I recently spoke with ROH consultant and former Wrestling Inc. Weekly podcast co-host Court Bauer, who discussed this Sunday's ROH Best In The World pay-per-view. We will have live coverage of the pay-per-view this Sunday. Here is the full interview.
Wrestling INC: How has everything been going on your end?
Court Bauer: I've been very busy. We got a busy week and we're coming off a busy May. We had two shots in Toronto and New York City, which was with New Japan [Pro-Wrestling] and it was a fantastic experience. We made our triumphant return to iPPV with Ustream. It was a fantastic month for us and now we're doing Best in the World in Nashville, so there's my nonorganic sell to kickoff the show.
Wrestling INC: So when did you start with ROH?
Bauer: I signed my contract in December, just before heading out to Final Battle in New York. That was my first day with the company and here we are six months later. It's been an amazing ride. We had AJ Styles come in January, Chris Hero come in at Final Battle, New Japan's involvement starting with the announcement at the anniversary show in February, our announcement about live pay-per-views, and we have other cool stuff in the mix I can't talk about yet that are business related on the licensing front.
It's a very ambitious year for us and we have our work still cut out for us. This is a critical stage in the process to deliver a high quality pay-per-view with good matches and a good experience for everyone at home. There are a lot of options out there right now. There's TNA, where people get frustrated, but I understand they had a good show recently at Slammiversary. The more variety, the better it is for everyone. I wish it was one of those things that everybody was killing it and all the products are so good it's hard to pick one to watch. It's been a long time since people have said that about wrestling. I'd like to see wrestling go back in that direction. A lot of the pieces are there.
Look at the talent in WWE, TNA ROH, and NXT. All these different properties have the key ingredients. The talent is fantastic, but how do you utilize them all? It's like a baseball team. You bring in a new manager or head of operations and all of sudden you see these pieces come together. Sometimes you bring in the wrong guy and see things go in a terrible direction, which happens a lot. Hopefully, this is a big year for us. We've been building momentum going into this month and the next one is a very ambitious one with a live pay-per-view on Sunday nights, so we're excited for it.
Wrestling INC: It appeared ROH lost some of its edge over the last few years and it seems to have turned around. What would you attribute to the turnaround we've been seeing?
Bauer: First of all, you had to write the script when it came to iPPV. There was a lot of frustration and 'oh my god I can't believe the stream went down' with the product. Ustream has been doing this for a decade and they are the gold standard. You've seen the revival of New Japan in the last year through Ustream. It's a fantastic portal. You see the product in high definition, can watch live or on demand, it's well priced, and easily accessible. It's a great product, so when we partnered with them I think people saw the iPPV working better than ever and that's cool. We literally had no complaints about the iPPV in May. Best in the World will be available worldwide on Ustream, so if you want to check out the show that way, that's how you can watch it. Bringing in the right talent with interesting matchups has everything locking in.
Look at the booking with Adam Cole's rise as the top champion. Being a heel at 24-years-old is never an easy thing. He's done a great job at being the guy at the top, being so young and learning on the job. When paired with Matt Hardy, they make a great heel duo. I think it's a mixture of talent and opportunity locking in like Chris Hero and AJ Styles being available. We have Chris Daniels and Frankie Kazarian debuting as Bad Influence on the pay-per-view this Sunday. There's a lot of cool stuff I can't mention on the air, but more cool stuff is around the corner.
Partnering with New Japan was pretty bad a—. We did HonorCon at the anniversary show from Philadelphia in February and I think that was cool. People can do things they would do at a normal size convention, like WWE Axxess, but on a personal scale with ROH. You were able to create an entrance through our entrance way and pose, meet talent, and the surprise announcement about New Japan. I think it's a melting pot of everything converging and clicking. It's not one thing, but multiple things.
Wrestling INC: You mentioned Chris Daniels and Frankie Kazarian appearing at the upcoming Best in the World card. What are your thoughts on TNA letting talent like that go without much of a fight?
Bauer: They're going through a transition where they scale back their roster to make it a smaller crew. Daniels and Kazarian were two of their hottest guys on the roster. They're not at the Hulk Hogan level pay. They were essentially your franchise tag team with talent in the ring and on the microphone. The last six to eight months saw them go to another level with their promos. I was puzzled with them being let go. TNA as a whole is going through a contraction. They're trying to operate on a national scale, but a lot of the talent they've released is puzzling. They still have talented guys, but it comes down to utilization. One man's loss is someone else's opportunity. I was eager when they became available and everyone at ROH felt the same way.
