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News From Cook’s Corner 1.24.22: Gunther Changer Wrestling

A few renames, faces moving to new places and a GCW event in New York! Cook brings the News!

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and somehow this Cincinnati Bengals season is still ongoing. You’ll have to bear with me, as I’m not used to needing to care about who wins these football games this late in the season. Makes paying attention to the pro wrestling a little more difficult than usual, know what I mean?

Fortunately, there are a couple of intriguing stories for me to dive into this week. We’re not going to be like certain NFL quarterbacks and completely ignore the business at hand so we can shoot off at the mouth about whatever dumb thought enters our head. Nope, we can multi-task here at the Corner. All the rasslin news you need to read about right now.

A wrestler changes their name in WWE? Stop the presses!

We all knew it was coming eventually. I admit that I’m not as attached to the wrestler previously known as Big Van Walter, then Big Daddy Walter, then WALTER as many of you are. I wasn’t the most regular viewer of wXw or PROGRESS or even NXT UK. Saw the guy here and there, thought he was good. Not surprised WWE signed him up.

Also not surprised that WWE would eventually change his name. Honestly, he was lucky to keep his old indy name as long as he did. I guess as long as WALTER was in the UK, with an occasional appearance stateside, it didn’t particularly matter what his name was. Once he moved over here, things had to change. Nothing personal, it’s just the way WWE operates. They like owning the names of their talent, just makes things more convenient. It also works out fine for wrestlers like WALTER that established something of a name prior to signing.

In and of itself, WALTER undergoing a name change doesn’t mean much to me.

What bugs me about the whole thing? The ham-fisted way WWE went about it. Warning: I’m a longtime wrestling fan that’s been accused of being stuck in the past on certain aspects of the genre. Many of the things that bug me about the way WWE presents things don’t matter to their target audience, or the people online that tell me everything WWE does is awesome because they make tons of money. And maybe they’re right and this won’t matter in the long run.

No, I’m not even talking about the part where they tried to give him the same name as a Nazi U-boat commander. Yes, it’s dumb that they either didn’t use Google or didn’t think that other people would use Google. Yes, there’s a good chance that the wrestler in question came up with the name himself, and he certainly approved it, and we’ll probably see an interview soon where he says that WWE is awesome and he came up with everything himself. Because that’s the way things go there.

The part that bothers me is the sloppiness. The laziness of the process of giving this guy a new name. See, if I was entrusted with re-branding a wrestler, I’d try to do it before debuting them as a regular character on worldwide television. Regardless of how many people are watching NXT 2.0 these days, it’s nice to keep things coherent. They had plenty of time to do this. After WALTER lost the NXT UK Championship to Ilya Dragunov, he was off of television for over four months. It would have made perfect sense for WALTER to eventually come back with a new outlook, a new attitude, even a new name for a new setting. Why not shake things up a little bit?

It would have been fine…except they brought him over for the big New Years’ Evil show and had him work as WALTER. No changes, just the WALTER we’d seen here & there before. Then a promo video, which had some irony to it since it was making fun of sloppy male physiques when that was one of the knocks on WALTER for much of his career. Amazing how the second a former fatty gets fit, they turn their backs on the tribe. Just shameful.

Anywho, the most recent edition of NXT 2.0 built up this main event between WALTER & Roderick Strong. WALTER came down, announced as WALTER, had his match and won. Then, after the match, WALTER decides to take the mike and cut off the ring announcer and tell us that his name was Gunther. Then the rest of Imperium ran down, and then the rest of Diamond Mine ran down, and before we could really think anything about anything the show was over.

I can’t help but think the whole thing could have been more effective if ol’ Gunther made his big re-debut to NXT 2.0 as Gunther in the first place. I suppose that would have involved having somebody decide Gunther needed a name change sometime during the four months he wasn’t on WWE programming, which is apparently too much to ask these days. And hey, maybe if more time had been taken to develop this, they could have found a name not easily associated with Nazis via Google? Just a thought.

See, we can get wrapped up in the optics of Nazi names, or we can just point out how poorly executed the whole thing was. Or we can stick our heads in the sand and praise Vince & Bruce to the high heavens. I’m a pro-choice kind of guy.

WWE Non-Release News

I told you guys there were going to be a lot of WWE releases this year. There’s one thing that slipped my mind at that point in time…there will be people wanting their release that won’t get it. It’s tough to keep track of who wants a job & who doesn’t, so it’s tough to blame WWE for getting confused on these matters.

In fairness, it would be somewhat surprising to some that Mustafa Ali no longer wants a job. It was around this time last year that Ali’s contract was reportedly set to expire according to the rasslin websites. Now that his contract is reportedly good for several more years according to reports coming out these days, I can only assume that he signed something after February 2021.

People have accused me of being skeptical towards WWE, especially when it comes to the likelihood of WWE pushing certain people after a certain period of time. Sometimes they prove me wrong, like when they pushed Jinder Mahal to the WWE Championship years after I dismissed him as just a job guy for them. I gave up on Mustafa Ali having any role of great significance with WWE not long after Ali & the Retribution guys were cast off into obscurity. Ali obviously felt differently, and to WWE’s credit, they do a great job during these contract negotiations of convincing their Superstars that things will be better for them in the future.

