People of a certain age remember WCW Thunder. Maybe the memories aren’t that pleasant, but WCW’s second weeknight show was a thing from 1998-2001. After Monday Nitro’s enormous success, it made all the sense in the world for people who like money to want more of the thing that made them plenty of it.
About 20 years later, AEW is in a similar situation: A television network with a Ted Turner connection wants more wrestling after the success of their initial offering.
Tonight, August 13, 2021, we get our first taste of AEW Rampage. AEW, the Warner Brothers, and the Warner Sister have a lot riding on the young promotion’s third hour of wrestling. And the last thing either party wants or needs is to repeat the mistakes of the past. Leave it to a smartass know-it-all who watched Thunder go silent to create a set of rules for Rampage’s success.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are the 10 Rampage Commandments.
A step-by-step booklet, if you will, for success. These 10 things are necessary for AEW to avoid having one more thing in common with WCW’s failed “other show” besides the network and the weather-related promos.
1. Differentiate it from ‘Dynamite’
One more sleep until #AEWRampage premieres TOMORROW NIGHT at 10/9c on @tntdrama!— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 12, 2021
- @AEW Women's World Championship Dr @RealBrittBaker, DMD vs @Thee_Red_Velvet
- IMPACT World Championship @KennyOmegamanX vs @Christian4Peeps
- TNT Championship @ToBeMiro defends against @FuegoDelSol pic.twitter.com/JmPIE8nXvM
Rule number uno. Try as they might, WCW never managed to give Thunder its own identity. Either because of problems out of their control or the well-paid inmates running the gold-laden asylum, the show never found its footing the way SmackDown did a year later. Thunder had a new set, different theme music, and even mood lighting, but it was a watered-down Monday Nitro. Outside of a few episodes, there was never a compelling reason to watch WCW’s Thursday offering.
2. Don’t Start Something You Can’t Finish
Initially, Thunder felt just as crucial as Nitro. Cats like Sting and Scott Hall showed up for ratings, duh, but also for story developments. The problem was that it didn’t last long. One thing that killed Thunder as it went on was its inconsistency. Once fans get accustomed to something, it’s hard to wean them off of it.
When the big names complained about the schedule or the pay, Eric Bischoff had to call audibles on a show he never wanted to exist in the first place. The wrestlers had the power in WCW, and many had egos stacked higher than their sky-high bank accounts.
Once Rampage sets a precedent, it has to keep that same rhythm.
3. 60 Minutes is Long Enough
AEW produces Dark Elevation, Dark, Dynamite, and now Rampage. On average, that’s about four or five hours of television. That’s also a lot of damn wrestling. Thunder was two more hours on top of three hours of Nitro, two hours of WCW Saturday Night, three-hour monthly PPVs, and a host of other content WCW created at its peak. To say nothing of the fact that recording Thunder the Tuesday following a live Nitro sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of.
In a landscape with so much wrestling, as it is, your eyes can’t get bigger than your stomach. Your third hour of broadcast TV should remain just that. I know it’s hard to turn down more bags when/if the network asks for more, but please show restraint. I don’t care if they’re offering the moon, tell them bounce.
4. Showcase More Women
This was only a taste of what you have coming your way tomorrow @RealBrittBaker You wanna take me swimming with the sharks? News flash I AM the shark and I smell blood. TOMORROW NIGHT #ANDNEW @allelitewrestling pic.twitter.com/WHLhNl4TPq— Red Velvet (@Thee_Red_Velvet) August 13, 2021
I know you heard this before. You now have three hours of live television. There’s no excuse for only featuring one women’s match per week on your flagship shows. We know the guys can get busy in the ring. A frequent viewer of Dark or Dark Elevation knows the women are dope as well. It’s time to give them a spotlight that’s not restricted to YouTube.
The championship match between Red Velvet and Dr. Britt Baker is a great foot forward. But in the future, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for two women’s matches.
5. Fight for Your Time Slot
This isn’t entirely in your hands, but airing after SmackDown puts you in a sweet position. You’re now the third hour of wrestling on Friday nights, following a show that’s consistently pretty dope. Use that momentum to your advantage. Roman Reigns would say you’re swimming to the Island of Relevancy and riding his coattails. I believe you’re being smart. But also, what he said.
6. Switch Up the Formula
Speaking of Reigns, please don’t give us missionary. We know what to expect from Dynamite every week. We know how it sounds, moves, and even how specific matches will unfold. Don’t be afraid to go against that established pattern. The four-man booth is a start. Not an ideal start, but nonetheless, it’s different than Dynamite. Give us styles we’re not used to, matches we haven’t seen, and even production aspects unique to Rampage. Never let us know your next move and surprise us as best you can.
When SmackDown Live was a thing many moons ago, it separated itself from its Monday night cousin when it did some of those very things. SmackDown Live wasn’t afraid to break with tradition or be different for the sake of being different. Good artists borrow. Great artists steal. So please feel free to snatch good ideas if you see them.
7. Don’t Make it All About the Elite
Dynamite deftly balances Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, and the rest of their crew, along with the other members of your roster. That’s how we came to love Darby Allin. WCW made the nWo the focal point of everything it did, including Thunder’s premiere episode and many following installments. Don’t fall into that trap because you haven’t so far.
8. Give Us Matches that Matter
This should’ve been number one for me.
You only have one hour. That’s not a lot of time for a wrestling show. That’s actually not a lot of time for much of anything, so use it wisely.
The FIRST MATCH in #AEWRampage history will see @KennyOmegamanX defend the @IMPACTWRESTLING World Title against @Christian4Peeps. Be sure to tune in to the WORLD PREMIERE of #AEWRampage right at 10/9c TOMORROW NIGHT (8/13) LIVE on @tntdrama. pic.twitter.com/lrKoAIShDD— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 12, 2021
Thunder often produced matches with wrestlers the audience had no attachment to and wrestling for the sake of wrestling. That results from not having enough content to fill the time and not developing anyone other than a handful of people in the company.
Rampage’s matches need to mean something in the bigger picture and have stakes. So far, so good, as the three matches announced for the inaugural episode are championship matches. This probably won’t be the case every week, but as long as we see people we care about fighting over something we understand, Rampage will win every single time.
9. Don’t Make Rampage a Dynamite Recap Show
Thunder fell victim to this early, as has SmackDown in the past. The last thing I want to see on a Friday night is clips from Wednesday. Especially when the internet is a thing. Fresh and unique content, please.
10. Make Rampage Fun
This rule is so underrated. Dynamite always feels like a party. Rampage needs that same energy, especially the closer the clock gets to 11 p.m., and the audience gets a little tired.
The TNT Championship will be on the line + A CONTRACT if @FuegoDelSol can beat the undefeated TNT Champion, @ToBeMiro, on the WORLD PREMIERE of #AEWRampage TOMORROW at 10/9c on TNT! pic.twitter.com/CU4EVtPstc— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 12, 2021
If we’re only getting three matches a week, then make sure they’re exciting. Every Rampage segment needs a sense of urgency. The thousands in attendance and the millions watching at home want to be sports entertained. Give us your best Maximus and thrill us without sanitizing your product.
Here’s hoping this is the first of hundreds of Rampage episodes we have coming our way.