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The Paradox of the Wrestling War in 2021

The IWC has been talking about a certain Friday Night and what numbers matter. Tommy Starr chimes in with his perspective on this “war”.

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“War is peace… freedom is slavery… ignorance is strength.”  These are among George Orwell’s key three slogans in his novel 1984, which exemplify the ideology that when one has the power to lull individuals into false senses of security, they will blissfully ignore truth and reality to serve a perpetual agenda.

Since the inception of AEW, wrestling media has insisted on this idealistic narrative of a born-again “Monday Night Wars” comparative to that of a bygone era of professional wrestling that has not been seen since and will never be seen again.  For one reason or another, modern wrestling fans have bought into this impractical religious doctrine hook, line, and sinker, despite statistical evidence that contradict this ideology.

To put this in perspective, if there is a genuine wrestling “war” in the wrestling market today, it is not merely a war of the companies of AEW vs. WWE, rather it is a frivolous war between the oppositional fans of AEW and WWE.  The center of authority that continues to drive this animosity amongst the opposing fan bases rests at the helm of the wrestling media and the individuals within the business itself.  The manipulative narrative of the wrestling media and wrestlers in the business have managed to perpetrate a falsified creed that AEW and WWE are “at war.”  It is interesting to note that this blanket statement hedges the particular element of what both companies are at war with. The common implication is the war of competition, particularly competition for viewership.  And while this narrative carries some validity, it misses the key detail of what this abstractive war revolves around.  It is a waging fight among AEW and WWE fans to try and claim superiority over the other, despite the apparent truth that both sides are failing to expand beyond their niche audiences.  Hence, neither party can credibly claim any form of superiority.  In essence, this religious irrationality to suggest that one company is directly “winning” over the other continues to miss the essential endgame of what winning a war truly looks like.

In the business world, “smart companies” understand and invest in long-term strategies of acknowledging that when they lose small battles, they allow their opposition to enjoy those smaller victories; meanwhile, they do not allow those battle losses to obstruct their long-standing progress.  So contextually, AEW would be wiser to accept that their Friday night edition of Rampage show running head to head with SmackDown lost in overall viewership numbers by approximately 288,000 viewers, despite the fact that not only was SmackDown running on a different network due to Fox coverage of the 2021 American League Championship Series, but that AEW Rampage had actually gained viewership from the previous week by about 15.14%.  Instead, wrestling media continues to propagate that overall viewership is subordinate to what truly matters in this equation, that being the key male 18-49 demographic.  What this discounts is that when one analyzes actual numbers, both shows essentially tied in the target 18-49 demographic at a 0.24.

A strategic business owner obsessed with “winning wars” understands his opposition’s leader and avoids engaging in projecting irrational and petty beliefs in order to stir up his or her army.  Rather, it would be wiser to quietly and cautiously observe the opposition’s decision-making to effectively counter-program and capture the attention of potential consumers.  This does not bode well for Tony Khan when he engages in social media warfare with the opposition to try and stoke a fire that merely exists in a metaphorical fantasy.  All the while, the rival niche audiences partake in nonsensical arguments over which organization “won” a war that has not, does not, and will not exist, despite a genuine hope that professional wrestling will ever reach that level of popularity again worth necessitating a war.

A true and authentic wrestling war in today’s culture should be the fight to reassemble a lost and/or new audience. Per discussion of a lost audience, that insinuates both parties fight for the admiration and trust of disgruntled audiences that have since tuned the product off from their habitual consumption.  Arguably, this can be seen as a lost cause, considering most of these wrestling fans have long since distanced themselves from professional wrestling. However, a business that can successfully earn back that trust of disassociated consumers is a fruitful investment. Catering to loyal and clinging fan bases may be short-term goals, but they are not expansive business strategies.  And based on the weekly viewership numbers, ratings, and key demos for both parties, AEW and WWE continue to cater short-term appeal to their niche audiences instead of investing in long-term strategic outreach to new audiences.  The art of mastery on this level is a war worth fighting for.

Sources:

  • Casey, C. (2021, October 18). Who won Friday night’s ratings battle between WWE smackdown and AEW Rampage? WWE. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://comicbook.com/wwe/news/wwe-smackdown-aew-rampage-oct-15-ratings-war-who-win-tied-demographic-smackdown-wins-audience/.
  • Feloni, R. (2014, August 14). 33 war strategies that will help you win in business. Business Insider. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.businessinsider.com/war-strategies-to-win-in-business-2014-8.
  • Thurston, B. (2021, January 15). Key demo and total audience: What are they and how much do they matter? Wrestlenomics. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://wrestlenomics.com/2020/07/14/key-demo-and-total-audience-what-are-they-and-how-much-do-they-matter/#:~:text=With%20a%20new%20head%2Dto,advertisers%20to%20the%20programs’%20networks.


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Chairshot Classic: Andrew’s 2019 AEW Double or Nothing Ratings & Analysis

Take a look back at AEW’s first PPV effort, the 2019 Double Or Nothing in Andrew’s Retro Ratings and Analysis!

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Take a look back at AEW’s first PPV effort, the 2019 Double Or Nothing in Andrew’s Retro Ratings and Analysis!

With AEW Double Or Nothing–the 2022 edition–on the horizon, enjoy this trip down memory lane as Andrew Balaz reviewed the inaugural Las Vegas AEW pay-per-view…spectacular?

Well this is history boys and girls. Good, bad or indifferent, it’s the first show of the IWC’s favorite t-shirt company. What becomes of Hangman since he’s injured and PAC cancelled? What surprises will we get?

We all sit here with bated breath. Some want it to fail, many want it to succeed. Me? I just want it to not suck.

Let’s see what we got!

Ratings:

  • Casino Battle Royal: Hangman Page wins @10:45 – **
  • Sammy Guevara vs Kip Sabian: Sabian wins Argentine Facebuster @9:55 – ***
  • So Cal Uncensored vs Strong Hearts: SCU wins via Best Meltzer Ever @14:00 – *** 1/2
  • Britt Baker vs Nyla Rose vs Kylie Rae vs Awesome Kong: Britt Bakers wins via Kneecap Brainbuster @11:05 – ***
  • Best Friends vs Angelico & Jack Evans: Best Friends win via Strong Zero @12:55 – ** 1/2
  • Riho, Hikaru Shida &  Ryo Mizunami vs Aja Kong, Yuka Sakazaki & Emi Sakura: Hikaru wins via Three Count @13:10 – *** 1/4
  • Dustin Rhodes vs Cody Rhodes: Cody wins via Crossroads @22:35 – *****
  • AAA Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks (c) vs Lucha Brothers: Bucks retain via Meltzer Driver @25:00 – *****
  • Kenny Omega vs Chris Jericho: Jericho wins via Judas Effect @23:50 – **** 1/4

Analysis:

This was definitely a mess. A few spots, a bunch of messy spots and just generally awkward moments. Flying Brian Jr had a few decent spots, Luchasaurus looked good and Orange Cassidy is awful. Hangman being the 21st entrant made a lot of sense, but probably already upset a few people since it wasn’t CM Punk or Jon Moxley. Of course Page won. He can fight with a bum leg, cause he has three of them. So yeah, not an awful match, but it had a lot of issues.

Sabian looked tremendous in this match. Guevara definitely did too much. Shooting Star onto Sabian draped over the outside barricade, a bad double Moonsault and standing Shoot Star hurt the match a little. But Sabian’s technically proficient, charismatic and can hang in the air a bit too. So Sabian was the star here. Solid match.

Well now, this was great. Strong Hearts trio pulled off some great fluid offense and SCU did fantastic. This was just a great match, I can’t really accurately describe more than great match. Best Meltzer Ever is a little dumb when it comes to names, but damn was this a good match.

So Brandi comes out in her gear to swerve us that she’s adding herself to the match, but instead she adds Awesome Kong! So the Triple Threat turns into a Fatal 4 Way and it’s not bad. A lot of the early portion is focused on taking out Kong, then Nyla becomes the target. Britt and Kylie are the ones left in the ring after the collateral damage. Kylie looks to be firing up for a finish, but Britt catches her in a Kneecap Brainbuster (Adam Cole’s Last Shot in ROH).

