The Impact Of The ROH Purchase

Tony Khan promised a major announcement for last night’s Dynamite show and it generated speculation about what it could be, particularly because it was just a few weeks ago that the AEW owner touted a big surprise for television, which were the debuts of Jay White and Keith Lee. Khan certainly enjoys the surprise aspects of pro wrestling.

Khan’s announcement, which he made during an in-ring segment with Tony Schiavone, was that he purchased Ring Of Honor, an organization that went on hiatus after its Final Battle pay-per-view in December. The promotion was owed by Sinclair Broadcasting, the corporation that bought it from Cary Silkin, who rescued the organization from collapse during its early years, in 2011. As I’ve written before, Sinclair is in the television business, not the wrestling business and their acquisition of ROH was for the original programming on its syndicated networks more than anything else. In the television landscape, professional wrestling is relatively cheap to produce and can garner a better ad rate for the original program than re-runs of older shows.

In many respects, Sinclair never put big money behind the wrestling project until they missed the opportunity to take ROH to a bigger level. Despite being a broadcast company, the initial years under the Sinclair umbrella were rocky to say the least. There were the infamous iPPV mishaps and generally terrible production value with horrendous lighting that almost made events unwatchable. Sinclair caught lightening in a bottle more or less by accident when The Young Bucks became extremely popular on social media around the same time that Cody Rhodes asked for his release from the WWE. The trio needed a platform in the United States and ROH provided that stage. The Elite trio, along with the very beneficial New Japan working agreement when that organization had a lot of buzz, drew sell out shows. Granted, ROH usually ran in smaller revenues, but to regularly move 1,200 tickets for house show events was an indication that Ring Of Honor could’ve potentially moved up to the spot as the second biggest promotion in the United States.

As we know, All In ultimately set the foundation for what was launched as All Elite Wrestling, but none of that would’ve been possible without the assistance of ROH. Where Sinclair missed the mark is that the corporation, which is worth a few billion dollars, didn’t offer Cody or The Bucks a contract anywhere near the money they made when they signed with Tony Khan’s upstart project. If Sinclair had offered the trio huge money to re-sign with ROH, we wouldn’t be talking about AEW today. Basically, The Elite took the buzz from the ROH platform and launched All Elite, and Ring Of Honor was more or less done after that. Sinclair finally signed talent to competitive contracts, but it was too late and the corporate suits spent the money on the wrong talent. That’s not to say that guys like Bandido and others weren’t talented or didn’t deserve the contract, but rather to point out, you can’t simply replace the organic buzz that the Elite faction had just from signing solid in-ring competitors.

In same ways, things went full circle because the buzz from ROH led to the formation of AEW and now Tony Khan purchased Ring Of Honor, but what did he really buy?

Keep in mind, before Sinclair announced the hiatus, it was reported that all contracts wouldn’t be renewed so this purchase doesn’t secure Khan access to any talent. In truth, the most valuable asset that Khan bought was the extensive tape library, specially because of the numerous AEW stars that worked for ROH previously. That footage and its eventually marketing are much more valuable than the “brand” of Ring Of Honor. Remember, Sinclair took the company off the road because it wasn’t profitable. Don’t get me wrong, ROH has a very extensive and important legacy in the history of pro wrestling in the modern era, but the actual brand has very minimal drawing power, which is why the company went on hiatus.

It remains to be seen what Tony Khan does with the ROH brand, but attempting to run two different organizations under one banner would be unwise. Remember, AEW itself is still in a building phase and needs an “all hands on deck” approach to continue to build the organization. Trying to split the roster somehow to run Ring Of Honor as its own entity would either spread the talent too thin or the ROH side wouldn’t have enough talent to draw fans. Remember, the ROH brand literally couldn’t sustain itself under Sinclair and all things considered, unless Khan wants to infuse it with AEW talent, there’s no reason to think the ROH name would become a profitable project. Furthermore, it makes much more sense to build and attempt to draw the most money possible with the All Elite brand because that’s what made Khan a success in the industry. Why dilute that momentum with a secondary ROH product?

Tony Khan is from a billionaire family, but regardless of who you are, it doesn’t make sense to fund a side project that wouldn’t yield a profit. AEW has the brand identity as a national entity, whereas ROH doesn’t so it makes sense to devote the resources, both talent and the financial investment into the organization that has the best chance to continue to grow in the wrestling business. Plus, All Elite already has Youtube shows for mid-card talent so it’s not as though the ROH platform is needed for the current roster to gain experience.

As far as the actual in-ring segment, it was rather cringe worthy. Tony did his best emotional Paul Heyman impression and mentioned Shane McMahon’s segment on the last Nitro to attempt to put himself in that conversation, but it was more that Tony was marking out for himself on television. That’s not necessarily a cheap shot at Khan either, he signs the checks so it’s one of the perks of the job, and he’s not the first promoter to give himself credit on television. Remember when Eric Bischoff posed on a Harley in the ring? As mentioned, the video library is the real acquisition here and a social media post about the purchase of the Ring Of Honor footage would’ve been the better way to announce it.

That being said, the possibilities for that video footage are very compelling because Khan just bought hundreds of full-length events and hundreds of episodes of television so if there’s going to be an All Elite streaming service, Tony just bought the foundation for it. There was a lot of really influential wrestling that took place in ROH’s early years that still hasn’t had wide distribution so the domino effect of all of this could have a major impact on the AEW business plan in the future. More specifically, an AEW streaming platform could be an important revenue stream and increase the exposure of the company.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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