After strong ratings out the gate, the viewership for both NXT and AEW has declined since their premieres on cable television. AEW’s sizable lead over NXT in the first few weeks has vanished as the two have since traded victories.
Ryback discussed the pro wrestling ratings landscape when Wrestling Inc’s Raj Giri joined him on his Big Guy podcast after NXT’s victory over AEW a in December.
“WWE is looking pretty good with their, ‘this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon’ line now. This is very early on and I’ve talked about it where everything AEW is doing is going to take time. This is what WWE did with the whole Survivor Series thing and putting the NXT roster over on the main roster to elevate. It didn’t necessarily help the main roster but it did give NXT a boost and it might have been just enough for people to watch the main shows that are now watching Wednesdays and are now beating AEW,” said Ryback. “I will give them credit. It is a great move on it because they are making it as difficult as they can with NXT before they have to use the main shows for that.
Ryback says he prefers watching AEW over NXT due to the atmosphere and presentation of AEW’s larger arenas. He added that the novelty of AEW has worn off for most people but he liked the way that the Chris Jericho-Jungle Boy storyline has been booked.
“We talked about it before you can only get so much out of Chris Jericho as far as using the guys that they have to get over main talent, the guys that they have to keep at a star level and they don’t have enough of them yet. It’s not saying, oh, they need me so bad, but they need more stars,” stated Ryback.
“I want them to succeed at this because the guys they have, they have to elevate these young guys. But there’s such a gap when you have Jungle Boy vs Chris Jericho. I tip my cap in how beautifully that was done and Chris Jericho is such a great heel and the way they put that whole thing together where it established that Chris Jericho could have beaten him whenever he wanted to early on. But he chose to be that piece of s**t in the ring and keep going and then Jungle Boy being that babyface and fighting underneath it and showing some life and coming back and then Jericho wanting five more minutes just to beat the s**t out of him and then Jungle Boy almost getting him again and Jericho walking off; that was fantastic. That was pro wrestling at its finest and I love that, but I do think that there is such a wide gap between Jungle Boy and Chris Jericho where there is such a disconnect with people watching that even though they did that as great as they could have and there are other parts of the show where there are gaps. They are doing the best as they can, but I just want them to get more stars.”
Ryback said that in wrestling you usually try to get over one or two people at a time, but AEW is trying to get over virtually their entire roster. He said even Kenny Omega wasn’t as over with the American audience as perhaps AEW thought he was.
“The thing with Jon Moxley had that big match and Jon Moxley came out on top, which I agree with, but you need to get that back with Kenny Omega. The show needs to be closing with a Kenny Omega or a Young Bucks, something really heated, but I understand that they are trying to get these new guys with some exposure to put them at another level as quickly as possible,” said Ryback.
“That is where I say that you need new stars, there just needs to be more pieces figured in. They are doing a fantastic job on everything. People don’t have to understand what they are up against with the WWE putting all this stuff with them probably has caused things to shuffle things up a bit with them and they are trying not to get too caught up with that and stick with their game plan. But at the same time, they do have to look at this and be like okay we have to make some adjustments and I feel like they have an open mind to everything and will be making the adjustments as they go along. But NXT with WWE you are playing against the best.”
“Right now, WWE’s thing is how can we keep this the same thing that it is while we beat the other show? When they do that, they don’t have to change anything because they don’t necessarily want to change anything with what they have. But with AEW to start getting some stars and get the 1.5 ratings back, WWE will move out of Full Sail. I promise you because that will be their next step. This whole thing is interesting.
“I do think AEW needs to get some people from other organizations, mainly WWE and they can show them that this is not a WWE rejects place it’s what you make it. You can do it with anybody and reinvent some guys. You bring in a Luke Harper and let him go out there and work but you put some character development time in him because the hardcore fans know that Luke Harper can go and do stuff and give him a platform. Don’t let that guy go to New Japan, no you pick him up right away. There are some other ones that are coming that will be key.”
He then praised Jericho’s AEW work and him being an all-time great. But he also stated that Jericho has lots of other things going on and is past his prime which has taken a toll on his body.
“I think physically and I look at the show and I ask myself whether Chris Jericho has another year in him. I don’t know because he is going hard in life and this is at the end of him going hard his entire career. Chris Jericho’s body has altered with the last six months in my opinion,” stated Ryback. “The guy is a f***ing legend, but the stress he is going through, at this stage of his career they have put everything on his shoulders with not a lot of surrounding pieces as far as what he has achieved in pro wrestling.
“Jon Moxley is great but none of us have had the tenure that Jericho has and the longevity and you look at the guy’s body to me it looks like his body is starting to break down now. He held it together for so long and still looks physically amazing and he can still go but you don’t want to keep that stress on him for a long period of time because you want to get more out of him because he has a lot on his shoulders. He is the man, I love Chris. I just bought some of his ‘Bubbly’ but you need to give the guy some help with the pieces that they do have.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Conversation with the Big Guy Ryback with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.