Jim Ross is right that AEW needs a to make stars

Jim Ross had some strong words for what AEW needed in order to turn things around.
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AEW is in an interesting position. The promotion is heading into Double or Nothing, a show that includes several big angles at the top of the card. Yet, there’s still a perception that the organization is struggling to find success as ratings dip in comparison to previous years and shows aren’t selling out like they once were. WWE Hall of Famer and AEW Commentator, Jim Ross had some insight into those struggles and points toward AEW’s need to build more stars. He’s right, but that is one piece of the equation.

“AEW’s challenge right now to me is creating stars,” Ross said while speaking on Busted Open Radio. “Somebody on that brand has got to get hot and that’s gonna be I think what they need now is somebody’s got to get hot.”

This is an eyebrow-raising statement from someone who has had his hands in several aspects dealing with talent in professional wrestling. His words carry weight, but they don’t speak to all the issues facing the company.

In a professional wrestling sense, several of AEW’s top performers could be called hot acts. Will Ospreay continues to put on some of the best matches in the history of the industry. Bryan Danielson is preparing for a final run that will surely draw in fans. Swerve Strickland is the company’s top champion, and Mercedes Mone will have her first match at Double or Nothing. These individuals are stars in the industry with legions of fans. But why isn’t that translating to continued growth in the KPIs that many seem to be watching?

Wrestlenomics tracks various KPIs across the wrestling industry and presents intriguing data. Several AEW key data points show a downward trend when compared to previous years. For example, on May 19 the outlet posted Average estimated ticket sales by quarter. The data places AEW at approximately 3k average tickets sold in Q2 2024, versus Q3 2021 where the company saw an average of 7k tickets sold for shows. The report for the May 15 AEW Dynamite shows that television ratings are down for every AEW show, Dynamite, Collision, and Rampage, compared to previous quarters and year-over-year.

Why are ratings and ticket sales falling, even as Cagematch rankings rise? Ross pointing toward star power is a part of the solution. This is where the character and story development comes into play. Just like popular television shows like Euphoria, Shogun, or shows from years ago – the ability to tell a story that hooked viewers and kept them coming back each week is the answer. Even shows like Seinfeld or The Office that featured self-contained stories within the week, the characters were the draw that brought viewers back each time. AEW is missing the mark in that key area.

AEW television feels a lot like a self-contained show or event. It can be a challenge to find a strong reason to come back the next week to watch. While the matches are fantastic, it feels more like watching a UFC card, where one night has several fantastic fights with some of the fighters you want to see, but the card next week doesn't have the same draw for you as an individual, so you tune out. That lack of strong star power through character and/or story is the ingredient that is missing.

“I’m not gonna go into all the reasons why somebody’s not and all that dirt sheet stuff,” Ross said. “Nonetheless, we gotta get somebody hot. Somebody’s gotta pull themselves up and tighten their belt and let’s go. Creative can get you in the ring but once you get in the ring, it’s up to the talent at that point, in my estimation.”

Great matches are happening multiple times a night, every week on AEW. Still, a large number of fans have stopped watching and attending shows. The company needs to find out why that’s happening and fix it. In the eyes of JR, the solution is to get some red hot and to do it quickly.