Apparently Ali wants out now, largely due to creative differences. We know that Ali has been outspoken about being a positive role model for people like him. This doesn’t rule out the idea of being a heel, just the idea of being the typical terrorist foreigner heel that wrestling likes to have people that look like Ali portray. Ali came up with an idea for himself, with some similarity to the Muhammad Hassan character/storyline from the mid-2000s.

Ali is a well-spoken man, and I have no doubt he would have done well with this character. I also have no doubt that WWE would have bungled the thing the first chance they got. Muhammad Hassan was an interesting, complicated character for a minute, then WWE had him and a bunch of goons act like they were assassinating the Undertaker like one of those videos you’d see from Al Qaeda. UPN rightly said that was over the top and the gimmick was dead. This would have gone the same way. Ali would have been compelling for a few weeks, then WWE would have done something silly and/or controversial and killed the thing off.

What we don’t know here: Did WWE have an idea for Ali afterward? Is Ali wanting a release because of an idea WWE had for him that he didn’t like, or because WWE ghosted him? I’d like to have more information before deciding whether to jump on the #FreeAli bandwagon or not.

AEW Leaving News

Ali might be stuck in WWE, but Lio Rush won’t be stuck in AEW. Rush announced on social media that his AEW contract would expire on February 14 and he’ll become a free agent.

Lio had quite the up & down stint with AEW. He debuted back at the Double or Nothing event, suffered an injury soon afterward and retired from wrestling for a few months. He came back as some crypto money guy, did a storyline with Dante Martin & Team Taz that was an odd piece of business, then got mad on New Year’s Eve when Tony Khan went in on Big Swole’s wrestling ability on Twitter. Shortly afterward Lio posted a statement where he’d talked to Tony & company about it and was looking forward to effecting positive change and then we never saw him again on AEW television.

Regardless of where you came down on that whole situation, you can’t be too surprised that AEW didn’t exactly fall over themselves to keep Lio Rush around afterwards. Even without the drama, there’s way too many other people ahead of Rush on the list of people that can’t get on AEW television regularly and should. They seem to be trying to decide whether they want Jay Lethal or Lee Moriarty in the slot Lio left open in the previously mentioned angle, and either would seem like a good choice. If they were to choose one.

Apparently Lio still has a deal with New Japan and wants to float around different promotions anyway, so he’ll still be plenty busy. In fact, he was on a show this weekend that we’re about to talk about…right now!

The Cook on GCW

I decided to take the plunge this weekend. My bosses at the number website have given me permission to review pretty much anything I want, a privilege which I plan on utilizing when events warrant. This weekend’s GCW event at Hammerstein Ballroom seemed like the perfect time for me to find out what the buzz surrounding that promotion is all about. The card was full of names I recognized, the build seemed interesting, and it was a notable building with a big crowd. A big chance for GCW to step up to the next level and draw in new fans looking for something a little bit different from everything else. GCW has had shows in the past where they did just that. Unfortunately for the larger audience this show got, I can’t say they did.

A lot of people have a lot of negative things to say about GCW. Some call it Garbage Championship Wrestling. It’s the type of fed people equate with outlaw mud shows. They do some stuff that you won’t see anywhere else. On Sunday night, the only thing they did that you won’t see anywhere else was have their wrestlers & announcers use the word “fuck” more than once or twice.

I don’t know if it was something to do with where the show was presented, a nod to being on traditional PPV or a concerted effort on the promotion’s part to present something a little more “normal” than they’re known for. But my main criticism of their event on Sunday night was that it wasn’t enough like the GCW that I’d heard about. For a show that had the opportunity to present something different from the norm, it featured a lot of stuff that wouldn’t have been out of place on your regularly televised wrestling events.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Perhaps moving closer to the norm is the way for GCW to get more fans than just their base of fans that love the blood & guts. I just think a fed needs to be unique in order to get attention and stand out from the pack. GCW had a chance to turn things on their head Sunday night in front of a larger audience than usual, and from where I sit, they didn’t get it done.

Not saying it was a terrible show or anything like that. It just wasn’t the show they needed to step up to the next level and really establish themselves as the #3 promotion in the United States. The good news is that there’s still plenty of wrestling fans that GCW hasn’t made a first impression on, and they can easily go back to the drawing board and come up with another mode of attack.

Hey, I’m rooting for them. I root for anybody trying to make a go of it in this crazy business. As I’ve said before, the whole wrestling business is an outlaw mud show. The wider variety of combatants we have in the mud, the blood & the beer, the better. Here’s hoping GCW hits me a little better next time.

Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week when we break down the NFL conference championship games, featuring the CINCINNATI BENGALS and three other teams. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.


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Greg DeMarco’s Ratings Analysis for WWE Monday Night Raw (5/23/2022): All About The Top 5 On Cable

Greg DeMarco has your May 23 WWE Monday Night Raw ratings–and more importantly analysis. What does it really mean? Read and see!

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Greg DeMarco has your May 23 WWE Monday Night Raw ratings–and more importantly analysis. What does it really mean? Read and see!

