Saturday night's big Ring of Honor show from New York City was newsworthy for several reasons. A new ROH champion was crowned. An ROH legend returned. And two of the best duos of our generation clashed in a tag team dream match for the ages.
But you probably won't find the biggest headline coming out of Glory by Honor IX in any report of the show. It is this: Ring of Honor is alive and well - at least in the hearts of wrestling fans.
Several recent developments in ROH have left some observers wondering if the Philadelphia-based wrestling promotion may have its days numbered. One of the company's top attractions, Tyler Black, signed a contract to join WWE while still wearing the ROH championship. Davey Richards, considered by many the most exciting performer on the independent wrestling scene, announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. And the company's well-respected booker, Adam Pearce, was fired after clashing with ROH management over the directions of their business model.
With something of a dearth of obvious candidates to fill the vacancies at the top of cards, and concerns that the company's business is not growing as fast as it should, some have wondered if ROH owner Cary Silkin may be forced to shutter the company doors.
But if fans were looking for reasons to be optimistic about ROH's future, they got one the moment they arrived in front of the Manhattan Center Saturday night. Unfortunately, some of them did not get any further than that.
So packed was the 1,200-seat Grand Ballroom that officials with the fire marshal’s office were forced to turn away ticket-carrying fans.
That development may have boded badly for the disappointed fans (who, incidentally, were taken care of by apologetic ROH officials) but it was a positive sign for a company that desperately needed a win. Clearly, fans were interested in what Ring of Honor had to offer in 2010. They would not be disappointed.
The jam-packed crowd was red hot for throughout the entire night, and for good reason. ROH put on one of the best events of any wrestling company this year.
Among the highlights of Glory by Honor, which was also streamed live as an Internet exclusive pay-per-view courtesy of gofightlive.tv: ROH's most personal feud of 2010 reached a bloody climax when Colt Cabana & El Generico defeated Kevin Steen & Steve Corino. The biggest jaw-dropper came after the bout, when Generico was unmasked by his former partner, Steen.
The tandem once known as The World's Greatest Tag Team, Shelton Benjamin and Charley Haas, got a heroes' reception for their dream match against Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero. The Kings of Wrestling came out victorious, but the former WWE tag team champs left the ring feeling like winners when the ROH fans implored them to "Please come back!"
And in the main event, Roderick Strong defeated the WWE-bound Tyler Black to capture the ROH championship. The great Terry Funk donned the zebra stripes to count the fall.
As if that wasn't enough, Homicide, having recently been exiled from TNA, returned to ROH after the main event to challenge Strong for his title at a future show. Another big piece of news came when Jim Cornette announced that Richards had signed a new contract with ROH, and would be challenging for the championship at December's "Final Battle."
With the ROH championship around the waist of a talented and deserving company veteran, a former ROH headliner returning, a top contender sticking around, and a top-flight tag team making its first of what fans hope will be regular appearances, Ring of Honor suddenly looks in considerably better shape than it did just 24 hours ago.
But there is more work to be done, for sure. ROH management needs to strike while the iron is hot and capitalize on the audible buzz that the company has generating in recent days. That means parlaying the company’s strong reputation among its fans into lucrative business opportunities, whether they be in the form of new advertising revenue on its HDNet program, further international television deals, or even a live televised pay per view event. ROH, which still relies largely on the same business model of selling videos of its live shows, desperately needs to expand into new ways of generating revenue. The Internet pay per view concept is a good start.
If ROH proved nothing else Saturday night, it is that it remains a relevant, and essential part of the American wrestling landscape. With WWE trying to cater to the masses, and TNA too often chasing its own tail, ROH remains the most viable alternative for wrestling fans looking for exciting action, compelling stories, captivating personalities, and solid production values.
For the good of the sport of wrestling, it is imperative that ROH not only survives, but thrives.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer