The Reality of Wrestling: ROH, HD-Net, & Time Warner Cable

This one is weird and it barely involves pro wrestling

One of the least talked about, but oddest stories of the month of May was the canceling of HD-Net from all Time Warner Cable providers. The story itself was mainly seen on MMA news websites because this cancellation also eliminated the only way American MMA fans would be able to see K-1 and Dream shows live or even taped as there aren’t that many video trading or video retailers/websites that sell K-1 events or compilations, and that goes ditto for Dream. However, the more serious ramifications of this cancellation are being felt in the wrestling world, specifically with Ring of Honor, the only wrestling programming on HD-Net. With Ring of Honor still being nothing more than the biggest Indy promotion in the country, the HD-Net deal that gave them a weekly show for the first time ever, was a big deal and is a big loss with it being taken away from the majority of the homes it could have been viewed in. Hopefully this isn’t a case of Mark Cuban pissing somebody off that he wasn’t supposed to piss off, and I’m not referring to Kenyan Martin.

P.C. Says: This whole situation makes no sense

When I first read that Time Warner was dumping HD-Net on all of its providers, I was pissed to say the least. I was not an HD-Net customer as of yet, but was going to become one specifically because I could see Dream and K-1 shows at the time they happen instead of either online at some other date or further down the line when I’d be able to track down the shows via video sites. Other than MMA and kickboxing, I am not too familiar with the rest of HD-Net’s programming, other than the fact that they have other sports on as well, so that is a testament as to what the channel’s appeal is to me, as well as to any MMA fan or writer or insider that had the channel.

That notion I embodied in that first paragraph—I wanted HD-Net for the MMA and kickboxing—is strikingly different from the reasoning for the cancellation given by Robyn Watson, Time Warner Cable’s director of corporate public relations (quick note: we all know that public relations usually means watering down something major, but add corporate into the mix and it could turn into flat out subterfuge). Watson’s statement on the HD-Net situation reads:

“There’s a limited appeal for the programming. In a world with more than 100 HD channels, being in HD is not enough. We are adding other channels in HD to give our customers more choice.”

See what I just mentioned about subterfuge. Let’s go through this statement bit-by-bit because each part of this statement is symbolic of the surreal and seedy nature of this situation, mostly from Time Warner Cable’s end. First off: “There’s a limited appeal to the programming.” That couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, the fight game can be love it or hate it for the majority of the country, but considering MMA’s rise in the U.S. over the past three years, it would be pretty stupid to say that there is a limited appeal (even if it is Japanese MMA and Japanese kickboxing) considering the level of new fans that have embraced this sport in recent years. “In a world with more than 100 HD channels, being in HD is not enough.” Again, this sentence makes no sense because anyone who has even checked out HD-Net’s website, let alone watched it, knows that there is sports, movies, wrestling, and other original programming on the channel; this is not an example of someone rigging up a new channel borrowing stuff from all sorts of other channels. Remember, HD-net isn’t even borrowing the telecasts of Dream and K-1 shows because they worked out deals with both promotions to air the shows live as they happen up until the cancellation. And finally, “We are adding other channels in HD to give our viewers more choice.” Firstly, wouldn’t keeping HD-Net and adding another channel (even the one they replaced HD-Net with) create more variety anyway? Plus, adding other channels in HD—while using no other descriptions of the channels or even if there’ll be a common theme amongst these new additions—does seem a bit contradictory to the “being in HD isn’t enough” stance they took in the prior sentence.

And on that note, we look at MAV TV HD, the channel that replaced HD-Net. Firstly, considering the programming—mainly racing, roller derby, and the Ultimate Combat Experience—this channel looks a lot like what TNN was before it became Spike TV, which is fine if that’s what you’re into. However, if the issue really was quality and quantity of programming, as Robyn so wanted us to believe Time Warner thought was the case, then HD-Net wins again because MMA and Kickboxing both trump Ultimate Combat Experience (something I’ve seen a few times by the way) in terms of action and talent involved (as does Ring of Honor in my opinion), and with very little else for programming outside of the sports options, this channel really doesn’t seem like much of a replacement for a channel that had begun to gain real momentum over the last year and a half. Overall, this seems like a very underwhelming choice for a replacement.

To add another surreal element to this whole thing, Time Warner Cable has apparently taken the stereotypical “we don’t know anything” stance that big businesses tend to take in sticky situations. In May nobody who inquired about this whether by computer or phone was given even vindication that this was even happening. Case in point: while at work June 1—the say HD-Net was taken off Time Warner Cable providers—a Time Warner Cable employee entered the store and got something to drink. Just for laughs I made a slight joke about being pissed (that was true) at Time Warner for giving HD-Net the boot. The employee proceeded to give me the standard corporate response, almost word for word what Robyn Watson had sent out as the company’s response, and topped it off by noting that “you can see programming like that [MMA] on Spike TV.” I’ll let you make your own judgments and comments on that one.

