Jim Cornette has a simple mantra for what he hopes to accomplish with Ring of Honor's new nationally syndicated weekly pro-wrestling shows for the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
"I don't want to bring pro wrestling back into the 1980s. I want to bring back wrestling with the logic of the '80s with people who were born in the '80s," Cornette said Thursday in a telephone interview. "You can take the vibe from the '80s and build to a big fight between two guys where you want to see who wins and what happens. The difference is, you're plugging in guys in their 20s."
Cornette is doing just that as ROH's executive producer. While one of the industry's top managers with the Midnight Express tag team in the 1980s, Cornette hasn't rehired some of his contemporaries in a desperate attempt to re-create the past a la Impact Wrestling and WWE.
ROH's top performers are fresh faces still trying to make a mainstream name in the business. Those ROH veterans who have previously worked in WWE or Impact, like Charlie Haas, Shelton Benjamin and Jay Lethal, are still young and talented enough to fit athletically with the company's fast-paced style.
Cornette and ROH matchmaker Hunter "Delirious" Johnston have wisely structured their first television shows to reflect those in-ring strengths since debuting Saturday nights on Sinclair, which purchased the company in May from Cary Silkin. Hoping to entice new fans unfamiliar with ROH's nine-year history, the initial telecasts have wisely placed an emphasis on establishing the top grapplers rather than immediately delving into complex storylines and feuds.
Cornette said that overloading shows was one of the biggest mistakes Impact Wrestling made when he worked in its front office from 2006 to 2009.
"Why start out assuming everybody knows who everybody is and why?" Cornette said. "I was at an (Impact) taping one night and went to (executive/wrestler) Jeff Jarrett afterwards and said, 'We just had two hours of people yelling, screaming and attacking each other nonstop in the ring, the locker room and even women fighting in the bathroom. After that, I don't know why anybody is mad at each other.' It was just chaos.
"If you expect anyone being carted out on a stretcher or sledgehammers in the ring after the first six weeks (of ROH telecasts), you're crazy. We're doing good professional wrestling. We're treating it as a sport. We're establishing our athletes. I don't know any other way to do it."
As memorable as he was as the fast-talking manager for Midnight Express members "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, "Sweet" Stan Lane and "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey, Cornette has proven even more influential behind the scenes during his 30-plus years in the business. Besides executive stints in WWE and Impact, Cornette ran his own company (Smoky Mountain Wrestling) in the mid-1990s that helped launch the careers of Chris Jericho, Glenn "Kane" Jacobs and Tammy "Sunny" Sytch. He later helped groom future stars while overseeing WWE's Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory in the early 2000s.
Cornette, though, draws more inspiration now from watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship's promotional efforts than the current presentation of WWE and Impact storylines. Attention to detail -- which is lost on WWE and Impact matchmakers -- is especially important to him. Cornette already has meticulously planned the entire format for a five-week ROH television taping that will be held Saturday night in his hometown of Louisville, Ky.
"We're going to present wrestling as a sport with unique, charismatic athletes," said Cornette, 50. "I want the outcomes to not only be important for the fans but the wrestlers. We're also going to entertain, but if you want to watch comedy, go watch 'Tosh 4.0.' There's a lot more comedy choices now than there were in the past. We're going to do what our guys do best and be serious about it."
For more information on ROH and the Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates, visit www.rohwrestling.com.