Excessive spots, excessive near falls, I knew to expect it to a degree with these four, but that doesn’t make it better. This was definitely an ‘Indie style” match, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. There was a lights out attack on both teams from…some team, with masked minions. The “Who Are You” chant kicks up and commentary doesn’t lend any information. So that’s really not helpful.

Everyone got their stuff in, we got to see a lot of personality from the different women and the action was solid. I also appreciated Emi Sakura trying to rally momentum doing We Will Rock You stomps (since she was dressed as Freddy Mercury). Save for the big mess up with the bell ringer calling the end of the match when the referee obviously held up 2 and said 2, just messed up the flow and gave away the finish since Hikaru’s music played. Not bad, just the ending did kind of take the air out of a pretty good match.

Wow. Dustin and Cody brought it, Dustin bladed pretty deep, I think even Dusty would’ve blushed. New moves from Dustin like the Misawa style Apron Senton, a Code Red and a few classics. The blood, the desire to keep fighting, this was everything wrestling should be. It made sense for Cody to win the match of course, but wow after the match was a beautiful moment. Also call of the night might have to go to Excalibur when Cody hit a Pump Kick aka Bicycle Kick and you hear him say something like ” He hit him with a BICYCLE”.  In a huge homage to Dustin and Dusty’s Heart to Heart promo, Cody tells Dustin he can’t retire, because he needs a partner. He doesn’t just need a partner, he needs his big brother. This was a great way cap off such a hard hitting personal match. Wow.

Belt reveal with a few extra curricular and Bret Hart. Much like Bret Hart, the belt doesn’t do anything for me. It looks a lot like Big Gold, but it’s so ostentatious it’s hard to love it. Just too shimmery or whatever. It’s not bad, but I in no way love the belt.

I’m very happy there was the unveiling ceremony between the Rhodes match and this one. Cause this was a great match and moving it out too quick could’ve hurt the crowd immersion. Great tandem moves, a decent thread of the ring rust playing a part against the Young Bucks early on and just generally great spots. There definitely was a lot of stuff, big spots and it was “spot monkey” style, but it all worked. The Lucha Brothers pulled out crazy moves to try and get the AAA belts back and the Bucks were trying to prove they still had it with most of the year off. Just really really good.

Well now Jericho and Omega pick back up where they left off. Referee Paul Turner allows for a lot of out of the ring shenanigans. Jericho busts Omega open, tries to use a table as a shield, but Omega still throws himself at Jericho.Jericho focuses on Omega’s face with the Triangle Dropkick, a Lionsault went high and this was pretty damn solid. A few missteps and Jericho not countering the first One Winged Angel was car crash worthy, but aside from that, this was nice. Multiple Codebreakers followed by the new Judas Effect, leave Omega laying for the 1, 2, 3.

Jericho says AEW is for him not for fans, and he deserves a thank you. When the crowd pops, Jericho thinks it’s for him, but Jon Moxley makes his debut through the crowd! Almost as if it were a reference to Lex Luger showing up on the first Nitro, it looks like Jericho basically says “You don’t work here”. Dirty Deeds to Jericho, Dirty Deeds to referee Paul Turner and Omega manages a burst of energy to brawl for a little bit. They end up on the poker chips, Moxley hits Dirty Deeds and then just dumps him off, onto some other stage item.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Well damn, I was skeptical since All In didn’t rate as highly for me as other fans, but this was great. Aside from a few personal gripes, and not really enjoying the cluster that was the Battle Royal, this was one of the better shows of the year thus far. Good surprises like Awesome Kong, Bret Hart and Jon Moxley. Jericho winning the main event breaks up The Elite getting the clean sweep, so that shows it’s not as predictable as All In.

Oh and yes, I can’t express how good the Rhodes match was. The match itself, the story it told, the promo after, everything was just beautiful. That is my number 1 match of the year personally, cause it was just too damn poignant.

