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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

RING OF HONOR IN MIDST OF SPLIT FROM RF VIDEO
by Mike Johnson
June 9, 2003

In a move that will greatly change the future of both companies, professional wrestling promotion Ring of Honor, led by majority investor Cary Silkin, split off from parent company RF Video earlier this week.

Representatives of both factions declined to comment on the reasons for the split when contacted Wednesday evening. I am told contractual negotiations regarding the split are still ongoing. It appears it is simply a matter of time before the two sides come to terms.

According to sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, the two sides split earlier this week with the RF Video office locks changed and ROH merchandise being removed by those who remained with Ring of Honor side of things.

ROH is in the process of setting up a new office in Pennsylvania and all scheduled live events will continue as planned without any interuptions.

Ring of Honor was formed in early 2002 by RF Video, then owned by Rob Feinstein. Current ROH and RF Video President Doug Gentry took over Feinstein's positions in March 2004 after Feinstein was implicated during a Philadelphia NBC affiliate's sting on online pedophiles and stepped down from his positions. Cary Silkin became majority investor for ROH earlier this year and has been investing in the company since March 2003.

We will have more on this breaking situation as it develops on PWInsider.com.

IN DEPTH BREAKDOWN AND UPDATE ON THE RING OF HONOR-RF VIDEO SPLIT, WHY IT HAPPENED AND WHERE THINGS STAND
by Mike Johnson
June 11, 2004

As we broke last night on PWInsider.com, Ring of Honor and RF Video split earlier this week when ROH staff removed merchandise from the RF Video offices in Langhorne, PA while RF Video’s Doug Gentry had the locks for the offices changed. Since we initially reported the story, PWInsider.com has received a number of questions on the matter. Given the amount of information currently available, here are some answers to those questions:

What caused the split?

So far, no one has been willing to comment on the matter. Obviously this isn’t a friendly thing, because you don’t change the locks on your business doors unless you want to keep the old employees out. Things are not well between the two sides.

Common sense dictates that a move of this nature couldn’t have happened overnight, so the wheels were in motion at least for a few weeks, possibly longer. This could have easily been planned since the Rob Feinstein issue first arose in March, although we don’t know the timetable of things because no one is willing to talk yet.

It’s an interesting situation because neither side wants to be the first to say something publicly. As long as the settlement is being negotiated, no one wants to give the opposing side a reason to be empowered during the legal discussions.

There has been talk about issues between majority investor Cary Silkin and ROH President Doug Gentry but no one is will to expound on that publicly. However, my opinion is that this is obviously fallout from the Rob Feinstein situation and anyone who thinks otherwise is putting their head in the sand and ignoring the obvious.

Gabe Sapolsky has, from day one, distanced himself from Feinstein and said that he could never return to the company without killing it. Cary Silkin is investing money into the company and he obviously doesn’t want to lose that investment. The others involved aren’t going to want to risk their jobs over a situation they had nothing to do with.

On the other side of the coin, Doug Gentry has never publicly come out against Feinstein and was always considered Feinstein’s closest confidante. It probably was just a matter of time before Gentry was eventually the odd man out as he was the last true link to Feinstein politically within ROH. I can’t really say I am even surprised this has happened, although I am surprised it didn’t happen in March during the initial fallout.

One has to feel for Doug Gentry, who has always had a good reputation, did live for the product and was well liked by the boys in ROH. Without a doubt, however, the consensus of those around the company and even among its most hardcore fans is that it’s easier to support ROH when there is no question that any shadow of the Rob Feinstein situation remains. It would appear based on feedback I’ve heard from wrestlers and fans that this move does that without question to most watching the situation.

So, Who’s working where now?

The majority of the Ring of Honor staff will remain intact, now working for Cary Silkin. A new office is already rented out and being set up in the Philadelphia area. Gabe Sapolsky is still on board as the promotion's booker and will continue to handle public relations. The other staffers of the company, including Ross Abrams (who handled merchandise), Sid Eick (who handled the bookkeeping, tickets, and was also the brains behind the 5/22 tent show that prevented the promotion from canceling their last Philadelphia date) are now working full-time for ROH. I am told that many of the other staffers including the camera crew and security personnel also remain in their positions. Basically, they were either let go from or quit RF Video to work for ROH. While the two companies were under one roof, there were two different payrolls and many of the staffers were paid via RF Video. That is obviously no longer the case.

