After a week mulling over the agony that was TNA on pay per view, the only other televised alternative to WWE arrived to lift my spirits.
Ring of Honor's new weekly show made its debut on HDNet this weekend, offering what is undeniably the antithesis of any other pro wrestling currently on the air. With six weeks of shows taped in advance, over one weekend at the ECW Arena, the series won't follow the live events and pay per views as episodically as what we are used to, but offers an action packed hour of wrestling without any ridiculous angles.
It caters to the potential new fans that ROH and HDNet want to attract, educating them with facts and figures on screen, such as the names of a wrestler's finishing hold or his allies and enemies.
One, however, may have been too rudimentary as the first for Kenny King simply read “Arrogant”. Especially considering we had just seen King cut a promo in which his personality was very apparent. Everyone on the show had a promo or interview, even Delirious, who will go down in history as the first to do so, in what were labelled on screen as “Smacktalk” segments.
I'm not quite sure Delirious being the first for those segments was the smartest idea, given that those new to the product may have found his gibberish off-putting unless they understood the character quickly enough. The show did tell you in his stats to “watch out when the bell rings!”, referring to his reaction to the opening bell.
Again, this was a risk in that people already watching WWE will be familiar with Festus having a similar deal. My only suggestion on how to present this would have been a quick montage of Delirious reacting to the bell in previous matches.
This is Ring of Honor as it has never been seen before, and just as we're being re-educated on how TV wrestling is done, the same goes for ROH itself. You wouldn't know it was the ECW Arena given the special lighting, and you wouldn't know it was ROH considering the remarkable change in camerawork.
HDNet is now providing what the promotion themselves couldn't, but if they could take one thing from WWE, it should be the hard camera angle, as I did find the constant moving of the cameras distracting me from the matches at times. The ring and the referees are also audible during the show, while Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak took a relaxed approach to the commentary.
Hogewood is a sportcaster often doing play-by-play on other HDNet shows, but makes no Mike Adamle-style gaffes. He was seemingly enthusiastic, maybe more so than Prazak, and when on camera in their chroma-keyed studio at the top of the show, turned and looked to be listening intently to his colleague as if he was genuinely wanting to learn.
My only criticism would be the amount of times he could only say “that hurt!”, but I put that down to apprehension. On the other hand, he did take time to give his take on some of the stars, and even explained how it was “sad” that Jacobs and Black had went from partners to rivals. You get the impression that he is definitely trying here. I'm sure later in the series he will be more comfortable and descriptive when calling the matches.
On the subject of the matches, I admit it may take me a while to get used to the length and quantity of the action being aired, as each was considerably longer than those on other wrestling broadcasts.
The contests serve as good introductions to each wrestler and their movesets, with good stuff to look out for such as kick-cutter-sliding clothesline combination from Sami Callihan in his match with Kenny King, the latter winning with their finishing move, the “Coronation”.
Lynn defeated Delirious with his Cradle Piledriver, Brent Alright made Rhett Titus tap to the armbar, while Tyler Black and Jimmy Jacobs have a great finishing sequence in the main event with Jacobs having applied the “End Time” submission for a second time, only for Tyler Black to roll out of it into a jacknife like pin, getting the victory.
Jacobs' rule breaking nature was also emphasised, with the commentators mentioning the mental aspect of his game, while he threw in not one, but two chairs into the ring at one point. Interestingly, this had both the referee and Black turning their backs to clear the ring of the chairs, giving Jacobs the opportunity to attack from behind. So by the end of this, you knew what to expect from who.
Some people who attended the tapings expressed dislike for the “generic” nature of the entrance music for the wrestlers, but after hearing it myself I can say that for most part, the new tracks sound similar enough to the ones that have been replaced, while Jacobs retains his and Rhett Titus' is possibly the best and most apt of all.
The show also featured ads for Ring of Honor merchandise, the upcoming “Caged Collision” pay-per-view on April 17, and also a video package about the inception of ROH that featured footage of the stars who moved on to TNA or WWE, including CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Abyss, Paul London, Jamie Noble, Tyson Kidd and Mickie James, as well as the legends who appeared previously including Heenan, Foley and Flair.
This could have been seen as minor league in that those talents have moved to bigger promotions, but the package wasn't about them as much as it was Ring of Honor just using those people to get familiar faces on screen for the new audience. It is still in contrast to TNA's segments with Foley where he spends their TV time putting over Randy Orton et al.
ROH on HDNet won't be a threat to the others in the ratings given the limited number of people able to watch the station, but it should easily be one of the best for it's in-ring offerings each week, and the perfect antidote to the insanity of TNA Impact.
So if you have the chance to catch Ring of Honor, quit banging your head off the wall after Impact every Thursday and relax, as you can bring your week to a close with some real non-stop action.