In my humble opinion, Ring of Honor has been greatest wrestling promotion that has ever existed. Who else has given fans such a wonderful combination of in-ring action, characters, promos, storytelling, and booking with real, satisfying finishes and a reputation for innovation and excellence on such a consistent basis for so long? The over eight-year body of work from October 2003 through November 2011 put together by the wrestlers and bookers of Ring of Honor was a period of excellence in just about every aspect of the art form of professional wrestling unparalleled in history up to that point and likely never to be outdone or even equaled in the future. During this time ROH was the strong in-ring undercard of PWG, the creativity and optimal utilization of each individual talent of ECW, the willingness to expose audiences to foreign talent of WCW, the fealty to logic of your favorite territory, the roster depth of modern New Japan, the drive to prove that "we are the promotion you should be paying attention to" of the late 2004-2006 Dusty and D'Amore Era glory days of TNA, the "I can't wait to see what happens at the next show" atmosphere of Attitude Era WWF, and the devotion to superb action with clean satisfying finishes and no bullsh*t of 90's All-Japan, all rolled into one. What more could you want?
Even after the end of this glory period I'd still say that they were hands down the best promotion in the world for a few more months until New Japan really started to heat up in the spring of 2012, and continued to be mostly the number #2 and maybe at some times at the very worst the #3 promotion in the world from then until the rise of the British indies and EVOLVE really begins to heat up as the seeds set with their early 2015 shakeup begin to bloom and they start to surpass ROH in the fall.
But that has not been exclusively due to the EVOLVE and the British indies heating up. While the cracks that started appear in late spring and summer are only recognizable in hindsight, the finish of the main event of All-Star Extravaganza VII, just a few days before the autumnal equinox, clearly marked the beginning of a downward plunge in the direction of ROH. And what a fall it has been.
At this point let me stress that I am writing this because of how much I have loved Ring of Honor. When I finally quit TNA in January- literally in the middle of an episode of Impact- after hating the promotion for about seven straight years and yet still watching it I said that maybe I would write something detailing exactly why I gave up on it, but I decided not to because, as I noted, TNA didn't deserve it because they had been such sh*t for so long.
Now, a few months later, I get just as frustrated watching ROH TV as I used to while watching Impact and am already considering just giving up on the ROH TV show, and I feel so guilty that I gave TNA so many years of hating it while for ROH, which I have loved, am considering giving up on the TV show after less than a year and a half of frustration... but the reason I have reached that point so quickly with ROH is, in fact, because of how much I have loved it since the moment I discovered the product. And it is for that reason that I am writing this for ROH when I did not do so for TNA. Because ROH has earned it.
The fact of the matter is that right now ROH is a completely middling wrestling product being buoyed up by a workrate that, while strong, still comes off as a disappointment to longer-term fans because it is well below the level that the ROH name and reputation were built on (and which the company still promotes itself with).
The television product is downright bad. It feels like those early episodes of Nitro where they never gave anything enough time to be impressive, except that instead of having the nationwide name value of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, and Sting, they've got a bunch of guys who, aside from Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks and Colt Cabana (and Jay Lethal, Christopher Daniels, and Kazarian if they watched TNA), I most casual fans probably haven't even heard of (and even Cody is only debatably a positive due to his years as Stardust possibly damaging perception of him). That means that if a casual fan is going stick around, odds are they're going to need to see something that really impresses them rather than just a familiar name, and ROH's TV product is managed so poorly that the matches aren't given enough time to do that and most of the wrestlers aren't given the chance to do that verbally, either.
Compounding this problem is the absolutely horrendous announcing, which I've torn to shreds seven ways from Sunday in enough other places that I'm not going to go too deep into this here or else this thing will wind up being a million pages long, but suffice it to say that the announcers often get facts wrong, are unable to accurately recall important moments in the storylines, completely fail to connect with the viewers, and most of the things they say are either extreme vagaries or statements that are intended to put the wrestlers over but are such ridiculous exaggerations that they only serve to kill the announcer's credibility (the most quintessential example of this would be both Steve Corino and Kevin Kelly claiming that Jay Lethal was the greatest ROH World Champion of all time during his title defense at Supercard of Honor X Night 2, at which point he had been champion for nine and a half months, during which he had had just fourteen successful title defenses- numbers that fell far short of the top of the list in terms of number of defenses, length of the title, or frequency of defense, and of those fourteen title defenses, one was a draw, one was in an eight-man tag, three more were not clean wins- one of which was against a New Japan midcarder, and three more of which that ROH had ever mentioned or hyped up in any way on their website, DVDs, or TV show, so even if you were following ROH as closely as possible you still wouldn't have known about them).
The roster has become horrifically bloated, and the backlog isn't at the top of the card. It's at the bottom, with guys being brought in and/or brought back who leave fans scratching their heads as to why ROH is wasting money on them. Vinny Marseglia, T.K. O'Ryan, Bull James, Brutal Bob Evans, Caprice Coleman, ODB, and Joey Diesel Daddiego, have all been featured on TV at times when it is clear to fans that they are adding absolutely nothing to the product. Cliff Compton and Bull James were brought back multiple times despite universally negative reactions to their matches, and James was even placed in a storyline despite managing to drag Adam Cole down to one of the worst match Cole has had in ROH (and probably the one that was the absolute worst if you want to look at pure in-ring mechanics rather than psychology). Having so many wrestlers on the roster- especially so many sub-par ones- hurts the product by forcing the shows to have more matches in order to fit everyone on the card, and as a result, causes all of the matches to be shorter, thus robbing the wrestlers and the matches of the time they need to stand out.
While these negatives certainly do not outweigh whatever minor positives these wrestlers might bring to the promotion, products like WWF's Attitude Era have shown that this damage can be somewhat mitigated if you make sure that all (or at least most) of the wrestlers are involved in some sort of story that moves forward, thus creating the feeling that, while the shows are crowded and the matches suffer, at least it feels like things are happening. Unfortunately, in ROH over the past few years, the exact opposite has been the case.
The ROH roster currently consists of about forty- yes, FORTY: 40- wrestlers who are either listed on the roster page and/or show up on most of the shows, plus the winner of this year's Top Prospect Tournament, while excluding guys like Roppongi Vice and Delirious who really don't show up that often, and the guys like LSG, Shaheem Ali, Joey Daddiego, etc. who, nine times out of ten, work dark matches (I have chosen to include both Will Ospreay and Jonathan Gresham even though they're only at about half of the shows because ROH made such a big deal about their signings). At the moment, only a handful of them- like eight a most- seem to have anything resembling a clear direction. Among those who don't have any sort of clear direction right now are the TV, tag team, and six-man champions.
In October Alex Shelley cut a promo saying that he and Sabin were tired of Bullet Club having the numbers advantage so they were going to recruit a bunch of young guys to mentor to help them fight Bullet Club. In the six months since then they have had a grand total of ZERO confrontations with Bullet Club. Meanwhile, they amassed not one or two but FOUR young guys to hang around with them, and have done... absolutely nothing since then. They just have matches together sometimes. We've rarely if ever seen them help MCMG combat a numbers disadvantage and we've certainly never seen anything that could even generously be called mentoring occur. They just wrestle on the same team sometimes.
Or how about Jay White? He comes in with this big push where he is immediately inserted into the middle of a feud revolving around the ROH World Tag Team Titles on the side of the Motor City Machine Guns against The Addiction, and Kamaitachi, pins CHRISTOPHER DANIELS on his second night in the company, and goes close to EIGHT MONTHS without ever being pinned, made to submit, or even counted out or disqualified. During this time he receives a grand total of ZERO shots at any singles titles, and the only title shot he gets of any sort is being inserted into the tournament to crown the first-even ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions. Then his streak just ends by having him randomly lose to Jay Briscoe- who gains NOTHING from it- in a match with no consequences (aside from White losing his streak) that happened because they went to a time-limit draw on TV six months beforehand and apparently both guys were quite bothered by that fact- a feeling that was expressed a combined total of ZERO TIMES in the intervening six months between the draw and when White cut a promo asking ROH Management to book a rematch.
