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Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Back on October 27, I said the following:

Since no one seems to totally know what happened with Ring of Honor and the firing of Gabe Sapolsky, I’m going to hold off most of my opinion save to say that the promotion that a lot of have loved for the last several years is for all practical purposes, dead.

For all creative purposes, Gabe Sapolsky has been Ring of Honor…and anything using the letters ROH following this won’t be Ring of Honor. It’ll be like what Vince McMahon shows on Tuesday nights as ECW…in name only. So for all of you reading this, enjoy your Ring of Honor DVDs. Because what’s about to follow isn’t going to be pretty, and won’t be anything like we’re all used to…and you may not see what we’ve been privileged to see over the last several years ever again.

This was a case where I’d have been happy to have been proven wrong. But I’m not. The last few weeks and months have proven this out to a degree.

There was a time not that long ago where a Ring of Honor ticket was one of the hottest indy tickets anywhere, especially in the markets of Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. In the post-Sapolsky era, crowds are down, to the point that HDNet TV tapings in Philadelphia have been papered; including this past weekend, even with KENTA appearing and a well-publicized appearance of Ric Flair (neutered after WWE pulled Flair from any on-air role) added few to the Friday night crowd. More than a few comp tickets were out there with local community and police group in Philadelphia.

There’s no lack of interest in the in-ring product style that Ring of Honor USED to feature on a monthly basis. Except that product will be seen on a smaller scale…in Dragon Gate USA, which debuts in Philadelphia on July 25. Philadelphia sold out reserved seats and balcony seats within the first weeks of sales (the first three rows in the first four days). So to say the drop in Ring of Honor crowds is due to the economy as some have tried to suggest…simply isn’t the case.

I said the following in this column five weeka ago:

Ring of Honor needs to worry if even an announced-at-the-last minute Ric Flair appearance only brings a decent crowd on Thursday night’s taping. Friday had a smaller crowd than that. There was a time only six to eight months ago where they’d have sold out the ECW Arena regardless of what day a taping was held. Back then, adding a Flair appearance to a TV taping would practically have had people scalping tickets. Things have gotten to the point where the promotion had to put out comps to fill the seats for at least one of the two tapings last month.

The economy [has been] used as an explanation for the drop in event attendance, but the fact that a large segment of Ring of Honor’s fanbase isn’t buying what the promotion is selling since Adam Pearce took over booking from Gabe Sapolsky. They don’t like the increase in count-outs and DQs; as witnessed by bad reactions to several finishes in recent months, including the reaction to the the DQ finish to the Chris Hero-Eddie Kingston match at this weekend’s taping. While DQs and count-outs can be used to build long-term programs, Ring of Honor fans are used to Japanese style booking where clean finishes were the norm.

Continuing the trend, a count-out in the opening match on Friday night’s taping between Jay Briscoe and D-LO Brown went over like a fart in church. and didn’t help crowd reactions the remainder of the night.

Contrary to the way I’m told it sounds on TV, when you give the crowd something good they DO react in kind. There are flashes of the old promotion style, even this past weekend. Witness matches like KENTA-Roderick Strong, and American Wolves- Bryan Danielson/Tyler Black on Friday and Tyler Black-Bryan Danielson and American Wolves/Chris Hero-El Generico, KENTA and Kevin Steen on Saturday. But the fans interest is down bigtime. That can’t be explained away by blaming the economy. Anyone with online access can check post-show results online, yet few were involved in discussion on Ring of Honor’s website Saturday night/Sunday morning. A year ago, traffic would have knocked the board offline for such a show.

The fact is that the HDNet experiment isn’t working. TV hasn’t brought increased DVD sales or increased tickets sales. Both have dropped in number. Storylines are crafted to fit TV formats, rather than the way they were written in previous years.

Worst, the show is now not available in many of the promotion’s major markets, unless fans have satellite TV. Comcast does not air HDNet (nor does the new Verizon FIOS system), meaning the show doesn’t air in Philadelphia unless fans have satellite DirecTV or Dish Network. That takes away the fans who come to a show who show up to get their faces on TV (they do pay for tickets…like them or not). There are also fans who have a strong preference for the old home of ROH, the Northeast Philadelphia Armory, which had better sight lines, but also had availability issues. Further, Time Warner Cable just dropped HDNet, meaning the Ring of Honor show no longer airs for cable customers in New York.

So for ROH to have changed their product that much to get on TV that is pretty much a satellite-only channel for their major markets seems like a faitrly bad decision in retrospect.

To conclude, a note from CZW’s Sabine Kernaghan on their efforts to raise funds at the 2009 Walk Now for Autism Research. Sabine works professionally in special education and has worked on behalf of autistic children for some time.

On June 13 (yes, just before Best of The Best) Shawn, Kylie, the rest of Noah’s Ark and I will be walking in South Jersey for Autism. If you can’t make it to the show and wish to donate I will paste the Noah’s Ark team page team website here for online donations.Until next time…

If you have comments/questions/event announcements/results, if you’d like to add the AS I SEE IT column to your website, or if you’d like to add advertising on PWBTS.com (the flagship website of this column), e-mail me at the address above. Advertising consists of banner ads, available for $400 for one year. These ads would appear on each newspage appearing on the newsboard. Cube ads are also available for $200 for one year, which would be placed on the main newsboard page.

As always, I need to leave you with some facts about autism:

  • 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism
  • 1 in 94 boys is on the autism spectrum
  • 67 children are diagnosed per day
  • A new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
  • Autism costs the nation over $35 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade
  • Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism.