Greg DeMarco chimes in with the Top 5 things he learned by watching NXT Takeover War Games on the WWE Network! Did you have the same takeaways?
5. NXT is Just Pure Fun
Seriously, WWE NXT as a brand is a ton of fun. There’s just a lot to love. The talent is doing everything they can to turn heads, because they all have that WrestleMania dream. Some will make it, some won’t. A few will even main event the big dance, but that’s a small group.
This card had everything: fun “debut-like” atmosphere for one new star, hate-fueled grudge match, overbooked mess of a championship match, the star everyone loves coming up just a tiny bit short, too many kick outs of finishers, and another modern take on one of the greatest gimmick matches in wrestling history.
NXT takes itself seriously, but not too seriously. It’s like me watching my 12-year old son play soccer, or my 10-year old daughter dance. They work hard, they learn, they develop, but it’s okay with they stumble, fall, or make mistakes.
4. Bobby Fish is the Most Underrated Wrestler in the World
This is the part of the article where I need to disclose to you that I am probably the world’s biggest Bobby Fish mark. Since his days as part of Red Dragon with Kyle O’Reilly to his early time in WWE NXT, I have always loved his work.
In the ring he’s an amazing performer, but he does so many things right all-around. Facial expressions, mannerisms, great promo, and so much more.
He had a ROH World Championship match against Jay Briscoe in 2015, and I was visibly upset that he didn’t win. I got help, so it’s okay.
Bobby Fish is listed online as being 39 years old, and I’ve heard he’s slightly older than that. That’s not important–what is important that he’s older than most talents you’re watching today, but he wrestles with the joy and excitement of a much younger man. When he recently got injured, I was worried that we’d seen the last of him. Thankfully he’s back, because the world needs more Bobby Fish.
3. Aleister Black is Going to be a Major Star
Aleister Black has been over since the day he hit an NXT broadcast. I can’t think of a time during his NXT tenure where he hasn’t been over. And I can’t tell you why!
Maybe it’s the gimmick, which is driven by his real life father being involved in a religious cult when he was growing up. Maybe it’s his in-ring style, which features move after move that will pop a crowd. Maybe it’s because he sneezes “it factor” in a daily basis.
I don’t know what it is, but he lives over. And that’s before the bell even rings.
Well, the bell has to ring, and when it does Aleister Black delivers each and every time out. He tells a story from bell to bell that’s better than anyone else performing today. His offense is believable, which for a striker is impressive. He also makes his opponents look like a million bucks, which is equally impressive since he rarely ever loses.
NXT isn’t exactly the land of the giants, and many of the wrestlers there won’t get their opportunity to flourish on the main roster. But at 6’1″ and 215 pounds (Seth Rollins is the same height and 2 pounds heavier), Black will get his chance.
And when he does? Watch out.
2. Sometimes Less is Less
Anyone with time and knowledge in the wrestling business will tell you that “less is more.” The women’s championship match on this show proves that point. There was a little too much going on (and I am sure it had a purpose we’ll soon see on future NXT broadcasts), and it took away from this match on this night. A little less here would have been so much more in the end.
But then you have the case of Adam Cole. I am a huge fan of Adam Cole (see my comments about Bobby Fish–it’s like that). But in his last run in Ring Of Honor, he was a little too “less” for me. In a not so recent interview with Steve Austin, Marty Scurll talked about how he’s learned to do so much less in the ring, but in many matches I saw he was underwhelming. Then he steps his game up against Kazuchika Okada at ALL IN, and he’s amazing.
Now I fast forward to Adam Cole’s run in NXT, and HE’S amazing. He still takes his time, and he still lets everything breathe. But he’s not less is less, he’s less is more.
That’s the lesson here: less isn’t always more. There’s a line, and you need to stay on the correct side of it.
1. We Need Another NXT
It’s just not fair to Kona Reeves that the outside talent in NXT is this amazing. Or Bianca Belair. Or Lacey Evans.
NXT, especially on the Takeover level, is basically a main roster brand. It delivers more than 205 Live does, with the same amount of TV time each week. Think about it: could 205 Live support 5 PPV events a year? Well NXT does, with one hour of TV each week on the WWE Network.
Talent is busting their asses in the Performance Center for multiple years, and in march talents like Adam Cole, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Ricochet, Pete Dunne…the list goes on. When someone moves up to the main roster, who replaces them? Not Kona Reeves, but Keith Lee or Matt Riddle. And I am not upset about that–they deliver.
But if you look at this Takeover, only one performer was developed from within the Performance Center–Velveteen Dream. Every single one of them was a star somewhere else before coming in. Even Dream had prior experience, but not at the level of the others. Shayna Baszler didn’t have the wrestling experience, but she had MMA experience that took her all the way to the UFC.