Or how about The Cabinet/The Rebellion? They show up doing an atrocious one-note gimmick where they are undercard heels who complain about not getting the opportunities they deserve and whose goal is mostly to be laughed at by the fans because they are acting like buffoons. This is all leading up to six months later where they cut a worked shoot promo and then become The Rebellion... a gimmick where they are undercard heels who complain about not being given the opportunities they deserve, and are mostly laughed at by the fans because they are acting like buffoons. That was six months ago. It's been a full year, and they haven't moved in any way at all.
(And that's ignoring the atrocious handling of a team that had left the without ever dropping the belts in the ring for the eight months between their return to ROH and the beginning of The Cabinet gimmick!)
Or how about Donovan Dijak, who won the 2015 Top Prospect Tournament and accepted an offer to be managed by Truth Martini, then started a storyline where he lost a lot and so Truth Martini fired him (except that no one, either the announcers or the Truth or Dijak ever noted that Dijak was losing so many matches until shortly before the firing, so the fans didn't even know that it was a storyline). After this he accepted an offer to be managed by Prince Nana whereby, after doing an angle where he wanted revenge on Truth Martini which involved a grand total of one angle to start it off where he injured Truth, then one singles match against House of Truth sub-jobber Joey Daddiego, and then blew off in a non-title singles match against ROH World Champion Jay Lethal that ended when Dijak lost after being accidentally superkicked by Bullet Club, who were involved in a MUCH hotter angle with Jay Lethal. Then he engaged in an extremely similar program with Moose which started when he attacked Moose's manager Stokely Hathaway, resulting in just one match against Moose, after which Dijak's next storyline was that he lost too much so Prince Nana fired him. After more than eighteen months he was right back to square one.
Look at Marty Scurll, the freakin' TV Champion! In the six months since he won the belt, every single one of his title defenses have been against guys who either aren't on the roster or who were on the roster but were about to be off of ROH TV for a long time mostly because they were leaving the company (Kenny King is still with ROH but is taking time off to film The Bachelor). The closest thing he had to a feud was a quick three-show deal with Lio Rush which consisted of Rush beating him by roll-up on one show, then they did a quick angle on TV, then Marty successfully defended the belt against Rush, who was, of course, on his way out the door.
In this same period of time, ROH World Tag Team Champions the Young Bucks have had a grand total of feud angle... and the only reason that feud was as good as it was is because the Hardys were able to come in a month earlier than expected, won the belts at Mahnattan Mayhem VI and then wrestled against the Bucks and Roppongi Vice on PPV at the 15th Anniversary Show before getting to the originally planned match against the Bucks at Supercard of Honor XI. The Young Bucks spent THREE MONTHS DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING while waiting for the Hardys to be able to show up, and if it wasn't for TNA screwing up, it would have been four. The original plan was FOUR WHOLE MONTHS OF THE ROH WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS DOING NOTHING! Their originally-scheduled title defense against Roppongi Vice at the PPV? The entirety of the build for that match was the fact that Roppongi Vice had beaten the Young Bucks in Japan at the beginning of the year. They hadn't even appeared on an ROH show in over six months! And they didn't even win their most recent match!
