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Rob: Wednesday Isn’t Monday

Rob is back with some much needed perspective on Wednesday nights and the “war” unfolding before everyone.

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Wednesday Night War

Rob is back with some much needed perspective on Wednesday nights and the “war” unfolding before everyone.

We are now almost four months into the much hyped but largely mundane Wednesday Night Wars, and at this point anyone trying to make a big thing out of the ‘competition’ is grasping for straws in a major way.  Seriously folks, unless you are a viewer of one or both NXT and AEW Dynamite then there really is nothing to see here folks.  Here’s the best way to sum up what’s been a mostly meh competition between the two shows:

  • NXT is good for somewhere between 700,000 and 900,000 viewers a week.
  • Dynamite is usually good for somewhere between 800,000 and 950,000 viewers a week.
  • Neither show is in danger of getting cancelled.

That’s it.  If you want to count the people who flip between the two as separate viewers the two shows top out around 1.7 million viewers combined. By contrast the lowest ever, oh no the sky is falling number that the third hour of RAW got a few weeks ago was like 1.8 million.  This past Monday, with no more Monday Night Football around to drain viewers RAW did 2.1 million viewers.  Smackdown, when it was on Tuesday Night and once a month was the third or fourth straight night of WWE programming, hovered around 2 million viewers even when up against NBA games.  And finally WCW Nitro at it’s end got 2 million viewers.  The two shows have yet to top 2 million combined, even if you cheat and double count the flippers.  If you needed a wake up call about the so called Wednesday Night Wars that should be it.  They don’t beat RAW at it’s worst, Smackdown when it was on a bad night, or Nitro on it’s deathbed.  And its likely to stay that way.

The Wednesday Night Wars will never be that big of a deal…

So what has or hasn’t happened here?  AEW was supposed to be ushering a new day and reaching out to the proverbial lapsed fan by offering up a show that did not fall into the traps that many accuse WWE programming of living in, and NXT is in the eyes of a lot of smart fans the best that WWE has to offer.  Why are they just cannibalizing each other instead of both expanding in their own ways (AEW getting lapsed fans and NXT grabbing WWE fans who want a no frills approach to their wrestling programming)?  If Raw and Smackdown are as bad as the internet claims they are then why do both shows continually outrate and outdraw what are supposed to be two superior shows?  I have a few ideas:

The Names Aren’t The Same

When Nitro started off in 1995 WCW employed the two biggest, most recognizable names in the entire business in Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.  They also had the two biggest name WCW holdovers in Ric Flair and Sting.  On the other channel the WWF had the brand name recognition (yes, they pushed the brand over any individuals even then; don’t fall for the revisionist history you hear about that today).  In 2019-2020 AEW has Chris Jericho who is about as big today as Sting was back then, meaning that wrestling fans all know him and a few people who’ve seen him outside doing other things, but that’s it.  That’s it, really.  No one else there has any real station outside the wrestling bubble.  On the other side NXT is the third WWE brand, and one whose biggest supporters have often tried to pretend is not owned by the same company.  So in other words we’ve gone from the big names on Nitro vs the brand name on RAW to mostly no names on Dynamite vs a lesser brand name in NXT.  That’s a like a football game where the two backup quarterbacks are starting.

Lapsed Fans Aren’t Coming Back

The lapsed fan has been held up as a prize to be claimed by anyone who was able to provide a wrestling show that had all of the good stuff they remembered minus all of the things that we’ve been told WWE has done to drive people away.  Well I’m here to tell you that chasing those fans is fool’s gold.  Why?  Because most people who quit watching don’t do so because of booking decisions, they do it because the people they most wanted to see aren’t there any more.  You can go back to Bruno Sammartino’s first retirement and Vince McMahon Sr asking him to come back almost four years later because business had dropped off as proof.  In the mid 90s Hulk Hogan going away led to another dip, and his presence on Monday Nitro kicked off the next resurgence.  Then in 2002-03, the Rock and Steve Austin going from full time to no time took more people away.  Most recently John Cena’s absence has undoubtedly had an effect.

