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Can you get AEW back to 1.5 million live viewers.....

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  • Can you get AEW back to 1.5 million live viewers.....

    .... without losing too many of the 700k who watch regularly?

    This is a question I've become stuck on of late. I'm not entirely convinced it's possible to get back there consistently. I used to think that you could broaden the audience because as much as they might complain, the AEW fans would just stick around regardless. But I've u-turned on that. I get the feeling now that it's so much 'theirs' that trying to go 'mainstream' would come across as a betrayal.

    So that's my question - do you think it's possible? And if so, why? How would you go about it?

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  • #2
    I certainly do. I don't think that AEW diehards would stop watching if they removed some of the clowny bullshit and overly indy guys. If they put out a show that someone who isn't a fan wouldn't roll their eyes at -- baby oil, a small child competing in matches, etc. -- and it featured athletic wrestling, guys who maybe haven't been given the big shot elsewhere, some of the deihards' favourite top level indy stars and angles treated seriously without winking at hoe fake pro wrestling is all the time, then I don't think that anyone would tune out.

    And, if we're being honest, I think that the number of people who would feel "betrayed" by AEW trying to be more serious and mainstream is small enough that you'd be able to run them off and make it up on the other side.

    Think about this, 1.4 million people tuned in that first night for "sports-based professional wrestling". There's probably a boost for it being the first show, so call it 1 million. Over time, they didn't give what they advertised, and over time they've lost 30% of that million.

    There's moments of sports based pro wrestling. There's angles and segments that play it straight and are compelling to watch. Then there a streetfight where Matt Hardy is changing clothes and personalities throughout it, guys who look like job guys going 50/50 for 20 minutes with their stars, and winks at the audience over how fake pro wrestling is.
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    • #3
      You're still roughly where I was back when I was still a bit more optimistic, then.

      Part of it for me is whether or not you can get away with cutting enough of the 'overly' indy guys to have it make a difference, without pissing off too many in the process. Like, if you're going to knock the jokey, winking shit off that means for one thing either Orange Cassidy is gone, or you're retooling him completely. That's one area that has been high-profile and given his popularity with one section of the crowd could cause major ructions.

      So, conservative estimate here, but I'd think he'd have to reimagine, at the very least, the roles of Cassidy, Matt Hardy, Marko Stunt, Joey Janela, RiHo and Michael Nakazawa, and I wonder if you'd end up creating pre- and post- shift fans of AEW, where you have to not only find another 3/4 of a million fans but replace any you lose, and do it all while breaking this honeymoon period that they are in.

      I agree that there is a bigger audience out there for sports-based wrestling and the evidence of AEW's ratings is that had they given what they said they were going to, they might well be closer to it. I'm just not so convinced that many in the 6-700k aren't so committed to this idea now that any change might be seen as backfiring spectacularly.



      "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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      • #4
        They definitely can, but they'd have to drop a lot of what AEW really highlights as their main features, especially long repetitive competitive matches.

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        • #5
          I think that Matt Hardy just needs to be told no. We're learning that Vicne McMahon was right to tone him down, and right to let him go rather than give him creative freedom.

          But as far as I know there hasn't been anyone clamouring for Joey Janela or Riho when they haven't been around. Nor Nakazawa.

          I'm not sure you need to completely cut Stunt or retool Cassidy too much. If you want a comedy character, you have Orange Cassidy. Just take some time to explain what's going on, and trot him out every now and then for a comedy match with an underneath guy. He doesn't even have to lose those matches. In fact, if he wins those matches, he's only beating underneath guys but then someone they want to introduce and get over can squash him.

          My problem with Cassidy is that he not as good as some people have made him out to be. I kept hearing "wait until he really lets loose", so I went out of way to look him up, and him "letting lose" was average indy.

          With Stunt, just keep him as a manager who doesn't step into the ring. If he's a babyface manager, he gets sent to the back during the big matches (he could get hurt) but in angles he can be used to get sympathy.

          You're going to lose some fans, and that's not a bad thing. There were people online burying AEW for using Stunt in squashes because they're letting the little guy get squashed and that's what WWE would do. But I'm not sure it's enough of the base to make a difference. A few thousant people, maybe.

          EDIT: I wouldn't necessarily cut Nakazawa or Janela, either. You need underneath guys that top guys can beat convincingly. Stop with the baby oil stuff, and have those dudes lose matches in <10 minutes.
          Last edited by Team Farrell; 05-11-2020, 01:52 PM.
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          • #6
            Pen - you think that's all they need to do?

            Coach - I've not seeing anyone clamouring for them, either. It's more a case of.... AEW has sort of become a mark of honour for a lot of these fans, it seems. They're willing to go out to bat for some of these guys like it's a cause, the minute anyone says something negative about them. So, while people might not have been calling out for them, if they were clearly reframed as enhancement talent or let go en masse, the obvious change-up might generate a different feeling in the audience, one stronger than when they were simply out of sight and out of mind.

            I'll admit, my thinking on this is partly influenced by the fact that the AEW mentality is very 'indy', and in all other forms wherever there is an indy mentality it defines itself in opposition, by what it is not.

            It's interesting to me, because it's one of those situations where if they were to pivot and - I hate to put it this bluntly but it is what it is - drive off the fans that I think are holding back the overall audience size, then there's always a chance you could win someone like me back. I love a lot of NJPW's presentation and have seen bits and pieces that could have developed into something intriguing had the rest of the show not been so schizophrenic. The worry on the other hand is that there's a voice in the back of my head that says the reason no one has done this is that the other group might well be bigger than anyone and thinks, and that no one is going to risk losing a substantial chunk on the possibility of bringing that more serious-minded fan back in.

            "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Prime Time View Post
              Pen - you think that's all they need to do?
              It's step one, and most of the following steps follow in the same light. This is obviously all my opinion, but AEW shows are tougher to get through than WWE shows because every match is the same. WWE has way too much filler, but at least I can't predict how long a match will be when it starts. Smackdown started with a solid (but too spotty) 8 man tag that went 2-3 segments long. No other match on SD that night went the same distance, and with WWE it could have equally been a 3 minute cluster that turned into a huge formulaic brawl.

              But if AEW puts an 8 man tag, I know it's going 15 minutes, I know it's going to have more spots than I personally would like, and I know I don't have to pay attention to the match until I can hear the announcers ramping up the ending sequence. This is also the rule for 80-95% of their matches.

              I know this is something adored by AEW hardcore fans, and it's something they offer that is rather unique from an american promotion. But it's so tough to sit through.

              There's also the indy spots. Some wrestling works with a small audience. I love my slasher horror movies, but the "logic" of Jason chasing campers through the woods does not apply to any other audience or movie genre. Expecting a well respected horror movie like A Quiet Place to just launch a Jason aesthetic and logic would bomb miserably.

              I think AEW hardcore fans truly have no idea how restrictive AEW is. They cater to that small audience, and cater to so many aspects to what these fans want that AEW fans feel AEW is perfect. But I've said it from day 1: I feel like an outsider looking in when watching AEW. Nothing gets explained, we're just expected to get why things happen, but I'm lost half the time.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Prime Time View Post
                It's interesting to me, because it's one of those situations where if they were to pivot and - I hate to put it this bluntly but it is what it is - drive off the fans that I think are holding back the overall audience size, then there's always a chance you could win someone like me back. I love a lot of NJPW's presentation and have seen bits and pieces that could have developed into something intriguing had the rest of the show not been so schizophrenic. The worry on the other hand is that there's a voice in the back of my head that says the reason no one has done this is that the other group might well be bigger than anyone and thinks, and that no one is going to risk losing a substantial chunk on the possibility of bringing that more serious-minded fan back in.
                I love NJPW, and that with a little more glitz and glam was what I was hoping that AEW would be when it was announced "sports based pro wrestling". I think that a lot of their most hardcore fans love NJPW, too.

                One thing I loved about that NJPW show from Texas last year was that it looked like a legit sport. They didn't darken the fans, everything wasn't weirdly, unnecessarily black, it looked like an NBA game but it was pro wrestling. Everything was bright, the ring was super brightly lit because in a legit sport, you want the person sitting in the back to clearly see everything.

                NJPW is the format that AEW should follow. Borrow a little from WWE with some shorter matches and more North American-centric booking, but look toward NJPW to create a legitimate alternative. Be a sport. NJPW has comedy with Yano tearing turnbuckles off and joking around, and Taguchi leading never ending corner charges. But what NJPW has that AEW doesn't yet is history. Taguchi has had some legendary Jr matches, and they consistently put over Yano's high level amateur background. So when Taguchi has a straight match with Ishimori you buy it because of his history. When Yano catches Tanahashi with a roll-up in the G1 it's not out of place because even thought he's a bit of a buffoon and he's having fun, his amateur credentials mean it makes sense.

                AEW doesn't have that with Cassidy or Nakazawa, nor do they put them over in such a way that would make you believe them to be professional athletes.

                SANADA and EVIL are dark characters, like what the Dark Order could be, but they play it straight. They're using the imagery to gain a psychological advantage. EVIL wrestles a more "wild" style, but you get what they're trying to get across without overlong vignettes eating steak and taking shots at Vince, even if you don't speak Japanese.

                Originally posted by PEN15v2 View Post
                It's step one, and most of the following steps follow in the same light. This is obviously all my opinion, but AEW shows are tougher to get through than WWE shows because every match is the same. WWE has way too much filler, but at least I can't predict how long a match will be when it starts. Smackdown started with a solid (but too spotty) 8 man tag that went 2-3 segments long. No other match on SD that night went the same distance, and with WWE it could have equally been a 3 minute cluster that turned into a huge formulaic brawl.
                Yeah, I agree with that. Sometimes, a real fight is just short. Is there any reason Cody vs Janela needs to go 20 minutes? Can't Cody just let him get in a little offence and beat him in eight minutes, to leave time for maybe MJF to beat someone in eight minutes later in the night?

                It's the indy wrestling problem of not really pushing anyone or having any real "stars". Nobody on an indy show wants to be told they're being squashed, everyone wants to put on a "good" match, and nobody is thinking in terms of "who are we pushing, who do we want to get over?"

                But I've said it from day 1: I feel like an outsider looking in when watching AEW. Nothing gets explained, we're just expected to get why things happen, but I'm lost half the time.
                This is potentially the biggest problem. If you don't follow the indies closely, watch BTE and Road To... and follow everyone on Twitter, you're out of the loop.

                Use some of that 20-minute Cody-Janela match for vignettes that you've put on BTE or Road To... to explain things. Do promos like MJF's from last week. Have JR explain to me why Cassidy behaves the way that he does rather than being continually puzzled by it.
                Last edited by Team Farrell; 05-11-2020, 02:45 PM.
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                • #9
                  Watching AEW is a frustrating and boring experience for me. And I feel that most people on the outside looking in will have similar experiences. I haven't watched NJPW to say that's the way to go, but I like what COACH is describing.

                  I like wrestling for the story elements more than most online. I could watch a 3 hour show with 5-10 minute matches that don't really get out of first gear, and enjoy it more than WrestleKingdom. When I read WrestleMania reviews of all 36 events, I want to argue that WM-IV is incredibly underrated because I love the overall story of the show. No match was better than 3 stars, so it gets a dud rating by everyone, but from the first match to the last, I'm paying attention and care about everything going on. Money in the Bank last night couldn't do that (COACH's review was pretty spot on, though I probably enjoyed the MITB match more than he did). I have a decent attention span, but today's wrestling loses me so much, and this is every promotion. The reason WWE keeps me watching is because they can shorten things and give me more stories I care for than the ratios of other shows. I'm doing my best not to compliment WWE, because they are in no way great right now. Very stale and formulaic.

                  But AEW has this mentality that COACH has done a better job explaining, but I can't buy Joey Janela as a threat to the #1 guy in the rankings. Yet he's competitive woth Cody for 10+ minutes? I haven't watched the match, but it's this BS that keeps me away from staying up to date with Dynamite. On a 2 hour show, there's generally 1 or 2 matches worth my attention, and even in those matches, I sometimes only care about the result. Everything in between feels like filler.


                  The last Dynamite I watched in full was March 18th, the first of the empty arena era. Here is the card:
                  Lucha Bros beat Best Friends in 14:08
                  Shida beat Stalander, Ford, Riho in 5:49
                  Jurassic Express beat Butcher and the Blade in 11:22
                  Inner Circle vs The Elite in 16:26

                  That opening match was way too long. I might not care for the Lucha Bros as a team due to their spotty style, but they are presented as true tag title threats. Basically upper midcard of the division. Yet, the Best Friends went 14 minutes on the same level as them. To compare with late 80s WWF, this would be like the Young Stallions lasting 14 minutes with British Bulldogs. Now, this isn't to say it would be a bad match. But one team is a decent midcard team, and the other were former champions and always a top contender. These matches took place for 15 minutes on the house show circuit. But to the TV audience, it just doesn't work for me. I like the Best Friends, and the feud with the Death Triangle is interesting, but that combination of teams with the booking of the tag division being the dreaded 50/50 (which means the BF just aren't on the level of the LuchaBros) meant I didn't care about this match.

                  The 4 way womens match was the opposite: too quick. Like all promotions (other than 2006-2008 era ROH) these multi competitor matches are just a mess, and it's all about spots. But if you give them match time to breathe, and space out the spots it can work out. But to squeeze everything they did into 6 minutes, it becomes a forgettable mess.

                  The best match of the show was Jurassic Express vs B and B, and it was the perfect time. While both teams are in the midcard of that division, both also show signs of breaking out for a variety of reasons and possibilities. So this was a true toss up, and the match was pretty good tag wrestling (though the ending was botched to the point that Tully Blanchard hid his face in the crowd because he was either laughing or cringing at how bad it looked). More matches like that can work for me.

                  Then we had the main event. So, I understand the main event going longer, so I understand that. And the match had stakes, because the winner would have had the advantage in the eventually canceled WarGames Blood and Guts match. But there hasn't been much interaction between these stables until this match was booked since Cody walked away from the Jericho title match with the loss. So it felt forced. And, any hardcore fan would know the ending before it took place (the heels always have the advantage in War Games).

                  The ending also had the terrible Matt Hardy debut, which just didn't work for me. On the plus side, it had a decent segment for Lance Archer beating up jobbers in the woods (I felt it needed at least one extra with more muscle to really click, but it was well done), and the Brodie Lee reveal which was was a stroke of genius. I know COACH commented on the segments since, but the reveal itself was well done, and introduced a threat into the company. It was great.

                  So, going by how I prefer the story telling aspects in wrestling... you can see very little of value to me in this show. I cared about the tag match because I like tag wrestling when it's not overly spotty, but there was no reason these guys were facing off. And that's ok, not every TV match needs a deep feud. And the tag rankings help out in explaining how a win can be important for each team. But I didn't feel the commentary team did their job in explaining that. I like the Brodie Lee reveal as the Dark Order Exalted One.

                  The rest wasn't for me. So 15 minutes out of a 2 hour show was my style?

                  Now, I feel that a huge reason wrestling isn't getting the ratings it once did is because it's concentrated more on the wrestling and less on the story. Obviously you can point to ratings declining over the last 2 decades as evidence, but there are so many reason that wrestling struggles overall that I can't concretely say that's the problem. It's just my theory. But as bad as Russo is overall, I feel he got the crash TV aspect right. Everything in wrestling takes too long these days. I highlighted the matches, but everything should be shortened. In 1987, a recap of the Hogan vs Andre feud was super quick until the actual WM event. They told the story with Hogan giving a promo or interview while we saw footage of Andre ripping off his shirt. It was a 15 second clips. Today, every match recap is 3-4 minutes long. Entrances take too long. Undertaker and HHH at WrestleMania are the worst offenders, and WWE does it too, but Cody's is way too long. I know he's over for AEW fans, but for anyone who caught him in WWE and now checking out AEW, he doesn't deserve a 2 minute special entrance every time with the ramp entrance raised up to reveal him every fucking time. You don't need to do the quick cinematic cuts like stolen from action movies, but everything takes way too long. If Kross has the same entrance we saw on his debut every week, I'll complain about that too. All wrestling promotions suffer from this, almost like they are trying to eat up TV time. All rosters are huge with stars who deserve more time and attention, and AEW is no different.

                  So yeah...Oh, and plus everything COACH already said.

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                  • #10
                    I never really thought about it with the entrances, but you're right. Entrances get a reaction from people, are easy enough to replicate every week, and can be used to separate who's "over" with who's an underneath guy. But there are a lot of guys who are just an entrance. Kross last week was just an entrance, and a hot blonde.

                    If it's just Killer Kross, it's not a big deal to me. They're making a TV show after all. But it's the fact the Killer Kross has this spectacular entrance, Adam Cole has to hit every one of his musical cues (despite no crowd being there to chant along), Keith Lee has to do the same, Damien Priest does a Broadway number every time he's on TV, etc.

                    When it's a person, it's special. When it's every third person, it doesn't much matter and just eats up a bunch of time. It sure looks cool, but it eats up time.

                    So, make Kross a star. Make him the one who gets the entrance every week.

                    But yeah, it would be so nice if guys saved their "theatrical" entrances for PPV shows. Otherwise, come out, hit a pose, and hit the ring for a match. If it's a musical cue for Adam Cole to do his fucking "boom", then edit the music so that the boom hits a couple seconds after he hits the stage and use that for TV.

                    I would very much like to see things like that tightened up. It's a symptom of guys coming from the indies. Every time they work a show, they hit their whole big entrance with sound cues (if they have one) because it makes them seem like a star, it's giving the fans a little extra without having to bump, and you're not walking 100 feet into an arena.
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                    • #11
                      That was one thing I found very refreshing about NWA was the entrances were pared down to a minimum. No music, just get in the ring. I can't see you going back to that for everyone on every show now but it was definitely refreshing.

                      "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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                      • #12
                        I was talking with my brother a while back, who likes wrestling but doesn't watch anything outside of WWE (which he doesn't do much these days either). He has zero clue about any other wrestling out there outside the things I tell him about Japanese wrestling when I go to shows.

                        When Dynamite started last year I kept telling him to keep an eye out for it since it would be something different. When I asked him a few months if he was watching the show, he said he watched for a bit and likes some aspects of it (Mox, Lucha Bros. and Orange Cassidy in particular) but he stopped watching because there wasn't much else that interested him. He downright hated a couple of things like Marko Stunt and the Dark Order. But more than that he said he was let down by Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks. Even for a casual fan like him, he had heard so much about these guys and how successful they were elsewhere, but said they had nothing special about them and didn't care at all for them.

                        It made me wonder if AEW dropped the ball by having these guys with incredible buzz and hype not be the top guys in the company at the start, especially with the lack of name recognition from the get-go, and now those fans might not want to come back.

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                        • #13
                          My counter to that is that maybe indy fans overhype people outside of WWE, but once given the spotlight, they turn out to not be so special. This isn't to say Omega and Bucks aren't unique, but what makes them unique might work for indy fans, but not so much for casuals. They are so fucking goofy that it makes them hard to get behind for me, and it's very likely I'm not alone.

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                          • #14
                            I actually think both of those might be true to a degree. There's a very good chance the Bucks and Omega weren't ever going to translate, but the minute they decided to treat them like they were already stars, like people who could get the next lot over rather than people who needed to be got over in their own right, they pretty much ensured they weren't going to translate.

                            Now with that said, I think the other point that can be made pretty fairly is the number of casual fans who checked out Dynamite at all after that first week is probably quite low, unless all the data we have are very misleading.


                            "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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                            • #15
                              I feel like they should have positioned at least Omega as the top guy. He didn't have to be the first champion, but positioned as obviously their number one star. And they should have done so without assuming everyone knew who he was, but with whatever clips that they could get their hands on from NJPW (I'm sure there's a way to do it, Tony's money talks), still photos, interviews with known wrestlers and talking heads like Dave Metlzer talking about his six + star matches and how he's the best in-ring talent he's ever laid eyes on.

                              Then sit Kenny down and tell him that you know he has a certain style that he likes, and you can appreciate that, but for the time being the company that he has an ownership stake in needs him to be the Best Bout Machine.

                              Kenny Omega, The Best Bout Machine, has the potential to be a mega star in North America and the biggest draw in AEW. Kenny Omega, DDT Lite, running an angle where he's lost a step isn't a draw to anyone.

                              You could have four legitimate draws fighting over the top of the card and pushing one another to be better and draw bigger in Cody, Kenny, Jericho and Mox. Right now you have Cody and maybe Mox, while Jericho (who is still great) is playing make believe with Matt Hardy and Kenny has lost all of the steam that he had a year ago.
                              Last edited by Team Farrell; 05-15-2020, 11:16 AM.
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