ROH on Honor Club: How Deep Is Your Love?
On Saturday, Tony Khan announced after Ring of Honor: Final Battle on pay per view that we will be able to see the promotion weekly with ROH on Honor Club.
After purchasing Ring of Honor back in May, Tony Khan has used All Elite Wrestling as a way to revitalize ROH to fans who might have watched it in the past and gave it up, possibly giving it up for AEW. From the return of Samoa Joe to making Chris Jericho the ROH World champion, the goal was to make the image of ROH as strong as possible. It was necessary to get it strong in hopes of getting a new television deal, whether on cable or streaming.
ROH on Honor Club, the streaming service developed when ROH was owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, was less about showing the weekly ROH TV program and more about housing the Ring of Honor video library. ROH TV was on the Sinclair Broadcasting television stations either as affiliate stations or Comet TV. It was never meant to be the exclusive home to watch ROH weekly, unless you didn’t get a station ROH was on or wanted to watch the episodes after they went up.
When ROH was purchased by Tony Khan, the hope was that the magic he brought to AEW would get sprinkled on ROH and get them to a level they had never reached before. It’s easy to forget how absolutely shocking it was that a complete unknown in the pro wrestling world was able to craft a wrestling company out of nothing and get a television deal with TNT. If he could do that with an unknown property, surely he could get an established property with 100’s of hours of archive content into the position of a paid weekly show right? Unfortunately, that didn’t happen here.
Tony Khan and All Elite Wrestling currently have a relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery, the extent to which we don’t really know. We don’t know if at the next television negotiations if AEW can negotiate with other networks or if WBD might own a piece of the property to keep them exclusive to the Warner Bros. Discovery brand. What we do know is that Tony didn’t seem willing to move outside of that relationship in his press conference, which his nervousness and wasting time to get to the announcement on Saturday showed he wasn’t really experienced in expressing failure on the deal. He couldn’t get a cable television deal or streaming deal. He had to work internally.
It should be noted that if that was the expectations set from the beginning we would have handled the news better. Tony Khan should have been announcing the relaunch of Honor Club and said it will also include a weekly series starting in January with some participation with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Instead we were told we would get news on a television deal. The news was no TV deal, and that dominated the conversation. The NJPW relationship is interesting and it’s my prediction that New Japan Strong is going to be wrapped up in favour of having New Japan USA guys on Ring of Honor as their excusion, as NJPW likes to keep established relationships strong and before AEW they were deeply affiliated with ROH. No word on what this would mean for NJPW’s relationship with Impact Wrestling but hopefully it just keeps moving along.
Really, we should have known the moment the Briscoe Brothers beat FTR for the ROH World Tag championship that there was never going to be a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery, who have been adamant on not allowing the Briscoes on AEW television. This stems from Jay Briscoe back in 2013 saying, “try and teach my kids that there’s nothing wrong with (same sex couples being allowed to be married) and I’ll fucking shoot you” as a babyface ROH World champion on Twitter. He tried to claim the comments weren’t how he really felt (he also once tweeted about gay people in New York) and folks like Ian Riccaboni have put their reputations on the line to say Jay isn’t that person, or isn’t that person anymore. You can decide for yourself on whether you believe it, or if Warner Bros. Discovery should be trying to take a high road while doing everything they can to keep Ezra Miller’s Flash film on its release schedule, but the fact remains that when the company that pays you to show your product on cable television says they don’t want something? You listen. It’s surprising that Tony is even trying to put them on Honor Club to get around it, at the risk of that relationship, but I digress.
While it’s a disappointment that all of the time and effort to get Ring of Honor re-established on All Elite Wrestling television led to them going to a resurrected streaming service that costs $9.99 per month to see, the reaction brought a lot of people to defend Tony Khan and say they didn’t care where to watch but just that they can. AEW has established a strong fanbase of people unwilling to accept anything except What I wanted is what I get . They don’t want to hear that this isn’t a good thing, that ROH needs more exposure than just a currently established bubble, that Tony Khan is better to have a major company pay to distribute ROH than rely on the obedience of their fans, and so on. I was even told by a cringe account that having interest in the business of something is the same as pretending you own the company, if you wanted to know how far people will go to defend the decisions of someone they give time and money to. That said, the defence leads to a bigger question: is there enough of these passionate supporters to fund Ring of Honor on Honor Club?
I don’t know the exact budget Tony Khan plans to run with ROH, but he has been adamant that All Elite Wrestling needs to run at a profit. If ROH has to do the same, it’s hard to say how much will be spent on tapings and touring. Tony Khan has run three ROH pay per views so far, which have done 20,000 buys for Supercard of Honor and 36,000 buys for Death Before Dishonor. We don’t know yet the numbers for Final Battle, which had the wrench of being broadcast in the afternoon instead of the evening. Even if it’s between Supercard and Death Before Dishonor, it will still be one of the most successful ROH pay per views of all time. Being attached to AEW has convinced people to pay $39.99 for these pay per views. How many are willing to pay a quarter of that each month to watch a weekly ROH program? If they can convince 50,000 (less than half of what New Japan World has) per month that would mean approximately $6 million per year to run ROH as a weekly series and to host an archive already paid for. That should be enough to make this work.
I don’t know how many would be willing, but if AEW fans are this passionate about defending ROH on Honor Club instead of HBO Max, maybe there’s enough of them to fund the project and make this decision look like a success. Five years ago it felt like there would never be a competitor to WWE. Tony Khan has proven he has the magic to make things work we never thought would, so doubting him here could be dangerous. It now all comes down to the fans. Are there enough of you to make Ring of Honor work? How deep is your love?
Photo courtesy All Elite Wrestling