We now have your ratings for the May 23 edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, and it’s a good look for WWE. Net’s start with the specifics:

  • Hour #1 – 1.846 million viewers, .42 in the all important 18-49 demographic, ranked #4 among all shows for the night on cable
  • Hour #2 – 1.821 million viewers, .43 demo, ranked #2 for cable
  • Hour #3 – 1.530 million viewers, .38 demo, ranked #5 for cable

(Available via ShowbuzzDaily)

WWE Monday Night Raw Numbers for Nerds (like me)…

Here are your averages for Raw:

  • 1.732 million viewers per hour
  • .41 demo rating
  • 3.6 ranking average (occupying 3 of the Top 5 spots for the night)

Let’s take a look at the change over last week, shall we?

  • -71k average viewers over last week’s average of1.803 million (-3.93%)
  • -.20 in the demo rating over last week’s .61 average (-.2)
  • average ranking of #2 among all cable shows for the night last Monday (#1, #2, and #3)

What does it all mean, Greg?

It has to be terrible, right? a perceived 33% drop in the demo? That’s TERRIBLE.

Nope. Not at all. Factors to consider:

  • Last Monday Raw was not opposed by NBA basketball or NHL hockey–and it finished #1 through #3
  • This Monday saw the NBA playoffs on ABC (while on network, would still grab viewers and share from Raw), and the NHL playoffs on Turner (the NHL is doing amazing playoff numbers since moving to Turner).
  • The only programming to beat WWE Monday Night Raw was live sports. They beat everything else.

While I always preach that we cannot compare network numbers to cable numbers (we can’t), it’s important to remember that live sports will still pull eyeballs from Raw

One thing to consider for next week: Memorial Day Weekend, where people are headed out of town. We might get a Shark Tank rerun, and I can expect a dip in viewership. But given the loyalty of wrestling fans, the holiday weekend might actually cause WWE Smackdown On FOX to finish #1 for the night on the network.

Another thing to consider is that when I was looking at r

Why is the ranking the most important stat to consider?

For WWE Monday Night Raw, advertisers are going to primarily look at one thing (this applies to all TV show ratings, outside of live sports): how did you finish against your competition on the same night, on the same medium. For Raw, this means all other network shows on Friday night. What you can’t do is compare to last year, or decades ago during the Monday Night Wars. No one with any actual decision making powers cares about that, so why should we?


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Greg DeMarco’s Ratings Analysis for WWE Smackdown On FOX (5/20/2022): #2 Among Network Shows

Greg DeMarco chimes in with your May 20 WWE Smackdown ratings. What does it really tell us? Greg tells you!

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WWE Smackdown On Fox

Greg DeMarco chimes in with your May 20 WWE Smackdown ratings. What does it really tell us? Greg tells you!

We now have your April 30 edition of WWE Smackdown ratings, and it’s not the best news. Let’s start with the breakdown:

  • 2.031 million viewers
  • .45 rating in the all important 18-49 demographic
  • ranked #2 among all network shows for the night (behind ABC’s Shark Tank)

(Available via ShowbuzzDaily)

WWE Smackdown On FOX Numbers for Nerds (like me)…

Let’s take a look at the change over last week, shall we?

  • +138k viewers over last week’s 1.893 million (+7.29%)
  • +.5 in the demo rating over last week’s .40
  • ranked #2 among all network shows for the night last Friday (behind ABC’s Shark Tank)

What does it all mean, Greg?

What does it mean? It means it was a good week! Positive change in the viewership and demo rating, but most importantly finishing #2 in the demo for the week.

Any other factors to consider:

  • ESPN had two NBA Conference Semifinal games on Friday night, one of which overlapped WWE Smackdown On FOX
  • Turner had three NHL Conference Quarterfinal games on Friday night, two of which overlapped WWE Smackdown On FOX
  • All of the above listed games finished in the top ten, but for cable

While it’s not the same medium (cable instead of network), it’s going to pull viewers from Smackdown due to the nature of the populations that watch. They are not directly competition, but something to be considered when looking at the results. Keep in mind that Smackdown improved those metrics week over week, against that competition.

One thing to consider for next week: Memorial Day Weekend, where people are headed out of town. We might get a Shark Tank rerun, and I can expect a dip in viewership. But given the loyalty of wrestling fans, the holiday weekend might actually cause WWE Smackdown On FOX to finish #1 for the night on the network.

Why is the ranking the most important stat to consider?

For WWE Smackdown On FOX, advertisers are going to primarily look at one thing (this applies to all TV show ratings, outside of live sports*): how did you finish against your competition on the same night, on the same medium. For Smackdown, this means all other network shows on Friday night. What you can’t do is compare to last year, or decades ago during the Monday Night Wars. No one with any actual decision making powers cares about that, so why should we?

*Yes, WWE Smackdown On Fox (and Monday Night Raw) is live, but it’s not a sport. At least not for the networks, who are provided with 52 weeks of episodic programming that consistently delivers. Live sporting leagues don’t run 52 weeks/year, and more of a special event than RAW or Smackdown.


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