(10) Tony Khan’s media rights bet becomes a little bit clearer. Haus of Wrestling reports that CW executives approached Tony Khan last year about a TV deal for Ring of Honor, but Khan rejected it because he did not want to do anything with ROH on TV until AEW got its next media rights deal. The story claims that Khan believes that AEW will have "more leverage" in the "marketplace" in 2024; this is also coming on the heels of a Fightful report stating that AEW and WBD have yet to make a deal for content to start streaming on Max.
Khan’s gamble—waiting until there’s less than 12 months remaining on AEW’s current deal—may pay off. FOX is a no-go because they’re getting out of the wrestling business. NBCU/Comcast just picked up SmackDown. I could see Paramount (the parent of CBS, MTV, and VH1) making a play because 43-45% of AEW’s viewership is in 18-49 and they already have a syndication deal with WOW: Women of Wrestling. If the NBA goes back to NBCU and USA Network as they are rumored to be making a bid for the rights, then Khan could ostensibly get even more money out of WBD, despite two straight years of declining ratings, because the company’s television portfolio is pretty damn weak.
And ultimately, getting far more money out of WBD (and getting WBD to pick up ROH, too), is most likely Khan’s long term game. It’s a smart play. However, it is ultimately up to David Zaslav’s appetite for spending money on programming, especially after SAG-AFTRA just took him and the other big three studio conglomerates to the cleaners.
The CW scored NXT for less than $40 million a year—a show that actually has a growing audience. NBCU/Comcast is paying $287 million a year for SmackDown, a show that has averaged a 25-30% bigger audience than Dynamite when broadcast on FS1. Khan is probably holding out for $200-$230 million a year; I’m just not sure if that size of a deal will come to fruition, even as much as WBD needs AEW in its TV portfolio.
(9) Damage CTRL is fine…for now. Kairi Sane decided to let bygones-be-bygones—that is, getting her ass kicked by Bayley—and form a united front with the rest of the Damage CTRL stable. Asuka, after turning against Charlotte and Bianca in the waning moments of their trios match against Sane, Iyo, and Bayley, joined the group, too.
The obvious development is that this is going to be the Survivor Series multi-woman tag match; perhaps the women’s WarGames match. Becky Lynch is most likely going to be the final woman to join the babyface side of things, along with Shotzi, Charlotte, and Bianca.
I still stand by what I said last week, though: Damage CTRL has a lot more creative mileage behind them than ahead of them. It is not a matter of if, but when, they decide to dispose of Bayley.
(8) The TBS Title feud actually has…depth? After Julia Hart bested Willow Nightingale on Collision, the villainess is going to once again get another shot at Kris Statlander and the TBS Championship. Hart and Statlander will be joined in that Full Gear match by the winner of the Skye Blue-Red Velvet match this week on Dynamite. Hart is most likely going to defeat Statlander because, well, the story calls for it.
I still think my prediction holds up: that Skye Blue will ultimately align with Julia Hart as her lackey and/or enforcer. In kayfabe, Blue still resents Statlander being "protective", especially considering Statlander beat her as well for the TBS Championship.
The crowd was noticeably quiet for Nightingale and Hart—probably because the winner of the match was obvious. AEW has to be careful about continuously booking matches with obvious outcomes. Sometimes, it works; other times it is indicative of how the company will utilize pointless contests to advance a storyline because they have no other way to do it.
For a title that has yet to have a very deep storyline until now—the stolen title story between Nyla Rose and Jade Cargill was the only significant one before this—the current storyline is a departure from typical mid-card women’s fare in AEW. It’s played out okay on television. Could it be better? I mean anything could be better. However, this angle is playing to everyone’s strengths and the character work among all the ladies involved in the feud has been good.
(7) The AEW tag team title scene is coming into focus heading into Full Gear, even though the TV has been ass. The AEW pay-per-view is probably the surest bet in wrestling, and even though the TV has been uneven so far—good and bad—the event is shaping up to be a pretty compelling one.
The tag team division is getting a big spotlight, as the four way feud between Big Bill & Ricky Starks, FTR, The House of Black, and LFI will reach a turning point in a four-way championship match in Los Angeles. This has been a shallow build, largely taking place on Collision as that is the only show the House of Black appears in full force. I would think that the House of Black & LFI would be more fitting of a trios feud, but…alas.
The other side of the tag team equation is a match between The Golden Jets (Chris Jericho & Kenny Omega) and The Young Bucks. The Bucks are bitter that Omega is partnering with Jericho, bonding over a common enemy in Don Callis. Jericho goaded The Bucks into putting their tag team title shot on the line; the Bucks countered with a stipulation that if the Jets lose, the Jets would have to split. I’m guessing that this is leading to the Bucks aligning with Callis either at the pay-per-view or later on.
Both matches will be excellent, which is a testament to their abilities as performers. It still doesn’t change the fact that the progression of the storylines on television has been middling at best. But such as life in AEW.
