ROH Weekly

This week both Brad Curran and Andy Wheeler had quite a few comments about ROH. I’ve decided to discuss each and every major point within each and, in doing so, discuss the philosophical differences between ROH and WWE. Come’n in, there’s a storm a-brewin’.

Brad Curran says…

1. ROH is the greatest thing ever. In the history of creation. Even better than air, opposable thumbs, pornography, Matt Fraction, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or any other thing you can possibly think of. It is the pinnacle of human achievement, and you are retarded if you don’t agree.

While many of us do tend to write about what we enjoy most, to say that we never have any complaints is to show a stark lack of preparation for the column. Visit the ROH board. It’s full of complaints about everything from a stale product to wrestlers people are sick of. Considering that ROH caters to its fans specifically, there is a disproportionate amount of ROH-complaining going on within the fanbase.

2. Having set up my straw man, let me burn it down, by politely asking Aaron, Vin, Bones (best name ever!), and any other indie guys around here who evangelize ROH that I happened to have ignore one thing; shut the hell up about how great ROH is.

Last week’s column was about profiling the different guys on the roster. It was an introduction. Two weeks before that were fantasy booking. How is this constantly talking about how great ROH is?

3. Well, okay, you guys do that some times, but usually just to talk about how your boys are doing now that they’ve left the nest. Your two best alumni are my two favorite active wrestlers based solely on their mainstream work, which is the only reason I ever paid any attention to you piddly little indie fed in the first place.

That might be the point. What so many of us rave about are our the type of wrestlers two “best” (debatable) alumni represent. If you had paid attention, they might have been your favorites sooner. You found them when you did, nothing wrong with that, but some like to search out (potentially) great talent. Why is that a problem for you?

4. But you also have to talk about how much better ROH is than WWE and TNA. It’s such a better product. It’s what wrestling fans really want. It will make you attractive to females.

I’ve done maybe three columns ever that had any comparative factors between ROH and the other major companies. Two of those were a joke comparing ROH competitors to their WWE counterparts in the Royal Rumble. My enjoyment on ROH is not contingent upon it being better than WWE or TNA, but rather on how much I enjoy it.

5. I’m perfectly okay with the crap WWE and TNA shovel. Never mind that WWE’s exciting again for the first time in years, do to the roster shakeups and a certain tatooed love boy winning a certain belt from a certain other tatooed guy on a certain show.

I’ve really liked WWE for the most part for about two months. Liking Sports Entertainment and Wrestling aren’t mutually exclusive. No one was happier for Punk than ROH fans, but that doesn’t erase much of the other silliness that many ROH fans don’t enjoy like JBL’s attempted murder of Cena.

6. And your other big name, your “Legend”, the guy who carried the company on his back for 645 days, is on top in TNA.

This has nothing to do with our main point, but TNA has made Joe into a moron and it bothers me. He’s presented as so skilled and gifted that he can overcome anything in the ring, but outside he falls for every third rate ploy, time and again. It doesn’t make me want to root for him and he’s one of my favorites. I see that as a problem with my enjoyment of TNA, but not one worth not watching over. I’d still rather see a guy I really enjoy pushed.

7. 1. It’s cheaper- I’m cheap. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and watching wrestling. But I spend as little money as possible to follow it. I do shell out for the PPVs these days, but I have to use my hi-def TV for something besides X-Box 360, you know?

WWE PPV = 3 ROH DVDs. If you’re so spendthrift, but just the major DVDs and you’ll still get a 3-1 ratio of wrestling time (3 hrs for a PPV, 3 hrs per DVD) for your money. Oh and ROH runs constant sales, like buy 3 get 1 free or 30% off and, if you want older stuff, $10 sales. If you really wanted to get into ROH instead of WWE you could for a totally comparable price. Choosing WWE PPVs or ROH DVDs isn’t wrong, but lets not pretend one is so far financial superior, shall we?

8. I’m a WWE Mark- Grew up with ‘em, was cemented as a fan during the Attitude/2000-01 run of awesome that killed WCW once and for all, and have watched RAW religiously since. And a lot of my favorites from that era are in TNA now, so I get a nostalgia kick from them.

