Hello everyone and thank you for reading 'Planet Kayfabe' here on NoDQ. I'm glad you could make it here again to read me running down some thoughts from this past week in wrestling. WWE is pretty cold right now, but there's always something to talk about and I have plenty to say so grab a friend to shave your back and you can both read this edition of Planet Kayfabe.
** "Grillin' J.R. Debuts, Replacing "The Ross Report" **
On Thursday, May 2, wrestling podcast host Conrad Thompson welcomed Jim Ross into his podcast family rebranding "The Ross Report" as "Grillin' J.R." and utilizing his usual format of reading some stories from a period in time, asking questions and pretty much interviewing his co-host. It's a successful formula that has obviously worked well for Conrad and has made him one of the most relevant names in wrestling who isn't even in the wrestling business.
I used to listen to The Ross Report weekly when it debuted for about a year or so. After that, I would join in once in a while when a guest interested me, but as time went on I saw Jim Ross as a very poor podcast host. I think he'd much rather be the interviewee than the interviewer, which came as a bit of a surprise to me at the time. A few problems I had with "The Ross Report" was Jim Ross would talk a lot more than the person he was interviewing. I remember during his interview with Sting, Sting barely got a word in. His interviews with women were particularly cringing, too. At times interviewing Lita and Torrie Wilson years ago there were moments where he came off as creepy and weird and stayed on a subject too long when it was clear the other person wanted to move on to something else. There's no easy way to explain it, just, if you listened you probably got the same feeling. If you didn't, I suggest you do and make up your own mind.
Much the same way of hanging on a topic too long Jim Ross, who really has no sense of humor but I think finds himself to be hilarious, has a way of staying on a joke and really beating it into the ground until he gets a courtesy laugh. His impressions are pretty annoying as well. Bruce Prichard does some bad impressions, some not so bad, but they are all pretty funny and he usually changes up the dialogue. On The Ross Report, JR would do the same poor and unfunny impersonations of wrestlers every show whenever their name came up and hang on the joke forever. When he wasn't doing bad comedy or talking over his interviewer he usually opened his shows with a talking segment. When The Ross Report began these solo talking segments about current happenings in wrestling and just overall what's on his mind usually lasted 20, sometimes 30 minutes. In later episodes these solo talking segments would take up at least the first hour of the show and I swear to f***ing God above that if I heard one more grumpy remark talking down to the fans or a bad joke or the same stories about Bill Watts for the thousandth time I was going to staple my nutsack to JR's hat. Yeah, that's another thing. You'd think the show was called "The Bill Watts Report with Jim Ross" considering how much he talked about Bill Watts every... single... episode.
However, as I said perhaps Jim Ross is better off being interviewed and who better in podcasting to do so than Conrad Thompson? I gave their first episode a listen hoping Conrad would pull out of Jim Ross what I originally hoped his podcast would be. Something fun, yet informative and an overall good listen and maybe make the fans feel welcome this time and not that they're all just little negative marks that piss you off unless they're paying to watch you sit on a barstool in some club speaking about the Attitude Era and shitting yourself on TV or how big Brian Pillman's shit was or how long Andre "The Giant's" farts were... Yeah, money well spent there.
I listened to the entire near 3-hour show and I can't understate the importance of chemistry and I don't think Conrad and Jim Ross have it. Still, Jim Ross thinks everything he says is hilarious but never gives a body part or sells when someone else is setting up a joke. Ross still has his rambling ways. He makes up fake quotes that haven't been said to work himself up. What I mean by that is he will say something bad about WCW and then be like "and then someone will be like 'oh, by JR I thought you said you liked working for WCW' I DID LIKE IT, YOU IDIOT!" Its like dude... calm down. The listeners aren't as dumb or cynical as you seem to think. On Conrad's other shows he is known to bust the balls of his cohost and they usually dish it right back but since any sense of sarcasm or comedic timing is lost on Jim Ross, that probably won't be possible here. There were a few moments when Conrad tried to get things worked to a high spot but for the most part, the podcast was headlocks and takedowns until one of those time limit draws that Jim Ross has been crying for on his podcasts for the last 5 years finally happened.