Wrestling INC: There have been reports lately of TNA reaching out to contracted ROH talent. What are your thoughts on that?
Bauer: I think that was ill-advised to say the very least and they should have consulted with their legal team before doing that. It's pretty flagrant with voicemails being left. At the same time, it's a backhanded compliment. You're going after ROH talent because they're fantastic. TNA is drawing 200 [fans] for their house shows and ROH sold-out in New York, Toronto, and probably in their backyard of Nashville. Our business is pretty damn good and their counting tickets for the Hammerstein Ballroom events. People are having a real conversation on who is the number two company. I don't really care. I want everyone to do well, but people in the wrestling business sometimes let their nose get out of joint when in the negative spot of the conversation. It's a backhanded compliment when TNA does these kinds of things. It's rare when you have a talent raid and you aren't successful in acquiring any talent, but that's what happened here. It's shocking, but it happens.
Our talent is under contract and happy. Look at the old WCW and ECW days. Those guys wanted big money to better themselves and they were able to get out of their contracts or didn't even have one. With ROH, you're on TV in virtually every market except for New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, which have a huge wrestling base without TV. We have a built-in synergy with New Japan, which is appealing to talent. There's great money, opportunity to work abroad, and the morale is fantastic. You have TMZ covering the reDRagon tag team because of their involvement with UFC fighter Tom Lawlor. If you are going to sell someone on a package, you need to make it enticing to lure them in.
Again, TNA seems to be in some sort of contraction in terms of their operations. How good is the money and working in front of smaller crowds? You need an enticing package and that was what Eric Bishoff did. He was a master at soliciting talent to come to WCW without the bookers or promoters having a clue it was going down until it was too late and the wrestler was in Atlanta, Georgia. He mastered that art and maybe TNA should read his book [Controversy Creates Cash]. Maybe they'd learn some bad lessons from the book.
Wrestling INC: At the Best in the World pay-per-view, Kevin Steen will be wrestling Silas Young. There are a lot of rumors about Kevin Steen joining the WWE later this summer. How do you think Steen will fare if he does join the WWE?
Bauer: It's a big if. If it happens, there's a lot of interesting things about him that I respect. He has a do it yourself type of mentality—all his marketing with the YouTube videos he does on his own. He hustles and is an independent spirit. He's kind of a rebel like Steven Austin where he has his take on what's good for the business. If you don't look out for yourself in this business, it will eat you alive. Steen is good at navigating certain waters so his area of business is in the conversation. Some talent is timid and don't want to be their own advocates. You earn being your own advocate over time and Steen possesses that positive.
When it comes to the WWE you can't be a wallflower. Vince [McMahon] is looking for guys that are going to be their own advocate and are aggressive. Steen works his a— off so he's not a guy to talk a lot and not back it up. ROH guys say 'this is my kind of shirt, not this one.' The same goes for Austin, who designed a lot of his shirts. Steen designs his own shirts and knows what would be cooler and I wish more guys at WWE were like that. It could be backstage politics, bad creative, personality conflicts, or the timing doesn't work. There's a million ways it could go wrong, but I see promise there.
If Steen was to leave ROH for WWE, a guy like him could be well received. Plus, it's been a long time since the WWE had a Canadian star and that's a market. The WWE has Sami Zayn [former ROH wrestler El Generico] and his magic with Steen is ridiculous. You'd have two attractions that are different in many ways. They're appealing, bilingual, and I think the WWE could do lots with them in the WWE machine.
Wrestling INC: The upcoming Best in the World show will be the first time a ROH card is available across all pay-per-view providers. What do you think of the timing? Is it the right time to do this?
Bauer: I would have liked to do it a little later in the year, but this opportunity came when it did and you have to strike when you can. It allows Bad Influence — Chris Daniels and Frankie Kazarian — to work as a tag team for the first time in ROH and on a pay-per-view. We have reDRagon for them to challenge and they're coming off some amazing matches the last few months. It's a critical junction for us, interesting point heading into the summer, and an exciting one. After this upcoming pay-per-view, we go to Field of Honor in August from Brooklyn, [New York] at the MCU Park. We have a lot of cool stuff and this pay-per-view is a launching pad for our summer. A lot of cool things will come out of this.