Finally, let’s look at this story from a wrestling perspective, in this case Ring of Honor. This was Ring of Honor’s first attempt to really branch out past the underground and into a more mainstream environment—I am aware that HD-Net isn’t that visible, but it was a potentially much larger audience than ROH has had—and really make a go of it as the pay-per-views haven’t really increased in number by a wide margin if at all. Not only that, but the reviews for the show (not surprising to me) have been good as ROH has been able to put together a good offering at each taping and, like their pay-per-views, have enough variety where each show seems a bit different even though a lot of the main players are the same. On that note, ROH’s talent pool is the main reason HD-Net being off Time Warner isn’t catastrophic. Even with McGuinness injured, this is still one of the best locker rooms in the world with Danielson, Aries, Caludio, Nigel, Jimmy, Tyler Black and Erick Stevens being big men who are stepping up their game, Jerry Lynn filling the legend role perfectly by still being able to go; plus ROH, even without Gabe, have still been able to keep their ability to bring in colorful outsiders top notch as the NOAH relationship seems to be intact with KENTA coming back to ROH as well as Petey Williams and D-Lo Brown getting dates upcoming. In the end, this is another example of ROH’s continuous forward movement hitting a snag as they were the top Indy promotion in the U.S. during their first few years and then came the increased DVD sales only to be stifled by a lack of increase in ticket sales, then they made the big move to pay-per-view during a particularly hot 2007 for the promotion only to see the reception be less than loving, and they got a syndicated T.V. show for a month or two, and then the plug was pulled on it. To say that this promotion is resilient might be a bit overblown as they have never been in a do-or-die situation as a promotion yet, but they have been able to continue moving forward through everything that gets in the way of any kind of an extreme jump forward. And while that may be what is saving them now, there may come a day (as Cary Silkin alluded to when discussing Gabe’s removal as booker) when withstanding disaster will become a disaster in itself.

Until then, continue onward Ring of Honor, I’ll see you in Chicago, June 27.

The Reality is…the corporate world can really suck. If we haven’t seen that enough this decade through the pharmaceutical industry, the auto industry, the airline industry, the oil industry, etc. we now have to apparently deal with it with our T.V.’s I’m not referring to the business atmosphere that surrounds basically everything we do nowadays (time is money and you have to make that money), but the back door decisions that either never become public or become public right before their implementation. In this case, the issue is just that: we don’t really know why this happened only that it happened. For ROH, they are the main victims as far as sports broadcasting is concerned as Dream and K-1 will continue on, they just won’t have a gateway into U.S. televisions, but only for a moment as there are always possibilities out there for fight sport. With ROH, they go back to the drawing board as far as expansion and long-term financial survival go. As far as the product goes, it continues to roll along as good as it’s always been. If Adam Pearce and ROH are looking for a silver lining to come out of this whole situation, that is it.

This week’s “FUCK YOU!” goes to:

When it comes to the hardcore versus technical wrestling debate, I’ve always sided with technical wrestling and always will. This past weekend, Nick Cage severed an artery below his arm when he was accidentally stabbed during a weapon spot in CZW’s Tournament of Death. Accident or just sloppiness, it really doesn’t matter because this is another in a long line of examples of why hardcore wrestling as a style and as a career is a no-win situation through and through. Mick Foley and Masato Tanaka went back to straight brawling after a few years doing hardcore matches and their careers not only rebounded, but in the ring the two became the best that they would become as Tanaka is in fact still in that hot period of his career. Is it only because they gave up hardcore matches? No, but giving them up did buy the two some years on their careers and while the two did still do matches of a hardcore nature on and off, because it wasn’t constant there was less long-term risk. With a guy like Gage, and many in CZW, this is the kind of match they are going to do night in and night out, and at the end of the day it isn’t worth it both financially and physically. This injury did have the potential to kill Gage, but then again this is probably #10,000 on the “spots that could’ve killed me” list for Gage, so I can understand why some hardcore enthusiasts would see this as not so big a deal. There’s a reason why the talents of guys like Daisuke Sekimoto and Masato Tanaka and Mick Foley stood out in promotions where hardcore and weapons matches were the norm: these guys had talent outside of the hardcore environment that they were able to put on display. The majority of the guys in strictly hardcore match promotions have little or no talent that could be used in a promotion that focused on in-ring work and knowing the elements of a great match instead of how many different things you can hit your opponent or get hit in the head yourself with.

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