Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Pay for what you get…

In last week’s column I discussed the first TNA 3-hour pay-per-view and how much they have changed for the worse in the past four years. Consistent readers know I gave up on both WWE and TNA a while back in favor of independent promotions like Ring of Honor, so this week I’ll discuss why ROH produces ppv shows that are superior to those of both the “big 2”, WWE and TNA.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Ring of Honor on pay-per-view.

Obviously ROH produces a different type of ppv with different goals and a different mission statement. Their intention isn’t to highlight a month’s worth of storylines with big blow-off matches but to attract casual wrestling fans by offering a pay-per-view alternative. The “big 2” offer all their storyline build-up for free via their weekly television shows and try to convince you to pay for the blow-off matches every month. However, if you only watch the free stuff on cable you’ll see enough highlights and results following the pay shows to keep up with all the angles without spending a dime. Sure, you’ll theoretically miss all the best action, but you’ll be aware of who won the matches and what important stuff occurred. It’s clearly a different business model, but ROH is an indy, after all. The bright side is that there are no true “house shows” produced by Ring of Honor, insomuch as every show they run includes ongoing storyline activity and not just an exhibition of their talent, whereas WWE house shows hardly ever advance anything. So if you do attend an ROH show or purchase a DVD, you’re going to witness some significant advancement of story arcs. That being said, Ring of Honor ensures that they include some of their biggest news and most important action on each ppv, so you know each one is going to be special.

The lower prices and amount of “real” wrestling action compared to WWE and TNA shows make Ring of Honor pay-per-views a great choice for fans who are hungry for more in-ring content and less backstage shenanigans or silly characters. Since ROH has no television to speak of, their ppvs contain more of a continuing storyline, including enough recap segments to ensure those fans who only watch Ring of Honor via the ppv format and never attend live shows or purchase DVDs remain up to speed on all current storylines. So if you started with their very first ppv, Respect is Earned, in July of 2007 and ordered each of the 10 shows they’ve offered so far (Rising Above 2008 debuts on ppv in just a couple of weeks, on 16 January 2009) you’d be aware of all the ongoing angles and feuds throughout the promotion since day one.

All the ppvs produced by WWE, TNA and ROH are professional wrestling shows you have to pay money to see at home, so that is the basis for my comparison. I discuss WWE and TNA shows in a single category (I know there are differences between them, but for the purposes of this column they are the same; both companies use weekly TV shows to build to one super-card per month.)

One of the most recognizable differences between ROH ppvs and those produced by the “big 2” is the more serious, competitive style of ROH ppv matches. It really appears that Ring of Honor athletes care about wins and losses, and chase victories hard. They are concerned with rivalries against other performers, the fortune of their stables, and the reaction of the live crowd, but they care more about winning matches, and that is evident in every ppv match through their intensity and drive. These contests are hard-hitting and impassioned since each one is so obviously important to the wrestlers, and that gives these ppvs a dramatic flare. Commentator Dave Prazak has openly mentioned that certain wrestlers were “three-and-one on ppv”, or “looking for their first singles win on ppv”, incorporating the fact that the grapplers know how critical the opportunity to impress a pay-per-view audience is. The matches on these big ROH shows are more than just another meaningless battle between two guys locked in an eternal feud, they are often either an important chapter in an epic war, a critical moment in a young lion’s growth and development, or a great former champ chasing one more shot at gold and glory.

Another big difference is in the “bang for your buck” category. ROH ppvs feature longer, better-developed matches and much more entertaining in-ring action. You’ll find higher quality and more exciting wrestling in two hours of ROH than in any single WWE or TNA three-hour outing. A wrestling fan who pays 10-15 dollars for an ROH ppv gets much more out of that single show then one does in a 30-40 dollar show from the big guys. Ring of Honor’s creative department is very skilled at making things seem important and establishing that cherished “big fight” feeling promoters always seek. They save some big moments for ppv, like the one-and-only ladder war in company history, the impactful debut of the Age of the Fall stable, and Nigel McGuinness’ title victory over the previously unstoppable monster and dominant champion, Takeshi Morishima. Nigel’s victory at Undeniable was a significant event for ppv customers since he’s still in the midst of a 14-month title reign which began that night, and is mere days away from eclipsing the lengthy run by American Dragon Bryan Danielson and becoming the second longest-reigning champion in company history. And those of us who bought the Undeniable show saw it all begin.

