Has Game Changer Wrestling become a top three wrestling promotion in the U.S.?

On the latest edition of Wrestlenomics Radio, Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo discussed Game Changer Wrestling selling out the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center for their Jan. 23, 2022 event “The Wrld On Gcw.” WrestleTix has the official count of the event of 2,025 tickets distributed, which GCW has touted as a record for the venue for a pro wrestling event.

Post Wrestling’s John Pollock has noted what GCW can do with the momentum they have achieved over the past year, including a possible media deal. Thurston and Gullo discussed GCW’s growth and how the promotion compares to other major U.S. wrestling promotions.

Chris Gullo: “If you just look at current popularity, would it be Game Changer? Ring of Honor, obviously, we know what’s going on there. Impact, they’re selling out that Sam’s Town Casino in Las Vegas, but that’s not a lot of fans. And MLW is doing okay but still not consistent touring. NWA, I don’t even know if they’re doing fans at studio tapings. I could be wrong with that. But GCW has consistent buzz. You’ve seen Matt Cardona, Jon Moxley and others create viral moments on social media with their appearances in GCW, and the Briscoes.

Thurston: There’s a big difference between GCW and all those all the other companies that you just mentioned, in that GCW is an independent company. What do I mean by that? This is a very non-technical term at this point. They’re an indie wrestling company. NWA is not an indie wrestling company. Impact, certainly, is not an indie wrestling company in the same sense that I mean right now. MLW, NWA and Impact are not indie wrestling companies in the way that GCW is an indie wrestling company.

“Because they’re not, maybe, in some ways, it’s harder for them to get this surge of grassroots fandom. All those other companies that we just mentioned, Impact, MLW and NWA, maybe there’s others that we could rope in here too, they’re coming to this, probably appropriately from sort of a media distribution approach. Like we talked about a number of times here, the pro wrestling business is not that viable as just a live event business. It’s more viable if you can sell media, of some form, to somebody.

“WWE and AEW are the biggest beneficiaries and examples of that. The majority of their revenue comes from media, comes from the broadcasts of their events, but GCW, they’re in the media business too, clearly. They’re selling pay-per-views through Fite TV. They were with IWTV. There’s a legal dispute happening there, but this is a company that tours around the country and does the sort of smaller-scale live events in a way that none of those other companies are. Certainly in terms of zeitgeist or buzz, GCW has the strongest trajectory momentum in that way.”

GCW regulars like Effy, Allie Katch, AJ Gray and Nick Gage are expected to appear at the Hammerstein show, and GCW has announced that AEW star Eddie Kingston will be at the event as well. Gullo discussed a unique aspect of GCW that differentiates itself from other U.S. promotions.

Gullo: “One thing I think they do too is identity of talents, and what I mean by that is a lot of their talent work other independents, but they really put them in the forefront. When you think Effy, you think Game Changer Wrestling. You think Nick Gage, you’re thinking Game Changer Wrestling.

“You think Allie Katch, you think Game Changer Wrestling, AJ Gray and so on. It’s something that no other independent companies do. I don’t identify one wrestler like, ‘Oh yeah, that guy is solely this independent company,’ but you’ll do that with these Game Changer talents, even if they work other places, and I think that’s something that they do on a whole different level. Very 1995 ECW-esque, which people compare them to.”

Thurston: “I mentioned a moment ago, I’m scraping all this data. One of the things that I want to look at in the Cagematch data is who are the wrestlers who are wrestling for the greatest variety of promotions in given periods of time, such as the year of 2021.

“And in the preliminary scrapes that I’ve done so far, you see at the top of the list of people, wrestlers who have wrestled for the great variety of promotions, at least, reflected in the Cagematch data, are wrestlers like Effy, and AJ Gray, and Allie Katch and people like that. I don’t know that you could say similar for the wrestlers who are most associated with MLW, NWA, Impact and companies of that nature, for whatever that’s worth.”

