Looking At The Dynamite Ratings Decline

Over the past few weeks, All Elite Wrestling added three more high-profile free agents to its roster when Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay and Mercedes Mone all inked to full-time contracts. However, the numbers have remained sluggish and in some cases there was a decline despite the new talent added to the show. As these new performers made their arrival on Dynamite over the course of the past month, I’ve written about the impact or lack thereof that it had on the television ratings that were sluggish over the past year.

Unfortunately, this week’s edition of Dynamite drew just 747,000 viewers, the lowest the show has garnered in almost six months.

As a disclaimer that I have to include in most of these articles to avoid the misguided feedback of the diehard AEW fan base, I hope that All Elite Wrestling can be a successful as possible, but when analyzing the status of the company on a continuous basis, the patterns that emerge usually underscore the fundamental flaws within the structure of the organization. In fact, the key segments with the broadcast served as key examples of why the product continues to either plateau or have slight decreases during certain weeks.

Keep in mind, I’ve said prior to this that there’s a difference between a matchmaker and a booker. Tony Khan is a great matchmaker and practiced t that on the internet for years when he booked an E-fed on message boards for 22 other people. That’s a much easier task since it’s not a ground-breaking concept that Ospreay and Takeshita had an incredible bout on pay-per-view. A great booker knows when, where, and under what circumstances that specific talents collide to get the most out of the situation. There’s very little of the All Elite product where you can say that Tony maximized the opportunity or the assets he had. CM Punk returned to pro wrestling for the first time in seven years under the All Elite banner, but more than twice the audience that tuned into AEW at his peak saw him cut a promo on Monday. Even on the injured list, Punk is a bigger star for the WWE than he ever was under contract to All Elite. Furthermore, Khan just spent another hefty amount of cash to bring in New Japan’s top guy, the biggest female star on the free agent market, and a tremendous talent with the potential to build the company around for Ospreay.

But, still Dynamite just had the lowest rating of the year so far during the same month that these three top-tier talents arrived.

Sure, the March Madness tournament is stiff competition, but the bottom line is, even a portion of the core All Elite audience would rather watch hoops than three major talents? If Tony booked a compelling show then the viewers would watch it. If NCAA basketball can take a portion of the All Elite television audience away, it proves that not enough is being done to maintain viewers.

At this point, the fans know that the three previously mentioned stars are going to be there, but maybe the viewers know that how the talent is going to be used won’t be “must see” television so they watched other programming.

Will Ospreay is one of the best in-ring talents in the business today and has a huge upside as a main event guy for AEW. The story of him winning the championship at Wembley this year writes itself. That being said, his first main event match as a full-time talent was against Kyle Fletcher a few weeks ago drew a disappointing 779,000 viewers, which had more to do with the opponent than Ospreay. It’s not that Fletcher isn’t a talented wrestler, but rather that he was rarely on television prior to this and the audience didn’t know enough about him to watch the main event segment. Sure, it allowed Tony Khan to see a dazzling spot fest, and the participants probably wanted to have the match since they are real-life friends, but Fletcher wasn’t established enough to justify a main event spot and the numbers reflected that. In a similar fashion, the Ospreay/Katsuyori Shibata bout that opened Dynamite this week didn’t have the chance to be promoted as anything more than a random bout. Yes. Ospreay and Shibata have history from New Japan, but that wasn’t used to advertise the contest in advance or build it up with their background in Japan. Shibata, similar to many others on the roster, is just another of the numerous names that you will see sporadically on television. Aside from Dynamite, he made just two other television appearances this year that were within the past two weeks on Rampage and Collision respectively. As talented as Shitbata is, he isn’t on television enough to be seen as an important player within the All Elite landscape. A side note, given his history with the very serious head injury, it’s still concerning to watch him wrestle and it would probably be safer if he remained a trainer for New Japan.

The pair of tag matches on the show were more or less in the same category as non-essential viewing. The Young Bucks vs. Private Party is a match that has been seen on television multiple times before, and most fans know that with the new heel persona, The Bucks are going to advance in the tournament. We’ve already discussed in prior articles that Matt Taven and Mike Bennett, regardless of their in-ring ability, went from lame comedy skits to a supposedly dangerous heel group in the span of a week. Trent Barrett is a really solid worker, but he’s another guy that’s rarely on television so Best Friends vs. The Undisputed Kingdom was skippable.

There was a four-way women’s match to determine the number one contender for the women’s championship at the pay-per-view next month, and it makes sense for Willow to get the win to set up her title win to be able to book Mercedes vs. Willow for the championship at Double or Nothing in May as a way to build off of their New Japan bout when Mone was injured. However, the problem was, Mercedes was put on commentary and sounded completely aloof with nothing to add to the broadcast. Given that her first two promos the weren’t anything spectacular, it’s questionable why she was put on commentary. Don’t get me wrong, Mercedes Mone is a star, but this wasn’t the way to showcase her, and she actually came across like less of a star during the segment.

The main event was a stellar fast-paced contest, but it failed to capture viewers for the same reason many of these type of main events don’t bring up the ratings. Tony booked this because he thought it would be a great match and it was a bout that he wanted to see this week, but it was given a very minimal promotional push. The fact that it was deemed a number one contender bout was almost thrown in as a side note rather than the major focus. Furthermore, Takeshita was defeated by Ospreay at Revolution, and only won two matches on Rampage since then so how exactly did he get a number one contender match? On the other hand, Swerve has a lot of momentum behind him and he’s one of the more popular on the roster right now so it was obvious that he was going to win the match. Again, there wasn’t enough of a meaningful or important storyline for the main event segment for viewers to watch the entire broadcast.

Don’t get me wrong, the sluggish ratings over the past month aren’t going to make the company go out of business, and signing free agent talent isn’t the only way to build hype around the product, but if you consider the past year, outside of the Adam Cole reveal that flopped, what long-term storyline was set up for a payoff? Furthermore, while new signings aren’t the way to truly build the audience because it’s an artificial boost rather than building compelling programming, All Elite adding more wrestlers to the roster is one of the few consistent concepts on the shows. There are a lot of talented names under contract, but very few legitimate stars that can boost the numbers and proof of that is the addition of more names have yielded a decline in the ratings.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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