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THE ONE PERSON EVERYONE SHOULD THANK FOR RING OF HONOR'S SUCCESS TODAY

By Mike Johnson on 2018-08-10 10:07:00

As I sit here in front of my computer, it is 9:49 AM, which means that we are about ten minutes away from Ring of Honor pretty much selling out Madison Square Garden in New York City the night before Wrestlemania 35.

There’s a lot to unpack there.  The historic nature of someone other than a McMahon family member running MSG.  ROH drawing the biggest crowd in its history.  New Japan bringing its stars in to the Mecca.   ROH literally planting a flag that cannot be ignored on WWE’s holy ground.  

It’s insane, and if you really pull yourself back and look at the landscape, there is only one person that everyone should thank for this happening.

I want to take you back to September 2009, when Ring of Honor was running the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center, a five-minute walk from MSG.  It was a rare ROH in NYC show that I wasn’t going to attend, because it happened to fall on my birthday and I had other plans.

Two weeks before the show, my phone rang, and it was someone who worked for the company at the time, telling me I had to come to the show.  He wouldn’t tell me why.  I assumed a title change and was told no.  Then, finally, he admitted, “Cary is going to shut down.  This is the last show.”

Within an hour, someone else confided in me that the company was done.   It wasn’t hard to see why.  Silkin was using all the money he made from his ticket broker business and funneled it into ROH.  Ring of Honor was literally living or dying based on how popular Broadway shows were selling for Silkin.  He kept things afloat but on that night, he was looking at a loss that most ROH aficionados would have thought to be insurmountable - Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, who on the same night, were going to be finishing up and heading to WWE.

Silkin was going to lose the two top talents, in the eyes of the fans, in one fell swoop.  There was no end in sight.  No big payday.  No step forward.  DVD sales, always the lifeblood, were declining.  He was running shows for the sake of running shows and now he was losing what was, in many ways, the nucleus of the company.  It was over.

This was going to be the end.

I had to see it through.  I was there for the start and I wanted to be there for the end.

So, I canceled my plans and I sat through a six-hour marathon show that ended with Danielson imploring fans to continue to support Ring of Honor.

Right before that speech, Jim Cornette returned to Ring of Honor - having secretly made a pact with Silkin that if he kept the company open, Cornette would work to try and find him a sponsor, a partner, a TV outlet, something that would help keep ROH afloat.  Silkin agreed and backed off on his plans to shut down, because he loved pro wrestling and wanted wrestling fans to have something that they, too loved. 

While I have mentioned it on Elite audio from time to time, I don’t think anyone in that Grand Ballroom that night knew they were, until just a few days before, sitting at what was going to be the funeral of Honor.

Cornette contacted long-time wrestling promoter Gary Juster, who had done his tour of duty in WCW and through Juster, a relationship with Sinclair Broadcast Group was pursued through Joe Koff, now the COO of ROH.  The pitch was for Sinclair to partner with ROH, perhaps give it a TV deal.  Instead, Sinclair, which had already been considering purchasing the National Wrestling Alliance, bought ROH and took it under its wing.  That was all Koff, who like Silkin, loved pro wrestling and knew what pro wrestling programming could bring to Sinclair.

There were the usual growing pain moments.  ROH had to be reconfigured under its new corporate owners.  The new owners had to figure out how to mesh what ROH was and what they wanted ROH to be.  Some staff left, there were turnovers of wrestling talent and as irony would have it, Jim Cornette would have an insane meltdown and exit the company he actually saved from extinction.

But, over time, there was also great growth.  All of that set the stage for Ring of Honor at the Garden.  It’s 10 AM as I write this now and as I look at the landscape and everyone who helped ROH, from Doug Gentry and Gabe Sapolsky and Low Ki and Adam Pearce and Paul London and CM Punk and Samoa Joe and Homicide and The Briscoes and Joe Koff and Greg Gilleland and The Young Bucks and Delirious and beyond, there’s one person above all who everyone should thank today for their contribution to Ring of Honor.

Dixie Carter.

Had Dixie Carter, in a political move, not fired Jim Cornette that same month of September 2009 in order to remove him from her company in the wake of issues with Jeff Jarrett, putting Cornette in the position where he was free and clear to return to ROH that night, several things are clear:

1 – Cornette wouldn’t have convinced Cary Silkin not to shut down the company, so ROH would have been dead almost a decade by the time their MSG debut rolls around.

2 – Cornette wouldn’t have helped deliver ROH to Sinclair, so certainly ROH wouldn’t be on TV and potentially some other wrestling company would be, perhaps not.

3 – Ring of Honor would certainly not be running Madison Square Garden, because the might of Sinclair lawyers would not have been available to ROH.

So, for all the stupid decisions made, all the criticism thrust upon her and all the rolling of the eyes for things that happned when she was in charge of TNA, Dixie Carter did every single one of you a massive solid.

Without ever meaning to, she saved Ring of Honor and set the stage for today’s sellout, which means that Dixie truly did have the success she wanted in pro wrestling.  She just didn't get to have it with the company she actually owned.

Raise your mint julips.

Three cheers for Miss Dixie.

Mike Johnson has been covering Ring of Honor since before the promotion actually had a name.  He can be reached at MikeJohnsonPWInsider@gmail.com

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