What Rampage Says About AEW

There was much speculation about the status of the All Elite Wrestling office after a myriad of staff appointments were made and announced publicly via a press release. Some of the changes include Pat Buck and Sonjay Dutt being given the role of agents backstage, Christopher Daniels continuing his role with talent behind the scenes, and Madison Rayne as a coach in the women’s division. These announcements on their own aren’t earth-shattering or even all that newsworthy. By nature, All Elite has a relatively young roster, which it should because the company quite literally has to build for the future, and agents there to help keep the shows as seamless and concise as possible should’ve been a part of the plan since the launch of the company. The whole “give the roster creative freedom” trope is a positive, but only to a certain point. The program doesn’t need three matches with Canadian Destroyers and at least four apron bumps for each episode.

That makes you wonder, will the direction of the product be more focus and streamlined going forward?

There wasn’t a more perfect example of the lack of proper direction than last Friday’s edition of Rampage, with talent that probably shouldn’t be on the Youtube shows with a spot on national television. It must be mentioned that outside of a random championship bout on occasion, Rampage is a completely secondary show that isn’t truly important in the grand scheme of things. I understand that Turner officials wanted to give the company a third hour because Dynamite brings in a consistent number, but prehaps declining that in the interest of quality over quantity would’ve been a better move. It’s very rare that anything of major importance to the direction of the company has happened on the Friday night show since its debut last year, and other than announcements for upcoming matches, angles from Rampage don’t often lead to specific segments on Dynamite. Granted, if Tony Khan wants Rampage to be the second-tier television show, that’s fine, but that’s also telling the audience that the episodes aren’t “must-see” TV. The biggest indication of that is that a viewer could completely skip Rampage and not miss anything important to the product that they watch on Dynamite.

The reason I say this and why it’s worth the discussion is that national television exposure is a valuable commodity and a secondary program that doesn’t have a certain level of quality can dilute the overall effectiveness of the AEW product to continue to build an audience.

Parker Boudreaux, a guy that had a cup of coffee in NXT, won a match against Sonny Kiss. We’ve see way too often that Tony Khan will bring in almost anybody that had a WWE deal at some point with the claim from the diehard AEW fans that he’s “giving talent a chance,” which has the good will for pro wrestling message to it, but again this is national television, not a try out on Youtube. Boudreaux’s brief stint in NXT didn’t give him a chance to show much, but he’s basically the generic Performance Center recruit that goes through the WWE assembly line to see if the coaches there can find a diamond in the rough. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and as far as someone being able to land a national contract, mazel tov, but outside of that, is there really any reason that Parker Boudreaux had to be added to the AEW roster? Unless a few dozen people under contract decide to go to barber college instead of working as wrestler, Tony Khan isn’t short on talent for his organization.

Erik Redbeard, the former Rowan, made a cameo to team with Danhausen for a match against the Gunn Club, which is completely fine. AEW’s more flexible working agreements that made it possible for guest spots like this give the company something unique to promote that you usually won’t see in WWE. Rowan’s guest appearance was a cool segment that adds some variety without the hurdle of putting someone under contract that the office might not have a plan for in the future.

Ariya Daivari lost to Orange Cassidy in the main event segment before Sonny Kiss turned heel to join his faction. Daivari is a talented in-ring athlete, but there are a lot of talented athletes in the modern era so the aerial style doesn’t standout now nearly as much as it did in years prior. It’s not his fault, but Ariya Daivari spent about five years of his career in the witness protection program of 205 Live. With a roster as bloated as it is already, you have to consider a few things to determine if Ariya Daivari should have an All Elite contract, let alone have on faction on national television. Does he truly bring anything to the table that someone else already doesn’t in AEW? Furthermore, he doesn’t have the star power to be considered a major asset so again, what does he honestly bring to that table? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he doesn’t have a place in the sport, this has more to do with the AEW management style than Daivari specifically. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Daivari flourished somewhere else, but what’s his role in AEW? The only upside of the segment was the Sonny Kiss heel turn. Sonny is a true performer and if this heel turn will spotlight those skill then prehaps this angle will be useful.

Still, the whole thing seems thrown together without much substance. Fans of the north east independent scene from 2001 might remember Slim J, but the national television audience has no idea who this guy is other than he looks like he could’ve been an extra in 8 Mile. Listen, it’s great that someone gets a break, but is randomly showing up on national TV the best introduction when a performer is literally known for their indy work during the Bush administration?

Some might disagree, but I find that way too often angles are rushed toward gimmicks matches just for the ability to book a gimmick match on television. In fact, there’s often at least one stipulation bout on the card each week. As far as angles being rushed, the Darby Allin/Brody King feud was a prime example, it seems like it just started a few weeks ago and then there was suddenly the coffin match last week on Dynamite. If Tony Khan wants to make the coffin match the signature Darby contest, there’s a concept there that could be very effective, but instead, it’s often randomly announced for television, making it just another gimmick match on a show that already has too many gimmick matches. Remember any of the particulars of the Darby/Andrade coffin match? If not, there’s the point of how a stipulation that could be used for a draw can get lost in the shuffle.

However, the bigger point to all of this is that the number, while consistent are also stagnant. Dynamite usually hovers around a million viewers each week and then Rampage garners about half of that. I’d guess the reason is that the overall booking direction, much like the gimmick matches themselves are usually just one off segments instead of something that builds on a regular basis. Why should the audience get too invested in the storyline with the ladder match when there’s a coffin match booked for another feud the following week? Granted, the realistic expectations for the numbers pro wrestling can draw on television in the modern era depends on who you ask, especially when Raw only generates about two million viewers, but the point is, the goal of national television is to draw the biggest audience possible for the company.

Last week’s edition of Rampage with the coffin match and the Chris Jericho/Jon Moxley world title match drew 972,000 viewers. The most important question is, is the current booking style effectively building the audience?

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

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta