it will go dark after Saturday night for the first quarter of 2022 with plans to return for Supercard of Honor in Dallas over WrestleMania weekend.

What the new iteration of ROH entails remains a mystery but a guarantee is that it will not be the same stable option for so many performers as it has been for the past decade. The company will do away with contracted talent and will have to form a makeshift crew from taping to taping, event by event where talent could be available one month and signed elsewhere the next.

This era of professional wrestling has greatly valued a maximum output of content that has rewarded WWE with the most profitable years of its existence while AEW has become financially solvent through a January 2020 renewal of its deal with WarnerMedia. Both will lobby for handsome increases when their respective rights packages come due, but the strength of two national promotions has paid a price on the overall health of the smaller groups.

The supply side of pro wrestling content has never been greater with fans having access to everything in the world. The days of waiting weeks for a tape of Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi’s latest classic or the next big Lucha star having his first set of matches in a small town south of the border are over. Today, 16-year old Nick Wayne is a giant prospect wrestling 38-minutes with Joey Janela that you can find as quickly as it takes to read the end of this paragraph.

The question is not supply, but demand. The most ardent wrestling fan still has one variable that is fixed – their time. There are only so many hours and so many dollars to go around that for a wrestling fan following the WWE and AEW products, something has to give, and coupled with a pandemic, it was a recipe for many promotions struggling to make ends meet and ROH is the first sizable company that has been forced to tighten its belt and eliminate contracts.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom, because companies like STARDOM and Game Changer Wrestling have become success stories with their growth on opposite sides of the world. There is also a true alternative in AEW that has created a lot of jobs and shown no desire to cut back on its talent acquisitions.

The story of Ring of Honor is one that best epitomized a changing wrestling culture in 2002 that was living off the fumes of the late ‘90s boom and needed a sobering sea change to grab the fan’s attention.

Through the emerging talent on the independent scene and a means to sell VHS tapes and this newer form of media known as DVDs, a fledgling promotion emerged on February 23, 2002, at the Murphy Rec Center.

The main event was not a blood-and-guts tribute to ECW using talent with a prior name or someone coming off a failed WWE run or finding those guys that “stand out when you walk through the airport”. The main event was Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Bryan Danielson which was as loud a mission statement as one needed from the new kid on the block.

The promotion was the darling of wrestling fans that consistently produced some of the best wrestling shows anywhere in the world. Its legacy would not be fully realized until its alumni became the backbone of the industry decades later and greatly expanded the viewpoint of what a national star could be. The first six years of operation were under the creative guidance of Gabe Sapolsky, who ate, slept, and stressed Ring of Honor as its booker 24/7.

There was a charm to the promotion that could both book Kenta Kobashi for a dream match while also failing to white balance its cameras for a Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk classic. That was Ring of Honor – a work of art from afar that when examined closely, was held together by chewing gum and duct tape.

The unsung hero of the company was Cary Silkin, who basically saved the company once in 2004 and kept the lights on for the remainder of the decade. Then, saved it a second time by finding buyers in Sinclair Broadcasting in 2011. Silkin has confirmed in recent years that the promotion never made money during the years before 2011 and it’s probably the reason so many performers of that generation owe that debt to Silkin keeping the lights on while eating the yearly losses. It’s not a stretch to say that without Silkin’s passion for the project that many top stars would have exited the proverbial auditorium before their name was called to the stage.

The Sinclair purchase in May 2011 saved the company, without it, it was dead.

Jim Cornette also played a role in getting the players together while assuming booking duties and navigating ROH into its next phase.

It was a rocky road for ROH as they dove into the novelty of iPPV – presenting its shows in a digital world that more often than not were hampered by unreliable streams and fans furious at their inability to produce a show from start to finish without a technical disaster.

The model provided by Sinclair put ROH back into the system of syndicated television when the wrestling world was one of cable distribution to hit the entire country.

ROH went through many facelifts and along the way, lost some of its core supporters from the Sapolsky years but was done in the hope of expanding the tent. It was a mixed bag until 2017 when the company took its largest step forward and hit the peak years of its existence.

The combination of Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and Adam Cole and a relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling took the company to its highest points. Prior to 2017, the company was well below an average of 1,000 per show but the uptick was there in the previous two years. In 2017, they hit an average of 1,105 per show and would eclipse 1,400 in the next two years.

The era finished at Final Battle in 2018 when several major contracts were either coming due or in the case of Cody Rhodes, had expired as he stuck around for the final big show of the year. The company said goodbye to Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky with the formal announcement of AEW coming weeks later.

ROH was in a tough position in 2018 as their core group was dead set on promoting an event inside of a 10,000 seat arena, and we all know the story of “All In”. It was well within ROH’s ability to nix the show given the U.S. rights of those talents belonged to the promoter. But instead, they gave the go-ahead and helped with the show, which they do own the rights to.