Good job AEW. Great show, and the symbolic moment where Cody used the sledgehammer to break the replica throne Triple H used for his WrestleMania 22 entrance. It was awesome.


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News From Cook’s Corner 5.16.22: Headbutting Fools Since 2022

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! Steve Cook here with you for the first one of these in quite some time. There’s been a lot going on, most of which I don’t plan on discussing live & in public if you will. Some stuff to deal with, and enough of it is dealt with that I can get back to doing my thing. Still some more stuff to deal with, but writing helps.

Another thing that helps? There’s finally enough wrestling news going on for me to write up one of these things. Let’s get to it.

Roman Going Part-Time?

Last weekend, Roman Reigns made some comments after a WWE live event in Trenton, NJ that made ears perk up. After his match, he talked about how it might be his last time appearing in Trenton, and that he was going through a new phase in life. Then after his match teaming with the Usos at WrestleMania Backlash, Reigns hinted that it might be the last time they all team together. Naturally, this led to everybody jumping to all sorts of conclusions. Some thought he was retiring. Others thought it was a new Paul Heyman-inspired worked shoot storyline, and nothing would really change.

As usual, the truth ended up somewhere in the middle. Reigns & WWE came to a new agreement, one that involves Reigns working far fewer dates than he has been. If you’ve been watching this stuff as long as I have, you know this was the most likely scenario. It’s the natural progression of top WWE Superstars. Once they reach a certain height of stardom, they’re not going to be working as often. Reigns has made no secret of his desire to get into acting, and Nick Khan has made no secret of WWE’s desire to help Reigns in that endeavor. WWE has done right by Reigns, and Reigns has had his part in helping the company achieve record-setting profits.

Reigns will still be part of WWE’s major events. He was pulled from advertising for many house shows, but is still advertised for Money in the Bank, SummerSlam & Clash at the Castle in Wales. He was on the most recent episode of SmackDown as well, though I think we can assume he won’t be wrestling on that show anytime soon. Reigns’ last match on SmackDown was back on December 3, 2021, when he put an unconscious Sami Zayn in a choke to win in a matter of seconds. He can do his lengthy entrance, talk after Paul Heyman and call it a night. Eventually, we won’t get that quite as often.

WWE will be looking to elevate somebody into Roman’s spot sooner rather than later. As things stand, there isn’t really anybody on the roster on Roman Reigns’ level. I’m more positive than most probably are on the idea of WWE elevating somebody to Reigns’ level…if Reigns’ career has proven anything, it’s that Vince McMahon won’t give up on a guy if he 100% believes in him. How many times could Reigns have been sent down the card due to subpar fan reaction? Vince never did, he was going to make the darn thing work.

There’s also the pesky little thing of Roman being the WWE Universal Champion. He could drop it at one of those summer stadium shows, or he could hold onto it until he breaks Bruno Sammartino’s record of 2,803 days. We know they’re not going to elevate the Intercontinental & United States Championships, those things are never on Peacock and barely ever on television. I have to go along with Greg DeMarco’s idea of creating Raw & SmackDown men’s championships. The men would match the women then, and WWE could also sell new title belts. Reigns could still have the historical championship to defend once in awhile.

MJF: The story you’ll get tired of long before 2024

I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but MJF’s contract with AEW expires in 2024. Fightful was sure to let us know this week that he’s unhappy with his current status. I’m sure they believe their sources and are happy with themselves, but I have to wonder based off of one simple thing:

MJF is always working.

That’s the thing old heads like me love about him. This kid is always working that gimmick. He’s always the biggest asshole on the planet, except on Long Island, where he’s still an asshole but accepted by his peers. I like that about him, but at the same time I realize that nothing he puts out there is legitimate. People wonder why wrestling news sources always get things wrong, and the reason is much simpler than they think: Wrestlers lie. Especially wrestlers as good at their job as MJF.

So I hate to be the bearer of bad news to my fellow IWC folks that think they have super insider knowledge, but the man is always working an angle. As long as they’re ok with being used by him, it’ll be ok.