You'd think that the new ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Titles would create some direction for some guys but even that hasn't happened. The champions- The Kingdom, until ROH was forced to take the belts off of them when T.K. O'Ryan got injured, have just been having title matches against random groups of guys, a good portion of whom HADN'T EVER EVEN TEAMED TOGETHER BEFORE, NEVER MIND WON A F*CKING MATCH... and even the trios that had won matches together were never portrayed as having done anything to earn it. Every single title defense they had was a complete and total throw-away match, which they weren't even allowed to win cleanly (more on that later as well), and yet at no point has it ever been even hinted at that any of the teams they had screwed would get a rematch.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Don't even get me started on the ACH-Matt Sydal team. And please keep in mind that in the past seven months they have lost ACH, Lio Rush, Donovan Dijak, Kamaitachi, BJ Whitmer, Keith Lee, and Kyle O'Reilly. Of those seven wrestlers, only O'Reilly, Lee, Rush, and Whitmer had anything that could be called a direction (and with Whitmer and Rush that is quite a generous term to use). That's HALF of the guys who left- all of whom were theoretically pretty important parts of the roster- who had no direction whatsoever, and one of those who did- Rush- had spent his first ten months with the company without one, despite coming in with what should have been a big push in winning the Top Prospect Tournament. Is it any wonder that guys seen as the next generation of indy stars like Lio Rush, Donovan Dijak, Keith Lee, and ACH are leaving the company, while other like Jason Kincaid are choosing other promotions over ROH?
But even through all this, I would be able to keep watching. I wouldn't try to tell you that ROH was particularly great or anything, but I have no problem watching a once-great product that I used to love even after it has turned bland, just in the hopes of getting the occasional great storyline or great match (much like NXT is at this moment). Through all of that I would easily be able to keep watching, because it's ROH and they've earned my loyalty, even if the result is me sitting through a couple of sub-par years. But I find myself having so much trouble justifying any loyalty to ROH right now, and the reason for that- in many ways the reason for this whole article- is because ROH doesn't feel like ROH anymore.
I have broken this section up into headings because all of these are, to me, major issues that have contributed to my feeling very alienated from the current ROH product after so many long years as a fan. I am putting these topics in large headers because that is how large and blaring they seem to me whenever they happen on my TV or computer screen.
THE SHOWS DON'T FEEL LIKE THEY MEAN AS MUCH ANYMORE:
This one has a lot of different elements that go into it but unless it's a PPV or a REALLY big show, ROH's shows don't feel like they mean anywhere near as much as they used to. It used to be that you knew that every ROH show was guaranteed to give you something. You'd either get some awesome wrestling or a big storyline advancement or a special appearance or something to make the show worth your money- not just live, but on DVD as well. This was done, in large part, out of necessity. The way the company made most of its money for most of its existence was DVD sales, so they wanted to make sure that every DVD would give you a reason to buy it.
Obviously if you change to a business model that is based more around using your TV show to plug monthly or bimonthly pay-per-views there will have to be some changes made, with important storyline events being shown on TV, but that doesn't mean that you need to abandon even trying with 90% of your non-TV/PPV shows. There are a number of things that could be done (for example having what are essentially simple storylines that only play out on the non-televised shows, like someone getting a few wins in a row to earn a title shot) but at the very least, the events of your non-televised shows need to be able to mesh with what you are putting on TV. For example, if you have some teams you want to have face off in a #1 contendership match on TV, there is no reason for those teams to not win their matches at the non-televised shows heading into those TV tapings. In addition to just plain being good booking, that allows you to use the events of your non-televised shows to reinforce the stories that you want to push on TV. If you want to name someone the #1 contender to the world title, what sounds more impressive: that he won his match at the last TV tapings and then he won his match on this one, or that he won his match at the last TV tapings, won his matches at four straight non-televised shows, and then just one his match here at this taping as well? Personally I'd say a six-match winning streak is a lot more impressive that a two-match streak? And these wins don't need to be seen on TV to be imparted to the TV audience: they just have to be mentioned by the announcers. But instead we get what are essentially WWE-style house shows where the results are mostly irrelevant or even contradictory to what they should be based on the storylines.
Another factor that has made the shows feel less important is the poor hype the cards have gotten. It used to be that we would start getting match announcements a good month out from the show, but nowadays we often don't know most of the card until the week of the show. The shows are also usually made to feel generic, with their generic names, irrelevant six-man tag main events and matches that feel repetitive. Throw in some sort of match where someone can earn a title shot later that night if they win even though we all know that they have no hope of winning the title, plus a TV Title defense against a guy who doesn't even work for ROH regularly so no one thinks he has a chance in hell of winning, the you've yourself an ROH house show in 2017.
