MR. TITO: WWE and AEW Blew It with COVID-19 Submitted by Mr. Tito on 08/01/2020 at 03:22 PM
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WELCOME everyone to the debut Mr. Tito branded column on its new exclusive home, NoDQ.com. In case you do not know me or have not seen my work before, I have been a Pro Wrestling writer for LordsofPain.net/WrestlingHeadlines.com for over 21 years with more than 3,000 columns produced. I primarily cover Current Event wrestling topics and I have a reputation for being a bit fearless on my coverage of that.
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Let's start the show...
WWE and AEW Blew their Coronavirus Opportunity to Grow
This criticism is mainly pointed at the WWE, as they have been an established brand dating back to 1952. Vince McMahon Jr. has owned the company since 1982 and he remains CEO/President and Board Chairman of the WWE Corporation to this day. I want to give some leeway to All Elite Wrestling because they were established during early 2019 and their weekly television shows began during October 2019. However, because of the Coronavirus, AEW also had an amazing opportunity handed to them that they also squandered.
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 was first identified during December 2019 in China and began making appearances throughout the United States during the first quarter of 2020. By March 2020, States were creating statewide shutdowns of non-essential businesses. This caused many entertainment venues and theaters to shut down while smaller businesses, particularly restaurants, did not have the takeout infrastructure to combat the loss of dining-in business. Bars were forced to be closed or placed on curfew. On top of that, schools (high schools and colleges) cancelled everything from theater to sports. Thus, many evenings are suddenly freed up for teenagers or college students (you now, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays?).
Then, after NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, the NBA, NASCAR, & the NHL postponed their seasons, NCAA cancelled all Division 1 sporting events for the Spring/Summer (cancelled the NCAA Tournaments!), the Masters & US Open Golf Majors were both postponed, MLB's season was postponed, Kentucky Derby was postponed, and the UFC struggled to have a Pay Per View event in California.
Meanwhile, Pro Wrestling did NOT cancel... Both WWE and AEW have both tried to have empty arena events since to honor their lucrative television deals and in the WWE's case, they continued to have Pay Per Views on the WWE Network.
The forced quarantines and curfews have forced many to remain in their homes through this pandemic. Both USA Network and TNT are available in about 85 million households in the United States while the FOX broadcast channel is available to almost 120 million households.
Thus, with everyone stuck at home AND with most major sports cancelled or postponed, the WWE and AEW had a sports content monopoly for most of March, April, and May while June saw some sports making a comeback and of course July has more to come.
They blew it. The spotlight was on both WWE and AEW to entertain not just the loyal wrestling fanbase, but grab any casual fans or sports hungry viewers out there. The usual poor Creative Team efforts, pushing the wrong talents, and refusing to honor the traditions of pro wrestling were on display for both promotions. Meanwhile, NWA lost steam, Ring of Honor never recovered from their AEW talent defections, and Impact couldn't explain why they made a 125 pound female their Heavyweight Champion against 200+ pound men.
Now, many shall counter the fact Pro Wrestling "isn't the same without fans in the stands" to which I'd counter that both WWE and AEW were beginning to see attendance problems during late 2019 and 2020. Both promotions were heavily tarping off upper decks and non-television sides due to poor paid attendance. AEW has been touring smaller arenas, too, and they went from selling out each stop to struggling to fill 5,000 seats before March 2020. WWE was beginning to cancel Houseshows due to poor attendance during late 2019. If we want to argue that "attendance makes the shows better", then how do we explain how the old Studio Wrestling shows through the early 1990s were able to create and push superstars with very small crowds present?
I also implore my audience to look at the January to July numbers... It is a FACT that RAW, Smackdown, AEW Dynamite, and NXT were all declining through the end of 2019. Obviously, AEW Dynamite and WWE Smackdown started off hot on new network deals but both have come down considerably (over 500,000, in the case of Smackdown, 1 million lost!). What needs to be said is that WWE and AEW's use of talent and Creative Team decisions DID NOT present wrestling fans with quality shows and thus viewership & attendance were already declining. Numbers don't lie.
Since March 2020, however, everyone has been either forced to remain at home due to curfews/quarantines or they just have zero entertainment options to attend with bars, clubs, movie theaters, and sporting leagues forced to shut down. For television options, many popular shows had to wrap-up production earlier and many networks have been showing re-runs! Thus until recently with the MLB, NBA, and NHL just now returning, the WWE and AEW had a virtual monopoly on not just sports content, but providing original content to the public on television.
Nope, instead everyone watched a guy from Oklahoma named the "Tiger King" on Netflix while being glued to Cable News for Coronavirus and Political coverage. Oh, and also watching a documentary on a basketball team from over 20 years ago. That was their competition... Think about the Tiger King for a second... He is basically a pro wrestler in a petting zoo. Aside from their haircut, the facial hair, and the crazy outfits, the guy is cutting promos on other people and acting like he's larger than life. Joe Exotic is just another form of entertainment that is using Pro Wrestling tactics to generate reactions from the public. Donald Trump has made a career of speaking out like a pro wrestler and then became the President of the United States simply by cutting promos on the microphone.
Now, here in late July, Major League Baseball just started (but may shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks)... NBA and NHL seasons have just returned and will begin their Playoff Seasons soon. The NFL is on schedule to return for their regular season in the Fall. Masters, Kentucky Derby, and US Open will happen during the Fall. Meanwhile, the Election is less than 100 days away and Political Coverage will ramp up to even stronger levels than ever with Donald Trump trying to survive as an incumbent against Joe Biden. If any of their debates happen on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday nights... Kiss your ratings goodbye, pro wrestling.
