Is Rumored Feeling of Pessimism in AEW Justified?

12/5/2023 9:46 PM

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Is Rumored Feeling of Pessimism in AEW Justified?

Is Rumored Feeling of Pessimism in AEW Justified?

December 5, 2023 9:46 PM
Is Rumored Feeling of Pessimism in AEW Justified?
AEW News

Should AEW Officials and Wrestlers Be Worried?

Is the rumored feeling of pessimism in AEW justified? While it's always difficult to tell what's going on backstage due to wrestling promotions guarding their privacy, Dave Meltzer reports negativity among some in AEW due to uneven ratings and poor ticket sales. However, are these rumored concerns justified? 

First, let's see what Dave Meltzer said on a recent Wrestling Observer Radio:

“They’re grossing a lot of money. It’s interesting because today I’ve gotten so much feedback from people in and around AEW, and it’s a lot of negativity right now. And I think some of that stems from the show Saturday night obviously was a very poor crowd. It’s interesting because there’s a lot of negativity while at the same time the company’s grossing more money by far than it ever has, the last couple of months. It’s been very, very successful in that sense. As far as turning profit, that’s a very different story. And as far as the value of the company… there’s economic aspects of the company that look really good, but there’s still this feeling (of negativity). Understandably in wrestling it’s always ‘who’s number one’, and they are far from number one right now. They were a lot more competitive in things like television ratings and attendance and things like that 18 months ago than they are now.”

AEW has had some successes in 2024, including healthy pay-per-view numbers (despite the company adding several shows to its PPV line-up and even running two PPVs within a week), the signing of top free agent Will Ospreay, and the usual raves it receives for its matches. Nevertheless, the company's ticket sales have been awful, and other than Dynamite, AEW"s TV shows have struggled in the ratings.

Another problem is the WWE's remarkable success over the last 18 months. The WWE has been crushing it since WrestleMania 38, building more momentum with Triple H's appointment as Chief Content Officer and the return of several popular Superstars. Dave Meltzer commented on this: 

“Understandably in wrestling it’s always ‘who’s number one’, and they are far from number one right now. They were a lot more competitive in things like television ratings and attendance and things like that 18 months ago than they are now.

Is the WWE's Success Causing AEW's Failures?

Is it a coincidence that AEW's star has fallen while the WWE's has risen? It would be too easy to say AEW's popularity has dropped because the WWE's popularity has grown. Certainly, there's a case to be made that when AEW runs against the WWE, it comes up short. AEW's Saturday show Collision has bombed in the ratings whenever it's aired simultaneously as a WWE PLE. Without getting into a deep analysis, it appears that AEW fans are more likely to tune out AEW in order to watch the WWE (and vice versa).

However, AEW continues to enjoy success (if not growth) with its Wednesday show Dynamite, and AEW fans are willing to fork over $49.95 every time AEW runs a PLE. The WWE's success doesn't seem to be affecting these items.

History has shown that wrestling fans will support more than one major promotion if the product is entertaining. When WCW launched Nitro in 1995, there were serious concerns that two Monday night wrestling shows would cannibalize the audience. That wasn't the case, as RAW maintained its existing audience while Nitro grew its own audience. Where things changed was when fans felt one product was superior to the other. Initially, this was WCW's New World Order storyline. Later, it became the Attitude Era, which attracted fans to the WWF with characters such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the members of D-Generation X.

Perception is Reality

The rumors that there is a feeling of gloom and doom in AEW could be a classic example of the saying "perception is reality." While AEW is enjoying some successes, its troublesome ticket sales are a cause for worry. Dave Meltzer noted:

“So it’s kind of just a really interesting thing where you’ve got a negative perception. Which usually comes when the economics are bad, but the economics are not bad right now… but they’re still worrisome right now in the sense that when you look at the future and you look at the upcoming shows – you don’t see shows that look like you’re gonna be drawing big crowds in too many places."

There are many possible reasons for AEW's ticket troubles, including 1) a clear lack of interest in the product; 2) AEW booking too often in the same geographical areas; 3) AEW charging too much for tickets; 4) competition from non-wrestling events; 5) fans choosing to buy tickets for the WWE rather than AEW; and 6) AEW booking its shows in large arenas.

Whatever factors are affecting AEW's ticket sales, the company must fix things quickly. It doesn't look good on TV when you see large areas of empty seats. While promotions can hide a poorly attended show with camera tricks, photos inevitably make their way to social media showing the array of empty seats. The empty seats also have to affect wrestlers who wonder how AEW can be profitable if there are so many unsold seats. Meltzer added to his analysis: 

“Economically they’re doing much better than they were at that time (when they were competitive with WWE in ratings/attendance). But, the perception is that they’re not because the live shows (attendance) feed a lot of the perception, and the ratings do, because they’re the two numbers that people look at.”

H/T Wrestling News for quotes.

Is AEW a Profitable Promotion?

The bottom line is whether AEW is a profitable promotion. AEW can boast that it had record revenue but revenue does not always mean profit. After all, if AEW is making $100 million but has $200 million in expenses, it's clearly losing money. Unfortunately, AEW is not a publicly traded company which means AEW has no obligation to release its numbers.

Do AEW officials and its wrestlers know something that fans and the media don't, that is, that the company is in the red; or is it a case that the poor ticket sales and troubled ratings have officials and wrestlers fearing the worst? 

Do you think there's cause for concern in AEW? 

Photo Credit: AEW