Maybe MJF jumps to WWE in 2024. I have a tough time believing they’ll push somebody of his body type as a top guy, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe WWE pushes MJF into acting and everybody involved lives happily ever after. Can’t rule that out. Until then, if I was MJF’s current employer and had him locked in until 2024 and he was putting stuff out there about how he wanted to jump ship, I would have Wardlow powerbomb him into the sun. Just squash the shit out of him until he got the message. If he didn’t get the message? That would be fine. I’d just feed him to everybody I could until his contract expired.

I doubt Tony Khan would be that petty. Then again, some of his social media activity indicates the opposite. Who knows?

Ric Flair Returning To The Ring?

On one hand, the idea of 73 year old Ric Flair returning to the ring seems completely insane. We’re talking about somebody that barely avoided death a few years back, who hasn’t wrestled since 2011, and that promoters started avoiding for some time after the Dark Side of the Ring episode about the Plane Ride From Hell aired.

On the other hand, it’s not like Ric Flair hasn’t gone against the grain before. He’s also stated that he never wanted to retire from wrestling, and would be happy if he died in the ring. So when you think about it, it’s not surprising at all that Flair would be pursuing a return to the ring. The question is who would go along with such a thing, and if everything could fall in line for it to happen. Dave Meltzer says the current plan is for Flair to team with FTR against the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express & “someone”. Not sure who would be hosting such a thing, though the Big Time Wrestling promotion that just booked Mick Foley to manage FTR for a match comes to mind. I could also see GCW being all over something like this.

It’s not like septuagenarians have never wrestled before. Most of your all-time legends were still kicking around years after people told them not to wrestle. Lou Thesz had his last match at the age of 74. Buddy Rogers almost had a match with Buddy Landell at 71 before the promotion that booked it closed. Jerry Lawler is 72 and still doing his thing on the indies. Terry Funk’s most recent match was at 73. Jimmy Valiant was 77 for his retirement match. Heck, Canek is on the verge of 70 and just had a passable match with Psycho Clown at TripleMania. That being said, most of them didn’t have Flair’s medical history. Lawler had a heart attack, but he kicked out of it and also had the good fortune to not have addiction issues.

I will say that it would be a good thing for Flair if he focused his energy on getting into ringshape instead of indulging some of his demons. I see the clips of him working out with Jay Lethal and think that’s a better usage of his time than what he’d be doing otherwise. So I’m all for Ric Flair training for a comeback. It’s his life, after all. Who are we to tell him what to do?

Hot Take: Fans Should Not Headbutt Wrestlers

We’ve all heard the stories about rambunctious crowds in the good ol’ days. Back when men were men, women were women & the sheep were scared, evil pro wrestlers used to be able to rile fans up to the point where they would need to fight their way backstage. We haven’t seen it as much since the territory days ended, but there’s still occasions where fans’ suspension of disbelief leads to them going after the wrestlers.

One of them happened this past weekend in Augusta, Georgia. Wrestler Joe Black pulled the ultimate heel move: knocking somebody’s hat off. The cad! The fan, whose punk card had been pulled in front of God & everybody, did what all of us would have done in that instance.

That’s right, he delivered a headbutt!

I must say, this is the first time I’ve seen a fan headbutt a wrestler. Back in the old days they had knives with them. It’s usually tougher to get weapons into a wrestling venue these days, so ol’ boy had to go a different route. Also, I’m pretty sure wrestlers didn’t knock hats off of fans’ heads back in the day, as they were trying to avoid getting knived.

Should Joe Black have knocked the hat off of Scooter’s head? Probably not. I would prefer that wrestlers not touch fans except for a high five, and even that’s questionable these days. On the other hand…dude, you’re a fan. It’s fun to get wrapped up in this stuff, but there’s never a reason you should be looking to throw hands with any wrestler.

If you’re going to attend a wrestling show soon, don’t be this guy. A simple request from your favorite from back in the day.

Thanks for reading! I won’t make any promises about when the next one of these things will be, but it should be sooner than three months. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.


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