Looking At Jericho vs. Gage

When Nick Gage was announced for a match against Chris Jericho last week, it prompted much speculation about what exactly would happen when the former deathmatch tournament winner squared off with the first undisputed champion. As I wrote in an article earlier this week, some would immediately write Gage off because of his history, he spent several years in prison when his drug addiction lead him to rob a bank. At the same time, as unconventional as he is, the fact that Nick Gage didn’t become another statistic is a form of a comeback story. Gage cleaned this life up through professional wrestling and that in itself is a form of redemption. Furthermore, as I explained previously, there’s a level of authenticity to Gage that is rare in the modern era. There’s a believability to him that few can achieve. Plus, as was detailed in the Dark Side of The Ring episode, sadly, members of his family passed away so professional wrestling is all that he has in his life. Gage’s style isn’t for everyone and has its rightful critics, but the effort is always there when he performs for an audience.

Speaking of Gage’s style, since that was part of the intrigue of the match-up, many wondered how far AEW would go with it and the answer might be right or wrong, depending on the aftermath of the violence spectacle of the main event.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t quite as shocked at the actual gore as some because I’m already familiar with death match wrestling, even if I’m not a fan of some aspects of it. On one end of the spectrum, there are legendary death match grapplers like Onita, Mr. Pogo, Hayabusa, and others that created a legacy through epic battles that emphasized the spectacle of the violence. On the other hand, there will always be some “wrestlers” that have absolutely zero skill on any level and choose to compete in death match because cutting their fore head is their only accomplishment.

That said, I was very surprised at the fact there were light tubes and glass used on cable television.

This is where the situation gets murky because the bout will undoubtedly garner attention for its shock value, but how TNT and the viewing audience react to it might be the determining factor about if it was a wise decision to present such a match. Granted, diehard fans, especially those that are already aware of who Gage is, can appreciate it from a different perspective because Jericho, at 50, didn’t have to do a death match. As I’ve written several times in the past, Chris Jericho has put himself in a league of his own in many ways based on not only how he reinvented himself at various points, but also the fresh chapter in more recent years with his stint in New Japan and the tenure in AEW. What else could Jericho possibly do in his career? Well, working a death match with light tubes can be crossed off the list, even if nobody thought it would be on THE LIST ( get it?) anyway. While those familiar would be surprised by Jericho’s involvement, but not the gimmicks used in the match, it’s important to note that it might sour some casual fans on the show if the blood was too over-the-top for them.

According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, Tony Khan informed TNT executives of what was planned for the bout, and hopefully, the glass or pizza cutter didn’t sour the network either. Make no mistake about it, without the support of TNT, All Elite Wrestling doesn’t get off the ground. The struggles of TNA in the latter stages of the Dixie era or as quickly as Global Force fizzled out prove how difficult it is to land the support of a cable network. A channel hasn’t been behind pro wrestling to this level since WCW was on TNT, which is because the company was under the Turner umbrella already, and depending on what podcast you listen to, there was still some hostile from certain Turner suits about the WCW product. Often, networks and corporate sponsors view pro wrestling as low brow entertainment, and that’s why Vince McMahon markets his brand as sports entertainment.

The sponsors are another aspect to the situation. It might’ve been a comical coincidence or planned irony, but as Gage sliced Jericho with his trade mark pizza cutter, the picture-in-picture commercial was for Dominos. A fluff piece surfaced online about concern from the pizza executives, but it was more conjecture than anything else. It wouldn’t be the first time a hit piece was published online to attempt to push a narrative for political points. Still, you have to wonder if there will be any reaction from the sponsors of the show? Keep in mind, ad revenue and sponsorships are key factors for TV contracts, which are the primary revenue source in the modern era. The TV contracts are ultimately why WWE is a billion dollar company, and why AEW is a profitable business venture.

It goes without saying that the ad revenue and sponsorships are more valuable than the shock value of a match with glass. The glass itself is another subject, and when there was a replay of the hurricanrana through the panel of glass, it looked as there some pieces might went into the front row. If that is what happened then the potential lawsuit and negative press from a fan injury definitely isn’t worth booking the match. As shady as it is, fans know that Tony Khan is a billionaire and would use any chance they could to score a quick payoff. This isn’t some indy show where a fan will take an IWA Mid-South t-shirt to make up for glass going into the crowd.

Considering the attention the match received, you could make the argument that there’s more business to be done with Nick Gage, specifically for a match with Moxley, a bout that I discussed in an article earlier this week. The downside is that AEW has already reached the point where the company will have diminishing returns on these types of matches. A week after the wild Jon Moxley/Lance Archer match, there was another main event with weapons.

All things considered, outside of a way to introduce Gage if this is more than a one-off appearance, this type of match probably wasn’t worth putting on national television because of the potential negative press. The match itself was entertaining and it was another unique accomplishment for Jericho, but there’s a reason that death match wrestling has a niche audience in the industry.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta