On Wednesday, Mike Tyson showed up on AEW Dynamite, going toe-to-toe with Chris Jericho. Immediately, wrestling fans wondered what this was leading to. Maybe a wrestling match? What about a boxing match?
In Mark Raimondi’s piece for ESPN.com, Jericho said that it was still up in the air.
Obviously, the idea is to do something more. That’s the thought process, I think between both parties. What that is at this moment, we’re thinking and discussing. Look, Chris Jericho versus Mike Tyson in a wrestling match, in a street fight, in a boxing match, would be big. I’m not Mike Tyson. I’m not 1/1,000th of Mike Tyson, but I’ve been boxing for six years. I know how to box. I could win fights on my own against people of my skill level. So if that’s what he wants to do, that works too. Whatever he feels comfortable with, I can make it good. That’s what I do for a living. That’s what I’ve been doing for 30 years.
The angle, and Jericho’s statement, made me wonder two things. What does Tyson mean on a wrestling show in 2020, especially in our current version of shows without a crowd, and is there was possibly someone better in combat sports for the role?
The 1998 version of Mike Tyson meant a whole lot to Vince McMahon’s then WWF and helped shoot Stone Cold Steve Austin into wrestling superstardom. During that time, Tyson was a walking news headline. It’d only been three years since he was released from jail for his rape conviction and a few months since losing “The Bite Fight” to Evander Holyfield by disqualification. That disqualification caused Tyson’s boxing license to be suspended until the fall of 1998.
Vince McMahon came calling and created one of the best angles in the history of modern pro wrestling and maybe the greatest moment in Monday Night Raw history.
So, what does Mike Tyson mean in 2020 to pro wrestling? He’s not an active fighter and no longer the baddest man on the planet. But he still can get his name out there, such as when he recently got himself in tremendous shape and showed off his current skillset.
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) May 1, 2020
Since I’m a boxing connoisseur and follow the game closely, I see Tyson as still a fairly big deal and a great get for AEW. But my view of it is biased. So I asked some others from our Fight Game Podcast Facebook Group what they thought about the two questions I posed above.
Does Mike Tyson vs. Chris Jericho mean something in 2020 and without a crowd?
@justinmknipper: I know FOR SURE that this angle would’ve exploded with a crowd.
@HayabusaCT: It would’ve been way better with a crowd.
@sideswipe70: The lack of a crowd hurt because there was no reaction to the pull apart, when you would have likely had a good pop for it. I don’t think it affects business any more substantially than the lack of audience generally does, but it wasn’t helped either.
@ZackMalibu: It’s something that would play better in front of a crowd because the smoke and mirrors can be carried by their reactions. Without a crowd they will have people watching, but using celebrity involvement in a setting with no true fan reaction seems somewhat wasteful.
@PaulAceFontaine: I’m not sure the lack of a crowd makes a difference as I believe AEW would sell out their PPV shows with or without Tyson.
@lariatrope: Mike Tyson against Chris Jericho absolutely means something, especially with Tyson being in the news recently with his training video going viral. The timing of the angle was great, even without a crowd. AEW has apparently proved they can already draw a good buyrate on pay-per-view even during this pandemic. A match with Tyson could draw even better for them.
@DaveDutra: I think this had huge potential but ultimately is a huge waste doing it during the pandemic era. To be honest, this would have been a great angle to do on the first week back to a live audience to generate buzz. I imagine that they’re moving forward because of Tyson’s limited availability.
@wadehaugen: I’m 80 percent certain by the time this match if it is a match happens that there will be fans in the building in some form.
@roheblius: Fingers crossed.
@ryanjfrederick: They clearly had this deal set up before the pandemic hit. Remember this would’ve been in Las Vegas, and would’ve blown the roof off there.
@roheblius: That’s right because they were running TV from the MGM the next week. I now assume it was to make it easier to use Tyson.
@combatrepublic: This would have been waaaaay bigger with a crowd. Tyson’s hype videos and social presence during the pandemic have been huge and this is a big win for AEW. The segment itself was clunky and brutal and all over the place, but will end up getting them some much needed mainstream attention.
@lariatrope: A bigger question is how much are they paying Tyson, and would an increase in buys cover the cost? Regardless, the exposure itself might be worth the price.
Tyson doing a match in 2020 still might not mean as much for AEW as Tyson being a “special enforcer” for WWE in 1998, but Tyson is still a household name. Likewise, Tyson in AEW could legitimize them with media outlets that are unaware they exist.
