Last night on Raw, Big E cashed in the Money in The Bank contract to with the WWE championship in a tremendous moment, reuniting with the other New Day members in the ring to celebrate. Big E, as we know, has all the skills and the talent to be a main event guy. He has the charisma, he can go in the ring, and he has a likeability that the audience can connect with through his performances. The fact that Ettore Ewen, by all accounts, is a wonderful person in real-life shines through during his time on-screen. Basically, it’s very easy to rally behind and cheer for Big E, which are some of the best traits of a major baby face.
In truth, Big E was ready for this spot for at least a few years, he’s one of the most consistent talents on the roster, but during that span sometimes found himself on the kickoff show of pay-per-views instead of a featured competitor on the card. Part of the reason for that was that The New Day were one of the most popular acts in the company at the same time that management tried to get Roman Reigns over as a baby face, and WWE brass wasn’t going to push anyone ahead of him at that point so the door wasn’t realistically open for a major Big E push until the Roman heel turn anyway. Still, Big E was more than ready to be a main event level star so why did WWE finally decide to put the title on him?
This shouldn’t be the case because Big E already has the talent for this spot, but this title switch on television is probably a direct result of the buzz and the numbers that All Elite Wrestling has drawn recently. The biggest takeaway from the past few months within the industry is that it proves why competition is the key to the business. I’ve written several times in the past that the sports entertainment empire is too comfortable and developed an unintentional level of complacency within the product. The climate of the television business, specifically the demand for live sports to prevent DVR viewing and thus allow for more ad exposure, gave the WWE the chance to land massive TV contracts, bringing them record-setting profits from that revenue stream alone. Add in the $1 billion Peacock deal and there’s not the pressure to “sell” the show to the audience because the money the company is paid for the streaming rights is the same regardless of the amount of fans that actually watch the pay-per-views. Plus, the publicly-traded company seems to have made its decisions based on what’s best for the shareholders, not the fans.
The other side of the coin is that all the guaranteed money from TV and streaming rights bolster the stock price, which made WWE a billion dollar company, but at the same time, to maintain that level for the shareholders is a very difficult balancing act.
The entire point of the wrestling business, at least originally, was to skew the perception of reality to draw money, and ironically, the work is the same on Wall Street. The WWE touts big profits and mega deals, philosophies that often seem like they trade the short-end money for the future, but that’s another discussion for another time. The point being, the perception that WWE is the major league of sports entertainment in the United States is one of the reasons they can secure those type of deals, more specifically with ad revenue and sponsorships. Just the fact that All Elite Wrestling has made some noise and generated some hype chisels away at that perception. WWE might be an entertainment empire, but if there’s another major league option in America, it undoubtedly takes a slice of the pie.
CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Adam Cole all showed up on All Elite television in a short period of time, that creates the perception that AEW is the place to be, and in many ways, perception is reality. I won’t repeat all the details here because it was discussed before, but if the WWE had legitimate competition when the Roman baby face push flopped, would it have continued for years? Again, the fact that AEW generated some buzz made the WWE shift the direction of its programming, which isn’t a jab against Vince McMahon, but rather to show why competition is important. When fans and to some extent even the talent didn’t have true options, the corporate agenda, not the fan demand, determined the direction of the product. The argument could be made that Brock Lesnar, Becky Lynch, and the Big E win were booked for WWE television because of the recent success of AEW.
The question is, how does WWE follow-up on any of this?
We’ve all heard the rumors that Vince often throws away scripts for complete re-writes before a broadcast goes on the air, and while you have to take some of those reports with a grain of salt, the WWE product definitely appears to be disjointed at times. It’s at least believable that the product might be booked week-to-week based on some of the counterproductive aspects of the shows. Sometimes matches are advertised for the shows, but then don’t actually take place without any on-screen explanation. The concern is, the title switch to Big E appears to be a snap decision to pop a rating this week, but where does it go from here? Sure, you can book the Bobby Lashley rematch at Extreme Rules for the easy title match at the next pay-per-view, but is there any plan for how this title run will solidify Big E is a main event star?
I have to ask the question because the booking of Drew McIntyre during his run in the main event and afterwards is a prime example of how a title win doesn’t automatically cement a star. I’ve already discussed the major fumbles during that rum, but to explain the main points, he dropped the title twice and then lost at Wrestlemania before he was booked in a four-minute match against Jinder Mahal at Summer Slam for a feud about a sword. As talented as his is, with the way he was presented as champion, is Drew McIntyre considered a money-drawing star? Let’s not forget how all the momentum that Kofi had as champion was halted in a matter of seconds when he was squashed during the Smackdown debut on Fox. How Big E will be booked as champion remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, even the AEW critics will have to acknowledge its effect on the pro wrestling landscape and that its existence provides a benefit to the industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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