I think it’s universally accepted that the WWE version of ECW was a disaster, it was too polished, too sterile too…. not ECW. When ECW went out of business in 2001 WWE stepped in and bought all the IP and video library and looked happy just to use the library to sell DVDs which they did. The Rise and Fall of ECW was an amazing success and fueled the idea of a reunion show. In 2005 the ECW One Night Stand original PPV was perfect for the original ECW fans and a huge success, the next year not long after the second was when they announced that ECW would be back as a brand full time with a TV time slot on SYFY.
It started out looking different from other WWE programming but after a short while just became another “brand” to WWE, nothing different and certainly nothing extreme, they’d taken the spirit and heart out of the promotion and by 2010 it was over again.
It’s October 2021, and with the pandemic taking its toll on every independent promotion aside from WWE & AEW the Sinclair group announced that Ring of Honor would be going on a hiatus with a tentative return slated for April ‘22 all contracted talent was effectively released with the promotional model looking very different in its return. Enter Tony Khan and in March of 2022 he had a “huge announcement” on Dynamite which was that he had bought the company and was intending to keep it running independently from AEW.
Ring of Honor was very much like ECW in the fact that it was a true alternative, it was true professional wrestling, the lighting wasn’t great and the sound sometimes was a little off that was the charm of it but the in ring style and action were second to none and the wrestlers they developed are now a who’s who of main eventers in both brands today.
The Kevin Steen/El Generico rivalry is stuff of legend when talking about great wrestling angles in history. Their influence was such that when AEW were in their inception many believe that this style was what they meant when they originally promised a true sports style presentation.
After Khan had announced the purchase many questions were raised. Were they going to have a TV timeslot? Were they just going to use the AEW roster or will all the originals be back? The PPVs ran first in April 2022 & to their credit it was great, very much to the standard of the previous incarnation and the buys very much reflected a mix of people wanting the nostalgia of the old ROH mixed with the excitement of what possibly could come with the brand they loved now owned by a billionaire.
ROH “matches” started appearing on AEW programming in between ROH PPVs, after the questions were eventually answered as it was revealed in December 2022 that ROH wouldn’t be on regular TV or even on FITE but on a revamped HonorClub subscription service in 2023 which on last known report had only 15k subscribers. The first tapings for ROH TV began in February at Universal Studios on a soundstage previously used for AEW Dark & Elevation not on a touring schedule like the old iteration and now they are taped after Collision episodes to tired crowds.
The presentation was very slick and polished unlike the original. Also not a lot of what happens at the tapings bare much significance to the makeup of the PPVs they are heading into. In fact many of the champions spend more time on AEW programming than actually on the brand they are the champion of. Claudio Castagnoli who held the ROH title for 284 days all of which was during the new tv era worked 4 shows in total.
The Bucks & Hangman in 3 months of holding the 6 man tags did not appear once on ROH programming as is the same for the current Tag Team Champions MJF & Adam Cole although while an excuse can be made with Cole’s injury as to why that hasn’t happened it’s also safe to assume it wouldn’t have happened regardless as of the time of writing this piece. Samoa Joe is TV Champion & he has appeared 6 times in a 571 day reign. Eddie Kingston has been Champion for 46 days and has not appeared on HonorClub yet, again you can kinda of give a pass with the time.
The problem is that it’s not at all being ran as an independent entity as was first promised & with Khan trying to book both companies something was always going to fall by the wayside. The unfortunate thing is that it appears ROH has taken the place in the AEW landscape that used to be occupied by Dark and Elevation and while ROH PPVs still seem to have decent buyrates they are done mostly by random matches put together a week or so out and it is in no way driven by their weekly tv.
At this point ROH in no way resembles the Ring of Honor many of us knew and loved but more the last days of the WWE/ECW brand,but unlike the ECW brand this won’t get canceled as Khan uses the TV tapings as more original content for HonorClub.
Personally, my solution isn’t exactly groundbreaking but one that I think needs to happen if ROH has any chance of resurrecting its old glory is install a dedicated booking team, one that can steer stories toward PPVs with a dedicated roster plus a few select AEW wrestlers sprinkled in, ones that need the spotlight which is one thing AEW is sorely missing at the moment, Tony Khan would hate to read this but use ROH as a feeder system like NXT black and gold was to WWE in the early Takeover days.
I loved Ring of Honor, The American Wolves, ReDragon, Steen, Nigel, Generation Next, Kings of Wrestling, Cole, Generico, Second City Saints, Age of the Fall I could go on and on but my point is do you see any of what’s currently on HonorClub that we’ll talk about in 5 years, 3 years? Sadly in many ways this ROH is worse than ECW/WWE because at least E let that failed experiment die, Ring of Honor will continue, if only in name alone to service a streaming platform & that’s a sad state of affairs for this once proud, cutting edge promotion. I think even Tony Khan the kid that loved wrestling would be mad that Tony Khan the adult has done this.