Examing Tony Khan’s Acquisition of ROH

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Tony Khan now owns Ring of Honor.

AEW President Tony Khan hyped a huge announcement going into Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite. Khan announced the purchase at the top of the program, his first time appearing on television.

Khan put over ROH’s history and announced a match with two ROH originals on the AEW roster who wrestled in the main event of the inaugural ROH show 20 years ago, Christopher Daniels and Bryan Danielson. It was a great way to open the show with the future paying tribute to the past as Danielson beat Daniels. 

A press release was sent out following the announcement confirming Khan’s purchase of the promotion from Sinclair Broadcasting. Brand assets, intellectual property, and the most valuable item, the ROH video library. All In (2018) is within the massive collection, which is spiritually AEW’s maiden voyage.

One of the interesting things to glean from the press release is that Tony Khan himself owns Ring of Honor while his father, Shahid Khan, owns All Elite Wrestling. It could mean nothing, but it’s something to take note of since AEW is Tony’s brainchild, and he’s the CEO.

It’s fantastic that Khan is the new owner of ROH, but besides the I.P. and video library, what did he really buy? ROH has no wrestlers on its roster, as all were released at the end of 2021. ROH alumni Mike Bennett, Matt Taven, Maria Kanellis, PCO, and Kenny King recently joined Impact Wrestling.

Deonna Purrazzo is currently defending the ROH Women’s Championship in Impact and the word on the street is former champ Rok-C has signed with WWE. ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham is a free agent but has worked for Impact, and running his own promotion, Terminus. He was also backstage at AEW recently, so who knows.

There are some perks to Khan’s acquisition. Several AEW wrestlers cut their teeth in ROH, including their main event this Sunday, Adam Page and Adam Cole. They signed one of the promotion’s franchise players in Jay Lethal and ROH Pure Champion Josh Woods has been working on AEW’s YouTube shows, Dark and Elevation.

Last week, ROH announced their return from hiatus with Supercard of Honor set for April 1 with Alex Zayne vs. SW3RVE (Swerve Scott in NXT). Fightful.com broke the news that AEW signed SW3RVE, but AEW hasn’t announced it yet. Rumors suggest AEW is high on SW3RVE, and maybe he could be the face of the new ROH.

Speaking of the new ROH, what will it be, if anything at all?

The purchase is a big deal for the library alone, but the optics change if it becomes AEW’s developmental space or a separate promotion. Reportedly, AEW tried getting on HBO MAX; however, a requisite amount of content is required before landing on the service. AEW is only three years old, but ROH has 20-years of content. A significant increase to expedite streaming goals.

AEW has made a lot of big moves, but ROH as their version of NXT doesn’t hold much promise. Dark and Elevation and essentially AEW’s developmental shows and not exactly must-see TV. Simply changing the name from Dark to ROH harms the brand.

What do I mean?

The excitement over the sale is derived from the nostalgia many have for the glory days of ROH. The last few years were a departure from the time of Joe vs. Kobashi, Steen vs. Generico, Danielson vs. Morishima, Red vs. Low-Ki, and the New Japan/Bullet Club era.

WCW was still a valuable property when WWE bought them in March 2001. ROH is not nearly as valuable as the AEW brand. Plus, for all of the good things AEW does, they put some cringe-worthy things on television. While their quality control has improved, there is still room to grow. AEW should focus on growing its fan base beyond the internet wrestling community

Purchasing ROH does nothing to expand the fan base in the short term but could do so in the long term with a streaming deal due to the new influx of content. ROH could be used as AEW’s version of a brand split.

Invasion 2.0?

Sounds good; however, AEW has too many wrestlers on their roster. Some who were once highlighted as the new big singing are now hard to find. Tony Khan could go from too many wrestlers to book to one too many promotions to run. Hopefully, he has a plan in place.

How many of the 966,000 people who watched Dynamite have heard of Ring of Honor? How many of those people cared? If more people cared than didn’t, AEW made a great move. If it’s the reverse, the colossal announcement ultimately fell flat. No matter which way the winds blows with the acquisition, it’s comforting to know that ROH is in the hands of someone who appreciates it, even if it remains a fixture on the shelf of Tony Khan. 

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