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ROH's Joe Koff talks Supercard of Honor, The Hardys and more as ROH returns to Baltimore

Aaron Oster
Contact ReporterFor The Baltimore Sun

In Orlando this past weekend, the wrestling world converged for the biggest weekend in sports entertainment. With everything that went on, one of the biggest events of the weekend didn't even happen in Orlando, but happened an hour away in Lakeland, Fla. Supercard of Honor is Ring of Honor's annual show that happens during Wrestle weekend. It's always a big show, but this year's was special. Headlined by The Young Bucks vs. The Broken Hardys in a ladder match for the ROH title, there was a lot of buzz around the show. And the buzz showed at the box office: 3,600 fans packed the building, shattering the record for an ROH show (which was 2,100 for a show in Brooklyn). The Hardys/Bucks match became one of the most talked-about matches of the whole weekend, and matches like Christopher Daniels/Dalton Castle and Cody Rhodes/Jay Lethal drew rave reviews. 

With Ring of Honor returning to Baltimore this Saturday, at the William J Myers Pavilion, I had a chance to talk to ROH COO Joe Koff about this weekend's festivities, everything that has gone on over the past five weeks in the company, the constantly evolving roster and more. 

Supercard of Honor set the ROH record for attendance, and was an extremely well-reviewed show. What did that mean to you and to the company? 

It was incredibly important to the company in the sense that I think that a lot of what we said we could do actually happened. It was an incredible feeling. Let me take a personal moment. When I walked out, when the show began, and saw 3,600 people cheering for that first match, the noise in the arena almost made me too emotional to sit there. We have put so much work into this company, and really, I'm the least of it. It all kind of culminated in that night in Lakeland, Fla. What was so especially satisfying was the fact that we were a good 45 minutes or an hour away from where all the activity was for Wrestle. These people made a decision and a choice to come out there. This wasn't just that they're in town and it's something that they could just choose to do because it's convenient. I'm still living it, and enjoying it. I think that's one of the things that I'm realizing about Ring of Honor. It is a community, and it behaves as a community. That's really important in this day and age. I think people are comfortable in their community, and they want to be part of that. We saw that in Lakeland especially. It was a true moment in time. It was a moment in time that was so authentic, and it was surreal at times. I'm thankful for everyone that came out there that night. 

This was the culmination of five weeks at Ring of Honor, going from Manhattan Mayhem to the 15th anniversary, through Supercard of Honor. Did it just feel like a whirlwind for you, like it did for the fans?

You know, it definitely did at the time, but looking back on it now, it's amazing that it was only across five weeks. It seems like it's been a longer time, because we lived it and were involved with it. We look back at those three shows and I think there was something that was really original about those three shows. That's the collaboration of the Hardys and the Young Bucks. They were able to put all that together. For us, putting that together, allowing that collaborative effort, to make it Ring of Honors, but also to allow them to stretch their creative freedom, that's what made it so special. 

What did the Hardys coming to the company, even if it was just for a short time, mean for you and the company? 

It was flattering and humbling that they wanted to be part of the promotion, especially in the way that they were. I have a ton of respect, not only for the Hardys, but also the Young Bucks, and everyone else who wrestles on our roster. They understand that we wrestle for the fans and it's still about bringing an experience to the fans they can't get elsewhere, and doing it in a surprising nature. One of the things that Ring of Honor does really well, and I hope to always get better at it, is the element of surprise when it comes to our shows. In this internet world, everyone is second-guessing, everyone thinks they know the answer. To be able to still surprise the way we do is really something, and it says a lot about the organization and our ability to keep our business inside the organization. That's something to be proud of. 

In the midst of all this, rumors cropped up about the relationship between ROH and WWE, and if there would possibly be a buyout. Was there any truth at all to it? 

It was not a story. It was not a story when it came out. I think people want to make a story out of nothing. I'm very open in conversations with very many different wrestling promotions. And I think sometimes because I don't share a lot of stuff, we're very private about what we do. I think it raises speculation. I think this thing with the WWE really started because we were in conversations about content for Kevin Owens' DVD. There was a lot of back and forth between the two companies. I think that was the seed that drove that story. 

The other big event was that Christopher Daniels won the ROH title at the 15th anniversary show. How big of a moment was that to you personally? 

I shared it with him. When someone toils and is inside of that world for so long, and he's a master technician, he's an incredible human being, he's a brilliant mind. For him to win that title was really validation of his career. I couldn't have been happier, or prouder. It was a very hard-fought match. Those were two incredible performers in that ring. I think you were watching the classic ROH in Christopher Daniels and the modern ROH in Adam Cole. I don't think there was a dry eye in the locker room, that's how much we all felt when Christopher won that title. He's deserving, I'm happy for him. Long may he reign. 

