Is a full-fledged Cody Rhodes vs. Hangman Page program the perfect feud for AEW moving forward? Tommy Starr digs in!
Fantasy and speculatory booking for professional wrestling can be enjoyable, especially during times of uncertainty and endless possibilities. In addition to AEW having a stacked roster, they also have depth. That depth is particularly noticeable with the upper-division and main event level wrestlers that, despite how you may feel otherwise, is a case you truly can not make for WWE on any rational level at the moment.
However, amidst these conversations of AEW dream feuds and programs, one particular program that does not get thrown around in forum discussions, podcasts, or news websites is a babyface “Hangman” Adam Page vs. heel Cody Rhodes feud. And this is interesting in the sense that, with surface-level analysis, this is an Elite-based story that practically writes itself. Yet, why does it get glossed over?
When you factor in the current booking circumstances, the probability of Bryan Danielson eventually becoming AEW World Champion down the pike, the high probability of “Hangman” Adam Page’s eventual return to television, and the even higher probability of Cody Rhodes’ inevitable heel turn, it seems like the cards are falling right into place to run with a Page vs. Rhodes feud in 2022.
While there are a number of ways to potentially book the program, much of this stems from the assumption that they do not immediately launch back into Page’s feud with Kenny Omega and the Elite. Yes, from a “storyline perspective,” Page immediately targeting The Elite makes the most predictable sense, and going one step further, Page beating Omega for the AEW World Title is probably the end goal. However, given Bryan Danielson’s popularity and wave of momentum, perhaps it would be in AEW’s best interest to run with Danielson as the champion while Page pursues other avenues in the meantime. And what better upper-card grudge feud could you ask for than Page working with a heel Cody Rhodes?
Due to Page’s high admiration from the fans, he would be the perfect dance partner for Cody, as Page’s babyface reactions will help establish and facilitate Cody’s heel run. It will be a true old-school “babyface vs. heel” rivalry where the hardcore fans won’t have the split reaction, because the fans naturally want to boo Cody at every possible turn. And because there is a real, genuine back-story to Page and Cody’s relationship that dates years back, this can be a long-term upper division program in 2022 that does not involve championships.
If they wanted to go the traditional route of a “three-match series” with Page getting the better of Cody in the end, you would establish that as the launching point to send Page back into the title hunt. By that point, Danielson would be long enough into his world title run where he would drop the strap to Page in some kind of “babyface vs. babyface” title program. Another option is to have a shorter Danielson world title reign where he drops the title back to Omega, and at that point, Page would be primed and ready to jump back into his feud with Omega to win the title.
And if AEW really wanted to milk the drama out of a “blow-off” match with Page vs. Cody, they would add some kind of stipulation where Cody only gives Page the final match if he willingly puts his eventual world title shot on the line. This would spark a tremendous amount of heat at the mere possibility of Cody, not only going back on a past stipulation from his loss to Chris Jericho two years ago, but even teasing the notion that he could come within arms reach of the world title. Page would be the unanimous babyface, no question.
Clearly, this idea is something way out of the realm of anything Tony Khan is possibly conceiving at the moment. However, if AEW really wants the perfect program to solidify Cody’s heel turn, forget CM Punk! AEW can really pull at some heartstrings by shoehorning Cody into that main event picture and instituting the narrative that he would be willing and ready to do anything and everything to stop Adam Page from becoming AEW World Champion. Now that, folks… that is heat!
Ratings Talk is Back!
Rob always brings logical insight to any topic, regardless of how often it’s brought up in the IWC. Sit back and give this a read, they don’t call Rob a genius for the t-shirts.
OK, I know, I know, I’ve been saying it over and over for a very long time, ratings talk is dumb. So why on Earth am I bringing it back? Because now that some, ahem, developments have transpired I think I have a better case to make. I don’t expect any of you who are obsessed with the subject to let it go, but you should at least hear me out here. Now that the worm has turned a little, maybe the things that I and others have been saying all along will sink in a bit.
What am I talking about? In short, AEW’s live audience numbers have taken a bit of a dip over the past couple of months, and this week even Dave Meltzer couldn’t say anything other than it was disappointing. They haven’t gone over a million viewers for Dynamite in almost two months and Rampage slipped under five hundred thousand last week. If this kind of thing was happening on the other side of the street then there would be some hot takes flying for sure. So, are we going to get some of those now? You know what I mean, things like:
- AEW in the mud!
- Worst ratings since (pick whatever date works for you)!
