This is Wrestlemania weekend. If you’re the kind of fan I am, this weekend is kind of what it would be like if they played the World Series on Christmas while the Stanley Cup Finals were going on across the street. For pro wrestling, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.
Of course there’s Wrestlemania, but in the last few years the weekend around that has grown into so much more. Smaller companies like Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA have taken advantage of all eyes being on one area to run shows leading up to Mania. It’s brilliant, really. It gives people from all over the world the chance to see your product and hopefully become lifelong fans. And now with internet pay-per-view becoming a viable option, things have the chance to get even bigger since people who didn’t make the trip can still be there as long as they’ve got something that can stream.
At least that’s the idea.
When IPPV works, it’s an awesome concept. It’s much cheaper to produce and therefore cheaper to sell than regular pay-per-view, so it’s a win win for companies and fans. Bandwidth is also, for the most part anyway, easy enough to come by that broadcasting things in television quality is doable.
But when it doesn’t work, you get Friday and Saturday for the poor folks at Ring of Honor.
The shows themselves were great. I loved pretty much everything I managed to see, and from what people in the building were saying, everything else was a lot of fun to watch. But the key part of that sentence is what “I managed to see.” There’s no way you can consider the live streaming of this weekend’s shows to be anything other than just about a complete disaster.
Friday was a debacle from the get go. At first I thought the constant buffering was the fault of either Rogers or my increasingly crappy computer, but Twitter quickly set me straight on that. I don’t know if it was an issue with Go Fight Live (the stream provider), a problem with the internet connection in the building or a combination of the 2, but the result of whatever was going on was a complete mess. It buffered, it died, the audio and video were out of sync with each other sometimes by as much as 30 seconds, and then the audio became choppy and impossible to listen to. I gave up shortly after the second half of the show started, and judging from the conversations I had and saw I hung on longer than many.
I was bummed out because I’d really been looking forward to these shows, but things happen. They’ll put up the cleaned up replay and all will be right with the world.
So I get home from doing some running around and decide ok, I’ll watch the second half of the show so I can catch up on what I missed before this afternoon’s event starts. All goes swimmingly. I’m watching, I’m doing a few things around the house, I’m generally enjoying myself. And then, right in the middle of a match, it stops. Dead. Again, I’m thinking it’s probably my fault. Again, thanks for bailing me out, Twitter. Somehow, the version of the show that Go Fight Live put up wasn’t complete. I’m a very patient, easy going guy, but seriously, after the mess the night before and how apologetic everybody was, how do you fuck that up? The live event falling on its face I can handle because like I said, things happen. But when you don’t get your make good right, you’re entering serious give everybody a refund or a free gift whether they ask for it or not territory.
I decide to put the anger behind me. I’m sure the match and a half I missed would have been worth seeing, but you can’t win ’em all. Today is a new day, a better day.
Things started off so well. Not a skip or a stop or a jump to be found. This reminds me more of my first IPPV experience. Let’s relax and enjoy the afternoon…uh-oh. It happened. the stream tanks again, and it’s not coming back. A note pops up on the stream page that there’s been a power outage in the building. these shows are cursed.
Eventually things were fixed and I got to see some good action and an amazing main event, but not before at least 2 matches and a promo segment were completely missed.
As I mentioned, I’m a patient guy. The problem that I hope Ring of Honor doesn’t run into is that a lot of people aren’t me. As big as this weekend is, there are going to be fans giving the product a try for the first time. Probably a lot of them. And if this is their first experience, it’s not going to leave a good taste in their mouths. If this had been my first crack at it, I sure as hell would have to think long and hard before I parted with my money again, even if it’s only 20 bucks.
To anybody who bought the shows and was disappointed, I say this. You have every right to be upset. You paid good money for a product that you largely didn’t get. but please, don’t take it out on Ring of Honor. As they always do, everybody there from the bookers to the guys that do the wrestling gave everything they had to put on the best shows they possibly could put on. ROH is a company worth supporting and as a small company, all of that support really does count. It counts for a lot. They didn’t set out to screw you. If anything, all the trouble this weekend screwed them. They arguably had more eyes on them this weekend than ever before, and this is what happened. It’s certainly not what anybody could have wanted, and I assure you it’s not the usual webcast experience. Give them another try. You won’t regret it.
Before I drop this topic and get out of here, I want to talk about the two best things I saw this weekend.
1. Lance Storm and Mike Bennett had a hell of a wrestling match. Had it not been for the main event of day 2, it probably would have been my favourite of the weekend by miles. I didn’t see it live, but it made it into the replay so I was able to watch it this morning. There are lots of reasons why this match was great. the story leading to it was easy to understand. Old man wanting to teach a young punk some respect. In the ring, it told that story perfectly. but above all else, I knew who was going to win going in. Not just because it should have been obvious, but because I saw the result on Twitter as I was following along. but even though I knew what would happen, I still found myself cheering my heart out for a guy I knew was losing in the end. they sucked me in and made me hang on everything they did, almost to the point of forgetting about that whole spoiler thing. that, to me, is the mark of a great wrestling match.
2. Davey Richards and Michael Elgin. Ring of Honor made themselves another star today. Up to now it seems like most people have been largely indifferent to Elgin. He’s a big strong guy who can move, but like hell he’s going to be able to hang with Davey Richards, who some people consider among the best wrestlers in the world. But not only did he hang, he won that crowd over. By the end of the match even I was standing…alone…in my living room…counting and even cheering along a little. In one match Michael Elgin went from a pretty impressive strong dude to the guy who damn near beat Davey Richards and made it look like he probably should have. At a couple of points they were in danger of turning things into a spot fest that was going to go on too long, but they held it together and delivered one of the best matches I’ve seen this year. I haven’t looked at Twitter, but I hope I find that people stuck out the power problems and were there to see it. It made all the technical garbage seem much more worth the trouble.
If you didn’t see the shows, buy the replay which will hopefully be complete by the time you see it or wait and get the DVDs. If you don’t like what you’re getting from the big companies and want something that feels more like wrestling, ROH is almost certainly for you.