Arguably the most surprising thing of the past five weeks was that Bully Ray also came over to ROH, and has joined the company for the foreseeable future. How did that come about? 

We've become a destination for a lot of people who want to have some of the artistic flexibilities, and not wrestle as many nights a week as other promotions do. We have a distribution, we're national in scope. We're able to compensate competitively. I think also, our locker room and our culture contributes to it. For Bully Ray to want to be part of it, or the Hardys to come in for a short period of time, it comes back to being a big compliment for the organization. There are lots of people who want to come in to Ring of Honor, and I don't blame them; it's a wonderful place to wrestle. Not everybody is going to get into ROH. It requires a certain understanding of the brand. It's more about the brand than the person. The person becomes the brand, and represents the brand. If you look at our past champions, they exemplified that brand and that style. The current roster exemplify the brand in that style. It's all about wrestling the Ring of Honor brand. I think Bully wanted to be part of that, and I don't blame him. 

ROH had always been known as a place for younger guys to really start their rise through the wrestling world. With the additions of guys like Bully Ray, that feeling has started to change somewhat. How do you balance that while still bringing in older guys who can be good for the company? 

It's a great point. God bless the internet and all of their knowledge. You need people like Bully Ray or Christopher Daniels to work with the younger guys. They can pass on the lore of Ring of Honor. Without experience, there's no teaching. As odd as this may sound, we are a bit of a learning organization. We pass on tradition, we pass on the lore, we pass on what works and what doesn't. I can tell you, there are plenty of people who had amazing potential in Ring of Honor that didn't buy into that and who are no longer in Ring of Honor. We're big believers in that we want people who want to be there. We want people who feel like this is the best place for them to be wrestling. Those who do not want to be there, I don't want them there. We're a family. As a family, we have to speak in one voice.

Christopher Daniels is probably our senior statesman. He has a larger role than simply going into the ring. He is a leader, he is a teacher. He is a creative mind, he assists on a lot of things. 

You said that you want people who want to be there. Some have noticed that the roster has had a bit more turnover than usual lately. Is that part of the roster turnover, and could it end up being an addition by subtraction scenario? 

I think we currently have a fluid and a dynamic group. There's a lot of egos involved in wrestling. There's a lot of very young people in there. Young people have the same issues no matter what career they're in. Sometimes they don't have the patience, sometimes they don't want to wait. Sometimes they think it's better to do other things now in hope that they can advance their career. That will always be the case. So yes, it probably could end up being a good thing.  

As COO of the company, while it wouldn't happen in the immediate future, would you look toward having a TV deal again like you had with Destination America? 

It would be ideal. What the national cable channel allows me is to give the fans one point of destination for the entire country. But, we haven't had Destination America in almost two years. Our company has never been stronger. I think our fans know how to find Ring of Honor. It's readily available over the air television, it's certainly available through our website. There isn't anyone in the world who can't get our weekly program if they want to. The weekly cable national distribution point would make it easier to get there. But, saying that, people in Columbus Ohio, know when it runs weekly. We're a local broadcasting company. We're much more concerned with our local market than necessarily going after the other. The other was nice. I would want it again. It's something that I continually work on. 

While other cities may be more closely associated with Ring of Honor, Baltimore is the home of the company. How special is it to work a Baltimore show? 

Baltimore is the Sinclair home of Ring of Honor. The original Ring of Honor is Philadelphia because of past ownership, but we cut our teeth here in Baltimore when we started doing TV and production with those shows over at DuBurns. We needed to get our legs and understand how those productions would work. Then, we were able to go outside of Baltimore, which is good. Our job is to expose. Baltimore is special because the fans are special. We're very excited to do an afternoon show. It's a TV taping, the women of wrestling, all the stars will be present. It will be a very nice experience. I'm excited about it, and I hope the fans are excited about it. 

Is there any extra pressure to put on a big show after having a show as successful as one like Supercard of Honor was? 

When Ring of Honor gets in the ring, it's always going to be a memorable show. Every time we put on a big show, we are able to top that big show, and I have no doubts in our ability to do that. There will be all sorts of fans there on Saturday. Some who have been there for the first time. Others who have been to every ROH show in the area. And they'll always come up to me at the end and tell me what a great show it is. That's my thank you. If we are able to do that, then we did our job for that day.  

 

ROH's Charm City Excellence will be in Baltimore on Saturday, April 8, at 2 p.m., at William J Myers Pavilion. You can find the card, how to buy tickets and more at rohwrestling.com

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout

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