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411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Adi Shankar on WWE Being Uncool, AEW’s Growth, More

March 2, 2022 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Tony Khan AEW Image Credit: AEW

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

We have an incredible guest this week, in FACT, I can’t even believe it’s true. Allow me to present the one and only, super producer, legendary Hollywood disruptor, artist, director, subversive genius, and lifelong pro-wrestling superfan, Adi Shankar!

Image Credit: Joel “Superfly” Harold

As a creator and producer, Adi has done things his own way, showing the integrity of an artist and fan in contrast to so much bandwagon lip service in the corporate entertainment industry. I’ve been a huge fan of his for many years because of his no-bullshit approach to content – the man literally called out all video game adaptations as terrible, guaranteed he would make a good one and proceeded to do just that. We need a voice like this in the wrestling world these days!

Well, along with a resume of awesome movies Shankar has produced, from Dredd to The Grey, he also created The Bootleg Universe – a series of unauthorized viral re-imaginings of well-known IP including POWER/RANGERS, END OF POKEMON, and THE PUNISHER: DIRTY LAUNDRY that established him as a skilled remixer of popular culture and as the Banksy of the nerd world – and he was also responsible that first-ever legit excellent video game adaptation in Netflix’s animated Castlevania series.

He is now back at it on Netflix with his new live-action/animation/claymation/stop-motion hybrid satire limited series THE GUARDIANS OF JUSTICE (WILL SAVE YOU!), which stars none other than WWE Hall of Famer Diamond Dallas Page!

Image Credit: Chrome and Lightening

Adi Shankar has been a champion of pro-wrestling as a serious art form throughout his career, and has built relationships across the industry, and talks about it every chance he can get! So I was delighted that he took up my invitation to discuss some critical wrestling issues. So let’s go, SAVE US Adi!

Statement #1: AEW is growing too fast, too soon.

Adi Shankar: FICTION – We’re living in the age of exponential growth of “viral hits” driven by the internet. Look at how fast PUBG, Netflix, and Tesla have grown in just 5 years. Entire new media industries like WEBTOONS are experiencing exponential growth. Old media conglomerates used to operate like cartels. They prevented competition through output deals and those deals in turn allowed those conglomerates to thrive without having to innovate. Without an incentive to innovate, their products grew stagnant to the detriment of the consumer. That old world cartel business model has been disrupted and decimated by the new distribution channels and direct-to-consumer marketing created by the internet. AEW, like PUBG, and a litany of other disruptive “viral internet hits” is a beneficiary of this new paradigm.

Statement #2: WWE is dangerously uncool.

Adi Shankar: FACT – To me it feels corny, but again this isn’t a recent phenomenon. The World Wide Wrestling Entertainment Corporation has been a children’s/family television variety show for many many years. That said, things don’t need to be “cool” in order to find success.  

Statement #3: Hollywood hates pro-wrestling.

Adi Shankar: FACT – Wrestling is blue collar theater. Hollywood historically has been repulsed by all things blue collar. It’s snobbery. You should have heard the way executives were dismissive of Dwayne Johnson in the early 2010s. The shift into streaming has completely changed this paradigm. Today every demographic matters, and that’s why we will continue to see more avenues and opportunities for wrestling and professional wrestlers to showcase their talents in other art forms. 

Statement #4: Professional wrestling is more of a business than an art.

Adi Shankar: FICTION –  Professional wrestling is by definition an art form. Often times the business apparatus that governs the creative rubric of an art form can become reductive and stifle the creativity of that art form. Industries become very ridged when they become monopolies, which is why professional wrestling has likely felt like a business-driven “content” vertical. Art forms thrive when the artists have many suitors and there is a healthy economy competing for the artist’s services.  

Statement #5: Wins and losses don’t matter in pro-wrestling.

Adi Shankar: FACT – Professional wrestling is a storytelling medium. It’s theater, so as long as a win or a loss is in service of a story they don’t matter in the traditional “sports statistics” sense of the terminology. 

Statement #6: Cody Rhodes leaving AEW was a good decision. 

Adi Shankar: FACT – Full disclosure, Cody is a friend of mine, someone I admire, and he’s in one of my upcoming projects – so I’m biased. Cody has built himself by himself. He’ll be fine wherever he goes and whatever he does. The aforementioned viral hit that is ‘All Elite Wrestling’ was built of the back of a viral hit called ‘ALL IN’ that was developed, produced, and promoted by Cody. So, in my opinion, betting on oneself is always a great decision, and Cody’s track record when he bets on himself speaks for itself. 

Thanks so much to Adi Shankar for participating in this week’s Fact or Fiction.

His new series – The Guardians of Justice (WILL SAVE YOU) – is available to stream worldwide on Netflix RIGHT NOW! I’ve seen it and definitely one way to describe it might be Lucha Underground x Love, Death & Robots x Watchmen. The show is a wild ride full of crazy creativity and unique energy. Be sure to check it out ASAP!