If you want to run your non-televised shows like WWE house shows where the results don't matter and the babyfaces almost always go over (unless the heels are popular members of Bullet Club) or you want to run them like New Japan Road to... shows with repetitive match-ups and almost no results that have any sort of significance then that's fine, but if that's the case then you shouldn't be pushing them as DVD/VODs. I don't know about you, but I get pretty annoyed when I watch the Rebellion take on MCMG & Friends on all four shows of a tour and the feud, which hasn't progressed at all in months, still doesn't progress at all. I also get kind of annoyed when I see The Addiction and The Young Bucks doing the exact same sequence of comedy spots to start off six-man tag team main events on two straight shows. (And the issue isn't the number of shows, either. ROH ran more shows in 2009 than they did in 2016, but each of those shows felt important while most of the shows in 2016 didn't. There were more storylines, with the champions being pursued by multiple challengers simultaneously.)
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ROH AND ITS FANS FEELS LIKE IT HAS CHANGED:
ROH, up until rather recently, has always been more open than most promotions. Under Pearce and especially under Gabe it felt like the attitude was "this is what we are doing. We really hope you enjoy it. Please let us know if you don't." Gabe and Pearce (and Cary) both moderated the old official message board, and Gabe would even occasionally post if he felt something needed to be said or explained for the good of the product (for example, the announcement that he would never book another Ladder War for fear of the wrestlers' safety, or apologizing for the Alison Danger/Bobby Dempsey/Larry Sweeney angle at the 6th Anniversary Show). While Cornette's attitude was "this is what I'm doing, dammit, so learn to like it" he always felt very open about explaining why he was doing what he was doing. Even if you thought he was dead wrong in his conviction that his way would work in the end, he was at least willing to help you understand why he felt that it would.
Under Delirious there hasn't been any sort of communication between the fans and the office, other than the occasional comment from Joe Koff, who appears to either be unaware of the way fans feel or completely unwilling to acknowledge it in any way (his attitude during the era of iPPV trouble got him off on a bad foot and it hasn't improved from there). In and of itself this sort of thing is really to be expected, and ROH has gotten quite lucky that it has had bookers who felt like they were willing to engage with the fans so readily either to take their pulse or to at least explain their own point of view. What makes this so problematic, however, has been the shift in the presentation of the product along with it, especially on the television.
It used to be that when a guy was brought in the first few times the announcers would be right up front that this was a try-out. They'd frame it in a kayfabe way, of course, but everyone understood that if this guy put on a good performance he would be brought back the next time ROH was in that region. If he didn't then we probably wouldn't see him against for a couple of years. Even within a worked context like that the company felt open and honest.
What we currently get in a similar situation, however, is that someone shows up on TV and we're told how great they are and how much potential they have and then they have a dull, short match on TV and the announcers gush all over them as if they had just done something wonderful. We are told over and over again that Jay Lethal is definitely the greatest ROH World Champion of all time, despite the fact that I have not seen any single person who isn't an ROH announcer express that opinion. A guy "took the champion to the limit" in a fifteen minute match when we've seen that champion go twice as long. Someone got a "career-changing win" even though, as the announcer is referring to it as such six months later, they're still in the same spot they were before the win. The presentation of the product feels like it has shifted from a more open, honest product to a WWE-style "we will say whatever suits our purposes at this moment and we expect you to take it as fact."
As another example, it used to be that whenever ROH would give a tryout match, Gabe and Pearce and even Delirious would only use these guys regionally, and they kept losing but were given the time to at least show what they could do, so they kept getting booked on shows in their region until Gabe either decided to stop using them or decided to use them and came up with something for them to do. As a result of this it felt like these were guys trying to earn their way onto the roster.
