DVD Review: Ring Of Honor Dragon's Reign - May 2013

ROH Wrestling Dragon's Reign

Reviewed by Joe Babinsack ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Before I jump into ROH’s foray into Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania (a township not terribly far from me), I wanted to digress a moment and break one of my underlying rules and talk about the WWE, notably that backstage deal with Vincent K. McMahon berating Vickie Guerrero about putting a Champion vs. Champion match on TV, for free, instead of doing it the old fashioned way, and making people pay for it.

Some years ago, Vince nailed the upside of TNA in an interview, basically explaining that the so-called rival promotion would never succeed imitating his dominant promotion. That was so long ago, and still so relevant. McMahon’s commentary about giving away matches like Cena vs Del Rio is fiendishly similar. We observe an industry where ‘follow the leader’ is the rule of thumb, despite the almost obvious arguments that the leader is where it is despite the product it presents, that the WWE can do ‘no wrong’ – not because it has trouble attracting ratings or buy rates or expanding its audience –  but because it has the luxury of doing what it wants because it has a strong, solid base that will watch its TV, buy its PPVs (especially with the WrestleMania = SuperBowl mentality) and its audience is always replenished simply because it exists at a self-sustaining level.

Professional wrestling, despite the misgivings of many, the ignominy of much of its history, and the often questionable quality of its stories, is an entertainment staple, and likely one that would persevere with or without the WWE. But the fiendish nature of Vince McMahon’s comment is relevant here.

Whatever one wants to say about ROH – despite the inherent excellence of its talent, despite the lofty potential of its roster (with or without the Briscoes but a little more arguably without Davey Richards if he does fulfill his threats to retire) – the problematic reality of ROH is that it currently, as I observe, bases its product and profitability on things that really don’t add up.

iPPV has been scrapped. Based only on the technical problems this avenue has encountered over the past few years, that is long overdue. But obviously the traditional PPV avenue is vastly more expensive and probably a worse idea. Looking back at a McMahon criticism of his own booking, what is the business strategy involved with ROH? They have (unlike even WWE) a stable foundation of syndication and the huge backing of a company that is profitable beyond and well above professional wrestling itself.

Then again, that hasn’t helped TNA.

The point: does ROH look for ratings? Does it look for attendance? Does it look for DVD sales? Ratings seems to be the focus, and probably because that has been the focus of this industry for way too long. From my perspective, ROH isn’t exactly attempting to expanding its audience, and house shows (if Belle Vernon is the example) only seem to cater to its established core.

What’s worse, with so many championship matches touted and aired on TV, how does that affect DVD sales? And the iPPV’s – whether because of the problems or because the matches were considered so great – seemed to be aired piecemeal weeks after they happened. How does that generate buys?
And if focusing on TV and establishing itself is important, then why is the promotion still pushing a Briscoe vs. Matt Hardy ROH World Championship match we all know isn’t happening???

As negative as it sounds, I am not negative to ROH.

Unlike any other promotion, the focus is and has been about great matches, great talent and letting that talent shine in the ring. Ironically, one of the biggest ‘problems’ with ROH is too much talent. One of the biggest issues I have with ROH is that it doesn’t seem to be handling the numerous faces with tremendous potential very well. A year ago, Michael Elgin looked like a guy who could take the mantle of the legacy of Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson and CM Punk. He still does. But he’s one of many. Tommaso Ciampa has always been a guy with great potential. I give great applause to Kevin Kelly for linking him to Adrian Peterson and his amazing recovery, but now Ciampa is another talented guy on the roster with a storyline to take him to the top.

Michael Bennett (with Maria) is a guy who should be touted as a talent the WWE desperately wants. ROH is pushing him in this way, but once again, we have a guy who should be shot to the top, and he’s in a traffic jam. Jay Lethal was a guy brought back, a guy who has historic links to Samoa Joe and ROH, and a guy who had a storyline built in, but I really think his storyline was botched.

Then there’s Kevin Steen, who has everything about professional wrestling talent that makes him marketable to the indies (and obviously a physique that would likely keep him from the mainstream), and his war with SCUM is really pretty awesome, but where does that go in a few weeks? Hardy and Bennett playing “let’s destroy ROH” while Steen protects it?

But how many profitable promotions over the years persisted with so much time and effort and energy by its own storylines in diminishing itself, demeaning itself and all the while trying to cash in on its well deserved legacy with one compilation tape after another? Newcomers like Matt Taven, Tadarius Thomas and Adam Cole are the future of the sport, but how long do future stars exist, all the while treading water?

And what does it mean to bring in QT Mar-shall as “God’s Gift” in this ensemble? And the awesomely charismatic and athletic ACH?

ROH has a great supporting cast. From Roddy Strong to Jimmy Jacobs to the return of BJ Whitmer, there are guys who can be used, can be measuring sticks and can be the supporting cast that can launch the promotion to a bigger profile. What’s a bit frustrating about ROH is that it’s not lacking talent, not lacking the ability to push guys and not lacking the mentality to create new stars. Look at reDRagon.

The greatness of the Dragon’s Reign DVD is that it does feature a team that got built from two guys and a storyline and a rivalry that propelled new faces to the top of the food chain. Kyle O’Reilly is a great talent, and it’s great that he’s a tag teamer now, not mired in the midcard. Bobby Fish paid his dues on the indy circuit and in Japan, and is reaping the benefit of a well rounded experience. The match against the Briscoes was all that great and more.

The opener with The American Wolves, establishes that there is a collision course due down the road. With the C & C Wrestle Factory and others on the roster, plus the imminent return of The Young Bucks, and despite the seemingly probable loss of the Briscoes, the ROH focus on tag teams is very much important, and remains one thing that the promotion simply has to feature to break it away from the doldrums of the mainstream.

Well, there are a lot of other directions and a definite need for ROH to be the standard-bearer of the indies, a difference in product and a place where things are going on a lot differently, but at least there’s a recognition of building upon their strengths.

It’s just that those other strengths, and especially the atmosphere of the crowd and the rabid reactions of the crowd (as seen in Belle Vernon) should also be more prominent, and less of a secret.

You can pick up Dragon's Reign from ROHWrestling.com for $19.99.

NEXT UP: Montreal DVD, SHIMMER and more EVOLVE in the pipeline.

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