As far as RF Video, currently it’s Doug Gentry as President. I have not heard of anyone else remaining with the company, although it’s possible there are some who have. I have no idea if this situation will lead to the return of Rob Feinstein in some capacity for RF Video, but it could happen. Basically, RF Video has reverted back to what it was during its infancy, a small staff filming independent wrestling events and filling video orders. Business was open as usual today and has been all week.

How will this split change the companies?

The immediate changes for Ring of Honor are that they will begin filling all merchandise orders in-house once their office is set up. They will obviously begin fielding calls there and handling whatever other issues need to be dealt with day to day.

The editing and production of ROH videos and DVDs will continue to be handled down in Florida by Sal Hamaou’s WWN as they have been in recent months. Gabe Sapolsky flying down to provide commentary on the releases. WWN had taken over the editing and duplication of the ROH DVDs a few months back.

For those who asked, I have no idea if ROH will branch out into shoot interviews or taping other events, although that could be within the realm of possibility. I would assume the ROH wrestling school, headed by CM Punk will move locations as well, although I haven’t spoken to anyone about that matter.

Gentry’s exit from the ROH locker room will change some of the hierarchy backstage, as he got along and was liked by the boys. At times, Gentry played good cop to Sapolsky’s bad cop so that dynamic will change. Obviously, Gentry will no longer be taping the shows, either.

As for the future of RF Video, the company will obviously see a big gap in its business as the original reason ROH was conceived to begin with was the provide original content for sale without having to pay other promotions for the rights to their footage. It’s possible that RF Video will begin promoting live events on their own to attempt to fill that gap, or try to buy into another local promotion, as they did attempt that with CZW before they formed ROH. I would not be shocked to see a new promotion headed by Gentry popping up down the line in the least, since they own the equipment and the rings to run events, unless they intend to liquidate whatever assets they have pertaining to ROH as part of the settlement.

I would also assume they would continue to film other independent events and produce shoot interviews as well. Obviously, they are going to have to scramble to create fresh product. There are some that will come out and say RF Video is doomed, but if it survived the end of ECW, there’s a chance it could survive this if they make the right moves. When you factor in that RF Video’s entire overhead was greatly slashed with the departure of all the staffers, it’s going to be easier to run a profitable venture, if they can plug in with new product and retain their customers.

What about merchandise that was ordered?

PWInsider.com readers who called the RF Video offices today were told that all previously made orders will be fulfilled as planned. I have not heard otherwise. I would assume that is one of the points of the current negotiations between the two sides. If it isn’t, it should be.

What will happen to the ROH live shows?

I was told by sources close to the ROH faction last night that all the currently scheduled events, including this weekend’s Dayton, Ohio show are on without any changes in the lineup. I am told Gentry will not be in attendance and RF Video will be taping this weekend’s Jersey All Pro Wrestling event in Trenton, New Jersey.

How does this change the situation with the NWA:TNA talent not being allowed to work for ROH?

That situation was allegedly spawned out of concerns that Rob Feinstein was still involved with ROH. Now that Silkin will apparently have complete control of the company, one would assume the TNA block on talent would be removed. However, things in wrestling aren’t always logical or simple. TNA could still find a reason to prevent their performers from appearing. As I noted on my Elite hotline, once the dust settles on this situation, we’ll all be able to see if TNA was truly concerned about the Feinstein incident or if they were using it as a chance to strip a promotion they see as a competitor of talent. If it’s the latter, this will change nothing. If it’s the former, I suspect the “F*** TNA” chants that are popping up in the Northeast will quickly subside. Without question, the return of AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, The Amazing Red, etc. would be a boost to ROH.

When will this be settled?

Negotiations to settle the matter are continuing, with all sides declining to comment on the record thus far. It is believed that everyone involved will request a gag order as part of the settlement, silencing all involved parties from discussing the matter publicly. It could be settled as soon as tomorrow. In terms of the day to day business of the two companies, one could say they are already settled in a sense as they are going about their business.

What’s the bottom line?

While the current outpouring of fan support online has been positive towards ROH’s side because of the stigma that RF Video carries, the bottom line is that there’s no real way to predict how this will end up affecting the companies long-term.

I doubt this will give ROH back the buzz it held at the start of the year and I don’t believe this will spurn huge tape orders for RF Video either. You are going to get the outpouring of theories about who was in cahoots with who and whether Feinstein was around all along. The bottom line now is that if he was, he sure isn’t now.

As far as the future of the companies, My gut feeling is that once we get 6 months-1 year removed from today and see where they stand individually, that’s when the bottom line will truly be revealed.