Excerpts from Wrestlenomics Radio were edited for clarity.

Jason Ounpraseuth has covered pro wrestling since 2019. He co-hosts the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also an independent pro wrestler and trainer. For more, see our About page.

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AEW Full Gear sold an estimated 145,000 pay-per-view buys, second-highest behind All Out

Header photo courtesy of All Elite Wrestling

Subscribers at patreon.com/wrestlenomics got early access to this article.

All Elite Wrestling’s Full Gear pay-per-view last Saturday is measuring at about 145,000 buys, we’ve learned. This is an early estimate that reflects all buys worldwide, traditional and digital, live and late. Traditional cable and satellite distributors take longer to report, so actual sales may vary accordingly. Late buys, which usually account for about 10% of sales, exceeding or underperforming expectations would also affect final results.

Bleacher Report was the exclusive domestic digital pay-per-view distributor of the live broadcast, which we believe mildly hurt U.S. sales. FITE was added on Sunday, the day after the live broadcast, as a digital distributor for U.S. customers interested in buying the replay. Both Bleacher Report and FITE offered the live PPV to U.S. viewers for AEW’s previous quarterly PPV, All Out, on September 5. FITE sold the event live and afterward internationally, as usual.

The event was also offered internationally via Facebook, but those sales were minor.

Between pay-per-view, tickets, and merchandise, Full Gear likely generated approximately $4 million. Only All Out 2021, which included CM Punk’s first pro wrestling match in seven years, drew more gross revenue. All Out we believe generated more than $5 million, largely driven by an estimated 205,000 PPV buys.

Sales of 145,000 buys worldwide for Full Gear would mean about $7 million in pay-per-view revenue before AEW’s split with distributors. If the average split to AEW is about 45%, then AEW would take about $3 million in pay-per-view revenue.

WrestleTix’s final count (sub required) of tickets distributed at the Target Center in Minneapolis was 10,442. Assuming 96% of that count represents paid tickets and that the normal average ticket price for an AEW PPV is $65, that gives us an estimated gate of approximately $650,000. 

If merchandise sold at the venue was about $15 per ticket sold, then that would mean an additional $150,000.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available ad-free for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


WWE Q3 2021 earnings report and conference call with executives

Tonight we’ll do a livestream review of the WWE earnings report exclusively for patrons at patreon.com/wrestlenomics. Video and audio will also be available for patrons on-demand afterward.

WWE reports net income of $43.5 million for Q3 and $255.8 million in revenue.

Net income report means an EPS of $0.52, greatly beating analysts expectations (as I anticipated).


WWE is now willing to say they’re expecting a more profitable year than earlier anticipated.

WWE is now raising its adjusted OIBDA (the company preferred non-GAAP measure of profit) projection for full year 2021 from $270M – $305M to $305M to $315M.

With the return to touring, WWE reports average North America attendance in Q3 (Jul to Sep) of 8,300 paid attendees over 38 events.

I believe this is the highest since at least 2010.

And an average of 7,400 paid for 4 int’l events (all in the UK).

Despite beating on EPS and a narrow miss on revenue, WWE is down 4% currently in after market trading.

The quarterly report (10-Q) later will clarify but WWE is reporting $23.8 million in North American ticket sales, which, judging by the average attendance they reported and count of events, it looks like average ticket price was about $75.

In 2019 average NA ticket was $64.

International average ticket price (for the events in the UK), looks like about $81. The 10-Q will also clarify. It will probably come out sometime between now and tomorrow.

WWE KPI slides show Raw total viewership up 1% from the same period last year. Though USA was up 11% and top 25 cable down 24%.

Smackdown is up 6%, compared to Fox up 13% and the top 4 broadcast networks up 18%.

Counting viewing across practically every major social media platform, WWE’s digital video viewing continues to rise both in time spent and view counts.

WWE sold $5.3 million in venue merchandise for the first quarter back on the road.

