• 08/09/2018 (5:18:19 pm)
  • Bob Mulrenin

CBS Sports Chuck Carroll spoke with Ring of Honor GM Greg Gilleland about ROH securing the Garden, talent contracts and more

What began as little more than a novelty idea has become the biggest show in the history of Ring of Honor. Next April, the promotion’s G1 Supercard will go head-to-head against WWE’s wildly popular NXT TakeOver show on the night before WrestleMania. The venues are just five miles apart, leaving the promotions to duke it out for the legions of fans in town for the largest wrestling event of the year. Some may view this as a David vs. Goliath scenario, but that’s not truly the case. Although WWE has a far superior brand notoriety, ROH has plenty working in its favor, including running at the most famous arena in the world.

It also doesn’t hurt that the masses, some of whom will travel thousands of miles to attend the week-long festivities, are diehard wrestling fans. Most aren’t just familiar with the ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling brands, whom the promotion is partnering with for the show, they’re devoted followers.

Earlier this year, the wrestling world was buzzing with excitement after an executive from ROH’s parent company revealed plans to run Madison Square Garden during WrestleMania weekend. But shortly thereafter, MSG pulled the plug on the event just days before it was to be officially announced.

The sudden turn of events both blindsided and infuriated ROH officials.

“We had a deal, and The Garden said they were backing out after communications from the WWE,” Ring of Honor COO Joe Koff said at the time. Koff also claimed the arena wouldn’t discuss an alternative date.

In a preemptive strike, WWE representatives had allegedly flexed muscle gained over a decades-long working relationship with MSG to squander its rival promotion’s grandiose plans. It was clear that the largest wrestling company in the world wasn’t keen on the idea of having major competition in such close proximity, let alone for NXT’s biggest show of the year.

It wasn’t long before ROH attorneys were involved. Simultaneously, the promotion was scouting other venues. Contingency plans included moving the show to Philadelphia. But anything other than The Garden would be a big step down.

Under threat of legal action and following weeks of negotiations, MSG relented and agreed to honor the original deal. The terms weren’t finalized until two days before the long-awaited G1 SuperCard was finally announced.

Madison Square Garden officials declined to comment beyond a complimentary statement from a company executive that was included in a press release announcing the show. The remarks did not address the controversy. A WWE representative did not respond to a request for comment when the allegations of interference first surfaced.

News that the show was back on was met with the same level of shock amongst wrestling fans as when it was originally called off. But this time excitement followed rather than disappointment.

Tickets moved briskly during a pre-sale for subscribers to the promotion’s streaming service, known as HonorClub, this week. Within 40 minutes, the nearly 20,000-seat arena was already halfway to selling out. Remaining tickets will go on sale to the general public Friday morning.

The strong sales are a testimony to the skyrocketing popularity of the promotion over the last two years.

However, with one battle won, ROH now faces another challenge. It’s one that is perhaps even greater and more critical to the promotion’s short-term future.

There is a chance that the promotion’s biggest attractions will be wrestling for NXT at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn rather than in Manhattan for ROH. Contracts for The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega expire months before the big show, and it’s unclear whether they’ll return. As the larger company, WWE will have the opportunity to provide greater financial security for the talents who now earn a living by globetrotting to work for multiple promotions.

Two years ago, Rhodes left WWE out of frustration stemming from what he perceived to be an underutilization of his character. Since breaking ties, he has become one of the most sought-after names on the independent circuit and claims to have increased his annual income.

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