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.
Greg DeMarco’s 205 Live, NXT UK, and WWE NXT Star Ratings (2/12-2/13/19)
The WWE Network brands delivered in a big way this week!
Greg DeMarco rates this week’s WWE Network shows, and they deliver in a very consistent way!
Three shows. One week. I was a busy man this week with the new job and the birthday, but I finally got the rest of NXT hammered out! I hope you enjoy the ratings as much as I enjoyed the shows because they delivered in all three this week.
WWE 205 Live
Lince Dorado vs. Jack Gallagher – ***1/4
Underrated match here. Great mix if styles and both men had a chance to shine. Loved the finish. Don’t sleep on this one. I like that the match was left open-ended. I feel like we’ll see Gulak/Gallagher/Humberto Carrillo vs. Lucha House Party, and I’m not upset by that.
No Disqualification – Noam Dar vs. Tony Nese – ****
I’ve been wondering out lout about who steps up to challenge Buddy Murphy at WrestleMania. Now, the answer is really simple. That challenger should be Noam Dar. Hell of a match here, both men kicked each other’s ass, but told a story while doing it. I’ve never been the biggest Tony Nese fan (in WWE, I loved him on the independents), but he delivered every bit as much as Noam Dar. This could have sold a crowd on a main roster show.
WWE NXT UK
Noam Dar vs. Jordan Devlin – ***3/4
One hell of a match between Dar and Devlin. From a televised perspective, Noam Dar low key had a hell of a week. I won’t get off of my Dar vs. Murphy idea anytime soon, and Jordan Devlin would be a fantastic addition to 205 Live. The Travis Banks involvement didn’t hurt it for me, as that story is a big part of 205 Live. Plus it keeps Devlin strong in the loss.
Jinny vs. Mia Yim – ***1/4
I enjoyed this way more than expected, since Jinny is in it. The match built from the start, kicking it up another notch in the middle and finding a third gear in the end. Can Jinny win me over? The jury is still out on that, but I highly recommend this match.
WWE UK Championship Match: Pete Dunne vs. Wolfgang – ***1/2
Gallus is a vastly underrated heel stable. Dunne should be in NXT Takeover main events with Tommaso Ciampa. I would love to see that match at Takeover: New York. This match delivered, yet another in a great week.
Dominik Dijakovic vs. Shane Thorne – ***
Good match that, for me, did way more for Shane Thorne. Don’t sleep on Thorne, he deserves a chance. As for Dijakovic, it’s gotten to the point of repetition. Give this man something more to do.
Side Note: Interesting that they basically declared that Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly were a tag team again, and Strong and Cole were going after singles gold. Could Undisputed Era hold all the (men’s) gold at some point this year? I’d be shocked if that happened.
Side-Side Note: Kassius Ohno, who I love, still looks like a fat dude wrestling in his pajamas.
The Street Profits vs. Humberto Carrillo & Stacey Ervin Jr – ***1/4
This match, for me, might end up being viewed as the night The Street Profits “got it.” They turned up the intensity in all aspects, from character to ring work, and it really enhanced the match. Carrillo is also a star in waiting, and Ervin shows some promise as well. This was really good.
Taynara Conti vs. Aaliyah – **3/4
Aaliyah being paired with Vanessa Bourne is…odd. But for me, this is the best Aaliyah has ever looked in the ring. Props to WWE for being patient. Conti is a missed opportunity. When she helped Undisputed Era (that one time lol) she should have become a member. That would have done wonders for her, and given them yet another wrinkle. Outside of the post-match attack, this felt like an NXT Florida house show loop match (which it probably has been in the past).
Ricochet vs. Adam Cole – ***3/4
If you know me, you know my Adam Cole man-crush runs deep, BAY BAY. So I am obligated to tell you that the wrong guy won here. But if I set that love aside, it makes total sense for Ricochet to win while Undisputed Era stands tall at the end. It was all set up during the earlier promo.
That said, both men delivered another Takeover quality performance in this match.
The WWE Network shows (205 Live, NXT UK, and WWE NXT) had a total of 9 matches this week. One of them had 4 stars, one was below 3, meaning we still had seven other matches in the 3 star range. This was an entertaining three hours of content, and one of the most consistent weeks I have ever seen. Good on the fine folks on all three WWE Network brands, both on and backstage.
#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!