Last week’s episode of AEW Dynamite really emphasized once again why competition in the sports entertainment industry, and more importantly, live television, were such keys to the last boon period in the business. Some of most iconic moments in the industry were the reveal of a talent’s arrival in a promotion. When Scott Hall jumped the guard rail on Nitro in 1996, the ripple effect led to the start of the Monday Night war. When Kane ripped the door off of the cell in 1997, a star was made. When the lights went out in the ECW arena and The Sandman returned to south Philadelphia, it was one of the most thunderous reactions in the history of the sport. The effect of such a surprise arrival translates around the globe as Onita’s 1999 invasion of New Japan was met with the usually reserved Japanese fans pelting the ring with trash, a very rare situation for the culture.
It’s often said that professional wrestling is about moments.
This past week on TNT, even if it was on a smaller scale compared to the previously mentioned moments, there was definitely a segment that will be remembered with the appearance of Jeff Cobb, a former Ring Of Honor TV and PWG world champion. Through his work with ROH, Cobb has also done tours with New Japan, and is currently one of the top free agents in a landscape where organizations are looking to ink talent to contracts to add as much depth as possible to the roster.
The way the Dynamite show was structured worked very well because Jericho’s promo that mentioned Cobb and the video package was a surprise, but his actual live appearance at the conclusion of the broadcast really created a buzz around the company. Aside from the potential of adding an athlete like Cobb, a former Olympian for Guam in 2004, to the roster, it also adds another layer to the Chris Jericho\Jon Moxley feud ahead of their pay-per-view bout at the end of the month. It should be noted that Tony Khan and AEW management made a very wise decision to run PPVs on a quarterly basis because it allows for a true build to a major match and for each event to stand out. Too often, in the era of the WWE Network where events are produced just as a way to provide more exclusive content for the network, those shows usually get lost in the shuffle of the countless hours of programming. Keep in mind, the concept of pay-per-view is to present a show that the fans are willing to pay to watch, which is even more difficult for AEW in the era of the$10 a month for the network so as tough as it is to sell a $50 show in the modern era, it would be exponentially more difficult if they tried to sell those shows more often than a few times a year. In some ways, the few months between PPVs makes it possible to book a feud that justifies a spot on such a platform as opposed to booking a rivalry on pay-per-view simply because an event is scheduled on the calendar.
As for Jeff Cobb, he’s booked to challenge Jon Moxley next week, but it will be very interesting to see if his match is more than just a one-off. As of right now, it’s unclear if Cobb is an official member of Jericho’s stable or if he was brought in just to add another boost to the Moxley feud. If possible, it would be wise for AEW to sign Cobb for at least a semi-regular basis, considering he brings a solid skill set and a notable background to the table. Plus, as Jericho has done with the other members of the Inner Circle, he can help present another dimension to Cobb’s character and establish his persona as more than just his in-ring ability.
A very intriguing aspect to all this is that Cobb has the ability to work for more than one major company at a specific time, which is possible because of the previously mentioned competition in the industry. The demand for talent to add or keep depth on different rosters gives the talent more flexibility and more leverage to negotiate better deals. While Cobb didn’t re-sign when his ROH contract recently expired, he’s still scheduled to work their show for Wrestlemania weekend so right now, he’s a true free agent with the ability to work anywhere that wants to book him.
As much as exclusive deals were a staple in the past, I would say that it would be better for every major promotion outside of the WWE to consider possible working agreements. It might sound too idealistic, but if AEW, ROH, and New Japan occasionally trade talent for select events, it might benefit each promotion and allow them to make more overall progress than they might make otherwise. It’s a harsh reality, but even with head-to-head competition on Wednesday and the recent stock slip, the WWE is still the undisputed leader of sports entertainment in the world. If there was an informal “alliance” so to speak between the other three groups, it might set the stage for AEW to build their fan base, keep ROH stable, and add more star power for New Japan. What would Jericho and The Inner Circle showing up to assist Jeff Cobb do for ROH? What would the buy rate be for an AEW pay-per-view if there was finally another Okada\Omega rematch? What if Jericho defended the AEW title against Tanahashi for New Japan?
Again, maybe this is too idealistic, but perhaps Cobb’s work in AEW along with Moxley’s current run in New Japan can start discussions between the groups to form some type of working agreement. As mentioned, WWE has such a dominate market share that it’s doubtful that one particular group could take a considerable piece of the pie, but maybe some combination of the three organizations could generate a lot of hype for them. Granted, the most important aspect of business is profitability, which AEW accomplished with its TNT contract extensive so each group might continue on its own path.
Still, this Jeff Cobb situation is very interesting because it’s one of the few examples of true free agency in professional wrestling, which is almost a throwback to the legendary Bruiser Brody, who worked as a legitimate independent star in his era. More than anything, this scenario proves that options for the talent give them the chance to make the most money possible because while it remains to be seen where Cobb signs on a long-term basis, the atmosphere of the industry will probably give him the chance to sign the most lucrative deal of his career.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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