(6) Oh look, another AEW tournament! AEW is introducing a round-robin like tournament called the Continental Classic. The tournament begins on the November 22 episode of Dynamite and will conclude at the December 30 World’s End pay-per-view.
The tournament also coincided with the announcement of Bryan Danielson’s return, who happens to be the tournament’s first entrant.
Danielson has always wanted to compete in a G1 Climax tournament with New Japan, but due to the timeline of his career winding down, it is unlikely he’ll ever get the chance. AEW fans seem excited about it on social media; I’m only responding with a shrug.
The matches will probably be fun TV wrestling. It might just be a shot in the arm for AEW’s live event attendance, which is averaging less than 5,000 per show as of late according to WrestleTix’s excellent Patreon. In any event, I don’t expect much. If this is the best idea Khan can come up with to fill TV time while being outclassed in storytelling depth and details by WWE, then so be it.
(5) The Bloodline is running out of mileage, part 2. The ice is beginning to thin on The Bloodline Saga, and like I said last week, I’m not even sure if WWE realizes it. Roman Reigns is gone until probably January, meaning The Bloodline’s underlings will have to carry the story forward on Friday nights. WWE is probably hoping that with LA Knight as the top babyface and good heels to play off of in Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa will be enough to keep the angle strong.
I’m going to be honest: LA Knight is a brilliant performer, but because Reigns has been positioned and presented with so much prestige, the company still needs to do a convincing job in its writing to (continue to) convince audiences that Knight is vis-à-vis on the level of Reigns, even though (a) he has no title to show for it, and (b) the one person he can play off of is somewhere on the Island of Relevancy.
The absent, part-time champion is a tough sell that is only going to get tougher. When WWE did this with Brock Lesnar, the TV wasn’t that good and the show suffered as a result of not having a major plot device. WWE is apparently rehashing the same strategy that they had with Lesnar, in hoping that fans would get so upset about Reigns not being around, it will result in a major babyface pop for whoever ends up being Reigns. Just like before, that approach isn’t necessary.
There is an argument that having the champion absent which makes their TV appearances a bigger deal and more meaningful has a degree of merit; however, this is not the 1980s anymore where the TV show is nothing more than just a promotional vehicle for their live events, their central product. Today, WWE’s central TV product is their TV show, and when the main character of the TV show is gone for weeks at a time, there is only so much that can be done to cover up that massive plot hole.
Time is running out on The Bloodline. It boosted the WWE’s business—if it starts to stagnate to where the fans outside of the whole "IWC" start to notice it, it can start costing the WWE business.
(4) NXT is heading to broadcast television. Reading those words is surprising considering what happened in 2021. As part of an extension—and consistently losing to AEW’s Dynamite—NXT moved to Tuesday nights. Later that year, NXT refreshed its product into NXT 2.0, a bubblegum pop brand that brought the company in line more with its original vision of producing future WWE stars. Smarks hated it, obviously, because it was the end of the super indie era.
Fast forward to today, and NXT 3.0 has been a rousing success. It has seen the highest year-over-year total and demographic viewership growth rates in all of pro wrestling. Over 35% of NXT’s viewership is in 18-49, a remarkable change considering that a year ago, it was struggling to crack 30%. WWE feels that NXT is the company’s ticket to younger viewers, which is why they signed a TV deal with the CW Network, whose new owners are looking to add more live sports-themed programming to its portfolio.
Apparently, a long-term goal is for NXT to outdraw Dynamite. It will be interesting to see if that happens. I personally think it will.
NXT has moved ahead of Dynamite, in my view, in quality of being a television show. In fact, NXT is beginning to hold its own against other scripted television shows of comparable quality. No, I’m not saying NXT is as good as Succession, Better Call Saul, or The Last of Us; but NXT is on par with what was being broadcast on the CW before the network gave up on green-lighting new, youth-oriented dramas.
(3) Someone’s coming back to WWE, and it is not CM Punk. Fans want to believe that WWE has a massive surprise in store for them at this year’s Survivor Series being held in Chicago. For whatever reason, "IWC" fans believe that there have been subtle references to Punk in WWE programming.
Sources have told both Fightful and Wrestling Observer that Punk is not in WWE’s plans. Reportedly, WWE plans to announce the return of Randy Orton after an extended absence to join the babyface team versus Judgment Day—who may gain the services of a villainous Drew McIntyre.
If CM Punk was coming back, the cat would be clearly out of the bag. But WWE has gone on record, extensively, to deny that Punk is coming back to the company. Sometimes, fans believe that this is some sort of work, but WWE is part of a publicly-traded company. Fans have to give up on the idea that the company would categorically deny a development to the point of "working" the public (and possibly investors).
Punk is a novelty, but not necessarily a draw. I always believed that Khan somewhat overrated Punk in terms of him being the impetus of the company’s financial success in late 2021 and early 2022. Correlation is not necessarily causation.
