This was originally going to be a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down recap column on WWE Fastlane Saturday night, but after watching that show in which very little happened, I decided to write about other things that are a tad more important.
But, I’ll at least leadoff with it.
WWE Fastlane exists
For the second WWE Premium Level Event in-a-row, they put on a show that just existed. It was there to gain hours watched on Peacock and take advantage of how hot WWE still is with live fans. I experienced it with WWE RAW live in San Jose. The live crowd is very happy with the product and wants to be a part of the act. When Dominik Mysterio starts to talk, they want to boo the hell out of him; not because he’s a great heel, but because it’s the fun thing to do. And when the crowds are lively, it does make the television show better too.
By the way, 15 years ago, this would’ve been a really good PPV. The wrestlers are so good and they want to have great matches. The problem is that all of their big storylines are paused in a way to tell you that the September and October months are a little dead and that they can’t wait to get to November to get things moving again.
But also, there is so much wrestling on television today that if you put on a PLE, it has to be impactful. It can’t be just another few hours of time for wrestling fans.
The Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura program is a great example. Nakamura hasn’t been relevant of late and he didn’t get a push that telegraphed that they had any long term plans for him. It seemed to be a program put together because they had nothing else set up. The story told was sound, but the stakes were so that no one really believed Nakamura had a chance, and why should they? He hasn’t been treated as a serious contender in years.
Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso won the tag team titles as an impromptu team. No one seemed to bat an eye that this team that didn’t exist a week ago beat the tag team champions and one of the most pushed heel acts. The Bloodline and Judgment Day seem to be on a collision course at some point at least.
John Cena and LA Knight beat Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa in a match in which Cena sold and sold and sold to set up Knight’s hot tag. Knight’s work was pretty good, but the layout of the match meant that it was also one of the more boring matches of the night. At least they continue to strap the rocket on Knight. He seems like a really big deal right now.
There were only five matches. The show was still the normal length so we had a lot of video package padding. Let’s hope that things start to turn around in November because September and October have been long months for WWE.
The Tuesday Night War is upon us
Because of MLB playoffs, the dastardly Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks to be exact, AEW Dynamite is on Tuesday this week, head-to-head against NXT. Both companies are pulling out all the stops. WWE is having John Cena, Becky Lynch, and the Undertaker of all people show up to the Performance Center.
— Carmelo Hayes (@Carmelo_WWE) October 8, 2023
AEW is loading up their show with their bread and butter, which is high quality wrestling matches. They have Jay White vs. Hangman Page as their main event.
#AEWDynamite: Title Tuesday!
A rivalry renewed!
Jay White vs Hangman Adam Page!
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) October 8, 2023
It’s funny to me that these are the two most important wrestling shows of the week. NXT’s show has been better promoted than WWE’s own PLE last week. And AEW has to create some awareness considering they are the show that is moving nights and especially after last week’s scheduling and DVR nightmares.
But what does it mean in the long run? For AEW, not much. Even though they beat WWE last year, NXT was not as hot of a television program as it is right now. WWE is expected to win the night this week.
But could this show media companies that WWE’s third brand can sustain AEW’s top program coming to their night? WWE is still trying to sell their WWE RAW and NXT package. NXT’s rights were probably less than 10% what RAW’s rights were the last time they sold their rights. But NXT is a much hotter show right now and if they beat AEW’s A show, that’s showing major value that didn’t exist this time last year. And it shows that the more important show to AEW can’t just come on their night and beat them. Well, it can’t beat them when they pull out the stops.
Now, if for some reason, Dynamite wins the night, the paragraph above should be forgotten.
The wrestling media blues
After a member of the wrestling media asked IYO SKY about facing Taylor Swift, an interesting discussion popped up on Twitter around wrestling media.
Iyo Sky was asked if she would wrestle Taylor Swift
— Fightful Wrestling (@Fightful) October 8, 2023
The question was silly and could only be asked in an environment that isn’t to be taken seriously, which is exactly what WWE’s post-show pressers are. I commend folks like Jon Alba who go to the big WWE events and are able to ask legitimate questions even if they don’t really get answered.
Being part of the wrestling media is really weird. There are very few journalists working in wrestling who even consider themselves journalists. Sean Ross Sapp, who does some of the best work out there, doesn’t even consider himself a journalist. He specifically writes in his Twitter bio that he’s not a journalist. And I understand why. He’s also a content creator. And by being a content creator, some of what you do doesn’t jive with conventional journalism, which in of itself seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.
Back during New Japan’s hot period, whenever they’d come to the US, they’d hold press conferences both before and after shows. It was the first time I was at something that was half supposed to be real, but still in the vein of kayfabe. It felt disjointed and uncomfortable. You had real questions about injuries and health and then you had goofy questions about the product that Hiroshi Tanahashi used in his hair.
The early AEW pressers were much more like media events so they could sell tickets. I was there for the original Double or Nothing ticket presale party and they did interview segments between opponents very much in storyline. Those were fun. They weren’t meant to be legitimate in any way.
I pretty much enjoyed the AEW post-show pressers because I thought it was cool that Tony Khan actually answered real questions. Now, let me say that I’ve never been credentialed to any AEW shows. I’ve always bought my own ticket and have never been part of the pressers.
(By the way, they aren’t really scrums and I’m not sure why Khan calls them that, but no one seems to care that much.)
I felt a change in the pressers around the 2022 edition of Double or Nothing. Dave Meltzer and I were expecting to get an interview with Khan at some point the day before the show. It seemed that it was expected to happen and then something would happen and it was off, or postponed. Imagine being in Las Vegas with friends and having to be on alert just in case this interview was going to happen. But I was there to support Dave so I was going to be ready if necessary. And the interview just didn’t happen. I think it was super late in the evening when we finally gave up on it.
This same weekend was when MJF no-showed the AEW Meet and Greet and all of a sudden rumors were abuzz about what was happening with him. Was it a shoot that he decided to no show or was it part of AEW’s storyline? He quickly lost to Wardlow early on in that show. He was then said to have left the building.
I nearly lost myself when Khan no commented Dave Meltzer’s question at the presser about MJF. What else would any journalist covering wrestling that night have wanted to ask? Come up with an answer. Make up an answer. But the “no comment” was ridiculous. And at that moment, I realized that these post show pressers were far too much storyline for my taste and I stopped caring about them. The wrestling media isn’t paid to be part of the storyline.
People may get a kick out of Christian being a jerk toward Bryan Alvarez at a presser because it’s entertaining and he’s funny. And also, Bryan understands that situation and seems to be okay with it overall. But to me, it’s an embarrassment for a talent to come out in character because if the questions are in character, then the media is part of the bit. And I will never be part of the bit because the second I’m part of the bit, my judgment and fairness can be called into question.
I very much understand that it’s actually really good business for the content creators to ask these questions or even to do interviews that are partially in kayfabe. They make money from their videos and having a talent in the video works best with YouTube’s algorithm. So I don’t fault that at all. I’m specifically using myself and what I do in covering wrestling as the example. As the great Mike Singletary once said, “Can’t do it, won’t do it.”