I mean, it’s gotten to the point where The Street Profits and Fabian Aichner need to wrestle for EVOLVE because there isn’t room for them on the NXT roster!
The Performance Center stars need more exposure. They need a platform on which to perform. Maybe take the current cream of the NXT crop on the road more, and give them a show that emanates from the road. Let the Performance Center talent have the Full Sail crowd, while still rotating some talent through. Give them their own Network specials, where they can grow and develop, make mistakes and learn.
They can’t compete with the outside talent that is brought in, but they do have potential.
#RAWisDVR: Greg DeMarco’s Accelerated Review of WWE Raw (2/11/19)
How much got the FAST FORWARD treatment this week?
Each week Greg DeMarco watches WWE Raw on DVR with a stopwatch and sense of urgency. How much time will he save?
Let’s see how we go home to Elimination Chamber!
FAST FORWARD the opening nope. They did that for us!
Stephanie McMahon & Triple H start WWE Raw
- Fake excitement Steph is so terrible
- Okay, FAST FORWARD the PPV talk
- It’s WrestleMania season when the Brand Split means nothing
- FAST FORWARD Becky walking
- Triple H should know better than telling women to calm down–he’s married!
- The McMahon family is still in charge of the WWE–and this is about reminding everyone.
- Enter Sasha & Bayley–super fast start to Raw!
FAST FORWARD the entrances and commercials
Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan vs. Nia Jax & Tamina (losers enter the Chamber first)
- FAST FORWARD some of the boring match
- Watch some wrestling, FAST FORWARD the commercials
- More wrestling, FAST FORWARD Tamina
- Bayley stealing offense from Ronda!
- And that’s finally over.
- Nia Jax has become such a strong character
FAST FORWARD the replay, talking, and commercials
Hello I Am Elias
- The multiple interruptions were stupid
- FAST FORWARD the commercials
- Elias is JUST NOW talking? This must suck live.
- Thas was one hell of a guitar shot
- Enter Lashley (and Lio).
FAST FORWARD so much stuff. Seriously, what is up with this episode?
Timestamps: 22:09 (real time 58:47)
Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre
- FAST FORWARD the entrance and video for Finn Balor, and McIntyre’s entrance
- The problem with this match–and it’s not a bad match–is that we are just waiting for Rush & Lashley to get involved
- And there’s the expected DQ!
- FAST FORWARD and now we have Kurt Angle and Baron Corbin Sucks. Braun NOVELTYman, anyone?
- Yep, 6-man tag time, HOLLA HOLLA PLAYA!
FAST FORWARD the commercial
Timestamp: 27:03 (real time: 1:11:39 )
Finn Balor, Braun NOVELTYman, & Kurt Angle vs. Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, & Baron Corbin Sucks (plus Lio Rush)
- SHIELD camera shaking only works for SHIELD
- Angle Slam and there’s no way that finishes it
- FAST FORWARD Baron Corbin Sucks
- FAST FORWARD more commercials (geez!)
- WWE’s attempts to keep us from going away during commercials are so transparent. I don’t blame them one bit.
- FAST FORWARD Baron Corbin Sucks
- I just hit 30 minutes on the clock.
- Finn takes out Lio to sell Sunday’s match
- And Finn eats the fall. So terrible, “blown call from the official.” That shit is dumb.
- And here’s DEAN AMBREF to restart the match. Because we can do that now?
- WWE just reminding us that things are never going to be consistent. To quote Batista, DEAL WITH IT.
- FAST FORWARD the commercials
- I feel like the entire stretch of Balor/McIntyre to this has taken 90 minutes.
- Love the way Lio holds the Intercontinental Championship on the outside.
- You know, what if Finn Balor is The Demon this Sunday?
- BRAUN SMASH! NOVELTY ACT!
- At least he’s good at what he does.
- 8 hours later, this is over.
Kevin Owens promo from the bowling alley
- “One more month or so.” You can set your watch by it!
FAST FORWARD the entrances
Backstage Becky–this really is an Austin episode of Raw
FAST FORWARD more entrances and commercials
Timestamp: 1:44:00 (real time: 38:37)
Nikki Cross vs. Ruby Riott
- Nikki crazy, y’all
- Nice touch for Ronda, wearing Reebok UFC gear backstage
- See, Ronda wants to see the match, too!
- I hate the mid-match interruption, this is a good match so far
- Michael Cole voice change signifies commercial? NOPE! But lots of fake Ruby hair on the floor.
