ASK TITO: Jericho, Hager, WWE 3Q Financials, More Submitted by Mr. Tito on 10/30/2020 at 12:49 PM
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Welcome to a special "Anniversary Edition" of my columns, as I'm celebrating 22 years of writing pro wrestling columns as Mr. Tito first for Lords of Pain and now for the past 3 months at NoDQ. Think about this for a second... My very first column was posted on 10/26/1998 and guess what I covered? WCW Halloween Havoc 1998. And what did NXT just have on their show the other night? Halloween freakin' Havoc. Yes, folks, I'm that old... I covered WCW and ECW when they were still alive and profitable.
My ongoing THANK YOU to my longtime audience who has been with me from day one or who have joined me throughout my 22 year reign of terror upon writing about the wrestling industry. Overall, I'm proud of what I have produced as a columnist and actually believe that I'm producing some of my best stuff right now. I'm one of the few columnists who just doesn't do show reviews or retro columns but tackles current events and controversial issues. Furthermore, I call it right down the middle with only a few biases towards certain wrestlers that I like. For example, you'll never find me accused of being on a wrestling promotion's payroll like other writers repeatedly have.
And as October comes to a close, it is also a 3 month anniversary for my tenure at NoDQ.com. I have to admit, I'm very pleased with my decision... I've enjoyed the NoDQ audience and as you can see from our 10/17 Great Debate video, we've only scratched the surface on what I could do in addition to columns. Thank you to the audience, thank you to Aaron Rift for bringing me along, and thank you to Virtue for being like a competitive brother to me. It's been fun and we've only just begun. And thank you to LoP for putting me in this position to succeed elsewhere, as you've ramped up your content creation section and brought back an older name in my absence. We've all improved from this experience.
Now, for something serious... And I'm just writing this in hopes that someone frustrated by the recent political scene actually reads this. Come Election Day, be smart. If your Presidential candidate loses, it's not the end of the world. The sun will rise again tomorrow... Don't feed into the 24/7 News cycle who are trying to make you react and watch more of their awfully biased news. When I cut the cord for Cable during August 2015, it was the best thing that I ever did to purge the Cable News channels. Don't feed into the need to join anarchy if your candidate doesn't win. It's not worth it, as our Presidency only lasts for 4 years and in 2 years, you can help flip their Congressional seats. And in the overall sense, what your state and local counties or cities do actually matters more. Get involved with that, as things that happen on the Federal level are overhyped by the news channels.
There have been Presidents that I voted for who have become disappointments when they were in office... There have been Presidents that I voted against who have surprised me when in office. Nothing is guaranteed. But what you can guarantee is your safety and not taking this overhyped beauty contest personally. Care more about your family and your own personal job and economic situation than worrying about how guys in Washington could "save" or "harm" you because they won't. In several of the bigger states, more than half of your taxes are pulled away from your income due to State/Local taxes... Think about that for a second and focus your energy towards that and NOT what the Cable News channels are feeding you.
Life will go on and more elections will happen. Father time also catches up to people in their 70s who think they have the energy of someone in their 50s. Always does.
So just chill... And here is something for you to relax and read.
What do you think about Chris Jericho's reported $3,000 donation to the Donald Trump campaign?
Same thing that I said about the Rock when he openly endorsed Joe Biden via video. When you are a public figure working for entertainment or sports companies who are heavily reliant on image, you have to take into account how you're paying customers will react to any changes in your image. Michael Jordan once famously said "Republicans buy shoes too" and he didn't get involved in politics openly when playing for the Chicago Bulls and pushing Nike, Gatorade, and other products. Hence why he was beloved by everyone and why Lebron James, who is deeply and openly involved with politics, is not. Just look at how the NBA Finals just BOMBED on their ratings recently (lost 70% from the last time Lebron was in the Finals).
My last column about 1998 being the "peak" of American Politics spelled it out... Over the course of the last 20 years, the political divide has only widened and every Election, thanks to the hype of 24/7 Cable News channels, has become increasingly personal. How many "most important election ever" labels are we going to see? With that said, if you are a public figure and you openly support someone or a movement politically, it may turn off customers.
For me, someone's political alignment doesn't bother me... If it did, I'd have to throw out most of my Music and Movies that I've collected. But for many, it does... Many are still upset at Jericho appearing at Sturgis in the event that has been traced as a "super spreader" event.
Where I believe politics hurts wrestling, however, is when it's on one of their televised programs. Obviously, whenever the WWE tries to recreate recent events in their storylines as seen by Retribution, Mohammad Hassan, and Desert Storm, but also clearly pushing stereotypes. But where I also believe it has hurt the WWE recently was with Big E when he had words about Kofi Kingston's recent WWE Title reign in a show with the Miz. For one, many have easily debated that Kofi shouldn't have been champion based on his past failures to draw when placed in bigger positions and 2019's ratings bombed with him as champion. Big E openly accusing WWE of potential racism was uncalled for, because the facts don't clearly back that up, and that's the kind of politics that can hurt a company.
Until you see Chris Jericho coming out and waiving those blue "Trump 2020" flags on AEW programming, I see minimal impact on the current fanbase. Now, could that harm casual fans from giving AEW a chance? Of course it could... It's just something that Jericho and other wrestlers have to always consider as public figures. People are overly sensitive to politics right now and are responding with their wallets.
How can AEW capitalize on Jake Hager's recent MMA success?
For one, you can add Jake Hager to the political discussion... Instead of having his campaign contribution revealed like Jericho, Hager made a social media post fully endorsing Donald Trump. Same thing that I just said about Jericho... When you are a public figure working for the entertainment or sports industry, you roll the dice on taking a political view by upsetting your paying customers.
Considering that Jake Hager has been a MMA fighter for a while, he is 10-6 in AEW matches according to the Internet Wrestling Database.
Yeah, AEW isn't taking that MMA career seriously to push him like a badass. He's just a stooge for the Inner Circle. While Bellator is not UFC, it's still competitive fighting and most pro wrestlers couldn't successfully try that if they could. Jake Hager, however, could with his successful NCAA amateur wrestling career.
The fact that AEW has Hager selling for their many 5'10", 180 pounders is an indictment of their awful booking as prepared by Tony Khan and the 4 EVPs that he foolishly gave titles to when starting this promotion.
Do you believe that the NXT brand is dead and buried?
Let's not let the Halloween Havoc gimmick fool you... NXT has consistently scored UNDER 700,000 viewers for many weeks now, if not months. For the times that they exceed 700,000 or even 800,000 viewers to possibly challenge AEW, they've had WWE performers appearing on their shows.
NXT needs to be called out for what it truly is... It is Independent Wrestling with WWE's higher television production attached to it. Simple as that...
The wrestlers in that "territory" are not being taught how to work as well rounded performers who can sell, use psychology, or effectively communicate on the microphone. Instead, they are taught, from day 1, how to be a specific character that WWE Creative MIGHT want to use in a few years on television. Triple H's recruiting abilities are proving to be weak, as he's just signing flashy independent wrestlers and the trainers he put in place are NOT correcting their bad habits like taking too many high risk maneuvers within matches. Seriously, when was the last time that NXT actually gave the WWE a wrestler who could actually speak well on the microphone? And be careful not to mix several Laurinaitis signings (Bryan, Shield, Wyatt) with anyone Triple H has signed.
When you have a brief 1 hour show on the WWE Network that hardly anyone watched + 3-4 Pay Per Views per year that were carefully booked, NXT looked like a dynamite promotion. However, when you force this same developmental promotion to do 2 hour shows per week on USA Network, the cracks in the WWE's talent relations system are easily seen. The results speak for themselves... HHH began during mid 2012 as Talent Relations EVP and we have YET to see anyone reach the top drawing main event status on his watch. Again, he didn't sign Bryan, Shield, or Wyatt... Braun Strowman hasn't drawn.