Yes some people do fall off if their favorites don’t get booked the way they want or the content gets too risque or gets too clean for their tastes (the end of the bra and panties era of women’s wrestling resulted in some people going away, too).  But at the end of the day it’s primarily about there being people you want to see on the show and not all the stuff your favorite podcasters, sheet writers, etc like to tell you.  Let me tell you I didn’t come back in 2012 because I heard they were coming up with great storylines or anything, I came back because the Rock came back.  Now I stuck around after that but he was the hook.  It ain’t rocket science and there isn’t some magic formula to convince people to come back; to get them back you need somebody that got them to watch before.

Is There A Way To Turn Things Up?

Well sure, but it’s not what I think AEW fans in particular would want.  If you really want to be WCW reborn then they’ll need to rerun the big plays that their inspiration did and sign some big name, recognizable people.  But who’s out there?  Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, and AJ Styles have all re-signed.  So have the New Day, Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman.  They would have to sign someone like………..

John Cena.

That’s it.  Not the Revival, or Luke Harper, or Marty Scurll (who is reportedly staying with ROH).  Cena would easily put Dynamite around 2 million just like he’d put RAW back over 3 million were he to come back there.  That’s the kind of earth shattering move that could shake the foundations of the business, not bringing anyone in who’s appeal is already baked into the cake.

Looking Back

You have to remember just how big Hogan and Savage were back then.  They were known in every household, not just among wrestling fans.  Savage was making so much from Slim Jim commercials that WCW barely had to pay him anything.  You go up to people today who have never watched a minute of pro wrestling and ask them to name one, Hogan is one of the names that will come up.  No one today, not even Cena is like that.  That’s how WCW was able to launch Nitro and compete with RAW from day one.  It wasn’t because of how well anything was booked.  Hell, even during the fabled 83 weeks RAW was quite often the better booked show of the two.  And it wasn’t until Rock and Austin took off that they were able to put WCW away in the ratings war.

So when you’re trying to think of whether or not the Wednesday Night Wars will ever reach the heights of the Monday Night Wars, let me save you some time.  No, they won’t.  So stop worrying about that, watch your show or shows of choice and have fun for a change.


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Opinion

Steve Cook’s Fave Five: March 2021

Cook gives us his quick snapshot of early storylines that might be the important things through the month of March!

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It’s March! You know what that means.

It’s time for me to channel my inner Booker T and list my Fave Five in the world of wrestling! This list could very well change tomorrow, or whenever this ends up getting posted, but I only type it out once each calendar month. Consider it a snapshot in time.

5. Cameron Grimes

People have been telling me about Grimes for years, going back to his stint with Impact Wrestling. I never really saw it. Decent enough competitor, sure, but he always seemed like Just A Guy to me. Now that he hit it rich on the stock market, he’s the most entertaining part of NXT.

Get rid of Finn Balor & Adam Cole and put the strap on Grimes! TO THE MOON!

4. Shane Taylor

One of my criticisms of ROH television over the past several months has been a lack of defined characters. As fun as Pure Wrestling is, everybody involved in the tournament & the division tend to sound the same. Then, with a lot of the main guys, it’s tough to tell whether they’re good guys, bad guys, or shades of grey. There’s a place for shades of grey, but it’s tough to be interested in a TV show where you don’t know who to root for.

Shane Taylor’s presentation suffered from this for me for awhile. I wasn’t too familiar with his work pre-pandemic, so I’ve been getting to know him along with the rest of the ROH talent. From what I can gather, he was working one of those deals where the promotion didn’t really want to promote him, which can either make one very popular or largely ignored. The promotion tended to treat him like a heel. Either way, Shane looked pretty darn good in his matches, working a physical style that appeals to fans like me. Apparently it appeals to other people as well, since Taylor was the #1 choice of the fans to get a shot at Rush. Taylor was screwed this time around, but now has a story to sink his teeth into. Nothing wrong with that.

