Jim Ross is one of the iconic voices in wrestling.
Although Ross now works for AEW, Ross was the lead play-by-play announcer during the Attitude Era, one of wrestling’s most fruitful periods. It was also a time when the wrestling fan base was at its most rabid.
AEW has tried to tap into that rabid fan base that started to drift away from wrestling after the death of WCW. This led to AEW’s audience being a vocal and vibrant crowd before wrestling promotions were forced to close their doors to fans.
Ross spoke with James Walsh of Wrestling Epicenter where he said the wrestling world is ready for a product like AEW.
“We had a very loyal and passionate audience in Mid South,” Ross said. “The level of talent that was able to connect with the audience was pretty amazing for a small wrestling territory. But, on a national level, I think fans are telling us (AEW) that we are ready for something different, an alternative.
“I think our talents, many of them that have been to the big dance like Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Cody (Rhodes), Dustin (Rhodes)? These guys are lifers and connect with the audience as naturally and organically as anybody I’ve ever been around. I think the audience can tell that, can feel that. This virus (Coronavirus, COVID-19) kind of curtailed the momentum we were building. But, AEW is a great company. I love what we’re doing. We have great leadership in Tony Khan. We have some great 20 somethings out there living their dreams. There is nothing more rewarding for an old vet like me than seeing these kids living their dream just exactly as I did when I was their age.”
AEW taps into the same hardcore segment of wrestling fans that their rival, WWE’s developmental brand NXT, does. While AEW has done well in the ratings war against NXT, the black and gold brand won the viewership battle two of the last three weeks.
Ross said neither he nor the AEW brass are worried about the recent downturn in viewership.
“No knee-jerk reaction,” Ross said. “I’m not worried. You said the numbers are going down ? True statement. In certain demographics? This is far from a disaster. With our show sandwiched between all the WWE shows on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, our audience is still finding us. The empty arena stuff affects everybody. It isn’t the usual ambiance that we’re all used to. Sometimes, as you said, the fans are as big of a part of the show as anybody. Our audience are very young, defiant, and make a lot of noise. All of us really miss that!
“The numbers thing? Look, I learned a long time ago. We got our ass (WWE) beat 83 weeks in a row by WCW and I was in the talent relations chair. We didn’t have time to worry about the ratings because in 6 days after you got the ratings, you had to do it again. That’s not a lot of time to moan about it or to celebrate. So, the ratings right now, for me, I’m not worried about it. It means nothing. It means something, obviously. But, we’re doing just fine and we know where we’re going.”
James Walsh contributed to this article.