The topic covered Ross going from WCW to WWF. Like almost every podcast it's all about how the host was wronged, all his ideas are great, everyone else working around him were idiots. Everyone else is a liar. Now you're hearing the "real" story. Sure. Whatever. Maybe we are; maybe we aren't. It's hard to tell with some of these old carny types sometimes. At least on 83 Weeks when I know Bischoff is f***ing lying to my face he can be entertaining, animated and funny. Shit, even Bischoff comes off as more humble than Jim Ross does.
Speaking of carnies and workers and telling tall tales, I have a question: Since when did Jim Ross become some huge pothead? I don't care either way but it seems like some new part of his persona that he's just trying to get over. Even his stories about smoking pot I had a hard time believing. He said how he smoked a huge joint with Bobby Heenan which I couldn't help was JR's way of getting himself over with some kind of cred and not come off entirely as the grump, crotchety old man that he does on the rest of the show. Saying you smoked weed with the greatest manager of all-time who fans still love to this day sure sounds a lot cooler than passing out from a Taco Bell coma in the parking lot with a few old office guys you had to babysit. Like I said though, maybe the stories are true and I don't care either way I just find it funny how Jim Ross, the guy who for years tried playing up some good old, squeaky clean, southern gentleman persona is now talking about the hot southern women he banged and the "Pepsi can sized joints" he smoked. Sure, Ross. It's funny for someone who tried to suddenly out of nowhere come off as some huge stoner I've never heard one wrestler do a shoot about smoking with Jim Ross -- ever. Whatever gets you over. The stoner crowd is easy to please. Don't get mad at me. You know I'm right. I've never met one stoner who did not love every stoner meme, joke, movie or song about weed, so its an easy crowd for Jim Ross to pander to and be welcomed in even in his 60's. Maybe I'm wrong and Jim Ross really was some huge stoner all these years with his Pepsi can thick joints, but if that's the case he's the most uptight and grumpy stoner I've ever seen in my life.
All that said I don't think even Conrad can save Jim Ross from himself. This format was a little better but not by much. Conrad is there to reel in Jim Ross, but for the most part, JR still comes off as overly grumpy, grouchy, preachy and an overall boring person despite living an exciting life with plenty of knowledge to share. Focus less on trying to be a comedian and also focus less on bitching about every last person on Twitter who didn't shower you with praise. As of now it just feels like another podcast with another bitter old guy from the wrestling business telling half-true stories at best and how everyone else in the business is an idiot except him. I used to wonder why WWE always picked on Jim Ross. Bruce Prichard once said it was too easy because JR always took himself too seriously and sold like a bitch anytime he was ribbed. I kind of don't blame them now. They had to work with this guy and listen to him ramble every day. I only had to play a damn podcast.
Even though "The Ross Report" was probably my least favorite wrestling podcast by a major, inside name (and now Grillin' JR probably will be too) my opinions about Jim Ross the broadcaster are separate. He's obviously one of the greatest of all time and many would say he is the greatest of all time. That's what made his podcasting venture for me such a disappointment. I expected that greatness in the form of a podcast, but instead of a fun hour or so of wrestling stories, inside tales and opinions we get talked down to like children, a long, awkward impression of Terry Funk and an audio blowjob to Bill Watts.
At midnight on May 1 the former Dean Ambrose, once again working under the name Jon Moxley posted the above video which is also his first tweet ever. It certainly got me more hyped than the Sonic trailer did.
I don't have much to say about this since it was just a short video to get Moxley's new name out there and let people know he's open for business since there have also been rumors of him possibly retiring from wrestling for the time being or at least taking the rest of the year off before returning to WWE. I don't know how shit like that gets started because both rumors sound ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is that some idiots still think this is all some big work and that WWE produced that video, complete with blood and a name they don't own the rights to, just to swerve fans and repackage Ambrose as Moxley in WWE. Keep dreaming. The dude is gone and seems happy to be back out in the wild doing his own thing.
AEW seems like the natural landing spot since they have all the buzz right now with their Double or Nothing show coming up later this month on the 25th. I doubt he will have a match on the card, but I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up. Against who? Put him up there with Kenny Omega. Perhaps just a staredown to close the show and open a new chapter after Omega and Jericho have their rematch. I don't want to see Moxley vs Jericho. We saw that in WWE and it wasn't that good. Also, even if it was good they are two WWE guys and as good of a get Moxley would be for AEW they shouldn't do too many WWE re-matches.
I think Cody Rhodes is referencing WWE too much as it is. In that YouTube promo he cut on Dustin Rhodes he was making references to the Attitude Era and WWE stars. Cody needs to cut that shit out before he turns AEW into TNA. Back in the day, every WWE castoff who went to TNA wouldn't shut the f*** up about WWE like they were the bitter ex or something. Also what good is referencing the Attitude Era going to do? Get fans over the age of 30 excited for a show? You already have those fans. They are the hardcores that will never stop watching. Kids and teens don't give a f*** about you "killing the Attitude Era" that was killed in f***ing 2001 when Austin turned heel anyway. He even referenced bra and panties matches like they are still going on in WWE and when was the last time there was a Bra and Panties match in WWE? It had to be before 2008 when they went PG at the soonest. It was a well-delivered promo by Cody but some of the material had me scratching my head. Considering Dustin hasn't been pushed as a real star since like 1997 or 1998 at the latest I don't really care much for Cody putting down his brother and an era from 20 years ago. Also, no, CM Punk's Pipebomb was not better than everything The Rock did. Look, that Pipebomb was awesome, but Cody tried saying that was better than the Attitude Era. If Punk did that promo in the Attitude Era it would have been just another good promo. In 2011 in the homogenized and heavily scripted age of WWE where everyone is a robot, CM Punk stood out and shocked fans by speaking in a way we hadn't heard on TV in a long time. In the late 90's between WWF, WCW and ECW that worked-shoot shit was pretty common.
Good luck to Jon Moxley. I don't know where he will end up, but I imagine he is most valuable to AEW who is trying to secure a TV deal and Moxley would be a great signing who is still young and able to keep up with the current generation.
** WWE RATINGS CONTINUE TO FALL **
It's no secret that popularity wise WWE is pretty much as cold as its ever been. There's not a single mainstream star on the roster and yes that includes Roman Reigns and his return has obviously had no positive impact on the ratings that have been in a free-fall since last autumn. It's not even Roman's fault. WWE did everything they could to try to make him a star, but the business is just not set up for modern culture. Everyone is over-exposed on both television and social media. The flagship show, Raw, is too long. The PPV's are too long. Unless if you're a super hardcore fan of WWE and you live and breathe WWE it is impossible to keep up and even if you do keep up the show simply isn't that good so it's not worth it anyway.
According to the Wrestling Observer here are some year-over-year drops this past week after the 3rd hour of Raw sipped below 2 million viewers for the first time ever on a non-holiday show. Smackdown this past week averaged 1.8 million viewers. Since it's not 1987 I can't put all the blame on our current world champions, but when Kofi Kingston is attacked one week, betrayed by someone he trusted in his group, and the next he comes out smiling, dancing and tossing pancakes around to open the show it doesn't help. That's poor storytelling and not how fans want to see the world champion presented.
Raw was down 29% in viewers from the same week this time last year. Smackdown did 1,833,000 viewers. It was ranked 15th on cable and down 25% from the same week last year. The Smackdown demographics from this time last year are pretty telling. Teens are down 38%. 18-34 is down 40% 35-49 is down 23%. 50+ is down 17% Also because people are idiots (or just misinformed) these numbers include all legal streaming services and DVR. So, don't give me this shit about how its 2019 and "TV ratings don't mean anything anymore". They do and they sure matter to these networks paying them big money to draw viewers. Don't overrate the impact of social media. There's a reason why AEW wants to be on TV. Over 92% of people who watch Raw watch it live when it airs. If YouTube or Facebook's streaming service was a better platform for these show's WWE and AEW wouldn't even bother f***ing with television networks and just produce all their content by themselves on social media.
