McGuire’s Monday: Tony Khan seems to care more about The Announcement than The Reality, which might explain why Ring Of Honor feels like ECW did once acquired by WWE

By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)

After more than a decade, Ring Of Honor’s run on Sinclair broadcast stations came to an end over the weekend. A press release stated that no more shows had been produced and no more shows would be produced — for the network at least.
This comes after AEW owner Tony Khan announced he purchased the company back in March. Ring Of Honor first began airing on Sinclair stations back in September 2011. As for what will happen now that Khan is in charge …

GOODBYE, SINCLAIR

… Well, let’s talk about that.

First, the basics. It’s sad to see Ring Of Honor go dark on Sinclair. Granted, there were a lot of reasons to complain about the deal and yeah, some of those shows through the years were far from perfect, but I always got a warm feeling when I’d happen to find my way to one of the program’s airings.

It felt low budget, but in a good way — kind of like when I’d randomly see episodes of ECW TV pop up at like 10 in the morning on a Saturday on Fox Sports 17 or something. Ring Of Honor television always served as a reminder that WWE wasn’t the only game in town, even if, without WCW and with a suspect TNA/Impact, it always felt like it was.

Ring Of Honor TV got back to the intimacy of pro wrestling and you always seemed to come across it right after you almost completely forgot it existed. But then you’d see it, you’d enjoy it and you’d be thankful it was there. A big part of what ROH was then was its television programing, I always thought. It was a signature element to the brand’s entire oeuvre.

But now it’s gone, and it’s replaced with …

A WIN-WIN

… nothing?

Or, well, at least nothing yet.

Now, let’s make one thing clear. I, like the majority of everybody, am very happy that Tony Khan bought Ring Of Honor. CM Punk put things so eloquently at the post-show press conference after Revolution in Orlando. I stood only a handful of feet away from him as he wept while reflecting on how scared he was that the Ring Of Honor library could fall into the wrong arms, and you couldn’t really blame him for having that fear.

If nothing else, Khan has everyone’s trust that he’s a good steward. He also tends to have the public’s trust that he’s a good booker of wrestling programs. And with Ring Of Honor comes a gaggle of talent that has consistently been some of the best in independent wrestling. In theory, people will keep jobs. Or, some people will keep jobs, at least. And that’s better than everyone being out of a job if ROH shut down for good.

So, Tony Khan purchasing the company feels like a win-win-win for the wrestling industry. It’s a win for ROH because it stays afloat. It’s a win for the fans of ROH because it means it still exists. And it’s a win for the wrestlers of ROH who may not have had many options coming out of the company’s hiatus thus far. Good stuff all around.

That said, color me a pessimist …

ROH ON AEW

… but why does it occasionally feel like ROH being associated with AEW isn’t not like the way ECW felt when WWE bought them out?

Yes, I know. The history between AEW and ROH is so short, it’s almost absurd to consider anything other than “give it time.” I’ll grant you that. But even with that in mind, I don’t think you can say the television situation has been great for this relationship. Remove Supercard Of Honor — because it was always going to be good and it was always going to be on pay-per-view — and what do you have? You have two companies working televised matches under one brand.

At least WWE threw up an ECW banner every now and then.

I’ve heard some wrestling legends say that the brand split in WWE could only work if the company keeps the brands totally binary. There is one brand, one roster, one look, one vision. And then there is another brand, another roster, another look, another vision. There’s no bleeding into one another. No star from one brand occasionally showing up on the other. Have them be complete separate entities and then hold a Super Bowl type of event once a year.

While I’m not so sure I agree with that (everything WWE does just consistently feels more and more watered down and because it’s lost so much trust through the years, I don’t even think the brand split matters one way or the other anymore), I do believe that if you buy an already-established company, it might be wise to keep that company somewhat established. Ring Of Honor has a history, a credibility, a fan base. Throwing a TV title match on an episode of AEW Dynamite ain’t that.

In fact …

A JUMBLED MESS

… Throwing an ROH World Title match on the second installment of a half-baked Clash of the Champions ain’t that, either.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to see Dalton Castle on national television and yeah, the novelty of the Ring Of Honor belts being defended on Turner Broadcasting has still yet to wear off. But an unintended consequence surrounding all this stuff is that now AEW has a jumbled mess on its hands. And if it doesn’t, then it sure does feel like it does.

Imagine you never paid any attention to anything but WWE and then AEW came along and stole your heart. As a result, your viewing habits are Dynamite on Wednesday and Rampage on Friday. That’s all you know of modern day wrestling. Then, all of a sudden, this thing called Ring Of Honor pops up, Tony Khan makes an announcement that he bought it, you see an homage to it occur as an opening match on a go-home Dynamite and now, this company’s titles are being defended during AEW’s television time?

It just doesn’t feel right. To hop from AEW’s TNT Title to the ROH World Title … there’s something suspect about how little divide there is between the two companies. I understand the logic from a business standpoint — “we just bought this thing, so let’s try to give it as much exposure as we possibly can as quickly as we can” — but from a fan’s standpoint … eh?

A shoulder shrug is all I can muster when the lineage of ROH has been so rich with talent that it deserves its own standalone product. Plus, this also adds to the narrative that AEW has too much of everything, most notably, good wrestlers. We saw Ruby Soho in a meaningful match for the first time in months on Friday, but we need to make sure we have time to squeeze in one or two ROH segments each Wednesday now? I’m not so sure that’s a great development.

Naturally, this could all be somewhat moot come Wednesday when …

DISTRIBUTION DEAL?

… Tony Khan makes his 1,093rd Big Announcement on Dynamite.

Reports suggest that he’ll either announce a NJPW/AEW super show for Chicago this summer or he’ll announce details on distribution and/or streaming. If it’s the latter, then we’ll have an immediate answer for Ring Of Honor. Will it be a long-term one, though? Will that mean ROH will exist on its own and there will be no crossover between AEW and ROH? Will ROH have its own branding? Will it lean on AEW on any level whatsoever? Will ROH have the ROH magic it had on Sinclair?

Those are the long-term questions. In the current day, however, this illustrates a larger point that some of us have been confronting for more than a month now: What was the rush to announce the ROH signing to begin with?

Why couldn’t Khan have had infrastructure in place — television distribution, a potential streaming library, etc. — before he stood in the middle of the ring like Kendall Roy shouting about buying ROH? That way, we wouldn’t have what felt like a throwaway ROH world title match on Battle Of The Belts on Saturday. That way, maybe we’d have some clarity on exactly who from ROH will be around and how often we will see them.

At the same post-show press conference after Revolution last month, I can tell you that the second Khan opened up questions for himself, everyone around my peppered him with Ring Of Honor questions and there were not a lot of answers to be had. Repeatedly, he responded by saying he wanted to talk about the pay-per-view that had just happened, and that’s his right. But it also exposed the acquisition for how little was figured out before the announcement was made. Some forethought might have been a virtue this time around for a guy who sometimes feels like he values The Announcement over The Reality.

WWE’s version of ECW died a thousand deaths for a thousand reasons, but one of them was the mere fact that it took the hottest non-mainstream company to exist in America and made it just another show. ECW became irrelevant and it was only a handful of years prior to that, that such an outcome felt impossible (so just imagine how it’ll be once WWE buys GCW … I kid, I kid). With Ring Of Honor taking a backseat (but not a backseat) to AEW, it’s hard not to wonder about its active future.

Because yes, we can all agree that the library is in good hands. And yes, we’re all happy that it didn’t go to the evil empire known as WWE. And yes, Tony Khan has proven his ability to book good-to-great wrestling shows, so there’s no reason to suspect someone may be giving birth to a hand on national television.

But now that Sinclair is officially out of the picture when it comes to television, Ring Of Honor is officially wading in deep waters. Whether it sinks or swims is up to the man who didn’t want to talk much about it a little more than a month ago. Now, staying above water is only the beginning.


Readers Comments (4)

  1. “Give it time” completely shuts down your argument. We don’t know nearly enough to judge at this point. Congrats on the clicks.

  2. TheGreatestOne April 18, 2022 @ 5:00 pm

    “Because yes, we can all agree that the library is in good hands. And yes, we’re all happy that it didn’t go to the evil empire known as WWE. And yes, Tony Khan has proven his ability to book good-to-great wrestling shows, so there’s no reason to suspect someone may be giving birth to a hand on national television.”

    The library is in the hands of a coke addict trust fund jackass.

    Tony Khan couldn’t book shit to fall out of a horses ass if it was already 99% of the way out.

    Mae Young’s hand drew more money in one night than AEW has done in 2 years.

  3. I believe it made a ton of sense to use AEW’s show to promote ROH’s stuff. Simply a way to get eyes on ROH guys to show people some wrestlers many of them don’t know.

  4. ROH had a dwindling fan base and very few paying customers. Is Khan going to run a separate TV product that tours from city to city?

    Are there really that many wrestling fans willing to pay to see what will look like AEW’s developmental program?

    Khan is struggling to produce three hours of coherent television a week. I have read he is also involved in both European and American professional football, so who on earth is going to book this second Khan owned wrestling brand?

    I think buying the video library and letting a dying company die, is an okay thing to do.

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