If ROH turned down their request for “All In”, does that change history? It’s unlikely but the September 2018 show was as clear of a proof of concept as one needed for the confidence to step outside one’s comfort zone and embark on such a venture. If the show doesn’t happen, perhaps you take the sure thing and either resign with ROH, continue with New Japan – or make the jump to WWE. We’ll never know, but ROH didn’t stand in their way and it went down as one of the most historic shows of the past ten years.

In the wake of the talent exodus, ROH was left with its largest show to date by booking Madison Square Garden over WrestleMania weekend in April 2019 drawing over 16,534 and a $1.1 million gate. ROH had the distinction that night of being the first non-McMahon-run wrestling event inside the famous arena since November 1960. Due to the success of that show, it lifted 2019 to its most attendance in history topping 35,700 for the year. While not present at the shows, a large amount of the credit for the sell-out of The Garden belongs to Rhodes, Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega who were expected for the card when tickets went on sale.

But the show was evidence of a company without an identity and trying to do so many things without any clear one displayed. Being inside the building that night provided a unique insight with a rabid audience that saw the New Japan talent front and center as the stars with ROH coming off secondary.

It was a crossroads for the company that year of whether they jump into the race and compete with the big dogs or play slow-and-steady. The company brought in several key talents including expanding its roster of Lucha stars that were met with favorable reactions and investing in the cult revival of PCO that took on a life of its own. But ROH was never the competitor that AEW would emerge as – they had the stars, they had the better television penetration and they quickly established themselves as the alternative and took a lot of attention in the wrestling ecosystem.

The pandemic hit in March 2020 and it would be hard to argue that any promotion showed greater restraint than ROH while also taking care of its wrestlers, crew, and staff. It is a sad reality that others with far fewer precautions thrived. For many, the legacy of Joe Koff will be tied to this period and how the company navigated the largest health crisis of this generation.

The legacy of Ring of Honor has not been determined but the lead-up to Final Battle has moved that discussion to the forefront. A year from now, we’ll see just how dramatic this move is. The loss of full-time jobs is never positive and while it’s viewed sadly today, it could be more catastrophic for an industry with so much supply that is hoping and praying for an equal demand in 2022.

WRESTLING NEWS

**On his first day of officially becoming a free agent, Johnny Gargano has opened a site on Pro Wrestling Tees. The 34-year old became a free agent on Friday after signing a one-week extension that took Gargano through the War Games special and Tuesday’s episode of NXT 2.0. Gargano’s address on Tuesday featured an attack by Grayson Waller as the show went off the air. Gargano and his wife Candice LeRae are expecting their first child in February, which he noted during Tuesday’s speech. Gargano tweeted that he will also be returning to Twitch and YouTube.

**Friday Night SmackDown takes place from the Staples Center (soon to be Crypto.com Arena) in Los Angeles tonight with a show that has a big advance as WrestleTix notes there are over 9,400 tickets distributed. The card was originally to feature Jeff Hardy in a match with Happy Corbin prior to the news of Hardy’s release. There was a late addition on Thursday with the company adding RK-Bro to the show for a triple threat match. Below are the matches announced:
*Brock Lesnar is advertised
*Randy Orton & Riddle vs. The Usos vs. King Woods & Kofi Kingston
*Non-title: Charlotte Flair vs. Toni Storm
*Naomi vs. Sonya Deville
*The debut of Xia Li

The show is coming off its lowest number since the return of live fans in July and that was with the promotion of Lesnar’s return from the storyline suspension and building a Universal Championship match throughout the show. Lesnar was not announced on television but has been advertised by WWE and the Staples Center for several weeks. Initially, they promoted his appearance as part of the suspension angle where he would pay for a ticket, but they ended the suspension two weeks ago and had him return to San Antonio. I really hope there is no line or dig at Jeff Hardy’s release, which is a totally different set of circumstances than the recent names that were released and used for promo material.

**The taped episode of AEW Rampage airs at 10 p.m. ET on TNT and streaming on TSN Direct in Canada with the following matches taped at the UBS Arena on Wednesday:
*AEW Tag Team Championship: The Lucha Brothers vs. FTR
*Ruby Soho, Tay Conti & Anna Jay vs. Nyla Rose, The Bunny & Penelope Ford
*Hook vs. Fuego del Sol
*Adam Cole vs. Wheeler Yuta
*Tony Schiavone interviews Sting & Darby Allin regarding Sting’s return to the Greensboro Coliseum on 12/22

**Ring of Honor lost one-half of its main event with Bandido off the card due to a positive COVID-19 test. Bandido previously had COVID in 2020 and missed last year’s Final Battle due to protocols. It’s unknown if Bandido will be available when ROH runs their next event and it’s the tricky nature of booking this show for maximum drama with the reality that many stars might be done after Saturday. The company will address the status of the title during the pre-show that begins at 7 p.m. ET with the pay-per-view starting at 8.

