AEW’s Tony Khan buys Ring of Honor

AEW CEO Tony Khan (left) and owner Shahid Khan.

AEW CEO Tony Khan (left) and proprietor Shahid Khan.
Picture: Getty Photos

The fingerprints of those that elevated Ring of Honor from a tiny impartial promotion designed to assist save a fledgling video distribution firm to cult-favorite nationwide phenomenon have their smudge inked throughout skilled wrestling’s panorama. Take a look at a random ROH present lineup from 2009-11. Loads of up-and-comers on any given card are actually family names. How about The Younger Bucks, Adam Cole, Kevin (Owens) Steen, and Tomasso Ciampa to call a couple of.

Wednesday evening’s affirmation that All Elite Wrestling president and CEO Tony Khan bought ROH from the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owned the corporate since 2011, didn’t fall in need of his “enormous announcement” billing, because it helps fill a couple of of AEW’s bigger plot holes and provides impartial wrestlers extra probabilities on the limelight. Possibly most significantly, holding ROH’s legacy alive via the lens of an organization with loads of similarities is one of the best ways to pay homage to its wealthy historical past.

The timing of Khan’s acquisition is right too. ROH couldn’t correctly rejoice its twentieth anniversary final month as a result of the promotion is on a hiatus, citing a necessity for a brand new course. That relaunch takes place April 1 with “Supercard of Honor” after almost 4 months with no present. With any shift, there’s by no means a assure it’ll work. As information got here down of ROH ceasing to exist with a linear timeline final October, it felt like the tip, the closing of that chapter {of professional} wrestling. It was a somber day for a lot of wrestling followers who may’ve misplaced curiosity within the squared circle if not for ROH. Do you bear in mind how dangerous WWE and TNA have been at instances during the last twenty years? For lengthy stretches, ROH was the product that made longtime followers nonetheless consider the trade was nonetheless price investing their time into.

Though Khan’s buy isn’t assured to maintain ROH’s reminiscences intact into the foreseeable future, I’ll give an old-school tape-trader turned profitable promoter, who turns solely 40 in October and has no noticeable obstacles in his manner of constructing this work, a 99.999999999 p.c likelihood of his funding being profitable. That’s made to look even stronger with rumors of HBO Max getting concerned to assist arrange a video library for the businesses. Khan appeared nervous to begin final evening’s version of AEW Dynamite on TBS, fumbling over his phrases on a couple of events whereas saying his cope with ROH, then introducing two-thirds of the primary occasion from the primary ROH present, “The Era of Honor Begins” in Bryan Danielson and Christopher Daniels.

It’s exhausting to not see final evening’s announcement because the mic-drop second to formally finish the Wednesday evening standoff between AEW and WWE NXT. Vince McMahon’s developmental promotion underwent its personal rebrand late final 12 months that drummed up little pleasure. For the earlier seven years, specifically with son-in-law Triple H on the helm, NXT tried partly to copy ROH by poaching its expertise, curbing to a fast-paced in-ring model in addition to re-doing character arcs and storylines. Three years after the launch of AEW, Khan’s promotion halted NXT as we knew it, signed its high expertise and acquired ROH. NXT threw within the towel final 12 months. AEW simply planted its flag once more. Examine fuckin’ mate.

The largest drawback of beginning a promotion with a nationwide tv deal when you get a couple of years in is the dearth of long-term historical past. The honeymoon interval is over, and whereas the product should be elegant, no callbacks may occur solely inside AEW’s partitions that predate Might 25, 2019. Shopping for ROH is the perfect cowl doable. What number of present storylines might be jazzed up with the addition of that video catalog? How about footage of a canine collar match CM Punk talked about earlier than his wrestles MJF at Revolution? Yup. When MJF stated on Wednesday’s Dynamite that “I’m a snake. The best trick the satan ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist” is a direct name again to dialogue Punk used after successful the ROH World Championship in June 2005.

Does a majority of the AEW fanbase know Adam Web page and Adam Cole have been initiated into The Bullet Membership on back-to-back days? Now you’ve got the proof. Each occurred in ROH in Might 2016. What in regards to the match of the 12 months contender between The Younger Bucks and reDRagon from 2014? I used to be within the Hammerstein Ballroom crowd that day. Please play that footage to your viewers sooner or later.

The bigger gap and extra regarding crevice ROH covers is the logjam of expertise underneath Khan’s thumb. It felt crowded with 4 exhibits per week. That’s clearly not good. How about including one other promotion to assist? And what about utilizing stated firm to assist scout future expertise or assist wrestlers get again in form from accidents? Extending AEW’s net to incorporate ROH ought to care for the largest criticism Khan faces. AEW’s debuts of expertise have been iconic, whereas the continuous build-up of many has gotten misplaced within the shuffle. Now there’s one other alternative for these wrestlers to capitalize on.

I count on ROH to operate extra in step with how the UFC treats The Final Fighter in comparison with a separate developmental model. It’s doable for an impartial wrestler with lower than six months of expertise to be in a match with CM Punk, then transition into mentorship. One factor WWE did brilliantly, for at the very least one present per expertise, was how they launched high NXT wrestlers onto the primary roster. Keep in mind the reactions for the primary appearances of Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Bayley and others? Nice moments. That’s how primarily ROH expertise might be launched into AEW. Large pops a a lot may come for Bandido, Jonathan Gresham and extra.

Bringing ROH into the fold is one other signal of the momentum AEW has. The corporate nonetheless isn’t with out faults. It’s at the very least work in progress the place you’ll be able to see the wheels turning. It’s removed from a complacent or stale firm. This might usually be the a part of this story the place a vital dig at McMahon or WWE feels proper. I’ll let that be for now as evaluating the acquisition of ROH in any manner would deploy me sounding like a damaged document. It’s simply one other feather within the cap for Khan in a interval that’s normalizing direct competitors and outcomes. 

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