Tony Khan promoted yesterday’s (Nov. 11) episode of Dynamite by saying that “the balance of power in wrestling will shift tonight”. It was a level of unrealistic hype almost bordering on WWE promoting a match between Edge and Randy Orton as The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.
So when Jade Cargill appeared on Dynamite and name-dropped Shaquille O’Neal as someone who tiny-penis giant-killer Cody Rhodes could not handle, it looked like the tease for a celebrity match between Shaq and Cody was the power-shifting occurrence that Khan was referring to.
On the one hand, I get the basic idea for why AEW would want to do something like this, and it’s similar to the logic for why they were pursuing a Mike Tyson match with Chris Jericho during the summer. AEW’s viewership is doing great relative to other Wednesday night wrestling shows, but we’re still talking about under one million viewers just about every week. The goal should be to keep growing those numbers, rather than just holding a steady lead over the competition. Perhaps a celebrity match with Shaq or Tyson is exactly what AEW needs to get some extra eyeballs on the product?
On Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer provided a pretty good argument for why it’s not likely to change AEW’s numbers all that much:
“The problem is, 20 years ago, if you had a Shaquille O’Neal or a Mike Tyson, you would get all kinds of mainstream pub out of it. And now, if Shaq is gonna actually do it, they’ll get the wrestling pub, but they won’t get as much mainstream, because the idea of a celebrity doing fake wrestling isn’t as much news now, because it’s been done so many times, as it was when WCW used Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone and did giant giant business because of them...or WWE with Mike Tyson, for that matter. That type of stuff now, it’s not gonna move numbers like it did then.”
This logic makes a ton of sense. It would also be more helpful if AEW landed celebrity athletes closer to their prime active years rather than retired athletes. If retired old man Shaq beats Cody, then it hurts the rest of the AEW wrestlers that Cody has defeated. And if Cody beats retired old man Shaq, that’s cool and all, but is beating a retired old man all that impressive? It turns out that retired old man Shaq is still younger than active old man Chris Jericho, who is the former AEW world champion, so maybe this is thinking too deeply about it.
On the surface, it looks like AEW wants to host a celebrity spectacle with the goal of bringing in some new fans, and it’s easy to see the allure of the option. But promoting it as the kind of thing that will shift the balance of power in wrestling is where the idea falls on its face, because nothing of the sort happened last night.
Now here’s the kicker. Meltzer goes on to say that the tease of a match for Shaq wasn’t actually the thing Khan was referring to. Nope, according to Dave, the return of the bastard PAC is the thing that Khan suggested will shift the balance of power in wrestling.
I love PAC and am excited that he’s back, but...really?
Let us know in the comments below if you think Tony Khan delivered on his word last night.