Ahead of this weekend’s packed list of events, including WWE’s Saudi Arabia event tomorrow afternoon with Night of Champions, and AEW’s Double or Nothing, there’s certainly much to discuss about how the landscape of the industry will shape up over the next few months. Earlier this week, I penned an article about the remaining hurdles that had to be cleared with the CM Punk situation, which looked to be resolved after Tony Khan announced The United Center in Chicago for the debut of Collision next month, and how it could affect the numbers for a Saturday night show that will undoubtedly face tough competition most weeks.
Aside from if the show will draw a rating, with the announcement of presumably Punk’s involvement, the other big piece of the puzzle is, will Collision draw a crowd?
Obviously, the company is set to do big business in the UK with ticket sales for Wembley Stadium over 60,000 so far, but domestically, sales have been somewhat sluggish, particularly for the upcoming Collision tapings that are scheduled for the All Elite debut in Canada. In fact, even this weekend’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view, an event that sold out previously in Las Vegas, still has tickets available.
Does that mean that AEW is in jeopardy? Absolutely not, but it does create new obstacles for the organization, and the most important part of that equation is how the company navigates those hurdles. For example, how Tony Khan chose to handle or in some ways, not handle the All Out drama from last year probably wasn’t the best course of action for the promotion in retrospect. While the perception of the organization and more specifically the notion that Tony wanted a vanity project took a dent, if the company can get back on track with its major success in Europe then the backstage fights can be chalked up to the sometimes rocky roads of the wrestling business.
In a similar fashion, how All Elite books and promotes this Collision show will determine if the group has the ability to expand or if it will settle into a niche product. Right now, more often than not, too much of the product is geared toward the niche of what Khan wants to see in terms of the ” dream matches” for the demographic, but as the programming evolves, there’s a chance for there to be more content to draw in a wider audience.
Still, I honestly don’t think there’s a demand for more AEW programming so at least at this point, I don’t see how the prospects of another two-hour show, especially when Dynamite still doesn’t have a concrete format, would benefit the organization. That being said, the Saturday show is on the schedule so the topic of conversation shifts to what the logistics and possibilities are for what Collision can bring to the table.
Before we parse any detail on the current ticket sales for All Elite, it’s important to note that there will naturally be diminishing returns for any product after the initial novelty declines or after its debut in a new market. The prime example being Wembley, it’s the first time that AEW has a show scheduled for England so the majority of fans that want to see an AEW show in their home country will finally get the chance to see an event in person. Keep in mind, All Elite launched in 2019 so there’s technically four years of built up demand to see the product live, which is why Wembley has sold well. If All Elite brought a show to England or anywhere else 4-5 times a year, it intrinsically doesn’t have that “must see” atmosphere to it.
More than anything, I think that’s why Double or Nothing hasn’t had quite the same demand that generated a sell out previously. Remember, Double or Nothing was initially a travel crowd and that might still be the case, but after a few years of those events, some fans just aren’t going to continue to pay the hefty costs that it takes to make the trip to the pay-per-view, especially with the current economy. For some fans, they can justify the price tag once as a special trip, but it’s simply not financially possible to make an annual trip to Las Vegas for pro wrestling. It’s outside of the wrestling bubble, but the real world impact of inflation, particular with flights and lodging for travel, undoubtedly had an effect on the diehard fans that would’ve usually made the trip to Double or Nothing.
Another aspect that might’ve influenced travel to Double or Nothing is that All In at the stadium is a bigger show on the horizon so prehaps fans thought that the Las Vegas event was more of a bridge to England so the biggest card possible is going to be saved for Wembley. The $50 price tag to watch it on pay-per-view is much easier to justify than the hundreds of dollars it will cost to travel to be in the building to see Double or Nothing.
Essentially, the lack of a sell out for the pay-per-view this weekend after the previous events in Las Vegas were sold out is more of an indication that the economy isn’t the best for a traveling crowd and the fact that Double or Nothing was already booked there previously.
Speaking of new markets, they are necessary for a touring promotion to maximize its fan base, but at the same time, it can be a difficult balancing act. As mentioned, Collision ticket sales are sluggish so far, with the bulk of the first tour being held in Canada as a part of the company’s debut north of the boarder. In this scenario, the Canadian market can either be viewed as fresh territory, similar to how the UK generated major ticket sales, or it’s an unproven venture, depending on the perspective. Comparable to how some fans might view Wembley as the bigger show than Double or Nothing, it’s very possible that The Forbidden Door pay-per-view, the co-promoted event that will be held in Toronto during the Canadian loop, will take priority for fans. Granted, the full tour was only announced a month before the events, which makes Collision’s launch sound rushed, so there’s time to move tickets, but again, given the economy, regardless of the country, fans are going to spend their dollars for the biggest show possible. Collision is still an unknown and unproven commodity so it’s a much easier option for fans to spend their money on the New Japan collaboration than the Saturday night experiment.
Aside from the booking, which is unquestionably a major piece of the puzzle, one of the biggest problems with the addition of another prime time show is that All Elite is more or less going to have to double its ability to draw a live crowd with another weekly event on the line-up. There isn’t meant as a knock against AEW, but rather a look at not only the economy, but the current climate of the sports entertainment industry. One of the reason that Raw can draw an audience on the road, aside from WWE’s massive brand awareness, something that was even further cemented with the UFC merger, is that it has over thirty years of history behind it so there’s a certain amount of cache that the show has because of it. In a similar way, Smackdown has over twenty year of history and has that notoriety with it.
As noted, Collision isn’t an established brand, and unless there’s some definitive booking to make it stand out, it might become typecast as the secondary Saturday show, particularly if it doesn’t draw solid numbers because of its time slot. As I said in the article about Collision earlier this week, my concern with the addition of another two-hour show is that Thunder, both from a booking and attendance perspective, hindered the business of WCW so there are definitely pitfalls that Tony Khan will have to avoid. The bottom line is, fans are only going to spend a certain amount of money on pro wrestling, regardless of the brand or the product. Perhaps taping Collision on the same night as Dynamite will eventually be an option, but it’s definitely possible that the addition of the Saturday should could eventually hinder more than it helps the company.
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Until next week
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