@sideswipe70: Mike Tyson vs. Chris Jericho doesn’t mean anything in 2020. It made Around the Horn today on ESPN, but only because it was used as a way to make jokes about Tyson being unable to tear off his shirt. The target audience for this angle is the 40-50 year old age group, who remembers Tyson in his prime. But that age group remembers 1998 and the Tyson/Austin angle and will draw the natural comparison between the two angles.
@roheblius: I definitely understand this point, but I wonder what the goal is. I don’t think AEW considers this angle as something that launches them into the mainstream like it did WWE. I think they just want to bump their current business a bit and Tyson should be helpful there.
@wadehaugen: I will say this… the Tyson/Austin thing was over 22 years ago that’s more than enough time to redo an angle. If it isn’t that says more about pro wrestling’s current fanbase who refuses to move on from the Attitude Era than it does anything else.
@combatrepublic: They are going to battle the “WWE Lite” stigma, especially considering they re-hashed an Attitude Era angle and this is really a blow off to a RAW skit from 10 years ago that most have forgotten and one that AEW can’t air.
@sideswipe70: This 2020 version comes across as a poor imitation of it. There’s still time to save it, but this start doesn’t seem to have delivered the mainstream buzz that they were going for. That’s in so small part because it has a feeling of “been there, done that.”
@ZackMalibu: I think it means something as far as product visibility and the potential to convert those “curiosity watchers” into full time fans. Mike is still a prevalent force in popular culture and is looked at by many as a badass (or worse). He carries the intimidation factor with him still. I think he could have been reined in a little better in the Dynamite segment (laughing and smiling a little too much for my taste) but Jericho is great at adaptability and I have faith he can make this work.
@PaulAceFontaine: It means something. What is yet to be determined. I think the increased ratings for Dynamite last night after AEW heavily pushing his appearance since Saturday prove that. I’m not sure that people are interested in seeing a Mike Tyson vs Chris Jericho match but the publicity the potential match will bring to their TV show could bring new fans in to check out the show and if they like what they see, they may order the PPV for something other than that.
Which current or retired combat sports athlete would’ve meant the most in this segment?
@lariatrope: The most obvious answer is Conor McGregor as he is likely the current biggest draw in combat sports. Before Conor in UFC, Ronda Rousey was the biggest draw. The segment would have to be different with who was involved, but Rousey doing an angle in AEW would be amazing for their women’s division. That division has some great talent, but it could use a spark to really ignite it. Rousey could be an even greater assist to AEW than she was for WWE’s women’s division.
@HayabusaCT: I wouldn’t touch Conor because his sexual assaults aren’t cleared up. Jon Jones would work better as a member of Inner Circle, so I really don’t think there’s a better babyface then Tyson.
@promisethomas: Colby Covington would “get it” unlike so many other outside athletes. Mike just going off and doing his own thing says a lot to me. Him and his guys going into business for themselves wouldn’t have happened elsewhere… very telling. This was meh.
@PaulAceFontaine: I thought of Colby and almost put him in there. Just not sure he’s got a big enough name to connect with the masses. Cejudo may end up being the unsung hero of this thing depending on how big his role is because he gets it as well.
@combatrepublic: As far as a current performer, Conor would undoubtedly be the biggest and he still is mostly a fully functional human being and could have pulled this brawl off better and at this point would be a bigger get than Tyson. Especially considering Conor has not been in wrestling before, whereas Tyson has multiple times over the years.
@JerFinestone: I don’t know how much he really would’ve meant, but I sure would’ve been into George St-Pierre.
@sideswipe70: Conor McGregor would be the only combat sport athlete that would have meant anything in this segment. Part of the reason this type of segment works is that it doesn’t come across as an angle. Conor is the only combat athlete that could sell this as a shoot in some way, because of his reputation. Given his track record as a draw, plus that he has never done pro wrestling before, it would have been a hit.
@ZackMalibu: In my mind, a modern badasses like Jorge Masvidal or the Diaz brothers showing up to step up to the cocky heels that think they run the joint is a no brainer. Jon Jones has a bigger name, but I also think he’d be seen as a heel much like when WWE booked Floyd Mayweather. Same goes for Conor McGregor. If you’re looking for people for the fans to get behind, I’d go the Masvidal or Diaz route.
@PaulAceFontaine: Of available options, Tyson may have been the best. Perhaps Cain Velasquez. He obviously doesn’t have near the name value of Tyson but has more athletic credibility and he does have pro wrestling experience that AEW fans would be aware of more than most. A dark-horse is maybe Daniel Cormier but I feel like if he were to do anything in wrestling it would probably be with WWE.