Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Feedback of Honor: First Impressions

If you wanted to know Moose, you got to know him on this Destination America debut show
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Ring of Honor, as a wrestling company, has been open for business for over 13 years now. It carries a certain reputation for in-ring excellence and emphasis on the sport rather than the entertainment. A strong cadre of fans who have followed the independent scene or the wrestling world larger than WWE for any length of time during its tenure know what it entails. WWE is not shy about recognizing it as the breeding ground for its newest generation of stars, and CM Punk even mentioned it on RAW during the infamous pipe-bomb promo. But sometimes, indie cred and buzz and people in the know knowing who you are isn't enough.

The HDNet show was a start, but it was buried on a trash network with little promotion. Sinclair Broadcasting Group's syndication helped with the video quality issues and distribution, but the conglomerate's reach had no penetration in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia. Destination America, while not the network with the largest reach, presented an opportunity for ROH to be seen by the most eyes it has ever had gazing on its televised output. In a way, tonight's show was a first impression for potentially millions of new viewers. With that in mind, it was a curious show to kick off its run.

Half the competitors in the first two matches will more than likely not be seen in a ROH ring for another year. Granted, when one can spotlight KUSHIDA or Takaaki Watanabe, that opportunity should be seized post-haste. But if the show is to be an introduction to the narrative on the whole, I question how smart it was to begin with the Global Wars tapings, and the decisions got even more curious towards the end of the show. Having two bait-and-switch moves with the last two matches on the show and subbing out BJ Whitmer and Jay Lethal for Colby Corino and J. Diesel felt like overkill.

But curious is better than outright terrible, and the hour frame had some strong positives associated for potential first-time viewers. Several key players were featured and allowed to introduce themselves without the overly demonstrative origin story method of debuting to a new audience. Watanabe's match with Silas Young was strong and indicative of the kind of action ROH is known for. Right from jump, three major players for the next pay-per-view, Jay Briscoe, Jay Lethal, and Moose, were established. It wasn't the full blast, but in an hour, how much of a fully-formed, expansive promotion can be presented without it coming off as overkill?

ROH's debut broadcast on Destination America had its problems, and those problems are part and parcel with the company's major failings. But I can't see it not being enticing to new viewers going forward. The move to a newer network will mean more room to grow, not only financially, but also creatively. The question is, what new frontiers will ROH explore as it gets more comfortable with the wider reach? Hopefully, they'll be bold ones.