I was a WWF hardcore fan from when I was five. Wrestlemania IV was my first PPV and I saw everyone single one until they started having more than five a year. I love WWE, but, as I learned watching guys I really enjoyed get old and refuse to leave the spotlight, nostalgia eventually runs thin when the product isn’t there to back it. Eventually you aren’t supporting the guys you loved in your youth, but a billion dollar corporation that cares nothing for you. Unfortunately, you’ll either outgrow wrestling or, very likely, get to the point where myself and Vinny are wherein pure nostalgia and name value ceases to cut it.

9. I am not a work rate fetishist- At a certain point, when you guys keep throwing asterisks at me, I go numb. When Joe vs. Punk was getting raves, I was interested. Now that every time Bryan Danielson on the Briscoes fart in the general direction of a ring and you guys hold down shift and type on the 8 key furiously, I’m suspicious.

This is my favorite, and the (intentionally I’m sure) funniest part of your post. A lot of ROH matches got raves from Meltzer. Joe vs. Punk II got *****, the first since Taker and HBK’s Hell in a Cell in 1997, so that’s why you heard of it. Meltzer, because of his many jobs, doesn’t regularly cover every ROH DVD. Almost every one he covers has a **** ROH match. ROH knows it thrives and sells DVDs based on these great matches, so they attempt to put one or more out per show.

Briscoes, for the record, have had one **** match this year. Danielson has had more. He’s the best in the world. If you do enjoy technical wrestling, he’s simply the very best at this point. Check him out and get back to me.

10. think I’m more of a sports entertainment guy- I like great matches, sure, but I also like the lame comedy, talentless models who can’t wrestle rolling around in the ring, and stupid angles. I dunno, I think Wrestlecrap rotted my brain at an impressionable age, but I genuinely enjoy WWE most of the time. It helps that I tivo the shows and fast forward through things that insult even my intelligence. Not Hornswoggle, though. Little bugger cracks me right up. So, I’m thinking we’re not the same audience, you know?

Cool, enjoy, but why should I have to sit through that if I don’t enjoy it? If it comes to it, you go your way, I’ll go mine.

11. I’m kind of a disapposionate person, so anyone who raves over anything the way you guys do over ROH kinda freaks me out. I only wish I could feel that over anything, much less a wrestling promotion.

Try a live show or two. If you’ll be passionate, that’s likely where it comes from. If not, oh well, I can enjoy it without needing you to.

12. I’m probably going to pick up those “Greatest Hits” DVDs, especially since I can get them through Amazon. And the pedigree of the ROH-alums plying their trade in my neck of the wood makes me think you’re not such a crazy cult for raving about this stuff.

Good decision. At least try and be educated on it before you make a real decision. There’s also a PPV that debuts August 1st if you’d like to give that a try for $10-$15. The retail DVDs are great. Vinny reviewed the first two. Stars of Honor isn’t great. The others really are. I just reviewed Best in the World, so maybe check that out too, but at least be ready for longer matches and less overt stories (these are sampler DVDs as much as anything), otherwise, you might be better off spending your money elsewhere.

13. But I still like the mainstream stuff, too, and only have so much time for wrestling in my life, even if I do write for this site on occasion, and am paid to do so elsewhere.

I like the mainstream stuff right now too. There are times I don’t. There will likely be times I don’t like ROH, as there have been in the past. I only have so much time, as well. I spend it on what I enjoy most. Hopefully, you do the same.

Andy Wheeler says…

1. More specifically, he wrote a column…gasp…criticizing Ring of Honor. I was pretty sure I was the only one at the Pulse to break that cardinal sin, so when I see a colleague enter the blazing inferno that is the anti-ROHbot applaud. Brad made some good observations and reiterated a lot of my criticism of the product, though I have a feeling he’s going to be raked across hot coals.

This is where you guys always show your ignorance. We all criticize ROH. Wiswell wrote a column about ROH blowing it on big wins often. Bones hates half of the current product. I’m considered wildly negative in my show reviews. Eric S has been complaining about facets of the company and certain wrestlers within it for years before you wrote for IP. The difference is we can all recognize the good and the bad and don’t dedicate columns just to being contrary about the entire product. I write positively about the WWE regularly. Wiswell watches Raw and TNA online with me regularly. Bones watches more WWE than anything else. We recognize the good and bad in these companies as well as ROH. ROH just happens to offer our personal tastes something more than the televised companies do. I respect that some people prefer other companies and don’t feel a need to talk down to what they enjoy. If they are dissatisfied with what’s on television or want to try something new, then I push ROH. See the difference?

