Welcome to another edition of The Main Event. I am your host, Don Franc, back with another column that you will all hopefully enjoy. Loads to unpack today, so let’s get right to…
Bishoff On AEW Ratings
Eric Bishoff recently mentioned that he finds it laughable that AEW is considered the only promotion to be/have been competing with WWE after WCW folded. He makes an interesting point about TNA pulling in up to 1.5 million viewers a week, which is pretty close to the numbers WWE are currently pulling in. I had no idea TNA built up such a fanbase as I’ve never really given their promotion a chance. AEW, however, is constantly pulling in under 1 million viewers. I have to agree with Bishoff about 700-800 thousand viewers a week being nothing to get overly excited about.
As much as I love AEW I cannot foolishly say that their ratings are good. They’re still a long way from competing with WWE. However, one must remember that AEW Dynamite only started running from October of last year, so their tenure on television is still in the early stages as they’ve only been on TV for seven months. TNA was on air for years before they managed to pull in those ratings. Bishoff mentioned revisionist history, but failed to mention how long TNA took to reach that level. Add in the ever declining wrestling industry and you’ll see that a lot of variables come into play when reviewing AEW’s ratings.
AEW still has a lot of work to do and I’m sure Cody and his partners are actively working on ideas to get the ratings up. But these things take time. AEW’s first year is mostly trial and error, and even though there hasn’t been many errors they’re still building their promotion. Therefore, even though I agree with Eric Bishoff’s sentiments regarding AEW’s ratings, I feel like he should at least factor in their tenure and the state of the wrestling industry as a whole.
THE MAIN EVENT
How Important To WWE Were The Wrestlers Released
The bulk releasing of WWE personnel – including wrestlers, producers and trainers – served as a shock to the entire wrestling world. WWE have become known for “spring cleaning” in modern times. However, the scale of releases this time around outweighed all past instances. To my knowledge, this has never before been seen in any wrestling promotion. I sincerely hope that all those released will be able to survive and get back on their feet once the lockdown has concluded.
With that being said, the wrestlers released were not essential to the WWE’s product. Even though some had true potential, WWE never allowed them to live up to that potential. The fact of the matter is; the wrestlers that were released by WWE held no value to them. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to see if any of the wrestlers that were released added to the product, had potential to do so, and if WWE saw them as nothing more than excess talent. Let’s take a look.
Curt Hawkins: I forgot this guy existed until he popped up with Zack Ryder a couple of years ago. Considering the stretches of time he hasn’t been used on WWE, this should come as no surprise.
Drake Maverick: His immediate reaction to getting released was heartbreaking. I thought he held worth in WWE. He even peed his pants on live TV. Then again, so did Vince, so who’s he in comparison? I liked him as 205 Live General Manager and as the Spike Dudley of AOP, but apparently Vince didn’t.
Aiden English: I honestly forgot he was still around. After The Vaudevillians disbanded, I’m surprised Aiden English managed to gain relevancy again. As the founder of Rusev Day, he managed to get himself and Rusev over. But that was the last of his contributions and I can’t remember the last time I saw him.
The Good Brothers: This was one was a legit surprise. I thought Gallows and Anderson’s association with AJ Styles would have kept their heads off the chopping block. They had good potential to become a reliable team in the Tag Team Division if they’d have received any form of favourable booking. Unfortunately, WWE doesn’t seem to care who your friends are.
Heath Slater: The “I Got Kids” shtick really got over and it’s hard to believe that Slater was popular once. I’ve no idea why he and Rhyno split because they were a decent addition to the Tag Team Division. But hey, McIntire and Mahal got released and when they returned to the company they eventually won a World Championship, so in a dream world he’ll complete the trifecta of 3MB winning the big one. Although, In WWE dreams rarely ever come true.
Eric Young: Young is one of those guys who would’ve been better suited remaining in NXT. He’s Sanity stable was really good, but like most things going to the main roster from NXT it just petered out. Perhaps Sanity could’ve been an acceptable midcard stable, but they were never given the opportunity to live up to any potential they may have had. He certainly lacks sanity, otherwise he wouldn’t think he could make it on the main roster on his own.