10-Q should reveal NA merch per capita.

eCommerce, which increased in early Covid and somewhat offset no venue merch, settled back down to $8.2 million for the quarter.

WWE Network revenue for Q3 was $43.1 million, the lowest for a quarter since Q4 2019.

This is surprising, at least to me. Q2 was a full quarter under the Peacock deal and was at $61.5 million.

Conference call starts in a few minutes. Anyone can listen.

The slides are hardcore financial column charts.

The call begins now. SVP Michael Weitz opens the call and introduces Vince McMahon, Nick Khan, Stephanie McMahon, and Kristina Salen.

He turns the call over to Vince.

Vince on the return to touring: “This is where the WWE brand really comes alive in so many respects”

Vince mentions new ways to monetize IP in the “evolution of sports entertainment”. His comments are brief as usual lately and he hands it over to Nick Khan with prepared remarks.

Nick discusses Hulu and hypes the “battle” for next-day rights to WWE’s flagship programs, which is likely being negotiated with multiple possible suitors currently.

The 10-Q drops:


Nick is giving his usual master class on the recent history of media rights.

He calls cuts of the Netflix documentary on Vince “out of this world. Wait until you see it.”

Nick goes over the PPV schedule, the strategic timing of events, and stadium events.

He highlights the new trading card deal with Panini, calling it “a significant step up from our previous deal” with Topps.

Nick says they’ve spent significant in-person time with Fox executives lately.

He turns over to CBO Stephanie McMahon.

“I have to start with some bad news. WWE superstar the Miz was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars this week.”

Stephanie mentions, as Nick did, Summerslam 2021 at Allegiant Stadium had a gate more than 4x greater than the gate of 2019 Summerslam.

She highlights John Cena’s return and mentions the returns of Becky Lynch, and Brock Lesnar.

WWE’s ad & sponsorships strategy has shifted from transactional to contractual, just as WWE’s business overall has, Stephanie says.

Would you ever see Patrick Mahomes spray players down in water after a touchdown, or zombies replace the offensive line? Steph questions. Well you can in WWE. (paraphrasing, but yes she really said this)

Xavier Woods’ Up Up Down Down gets a mention.

“A slight increase in ratings from both Raw and Smackdown” despite strong competition from sports.

“We are the #1 sports brand on TikTok over the NBA with 14.5 million followers.”

WWE will be creating AR experiences with Snapchat at upcoming events.

Stephanie turns the call over the CFO Kristina Salen, who speaks on the investor presentation slides.

Salen talks about the live events reporting. WWE reported $9.1 million in operating income on its live events division.

My note, the division struggled in pre-Covid non-Wrestlemania quarters to profit, so this is especially remarkable.

Salen discusses WWE raising its adjusted OIBDA guidance.

“Large-scale international event” continues to be the preferred euphemism for Saudi Arabia events. It’s apparent from executive comments today there won’t be another until 2022, as expected. The next is probably Feb.

Q&A begins now. Note for wrestling news sites: these are stock analysts, not callers or investors.

Laura Martin from Needham asks if WWE ad revenue was affected by iOS 14.5 upgrade. Salen answers they weren’t affected.

Martin asks about NFTs, the role of the metaverse. How big do you think NFTs are as a part of metaverse?

Nick thinks it’s “robust now” and will become even more so, here to stay.

Brandon Ross from Lightshed asks about turn over at mid and upper level management. What are org goals with new personnel.

Nick says we want the most efficient business model possible. It’s about having right people in place. It seems to be working, we raised guidance.

Ross asks about NXT changes. How do you feel about progress.

Nick says we think it’s all started the way we wanted it to start. Already seeing some talent elevated to main roster. Recruiting efforts, spearheaded by Paul Levesque and Bruce Prichard are focused on young athletes

…athletes may not be in the quote unquote wrestling space.

Analyst (missed name) filling in for Ben Swinburne of Morgan Stanley asks about international rights.

In the MENA region we continue to work on it. Something we remain optimistic and bullish on.

Curry Baker from Guggenheim asks about sponsorship opportunity size, believes WWE is undermonetized relative to other sports.

Stephanie says no reason why 3-5 years they can’t be in hundreds of millions of dollars (seems to mean annual revenue ad & sponsors).

David Joyce from Barclays asks if there’s going to be more volatility in licensing comparability going forward? 2nd, stadium model, what does it do to event volume?

Nick says no stadium events aren’t going to impact volume of Raw, SD, NXT events. These PPV events are separate.

Salen says a Wrestlemania quarter has the greatest allocation of revenue for Peacock. My note, which possibly explains the difference in revenue in the Network line for this quarter compared to the previous quarter.

SVP Michael Weitz ends the call.

Thanks for following along!

I’ll be going live on YouTube with Live TV Ratings Talk at 7pm ET: https://youtu.be/ALh0Laj2MvI

Then at 8pm ET we do WWE Q3 Earnings talk for patrons only:


Jason Ounpraseuth has covered pro wrestling since 2019. He co-hosts the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also an independent pro wrestler and trainer. For more, see our About page.

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WWE Q3 2021 Estimate: Predicting a beat on earnings

Follow our ongoing coverage of WWE’s Q3 earnings report and conference call on Thursday, beginning at 4:00pm ET, both here at wrestlenomics.com and on Twitter @BrandonThurston. Anyone may view WWE’s public filings and listen to Thursday’s 5:00pm conference call at corporate.wwe.com.

Subscribers at patreon.com/wrestlenomics get access to a live stream discussion with Brandon Thurston at 8pm ET Thursday night, covering WWE’s Q3 earnings report.

WWE’s third quarter earnings report on Thursday will be the first since the return to touring, which resumed on July 16.

My estimate of earnings per share ratio for the quarter ($0.56) is well above the highest of 11 analysts. Analysts’ mean EPS is $0.35, the low is $0.27, and the high is $0.39, according to a Refinitiv Stock Report.

I made an effort to not consider other EPS or revenue estimates before formulating my own. In some recent quarters, my estimates have been more accurate than the consensus of stock analysts. [See Chart 1 and 2]

Possibly stock analysts are overestimating the expense of WWE’s return to touring or are overlooking the likelihood the company will recognize several million dollars in production incentives, the norm for Q3, which I’ve modeled as a $17 million negative expense. My understanding of comments from CFO Kristina Salen on recent earnings calls is that media expenses for the return to touring will be similar to those of 2019, when media expenses were lower than those associated with WWE’s elaborate Thunderdome presentation that was used instead of touring.

I estimated $273.9 million in revenue for the period of July 1 to September 30. The consensus is at $260.6 million, according to Seeking Alpha.

The projection that WWE would report $195 million in net income and more than $1.1 billion in revenue for 2021, would set annual company records, adjusted for inflation.


Expect WWE to celebrate its best North American average paid attendance in many years. My estimate is 7,900, which would be the highest for a quarter since 2010 Q1. High attendance was driven by strong ticket sales early in the return and the Summerslam event in Las Vegas in August. The latter alone had about 45,000 tickets distributed. I anticipate total worldwide paid attendance for Q3 at 330,000 across 42 events. I assumed 10% of all tickets distributed, reported by WrestleTix, were comps, and the rest paid.

A Live Events division revenue estimate for Q3 is difficult to anticipate because it’s evident WWE benefited from “pent-up” demand as it returned to running shows with fans in attendance for the first time since March 2020. Results reported on Thursday also probably won’t be as informative about Q4 and future time periods.

I anticipate a profitable Q3 for the Live Events division, with as much as $7 million in operating income for a division that has struggled to show profitability in the last few years before the pandemic. However, I expect negative operating income for the division to return in Q4 as WWE runs more events than the prior quarter (about 56), and with lower attendances.

The first few events in July drew especially well. It’s likely WWE was able to charge higher ticket prices for these events in response to the increase in demand, but to what degree is more or less guesswork. The company will report the average price of tickets sold, broken down by North America and international regions, but those average ticket prices will look different going forward, in time periods with more relaxed demand. Indeed, some events in Q4 already appear to be struggling to move ticket sales. WWE offered discounted tickets in at least two markets recently, San Francisco and Long Island.

With the return of events WrestleTix has emerged as a fantastic resource, tracking activity on publicly-visible seating maps, and reporting ongoing counts of tickets distributed for events held by WWE, All Elite Wrestling, and other wrestling companies. My estimate of metrics related to live events largely rely on information from WrestleTix.


The return to touring clearly benefited television viewership of WWE’s flagship programs, Raw and Smackdown. Sequentially, total viewership was up 2% and 6% in Q3 for Raw and Smackdown, respectively, following four consecutive quarters of often double-digit sequential losses in viewers for both shows.

Raw and Smackdown averaged viewership in Q3 slightly higher than the prior year [Chart 3], a period when TV was produced in front of no fans and mostly before the Thunderdome was introduced. Raw is averaging well below its Q3 2019 numbers; Smackdown is slightly higher by the same comparison but in Q3 2019, Smackdown was on the USA Network, before the move to Fox with its higher reach.

Internal trends aside, WWE’s flagship shows remain among the most-watched programs on television, especially in the key ad demographic, with viewers aged 18 to 49. During Q3, Raw’s median rank among both broadcast and cable programming on Mondays was #4; Smackdown’s median rank on Fridays was #1. These programs deliver those results at the cost of about $1.7 million per hour of new content, in the case of Raw, and $2.0 million per hour in the case of Smackdown, likely on the low-end of the cost of comparable programming.

For one peer example, ESPN’s new deal with the NHL is reportedly worth an average annual value of $400 million, nearly twice as high as TNT’s deal with the league. ESPN gets about 118 games per year, which comes out to about $3.4 million per game. The season opener in October delivered a 0.38 P18-49, the best for a game so far this season, and a number that would be under Raw’s lowest ever (0.39). WWE charges $4 million and $5 million per episode of Smackdown and Raw, delivering an average demo rating in October of 0.57 for Smackdown on broadcast and 0.45 for Raw on cable. WWE is paid more per event than the NHL while delivering better in the demo, which suggests in my view WWE live broadcast rights are fairly-priced if (and it’s a big “if”) ad and carriage values for WWE and NHL are comparable enough.


WWE is increasingly vulnerable to direct competition from All Elite Wrestling, which launched in 2019 and is funded by the Khan family, who also own the Jacksonville Jaguars. While WWE remains by far the leader in wrestling, it’s my long-standing belief the company will continue to cede market share to AEW for at least as long as Vince McMahon remains WWE’s CEO and head of creative. I believe McMahon has no plans to retire, nor does he intend to sell control of the company, despite what I view as weakly-supported speculation.

WWE’s greatest challenge in my view is the quality of its content and the direction of its creative, headed by McMahon. Management doesn’t genuinely recognize the problem, so they won’t meaningfully address it. The increase in value of live sports rights, which has benefited the sports industry in general, provides ample cover, driving WWE to set financial records.

In the meantime, AEW, a company I believe wouldn’t exist if WWE had been producing better quality content over the last five years, has managed to have its weekly program, Dynamite, on TNT essentially tie Raw in P18-49 in the same week on two occasions in September. AEW is also out-selling WWE in six markets currently in which both companies have upcoming live events.

WWE’s wide lead over AEW in total viewership is almost entirely driven by viewers age 50 or older, a group less valued by TV advertisers. However I believe WWE’s product is more appealing to kids. Suggesting WWE is still well ahead with kids, the company dramatically outperforms AEW on YouTube [Chart 4], albeit with a massive historical video library at its disposal. AEW is not seeing the year-over-year declines in views WWE is for the early pandemic months [Charts 5 and 6], possibly related to increased interest in AEW since the addition of former WWE stars CM Punk and Bryan Danielson. 

But on a new platform, TikTok, WWE also has a huge lead. AEW has just 338,000 followers on TikTok, as of the end of October. WWE had 14 million, or 41x the number of AEW’s followers [Chart 7]. AEW actually went months with little or no activity on TikTok until this summer [Chart 8].

While AEW may be capturing young and middle-aged adults, WWE continues to outperform AEW on online video platforms. WWE also has a higher percentage of its audience who are women and people of color. Furthermore, while there’s a generation of wrestling fans (and talent) disenfranchised  by WWE who may be attracted by AEW, there’s also a generation of fans who have embraced WWE’s brand of wrestling for what it is.

Disclosure/disclaimer: I do not currently hold any positions in WWE stock (NYSE: WWE) and have no plans to initiate any such positions. This article was written independently. It expresses my own opinions, solely. I am not receiving compensation for this article. This article is not and should not be construed as investment advice.

EDIT: This article has been updated to correct YouTube data that incorrectly showed higher view counts for WWE and more negative year-over-year growth for AEW.

[Chart 1] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

[Chart 2] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

[Chart 3] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

[Chart 4] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

[Charts 5 and 6] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

Source: socialblade.com

[Chart 7] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

[Chart 8] ^Jump back to where you where in the text

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

This article is available ad-free for everyone because of support from our subscribers.


The end of Ring of Honor as we know it

On the latest edition of Wrestlenomics Radio, Brandon Thurston sat down with TrumpMania author and The Business of the Business co-host Lavie Margolin to discuss Ring of Honor. ROH put out a statement that the promotion will go into hiatus after Final Battle. It has also been reported that ROH talent will be released from their contracts and will be allowed to take other bookings.

In a post on LinkedIn, ROH COO Joe Koff said that when ROH does return for SuperCard of Honor in April, the focus will be on “creating original, engaging content drawn from our incredible archive and our engaged fans.” Margolin gave his thoughts on what this means for ROH.

Lavie Margolin: “My guess is that they’ll have some sort of fan reaction person on the street type of content interspersed with the archives, so that they can consider it first-run programming. I found it very curious because we’re starting to hear already that Ring of Honor is shopping its archives, which makes sense, but was Ring of Honor being shopped as a whole?

“I don’t understand why not, if it wasn’t. I assume that it was. So by releasing all of the talent under contract, one would assume that that’s an asset. You’re taking it from what’s an active company and moving it to an inactive or next phase. So if they shopped it around, they must not have been satisfied with the offers to go to this stage.”

A feature on Sinclair’s internal issues was put out by Sports Illustrated. The feature detailed how Sinclair’s internal problems hurt ROH as a result. There a have been mixed reports on whether the ROH tape library is up for sale, but Thurston and Margolin discussed the value the tape library has.

Margolin: “If it’s a viable number, who would buy it? First, we would look inside the business, and it would make the most sense right now for AEW to purchase it. From what I understand, there had been reports that AEW has always been interested in buying the rights to All In, but they couldn’t come to agreement or maybe Ring of Honor said it wasn’t for sale at the time. But to get the rights to this library for AEW now would be the perfect time because to enter streaming, they might have built up hours of content, in Dark matches for YouTube and so on, but it has no context.

“It has no historical significance. You just have to have been interested in the content, whereas Ring of Honor content, some of it, especially in the early years, might be dark, need to be reformatted, the music and the sound and audio and whatever, but you have this wonderful history and this thread.

“And if there’s some viability to the DVD-only releases, you have thousands of hours of content that would need to be worked on but, really, creates the historical aspect of the business. People got mad at me about four or five months ago when I said AEW should just buy Ring of Honor, buy Impact, close them down and use it for a streaming service because that’s the only alternate history in North America that’s produced to a decent degree and you have most of the talents that have emerged from there.

Brandon Thurston: “Especially now that they have CM Punk and Bryan Danielson. They’ve got their, their histories, their stories. Outside of WWE. That’s the prime area of their careers is Ring of Honor.”

Margolin: “You can have some fun, especially when you have them under contract with wraparounds, introducing the matches or following the matches and so on. Even commenting on the matches, depending on how many hours they want to get involved with all this, but there’s a lot you can do. You have the talent, their library and you have them under contract to utilize.”

Thurston: Do you think there’s any interest from WWE at this point now they’re on Peacock getting guaranteed money?

Margolin: Yeah, I think there’s interest, to a degree. I think A, just to take it off the market from others. B, as it threads a story have a number of their own talents as well, there’s something to utilize there, but they’ve always been fairly rigid on their rates, and it seems to have been, maybe this is a little bit dated, but it always seems to have been a standard amount.

“So it would be at a low price, and I think Sinclair’s looking for a win, so maybe it’s worth it to them to hold on to it, to keep producing these shows into perpetuity. I don’t know if Anthem is looking to spend more money on pro wrestling anytime soon, but certainly Impact could kick the tires. And Billy Corgan, he’s acquired content before. To buy a whole Ring of Honor tape library, he might have the cash, but he’s also a smart investor.

“He’s not throwing everything at the NWA. So that would certainly be somebody that would be interested in now. There’s all these streaming services. For example, Pluto’s pro wrestling station, I don’t know if they’re throwing big money at any promotion. For some, it might be a split of advertising revenue or something like that.”

Thurston and Margolin discussed further on where ROH talents could wind up. Margolin also gave insight into Sinclair Broadcasting.

Thurston: “It seems to me that the role that AEW is occupying right now, there was a good window for Ring of Honor to occupy that role, if they had been more ambitious, and my impression is that Sinclair has been very risk averse and has not wanted to take these big financial risks. And I guess maybe we’re just kind of seeing why where maybe Sinclair just isn’t the most financially stable company, and you can understand maybe why they didn’t want to take so many risks.

Margolin: “There was certainly a moment where they had something. As we would examine the attendance numbers, and it was exciting, for me at least, the year when they broke 1000 and then climbed a bit higher. No one’s doing these numbers on average or hasn’t done these numbers and in quite a while so it was fun to watch that growth.

“You had New Japan and Ring of Honor sort of working together, and then at a certain point, it sort of seemed like, okay, who is sort of the secondary option and the third option, now that Impact is sort of bouncing around on stations people aren’t getting, and it looks like New Japan had its chance moment. I’ve been thinking about what if Mark Cuban would take on the Tony Khan role, basically before I was even aware of Tony Khan, sort of championing it in the US and sort of opening up deals and infusing money and making it bigger than it is, but that never happened. There was a New York Times article sort of connecting Cuban and New Japan and everything that was going on there.

Thurston: “One of the connections with Cuban is that he started HDNet.”

Margolin: “They ran the show in Dallas and so on, and then with Ring of Honor, I remember, Joe Koff had an interview once where he said that he contacted the CEO of Sinclair, Chris Ripley, and he took a picture of three or four WWE production trucks. And he said to him, ‘This will never be us,’ and to me, that always stuck in my mind.

“Joe Koff believed that he couldn’t compete, and certainly, it was reasonable that you weren’t gonna compete with WWE, but to imagine it as bigger than it is. I remember Cody Rhodes would would sort of tweet about before this discussion with Dave Meltzer and so on, he was trying to get big arenas booked and encouraging them to be more ambitious. Basically, his guess was that they weren’t going for it.”

Excerpts from Wrestlenomics Radio were edited for clarity.

Jason Ounpraseuth has covered pro wrestling since 2019. He co-hosts the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast.

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also an independent pro wrestler and trainer. For more, see our About page.

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