Powell's Blog: Will Old School Raw feature a major return? Ring of Honor is generating good online buzz, but there are key issues that need to be addressed before any of it matters
By Jason Powell
-WWE will kick off 2014 by going Old School. Yes, as odd as it seems to begin a new year with a throwback show, that's the direction the company has chosen. Obviously, they want to load up the first show of the new year and the popular theme gives them something to promote while facing stiff competition in the form of the college football's National Championship Game.
I'm taking a big shot in the dark here, but I wonder if there's more to the theme than that. One of the biggest Old School names (at least of the WrestleMania era) is a free agent. He's made it clear that he's not going back to TNA Wrestling, and he's also given strong hints that he's interested in returning to WWE.
Yes, I'm wondering whether the Old School Raw show could be the site of Hulk Hogan's return. WWE kicked off 2010 with Bret Hart's return to Raw. WWE hyped Hart's return in advance and they would be wise to do the same with Hogan to pop a rating (and maybe they will tonight), but perhaps they feel like the Old School theme sells itself and that it's best to deliver Hogan as a surprise.
Again, none of this is based on any inside information. It's simply speculation on my part combined with a strong suspicion that Hogan will be back in the fold in time for the milestone WrestleMania 30 show. For that matter, the show takes place just two days before the the expected WWE Network announcement in Las Vegas. WWE is advertising Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H for the big announcement, and one would think that if they have access to Hogan that they would want him to be part of that mix.
-It's nice to see Ring of Honor attempt to kick off 2014 with a bang by announcing the return of A.J. Styles, as well as the hot Chris Hero vs. Kevin Steen match for their first January 4 television taping in Nashville, Tennessee. Let's be real. It's the first time in ages that ROH has managed to create some buzz outside their usual bubble of fans.
And as much as I am looking forward to the tapings eventually airing on television, Sinclair Broadcast Group has to know that none of this matters until they step out of the production stone ages. There are cable access television shows have better production values than Ring of Honor's weekly show.
You could put The Rock, John Cena, C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Brock Lesnar on Ring of Honor television and they wouldn't look like stars in that environment. Likewise, the company is hampered by their ongoing inability to broadcast live iPPV events. The return of Styles and the Hero vs. Steen match would be enough to carry this company to its best iPPV numbers if only they had a reliable iPPV platform.
Styles will make his ROH return on January 4, yet his match won't actually air on television until February 1. Sure, there will be a lot of fans who will go out of their way to watch this particular episode, but there are also a lot of fans who will have lost interest by the time the Styles match finally airs on television.
I do not believe that that any of this is news to the people calling the shots in the Ring of Honor office. I'm sure they wish there was a quick fix to these issues. I can't help but question whether it's as simple as the parent company coughing up enough cash to solve the key problems that are holding the company back.
Hopefully someone who matters at SBG is paying enough attention to know that they have some good things happening in Ring of Honor right now, but that the promotion will spin its wheels until the parent company does its part.
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