The northeast based wrestling promotion will be celebrating its 7th anniversary this Saturday night with a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City in front of what is sure to be a raucous crowd of diehard fans. The group will once again take advantage of WrestleMania weekend with a pair of shows in Houston, Texas on Friday, April 4th and Saturday, April 5th.
Ring of Honor is holding more and more shows and not just in the eastern part of the United States but throughout the entire country and into other countries as well. Plus, it continues to have events air on pay-per-view.
The group has found a way to survive and at times thrive with its focus on hard-hitting, in-ring action without the male soap opera that is found in the bigger wrestling promotions.
Now, Ring of Honor is taking another step forward as it will make its television debut this Saturday night on HDNet at 8p.m. ET with the hour-long show replaying that same evening at 11p.m. ET.
Earlier this week on my Between The Ropes radio show (heard every Tuesday night from 6-8p.m. on ESPN 1080 here in Orlando), I spoke with ROH owner Cary Silkin about the growth of the company and its new television deal. You can find out more about Ring of Honor by going to ROHWrestling.com.
Let’s go back a few months. How exactly did the deal come together with HDNet?
We were approached by them a number of months ago. We had also spoken with them over a year ago. They were well aware of us. I guess the time wasn’t right. They came and saw us out in Chicago in November and we spoke a little. They came back in Philadelphia at the “Final Battle” weekend and here we are. We’re starting out this Saturday at 8 o’clock (eastern) and also at 11 o’clock for our west coast fans as well as Monday afternoons at 4 o’clock.
We’re really excited. When we did the tapings a few weekends ago in Philadelphia, it was very impressive. It was a six or seven camera shoot. I spent a lot of time in the (production) truck which was extremely impressive. You’re getting to see it on HD and it’s really unique. They shot it like they would shoot MMA which I really didn’t understand at first but when you see it you’ll understand what I mean. It just looks different than any of the current wrestling shows. The other wrestling shows on TV have – needless to say – excellent production. This just has a different look. I think our fans as well as anyone else who checks us out for the first time is going to be really impressed not only with the production but with the wrestling itself. There are some really good matches and good Ring of Honor 101 in the first six weeks as well as some hard-hitting action.
You mentioned how the show was shot different. How important is it to have a different look than the other wrestling shows out there to make Ring of Honor stand out?
I think it’s very important. We know we’re not going to compete with the money that is put into the Raw presentation obviously as well as TNA. They’re shooting with multi-million dollars worth of lighting and we’re not about that. The guys from HDNet – their production crew, the directors, up and down are really sharp guys. They really liked the look of the old ECW Arena and they thought that would have a good, gritty look and it did. They added some lighting and it really looked sharp. When they were filming it and I was watching in the truck, I kept saying to one of the directors that it has the look of a movie. He was trying to explain to me the way they should their HD isn’t like – you ever see like a letterbox and it’s a broader screen? You don’t get that in most HD. It’s some type of a pure HD look and it’s the way the framing is with a wider shot. I’m really excited.
You’ve already taped the first few weeks of the television show. I think one of the things that people are going to notice immediately is the amount of in-ring wrestling. How much do you weigh the actual wrestling versus the amount of storylines, out-of-ring action and character development?
If somebody was to chronicle interviews I’ve done before, a lot of times I’ll say then when you go to Ring of Honor, you get more action in 15-20 minutes then you would get in the whole night with one of the other companies. Certainly with the TV, we did not want to be storyline and vignette driven. We wanted to be action driven. We want to present the great wrestling because that’s our trademark. That’s what we do at our shows also. Sure, there’s some storylines and there’s character development but with the TV show you’re going to see a little backstage stuff with guys introducing themselves so to speak. But there’s very little kind of schmazz that takes place. Wrestling purists who are dying to see some good, in-ring action uninterrupted are going to be thrilled.
I know for the TV tapings, you used all of your home-grown talent and didn’t bring in a past star that worked with another promotion. Were you tempted to do that or was the thought to focus on the guys currently on your roster?
We wanted to use the guys with the current base that helped build the direction we’re in now and it worked out that way. There wasn’t a lot of talk about bringing in a special attraction. If there would have been a special attraction available that would have made sense we might have done it but it really didn’t work out that way. We have such a good crew of guys and with the guys we have that are under contract and guys that are Ring of Honor regulars – to spread them out over six, one hour shows was a tough enough task without having to bring in a special attraction. It just sort of worked out with the current crew.
Ring of Honor is working with Ric Flair now. He was at a recent show of yours in St. Louis and he’ll be at some other shows going forward. To you, what exactly does he bring to the table that helps the promotion?
We’ve had a lot of legends in the past from Dusty Rhodes to Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Bruno Sammartino, Mick Foley, Jim Cornette – I’m going to leave a lot of names out – Lance Storm, Terry Funk. Whenever you have a huge name like a Flair, people are going to come to the show that wouldn’t have come, that are borderline fans. We experienced that in St. Louis. We had double the house that we had last time. Yeah, one argument it that they’re just coming to see Flair. Well guess what? Those people that came to see Flair, they saw one of the greatest wrestling shows they’ve ever seen. And I didn’t see anyone leaving early after they got Flair’s autograph or they saw Flair give his speech at the beginning (of the show). They hung out. It’s good for the product. Plus, to have Ric Flair associated with you, there’s nothing negative about it.
What have the past few years been like for you as the owner of Ring of Honor with the group airing on pay-per-view, the new deal with HDNet and the company going have more shows in different cities now? What’s it like in your seat to see the way Ring of Honor has grown?
It’s exciting. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath. I was thinking about where we were a number of years ago and just doing a few shows on the east coast and then eventually expanding into the Midwest, expanding into new markets like (Las) Vegas and Florida. Then, our relationship with the NOAH company got us into Japan twice as well as doing the UK twice and Canada and then getting into the pay-per-view forum and now with HDNet. It’s just exciting. Not to mention being involved in “The Wrestler” movie with Darren Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke. It’s been a crazy trip and as exciting as it has been, right now is the most exciting time for Ring of Honor. Right now with the TV show coming on this weekend, the 7th anniversary, WrestleMania weekend looming – it’s really amazing.