If you have read my columns, particularly since early 2015, you have heard me talk about how the “WWE has declined in viewership, attendance, and merchandise since early 2015” repeatedly. And I was correct. Total numbers of butts on couches watching Television, butts in seats at arenas, and buyers of WWE merchandise has gone down. Losing John Cena as a full-timer has been a major cause of this, as has trying to push Roman Reigns as his babyface clone. ALSO, the developmental system hasn’t been producing talent that the main WWE roster could feature as consistently drawing Main Eventers. Triple H only has Kevin Owens and Finn Balor to really brag about as his top signed and developed stars, where as Jim Ross can brag about Cena/Lesnar/Orton/Batista and John Laurinaitis can brag about Punk/Bryan/Rollins/Reigns and many others who have come and gone from the FCW system to WWE or have been lifers on the upper midcard (hey Miz, Sheamus, Drew, etc). Triple H is more better known for the women he has put on the roster rather than any top drawing men.
Before 2020, WWE was clearly declining and then the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and caused financial disruptions everywhere.
But here we are in 2023… The numbers are getting interesting and my argument of “WWE has decreased since 2015” is starting to get thin…
– Smackdown’s viewership is seeing 2.5 million almost consistently and could be pushing towards 3 million. RAW, at least, isn’t sinking below 1.5 million as it previously threatened during previous years (3 hours is still too damn long to watch a weekly wrestling show!!!).
– Attendance is up. WWE, for the first 6 months of 2023, made $30 million more in revenue than it did during the same timeframe in 2022. Crowds have been packed, especially for Paid Live Events.
– Merchandise surged through 2022, and remain high through 2023 (though not as fast as 2022’s sales, but still higher than previous years).
Folks, the downslide of the WWE is over… I cannot deny it any longer. Thanks to the Bloodline storyline, key signings (Cody Rhodes and Logan Paul, for sure), and several young talents striking interest… Holy cow, who would have known that Dominik Mysterio would be such a heat magnet?
Here is the absolute CRAZY THING about this… What if Cody Rhodes and/or LA Knight pan out as babyface draws?
Look, we all know who and what Cody Rhodes is… I think he’d be a solid babyface champion, ESPECIALLY after scrubbing off that “AEW Stench” by almost defeating Roman Reigns and beating Brock Lesnar 2 out of 3 times, but could he generate excitement like babyfaces before him? I don’t know, but I do know that many longtime fans want to see Cody do well.
Something is up with LA Knight… In my last column about him, I stated that fans HAVE to buy his merchandise in droves to convince the WWE to push him. Well, they did and he topped the merchandise charts. Now, the WWE is primed to push him. If LA Knight is for real and his popularity transcends the rest of the WWE roster, this is GIGANTIC for the WWE.
What we’re also forgetting is that WWE was purchased by Endeavor… Putting their minds together with Vince McMahon and cross-promoting with UFC, there is a real chance that WWE is going to surge moving forward. WWE somehow found the right financial partner who will respect WWE traditions at a time when Roman Reigns has become a gigantic star, Cody Rhodes or LA Knight could breakout as top babyfaces, and with so many young stars on the roster. While I dislike Triple H’s handling of the developmental, I really like the female talent that he’s pushed, especially the Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair. Those are REAL ladies who could probably kick the teeth out of anyone on both the WWE and AEW roster.
Meanwhile, in AEW land… Oh, y’all just re-signed “The Elite” to 4 year deals while maintaining Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks as EVPs. Good luck with that. Just wait until the WWE/Endeavor merger has been completed and they’ll start raiding your roster of your best talents. And, with the WWE actually growing right now, they’ll start cutting off your pipes accessing to local indies for talent and maybe even get a relationship with New Japan (Meltzer would lose his mind!!).
I’m at a loss for words… I can no longer call the WWE as “declining”… They are growing and the WWE brand has become cool again.
And say it with me, folks… Vince McMahon was RIGHT about Roman Reigns all along.
Now, he was WRONG to push him like John Cena from 2014-2020, especially with the lack of experience that Roman had and the personality mismatch for the role. But handpicking Roman as “the guy” was 100% correct. The PAIN that the WWE endured pushing him, while others around him weren’t exactly succeeding and have struggled badly in AEW, has justified Vince. Vince just couldn’t get over the loss of his John Cena cash cow and thought he could replicate it with a talent that he really liked. It just took him 6 years to realize “oh, let’s make him a heel” while also realizing there was more to the Usos than just being a tag team.
Let’s also give Vince McMahon credit for giving Cody Rhodes another chance and being RIGHT about not overpushing him too early at Wrestlemania 39. Cody Rhodes’s star is STRONGER THAN EVER after losing cheaply to Roman at Wrestlemania 39, via Solo Sikoa’s spike, and then defeating Brock Lesnar 2 out of 3 times. Furthermore, Vince is quickly course correcting on LA Knight. Remember, it took until Wrestlemania 13 for Vince to fully buy into pushing Stone Cold Steve Austin, while it took months for Vince to buy into Mick Foley’s Mankind character. When Vince buys into you, he’ll embrace and put his full creative attention towards you. Why? Because Vince McMahon LOVES money more than he loves being right.
And I really hate to say it… But as I see them in AEW, Vince may have been right on CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. It PAINS me to say that, but I worry that their peaks were at Money in the Bank 2011 for Punk and Wrestlemania 30 for Bryan. After capturing the WWE gold, it’s like “now what”? That was my worry about Cody Rhodes winning it at Wrestlemania 39, which was winning the World Title would peak him too early and he’d then have to wrestle the same old tired names as champion.
Vince’s patience with Roman Reigns has paid off, while creating pairings like Rhea Ripley and Dominik Mysterio has been wildly entertaining.
Does anybody remember when Walter was renamed to Gunther? Remember that online controversy where Vince was called an idiot for renaming him? No, he was rebranding him because Gunther was about to slim down and become an even BETTER wrestler than before. It’s working, and he’s the BEST Intercontinental Champion in a long, long time. We’re getting close to WWE pulling the trigger on him elevating to the Main Event because he has proven to be a successful drawing midcard champion.
Seth Rollins is fun again and I’m actually happy that he’s champion of the newly created World Title (though I wish they didn’t create the title. We were mocking him just a few years ago, now, he’s admired for sticking out many bad gimmicks and angles that hampered his career. Seth is very talented, as is his lovely wife Becky Lynch.
This looks like a really cool Main Event scene:
– Roman Reigns
– Seth Rollins
– Cody Rhodes
– Brock Lesnar
– LA Knight
– Usos (cannot deny it, Jey has been great as a singles star)
If WWE can hit it out of the park with Cody Rhodes and/or LA Knight as babyface sensations, OR if Roman Reigns switching to babyface is successful, the WWE could really explode in growth and merchandise would grow further. Bloodline is a HEEL group and they have been driving merch sales upward. Imagine what a strong babyface could do? We still have Bron Breakker cooking in NXT… Solo Sikoa is still young and learning.
This Endeavor machine is going to matter, too, brotha… Watch this new TV deal, which I suspect we’ll hear about later this year or early next year. Someone is going to willingly pay up and Endeavor will promote the WWE brand like never before. Don’t forget that Nick Khan is still there and his unique negotiating ideas will merge with Endeavor’s. Holy cow.
Are you sure that you wanted to sign those new AEW contracts, Kenny and the Young Bucks? Are you sure, or did the WWE NOT want to sign you to get in the way of Roman, Cody, LA, or other exciting younger stars on the rise?
I’m shocked that I’m writing this column, but I cannot deny it… WWE is growing again and we could be in another BOOM period for the WWE following in the footsteps of Hulkamania, Attitude Era, and John Cena carrying the promotion. It’s usually like a 5-6 decline before another boom happens, so here we are… If LA Knight really clicks on his Main Event babyface push, we’ve got some serious growth on our hands.
CLICK HERE for the Mr. Tito Column Archive @ NoDQ