3. Tully Blanchard

2021 is quickly becoming the year of the olds. WWE has seen Goldberg & Edge emerge as top championship contenders. Keiji Muto won the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Tommy Dreamer celebrated his birthday by challenging for the Impact Championship. Sting will be taking part in a street fight this weekend.

Age is only a number, and Tully’s number is a little higher than these other men. He also spent more time out of the ring. Nearly fourteen years since he had any kind of match, but he went into Wednesday night with all guns blazing. J.J. Dillion was in the corner. Tully was wearing his classic robe & the silver US Heavyweight Championship, while FTR donned the classic NWA World Tag Team Championships. All the old school feels were being had before the match, and after the match as well, when Arn Anderson looked on from the entrance and flashed that familiar hand signal.

Tully had plenty of talent around him to make the match work, but he hit his spots well. Marko Stunt’s good to have around so he can take a slingshot suplex. JJ got to give his shoe to somebody to use. It ended up being a fitting tribute on the night of Jim Crockett Jr.’s passing, and maybe a sign that Tully’s got a little more left in the tank. (Multi-man would probably be for the best though, I’m not as confident that he can hang with Kenny.)

2. Bobby Lashley

As expected, The Miz joined the likes of Ivan Koloff, Stan Stasiak, the Iron Sheik and other men whose world championship reigns merely existed to get the title from one person to the other without having them face off. In the case of Bobby Lashley, it’s because they didn’t want him to beat Drew McIntyre for the title, so their eventual match will be a first-time (in this particular WWE run) meeting. It makese sense, and Miz played his part well, as you’d expect.

Now is Lashley’s time, and one can wonder why it took so long. The guy looks like what’d you’d expect a WWE Champion to look like. Huge. Powerful. Dominant. He fits the prototype of what Vince McMahon would have seen as an appropriate champion back in the day. Is there anything there that Vince wouldn’t like?

Bob seems to be on a collision course with Drew at WrestleMania, and that should be a pretty solid piece of business.

1. Rey Fenix

I don’t know who the “best in the world” is, but Rey Fenix is the most exciting wrestler currently gracing televisions & other viewing devices. All he does is go out there and deliver every time he’s out there, if you see him listed on a card you know it’s going to be a good match.

AEW seemed a bit slow to capitalize on Fenix’s abilities, but since 2021 began we’ve seen the masked man getting bigger matches. His win-loss record hasn’t been the best, as he’s come up short against Kenny Omega & Lance Archer and eaten the pin in some multi-man matches. He’s still making people take notice, and I’d be surprised if Fenix doesn’t jump up to the next level sometime this year.

My favorite wrestler to watch right now, which is how one tops a list like this one.


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Bodeen’s Top 5 Moments: WWE NXT (3/3/21)

Bodeen breaks out his Top 5 moments of NXT this week. Did he miss anything that made your list?

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After Adam Cole put the nail in the coffin in the Undisputed Era last week, many eyes were on NXT this week to see what the reaction from Roderick Strong would be as well as the Tag title matches after the Dusty Rhodes Classic. With all these factors it’s no surprise that NXT put on another amazing night of action that was entertaining from start to finish. So without further ado, it’s time to look at the top 5 moments from NXT this week.

5. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler beat Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez

It feels like so long ago we saw Shayna Baszler on NXT. Just a few years ago Baszler was dominating the NXT women’s division as she beats the likes of Kari Sane, Mia Yim, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai. After she lost the title to Rhea Ripley and moved to RAW, over time she lost credibility and she was slowly removed from the title picture. That’s why it was so great to see the submission magician back to her former self on NXT as she and Nia Jax beat Dakota Kai and Requel Gonzalas in a great match that ended in controversial circumstances

This was another great match for the team of Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez, with Raquel Gonzalez once again being the MVP of this match as she took a hot tag from Dakota Kai to dominate Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. The match would end under controversial circumstances after Adam Pearce called for a referee to ring the bell after Kai was trapped in a submission despite the fact Gonzales was legal.