2. First, there’s the issue over the cost of the product. As a wrestling fan, you have to make some tough choices when it comes to your wallet. Don’t believe me? Just look at the buyrates for PPVs compared to the weekly television ratings. RAW pulls in several million viewers, yet the pay-per-view buyrates are usually in the 200,000 range. Less than 10% of the people who watch the weekly free television shows are willing to plunk down the $40 or $50 bucks for the PPV. Why? Because even though we’re wrestling fans, we’re bigger fans of money.

UFC does better. WWE used to do significantly better. There is absolutely a portion that will not or cannot buy PPVs, but there’s another portion that should not be ignored that chooses not to because the televised product doesn’t interest them enough. They are not right or wrong. They have made a choice about what they enjoy enough to spend money on.

3. ROH’s perceived ego stems from the fact that in order to watch their product, you have to make a financial investment. Sure, they’ve uploaded select matches online and yes, now they have the VideoWire churning out some decent material, but overall it is a major hurdle to get into Ring of Honor.

I agree completely here. It’s very tough to get into ROH if you aren’t willing to spend cash. To be willing to spend cash you must be a fairly hardcore fan willing to spend money on wrestling, but dissatisfied with what you get from WWE and/or TNA. That’s a niche market without a television show. You don’t have to watch ROH. I choose to watch and follow ROH and that it is worth my investment. Why is there ego involved in that? No one is forcing you to watch any of this! If you want to follow ROH and can, good for you. If you want to follow TNA or WWE, good for you, too. Enjoy what you do and support what you enjoy.

4. By not having a television presence (something I said multiple times that would be easy for ROH to do considering the wide syndication of the Fox Sports channels…hell, some Ohio indie promotion has weekly national television for anyone with a satellite dish), Ring of Honor is blocking a majority of wrestling fans from watching their product.

So the problem is you want to watch ROH, but you can’t. Understood and ROH is working towards TV, but that Ohio indy (which is really a Kentucky indy) was run by WWE for years and has television equipment, capability, and set-up already from the media conglomerate that ran them. ROH has none of this and since they’re making money, doing a small, reaching very few fans show would hurt their product. They fly a large portion of their talent in and do their post-production in Florida. That’s a huge amount of money for a tiny company not set up for that. A big television deal would warrant reworking the structure of the company. A tiny, late-night syndicated show would not. Going into television in the wrong situation before being ready would kill the company. If you can and want to follow it, enjoy. If you can and choose not to, that’s fine, as well. If you want to and can’t afford to, then it’s either worth following through less optimal means for now (you’re a writer for a major website, you could simply ask me to loan you some DVDs, others could do tape trading or just follow video wires and get major DVD releases) or just don’t follow right now and get into it at a later date.

I got one or two ROH DVDs in late 2002, when I was putting myself through graduate school. I couldn’t afford to follow the company at that point. After my first year of teaching, I realized I could, so I got the DVDs and caught up. I’m not asking anyone to do anything I didn’t.

5. Also, despite being a forward-thinking company, ROH’s website doesn’t seem to have superstar profiles to make their stuff more accessible. I keep seeing all of these names pop up in reviews and recaps yet I probably wouldn’t know Tyler Black if I hit him with my car (though after finally seeing him, it’s hard for me to not think he looks a little bit like Crowbar).

Heh, he does look a little like crowbar, doesn’t he? There is no excuse for ROH to not have superstar profiles. That was the point of last week’s column with huge profiles on everyone. I know I don’t work for ROH and it isn’t the same. Very good point.

6. Brad’s assertion that every ROH match is suddenly a ***** classic is not without merit. Whether it’s on DVD reviews, live recaps or even on the Super Secret Writers Forum, we’ve been inundated with the term MOTY for pretty much every show. Now, it is possible that every show that ROH puts on has such a match. Remember, wrestling fans, there was a time when every WWE and WCW PPV had at least one incredible, off the wall match.

