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Sunday, December 20, 2009

ROH leaves a bad first impression in its Internet PPV debut

I recently wrote a "Workin' Stiff" column for a future issue The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling magazine, in which I praised Ring of Honor for taking advantage of innovations in technology while other promotions seemed stuck in the past. I was referring to ROH's foray into Internet-exclusive pay per views.

But having just watched ROH's highly-anticpated "Final Battle 2009" on GoFightLive.TV, I am left second-thinking some of my praise. Rather than looking like the pioneer of new media, ROH came off as a company stuck in the technological dark ages.

Putting aside, for a moment, the quality of action in the ring, this show was nearly unwatchable - sometimes literally so.

Here's the rundown:

So after paying my $14.95, I was informed that the 7:30 p.m. pay per view would begin 10 minutes late. Who ever heard of such a thing? Can you imagine a WWE or TNA live pay per view starting late?

Right off the bat, there were significant problems with the streaming video that would last all night. My cable-modem Internet is usually fast enough to watch most any streaming video without much lag, but I could not go more than a minute or so most of the night without the video cutting out.

But the biggest problems throughout the night were with the audio. They were apparent from the beginning of the show, when the live audio caught the ring announcer counting down the audience before the show was about to go live. Later, the audio from a backstage Tyler Black promo was almost completely drowned out by the crowd noise.

The announce team consisted of three commentators, but, for most of the night, color man Larry Sweeney was completely inaudible. The audio quality of the two other announcers was also poor, and at completely different volumes.

The frustrations continued as the show took an intermission so the merchandise stands could do some business at the Manhattan Center. Fans watching on the Internet were treated to a "classic match" between C.M. Punk vs. Spanky. But the intermission lasted much longer than the match, leaving fans to watch a blank screen for several minutes as the 30-minute plus intermission dragged on. Knowing that, potentially thousands of fans would be watching the Internet stream, couldn't ROH officials have made sure that the intermission was kept brief?

But brevity has not been ROH's strong point in recent years. After all, this show went about 4 and a half hours . An hour of that was dedicated to the main event - a time limit draw between Austin Aries and Tyler Black.

Ironically, in the very last minute of the match, Sweeney's audio came on - but that of the other two announcers and the crowd cut off. Unbelievable.

Seconds after the match ended, the PPV stream abruptly cut off.

Fans could debate the quality of the night's wrestling, which was often good, but sometimes also dragged on, and included some unnecessarily dangerous moves.

But all fans who watched this show could agree on one thing: ROH should be absolutely embarrassed by its production quality for this show. For a company with an established fan base, a nationally televised program, and seven years of history to put on such a shoddily-produced show - and ask fans to pay $15 for it - is inexcusable.

I won't buy the excuse that ROH is a small company with a small budget. ROH's disregard for quality control in its production has nothing to do with money. It would not have cost anything to have someone monitoring the audio throughout the night to realize that one of its ringside announcers was talking into a dead microphone all night. That's just absolute bush league.

ROH needed to be at its best tonight. Instead - in some ways - it was at its worst.

-Al Castle
Po Wrestling Illustrated contributing writer.

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