Looking At Mercedes Mone’s AEW Debut

(Photo Credit: AEW)

After months of speculation, Mercedes Mone arrived in All Elite Wrestling in her hometown of Boston, adding not only some much-needed star power to the roster, but also another high-profile free agent to the organization. The former Sasha Banks infamously walked out of WWE in 2022 and eventually landed in New Japan for a brief series of matches before her run was cut short when she suffered a very serious ankle injury in May of last year.

Since that time, there were rumors on a semi-regular basis, including when Mone was shown in the crowd at Wembley Stadium for All In, that she would ink a contract with Tony Khan. However, after Vince McMahon was dismissed from the creative team by TKO management before he was exiled in disgrace, there was some speculation that perhaps the former Sasha Banks would consider a return to the WWE under the guidance of Triple H, who ran NXT when she arguably had the biggest success of her career, in terms of consistent quality booking.

The rumor mill suggested that negotiations stalled because of the amount of money that Mone expected from a contract offer, and as we know, money is no object to Tony Khan so all things considered, it’s not too surprising that Mercedes opted to sign with All Elite Wrestling.

So, what does this translate to for the organization?

At 32, Mone is still in the prime of her career, theoretically with several years of her prime ahead of her, but she was injury prone in the past so as much as anything, her success in AEW could depend on if she can stay healthy. According to Bryan Alvarez on Wrestling Observer Live, the TB Garden moved nearly 7,800 tickets for her debut, with a set up for just above 8,000 seats. Assuming the AEW marketing department can advertise it right, the appearances of Mone, at least for her first tours with the company, could be very helpful with ticket sales. As trivial as it might sound, when you take into account some of the outrageous ticket fees associated with live events, sometimes the cheapest ticket available can hover around $50 before the cost of parking at the venue is added into the experience. Granted, All Elite as a novelty sold very well during its original touring schedule, but similar to anything else, with each return trip to a market, there must be more or a selling point than just the opportunity to see a live show.

Undoubtedly, Mercedes can be a new selling point for the organization, which is needed, as the company doubled its live event schedule with the addition of Collision less than a year ago and thus doubled the amount of tickets it needed to sell to those shows. Outside of the fact that TNT was willing to pay for more live programming, nothing about the AEW product, even the good aspects of it, would’ve justified the addition of another two-hour show so the sluggish ticket sales for the Saturday shows reflected that. Furthermore, outside of a few notable matches, including MJF/Omega, and FTR/Bullet Club Gold, Collision is often skippable in the grand scheme of things.

As far as how Tony Khan will use his newest star signed to a hefty contract, without any direct promotion of her debut and the fact that she opened the show rather than closed it, the broadcast garnered just 801,000 viewers, a slight increase from the week prior, but still among one of the lowest numbers the show has generated within the past year. This is yet another example of what I wrote about recently, Tony is a great matchmaker because he can take two great wrestlers and put their names on paper, which I also mentioned isn’t necessarily ground-breaking since it’s not shocking that Will Ospreay and Konosuke Takeshita had an incredible spot fest on pay-per-view. However, and this is the key difference, we’ve seen many times during the existence of All Elite Wrestling that Tony doesn’t know how to book the right performers at the right place, at the right time, and under the right circumstances to maximize the ability to draw for the company.

Clearly, based on the number, AEW should’ve done something more direct to advertise the debut of the former WWE star. One of Tony Khan’s favorite things about playing promoter might be to surprise the audience because he was a big fan of ECW in the 90s, but given the lack of momentum for the past several months, especially after the Adam Cole reveal flopped in December, it would’ve been the better business move to let fans know that Sasha Banks was going to be on Dynamite this week to attempt to reestablish some regular viewers. A video package that provides a brief glimpse of her for a few weeks ahead of her arrival could’ve been enough to get more of an audience for Wednesday’s show.

Sure, the counterpoint might be that maybe Sasha Banks was away from the WWE spotlight long enough that she doesn’t have the same level of star power to generate a boost in viewership, but we won’t know the answer because zero anticipation was allowed to build for her return to American TV. More specifically, the way that her debut was formatted also didn’t do the ratings any favors. When Tony scripted her to start the show, there was going to be a portion of the audience that watched the segment, a promo that wasn’t particularly well-down, and since viewers saw what they wanted to tune in for this week, they could change the channel with the relative assurance that was the premise of Mone’s involvement for this episode. Obviously, Riho vs. Willow was a set up for her to get involved again, but given the criticism of the women’s division, as well as the lack of importance placed on it, there was no way that the viewing audience was going to stay tuned in for the main event segment.

At least if Mone was the main event promo segment, it could’ve retained some viewers throughout the show. Besides fumbling the formatting, as mentioned, her promo wasn’t anything spectacular and almost made it sound like there’s no firm plan for what she’s going to do in the company yet. Again, it’s a pattern because the lack of meaningful and important angles has been a common problem and another reason why viewers haven’t made watching Dynamite as much of a priority as it was in the past.

As I said when the rumors of Mone potentially signing with AEW made the rounds online, taking into account her track record, including a four-month hiatus from the WWE before she walked out, and her reputation of being difficult to work with, I think it’s only a matter of time before Mercedes has a disagreement with how she’s booked in All Elite. Don’t get me wrong, she had some rightful complaints with how she was used in WWE, particularly when she often had to play second fiddle to Charlotte Flair so that the company could add as many title reigns as possible to get her near her dad’s championship record, but the bottom line is, there were disputes between talent and management as long as the wrestling business existed so it’s key for everyone involved to attempt to find a solution to be able to draw the most money possible. When Sasha walked out of the WWE, it made it difficult for the company to invest TV time and promotional dollars into her character in the future because what if she decided to walk out during a pay-per-view when she was in the main event?

Of course, Mercedes Mone got the artificial debut pop in her hometown and she’s thrilled with her All Elite experience so far because the spotlight was put on her. In truth, given the status of the AEW women’s division, she’s a big fish in a much smaller pond, especially when you take into account that she would still fit in perfectly with the current stellar WWE female division. That being said, even being the biggest female star in AEW doesn’t guarantee that Tony will book her properly, as we’ve seen him botch bigger stars in AEW than Mone. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting to see how Mone draws for the company, both in live attendance and TV ratings throughout this year. The shrinking core audience might disagree, but All Elite is almost on the slippery slop that saw the eventual decline of TNA in its heyday, when the company looked to sign free agents as the solution to the problems that exist as a substitution for compelling programming. There are only so many major free agents to sign, and Tony signed a lot of them in the past, but the primary show is drawing lower ratings. So, it will be interesting to see if the addition of Ospreay, Okada, and Mone will be a combination that can be presented in a way to boost the company or if they are just more expensive acquisitions for the vanity project.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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