This finish made Kai and Gonzales look strong in defeat as they did not lose cleanly. It also sets up a storyline in the future, especially after NXT General Manager, William Regal stated he had an announcement to make that would change the NXT landscape.

4. The Way go to therapy 

The Christmas with the Gargano’s vignettes were one of my favorite moments from NXT in 2020. The jokes catered to everyone and ranged from inside jokes to die-hard wrestling fans to silly, cheesy jokes that you would see in a Monty Python or Adam Sandler movie. While the Way going to therapy wasn’t near the level of Christmas with the Gargano’s it was still a fun segment that continued to highlight how good Johnny Gargano is at being a goofy heel.

Gargano’s reactions were priceless to watch as he could not believe that Austin Theory enjoyed his time with Dexter Lumis. Indi Hartwell’s innuendoes were also hilarious to watch, as this series of segments did a great job in giving all members of The Way enough lines so that no member felt pointless being there.

With Dexter Lumis most likely the next in line for Johnny Gargano’s North American Championship, it will be interesting to see the involvement of Austin Theory in what is sure to be a highly entertaining feud to watch.

3. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch beat Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher  

While it was originally meant to be Dusty Rhodes Classic winners, MSK facing Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch we instead got the makeshift team of Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher facing the NXT Tag Team champions in a brutal, hard-hitting match that was intense from start to finish, with Lorcan and Burch getting the win after Imperium distracted Thatcher and Ciampa.

This match did a good job at bringing together Thatcher and Ciampa as they smiled at each other, sharing their joy for inflicting pain on their opponents. Despite sharing a moment with each other, the relationship between the two men would be tense as Ciampa seemed annoyed at Thatcher’s history with Imperium costing them the match.

2. Roderick Strong faces off against Finn Balor  

After Adam Cole put the nail in the coffin of the Undisputed Era by superkicking Roderick Strong last week, Strong would open the show this week and would waste no time in calling Adam Cole out to the ring. Despite Strong calling Cole out, Finn Balor would come out, with Roderick blaming Balor for Cole’s actions. Balor would reply by saying that Roderick does not have the killer instinct that Balor has causing Roderick to attack the NXT Champion, leading to a match between the two men later in the night.

This was my favorite match of the night as Roderick Strong, pushed the NXT Champion to his limit, with Balor once again doing an amazing job of selling, as he sold the back which, Strong attacked throughout the match. The match would end after Balor hit the Coup De Grace and 1916 on Strong to win, with Adam Cole coming out to stare off at Balor ahead of their title match next week.

With Finn Balor and Adam Cole ready to face each other in a TakeOver worthy match, it will be interesting to see who will win, in what is sure to be an amazing match.

1. LA Knight makes his intentions known 

While his name change has led to disagreement between fans LA Knight’s short time in NXT has been entertaining to watch. His promo skills and style remind me of a 1980s movie star as he is always the center of attention when he is on the mic. This week would be no different as LA Knight cut his first in-ring promo on NXT TV as he called out the entire roster as well as sewing the seeds for a feud with Bronson Reed.

LA Knight’s promo this week was absolute gold, as he blended cockiness, arrogance, pride and emotion brilliantly, stating that he is not in NXT to do flips and dives, but rather win regardless of style. LA Knight would make his big move against Bronson Reed, as he cost Bronson Reed a match against Cameron Grimes.

Bronson Reed is a great first feud for LA Knight, as it can perfectly show off LA Knight’s style well against a bigger man like Bronson Reed.

These were my top 5 moments from NXT this week. What were your top 5 moments and who do you think will win the NXT Championship Title match next week? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 


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