For the WWE and somewhat the newcomer, AEW... You blew it! You squandered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present your product to a content and entertainment craving public absent of any sports leagues, events, bars/clubs/concerts, movie theaters, completed TV shows, and people being forced to remain at home by law.
Instead of pushing out quality pro wrestling programming, Vince McMahon and to a lesser extent because he's still new, Tony Khan, once again pushed the wrong guys, promoted horrible storylines, and continued to piss on traditions that makes pro wrestling resemble a sporting event. Exactly what is the meaning of those Bray Wyatt acid trips? How about how ignorant the race to the top of the Titan Towers was for Money in the Bank? Otis winning that damn briefcase too? We all thought that Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee were great signings, but then Matt Hardy invokes teleportation and Brodie Lee is the leader of the Dark Order. AEW has a bunch of smaller and/or hardcore wrestlers that their top guys are trying to get over. Meanwhile, NXT is the most sound promotion but it lacks the bells and whistles to make their characters look "larger than life". Meanwhile, NXT has all kinds of tongue twisters for wrestler names.
Pro Wrestling will NEVER have this opportunity ever again with the entire Sports and Entertainment worlds freezing like they did... If only WWE and AEW Creative Teams could have pushed some quality within their promotions, they could have won over many new fans desperate to watch sporting content. Instead, pro wrestling received more eyerolls as WWE, AEW, and NXT presented boring and sometimes embarrassing presentations in empty arena settings. The numbers speak for themselves...
You cannot fully blame the pandemic for RAW losing 700,000 viewers, Smackdown losing 500,000 viewers, NXT remaining somewhat flat, and AEW losing over 100,000. These promotions had a monopoly on the sporting fans' attentions spans and they blew it. The "once in lifetime" opportunity to grow was right there... And you choked over your own Creative inabilities to put on good shows.
Because the quality of the shows have been so poor, do you really expect wrestling fans to be wanting to return to the arenas? Remember, BOTH were losing attendance as of late 2019 and early 2020. Combine that with economic and employment uncertainty, it's very likely that both WWE and AEW might need to move to smaller arenas and/or cut ticket prices to help attendance woes.
As I want to keep reiterating, the problem is that both WWE and AEW were losing viewers and attendees of live events before COVID-19 hit the fan. That's what many diehard WWE and AEW fans refuse to admit. For years, the WWE has tried to push a part-time Brock Lesnar and their manufactured/scripted entity Roman Reigns. RAW went from just over 4 million viewers during early 2015 to 2.5 million viewers during the August 2018 when Roman Reigns vacated the WWE Universal Title. Giving Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton multiple chances to headline hasn't paid off either. Meanwhile, AEW started off during October 2019 with 1.4 million viewers and now cheer anytime they receive above 800,000 viewers. Maybe those EVPs (Cody, Omega, Bucks) aren't the big draws as hyped and as much as I've enjoyed Chris Jericho's career, he's older and last seen in the WWE as a midcarder. NXT has always been seen as the WWE's farm system and nothing more than that.
It just doesn't seem like the wrestling brainpower is there in the backstage areas of our favorite promotions... Nobody challenges Vince McMahon, as Triple H/Stephanie are family to him and Kevin Dunn is his best friend. Meanwhile, AEW gives too much power to their wrestlers who have never managed a wrestling promotion before, let alone handled any creative or talent assessment duties. Everything is just out of whack in both promotions. The Creative and Talent infrastructures are not there to quickly fix things nor is there for long-term planning. In the WWE's case, they have demoted/fired multiple people from the Creative Team (Road Dogg, Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, plus many writers). At this point, the WWE is just re-arranging deck chairs on their sinking Titanic.
You blew it... Funny thing is that Vince McMahon proved the critics wrong by having his Wrestlemania 36 event despite many fans and even those in government calling Vince "out of touch". He gave us 2 decent nights of wrestling and a classic with Undertaker vs. AJ Styles that we'll never forget. Right there was a moment that proved that the WWE could have built momentum during this pandemic to win over fans... Instead, we received boring after boring editions of RAW and Smackdown while NXT just had too much substance and not enough flash. Meanwhile, AEW could have seized upon the WWE's stumbles but instead said "hold my beer" to present their own idiotic creative decisions.
When we have the NFL rolling during the Fall and Playoffs for NHL, NBA, and MLB all happening at the same time... Oh, and a Presidential Election... Good luck, pro wrestling.
You blew it, Vince McMahon and to an extent, Tony Khan. Never again will such an amazing opportunity be presented to pro wrestling to shine when the public needed them. FINGER OF SHAME to both of you for presenting such poor quality wrestling products for 2020.
Now, you'll have to work extra hard to dig out of the hole that you've created during 2020... Lot of damage in the WWE to be repaired and impatience with NXT to quickly be the great alternative to the WWE. Expect extra money to be spent on wrestlers to make-up for it and many "Executive Director" or EVP changes backstage as kneejerk reactions to fix a problem that has been building for years within the Pro Wrestling industry.
You choked, guys, and you'll never see this kind of opportunity to grow without competition ever again. The competition is slowly but surely returning and they will bodyslam pro wrestling.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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