I Find the “Lost”, My Thoughts on NJPW and What’s the Future for Ring of Honor?

Kevin Kelly

ring of honorSince I left the WWE in 2003, I’ve worked in sales because wrestling is sales. After staring bankruptcy and foreclosure in the face, I vowed to never be in that position again so I will never put all of my eggs in the “wrestling basket”. Besides, I’m good at sales and I started a new job a couple of weeks ago. They recruited me, which was nice. Good company, good people and everything’s going well.

It’s always nice to connect with a fan who quit watching wrestling when Rock left, it got weird, had kids, etc. They’ve been out of it for 12-15 years and I try to quickly catch them up. That fan used to watch WWE and/or WCW and was a fan of the Attitude Era. One of the 10 million that used to watch every Monday… sad that number of Monday viewership is cut way in half but it is what it is…

In the past two weeks, I have met a dozen or so folks I call the “Lost”, former fans who just quit watching wrestling. I work with them at my new job… it’s weird! All of them together in one place. But it’s neat because they all remember what we did back then better than I do. They were fans but aren’t any longer. I can talk to them about ROH all I want but they’re gone on to something else and not coming back.

I’ve spent a lot of time lamenting about the fans that wrestling lost but I’m thankful for the fans we have and I met many great wrestling fans the last two weekends in Toronto and NYC, as Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling presented Global Wars and War of the Worlds. New Japan Pro Wrestling is the second-largest wrestling company in the world but from my point-of-view, I found the staff and crew to be very down to earth. I think everyone had a great time during their stay in Canada and the US and there was a collective “we’ll be back” from NJPW.

I personally can’t wait to see Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi come back to America. They are top guys in NJPW for a reason. Amazing wrestlers with a larger-than-life presence, both Okada and Tanahashi can transition to American TV audiences easily, with the right company behind them. Of course, each was in TNA, so there you go. TNA couldn’t get Mother Teresa over with the poor.

I also got to see Jim Ross in Toronto and we talked for about an hour about life. What he’s doing, how he’s doing, where the wrestling industry is today and where it’s going… I realized I never got a chance to sit and just talk to JR when we worked together. We were too busy working. So, this time was special. Jim Ross has been more influential on me than he ever knew and I was so glad we got time to just chat… but I still want him to sit in on match with me and Steve Corino.

Speaking of Corino, he and I are enjoying our time working together for Ring of Honor TV. Now that ROH is back on iPPV through ustream.tv as well as traditional cable/satellite PPV for “Best in the World” on Sunday June 22nd, we have two more vehicles to hopefully entertain audiences. We both grew up as fans of Georgia Championship Wrestling and both of us had our second sons at the age of 40. Corino brings twenty years of ring experience to the mic and his 79 tours of Japan made him a valuable resource for “Global Wars” and “War of the Worlds”.

Steve and I both know this is a huge opportunity to bring our vision of pro wrestling announcing to a larger audience and we treat it as such. “Best in the World” is the first chance for most of the ROH roster to compete on a live, Sunday night PPV event. With the changes in the WWE and their broadcast structure, this is an opportunity for ROH to bring some new fans to the conversation and begin the next step. Better lighting is a must and is on the way, according to ROH COO, Joe Koff.

I feel badly for Daniel Bryan and I hope he can get back to action soon. Sometimes it feels like neck injuries for wrestlers are like Tommy John surgeries for MLB pitchers… devastating and almost unavoidable. It’s safer than ever but Professional Wrestling is still not, nor will it ever be ballet.

So, what’s on your mind? Let me know on Twitter @RealKevinKelly

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