What happens now is that they take a guy like Will Ferrara and bring him everywhere they go to perpetually either job on the undercard or beat guys who would otherwise be in dark matches and they keep telling us he's "working so hard" and "improving every day" etc. etc. but he does not seem to have improved as a worker very much and has certainly not improved in any tangible kayfabe way. He doesn't win any more matches than he used to or beat anyone higher on the card than he used to and he doesn't even feel like he ever even comes closer to beating anyone than he previously would have.
And yet the announcers push him as if he has and I sit there and listen to it and listen to the announcers make other such statements, and I feel insulted. It feels to me like they- meaning the combination of the announcers and the booker- think that they can feed any line of sh*t they want to and I'll believe them because I'm such a dumb mark, to the point where they don't even bother to TRY to convince me with anything that even resembles evidence. Like they can keep pushing Adam Page forever based on the fact that he beat Jay Briscoe in a big match once even though he did the job in just about every other match he was in of even moderate significance for the four months before that and the four months after it. Like all they need to do is tell me that Jay White & Lio Rush have been so impressive that they deserve a tag title shot when in reality they've on teamed once, six months before, in a match that they LOST CLEANLY. Like I'm so stupid that they don't need to earn my money by telling a competent story that gets me invested in what is happening because all they need to do is tell me that something is great and I will automatically believe them, no matter what I've seen with my own two eyes.
(This issue is compounded by two recent occurrences where the TV show aired a pre-taped promo- first by Silas Young and then two weeks later by Adam Cole- at the beginning of a show, only for those promos to be seemingly ignored by everyone, even by Silas himself. In Silas' case he announced that he and the Beer City Bruiser were getting a shot at the six-man tag titles at Supercard of Honor XI and that they had a mystery partner all lined up. Then Silas came out to do commentary and kept talking about how he and BCB were still looking for a third guy and he made no reference to this upcoming title shot. In Cole's case the show started with a video of him seemingly being kicked out of Bullet Club by the Young Bucks, then Cole's pre-taped promo aired where he vowed revenge on Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian... and the we cut to Kevin Kelly, who told us that no one had seen or heard from Cole since he was superkicked by the Bucks. Basically what seems to have happened in both of these instances is that a promo was inserted in a spot where it wasn't supposed to be... and no one in the office bothered to watch the show to make sure everything was fine before sending it out for broadcast. That, to me, shows a lack of respect for your audience, and that is an unforgivable sin for someone who wants me to give them my money.)
THE CURRENT REGIME SEEMS TO HAVE NO UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT RING OF HONOR IS SUPPOSED TO BE:
And I'm not really even talking about the Kevin Sullivan/Steve Corino/BJ Whitmer/Boo-zar Moo-can/Ghost of Dusty Rhodes/Purple Haze Martinez magical bullsh*t, although that was definitely a major sign that something has gone extremely wrong. And I'm not even talking about the fact that ROH no longer feels like a place where I can see young wrestlers come to prove themselves as instead I am now given a "Top Prospect Tournament" full of guys in their thirties having matches that barely go five minutes, and an almost forty-six year-old Bubba Ray Dudley having atrocious matches where he beats the guys ROH needs to be pushing like Silas Young and Adam Page, while guys like Lio Rush and ACH and Donovan Dijak and Jason Kincaid and Keith Lee decide that they think they have a better chance of making a name for themselves working a bunch of indies than they do working or the second largest wrestling company in the US and Canada (with connections to the largest companies in Mexico and Japan as well). What I'm talking about here is the things that Ring of Honor is supposed to be. The things it was founded to be. The things that are promised to us in the very name of the promotion. "Ring of Honor" is a fairly unique name for a wrestling promotion, and it was not a name that Gabe came upon by accident. The name "Ring of Honor" was chosen for a reason, and that was because "Ring of Honor" was supposed to mean something.
Yes, the Code of Honor hasn't been treated as law like in the early days in a long time, but when Gabe or Pearce or Cornette or even pre-2015 Delirious moved away from it, you would have never seen the babyface/heel dynamic-based hypocrisy that we see from the announcers, and you would never see situations where the wrestlers in the ring played that dynamic out in such an ass-backwards way.
