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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

TNA AND ROH OFFICIALS MEET TO RESOLVE THEIR BUILDING PROBLEM
by Dave Scherer
April 1, 2004

As we reported earlier, Ring of Honor booker Gabe Sapolsky went down to Nashville, TN yesterday to meet with Jeff Jarrett and Bob Ryder (who, as a matter of full disclosure, is a TNA talent executive, co-owner of 1Wrestling.com and my former boss). The purpose of the meeting, despite claims to the contrary from those in the company, was to discuss TNA’s concerns over the ownership of ROH, stemming from the recent controversy concerning Rob Feinstein being caught in an “underage sex sting” by Philadelphia’s Channel 10 news.

TNA began informing their contracted wrestlers recently that they didn’t want them working for ROH. Many of them balked, since many prefer working for ROH to working for TNA, plus TNA was not going to pay the workers for the missed bookings and TNA has only been guaranteeing their wrestlers 3 to 4 dates a month. It should also be noted that there is a feeling of jealousy among some people in TNA that the workers have preferred working for the “indy” ROH to the “national” TNA for some time.

TNA sources have told me that at yesterday’s meeting, TNA officials asked Sapolsky to sign a document that stated that stated definitively that Feinstein was no longer with ROH. Sapolsky didn’t sign it, saying he wasn’t an officer of ROH and had no standing to do so. He said that Doug Gentry, who ROH has said is now in charge since Feinstein “left”, would have to handle that since he is the company president. There is now a conference call set up for tomorrow with Gentry and TNA officials to further discuss the issue.

ROH-TNA UPDATE; GABE SAPOLSKY COMMENTS
by Mike Johnson
April 1, 2004

Ring of Honor booker Gabe Sapolsky posted the following on ROH's message board this afternoon in regard to his meeting with NWA:TNA's Jeff Jarrett and Bob Ryder:

"I just walked in the door from the Nashville trip. First off, I want to thank everyone at TNA for giving me first class treatment from the moment I touched ground in Nashville. We had a very positive meeting yesterday and are very close to resolving this issue. This is my only comment on it."

I have heard that many of the wrestlers were receptive to Sapolsky being at the show and there were several TNA regulars who inquired about possible work with Ring of Honor down the line as well. The feeling among the boys that it was just a matter of time before the situation was settled and everything would be status quo again.

UPDATE ON NWA TNA-ROH SITUATION; SITUATION "DEFUSED" ACCORDING TO TNA SOURCE
by Mike Johnson
April 7, 2004

NWA:TNA's Jeff Jarrett and ROH's Doug Gentry spoke earlier this week. At this point, TNA has backed off on their insistence that contracted workers including AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Chris Sabin "distance themselves" from Ring of Honor. According to a TNA source, the situation isn't settled but has been "defused." The source expected that it would still be officially settled, but with TNA's energies being directed towards completing their TV deal with FOX Sports, the ROH situation has become less of an issue internally.

The same source noted today that that the original TNA decision to approach the workers was made after several Northeastern-based cable systems, including Adelphia and Comcast (both of whom carry the NWA TNA PPV broadcasts) approached TNA asking about the situation. The cable systems were following up on emails they received asking about TNA workers wrestling for ROH in the wake of the Rob Feinstein situation.

Since TNA had been working diligently on their TV deal and didn't want any issues to pop up that could hinder signing it, they went to the workers asking them to back off. There was a distinct fear that the fallout of something that didn't even involve their company could end up costing them their TV deal. Initially, sources within the company were using the TV deal as the primary reason for the request when it was actually the fallout of the Feinstein scandal.

When approached by TNA, the wrestlers went to bat in a big way for ROH. TNA management wasn't especially pleased with that, partially because many of them saw ROH as just another independent promotion while they were a PPV entity negotiating a cable TV clearance. Some of the workers explained to TNA that by asking them to cut themselves off from ROH could lead to a trickle down effect that might cost them other bookings as well as other companies follow ROH closely and book the talent that ROH uses.

TNA finally came around and made the decision to contact ROH officials themselves once a fan email campaign began, directed at TNA and also at FOX Sports. A few people noted to me that they thought NWA TNA Executive Bob Ryder, who was around Extreme Championship Wrestling during the time that ECW fans took to email and helped bring that company to PPV, realized the danger of an angry online hardcore fan base and wanted to avert "a disaster."

On Friday 3/26, Ryder approached ROH, offering to negotiate a settlement in exchange for ROH asking their fans to back off on emails. ROH and TNA officials have been in friendly discussions since according to sources from both companies who expect the matter to be done at any point.

In a way, it's rather ironic, but also telling, that the power of the Internet caused the initial problems, but also helped sway things towards a possible solution.

NWA:TNA PULLS CONTRACTED TALENT OFF RING OF HONOR EVENTS
by Buck Woodward
April 9, 2004

Sources inform me that Ring Of Honor and NWA:TNA have reached an impasse in their current negotiations to find a deal where both companies could use TNA contracted talent. TNA talent is being pulled from all upcoming Ring Of Honor shows.

The impasse reportedly stems from the inability between the sides to come to a signed agreement regarding Ring Of Honor's ownership.

As I understand it, all TNA contracted talent are being pulled immediately from Ring Of Honor shows, despite being advertised for the dates. This is a TNA decision, and should not reflect on Ring Of Honor.

