MR. TITO: Tale of Two Cities – AEW Failing with Ospreay/Okada/Mercedes & WWE Owned by the Rock

Right now in Pro Wrestling, we have a Tale of Two Cities between what is drawing in the WWE with a particular big star (the Rock) versus what isn’t working in AEW with the big free agent signings of Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada, and Sasha Banks Mercedes Moné. While WWE Smackdown is drawing strong and having consecutive sellouts, AEW Dynamite has not drawn above 850,000 viewers since January and their last 2 weeks of drawing 779,000 and 801,000 (thank you comes on the heels of the “greatest” AEW Pay Per View of all time along with the debuts of Okada and Mercedes for the past 2 weeks.

Gee, what is going on here?

Let’s pick on AEW first because I know that my legit and honest words will drive them off a cliff… Plus, ya know, I’m apparently BIASED agianst AEW as the ignorant claims go but I guarantee my WWE words following this about the Rock will PISS OFF certain WWE marks more than you know.

Time to accept what we’ve ALWAYS known and is the bonified TRUTH… NOBODY here in North America cares about New Japan Pro Wrestling unless a major star, like a Chris Jericho, appears there. Otherwise, if you’re a talent who hasn’t been over in North America, NOBODY CARES.

Remember all of those Meltzer induced 5, 6 , and even 7 star matches from those big New Japan events? Yeah, those matches struggled to draw eyeballs on an AXS channel available to more than 50 million households. Their weekly NJPW show couldn’t even draw something like 150,000 viewers to even show up on the ratings report. Oh, you want more? The New Japan shows, where it’s just NJPW themselves, often have to settle for smaller arenas and even those don’t draw either. Aside from Jericho appearing to wrestle Omega, nobody in North America is subscribing to New Japan’s streaming service to watch more of their broadcasts.

And as I’ve stated REPEATEDLY in many, many columns throughout the years… North Americans LOVE Japanese stuff, such as Nintendo and many other gaming companies, Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, their cars (Honda, Toyota, etc.), anime, Godzilla, baseball stars (look who just signed the biggest MLB contract ever!), among many other things… BUT NOT WRESTLING. Nobody here in the states likes their brand of Pro Wrestling. If we did, we’d snort it up like other Japanese products that take our money easily. Dave Meltzer has helped create the image that Japanese wrestling is more popular than it actually is… But it isn’t. Nobody cares.

Thus, Will Ospreay isn’t getting over beyond AEW diehards, while Okada is an even more of an unknown because his TNA impact was brief as was his recent AEW run in 2023. I don’t care how many stars Meltzer gives both of these guys… Nobody outside of the few diehards here and Japan cares about these 30-45 minute athletic contests where both guys attempt to prove how amazing their stamina is while forgetting what psychology or selling is.

HENCE why WWE lowballed both Ospreay and Okada… While Triple H probably saw value in their in-ring abilities, he saw that they weren’t drawing outside of Japan. Meanwhile, clown Tony Khan reads the Wrestling Observer and believes that these guys are worth paying $2-5 million per year.

Debuting both guys cold without any hype videos and with terrible theme music hurts, too. No vignettes, just here they are… Accept them.

Many of you have got on me about my column shredding AEW for placing Okada immediately with the Young Bucks. Did you see how uneventful that 6 man tag match was on Dynamite? Okada didn’t look like a major star, just another one of the guys. When he stood there and willingly took chops to begin that match, I knew that I was right and it’s already over for Okada. He’s just a flunky for the Bucks and not exceptional as he could have been.

AEW goes to Boston this week with some hype about who they are about to debut, but not everyone knows that the artist formerly known as “Sasha Banks” is from Boston. Good for them on receiving a decent attendance number, but that goes away for the next trip. AEW should have run vignettes to hype Mercedes Moné’s for the television audience, but they did not… The result is that no crossover fans even tuned in and that 801,000 viewership number is EMBARRASSING.

But is Mercedes Moné even a draw?

For one, she’s not called “Sasha Banks” any longer. That was the star that everyone remembers and celebrated when she did a major acting role in the Star Wars: Mandalorian show. But her New Japan stuff wasn’t exactly enjoyed or appreciated by fans, particularly her debut and subsequent appearances. Her tenure in NJPW didn’t go well or else she’d appear there more and have crossover appeal. Now, she’s in AEW with a reported hefty contract because Tony overpaid her, too, and now she needs to get over a new name that didn’t previously work when it was tried in New Japan. She’s starting from scratch when AEW needs her to draw now.

Name changes don’t work… Jon Moxley is an exception to that rule, because from 2019-2021, he brought his best in-ring work into AEW and was one of its finest champions. Many other ex-WWE wrestlers haven’t had such luck in AEW under different names, just as many other ex-WWE wrestlers failed to get any traction in TNA when they had different names, too. While Mercedes is her real name, the “Moné” just doesn’t work and sounds ridiculous.

And here’s where THEME MUSIC matters… The Rock still has his Jim Johnston theme kicking, though I’m sure others have composed on his recent one… But on Smackdown this Friday, he incorporated his 2003 Hollywood Rock theme into his music. Older WWE fans lost their minds and it set the table for a very strong segment on Smackdown. What did Mercedes Monéhave as her theme music? Piped in “CEO, CEO, CEO” chants in attempts to induce live attendees to chant “CEO” at her while her terrible new theme music played.

The absolute NERVE of the current AEW theme music composer to badmouth legendary WWE theme music maker Jim Johnston made my blood boil… AEW’s theme music SUCKS and WWE’s theme music has mostly sucked since they canned Johnston.

With Sasha, maybe we ought to wait a week, but I just don’t think wrestling fans care about the product right now… Furthermore, as Virtue keeps saying lately, many older Sting fans are no longer watching and AEW’s viewership hasn’t been strong since CM Punk left. Oh, ratings don’t matter, you say? Then AEW has suffered lower attendance and they will continue if they assume Ospreay, Okada, and Mercedes Moné are draws.

You know what would draw for AEW? If they had HOME GROWN TALENT that ever AEW fan got to enjoy rising up to achieve main event status.

Look at WWE, and it’s mostly homegrown guys… Rock/Brock/Orton/Cena were Jim Ross signed wrestlers, Roman/Cody/Drew/Seth were John Laurinaitis signed wrestlers… Sure, some may have had prior experience, but they were groomed through a developmental system to become bigtime WWE stars. AEW is borrowing from others, often signing guys AFTER their primes or best runs, and it’s just not working. How is Edge, I mean Adam, doing these days?

“BUT BUT BUT BUT Tito is anti-AEW”, but then I tape up my fists to present an unpopular opinion about the Rock that has been giving me heat for weeks now…

The Rock is great, but he’s drawing in older Attitude Era fans that have long left the product. The shadow that he’s casting over the entire product and the way he has marginalized both Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes is going to do long-term damage to both of those characters UNLESS he puts over both in a major way. Current loyal WWE fans have been long invested in Roman Reigns as the #1 heel, while they’ve supported Cody Rhodes since his return because he ditched AEW as an EVP and he’s latched onto the love for his dad, Dusty Rhodes, who was robbed of being WWE Champion.

The REAL problem is that an authoritarian character gets to play chess, while the wrestlers are stuck playing checkers.

Cody Rhodes HAS to stick to the script, per the WWE Creative Team. If they tell him to cry about handing the World Title to his mother, he HAS to do it. Cody doesn’t have creative control over his character… But The Rock does… While Cody cuts a serious looking promo on RAW, the Rock can thrash him by openly mocking him on Smackdown for crying. Worse yet, the Rock is allowed to completely go unscripted via his social media pages and use vulgarity to really shred Cody… Or go on Pat McAfee and do the same. CODY CAN’T, as Cody is restricted by his WWE contract and that controls where he appears or what he says on social media.

This is the SAME situation as CM Punk dealing with an unscripted Triple H during 2011, or Daniel Bryan dealing with an unscripted Stephanie McMahon during 2013. For CM Punk, while he delivered scripted promos against Triple H for their lead-up to the September 2011 Night of Champions event, Triple H didn’t have a script for his responses or went off script. You could see the egg boiling on Punk’s head, but he was powerless to do anything about it because him going unscripted goes against the WWE contract that he signed. WORSE YET, CM Punk never got retribution or revenge towards Triple H. HHH pinned and buried him at Night of Champions.

For Daniel Bryan, it was a complete burial. The Authority was attacking him and shoving Randy Orton down our throats to keep Bryan away from the title, but it was Stephanie McMahon constantly calling Daniel Bryan as a “B+ Player”. Throughout the rest of 2013, Daniel Bryan wasn’t allowed to get revenge on the Authority and in fact, Randy Orton moved on and away from Bryan with the WWE Title. Bryan was then shoved into the Wyatt Family angle until fans completely revolted, particularly after HHH tried to strong-arm Batista vs. Randy Orton to headline Wrestlemania 30. Stephanie never got hers for calling Bryan a “B+ Player”. Hell, Brie Bella wasn’t allowed to get revenge, as Stephanie disposed of her at SummerSlam 2014.

The ONLY was this ridiculous mocking of Cody is even merited is if Cody slays the “final boss”. That’s right, that’s what the Rock now calls himself… Wait, I thought that Roman Reigns was the final boss of the Bloodline, as he has the World Title and you need to fight through Jimmy or Solo to get to Roman? NOPE, Roman is Rock’s bitch and we’ve somehow devalued what Roman and Paul Heyman have spent over 3 years building… Roman is just a bystander now and has lost all of his massive heel heat built up for the past 3+ years. Rock is the “final boss”.

