This honestly is not another column featuring me taking a shot at Mark Madden. Mark simply raised a number of interesting points in his latest discussion regarding Ring of Honor, leaving me with a tailor-made opportunity to present a genuine counter-argument to his classification of ROH as a struggling organization.
Let me be frank from the start. Mark referenced knowledge on the part of Jim Cornette that the end may be near for Ring of Honor. I haven’t heard anything of that sort, but if it is in fact true from a purely financial perspective, it certainly lends significant credence to Mark’s overall premise. However, for the purposes of addressing the nuts and bolts of his argument, I’m going to assume that the promotion isn’t teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
With that said, the main fallacy that seems to be underlying Mark’s assessment of Ring of Honor is this belief that the company is viewed or at least should be viewed as the “number 3” promotion. He draws the comparison to ECW and aptly notes that there certainly aren’t enough dollars available to sustain a true number 3.
There is significant credence to this argument. With wrestling at its peak in the mid-to-late nineties, ECW struggled to maintain buoyancy even with unprecedented levels of capital flowing into the industry. It certainly didn’t help to see its talent divided up like the loaves and fishes, but the bottom line is that ECW exemplified the manner in which the third wheel can be cannibalized by the big boys on the block.
Given this reality, I question Mark’s steadfast desire to categorize ROH as an organization that has failed in an attempt to be an ECW-esque third promotion. My question is this…why does it have to be classified as such? The TV deal? A touring schedule?
ECW thrust ITSELF into the mainstream equation…a decision that reflected the brash nature of its leader…a decision that led both to its increase in popularity and its ultimate downfall. ECW placed itself on the radar of both the WWF and WCW in a way that triggered an inevitable consequence…Major companies are willing to tolerate competition up until the point when such competition begins to pose a legitimate threat to the bottom line…Losing the TNN deal to the WWF obviously was a crippling blow, but it certainly should not have been surprising.
At this point in time, ROH is not ECW, nor should it be…Wrestling simply isn’t big enough anymore to support a genuine mainstream third option. However, this is not necessarily a negative and certainly doesn’t represent a death sentence for the organization…More importantly, it’s not a license to eviscerate an entire roster for failing to live up to a perceived expectation of mainstream success.
I question why we can’t recognize Ring of Honor for what it is instead of criticizing it for what we think it has failed to become. It’s an independent wrestling organization whose consistent quality has garnered nationwide attention…It contains a roster of hardworking talent with a high degree of passion and respect for the business…It produced the current WWE Champion, a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, two former TNA World Champions, and countless numbers of recognizable superstars who have left a significant imprint on the professional wrestling landscape...Although a current shot at increased exposure may be wrought with pitfalls, the same conceptual core that produced this litany of accomplishments remains intact.
Mark doesn’t pull punches and should be respected for his willingness to address flaws that many others are quick to ignore. Unfortunately, in the case of ROH, this brutal honesty has become an overwhelming case of guilt by association…In his mind, subject to a few exceptions, working for ROH simply means that you lack the talent for the big stage.
In reality, for as many individuals in ROH who simply can’t make the “big leagues,” there likely is an equal number of individuals who have turned down such opportunities for any number of reasons…Be it loyalty to the company, loyalty to the fans, a desire to avoid a heavier schedule, family concerns, etc., a blanket classification simply is inappropriate on many levels….Bottom line, before one judges another’s career to be a failure or a disappointment, an understanding of the circumstances underlying that career is essential.
In the end, the same logic could and should apply to Ring of Honor as a whole...Even though all involved with the company may aspire to create a product that is worthy of challenging WWE and TNA, the breadth of ROH’s contributions to the world of professional wrestling can’t be measured in mere dollars and cents…Size certainly matters, but stardom is born in front of an audience of any size when heart, desire, and a passion for one’s craft can be felt beyond a shadow of a doubt…For the fans and employees of Ring of Honor, this connection is priceless.
Professional wrestling may be a business, but it’s also an experience…The fan in all of us never should forget this principle. It’s why we watch…and it’s why countless individuals have chosen to risk life and limb in an uncertain and unforgiving profession…They pursue a dream…a dream that comes in all shapes and sizes…As long as the lights are on and the wrestlers are paid, Ring of Honor will continue to provide an experience for the fans who justifiably view its entertainers as superstars.
Number 3 promotion? F--- it!
Ring of Honor is what it is no matter how many individuals try to evaluate it based on an outdated classification...To the fans, continue to enjoy the product and display YOUR passion no matter the size and scope of the company…To the wrestlers, never forget that your hard work and love for the business make you stars in the eyes of all of us who see you living a dream.