The majority of the fanbase buying this show probably wants a nostalgia-heavy show with many nods to the past, the hope for some surprises, and emotional goodbye. The problem is ROH doesn’t want the message that it’s done but rather they are returning in 2022. While you could compare this to One Night Stand in 2005, the comparison for me would be the 2006 version that truly was the end of ECW as you knew it even though the brand was continuing on Syfy but in a totally different way.

Here is the current lineup for the card on Saturday night on pay-per-view and Honor Club:
*Jonathan Gresham vs. Jay Lethal
*ROH Tag Team Championship: Mike Bennett & Matt Taven (champions) vs. The Briscoes
*ROH Television Championship: Dalton Castle (champion) vs. Silas Young vs. Rhett Titus vs. Joe Hendry
*ROH Women’s Championship: Rok-C (champion) vs. Willow
*ROH Pure Championship: Josh Woods (champion) vs. Brian Johnson
*ROH Six-Man Championship: Kaun, Moses & O’Shay Edwards vs. Vincent, Bateman & Dutch
*Shane Taylor vs. Kenny King
*Dragon Lee vs. Rey Horus
*Chelsea Green, Allysin Kay & Marti Belle vs. Angelina Love, Mandy Leon & Miranda Alize
*Brody King, Homicide & Tony Deppen vs. Eli Isom, Taylor Rust & Tracy Williams

**Jay Lethal was a guest on Talk is Jericho on Friday and discussed leaving ROH for AEW. Lethal said he was stunned with the news that ROH was not renewing contracts and came as a surprise on the Zoom call last month with members of the roster informed. Lethal flew to Baltimore to meet face-to-face with Joe Koff to secure his release and got the ball rolling quickly realizing there was a crowded field of free agents on the market. Interestingly, he said he never spoke to Tony Khan until the day of Full Gear when his signing was announced on the pay-per-view. Lethal felt ROH made a mistake by being too cautious during the pandemic with little money coming in and that talent wanted to travel and go out to do shows but said the company did take care of them. He remained with Ring of Honor in late 2018 during the talent exodus out of loyalty and concern for his friends in the company but said he was offered a deal to join AEW during that period and knew it would be successful. Outside of feeling they were too cautious during the pandemic, he said he had nothing bad to say about ROH and thought he would wrestle there until the end of his career.

**WWE has house shows on Saturday night in Saginaw, Michigan, and Sunday at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. Monday’s episode of Raw takes place from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota with Rey & Dominik Mysterio facing The Street Profits to determine the next challengers for RK-Bro.

**Canadian independent group C*4 Wrestling has a card tonight in Ottawa at Algonquin College and will be streaming live at 7:30 p.m. ET on IWTV. The card features its champion “Speedball” Mike Bailey taking on Kobe Durst, Stu Grayson & Evil Uno against Locked & Loaded, Mathieu St. Jacques vs. Junior Benito, and Veda Scott vs. Jody Threat among the matches listed. Tony Deppen was removed from the card for a non-health-related issue with the company noting the following (Deppen is on the ROH pay-per-view on Saturday):

To be clear – the removal of @Tony_Deppen and @BoomerHatfield have nothing to do with either talent’s health, and is totally due to logistics surrounding Covid protocols for international travel, and the fallout of other promotions having a much worse time than us, this weekend.

**The Best of the Super Juniors has its last show before Wednesday’s final with the following matches streaming at 3 a.m. ET on New Japan World:
*Hiromu Takahashi vs. Robbie Eagles
*El Desperado vs. El Phantasmo
*SHO vs. YOH
*Taiji Ishimori vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
*BUSHI vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
*Master Wato vs. DOUKI
*Non-tournament: Yuto Nakashima vs. Ryohei Oiwa

There are many that are still eligible to win the tournament. Hiromu and Desperado are tied with thirteen points each followed by YOH, SHO, Eagles, and Ishimori with twelve apiece. Hiromu and Desperado had a 30-minute draw, so the tiebreaker would be more complicated if each won on Saturday, but I can see Phantasmo playing spoiler and beating Desperado.

**The World Tag League finals will be determined after Sunday’s show in Hiroshima. Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi are tied with Tetsuya Naito & SANADA with fourteen points while Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI and Great O-Khan & Aaron Henare have fourteen points going into the final round-robin matches.

**MLW has announced that Marshall & Ross Von Erich will challenge 5150 for the MLW tag titles in a Texas Tornado match on 1/21 at Gilley’s in Dallas, Texas.

**Lio Rush is the latest addition to PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles in late January at The Globe Theatre in Los Angeles. Rush joins JONAH, Alex Shelley, and Kevin Blackwood in the tournament, which takes place January 29 & 30, 2022.

**There is already a pre-sale for the book being written by Brian Gewirtz, which is listed for an August 2022 release. Gewirtz tweeted the following about the project in response to a fan:

Thank you! News got out early and the book (with the actual title and cover) to be released next year but very excited about it. I mean what good is spending 16 years in the business if you don’t have at least 25+ completely insane but true stories to tell.

**West Coast Pro Wrestling has announced that Debbie Malenko will make her debut with the promotion on Friday, January 14th in South San Francisco and streaming on IWTV that night.

MMA NEWS

**The UFC 269 weigh-ins took place on Friday ahead of Saturday’s big show. Priscila Cachoeira missed weight by three pounds and will be fined 30 percent of her purse but her fight with Gillian Robertson will remain on the card.

Below is the full line-up with the results from the weigh-ins:

MAIN CARD (10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view)
*UFC Lightweight Championship: Charles Oliveira (155) vs. Dustin Poirier (154.5)
*UFC Bantamweight Championship: Amanda Nunes (134.5) vs. Julianna Pena (135)
*Santiago Ponzinibbio (169.5) vs. Geoff Neal (170.5)
*Cody Garbrandt (126) vs. Kai Kara-France (125)
*Sean O’Malley (135.5) vs. Raulian Paiva (135.5)

PRELIMINARY CARD (8 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)

*Dan Ige (146) vs. Josh Emmett (145.5)
*Dominick Cruz (135) vs. Pedro Munhoz (135.5)
*Tai Tuivasa (264) vs. Augusto Sakai (263.5)
*Bruno Silva (186) vs. Jordan Wright (186)

EARLY PRELIMS (6 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
*Eryk Anders (185.5) vs. Andre Muniz (185.5)
*Erin Blanchfield (125.5) vs. Miranda Maverick (125)
*Ryan Hall (145.5) vs. Darrick Minner (146)
*Randy Costa (134.5) vs. Tony Kelley (136)
*Priscila Cachoeira (129*) vs. Gillian Robertson (125)

**Due to a medical issue after weigh-ins, UFC flyweight Matt Schnell was pulled from the UFC 269 card and his fight with Alex Perez is off.

**ESPN’s Marc Raimondi noted that Saturday’s UFC 269 card will be the final major pay-per-view for outgoing Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett. The executive director is retiring and finishes his duties on December 30th with Jeff Mullen succeeding him in the role.

**Episode 5 of UFC Embedded for UFC 269.

ON THIS DATE

Terry Funk wins the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship from Jack Brisco in 1975 in Miami Beach, Florida:

WWF staged its Armageddon pay-per-view in 2000 from Alabama featuring a six-man Hell in a Cell with Kurt Angle retaining the WWF Championship against Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, and Rikishi.

Naomichi Marufuji defends the GHC Championship against company founder Mitsuharu Misawa in 2006:

Hulk Hogan confronts The Great Khali in 2007 on WWE Raw:

*****
POST News 12/10: Future of ROH, Bandido off Final Battle, Johnny Gargano
John Pollock & Wai Ting are joined by Benno (British Wrestling Experience, GRAPPL Spotlight) to chat about the future of Ring of Honor, ROH Champion Bandido missing Final Battle, Johnny Gargano’s free agency, AEW Dynamite ratings & more.
*****
MCU L8R: Hawkeye Ep. 4 “Partners, Am I Right?”
Wai Ting & WH Park are joined by JoJo Remy to discuss Hawkeye Episode 4, Charlie Cox’s confirmation as MCU’s Daredevil, and the incredible hype surrounding next week’s Spider-Man: No Way Home release.
*****
BWE: RevPro Uprising, NXT UK, WWE Releases
Martin Bushby, Benno & Andy Ogden review the latest from RevPro, NXT UK, Will Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom 16 and the latest WWE releases of Drake Maverick & Tegan Nox.
*****
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE 12/8: CM Punk & MJF on Long Island
John Pollock & Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite from the UBS Arena on Long Island with MJF’s homecoming, CM Punk’s heel promo, and the return of Trent.
*****
SHOT IN THE DARK 12/8
John Siino reviews this week’s editions of AEW Dark, AEW Dark: Elevation, NXT UK, IMPACT Wrestling, 205 Live, NJPW Strong, NWA Powerrr, Ring of Honor, and Main Event in under 15 minutes on Shot In The Dark.
*****
upNXT 12/7: Johnny Farewell?
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the December 7th, 2021 edition of WWE NXT 2.0 with Johnny Gargano closing the show to discuss his future.
******
ASK-A-WAI: Ask Us Anything! (December 2021)
John Pollock and Wai Ting answer their patrons’ questions from the POST Wrestling Forum in the December 2021 edition of Ask-A-Wai.
******

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