AEW, facing ratings decline, needs ‘Full Gear’ to build momentum
AEW has about as packed a card for its “Full Gear” pay-per-view (Saturday, 8 p.m. EST) as has been seen on the U.S. wrestling scene in years.
The company kinda needs “Full Gear” to live up to the advanced billing, given trends with viewer numbers for its Wednesday “Dynamite” show.
“Dynamite” is still topping WWE’s “NXT” in the nascent Wednesday Night Wars, posting its sixth straight win in the head-to-head this week, drawing 822,000 viewers to the 813,000 for “NXT.”
But the number of “Dynamite” viewers has gone down each week, from a high of 1.409 million for the debut episode on Oct. 2, representing a dropoff of 41.6 percent from Week 1 to Week 6, which, yikes.
“NXT” is also down 31 percent over that period, which is significant because WWE has tried to inject life into the numbers by sending top main-roster stars like Finn Balor and A.J. Styles to “NXT” for cameos, and also featured “NXT” stars on “Smackdown” last week when the company had travel issues in Saudi Arabia that kept most of the roster on the ground in the Middle East.
AEW can’t just bring established big names over from another part of its company for surprise appearances or add to the exposure of its stars on a sister show with three times the viewers.
The strategy for AEW needs to be, as they say a lot these days in business circles, more organic, from within.
“Full Gear” could be important momentum, at least in terms of the buzz that should come from the show, which features world champ Chris Jericho defending against Cody, pound-for-pound best wrestler in the world Kenny Omega facing Jon Moxley in a lights-out match, a tag-team grudge match between The Young Bucks and Santana and Ortiz, and PAC facing top contender “Hangman” Adam Page.
From a booking perspective, AEW seems to have been doing just about everything right. The build to Omega-Moxley, which is rumored to be the main event, even with a title match on the card, has been top-notch, and the scathing promo that Cody cut on this week’s “Dynamite” has garnered mainstream attention.
Unfortunately for AEW, there has also been mainstream attention on Jericho around the expected release today of an interview that “Le Champion” recorded for his popular weekly podcast with Donald Trump Jr., who will promote a book blaming liberals for the ongoing culture wars.
That the AEW fan base skews more center-left than the WWE Universe seems to be a root for a movement online to engage cancel culture with “Full Gear” as a target.
That, plus the $49.99 ticket price for the pay-per-view, in an era when fans can access WWE pay-per-views through the WWE Network for $9.99 per month, could cool the possible impact of “Full Gear” on AEW’s trajectory.
It is without doubt that the company needs to hit a home run, both in the ring and as legendary announcer Jim Ross would say, at the pay window.
Story by Chris Graham
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