In October, it was announced that Ring of Honor would be taking time off from Jan-March of 2022. The hiatus would end with Supercard of Honor. In the meantime, portion of the roster would be let go at the end of the year while others would be let go in early 2022. Many including myself believed this was the end of the road for the promotion. I'm not sure calling the Final Battle 2021 'End of an Era' helped dispel our speculation. I just posted on ROH thread that I thought AEW might have some interest in the brand especially with so many former ROH now AEW stars participating in Final Battle.
After Final Battle ROH Chief Operating Officer Joe Koff did the ROH Strong podcast to talk about all of this. I've never listened to this podcast and I am guessing many of you haven't either. I had no intention of starting with listening to a suit talk corporate talk for an hour plus. That being said, it also seemed like the only place we were going to get actual details on what's to become of the organization. Again, there's just a lot of speculation floating around by both people in the business and fans alike.
I'm going to give you my take aways from the 80 min. long interview. Its actually a pretty easy listen and Koff really seems to have a sincere affection for the fans, employees, and promotion as a whole. They begin by talking about Final Battle and the events that transpired with the tributes, matches, guest appearances and having the Lethal vs Gresham main event with Bandido being pulled due to COVID. Then there's a bunch of thanks given to Delirious (referred by his real name). What's odd is that they do seem to refer to things in the past tense. As in saying WAS instead of saying IS. I didn't make notes on this because they hadn't started talking about the hiatus and etc. But it did seem to initially corroborate speculations.
They get to the meat and Koff starts by saying ROH's plans for 2020 were to start a live weekly TV taping ala RAW. So 52 live episodes per week. Perhaps live to tape like the late night talk shows. Additionally they wanted to have a fixed time across the Sinclair stations so it would appear the same time on every station so 22 The Point here in Pittsburgh would have it the same time as WUAB in Cleveland as in wherever else...again like most wrestling shows. Anyhow COVID happened and that plan got shot to shit. ROH then showed a few months worth of best of shows (we'll get back to that) and eventually came back with the Pure Title Tournament (see my past posts about that). He mentions in the meantime AEW has grown and IMO ROH has stagnated. They have done the best job in keeping people safe in terms of their and the Maryland Athletic comissions COVID protocols. Koff seemed please in keeping fans and staff safe although probably wouldn't have been a strict.
Koff is adamant that Ring of Honor is not going out of business. Its not a matter of IF they come back its a matter of WHEN. They are "re-imagining" Ring of Honor. He does not express what this means (I'll take some guesses). He did say the plan is to cease matches and plans of touring until March when the plan is to return with Supercard of Honor. Koff said they will still be having TV shows in that time. I assume they have some stuff already taped and may do a year end retrospective. But more interesting is Koff remarked that ratings were positive for the Best Of shows in the Spring and Summer of 2020. In case you missed these, each week would feature a wrestler or team and showcase usually 3 standout matches during the ROH career or since Sinclair owned the promotion. If we read between the lines of what Joe Koff was saying, it sounds like this will be the plan from Jan-March. He said the shows without matches did really well (paraphasing). Well there's no ROH episode without matches but he must mean this from a production standpoint. So no matches booked, produced (filmed, lit, etc.) and wrestled.
He was very careful not to give anything away for the future but repeated 're-imagine' and emphasis on the fans importance and 'focus on fans.' What this means I don't know and now comes the speculation - Informed speculation. At the end, I'll say what I'd like to see but this section is more interpretation of what Koff has said. First, I really believe this hiatus period of Jan-March will be Best Of episodes using ROH's back catalog. This will do well in the ratings while requiring minimal production and staff. This keeps ROH on TV while keeping fans happy. I think one thing everyone wants is easier access to ROH's back catalog even if its just 2011-2021. There's some really awesome stuff in there that I don't believe is even available on ROH's Honor Club service. I'm getting ahead of myself. I think COVID is a big part of letting go of talent and taking a hiatus. They were trying to wait the pandemic out while other companies eventually said screw it. Ethically I agree with ROH. Financially though this was pretty bad. They have had no show revenue for 2 years! This 3 month period is a time to hibernate and slow the bleeding as well as wait COVID out a little longer.
In regards to his emphasis on the fans, I would think this means more social media activity but also listening to what the fans want in terms of booking. I don't think they will do away with Delirious but they will give fans more input as they do with The Experience shows and Unauthorized where people vote on matches or stipulations. I think they may have some folks pay more attention to what fans are saying online and booking with instead of against those opinions. Oh one other thing I remember is regarding the Forbidden Door. People believe Final Battle 2021 shows that ROH will be working with other promotions like AEW and Impact. Koff was quick to say there never has been a Forbidden Door with ROH. This is true and good of him to say this. ROH was THE promotion that worked with other companies - Zero-1, AJPW, Dragon Gate, NJPW, NOAH, Chikara, CZW, CMLL, and of course they had a working relationship with TNA on and off for awhile. WWF used to do it with ECW. I mean the NWA was before all of that! So anyhow, I do see this as a very real possibility. This is something the fans want to see. Fans of puro have been privy to this for the past 20 years. But the hope is that the AEW fans who jumped ship with the Elite and other talent will come back to ROH even if only on occasion. I think everyone would want another ALL IN level show down the road. Koff remarked that one of his best memories was doing ALL IN even though the aftermath was less than desirable. Could we see something like this in March for a true Supercard of Honor?
That's what I've got as far as informed speculation. Koff didn't show his cards past what they are going to do in the meantime. He was pretty firm about Ring of Honor not going away. It would just be coming back different. I'm going to go bat-shit with the ideas. One thing I've thought of is having the majority of ROH's TV show be flashback matches along with promos all themed toward upcoming PPVs or which could be teased on AEW TV perhaps. This all depends on who ROH wants to keep or build around. I would love to see ROH focus on the Pure Rules or guys like Gresham, Tracy Williams. The ROH product will focus on a core group of guys but various talent will be brought in from the Indies or elsewhere (AEW, Mexico, Japan) to challenge them. Those guys and girls would venture out on occasion as well. This would be similar to the NWA territory days. Essentially re-unifying and sharing talent after Vince tore it apart 35 years ago. Again we have seen this in Japan in the 2000's Pro Wrestling Love Era. Again, we kinda would see this with TNA, PWG and ROH for awhile...I think we can see it again. I'd love to see this along with classic matches every week or two.
So I don't think ROH is going to dissolve. I know ROH has put their back catalog out for the highest bidder so I think if someone gave them the right dollar amount for that and everything, they would take it. Koff is a businessman as he reminds us at the end of the podcast. I just don't know if that'll happen. OR maybe that is exactly how this is all going to go down... AEW buys ROH then they do like a RAW vs Smackdown thing with them? Or perhaps they will cut enough costs and re-envision their business model to work better work around COVID. They are very adaptable as Koff said and I believe him. But then again, business is business.
Thanks for reading! Just had all of that floating around in my head so I hope it makes sense.