But Cody is only redeemed if he slays the Rock convincingly… If, however, the Rock has been acting and turns on Roman at Wrestlemania 40 to help Cody win, then what erases the nasty stuff that Rock has said? You know, calling all of the fans as “Cody Crybabies” and calling Cody a “mistake” between his mom and dad? Seriously, nothing is as low as calling someone a mistake about being born, which Cody clearly was not. Now, I understand that it’s done to generate heat, but if Cody doesn’t get revenge on the Rock, it’s meaningless even if Rock turns on Roman. Why? Because you don’t let someone talk to you that way and get away with it, even if he somehow helps you win the title. After Cody wins the belt, he should immediately attack the Rock and hit the CrossRhodes finisher rather than celebrating with the Rock.

I have a feeling, however, that we won’t… Cody will probably get pinned by either the Rock or Roman on night #1, but then when the Rock tries to help Roman on Night #2, he accidentally hits Roman. The Rock will walk away SHOCKED in the entrance way and the show ends with Cody celebrating instead of getting any revenge on the Rock. Rock reportedly has a film to make immediately after Wrestlemania, so thus his time with WWE after Wrestlemania 40 will be shortlived.

BEFORE the Rock became a Board Member and BEFORE Vince McMahon’s disgusting lawsuit came out, the Wrestlemania 40 event was mostly sold out and doing just fine with Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns. We didn’t need any special gimmicks, nor did we need anyone from the Attitude Era to pop back up. This current crop of talent led by Triple H in creative was doing just fine and drawing just fine too. The Rock and Endeavor/TKO panicked after Vince’s lawsuit and tried to re-write those plans by forcing Rock vs. Roman just a few days after Royal Rumble made Cody the #1 contender. Fans revolted, as they were behind Cody’s storyline and forced WWE’s hand to rebook Roman vs. Cody.

But Rock took the blame for switching this match and he’s now become intoxicated by the heel heat, as it’s probably the most reaction he’s had to himself since tagging along with the Fast & Furious films because his recent films did poorly and his “Young Rock” show was cancelled. Thus, he’s injected his reborn heel character and has immediately taken all momentum that the Cody vs. Roman rematch had along with any momentum either of those characters once had. Cody is getting humiliated weekly, while Roman has become second fiddle.

The PAINFUL part is that 2024 WWE didn’t need the Rock… Sure, it seems better right now and yes, the Rock Concert from 3/15 Smackdown was great…

But what happens when the Rock leaves the WWE after Wrestlemania?

All of those Attitude Era fans popping for the return of “Hollywood Rock” will stop watching once again and all of the wrestlers affected (Cody, Seth, Roman) have to continue afterward.

Just saying, this has been handled poorly without consideration of the rest of the roster unless there is a proper payoff for the Rock “getting his” in the end… Yes, the Rock is killing it out there, but the rest of the roster ISN’T compared to him. Furthermore, the rest of the damn roster has to read a SCRIPT and be polite on social media, while the Rock can do whatever he wants. Cody is completely neutered out there, and ditto with Seth Rollins. Seriously, they told Seth to call the Rock “Diarrhea Dwayne” and that followed a terrible promo that Seth was clearly forced to read. Why is it that Seth and Cody are scripted, but the Rock can improvise and say nasty things about both?

Many try to compare how good the Attitude Era is against the current wrestlers… Current wrestlers MUST stick by a script, whereas the Attitude Era wrestlers were just given rough outlines on what to say but could improvise around that format. “Austin 3:16” was improvised by Austin, as was all of the catchphrases that Rock is still using to this day. Cody is told to cry on television, while Seth calls The Rock “Diarrhea Dwayne”. F’n seriously?

The Rock has to get his in the end, and literally beg for mercy when not just Cody, but also Seth get their revenge. The Final Boss has to lose, or otherwise, the TKO corporation he represents will suffer when all interest is gone once the Rock exits the WWE television product to start filming movies again.

It’s hilarious that I’m literally the only one who sees this major WWE problem brewing, especially if the Rock just disappears after Wrestlemania 40 with Roman and Cody holding the check. But hey, I was also the one who told you that CM Punk was getting buried in 2011 by Triple H (Kevin Nash recently confirmed this to be true), that Daniel Bryan was getting buried during 2013-2014, and that Roman Reigns was inadequate as a babyface main eventer from 2014-2019 when the WWE lost over 2 million viewers and thousands in attendance. I can see this long-term issue coming a mile away and only could get resolved if WWE gets some hits on their younger talents coming up.

Pleasure as always to be proven right in the future. Suck on those apples.

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