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By Mike Johnson on 2022-03-02 20:02:00

AEW President Tony Khan just announced live on Dynamite that he has purchased Ring of Honor Wrestling from Sinclair Broadcast Group.


Sinclair, facing heavy financial losses due to a number of factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, opted to place ROH on a hiatus in December 2021 with the idea of returning to action this April with Supercard of Honor 2022.   By selling off the company to Khan and AEW instead of continuing to operate the promotion on what one would assume was a reduced budget, Sinclair instead takes an entire division off their books (which are not in a great place based on their most recent quarterly earnings report), bringing in revenue for the sale.

So, instead of the promised re-imagining of ROH, Khan will steer the promotion that was the spiritual predecessor of both AEW and the Triple H-led version of WWE NXT.    Going forward, Khan would have pretty much a blank slate to conjure the next chapter as most of ROH's contracted talents had their deals expire at the end of 2021 with the remaining slated to expire at the end of this March.  

So, if Khan wishes to retain anyone from the Ring of Honor roster, he would have to go and sign them to new deals.    ROH Champion Jonathan Gresham, who is slated to wrestle Bandido in the main event of the 4/1 Supercard of Honor PPV, was backstage at AEW's recent taping in Bridgeport, CT.    Tag Champions The Briscoes, Pure Champion Josh Woods, TV Champion Rhett Titus and Six Man Tag Team Champions The Righteous are all free and clear contractually.  The ROH Women's World Champion is currently Deonna Purrazzo, but she's just a phone call away via Impact Wrestling management.

Among a number of ROH talents who had been part of the roster at 2021, there had been frustration over a lack of communication from management advising them whether they would be booked going forward for the 4/1 Supercard of Honor or beyond.  This announcement explains that silence, at least in part.  Based on feedback from multiple ROH wrestlers who were working for the company last year (as my cell phone exploded with texts), none seemed to be aware (or would admit they were aware) that this was going to be announced..  

There had been rumors of Sinclair looking to unload ROH going back to before the COVID-19 pandemic, but nothing was ever truly substantiated beyond whispers of potential sales discussions, which were routinely shot down by Joe Koff when asked for comment.   There were at least preliminary conversations with WWE several years ago, according to sources in WWE familiar with the matter, but the terms were never right for each party and nothing ever came of the discussions. 

With the sale of Ring of Honor, Khan would obviously acquire the entire ROH video library, which dates back to the company's debut in February 2002 and would also include the All In PPV, which ended up pretty much being the "proof of concept" event for AEW.  If and when Khan decides to launch a streaming service or license his content out to a third party streaming service, the ROH library greatly enriches the overall AEW library well beyond what they have produced since 2019 when AEW was founded.

Sinclair purchased Ring of Honor in May 2011 from previous owner Cary Silkin, who self-financed the promotion off the success of his ticketing company.  Silkin has since been the company's official Ambassador and one would hope he would continue on in some form of that role going forward.

One would think the sale is a bittersweet moment for ROH COO Joe Koff, who truly loved the promotion and relished overseeing it.  There is no word what this means for the ROH office in Baltimore and whether they would be assimilated into other areas of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Given the large amount of talents under contract to AEW, it makes the most logical sense that Ring of Honor continue on as a separate entity.  Khan's speech certainly made it clear that ROH is still a thing going forward, not that this was a sale to grab the library assets.  A number of AEW stars, including CM Punk, Brian Danielson, Jay Lethal, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and many more have ties back to ROH's earliest days and could always appear for the promotion in some fashion. 

Tonight's AEW Dynamite opened with two-thirds of the original ROH main event, Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels (Low Ki was the missing third competitor), so already AEW is peppering ROH history into their TV series.   AEW could easily populate Ring of Honor with contracted AEW talents who are underutilized and not featured regularly on Dynamite or Rampage, giving them a "home" and then accentuate those competitors with former ROH alumni that AEW wants to retain.   They could also convert one of the AEW Dark series into a Ring of Honor branded show or try to sell a separate brand to Warner Media.

There is no word yet whether Hunter "Delirious" Johnston would remain on as booker, whether Tony Khan would take over the creative or if someone from AEW or beyond could be tapped in that role.   Over the course of ROH history, only four men have held that creative pencil - Gabe Sapolsky, Johnston, Jim Cornette and Adam Pearce.

There is no also word yet whether the sale would include AEW receiving the ROH time slots on Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliates, CHARGE, Stadium, The New England Sports Network, etc.  Khan stated the purchase took place today, so it's possible such things have not been fully worked out.

As I wrote back in December 2021 around ROH's Final Battle PPV, the Ring of Honor everyone knew ended with that event.  Today's announcement simply drops a giant exclamation point at the end of that statement.  ROH will live on, but it will never, ever be the promotion it once was.  As I have written before, ROH was meant to be many things, but stagnant was not one of them.  This may provide the much-needed boost and electric shock to get the ROH motor purring again in a way it may never have been able to accomplish under Sinclair.

ROH has a 4/1 Supercard of Honor PPV as well as a  4/10 TV Taping in Philadelphia at the 2300 Arena on the schedule currently.  Whether either of those take place - or take place as originally envisioned  - remains to be seen.

With this new chapter in ROH history announced, it should be noted there are two forthcoming books that will catch the attention of ROH fans in the works.  Jonathan Snowden, who penned the excellent Ken Shamrock book that was released in May 2020, is teaming with former ROH and current AEW staffer Shane Hagadorn to write a book about the history and legacy of the promotion.  Ring of Honor Ambassador and former owner Cary Silkin has been working on a memoir about his life in ROH and beyond that is expected to be released within the next year as well.   Silkin has been working on that project for a long time.

As for AEW, they have a slew of shows this week and now also get fans to wonder which, if any, ROH alumni are going to show up as the company heads towards the 2022 Revolution PPV in Orlando, Florida. will continue to follow the story and update as needed.

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