Gabe Sapolsky who was voted the “best booker” by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter for the last four years was fired over the weekend. Obviously when the best booker over the last four years is fired, it brings up many questions; was this a Lance Cade-esq situation? Did Gabe and ROH owner Cary Silkin have a falling out? Was Gabe “fired” because he was looking for greener pastures in either WWE or TNA?
All of those are legitimate questions to bring up at this time because we know so little about the situation but the most reasonable scenario is that Gabe was fired because the ROH product has been stale for awhile. There hasn’t been a buzz about ROH for a long time. You can blame it on the lack of big name talent, the lack of guys stepping up and becoming ROH “icons” but with the boys always busting their asses, doing what they’ve always done, the blame can only fall on one man, the booker, Gabe Sapolsky.
Is this really Gabe’s fault? ROH has been a breeding ground for TNA and WWE for years, much like ECW for WCW and WWF in the 90’s. It’s hard for a promotion to stay hot when it loses so many stars over the years and practically gets nothing back. The problem is that when ROH lost CM Punk, they were still fine. When ROH lost James Gibson, they were still hot. When guys like Samoa Joe and Homicide starting working for TNA, it didn’t hurt ROH, it arguably helped them. Can losing talent to WWE and TNA be used as an excuse for Gabe’s shortcomings? No.
Guys like A.J. Styles, Alex Shelley and Low Ki stopped working for ROH, when TNA stopped letting their contracted talent appear on ROH shows full-time a couple years ago, that only applied to Samoa Joe, Homicide and Christopher Daniels. ROH still had big draws in Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuiness and they brought back Austin Aries, another big draw for them, not to mention all of the Japanese talent they use. Over the years ROH has proven they can make new stars and stay afloat. The ROH faithful are ready to get behind guys like Tyler Black to be the “next big thing” in Ring of Honor. Using the “we lost talent” excuse isn’t viable for Gabe Sapolsky because it’s been happening in ROH for years.
So what went wrong? Gabe Sapolsky is a tough man to deal with, he’s probably even harder to deal with as a booker. Gabe got too cute with the faction wars which proved to be a nail in ROH’s tire, it’s been flat ever since. Booking Age of the Fall vs. The Briscoes a thousand different ways for a thousand times gets played out, no matter how good the matches are. Gabe simply ran out of ideas. He’s been doing a great job for the last four years, you can use the Wrestling Observer awards as proof. It was time for a change, Gabe was just treading water in ROH, the company wasn’t going to get any more popular or regain it’s fire from a few years ago with Gabe still with the book.
It seems like ROH peaked a couple years ago, maybe they should have tried harder to get a TV show earlier. PPV’s numbers are low, DVD sales and ticket sales aren’t improving, ROH was stagnant with Gabe Sapolsky, with him they were always going to be a super indy fed. Maybe that’s not so bad, there’s nothing wrong with being the number three promotion in the United States if you are making money, enjoy the work, put out a good product and have a loyal fan base. But with such a small audience, you really need to be at the top of your game all the time because even a little skid or bump in the road and you can start losing money really quickly, something ROH owner Cary Silkin cannot do, he doesn’t have deep pockets like Vince McMahon or Dixie Carter.
It was either fire Gabe Sapolsky or go under, for Cary Silkin it was a clear answer. I don’t have much confidence in ROH’s new booker Adam Pearce or his new philosophies he’s bringing to the table but at least it’s going to be something different and not the same thing over and over and over again like what were getting from Gabe as booker,
So what’s next for Mr. Sapolsky? Anyone who does have respect for him and his work has to have worries now. “He was fired from ROH, can he handle it in my company?” Gabe had his best shot in landing a job in WWE or TNA two years ago, much like the ROH product, Gabe has also cooled down. Gabe Sapolsky isn’t the Internet indy wonder booker anymore, he’s an unemployed burnout.
Once Gabe is rejuvenated, he might be brought back in ROH, he might land a job with another indy fed like OVW or CZW but both would be a major step down. Maybe a move to Mexico, Japan or Puerto Rico is in Gabe’s future? WWE has so many writers and people working in creative that it’s hard to rule Gabe out as possibly going there some day. TNA is quite possibly the most interesting scenario.
Gabe Sapolsky has to have hard feelings for some of the members of TNA management for cherry picking his talent over the years, after all TNA isn’t WWE, in ROH they see TNA as more on their level, a move to WWE is celebrated, a move to TNA isn’t as much. Gabe would add common sense and logic to the current TNA creative team, he would most definitely butt heads with Russo, Jarrett and Mantel but maybe for the good. Gabe has worked with a lot of the TNA talent before so that would be an easy transition in some ways. Many people in TNA don’t have much respect for many things Gabe did in ROH and the style in which he did it so a move for Gabe to TNA is very unlikely but it’s still a possibility as is every other scenario I mentioned, only time will tell where Gabe lands next. But Gabe Sapolsky should be remembered for the years of great work he did in Ring of Honor, not the last couple years when he starting running out of ideas and let his ego get the best of him.