The Rise and Fall of Ring of Honor: Part 2 - The Fall

Yesterday we looked at the rise of Ring of Honor.Today, I'd like to bring us closer to present day. While ROH was once at the pinnacle of what an independent promotion could be. They had created a blueprint for success without major backing. Then, it all came crashing down. I've said before that every promotion makes mistakes. The problem is, Ring of Honor made a lot of mistakes in a short period of time,driving away even some of the die hard ROH fans.

The first and biggest block to fall was Rob Feinstein. In 2004 Feinstein was caught in an internet sting operation. Feinstein was shown pursuing a sexual relation ship with an underage boy who was actually an adult. This lead to constant bad press for ROH until Feinstein sold his share of the company. However, the damage had been done. TNA and other promotions stopped their open working relationship with ROH. TNA took it a step further and told talents they needed to choose between ROH and TNA.

While ROH kept guys like Bryan Danielson and CM Punk, they lost guys like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels who would go on to bring TNA to popularity. In addition some of the distributors in ROHs network backed out of their contracts. However, ROH persevered. They created their own store to distribute videos themselves. They also began distributing for other smaller promotions. They hired a booker by the name of Gabe Sapolsky who made the best of a poor situation. Then, Gabe was gone over night with no warning and the gates of Hell opened.

Adam Pearce took over as booker. While a lot of people blame Pearce for the fall of ROH, I disagree. It was obvious he was in over his head, but he made do with what he had. It wasn't the best but the worst was yet to come. In 2009 Jim Cornette took over as head booker and executive producer for the company. Jim Cornette had become legendary in the wrestling business for his work with other promotions since the 80s. ROH looked for him to bring them into the future. Sadly it wasn't the future they wanted.

Soon Ring of Honor had signed a deal with HDNet Fights to stream internet based pay per views and a weekly episodic series for them. This had worked in the past to sustain and turn a profit for other smaller promotions. Fans lined up to see what ROH had to offer. It was disastrous. The production values were low, the streams where unstable and often went down without recovering. There was no way to watch a replay. Eventually ROH cut ties with HDNet Fights.

While TNA has had it's financial issues exaggerated, Ring of Honor's were much worse. Behind the scenes the company was just short of bankruptcy before it was purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting. With this ROH attempted to stream it's own shows on their own website in 2011, with the same disastrous results. Streaming could have been huge at the time for ROH but much like pro wrestling as a whole, egos got in the way. Even after being purchased by Sinclair, they refused to ask them for help. Sinclair makes money broadcasting, an internet stream would be nothing new to them, but they didn't ask. Another option was former booker Gabe Sapolsky who had created his own streaming site.

As head booker Cornette made countless poor choices. He ignored young talent such as Adam Cole, Michael Elgin, Tomasso Champa and Kyle O'Reilly. All of these men have gone on to make a names for themselves without the help of ROH. Some people credit Cornette with at least bringing us Kevin Steen, but that started with Sapolsky and continued under Pearce. There was no way he could ruin that. While ignoring young talent Cornette pushed his friends like Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. The two failed to connect with the crowd and when they attempted to leave, Jim just put more money on the table.

One of the biggest blunders of Jim's talent relations was Kenny King. Kenny King was ROH tag team champion and quickly becoming one of the most popular people on the show, but his contract was expiring. When it came to negotiation Kenny King asked that he be booked on more shows. Cornette promised him on a handshake deal and it didn't happen. King began looking for better deals in other companies.

He brought Cornette the deals and was promised that he would be booked more. This continued to the point where King was working without a contract, simply on the promise of more bookings that never came. Eventually Kenny King was fed up, while still being ROH tag team champion he showed up a live episode of TNA. He was nice enough to send back the championship.

Yet, Cornette remained in charge, until something that had never happened before took place. It was a standard show for ROH. The hometown hero Jay Lethal was taking on Kevin Steen for the ROH World Championship. During the match things went too far. Kevin Steen exited the ring and began to argue with Jay Lethal's mother. She threw her drink on him. Then things took an unscripted turn. Steen spit on Lethal's mother and a scripted wrestling match became a real fight.

The two fought until people from the back came to separate the two of them. When it was over Steen left by ripping down part of the stage set. Lethal went after Jim Cornette who had told Steen to do it despite the fact that Lethal objected. Eventually he was pulled off him by other wrestlers and referees. The crowd began throwing trash into the ring and chanting for a refund. Needless to say, everyone got out of the building quickly with the exception of Jay Lethal.

By this time a lot of fans had moved on from ROH. Yet, the company still had faith that things would turn around. But, this was the straw that finally broke the camels back. Jim Cornette was fired the next day. During this time TNA was being berated for bringing in Hogan and Bischoff to be stuck in the 90s, WWE was focusing on bringing in part timers from the 00s. ROH was being driven to the brink of destruction by a man who was stuck either further back in the 80s who was concentrating on a booking style that would take years for a payoff in an age where information was constant.

Part 3

You can hear Darrell on the CP Time and Powerbomb Jutsu podcasts. He also plays classic arcade games on The Cabinet
The Rise and Fall of Ring of Honor: Part 2 - The Fall The Rise and Fall of Ring of Honor: Part 2 - The Fall Reviewed by Darrell S. on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Huh. Interesting take on Cornette's ROH run. Have you watched his videos on this time period, specifically his take on the whole Kenny King situation. You omitted how hot ROH was during the ROH/CZW invasion angle though. Didn't know about Steen and Lethal getting into a shoot over Steen spitting on Lethal's mom though. Who the fuck that was a smart idea other than Cornette apparently? Enjoying this series nonetheless though man.


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