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ROH YEAR THREE ARCHIVE: LOOKING BACK AT RING OF HONOR'S MOST CONTROVERSIAL YEAR

By Mike Johnson on 2004-12-28 20:40:00

NWA TNA APPROACHES AJ STYLES ABOUT LEAVING RING OF HONOR; MORE TO FOLLOW?
by Mike Johnson
March 22, 2004

AJ Styles, who currently holds the ROH Pure Wrestling championship, was approached last week by NWA: TNA officials and asked to "distance himself from ROH," according to several sources. Styles, who has praised Ring of Honor publicly and has stood with the promotion in the wake of the Rob Feinstein situation, reportedly turned down the request and was not happy with being asked to turn down future ROH bookings. Styles is scheduled for dates with ROH through the summer.

It is believed the request given to Styles will be given to other contracted TNA performers shortly. There are a number of workers who appear for both companies including Chris Sabin, The Amazing Red, Christopher Daniels, CM Punk, Raven, Jerry Lynn, and AJ Styles.

TNA does have a number of their performers under contract, primarily to prevent WWE talent raids (wording in NWA: TNA contracts specifically prevents performers from working for World Wrestling Entertainment) as they build the company. There was talk several months ago internally about asking talent not to work ROH, but it never went past the discussion stage as talent was never approached. Around that same time, TNA squashed a planned Raven vs. CM Punk hair vs. hair match that would have led to Punk shaving Raven's head in ROH. TNA instead decided to use the angle for themselves, leading to Shane Douglas being the one who got to shave Raven's hair.

There are several factors that may contributing to the TNA's decision. There have been continuing discussions with TNA attempting to secure a cable television slot in the near future with FOX Sports. It may be that the promotion sees the deal as a probability and wants to maintain exclusivity with their talent as they move forward. The promotion has been very open in recent weeks about talent maintaining a clean image while in front of the cameras, which is also believed to be related to the FOX negotiations.

Other factors could be the recent situation with Rob Feinstein or that TNA, after learning ROH drew 1,800 fans in Elizabeth, New Jersey last week, is no longer seeing ROH as an independent wrestling promotion but more of a direct competitor and doesn't want "their names" on the shows. The latter possibility has led to concern among some TNA workers who are wondering if this could lead to TNA asking them to cancel additional independent dates down the line with other promotions, should those companies show signs of growth. Currently, TNA only runs three live PPVs a month, with a fourth PPV and a syndicated hour taped prior to the live broadcasts.

Beyond Styles, The two major names (from a ROH storyline standpoint) that also work NWA: TNA are CM Punk and Christopher Daniels. TNA hasn't booked Punk in several weeks, believed to be punishment for his part in the Teddy Hart fight. Daniels' first priority is New Japan Pro Wrestling (where he works as the masked Curry Man), thus he hasn't worked for either promotion in recent weeks. Daniels is penciled in to return to both TNA and ROH shortly. He's worked for ROH since the promotion's debut in February 2002 and also came out in support of the promotion after the Feinstein situation broke.

Others who work for both companies include those who have just returned from injury (Red) as well as those who haven't been involved in major ROH storylines of late (Raven, Lynn, Sabin).

Special thanks to Buck Woodward for contributing.

LATEST ON RING OF HONOR-TNA SITUATION; MORE WORKERS ASKED NOT TO WORK FOR ROH
by Mike Johnson
March 25, 2004

NWA: TNA officials have continued on course towards separating their contracted performers from working for Pennsylvania-based Ring of Honor.

Several sources have confirmed that officials sat down with Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles last night at the PPV in Nashville, TN to discuss the situation. I was told there "was no final decision made" coming out of the meeting, but I do know other workers were contacted as well within the last few days and were requested they no longer take bookings with ROH.

Many have wondered why TNA would cut their talent off from working additional dates when they are only booking the workers three dates a month currently. According to one source, TNA was asked during a recent business meeting with television executives who follow the wrestling business if the company had a working relationship with ROH. When TNA stated that they did not, the executives noted that by TNA contracted wrestlers appearing on ROH shows, it gave the appearance that the companies were affiliated. According to the source, TNA decided at that point to ask workers to "distance themselves" from ROH, as was stated to AJ Styles last week. The primary concern may be fallout from the Rob Feinstein incident earlier this month as well.

I believe some of the decision may also have to do with wanting to maintain "exclusivity" with their performers during TV negotiations, although ROH does not currently have any public distribution outlet beyond their in-house home video sales.

In recent weeks, TNA has been hard at work trying to secure a slot with the FOX Sports Network, to the point that a number of prospective taping sites have been brought up internally, including Las Vegas, Orlando, and Atlantic City. Part of the reason for the "new direction" seen by NWA: TNA in recent weeks is to maintain a clean image during the negotiations.

There is has also been some discussion within TNA that the talent could return to ROH once the television negotiations are completed, as it is seen as a payday for the boys, but nothing is certain.

NWA TNA AND RING OF HONOR ENTER NEGOTIATIONS TO RESOLVE ISSUES; ROH BOOKER COMMENTS
by Mike Johnson
March 26, 2004

NWA: TNA and Ring of Honor officials began telephone discussions this afternoon to resolve issues prompted by a TNA decision to ask contracted wrestlers to no longer appear on ROH events.

According to sources on both sides, the discussions were brought about by of all things, Ring of Honor fans, who began an email campaign just yesterday to contact TNA and others related to TNA (including potential TNA TV outlets) about their unhappiness over the situation.

TNA officials made the decision to reach out Friday afternoon and opened the lines of communication between the two promotions.

Ring of Honor booker Gabe Sapolsky gave the following statement to PWInsider.com:

"Everyone at Ring Of Honor cannot express how much we appreciate the support of our fanbase. I just want everyone to know that that TNA is working very closely with us to resolve things. Right now, I would like to ask our fans to stop emailing TNA and any other places you are emailing. While we are honored that our fans care enough to voice their concern, I assure you that right now the best way to handle this situation is for ROH and TNA to resolve it together, which we are working on. Thank you and again your support and the fact that ROH fans, who we consider our family, cared enough to send these emails means so much to us."

We'll have details on further developments once they become official.

NWA TNA OFFICIAL RESPONDS TO ROH FANS
by Mike Johnson
March 26, 2004

NWA: TNA Director of Administration & Talent Relations Bob Ryder has been personally responding to emails from Ring of Honor fans upset about the current TNA-ROH situation.

PWInsider.com Elite member Adam Abdalla sent word that he received an email back from Ryder, stating the following:

"Thanks for your email. We are working with current Ring of Honor management to try to resolve things, and we are all hopeful things will work out favorably for everyone involved.

TNA has been supportive of Ring of Honor in the past, and we hope we can continue that support in the future. Bob Ryder"

ROH and TNA officials began discussing the situation today, a move prompted by an email campaign launched by Ring of Honor fans over the last 24 hours. As covered in detail here this week on PWInsider.com, NWA TNA have approached a number of contracted wrestlers, including Chris Sabin, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels about "distancing themselves from ROH." The request came after queries from television executives about a relationship between the two promotions. TNA has been working hard to secure a TV deal with FOX Sports in recent weeks.

Ring of Honor and NWA:TNA officials are scheduled to continue discussions next week over the matter.

ROH AND TNA HEADS SET TO MEET THIS WEEK
by Dave Scherer
March 29, 2004

Ring of Honor booker Gabe Sapolsky will be heading down to Nashville this week to meet with Jeff Jarrett concerning the situation involving NWA TNA asking their contracted workers to no longer work for ROH, which was first reported by Mike Johnson last week. The sides are working on a compromise to the situation since it caused an uproar among the internet fan base last week, with them leaning strongly towards ROH.

ROH AND NWA TNA OFFICIALS MEET IN NASHVILLE; A IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE CURRENT SITUATION
by Mike Johnson
March 31, 2004

Ring of Honor booker Gabe Sapolsky is in Nashville, TN and will be sitting down with NWA: TNA's Jeff Jarrett over TNA's decision to ask contracted workers to no longer appear on Ring of Honor events.

As covered heavily here on PWInsider.com last week when we exclusively broke the story, NWA: TNA officials have approached a number of their regulars, including Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, and AJ Styles over the situation.

Many have wondered why TNA would cut their talent off from working additional dates when they are only booking the workers three dates a month currently. According to an initial source, TNA decided to ask workers to "distance themselves" from ROH (as was stated to AJ Styles two weeks ago) after being questioned about a relationship between the two promotions by those in the television industry during conversations. The feeling was that if TNA allowed their contracted workers to appear on ROH events, they were endorsing the company by those appearances, as it gave the appearance that the companies were affiliated. At that point, it was believed that TNA's television negotiations may have been the primary factor in the decision.