- At what point does TNT start making demands on how the show is booked?
- The ratings are obviously going down because the shows are unwatchable now!!
- (Insert name here) is not a draw!
- That title match in two weeks is hotshot booking to pop a rating!
Sound familiar? We’re gonna see these soon, right? No? Why is that? Are you trying to tell me that wrestling media doesn’t call this stuff the same on both sides of the street? Seriously though, here are some other familiar things for you to chew on:
- Dynamite is the highest rated non-NBA show on TNT, and it’s not close
- Even on a disappointing night, it finished third in the ratings on cable
- Rampage is the next highest rated and watched show on TNT after Dynamite
- Fewer people watch TV now than before
Those are the kind of things a lot of us would say every week after people on the internet waxed doom and gloom about Monday Night Raw, of course. And we were summarily dismissed as E drones or whatever. But now that the falling numbers have struck AEW, the same rationalizations have begun. But here’s the truth in both cases:
Everyone is doing fine. RAW, Smackdown, NXT, Dynamite, and Rampage are all leading their respective channels for the day they air. They all are among the top shows for their respective channels, even the much maligned (for their live audience numbers) NXT and Rampage. There is literally nothing to see here folks as none of these shows are in any danger of getting cancelled. No one is actually in the mud, guys. The networks all know that Nielsen is suspect at best when it comes to measuring audience numbers, and they act accordingly. There is no reason to rush to Shobuzz Daily every day at 4:30 unless you are just a numbers nerd like me but even then save the pontificating, ok? The numbers exist and that’s about it. They serve no purpose for us as fans beyond goofy talking points.
But doesn’t it mean SOMETHING?
Well no, it doesn’t. There are things you can derive from looking at the patterns over time but trust me when I tell you that your entire narrative can be blown up in a matter of two weeks. So don’t bother. As I and many others have said before, a good rating does not mean a good show and vice versa. There was a lot of trying to figure it out in the replies to Meltzer’s ‘disappointment’ tweet, and while there were reasonable takes there was also a lot of nonsense. Which has been par for the course with RAW since like…….2002 at least.
So why do we keep doing this thing?
Well, it was a talking point that Eric Bischoff used to show how he was kicking the WWF’s butt over those 83 weeks. But once that ended it became less and less relevant over time. And then once TV viewership made the shift to streaming and DVRs it’s relevance was all but dead. And it should have ended entirely once WWE signed two $1 billion TV deals in the face of nonstop ‘what about teh ratingz?’ talk on the internet. That should have totally killed the conversation, but your friends Meltzer and company kept it going even though they (should) know better. And they did it for traffic.
‘Fed bad’, ‘Fed down’, and ‘Fed in the mud’ has been selling Observer subscriptions for almost 40 years now while it has spawned a whole cottage industry of podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites over the last decade. There is little to no truth to what any of these people are telling you when it comes to ratings, because if there was then they would be firing off the same takes about AEW that they’ve been using about WWE right now. But they aren’t and that should be a tell. If you ever needed proof that it was nonsense the last two months should be it.
Here’s a dose of reality for you: Nielsen numbers are not accurate. Several networks have already announced that they aren’t relying on them, Nielsen itself has lost it’s accreditation as an information gathering service, and the company itself has begun a shift to overall impressions from traditional audience measuring via Nielsen boxes. What you read every day at 4:30 or on some wrestling website is by all accounts an inaccurate at best and dishonest at worst representation of how many people are watching these shows. And the recent reporting of Fast Nationals, aka Overnights has only made it worse because those are a hastily gathered version of an already inaccurate report.
Here’s some more reality for you. Regardless of what Nielsen says the live numbers are both WWE and AEW are going to get a nice bump in TV rights fees when they negotiate their new TV deals. Other sports with smaller audiences just got more, and the NFL and NBA continue to get price hikes even as their numbers aren’t what they once were. And your favorite internet loudmouths will continue to spout the same factually challenged gibberish that they’ve been saying for decades now. None of it will matter unless you guys keep giving them money and traffic every month.
I’m going to make a bold statement here: there is not a single thing that ratings talk has done to help the fan experience and in fact it’s only made things worse. But it has made money for a lot of bad faith actors out there, many of whom want us to treat them as if they are reporting on Watergate or the Civil Rights Movement while they spout off takes based a change up or down of 100,000 people watching a wrestling show on TV. At this point anyone writing serious essays or going on rants about ratings is not someone you should take seriously. Just go do what you should have always been doing. Watch the shows, enjoy the shows, go to the shows, talk reasonably about them with your friends, etc. Anything else is just dumb.
