The document that ROH investor Cary Silkin refused to sign was posted last night on the wrestling news website 1Wrestling.com by Bob Ryder, who as a matter of full disclosure co-owns the site and is also the NWA:TNA Director of Administration & Talent Relations. The complete document, according to 1Wrestling.com reads as follows:
STATEMENT REGARDING RING OF HONOR OWNERSHIP
I, ___________, a resident of ____________ do hereby swear and affirm the following:
I agree that should the information in this statement not be true that I will be personally liable for any damages TNA Entertainment may suffer related to TNA contracted talent appearing on Ring of Honor events should Feinstein still be involved with Ring of Honor in any capacity.
Silkin, acting upon the advice of his attorney, declined to sign the document due to wording that would have made him personally liable for any damages occurred should TNA suffer damages. It should be noted that ROH's President Doug Gentry did sign the statement and returned it to NWA:TNA the same day it was faxed to ROH's office.
On Ring of Honor's message board, ROH's Gabe Sapolsky commented, stating, "As far as commenting on the document thing, I'm not going to say anything now except that not signing it for me and Cary wasn't an issue of Rob Feinstein, but rather an issue of personal liability. If you know anything about business or speak to a lawyer, they will tell you its insane to sign something vague that makes you personally liable. The Jarretts told me they just wanted a document signed so they could tell the cable companies that they have a document stating that ROH assures them that Rob is no longer with the company. They have the president and owner's signature on that document. They can tell the cable companies that the ROH president and owner has signed a document assuring them that Rob is not involved. Doug had his back against the wall and signed it despite the advice of everyone around him. TNA should be happy with that. I could go into more details at this time, but I won't. The only reason I posted this is because of the very one sided bullet points that Bob Ryder put up on his site today. I was also quoted in those bullet points that Doug is the owner "on paper." I never said that."
The posting of the document and the situation raises more questions than it answers, including:
*Why would NWA:TNA ask an investor in Ring of Honor to make himself personally liable on a legal document when they already have the President of the company binding himself to those wishes via the exact same document? You don't see every legal document involving WWE needing to be signed by everyone who owns a stock share. At no point has Cary Silkin claimed to own anything in ROH. Silkin is investing money into the company, looking to make a profit. Why would TNA ask him to sign anything when they have Gentry's signature? Why, if Gentry's signature wasn't enough, would they even ask Gentry to sign to begin with? Come to think of it, why would they have even asked Gabe Sapolsky to sign a document to begin with when he is just an employee?
*Exactly what event could cause ROH (and now Gentry) to be liable for damages? Yesterday, a website ran a story decrying ROH and RF Video for still listing Rob Feinstein as owner in corporate paperwork that was filed with the State of Pennsylvania "when ROH claimed ownership changes." Unfortunately the site failed to investigate laws in the State of Pennsylvania , which state that corporate changes only need to be filed within PA Nonprofits and limited liability partnerships, of which ROH is obviously neither. The paperwork that was filed had been done so during the formation of the corporations. Now, had that report not been pulled off the website, could TNA use it as a basis for a damages claim? Could they use another incorrect or one-sided report to drag someone into a legal situation? With the broad wording of the document, what beyond the obvious could cause damages to begin with?
*What would be considered "damages" to TNA? If Christopher Daniels wakes up tomorrow and decides to boycott NWA:TNA over the situation, is that damaging to the company? If TNA should lose their prospective television deal with FOX Sports tomorrow, can they point to the ROH situation and blame Gentry (who has made himself personally liable by signing the document) as a reason and pursue Gentry legally? With no declaration of "what is damaging" to TNA, there is a broad spectrum that is left open, leaving TNA able to insert "damaging" to an endless number of scenarios against ROH.
*If TNA is so worried about damages to their company, why has NWA:TNA not shown good faith towards those who are their signed contractual talent by offering to pay them for the lost earnings they are now incurring by skipping scheduled ROH bookings?
*Why is it that 1Wrestling.com, co-owned by an NWA:TNA executive is presenting one side of the story when their owner (who may even be writing the stories himself) was involved in the meetings and telephone conversations with ROH officials to begin with? Why is it that the same news site has no coverage of ROH events for the last month at all, beyond stories involving the aforementioned ROH-TNA situation their owner was principally involved in? Can reports from 1Wrestling be used as evidence of "damages" to NWA:TNA down the line, given the obvious conflict of interest with the owner being heavily involved with the day to day operations of a wrestling promotion?
*Since when does any legally binding business agreement hold someone personally responsible to begin with for business matters? That is what led to the formation of corporations to start with.
*Given that TNA has already released the document, does that signify they have washed their hands of the situation already? Have fans seen the last of AJ Styles, etc. in ROH during their TNA contractual obligations?
*Was TNA seeking to have ROH not sign the document as a way to distance their talent from ROH while flaunting a public reason that "protects them" from criticism?
The above questions may read as an indictment of NWA:TNA. They are not. They are a look from the outside at the entire situation and how, much like ROH's original statements in the days following the Feinstein scandal, something designed to bring closure can often lead to more and more questions. As those questions grow, so does the mistrust. As the mistrust grows, nothing is ever truly answered in the eyes of those who don't want to see anything more than the situation spun to their own satisfaction. In the end of all the spins and lies, the fans and the wrestlers suffer the most and they are the ones putting their hearts into the business more than anyone else.
I can understand that NWA:TNA wants to protect its assets as it tries to complete a television deal with FOX Sports Network. I can understand not wanting to be caught in the fallout of one of the most disgusting scandals in professional wrestling. Really, TNA owes nothing to ROH and I can understand why they are playing hardball here. They need to protect themselves from the zealots who will email everyone they perceive to be involved with ROH. They need to protect the well being of a company that survives only because their own investor, Panda Energy, continues to funnel money into an entity that has run in the red for over two years. They need to make sure nothing rocks that boat so they can continue to exist and try to grow. They also want to insure that no one comes close to their internally viewed position as the top entity outside of WWE.
However, ROH's Doug Gentry stepped to the plate and signed to accept TNA's liability. Should the day come when Rob Feinstein is revealed to still be involved with ROH, Gentry and the ROH organization are doomed. Although fans, employees, and wrestlers have all united in saying they would abandon the ROH ship if Feinstein returns, Gentry is now the one left holding the ball and the one who stands to be hurt the most. He willingly signed his name and faxed it back to Nashville. TNA has his butt in a sling, forever. There is no end date on that document as it was posted online. It stands forever. The fact he was willing to put it there should stand for something. Thus far though, TNA wants more. They want Silkin to do the same.
That boils down to the basics of this business being nothing more than a con game built on sleaze and the dreams of others. The "I want it all" mentality. It was that mentality that allowed the WWF to destroy all the territories over two decades ago - a complete, utter inability for one wrestling promoter to trust another. One would think Jerry Jarrett would remember those circumstances as he outlasted everyone else.
Whether you blame ROH or TNA, when you remove the spin doctoring, the poorly worded public statements, and the ill-written legal documents, All that is left in the end are wrestlers being deprived of work and fans being deprived of their enjoyment because a few people want to cover their own asses.
Note: As a matter of full disclosure, it should be noted that I have run regular bus trips out of the New York City area to a number of promotions, including ROH, CZW, ECWA, WORLD-1, and JAPW. I do not, nor have I ever received, any financial reimbursement from any of the aforementioned wrestling promotions, nor any other wrestling promotion, for running the trips.
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.