Is ROH Bluffing with HonorClub Relaunch?

A gambler once said you got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, and know when to walk away. Tony Khan’s bid to land a television deal for Ring of Honor (ROH) nine months after purchasing the company yielded an uninspired result.

On the heels of Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay-per-view event on Saturday, Tony Khan announced the promotion’s HonorClub streaming service has officially relaunched with new weekly television episodes coming soon to the platform.

A price tag of $9.99 will give fans access to 2,500 hours of ROH content dating back to the promotion’s first show in 2002 and the new weekly program. However, ROH pay-per-views won’t appear on the platform until 90 days following the event, with live broadcasts still airing on Bleacher Report.

Relaunching HonorClub is not what fans had in mind when rumors suggested ROH might find a home on HBO Max or other top-tier platforms. Tony Khan, along with various outlets, has exclaimed AEW has a good relationship with their current television provider Warner Bros Discovery, which only strengthened rumors of a potential landing spot.

While more information will be announced following NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17 on January 4th, this announcement signals one of two things. Tony Khan couldn’t get a TV deal for ROH right now, or he couldn’t get a TV deal for ROH at all.

Warner Bros Discovery is in cost-cutting mode, with many in Hollywood predicting Warner CEO David Zaslav is positioning the company for a sale. Zaslav announced in April that TBS and TNT are moving away from scripted programming, with most of their offerings already canceled.

Despite wrestling’s predetermined nature, some networks file it under scripted drama, while others check it under sports. TBS and TNT categorize AEW Dynamite and Rampage under sports, respectively. Zaslav recently sent mixed signals regarding the future of the next NBA rights deal in Variety.

If Zaslav doesn’t retain the NBA rights, what value does AEW have as the only scripted/sports program on a network full of unscripted reality shows? If AEW does hold value in that space, will it be enough to get the rights fee increase they’re aiming for in 2024?

Between dwindling ratings and the future of their television home soon to be negotiated, Tony Khan has enough on his plate with AEW alone. ROH diverts attention from the big picture as many cite its staunch presence on Dynamite and Rampage as the reason why viewers are changing the channel.

For all the good ROH has done for the industry, the product has never in its twenty-year history looked like must-see TV. If Tony Khan had a meeting with Warner Bros about HBO Max carrying ROH and presented them with archive content, it would pale in comparison to the award-winning content HBO produces.

Sure, Khan’s ROH is a more polished presentation, but that’s not saying much, considering the overall aesthetic is largely identical. Better sound quality and a few more lighting rigs help, but it’s still far away from the high stature of content on HBO.

Phase 4 of the wildly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was considered underwhelming and disappointing. Thanks to the advent of Disney +, too much content was produced, which watered down the product and perhaps spread Kevin Feige too thin creatively.

Instead of sticking to three movies yearly, Feige has added four yearly TV shows to his slate.

If a large audience never watched ROH before, they are not going to start now just because they’re on Dynamite. Spending too much time on ROH means Khan is not spending enough time on AEW.

But why thou?

AEW has made big strides in a short amount of time, but they still have a long way to go. Trying to build up a second wrestling promotion while there is still work to do with the current one is not a sound business strategy. Did Tony Khan buy ROH simply because he’s a “mark” for the company? Khan is an avid fan of the old ROH, but the answer is not that simple.

Tony Khan runs AEW, but we often forget he doesn’t own it. His father owns the company. However, he does own ROH.

It’s tin foil hat speculation time. Perhaps Khan wants his own shop in case AEW falls beyond the point of no return and decisions start being made for him.

AEW has the majority of diehard wrestling fans in its back pocket. ROH had half that audience at best. AEW swooped them up the moment its doors opened for business. If AEW hasn’t grown beyond the diehard fan base, how does Khan expect to do the same with ROH?

Even if the Khan-owned ROH is designed to keep diehard fans satisfied while AEW goes mainstream, asking fans to foot the bill is a tedious way to build consumer confidence. AEW fans already complain about too many wrestlers lacking meaningful roles, and everyone laments the plethora of championship belts.

The details announced after January 4th may invigorate fans and make my concerns moot. I’m a wrestling fan, and I honestly hope that happens. However, it feels like Tony Khan is bluffing to justify his purchase of a dead brand by inflating its value to keep it propped up on life support.

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