News From Cook’s Corner 12.6.21: The Kids Are All Right
Cook’s news has a grab bag of interesting topics! New faces in weird places, an NXT major event and more!
Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and I can’t believe we’re approaching the end of 2021. It just seems like yesterday we were talking about how 2020 was the worst year ever and were excited to see it coming to an end. I haven’t seen that sentiment as much about 2021, but I think that’s because time moves so quickly that we don’t have the opportunity to take these things into account.
Has 2021 been good or bad? I have no idea! It’s been a year, as far as I can tell.
As for this past week in the world of wrestling…it was a week! Just glancing over the week’s news gives me the feeling that nothing happens when people aren’t getting released. Uncle Dave spent most of his time talking about who should make his hall of fame. Heck, the main thing to rock Wrestling Twitter last week was a casting decision for the NXT WarGames pre-show panel. I had no idea people still watched those things, especially on an NFL Sunday where there were a number of exciting finishes. I did catch the last bit of it though, and from what I saw I don’t think we have to worry about the future of wrestling journalism being corrupted.
I’m trying to work up some kind of take on the whole thing, because I know people love it when I go off on other Internet wrestling journalists/personalities for perceived grievances or for being hypocritical sycophants. Unfortunately, I don’t really know any of these people, and as far as I know they haven’t said any shit about me or my friends. So I’ve got nothing, other than my opinion that Denise Salcedo is more visually appealing than David Bixenspan. I know! It’s a hot take, but I went there!
Let’s look at what happened at NXT WarGames, a show I was interested in more than Broncos vs. Chiefs. Looks like I was right on that one.
Raquel Gonzalez, Io Shirai, Cora Jade & Kay Lee Ray beat Toxic Attraction & Dakota Kai in the Women’s War Games Match
First of all, credit to all the women involved, because they put it all out there and did the best they could. The only issue was a little bit of booking getting in the way. There’s a reason why War Games is almost always worked with the heels having the advantage. Unless Toxic Attraction & Dakota Kai aren’t heels, which I thought they were, but the match layout had the effect of having them get sympathy for most of it. Also some awkward moments where the heels got the advantage even whilst outnumbered. However, there was more than enough to make up for the weird psychology. Lots of weapons, Cora Jade losing her mind and doing a swanton off the top of a cage through a table, good times.
And I’ll probably get some crap for it, but I still don’t like the whole “pinfalls in WarGames” thing. I know it’s been a thing here in NXT, but give me “Submit or Surrender” any day of the week. In any event, it was nice to see the young girls do a good job here and shove it in the face of those that didn’t think they could pull off a WarGames match. Give the kids a chance, I say.
Imperium defended the NXT Tag Team Championship against Kyle O’Reilly & Von Wagner
Fabian Aichner likes to jump around, doesn’t he? I thought this was a pretty solid match, which did one thing much better than most of the NXT Tag Team Championship matches I’ve seen over the years. Imperium eventually hit their finisher after everybody did a bunch of stuff. One finisher ended it. Didn’t need to do five Imperial Bombs to get it done on one of these shows. I can dig that.
Then in a shocking surprise, KOR actually got the better of Von in the attempted post-match beatdown. We expected Wagner to drum the poor boy out, but that’ll have to wait for another day. O’Reilly also threw up some Undisputed Era sign language, just the thing to get people talking.
Cameron Grimes beat Duke Hudson in a hair vs. hair match
NXT’s crowds certainly have their rough moments, but I do appreciate their knowledge of mid-90s WWF Superstars leading to a “Duke the Dumpster” chant. The more I noticed the tell-tale signs of male pattern baldness on Hudson, I had a feeling where this was going. He got the ol’ weedwhacker haircut too, which is much worse than the clean shave. Match was ok, just killing time until the haircut.
Roderick Strong retained the Cruiserweight Championship against Joe Gacy
Roderick did the best he could with this one. Frankly, I would have been ok with Gacy becoming an All Inclusive champion, but that would have been a division-killing move more than anything else. 205 Live does seem to still be a thing for some reason, so that doesn’t seem imminent. I’m sure Gacy will find something to do, as we liberal scum always have some hopeless cause to fight for.
Kyle challenged Von to a cage match on Tuesday, because cage matches are the thing in WWE these days. Big E vs. Kevin Owens on Monday, this on Tuesday, all kinds of house show ones apparently. Not sure what the deal is there.
