When AEW and Impact first got in bed together officially at the “Winter is Coming” edition of Dynamite, it was immediately assumed Impact would be the company to predominantly benefit from the partnership.
All Elite Wrestling drew an average of 913,000 viewers that night built off the hype surrounding the Kenny Omega-Jon Moxley AEW title clash, punctuated by Omega completing his heel turn as he sided with longtime friend and Impact EVP Don Callis. The following week the show drew nearly 1 million viewers, catalyzed from several components of the Winter is Coming show, such as the promise of follow-ups on Sting, Shaq appearing and the fallout of the Omega-Mox angle.
There’s very little substance to the argument at this point that fully supports the notion that Omega doesn’t positively move the needle, because all the metrics debunk and refute that entire line of logic. The initial Winter is Coming is proof, as is the follow-up show a week later. Impact’s initial numbers notwithstanding the holiday episodes indicate the same, as does the fact that despite much of the American audience tuning into Donald Trump-related coverage the last two Wednesday nights. There’s no arguing the point, as it’s an evident correlation with both shows combining for less than the average viewership over the last several weeks (1.475M). Dynamite specifically has averaged 662,000 (Jan. 6) and 762,000 (Jan. 13) respectively, with NXT hovering around its usual numbers.
More to the point, despite the lower viewership due to the news cycle, Kenny Omega’s quarter hour in the last edition of the show drew approximately 861,000 viewers; well above the average of that particular show, indicating when he’s on the screen wrestling fans tune into to see where his angle is moving.
‘One Foot in Front of the Other, One Foot Back To Counter It’
Nothing NXT does is sustainable when it comes to Wednesday nights. They have shown time and again that despite arguably being more polished, aside from PR-type uses of past WCW pay-per-views or transplanting legit mega stars like Sasha Banks to an edition, AEW dominates for a good reason in addition to a number of outliers like WWE-fatigue, the notion of counter-culture and an aura of freshness; never mind that much like NXT the in-ring product is just fantastic. Those realities are constant.
Problematically, however, AEW has done so very little to push their Winter is Coming-born narratives forward since early December. Sting’s angle, as an example, has consisted of a) Taz’s heels attack Cody and/or Darby, b) the lights go out and Sting arrives, and c) the heels walk away as Sting points his bat at them. The details might change, but for weeks AEW directed this story to such a poor degree you could mistake it for a WWE misfire. It wasn’t until last week that Sting finally did something other than stare and point, which as we were taught as children growing up is fundamentally rude.
With that stated, when you really consider the booking of both Impact and AEW, you could argue that much of the story’s progression with Omega and now this new iteration of The Elite has happened on Impact programming. That’s an issue as AEW fans don’t necessarily all watch Impact, and judging from the in-chat comments some pretentiously look down on Impact in a very WWE-fanboy way (not all, obviously). Nonetheless, that’s worked against AEW and kept them from building off the early-December buzz.
Many of the segments involving Omega and Callis have become repetitious and have not fully taken advantage of their momentum. While it’s difficult to truly gauge where the angle is right now, it’s far clearer that Impact has benefitted more than AEW; additionally when Omega has appeared on Impact programming the story was moved along and continually built into “Hard to Kill” this past weekend (which we await final buyrate numbers on). The company then furthered their half of this angle by promoting their next PPV — Rebellion — with the omega symbol prominently placed on the poster. It implies the angle isn’t over, it will continue over the next two months and with Omega pinning Impact champion Rich Swann cleanly, it’s assumed they’ll have a match at Rebellion following AEW’s Revolution pay-per-view event.
This may just be how the two companies laid out the story and in terms of giving Impact the rub it seems to have worked, but up until now AEW has taken one step forward, one step back every episode preceding the arrival of Gallows and Anderson two weeks ago. That show, in combination with last week, was the first (poorly-timed) instance of AEW truly moving this Omega story forward; which should already be bigger than it is right now. The pace has slowed and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with long-term storytelling, you also can’t write a story and repeat the same narrative beats continuously and expect fans to not only stay interested but to turn the page and want to see what’s next. It’s a recipe we’ve seen before and know how it turns out.
Now with Hard to Kill behind us, we’re about 6 weeks out from Revolution. Kenny Omega has pinned the Impact champion. Omega has reformed a piece of the 2015-16 Bullet Club, much to the chagrin of the actual Bullet Club (whom we may see before long). The next moves Impact and AEW take matter. How they build up to Revolution as a unit matters. For this angle to excel, it needs to progress more than an inch at a time because up until the last two weeks it was staling despite Tony Khan proclaiming the industry was going to dramatically shift.
Now is the time to prove it by following through and carefully pushing their stories forward. Khan has a good mind for wrestling, Callis is a great mind. They’re surrounded by people who live and breathe wrestling and there’s no excuse for falling short on this storyline, which isn’t where it probably should be at 6 weeks old. To punctuate that point, read on: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” and tell me whether or not you’d want to keep reading any book. It’s no different here.