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

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

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 at the moment are family names. How about The Younger Bucks, Adam Cole, Kevin (Owens) Steen, and Tomasso Ciampa to call a number of.

Wednesday night time’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 number of of AEW’s bigger plot holes and offers impartial wrestlers extra probabilities on the limelight. Perhaps most significantly, maintaining ROH’s legacy alive by the lens of an organization with loads of similarities is the easiest way to pay homage to its wealthy historical past.

The timing of Khan’s acquisition is right too. ROH couldn’t correctly have fun its twentieth anniversary final month as a result of the promotion is on a hiatus, citing a necessity for a brand new route. That relaunch takes place April 1 with “Supercard of Honor” after practically 4 months with out a 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 over the past 20 years? For lengthy stretches, ROH was the product that made longtime followers nonetheless imagine the trade was nonetheless price investing their time into.

Though Khan’s buy isn’t assured to maintain ROH’s recollections 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 creating this work, a 99.999999999 % 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 regarded nervous to begin final night time’s version of AEW Dynamite on TBS, fumbling over his phrases on a number 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 arduous to not see final night time’s announcement because the mic-drop second to formally finish the Wednesday night time standoff between AEW and WWE NXT. Vince McMahon’s developmental promotion underwent its personal rebrand late final yr that drummed up little pleasure. For the earlier seven years, particularly with son-in-law Triple H on the helm, NXT tried partly to duplicate ROH by poaching its talent, curbing to a fast-paced in-ring type 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 purchased ROH. NXT threw within the towel final yr. AEW simply planted its flag once more. Verify fuckin’ mate.

The largest drawback of beginning a promotion with a nationwide tv deal when you get a number of years in is the dearth of long-term historical past. The honeymoon interval is over, and whereas the product should still be chic, no callbacks may occur solely inside AEW’s partitions that predate Could 25, 2019. Shopping for ROH is the very best cowl doable. What number of present storylines could possibly 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 profitable 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 could have the proof. Each occurred in ROH in Could 2016. What in regards to the match of the yr 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 every 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 deal with the most important criticism Khan faces. AEW’s debuts of talent 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 anticipate ROH to operate extra in keeping 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 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 could possibly be launched into AEW. Massive pops a loads 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 least work in progress the place you possibly can see the wheels turning. It’s removed from a complacent or stale firm. This could usually be the a part of this story the place a obligatory 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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