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Ring Of Honor? Breaking Down the ROH News

Code Of Honor Adhered To?

Credit: bleeding cool

Yesterday ROH informed us that wrestlers whose contracts expired at the year end were not being renewed.

This is not a letting go of some talent, which WWE have been attacked for recently. This is a goodbye to all of the talent. At the end of the year. They’ll be paying them until then.

Wrestling talent were told by Zoom yesterday that those whose contracts end at the year end will be free agents. Those who have a longer contract will be paid until next Spring.

And then there will be a rebranding. Which many have been calling a re-designing. But will this be a programme with smaller, cheaper, more inexperienced wrestlers? Or is this a fire and rehire?

What’s that? It’s what some companies like to do to cut wages. Get rid of staff, workers, performers and then bring them back on lower wages or lesser terms and conditions.

If this is ROH’s plan, they have an issue. They have announced the end of the contracts ahead of times and so the talent will have time to find other employers.

First to find a new home? It’s reported that Dannhausen has teased being All Elite…

Or is this ROH being kind to the future endeavours of their wrestlers because they simply can’t continue?

The Business Issue

What’s next? We don’t really know. ROH said in their official statement that they are going to ‘pivot’ have a ‘new mission and strategy’ and ‘reimagine ROH’.

That’s just nonsense business speak. They also talk about a unique offer for fans when they return. Well, fans want to see ROH wrestling, don’t they?

So what do we know?

They will have the PPV at the end of the year, that will be Final Battle. Perhaps literally?

ROH will close up shop temporarily then reopen in Spring 2022. WrestleMania weekend has been mentioned and the Supercard Of Honor event.

There appears to be flexibility with wrestlers working other dates and promotions before they’re all released at the end of the year. ROH World Champ Bandido is already booked for Game Changer Wrestling in December.

Bandido
Credit: Deviant Art

Let’s be clear. ROH is not an indie. They had a fantastic time when they were, providing great wrestlers like Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness. But it isn’t a plucky underdog any more.

Why? It was bought by a broadcasting company, Sinclair, in 2011.

So, leaving the issue of the talent aside for the moment (not for long, I promise you), what’s the business model going forward?

What’s the direction of traffic? Have they opened a window on anything or run something up the flagpole to see who salutes it? And other business speak.

Well, a thought, according to Wrestling Observer radio, is that when they return they won’t use contracted wrestlers.

If that is the case (and remember, we have probably 85% supposition here) that would position ROH as an indie again.

That would be booking from week to week, show to show or programme to programme.

There would perhaps be short runs or people loyal to the company who would always clear their schedule for a booking first, but it has a major drawback.

You can’t plan easily. And that’s bad for their TV. It’s thought they want TV going forward. Sinclair are in the TV programme delivery business, so hardly surprising. That they are keeping the TV show with archive footage is indicative of that.

But people want to tune in week on week to see their favourites, not invest in someone for a few weeks and then find they’re being asked to like someone else.

The TV show is actually rather fine and the wrestling since the company came back from lockdown has been pretty excellent. I said as much in my first column for this site.

The way that the Pure wrestling has been used to really place the wrestling product was something only NJPW were doing.

They also don’t over-Faction the place, 4, each with specific and very clear characteristics.

This has made the weekly TV a joy to watch, they have names big for wrestling and names bigger for sports entertainment too.

And ROH were keen to point out in their statement that they continued to pay wrestlers throughout the pandemic and that’s the case, plus they also received plaudits for their Covid protocols.

Wrestlers like Session Moth Martina and Joe Hendry have tweeted in support of their treatment by ROH.

But let me reiterate, other promotions paid their talent during the pandemic. Larger promotions. And ROH is now a larger promotion. Not an indie.

It may be when it returns, if it returns. When they want to relaunch, with a new look, wrestling product or ethos, they’ll need some of those bigger names to come back.

A Brody. A Jay. A Bandido. Just bringing in indie talent which hasn’t got name recognition wouldn’t work. Even those indie grapplers with name recognition to wrestling fans wouldn’t either.

There is a lot of ground to make up. Mind you, this is what MLW did recently. They closed for a while, didn’t they?

One difference. They had plans in place, wrestlers were contracted and the Draft was used to keep our interest up. They had something in place.

Looks like ROH have nothing. This is going to be a very difficult climb back.

The Moral Issue

Releasing most wrestling talent at the same time is a dick move.

Releasing most wrestling talent at the same time helps them to plan.

Which is the case? I’m not sure. And that’s because I don’t quite know how much red ink is flowing in ROH. They apparently made the decision last week and it may have been a sudden call.

Allowing talent to work other dates, not taking a non compete direction gives them the chance to work quickly.

The other side is that it causes a glut. It’s like NBA draft day, who is going to be left behind? No one wants to see that for wrestlers.

If we were told by ROH that their financial were unsustainable, that might make things easier to understand.

The Need For A Wrestling Union

I’ve been saying it for years. I would, I’m a trade unionist. A teamster. I’m in two of them. I used to work for one. And I’ve been discussing the ‘Independent Contractor’ status for years too.

Yes, It’s more difficult when self employment is involved, but Equity in the UK and the Screen Actor’s Guild in the US do OK.

It would need enough wrestlers to band together. One is the loneliest number.

I remember a podcast in which Jesse Ventura mentioned talking in a dressing room about unionising and having one wrestler go to management about it.

And WWE did have a union. As a comedy Faction. So that’s OK then…

A union allows you strength. Not to overthrow management. To discuss what will make the talent better so they work better with management.

And then everyone is happier and the product is better. Does that seem so wrong?

It could also negotiate some payoffs or contract end benefits; wouldn’t that be nice?

And to decide if a union is possible, just apply this simple test.

Does the company provide the work? Do they provide the things needed to do the work? Can you work anywhere else whenever you decide? If the answer to the first 2 is yes and the last is no, unions are for you.

I can dream…

What’s Next For Those ROH Wrestlers?

It’s a fire sale. And it’s delicious to fantasy bookers. Gresham and Lethal in AEW? Briscoes in GCW? PCO in Impact? Sounds good, but there are far too many wrestlers for positions here.

Some people will land in bigger feds. Some people will take a step to the side. Some will feel the freedom of regular indie dates. Other will wither.

That’s the terrible thing here. There are people involved. And money always wins. Always.

Written by Steve Swift

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