"As a viewer of TV shows, I always like shows more when I just feel like the people in charge have a plan. You can just tell sometimes, 'Oh, there's a plan there. They have an idea for how this is going to unfold.' ... It always makes me feel secure and happy when I feel like there's a plan at work."
- Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC's "Parks and Recreation"
"Parks and Recreation" is one of my favourite shows on television, and it doesn't surprise me that one of the main decision-makers involved with the show feels this way about TV.
Now ... replace 'TV shows' from the above quotation with 'professional wrestling'.
I want to feel like investing my time in a product is going to pay off in the end. That's why I no longer routinely watch WWE, and why I never watch TNA. WWE's creative plans change all the time and TNA's plans are stupid. You are very rarely rewarded for investing in their products.
(Look no further than the CM Punk storyline -- it's made fools of those wrestling fans who got excited about WWE again. I doubt too many are sticking around now.)
In Ring Of Honor, on the other hand, Jim Cornette oversees booking and creative. He has a long-term plan for the company and its new TV show. It's the main reason why I'm all-in on ROH.
So even though ROH's debut episode on Sinclair wasn't spectacular, it was a solid and straight-forward one-hour wrestling show.
The show started with Kevin Kelly in the ring introducing the new colour commentator for ROH, Nigel McGuinness. The crowd popped huge for McGuinness' return, so he came off like a star. But it would have been nice to get a video package recapping for newer viewers why his return should be viewed as such a big deal.
The opening match was Future Shock (Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly) vs. the Bravado Brothers, Harlem and Lance. It was what you would expect -- a fast-paced, competitive match with plenty of high spots.
Perhaps ROH should have kicked off their show with a match that included more established stars, but at the very least, they showcased two young teams that are part of a deep tag team division. If there's one thing that a fan unfamiliar with ROH would have taken away from the first episode is that tag team wrestling matters in ROH.
After the match, they aired a brief Davey Richards promo, hyping future ROH live events. It was definitely an old-school-style promo, and really, the entire show had an older feel. In large part, the show is being used as a promotional tool for live events, iPPVs, DVDs, and the re-designed ROH website.
Next was a lengthy recap video of the Best in the World iPPV from June 2011, focusing on the 4-Team Elimination Tag Team Title Match and the ROH World Title Match. The video was probably a minute or two too long, but it did do a good job of promoting their top stars without having them wrestle. It was also a good way to promote their iPPVs, because the event was arguably the best show of 2011.
However, it also brought to light one of the issues with taping television so far in advance before it airs. Technically, the most recent iPPV was Death Before Dishonor IX, so it would have been more timely to show a recap video of that show. In fact, there was no mention of the more recent iPPV on the entire show; as a result, the episode felt dated.
Next was a video package on the Code of Honor, which Cornette explained as being a self-imposed rule used by most members of the roster, that shows respect and fighting spirit between opponents.
This segued into a promo by Jay Lethal, during which he mentioned that he was going to be himself in ROH, and not pretend to be anyone else like he did somewhere else (he didn't mention TNA by name or his past gimmicks). He said that the way to the ROH World Title is through the TV title, which means he's going to beat El Generico next week.
In the next segment, they once again showed highlights from the 4-Team Elimination match from Best in the World, focusing on the Briscoes beatdown of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. I think the idea was to play this in tandem with the Briscoes promo that followed, in order to introduce the charismatic team to a new audience. But by this point the episode was dragging on a bit, and I'd seen enough from Best in the World.
The main event of The World's Greatest Tag Team vs. Kings of Wrestling didn't match their previous encounters, but it was a good TV main event. Haas and Benjamin retained their titles in a 15 minute plus match. This is likely the last we'll see of the Kings in ROH, as both are rumoured to be on their way to WWE. Claudio Castagnoli, in fact, has already started in Florida Championship Wrestling, under the new name of Antonio Cesaro.
Overall, the show had its strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, the production values aren't on par with WWE and TNA, but they don't need to be. The audio was the main technical issue, in my opinion, in that it failed to truly capture the atmosphere of an ROH crowd.
There was also WAY too much of Kevin Kelly on this show. I thought he did a good job, but he is not only the lead announcer, but also the backstage interviewer and he does the voiceovers on the video packages.
Still, I enjoyed the show. There were good opening and main event tag team matches; the return of Nigel McGuinness was a nice surprise; and they did a good job of using video packages to put over the company and its wrestlers.
Even if there won't necessarily be something that blows me away each week, I'm confident that there is a 'plan' in place that will deliver a pay-off in the end.
On next week's show, the announced main event is El Generico defending the ROH TV Championship against Jay Lethal. Some reports say that it was the best match of the inaugural TV tapings, and they did a good job of promoting it at several points during the debut show.
For those who don't have a Sinclair affiliate in your area that broadcasts the show, ROH TV can be viewed every Monday on rohwrestling.com if you sign up to be a Ringside Member for $7.99 per month. (Becoming a member involves many other benefits besides getting to watch the show several days before the rest of the internet audience.)
If you're cheap like me, the show can be viewed for free every Thursday.