Editorials ROH

Deforestation: How ROH Lost Their Roots

The first time I ever saw Ring of Honor, or wrestling period, was ROH Death Before Dishonor 2003, featuring CM Punk facing Raven in a dog collar match. It was different, I had never seen anything like it. There was violence, superior athleticism, extreme emotion, and intense passion from the fans. It was purely awesome. If you go to watch ROH TV right now you will see none of those things. It was a long process, but somehow ROH went from the pinnacle of pro wrestling in North America, to an independent company with booking problems, to a company with a poor product and an atrocious front office. ROH has certainly lost its purpose and there are individual wrestlers that personify the company’s failings.

At one point in time ROH had CM Punk, The American Dragon, and Samoa Joe as its stop stars. Three unique pro wrestlers who did not fit a typical mold and had a focus on their in ring abilities. Shunned by the populace, ROH gave these three a home to be the best wrestlers they could possibly be. It was a service they were doing for the pro wrestling community, as there was no other place available to see the absolute quality these three, and others like them, were able to produce. It became their badge of honor, quite literally, that ROH had the best wrestling on the planet. So it would come as a surprise that ROH found a way to drag their feet on ACH, Kyle O’Reilly, and Cedric Alexander among countless others.

ACH has unlimited talent, at any moment he can do something incredible in the ring. So much more than a spot-monkey, ACH has the exemplary ability to display emotion and pain making his matches a treat to watch. A company like ROH, a company that gained its fame for giving opportunities to the best performers in wrestling would surely make ACH a cornerstone of their product and treat him with the same enthusiasm that the fans have for him? Over ACH’s ROH career he had 8 title matches, including two chances to end Jay Lethal’s lengthy TV title reign, and walked away with ZERO wins. Of course ACH was featured prominently during his run in ROH, but his matches never mattered. There were very few occasions where ACH had an actual feud or rival, he was meant to make the already established stars of New Japan and ROH look good. He would be booked to have a great match, which he is more than capable of, and then fade to nothing. He had no purpose, his matches were predictable, they wasted his talent. ROH made its name on people like ACH, those creative, insanely talented athletes, capable of putting on incredible matches and carrying great feuds. It’s worth mentioning that ACH is treated like a much bigger star in pretty much everywhere else he goes.

Kyle O’Reilly should have been the big dog in ROH three years ago. For three years there has been a universal “Why?” after every O’Reilly match, because somehow every single time he lost to somebody nobody wanted to see. His run as the tag team partner of Adam Cole in Future Shock was a lot of fun, and when he Bobby Fish formed reDRagon they were the elite tag team in wrestling. But after he was done being a tag star, his skills were sharpened, and his following had grown it was time for him to finally become a major player. Then it was time for him to become a major player again, and then again, then it happened again, then it also happened again. Then it happened and it was not satisfying in the least. The biggest story coming out of Kyle O’Reilly finally becoming ROH World Champion, was how long it took to get there and how his contract was up in one month. Embarrassing is the word. January 4th, 2017, in the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 11, Kyle O’Reilly loses to Adam Cole in 10 minutes and 14 seconds in Kyle’s first title defense. There it is again, embarrassing. After years and many opportunities where he should have won any title, Kyle O’Reilly loses in a match where the biggest story was Adam Cole’s New Japan theme, and the size of the lineups to the bathroom. Third strike, embarrassing. In what appears to be a running theme, Kyle O’Reilly is a much bigger star everywhere else he goes, whether it’s PWG, NJPW, ECCW.

Is there anything more tragic than Cedric Alexander in ROH? Especially when you compare his time there to where he is now, I get upset thinking about it. The amount of times Cedric had a “good showing” against main event talent was concerning. Too many a time did Kevin Kelly try to convince me that Cedric was going to win a match against an established star, it was laughable. Cedric’s story is similar to ACH and Kyle O’Reilly, so many times the fans called for him to be the star, and so many times were they let down. His coronation win against Roderick Strong on the first cable PPV in ROH history was supposed to be the start of the ascension of Cedric Alexander, in a way it was, as year by year ROH treated him worse and worse. Cedric got more and more disgruntled, and as he got disgruntled he got further out the door of ROH, which was a good thing for all of us. Following this unfortunate trend, Cedric Alexander is a star everywhere he goes, including the WWE.

I am in no way complaining about my favorite wrestlers not being booked to win every match, what I am bringing to your attention is the fact that ROH no longer serves a purpose in professional wrestling as it stands today. ROH is supposed to be unique, the same problem TNA had was trying to be WWE-lite, ROH seems to be emulating late WCW. Young, exciting, talented performers leaving the company in waves, while the same guys we’ve watched for years continue to do the same thing for years. Not to mention the atrocious management behind the scenes, with Kyle O’Reilly, Keith Lee, Michael Elgin, ACH, Cedric Alexander, among others leaving the company in waves angry and on to greener pastures.

ROH has problems, serious problems, and their identity is just part of it. If they continue to misuse talent, they are going to get burned, not only by the talent, but by the fans. Their business is not in a good position either, as on the night of a PPV you routinely see Tweets like this:

Whatever ROH is doing they are doing it wrong. They have lost everything that made them unique. Their innovative matches, the world class athleticism, and legendary long satisfying rivalries have gone. They have died at the hands of inconsistent booking that leaves the fans feeling rather delirious. As an ROH fan for most of my life, I have conceded defeat. No longer is Michael Pincente an ROH fanboy, he will no longer blindly defend the soul crushing, life sucking, fun killing promotion that is Ring of Honor.

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Pincente

  • Lavie Margolin

    I hate to say it but you are probably right. The time of Punk/Joe/Dragon was unique and special. The magic is basically gone. The TV show is kind of boring. I still go live twice a year in NYC hoping for a spark but the magic is gone. EVOLVE seems more innovative and exciting these days (at least live; I’ve never watched an internet broadcast for either).

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