Cult of ROH: Taping for TV

“There’s a show on Friday?”
Danbury’s Friday night show is an afterthought. This roster will be wrestling on Saturday and Sunday for television. All the emphasis is on the TV Taping, and Friday card looks stacked to disappoint. Nigel McGuinness defends vs. Jerry Lynn vs. Tyler Black vs. Jimmy Jacobs for the title is not going to end decisively and runs a very sad risk of overpushing McGuinness as the superman yet again. But you know the belt won’t change hands the day before a TV taping. ROH will keep its heel champion through the beginning of TV and probably look to deliver its first smash hit with a title change down the line on that broadcast or PPV. Conspiracy fans think McGuinness will jump ship with his contract not locked up and thus this is when he’ll lose the belt. As rad as that might be for a one-night deal, it is woefully unlikely.

The undercard is simply uninspired. Steen & Jay Briscoe against Hero & Edwards features some talented tag guys going against opponents with whom they have no track record. Danielson Vs. Delirious was gold in 2006, but only when Delirious was a beloved babyface, not a heel monster half the body mass of his opponent. Albright Vs. Castagnoli is a grudge match, but since they’re wrestling again Sunday, who would believe this outing will be decisive? This is a warm-up show that needs a few great performers to stand up and make it worthwhile while everyone else holds back for the weekend.

“It’s all about TV.”
We’ve got three shows in three days, two of which will produce six weeks of television that will begin airing in March. Think about that for a minute. Something taped this Sunday will air April 25th. The approach to standard TV is almost as backwards as their approach PPV.

With three weeks of one-hour television done in one night with such a big roster in attendance, the same guys will not wrestle often. While it’s good to establish a bigger roster of people worthy at the top, this means if your brother tunes in Week 1 and loves Tyler Black, he may wait four weeks to see him wrestle another match. That is not how pro wrestling TV works. Pro wrestling TV gets as good with Evan Bourne one week, and then puts him out there every consecutive week. With nobody repeating in main events, you also won’t get to see Danielson wrestle another long match within the six weeks of tapings, so if that’s what catches viewers, they won’t be able to get that satisfaction again for free – and don’t fool yourselves into believing they’ll immediately buy DVD’s to see what they wanted for free. Even if this different model can be done well, it’s simple variance from what WWE and TNA have established is going to make it harder for new fans to catch onto.

Then there are the continuity problems. How on earth do six weeks of television that begin broadcasting late next month synchronize with DVD releases of what happened a month ago and live events? The divide between DVD and live event continuity was rough enough. This third continuity is going to be wickedly confusing to anyone who likes the show enough to try it out for a ticket or DVD.

The hope is that Dave Meltzer’s theory of tapings results are true. Meltzer believes that if people are interested in a company, they will watch it even if they know the results. ROH has booked on that, selling DVD’s to people who knew what happened since they started business. There is still the question of if this company would have gotten off the ground and as far into the air as they have if the quality was at recent standards.

As of this writing ROH announced all five of their six main events in advance. Since each episode will be an hour, we an expect an ECW on Sci Fi format with a longer main event and shorter building block segments beforehand. The quality of those main events is what will determine if the few ROH fans with HDNet will tune in. It’s in in-ring action that will also sell the show to newcomers, because even with HDNet producing, ROH doesn’t have the name power or anything like the look of a WWE show. It’s not like they’re taping at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Instead, they’re taping in Philadelphia. Why is beyond me. Yes, ROH was born near there, and there are some wonderful fans. But there are also droves of jaded and conceited fans who will pay to come in, heckle, cheer heels, crap on any storyline, and happily sit on their hands until you throw someone onto something sharp. I fear how the live crowd may treat this show and how it will come across on TV, especially if anything “Pearce-like” happens so much as once. Philadelphia, please prove me wrong.

The first five main events are as follows.

1: Jimmy Jacobs Vs. Tyler Black
This is actually one of the matches you’d think they’d hold off on, to build for a later TV main event. But no, Jacobs and Black will have their first real singles match on the first episode of ROH TV. They are certainly capable of something great, but now have the pressure of getting all their animosity across with nothing but a promo and music video to help them. God willing, that music video will not have been produced by the people who have been doing ROH’s stuff. As far as must-see free wrestling on TV, though, this is a great one.

