Will The ROH Pay-Per-View Sell?

(Image Credit: ROH)

Next weekend, Ring Of Honor will present Death Before Dishonor on pay-per-view, the third PPV from a Khan-owned wrestling project in the span of just three months. It might sound repetitive, but I must at least make note of it, it’s very difficult to sell a $50 broadcast in the modern era when the footage of almost every major wrestling company in the history of the United States, along with “premium live events” are either $4.99 a month or in some cases free for Comcast customers on Peacock. All Elite Wrestling makes it work because they go with quarterly PPV and the main selling point of those events is often less glamour and more of a focus on high quality in-ring action. The story and the buy rates for AEW on pay-per-view would be much different if the company tried to sell PPV on a monthly basis. As we know, Double or Nothing had hype around it and sold well, based on the potential coronation of CM Punk in the main event for the championship. Just a month later, Forbidden Door, a co-promoted venture with New Japan, drew an estimated 125,000 buys, which was considered successful. In many ways, the Forbidden Door event was an exception to the rule so to speak because it was a unique show that was discussed since the inception of All Elite.

Now, Tony Khan will attempt to sell an ROH pay-per-view for $40 so you have to realistically ask, are fans really going to shell out $140 on three wrestling shows in the span of three months? That doesn’t take into account the fact that the ROH brand has the least amount of fanfare among the three events and that the company itself is almost nonexistent.

Don’t get me wrong, Ring Of Honor helped shape not only the style, but much of the direction of the business today. Many of the modern era’s biggest stars originally made their name in ROH, and the company had an undeniable influence on the history of the sport, which speaks volumes to the talent that was there, considering that the group started in the dingy Murphy Rec Center in Philadelphia. That said, why the company didn’t get bigger before the Sinclair purchase and subsequently why the broadcast company didn’t truly invest in the organization are another discussion for another time. It goes without say that the buzz that The Elite had on the ROH platform and the buzz online were key pieces of the puzzle for the eventual successful launch of AEW. The bottom line is, ROH couldn’t rebuild itself after the Elite exodus and couldn’t generate the revenue to sustain itself, which is why Sinclair sold the company. The vast majority of the ROH fan base chose to follow many of the former ROH stars to All Elite because Tony Khan had the funding and the distribution to All Elite a chance to become a national entity.

Keep in mind, the entire reason that ROH was sold was because it couldn’t draw on pay-per-view or live attendance so outside of the Super Card of Honor on Wrestlemania weekend a few months ago, what exactly has changed? Why would fans spend a portion of their “wrestling budget” on what could be considered another one-off pay-per-view? Sure, the ROH belts are mentioned on TBS, but as we’ve discussed, there is a comical amount of titles on the program to the point that they are merely props. Is Wheeler Yuta really a bigger star because he’s the Pure champion? The argument could be made that the association with the BCC has done more to elevate his status than the belt.

Even the most diehard fans have a limit to the amount of wrestling they are going to pay to watch.

The card itself has talent, but not necessarily matches that would give the audience enough of a reason to order another pay-per-view for the third month in a row. Samoa Joe vs. Jay Lethal is a bout that makes sense based on their history in ROH, but the current feud just doesn’t have much hype. Don’t get me wrong, Samoa Joe is a tremendous talent, and Lethal should’ve been used better upon his arrival in All Elite, but he doesn’t have the heat to be considered a threat to Joe. The fact that an injury angle was used to write Joe off of television so that he could do some film work has led to a rather flat angle since there haven’t been any recent confrontations on television. Plus, this feud was associated with the terrible Satnam Singh debut segment so there’s just not a lot of buzz for it.

Wheeler Yuta and Daniel Garcia are very talented, but it sounds like a match-up from a Rampage taping, not pay-per-view. In a similar fashion, Mercedes Martinez vs. Serena Deeb should be a very good match, but it sounds like a bout on Dynamite since the rivalry hasn’t exactly been a top priority on AEW programming. Jonathan Gresham is one of the best technical wrestlers in the world today, but he was a big fish in a small pond during the vast majority of his tenure in ROH. He hasn’t had enough television exposure to truly be considered a star to the national audience. Claudio Castagnoli is AEW’s newest free agent signing so I’m not sure if booking him for a secondary product is the best use of his skills. Most importantly, if Claudio wins the ROH title, does it make a difference in the grand scheme of things?

The Briscoes vs. FTR rematch is the only contest on the card that is truly a selling point based on their thirty-minute classic at Super Card of Honor earlier this year, but again, it’s a one-off because TBS executives don’t want the Briscoes on AEW programming. The topic has been discussed at length and there are points to be made on both sides of the conversation, but the point is, the Briscoes won’t be on Dynamite so the tag team rivalry will be minimal.

The biggest hurdle to selling Death Before Dishonor to the audience is, what exactly is the ROH brand? Is it a subsidiary of All Elite? Is the ROH product designed to be integrated into the All Elite shows? Samoa Joe is the television champion of an organization that doesn’t have its own television show. In my opinion, ROH as its own entity just muddies the waters of All Elite. Keep in mind, AEW should still be trying to establish itself as a consistent and profitable brand, and to accomplish that, there should be an all hands on deck approach to the All Elite project. Tony Khan should use and promote the best talent possible for the company that is the ability to draw on a national level.

Finally, I will say what I said when Tony Khan originally purchased ROH, the biggest asset from the sale was the extensive video library since there are hundreds of full-length events and hundreds of hours The ROH catalog could be used as the basis for a streaming service since there’s still major money to be offered on streaming platforms. Even if ROH would land its own television show now, is it wise to divide the resources of the All Elite organization? As mentioned, Ring Of Honor had an important influence on the business, but it’s very doubtful that the brand will generate major revenue in the current landscape of the industry.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta