Powell's Blog: Thoughts on ROH on SBH debut - Nigel McGuinness makes a surprise return as the color commentator, Kevin Kelly is everywhere, and the show desperately needs a dash of sex appeal
By Jason Powell
Monday, September 26 – 5:30 P.M. (CT)
The Ring of Honor debut on Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliates on Saturday was a mixed bag. I must admit that the initial trailer teaser for the show left a bad taste in my mouth, as it felt like they were picking up right where they left off with the HDNet show, and that's not a good thing. They didn't make a big fuss over this being the first show of the SBG era, and just hearing the same narrator's voice from the HDNet days was a turnoff.
The show itself felt like a throwback. Some fans will love that aspect of it, others will feel like they're watching their dad's pro wrestling show. I fall somewhere in between. I'm all for bringing back elements that worked in the past, but I also want a product with better better production values. The lighting needs work, but I like the new logo and graphics. Some of the footage was grainy, and they have to do a better job of capturing the live crowd audio.
The opening match selection was questionable. I like the interviews they conducted with both teams, as it gave them both a chance to explain what their gimmicks are (I wish we would have been given another round of that for the main event). I would have gone with guys who have more name value right out of the gate, but the match was solid and I doubt it led too many viewers to flipping the channel.
It was great to see Nigel McGuinness back in ROH and I'm sure that was a pleasant surprise for those who avoided the spoiler, but I was disappointed with his work on commentary. There's definitely room for improvement, as I recall Nigel being much better when he sat in on DVD commentary in the past.
I also rolled my eyes at the poorly edited footage of Nigel asking a random fan in the crowd who would win the main event. ROH isn't alone in doing this sort of thing, but I've always wondered why the fans at home are supposed to care who some random guy in the crowd thinks is going to win. I can think of much better ways to fill that TV time.
I like the play-by-play work of Kevin Kelly, but there's just too much of him on the show. He's calling the matches, he's interviewing the talent, he's plugging the website, he's talking to fans outside the building. He's everywhere!!! I didn't miss Kyle Durden showing off his tattoos as the backstage interviewer (he was fine, but the tattoo thing got on my nerves), but they really need to bring someone in for this role so that Kelly isn't so overexposed.
How about finding the right female personality to help out with backstage interviews and/or talking with the fans? If there's one thing that ROH desperately needs, it's a dash of sex appeal. I realize there are ROH fans out there who wouldn't change a thing about the product, but the company has reached a point where they need to evolve and find new ways to reach out to a wider fan base.
I was happy to see so much time dedicated to driving viewers to the company website. One of the major problems I had with the HDNet show was that I didn't really know what I was supposed to take from it from a business standpoint. They never advertised individual DVDs, and they had generic ads for the company website. The new approach was much more focussed. It included a strong plug for the Best in the World 2011 DVD, and they also did a good job of driving t-shirt and merchandise sales.
I'd really like to see Ring of Honor be the group that doesn't hesitate to mention the names of their competitors. Would it have really hurt anything if Jay Lethal had acknowledged that he worked for TNA rather than "somewhere else"? I understand why WWE doesn't acknowledge the competition by their direct name, but it's not like anyone watching the ROH product isn't aware that WWE and TNA exist.
Overall, the in-ring product was essentially the same as it was during HDNet days (I miss the show being in HD), but it was good to see the company use the television product far more effectively as a promotional vehicle. I wasn't blown away by the first show, but it was an improvement over the HDNet product, and they did enough to keep this viewer coming back for more. (Grade: C-plus).
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