2: Nigel McGuinness Vs. Jay Briscoe
It’s a little odd to have the champion not defend his title on six straight episodes of TV, and to have his only high-priority match be against a tag guy. McGuinness and Briscoe are individually talented but have never had a particularly competent match. With Jay Briscoe hustling more on the mat and improving dramatically in singles, hopefully this will be their first main-event-quality outing.

3: Austin Aries Vs. Bryan Danielson
You can’t have more confidence in a singles main event on ROH television than Aries and Danielson. Six one-hour episodes will be taped over two days, and with this as the third main event, this will likely be your final match on Saturday. That puts it in prime position to deliver the amazing match ROH needs. Aries defined himself in ROH against Danielson, and the two may be the best athletic technicians in the company. Their bout last year at Take No Prisoners was one of the finest pieces of pure wrestling ROH had all year. Do that again here and you advertise ROH’s biggest attraction point of the last six years, and exactly what HDNet officials have told the company they want.

It’s also a dynamic match. Aries has never wrestled Danielson as a flamboyant, anti-fan heel, and as Danielson is the most pro-fan of any wrestler, they’re primordial opposites for the first time. I couldn’t trust any two guys more to make something like this work in ROH.

4: Jerry Lynn Vs. Brodie Lee
I have no earthly idea why this is a main event. Lynn has no history of quality work against big men, there’s minimal issue between them, and as promising as Lee is, he’s green. They will have to build it in the first three episodes, and even then it’s questionable of how well it will work. On the plus side, no one is as likely to be beloved in Philadelphia as Lynn, and the victory can be used to cement him as a main eventer in the TV-world of ROH.

5: Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Brent Albright
With a practice match on Friday night, this ought to work well. They’re legit heavyweights who work surprisingly well together and will do something different than any other of the main events. Unfortunately, they’ll also have to content with the catty Philadelphia crowd. Hopefully they can resurrect the ghost of how beloved Albright was when he challenged Morishima.

The miscellaneous talent are Kenny Omega, Kenny King, Rhett Titus, The Necro Butcher, Cheech, Cloudy and the Dark City Fight Club. Aside from Butcher, these guys look overwhelmingly like fodder. If ROH management is smart, King, Titus and Omega will get the beginnings of rookie pushes on the undercards, and graduate to bigger stuff on the next set of tapings. More likely is that everyone will be thrown out there with something to do, and whoever does the best will get a chance to try again later.

Conspicuous by his absence is El Generico, preventing the tag titles from being defended and precluding one of ROH’s most talented wrestlers from getting in the ring. This is a huge shame.

It also brings to light that, unless the sixth main event is a tag, that tag wrestling isn’t being featured. With El Generico out, Mark Briscoe injured and Davey Richards in Japan, ROH seems to have booked themselves a weekend when none of their established tag teams will be together. Regardless of Briscoe’s injury, it looks like another sign of the waning tag team division.

The last point of interest is Colt Cabana. Mark Allen already covered his release from WWE, which made him technically available. He recently wrestled for PWG, but PWG doesn’t have a television deal. If Cabana has the standard 90-day no-compete clause, he will be able to work for DVD releases, but not TV or PPV – which means no Cabana on HDNet this weekend. It’s a shame, but overwhelmingly likely.

Discounting possible screwy Pearce-era booking and possible amazing performances by wrestlers stepping it up, it really looks like an average set of shows. There will be a lot of filler and inconclusive outcomes, with a crop of six matches that don’t resemble must-see ROH DVD main events. Though if you’re in Pennsylvania, why wouldn’t you go live for Jacobs Vs. Black and Danielson Vs. Aries?

That’s it for me this week. Also around the internet:

-Check out my site of micro-fiction and monologues at www.johnwiswell.blogspot.com

-Vinny Truncellito looks at the famed Hardy Boyz home promotion, OMEGA.

-Mark Allen looks at Colt Cabana’s release in depth.

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