Wrestling INC: What are your thoughts on wrestling pay-per-views in general with the WWE putting their shows on the WWE Network? Does it have an effect on other companies promoting pay-per-views?
Bauer: We'll know a lot more in a few weeks. I would have liked to see more promotion from the carries end, but there are other people involved in the process. I think pay-per-views will be around in 2015. [Floyd] Mayweather Jr. broke records last fall. The UFC in December did huge business. You have these two key attractions in MMA and boxing that people want to see. If you build it, people will come. I think pay-per-views are about building attractions that people want to buy, they're reasonably priced, the hype connects to you emotionally, and you can't wait to see that show.
I think in wrestling there has been too much product with rematches and doing a Hell in the Cell match because it's October. There's only a Hell in the Cell match because it's October. There hasn't been much organic build to pay-per-views like there were five or 10 years ago. Who knows what the landscape will look like in 2030. Maybe there will be some kind of streaming platform. Maybe there will be an ROH Network. There's a lot to be said about the future. HBO is pushing their Go App to be relevant beyond cable and that's one way. A lot of these big properties are doing this. The UFC has their Fight Pass, which could be an early blueprint for a future UFC Network.
Right now, there's a lot of money to be made from the traditional format. The best way to deliver mainstream content is still through traditional cable and pay-per-views. Five years is a long time in technology and our culture, so by then we might not have cable. You can never predict the future with technology always changing, but right now there's still money to be made in pay-per-views.
Wrestling INC: For ROH, what do you think is the right number of pay-per-views to do per year?
Bauer: I think later this year we'll do Final Battle on pay-per-view, but it's not a guarantee. I like the idea of doing four to five pay-per-views a year. I think it allows you to build them properly. It's hard when you have three hours of TV every Monday night. For ROH, I think three or four is our max. You don't want to do more than that. I used to love when the UFC had four big shows per year. They were stacked cards that could deliver with the right marketing resources behind them. I think that was TNA's intent when they scaled back on pay-per-views, but they didn't succeed at delivering that. There's no certainty what ROH is going to do.
Wrestling INC: For fans who have never ordered an ROH show, what can they expect from the Best in the World pay-per-view?
Bauer: Number one is great wrestling, which is hopefully what you are looking for when ordering a pay-per-view. People aren't looking for convoluted storylines, swerves, and crap finishes. You're looking for a quality experience where there's no swerve, run-in, or f—ked finishes just for the sake of it. We're going to give a quality show with awesome action bell-to-bell.
For people who haven't seen The Briscoe Brothers, check them out on YouTube. Their videos are entertaining and they're the real deal. They're authentic and throwbacks from a different time in the best way possible. They're these grimy southern guys that are just awesome. Then you have Matt Hardy and Maria Kanellis who people are very familiar with. Chris Daniels and Frankie Kazarian are an awesome duo. reDRagon are really dynamic. Bobby Fish is the veteran of the team and Kyle O'Reilly has a great background in MMA, especially in grappling and submission wrestling. Bobby Fish has done some kickboxing, so there's an MMA influence on their style and they do a lot of dizzying highspots. It's a great combination. There's Kevin Steen, who reminds me of Steve Austin with his brawling and Mike Awesome in a guy you wouldn't expect to have the agility, but he does. It's amazing to see him fly in the air. He has a good style of brawling and flying. Adam Cole is a classic heel who is technically proficient, balanced, and a real good talent. There's Michael Elgin who kind of reminds me of Kensuke Sasaki from WCW. He's a powerhouse tank with a low center of gravity. His clotheslines are some of the best out there. ROH just did an angle where he had his mullet shaved off by Adam Cole, which was a huge incident about a week ago. They're going into this match with major heat and that's the main event of Best in the World. Cole's defending the world title he won in September of last year against Michael Elgin. It's about speed and cockiness versus this powerhouse tank headed towards you. It's a great collision course.
Wrestling INC: I'm excited and looking forward to the show. We will have live coverage of Best in the World this Sunday and we invite all our readers to order it on pay-per-view or iPPV.