However, as Jess McGrath reported in the Elite Newsletter here on PWInsider.com over the weekend, additional TNA sources were pointing towards the Rob Feinstein situation as well as a reason for TNA wanting to pull talent as TNA did not want to be associated with any fallout from that scandal.

The reaction to TNA's decision was negative across the board from both wrestler and fan standpoints. Sources close to the situation have said that Daniels and Styles both disagreed with the decision and were vouching for Ring of Honor during a meeting with TNA last week. The feeling among many of the wrestlers was that TNA was asking them to give up paydays (that in some cases were better than the ones TNA provides) without booking them for more dates and/or more money. Plus, there is a distinct amount of pride among those who work for Ring of Honor as the fan base and the amount of time they get to work inside the ring gives them a more fulfilling experience than working for other independent promotions.

At the same time, ROH's Internet fan base began rallying around the promotion and began emailing not only NWA TNA but Fox Sports as well. I have heard stories of the same fans preparing lists of FOX Sports advertisers to approach if needed. The campaign was short but it worked as the emails, especially the ones directed to FOX, spooked TNA officials.

In recent weeks, TNA has been hard at work trying to secure a slot with the FOX Sports Network, to the point that a number of prospective taping sites have been brought up internally, including Las Vegas, Orlando, and Atlantic City. The FOX negotiations are a prime reason for the "new direction" seen by NWA: TNA in recent weeks, as workers have been instructed to maintain a clean image during the negotiations. There was a feeling that the emails could cripple the company's chances at the deal.

In an attempt to calm the situation, NWA TNA's Bob Ryder reached out to Ring of Honor last Friday afternoon. During conversations with Ryder and Jarrett, ROH's Gabe Sapolsky made arrangements to travel to Nashville to continue discussions. Once the decision was made to open communications, ROH's Sapolsky released the following statement to PWInsider.com:

"Everyone at Ring Of Honor cannot express how much we appreciate the support of our fanbase. I just want everyone to know that that TNA is working very closely with us to resolve things. Right now, I would like to ask our fans to stop emailing TNA and any other places you are emailing. While we are honored that our fans care enough to voice their concern, I assure you that right now the best way to handle this situation is for ROH and TNA to resolve it together, which we are working on. Thank you and again your support and the fact that ROH fans, who we consider our family, cared enough to send these emails means so much to us."

In his own attempt to calm fans that emailed TNA about the situation, Ryder wrote in response, "Thanks for your email. We are working with current Ring of Honor management to try to resolve things, and we are all hopeful things will work out favorably for everyone involved. TNA has been supportive of Ring of Honor in the past, and we hope we can continue that support in the future."

In many ways, NWA: TNA is in a very precarious situation. They are asking workers to give up dates with Ring of Honor because they felt having their performers involved with ROH could hurt their relationships with television entities. However, that decision only served to cause a rabid hardcore fan base to loudly speak out and in turn, cause TNA to fear for whatever negotiations they currently are involved in. Should the situation not be resolved amicably, TNA may have to deal with a very angry group of fans who live and breath to watch and discuss wrestling amongst themselves on the Internet. During a period where the future of NWA: TNA could well be decided by television executives, those fans could be a very loud distraction during negotiations.

At the same time, ROH stands to lose a great deal as well. Should the TNA workers be yanked immediately without even having a chance to say goodbye to their fans (something even WCW allowed those they signed from ECW to do), it would put huge holes in the meticulously booked Ring of Honor storylines. It would leave The Prophecy without their leader, Christopher Daniels during a headline feud against The Second City Saints. It would leave the promotion without their Pure Wrestling champion, AJ Styles, while Styles is in the midst of storylines with CM Punk and Samoa Joe. While the fan base would likely continue to support ROH without fail, it would cause the promotion to have to change existing lineups and storylines when one of ROH's strengths has always been its long term planning. At the same time, the promotion would also have to work harder to build new stars to replace those who have been with the company from the company's earliest days.

The meeting today in Nashville between the two promotions could go a long way in determining the short and long term futures of the companies involved. We'll have details on further developments on the story as they become available.


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