When Vince McMahon screwed Bret Hart in 1997 in Montreal, no one could have predicted where that one singular moment would have taken the WWF over the years that followed. This coup may end up making one or both companies even more profitable, or it could be that the broken synergy will end up killing them both.

The fan support is obviously with ROH today. Time will tell where things are in a year. No one could have predicted the year ROH would have in 2004 and no one can truly predict where it will be by this point in 2005. That’s life.

Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.

RING OF HONOR AND RF VIDEO REACH VERBAL AGREEMENT ON SPLITTING OF COMPANIES; ROB FEINSTEIN RESURFACES
by Mike Johnson
June 11, 2004

Sources from both the Ring of Honor and RF Video confirmed today that the two sides have reached an agreement regarding the split of ROH from original parent company RF Video. The agreement, which will involve a gag order on all the principals involved, has not been signed yet but the terms were verbally agreed upon by both sides.

The two sides have basically agreed that they want to move on and are working to finalize the agreement. It is believed that the agreement would allow Cary Silkin (who became ROH's majority investor in January 2004) to purchase the minority stake that Doug Gentry currently retains in the ROH promotion.

As the negotiations to finalize the split of the companies continued this week, former ROH owner Rob Feinstein resurfaced and began contacting several people around the wrestling business. NWA:TNA sources today reported that Rob Feinstein contacted Bill Behrens yesterday, claiming to have still been involved with ROH while looking into whether an old invoice to Behrens had been paid by the departed staffers. According to TNA sources, Feinstein claimed to have financial records and emails that would back his claims.

Feinstein had also contacted PWInsider.com this week, offering to tell his side of the split story in an exclusive interview, but when he was informed that the interview would have to include questions about the NBC sting operation, he decided not to speak until clearing it with his lawyer. PWInsider.com is still awaiting word that the interview will go ahead.

The ROH faction, most notably booker Gabe Sapolsky were vehemently against the idea of Feinstein ever returning, to the point Sapolsky claimed to many that he would resign and "the company would die" if Feinstein ever appeared again.

According to sources from both factions and wrestlers who regularly visited the offices, Feinstein had not appeared at the RF Video offices after the NBC sting situation and his announced departure from the companies. Whether he was involved with different aspects of the company is unknown, but he wasn't dealing with anyone outside of it and was absolutely not dealing with any of the wrestlers.

At the time of the split, Feinstein had not made any efforts to return to the company. In recent months, he has been looking into what legal recourse he has stemming from the NBC sting. According to sources on the RF Video side, Feinstein had privately hoped to eventually return to the companies publicly, but was looking at a timeframe of something in the area of two years before doing so.

Since Feinstein's departure, it appears that the ROH and RF Video teams had slowly dissolved into two separate factions, with 99% of the staff pitted against Gentry, who remained personally loyal to Feinstein due to their longtime professional and personal relationship.

It is my belief that when the companies' ownership was transferred over to Gentry, that the staffers who evolved into the ROH faction had likely hoped to keep Feinstein locked out of the company permanently for fear of reprisals from their fan base. They eventually came to the realization that it was going to be impossible due to Gentry's loyalty to Feinstein, which is what started the ball rolling for the split.

It is believed that the plan to split the companies apart began to take shape during the April Minnesota and Chicago events, which were the first live events the promotion had run beyond a lone Elizabeth, New Jersey event after Feinstein stepped down. Those involved kept it a closely guarded secret among themselves with not even wrestlers who hold a high level of trust and responsibility in the company being aware of the situation until this week. Several wrestlers I spoke to were unaware about the situation until after PWInsider.com had broken the initial story on Wednesday evening.

The situation came to an ugly head on Monday when at the end of the business day, Gentry let the RF Video staffers go and changed the locks of the Langhorne, PA offices. They have all since been hired by Cary Silkin to work for ROH.

On Monday, the ROH faction was given merchandise and video/DVDs to sell at this weekend's ROH live event in Dayton, Ohio. The remainder of the merchandise will be handed over to the ROH faction once the settlement agreement is signed, according to both sides. I believe the agreement will also include giving Cary Silkin the rights to the ROH and Ring of Honor names. While Feinstein has been involved in discussions over the split of the companies, he has not officially returned to RF Video and Gentry still holds the power of President. I am told that there are no plans for his official return anytime soon.

Sources from both sides of the factions appeared happy in conversations today, wanting to move ahead and deal with their businesses. ROH is promoting a live event this Saturday 6/12 in Dayton, Ohio headlined by ROH champion Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk. There is talk, currently unconfirmed, that RF Video may decide to run live events down the line as well.


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