Wrestling DVD aficionados have seen the likes of Verne Gagne and Paul Heyman lament the fact that they couldn’t create talent quickly enough to combat the industry’s poachers.
Cary Silkin has endured the same frustrations as owner of Ring of Honor. But the 53-year-old former ticket broker has learned to roll with the punches. Right now he’s enjoying the buzz of Saturday night’s Glory by Honor iPPV (GoFightLive.TV, 7:30 p.m.) while dealing with the sting of world champion Tyler Black’s upcoming departure to WWE. Silkin spoke with As the World Turns (Left) about growing the company while dealing with turnover, the relationship with HDNet, the evolution of ROH’s product and the future of iPPV.
What’s it like being the owner of a wrestling company 48 hours before a pay-per-view?
It’s exciting. We have some experience in this. It’s our ninth year. But it’s always a thrill. Every show is a thrill. Every show is important in Ring of Honor. There’s no such thing as a house show in Ring of Honor. We’re still primarily a DVD-driven company. So if we do a show, whether it’s in Detroit or Dayton or New York City, it’s gotta be good because we want to be able to sell the product. The pay-per-views are a little more beefed up because they’re special, and Glory by Honor is always a special show. And we have a lot of momentum going into this show, a lot of good buzz, and we’re really pumped up for this weekend.
How do you keep up that kind of momentum when you have the turnover in talent that you do?
I guess you just get used to it [chuckles]. Based on our history with guys, we have gotten used to it. And it’s never fun. And it’s never welcome. But it’s inherent in the position of this company in the wrestling world. We’re never going to be anywhere close to the money backing of either of the two big companies, barring someone stepping in. So we’re subject to guys going elsewhere. And guys are going to want to go elsewhere to further their careers and try to make more money and do different things, and that’s understandable. So it’s inherent in the business. So we lose guys, other guys come back, other guys go out of favor with other companies and become available, so it sort of works both ways. Us losing guys like a Samoa Joe, or a CM Punk, or a Bryan Danielson or a Nigel McGuinness, franchise guys, it sucks, but it also opens up a spot for somebody else.
Does the company have more financial ability to retain talent than it did a few years ago?
Yeah. We’ve got a very good partnership with HDNet. As a matter of fact, in the past few weeks we’ve had some real solid signings. The Briscoes, who have been with us since Day 1, have re-signed. Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, the Kings of Wrestling, have re-signed. Eddie Edwards, who we’re really high on for the future, he’s re-signed. Kenny King is under under contract…So, we have to protect ourselves. And HDNet has given us the ability to have a little more leeway and a little more freedom in that area. Because they want to have consistency on their TV show to reflect a good product. And we can’t have guys running off into the sunset every week.
You said that you’ll never have the backing to do things like other companies. Does that ever make you feel like you’ve plateaued, or do you see growth?
Not even close to plateaued. I’m not guaranteeing anything, but HDNet has been a wonderful partner for us, and the station is growing. They’re opening up in five new markets at the end of the September where they haven’t been on [including] Philadelphia, Portland and San Francisco…We have TV deals now in Italy and France. France starts at the end of the month. They’re on major stations. The Ring of Honor brand has hung in there. It’s been nine years, and people are getting more familiar with the brand. There’s plenty of room for growth, and I believe that it’s attainable.
How is the product going to be different with the new bookers [Delirious and Jim Cornette taking over from Adam Pearce]?
It’s not going to be that different from the brand that’s stood for the last few years. It’s changed from a number of years ago. Over the last couple of years the product has been more down to earth, more digestible. Not so much wrestling where it’s just ‘spots.’ Over the last year, the race for the belts, the chase for the belts have been very compelling. All the belts–the tag team division has been just awesome. There’s a TV title now, and basically the so-called storylines make sense. And we try to make it so it’s not insulting for the people. And I know it’s not. It makes sense, and it works, and that’s what we strive for. So there’s not a lot of big changes in that area.
Jim Cornette wants talent to be able to get over without needing all the pyrotechnics and such that you see in the wrestling business today. As a longtime fan, have you seen him work with anyone and get them to the point to where they can sell on the mic the way an Arn Anderson or Ric Flair did back in the ’80s?
You know, the greatest wrestlers in the world, the guys who made the most money did very little in the ring: Bruno, Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, The Rock. It’s tough to find guys who have those superstar personalities. But that’s what people buy. You want to believe in the wrestler. You want to believe in the team you root for. You want to believe in the movie character you like, whether it be Spiderman or whomever. You need guys who are believable and who you get behind, and that’s the secret. You can do all the moves in the world, but if there’s no reason to like the guy or hate the guy, it doesn’t work.
Has there been anybody in the last couple of years who could work in the ring, but through working with Cornette or the company in general developed to where of a sudden you said, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this guy had that kind of charisma?’
You see guys that develop over the course of time. We’ve had so many of them. Roderick Strong, Austin Aries…It takes awhile to develop and find their way, find their personality. Like, a guy like Rhett Titus, who has teamed up with Kenny King as the All Night Express. I’ve seen Rhett from his days at the Ring of Honor school–skinny kid. He was Rhett Ski the Jet Ski at the beginning. And he developed into this, for lack of a better way to describe it, this Rick Rude-type of a character. It just takes time. Very rarely do you see a guy who just all of a sudden gets it. It’s a process.
How are the Internet pay-per-views doing buy-wise?
It’s good. If you think about the theory of it, anybody in the world who has an Internet connection can see the show live for 14 bucks. It’s amazing. GoFightLive, they know what they’re doing, the feed works well, it’s just like watching TV, people get used to it. Look, I’m not one of those guys who has his computer hooked up to the TV, some people are. But if you’re a Ring of Honor fan and you’re not in the New York area or you don’t have tickets or whatever the case may be and you want to see what’s going to happen, it’s a great thing. The last [iPPV] we had in Toronto, it was the best numbers we had. We continue to break the records.
Can you share any of those numbers?
No, that’s OK.