As I asserted above, ROH ensures these matches are on almost every DVD because that is their business model and it knows that this moves DVDs. Do you not believe WWE could do the same if they chose to giving Shawn Michaels or Jericho 25 minutes a night?

And a lot of the MOTYC’s (note the C, it means contender, worth looking at) that we herald aren’t from ROH. WxW recently had an amazing tournament, the 16 Carat Gold Tournament. NOAH, Dragon Gate, Zero 1, New Japan, Kensuke Office and All Japan have all had absolutely great matches this year. Chikara, PWG, FIP and even IWA-MS have put on matches that are awesome and worth seeing. Just because it didn’t come from a televised company doesn’t make it less valid. WWE and TNA choose not to regularly have these matches. Other companies can and do make a point of putting on must-see wrestling.

7. Also, and this might be getting a little too deep into psychology for those of you without an advanced degree (though to be fair, it was only my minor), there is something conditioned in the ROH fans to get others share their passion. No, that’s wrong. They don’t want you to share their passion. They want you to be awe-inspired by what you could be watching. They have a club that is very exclusive and it has the best matches and the best workers and the best product and you can only get in if you’re willing to jump through their hoops and play by their rules.

To an extent, that’s true. It’s also the reason you and Brad are writing backlash columns. It’s no fun to be told you’re out of the loop for the really good stuff. I don’t want you to be awe inspired by what you could be watching. You’ve seen what I do on the staff forum. I try and make it possible for as many as possible to see what I’m passionate about. You aren’t forced into this in the slightest.

It’s not a club. Even as ROH fans, we all like different things and different people. Some love the Briscoes, some hate them. Some like spotfest or hardcore matches. Stop acting like we’re all the same. For example, I never said ROH had all the best workers. ROH doesn’t have all the best workers. No one does. ROH gives them time and freedom to tell a story in the ring. That’s what I want from a product. ROH gives me that so I support them.

You’re also missing another reason we’re so passionate about spreading the word for ROH. ROH is tiny and really doesn’t have that much money for advertising (and, honestly, when they do spend on advertising, they aren’t especially good at it), so the fans spread their enjoyment through word of mouth. Most of us want to see ROH grow, so we try and talk other fans that might enjoy ROH into giving it a try. And it works. Vinny Truncellito started watching ROH because of me, as have many others who e-mail me and no small percentage of my friends. Best Buy wasn’t carrying the first two ROH retail DVDs until the fans spoke up. The passion might annoy some, but considering the benefit is the only way we can help something we greatly enjoy to grow, the tradeoff is worth it.

8. ROH fans are the 21st Century marks. That sentence encapsulates the entire thrust of their fan base, and I for one think it’s fantastic. Really.

This is almost certainly true, but if ROH stopped turning out a product I enjoyed, I’d stop watching. That’s what I ultimately intend to urge. If you like WWE, watch and enjoy. If you hate it, don’t watch out of habit. Try something new. If you like ROH, watch and enjoy. If you hate it, please, don’t bother spending your money on it. Time is too precious. I still do absolutely spend my money because I mark for ROH.

9. As “smart” wrestling fans, we’re conditioned to hate marks. “You like John Cena? Burn in hell!” “Think the Undertaker is the best wrestler on the planet? You suck!” Marks are what give wrestling fans a bad name. They show up to the arena in their Jeff Hardy cut-up sleeves and their Rey Mysterio masks, which is disconcerting when they’re 30. Since you’re reading this site, chances are you’re not a mark. Not a true mark. You watch the programming with a reserved sense of perspective; this is entertaining but I can see the gears moving. Watching WWE programming now is a lot different for you then when you used to watch it back in the Hogan era. You no longer cheer and jump and scream like a kid should, because frankly you know better and the shows don’t normally elicit that kind of reaction from you anymore. And that, in a way, kinda sucks. Watching wrestling used to be such a cool thing for kids to do, but when you reach “a certain age” (say, around the time you can drive), you can’t really mark out like you used to.

Yep, marking it is really, really fun.

10. Ring of Honor is not the WWE. There are no elements of it that are directed towards children and no insulting gimmicks that make you cringe in fear. ROH is based around athletic competition for the most part, and when there is a feud, it tends to be tinged with a bit of reality. Jimmy Jacobs hates Austin Aries and it all sort of started over a girl. Hmm…makes sense. I’ve seen this go down in bars in downtown Fort Lauderdale on an almost weekly basis, so I can buy into it. Nigel’s a prick and people want to take his belt and beat the crap out of him because he’s an arrogant jerk who’s top dog. Okay, that’s relatable. There’s no bastard midget or mentally challenged redneck-cum-Pavlovian dog in sight. Giving people storylines they can relate to means they can become emotionally invested in what they’re watching and not feel like an idiot. Since we won’t feel embarrassed watching the storyline unfold, we can support one side or the other. That means its okay to cheer.

It’s the relatable, representative nature in all forms of art. When we find ourselves in the characters or real life situations we can relate to, we have no problem supporting that on a deeper emotional level. Austin, the anti-authority figure who hated his boss, connected so well for this reason. Cena, the current face of WWE, is relatable and representative not of what adults are, how they act and behave, but instead of how children want to see adults and what they respond to in much the same way Hulk Hogan did. Understanding the storyline and intent, I really enjoy Cena. I’d never react to him in the same emotional way that someone I can relate to might invoke. I don’t think adults should behave like Cena or that the world works in the way that he represents. More than that it is embarrassing, it is made for and marketed to children and escapists. Finding a representation of how a girl left me for another man is far more relevant to my life because, even though it never happened to me, it’s something that happens in the real world and I can emotionally empathize with the devastation that such a character might feel. That pulls me further into the story and allows me to feel emotionally vindicated when the protagonist succeeds in a way that Cena simply cannot. ROH is, in a way (and nothing is absolute here) wrestling expression for adults, while WWE is geared far more towards children. The obvious exception currently is the Michaels vs. Jericho feud which is a universal generational battle tinted with factors of how much either your past defines you or you define you. Actually, though I’ve discussed this before, I think I’ll stop here and devote a full column to this line of thought at some point soon.

11. ROH allows wrestling fans to mark out in a safe environment. Everyone in the arena has that fake “I’m a true wrestling fan” aura about him (which oddly smells like BO), so if they guy who can rattle off every NOAH champion from the last two years marks out for a moonsault, so can you. No longer do you have to keep yourself coolly reserved; you can go just as insane as you used to for the Macho Man. Only now you’re doing it in a nurturing environment. That creates quite an allure for wrestling fans, who now shift their paradigm to “fans of workrate”. That’s why they’re applauding, right?

You were closer to the mark in the paragraph prior. We don’t cheer because now it’s okay, but because now we relate more. I go to WWE shows and cheer my ass off for certain guys and matches, just like an ROH show. I’m not jumping up and down every minute at either. There are things that cause a reaction. ROH tunes more of their show to getting that reaction from me.

12. To ROH fans I say, “Embrace it.” Embrace the fact that you guys have carved out a world where it’s okay to mark out like 10 times during a match. Embrace the fact that people write about ROH wrestlers as if what’s going on in the ring is “real”. Christ, go back and read the ROH reviews and articles on this very site. Our writers (who are talented and enjoyable to read), write about these guys as if what’s going on in that ring is as legitimate as a baseball game. They are helping to bring back this mark culture that is no longer acceptable for the WWE and for TNA.

Because the ROH coverage here is essentially my baby, I’m going to disagree. We try and provide balanced coverage. Some columns are pure kayfabe, some are about logical progression of stories, while others still mix the two. The goal is to let everyone enjoy the product in their own way and have someone who’s writing caters to their interests.

13. WWE programming is inherently evil because they don’t give the ROH fan what they want. I always say that the reason the WWE draws so much heat is that they have the tools necessary to blow away any ROH card ever simply by using the lower 1/3 of their roster but they choose not to. If they just let Paul London and Jamie Noble work a main event for 45 minutes without the WWE Main Event Style restrictions, I guarantee every ROHbot fan and writer would award it eight snowflakes out of a possible five.