The "Honor" in ROH is about more than just following the Code of Honor. It's a promise that there is going to be, as Lance Storm once put it "no bullsh*t finishes." That was the whole reason for the Code of Honor existing in the first place. Gabe (correctly) thought that fans were getting sick and tired of Attitude Era/ECW copious run-ins and WCW-style DQs and count-outs just because someone with stroke didn't want to do a job, so he created this mechanism that made sense within kayfabe but more importantly functioned as a guarantee to the fans outside of kayfabe that you weren't going to get f*cked over on a finish, especially in a big match. You might not like who wins, but you won't be able to deny that within kayfabe, the winning wrestler/team was the better man/team on that night (and this, combined with the emphasis on a more... how I shall I say this? non-plunder-filled style of wrestling gave the promotion its identity).
That bullsh*t non-finish Bullet Club invasion at Global Wars last year? That's only the second time I can think of that an ROH main event just ended without any sort of finish. The only other one was at Killer Instinct, which was a "mere" house show, and the backlash to that was bad enough to get Cornette fired as booker. Going through all of ROHs PPV, and iPPVs I can recall interference in a main event a total of six times in the first thirty-nine ROH PPVs (and three of those occurred during the SCUM angle, where we had a stable whose gimmick was that they were trying to pervert ROH and get rid of its honor). Of the fourteen most recent ones (basically since the beginning of 2015) there have been SEVEN. Fans are losing faith in the company, and it shows in the attendance. The best example is Chicago, where the non-finish PPV main event was. The two shows before that had each drawn 1,200. The PPV drew 2,000. The next show after the non-finish? 700. For comparison, ROH's first show in Chicago, way back in 2004, did 650. Attendance has been down over the past eighteen months- especially if you factor out SCOH, New Japan shows, and the overseas shows. Many people would consider themselves to be fans of Ring of Honor are not happy. I am just one of them.
Ring of Honor used to be the place where you could go for good, clean, pure professional wrestling, presented with the seriousness that a real sport would be presented with. And when they diverged from their pure, clean, wrestling formula, they made sure that it meant something.
It's not about the quality of the wrestling as compared to everyone else. It's about the overall quality of the wrestling in ROH, and yes, about the whole "honor" thing. The number of gimmick matches for no reason or sh*t just being changed to No DQs matches right beforehand for no real reason, or bait-and-switches on the cards, and all manner of f*ck finishes have sky-rocketed over the past two or three years. Yes, Pearce definitely booked gimmick matches more frequently than Gabe did, but he didn't book them on every freakin' show, almost always made a big deal out of them, and always did them in hot feuds. When Gabe or Pearce booked a f*ck finish it was always intended to lead to a rematch where the issue at hand would truly be resolved. Nowadays we've got matches becoming gimmick matches or title matches for no reason whatsoever, often simply because a fat old out of shape garbage wrestler cuts a promo announcing that everyone wants to see weapons matches instead of regular wrestling matches, we've got hypocritical announcers making excuses for babyfaces cheating, we've got run-ins galore, and we've got dirty finishes happening for no other reason than to support a doctrine that heels shouldn't win cleanly, which is a philosophy that was exposed as being outdated by the success this very company enjoyed due in large part to those principles that it was founded on.
Ring of Honor has lost its honor. And without the Honor, it's just stuff happening in a ring. They're a generic company with nothing to make them special other than the name value of the history they have abandoned. No different from anyone else. TNA made the same mistake. They tried to put on a WWE-style product while using nothing but the nostalgia of what they once were to try to keep the fans who got them to where they were when they made the shift. We've seen how it worked out for them. Sooner or later most of those fans got sick and tired of what the product had turned into and gave up hope that it would ever change back, and now they drudge along begging for attention with desperate ploy after desperate ploy after desperate ploy, but getting none. ROH is in danger of that very thing happening to them as well. They might not go out of business if they continue on this path, but they're not going to make any sort of impact on the landscape of pro wrestling until they are once again truly Ring of Honor.