Ring of Honor COO Joe Koff talks anniversary show, streaming service

Ring of Honor chief operating officer Joe Koff joins the podcast with Chris Graham to talk about the March 9 ROH 16th Anniversary show, the April 7 Supercard of Honor, the Honor Club streaming service and the company’s bright future.


Joe Koff -4 Photo Credit--RING OF HONOR Lee South
Joe Koff
Photo Credit: RING OF HONOR/Lee South

On the growth of Ring of Honor, and whether this is a special time for the company with the fan attention being heightened:
“What’s interesting about your question, I’ve been asked to speak about our anniversary shows every year since I got involved, and your question is very similar. If somebody is an archivist and is going to go back and listen to how I’m going to answer, the answer is that every year surprises me about Ring of Honor, and its fan appreciation, and where we are from a talent perspective and where we are from an expectation perspective. And I think it’s because we’re evolving as a company. We continue to grow, we continue to listen, we continue to watch, and we continue to hear what the fans want, and understand what the guys are going to give them. And because of that, that makes all those interactions so special.”

The impact of Honor Club on the business model for ROH:
“Everything we do is measured, and everything we do is thought about. All decisions economic or entertainment or product or creativity are really thought about, and we like to brings things out slowly and make sure we’re on the right track. The Honor Club is really just another extension of our way to expand our brand and to bring our product to more people than we could without it. I think one of the great things we created with Honor Club is it’s really a project that was born out of our office. Live-streaming events to fans all over the world is a real plus.”
“When you watch Ring of Honor events live or experience them live, there’s nothing on the planet that matches that in the world of professional wrestling. So for us to be able to do that, and for people to be able to see wrestling on a more regular basis, and certainly Ring of Honor, other than on TV when it comes into your home, it’s special.”

Synergy between Ring of Honor and New Japan:
“We don’t consider that a rivalry at all. We consider it, as you said, and I’ll use your words, but they’re apt, it’s mutually beneficial for both promotions. They are starting to do shows in the United States. Last year, they did one. I think this year, they’re going to do two. They’re pretty much on the West Coast, where Ring of Honor probably has the least amount of presence, until now. So, we don’t see that as an encroachment at all. Considering that they use so much of our talent, and when we tour with them, in the United States, on the Global War tours or War of the Worlds tours, we just feel it’s much more synergistic and symbiotic. We’re not feeding off each other; we’re helping each other.”
“The reason why it works so well is because if you watch Ring of Honor, and you watch New Japan, simultaneously, the styles are so similar, and the philosophy in the ring and the kind of action that leads to stories being better told are very similar. I don’t know two promotions that match up as well organically, and I think that what the fans are experiencing, and you as a fan are experiencing, is feeling the authenticity of those two promotions working together. Which you would either see individually in a Ring of Honor-only match or a New Japan match, that they are very authentic in their style, and that’s what you’re feeling.”

Sports entertainment vs. entertaining sport
“When you watch a WWE event, you’re watching much more of a show. There’s a lot more talking, and there’s a lot more fanfare, and there’s a lot more drama. When you’re watching Ring of Honor, you’re watching everything in the ring. So, I think that’s where that differentiation comes forth. They didn’t want to call themselves professional wrestling in the sense of, We’d rather be sports entertainment, as an entertainment vehicle. And they needed that for their business. I take nothing away from that, because their business model is a huge conglomerate of business and marketing. So, it makes sense for the advertising world, for the people that want to be part of something like that, to be branded that way. At the end of the day, we are a wrestling company, with professional wrestlers, and my guys and my girls, the women and the men, are actually incredible athletes, and they have artistry, and they have skill. They put all of their life into what they do, and I’m not going to demean it by not calling it sport, because I would challenge the athleticism and the conditioning and the training of my wrestlers, our Ring of Honor wrestlers, and any other athlete in any other competitive sport.”

Ring of Honor’s ability to retain top talent:
“I think our goal is to have a company that people want to be part of, want to work at, and feel that they can reach all of their family needs and professional needs and their monetary needs. I want to be that organization. But it is impossible to think about it that way, because in the minds of the wrestling world, WWE is considered the pinnacle of the space, and it is for John Cena, and it is for The Rock, and it is for Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. But if you look at all the people that are underneath that, that are trying to get to that place, that’s a lot of people. But it’s still the WWE, and it’s like an athlete who plays baseball, and just wants to be part of the New York Yankees, and is willing to go into a Yankees farm system, which might be equivalent to Triple-A ball, maybe at the NXT level in the Yankee organization’s mind, and they’ll get called, and if they can play on the field, they’ll be given another shot. I can’t stop that. I’m never going to be able to stop that. Because you’re dealing with people’s minds, and you’re dealing with people’s aspirations and dreams, and I would never be a dream-killer or an aspiration-killer. I think that what you’re seeing in Ring of Honor, and why you’re so excited about it, is you’re seeing talent that is equal, if not superior, to a WWE kind of talent, living their lives and living their dreams and creating stories in a free spirit of collaboration inside an organization that allows for this. I think that’s always been here. I think it’s more apparent now, seeing what The Young Bucks are doing, Cody, Marty Scurll and Bullet Club, stuff like that. But I think that’s going to be less and less an issue for us going forward.”


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