He sold a lot of tickets in Chicago, but Punk was not a guy that was going to take AEW to the promised land alone. AEW still needed to produce great television, and while the television around Punk was strong—he was the company’s best TV act—it wasn’t going to make up for the weakness outside of him being on screen. Punk was essentially an extension of the goodwill that AEW enjoyed with its audience—until it eroded in controversy after controversy.
Orton, on the other hand, coming back to WWE will be a remarkable achievement, considering there were rumors going around recently as earlier this year that his career was in danger of being over. If he does return at Survivor Series, he joins a slew of other performers such as Adam Copeland and Christian Cage who have returned from potentially career ending injuries to have a run in their 40s. Orton is the total package when it comes to being a bankable professional wrestler, and while he may not be at the top of the card this time around, WWE’s depth will be stronger with him back in the fold.
(2) Oh where, oh where will Will Ospreay go? There are few pro wrestlers that are as athletically and artistically gifted as Will Ospreay of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Ospreay’s contract is up in early 2024, and the rumor mill is churning about interest in the Briton from AEW and WWE. Ospreay’s anti-WWE shtick has softened in recent years, and he’s reportedly open to listening to whatever they have to offer him. AEW would love to have Ospreay in the fold, as evidenced by the featured spot the company gave him at All In.
New Japan would love to retain him, but they may not be able to afford him; ditto for TNA/Anthem. TNA/Anthem has a strong relationship with Ospreay as part of their partnership with New Japan; in fact, Ospreay appeared on Impact Wrestling this week. He had an exceptional match with Speedball Mike Bailey at Bound For Glory. He also has spoken positively about the environment at TNA/Anthem.
My guess? I think Ospreay moves to either TNA/Anthem or AEW. Both companies offer a lighter schedule and would probably be willing to be flexible with him about living in Britain, although in a recent interview with Metro, Ospreay has expressed openness about relocating to the United State with the support of his better half.
WWE’s extensive touring schedule would probably be too demanding on his body, even though it is nowhere near what it was 15 to 20 years ago. At the same time though, WWE emphasizes in-ring artistry less than AEW or New Japan; in other words, I consider them the ultimate dark horse in signing him. He is very, very good at TV; granted, he would have to tone down his character’s abrasiveness for the WWE audiences.
(1) Veterans winning over younger talent. Occasionally, I’ll still use X. It’s a garbage social media site now and every digital marketer worth a damn realizes it is an also-ran, but the baseball writers haven’t migrated to Threads, yet so…
Anyway, I saw that Chris Jericho was trending with 3,000 or so tweets, so I wondered what it was about. I remembered that this past week in DDT Pro Wrestling over in Japan, Jericho was facing off against Konosuke Takeshita in a match that was somewhat connected to their on-going feud here in the States.
A few keyboard warriors got mad about Jericho tapping out Takeshita. Criticisms ranged from Jericho "ruining" Takeshita in the same degree he "ruined" Daniel Garcia to some sort of paranoia about how Takeshita has been presented since All In and All Out, where he pinned Kenny Omega on the back-to-back pay-per-view shows in a span of a week.
Jericho is known to wield considerable influence in AEW, even though I am not sure if that actually translates into booking power—Khan said repeatedly he is the one that ultimately decides who wins and loses the matches. Moreover, I’m not too sure how much control Khan has over Jericho’s outside bookings, specifically regarding whether or not he is allowed to take a pinfall loss outside AEW.
All I can say is that none of it really matters. At all. In fact, I think it gets blown way out of proportion.
The overwhelming majority of the fans—the so-called "casuals"—don’t care. The median fan simply wants three things: a show that is fun & exciting to watch; a show that has a fictional universe makes sense; and a show that makes them feel something. That’s it.
Every single promotion is aware of this and every promotion is going to try to put on a show that meets those three objectives. Understandably, the most vocal and the most industry savvy, diehard fans are going to opine at a deeper level. Hell, I’m no different.
But I try not to worry about how each talent is "booked". It is totally understandable that fans are protective of their favorites, but sometimes those favorites are not going to factor into the promotion’s plans to the degree that fans wish. Sometimes, the promoter is not going to see what the fans see in a particular talent. I can’t control that and I’m not necessarily going to stress about it, no matter how much that person seems to be "over". There are often deeper, more extensive reasons as to why a promoter has a performer where they’re at in the proverbial pecking order.
Diehard wrestling fans appreciate performers and performances at a different level; there’s a deeper, more emotional, and much more personal connection. Obviously, these fans are going to take greater offense, for a lack of better terminology, about how a particular performer is presented—including losing matches to a veteran. I’ve even seen extensive levels of paranoia because a well-known talent beat an up-and-coming star, even though they believe the rising star should have been "put over".
But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter as much as the vaunted "armchair booker" thinks. If a well-written and well-booked follow-up justifies the creative & business decision, the audience will accept it, more than likely embrace it, and still will be intrigued enough to tune in to see what’s next. Nevertheless, fans should not stress themselves out to the point of being petrified about where their favorites are going to end up on the card—it just ends up ruining the viewing experience for you.