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Opinion

Rob: What Are They Gonna Do?

Will a sports-oriented wrestling product appeal to a mainstream TV audience?

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AEW Double Or Nothing Bret Hart Credit Ricky Havlik
Credit Ricky Havlik/AEW

Rob takes a look at AEW, and their mission to deliver a more realistic and sports-oriented wrestling product. Will it work for the TV audience?

Hey everyone, it’s me again.  I figured that with all the buzz about AEW going that I needed to tackle it at least a little.  I’ve said a few times here and on Twitter that I’m more interested in how AEW operates structurally than in any of the actual content they put out, and now that they’ve shown they can do Pay Per View the next big question is how are they going to handle TV.  I have a few questions to start with because I’m genuinely curious, so here they are:

How much wrestling?

Tony Khan has said more than once that they intend to more sports oriented and focused on the in-ring action than other stuff.  Now while that may be music to the ears of many who have grown to hate goofy skits and such on Monday nights, color me skeptical.  Why?  Here are a few YouTube numbers to chew on:

  • Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman’s comedy routine – 5.8 million views
  • R-Truth defending the 24/7 title at the Memorial Day cookout – 1 million views
  • Seth Rollins vs Sami Zayn – 691,000 views
  • Ricochet vs Cesaro – 257,000 views

What does this mean?  Well, the comedy stuff got way more views than the workrate stuff.  And you can go beyond those examples.  Becky Lynch getting in fights usually results in more views than Becky Lynch in the ring.  Braun Strowman destroying things backstage is usually good for a high number.  The Mandy Rose-Naomi hotel fight got more views than any match featuring either woman.  And lastly, the wild and crazy three way fight between Becky, Charlotte, and Ronda Rousey the week before WrestleMania that was straight out of an episode of Live PD has 9.7 million views, more than any televised match featuring any of the three women.  We can go on about workrate all we want but the other stuff gets more people’s attention.  What do YouTube views have to do with TV?  Well, they show what people choose to look at when things are entirely in their control.  It’s one thing to sit through R-Truth at the cookout in order to be there for the next match but choosing when you can pick any other part of the show is more telling.

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So what does that have to do with AEW?  Well as much as Tony Khan says that they’re going to focus more on in ring action than backstage skits and such, there really isn’t much evidence to support that as the way to go as far as drawing an audience, the exception being matches that involve people who have a following.  Roman Reigns’ and R-Truth’s tag team main event on Smackdown, which involved the top guy in the company and one of the most crowd/audience pleasing guys teaming up, has done over 2 million views this week.  So in the short run they may end up working the biggest names there (Moxley, Jericho, Omega, Cody, and the Bucks) a whole lot on TV, because lesser known people having even the greatest of matches just isn’t going to hit like you might hope.  I can almost guarantee that an in ring promo that leads to a fight between Moxley and Omega will probably work better for the TV audience than a match between either guy and someone else.  If you want a non-WWE example when I was watching ROH last year I found Bully Ray’s in ring rants more compelling that a whole lot of their matches, as good as many of them were.  Good wrestlers having good matches just isn’t the draw some people think it is, otherwise you wouldn’t be seeing or hearing any disingenuous ratings takes about RAW every week.

And oh yeah, the highest rated segment in the history of Monday Night Raw isn’t a match, it isn’t any of the Austin-McMahon stuff, it’s…..wait for it………This is Your Life with the Rock and Mick Foley, which is exactly the kind of thing that would spawn a million rants on YouTube and podcasts were it to take place in 2019.  As for the idea that they’ll do the goofy stuff and setup pieces on YouTube and stick to the serious stuff on TV, good luck with that.  Broadcast TV is for people who largely don’t devote as much attention to other mediums, so to tell people that they need to go watch this other thing first to be ready for TV, as opposed to going there to catch up on some TV clips that I may have missed….that sounds like homework to me.  My kids watch almost zero broadcast TV now, and the stuff they do watch is in one place be it YouTube, Netflix, or whatever.  Watching pieces of a show in one place in order to understand some other pieces that are in another place, all in time for the live weekly broadcast, is asking a lot.  So to cut to the chase, here’s what I’m guessing eventually happens: they scrap all that and go with a similar model to WWE, maybe with fewer replays during the show, but one where the meat of what’s going on is all on TV with the YouTube/social media stuff serving as an add on.  So in other words, when the rubber meets the road don’t expect the wheel to get reinvented.

Who gets on, and who gets stuck in catering?  Who wins and who loses?

Oh don’t think that it won’t happen here, too.  Assuming they’re getting two hours of TV that’s still not enough to give everyone time every week.  In the early going they’re gonna have to use the people with the most name recognition simply to get attention, along with people that look like they could be a quick hit like MJF or Orange Cassidy.  And you have to assume that anyone who comes over from WWE and has any ‘oh sh@#! They’re here!’ potential is going to be given time as well.  If some of their buddies from ROH come over like Marty Scurrl or Flip Gordon then they’re going to get some TV time, too.  That’s not going to leave a lot of time to develop people who don’t catch on as quickly.  There is going to be a hierarchy no matter what anyone tells you and some really talented people are not going to get as much time as you think they should, because maximizing your audience requires you to use the people who draw eyeballs the fastest, and in two hours that space is going to get crowded really fast.

Putting people on because they ‘deserve a chance’ sounds really great in theory but in practice not so much.  Familiarity matters more than you think so running unknown people out there for long stretches just is not the move.  Now the obvious answer is to put those kind of folks in the ring with your established names so they can get a rub. But if they’re losing all the time then don’t we have the same problem that guys like Chad Gable have, where no one believes that anything is going to come of their good showing with the top guys?  If Sonny Kiss puts on a great match against Moxley, and then with Cody, and with Hangman Page but all in defeat are we really gonna hold on for the day that he might start winning those, all while there are six or seven guys who will be holding the keys to the kingdom for the foreseeable future?  Let’s be real there’s a top tier of the Elite plus Jericho and Moxley and then there’s everyone else who will largely be fighting each other for the right to lose to them.  It may not be that way forever but in the early going that’s what I expect, and to be fair it’s probably the best move for business.  But of course that means that they’re not really changing the world they’re just sitting at the head of their own table instead of just another seat at someone else’s.  Which of course was the plan all along.

Am I being really cynical here?  Yes.  Now I’m not saying they won’t have good TV or that they won’t find some innovative things to do (which of course will be imitated by WWE in due time).  But the path to successful  TV is going to require a lot of the same decisions that we get mad about when you know who does it.  And at the end of the day they’re doing a TV show that includes wrestling and not a wrestling show on TV.  There’s a difference and ultimately for them succeed over the long haul they’re going to have to treat it as such.


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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Opinion

King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!

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Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.


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