I am under the impression that the sides are still in amicable discussions to possibly have TNA talent work on ROH shows down the road.

More on this story as it comes in.

RING OF HONOR COMMENTS ON TNA PULLING TALENT OFF THEIR SHOWS
by Buck Woodward
April 9, 2004

Following up on the story posted earlier today, Ring Of Honor has posted the following statement on www.ROHwrestling.com.

"Unfortunately, ROH and TNA officials have reached an impasse in negotiations. TNA talent has been pulled from upcoming ROH shows. Communication will remain open between TNA and ROH and hopefully this issue can be resolved down the line."

Ring Of Honor Booker Gabe Sapolsky had this to say:

"We understand TNA's position in this unfortunate circumstance. We are still trying our best to resolve this issue, but now we are looking forward to new lineups and new talent in ROH. We are going to have new lineups for all upcoming shows and we will announce these lineups early next week in what promises to be a huge week for news in ROH. Things are going to be very interesting in ROH and we urge you to focus your energies on what ROH will be doing on upcoming shows. ROH has always been about presenting the top, hungry wrestlers and now there will be new opportunities. You are sure to see some great talent giving everything they have to make the most of their opportunity in ROH and we urge you to focus on that. We will give you plenty to talk about in the next couple of days. Thank you for your support and you better believe we will still blow away St. Paul and Chicago with the best show in town."

REASON WHY NWA:TNA PULLED TALENT FROM ROH; STATUS OF ROH PURE WRESTLING TITLE; REVISED LINEUPS & MORE ROH NOTES
by Mike Johnson
April 10, 2004

NWA:TNA's decision to pull all of their contracted talent from upcoming dates with Ring of Honor was made after ROH's investor Cary Silkin was advised by his attorney not to sign a document that would hold him personally financially responsible for any possible damages incurred to NWA:TNA if Rob Feinstein was found to remain owner of ROH. ROH President Doug Gentry signed the exact same document a few days back. The two sides remain amicable and continue discussions. A source in TNA considered the situation "defused" after Gentry signed the document.

The talent pulled from all forthcoming Ring of Honor events currently includes Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Raven. CM Punk, who is also under contract to NWA:TNA, remains scheduled for all ROH dates. Punk, who heads up the ROH wrestling school, has not been used by NWA:TNA in over a month. I am not sure what the status of Tracy Brooks, The Amazing Red, or Sonjay Dutt are yet. The ROH plan is to begin to build around a new set of stars, which actually has been the plan for some time as ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky likes to keep the talent pool fresh, but has now become at the least, a short-term necessity.

AJ Styles will remain the ROH Pure Wrestling champion while the two sides work to hammer out an agreement. While ROH's booking at the moment intends to build new stars, the plan is to keep Styles recognized as champion for the time being with the hopes he will return shortly. Should the sides not come to an agreement, obviously Styles would be stripped of the championship.

Ring of Honor released the revised lineups for their next scheduled events, 4/23 in St. Paul, Minnesota and 4/24 in Chicago Ridge, IL on their website. The shows have been dubbed "ROH Reborn." The lineups feature:

4/23 in St. Paul, Minnesota at the St. Paul Armory:
*ROH champion Samoa Joe vs. Homicide
*Bryan Danielson vs. CM Punk
*BJ Whitmer vs. Colt Cabana with Ricky Steamboat as the special referee
*ROH Tag Team Champions Jay & Mark Briscoe vs. The Havana Pitbulls (Non Title)
*Jack Evans vs. Masada vs. Jimmy Jacobs vs. Three Competitors More TBA - Six Man Mayhem Match
*Also scheduled are Matt Stryker, John Walters, Nigel McGuiness, Alex Shelley, Jimmy Rave, Danny Daniels, Dunn & Marcos, Justin Credible, and The Carnage Crew

4/24 in Chicago Ridge, IL at the Frontier Fieldhouse:
*ROH Tag Team champions Jay & Mark Briscoe vs. CM Punk & Colt Cabana
*ROH champion Samoa Joe vs. Matt Stryker
*Homicide vs. Bryan Danielson
*Ace Steel vs. BJ Whitmer
*Chad Collyer vs. John Walters
*The Carnage Crew vs. Jack Evans & TBA vs. Alex Shelley & Jimmy Jacobs vs. Dunn & Marcos - Scramble Match
*Also scheduled are Jimmy Rave, Nigel McGuiness, Austin Aries, Havana Pitbulls, Danny Daniels, and Masada.

MIKE JOHNSON LOOKS AT THE DOCUMENT THAT RAISES MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT ANSWERS AND WHAT THE ROH-TNA SITUATION ALL BOILS DOWN TO IN THE END
by Mike Johnson
April 11, 2004

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 am currently involved with Ring of Honor as a silent investor and am familiar with all aspects of Ring of Honor operations
  • Rob Feinstein is no longer associated with Ring of Honor in any capacity and has sold all of his ownership interest in the company.
  • I have assurances from current Ring of Honor ownership that Rob Feinstein is not involved now and will not be involved in the future in any capacity with the company.
  • I am aware TNA has been approached by cable industry officials who are concerned that TNA talent is appearing on shows associated with Rob Feinstein, and that TNA could be damaged if the information provided to those cable industry officials is not accurate.

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.


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