What Does the ROH/New Japan MSG Event Say About Pro Wrestling?
Below are some highlights on the article.
On the influence of selling out MSG:
Last week, Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling made history, selling out Madison Square Garden within just days for the G1 Super Card, which is scheduled for Wrestlemania weekend next April. The co-promoted event will not only be the largest ROH/NJPW show in the United States, but also the first non-WWE professional wrestling event held in the legendary venue in decades.
What that exactly translates to depends on how you approach the subject, but it’s undoubtedly a tremendous success story for Ring of Honor, an organization that started as a fledgling independent in 2002. All things considered, the story of ROH is quite remarkable, both for the path it took to the MSG sellout and it’s undeniable influence on the industry.
On the early struggles of ROH:
Through the ups and downs that any league will endure, ROH managed to survive, often running on a shoestring budget, and attempting different ventures, such as the HD Net television show to garner more exposure for the brand. From the time that Sapolsky cleverly booked the Combat Zone Wrestling feud in 2006 to the numerous occasions that ROH saw top talent depart for either WWE or TNA over the years, the group managed to stay above water, a credit to Cary Silkin, who bought the organization in 2004.
In the mid-2000s, there was a legitimate argument to be made that Ring of Honor delivered the best in-ring product in the world, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that the promotion was still an independent group at the time. When the economics of the industry put Ring Of Honor on the brink of collapse, Jim Cornette, the legendary former manager that worked in a variety of roles for ROH, put together a plan for Silkin to sell to Sinclair Broadcasting, a network that looked to add original programming to its syndicated channels in 2011.
The first few years of the corporate-owned ROH were rocky, a sign that Sinclair bought the wrestling company for a source of original programming that was relatively cheap to produce, not necessarily to compete in the sports entertainment genre. Early attempts at iPPV were disastrous and for the first time in its history, some saw the once innovate organization as a stagnant product. After a few key figures in management were shuffled around, the brand began to generate some buzz again, mostly from a working agreement with the previously mentioned New Japan in 2014.
On it's partnership with NJPW:
As with most successful scenarios in wrestling, the ROH/NJPW partnership was a matter of timing, as the Bullet Club, a spinoff of the New World Order that featured a stable of mostly foreign stars to challenge the native competitors, became extremely popular and shined a renewed spotlight on the Japanese product. At the same time the Bullet Club brought a new generation of fans to the New Japan radar, stars like Okada, Tanahashi, Suzuki, and others had some incredible matches that further solidified the status of the promotion.
As a result, when Ring Of Honor brought those Japanese stars to the United States, American fans packed venues for a chance to see them perform live. With the exposure that the Japanese stars received in America on ROH events, it allowed New Japan to expand their product more directly into the United States. The most important aspect of this is that it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, and it’s great to see to promotions work together to built their respective brands.
On it's smart business decision to co-promote the event with NJPW:
Clearly, this co-promoted MSG event has a winning formula, and it’s truly a remarkable accomplishment, something wouldn’t even be considered possible just a few years ago. At the same time, this is just one event and it certainly doesn’t indicate that either ROH or New Japan could duplicate these numbers on a regular basis. For example, running on Wrestlemania weekend is probably the best chance they had for a sellout because of the amount of fans that travel to the area.
That being said, this sellout eight months in advance speaks to the value of the Ring Of Honor and New Japan brand, which proves that there’s definitely the possibility of further expansion. More than anything, it will be extremely interesting to see the direction of ROH in the future.