Mt. Killamanjaro: Ring of Honor Fans Hate a Good Story, and It’s Killing the Product

Mike Killam

Mt. Killamanjaro — @MikeKillam
 
Fans went crazy at a Ring of Honor show in Rahway, New Jersey last night, as the hometown boy Jay Lethal fought to a No Contest with current reigning ROH World Heavyweight Champion, Kevin Steen. Following a long, drawn-out war between the two, the action spilled to the outside and resulted in Lethal's mother throwing a soda in the Champ's face! Steen reportedly spit on her in response, sending the challenger into a frenzy. The two brawled around the arena until management and various wrestlers split them apart, at which point the match was ruled a "No Contest". 
 
Apparently this ruling didn't sit well with the fans in attendance, who wanted to see their guy win the World Title. An ROH fan who went to the show posted the following on the "ROHWorld" forum: 
 
"That's when the crowd starts rebelling. More "Bulls***" chants and a ton of bottles and trash start getting thrown into the ring. People start chanting "REFUND! REFUND!" as Cornette and company exit. I saw a few people trying to throw chairs into the ringside area as well. I overheard fans saying "F this company", "I'm done" as well as other expletive filled rants."
 
I've heard nothing but praise for the rest of the card, and even those who hated the finish have admitted the match leading up to the end was fantastic. So why all the hate at "no contest" finish? Why in the hell are fully grown men throwing chairs and pieces of food into a wrestling ring? 
 
It's because independent wrestling fans can't handle the art of story telling. They've gone so long without any consistent plot development in their fake wrestling show, that they don't know how else to respond but to act like apes, flinging their shit all over the place. And it's not completely their fault either. ROH has done a great job lately of implementing stories behind all their major feuds, and giving some of the top stars some really compelling gimmicks. Take a look at Mike Bennett, Ciampa, Steen, and more. But they haven't always cared about story-telling outside of the ropes. 
 
This behavior is what happens when a pro wrestling company makes their product all about fake wrestling for far too long; fans actually think they're entitled to a "real" finish. Like it's an MMA fight or a boxing match. Like having a referee count to three means any more than two guys beating the hell out of each, in the grand scheme. I'd actually argue it means less… 
 
The only people I feel bad for in this situation are Kevin Steen and Jay Lethal. They went out there and wrestled a 30-minute war for those live fans! I understand ROH's logic too: when your Champion can't lose the belt, and the hometown crowd doesn't want their guy to lose, this is the next conclusion in the creative process.
 
Instead of an arbitrary win or loss for either guy, Ring of Honor told a story. People will buy into Kevin Steen's threat to leave the company, particularly because it's happened before. People will buy into the obviously scripted hate between these two individuals, because they made it personal. And more importantly there will be a rematch in the future, and unlike 90% of independent bookings, it will matter. But the ROH "faithful" don't want a good story, they want more flips, tricks and a never-ending chain of near-falls. 
 
Ring of Honor fans think they're special because they march to their own beat. They don't "sell out" to the big bad wrestling companies like WWE and TNA who "entertain" rather than focus on the wrestling matches themselves. But they're not special; not even unique in their approach to wrestling fandom. At least when ECW fans were "different", they appreciated story telling along with all their particular brand of blood and gore. 
 
The only thing the Indy faithful are doing by holding on to these archaic views is tanking the company. When you reject story-telling and dynamic character models, all you've got left is bingo halls and a fake sport. Look at Mike Bennett, the most charismatic and "WWE-ready" guy on the roster, getting consistent jeers and "you can't wrestle" chants. Bennett might not be able to wrestle up to the standards of a few fanboys, but he'd last longer in the WWE than anybody else on the independent circuit (followed closely by Adam Cole). 
 
At least under the guise of entertainment, Ring of Honor can attempt to hang on to their network deal. After all, that is the primary purpose of network television. If the fans keep up this self-entitled, holier-than-thou elitism, the company will be off TV by next Summer. 
 
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