wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Do WWE and AEW TV Ratings Matter?

October 29, 2021 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Wednesday AEW WWE NXT, Shane Douglash, AEW TV, Tony Khan

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers. Hope you’ve been enjoying the return of the column so far, and it’s just getting warmed up.

This week’s guest is: DREW CORDEIRO.

Drew, of course, is the owner of Beyond Wrestling, a visionary promotion that started out by intentionally putting on empty arena shows for an audience of only wrestlers. It was a wacky idea, but who knew that over a decade later the wrestling world would be forced to do the same.

That’s just one of the innovations Drew has brought to the wrestling world with Beyond. The way he adopted Youtube and social media early on helped the promotion become so accessible and fan friendly that this small, regional indy at one time had more Youtube subscribers than every company outside of the WWE. And those numbers have continued to grow rapidly as Drew’s commitment to the craft of pro-wrestling helps him to promote a constant fresh batch of creative, border-less, diverse and empowered performers.

Recently, Drew brought back Uncharted Territory for a 3rd season, Beyond Wrestling’s weekly live streaming series on IWTV. Get on the site and check it out!

Before he gets back to booking the hottest indy promotion in the world, I’ve got some pro-wrestling theories topics for Drew to ponder. Let’s go!

Statement #1: You care about WWE and AEW’s weekly TV ratings.

Drew Cordeiro: FACT – TV ratings determine rights fees and ad rates. Between RAW on USA, Smackdown on FOX, and the WWE Network being moved to Peacock, WWE makes more money than ever (don’t they?). Sadly, that doesn’t equate to the most fans watching or the best shows possible. AEW isn’t a publicly traded company so their finances remain mostly a secret, but if Dynamite got renewed for $1,000,000,000 over the course of 5 years one would assume that would also secure the future of the company and allow them to expand their business however they see fit. They should sign The Rock.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Look, we’ve been following this stuff since the inception of the Monday Night Wars and have seen a lot of ratings information and very little effects. Sure, Nitro beat RAW for a while, but both shows stayed on the air, including Nitro long after WWE started destroying it. We’ve seen the WWE TV ratings plummet over the past few years, yet they make more money in TV rights deals than ever. Look at IMPACT, they almost pull a 0.0 year after year and they’re still in business no matter what. So, it might be cute to (arbitrarily) compare quarterly ratings between WWE and AEW these days, but as Drew said it doesn’t seem to have any effect on what people choose to watch, nor does it seem to have any supposedly rational financial consequences, so personally, I don’t see the point in caring.

Statement #2: A wrestler over 40 is past their prime.

Drew Cordeiro: FICTION – Nowadays it seems like 50 is the age where some but not all wrestlers start to slow down. It varies wrestler-to-wrestler but there are plenty of competitors that are seemingly in the best shape of their career, despite their age. This generation seems less reliant on steroids and recreational drugs and more focused on training and conditioning. Maybe the next generation will be able to compete at an even higher level for an even longer period of time!

Jake Chambers: FICTION – Every time I feel like I’m being sold on why some 40-something wrestler should retire, I just remind myself that Ric Flair was 40 during his trilogy with Ricky Steamboat (and 43 at the Royal Rumble 1992), Bret Hart was 40 at Wrestlemania 13, and Kenta Kobashi was 40 when he returned from cancer to resume his badass chest-slicing career. Some of the best wrestlers in the world right now are 40+, from Hiroshi Tanahashi to Bryan Danielson, Randy Orton, Edge, AJ Styles, even John Cena had a hell of a match this year. In my opinion, when a pro-wrestler hits 40 they are just getting into their prime. 

Statement #3: Orange Cassidy would be better off in WWE.

Drew Cordeiro: FICTION – They would have made him a trainer/agent and cut him during the pandemic.

Jake Chambers: FACT – WWE clearly doesn’t care about “wrestling” right now, so possibly someone like Cassidy would have been a bigger phenomenon with WWE creative / marketing behind him. And if not he would have just ended up another mid-carder at this point like he is in AEW anyways.

Statement #4: During the COVID lockdown era, most of the empty arena TV shows put on by the big companies were lame and uncreative.

Drew Cordeiro: FACT – Most, but not all. I thought Ring Of Honor did a phenomenal job with their weekly show throughout the pandemic. The presentation, coupled with the style of matches, seemed to be enhanced without a crowd, similar to UFC cards where you could hear all of the strikes land and instructions from the ringside coaches. As for everyone else, not having a live crowd is still no excuse to produce a bad show! AEW did a good job creating atmosphere by having wrestlers ringside for many of the matches (I wonder where they got that idea…) and to the credit of WWE the size and scope of the Thunderdome was impressive.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Almost 15 years ago, I was contacted by Drew who wanted me to check out his new idea for a wrestling promotion. I was writing Wacky Wrestling Theory here at 411 at the time, a column dedicated to discussing any crazy, extreme or ridiculous ideas about professional wrestling. Well, Drew sure had a wacky idea: a wrestling promotion without fans. The only people in attendance around the ring would be the other wrestlers on the card. This was before any company was streaming or putting daily matches up on Youtube, so having a live audience was probably the main way indy promotions would make any money. Plus, wrestling is about playing to any audience of fans, right? What would they do in the ring without the traditional crowd responses?

These were all issues the world’s biggest wrestling promotions had to grapple with in 2020, and the answer in most cases was: let’s just pretend there are people there. What Drew did in those early, grimy, black and white shows on zero budget was the template everyone should have looked to last year. Beyond Wrestling was a meta-textual performance of wrestling as art. Watching on TV as wrestlers performed in front of their peers, knowing that every hold, strike, sell and expression was going to be automatically scrutinized by that audience who would step right in the ring afterwards, was so weirdly fascinating. Metaphorically, this wasn’t like Woodstock from the audience, it was like seeing all those classic bands in one room writing theirs songs together.

I don’t think WWE, NJPW, AEW or the rest could have replicated what Drew created back then, even he has long moved on. But it was that spirit of creativity with the limitations that I wanted so desperately to see these wrestling minds try to utilize. Instead we got mostly wheel-spinning, which quite frankly, isn’t all that different from what some of these companies do in front of audiences anyways.

Statement #5: Heel turns are better than face turns.

Drew Cordeiro: FICTION – I don’t think one is better than the other. Maybe if you took every heel turn and every face turn in the history of wrestling and entered them into a spreadsheet and let 1,000 people vote on every single one you’d get a clear-cut winner, but as far as I’m concerned it all boils down to context and execution. Besides, the best is the rare DOUBLE TURN.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – “Heel turns” were played out once the term became a mainstream hipster metaphor to use when movie characters and politicians do something bad. Anybody at all into the current Becky Lynch heel turn? Or how many meaningless Kevin Owens ones do we need? Did you hate Dean Ambrose when he used Roman Reigns’ cancer to try and go bad? Heel turns suck now, we just need more heroes.

Statement #6: Everyone should subscribe to IWTV and watch Uncharted Territory every week.

Drew Cordeiro: FACT – We’re trying. It’s been tough building the momentum we had at the end of 2019. The industry is changing faster than we can keep up with. AEW seems focused on young wrestlers, WWE seems disinterested in signing older wrestlers for the time being, and then all of the other TV companies will seemingly take anyone they can get to keep their shows on TV. Because of the pandemic, as well as WWE’s reactionary signing spree in conjunction with the introduction of AEW, a lot of young wrestlers have been starved of knowledge from veterans on an independent level. This isn’t up for debate. I see it. So we’re giving these young wrestlers the platform to get their reps in. They have to learn on the job. We’ll see who is paying attention and who gets snagged.

The first two seasons of Uncharted Territory launched numerous careers including Bear Country, Leyla Hirsch, Daniel Garcia, and Christian Casanova (now in WWE as Carmello Hayes) not to mention Orange Cassidy, John Silver, Alex Reynolds, and Kris Statlader all raising their profile while competing for Beyond Wrestling. We hear the phrase “forbidden door” tossed around a lot but that’s what Uncharted Territory is – we’ll work with wrestlers from AEW, IMPACT, ROH, MLW, NWA, NJPW – pretty much everywhere but WWE – and put them in the ring with our most promising upstarts and see who comes out of the season with a higher profile. It’s an exhilarating process, frustrating at times, but with fan support it will remain a proven platform to keep discovering pro wrestling’s next breakout star. Sign up for IWTV!

Jake Chambers: FACT – What he said.

Thanks again to Drew Cordeiro for joining me this week! Be sure to follow Beyond on Twitter to keep up with all of their events, news, and the always candid Q&As.

And Beyond is even on TikTok now too, check it out: https://www.tiktok.com/@beyondwrestling

See you next week!

article topics :

AEW, WWE, Jake Chambers