- Riott Kick CONNECTS! (with nothing)
- Do not fast forward Paul Heyman
FAST FORWARD the commercials
Timestamp: 44:49 (Real time: 1:55:24)
Seth Rollins promo
- Seth here to remind us that he exists
- Accomplishment, accomplishment, attach by Brock, good news
- BROCK not here–crowd went nuts, too
- Babyface Seth is the worst Seth. HE BROKE UP THE SHIELD!
- FAST FORWARD the commentary
- And here’s DEAN AMBROSE, who supports Rollins?
FAST FORWARD stuff
Timestamp: 50:09 (Real time: 2:11:22)
Dean Ambrose vs. EC3
- Who else is in the Top 1%?
- This whole show has become a chore as we wait for Becky’s decision.
- Dean wins. YAY.
- Don’t know if you know, but Becky must apologize tonight.
- One does not FAST FORWARD Alexa Bliss.
FAST FORWARD the entrances
Timestamp: 55:50 (Real time: 2:25:07)
WWE Raw Tag Team Championships: Bobby Roode & Chad Gable (c) vs. The Revival
- Gable & Roode are no makeshift team
- FAST FORWARD the commercials
- Computer and timer issues hit, but THE REVIVAL WON!
- Don’t give me that “it should have been on PPV,” THE REVIVAL WON!
Becky Lynch Promo (with Ronda Rousey, Vince McMahon, and Charlotte Flair)
- Masterfully done yet again, Charlotte Flair is in the match (like I told you), Becky Lynch now has to fight her way back in (like I told you), and this story continues its twists and turns all the way to (and at) WrestleMania.
- Note that this was the central focus of Raw, as it’s the most important program in the company. This will main event the show.
Estimated Timestamp: 1:25:00 (real time 3:00:00)
Time Saved: 1 hour an 35 minutes!
Overall this edition of Raw was just…weird. The show was cued up different than normal, and it showed. Let’s not yearn for the Attitude Era ever again. Onto the Smackdown!
DeMarco’s 5 Tough Questions About All Elite Wrestling
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, especially if you love something.
All Elite Wrestling is setting the world on fire due to hopes of being a viable alternative. The excitement is great, but Greg DeMarco has some key questions about long term success.
Listen, I want All Elite Wrestling to succeed. If AEW can compete with WWE in even the slightest way, it’ll be good for the business as a whole. Great for the talent…good for the fans…and good for the business. But as someone who has been watching this for 35 years, involved in it for 12, and studying it for 10, I have to ask some tough questions.
I ask them out of love, because I love this business and want to see it succeed. Hopefully these are questions AEW has already asked itself. If not, they’re already in trouble.
5. Can AEW draw in local markets outside their niche?
Before you jump all over it, I know “Can They Draw?” is a stupid question. If you count ALL IN (and for all intents and purposes, I do) they sold over 10k tickets for one show and I am willing to bet they’ll sell out another. But that’s what I am talking about here–not in the slightest.
All Elite Wrestling can’t run holiday weekend events a few times per year forever. At some point, they need to produce television shows. Is that going to be a traveling deal? If so, can they draw locally in those markets, as fans aren’t going to travel weekly, twice a month, or even monthly to a TV taping. If they run 4-6 pay-per-view events per year, fans aren’t traveling to all of those, either. The market can’t support it. Those fans, while still complaining about the WWE product, are still going to travel for it, because they know the experience will still deliver.
AEW’s biggest national stars are Chris Jericho, and……….hmmmmmm……..
Cody Rhodes, nationally, is a midcarder or a comedy act. Kenny Omega is amazing, but outside of Japan (and Winnipeg) he isn’t a household name. The Young Bucks are insanely over, but will they draw outside of their niche on a regular basis? This isn’t a knock on any of them–this is reality. They can draw niche fans willing to travel, and that won’t sustain a regular schedule.
4. What is the infrastructure?
I know what you’re thinking, fanboy! “I don’t care about the infrastructure, I’m just excited about the product they are going to put on.” And I get that. It works if you’re talking about WWE, because you can roll with the assumption that there is an infrastructure in place to support the business. It’s been proven.
Eric Bischoff has been on record as saying that WCW lacked infrastructure in multiple areas. One of them was merchandise. Now, unless you walk into an arena and stare at the floor the entire time, you’ve notice that merchandising is a HUGE deal to this business. Hell, you can buy one of 10 t-shirts for The Chairshot on Pro Wrestling Tees right now! (And you should!) I think they have the merchandise side down, thanks to Pro Wrestling Tees. What about ticket sales? Advertising sales?