ROH also creates a more adult atmosphere, and I don’t mean in the sense that the porn section of a bookstore or video rental shop is often labeled “adult”. They don’t do the things that insult our intelligence like monsters, midgets, revised history/forgotten internal logic, over-the-top wacky storylines, or would-be comedy segments that aren’t funny. For the most part, Ring of Honor presents professional wrestling as an athletic combat sport competed by men whose livelihood is at stake by their ability to win matches, earn future bookings and full-time roster spots, and win championships. It’s more like staged MMA contests than the dreaded “sportz entertainment” style seen in WWE and TNA, but which must take place in some parallel universe or otherworldly dimension from where we all live. Ring of Honor action is close to believable and seems quite comfortable in today’s modern sports environment.

Another advantage ROH ppvs have over WWE and TNA is that with fewer shows and less air time for each, the pacing of the event rarely hits slow points, while the big boys’ shows are full of “breathers”. For the two hours you spend watching Ring of Honor on pay-per-view, you get a fast-paced romp through each explosive show. I’ll admit this pace wouldn’t be appropriate for a three-hour show every month, but since that’s not what ROH offers today, it’s not a concern. If they ever landed a weekly television show and started offering monthly ppvs, they’d have to reconsider the balls-to-the-wall structure of their events, but for now their high-energy shows, which go straight to work and never slow down, are just right.

Finally, a great edge ROH once had over the “big 2” on ppv was the near guarantee that fans would see a winner and loser in each match – something WWE and TNA would never even attempt to deliver. I wrote that sentence in the past tense simply because I’m unsure how ROH ppv will look in the post-Gabe Sapolsky era. Since Adam Pearce was given the book recently, screwjob finishes and disqualifications have reared their ugly heads more in Ring of Honor than ever before. But Scrap Daddy has only had the book all to himself (without wrapping up previous storylines) for a very short time, so we’ll have to wait and see, but perhaps they’ll keep that nonsense away from ppv, since it’s always been considered special for ROH, even with their new direction on display of late in their other shows.

Of course I accept that WWE and TNA have different goals and objectives when they present a monthly super-card but as a consumer, when I pay 30-40 dollars for a three-hour wrestling show I expect to see several high quality, enjoyable matches and perhaps one key moment in a storyline (like the creation of a stable, a long-awaited heel or face turn, or a significant victory in a big feud). If I’m not satisfied with the product I’ve purchased, I’ll stop buying from that company and start looking for another place to get what I’m looking for, which is exactly what I did with Ring of Honor about a year and a half ago. Here’s hoping Ring of Honor pay-per-views remain the holy grail of professional wrestling shows in the modern era.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “Money will buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail.” – Richard Friedman
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AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’d like to wish a very happy 2009 to all my friends and family and take this opportunity in this, my 200th consecutive weekly column (alright, I’ve missed one or two weeks along the way due to military requirements keeping me away my from computer), to thank the owner and editors of Pulse Wrestling for giving me a stage upon which to perform week after week, and to all the other site owners who’ve picked me up in syndication since I began writing this column almost four years ago. I have one more special “thank you”, and it goes to all the readers who’ve kept up with me and provided loads of great feedback, which was overwhelmingly more positive than negative; I look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Buon Anno Nuovo, e grazie per tutto!

Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

Our rankings expert PK racks-and-stacks all the contenders in WWE, TNA, and ROH in Pulse Wrestling’s monthly official rankings. He also penned a rare edition of The Mark In Me focusing on WWE’s upcoming Royal Rumble ppv.

Mark Allen discusses the previous year’s wrestling history in his latest Historically Speaking, and also covers the latest WWE happenings with This Week in ‘E.

Jonathan Kirschner discusses the masked Hallowicked character in this edition of Chikarticles.

Paul Marshall effectively subs for the absent Ace Glazer in The Wrestling Analyst. Great job, Mr. Marshall… come back soon, Ace!

Ivan Rushfield calls for mercy for the big boys from the IWC in episode 14 of Breaking Holds.

John Wiswell blasts through the finish line of his incredible, marathon journey through the 100 best matches of 2008 with the finale of the Riren 100.

Raffi Shamir breaks down all things cyber in McMahonland with his DotCom Delivery.

Norine “The Machine” Stice brings you blow-by-blow coverage of all the Friday night action in this week’s Real-Time SmackDown Report.

Finally this week, Scott Keith reviews a classic offering from WWE 24/7 in another Smark Rant, this one from WCW way back in August of 1986.

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