The end of Ring of Honor as we know it

On the latest edition of Wrestlenomics Radio, Brandon Thurston sat down with TrumpMania author and The Business of the Business co-host Lavie Margolin to discuss Ring of Honor. ROH put out a statement that the promotion will go into hiatus after Final Battle. It has also been reported that ROH talent will be released from their contracts and will be allowed to take other bookings.

In a post on LinkedIn, ROH COO Joe Koff said that when ROH does return for SuperCard of Honor in April, the focus will be on “creating original, engaging content drawn from our incredible archive and our engaged fans.” Margolin gave his thoughts on what this means for ROH.

Lavie Margolin: “My guess is that they’ll have some sort of fan reaction person on the street type of content interspersed with the archives, so that they can consider it first-run programming. I found it very curious because we’re starting to hear already that Ring of Honor is shopping its archives, which makes sense, but was Ring of Honor being shopped as a whole?

“I don’t understand why not, if it wasn’t. I assume that it was. So by releasing all of the talent under contract, one would assume that that’s an asset. You’re taking it from what’s an active company and moving it to an inactive or next phase. So if they shopped it around, they must not have been satisfied with the offers to go to this stage.”

A feature on Sinclair’s internal issues was put out by Sports Illustrated. The feature detailed how Sinclair’s internal problems hurt ROH as a result. There a have been mixed reports on whether the ROH tape library is up for sale, but Thurston and Margolin discussed the value the tape library has.

Margolin: “If it’s a viable number, who would buy it? First, we would look inside the business, and it would make the most sense right now for AEW to purchase it. From what I understand, there had been reports that AEW has always been interested in buying the rights to All In, but they couldn’t come to agreement or maybe Ring of Honor said it wasn’t for sale at the time. But to get the rights to this library for AEW now would be the perfect time because to enter streaming, they might have built up hours of content, in Dark matches for YouTube and so on, but it has no context.

“It has no historical significance. You just have to have been interested in the content, whereas Ring of Honor content, some of it, especially in the early years, might be dark, need to be reformatted, the music and the sound and audio and whatever, but you have this wonderful history and this thread.

“And if there’s some viability to the DVD-only releases, you have thousands of hours of content that would need to be worked on but, really, creates the historical aspect of the business. People got mad at me about four or five months ago when I said AEW should just buy Ring of Honor, buy Impact, close them down and use it for a streaming service because that’s the only alternate history in North America that’s produced to a decent degree and you have most of the talents that have emerged from there.

Brandon Thurston: “Especially now that they have CM Punk and Bryan Danielson. They’ve got their, their histories, their stories. Outside of WWE. That’s the prime area of their careers is Ring of Honor.”

Margolin: “You can have some fun, especially when you have them under contract with wraparounds, introducing the matches or following the matches and so on. Even commenting on the matches, depending on how many hours they want to get involved with all this, but there’s a lot you can do. You have the talent, their library and you have them under contract to utilize.”

Thurston: Do you think there’s any interest from WWE at this point now they’re on Peacock getting guaranteed money?

Margolin: Yeah, I think there’s interest, to a degree. I think A, just to take it off the market from others. B, as it threads a story have a number of their own talents as well, there’s something to utilize there, but they’ve always been fairly rigid on their rates, and it seems to have been, maybe this is a little bit dated, but it always seems to have been a standard amount.

“So it would be at a low price, and I think Sinclair’s looking for a win, so maybe it’s worth it to them to hold on to it, to keep producing these shows into perpetuity. I don’t know if Anthem is looking to spend more money on pro wrestling anytime soon, but certainly Impact could kick the tires. And Billy Corgan, he’s acquired content before. To buy a whole Ring of Honor tape library, he might have the cash, but he’s also a smart investor.

“He’s not throwing everything at the NWA. So that would certainly be somebody that would be interested in now. There’s all these streaming services. For example, Pluto’s pro wrestling station, I don’t know if they’re throwing big money at any promotion. For some, it might be a split of advertising revenue or something like that.”

Thurston and Margolin discussed further on where ROH talents could wind up. Margolin also gave insight into Sinclair Broadcasting.

Thurston: “It seems to me that the role that AEW is occupying right now, there was a good window for Ring of Honor to occupy that role, if they had been more ambitious, and my impression is that Sinclair has been very risk averse and has not wanted to take these big financial risks. And I guess maybe we’re just kind of seeing why where maybe Sinclair just isn’t the most financially stable company, and you can understand maybe why they didn’t want to take so many risks.

Margolin: “There was certainly a moment where they had something. As we would examine the attendance numbers, and it was exciting, for me at least, the year when they broke 1000 and then climbed a bit higher. No one’s doing these numbers on average or hasn’t done these numbers and in quite a while so it was fun to watch that growth.

“You had New Japan and Ring of Honor sort of working together, and then at a certain point, it sort of seemed like, okay, who is sort of the secondary option and the third option, now that Impact is sort of bouncing around on stations people aren’t getting, and it looks like New Japan had its chance moment. I’ve been thinking about what if Mark Cuban would take on the Tony Khan role, basically before I was even aware of Tony Khan, sort of championing it in the US and sort of opening up deals and infusing money and making it bigger than it is, but that never happened. There was a New York Times article sort of connecting Cuban and New Japan and everything that was going on there.

Thurston: “One of the connections with Cuban is that he started HDNet.”

Margolin: “They ran the show in Dallas and so on, and then with Ring of Honor, I remember, Joe Koff had an interview once where he said that he contacted the CEO of Sinclair, Chris Ripley, and he took a picture of three or four WWE production trucks. And he said to him, ‘This will never be us,’ and to me, that always stuck in my mind.

“Joe Koff believed that he couldn’t compete, and certainly, it was reasonable that you weren’t gonna compete with WWE, but to imagine it as bigger than it is. I remember Cody Rhodes would would sort of tweet about before this discussion with Dave Meltzer and so on, he was trying to get big arenas booked and encouraging them to be more ambitious. Basically, his guess was that they weren’t going for it.”

Excerpts from Wrestlenomics Radio were edited for clarity.

Jason Ounpraseuth has covered pro wrestling since 2019. He co-hosts the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also an independent pro wrestler and trainer. For more, see our About page.

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