POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: Survivor Series was a puzzling show, Nick Khan on EPL deal

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2021/11/22/pollocks-news-update-survivor-series-was-a-puzzling-show-nick-khan-on-epl-deal/

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**On the latest edition of Wrestlenomics Radio, Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo go over the business figures from AEW Full Gear, Brandon analyzes the average ticket price for AEW’s big events and whether they are underpriced, a look at the recent EPL deal with NBC, and the WWE’s roster size coming off its latest cuts.

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POST SCHEDULE

Tonight: Rewind-A-Raw with John Pollock & Wai Ting
Tues: upNXT with Davie Portman & Braden Herrington
Tues: POLLOCK TING: TALK Vol. 3
Wed: Shot in the Dark with John Siino
Wed: Rewind-A-Dynamite
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Thurs: MCU L8R – Hawkeye Ep. 1 with Wai & WH Park
Fri: Rewind-A-SmackDown
Sat: POST Puroresu with WH Park & Andrew Thompson
Sun: Wrestlenomics Radio with Brandon Thurston & Chris Gullo

SURVIVOR SERIES WAS A PUZZLING SHOW

Survivor Series was a bit of a puzzling show with an odd structure but also indicative of the way WWE’s on-screen presentation continues to move toward.

While never advertised or hinted in the lead-up on television, in a vacuum this show was completely built around Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to commemorate twenty-five years since his on-screen debut at the 1996 iteration of the show.

If Johnson had been scheduled to appear at the end of the night, the show would have been booked nearly perfect to drive the audience to believe he would be there. Logistically, he could not appear as it was known for weeks, he was filming ‘Young Rock’ in Australia and would not be at the show.

That begs the question of why they went so heavy with references to Johnson, putting Roman Reigns on last, and even incorporating a Rock Bottom from Reigns to elicit that response. For the average fan in the building, it was a natural assumption to make as WWE amplified his presence throughout the card.

Andrew Zarian of the Mat Men podcast had reported a while back that the original idea was to have The Rock on the show but the filming schedule threw those plans out the window. On Monday, he added that certain contractual obligations still had to be met with the ‘Red Notice’ partnership

The show had two major sponsorship integrations with ‘Red Notice’ on Netflix and Pizza Hut for the 25-man battle royal. These types of promotions were outlined by Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, who is overseeing the advertising and sponsorships, on the most recent earnings call. I would expect more and not less of these types of promotions that could yield significant revenue for the company.

It continued the trend established earlier this year with the ‘Army of the Dead’ integration with zombies at WrestleMania: Backlash that was commercially successful but critically panned.

The ‘Red Notice’ partnership went beyond a match or a mention but was instead of a full-blown storyline including the return of Vince McMahon to television and a mystery designed to send people to watch Raw tonight for the conclusion.

The return of McMahon is coupled with the announcement that both rosters for Raw and SmackDown will be on the show tonight for the company’s second night in a row at the Barclays Center. The main focus appears to be solving who stole Cleopatra’s egg with McMahon overseeing the investigation.

Beyond those aspects of the show, the key matches kicked off the main show with a strong match between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair ending when Lynch grabbed the bottom rope after thwarting the same attempt by Flair. A major negative of the show was the countless finishes done to protect the losing party rather than enhance the victor. There is a fear to beat anyone clean, which is a larger issue on how characters are booked off losses and being slotted based off their wins and losses and not establishing losses as storytelling devices that can be just as compelling as wins in the right circumstance.

Lynch and Flair had a level of intensity that no other match came close to and the audience saw it as the biggest match on the show. For that reason, I would have placed this match no lower than second from the top as it felt like the most anticipated one all week.

Roman Reigns and Big E. had a good match but didn’t reach the level of great nor the best match of the show. It took a while for the audience to get into this one, which could be a combination of the match beginning after 11 p.m. ET or a belief that a Rock appearance was coming and wanted to get to that. They picked up after Big E. kicked out from a spear and they did reach a second gear for the final stretch. I have no doubt these two have a better match in them.

The big match on the horizon is Reigns and Brock Lesnar again with the latter advertised for December 10th in Los Angeles. For the short-term, it’s the biggest match Reigns has but there is a glaring issue with the lack of full-time babyfaces in the future for Reigns. He has been booked as untouchable since returning in August 2020 but without any babyfaces on deck to be the long-term conqueror and truly benefit from beating this unstoppable villain. There is no Hangman Page in this company, and you could argue Big E. is the closest to that type of role of a babyface that is fresh to the audience, even though he has been on the main roster for nine years by now.

It would appear that the babyface beneficiary of the Roman Reigns heel character is going to be Reigns himself ending up as a babyface, which is what has always been the slot desired for Reigns going back to The Shield era.

The theme of the event, Brand vs. Brand, felt like a distant priority to the top two matches with the winning brand not emphasized nor booked for any dramatic effect. The head-to-head series was over after RK-Bro beat The Usos and gave Raw a 4-1 lead with two matches remaining, which didn’t play into the numerical outcome.

The idea was Raw destroyed SmackDown with a 5-2 win but Reigns won the final match. The fact the numbers didn’t mean anything makes the disqualification finish for Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Damian Priest somewhat perplexing as you could have had Priest win and still do the post-match with the guitar to gain the desired reaction for Priest after he snapped.

Without any stakes, it’s an outcome that means little and won’t be remembered beyond this event and begs for a reinvention of the Survivor Series concept, which should be an easy show to sell each year when you have two brands. The key is making the brands distinct, staying apart for an entire year, and not doing this type of show immediately after a draft as it would be advantageous to do it right before the annual roster switches.

The company will not hold another pay-per-view until January 1st with the Day 1 card in Atlanta, Georgia, and will not have another Sunday night event until the second night of WrestleMania.

WRESTLING NEWS

**Prior to the Survivor Series, WWE held a presentation for advertisers with speeches from executives Nick Khan, Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, and head of global sales and partnerships, Claudine Lilien. Variety reported on the subjects covered with the following notes:
*McMahon-Levesque stated that 75 percent of its audience is between 18-49, which is not what their television figures indicate but they didn’t indicate how they arrived at that figure and where that data was generated from. She added that 40 percent of its audience is female and that they over-index with African American and Hispanic audiences
*McMahon-Levesque noted that in a non-pandemic year, they run over 500 events per year. This might have been a throwaway line as the company has drastically reduced its house show schedule (which began before the pandemic) and it’s hard to imagine an increase in its current scale coupled with the lack of touring for the NXT brand compared to pre-pandemic.
*Probably the most newsworthy clip came from Nick Khan, who stated that the recent English Premier League deal with NBC is worth $460 million per year and not the reported figure out there of $450 million.

Khan added the following on television rights continuing to escalate and his bullish stance on where WWE stands as their domestic rights for Raw and SmackDown come due in the fall of 2024:

You’re seeing these numbers continue to go up. You’re seeing them go up for properties whose ratings are up, for properties whose ratings are stable, and even for properties whose ratings are down.

There’s no other sports-like programming that goes like that. And for our sponsors, it allows you to stay present in the minds of the fans long beyond the end of the NFL season.

**The final ticket numbers that WrestleTix reported for the Survivor Series was 12,646 distributed (combination of paid and comps but doesn’t include the private suites) that would represent 99 percent of the set-up in the arena. As of Thursday, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter had reported just over 9,500 tickets out in the market with 7,000 paid, so hopefully we’ll get the paid figure by the end, but it would indicate a very healthy few days in the lead-up to the show.

**WWE Raw takes place from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York tonight with their second night in the building. The show will feature the Raw and SmackDown rosters appearing as Vince McMahon sets out to find out who stole Cleopatra’s egg.

**Here are the matches for AEW Dark: Elevation tonight at 7 p.m. ET on the AEW YouTube channel:
*The Bunny, Penelope Ford & Emi Sakura vs. Kris Statlander, Ryo Mizunami & Leyla Hirsch
*Tay Conti & Anna Jay vs. Willow Nightingale & Erica Leigh
*Serpentico vs. Wheeler Yuta
*Ricky Starks & Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Lucas Chase & Irvin Legend
*Frankie Kazarian vs. Joe Keys
*Tony Nese vs. Logan Laroux
*John Silver, Alex Reynolds & Preston “10” Vance vs. Baron Black, Ganon Jones & Duke Davis
*Trish Adora vs. Riho

**IMPACT holds its final night of tapings from this current stretch at Sam`s Town Live in Las Vegas tonight and final TV taping of 2021 before the Hard to Kill pay-per-view on Saturday, January 8th.