There's a lot of reasons ratings are down. Star power is thin. I think a lot of the reason star power is thin is because no one is booked like a big superstar. No personalities stand out. They are all just guys who read the same scripted dialogue. Look at past eras. Superstars were colorful and had their own unique personalities and all the major stars stood out. Today you have just a bunch of guys. Some guys are bigger than others. Some guys are bald. Some guys have long hair. Some guys have beards. Some guys wear black. Some guys wear white. In the end, however, they are all just a bunch of guys. A bunch of bogs in the machine that WWE can take out and replace since they've been more focused on promoting the brand than promoting stars. Promoting the brand has failed them in the ratings and live attendance, though. People want to see their heroes. People want to see big matches. People want to see a spectacle. They don't just want to see "The WWE Superstars" roll into town, do a few moves, hit their poses and leave all basically doing the same match.
That's a reason ratings are down but the ratings are down the reason why a lot of shows with poor ratings have poor ratings. The show isn't good. It is stale. It's uncool to watch. It's just not "in" right now. A large reason for that is also Vince McMahon. He is too powerful. He's 73, going on 74 this summer. He lives in a bubble. He is stuck in his ways. He is out of touch and nothing is going to change as long as he is in charge. You can blame Road Dogg. You can say they need to hire all new writers. It doesn't matter. The writers write for Vince. If Vince doesn't like it they don't last in WWE that long. They write to pop Vince and make the McMahons into the real stars of the show. Look at Shane. He's on both shows and on Smackdown the so-called "biggest acquisition in Smackdown history", Roman Reigns, is having his first feud on the brand with Shane McMahon. How long do you think you would last in a production meeting if you said "Vince, I don't think your son needs to be on both shows, working two different feuds, one of which being who we have pushed as the top guy of the company for the past 5 years." ? Yes, not too long at all. I hate to tell you, but you want to know when things will change? When Vince isn't calling the shots. Road Dogg and these geek soap opera writers are scapegoats. Don't blame them and then bow to Vince when his music hits on TV. It's all Vince. If you hate the way your NXT favorites are presented on the main roster its because of Vince McMahon. If you don't like the 50-50 booking its because of Vince McMahon. If you don't like every top feud involving a member of the McMahon Family, its because of Vince McMahon. If you don't like part-timers holding world titles, it's because of Vince McMahon. If you think the show is lazy, formulaic yet makes no sense from week to week because things keep changing for no reason, its because of Vince McMahon.
Oh, f***ing hell and don't get me started on this bullshit Vince tried spitting to stockholders about the ratings and attendance being down because of injuries. What a cop out. First of all, they are never going to have an injury rate of zero. There's always going to be injuries. You work around them and create new stars. Maybe not feed them all to one guy to try and get that one guy over that all the fans were booing for 4 years, too. I just found that excuse funny because I think of the Attitude Era. Vince wants to pin these poor numbers on piddly little midcard injuries, but look at the Attitude Era. Between 1997 and 2001 the company had Bret Hart go to WCW. Shawn Michaels retired. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN was out for about a year. Undertaker was out for about a year. Mick Foley retired in 2000. These aren't piddly little losses like Jason Jordan and Nia Jax. These are some of the biggest names in the history of the company then and now that they had to work around losing either long-term or even permanently (or for a few years in the case of HBK and Foley). What's next? The InVasion angle failed because Triple H tore his quad? Give me a break.
There are my thoughts on some of this week's happenings in the world of wrestling. Sorry if my cheerful mood this week was offputting. I must have gotten laid or smoked one of Jim Ross' kayfabe joints or something. Thank you, everyone, for reading. We inch closer to Money in the Bank and so far the build has been pretty shitty. I thought this week's Raw and Smackdown shows deserved their poor ratings. Not much else to say about that until we get closer to the show, though. Hopefully, things get better. Maybe we can get the McMahons to cry in the ring and apologize again as they did in December. What a joke that was.
Follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe I enjoy interacting with all of you. I live Tweet Raw and Smackdown and the PPV's. Keep it locked here on NoDQ for more news and updates and I'll see you next week for another edition of Planet Kayfabe. Thank you. God bless.