And you could give me "what about the Women's Division"... Yeah, what about it? So Triple H is putting a tad more effort into giving them better matches than previous folks... So what? He's following the Divas Search contestants trying to become wrestlers and fighting over the Divas Title belt. The FACT is that Women's wrestling on both NXT and the WWE for the past 5 years on RAW/Smackdown hasn't drawn.
If it were me personally, I'd take NXT off television and train these guys off camera or exist only on local Florida television. Expectations are becoming too high for diehard NXT fans for any WWE call-ups, only to be let down when Vince McMahon doesn't like their favorites. Triple H needs to hire better trainers and figure out why the Ohio Valley Wrestling system of the early 2000s made so many durable and great wrestlers compared to his. Look at how Rip Rogers trained Pat McAfee to work better than most NXT wrestlers... Rip was a top trainer in the OVW system. Prince Albert, as shown by his own career, isn't getting the job done as lead trainer and it's very clear that Triple H is doing a poor job recruiting talent that Vince might want. 5'10", 180 pounders draw no where. Ask AEW.
What are your thoughts on the WWE's 3rd Quarter 2020 Financial Results?
Positives - Net Revenues and Net Income (difference between Revenues & Expenses) are both WAY UP for not just the 3rd Quarter, but for 2020 versus 2019 for Year to Date as well. This is despite overall expenses being up, too.
- WWE is a bigger company right now than before. Their asset size has increased over $400 Million since year-end 2019.
- Their new TV Deals matter... For the quarter, their revenues are up $54 million alone and for the year, just short of $180 Million!!!! Remember, their previous deal with Comcast for RAW and Smackdown paid them under $200 million per year for BOTH shows. Now, Comcast pays them roughly $200 million per year for RAW and FOX pays them roughly $200 million per year for Smackdown (combined $400 million).
- Merchandise sales are up slightly for 3rd Quarter 2020, though down slightly for the year. The gain year over year despite having ZERO fan attending live events is a huge deal. Bombarding WWE Network subscribers with WWE Shopzone emails appears to be working.
- Their Debt positions are way higher. WWE is borrowing money heavily right now... Though technically that is a positive with internet rates so low, this helps explain why so many wrestlers and personnel were released. WWE is borrowing more money, possibly in emergency fashion or due to higher expenses incurred due to COVID-19. That Thunderdome, for example, could not have been cheap as are repeated medical testing of its wrestlers.
- Loss of Live Event revenue. Obviously, they have next to nothing during the 2nd and 3rd quarters with them being unable to have fans in attendance. If you look at year to date, they have made roughly $19 million compared to last year's $98 million. This compounds the merchandise issues as well.
- WWE Network revenues are up slightly for the quarter, but down overall for the year. WWE Network, as I've discussed before, peaked during mid-2018 and has been in trouble since they diminished the brand of Brock Lesnar. WWE Network has a ton of original content lately that has helped drive back some lost subscribers but that comes at a cost, too... Media expenses are way up for the WWE. Thanks to the Wrestlemania 36 surge, WWE Network subscribers are up slightly for 2nd and 3rd quarters but we're still down from the mid 2018 peak and once COVID is over (or fear is reduced), this may come back down unless we get the potential Rock vs. Roman Reigns match next year.
OVERALL - WWE Television Deals MATTER and that is what is keeping the WWE alive, actually. Problem is that the WWE isn't doing a good job Creatively putting together those shows and their viewership issues could take its toll on the WWE later on. The WWE needs a breakout star badly and I just don't see the poor NXT Developmental system under Triple H and other SVPs producing that. They'll probably bring Brock Lesnar for one last big push...
Should Matt Riddle be called just "Riddle" in the WWE?
Just stupid. Should we call Roman Reigns as "Reigns"? How about Braun Strowman as just "Strowman"? How about Bray Wyatt as just "Wyatt"? Oh, we're not doing that? So why are midcarders forced to have just 1 name only?