**Today’s Being the Elite – So Long, Kenny was Kenny Omega’s send-off as he announced that he would be off the show for a while. Omega was with The Young Bucks, Adam Cole, and Michael Nakazawa in the hotel room. Cole got a present for Omega and handed him a Monster Energy drink (which is the way they killed off Cole on the series when he went to WWE). Omega kept avoiding taking a sip, he took one and then started choking but said it just went down the wrong way. Nick thought he had signed with WWE when he began choking.

**DEFY Wrestling held a big show on Saturday with the company announcing a sell-out of Washington Hall with nearly 800 in attendance, according to the promotion. The card featured Brody King (who replaced Jon Moxley) defeating Tom Lawlor in the main event, The Briscoes defeating Ethan HD & SCHAFF, Nick Wayne over Joey Janela in a match Janela raved about afterward, Rebel Kel over Vert Vixen, Yuya Uemura over Sonico (who replaced Matt Cross due to injury but Cross did appear), Ricky Gibson & Eddie Pearl over Kaimana & Ativalu to retain the DEFY tag titles, and Lio Rush beat Titus Alexander in the opening match.

DEFY has two more shows this year with a card in Los Angeles at The Lodge Room on December 16th with Brody King and Christopher Daniels announced for that card. They return to Washington Hall on December 18th with Eddie Kingston scheduled for their final show of 2021.

**Alex Zayne was unable to perform on Sunday’s PWG card due to an injury. Zayne posted the following update after it was announced he was off the card:

Got a minor spinal issue, should only be out a couple weeks, gotta keep myself as healthy as possible, I hate to miss any show and hope everyone understands. I’m currently taking it week by week with the doc.

**AEW Productions has released a “making of” video on the entrance by Hangman Page at Full Gear where he rode the horse to the Target Center.

**IMPACT Wrestling will hold Throwback Throwdown II on Saturday, December 18th from the Davis Arena in Louisville, Kentucky with Pabst Blue Ribbon as the presenting sponsor. The event will air live on IMPACT Plus and Fite TV that evening. This will be the final live show for IMPACT this year.

**A.J. Francis (formerly Top Dolla in Hit Row) held his fifth annual canned food drive in Fort Meade, Maryland. The group collected fifteen shopping carts worth of food to feed homeless children at Sarah’s House.

**WWE and Special Olympics have extended their partnership with a new multi-year agreement. From the press release:

WWE Superstars will continue to engage with Special Olympics athletes all around the globe through Unified Sports®. Over the past few years, WWE Superstars have participated in Unified soccer in Italy, Unified flag football in Arizona, Unified bocce in Las Vegas, Unified soccer in UAE along with several other events, panels, and leadership conferences. Superstars have also reached out to Special Olympics athletes to encourage them in training and to congratulate them for achievements.

**On Wednesday’s edition of The Bump, they will air the second part of their interview with The Undertaker from this past weekend. Charles Wright a.k.a. The Godfather will also be on the program at 10 a.m. ET.

**NJPW Strong has announced the following matches for its ‘Nemesis’ television tapings on December 9th in Los Angeles at The Vermont Hollywood venue:
*Jay White vs. Christopher Daniels
*Jonah vs. David Finlay
*Alex Zayne vs. Ariya Daivari
*Brody King vs. Dave Dutra
*Karl Fredericks & Kevin Knight vs. Misterioso & Bateman
*TJP vs. The DKC
*Eddie Kingston vs. TBA

**West Coast Pro out of San Francisco has been putting together some big matches and has added to that list with Bandido vs. ACH announced for December 10th. The promotion has sold-out the VIP tickets for the show at The State Room in South San Francisco. The event will be streaming that night at 10 p.m. ET on IWTV.

**Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) is running a card on Thursday, January 13th at The Winchester Music Tavern in Lakewood, Ohio. The card will feature Max Caster of The Acclaimed and is being called “Ether”.

**Charlie Haas was interviewed on the It’s My Wrestling podcast discussing his time in WWE, Shelton Benjamin, the potential of Gable Steveson, and the current state of Ring of Honor.

ON THIS DATE

**The AWA holds a battle royal in 1981 for $5,000:

The Undertaker’s debut at the Survivor Series in 1990 in Hartford:

One of the most important fights and feuds in UFC history as Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock fought for the first time in 2002. The UFC 40 card was instrumental in Zuffa staying the course and seeing that the right fight could draw on pay-per-view, although it would be years before the company would turn a profit.

NXT invades SmackDown prior to the Survivor Series in 2019:

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