The once-mighty independent wrestling promotion known as Ring of Honor has changed significantly in the last eight months, and most of the core ROH fanbase would agree those changes were for the worse. But now, a new promotion looks to fill the void created by ROH’s de-evolution, led by the very booker whose release from Ring of Honor began their downward spiral. In one month, Gabe Sapolsky will debut his new American division of a hot Japanese indy fed, known as Dragon Gate USA.
TODAY’S ISSUE: Is Dragon Gate USA destined to become the “new” Ring of Honor?
PWinsider.com recently reported that ROH has “suspended” pay-per-view production, and we all know what that means. Once a wrestling promotion changes its business model, whether a show goes off the air, they quits touring with house shows or stop producing ppvs, they never go back. With the product a huge letdown to fans since October of last year, MMA on the rise, and wrestling in general on a downturn of late, the end of ppv would seem to be a death knell for Ring of Honor, and while ROH claims their television show on HDNet is more important to the future of the company and that they could resume pay-per-view production with HDNet as the helm, their deal with Mark Cuban’s cable network is said to be shaky at best and the market penetration they get is minimal. Therefore focusing on the cable show is unlikely to allow ROH to take it to the next level. Not to mention that the quality of Ring of Honor Wrestling on HDNet, while good for free wrestling on TV, is nowhere near the standard ROH set from 2005-2007. So even if new fans do manage to catch the show they aren’t likely to get hooked enough to pay money for more. Unfortunately, I would be surprised if ROH even exists one year from today.
That being said, it’d be a shame to see Ring of Honor dry up and blow away completely after all the hours of fantastic entertainment they’ve provided, but what brand loyalty do paying customers really have? After all, if Snickers Almond is the same as the old Mars bar, who cares what they call it? If you like the way the candy tastes you’ll eat it regardless of the wrapper. As far as I’m concerned, if a proven, quality booker like Gabe assembles a roster of talented performers and is free to exist outside the confines of the ridiculous world of “sports entertainment”, then I really don’t care if that promotion is known as ROH, DGUSA, Fantasia Wrestling Alliance, or Yum-Yum Wrestle World. As long as the in-ring action is the focus, the characters are developed and realistic as opposed to goofy and overly gimmicky, and the creative department delivers on promises while avoiding insulting my intelligence, they will earn my money. So far it seems Dragon Gate USA is positioning their company to pick up where the “real” Ring of Honor left off.
With the recent addition of stellar American indy wrestlers Bryan Danielson and Davey Richards, the DGUSA roster has started rounding out nicely. It already includes a strong group of Japanese talent, featuring such respected performers as Cima, Naruki Doi, Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi, Ryo Saito, Yoshino, Shingo, Masaaki Mochizuki, and BxB Hulk. Some of these puroreso workers were part of the Dragon Gate shows ROH produced during their heyday, which most fans agree were among the top efforts in Ring of Honor history. Thanks to DGUSA’s imported all-stars along with Danielson, Richards and guys like the Young Bucks and 2 Cold Scorpio, Sapolsky’s new promotion is starting to shape up as a can’t-miss source for reliable, satisfying wrestling action worthy of the attention of the jaded ROH fans who are looking to scratch their pro wrestling itch. I hope other indy wizards follow Danielson and Richards to DGUSA, which has also signed another well-known performer in diva Dawn Marie. The former ECW and WWE veteran will serve as “Live Event Hostess”, which according to their roster page will “evolve the role of ring announcer”.
So far DGUSA has two live events scheduled, Philly on 25 July and Chicago on 6 September. Why so far apart? Because Gabe has promised there will be no “B” shows or filler matches. Every DGUSA show is being billed as a stacked event with an emphasis on quality over quantity. Their first pay-per-view, Enter the Dragon, premiers on 4 September, and here’s the interesting part: according to the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online (17 Jun), DGUSA has partnered with G-Funk Sports and Entertainment to make their ppv deal, which was the very ppv deal Ring of Honor let expire without renewing it earlier this year. Simply put, after being unceremoniously dumped by Cary Silken, Gabe is now taking his life back. He’s snagged talent commonly associated with Ring of Honor (like AmDrag and Richards), is booking live events and ppvs in ROH’s backyard, and is working once again with Dragon Gate, who once co-promoted shows with Ring of Honor. It’s obvious that Gabe is reclaiming his place in the U.S. independent scene by taking what was once his, and Silken doesn’t seem to be putting up much of a fight.
As terrible as the current Ring of Honor product is and as good as I anticipate DGUSA will be, I can all but assure you that my money is officially moving from ROH to Dragon Gate USA. I’ll still watch the HDNet show on YouTube for free (I can’t get HDNet while serving over here in South Korea), but I’m done spending money on new Ring of Honor stuff. I still have a few “classic” shows I intend to purchase, and that American Wolves t-shirt is pretty cool, but after that I’m done unless ROH finds the way back to what it once was, which is doubtful. In fact, I just ordered my first piece of Dragon Gate merchandise, volume 1 of the Best of… series featuring English commentary (yes!) to get me in the right frame of mind and start me on my official road to DGUSA.
I’ve been hearing for a while now that Silken really wants to shut down ROH and move on to other projects, and he just might be allowing that to happen through mismanagement and poor business decisions. Perhaps he wants the promotion to go belly-up rather than voluntarily shutting it down so he won’t be blamed for Ring of Honor’s destruction. Who knows? This resurgence of Sapolsky with his potential new indy giant about to come to prominence breathes life into me as a wrestling fan. When Gabe was fired and it soon became clear that ROH just wasn’t the same anymore, it was like a hardcore golf-lover finding out all the courses would be closed indefinitely, but the way things are shaping up for DGUSA it’s like the greens are back open, and I can’t wait to grab my 3-wood and crush a drive down the fairway. For now, all that’s left to do is wait with anticipation, visit the Dragon Gate USA homepage every few days, and get ready for the next big thing in the indies to explode on the scene.
It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “All evolution in thought and conduct must at first appear as heresy and misconduct.” – George Bernard Shaw
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…
Plenty of Ring of Honor links for you! John Wiswell discusses the new king of Ring of Honor, Austin Aries, in this week’s Cult of ROH.
Jake Ziegler reviews ROH’s Proving Ground 2009, Night One DVD.
It’s a Big Andy Mac trifecta, as he reviews the 20 June episode of ROH on HDNet, offers a live review of that night’s television tapings in Philly, and finally, he reports on Ring of Honor’s Eliminating the Competition DVD.
Apparently, TNA insists on producing pay-per-view events each and every month. Here’s Pulse Wrestling’s live coverage of Slammiversary, brought to you by PK, along with our very own staffers’ predictions in the Rasslin’ Roundtable.
Speaking of TNA, here’s Jon Bandit’s 10 Thoughts on iMPACT!
Two Pulse Wrestling all-stars, Iain Burnside and Paul Marshall, go one on one in another VS, with CM Punk’s heel or face status the point of contention between them.
Finally this week, Eric Bischoff talks shit. Is he in any place to do so? Is he still relevant in the pro wrestling universe?