Over the course of the last week, we’ve seen two very different stories of wrestling companies (or wrestlers in one case) making a bunch of money for vastly different reasons. Since the two groups are so different, I won’t bother trying to compare them because it’s really like trying to compare apples to mailboxes (Side note: why is it always apples to oranges? They’re not exactly polar opposites and can be swapped in and out pretty easily. If you want it to be something else, making it something very different.). Instead, we’re going to look at the two cases and why both are good signs for wrestling as a whole.
We’ll start with what really is the far more impressive story: Cody and the Young Bucks putting together a show called All In that sold out the 10,000 seats to win their bet with Dave Meltzer, who said it wasn’t going to happen (and yes Dave, it happened, no matter how many caveats you want to throw in there). I was one of the people who thought they couldn’t pull this off and, in something I don’t often say, I was completely wrong.
Are you all in?
Let’s think about how impressive this really is. Outside of WWE, no one has accomplished this in about twenty years. Even then, Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling didn’t do it. Paul Heyman’s ECW didn’t pull this off. Impact Wrestling has never done this (at least in America, though they might have done it in England). Think about that for a second. WCW closed a lifetime ago and no one has managed to do this since.
So who did it? Three guys, one of whom is considered a WWE reject and two of whom are an often annoying undersized team. Pulling off even a few thousand people would be impressive and they reached five figures in a few hours. The show is going to make a fortune with the merchandise sales alone, even if the tickets were all sold cheap. That alone makes the thing a success, but just getting this far is far more impressive than however much profit they make.
What did they even do? Really, they talked the heck out of this show on their YouTube show and every other show they’re on, making it more of this underground secret. That brought them to what really made it work: they got the fans to feel like they were all part of something special. By the time the tickets went on sale, it was these guys and their army of fans against the WWE world, which rejected the three of them in the first place. It turned into a revolution and look where we are now.
The show itself isn’t going to be what matters. With a likely headliner of Cody challenging for the NWA (yes the freaking NWA) World Title and another featured match of probably the Golden Lovers vs. Young Bucks II, it’s not like the card itself means all that much. This is ALL about the atmosphere and everything that the fans want to see. They want to be part of this underground movement that sticks it to the establishment and that’s a very powerful weapon to wield.
Don’t believe me? Look at the other big underground wrestling promotion: the aforementioned ECW. That promotion closed over seventeen years ago and you’ll still hear the ECW chants around the country, especially when violence comes up. That style defined ECW and it turned into a phenomenon. ECW was about counter culture and the fans getting to be in on something special that wasn’t supposed to survive.
Think this guy had something to do with bucking the establishment?
That right there is why All In is the success that it has already become. Fans want to be part of something special and these three guys have made All In something different. It’s not going to be a full time promotion (no need with all of the other promotions that they work for around) and there’s a good chance that it won’t be done more than two or three times a year, but it’s worked once and that’s what matters. They’re a success completely without WWE and that’s an accomplishment that virtually no one else can claim.
Now we’ll look at the other success, which goes with the WWE territory: the $1 billion deal with FOX to air SmackDown Live starting next year. Vince McMahon couldn’t be reached for comment as he was last seen diving into a huge pile of money. However, those who could be reached for comment….didn’t have anything to say as the deal isn’t official yet, even though it’s all but confirmed at the moment.
Here’s the thing: WWE knows how to make money and market itself to lucrative markets. Wrestling, or live sports in general, feel like more important viewing. You can binge watch a regular TV show because you have a long off season in between the groups of shows. With wrestling though, the games (or shows/matches in this case) come and go so fast that you can’t build up a bunch of them and watch it all at once. That makes it more must see TV when it airs live, meaning it’s worth a lot of money to the television networks, especially the big ones like FOX.
Maybe they could buy a pool with the money.
This is a major, major coup for WWE, which will now be profitable almost as long as it wants to be without doing much. The same is true for Monday Night Raw, which will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars despite sticking on the lower USA Network. That’s pure money coming in to WWE and, if we’re lucky, we might even see something out of it. Like pyro more than once a year, though that might be a pipe dream.
In addition to that though, it might make SmackDown Live feel that much more important. Do you think WWE is going to treat the show like a second thought anymore if it’s airing on network television in front of millions more people every single week? This is a major opportunity for the blue show and could make it feel more important than it ever has in its long history.
Maybe we get a big star on the show. Maybe we get some more important storylines. Maybe the SmackDown World Champion gets to main event a pay per view (it hasn’t headlined a co-branded pay per view since 2010 so it’s kind of due). Either way, it’s going to get some more attention and that’s all that matter very good for both WWE and wrestling fans going forward.
The point though is there is money to be made in wrestling, whether it’s in WWE or not. There won’t be any real competition to WWE, but maybe they can now see that something else might work. If WWE starts to change things up a little bit, we as fans can benefit. We’ve been waiting for some kind of competition for decades now (spare me with the idea that Impact Wrestling is competition) and maybe this makes things better in the future. Even if it doesn’t, some people are making money now and they’re not working for WWE, which is a really new idea, and hopefully it continues for a very, very long time.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 26 wrestling books. His latest book is the WWE Grab Bag.
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