Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Hammer Has Dropped: ROH Contracts to Become Exclusive Immediately UPDATE

Elgin will be one of many affected by Sinclair's new policy
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Rumors have been floating around for awhile that executives within Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the corporate entity that owns Ring of Honor, were mulling over not allowing any contracted wrestlers to compete in any other promotion. These rumors have been confirmed by Dreamwave Wrestling promoter Jay Respel, and effective immediately, all ROH wrestlers are to be exclusive with the company, and they will not be allowed to take bookings with any other company. Michael Elgin is the only one that affected Dreamwave's plans. He was booked for the Southern Illinois company's December 6 event. However, ROH wrestlers compete all across the country and even overseas. The company has had a good relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling in the last few years, but with NJPW joining the Global Force Wrestling network as an affiliate promotion, I doubt that relationship will continue past WrestleKingdom 9 if at all.

First off, this decision seems to be a case of corporate middle managers getting in the way of operations. I'd like to write that it's a rare case, but America is full of rich assholes playing a shell game with the economy trying to maximize their own profits. Hell, the people making this decision are only emulating WWE's blatant disregard of the independent contractor label. However, WWE can afford to pay its wrestlers enough that they really don't need to do multiple promotions in order to have a career in the industry. Can ROH say the same? Colt Cabana in the past has blasted the company for low payouts. If you're going to take a dump on the independent contractor label, then you need to be able to back it up with comparable wages. Additionally, the move takes away potential exposure for the ROH television show. Sinclair is not a powerhouse in the media world by a longshot, so it can't just grant exposure like WWE can at this point. Its penetration barely covers "B" markets. It is still small enough that it would benefit immensely from having ambassadors appear on local shows, especially in markets where the corporation has stations.

I get wanting to have your talent exclusive to you and you alone, but I'm not sure Sinclair has earned that right yet. I don't even think WWE has earned that right, so if the biggest wrestling company in the world doesn't get the benefit of the doubt, why should ROH? Meanwhile, several name brand independents and the second biggest wrestling promotion in the world are going to end up burnt by this business decision. ROH contracted talent Kyle O'Reilly holds major titles in both Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and NJPW. Jimmy Jacobs is a major cog in the biggest Chikara storyline of all-time. ACH is a mainstay in Central Texas and Southern Illinois. Elgin, Bobby Fish, RD Evans, and so many more would all be affected. ROH's decision would wreck the ecosystem of an indie scene that it proudly and loudly claims to have helped build.

Regardless, if Sinclair puts its money where its mouth is and actually pays these guys a living wage, then I will have less of a problem with the proclamation. However, it still sucks for the amount of collapse the decision is going to cause around the wrestling landscape worldwide, all because some profit hounds in a front office somewhere in Baltimore want to squeeze as many nickels out of their property as humanly possible without any regard for the consequences around them.

UPDATE: The Facebook post has been removed, which only muddles the situation. I'm not sure if this means Elgin will be appearing at the Dreamwave show, but I guess more will be known in the coming weeks.