You just know that some Creative Team member or Vince wants to put more emphasis on the name of "Riddle", like he'll be the Riddler character from Batman on WWE television. Meanwhile, we have the same problem in WWE that Jake Hager also has in AEW (also technically had in WWE). Riddle is a former UFC fighter and had a winning record. He has taken that skillset and translated that into a well trained performer. I love how bold he is to work with the barefeet, too.
But no, let's have him endure 50/50 booking in the WWE where he wins some and loses some... And now, we'll just call him "Riddle".
The FACT is that he could kill the majority of the WWE roster with his barehands and yet he's made a mockery of on WWE television.
Maybe the real "Riddle" is how can a guy overcome bad WWE Creative while also trying to clear up legal allegations? Personally, whether he is called "Matt Riddle" or just "Riddle", he'll never get a proper WWE push until he can convincingly clear himself of any wrongdoing. Even then, the Twitter Mob will constantly remind the WWE of the allegations. Funny how Cancel Culture picks and chooses who they deny opportunities...
What are WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump's chances to be re-elected as President?
My opinion remains the same... As it stands right now, it seems like based on State Polling that Joe Biden has a strong possibility of winning. If you look at the overall national Poll, Biden has maintained a 5%+ lead since he won the primaries. Democrats obviously picked Joe to be more competitive in the Midwestern States of Pennsylvania (in particular), Michigan, Wisconsin, and maybe with older folks in Florida.
What I'm looking at for Trump is Georgia... There are 16 Electoral Votes there and Trump losing that as a surprises will cause him to need a Midwestern running of the Table. He would definitely need Pennsylvania plus 2 out of 3 states in Michigan (especially) and Minnesota or Wisconsin while maintaining his other red states. Georgia is a unique state because it has maintained being RED but there are still hurt feelings over the 2018 Governor's race and many allegations of voter suppression in that state that many are attempting to overcome for 2020. If Trump loses Georgia, he's in deep trouble.
Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral Votes are key for either candidate, though Trump needs it more. And in my opinion, it will be Pennsylvania that will be the source of controversy if the election is close. Pennsylvania is allowing mail-in ballots to arrive in the week AFTER the 2020 Election. I can see a legitimate scenario where Trump wins Pennsylvania on Election Night but then legally challenges the mailed votes received afterward. This will be the matter on whether Trump actually concedes the election or not... If he's ahead on Election Night, he'll fight hard to remain President... But if he loses Pennsylvania on Election Night, he'll wait and see how the mailed in ballots appear and probably concede from there.
For 2020, I just don't see the Electoral College being an advantage for Trump as it was during 2016 against Hillary. Many in the Midwest did not like Hillary Clinton and hence why Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan flipped from blue to red during 2016. However, organized labor loves Joe Biden as do many other older voters. Trump won those 3 states by very slim margins and Biden's presence could tip the scales.
But watch Georgia... If that goes to Biden, Trump is in deep trouble early into Election Night.
It wouldn't surprise me if Donald Trump lost... 2020 has been infected by COVID-19 and he became infected himself by getting sick just as Early Voting began. That will prove to be the decisive timeframe, I feel.
I'd suggest that the odds are 70% for Biden and 30% for Trump... There's a chance of late breaking momentum for the past few weeks following the 2nd debate, economic numbers improving, and a few October surprise scandals possibly swaying any in-person voters. I'd strongly suggest watching Georgia and Pennsylvania but if Trump happens to lose Florida and/or North Carolina, it will flip into Landslide mode. Even if Trump somehow wins, he'll probably have Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress. Might be worth just licking your wounds and calling it a day with the Tax Cuts, 3 Judges added, and changing the "politically correct" culture of the President permanently.
And if he loses, he could be free to attend more Wrestlemania events... If you think that he had heat back during Wrestlemania 23, think of what he could do now.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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