Very few of us want that. I don’t think it’s what the WWE is built on or what they should do. What bothers me is the disrespect of competitors that is near constant. Guys don’t need to be embarrassed to have a good show and make others seem better. Unfortunately, I think that’s on purpose. WWE is catered towards kids more and kids are cruel. Putting certain guys down so hard and so low makes the others feel that much more heroic. The stupidity appeals to the wider-audience. I don’t think anyone will argue that a large percentage of wrestling fans are either dumb or intellectually slumming it. The dumb, in a perverse way, like the stupid story-lines because, since they can stay a step ahead, they get to feel smart. The intellectual gets to take it apart and mock it on a deeper level, but that everyone is mocking the same “crap” has a unifying result and keeps the audience united against part of the product (Cena nearly killed is retarded to everyone, as even kids know JBL should be arrested and can go “look at the stupids writing that!”), just as they will remain united for another part (in this case, Jericho-HBK or Punk’s trying to prove himself). WWE has become very successful its own way and I have no desire for it to change. I just want there to be something that caters more to my tastes.

14. And that’s okay, but it’s not a legitimate review. It’s the review of a mark, and that’s great.

You lost me again. There’s obviously an element of opinion here, but the purpose of wrestling as an art-form is storytelling to get a psychological reaction. There are ways to do this to appeal to the highest percentage of those watching, which usually appeal to the lowest common denominator. If we’re comparing wrestling to film, for example, WWE, when good has the recognizable elements and technical merits of a relatively paint by numbers summer blockbuster like Terminator 2 (which is great fun and I really enjoyed). Of course, those who study film and look into what makes us react might prefer a more thoughtful film like No Country for Old Men, which is viewed and enjoyed by a different, smaller audience, but, by those educated generally considered the superior experience, even while (and this is key) viewed and liked by fewer people. All of us on the internet spend at least some time studying our preferred art form, which is why the internet has such a strong and vocal following for both this type of film and this type of wrestling. Enjoying either more is fully “legitimate.” Of course, major Hollywood and major wrestling are fully capable of putting out an award winning film to be enjoyed by everyone, that’s how we got The Dark Knight.

An Addendum by Griffin Chesnick: I would add that when you have a smaller budget you’re more conscious about the money that you spend, plus you can’t afford great special effects so your efforts primarily go into the story itself. Indy film makers tend to concentrate all their efforts on the actual film and not so much the fluff like big budget films do. There’s a market for both and I happen to enjoy both the big budget films and the serious well written films, but like you said its best when it has both, just like wrestling or The Dark Knight, which I am going to see tonight at midnight.

15. I guarantee the “moment of the year” will be CM Punk winning the World Heavyweight Championship, because it appealed to every kind of wrestling fan. To the casual WWE watcher, this was a guy who won the MITB, worked his way up the card and vanquished the evil heel. To the ROHbot, it was a chance to rejoice as two of the four world champions right now are ROH alumni. To the ROH-hater…even you couldn’t dump on how awesome it was to see Punk win the big gold belt.

Again, The Dark Knight of wrestling moments strikes again.

16. I like Ring of Honor. In fact, this October I will attend my first ever live Ring of Honor show, and quite frankly I can’t wait. Ever since I found out I was going to get to cover the show for Inside Pulse, I’ve been doing my homework. I’ve been watching shows, reading articles and scouring the ‘Net for show reviews.

Odds are, I’ll see you there. I hope it’s a great show and that you enjoy. Which show is it going to be?

17. I’ve witnessed the ROH markdom first hand, and it brought a smile to my face. Ring of Honor has created an environment for those people who want to be pure fans to be pure fans. On the other hand (there’s that phrase again!), I found the work incredibly daunting. It wasn’t easy to find stuff beyond the safe world of Pulse Wrestling with the exception of Wikipedia, and therein lies the major issue with the company in my opinion.

It is pretty fun. If you want more sites for great ROH coverage, just ask. The Cool Kids Table is particularly good.

And that’ll wrap up this episode ROH Weekly. Thanks to Andy and Brad for their thoughts and their (hopefully and very likely) thoughtful responses. Andy, I loved your column and think this is your best work since the early days. Brad, always a pleasure. As for the rest of you, keep your eyes peeled for Monday’s A Modest Response and be back here next Friday for previews of the weekend’s shows! Until next time…

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