Right we know about Tony Khan, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks all serving in leadership roles. You have to assume Chief Brandi Officer isn’t her real title, but Brandi Rhodes has an office job as well. I would bet Adam Page does, and I really hope (for his sake) Christopher Daniels does as well. Otherwise, why would he leave ROH? But what else?
Who is doing the accounting? Who runs the risk management? Is it the same as the Jacksonville Jaguars? Same as Fulham? Who is taking care of insurance? Who administers the benefits for the office staff. WHO IS THE OFFICE STAFF? These are real questions, and without being sure this is in place, how do you know this is going to last?
This is a real concern–and might be addressed. Let’s make sure it is.
3. What is the TV situation really going to be?
Dave Meltzer has reported (and I use that term loosely) that the two TV deals that AEW have on the table are both the best non-WWE deals since WCW. Is he talking revenue or exposure? I seriously doubt it’s both, and I suspect it’s the latter.
If you are a serious television partner, why would you pay for a TV product that doesn’t even have a pilot? You have no idea what type of production they’ll put out! And if the partner is one who will produce it for them, no we’re looking at an AXS TV level of deal (which was suspected, and dismissed, a while back).
If the deal is for exposure, even if they aren’t making any rights fees up front, it better be good exposure. If it is, then it’s worth it. But will they market it? TNA had good exposure with Spike TV, but Spike didn’t push the product. The marketing was terrible, and drove it into the ground. Word of mouth–word of social media–isn’t going to make you a national television brand. The neck beards standing around the pool on Thursday aren’t going to make you a national brand. Strong advertising is going to make you a national brand. That doesn’t happen without an engaged television partner.
2. Will they get their own Hall & Nash?
WCW was legitimized by Hulk Hogan, but it became a real war once Scott Hall and Kevin Nash went over. That’s when you knew it was getting nasty. That changed the business. If all this accomplishes is getting WWE to pay more for their name talent, the “world change” didn’t really help AEW. It helped WWE talent who could have jumped ship but didn’t.
Someone needs to jump. Randy Orton? Maybe, but he doesn’t move the needle nationally. They need a Daniel Bryan, a Seth Rollins, A Becky Lynch, a Charlotte Flair or (best of all) a Brock Lesnar. That makes people take notice. Dolph Ziggler won’t cut it. Chris Jericho only goes so far in 2019. He’s huge to wrestling fans, but he alone can’t draw in the national audience.
I know this is similar to point #2, but it goes beyond in-ring talent.
1. Is Tony Khan Willing to fire Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega?
This, for me, is the most important question of all. The guy supposedly put up $100 million of his own dough, right? What if it fails? What if they make mistakes and don’t learn from them, and fail more? You really think he’s going to throw away $100 million? HELL NO.
The Khan Family owns an NFL franchise and a Premier League club. From a financial perspective, you pay a large sum of money up front for the purchase, then pay the operations cost in rights fees. Your biggest concern on a yearly basis is team management and–more importantly–running a stadium. History has told us that you can be horrible at running a professional franchise and still make money. It’s really hard to fail.
But AEW won’t have rights fees like an NFL team does. Not to that level, not hardly. So they have to make money from other areas. Are they getting the merchandise money. Salim Khan is worth a reported $7.2 billion. Neck bearded wrestling fans will tell you that means he’s got money to spend. That’s why they were standing around a pool on a cold Vegas night instead of having important business to tend to. Salim Khan doesn’t want to spend his money, he wants to make money.
Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, and Kenny Omega have a combined 7 months of experience running a wrestling company. They didn’t “run” ALL IN, they were the front men for a Ring Of Honor super show. Still don’t believe that? Look who owns the footage. It’s not All Elite Wrestling.
So if they fail, Tony Khan will have three choices:
- Lose more money
- Close up shop
- Replace the leadership
Is he willing to fire the AEW Four? I bet he is.
One Key Piece Of Advice For Tony Khan…
Hire a consultant. You’ve got Conrad Thompson running around, have him call Bruce Prichard. Maybe he helps Cody, The Bucks, and Kenny, maybe not (I’m not sure they’d welcome the help). You don’t know how to run a wrestling company, so hire a guy who does to be your checks-and-balances. You don’t know when you need to make a move, so he can help you.
Again, I have to restate (because I know how you are) that I want this to succeed. AEW represents the best potential #2 in the North American wrestling market today. But for All Elite Wrestling to succeed, they have to know the answers to these questions. If they don’t, then I can say you’re welcome. Figure it out now and you’ve bought yourself at least a few more years. WCW lasted 13 years (1988 to 2001). TNA/IMPACT Wrestling and Ring Of Honor have outlasted it. Can AEW? Time will tell.