EC3: I have no idea why he wasn’t allowed to go through the NXT system. I’ve seen what he’s capable of in TNA, and couple that with the video packages he received before debuting on RAW, I thought WWE actually planned on pushing him. Turns out the only push WWE gave him was out the door.
Lio Rush: Lio had a very strange journey in WWE. I thought his recent 205 Live run remedied that, but it just wasn’t enough. He had the potential to offer more than he was allowed to give, which is a shame. He was able to pull off great escapes when Lashley’s opponents tried to beat him up for interfering, too bad he wasn’t able to escape the WWE Corporation.
Kurt Angle: This one had to happen. He offered all he could in his final run and his time had come to an end. He offers absolutely nothing to the current product. Unfairly, his part-time brethren managed to stay aboard the WWE ship. He’ll surely be back though, that Angle should have on lock.
Sarah Logan: Now we know why there was an injury Angle on RAW when she faced Bazsler. She unwittingly put Shayna over by having her look completely badass. No doubt the commentators will make mention of how the arm injury took Logan out for the foreseeable future. I doubt she would have featured heavily in the Womens Division anyway.
Rowan: Rowan was always destined to be the muscle. A singles run for him wasn’t on the cards really. After being important alongside Daniel Bryan, he ran with a lame story for months that nobody cared about. At least we got to see what was in the cage before he got released…
The Colons: I really liked their Los Matadors run and I wish WWE did more with it, or at the very least have them become a staple of the Tag Team Division. They didn’t have to win the belts or anything, but they could have served as a solid hand in the division. Primo and Epico were entertaining in the ring, but being good in the ring doesn’t really equate to much in WWE.
Mike & Maria Kanellis: Whatever happened to that accursed pregnancy storyline involving these two? Wait, I rather don’t want to know. Neither of them brought much to the table, and that silly storyline pretty much highlighted that.
Zack Ryder: The Houdini of WWE’s “spring cleaning”. That Ryder lasted this long is a feat in and of itself. He managed to endear himself to the fans and gained somewhat of a cult following. Even if WWE didn’t have plans for Ryder whatsoever, if given enough TV time, he could have become king of the lower midcarders. Woo woo woo, you know it.
No Way Jose: Admittedly I found his gimmick entertaining whilst he was in NXT. There’s always room for some lighthearted fun, and Jose was the right man for the job. Nevertheless, he was hardly featured and was displayed as holding no value at all. No way Jose would’ve never survived a “spring cleaning” of this scale.
Deonna Purrazzo: From what I’ve seen from Deonna in NXT, she seemed like a solid hand in the Womens Division. Well, apparently not solid enough. Although I’d say she wasn’t totally void of value in NXT.
Rusev: Certainly the biggest shock of this batch of releases. Do you remember when Rusev came out with a TANK to face John Cena at Wrestlemania? Yeah, me neither. It’s a damn shame Rusev never got better treatment in WWE considering his talent. Sometimes it really seemed like WWE focussed more on Lana than her husband. For all the shit Rusev had to put up with in WWE I sincerely hope he doesn’t return to the company.
The truth of the matter is that the wrestlers mentioned above meant absolutely nothing to Vince McMahon. They were all seen as expendable. It can also be safe to assume that WWE hasn’t needed most of these guys for years now. This pandemic actually allowed WWE to release these wrestlers due to an actual reason, instead of the tired reason of WWE having nothing for them/they don’t offer anything to WWE in McMahon’s eyes. Vince is very subjective as to whom he deems essential to his product. Therefore, these guys meant nothing to him. Business-wise it was a good thing to get rid of the dead weight.
With that being said however, a lot of these guys have families to provide for. They might not have been important to WWE, but they are certainly important to their families who rely on them to put bread on the table. Its no doubt that this was the absolute worst time to get released. Due to COVID-19 I highly doubt that any promotion will be hiring talent now, especially considering that there are hardly any promotions putting on shows at the moment.
In WWE you have to make yourself appear to be extremely valuable as this would reduce the chances of getting the shaft. Value is everything in Vince’s eyes, and if you don’t hold any then you’re disposable. Sure, there are those on this list who had untapped potential; as well as those who were not given the opportunity to prove their worth. Unfortunately, opportunity doesn’t come easy to most in WWE. The lack thereof could be attributed to the premise of importance . Of course you can’t show how much you have to offer if you don’t get an opportunity. Hell, EC3 appeared on RAW only a handful of times! That’s atrocious considering how much he stood out in TNA.
I hate to say this, but I hope WWE never rehires any of the guys they released. The thing is, if they weren’t important now, what would make them any more important in the future? WWE needs to learn to stop playing with wrestler’s careers because they can. If they don’t have any plans for a wrestler then allow them to shine somewhere else. But yet, the superstars are at times also to blame because they choose the money WWE gives them over the passion that got them into wrestling in the first place. The moral of the story is – and this is true in all walks of life – if you are not important, you’re disposable. And to all WWE employees; they need to start opening their eyes and realise that nothing is more important in WWE than their bottom line.
AEW Should Not Go On A Shopping Spree
There shouldn’t be any doubt that with the recent batch of WWE releases, AEW will be keeping an eye out on some of the free agents. This is a cause of concern to me considering AEW recently added two former WWE wrestlers to their roster. AEW should avoid becoming WWE Lite by any means necessary. I’ve used TNA as an example in a previous column where I touched on this subject, so AEW should use TNA as a blueprint of what not to do regarding released WWE superstars.
Sure, they have the uncanny ability to repackage superstars to great effect, but the stigma of being a former WWE star will always be attached to them. Not all of those repackaged former WWE stars have gone over well either. Look no further than Shawn Spears as proof of that. AEW needs to tread carefully. Its so easy to become a caricature of what you used to be, and AEW is too young in the game to be labelled as such. They certainly need to curb any temptation they may have of signing some of the wrestlers released.
In fact, they should hardly be tempted at all. Surely their profit margin will be taking a hit with no ticket sales to account for. They cannot afford unnecessary expenditure during these troubled times. I’d surmise that it would take time for AEW to get on steady footing after this loss of income. Besides, a lot of the wrestlers released are not worth the temptation. It might sound cruel but it’s true. Not every wrestler is worth a contract just because they’re available. And the sad reality is that a lot of these wrestlers won’t add anything to the product.
However, I’m torn between Rusev potentially going to AEW. On the one hand he’s another former WWE superstar, but on the other hand he can surely add to their promotion. He is an extremely talented big guy, and it seems like AEW will be looking to invest in more big men. I don’t necessarily agree with that notion, but if that is the case then Rusev might be their guy. Besides, I have a feeling he might fit into their brand of wrestling.
The only other wrestlers I’d say would be suitable for AEW would be Gallows & Anderson. Although, with AJ Styles as a close friend of theirs, he might lobby for them to return to WWE. But if that’s not possible, a promotion who actually puts focus on their Tag Team Division would be a great place for them to sink their teeth into. At least Anderson became popular in NJPW and not WWE, so he is not out and out a WWE guy, if at all. From a training/producing standpoint I also think Finlay would be able to do wonders with AEW’s Womens Division. He has been credited for helping make WWE’s Womens Division what it is today. That merit should entice AEW to add Finlay to their team, as Omega isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders.
Those are the only few I deem credible enough for consideration from AEW. But I wouldn’t be mad at all if AEW decides against hiring either one of these guys. AEW is in a good place where talent is concerned, and they should actually take this bulk releases from WWE as a lesson about having unneeded talent in excess. For that reason, AEW should NOT go on a shopping spree.
And that does it for another edition of The Main Event. What do you think about Bishoff’s sentiments? Do you also feel like hardly any wrestler released was important to WWE’s overall product? Who do you think AEW should invest in, if any? Please leave a comment below. Alternatively, you can pop me an email at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @donfranclop. Any and all comments are always much appreciated. But until next time…
This is Don Franc signing out.
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