Ring of Honor Inks TV Deal, Locks in Top Talent

Someone with close ties to ROH was recently heard calling the upcoming NYC show “the biggest event in ROH history.” Now we know why.

Ring of Honor released the following announcement today:

INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING PHENOMENON RING OF HONOR INKS STATESIDE TELEVISION DEALS WITH iN DEMAND, TVN AND ECHOSTAR

PPV/VOD Distribution Deals Bring ROH into 50 Million Households

New York, May 3, 2007 – Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH), in association with G-Funk Sports & Entertainment, has concluded programming and distribution deals for PPV and VOD wrestling cards with iN DEMAND Networks, TVN and EchoStar Communications Corporation’s DISH NetworkTM, making the critically-acclaimed ROH brand available for the first time ever to approximately 50 million American households. The agreement calls for a card every 60 days from shows both stateside and abroad, and will premiere July 1. A total of six cards are planned throughout ‘07/’08. ROH owner Cary Silkin made the announcement today with G-Funk’s President Ken Gelman. The debut event, entitled “Respect Is Earned,” will be taped May 12 in New York City from the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center, and will feature a glistening array of talent from Japan, England, the U.S. and Mexico.

Long revered by a loyal underground fan base, the Philadelphia-based ROH—currently seen on Canadian, British and Japanese TV—appeals to the disenfranchised wrestling fan fed up with storylines which seem to take precedence over the kind of powerful ring competition that ROH specializes in. ROH, in fact, is seen to have the highest level of athleticism in its field today, which recently culminated in a sweep of the 2006 Wrestling Observer awards for “Most Outstanding Wrestler,” “Best Brawler,” “Best Major Wrestling Show” (ROH took four of its Top 10) and “Best Booker.”

“Fans around the world now know that our brand of action is, indeed, the highest-flying, hardest-hitting most daring and acrobatic action presented today,” says Mr. Silkin. “We are thrilled that we can finally show a televised audience what our crowds have known for the last six years that ROH harkens back to an earlier era of wrestling where authenticity still counted for something. There’s a magic at our shows that I, as a wrestling fan, had all but given up on.”

G-Funk Sports and Entertainment will be handling all marketing and promotion for the wrestling programs, including creation and launch of an affiliate website on May 15, www.rohaffiliates.com, which will contain easy-to-implement marketing materials and all event information. Each show will also be supported by a range of targeted national consumer advertising and promotion.

According to Mr. Gelman, “Ring Of Honor already has the respect and enthusiastic following of legions of fans around the world through their live events, but represents a fresh new entry into the world of televised wrestling. These distinctive programs will prove a welcome change-of-pace for audiences and a popular new option for cable operators and satellite providers as they expand their transactional offerings.”

About iN DEMAND Networks

iN DEMAND Networks is the pioneer and world leader in providing exciting entertainment delivered through television’s most innovative technologies. iN DEMAND delivers programming through four distinct areas of business: Pay-Per-View (PPV), Video-On-Demand (VOD), Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD) and high-definition (HD) programming. Howard TV (SVOD) is now the exclusive TV home of Howard Stern. PPV programming includes first-run movies, mega events and the digital out-of-market subscription sports packages. VOD includes blockbuster movies and boxing, mixed martial arts and concert events. The company also operates the MOJO network, formerly INHD, a pioneer in HD. The company’s shareholders are Comcast iN DEMAND Holdings, Inc., Cox Communications Holdings, Inc., and Time Warner Entertainment – Advance/Newhouse Partnership. Further information about the company can be found at www.indemand.com.

About TVN Entertainment Corporation

TVN Entertainment Corporation, the leading television on-demand company, works with every major studio, network and telecommunications video provider in North America. TVN is the preferred provider of original on-demand programs and networks. TVN supports an open, advanced technology platform, and offers the most comprehensive, end-to-end solution for licensing, managing, distributing and marketing on-demand content to virtually any platform. For more information about TVN’s products and services, please visit www.TVN.com.

About Echostar Communications Corporation

EchoStar Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) has been a leader for more than 26 years in satellite TV equipment sales and support worldwide. The Company’s DISH Network(TM) is the fastest-growing pay-TV provider in the country since 2000 and currently serves more than 13.1 million satellite TV customers. DISH Network offers a premier line of industry-leading Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and hundreds of video and audio channels as well as the most national HD and International channels in the U.S., Interactive TV, Latino and sports programming. DISH Network also provides a variety of package and price options including the lowest all-digital price in America and the DishDVR Advantage Package. EchoStar is included in the Nasdaq-100 Index (NDX) and is a Fortune 300 company. Visit www.echostar.com or call 1-800-333-DISH (3474) for more information.

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ROH Head Booker Gabe Sapolsky today told me: “This is a very exciting time for Ring Of Honor. We are really starting a whole new phase for this company. However, we will still be the same company and product you watched for the past five years. We will just have more exposure now. I can’t express how excited I am about the future.”

The following video was posted on Ring of Honor’s YouTube.com page to support today’s big news:

Since WWE and TNA wrestlers are contractually not allowed to appear on other promotions’ televised pro wrestling events, it is likely that the few remaining TNA stars competing with ROH (Homicide, Aries, etc.) will not be at the ROH pay-per-view tapings. ROH has signed top talent to contracts to protect the company from WWE or TNA signing them away.

“We have signed over 10 talents to contracts that will give us a strong roster to build around,” said Sapolsky. “All the key names are locked up and this is perhaps an even bigger development than going on pay-per-view as now we have talent secured.”

Scheduled to appear at the May 12 NYC show, according to ROHWrestling.com, are ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima; KENTA; Naomichi Marufuji; FIP Heavyweight Champion Roderick Strong & Davey Richards of the No Remorse Corps; Jay & Mark Briscoe; Austin Aries; Homicide with Julius Smokes; Daizee Haze; Delirious; Matt Sydal; El Generico; Colt Cabana; Matt Cross; Adam Pearce; Kevin Steen; Nigel McGuinness plus “many more to be announced including some huge names.” Of course, Cabana (WWE), Aries (TNA) and Homicide (TNA) are under contract elsewhere, so look for that portion of ROH’s Web site to be updated once the final card starts falling into place. Featured in the above video as appearing at the May 12 show (and subsequently on PPV July 1) are Morishima, McGuinness, the Briscoes, Danielson, Delirious, No Remorse Corps (Strong, Richards, Romero), Whitmer, Castagnoli, Albright and Stevens, so it is probably safe to assume that most if not all of them are under/about to be under contract. (Sapolsky declined to discuss specific names of signed talent or details of the contracts.)

We’ll have more on this as it is available.

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