Team 2.0 defeated Team Black & Gold in the Men’s War Games Match
The young boys pretty much had to win this one in order to be taken seriously, and that’s exactly what they did. Proper WarGames psychology with the heels continually getting the advantage. You got Gargano & Ciampa doing their old tag team spots one last time. LA Knight showed more fire than usual. The youngsters were fine, but Bron Breakker easily stood out amongst the pack. We thought that Bron might get the win over Gargano, but Bron getting the win over Ciampa was the smarter move, to further set up the eventual title change. Lots of crazy spots, weapons randomly brought into the ring. I’d say it stood up well against previous iterations of the WarGames match.
I know that my general opinions on NXT fly in the face of most folks’ on the Internet. They’re upset that the super indy is no more. At some point, however, one must move on. Or at least try to give the new thing a chance. I will say that the wrestlers on this particular show put on a good effort, and I was especially impressed with the folks that people told me weren’t ready for a WarGames match.
The one downside of NXT 2.0 that I can’t deny? You’ll get some dumb shit like this:
— X (@KnowTheX) December 6, 2021
Fortunately I was in the bathroom when this happened live. So my best advice to you would be to drink a lot of water so you’ll be in the restroom during commercials.
Who Was Where?
With all these companies releasing people lately, it’s only natural to expect names to show up different places than you might expect. When possible, I’ll try to update you on these matters so you know who to expect in what places.
AEW: Matt Taven & Jonathan Gresham were backstage at the AEW tapings in Duluth, GA this week. Both men are under ROH contract until the end of the year and currently have other things going on, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Tony Khan was interested in bringing either in based off of their working ability. Gresham is from the Atlanta area, while Taven was in town for the NWA’s Hard Times 2 event, which featured some other interesting names in a different place than usual.
NWA: The aforementioned Hard Times 2 saw a couple of interesting debuts for the company. Dirty Dango, formerly known as Fandango, appeared after the tag team championship match, forming a team with none other than JTG. Seems like an awfully random teaming, but I’m sure they worked together at some point during their tenure with WWE. It seemed like they were both there forever.
Matt Cardona also made his debut with the company, he’ll be targeting the NWA World Championship. I said the other night that Impact Wrestling should put their title on Cardona to try & make themselves more relevant, and the same definitely holds true for the NWA. Cardona easily has more buzz than anybody else working NWA shows right now. Heck, his positive buzz might cancel out some of the negative buzz surrounding other people on that roster.
AAA: A couple of familiar names returned to AAA at their TripleMania Regia event, neither coming as much of a surprise. Taya Valkyrie sent in a video declaring her intention to challenge Deonna Purrazzo, current holder of the Reina de Reinas Championship. Makes sense, as Deonna was the last woman to wrestle Taya before her ill-fated stint with WWE NXT. Taya has spent most of her career working for AAA and didn’t leave on bad terms, so her return was always just a matter of time.
A name less familiar to most of you but one I remember from back in the day also returned, as Cibernetico made his first appearance with AAA since 2015. He was one of the company’s top stars during the 1990s & 2000s, and has had several stints with the company. He usually seems to leave due to some sort of an issue with Konnan, and has returned to re-establish his issue with Konnan. Lots of people have issues with Konnan, what can I say? If you’re old like me, you might remember Cibernetico’s brief stint with the WWF as part of an AAA invasion deal that helped fill out the card for the 1997 Royal Rumble in San Antonio.
Jeff Hardy Sent Home
PWInsider reported that Jeff Hardy was sent home by WWE after Saturday’s live event in Edinburg, TX. He was working a six-man tag team match with Drew McIntyre & Xavier Woods against The Bloodline. Apparently Hardy spent most of the match selling in a more sluggish way than usual, and after tagging out he went into the crowd, not returning for the post-match celebration.
Naturally, given Jeff’s history people are going to be alarmed whenever reports like this come out. Hopefully things will end up all right.
AEW Had A Release
I almost forgot, we had another AEW release made public this week. Big Swole’s contract expired at the end of November, and she asked not to renew it. Swole hadn’t wrestled for AEW since a Dark taping on September 11, and hadn’t been on TNT since October 14, 2020. Her highest-profile feud was with Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D, and Swole even defeated Dr. Baker in the infamous Tooth & Nail match.
Swole is married to Cedric Alexander, who’s still under WWE contract. That used to be a pretty good way to get hired over there, but not so much these days.
Welp, that’s all we have time for this week! Thanks for reading, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.
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